Friday, December 18, 2015

A Christmas Letter


In the Christmas cards that I sent, I promised a Christmas letter on my blog. That was such a silly idea. I've sat down at least five times trying to write this without success. But today, people are starting to receive our cards in the mail, and they just might follow the suggestion to read a Christmas blog. So here goes a 2015 recap:


Super thankful.

Having little kids is crazy and really hard a lot of days. (Who knew they could whine for an entire day straight!? Anyone with advice on kicking the whining habit, comment below.) But, I've been so aware that these are blessed times. Life is not easy with the littles, but I wouldn't trade my time at home with them for anything. I love doing graphic design work, but there are a lot of good designers in the world. I am the only person in the entire world that can fulfill the job of being mom of my three kids. All this to say, I am so thankful for Tim and how hard he works to support our family. (He is a senior marketing manager at The Members Group. I feel like you're supposed to put stuff like that in your Christmas letter, right?)

I am so thankful for you. I am often overwhelmed by our family and friends and their commitment to and support of us. I'm thankful for smartphones and the group text I have with my sisters – one in Minnesota, one in Argentina. I'm thankful for my parents who took us to Florida in February, and we got to spend a whole week together. They also came down to Iowa to take care of my kids when Dailia was born. My in-laws love to hop over to Des Moines when they have a free day to give me a break.

Especially as our family grows and my title as stay-at-home-mom becomes a more literal description of my life (because I just don't get out much anymore), I am sad that I don't get to see so many friends who are near and dear to my heart. But I am so encouraged by so many of our friends who take God seriously and make real sacrifices to love and serve people

In addition to our friends that go way back, we are constantly growing our circle of friends and it is so much fun. The community group we belong to through our church is growing, and it is so fun to build those relationships.

I'm also thankful that we are healthy. Dailia was born in June without any complications. She is a bright eyed, cabbage patch kid (seriously, that baldy looks just like one). Other than these Christmastime colds, we are healthy, and we are not guaranteed any of this. It's all just a blessing.

What we're working on. 

Whining. All of us. Tim doesn't really whine. He's a rockstar. The rest of us, we whine.

Contentment. There is a sign in a small town in Missouri that says, "Gratitude makes what I have enough." And I love that. It's really easy for me to want the freedom and flexibility I had before I had kids. But wanting that makes me miss out on these days that fly by with my kids, so I'm trying to pursue contentment.

Just because it's hard doesn't make it bad. I'm not naturally a hard worker. When something gets hard, I like to quit. Coincidentally, the last step of any task is the most difficult for me. But I'm trying to learn to embrace difficulty, and teach Penelope to work hard, too.

Tim is working on being the best dad in the whole world. And he's doing a really good job. His job is demanding, and his role as a community group leader at our church takes time, too. But he protects his time with the kids. Often, you will find him and Penelope at Caribou on Sunday afternoons working on her workbook for the Awana kids' class at church. He also just finished doing water babies swim lessons with August.

Getting to know our neighbors. We have lived in our house just shy of five years, but we had really only gotten to know our next door neighbors. But this fall, a neighbor down the street invited everyone to a little party at his house. Since that night, we look at our street completely differently. Knowing your neighbors is so great, and it turns out there are quite a few young families on our street. A couple of weeks ago, we hosted a Christmas party for our street, and it was a lot of fun.


He dwelt among us.

I spent a lot of time reading and memorizing John 1 this fall, and I like to think of it as John's Christmas story.

And then the Word became flesh and dwelt among us—as a little, frail baby on the first Christmas. It is so crazy that God would love us so much to live among those who rejected him. But our Lord was willing to do whatever it took to prove his love for us. Christmas was the first step of that proof. He became flesh and dwelt among us, and ultimately proved his love by dying on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin.

Our prayer is that you would know the love of God and experience the blessings of a life submitted to his perfect plan.

Merry Christmas!

Love, The Laehns

We can just pretend Penelope (4) is smiling and that you can see Dailia's (6 months) face. August (2) looks like a lumberjack.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Law of Dimishing Demands

The most common question I've been getting over the past three months is, "How is the adjustment to three kids?" It's a valid question. Adding another person to our family is a big deal. Three kids is a game-changer. Tim and I are out numbered. Getting in and out of the car/house/store has to be strategic to make sure everyone comes out alive.

While I was pregnant, many people offered their opinion about what is the hardest transition. Most people said that going from one to two kids was the hardest. I don't agree. For me, going from one to two and two to three kids were easy in comparison to starting a family.

Having one kid is hard.

There are books and blogs about sleep schedules, baby wearing, cloth diapering, and making baby food. A lot of opinions. A lot of pressure.

And, if you're like me, who had never really been around a baby before, you just don't know what to do with the new little person. And my first was fussy. I never actually was able to soothe Penelope. Tim did the hard work on those late nights. I just didn't get her.

But, the hardest part of having your first is the total loss of independence. This was the real kicker. The lovely, little baby is dependent on you for everything. I was the only one who could feed her. I had to figure out why she was crying. I had to race through the grocery store before she would freak out.

Just a few weeks before this I could leisurely sip coffee at a coffee shop, eat dinner, and easily go on dates with my husband. No more.

But here's the deal: this major thing—the loss of independence—only happens once. So when #2 comes along, that gigantic adjustment has already happened. In my case, I also became a little more natural at being a mom.

Here's where the Law of Diminishing Demands comes into play. As you have more children, your demands increase, but at a decreasing rate. Raising three kids is demanding, but it's not three times as demanding as raising one.

With your first, you have some big demands: make sure your child is fed, make sure she naps, make sure your baby is at least in the 50 percentile in height and weight, and make sure she seems more intelligent than her baby friends.

With your second, you have already given up your independence, and you can go ahead feeding and bathing the baby along with the first one. You give up your need to have an above-average baby because you realize those things don't really matter.

I don't want to dismiss the difficulty of two or more: you can't sleep when the baby sleeps. You still have to keep your toddler alive. And, in my case, I have to keep the big kids from killing the baby. (They have recently thought it's a good idea to use Dailia as a hurdle to practice their jumping skills.)

But, with three, something really special happens: kids one and two entertain each other while you breastfeed, soothe the baby, or do laundry. You don't feel pulled in all sorts of directions.

I don't want this to make it seem like having three kids is easy or that I have it all together. I've had to change the way I do things quite a bit over the last three months. I used to fill up my weeks with play dates, story times, and splash parks. Now, leaving the house makes me an insane and very unpleasant mom, so I try really hard to stay home. I really like being out and about, but I just can't do that right now.

Dailia also gets to cry more, and that's ok. Her needs are really basic—she needs to eat, sleep, be changed. But letting her cry for a few minutes while I get the big kids lunch isn't going to kill her.

Something else magical happened with Dailia's birth: my heart grew wider. Before her birth, I wasn't afraid that I wouldn't love her, but I have been surprised by how much I love her. And since this is my third time with a baby, I understand more than ever that this time is short. The first year is hard, but the baby changes so fast. I've enjoyed her snuggles, her coos, her smiles, and her wiggles more than the first two. I've even grieved the fact that she's not a new born anymore.

So, the adjustment to having three kids has gone well so far. And we're reaping some great returns. 

*The thoughts of this blog are only a reflection of me, and may not be true of everyone.
**Dailia is a very easy baby. She sleeps well, eats well, and stays pretty content in between. If your third baby was fussy you probably hate me right now.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Meeting Miss Daily

When a new little life joins your family, it is hard to comprehend. The day we brought Dailia home from the hospital, Penelope and I had this conversation:

P: Are we going to keep her?

Me: Yeah

P: Like for a week?

Me: Forever

P: Woah.

Before Dailia was born, Penelope had been anxiously awaiting her sister's arrival. She would ask me when she was going to come out. She would tickle my belly and make her sister laugh inside. She would get so excited when she would feel her kick.

August was a little more oblivious to the reality of what was growing inside of me. He would point to my belly and say, "Baby." But he would also say, "Baby," when he pointed to his own belly.

I made tentative plans with my photographer friend Justin to take photograph Penelope and August meeting the new baby. I wanted to capture a little bit of the awe and excitement as they met their new sister, but I also knew Justin might not be available when the baby came.

So when my water broke, Justin was one of the first people who knew. Fortunately, he was be able to stop by the hospital on his way to Chicago.

This is how Penelope and August met Dailia:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Introducing Dailia Louise

Meet Dailia Louise Laehn. We call her Daily for short. Three weeks ago this little lady came into the world.

Although she was born just three days shy of her due date, it was very unexpected. I had promised everyone that I would not have her until after June 17. Penelope was 10 days late, and August was five days late, so I had a history of late babies. I actually planned on having the baby on June 18 because Tim's grandpa, uncle, and brother all share that birthday. It just seemed appropriate that a fourth generation would share the date.

In the last few weeks leading up to my due date, I kept waiting for that nesting thing to happen. My house was kind of gross, but I knew there would be this moment where I would get this heavenly energy to make everything neat and orderly before the baby. It never happened.

When I was pregnant with August, I started a tradition where I buy myself a present on the baby's due date. At that point you need something to make you happy. Also, for the last 23 months, I've been regretting that my due date gift to myself was a $5 pair of clearance earrings at Target. I had just spent 40 whole weeks with a baby inside of me; I probably could have spent more than $5.

So, when my water broke at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 13, I was a little frustrated that #1, I wasn't ready at all to go to the hospital, and #2, I had to forgo my present to myself.

But like it or not, the baby was on her way.

So Tim and I frantically cleaned the house and packed for the hospital. I made a list of things my parents should know when they watch the kids while we're at the hospital, and tried to rest.

We went to the hospital at 1:00 am, and Dailia was born at 1:11 p.m.. She was 6lbs, 13 oz and she was beautiful.

Now that we have three weeks behind us, we know a little bit more about her. She's mostly laid back, but she has a feisty side that rears its ugly head around 10:00 pm every night. If we're lucky, we can get her back to her cool, collected, sleeping self by 11:30, but often not until 1:30 am.

So nights are tough, but there's perspective that comes with a third child. I know this stage won't last forever. I know this phase will end and something else will be difficult.

Three weeks in, it seems as though she is adapting quite well to our family. She is enduring the constant poking, hugging, and smushing from her siblings. She's been to some of my favorite events already: the Downtown Farmer's Market, the Arts Festival, and Yankee Doodle Pops.

Here's a photo of the five of us shortly after Penelope and August met their baby sister for the first time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Bat Man

Our Memorial Day weekend concluded with an unexpected guest in our house.

It was a really busy day for Tim. He had spent most of the day doing hard labor at our neighbor's house, then we rushed off to a BBQ, rushed home with just enough daylight to mow the yard, and then threw our dirty kids in the tub. Tim went upstairs to get Penelope her PJ's, and I hear, "There's a bat. There's a bat!"

Ok. We've been here before. So Tim preps himself with clothing from head to toe so that the bat won't touch him. Then he finds the tennis racket that was bought for bats, not tennis. And then we find a blanket that might trap the bat in mid-air, making capture possible.

But we weren't quick enough. When Tim went back up, the bat was nowhere to be found.

In the meantime, Penelope sat on my bed watching Netflix in her bathtowel because in all of the battiness, we forgot about her PJ's. I didn't want to tell her about the bat, but you can only brush off your child's curiosity for so long when you and dad are freaking out. But this weird cartoon, Bernard, on Netflix kept her occupied, so she wasn't too concerned.

Penelope slept on a mattress in August's room that night—and for the rest of the week. Needless to say, no one slept that well. And August figured out how to climb out of his crib. It was an exhausting week.

It was also exhausting because we didn't really know if it was still in our house. It could have left the same way it got in. Tim figured it was going from the basement to our upstairs through a large heat vent. So, after getting some advice from an exterminator friend, he put sticky traps around the vent. We learned that bats are most active at dawn and dusk, so he woke up early to check them, and then also checked in the evenings.

No bat.

Then the most horrible coincidence happened. Two days after Tim saw the bat, Penelope got two little bug bites on her arm 1 centimeter apart from each other. It looked so much like a bat bite.

I would logically think through the situation: She was naked when we saw the bat and hadn't been anywhere the bat was since then. A bite mark wouldn't appear two or three days later. But having a bat in your house drives you mad, and you start to imagine your child foaming at the mouth and dying a horrible rabid death.

But then on Friday, five days after seeing the bat, Tim found it stuck to the sticky traps. (I apologize if you believe this is an inhumane way to catch a bat.) We were rejoicing. Tim finished it off with a shovel, and then took it to Iowa State the following Monday to see if it had rabies. It did not, so I don't even have to question about those bug bites on Penelope's arm.

All this to say, I am so, so, so, thankful for Tim and his efforts to capture, kill, and get the bat tested. He's my bat man.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Taming of the Shrubs

You know you're in your 30s when you are at a friend's birthday party and someone mentions that mulch is on sale at Home Depot for $2 a bag, and EVERYONE starts raving about the good deal. But let's face it, springtime has a lot to do with mulch around here.

In fact, I think most of our free time in April and May has been getting our yard in order.

Our fence was thrown together in sections over the years. The back section was completely rotten and needed to be replaced. We are so thankful that three guys spent quite a few hours putting up this one. It really cleans up the yard.

We also took out a vegetable garden that was up against the fence. I tried being super resourceful, but I didn't even have a hose that reached back there to water it. It was just a mess of weeds, so it looks way better with grass all the way back to the new fence.

Swing Set

It is a huge blessing to have friends of all ages. I met my friend Becky when I was fundraising 10 years ago. Back then, she had three little kids, now the oldest is well into high school. One day we got to talking about swing sets and I asked if her kids still used theirs, hoping to buy it from them. But she and her husband graciously gave it to us. They even figured out how to haul it to our house.

Our kids and the girls next door absolutely love it. Everyday the kids swing for hours. Before the swing set we had a nice big back yard, but almost nothing to do back there. Boredom is solved with this guy.


When we bought our house (in December, mind you) the sellers said, "Oh, and there are just perennials everywhere, so you get all these flowers and don't have to do a thing."

Lies. All lies.

Anyone reading this who isn't a homeowner, please beware of statements like this, and beware of any sort of complex landscaping that might come with a house. 

Perennials or not, gardens are crazy monstrosities that take a ton of maintenance. If I've learned anything about myself over the last few years, I am not a maintenance person. I want to do something and have it stay that way. But gardens get weedy. Really weedy.

But this year, I've been trying out some good old fashioned chemicals to kill and prevent weeds. I'm not of the organic way of life. So far there are fewer weeds, but if I've learned anything, it's that weeds are stinking powerful and they will still come up. 

But right now, they look alright. Mostly the hostas, because we mulched them last week. In the mean time I'm looking for a volunteer gardener who can deal with it. 

Screen Porch

Off of our dining room we have this great screen porch, but have rarely used it. I've had a little bistro table in there since our first summer here, but it has never been a very inviting place.

One day, Tim mentioned that he thought we should put some effort into the porch and get some new furniture for it. If it's Tim's idea to buy furniture and decorate, I move on it. And I'm even more enthusiastic about the endeavor.

Lucky for us a new store moved to town called At Home. It's kind of a cross between Ikea and HomeGoods. It's a big-boxy, warehouse-ish place with really good deals, and some of its stuff even veers from a neutral color palette. We spent the better part of a date night getting pillows and a chair at At Home, a bench at World Market, and more pillows at Gordmon's and Target. Tim got me the red end table for Mother's Day.

Oh, and look at my fern. It's still alive. So is my jade plant. I am bound and determined to keep these three plants alive. The garden center at Lowe's has taken so much of my money over the years because I think plants are so beautiful and great. But I am horrible at watering them and they always die. So this year, I bought three plants in hopes of keeping them alive, and then I might be able to invest in more next year.

Now the screen porch is one of my favorite places to be. I start my mornings with coffee and reading on the screen porch, and if I'm not too exhausted, I love sitting out there at night after the kids are in bed. I'm so glad Tim had the idea to improve it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Mommy Manifesto

It's 3:27 am. I'm awake with my mind full of thoughts and apparently no hope of falling back to sleep. But I need some encouragement, so I'm here writing this to encourage myself.

It's been a rough week. Stomach flu got us, but in the midst of this pregnancy, the stomach flu has been brutal. You see, pregnancy and I are not friends. I say this very cautiously, knowing there are so many women who would just love to be able to be pregnant. But pregnancy is hard and I really struggle to be thankful and find joy in the midst of it.

The first trimester is hard—I throw up a lot. When I'm not throwing up I feel horrible and exhausted. But then week 13 happens and there seems to be a little hope.

Except I keep throwing up. Not as regularly, and I don't feel as horrible. But this week was one of those weeks where I just keep throwing up—no longer because of flu, but because there is a little person inside of me who has messed everything up. Today I ate a saltine cracker and suddenly my esophagus was on fire with acid reflux. My body is a mess and I want it back.

So here I am to remind myself of why I'm doing this mom thing.

Even after August was born, I knew our family wasn't complete. In the delivery room, I was offended by my nurse's presumption that we would be finished with our family since we had a girl and a boy. Why keep going, you've got one of each? Because I'm not doing this to have a cute little balanced perfect family that is convenient and can afford a nice upper-middle class lifestyle.

I'm doing it because God has given me a privilege to love these little lives from birth. That is a huge blessing— I get to work together with God as he loves this child, and help the child understand this love.

Lately I've been reading through verses about God's love and it has been encouraging and challenging. It's challenging to believe that God loves me as much as he says he does. But if this love is real, there are real implications for my life.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you," says Jesus in John 15:9. That's really insane. It makes sense that Jesus was loved by his father. I understand the innate love that I have for my kids. Plus, Jesus was perfect. There was nothing to really get in the way of that relationship.

But me? I'm far from perfect. But Jesus says he loves me despite me. And he loves you, too, despite you.

And then Jesus says, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down their life for his friends." John 15:12-13

So Jesus wants me to imitate his love for me on my friends and family, but in this stage of life, it especially means children. It most practically means my children. It really, really practically means the baby inside of me because sometimes I just feel like death.

I read this verse today. It's one I've read time and time again, but it is so good:

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8

I love what this verse means for me and you—that Christ died for us in the middle of our greatest offenses. I also like the application to motherhood. My kids are so weak. They completely rely on me for their most basic needs, and I think Christ set the example to show that we need to sacrifice and die for that which has little to offer us. Sacrifice reveals love. When I sacrificially love my kids, I get to know Jesus' love for me. Because that cross was no picnic, people. That was real sacrifice. He died so that I might live.

So this is why I'm doing this mom thing: I get to know Jesus more as I love my kids. And I get to love these little people who are real people and watch them grow a little more every day into themselves.

Ok, Penelope, August, and Baby #3, you're worth it. Now hopefully I can go back to sleep.