What I’ve learned about being mom to 5

I’ve been a mom of 5 for 4 months now. I’ve learned a few things.

1. Embrace the chaos. Between the [very] loud boys, spitting up infant, wild man toddler, and 6 year old going on 16 daughter…..it’s always a bit chaotic. My friends worry when I invite their kids over to play. Lots of “Are you sure?” Yes, I’m sure. Yes, it’s chaotic. No, more chaos and crazy doesn’t bother me. And I like when my kids have people to play with. It may give me a chance to breathe.

2. Have minimal expectations. The house may be messy. Breakfast dishes may be out at dinner time. Laundry piles may go unfolded. And the dog hair dust piles will always exist. But I’ve realized when I focus on the laundry or clean dishes or mopped floors, I sacrifice time with my kids and opportunities to play with them. I’ve learned to have minimal expectations of myself.

3. The food. Oh, the food. I don’t think they feed zoo animals this much food. And one child doesn’t even eat yet. Help me, please, when they can all eat. My kids ate 7 pork chops last night. They ate through 2 cantaloupe in 3 days. I can’t keep up.

4. Errands and grocery shopping aren’t for the faint of heart. Really, doing those things with 4 kids was tricky. It’s even trickier when you add an infant in there. We just keep our hands in our pockets and everyone gets a job….holding a basket, putting bananas in the basket, pushing a cart, etc. And forget running an errand that involves me looking at something. Like the bathing suit shopping that hasn’t been done yet. My new motto….order online and have my husband return what doesn’t work.

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5. Never, ever, ever be in a rush. Start loading the car fifteen minutes before you really need to leave. Have a diaper bag, then a diaper bag in the car in case you forgot something. I’ve learned to not rush my kids as much, even when they are SO slow I want to pull my hair out. Five kids really force you to embrace the moment you are in [because crossing the parking lot causes a 4 car back up].

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Big News……

As we’ve walked through this world of foster care for the last 21 months, we have learned that things move very slowly. For that reason, we haven’t updated on real ‘foster’ news lately. We are now ready to update our blog with ‘foster’ talk….

WE ARE ADOPTING!!!!

Yes, that’s right! We are adopting our sweet babies tomorrow!! We are thrilled, excited, ecstatic, constantly brimming with tears, want to tell everyone. Although my big kids have felt like ours since day one, they will be legally ours tomorrow!!

I will add more posts about what the foster to adopt process looks like and the time it has taken us to get to adoption. And also what made us decide to a adopt. Until then, I’m going to enjoy my new children:)

Emory

Friday, January 30, 2015 was not what I expected. I was 35 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I had been sick with a fever, cough, and congestion for two days. I hadn’t slept in two nights due to my 102 fever and up and down chills and sweating. I had to break down and have Danny come home early Thursday and stay home Friday. I am typically not sick. And I haven’t run a fever in probably almost ten years. I was miserable. I cried tears of discomfort and helplessness and fear. My biggest tears were pleas that I didn’t go into labor.

On Friday, I woke up with what I could tell were consistent contractions. I started timing them because they seemed close together. Around 6:30am, I called my mom and told her about my short, but frequent contractions. At 7am, I called the doctor. They told me to head to the hospital so I could get fluids in me. I called my friend to see if she could keep Bennett. Danny got the kids on the bus at 7:45. We finished packing and changed clothes. I really wanted to shower, but those 3 minute apart contractions told me that I should just get to the hospital. I don’t think Danny and I spoke the whole car ride because contractions were coming every 1-2 minutes and I could tell I was getting seriously close to delivery. We pulled up to the hospital, parked in the roundabout and got inside. We walked in at 8:50am. Emory was born at 9:04am. It was a whirlwind delivery. The nurses didn’t have time to get an IV in. My OB didn’t make it to delivery and an ER doctor delivered Emory. As I was delivering Emory, they we’re calling for NICU nurses.

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After a few checks, Emory was given to me to nurse. Because I had been sick, I asked for a mask to put on. I didn’t realize that this would be the last time I would see my baby girl in 5 days. After feeding her, they realized her blood sugar was low. They took her to the nursery to give her formula to get her blood sugar up. It dropped. She was admitted to the NICU. At that point, both she and I were in isolation because of my illness. We soon found out I had RSV and pneumonia. I couldn’t see Emory until I was discharged 5 days later. Emory had a (thankfully) short, week long stay in the NICU where they stabilized her blood sugar, body temperature, and bilirubin levels.

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Almost 6 weeks out, I look back on those days. I’m thankful that she arrived and we both received the care we needed. I’m very thankful for family that came to care for my big kids. I’m thankful for friends that took my children so I could have a baby and then pick her up from the NICU. I am thankful for a mom and a ‘Lolly’ that cared for my daughter in the NICU when I couldn’t be with her. I’m thankful for the meals we were served for weeks! And I’m deeply grateful for a Heavenly Father who knew Emory’s story before she was even formed in my womb. He knew the exact circumstances that would bring her into this world. It wasn’t scary or stressful for Him at all. I am humbled by His greatness and sovereignty.

Is this the last one??

As I sit at home, cuddled with my sick 2-year-old, belly growing by the day, I continue to ponder the question that I am always asked. Now that my belly is very swollen to the point that no one can mistake it for anything other than a baby, people ask this question. They see me corralling four kids through Sams. Or watch as all four kids come along to an OB appointment. Or see us at Chickfila kids night and try to make small talk. They ask if this is the last baby for our family.

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I hesitate to answer. At first when we learned of this pregnancy, I didn’t hesitate to answer. I quickly said ‘the van is full. This has to be it. I don’t want a church van.’ Now I hesitate a little more. We are young. We will be young when our 8 year old goes to college (more on the status of our foster placement to come once we finalize some information). As I await the arrival of this baby, I can’t quite accept that this is it. It may be my final time to carry a baby. But it may very well not be the final time that we welcome a forever child into our home.

You see, my heart is unsettled. Life is challenging. Some days I just want to send my kids away for a couple days so I can catch up on laundry or calendar planning or just breathe for a little bit. Then some days, I feel that maybe we have this parenting thing together and we aren’t being pushed or stretched like God calls us to. Believe me, we don’t have any bit of this parenting thing figured out. I lose my temper way too often. I lose my patience more often than that. I lack grace. I’m working on this thing called parenting, but I’ve figured out how to work on it. The lyrics to a song by All Sons and Daughters continue to press me. “You have called me higher. You have called me deeper. And I’ll go where you will lead me to.” We will wait on our response to our last child. We will wait to see what higher and deeper look like in our life. So, as this baby girl arrives in a few weeks, I’m sure I will continue to hear the same question. Is this your last one? Will you have another baby? Whoa, five, are you done now? I think I’ll remain neutral, although my husband might not be. There’s room in our hearts to love more. To be stretched more. To be in the trenches more so that we can pull kids out of those trenches. I don’t know for sure the answer to those questions. But I know, for sure, that God has called us to care for the least of these. To look after orphans. And that He took us in when we were in the trenches of sin. So, I’ll stand neutral. I’ll answer how I’ve started to answer: if The Lord wants to give us more, we will take it.

A Different Christmas

As we round out Christmas celebrations, I am filled with the promises that this day brings. Celebrating our Savior’s birth truly brings a thrill of hope. In the midst of trying to get it all done and, let’s be honest, total exhaustion, my weary soul rejoices. For unto us a Savior is born. He was purposed and planned for our salvation. He alone brings hope to the darkness of our world and our lives. He alone brings peace in pain. Joy in suffering. Comfort in despair. Although we finished the Advent season with illness (and lots of it) and our advent calendar was left incomplete, we can rest in the promise of a baby Jesus. And although I failed at doing an advent of giving, we spent Christmas morning giving and serving and loving those that needed the joy, peace, comfort, and light of that baby Jesus.

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As we woke up Christmas morning, things looked a little different.

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Yes, the tree was filled with presents. But as my kids walked down the stairs, they were fully dressed with shoes on. They had made their beds and brushed their teeth. They ate a quick breakfast of cinnamon rolls that my sweet friend prepared for us and we rushed out the door.

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The presents stayed unopened for hours. As 8am rolled around, we pulled into the church parking lot. We began sorting and loading snacks, cough drops, tissues, hand warmers, blankets, coats, hats, gloves, and scarves into cars. We then headed into downtown Nashville to distribute all these things to those that may have spent Christmas Eve on the street. I loved watching Adam pass out massive handfuls of cough drops and Bryce give each person 3 toothbrushes, then tell them ‘here’s one more’. I loved watching Callie help people pick out the perfect blanket and Bennett giving people hugs and wrapping up in their arms regardless of what they wore or looked like or when they last bathed.

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For me this was an incredible opportunity to help mold and change the hearts of my kids. To help them realize that Christmas isn’t about the gifts or traditions. It’s about that baby in a manger and how He totally and completely rocked our world. It’s about sharing the story of our Jesus. It’s about giving to others out of our abundance of time and gifts. I was pumped to talk to my kids on our way back home. I couldn’t wait to hear what they thought of our almost 4 hour morning serving. I was anxious to see the impact the morning made. Then, I was disappointed. Callie responded by talking about how fun it was to see our presents under the tree. Adam really liked handing out cough drops. Bryce said it was good. Then followed with I liked seeing the people happy because that made me happy.

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And there it was folks, my talking point. I got on my mama soapbox about joy from Jesus and not from our gifts. That the excitement and joy of Christmas [traditions] will fade, but Jesus will last forever. My kids were unimpressed. I think about these thoughts and conversations for a moment. It hits me. I don’t want them to change right now. I don’t want to expect them to be kids that are more excited about serving than about opening their Christmas gifts. I want them to see modeled before them a mom and a dad who put others first. A family that values serving others. A family that uses their resources to provide for and bless those that don’t have what we have. And I want them to live that in their lives, in their families. My goal isn’t today, it’s forever. I want my kids and their kids and their grandkids to love our Jesus by loving others. What a way to humble me to a life of service. A life of valuing others more than myself. A life of looking for the needs of others rather than the needs [and most often wants] of myself.

Our New Take on Advent

This year, we are celebrating the season of advent a little differently than last year. We love using an advent calendar that has scripture readings and activities or surprises planned for each day. Last year, our calendar was filled with little surprises-a new coloring book, a piece of candy, a treasure hunt. This year, we are sharing the love of Jesus this season by being intentional with our advent calendar. It is filled more with acts of kindness.

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I wish I was organized and could document in posts or pictures each day of our advent calendar, but ain’t nobody got time for that! (At least this mom to 4, 28 week pregnant lady). But if you don’t have your kids prepare for the birth of our Savior, doing an advent calendar is a fun and easy way to do that. You can even write a note each day with a kindness act. Here are a few we have done:

*Buy dinner for someone (we left a gift card at the register at Chickfila)
*give someone a compliment
*donuts for teachers
*make cookies for a nursing home
*caroling at a nursing home

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I will attempt to do a weekly advent update with some ideas to share. Here’s a great resource from a family in our church that updates [WAY] more frequently than I do.

The Discipleship of Motherhood

Recently someone asked me if I was tired of trying to be the best mom I could be. Was I tired of being the best wife I could be? Y’all, I wanted to cry. Inside, I screamed, yes!! I was thankful that someone may feel as I do. Tired. Drained. Every ounce of energy pulled from me by 8:30pm every night. That although being a mom is one of the greatest life choices I’ve made, trying to be the best mom possible is the most physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting thing. What was said next made me just about fall out of my seat.

They continued and said…. If you feel that way, you’ve got it wrong. What?!?! It’s wrong to feel totally drained? To even feel defeated? Like I’ll never really be the best mom that I can be? My exhaustion was only validated for a split second. How can being the best mom and wife be wrong?!?!

She continued….you need to be the best disciple you can be and then the mom and wife and friend and daughter and employee things will fall into place.

Today, like many days, I needed to think on that. I needed to be reminded that I cannot be the best, let alone even a good mom, when I’m failing to pursue being the best disciple of Christ that I can be. Every effort I make will fall short when I lack in discipleship. As I evaluate the past week, those moments I tried so hard to be the best mom, I realize I failed. I failed not because I’m a terrible mom, but because my focus wasn’t pursuing the heart of Christ. My focus wasn’t discipleship. My desire wasn’t to lead my children closer to Him through my role as their mom. So, I take those moments of such failure and I humble myself. I realize that I can’t parent alone. I can’t have the patience. I can’t manage the schedules. I can’t discipline effectively. Christ in me can. He can grant patience to the weary me. He can give wisdom in planning and prioritizing. He can season my words with grace so that my teaching and discipline can be effective.

Yes, I’m tired of trying to be the best mom possible. I pray, however, that I can seek to be the best disciple possible so that the mom pieces just fall into place. And I pray that this comes easier each day.