• The one about having a hard time getting pregnant

    When I was pregnant with Leo, my most repetitive prayer was for a feeling of completion, finality, peace…that when Leo was born, I would know that he was the missing link, and I wouldn’t want to have any other children.

    But completion, finality, and peace were the furthest from what I actually felt. As soon as I saw his face, I wanted to have another baby. As the weeks, months, and now almost 2 years since his birth have gone by, the desire to add to our amazing crop of kids has grown exponentially.

    Adding another baby to our already busy group of four children felt a little crazy. We already get side-eyes and raised eyebrows when we fly on a plane, go out to eat as a family, or simply try to go grocery shopping (thanks to ClickList, we don’t have to do that as a group much anymore).

    Thankfully, one of the most freeing parts of being an adult is not caring what other people think.

    In February, we began planning and praying for another pregnancy. We actually really wanted to have a small age gap between Leo and his younger sibling (18 months was preferred). I also was hoping to have the baby long before my 35th birthday, so as to avoid the “geriatric pregnancy” label on my chart (35 is far from geriatric, but I don’t make the rules!).

    I can’t remember exactly, but I believe the longest we ever had to “try” (that phrase makes me cringe) for a baby was 5-6 months.

    So now, as we rapidly approach the 1 year mark without a pregnancy, and no chance of a baby being born before I turn 35 this summer, I feel confused. I feel sad. I feel frustrated.

    I feel foolish.

    I am so aware of other couples who have yet to have chance to bring one baby into the world, and I have four beautiful children already. Am I being greedy? Do I have any right to complain? Shouldn’t I just be thankful for what I have and accept that another pregnancy likely isn’t part of our plan?

    I feel alone.

    For the above mentioned reason, I don’t want to offend or upset anyone who has been struggling for a longer amount of time. I also think about how silly it would be to say to a doctor, “Yes, we have four children already, but we really want a fifth and it’s just not happening — so can you help us?” I am aware of how ridiculous that sounds.

    So I have bottled it up, only confiding in a few friends. Which has lead to feelings of isolation, depression, and incredible anxiety. It has been a painful way to spend nearly all of 2018.

    I feel like a failure.

    I think it goes without saying that it’s easy to place blame on yourself when something like this happens. What is wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? If I lost 30 pounds, would that make a difference? If I ran marathons or stopped drinking Diet Coke or prayed more, would that help?

    And even though an overall healthier lifestyle obviously wouldn’t hurt, the overwhelming sadness I feel always pulls me in and holds me down, perpetuating bad habits and making things worse.

    What I do know is that the enemy thrives in isolation. If you can be alone with your thoughts and fears long enough, you can convince yourself that you are a loser. A failure. Unworthy of love and happiness. That you are being punished, that God doesn’t hear you or care about what you want. That other people are more deserving because they are better fill-in-the-blanks.

    So by expressing these thoughts and feelings, even by way of this blog, somehow, I am less alone. I am less inside my own head. I am less isolated, which means maybe I am less susceptible to taking the blame for something that is likely beyond my control.

    There are many of us out there — women who want just one baby, or more babies, and for whatever reason, it’s harder to get there for some than for others. We put on brave faces and go about our daily lives. We laugh and smile so people don’t think we are upset or down all the time, but inside, we struggle. We struggle to live in the present when we desperately want to see the future. We struggle to trust in God’s plan when we just want to peek at the blueprint. We struggle to practice what we preach – what we know to be good and true – to stay positive, to have patience, to practice gratitude.

    To love the lives we have right now while we wait – we struggle.

    May 2019 bring what it brings, but mostly, may it bring acceptance.

  • the one about staying in the struggle

    “Hey, everyone! I am going to write in my blog everyday for 30 days!”

    …10 days of silence.

    A couple of things.

    This is a lesson on grace. And the power of evil. And the joy of struggling.

    The older I get, and the deeper I dive into my faith, the more I am able to recognize patterns in the way the devil will try to get to me.

    Immediately after I made a public vow to write everyday for 30 days, I immediately felt the need to quit. Negative thoughts flooded my mind.

    “No one cares about what you write.”

    “What you say isn’t important.”

    I posted about how weekly date nights have really strengthened our marriage, and then Luke and I have argued and bickered more since that post than we have in months.

    At first glance, I called it a funk. At second look, I called it a phase. Upon deeper introspection, I know exactly what it is. It is the force of evil, planting thoughts of doubt and insecurity into my mind, allowing me to believe that I am not worthy of love or success or praise. The same force has rejoiced over the past week as I allowed myself to make excuses and find endless reasons why I am not good enough.

    I know this can sound like a bunch of fluff — but I really believe it. And now that I am aware and can identify the source of all of my insecurity, I know that it isn’t really an issue that I need to take weeks or months to fix. I know that with some prayer and, really, some power, I can muscle through these feelings.

    I can overcome the power of evil and all my negative thoughts by resting in the truth, which I have written about before. Knowing exactly who I am, and whose I am, gives me the strength to say, “Not today, Satan.”

    But it took me 10 whole days to snap out of it. And that’s where grace comes into play. I should have done that from the start — the second those negative thoughts washed over me and subsequently washed me out. I should have, but I didn’t. I wallowed in it. I felt the feelings. And then I figured it out. I am not going to punish myself for not snapping out of it sooner. I am going to give myself the gift of grace and know that there actually is joy to be found in the struggle.

    No one likes to struggle. In general, it isn’t an enjoyable process. Turmoil. Fear. Anxiety. We don’t typically wake up and say, “Yes! I am going to struggle today and it is going to be AWESOME!”


    I have come to learn that the struggle is where God finds us, pulls us closer, gives us our “chin up” pep talk, and then helps us back on our way (which might be a completely different direction than what we originally planned).

    The struggle is where, in the midst of pain, uncertainty, and doubt, you can find nearness, comfort, and unconditional love.

    We’d never recognize the light if we never endured darkness.

    Stay in the struggle.


  • The one about Christmas gifts for kids

    Yesterday, I wrote about my desire for a simpler Christmas this year. Today, I am writing about what will be the biggest challenge in this simplicity mission – gifts for my kids.

    I am a gift-giver. It is who I am as a person. I have always loved picking gifts out for others, and when I became a mom, buying Christmas gifts for my children was so, so fulfilling. I loved creating magical Christmases for them year after year, mainly because my parents did that for me.

    But last year, on Christmas night, my eyes were opened as I walked into my girls’ bedroom where they had been playing with all their new toys, and I found every single package ripped open and the contents strewn about the room. It looked like a bomb went off in the middle of a tornado. They weren’t actually playing with any of the toys. They were just opening one thing and going to the next. Dolls had already lost their shoes, puzzles had already lost a few pieces, and Mama had lost her damn mind. I was so upset that all of these brand new toys that made them so happy just hours before were nothing more than plastic shrapnel all over the ground.

    I knew that no matter how much I thought I gave my children all they could ever want that I actually did the opposite – I overwhelmed them. I spoiled them.

    When I saw the mess and the way they treated their brand new possessions, I got upset. I yelled at them. On Christmas. I felt awful, and I knew that this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

    Fast forward to a couple months later when we did a playroom purge, and I was shocked that many of the items that they absolutely “had to have” in December meant nothing to them by February. Lots of like-new toys landed in the donate pile, which is fine because I am sure they are getting plenty of love from other children. However, a little part of me died when I realized that this was all a result of the kids having too much.

    My children are good, grateful, sweet kids. They deserve to feel loved and adored on Christmas, their birthdays, and every day in between. For this reason, it is incredibly hard for me to show restraint in gift-buying. However, I have to honor the fact that watching my children become overwhelmed and oversensitized is not helping them to feel loved.

    I have been thinking about how to transition our children to a simpler way of receiving gifts on Christmas. I honestly think that they will barely notice if we cut back on a few gifts, but I know it will be an adjustment for me.

    There are lots of great ideas out there, and one of the more popular concepts seems to be the 4 gift rule, which is buying something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. I think this is a great way to make gift-giving well-rounded and manageable. This might be what we try this year.

    One thing we have tried to do is minimize The Santa Influence. In our earlier Christmases, Santa brought everything. Now that the kids are older, we have wanted to make sure they know that mama and papa gives them some of their gifts, and they can also pick gifts out for their siblings to open on Christmas morning. We are hoping that minimizing Santa will make it less disappointing for them when they realize that…well…you know.

    On that note, we may have mama and papa give the “4 gifts” (want, need, wear, read), and then Santa brings one gift for each child – hopefully something at the very top of their lists. In addition to our sibling gift exchange, where they each are assigned one other sibling to “buy for,” this will give each child 6 gifts. We also like to do one family gift – something we can all enjoy together, whether it’s a membership to a museum, a family movie day, or just a game we can all enjoy together.

    With four kids, that’s still 25 gifts under the tree, which really doesn’t seem that simplified, but I promise this will be an improvement in both the categories of intentionality and quality over quantity.

    I think this seems very doable and like a great first step in streamlining our Christmas. How do you handle gifts for your children? Do you hope to simplify the process this year?


  • The one about simplifying Christmas

    The first snow is forecasted for our area by the end of this week, and I have to say I am excited (don’t yell at me!). I am so ready to settle into the Christmas season, and for me, that means snow!

    As we inch ourselves closer to the Christmas season, I find myself feeling a strong desire to simplify the holidays. Decor, events, gifts, everything. I want to streamline it all. As I have learned more about myself and what feeds my stress level, I now know that too much is definitely too much.

    I am taking the time right now to really discern what actually makes me happy between Thanksgiving and Christmas. What events do we really enjoy (with little stress)? What decor gives us all the warm fuzzies without making us feel cluttered or overwhelmed? What traditions seem to be our favorites? And if anything isn’t serving our family, can we cut it out?

    Pinterest is full of ideas on how to have the perfect holiday season. There are thousands of images of beautifully decorated homes, adorable new traditions to try with your kids, and all the matching family pajamas that money can buy. But so many of these “extras” can seriously weigh us down and distract us from what Christmas is all about.

    For the past several years, I have really fallen prey to Pinterest. I have drooled over photographs that make me feel like my decorations aren’t enough. I have excessively purchased gifts for my children when I knew they would be happy with half as much. I have slaved over intricate baked goods and holiday meals, hoping to impress friends and family, and only feeling burned out and grumpy by the end.

    I sincerely want better this year — not only for my family, but for myself. My happiness counts, too. I will not spread myself so thin that all that’s left for my children is a tired mama who can’t wait for everything to return to normal.

    I can’t be the only one who desires a simpler, more streamlined, less chaotic, and truly sacred holiday season. How do you plan to simplify your Christmas?


  • The one about Date Night

    For the past couple of years, Luke and I have poured almost every ounce of our energy into raising our four young children and building our dream house. I have written about it before, but when Luke decided to take on the task of being our general contractor, he also committed to spending nearly every evening from 7:00 pm until midnight for months — almost a year. In the middle of that, we endured a stressful pregnancy with Leo and adjusting to life with a newborn. Luke and I barely saw each other, and when we did, we definitely weren’t our best selves due to lack of sleep and incredible stress.

    Every now and then, we will hear comments such as, “I don’t know how you did all of that!” or “How did you survive all of the stress?” The truth is, while we physically survived, mentally and emotionally we were half dead.

    It all came to a volcanic eruption several months ago when we both realized that we were at a crossroads. We could either keep going how we were — merely putting one foot in front of the other, continuing to ignore the fact that we are about a million hours behind in quality time. Or we could decide to take control and change what we could about the situation.

    We decided to commit ourselves to making up for all of the lost time, and we would do that with weekly date nights.

    I can almost feel the eye rolls through the screen!

    There’s something about the phrase “date night” that just conjures up imagery of a couple eating sushi and hitting up Home Depot just for fun. It seems a little corny and feels a little contrived, but we decided that we had to set aside the time for a date each week – and the happiness of our marriage depended on it.

    Prior to instituting this weekly event, we went on dates maybe once every couple of months. Getting a babysitter and finding the time to go out was a chore. And because of this, when we did have time to go on a date, there were very high expectations — expensive restaurants and new experiences because we didn’t know when we would get the chance to go out again!

    We also used to be really good at keeping score on each other. I knew exactly how many times Luke had gone out with friends or gone on a golf trip or done some other fun thing — and I kept count because I was jealous. I didn’t understand how he had all the time to do all of that, and yet we were only seldom going places as a couple.

    When we began our weekly dates at the beginning of the summer, I no longer felt the need to keep score on him because I knew we would get our chance to do something special every Monday night. It’s non-negotiable, and if date night needs to be moved or canceled, there is a discussion about it. Obviously, things come up and we have to be flexible, but it is never changed without talking about it first.

    Weekly dates allow us to keep things casual. Sometimes we just pick up sushi from the grocery store and eat it in the car before we catch a movie. Other times, we enjoy a sit down restaurant and grab coffee after. A lot of times, we end up at Target or Menard’s and just walk the aisles like all the dorky TV couples do. No matter what we do, however, we are able to speak in complete sentences without the interruptions of our children. This is very important!

    We initially thought about alternating between going out dates and staying home dates– make a nice dinner and enjoy it in peace after the kids go to bed. However, when we tried to do that, our children kept coming out of their room (they must have just known), and it ended up being stressful and not restorative. In order for us to full relax and enjoy our time together, we needed to be out of our house and away from the housework, TVs, and, well…the kids.

    It wasn’t until we sold our other house (we were carrying two mortgages for well over a year) that we were financially willing to take this on. We needed to structure our budget in a way that allowed for this kind of spending, because we do get a babysitter every time. Thankfully, we have a standing “Monday night” arrangement with our babysitter, so we never have to scramble for someone and she knows the children well. It still stings the wallet a little to pay each and every time, but we know this is an investment in our marriage – and a happy marriage will only benefit our family in the end.

    I love the example we are setting for our children. They know that Monday nights are date night. They don’t ask or question it. They just know. In the beginning, we had to explain to them that it is important for mama and papa to spend time together, and that it will allow us to be better parents to them. After several weeks of this, they have come to expect it. I hope that we are showing them that investing in marriage is important.

    It can feel like society sends us the message that marriage is supposed to be hard. And I get that sentiment, because there are times when you are faced with challenges and you have to be willing to put in the work — but I also don’t believe that it should be a struggle. Or that it should be unhappy. Or that we should just accept that things aren’t the way we hoped they would be.

    Adding in a weekly date night was an easy, simple fix that has made a huge difference in our relationship. I highly recommend it to all couples, but if weekly isn’t feasible, even setting a monthly date on the calendar could make a huge impact. What about setting your alarm to get up one hour earlier, one day each week, so that you can enjoy coffee and conversation together without interruption? We would totally do that, but our children wake up incredibly early. 

    It all adds up to a healthier marriage and a much happier family.