Tag: parenting

His Encourgement: Acts 17:30

His Encourgement: Acts 17:30

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible passage and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Encouragement

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” — Acts 17:30, NKJV

A few evenings ago, I was enjoying the back patio with our two boys. Peanut our oldest, who is 21-months-old, came over to me with a smile beaming on his face. He handed me two medium sized tomatoes freshly plucked from our potted plant.

“Here, Mama!” he exclaimed.

“Thank you, Peanut. Are you helping?”

“Yup! Me! Help!”

My heart seemed to melt at his sheer adorableness. (Is adorableness a word?) At the same time, I knew something very important that this adorable little boy did not know. But at not yet two-years-old, I had to think of some way explain it to him so he would understand without crushing his joy.

“Thank you for helping, but we need to wait until the tomatoes are ready. These are not ready yet. We wait until the tomatoes are red.”

“Rehd? Yup!” Before I could stop him, Peanut promptly plucked two tiny tomatoes from the potted plant. “Here, Mama!”

Again, he was so happy! He was so excited to be helpful that he did not understand that plucking green tomatoes is not ideal. Fortunately, I was able to save the rest of the tomatoes on the plant from suffering the same fate. Last night I experimented with breading and frying the two bigger tomatoes so they would not go to waste.

As I thought about this interaction with my son, I realized that we are often very much like him. There is so much that we do not understand, and in our ignorance, sometimes we do things that are not ideal or not exactly according to God’s plan. There are times in each of our lives that our zeal gets in the way. Or we try to do things the way we think would work best instead of listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Or we just do the best we can in the moment, but later on after maturing more in our own relationship with the Lord, we look back on our words or actions with a little bit of a grimace.

Yet God, in His infinite love, mercy, and wisdom has continued to use us flawed, sinful, ignorant people as His messengers.It reminds me of the passage in Acts 17:30. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked…” Like my son, we can be ignorant, completely unaware that our words or actions are not in complete harmony with the Lord. Like a parent, the Lord often will find a way to work with what we have done, to turn it around to His glory and serve His purpose.

But just as I took this opportunity to gently teach my son not to pluck the tomatoes too soon, the Lord also does not want us to remain spiritually ignorant. “…but [God] now commands all men everywhere to repent.” The first step is to acknowledge that we make mistakes, we misunderstand, and we even sin against the Lord by breaking His law. (1 John 3:4) And from that place of repentance, the Lord wants us to learn, grow, and mature in Him.

Friend, let us grab ahold of childlike joy and always continue growing in the Lord.

Now it is your turn! How does today’s verse encourage you? What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday as well:

Are you a blogger? If you would like to join us every Thursday, please contact Trisha or Nicole.

His Encouragement: Romans 8:31

His Encouragement: Romans 8:31

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible passage and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Encouragement

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”
Romans 8:31, KJV

My week has be extremely busy, which is why this Thursday encouragement is being posted so late (though it is still Thursday where I live). Being busy can be a nice distraction from the worries and cares that weigh us down, but we should not let the busyness of life to distract us from our relationship with the Lord.

Today’s verse is Romans 8:31, which is probably familiar to many of us. Written by the apostle Paul, its words have given comfort and strength to untold numbers of people through the centuries. “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”

Now that I have two little ones, I find myself seeing this verse through different eyes… parental eyes. As a parent, we watch over our children carefully and lovingly. We do our best to protect them from harm.

The other night, I was putting our oldest to bed and accidentally fell asleep, too. (Well, that has been happening a lot lately.) I was jolted out of a deep sleep by a loud cry. My son had rolled off the bed and landed face-first on the carpet. Fortunately, he was mostly startled and had only a small cut on his lip. As his mother, though, I felt completely terrible. If only I had not fallen asleep! If only I had put the long body pillow next to him instead of the regular size pillow!

But no matter how hard we try, we cannot protect our children from all things. There will be some falls. There will be some tears. There will be some hurts. My job is to be there to help pick them up, to wipe their tears, and teach them how to deal with hurts.

God is, in some ways, like a parent. He is always there for us even though we may stumble, though we may shed tears, and though we will experience hurts. Think about that for a moment: the Creator of the universe Himself is with you!

No matter how busy you are, take a moment to praise the Lord for being with you.

Now it is your turn! How does today’s verse encourage you? What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday as well:

Are you a blogger? If you would like to join us every Thursday, please contact Trisha or Nicole.

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

You just had a baby or adopted a newborn. Congratulations! This is a momentous occasion and a life-changing event. You may have anticipated the bonding experiences with your baby, those quiet moments of cuddling and cooing, singing and playing. The first time he or she smiles or laughs will warm your heart.

All babies are unique. Some are mellow little cherubs content to eat, sleep, and snuggle with very little fussing. Others may be more of a handful, perhaps due to a more sensitive nature or physical challenges like reflux. Still others can make the first month or so a nightmare, with unconsolable crying for hours on end, barely sleeping for longer than 45 minutes, or being awake for hours during the night.

The first two months, though filled with lovely and wonderful moments, can also be quite difficult for parents. Here is my practical guide for surviving these tough times. If you are new to motherhood or fatherhood, this survival guide will help! (Dads, there is a special note at the bottom just for you.)

1. Sleep!

I know, I know. Everyone tells you about the importance of sleep and to “sleep when baby sleeps”. You are probably thinking right now: “Sure, it is easy to say but I can’t sleep when baby sleeps or nothing would get done.”

Perhaps baby is nursing every hour or you have to pump on a rigid schedule. Maybe just when you close your eyes to rest, the baby starts fussing or your older children demand attention. Maybe baby has finally fallen asleep but it is almost time for dinner and all of your dishes are dirty in the sink. I know how you feel. I have been there. 

But let me also remind you of something you already know: sleep is vital to our physical and mental health. Two to three hours a night, broken up into ten minutes here and twenty minutes there, is not sufficient sleep. The days and weeks after childbirth are already challenging, but if you do not get enough rest, you may unintentionally contribute to postpartum depression.

I was there. I experienced this with my second child. We had an extremely fussy/needy newborn and an 18-month-old who was teething at the same time.

The sleep deprivation contributed to my own postpartum depression, which did not resolve itself until about five and a half weeks postpartum when baby was finally sleeping for two to four hours stretches so I could sleep, too. I was too prideful to admit that I had a sleep problem. I was determined to fix it on my own, but I needed to ask for help. My husband was a lifesaver. He would watch the kids while I napped or drop the toddler off at his parents for the afternoon.

To be able to function, you need to consistently get 5 or more hours of sleep within a twenty-four hour period of time. Have your spouse watch the baby while you take a nap. Ask family to come over to watch the baby. Do what you have to do to get some sleep.

2. Eat healthy and eat often.

With the craziness that a newborn brings, you might find yourself skipping a meal here and there or grabbing a less-than-nutritious snack instead. If it only happens on a rare occasion, you are probably fine, but this can cause problems if it becomes a common occurrence.

You just had a baby so your body is in recovery and you may be breastfeeding as well. Your body needs proper nutrition to fuel recovery and to make the milk your baby needs. If you skip too many meals, your daily caloric intake may drop too low too fast. This can negatively impact your milk production and might even contribute to health problems for you.

Make sure you eat well-balanced meals throughout the day.

You may find that you need to eat a little less but more frequently (like when you were pregnant). Even if you do not feel hungry, eat something healthy. (Oats are good for you and aid in milk production!) Or maybe you have discovered that you have a ravenous appetite and you are afraid you will either gain more weight or not lose the baby weight so you are trying to put yourself on a diet.

Firstly, it is too soon to go on a diet. Your body is already going through so many changes right now, don’t make it have to work even harder. Secondly, if you are breastfeeding, some women find that they have to have a little extra weight to maintain a healthy milk supply. (I am one of them.) Thirdly, it took nine months to gain the weight, allow yourself at least a year to lose it.

If you eat healthy, snack healthy, and do moderate exercise on a daily basis, you will gradually slim down.

3. Shower at least every other day, but everyday if possible.

You may find yourself hyper-focused on caring for the new baby’s needs that you neglect your own most basic needs. Showering not only keeps you clean, but it can help you relax and deal with stress. Find the time to take a shower.

Whether it is in the early morning before the baby wakes up, mid-morning when your mom or sister or best friend comes over to watch the baby, the middle of the afternoon when baby is napping, after your husband comes home from work in the evening, or late at night right before bed. The when does not matter. Just do it. You will be glad you did!

Perhaps you are alone. Maybe you are a single parent, your spouse works long hours or is away from home for days at a time, or you have no family nearby to help. Maybe baby is crying hysterically even though s/he has been fed, burped, and changed.

My advice is to put baby down in a safe place (crib, bassinet, rock ‘n play, etc.) and take a quick five or ten minute shower. Hard though it may be to listen to, it is okay for a baby to cry a little. It is better for baby to cry in a safe place for five to ten minutes while you take a much needed emotional break then for you to become overwhelmed and, perhaps, lose your temper.

4. Understand that some housework won’t get done for awhile.

Dishes may pile up in the sink, toilets may not get cleaned for a week or two, vacuuming may go undone, clothes might pile up in the basket. And it is okay!

If you gave birth, remember that you just gave birth to a human being! Not only do you now have this precious little bundle to care for, but you are also physically recovering from a very physically demanding and sometimes traumatizing event. In the immediate days and weeks after childbirth, your body will be flooded with various hormones as your body shifts from pregnancy-mode to post-pregnancy-mode.

You will be bonding with your newborn, experiencing your milk coming in, figuring out breastfeeding via nursing or pumping, possibly figuring out bottle-feeding, barely sleeping, and so much more. Your body is going through many changes (not all visible) and this can wreck havoc on your emotions.

If you have adopted a baby, you now have this precious little bundle to care for and many of the baby-related things I mention above also apply to you! Bonding with your newborn, figuring out feeding, barely sleeping, emotional rollercoasters, etc. It is okay if the house is not spotless.

5. Ask for help!

Bottom line, Mamas, you have a lot to cope with in the first two months. And if you have older children, it will be that much harder as you navigate caring for your baby and your old children, too. So give yourself grace. Focus on what is most important: your child(ren) are fed, clean, and loved and you also are fed, clean, and rested.

If the mess really bothers you and causes stress or anxiety or you cannot get enough sleep or you need a break, ask for help. From your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your neighbors. Do not allow your pride to cause you to suffer in silence. It is not good for you, not good for baby, and not good for your family.

Be specific in what you ask for: please watch the baby while I do dishes, can you make us a meal, would you be able to clean the bathrooms, can you babysit the older child(ren) for two hours, etc.

 

Remember, you are amazing! You gave birth or adopted this precious little one. The first two months can be heavenly if you have a more mellow child, very challenging if you have a fussy newborn, or anywhere in between.

Sometimes your newborn maybe quite contented and then, suddenly, s/he cries hysterically. Go through the checklist first: fed, burped, changed, held; and repeat if necessary. Most babies cry for a reason, but it might be hard to pinpoint the exact reason in the heat of the moment. It is okay to feel confused and overwhelmed.

You may or may not know that many babies become more fussy during growth spurts (physical and developmental). After all, baby’s main job during his or her first year is to grow, grow, grow! These growth spurts tend to happen between Weeks 1-3, Weeks 6-8, three months, six months, and nine months. (But all babies are different so yours might hit a growth spurt sooner or later.)

If you are still not sure what is going on with your baby or concerned about a symptom (perhaps excessive spit up, unconsolable crying for hours every day), ask your pediatrician.

As my mom always said, “Motherhood is hard enough on its own, don’t make it even harder on yourself.”

Some women experience a beautiful, storybook newborn stage, and that is wonderful. However, many of us will face challenges, often outside our control, and we have to navigate those challenges carefully.

Do not expect every newborn to be the same. Just because your first was an angel who slept through the night within a week and hardly ever cried, does not mean your second will be the same, and vice versa. Do not compare yourself with other moms or your baby with other babies. Take advice — from people, books, and the internet — with a grain of salt. Do what feels right to you, but always keep your baby’s health in mind.

And, above all, remember that God chose you to be this precious child’s mother. Trust your instincts. If something feels off with you or the baby, get help. You do not have to be superwoman. You do not have to do this alone.

And if you need help, do not think any less of yourself or think you are a failure if you cannot do things perfectly. The fact that you recognized your need and sought the right solution (whatever it may be) means that you are absolutely amazing.

Yes, you are AMAZING.

 

Side note to fathers:

Dads, your wife just had a baby. Were you present during her labor and delivery? If so then you realize just how physically demanding giving birth is, and the recovery time can be weeks or even months, depending on her unique situation. If not, just take my word for it.

If you are the kind of guy who normally helps out around the house, then you are already ahead of the game. I want to thank you on your wife’s behalf for being awesome. Keep doing what you are doing and know that you might have to do a little extra for awhile until your wife is feeling better.

If you are not used to helping and have always relied on your wife to maintain the house, then we need to have a little chat. Your wife just had a baby. (I know I already said that, but it needs to be said again.) Her body is recovering. She will be uncomfortable, exhausted, and might even experience pain. She might have difficulty doing things she normally can do. Her emotions might be on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, she is also severely sleep deprived, and if you have older children, she will probably be even more exhausted.

Now is the time for you to step up and be her hero.

Make a meal (it does not have to be fancy), tidy up the kitchen, throw in a load of laundry, watch the crying baby for an hour or two while your wife naps, anything that you can do, now is the time to do it. Sure, you may have no clue what you are doing but you are smart, you can figure it out. And don’t do it for the recognition, do it because you love your wife and you want to help her recovery.

 

To recap: sleep, eat healthy, shower, don’t fret over housework, and ask for help when you need it. This is my survival guide for parents with a new baby. If you are a mom or dad, what tips helped you survive the first two months? Share your experiences in the comments below!

10 Favorite Baby and Toddler Products from Amazon

10 Favorite Baby and Toddler Products from Amazon

Disclosure: The links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases. Learn more. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

Our oldest son is just a few months shy of his second birthday and our youngest is now three months. Where does the time go? When you are in the midst of the newborn stage, it may seem like the days last forever, but once you reach the toddler age, it seems as if time is flying by. Peanut, our oldest, is now forming very basic sentences, holding conversations, able to answer questions, and follow simple instructions. Pickle, our youngest, is starting to smile, coo, and try to grab ahold of things like his blanket or bottle.

Over the last two years, we have made quite a few purchases specifically for our children that we absolutely love. To find quality products at affordable prices, we often turn to Amazon. We like that delivery is timely, and we have not had any items arrive damaged. When you are a parent with toddlers and/or babies, ordering from Amazon is often easier and more cost effective than trying pack up the kids to drive to brick-and-mortar stores.

So if you have little ones of your own or looking for gift ideas, I want to share with you ten of our favorite baby and toddler products that we either purchased from or are now available on Amazon.

Boppy Nursing Pillow
We added the Boppy Nursing Pillow to our baby registry at the recommendation of a friend who loved hers. Ours has been used for many, many things but, unfortunately, rarely breastfeeding! (Read Our Breastfeeding Journey and Breastfeeding Challenges, Round 2.) I must say that the boppy pillow was an arm saver during our second son’s extremely fussy newborn stage. I spread a large receiving blanket over the pillow and was able to lay him down on the pillow next to me when my arms got tired. I am so glad that we had this pillow!

 

SwaddleMe Slumber Buddies, Elephant Soother and Sound Machine
When it comes to a soother and sound machine, there are so many choices out there. We saw this adorable elephant soother that plays three different lullabies, the sound of running water, and a heartbeat in addition to projecting the stars and the moon on the ceiling. We have used the music/sounds with both boys to help them fall asleep, and now our oldest also loves staring up at the stars projected on the ceiling.

 

BabyBjorn
If you are looking for a baby carrier, I tried four different carriers and wraps with our first son before settling on the BabyBjorn Carrier Original. We live in the Arizona desert, and in the summer temperatures often reach 110-115 degrees for days (even weeks) at a time. Wraps with tons and tons of fabric was miserably hot for me and our baby. I came close to overheating once! The BabyBjorn also provides a sense of safety and security that the I did not have with the wraps. As for carriers, it is one of the more affordable, especially if you wait for a deal online or find one in good condition at a local secondhand store.

 

Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker
My parents actually purchased this for us, and we are so grateful! This chair was helpful with our first son and a lifesaver with our second! It rocks or locks in a reclined position, and has a nice vibration that helps lulls fussy babies to sleep. Even our toddler likes to climb into it (as long as his baby brother is not already there). I highly recommend the Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker, and it comes in multiple color choices and fabric patterns.

Mom’s Choice: If I had to narrow down my recommendation to just one item, it would be this vibrating rocker. It was tremendously helpful for both of our sons during their infant stage. It is also lightweight and relatively small. We have taken it with us many times while visiting family, especially if we plan to stay all day.

 

Baby Adjustable Head Shoulder Safety Pad
When our oldest started standing, we gave him the nickname “Mr. Wobbles” because he was so unsteady and often fell. After a few hard bonks on the head, we knew we had to find something! We searched and eventually decided to give this adorable head and shoulder pad a try. It worked like a charm! Our son continued to tumble while learning to stand and then walk, but this pad saved his little noggin!

 

 

Tommee Tipee Bibs
We tried many, many different types of bibs, but on the recommendation of our cousins, we gave Tommee Tippee waterproof silicone bibs a try. I absolutely love them! We ended up getting four so both set of grandparents could keep one at their respective houses and we have two at home. These bibs are waterproof, which makes them super easy to clean, and the large scoop shape at the end of the bib catches food and beverages. No kid is ever going to be super clean (Where is the fun in that?) but this does help contain the mess and makes clean up a breeze. Bonus: you don’t have to throw these bibs in the laundry!

Dad’s Choice: My husband absolutely loves the Tommee Tippee waterproof silicone bibs and highly recommends them. He does the laundry in our household and is also a stay-at-home dad, so he understands the value in a fast and easy clean up after meal time! I cannot believe we went 17 months without these amazing bibs.

 

NorthStates SuperYard
If you need some way to contain your crawling baby or walking toddler, I highly recommend NorthStates SuperYard. We initial bought ours after brainstorming what we might need when we were taking our oldest camping for the first time. You can use it indoors or outside! We even put our SuperYard with gate to good use dividing our living room area from the kitchen/dining room areas in order to allow our children a dog-free zone to play. (And to provide our poor old dog some much needed relief from the kids!)

 

 

Eric Carle Bear Backpack, Children’s Safety Harness
I am going to be honest. When my husband first suggested getting our oldest one of those backpacks with a leash, I bulked at the idea. But after our son slipped from my grasp twice and immediately ran towards the neighbor’s driveway and the street, I knew we needed someway to help him learn to “stay with Mama” or “stay with Dada” that would not put his life in danger. Especially when the new baby arrived! So we purchased this adorable backpack. We have used it a dozen times so far, and usually in places where we wanted to allow him the freedom to walk on his own but needed to ensure he stayed close to us for his own safety.

 

Dreambaby Blind Cord Wind Ups
The house we are renting uses old plastic blinds with long cords. Two blinds in particular — one in our boys’ room and one in the living room — pose potential safety risks as our oldest can now reach the dangling cords when standing on his bed or the couch. We knew we needed to get those cords up and out of his reach. Not sure what would work, we gave the Dreambaby Blind Cord Wind Ups a try. Because our cords are extra long, we have to use two of the wind ups per window, but it secures the cords high out of our son’s reach. We just have to remember to pull above the wind ups if we need to lift/open the blinds. Still, for a very affordable price, this safety tool is very useful.

Dream On Me Deluxe Toddler Day Bed
We knew we needed to transition our oldest son to his own big boy bed before the baby arrived, so we searched and searched for the perfect toddler bed at nice price. Eventually, we discovered the Dream On Me Deluxe Toddler Day Bed. Not only is it a good size that he can grow into, but it has a divided drawer underneath. In a house that has very limited storage, the drawer was a nice bonus. Peanut loves his bed, especially climbing in and out of it.

What is or was your favorite(s) baby or toddler purchase? Share in the comments!

3 ways to make special songs for your children

3 ways to make special songs for your children

Some of my fondest childhood memories include music. My mom almost always had music of some kind playing, especially in the car. As I grew up, I would remember bits and pieces of the songs. Songs like Baby belugaThe ants go marching one by one, an early Sesame Street audio tape with songs like Rubber Ducky and Low, Medium, High, and (my personal favorites) Psalty: Kids Praise 1-6. Sometimes there would be classical music or Maranantha Singers albums playing, too.

Now with two little ones of my own, I want to fill our house with music. Pandora has made it much easier to find the good old classic songs and new songs that fit our musical tastes. We created a “toddler” station and have customized it to play the songs we like. We have also created a separate “Sabbath School” station with children’s praise songs to listen to on Friday nights and Sabbath afternoons.

However, what is even more fun is creating your own, specialized songs just for your children. You do not have to be extremely musical to do this. I began making our own special songs when Peanut was just a few days old! Tired of singing the same children’s songs over and over and over to your young children? Maybe you need to change it up a bit! Here are three ways I make special songs for our children, and you can too!

1. Personalize a song you already sing.

This is one of the simplest methods for turning a song you already sing to your child into a special song. Find little ways to personalize the words. This could be adding your child’s name. For example, the little diddy Patty Cake (or Pat-a-cake) can be personalized by switching out the letter “b” for the first letter in your child’s name and word “baby” with your child’s name.

Patty cake, patty cake, Baker’s man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Roll it. Pat it. Mark it with a “B“.
Put it in the oven for Baby and me!

2. Add more verses to a known song.

You can take it one step further and add a new verse or two to a song you sing regularly. When our son reached the age of fussing and wriggling during diaper changes, I began singing The wheels on the bus song because it could be as long or as short as I needed to keep his attention while I changed the messy diaper. He also loved making the various bus sounds. As the weeks turned into months, I began adding personalized verses with my son’s name, mama and dada and, now that he has a younger brother, baby, too!

The child’s name on the bus says:
Hip-hip hooray!
Hip-hip hooray!
Hip-hip hooray!
The child’s name on the bus says:
Hip-hip hooray!
All through the town.

The dada on the bus says:
Sit on down!
Sit on down!
Sit on down!
The dada on the bus says:
Sit on down!
All through the town.

The baby on the bus says:
Waa! Waa! Waa!
Waa! Waa! Waa!
The baby on the bus says:
Waa! Waa! Waa!
All through the town.

The mama on the bus says:
I love you!
I love you!
I love you!
The mama on the bus says:
I love you!
And dada loves you, too!

3. Put new words to a familiar tune.

If you are very bold (or perhaps tired of singing the same songs over and over for years), you can create your own special song using a familiar tune. As parents who sing a lot to your kids, you might have noticed that Alphabet Song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Baa Baa Black Sheep all use the same exact tune. Guess what? You can use it, too! You just need to make sure that the syllables in your words match up with the notes close enough for the song to flow.

There is a common nighttime prayer that has many different variations. When our first son was born, we received an adorable little praying teddy bear that recites a version that goes:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray my soul the Lord to keep
Your love be with me through the night
And wake me with the morning light.

The cadence matches the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star perfectly. It just needed two more lines, which I actually wrote before I had the idea to put the prayer to music. I created these additional lines late at night when trying to lull our firstborn to sleep during his first bout of teething. It is kind of an exhausted mother (or father)’s mini-prayer!

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray my soul the Lord to keep
Your love be with me through the night
And wake me with the morning light.
May I sleep the whole night through
And Mama and Dada sleep well, too.

Then, late at night while trying to soothe our son to sleep and after exhausting all of the other songs, I would sing the nighttime prayer to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle. Here is a recording:

 

Another familiar tune that makes a great melody to personalized songs is Jesus Loves Me. I sometimes sing the above nighttime prayer song to this tune as well!

 

One of our son’s favorite songs is what I call “Little Dino-saurus”. It is a fun action song that uses dinosaur imagery, because what little kid is not fascinated by dinosaurs? Best of all, it is sung to a modified version of “Little Bunny Foo Foo” (sometimes known as “Little Rabbit Foo Foo”).

Little Dino-saurus (lyrics)
Written by Jacquelyn Van Sant

Little dino-saurus
Running through the forest.
Rawr! Rawr! Dino-sawr!
Chasing you and me!

Run, run, run, run
Run from dino-saurus!
Run, run, run, run
Run from dino-saurus!

Little dino-saurus
Running through the forest.
Rawr! Rawr! Dino-sawr!
Chasing you and me!

You can easily customize the song by changing the “dino” to part of your child’s name. For example, a Benjamin could be “benji-saurus” or a Zachary could be “zack-a-sarus” or a Molly could be “molly-saurus” or a Sara could be a “sara-saurus”. It is actually quite fun! Here is a recording I made with two examples.

 

The best thing with these three simple ways of making special song(s) for your children is that you do not need to be overly musical to do so. It just takes time, creativity, and a bit of basic rhyming. You can play around with the words and rhymes each time you sing the song until it sounds right to you. I have spent the last twenty months perfecting the examples I shared above as well as a few other songs. Children love to hear their names in songs and as they get older, they will sing with you!

Have you personalized a song or created a new song for your children? Share in the comments!

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

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For those familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, you already know that we experienced some challenges breastfeeding with our first son Peanut. It began due to his tiny size at birth (only 4 lbs 11 oz) and a very severe tongue tie. To provide breastmilk for him, I pumped from day one and during his growth spurts we had to supplement. He was able to finally nurse on his own by thirteen weeks old, though I continued to primarily pump because I was working full time. I was able to provide breastmilk until my supply dried up on its own at ten months, right around when we conceived our second son.

Our adorable son, Pickle, is now two months old!

I wish I could tell you that this time our breastfeeding journey was easier, but in some ways it was even harder. The first week and half went great. Pickle latched and nursed right away, and his latch was good. Yet when he was a week and half, we started noticing that he would spend 45 minutes on just one breast, fall asleep often during nursing, and would cry hysterically when awake as if he was still hungry. At our two week appointment, we discovered Pickle had not gained any weight. He was born 6 lbs 10 oz, but at two weeks old was 6 lbs 3 oz. The pediatrician was concerned because he had not even regained his birth weight.

We had to start formula feeding right away, and the pediatrician wanted to see him in two days. Two days later, he was 6 lbs 13 oz. We were relieved!

But I was also devastated… again.

Because Pickle latched and we thought he was nursing well, I had allowed myself to believe that this time I would be able to breastfeed and would only need to pump to build a freezer stash for when I returned to work. Unfortunately, Pickle was not draining the milk. This caused two problems: he was not getting the fatty milk to gain weight and my body was getting the signal to make less milk because there was “extra” being left. At two weeks, when I started pumping regularly, I barely was getting 2 oz a session. My supply was almost non-existent!

Baby Pickle at one month old.
Our adorable little Pickle at one month old.

I tried every trick in the book to increase my supply. I pumped long, I pumped frequently, I drank herbal teas, I drank tons of water, I ate foods with oats (and I absolutely detest oatmeal, but I forced myself to start eating it), I even began taking fenugreek tablets and adding milk thistle to some juice. Exhausted and sore, I was still barely getting 2 oz a session. Then I started getting dizzy spells and, after researching, discovered I must be one of the very rare individuals who experience side effects when taking fenugreek. I stopped taking it.

With Pickle not even a month old, I broke down and nearly gave up completely. At this time, Pickle was 90% formula fed and I was pumping so little milk that I came very close to just quitting. Was this torture worth it? Nothing I was doing seemed to be making a difference, and pumping takes so much time and was painful.

You might be thinking: “Why don’t you just let the baby nurse? If he is hungry enough, he’ll figure it out.” When we were forced to introduce bottles, Pickle completely refused to nurse again. I tried many, many, many times, but he completely stopped nursing. Putting him to breast only resulted in him shaking his head from side to side violently and crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking. For my own sake, I had to stop pushing.

In addition to the stress of a low milk supply and him not wanting to nurse anymore, Pickle was not an easy going newborn. He refused to sleep at night and often cried unconsolably for long periods of time. Usually these crying sessions were between 8pm and 1am! And when he did finally fall asleep, he would sleep for only an hour or hour and a half. At the same time, our older son Peanut started getting his molars and was also not sleeping well. There were many days where I barely managed to get 2 or 3 hours of sleep… and not in one nice deep sleep. Oh, no. It was ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, etc.

Due to the lack of sleep, the stress of an unconsolable newborn, hardly producing any milk, a teething toddler, and a few other stressors, I was quickly spiraling towards postpartum depression. But more on that in a future post!

We managed to push through with many tears thanks to the prayers of our family and closest friends and also a shipment of breastmilk from Bradley’s cousin-in-law, whose own baby is a few months older than Pickle. He still needed a little supplementing with soy formula at night, but her generosity ensured that Pickle was getting the benefits of some breastmilk during the crucial early weeks when I was hardly making any at all. Since then, we have gotten a second shipment. We are so grateful!

Then I found a method of pumping that replicates a baby’s cluster feeding before and during a growth spurt and encourages the body to produce more milk. I also ate lots of oats every day in the form of Nature’s Path Gluten-free Oatmeal, General Mills Cheerios, and a new probiotic almond/cashew milk with oats by Silk. (Mind you, oats and I have a love-hate relationship. I have to eat them for milk production, but oats cause me considerable digestive discomfort.) Very slowly, day by day, half an ounce here and there, my supply began to increase.

Pickle at two months. Photo by Jacquelyn.
Pickle at two months old! He tends to be a very serious-looking baby.

At almost nine weeks, I am now pumping 19-20 oz a day on average, though I am still trying to get more since Pickle is eating 35+ oz each day now. At a little over two months old, Pickle eats everything I pump, about 8-10 oz of frozen milk from our cousin-in-law, and 5-10 oz of soy formula a day. During growth spurts, he gets more formula. My prayer and goal is to continue pumping whatever I can until he is ten months old (the same age Peanut was when he weaned), but we just have to take it one day at a time.

So it seems that pumping — as tiring, frustrating, and sometimes painful as it is — is our normal.

Being completely honest, there are times when I want to just throw in the towel altogether. Pumping is not fun, it is time consuming, and it is not convenient.

First, you need to buy a heavy duty double electric pump if you don’t already have one. I personally use Medela’s Pump-in-Style (Tote) but there are many other pumps on the market. You lose precious sleep to pump during the night, and during the day you have to plan every little task and activity around your pumping schedule. Need to run an errand? I have to pump right before leaving and right when we get back or I have to pack up the big double electric pump and find 15 minutes to hide in a bathroom to pump for 15 minutes. Delaying or missing a pumping session immediately affects my milk supply, which means I have to pump twice as long the next time to compensate or risk a blocked milk duct and engorgement. (This is extremely painful!)

So… Yeah. I, unfortunately, am one of those women who has to pump if I want my babies to get any of my milk. I just have to remind myself that it is ok and every little bit helps.

Mind you, this is not an anti-formula post. Pickle gets at least one 5 oz bottle of formula a day, sometimes two during growth spurts. I understand even better now the very valid reasons why some women must or choose to formula feed their babies. Not every woman can produce enough milk on their own, or perhaps they have to return to work at three or six weeks, or maybe their workplace is not accommodating for pumping moms. Some women dislike breastfeeding, it can be painful or emotionally challenging for them.

What I am saying is that all reasons are valid reasons and you are a wonderful mother no matter what path your journey takes. You need to do what is right for you and your baby.

For me, I always wanted to breastfeed so not being able to do so with both of my children is disappointing. A dream has been completely shattered and it takes time to sort through the pieces. What truly matters, though, is that the children are well-fed and well loved. Breastfeeding challenges are not talked about often in our society, but they are actually fairly common around the world! I decided to share the details of our personal struggles to let other women who may also be experiencing challenges know that you are not alone, it is ok whatever route you take to feed your baby, and you are an amazing mother.

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Now that the holidays are over, you would expect things to slow down around here but that is not the case. We have officially reached 35 weeks with Baby #2 (we will call him “Pickle” today and see how it feels), and there is still quite a bit to do to prepare for his arrival. Also, at our appointment yesterday, my doctor seemed a little concerned he might come early and wants to prepare for that possibilty.

How far along: 35 Weeks

Size of baby: Pretty big, I would say, but that is just me. We’ll know more after our next ultrasound. (Scheduled for this week!) My belly has expanded quite a bit in the last two weeks, but I am right on target for maternal weight gain at 25 lbs.

Movement: He is definitely a mover and a shaker! It seems that the only time I have a little relief from his physical acrobatics is for a few hours mid-afternoon when he must be napping.

Sleep: I admit that sleep is quite a struggle right now, partially due to Pickle’s propensity for movement throughout the night and partially because even lying on my side leaves my body extremely achy. A pillow between the knees helps sometimes, but for a few nights now, I had to move to the couch so I could sleep in a more upright position. The last three nights, though, I have been falling unusually asleep early while putting Peanut to bed and am so out-of-it that my husband could not wake me up when he tried. Not so sure that is a good thing…

Workouts: Ha! Sadly, I have given up on routine exercise. I do try to walk a little, I take the stairs down (not up anymore), and I try to stand every now and then for a little bit while at work. I am in a bit of an awkward situation: I want to do more exercise but I also do not want to encourage Pickle to come too early. Peanut was two weeks early, and I was on bedrest for the week leading up to his birth.

Maternity clothes: Sadly, due to some weight gain in the thighs and derriere some of my work slacks are now a bit too snug to wear comfortably. I’m wearing my bigger maternity jeans more and more now.

Symptoms: Muscle soreness, joint aches, tightening of the abs, random pains here and there, tiredness… I would say I’m experiencing the usual late pregnancy symptoms. Fortunately, I did not experience any feet or ankle swelling until yesterday, and that was probably due to a number of factors (high sodium dinner the night before, a ton of extra walking in the few days before, and not putting my feet up at work like I usually do). Still, I will need to take it easy from now on.

Cravings/Aversions: Though I usually do not have a taste for sweets or chocolate, because of the recent holidays, we made cookies and chocolate fudge. While I did fairly well with being moderate in my cookie consumption, I found myself sneaking extra bites of the fudge when no one was looking.

To be fair, due to my food allergies and plant-based diet, I have not eaten fudge for almost eight years! But this holiday, I wanted fudge and found a vegan recipe that was amazingly delicious and so fudge-y. Even my non-vegan relatives and co-workers who tried it had no idea it wasn’t “normal” fudge and were asking for the recipe. I will share it on the blog later this week.

Missing most: Breathing when bending over, lifting my 15-month-old without straining, sleeping through the night without being kicked or waking due to various pains, and being all-around more physically active.

Preparing for baby: We are getting a toddler bed for Peanut so we can begin the transition from crib to big boy bed now, before the new baby comes. This also means we have to get the boys’ room done in the next week and a half! Since we have limited storage space, I also want to go through all of our baby clothes and keep only the ones we are going to use. We’ll also need to pack a hospital bag, confirm arrangements for Peanut, and get the bassinet assembled again. I should also get out the breast pump and make sure all of the parts are whole, sanitized, and do not need replacing. So much to do!

Cannot wait for: the arrival of our sweet little boy!

I am kind of hoping he will be a little early, because I would love a January baby. We do not have any January birthdays among our close family and there are already two birthdays in February.

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?

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.