Sunday, November 29, 2009

The First Foreigner

In the spirit of Advent, I'll be posting a clip, quote, sermon or story to direct my heart & yours towards Christmas; towards the amazing event of the Incarnation.

Advent Day 1:
First off, here's a sermon by Bill White from Phil 2, on Jesus, the "First Foreigner." (series: 1 Peter: Living as Foreigners) It is excellent, and will warm your heart to love again the One who left Perfect comfort & acceptance in exchange for utter rejection and poverty. It left me even more appreciative of His putting on "meat" (flesh)-- Bill says "inCARNation" is like "chile con CARNe"-- something with meat on it. Good image.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Babies & TV

The AAP has the following very clear position on kids/babies and television (and all screen media, including computers):

“Children of all ages are constantly learning new things. The first 2 years of life are especially important in the growth and development of your child's brain. During this time, children need good, positive interaction with other children and adults. Too much television can negatively affect early brain development. This is especially true at younger ages, when learning to talk and play with others is so important.

Until more research is done about the effects of TV on very young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television for children age 2 or younger. For older children, the Academy recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of educational, nonviolent programs."

"As previously recommended by the AAP, babies or toddlers younger than 2 years should avoid all screen media." (AAP Advocates for Safer Media & Music)

There seems to be problems with the images on TV-- moving too fast, too intense. If you think about the amount of light put out by today's screens (any screen--computers included), it's scary to think what might happen to tiny brains & eyes! So, Ryan & I are trying to keep Eowyn's eyes averted whenever we happen to plop down in front of our computers or TV... Though I'm sure I'll let her see stuff now and then (like that
PraiseBaby DVD I hear is so good at capturing their attention), overall we're trying to not expose her to the glare of the electric screen. Just thought I'd pass that on, what with the popularity of Baby Einstein and Sesame Beginnings and all!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Two Months!!


I can't believe it's been two whole months since you were born, darling!! People ask us what we call you... besides Éowyn, there are a whole host of names for you: Munchkin, Cutikins, Chunk, Chunky Monkey, Punkin', Punkinbutt, Enna G, E, Enna Grace, Lovey, Sweetheart, Precious, Baby Girl, Little One, Hunny-Bunny, Darlin', and Honey. Both Daddy & I love to hold you and look at you, and just marvel at your general cuteness. We can't believe you're really here, in our arms for your whole life, and that you are so fearfully & wonderfully made!! And we aren't the only ones to take great joy from your existence-- especially your grins and smiles and stretches; your grandparents, aunts, uncles and many other devoted fans also find you adorable. We all are so thankful to God for you.

You're learning so many things-- how to put your lower lip waaay out (melting our hearts), how to suck your fist noisily, how to wave & kick even better, how to stick out your tongue, how to take your medicine without gagging, how to follow us with your eyes (and look surprised if we suddenly disappear behind a pillow), how to grin & make all sorts of cute faces, how to nurse effectively, how to go to sleep on your own very well, and how to push out with your legs (quite strongly; often you actually stand up against my shoulder). You seem to have been born knowing how to delight many and charm all. You love to watch people, your big blue eyes peeping over my shoulder or out of your carriers; you were so good in airports, just taking everything in! Your eyes are the first thing people comment on when they see you. People also often mention your skill at holding up your head... and then they always say you are "so big!" once they find out how old you are! You are getting chubbier and longer, and we love it! I have to pick up both of your chins off your neck to fasten bibs on you now. Your bows (never over-large, don't worry) and earrings are also a subject of much admiration. I try to keep you dressed cutely, but you make even a onesie adorable.

You really have come to like baths, and they make you sleep reallllly well afterwards. You're mastering the 3-hour feed-wake-sleep cycle, and for the past week or so you've slept 6 hrs at a time a night (yipee!!). You still get really frustrated when milk comes out too fast, but neither do you like a bottle whose nipple is too small (making milk come out slower)-- I guess you're used to being nearly drowned while eating. We usually have to keep patting your back or bottom as you eat; without this distraction you often scream and refuse to eat, probably because you associate it with pain from your reflux. Your reflux has been much better, though, since we've started giving you herbal medicine 2-3 times a day instead of just once.

This month you've weathered your first sickness, first ER visit, first flight, first international travel, and first road trip! You really do NOT like the carseat, unfortunately... but you are starting to take a paci more reliably, which helps.

We love you and can't wait to spend the next two months with you, and all the ones after that!

Happy Thanksgiving!




It's just not about the turkey...

"There is no room for bitterness in a thankful heart." ...one of my pastors through the years (when I get home & back to my quote books, I'll be able to tell you which one)

Everything we have has been given to us. We -I- deserve none of it. I read in Harry Potter Should Have Died a line about "redemption through good works is one of the key tenets of Christianity" and almost choked. It's absolutely NOT!! It's the total opposite, actually!! We are saved despite all our BAD works, and then once changed want to do good works. We do good works because we're redeemed, not to get there. Quite the contrary, we know we get every good thing on another-- Jesus'-- merit. So we should be the most humble, and thankful, people on the planet!

And Ryan & I are very thankful. One of our biggest thanks is lying in my lap right now, very happy because she's just eaten... Must go tend to her!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Changed By Motherhood

This morning, I was doing something I never used to really do before: enjoying a long hot shower. Before I had a baby, showers were short and functional, and that was how I liked 'em. While my showers are still pretty short compared to most, they're insanely long compared to my old standard! It started me thinking... in what other ways have I changed since giving birth to Eowyn?

For one, I still take a lot longer to eat. During pregnancy, my long-lingering nausea forced me to eat veeeeery slowly. That habit has out-lasted its cause, and I don't mind. It's nice to savor every bite, and to be in no hurry to finish. I think it makes me eat less at a time... which may be why it feels like I'm constantly eating!

The long shower is one I don't quite understand. I noticed it as soon as I was out of the hospital. All of a sudden, the hot water was a cocoon I didn't want to leave. Maybe it's because I'm unreachable in there... no infant demanding to be held or fed or patted or otherwise tended to... maybe it's because my back & neck are so often tight from breast-feeding... maybe it's because there's nothing like hot water to soothe a sleep-deprivation-induced headache...

The thought of cruelty to children-- abortion, infanticide, abuse, neglect--physically sickens me. I remember hearing the ban lifted on embryo stem-cell research while I was pregnant, knowing my own child wasn't much bigger than the ones being destroyed. I almost had to pull over to throw up. Evil against children has always made my blood boil, but never before had the reaction been so deep-set that it was physical. Two days after we brought Eowyn home from the hospital, I read an article on the wide-spread infanticide and abortion of little girls in India, and I cried & cried, thinking of my own precious, helpless infant. The thought of a baby being murdered by the ones whom she most trusts to protect her-- the ones on whom she is dependent for life... it turned my stomach and I had to stop reading. Abortion, especially partial-birth abortion, is uglier and more unthinkable than ever. Adoption & foster care, on the other hand, are proportionally more desirable than ever.

The temptation to worry or think horrible "what-if"s is here with my baby, too. I have to literally talk out loud and tell my thoughts and Satan to stop. Putting my daughter in the Lord's hands has become a habit, easier and easier, but I was never tempted to worry before.

Weirdest of all are lingering aversions. It was quite a while before I could use my face-wash without feeling nauseous, since the smell kept reminding me of morning-sickness showers... Then there's one children's CD that I used to listen to a lot with my preschool students, and for some reason I especially associate it with 2nd trimester illness. I gave a copy to Hannah & Noah a while ago, and while I was there Hannah asked to listen to it. I tried to tough it out for her, telling myself that it was all in my head, that I needed to be able to listen to it or I never would... but after two songs I was so nauseated that I couldn't take it anymore! Sorry, Hannah. She didn't understand why it went off, and Val's best shot at explaining was "It's hard to explain, but the music is making Aunt Christina feel sick." lol.

There may be more... but my baby's crying & I'm the only one who can feed her right now... :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vitamin D... go getcha some!

I'll be back to post about our trip, and some tasty holiday recipes (allergen-free, of course!), but in the meantime, my fellow blogger Blythe just posted something on your little friend Vitamin D that I think needs to be as widely circulated as possible.

I will begin dosing up on Vitamin D as soon as I am physically able to get to the store and pick some up! My pediatrician had recommended that I start giving Eowyn a vitamin D supplement since breast-milk can easily be deficient in this. That didn't make sense to me; why would the food God provided for our children be chronically deficient in an essential nutrient?... unless it's deficient because the mother is deficient. I realized that this latter option is a distinct possibility, especially in America where we're too modern to eat healthily. A little research on my part turned up lots of articles on the issue... apparently I wasn't the only one wondering. Yep, sure enough: the only reason your breast milk would be Vit D deficient would be that YOU are Vit D deficient... not rocket science. 15 minutes of daily sunlight is enough to get adequate Vitamin D levels, if you're able to go outside that long each day. In the winter this is harder, but thankfully our bodies stockpile the vitamin to use when sunlight's scarcer. I'd intended to start supplementing and eating vit D rich foods (I don't count cow's milk that's been artificially enhanced with it), but hadn't had a chance before leaving on our trip... I wish now I'd started then-- maybe we wouldn't have gotten the flu in the first place!
The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Our bodies produce the vitamin in our skin. But if you think you're probably deficient (like me), and it's a bit late in the year for sun tanning, here are foods that contain it:
-- oily fish (salmon, cod, sardines, mackerel)-- we should all be taking cod liver oil anyway; but check to make sure the oil hasn't had the vitamin D "filtered out"!!! Get pure oil, not refined.
-- beef liver (I doubly hate that I couldn't take my frozen raw liver with me when I was in Canada!)
-- spring butter
-- sun-ripened mushrooms (many are grown indoors, so watch out for that)
-- shrimp, cooked any whicha way
And if you go the supplement route, which is probably how I'll have to in the short-term, make sure you're getting a naturally-derived form of vitamin D3, not a synthetic version (usually vitamin D2--less effective & useful to the body)! I'll be taking 2000 IU a day from here on out until the summer! Please pass this info on vitamin D & the flu to everyone you know, especially those at risk for it, like pregnant & nursing mothers, infants, small children, and the elderly! Or TEACHERS!
--Christina

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Covenants-in-Skin

I don't remember how it started... some defining moments are also memorable; that first date, your wedding vows, graduation, your baby's first cry... others are more fuzzy. Sometimes you don't realize how important something is or will prove to be until years later, and by then the details may have blurred. That's how this was. Hold that thought.

Shift now to me coming back from Canada a second time. It'd been 5 months since my last visit, and this time it's been a much easier homecoming. There are 2 main reasons for that. The first is that God is faithful. He provided this second chance to visit out of the clear blue; completely unexpectedly. I've seen Him so graciously let me be reunited with my dear friends yet again, and I have every reason to believe that He'll do it again, in His kind providence. He loves it when "brothers dwell together in unity!" The other reason that it was easier is that my friendships, rooted in that Faithfulness, are stronger, both "here" and "there." Since leaving that first time and leaving now I've remembered the nature of intentional friendships-- in Biblical terms you might say I remembered the sweetness of covenant faithfulness. God's love for His people is honest, forever, always, no-matter-what, never-giving-up, forgiving, deep, and full of laughter. It loves as-is and it transforms. It's amazing. And people who are loved like that start to, are called to, love others like that. When people start loving each other like that, it's totally super-natural, and amazing. As we all know, natural friendships just don't always last.

In God's mercy, I have had the privilege of having experienced covenantal love, extended to me by a hand with human skin on it-- more than once, actually, now that I'm married. But before I met Ryan, and before we ever uttered a public covenant to love each other permanantly, I met Chris & Val Powell. I'd just finished my freshman year of college, and was living back at home. I remember my sister Nicole & I chatting it up with Chris, actually-- this new Canadian who'd come down for seminary. He had a wife, but we hadn't met her yet. She was a physical therapist who commuted to work up in NC (about 45 min. from Greenville, SC). Being a future pastor & his wife, I guess they decided to practice some student ministry on us, =D, and Nicole & I ended up over at their place to watch Anne of Green Gables and have supper. I don't really remember meeting Val, and I only vaguely remember that supper. We laughed a lot, but then I usually do if I can help it, especially when my sister is around. At some point after that meal I started thinking about that commute Val had to make every day, and had the idea to call this new person in our church to keep her company on that drive. I'm sure those first phone conversations were short and somewhat forced; I mean, we didn't know each other at all... I am amazed at my own gall looking back on it, to be honest-- but somewhere along the line, we became friends. And then really really good friends. And then best friends. And it was like anything is when it's fresh and new, be it a hobby, relationship, or setting-- it was fun, easy, exciting, and full of potential. Lots of laughter and ridiculous inside jokes; long phone calls, random packages in the mail... But we'd had good friends before, and lots of surface friends too. Neither of us was naive enough to think that a friendship like ours would automatically grow or even just last. We all have had friendships that withered through hurt feelings or waning interest. So, and finally, here I am back to my opening paragraph: we made a covenant.

I don't really remember it, honestly. Maybe Val does. It wasn't solemn or ceremonious. There were definitely no slain animals involved... not even a certificate or a handshake. But we promised, to one another and before God, that we would never let sin cause a rift in our relationship. If distance or time caused our friendship to fade, so be it, but never sin-- instead, we would confess, confront, and forgive. On one level, that should be every Christian friendship, right? But it isn't... and so we promised. And that promise has changed my life quite deeply.

Over the years, we have by God's grace kept that promise, and it's been amazing. Tim Keller says Christian friends should extend "befriending grace-- they always let you in, and never let you down," just like Jesus. 'Befriending grace' is always seeking to build others up, to make them closer to that blueprint the Spirit has of them... grace that seeks with every word spoken or deed done to help others along towards the glory they will one Day be as we both finally gaze unveiled at The Glory. That's what my friendship with "my Valerie" has been, of course imperfectly. We sin and we hurt each other sometimes, but there's freedom to be ourselves, and to be loved & treasured amidst even sin or failure. There's someone whose prayers can be tailor-made for me, whose encouragements and rebukes or cautions have a chance to go much deeper. There's still a lot of laughter, and there's always a shoulder to cry on.

Each time we are together and things go "right back to normal" it's a reminder that promises made based on His promises last. It's a reminder of how community isn't scary the way I tend to think it is. My last visit to Toronto was a push to me to try and plant seeds for those kinds of covenant friendships here. By God's grace, I have been renewing my efforts to look at those around me, especially in my home church, through eyes that have seen befriending grace here on earth. I think it's beginning to bear fruit-- the thought that it can sure made my homecoming easier... I pray fruit keeps growing!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wiggling & Waving

video I haven't posted a video of our darling in a while, and she's grown so much! Wednesday (before she got sick, obviously) she was just waving and smiling and being so cute that I got some footage. You can enjoy it now too!

We're starting to get more communication. I am learning to distinguish between a "tired" fussy cry and a "feed-me" hunger cue. I already know her "I'm in pain!" cry all too well. Lately all her cries have been pathetic "Mom I hurt all over" little cries; even the ones telling me it's time for her to eat a little more. :( On her end, she's maintaining eye contact for long stretches, following us and objects with her eyes, and grinning or responding otherwise to us. When I leave the room and she's alone, she'll usually protest, if not at first, then eventually, but if I call out to her, she immediately quiets down and is ok for a little longer. When we're out, she is very good so long as she has someone to watch. She loved the airports, for instance! And now she's learning to coo and that's fun to do back!

Reminder of Why to Read the Bible

I recently realized that sermons by my former youth pastor, Bill White (once commonly known as "Will Bite" for good reason!), are available online for free! He's now a pastor at Grace Church, in Greenville SC, and preaches there pretty regularly. I used to say he had "Mona Lisa Eyes" when he preaches-- the kind that seem to look you, yes YOU right in the eyes, no matter where you sit or how you fidgit. At least that's how it felt to me as a troubled middle schooler and later a teen hungry for God's Word. You can't quite capture those piercing, kind eyes over the internet, but I've lately been enjoying hearing his familiar voice preach the sweet Word as I bake, cook, or nurse a baby. This sermon, "Loving the Unseen Jesus" (part of the 1 Peter- Living As Foreigners series) was particularly good to me today as a reminder of why reading my Bible is wonderful, worthy, and rewarding. Listen to it and may you be moved towards our unseen Jesus and His Word, too!

In Light of Our Recent ER Visits





These had Val & I in stiches (no pun intended) last week... I was admitted to the hospital via the ER both times when I was in labor, so I already could identify with these... after Eowyn's visit it's a done deal!

"You go on in... Don't forget to tell 'em you've been SHOT!"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eowyn's First Trip to the ER

I knew she probably had the flu. How? Well, because I had it and she's still depending on me for life, clothing and mobility. And the entire Powell clan had it right before we left them. So, when Eowyn started being extra-refluxy and congested Tuesday, I suspected that she'd come down with whatever the going trend in sickness was. Wednesday she was still spitty and therefore fussy and having trouble getting long naps in, but no fever.

Then I went to get her from her afternoon nap at 6:30 and she was very warm. Next time I'll take her out of her warm room and warm quilt before taking her temperature, but I just did it then. Not being able to get a consistent read on the forehead I went under her arm and got 100.4. That's getting high for an infant so I called our pediatrician's office... which went straight to the answering service. The nurse told me I had to get a rectal temp and to call back. I did (my first time-- thank you Gram & Gramps for the thermometer!), and it was 100.6. The nurse began to insist that I immediately take her to Kosair's, our children's hospital's, ER. When I tried to ask more questions all she would say was "How long will it take to get her there? I am going to call ahead. Get her in the car now." I knew that Eowyn's fever was not THAT much above the cutoff point for real alarm (100.4 is the cutoff) so this annoyed me. She was still eating fine and acting relatively normal, so I waited a half hour, took her downstairs to nurse, put a cool cloth on her head and took her temp again, and it was down to 99.3. Ryan & I conferenced about whether or not to take her in. On the one hand, we knew that we'd probably get a rigamarole and push for multiple tests, and then a probable viral diagnosis. You can't do much for viruses except treat symptoms and wait it out... push the breast-feeding and hold her a lot. On the othe hand, we know we're first-timers at this parenting thing, and might not be able to tell if/when something went badly wrong, and the peds ER was our only option (why didn't you get your fever 2 hours earlier, Eowyn?). So, we decided to try one more temp reading and then go if it was higher than before. It read 100.3 so we got our stuff together and went. Of course she had a nice spitup all in my hair right as we were on the way out the door, lol.

The ER was really nice as far as they go-- everyone was so kind and friendly; that's the perk of a children's hospital! Once we found the emergency entrance (you'd think it'd be well-marked...), I went in and spelled out Eowyn's name about 10 times. It isn't exactly paperwork-friendly. =D They saw us really quickly because she is so young (under 3 months). We found out her weight, too-- 11lbs 8 oz (5.4 kg). Her temp was up again after the bundled-up ride in our warm car; 101.2, so the admitting nurse gave her Tylenol-- her first time. Then after a very brief sit in the waiting room, we were in our "treatment room." The first nurse who came in checked her ears, her chest, her back, and her skin, and said she looked really healthy except for what seemed like the flu-- quite likely since it's what I "seem to" have had. (yeah, I did have it-- I just didn't get a blood test for it so it isn't certain according to ER lingo) Resident doctor came in, checked all the same things, and said the same thing. She was of the mind that we'd probably be sent straight home with some Tamiflu, since it was so likely the seasonal flu. [Why Tamiflu? Well, because they're treating everything as the swine flu... so nice to know that all our stats are totally skewed because of that now, isn't it?] Oh, and the flu tests they have were missing 90% of all cases, so they weren't even bothering testing for the flu at all. So there's no way to actually confirm a flu, except to rule everything else out.

Then she came back, saying that her attending physician was a bit worried because we'd said E was "fussy" the day before, which can be a sign of a bacterial infection, so they wanted to do a full sepsis workup, including blood culture, RSV swab, urine sample and spinal tap. I flat out refused the spinal tap (Ryan says I should have been nicer about it. I wasn't trying to be rude at all! I just wanted there to be no question at all about my swayability on the issue of my infant's spinal fluid being extracted!! I think the doctor understood... I tried to show her I wasn't mad or anything by smiling extra-big at her later), and wasn't sure about the other things, either. Anytime you have to get any fluid from an infant, it's pretty invasive and traumatic. Since when is "fussy" only a sign of bacterial infection? I know how I felt with the flu, and if I couldn't talk, I'd fuss, too!

The attending came by-- mind you, each visit had at least a half-hour interval between them. I breast-fed Eowyn a couple times, and we mostly just rested together on the bed there-- and she checked all the same things on Eowyn, plus some of her reflexes and strengths. She agreed with us on the no spinal tap, saying that she looks really healthy despite an upper-respiratory infection, "probably the flu." But she said her fever could still be caused by a UTI, which we'd only know by getting a urine sample. I finally agreed to that, even though it meant catheterizing her. They said they used numbing jelly which helped with the pain... I figured that if it was a UTI this would be the only way we'd know, and UTIs DO cause high fevers. As for the RSV swab, fine- that's just a little swab and it made sense. The blood work... well... I finally agreed to that too (No one was pressuring us-- Ryan & I were just weighing the options and we decided to err on safety's side this first time around, so we'd have a baseline for future illnesses). Of course, I say no one was pressuring us, but anytime someone with a degree and experience "recommends" that you do something, it's pressure. I WISH there was a way to know the actual likelyhood... oh well...

So we went next door with her to the "procedure room," and I held her hand and stroked her face while they poked and prodded and pricked her. Poor baby-- she is so utterly helpless and dependant on us. It scares me how much we could hurt her or let her be hurt. She and all those like her need to be treasured and defended!! The nurses commented on her long legs, and how strong she is. They also noticed that she likes to look at me, and that made me sort of glad. Maybe she does know and love me already... but then I'm the one letting all this happen to her. :( Anyway, as usual she did not "bleed" well, and they finally called in another nurse to draw blood from a vein on her scalp. She looked like a little angel with a halo, or an alien with a head-tube, once they had the hep-lock in her head. :(

Finally all the tests were over and I could comfort her and feed her to sleep again. Sure enough, everything was negative and we were discharged by yet another pediatrician at 2 am with instructions to monitor her closely, give her Tamiflu and Tylenol and go see our pediatrician in the morning. If we hadn't gone in knowing that would probably happen, and treating it all as a learning experience, I think I would have been really mad. Not at the doctors or nurses-- they were sweet and capable-- but at the mentality that rules everything out without ever confirming the simplest thing first. But now we know what "flu" looks, acts, and sounds like, and we'll know that for all Eowyn's illnesses and all our next kids' too.

We were a bit wary of the Tamiflu, since what we read about it indicates that it's never been given to infants before, and has only been "emergency approved" because of the swine flu scare (which we view as mostly hype anyway, having had family members and friends go through it and survive quite well). The potential side effects were pretty nasty, and a friend's friend's two year old was hospitalized from her reaction to it. It's a drug, and we aren't so into pumping our tiny daughter full of them without pause. We decided to wait to see what our pediatrician thought at least. Ryan drove us all over town to find an open pharmacy to get some infant Tylenol... I called the ER again to get her dosage... finally we were home to try and get some rest. I vaguely wondered how I was supposed to on the one hand watch for lethargy in an over-tired, sick baby, and on the other hand watch for sleeplessness in a fevered, clingy infant.

Eowyn was miserable after all that, and wouldn't let me put her down to sleep at all. She'd fall asleep in my arms, then cry as soon as I set her down. I was so tired myself, still recovering from my own flu, that by 6 am I was almost crying, pleading with her and with God to let her sleep. It's all pretty blurry to me now. Her fever still wasn't really down, and I didn't know what to do besides rock her and put her down when I thought I'd drop her. I didn't want her to cry though because poor Ryan was just as tired, and we don't want HIM to get sick, too! Finally at 7 I could give her another dose of Tylenol and I put her next to me to nurse in bed and finally we all 3 fell asleep. Since then it's been better. I gave her a bath around 1 that really helped with the fever and crankiness-- she was almost back to her old self in the water! Since then she's finally slept better (on me, of course). I hope tonight she feels well enough to sleep in stretches instead of snatches!!

Our pediatrician's office agreed that we don't need to bring her in unless she gets worse, and also that it's probably unessecary to give Tamiflu; Tylenol would do just as good a job in a child this age/size/weight, without all the risks and questionable effects. So I'm sticking with it and cool cloths, breastmilk, and cuddling all day.

Wow! If you're still reading, you must really love Eowyn! Or maybe you're a bit voyeuristic, lol. Now you know all about our first foray into childhood sickness as parents. Our germ philosophy is that sickness is inevitable-- everyone WILL get sick some of the time; it's just life in this Cursed world. Sickness ins't even inherently bad; you've got to do it, and if you get illnesses and fight them off, you'll get less and less as you & your immune system get stronger. So I'm hoping to build up my kids' immune systems with breastmilk, and later healthy food & habits, and then nurse them through whatever they can't fight off, in the hopes of growing healthier adults for the sake of the Kingdom. All of that- the building, the nursing, and the watching them be sick- I am committed to doing trusting in Jesus ultimately for their care. They all will be His; I'm just a steward. May I steward well!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Abby


Abigail is 6 mos. old and the size of a 9 month old. She is the most sweet-tempered baby I've ever met, even when sick or tired. She's usually content to play on the floor, rolling around to get what she wants to grab, or to be in her exersaucer. Either way all she needs are a few toys, clothing items, or pieces of paper to eat. :) She doesn't always take her bottles well, which means she still has trouble getting the sleeping-through-the-night thing worked out, much to her mother's chagrin. But she's so pleasant and easy-going, not to mention downright adorable, that it's easy to forget that. She will smile back at anyone who smiles at her, with the biggest, sweetest grin that you've ever seen behind a pacifier. And despite her drive to explore everything by devouring it, she doesn't fuss if someone takes away her prey. And yes, she has manlier pacis than her brother.

Noah

Noah will be 2 on Friday, and he is as energetic as his sister. While his verbal skills leave a bit to be desired, he makes his desires and opinions CLEARLY known via his own language, Screech, and personal sign language. He loves to sort, stack, and store objects, which is very handy when it comes to cleaning up. He also loves puzzles already, and whatever else Hannah happens to be doing at the time! He is very affectionate, with THE best, most contagious all-out laugh! He loves babies, especially his sister, getting so concerned when they cry, and being surprisingly gentle with them. He would come up and get right on Eowyn's level if she was fussing, and say in a sweet voice "Hi! Hi! Hi!" to try and comfort her. He also would try to give her a Noah-kiss by putting his head against hers, but we discouraged this due to his flu-i-ness.

Noah's Words:

--coo-kee (cookie)
--mama
--daddy
--uh-oh
--hi
--mo' (more)-- often combined with "pees" for "mo' pees!" (more please)
--cah!! (car)
--unk ooo (thank you)
--ushh (fish)
--pashee (paci- his pacifier... his favorite one is, wait for it, pink with a strawberry on it!)
--bay-buh or bay-bee (baby)
--ball
Any other concepts are communicated through pointing and/or screeching.


He understands pretty much everything you tell him, and can complete very simple 2-step instructions, which is really good for his age! Most challenging has become his new 3-step approach to tantrums: 1. screech 2.stop/kick (or wave his feet if they can't reach anything stompable) 3. grab paci and throw it-- if it's missing, just grab cheek and glare menancingly. It's quite hilarious to think back on later, but not funny in the moment. He is showing himself to be every bit as strong-willed as his sister! You'll notice he doesn't say 'yes' or 'no'-- the 'no' is made manifest through tantrums/screeching, and the 'yes' through a huge grin and even huger nod!

Hannah

For those of you who love the Powells & are wondering what their kids are like, the following is a brief series detailing each of their precious little ones. First comes Hannah, who just turned 4.

I think this picture quite captures her personality: she is very smart, full of energy, talkative, and girly. She loves jewelry (pronounced "jew-ler-y")-- the last time I saw her, she had on 7 necklaces at once-- crafts, and stickers, and would wear a church dress every day if she could. She also loves accessories; chapstick, stickers, fun shoes (be they flip-flops, boots or jellies) and bags. She tried to convince her parents that she needed 3 backpacks to take me to the airport on Monday. She is ALWAYS thinking, looking for any loophole to turn to her advantage, listening when you think she isn't, and eager for a good story. She's quite a verbal little girl, and will be reading in no time flat. She gives her parents-- especially her mom-- a run for their money, being very strong-willed and innovative in her testing of limits. She also frequently tries to give her brother away, so as you can imagine, doesn't exactly play nicely with him most of the time. However, she does love her baby sister (and now "teeny-tiny-Eowynny-weeny-win" too) very much.
Hannah quotes of the week:
-- upon hearing Val & I discussing what we might do or eat "later":*sigh* "Later means after bed-time."
-- Me: "Hannah, Mommy just told you to stay upstairs" Hannah, counting the stairs she had gone down: "Well, four steps is mostly upstairs." Me, dropping my voice an octave: "Hannah..." Hannah: skitters upstairs
--to cousin Judy, on hearing her say Noah was cute: "Well, would you like to take him away with you?"
-- Val to Noah: "Noah, are you about to throw a temper tantrum?" Hannah: "Oh yes, he is!"
-- on the way to take me to Buffalo: "We're on our way to pick-- hmm-- to un-pick Aunt Christina at the airport.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Still Thinking About Adoption

This hymn came to mind as I mediatate on adoption:


The love of Christ is rich and free;
Fixed on His own eternally;
Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove;
Long as He lives, His own He’ll love
.

2. His loving heart engaged to be
Their everlasting Surety;
’Twas love that took their cause in hand,
And love maintains it to the end.

Chorus: Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day.

3. Love has redeemed His sheep with blood;
And love will bring them safe to God;
Love calls them all from death to life;
And love will finish all their strife.

4. He loves through every changing scene,
Nor aught from Him can Zion wean;
Not all the wanderings of her heart
Can make His love for her depart
.

5. At death, beyond the grave, He’ll love;
In endless bliss, His own shall prove
The blazing glory of that love
Which never could from them remove.
~William Gadsby
I love the permanance that this song drives home, the utter and irretractible security it describes. That security is MINE in Christ! Nothing can make Him love me less. He's my Surety. AMEN! Not all the wanderings of my heart can make His love for me depart. What a reassurance!!

Listen to a really great tune to this hymn here.

Real Need

“We never feel Christ to be a reality until we feel him to be a necessity.”
- Austin Phelps, quoted by Gordon Keddie in Preacher on the Run: The Message of Jonah (Hertfordshire, England: Evangelical Press, 1986), 85.

Carrier, Slings, & Wraps

I've had a chance to try out all of my various baby-carrying apparel, and here's what I'm observing:
1. the Hugamonkey slingPros: WONDERFUL in terms of its packability. Light, foldable, fits in my diaper bag. Affordable. Easy-shmeasy to put on & off. As a new newborn, she slept in this sooo well.

Cons: since Eowyn isn't strong enough to hold herself upright for long periods of time, she has to lie down in this sling, and during a reflux flare-up, she cannot abide being laid back at all (it's usually during an attack that I most want a sling, so that isn't so helpful right now). Long-term, not as comfortable because it puts weight on only my shoulder & across part of my back. Can still swing out when I bend over, so not totally hands- free.

I wear this when I am in-and-out of the car or on a quick trip.


2. the Ergo carrier
Pros: easy on-and-off, very simple to get her in & out of. Durable. Long-term, very comfy: distributes her weight really well. Warm- her feet are tucked in and covered! Keeps her upright, which is HUGE right now. Totally hands-free: holds her close and securely.

Cons: Bulkier to carry around (I wish it folded up). The perk of not having her feet poke out also means that it's a bit uncomfortable for her sometimes-- right now her legs are too short to poke out the sides like they are supposed to. While I'll eventually be able to put her on my back or side with this carrier, right now I can only stick her in one way, and sometimes that's not what she wants.

I wear this when I go shopping or run errands (and she sleeps the entire time, even if through her normal feeding times!), or whenever I need a hands-free hold-- I even wear it around the house while doing chores & cooking. Yesterday I wore it to the courthouse for Graydon's adoption-- not a really long errand, but still long enough to make a carseat waaay too cumbersome.

3. the Kendi wrap
(same as a Moby wrap, but made by my super-sewing-sister-in-law, Kendi)
Pros: lightweight, easy to pack. Extremely versatile-- during an acid-reflux flare-up, Eowyn loves to have her head waaay back, as you can see from the above photo. She has to squirm herself sideways to do that in the Ergo, but w/ the wrap it's easy to let her do it. Perfect fit every time, since you tie it on and off for a custom fit. Totally hands-free hold. VERY comfy long-term (like the carrier, it distributes her weight really well). Warm. (I'm going to try nursing in it soon!) Cheapest of all (cost of the fabric could be as low as $7), especially if you are a confident seamstress.

Cons: more complicated to get her in & out of (though really, it's NOT very hard at all!). Does slip down over time (though it's easy to rectify).

I wear this when I'm going to be out on one errand for a while, on a walk in the park, or around the house doing chores. I also have slept with her in it when she was really having a hard time.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hooray Again!

The summer before I married Ryan was also the summer after I graduated from college, meaning that Ryan & I had been apart for the whole school year and were feeling it. My last sememster I'd been student teaching and working two other jobs as well as being a student and planning a weddin.g... wow our engagement only survived that season by the grace of God! Anyway we wanted to spend the months just prior to our wedding at least in the same town, so that we could do our pre-marital counseling together, look for a house, adjust to being near-distance fiancés, and so I could find a job & my way around town. But where could I live for just under two months? Into this need stepped, no JUMPED, Glen & Bethany M. I had met them during my previous summer in Louisville; they'd had Ryan & I over for dinner once, but other than that I hadn't really gotten to know them. Out of the blue they offered me a place to live for the summer, rent-free. I actually moved into their guest room while they were on vacation, lol; made friends with Scout (the cat) and then spent a wonderful summer as part of their family. They were wonderful chaperones for Ryan's & my courtship, and they were great friends. I say all of that to paint what sort of people they are; how they view their home. They are hospitable to the core, and their house is just one more resource God has entrusted to them for His Kingdom's expansion.

Is it any wonder, then, that they should take that to its logical extreme and bring in an orphan to love and raise? Today Éowyn and I got to go watch & listen as Judge O'Reilly pronounced them legal and final parents of Glen Graydon, after two years of waiting, working, praying and hoping. It was one of the most encouraging & devotional experiences of my week. Tears were very very near as I heard the judge read out what Graydon is now to them, and what they are to him-- son and heir, with all the rights & priveleges as if born of their bodies, and parents & guardians with all the legal and moral obligations of natural ancestors.

Why was this so touching and encouraging to me? Partly, because I know how amazing it was for Glen & Bethany to hear those words. They never knew if this day would for sure come, and they deeply had hoped it would. To hear that no one could EVER take Graydon from them again was especially amazing to me-- "Little G" was a concurrent foster placement in their home, meaning that they had him as a foster son with no guarantee that he would become legally free for adoption. For the past year and a half, there has been the possibility that he would be reunited with his birth mother, and even after the goal of his placement became "adoption," there was still nothing legal stating that he was their son. But that wasn't why the judge's words sank so deeply into my heart, and why I will forever remember those short, precious 15 minutes in that courtroom.

Here is why:


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, [...] In Him we have obtained an inheritance..." (Ephesians 1:5-11)

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in His (Jesus') name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal. 4:4-7)

That courtroom was like a window into my own life. Spiritually, I'm adopted, too.

Graydon has a little brother, Ian. Ian was born to his parents, and Graydon was adopted... and before the eyes of the law, and in the eyes of their parents, there is absolutely no difference between them. Both are their full & legal sons. Anyone who's ever seen them with their parents knows that they really are treated exactly like natural, beloved sons. What absolutely blew (and still is blowing) my mind is that WE, once adopted by God, are treated as His natural Son too: that means that in God's omniscient eyes, we're viewed just like Jesus. We are just as secure, just as loved, just as dear, just as heard, and slated to receive just as much inherintance as... Jesus Christ! WOW! Because of Jesus, we are headed towards a future, an inheritance so amazing that Paul said it made every hardship in this world worth it... He earned the inheritance through agonies and a perfect life, with the full intent of splitting it evenly with all the brothers & sisters His life & death brought into His family. Let that sink in. Wow. Really!!? I get treated to the same lavish love, the same riches, the same favor as Jesus!??? But I don't deserve it! Not at ALL.

That's the marvelous unfairness of mercy and grace, isn't it?

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (
Romans 8:15-18)


Waiting for Judge O'Reilly (it was so cute to hear Graydon say that!)

About to be officially a family-- Glen holding Ian (4 mos) & Bethany with Graydon (2)

They had quite a crowd of witnesses; the officials all commented on it, saying it might be a record of children present for an adoption. Since most of the kids were girls, I chalked it up to Graydon's charm with the ladies...

"Hi, Abby!"

Lydia, excited and not sure why

Listening to Judge O'Reilly read the statement

Graydon was saying things like "More!" (pictures) and "Judge O'Reilly" and "All done... down?"


Graydon got a totally new identity today; a new name completely unlike his old one; all three names, all new. I found out that he was a junior before-- named after some one from his birth mother's life. Now he's named after someone else; his daddy. Having met both men, I can say that the two are utterly different. I know that Graydon will be much more proud to be named after the man who has set his love on him and is raising him, giving him his name and huge shoes to follow.

That started me thinking about us and our spiritual adoption, too. We also have a birth father-- Jesus called him the father of lies (
John 8:44). Nice. We're all born with Satan's last name, you could say. Then we're adopted, re-born, and we get a new name-- God's name. We become Christians. We get a new identity, some one new to imitate and become like.

I actually was talking to Bethany a few Sundays ago about how adopted children tend to look like their adoptive parents. It seems that we imitate the facial expressions and physical mannerisms of those we see most often, and that in turn affects where fat is deposited, influencing face shape and facial features! Amazing! 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that as we look at our new Father --"we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,"-- we start to look like Him-- "are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." As John Piper put it, "beholding is becoming." Like Graydon, I know that my new Father is far more worthy of imitation than my first one.

Graydon didn't set out to find Glen & Bethany. He was totally oblivious to everything going on today. He had no idea what he was saved from; no idea what a horror his life could have been. He laughed and smiled and sucked his thumb and waved, and just enjoyed the love of parents he didn't earn, seek, or buy. They just set their love on him, and pursued him. They persevered through every obstacle, and finally made him their own. I didn't go after God-- no one does. No, He had to come after me. He set His love on me, and now I am His. Wow.

I'm never going to forget today. I pray that some of my wonder will lodge in your mind and start you marveling, too.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Hooray!


Our friends Dave & Stacey just passed their adoption court date on the other side of the world, meaning that now they are PARENTS! In 4-6 weeks, they get to go get their daughter & son from Ethiopia. Eowyn was quite excited to hear the news; she knows that means new friends for her! Ryan & I are a bit stoked, too. :)
That's nothing compared to the proud new mama & papa; they've been waiting for almost 2 years for this day. Adoption is a labor of love, that's for sure. Hooray! Praise the Lord!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Modeling Family Togetherness





You know, the family that plays together stays together, right? Ryan & I had fun putting together our costumes for our church's Fall Party this year. It was minimal sewing, and I got a few props at the dollar store. I have a bag of stained baby clothes that we had to take out of the Clothes Closet at church, so that's where I got material for Eowyn's clothes. See more fall fun pictures here.
And this is yet another reason why Ryan & I were so evidently made for one another. I'm so thankful I have a hubby who enjoys dressing up and being thought a bit crazy as much as I do! :) We just COULDN'T let his long hair go to waste when there are so many wonderful costumes that call for luxurious locks!!