Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Vows of Family




In this family, we love family.  I mean, we love it.  We drive through the night.  Cook huge meals.  Send silly birthday cards.  Play touch football.  Do scavenger hunts.  Take group naps.  And most of all, we show up for other.  That's what we do--that's who we are.  We show up.

So, when Michael's brother Brian and his fiance (now wife!) Janelle asked us if the kiddos could serve as attendants in their wedding, we agreed.  Most people told us we were crazy to take 5 eighteen-month olds all the way to Pittsburgh for the weekend, but as a family, we show up for each other.  So there was never a second thought.

As June 30 approached, our au pair Jess and I went into planning mode.  There was a checklist.  There was a checklist of the checklist.  There was a timeline.  There was a master schedule, complete with wardrobe changes.  That's one of the many things I love about Jess.  She functions like me.  She plans.  She thinks.  She checks lists.  She's truly is an amazing au pair and human.  She will go far in life.  I just know it.  

I worry Ava may want to move to Sweden come February of 2019.

Since we need five pack n plays to go anywhere, we realized renting a hotel room probably wouldn't work.  So, the bride helped us find a home that we could rent. It was a great size and despite the babies refusing to follow their normal sleep schedule (!!!), they looked adorable in their outfits for the rehearsal.


Luke Thomas

The girls practicing their walk down the aisle with Daddy.

This man is incredible with kids.


Unfortunately, the kiddos refused to sleep much during their first night away from home, so this was one tired Mama Bear.  Thanks to coffee, a cold shower, and some old fashioned umph, we prepped for the wedding.  Michael had to go early to join in the wedding party festivities, so Jess and I dressed and loaded all five kiddos and got them to the wedding. 

Thankfully, the bride had a separate room for our kids to play while the wedding was going on.  

I absolutely loved the dresses the bride picked out for the kiddos.  

 
Sweet, thoughtful Clara


Millie loves to count the cups.





I love watching Jess play chase with the kiddos.  It's so much more fun (and less tiring!) when she does it.

Then, the big moment arrived.  Clara and Ava walked down with their Dad.  I started out walking with Isabelle and Millie; however, when Izzy got clingy, Millie decided she could walk on her own.  I love my independent girl.  Michael's brother, Chris, carried our big guy, Luke, down the aisle.  Luke was much more interested in playing outside than he was in the church service.

Clara and Ava

Millie

Isabelle

 
Luke and Uncle Chris
The wedding was fantastic.  The bride was effortlessly beautiful and her groom only had eyes for her.  I have loved watching those two fall in love.


When we arrived at the reception, the kiddos were starving and desperate to run wild.  So, with the help of Michael's aunt/uncles/cousins, they did just that.  It's tough on a Mama when her babies are running in all different directions with different people.  I feel like my neck needs to be on a swivel, like an owl.
 
Luke and Grandpa


When the kids grew tired, we loaded them in Bubba Bus and Jess took them back to the rental house while Michael and I stayed at the reception.  


As soon as I loaded the kids in the bus and returned to the reception, I sat down and burst into tears.  Ugh, yes, I was that crazy lady crying at a wedding reception.  I was just so. darn. tired.  And stressed.  From diaper covers to pacifiers to snacks to matching shoes to sleeping schedule to germ prevention to juice refills to......ugh, I was just out of gas.  

I'm so glad the kiddos could share in this special day, but it was tough on this Momma.  I hope that I can grow less structured over time and maybe not get so stressed out in the future, but I make no promises!

Still, I'm so thankful for this family and our place in it.  Cheers to the new Mr. and Mrs. Baudinet!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Dear Body

Good Morning,

As some of you know, I was recently diagnosed with a herniated disc in my back.  For most, this would be annoying, painful, and perhaps routine-altering.  Yep, that's me.  Times five, of course.  It seems like so much in my life is times five.  

Diapers?  Times five.
Wipes?  Times five.
Pajamas?  Times five.
Meatballs?  Times five.
Sliced fruit?  Times five.
Lovies needed for bedtime?  Times five.

But that's ok with me.  Because each of these kiddos is a baby of one.  They have their individual needs and individual personalities.  They don't know that I have to put pajamas on four other babies--they just know that I put on their pajamas and kiss their nose before bed.



Yet, I digress.  

My body and I have a love/hate relationship.  Mostly hate these days, if I'm being honest.  So, I've decided to do what I do when I'm struggling in one of my relationships.  I write a letter.  This tends to be my solution to most relationship challenges.  So, here we go:

Dear Body,

You and I have been through alot and I'm truly thankful for you.  In the beginning, you and I worked together to train in the art of dance for 22 years.  You endured all of that stretching, uncomfortable toe pointing, and joint-rattling jumping.   We were a unit.  You did what I needed you to do--and I loved what we produced together.  We were art--and I was proud of our accomplishments.  I loved that we could entertain an audience.  

Then came college and graduate school.  We continued to spend most of our time in the dance studio--or the library.  Brain, you did your thing.  We were firing on all cylinders.  Exhaustion rarely plagued us.  We were inspired by our surroundings and reveled in the academic fellowship.  We read The Odyssey, Beowulf, and all of Edmund Spencer.  I wrote countless papers on Shakespeare, John Locke, and Winston Churchill.  Body, I loved that we worked as a unit.

Yes, nerds can have fun too!


Then came marriage.  With the retirement of our dance career, Body, you and I worked hard to get ready for that wedding dress.  We did daily elliptical runs, weight lifting, and dieting.  And Body, you responded.  You recognized the need to shape up--and you did.  I've never felt more beautiful than I did on our wedding day.  Thanks for rising to the occasion.




Years passed and we worked together.  You rarely failed me.  We slept well.  Worked out.  Rarely got sick and remembered almost every name of any student we worked with at UVA.  I didn't even take vitamins and you were thriving.  

Ellie was our only child!

Honeymoon in Greece and Turkey


Then, I wanted to get pregnant.  I wanted to be someone's mom.  I wanted the bike riding, the giggles, and the hair bows.  And, body, you didn't seem to get it.  I took your temperature.  I took vitamins.  I took ovulation tests.  I did everything I could to help you.  And you failed me.  

We lost two babies.  Two human lives.  We couldn't save them.  You couldn't nurture them.  I couldn't be their mommy.  Those babies I will only meet in Heaven when you, Body, are no more.  

We learned to lean on each other during this time more than any other.


Image result for olympic ringsAnd then, we were pregnant again.  And very, very pregnant.  We found a specialist.  You, Body, had a major task in front of you.  I remember watching the 2016 Summer Olympics and thinking, "This pregnancy is our Olympics, Body.  I sure hope you can pull through on this one." 

Then, the doctors sent us to a dietician.  You needed to consume 4,500 calories a day.  I needed to feed you every 2-3 hours.  You needed to process that food and store as much of it as you could.  Our stomach would start losing capacity once the babies began to grow.  I was scared.  I felt like I was literally feeding you to keep the babies alive.  We were eating for life--not for nutrition or even pleasure.  We ate to keep the babies alive.  I remember packing two Ensure shakes every day for work.  I remember eating avocado on nearly everything--even things that shouldn't have avocado (yes, there are such things).

And then the pain came.  Pain in our back.  Pain in our ribs.  Pain in our hips.  Pain to bend over.  Pain to stand up.  Pain to roll over in bed.  Lightheaded feelings when laying on my back.  Breathless feelings when walking to the bathroom.  Then, the emotions came.  The fear, the frustration, the grief.  I mourned a "normal" pregnancy.  I didn't get to do a baby shower with my Virginia friends.  I didn't get to see people around town and smile knowingly at them.  I didn't get to register at Babies R Us standing on my own two feet.  No no, we were wheelchair bound by then.  



So, Body, I felt like you were barely hanging on.  We were barely hanging on.  And then, the delivery came and you were cut open to bring these five beautiful babies into the world. 

And they are beautiful.  We did a good job growing them.  That I know.  Between 3 and 4 pounds each, they were remarkably healthy.  We did a good job, Body.  I/We need to remember that.

 
L to R:  Millie, Clara, Luke, Isabelle and Ava


But the recovery was hard on us, too, Body.  You continued to struggle with the incision and breast feeding was so hard.  We couldn't nurse our babies in the hospital, so we sat in lonely hospital rooms and pumped.  And pumped.

And then we pumped at home.  We ate lactation cookies. We drank all sorts of weird teas and juices.  And then you kept getting clogged ducts and the pain increased.  And then mastitis set in.  You could barely take any more.  I remember crying as I leaned over in a hot shower trying to relieve the pain from a clogged duct with an electric toothbrush.  We were broken, Body.  We just couldn't provide for these babies.  It was just too much.  We had given too much.  Been asked too much.  Suffered too much.

So breast feeding had to stop after only three months.  But, that was it.  We had to do something for ourselves.  You and me, Body, we are the people who got those babies through eight months of gestation and three months of breast feeding.  Well, us, and God.  Thank you, Lord, for sustaining us.  

And then the baby care really kicked in.  We were home from Arizona and back in our bed (hallelujah!).  But, sleep didn't come.  It rarely did (does).  And everything we did never felt like enough.  There was always more housework.  Another baby that needed us.  And then I got frustrated with you.  You, Body, you couldn't do everything I needed you to.  

You can detect my exhaustion by how dirty my hair becomes.

You were tired.  You were sore.  You weren't superhuman.  And that frustrated me.  Moreover, I hated the way we looked.  There was this disgusting, wrinkly blubber that now served as an overhang on what used to be my abdomen.  I was so embarrassed, especially when people on the street would ask me when I was due (Ummm...NEVER again, thank you very much)

Nothing fit.  You didn't go back to normal like most women's bodies did. You sweat all the time.  Putting on make up?  Sweating.  Washing dishes?  Sweating.  Sleeping?  Yes, you guessed it, sweating then, too.  

And now, 19 months into this whole motherhood thing, you and I are still struggling in our relationship.  I am so frustrated with your refusal to do the things we used to be able to do.  I'm frustrated that you don't burn calories the way you used to.   That we can't seem to rid ourselves of this ridiculous belly pooch.  And now, our back is busted?  This is ridiculous.  We are only 33 years old.  I shouldn't feel this broken--this let down by my own body.

So, a few weeks ago, I came to a realization.  I haven't been treating you very well, dear Body.  I barely feed you under the guise of being too busy.  I rarely allow you to work out, unless you count carrying babies up and down the stairs.  I don't take you to yoga anymore.  I don't allow you to sleep, must less just rest and take deep breaths.  I don't feed you food that would fuel you, unless hershey bars and wine are the new fad diet?  Me thinks not.

So, Body, here's the plan.  I'm going to stop hating you and start trying to serve you.  Eat balanced meals regularly throughout the day.  I'm going to take you to the gym and let you burn off some steam.  I'm going to stretch and help you find some inner balance with all of those muscles that were stretched (and in some instances, torn).

Body, I know you're doing your best.  I am too.  I want to start working with each other--not against.  Let's try to treat each other better.  We have this one life and these five precious souls.  Let's find peace.






 
 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Be Kind--Rewind

Do ya'll remember when we used to rent movies (VHS, of course) at an actual movie store?  I'm not sure the high school students I work with even know what at VHS is.  Remember that the movie stores used to ask us to "be kind and rewind" the video tapes before returning them?  Yep, me too.  I think it's official--we're getting old.  (Insert groan here.  Oh and the herniated disc in my back.  Just delightful). 

Be kind.  That's the topic for today.  Someone once told me that kindness is different than being nice.  Nice doesn't come from a center of love and compassion.  It's more surface than that.

Kindness.  Kindness comes from a place of joy and of love.  As we've seen this week with the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, struggle isn't limited to those of us who have a weekly grocery budget.

Struggle is everywhere, especially internally.  We all fight the silent struggle.  Are we good enough at our work?  Are we smart enough?  Thin enough? Successful enough?  A good enough parent?  A good enough friend?  A good enough daughter/son?  Do we love enough?  Do we sleep enough? Do we read enough to our children?   It's like the calculus classes I took all those years ago.  We discussed limits.  Sometimes, the limit does not exist.  In the same vein, enough does not exist.  It never will.

So, dear friends, I want us to be kind to ourselves.  Yes, be kind to others, but please be kind to yourself.  I see a Christian counselor every week.  She's such a source of support (and sanity!) for me.  When we first welcomed the kiddos into our home, I remember describing the chaos to her.

Megan, there are five mouths that need to eat at the same time.  So, I hold one bottle with my foot and two others with each hand.  Then, I'll prop one bottle on a pillow and hope the other one sleeps peacefully until I can get one of the others to a burping spot.  And there are spit-stained burp clothes EVERYWHERE.  I feel like a failure if I can't feed my baby (ies) a full bottle.  I want them to finish strong!  And I'm supposed to cook dinner?  And work out?  And be a normal adult outside the home?  I haven't weeded my flowerbeds in weeks..I haven't organized my sock drawer in months..I haven't updated my five year plan all year...how can I be normal?

Yes, that was the old me.  God bless my sweet counselor.  She dealt with the ambitious, competitive, perfectionist me for many years. I began to shed that version of myself with each changing of a dirty diaper.  As we enter parenthood, we lose more and more control of the life we thought we had.  That shook me to my core for quite some time (still does!), but I've come to realize that I must be kind to myself.  

On the to-do list for today:  be kind to self.

Easier said that done, right?  As my counselor and I have navigated these last 18 months, we've come up with a new mantra for me.  One that has gotten me through so many rough nights, dirty kitchens, spills, wrinkled laundry, and screaming babies.  One that has taught me that perfection doesn't exist.  

My new mantra is "good enough."  The kids ate boxed mac and cheese two days in a row?  Oh well, they're fed.  That's good enough.  Luke tinkled on the wall when I changed his diaper.  Oh well. I wiped it up with Izzy's dirty pajama top.  That's good enough.  We're eating chicken casserole for a third time this week.  Oh well.  Good enough.  Hardly any of my clothes fit the way they used to, so I'm going to invest in a solid Old Navy wardrobe of washable, wearable clothes.  Yep, you guessed it.  Good enough.

So, today, let's all choose to see that we are good enough.  Be kind to yourself.  Rewind all of the beauty and joy God has given you.  With as much sadness and darkness in this world, we have to learn how to rewind the joy and hold onto it.  Let's do it together.

Some silly photos/videos to make you smile:

Mama and Millie

Luke and Isabelle

Millie and Luke

Dad and Luke

Long day of play outside

Clara and Millie

Ava

Mom and Luke
 
Watching Swedish cartoons with Pop Pop




Friday, May 11, 2018

You Don't Have to Be So Strong

Good Morning,

Whew.  I feel beaten up and beaten down.  Maybe sideways, too?  Any way you can put it.  Since it's been a little while, let me just catch you up first.

The kiddos are now 17 months old. They are all walking and talking.  The girls definitely have more words than their brother, especially Ava, who will go to the bottom of the stairs and say "night night" when she's ready for bed.  Millie's favorite word is "woof woof" when she sees any sort of dog, especially Ellie.  Isabelle is working on saying her name (and mine).  See video below.  Luke's favorite word is E-I-E-I-OOOO from the classic Old McDonald had a farm.  Clara's favorite word is "HI," whenever she walks into a room.
Ava

Clara w/ Uncle Thomas

Millie

The climber of the family, Luke

Isabelle

Operation:  Hold Them over Dinner  (minus Ava who was running around being crazy). 
 


This week has been one of the hardest on our family.  

Last week, I had a bit of a cancer scare.  My thyroid is "lumpy" apparently and after some major tears, ultrasound, blood tests, and LOTS of anxiety/fighting the urge to Google everything, I got the all clear from the doctor.  We'll continue to follow my dear 'ole lumpy thyroid, but everything looks fine as of now.  

Then, ALL of the kids got ear infections.  I mean every. single. one.  First Millie.  So, off to the doctor, find someone to watch my other four kids, get meds, come home.  Then two days later, Clara started with the whining, pulling ears, etc.  So Clara goes off to the doctor, find someone to watch four kids, get meds, come home.  Then, two days later, Ava started acting cranky.  So, change my plans, take her to the doctor, find someone to watch four kids, get meds, come home.  Then, a day later, both Izzy and Luke spike fevers.  So, given that it's a Saturday, my husband packs up those two and takes them to urgent care while I stay with the other three.

Yep, those two have ear infections, too.  Except Luke threw up on the way home.  We chalked it up to him getting so worked up at the doctor.  But, once he got home from urgent care, Luke started acting odd.  Losing focus, hand twitches, strange head tilts.  Scary stuff.  Michael and I agreed he needed help--and fast.   Granted, it's now 8:00 on a Saturday night.  I called a good friend who lives nearby.  She changed out of her pjs into her work clothes and came rolling into our home so Michael and I could take Luke to the hospital.

Luke was continuing to vomit, lose control of his bowels--all, of course, while clinging to his mama.  At this point, I start to panic.  What is going on?!  Someone needs to fix my baby--and NOW.

We get to UVA Hospital and realize it's some sort of seizure--potentially caused by his high fever (and maybe ear infection).  They give him some medicine to stop the seizure, which is effective, and then Luke falls asleep.

And then, we sit.  Michael and I wonder:  will he wake up?  What kind of brain damage (if any) will he have?  Will he be able to walk?  Talk?  Use the muscles in his face?  Of course, Dr. Google is NOT your friend in these settings, believe me.

I crawl into the ER bed with my son and just wash him with my tears.  Covered in macaroni and cheese vomit along with baby tinkle, I couldn't care less.  I wanted my son to be ok.  I wanted my son to be his sweet little boy self.  I wanted this to be a bad dream.

We were moved to a room to stay overnight for observation.  I sent Michael home to get some rest and take care of the girls (I wasn't going to sleep anyways).  The kind nurses found some scrub pants for me and I found a sweater in my car to wear until I could get home.

So, I waited.  I waited and hoped my little boy would open his eyes and smile at the sight of my face.  I waited for him to snuggle his warm, soft cheek next to mine.  I waited.  I sang.  I told stories.  And I waited.

Around 3:30 am, he woke up.  He was understandably disoriented, but he was himself.  We snuggled and laughed.  He was bored, so I  took him on a walking tour of UVA Grounds at 4 am.  By the way, when you have 25-pound baby, you should really use a stroller.  My biceps are STILL sore today.

Unfortunately, when I first I got up to pick him up, I immediately felt dizzy.  Then I remembered, "Oh shoot, I didn't eat today."  I missed breakfast because I was getting the kids dressed for Touch A Truck.  I missed lunch because I was running late to work and I missed dinner because I was taking care of Luke. 

Luckily, Luke's nurse came in and noticed I looked dizzy.  I remember she said, "Ok..no problem.  You're in the right place.  Tell me what's up."  I did and she said, "Ok...squat down.. Don't move and don't touch the baby."  She brought me an Uncrustable peanut butter sandwich and some apple juice.  I was good as new.  God bless those nurses.  We celebrate them today and every day.

The next morning, doctors did a final EEG to make sure Luke didn't have any remnant seizure activity--he didn't.  We were free to take him home.  Relief doesn't begin to describe the feelings I felt (well, except maybe exhaustion.  I felt that, too).  So, we went home to our four ear-infected girls and prayed for a better night ahead.

It was about that time that my body started to ache.  I chalked it up to exhaustion and kept on truckin.  I woke up Monday morning (after not much sleep again, of course), and I knew I was sick.  Body aches, chills, ear aches, etc.

I had to give a speech for work in Virginia Beach later in the day on Monday, so I thought I'd stop by urgent care in Richmond and get some medicine and be on my way.

Well, after two hours of waiting in urgent care, I still hadn't been seen.  When I asked the front desk attendant what was going on, he simply told me, "You should never come to urgent care when you have another commitment later in the day."  Oh ok, great customer service slogan.  You should see if you can sell that baby.  Great message.

So, I left in tears, armed with crusty old purse cough drops and Advil.  I powered through and then went to urgent care in VA Beach.  Yep, double each infection and a sinus infection with a fever of 102.  Awesomesauce.  

I go to my hotel, which I had hoped would be a little vacation for me.  Instead, I crawled in the bed with my work clothes on.  I was shivering so much I pulled the covers over my head and blew warm air into them, hoping to warm myself enough to stop shivering.

I ordered soup as takeout and prayed for daylight.  It came and I felt a bit better, but by no means my old self.  I still went to work on Tuesday (yes, I'm stubborn) but stayed in bed most of the day Wednesday.  I'm feeling much more like myself now, but as I said in the beginning, I feel beaten down--and beaten up.

It was on Wednesday as I was in my room resting that I heard God say something to me.  And this is something I think everyone needs to hear.  

You don't have to be so strong.

That's what He said.  You don't have to be so strong.  Let others help you.  Let others care for you.  Let people bring a meal.  Let people take a day off of work to help you.  Let your husband see you cry.  Let your family know that you're scared.  Just let people in.
I don't have to be so strong.  God can hold me up and so can my community.  So, thank you to our community.  This has been one of the hardest weeks and so many of you have held me up.  God bless you and may I be able to hold you up when you have a tough week.





 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Besties with Brene

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know that I love Brene Brown's work.  Her first TedTalk truly changed the way I thought about both my emotions and my relationships.  Her self deprecating humor makes me feel less alone and her honesty cuts to my core.  If you haven't watched her Ted Talk(s)--she has two--you must.  Go ahead, do that now.

Ok, you're with me, right?  She's brilliant, wise, and hilarious.  I want to be Brene's friend.  I know we would be besties.  Besties with Brene.  That's me.

I'm traveling for work this week (Praise the Lord--quiet hotel rooms!), and as I'm driving, I'm listening to Brene's teachings on The Power of Vulnerability.  This is on Audible--I can't recommend it enough.  

One of the ideas that Brene presents is the idea of "foreboding joy."  That often times, many of us, even during the happiest of times, are waiting for the other shoe to drop.  She uses the example of watching your child sleep.  Many of us will watch our child sleep peacefully and think to ourselves, "my gosh..I can't love you any more.  You are the most magnificent creature."  And in the same breath, we imagine something terrible happening to that child.  It's almost like our brains are preparing for something terrible to happen.  It's almost as if we are trying to head off trauma and disappointment at the pass. If we prepare ourselves enough, maybe the bad stuff won't hurt so much.

This resonated with me.  My two miscarriages, especially the second, was traumatic.  Very traumatic.  We thought everything was wonderful.  We shared the good news with our families and celebrated with close friends.  We bought baby clothes and started a Pinterest board.  And then, the worst happened. The baby died, and I began to bleed uncontrollably.  

No amount of "foreboding joy" could have prepared me for that moment.  Nothing could've saved me from the depths of despair, grief, humiliation, shame, and sadness.

So, what Brene says (and I agree with), is stop with the foreboding joy.  You can't prepare yourself for the off chance that something horrific happens. It may happen--or it may not.  Instead, as Brene says, "soften" into joy.  Accept that some moments are just that--joyful.  Use those moments as fuel and a reason to stay grounded.  Moreover, use those moments to shine a light on your gratitude.  We have so much to be thankful for.  Let's use more of our emotional energy to find the gratitude of what we have--not the fear of what may be coming.  It isn't worth it.  

We are worth so much more.


This little girl (Isabelle) saying Mama is a moment I'll always treasure.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Little Gym and Big Miracles

I am delighted to tell you that the Bundle of Baudinets has a new relationship with one of the coolest spots in Charlottesville...The Little Gym!

I've known of The Little Gym since my days as President of the Junior League of Charlottesville.  TLG used to join us at the Junior League's Kids in the Kitchen event, in which they would teach healthy exercise and lifestyles to kids of all ages.  Their mission is truly inspiring.

I realized that my kiddos need some sort of physical engagement beyond what Michael, the au pairs, volunteers, and I were giving them.  They need to meet new kids, experience new environments and just, well, grow as little humans.

I knew Little Gym had a tremendous program, but I was sure that we as a family wouldn't be able to afford it.  Luckily, the owner has been so responsive and flexible to our needs.  We were thrilled to attend our first class earlier this month.

For those of you who don't know (or all of the out of towners who read this), TLG of Charlottesville has been around for over 20 years.  In 2013, ownership switched hands to Sarah Oliva, a long standing instructor at the location.  In 2015, they relocated to The Shops at Stonefield and have been happily tumbling and growing the TLG family since then. We are so happy to join this family--take a look at our first class.  Can't wait to show you more of the fun we have at this very special place.







Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Birthday Breakdown

Well, I was due for a good breakdown, right?  The quints had been floating right along (with a few hiccups, of course), but I was starting to feel like things were smoothing out.  Sheesh, why do I bother to EVER think that?  I shouldn't..ever, ever again.  Remind me. 

Last week was my birthday.  In my family, we LOVE birthdays.  I mean, we love them.  We count down days.  We sing.  As children, my older sister and I did birthday treasure hunts with rhyming clues (yes, my mom is the bees knees!).  She even wrapped all of our gifts in matching paper with the most beautiful, bountiful bows you've ever seen.  I love a birthday with my mama--she always makes my heart feel full.  You know that feeling. 

In my mind, birthdays include cake, friends, laughter, and a day of love.   This year, I'd planned to get out of the house for the afternoon.  See a good friend, get some work done, and take myself on a little shopping trip.  I realize it's rare when your work makes you as happy as mine does for me.  It's truly a gift.  

And yet, I digress.  

My birthday was Tuesday.  On the Saturday prior, our sweet Millie starting to feel icky.  She had some nasal drainage and struggled to sleep comfortably.  By Monday (day before d-day, I mean b'day), I couldn't put Millie down because she was so uncomfortable.

Michael was traveling on Sunday/Monday and as I was trying to feed all the babies Monday morning, Millie would.not.let.me.go.  She clung to me like a hungry monkey and screamed at any sudden movement.

AND, she wouldn't sleep, ya'll.  Every time I tried to get her to sleep, she screamed.  A blood-curdling, "this is NOT OK" sort of scream.  On Monday after breakfast, I put her down to put the other babies down for their nap.  She screamed.  And screamed.  And screamed. 

I picked her back up.  She continued to scream.  She screamed for 4 hours straight.  I tried her blanket.  Pacifier.  Stuffed penguin.  Singing.  Cartoons.  Juice.  Cheerios.  A walk outside.  A walk inside.  Toys.  Snuggles.  Everything.

By the time a sweet friend and volunteer arrived, I was at my wits end.  My friend Anne put Millie in the stroller and walked her up and down the driveway until she calmed and fell asleep.  This gave me time to feed the other kids lunch (oh right, forgot about that!) and call the doctor.

The doctor and I agreed it seemed like an ear infection, so I needed to bring Millie in for a visit.  Thank goodness our au pair Jess agreed to come on duty early and watch the others while I took Millie to the doc.  

Millie indeed had a double ear infection and thus began antibiotics.  Monday night she continued to struggle to sleep unless she slept on my chest.  I let her sleep on me until 2 am, but as most of you know, mamas don't sleep well with babies on their chests.  At least this one doesn't.  Still, I kept thinking to myself... "Tomorrow is my birthday. I will get out of the house and feel the love (and have peace and quiet)." 

It was after dinner that night that the lady that helps out on Tuesdays texted me.  She said she had the stomach flu and couldn't come to work the next day.  I would have to stay home.  No birthday outing.  No friends.  No cake.  No nothing.

I was wrecked.  I was unbelievably sad.  The next morning I cried into Michael's chest, muttering, "I just wanted ONE day to be about me."  

I felt selfish and guilty (a mom's hobby, I'm learning).  I should WANT to stay home with my babies, no matter how sick they are or how much I want birthday cake, right?  But, I was so tired--mentally and physically.  By this point, all of the kids had a cold and I had little help and even less sleep.  

I tell myself that I should be as kind and gracious to myself that I try to be to my friends.  Somehow, that's easier said than done (right, mamas?).  I feel guilty--so often.  I feel sad.  I wonder how I'll survive (much less thrive in) this beautiful chaos.  I worry I miss out on so much joy because the exhaustion clouds my view.  Some days this beautiful blessing feels like so much to carry.

My dad's mom (the original Clara before my Clara) always said, "sometimes you can't around a challenge.  You can't go around.  You can't go over it.  You can't go over it.  You just wade through it."

So that's what I'm doing during this tough time.  I'm wading through it.  I'm wading through and lifting up my eyes as I thank God for the little joys that He's given me on the daily basis.

Isabelle learns to jump as Millie cheers her on.   Millie's favorite word is 'YAY!!"