Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Preschooler Thanksgiving

I am so excited for Thanksgiving this year, because it is the first year that my daughter {now 3} is really aware, can really understand, and is most likely to remember the holiday. One of the best parts of parenting is experiencing holidays, traditions, seasons, and experiences through the fresh eyes of your child.

Since she is starting to get into Holidays, I've decided that I really want to make a point of learning about Thanksgiving- reading, crafting, and even tailoring our Scripture memory work to the theme. I've made a mini preschool lesson plan, with activities for each day this week. I know I'm a bit late to be posting it only two days in advance, but many of the ideas listed are simple and quick to whip up, and could prove very effective in occupying little hands during Turkey day cooking.


Here's what it looks like.

Activities. 

  • Math: Turkey Feather Counting Game. Simple and inexpensive to construct, this goofy felt Turkey board is a fun way to reinforce mathematical concepts this time of year.
  • Fine Motor Skills: Color-matching Turkey. Since S recently started wearing an eye patch, we are looking for lots of fine motor skill games and activities to strengthen her weak eye! This clothes pin game looks like a winner. 
  • Art: Last year we made turkey handprints with acrylic paint. I painted S's hand and thumb brown, and made one finger green, red, orange, and yellow. She then stamped it on cardstock. I love saving these sorts of things as tokens to remember how small my babes used to be. We will definitely be doing it again this year! 
  •  Art: You'll notice a turkey theme. Paint a handprint/footprint turkey. Make a leaf turkey. This turkey is made out of a brown paper bag and hand cut outs. Or you could glue up these turkey leaves with googly eyes. We won't be doing them all, but one or two might be fun. 
  • Art: I found several nice printables of pilgrims and other thanksgiving themes here, here, here, and here. Some even include Scripture verses!

Books. I didn't have any particular titles in mind when I went to the library, so I just browsed the shelves and picked a few. These are the titles I checked out. Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving books? Please do share in the comments! I'd love to be more intentional next year.

  • Mary's First Thanksgiving by Kathy-jo Wargin. With gorgeous, painted illustrations, this tale of an Irish immigrant girl's first Thanksgiving is meaningful and poignant.
  • The Story of Thanksgiving by Robert Merrill Bartlett. This is a lengthier historical examination, and includes information about harvest celebrations from earlier civilizations. Use your discretion- I'm not sure that I agree with everything the author says about the Puritans, and you may or may not want to discuss ancient Greek and Roman gods and godesses with your little ones yet. 
I've also checked out One Tough Turkey {a silly fable that I thought looked like fun} and Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols. However we haven't yet read them, so I can't tell you if they are any good.

Cultivating Thankfulness. Last year I saw a thankfulness wreath at my friend Abi's house, and knew that I wanted to make one with my kids this year. Each day I try to remember to ask S what she is thankful for, and we write her blessings on the leaves. I made ours by cutting a kind of sort of freehand circle out of cardboard, then tracing leaves onto construction paper with this free template. S has fun watching me write on the leaves, and it makes for a nice decoration.

I also want to be encouraging us to give thanks during family prayer times, and memorize at least one verse about thanking the Lord {here's a list of verses to choose from}.

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving with your little people?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Podcasts {A Great Tool for Redeeming the Time}


I've listened to lots of online books and sermons over the years, but since getting an iPhone this summer I've really gotten into podcasts. Kind of late to the party, I know... but better late than never!

Podcasts are a great tool for busy moms looking to make the best use of their days. They are an opportunity for truth to filter through and renew the mind. They allow you to multitask- doing the dishes, folding laundry, and ironing are all so much more pleasant when you're mentally engaged in a great sermon, interview, or conversation.

If you're new to podcasts, or a longtime listener just looking for fresh ideas, I thought I'd share five of my favorites with you today.

Truth for Life. Scottish Pastor Alistair Begg delivers sound exegesis of Scripture in an extremely pleasant accent. He is super solid, and I am constantly blessed by the nuggets I glean from his sermons.

Ask Pastor John. These sound bytes are usually ten minutes or less {perfect for quick car rides}. Listeners write in with questions, and Pastor John seeks to answer them with a thoughtful look at the Bible, and secondarily his many years of pastoral ministry. Topics cover an extremely wide range, from pop culture to politics to parenting, etc. Always interesting food for thought.

Just Thinking. Ravi Zacharias is an internationally acclaimed Christian apologist. I really enjoy his faith building illustrations and anecdotes, and learn a ton from his intellectual approach to the faith. His work strongly influences the way I think about and interact with unbelievers. A very gracious, very kind and down-to-earth man.

Sermon Audio, Voddie Baucham. This Houston pastor is a riot- excellent sense of humor, but a no-nonsense approach when it comes to the Word of God. I especially enjoy his wisdom when it comes to parenting and growing your family.

The Inspired to Action Podcast. Kat's ministry through her blog and podcast have been a great blessing to me as a mom. Her solid dedication to rising early, praying consistently and meaningful for her husband and kids, and striving to grow in grace for His glory are always hearty admonishment and encouragement to me. You will love listening to her and her guests- a very warm and casual conversation, you'll feel like you are sitting at coffee together. P.S- Bloggers will also enjoy Kat's How They Blog Podcast.

I go through spurts of listening all the time, to not even keeping up with my feed, depending on the season of children and life. The longer sermons {Voddie, and Begg} are harder for me to keep up with, but I love the shorter ones that I can listen to for a ten minute car ride. Sometimes kids are just too loud and attention demanding during the day, so I often do my listening while working on house projects after they've gone to be.

While all of these podcasts can be found via your phone's podcast app, I've shared direct links to the websites so you can listen on your computer or tablet if you're not a smart phone person.

What are your favorite podcasts? I'm always looking for a good one!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The One Book Every Parent Should Read


It seems that most Christian parents have one favorite parenting book. This is the book they most closely adhere to, recommend, and try to model their parenting after. Whether it be Shepherding a Child's Heart, Grace-Based Parenting, Give Them Grace, The Faithful Parent, The Mission of Motherhood, or any other of the myriads of options out there, most people have a particular preference.

Others of us are scrambling to read as many parenting books as we can get our hands on, desperate for Biblical wisdom and guidance from older parents who've been there. We second-guess our every decision, and feel seriously anxious about how we might be messing up our kids for life. Oh how we long to get it right! And oh how inadequate we feel we are for the task!

There are a handful of parenting books that I have truly benefited from, and I always have a new title or two in my stack. But I think we are over complicating things.

The one book every parent should be reading, studying, even memorizing, and modeling their relationships with their children after, is very simply-

the Bible.

Rocket science, I know. But how often do we forget this?

Parenting is hard work. Super hard work. I can't tell you how often I question my decisions and feel the desperation of grasping at straws to come up with how to respond in any given situation. I don't have all of the answers, and the area of my life I've felt that truth most keenly in is motherhood.

Yet its amazing to see how God just gives me heaps of grace, wisdom, and patience on the days that I saturate myself in the Word, and humbly beg Him for answers and help in my parenting.

In and of myself, I am completely insufficient for the task of raising my children. I fail them every single day by losing my temper, responding harshly and impatiently, lazily observing what I ought to be correcting, not giving them all of the attention and love that they need... and on and on the list goes.

The good news is that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We have access to His complete Word and His Holy Spirit via prayer.

And when I mess up and fail my kids, His Word is there to remind me that His grace is enough. It fills in the gaps where I fall short. His blood covers all of my sins, even my parenting sins. If my children are going to grow up to know Him, it will be a result of His grace drawing them to Himself, not my valiant efforts or successful parenting savvy.

Parenting books definitely have their place- we can learn a lot from them, just as we can learn a lot by observing other godly parents around us. But what is our primary source for information, wisdom, motivation, and hope?

Let's major in the Word, and minor in the other words.

How is the Bible informing your parenting today?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Signs of a Traumatic Birth


After W's birth I felt embarrassed.

Surely every mother thinks her labor and delivery was the most painful and dramatic birth ever?

People make pain a competition, and I didn't want to be guilty of that. "Oh yeah, you think you had it bad, but here's what happened to me...." A sort of "I had to walk five miles uphill in the snow barefoot," adapted to the delivery room.

Was my experience really that bad? I got my highly coveted VBAC. I was able to follow most of my birth plan to a tee- did I just have rose colored glasses on when I wrote it?  Of course the actual experience of giving birth is much more intense than you could ever imagine before doing it...so was my remaining angst the result of a novice's unrealistic ideals?

So many questions, and so much embarrassment and confusion. Sixteen months later, the thought of enduring another labor still sends me into panic mode. While I'm {finally} physically recovered, emotionally I still feel scarred.

This isn't easy for me to admit. I wince at the thought of being called melodramatic. While I like to tell a good story with theatrical enthusiasm, when something really, really hurts me, I tend to keep it to myself. A punch in the arm accompanied by advice to "suck it up buttercup" is the last thing I'm looking for.

I've talked with many other mother's about their birth experiences both before and after W's arrival. There is such companionship and commiseration when relating one's birth stories. Who doesn't love to hear one, to share their own, to nod "mmmhmmm honey, totally feel your pain," and to finally experience the delightful realization that you are not alone?!? You are a part of this wonderful club of women who have birthed another human being. Miraculous. Truly, breathtakingly incredible.

All of this talking has shed some light on the issue for me.

Is there such a thing as a traumatic birth? Am I just a big drama queen or a wimp? Why do I feel so disillusioned and hurt by my experience?

Survey says that yes, traumatic birth is a real thing. You might have experienced a traumatic birth if...

1. You can't forget the pain. So many times women have told me that shortly after delivery, they forgot the pain. For some women that happens within minutes or hours, for others it might take a couple of days or weeks. In my case, I still can't shake it, and shudder when I think about it. While I really want to have more children, the thought of another delivery is terrifying to me.

2. It takes a long time to recover physically. Six weeks is what the doctor will tell you, and I know women who've felt 100% down below as early as 3-4 weeks. For me it took seven months, and other women I know have taken nine months or more to heal completely. Not for the faint of heart.

3. You felt unsupported by labor staff. My husband could not have been more amazing in the assistance he provided during our son's birth. He was quiet, attentive, and tuned into my every need.
The hospital staff was another story. Yes, they were nice, and very efficient in their work. I just felt like I was being pushed through their system- like a cow on an assembly line to be slaughtered {ok, perhaps that was a tad melodramatic}. I know they don't have time to pamper every patient, and I didn't expect that. But a little bit of genuine empathy and encouragement would have made a big difference to me.

4. Slow bonding with baby, and no incredible after-birth rush. That amazing feeling of ecstasy and overwhelming love for your newborn that I'd read about in all of my natural labor books? Ha. Nope. No rush of endorphins for this girl. Just stunned disbelief. Had all of that really just happened? Was that really my baby?

While I unquestioningly love my son, more and more with each passing day, I almost feel guilty in admitting that I didn't feel any immediate strong attachment to him. I nursed as soon as possible {and frequently!}, but I was just running on auto-pilot, doing what I knew I was supposed to do.

I've really struggled with disappointment over this.

So where to go from here? 

As previously stated, I know that I still want to have more children. Hopefully a few more. Now I'm wrestling with how to work through my past pain and future anxieties. I don't think I have a perfect solution, but here's where I'm at:

Pray through it. Scripture is crystal clear about how we are to handle our anxieties- with much prayer and supplication. To be an obedient Christian, I need to continually bring my cares to the Lord. While birth is one small event in the grand scheme of things, and I know that I am blessed and my problems pale in comparison to the rest of the world's dilemmas, this still feels like a real trial to me. Instead of stewing over my fears, I want to cast them on Jesus. I am praying that whenever the next baby comes {God willing, in His timing}, He will prepare me for that moment with heaps of grace and healing and peace.

Do what it takes to cope. While I am a big believer in the benefits and beauty of natural birth, I live in a community that seriously limits my options. As a high risk mom, I'm stuck with a hospital that doesn't promote or adequately support natural birth. This is really frustrating to me, but I am trying to remember that even this is all within the realm of God's sovereign will for me.

While not my ideal, I am seriously considering an epidural next time around. I believe that given my limited options for position and other comfort measures, and after the trauma of W's birth, an epidural might give me the best possible experience in welcoming another baby.

I'm still open to attempting a second natural birth, and if water birth becomes an option due to hospital policy changes or relocation, that would be my preference. I have to keep reminding myself that this doesn't make me a failure. The most important thing is not how we give birth. I'd rather be able to enjoy and soak in those precious first moments after delivery with as much peace and joy as possible.

How would you describe your birth experience{s}? Any advice for working through birth trauma?

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Husband Isn't My Helpmeet


Often as a wife I've found myself sucked into a downward spiral of ugly thoughts. With all of the laundry, cooking, cleaning, dishes, and childcare, I at times make myself out to be a martyr.

The demands on my time seem to never let up, while my husband works his shift from 7:30-5. Sure, he is a very helpful, hands-on guy around the house and with the kids. But sometimes my selfish, greedy heart piles demands onto him that go far beyond the realms of his reasonable duty.

I'm angry when he doesn't read my mind and vacuum the floor while I'm doing the dishes. I become disgruntled during final dinner preparations if he's reading to our daughter but ignoring the baby's screams. And if by chance he is sitting on the sofa watching t.v. while I'm still slaving away in the kitchen, you can bet a storm is brewing in my heart.

"Why doesn't he help me more???" I stewed on one particularly grumpy evening. All I wanted to do was crash on the couch with him. I was tired and worn out, and it all seemed so unfair.

The thought dawned on me in that moment. A gentle, Holy Spirit guided hush- my husband wasn't made to be my helpmeet. I was made to be his

These dishes, and the day-in, day-out, draining tasks that come with a house full of kids- they're my opportunity to serve him well and fulfill my God given role of being "a helper suitable to him".

When I remember who is supposed to be helping who, it frees me to be grateful for just how helpful my husband really is. It's a reminder to count my blessings, and to do my work joyfully, as unto the Lord and not unto myself or other people {don't they notice how hard I work??? martyr complex...}.

I do think it is good and God-honoring for husbands to help and serve their wives. But when my eyes are on my lofty expectations for what my husband ought to be doing for me, my perspective is way skewed.

Peace and freedom come in embracing the work God has given with joy and a thankful heart. 

"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'" Genesis 2:18