Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts

Thursday, March 30, 2017

living with food allergies

I have noticed over and over and over that it is impossible to truly understand the impact and challenges of living with food allergies unless you or a loved one are exposed to the struggle daily.

When Bennett had his reaction last fall to the new nut butter we tried my anxiety went into overdrive mode and it is just coming down now (mostly due to therapy). Even though his reactions in the fall ended with hives and did not affect his breathing at all, I have spent the past few months in a panic about Bennett and his allergies. 

When I am at the children's museum, or the park, or church, and a child has a peanut butter sandwich, or peanuts are served, I want to explain to people how hard and stressful it is to live with a food allergy. If you haven't been exposed to food allergies, or lived in close proximity to people with food allergies, it's hard to understand how frightening it is to see a parent pull a peanut butter sandwich out of a lunch bag.

And Bennett isn't even that allergic! His allergy is triggered by ingestion, thankfully, but it's still stressful to to take him to the park and other kid heavy places because he has a terrible habit of putting his hands in his mouth (we hand wash and remind, remind, remind, but this is a hard habit to break!).

Our friends and family have been accommodating, kind and thoughtful, but if I had to tell a new friend about what it's like to live with food allergies this is what I would say:

It is very challenging and sometimes heart breaking to have a child with food allergies. My son feels left out, he knows he is different, and it makes him sad there are so many foods he can't eat.

I spend a lot of time shopping for food and preparing meals my son can eat. Every time I shop I check labels, even if it's the three ingredient rice crackers I buy every week. Ingredients can change at any time and assuming a food is safe can have harmful consequences. Please don't feed my child anything from your cupboard or fridge or child's backpack without my consent.

There are restaurants we cannot go to because they serve foods cooked in peanut oil or made with peanut sauce. We have to bring a separate dinner for our son if we are eating out. We used to be able to go to two places and get him something from the menu, but he's been too reactive lately for us to try. If we want to "eat out" we either bring food for my son or my husband brings food home and I make a separate meal for the kids (this is what we usually do).

Holidays can be a nightmare. Finding food substitutes and safe options is hard and time consuming. (Last Thanksgiving Bennett had a smoothie while everyone else had a full turkey dinner.)

I have cried because I don't know what to make for dinner / I'm tired of eating the same five dinners that are safe for my son / I am exhausted from cooking.

I have also cried because I want to take my son out and enjoy a treat with him. Seeing pictures of parents taking their kids out for ice cream, a hot chocolate, or a cupcake because they wanted to do something special makes me sad and jealous.

Despite the challenges there are positives as well:

We are all eating healthier. I still eat the foods my son can't have, like wheat, but I eat way, way, way less than I did before. Nearly all of our dinners comply with Bennett's diet restrictions, which means at least one meal a day (and usually two because I often eat leftovers for lunch) is free of gluten, soy, corn, dairy (mostly, I do love cheese) and preservatives / food dyes. 

My son is learning compassion for himself and others. He knows what it is like to feel different and he carries heaps of kindness and empathy in his little heart.

I've learned a lot about cooking and preparing meals from scratch with a handful of ingredients.

And here's some ways you can help:

Be considerate and try to remember the food restrictions. I know this is really hard to do! Right now Bennett's list of restricted foods is so long it is easier to list what he can eat than what he cannot eat!! But the kids who remembered my son's food allergies on Valentine's Day and made sure he had a non-food treat in his bag made my day - not to mention his.

Think twice about bringing foods with peanut butter to kid focused places and events. For kids with airborne or contact allergies just breathing in or touching the allergen can cause anaphylaxis.

If you have a child with food allergies over for a play date:

- Please wash your child's hands and wipe the table down after they eat.
- Don't let them play with toys while eating unless you plan on washing them.
- Don't let them wander around the house with food (my son eating a small bit of peanut butter cracker off the floor when he was 9 months old led to an ER visit and his Epi-pen prescription)
- Musical instruments that touch the mouth are not to be shared (whistles, harmonicas etc.)

Parents of children with food allergies appreciate your kindness and consideration! It is so stressful to be in an environment where allergens are. When there is a safe place for us to drop our time consuming vigilance and let our kids play and make friends our whole family benefits.

Does your child have food allergies? Do you have a friend who has a child with food allergies? What is living with - or near - food allergies like for you?

Friday, October 21, 2016

in the eye of the storm

It has been a week.

Thursday morning I was writing a LONG blog post about how Bennett has been having a series of allergic reactions, but hopefully the next two days would be calm, when he had another reaction.

Here's the really fun (sarcasm) news: We're not sure what exactly he is reacting to. His doctor is fairly certain Bennett is having a massive immune response to something: either the initial food we thought caused the reaction, or a virus. Right now Bennett is on a very limited diet for 10 days - meat, vegetables, fruit - and then we'll start to reintroduce foods slowly.

Because without being on a limited diet this happened:

Bennett had a breakout - hives all over - Tuesday morning, followed by a flare up in the afternoon and evening. We thought we knew what the trigger was, but immediately after breakfast on Wednesday morning he broke out again. And this time it was worse. On Thursday I once again thought I knew what the trigger was, but in the middle of breakfast I noticed small dots breaking out on his face. I immediately took his food away and put him in a bath with apple cider vinegar and baking soda. I gave him an extra dose of the medicine and tincture given to us by our doctor as well. I don't know if it was the quick action on my part, or something else, but his reaction yesterday was not nearly as severe.


Five reactions in three days has me a little on edge.

And by a little I mean verging on hysteria much of the time. 

Despite being a nervous wreck most of the week there has been relief as well. The people who have loved us and given me grace while I fall apart have been instrumental in helping us survive the week. I am high needs in these kinds of situations. The stress has been so intense I've been sick most of the week.

And there's been the hand of God on Bennett and our family as we navigate this week.

On Tuesday as I frantically pulled out of the driveway on the way to the doctor the song playing on the radio was Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson and the first lines I heard were,

In the eye of the storm
You remain in control

It was one of those moments where the desperate prayers I lifted up as I prepared for us to leave the house and go to the doctor were heard.

On Wednesday as I was driving to school/work (while Bennett is in school I work for the church in a different part of the building) this song came on

Then on Wednesday afternoon Jonathan came home from work, because my ability to carry on alone didn't seem possible. I needed someone else to be "on" for a while. It's really hard for Jonathan to leave in the middle of the day. I know he had to move patients around, and I know it wasn't easy, but I appreciate him stepping in when I was depleted.

And on Thursday after I completely fell apart on the phone with Jonathan, sobbing and wailing about not wanting to lose another child, a friend called and asked if she could pray over me. Jonathan letting me cry, and my friend praying truth and healing over me and Bennett, were life giving for me. I didn't feel like I could cope. My stomach hurt so much I was ready to haul Bennett and myself into the ER. But with the tears flowing out and the prayers coming in my stomach stopped hurting and I was able to calm down enough to parent effectively and handle Bennett's latest breakout.

Weeks like this I always wish I was a bit more together. Logically I know Bennett is not going to stop breathing suddenly. And if he does struggle to breathe I have medicine to give him via an Epi-Pen and there is a hospital a few minutes away. But when you've watched a child of yours stop breathing, it's extremely difficult to face emergent, or even urgent, situations without that trauma jumping forth from the back of your mind yelling and demanding to be heard. Jon thinks, Hmmm, he's having a reaction, while I think, This is it, the moment I lose him just like I lost his sister.

This evening I can look back and see how I could have handled things better. Or if not better, at least with a little more peace in my heart. But in the moment panic takes over and I just can't see straight. However, I can also see that although I was not very calm I did manage to pray a lot, ask for help, and be thankful.

Thankful for what, you ask?

That I didn't have to go through this week without my faith and my God holding me up.

For Bennett's doctor, who put up with my early morning phone calls and made time in his day twice to see us.


A car to take me to the doctor.

The ability to pay for the doctor and medicine.

Friends and family.

In all of that - the phone calls, the doctor, the people, the prayers - I see the hand of God and I see my prayers being answered. I've been in this season where my faith is stretching and growing through community, and to have the communities that I've found in the last six and a half years be with me during this difficult week has also been a way for me to see God at work in my life.

It is so difficult to say, this is really hard for me. I am not coping well. I don't feel like I can do this, but I am really trying to live honestly and vulnerably, and sometimes that means admitting I don't feel like I can handle what life is throwing at me.

The last three nights I've slept with Bennett's forehead pressed against mine. I forgot that he used to sleep like that as a baby; it was one of the few things that would comfort him when he was small and itchy and we didn't know why. This week I've watched him turn to art and coloring to distract and comfort him when he was in the middle of severe, uncomfortable breakouts (I'm talking head to toe hives). It's important for me to see the growth and change in him; to see the baby and the boy that are contained within every 5-year-old. It reminds me Bennett is growing, and he is here, and full of life and love.

As we drove to his doctor's appointment this afternoon he was listing all the things he saw out the window that God had made. After he worked through that list he said, "And God made me!

He sure did, buddy. And I am so glad God not only made you, but that in His infinite wisdom He chose me to be your mother. I don't feel equipped or able, but through Him I am. Isn't that amazing?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

thoughts on hearing loss, books, music and early intervention

 I was reading and singing to Ainsleigh before bed a few nights ago when the idea for this post popped into my head. When Ainsleigh was first diagnosed with unilateral hearing loss (she is profoundly deaf in her left ear) I didn't want to have anything to do with the community of parents raising kids with hearing loss. I was done being part of a parenting group that was set aside because something was wrong with their child. I'd been to Holland when I expected a vacation to Italy. I had no idea what country I landed in after Ainsleigh's brith, but I knew I didn't want to see that essay again. I wanted to raise my baby without being labeled a hearing loss parent. I was already a loss parent. I didn't want to add to my resume of perceived failures.

But even though I didn't want to join the community I was still pulled in because Ainsleigh needed support. Ainsleigh needed an audiologist and speech therapist. She needed regular testing and in home care to help her develop language. And even though I didn't want to need support, I did.

I thought I had to be fine with Ainsleigh's hearing loss simply because she was alive, but once we were knee deep in hearing aid battles and delayed development fears I realized being fine wasn't going to be possible. Raising a child with hearing loss is hard and frightening, even if you've been through harrowing parenting journeys before.

There are parenting networks for parents who have deaf/hard of hearing children. I haven't joined one. I lean on our audiologist and speech therapist as well as my family, friends, church and husband.

Even though I haven't reached out to anyone beyond a pumpkin patch visit last fall for parents of deaf/hard of hearing children (which was actually really good for Ainsleigh) I wanted to write about my experience a little bit. Because maybe there's someone who needs to know they are not the only one who has struggled with putting a hearing aid on a determined one-year-old (tip: flip your kiddo on their side across your lap, gently hold them down with one arm, and get it in). And whether or not I want to be in the deaf/hard of hearing group I'm IN. And Ainsleigh needs me to be IN so that she can grow and thrive.

Which she is.

Ainsleigh is doing remarkably well with her speech and language considering she has significant hearing loss in one ear. I think some of that is up to me because I am the one who sat with her day in and day out and put her hearing aid in over and over and over when she was a baby. But I am also the one who left her hearing aid out for six weeks when we moved, so it's not all me!

Early intervention as well as exposure to music and books has been instrumental in helping Ainsligh succeed.

If you are dealing with a child who has hearing loss READ to them. Every. single. day. For as long as they will hold still, and even when they're not holding still. Don't skip words. Don't stick to board books because they're not yet 1 or 2. Turn on audio books when they're busy playing in their room. Take them to the library, let them pick picture books, and then read when they're at the table, in the bath, before bed, before nap, playing on the living room floor, etc.

Read beyond picture books. Read non-fiction, magazines, early chapter books and poetry. This evening I read poetry to Ainsleigh while we slowly drifted off together. I eventually had to lever both of us out of the rocker and put her to bed because we were so sleep drunk on soothing words and calm rhythms we could hardly keep our eyes open. It's a soothing way to end the day and it fills her brain with rich language right before she drops off to sleep.

I am not saying I am the most amazing parent EVER, but I have seen so much benefit in my children's lives because we inundated them with books from birth.

Along with reading every day, sing to your kids. All day. Even if you are like me and cannot carry a tune. We have been really lucky to connect with an amazing music program and teacher (Music Together) but if your family doesn't have that option you can still sing and expose them to music every day. I love ending the night with Ainsleigh snuggled in my arms, or in her bed, while I sing and she listens. When the house is quiet and Ainsleigh is listening to me read and then sing in very close proximity she can glean far more information about words and sounds than she can when it's midday and I'm trying to explain something and her brother is rocketing around the house.

I often tell my children that every single human wandering this earth is experiencing some difficulty or challenge in their lives, but it is also up to each individual how they deal with and grow from their particular challenge. I am hoping to teach my kids they don't have to be limited by their challenge (food allergies for my son, hearing loss for my daughter) through exposure to books and music, which in turn exposes them to the wonder and beauty of the world we live in.

Monday, July 11, 2016

how to let go: a series of small steps

Last year I avoided sending B to a Vacation Bible school he had an opportunity to attend. I didn't want to deal with the food allergy issue with a group of people who don't know him, or us, and I was not comfortable leaving him so I didn't. I let the opportunity pass us by.

This year I thought B was too young to go to the sports camp our church puts on in lieu of a vacation bible school type program. I was relieved I didn't have to think about it, or try to decide if he should go.

A few days ago I found out from one of the preschool parents B wasn't too young to go, and if I hurried to sign him up he would probably get in a group with a friend from school and possibly have his preschool teacher as his group leader. I hastily signed him up and prayed for protection and peace.

Sending B to a three hour day camp like that can cause enough anxiety to send me into a panic if I have enough time to get to that state. Thankfully I did not have that time, and when I dropped him off this morning his preschool teacher was assigned as his leader, even though there were over 50 kids just in the 4-5-year-old program.

Thank you, Jesus.

And when I walked up to the registration table, speech ready to go, mother hen side ready to come out in force, the register said, "Bennett, oh yes. I'm supposed to ask you about his snack. Does he have his epi-pen? Here's an allergy bracelet for him."

My rehearsed speech was replaced with a, "Yes, thank you so much." and when I dropped him off I thought he might be upset - and he was shy - but when his preschool teacher said, "Come on, you're with me," he took her hand and happily followed her.

When I picked him up he told me he had a great time. "I didn't even cry once!" he exclaimed. "And I learned how to jump rope!!"

He's excited to go back tomorrow, and I'm happy to send him.

It's amazing how God can take the BIG worries I carry and cast them aside with a few knowledgeable sentences and the outstretched hand of someone who cares for my child.

Friday, September 26, 2014

close call

B almost got hit by a car today.

And I'm not talking about almost as in it was a bit close for my liking. I'm talking about almost as in I didn't think I was going to get there in time.

The kids were playing outside when I heard a car start up a couple driveways down. B was on his trike riding, I yelled for him to come back when I heard the car start. He laughed and kept going. I screamed, "Bennett! Bennett!!!! STOP!! STOP NOW!"

He kept going.

I was walking to him as I was yelling, but I was walking slowly because I had left Ainsleigh sitting on the sidewalk. At this point I made the decision to leave Ainsleigh and run for Bennett. I felt like my heart was being torn in two.

What if she crawls for the road?

What will I do if I don't get to Bennett in time?

I saw other neighbors around so I sent up a prayer that someone would grab Ainsleigh if they saw her crawl for the road. I had to get to Bennett. The neighbor's car is an SUV. He was UNDER the bumper. There's no way he could be seen from the driver's seat.

I grabbed Bennett and his bike as the neighbor's car started backing out of the driveway. I pulled him out of the way and very calmly said, Walk straight home and go in the house.

I ran back to Ainsleigh, who had thankfully stayed put for once, collected the walker she was using and Bennett's bike, put them by the back gate, then walked into the house.

I explained to Bennett what had happened and why I was VERY upset. I managed, somehow, not to yell. I wanted to yell, but Bennett shuts down when I yell so I remained calm as I told him how close he was to being very, very hurt, or dying.

I had him spend thirty minutes in his bed, then I asked him to tell me what happened and why I was scared. Then I had him repeat the entire story to J when he came home from work.

To be honest, I wasn't sure how to handle the situation. How do I make him understand the severity of what happened this afternoon?

I was so scared I was shaking, so I think Bennett grasped the emotion behind the event, and I hope he understands and won't do something like that again. He likes to sit on the front step and wait for J to get home in the afternoon. I told him that wouldn't be happening for a good long while. And I told him we wouldn't be playing in front of the house for a while either.

Life happens. Life is going to happen. How do I love my kids well and keep them safe? How do I ensure I don't have to bury another child?

I can't. I'll never be able to.

Every day I ask the Lord to help me feel less anxious about my babies and their lives. Every. single. day. Some days are harder than others.

Friday, August 29, 2014

seven months with a hearing aid {an update}

I've been struggling with Ainsleigh's hearing loss. Well, not so much the loss as the caring of the loss. Ainsleigh went through a phase where she absolutely would not leave her hearing aid on. I would spend one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon sitting on the floor with her and putting it in over and over and over. Then life happened, we got busy, we weren't at home as often, and I stopped putting it in.

For three weeks or so I didn't put Ainsleigh's hearing aid in at all. I thought about doing it, and I worried about the long term consequences, but I couldn't find the energy and patience to sit with her and force the issue. Plus the person who conducts our in-home visits was off in August (no funding) so I didn't have anyone calling to ask me how things were going.

Ainsleigh is doing so well I forget she can't hear. Then J calls her name from the doorway in the living room and I watch her swing her head frantically from side to side trying to find him and it hits me all over again what inability to localize actually means. It's not just a line on a form, or an explanation in her medical records. It's gently leaning forward, getting Ainsleigh's attention and showing her where to look. It's worry that she will be hit by a car someday because she's looking the wrong direction when she hears something before crossing a street. It is understanding, as our in-home counselor says, that just because we can't see Ainsleigh's disability doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

I forget that sometimes.

I am so overjoyed Ainsleigh is alive I forget to worry about her hearing loss. Who cares about an ear that fails to perform when her lungs, heart, kidneys and other major organs function as they should? And unilateral hearing loss is so tricky because speech delays don't show up until 18 months. Sometimes delays in other areas crop up, but so far Ainsleigh is hitting all of her milestones without issue.

First step three days shy of ten months!! 

Our in-home counselor said something the other day that hit me really hard, "I hope Ainsleigh's disability is never obvious or apparent, but if it becomes obvious you will want to ensure you've done everything you can for her."

The next day I put Ainsleigh's hearing aid in as soon as she woke up. And she left it in. Ainsleigh has been wearing her hearing aid most of the time she is awake and she's only taking it out two or three times a day.

And you can praise me for sticking with it, or her for being a little older, but the truth is that I've been leaning on Jesus for this one because I can't do it alone. It's too frustrating, overwhelming, and hard. I can't sit with Ainsleigh for an hour twice a day right now. There's too many other things going on.

It's early days, I'm not sure how tomorrow will go, or the next day, but right now Ainsleigh is wearing her hearing aid, which means I can stop worrying all. the. time. about how I'll feel if she shows delays in eight months.

In some ways I feel like we're starting over, but three weeks off really isn't that long. And thankfully life (and Jesus) leaves plenty of room for second (and third and fourth and fifth ...) chances.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

the last milestone

Toilet training.

Okay, maybe it's not the last milestone.

How about the last toddler milestone?

Or, the last milestone people care about?

Toilet training falls under that umbrella of topics people feel free to ask you about/comment on even though it's personal, individual, and should only matter to a handful of people (caregivers, grandparents, you know, the basics. Not the old lady in the store who has an opinion on everything).

Also under the umbrella:

- Why you are waiting so long to have children

- How you conceived the child(ren) you waited so long for

- How the child is sleeping

- How the child is eating

At least they cover all the basics, right?

I've been a little scared terrified to start toilet training. It just feels like such a big hurdle, but I've had two kids in diapers for nine plus months and that, friends, is long enough. We're only on day two, but B is doing well, and we are fully committed - no more diapers (except at night).

This evening I had to run out to Target to buy more toddler underwear. I bought a five pack a long time ago and thought it would be sufficient (HA!). I also didn't fully plan on toilet training this week. I wanted to try after our camping trip at the end of July, but I didn't want to push him because he's stubborn and if he thought I wanted it to happen he would be in diapers another year. But Monday morning I woke up and was like, we have incentives, we have a goal, we have underwear: it's on.

My treats. I've been drinking a ton of iced tea because I really am trying to kick the diet soda problem, and this is ideal need a soda territory for me 

So after dinner I asked J if he would watch the kids for me while I dashed to Target. B followed me out the door crying so I went back inside, packed a bag, had him go to the bathroom, then went to Target with him in tow.

I can see that it's going to take me forever to accomplish any errand now. It already takes me a good long while, but when you add in bathroom trips two errands could take all day. (When I go places on my own now, sans kids, I'm always the first one there, hands in pockets, shrugging my shoulders, I have no idea why I'm an hour early ...) We were about as far as one can be from the restrooms when B whispered, "I have to go potty."

I walked / jogged as fast as I could to the other side of the store, worried all the while that he would see "the big potty" and lose his mind. But he had no problem at all and we were soon back in the aisles buying half off Aden and Anais crib sheets.

Tomorrow we're trying the library. And I'll have Ainsleigh to deal with as well. Thankfully I have amazing friends, one of whom is going to meet me there so I don't have to try it solo. I have the best friends. I don't know how to live without my village.

Friday, June 27, 2014

I hope you always love the simple days

My house is a mess - keeping it real!

I can't believe (of course) that Ainsleigh will be eight months in two days. She is busy, curious, and sporting her first black eye. She loves to stand, army crawl and play with Bennett. Ainsleigh just learned how to sit from a lying down position. Lately she's been doing it in her sleep, which wakes her up, which makes her grumpy. If she wakes up too much she pulls herself to a stand and jettisons whatever is on the changing table next to her crib. My constant refrain: "Ains, sweetie, what did you do?!"

Today I took the kids on a day trip to McMinnville. And now I am in a lot of pain. I felt like I was on the mend, but I think I overextended myself today. We went to the bookstore, then an indoor play place, then Bennett and I ate a picnic lunch in the back of the Subaru. We read our new books and ate cold pizza and freshly picked berries while Ainsleigh slept.

As Bennett and I have more fraught moments (toddlers are tough!) I'm trying to create more simple days where we do fun stuff that is low key. (Okay, that play place was not low key, but I thought of it at the last minute so ...) I'm trying to put my phone down, set aside my laptop and just hang out with him. He said his favorite thing about today was our car picnic. And I understand why. It was just us, reading, chatting and eating. It's amazing how much focused time kids need. The pace of life makes it difficult to move in a slower stream, but I'm trying to spend more time in the shallows. There will be time for rapids later, if I want to engage them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


This morning three men walked by the house. B instantly perked up. He's into people right now. He wants to know who everyone is.

"Hey! Who are those guys? What are they doing?"

The men were carrying bags of empty soda cans. I stood up to watch them walk by, then moved to the kitchen window, forgetting we had moved our trash and recyclables to the other side of the house so we could plant raspberries along the driveway.

"Mama, what you doing? You watching those guys? What they doing?"

"They're looking for cans, honey. Soda cans."


"Some people collect them. They're worth money, a few cents."

B looked confused.

I walked back over to the table and resumed my breakfast. "Some people don't have a lot of money, so they pick up cans and turn them in so they can buy food or other things they need."

B looked even more confused.

I played with my tea bag for a moment before taking a deep breath and looking him in the eye. "Some people don't have jobs. They can't afford food, or shelter. We are better off than a lot of people in this world. I know that's hard to understand. You'll learn. It's important for you to know that we are lucky and part of our job as people who love Jesus is to follow his command to love and serve people in need."

B nodded and went back to his breakfast, satisfied with an explanation he likely understood little of.

This afternoon I was sweeping the kitchen when B walked in.

"Some kids aren't loved." he announced.

I stared at him for a long moment.

"Some kids aren't loved?" I finally repeated.

"Some kids don't feel loved." he responded.

"You know, that's true. Some kids don't feel loved. Jesus always loves us. Always. No matter what we do, but it's hard to feel that love sometimes."

B smiled and ran out of the kitchen, a new activity, or idea, on his mind while I felt the weight of the day's conversations settle on my shoulders.

This is what people mean when they say raising children is the most important job, I thought as I mopped the kitchen floor.

B and I discussed two HUGE concepts - social issues really - today. Add in the discussion about respecting someone's no (I'll spare you that one) and I feel like I should receive a bonus check for the day's work.

Raising these little ones is an enormous responsibility. I feel absolutely unprepared. I know I'm not alone, that I have a husband, family, community and Jesus on my side, but it's still daunting.

Raising children is like throwing all your knowledge at a constantly changing tower and hoping when it reaches a certain height the foundation will settle - the cement hardening into its permanent place - and it will stand upright.

All day long words spill from my mouth:

Be kind.

Be mindful.

Love people.

Say thank you.

You are in control of your emotions.

Jesus loves you.

I love you.

Be quiet. 


Settle down.

Give me a minute.

Hurry up.

Be patient.

I'm sorry I yelled.

I love you.

I'm sorry.

I talk at and to B all day. My words are shaping him. His character is quickly forming. Today's conversations made me wonder, am I pouring the right things into him?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

goodnight babies

It's been a long day. The last few have been epic. The kids are really sick. J has been gone a lot.

J is the voice of reason. My anchor. I freak out when B coughs so hard he struggles to breathe. J calmly turns on the shower and takes care of things.

Today was hard. I'm tired. J worked a rare hospital shift. I was reminded of his on call days, although those were over before we had babies. He worked call at two hospitals when we were early married. I hated the pagers and their 3 am wake up calls, but the money was good.

I was singing to the kids tonight. Made up lyrics. All three of us falling asleep on the couch.

Goodnight babies
Goodnight babies
I love you Ainsleigh
I love you Bennett
I'm so lucky to have you
I was so sad before you came
You are light
I love you so
Goodnight babies ...

Then I cried because I am exhausted and because the grief is just below the surface of the everyday right now.

And then J came home and I forgot Ainsleigh's name while telling him about the day. The only name that came to mind was Charlotte.

I can hear the drip, drip, drip of the humidifier. It mixes with the sound of the rain outside. No one is coughing right now. Or crying. Or burning with fever. All is temporarily well.

Goodnight babies.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

making the hours pass

I've been able to blog with a little more regularity now that Ainsleigh will settle in the crib for a few hours at night. She's usually ready to be held by 9, but I put her to bed at 6 so that gives me enough time to get a few things done.

Today was a long day. Bennett asked for J no less than five times before noon. Every car that drove by prompted him to ask, "Daddy home?"

At 2:00 I finally tossed both kids in the bath. My sister provided me with the brilliant idea of using the Bumbo in the bath during that awkward too big for the newborn bath, not quite ready to sit up in the big tub stage. It worked perfectly, even with Ainsleigh's attempts to dive into the water. It didn't tip and she didn't fall out. I was right there, of course, with a hand near, or on her, at all times.

Yes, that duck is the temperature gauge from the water birth I didn't have with Miss A. The hospital graciously lets you take it home with you. Here is a memento of your failure - thanks! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

the important things

Ideas for posts come to me all the time: when I am cooking dinner, changing diapers, looking for clothes for the kids (I really need to catch up on the laundry). The ideas pile up in my brain, but when evening (finally) rolls around I always turn to something else.

I am deep in the trenches of parenthood here. I know I only have two at home, and I know how blessed I am to have them, but I am exhausted. At church on Sunday I watched a mama in the cry room. She had five children with her, many of them young. As I observed her all I could think was, "She has two more. TWO! How in the world does she do it?!

I spend a lot of my day with Ainsleigh in the Ergo. She has finally settled in and likes being worn, but most days I wish for one crib nap - that lasts longer than ten minutes - so I can have a little break. Although the way Ains looks at me when waking from an Ergo nap is pretty wonderful.

At night Ainsleigh sleeps with us, and at some point during the night Bennett comes in with us as well. We are halfheartedly trying to convince Bennett to sleep in his own room, but he's as interested in that as he is in toilet training. Read: not at all. Although yesterday J told Bennett he could drive a car when he toilet trained so he is suddenly more interested in it. Okay, that story requires a lot more explanation, but I'm going to leave the short version because I'm tired and trying to write this before someone cries.

In the last week I've had so many conversations with friends about how overwhelming parenting is. I've witnessed tears, and eaten cake at 8 pm, and cried, and agreed that most of the time I feel like I'm not doing anything well.

I know I'm not the only one who is grateful and exhausted. Can we just take a moment and admit that we are all struggling? I want to find joy in serving my family, but sometimes it's really hard to feel happy about doing another load of laundry, or dishes.

Can we also agree that living in community would make life much easier? If someone would watch the kids for two hours every day my house would be clean, dinner would be cooked, and I wouldn't have to wonder where in the world Ainsleigh's only pair of jeans is. Of course I don't want the kids to be with someone else two hours every day, but having that time would make things a little easier. Although I would probably use the time to read, or blog, or take a shower without wondering if Ainsleigh is crying (most days, yes, she is).

I think I've been writing less because it doesn't feel as important as other things, and people, in my life. I still need it, but I don't feel as compelled to write. I'm sure some of that is exhaustion, but I think a lot of it is a shift in my priorities. I don't write when Bennett is awake, and the kid does not sleep during the day, and once evening rolls around I want to spend time with J. And around 6:30 Ains goes to sleep in my arms and there she stays until I  hand her off to J or take her to bed with me.

I think I'm finally realizing that I'm not going to be a blogger. I'm not going to make money from it. I'm not going to advertise, or do giveaways, or seek ways to promote my blog. I don't care enough to put forth the effort. I just don't. I don't care about Twitter, or branding, or finding a niche, or blog conferences, or growing my stats. I just want to write when I feel like it. (And I am so grateful that there are people who read what I write when I manage to sit down and do it.)

When I write what I really want to convey about my life is this: I love my children - all three of them - my family - immediate, extended, not related but part of my tribe - and Jesus. I want to keep this writing space because I want to, not because I want to generate something. So I'm letting go of that little dream; that idea of being a blogger. This is not a goodbye, or a break, or anything close to that. I've just been thinking about my priorities a lot, and I wanted to write some of my thoughts down. And I want to be honest about where my heart is so that I can look back and see where I am at in this season of my life.

It's actually really difficult for me to set that dream down. I feel as if my accomplishments are few, but the Lord has been encouraging me to see what I am doing - raising little people - as important and worthy.

I'll write, of course I'll write, but when it comes to striving I quit. I'm not going to write because it's been a few days and if I don't write people might stop following me ... I'm setting all of those worries down, and letting this be what it originally was: a place to write about my life.

Someday I would like to write more. Someday I would like to finish the book that's been sitting on my desk upstairs for ages. (How many times have I written that sentence???)

Someday life will be about me, but for now it's about them.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

biblical parenting // grace-based discipline

I need to say two things before we start:

a) by biblical parenting I do not mean "spare the rod ..." etc. If you are gearing up for a spanking/anti-spanking lecture you won't find it here. And I don't want to find it in the comments.

b) we all parent differently. This post is a little bit about what I am doing right now, and the resources that are helping me.

I've been at a complete loss on how to effectively discipline Bennett for a while. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do, but the things I did do either didn't work, or weren't very effective.

A few weeks ago I began looking into gentle discipline, or grace-based discipline. I wanted to read some parenting books from a biblical perspective, but the books that are common in the parenting circles I run in (also, the church) made me a little - and in some cases a lot - uncomfortable. Now if you are my friend and reading this don't get offended. I am not judging you, or your parenting, or the way you choose to discipline. The books made me uncomfortable.

Then I found Pastor Crystal Lutton's book Biblical Parenting. It is SO good. And short. Short is good when you are a parent and have very little time to read. Pastor Lutton writes on the subject of grace-based parenting, and how to parent kindly and gently without being permissive. She also breaks down the rod verses and what they really mean, which was really interesting.

Pastor Lutton explains the idea of grace-based parenting as such: "Punishment creates the illusion of a lesson learned by demanding results while Grace-Based discipline teaches the lessons and trusts that when they are learned the results will be present." 

I've been spending way too much time trying to control Bennett's behavior. Pastor Lutton's method is all about teaching children self-control, because it is impossible to control someone else's behavior. 

My attitude and parenting methods have changed immensely in the last few days. And Bennett is responding really well. We went to Target today and he was able to walk next to the cart the entire time. Usually he starts out walking, but I end up putting him in the cart because he is all over the place. I feel a little silly saying, "You need to stop ...." all the time, but it works. At Target he saw a huge display of  colored vases and charged towards them (what kid can resist that?!). All I said was, "Bennett, you need to stop yourself from touching the vases." That's it. One simple sentence. He didn't touch them. He stood very, very close. He stretched his hand out. Then he stopped.

When that sentence doesn't work - and there are many moments when it doesn't - there are more steps to follow. I love this book because it's all about teaching my children to love Jesus through my actions. Pastor Lutton also presents the idea of a window, which I can't even begin to explain, but it's really helped me know how to handle different situations that come up throughout the day. This is one passage from the window chapter that I just love:

"As a parent you will need to act both as authority and servent, but choosing which way is to take priority will depend upon the age of your child and what you are trying to accomplish ... A servant is kind. An authority is firm. As a parent you must be both, but sometimes you need to emphasize kindness and other times you need to be firmer. One of the most difficult aspects of parenting is determining which role you should be in."

Implementing this kind of parenting has required so much prayer and patience. I could feel myself wanting to yell when Bennett walked out of his room starkers this afternoon and peed all over the floor, but I kept my calm and was able to recognize he was seeking attention/trying to get out of rest time.

The days have felt so long lately. I am very tired and overwhelmed, but I've managed to stay calm and use the new methods I've learned. There is so much wisdom in Pastor Lutton's book. I've been reading Two Thousand Kisses a Day by L.R. Knost as well. And I use a little bit from the Love and Logic books too. I want to read Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson as well.

I recommend taking a look at gentle parenting, whether you are a believer in Christ or not. I like the idea of being able to guide Bennett within a set of boundaries I am comfortable with. I love finding books that encourage faith based discipline without the pro-spanking chapters.  I like that Pastor Lutton emphasizes the parent as authority, but encourages kindness and empathy as well. I think I've done a poor job of considering Bennett's feelings in many situations, but I think we can get to a better place with the tools I am acquiring.

I don't know everything about parenting (who does), but I do know there's no way I could do this gentle parent thing without the power of Jesus. I've finally found books and resources that make sense to me. And now I am going to take a break and head out with friends. Today has been incredibly rewarding - the Target run - and incredibly frustrating - the absolute refusal to leave clothes and a diaper on. Dessert and girl time is in my near future and I. can't. wait.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

on worry and learning curves

Ainsleigh will be three months old tomorrow. We've spent most of her life like this. Ainsleigh is a mama's girl.

J calls every evening as he's leaving work to ask if I need anything (groceries, diapers, dinner). This evening I said "dinner is cooking" when he asked. The surprise and amazement in his voice when he replied, "really?!" made me realize I haven't been doing very well in that category. Thankfully J doesn't mind my inability to keep up with things. (We have run out of toilet paper TWICE since Ains was born. That's the first time I've done that!)  He just rolls with the chaos.

We have a routine, and we are settling into life with two, but there are still challenges. Food is a big one. Bennett eats a lot and his dietary needs are complicated. Lately the days I set aside to cook and freeze food for him have been filled with appointments for Ainsleigh. I should do it at night, but that's my time. I need that time to stay happy.

I know these days will soon be gone. I know Ainsleigh won't need me like this forever. I worry about her. I wonder how much her hearing loss affects her. We had a busy weekend. Ainsleigh has been fussy and needy the past two days and I wonder if it's because of too much social interaction. I know all babies get over stimulated, but I think Ainsleigh gets there faster and has a harder time recovering.

I worry about Ainsleigh a lot, but J tells me to let it go. He says we'll learn everything we can now and then if difficulties arise we will (hopefully) have the tools to address them. I know he's right, but I am a mama and I am a worrier and I excel at combining those parts of my personality. I think some part of me is still back in the room where we received the diagnosis trying to process what this means for our family. It's hard because most of the challenges won't be known for a long time. I am a lot of things but patient is not one of them.

We're slowly learning what Ainsleigh needs now. She cannot stand being held with her back to a room. She fusses if her right ear isn't in a good position. If you approach on her left side and she can't see you coming she'll get scared because she can't hear you either. Ainsleigh is already a master at compensating for the loss, but we have a steep learning curve and we don't always know what she needs. But that's true of all babies, right? They do their best to communicate with us, but we don't always know what they are asking for.

I'm really tired and I just lost the thread of this post. How about I end with this: Ainsleigh is three snuggly baby months old. I waited so long for this.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

can I have chocolate for dinner?

This parenting two children thing .. WOW. Will someone please hold me while I cry? I think Bennett is doing really well all things considered, but I had no idea he could be so defiant. Kiddo has me crying in the bathroom and sneaking chocolate from the kitchen cupboard at 9 in the morning. I hate that half - or maybe even more than that?! - of our interactions are negative right now, but I know this is just the transition period. It will get better.

This morning I had Ainsleigh's two week well check (sweet cheeks weighed in at 8 lbs 7 oz, sheesh!) then I went to the hospital to visit J and get a blood draw. B had a special grandma morning, which was good for both of us. I think we needed a break from each other. We spend our days sitting in the house staring at one another and getting on each other's nerves, but I can't yet fathom how I am going to get all three of us out the door without assistance. I don't know if I could get through a week without our little community of friends and family who help. I guess this is why that old adage about raising children and villages exists.

I thought the sleep deprivation would be the hardest part of having two, but it hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. Ainsleigh sleeps better than B did (so far) and my energy is through the roof compared to my last two deliveries. Retaining most of my blood volume has helped a lot, and I think placenta capsules are pure magic.

Even though this period of transition is very difficult I am grateful for it. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that I have three children. I don't know if it's because Charlotte isn't here, further tearing up the house and making me even more crazy, or if it's something else, but I stumble over the words, "I have three children."

I consider myself lucky because I know both sides of the coin. I know the silence of a house that was poised to welcome a baby home. I know what it's like to recover after birth without a newborn to love on - oh the tiny head that smells so good! This is better. Even though it's hard it is better. I just have to remember this is the happiest I've been in years.

B brought me back to life in so many ways, but now I feel complete. Well, complete enough, as complete as I can be. I need to focus on the fact that there is finally more joy than sorrow in this house. And we're doing okay. I just have to be patient and kind even when I'm frustrated and chasing B around the house mid-feeding session as he wields a marker and laughs manically. There is a lot of love in this house, and I think years from now that is what B will remember. 

And another positive: I am breastfeeding so I can eat pounds of chocolate to help me through this transition without worrying about calories. Right?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

certainty in uncertain times

On Sunday at the very beginning of the sermon the pastor made a very brief comment about Syria and how we can rely on God to be our certainty in uncertain times. I needed to hear that for two reasons:

1. I am so worried about our nation and the choices our President is on the cusp of making.

2. I am so worried about my babies.

Today I'm going to write about my babies, because I know them and I don't know nearly enough to create a sentence about what is happening in our world right now.

It doesn't look like we will know why Bennett had a reaction. Our church no longer gives snacks during second hour, so he did not receive food at church. We're still waiting to hear from the person in the room at the time, but it sounds like that wasn't the problem. Maybe he found something on the floor? Maybe he got into something at home? We're really careful about leaving food out and making sure he can't get to anything he is allergic to, but accidents happen.

Anyway. It happened. Bennett had a really bad reaction and I had to find the wherewithal to stay calm. It's nearly impossible for me to be rational when he's sick, but this time I managed to stop myself from going straight to, "he's going to die." I was able to walk the living room floor while Bennett held onto me screaming at the top of his lungs without panicking.

When J went out for medication (twice) I was able to hold onto the temporariness of the situation, even though I usually need J's reassurance to do so. As I held Bennett's sweaty body tight and paced the living room, my back aching, his legs draped awkwardly over my growing belly, I prayed for peace and healing. And I found a solid place where I understood that all would be well.

One topic that always comes up when I'm spending time with my loss mamas is protecting our children and how helpless it makes us feel to know we can't. In or out of the womb we cannot ensure their survival. Every day we have to give them over to God and pray for safety and protection. Each morning we wake in uncertain times, in a world gone mad, on roads we didn't foresee, and we have to turn it all over to the Lord and remember that He will hold fast to the promises set forth in the Bible. Promises to sustain and protect and love not only us but our children.

I can't watch over Bennett every second of every day and keep him with me at all times so he doesn't accidentally eat something he is allergic to. I can't will or wish our baby girl to be healthy at birth. I can't go back in time and force Charlotte to breathe. I can't alter any outcomes through worry, but I can remember to find that place of certainty and reassurance even when I'm swimming through the dark waters of fear.

Friday, August 2, 2013

offensive and insensitive {*possible trigger*}

I follow quite a few pro-breastfeeding / natural birth sites on facebook. This is World Breastfeeding Week so a lot of conversation and promotion has been popping up in my news feed. And now there's even some controversy.

According to one blog this image was originally posted by a facebook page called "Mama Drama." I have no idea if this statistic is accurate or what facts (if any) it is based off.

The blogs and posts I've read focus on how an image like this is not the way to promote a cause, but I instantly thought of all the women who have lost babies.

I think breastfeeding is important and I think it's best for babies but I also understand and acknowledge that breastfeeding is not the only answer. And once you've buried a baby things like breastfeeding vs. formula feeding become a lot less important. I think making women feel bad for how they choose to feed their babies is shameful. I'm glad formula exists. I think parents are lucky to have the option should they need it, or choose to use it.

The mother, or mothers, who slapped this ad together didn't stop to think about the 1 in 4 women who have lost babies. They didn't think about the mothers and fathers who have cried over tiny coffins. They didn't think about the guilt that comes with the loss of a baby. They didn't think beyond promoting their agenda and pushing their ideas. And I agree with other bloggers, an ad like this is not the way to convince people to follow your point of view. Not only is this ad thoughtless, it's hurtful and insensitive.

Parents are humans, which means they fail, but choosing to feed a baby formula over breast milk is not a failure. It's a choice, it's a necessity and sometimes it is the best option. Ads like this make me angry because they focus on the wrong question. Whether or not you fed your baby formula isn't going to matter seventeen years from now. What will matter are the countless hours of parenting and the years of effort you put forth to create a kind, smart, loving human being.

Are you pouring love into your child? Then you, my friend, are a wonderful mother.  


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