Sunday, March 27, 2011

Springtime Weaning

This blog post is solely meant to reflect my musings, and prompt your own.  I'm going to put an idea out there that is quickly labeled "weird" by many Americans, but it's one I've thought of a lot lately.  That subject is breast-feeding past the age of 1.

We all know that breast milk is the best thing for babies.  Whether or not we truly deep-down believe that can be seen by how quick we are to choose formula over breast-milk or how hard we try to nurse.  But even moms who elect to go straight to the bottle "know" that it isn't quite as good as breast milk, though thanks to research we are able to give babies a close second (especially if we use organic products or make our own formulas based on real milks).  That said, please don't feel guilt or judgment coming at you as you read if you didn't breast feed or didn't keep it up as long as you wish, especially if you were literally unable to do so. This is my thinking in "ideal world-land."   Ok, so, in the US & Canada, it's a "given" that breast-feeding is great.  Most moms try to do it at least 6 weeks, and even working moms usually try to keep it up (thanks to another handy invention; the pump!) for 6 months.  The official World Health Organization recommendation is:
"Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.  Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond."
I think most American moms feel like if they've nursed to one year of age, they're champs, and it's time to move on to cow's milk.  While both are true (especially the being champs part), why do we feel like one year is THE end-mark for weaning?  My pediatrician's office asked me matter-of-factly at Éowyn's one-year check up how weaning was going, and told me I could start replacing one feeding per week with a sippy cup of whole milk.  When I told them, yes, I had introduced whole cow's milk but that I hadn't decreased nursing yet, the nurse blinked at me in shock, then assured me that yes, that was totally fine.  Nursing past one year old just isn't much done around here.

Why, though?  The newest article "Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk" from the AAP (an organization that is far from non-interventionist) contains these statements:
  • Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother, especially in delaying return of fertility (thereby promoting optimal intervals between births).
  • There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.
Around the world weaning often takes place much later.  (See an interesting article here.)  Why do we Westerners put a one-year cap on nursing our babies?  Is it just because everyone else does it?  Is it because we get fed up with nursing?  Once it becomes habit, I think it's absolutely precious.  E was a tough nut to nurse the first 5 months of her life, what with all the screaming and refusing to nurse and the having to stand, sway, pat and walk the entire feedings... but just last week I was thanking the Lord for the sweet blessing it is now.  There is nothing sweeter than a contented baby snuggled at his mother's breast.  It's often the only time my active baby will sit still and let me snuggle and rock her, and I just love how she looks up at me and strokes my face or puts her hand up to my mouth to be kissed.

I've heard many people say "as soon as they can ask for it, I think they're too old for it."  Éowyn learned to sign "milk" VERY early, around 8 months or so.  Of course, she still couldn't walk or chew much food, or even drink whole milk yet-- probably not a good move to base weaning on the ability to ask for milk.  I think our culture is so much more comfortable in seeing breasts as sexually attractive objects than as what they are just as much intended to be:  functional suppliers of milk for our children.  Maybe that's why we feel uncomfortable with children seeing and feeding from them once they are cognitively aware-- we feel like that's weird, maybe even a bit sick.  Please know that it ISN'T.  One of woman's main roles is a nurturer, literally and figuratively.  There's a reason Adam named his wife "Eve, because she was the mother of all the living."  ("Eve" sounds like the Hebrew for life-giver and resembles the word for living).

But I don't want to to put some other arbitrary cap on nursing, to wonder if we shouldn't "make two the new one." Let's not try to nurse on to 24 months feel guilty if we don't, or weird if we go beyond.  Nor am I a staunch advocate of child-led weaning; in my opinion, breast-feeding is for very young children, not for those able to get a full diet from other sources.  You won't catch me breast-feeding Éowyn through kindergarten, no way.  Nor do I desire to try and nurse her AND grow a second child should the Lord bless us with another one; one parasite at a time, please! :)

I do have one thought, though.  I can't say how many times I've been thankful for breast-feeding through this winter.  Example:  Éowyn had a miserable January, as a cold settled in her sinuses, then both ears, and probably was inflaming her throat too. Add four incoming molars and an itchy, painful allergic reaction to penicillin, and neither of us was getting much sleep.  Her food intake dwindled to one or two bites per meal at most.  Instead, she asked to nurse a lot, even sleeping by me for one precious night, nursing herself into a merciful deep sleep (the first either of us got in a week).  I took her to the doctor's three times in as many weeks, and was absolutely shocked when instead of showing the wasting most toddlers do during illnesses, she'd gained a pound through her ordeal!  The nurse's explanation; "breast-milk is very caloric."  I can't imagine what I would have done had I not been still nursing.  Nothing else soothed her ears and throat, and cow's milk isn't the best during upper-respiratory infections, so I guess I'd have been pushing water and juice and watching her use all her stored fat up to fight off infection. 

I've been thinking; the winter just seems like a bad time to wean.  It's cold; breast-milk is warm, and snuggles are welcome.  It's sickness-season, especially for exploring toddlers and their tired mamas; breast-milk provides immunities, is often the only thing a sick child wants to eat (especially if ears & throats are sore) and is a fuss-free snack (almost a meal!) when it's Mom who isn't feeling so hot.  The summer, by contrast, seems like a much more natural time to wean:  it's hot out, children want cool drinks rather than warm milk, and no one wants more body heat.  I propose the idea of seasonal weaning.  What if we got in our heads to nurse through the winter instead of "to one year?"  I'm hoping that Éowyn will take the lead in weaning once it gets warmer, when there are interesting things to do outside and all around!  (So far, we've cut out all night feedings and her post-nap afternoon "snack," but that's been hard enough.  This child loves her "miwc.")

One more thought on the convenience of nursing into toddler-hood:  The other day we were out running errands and, as so often happens, we got delayed and held up past the little one's dinner time. Being the great mom that I am, I had no snacks with me in the store... except, oh wait... we found a quiet discreet corner, and five minutes later Eowyn was satisfied.  No prep, no clean up, no mess.  Baby happy, Mommy happy.  Everybody happy!

One last quote from Katherine A. Dettwyler, a woman whose research is particularly on this subject (from the article linked to above):
In terms of the benefits of extended breastfeeding, there have been a number of studies comparing breastfed and bottlefed babies in terms of the frequency of various diseases, and also IQ achievement. In every case, the breastfed babies had lower risk of disease and higher IQs than the bottle-fed babies. In those studies that divided breastfed babies into categories based on length of breastfeeding, the babies breastfed the longest did better in terms of both lower disease and higher IQ. [...] This has been shown for gastrointestinal illness, upper respiratory illness, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, and on and on and on. Likewise, the babies nursed the longest scored the highest on the IQ tests. [...]  Presumably, the benefits continue to accrue, as your body doesn't *know* that the baby has bad a birth day and suddenly start producing nutritionally and immunologically worthless milk.

Friday, March 25, 2011

5 Things to do with a Flannel ex-Baby Blanket

I don't know about other moms, but the number of blankets I received for my baby far outnumbered the actual amount I could use without putting my daughter at a serious risk for overheating.  I guess there's something irresistible about the soft fabric, and the multitude of adorable prints; we just can't resist buying them for friends!  My baby is past the need for "receiving" blankets, and I've picked my favorites and stored them for "next time."  Barring an addition of triplets to our home, I won't need that remaining stack.  I've given many away, but some have holes or stains, and then there are 3 of those ugly green and pink striped hospital-issued ones... not going to pass those on.  So, what to do with them?  Ahhh... I have so enjoyed trying to take a step back and looking at them through a blanket-less lense.  What could they become?  Here are my top-5 easy answers.  I'd LOVE to hear more of your ideas!!

1. Cut it up, double zig-zag stitch the edges, and use as cloth wipes We do cloth diapers, so I keep a stack of cloth wipes in a little basket on Eowyn's dresser, and wet them as needed from a squeeze bottle (gotten in the hospital at E's birth). Super simple!  Even if you use disposable diapers, these would be wonderfully soft wipees for hands, faces, noses, and high chairs!  I've started using only cloths on Eowyn's (and my) nose and have seen and felt a drastic difference... no more red chapped noses around here!

2. Use as the wonderful soft, warm, flannel fabric that it is.  You can do so many things with it if you think of it as fabric:  it can be the underside of a quilt or other blanket, squares in a soft-and-silky "taggy" (or just "silky") blanket, flannel jammies, bibs, or burp cloths.  (For burp cloths, cut one blanket in half, then fold the halves in half.  Sew wrong sides together on 3 sides, turn inside out, sew the final sides together, add ribbons, rick rack, whatever... you will have some of the most absorbent burp cloths EVER!! We were given a stack of some by a craftsy friend, and they became my favorites!)

3. Make them into cloth "mama pads."  Flannel, being soft and very absorbent, is the perfect material for this.  I know, this might be too gross for you... but it is something you can do with flannel blankets! :)

4. Have fun making toys- The simplest is as follows:  cut one blanket in half, turn down the edge and hem it.  Voila!  A perfectly sized doll blanket; easy for little hands to wrap a baby, without risking tripping over a trailing end.  Other ideas are a bit more involved:  blocks, balls, even a bunny!

5. Make a reading companion-- a bookmark that doubles as a glasses or pen holder.  I think this is a great idea and will probably be making some for some dearly beloved older relatives who are always misplacing their reading glasses...

Ok, now that your neurons are firing, tell me... What uses have you found for receiving blankets?

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Today we planted a garden. Nothing much; two raised beds criss-crossed with twine, layered with peat moss, leaves, vermiculite, compost & manure... Ryan did all the heavy work- as I've been sick in bed for most of the past 3 days, he barely let me lift a shovel to spread the peatmoss. But I sketched out what each square foot is to hold, read up on how to build the beds and layer the soil, did some light mixing & spreading, and then carefully pressed seeds, tubers, seed potatoes and rhizomes into their freshly-made beds. (We're doing a combination of Lasagna Gardening and Square-foot Gardening this year-- both quite new to us!)

It was an enjoyable experience all around; an afternoon I'll probably always look back on as a precious photograph of our life at this stage. The weather was gentle and pleasant. Ryan and I worked together- sometimes talking, regularly conferring, helping each other, and often lapsing into companionable silence. Eowyn woke from her nap about half-way through the process, and the real fun began. I can still taste the sweetness of watching her watch me, and trying to do just what I did. No matter that Mommy had a spade and she had only hands-- she can take that brown stuff out of the sack and put it in the wooden box, too! Oh for the heart of a child, to be so content with the simple gifts our Father daily gives; the cool crumbliness of dirt; the thrill of alternately creating chaos and order with sticks and bucket; the music of seeds in paper packets; the confidence that a tiny voice pleading a tiny word- "Up!" will be answered by a Father; and, most precious to me today, the delight found in imitating those whose love we treasure and whom we deem "Great."

We laughed as she repeated the last word of each of Daddy's phone-conversation phrases "cool!" "okay." "ba-bye" We smiled as she wanted a turn to hold the tools we used. Our hearts warmed as they usually do when she wanted to be near us, to be with us, to be as near our hearts as possible (in our arms). It also made me catch my breath She's watching you-- all the time! Be careful what you say and do-- or even when you sigh or frown. Woah.  As I think about it now, though, the realization is pressing me a different way: My daughter loves to be near me. With me. More-- she wants to be like me. If watching her try to be like me is such a delight... how much does the Lord long for His children to be like Him?
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [...] Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave youBe imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 4:30-5:2, NIV)
This passage came to my mind, and as I read it I realized just how many nuances there are to it... The Spirit of our Father can be grieved by our conduct; when we don't imitate the elder Brother (Jesus) who loved us, gave Himself up for us, and bought our ultimate, never-ending, pure-joy forgiveness from God our Father.  We're supposed to imitate Him.  Why? How?  Because we're dearly loved children; it seems like that's the answer to both questions:  we should imitate as beloved sons & daughters do, and we should imitate because we are God's children, and so should have the family trait of dying-to-self-love.  Doing this is "fragrant" -pleasing, pleasant- to our Daddy, just as our elder Brother's sacrificial death was to God.

I guess I'm spiritually gardening in both directions, trying both to model and to imitate.   I'm trying to plant seeds in my daughter's life by providing an GOOD example to follow.  At the same time, I'm trying to cultivate imitation in my own heart-- imitation of my Father & my Brother.  Both are done only in the Power of the Helper, the Promised Holy Spirit, because both will be nothing short of miraculous.

Not by might, not by power, but by Thy Spirit!  (Zechariah 4:6)
(Note the dirt on her face: she was quite filthy, as every healthy child should be on a lovely day, I think!... =D)

Friday, March 18, 2011

5 Things Every Pregnant Mom Should Know...

I love lists. I've had several "5 Things..." lists in my head.  They are quite random, but hopefully they'll help someone out there!  
1. What you eat matters just as much as how much you eat.   It's easy to think "any calories are good calories," but that's just not true.  I know this goes against what a lot of people say & think, but think about it:  the baby is made of what you eat... or needed nutrients are pulled from your storehouses, including teeth, muscles, organs and bones.  Not a good situation for you there!  Seek to eat nutrient-dense foods in whatever quantities you need to stay full-- for me that was an insane amount (I thought) of meat, eggs, cottage cheese, cheeses, fruits, veggies, nuts/nut butters, and the occasional gluten-free baked good (a treat).  Not to say that you can't enjoy sweets in moderation (especially homemade ice-cream from full-fat milk!), but your baby honestly doesn't need it and neither do you.  (As a comfort for those who think that nothing sounds good at the moment:  at the beginning of my pregnancy- almost the first five full months- I was dependent on real ginger ale (I mean the kind that actually has pieces of ginger root in it) sipped throughout the day, and 4 oz of Coca-Cola (had to be actual coke, not a knock-off) in the morning to keep ANYTHING down at all... )  I've found Nina Planck's book Real Food for Mother & Baby to be the best new-mom-dietary book out there... both readable and nutritionally sound.  It's SO much better than What to Expect, which suggests the low-fat, low-meat approach so prevalent in our unhealthy culture today.  Developing babies NEED fat, and how are they going to get it unless you eat it?

2. If your water breaks before your labor starts, going to the hospital is NOT a good idea.  I wish I could yell this from the tallest roof downtown.  I don't know how many of my personal friends (healthy, not Group-B Strep positive) have been frightened with "you have to have that baby in 24 hours or else we're doing a c-section."  Even more have been told that their labor had to have started in 24 hours or else they'd do an induction (which is usually way more painful than natural labor, technology-ridden- you're strapped to an IV and must be monitored round-the-clock) and prone to complications and further interventions.  Why?  The main concern is that infection is nearly inevitable once the bag of waters ruptures.  My friends, this is simply not true.  Let me make it very clear:  the only way a healthy (non-GBS+) mom could possibly get an internal infection while leaking fluid is if bacteria traveled "upstream" into the uterus. The main way that happens is if it is pushed in via an internal exam. 
Despite a lack of evidence, there is a widespread impression among providers that when duration of rupture of membranes exceeds 24 hours, there is increased danger to mother and baby. Birth within 24 hours is a common management goal when the membranes are ruptured. This may lead to use of oxytocin and associated practices such as internal monitors and more frequent vaginal examinations, which are in themselves independent risk factors for infection.

Factors other than duration of rupture are known to increase risk of infection when membranes are ruptured. One strongly predictive factor is the number of vaginal examinations. The authors of the term PROM study point out that the number of vaginal examinations was more predictive of maternal infection than duration of membrane rupture. (see source here)
The more internal exams you have (the more times someone "checks you to see how far along you are"), the more likely infection becomes.  The first thing they will do at the hospital is to do an exam!! If, however, you stay at home, i.e., you don't have an exam, you probably won't get an infection.   (For those of us with more worry-wart tendencies, I'd suggest taking your temperature every hour or so once your water breaks to keep yourself from wondering.  If you did get an infection you'll get a fever and will then have plenty of time to get antibiotics or anything else needed.  You can also head to the hospital if you feel weird or freak out at any time!) If you stay home until labor starts (in 90% of women this happens within 48 hours) you'll be far more comfortable, less prone to infection (since no one is examining you), and less likely to need any other intervention.  (Even if you have Group-B strep, you have the option of beginning antibiotic treatment along with efforts to naturally start labor, like stair-walking and using a breast pump, instead of immediate induction.)

3. The average length of a first pregnancy is 41 weeks and a day.  That's over week past your "due date" (which is a ball-park estimate anyway) and that's an average, meaning as many women go longer as go shorter!  I've often scratched my head at women who say in one breath "God is in control and I'm trusting Him" and in the next "I'm getting induced on my due date because I'm so tired of being pregnant!"  If He's in control, can't you hang on until your labor starts in His timing?  There's rarely cause to induce a "post-due-date" baby, though it's recommended to keep a close eye on mom & baby as the due date comes & goes.  Getting induced because pregnancy is uncomfortable isn't a good idea (I don't mean when pregnancy is life-threatening, as in preeclampsia or toxemia, etc.)-- labor is uncomfortable, parenting a newborn is uncomfortable, and healing from a labor is uncomfortable!!  All of the above are often made more difficult by an induction.  Some women "bake" their babies longer-- seems to be genetic.  Other times, the due date or date of conception has been miscalculated.  Here's a good antidote to the idea that babies start to lose weight and be sickly if they "stay in" for too long.
A major conceptual problem with routine induction at 41 weeks is that the median length of pregnancy in healthy first-time mothers is 41 weeks 1 day. The conventional 40 weeks is just that: a convention. It is based on nothing more than a German obstetrician's fiat two centuries ago that since women cycle according to the moon, pregnancy lasts 10 moon months, that is, 10 months of 4 weeks each. Practitioners may argue over how great a deviation from normal warrants intervention, but in the case of routine induction at 41 weeks, they are arguing for intervening when there is no deviation from normal.  (Henci Goer, author of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Better Birth)
4. When you're in labor, laying on your back is usually the most painful position.  Wow, I speak from personal experience on this one.  When I had to lay down to be "checked" in labor, if a contraction happened before I could get back up it was agony (well, lying on my side was even worse, due to Eowyn's position). Walking around, squatting, leaning on Ryan, swaying, even just sitting up made the pain far more manageable.  Nothing was exactly comfortable, but it was doable!  This is a really good reason to avoid induction (as long as you have Pitocin dripping into you, you need to be monitored constantly, and few hospitals have wireless monitoring systems), as well as to opt for intermittent external fetal monitoring instead of continuous or internal.  Even in bed, though, you can move a bit.
How do you picture yourself during labor? Perhaps you've imagined yourself getting into bed, pulling up the covers, and simply lying there awaiting your baby's birth. Your husband mops your face with a wet washcloth while doctors and nurses flutter around your bedside. This image bears little resemblance to reality. If you really want to have your baby more quickly and with less pain, plan to get up and keep moving around as long as you can through labor.  [...]
But lying down has no medical benefits for most mothers. In fact, it carries several proven risks. When you lie on your back for long periods of time, the weight of the uterus compresses the descending aorta and inferior vena cava, blood vessels that supply or drain the lower part of your body. This interference with your circulation reduces your blood pressure, compromising blood flow to your baby and causing his heart rate to drop. When you stay upright (or at least off your back), placental circulation improves and fetal heart rate abnormalities may be alleviated. [...] A British study comparing mothers who walked during labor to mothers who stayed in bed demonstrated that walking not only shortened labor but also reduced pain and the need for medication.

How does walking help your labor along? For one thing, your contractions become stronger, more regular, and more frequent when you stand up. Gravity helps your baby make his way through your pelvis. Furthermore, the upright position improves both the angle of your baby's body to your spine and the application of his head to your cervix. Because your uterus naturally tilts forward in your abdomen during contractions, it meets the least resistance when you are standing, leaning slightly forward.  (The source article is a good one to read!)

5. It's standard procedure to inject all newborn babies against Hepatitis B, but this is completely optional. Hep B is an STD, and if you don't have it, your baby isn't at risk... AT ALL.  Even if you choose to vaccinate for everything else, injecting an immune-stimulating drug immediately following the trauma of birth into a tiny person for a disease they aren't even able to contract is pretty pointless.  At the very least, hold off for a while! (You can read the risk factors for the disease here.)  Get your pediatrician & doctor (or midwife) to sign your birthplan for extra back-up.  Most practices test for Hep B during the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, and if you test negative and are in a monogamous relationship with another Hep-B-free person, most doctors will back you up no prob.

And a bonus...
6. Your milk usually doesn't come in until 3 days after your baby is born (sometimes it's delayed even more if you have a C-section).  A newborn's stomach is as big as an adult pinky (or picture a marble or thimble), which is why colostrum (first "milk") is super-dense and comes in very tiny quantities.  The newborn's stomach grows quickly, and as the baby nurses it tells the body to produce mature milk.  Most newborns also have quite a reserve of fat to get them through the first few days of learning how to nurse, etc.  I've had friends whose babies were given bottles in the hospital within hours of birth because "their milk hadn't come in."  The answer (unless the baby is tiny, malnourished and dehydrated) isn't a bottle in that situation; it's being put to the mother's breast as often as possible, and kept near her as often as possible!  Here's a good little article by a Lactation Consultant on the topic.  (Note:  this doesn't mean you will have to nurse on-demand for the baby's whole life; the first few days, even weeks, are pretty unique.)  (image credit)

So, what do you wish you could know or had known as an expectant parent? Any ideas for a "5 Things" list I could do?  Comment away!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Return We Make

Many of you are probably wearing green today, for fear of getting pinched. :)  Others might be rolling your eyes at a "hallmark holiday" or hating the drunken revelry that often goes on in the name of "St. Patrick's Day."  While I certainly don't personally buy gifts or cards for today, and I do regret anyone taking time to become drunk, I do love St. Patrick's Day and what it stands for.  Hmmm... what does it stand for?

The man whom we honor died on March 17th.  His whole adult life was spent preaching the Gospel* to the Druidic kingdoms of old Ireland-- the very people who had enslaved him as a boy.  He returned to them voluntarily, coming to view his time of captivity as a blessing-- not only the crucible God used to save him, but also a chance to learn the Irish language fluently.  He had since studied and been approved by church leaders and been sent as a missionary, burdened for the souls of the people who had once kidnapped him, and determined that the true God be worshiped as He deserved in every nation under Heaven as Scripture teaches.  St. Patrick is an emblem of evangelism, of fearless strength in weakness, and of passionate, self-risking love for even enemies.  St. Patrick's Day is "about" the glory of God, courage, and the power of the Gospel to save!  AMEN!!

 My two favorite quotes from the fearless missionary, passionate evangelist and careful pastor, the one we now call Saint Patrick:
Wherefore, I cannot keep silence-- nor would it be fitting.  [...] For this is the return we make, that after our chastening or after our recognition of God, we should exalt and proclaim His wondrous ways before every nation which is under the whole heaven.
And so in the measure of our faith in the Trinity, it is fitting for me to explain, and without censure of rashness, to make known the gift of God and the everlasting hope.  Moreover, it is fitting that I spread everywhere the name of God without fear, confidently; so that after my death I may leave a legacy to my brethren and my sons whom I baptized in the Lord-- so many thousands of men.
My husband gave me a translation of all of Patrick's known works for Christmas the second year we were married, and reading it not only opened my eyes to the truly great man of God that Patrick (or Sucat, as he was first known) was, but it was a huge encouragement to me spiritually, a spur towards passionate love for the Lost and supreme confidence in a worthy Savior.  One of my favorite Southern professors has just written a bit about Patrick on his blog, too.  Check it out!

* The word "Gospel" means "good news," and is shorthand for what God has done to save sinful man.  The good news is that even though we are incapable of moving towards God on our own, He (God the Son) became a man (Jesus the Christ) in order to bring us to Himself.  He did this by living a perfect life, dying a death whose worst torture wasn't the physical agony but rather being forsaken and abandoned by God the Father-- He did this to pay the penalty for our sins, as He had none of His own to pay for, and then being raised after 3 days in a Jewish tomb.  He went back to Heaven and sent His Holy Spirit into the hearts of all His followers, and in this way lives with His people even now, 2000+ years after his physical life on earth.  Christians are those who believe this to be true and trust Christ's finished work on the Cross as their only way to be saved from the eternal torment they know their sins deserve. They view it as their GOOD NEWS!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

18 Months of Éowyn Grace

I haven't written an Éowyn-update in quite a while!  Every week or so I try to make mental notes of what she's doing and saying lately, lest I forget... oh well.  I guess it's taken me being sick and in bed to have made me actually do it.

Let's see...
You are talking up a storm, little one.  You love to repeat anything we say, be it Spanish or English or made-up-Daddy.  You understand Spanish completely, though I think your English has pretty much caught up by now.  You seem to prefer the shorter English words for most things (I've noticed that far more English words are uni-syllabic!  (ex. dog, cat, horse vs. perro, gato, caballo) You grasp that both sets of words mean the same thing; when prompted "di 'por favor,'" you say "please" for example.  You delight Daddy with the way you say "okay."  (sounds like "haaaah- kay") It's your catch-all phrase for "yes," "please," and "I'm excited!"  You've lately taken to saying "no?" to most questions, and as a hopeful response to highchair-time or bedtime.  You know a good many animals and get quite excited when you see them, shouting "hoss! hoss!" at every Louisville Derby statue and "kitty!" every time a neighborhood cat pokes its nose out of doors.  You're good with names and recognize friends & neighbors warmly.  My biggest surprise came when you started making simple sentences "Is cowd!" (followed by a shiver and a pointing to your coat) or "Gace (Grace; a friend) ky-ing" (Grace is crying).

Many of your old favorites still delight you: bo-bo, books, bath, keys, and of course Mama (your all-time favorite).  Even "pe-pe" (paci) has made a comeback, right about the time those 4 molars came in.  You've gotten some new fascinations, though: "fwing-fwing" (swings, either at the park, on our porch, or in our living room-- now you climb in and out of the baby swing on your own), "rock-rock" (the little rocking chair I just recovered for you), "ki-ka" (stickers), "baby" (an ancient baby doll given to you by an elderly neighbor), "teef" (your tooth brush, with or without toothpaste), "eh-eh" (the letter "E" in Spanish; this is your catch-all term for drawing, as you especially like for me to write Es) and "poop?" (your newest obsession with sitting on the potty, when you feel you have to go- you seem to like a dry diaper- or when you want to brush your teeth, or when you feel things are a bit too quiet).  You play quite well by yourself and have begun to be interested in wooden puzzles and a gear toy I just purchased.  You have discovered the magic of DVDs in the last week or so, and understand all too well that the discs in the pretty covers equal movies you can watch. Your pretend play continues to grow, whether you are tenderly rocking your baby, making her cry and kissing her to comfort her, talking convincingly on a "phone," or cooking and blowing on your "food."  You are a girly-girl to the core, loving shoes, purses, bows, hair brushes, hats, jewelry and pretty clothes.  Sometimes you pick up your purse, fill it up, put on a hat and head to the door calling "bye!"  So cute.

You have become more affectionate than ever, spontaneously giving me and Daddy kisses (real ones!) and hugs all day long.  Babies draw out the best in you, unless, of course, YOUR Mommy is holding them.  That is just not acceptable.  (Neither is Daddy hugging Mama, jealous little thing.)  You say "love-you," usually immediately followed by "bye-bye!" and a blown kiss. You are starting to empathize with others, and if you hear a baby crying, you stop and tell me "Baby's ky-ing.  Waaah," and scrunch up your little face and try to cry too.  You're getting way too good at the fake-cry thing...

After a difficult spell in January in which you had your first sinus infection, first round of antibiotics, first allergic reaction to antibiotics, first double-ear infection/sinus infection, second round of antibiotics, and four molars coming in at once, your sleep pattern is FINALLY getting manageable.  If you wake up, I just hold you and kiss you, and put you back in bed, sometimes with music or with a pacifier, but no nursing (yay!), and this past week I finally dropped your 10-pm dream-feed.  This means that you now go from 8 pm to 5:30/6 am without eating (yay!), and I hope that soon you won't even wake up at night.  You're down to one nap during the day (for quite a while we alternated one nap & two-nap days), from 1-3/3:30.  You wake up at 5:30 to nurse, then we both go back to sleep until 8:30 or so.  I'm okay with that... for now. :)

You are a fairly good eater; not picky, but definitely still preferring mama's milk above all others.  I have to "trick" you with a little sweetener (stevia, maple syrup or unrefined sugar) in warmed cow's milk if I'm to get you to drink any of it.  I have started the weaning process, though, now having dropped both your post-nap (3:30ish) snack, replacing it with a sippy of warm milk, and your dream-feed.  Your new favorite food is potatoes ("papas"), and if you like any food, you declare it to be papas.  You also really like uvas (raisins), man'as (apples), and na'njas (oranges).

I love you so much, cha-cha... mi preciosa.  We thank God for you every day.
 Mommy and Daddy

Friday, March 11, 2011

Incorporating Music into Baby Days

My three-part vaccine post is finished over at Keeper of the Home, yay!  I so enjoyed incorporating all my reading and percolated thoughts into one comprehensive post... and it was quite time-consuming!  I pray that it is a blessing to many!

I'm excited to have the time now to go back to a favorite subject of mine:  music & children!  I'm going to give five suggestions for incorporating music into your days with your baby or toddler (older kids, too).

1. Pitch Matching-  Here's my first attempt at "vlogging" (video blogging), since it would be a lot clunkier to explain the "game" of pitch-matching than to "show" it!

2. Read rhythmic books- get into a rhythm and read the "chorus" the same way each time (see, you can be musical without having a great voice!).  Rhythm is half of music,-- don't underestimate it! A short list of my favorites:   We're Going on a Bear Hunt (by Michael Rosen), Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (by Bill Martin, Jr.), King Bidgood's in the Bathtub (by Don & Audrey Wood), Barnyard Dance! (Sandra Boynton).

3. Turn off the battery-operated "musical" toys- I know, it kind of seems counter-intuitive.  Hear me out, ok? One of the most disturbing trends I dealt with as a middle-school choir teacher was the misconception (all-pervasive overwhelming cultural maxim, it seemed like!) that music should be easy.  If it wasn't, the student (and often his parents) assumed that "music just isn't his thing; he just can't sing."  I am here to tell you that music is NOT easy for many people, and that any person (with the possible exception of those with a severe auditory processing disorder) can LEARN to sing.  Music is like anything else; some people have an aptitude for it, getting good at it takes hard work, it has a practical as well as a mental aspect to it, anyone can learn it, and good teachers help with that learning process.  Compare it to math; if your child isn't a whiz at math, do you automatically assume "oh well, it's just not his thing"?  No, you probably look around for another way to present the material, and you put in extra time & effort until it becomes more or less second nature.  What does this have to do with battery-operated toys?  Those reduce music to simple one-step-cause-and-effect:  push a button, hear music.  No work, no investment, on and off at will.  A friend of mine told me she didn't mind battery toys because "I can't sing to her all day," and I realized that that's kind of the point.  When we aren't always available to sing to our children, that very inability is communicating to them that music takes something out of us; it isn't just constantly available, on-demand in the background.  It should take our focus.  It should have a beginning, middle & end, not a on-off switch that can be started and re-started repeatedly.  I think that some toys can help with musical education (Eowyn has 3 that come to mind, including a little drum that has several styles of beats)... just use them occasionally, like desserts instead of a staple food.

4. Do buy no-tech musical instruments-
by this I mean actual musical instruments:  xylophones, bells, maracas, shakers, glockenspiels.  Make your own drum out of a coffee tin & wooden spoon.  Make a shaker by filling a container with beans.  By playing with these, they will learn to associate larger size with lower pitch, that vibration causes sound, and to differentiate between pitches.  There will never be a time when they didn't just "know" those things, just as children rarely remember learning that objects fall down (not up), or that water is wet.  They just learned that by experiencing it over & over again.

5. Play songs from around the world-  Raffi is a wonderful artist in this way, singing with everything from steel drums to kazoos to piano & strings, often in other languages!  Another good starting point is Wee Sing Around the World (book and cd)  Most public libraries have children's CDs you can check out from all over the globe!  Just like you give your child a varied diet with veggies, fruits and meats of all tastes and nutrients, give your child's ear a full buffet of harmonies, rhythms and tones!

Ok... what about you?  What tips do you have for incorporating music into your every day mommy life?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Children Of God" - Official Music Video

This video gives me chills.
For any who want to or have added to their families through adoption... or who think "I could never love an adopted child like I love my natural ones"... How does God the Father love us? In the Beloved.  We are adopted by Him, and He loves us as if we were Jesus.  W. O. W.

Monday, March 07, 2011

As a Mother Pityeth Her Children...

This phrase has come back to me several times over the past few days: "as a father pityeth his children, so the Lord pityeth them that fear Him; for He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust."  Or, as my sister & I memorized, 
"As a father has compassion on his children,
   so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him;
 for He knows how we are formed,
   He remembers that we are dust."
Every parent instinctively "pities," or "has compassion" for their child. You know the feeling-- your child comes to you with tears in his eyes, bruised and hurt either emotionally or physically, and whether he is two or twelve, your heart melts. You put your arms out and gather him into your arms, you kiss and sing (or at least wish you could) and assure "it will be all right."  You have compassion.  You care.  You want to take away their pain and help.  You care because you know them; you know what they've been through.  You know how little and frail they are; you know that they missed their bedtime, that they're afraid of spiders, and that they take your pillowcase to summer camp "because it smells like home."  You know their limits, and you understand.

Of course, we are totally inconsistent in our compassion, unlike our Heavenly Father.  How often do I get exasperated with my daughter instead of remembering that she is only one, and has no idea that I am trying to organize those bits of paper that she finds so fun to walk on.  Or how easy it is to be frustrated and short-tempered at her fussing instead of realizing that the poor child is hungry and doesn't have the words to tell me yet.  I've read two parenting articles lately that have reminded me to make compassion and patience my first response, to give my child my sympathy.

At the Relevant 2010 conference I attended back in October, Sally Clarkson was my favorite speaker.  She spoke with the weight of years of mothering and teaching behind her; she was a voice of quiet wisdom I instinctively felt I could trust.  She read a quote that I've often thought of:
How many parents there are … who are readier to provide playthings for their children than to share the delights of their children with those playthings; readier to set their children to knowledge-seeking, than to have a part in their children’s surprises and enjoyments of knowledge-attaining; readier to make good, as far as they can, all losses to their children, than to grieve with their children over those losses.  And what a loss of power to those parents as parents, is this lack of sympathy with their children as children.  (Henry Clay Trumbull, Hints on Child Training (1890))

Sally just recently wrote a blog post about this exact thing; about first attempting understanding & sympathy before disciplining.  I think the title is misleading, because as you read, you'll see that she isn't discouraging expecting immediate obedience or whole-hearted submission, but rather a quick, automatic, one-size-fits-all formulaic response to our children. 

Why do we tend to want quick-and-easy answers?  Well, sometimes it's laziness.  I just want to say something and have it happen, no work!  Other times it's idolizing of my plan, my vision for how I want to spend my day.  Or it can be that we've let having obedient children become the end rather than a means...a means of preparing them to obey Christ.  On that note, here is the second article regarding parenting, a commentary on the "Tiger Mom."

She touches on an antidote to all of the above-- laziness, pride, idolatry: thankfulness.  If I am in the position of thanking God for whatever comes from His hand, I will be far more gracious with my child!  If I see my children as gifts, and as even interruptions of my day as His severe mercy towards me, I am far more equipped to handle them with compassion.

For me, I've noticed that with Eowyn, kneeling in front of her and touching her face as I speak to her, telling her that "I know you wants to keep playing (or whatever), but that now it is time to do this," is far more effective and happy than simply demanding off-hand that she "stop that and come here."  Or, if it's time to leave her pacifier and blankie and move on past naptime, that having her drop them in her crib herself and wave, saying "bye-bye, bo-bo" tends to be tear-less.  In these small ways I'm trying to show her my compassion, my sympathy, my desire to make obedience as attractive to her as it is in reality.

Now... just think... the Lord is always compassionate like that with us!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Helpful Analogies For Sexual Purity Before the Lord

My best friend is a pastor's wife up in the snowy north (aka Toronto, Canada), and is leading her women's group through several topics relating to godly living as women.  Their last session, entitled "Two Whys to Make Us Wise," dealt particularly with sexual purity.  Many of you who appreciated the blog post celebrating the God-honoring romance of my sister & brother-in-law may want to check out her latest blog post summarizing their session.  I particularly found the analogies helpful, and am tucking them away to use in mentoring my children in the more distant future, and any teens I am in relationship with in the nearer future.

To whet your appetite, the two "whys" she discusses are 1. Why do we have sex? and 2. Why should we honor God with our bodies (especially as Christians)?