Things that Worked in 2022


1. Making our bed.

I have never in my life consistently made the bed. Even as a child I don't remember that being a "must" in our house. As an adult, I've never cared that much about making the bed, but early in 2022 I guess I started pregnancy nesting, because I went on an organization and buying spree for a bit. One of the things I did was get new sheets, pillows, and comforter for our bed. We had the same everything since we got married 11 years ago, and I wanted something new. I also rearranged our room completely, flipped the head of the bed to the opposite wall, moved our dresser to a different wall, and got rid of a bookcase I didn't like and moved a different bookcase in there. 

After all that, I loved how fresh and clean our room felt. The rest of our house is a disaster most of the time with kid toys and dishes and random paper scraps (whyyyy is there always paper everywhere???). I wanted our bedroom to be one area where the kids didn't go and where at least one thing was consistently clean. Strangely, after never having had a bed-making habit, this one instantly stuck, and I've made the bed most mornings since. There are occasionally days where I just don't get to it, but a good 5 days out of 7 our bed is made. It's weirdly a habit that brings me joy. Who knew? Planning to keep this rolling into 2023. (The kids' beds do not ever get made, in case you were wondering. On the list of things I care about that's not even on there.)

2. Silicone mat for dishes.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like dishes rules their lives. It's a necessity for living, but it's not my favorite chore. Jordan and I have gotten into many a fight about the dishes (and, ahem, about how to properly load a dishwasher). The sink quickly fills up with dirty dishes, and then the pile just sits there staring at me while I procrastinate. The full sink also keeps us from ever cleaning larger pots and pans, so those sit on the counter taking up space and staring at me while I further procrastinate dealing with any of it and building up resentment toward Jordan for not doing it either.

A few months ago I got an idea to buy a large silicone dish mat to put on the counter to the right of the sink. I realized that part of the problem with the dishes piling up in the sink was because we didn't always have time right then to actually rinse and put dishes in the dishwasher, or the dishwasher was full of clean dishes but we didn't have time at the moment to empty it, thus nowhere except the sink to put dirty dishes. The silicone mat has been an absolute game changer. Maybe my best idea from last year, honestly. This probably seems obvious, but it hadn't occurred to me before, and it's been working so well. 

Now, we immediately rinse dirty dishes and stack them on the mat, keeping them out of the sink and waiting to be loaded in the dishwasher. I've been able to keep up with larger pots/pans much easier, and my sink is usually empty, which is just nicer to look at. I've also found that it's faster to load the dishwasher when I have a stack of stuff already rinsed and ready to go vs. rinsing and loading one by one. And, I think the faucet runs less this way too.

3. Breakfast menu.

J is very concerned about food. He constantly asks what we are eating, when he can eat, and is also unfortunately in the worst picky stage so he thinks almost everything is "nasty." He usually says this with a plugged nose just to further drive home his disgust. Breakfast was always an issue, because he would wake up with a specific idea in his mind of what he wanted. A lot of the time we either didn't have it, or I didn't have time to make it, which caused a huge meltdown that completely derailed our morning routine. Or, each kid wanted something different to eat, and I didn't have time for that either.

I thought of a breakfast menu but put off actually trying it for a while because I felt too lazy to implement it. However, it's been completely amazing and something we are continuing in 2023. I gave each day of the work/school week a breakfast item: toast, cereal, oatmeal, frozen Eggo waffles, muffins. I try to always have at least one kind of fruit on hand to offer throughout the week with the main item, mainly bananas, strawberries, and blueberries are the favorites. So, for example Mondays are toast days. We have toast, and that's all I'm offering for breakfast, along with fruit. If you don't want toast, you can eat the fruit. If you don't want either, that's fine, but then you won't eat. I do tell them that any day of the week they don't like what we are eating they can eat toast. Because toast is easy and R and J can make it themselves.

It has worked so well with the kids because by now they know what food goes with what days. I knew from the start that there would be days they didn't want what was offered, but I just remind them that today is Monday, and we are having toast, and if you don't want to eat it, that's fine. I know this won't be a good system forever, but it's working right now and has eliminated arguments about food in the mornings. It also helps because on the weekends I make sure we have everything we need for breakfast during the week, and if we don't have something (ran out of cereal or milk, for example) I will make sure to go to the store before Monday morning.

4. Dinner menu.

Can you tell I've been trying to simplify my life? ha. The breakfast menu was going so well that a few months ago I made a dinner menu. This one is a lot less rigid than breakfast is, but it's really been helping with weeknight dinner decision fatigue. I get overwhelmed by the endless recipe options and end up defaulting to the same few ideas over and over. I decided to try out assigning each day of the work week to a food genre, which I liked as a looser version of an official meal plan. I've never been able to keep up with meal planning, but this has been working great for us. 

Your categories will of course change depending on what your family eats, but ours currently are: pasta, tex-Mex, meat, leftovers, pizza (we don't have a breakfast or dinner plan for weekends). The "meat" day is extremely loose. This literally means just something with a meat as the main ingredient--for example, a pot roast, chicken breasts, pork chops. Tex-Mex usually means tacos or nachos, although I have made a few other things. We do homemade pizza every Friday, and that's been nice for the kids because they like it and it's easy. On Thursdays we usually have several leftovers from the previous weekend and week that we need to eat, so that's a random day. Similar to shopping for our breakfast menu, this dinner menu is great because if I don't have time that week to come up with specific meals for each day, I can at least make sure I have ingredients for the categories (by that I mean, making sure we have spaghetti sauce, making sure we have tortillas, etc.).

_ _ _

Those are just a few things we implemented in 2022 that worked and that I want to continue in 2023. Even just writing out that short list was encouraging to me! I feel sometimes like everything is a giant mess and I can't keep it together, but this year we found a few things that have worked really well for our family's current stage of life. I'm interested to see what else we can find to continue to improve this year!

A Story Worth Sharing


One morning last week, F woke everyone up this morning at 5:30. I was feeding G, when I heard him start shouting, "MAMA" as loud as he could. I didn't get to him in time to keep him from waking up R and J, who came stumbling out of their rooms complaining about being tired. I tried to convince them it was still the middle of the night and to go back to sleep, but no one believed me.

So it was that we started our morning routine aka the daily whirlwind a tad earlier than normal. Where's my green water bottle? I want another piece of toast. Can you cut up more strawberries? Yes, you do need to wear socks today.

It's been especially tiring the last few months. I started back at work full time November 1, and jumped back right in the middle of our biggest project of the year. G is still figuring out sleeping, and more nights than not I'm still only getting a few hours of sleep at a time. My Bible study group started up 2 weeks after G was born, and I've been to every meeting, but my preparation in prayer and study has been lackluster at best. We had high hopes for a nightly family advent discussion but did maybe 5 total, which mostly felt like wasted effort since no one actually sat or was quiet to listen.

Before getting in the car, in an effort to get J to stop wrestling everyone, I got them to sit on the couch so we could read a book. 

F chose a Christmas book, something my grandma had given the kids a few years ago. It was the story of a little angel who is chosen for the very important task of bringing a crown to Bethlehem for baby Jesus. The story takes the angel, Timmy, on a series of adventures, helping a lost rabbit, being kind to a grouchy squirrel, and finally meeting up with a baby wolf, who is trapped on a log bridge over a rushing waterfall. All this time he has been carrying the crown wrapped up in his favorite, tattered old blanket.

As Timmy tries to help the wolf, the crown falls in to the water, and he is left with the choice to swim after the crown or save the wolf. Timmy lets the crown fall down the waterfall and uses his blanket to pull the wolf to the shore.

The animal friends encourage Timmy to continue on to Jesus, even though his gift of a beautiful crown is now gone. Timmy reaches the stable where he sees Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. He feels sad that he doesn't have the special and important gift he was tasked with bringing, but then he hears Mary say that the baby is cold. Timmy realizes that he does have something to give the baby after all, and hands over his most loved possession, the blanket.

As I read about Timmy handing his blanket over to Jesus, my voice cracked and tears welled up in my eyes. I am not exaggerating when I say that I could barely finish reading the story. All three kids turned to look at me. "Are you crying, mama?" R asked me, bewildered. I started to laugh at the ridiculousness of my tears.

I subscribe to Ashlee Gadd's email list, and in her most recent newsletter she wrote about the writing ideas she has and how before she gets started on an essay, she always asks her small group of writing friends whether or not it's a good idea. "Every single time I ask, Is this worth writing about?—I am met with a resounding yes."

I have been thinking about that since I read it, wondering why it is that it struck me so profoundly. I realized that it's in part (or maybe totally) because I often feel like my stories aren't worth sharing. For one thing, I do ask myself this question about my writing ideas and talk myself out of a lot of blog posts (like I almost did for this one). But I also feel this way about my life sometimes, especially lately. Is anything I'm doing worth it? I definitely feel trapped in that newborn/little kid stage of cleaning up constantly only for it to instantly be cluttered and dirty again. I have run maybe three times since G was born, and I keep falling asleep while listening to the Bible on audio. Also F will not care about going poop on the potty, in case anyone wanted to know.

But let's get back to Timmy. 

You might say I'm making more out of a little kid's Christmas book than there needs to be, and that's probably true, but I truly was overwhelmed by the simple thought that my tattered, tired, messy self can come to Jesus, bringing whatever I have to offer, and he accepts it and finds a use for it. I can come with a blanket. I don't need to come with a crown.

That's not an excuse to not read my Bible and study properly. That's not an excuse to phone-in our attempt at an advent discussion with the kids. It's not a pass for poor discipline or being rude to Jordan. It doesn't really make me feel better that our house needs to be wrapped in caution tape for being a disaster area. But it is a much-needed reminder that my small efforts are not unnoticed, and they aren't wasted, and that my story matters. Thank you, Jesus.

My life--and yours--is a story worth sharing. Maybe not fancy, probably not famous, definitely messy, but always something to be thankful for.

G's Birth Story


If you love reading birth stories, you aren't alone! I love them, and I love that I've written down all of my birth stories in such detail. I went back and read F's the night before having G, and even though you don't think you'll forget, there are little details I'm glad to have. Here is the story of our last Baby Bum.

All three of my previous babies came early, so I'd never made it to my official due date. Each baby, however, came later than the last (R was 9 days early, J was 5, F was 3), so I was thinking it was possible that this time I'd actually be able to say "today is my due date." I was due Wednesday, August 31, and my parents came up the weekend before to hang out and possibly be in town when I went into labor. My dad's birthday is August 28, and we all thought it would be fun if they shared a birthday.

I was checked for the first time at my 39-week appointment and was dilated to a "1, maybe a 2." I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions, but nothing painful or consistent. When Sunday arrived with no signs of labor, my dad left to go back to Texas. My mom had packed a bag and was going to stay at our house until the baby came.

We basically spent the next week waiting around. I had work, the kids went to school and daycare as usual, and my mom did several projects around the house that I had wanted to get done. Wednesday, August 31, was my due date and also my 40-week OB appointment. I was dilated to a 3 this time, and I decided it was okay if she stripped my membranes. We talked about induction, and she knew I didn't want to be induced, but I was also feeling okay about scheduling something for the following week and asked if I could wait until after the long Labor Day weekend. She had me stay to monitor the baby for a half hour, and then with my membranes stripped and an induction scheduled for Tuesday morning (9/6), I left.

My mom and I went on long walk the next morning for about an hour, and I walked the next few days too. My friend told me about something her midwives recommended, which is to "curb walk," where you walk with one foot on the curb and one on the ground, opening the pelvis or something, and I felt ridiculous but I gave it a try! Every night all week we went to sleep thinking maybe this would be the night, and every morning I woke up the same as usual. By Sunday, Sept 4, we were all over it. Jordan was grouchy, I was bored, and my mom was anxious. It was so weird to plan on an August baby this whole time and then tick several days into a new month and still no baby.

We went to church in the morning, and when we got home I wasn't feeling great and took a nap. When I woke up, I started having my first contractions that felt like actual real contractions--by that I mean, not super painful, but more achy and crampy, like I was on my period. I didn't tell my mom or Jordan because I knew it would annoy me if they asked me all day how I was feeling and whether I was having more contractions. But they both sort of knew.

After the kids were in bed, my mom and I went on a walk for about 45 minutes, and I had a few contractions. We came back and watched a movie, which got over around 11:00. At that point I was having a few more contractions, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep much. My mom went to bed, and I downloaded a contraction timer app. From 11:00pm Sept 4 to 2:45am Sept 5, I timed the contractions. At first they were 25ish minutes apart, and I fell asleep between, waking up to press start on the timer. 

They got closer pretty fast, 20minutes, 15, 10, and then soon my average over the last 2 hours was about 7-8 minutes. I really didn't want to wake everyone up in the middle of the night for nothing, but I also knew I was 5 days overdue with my fourth baby, and I didn't want it to come shooting out of me if I waited too long.

At 2:45am I woke Jordan up and told him that we should probably go to the hospital. He called his parents to come over and stay with the kids, and I woke my mom up. We left soon after and drove downtown. When we got to the hospital, we discovered that the entire front entrance of the labor & delivery building was under construction and closed. There was a sign to go to the West Entrance, so we parked, walked across the street, and found that the entrance didn't open until 5:00am. There was a sign to go to the ER. Since the ER entrance was on the other side of the building, we walked back to the car, drove around, and Jordan dropped my mom and I off at the ER entrance.

The lady inside was nice but mostly unhelpful. "I need to get to Joyful Beginnings. I'm having contractions," I said.

"Okay," she replied slowly, "you'll need to go to the parking garage by the West Entrance, take the elevator down one floor, across the tunnel that goes under the street, then take the elevator up two floors, and walk down the hall."

I stared at her blankly. "So." I paused. "You're saying I have to go back to where I came from, down the elevator, across the street, and up the elevator?"

"Mmm hmm," she replied.

I really love our hospital and LIKE TO THINK that if I had an actual baby's head coming out of me they would have been more helpful. As it is, I suppose the fact that I walked in under my own power and was acting calm gave the appearance of a non-emergency situation. So, we walked out of the ER, back to the car, drove around the building to the same parking garage we just left, and took the elevator down, walked across the street, etc.

Jordan offered to find me a wheelchair, but I decided that walking around was probably in my best interest for moving the baby down, so we carried on, albeit walking slowly and stopping for a few contractions along the way. We finally got to L&D and checked into a room around 4:00am, Monday, Sept 5 (Labor Day and G's birthday!).

They checked me, and I was dilated to a 7! Hurrah! It's always such a relief to confirm that yes, we are staying at the hospital and having a baby. They notified the on-call doctor and moved us into a L&D room down the hall. It seemed pretty dead in there. I didn't see or hear much of anything, and I don't think there was too much going on (obviously because during our half-hour walk trying to get into the hospital we saw the ER lady and one other person).

They asked me if I was going to want an epidural. "Now is the time if you want to get one," she said. I said no. If you've been around for my other birth stories, you know that not getting/getting an epidural is always a bit of a decision for me. I knew what to expect not having an epidural, and knowing this was our last baby, I had decided that I didn't want to regret getting an epidural this final time.

Once we got into our L&D room, the on-call doctor came after a bit and asked if I was okay with her breaking my water. I said yes, because they have had to break my water every time, and I was hoping that would move things along some. She broke my water, and then my contractions seemed to stall. I was still having them, but they weren't as close together and they weren't unbearable. In fact, to be honest I was in a bit of a mood. I think I was just happy to be having the baby finally and not getting induced. I kept joking around, and everyone (including myself) was confused about what was going on with me.

I'm not exactly sure on the timing, but at one point the contractions really started to get intense. I was trying to move around in the bed, shifting from one side to the other, and it felt comfortable to lie on my left side, holding onto the side rail of the bed with my left hand and holding onto Jordan's hand with my right hand. In all my previous births, I didn't want Jordan touching me or talking to me, and I would get mad at him if he tried to do so. This time, I really wanted him holding my hand and standing near me. He said after that he liked feeling useful and being able to help.

I remember feeling like the half hour from about 5:00 to 5:30 took forever. At one point Jordan went to the bathroom, and when he came out I said, "What? Were you reading a book in there?" He replied, "It's been about 3 minutes." Every minute just felt so long.

The nurse came in and I asked if she could check me. It had been over an hour since we got there, and I wanted to see if any progress was made. It just helps me to know if anything is happening. She said I was still at a 7 and the baby was still pretty high. I started to freak out (and actually said, "I'm freaking out!" ha). I was having really painful contractions and nothing?! At this point I had a huge feeling of panic. The only way to describe it is that I knew I was in the middle of a horribly painful situation that no one could help me out of. It wasn't like I could say, "Okay, I'm done now. Let's jump to the end." The only way to the end was through it, and I had this very lonely, scared feeling all of the sudden.

She asked if I wanted to try a few other positions to try and move the baby down, so I first turned around and got on my hands and knees. The end of the bed dropped down, and she showed Jordan how to push on my back for counter pressure. I lasted 2 contractions that way, but it was absolutely killing my back, so I said I needed to turn around.

Next she brought in the peanut ball and asked if I wanted to try that. I got on my left side, holding onto the side rail with my left hand, and she put the ball between my legs, left leg on the bed and right leg up over the ball. For some reason my whole body was angled sideways on the bed. It was just about a minute or two later that I felt Really Intense Pressure. 

"I'm feeling a lot of pressure!" I shouted.

"Really? Okay, let's get the doctor in here to see."

The doctor came in and calmly sat down on the edge of the bed. "You're about 8cm," she said. 

"Are you kidding me?" I said. I had thought for sure we were all good down there.
"Well, you're on your side, so it might be a little more open," she replied.

It was ten minutes from the time she said I was 8cm to the time G was born. 

I'm honestly still a little confused about what happened, and Jordan and my mom are too, so it's hard to say exactly, but I just know that I was lying on my side clinging onto the railing and kept saying, "Someone help me. Someone tell me what is going on." I remember being confused because I felt like I needed to push, but if I was only at 8cm then how was the baby supposed to come out?

Things I remember or that Jordan/my mom told me (not necessarily in order):
-The doctor asked me if I could roll onto my back and I said I couldn't move.
-She delivered my baby sitting calmly on the bottom right corner of the bed. She originally sat down to check me and then all of the sudden I was pushing, so she had to reach her hand behind her and ask a nurse to help put another glove on.
-I kept asking someone to tell me what was going on.
-I felt a burning sensation that I knew was the ring of fire, and I was glad because that meant the baby was close to coming out.
-I asked someone to hold my leg up. Jordan held it, and he said he had to grab hold of the rail of the bed to pull against me pushing.
-I wanted the baby to just.get.out. and I kept pushing even when I wasn't having a contraction. The doctor said, "Are you having a contraction?" "No," I replied.
"Okay wait a minute and then use your contraction to help you push." That helped a lot.
-Someone said, "Bear down, mama," and that helped me focus on where I was pushing and how.

The doctor asked me to try on the next contraction doing something like a crunch and pulling my right leg up to my chest. When I did, she said, "You can reach down and feel the head." I remember opening my eyes and seeing the top of the baby's head with lots of dark hair. I reached over my right leg and cupped the head in my right hand. For R's birth, I know I rarely opened my eyes, if at all. I have just one image in my mind of J's birth, and it's just bright shining lights. It's so neat to me that I was able to see and touch the baby's head this time. Just the coolest thing.

When the baby came out, because of the way it was facing, the doctor was facing the back of the baby. The front was facing me, but the umbilical cord was hanging between the baby's legs, so I said, "What is it? What is it?" Jordan said he had the same view and couldn't tell either. So, for a few seconds no one in the room knew if it was a boy or a girl.

The doctor swung the baby around, and the cord moved. Jordan said, "It's a girl!" I screamed. We didn't know the gender with F's birth either, but his was obvious right away. I don't think anyone even needed to say. This felt so much more climactic. My mom was behind the nurses in the corner crying, and I kept shouting (I mean literally shouting--Jordan thinks this is hilarious), "WHAT! WHAT!"

She had swallowed a bit of fluid, so they took her and suctioned her mouth out, and then they put her on my chest and said that being skin to skin with me would regulate her breathing. She was a bit congested, but they suctioned her a few times more and she was sounding okay. She was a nice pink color, a huge difference from F, who came out almost completely black and blue.

I'm not going to detail the next little bit, because it was truly horrendously painful and I don't need to remember. For the first time, I didn't tear, perhaps due to delivering on my side (who knows?), but they said "it" can still get scraped when the baby comes out, and let's just say that I was not having a very nice time for quite a while. It felt like it was actually on fire, and I couldn't stop shaking. I've said this every time, but honestly in my opinion the epidural might be most useful for pain management immediately after the birth than anything else.

^^^ Me not having a good time hahaha.

There's no way to tell, of course, but I think that not having an epidural contributed significantly to how quick she came out. I wouldn't have been able to be in those positions, or feel to push with that intensity, if I was medicated. That's not to say I have an opinion about people getting or not getting an epidural. It's completely a personal preference/decision, and I have no feelings about it one way or the other, expect for the reasons I have for myself. I'm so thankful that I didn't need to be induced and that I've had such positive birth experiences. I know not everyone does, and I don't take it for granted.

It's a miraculous, amazing experience. One I think about with pride and gratitude for healthy pregnancies, babies, and overall such a great hospital birthing experience with each of my labors (minus our debacle about actually getting inside the hospital this time!).

But I can honestly say, finally once and for all, that I'm so very glad I never have to do it again.