Sunday, October 26, 2014

Julie's Catholic!

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath
Come now with praises before Him
Let the 'amen' sound from His people again
Gladly for aye we adore Him

How wonderful it was to join in singing the opening hymn at today's Mass, with words expressing the joy that has been overflowing in my heart.

We had a wonderful weekend celebrating Julia's baptism, and I'm so thankful for the wonderful people who made long trips to be with us!

Fabulous God-parents

Fabulous family.

 Anna narrated most of the ceremony with "Doolia's Baptism!  Fodder pour water on the head!" (on repeat).  When we asked her after what the Deacon had done for Julia, she said "splashed her!"  Her enthusiasm, however, was spent well before it was time for any pictures:

Welcome to the Church, sweet girl!  As a friend wrote in your card: "It's a wonderful place to be!"  Amen, and Alleluia.

For Anna's Baptism photos and more about their gown (cut from the train of my wedding dress), see HERE.  (Note that the post is about celebrating her first Baptismal Anniversary; the second anniversary celebration definitely fell off the radar last month!)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Quick Takes: Edition 14

It's been a while since I joined the Friday Quick Take link-up, but it seems the best way to go today, given the number of random topics swirling around in my head and the amount of time I should(n't) devote to this (both girls are currently napping (!) and my self-declared stop time for Internet use was 9 minutes ago).


I feel guilty including this as just a "quick" note, but since I've written about this before, you deserve an update, and it has influenced the past few weeks significantly enough that it's becoming difficult to write about other things without mentioning: my Grandpa passed away two weeks ago, less than 72 hours before Julia was born.

Some of the stress and sadness I wrote about in my delivery story was certainly due to processing this news, to losing someone so dear, to feeling guilty about having not yet had the baby (so that my mom could go home and attend to more pressing matters than babysitting a toddler).

I had been putting off sharing this news in part because I wanted to write my memories and a post that does justice to this incredible man.  I still will, I think, when I have the time that writing it deserves.  Until then, please pray for his soul and for my Grammy.


I believe adamantly that all life is a gift from God, and that it is His to give and to take, and yet I have to admit that it can be so difficult to understand this and sometimes so confusing to understand our own thoughts about life and death, particularly when faced with news stories like Brittany Maynard, the young woman with terminal brain cancer who is planning her suicide and lobbying for others to be able to do the same in light of such a diagnosis.  A friend posted this article today on Facebook, and I was really touched by it and I thought it was an excellent reminder - from someone who truly understands - of how valuable our lives, no matter the suffering:


But that's enough for one day about death and dying.  

Julia will be Baptized this weekend!  I am so excited - I love the Church and Her Sacraments, and I am thankful for the gift and the graces to raise my girls in the faith.  It is my biggest prayer as a mother, that they will always know, love, and serve Him.

Pictures of Julie in the (way-too-big, I suspect) Baptism gown made from my wedding dress coming soon :)

Until then - an "eyes open" picture for those who have asked!


Things continue to go extremely well over here.  I have to admit to feeling a weird sense of guilt/embarrassment at how well, in fact.  I can take no credit for this (unless you count life-long  practice at being high-functioning while extremely sleep-deprived) but I'm very thankful for the easy-going temperaments of both girls (they didn't get it from me) and the constant stream of assistance that's coming direct from Heaven.  There have been so many moments (especially on the 11th or 12th hour of Justin being gone, when Anna's on her second hour of stalling bedtime) when I feel like I'm getting a direct shot of patience that is clearly beyond my own normal ability. 

I said after Anna's birth, and I will say emphatically again now: I would rather deliver 100 babies (and care for them as newborns) than go through pregnancy.  Call me weird, but that's just how my body works.  Not so great at being pregnant, but pretty awesome at birth and recovery.  I'm not sure if that means I have really hard pregnancies or really easy newborns (or maybe both).  It probably sounds dramatic and ridiculous (especially in light of the more serious early points of today's post) but I feel like I'm living again and not just barely surviving.  I honestly looked up at the (gorgeous!) fall foliage all around us and thought, "Oh, wow, did this just change while I was in the hospital?"  I was in such a physical and emotional funk that I hadn't even noticed that my favorite season was all around us in its fiery splendor.

Walking to the local park I just discovered in our neighborhood has been the highlight of our afternoons.  The weather has been glorious (as is the recent development of stamina to walk further than the mailbox!)!


I learned so much from having my mom here for two weeks.  I've always known that I should emulate her supermom skills, but actually seeing her use them here, in my house, with my routines (and my toddler!) was so helpful.  It's not just remembering that our childhood home was well-functioning, but seeing that this one can be too.  Between that and my new-found energy, I've suddenly found a lot of elusive habits (picking up before bedtime, for example) to be a lot more manageable.


I've happened upon several quotes and things recently that have further inspired me to strive for success, to passionately seek to be the best I can:

First, in reading Matthew Kelly's The Rhythm of Life.  His entire premise is that we have one life to live, and that we should actively seek to do so in the best it can be (and not in the worldly sense of fame or pleasure or success).  His book is definitely "self-helpy" but I still appreciate it because ultimately I whole-heartedly agree that we are called to be more than a frenetic being too "busy" to take the time for the things that really matter.

He quotes Egyptian monk Ahtanasius in saying "The glory of God is the perfection of the creature."  How poignant - God gave us each talents, our bodies, and 24 hours in a day, and to use any of these for less than they were designed is a real shame.

Second, in the first reading in today's Blessed is She devotion: 

First Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

Urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.  Certainly we haven't been called to be anything less than the best we can be, the best for which we were designed.


So, sorry - you're not done with this self-improvement/"chasing supermom" theme, I (always) have some more to say on that.  BUT I also have lots of other posts (at least in my head, and many photographed) coming your way, too including finishing up the "Goodbye Tour" of the old house, finally showing pictures of our set-up here, tutorial on the "big dirl bed" sheets, a guest renovation post, and plenty of little girl pictures for good measure!  Please always feel free to let me know which things you like to read - as much as I like to hear myself type, it's more useful that someone besides me is interested ;)

Monday, October 20, 2014

More pictures!

I've found myself in the past few days putting off posting anything on the blog because I all at once have a million things I want to write, and yet nothing that seems worth writing.  I have good news, bad news, musings on life with two kids, my typical over-analysis of all things on the home front, etc.  I finally decided tonight to just bite the bullet and post something over more nothing - guessing that my favorite pictures from my Julia folder would be the biggest crowd pleaser ;)

A little wedding-ring photo to commemorate our anniversary baby!

This moment - introducing Anna to her sister - is one of the most highly anticipated, exciting moments of my life.

Anna's face in this picture makes me laugh every time (and so does Julie's hair!)
This scowl definitely does not accurately represent Anna's feelings about being a big sister (see below...)
First photo as a family of four!

Sister love!

 We welcomed Julia Mae at 11:18 pm on October 9, 2014.  I had been feeling as though labor was imminent for at least three weeks prior, and both my mom and Justin had stopped believing me when I said that contractions were picking up (and honestly, I had, too) since we had so many false alarms.  I woke up on the 9th (our fourth wedding anniversary) emotionally and physically drained.  I was sick of the exhaustion, the pain, the uncertainty, the contractions, the discomfort.  I wanted to focus on the good - the fact that I was blessed with a healthy (albeit very uncomfortable) pregnancy and a healthy little girl - but the hormones and the exhaustion got the best of me and I was just a sobbing emotional wreck.  (Definitely what every guy wants his wife to be on their anniversary).

Thankfully, my wonderful mom was still here and pep-talked me (as well as a "It's going to be OK" and reassurance of her prayers over the phone from my grandmother) to the point that I mostly got myself together.  I managed to clean our bathroom, which I had been putting off for days (mostly because I was mad that labor had not yet started in enough time for the bathroom to get dirty again after my previous "last-before-labor" cleaning).

I had a doctor's appointment at 1:30, and my wise mama suggested that I meet Justin for Mass on campus at noon as a little anniversary thanksgiving/celebration and for the attitude adjustment that some good prayer time will always provide.  I was uncomfortable and had tears slowly rolling down my cheeks for a lot of Mass, but I was thankful we had the opportunity to go together.

Since I was past my due date, I had been having ultrasounds and non-stress tests to make sure Julia was still healthy and that the placenta was still providing adequate support.  The ultrasound went really well and the sweet technician got a few good 3-D shots of Julie's face, which were slight consolation for not seeing her in person.  We moved down the hall for a non-stress test.  If you're not familiar, it's kinda what it sounds like - the least stressful possible test.  You sit in an easy chair with two monitors strapped to your belly, checking for contractions/fetal movement and for the baby's heartbeat.  They want to see that the baby's heartbeat accelerates in response to their movement (just like our heart rate would go up after running up the stairs).

For two data nerds like ourselves, watching the graphical printouts was pretty fun for Justin and I.  (In fact, at one of the first tests he took a cell phone picture of the graphs to use as an example in one of his Calculus lectures).  We understood what we were looking at and what we were looking for, in general.  I had trouble keeping the monitor in place (usually it's strapped on at the beginning of the test and I'd have to move it once or twice if she moved enough that it wasn't picking up her heart), and eventually I gave up trying to get it on correctly and paged the nurse.  She took the print-outs to the doctor to read, and came back and announced promptly "You're going to labor and delivery!"

They had noticed a lot of contractions on the print-out (which I knew were happening, and wanted to think were more real than before, but didn't want to get my hopes up), and they wanted more monitoring - given that they didn't have a good read, and what they could see didn't look as great as they had hoped.

I was thankful that I had actually brought my hospital bag and things with me to the appointment - Justin had encouraged me to do so for the last few appointments since the hospital is attached to the office building, all of which is about 25 minutes from home.  I obliged grudgingly the other times (it was annoying to keep getting things out of the car that I needed) but when I left that day it seemed like it was actually a good idea, and I brought everything I needed, not just the 80% I'd been half-heartedly lugging back and forth for a few weeks.

I kept having contractions as we walked through to the hospital, registered, went up to the floor, and began the monitoring.  Some of the nurses who had assisted during my false alarm a few weeks prior said "are you finally having that baby!?" and I told them I wasn't holding my breath.  I kept comparing things to my labor with Anna, which kicked off (and maintained) with a ton of nausea, so it didn't seem that a baby was imminent, especially since I had eaten lunch.

This was going to be my "brief" birth story, which is already much longer than I anticipated....and we're not even sure I'm in labor yet.  Whoops...I'll gloss over some of the additional details (especially the actual labor details!)

We spent the next few hours being monitored, chatting (it was actually more quiet down-time than we've had in a long time, so even if it was peppered with moderate contractions, it wasn't a terrible way to spend our anniversary), praying the Rosary, watching some TV.  I kept thinking this couldn't possibly be labor because I was able to do all of the above things...and I wasn't sick.

Eventually, I was checked and I was barely more progressed than I had been at my previous several weeks' appointments (but - progress! - as I had been holding steady for a looooong time).  The midwife came and talked to us and said that she wanted to move things along - although Julia's heart rate was still accelerating a little bit, it wasn't reacting to her movement as strongly as they'd hoped, and they wanted to encourage her on her way before it got to the point where it was not reacting (or - worse, reacting negatively) and delivery was more urgent.  We decided that I would walk the halls for a little while as one final natural effort to progress, and then we'd reevaluate in about an hour.  Either way, they decided I was definitely staying, and hooked up the IV (for antibiotics and fluid) and declared me officially in labor.  (I had an incredibly crazy (ironic?) amount of relief to know that I was about to start something so physically demanding!)

I was checked again after the walk - a little more progress!, but still not enough to continue without some help.  We chose the breaking of water over Pitocin, and that was done at 9:15 pm.  Things immediately got more intense (as I had expected, based on my experience with Anna).  They wanted me in bed for more monitoring, which I did for a while until I buzzed the nurse and said I had to get up.  I used the bathroom, ended up spending a significant amount of time with my head on my arms bent over the sink, unable to get back across the room because of the intensity and frequency of the contractions.  Eventually they coaxed me back over so that they could monitor the baby's heart rate again.  I thought I might be close to complete, the nurse checked and said I was almost there but not quite (I think I let out a pathetic yet emphatic NOOOOOOOO when she told me).  I managed to make it through the next several minutes as the midwife came in and got ready.

I told them that I thought I might be ready to push - but I wasn't completely sure.  They said I could bear down if it felt right.  I followed instructions, and all of a sudden the midwife said "she's beautiful."  I thought to myself, "what, the top of her head?"  I was thinking back to the multiple hours of pushing with Anna, expecting there was no way they could see more than a few hairs at this early stage.  Then Justin said, "Em, she's beautiful!" and I realized that he wouldn't/couldn't say that if he wasn't seeing a significant portion of our baby that he could recognize.  I was suddenly able to put together what they were saying with what I was feeling, and realized that I had delivered her head.  Another contraction came and I pushed once more and delivered her body.

She cried; they handed her to me; the euphoria of her healthy arrival and the end of the labor and the end of the pregnancy began.  I asked Justin "is it today or tomorrow?" and he told me that it was "today" - meaning, still our anniversary.  It was 11:18, only 2 hours and a few minutes since they had broken my water and the labor really began.

For whatever reason, I felt so much more aware and engaged during this point than I was with Anna.  I remember more vivid details (in a good way) of Julia's delivery - beyond what I've shared here - and I can recall the immediate post-delivery, which I really can't with Anna.  This time, I could just peacefully hold my baby (Anna had to be checked right away because of a few warning signs that ended up being nothing).  The midwife quickly delivered the placenta and they covered us up with some blankets and the whole medical staff left us along for more than an hour to spend time as a family.

I am so incredibly thankful for the beautiful gift of this little girl, for what my body was designed to do, for the medical staff who assisted.  I am also incredibly thankful that I was given (perhaps as consolation for a painful pregnancy) a quick and relatively easy delivery (I wouldn't have agreed with "easy" when I was standing at the bathroom sink moaning about how badly it hurt and how much I wanted it to be over...but still) and for a really easy recovery.  From the minute of her birth, my pain and discomfort has been less than 5% of what I had for months prior.

Now that we're home and settling into routine, I feel fantastic.  Sure, life with two littles is tiring, but it's different.  I've always been really good at sleep deprivation; extreme physical exhaustion like the last few weeks before she was born, not as much.  I am so thankful to be able to pick up Anna easily, to be able to roll over in bed without stabbing pain, to be able to walk up and down the stairs.  I think I've realized even more how poorly I felt now that I have the comparison of feeling good.  We'll see if she (like her sister) lapses into an impossible-to-put-down phase, but for now Julia has been a wonderfully easy baby.

Joy.  So much joy.  And fulfillment in feeling that this - this mommy thing - is what I was meant to do.

We love you, Julie Mae, and we thank God for you every day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Welcome, Julie Mae!


 Julia Mae

born October 9, 2014 (mom & dad's 4th wedding anniversary) at 11:18 pm

8 lbs 11 oz, 19 inches long

We are healthy and very happy (and I genuinely feel far better than I have in at least 2 months)

I'll have more to share soon including lots of pictures, but I'm trying to be responsible and go to bed (somewhat) on time these days.

Thank you to all for your prayers and support throughout the pregnancy.  Julia is blessed to be welcomed by so many wonderful friends and family members!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chasing supermom

So, for those of you thinking that the radio silence since my last post meant that Baby Julia has arrived...sorry.  I won't get in to the disappointment of the number of false labor episodes I've had (including one particularly convincing one that resulted in a hospital trip).  Aside from these periods of "labor" I've physically felt pretty well (in fact, probably better than I did a few weeks ago), but the mental game with the baby who cried wolf is making me a little bit weary.  Either way, I try to remember that she has to come eventually, and try to focus on the fact that both of us are very healthy and very blessed.

So, no Julia.  But guess who is here?  Mumsie!  (aka, my fabulous mom & Anna's favorite person in the world).

Not a current picture because the camera is still in the trunk of the car after the hospital dry-run.

My mom has been described (by both me and others) as a combination Martha Stewart - Mother Teresa - Energizer Bunny, so it's safe to say that we're all in good hands.  The house is spotless and completely ready for baby (and beyond).  Anna and Mumsie are attached at the hip, so I've gotten more rest than I have in months.  And we're all eating really well.

As I've watched my mom with Anna and operating in our house this week, it reminded me of my Success & Modern Motherhod post and my desires to do a really good job as a mother and as a housewife.  I've come to realize that the reason I so want to do well, and the reason I so adamantly believe that being excellent in this vocation is possible is because I have a supermom.

She'll laugh and shrug that off and say that there's nothing special, and that she's just doing her job.  Which, I guess is true - she has no extraordinary super powers, she just does her job extraordinarily well.  When I think back to my childhood, I picture a competent and loving mother, not the disheveled* and overwhelmed status quo for the modern stereotypical mom (including sometimes myself).

*While always pulled together, those '90's sweatsuits might have left a little to be desired, ma ;)

We always had a warm and homecooked meal, a snack and a listening ear after school.  Our clothes were neatly put away in drawers and our white socks were always white on the bottom (someday when I can reach this state of both home cleanliness and laundry prowess, I will have really made it).  We still had time to spend leisurely summer mornings listening to stacks of library books read aloud on the back porch.

Ultimately, this "unreachable" state of home operation, relative calm, and truly of comfort seems within reach for me because I've seen it.

Even before she arrived last week, I had this post in my drafts with a list of qualities I've noticed make being "supermom" possible.  Watching my mom this week has just reinforced the idea that sticking to these three simple ideas can get you really far in being super mom, or really in being super anything - and isn't that the goal for any Christian disciple?  To do what we're called to do, and to do it as well as we're able.

And so I give you three keys to success:

1) Use the moments

There is a lot to do in keeping a house running, but it's a lot of little tasks, not anything long and drawn out.  Little things (like emptying the dishwasher or making the bed) can make a big difference - both for the job they accomplish on their own, but also for the other tasks they facilitate.  When the clean dishes sit in the dishwasher, it's so easy for the next meal's dishes to pile up on the counter and make a much bigger job.  When the bed is not made, it's easier to just drop the basket of folded laundry in the already messy room, rather than quickly put it away.

But really, emptying the dishwasher is not a huge job!  The other day, Anna had started on dinner and I was finishing up some broccoli in the microwave.  I put it on for 2 minutes, and thought "hey, I'm going to see how much of this I can put away before the timer beeps."  The whole top rack.  Check the broccoli - needs 2 more minutes.  Bottom rack done.  Veggies still aren't quite tender.  One more minute - dish drainer emptied too.  Broccoli is ready, and kitchen is cleaned.  5 minutes total.

I manage to put off simple little tasks until they snowball into big ones.  But keeping up with 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there gets things done - and is realistic, even with a toddler.

2) Stick to routine

I use "routine" here loosely, not in the "we eat at 6 o'clock on the dot" sense, but in the "we clean up our toys before bed" sense.  I do have a general sense of the things that need to be done and when they need to happen to keep our heads above water in terms of organization, meals, laundry, and cleaning.  But, you know, there's plenty of times when starting dinner doesn't sound that appealing, or leaving the basket of clothes until tomorrow seems easier after a long day.  But the next day is never magically easier, and the sun never rises to a exponentially longer day.  I'm still busy, Anna is still active, there are new things that need done, and those that were leftover suddenly make everything else unmanageable.

There is no better example to this than the fact that I just came upstairs to write this post, walked through our living area and ignored the two minutes of tidying Anna's toys and the disheveled couch pillows so that I could get into the office and write.  My mom came up a few minutes ago after walking the dog with Justin, and I told her I'd finish the blog post later so we could spend time together.  "Oh, just finish up," she said.  "I'm just going to pick up out here really quickly."

And now she's sitting on the couch reading a magazine in a peaceful environment, and I'm scolding myself for the inability to put my money where my mouth is.

3) Love until it hurts

It's not always convenient or easy or fun to take care of a newborn or a toddler or really for anyone who needs anything besides sitting next to you on the couch.  We all have to fight an intrinsic laziness that makes us want to put off the chores, makes us want to give up rather than clean the toilet for the 50th time, makes us want to pull our hair out when the baby just.won't.nap.  But we're called to keep going.  Called to keep giving.  Called to die to self.  Called to love until it hurts.  Called to follow Him.

For some excellent writing on this subject, check out Mama Needs Coffee: Up All Night, which ranks as one of my favorite posts of all time.

I don't think they're necessarily "easy" steps to being supermom (or super anything!) - but they're simple steps.  Ones that I'm going to remind myself again and again and again, until I'm closer to the mother I want to be.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The quintessential mom moment

I feel like posting these pictures on the tails of my last post make it sound like I've really mastered the whole super-mom thing, but keep in mind what's not pictured, including my extensive (like, most of the day) weekend napping that came as a result of the (now obviously false) labor symptoms I had Friday and Saturday that made us think Julia's arrival was imminent.

Although it's still clear that a baby is coming sooner rather than later, I'm now feeling more of the few-days timeline than a few-hours timeline that seemed the case over the weekend.  Now we're hoping she'll hold out until Thursday when my mom arrives in town (meaning Anna-care during labor will be less of a logistical feat) but either way I've finally reached a point where I'm pretty much ready!  The hospital bag is packed, the girls' clothes are (almost) all put away, I know where all of the baby essentials are, and the freezer is full of frozen meals.

For the first time since February?  March?  when we started preparing for the house sale, I felt like my day's to-do list was normal upkeep and didn't involve packing, unpacking, rearranging, or significant deep-cleaning.  Naturally, I didn't quite finish everything - blame the fact that capitalizing on the all-too-fleeting opportunities to nap always sounds better than cleaning a bathroom - but it was still a good day.

In addition to maximizing my napping, I've been trying to soak up all of the one-on-one time I have with sweet Anna, and to do fun things with her that we won't have time to do in the next month or so.

Today, her first go-round with baking cookies.  As I snapped these pictures, it definitely felt like a quintessential mom moment, one of those times where I want to freeze time and soak up her excitement and observations and cute comments as she experiences something new - something so simple, and yet so exciting.

The chocolate on my chin is my favorite part.

She's pleased with the results (although most of the pictures from this series have her with her finger pointing at me, saying "show Anna camera, see Anna picture pees!")

Mama's pleased with the new camera lens, too!  (This last shot and the first one were from my trial photo-shoot with the new nifty-fifty).

And finally, less photographic quality, but even more joy: how much fun is it to see these two delight in each other?

So excited to see the love and excitement multiplied with another sweet girl...any day now :)  Thanks for your prayers for a safe & healthy delivery!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Success and modern motherhood

I wrote the bulk of this post back in the winter, but I was never really ready to publish it - it sort of flew off my fingertips at the time, and I wanted to let it simmer, to make sure that I meant what it said, that I wasn't being rash or coming across as judgmental.

Today I feel ready: I've had one of those rare but lovely mornings where I've felt really, really good about how things are going.  I had the kitchen cleaned up and the floors cleaned by 10 AM.  I got through a long back-log of ironing and returned phone calls to the bank and vacuum repair shop while Anna played with her dollhouse.  We shared giggles and toddler conversations and had a picnic lunch outside (her idea) that ended up with both of us (and my 38-week pregnant belly) (definitely her idea) up in the tree house.

In between pondering whether the slide or the ladder was less risky for a woman in my state to get down from said tree house (I thought slide-induced labor would be a better story but eventually decided on the ladder), I had one of those "life is good" moments, and one that convinced me that I really believed what I had fired off into this draft so many months ago.

It wasn't just my blessings - sweet toddler, kicking babe inside, healthy and delicious lunch, gorgeous blue sky day in a beautiful back yard - that made me so happy.  I'm convinced that feeling as though I'm fulfilling my vocation and keeping up with my responsibilities made me recognize what a good life this is.  From self-discipline comes a paradoxical joy that we don't anticipate - having completed our work, struggled through chores, we find ourselves satisfied, happy, peaceful at having done what we should; not only does the subsiding of the inner turmoil at guilt or frustration at ourselves contribute to a happier home, but the completion of the work allows the smooth workings of a place where people can meet both their physical and emotional needs.

Someone asked me last night, "So, doesn't your husband want you to work?" implying that there could be no other reason for a college-educated woman to stay at home with young children.  It took me by surprise, and I don't know if I've been asked that point-blank before.  I gave some semblance of an answer about not wanting to work myself, but in retrospect, I realized that that's not entirely true.  There are days when I would love to get dressed up in a nice outfit and go to work - solve problems, think critically, discuss things with other professionals, make a spreadsheet or two (maybe that's just me).  But ultimately, I feel that what I do here is innately more valuable than anything I could do elsewhere - not just the mom part, but the whole homemaking bundle.  And it's not only worth doing, it's worth doing well.

The problem is, our society has started to sell us lies - lies that it's not worth doing in the first place - and that if we should even try, it's impossible, anyway.  Consider for a moment the quintessential 1950's housewife in her skirt and pearls, pictured competent and happy - a far cry from the frazzled mom in yoga pants we have accepted as our modern "standard."

I have complained, analyzed, and otherwise written about the practical and sometimes emotional challenges of being a stay-at-home-mom.  The reality is, it's a challenging job, but with God's grace, I don't think it's an impossible job.  One my most constant frustrations is my own sense of not meeting my expectations - sometimes because of my own inabilities to set expectations - but more often because I'm not living to my full potential.   There are days when Anna (or the effects of my pregnancy) are absolutely the reason that nothing gets done, but there are plenty others when they're an easy scapegoat for the things that fall prey to laziness or inattention or "just checking my email."

Whether by nature or nurture (or probably both), I've always been a high-achiever, and struggled from time to time in school and at work with people telling me I should just be content with "good enough" when I knew I was capable of better.  More often than not, however, in academia and workplace, our collective worldview supported my quest for success (maybe not my quest for perfection, but at least for success).  As a stay-at-home-mom, however, I feel as though the general perception is that no one can do it, so it's more popular to get a (figurative) pat on the head and a "now now, taking care of a toddler is difficult" attitude than a "let's think of some strategies to help you get this job done" type of approach.

It's confusing and - frankly, a little belittling - for women who have spent years being praised for doing well, awarded for hard work and success, challenged by teachers, bosses, and peers to constantly strive for improvement to suddenly be in an environment where mediocrity is more or less expected, and striving for, or even worse, achieving success is taboo.

I'm sure this attitude has grown partially from reality.  It's impossible to have everything under control at all times with small children who are prone to skip naps, get sick, and generally act as human tornadoes.  There will always be hard days.  There will always be days where it is physically impossible to keep up with the diaper changes and keep budding-godzilla off the kitchen table and simultaneously cook anything besides a frozen pizza.

But do we have to accept that because there are those days that there can't also be good days - or even that we can't make the best of those days (you know, make a bonus salad to accompany the pizza instead of waving a white flag and throwing a self pity-party while scrolling through Facebook)?

Maybe there's a sense that because there will always be someone somewhere struggling with a hard day, or a hard month, that it's somehow offensive to them to succeed.  Or because our societal standards have changed in terms of home-cooked meals that it will be a slap in the face to make one because someone else was too busy with a sick baby to do so.  Or maybe because so many have (by choice or necessity or because they never cared about it in the first place) lowered their standards for the status of their home cleanliness and organization because of other priorities, be they career, family, or some other obligation, it's unacceptable for anyone to have a clean or orderly home.  Goodness knows there's enough people getting riled up on the Internet over those moms who demonstrate any sort of success - especially in the birthday party arena - on Pinterest.

Even on days when it doesn't feel like it, I think most stay-at-home-moms will acknowledge their own feeling that they're doing the most important job in the world.  And I, for one, am ready to buck the system in terms of expectations.  I'm not going to feel ashamed for wanting - and (probably, only very occasionally actually) reaching - a point where laundry is reasonably under control, kids are happy, the house clean, dinner is made, etc; I'm not going to feel guilty for wanting to be a really good mom (and wife and homemaker).  Nobody blinked an eye when I said (verbally or non-verbally) "I want to be a really good consultant."  And we'd all find it  ridiculous if people with important and stressful careers like emergency room surgeons shrugged their shoulders and gave up over the sheer difficulty of the task.

I'm definitely not debating whether or not this is hard, this mom gig.  And I'm not proposing that it's feasible in all seasons of life, for all the moms, for all the time (welcome to newborn reality in T-minus 2 weeks, Emily).  But hard and impossible are not the same thing, and sometimes the hardest things are the ones most worth fighting to achieve, and the ones with the sweetest rewards.