Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Laugh. Pray. Repeat.

I remember when we first told my mother-in-law we were expecting our third-born. She gave my husband and I this sly smile and said, "No more one-on-one. Now you've got to figure out zone defense."

I smiled, but inside, I was throw-back-my-head belly laughing! BWAHAHAHAHA!!! As a stay-at-home mom, I've been doing zone defense since Kid #2. And Kid #1 was no breeze, either.

Nowadays, when I'm out and about with my four-under-seven, I get wide-eyed looks from moms of one or two kids. Especially the expectant moms. "How do you do it?" they ask, and I recognize the note of pleading in their voices, because it used to be mine.

"I'm not really sure," I say. "You sort of figure it out as you go."

Trust me, First Time Mama in the Check-Out Line, I was just as overwhelmed with one child as you are.

It's not that it gets easier. It's just that you learn to accept the ropes. You get better at playing zone defense. You get better at knowing yourself, knowing your family, knowing what you all need to be your best selves - and what to do on those days when "best" is just not in the cards.

Like today.

I'll admit it: I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Or not so much "woke up" as blearily admitted that I was still awake.

The baby hasn't been sleeping well. For about three weeks. And if it's not too rude, I'm going to request that everyone hold off on the advice for just a day or two because, to be honest, I am not in the right mental space to receive it. Just sympathy would be super. Sympathy is about all I can handle right now.

Unfortunately, under-sevens don't deal to much in sympathy.

So, I stumble upstairs. My awesome husband has already gotten the three "big" kids up and served them cereal (not a norm in our house because cereal for six is kind of pricey, but well, what are you going to do?) And my toddler comes toddling up to me just as I finally plop myself down with a bowl of LIFE.

"Want nanny!" she shouts.

"You can't have a banana until you finish your cereal." I shove a sweet spoonful in my mouth as if my life depended on it.

"I want a nanny!"

Sugar. I need sugar. And coffee. Where's my coffee? "No banana until you finish your cereal."


Her little pouty lip just about does me in. It's cute. And infuriating. And I just. want. her. to. stop. I want quiet. And, for the love of all that is holy, I want some coffee!!

Thus begins my day.

We finish breakfast. We read the Bible. We say our prayers, and my husband promises he'll be praying for me on his way into work. I barely hear him over the shrieking of the banana-less toddler, but I give him a kiss.


It takes another half hour to get things organized enough to begin school. At which point, the toddler has finished her Cheerios and is now smugly happily masticating her banana. That's when I notice that one of the chocolate bars my husband brought home last night is missing from the bag on the counter.

I don't know where it is. But I'm 99.999999% sure I know who took it. I go eye-to-eye with the offending child, and silence is all the admission of guilt I need to be certain.

"Stay here," I'm told, and in another minute, the missing candy bar is restored - minus a bite or two.

Sneaking and taking what isn't yours is not tolerated in our house, but this particular child has a particularly hard time getting that. (I guess we all have our pet sins.) I feel like throwing in my lot with the toddler and pitching my own class act hissy fit, but I don't. I discipline. I hide the chocolate. I get ready for school.

Toddler tears pepper the rest of the morning. Her banana is already half gone and she wants a new one! Her baby doll is naked (because she took it's clothes off)! There is a booger in her nose!!!

"NO!!!! No, clean it!!!!!"


See? I'm no supermom.

School ramps up, winds down. I actually have a pleasant reading lesson with my kindergartener who's recently been inclined to refuse reading lessons. My second grader aces her math test. We all do a special project to help her prepare for her First Reconciliation (coming up this weekend!)

Sweet, I think. I made it through. And I never even got my coffee.

And then, I notice that it's gotten very quiet. Quiet is not a good thing in my house. I mean, it is... But it's not.

I look around. Kindergartener is building blocks. Second grader is coloring. Baby is in the exersaucer. Where's Abby?

Where's Abby?!?!

I call. I tell the big kids to take the upstairs while I take the down. I'm running frantically, shouting her name. There's no answer, and every time I open a door, I choke back panic, because now I'm worried that something has happened to her. That my baby girl is hurt. Last room on the floor: I run through my bedroom to the adjoining bath, and this is what I find.

Covered in my mascara. She was actually quite delighted until she realized she'd been caught.

My first thought is: Thank God she's alright. My second thought: At least that tube of mascara was already running out. My third thought: I've got to take a picture of this.

NOT what I would have thought with Kid #1. Okay, maybe the "Thank God she's alright." But thought number two? Definitely would have been: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


So, this? This is how I do it, First Time Mama in the Check-out Line. I hear the desperation in your voice, and I'm telling you this, right now: LAUGH. Pray. And laugh.

Because, no matter how much you want to believe you can, no matter what anybody tells you, you're not in control. Zone defense, my butt! Honey, you're running all Hail Marys!

These little people? They are going to turn your world upside down. You can grit your teeth and bear it, you can cry into your Chardonnay, or you can try to wage a one-woman war on entropy, but there's a better way.

In the words of Queen Elsa: Let it go.

Not all of it. Do what you need to, and do what you can. But be ready to reevaluate what those words mean. You don't need to do half of what you think. You can't do it all. Some days, you have to choose between clean dishes and a smile. Some days, it's love...or nothing.

When I'd finally cleaned the mascara off the toddler, I came up to find the Kindergartener waiting for me.

That's a stuffed penguin. With a diaper on it's head. (Thankfully, a clean one.)

"Owl Pengy needs a diaper on his head, Mom, because he's going to be a robot for Halloween."


Laugh. Pray. Repeat.

Sure there, are those things that are really dangerous. The toddler who won't hold your hand in the parking lot, the preschooler who insists on pilfering the kitchen shears for his "projects," the kid who believes the bottle of gummy vitamins is her personal stash of candy. I'm not saying to let those things slide. You've got to have standards. Hey, they call it parenting for a reason.

But, you're not supermom. And, seriously? Nobody expects you to be. You don't have to be in control all the time. That's why you pray. You pick your battles, and the more you live, the more you learn until you realize that most of the battles weren't really battles at all. That's when you learn to laugh.

Because it all goes so fast, and really you're going to remember it anyway. So, why not make it a good memory?


  1. Oh my, Bethany! Several months ago, when I was several months pregnant with my 5th baby, my children helped put the groceries away and I found all the raw meat neatly stacked in the pantry(fortunately, it was shortly after and still cold) and the romaine lettuce tucked up in the freezer :) (frozen solid). I think the 4yo did the meat (he couldn't reach any higher) and older boys did the lettuce... I hope you don't mind a sympathy "story"... hope it made you chuckle :D

    1. Hahaha! Thank you for that! Glad you were able to save the meat :-)

    2. That story reminds me of a time when my mentally disabled brother told my mom, after a trip to Sam's Club, that he'd put all the diapers away for her. Mystified as she hadn't bought diapers, she went to find the diaper holder attached to the changing table stuffed full of 250 Kotex maxi pads. And he had carefully disposed of the bags and collapsed the box they came in, too.

    3. Oh, Emily!! Your mother must have laughed so hard!!

  2. Abby is so cute! Even crying, she's cute. :)

    I get it, oh so well. I'm mama to 5, ages almost-6 and under, with another on the way. People have hinted at me that it's actually dangerous for SO MANY children to be mothered by one woman. What can I say? I don't know. They all have guardian angels, and I work hard, every minute they're awake. It's a labor of love but some times I'm only conscious of the labor part. Laughing helps me reorient. So does praying. They do give me plenty of reason to laugh. My two year old said today as I dressed him, his index fingers poised over his nipples, "Mama, why I got three belly buttons?"


    1. I agree - she's a prett adorable mischief maker!

  3. Great reflections. Sorry your day wasn't smooth, but yes, these kinds of events/days are less harrowing to me than they once were, too. And another wonderful thing about being a more experienced mother is that you realize every morning begins a new day. Kids are all about wiping the slate clean every morning, they love to give us new opportunities to demonstrate patience and love (and laughter) ;) Here's to a new day!

  4. P.S. Did you get some coffee this morning?? Drinking mine now ;)

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  6. I just found this post and it made me laugh so hard because I am having just that kind of a day today! A "Jonah Day" I believe Anne of Green Gables used to call them. I only have one four year old daughter, and we do not home school, but she can easily get up to the kind of mischief all of yours can in one day! For example she woke me this morning by jumping on me, then proceeded to run out of the room squealing with glee. By the time I was up and dressed she managed to find and consume at least five Hershey's kisses, when I caught her she said: "Mom I think I'll stop now before I get a tummy ache," She insisted she did not want anything for breakfast, but after I made my bowl of hot cereal she changed her mind and ate all of mine. Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

    Yes I do look at moms who have more than one and wonder how they do it, because it takes all of my time and energy to parent just one!

    Hope you and your family are otherwise enjoying this Advent.

    1. Oh, Kim! That is so funny. I hope you still got some cereal :-)

      A blessed Advent to you, too.

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  8. Can I ask what kind of camera you use to take all your pictures? The color and clarity of your photos always come out outstanding and I'm really wondering what kind of camera to get, to take family pictures! Thanks a lot!

    1. Thank you! I take this as a huge compliment as I don't consider myself a photographer at all. That said, camera must do most of the work, so it's pretty good! I used to have a Nikon d40 which was my favorite. That one got stolen and we replaced it with a refurbished Nikon from a different line. I use the standard lens and another that's a 55-300 vr zoom that I LOVE because I can stay far back from the kids so they don't realize I'm taking pictures! Ironically in this post, I just used my iPhone. I should also mention that in recent months I've been using the Windows 8 Photo app to edit, and it makes a huge difference in the final quality especially since I often shoot in low light here in Seattle. Good luck finding a camera! Please stop back and let me know what you get and how you like it.


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