Shared Boys Room, [With Bunk Beds!]

I think I understand summer nearly as well as my friend Olaf. Or at least that’s what my husband will tell you when we return home from vacation each year with an IKEA haul. Instead of rest and relaxation, I like to use the extra set of hands to change up all the things that have been bugging me while he’s been chugging away at work all year. I’d like to think this summer he played a small part in the madness when we found ourselves comparing beds to move Landon up to a “big boy bed” and he said, “Why don’t we just buy bunk beds so we won’t have to do this again in a couple years.” I took a few minutes seconds to mull that over and jumped on board.

That might lead to the question: “Beth, Cohen is only 7 months old; why in the world did you buy him a twin-sized bed!?” But sweet baby Cohen is making out in the deal because we decided to make his stay in the playroom more permanent and took down the pack-and-play and set up a crib. I know tons of families in small spaces make it work with kiddos sharing spaces but it just hasn’t worked for us. So Cohen gets his own space in the playroom, which is conveniently located next to our bedroom, to make the middle-of-the-night feedings he can’t seem to give up a little closer.

And sorry if this is deja vu. We were totally talking about this eight months ago. Away we go:

shared boys room | hey, beth baker!

That’s the MYDAL bunk bed from IKEA. We slid Rubbermaid bus trays [made to bus tables at restaurants] under it to store toys and prevent toys from rolling under there as easily. And we layered a couple rugs… because that’s totally a thing people are doing now, right.

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More toy storage from some EXPEDITs.

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This crazy collection of toys would have driven me nuts before kids but now I love it because we just rotate out what they’re playing with the most and the easy access means less rummaging and dragging out everything they own.

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I made these paper mache letters from a cereal box and some masking tape, and then I covered it with maps and modge podge. So fun and so easy!

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That map has been attached to the wall from two and a half years with painter’s tape. So when I saw those adorable picture hangers from Young House Love at Target I got super pumped!

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Can’t leave out the kids current favorite! My mom bought this for Landon’s third birthday and everyone loves it! They are building non-stop. And Landon doesn’t even realize all that twisting and turning and banging is great for coordination and wrist strength so it’s a therapy win as well!

Parenting Is Glamourous*

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Manufacturers and retailers of baby items are to blame for the glamorous view I had of parenting in what is now affectionately referred to as the PK era. Before kids we went to the movie theater. I wandered aimlessly around Target. We stayed at our friends’ houses so late after dinner we’d just sleep over. And then we went on a Spring Break trip and came home with a baby in utero. We were beyond thrilled. We set up registries and had wonderful baby showers. I loved to kick back with the latest Babies ‘R Us catalog and dream the afternoon away. There are no tantrums in the Babies ‘R Us catalog. There is no sass in the Babies ‘R Us catalog. There are no mommies covered in poop. Did y’all know there would be this much poop? On you? But for all of the days you get poop rubbed onto your favorite teal colored skinny jeans, there are snuggles and kisses. There are sweet smiles and tender hearts. It doesn’t balance out because the scales tip so far into the “everything is awesome” range. [Lego movie? Anybody?]

So parenting is gross. And awesome. And sometimes you find yourself saying things that sound just like your parents. Or things you would’ve found so strange PK. Or things you hope the strangers walking by you don’t overhear [or do overhear if it's a couple teenagers in need of a reality-check].

But sometimes you’re trying to be a good parent. Provide for your child’s needs. And they just make you say the most ridiculous things. You know, like:

Okay, don’t lick me for real though.

Please get your hot dog off my leg.

No. You’re not a fascist, you’re the fastest.

No. Babies do not come out of breasts. Please stop touching me.

Share that piece of trash with your brother. He wants to look at it too.

*False. Parenting is not glamorous. But it is rewarding. It is challenging. And it is crazy beautiful and fulfilling.

Doll Fashion Girl

If you’ve met my daughter, you know she is super creative. Her thoughts, her drawings, her imaginative play– her creativity knows no bounds. When she asked Chuck and I if she could have a blog a few days ago we laughed and laughed. And then we got on board. We asked her what she wanted to name it and she said Doll Fashion Girl, which I imagine comes from the song she serenades us with that goes, “I’m a fashion Girl. I’m original.”

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Instead of using the artkive app like we have in the past, we decided we’d throw her creations up here. Her first portfolio. I love this kid.

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Let’s Be Serious

Where to begin?

How about a nice pie chart of my mental focus presently:

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[Forgive me, husband, for the utter and complete lack of scientific rationality in this "chart".]

I don’t think I could keep this up for long. My mind feels spaced out. And maxed out.

Some things I love and am thankful for- relationships and life. Ever-present and often redeeming.

Usually I like feeding the kids and creating fun lunches, but lately they want to eat constantly. Like every hour. Which leaves me in some constant flux of, “No you can’t eat; I just fed you.”, “Yes you can eat; what would you like?”, and “No you can’t eat; I haven’t even finished cleaning up from the last time you ate.”.

Some things are fleeting. I mean I know Cohen will eventually stop waking up at night and I won’t spend my days thinking about how tired I am. Potty training will eventually click for Landon. Right? Right!? I will eventually get everything packed for vacation.

The summer bucket list and compensating for focusing on Landon so much are related. As in, the bucket list was created in an effort to not get swallowed up by all of Landon’s present needs. To be intentional about having a memory-filled and family-focused summer. [I'll share our list soon.]

And then there’s Landon’s therapies.

Hm.

A long time ago I told you he qualified for our state’s early intervention program. When he was tested at 22-months-old he scored as a 9-month-old for his verbal communication skills and an 11-month-old for his adaptive behavior skills [which is sort of hard to briefly explain, but that's basically self-care and fitting into his environment]. We started speech therapy and soon added occupational therapy and they changed his life. Really. I am so thankful that I trusted my instincts to have him tested when people were telling me he was “just a boy” and he would “grow out of it”. He went from not having the trunk support to sit unassisted for more than three minutes to being able to climb and run and jump and… anything! He worked hard to gain strength and overcome low muscle tone. He is a champion! But speech-wise… He plateaued. Progress has been hard and very slow-going.

Our therapy coordinator made all the arrangements so we could begin the process of transferring his therapy to our school district when he will age-out of the early intervention program at 3-years-old. We had our yearly meeting, where we talked about the goals for Landon we set a year ago, and I couldn’t help but get excited about all the progress he’s made. So he’s not saying any spontaneous words, but he’s also not inappropriately touching strangers! I left the meeting feeling prepared for his eligibility evaluation with the school district.

The day of the evaluation came and [thankfully] it fell the week after school was out for the summer so Chuck watched the other two kids while Landon and I went to the meeting. I knew there were going to be a lot of people there because I’d been sent some paperwork which listed everyone’s role [This is the name of the speech therapist, this is the name of the school psychologist, etc.]. Inside the evaluation room, Landon and I were introduced to the six [SIX!] other people present.

Did I mention he was in underwear? I’m in the ‘ditch the diapers and don’t look back’ camp. Yeah…

Because Landon is amazing and one of the nicest, friendliest kids I’ve ever met, he wasn’t at all intimidated by all the new faces. He jumped right into playing with the puzzles, cars, and blocks with new “friends”.

And then every few minutes he would start holding himself and gesturing that he needed to go potty. We’d scurry down the hallway, out of the office, and into the public restroom where his eyes would widen taking in the stalls and his hands would cover his ears when someone turned on the faucet or flushed a toilet. [Public restrooms seen through the eyes of someone with sensory issues are downright hellish]. Overwhelmed by the whole experience, he would throw himself on the restroom floor [gross] in an effort to control his sensory input. I would then pick him up, dust him off, and walk him back to the evaluation room. [repeat x 15]

Eventually, two and a half hours [and one very big soak-the-shoes kind of potty accident] later, the evaluation was complete. The first thing one of the evaluators said was, “I know we’ve just met him, but I’m pretty sure we’re all already in love with your son.” Yeah, he definitely has that effect on people. We were then told he qualified for therapy related to communication, adaptive behavior, and social/emotional behavior [We assumed he would only qualify for his speech]. He was cited with having “sensory issues”. The speech therapist said she’s very confident he has both oral and verbal apraxia. He just barely scored in the “clinically significant” range for autism spectrum problems, which is the rank above “at risk” where he scored for attention issues [I feel compelled to add here that I genuinely don't believe my son has autism, but that he has some characteristics that autistic people also tend to have].

[In case I lost you at apraxia.]
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So kind of a big deal, right? And totally worthy of all that head-space and processing time. I’m trying to prepare for this meeting coming up in the next few days where we’ll decide how to get him therapy [Like: Should he go to a special preschool? Should we start paying for private speech therapy?]

But [and maybe this is crazy] my biggest take-away from reading the 14 page report I received about my son after the evaluation was:

My child has special needs.

I mean I’ve said that before. And it doesn’t change how I see him. But I usually minimize it by thinking, “There are so many kids with so many problems worse than this.” Maybe that’s doing my family a disservice. Maybe that’s dismissing the extra care everyone needs: Landon to receive extra help and patience and Lucy and Cohen to receive more intentional time. Sometimes just the thought of that is overwhelming. I’m scared there’s not enough of me. That as I give more of me, the quality given decreases. I can certainly see that to be true for my household duties. Nothing ever feels clean. Dinner always feels hasty.

How should I spend my time?

I had Lucy answer the questions for this Five Love Languages of Kids survey and, much to my surprise, her top love language was time. I thought for sure it was going to be receiving gifts because she never forgets who gives her things. I had to dig a little deeper and ask her what kind of time spent with me she was looking for. She doesn’t like shopping or running errands. What she wants is for me to sit on the floor and watch her play Barbies. She wants me to play board games with her [and let her cheat ;)] while the boys sleep. She wants to make cookies and brownies and cupcakes and layered cakes and pancakes and waffles. She wants me. A lot of me.

I pray a lot about not feeling guilt. Guilt that I don’t have time to give her. Guilt that I’m not spending extra time snuggling Cohen after I feed him. Guilt that I didn’t make Landon attempt to say the word of what he wanted for lunch after he brought it to me. Guilt that we didn’t do our ‘first words’ flash cards today. Guilt that Chuck gets my gizzards [unwanted extras if you weren't raised Southern ;)].

That’s where we’re at right now. If you’ve made it this far, I feel fairly certain you care for our family. Thank you. Seriously. From the bottom of my overflowing heart.

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That Time Mindy Kaling Gave Me A Gut Check

So here’s a spoiler alert for your Sunday afternoon: My name is Beth. I am a nerd. I love to read.

I had to stop reading for a while because it felt like it was all I wanted to do. And I never want one hobby to be all-consuming. But I recently picked back up the book reading device and started reading through the list of books I made while I wasn’t reading [nerd alert].

On the list was Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). It’s proving to be as funny as I hoped it would be. I think the book’s central message can somewhat be summed up by: “So you’re in high school and you’re kind of a nerd but you’re into cool stuff and that’s going to work out for you in the end. So be a good person and don’t do stupid stuff and, ultimately, with enough drive you’ll be able to achieve your dreams” [or something like that].

I’m reading the book. It’s funny. I’m laughing. And then all sudden she pulls out:

“I don’t think it should be socially acceptable for people to say they are “bad with names”. No one is bad with names. That is not a real thing. Not knowing people’s names isn’t a neurological condition: it’s a choice. You chose not to make learning people’s names a priority. It’s like saying, “Hey, a disclaimer about me: I’m rude.”

Woah, Mindy.

Woah.

Mindy Kaling Gut Check | hey, beth baker!

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Lucy Lately

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[While watching Busytown Mysteries]
Pig Will and Pig Won’t walk across the screen.
“Those two, always arguing.”

Lucy: “Mom, do you think Dad will take us to eat at The Buffet?”
Me: “The buffet? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Lucy: “You know the place with the slide and the chicken that doesn’t make me sick.”
Me: “Do you mean Chick-fil-a?”
Lucy: “Yeah, that’s what I said.”
[Same number of syllables! Say it fast!]

Lucy: “Who’s going to make me a card!?”
Me: “You don’t get a card, silly, it’s Mother’s Day!”
Lucy: “Well, when is kid’s day?”

“Landon! We get to go to kindlegarten where we’ll watch a bunch of shows.”

“Mom, can you let Cassie’s mom know that we won’t be able to go to their house today because I missed the opportunity to choose good behavior?” [She IS listening!]

“Landon, do you want to crush some candy with me?”

[Talking of a little boy, who is a friend.]
“Do you mean his mommy is the only one who gets to kiss him!?
[Gulp. Jesus take the wheel.]

“Cohen, do you want to sit on a Lucy chair? I won’t drop you!”

[In Whole Foods.]
Lucy: “Baaaaaah! The conveyor belt ate my crackers. I’m never going to get crackers again. [Literally crying. Literally.]“
Cashier: “Rough morning?”
Me: “I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Cashier: [Raises eyebrows.]
Me: “Oh I’m sorry. I was talking to her. Yeah, I guess she’s having a rough morning.”
Lucy: “Ooooooh, I searched for those crackers and picked them out and carried them through the store and the conveyor belt just ate them! What am I going to do!? I’m staaaaaaaarving! I’m so hungry. I’m staaaaaaaarving!”
Me: “Do you mean these crackers?”
Lucy: “Oh. Cool. Thanks, mom.”

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Funny Story

You guys, I’m going to call this week a ‘lost week’. Ever had one of those? We had a full week of fevers and sickness. Days were a little blurry. We stayed home a lot. I wiped a lot of noses and administered a lot of doses. I hit the mat and cried mercy to tag Chuck in a few times. We watched a lot of shows. We were not so productive and I have the mounds of laundry to prove it. It was a triple whammy kind of week for sure. It felt like everything piled up, you know, on top of me.

But here we are, coming through the other side: Mother’s Day! A day to celebrate me [and you know, all of you amazing mamas too]. And I felt so, so celebrated. From the homemade card that Lucy made, “that I should keep with me for always to remember what she looked like as a baby.” An unexpected card from a friend with sweet words. Seeing so many of my favorite friends. Lunch. In a restaurant. [You know what I'm talking about.] A fruitful trip to my favorite thrift store. The whole day was divine, though I am ready to see my own mama!

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[I think she really captured "the essence" of my hair.]

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Today’s turn around really got me thinking. Looking back on last week, and admitting it’s all blurry, it’s best to look back on it like a comedy– though maybe it’s still fresh enough to feel like one of those bad sitcoms where you think, “there’s no way all that bad stuff would happen to one person in one week.”

So I started looking at the rest of 2014 for a funny story.

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I thought back to Good Friday when Landon got his heart monitor. Of having a two-and-a-half year old wear a heart monitor. Nay, “wear” a heart monitor. Because he’s been spending his nap-time pulling the stickers off and eating the “jelly” that stays between his skin and the electrodes. Funny. And disgusting. And I didn’t realize it for several “confusing” diapers. Kids are gross.

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[That's right, bud.]

I started thinking about the struggle we’ve had with Lucy for the first part of this year. Four-years-old is sassy. And emotional. And temperamental. And illogical. And then I thought of “Lucy Lately“. There’s enough humor in those posts to last me for a few hard days.

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I thought of the last few months we’ve been waiting for Cohen to get old enough for allergy testing. My sweet baby itching so much. His skin so irritated. Then a friend reminded me today of his laugh a few weeks ago. When he first started laughing he would let out these deep, rolling belly laughs but his face wouldn’t move. Stoic. It was amazing. Honestly, he still doesn’t have it figured out. Hehe.

Cohen’s Laugh from Beth Baker on Vimeo.

So when Chuck comes home I want to start by telling him the stories of the day that I can make funny. And once I get through those, maybe I’ll tell the rest. Maybe.

Funny Story | hey, beth baker!

An Homage To Friendship

Do you ever have something going on in your life that feels so big, and yet life continues on unnoticed for the folks around you? Today feels a little like that for me.

The small group we lead at our church is multiplying ['cause it's too big-- yay!] and tonight is the last night we will be all together.  We’ve been sending lots of prayers up for our friends who will begin to lead the new group. It’s something to celebrate, for sure.  But, it’s got me feeling a little nostalgic for the friends we won’t get to see [at least] twice a week, every week.  If ever there was a time to use the ‘firstworldproblems’ hashtag… Break out the violins, folks– I’m feeling weepy!

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[Oh my gosh I just put this picture here and Lucy pointed every one out and said, "Oh, I love our friends." The living room just got duuuuusty.]

I’ve learned a lot about friendship in the last few years. Previously, I hate to admit, I thought friends were people you called when you had extra time or needed extra hands. But years lived in solid community has vastly changed that. We aren’t meant to live solitary lives– especially if our aim is to live Christ-honoring lives.

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. [Proverbs 15:22]

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So thank you friends for attending every birthday party.

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For being completely awesome.

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For showering us with love.

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For sweating with us.

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For joining in so many adventures and giving us so many memories.

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And thanks for sharing in our lives so deeply that you’ve successfully and forever blurred the lines between friends and family.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
[Proverbs 18:24]

So thanks, for nostalgia’s sake, for letting me share this. My life has forever been altered by the community we’ve been blessed with by our local church. For the vulnerability it’s created in us to open our lives to those around us, so that we can grow together, love each other, and spread the love of Christ.

Kimchi Cauliflower Fried Rice

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Has everyone jumped aboard the cauliflower fried rice train? I tried this recipe last year and was hooked. I love to leave the cauliflower in the skillet for a little while to get some crispy bits (anybody with me?). The only thing that disappoints me is that I want more flavor with the dish. [We have to leave the eggs out of our fried rice for allergy reasons and it leaves me feeling like something is lacking.]

So inspired by the flavor divinity of the fantastic Seoul Taco, I decided to add some kimchi to our fried rice. Woah. Don’t be scared by the idea of fermented cabbage; both of the kiddos gobbled it up.

To make this dish, I mostly followed the recipe mentioned above (though I don’t use the grapeseed oil and I do add some toasted sesame oil in at the end). I switched the veggies to carrots and edamame, since that’s what I had on hand. I wanted to add some chicken to the dish so I split the cooking into thirds. I did my cauliflower first, then I sautéed the chopped veggies, and finally I threw the kimchi in with a can of chicken. Don’t judge the canned chicken part. Do find quality chicken that is only chicken, water, and salt. It’s a super time saver [for which I am in desperate need]. Throwing it in with the kimchi gave it an amazing flavor. It only took a couple minutes for those two to heat up and share some spice.

Overall the dish was quick(ish… Using the food processor to chop the cauliflower into rice certainly adds a step). But since I cooked it in thirds I was able to only dirty one pan to cook it in and a big bowl to incorporate it all together.

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Thinking and Telling

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The husband and I have spent many a mile on the road this week. Which I love. Is that weird? I mean we get to spend hours holding hands and listening to podcasts while the kiddos are strapped into seats. Lucy makes up songs for us and let’s us get a glimpse of the logic of her crazy rational four-year-old brain. Landon sends me lots of sweet smiles and does some great car seat dancing. Cohen had a few minutes of “get me out of this seat” screaming but he was a trooper for the most part, too.

But I think the best part of traveling, especially through the endless fields in the Land of Lincoln, is the time for thinking and telling. When Chuck gets home from 10 or 12 hours of being away at work, he’s mostly thinking about how he can help me with the feeding, bathing, pajama dressing of the kids. But roadtrips? Roadtrips were made for roaming thoughts.

One of the things that came up this trip was Chuck telling me how he felt really supported by me this past year. That I was transitioning to a bigger helpmate I guess you could say. My first thought was, “Well of course I’m supporting you, I think you’re the coolest guy I know.” But then, it occurred to me to ask what I was doing that made him feel supported. And I was a little surprised to find that one of the examples he had was when I prayed aloud for him last summer. I was surprised because it didn’t seem that extraordinary to me. I mean, I pray for him in my mind everyday! But I could be doing a much better job of telling him my specific prayers for him. Isn’t that better than when someone says, “Oh, I’ll pray for you.” Instead saying, “I’m going to pray for you right now.” Or if we’re not together, sending him a little message saying a few specific prayers.

And then I started thinking about the rest of the relationships in my life. Am I telling my friends when they’re on my heart? Am I telling them how much they mean to me? Am I making time to have them in my life? Thinking and telling. Not just thinking. Being intentional. Treating friends like family and treating family like blessings.

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Oh God that you chose this life for me. That your mission would not be lost on me.

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