Thursday, December 5, 2013

One Struggle of a SAHM

Yesterday as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed I came upon a blog post from a stay-at-home mom. She was talking about how blessed she is to have someone come to her house and do a few hours of housework or babysitting every once in a while so that she can get out or clean or whatever. She mentioned the Titus 2 paragraph about relationships between older and younger women. As I was reading, I found myself whispering Yes!

Constant supervision is a must with a 1 year old!

I, too, am a stay-at-home mom. I, too, love my children and feel blessed to be able to spend the majority of my time with them. But, oh, how I would love a breather every once in a while. It would be so nice to be able to go to the grocery store alone during the day. Or head out to the post office. Or even just clean my house knowing that the kids are supervised. Yes, I have a husband who is willing to watch the kids while I run out in the evenings or on the weekends but he works all day too. He needs rest just as much as I do. And we both want to spend time together as a couple and together as a family. I usually feel rushed when I'm out and about if I know Adam is at home with the kids. I don't want to burden him longer than necessary.

It seems like it is becoming more and more common for families to live long distance from one another. That's our current experience which means that we get a break mostly when we hire a babysitter. Our families offers to watch the kids when we are all together either at our house or theirs but we see them so rarely I feel bad leaving them to go do something on my own.

For a long time I have felt that I shouldn't ask for help. This was my parents' situation when I was growing up - living far away from family and doing it all on their own (though maybe they did get breaks from kind, supportive people and I was too young to remember). Part of it is pride. I feel like I'm not "doing my job" if I'm not primary caregiver 24/7. But no one works all day every day without getting run down or slipping in their quality of job performance (note to self).

Now my mindset has shifted. I know that it is good for everyone if I accept offers of assistance. I am becoming more okay with receiving gifts of service with the knowledge that it is not a debt to be repaid but a blessing to accept with thanksgiving.

Any stay-at-home moms who would also like to be blessed like this? Anyone who has been blessed and would like to share? Anyone blessing a mom in this way? I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Daily Grace

Our Wednesday morning Bible study, Seeking Him, has a workbook that asks very revealing questions. Through it I have been receiving a more accurate picture of myself. It has helped me to acknowledge my shortcomings which has been quite humbling. However, it has not left me to wallow in the corruptness of my character.

Image by stockimages at
A few weeks ago the topic of our study was grace. I realized that I understood the concept of Jesus' saving grace but had failed to grasp God's daily grace. I have often struggled to live the Christian life in my own power not realizing that I am not equipped to do so. Every time I have tried to "become a better person" on my own, I have failed. God's grace reminds me that I cannot be a Christian without Christ. Not just accepting Jesus as my Savior and then continuing on in my own power but instead asking him each day to give me his grace and fill me with his power to do the things God has called me to do through his Word.

A verse from that week helped connect it all together for me. Philippians 2:13 says God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes. (CEB) It is so freeing to realize that it is God who first gives me the desire to do what is pleasing to him and then provides the power and ability to do so. If I am not asking him to do these things for me then I am trying to do them myself and am living with the mentality that I have to do things in order to be pleasing to God. The fact is that I am already pleasing to him because Jesus' blood covers me. 

Now I am not saying that I can continue to do whatever I want because it is God who has to change me. I still need to be looking for his guidance and seeking to live according to what he has told me through his Word. At the same time I don't have to beat myself up every time I fail in some aspect. I can be confident that God is working these things out in me. Paul reminds us that God's work in us will be finished at the proper time in Philippians 1:6 - being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Have you fully grasped the significance of God's grace in your daily life?

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Joys and Perils of Pregnancy and Babies

We are less than two weeks away from my little man turning one. As we are currently planning on him remaining our youngest I thought it would be fun to recap the good and bad of being pregnant and having a newborn baby.

Me and my "babies".

Things I Will Miss About Being Pregnant and Having a Baby

*Feeling my baby kick from the inside (until the last month when he/she kicked my bladder, ribs, etc and it seemed like they were training to be MMA fighters).
*Seeing my baby kick on the outside (a little freaky but overall pretty amazing; also, see caveat above).
*Preferential treatment (being offered chairs everywhere, first in line for food, a pass on lifting things and emptying the litter box).
*Deciding on a fun way to announce the pregnancy to my husband, family, and friends.
*Seeing the baby for the first time (such an amazing moment!).
*Showing off my baby and hearing how adorable he/she is.
*The downy baby hair (LB still has soft hair but I know my days are limited).
*Seeing the baby smile/laugh/clap/roll over for the first time (just about all of the milestones).
*The toothless grin.
*Baby babble (they sound so cute when they're making no sense and aren't yet professional whiners).
*The tiny clothes.
*Watching my baby sleep in my arms.
*Witnessing my body growing an actual person and then being its sole/main source of nourishment.

Things I Will NOT Miss About Being Pregnant and Having a Baby

*First trimester nausea (I only vomited once in two pregnancies and I imagine that is much worse but feeling like I had to vomit all day was still pretty bad).
*The last five weeks of pregnancy (unable to get comfortable to sleep, heartburn, millions of bathroom breaks, sciatica; generally it's the last month but my special boy thought I needed an extra week since I missed out on the full experience with BB).
*The inappropriate comments and intrusive questions ("You know how that happens, right?" "Was it planned?").
*Dietary restrictions.
*Hearing horror birth stories.
*Not being able to make plans in the four(ish) weeks surrounding the due date.
*The glucose test.
*The uncertainty of when the baby would arrive and how my body would handle labor and delivery (um, yeah, still don't know what labor's like).
*C-section recovery.
*Not sleeping through the night for the first two, four, six, eight, twelve months...
*The breast pump (no additional information needed).
*The first 40 days of breastfeeding (ouchie!).
*The amount of time spent breastfeeding each day (thankfully this decreases over time).
*Teaching babies how to fall asleep on their own.
*Having to plan my day/activities around feedings (there's still nap times to plan for but they are a bit more flexible and there are fewer of them).
*My house crammed with large contraptions for the baby's stimulation (now we will just have lots of tiny toys to injure feet).
*Changing diapers (oh wait, I still have another year or two...)

Did I miss any of the joys and not-so-fun parts of pregnancy and babies?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

For First-Time Parents:Maintaining (or Starting) a Quiet Time

This is Part Five of the First-Time Parents series. Check out the other posts about sleeping, napping, feeding and potty training.


Becoming a first (or second or third…) time mother can be overwhelming. You likely are tired from frequent feedings and the huge learning curve that is your new baby. Life will never be the same so how are you expected to keep on with your previous life as usual? How are you supposed to find an extra 15/30/60 minutes in your day to spend time with God as you did pre-baby? More than likely, you won’t be able to replicate your previous quiet time schedule. However, if you are willing to be flexible and think outside the “quiet time” box, it is possible to still spend time with God in a meaningful way.

Image by graur razvan ionut at
Your day is made up of multiple cycles of feeding, changing, and putting your baby down to sleep. New parents are encouraged to “sleep when the baby sleeps”. If you have older children at home, this isn’t really possible. In this case, you could begin “quiet room time” for your older child/ren during one of the baby’s naps and use that time with God (or to nap initially, because honestly sometimes that’s what has to happen in order to function). Once you are getting better night time sleep you might be able to forgo the nap and turn it in to your time with God.

There’s another way to spend time with God and still get those much needed zzzs. The great thing about prayer is that you can do it anywhere at any time. Newborns eat 8 to 12 times each day. During that time your arms are occupied, but you can spend that time praying. Pray about your current circumstances, your new baby, other mothers, concerns that you know about, your church – essentially anything and everything. I found this was a great way to spend my time when I was up in the middle of the night for a feeding. It helped me to stay somewhat alert and the time passed a little faster. Perhaps God wants to create a new group of prayer warriors through new moms willing to make use of these chunks of time.

For time in God’s word, get a Bible app for your phone. You can then also read the Bible while feeding your baby (assuming you can feed and still have one hand free). If you need a guide for what to read, YouVersion has a variety of devotionals to choose from including several specifically for parents.

If you are someone who journals, you can attempt to type in a document on your phone, but that’s pretty tedious. Either accept that this part of your qt will have to go on the back burner for awhile or make time for it when your child is sleeping.

You will probably be tempted to temporarily suspend time with God in the early weeks. I would recommend attempting some of the above suggestions instead. You will be exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, and possibly experience some depression symptoms. You will want and need God’s provision for comfort, strength, endurance, hope, and peace more than ever. Be faithful to God and he will be faithful to you.

Eventually you should be able to get back to time with God that looks more like what you had pre-kids. Now that both of my children sleep all night I have been trying to daily get up thirty to forty-five minutes before my kids to spend time with God before the day takes over. It is a sacrifice for me (I love sleep) but I feel much better when I make God a priority.

Have you thought about how you might continue to meet with God when your current routine changes? Do you already have children and are working this out? Have you figured out a way to carve out time to meet with God each day and have advice to share?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sometimes the Truth Hurts

  I've been posting lately mostly from what has been going on presently in my life. Today I shall continue with that trend. Once again I will be referencing the Seeking Him study. If you are looking to have an authentic, deeper relationship with God I highly recommend this book. It can be done on your own but it has been wonderful being able to talk about it in a group setting with other women.

  Week three of the study was about honesty. Honesty is what allows us to truly connect with God and others (honesty in connection with repentance in God's case). We can't really grow into the people we were created to be unless we are willing to be open about who we are. I know that I struggle with the desire to hide my sins and temptations. I want people to think that I am doing a-okay and have this God-thing down. I have the prideful desire to be seen as having it all together. The truth is that I don't.
Image by stockimages at
  At church we've been going through a series called Rise and Fall which follows the life of David. Our overarching verse for the series is 1 Corinthians 10:12, So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! It's been encouraging to be reminded that everyone has highs and lows. There is no one who is not susceptible to temptation. It is also hope giving to see that a mistake does not cut you off from God's plan for your life. It does not mean he can no longer use you. If you are willing to be honest about your mistake, confessing it to him in repentance, your relationship with God can be restored.

  In our honesty chapter two verses were given to us as reminders. Luke 12:2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. and Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

  These verses were brought to my mind last week when I found myself in a situation where I could be a woman of integrity and honesty or commit a sin of omission. The kids and I went to Family Christian to purchase a gift. While there I also picked up a few other things I couldn't seem to leave behind. I used a coupon which I was quite excited about. When I got home I looked over the receipt and noticed that two of the items I purchased had not been rung up. Part of me had this thought: Score! It's not your fault that the items didn't ring up so you can keep them. The part of me that is being changed through our study reminded me of the verses above and thought: Even if it wasn't your fault you have realized the error and you should correct it. There's a good chance I wouldn't have shared this dilemma with you if I had chosen not to take the stuff back to the store to pay for it. I was dreading taking the kids back again and spending more time on this errand I thought was finished. However, I did also see that this was a wonderful teaching opportunity for my three year old and I attempted to explain the situation in a way she could understand. [Full disclosure: This may not seem like a big issue to some, but I can be a little tight with money. I tend to jump on opportunities to save. Choosing to pay more money for something when I don't have to is uncomfortable and a stretch for me.]

  A similar circumstance happened a few years ago at a different store. I purchased a few things. It seemed to me that one did not ring up so I said this to the clerk and she said that everything was fine. I paid and went home. At home I looked over my receipt and saw that indeed the item did not get rung up. I did not return to the store to correct the error. At the time I rationalized this choice because I had said something to the clerk during the transaction.

  I am thankful that now my heart is being bent toward greater depths of honesty and integrity. I am not enjoying the random reminders of past instances of dishonesty or compromised integrity God is bringing to mind. They make me uncomfortable and a little disappointed in myself. However I can rejoice in the knowledge that the reminders afford me the opportunity for true repentance and forgiveness.

Do you ever struggle with honesty? The sin of omission? Do you find that, although God's work in your heart hurts at times, ultimately it brings joy and healing?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Preparing for Childbirth

I have been described as organized and a planner. I was a good student in school and did plenty of research for papers and studying for tests. I like to be as prepared as possible for whatever situations I will be facing. This was no different when we decided to have a child. I only have one brother who is two and a half years younger. My family moved away from our relatives when I was three years old. I didn't have younger cousins close by that I spent time with as babies to understand how child rearing worked. I babysat some as a young teen but that was only for a few hours at a time and never for children under one year of age. As an adult I knew very little about taking care of a baby. So how was I going to get ready for becoming a parent? The same way I prepare for anything else.

LB's birthday. More confident the second time around.
I checked out multiple books from the library on pregnancy, labor, delivery and caring for a newborn. I signed up on pregnancy websites that would let me know what to expect each week and month of pregnancy and gave advice about babies and child rearing. I signed up for a class at the hospital. Sounds like normal stuff of every expectant parent. A year or so before thinking I was ready to become pregnant I signed up to volunteer in the nursery at church. I thought perhaps a little hands-on experience might help me feel more comfortable with handling babies, changing diapers and listening to crying. Now that was only about an hour per week, but it was much better than no hours per week leading up until childbirth, and I got to test out the 5 S's I'd read about in Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block book.

The hospital class covered mainly labor and delivery. We received a tour of the hospital and talked about how to recognize the different stages of labor and the many options of coping with pain. I almost felt like I was in the class too soon because I had more time to go than anyone else. I know now I would not have finished the class if I had waited to take the next one. It was kind of fun talking about our ideal scenario for labor and delivery. I thought perhaps I might like to labor as far as I could without an epidural. I wondered if my labor would be short like my mom's was with my brother. I hoped that it would not be like my birth (I started to arrive feet first so my mom was knocked out for an emergency c-section). The only truly useful thing I ended up getting out of that class was to "be flexible".

Because I was undecided about an epidural I took an additional hospital seminar, Everything You Want To Know About Epidurals. I figured getting some information about this specific subject would be useful. It was led by one of the hospital's anesthesiologists. He covered the differences between an epidural and a spinal block and the risks and percentages. Afterward I felt that I would be fine should I decide that I wanted an epidural sometime during my labor.

Fast forward to my thirty-sixth week of pregnancy. My husband and I go into my 36 week appointment together. I had gone by myself the week before and learned that my baby was breach and I had already begun dilating. After stressing and crying about the real possibility of a c-section during the weekend, I came back with my support team. The doctor checks me and then requests the ultrasound technician to take a look at the baby. It is discovered that the baby is still head up and is essentially sitting on the umbilical cord. This means that if I were to go into labor, the cord could come out first and cut off the oxygen supply to the baby which is obviously very dangerous. The doctor turns to us and says, "You are having a baby today!" Definitely not what we were expecting. PB had to drop me off at the hospital and then go home, pack our hospital bags, and come back. And let work know he would not be in that day. Or the next several.

And that is why "be flexible" is the best advice I received from all of my info gathering. Pretty much everything else I read about labor and delivery was not needed. Of course, I should have read more about what to expect with c-sections. No matter what you study, there's always a curve ball on the test.

Looking back on your childbirth experiences, what was the best advice you received? Did you feel prepared?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Lesson in Humility: Part Two

Last week I shared a bit of my struggle with humility thanks to the awesome study Seeking Him I'm doing with some ladies at church. This Sunday we had a guest speaker, Damian Boyd from Vertical Church in Atlanta. I had switched nursery duty with someone and was bummed to be missing him speak as I had heard wonderful things the last time he spoke at our church (which I somehow also missed). After service my husband told me that after last week's post about raising hands in worship I needed to listen to the podcast of his message. Last night I had a little down time so I pulled up the message on my phone and got comfortable on the couch.

Oh man! If you think you know God or love God or are doing it right as a Christian you need to listen to his message. Actually, if you are a person you should listen to his message. It was powerful. It was convicting. It made me sad that I missed it live but thankful for the wonders of the technology age. I will share a little bit of what struck me personally.

He talked about how stoic a lot of us tend to be at church. Some of us are afraid to sing for fear others will hear our less-than-melodic voices. I was there once (and sometimes still am). Some of us are not very demonstrative and keep our hands by our sides or in our pockets. I am there most of the time. Damian sliced right to the heart and asked if that's how we act while attending or watching sporting events (appropriate as it's football season). Ouch! I have been known to yell and cheer and clap for a sports team and yet I don't do that with the same free abandon when worshipping God. How is a team of people - broken, imperfect people I don't even know - worthy of devotion and honor and praise much more than a holy, perfect God who knows me intimately, draws me close to him, guides me and blesses me? Something is messed up here and it's me. If this is how I act am I saying that I don't believe God is worthy of all these things? Or do I not think that he is present in a group of believers? Am I treating church like a religious obligation instead of an opportunity to spend precious time with my Savior and show my adoration for him?

In light of this revelation my little "breakthrough" of moving my arms away from my sides seems like an offering of worthless junk. I can see now that I actually took pride in my "accomplishment". And yet it pales in comparison to what God deserves. Oh, that he loves us anyway! It is blowing my mind at how gracious and compassionate and loving God is. I am thankful that he loves us so much that he blesses us in our small steps toward becoming who we were created to be and fulfilling our purpose. The gap between where I am and where I should be is a chasm that I am beginning to see more and more clearly. However, God has given me hope and experiential evidence that he will help me cross it. I am so thankful for the sins he is revealing in my heart and the truth he is planting. I feel that I am in the midst of a great humbling experience with God and look forward to the blessings it will bring along the way.

There was so much more to this message that cut me to the quick. Perhaps I'll expound some more in a future post. For now I encourage anyone reading this to go listen to it. If you missed the link up top, here it is again: When God Is In Our Midst by Damian Boyd.

Do you worship God as extravagantly as you do when supporting another person in an event? Do you struggle with pride and humility in some way? Have you personally experienced God's grace?

Monday, September 30, 2013

For First-Time Parents: Potty Training

Here's part four of the First-Time Parent series which addresses topics common to all parents. Part One was about night-time sleep, Part Two about napping and Part Three about feeding.

We didn't start BB this young, but she's so cute!
My daughter is three years old and she’s completely potty trained. Hurray! The total process has taken nine months which may sound like a drag, especially with all of those “train your child in one day” books and whatnot, but has been a steady progression without too many bumps and only a couple of public mishaps (which to me sounds pretty good). I thought it’d be nice to share my experience to remind me when it’s LB’s turn.

Last summer, I started thinking more about it. I definitely wanted to be on the no diaper track by the time LB made his appearance. I heard from some of my mom friends with two kids that once the new baby arrives and you are dealing with newborn diapers, you feel like you’re wiping an adult’s rear when  changing your older child. And it makes financial sense to only be buying diapers for one child. (That’s right, we are a disposable diaper family. I spend plenty of time with the washer and dryer as it is. I didn’t feel like quadrupling my time in the laundry room. Not that I didn’t consider it. I know plenty of people who do use reusables and more power to them!)

I read a few books about potty training. The ones that mentioned training in 1, 2, and 3 days seemed quite appealing. I asked my mom what she used. She managed to find a copy of the book and mailed it to me. It was the one I ended up using as a reference: Toilet Training in Less Than a Day by Nathan Azrin. (I just used Amazon to find the title and also found Potty Training Boys the Easy Way which is intriguing and may be read before we start the process with LB in a few years.)

I picked a start date when BB was close to 2 ½ years, one when we could be at home all day for a few days to get the hang of things. I then spent the days leading up to that day dreading its arrival. I don’t know whether it was from hearing others’ experiences, but I imagined it being very tedious and requiring large amounts of time cleaning someone else’s urine off of the floor. Like most other unknown experiences, it’s really not as bad as you imagine it to be. The fear of the unknown is nearly always worse than the actual experience.

The day finally arrived and I had all of my materials – a week’s worth of panties, washcloths, a potty, a training doll (in our case, BB’s favorite stuffed monster, Elmo), juice, water, snacks and rewards. After breakfast I took Elmo through the motions of using the potty, praised him and gave him a reward (M&M) which BB was able to eat since Elmo can’t. We did it several times to get used to the what all is involved. As instructed in the book, Elmo then had an accident. We talked about important people (mommy, daddy, Grammy, Grandaddy, etc) liking dry panties and had Elmo practice using the potty and change his panties. (Humorous side note: for months after the potty training week, BB would refer to her plain white panties as Elmo’s panties because they were what we had used on him.) I asked often if BB had dry panties (the book suggested praising dry, clean pants instead of the act of using the potty as staying dry and clean is the true goal). She would receive a reward when the answer was yes. I had her sit on the potty every so often (I had a chart I followed that had me write in times of various commands/activities to chart progress and spot patterns). Eventually she had an accident. She was not very happy about being wet but I had her clean it up with a washcloth (I helped make sure it all got cleaned), we practiced using the potty, and then I had her change her panties. We did this most of the day, me giving her salty snacks and juice, practicing with Elmo a few more times and playing mostly in the kitchen where the floor is easy to clean. It was kind of boring, but it was nice to know that it was only for a short duration. I still had her nap and sleep in a diaper.

The next couple of days we stayed home to practice getting used to recognizing the sensation of having to use the bathroom and then going. Still plenty of rewards for dry, clean panties. More teaching her to be careful when emptying the small potty into the big potty and flushing. No bowel movements into the potty, but I had heard that it takes more time to get used to doing that on a potty.

On day four I decided to venture out for a short trip. I put a towel in the car seat, had her sit on the potty right before we left, and off to the library we went. We were only gone about twenty minutes but I gave BB lots of praise and a reward for staying dry and clean while we were out. As the weeks went on, I got braver and braver. BB got better at recognizing the need to go and we both gained confidence in her abilities. Eventually she started pooping in the potty. The first time, she received major praise and an extra special reward. For a while all bowel movements into the potty received a special reward. When BB had fully grasped using the potty, we phased out the rewards by letting whatever treat run out of stock in the pantry and then announced that she was a big girl and the treats were all gone.

We still put her in diapers for nap and bedtime. As she started staying completely dry through nap time we let her stay in panties (which was what she wanted). It has taken a lot longer for her to stay dry through the night but I am attributing that to maturity of her body. The past month we have been tracking her dry nights. BB went nearly a week two months back with dry diapers at night so we put her in panties and she woke up wet the next morning. We tried two more nights with the same results so she went into a pull up. We thought perhaps she could still get up and use the bathroom if she needed. A few weeks after that BB announced that she wanted to sleep in panties. We told her she had to have a week of dry diapers to be able to sleep in panties. She achieved that so we put her in panties and started a sticker chart to track her dry nights. In the past four weeks she only had one slightly wet night (only the panties and pjs were damp, not her sheets) and that was day four. We told her when she went a whole month with dry panties she could pick out a special toy or have a special cupcake. She chose the cupcake.

Nine months sounds long, but it was really just the first few weeks that I was most cautious and then a day or so after the occasional accident. Now that we’re finally at this point, everything before doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s been so much better than dealing with two children in diapers.

We’ve had a few road trips throughout this adventure. We would put BB in a pull up just in case, but she’d tell us she had to go and we’d stop so she could. I’ll admit that we did consider having her just go into the pull up once or twice so that we didn’t have to stop but we did stop in order to continue to encourage her progress.

It’ll be quite a while before I get to go through this process with LB (and I wonder whether it’ll be distinctly different with a boy or just because it’s a different child) but at least I’ve been through it once now. I’m sure I’ll still feel a little dread when the day approaches, but I now have experience on my side and the knowledge that accidents are temporary but being out of diapers is forever (I hope).

Experienced parents, how did your potty training experience/s go? For those who have potty trained boys and girls, are there any stark differences you noticed? Any advice to share on what to do (or what NOT to do)?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Lesson in Humility

The past two Sundays I have received encouragement from God during church (written about previously here and here). As I prepared for church this past Sunday I looked forward to what God would reveal to me that morning. I do realize that I should probably approach every day looking for God to speak truth to me - I'm a work in progress. It seems that am beginning a season where I feel more open to God and am trying to have a heart that is tender toward him.

Two weeks ago I started attending the women's Bible study on Wednesday mornings. We are doing a study called Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom. The first week was an introduction to what revival means. The fifth day of the personal study gave an assessment to show us areas in our lives where we could use God to work. It was quite revealing. One of the first areas where I was convicted was in humility.

I don't really consider myself a boastful person. I am an introvert so I don't tend to take over conversations or talk about everything I have done and am doing. However I don't necessarily rejoice with those who are receiving accolades and success and sometimes I ruminate when my contributions are not acknowledged. So, naturally, week two of the study is all about humility.

I am actually glad that this topic is dealt with more in depth. It has allowed me to see ways that pride (the opposite of humility) is manifested in my life. My pride tends to deal with my self-image and what I allow others to see (or how I want others to see me). I am guilty of trying to do as much as possible on my own so that I can be the one who "does it all". I'm not good at asking for help or depending on others. I struggle with being open about my mistakes because I fear others will judge me harshly. I tend to compare various aspects of myself with others.

What ought I to be doing instead? Being open to others and asking for help when needed. Admitting my mistakes, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation when I wrong others or others wrong me and finding my worth in Christ. I was not created to be another Christy or Tracy or Amanda. I was created for a unique purpose. And I wasn't made to be perfect or faultless. If I was, I'd have no need for grace or Jesus.

Now back to Sunday morning. I am not a very demonstrative person. For the last couple of weeks I have been thinking that I should lift my hands some when singing praise songs to God in church. Not because others are but because I want to show my love for and devotion to God. It has been an internal struggle because part of me feels foolish and thinks it might draw attention (the introvert in me). However, I realized on Sunday while singing that it was part pride as well. I was concerned with what others would think. Was I at church to please other people? No. Was I singing for the benefit of other people? No. (By the by, it has taken me quite a few years to feel comfortable singing out loud with other people. I'm still not completely there but it doesn't really hinder me like it used to. Not that this means I'll do any kind of solo singing for anyone other than my kids either.) So I spent a good part of the music time debating whether or not to raise my arms. It carried into the message time. I affirmed to myself, "If there's music at the end of the service (there nearly always is) I'll raise my hands then."

We finished the time of communion after the message and the band began to play. "Okay," I said to myself, "the moment of truth." And then we sang this part of Hillsong United's "The Stand":

I'll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I'll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours

I laughed to myself at the absurdity of my conundrum. God is so good and faithful! I raised my arms to about chest level with palms up. That may not seem like much but it's a huge step for me. I know God will continue to meet me where I am and lead me to where he wants me to go. My job is to continue to acknowledge his promptings, confess any sin that is revealed, repent, and take steps forward.

How is God working in your life right now? Do you also struggle with humility? Trust God and take that first step toward where he is calling you!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seasons of Life

Image by nenetus at
I know that I am blessed to have the opportunity to stay at home with my children while they are young. I have loved watching them grow and develop and reach new milestones. I know there are women out there who would love to be at home as well but are unable to for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, it is not always exactly what I imagined or easy-as-pie every day. I know that our lives are full of varying seasons, none of which last forever (good or bad). In this season of parenting young children, I have continued to receive blessings that help me along the journey. One of those blessings are other women in my life.

Being home with two small children can hinder one's social life, especially if one is breastfeeding one of these children and said child chooses not to accept bottles. A child who needs to feed every two, three or four hours tends to put your day on a schedule that you really don't want to vary from. And we must not forget the naps in between these feedings. You don't really want to skip those either. So naps and feedings tend to take up quite a lot of time in a mother's day. Thankfully the time requirement for these things lessens as the child grows. However, it still makes it difficult to spend time with other people during the day, especially when there's an older child who also would like to be noticed and entertained. It seems like it'd be easy to hang out with people once the children are in bed for the night but then you also want to spend time with your spouse. And you have to alternate evening activities with said spouse so that you can both get some adult time while the kids are properly supervised. Yes, there are babysitters but they can be quite expensive so we don't use them willy-nilly. We are one of those families who don't live near family so babysitting is our only option when we want to go out together (or at the same time - though usually if we're both out of the house we are together (see cost of babysitting)).

I say all of that to say PRAISE THE LORD for women who are willing to work with my family's schedule and hang out with me at my house or with the kids in tow. Before children, my best friend and I would get together whenever the mood hit us. I had every other evening or weekend to spend time with the hubs so scheduling was much easier and carefree. 

When BB was born I was holed up in the house for a few months getting used to parenting and scheduling for a baby. I was grateful for those who brought by meals for us and would stay to chat for a bit. When you only have one child, and it's a baby, the daily conversation can be quite lacking. I did start going to a mom's group which was nice because everyone else had small children so no one cared about crying babies and are schedules were similar.

When BB was older my friend and I still wanted to get together for meaningful conversation. Sometimes we would meet for lunch or somewhere BB could play or be a little rowdy. Often times, she'd come over and have lunch at my house. We eventually started meeting during BB's nap time at my house so that we could talk distraction-free. I am so grateful for her willingness to meet at times and locations that worked best for my season of life.

I have found that to continue to be the case as our house has grown to four members. It's slightly more challenging with one who can talk in addition to a baby and his schedule. Thankfully, compassionate women have willingly met me and my crew at kid-friendly locations and patiently endured interruptions from my peanut gallery, some even kindly being stamped and stickered by BB.

This past Sunday at church a woman I am beginning to get to know offered to meet me and the kids at a park to hang out and talk. It means so much to me when others are considerate of my situation and reach out to bless me with friendship and adult time. These are the people that strengthen and encourage me as a wife, mother, and woman of God. It reminded me off all of the times women have done this in my three and a half years as a mom. I hope that I will remember how much these offerings of friendship mean to me once I have passed through this season so that I, too, will be able to do the same for other young mothers.

Have you had people in your life who have reached out to you in a specific season of your life and given you strength and encouragement? I'd love to hear your experience!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

For First-Time Parents: Feeding

Here's part three of the First-Time Parent series which addresses topics common to all parents. Part One was about night-time sleep and Part Two was about napping.

LB loves fruit!

It's amazing to witness the many transitions in the first year of life. People start out as helpless, squirming infants and by their birthday they are on the move, able to get themselves where they want to go. They enter the world crying and are saying actual words by one year of age. They begin with a liquid diet of one substance and are consuming a variety of liquids and solids at year's end.

In this section I will share my family's experiences with feeding during a baby's first year. Yours will probably vary in some form from ours. I do not intend for this to be all-encompassing.

Both of our kiddos started out receiving breast milk. BB was born early so I was instructed to begin pumping right away to get my milk supply flowing. BB and I struggled a bit with latching. Breastfeeding hurt A LOT for me. Some nights in the first few weeks we would feed her formula through a syringe. Other than that, it was all breast milk all the time (not to say that we wouldn't have supplemented again if the need had arisen). With both kids breastfeeding hurt or was uncomfortable for the first six weeks. After that my body seemed to have gotten used to the process and toughened up. I have heard that it shouldn't hurt at all and it means you're doing something wrong if it does. I disagree. I have not yet met a mother who had a peachy keen time from the beginning (if you did, I'd love to hear about it). Breastfeeding is what I wanted to do and I toughed it out. It wasn't as bad enduring the initial six weeks the second time since I knew it would get better. I was able to breastfeed BB for her first year. I'm striving to do the same with LB. So far so good.

In the beginning I fed the kids every two hours, day and night. It stretched out to two and a half and then three hours. After the first two to four weeks I let the kids sleep as long as they would during the night and fed them whenever they woke up. During the day we were on a regular time interval feeding schedule. BB started going without night feedings at eight weeks. LB didn't achieve this until about six months. They ate every three hours during the day for a while, then stretched to three and a half and finally four. It stayed this way through the first year as far as I can recall.

One thing I wish I would have done with both of them was to give them a bottle regularly (such as once per day or once every other day) starting at around four weeks of age. We gave each of them one bottle about this time. They took it without issue so we assumed they would always be that way. Failing to continue to offer it meant that five weeks later (or whenever we tried to give another one) they wouldn't take it. This was not a huge issue as I was home with each of them. But if I had needed to go back to work it would have been a rough transition. As it was, we struggled to have a relaxing date night for the first few months of our babies' lives. They did both accept bottles better after having received solid foods for awhile. I guess something about receiving nourishment from spoons and their own fingers helped them accept milk from a different source.

We started introducing solid food to both kids at six months. We started with cereal and then moved on to pureed fruits and vegetables. I started giving LB small pieces of mushy fruit earlier than BB (maybe at about 7 or 8 months). I had read about Baby-Led Weaning and thought I might give it a try. I can't say that I've stuck closely to it. I try to offer cut up soft foods but he isn't all that interested if it isn't a Cheerio, puff or piece of fruit. Vegetables he tends to snub so I have continued with some purees to help get the nutrients and tastes in there. LB wasn't eating much cereal from six to nine months which decreased his iron levels. I couldn't remember how we got BB to eat it well. PB reminded me that we alternated and/or combined cereal and yogurt (because BB loved yogurt) so we tried that with LB and it worked like a charm.

We offer water through a sippy cup and a straw cup during the second six months. Both kids did better with a straw cup because they don't have to tip it up to get liquid. Not receiving lots of bottles prevented them from learning how to hold a cup and tipping it up to drink. (I'm guessing. Perhaps bottle fed babies also use straw cups better at first.)

Between nine and twelve months we started to drift toward a three-meal feeding schedule with snacks as needed. I don't remember how we did this with BB. I'm currently nearing the 10 month mark with LB and he nurses four times each day (around 7:30, 11:30, 3:30 and 7:30) and eats breakfast, lunch and dinner with BB, PB and myself. I'm sure by 12 months the nursing schedule will be stretched more to 7:30, 12, 5, and bedtime so that they can be replaced by cow's milk and the bedtime one eventually dropped. I will probably get more adventurous with offering pieces of food around the year mark, especially when his molars come in.

When I try to think about the end of the first year and how we transitioned from breast milk to cow's milk I get a little fuzzy. I know that we made sure BB would drink cow's milk out of a cup. Then I dropped one feeding every three or four days until she was only drinking cow's milk from a cup. I didn't experience any engorgement or pain weaning this way. I don't remember when she stopped having food and drink after dinner. I guess whenever we felt like it wasn't nutritionally necessary and we were ready to test whether she would still sleep until her normal wake up time.

That is most of my experience. I cannot share any experiential information about formula feeding. I would assume it's similar in the regular interval feedings. I hear formula is digested slowly so the feedings are spaced out earlier. I'm sure being able to see how much the baby is eating at a feeding (by reading bottle measurements) can be helpful and comforting. I used the number of wet and dirty diapers as my gauge to whether my kids were receiving enough milk.

Did I forget any other useful information about feeding during the first year? Do you have any helpful tips for new parents? Anything specific to formula feeding that others can use?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Encouragement and Humor for Parents

Parenting is exhausting!

As I've waded through the first years of motherhood, I have received loads of encouragement from hearing the stories of other mothers who have been where I am and will be soon. Anyone who has had the blessing of preparing for a new adventure by hearing and learning from others who have made it through already understand such information is like an infusion of oxygen when you feel like you're drowning in the experience. As a new mother, you may feel like certain circumstances are never going to pass and you will always be this tired, bored, starved for adult conversation, or covered in spit-up. If you can have just one voice tell you that they were once where you are but have now been freed from that phase and are now receiving more sleep, stimulation, adult time, or days with unsoiled clothes, then perhaps you will receive the encouragement to continue at least one more day, confident that there's light in the distance.

It's wonderful if you are surrounded by women like these, moms in similar situations. But for many of us it is hard to find someone to relate. Perhaps you've just moved to a new place or you are not naturally a people person. Making new friends and visiting a mom group may be out of your comfort zone. Thankfully, we are in the Internet age where people can connect all over the world. And, if even an online connection seems awkward, we are free to visit online groups anonymously and glean wisdom from a myriad of blogs and websites dedicated to parenting that offer candid moments of what life is really like in the trenches. I thought it would be nice to share some posts and sites that I have personally enjoyed with you. I hope that they provide encouragement (or a laugh) to you as well!

Mothers Of PreSchoolers Blog - has a variety of subjects for parents
Crappy Pictures - hilarious and the pictures give it that extra something
Five Kids Is a Lot of Kids - this was my first experience with her writing and I laughed quite hard at this because it was before this scenario was possible in my house
Jen Hatmaker - you may have seen her and this post on the Today show, but it helps me prepare for the school-age years
Rants from Mommyland - some honesty, encouragement and quite a bit of humor
Full of It... - makes me think of the moments when I, too, feel like I've done something right
WhatcomFamilies - a good reminder of what moms do
The Actual Pastor - an encouraging post for parents of young children
Scary Mommy - a collaboration of mom bloggers covering a range of topics

Do you have any encouraging blogs or articles to share? Have you written your own insightful, encouraging, or humorous parenting experience? Link them in your comment!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Living For His Glory

Image by suwatpo at
Yesterday at church there was a new person singing with the band. I was blown away at the beauty of his voice. It was powerful and passionate. I felt joy watching him use his God-given abilities for the glory of God. It got me thinking about all of the people I have seen using their abilities in a glorifying way. All of the members of the band at church do this. Our various speakers do this as well. So do the people welcoming everyone to church and those teaching and loving on the kids in the children's ministry. There's something so encouraging to me when I see the joy and passion in the face of the person giving of themselves in order to point to Jesus. 

While I was listening to and singing the lyrics of the songs and listening to our pastor speak passionately about focusing on what God looks at rather than what man does, it fanned the flame of my desire to live purposefully and to use my abilities for God's glory. I know that he has given me abilities with the written word. I want to be faithful to write regularly about my experiences for the purpose of encouraging others who may be facing similar situations. I know that God can use my words and my life for his purposes. That's my heart's greatest desire. And, essentially, that's my mission for this blog - to provide hope and encouragement to others. 

Does seeing someone else living purposefully and glorifying God cultivate a desire in you to do the same? What are abilities you possess that you could use to bring glory to God?

And take my life, let it be everything, all of me
Here I am, use me for Your glory
In everything I say and do, let my life honor You
Here I am living for Your glory
~Tim Hughes and Rachel Hughes, Living For Your Glory~

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Life Got In The Way

Top: how I feel some weeks. Bottom: once the weeks are over.

Well, it's certainly been a few weeks since I was last on here. It's been pretty busy around our house. We went on vacation to Myrtle Beach with the in-laws for a week. The following week BB started three-year-old preschool three days per week. This week my brother is visiting for a few days so there's been a lot of changes to the "normal" routine. With preschool started we are working on creating a new weekly schedule and routine. Also within this time frame PB and I have tried to get back into our weekly team tennis practices (match play starts this weekend) and our church community group has begun. Oh, and BB took her first dance class yesterday. So, yeah, our days are pretty packed. 

I was excited about preschool for several reasons. I thought BB would enjoy spending regular time with other children her age. It would also break up the monotony of staring at our four walls all of the time. I was looking forward to getting some one-on-one time with LB. It's rare that he's awake without BB around. I also thought it would give me a few more hours during the week to get things checked off of my to-do list (especially since LB has a nap time for an hour or so while BB's in preschool). 

The first week I managed to get more done than usual. I figured out that I could do my exercise DVD and take a shower in the morning. I could get my blog post written and posted on the alternate morning. And that's how it worked. The first week. 

Last week (I can't believe we've only had two weeks of preschool!) I assumed the same would happen. I don't know whether I took naps I didn't know about, but somehow I wasn't even able to get all of my normal week things accomplished! I have no idea what was different between the weeks. 

This week my brother is here so we are having quality time with him and are nowhere close to regular days, but we're having fun and, in the life of a SAHM, sometimes different is a refreshing break from the norm. However, I must say that I have been able to get some things done knowing there's another set of eyes and hands (and ears - boy does BB like to talk!) around the house.

I'll have to wait until next week to see how the trend is going. I do realize that even before preschool I tended to have productive and non-productive weeks. That's just life I suppose. I'm sure once we get used to all of our weekly activities things will smooth out again. And, if not, then something will probably need to be dropped.

Do you tend to alternate between feeling on top of your to-do list and feeling hopelessly behind? Any solutions or helpful advice?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

For First-Time Parents: Nap Time

 Here's part two of the First-Time Parent series which addresses topics common to all parents. Part One was about night-time sleep.


BB napping on PB

As a first time mom, I really struggled with getting my daughter to take regular naps of decent length. When she was very young, she would fall asleep on whoever was holding her at the moment. No one minded because she was new and everyone wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. When all of our help left, she still preferred to nap on people (usually me, because I was home all day) and often immediately after feeding (also me because I was breastfeeding). For a while it was fine because I would usually choose to fall asleep with her, during the exhausted phase of having a young child.

Eventually I decided that I’d like to be able to do other things while BB napped besides sit in a chair with her in my lap. I thought I’d try to transfer her from my arms to her crib. This was rarely successful. She would wake up within ten minutes of being laid down.

As she got older and stayed awake after nursing, I would rock her to sleep and then try to lay her down in her crib. Sometimes this ended in a 45 minute nap but I couldn’t get those 1.5-2 hour naps I had heard about from others. I chalked it up to her not being a good napper.

It’s been long enough that I do not remember much between then and when BB transitioned to a one-nap schedule around 18 months. I do know that eventually I put her down awake (probably because my arms were getting fatigued from all of the holding and rocking) and eventually she took a 1.5-2 hour nap in the early afternoon.

When she was close to two and a half, we moved BB into a big girl room with a regular bed and side rails. She did well at not getting out of bed, but she didn’t always fall asleep at nap time. Some days she would lay in bed and sing or talk. When it became apparent that she stayed awake more often than she napped, we turned the afternoon nap into “quiet room time” (fondly referred to as QRT among the adults). She was allowed to play with her toys but she could not leave her room. This has been a great mommy break, especially now with two children.

Armed with experience (and the knowledge that I couldn’t hold LB all day while he napped because I also have another child to care for), I started early on to lay LB down for naps in his crib (after our grandparent help left). I tried to lay him down awake as much as possible. When he was really little he slept hard, so it wasn’t always possible. When he was awake, I would let him soothe himself to sleep. In the beginning it was difficult to endure the ten to fifteen minutes it took him to fall asleep, but seeing him successfully go to sleep on his own kept me hanging in there. We used a white noise machine to help cancel out some of the noise of our then-two-year-old during the day.

LB’s nap schedule has changed as he’s gotten older. He is down to two naps each day. He still fusses for a few minutes before he falls asleep, but he has at least one nap of 1.5 hours or more. I think it helped that I used a schedule of sorts that dictated length of awake time. I paid attention to his tired cues (yawning, rubbing his eyes) as well and remained flexible. He's nine months now and his nap periods are generally at the same time each day.

With the addition of LB, the QRT has changed the time of commencement to coincide with one of LB’s nap times. For awhile, LB’s longest nap was his third one, so QRT was in the late afternoon. BB was taking naps at QRT but she was wired when bed time came because her nap had come too late and lasted too long. We are now in a decent rhythm with QRT being at LB’s second (and now final) nap which is early afternoon. Sometimes BB naps and sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, we all get some time alone to relax or be productive (I tend to alternate activities between days – exercising, writing, cleaning, reading).

Did you have any tried-and-true methods to get your kids to nap well?