Tuesday, March 21, 2017

And Then There Were Five

Our precious girl is here! arriving February 1st at 40 weeks and 4 days! Yes, I know that this news is a bit late but we've been busy with lots of newborn snuggles and trying to figure out this whole crazy life with three kids thing.  And yes... it HAS been a bit crazy. 

One of the things I love about birth is how unique each baby's birth story is. 

Our oldest Mackenzie was a scheduled C-section at 39 weeks because she was our "upside down" baby. 

Levi was born 2 weeks late and after 54 hours of labor. 

And, sweet miss Evie was born after 9 hours of labor and boy did she give us quite the scare towards the end. 

The last hour of labor her heart rate plummeted out of nowhere.  Just as I thought I was about to get a reprieve from some intense contractions & a nap, multiple nurses flew into our room placing oxygen on me, a fetal heart rate monitor was inserted and put on Evie's head and a newborn warming cart was rolled quickly into our delivery room.  Evie came fast after just three pushes! 

At 7 lbs 9 oz and a cute little blonde mullet just like her big sister was born with, Evelyn was named to honor great, great grandma Evelyn Carlson. 

At 8 weeks old now, Evie has been my quickest baby to master breastfeeding and she's sleeping like a champ with most nights giving us 5-7 hr stretches of sleep. 

{If blogging had emojis, here's where I would insert the praise hands!}

Evie is truly the most darling baby.  She is already giving us the biggest smiles.  She loves to snuggle and would be content sleeping on my chest all day and all night if I let her... & I do try to let her as much as possible.  These days are flying way too fast and I'm just not ready to let this sweet girl grow up too soon! 

Here's a peek at our lifestyle newborn photography session with Chesney Louie photography -- taken when Evie was 10 days old. Friends, if you are in the Denver area I just can't praise Chesney enough!  She is a friend from the second you meet her and my goodness she has such a gift!

Thank you Chesney for capturing these moments for our family! What a gift!
To read more about Evie's story, head on over to I Am Fruitful!
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Someday Baby -- Hope & Joy in the Waiting

As we've been anticipating the coming (and passing) of another Baker Baby due date (because my babies don't ever come "on time"), I recalled back to a letter that I wrote our baby long before he or she was growing inside of me.  It was a letter I wrote in the waiting, back in the fall of 2015

And oddly enough, here I am, still waiting.  Now though, I am waiting on the any minute arrival of this wiggle worm who has been taking up residence beneath my heart for the past 9 + months.  As I read this letter today for the first time in over a year, I cried.  And I smiled. I cried because the waiting has been so incredibly hard.  But I smiled because I wouldn't have traded the waiting for anything. 

I know that sounds so cliché.  But it's so true.  It's been through this waiting, this longing, to see LIFE come to our home again, that Jesus has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be hopeful in BOTH the earthly desires and gifts we pray for but also for far more than that... 

I have gained a greater depth and understanding of what it means to HOPE for Jesus and to wait in expectancy for eternity, for the restoration of pain and suffering and to see the beauty made from ashes in the GREATEST way possible.  Oh, how my heart longs for the day that I can meet Jesus and rest fully in HIM. 
“Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”   - John Keats
I would encourage each of you mommas who finds herself in the earthly waiting for another child, to write.  Whether this baby is to come biologically, through fostering or adoption.  Whether you've had repeated miscarriages or been told there is, "no hope".  There is ALWAYS hope, even if it doesn't manifest in the time or fashion that we in our humanness have envisioned.

 "Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." 

- Proverbs 13:12

As the waiting continues over the next week or so and I anticipate the imminent arrival of our new son or daughter, I find peace in knowing that God's timing is sovereign.  The waiting is NEVER without a purpose.  I can smile to every family member, friend and perfect stranger who stares at my giant belly and asks, "Still pregnant?"  Yes.  Yes, for now I still am. And, God, in His wisdom has chosen the exact moment that our family will welcome our newest member.  I will rest in knowing that,  just as we've waited for years now to meet this little life, the extra minutes I'm waiting on are purposeful and intentional even if I don't always understand "the why". 

Dear Someday Baby,

 We haven’t met yet but I’ve been dreaming of you for a long time. 
Two years, four months and four days to be exact.  The day your big brother was born I told your daddy that I couldn’t wait to meet you.  Some might laugh and tell me that I should have been enjoying myself in the moment, that I had my hands full enough. 

But the truth is, even then I knewI knew that our little family wasn’t yet complete.  And every day since then I have thought of you, prayed for you, hoped for you.  When I watch your older sister and brother playing together in the sunlight of our living room, I ache for you because I know that there’s a heartbeat of our family still absent. 

When I find your sister reading to your brother, all snuggled together under the covers, I smile.  But behind that smile is a whole lot of yearning and wondering when you will finally be here with us. 

I wonder when you will join in on our story times and giggle at all of Frog and Toad’s Adventures and sing along to all of our silly Pete the Cat songs. 

I envision hide and seek, where you are the third one piled high on wiggly laps while each of you giggle and fail in your attempts stay quiet from our bedroom closet.

I picture another pajama clad blondie to join us during our Christmas tradition of pizza and hot chocolate and driving around to, “Ooooh” and “Ahhhh” at all of the brightly lit homes.  I would welcome the extra set of sticky fingers and sleepy yawns just to have you here with us this year. 

I smile and (shudder) when I think of trying to wrangle another wiggly baby for family photos.

I wonder what you will look like.  If you will have the same blue eyes as your big sister and brother or maybe you’ll be the brown eyed baby to finally match your Aunt Kelsey. 

I look at our dining room table and I know deep down that one of the extra seats is being saved for you. 

I didn’t know back when I started to dream that it would take so long to meet you. And some days my sweet baby, it seems like it’s been an eternity. 

So we wait. 

We wait through long weekend trips to our favorite little mountain towns, through summer birthdays and Fourth of July fireworks and wedding celebrations. 

We wait through tears and broken hearts as we send another sweet baby to heaven. 

We wait as the summer heat begins to lessen and the autumn leaves begin to fall and spiral their whirlwind of eccentric colors.  As we anticipate the coming of the winter snow and as we start to plan holiday travel and February trips to Disney World. 

And through all of this waiting, deep down I’m praying that you’ll be our little secret soon to keep.

I know that God’s timing is good and perfect.  And I know that He is preparing me to be the very best momma for you.  But goodness, if I could speed up time, I sure would.

I love you my baby.  I can’t wait to meet you and hold you and share with you all of the secrets of my heart.  I can’t wait to sing Back To Pooh Corner and to dance with you in our little galley kitchen while we make up for lost time.

Until then my sweet baby, you are so loved! Momma

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Perfect Snow Day Craft for Littles

Hi friends, It's been a while!  We've just been over here raising and growing babies and savoring these last few months together as a family of four!  I knew this pregnancy would fly by with the holidays dominating the final months.  And just like that... Christmas is just ONE WEEK away. 

This weekend we got our first big Denver snowstorm.  Our little family hunkered down with lots of yummy food + Christmas movies + cozy jammies.  One of my favorite winter movies is Snow Day starring Chevy Chase. I was thrilled to find this movie on Netflix and introduce it to the kids! 

If your babes are like mine though, movies aren't enough to keep them busy.  I try to keep play dough, baking supplies and crafts up my sleeve to keep them busy for impromptu snow days.  One of my favorite things to do is make Salt Dough Ornaments!  What's best -- This recipe takes only three ingredients and I can almost bet that you already have them on hand. 
Guys, these are SO easy and they can keep the kids busy for more than a half hour at a time.  Which is a HUGE win in my book.  Mack & Levi are tough because of their four year age difference so I am ALWAYS thrilled to find something that both of them love to do and will keep them equally entertained. 

The recipe for the salt dough is as follows:

1 Cup of Flour + 1 Cup of Salt + 1/2 a cup of water

Add more water if you need to make the dough the right rolling consistency. 
Throw some extra flour down on the table so that the dough won't stick. 

Please excuse the messy bedhead hair.... Hey, that's real life, right?

My kids loved rolling out their dough and then using cookie cutters to make their ornaments.  Once cut out, we used the bottom of a mixing stick to press holes into the ornaments to be used later to string our twine through.   

 Place the cut out dough on a cookie sheet and put into the oven on 200 degrees for 2.5 to 3 hours. 

Next comes the painting!  We spread this entire project out over a two day period to get double the entertainment!  Plus, momma needed a break from all the mess ;)

If you are in need of a last minute crafty gift for your kiddos, IKEA has these fantastic paint sets & roll out paper that we LOVE to pull out on rainy and snowy days. 

Lastly, wait until the ornaments dry and then string some twine or ribbon through the cut out hole.  Deliver a few to friends along with some homemade holiday cookies!  It's the perfect simple kid approved Christmas gift! 
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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bed Bugs & Cactus Spines

Earlier this week I sat cross legged in our shower and watched the water pour down in droplets over my bare pregnant belly. Reaching the third trimester milestone seems to have propelled me into the equally scary and exciting reality that this baby is coming....and soon. As I sat there letting the water fall on and around me, I leaned down to my belly and found myself whispering the words, "I hope you are ready to join this crazy circus, Sweet Baby.  You are in for quite the ride!"  I was both laughing and crying in that moment.

This has been a week for the parenting history books in our home.  Sometime, in the distant future, I'm sure I'll look at my husband and ask, "Remember that week.... the week with the hives and the cacti and the Donald and all the puking...?  How did we make it through that week?" 

But for now,  I'm still in that week.  I'm still living it.  And I'm trying so desperately to find the humor hidden beneath all of the tears and the exhaustion and the countless times I've asked, "Can't this week be over already?"

On Monday, our 7-year-old daughter came home from school with bright red welts covering her neck and arms.  I'm not usually the panic driven mom type but being nearly 10 weeks out from welcoming our first "winter baby" was enough to propel me into diagnosing whatever plague had just entered our home.  Every imaginable scenario began to play out in my head.  Could the welts be an allergic reaction to something on her clothes?  Maybe she accidentally ate gluten?  The start of Chicken Pox?  Hand Foot and Mouth disease? Bed Bugs?  Oh good heavens, please not Bed Bugs.  This possibility led to the stripping of every bed sheet, pillow case and dust ruffle in our home.  We overturned mattresses, took the shop vacuum to every nook and cranny and washed all of the bedding in extra large loads.  Nothing.  Not a bug.  Not a spec of feces.  But this was four days ago and the red welts are still popping up with no answers in sight. 

On Tuesday, we made the decision to keep Hives Girl home from school.  Midway through the day, our little family of four was at each other's throats.  Lots of bickering, whining and an overabundance of tears from both the kids and me. In an effort to get out of the house and away from the television's constant coverage of Election Day, we decided to take a walk to Andy's for our favorite frozen custard.  And everything was going well...until it wasn't. 

We stopped along a creek to let our hyper lab puppy splash in the water and let out some pent up energy.  As Boston bounded back up the bank towards us to do the classic "dog water shake", our youngest (middle child-to-be) stumbled backwards in an attempt to stay dry.  It was then that he unknowingly tumbled right onto...wait for it...

A cactus. 

If you can picture the scene in slow motion -- my husband and I went lunging for him in a failed attempt to break his prickly fall.  The look of horror that washed over his 3-year-old-face in that moment was downright pathetic, the dog completely unaware of the chaos that she had just unleashed. 

And... end slow motion... cue the shrieking Preschooler. 

I immediately go for his pants, ripping them from his waist, while my husband holds him down in attempt to thwart his thrashing. Long cactus spikes lodged so deep that they began to break in half as I attempt to dislodge them, leaving shards of cacti in his swollen legs. 

At this point, the humor begins.  As little man is shrieking, I throw up my hands in complete disbelief.  My husband has himself stepped backwards and has now found his own legs caught in the thorns of the cactus.  Mack, with her own bright pink welts is standing nearby helplessly as I am now trying to figure out which of the men in my life needs more rescuing. 

The dog... still clueless, bounding in the water nearby. 

It is then that Levi begins to scream, " AM I GOING TO DIE?  IS IT TIME TO DIE NOW?!"

And, I officially lose it.  I find myself again, somewhere between laughing and crying hysterically.  The week can only go up from here....right? 

Wrong.  Oh. So. Wrong.

Fast forward to Wednesday.  I am in the car pool lane, on a time crunch.  I have exactly one hour to get both kids home, fed dinner and out of pajamas. Yes -- little man is still in his pajamas at 4 pm.  Remember, it's been that kind of week.  We have to be at our local bookstore for a 2nd grade performance and it's imperative that we not look like hell even though that's what this week has felt like so far.  

I look to the backseat from my rear view mirror and can immediately tell that something just isn't right.  Cactus boy has turned flush red and is alternating between doing this weird mouth gagging thing while also insisting urgently that he needs to pee. 

I immediately go into mom mode.  I'm stuck in a line of cars half a mile long with a 3-year-old who is about to start vomiting while also threatening to pee his pants.  I throw my car into drive and pull through the bright orange "DO NOT ENTER" cones that block off the back corner of the school parking lot.  I quickly dump a grocery bag of it's contents onto the car floor and I shove the bag at Cactus boy, instructing him to aim for the inside of the bag.  The vomiting begins.  I've climbed out of my SUV at this point and have dumped a Starbucks cup of it's contents and have instructed him to aim his little man parts and pee inside of the cup....while simultaneously puking into the grocery bag. 

Now officially late for school pickup, I strip Cactus Boy down to his underwear and strap him back into his car seat.  As Hives Girl climbs into the car, I instruct her to, "Hold the puke bag for your brother."  At this point, she begins to cry hysterically at the realization that A. She will be missing her class event and B. At my lovely "We're a family, so we hold one another's puke bag" speech. 

Mom of the year award right here. 

Eventually, little man has covered himself so much in vomit that I have to pull into yet another parking lot corner, strap him illegally into the middle non-car seated seat, all the while, praying on the life of my third child that we do not get pulled over on the way home.  Because... #momjail

This morning, after forcing myself out from under my covers, after more tears rolled down my cheeks at the thought of another day like the past several, my husband sent me back to bed with coffee and my Bible.  I had to re-read this verse from Isaiah 40:11 over and over and over.

"He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11  

Then I had to cross reference this verse with the story from Genesis 33:12-15 where Jacob had to firmly tell his overeager brother Esau that he would not be rushing his family through a journey that would ultimately bring them harm.

"Then Esau said, 'Let us be on our way; I'll accompany you.'  But Jacob said to him, 'My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young.  If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die.  So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.'"

This week has been a week of so much disappointment and discouragement.  There have been a lot of canceled plans and saying, "No" to previously committed to engagements.  I've had to let friends down who have been counting on me. I've disappointed both kids as we've been forced to stay huddled at home to rest and take it easy and heal. 

If this has been a similar week for you, I hope you'll take heart not in my words, because truly I have none.  I'm just that mentally spent.  I hope you'll be encouraged by the words in Isaiah 40 and Genesis 33.  These words of encouragement from a God who DOES see us daily, who cares for us and our momma hearts as we lay down our lives to be intentional in our mothering even on the really hard days, during the most difficult months and seasons. 

These are words that I'll likely have to keep reading throughout seasons of motherhood similar to this one. The seasons where everything just seems heavy and the exhaustion seems endless.  The ones with the bed bugs and the cacti and the puking.  I know there will be more of these and harder ones too. 

Today, I'm choosing to keep coming back to these words, to be gentle with myself as God is gentle with me.  I'm choosing to show myself and my husband and the kids grace.  I'm choosing to laugh at the really funny moments -- Like when one child is screaming, "IS IT TIME TO DIE?"  ...And to also allow myself to cry in abundance and let the tears flow when those are so desperately needed. 

I think one of the most difficult parts of being a writer is my desire to tie every story up in a neat little bow.  Complete with words of encouragement and a happy ending. 

But the truth is, I don't have much of that this week.

I have funny stories to share about bruised little legs with cactus spikes still lodged deep inside.  I've got a car seat sitting by the side of my house that still needs to be hosed off.  This morning, Hives Girl woke up with more red welts....but we still have no idea why.  I'm 7 months pregnant and I am freaking out about bringing another baby into this chaotic mess of a family. I am completely exhausted and just feeling so incredibly discouraged. 

But I'm choosing to believe that this is perfectly okay.  Maybe life doesn't need to be wrapped up in a pretty bow.  Maybe it's okay to sit in the messy and the mundane and to lift up my hands in complete surrender and to just trust that it's all going to be okay.  That I'm being held by a God who is gentle with me and on the all the days that I'm struggling to do this life well, HE is leading our little family. 
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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Three Isn't A Crowd: Raising our Daughters Well

Earlier this fall I spoke to a room of 100 women on the topic of vulnerability and friendship.  Vulnerability and friendship.  Two words that I am quickly learning... Just. Don't. Go. Together.

After I spoke, I received feedback from nearly a dozen women ranging in age from 20 years to 50 years.  Ironically enough, in spite of the age difference, I heard such similar things --

Things like,

"I thought it was just me!"

"I've been fighting these shame lies my whole life."

"I worry I'll never find those 2 am friendships."

"I've been convinced something is wrong with me."

Women in groves were sharing that my words had struck home and hit HARD.  I heard from others that there were tissue boxes being passed around the room.  So much emotion and so many tears. Embarrassingly, many of the tears came from me while on stage.  I'm not kidding-- some sweet woman actually climbed on stage to hug me just so I could pull myself together. 

I share all of this very humbly, because truly -- these words weren't mine.  The lessons I've been learning on vulnerability and friendship have been years in the making and I still have so far to go.  I share this because I'm realizing that it isn't just me.  Surprise, surprise-- I'm not the only crazy one still trying to navigate this wild ride of women friendships. 

Something powerful happened in the room the morning that I spoke and I just haven't been able to shake the pit in my stomach and the voices in my head.  The ones that are SCREAMING that a dialogue needs to be started among women on HOW we fix our broken hearts. 

Because I. AM. DONE. with the inner monologue I have with myself that perpetually goes something like this -- "Brittany, you aren't worthy of authentic friendship.  You aren't good enough.  Nobody wants you." 

Sound at all familiar?

I'm done believing the lie that tells me that if "Three's a crowd.... then I am that crowd".

Are you ready to be done believing this lie too?

This week I received a phone call that reminded me of a blog post I wrote earlier this year entitled The words I'll Never Use In Friendship Again.  Truly, it was probably writing this original post and hearing from so many of YOU that has gotten my thoughts rolling on this topic of friendship to begin with.

The phone call went something like this:

Mom Friend- "My daughter just came unglued.  She says she plays alone at recess and eats lunch by herself.  It's been happening most of the school year."

(I slyly glance at my seemingly innocent 7-year-old daughter out of the corner of my eye...)

Me- "Hmmm.... is that so?" I call to my daughter... "Sweetie...could you play with Layla at school tomorrow?  Sounds like she's feeling pretty sad and left out."

My daughter- (who is now in complete hysterics -- SEE how emotionally driven this topic is?) cries to me, "Mom, I asked my other friends if we could play with Layla too and they said, "Sure, why don't you just break up with us?"

Holy hell. 

What!?!  These girls are SEVEN. 

"Why don't you just break up with us?"

SEVEN YEARS OLD and these are the playground conversations they are having regarding friendship. 

I wanted to die when I heard this. 

And here's the thing -- let me be really clear...While, I am not at all naïve to the fallen sin nature of kids... I really and truly believe that their words and their inclusive attitudes are stemming from their own places of insecurity. 

It goes like this:

Friend A loves Friend B.

Friend B wants to add in Friend C to create a little trio.

Friend A sees friend C as a threat to the duo so she says, "No way.  I'll shame friend B so she doesn't leave me."

AND SO a cycle of loneliness and heartache is started at age SEVEN for friend C.

This cycle is one that will likely carry her through the awkward ages of junior high and high school, into the self discovery age of college and on into adulthood. 

It is one that will likely find her in a room as a young mom with 100 other women, passing the kleenex boxes and wondering why she have never felt worthy of authentic friendship.  Wondering why she still feels unlovable and wondering why she has felt like this for as far back as the playground days of elementary school.

And ironically, if you are still following me... Friend A and Friend B will likely end up in their own respective rooms of weepy women too.

My point is this... it starts YOUNG and it starts now.

What we are teaching our daughters about themselves and their goodness and their worthiness for true, authentic friendship matters. 

What we are teaching our girls right now about kindness and speaking life into others -- it has meaning.

The way our daughters see US as adult women handling friendships -- it is shaping them

It might mean (gasp!), removing inclusive words like "best friend" from our vocabulary and just deciding right now to teach our daughters that three is not a crowd.  Not even four or five.  We can teach our daughters that a village of friends and cheerleaders is the best way to get through life.

Something has got to change. 

As mothers of daughters, it is going to have to start with healing our own insecurities, doing the hard work of healing our own wounds, while simultaneously teaching our daughters not to repeat the same dysfunctional patterns.
It's going to take a whole lot of prayer and continuing to seek God's heart for my own healing.  It's a place I've seen so much growth in but I know I'm not done seeing the redemption take place in healing the shame lies that I've believed since I was a little girl.  The lies that tell me I'm not good enough or that I'm not worthy of being loved by others. 

It's going to take bravely dialoguing with other women -- other moms, on how we can teach our daughter's to be their authentic, amazing selves while still lifting their girl friends up in spite of unique differences and inevitable conflict that will happen throughout these formative years. 

I am bound and determined to start this work because I desperately want to see healing and redemption among the sweet woman of my own generation. And, I want be a part of stopping this cycle of insecurity in my own daughter's generation.  I can't just sit back and watch the patterns repeat themselves. 

I don't want my own daughter to find herself next to your daughter in 25 years saying for the very first time, "Hey, you too!?".  I'm convinced that if we start praying and intentionally battling now for the hearts of these sweet girls that there can be another way. 

So, I guess the question is... who else is with me? ;)
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