Blog | Lindsey Smallwood


Mothering in the Trenches

Lindsey Smallwood

Today I'm guest posting over at my friend Emily's blog on some of the ways I'm making it work in this season of 2 babies under 2, including why family dinner is not our number 1 priority. 

“Oh, hang in there, you’re in the trenches.”   

Inevitably I seem to hear this phrase at least once a week when I’m out in public with my sons, ages 2 and 1. Whether it’s following some kind of meltdown after not getting a snack at their desired moment or when they start heading in two different directions toward danger at the playground, there are a lot of sympathetic nods and “I’ve been there” smiles. And while an “in-the-trenches” war analogy seems a little over the top, I will admit that this season is challenging in ways I never expected before motherhood. 

If it’s not stopping my toddler from snacking on deer poop at the playground or trying to put away laundry while the baby takes it out again, it’s some other exercise in keeping little people alive and accomplishing small tasks at the same time.  It’s messy and exhausting and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I have found a few things that make this whole experience a little easier. 

1)   Buckets. Buckets. Buckets.   
You guys, it’s buckets for weeks around here. We have baskets for toys and bins for puzzles and boxes for diapers and wipes. The clothes are in baskets - not folded, mind you, but they’re in there. The mail has a basket, the snacks have a basket, even the toilet paper has a basket. Why the basket mania, you ask? Because with two kids under two, nothing stays in the same place very long. I am picking things up all the live long day. And whoever advocated that there be a place for everything and everything in it’s place knew what they were talking about because it feels so good to put things back where they belong. Baskets have the added bonus of hiding what’s inside them so yay – just toss it in and no one knows that there are forty unread magazines under my side table. Just a pretty basket. Or twelve.  

2)   Family dinner is not my number 1 priority.   
An older mom mentor of mine helped walked me through this one. I feel like ever since our first session of pre-marital counseling we’ve been drilled with the idea that having dinner together as a family is the most important thing you can do. And while it is a great time to reconnect with my husband, family dinner with two under two really isn’t a thing. They’re dropping food on the floor and asking for more fruit and spilling their milk. It’s lively and exciting and no conversation happens whatsoever. So lots of nights, I feed the little guys before my husband gets home and then once we get them to bed, we can have an at-home date night, just the two of us. When they’re a little older, we’ll make this a goal again but for now, as long as everyone goes to bed fed, I call it a win. 

3)   I have a mom-uniform.   
The year after my first son was born, I just wasn’t sure what to wear. I was used to dressing professionally for work, but dresses and heels seemed like overkill for life with little ones. For awhile, I lived a lot of days in yoga pants. But sometime after the birth of my second son, I discovered what a difference it made in my feelings about myself and my to-do list when I took the time to dress well. For me, that means 3 pairs of well-fitting pants, a handful of tailored tops in bright colors, and simple jewelry I can wear with most outfits. I spend no time thinking about my outfit most mornings, and love knowing that whatever I pick fits and looks good. 

4)   My diaper bag is a survival kit.   
Seriously. Find me in case of emergency. I’ve got a change of clothes for everyone, snacks, assorted medications and toiletries, books, games, toys, sunscreen, baby wipes, water bottles, and oh yeah, diapers. I tried really hard in the beginning, I had this cute little diaper bag and I only took a handful of items with me but I’ve surrendered to the giant monster bag that probably would get raised eyes as an airplane carryon and I happily tote around everything we will ever need in it. 

5)   There are all kinds of moms in my life.   
This is what’s carrying me through. There’s the grandma in my Bible study who tells me stories of how she did things in her day. There’s the fellow mom of toddlers who I meet at the park to have real talk with. There’s the mom friend from book club who has stories about soccer teams and read-a-thons and is gently preparing me for the seasons to come. There’s the mom of teenagers who makes dinner for us sometimes and cuddles my babies because hers are all lanky and awkward. There’s my mom, who loves my boys even more than I do and is always ready with an encouraging word.  All this mom-love reminds me that these years and this role is so short, always changing and a beautiful gift that I want to savor as long I can. 

Even when they’re coloring with my lipstick.


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Prayer in the Living

#wholemamaLindsey Smallwood

It's #wholemama week again and this time we're exploring what prayer means in this season. 

When I was a child, prayer was for meals - 
for when I felt scared or needed to be healed.
As I got older, prayer felt pretend 
and my season of trying it came to an end. 

From a hospital wheelchair, on the the psych ward
I found it was God my heart turning toward.
Prayer was first "Help!", then "God, are you there?
Show me the way to get out from this chair."

Joining a church, finding paths toward recovery, 
a new season for me lead to new God-discoverys.
I wanted to know Him and was told quiet time
with a Bible alone would make this faith mine.

So I practiced the discipline all on my own, 
prayers in a journal where I sat alone, 
prayers in the dark of my room late at night, 
prayers in glow of the morning's new light. 

I found a real Friend and Savior so true
in the time set aside for my sacred views. 
Sure, I prayed before lunch and I prayed with my friends
but thought "real prayer" came only when quiet descends.

Then there was motherhood, sweet babes in my arms.
Days bled into nights full of trials and charms.
Now perhaps more tired than I knew I could be
and quiet time space is few and far between.

Where then is God in the midst of this season?
Have I lost my connection with kids as the reason?
"No!" and "Of course not!" is now my refrain, 
instead of a loss, I've here found a gain.

For prayer is the whisper of thanks as I rock
sweet babies to tiny to yet crawl or walk.
Prayer is my heartbeat when I feel afraid
of the hard world into which my children will wade.

Prayer is "Wow!", "Thanks!" and "Help!" in the noise of my day,
prayer is "O Spirit Speak" before friends come to play.
Prayer is "Jesus be near" if the crying won't quit, 
prayer is "Father, hold this" when the hurt makes me split. 

Quiet time is infrequent, devotionals short
but here in these fast years, I've found a new sort
of practice in praying, in connecting with God - 
it's a all-day communion as forward I plod. 

I'm finding anew that to pray and not cease
is a sweet way of living, I walk in fresh peace.
I see Jesus while cleaning and here in the noise - 
new mercies each day as I raise up my boys.  

If you haven't already, be sure to check out Esther Emery's #wholemama post this week, featuring the incredible Sarah Bessey. Loved their interview!

Tidy, Not Clean

#wholemamaLindsey Smallwood

Here we go again - it's #wholemama week 4 and I'm back to chime in on a conversation we're having about life in the midst of the mess. 

I've always found solace in keeping things neat.
Buckets and baskets make toys seem discreet.
There's a place to stash keys and a spot to hold shoes,
there's a lace covered dish to hold letters and news.

I don't mind at all to see balls on the floor, 
or a tower of blocks stacked in front of the door,
as long as I know at the end of the day,
each thing has a place where it goes to stay.

When bedtime is done and the house becomes quiet,
I reclaim my space from the playtime toy riot.
Board books go on one shelf, fairy tales on another,
as I replace these stories, I think of my mother.

We are quite different, my mother and I.
The books by her bed make towers quite high.
She isn't as organized as I prefer,
but on matters of cleanliness, to Mom I defer.

Because while my house stays incredibly tidy,
the floor needs a mop where the juice stains are hiding.
The dust balls are rolling behind the TV.
The grime on my sink's begging to be set free.

There are spots on the wall from where two weeks ago
my toddler threw spaghetti - and man, he can throw.
The fingerprints on my iPad make it hard to watch,
my dishwashing needs to go up a notch.

But at my mom's house, the floors seem to gleam.
The dishes, they sparkle, she gets them so clean.
The toilets are shiny. The wall's pasta-free.
She's so good at getting dirt out of laundry

I think it's okay that we each have our strengths - 
she has much she can teach me - and she does, at length.
But sometimes I worry that my tidy systems 
are all metaphor for what my life's missing. 

It looks really good, everything in it's place,
adorable bins that match my living space.
But it's not really clean, the dirt and the grime
hide under the baskets I refill all the time.

I wonder sometimes if I am like this,
put together, but then under the surface - 
the stains of my sin and my doubt and my shame
though hidden from view, persist and remain.

I long for integrity, to be fully true,
whether home by myself or in public view.
But in order to have it, I must tend to the messes,
letting go of the fears, the idols, the false-yeses.

So I'm taking a lesson from my mama this week - 
I'll be scrubbing my floors 'till I hear them squeak.
And while I am working to make my home clean
I'll be praying that I can see and be seen, 

For all that I am, for the good and the bad, 
for the places I'm growing, for the mess I still have. 
I'm proud of my tidy and learning to scour, 
perhaps cleaning my house can further empower?

Here's hoping...

Interested in hearing how other #wholemamas are making sense of their messes? Check out this hilarious story about a cheese fight from Sarah Torna Roberts.

A Little Too Tidy

Lindsey Smallwood

My toddler is tidy. 

I know, it's weird.

Most of the tiny humans I know are like little Tazmanian devils leaving a whirl of blocks and balls in their wake.

But Bobby likes his blocks "cweaned up" and his balls put away. He asks to have his hands wiped at meals. He runs to the kitchen and gets towels if I spill my drink.

As an extension of this cleanliness craze, he loves to put things in the garbage can, which is awesome when it's a dirty diaper or a used napkin. Less awesome when it's a dropped library card or a misplaced turquoise ring, both of which had to be rescued from my kitchen trash recently. 

We laughed when, after an Easter egg hunt, Bobby opened his eggs, removed the candy and proceeded to immediately throw the empty eggs away. He didn't see the potential to use the brightly colored plastic shells as stacking cups, bath toys or rock containers. He just took what was familiar to him - the candy - and moved on.

Sometimes, we're all like this.

We try to move quickly through hard times because we don't want to be dirtied by heartache or doubt or grief. We want to get to the good stuff, the familiar place.

But we can miss out on life's lessons because we think it's easier not to dwell on the mess.

I'm totally guilty of this. Like in hard conversation with a friend. Or bad news from the doctor. Or an argument with my husband that leads to both us walking away, quiet and hurt. 

In those moments, when I'd rather flip on the TV or scroll through my phone, soothing myself through distraction, there's instead an opportunity. 

Messes can be opportunities. Opportunities to start fresh, to put pieces back together in new ways, to reevaluate what matters. To say "Let's start over" or "We're in this together". To allow the still small voice within us to teach and comfort and guide.

We crave what's familiar. We want life to be orderly and predictable. But messes happen. And when they do, we can't always go back to the way things were before. But we can trust that if we listen and watch and wait, there is beauty to be found, to be made in our chaos.

So put the dustpan down and sit awhile. You might just learn something.

How's it looking, friends? Are you facing a messy situation?

Here's to learning together as we live it out.