22 questions with… a Christian mom of twins (+2!) and an Eastern MT transplant

I’m not sure of the best way to lead off this interview, because there are a few things about Brittany Staley that fascinate me.  First, she’s an Eastern Montana transplant from the Pacific Northwest, and to me — the Eastern Montana girl who’s rarely left her comfy nest — Brittany’s insights about how life here is different from life in the rest of the world always cause me to ponder and reflect.

Then there’s the fact that, just last year, Brittany delivered healthy twin boys, both weighing over 7 pounds.  (I’m still amazed.  That must be some kind of world record!  I think we should all pool together to give her some kind of award!)

And then there’s the quiet grace with which she’s living a life she never necessarily meant to live.  What if you came into adulthood thinking you’d probably never want to have kids… and then, all of a sudden, almost before you realized what was happening, seemingly in the blink of an eye, you found yourself at home with four kids under age five?  That’s precisely Brittany.  She wasn’t that into kids.  And then, she and I both believe, God gave her kids.  And she had to learn to take care of them whether or not she was ready.  And, as she’ll tell you, she only did it through her faith in God’s good plan for her life — not to mention the daily help, forgiveness, and hope of Jesus Christ.

Ready to visit with Brittany?  I can promise inspiration.

© Tami Blake

 

Tami Blake:  Hi, Brittany!  For starters, introduce readers to your family.

Britt:  We are the Staleys. One East Coast fella, one West Coast gal, and four wonderful kids born somewhere in between. Sam and I met at a youth ranch in Central Oregon in 2007 and were married in 2009. We moved to Montana August of 2011 without a penny to our names, full of dreams and hopes for our family, bringing with us one 6-week-old baby and a 1995 Cutlass Ciera that shocked you every time you touched the exterior after running it and which didn’t boast a functioning A/C (rather essential in the heat of an Eastern Montana summer). For the next 5 years we worked on a farm/cattle ranch that produces wheat, alfalfa, barley, sugar beets, and corn; has its own cowherd; and backgrounds feedlot cattle for about 4 months every winter. It was a busy 5 years for Sam on the ranch, and very busy for me at home. We had Kai, our oldest, already when we moved.  I then had our daughter, Kaelynn, in 2013, and our twin boys Wade and Clint in February 2016.  (We don’t know if they are fraternal or identical, yes they are “natural,” yes we know how “that” happens, and yes, we believe they are our last. Just to get those FAQs out of the way! Ha-ha!)

 
2.  Describe a special holiday tradition in your home.

Britt:  Honestly, as a young family, we don’t have a ton of set-in-stone traditions yet, but one that we started a few years ago and have stuck to for the most part is that we don’t have a traditional Christmas meal of ham, turkey, etc.  We like to do something like a really good steak, fajitas, or something we’ve never tried before.

 

3.  So, mama, what does your average day look like right now?

Britt:  Due to having twins last February, then moving when they were 4 months old, then Sam going to a career-altering school while we lived in a town where we don’t know anyone, then me coming down with mono while we were in Idaho, then moving again when the twins were close to a year old… I feel like I haven’t had an “average” day for a very long time!  But having 4 kids all under five years old keeps me very busy through the day. We generally get up around 7 o’clock, get breakfast ready for all 6 of us, get everyone dressed, try to get the kids some exercise, and possibly do some schoolwork with the older two.  After lunch it’s rest time, then afternoon activities, dinner, bath time, put the babies down to bed, then we try to spend about an hour with Kai and Kaelynn before Sam reads them the Bible and tucks them into bed.  Amidst all that we are asked incessantly by our two oldest… When will we see our horses again?  Can we have smoothies?  Can we have snacks?  Can we watch a movie?  Can we do art projects?  Can we make the entire house look like a tornado ran through it?  … You get the point, the typical parents’ life!  And not to mention LOTS of holding babies and snuggling/reading with Kai and Kaelynn so they don’t feel left out.  With two babies, some days are heck, going back and forth keeping them both happy, learning, and fed.  They are on the same schedule, which helps a ton, so at least they both have naps at the same time, eat at the same time, etc.  That means I have a little bit of time for other things that need my attention.

 
4.  Honestly: what is it like taking care of twin babies?

Britt:  Well… it starts at the very beginning:  they take up a TON of room in your body (both of our boys were born over 7 lbs. a piece)… and they take up a TON of your energy trying to grow them till they are ready to come into the world.  Then they come out and take up a TON of your time — but most mention-worthy is the TON of fun, joy, laughs, snuggles, crying, diaper changing, dirty laundry, and LOVE they bring to our family. The baby food goes twice as fast; the acetaminophen goes twice as fast when they have a cold (because if one has it the other does or will very soon, there is just no avoiding it); the doctor appointments take twice as long; they take up twice as much room in the car; you have to have a double stroller instead of a single, which takes more room; and you find yourself all day long counting “one, two” in your head — as everything you do for one, you turn right around and need to do all over again for the other! I remember the days when I could just “throw my baby on” and go… those days are gone, that’s for sure!  And babysitting is a whole other issue!  They are, at times, overwhelming for me as their mom; I can’t imagine what other people feel when they’re left alone with them!  When another mom changes her baby’s diaper or clothes or gives the baby a bath and then is done with that chore, for me it’s only halfway.  And these days, as both boys are very mobile now, they are into EVERYTHING all the time. I feel like I’m running 24/7 chasing them out of “naughty things” and cleaning up the messes they leave behind (toppled garbage cans, emptied cupboards, toys strewn all over, night-lights demolished, anything you can think of really — times two!).

But, as the saying goes, “Double the Work, Double the Love!”  It really is true, we receive so much joy and love from our two little guys.

My days feel like they fly by just trying to care for two babies at once… there’s not much time or energy left to get housework done or shop for groceries, cook meals, spend time with the other special members of this family, or participate in things outside our four walls.  I don’t really have time at this point for hobbies of my own (I got a sewing machine for my birthday in early December, and although I am enthusiastic to get on some projects, I have yet to open the box).

Still… the special bond between Wade and Clint is an amazing thing to watch.  And it’s interesting that despite their bond, they couldn’t have more different personalities.  It’s challenging at times trying to draw them both out in new ways to keep them each learning and growing in their uniqueness.

 

5.  What about with two pre-schoolers in the house?  That alone is a challenge for average people.

Britt:  This has to be one of the hardest things for me currently.  I have 5-year-old Kai, who is SUPER creative and growing/learning in leaps and bounds, and I don’t feel like I get enough time right now to draw even more out of him.  And 3-year-old Kaelynn is my little helper who wants to be with me all day, who is loving trying to keep up with her brother but also becoming very unique in her own right. I find that they both come to me often asking about new things, wanting to learn new numbers and letters, wanting MORE of ME.  It’s hard to feel like most days I can’t give them enough of what they want:  TIME and special attention. I truly try my hardest, but I am stretched thin and I know they feel it at times.

I also trust and believe that I am not the answer to all my childrens’ needs, wants, and desires.  We want to raise our kids with a mindset of receiving and enjoying others and their gifts and abilities. I am a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child.  Although they need more of us right now, this time in our life IS teaching them how to communicate to us when we have hurt their hearts, when they are needing a gift of time, or when something else is bothering them. I know that we can’t and won’t be perfect parents. I also know that Jesus is big enough and present enough to cover our mistakes and shortcomings. So we will keep trying our best and leaving the rest up to the Lord.  Our calling is to example and hopefully lead our kids to a life-giving relationship with Christ.  Sam and I hope with all our hearts that THIS is the message they grow up with and are secure in when they someday spread their wings and leave our home.

 

6.  I hear ya.  So, if there’s one thing you would like everyone to know about your life as a mom, what would it be?

Britt:  Despite what I shared previously, I don’t want to be left out or treated like I can’t help with anything just because I have all my kiddos. I LOVE helping others, being involved and blessing others when and how I can.  Also that I have MANY interests, despite what my current situation lets me express or explore.

 

7.  How many diapers these days? How many loads of laundry? How many from-scratch meals?

Britt:  I think around 16 diapers a day, give or take a couple. I find that if I do around 2 loads of laundry a day I can usually keep up (not including wet bedding, soiled rugs, etc).  We don’t go out to eat very often, and I try to cook with whole foods for the most part, so I would say of the 3 main meals a day at least 2 are “from scratch.”  So at least 12 from-scratch meals a week.

 

8.  Did you always dream of being a mom? Of having a large(ish) family? (*wink*)

Britt:  Ha! Not hardly! When I first married Sam, I was pretty sure I didn’t want any kids!  I am a work in progress, though, and the Lord is kind enough to not always grant us what WE think is “good” in this life, but to graciously give us what HE knows is great. I love each one of our kids with a powerful love and can’t imagine my life without any one of them now.  We have a ton of fun together and I love spending time with them helping them to experience life!

But… the life I lead now because of having all of them isn’t what I necessarily “dreamed of doing all my life.”  There are days when I love being a mom and there are other days where I have to work harder to be grateful for where I am at and what I am doing in life right now. They are each a huge gift to our family and I don’t take them for granted… I just still have to fight with my shortsighted humanity at times.

 

9.  How do you handle it when life hands you a twist you weren’t necessarily planning on?

Britt:  Honestly, I like curve balls for the most part… they make life more interesting! I mean, I have my days where I have a plan and am frustrated when it doesn’t work out, but for the most part Sam and I really aren’t the kind of people who have a hard and fast plan for our lives.  I mean, having 4 kids now — let’s be honest — it’s a RARE day that goes the way I planned! There are times when I have been handed some big “unexpected,” and I may reel for a day or two, but I try hard to bring it before the Lord and lay all my plans and ideas down for Him to do with as He wills. There are times when His yes or no is hard to swallow, but in the end my heart really does want His best.

 

10.  What are some of the toughest things about being a mom for you?

Britt:  Kid crafts. I hate them. There, I said it for all to hear. I am a terrible mother, I know, but it’s a real sacrifice of love for me to sit down and do “kiddie projects.”  Other than that I would say it’s the battle I fight with my opposing desires:  1) to “do something” with my life other than parent, cook meals, clean house, change diapers, etc., and 2) to be a present and loving mother to my children.

I’m with you on the craft projects, girl.  Good thing is, I’ve discovered a whole community of mommas (you included!) who believe it is indeed possible to nurture children without ever gluing a single noodle to a single sheet of construction paper!  Okay, on to…

11.  What are some of the greatest things about being a mom, in your opinion?

Britt:  The absolute, awe-inspiring way our children trust us… to teach them, guide them and protect them. I am amazed that I have been given the opportunity to mother 4 children! I also LOVE giving my kids new experiences, stretching them as people and teaching them new skills. I love seeing their little minds working so hard to take it all in.  And I LOVE hearing my kids laugh.

 

 

12.  Tell me again about your trip to Africa.  How did it shape you?

Britt:  When I was 17, a dear missionary came to our church and talked about the organization and orphanage he had been working with for 13 years.  He is an incredible man of the Lord and was part of incredible ministry in Liberia, Africa. My heart was heavy to “go,” and so I went! I was part of a team that went over for 1 month to serve with the ministry that was already established and serving there. Liberia was extremely war-torn (think bullet holes in the walls of the rooms we stayed in, trash all over the streets, no running water and much more). Our compound where our “base camp” was located was right on the ocean. It still wasn’t necessarily a “safe” country to be in at the time… and we came face to face with the realities of that. When we first got off the plane in Africa, the heat and the smells hit me the hardest. It took me about 3 days to acclimate. We were each given the opportunity to either work with the orphanage or to assist in reaching out to local and remote churches to encourage, speak, and love. I chose the latter. It was an incredible month… full of joy, heartache, new experiences, fear, hope, discouragement, realizations, heart lessons, and life-shaping moments.
I think one of the “lessons” I’ve carried with me (and continue to learn) is that true love is not self-serving. When we truly want to love persons, we need to ask them and/or ourselves, What do they truly need? What is truly helpful for me to do in this situation?  NOT, Hey! I am here and here is how I am GOING to help YOU.  That isn’t true love — and in the end, you don’t leave a person with dignity and a voice when you do that.  Also, to remember that they don’t need me to try to act like their savior… I will fail miserably at that job anyways. What people need is someone to enter into that difficult place with them, offer empathy and compassion and hopefully encourage them that they aren’t forgotten, unloved or alone.  Obviously “practical help” is great too, but even in that, ask what THEY need.  I think there are times when a group will go to “serve” a people and community, and instead of asking, they tell the people what they are going to offer and how they are going to “help.”  I would encourage everyone to consider missions work, and if that is something the Lord leads your heart to do, find a ministry that is already active and thriving in that community, state, or country.  Ask how you can help them, how you can best serve them to serve the people. I guarantee they will know exactly what would be helpful and would be blessed by your desire to truly help.
I saw a lot of sadness, suffering and hopelessness in that place… and it broke my heart. It is HARD to be in a place with people who have been so beaten and battered that, from the outside looking in, you don’t know how they “do it” every day. BUT! I also saw many who were full of joy, kindness, love, and generosity despite their circumstances BECAUSE OF the hope of Jesus.  His mercy, His saving grace, and His presence are powerful and can bring hope to the hopeless, peace to the weary, wholeness to the broken. It’s the MOST important thing we can possess and have to offer anyone… because while we will all experience trials, heartache, and pain here on earth, our eternity being secure with the One who loves us more than anything brings a will to persevere, move forward, have joy, and continue on. We NEED to help as much as we can with the physical needs, I am not trying to minimize that.  But what I saw with my own eyes in this extremely broken and hurting part of the world is that what brought true joy to hearts was knowing that they are not alone, forgotten, or unloved by the One who will NEVER leave them. I saw people who had all the reasons in the world to mourn; yet they sang, danced, and clapped for joy in worship because they know something that only some of us have grasped… that Jesus, not perfect circumstances, but Jesus, not the perfect car or house, but Jesus, not the absence of all pain, but JESUS is the only thing that truly matters in this life. I know some of us think that most people in those horrible situations must be so angry at God… and while some are, I would venture to say that more often than not they are not angry at God.  Liberia is not a country of people wallowing in self-pity and pain. When the hope of Jesus is shared with them, they cling to that as their lifeblood and they trust in a God who will love them through their broken life in this broken world because they KNOW what a life and world lived in darkness and evil is like. And they cling to the hope and knowledge that someday, as this earthly life will pass, they will live in eternal joy. And THAT makes it all worth clinging to Him through the here and now. This realization affected me deeply, and continues to come to my mind at different moments when I am tempted to wallow in (and I still do sometimes) my disappointment, fear, sadness, or pain. We all have pain, we all have felt hopeless, we have all experienced life lived in the “dark.”  BUT we don’t have to stay there! He can and will walk with us, through all the brokenness that we will experience in this life. As hard as it is, our circumstances do not have to define our joy, our purpose, or our destiny.

 

13.  So awesome.  Makes me want to pack up my kids for a mission trip today!  Someday, someday, I fully intend to get that done.  But for now, here in Montana… not to intentionally change the subject from the land-of-want to the land-of-plenty, but:  You used to work in a sandwich shop pre-kids. Tell us all the secrets to the best sandwich ever.

Britt:  I think I would say the biggest thing is quality ingredients. If you use “cheap” bread, meat, and cheese, you are going to taste that. To make an amazing sandwich, splurge on the ingredients. FRESH bread is absolutely essential. From there it’s kind of up to you — I love a lot of veggies (cucumber, avocado, bell pepper, lettuce, tomato) and then a good mustard. Don’t forget the salt and pepper; an unseasoned sandwich is as bad as an unseasoned meal.

 

 

14.  I know you’re a strong believer in buying organic. What’s your philosophy on that?

Britt:  This is a highly controversial issue. I respect conventional farmers and organic farmers the same. In the end, everyone is just trying to make a living the best they can and (hopefully) doing what they feel is best.  I definitely don’t have all the answers — and I can see the benefits for conventional farmers in yield, labor input, and protecting their livelihood from pests and other threats. I have almost always lived in highly agricultural areas, and I know what it means for a farm family’s life to be made a little more stable and predictable (though life is still so unpredictable despite our world’s best efforts), and I know that high yields are necessary to feed our growing world. I see both sides. I will not pit myself against any person despite my possibly opposing beliefs about their practices. I have tried to do my research to the best of my ability and I believe that feeding my family as much organic as I can is a much safer bet. I feel that there are consequences for our bodies and health, short-term and long-term, when we consume the various chemicals that are prevalent in growing crops today. That said, we Staleys are not “organic snobs”! We definitely eat plenty of “non-organic,” ha-ha! Buying organic is expensive and I try to, again, do my research and find the grocery categories where it’s more important to buy organic, as well as where we can safely buy conventional. I am still trying to figure out how to support “our local farmer” while also doing what I believe is best for our family. It’s a work in progress.

 

15.  You grew up in the Pacific Northwest. How’s that different from Montana?

Britt:  NW Washington receives much more rain than Eastern Montana. It’s COVERED with huge trees, undergrowth, lush grass EVERYWHERE, ferns, and hippies. It has a coastline, of course, which is fun to be so close to, and beautiful mountains and such. I do miss the water at times. The sky definitely does feel bigger in Montana.  The types of ag are different but both very real.  There really isn’t much I miss about NW Washington except some dear family and friends. Last time I visited Washington, I kept thinking, The people here are so rude… I can’t wait to get back to Montana! I love the wide open spaces and drier terrain of Eastern Montana.

 

16.  When you were a little girl, what did you dream of being some day?

Britt:  I dreamed of being a “cowgirl,” always. Horses, cows, lots of land, and a front porch with a swing. I have come to realize that you can enjoy doing a great many things in life and you don’t need a label to enjoy them or take part in them. I will never be what some would qualify as a “real cowgirl,” but we enjoy what we enjoy and hope to continue to grow our skills and knowledge.

 

17.  You and Sam grew up on opposite ends of the country in non-ag families, then dreamed together of working on a ranch. We see a lot of young people come to rural Montana from other states, wanting to be a part of that ranch/farm lifestyle. How does our rural reality match up with those dreams?

Britt:  It was a dream we both held in our hearts since our youths — and then we continued to dream together as a couple. We love working with horses and cattle. We very much enjoy an agricultural “life” and hope to still be involved with many aspects of it for many, many years. Honestly, Eastern Montana is a tough place, and when you live there it’s like it’s its own little bubble away from most of the world. It’s almost easy to ignore the fact that there is a much bigger picture, that there is a whole big world out there that has nothing to do with the “Eastern Montana lifestyle.”  The landscape can be pretty barren and the people are strong — strong in amazing ways we admire and wish to emulate — and then there are others who don’t become strong but hard.  Truly, no judgement… just a sadness in our souls to see people who are so hardened by life that they rarely smile, who don’t enjoy Community in the ways we hope a community can work, who are so focused on work that the PEOPLE in their lives get missed right out on.  Sam and I hope to not miss out on people.  We hope to love people well and have time for them.  In our first few years in Montana agriculture, Sam and I DID indeed grow in our ability to persevere, work hard for something that we loved to do, and invest fully in something we would never “recieve back from.”  We are very thankful for all we’ve learned so far about ranch life and will take the amazing memories made and skills learned with us. Our hearts are grateful to have been given a chance when we were so green. Many thanks to those who have taught us so much.

 

18.  Your husband, Sam, is in the middle of a career change right now. Tell us about the path that brought you to where you are (thinking of the train accident).

Britt:  October of 2013, Sam was driving a tandem axel sugarbeet truck early one morning, headed for the beet dump with his first load. As per usual there was a train blocking the controlled crossing, so he had to use the uncontrolled crossing. Because of the parked train he could not see or hear the oncoming train. His truck was struck right in the middle by the train and it was split in two. The bed of the truck and most of the beets landed on the north side of the tracks, and the cab — with Sam still in it — landed on the south side. By God’s goodness alone Sam is still with us! I wouldn’t say that’s the “reason” we decided to make a career change, but it was a contributing factor. It caused us to really think about the rest of our lives and what we hope our lives look like.

After some serious assessment, we moved to Boise, Idaho, in August 2016, for Sam to attend Northwest Lineman College’s Electrical Lineworkers Program. He has successfully completed the program and is ready to start a lineman apprenticeship. For now we are back in Eastern Montana, for temporary work, as Sam makes his next career decisions.

 

19.  Okay, almost done here — I know you’ve got smoothies to make and craft projects to get after!  If a genie granted you FOUR kid-free, obligation-free days right now, what would your heart most desire to do?

Britt:  I would go on a pack trip with Sam and our horses. Camping, fishing, hiking, riding. Just being in the wilderness with no crying, whining or fussing.  🙂

 

20.  What do you think you were put on earth to do?

Britt:  I think there are so, so many things I would love to do, but I don’t know if I will ever get to do even half of them. What I do know is that the only thing that leaves this earth with us for eternity is people. I know that I was put here to have a thriving, living relationship with the Lord and to love people and to raise our kids to do the same.

 

21.  Where would you like to be in 10 years?

Britt:  Sam and I hope to have a piece of property and be able to minister to others in MANY different ways through it. We hope to have a few cows, horses, chickens, and a garden. We hope to foster interests of our children and help them to achieve some dreams.  And I would love to start a cafe/coffee shop!

Yes, I think you should open a coffee shop, and my kids could work for you!  I’m convinced they need to experience the field of public service, as well as what it’s like to work for someone else!  So, one last question:  What’s your favorite time of day?

Britt:  I love early morning, watching the sun rise and spending time with the Lord. It just fills me with hope for the day ahead and helps me to have a clear vision of my purpose.

Brittany

**Britt with big sis Kaelynn, twins Wade and Clint, and big brother Kai**

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