Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thankful for My Husband

When Niall saw this picture on my computer screen, he laughed. "That was before the world broke us."

Sure, the last three years since it was taken have been full of ups and downs. Two kids, one less income, and the new challenges in this season of life have left us a whole lot more tired, with greater responsibilities that can at times feel like the weight of the world. That would be true.

Truer still that I haven't always been thankful. I've grumbled and nagged and snapped at him when times were hard or hormones ran high. 

But the good things have been sweet, and the ways that we've seen the Lord work and move, incredible. He's grown and healed our 27 week preemie, provided for each bill and need even when the numbers just didn't add up, and brought our second baby through a full term pregnancy. Being parents has been one of life's greatest joys, and we wouldn't trade our babies for a trial-free-life any day, ever. Period.

So on this, my husband's 29th birthday {which, oh, how he is cringing over}, I'd like to give thanks for Niall.

I'm thankful that he is boring.

I'm thankful that he quietly supported me and knew exactly what to do for our son's difficult labor, the perfect laboring partner.

I'm thankful that he works hard, even extra hours, to provide for us so that I can stay home. I'm thankful that me going out to work isn't even an option in his mind.

I'm thankful for his sense of humor {oh how he makes me laugh!} and his easy going personality that sets strangers at ease.

I'm thankful that even though he isn't perfect, with his share of struggles and character flaws {like the rest of us}, one thing he has always been is an incredibly warm and devoted, wonderful father.

I'm thankful that he still surprises me, and that I don't quite have him figured out yet.

I'm thankful for the hard decisions he's made. That he wants to honor the Lord, and even when I buck and bray, un-submissive wife that I at times am, he stays firm.

I'm thankful that he really and truly, deep down, cares for me and is looking out for me. Without a doubt, the man has my back.

I could go on, but he is probably already embarrassed enough. So here's to you honey- happy birthday.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thankful for Breastfeeding

In this season of Thanksgiving, I want to thank the Lord for the gift of being able to nurse my son. S and I had a difficult time and were never able to, so it's something I'm trying so hard to not take for granted.

I'm also trying to avoid the pride and ugliness that can crop up in this world of heated words hurled at mamas who make different decisions or are in different life circumstances.

Since giving birth to W at the end of July, one of my absolute favorite things has been nursing. It gives me a chance to relax, put my feet up, and just enjoy my babe. It's also extremely nice to not have to wash bottles.

There is something so satisfactory as a mama about knowing that your body is meeting your baby's needs. This satisfaction {for me} can almost borderline on pride at times.

My heart is so sinful. That I could feel superior and smug over a beautiful and natural gift from the Lord is just ugly.

Because the reality is that all good gifts come from him {James 1:17}. Good gifts should never be a source of pride, but rather of thanks to the Giver. What do we have that we have not received {1 Corinthians 4:7}?

I remember a time when breastfeeding wasn't easy. When my little preemie and I were unable to figure out the complexities of nursing. When I just gave up trying and instead, exclusively pumped for an entire year.

I spent nearly 40 hours each week (yes, a full time job) pumping and washing pump parts, to only produce a small fraction of the milk my chronic projectile vomitor consumed. Many times I wanted to quit. 

I remember that many mamas try hard, and want so desperately to nurse, but for whatever reason just can't. Maybe their supply doesn't come in. Maybe they don't get the help they need. Maybe their current life situation just isn't conducive to it. Maybe they give up in the desperate throws of mastitis or engorgement or nursing strikes. I remember how desperate I've felt in those moments. While 99% of nursing is pure bliss, that dreadful 1% when it isn't, when it hurts like nothing you could have ever imagined and you are so terribly tired, can bring you to your knees.

My friend Mandy very much wanted to breastfeed each of her three children, and unfortunately was unable to. She reminded me that even when what we're given doesn't seem good, we are guaranteed that it is all working together for our good and His glory {Rom. 8:28}.

"While I didn't feel like my issues with not being able nurse were good, they were still a gift from God because they drew me to Him. They taught me about Him. They helped me become more like His Son... I TOTALLY agree that breastfeeding is the best way to go, but it is not the end goal of life for us as mothers or our children and we can't let it be an idol of our heart in wanting it or thinking we are better because of it." {Mandy J. Hoffman}

Being able to nurse is just a gift, plain and simple. God gives different gifts to different people, and the gifts we receive are all of grace. We deserve or earn none of them. I am not a better mama because I breastfeed. You are not a lesser mama because you don't.

I remember telling women that I exclusively pumped, and that breastfeeding just didn't work out for us. So many times they would offer suggestions, or what worked for them, or raise their eyebrows in disbelief.

I think they were mostly trying to be helpful. But oh, how I wanted to scream, "You don't know how hard I've tried!" They didn't know much I'd grieved over it, or that I'd worked extensively with three different lactation consultants, read the books, tried so many different tricks and approaches, given my very best. Unwittingly they added insult to my injury.

The Mommy Wars are just plain ugly. While I strongly believe that breastfeeding is healthier for both mom and babe, I also need to really understand, deep in my heart of hearts, that it is never okay to judge another mother's motives or methods behind the parenting decisions she's made.

We just don't know. We don't know her story, her behind-the-scenes. We aren't intimately acquainted with her child- but she sure is. All we should assume is that she loves her child, and is giving this mothering business her best. 

All this to say, instead of taking pride in the decision and ability to breastfeed, I want to give thanks to the Lord, acknowledging that I wouldn't be able to do so if He didn't provide the milk, and the information and people that have helped me along the way.

Being able to nurse my son is a gift. Having access to formula when you can't breastfeed is also a gift. Loving one another despite our differences in parenting styles is a gift. We are all prone to judging, and we desperately need God's grace to be humble and charitable with one another.

All is grace, friends.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Toddlers Learn Organically

Last spring, I was kind of concerned.

S could count to ten {and had a vague grasping of numbers up to 20}, recognize a few letters, quote a few Bible verses, and sing her ABC's.

But she didn't know her colors. *Gasp!*

Other kids knew their colors. A lot of kids her age, and even younger, knew their colors extremely well.

Though I knew better, I semi panicked. We worked on those colors every day as we read books and played, yet she made zero progress. Oh my!

Guess what? Six months later, S has her colors well in hand. She got it long after I gave up trying, so I know her finally getting it has *nothing* to do with my stressing and over-reiterating.

I didn't teach her how to count either. One day in the car {at 18 months-ish} my husband and I were completely caught off guard to hear her count from 1-8. We'd never heard it before, and I hadn't even started working on it with her. She had a toy maraca that counted, and picked it up via simple daily play and repetition.

I'm constantly amazed at the lyrics my child spouts off from memory. How she parrots what she sees and hears in real life. How she quotes word-for-word the stories we've read time and time again.

Kids are wired to learn. They just do.

And while I know I shouldn't stress about milestones, and we've all heard a million and one times that we should never compare... I still do.

Bleh. I am so over it. No more!

I'm making the conscientious decision to just relax. To accept whatever pace my children set, and to not worry about the "whens" of each achievement.

I'm just going to keep reading to them a lot, and talking to them a lot, and playing and working alongside of them.

I think the rest will just sort itself out.

 What's your childhood learning philosophy? Have any major (or minor) milestones stressed you out as a parent?

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Creative Cover for Your Child's Table

Today I have something fun for you. Something that will make your life a little easier, and your kiddos lives a little more colorful.

For her birthday my mom bought S a sweet little table and chairs. S eats at this table, reads at this table, plays at this table, but most frequently; colors at this table.

And every day I would cringe as I heard the crayon scrape off the paper and onto the table. Sometimes it was an accident {because let's be real, two year olds aren't the most coordinated people}. Most of the time it was because coloring the table seemed like way more fun to S.

At any rate, I was a teensy bit tired of scrubbing off crayon marks. If I even bothered to clean them, which honestly, I didn't often. Instead the ugly big marks glared at me, making distracting eye clutter that annoyed my OCD side.

One afternoon a blessed fix dawned on me. I carefully selected a handful of coloring pages, pictures of some of her favorite things {a ballerina. the moon. puppies and kitties.}. Then I took my handy dandy roll of painter's tape, and handcrafted a table cover just for her.

It was a stroke of genius, folks. S loves coloring on her table! There is always something for her to color on, so I don't have to neatly set her up with coloring books every time she feels the creative urge. When she spills a little something, there is a cover to catch it. When I look around the room, I'm no longer plagued by an eyesore. And when the pages fill up or tear, I simply replace them.

I still might cringe for a moment when I hear the crayon take to the table. But then I remember its covered and just relax. Issues? Yes, I have them.

Several friends {who also happen to be toddler mamas} have commented on how neat it is when they're over. So I thought I'd share with you if it could be of any help. Seriously, whatever makes life easier.

Happy coloring!

Warning: The only negative I've experienced with this set up is that the ink from the back of the coloring pages tends to rub off onto the table. For me its still worth it, because 1) I don't see the marks until I take the pages off to replace them, and 2) S has so much fun with this. You could avoid this by printing coloring pages on just one side (as opposed to using two-sided pages from coloring books), if you're concerned. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Apostolic Encouragement for Weary Mamas

Lately little man has been nodding off earlier, sleeping through the night, and developing a semi-regular schedule. His sister is {for the most part} back to sleeping straight through on her own again after three weeks disruption {molars? illness? nightmares? who knows!}. This mama is finally getting more rest, and finally feeling sort of human again.

Not many weeks ago, however, I was tired. Super, super tired. All the mamas have been there. Some days we just don't know if we can keep going any longer, keep our eyes open one more minute, get up off of the couch one more time to fulfill the many demands on our hours, energy, and affection.

It was one of these drowsy days that my eyes caught the text "in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure" (2 Cor. 11:27). No doubt about it, Paul endured many physical obstacles in his gospel ministry.

I've been called to the gospel ministry of motherhood. It has its difficulties, for sure, but this day as I read it I was reminded that the Apostles had sleepless nights too. In addition to their hunger, and beatings, and imprisonments, and shipwrecks. And I thought that this motherhood thing isn't so bad after all.

Take heart, mama. "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison," (2 Cor. 4:17).