The Self-Care I Am Worthy Of

I often don’t sit down to write until I feel like I may burst if I don’t sit down and get it all out. When I do that, oftentimes it all pours out of me resulting in an entire blogpost that I have basically been formulating in my head for a month. I will catch myself phrasing and rephrasing things to myself and ocassionally out loud. So here we go.

What do you say when you someone asks you how you’re doing? I used to be quick to get things off my chest, give my list of ups and downs, regaling friends and family with my stories. How does that change when you become a mom? Especially one who is doing this gig full-time and who hasn’t been alone in her head for 13 hours of the day for years and years?

People will ask me how I’m doing and sometimes I will say, “oh we’re fine” or “Ben is …” or “The kids are..” and other times I will say, ” I have no idea.” Because its true. Most of my hours are consumed with the needs of others and that is a wonderful way that God is teaching me to put others before myself. To consider that the world does not revolve around my feelings. Something I am prone to falling into.

I guess part of the reason I write is that I am always in pursuit of this girl I used to know named Katie. Have you seen her? I need time to process. It feels indulgent at times or that its somehow not legit enough to require time alone. The funny thing is that I’m the only one who considers it not worthwhile enough. My husband is practically pushing me out the door to have that time and the kids don’t even look up as I walk out the door. My Facebook keeps telling me that people are checking my blog site and yet here I am …

Questioning whether or not my voice matters at all.

Does what I contribute have value at all?

Why bother at all?

Nearly nine years into motherhood and I am figuring out that if I don’t care for Katie, who will? What can I say? I’m a little slow on the uptake. It’s not my husbands job to make me happy full time. My kids will not be my ultimate fulfillment no matter how much I love them. My home, though grateful I am for it, does not need to be immaculate and show ready at all times, thereby taking up all of my “free time”. Can we just stop and have a laugh for a minute about the concept of “free time”? Good one, Katie.

That’s why this January I decided that I was going to endeavour to do the work of self-care that I have been pushing aside for years.

I can sit and drink coffee, knit for hours, marathon a fun little show on Netflix and practically live in the bath, all in the name of self-care. When I do these things, I feel refreshed and pampered and like myself and its a comfort. But here is the thing, brownies for lunch is not *actual* self-care. Sitting on the couch for the duration of winter and pretending that the outdoors and fresh air doesn’t exist is not self-care.

Self-care does not mean shit I want to do. It means to care for yourself. And last time I checked, we are not only souls inside of bodies. We have bodies. We are our bodies. They are Gods gift to us and we need to be good stewards of them. I have not been a good steward of my health for a long time. Yeah, I’ve been busy making, growing, delivering, nursing, raising, and educating the little people God has given me, its true. But here’s the thing…

I have daughters, but I am *also* a daughter. I am also a child of God. I should be modelling the care of my mind, spirit, AND body to my girls. So here’s what I did.

I booked a doctors appointment for a PAP. A dentists appointment. An eye appointment. A physio appointment. A therapy appointment. I ordered an exercise and diet program. Nothing extreme but enough to radically change my days. I am getting uncomfortable over here, people. I am getting up and moving my body every day even though its not my idea of fun. I am dutifully eating my veggies and proteins and showing my kids that caring for ourselves as adults *is* work and we *are* worthy of the time and level of effort that requires.

To be clear here, I don’t give a hoot about what that number is saying on the scale. It is not a relevant part of this journey for me. It would just be nice to feel good in my clothes and sleep well at night and get out of bed in the morning without my lower back burning. And for my kids? They’ve asked, “why are you doing this, mummy? Why do you want to be strong?” And I tell them with a wink, “It’s so I can carry your Daddy in my arms.”

 

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To The Mom

To the mom I met at the library today with the six week old and the rough and tumble two year old who told me with tears in her eyes that she is just trying to figure it all out, 

To the mom trying to be mom and dad and doing it all on her own, whether she wants to or not,

To the mom feeling ashamed for pregnant “again” at her age with so many littles already,

To the mom who feels like she is just drowning in the dailyness of it all whether she has one child or seven,

I see you. I honor you for all that you are doing for others whether they appreciate it or not. You are good and worthy of love and care. Your sacrifices though mostly unseen are laying the groundwork for the kind of love and humility that are being sewn into your little ones. 


Each and every tear you have shed out of loneliness, desperation, exasperation or exhaustion counts for something. They matter to the heart of the Father who loves you unconditionally, even if you feel like a bad mom some days.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

You can do this. You *are* doing this. I think you’re a rockstar. If I could, I would bake you each a cake and let you eat it in delicious silence while I supervise all our kids in the backyard. You are a goddess. You are a damn superhero. You are choosing the better part and it will not be taken from you. 

I Have A Secret

Today was a special day.

It was a day we have discussed at great length, prayed about and waited for with joyful anticipation.

Today was the day we added to our family.

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You see, my husband and I believe that each child is a precious gift from God. A beautiful, unrepeatable, perfectly unique soul in need of love, protection and care.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, “You’ve already got three children! Isn’t that enough?” And by the worlds standards, you’d be right. We already have more children than most.  Thankfully, we serve a generous God who loves to give good gifts to His children. He always wants to give us more. More love, more joy, more strength, more courage, more laughter and more babies. A whole life of more.

So I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

I actually have seven children. Each of them very precious to my heart and an important part of our family.

Before our oldest daughter came along, we lost two babies by miscarriage. We named these two children and every night as we say our family prayers we conclude with, “St. Matthew and St. Rosalie, pray for us” Those little souls sit at the side of Jesus and we know with confidence that they intercede on our behalf and watch over us as we (hopefully) grow in holiness each day.

Next are Lucy, Abigail and Oliver. These three sleep under our roof, eat at our table, laugh and play and grow between the four walls of our home each day. It is a blessing to watch them grow and see them develop relationships with each of their siblings.

Then there are our far away children. We now sponsor two beautiful little girls in Bolivia through Chalice, a Catholic Sponsorship program that is listed as one of the top-rated charities of 2013. I’ve shared about our first sponsor child, Santusa, here before and now I’d like you to meet Alejandra (photo above). She is new to our family and just a few months older than our oldest daughter. I see their beautiful faces every time I walk through my kitchen and see their pictures on our fridge and I am reminded of these words,

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:35-40

We might not be able to save the world Avengers style but every single day we can be the change in someone’s life that provides them food, shelter, education, medical help and the knowledge that their life matters. For $33 a month is there some sacrifice you could make so that someone else might simply live? If you are reading this and feeling challenged, I would invite you to pray about that and ask yourself why.

Sponsoring children has connected us more deeply to those in need around us and in turn to the heart of God. My prayer is that through our example our children will grow to understand how important it is to do their part, no matter how small, in being Christ’s hands and feet in this world.


 

Time Flies

It’s 11pm and I’m doing that thing where I stay up too late and then look through old pictures from when the girls were two and one and it makes me emotional. The time is going too quickly. Oliver is suddenly seven months old and I just want time to stop. But it won’t. Time stops for no one and no thing. Babies grow.

If I really think about why I don’t blog more often right now.. that is my reason. Babies grow. I am busy doing my best to drink it all in.. to hug and kiss and smile and nurse and sing love over all the little Andrews babes, because they just keep growing. Lucy will be five next month and I am so not ready for that. It just makes me ache for all the times I’ve been overtired and taken it out on her or missed out on some gorgeous thing she was doing because I was too busy being selfish in some way. Some of that is just part of life. We do our very best as parents and of course we love our children but we cannot realistically be present and “on” every moment of the day. We are only human. I trust that God sees my small sacrifices and that He is the one who keeps filling my heart to bursting with all their sweetness.

Like how Oliver lights up like a Christmas tree every single time I walk into the room. Like I am the only girl in his world. The way Abigail keeps asking me at nap time to stay with her and says, “mama, would you please tickle my arm?” and sweet Lucy, always asking when we can go on a date, “just us two girls”..  So all I have to offer here is love. Me loving my kids imperfectly. Me loving my husband imperfectly. Thankfully, my God is perfect. He is the one who makes right all of my wrongs. He is the enough for all of my not-enoughs. And wow, am I thankful every single second for that.

DSCF2048 DSCF2044 DSCF2029 DSCF2028We’ve signed the girls up for their first round of swimming lessons and they start this coming Monday. I cannot wait to see them in the pool and take about five hundred pictures!! I hope you’re enjoying your summer as much as we are. Bless you!

PUPPP Rash

Dear mama with PUPPP rash,

Firstly, I want to tell you that I am so sorry this is happening to you. There is really nothing I can say to make the itching stop but trust me when I say I know how you feel right now. There is nothing worse than being awake half of the night because you cannot stop scratching! No matter how tired you are and you lay there awake thinking.. will I ever sleep through the night again?

Which brings me to the second thing I want to tell you.. You are NOT alone! Before my rash started, I had never heard of Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), let alone ever met anyone who had it. It was only once I started looking it up online in my desperation that I came across any kind of information, help or support.

My PUPPP rash started when I was about 32 weeks pregnant with our third baby, our first boy. It started across my chest and I thought perhaps it was just a heat rash. This went on and on and suddenly it started to spread. It covered my chest, my arms, my legs, my back, my bum..actually it covered literally my whole body except my belly surprisingly!! I was in agony. There were days I couldn’t even leave the house because honestly? I couldn’t bear to wear clothes. When the fabric touched my skin it was like being lit on fire or being covered in ants. I cannot tell you how many creams, oils, ointments, soaps I tried to no avail. I was desperate and I was exhausted. I cried everyday for weeks on end praying for some sort of miracle to intervene. I prayed for early labor. Nothing. I would go to bed at 9pm and scratch myself raw or until I would bleed and when I couldn’t take it anymore I would get out of bed…at 11pm, 1am. 3,4,5am you name it. I prayed day would come so I could just get on with things and pretend like nights didn’t exist. Those days were really hard. I would get into the tub or shower and look at my body and all I could see was rash. Bright red, raw, angry skin all over me and I felt ugly. I didn’t feel like myself when I looked in the mirror and it was such a cross. All I wanted was to feel beautiful and glowing with my growing belly but I just felt exhausted and shitty to tell the truth. I prayed day and night for our baby to come early, to come on time and then just ..now! anytime now! But our little guy just wasn’t ready and he went nearly a full two weeks past his due date.

I’m not trying to sell you anything. I don’t have a solution because there really isn’t one. Each woman’s body is different. I tried so.many.things. to make the rash go away or at least give me some relief if only for an hour. Here is what worked for me..usually I would have a hot shower or bath once or twice a day and slather myself up with one of the many creams I tried..PUPPP rash prescription cream seemed to help but I found it a little greasy on my skin. The other thing I discovered online and tried because I was desperate was dandelion root capsules. I bought them at a health food store and I took 2 capsules 3 times a day. This wasn’t until nearly the very end of my pregnancy but I will say that within four days of taking them my skin started to heal..it scabbed up which was also itchy but more of a dry itch and withing a week it was started to clear up a little.

There is hope! There is a beautiful baby waiting for you on the other side of this nightmare, I promise. Be encouraged! You are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not being punished. God did not give you this rash..but he is allowing it for whatever reason. Although a real cross to me, I can say that I have never grown in patience or empathy quite so much as when I had PUPPP. God has a plan in all of this and thankfully, that sweet baby is going to be so perfectly beautiful that it will wash away the disappointment and hurt you feel now. Our sweet Oliver is such a joy. He is nearly four months old and has blessed our home in so many ways.

…now here is the part I don’t want to add. My rash came back. I know you want to click away now but please don’t. My rash did clear up after Oliver was born but it recently has come back. I have one decent sized patch across my chest and under my breasts again but it’s not all over my body and it isn’t nearly as painful, raw or angry as it was last time. The marks on my legs are starting to fade and I might even wear shorts this summer! haha!

In the end, I just had to take it one day at a time. One hour at a time sometimes. Surround yourself with people who love you, will listen to you and just take care of yourself. Keeping busy helped me a lot..I found the itching was much worse at night and I think it was because I was so tired by the end of the day and I would put my guard down and scratch way more making it then harder to stop. Just know that you really are not alone and that I pray for you all the time, mama. Keep focusing on that sweet baby coming..and don’t feel you have to keep up appearances for anyone. Sometimes pregnancy just sucks and it’s hard, even if the growing baby is loved and wanted and an answer to prayers. What you feel right now matters and I hear you.

The only other thing that truly helped me during that time was truth. Having my husband pray with me and reading scripture. Here are some that helped me..I pray you are able to find some comfort in them, too.

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Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

Desperate

I am enjoying a rare quiet moment in our household. All three of my children are asleep in their beds and it is 1pm. I know it is a blessing, and oh wow, am I grateful! This Easter I decided to buy myself a new book I have been wanting to read since I first heard it was coming out. Written by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae, Desperate is like a big, deep breath of fresh air for a mama’s heart. I was so happy when Easter finally came and I could crack open my new book.

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I really feel like this book can help you whether you have one child or ten.

We, as moms, are all doing our very best to love our kids and give them the best start we can at life. My greatest desire is that my kids would someday grow to have a relationship with Christ. My hope is that they would know his undying love for them, his mercy and the amazing plans He has in store for them.

As their mother, I am the first Bible they are ever going to read. If Ben and I are loving, patient, kind and merciful with them then they will likely grow up believing that God is all of those things as well. If I am always cranky, nagging and grumbling through our days than how are they supposed to know that the God we serve is good and worthy of the many sacrifices we must make in motherhood.

I cannot give what I don’t have and if I don’t make time for myself, for my marriage and for my relationship with Christ then my tank is always running on empty.

That is why I am desperate. I am desperate for more of Jesus and His truth in my life. I am desperate for babysitters so I can enjoy the company of the amazing man who chose me and moved clear across the world to be with me and raise a family. I am desperate for mama’s night every month when it rolls around, to hear hilarious and wild stories of what is happening under other mama’s roofs and the antics their kids get up to. I am desperate for a latte and a good book or magazine in the quiet of Chapters all by myself every now and again.

I was supposed to go out the other night by myself to get a little head break and I just didn’t want to..which is not like me. I said to Ben, “Why don’t I want to go out tonight?” and he said, “Because at the end of the day it feels like you are just one more person YOU have to take care of. You are taking care of everyone else and you’re exhausted.” BINGO. It’s true. When I put myself last, I have no energy left to take care of anyone. When I make time for a bit of prayer, a shower, a coffee…everything looks different. Less stressful. More enjoyable. More peaceful. And don’t my husband and kids deserve that woman?

God is not a tyrant. He doesn’t want you burning yourself out and being a martyr, taking care of everyone else but yourself. God loves you! and me! Ridiculous, terrible at housekeeping, ungrateful, taking my crazy day out on my husband, bad cook, ME! and YOU! (insert all of your stuff here) YOU! He made us and He wants us to take care of ourselves because seriously? When we don’t take care of our mama selves, we are truly taking care of no one.

All of this to say…I am really enjoying my new book and I think you should read it too! oh, and I’m knitting Oliver some little mittens for next winter. I’m no longer behind on this year’s knitting. I’m on top of next years!

 

Handsome McGee

A few weeks ago I won a great giveaway over at Small Things. The prize was a gorgeous Easter basket filled with lovely, Eco-friendly kids art supplies from Stubby Pencil Studio. The basket didn’t arrive in time for Easter unfortunately but it did come in on Tuesday and has made for a fun Easter week of little surprises for the girls. Included in the basket was a handful of Easter cards for the kids to color. It made for a nice pocket of quiet time while their baby brother had a nap the other morning. Stubby Pencil Studio products are really, really good quality and the colors come out quite bright which is important to me. There’s nothing worse than coloring with a red crayon that comes out pale pink on  the paper, ya know? Now that I’ve tried their stuff and like it so much I will probably order through their website when I’m looking for something special!

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On a totally unrelated note, I am not going to sugar coat it by showing you a bunch of lovely, colorful pictures and have you thinking all of our days are awesome surprises in the mail and rainbows. These days in the tail end of winter have been long and dull and I have found myself lonely and grumpy a lot. There’s just something really irritating about having to microwave your cup of coffee three times and still only getting about 2/3 of the way through it. I am extra thankful these days for a super helpful husband, a sister to call and cry with on the phone and a night out with a dear girlfriend. Life will not always be so intense, I know, but man..three under five? Buckle up, mamas. It is one wild ride! Luckily, the pay is GREAT! Check out this Handsome McGee (Abigail’s nickname for Oliver) who just turned 3 months old…

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