On Growing Up

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Almost all of us have some specific remnant(s) of our childhood we carry with us, a symbol of our earliest years.  Things we can look at or sounds we hear that fill us with memories.  Pictures that take us back to sitting on logs near the woodpile in the backyard eating Sweet Sixteen powdered donuts with your grandpa; songs that take us back to that roller-skating birthday party where your biggest focus was not falling in front of the boy you liked.  Or a teddy bear that you named after Big Bird’s teddy bear when you were a preschooler that adored Sesame Street.  We are blessed (or sometimes feel cursed) by a beautiful flood of memories that can come rushing back by association in a matter of moments.

Sometimes those moments come with the realization that life is speeding by faster than you had truly realized.  Once you become a parent, the thing you may often hear the most is “before you know it, they’ll be grown.” And it’s true.  It really is.  As cliche as it sounds, you can just about “blink and those early days are gone.”  We may feel it strongly when our kids take their first steps, say their first words, start picking out their own clothes, or begin their first year of school.  Life is often measured in the “firsts”.  Tonight I was hit by a mack truck of realization that involved a first I hadn’t really thought about and in many ways, am not quite ready for.  It involves one of my daughter’s firsts- her first love really.

It can be argued that it was her father and I that occupy that “first love” place in her heart, and I suppose that is certainly true in many ways.  But Lulu… Lulu has always held a special place in her heart, and it’s Lulu that has consistently been the symbol of my little girl’s childhood.

Lulu is a lamb.  A lovely, lavender lamb that was given to us as a baby shower gift before my sweet girl was even born.  She was the top of the diaper cake made by my friend Melissa in response to the knowledge that the theme for Eila’s nursery was The Lion and the Lamb.  Because of this, we were blessed with many lambs.  It took a few months of course, but Lulu soon became Eila’s favorite.  From about six months onward, they were inseparable.

Like many beloved stuffed animals, blankies, and so forth, Lulu has gone everywhere with Eila- out of state to visit family, around town running errands, to offer comfort when Eila is scared or sad- Lulu is well-loved and well-traveled.  Therefore, in almost every single picture of Eila from babyhood on, Lulu is there, peeking out from Eila’s elbow.  She is like a member of the family- to the point that if I saw Lulu lying somewhere and I needed to move her, I felt almost guilty if I kicked her with my foot instead of gently picking her up and placing her down in a better location.  Sometimes Lulu can almost make you believe, like Sara Crewe did about her doll Emily in A Little Princess, that she is really alive and would move if you left the room.

Due to Lulu’s loved status, she has become quite worn over the years.  As threadbare as The Velveteen Rabbit and cuddled just as much if not more so, her stuffing began to poke through and she was on the verge of unraveling in many areas.  A kind friend at church offered to crochet lovely pastel colored patches to strengthen Lulu’s worn parts and those have so far held true.

Earlier, as Eila was downstairs playing and I was in her room putting some of her things away, I caught sight of Lulu lying there in the middle of the bed and my heart caught in my throat.  I realized that this was becoming the new normal.  Once always cuddled in Eila’s arms, Lulu is left behind on a more frequent basis.  Eila often says now she leaves her to keep her safe and preserve her from getting torn up and I know this is true.  But… I also know that her leaving Lulu behind is inevitable much like how she is slowly easing out of her childhood.  And Lulu is a tangible reminder of that.

I believe she will always have Lulu, whether she be in a box or on a shelf.  I think that Lulu will continue on with her through adolescence, into adulthood, and may make it to be played with by Eila’s children someday.  Even if she doesn’t, the thought of Lulu will, and is likely to spark many, many wonderful memories for my little girl.   As I looked at Lulu laying there, I was acutely aware that in a day or two, Eila will be starting first grade and that my sweet firstborn girl is a going to be a grown woman much sooner than I can imagine.  It was one of those cliche “blink-and-you-miss-it-moments” and it made me hug my daughter a little bit tighter that night as she clutched Lulu in their familiar embrace.

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My guest post on Organizing A Homeschool Space

I’ve decided it’s time to start blogging again.  I am nowhere near having this mother of three thing down yet, but I think I can safely squeeze some writing time in more frequently than once every five months or so.  I actually started back a couple of weeks ago when a friend of mine (who is also a professional organizer) asked me to do a guest post on her blog about organizing a homeschool space.  If you are interested in checking out her site and want to find out why I laughed when she first asked, here’s the link! http://getsimplespaces.com/guest-blogger-homeschool-organizing/

 

Jude’s Birth Story: A Testimony of Praise. Part 2.

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For the first part of Jude’s story, click here.

I left off in Part 1 with how my discouragement was starting to grow.  I mentioned that I had to fight the thoughts that were making their way into my mind, thoughts like “I can’t do this”, “This is never going to end”, and “If I transferred to the hospital now, I could have a c-section and just be done.”  I knew that I was just weary and that I needed to take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), but I was honestly struggling.  I am guessing it was around 9:15am or so at this point.  I was praying off and on and knew that others were praying for me.  It was at this point that Will posted on Facebook that I was getting tired and needed prayer. My mom had also sent out a request for prayer via email and the staff of the Yahweh Center had stopped during praise and worship at the weekly staff meeting to pray for us.  Prayer was going to be critical in the next hour or so.

God knew I needed encouragement, and He used my midwife at that moment to give it to me.  She looked at me and quoted the first half of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things…”  and I finished it with …through Him who strengthens me.”  This was significant as it was the verse my mother had quoted to me ever since I was a little girl- my midwife didn’t know that.  I know this was one of the ways God let me know more directly that He was there with me.

My midwife asked me if there was anything going on mentally that I needed to discuss- I didn’t mention my thoughts of c-section at that point because I knew I didn’t really, truly want that, but I did share that I was just tired.  And afraid I wasn’t going to have the energy to do what I needed to do if (when) we were finally ready to push.I remember getting super antsy as I fought my own thoughts there in that pool.  I decided then that I could no longer try to rest.  I needed to DO something and I had the feeling that it was time to get out and have my baby.  I got out, started walking around, and felt a renewed sense of purpose.

Up until this point, my water hadn’t broken.  Like with my first two, we ended up breaking it to move things along (apparently my bag of waters is always super strong).  After my midwife broke my water, as with Asher’s birth although not quite as immediate and obvious, Jude was well on his way in descent and I was ready to push not too long afterward.  With Will behind me on the bed to help be my strength, we began to push.

My midwife worked with me to help me avoid tearing, and I could feel Jude trying to help by turning a bit as he began to crown.  But something wasn’t quite right.  He tried again to help as I pushed but still wasn’t fully coming out, even though they could see his head.  They continued to track his heartbeat with the doppler as they had throughout the entire labor, and at this last check, the results weren’t good.

It is here that things began to happen super quickly.  My midwife had me turn over onto my hands and knees and I could hear the urgency in her voice as she told me to PUSH.  Then, he was out.

I felt that familiar feeling of relief as he emerged and turned, ready to hold him.  But he wasn’t breathing.  He was grayish and floppy.

At this point, I’m not sure of anything other than seeing my midwife calmly and determinedly start applying oxygen while instructing me to pray and asking Will to call 911 in case they were needed.  I rubbed Jude’s chest as I prayed, asking the Lord to get my baby breathing.  I looked at Will’s face and could see the utter look of fear as he called 911 and looked at his baby.  I almost felt like I went on autopilot- it was scary, but somehow I felt that Jude was going to be fine.

Two minutes later, a very long two minutes in many ways while fast in others, Jude turned pink, started breathing on his own, and let out a beautiful, piercing cry that lasted awhile as he made up for lost time.  The EMTs arrived and I was thankful beyond words that they were not needed other than having me sign a form that we didn’t need transport to the hospital.  His first apgar at 1 minute after birth came in at a 3.  His second, five minutes after his birth, was a 9.

Still attached to me because we had not clamped and cut the cord yet, I delivered the placenta while helping Jude to begin nursing.  Will then cut the cord once it had stopped pulsing and all we could do was praise God that He had been the one to truly deliver our praise baby.  Jude means praise.  Our prayer all through the pregnancy had been that his birth would be a praise and a testimony to all those involved.  In talking (processing) with our midwife immediately afterward and on follow-up visits in the next couple of weeks, it was evident that God honored that prayer.  Jude is certainly our praise, and I am incredibly thankful that he is here with us.

After the birth, we learned that there had been a combination of factors going on.  Shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder is not able to pass below the pubic bone, was a major factor that caused his distress and the drop in heart tones, also affecting his breathing once out.  His cord was also caught by the shoulder.  It appeared in examining the placenta that it had started to separate from the uterus, and the umbilical cord, instead of developing from the center of the placenta, had developed from the side.  Praise again that given all those factors, Jude is here lying in my lap making that sweet little sound with his lips that he is making.

We’ve been asked since his birth if we wish we had been in a hospital given the circumstances of his birth.  Our answer is a resounding “NO!”  If we had been in a hospital, the following scenarios would have been likely:  1) when my cervical lip came back, it is possible I would have been dubbed with the infamous failure to progress label and a c-section would have been pushed/recommended.  2) When Jude was born and not breathing, the cord would have been clamped and cut immediately and he would have been whisked away to the NICU, or at least, away from me and his father.

I am thankful for my midwife’s wisdom (and it is part of her usual practice anyway) of waiting until the cord stops pulsing before it is cut.  This allowed Jude to continue to receive the life-giving blood he was receiving as she applied oxygen.  He was able to hear my voice and feel my touch as he lay there.  She had what she needed to get him breathing- we didn’t need a hospital room for that.  The Lord used her mightily in that moment, and He heard our prayers.

We said from the beginning that doing a homebirth was a huge faith walk for us.  Little did we know how much of one it would be.  Of course, birth is always a faith walk really, wherever you choose to have your baby and however he or she arrives in your arms.

Jude Christian Adair was born at 10:37am, 8 lbs and 3.5 ounces.  21 inches long.  God is so very faithful- we have our praise baby to attest to that.  And we give Him all the glory.

Jude’s Birth Story: A Testimony of Praise. Part 1.

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For those of you that hang with me through my sporadic blogging, you may remember that we were planning a homebirth for the birth of our third child, who is lying here sleeping in my lap as I write this.  As I look down at him going through his series of “going into a deeper sleep-cycle” faces, my heart tightens to think things could have been very different.

Jude was “due” sometime around the first or second of March, and as it was with my first two babies, he took his time.  Unlike my first two, I experienced prodromal labor this go ’round.  The contractions started getting so regular at one point that we actually had my parents come and get our first two kiddos one night because we thought our little guy was on his way.  Or not, as we learned a couple hours later when the contractions ebbed off.  Finally, a few days of this happening off and on, March 5 rolled around.  I had an appointment with my midwife that morning and had my first internal check of the pregnancy (one more reason I love having a midwife instead of a doctor).  Because I had been experiencing prodromal labor, she asked if I would like her to sweep my membranes.  Essentially, sweeping the membranes can get labor going if it is “on the fence” like mine was, but this isn’t a guaranteed jumpstart.  For me, it seems to have worked.

As the evening of March 5 rolled around, it appeared that sweeping my membranes had effectively locked my contractions into a more regular and progressive pattern.  Within the past week or so, I had had a sneaking suspicion that little man was going to start his arrival in the middle of the night, requiring us to wake up not only our midwife and her assistant, but also my parents and our two oldest children.  Sure enough, around 9pm, I begin to sense that Jude was getting started on his journey.  I wait an hour to see if the contractions were going to stop, and when they didn’t ease off, I called my midwife to give her the heads up that I would probably be calling her back later that night.  She advised me to try and get some sleep and requested that I call her when the contractions became too strong for me to sleep through.

I woke up off and on but managed to get some rest until around 11pm.  I then got up with the realization that I was in pain and that I couldn’t stand lying down any longer.  I walked around awhile before deciding to wake up Will and begin calling everyone we needed to call.  I called my midwife around midnight, and then called my parents.  We gathered the kids’ things (they were going to be at my parents house during the birth) and got them downstairs.

My midwife arrived and was coming in right as my parents were heading out with the kids.  At this point contractions were starting to get more intense but were still somewhat manageable.  Once our midwife’s assistant arrived, she began setting up the birth pool upstairs in our baby’s room (one of the only rooms that would allow enough space to assemble the pool since we hadn’t put his furniture in yet).  My midwife regularly took my vitals and then checked to see how dilated I was.  I was at 5cms, so halfway there.   We all sat and watched a few Cosby Show episodes as I labored, often by hanging onto my husband during contractions.  It is somewhat surreal watching the Cosby Show at 3am.

As labor became increasingly intense, I was really hoping the birth pool would be ready soon.  It took quite a while to fill it- I’m not sure how long exactly because I was otherwise occupied but I know it took longer than an hour.  We watched Cosby until the birth pool was ready and my midwife was sure I was far enough along to get in, so that it wouldn’t slow down labor.  I was thrilled when I could get into the water because, while it didn’t take the pain away, it was relaxing and took some of the pressure off.

I can’t exactly tell you how long I labored in the pool.  My midwife and her assistant continued to do periodic vitals checks and used the heart doppler periodically to make sure Jude was still doing well.  Like with my first birth, when the midwife checked me at one point we found that I had a bit of a cervical lip and had to wait for it to fully dilate.   I could see that it was getting light out and realized that my assumption that Jude’s birth would be quicker than Asher’s (my second child- his story is here) was not going to be a reality.  I remember getting out at one point, relieved, when it was discovered that I was at 10 centimeters and ready to push.  I ended up on my bed despite plans to do a waterbirth- it just felt better to me somehow.  Yet as we began the pushing process, we found that the cervical lip had come back and that I couldn’t push anymore.  There are no words for how discouraged I felt at that moment.  I was getting tired.

My midwife recommended I get back in the pool and take time to allow my body to rest.  Will, the midwife, and her assistant were all continuously encouraging and made sure I stayed hydrated and had food to give me energy.  I was in the pool probably for another hour or so, attempting to rest between contractions but realizing that my mind was not having it.  I had to fight the thoughts that started coming as my weariness and discouragement grew.

(See Part 2 here).

Why I Don’t Want to Be a Supermom

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It seems to be everywhere.  The Supermom complex, I mean.  The growing pressure in our society to “do it all”.  Whether pressure we feel from others or pressure we place on ourselves, it is a very real thing.  Oftentimes I hear (or see if on social media) people complimenting moms by calling them a supermom, implying that they have it all, do it all, and don’t break a sweat in the process.

But you know?  I don’t want to be called a supermom (and all of you that know me well know there is no real danger of that!).  I do not aspire to be the perfect cook, perfect decorator, perfect homeschooling parent, perfect crafter, sewer, baker, mom, wife, and so forth.  There are times where I long to be better than I am at any or all of the above, and I strive to do my best in the variety of roles I am called to.  However, I feel there is a difference between “Supermom” and even an example of a woman such as the Proverbs 31 woman.

Granted, reading through Proverbs 31 can be intimidating, and I confess, has left me feeling a bit inadequate at times.  Yet the P31 woman is meant to be a composite of Godly, womanly characteristics rather than a very strict job description to be followed.  For example, I may not know how to sew bed coverings (Proverbs 31:22), but I can make sure my family has what they need to stay warm at night.  If that means using a coupon at Kohls to get a blanket for 75% off, then I believe that works!  The point, from my understanding, of the P31 passage is to illustrate characteristics we as women should strive for (and characteristics men should look for in a wife): industriousness, kindness to others, honoring our husbands, loving our children, taking care of our families, being wise stewards of what we have been given, and so forth.  Will these be done perfectly?  No, of course not.   Can we do these in our own power?  Not at all.  And that is the point.

To me, the supermom moniker indicates that that mom can do it all, that she is in control and on top of things- that she doesn’t need any help and does it all in her own power.  Is a woman like that even easy to relate to?  Speaking for myself, I am much more comfortable around women that are honest about both their successes AND their failures.  It’s just more real.  When women feel pressure to do and be everything, it is exhausting and overwhelming and unrealistic.  Ironically, it can lead to the exact opposite of characteristics like caring for your family and being kind to others- I know the times where I have taken on too much in order to appear “super” in some way, I have been less than the best mom and wife I can be!  I feel like the Christmas season brings out this need to be perfect more than many other times of year.  We lay high expectations on ourselves to perform so we can have a Norman Rockwell-esque Christmas, all the while wearing ourselves ragged and missing the simple joy in the smaller things.

It tells us in both Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 that God gave us all different gifts.  While these passages speak mainly of spiritual gifts, I believe they can also be applied to the various skills and talents we have been given.  These gifts are given to us to be used to glorify the Lord and bless others, not to glorify ourselves.  And how beautifully they allow us to complement each other instead of compete with each other.   I’m not saying we can’t be excited about something we accomplish and share it with others, but I know we are supposed to point others to Him in the process.  It’s something I do strive for even though I often fall short.

How freeing is it though to really throw off the desire or attempt to be a supermom?  Think about it!  Less pressure to perform, permission to be who we are while growing in who we are called to be!  Drawing attention to Christ rather than ourselves?  I find that to be a beautiful, wonderful thing!  Yes, there are times I want to be praised, admired, have something I’ve made be pinned repeatedly on Pinterest or liked ten times over on Facebook.  But that’s when I know I need to keep my perspective in check and make sure that while my works may praise me (Proverbs 31:31), that ultimately, they praise the One who gave them to me.

Be encouraged ladies!  You don’t have to be a supermom!  Working to glorify Him and bless others is what we are called to, and we do it in His grace, not in our power, and with the unique gifts He has given us.  So relax, enjoy this season, do what you have been uniquely given to do and stop comparing your Charlie Brown Christmas tree or attempts at baking homemade bread with the mini Rockefeller trees and braided loaf breads of others.  ;)

Holiday Traditions- Part 2

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I decided to blog on holiday traditions after our MOPs group came up with a wonderful list of ideas to inspire anyone looking for some traditions to throw into their holiday fun.  They are great ways to make memories and bless your family!

For anyone who is interested and missed Part 1, you can find it here.  Part 1 focused on Thanksgiving traditions- now we are moving onto Christmas!

1) Ornament exchanges.  If you do a Christmas tree, one memorable thing to do is to exchange ornaments each year.  I grew up with my parents exchanging with each other and my brother and I exchanging.  We typically did it Christmas Eve and an added benefit of this as little ones was that it always gave us one gift to open early.  An added bonus of this idea is that when we were both older and starting our own families, we already had a wonderful collection of ornaments to decorate our first “grown-up” trees with!

2) Reading Luke’s account of the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve.  There are tons of variations on this- some families tie this to setting out their nativity set (adding in a new figure as they get to that part of the story).  Another option is to set up the nativity set on Christmas morning- have family members look at the nativity set on Christmas morning before eating or opening gifts as a parent reads Christmas story in Luke. However it is done, it is a great way to keep our focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas.

3) Making Jesus a birthday cake.  We started doing this once we began having children, and it is one of my favorite traditions.  It is a terrific, concrete, and enticing way to help children grasp the reason for Christmas!

4) Speaking of sweet things, one way to bless others is to make an abundance of Christmas cookies, fudge, etc and deliver to neighbors, various local ministries, local law enforcement, and friends.  We like to make cinnamon rolls and share them with others.

5) Getting hot chocolate and riding around to look at Christmas lights.  Or a twist on this…Living by the Light, where one evening, choose to do everything by candlelight.  Talk about the verse 1 John 1:5 “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”  Talk about what life would be like without light, and what life would be like without the light of Christ.  Then get in the car and go look at Christmas lights!

6)  Another one we personally incorporate is giving three gifts per child, to symbolize the three gifts given to Christ by the Magi.  Not only does this also relate directly to why we celebrate Christmas (even though the Magi didn’t visit Christ until he was a couple of years older), but it helps keep the craziness of commercialism down a bit!  There are also variations on this idea (you could do something like a gift to wear, a gift to read, and a gift to play with; or one family does a play off the gold/frankincense/myrrh idea- gold is something to give that is valuable, so something that the child really wants, their heart’s desire; frankincense was a spice used in the temple during prayer and fasting, so this gift could draw the child closer to God- a Bible, a Noah’s ark toy, etc.- myrrh was a fluid used upon death that covered the whole body, so perhaps something like pajamas, a sweater, jeans, etc.). Another idea with gift-giving is to give gifts to various ministries in the name of a loved one- World Vision has a great catalog that explains how you can bless families living in poverty with a goat or cow to provide milk, or hens to lay eggs.

7)  I can’t wait to start this one this year!  25 Names of Jesus for 25 days of ornaments- 1 to hang each day.  The idea is that you either take ornaments and write 25 names that are used for Christ, ie Wonderful Counselor, Alpha and Omega, Rock of Ages, etc.  You can make your own or use store-bought.  I came across this idea at http://www.iammommahearmeroar.net/2011/11/christmas-kojo-designs.html and think it is fabulous!

8) Christmas movie traditions.  This is a common one, as many people and/or families may choose to have certain movies they watch annually, like It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, and so forth. :)

9) Another one I hope to start incorporating is that of Christmas Mail: sometime a few weeks before Christmas, family members write letters to each other and use stockings as mailboxes.  Family members read their letters quietly at the same time on Christmas Eve.  Obviously with really young ones this could be tricky, but pictures can be drawn or short letters can be dictated also.

10) For those that are fans of crafting or baking, one tradition that could be fun are incorporating parties with friends as you make handmade gifts.  Bring potluck and enjoy time together while preparing gifts.  Cookie swaps can fall into this category.

And as always, there are many ways to serve others with the love of Christ- mentioned above are giving gifts through groups like World Vision and making baked goods or items to serve to others.  As in the Thanksgiving post, you can invite others to share a Christmas meal with you.  You can visit nursing homes and pass out handmade cards or sing some Christmas songs.  There is such wonderful joy in giving to others, especially to glorify the One who gave all for us.  My family is trying to do a better job of remembering this and putting it into practice!

I’ll stop there to prevent this from becoming way too long! If you want more ideas, a great resource is this site, which has a list of 50 Christmas ideas (some from this site are in my list above): http://www.defrumpme.com/2011/11/50-things-to-do-at-christmas-25-days-of.html

And feel free to share any of your traditions in the comments below!

Holiday Traditions- Part 1

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Since we are already halfway through the first week of November and Thanksgiving draws near (as does Christmas, according to Target and other stores I noted that have already decorated en masse), I thought I would share a list of holiday traditions we compiled at a recent MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting.  I’m going to condense the list down to 15 (or so) traditions, as it grew to become quite a few pages long!

A disclaimer before I start: don’t feel pressured to do all or any of these.  Different traditions work for different families.  You are not a terrible parent if you don’t have any specific traditions, or if you only do one or two.  Sometimes taking too many on causes us to forget why we are celebrating and becomes just one more thing to check off on our to-do list.  Also, never let yourself feel trapped by a tradition.  If it’s not working, change it or stop it.  If you miss it one year or are off by a day, it doesn’t ruin it (I speak to myself here as I have this crazy way of feeling like everything is messed up if I get off even a little bit.  I’m ridiculously melodramatic that way and am working on it.  Well, I’m asking God to work on it.)  This list is just meant to inspire anyone looking to incorporate some new traditions this year.

Anyway…despite our culture’s tendency to skip over Thanksgiving, our group started there and some of the ideas included:

1) A Give Thanks journal.  My family actually started doing this last year.  The idea is to have a notebook of some sort to record what each family member is thankful for each year.  My favorite moment when we started this last year involves my son, who was almost 2 at the time.  As we went around talking about what we were thankful for, his answer every time was “God”.  He said it so earnestly and yet so deadpan that it still makes me laugh to remember it.  It serves as a great way to look back at our blessings through the years.

2) Another fun idea related to the journal, but especially great for young children, is a Thanksgiving tree.  We did it for the first time this year- I cut out a tree shape from some brown construction paper and each day we cut out leaf shapes and write things we are thankful for on them before taping them to the tree.  Here is the one we have in process- definitely nothing fancy :)

3) Getting/putting up a Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We like to add on getting peppermint milkshakes from Chick-fil-A as part of this. ;)

4) Fruit of the Spirit in the Horn of Plenty (Cornucopia)- I love this idea. Nine days before Thanksgiving, place one piece of fruit in the horn to represent one fruit of the spirit (do this each day leading up to Thanksgiving).  I think it allows a wonderful (and visual) way to illustrate and discuss the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control).  From my understanding, they have horns of plenty at places such as Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc.  It also can make a pretty Thanksgiving centerpiece! :)

5)  Run the Table with Thanks- take a piece of muslin fabric and turn into a table runner (cut piece 12 wide x 36 long) and then sew a ½ inch hem around all edges.  Place in middle of table with a selection of fabric and permanent markers and ask guests to write something they are thankful for.  I don’t sew, unfortunately, but this could certainly be done without having to sew and sounds like a sweet idea and great way to include Thanksgiving guests or family at Thanksgiving gatherings.

So I was going to stop at 5 for Thanksgiving, but I need to add in a bonus which happens to be the best of all of them in my mind.

6) Serve as a family in some way.  Perhaps at a soup kitchen- to get even a remote idea of what it is to be hungry, one option may be to not eat yourself (or skip a meal) that day until done.  Serving others is a beautiful holiday tradition to incorporate and along those lines, another option is connecting with a group that is organizing an Invite a Troop to Thanksgiving event for those that are deployed and away from family for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes is one my family currently does as the collection week falls the week before Thanksgiving.  It’s a great way to help my kids give to other kids in need around the world.  Here’s a link if you want more info: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/  

So those are some of the top Thanksgiving traditions we shared about in our meeting.  If you have any to add, feel free to comment below!

Seasons of Change

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For the past couple of weeks, many of our science lessons have consisted of studying some caterpillars I ordered using a gift from my parents of a Kaplan educational gift certificate.  I spent a good deal of time scrolling through the hundreds of options on the Kaplan site to determine what would be the best use of the gift, reading reviews to ensure I wouldn’t end up with something that would be a disappointment.  We finally settled on a butterfly kit, and I eagerly ordered it and then used the coupon it came with to send away for our caterpillars.  We received 6 caterpillars instead of the usual 3-5, which was a nice bonus. Almost every day Eila and I would spend time making observations regarding growth, appearance, and the like.  I quickly began to realize that I was more excited about watching these caterpillars prepare for their transformation than anyone.

I had never watched the process before, so I learned a few new things.  I did not know, for example, that before the caterpillars begin to develop their chrysalis, that they spend a good deal of time hanging perfectly still upside down, in a J- like formation.  The pamphlet that came with the kit states that this is an intense and vulnerable period of rest and preparation immediately before the chrysalides form and the transformation begins.

This struck a chord with me.  I guess this caught my attention because I have been in a season of paradigm shift and change for the past 6 months or so.  Homeschooling is  a huge paradigm shift in our culture- despite the fact that it is becoming more common and accepted, it definitely goes against the grain and the norm in our culture.  It’s a faith journey in so many ways, as I have to rely on Christ in ways that are new and unexpected in educating my children and in regard to my own need for patience and ability to be flexible.  We did preschool last year, but knowing that we chose to dive into kindergarten this year (due to Eila’s readiness) has made it all more real.  I love the freedom of homeschooling, the opportunities to be so actively involved in my children’s education, and the time we have truly developing a love for learning, but the responsibility is downright scary some days!

Another crazy paradigm shift for me is that of homebirth.  As I sit here 22 weeks pregnant with our third child, knowing we are past the halfway point and that our goal is a safe and uneventful homebirth, I alternate between excitement and that feeling of “what-on-earth-are-we-thinking”?  I don’t know if I would have considered it if Asher’s birth hadn’t been such a great experience overall.  I have a few friends who have had homebirths, and I have strong feelings on the rising rate of hospital interventions and the risk they can pose when not needed, so as Will and I began to talk about trying for a third, we were in agreement that we would plan for a homebirth.

Once we conceived and began seeing my midwife, the reality of this decision kicked in on a more elevated level and while I am still wholeheartedly wanting a homebirth, I will not lie and say that I don’t get fearful or overwhelmed at times.  This is when I remind myself of the following:  that God is just as present in my bedroom as He is in a hospital room.  Sovereign is sovereign.  My midwife does not do daring births and at the first indication of anything wrong is quick to send the mom to the hospital.  We prayed about it and feel it is the right thing for us for this birth.  And since, in God’s grace, I was able to deliver Asher naturally and without anyone around for most of the birth, I’m trusting that we can do it again.

So what does homeschool and homebirth have to do with a caterpillar preparing to become a butterfly?  Maybe not what would seem obvious.  For me, it is not really about the end result of transformation right now.  It’s about the process.  The caterpillar to butterfly analogy is frequently used in our culture to describe something more ordinary becoming extraordinary.  In Christian circles, it is often an illustration that accompanies the idea of a person becoming a new creation when they become a follower of Christ (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation has come.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17).  And this is absolutely appropriate and thrilling to think that we are made new!

Yet as I mentioned, it is the process of being made new that has recently caught my attention.  As I watched the caterpillars hang there in a J shape, vulnerable and preparing for the changes to come, one of my favorite words came to mind.  Abide.  The concept of abiding is to wait, to endure, to bear patiently.  To abide in Christ is to do these things in Him and by His power.  John 15:4 states, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” As I read this verse and think about both homeschooling and homebirthing, it occurs to me that unless I rest in Christ and endure the difficulties every new thing is guaranteed to bring at some point, I will not be able to accomplish what I hope.  I won’t bear fruit.  In resting, in enduring, in bearing patiently as I hang vulnerably swaying in the wind of challenge while I wait, He is preparing me for what is ahead.  The process cannot be underestimated, we shouldn’t rush through it in our eagerness to be made new, to become more beautiful, to accomplish a certain goal.  And it may not seem like we are doing much, that we are moving towards our goal; we may feel that life is dull and monotonous as we wait.  But feelings don’t equal truth, and the majority of such times we discover that it was these quiet or lackluster periods in life that preceded some of the most beautiful moments we have been blessed with.

It really is a privilege to rest in Christ as He prepares me for things ahead.  That doesn’t mean it’s always wonderful and that I revel in the process, but I am trying to remember to trust, even (especially!) as I hang there still or slightly swaying, in the One who planned my transformation.

Ultrasound Rollercoaster

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On Monday, Will and I prepared with excitement for our first ultrasound with Baby A.  As we drove to our appointment after dropping the kids off to stay with my mom (who had graciously agreed to take off some time from work to watch them), we discussed our hope that Baby A would be active enough during the ultrasound that we could watch him/her move around and that the tech would not only be able to get the shots and measurements she needed to get, but that we would be able to discover our little one’s gender.  I am a planner.  The thought of not knowing puts me into slight panic, as I want to get rooms painted, furniture prepared, and clothing situated.  Both Eila and Asher had graciously given their mother peace of mind during their respective ultrasounds 5 and 3 years ago, and I hoped and prayed their sibling would follow suit.

In our hurry to get out the door so we wouldn’t be late to our appointment, we decided it would be best to grab breakfast on the way rather than eat at home.  So Will and I stopped at Bojangles and I proceeded to get a cajun filet chicken biscuit.  I had joked with my MOPs group a few days prior about needing to eat or drink something that would get the baby moving and was advised orange juice and/or teddy grahams, but ended up with the biscuit.  I remember thinking, “maybe the spiciness will be effective”…I thought about adding on a sweet tea but decided that probably would be too much and that I should stick with the almost gallon of water they wanted me to drink 30 minutes prior to the appointment.  Looking back, this was probably a very good call, or the ultrasound may have been even more of a roller-coaster than it already was!

We arrived at our appointment and filled out the requisite paperwork.  My favorite part was being asked on one form “Describe your condition” to which I responded “pregnancy”.  The next question was then “How did you end up in this condition?” I left that blank.

We were called back quickly and I was so ready to see our little one that I didn’t even take the tech up on the opportunity to use the ladies room, despite the fact that I had consumed the prescribed amount of water on the way.  We got started and I was once again in awe of the technology that allows me to see our little one in the womb with the placement of an instrument on my stomach.  I don’t think I could ever be less than amazed by this process.  As we began to see our baby, I couldn’t help but tear up a little- we have never waited so long to see one of our children in utero before because with both Eila and Asher we had the initial 8-10 week scan.  I was thrilled, as was Will.

Our tech soon began to comment on how our little one was positioned in a way that was making it difficult for her to record the needed info.  Baby A (throughout the duration of the ultrasound) was head down with legs and bottom in the air hanging over the head.  But this does not mean Baby A was still.  Oh no.  Baby A decided it was a great day to prepare early for the USA gymnastics team and proceeded to perform somersaults and twists like I have never seen.  Neither of Baby A’s siblings were even close to as active as this little one was this day!  I seriously do not want to know what would have happened if I had consumed the sweet tea I considered buying that morning.  The cajun filet biscuit alone sent Baby A into joyous flips and headstands.

Ironically, my fear that the baby wouldn’t move enough became quickly laughable and then frustrating.  The tech managed to measure the head (which is measuring right where it should be), the kidneys, see the feet, get a shot of the face (but never could get a profile shot), etc.  As she tried to get the heart, she soon commented that she just couldn’t get an adequate view of all four chambers- she could see them, she thought, but couldn’t put down on paper that they were, in fact, all there, because she didn’t have the clear documentation needed.  Drat Baby A, slow down in there.

Also a challenge was the umbilical cord.  She wanted to be able to verify that the cord was a three vessel cord.  When that proved tricky, she decided to rest from that endeavor and aim to check out gender.  I was ready.  Earlier in the process, she had pointed out what appeared to be the tell-tale three white lines that would mean we had a little girl bouncing around in there.  After this, however, the tech kept commenting that she kept seeing a protrusion as Baby A danced around.  Hmm.  I didn’t give this much thought, as it was hard to see much of anything clearly- although I have to admit, with the way the baby was moving, it did cross my mind multiple times that we may be dealing with a little guy here.

I have never had such a determined tech, and thank God for her.  Even as the intercom kept beeping ever few minutes with “Code 99: Ultrasound”, reminding us that, yes, there were other people waiting, she patiently set her mind to confirm heart and cord.  At this point I went to the bathroom in hopes that Baby A would shift to a better position.  This didn’t seem to work.  The tech then went out of the room to ask the radiologist to come in and see if he could pinpoint 4 chambers.  While the tech was out of the room, Will and I sat and prayed that Baby A would give us the ability to have the three questions of heart, cord, and gender answered definitively.  Meanwhile, the tech reported that the radiologist said with the baby moving so much he didn’t see why he should come in and that we should just schedule a follow-up.

I’m feeling frustrated, and honestly guilty, as I want to kick myself over consuming that blooming biscuit (Will kept reminding me that the biscuit may have not had anything to do with it, but still).  As the tech decides to try for just a few more minutes, God generously answers our prayer and gives us 2 out of 3 answers.  First, a concrete 3 vessel cord shot.  Secondly, a moment where our little one goes spread-eagled (still upside-down) and indicates to us all that is it highly, highly likely that we are having a baby boy!

I did not realize how convinced I had been that it was a girl (I had been right with both of my other kids) until that moment.  I was stunned.  And I remained stunned as we left, knowing we would probably be coming back for one more ultrasound to confirm that there are, in fact, 4 miraculously beating chambers in our little one.  Even after this ultrasound went almost an hour and a half!

Needless to say, I had to do a paradigm shift as I processed that we are having a boy.  I had worked out everything in my head- from beds, to painting, to the fact that we would have more of a wardrobe in place because Eila has been ever so gentle on her clothes compared to Asher!  Don’t get me wrong- I am truly joyful and thankful that we are having a boy, and a healthy one at that (I’m not worried about the heart anyway, but after seeing little guy moving like that and hearing such a very strong heartbeat, I’m REALLY not worried).  But I did have to take some time to mourn the thought of a little girl.  There’s a reason the Bible says in Proverbs (chapter 16, verse 9) “The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.”  Or Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”  And amen for that, because His plans are certainly better than mine, and He knows that a second little boy is exactly the right thing for our family.

After the initial shock and need to re-lay some plans, I am growing just as excited by another little guy as I was another little girl.  But if for some reason, the belief that a child’s activity in the womb is a predictor for activity outside the womb proves true, please begin to pray for me now. ;)

Our Living Room Project

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My husband and I recently decided that while the painting we had had for over 7 years hanging over the couch in our various living rooms was beautiful, it didn’t really reflect our family.  We wanted something with a sense of fun that was also wonderful to look at and something we would truly enjoy seeing on our wall multiple times a day.

As a pinterest fan, I tend to save DIY projects and recipes the most frequently, and I strive to actually do them.  Well, I strive to do some of them- I am fully aware that some of those will never happen. :)  One project I did want to tackle can be found here.

I’ve always liked the photo canvas look but never quite could digest the price- or when I did find a good deal, I often didn’t have a great quality picture to upload because so many of the pictures I take are from my phone and the resolution is too low.  When I saw the link on pinterest to Girl in Air’s blog tutorial about her 4×3 art work that cost under $10 to make, I was intrigued and determined to try it!

Knowing that Staples provides 4 x 3 black and white engineering prints for only $4.99 definitely took the pressure off of needing perfect picture quality.  We had gone to the beach recently and had a picture of the kids running towards the waves with that amazing child-like abandon they possess, and I knew that was the picture I wanted for our wall.  Not only does it put a smile on my face every time I look at it, but it reminds me to let go and not be uptight and anxious about things, as I have a tendency to do sometimes.

After picking up our print from Staples, we made sure I had the other supplies we would need like spray adhesive (Loctite), the foam insulation board from Lowes, black craft paint, and the sealant to apply after we had attached the print to the board (Krylon’s “Preserve It”).

Once the kids were in bed and presumably out for the night, Will and I got to work.  The foam board was certainly the most expensive cost of the project (Girl in Air already had the board and we had to purchase ours, so it made our cost go up a bit).  The nice thing about the board is that when you buy a sheet of it you end up with enough to do two “canvases” if you like.  Anyway, Will cut the foam board down to the right size using a razor blade and we then sprayed it down with the adhesive.  (In hindsight, we should have peeled the plastic off the foam board as it makes for a cleaner finish around the edges, but it works with it on also.)

We then CAREFULLY laid the print down onto the adhesive-laden board.  I didn’t have a flour separator handy to use to smooth out the wrinkles so I used my Pampered Chef scraper :).   I can’t remember what random item Will was using in the picture below.

So after smoothing out any wrinkles to our best ability with our random smoothing items, it was time to make the picture look even more like a canvas with a bit of a vintage-y feel by emulating the treatment Girl in Air did and applying black craft paint to the perimeter.  I did this while Will used a roller on the sides to make it all uniform.

After letting the paint dry, our final step was to spray the whole thing down with the sealant we had bought.  Don’t do what we do and skim the directions- really read them! :)  This way you will know to hold the picture upright when you spray it rather than laying it down to spray it.  Apparently laying it flat can result in a few water spots.  This was no problem for our picture, as since it is a beach picture, it looks like there was water on the lens and I like the effect!  Anyway, here’s the final product hanging on our wall…

I love how it turned out!

Next on the list is to track down some pretty pillows for our new-to-us sleeper sofa off Craigslist that we got for a great deal and maybe doing a refinish on our floor lamp. Now that the canvas is on the wall, I’m thinking the lamp would look nice with a different metal finish… oh well, one thing at a time! :)

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