As My Sensory Kid Grows Up

 

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The days have been beautiful here in Omaha, Nebraska. I have very few complaints during the warm months of the year. My entire soul shines bright, especially on the other side of postpartum depression mixed in with seasonal depression – nothing like the first summer after the longest ‘winter’ of your life, right?

So, all is good.

All is spectacular.

But – and you knew the but was coming… but, I am not Super Mom. I feel like I need to stand on the tallest building and scream it loud because so many friends and acquaintances try to slap that (annoying and crappy) label on me.  However, I’d have no voice to do this because I’ve lost it from yelling at home. I wish I were kidding, but alas, I have become the yelling mom I never thought I’d become. (I’m laughing at myself, so you can laugh at me, too.)

I’m a strong believer that my children are mine for a reason. Each one was meant to be mine – and I was meant to be their’s, and they were meant to be each other’s. Many of you know how hard it was when my oldest son was little. He struggled with Sensory Processing Disorder. I was the mother crying on the floor in Target because I was frustrated. I was the mom who had a child who would not physically move from one spot (while screaming) because he simply could not move past something. His mind just wouldn’t let him. 

He wouldn’t get his head wet until after age 4 – but now he’s on the swim team. He wouldn’t let a blanket touch him – now he snuggles tight every night. He wouldn’t wear structured clothing – this is still an issue, but he works through it and can do it fine most days now! He would kick and scream and take an hour to transition from one place to another – now he’s on every sports team, a fantastic athlete, helps me plan our road trips, and attends sleepovers.

However, the sensory issues are still present. It’s true that through diet, our amazing herbalist, chiropractic care, and age, he has grown so much. I look at him and see this handsome boy, loving, giving, brilliant, and happy – most of the time. But he struggles with the “Why ME?” attitude.  He feels as though everything bad happens to him and gets stuck in those moments – sometimes crying for an hour, even throwing himself on the floor. 

These hard moments can come if he gets hurt, doesn’t get something he wanted, plans change, etc. And the spiral is awful and all-consuming. It takes all of the energy from the room. It effects the entire day for the family. It is truly exhausting. 

The major difference between toddler-version and present-almost 8-year-old-version is that I am not the same mother. I have 5 children instead of 2. I do not have the patience to sit on the floor and hold him through these moments anymore. He has the tools to do it. He knows he can do it, but at his age now, I cannot wrestle him or walk him through it every time. 

I am thankful that these moments are not frequent. But it seems that they come in waves. We are in the middle of one right now. His body is fighting something. He has had too much gluten. He hasn’t consumed enough water. He’s not getting enough sleep. Any of these could be a trigger. Maybe his tinctures need adjusting (I already have a call in.) Maybe our camping trip triggered something – it seems that these moments have been happening since then. Who knows, honestly. And I can’t sit and play detective all day. 

As I am writing this — there is a major meltdown happening. It’s lasted 1 hour and 25 minutes. I am beyond frustrated. I have yelled. I have ignored. I have given him space. I have hugged him. But, I will not just give in and give him what he wants. My anxiety is through the roof and it makes me short with the other kids. We have lost the afternoon to this meltdown. 

I’m ready for a glass of wine, but it wouldn’t help the problem. ha. 

And just as suddenly as the moment started, he is back to his normal self. Close to 1 hour and 45 minutes later, of course. His eyes are puffy and swollen – and the baby was woken up from her nap. But we are on the other side, so I’ll take it. 

Sensory kids grow up. My sensory kid is growing up. Just when I think we have gotten through this, a hard day hits. It reminds me to stay true to our diet and lifestyle. 

So, if you are also struggling in hard moments, know that you are not alone. Know that you are strong and capable. You are loving – even when you are losing your mind. You are doing the best you can. This is all I can do right now. And while I am constantly trying to become better, for all of my kids – and myself, I also am ok with being honest. I am not perfect. I am not handling any of this perfectly. I am living these moments as a tired mom – a mom hoping that as my sensory child continues to grow, we will continue to see less and less hard moments. 

Why We Parent With Expectations

We have never treated our kids as anything other than the good humans we expect them to be.

We are far from helicopter parents over here. My oldest three kids (ages 9, 7, and 5) have the freedom to bike the neighborhood without an adult with them. I can let all five kids (the youngest are 3 and 1.5 years old) play outside in the field behind the house together while I pop my head outside every so often to check on them. I can leave my oldest two at home alone while I run errands.

Friends often ask how I can have so much trust in my kids. Strangers comment daily about how respectful, kind, and considerate all of my kids are. I generally laugh it off because the strangers don’t see the regular fighting and messes that also happen here. But the truth is that my kids ARE trustworthy, helpful, and giving. (They also understand boundaries and rules.)

While there is still a lifetime ahead of us in child-raising, looking at our children thus far has me realizing that we are guiding GOOD people.

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I yell. I yell a lot at this stage of motherhood. I’m in the thick of it all, and I know it. I can see the light though – having an almost 10 year old, independent thinking, amazing kid allows me to see that these last few toddler years will pass quickly. But that doesn’t make them any easier, right? Even in these moments, I apologize, regroup and explain how imperfect I am, though.

I’ve been watching and listening to how my husband is living this stage of fatherhood. While the toddler side is exhausting, he is thriving. As a kid comes down the stairs, he always greets them with, “Well hello there, my friend!”

My friend.

Those simple words have made me see that our children are growing and blossoming because of how we have treated them. They never had to earn our respect and we never had to earn theirs. We have never treated them as anything other than the good humans we expect them to be.

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This mindset led us through a mix of attachment parenting and gentle parenting, but it also created a balance containing parenting with expectations. Yes, WITH expectations. Go ahead and blast me with how wrong we are to ‘expect things’ from our children…. but then look at them close and watch them make appropriate choices, treat others with respect, and find the beauty in everyone.

Let me explain further…

Our kids make mistakes every single day. Stupid mistakes. We expect them to. We also understand that they are capable of learning from these mistakes if we help them learn. We expect them to fail again. and again. and again. Each time, though, they grow and become more capable of controlling their actions and considering their options.

Most parents justify their children’s actions with, “It’s age appropriate! It’s ridiculous, but it’s funny. He/She is just immature still – they’re just being a kid.”

We don’t roll that way over here.

Someone commented recently that our kids probably don’t ever have fun… and that it sounded like a crappy childhood. I don’t need to compare my children to others to know how wrong that is.

I spent that afternoon truly watching my kids enjoy life. They jumped on bikes and tore through the neighborhood, built a fort with friends, read books together, made crazy messes and cleaned them up. They looked pretty damn happy to me – and didn’t have to disrespect anyone’s personal space to do so.

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We believe in natural consequences. We believe in respecting public spaces and places of business. We believe our children are capable of so much more than what is deemed ‘okay’ for this generation.

It’s amazing to watch our kids choose friends, and see how they gravitate to other fun, intelligent, and respectful kids. They stick up for others. They speak up when others are disrespectful. They are confident, happy, and true to themselves. Watching the oldest two solve problems and address their mistakes, as our 5 year old is on the cusp of doing the same grants us such excitement.

We are excited for every future age and stage of life with our kids. There will be crazy hard lessons they learn – and we learn as parents. We are hopeful that we are setting good examples and sharing real life with our kids. We don’t hold much back from them because we always want conversations to be open and available without hesitation.

All of this to say – You can hold your children accountable for their actions without spanking them. You can also parent gently while also laying out expectations. You can fail and teach failure. You can yell and apologize; you can be friends with your children while also guiding them.  You can let go and trust when your children are able to naturally understand expectations.

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When Here Became Home.

We have parted with multiple houses, cities, and states over the last decade. Some places have been harder to leave than others – with many being shorter stops along the map of our lives. We left our hearts in Virginia just over a year ago. I knew that I would move on but couldn’t see passed my love of everything there; not to mention, the amazing road trip situation I had going on throughout the entire coastline.

One year later, I am here to put the words into the world. These words that I knew would come but just couldn’t imagine writing through the first 8-10 months in Omaha.

“We are home.”

Home is wherever we are together, of course. This much you all know about our traveling family.

In the past month, I have made more friends, joined an amazing yoga studio (hello newest friends!), and found peace with our schedule here. We found an incredible therapist for my oldest son’s apraxia speech disorder; my oldest daughter’s swim and girl scout friends have become her ‘total bffs’ (her words, not mine). I am watching my kids blossom here. They are becoming fiercely independent and proving that our attachment parenting paid off. We can trust them with a walkie talkie and bikes throughout the neighborhood, full day trips with friends, and with more responsibilities at home.

Needless to say, the kids are loving life in the Midwest. Are they over the cold? Yes. Are they happy? Hell yes.

I knew my mindset was shifting as I started planning this year’s house projects. It went from being, “best bang for the buck” to “I can’t wait to make this everything I dream.”

Maybe my baby #5 funk is gone. Maybe it’s just that the kids are all healthy and adapting. Maybe it’s that I can look out my window and see a spectacular sunset every night. Maybe it’s the yoga.

Whatever it is, I am finally happy here.

My words of advice for today:

Let time pass. Let life play out. What you feel today is valid today, but what feelings 100 tomorrows may bring you won’t be known unless you let tomorrow become today – mentally, physically, and spiritually.

5 Reasons Yoga and Motherhood Mix

If you are my real life friend, you are probably sick of me talking about my yoga obsession right now, but I’m not done yet – now I’m on a mission to spread the yoga love.

I have a ton of kids. Not a physical ton, although, they may eat an actual ton of food throughout a year. These small humans are all-consuming. If you are a mom, you get this. You don’t have to have an entire gaggle of tiny beings in your personal space, even one is enough to lose yourself.

I have trained for and ran marathons during my motherhood journey. I have worked out regularly at gyms and at home. I have taught workout classes for other moms – hell, I even had my own mommy bootcamp business for several years.

I drink wine. I read books. I plan awesome trips. I thought I was filling my cup, and I was, but I was trying too hard.

Here’s the thing though, my mind is always going. While working out does save my sanity, I am still running through the lists of motherhood as I get sweaty. Not every time, but a lot of the time.

Instead of intentionally filling your cup, you can lead a life that constantly keeps you happy. This means your cup is actually never empty. Choose happiness. Choose a life that you want to be present in.

Insert yoga here.

I have done yoga here and there over the years, but never consistently. I actually laughed at Yogis who said the practice was part of their lifestyle. I take it all back. I have basically moved into my yoga studio. I have attended classes 20 out of the last 24 days – most of the times were at the absurd 5:30am hour.

Why would I willingly roll out of bed at such a ridiculous hour? Simple, I get to be alone.

Everyone is asleep, and John can handle any little ones who wake up. Everyone is take care of for the time I am gone. I get sweaty, centered, and focused – oh, and happy – and then return home to a house that is still *mostly asleep (*minus John walking out of the door for work, and at least one child awake and hungry). I make tea, change the laundry over, open my computer to work, and take a quick shower before sitting down to write. My mind is clear; my patience is renewed.

This is what I want other mothers to know about yoga:

It Makes You a Better Mom

Patience, breathing, and peace are all contagious. Learning to fill your entire lungs and release that breath can reach each point of the body and mind. It is amazing what taking the time to breathe can do for you and your children.

It Grounds You to the Earth

Completing moon salutations and series of flows that connect you to the seasons and life springing around you can open your senses to the earth. You don’t have to be good. It will be your own journey, each day different than the one before, but your practice will bring you closer to the world we live on.

It Keeps You Present

My studio harps on the mantra “Wherever you are, be all there.” I have found myself skipping social media and leaving my phone in another room. I have spent the weekends not opening the computer unless work must be completed. The TV has been off, and we have chosen music and hands-on activities instead.

It Makes You Less Judgmental

Everyone can do yoga. Sharing the energy inside that room reminds you that everyone is on their own journey – just as each parent is on her (or his) own path of parenthood. Finding contentment within your yoga practice – and within your life allows you to be happy for others instead of jealous or spiteful. We need more of this in our society.

It Helps Your Health

Including yoga in your exercise routine alongside of other activities or done daily provides the body with more benefits that I can list here. Learning to listen to your body will easily transition you into a healthier lifestyle all around.

If you can find a yoga studio that offers kid classes, grab your tribe and head over to try it out. My 4, 6, and 8 year olds attend classe and absolutely love it. It’s also fun to watch them utilize the mantras and breath into their daily habits. Even John goes after work.

We are all in love with yoga… and I believe, possibly, that you could fall in love with it too.

What’s there to lose?

(And, in case you were wondering, Goddess Pose is my absolute favorite.)

They Don’t Stay Little

I found her reading to her baby sister, and in a captured moment, I found myself staring at both my baby and my little girl.

I’m here instead of on a much-needed vacation with my husband this week. I was so looking forward to being pampered in the mountains at one of the most gorgeous hotels in the country, but I’m with the kids this week instead – and that’s okay.

I was so touched out last week. I spent an entire Saturday avoiding my family and working upstairs just to have alone time. I was counting the moments to escape.

But here I am. I am home, while the husband is away for his work conference. I was a bit sad at first, but as the fire roars, all the children sleep, and the wine flows, I can look back on the last few days and feel like a mother fucking rockstar.

That’s right, I said it. I have rocked 4 days so far, with 2 days more to go. We have homeschooled, attended any indoor activity acceptable for -20 degree temperatures, bickered, and read by the fire.

That last bit is what brings me to this post.

The days don’t hit a rough patch until that mid-evening-I-need-wine hour, and then, when I realize that there will be no backup, and that I have to single-handedly get FIVE babies to sleep.

My babies are my heart. I have always had a hard time envisioning them growing up, but somehow, I have blinked and a few of them have. Scarlett is almost 8 ½ years old. She is reading chapter books and designing her dream clothing boutique. She sells girls scout cookies, checks her teeth every night for cavities, daydreams of unicorns, and loves every color in the rainbow. She also clears the dinner table, rocks the baby, and reads to her until she is asleep. Scarlett is not a baby anymore.

John and I joked last week that our work was basically done; that she is as grown as she is going to get as far as the parenting side goes. From this point on, she will take everything that has been engrained in her and use it to better herself – or make mistakes – whatever (I’m realistic). But taking a step back and watching her step up to help me out while her dad is out of town just blows my mind. Scarlett Ann, our baby girl, is not little anymore.

I write this because I know you may be seeing this in your own home. This tiny being that you created is all of a sudden NOT a baby. She isn’t a toddler or even a little kid – she’s a full grown child. She has her own thoughts and opinions. If you look close enough, you can almost see the future.

Hanging out with my first born is starting to take on a new role. We are and will always be mother and daughter, but we are becoming actual friends. We are sharing stories and ideas. We ask questions and give ridiculous answers. The dynamic of the relationship is growing in new ways, as it should. I just didn’t notice it.

Tonight, I came downstairs after putting the littlest boys to bed and I found Scarlett reading books to Baby Veda. Veda was watching her and giggling like crazy. It’s almost as if I was gifted this tiny window of time in which I had both the baby and the child in the same moment to myself. I remember when Scarlett was as tiny as Veda is now, and I almost cried. But I didn’t. I smiled. It’s time to start the next chapter of life with her. She’s ready, and so am I…

They don’t stay little forever – they blossom and grow and turn into real people…. good people… beautiful, world-changing people.

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Make 2018 the year you stop giving THINGS.

I am a giver. I am a buyer. I am the consumer most stores target.

Scratch that; I WAS the buyer and the spender and the shopper. I am still a giver.

I was born into the role of a shopper, and for the past few years I have battled with myself on how to end the cycle so that my children do not fall victim to our consumer-driven society. Having 5 babies makes buying something quite expensive because it is never just one thing that is bought. But if you only have one child, you can still completely relate to over buying.

In 2017, I made a huge decision to cut Christmas down. It was, no joke, HARD. I actually cried several times. I am assuming now that I was going through holiday withdrawals, which is pretty funny because I’m the one who HATES clutter, plastic crap, and has the entire house stripped down and undecorated within days of Christmas ending. I also need everything to have a place in the house or I will donate it. So, I had this internal minimalist vs consumer battle that lasted months… all the way up until the week of Christmas.

We planned a trip with some of our extended family, and we drove about 10 hours to the mountains. Before even arriving, the kids were cheering that it was the greatest holiday ever – in their entire lives. My heart began to swell and I completely relaxed and gave into the trip. We had 3 feet of snow and a complete white out on Christmas. We partook in mountain activities, and John and I even spent a day snowboarding together. There was an afternoon of bitter-cold snow tubing for the kids, snowball fights, and homecooked food. We read books and played games together, and listened to Papa play the guitar at night.

My computer was in the shop, so I was disconnected for the most part – and it was GLORIOUS.

We did have a few Santa gifts, but nothing outrageous or expensive. The kids opened a game for the Xbox, Barbie dolls, hair chalk, puzzles, and a few other small items – WHICH THEY FLIPPED OUT OVER.

In the past, this reaction would have only lasted until the next present was opened, with the previous 30 tossed behind them… at the end, they would say, “Are there any more to open?”  There were meltdowns and lost pieces, trash everywhere, and too much money spent.  But this year? The money was spent in exactly the right places.

My kids are still playing with their few items from us a week after Christmas, and if they are done playing with them in a month or so, I won’t lose my shit because I didn’t overspend on any of it.

What We Learned

Gifts should not include clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, and other things that the kids need. Those should be purchased when the needs arise. Gifts should simply be a few of the items that will make them so incredibly happy. That’s it.

An experience tops the charts when it comes to the magic and spirit of the season. It can be as expensive as you make it, but you can request family gifts be giftcards to be used on the trip. My kids received one from a set of grandparents and had a blast shopping at the mountain gift shop for sweatshirts and hats!

Become a Non-Things Giver

So here is my plea to you. Decide NOW – in January to make a change. It will be a struggle. It will suck when the sale e-mails start coming, but decide now to let go of all of the THINGS. You don’t need to know where you will go or what experience you will give, that can be pondered about for awhile. You may want to invite friends or extended family; you may want to go just with your kids; you may want to host a smaller Christmas at home and then head out for New Year’s on the road (or in the air!). The key is to make sure that the experience or trip is not far away. Kids will not understand that.

I loved having the kids help plan this entire trip. They knew they would only be getting a few things, and we built the trip up for about a month before going. But next year, we may change things up and surprise them with a trip. (Although packing for a family of seven can’t be done secretly… or can it??)

I’d also love to hear how you plan to leave the things behind throughout the year.  We are planning trips for birthdays throughout 2018, vacations in the summer and camping in the fall, and I haven’t been to Target in 6 weeks. (SIX WEEKS) Nor have I ordered anything on Amazon in 4 weeks… but I’d rather order one thing online than be tempted by the entire store and screaming children.

Go ahead and take the plunge. It sure as hell feels good to not have holiday guilt (or spending guilt) hanging over me this January!

Postpartum Blues.

One out of five ain’t bad.

That’s what my husband told me.

And he’s right, statistically speaking.

Our sweet, sweet baby #5 joined us 11 weeks ago.  She is wonderful – as long as mommy is holding, nursing, or wearing her.  She still just smiles and sleeps, so all is good there.

But why do I feel like this?

I’ll tell you that I haven’t written in awhile because I haven’t been able to completely finish a post yet. I figured that I may as well lay this out there… maybe it’ll help me start writing more about ME again.

I definitely have the baby blues. And it is STRANGE. I know that I am me. I know that I am happy. But yet, I also feel this odd way about it all – as if I’m just blah. I’m not having intense postpartum depression. This feeling doesn’t last all day, every day, but it is completely unfamiliar to me.  I am here most of the time, but then I have days where I just feel like I am here but not enjoying anything. I still function as normal – the kids are happy and unaware, but I just feel overwhelmed, tired, and not ME. Again, it’s extremely odd for me to not just be happy all of the time.

I’m finding myself needing more ‘me time.’ Whether that be starbucks and a book on Sundays, running in the basement, or just a bath alone, I’m needing it.

Ya’ll, I am keeping FIVE HUMANS ALIVE. I am feeding them, loving them, educating them, driving them everywhere, keeping them from killing each other, wiping their butts, wiping their tears, and hugging them – ALL.DAY.LONG.  Two of the five are still babies in my eyes. The whole less than a 1.5 year age gap thing is craziness. This also means that I wake up to nurse and change diapers all night too.

So basically, I’m a superhero…

But those baby blues… man, they are intense. My anxiety is higher. I can’t imagine taking all of the kids anywhere that would possibly have a crowd. I hate being at home for more than 2 days in a row, but I also can’t imagine doing more than our exact scripted schedule.

I know that it will all fade away and become easier as time passes. I mentally prepared myself for the first year with baby 5 to be extremely challenging, but actually living it is quite different. But I am doing it.

I’m making friends, pouring myself into my work, and loving on my babies. I’m appreciating everything as it is… but I’m also accepting that this postpartum period is different.

Is it because of the age difference between Ollie Jack and Veda?

Is it because Veda is our last baby?

Is it mid-30’s?

Is it just what it is?

It really doesn’t matter what it is, does it? What matters is that I am aware and talking about it. I just need to continue to fill my own cup, ask for love and support, and understand that it’s okay to not be perfectly happy all of the time.

This is reality. This is my postpartum.

 

My Very Last Birth Story

 

At some point, your soul just feels complete. While I can safely say that I am addicted to pregnancy/birth/babies, my soul is so complete. I have been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for well over eight (closer to nine) years without a break. I am not – and never will – complain about this great journey. I am, however, excited to enter one last breastfeeding relationship, and to know that my chapter on pregnancy is ending.

I have written five birth stories now. My heart is feeling heavy with this being my last, but again, the excitement of the journey ahead is enough to pull me through.

This birth was exactly the closure that I needed. I did not plan a photographer and a decorative background wall to birth in front of. I did not envision rainbows and unicorns. I honestly just talked to myself about the beauty that is my own ability. I knew that this birth would be exactly as it should.

My milk has just come in.

I’m only 24 hours out and have left my room maybe three times.

The herbs from my bath tub still fill the air.

And to my left is a 6.3lb baby girl who just completed our family.

 

For those of you who have been following our journey, you know that this fifth baby was quite the surprise. We found out we were pregnant just before we learned of a cross-country relocation. We bought a house, drove 20+ hours to our new Midwest location, struggled with the birthing options here, and battled months of random health issues. Life was basically messy – and we were expecting this tiny new life.

While we have finally started settling in here, and our bodies are *hopefully* beginning to adapt to this new environment, and my mind has stopped crazily wanting to run away, we prepared for this baby. The summer was spent swimming and playing. We traveled and explored. All the while, I anxiously grew this baby.

The days flew by and the weeks added up. We had to figure our birth plan out. We are a homebirthing family, and once you have experienced a homebirth, nothing else compares.  We were faced with a huge dilemma due to the state we are currently living in…  but we found a loop hole and proceeded forward. (Thank you God)

Fast forward a bit… 

My babies have been born in the following order:

39w, 38w, 37.1w, 36.6w…  

I needed to bake this baby until 37.1w to have this homebirth. Talk about anxiety.

Prodromal labor began at 36.2 weeks along. It was happening at night, and it was scaring us. But labor can be quite the mental game. I talked to the baby – and my body – begging everything to work out. While it was a long week, this baby listened.

I began having more intense contractions on the morning I turned 37.1w. After about 3-4 hours, they faded. I walked and danced, but they did not return. My body was in mom mode with 4 little kids to wrangle.

That night, though, after everyone went to bed, the contractions returned. Around 11pm, they started at 5-6 minutes apart. I hoped they wouldn’t stall again, but knew they could. I tried to sleep – and managed to do so from 12-1:30am. Intense, active labor with contractions 2-3 minutes apart woke me from my sleep. I knew this was it, but wasn’t ready to wake anyone up. I labored alone in the bathroom. I needed to accept this birth, talk to myself, meditate, and process the entire experience by myself. This was my last pregnancy. This was my last baby. This was my last birth.

By 2:00am, I knew I needed to wake my husband and friend up – yes, my lifelong friend had flown in to stay with us for the week. Let’s just say that she has amazing birth experience and is just the person you would want to attend a homebirth. By 2:30am, I was making tea and laboring downstairs. I didn’t want to wake the kids. The camera began snapping pictures, and my amazing birth supporters talked me through contractions and kept me smiling. Jack Johnson and Ryan Bingham played in the background…

Contractions were intense but I kept my composure. The thought that they could last for hours at this intensity terrified me. But our bodies are amazing… My friend suggested we head upstairs to the bath tub, but I was scared to get in too early. (Even after baby #4 was born within an hour of labor starting.)  We packed up the camera and music and climbed the stairs.

I dropped to hands and knees at the side of the bed. – Oh, I forgot… My 17 month old had joined us downstairs and helped hug me throughout contractions.  At this point, he was attached to my husband – which is what I needed. The bathtub was filling and I was moaning. Transition was hard and intense.

 

Contractions began to change, with urges to push becoming stronger. I crawled to the bathroom and eased into the tub. My water broke just as this baby’s head pushed through. My oldest, Scarlett was able to wake up and experience seeing it all. With one last push, I brought baby to my chest. The pain turned to endorphins. At 3:32am, this baby was welcomed earthside.

This tiny, vernix covered baby was pure perfection. Scarlett checked the gender and immediately began screaming that she had a sister. My husband and I were in utter shock! After 3 boys in a row, this little one was a GIRL. 

Veda Ruth had completed our family… As my husband told her, “Veda, we have been waiting a long time for you.”

Her name means ‘A Beautiful Knowledge or Understanding’

I still cannot believe that I have given birth five times. I cannot believe our family of seven is real.

Happiness and love fill my soul.

And Then The Peace Came

Someday, I’ll look back and wonder how I survived these years.

Five kids in 8 years.
Working more than part-time, but less than full-time from home writing.
Homeschooling.
Cooking more meals a day than I ever imagined possible to eat.
Running errands, making it on time to activities, hosting playdates, and refereeing sibling wrestling matches.

I honestly do no know how it all happens.

I do know that I collapse onto the couch or into my bed each night and understand just how different this stage of adulthood is than I had ever dreamt. While I am exhausted, touched-out, burned-out, and aching with pregnancy pains, my mind reviews the day and the to-do list still to come. The house is quiet, even John is asleep, and I have tiny limbs draped across my expanding belly. I breathe it all in because, even through the craziness, I love this.

I have struggled for months with accepting this last baby, this relocation, and this new way of life out here. I have doubted my abilities, and in turn, I have doubted the foundation that John and I have solidified through 13 years and raising 4 babies alone. This move rocked me hard. We were too far away from an ocean, too far away from friends, too far away from family. I imagined myself drowning without any help.

But then the peace came. It hit me harder than a bag of bricks. We haven’t lived closer than a 10-12 hour drive to our families in years. We have started over in new cities and states many times. And John and I have done a damn good job so far.

The wind was blowing the tree limbs, making them cast dancing shadows throughout the backyard. The kids were running around chasing said shadows, laughing together. John and I sat with wine in hand and discussed the renovations we have planned for this gorgeous home we purchased. Music was playing, and we were happy. It wasn’t hard to realize just how far we have come – and what an amazing future we have. But this moment? This one right here is our time to grow together. We have been raising these babies without regular help. We have supported ourselves. We have figured it out and had a blast along the way.

This calmness and peace that washed over me has made me see where we are in a whole new light. We are together. We are in love. We are lucky.

The friendships will come, a mother’s helper will be found, and many, many road trips will be taken.

Sometimes you need to panic before you realize that you already know how to swim.

Renewing Your Spirit On Vacation With Kids

I was about to lose my mind, landlocked in the Midwest. This move has been quite the struggle for me mentally and emotionally. We have baby #5 due in a matter of weeks (I should jump on some sort of preparation for that, right?) and I’ve been dealing with kids who can’t seem to stay completely healthy since relocating.

I’m pretty sure I hit a wall, and I almost had a breakdown. My amazing husband has also been feeling a bit off since moving out here, and he decided a vacation was in order. He approached me with many inexpensive camping ideas, extremely long road trip destinations, and other random locations that I immediately shutdown due to pregnancy, grouchiness, and four small kids. I flat out said, “FIND ME WATER.”

You see, I grew up in water. Lakes, beaches, whatever. I was waterskiing at the same time I was learning to walk. I had forgotten how connected my soul is to the movement of water. I feel as though I had let that part of myself go without even realizing it. My husband grew up on the beach, but not in the same way that I did. Barefooting, skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, and living every weekend on a boat effects the mind, body, and soul. I had forgotten all of this.
The moment I begged for a water vacation was the moment my soul realized how disconnected it was from my heart. I left the details up to John and just said, “PLEASE. I need this.”

He did not disappoint.

John reserved a bungalow just large enough for our family of 6. He made sure it had a refrigerator, stove, and bbq grill so we could save money by providing our own food. He also upgraded us to the lake view. (This man LOVES me and knew how much I needed this.) The front door opened to the lake. It was breathtaking.

The Tan-Tar-A Resort in Ozark, Missouri provided us with waterslides, indoor activities for foul weather, Fourth of July events, boat rental, the greatest fireworks display imaginable – from our patio, and delicious food options if we wanted them.

The trip was at the tips of my fingers for weeks. I was counting the days and showing the kids our resort online. We got excited together. We prepared the necessities for the long drive:
• DVD players
• Road snacks (pre-bagged per kid)
• Car activities
• Road map

I couldn’t sleep for 2 days before we left; I even called to see if we could start our trip early! Of course, the resort was booked solid, but it just made the anticipation build more.

We arrived with my heart pounding, and walked down to the bungalow with my jaw on the sidewalk. I jumped into John’s arms and just said, “Thank You.”

I am telling you, you need to do this. You need to take a vacation THAT IS ABOUT YOU. As a mother, or not even a mother – as someone entering mid-30’s who has let go of their childhood and lost themselves in life, the reconnection is eye-opening. I truly saw childhood memories flash before my eyes that I had forgotten about for decades. This vacation allowed my husband to see a side of me that he didn’t even know existed. My children saw me – ME – not their mother. They also discovered a portion of their souls that they didn’t know needed awakening. They felt more alive because I felt more alive. They were freer because I was freer.

It only took a few months of extra savings, 6.5 hours in the car, and 3 nights without thinking about work or life or anything outside of reconnecting to my own soul in the presence of my family, and I can genuinely tell you that I am better. I am happier, healthier, and stronger because I remember who I am.

Taking a vacation that is about YOU may also open your eyes to what you are missing in your day to day life. There is no possibility to spend my weekends on a gorgeous lake water skiing and tubing with the kids right now. We are living in an area in which that would only be possible about 3 months a year, but besides that, a ski boat is not in our budget at the moment. However… It is not too far from reach. If we reevaluate our budget, it may be a possibility within a few years. The location aspect though, that needs some work. I’ll tell you this though, I’ll be researching lakes and ski boats as frequently as I am on Zillow now.

Oh, and we are reserving the same bungalow for an entire week next summer – with a boat for at least 2 of those days. I will start saving now. My soul needs it.

 And So Does Yours.