I pride myself on being independent.
I can't count how many times Caleb has tried being a gentleman and opening a door for me, and I am not paying attention and already opened another door for myself. And I can't help but wonder if part of the reason things have been so crazy is because I really needed to learn to rely on others, something I don't do easily or well.
I know everyone within earshot has heard me say it at least once in the last couple months, but seriously, things have been so crazy. And it was mostly self-inflicted with building a house and having a baby, but that didn't make it any easier. In less than two months we sold our house, then the sell fell through, then we sold it again, we moved out, didn't know where we were going to live until like two days before we moved, our debit card got stolen, our dog figured out how to escape the yard and kept doing so at very inconvenient times. And then I did my usual thing and went 2 weeks past my due date and was a hormonal mess for the last month waiting for him to get here. And finally, just as we were getting close to moving into our new house, all our appliances were stolen, leaving us feeling violated and sick inside.
And all along the way, I felt like the lesson was that I needed to learn to rely on Caleb and focus on our little family and just appreciate everything we have. I felt like a lot of people were hurting us or letting us down in some way, and I started feeling really bitter towards everyone. But as we start to come out the other side of what has felt like a dark couple of months, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the service we've received from so many around us.
I think my tendency towards independence makes me not very good at providing service to others. Sure, I will bring you a plate of cookies any time you have a bad day, but that's not really hard for me because I am basically always making cookies anyway, and you're doing me a favor by not letting me eat the whole batch myself like I usually would. But I admit whenever I have to provide the kind of service that inconveniences me in any way, I usually do it more than a little begrudgingly, and inwardly complain the whole time.
These last couple months we've just needed so much. We needed help moving, a place to live, someone willing to take care of our dog until we were in our house, endless babysitters and meals and just help that I am not very good at asking for. I'd rather do it myself. I'd rather starve than ask someone to feed me dinner, but that isn't really an option with two little kids to think of.
I feel like I've been pushed way out of my comfort zone. One of my favorite quotes says,

"When you come to the end of all the light you know and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly."

Ironically, I've always liked the "taught to fly" part of the quote, I guess because it implies you can still do it on your own some way. But I can say through this trial, I have learned how wonderful it is when you're given something solid to stand on. The friend who thought to arrange a meal train for us after the baby was born and all the friends who brought meals made things so much easier for us. We really needed it, but I didn't want to ask. Caleb's grandma not only letting us move into her basement without question, but never making us feel like we were overstaying our welcome or inconveniencing her even when I know that we are has been a huge blessing to us.
My in laws, who are always quick to jump to our aid, have been an incredible example of service to me. Without hesitation they took in our dog before we even moved out of our house. I was so nervous about inconveniencing them because he is a nervous Nelly who throws up at least once a day, but they never complain or make us feel like we're burdening them. The other day we went over to their house and saw a new bag of his dog food in the garage. In all the craziness happening in our lives, I completely forgot that he was going to need more food and that we should, of course, be the ones to go buy it. But my sweet in laws didn't even say a word, they just went and bought more food.
I have a hard time wrapping my head around that kind of service. Around the kind of service that is truly selfless and kind and wants no reward. Come on, when I bring you a plate of cookies, I at least look forward to the thank you.
So I am grateful for all the wonderful people in our lives who have helped us through these trials, and I am grateful for a chance to see the kind of person I want to become. As we move into a new house I don't deserve and have way more than anyone would ever need, I want to remember to selflessly serve where it's needed, to love those around me in a way that can only be described as Christlike.
I am learning not to worry so much about things working out, because they do. The Lord is aware of what you need, and is always watching out for you. Consider the lillies. But when you feel a prompting to serve, do it. And if you need something, don't be afraid to ask. I am always willing to bring a plate of cookies!

Auric's Birth Story

This being baby #2, I thought I mostly had this birth thing figured out. Especially when I went past my due date again by a whopping 13 days, I was sure I was going to have another big, hard-to-birth baby. However, I was determined for things to go different this time. One of the things that made Dayen's labor unnecessarily hard was that he was posterior, meaning face up. This can (and did) cause a lot of painful back labor. When I found out this baby was posterior too, I spent a lot of time researching it, and found you can usually turn your babies before birth, so I spent the last month of my pregnancy always sitting on a birthing ball, never reclining, and constantly being aware of how he was positioned so I could keep him in the optimal position for birth. It was kind of a pain, but worth it, because the day before my due date, my doctor confirmed he was in the optimal position. I was so excited! It made me realize there was a lot about my birth that I could control, and for months I had considered switching to a birthing center, but I kept changing my mind because I loved my midwife so much. But as my due date came and went, I got more and more anxious. My midwife was leaving on vacation soon, and I couldn't shake the feeling I was going to end up in labor after she left and not end up with the birth experience I wanted. So on a crazy anxious day I called the birth center midwives in tears and decided in the eleventh hour to make the switch.
We didn't tell anyone because we knew a lot of people would think we were crazy, but I was really lucky that Caleb trusted my gut and let me do what I felt like I wanted for this birth.
On the morning of Monday, April 2nd I woke up about 3:30 with contractions. I took a bath and then watched old reruns of Bewitched while I timed them. Within about an hour and a half they went from 5 minutes apart, to 2 minutes apart, but I wasn't too concerned because with Dayen, my contractions were a minute apart for about 12 hours before he was born. The contractions were starting to get pretty uncomfortable, so around 5:30 I woke Caleb up to suffer with me. I also texted my midwife and she was nervous that my contractions were already so close, so she recommended I come in. We decided I would probably be more comfortable in labor at the birth center than I was in Caleb's Grandma's basement anyway, so we decided to head in. Caleb's mom came over to take care of Dayen and we left around 6:30.
When we got to the birth center I felt like things started slowing down, and in the back of my mind I kept thinking I wasn't really in labor and they were going to laugh at me and send me home. So I did some lunges up and down the stairs for awhile, and then we went for a walk. We walked about a mile and I only had 3 contractions the whole time, so I really felt like things were stopping and this 2 week late baby was really never going to be born. So when we got back to the birth center I told the midwives, "I think I'm just hungry, can we go get breakfast?" So we walked to Bert's, which is right behind the birth center. We got an awesome breakfast and Caleb timed my contractions which were 2 minutes apart the entire time. He kept asking, "Do you believe you're in labor now?" but I didn't!
When we got back I spent awhile squatting by the bed during contractions to try to move things along. The contractions seemed pretty strong and were still close together, but in between I kept saying, "Is this really what it's supposed to feel like? This is so much easier than it was with Dayen... this can't really be labor, right?"

Superman Caleb providing counter pressure during contractions.

After a few hours I decided I wanted to get in the tub. I am a tub-lover anyways and the huge, awesome tub at the birth center made the contractions feel so much better. I wasn't sure if I'd want to have the baby in the tub or not, but the minute I got in the water I said, "Nope, I'm never getting out of here!"

After awhile in the water I realized I was starving again (which was ridiculous considering the massive stack of pancakes I ate that morning) so my midwife brought me a bowl of strawberries that I devoured in about ten seconds. I was trying to act like a dainty laboring princess, but I finally asked if I was allowed to go raid the kitchen for more food, and they said I was. (Whoo!) So I got out of the tub and went to the kitchen and found some cookies. Caleb was teasing me that I thought cookies were the best option, but really, when are cookies not the best option?
As soon as I ate again the contractions got stronger, and I realized how cool it was that I was able to just listen to my body and do what it needed to get through labor, rather than being stuck to a bed and just letting things happen.
I eventually got back in the water and things started getting a lot more intense, but in between contractions I was really happy and laughing and so I was still having a hard time believing this was real labor. Finally I had a contraction that was a lot stronger, and in between Caleb made some joke and I didn't respond and I heard my midwife tell him, "She doesn't think you're funny anymore!" and I think that was the start of transition.
From there things got really intense, and I stopped questioning if I was in labor. I started having to make noise through contractions, and those noises quickly turned into yells. For awhile they were still ok, and I even told Caleb, "I know I probably sound like I'm dying but I actually feel ok!" It was just like the contractions were so powerful I needed some outlet to let some of that intense energy out. Eventually I was yelling so much during contractions that my voice was going, and I was worried I wouldn't be able to yell anymore. (Because that should be a concern, right?) I started feeling like maybe I should be pushing, and they told me to just follow my body, so I would try pushing during contractions. But after awhile of that, it started getting really painful. Even when the contraction was over, my hips would just shake and hurt and I couldn't regain my composure before another contraction hit. But in my head I thought this must be the beginning of the end, so this is ok! We're almost done! Finally my midwife asked if she could check me because I didn't feel like he was moving down with each push, and she said I was only at 9 cm. So we got out of the tub to break my water, and there was meconium, just like with Dayen. I can't stress enough how, for me at least, labor is such a mental game. It was at this point that I started thinking: this is Dayen's labor all over again. I am going to need forceps to deliver another giant baby, and I can't have a forcep delivery without an epidural, and I can't get an epidural here. If I have to get one eventually, I want it now
It was crazy how the minute my mind changed, I wasn't handling the contractions well anymore. I was fighting them and yelling, "No, no!" whenever another one started. I was crying and telling my midwife I wanted to go to the hospital. She knew how close I was and was trying to help me get back to a good place mentally, but I wouldn't listen. I felt like they were trying to stall me leaving to the hospital, and I couldn't stand the thought of another contraction without an epidural. I think they finally saw how serious I was, because they called the hospital to tell them we were coming and I basically ran out of there and out to the car as fast as I could go. I was wearing an ugly pink nightgown that said "Hello Sunshine", no bra, and no shoes. We drove to the hospital and I had a few contractions in the car that were horrible. Never go for a drive at 9 cm, it is NOT. FUN. By the time we got to the hospital I booked it out of the car and still refused to put shoes on. Caleb had to go check us in so my midwife walked me back to labor and delivery. We passed a guy and his probably 7 year old son while I yelled through a contraction, and I'm pretty sure that poor kid got an interesting talk that night. (And will never be giving his parents grandkids now.)

When we walked into our room the only people there were a nurse and the respiratory therapist. They smiled and said Hi and I instantly had a contraction, leaning against the wall and screaming. They all realized how far along I was and kicked it into high gear, I have never seen people move that fast! Before Caleb could even get back there, they had taken my blood, started an IV, and they were starting the epidural.
In my crazed state I wasn't thinking and when they numbed my back for the epidural, I thought that was the epidural. So when I had another contraction I yelled at the poor anesthesiologist, "WHY ISN'T IT WORKING?!" He was really nice and was moving so quick to get the epidural going. He even waited to do the epidural in between contractions, something they didn't do last time, and that helped a lot. By the time that awesome epidural kicked in I instantly felt embarrassed about how ridiculous I must have looked in my very ironic nightgown with no shoes, just screaming at everyone in sight. But my sense of humor instantly came back, and every time my stomach tightened up I would just laugh and say, "I bet that one would have hurt!"
An hour and a half later I was finally dilated to a 10, and they brought in the mirror and told me we could try pushing. With Dayen, I pushed for about 3 hours before finally delivering with forceps, so I was already telling the doctor, "This probably won't work, so if the first few pushes aren't doing anything can we go straight to the forceps? I want to be alert this time!" 
They told me to try pushing and I watched in the mirror as in one push his head moved several inches down. I yelled, "It's working!!!" because I honestly didn't think it would! They told me to stop and then in two pushes he was out! 
At 6 lbs 8 oz he was almost 3 entire pounds smaller than his big brother! I was so shocked at how different it had been than Dayen's birth. (I still am! We don't even know what to do with a baby this small!) All in all it was about 14 hours of active labor, exactly half of my first, and as far as we can figure I was probably at 9 cm for about 4 hours. For the record, that's the only part I don't recommend. 

I think my midwives were worried that I would be disappointed that I made it so long just to cave and get the epidural in the end. But honestly, I am really happy with how his birth turned out. I know everyone says all that matters is the baby being healthy, but that's not true. It's the most important thing, sure, but it's not the only important thing. As the woman in labor, you are the only one who has to go through it. It can be scary, and tempting to just hand over to your doctor and say, "Do this for me. Make this as easy as possible." But in the end, you're the one dealing with the labor and birth and recovery. So your experience matters! And for me, that just meant having the birth I wanted and feeling supported through the whole thing, which is exactly what I got! I couldn't have had the same labor experience in a hospital setting, (They would never have let me go to Bert's for breakfast or quietly sit back and let my labor progress on it's own without any interventions) and the minute I wanted the epidural, I was really grateful it existed and that I was able to get it. I wasn't upset that my plans changed, just really grateful that when they did, I was still able to be supported and have the birth I wanted.

Me & My Due Dates

Next Tuesday. Here we are, less than a week away from my "due date", and I am doing what I have told myself for the last 3 years I wouldn't do. Just 5 more days. Tops.
I am telling myself I am almost done. I'm ignoring everything I painfully learned about this the last
time around, and I'm telling myself that this time, it will be different. This is the baby I'll laugh about,
and say, "Yeah, his older brother came almost 2 weeks late, but he actually came early! And the labor was quick, and easy, and totally pain-free!" Power of positive thinking, right?

It's been easy ever since Dayen was born to tell myself I wouldn't do this when I got the chance 
again. It's been easy to say, you are just a person who has long pregnancies. You should always 
plan on that. After all is said and done, what's two more weeks? 

It's been easy, until the last month or so. We sold our house faster than expected, and we have to be out 11 days after my due date. (I had Dayen at 12 days past my due date.) And I forgot that by this point, your patience is basically gone, along with your sanity. That’s the problem with going over: it’s not just a longer pregnancy, it gets exponentially harder every single day. You get bigger, and crabbier, and more uncomfortable, so you can’t help but spend at least a chunk of everyday thinking, “It would be really great if this baby would be born now.”

I was determined not to let it get to me this time, but of course it has. One of my friends went 12 days
past her due date last summer, and she posted asking people for natural induction methods. She got
all the advice you always hear: spicy foods, bounce on a yoga ball, curb walking. But I, with all my
birthing knowledge, told her, “Give up, go relax and tell yourself the baby is never going to be born.
That is the only thing that worked for me!” She later told me it was the only thing that worked for her,
too! See how smart I am?

But am I following my own advice? Um, no. I haven’t even reached my due date yet, but my
overly-controlling nature has me casually pushing the pressure points in your hand that supposedly
induce labor, and bouncing constantly on a yoga ball, and going on walks that do nothing but make
me more uncomfortable.

This is, by far, the hardest part of pregnancy for me. I know I’m in the home stretch. I know, logically,
every day I get closer to meeting the little guy. But it's still hard waking up every day, still pregnant. It's
hard every time someone asks me why I'm still pregnant.

And I won’t get on my soapbox about it, but no I’m not planning to be induced and no, I’m not scared
of another big baby. The only thing I can say is, with everything that felt out of my control the last time
around, I am forever grateful that I let my baby choose his own birthday. And that isn’t to start an
argument around inductions, or how anyone else’s birth went. You do what’s right for you. I’m going
to sit over here, eternally pregnant, doing what’s right for me.

Even if I completely lose my mind in the process.

Wow. Perfect.

I don't know what it is about the Christmas season that inspires in moms the sudden desire to do absolutely everything, immediately, and perfectly.
Or is it just me?
Lately I feel like I've been drowning in self inflicted ideas and projects that never seem to end. Some of it was genuinely Christmas related, but most were other, mostly unimportant things that I decide to do and then I have to do it right away and then I hate myself the whole time because it's just causing me stress.
If you've driven by our house this winter, you've probably seen our Grinch outside. He was an idea I had when I was about 2 months pregnant with Dayen. I insisted one day that I had to get the wood to make him right now. We didn't even have a truck, but we live about a block away from the hardware store, so we walked over and carried a giant piece of plywood back. It took over half the living room, but that didn't matter, because I was going to make it that day and then we would have a cute new decoration for Christmas.
That was in October. I didn't finish it until May. It actually sat in our house, completely untouched, for months because after one attempt I realize how hard it was to sketch a gigantic grinch on a piece of plywood, and I gave up.
My point being, ever since then, when I get a grand idea like that Caleb is usually good to remind me about the Grinch and make me wait to see if it's something I actually want to do, or something my insane brain thinks I want to do.
But this year he's apparently let me go rogue because I've been spending a lot of time working on a lot of Grinch-like projects. They don't take up as much space in my home, but they take up space in my brain. I work like a crazy person, trying to get an insane amount of things done in a shockingly small amount of time. Even when I succeed, even when I scratch everything off my to-do list for the day, I look around and realize: no one cares. I am the only one doing this to myself.
Yesterday, after a particularly rough afternoon of stupid projects that refused to cooperate, I think I got a fresh batch of pregnancy hormones and I ended up breaking down in tears in the middle of the kitchen. My sweet husband immediately came to my side to comfort me, and my shocked little boy tried to hug me and laugh and make me feel better. When Dayen saw that I was still sad, he suddenly realized that his dad must be who was making his mom cry! So gently but firmly, he pushed Caleb's legs until he had moved him as far across the room as he could go. Then he returned to my side to hug me again, like, "There you go mom! I got rid of him for you!" That lightened the mood and made both of us laugh.
Then today of course I forgot every lesson I've ever learned in my life, and in the hour before church I felt the weight of everything slowly dragging me down. By the time we sat down in sacrament meeting, I was fighting back tears again. I'll be honest, I was having a little pity party thinking how hard it is to be me. Everyone else in the world must actually relax once in awhile, but me? All I do is work, or work on things I don't even care about. And the part that was really dragging me down is that I feel like I'm failing at everything I do.
Finally, not even realizing I was upset, Dayen crawled into my lap. He had a bag of Cheerios he was eating at lightning speed, and he sighed contentedly and said, "Wow. Perfect."
Caleb asked him, "What's perfect?"
He replied, "A perfect mom hug!"
We both laughed, and I hugged him a little harder. It really hit me: that was perfect for him. Not a perfectly clean house. Not all his hand-picked presents wrapped under the tree. Not even a mom who was sweet and nice and patient all the time. Just sitting in church, on his mom's lap with a snack was perfect for him.
So why am I making this so hard?
Why am I putting so much pressure on myself to do everything, all the time?
Why do I let it drive me up the wall to have a sink full of dishes, or some unknown food stain on the stove?
Why do I let Facebook articles tell me I'm failing at every corner as a parent?
He's obviously doing OK. More than OK. Sometimes, he's even perfect.
So my Christmas gift to myself, and all the other moms out there who are crying in the kitchen about something that didn't go perfect, is to just try and let go. Try and see things through your child's eyes. If you're so worried about everything all the time, you're probably doing great. Now put down the hot glue gun and bottle of toilet cleaner, and take a break! All the Grinches get finished eventually.

When Luigi joined Mario

Yesterday, we found out we are having another little boy! This came over six weeks later in my pregnancy than it did with Dayen. At my first gender ultrasound, we were told 99% chance the baby was a girl. We were both kind of in shock, because we both have 3 brothers and have always felt like a girl for us might be as rare as giving birth to a unicorn. (Which sounds painful.) Then the next angle of the ultrasound she said, "Actually... it might be a boy." So for the next 6 weeks we went back and forth, but leaned toward the baby being a girl because it was so hard to tell, and with Dayen we knew right away and easily.
So yesterday, when the ultrasound technician told us with confidence that we were having a boy, we were both in shock for a second. And I will admit, there was a tiny bit of disappointment, which I instantly felt guilty about. Having one of each just seemed like the perfect way to do it. I had a girl name all picked out. I had even secretly bought some girly onesies and hid them from Caleb because he was afraid I would jinx it. So hearing we were having another boy made us feel slightly deflated at first. It was like, Oh. Another boy? This is like traveling back in time. And as weird as it sounds, it was almost a loss. Like one second we were having a daughter, and the next we realized she never even existed at all. 
But then the ultrasound got a good shot of his sweet little face, and we both commented on how much he already looks like Dayen. And I realized how many times in my pregnancy groups I have seen people be genuinely upset about their babies gender, and for the most part, it is always because they are having a boy.
Why is that? Boys are the best! Don't get me wrong, a little girl would be fun and different. But the more I think about it, the more excited I am for Dayen to have a little buddy to play trucks with. And it made me realize some reasons I am so grateful to be having another boy.

Boys don't need as much
Before our last ultrasound, I had a bunch of stuff in a bunch of carts on the internet ready to buy once we confirmed that we were having a girl. Things like pink swaddlers and floral car seat covers, stuff that we actually had but not in "girl prints". I hadn't even gotten around to thinking about clothes and bows and all the other girly stuff. Now, I can honestly say we don't need much of anything. Not only do we already have a bunch of boy clothes, but somehow even when they are tiny, boys just don't need as much. Buying the floral and the frilly is fun, but I'll stick to being the high maintenance one in the family for now.
Surrounded by Strength
Sure, in a few months I am going to be the only female in a very testosterone-filled house. (Even our DOG is a boy. I'm completely surrounded.) But I've lived with girls before... I had 9 female roommates at one point. And all I can say is, there's something to be said for living with people who use a lot less toilet paper and can open pickle jars for you.
He can be King
Sure, it's 2017 and being a girl is pretty great, but back in the day, I would have been put to death if I couldn't produce a son. Now that I'm having my second boy? I probably would have been the favorite wife who got to live in the biggest castle and have my own maid. You know... if I survived the birth. And the plague.
Luigi is all-around better than Peach
Dayen thinks Mario is pretty much the coolest thing ever, just after trucks and treats. Let's face it, his little brother Luigi joining the team was a great addition to the game. But Princess Peach? She is just the worst. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard, she has some serious damsel-in-distress problems, and even after Mario saves her from Bowser OVER AND OVER, she still leads both Mario and Bowser on rather than just shutting Bowser down like she should have done back in the 80's.
The world needs more tiny Caleb's
Let's face it, from his looks to his personality, Dayen is just a tiny Caleb. Only on rare occasions where he throws a loud tantrum or cries over nothing does anyone say, "Oh, I see the resemblance to Anndee now." Usually, he is mellow, easy going, and fun. The world needs more little Caleb's, and I'm not sure how many Anndee's it can hold.
Being a boy mom 
Overall, the thought of carrying another baby boy makes me smile because for the last two and a half years, being a boy mom has been pretty great. From holding sticky hands to impromptu cuddles, little boys are just about the sweetest thing out there. Watching him look up to his dad and want to be more like him (even though I swear they are already the same person) and seeing him learn and grow have been nothing short of a privilege for me. Every time he smiles and says, "Hi, Mom!" or randomly asks if I want a hug, I fall even more in love with this sweet little boy, and he has definitely paved the way in both our hearts for another baby boy to join our family!

The Terrible Twos

Can we have some real talk about 2 year olds for a second?

I don't feel like I can complain, because the truth is, everybody warns you.
Like, repeatedly. They don't call them the Terrible Twos for nothin.
We've all rolled our eyes in restaurants as some kid a few tables down throws a tantrum. Or left a friends house with a sigh of relief because their child was destroying everything and the parent seemed too tired to care.
But you can never be fully prepared to actually parent a two year old.

First of all, you love them so much. Like, there are times I look at Dayen and want to eat his face off because he's the cutest freakin' thing I have ever seen. There are times my heart melts into a puddle on the floor because something he is doing is so sweet and adorable. And every day, he says or does something so funny that I'm not exactly sure how I ever survived a day without a much-needed Dayen joke. And when he comes up and asks for a hug or tells me he loves me (or, as he's taken to doing lately, says, "Hi Cutie!" when I walk by) my heart is so full of joy that my life suddenly feels whole and perfect and complete.

But then. But then.

Inevitably, the two year old in him comes out. If we are all here to put off the natural man, then two year olds must have a natural toddler, and I have seen it, and it is not pretty. In fact, it is scarier than anything I've ever seen in a so-called scary movie. (Which, ok, I used to cheat and put my knees up and not watch them because I hate scary movies, but still.) In an instant, he can totally flip from my sweet angel child into a crazy monster I have never seen before. (Except now. Cause I see him way. too. often.)

It catches me off guard every single time. It's like somehow, this tiny person that I love so much is both my best friend...and my worst enemy.
I feel horrible even saying that. And that's exactly the problem: I love him SO much. I realize that he's only 2, and not really capable of expressing himself in an, ahem, healthy fashion. But lately it seems like all day every day, he is driving me to want to pull all my hair out. Where did he learn that banshee scream from and how do his lungs handle screaming like that all day? Why can't he just tell me when he's hungry instead of rolling around on the ground and throwing a tantrum until I guess?
And the real important question: is he enjoying torturing me as much as I think he is?

Two is just this weird transition stage. One minute they are your sweet, chubby, helpless baby, and the next they are a tiny, sticky-fingered human who can destroy a room in ten seconds flat and steals food off your plate like you are a peasant and he is King of the Universe.

So now, I would like to issue a formal apology to any parent I ever privately judged for having a screaming toddler in a public place, or a kid shouting NO at their parents fifty times in a row, or for ever assuming that meant your kid was a "bad seed" who behaved this way all the time.

I see now.

I see that the moment I became a mother, I entered a terrifying and dangerous relationship with a sweet little person who would one day poke me in the eye in the store and then laugh maniacally. I see that even the most seemingly difficult children are probably like sour patch kids. (Sweet on the inside, but definitely going to cut your hair while you're sleeping if they ever get the chance.) I see that I was just cocky to ever think I could raise a perfectly well behaved toddler, or to ever believe that I was actually doing it, because the moment I got too comfortable, the beast in him was unleashed.

I have been humbled. I am more than willing to hear any and all suggestions to help me get through the day, or to help this pregnant mom and her crazy toddler deal with our overly-large emotions.

But I am also grateful, despite the many times a day that I completely lose it and find myself bargaining for some peace and quiet with cookies and toy trucks, that I get to spend my days with this kid.

He is nuts, but I think he gets it from me. So we might as well be nuts together.

Cleaning (I know, exciting, right?)

Warning: this post is less exciting and more... informational. I know you usually stop by for the thrills, but this post is titled "Cleaning", so I guess if you've made it this far, you might as well carry on.
I don't know if it's just in my blood, if it comes from living with messy roommates for years, or if my professional-cleaning mother finally rubbed off on me, but I've realized since owning my own home that I tend to get a tad  OCD organized when it comes to cleaning.
My problem is, the way I clean generally looks like this. (From the scary perspective of inside my mind:)

The kitchen is dirty. I need to clean that.
No sense cleaning the kitchen until Dayen has a snack.
Shoot, this pantry is a mess. How old are these goldfish? I better clean this out while I'm at it.
Now I filled up the garbage. Better take that out.
Garbage day tomorrow. Take it alllll the way out to the curb.
Come back in. Forgot to empty the bathroom garbage. Might as well take that, and the office garbage out.
To the curb. Dang it.
I have passed this random fuzzy thing on the ground 50 times now but I'm just scared enough that it's a spider that I don't want to pick it up. Or get too close. Guess I'll just vacuum.
Everything. I'll vacuum everything since it's out.
Dayen finished his snack now.
And by finished, I mean he threw it on the ground. So out comes the vacuum again. I get him situated in his room, which I'm just now noticing needs to be dusted, and his toys need to be picked up for the thousandth time.
Do all that. Head to the kitchen because I'm starving, and realize it's a mess.
I should probably clean that.

Now I realize I'm probably a little crazier about this than your average bear. I know a lot of people just don't care about cleaning. But if you can empathize with me at all, then I have good news: I'm here to help.

A few months ago I was at a training with the wonderful photographers I work with. We were talking about goals, and one of the girls mentioned that she used to spend her entire weekends cleaning instead of with her family, so she started following a cleaning chart so that she could have weekends off.

After that, every Saturday that I found myself cleaning instead of hanging out with this cute family of mine, I thought of that. So I finally sat down and wrote out a cleaning chart, and made myself follow it.

Guys, I know how pathetic this is going to sound, but it seriously changed my life. Here's what my chart looks like:

I know it looks like a lot, but this was basically everything I was doing during the week anyway (only usually all at once, or more than once) PLUS all those things like pesky baseboards that I never got around to, because ain't nobody got time fo' that.

After the first week, I noticed a huge improvement. My house was all around a lot cleaner. When I did clean, I spent a lot less time every day. I finally got weekends all to myself. And best of all, whenever I noticed something was dirty, I just let it go. Because I knew I would end up cleaning whatever it was within a week. So I could keep focusing on whatever I was doing, rather than wondering how long it had been since I cleaned the toilet and worrying about it until it happened.

And it gets better: I don't follow it perfectly anymore. But because I've gotten good at doing almost everything on my list every day, I can skip a day here and there and not really notice. Like last week, we were on vacation Tuesday-Thursday. Rather than trying to do all those chores when we got back, I just left them for this week. No big deal, because they were all done the week before.

Go ahead and make fun of the cleaning nerd in me, but I have loved it. When I am struggling to want to clean that day, I just do my daily chore and then know I can be done for the day and still feel accomplished. Plus, did you notice? Those months with a 5th week, you don't have to do a monthly chore.

I know, it's the little things.

I finally got around to typing up my list, so I made a blank one for those of you who have been reading this post with rapt attention, because you can deny it, but I know you're out there. It took me awhile to get my schedule down in a way that worked for me, so feel free to steal things off my list or completely disregard it and find what works for you. I doubt anyone else out there has a booth in their kitchen with handmade pad covers that have to be washed monthly thanks to their messy two year old. (It doesn't take him an entire month to get them insanely messy, but that's when the magic of turning them over to the clean side comes into play!)

Feel free to steal this photo and print it off for yourself- it fits all on one page, or you can shrink it for 2 to a page and give one as a Father's Day gift this week. They will love it.

Just kidding. Don't take my advice on that.