Tag: children

Raising children on the principle of love

Raising children on the principle of love

My husband and I are Christians, meaning we are followers of Christ Jesus and strive to live according to His teachings. We both grew up in Christian households that shared similar foundational principles and, as a result, our beliefs have shaped our worldview, guide our thought processes, and influence our actions on a daily basis.

Before getting married — and long before children entered the picture — my husband and I talked about our overarching ideas and plans for raising any future children we might be blessed with. But, as when many things, parenting styles, goals, and philosophies tend to be more abstract until a little one is actually present.

Then it becomes real.

Since becoming parents to our son, we have had numerous discussions on how to parent. Not just the when and how to discipline conversations, though it is very important for both parents and any additional caregivers (like grandparents) are all on board with the decided methods of discipline. No, we began talking about the far-reaching results — some might even say consequences — of certain parenting styles, attitudes, behaviors, etc. Then we compared our childhoods and our parents’ parenting styles with all of the positives and negatives we could recall.

Every time we had one of these deep, self-evaluating discussions, we found ourselves circling back around to very simple but crucial questions:

  • How do we want to raise our children?
    • What kind of childhood and home environment do we want to provide for them?
    • What character traits do we want to nurture in our children?
    • What kind of people do we want them to grow up to become?
  • What parenting methods would achieve these goals?

In continuing my exploration into the idea of a heavenly home, I will attempt to share some of our answers to the above questions.

First and foremost, the type of childhood we desire for our children is one of joy, love, laughter, and learning in a home environment that is warm and nurturing.

To achieve that goal, we decided that we want to raise our children on the foundation of love. Deep, self-sacrificing, understanding, patient, resilient, courageous, unconditional love as modeled by Christ Jesus.

Out from this foundation of love grows other important character traits, such as respect for oneself and respect for others. We want our children to grow up with an understanding that, in spite of their flaws and mistakes, they are precious, valued, and loved for who they are as uniquely individual human beings.

Their worth and self-esteem is not based on what they do, how well they do it, how much they succeed or achieve, nor based on the opinions of others. That does not mean we will not have expectations for them, but we want to give them realistic expectations that encourage them to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

By extension, we want to instill in them a respect for others as precious individuals. We want to demonstrate this love and respect every day in our interactions with each other, with our children, and with those outside our family.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8, ESV

We want to raise our children with the knowledge that God is love. We believe in a loving Creator who originally created this world perfect and intended for humanity to live perfect lives in peaceful harmony with Him, each other, and the nature around them. Because He is love, He did not create us as robots pre-programmed with a specific set of directives that must be followed.

He gave humanity the freedom of choice: free will. Because of free will, we each have the freedom to choose whether to love God and obey Him or not.

It is our hope that our children will come love God as we have but not out of fear or obligation or tradition. We desire for them to have an intelligent faith of their own and love God as a personal response to His love for them.

 “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19, ESV
From this love, they will choose to follow His example and apply His teachings in practical ways in their daily lives. All of the teachings of the Bible can be summarized in these two principles:

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:36-40, ESV

Next time I will share some of the specific character traits and values we hope to instill in our children.

Join the discussion

What are the principles that guide your parenting style and philosophy? What type of childhood are you aiming to give to your children?

Rug pads make a difference

Rug pads make a difference

Disclaimer: This post contains links out to products. I am not affiliated with the companies in any way nor am I receiving any compensation. These links are used as examples for informative purposes only.

I have moved eleven times so far in my entire life (not counting the two summers I studied abroad), and most of the houses I have lived in had fully carpeted rooms with hard surfaces in designated areas like kitchens and bathrooms. Perhaps that is why I have not given much thought to rug/carpet pads… until recently.

Our current rental house has tile flooring throughout, which is nice in the hot, desert summers but not so nice in the cold winters. I like that the tile floor is easier to clean but it is a bit hard when standing for a long period of time (like when washing dishes at the kitchen sink). When I moved in on New Years 2014, a large area rug to warm up the living room was at the top of my must have list (along with a new TV console that had a built-in electric heater).

My husband, who was my fiancé at the time, helped me rug shop and, after trips to numerous stores, I finally settled for something that had colors and patterns I could live with. Though it helped warm the room, it was not a very lush carpet and provided little to no extra padding underfoot. We bought it, rolled it out right away, and have been content with our choice.

For the next few years, I did not give the living room rug much thought.

Then we had our first child, and the first time he fell and hit his head hard on the living room floor, I was horrified. Our area rug provided no extra padding, and it was as if he had bumped his head on the tile itself! We bought a cute head protector (similar to this one) for when he was learning to crawl. That definitely helped save his precious noggin during more than a few tumbles but did not solve the real problem.

Around the same time, we bought a gorgeous area rug for our master bedroom that was thicker and softer, and I realized just how unpadded the living room rug really was.

Our little Peanut is 13-months-old now and he is now learning to walk. Three weeks ago, he took his first steps on his own, and he is now walking quite a bit. He likes to kneel, take one knee, or even sort of belly-flop onto the floor. He also loves to sit down, lean back until his head bumps the floor, kick his feet in the air while laughing, and then roll around.

And in another four months (give or take), we will have another little one who will also pass through the crawling, tumbling, walking phases!

If you have been following this blog for even a little bit of time, you know that we live on a budget and when making larger purchases, we try to find good deals. We will often save up for our purchases and then wait weeks or months more for a good sale or deal. This time, we had to take into consideration the urgency of this need for our son’s safety.

So with some extra money from one of my freelance projects and taking advantage of free shipping, we bit the bullet and purchased a pad to go under our living room rug. (We settled on this one from Amazon.) It should be arriving any day now, and we cannot wait to lift the rug, roll out the pad, and see how well it works at cushioning our feet and softening our son’s… tumbling.

Update: 2 October 2017

The rug pad arrived promptly last Friday, the exact day it was scheduled to. At first, we thought they sent the wrong size as the roll was only about 4 foot wide, but we quickly realized they had folded the pad over before rolling it to make it easier to ship. Sunday my parents came over to help us do a few improvements around the house, and one of the projects was to roll back the living room carpet and put the pad down.

It was actually more challenging that it sounds. Our living room is a bit tight and we have a 8’x10′ rug to maximize floor coverage. One side is tucked under our couch and the opposite site is beneath our heavy TV console (with a built-in electric heater, shelving, and a large flatscreen television). We knew we could not get the pad under the TV console; it was just too heavy to try to lift up.

As it was, it took three of us to lift the couch, pull back the carpet, lay down the pad, straighten the pad, put the carpet back, and smooth out the lumps. Then my dad took a straight edge and trimmed the carpet pad where it was showing.

We are so happy with the result. The 3/8″ thickness provides just the right amount of cushion on our feet (and our son’s head) without raising the carpet edges too high, thus preventing a tripping hazard.

One takeaway from this whole experience, it is easier to cushion area rugs and carpets when you are first moving into a residence (before the large furniture is brought in). Ideally, we should have bought a pad when we purchased our area rug. It is possible to add a rug pad later, but it is more of a challenge and may require additional helpers for lifting and re-arranging furniture. If you live in a house with hard floors, this is something to consider.

How much of your current home is carpet or hard floor? Do you use rug pads under your area rugs?

The idea of a heavenly home

The idea of a heavenly home

The title of this blog is A Heavenly Home, and I chose this name because of the hope and inspiration that it gives. If we are all honest with ourselves, I am certain that each one of us desires to have a warm, loving home that resembles a small piece of heaven on earth.

In our hectic, busy modern world, such an ideal home environment can seem hard — maybe even impossible — to achieve. Sometimes our best laid plans go awry or life circumstances force us to be flexible in ways we had not intended.

Our home is no different.

Is our house always tidy? No.

Do we have more clutter than we should? Yes.

Do we always put away our clean laundry? No.

Do dishes sometimes pile up in the sink? Yes.

Does our home look like a glossy magazine spread or a bright photo op on a fancy home blog? Absolutely not.

At the moment, I work full time outside the home with some freelancing on the side while my husband stays home with our one-year-old son. This was not our original plan, but it is where we find ourselves at this time. My amazing husband keeps our household running by not only caring for our son but also taking on a large share of domestic duties, including but not limited to laundry, vacuuming, tidying, yard work, taking care of the aging dog, etc. I appreciate everything he does so I try to pitch in and ease his burdens when I can.

We had a fairly good system working for us before we discovered I was pregnant with Baby #2 back in May and the first trimester all-day-every-day sickness struck. Around the same time, our little Peanut began to teethe… badly. Everything quickly dissolved into barely manageable chaos. For a little while there, it was a struggle. Then we realized that stage of our life was merely temporary, and it was ok to let the less important things slide for awhile.

Do not misunderstand. I do believe having a clean and tidy home tends to make the home more inviting and is more nurturing for those who live there.

However, the physical house is only part of what makes a home feel like a little bit of heaven on earth. To create a home that is a welcomed retreat from the cares of the outside world, warm and inviting, you need more than simply clean rooms.

A heavenly home is built on love, courtesy towards those who live with you, quality time spent together, and laughter.

My natural tendency at times would be to stare at the three days’ worth of dirty dishes piled up in the sink and feel like a failure for being too exhausted (and sick!) to do them. There were times I had to remind myself: “At this moment, cuddling with my little son who is crying for “Mama” because a new tooth is working its painful way through his gum is far more important than some dirty dishes.”

When times became challenging, we chose to focus on what is most important. For our little family it was spending time together as a couple, spending time with our son, and doing what was best for our health. For me that also meant extra sleep!

Since then, things have begun to even out again. (Praise the Lord!) I am no longer feeling sick, and my energy has returned to normal. We are now in a place where we have a handle on the weekly housekeeping duties again and can also re-start some of the projects we had to put on hold for those couple of months, such as what I like to call “the big purge”. (More on this later.)

A clean house is important for physical health and a tidy house is good for mental health, but never forget that what truly transforms a house into a home is the people who live there and the atmosphere you cultivate.

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 2:3-4, ESV

Our home and family is built on the love of Christ. If we keep Christ as our focus and His love in our hearts, everything else falls into its proper place. Our home becomes a warm, inviting, nurturing place full of the most important riches: love, selfless service, and grace. We know what is most important and are able to be flexible when circumstances change.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore a little bit more into the idea of a heavenly home and share some of our plans for improvement.

Join the discussion

What does your home look like? What does a heavenly home mean to you? In what areas do you need improvement?

Peanut is getting a promotion…

Peanut is getting a promotion…

About two weeks ago, our little Peanut celebrated his 1st birthday. He is not really a little Peanut anymore. He is such a big boy now in many ways. He wants to feed himself, he is playing with toys more intentionally, he will find his favorite books for us read, and he loves to talk! (Sometimes it is words we can recognize!) He even took his first steps last week all on his own!

We actually had to postpone his 1st birthday party because he came down with his very first cold, which caused an ear infection. Poor little guy! In the end, he unintentionally gave his cold to me, both of his grandmothers, and even one grandfather and his dad had a few days where they were a little under the weather (though not nearly as sick as his grandmas and I were!).

Around the same time we were celebrating Peanut’s birthday, we also began sharing the news that he is getting a promotion to big brother!

Yes, that is right. We are having another little one!

The due date is still a little up in the air. We originally thought it was around January 28, 2018, but a recent ultrasound may suggest closer to February 10th. However, Baby #2 was not very cooperative during the scan so the tech was unable to get the full measurements that they like to have. We are going back in a few weeks for another try. I do not mind one way or another, because as I learned with Peanut, babies come when babies are ready to come.

So we could be anywhere between 18 and 20 weeks along, but I am showing much earlier with this pregnancy. (To be honest, this time around I feel and look huge.) Granted, this pregnancy has been extremely different from our first. With Peanut, I had the occasional nausea and some fatigue during the first trimester. This time I was sick all day long, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, for a little over three months! The fatigue and aches and pains have been a bit challenging, as well.

Fortunately, I have been doing much better the last three or so weeks. I have gotten a lot of my energy back and am starting to exercise again. Nothing strenuous, but I need to get into decent shape to prepare for Baby #2’s arrival. I lost some weight during the first trimester when I could barely eat anything, but now I feel like I’m gaining a little too quickly. I’m already at the weight I was when Peanut was born! (To be fair, he was only 4 pounds 11 ounces at birth.)

So I’m gradually increasing the number of times I climb the stairs as work (I’m on the fourth floor), trying to walk more (I want to get back to a mile a day), and standing at my desk more (alternating that with propping my feet up!). I think these small changes will help.

We do know the gender of Baby #2, but I will save that announcement for next time.

If you have had multiple pregnancies, how have your pregnancies differed? What was similar between them?

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Personal note from Jacquelyn: I have written and re-written this post a dozen times over the last few days. It is time to share it. I know this post is imperfect and, in spite of my humble efforts, cannot hope to grasp the entirety of the situation. Many books can and have been written on this topic! However, this is the coherent part of what has been weighing on my heart and mind over the last few days. (I have been a bit sleep deprived due to a teething baby.) My only hope is that it provides comfort and encouragement to those who need it and prick the hearts of others to take time to seriously re-evaluate their opinions and beliefs.

A response to hate

The violent and tragic acts of hate groups in recent days have deeply sadden me. It has taken me time to be able to put my thoughts into words. First, let me start by saying that my heart goes out to the family and friends of Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a man filled with hate and evil, and all of those who were injured in the same attack. Heather gave her life standing up for what she believed in: that all people are equal and should be treated with respect. I also pray for the family and friends of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates of the Virginia State Police killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the situation. They gave their lives while serving and protecting their community, fulfilling their duty and serving with honor.

Let me be very clear: anyone who embraces ideology steeped in hatred, intolerance, and violence is NOT patriotic. White supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazis… these people are pathetic COWARDS, filled with hate and fear — fear that they displace on others. Their contemptible words and vile actions reveal to the world that they have embraced evil.

We need to stand firm against hatred, fear, and intolerance. We need to stand for justice, equality, and freedom. However, remember that the world, the country, and our children are watching. We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. If we behave as they do and commit our own acts of violence against them, we become no better than the very groups we condemn.

We need to rise above knee-jerk, anger-filled reactions. The emotional response of anger itself is not necessarily wrong, but anger needs to be controlled or it will control us. We need to take the high road. Hard though it will be, we need to show compassion for hatred, peace instead of violence, love and unity in response to fear and division. Let us put aside arrogance and superiority, and start to esteem others as equals. Let us win with our words and actions, through our voices and our votes. Let how we respond lift up those who are downtrodden, encourage the discouraged, seek true justice, and show mercy towards the poor and vulnerable.

Our children are watching.

You CANNOT be a Christian (a proclaimed follower of Christ Jesus) and harbor hatred for others, especially whole groups of people based on arbitrary or imagined differences (skin color, ethnicity, religion, etc.). Let me repeat myself: you cannot be a Christian and a racist.

The Bible is very clear: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NKJV)

Christ Jesus Himself said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NKJV)

And He also admonished His followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43-45, NKJV)

Our children are watching.

The Declaration of Independence, though written by flawed men, states a truth that is vital to be reminded of, especial at times like these: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

And I would like to add that among these unalienable Rights endowed by the Creator is the right of ALL people, especially those who have historically been marginalized and greatly mistreated, to respect and being treated as a valued human being. Native American, African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, Arab-American, certain minorities among European-American have all experienced turmoil in our country’s history (including recently), though some groups (such as the Native Americans and African-Americans) have born more atrocities, persecution, degradation, and disenfranchisement than others. Sadly, to this day many communities still struggle with the aftermath of bias government policies and social prejudices.

We need to admit that our country is not perfect and has made many mistakes… Some downright and absolutely horrible, such as the removal of native people from their lands, the enslavement of Africans, the internment of American citizens of Japanese heritage, and more. We need to stand firm on the side of Truth and Justice for ALL and move forward together to fix what is broken in our country.

Hatred and violence is learned. So is peace and compassion. Let me repeat: We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. How about we try leaving the world — or even just our small piece of it — a better place?

Our children are watching. What are our words and actions teaching them?

Our children are watching. What are our responses and reactions to times of great upheaval saying about our hearts and our characters?

Our children are watching. What legacy are we leaving for them?

Our children are watching.

Weaning at ten months

Weaning at ten months

Our son is about ten and a half months old, and we have recently weaned. If you are familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, then you know some of the challenges we faced with breastfeeding. I pumped exclusively for the first few months and, even after he was able to nurse, I still pumped most of the time to ensure he was getting enough.

A few months ago, I noticed my supply was slowly decreasing in spite of all of my efforts to keep it going strong.

At the very beginning of this journey, I prayed we would make it to ten months. It was almost exactly at ten months when my milk began to dry up. I know that it is recommended to breastfeed for the first year, but I will not complain.

We made it to ten months!

That is a huge accomplishment in light of all of the difficulties and challenges we had. I praise the Lord we made it.

Now let me say that this weaning was not because our little one no longer wanted to nurse. He still comfort nurses when he is tired. The fact of the matter is my milk has dried up on its own. It happened rather quickly over the last two weeks. After a few days of pumping three times throughout my work day and hardly getting even two ounces, I knew we would have to begin weaning.

So I decided to stop lugging the double electric pump and all its parts to work. Our little one would still nurse right before bed and during the overnight/early morning hours, but it was clear he was not getting enough. The first few days were hard. I did wake up about 3am two mornings to pump just to relieve the pressure, but even then the milk expressed was not significant. After about a week, the hardness and pressure eased.

It is now about two and a half weeks since we started weaning. He still comfort nurses when he is sleepy, but there is no milk at all anymore. Our son is eating more finger foods, baby foods, and mashed up versions of whatever I am eating. He also is getting more soy formula to keep up on his nutrition. Two weeks ago he had a visit with the pediatrician, and he is going great. Since he was born so small, the pediatrician is very please with his growth.

The process of weaning was far easier than I thought it would be. I simply stopped pumping at work but for the first week, I still nursed once in the evening and once in the morning. The first week was probably the hardest for our son, as he wanted to nurse but was not getting any milk.

As my milk dried up, we simply added more formula bottles to our son’s diet to ensure he was getting enough and I cuddled with him as he drank from the bottle to replicate the closeness that happens when nursing. With a little bit of time, he transitioned well.

Did I do the whole weaning thing the “right” way? To be honest, I did not bother to do any research or anything. I just did what felt right for us and our situation. I am learning how to trust my maternal instincts more now.

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

When you are eagerly awaiting the arrival of your first child, there are many things that you anticipate and mentally prepare yourself for: sleepless nights, dirty diapers, cries and giggles, spit up and smiles, and so much more.

In the first six months after our little one’s birth, I discovered a few very interesting things that I did not expect postpartum. I can honestly say that these three things blindsided me.

Excessive Hair Loss

This first one you may have read about in pregnancy books or on mommy blogs, but I did not fully grasp what it would mean to me until it happened. Every lady is different, but for me, I had excessive hair loss between about Week 3 postpartum until Month 5. I am not talking about a few strands here or there; after all, everyone sheds on average 75-100 strands of hair a day.

No, I was loosing hair daily in the hundreds! My shower walls would be covered in hair, hair would stick to my shirts and sweaters, and I would have to carefully examine little Peanut’s fingers and toes to make sure none of my hair had gotten tangled around his little digits. My once thick, luscious hair was suddenly thin, scraggly, and pathetic looking.

So why do some women lose large amounts of hair after childbirth?

Hair has three stages: active growth, resting, and loss (shedding). During pregnancy, the raise in certain hormones slows down the natural life cycle of our hair so more hair stays in the growth or resting stages and less strands shed. This gives pregnant ladies that thick mane many people notice and comment on. Unfortunately, after childbirth when the pregnancy hormones decrease, all those strands start entering into the shedding stage – often at the same time. This can lead to excessive shedding and what seems like hair loss.

Be comforted that this phase is not permanent. It may take a few months, but your hair will get back into a normal cycle and the excessive shedding will stop. While I waited for my hair to stop shedding, I cut it to shoulder length. Previously my hair was layered so the thinning made it look scraggly and awful. Cutting it helped to give my hair a little bit of shape again.

Fortunately, by six months postpartum, my hair stopped the excessive shedding and began to regrow.

Severe Gas Pain

The first episode struck about 10pm on the sixth day after little Peanut was born. It was the first day I ventured out of the house – Bradley took us to visit my parents (twenty-minutes away). It was a day that was full of success and achievement, as I had finally been able to pump milk successfully and relieve my poor, engorged breasts.

Around 10pm, though, I began to experience a strange pain in the center of my chest, located directly beneath/behind my sternum. As the minutes passed, the pain intensified. I tried lying down but the pain radiated around my ribcage. It felt like I was being stabbed in the chest while, at the same time, all of the muscles of my core (abs, sides, lower back, shoulders) were completely frozen or locked in place.

A few hours later, the pain had worsened to excruciating, beyond even the pain of childbirth, and it was terrifying because I did not know what was causing it. I leaned against the bed, praying for relief and groaning, wavering in my mind on whether I should ask Bradley to take me to the emergency room or not. What if we did go – call my parents, pack up our six-day-old infant, drove to the ER – and the mysterious pain vanishes as we are in the waiting room?

Bradley was very concerned. Our little one was fussy that night. It was the first time he scream-cried inconsolably for hours, and I was in too much pain to move, let alone help with the baby. Just when Bradley was about to call my parents and take me to the ER, the excruciating pain suddenly – Yes, it was very sudden! – vanished. One moment I was frozen in searing pain and the next: Poof! It was gone. All that was left was a little ache in my muscles.

This debilitating pain in my sternum seemed to happen once or twice a week for the first month postpartum. By the third episode, I was terrified that something serious was wrong with me. I tried gas relief tablets, but they had a marginal affect on the severe pain. It was about a month postpartum that I discovered that the unbearable pain was gas getting stuck in the upper part of my large intestines and putting pressure on a nerve.

When the gas started to built up, I would feel a strange pressure in my sternum and middle back. I remembered what the nurses told me in the hospital about walking, re-enforced by advice from my mom. To my relief, I found that when I took some gas relief tablets and went on a long walk, the walking helped to move the gas along and prevent it was getting stuck in that spot.

Also, I had to overcome decades of training on appropriate and inappropriate lady-like behavior and allow myself the freedom to pass gas. My poor husband! And what an embarrassing issue to discuss in public, but I am bearing my soul in the hopes of helping some other new mother who might be experiencing a similar situation. It is better to “toot” then to feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out.

With the walking and passing gas, the excruciating, feel-like-I’m-dying, pain was avoided. By the end of the second month postpartum, I no long experienced the gas pains.

Difficulties breastfeeding

If you have read Our Breastfeeding Journey, then you know some of the challenges we faced breastfeeding. I will not repeat the entire story here but just the main points.

I was not expecting our little Peanut to be born small, with a severe tongue-tie, and be unable to nurse. For the first month, we tried unsuccessfully to nurse at least once a day and each time he could not latch, I felt like a failure as a mother. The whole time, I was pumping every 2-3 hours and there were a few times when he had to be supplemented with formula because I just was not making enough milk. Finally, at the end of the month, I had to give up trying to nurse for my own sanity’s sake and for the happiness of our little family. I had to realize that him might never be able to nurse and that it was ok, as long as he was getting food and growing healthy.

During month three, he latched very weakly. With some help from a pacifier to strengthen his sucking muscles, he was able to nurse a few ounces by month four. I began nursing him through the night. At seven months, he is now a nursing pro. I still pump every 3-4 hours, as I work outside the home and need to keep my supply up, but he is also eating baby food twice a day now and he gets a bottle of formula when needed.

I was not expecting challenges with breastfeeding and, I will be brutally honest, it was an extremely difficult hurdle to jump emotionally during a time when my emotions were already all-over-the-place (postpartum hormones fluctuations!). I made it through due to the love and support of my amazing husband and my parents, especially my mom. If I could go back and do those first month over again, I would. Because of my stress and self-deprecation, I did not have the energy to leave the house more, see friends and family more, and do those precious “memories” things with Peanut… like take infant photos and stamp his little hands and feet. I have no footprints of when he was 4 lbs 7 ounces except for the one foot stamped on the certificate the hospital gave us.

My advice to other moms who might be facing difficulties with breastfeeding is something my older sister shared with me when I was very low: Fed is best. A fed, happy, and healthy baby is best, no matter how you end up providing that nourishment: through breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding.

While the first few days may seem to drag on, they really go by so fast. Do not waste that time with anxiety and needless stress over things beyond your control. You are amazing! You birthed or adopted this adorable precious little one so cherish every moment you have together.

Bonus: Just how much I love my little Peanut!

Okay, okay. When expecting a little one, most women are likely to be excited and eagerly anticipate the bonding that will happen between mother and newborn. However, what really surprised me was just how quickly this bonding occurred and how much I love my little Peanut. Even when he is crying and fussy, even after the fifth time he has woken me up in the middle of the night and I rolled out of bed, stumble to his room, and pick him up like a zombie, even when I find myself momentarily frustrated or overwhelmed, I just love him so much!

Baby cuddles, toothless smiles, little giggles, and the first time he said “Mom-ma” (even though he was crying and I’m pretty sure he did not do it on purpose) get me through the sleepless nights, the fits of crying, the explosive diapers that only the shower can wash away, the spit up all over my work clothes and the couch minutes before I was supposed to be walking out the door.

After all, who could not love this adorable little face?

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

I just love being a mom — especially his mom — and I would not trade this experience for anything.

So, in summary, when it comes to childbirth and its immediate affects, perhaps the old adage says it best: Expect the unexpected. In addition to these three things that blinded me, I also had some great experiences.

So remember this: no matter if you are losing your hair in clumps, experiencing severe gas pains, having trouble breastfeeding or whatever it might be — you just gave birth to a beautiful and precious little one. Cherish this gift that has been given to you. The other things will sort themselves out.

Six Weeks Post-birth

Six Weeks Post-birth

During your first pregnancy, no doubt you had or will have numerous individuals tell you that once your little one arrives, “your life will never be the same” or “your life will change forever” or “everything will be different” or some variation of this sentiment. After awhile, it can even get a little tiring hearing it over and over again. My advice? Smile and nod, because they are right!

Put aside everything you think you know about babies. Unless you have experienced firsthand spending twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with a newborn who is relying on you for all of their needs while you are experiencing extreme sleep deprivation and possibly even recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth, then you have no idea just how different your life will become after your first child arrives.

And that is okay! I’m not here to scare you, just help you prepare yourself. To do that, I’m going to share my summary of what each week after giving birth was like in my experience.

Week One

I felt like I was living in a permanent state of adrenaline during the first week. Giving birth naturally without pain medicines allowed me the opportunity to be clear-minded moments after the birth of my little Peanut. I experienced some pain and discomfort, but it was overshadowed by the rush of oxytocin (the love/bonding hormone) every time I held or looked at my newborn. My mind was filled with awe and wonder as well as a deep love and little bit of worry. I was now this little one’s mother and he would be relying on my husband and I for years to come!

Week One was also very emotional for me. Within the first twenty-four hours, we discovered that Peanut could not latch due to a number of reasons and as a result, could not breastfeed. We were concerned for many hours as we tried, with the help of nurses and a lactation consultant, to breastfeed him — even going so far as to use a small syringe to get some colostrum into his mouth. Since he was born very small, the hospital would not discharge us until they had monitored him for an extra twenty-four hours to ensure his blood sugars were stable and he had successfully eaten. The anxiety grew the longer he went without eating, either from me or the bottle. I was praying so hard that Peanut would eat something, anything! Finally, the lactation consultant was able to bottle feed him a ounce of formula and later that day my mom was able to get him to eat as well. We were able to go home the next day, and I was exhausted.

There was also some pain. About Day 4, my milk was starting to come in but it was not being expressed even though I was pumping on a regular schedule (every 2-3 hours). The only thing the pumping accomplished was to make my poor nipples extremely sore, and I watched as my breasts became engorged… swollen, hard, and extremely painful. I tried everything I could think of to get the swelling down and the milk to be expressed, but nothing seemed to be working. Finally, I found a tip on a website. On Day 5, while at my parent’s house, I used frozen water bottles and rolled them gently over my breasts for twenty minutes before pumping. It hurt but it worked, and I finally was able to pump milk. A few pumping sessions later, and the engorgement and its accompanying pain was finally gone.

Week Two

Week Two was when the sleep deprivation was beginning to take its toll, but there was still the new baby high. Fortunately, my husband was in the middle of his three weeks of family leave so we took shifts during the night. I would take one feeding session and he would do another while I pumped, and that way I was able to get back to sleep faster at night.

A lot of Week Two was spent watching Peanut sleep and feeding and changing him when he was awake. I gave him a little sponge bath with a super-soft washcloth every other day, and we would sit outside in filtered sunlight while we did it. I took tons of photos of him while he slept, and just marveled that this tiny, precious little fellow was my son, my little boy, and I was his mother. I eagerly looked forward to his first smile and began thinking of little routines I could start with him: singing, counting, letter-sounds, reading Bible stories to him, etc. Anything to help him learn my voice.

Though very tired, Week Two was like a little bit of heaven on earth.

Week Three

Our little Peanut hit his first major growth spurt during his third week, as many babies do, but it came upon us suddenly and unexpectedly. We were not prepared for his ravenous appetite! In fact, for a couple of nights, we did not realize that the reason he was waking up and crying hysterically during the night was because he was still hungry.

Severely sleep-deprived and not knowing what to do, I was at my wit’s end. We tried a tiny bit of Gripe Water thinking he had gas or a tummy ache, but that was not it. Once I even had to set him down in his bassinet and leave the room to calm myself, because I was crying myself and frustrated that I could not figure out what was wrong with him.

Then I found out that most babies have a growth spurt during this time, and when I offered him more milk, he returned to being his usual, happy self and stopped the hysterical crying.

For a baby that, before the growth spurt, drank maybe 3 ounces in one sitting, he suddenly began guzzling the milk: 7, 9, and even 12 ounces at a time! Despite all of my valiant efforts, I was not producing enough milk to keep up with him. We ended up having to supplement, but I did not like the milk-based formula options so with my mom’s help we actually made our own formula using goat’s milk.

Milk-based formula, even though he did not show an reactions to it during his first week, made me very nervous for two reasons: 1.) I am severely allergic to milk proteins, and I do not want to introduce dairy to my Peanut too earlier just in case he inherited my allergy, and 2.) I am severely allergic to milk proteins, and my skin began to react when the formula powder got onto my hands while mixing the bottles. I was afraid I would end up breathing in the powder and not be able to breathe.

So I researched non-milk-based formula options but the soy-based formulas were not only expensive, but also were over 50% corn syrup. I remembered that my dad could not have milk-based products as an infant either; his mother gave him straight goat’s milk and he is one of the healthiest people I know. After doing a lot of research and experiments, my mom and I were able to make our own goat’s milk supplement that we only had to used maybe once a day or once every other day for about two weeks until my own milk production caught up with his appetite.

Week Four

The growth spurt was beginning to subside, he went down to about 4-5 ounces of milk at a time, and he began to sleep for slightly longer stretches at night. Unfortunately, my milk supply was still barely enough for the entire day: it fluctuated through the day, sometimes as little as 3 ounces and other times barely 6 ounces. However, the day we no longer had to supplement with the goat’s milk formula, I celebrated!

To increase my supply, I tried pumping every two hours, doing a marathon pumping session (where you pump for ten minutes, take a break for ten minutes, pump for ten, etc. for an hour), and put the pump suction higher, but the only thing this did was damage my nipples, especially the left one. They were blistered and raw even though I was slathering them in nipple cream, and the left one even had a blocked milk duct (resulting in a bleb or white milk blister). Overall, it became very, very painful to pump.

Towards the end of the week, I also finally gave up all attempts to breastfeed directly. I’ll write another post on our breastfeeding journey, but let’s just say, after a month of “failure”, I had to let go of the “dream” for my own sanity and the happiness of our little family. I had to come to terms with the idea that Peanut might never be able to nurse, and I would have to pump exclusively so I needed to figure out how to heal my poor nipples and increase my milk production.

Week Five

While shopping at a local Target, my husband found a box of Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea that helps with increasing milk production. I began drinking two cups of the tea a day, and after three or four days, I began to produce more. I was making about 10 ounces every 3-4 hrs, and more in the early mornings because I was now finally able to skip one pumping session at night. Peanut was also consistently drinking 5 ounces every 3-4 hrs, so the extra milk went into the freezer to save for his next growth spurt.

Easing back on the pumping schedule also helped heal my nipples. I pumped every 3-4 hours, lowered the suction power, and put cream on before and after pumping. Though it took many more weeks to see the results, the process of healing began.

Week Six

This time, we were well-prepared for Peanut’s Week Six growth spurt. I had pumped extra milk and stored it in the freezer so even when Peanut’s appetite was astounding, far beyond anything you’d think a tiny baby’s tummy could hold, we had enough milk that there was no need to supplement. (Praise the Lord!) I continued drinking the Milkmaid Tea to keep pace with him, but after the growth spurt ended, I stopped drinking the tea and my production leveled out to about 10 ounces each session. It was enough for him to eat and to re-build the supply of frozen milk to prepare for when I would return to work full-time.

By the end of week six, I was also getting a decent amount of sleep at night. Peanut would drink a little extra in the evenings and began to sleep longer at night. We were able to feed him at 11pm, and then again at 3-4am, and then again at 7-8am. Also, I was able to skip changing his diaper at 3-4am so he would go back to sleep faster, and I was able to skip pumping at that session as well.

Ah, the little things we celebrate!

So that is a general overview of how the first six weeks went for us. Your experience(s) may vary, as every woman and baby are different, but hopefully this will at the very least prepare you for the growth spurts around weeks Three and Six and encourage you that it does get easier! Your little one will figure out his/her days vs nights and start to sleep longer at night. The soreness, pain, and muscle aches eventually go away. You will also gain confidence in your abilities as mother and learn to trust your instincts.

Budget Guide: Your Children’s Future

Budget Guide: Your Children’s Future

In the previous three posts, we discussed general finance and budgeting tips that, with some minor modifications, could be applied to almost any individual and/or family. Today we are going to look specifically at saving money for your child or children’s future. My husband and I are expecting our first child this September so this is particularly important to us.

In addition to the day-to-day expenses of raising a child, my husband and I recently discussed creating a savings account for our little one after he is born and depositing a set amount into it each month.

Even if it is just $50 a month, that money will grow to $10,800 by the time he is eighteen-years-old (plus a little extra from the dividends and other sources). This is a good savings for a young adult to have when he or she leaves the nest and enters into the world.

I was blessed that my parents set up a savings account for me when I was young, and my maternal grandmother gave to me a gift from investments or bonds (I don’t remember the details) she had set up when I was very little. So when I entered college, I had a nice amount of savings to tap into. I used half of it to finance two study abroad trips that I thoroughly enjoyed, I used some of it to send a child to school in India for many years through a trusted non-profit, and the rest was the basis of my savings once I started working.

Now I want to point out: I did not take the gift of my grandmother and parents for granted. I knew it was a precious gift that not everyone is given. I used the money wisely, frugally, saved money from a part-time tutoring job, and worked very hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA all the way through three Associate Degrees and a Bachelors. I was very aware that I was blessed to have been given a “leg up”, sort to speak, and I worked very hard to be worthy of such generosity.

I believe giving a child the gift of some savings when he or she is starting out as an independent adult is a blessing that he or she will cherish.

Think about it:

  • $25 a month for 18 years will become $5,400.
  • $50 a month for 18 years will end up $10,800!

If you have multiple children, it may be difficult to put aside a larger amount for every child. Perhaps $25 per child is good enough and maybe grandparents might be willing to supplement with $10 or $15 a month for each child. If your kids have two sets of grandparents, that might add up to $45 or $55 per month and that is $9,720 to $11,880 by the time the child is 18.

And how many times do we waste $25 or $50 dollars on unnecessary things? While this is for our children’s futures. No matter how big or small your monthly deposits are, the money will add up over eighteen years and be a very nice gift for your child or children.

He or she can decide to use the gift money for whatever journey his or her life takes: to travel, buy a car, learn a trade, go to college, invest, buy real estate, start a business, whatever! These figures do not even take into consideration any money he or she has saved up from part-time jobs as teenagers or from their first “real” jobs as young adults!

If you don’t have children, you can still use this idea to set aside a certain amount each month towards a long term goal: perhaps it is a dream vacation or a down payment for a house or a business venture or extra funds for retirement.

Raising Successfully Selfish Kids

Raising Successfully Selfish Kids

While driving home from work Friday, October 23, 2015, I tuned in to a radio talk show hoping to catch a local weather update. Instead, I had the opportunity to listen to two rather annoying gentlemen talk about a new study that shows that children who talk back to their parents tend to be more successful as adults. After ten minutes of listening to them go back and forth and the examples that callers shared of their own children, I had an epiphany.

The world’s definition of successful means an individual who is self-centered and manipulative, always looking out for what is in their best interest at the expense of others.

It is true that an individual who pushes back against authority, manipulates others, and always seeks out that which would benefit him or herself will most likely find success in their professional careers.

However, is this the type of person we want to raise our children to become? Someone who has no compassion or empathy for others? Someone who is always looking out for Number 1? Is this selfishness and lack of cooperative spirit truly a characteristic of a good leader? And even if these traits might bring more success in a professional capacity, how much harm are they doing to the individual’s personal relationships and emotional health?

The Bible warns:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5, English Standard Version

This list of negative characteristics includes many attributes that the modern world would deem as essential for a successful person, but those who desire something better are encouraged to “avoid such people”.

Philippians 2:3-4 tells us: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Notice that the Bible is not saying that we need to be doormats, just that followers of Christ should be concerned with others. As parents, we should be striving to raise our children with godly characters, molded from the traits listed in the Fruit of the Spirit passage.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:22-26, NKJV

The world would be a better place if more children were being raised to be kind, gentle, patient, content, and with the ability to exercise self-control. Contrary to how society may think, I believe that true success is not measured in what an individual has material-wise but the relationships he or she has built along the journey of his or her life.