Chesed

The Power of “Me, too.”

I sat in surprise yesterday as y’alls comments kept trickling in, both here and on Facebook.  This morning when a few new notifications showed up, I sat and reread some of them and I felt tears forming in my eyes.

Tears always blur your vision a bit, but today, they also made me stop for a few seconds.  In my mind, I could see so many women like shadowy figures bending, walking, picking up babies, making food, kissing boo boos, folding laundry.  Tired sometimes, often wondering how they can reach around, but unspeakably strong in love, commitment, and tenaciousness.  Do you have any idea how beautiful that is?

But maybe what hit me more was the level of honesty and vulnerability that was surfacing.

It’s interesting what shifts inside of us when we have the courage to dig hard enough to be honest with ourselves.  To look and pray and seek and sometimes get help until we find the beliefs that are holding us back from who God really designed us to be.  I could write for a long time about that, but maybe another time.

There’s a different and equally powerful shift that happens when we are vulnerable enough to be honest with each other.

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Honesty creates a feeling of community.  It’s really interesting to me how quickly people know this.  {Adam needed to write an essay on friendship this year and one of the things he talked about most in that essay was the need for honesty.}  But it’s even more interesting how quickly we hide.  I think it was Brene Brown who said that vulnerability is the single most important factor in meaningful relationship; and shame is the thing that most holds us back from being vulnerable.  If you have a minute, you should take a little time to think about that.  And if you don’t have a minute, you should do it anyway. 😉  That phrase rocked my whole life a few weeks ago during our revival meetings when I realized that shame was holding me back from a full relationship with Jesus.

There is so much community that happens when you see people raising their hand and whispering, “Me, too.”

The other thing that happens is the way it leaves us feeling empowered.  Maybe that’s just one and the same and the feeling of community is empowering, but they feel like separate entities to me.  You would think that voicing your own struggle is only going to be discouraging to the next person.  Somehow, it has the opposite effect.  Even though we’re not in the same house and sometimes not even in the same community, knowing you are over there fighting your battle well gives me courage to fight mine.  I feel stronger because I know this isn’t for the faint of heart, but over there and over there and over there, you are doing the same thing, too.

Today I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for being vulnerable.  Thank you for listening to my story and sharing pieces of yours. Thank you for being women who not only are women of courage in your own family; but also women who are strong enough to be vulnerable and build community.

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Doing “Nothing”

The other day as I was reading Ephesians I got hung up on the words “walk in love ….. a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.”

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Is this a way that we can give to Jesus the same way Mary did when she poured out her perfume over Jesus’ feet?  Her gift was lavish, without shame, humble. Is our living sacrifice similar?

It’s easy to think we aren’t sacrificing anything, really.  Right now in Sunday School we’re listening to documentaries of missionaries and christians in communist countries.  Amazing, amazing stories of sacrifice and God’s grace.  We read stories of people who were burned at the stake or drowned because they chose to follow Jesus and we feel as though what we are doing is nothing.

And then we wonder why doing “nothing” is so hard.

To die for Christ is a sacrifice that makes you a hero of the faith.

To live for Christ is an ongoing, minute by minute sacrifice that makes you a christian.

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Doing “nothing” is so hard for me.

About two weeks ago I had one of those feels like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad kind of days.  Things had been building up for a few days and by Friday I was just barely holding on.

Bella has had stranger anxiety for three months, but a few weeks ago she developed a serious case of separation anxiety and I couldn’t even get out of her sight.  If I did manage to get out of the room unnoticed and she heard my voice, she erupted into loud wails because she realized I’m not within touching distance.

It was one of those days.  The kind where babies poop through their clothes and people spill all the things.  When I finally got Zara dressed around 10:30 I spent a little extra time with her hair and chose a cute little dress because bad days call for investing happiness.  She wanted to try going potty insisting she could do it by herself.  Trying to be patient (is it actually patience if you have to try?) 😉 I let her and the back of her skirt promptly dropped into the toilet.

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I love, love, love the way I get to watch my children grow, learn, and play all day long.  One of the biggest benefits to homeschooling is that you get to be with your children all the time.

One of the hardest things about homeschooling is that you are with your children all.the.time.  Yes, I just said the same thing two ways.  It feels as though my kids need me all the time.  At least one of them.  Sometimes three of them at once.  That particular day I was done.  Just completely done.  I picked up Bella, went upstairs and sat in my unmade bed and screamed at God (in a whisper of course so the kids couldn’t hear me). Help me! Please, you have to help me! I just want to run away.  I can’t do this stalling my tires in the mud thing anymore.”

I was barely two sentences in before Liam appeared in the doorway with a Math question.  How?  Just how.

I sent David a text and told him if I wasn’t home that evening I’d run away.  He wrote back and said, “That’s fine.  Just let me know where you’re going so I can join you.” :)

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In the end, God didn’t endow my day with supernatural power.  Instead He quieted my heart with truth.  I started realizing how much I still fall into the trap of finding my identity in what I do. When my days turn into something akin to quagmire, I feel like I’m not enough.  Not enough wife.  Not enough mom.  Not enough person.

But it isn’t so much what we accomplish as moms that glorifies God.  It’s the fact that we are there.  Face it.  Most of what we do gets undone 2.5 seconds later.  I comb Zara’s hair. She rolls around on the floor and you’d never know I touched it.  You do dishes and someone is hungry.  You can’t tell if I swept the floor last night or five days ago because it perpetually has food and dirt on it.

We give up sleep, showers, bodies that work the way they did pre-baby, personal space, and the ability to eat a plate of food without interruption.  It doesn’t get much more invasive than that.

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Motherhood is hard, not because it requires so much skill, but because it requires laying down so much of your own personhood.  The very thing that makes it hard is the same thing that makes it a glorious, living, sweet smelling sacrifice to God.  It honors Him when we get up again, sweep the floor again, cook the seven millionth egg (seeeeeeeeeeriously, how can kids eat so much food?!), explain that algebra equation again, and scarf down food in 37 seconds so we can hold a crying baby.  It isn’t about the clean floor but about our attempt to create a haven for people.  It’s not about the food, but about the act of feeding hungry bellies consistently.  It’s not about potty training (or continuing to miss the mark), but about encouraging and coming alongside and believing in.  It’s not about getting school done early for the day (or goodness knows on days like that particular Friday even getting it done before dinner), but about learning.  And sometimes the learning has as much to do with character and life lessons for moms and kids that stall the academic exercises.  It’s not about the accomplished task, but the doing it that matters to God.

Love and cheers to all you mamas who are getting ready to head into another week that, in all likelihood, includes sticky floors, stained laundry hiding in the dryer, late dinners, and kids with love tanks that need perpetual filling. At the end of each day, and maybe a hundred or so times throughout it, I hope God sends you little reminders that you are enough.


We’re Home!

  1. It’s such an odd thing to say when really, we’ve been home for four months.  But it feels as though it should be officially announced here. I think partially I just want to remember it a little bit.

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The details are all getting a bit hazy for me except the day we moved.  I look back and remember almost nothing except a blur of crying baby and rocking, rocking, rocking in between walking, walking, walking from July on.  I have no idea how things got packed.  I know that my mom came up a day or two about a month before we moved.  I know that Amanda came and held Bella for me a lot.  I know that three sweet friends from Hagerstown came the Tuesday before we moved and packed up my entire kitchen while I finished packing our closets.  I know that we were planning to move on Thursday, October 20.  I remember sorting and purging.  I distinctly remember the funny feeling of knowing exactly where most things would go and so I would fill a box, sometimes from different rooms, and label which room it should go to.  But I hardly remember actually filling boxes.  That’s an odd thing considering there were about two hundred boxes.  And mostly I know that we were completely covered in prayer.

I’d way rather remember holding Bella anyway, so thank goodness that’s not the brain cells that fudged.

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Wednesday morning David left a few minutes before 5 to take an open trailer with lawn and garden supplies and outdoor items to Virginia.  He dropped it off, drove back to Harrisonburg, picked up a box trailer and headed back to Maryland.  I’d asked Grandma Donna to come help me that day because frankly, I just needed a mom.  She was the perfect person!  She helped me scrub a few last minutes places, read stories to Zara, rocked Bella, and ran to the bulk food store with the kids in tow to pick up a sub order for our lunch.  It was a calm morning and I was feeling oddly as though I was getting done early.  I called David and said, “hey, what do you think? If we get done early would you want to just drive down tonight?”  We talked about it for a bit and figured it we somehow miraculously got loaded by six we’d do it.  But not later than that because of his early morning and life with babies is kind of exhausting without losing half a night of sleep because of driving.

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He got home around 3 and the loading began.  It was unbelievably hot for the end of October! The guys were sweating up a storm.  Miss Sheryl showed up with an igloo of iced tea.  We were wearing flip flops or running barefoot.  There were people everywhere.  Loading boxes.  Holding babies.  Helping me wash off walls as the rooms got emptied….

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About seven or eight David said, “I’m driving down tonight.” The trailer was so loaded he didn’t want to deal with daytime traffic, especially on the 81.  Let me tell you, stuff kicked in high gear.  We weren’t even completely loaded.  I hadn’t packed up the frig stuff because we supposedly weren’t leaving until morning.  My carefully packed for overnight suitcases got stuffed into the trailer, people started helping me clean out my neglected frig, and other people collected stuff from the shower because suddenly hitting the road took preeminence over cleaning up our stinky bodies.

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People helped bathe the girls and I sent all the kombucha and coke from the frig to our vehicles.  Nice combination, don’t you think?

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At nine, the people who stuck with us until the very end, circled up in the yard and prayed for our safety.  I felt a little shaky inside.  I was exhausted and my adrenalin rush wasn’t present but not quite as big as David’s.  His was pretty contagious though! I don’t mind driving, but I’m a terrible night driver because I get so sleepy.  I was a little worried about how the girls would travel, especially Bella, and I was definitely worried about the loaded trailer.  And then, we were off.  Adam opted to travel with me and cranked up Adventures in Odyssey which was a great sleep deterrent.

We hit heavy traffic that slowed but didn’t stop us on the 81 and then passed through torrential rain for about ten minutes on the 66.  And after that, it was smooth sailing.

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I can’t even describe what it felt like to pull into our driveway a little before one or to wake up the next morning knowing we didn’t have to tackle the drive.  It’s been the most amazing thing, this coming home.  I’ve never moved back into a house before and I know it helped so much with us feeling at home right away.  The house and yard took a beating because of us not being here to maintain it for so long.  It was terribly disappointing to leave a house that looked like new and come home to a house that needed so, so much care and repair, but it was home.  I had the strangest feeling the next day as they unloaded furniture and set it up in the living room …. like, did those four and a half years really happen or didn’t they?!

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We have loved being back.  And apparently, Bella loved Virginia, too.  For whatever reason, less stress for Mommy??? possible mold in the house in Maryland??? she drew a line in the sand the day we moved.  Every day for a week she became less and less fussy.  By Monday she was lying down taking naps and sleeping 10-11 hours at night.  When she was awake, she played happily.  She literally turned into a dream baby!

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Moving back hasn’t been without it’s adjustments.   That’s always and always a part of change.  But over and again we’ve felt confirmation that this is what God wanted for us.  I feel so grateful for the opportunity to once again be surrounded by so many things that make me feel happy.  Friends.  Family.  Church.  Beauty.  Connection.  Resources.  And so much more.  I am not soaking in the blessings, but not without pause.  How can I enjoy fully, yet not selfishly?  I want to embrace this beautiful gift God has given while still living with intention, generosity, and especially with this level of gratitude.  Because the truth is, this is a gift from Him! Not something I deserve or for more to demand.  I never dreamed I’d feel guilty for having such a nice life.

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“You desire truth in my heart, and in its secret places you will give me wisdom. Make me to hear joy and gladness! Create in me a clean heart and a steady spirit. Restore the joy of salvation and hold me with your generous spirit.” Psalm 51 paraphrase mine.


Of Many Things

Which might be a title for, I have no idea where this is going.

I don’t even know where to start or which of the ten bajillion things in my brain I should let spill out, but I’m going to at least dust off this space and try again.

I’ve taken breaks before, but I’m not ever sure it’s been this long.  I lost my mood to write soon after we moved to Maryland and made myself do it now and then just to keep words moving around in my brain.  Now I’m home and the urge is coming back, but I’m needing to do some personal processessing to see if I really want to be vulnerable again.

The internet has changed a lot since the day I start writing.  My first blog was more of a social community and less about writing style or even content.  Kind of like women hanging out over coffee except that we were all hanging out in our homes with a cup of Folgers and talking through our fingers.  These days it feels like mostly the serious bloggers remain.  Either the ones who are talented writers or DIYers or the people who are passionate about social issues or the people who are cu-razy talented bakers or home designers or … you get the picture.  That’s not me.

It’s changed in other ways, too.  Even Facebook seems to have shifted from mostly cute baby pictures and snarky comments about the weather and great cups of coffee to being heavily interspersed with arguments about vaccines and  the refugee crisis.  It’s a bit frightening.  Sometimes those of us who are verbal apparently appear confident and unshakeable because we are “willing to put ourselves out there.”  That must mean we are are made of stainless steel and can be shot at verbally.  That may be true for some people.  It may also just be that some of us are extroverts and process things by talking or writing while other people are introverts and process things by reading and thinking.  So, while I’ve experienced a lot of personal growth and freedom in the last four years, I’m not sure I’m completely ready to live out loud again.  But I’m ready to grow some more and to learn how to respond in kindness instead of cowering.

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But I’m ready for several reasons.  One, I don’t have time to scrapbook right now.  I love, love, love going back to read our family’s story.  It’s nothing amazing, just normal life.  But as I read I remember so many details I’d have forgotten.  I see the faithfulness of God woven through our story in the mundane and the miraculous.  I remember what it felt like to be that person in that time.  Sometimes I cringe a little, but most of the time I melt inside at the precious gift of life. So even if no one else reads it, I’m going to write again so that I can remember these days.

I’m going to write again because I think storytelling is important.  We learn through story.  I’ve benefited so very, very much from watching other women.  There is negativity online but there is also a strong, positive community.  There are strong women who are wrestling with life in beautiful, varied ways.  Sometimes they make me laugh. Sometimes they show me how.  Sometimes they don’t know the answers and I watch them search and learn and wait.

I’m going to write again because in the same way that the children of Israel were told to set stones as a remembrance, writing is my “altar.”  It’s my way of recording what God is doing so that I don’t forget.  Sometimes you will see it, too.  Sometimes it’s hidden and I only allude to something, but I will remember what God was doing in our lives at the time.  I often called my time in Maryland my #lifeinthewilderness because it really did feel that way.  It felt physically like a wilderness, but it was also a personal emotional and spiritual wilderness.  David and I often felt that it was for a season and that it was preparatory.  We still don’t know for what, but I learned so, so much inside my soul in those four years and four months.

I’m going to write because sometimes those social issues like the refugee crisis stir things so deeply in my heart that I feel as though I cannot function unless I talk about them.  So far they’ve been long Facebook posts that get typed out and then deleted instead of published.  Or scrawls on the back of envelopes lying around on the counter because my head feels as though it will explode if I don’t get it out.  As a friend of mine once said, “Silence is not always golden.”

I’m going to blog again because while there is plenty of selfishness left inside of me, I’m getting lost in the shuffle of motherhood.  I’ve always said that our marriages and families benefit when we stay alive as women.  I still believe that.  But it *feels* next to impossible to do anything for me.  These days I’m happy if I get a hot shower.  I’m feeling that urge to just not care.  To let it go.  To lay it all down.  While it’s good and noble to lay down our wants for our families, I think a little tension is actually a good thing.  When it’s easier to not care that I don’t get to do anything for me, then I know I need to carve out some space so I don’t get lost as a person.  We are women.  We are caretakers.  And while we’re taking care of everyone else, we really should take care of ourselves.  I don’t think when God called us to be mothers that He imagined lost personhood as a way to glorify Him.

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Well, that’s a little crazy.  I wasn’t planning to talk about any of that.  I logged on trying to decide if I should do a “We’re home” catch up or talk about Bella.  Because I’ve just lived four months of her darling babyhood with barely a scratch on the back of an envelope to show for it.

Maybe I needed this even more than I realized.


My Cumberland Maryland Bucket List

I’ve had an unofficial bucket list ever since we moved here in 2012.  Whenever I’d hear about something fun, I’d add it to the mental list of things to do while we were here.  Some things we enjoyed so much we did them more than once!  A few things didn’t happen because some of them weren’t very baby friendly and we’ve kind of been in pregnant or baby or tiny toddler who needs a nap mode for three of the four and a half years we’ve been here.

If you’re ever in the area and need something fun to do, here’s a list of things to get you started.

Take a bike ride on the C&O bike path from Frostburg to Cumberland

Walk through Paw Paw tunnel (even better if you can go in the Spring when the spring peepers deafen you)

Hike Lovers Leap

Bike from Cumberland to Oldtown (You could go from Frostburg to Oldtown, but we keep our activities family friendly.  Two hours is about our max.)

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Take a drive through Green Ridge (try not to get lost like we did) 😉

Eat dinner at Ottovianis (So, so incredibly delicious.  David and I love privately owned restaurants like this.)

Tour Emmanuel Parish

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Attend church at Emmanuel Parish (amazing, amazing organ music)

Eat dinner outside at Crabby Pig and watch the foot, bike, skateboard traffic

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Canoe from Oldtown to Paw Paw (sadly this and the next canoe trip are the ones I missed out on; but I did get a raft ride to Indian rocks.  The scenery is phenomenal.)

Canoe the Potomac through “the trough”

Walk the historic section of Cumberland

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Eat pizza at Uncle Jacks and read the history on the restaurant

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Spend a day at Lake Habeeb … swim, boat, or hike the loop around the lake

Eat ice cream at Queen City Creamery (Must try: root beer float made with root beer on tap!)

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Get donuts at M&M bakeshop (go early, they sell out quickly)

Take the kids to the annual fishing derby

And finally in the last two weeks, we’ve wrapped up three more big items!

Visit Swallow Falls in Garret County.  The boys’ art and piano teacher posted pictures of the falls in the winter when they turned to ice.  Absolutely gorgeous!  Considering we were going to be going there with babies, I preferred the summer version which actually turned out to be autumn.  I knew the falls would be gorgeous, but I was completely unprepared for the fabulous setting! We walked paths past hemlocks estimated to be over 300 years old, past a camping site Thomas Edison used, past breathtaking views of the river.  It was so incredible I thought I might hyperventilate.  Definitely a must see!

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A few days later we took a ride on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.  We’ve been wanting to do this ever since we moved here; but it’s pretty expensive so we kept pushing it down the road.  Then in June Liam won four tickets at the fishing derby!  We were so thrilled!  We still kept pushing it down the road because a landslide in May made a section of the railroad impassable.  The landslide is cleaned up, but readings are showing instability nearby so they still aren’t going to Frostburg.  Instead the shorter route stops at Woodcock Hollow where you can get out, have a picnic, and tour the engine and caboose.  If we had it to do over we’d eat on the train and spend the whole thirty minutes exploring.  The other sad part was that we really wanted to take the steam engine, but it’s in the shop and they’re only running the diesel currently.  The man who gave us the tickets was so nice and bumped it up to five to cover our whole family.  So much generosity! I wish we could thank him in person!  While we didn’t get to go to Frostburg, we did still get to see the cave, go through the tunnel, and see Helmstetters curve … all of which we had seen on our bike ride from Frostburg to Cumberland.  If you have plenty of time and money, the best way to experience this would be to pay extra to take your bike on the train to Frostburg and then bike back!

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Last night we went to Puccinis for supper.  David and I ate here when Zara was a baby and I so badly wanted to take the boys back!  Built in 1819, the house served as a hospital for union and confederate soldiers during the Civil War.  They make phenomenal pizza in a wood fired oven in the basement.  My favorite, hands down, is the one with carmelized onions, goat cheese, and arugula.  #partyinmymouth When I asked for a menu back to show the boys the timeline, the waiter asked if we had been upstairs.  I had no idea they allowed people access!  On the third floor you can see charcoal drawings and etchings made by convalescing soldiers! David and the boys were equally intrigued by the areas where the plaster was peeling and you could see the structure of the walls from days before drywall.  History lessons that include food are always my favorite. :)

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It’s been a fun list!


Fussy Baby Solutions

The title of this post is misleading.

I am still looking for solutions.

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Some days it feels as though I’m shooting at every moving target out there and missing the right ones.

However, things are infinitely better than they were four weeks ago.  Something is helping.  I feel as though I’ve tried almost everything there is to try and it’s hard to tell which thing helped the most or what all was the real cause and what just took the edge off things.

I went dairy free for Bella.  Like really, really dairy free.  Not even a trace of casein or lactose anywhere.  It made a significant difference.  Her snotty / stuffy nose cleared up and she was somewhat less gassy.

Note the somewhat.

She also went from having 15 poopy diapers per day to two or three.  That’s pretty obvious.

I also started eliminating onions, peppers, lettuce, beans, most gluten, nuts, almost any raw vegetables.  She was always fussy, but every time she had a super fussy time I shot at whatever I ate previously and eliminated it.  I was so desperate!  Eventually I realized that wasn’t the real issue and I was starving.  So now we’re back to just no dairy and a few other things in moderation.  I’m hoping that won’t be toooooo much longer.  I’ve never cut anything before except watermelon and cabbage so this is new territory for me.

Someone sent probiotics they liked for their baby, and it seemed to make a HUGE difference.  That also happened to coincide with the day I absolutely, completely crashed.  I’m not even going to say how dark or how bad it was, but I was pretty gut-wrenchingly honest with both our families and they started praying like crazy.  I still cry when I think back to those few days and feel a little embarrassed, but they were a safe place.  I don’t want to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t talked.  Bella was literally an angel those next few days.  She still didn’t settle until midnight, but she almost never cried. I can’t even tell you what kind of a miracle that was.  But the bigger miracle was how I felt inside.  Sometime I should do an entire post on what happens when people pray, because this is getting really de-railed.

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The angel baby part lasted the four most intense days it needed to and then our sweet, but fussy Bella was back. I still reach for the probiotics on her bad days and they do seem to make a difference; but I don’t give her one every day.  She’s getting them indirectly; but maybe I really should keep giving them to her and see what happens.  The easiest way to get them in her is to dissolve one in about 1.25 cc of water and then squirt a tiny bit into the side of her mouth at a time.

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Just over three weeks ago, we took her to see a pediatric dentist and she was diagnosed with a mild tongue tie and class IV lip tie.  (That link includes soooooo much helpful information in this post, the comments on it, and the posts next to it.) We decided to go ahead and do the revision and for the next three days I thought we’d made an awful decision.  Most people on the support group I was part of had babies with serious tongue ties.  Many of them saw huge differences right away because their babies could finally nurse!  Bella’s tongue tie was mild.  I’ve gotten diagnosed with oversupply and overreactive letdown every single baby, so getting milk into her tummy has never been an issue.

However, the lip tie makes it impossible for babies to get a good seal so they suck in a lot of air creating a very gassy tummy.  After three days of super, super, super fussy, Bella started settling out. Day five post revision, which is when most babies are fussiest, we spent the day in Baltimore doing family work with David and Bella almost never cried in her car seat.  Did you catch that?  We were in shock!  Babies with reflux can have a hard time in their car seats, especially when they have lots of air in their tummies.  The pressure is intense causing terrible reflux from the sitting position.  Then they start crying which makes their little bodies tense making more reflux …………… it’s just an awful combination.  I’ve listened to enough screaming in a vehicle to give someone PTSD.  Those moms who put their babies in car seats and go for a ride to stop the crying? I feel as though I’m from a different planet.  I usually dread anything involving the word car seat because my babies cry, and cry, and cry.  Actually they scream.

Unfortunately, she’s reattaching because I didn’t stretch her consistently enough afterward, so she’s back to gagging some when she eats.  But the seal breaking isn’t nearly as bad as it was and her car seat issues are still gone so I’m definitely grateful.  And still upset with myself for not doing the tough love thing and stretching her even though it hurt her.  Stretching is key to not reattaching.

We’re also seeing a cranial sacral therapist since the revision.  Bella slept and slept for the two days after her first treatment and then started gradually getting more fussy.  Now since the second treatment, she seems much better.  I’ve been so incredibly grateful to find such a good provider!  She is so knowledgeable and has a lot of experience with ties.  Breastfeeding has so many benefits already, but did you know that having a good latch isn’t just about you and baby’s comfort?  It also helps to shape a baby’s palette (especially extended breastfeeding) and widens it.  A breastfed baby tends to need less oral work done later; but a baby with ties has the same percentage of oral work as a bottle fed baby because they don’t latch correctly.  I wouldn’t have asked for the experience, but I’ve learned so many fascinating things in the last few weeks.  Every time, I am more and more in awe of how complex and intricately designed our bodies are!

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I ordered an herbal tincture from an herbalist who makes them fresh, and I’m hoping that will take care of the evenings that still involve intermittent walking / bouncing.  Bella’s days are so much better.  Just this week she started fairly consistently napping in her crib once or twice a day.  I say consistently in a whisper, because I think we’ve had three or four days.  But her evenings are still punctuated with sudden back arching and screaming.  Each episode is calmed in a few minutes, but something is still making her uncomfortable.  I’m hoping the tincture will help, because I just don’t know what else to look at.

I also ordered one for me; because the truth is, I’m stressed.  The herbalist was apologizing when she said she thought the passionflower should be for me, not Bella.  I wasn’t offended.  Four children + homeschooling + fussy baby + moving is like being handed a very tough deck of cards.  I’m not going to whine about it, but I’m also not going pretend I’m cruising through smoothly.  I’ve noticed for awhile that there seems to be a pattern with Bella.  She’s less fussy on weekends when David is home or on the rare day I don’t do school.  It feels as though my body lives in fight or flight mode most of the past few weeks just to do normal life.  Plus, I’m exhausted from losing so much sleep. You can’t tell me the cortisol that gets released doesn’t get transferred to her, because it sure seems like everything else does.  I can’t change my life situation, but I can do everything possible to support my body.  That sleep when the baby sleeps thought is a joke when you have more than one child, but I’ve started sleeping when I can which usually translates to Saturday and Sunday morning when David is home to take Bella.  It looks like not pushing so hard and not worrying about whether we will get finished packing.  It looks like using the paper plates my mom brought even though we have a dishwasher.  It looks like doing almost nothing today because David is gone for two days again and those solo times have consistently been her worst.

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Bella rarely settles until midnight.  I’m still blaming the reflux on that.  It takes roughly an hour to an hour and a half after her last feeding for her to be able to lie down horizontally, even with the head of her crib elevated.  So that usually looks like midnight.  Thankfully, she sleeps from then until seven.  I feel so sorry for her with the reflux.  She almost constantly gurgles and / or tries to swallow what is in her throat.  When I lay her down, she looks up at me and smiles.  But about the time she starts to coo, she has to start swallowing and swallowing.  Those sweet little games you play with babies feet? They’re guaranteed to cause a big reflux episode for her.  It’s heartbreaking.  I’d give anything to be able to reach in and help that valve get a little stronger.

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But oh, the sweetness that happens in the minutes we get to see her personality underneath the reflux.  She smiles so easily.  All it takes is someone to come into view and she lights up like you’ve made her entire world spin.  Her cheeks are so chubby they sag.  She gets kissed so often it’s a wonder she doesn’t get tired of it! And the one perk out of all of this? I’ll never look back and regret not holding her more.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if she would have been one of those easy babies who sleeps a lot.  With so much going on, it feels as though her newborn days could have blipped by without realization.  And oddly enough, even with holding her so very much, I always feel a twinge of reluctance when she’s sacked out for the night.  Because holding her is like a tiny breath of heaven on earth.


Going Home

We’re moving home!

After months of thinking about it, the day is almost here!

Maryland will have been home for almost four and a half years by the time we load the truck four weeks from now.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, and hard to believe it’s only been that long.

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David has loved his work here! He counted it an honor to work alongside so many families.  Their trust, their courage, their faith was a gift.  I’ve seen him thrive in a lot of places so it was no surprise to see him do it well; but I think it surprised me how much he loved working with people on such an intense level full-time.  God has clearly given him a gift and it was beautiful to see that side of him develop as he used it!

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But, it’s time to pass the baton to another and we’re excited about moving back to Virginia!

Zara and Bella know nothing other than Maryland and Liam has almost no memories of living there.  So while it feels like moving home to David and I, this is going to mean “new” territory for half our family.  We were down doing a bit of work on the house over Labor Day and Zara talks often about the place we’re moving to.  “Remember dat house dat has NO TOYS.  Den we have to get a big truck and take my toys and my bed and my drawers {dresser}.”

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Four years means so much change in a family in our stage.  We moved here, the family with two little boys.  We’re returning with big boys and two little girls.  I cannot believe how different the boys seem when I remember the first days here.  I think back to the transition then and who had the hardest time adjusting, and then I look ahead and wonder what it’s going to be like helping them walk through the move back.  They’ve made a lot of good memories here.  They loved the opportunities for canoeing and fishing and swimming at the aqueduct.  It’s a boy’s world around here and they loved it!

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It’s been a home away from home.  We’ve loved walk / bike rides on our waaaaaaay back in quiet road.  I’ve loved watching the hummingbirds and the fun of having a sparrow build its nest in one of the ferns on the front porch.  I’d have been just fine without the snakes or the bear on the porch, but apparently it comes with the territory. :)

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One of the nicest surprise gifts here was having such exceptional neighbors.  You know how some people go to great lengths to make it look like they’re at home when they’re not?  Well, we told ours because we knew they’d look out for us.  When David was gone on those crazy late nights and I got scared by a strange vehicle going by way too fast (oh the way you notice cars when you only have about eight vehicles on your road per day), I’d call Kiersten to see if anything is up.  When Sherri found out David and the boys were gone overnight again, she came up and hung out for two hours holding Bella and reading stories to Zara so I wouldn’t lose my sanity.  They’re the kind you borrow eggs from and neither of you remembers if you replaced them.  The kind who end up talking at the end of your driveway and you suddenly decide to go walking together and they push your stroller. They are proof that the small town America the old people talk about is still thriving.

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Now there are so many lasts to squeeze in-between all the getting ready.  The last shopping day with my friend, Sheryl.  I still can’t believe the gift of being at camp the same time she was! The last night out with friends in Hagerstown.  And hopefully, a last dinner date for David and I at our favorite restaurant in town.

God has taught me so much during my #lifeinthewilderness as I dubbed it on instagram.  I hope someday after we move I’ll get a day just to reminisce, to think, to pray, to see a bigger picture of what all He was speaking.

But for now, it’s purging and boxes and packing tape.  Transition and stability.  Organization and chaos. Goodbyes and see you soons.

And lots of baby kisses in between.


Zara’s Running Dialogue

And on the heels of boy quotes, I’m pretty sure Zara could fill an entire post all by herself.  There are times David and I just shake our heads and grin at each other.  She is so girl.  For starters, there was the wailing episode in the bathtub when I asked her why she is crying.  “I don’t knooooooow,” she sobbed.

Then there are the multiple times when her own jabbering isn’t sufficient and she says hopefully, “Can ‘ou talk wif me?”

I love this stage of talking with all the mutilated words, but especially because it is just the funniest thing to hear such grown up stuff come from such little people (or miniature human as Adam would put it).

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It’s no secret that Zara has older brothers.  She pretends to gallop on horses and shoots imaginary birds through the car windows.  But it gets really funny when she mimics with no idea what she is saying.  Recently she started asking (in a rather whiny voice to boot), “Can I have some fwee [free] time?”  Um, isn’t that what two year olds do all day every day??

Other times she gets all glow-y and says, “I’n an idea!”

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For awhile she would ask, “What time is it?” multiple times a day.  And then when I answered she got indignant because in her mind it was always 4:30.

She gets pool and Pooh all mixed up and and so we often get asked, “Can me watch shwimming in du Pooh?”

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That little shw is just the cutest, even if it makes her sound inebriated.  “Oh, she sho shweeeeeeeeet,” she croons over Bella dozens of times a day.

She was so in love with Bella long before she was born and would often ask, “Baby, mommy’s hummy told? [Is the baby in Mommy’s tummy cold?]. No, the baby isn’t cold.  “Baby Mommy’s hummy ‘ine?”  Yes, the baby is fine.  And then she’d be off to play.

She is Miss Independent in capital letters and italics.  I know this is a rite of passage, but she’s certainly doing a good job of making sure we don’t miss the fact that it’s happening.  “How we do it?” gets said with only slightly less regularity than “I can mySELF.”

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And then she gets all melty and cuddly as soon as she and Bella are both in the same parent’s lap.  “Do ‘ou ‘ave ‘ou two yittle dirls?

There are so many, many consonants that get replaced.  She wears ship hops on her feet and says a bad word when she tries to say they fit.  We split laughing when she watched a video of Liam taken when he was three and her response was, “Whoa.  He can weally talk well.”

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Not only is she independent, she’s pretty sure she can keep Adam and Liam in line singlehandedly.  Sometimes the boys will throw ball with her.  She stands at the top of the stairway and one of them will stand at the bottom.  It doesn’t level the playing field but it definitely makes it less boring for them.  Once when she went to retrieve the ball, Adam hid.  She yelled and yelled his name and when he didn’t reappear she said, “Hey, Mommy, A’am not being ‘bedient!

It didn’t take her very long to figure out that Mom’s word is authority so one day when they were tussling on high in the basement and she was too afraid to join them she sat on the steps for a bit.  Suddenly she declared, “Hey boys, my mom tell me ‘ou ‘ave to dop [stop].  I thought it was hysterical until the next day when she tried it on me.  She wanted something and I said no.  She looked at me and said quite certainly, “My mom tell me me TAN.”

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She’s still trying to figure out where things come from and recently she will often say, “Dis nummy, nummy, nummy.  Who made it?” when she likes the food.  But when I reply she insists, “No, DOD [God] made it.”

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Liam is flat out amazing with her.  He keeps her entertained when I ask him, too, but more often than not he plays with her simply because he loves her.  He teaches her all kinds of fun ways to play, or gets her to join him when he’s working.  He just finished up his own thirty day challenge of running five times a day from our house to the neighbor’s house and back.  Zara badly wanted to run, too, so one day he took her out running across the yard to the fence and back after he finished his own sprint.  It became a need for her, suddenly.  One morning she was sitting on top of the loveseat trying to convince Liam to take her to run to the fence.  He wasn’t in the mood and said she could go on her own.  “No, me tant doe on my own.  Dat ‘ould be dary [scary],” she said sadly.  Instantly Liam softened and he took her on a run.  No wonder she adores him!

My favorite quote though, is only about Zara, not one she said.  We were one the way home from the beach and she was being oh so very Zara.  David just shook his head and said, “I pity her husband.” :) :)


The funnies

I’ve gotten so out of the habit of writing down things the boys say; but they’re still making me laugh almost every day.  The other day I grabbed a pen after Adam looked at Zara and said, “She’s pretty much a miniature human with an almost developed brain.” :) For real.  And then I discovered this ooooooold post in my drafts folder and figured better late than never.  So enjoy a few golden oldies.

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Adam was talking about radiation and the harmful effects it can have while we were fixing lunch.  I was microwaving leftovers when he got himself a drink and said, “I get really thirsty when I eat radiated food.”

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The boys had been studying parasites in Science toward the end of their school year.  About the same time Durlin and Emily came to visit and I got to take six month pictures of their darling, pudgy baby girl.  Liam was looking at the pictures of her later and said, “She is the smiliest baby I ever saw.  Every time you look at her she smiles.” Then he took a look at her chubby legs and said, “She’s so fat she might have that lymphocytic ermich….. whatever it’s called.”

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Liam went downstairs to brush his teeth and get ready for bed when suddenly he came huffing back up the steps.  “I’m a hound sniffing down my hug and kiss!”  Seriously? This is when I just want them never to grow up!

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We were driving into town and Adam was in thoughtful mode.  Pretty soon he said, “You know, Daddy isn’t quite over the hill, but he’s kind of on the edge.  [poignant pause] He’s just not very lively and [short pause] sharp anymore.”  Phew! Glad I’m still a year David’s junior. :)

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The boys were eating lunch and Adam was exclaiming over the good cherry tomatoes he’d picked in the garden.

Liam: “Is there a lucky day?”

Me: “You mean like on the calendar?”

Liam: “Yes.”

Me: “No.”

Liam: “Shoot.  I was going to try cherry tomatoes on that day.”

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We were riding up 29 North in Charlottesville when we came up beside a man on a motorcycle wearing a gopro on his helmet.  Liam took one look and said, “”Oh, that’s so lucky.  Then you don’t need a wife and a car.”  No need for wife paparazzi, huh?

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We’d been discussing how different people have different strengths.  One day Liam asked me, “What are you good at?”

Me: “Oh, the only thing I’m a pro at currently is being a mom to you guys.”

Liam: “No, you’re pretty good at clearing the dishwasher.”

Always good to have a vote of confidence somewhere. 😉

 


Helping Babies Sleep at Night

After my last post, you should know I don’t consider myself an expert on this baby life thing.  Babies are so intricate and individual and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.  Equally important, moms are different and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

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If I could only tell a new mom one thing I think this would be it.  Do what works for you.  Follow your mom intuition.  You may not have a big sense of it yet; but you do have one.  The more you exercise it, the more you will hear it.  Listen to it. It doesn’t mean you are always right; but often you are.  The right decision is the one that works for you. Not the one that works for your sister in law or your friend or the other mom at church who makes parenting look like a piece of cake.

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I learned this quickly.  Adam was a few months old when I tried making him go to sleep in his crib.  Why? Because that’s how most of the moms at church did it.   It’s what the pediatric magazines all said.  It’s what his doctor recommended.

He cried for what felt like an eternity while I bent over his crib and patted his back.  I hated every minute of it and I totally refused to do it again until he was almost two.  I love, love, love rocking my babies. It’s one of my favorite things to do.  They love it, too.  So I don’t care how many hours of research are behind those magazine articles, I will rock them until they or I am ready to transition.  Same thing with so many other things.  Figure out what you believe when it comes to all those hot button mom topics and follow your heart.  You will be a far more consistent and less frustrated mama if you believe in the way you are parenting.

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So I offer this, not as a do it this way solution; but simply as one of those hanging out in the nursery at church chats.  It’s what worked for us and some of it has been handed down from my mama because it worked for her.  She was told by her mom and it worked for her.  Who knows.  Maybe some of it’s genetic.  Maybe it’s just the way we’re wired to parent.  But I’ve been sharing this with friends for awhile and sometimes it has helped.

I’d reeeaaally like to avoid creating a hot button post so please can I say one more time, this isn’t the only right way.  I have no judgement for anyone who likes to sleep train or who enjoys getting up with their baby at night and doesn’t want it to change.  I’ll celebrate whichever way you want it.  But just in case you wish your baby would sleep through the night and want to try something that might help, I’ll share the love that was shared with me.

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My babies have all slept for long chunks of time at night from early on.  One of them waited until just shy of four weeks to pull a five hour stretch but I think they all did eight by two months.  The last three slept four to five hours by the time they were a week old. Bella might throw me on the eight hour stretches by two months though. :)

We don’t do any sleep training.  I’m a bit more of a gentle, middle of the roader when it comes to that one.  But I do like to encourage it.  Here’s what we’ve learned.

Advice from my mom and from her mom.

Keep it quiet at night.  Believe it or not, in those first few days it is possible to be so euphoric about your darling baby that when she wakes at 2 AM you want to talk to her. Try not to.  Don’t make eye contact either because eye contact is super stimulating to a tiny baby.  Use the lowest light possible for those diaper changes and feedings.  We put a 15 watt bulb in a lamp and keep it away from the changing table / feeding area.

Keep your baby warm.  All the experts say to dress your baby like you dress or maybe one more layer.  Really? They just exited a cozy apartment where they were snuggled tight and the temperature always stayed just shy of 99 degrees.  And now we’re supposed to lay them flat on their backs in a 70 something house with only the amount of clothes we wear and expect them to sleep.  It’s kind of laughable, really.

Lots of babies like to be swaddled and it’s safer to swaddle them than to put a loose blanket on top of them.  So swaddle them up.  Bella loves a cotton swaddle and a heavier blanket wrapped around her and tucked in.  Your baby shouldn’t sweat, but if she’s waking up with cool hands and feet, she’s probably cold. (Yes, I know they all say babies have poor circulation.  Their hands and feet might be cold.  I’m just saying what works for us.)  Think about how hard she sleeps when she’s lying on your chest.  She gets all warm and relaxed from your body heat.  Her circulation might not be great; but she doesn’t like being cold.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a tiny baby with mottled arms and legs in a cold restaurant and had to almost physically restrain myself from walking up with a blanket. 😉  Babies love to be warm.

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The other tip I learned from lactation consultants and my mom.  Wake your baby to eat during the day.  How often will vary based on whether you breastfeed or bottle feed.  Until mine are sleeping well through the night, I always wake them every two hours through the day.  Babies often want a 4-5 hour block without feeding during a twenty four hour period.  They just don’t always choose to take it at night.  I choose to not let them have that block during the day to help encourage them to take it at night.  Occasionally I hear a mom say, my baby woke up every two hours at night; but she takes such good naps.  Sometimes she sleeps for four hours.  That was baby’s night.  She just happened to take it during the day.

Once they’re solidly doing nights, I let them stretch it out longer if they want to.  But until then, two and a half hours is our max.  Three if it’s in the morning or soon after lunch.  Don’t be surprised if your baby wants to cluster feed in the evening.  This is usually a sign that they want to stretch out their nights a little longer.

Listen to your baby! It’s amazing how much they tell us.  It’s just not always easy to decipher the codes.  Zara was a few months old when she started wanting a double feed around ten in the morning.  I almost didn’t let her because I was sure it was going to be disaster.  I figured she just had tummy ache.  But when I did, she slept for three to four hours straight!  It was such a God-send because I was doing school with the boys at the time.  It became the consistent pattern of her day.  Be wakeful, eat, play, do a double feed, take a loooong nap, be wakeful, take a catnap, and then do an seven to eight hour night.  On the days when Bella isn’t tummy achey, she’s definitely asking for more 2 1/2 to 3 hour slots than any of the others who seemed to start yelling for food every hour and a half.

So encourage, but listen to your baby, too!

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If you’re still staggering through to many dark o clock feedings, here’s a hug!  And if I could, I’d deliver a hot cup of coffee in the morning.