The Couple Who Screams Together…

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I love this man. (Photo courtesy of CLG Photography.)

Sweat trickled down the middle of my back, and popped up in beads on my brow. The storm door smacked shut behind me as I traveled in and out of the house, arms stuffed with the day’s gathering. Cool. Hot! Cool. Hot! Cool. Hot! I lingered a bit in the air conditioned kitchen before heading out for the next haul. Unloading groceries in a 110 degree heat wave is a tiring chore, but hubs and I were making good time. 

As he heaved in two five-gallon water jugs, one in each hand, I marveled at his brute strength. It’s one of our many differences that I appreciate. Some of our other differences, though, have made the already difficult road of marriage and child-rearing a bit tougher to navigate.

Parenting is hard, yo. Two little ones born 23 months apart, the maintenance of owning 82 acres of Kansas earth, the pressures of mortgages, car payments, doctor’s bills…it’s enough to tear down even the strongest of couples. And although we’re much closer than we were even six months ago, I know there are many trials ahead that will test and refine our relationship.

All the while we were lugging in groceries, our young daughters, ages three and one, were screaming at us. Both overly tired from the heat, lack of naps and a day full of activity. There was nothing they really wanted, other than to get it out of their systems. Anna (the oldest) protested from the couch, writhing around with her pink security blanket, ducking for cover whenever we came into the room. “Don’t look at me!,” she snarled. 

Erica, meanwhile, stood several feet in front of Anna, in the middle of the living room, dressed only in her diaper. Her hair was wild from perspiration, and her eyes were red from sleepy rubbing. When we were finally finished bringing in the seemingly endless number of sacks, my husband stood in the archway leading to the living room…and screamed back. 

Erica immediately picked up on daddy’s antics, and with a reluctant grin on her face, stretched her vocal chords again. “Ahhhhhh!!!” Anna, however, was not amused. Her sensitive nature kicked into over drive (just like her mommy). “It’s not FUNNY! Don’t laugh!” 

By now, I was standing at my husband’s side, and screaming along with him. I caught his eye. It twinkled. We kept this up for a minute or two longer, before we broke down in laughter. I leaned over and kissed his lips, the stubble on his face a contradiction to the softness of the moment. Our girls looked at us in bewilderment, and for the first time, it was us against them. Us. A couple. Laughing at this episode of ridiculous insanity in our house. 

When we’re alone, we easily reconnect. But when we’re taking care of our girls, our focus is on them, and we’re momma and daddy, two ships passing in sometimes rocky waters. But at this moment, facing off against our beautiful offspring, we were one.

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Someone Please Make It Stop!

If I ever said I couldn’t wait for my daughter to get a little bit more independent, I take it back. If I ever said  I can’t wait until she’s (insert age here) so she’s a little less emotional, I take it all back. All of the milestones I celebrated and encouraged, I wish they’d taken longer to happen. She just turned three, and yet her development has gone into double-time. I can still feel the smoothness of the top her infant head on my cheek as I rocked her so many nights ago. I can still see the hilarious faces she used to make when she yawned as a wrinkly, squawking newborn. She is wonderful. And beautiful. And she’s ours. I delight in seeing her make new discoveries. But someone, please make it stop! Give me back that squishy little baby, that snuggly little toddler, that “I need my mommy for everything” girl of not long ago. She’s just growing up way too darn fast. :-(

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Photo Courtesy CLG Photography

Parents: Let’s Get This Starty Parted!!!

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Parenting is messy. But sometimes it’s more fun that way!

No, that’s not a typo in the headline. This is my toddler’s favorite new expression. One that she says all wrong, but I just can’t bring myself to correct. It’s the sparkle in her eyes, the delight on her face as dances around the kitchen and wiggles her limbs. 

Parenting little ones, at times, is like a party. It’s fun, unpredictable, and there’s always a mess to clean up afterwards. Some appreciate your efforts, others just show up and judge. But it’s fun. Or at least the intention is to have fun, no matter how it actually plays out. 

Before the guests arrive, your house is fairly quiet. You’ve spent time shopping, cleaning, fantasizing about all the fun to be had. Everything’s prepared, laid out in it’s proper place. Once the guests start to arrive, it gets noisier. But it’s a good noise. A great noise. Laughter. Embraces. Dancing.

At it’s peak, it’s loud, and the energy pulsing throughout your house is palpable. Memories are made, food is consumed, drinks are spilled. This is the stuff of life. Your cheeks hurt from laughing, your feet ache from dancing. But you don’t care. It’s worth the pain. And the mess.

When the guests start to leave, you’re a bit sad, but looking forward to some rest. Dishes are strewn about the house. Food is in the crevices of your couch. And there’s a smell. You’re not sure what it is, but there’s a smell. The silence rings in your ears, and as you lay your head down to rest, you start planning your next fiesta.

It only lasts a short while, but the planning, preparation and cleanup, are all worth it. So, parents, let’s get this starty parted!!!

Outsourced: Paying For Childcare When You’re An At-Home Parent

Our budding WNBA star.

At 4 a.m., I saw my husband off to work. I made him a cup of coffee to go, and watched him drive away on a 1.5 hour commute to his job site. A job site where he would be outdoors nearly all day in 100 plus degree heat, only to take short breaks in the air conditioned job trailer before heading back out into the blistering sun. He’s a hard worker, as hard as they come. I’m sure he would have loved to outsource part of his job today…like I did.

That’s right. I took my toddler to her old daycare, and kept the baby home with me. So technically, I outsourced half of my job. Why? Because I felt it was the best thing for my family, to give her much-needed social time, give me a little breathing room to work on a few projects, and give the baby some one-on-one time with momma.

When my former (amazing) childcare provider notified me of a temporary part-time opening, I jumped on it. It’s probably only going to be one day a week, and that’s just about right. She misses her friends there, and thrives on interaction with other kids her age. Besides, when you’re seven miles from any community, opportunities for regular play dates don’t always work out.

Even though our provider is very affordable, and I’m doing what I can to make up the difference, I still feel a bit guilty. My husband tells me he’s okay with this arrangement, but my wifey senses tell me he struggles with it, too. We’re on a tight budget, and can we really afford to pay for supplemental childcare?

I feel like I need to justify this decision to anyone and everyone who’ll listen. But why? If the girls are happy, I’m happy, and the bills are paid, what does it matter? If it all works out, I think I’ll be quite happy with this arrangement.

One-on-one time with a good book. Well worth it.

Why I’m okay with outsourcing my job once in awhile:

1. I loved the one-on-one time with Erica. She thoroughly enjoyed playing with any toy she wanted without fear of repercussion from big sister. I was able to watch and observe her without any distractions. Anna doesn’t really nap anymore, so I really can’t remember the last time I spent quality time with Erica like this. Bonus, I found out she loves playing basketball (and she’s quite good).

2. I actually got some things done. Now, instead of piles of paper and other oddities spilling out when you open the computer desk, things are neat and arranged. And there were five loads of laundry done, some freelance projects completed, dinner was cooked, and I even got to watch some daytime TV! (Watched while sorting paperwork. I’m not missing much.)

3. I miss my daughter. Now, I look forward to spending the entire day together tomorrow, and going about our “normal ” routine. She’s a hoot, and I have a blast with her (despite her toddler mood swings).

4. Anna is no doubt having an awesome day with friends. She’s reunited with her beloved Micah and Ian, and it’s like old times again. I’ve explained to her it won’t be every day like before, and she’s okay with that. I only had to ask her once to put on her shoes and brush her hair and teeth this morning. Once I told her we were going to Nelle’s, she was up and at ’em!

A Stinky Turn of Events:

I wrote most of this post (up to this point) before I went to pick up Anna today (dare I say while it was “quiet”). She was happy to see me, and had all sorts of stories to tell about her adventures. Once we got home, things got, well, interesting. Wrestle Mania started five minutes after we got in the door, and I was soon in my “nagging mom” routine, warning the girls to “Be careful or someone will get hurt!” And soon, it wasn’t the sound of the wrestling that was bothering me, but the smell. That’s right, wrestling has a smell…when the baby has a blowout. Poop. Everywhere. Covering the kitchen floor, Erica, and miraculously, not Anna. It was epic. Towels were sacrificed.

And then I had a brilliant idea. What if we could outsource this part of parenting? The poo part. Genius.

So, what is the arrangement in your household? Is it all parents, all the time? Or do you spring for an in-home babysitter or daycare provider? Do friends and family pitch in? I’d love to know! Also, if you’d like to come clean up the poo-tastrophes around here for a nominal fee, let me know.

Momazing Monday: Mother of Nine Proves Quantity and Quality are Possible

Can you tell which one is Angie? Hint: She’s wearing orange. :-)

Walking into her ranch-style home, you might not even know this woman has children. The carpets were clean and free of crumbs (unlike mine), the kitchen counters were actually visible (unlike mine) and there were no toys strewn all over the living room (unlike mine). It was relatively quiet (unless you count my little critters running around) and there was a general sense of calm (again, unless you count my little critters running around). Yes, you might think it’s a kid-free home, until you turned and saw nine perfectly-spaced 8×10 picture frames on her wall, one for each of her children. That’s right. Nine children lived in this home and not only was it clean as a whistle, but the children were well-behaved and the mom seemed…drum roll, please…sane.

So, how does Angie Doffing do it? “Oh, I just take it one day at a time.” This was her one piece of advice. Nothing earth-shaking, nothing complicated. She’s genuinely happy, and humble. So humble. That’s the thing that struck me the most about her. If I’d birthed nine children (and was still thin and gorgeous), I would wear a Super Woman cape, and ask people to bow down. Yep, I would.

But not Angie. She seems somewhat amused that she ended up having such an enormous family, as it wasn’t necessarily what she had in mind for her life. She wanted maybe four or five kids and said, “If anyone had told me as a young woman that I would have nine children someday, I would have told them they were crazy. I guess we’re just fertile.”

A smile crept onto her face when asked to name each of her children. There’s Christina (23, getting married in July), Nick (22, works in commercial graphics in Kansas City), Lauren (21, enrolled in Dental Hygiene program at Wichita State) Stacy (20, enrolled in nursing program at Wichita State), Emily (18, will attend Wichita State on track scholarship in the fall), Rachel (15), Matthias (13), Ben (11) and Kelly (10). That’s nine children in 13 years, and no multiples! Seriously, I would not only wear that Super Woman cape, but demand a trophy, from somebody, for cranking out all of those babies!

As if raising nine  happy children wasn’t enough, Angie and her husband Dave have faced challenges no parent wants to go through, severe and nearly fatal health complications with their sixth child, Rachel. Before she was even three months old, she’d undergone two heart surgeries for a rare condition called Tetralogy of Fallot With Pulmonary Atresia. It was touch and go for awhile, and at one point, Dave prayed for peace should it be his daughter’s time to go. Mercifully, she made it through those (in addition to one more heart surgery at age seven, and one for scoliosis this past year)  and today she is a thriving 15 year old. She will also need one final heart surgery in a few years.

Now, I know what it’s like around my house when only one of my children is ill. It can be crazy. Add eight more children into the mix, and my brain just starts to overload. Rachel’s condition meant round-the-clock care, feeding tubes, heart monitors and their trip to Michigan for her first surgery was the first time either Angie or Dave had flown. When asked how she handled the stress and strain, Angie’s answer came easily. “We had an incredible support network of family and community,” she replied. “They cooked meals, watched the other children, and just kept things running. We’re immensely grateful.”

But aside from family and community support, organization, and thrifty shopping practices, the biggest source of strength for the Doffing family is faith. Throughout the home were images from the Catholic tradition, and Angie credited Dave’s role as a spiritual leader as a source of inspiration. I know how much help from above is needed in my own home, so I imagine that four times as many children means at least four times as much prayer.

Something struck me as I talked with this soft-spoken, yet lively, mother of nine. Often, those unfamiliar with this style of family make dismissive remarks such as, “You know, one of those big Catholic families.” As if somehow, the family is one massive clump, and each child isn’t unique and loved. I can assure you this isn’t the case in the Doffing family, or in any other super-sized family in my hometown (a family with nine kids isn’t that uncommon around here). They say when you have more than one child, your love isn’t divided, but multiplied.

In Angie’s eyes, love x 9= a house full of happiness, laughter and support.

Momazing Mondays: I’ve decided to put my creative skills to use and tell the stories of mothers who are truly unique, inspirational and amazing. If I have enough stories, I’d like to post one at the beginning of every week. Please send me an email at catherine DOT poland AT gmail DOT com if you know of a momazing mother.