oh this life

My clothes were clean when I put them on this morning. Now they have streaks of  Trixie's snot all over them. On the shoulder, the hip, the knee. I wish I could say that it was food.


It's snot.

Child snot.

Once she realized rubbing her nose on me yielded a result it became a game. Clearly she was winning.

I could go and change my clothes, but I don't think I will.

It's been one of those weeks. The kind where all the toys end up in the bathroom. I get out of the shower and step on Buzz Light year. I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and kick a Matchbox car across the floor. At the end of the day I put all the toys back in their respective places, only to have them end up there again the next day. How does this happen?

I reached for my make up remover the other night because I thought I wasn't getting all of my mascara off. Nope. Just dark circles. Both kids have been sick and waking up more than usual during the night, and I'm tired. When I wake up in the morning I feel like I could have easily slept for six more hours.

It snowed this morning. Wonderful. I put the winter jackets and boots away 2 weeks ago.

Johnny has not been napping this week. He does alright at school, but turns into a pumpkin come dinner time. Literally everything makes him cry. He wants ketchup with his quesadillas, he wants an extra gummy vitamin, he doesn't want to sit in that chair, he wants to sit in this chair, he wants to watch Toy Story, he doesn't want to sit on the potty chair. And every time he starts crying Trixie starts crying because she is very sensitive to her brother's feelings. So we've been having lovely dinners, shouting to each other about our days over the din of crying children.

Oh this life. If I have any readers who don't have kids they're probably thinking, "why on earth would I ever want that? It sounds like a whole lot of yelling and counting the minutes until bedtime and then picking other peoples' boogers off your clothes."

But thankfully there's more to it than what I complain about.

Like when bedtime does finally come. Trixie falls asleep nursing with her warm little hand up the sleeve of my sweater. As I carry her across the room to her crib I look down and there in my arms is an entire human being, who depends on me for everything. Please God, don't let me fail her. 

Then I go to Johnny's room. He's already in bed but not yet asleep. I crawl under his covers and share his pillow with him. He pushes a couple trains across the surface of the mattress and lets me plant kisses on his forehead. I look into his eyes and I see the grace of God.

Parenting is hard, but there is so much grace to be found in it as well. Grace in loving my children more than I love myself. Grace in this tiny glimpse into the heart of God and seeing how great His love for His own children must be. Grace in knowing that even though I may fail today, I will have the chance to be a better mother tomorrow.

Oh this life. Full of weird, snot-covered graces, breaking my heart, melting away my selfishness, filling me with a desire to be better. Please God, let me be better, for them. 

Why We Started Waking Up Before Our Kids

6:00 am Monday morning the alarm goes off. Alex hits snooze. 9 minutes later the alarm goes off again. This time he slowly rolls out of bed and into some sweatpants. I reluctantly follow, shivering in the dark until I locate my bathrobe. By the time I've made it to the family room Alex is already there with the lamp on, holding two cups of coffee. He passes one to me and we sit down to do something we have been wanting to do since we got married 7 years ago.

We're starting our day in prayer.

I have always known that starting the day in prayer is something I should do. Reading the Word of God and offering your day to Him, first thing in the morning, sets the tone for the rest of the day. Every day of my childhood I witnessed my parents praying together in the morning, and I've seen the fruit of that prayer in their marriage and in our family. This is something I've always wanted to incorporate into my marriage, but we've never been able to make it happen. Until now.

So why now? What's changed in the seven years since our wedding day that we're finally doing this thing that we've always talked about doing?

Well, there have been two big changes. Their names are Johnny and Trixie. We love them and they make our lives so rich and full. But they also make it really hard to have a prayer life.

Before we had kids, if we didn't pray together first thing in the morning it was ok, because we could pray together while we ate breakfast, or we could sit on the porch together after work for some prayer time, or we could pray before bed because we knew we would be getting 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Now, Alex is in the middle of rotations and puts in pretty long days. I teach piano lessons up to and sometimes after dinner. Meals are a whirlwind of trying to get small people to stay in their chairs and eat their food, while scarfing our own food down as fast as possible so that we can pick up this, wipe off that, and carry those up to the bathtub to begin the marathon that is our bedtime routine. By the time both of our children are asleep we barely have the energy to talk to each other, let alone pray or read scripture together.

We realized that we were going the entire day without tending to our marriage and tending to our spiritual lives. We want our marriage to be rooted in Christ, but aside from Sunday Mass we weren't doing a whole lot to make that happen. And since getting out on a date is really hard right now, we were barely even getting time to check in with each other. So now we get up before our kids. That is our time to talk to each other without being interrupted, to discuss the day ahead, we read the scripture readings for the day, and then pray for each other and our children, and commit our day to the Lord.

Photo credit goes to our talented friends Kristen and Jameson

It's not easy getting up this early, but it's also not impossible. Three months ago it would have been nearly impossible, all because of my favorite topic: baby sleep.

Oh, baby sleep. The thing that can make or break a day. The thing that can leave you feeling like a real person, or like an empty shell of a sub-human species. Depending on how much sleep you're getting at night, you may be able to rise before your offspring to catch some quiet time. But if your kids' sleep patterns are like ours, you need every minute of sleep you can get to be able to carry out your duties at home or at work.

Our first child was a terrible sleeper and didn't sleep through the night until he was almost two and I was pregnant with our second. By then the discomfort of pregnancy was setting in, keeping me up with hip pain or sending me to the bathroom every few hours. Then Trixie was born and I was back to nursing a baby all night long. As much as I would have liked having a little quiet time before my kids got up, I knew that in order to be a good mother, I needed every minute of sleep I could get. Prayer time happened in snippets while the kids ate breakfast, or if they happened to nap at the same time. It wasn't ideal, but that was the season I was in.

Now our second is one and a half and sleeping through the night. For the first time in almost four years Alex and I are getting a full night of sleep. Getting up early to pray no longer seems like an impossible feat.

There is one other thing that has helped us get up early. It was a decision to shelf our Chemex  (used to make the fancy pour-over coffee that I love) and go back to our regular electric coffee maker.

I love my Chemex. And I think it is worth the 30 minutes it takes to make a snobbish cup of coffee. But I am not a morning person. If I'm going to get up at 6:00 am, I need a cup of coffee at 6:00 am. My husband loves me a lot, but getting up at 5:30 am to make me some coffee with the Chemex is not something he's willing to do. So we brought the old coffee maker up from the basement and programmed it for 6:00 am.

Now at night we load the dishwasher, pack lunches, and get the coffee ready. And when the alarm goes off the next morning I know that that liquid gold is waiting for me, and I can drag my sorry self out of bed. It sounds silly, but it's what I need! If there's a simple thing, albeit a silly thing, that can help you better your prayer habits, then why not go for it?

It's been two months since we started this routine. Now that I know what it feels like to have that space for prayer in the morning, I can't imagine ever going back. I look forward to the time with just my husband. I know that praying together is strengthening our marriage and making us better spouses and parents. I know that, even though it always hurts to get out of bed, there is grace to be found at that early hour. I always feel better equipped to carry out my duties for the day, when we start the day in prayer.