Adventures in Mommyhood

I have several friends who just had babies and are going through those tough first few weeks. So, I thought I'd offer up a few morsels of comic relief for those hours in the wee morning when you feel as if you can't go on another minute. Truth be told, (as mommies know) being a Mommy is simultaneously the most challenging and the most rewarding job on the planet. Still, as high as the rewards can take you, a tough day can really bring you low.

This post is something I wrote and sent to my mom and a few friends just a week or two after Cam was born. I was desperately struggling through each sleep-deprived, hormonally-charged day and praying I (and my boys!) would survive my mommyhood. This is for you, Ashley, Connie, and Tara - I think about you often and am praying for you all!


A Day at the Barr's House with two boys under 16 months:

Kayden soaked his diaper through his clothes, so I took him to the changer on the pack 'n' play in our living room, and got him stripped and changed his diaper. Then, I made the mistake of putting him down before he was dressed, so I had to chase him around the living room and wrestle him to the ground to get a new suit on him. As soon as that was done, I hear (and smell) that Cameron needs a new diaper. SO...I get him over to the changing table and proceed to change his diaper. About halfway through this process, he lets out an enormous fart and poops all over the changer, me, and the new diaper, which I had unsuccessfully used to try and block this latest "installment." Lovely. And it gets better - lots better! :)

I'm in the process of getting this cleaned up when I hear water running. Water running? That's weird. So I look up to see that Kayden has reached up onto the dining room table and pulled over a nearly full can of Dr. Pepper (which I HAD placed out of reach...I thought!) and there is a huge puddle on the table that is pouring over the side onto the floor, hence the sound of water running. Then I see that my newly-changed 16-month-old is sitting directly under this Dr. Pepper waterfall, happily splashing around and laughing hysterically. So then I run over to Kayden (yes, I'm still covered in poop and had to leave Cameron buckled on the changer without a diaper on) and grab the nearest blanket to mop up the puddles on the table and floor, and get Kayden de-stickified and his clothes stripped off again.

I get back to Cameron, who miraculously hasn't peed all over everything, and get a new diaper on him. Then, I get him situated in the pack 'n' play bassinet so I can get myself and the changer cleaned off and get the soaked and poopy articles up to the washer. I get up to the washer, and dunk the pile of clothes and blankets into my blue "poop bucket," where I soak dirty stuff until I'm ready to wash. It's at this point that I realize that the last thing I dumped in the bucket was a pair of Kayden's dirty pants. Red pants. Yeah, the water had turned pink. So now I've just dumped a ton of (it figures) mostly WHITE clothing/burp rags/blankets into pink dyed water. ARGH! :)

I get the clothes and bucket rinsed out and in the wash, and rush back downstairs, relieved to find that my sons have not spit up, peed, pooped, or knocked anything over. Success! :)

All this - and it was only 10am!


Crib Acrobatics

Turns out that we didn't have to decide when to move Cameron from the crib to a bed on the floor after all: he let us know in no uncertain terms that it was time when he started flipping out of his crib. I've heard plenty of stories about kids who climbed out of cribs, kids whose mommies found them balancing precariously on the crib rail and screaming, and a myriad other stories about crib escape artists. But the only crib flipper (like that term?) I'd ever heard about was my younger brother Jakob, until now.

I should interject here (can I interject on myself? whatever...) that Cam has always been a climber. It isn't unusual these days to find him on top of the changer on the pack 'n' play we have in the living room, on chairs, tables, etc. In fact, I just went up to his room and retrieved him from the large oak changing table we have in there. He was standing on top of it, flipping the light switch on and off. My only clue that he was up was that his "white noise" machine kept going on and off on the baby monitor. Since we have the light and noise maker on the same circuit, I knew exactly what he was doing. Still...I have no clue how he got up there.

This has been going on for months and months. In fact, I think he was only around 9 months old when I turned around in the living room to find him on the TV. He'd climbed the coffee table (which is against our college-era, floor entertainment stand to keep the kids out of the stereo and DVD/VCR stuff...) and from there climbed on top of the television. Thank goodness he's tired of that "mountain" - it used to be a daily adventure. :) Of course, he's moved on from there.

We have a "pass-through" window from our kitchen into our combined living/dining area. Our table is huge, so we have it pushed against the wall so the boys have extra play space in the living room. One afternoon several months ago, I looked up from loading the dishwasher in the kitchen to find Cam laughing at me, and standing taller than I was. See, Kyler's sister was watching the kids that morning, and we have a kid-sized picnic table that the boys kept climbing on. She (understandably) didn't want her (at the time) 10-month-old learning this nifty trick, so she put it up on the table where they couldn't reach it. Or so she thought. She seriously underestimated the determination of her nephew. As it turned out, the reason Cam was taller than I was, was because he had pushed a chair over to the table (remember, he's only about a year at this point, and these are heavy wooden chairs! The kid is a beast...) climbed up on the dining room table, then climbed up on the toy picnic table, and then stood up on that. He was literally standing about five feet in the air. Crazy kid.

Okay, interjection over. The fam stayed with Kyler's parents for a few nights last week so we could catch most of the Big East Conference Tournament on TV. It was about 11:30pm and nearing (what we thought) was the end of the Syracuse/UConn game when Kyler and I very distinctly heard Cameron calling "Mama..." and then a few seconds later, "Mama..." It was like he was in the room with us. It startled us a bit, especially when we realized we didn't have a baby monitor on. Kyler went to investigate, and found Cameron halfway up the stairs (Kyler's parents have a nursery set up downstairs). Thank goodness he didn't get all the way to the top and try and get over the locked baby gate - that could have been very bad.

So, I took him back down to his room, where I found all of the contents of the top dresser drawer strewn about the floor, along with all of the diapers from the baskets under the changing table. He must have climbed out of the crib and onto the top of the dresser, where he just went to town with all of the interesting things in there. We picked up, turned the lights back off (he'd turned them on), turned on his lullaby machine, rocked and sang, and I tucked him into the crib with his taggie and blanket. He said, "night-night" as I left and closed the door. I walked up the stairs, closed the gate, got a glass of water, and sat down to watch the game again, and we heard, "Mama..."

He was on the stairs - again - in like 10 seconds! He had stood up, turned the light on in the nursery, flipped out of the crib, opened the door, and gotten halfway up the stairs in that short amount of time. So...crib days are over. There's a toddler bed in the guestroom at my in-laws, so we tried laying him down in there. Total freakout, as expected. After an hour of screaming (and I mean screaming, this kid has some pipes!) we gave up for awhile and Cam joined Daddy in the living room for what turned out to be six overtimes - until about 1:30am. He finally went to sleep - in the toddler bed - at around 3am (Kyler did most of the work after 1am - I love you, husband!) and stayed through the night. As soon as we got home, we arranged Cam's room and put the crib mattress on the floor. We've had a few rough nights this week, but mostly the transition has been wonderfully uneventful.

Now, if I could only get him to stop flipping over the back of the couch...

17 Weeks

I'm 17 weeks pregnant today! Each week I feel a little less nauseous, but overall, this has been a really tough four months. I'm sure that's at least in part because I spent the first three months teaching in someone else's classroom, taking two grad classes, and juggling every other part of our "normal" lives. However, even though the nausea has been pretty much the same, it has been more intense.

For example, I never throw up, ever. I just don't. I did some reading on this at some point during my pregnancy with Kayden and learned that everyone has a "nausea center" in their brain, and everyone's is a little different, causing everyone to deal with nausea differently. Before this pregnancy, I seriously cannot remember the last time I puked. Don't call me "lucky" just yet. With this pregnancy, I haven't puked a ton, but it hasn't been an out of the ordinary thing. In fact, it's been going on since the very beginning. And I've spent an inordinate amount of time dry-heaving. You know, that lovely gagging-vomit-reflex except with no puke. (And hence, no relief - if even for a moment - afterwards.) This has gone on for 17 weeks. Blech.

Okay - pity party over. I am hopeful! :) I haven't felt nauseous (yet) today! Yipppeee! I've been waiting for that magic day when the nausea just "turns off" like it did with both of the boys. Won't that be a wonderful thing! I like to try and tell myself that this has all been more complicated and intense because I'm having a girl. Kyler and I have both been getting this "girl vibe," but I really can't help thinking that's just because eventually, we'd really like a girl to add to our little brood.

It really amazes me how much of this pregnancy the boys are comprehending. Of course, Kayden is older (and had a crash course beginning when he was only 7 months old...) but Cameron is really starting to catch on as well. He mostly pats (okay, whacks) my stomach and says "baby, baby..." and every now and again will kiss my belly. But Kayden, this kid's comprehension is just incredible. Seriously. I know I'm his mom, and therefore obligated to moon over my child - especially my first born - and talk about how brilliant he is, but really, he is. :)

These days he is analyzing and synthesizing information faster than we can feed it to him. Yesterday, I ended up having to reschedule an OB appointment and had to take the boys with me (a task I found daunting even in the best of circumstances). It was also during naptime, which made me even more wary. But they both behaved brilliantly, and I was so thankful! After the nurse called us back, and we did the normal weight, blood pressure, pee-in-a-cup routine, she left and closed the door. Mind you, I had prepped the boys for the visit, but hadn't said much since we had arrived. Kayden looks at me and says, "That was the nurse, Mommy. Now we have to wait for the doctor to come in and check the baby in your tummy, right?"

I was impressed, but then, he's my brilliant two-year-old. The doctor came in and the boys got to hear the baby's heartbeat, which was nice and strong, and always gives me such peace to hear. I got the scrip for an ultrasound, but we haven't scheduled it yet. It's looking like we may go the week before or after Easter. Still haven't decided whether we'll find out the gender. My mom says, "Well, of course you will!" We'll see. Kyler will probably convince me, but I still think the surprise would be nice this time around.


Amazing Parenting Skills

It never fails to amaze me how the probability of some minor catastrophe befalling myself or my children increases exponentially the moment my husband walks out the door. Seriously, Kyler kisses us all goodbye, walks out the door, drives down the road, and inevitably something (or someone) crashes to the floor.

Today was no exception. Kyler was speaking at the Upward intermissions (the kids' sports program our church hosts) so he had to head out just before lunchtime. We've been doing some major cleaning this weekend, so we were all up in the master bedroom, up to our eyeballs in boxes of give away, give back to..., get rid of, and to be filed/sorted. The weather is absolutely gorgeous this weekend, so we had the master bedroom windows up (they're screened - don't worry, no one fell out!), and the boys were amusing themselves by listening to all of the outdoor sounds and talking to the neighbors' dogs.

Kyler left just as we were about to head downstairs for lunch. Kayden was reading a book on the floor, and Cam was playing with all of the piles of laundry in the hallway, so I ducked into our room for a quick bathroom break (remember, I'm pregnant...this was not an optional "wait it out" scenario!) :) Then I heard the crash, and Kayden says, "Uh oh. It's all wet!" I'm stuck in the bathroom, rushing like mad to get myself put back together and into the bedroom and make sure everyone is okay.

I found Kayden standing at the window, covered in water, glitter, and glass. Yes folks, glass. Somehow...(I've long since stopped trying to figure out how little boys get into things they shouldn't - especially mine - it's genetic.) Somehow, Kayden managed to get ahold of a tiny Winnie the Pooh water globe that was on one of the upper shelves in our bedroom (in like 3.0 seconds mind you - remember, he was innocently reading a book on the floor when I went into the bathroom...), take it over to the window, and break it against the window sill. Granted, he didn't do it on purpose, that's just not Kayden's M.O. Who knows what happened.

So he's standing there, stiff as a board, saying, "I'm all sticky." Indeed he was, and there were shards of glass everywhere. Praise the Lord Cameron had not heard this little fiasco from the hallway, and came in to check it out only after he heard my "Oh, Kayden!" (which I actually hear was a common response from Kyler's mom: "Oh, Kyler!" (common enough that when he got a bit older, Kyler went ahead and said it for her when he dropped something or made a mess!))

Needless to say, we got it all cleaned up no problem. No shards of glass in anyone's feet, just a bunch of sticky glitter all over the window, floor, and Kayden. When it was all taken care of, we headed down for lunch. I called Kyler to lament the fact that he always seems to miss these lovely mishaps, and he responds by telling me that (while he feels sorry for me, he really does...) it's all due to his "amazing parenting skills." See, he manages to circumvent all of these sorts of issues by preventing them with these mad skills of his in the first place. So, ladies and gentlemen, when you hear my husband is on the talk show circuit for his new book and lecture series on Amazing Parenting Skills, by all means, listen up! After all, you can't buy this sort of thing at Wal-Mart. These babies are cultivated by years (a whole 2 years and 10 months!) of parental practice and honing in on pure genetic talent. :)

Nevermind that he himself was the source of many a minor catastrophe growing up. I can hear his mom now: "Oh, Kyler...." :)


Noisy Weeks

So, I'm finding it really amusing that in the midst of one of the most ridiculously hectic weeks (who am I kidding? most are like this!), I started a blog and called it "Keeping A Quiet Heart." Ha! Maybe it was just wishful thinking. See, I'm actually pretty terrible at keeping a quiet heart, which is probably why Elisabeth Elliot's books speak to me so clearly.

My life is noisy. Like crazy, out-of-control, bang-your-head-on-a-wall noisy. I'd invest in a super-mega-pack of earplugs (gotta love Sam's Club!) but see, a great amount of all of that noise comes from inside me. Yes, I live in a house with three messy, dirty, stinky little boys - oh wait, one of them is big. :) Yes, I keep a hectic schedule and tend to invite busyness into my life. But really, I can do something about (probably) more than half of the noise I'm talking about.

This week was nuts. Most weeks are, but this one seemed particularly stressful. Grad school is just dragging me around the block this week. I had a major project due on Wednesday, and two papers and quiz are due tomorrow. The boys got sick, and then (probably because I let myself stress out) I caught a cold. And the diapers are running out - we have like ten left - so I've been rationing those the past two days.

Those of you who know me well, know I have a terrible time hiding my emotions. They usually just hang out there on my sleeve, broadcasting themselves for everyone to see, interpret, and judge as they like. Couple this tendency with pregnancy and well, it's just a losing battle. This drives me nuts. So, in the midst of my crazy week, I didn't do a great job of keeping a quiet heart. In fact, I think I probably kind of let my heart scream at a few people.

I remember that season of life toward the end of college when I was growing so much in my faith. Snippets of breakthroughs and hard convictions of faith are still very vivid in my memory. I also remember that I used to choose tiny little things to "work on" in my faith life. I'd purpose to complain less, no matter the circumstances, for an entire week. And then another, and another. Before I knew it, I was changed. Of course, it's so easy to slip back into old habits, and I often have. But see, the thing about me is that I'm stubborn, and I want to try again anyway. And the thing about God's grace is that it is given freely, no matter how many times we slip back into old habits, and no matter how many times we lose control of our hearts and let them scream at people (and ourselves).

Since there are only two posts on my blog, and since I'm still working out little kinks and adding things to the page, etc., I've found myself reading that excerpt from Keep A Quiet Heart alot. I originally wrote (copied) all of that to encourage some friends who were going through a difficult struggle. As is so often the case, God used those words to work on me, as well. And each time I read them, I'm moved to try again. Even during crazy, out-of-control, bang-your-head-on-a-wall noisy weeks.


Family Update Letter - Spring '09

I just sent out our latest update letter. For those of you who aren't on this e-mail list (and there are many of you; my facebook and blogging friends far exceed those of you who are actually in my e-mail address book), send me your e-mail address (to heatherfeather78@yahoo.com) and I'll get you on the list. Happy reading!

Keeping A Quiet Heart

Hi friends!

So I guess I'll begin this blogging adventure with a little background on how I chose the title for my musings. One of my all time favorite authors is Elisabeth Elliot. I discovered her books during a season of immense growth in my faith during college, and they quite literally transformed my Christian walk. (She is the widow of Jim Elliot, one of the five missionaries martyred in Ecuador and author of Passion and Purity, which you may have read/heard of).

My favorite book of hers (thus far - still haven't read them all) is Keep A Quiet Heart. It gave me such strength to be the woman God called me to be during one of the most difficult struggles of my life. It's a lot for my first post, but here's an excerpt from the book:


Jesus slept on a pillow in the midst of a raging storm. How could He? The terrified disciples, sure that the next wave would send them straight to the bottom, shook Him awake with rebuke. How could He be so careless of their fate?

He could because He slept in the calm assurance that His Father was in control. His was a quiet heart. We see Him move serenely through all the events of His life – when he was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He knew that He would suffer many things and be killed in Jerusalem, He never deviated from His course. He had set His face like flint. He sat at supper with one who would deny Him and another who would betray Him, yet He was able to eat with them, willing even to wash their feet. Jesus in the unbroken intimacy of His Father’s love, kept a quiet heart.

None of us possesses a heart so perfectly at rest, for none lives in such divine unity, but we can learn a little more each day of what Jesus knew – what one writer called the negligence of that trust which carries God with it. Who would think of using the word negligence in regard to our Lord Jesus? To be negligent is to omit to do what a reasonable man would do. Would Jesus omit that? Yes, on occasion, when faith pierced beyond reason.

This “negligent” trust – is it careless, inattentive, indolent? No, not in His case. Jesus, because His will was one with His Father’s, could be free from care. He had the blessed assurance of knowing that His Father would do the caring, would be attentive to His Son’s need. Was Jesus indolent? No, never lazy, sluggish, or slothful, but he knew when to take action and when to leave things up to His Father. He taught us to work and watch but never to worry, to do gladly whatever we are given to do, and to leave all else with God.

Purity of heart, said Kierkegaard, is to will one thing. The Son willed only one thing: the will of His Father. That’s what He came to earth to do. Nothing else. One whose aim is as pure as that can have a completely quiet heart, knowing what the psalmist knew: “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure” (Psalm 16:5 NIV). I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Does the intellect balk at that? Can we say that there are things which happen to us which do not belong to our lovingly assigned “portion” (“This belongs to it, that does not”)? Are some things, then, out of the control of the Almighty?

Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good. As I accept the given portion other options are cancelled. Decisions become much easier, directions clearer, and hence my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter.


A quiet heart is content with what God gives. It is enough. All is grace. One morning my computer simply would not obey me. What a nuisance. I had my work laid out, my timing figured, my mind all set. My work was delayed, my timing thrown off, my thinking interrupted. Then I remembered. It was not for nothing. This was part of the Plan (not mine, His). “Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup.”

Now if the interruption had been a human being instead of an infuriating mechanism, it would not have been so hard to see it as the most important part of the work of the day. But all is under my Father’s control: yes, recalcitrant computers, faulty transmissions, drawbridges which happen to be up when one is in a hurry. My portion. My cup. My lot is secure. My heart can be at peace. My Father is in charge. How simple!

My assignment entails my willing acceptance of my portion – in matters far beyond comparison with the trivialities just mentioned, such as the death of a precious baby. A mother wrote to me of losing her son when he was just one month old. A widow writes of the long agony of watching her husband die. The number of years given them in marriage seemed too few. We can only know that Eternal Love is wiser than we, and we bow in adoration of that loving wisdom.

Response is what matters. Remember that our forefathers were all guided by the pillar of cloud, all passed through the sea, all ate and drank the same spiritual food and drink, but God was not pleased with most of them. Their response was all wrong. Bitter about the portions allotted they indulged in idolatry, gluttony, and sexual sin. And God killed them by snakes and by a destroying angel.

The same almighty God apportioned their experience. All events serve His will. Some responded in faith. Most did not.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1Corinthians 10:13 NIV).

Think of that promise and keep a quiet heart! Our enemy delights in disquieting us. Our Savior and Helper delights in quieting us. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” is His promise (Is 66:13 NIV). The choice is ours. It depends on our willingness to see everything in God, receive all from His hand, accept with gratitude just the portion and the cup He offers. Shall I charge Him with a mistake in His measurements or with misjudging the sphere in which I can best learn to trust Him? Has He misplaced me? Is He ignorant of things or people which, in my view, hinder my doing His will?

God came down and lived in this same world as a man. He showed us how to live in this world, subject to its vicissitudes and necessities, that we might be changed – not into an angel or a storybook princess, not wafted into another world, but changed into saints in this world. The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.


I’ve many a cross to take up now,
And many left behind;
But present troubles move me not,
Nor shake my quiet mind.

And what may be tomorrow’s cross,
I never seek to find;
My Father says, “Leave that to me,
And keep a quiet mind."