Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I Blinked


One year ago I went to work, visited my midwife, walked 3 miles on the treadmill, made Italian sausage soup for supper, ate dinner with Brandon, watched a little Project Runway, and then almost delivered a baby on the way to the hospital!

This year has truly been amazing. Words truly can't express the joy Beckett brings to our little family.  Even during the most trying moments I am often struck with awe that God gifted us this little man - that he is a part of me and the man I love the most in the world.

And I'm not going to lie, I love being his favorite. I love being the one who can comfort him and who he turns to first for snuggles or kisses (until his Daddy walks in the door after work - then I'm old news!).

Currently Beckett:

- weighs approximately 23 lbs and stands almost 30 inches tall
- crawls all over the place - mostly on his hands and feet (like a walking downward dog)
- pulls himself to standing and loves to cruise around the couch, coffee table, bathtub, etc.
- eats absolutely everything - although he's not a huge fan of peaches or cottage cheese
- hasn't shown any signs of separation anxiety (knock on wood), mostly he loves being around other people and will happily share a smile with anyone he crosses paths with
- is a champion sleeper at night....naps are hit or miss but he will happily talk or sing to himself in his crib during his nap time if he doesn't fall asleep
- loves to play with anything with wheels
- babbles constantly and hasn't said "mama" and "dada" but doesn't use them consistently
- loves swimming in the the bathtub more than anything else!

Happy Birthday sweet boy!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Creating a Family Mission Statement

When Brandon and I were engaged he tossed out the idea of creating a family mission statement. I hadn't really heard of the idea before, but had seen pallet signs stating "house rules" popping up in craft stores and around Pinterest and was intrigued with doing something similar.

During our first year of marriage we had quite a few conversations about what we wanted our family "values" to be. We knew from the start that we wanted the mission of our family to be to serve God and others, but talked a lot about what we thought that looked like from a practical level and how we could implement it into our daily lives.

Here are some of the general notes we came up with:

Mission Statement:

- To know and radiate God's love
- To become a family after God's own heart
- To build up treasure in Heaven
- To represent Christ in all things

Family Vision:

To not fear or despair about growing old


- Invest in relationships
- Practice gratitude
- Show hospitality
- Use resources creatively to further God's kingdom, promote justice on earth, and build relationships
- Mind your attitude
- Be present
- Train children in order to give them increasing amounts of freedom and responsibility (assume responsibility and freedom)
- Laugh
-Value experiences over stuff
- Accept and give God's love
- Develop your character
- Appreciate beauty
- Dwell on excellence

These were such fun conversations to have! They encouraged us to talk about our faith walks, upbringings, and our hopes and dreams for the future.

Ultimately we ended up selecting several values that we felt best described the mission we desired for our family and this past summer we worked with BetweenYouAndMeSigns to create a piece of art to display these values in our home. Not only is this sign one of my favorite pieces in our home, but it is prominently displayed in our dining room - making it one of the first things visitors see when they enter our house and something we look at as a family multiple times a day (in passing and at every meal!).

Whether you have a well established family or are just starting out, I would highly encourage you to take time with your spouse and/or children and create a family mission statement for your home!

" for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15

Friday, August 19, 2016

Simple Joys

Last night I gathered with several women from my church for one of my new favorite bi-monthly traditions - a recipe swap! We each bring a favorite dish and share a meal together.  While talking one Sunday, several of us realized we all had tons of recipes pinned on Pinterest, but often didn't get around to actually trying them! This has been a great way to taste some of those recipes and find out what is really good before trying it out on our families :) One of the ladies gathers the recipes beforehand and has them printed, hole punched, and ready to insert into some colorful binders bought for the occasion. While it's been a fun way to find some great new recipes, my favorite thing has become just getting to know some new friends!

Since many of us are young moms or newlyweds, conversation typically centers around the little ones in our life, marriage, and faith (i.e. last night several of us realized that ironing is at the top of our dreaded chore list - but our husbands don't mind it at all!). Last night we decided to try something new and pulled out some of the IF:Gathering Conversation Cards. My favorite question of the night turned out to be: "What is something simple that brings you joy?"

We talked about how it's easy to come up with the big things in life that bring you joy - vacations, holidays, date nights, etc., but what about the little everyday things? Are you even on the lookout for what those little things are?

Some of the answers included:

- "Mail Dates" - a couple's nightly walk out to the mailbox and around the house after their kids are tucked in for the night
- A good cup of coffee
- Sweets!
- Quiet time when all the kids manage to nap at the same time

My answer was walks - especially our Sunday family walks. Almost every afternoon Beckett and I head out for a walk after his afternoon nap and before Brandon comes home. Both of us love getting outside and I love to take in the silence or listen to a sermon/podcast while Beck engages in some intense people/animal watching. We live in the middle of a great park system and are blessed to have several trails through the woods and around parks and ponds right at our fingertips. Back in the spring, Brandon and I started heading out every Sunday afternoon for a family walk. Most of the time Brandon loves to choose a new location for us to try (ranging from local park reserves, one of the numerous lakes in our area, or around Brandon's childhood neighborhood :)), but sometimes we will just end up wandering around our neighborhood. I love this tradition and the time it gives us to connect as a couple while being active together!

While I didn't share it last night, I was thinking this morning that one of the other simple joys in my life is getting Beckett up in the morning and from his naps. These days, 95% of the time he wakes up with a big smile and is often talking to himself when I come into the room.

What about you? What is something simple that brings you joy?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Lasting Lessons From My Single Years

10 years ago I was getting ready to start my freshman year of college. I was excited to start a new school where I was convinced I would meet my new best friends and future soul mate. While I didn't go to college to get my "MRS" degree, meeting my future spouse was definitely at the forefront of my mind. After all, my parents and siblings had all left college engaged, and wasn't a Christian college the perfect place to meet a man who would share my values, morals, and faith?

Except things didn't work the way I had planned. Instead, the next four years included many seasons of embarrassment, depression, and even jealousy as I watched many of my friends get engaged while I stood by wondering if my dream of become a wife and mother would ever come true.

And in God's timing it did. 

But what I don't want this to be is a post written by a married woman just reflecting back on her single years and stating how she should have acted. After all, I'm married now, I got what I wanted, didn't I? It's pretty easy for me to look back on a difficult season of my life and say how I should have acted knowing how things turned out. Instead, I hope this is a point where I share some lessons that I learned during those difficult years that continue to impact me as a married woman today - lessons that I hope might encourage other women - married and single alike.

Freshman year of college....who wouldn't want to marry me?!

(1) Being married isn't better than being single.

I don't think this is said enough, particularly in conservative Christian circles where young women are often raised to believe that our role is to become dedicated wives and mothers (maybe less in more secular circles). To become such is a beautiful, wonderful thing and was always my deepest desire. But because this was my dream, and what I thought was "better," I spent many many years feeling as though I was "less than" because I was single. I wondered what was wrong with me.

I've frequently heard well intentioned individuals tell single women to use their single years as a season of preparation for marriage. Serve others and prepare yourself to be a wife or mother. And while homemaking skills are important, I think this directive gives off the wrong message - it is reiterating that marriage is the ultimate goal, and that there is something wrong with being single.

When in fact, there is nothing wrong with being single, and God never promises us marriage! Our only goal in life should be to serve God and love others to the best of our ability - not marriage. We need to recognize that God will meet our needs, but not necessarily all of our desires. Being married isn't better than being single, it's just different.

[Y]ou are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

But I promised this post wasn't just about looking back and saying "what if." Consequently, I think this lesson can be applied to so many other areas - just switch the phrasing around...."being  _____ isn't better than being ____." Gender, race, age, occupation, financial status, spiritual gift, etc. Comparison is dangerous, and it is so easy to falsely apply worth to how we compare ourselves/our circumstances to others.

My college roommates - at the time this picture was taken I was the only one not in a serious relationship. Within the next year and a half all 4 were engaged.

(2) Living in the future makes you lose sight of the present.

I spent so much time during my single years reflecting on why I was single, being frustrated with the fact that I was single, and looking for a potential future spouse that it makes me wonder what leadings of the Holy Spirit I cast aside? What opportunities did I miss because I was too focused on my earthly desires vs. God's heavenly plan?

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God
Corrie TenBoom

Your single years are an incredible opportunity to serve others. As a wife and mother I still love looking for ways to serve, but the reality is that my first priority is my family. Honestly, the single women I know who are the most content are those who are actively engaged in serving their families, churches, and communities. 

As a married women this is a lesson I continue to remind myself of! I frequently get caught up in thinking, "I can't wait until _____ is over" (i.e. Brandon's work schedule is lighter, an event has passed, Beckett has reached a new stage). Of course the problem is that when I think this way, I end up missing out on the daily happenings and seeing God in the ordinary.

One of my favorite things during my single years was taking the time to invest in the lives of my nieces and nephew.

(3) Being married doesn't solve all your problems.

While I don't think I really believed that marriage would solve all of my problems, I think I was pretty sure it would alleviate most of them! And to some extent it has - but only to be replaced by the new challenges that come along with being a spouse and mother!

I recently heard a sermon where the pastor said, "if the grass looks greener on the other side - it's time to water your own grass!"

These guys bring me so much joy, and continuously challenge me in new ways!

(4) There are some things in life you can't control, and if you try to force them you might end up worse off.

For some singleness is not just a life stage, but God's ultimate plan. For a time in my life I was not willing to recognize this as a possibility for my future. Consequently, I stayed in a relationship much longer than I should have because it was comfortable, safe, and I knew would eventually lead to marriage. But it wasn't right, and by holding on as long as I did I ended up causing a lot more pain than necessary. It was only after I fully surrendered my future to the Lord and was truly content with being single that I met my husband, and only at that point in time did I realize how much my prior relationship was lacking, and how difficult a marriage to that individual (although he is a wonderful, compassionate, Christian man who I deeply respect) would have been.

I recently re-read Corrie TenBoom's The Hiding Place, and was moved by the way she and her sister Betsey didn't reflect on their singleness as something negative, but seemed to embrace it as a way through which God molded their character and drew them to him.

Brandon during his single years

Ultimately, if you are single, my biggest piece of advice would be to recognize your worth. You are loved and cherished regardless of your relationship status and are fully complete in your relationships with Christ alone! (Colossians 2:10)

Monday, August 1, 2016

You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

"There are really places in your heart that you don't know exist until you love a child." 
Ann Lamott

7 months ago this sweet little man made me a mother. One of the questions we frequently get is, "does he smile this much ALL the time?" And the answer is typically YES! Unless he is hungry or it is 6 pm (the witching hour totally exists around our house) Beckett is full of smiles and giggles. Believe me, I do not take his happy disposition for granted!

I do believe there are a few things we have done to encourage his sweet spirit - namely the fact that while we have a strict schedule and solid habits we are trying to instill in him, we also try to fairly relaxed parents. We have a schedule most days so that when special events come up or a bad nap happens we can go with the flow. We try not to fuss or make a big deal when Beckett gets upset, but do our best to respond calmly and positively. Most importantly, we encourage his smiles with lots of laughs and smiles of our own. I've quickly realized that when Beck is having a hard day, it's often because my attitude is off.

I love how Beck's sweet disposition draws others to him. He is quick to give smiles to strangers wherever we are - the grocery store, church, on an airplane - which has opened the door for me to have some unique conversations with others I might not have had. At 7 months, Beck has already showed me that something as simple as a smile really can have an effect on someone else's day!

Keep smiling little man!

"A happy heart makes the face cheerful..."
Proverbs 15:13

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!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Coming Home

I truly don’t know how full-time working moms do it. In fact, after the last 3 weeks I’m convinced that my boss – who has 2 young daughters, is incredibly active in her church and community, and still finds time to teach zumba and seems to sit on half a dozen volunteer committees, has some superpower store of energy that she is able to call into play. And if she doesn’t, she can certainly fake it a whole lot better than I can!

Because lets face it, since I went back to work after my maternity leave, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. Sure I can get to work by 7 am so I can leave by 4 and be home by 4:30 so that I can pick up the house, make dinner, and do the laundry before Brandon comes home at 6:30 so we can sit down for dinner together before we put Beckett to bed at 8. But after a full day at work where I’ve run errands on my lunch break and haven’t seen my baby since I nursed him the night before, all I want to do is cuddle my sweet little man and soak up his smiles!

I know that to be a politically correct female I’m supposed to say you can do it all, but at this point in my life I really don’t believe that to be the case. Something has to give.

Brandon and I agreed a long time ago that family was a priority. And so, last week I turned in my resignation letter for a job I really love. As excited as I am to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, resigning was harder than I anticipated. As much as I miss Beckett, I can understand the argument many working moms make! There are days where I’ve been perfectly happy to leave my screaming baby at home and head out into the world of adult conversation and intellectual stimulation.

But when God blessed Brandon and I with Beckett, he blessed us with an incredible responsibility – to raise a child. And for our family, the key word in that equation is us. He didn’t bless a day care worker, or a nanny, or my mother-in-law (who has been an incredible help in watching Beck these last few weeks) with that responsibility – he blessed Brandon and me. And we take that responsibility incredibly seriously. We want to be the people Beckett spends the most time with and who have the greatest effect on his life.

The one question that really boggles me is, “how are you going to do it?  You’re so lucky, we could never afford that.” But how do people afford big houses, luxury vacations, or new cars? They make it a priority. For us, me staying home is a priority, so we have made a budget and chosen to sacrifice in other areas.

And so next week I begin a new adventure! And while I know my days will be busy and exhausting in a different sense, I’m looking forward to being able to put my full focus and energy towards serving my family (and soaking up all of Beckett’s sweet coos and smiles)!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Baby "Bucket"

I've found that one of the hardest things about having a son is living away from family. We are really blessed to live fairly close to Brandon's parents, but all of our siblings and my parents live out-of-state. Thankfully, we are able to travel to Michigan (my home state) fairly often and spent the last week there visiting and introducing Beckett to his cousins, aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and many friends.

Our growing family!

When we named our son, we really didn't think it was all that complicated! But somehow, some of our family members have really struggled with his name! Granted, they are the oldest and youngest members of the family, so we cut them some slack, but they have come up with some creative alternatives for our little one!

Beckett with Grandma Laurie and Papa Jim

My 92-year-old grandmother has been ecstatic to meet Beck. Or "Beacon" as she more often than not refers to him as! She's also managed to refer to him as Brandon, Brendan, Benjamin, and Blanket - but she never forgets his middle name! (James, after my dad and her son!) On the other hand, our 1.5 year old niece, Reagan, has lovingly dubbed Beckett "my baby Bucket!" It's a good thing we love them so much!

Our sweet Reagan

Highlights of this trip really included a lot of family time - including a Valentine's date night with my siblings and their spouses while my parents watched all 5 grandkids, visits with friends (all who have growing babies of their own now), and eating some of my favorite food (metro Detroit has some of the best Middle Eastern restaurants!). And since Beckett rocked his first plane trip, I'm only feeling slightly anxious about our 4x longer flight to California in a few weeks...

I used to get together with these 2 ladies and another friend (who now also lives in MN) almost every week for several years - in 2015 we all had babies!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Top Maternity Reads

I'm an avid reader, and when I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was head to the library and check out a whole stack of pregnancy related books! 

I didn't do much more than skim through that first stack, but throughout my pregnancy I started (and mostly finished) a variety of books on pregnancy, labor and delivery, and all such related matters. While many were pretty drab and mundane, or simply scared the life out of me by listing everything that could go wrong(!!), there were a few that I really loved.

For the record, and to consider the types of books I was reading, we had a natural childbirth with a midwife in a hospital.

1. Redeeming Childbirth - Angie Tolpin

This is my #1 reading recommendation for momma's-to-be! I absolutely loved this book! It was recommended to me by a friend who claimed it really calmed her heart and prepared her spiritually for labor - and I would completely agree! I read this book during my third trimester and found it to be a great devotional tool. It helped me look at labor and delivery from a more spiritual perspective and see childbirth as an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord rather than just a feat I had to "endure." 

While the author chose to take a natural childbirth approach (which I appreciated as that was the route I knew I was headed and loved the mental tools she suggested) she in no way suggests natural childbirth as the right or only way to go. In fact, the friend who recommended the book to me did not take a natural childbirth approach and loved the book as much as I did!

2. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin

This was a book my midwife recommended I read. The first half of the book is a complete index of birth stories. This was a little shocking to me when I first picked up the book - particularly because the stories centered around women who were going a little more "natural" than I intended (i.e. birthing at home or at "the Farm" - the author's midwife center), but as I got closer to my due date, I found some comfort and empowerment in simply reading others' stories and gaining confidence in my body's abilities.

I enjoyed this book because it talked through the physical and mental aspects of labor and really emphasized the power and beauty of natural labor. It also answered many practical questions and spurred some great conversations with my midwife.

3. The Power of a Praying Parent - Stormie Omartian

There is no better time to start praying for your child than NOW! This book was a gift from my mom. I had read and loved its companion -  The Power of a Praying Wife, while Brandon and I were engaged, and was eager to read Omartian's thoughts from the perspective of a parent.

Simply put, this is an excellent read that emphasizes the power a parent's prayer has over his/her children. It provides great tools as to when, how, and why we need to pray for our children.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 5, 2016

In All Things Give Thanksgiving

I had a lot of expectations for Beckett's first few weeks of life - I would spend time cuddling and bonding my newborn as I soaked up his sweet smiles and little noises and filled my camera with pictures of his "firsts."

While all of those things have come true, I certainly didn't expect to spend 2+ weeks with 80% of my body covered in the most painful, itchy hives I've ever experienced. I didn't expect to find myself in tears at 3 am - not because I couldn't console my infant, but because I felt as though my body was literally failing me and no doctor could provide an answer or offer relief.

But that has been my reality for the last several weeks. 

And while there have been some miserable moments, I have also been overwhelmed with awe at how God has used this situation to teach me a powerful message - to draw me to him, and to completely transform my prayer life.

Above anything else, I have learned the power of peace - and the peace that comes with trusting our Heavenly Father and giving thanks in all circumstances

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds."
James 1:2

It's so easy to say, and so hard to do.

Yet this past week I experienced something completely new - finding true, complete peace while still in the midst of utter physical pain. As I called out to God and turned to him I was continuously reminded that the devil is always at work, looking to prey upon us in our weakest moments. While my body was failing me I came to realize that it would only be worse if I allowed Satan control over my mind. 

And so I called out to God - again and again and again - for healing and direction yes, but also to carry me through this journey, for mental strength, for patience, for a clear mind, for power over Satan's temptations and discouraging thoughts, etc. 

And God responded in an amazing way. Despite the pain and discomfort I began to feel his presence in a completely new way. I felt bathed in peace, revitalized to make it through another day, and able to give thanks despite circumstances.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful."
Colossians 3:15

In the midst of this journey, I started a women's bible study at church - Pricilla Shirer's "Armor of God," which I highly recommend (as well as the movie War Room). The study is about putting on the Armor of God as laid out in Ephesians, plus the overarching power and importance of prayer. Coincidentally (hah!) this past week focused on the "shoes of peace" and how the Enemy uses instability/discourse/upset to keep us from Christ. Ms. Shirer presents the argument that it is only God's peace that allows us to stand firm amidst the storms of life - and that such a state of peace is activated through thanksgiving.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace"
Ephesians 2:13-14

So today I give thanks for these weeks that haven't turned out like I've expected, but that have brought me greater peace than I've ever known.

Friday, January 22, 2016

One Month Joys and Challenges

Somehow I've found myself with a one month old! Some days it feels like he was just born, and other days I truly can't imagine our lives without him. Each day brings new adventures - physically he changes by the moment and is slowly discovering new things and exploring his surroundings.

I shared with a friend the other day that I never expected motherhood to be such an adjustment. I mean, I did, but I figured that I've always been pretty comfortable around babies, and spent a lot of time babysitting and with my nieces and nephews. However, what I didn't think about was the fact that as the youngest in my family, I never grew up with any babies in the house or around me 24/7!

Really Beckett is a very good baby. He eats like a champ and is pretty happy - but sleep deprivation has been a challenge! Thankfully I've got some pretty great mentors in my life who've been very helpful with advice and encouragement.

I think the most frustrating thing has been feeling overwhelmed about what advice to follow! Everywhere I turn someone has a suggestion about what to do or what not to do! Feed on demand vs. feed on a schedule. Cry it out vs. pick the baby up as soon as he makes a noise. Co-sleep vs. put him in a crib. Slowly (and with a lot of prayer) we've started to discern what works for our little family.

But one thing is for sure - there is no doubt in my mind that I am blessed beyond belief! Earlier this month Brandon and I celebrated our 2-year anniversary. We didn't go out to dinner anywhere fancy, or buy each other lavish gifts, but spent the night on the couch cuddling our newborn son - and we both agreed it was the perfect celebration!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

That Day We Almost Didn't Make it to the Hospital in Time...

I'm honestly not a big reader of birth stories. You know a baby is coming, there is an extended, arduous period of time that is likely filled with some anxiety, exhaustion, and pain, followed by baby's much-anticipated arrival.

Minutes old

Now having gone through labor myself, I have a much deeper understanding of a woman's journey to motherhood and the precious and spiritual gift that labor can bring.

Truthfully, my labor was nothing like I expected (although I really had no expectations...). When Brandon and I found out we were expecting, we were also told that because of my back surgery last year, an epidural was likely off the table. I'd been curious about natural birth before, but wasn't sure if I really had the desire or strength to go for it. Once the decision was made for us, we started looking into how to best prepare for the adventure ahead - physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We didn't feel as though the OBGYN we were currently working with was either the best fit, nor very supportive of natural labor, so we started looking for a midwife. I ended up finding an excellent midwife practice, and if you live in the Twin Cities area I highly recommend North Metro Midwives

Other than selecting a midwife, we didn't make much of a "birth plan." I know alot of women are really into planning things out, but even with my type A personality, I wanted to prepare myself to go with the flow. Because of my back history I didn't know how my body would respond to labor, and I didn't want to get my mind stuck on how I wanted to labor and deliver - instead I wanted to be able to go with the flow and really just rely on my midwife's direction and suggestions under whatever circumstances arose.

My due date was December 21, but at the beginning of December I was 3 centimeters dilated, 70+% effaced, and carrying the baby "extremely low." Brandon and I started preparing ourselves for an early arrival of our little man, although we were vehemently praying that he would hold out until his due date. We both had heavy work schedules, holiday obligations, and my parents weren't able to come to MN until Beckett's due date.

But as I hit weeks 38 and 39 I started feeling so ready for the baby to come! Everything was getting uncomfortable and "natural ways to induce labor" became my go-to google search :)

I wasn't originally scheduled to have a midwife appointment until the 22nd, but switched to the 21st at the last minute so I could schedule a pre-natal massage for the 22nd (so much for that....). I went into the midwife's after work and was 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced. I didn't get my hopes up. My midwife offered to do some membrane stripping, but said that while it might start contractions, they would likely dissipate after a short time. 

I figured, "why not?"

I left the midwife's office and got back home around 5 pm. I figured I might as well keep moving, so I headed downstairs to walk on our treadmill. After about 30 minutes I stopped because I was starting to feel some regular contractions. I figured they would fade like the midwife had mentioned, so I went upstairs to make dinner. Brandon came home around 6:30 to find a pot of soup ready and me having contractions about every 3 minutes. He wanted to call the midwife - I wanted to eat :) After dinner I called the midwife, who thought the contractions still might wain and suggested we check back in an hour later.

At 8:30 pm the midwife called back. My contractions were still lasting about 1 minute and coming every 3 minutes, but their intensity was increasing. Brandon and I were still hesitant about heading to the hospital though - I figured I still had several hours to go and we had talked about laboring at home as long as possible so we didn't have to sit around the hospital. At some point during our conversation, a contraction hit and I literally threw my cell phone at Brandon so he could talk to the midwife. At that point they decided it would be best if we all headed to the birth center.

It took us about 20 minutes for me to move from our bedroom into the car - and then another 20 minutes to drive from our house to the hospital. Those were some of the longest and fastest 20 minutes of my life! Looking back, I clearly went through transition labor on the way to the hospital - when we were 5 minutes away I started telling Brandon I had to push, and as we pulled into the hospital parking lot my water broke (9:10 pm).

In short, we were brought right into a labor room and my midwife commented that there had been merconium, so the water birth we had talked about at one point was no longer an option (honestly, I was thinking - seriously? You think I could or want to get off this gurney and move into a tub right now? :)) A few minutes later I delivered Beckett while on my hands and knees (another huge blessing of having a midwife who allowed me to labor and deliver in whatever position was most comfortable) - 24 minutes after we arrived at the hospital!

My first thought as the midwife handed Beckett to me was "who is this gigantic blonde baby??"

God's grace was truly on us throughout Beckett's delivery. We had been diligently praying for a smooth delivery with little to no back pain and God graciously granted our request! Another gift was that a friend had recommended Redeeming Childbirth to me a couple of weeks before Beckett's arrival. The book turned out to be an incredible tool in helping prepare my heart and mind for the journey of labor and I can truly say that this experience drew me closer to my husband and to the Lord.

Would I do anything differently next time? Well, the nurses all suggested we get a hotel room near the hospital once my due date approaches :)

9 days old