Friday, July 22, 2016

When the Ordinary Becomes Extrordinary

Nothing special happened today, and yet today was a special day.

Beckett sat on his own for the first time for longer than 5 seconds, we had a play date with a sweet little girl who has the most amazing expressions, Beck had a wonderful time eating corn on the cob and broccoli for dinner, and we ended the day with a bath where Beck showed off his impressive kicks and swimming skills to Grandma.

My heart is so full.

So many wise mommas told me to treasure these ordinary days - warning me that they go by too fast, that our little ones grow up too quickly. I take this advice very seriously. Ever since I noticed how quickly my little one left the newborn stage and how fast toddlerhood is approaching, I started to take a few extra moments each night to treasure my sweet boy and the day we've just had.  And a magicial thing happened - I realized that nothing "special" had to happen to make a day sweet or memorable. I started to recognize that smiles and laughter really do make the world go round, and that a day that seems frustrating can be softened by some extra cuddles in the rocking chair.

And so, in a time where politics and violence make the future seem uncertain, I'm choosing to cherish the ordinary and appreciate the extrodinary gift I had been blessed with.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer Reading Highlights

Normally I'm not much of a non-fiction reader. I start off with good intentions, but will often get bored and walk away from a book half-way in. Brandon is the complete opposite and has been a good encourager in challenging me to dig a little deeper in the quality of books I read! That said, I've recently finished reading 2 excellent books that I had to share!

1. The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax

In this book Sax, a physician and psychologist, examines the increase in obesity, anxiety, and depression in children and relates this decline in physical and psychological health to modern parenting. Sax argues that parents have become to passive in their parenting and are more afraid of what their kids think of them rather than how their children are behaving. Consequently, kids are being allowed to "call the shots", spend hours on their smart phones and playing video games, and rely on peers and figures in he media to substitute the guidance they aren't getting at home.

I loved how Sax gave concrete examples from his own interactions as a psychiatrist and how he gives practical advice as to how parents can respond to this problem. The book isn't written from a Christian perspective, but many of the parenting philosophies directly align with thoughts and conversations Brandon and I have had that stem from our beliefs. I could barley getting through a page without stopping to read something outloud to was one of those books that If I'd been highlighting important points or things I wanted to remember, the pages would be drowning in yellow!

2. The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley

If this book did anything, it affirmed Brandon and my desire to homeschool. This is a fascinating read that examines the American education system and compares it to higher performing international programs. Ripley follows several American students whom study abroad for a year and compares their experiences while she reviews national education programs and why "smarter" kids are being produced abroad. I was particularly interigues because one of the students Ripley follows was from one of the local high schools here in MN (that is highly ranked). Some of the primary areas Ripley examines are the students' perspectives towards education, the training and recognition of teachers, the importance of being taught how to think rather than how to pass a class. 

So now I'm hooked :) Any non-fiction recommendations I should try out?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Legacy of Love

The last few weeks have been incredibly emotional.

My first Mother's Day started out on an incredibly sweet note as we dedicated Beckett at church. However, on my way home from church I spoke to my mom on the phone. She was unusually emotional - which I first thought was due to the fact that she and my dad weren't able to be in town for the dedication. But after a few minutes she told me that it looked like my grandma was going to pass that day.

Deep down, I wasn't that shocked - my Grandma turned 93 in March and has been in poor health for e last several years. Since this past fall, she has been in and out of the hospital 5x. But the news still blew me away. Amazingly, Grandma rallied that afternoon and was up and about and requesting baby back ribs and carrot cake for dinner. We new it was only a matter of time though, and on Thursday morning we got the call that she had passed.

The last week has been a blur. We spent the time with my family and grandpa - sharing stories and a lot of tears. The hardest part was watching my Grandpa. After 67 years of marriage he still said to me, "we both thought we had a few more years left..."

But what was really incredible was my grandma's funeral. At 93 you would think there would have been a fairly small tour out given that the majority of her friends no family have already passed....but people just kept coming! There were the Muslim owners of the restaurant she and my Grandpa frequented - along with almost the entire restaurant wait staff (think average age 18-23), neighbors from Michigan. New York, and California, and several of the nursing staff who has helped care for her over the last 2 years. They all came with tears and stories - so many stories. It amazed me the lives my Grandma touched in her final years of life and the witness she was to so many nonbelievers. Our family assumed the nursing staff must frequently attend funerals for those they card for, but when we asked they all emphatically said no - Grandma Esther was special.

Let me give you an example. As a child my grandma lost her mother at the age of 14 months....except she didn't know that. Once her mother passed her dad quickly remarried a widow and the couple had a son together. For years, my Grandma suffered what we would now plainly label as extreme emotional abuse at the hands of her stepmother - only to be told by a neighbor girl at the age of 13 that her mother really wasn't her mother after all. This event undeniably has a profound effect on my Grandma's life, and because of the lack of love she felt as a child, she seemed to make it her mission to make sure those around her felt loved - especially children. One of the ways she shared this love, even if just for a moment, was by becoming the "sucker lady" at our local mall. Almost everyday she and my grandpa would go for walks around our local mall. Grandma would slowly walk up and down the corridors, pushing her walker - and every time she passed a child she would stop and say hello and offer them a sucker from her basket. Now, she had to learn that times have changed and if was a good idea to ask the parents before offering the treats, but she continued this tradition for over 10 years!

I was able to speak with my grandma twice on the phone during her final week. She couldn't say much, but both times she made sure to tell Brandon, Beck, and me how much she loved us. But the best part was - I already knew this. Grandma never hesitated to tell you how much she cared about you or how special you were to her - and you knew her words weren't just for show.

As a strong believer, I know she is celebrating in Heaven now, and I praise God that she is free from the immense physical pain that plagued her for so many years. But that doesn't change the fact that there is noticeably a void at our family table - her spirit, sweet kisses, and never ending voicemails will be truly missed.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Beckett James - 5 Months

FIVE months.

How can my baby be this old already? Next thing I know he will be 6 months, and then a year, and then starting kindergarten.....

I am loving this stage of parenting. Beckett is incredibly interactive, and yet almost entirely immobile! Hah! I can only imagine how my lie is going to change once he is on the move!

Currently our little man:

  • Rocks sleeping through the night (with a dream feed) 
  • Rolls, rolls, rolls -I say he is mostly immobile because I'm really impressed with the distance he can cover by just rolling around!
  • Talks from morning to night - babbles, coos, giggles, and said "ma" the other day incredibly clearly which I am of course claiming as a derivative of "mama" and his first word
  • Constantly smiles! Brandon calls him "Mr.Smiles" be cause of the ever constant grin he tends to wear - except when he is in large crowds, wants to eat, or hears a train
  • Is long and chunky. He is in the 99th percentile for his height and was in the 75th for his weight at his last doctors appointment, but given the rolls his thighs have event,y developed I'm guessing that might be increased this month
  • Loves books, music, and walks - which are some of Brandon and my favorite things so we are all on board! 
  • Is fascinated with watching Brandon iron and me dry my hair
  • Is on the verge of teething and consequently drooling buckets each day
It's been fun to think back on last year at this time when we were sharing our news with family and friends! I truly could have never imagined how much joy this little one would bring to our lives!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dear Delta....Assertions from a Nursing Mother

Dear Delta,

With a 4 month old son who just completed his 6th plane trip on your airlines, I feel like I have enough clout at this time to bring some complaints to the forefront of your attention.

Please, could someone explain to me WHY there are not changing tables available on your aircrafts? Out of the past 6 flights I've taken with my son, one had a changing table available. On the other flights it was left to me to determine how to safely change my newborn. One flight attendant suggested I just use the floor of the bathroom. The floor. Of a public aircraft carrier. I'd like to know how that suggestion was even remotely sanitary or possible (given the sizing logistics of an airplane restroom). Another time it was suggested I use the toilet lid. Again I question the cleanliness and safety of attempt to change a rolling baby on a toilet seat - particularly during a turbulent flight.

Now let's talk about seating. When I was traveling with my husband, you were gracious enough to seat us together, even when we hadn't paid to do so ahead time of time. I really appreciated that. Thank you for noting we were traveling with an infant in arms and making that accommodation. But what would be even more helpful is if you could provide me with an aisle or window seat when I am traveling alone. It is one thing to navigate nursing on an airplane when you are sitting next to your spouse - it is a completely different challenge when you are seated in the middle seat between two strange men. Yes, I could have paid to ensure I got an aisle or window seat on the flights (giving myself a little more privacy and maneuvering room), but apparently I wrongly assumed (based on your previous actions when I was traveling with my husband) that you would note that I was traveling with an infant in arms and make some sort of accommodation.

After my first flight experience that this happened, I inquired at the ticketing counter whether I could have such a seat given my nursing needs - and was spoken to in a very rude and demeaning manner that this was an additional purchase I had to make when I bought my ticket.

Yes I nursed my son before I got on the plane in an attempt to have to do so during the flight, but nursing helps soothe his ears during take off and landing (more than a pacifier does). And believe me, I have a baby who is quite a good traveler and happy little one - unless he is hungry. Would you rather listen to my screaming son, or give me a little room and privacy to nurse? And Les b honest, he is only 4 months old. As he grows bigger, I can only see my attempts to change and nurse him on a flight becoming more difficult.

So I ask you Delta - are adding a few changing tables and giving a parent with an infant in arms seating priorities really to much to ask? I mean, I'm not even complaining about the fact that you broke one of my stroller wheels....

Somehow I wonder if this conversation would be different if I was a sky priority member.


Momma from Minnesota

Monday, April 25, 2016

Having a Son Strengthened my Marriage

"A baby changes everything."

I can't tell you the number of people who said this to Brandon and me while I was pregnant. Since his due date was right before Christmas, we even had someone send us a song that includes this phrase! Friends who had recently become parents warned us about the sleepless nights, frustration, and stress that were to come, and admonished us to enjoy our last few weeks of "just us."

While it's true that welcoming Beckett has changed our world - Brandon and I would say that becoming parents has only enriched our lives - including our marriage. Yes, going out for a date night doesn't happen as often and requires a little more planning, but we would both agree that becoming parents has only strengthened our relationship with one another.

First, becoming parents has made our marriage more intentional. Our time and resources are more limited these days. Beckett's needs frequently have to come first as he currently depends on us for everything. Consequently, we've quickly realized that we have to be intentional about our time together. Making time for date nights, giving each other our full attention when we are together (putting screens down/away!), spending time with each other each night after Beckett is in bed, etc. Although we may physically have a little less time to focus on each other, we've found that being intentional about how we spend that time makes all the difference.

Additionally, becoming parents has strengthened the spiritual aspect of our marriage. Every day we spend time just staring at Beckett and reflecting in awe that God blended our genes to create our little man. Furthermore, we both recognize the incredible responsibility we have been gifted with, to raise up a child to love and serve the Lord. Consequently, we've both seen changes in the intensity and depth of our personal and family devotions and prayer life. From the beginning of our marriage we've recognized that the more active we our in our faith walk, the better our marriage is - this continues to be true today.

Finally, becoming parents has brought more grace into our marriage. During the first few weeks of Beckett's life, especially when I was hit with my crazy case of hives, we quickly realized that we needed to start showing each other a little more grace (I think I had to learn this lesson a little more than Brandon did!!). So what if Brandon didn't put on a diaper or hold the baby the way I did? I had to recognize that he was wanting and willing to help and was desiring to spend time with our son. Likewise, Brandon practiced showing me some extra grace when we ate eggs multiple times in a row for dinner when I was struggling with sleep training Beckett or adjusting to working outside the home with a newborn. Choosing to extend grace rather than bickering or brewing in anger has made all the difference!

And although each family must make their own decision, Brandon and I firmly believe that having me stay-at-home full time makes all the difference in how smoothly our home runs and relieving stress in our marriage. During the weeks that I was working outside of the home I was physically and emotionally spent by the time Beckett went to bed. There were numerous times that I said to Brandon, "I feel like I have nothing left to give you!" I hated that. While my days are still exhausting, it is refreshing to know that I'm being drained by putting energy into our family, rather than an outside source...

So my concluding recommendation = have a baby. Sure it changes everything, but our experience has been that you can choose to allow those changes to have a positive effect on your life and marriage - and the sweet smiles and coos are all worth it :)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Unnecessary Things my Baby Loves

Lets face it, there is a lot of junk out there that baby marketers try and convince new (or old) parents they NEED to successfully raise a happy, healthy baby. When Brandon and I first started out on our parenting journey, one of the things we discussed was that we didn't want our lives overwhelmed by "baby stuff." We got some excellent recommendations from some seasoned parents we know and love, and attempted to move forward with a minimalistic approach.

That said, were surrounded by by loving family and friends who have generously showered Beckett with gifts. And while I still think we have a lot more stuff than necessary, it turns out (much to my chagrined) that Beckett loves some of the extras...

So I thought I'd share a few baby items that while not "necessary," are certainly a hit around our house!

1. Activity Mat

I purposefully did not register for one of these, thinking my baby would be just as content to lay on a blanket. Turns out Beckett has been enamored with this thing since he was a bout 3 weeks old. First he simply loved to lay and just look at the dangling toys, now, at almost 4 months, the activity mat still provides extensive entertainment since he can grab at and shake the toys. Plus, I think the one we were given (linked) is pretty cute!

Just doing some tummy time on the activity gym!

2. WubaNub

It turns out that Beckett is a huge sucker - if he doesn't have a toy to suck on he will go for whatever is closest - his hands, a bib, blanket, etc. He has one of these pacifiers with a giraffe attached (who, we lovingly refer to as "Gerald" after the giraffe in Giraffe's Can't Dance - one of my favorite children's books) and loves to snuggle up with it. Honestly he seems to enjoy sucking on the giraffe's limbs as much as he does the pacifier itself. as an added bonus, he can grasp the little animal Pretty well, which helps him keep the paci in better.

While attempting to suck on 2 toys, his bib, and his hands all at once....

3. Boon Grass Drying Rack

Okay, this is an unnecessary thing I love :) I didn't expect to be using bottles nearly as much as we did, but with my great hive adventure and then going back to work for a few weeks i spent quite a bit of time washing bottles and pump parts. I love how this drying rack works and contains all those air drying parts!

4. Rattle/Sensory Teether

We were given a ton of toys for Beck, but this is really the only one that has interested him so far. He loves it because he can chew on it (go figure) and really grab and hold onto it. Other rattle just seem to be too heavy/thick for him at this point.

While we still may be a little more overrun with baby paraphanalka than I would ideally like, I still think we've done a pretty good job at keeping the stuff monster out (I mean do you really need 5 things for your newborn to sit/lay on?). And like everything else that comes with new parenthood, I'm learning to relax more and go with the flow.....and putting my need to control in God's hands!