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I consider myself a fairly neat and tidy person. Some (my husband) might even say I’m a clean freak. I like order and I live for organization pin boards showcasing all glass container pantries or color coordinated craft closets.

But little people, though small and seemingly weak, have magical super powers when it comes to their ability to turn a warm and welcoming home into a small war zone.

When it comes to organizing our small house, and the growing number of kids’ clothes and toys, I’m constantly working hard to find solutions. In general, I’m careful to not buy too many toys and if we do purchase new things we’ll try to get outdoor toys rather than indoor toys since they can be hidden in our yard or garage. (Plus–fresh air is good for kids and we live in mild climate, so why not?) Inside the house, all our toys with lots of pieces are kept on high shelves and they have to be “checked-out” one at a time. Anna’s plastic eyesore of a play kitchen with a million parts? It’s in her closet for easy access but it can also hidden away when not in use. Our living room has a few chic baskets and boxes hidden behind our furniture which hold toys. At night after the kids go to bed, I pick up any and all remaining toys, light a candle, take a deep long breath, (perhaps grab a glass of wine!) and pretend no children live here.

But there’s one thing I rarely do, and I’m going to challenge you to do the same.

Don’t clean your windows. 

When Anna started walking her little fingerprints appeared everywhere. Our backyard french doors were covered in prints, as was our new stainless steel refrigerator. The front window, which looked out on the street, was by far the worst. Every morning and evening she banged on that window to say goodbye to Daddy on his way to work, and when he returned I would hold her up for waves and hellos. Her lips, tongue, and peanut butter coated fingers left love trails I couldn’t keep up with.

One weekend after I took Anna to see my parents–Granna and Grand-dude as they’re so lovingly referred to around here–my mom called to debrief our time together. She said something like, “I looked out our back window today and noticed Anna’s little fingerprints are still there. They made me smile and I didn’t have the heart to wipe them away. Those are things you appreciate now as grandparents.”

If there is anyone who likes a clean house and some resemblance of order more than I do, it’s my mom. And I love this about her. But I also love that she gave me a beautiful reminder to slow down and appreciate the chaotic mess of toddlerhood. These days, their little fingers seem to be all over everywhere and everything. They leave trails of Cheerios and water puddles all over the bathroom, and trains strewn across the living room. There is sand ALL OVER my car and dollhouse pieces in my bed and if I step on one more raisin with my bare feet… well… you know.

And yet someday their fingerprints and their puddles and their raisins won’t be around anymore. I won’t find all her Thomas trains “puffing” along the window’s edge. Instead, Jonathan and I will settle for quick e-mails and text messages, and dinners here and there. These messy kiddos won’t always be messy kiddos. Their time in our house, dirtying our furniture, is temporary. 

So while I can’t handle my living room looking like a war zone at all times–who can, am I right?– I resist the urge to Windex their fingerprints off my slider door and living room windows. At night when I sit down and kick my feet up, their fingerprints help me remember that children live here and it’s a really, really wonderful thing.

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Happy 3rd Birthday, Sweet Anna

by Lesley on July 19, 2014 · 6 comments

in Anna

Happy 3rd Birthday, Sweet Anna from Lesley Miller on Vimeo.

Two has not been terrible at our house. In fact, as I lay down next to Anna last night, in the final hours of her second year, I thanked God for the little girl blossoming in front of our eyes. She is inquisitive and obedient, affectionate and silly, smiley and giggly with those she trusts, and a nonstop chatterbox. How we love watching her passions and interests develop. These days she loves: Thomas the Train, taking her vitamins, washing her hands and going potty, Fancy Nancy, the stars and moon, picking avocados, washing the dishes, her “Jesus” (worship) CD,  donut holes, raisins, french fries and applesauce, helping Mommy bake, being chased, playing with sand, swings, pushing buttons, playing dress-up, and driving toy cars.

Some of our favorite things she says, on the regular:

“Here me are!!” (“Here I am!”) “I’m making messes!” “I do it alllll byyyy myyyyyself.” “I need a snack.” “I wanna watch TV.” “Higher, Mommy, Higher!” (On the swings) “We love you, Little Man.” “Maybe tomorrow we go to the beach after my nap, maybe?” “Whatchyou and Mommy talkin’ about?” “Mommy, that works wonderful!” (Said about the new outfit I was trying on from Stitch Fix! ha!)

Yesterday we celebrated Anna by giving her a “new” playhouse for the backyard which we plan to fix-up over the upcoming months. We ate aebleskivers for breakfast, visited the firetruck at our neighborhood fire station, went to Chick-fil-a for lunch, played with some new toys, ate frozen pizza for dinner–a favorite–read a few new books, and let her fall asleep in her new tutu from Auntie Allison.

Sweet Anna, you are so loved and we thank God for your beautiful life.

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crib shoe

I was really blown away by the response to my post last week about there not being a one-sized fits all method for raising kids. You guys, that post has been floating around in my head for MONTHS but I knew I wanted to say it well, and write it right, and offer encouragement to anyone feeling alone. Based on the huge number of likes on Facebook, I think it resonated with a few of you. Thank you for saying so and making me feel less alone.

I wish I had the energy and time to write posts like that all the time. Unfortunately, today, I have about 15 minutes before Owen wakes up and my blogging time is done for the day. And so, I bring you, a quick list of gift ideas for second babies.

When Owen was born I decided not to register again for baby items. I’d registered for my wedding, and registered for Anna’s birth, and I felt uncomfortable registering again for another baby. I don’t know what the etiquette is on this but it just didn’t feel right for us. We were blessed with very generous and unique gifts after he was born. A lot of people gave us items that I’d never have thought to purchase!

Here are a few gift ideas for second babies:

1. Carter’s Footie Pajamas : I like having lots of pajamas on hand for my kids. They grow so fast in the first year, and they spit-up and poop like nobodies business. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too many pajamas. Get the zip-up kind for faster diaper changes and don’t be afraid to gift these in larger sizes.

Which brings me to my next point…

2. Bigger sized clothing : Everyone loves buying newborn outfits, but a lot of babies outgrow the newborn size quickly. And until kids are between 3-6 months old, they live in onesies and pajamas. If you’re going to spend money on an adorable outfit, buy them in 6-12 month sizes, or even 12 months and up, and think about the appropriate season too. This is especially important for a mom who is having a different gender baby than her first, or who is having a baby born in the opposite season.

3. Burp cloths : I feel about burp cloths the way I feel about pajamas…which is…there is no such thing as too many! My favorite kind are the aden + anais muslin burpy bib because they’re so soft and can also be used to catch drool during the teething months. (I also love all the homemade options on Etsy!) This is a particularly good option to buy for the mom who is having a different gender than her first.

4. The Robeez crib shoe : Perfect for the crawler/early walker stage because these shoes actually stay on kids’ feet. My children were gifted adorable baby shoes but barely wore them because they rarely stay on their little feet. If you’re going to buy shoes, get Robeez or something similar. I promise the person you’re buying for will love this gift.

5. A unique winter hat : This is one of my favorite things to buy a new baby. I’m partial to all the sweet animal options on Etsy. This elephant is a favorite because the gray would match with almost anything.

6. Monogrammed bath towels: We have these Pottery Barn towels, but all of their animal option are also so stink’ cute.  Baby #2 might wear a lot of hand-me-downs, but he/she shouldn’t have to share a bath towel!

7. Gift for mama : There is nothing sweeter than a pedicure gift certificate or a new robe for the hospital. My friend Sharon bought me a small Serena and Lily clutch to hold my wallet and phone so that I could easily transfer all my personal items between diaper bag and purse. Thoughtful and practical!

8. Money towards a double stroller : Because mommies needs to get out of the house, and double strollers are pricey!

Still need a few more ideas? Unique artwork for the nursery / HALO sleepsacksTrumpette socks

What’s your favorite gift to buy new babies?

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Baby Birthday Boy

by Lesley on July 13, 2014 · 7 comments

in owen

Today is our sweet boy’s birthday. One full year since he entered our world and changed our family for the better. One full year of cuddles. One full year of snuggles. One full year of love and laughter and learning to be his mama.  Today is a special day because he made it, and we made it, and we celebrate the little boy he is becoming while mourning the last days of his babyhood.

One of my favorite things to do for my kids’ birthdays is to make them a short slideshow documenting their year. Hopefully JJ Heller keeps coming out with new albums because I’ve used her songs for Anna’s first and second year movies, and you’ll hear her singing in Owen’s first year show. (Watch until the end and you’ll get a quick peak at the party we had for him yesterday! I’ll post a few more pictures tomorrow.)

Owen’s First Year from Lesley Miller on Vimeo.

 

Owen in numbers

Number of pounds at birth: 9.5

Number of pounds at one year: 24

Number of times he fell out of his high chair this year: 1

Number of teeth: 6

Number of haircuts in the first year of life: 5

Number of airplane flights: 5

Number of homes he’s lived in: 2

Number of colds: TOO MANY TO COUNT, THANK YOU SISSY

Number of minutes in his newborn sleep cycle: 28

Number of smiles per day: 75+

Number of times he’s picked up per day: does he ever get put down?

Number of stairs he fell down at his grandparents’ house: 8

Number of words: 2 (Dada, Mama)

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Last June, on the fourth morning of a three-day intensive potty training bootcamp, I got woken up by a little girl with wet eyes and wet sheets. After a half hour spent changing undies, cleaning the crib and consoling the trainee, I waddled (8+ months pregnant!) to the front door, tip-toed to the car, and cried the entire way to IHOP.  My body ached from running Anna to the potty all weekend and wiping up missed attempts. But worse, my ego was bruised and my heart hurt. The book said if I followed the instructions exactly, training should only take three days. The book said she was old enough. The book said not to give up. The book promised.

But it wasn’t clicking, not even a little bit. Meanwhile, my sweet girl was crying in frustration and shame. She wanted so badly to follow my instructions but she simply couldn’t do it.

On that terrible summer morning, on the fourth day of potty training, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Not only had potty training been terribly unsuccessful, I’d bruised my child’s confidence in the process. I needed alone time with God, and I needed pancakes. It had been one doozy of a weekend.

Motherhood at its best is butterfly kisses and early morning snuggles and bath-time giggles. Motherhood at its worst is when you try, and try, and try to teach what is good and right, only to be met by resistance or failure. 

After a few hours at IHOP I drove home and fished all of Anna’s diapers out of our trashcans. I’d thrown them away, like the book commanded, because failure wasn’t an option. And yet in the wise part of my mama heart I knew my daughter better than a book knew her. Anna hadn’t failed potty training, she was simply too young and needed more time.

I’d like to say that I learned my lesson that weekend, but months later I found myself back in a similar predicament with Owen. At three weeks old, my baby began taking shorter and shorter naps until every nap cycle became 28 minutes long and nighttime wakings increased from one time a night, to four or five. I’d read the sleep books, I believed in nap schedules, and I was following their instructions like science. But nothing was working.

I’ll never forget telling a group of women at church that I could use some prayer because my baby was barely sleeping, and one of them responded by saying, “We never had sleep issues with any of our children because we followed Babywise.” (Translation: If you were a good mom, and followed the directions, you wouldn’t be having sleep problems right now.)

I wanted to scream, “I’ve READ the book. I’ve TRIED the book. I BELIEVED the book. But either I’m stupid or the book is wrong because it’s not working for us this time around!” 

When Owen turned six months old, we began making a lot of changes to his sleeping arrangements. Someday I’ll write about everything we did, but, without a doubt the most important change we made was simple, free, and available to every mama around the world.

We began praying for wisdom.

You see, when it came to sleep training (and potty training!) I did plenty of research and soaked up all sorts of knowledge. I knew the various methods and approaches, and all the pros and cons that came with each. After I read everything I formed an attitude that there was a right and wrong way to train children, and if I went about things the right way then I’d have success and if I went about things the wrong way there’d be failure.

An older friend challenged me one day in the winter months. She said, essentially, “I can give you all kinds of advice and tricks that have worked for me, and some of them will probably work with your children. But there is no magic formula. The most powerful thing you can do is ask God for his wisdom.”

And so I have.

Who are these little people, dear God? Reveal their personalities and their weaknesses. Show me where they struggle and what makes them thrive. Help me understand why they wake and why they sleep. Help me see the subtle things I’m missing. Show me how to love and train them as individuals, not statistics on the page of a book. 

Since I began praying for parenting wisdom, I’ve already watched God answer by showing me tiny things that each of my children need to thrive. These moments of realization have been subtle but spot on. He has taken me–beat-up, bruised and doubting my mothering skills–and blown encouragement and life back into my soul. I gave these children to you temporarily, He says. They are a gift. Treasure them and teach them, never losing sight of the fact that you are not in this alone. I will help. Just ask.   

God is showing me, time and time again, there is not a one size fits all solution for training children. There aren’t any verses in the bible about sleep training or potty training just like there’s nothing advocating an Atkins diet over a Weight Watchers plan. What works for some does not work for all. Should we learn from those who’ve gone before us? Absolutely. Should we buy into a one-size fits all parenting plan? Absolutely not.

If you’re a mama with young children, please learn from my mistakes. I’m going to to say something right now that I hope you’ll never forget:

Training children takes time, effort, hard work, skill, patience and failure. That’s why we use the word TRAINING. If you’re reading parenting materials that make you feel bad if your child doesn’t fit into their definition of success, put the book down. If you’re reading parenting advice that makes you feel like a bad mother, put the book down. If you’re receiving parenting feedback from well intentioned strangers who suggest all children are made the same, shout FIRE and then run.

You, Mama, were created with special gifts, talents and wisdom to meet the needs of your unique children. You know more than you think you do, and you serve a God who is willing and able to help when you’re not sure what to do next. Ask for His help, seek His wisdom.

If you can’t hear him very well, just head to IHOP. He met me there one time.

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