My Thanksgiving Baby

We celebrated Jane’s first birthday with a family party yesterday. I was struck by two themes:

1. What a sweet and pleasant personality Jane seems to have.

2. What an ungrateful person I am. Recently I realized that I use “moody” as a euphemism for what is really ingratitude.

The happy birthday girl.
The happy birthday girl.

 

But let me back up. While I don’t believe God ordains every detail of our lives, I can certainly see how He’s used the circumstances of having children’s and even their personalities in my life.

With Simon, I wanted a baby for almost a year before having a healthy pregnancy. This was a big challenge to my sense of control and contentment. Then along came an energetic, strong-willed, and quintessential boy who has not gone out of his way to make me look like a good parent. He is a very fun and good-natured kid, but his classic toddler tantrums and defiance have saved me from judging other who also failed to produce naturally compliant children, on the other hand, was (TMI alert) conceived on-demand, delivered quickly, and immediately exuded an aura of peace and sweetness, at least in my maternal view. And she generally been a content and peaceful baby–by day, and a screaming little terror by night. If I began to think I could control toddler tantrums and conception of my children, I now had a new barrier to control–a baby who would not comply with my nap and nighttime sleep expectations, no matter how rigidly I followed the recommended training methods. But you’ve spent enough time this year reading about these over-stated woes and my out-of-proportion angst.

I blow on hot eggs, but not candles.
I blow on hot eggs, but not candles.

What I’m getting is that Jane was a complete doll at her birthday party, as she has been since birth. Though confused, she didn’t cry when everyone sang to her. She just looked around trying to figure it all out, kind of the same way she looked when she first opened her eye for those five minutes at a time as a newborn. She loved the smash cake and, rather than getting hyper afterward like her brother did, sort of zoned out briefly while processing the record sugar intake. She sat still on my lap to “open” all her gifts and even broke her boycott from taking steps to show off her skills. She let everyone hold her and never put up a fuss about anything.

Why smash when you can eat?
Why smash when you can eat?

Afterward I reflected on how much I’ve complained and struggled with her sleep stuff this year and felt like a brat. I have such a happy, healthy baby and we have so much fun together–who I am to complain? But rather than bewailing my bad attitude, I decided to just be grateful. It’s so fitting that Jane is a Thanksgiving baby because I have everything to be thankful for about her. I got a baby exactly when I wanted one, she’s “the type of baby who makes you want to have more babies,” (as per a friend with 5–surely she’s had a few of this type too!), and she’s just ridiculously cute. Lately she likes to take my hand to make me feel the textured spots in her touch and feel books. She also gives kisses to her friends, family, and stuffed animals and is starting to hold phones and phone-shaped objects to her ear. She loves to take snuggle breaks in between playing and gets so excited when Neil gets home. It appears she’s learned how to go down the stairs and dismount furniture backwards, though she can’t be trusted for consistency. As soon as I bring her a scrambled egg she starts blowing on it.

Even though she still isn’t “sleeping through the night,” I feel like I’ve survived something, and I’m grateful for that, too. The first year is a special but tough one. Now I’m excited to see my baby to become a little girl, whatever that entails. At least I don’t have to worry about doing her hair for a while! I know hindsight is 20/20, but instead of focusing on what she’s not doing or what I can’t control, I hope this Thanksgiving baby can be her ungrateful mama’s much-needed reminder to give thanks.

 

Summer Summary

The past month has been nuts (my new favorite word). We went on a fun-filled family vacation. Usually we vacation with other families but this was just the four of us. We headed to Dayton for a free hotel stay with the warmest pool ever and went to the Air Force Memorial Museum the next day. So. Many. Planes. I dressed for the August weather but the museum was so frigid I almost broke through the display glass to steal one of the old snowsuits on display. The B-2 stealth bomber was awesome, though, and so stealthy you really almost couldn’t see it right there in front of you.

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If you survive the museum, there are more planes outside!
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Who set the thermostat to Siberian solstice?
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This space suit is pretty warm, Mom!

From there we headed to a campground near Cincinnati. We shopped at Jungle Jim’s, an international supermarket, and tried jackfruit for the first time. We also visited a farm park, the Cincinnati zoo, and Entertrainment Junction, the world’s largest indoor model train track. This elaborate chronology of the American railroad was surrounded with an intricate, miniature world. After paying almost $30 in admission for Neil and me (2 & under free, and Simon made the cut by 2 days!), we could barely get Simon out of the lobby’s gift shop, where a train table had him at first chug. Simon was far more enamored with the playroom, which included several train tables, one with a “craner” as he called the magnetic crane, and a play steam engine in which you could fake shovel fake coal from one side to the other. (Has anyone else ceased to be embarrassed by calling trains “choo-choos” in adult company?)

He demonstrated similar perseveration at the (thank God!) much smaller firefighter museum. He spent nearly the entire time in the display cab of a modern engine, subjecting the other visitors to a barrage of lights and sirens made accessible to his ilk.

Camping cutie.
Camping cutie.

Four days after we returned from camping, we hosted Simon’s third birthday party. Or more accurately, we came home with a car full of crap and mounds of dirty laundry, plus a sick & teething infant, an almost-threenager, and two very dirty parents, none of whom had slept well in five days. And the party was no small affair. Over fifty guests were invited for his first-ever and last-for-quite-a-while fiesta with friends. Not to mention when your invite the family, you’d better clean, though when you invite a dozen preschoolers, you’d better not clean. I was really trying not to let a 3-year-old’s party consume my life. There were no decorations, we ordered pizza, and Neil’s mom made a cake. But there are always those last minute details. I’d say the party was a success: a fire engine piñata, squirt gun favors, a 2-liter-shooting rocket, and no broken bones.

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I can’t believe they gave me this giant stick!

The next day, Neil left for almost a week in Chicago. We supposed to camp again the day after his return, but instead we attended a wake. We went camping for one night and returned for Neil to attend another wake-like function. Nothing like a funeral-camping sandwich to wrap up your summer. Labor Day was fun, with a last-minute birthday dinner for Neil with our friends, and the next day he was teaching a “worker’s meeting” for our Bible study, which, in the midst of all this chaos, is splitting into two meetings (which is good, but also required some planning time & meetings).

But what Neil didn’t know was that the meeting was doubling as a surprise party for him. So I scurried about with post-camping laundry & party shopping & cake-baking. I didn’t think through a lot of details until the day of since I just didn’t have time. But I pulled it off. He taught, there was a little discussion & communion & prayer, and then his man-bff Mark pulled him outside “to talk to him.” Mark suggested I do this as a way to transition to the surprise party, but I suspected Neil would just tell me it could wait till later. Mark was the perfect candidate since he is intense, always has something important to talk about, and Neil wouldn’t put him off. When he came back in, surprise! There were balloons and friends yelling at him, following by cake & singing, and a nacho bar. He was surprised and impressed and concluded I must actually love him. (Apparently I had never thrown him a birthday party before.)

But we’re not done yet. That weekend Neil & Mark traveled to Columbus for a seminary class. Oh, and they found out Thursday night they’d be teaching at the annual baptisms Sunday afternoon. Saturday I took the kids to Neil’s grandpa’s 97th birthday where Jane met her extended family for the first time. A few hours after we got home we discovered Simon had the dreaded hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). Though rarely serious, it is extremely contagious for a week (see Quaratine). Luckily Jane was infected straightaway—how could she not be—so our week sentence ended promptly. I emerged briefly from quarantine Tuesday to teach our final home church meeting before splitting.

Yay for quarantine!
Yay for quarantine!

What did I learn? During the busy weekend of multiple wakes & upcoming teachings & meetings I thought, “When are things going to get back to normal?” But I already knew the answer. In this world, there will always be an overwhelming amount of needs. As much as I enjoy and sometimes need quiet moments with a book, I can’t live for those, because that’s not what life is about. “The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few,” Jesus said at the original worker’s meeting, and later, “The poor will always be with you.” When things are “normal,” I’m sure I don’t even notice, or I feel stressed anyway.

I tried to enjoy this quarantine more even though we missed our friends and normal activities. We are busy and on the go a lot and this was a rare chance to slow down, snuggle, play in the yard, bake bread, and even clean the house a bit.

I also get frustrated about missing our usual Bible teaching and times of fellowship. During the two meetings that someone wasn’t sick I was scheduled for babysitting duty. Before having kids, I thrived on these frequent times to hear the Word and enjoy friends. When I first became a mom I struggled with how much I missed out on; it almost felt wrong. (However, I am very grateful for the many people who have babysat for us to participate in meetings, retreats, and youth ministry.) The truth is, if my walk with God depends only on external structures, it’s time for me to depend more on Him. Maybe being a mom is a little like being a missionary who is isolated from other believers. People in that situation have to rely on God more than ever, relating directly and continuously to Him. Part of my quarantine company was Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Yum. (That’s a whole ‘nother blog.)

Almost as soon as we re-entered society, I realized our fall schedule might be a little too ambitious once we factor in errands & play dates. It’s all optional, though, and sadly Jane produced some HFMD blisters on her back after being symptom free for most of a week. So we’ve settled in until our next outing, where we’ll no doubt catch some other contagion. #fhfmd #seeunever

29 For the First Time

So I’m turning 29, which means I only have only 11 years left to worry about getting my first colonoscopy, hopefully. I’m sure tomorrow will be just another day, but I had an awesome weekend of birthday pre-gaming. Though it started badly, like so:

We had seven people over for dinner and in the middle of munching tacos I remembered something I’d been meaning to ask Neil. Now anyone normal would save this for later, but I’d been forgetting all week, and we had people over three out of the last four dinners, so I just went for it.

The setting: epic taco night.
The setting: epic taco night.

“What’s that bike doing in your car?” After several times of driving the Focus I realized that the bike in the back wasn’t neon yellow-green, and therefore was not his.

“Oh, that’s just a little project I’m working on,” he said with an obvious look.

“Oh, is that my birthday present?” I am so brilliant. “I don’t want a bike for my birthday.” Okay, not so brilliant.

Neil indicated we needed to cut off the conversation, and I shoved some chips in my mouth along with my foot. Who says they don’t want their birthday present in front of a group of people? A two-year-old? Big mistake. I kind of don’t want your hobby for my birthday, I thought, but we had already talked about how I need a bike so we can bike as a family. And I hadn’t given him any good ideas, except new jeans, which I went ahead and bought myself when I found some on clearance. So just put me down as a spoiled brat.

Mostly I’m afraid to ride a bike on the street because I never really did growing up, although I always wanted to. So here’s my chance. I decided I’d learn to love my new bike, and I already have, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

We love to snuggle.
We love to snuggle.

Friday, Neil lined up a babysitter (his mom) and took me to our favorite Indian restaurant. The service & naan have never been better, and we had a fun time chatting after all that bike tension. We also took a walk through the park and relaxed at a wine bar. The next day we took our first family bike ride, mainly on the bike & hike path. As Neil promised, riding a bike feels like freedom. The weather was beautiful & we stopped at a little pond with a deck and watched the ducks and a blue heron. We never would’ve found this peaceful spot a mile from our house in our car. Jane snored away in the bike trailer with her snotty little nose. Simon kept shutting the little gate “so animals won’t get in.” We hit the playground on the way back, and I stopped at a garage sale. Alone! I never go to garage sales because their car seats are such a hassle.

I have to be in a car seat for 7.75 more years!
I have to be in a car seat for 7.25 more years!

Sunday Neil (& Jane) let me sleep in. After breakfast I rushed to Target to buy a mom bathing suit top (i.e. tankini) before going to my family pool party. This was a very relaxing experience with two children in tow. Simon was detaching bikini straps & throwing them into the aisle, yelling “Pinetoins!” (don’t ask) & sneaking behind the mirror in the corner to some forbidden nook, and trying to push Jane around in the stroller at breakneck speed. But at 29 and with two kids, it was time to stop rocking the hand-me-down string bikini top. It’s also a little dangerous while swimming with a nursing baby, if you know what I mean. The weather was perfect and some of our friends made it down as well. My grandma had lots of food for us and a birthday cake, and my family acted normal. Everyone was helping with the kids and I didn’t have to cook anything! So I felt very loved by everyone, and especially Neil.

FYI I’m actually planning to turn 30 instead of 29 again next year. I love the poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning, which begins:

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life, for which the first was made:

Our times are in His hand

Who saith “A whole I planned,

Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

We’ll see if I feel the same in 10 or 20 or 30 years. But the real question is, what should I get Neil for his birthday? Some vic-chic-lit? A Zumba DVD? Do I even have hobbies other than keeping people alive right now? I can’t remember.

All of You

Sometimes, like almost every night, I ask myself, Why does Jane have to wake up & cry for an hour and a half? I’ve pretty much given up on actually figuring out why she does this, since every theory I can fathom gets debunked, so this question really means: Why am I so unlucky to have to put up with this?

But if I was feeling less self-pity (which is rare), I might ask myself, Why do I have such a beautiful, sweet baby who is pleasant 22.5 hours of the day? Why does she love to sing and dance, already at 8 months? Why does she laugh when I kiss her tummy or play peek-a-boo? Why does she have an adorable little dimple when she chews or purses her lips? Why does she think Simon is so hilarious? Why does she smile every time she sees her daddy? Why does she smile & rest her head on me every time she sees someone new? Why does she have such tiny hands and feet? Why does entertain herself so easily? Why is she so flexible when we’re out and about? Why do Cheerios make her so cheery?

Why is she so Jane?

The decoy spoon.
The decoy spoon.
Stealing brother's watermelon.
Stealing brother’s watermelon.
Mowing the carpet.
Mowing the carpet.
The only way I want to play with the exersaucer.
The only way I want to play with the exersaucer.

‘Cause she is. And this is why she has to wake up and cry, I guess. Although I’d like her to sleep through the night, I wouldn’t want any other baby. I’m sure I’d feel the same way about any baby we could have had, but we had Jane, and I’m so glad we did.

My Precious, Time-Sensitive Commodity

So I had a revelation, and here it is: Jane is a precious, time-sensitive commodity who is almost always happy, so who cares if she doesn’t sleep?

I'm too cute for my own good.
I’m too cute for my own good.

And everyone said, duh.

This is just another way of saying what I’ve been telling myself (and being told by others) all along: they’re only this little once, so just try to enjoy them.

But you see, no one comes to tell you this at your house at 4 am when the baby has been screaming for over an hour. In fact, I dare someone to.

Back to the epiphany. I might have had this thought because she occasionally sleeps through the night now, and it’s easier to think rationally and optimistically when you’re getting sleep. But perhaps the deeper revelation was that I live in a world of ideas & theories where I’m not basing how to handle my baby so much on my experience and knowledge of Jane, but on a forecast of how my actions today will affect the next 2-5 years of my life. In searching for solutions, I inadvertently memorized quotations from The Baby Whisperer, Baby Wise, Ferber, mothers, mothers-in-law, you name it. And of course they don’t all say the same thing, so there’s ample guilt connected with any approach, if you’re one for guilt (I am).

I think my brother is hilarious.
I think my brother is hilarious.

One day, she got up “early” from her nap (again), and I knew she was not going to go back to sleep. I thought, I could let her cry for X amount of minutes, but I’d be doing that because I’m afraid she won’t take a good nap when she’s two. So why don’t we just live in the moment for once? Stop quoting all these stupid quotes to yourself and just think about how she is going to be perfectly happy until bedtime, and we’ll have fun playing together before Simon gets up. She’s a baby, and being (or having) a baby is such a short time period in your life, so why waste it angsting over future nap scenarios? Sometimes it’s hard to even remember Simon being a baby, and that was only a couple years ago. People long for babies, they look forward to having one, and when it’s over, they want to hang around other people’s babies because it’s such a short, special time. YOU HAVE A BABY! I told myself. SO GO ENJOY YOUR BABY! (If you don’t enjoy her enough you might be crazy enough to have another one!)

Duh, duh, duh. I know, I’m dense.

Snuggle buggle!
Snuggle buggle!

And, I continued, whether I get her up now has almost nothing, and maybe has absolutely nothing, to do with what she’s going to be doing a year from now. It’s clearly not a free-for-all around here, as we can tell from my extreme uptightness and over-thinking of everything.

It was helpful to realize/remember about myself that I’m a theories kind of girl, and theories have their place, but so does just relating to people as people and not referring to every nap or night as “data.” Aside from not actually being scientific, this is just plain weird.

Jane is 8 months today, crawling, eating Cheerios, blabbering, and dangerously cute. So watch out! Who knows what obvious truths I might blog about next.

Hit me with some Cheerios.
Hit me with some Cheerios.

The Dark Night of the Soul, or Un-swaddling Jane

Since we had to stop swaddling Jane (too hot, rolling onto tummy, frequent Houdini-like escapes) we’ve had a week of rough nights. I remained optimistic for the first two days. But even when Jane finally slept, I couldn’t, which was almost as maddening. On night four, I threw my alarm clock (the $4 model) at the wall, startling Neil and revealing my complete lack of maturity.

Looks can be deceiving.
Looks can be deceiving.

During these literal dark nights of the soul, I realized once again what I’ve been learning all along as a mom.

I don’t know what love is.

Let me clarify. “We know love because He first loved us.” Jesus laid down His life, by living and dying completely for others’ benefit, to give us what we really needed: forgiveness and freedom. So I know what love is, what it looked like and how it operates. But when it comes to loving sacrificially, like staying up most of the night with a 6-month-old for a week, I fail miserably.

First time in the jumpy thingy
First time in the jumpy thingy

I know how to throw temper tantrums.

I know how to be crabby and negative.

I know how to pretend I’m fine to seem tough.

I know how to act pathetic and seek pity.

Then Neil came in and offered me a night off. In fact, it wasn’t an offer, it was a command. When I tried to get up with her at 5:30 am, after he’d been up all night, he said, no, it’s my turn, go to bed. He camped in the hallway so I wouldn’t be bothered by him going in and out. He turned off the monitor base so I couldn’t tune in (not that I tried!).

I felt so loved by this (and slept so well), I was re-energized to handle night 6 more calmly. Neil also impressed me by being completely cheerful the next day. He helped his brother move furniture, pulled Simon in the bike trailer to go fishing, and then we attended a wedding and he pulled me onto the dance floor!

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I did my hair while both kids screamed instead of napping :)
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Doing push-ups a.k.a. “tummy time”

But the dark night of the soul is supposed to be about your spiritual journey to get closer to God through suffering. It’s silly to even consider this real suffering, but God showed me what love looks like through Neil, who didn’t seem to think his sacrifice was a big deal. And I’m remembering, as I learned with Simon, that sacrifice isn’t just taking care of your baby. It’s serving your husband and not being a B even when you’re sleep-deprived, and trying to care about and help other people, too.

It's a good thing I'm cute.
It’s a good thing I’m cute.

Tonight when I was putting Simon to bed, he kept pointing to pictures in the book and saying, “What’s that, Mom?” “What is that guy doing, Mom?” And I got butterflies in my stomach, like the first time Neil held my hand, just thinking about how I am official. I am Mom to him and always will be. I’m not just playing pretend, driving a station wagon, playing Raffi, and going to Target. It’s not an extended babysitting job, it’s for real and I want to do my best. So here’s to coming through one dark night of the soul, heading in to the next soon, no doubt (teething is imminent), and trying not to throw my alarm clock again (it survived).

Night Shift

Neil has been on out of town on night shift at the power plant outage all week. Of course this means I’m on day and night shifts here, which is just another way of saying I’m the mom, but it’s definitely harder with no co-workers! On day 4 Simon is starting to enrage me. He isn’t listening to me, and it usually takes threats or time-out, yelling, or me dragging him to time-out (while feeding Jane) to bring about obedience. He’s also whiny, and I’m trying to keep in mind that he misses Neil too. This isn’t too hard to forget because every time I try to get him to do something, he cries, “I want Daddy!” Thank God it has been nice out so at least we can play outside and go to the playground.

So I was thinking during naptime, the only time I have uninterrupted thoughts, why am I getting so mad? I don’t want to yell at him all the time. It works once in a while, but we need to save that once in a while for when he’s about to run into the street. Growing up, my family yelled, slammed, and threw (soft) objects, but that’s not how I want our family to work. Yet I’m finding myself drawn to these tactics more and more as Simon’s will clashes with mine.

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Also, parents represent God to their kids, and largely shape their children’s view of God, not so much by what we say about God as how we treat our children. We are the visible authority led by the invisible Authority. Since my wrath is selfish and controlling, I certainly don’t want Simon getting the impression God is this way.

Plus yelling scares Jane. And Simon just laughs, yells “Obey!” or “Don’s scream, Mom!” Sometimes I use this scary weird voice when I’m trying to not yell, which Simon just finds hilarious (luckily).

So why am I getting so mad? Because I’m trying to control him. Because I want to get something done. Like the laundry, or dishes, or getting Jane to sleep, or getting ready to go somewhere.  In the moment I’m baffled about why Simon won’t cooperate so we can go to the playground. But of course he doesn’t get it; he’s only two.

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My big naptime epiphany was this: my job is to teach Simon to listen. Calmly, patiently, creatively coming up with consequences for not listening, or motivation to listen. This is more important than getting the housework done, or getting to the playground five minutes faster, or even getting Jane to sleep at that exact moment. In the long run it will make all of those things easier, although I’m guessing this is going to be a long process. But I can’t lose this battle. Allowing him to be out of control and not follow our authority is not an option; that would just set him up for a lifetime of rebellion and unhappiness.

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The truth is, there are no shifts on motherhood. Your only hope for a “break” is nap time (or a babysitter), and that is a hard-won battle every day! The battles are gruesome but the victories are sweet. Playing “this little piggy” with Simon and Jane today made it all feel worthwhile because we were all laughing and snuggling together. Motherhood is brutal and beautiful.

Stuck Deluxe

So I’m feeling kind of stuck, mentally, as a mom. Basically I hate not being able to control my children. Which is not to say they’re out of control. They just have free will and I can’t make Jane sleep through the night, and I can’t make Simon clean up his blocks without lots of supervision, help, time-outs, and getting the blocks taken away. Consciously I don’t think the goal of parenting is to control my children or even to produce well-behaved children. But when Simon’s non-compliance or Jane waking up at 2 a.m. makes me so mad, I know I’m being controlling.

I love them and I’m enjoying them; I know they won’t be 5 months and 2 years old forever. And I’m sure I’ll miss these years of chubby cheeks, snuggling, and reading Clifford’s Birthday Party for the millionth time. But I still find myself wondering, When will this be over? And will I ever sleep again?

I feel very unproductive. All I do is wipe butts, do laundry, do dishes, and then do it all over again. I’m always cleaning yet my house is never clean. I’m mostly okay with this, but something deep inside of me nags that I should be trying to accomplish something more profound than daily survival. In fact producing dinner feels like the crowning accomplishment of each day, though it’s usually some lame variation on spaghetti or tacos. Which I promptly devour in five minutes between giving Simon a time-out for extreme whining, and putting Jane down for a nap.

Who cares about getting stuff done when I've got these 2 cuties around?
Who cares about getting stuff done when I’ve got these 2 cuties around?

On some level I still think there’s merit in trying to have a life of my own. And I suppose there is; it’s good for everyone that we get babysitters, go on dates, and lead Bible studies. There’s some space beyond living for yourself or living for your kids, and that’s where I’m trying to live. It’s laying down your life for others, and I’m not very good at it. But laying down your life for your kids is the ultimate training camp, because they require the most sacrifice. My friends don’t call me in the middle of the night almost every night, but kids do.

I’m stuck on the idea that baby sleep is a moral issue, and if my baby or toddler is waking me up all the time then I must be a bad mom with no boundaries. I think if I’m laying down my life a little too much, I must not be disciplining or training or teaching them right. I hate when people ask if she’s sleeping through the night because I interpret it as, “So are you one of those bad moms that won’t sleep train?”

So that’s where I’m stuck. Part of me wants to say, we’re gonna do our best with the baby sleep and toddler obedience, without expecting too much, and it’s going to take a lot of sacrifice and patience. Then the other part of me is like, don’t give up too much control, or your kids will be totally out of control. I know sleep is not actually a moral issue; I know teaching Simon to obey us is; I also know both are going to take a while and I didn’t have kids because I wanted to sleep well, relax, have a clean house, or otherwise accomplish anything productive.

Janes

But isn’t raising children the most profound accomplishment? To create beings in our image, like God did, and to hopefully shape them to be servant-leaders, as He is— nothing could be more significant or refining. So when I think, when will I get my life back? I keep telling myself, this is life. All this diaper-changing, binky-ing, and time-out-giving is life because I am nurturing life. I am giving room & board & my best to God’s stewardship of life. And if I give up control & let God change me through the process then it will produce abundant life.

I also feel quite blessed to have a strong-willed toddler and a non-sleeping-through-the-night baby because otherwise I’d probably judge the shit out of other parents. I learned a lot about not passing judgment from having Simon and it’s round two, level two with Jane. I’m also quite blessed to have generally very happy, charming children who are, if I may say so, excessively and exceedingly cute!

Camping with Kids

Who takes a baby and toddler tent camping for a week in Florida? We do!

camping with kids

It was crazy but fun, and I’m so glad we went, though next year I’m demanding we teleport. We left around 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning. At 7:20 I thought, what if Jane sleeps all day in the car and doesn’t sleep at night? At 7:25 Jane woke up and didn’t sleep more than 40 minutes in a row until we got to the hotel, where she slept soundly in a pack ‘n’ play in the bathroom.

The next day we were almost to the campground when I realized we had no swim diapers. Sunday was to be the warmest day and we kept our beach gear accessible in the over-stuffed rental SUV with car top carrier. I planned to buy diapers there in a failed effort not to over-pack (we never wore half the clothes I brought, which were supposed to only last half the week).

“I don’t have any swim diapers,” I told Neil.

“It’s fine, it’s the ocean,” he replied.

“But he hasn’t pooped all day. He’s going to poop when he gets out of the car.”

“It’s the ocean,” he repeated.

“But then his swim trucks will be dirty.”

“It’s the ocean,” he said, concluding the conversation.

Jane and I hid under the SPF 50 “sunbrella” tent while Simon and Neil got to work on sandcastle-building. As prophesied, Simon pooped within 30 minutes of arrival. A friend pointed out his sagging shorts and Neil nonchalantly threw some sand at the poop that inched up his back. By this time a host of our friends, also taking advantage of the beach weather, starting watching the spectacle. The litter box approach was clearly not sufficient so Neil pointed to the ocean and he and Simon ran to the water, where Neil dipped Simon in to the waist and started stirring him around.

“I was going to get back in until this,” one friend laughed, while everyone watched in shock and disgust.

Simon’s friend Miles just noticed Simon’s presence and started running to meet him. “Wait, Miles, don’t go in there!” his dad yelled after him.

Simon wore those swim shorts and went barefoot until bed. The first night in the tent began well with both Simon and Jane going right to bed, though staggered. I couldn’t believe I got to hang around the campfire that evening; I tried to prepare myself for camping by expecting the worst. ‘I just want to see the ocean,” I told people, and, already having accomplished that goal, I figured it would all be downhill from there. Simon did wake up Jane (& everyone) in the middle of the night, and it took about 3 hours to get them & me settled down and sleeping. Nothing some strong coffee didn’t fix in the morning.

At the zoo
At the zoo

We were too busy to feel how tired we were that week. Neil and I each took 1 shower. We kept brushing our teeth in the car on the way to attractions like the zoo or the fort. I didn’t have time to keep walking to the bathroom so I started peeing in a cup in the tent and pitching it in the woods (the guys pee there anyway, right?). I devised this strategy when it was supposed to rain all night, and I can’t believe it took me 11 years of camping to come up with it. Especially when I already have baby wipes and hand sanitizer in the tent. I never took my Bible or novel out of the suitcase, whereas the last two years (with Simon), I read most of an entire book.  I never put on any make-up or even did a real ponytail.

Monday was rough because Jane couldn’t nap well and was crabby, and I kept trying to help her fall back asleep, but then she just got more mad. After that day I just gave up and she never took a nap longer than 40 minutes all week. I’m paying the price for that this week, but there was no way around it. Simon barely napped, usually in the car for half an hour on the way back from sightseeing. I had an (also prophesied) “why did we come here?” moment to Neil on Monday, but acted more despairing than I actually felt. I attended the campfire again that night so actually the trip was far exceeding my expectations.

Choo-choo!
Choo-choo!

Monday we went to Walmart for groceries and supplies and spent $50 more than last year, and perhaps more than necessary, and bemoaned this all week to each other because we’re so cheap. Monday afternoon we went to see the turtle pond. The path was flooded but with the help of friends took Jane, her stroller & car seat, and Simon through the woods to get there. There we saw a bird (heron?) eating fish. Tuesday we went to the zoo and the beach, and into town for ice cream that night. Wednesday Neil took Simon to a playground with a $1 carousel and then he left for his overnight backpacking trip a.k.a. “campception.” Mandy had volunteered to fill in, which was basically a full-time job until they went to bed. She’s a saint. Wednesday afternoon we toured a local distillery (with the kids!) since it wasn’t very warm out.

Thursday Mandy helped me take the kids over the Muller’s site where Simon had a blast playing with Miles and Desmond. The Mullers are an intriguing family of seven ridiculously happy and interesting people. That afternoon when Neil got back we went to the Spanish fort with them & another family. While walking they spontaneously burst out singing, “This is my commandment that you love one another, that your joy may be full!” in harmony, further perpetuating the myth that they are, in fact, the perfect family. Then to the Hyppo, the gourmet popsicle shop. Simon loves popsicles but is used to the flavor-ice variety, not Starfruit or Mango Pineapple or Cranberry Cinnamon. Everyone must have been sick of hearing us moan about our Walmart overspending because both families gave us their free popsicle card.

Choo Choo!
Choo Choo!

Friday we packed up camp in gorgeous weather. It was forecasted to rain all night Saturday and we didn’t want to pack in rain. We visited the Muller’s site again, and got ripped off at the over-priced taco stand on our way out. Jane slept much better in the car on the way home. We left 80 degree weather and returned to freezing rain.

Camping with two little ones was extremely busy and, as far as hygiene goes, an extreme survival situation. I freaked out at the hotel about needing to shower when Jane was sleeping in the nook next to the bathroom. “What the eff do you want?” Neil exclaimed when I was freaking out. “I want an effing shower!” I replied. “Do not, under any circumstances, let me leave this hotel without showering!” Neil offered some solutions and then I found the light to the bathroom and took a shower while Jane continued to sleep. After breakfast Simon asked, “Mom, did you take an effing shower?”

at the mullers

Despite how hectic caring for kids while camping was, I had a really good time. I went to the campfire every night and enjoyed sharing a site with the Allies. Neil and I fought less than any previous camping trip, probably because we were so busy serving the kids. Aside from the first day Jane was her usual good-natured, sweet and happy self. Simon had a blast being a boy in the great outdoors, though he’s suffering from a bad case of diaper rash and post-vacation syndrome now. Yesterday he got spanked before breakfast, didn’t nap, and threw a screw into his poop (in the potty). Today he took a big bite out of a stick of butter while I was changing Jane’s diaper. I knew he was too quiet! But they are both sleeping now which is how I wrote this. The end.