Why, I never...

 

Back when I was a perfect parent (before I had children), I had a long list of things I would never do.  Sitting on my lofty perch of idealism, fueled by enough childcare experience to feel knowledgeable about the field of mothering, I was emphatic on several points to which I would not yield.  I would never breastfeed (I nursed all four of mine), would never co-sleep (Somewhere in the middle of night 3 with our first, I caved on this one just for an extra 20 minutes of sleep.  Our bed at night now resembles a snake den of wiggly arms, legs, and torsos. The “snow angel” is the toddler’s favorite sleeping position.), and would CERTAINLY NEVER HOMESCHOOL (We’re in our third year of educational dictatorship…I mean…of our sweet blessed educational journey.)  I even now have a baby who refuses everything but organic formula (which I would have majorly rolled my eyes at years ago).  Somehow, I became accidentally crunchy, except for peanut M&M’s and the necessity of the times that is frozen pizza.  I was especially adamant that I would never put my child on a LEASH.  I mean, who would do that to their kid?  This girl.  Our first was an early walker, quickly turned fearless runner, and with a baby sister 18 months younger, that sucker was a lifesaver. Literally. I encountered the meanest comments and looks, which just served as a humbling reminder of my own ugliness and pride a few short years before. 

Another guilty pleasure turned humbling moment: the People of Walmart website.  I used to peruse the archives, cackling and snorting with superior glee as I clicked through the wardrobe malfunctions, hair travesties, and social faux pas.  Until one fateful day when I was making a quick run to Wally World myself, with my first child in tow.  I was extremely pregnant with our second, and as I hoisted my son on my hip and hauled it through the parking lot, I became increasingly aware of how cold it was outside.  I soldiered on until the looks and scoffs of those making the trek with me caused me to look down.  Good people, my yoga pants were riding mid-derrière and my maternity t-shirt had hiked it up to my ribs, leaving my stretched, burgeoning belly out for public display.  I have never returned to my former snickering at the People of Walmart in full confidence that I am now, most assuredly, on the website. 

But besides these humorous humiliations and general eating of my words, there are many other things I never thought I was capable of.  Ugly-yelling at my kids.  Cold-shouldering my husband. Throwing things across the room in frustration. Dark thoughts and secret desires.  The necessity of anti-depressants just to cope with life (thanks, post-partum depression.)  What this has revealed is not just my naivety and pride, but a deep lack of understanding of just how sinful I am, and just how much I need Jesus.  I hold a degree from Big-Girl-Panties University, but no amount of soldiering on and pushing forward can compensate for how much I need Grace.  There is no Pinterest project or parenting philosophy that covers the fact that I need the momently guidance of the Spirit, the life-giving instruction of Scripture, the loving chastisement of the Father, and the all-encompassing Grace of Jesus.  I could never live abundantly without them, and that’s a statement I feel confident I will never retract. 

My so-called life

I received my favorite catalogue in the mail the other day, and in addition to all the gorgeous clothes and scenes found in its perfumed pages, I absolutely love how well it depicts what my every-day life looks like. It's uncanny, really, how well they captured the ins and outs of daily life with four small children. 

Take a look.  

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Here I am, first thing in the morning. My effortless French braid has stayed put through my peaceful, full night of sleep. I am poised and alert as my husband and I swap details of the upcoming day. I rest near the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the many songbirds heralding the joys of the morning. 

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Following my morning coffee (which is purely for enjoyment since I am obviously so well rested), I gaze lovingly across the estate as I bid my lover adieu. I muse quietly to myself over some gentle secret he whispered to me before mounting his white horse and galloping into town for a pleasant day's work.  

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As the children play gaily in the next room, I grab a nearby frond and say a heartfelt prayer of peace and gratitude, enjoying the perfumed essence of the life-twigs in my hand and the sun tickling my soul through the open arched doorway.  

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I quickly dress my clean, cooperative children, with ample time to attend my hair and makeup, and we head into town for our morning errands. Our first stop is the local artisanal baker. We walk in just as he takes his first batch of piping hot French loaves from the oven, and I wrap them in a linen towel and tuck them under my arm.  I laugh at the antics of my cherubs as they sweetly banter over what organic, free-range soup they want to dip this heavenly gluten into. 

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Following our errands, we head to the nearby park. Despite it being a balmy seventy-two degrees outside, I am neither sweaty nor frizzy. An organic juice stand nearby offers me a bit of reprieve as the little ones playfully scamper across the natural landscape. My shoes are so comfortable, I only need to use one foot to stand. 

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Following lunch and reading time, in which each of my children eagerly and joyfully participates, I head to our portico, face the sun, and telepathically communicate with my husband. (If you do not yet know how to do this, both of you must simply find a place of perfect serenity, face the sun, and empty your mind of all thoughts but the untainted love you have for each other. Thoughts between you will begin flowing like rays of light.) He surprises me with the fact that he's leaving work early and would like to meet me in town for an afternoon rendezvous. 

 

 

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The children's au pair briskly heads over, and I finish the day with a few glasses of rosé, laughing merrily and smiling coquettishly. I must admit that perhaps I've had one glass too many, as I gracefully slip from my chair. I look so fabulous though, that my inebriation is more charming than it is awkward or embarrassing. My chivalrous husband puts me upon his horse, and we amble home through the stone-paved streets. 

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Following the children's baths, tender snuggles, and unhurried bedtime, I strike a pose next to our canopied bed, playfully beckoning my husband with my eyes. My nursing bosoms fit graciously into the plunging neckline, and my hair, though freshly showered, is already soft and fluffy. So confident are we in our impending uninterrupted sleep, we end the evening reading and conversing over the joyful moments that permeated our day. I look forward to waking, knowing that the coming day will be just as fabulously accessorized.

 

On a more serious note, if you are a clothing designer looking to sell yoga pants, concealer, dry shampoo, and tops that cover a four-babies-in-six-years belly, hit me up. I've got that look DOWN.  

 

 

** Edit: Several have asked which catalogue this is. Forgive me for not sharing that information originally.  All clothing and images are found in the most recent Soft Surroundings mailer. Soft Surroundings has been my favorite line for over a decade. The clothes are a bit pricey, but they are definitely of high quality and last for years (I have pieces from HIGH SCHOOL, ya'll). I invest in one or two pieces a year. You can shop at softsurroundings.com or softsurroundingsoutlet.com for deep discounts.  (You can also find this brand at ThredUp for even greater savings!)

 

Eine kleine nachtmusik

Oh, the magic of Spring. New life, soft blooms, gentle breezes, the hum of bees and the songs of birds. It's just so slendiferous.  

Except when it's NOT.  

Ya'll. I'm writing this at 11:30 at night, gaily accompanied by the most extroverted robin on the planet.  

Now, I could spin this into some super inspirational post about singing even in the darkest of night, but, BUT this creature is affecting my sleep. And has been for days now. Not that I have a nursing baby who needs me ALL OF THE NIGHT or anything. 

Now, I'm so glad this little creature has the joy of the Lord in his tiny little heart, but I don't care if Gabriel himself has alighted in our trees outside and this bird is heralding heavenly presence. I AM OVER IT.  

Sounds like Mariah Carey swallowed a whistle and is doing a self-inflicted heimlich maneuver.  

And the baby is sleeping. For a few blessed hours, THE BABY IS SLEEPING which means I SHOULD BE SLEEPING. 

But no, this bird is either doing the mating call of the century or auditioning for The Voice RIGHT outside my window. ALL NIGHT.  

My love got a pretty awesome light-up bow and arrow toy thingy last year, and I'm about to go all Katniss Everdeen on it. 

Just to scare it. To death.  

I mean, I know Spring has other vices, but right now I would snort a line of pollen straight into my sinus cavity if it meant shutting this thing UP. 

Think I'm exaggerating? Listen.  

 

Step by step guide to adding a fourth baby

Here is your handy-dandy guide to absolutely rocking it with your fourth baby and making it look effortless at the same time.  

Step one: Getting your looks back

The key component to returning to your pre-baby glory is to set the bar low to begin with. Go ahead and get those around you acquainted with the no makeup, unwashed hair, yoga-pants vibe before conceiving. Add a splash of sour milk under your neck to establish your signature fragrance, with the slight whisper of baby powder for a touch of elegance. 

Return to your original physique with these simple rules: start out "curvy." Wear flowy clothes. Bask in the amazement of others when your original burkas, kimonos, and ponchos cascade right over those extra 20 lbs. 

Step two: Keeping up with chores

To keep your house looking tidy, make sure to deliver the baby around Christmas time for some serious crap camouflage. The house will be so bedecked with macaroni ornaments, glitter trees, garlands of seizure-inducing lights, and more wrapping paper than Hobby Lobby that the assortment of socks, toys, and dog hair will coordinate with the rest of the festive accessories. 

Eliminate the growing mountain of laundry with a two-step system. First, leave laundry in the dryer for as long as possible and have family "shop" directly from the freshly (re)tumbled batch. Second, dump all remaining laundry on the floor and instruct the little "cheetahs" prowling about to put the laundry away in predatory fashion. Ignore the wrinkles, saliva, and bite marks. Mary Poppins would be proud.  

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 Step three: Punctuality

Nothing says "I have it together" more than showing up on time or early. To accomplish this, give a 10 minute warning to your children to get their shoes and coats on and get in the car before leaving. Do a quick verbal confirmation that everyone is buckled before skidding out of the driveway, but above all else DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR CHILDREN. This is crucial to your timeliness. When you arrive at your destination, stifle your gasp when you realize your toddler is in footie pajamas and sandals and has attempted to copy the Joker's signature look with your lipstick. Disregard that the older children are wearing flip flops and costumes in 30 degree weather.  

Step four: Time Management

In order to nurse the baby, maintain the home, prepare food, and supervise the children, you'll need a little help from your friends. These friends will become like family to you as you will see them more than your own flesh and blood. My dearest companions include the Wild Kratts, Daniel Tiger, two delightful boys named Phineas and Ferb, and a sweet princess named Sofia. Without them, showering would be impossible. 

Step five: Food Preparation

Since the Toddler's new favorite phrase is "I'm hungry," providing healthy food options for your children is a frequent and necessary task. Since the baby refuses to be put down, meal prep must now be done one-handed. Fear not, though, as "picnic" and "buffet" meals are a favorite among everyone. Simply open every available snack food and place on the table. Spread a blanket on the floor. Let the children select from a healthy variety of fruit snacks, crackers, and cereals and enjoy lunch with the aforementioned "friends". 

Step six: Keeping your sanity

Remember to live "momently." A dear friend coined this word, and it's the best gift I can give you. Remember that each of these moments, the sweet and the challenging, are fleeting.  Know that nothing lasts forever. You'll be able to get your routine, your house, and even your body back to a healthy place again, but you'll never get this day with your little ones back. Hold that baby and laugh at the kids. Call someone to tell them the toddler's latest stunt just to hear someone else laugh about it. Show up to church and school and play dates without feeling the need to look good, just to be around the people you love. Let people into your home in all its chaotic glory, and let them hold the baby if they ask (they really do want to).  

Just rest in the love you've been given and the knowledge that you were loved unconditionally as a Daughter long before you were ever a mother. And remember that your children are loved and cared for just the same. 

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