The Help

Last week I went with my mom, sister, her friends & my friend Lisa to see "The Help".  It was a great movie.  I can't wait to read the book, which I hear is even better.  In order for me to get away to the movies, though, I had to coordinate care for the boys. I took Wyatt with me, and the twins were asleep.  My dad came over from 8:30pm until 10:00pm, then he had to leave to watch Ferris (my sister's son) so her husband (who works graveyard) could go to work.  So I asked Josh's brother Samuel to come to my house from 10:00pm to midnight, when the movie ended.
I write all this to show how much work it can be to orchestrate my life. And to introduce my topic of the evening, which is all "The Help" I have.
Last week the boys had pre-school orientation so I asked my sister to join me.  The thought of attending by myself with all three kids was daunting.
She came along & my mom watched Ferris for her.  The boys did really well meeting their teacher & getting comfortable in the classroom.  They played & made friends. On the drive Jack told me, "I'm gonna pick my friends, mom." So cute.
When it was all said and done, it was about 2pm.  The boys had missed their nap because the orientation started at 1pm.  I decided when we got home that I would lay them down for naps and let them sleep an hour so my afternoon might be slightly less miserable.
Here I am telling them it's time for naps...

And them trying to convince to me they don't need one...

And actually just proving that they definitely do!!!

Roxanne snapped these for me, and I have to say they are priceless. This is what a lot of my days look like. Not all day everyday, but at some point each day they are both crying hysterically over something horrible.  (ie stolen toys, who gets which booster seat, etc.) I think it's important to capture these memories. Often I feel that people's blogs are a "rose-colored-glasses" version of life.  This is real.  This is my kids tantruming. This is me trying to work around an event that threw off their schedule.

This is me juggling two three year olds, an infant, my purse, the keys & the screen door to get us all safely inside. This is real life with twins plus one.
My mom & sister are obviously HUGE players, likely my top two when it comes to "The Help" I have, but I have other key players as well. Some of which include Josh's family.

Last week I had a playdate with Josh's sister Andrea & her son Gustav.  Gustav is the same age as my boys and Andrea also has a new baby, Gisele, who was born in March.

The kids had an awesome time playing together & we even had a picnic lunch.

It was so nice to talk to Andrea.  She's in much the same situation I am in having an older child & a brand new infant to care for.  We were cracking up talking about how much less we worry about our newbies than we did about the big boys when we first brought them home.

She asked how often I bathe Wyatt and I told her he's lucky if he gets a bath twice a week and she said same with Gisele. Time just flies by and there's not enough of it!  
It was so nice to get out of the house and spend some time with another mom who gets it.
Sunday we had an early morning get together with some of the Cunningham's to visit with Josh's cousin Nathanial & his wife Dunnette who were in town. Nathan (as we call him) is who Wyatt is named for.  {Wyatt Nathanial}  I adore Nathan. He is such a funny, kind, hard working, easy going person.  And his wife Dunnette is so sweet, fun & easy to talk to. Together they are just so much fun.

So there we were, 7:30 in the morning, hanging out, eating donuts & talking. Lots of talking. I thought being with his family would make me miss Josh more, but actually it helped me. They miss him, too.  We talked and talked and talked about him, filling each other in on what we each had learned from our conversations, text & skype sessions with him.  It's such a good feeling to know that other people love the one you love.  Everyone has care packages going up to him, and are so full of pride & love for him. It felt good.

The boys were rough housing with Conrad, Samuel, Carl & Ethan and that made me miss Josh for their sake.  They so love wrestling, and I'm just not that mom.  So I was happy they had the chance to climb on the guys & take a few swings like the rowdy monkeys they are.

They especially love Conrad- he's always so nice to them, teasing them & making them laugh. Whenever I take them to Julie's (which is often twice a week- she's such a blessing!) they ask, "Is Conrad going to be there?" And then when we arrive, if his truck is there, they yell & shout, "Conrad's here! Conrad's here!"  I love that they have such close bonds with other men since Daddy's gone.

Julie's boys are also adored by Logan & Jack. Alvin, Ethan & Isaac have been awesome helpers, as well as really patient, when Julie has the kids so I can have a break.  Alvin is especially in love with Wyatt and tells me all the time how cute he is. I can't help but agree.

Josh's sister Lisa has also been a huge help, loaning me her daughters once a week for the evening. The girls, Mariah & Rebecca, come and play with Logan & Jack so I can clean house, cook a meal, do the dishes & then help with the entire bedtime routine, including changing & dressing Wyatt for bed.  It's been so helpful to have that one day a week where I know I'll finally have the chance to catch up on everything. They come tonight & I am so looking forward to it!

I've also set up lots of playdates throughout the weeks, and I have to tell you- it helps pass the time so much! To wear the boys out at the park as well as commiserate with other moms who know what it's like is wonderful.  I've had playdates with Annie & Thorin; Jolene, Dom & Abby; Rachel, Landon & Cameron; Heather, Alyssa & Bella; Nikki, Ruby, Miles & Oliver; Katie, Hunter & Addy; and Becky & Kaden.

I've also had sporadic help from friends who've offered, signing them up whenever we can find our schedules match- Maggie, Lisa Woodruff, Brittany & Lisa D have all come in the evenings to help with dinner, bath & bedtime.  I've enjoyed so much having that second set of hands to help me wrangle two "naked babies" after baths & get them settled down for bed.  These girls hold nothing back, either.  They'll change Wyatt's poopy diapers, actually bathe Logan & Jack (who are terrible about splashing!) clean my house and do dishes like it's nothing.
To me, it's everything.

I know God has surrounded me with these people & this support in an effort to make things a little easier with Josh gone.  I am doing okay because of all these people around me. There are days when I don't cry because of my village.  They've got my back.

Along with my family, friends & Josh's siblings, Josh's mom has been a huge support.  At our gathering Sunday she took charge of the boys and I had about a three hour break.  I got to just visit with the family & chill out.  She & the boys made castles & played on the equipment, it was lovely.  And this week she'll be taking each boy on a "date" so I can get some one-on-one time with the other. That's one thing about Josh being gone that's hard. We used to always split them up. Run an errand and leave one at home with the other parent. I think they thrived on that attention & special time. They've been needing it.
For my one-on-one time with Logan I took him out to ice cream at ICR downtown, and he said in the car he wanted to "just talk" at the restaurant.  Then we did. We talked about Alaska. I asked how he feels about Daddy being in Alaska and he said, "It makes me sad. I so miss him."  It was so precious.  Then he said he wanted to "cheers our ice cream", so we each lifted our bowls, clanged them together & said, "Cheers!"  Then we went to look at the toys at the store & he helped me pick jammies for Wyatt.  "Umm, yeah. I think the dinosaur ones, because then he will be cozy."  

Sunday afternoon we met up with my parents & sister at the Washougal River for some fun in the sun.  My mom took the kids & I was able to sit back & relax.  The boys are very blessed to have grandmothers who love them so much.  My mom had so much fun exploring the river with the boys, and my dad held Wyatt nearly the entire afternoon. My parents are great about helping out and jumping in whenever I am losing my mind.  Which, sadly, is often!
Like I said, Roxanne & Blake were there as well, and they, too, have been a tremendous help to me. Roxanne takes the big boys so I can grocery shop, and Blake has been extra helpful at family get togethers, keeping an eye on the boys for me and setting them straight when they need it. Just having an extra set of eyes is so nice.
I am lucky that my family is so supportive and that they all love my kids because Logan & Jack are not the same kids they've always been. I still find them both to be more emotional than usual, more attention hungry & more likely to tantrum over small things. I've been blessed with understanding from everyone around us. Family, friends & random people at the store whom I share my situation with... Hehehe.

If someone asked, "Overall, how do you think you're doing?" I would have to say, "Overall, I think I am doing pretty good." I smile more than I cry. And I have introduced a new chart system for listening the first time with the boys.  Once their chart is full of stickers from listening, they get whatever prize I've bought for the week that sits on the computer armoire where they can see it everyday.  So far, I find it's helping a lot. And it's helping me be a more positive parent, encouraging cooperation instead of a negative one, constantly doling out consequences.  I told Logan he needed to listen the first time the other afternoon and he goes, "Like Daddy said on the computer?" I said, "Yes, like Daddy said on the computer." (They had skyped and Josh told them they needed to listen to mommy.)  Mostly, though, I do this because I have to.  I am cooking & cleaning & doing laundry & raising the children by myself cause I have to.  Because that's what's required of me.  Josh & I are both sacrificing & struggling so that, in the end, we can be together as a family.
And the paycheck that was deposited into our account today helps, too.
A little (BIG) reminder of what it's all for.
But this, this is what I know for sure:
I would be nowhere without YOU.
You my family.
You my friends.
You my support.
You "The Help".
I can feel the love. So can my boys. And we thank you.


My Miracle

 "Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense, everything that comes from love is a miracle."
-Marie Lloyd

 I've been thinking a lot lately about Wyatt, my second born (so to speak), my singleton... This baby, this miracle of mine, is such a blessing to me.  When I found out I was pregnant with him, I wondered what in the world God was thinking. It was a Tuesday morning, October 5th, and my period was almost a week late.  Logan woke me up crying at 5am and I thought, "There's no time like the present," and peed on that stick.

I was really just taking it to confirm that I wasn't pregnant.  There was no way I could be pregnant.  Well, there was a way, but I couldn't imagine that I would be.  We'd been using protection based on the calendar, and I just didn't feel like it was time.  Three weeks earlier I had felt God whispering to me about pregnancy, but knowing Josh was unemployed & I was miserable being a working mommy, I pushed those thoughts aside.

 Then, there on the counter, two pink lines stared up at me expectantly.  My  heart pounded in my ears and I felt suddenly hot in the cold, damp bathroom.  I walked deliberately back to bed, climbed under the blankets & said to Josh, my voice just above a whisper, "Are you awake?"

 "Why?" he asked.  "I have something to tell you," I replied.  I was so nervous. I was never going to be this girl. Me, Shelly, who waited until marriage and planned everything, was never going to have a surprise pregnancy.  Yet there I was, laying next to my husband, my entire body rigid, wondering how I was going to say it.

Josh, God bless him, said, "You're pregnant, aren't you?" Sparing me the agony of choosing words.  "Yes," I said, trembling.  He took me in his arms and said, "This is good news. This is wonderful. We're going to have another baby." He rubbed my already stretch mark covered belly & told me he was delighted to be having another baby with me.

 Time passed and I became more & more sick, certain that this time it was a girl because my symptoms were so different than my twin pregnancy. I was nauseous for 18 weeks, sick through most of my second trimester with a sinus infection & stressed beyond belief about working, Josh's employment status & our finances.  I wondered why on earth God thought another baby was what we needed. We couldn't even afford the two children we had.

"Impossible situations can become possible miracles."
-Robert H. Schuller

But He, in His infinite wisdom, saw what I couldn't. He saw this journey ahead of me.  He saw Josh leaving for Marshall to support us. He saw that this time I wouldn't have to leave the baby. Ever. He saw that I would need something to quell the loneliness Josh's absence would create.  Wyatt is my silver lining. The cloud of Josh leaving is a little easier to take thanks to Wyatt's presence.  He is my constant companion. He comes to bed with me every evening, accompanied me to the movies last night, and joins me in the bathroom for my morning shower.  He also keeps me busy- which stops me from missing Josh too terribly most the time.

 Not only is he a blessing because of Alaska, he is a blessing because of who he is. He is mellow. He is sweet. He is happy. He is easy.  He's perfection.  I can't believe how easy a singleton is.  I can't believe how simple it is to care for him.  It's just so natural. He has needs, and I am able (by myself) to meet them.  With the twins I rarely, if ever, experienced that.  Breastfeeding him is the most beautiful thing ever.  I love that time where he ravenously searches for his meal, finally latching on and settling in to a suckle, swallow, breathe rhythm that lulls me into a dreamy place where all my problems seem a little more manageable.  I feel so amazing- everything he needs to grow & thrive, I am providing.  I hated that I couldn't breast feed with the twins, and am so grateful that my experience with Wyatt has been what it is.  I believe the breastfeeding success has dampened my disappointment over how his birth went.  Despite the fact that I didn't have a VBAC as I had hoped, I feel like more of a mom than ever.  My body knows how to do this.  Those baby thighs are proof.

 I am thankful for this little cherub for so many reasons. For my experiencing a singleton, of course, and for my experience at successful nursing.  But also because every baby that makes it into this world is such a miracle. I have three very close friends who have recently suffered losses- all their hopes & dreams dashed in a moments time when a heartbeat, searched for, was never found.  I can't understand this.  I can't wrap my mind around why it happens for some and not for others.  It's so unfair.  I already had two healthy children.  Two beautiful boys in perfect health. Why did I, who wasn't even trying to get pregnant, have yet another healthy, full term baby boy?  It is a grace from God that is not lost on me.

"The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn't been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him."
-Pablo Casals


 Originally Josh & I, along with our three boys, were going to be on this camping trip with my parents & sister at Cougar.

 But then in April Josh got a job in a land far, far away, and our plans changed.

 So instead, my sister took our campsite for her family and the boys & I just drove up for the day.

 This was the weekend after Josh left.  They swam in the lake with my parents, rode bikes with my dad & sat around the campfire eating Hershey chocolate squares.

They loved the water, took to it like naturals. And rode bikes, going so fast, overjoyed to be free to ride in the road around the loop.

They were really happy to be "camping" for that day.  They were delighted to spend time with my parents and sister.

 I had a harder time. I regretted that our reservations were too late for us to go as a family.

 It was a lot of work to load the car, pack up & get the kids ready to head up there by myself.

 I hated driving alone, no one to talk to, and I hated heading home in the dark, knowing how much work awaited me when I arrived.

 I tried to stay in the moment, enjoying the boys laughter & experience it through their eyes, but the fact was, Josh wasn't there. And I wasn't okay with that.

 Next  year we will gather around the campfire together.  We will schedule around his school calendar and he'll be there to fix Logan's bike if it breaks.  He'll be there to swim with them, and take them potty. He'll be there to visit with me in the car, help me with the work of packing & get me safely home.

 I'm glad I went, for the boys' sake.  They loved it and are still talking about it.

 They tell people we couldn't sleep there because I forgot the tent. Oops.

But mostly they talk about the s'mores.
Who can blame them?

Bedroom Redo

 When Josh left, I found myself with a lot more space in our bedroom, so I decided to reorganize & downsize all at once.  I moved Wyatt's things from his makeshift dresser into Josh's closet & reduced my books from three shelves down to two.  I am really happy with the end result.
 My dresser...
That's Logan::Wyatt::Jack in the frame.
I adore that frame

 Some of my favorite collection

 Wyatt's closet

My (pared down) necklace collection

 Shelf One

 Shelf Two

The finished product.
Note the picture of Josh on our honeymoon on the beach.
I love that picture. He looks so young, carefree.

  Hard to see in the picture, but clockwise it's:
Josh & I at our wedding;
Our family Spring Break 2009;
Roxanne & Blake at their wedding;
and the Raatz family 2007.

 Wyatt's bassinet, mobile & my photographs

 The shelf above my bedside table.
It has all my favorite things:
my favorite series by Robin Jones Gunn,
my favorite Willow Tree sets,
and my favorite picture of Wyatt.

The bed-
I actually ironed the sheets...
Crazy, I know.

Wyatt & I are loving our "new" bedroom.  
It's very cozy.