Will’s story

William Richard Mann (who we primarily intend to call Will), who was due to arrive September 5th, came exactly one month before his siblings’ birthdays, on August 28th, 2017. His entrance was not nearly as dramatic as his sister’s, but thankfully not quite as laborious (no pun intended) as his big brother’s.

The last weeks of pregnancy for me were marked by two competing realities: I was 1) SO. READY. for pregnancy to be OVER (and did NOT want this kid to wait until his due date), and 2) SO. NOT ready for this kid to come before or ON the first day of The Field School. Praise Jesus, Will came at just the right time–the Monday after the first week of school, a little over one week before Sept 5th.

I’d had two false labor starts with this dude, so when I was having some contractions Sunday evening of the 27th, I didn’t think a ton of it. I went to bed like usual, but by 11pm was waking up every 30-60minutes with contractions. By around 2am I figured I had better start keeping track of my contractions, and over the next hour they started to get more frequent and more intense. By 3:30, I was thinking maybe we should head into the hospital, and my midwife (who delivered Nora) told me that I still sounded like I was early-ish, but that she trusted my instincts if I thought it was time to go in. I hemmed and hawed for about ten minutes before deciding I would rather be at the hospital a little too early than repeat our desperate try-not-to-have-a-baby-in-the-car, almost-have-a-baby-on-the-street-outside-the-ER situation we experienced with the baby girl.

My friend came over to be there for the big kids in the morning and take them to her place to spend the day with some of their favorite little people and Jer and I drove to Mount Sinai. It felt sooooooooooo not stressful. I was having intense contractions every few minutes but it was nothinggg compared to the kinds of constant contractions that come right before your body makes you start pushing. We got to the hospital and I kept reveling in how calm everything felt… to arrive, be triaged, and even *register* like you’re supposed to.

By the time I got through registration around 4am, my midwife checked me and I was only 5cm. She stripped my membranes while she checked me, and my contractions continued to get more intense and closer together, fairly quickly. After getting into the L&D room, I remember sheepishly asking her, “So… Can you go from 5 to 10 cm pretty quick or does it always take a while?” I could not imagine enduring these contractions through midmorning or into afternoon. To my great relief she said, “it can happen fast,” and not 30 minutes later when I asked when she’d check me again, she said, “when you tell me you feel like you have to push.” I thought, heck, I think maybe I need to push (??), so she checked me again and I was nearly ten centimeters. Within a few minutes, I was at ten, pushing, and after about 3 contractions-worth of pushes, Will was born at 5:53am.

Holy wow I was relieved to not be pregnant and to be on the OTHER side of labor (nothing like birthing a child to remind you how freakin intense it is to push out a human). And we had made it to the hospital almost a full TWO hours before he came. Winnnnsssss all around. ! Will has been our easiest baby so far (although all three were a breeze), with the exception of his waking up every 1-2hours at night to eat. We are so so happy to have him and everyone is doing surprisingly well. Hope to share more soon on the adjustment to three!

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Return, and some oooold photogs!

It just so happens that the last time I wrote here was exactly ONE year before a thiiiiird kiddo, sweet baby Will, would make his entrance into our family. So SO much has happened over the past year (getting pregnant and starting a school being most notable). And I can hardly believe I have written next to nothing about our sweet and spunky little miss Nora Jean, who in less than one month will deny me any illusions of further baby-dom as she turns TWO.

Actually I can believe it (it just feels like such a crazy coincidence my last writing was exactly one year before Will’s birth date!). I remember feeling with two babies that all margin in my life had disappeared. Continuing to write now and then seemed like a superfluous goal, considering all of the life-essential type things I felt like I was dropping the ball on. Its not that I felt terrible, or like a failure; I just switched to operating in essentials-ONLY mode over here, prioritizing only the things that seemed essential to a somewhat sane family life and reasonable work-life balance.

But as I recently returned here, to have a peek at my past self and our goings on, I was struck by what life felt like to me back then. How little memory I had of those days when Ezra was nearing three and my baby girl was morphing from infant to toddler! What a gift to have a glimpse here, and to have the benefit of perspective to encourage me in our current different-but-busy-and-crazy place in life.

I am not an organizer, a scrap-booker, a writer-in-of-baby-books, or even someone who can keep track of my own photos [outside of the realm of instagram]. Coming here feels like my best bet of keeping a record of anything! SO. To start things [back] off, I feel the need to share some pictures from the archives (har har) juuuust after Norski came. Because a) how did I not put ONE single newborn picture of Nora on this blog (??!!??!!), especially considering I documented her birth story!!! and b) basically all my pictures from her first year are ONLY on THIS computer (which will surely be dead someday). (Side note, I have NO newborn pics of Norski taken with a non-iphone camera. #secondchildproblems)

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Sweet baby Nora Jean, on day ONE!

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I had no recollection of Ezzer holding baby sis! So precious.

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Little Ez, big bro!

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I also didn’t realize Ez was just as interested in giving kisses to baby sis as he is to Willster!

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Looking way more like baby Will than I remember!

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Sweet girlfriend

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Oh yes, the mohawk!

ten on ten… or something like it

You know those people who are so very responsibly organized about making sure the most special moments of their kids’ childhoods are well documented, accessibly stored, and backed up? I need one of these people to come to my house and tell me how to live my life.

I have these great pictures from Ezra’s first birthday which was this totally magical, actually-lived-up-to-its-ridiculous-expectations kind of day but I can’t tell you for the life of me where they are. I think I have like four that I backed up somewhere online. The rest are… I don’t know… On my old computer? Which is… Oh you get the point.

I used to participate in this photo project called ten on ten, which (as far as I can tell) is no longer a current thing, but since resurrecting the Cannon I am deciding to revitalize it for myself. It’s so awesome to be able to reminisce in photographs (and to have an excuse to actually use a camera that is not attached to your smartphone), and I think the things I will most cherish looking back on will be the glimpses into everyday life as a young family.

Yesterday was my first day back at it. I don’t know which came first, the day being simply wonderful or my determination to document it, but whatever the case it was a particularly enjoyable Saturday–one of my very favorite kinds. Jer just started his first week back at school last week, so we’re still on the tail end of summer, but close enough to fall that we can no longer deny its impending existence. I woke up early to a quiet house (well, after feeding the baby of course), a rainstorm, and nearly two hours on my own before the little ones were up for good (a rare gift!). We walked to the famers market in a mid morning drizzle like PNW’ers (which I like to pretend we are sometimes; we are not), had donuts, ran into friends from the neighborhood. I had some one on one time with each of my kiddos, some rest time, Jer worked in the yard, took Ez to Home Depot, I cleaned and rested a bit, and we ended the day by hitting up our street’s epic block party (not pictured) and watching Band of Brothers (a newish weekly tradition, also not pictured) with our buds the Smiths. If only every Saturday could be like yesterday! Ok! Enough jabbering! Here come the photogs!

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Just some snaps of my sweet babes

I was feeling stressed this morning, for no real particular reason. It was just one of those mornings the baby’s mild unhappiness had the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end, and the house was (is) a disastrous mess.

It never quite works to have a plan for productivity around the house when you have little people in your care. There are those rare days when all the stars align: your two year old decides to play independently for the first time ever, the baby adds an hour to her morning nap, and you find yourself with time to give attention to the things you’ve totally neglected for a stretch of time. But in my experience they almost never come when you plan on them.

Sometimes you just need to turn a blind eye to the things that will always need doing. Today I got out my old camera and spent the day trying to be a little more present with these babes who are just growing up way to fast.

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deep breaths

My toddler is NUTS right now.

I mean, he’s a great kid. Maybe even a particularly great kid, for his age? But he’s at that two-and-rounding-the-bend-about-to-hit-that-apparently-infamous-terrible-THREES stage, which means some days are just complete and utter insanity. Like I-cannot-even-understand-what-you-are-saying-I-don’t-understand-you-were-just-totally-fine-WHAT-are-we-freaking-out-about-again?? insanity. Comical insanity, even, when I’m on my A game. Immediately followed by GIGGLES and KISSES ON THE FACE of course. HOW does one KEEP UP?

The funny and sort of terrifying part of this stage is that nearly every time he is flipping out, asserting his iron toddler will, insisting on having the last word, or seemingly unable to cope when something doesn’t go quite as he planned I think to myself my goodness that child is HIS MOTHER’S CHILD.

I’m not sure if its because of all the infamous stories from my childhood–several of them caught on home video [there is literally a VHS tape in my parents basement somewhere that is marked “ERIN BITE” on which from a distance you see me nearly exactly Ezra’s age slow-biting a neighbor boy twice my age square in the stomach after he refused to move out of my way on our indoor mini trampoline], my own early childhood memories, OR the fact that there is still a little tiny-toddler-Erin inside of me today, but when I see that little dude encounter conflict the way he does, I think THAT KID IS ME.

I wish I could just have patience, one hundred percent flexibility, perfect grace, ALL the time. With my kids, yes, but also just with everyone and everything. I would rather not have to acquire these things through hard work and prayer and the slowww process that is sanctification. Motherhood is not what I need these things for, it just does a really great job at reminding me how much I do not have them on my own. Add sleep deprivation on top of toddlerhood and my own normal disposition and it can feel like a lost cause all together sometimes.

My husband is of course one of the people who knows me best and has had the pleasure of encountering my shortcomings on a daily basis over the course of a good chunk of my years (lucky him!). I can’t tell you the number of times in our marriage he has paused, looked at me, and very kindly and noncondemningly said, “let’s take a couple deep breaths together.” I used to hate it. Actually, I probably still do, when I’m in the heat of feeling really upset and really convinced I have to be right (of course). But I have to say, I hear his voice in my head, and take those deep breaths sooooo often on my own in this season of life. Not just because THE KIDS. Because life, work, stress, house, kids, etc. etc. etc. Even on the kids’ best days, its a fight for peace and patience all the time.

There is a way to have peace when life’s circumstances are just not peace-filled. I know its possible. I know it is because its promised to me in Scripture. Because the Lord calls his Holy Spirit my comforter, my counselor, and a gift that has been given to me, to the church. But its amazing what a daily struggle it is. We need grace upon grace every hour, and constant patient guidance and strength, even on the good days.

I am thankful for a God who doesn’t give up. Who sees and cares about the tiny little troubles of my daily life. Who has paid for my sin in full, and promised to grant me re-dos upon re-dos. Take comfort, friends. Every moment is a new one. There is nothing the Lord is unable or unwilling to redeem. Deep breaths.

please excuse me while I ramble

I have no well-formed ideas in my head about what needs to make its way from thoughts in my mind to words on a page, but I’m telling myself that’s not so much what this is for, so it’s cool if I ramble a bit. You don’t mind, I’m sure?

Motherhood, man. It’s heartbreaking and crazy-making. Allow me to explain.

I was not one of those little girls who has been waiting my whole life for the day I’d start a brood of my own. I have still-vivid memories of just loathing babysitting as a teenager, and I was never one of those people who was just great with kids (or knew much of anything about them, for that matter). But let me tell you something just switched on when these babies of mine came along. I seriously think women immediately gain what I like to call MOM POWERS when that baby pops out of the womb (or walks into your life, if your babe originated in someone else’s womb). Some people are just born with them, but for people like me, they come upon entry into motherhood.

It’s a strange, powerful, new, fierce, DON’T MESS WITH MY PEOPLE kind of love that brings the MOM POWERS, and along with them, the heartbreak. And the crazy.

The heartbreak seems to manifest itself in two forms in these early days. The heart-wrenching you feel when your little person is struggling (or when you hear about someone else‘s little one who is seriously sick, or taken from them, or being mistreated or traumatized), and the heartache that comes from knowing deep in your bones you fall dreadfully short of what you believe these precious little souls need and deserve as a parent.

I do fairly well not to get overwhelmed with empathy when I encounter patients who are facing seemingly impossible challenges as a result of the world’s brokenness. But when one of the kids I see is having serious problems after something they have seen or experienced, it stays with me. When Nora will not fall asleep but is dead tired and I have to leave her crying, it is just agonizing; I get irritable and can barely focus on anything until she’s resting peacefully.

The crazy-making is related. Its what I believe naturally happens in the mind of a mother with the heartbreak who allows her mind to give in to her natural, fallen will. Not everyone struggles with serious anxiety, and not everyone is prone to worry, but I have to imagine that some form of this is in all of us to some degree. I find myself in the prone-to-worry category, but even for a worrier some self identifiably CRAZY THINGS run through my mind sometimes as it relates to my children.

Yesterday it stormed for like five seconds in the evening. On my drive home from work there was tonnns of lightning in the skies, but not much thunder (we called this heat lightning as a kid; I don’t know if that’s actually a thing). Nora is currently sleeping in our attic at night, in our guest bedroom. And I LITERALLY thought to myself Ahh I love all this lightning! Uh oh, what if Nora got struck by lightning because she’s at such a high point in the house? By the grace of God I heard my crazy self and told my crazy self OH MY GOODNESS YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT YOUR CHILD GETTING RANDOMLY STRUCK BY LIGHTNING INSIDE A HOUSE THAT HAS PROBABLY HAPPENED TO LIKE TWO HUMANS EVER AND THEY WERE PROBABLY STICKING WIRE HANGERS INTO THE LIGHT SOCKETS DURING A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM OR SOMETHING. But let me tell you, the crazies can spiral out of control sooooo fast, no matter how much of a reasonable human being you thought you were before children.

There’s something good at the heart of these instincts of course. It is a good thing that it is wired into our DNA for us to protect and sacrifice and feel deeply for our children in dramatic ways. They’re vulnerable, they’re small, they’re clumsy. We as humans need a lot of close support and supervision in the early months and years of our lives.

But this new fierce love that comes with motherhood has got to be stewarded well.

There is nothing in my short life that has made me feel more in need of help, guidance, direction, encouragement, grace, forgiveness, and the Gospel than motherhood. Entering into parenting a toddler and adding a second have just compounded my own proclivity to have some false sense of control over our lives, followed by regular and glaring reminders of my utter need for Christ.

Parenting is a daily grind. Christianity is a daily grind. Endurance, perseverance and repentance are not strong suits of mine. But I take comfort in knowing I have a Savior who knows me intimately and is patient to continue his work of sanctification in me, regardless of its pace. And that the Lord, who is mighty, is whom my children truly belong to. I only need to let go of my grasp on them and trust that He cares for them perfectly, immeasurably more than I ever could.

hello from the other side

Who. has. the. time. Its something I think a lot these days. Its been my approach to writing like this these days. And by these days I’m generally talking about the last two years, with a particular emphasis on the past seven months. I’ve completely let writing fall by the wayside, and with it the commitment to devote any real mental space to regular reflection.

I look back on even my previous, one-child-to-wrangle self these days and think ohhhhhh giiiiiiiirrrll you had no idea. I think, She would paint her nails. HA! She would wear her long hair down nearly every day. HA! What a dear sweet baby love I was, young and free, thinking I had such little time for myself anymore. Guys, that was not even SEVEN months ago.

Its amazing how quickly and drastically things can–and do–change. I don’t wish those days of old on myself, perhaps because children make mental people out of us parents due to how much looove we can’t help but have in our souls for them. [Its a parental cliche, but I can hardly imagine life before the babies became a part of it. On paper, choosing parenthood over DINK-hood (laugh cry emoji) on the other side of the jump, doesn’t quite add up. But in life, it more than adds up. Those squishy, toothless-grinned bobble headed babes and their curious, crazy, high-pitch voiced, not much older siblings win our hearts from day one and we’re stuck for good.] Despite the sleepless nights and early mornings, the messy kitchens, the scarcity of time alone, we’re happy to be on this side. At least, I am. Truly, I am.

But I still can’t help but feel the teeniest tiniest tinge of prideful contempt at my old self sometimes. It is so so easy to feel like a martyr. To crave recognition for what I’ve so sacrificially given up for motherhood. Which, by the way, I entered into so conveniently unaware of what it really requires of you. Can I get an amen?

So no one has. the. time. k? In her own way, that old self of mine was being stretched just as I am today, albeit in in slightly different ways. I don’t want to use my current circumstance to excuse myself from the Lord’s good slow work of sanctification, and I think reflection is one small piece of letting Him do His work in me.

I make no promises. But here I am today, from the other side.

And you’re welcome, for lodging Adele right into the front of your brain there.