Five Month Anniversary of Mamahood... {10 tips I picked up along the way}

To my right, that mama of two leans back her head and closes her eyes.

While on my left, a mom sighs deep and smiles sheepishly, lamenting her forgotten glasses as she tucks away her book, disappointed to have wasted a precious moment to read. 

And I'm in this mama sandwich at my daughter's gymnastics, and I all I want to say is.. hello, yes, I'm new to this, but already I'm with you. I understand fatigue and brief quiet moments to be refreshed by words. I understand this labor of love.. but I never could have estimated the load. 

Today, it's been five months since that sibling pair, then three and four years, walked through the front door of this humble white siding home, and we've never looked back.

And, as I'm sure you can guess, friends, our learning curve has been steep. We've undergone this intense parenting crash course that has no manual, or class, or teacher, or recommended readings, or a registry with items we should buy... and at times it has been very dark and I wanted to hide under those covers, deeply fearing failure

But every day, that alarm goes, and I've got two little warm and eager bodies upstairs filling up those empty spaces we surrendered here, and I so believe in the depths of this heart, that for some wild reason, He chose us for this. And it's truth, this truth that gets us through... 

Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimated. Don't give them a second because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; He won't leave you. 
Deuteronomy 31:6

It has been the Word, His promises and truth, that have carried us through challenging times -- this, and other timely and divine resources and ideas that have helped along the way. 

I've compiled my very own, what I like to call, The New Mommy Top 10 Survival Tips (of a 3 and 5 year old) - Just Five Months In Edition. Yes, it's a bit wordy -- I'll work on that -- but these are just small ideas, hardly profound, that I've applied to the every day, that's helping this mama throw back the covers in response to that persistent morning alarm: 

1. My eReader... is as important as my wallet and keys. With even five minutes to spare, I soak in words and words from my Kobo. I so enjoyed The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, and I'm learning effective discipline techniques from 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan... just to name a few. Finding out that my daughter's love language may be physical touch is a great reminder to snuggle her often. Books on adoption are also wonderful. I'm just a big sponge right now.

2. Walking to and from school... is a healthy habit we have around here. Outdoor time is key, even on cold mornings. My kiddies just love to run and be silly and this jaunt between school and home, about 15 minutes, capitalizes on this. As an added bonus, we all get a good dose of exercise. The time also helps us enjoy nature, talk about our day, and hand hold. Being able to walk to school was a significant element in picking my daughter's elementary school. Also, each day after school, depending on the weather, I encourage my kids to play outside for at least twenty-five minutes (yes, there is some protest), but almost every time they are outside for nearly one hour, without encouragement. But I must say, we are all eagerly anticipating Spring around here...

3. A hand drawn map of the morning routine...

I noticed my eldest had difficulty remembering her morning routine, so this was my solution.. and our mornings radically changed with nearly a 100% drop in reminders. She's a very motivated little girl so this is right up her alley. I help her with breakfast, and with her hair, and I make her lunch.. but I rarely have to leave the kitchen in the morning. I can often be found eating my breakfast, checking my email, reading the Bible, listening to music, and just in conversation with my youngsters for most of the morning while my daughter buzzes around completing each step. When's she done, she puts a magnet on her finished task. Who wouldn't want a "lookin' good" magnet after brushing your teeth? We rarely rush and there's little conversation about routine. So great.

4. Child friendly music in the car... I'm home with our three year old son and I found us frequenting the car to run errands. The radio was insufficient in providing family friendly music. So while on an errand to Target, I picked up Fisher Price's Little People Sunday School Sing-Along and Little People 50 Sing-Along Classics. Yes, this is a wee sacrifice on my part (talk about mama-ville), but the positives are a great trade off. We love to belt out classics like: If You're Happy and You Know It, The Alphabet Song, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Down in my Heart, Zaccheus.. It's fun to see the kids learn the songs, be challenged by some and enjoy others, and our preschooler is learning a ton along the way. Plus, it keeps a positive vibe in the car, and can be a great distraction on longer trips across the city.

5. Planning out clothes for the week in advance... 

This is just another way our mornings go smoothly. On the weekend, often after filling up their drawers with clean laundry, we set out their outfits for the week. It takes about 10 minutes per child and it probably saves us lots of time in conflict, protest, discussion. They love to know what to expect. We take into consideration gymnastics, preschool, and the weather... and of course, their favorite pieces of clothing. Each day, after breakfast, they simply pick out the next outfit. Occasionally my youngest will change out the t-shirt, which is no problem around here. And as far as laundry, I find I'm doing it every 1-2 weeks. A wet rag and a good rub on those harmless spots is my go-to. 

6. Quiet Time with my 3 Year Old... was key advice from my mother-in-law, for a little boy who doesn't nap anymore. This midday break for about one-and-a-half hours is a great reset for both of us. It's time I can take to read, write, clean, do a project on the house, or on especially tiring days -- snooze. While my son learns to play quietly and on his own. I often find him building with blocks, playing with his train, reading, even napping.. it's been a huge positive for us. He's come to expect quiet time after lunch and goes without protest (I think he's ready for time away, too), and we transition to quiet time with some stories. One of my great mommy-survival tips. 

7. Date night and weekends away... with my handyman are held dear to us. It's no surprise that keeping this marriage strong helps us to be the best parents we can. Fortunately, we get a break each week on Thursday - date night! We love it, but we think the kids love it even more. Sometimes we make plans and other times we drive and pick a place to chat and wander without interruption. The key is this: to try and plan these breaks well in advance. We've already established a few breaks for this coming summer. It's a wonderful opportunity to miss our kids dearly, be refreshed, make memories, and include extended family in playing a constant role in our children's lives.

8. Mama Care Group and Bible Study... is where we vent, laugh, empathize, grow, learn, and pray. It's a non-negotiable in my weekly schedule.. I crave it. I remember the first meeting in October, I had been a "mom" for five days, and I felt awkward and unsure about it all. I was completely vulnerable and scared, and I'm so relieved that I stuck it out. These moms are becoming wonderful friends who nod at all my ugliness.
I also joined a Fostering and Adoptive Families Care Group which has been instrumental. It's a place where I "fit" when fitting in feels difficult.

9. Quote jar... to catch the funny moments. Because laughter helps this family grow close. I keep a jar on the counter in the kitchen and really, it should be filled to the brim, but sometimes we're doing more belly laughing than writing.

10. Relax... because that's when I'm a pretty good mom. I don't mean like kicking up my feet with a piping hot tea, I mean in the every day routine. Was I relaxed for the first few months of their arrival? Noooo wayyyy. And I payed for it with tears of stress and anxiety.. I've since learned to let some things go. To find joy in the every day, to let my three year old just be a boy, to forgive the messy, to try and extend grace... It's something I must give conscious effort to in hopes that it will be a habit to trade in perfectionism for a more laid back attitude, and my family and kids benefit from relaxed me

Five months.. whew! Where did you go? I must say I'm glad you've passed. I much prefer having you under my belt. Mama's out there... if you like, pull up a chair and kick up your feet with me, and share your most helpful tips from your experience with mamahood.