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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Refresh & Renew: My QM Retreat #2

Years and years ago, I ached to have a chance to celebrate Mother's Day and wear that pristine title "Mom".

Six years ago, my dreams became a reality and my precious daughter Jenna was the one gurgling "mama".

Three years ago, I was pregnant and still dumbfounded that I was carrying quadruplets.  It just didn't seem real that I would have four more little people calling me mom!

Two years ago, I was in such a swirl of mommy-hood with four babies and a four year old that I literally don't remember it.  I am so glad I blogged the experience.  Literally. Can't. Remember. It.

Since then, I think I have been called "mom/mommy/mama/MoMEEEEEEE" over a million trillion times.  And honestly, sometimes I cringe at that title and want to run away.  Run far, far away!

Not that I don't love my kids.  Not that I don't still get amazed that God blessed me with 5 children.  I always wanted to be a mommy.  I love children, and secretly hoped I would one day have a big family, even though I was fine with Andy's comfort zone of "2- just 2" kids.

It's just that this mom job is tough.  You know it, I know it, and kids never know it, because they are far too consumed with themselves!

I don't know about you, but this mama needs a break now and then.  A time to recharge, refresh, and remember that my life is pretty stinking awesome and so are all my kids, my spouse, and my family.

Which brings me to this:
My Second Annual Quad Mama Vacation!!!
L-R:  Amber B, me, Amber S., Krista, & Ashley
Amber B, Amber S, Krista, & Ashley are other moms who have quadruplets too.  We "met" online in a group for moms of higher-order-multiples when we were pregnant.  This larger group of ladies is amazing.  It is filled with kind, wise, encouraging, loving, & supportive ladies who get it.  I could go on and on about this supportive group!  Early on I connected & started chatting with a few others who were in the same pregnancy phase as me.

Our Cabin near Lake Tahoe we stayed- the place belongs to a friend of Krista's, and she let us stay there for free!!!  
It was absolutely beautiful and absolutely perfect for our second (annual) QMBFF retreat.
The Ambers!  Amber S & Amber B
Together again!!!  We were never at a loss for conversation ;)
Since Amber S and I have kids born within 3 days of each other, she and I were always problem solving and bouncing questions & tips back and forth from the start.  There are many other ladies with kids the same age, but somehow over the years this small group of friendship has grown between the 5 of us.
We converse often and our friendship remains strong because our quads are always moving through the same phases at the same times (combined we have 20 kids born within 12 weeks of each other!!).

Without ever formally saying it, we all had something special for each other and had a kind-of- Quad Mom Christmas after our first dinner at the cabin!  Ashley embroidered these great shirts, Amber S made sentimental picture frames, Amber B made necklaces, Krista and I gave bags containing some of our favorite things, and a QMBFF GTG would not be complete without Sugar Coma Cookies, made with love from a friend of Amber B's (& a mom to triplets!).

On the way to our Zip Line adventure
We finally met last year in real life for the first time (see my blog here) and became Quad Mom Best Friend's Forever (QMBFF).  Andy thinks that's a cheesy name and I don't care.  We literally chat online several times a day and these ladies are my own personal support group!  We stabilize, support, listen, give advice, empathize, and cheer each other on.  I love these ladies!

Krista's husband Paul took the four of us out to dinner the first night while we waited for Amber S to arrive the next day.  What a trooper he is because all we did was gab the whole time!

Amber is feeding Ashley a shot of vodka in a medicine dropper.
Because, why not?

This year we (just the moms!) got together from Wednesday to Sunday in beautiful Lake Tahoe.  Instead of blogging detail by detail, I invite you to check out the perspectives from Amber, Amber & Krista on their blogs with the links below.  In a nut shell, we did lots of: talking, relaxing, laughing, eating and drinking; a massage day; a zip-line adventure; and even more talking, relaxing, laughing, eating and drinking.  With a sprinkle of giggles and mama mayhem mixed in.
Ashley, Amber S, me, Krista, & Amber B.
Together, we have 25 kids!!!

I loved this whole adventure!!!  No surprise, I always thought it would be awesome to be a trapeze artist in a circus!

I love this shot I took from one of the courses.  Clockwise from L:  Amber B, Amber S, Ashley, & Krista high in the trees!
To me, this vacation was the space I needed to be a better mommy.  As the plane left home and lifted in the air, I remember looking out the window and getting tears in my eyes.  Not that I was sad, because I was SO VERY EXCITED!!!  The tears were from the dramatic perspective the plane's window revealed as I soared above small streets and rooftops, lifting higher and higher and further and further from my people.  I was reminded that when I am in the thick of it: for example, being in my living room and stepping on a warm squishy circle with a guilty and naked Lauren next to it, a Tyler in my left arm pinned sideways kicking and screaming because he wants to play outside and it's time to eat, a Tanner making a sudsy, watery mess in the bathroom singing at the top of his lungs, and a Hannah deciding to dump her poop from the toilet into the kitchen sink (with a polite "Mom, here you go!"), my life feels less than blessed.

As I raised in the air, I teared up because in my heart I know I love all my children and my husband and my life dearly, but it gets so old.  So tiring.  I am always cleaning up.  I am always teaching the same things over and over and over and over and over and over again.  I am always thinking about the next meal.  I am always trying to accomplish more than time allows.  I sometimes have days I rock it, and many other days I feel I fail miserably because I set my own expectations waaaaaay too high.  And I have a feeling that no matter who is reading this right now and whatever circumstances surround your life right now, you can relate on your own level.  When you are in the thick of it, it's hard to gain a fresh perspective!
This fresh perspective was not intuitively my own.  No, I was also able to finish and plow through some great books that I have been working through on my vacation.  My favorite, No More Perfect Moms by Jill Savage, was so good I bought a book for all my QMBFFs (along with some great products by Cindy's Suds!).  I also finished The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers by Meg Meeker, M.D., a book my neighbor  Diane gave me (like, 2 years ago), and I chewed through Parenting with Love & Logic by Foster Cline, M.D. & Jim Fay.  I also had lots of time to talk to God and pray.  I must admit, my prayer life has been sparse lately, and I needed to sit, talk to Him, and listen to what He was saying to me.
My time with the girls was simply fantastic.  Honestly, we talked about our families more than anything else.  But there is something so magically cleansing about spending time with friends, getting away enough to breathe deeply and get refreshed, and having time to renew your mind and mentally roll up your sleeves so you leave with a renewed spirit of joy and patience as you return to your own "normal".

As I rolled out of bed that Sunday, yes I was sad to say goodbye to my friends, but we were all eager to see our kids again and be with our family.  We are definitely needed.  A few days away really helps everyone realize that!
Flying over Lake Tahoe on my way home. 
As I flew back to Michigan & saw the skyline of familiar buildings and streets from high above, I teared up again.  Not because I was sad to be home.  No, quite the opposite.  I was so very glad to be home, to return to my very important job of raising up my 5 blessings.  The kids who call me mom/mommy/mama/MoMEEEEEEE.

And so refreshed and renewed, I am asking God ever more to continue providing me with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Extra patience & self control, actually.  I am thanking God for making me a mommy to 5 children.  I am thanking my children for being who they are.

Jenna pretending to kiss a frog?  Yep.

Sometimes I really wish I was still on my getaway with my QMBFFs, or even just out to coffee with a friend, but I am trying hard to remember that higher perspective.  The fact that for this small space in time, I have utter control to parent my children as best as I can.  I know I impact them.  I know I mold them.  I know (Lord willing) they will all grow up and be adults some day.

So how can I parent with no regrets?  When I look back on my life, what impacts do I want to leave with my children?  What values do I want to instill?  How can I raise my children best to prepare them for life?

 I want my children to have lots and lots of love, and feel loved and wanted.  I want grace and forgiveness to be shown and practiced all the time.  I want a marriage that is stable and healthy and my kids to find security in that.
I want my children to be treated with respect.
I don't want to yell and scream and shame them when they don't do what I want.  I want them to treat others kindly.  I want firm expectations, set rules, but graceful space for when mistakes and accidents happen.
I want laughter.  I want a fun household.  I want to have a home that is hospitable and shows God's love and grace in the best light possible.  I want my children to all grow to love God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind, and all their strength.  I want to make this one chance at raising my own crew count.
My Monkey-Boy Tyler.  Before this trip, his constantly climbing and maneuvering drove me crazy!!!  However, during the zip-line adventure, I remembered I was the little monkey of the family and I also loved to climb and maneuver.  Oh my goodness, did I suddenly have a fresh feeling of grace and acceptance for this little boy--He is just like me!  

I am not a perfect mom.  I get it wrong so many times, but sometimes I get it right.  I am so thankful for the friendships of my friends here in West Michigan and my QMBFFs who branch out across the US.   I am so thankful for a great husband.  I am thankful for the support and prayers of family and friends who cheer me on in Motherhood.  And I am utterly humbled and thankful to Christ who saw it fit to give me all these precious children.

I intended to get this post out by Mother's Day.  Heck, I intended to make this two separate blogs but the thought of cranking out 2 blogs when my house is a mess and I am waaaaay behind on "The List" made me panic.  As stated above, I am far from perfect and I am prone to giving myself unrealistic expectations.
Even so, I would encourage you to say a prayer for a mom today who could use it.  Maybe even invite her to coffee or bring coffee to her.  Maybe tell her how important her job is, tell her she is doing a great job.  Let her know she is appreciated, she is honored, and she is very, very needed.  Us moms need all the encouragement we can!  I know I do.  And we need each other.  I am so very thankful to my friends, including my QMBFFs, who help me be a better mom.



Here are the links to the blogs I mentioned above.  Check them out!

Amber Bell's at: Texas Tales
Krista Lesnau's at:  The Littlest Lesnaus
Amber Shawver's at: Four To Adore

Thanks, loyal readers!!! :-)