Tag Archives: parenthood

Learning to Handle Sleep Deprivation Graciously

23 Feb

As my due date approaches, I feel like I’m staring down the barrel of a gun. Whenever Emma has a few bad nights of sleep or takes a few short naps, I’m quickly reminded of how horrible sleep deprivation is – and how horribly I deal with it.

I’m panicking just a little thinking about taking care of both a newborn and a toddler, especially when Travis is traveling for work. WHEN WILL I EVER SLEEP?!?!

I want to learn how to deal with sleep deprivation in a gracious, accepting way. But that would require me to be gracious and accept it. And that’s exactly what I can’t get myself to do.

Instead, I slide quickly down into the pit of self-pity and anger. I find myself countering the misery of a too-short nap with sweets and impulse eating. I let Emma get away with stuff I normally wouldn’t because I don’t care enough to fight her on it (hello fruit snacks for breakfast). Or I snap at her for little things because I don’t have “the patience to deal with this.” I don’t spend time in the Word because I’m either too tired to concentrate or I’m attempting to not be a complete and utter zombie by using the time to sleep – and that lack of time shows in my attitude.

From there, the self-pity deepens into: I don’t have time or energy to exercise. I don’t have energy to clean my house. I resent having to make dinner (almost) every night. I feel guilty for not planning fun and creative activities with Emma. I silently mock Travis for mentioning anything about being tired – like he even has a CLUE.

Some parents seem to handle being sleep deprived rather well. They continue functioning and enjoying life. I go into self-destruct, wallow mode. I go into THE WORLD COULD BE ENDING BUT I’M SO EXHAUSTED I WOULDN’T EVEN CARE mode.

I know that to handle sleep deprivation well, I have to stop demanding to NOT be sleep deprived. I have to accept it as a fact of life with a toddler and soon, a newborn. I have to stop digging in my heels and throwing a mental tantrum over the fact that I was up every 3 hours during the night, and my toddler did not take a nap like I expected her to, and she got up after ‘resting’ with 0-to-60 energy while I can barely hold an eye open as I stumble to the pantry for some chocolate.

It is times like these that I am forced to think out the full implications of my faith in God. If I truly believe that He provides ALL the grace I need in EVERY circumstance, He’s providing sufficient grace right now. Even though it REALLY doesn’t feel like it. Because I’d prefer His grace come in the form of some shuteye.

And you know, sometimes it does. But if it doesn’t (and it often doesn’t), what am I going to do about it? What happens when God’s grace comes to us in a form OTHER than what we’re yearning for? Thinking bigger than sleep, what happens when God DOESN’T heal us of cancer? What happens when God DOESN’T provide the answer we prayed for? What happens when God doesn’t take away the dirty mess of life, the pain, the sorrow, the frustration, the challenge? Do we go looking elsewhere for the answer that we do want? Do we act like Jonah, and sit sulking under the blazing sun, convinced that we do well to be angry, angry enough to die because God has given us something OTHER than what we wanted?

I am often like Jonah. I often reject God’s grace and make myself miserable because I want what I want, period. I wish that knowing joy comes from accepting the circumstances God allows would make It easier to accept those circumstances. I wish my desire for joy in the LORD was bigger than my fleshly insistence on having my own way. I wish that I could relinquish my need for sleep as easily as I relinquish my need for a shower, or that simply drinking a cup of coffee could make it feel like I got a solid 8 hours. I wish that I truly trusted God to provide sufficient grace in whatever form in the midst of sleep deprivation.

I don’t yet. And I can’t get myself to the place of graciously accepting sleep deprivation on my own. I am asking God to do it in me. Like A.W. Tozer says, I must insist upon the work being done, but I’m not actually the one to do it. My part is to focus on God and on what Christ purchased through His death and resurrection. As I behold Him, at 2 a.m. or 5 a.m. or while bouncing a swaddled baby on an exercise ball with a toddler tornado running rampant around my house, I will be changed.

One Year… {A Letter to My Daughter}

7 Apr

My Dearest Emma,

You are one year old today. Happy Birthday! Daddy and I bought you a baby doll and baby stroller for your birthday, and it’s amazing to think that a year ago, you were the size of that doll. So small. So delicate.

Now you are a curious and independent girl who loves to investigate and take apart everything. Your favorite thing is making a mess – whether of your birthday cake and ‘finger’ paints yesterday, or drawers and cabinets full of tupperware, toiletries, papers, books and sometimes, your own toys (though you’d much rather play with adult stuff!). You aren’t interested in the toys that we give you to play with – you want to decide on your own.

You are constantly excited – giggling, belly laughing, bouncing up and down, waving your arms and legs, making your ‘oh’ face of excitement. You are learning new things every day – you can give Grandpa five, wave, clap, play peekaboo, open and close doors and drawers, follow people into another room and find tiny objects on the floor that aren’t visible to the adult eye.

You still don’t like being held much – you are a mover and a shaker! You love to be on the go, and that makes going down for naps a challenge. You love the puppies, and often crawl very fast toward them. They are a little scared of you and your wild ways, so they don’t often sit still to let you pet them, but you have gotten much better with being gentle and not grabbing handfuls of fur when they do stay!

You love being outside. When sledding the past couple of weeks, you had a toothy grin painted on your face the whole time. You have ridden a tractor, a snowmobile and a wagon for the first time, and you rode up the driveway being held in the front seat of the car. So much excitement!

You are very detail-oriented. You love playing with zipper pulls, buttons, caps, door stoppers, and always check out when something has a screw, bolt or other sort of small inconsistency. When we took you to the aquarium in Denver, you didn’t pay a ton of attention to the fish. But when we got you in the elevator, you were entranced by the fake steel rivets on the wall.

You love to eat! The foods you like to eat all the time, all day long are cheese, strawberries, grapes, clementines, and yogurt. You also like bananas, applesauce, butternut squash and mango, but you get sick of them a lot faster. You still like to be fed purees fairly often, but you also like finger foods. It depends on your mood. You just started drinking cow’s milk this past week and the transition went great – in fact, when you drank your first bottle of it, you showed absolutely no reaction or even recognition that the taste was different. That was the case when switching from breastmilk to formula too.

You have started to love your Daddy more. When he walks in the room, you light up. You get excited when you hear his voice, and you love it when he rough-houses with you (even though sometimes it goes slightly too far and you get scared). You still prefer me (Mommy) when you’re sick, hurting or tired, but it warms Daddy’s heart when he can take care of and soothe you, so let him do that more, ok?

You are loved. Your cheeks are kissed at least 500 times each day. It’s just so hard to stop! We squeeze your chubby legs, play the drum on your ‘snare belly’, and spike your hair all because we love you – every inch of you. You will never understand how much your daddy and I love you – we don’t even fully understand it ourselves. It’s a love that goes deeper than words. You are a part of us. We will never be the same since you came into our lives. This line from “On the Night You Were Born” says it well:

“Heaven blew every trumpet

and played every horn

on the wonderful, marvelous

night you were born.”

Love,

Your Mommy

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20 Ways Dogs Are Like Kids

5 Dec

While having dogs for 4 years and being around young kids often, I’ve noticed a few similarities…

1. They always want whatever toy someone else has. Doesn’t matter if they thought their squeaker was the coolest thing ever 5 seconds ago – it is now lame sauce.

2. They run around in short bursts of intense energy and then crash hard. Only difference – dogs voluntarily sleep about 20 hours every day.

3. Everyone has an opinion about how they should be trained/raised. My dogs don’t walk beside me on a leash because I don’t care enough to train them, but I always feel like I’m going to get chastised by someone more dog-savvy.

4. If they misbehave in public, you feel like a bad parent. Sorry, we’re still working on teaching Charlie to not jump up. Or Katy to not run out the front door. Or both dogs to not go berzerk when the doorbell rings.

5. You’re more concerned about their health and nutrition than your own. I don’t measure out my own food to make sure I’m not eating too much.

6. They wake you up in the morning several hours before you want to get up. Always.

7. You clean up their messes, bodily and otherwise. Can I just say “EW” and “You never get used to it”?

8. Their safety and well-being keep you awake at night. This is especially true when they are puppies. “Does she need to go out?” “Does she think I’ve abandoned her?” “Is that her whining, or my imagination?”

9. You feel bad for not spending all your time with them. But sometimes you just need a freaking break already.

10. You plan your day around them. “Well, we should probably drive 20 minutes home and 20 minutes back to this same area, so that we can let the dogs out.” “Well, we should probably drive around aimlessly for 40 minutes so that Emma can take a nap.”

11. You talk to them in a baby voice and kiss them on the head. Hey, they’re cute!

12. You and your spouse have to be agreed and consistent on how to discipline them. Mixed signals are never a good thing.

13. They constantly want attention. Wherever you go, there they are.

14. They decide that the perfect time to bring out every toy they own is when you have guests over. “It’s a little hard to hear over all the squeaking you’re making!”

15. Their adorableness makes your anger melt every time. Who can stay mad at that face?

16. They can make a clean house dirty in an impressively short amount of time. Tell me, how does dog hair get into the freezer?

17. They like to cuddle. Little space heaters.

18. They don’t let you have anything nice or valuable for long. It all gets chewed on eventually.

19. They are easily entertained. A plain bone occupies them for hours.

20. You do things with and for them that you wouldn’t do otherwise. The number of walks I gone on has increased exponentially since getting dogs.

…………………

Dog owners and parents, can you think of any more?

The Life of a Working Parent

21 Nov

WorkingParentsChart{source}

The question Travis and I have been asking lately is:

How do other parents do it?

How do other parents find time for everything? Specifically for working dads*, how do they find time to work full-time; take care of the yard, house and cars; exercise; spend time with their kids; help around the house; hang out with friends; and make their marriage a priority?

As a former full-time worker, I know it’s easy to feel that it’s all you do. And I don’t want Travis to feel like he doesn’t have time for anything else.

I also know that it’s a blessing that I get 2 days off that Travis spends working. I can exercise, run errands, do chores, get together with friends and spend quality time with Emma those days. Travis still has to fit all those things in after work and on the weekends.

The problem we run into is that when Travis gets off work, I’m ready for him to spend time either with us as a family or watch Emma so that I can have a break. And I end up feeling frustrated when he spends time on the weekend raking our yard or cleaning our cars, because I view those things as non-essential (though I do understand why Travis thinks they are important). I’ve had to re-prioritize since having Emma and accept that some things just won’t get done at all or as often anymore. So in my mind, anything ‘non-essential’ should not be getting done.

There’s a How I Met Your Mother episode after Lily and Marshall have a baby where they talk about how when they keep score of who’s done what and how much, nobody wins. And I agree that “keeping score” per se, as in “I’ve done more than you!”, isn’t helpful. But there should be a balance. I think one of the secrets of making a marriage work – with or without kids  – is encouraging your spouse to continue doing the things that they enjoy. For me, that’s running, reading and writing. For Travis, it’s hunting, fishing and hockey.

So how do you make that happen? Enter the #1 thing Travis and I have learned since having Emma: the importance of communication. We were married for almost 6 years before Emma came. Yes, we learned about communication during those 6 years, but we also kind of did our own thing most of the time (perhaps a bit too much). A baby has taken communication to a whole new level.

I feel a little like the overbearing wife when I ask Travis to ask me if it’s ok before he goes and does something, leaving me to take care of Emma. But it helps me. Because even if nothing is different than it would be if he just went and did whatever, I feel noticed, cared for and appreciated. Instead of feeling like he has the freedom to do whatever while I’m “stuck” taking care of Emma (which is what it feels like sometimes, not gonna lie!), we decide together that I’ll take care of Emma so that he can get x and y done.

I guess this is especially top of mind for us right now because we are working on getting our house ready to sell, and a lot of the projects that need to be done are Travis’ area of expertise (like drywall, gutter/soffit/fascia repair, caulking, etc.) It’s not that I couldn’t learn to do those things, but someone has to take care of Emma anyway, so it might as well be me.

Honestly, I think it will get better (for me) when I’m no longer breastfeeding. Often, I don’t leave to go do something because Emma will wake up while I’m gone and she’ll want to eat, and it’s just easier to nurse her or take her along than have Travis give her a bottle and I pump later. Regardless, Travis and I are trying to balance the ‘Emma load’ a bit more evenly. We also found a couple at church who we’re going to trade date nights with, so that we can get some time just the two of us. But then, those are just more things to add to an already overflowing plate and it brings me back to the initial question:

How do other parents do it?

So I’d like to hear from all of you parents reading this, whether it’s you who works or your spouse. How do you both balance it all? 

……………………..

* I say working dad because that’s the situation we’re dealing with, but I realize that moms who work full-time deal with this conundrum also, in equal –  if not greater – amount.