Keeping the babymoon alive after the baby arrives.

Babymoon? Prior to the birth of my firstborn, I had never heard that term.  Honeymoon, yes, for sure.  The concept of an expectant parent’s last hurrah getaway sounds ideal, but is somewhat impractical.  Still, as a first-time parent, a babymoon is more like a couple’s romantic retreat, and highly more feasible.  The second time around…not so much.  With my first babymoon, my hubby and I rented a bungalow off-season in the Outer Banks months before my due date, so I felt better at 20 weeks pregnant. We were still so naive about becoming parents, and how life-changing parenthood was. We reveled in our freedom, took long romantic walks on the beach, and yet knew no differently.  With my second, not only was I apart from my firstborn, I was almost 34 weeks pregnant, and our romantic getaway consisted of a day trip that included my husband spending an hour looking at fish finders (not my thing), picking my brothers-in-law up at the airport, and watching HGTV in our hotel room.  Still, it was nice to get away, and more importantly, having a break from my two year old. While the concept of a babymoon is romantic and idealistic, real life and constant care of a newborn and toddler loom menacingly large.  So here are the little, everyday habits to keep the babymoon alive long after the baby arrives!

  • Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages identifies your primary or secondary love language, and knowing and speaking your spouse’s language is critical.  My husband’s is quality time, so putting down my phone and focusing on him means a lot. Mine is gifts and words of affirmation.  Gifts as in a handpicked flower or favorite candy, words as in handwritten notes.  Nothing expensive or extravagant, but it’s truly the thought that counts.
  • Communication. Texts in the morning and after work, sharing the day’s highs and lows, and staring into each other’s eyeballs (not screens) after our toddler goes to bed are all key communication points.  Communicating appreciation, love, respect and gratitude goes a long way in fortifying your relationship.
  • Praying together. My husband makes it a point to pray with me every night and each morning, even though he goes to work at 6am and I’m half-asleep during those prayers. Prayer binds us together spiritually.
  • Dates. I know so many couples who have weekly date nights, but for us, with family far away, we take advantage of grandparent’s visits and free babysitting.  So our dates are alone time after toddler bedtime.  I know this will change once a newborn comes, but stealing even ten minutes every night to snuggle on the couch counts.
  • Devotions. Nearly since our wedding we’ve been reading through a couple’s devotional books to strengthen our marriage.  Our favorite format are the ones that you can skip days or even weeks and just pick right back up.  We read it out loud together and discuss.  Sometimes the discussion isn’t very deep, sometimes it is, but just sharing together is what matters.
  • Serving each other. It’s the little things that mean so much.  Making my husband’s lunch every night is one less thing he has to do in the morning.  Turning the coffee maker on for me welcomes my non-morning persona with much needed caffeine.
  • Having fun! Life is so stressful and serious, it’s important to remember to have fun together, do what you love together, and LAUGH.  My hubby and I love the outdoors, going for walks, and watching Netflix sitcoms.  Simple things.

How do YOU keep your marriage spark alive?



Grateful while pregnant

For 40 weeks, or from the time you announce your pregnancy (or become unmistakably physically pregnant), people will ask you “how are you feeling?”  It’s a loaded question. Most of the time it’s asked out of politeness, and I don’t really want to delve into how I’m really, truly feeling.  Really, truly? Pregnancy is hard on the body.  Pregnancy wears you down. Pregnancy loads you down, literally, by many pounds. Pregnancy destroys your fit physique.  Pregnancy ruins your running. Pregnancy interferes with everyday actions such as buckling a seat belt, bending over, and having a toddler trying to squeeze onto your lap.  Pregnancy causes not only morning (or all day) sickness, nausea, fatigue, but at every week there is an onslaught of physical ailments including insomnia, frequent urination, constipation, heartburn, hemorrhoids, headaches, and a slew of other aches and pains. But it’s only for 40 weeks! But it’s so worth it!  But you get a beautiful baby out of it!  All this is true, but tell that to a pregnant mother in the midst of producing, nurturing, developing another human being inside her uterus.  Tell that to the weary, sleep deprived pregnant mother who’s already caring and chasing after other children while growing one on the inside.  I want to have a good attitude while pregnant.  I know how grateful I should be.  I know how miraculous pregnancy is.  I know so many who long to be pregnant and struggle with infertility and/or miscarriage. I know ungratefulness is a sin.  But the truth when someone asks me how I’m feeling is not good, not great, and not grateful.  I have never enjoyed being pregnant.  I don’t like what it does to my body.  I don’t like how I feel during it.  I especially don’t like all the doctors visits, the poking and prodding and measuring and tests and shots (really don’t like!). That is my true response to the question.  I’m not one of those pregnant moms who feel empowered and invigorated and just bask in the glow of their pregnancy.  But DESPITE HOW I FEEL, what I know to be true is that I’m to be grateful.  Grateful for the gift of life living and kicking inside me.  So the next time someone asks me how I’m feeling, I want to be able to joyfully say, “I’m grateful,” instead of sighing, groaning, and complaining.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”~1 Thessalonians 5:18.  How are you giving thanks in everything?

When a fearful girl gets her heart’s desire

I used to fear that I would never get married.  Then I feared that I couldn’t have children. Then I feared I would never get the girl my heart longed for.  All these fears had no merit/basis of truth in my life, but I worried nonetheless.  I put my trust and my hope and my faith in a Sovereign God long ago, but actively, daily trusting Him is a lifelong lesson. When I was single and my circumstances showed no differently, I had to trust that He knew what was best for me. When I heard so many friends struggle with infertility and miscarriage, my fears spiked that it would happen to me.  God graciously and quickly dispelled that fear by allowing me to conceive almost immediately.  When my heart yearned for a baby girl after a boy, I could scarce allow myself to hope for one. Hadn’t God already been so gracious and kind and loving in giving me a son that changed my life entirely?  Hadn’t He been so benevolent and good in sending me such a sweet, faithful husband?  How could I dare to presume and ask for a girl when getting pregnant was a miracle and gift in itself?  Of course I tried to control the outcome by all the unscientific, natural methods of conceiving a girl, but it was ultimately out of my control.

I tried to protect my heart by avoiding the girl clothes sections, by praying against coveting friends with beautiful baby girls, and families with one boy and one girl, by expecting another boy, but I could not deny that my heart longed for a girl.  In the Psalms David says multiple times, “May He grant you your heart’s desire” ~Psalm 20:4 and the famous one “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” ~Psalm 37:4.  Interpretation of the latter one states that if you’re aligning your heart to His will, His will will match your desire.  But oftentimes His will for your life does not match what you want.  I know plenty of followers of Christ who will attest to that.  So how could I hope for my girl?  I fervently prayed that if it was His will, He would give me my girl, and if not, He would prepare me emotionally for another boy.  I know gender disappointment is a real thing, and I was truly expecting another boy at my 20 week ultrasound.  Which would explain how calm and not anxious I was (until the moment of truth).  When the ultrasound tech uttered “It’s a girl!” and I cried in disbelief “Are you sure?” and as she proceeded to assure me, it was as if God said to me, “I’ve heard your heart’s cry, and I love you so much.”  But would I have heard that same message if it had been a boy?  God still would have heard my heart’s cry, and still loves me more than I know.  Sometimes He doesn’t give us what we want, but what we absolutely need. But sometimes He mercifully and graciously and speedily delivers what we want.

  • When has God met your heart’s desire?
  • When have you been disappointed in God’s will for your life?  How has perspective changed that?

Do you address God like a whiny or adoring child?

Before my son uttered his first word, I longed for the day when he could say my name, my title, mama or mommy.  “Just you wait,” my friends with talking kids warned, “You will wish your son couldn’t talk, because once he starts, he never stops.”  Well that day arrived, and so did the incessant stream of “mama” or “mommy” over and over throughout the day, all day, every day long.  It’s not just when he needs/wants something, it’s as if he enjoys simply babbling my title all the time.  It’s relentless.  It tests my patience.  Sometimes I cheerfully acknowledge it, “what baby?” Sometimes I flat out ignore it.  But then the volume and speed increases, and I know I need to address it.  “Stop!” I plead to no avail.  The synonyms are as annoying as they sound:

ceaselessunceasingconstantcontinualunabatinginterminableendlessunendingnever-endingeverlastingeternalperpetualcontinuousnonstop, around/round-the-clock, uninterruptedunbrokenunremittingpersistentrelentless

Does that describe your toddler?  It’s ironic how much I longed to hear my son say my name, and now how I nearly dread it.  But there are the endearing instances where my son lovingly and joyfully cries “mama!” and comes running to me and flies into my arms. Those mama cries are the sweetest.

It got me thinking, how my son constantly cries out my name is how God hears His children crying out to Him?  We can call Him Abba, Father (Romans 8:15) because of His precious son, but how do we sound when we’re constantly appealing to Him, crying “Daddy, do this for me!” “Daddy, I need this!” “Daddy, I want this!”  “Daddy, watch me!” Are our cries music to His ears, or a dull clamor of complaint?  Of course He hears us, He inclines His ear to, and He forebears with us due to His steadfast love, but I wonder how often we address Him out of sheer love and devotion versus out of a demanding plea or cry for help.  As a perfect parent, our Heavenly Father will not respond impatiently, and I try to model a patient response to my son as well.  But not always, not like my Abba Father can.  Of course I want to meet my son’s needs, but not always comply with his wants.  Does he need a third snack in a row, or does he want it? Is it good for him to have that third snack? In the same way, our Father always gives us what we need, but not always what we want right this second.

  • Are you crying out to your Heavenly Father like a whiny child or an adoring one?

Terrified of two

Before kids, I’d look incredulously at the moms of multiple kids, see the chaos that ensued, and think to myself “why in the world would you ever have more than one kid?” Seriously.  One seemed like more than enough.  Even when people would remind me of sibling love, I still couldn’t understand it as a childless woman.  But once I had my first child, I saw the value of a sibling for my son.  I’d see how longingly my son would stare at other kids playing together.  I saw the value of him learning to share.  I saw the companionship and sibling bond.  Suddenly it made sense to have double strollers (whereas the thought initially terrified me when we first went stroller shopping and my husband mentioned a double).  But as terrifying as becoming a mother was to me, and as transforming, becoming a mother of two is even more.  How can I possibly share ME with another little demanding human being?  How can I possibly LOVE as much as I love my firstborn?  The trailblazers say you can and you will.  They say your heart enlarges to love another just as much.  They say the juggling of two becomes your new normal.  And I suppose it will.  But as I faint-heartedly watch the moms of multiples wearing one baby while chasing the older one underfoot, as I see them juggling the double strollers and minivans with all the kid gear, I see how two can multiply the difficulties and challenges exponentially.  Right now I like being able to pop one child in and out of his carseat effortlessly and still be able to hold his hand or him when we walk short distances.  I like the ease of a single stroller, the ease of watching out for just one with an eagle’s eye when we’re out in public.  I like the messes of one (and boy are there a ton of messes!) the constant feedings of one, the laundry of one, and the one-on-one attention I can give to one.  I love the lingering morning snuggles and the countless story times.  Can life get any better, any sweeter than this?  I cling to these last few months of just him and me, knowing that life as we know it will once again drastically change, and yet not knowing how to prepare emotionally for that change without cherishing every moment spent and mourning the loss of our normal.  But just like having my first child was life-changing, so I know having a second will be equally life changing.  And, just like I adapted to one, so I know I will adjust to two.  All along, even when my son was very young, I felt like someone was missing from our family.  I’ll get to meet him/her very soon.  But for now, I hold tight to my only boy.  I savor every snuggle, every giggle, every hug.  For now, it’s just me and him, with a growing belly coming between us during lap time.  For now, this is the existence he’s only ever known.  While life as we know it is about to change, it must and will. It really comes down to trusting in the Giver of Life. He entrusted me to conceive (twice) so He must think I can handle two children.  I had such fears over becoming a mom the first time, and my fears stemmed from the unknown, from the enormous responsibility, and from the overwhelming reality of how life-changing motherhood is.  But those who trust in the all-knowing, all-powerful Lord of all the earth place their fears and failures in His large, capable hands. If He gives all the inhabitants of the earth life and breath, and fashions their hearts (Psalm 33:15), He will enable me to become a mother of two children.  

  • How has your family dynamic changed from one child to two (or more?)
  • To Whom do you take your fears to?  How do you entrust your fears to Him?  DSC02271.jpg

Invest in experiences that don’t break the bank

Studies show that kids prefer time spent over toys given.  But why don’t we believe this? It may be because toys and technology occupy so much of kids’ attention these days.  And yes, while they serve their purposes, imaginative play is so much more beneficial.  My son sleeps so much more soundly after playing hard outside vs. inside.  Early on, my husband and I decided to invest in the experiences.  Still, even those experiences can be costly, and I’m not just talking about vacations. Here are some local activities we do on a weekly/monthly basis where we’ve cut corners and costs in Norfolk Virginia.

  • The Botanical Gardens is our only yearly membership.  Equipped with a children’s splash pad, sand pit, play houses and more, the $95 yearly membership pays for itself in a few visits.  It’s cheaper than the YMCA monthly membership for their water parks and other water parks around.
  • Speaking of swimming, check your local community pool.  We signed up for 8 Parent/Child swim lessons for $25, significantly cheaper than the Y.
  • The Children’s Museum is both educational and interactive.  Normal cost is $11/adult/visit, but they had $5 specials on Wednesdays, so I did that twice this summer. Children under two are free.  It seems children under two everywhere are free, so take advantage of that!
  • Our Zoo visits have been because of the generosity of friends who have memberships that can get us in free.  Because we don’t go that often, this is the best course of action.
  • Aquariums nationally all seem to be pretty pricey with a hefty $25/adult/visit and $20/child/visit fee, however look again for special deals.  In January I got an $11 rate just by doing a little research.  Always do your research!  And since the aquarium is a special visit, this once a year fee fits just right.
  • The Library offers a really wonderful children’s programming that is absolutely free.  I’ve been taking my son there since he was only months old. Programming includes singing, stories, crafts, and free play.  There’s also an indoor inflatable rec area and pretend kitchen.
  • My child is too young for camps yet, but even some camps are offered free of charge, ranging from sports camps to Vacation Bible Schools.
  • Your local parks and recreation always offer playgrounds, picnics, biking, hiking, beaching, etc. Get them outside!  Get them moving!  Get them exhausted.
  • Most malls offer an indoor children’s play area for rainy days or timeouts from shopping. Movie theaters offer cheap matinees and $1 deals.
  • Not to mention, there are so many free festivals and events with free children’s activities like bounce houses, face painting, crafts, games, etc.  Paying for fun is no fun at all, so unless it’s worth the admission price, look elsewhere!

Parental pressure to “force fun”

Every parent wants their child(ren) to be great at something, whether academics, athletics, the arts, etc. We want them to not just be good at something, but to EXCEL at it, to have a natural talent for it.  We don’t always care what that thing is, but sometimes our own natural talents are what we project on our child. If we were good at basketball we can assume our child will be too, until he shows zero interest in shooting hoops.  Our children can share so many of our characteristics, but they are their own person. I’m only 2 years into parenting, but I’ve already been learning this lesson of not forcing my son to try things too soon, things I think automatically he should enjoy doing. For me, the big activity that I’ve longed to do with my son since he was born was arts and crafts. Before he could hold a crayon I wanted him to color.  Before he could sit up I wanted him to craft with me.  I viewed it as not only an educational activity but also as a good bonding time with him, as I’m somewhat artsy myself.  But trying to force his interest in arts and crafts was useless.  His attention span was zero.  Once I accepted this and eased up trying to get him to color, the interest came all on his own one day.  Now he enjoys coloring for more than 5 seconds and can scribble artwork for family.  Same thing with play doh and stickers and all kinds of fun that’s to come down the road.  He’s come into his own all on his own craft-wise, with little pressure from his mom, which is a parent’s job…to present opportunities for growth and learning and then step back and wait for them to take initiative and interact, with positive influence and reinforcement, but not pressure. There is such a thing as parent pressure, just like peer pressure, where we desperately try to force fun and our kids just want their independence and free will.  Hopefully I can remember this lesson for the rest of his life 🙂

  • When have you put “parent pressure” on your kid to “force fun?”  When have you let them be and watched their independence rise up?