Wednesday, June 29, 2016

5 Things I'm Loving Right Now

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links and a bunch of other links, too!  All opinions are my own.}

1) Binge-watching The Great British Baking Show in the afternoon with my kids while Macie naps.  I think we watched the entire 10-episode series in three afternoons!  (It leaves Amazon Video tomorrow so we were in a bit of a hurry.) 

2) Target t-shirts.  Last summer I was pregnant, and the summer before that I weighed less and wasn't nursing a baby.  My clothing needs are unique this year so when I found a basic t-shirt that felt good and didn't stretch out of shape even after my baby pulled and tugged on it all day, I bought ten of them.  Yes, ten.

3) Free online learning sources.  I plan for Ben and Alaine to take "art lessons" next school year with The Art Club Online (specifically Lessons 1-10).  In the meantime, this summer, all the kids have been drawing with Art for Kids Hub. I'm also interested in exploring two sites my sister-in-law told me about last week: A. Pintura: Art Detective (a mystery game about fine art) and  Classics for Kids (with games, worksheets, audio, and more about composers).

4) Summer meals. When I planned meals for the summer, my goals were to avoid the oven and to eat dairy-free.  Despite the repetition, we love what we're eating this summer.  I'm spending less time in the kitchen and, ironically, the simplest meals are getting the biggest compliments from my family.

5) Thinkbaby sunscreen. The words sunblock and sunscreen are often used interchangeably, but this is technically a sunblock because the only active ingredient is zinc oxide  It earned a 1 (out of 10) on EWG's Sunscreen Guide.  I hate the smell of sunscreen, but this one has a pleasant fruity smell-- not at all offensive.  The price is reasonable, too!  And of course, most importantly, it kept Macie's skin from coloring when we spent an afternoon at the beach last week.  (If you are looking for a drugstore sunscreen that won't break the bank, Banana Boat Sport Performance Lotion  is not a bad choice.  It earned a 4 on EWG's Sunscreen Guide-- not ideal, but not awful.) 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Readers...and books you may enjoy

We did it.  After years of avoiding our library's summer reading program, we eagerly signed up for it this year!  

Four years ago we did our own  summer reading program at home with low stress and great success , but this is the year to go with our library's program.  Here's why:

1) The kids are old enough to do their own record keeping.  No more of my scrawling a list of books on a wrinkled reading log (x5) on our way out the door to the library. Nope. Everyone is responsible for their own. 

2) Our library's reading program this year requires the kids to keep track of how long they read, not how many books they read.  I love that this encourages my kids to read books based on interest, not length.

3) One of my kids resists reading for pleasure, but a little outside incentive is motivation for him to read without prompting.

4) Ben (7) and Alaine (5) don't remember ever participating in a summer reading program.  It's a new, easy, and cheap thrill.  

5) I've been reading scads of picture books with Alaine and Macie (and whoever else wants to peek over my shoulder).  I shared my favorites herehereherehere and here.  We might as well get credit for all that reading! 


A few summers ago, I published a free eBook with ideas of books to read aloud to your kids over the summer.  These are also great choices for independent reads.  (I have one kids who reads voraciously and a list like this helps me keep good literature in his hands.)

Click here to get your copy of  the Summer Reading Guide For Families.

One last thing: if you enjoy my book recommendations...or if you don't...can you take just 1 minute to answer these 2 questions so I can better suit your needs on my blog and on my Facebook page?

Click here to answer the survey.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How YouTube Is Transforming Our Mornings

Let me start by saying I'm almost too embarrassed to post this.  It doesn't feel right to admit that we start our day in front of a screen.  But let me back up and tell you about our summer mornings.  

I might sit on my bed nursing Macie while the kids get up.  The boys tend to wake first and they eat breakfast and sometimes watch Wild Kratts on TV.  Then the girls get up and join the boys.  If I'm still in my room, the kids start playing Legos until I remind them to get dressed and do their chores before they have free time.  An hour later we realize Alaine never ate breakfast and no one emptied the dishwasher.  A few kids argue about who gets to play magnetic darts first and I spend the hours nagging about what's not getting done instead of investing in quality time with my kids! The morning slips away before I've had a shower, and when I peek into the bedrooms around lunchtime, I notice an unmade bed. 

Maybe the answer is to make a morning schedule and to require more responsibility and accountability, but we're choosing another way.

Now as soon as the kids come out of their rooms in the morning, Owen holds Macie while I make my bed.  Then we all congregate in the living room.  Macie nurses or plays on the floor while the rest of us watch Good Mythical Morning together. Good Mythical Morning is a clean, talkshow-esque YouTube channel that puts out a funny 10-15 minute video every morning.  (Their ninth season is ending on Friday, but there are scads of old shows we can catch up on.  Season 10 begins August 1.) 

Once our non-morning people have laughed themselves awake, we watch Five Minute Family Devotional. Five Minute Family Devotional, another YouTube channel, reviews men and women from the Bible chronologically.  It ends with 1-2 discussion questions and a suggested prayer topic. The channel releases several episodes per week.  So far there are eleven of a total twenty-five.  (The channel is a division of JellyTelly, which is part of  What's in the Bible? {affiliate link}, a brand we love!)

All told, our viewing lasts less than a half hour, but it centers us and puts us all in one place to begin the day. I'm available to make sure everyone has eaten and begun their morning routine and chores, and it  makes it easy to move on studying the body on Mondays or read books with Alaine on the other days.  (I'm sharing some of our favorite picture book on the blog's Facebook page a few times a week.)

Best of all, it gives me an opportunity to laugh and share with all my kids...and make a few memories, too!

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Sorta Lazy Days of Summer

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links.}

Every year I go into summer thinking that this is the year we will have loads of free time and endless quiet afternoons at home...and then life happens.  Of course, we wouldn't have it any other way.  While I do enjoy days with nothing on the calendar, I appreciate them so much more when they are sandwiched between busier days, days when we visit our friends or go out for ice cream or drive to the beach.

On our first week off from school in May, we had five separate events in the span of three days! While we hope not to keep up that pace, the days and weeks are slowly filling with both in-home and away plans.

  • Brian and two of the boys are going to a baseball game with my dad.  Maddie and I (without the baby!) are attending a local theater production of Mary Poppins.  Several of us are attending my sister's choir recital...

  • We're going to the beach (even though I'm still sand-phobic).  We're borrowing a beach umbrella and using a bit of this sunblock.  It has zinc oxide, the only active sunblock ingredient approved by the FDA for babies younger than 6 months, and probably a safer choice for everyone!

  • I'm slipping school planning into the cracks.  Can I say that I am only mildly less intimidated by high school than I was a few months ago?  But I made some choices and I made an Amazon order yesterday!

  • We're getting our health credit out of the way.  We're using My Body by Patty Carratello. Alaine (5) and Ben (7) are the students and Owen (9) and Maddie (11) are acting as the teachers.  We have a large cut-out body taped to a door in our house whom they've named  Bobby the Body. Our "students" color and add an organ or two every Monday!  The "teachers" read the text to them while they work. They've also put together a floor-size body puzzle.  

  • We're doing other puzzles, too, which means we are eating meals around the kitchen counter or in the living room or even on the floor. Everyone loves the novelty of it.

  • Some of the kids are taking care of plants.  Maddie has daffodils.  Gavin has sunflowers and Alaine has zinnias.  Ben has wild strawberries and basil. Owen has my "black thumb."

  • Ben has taken off with independent reading.  He started with the Young Cam Jansen series by David Adler at the end of the school year, then progressed to the regular Cam Jansen book series.  When he started going through two in a day and ran out of library books well before "library day," he scoured our home shelves and started the Ramona series.  He is beginning the fourth book today.

  • I'm trying to be intentional to read with Alaine on the mornings when we're home.  She sometimes falls between the cracks of big kids and baby, but she loves our one-on-one time. We've enjoyed the Library Mouse series this week. We're also making our way through the Mrs. Noodlekugel series.  We're getting lots of inspiration from this list of 100 picture books to read this summer.  I plan to share some of our favorite on the blog's Facebook page.

  • Our yard is big and Brian cuts it using his equipment from work.  He is teaching Gavin to do some of the trimming with a push mower, though, or to touch it up on weeks when the grass is growing out of control. Owen is begging to learn, too!

  • We're playing host to a Sunday school party, a weekday brunch, and various visiting friends.

  • We're taking an hour on random weekend evening when everyone is home to play a family game. Our current favorites are Big Picture Apples to Apples and Wits and Wagers Family Edition.

  • And who are we kidding?  We're watching TV.  We are new to Amazon Prime and we've spent probably too much time exploring what's available for free on Prime Video.  

What are your summer plans? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dairy-free Mom

I've been {almost} dairy-free for over a month now.  (More on the almost later in this post.) I went dairy-free in an effort to reduce the symptoms of Macie's silent reflux. You can read the details of our story here, but the short version is that she rarely spit up so she went un-diagnosed for weeks, but we finally put all the pieces together (inconsolable crying for hours every day, nasal congestion when waking, frequent hiccups) and realized she was suffering from reflux.  Initially medication helped, but I found that eliminating dairy was even more effective.  We weaned her off the medication before determining that a combination of my dairy-free diet and her medication gave her the best relief.  She is essentially weaning herself off of the medication again, though, since her dosage is not changing even as she goes through a rapid growth spurt.

I have received a handful of questions about going dairy-free, both personally and online, and I thought it may be helpful to address them here.

What exactly does it mean to be dairy-free?
It means not eating dairy products like milk, yogurt, sour cream, cheese, ice cream, and butter.  It also means avoiding whey and casein.  I've found, though, that Macie can tolerate if I eat small amounts of butter. Chocolate is usually okay, too.  To be safe, I buy Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips which are dairy-free.  (They do contain soy which I would prefer to avoid for other reasons, but I'm choosing to pick my battles!)

Do you think it is helping? I do. At first I was convinced it was the sole answer to our problem.  Then Macie had another week of increased irritability, not as severe as in the beginning but not "normal."  We decided to begin her medication again and the combination of the altered diet and the meds seems to be the answer.  Before going dairy-free, we could barely make it until the next dose, but now there are times when I  miss giving her a dose and she is fine.  Reflux typically peaks at four months so she may be beginning to outgrow it anyway, but there was such a dramatic change when I stopped eating dairy, that we have no doubt it is playing a part in her recovery.

How long will you avoid dairy products? 
Dairy sensitivity in babies is usually short-term.  Often by the time their immune systems are mature enough to tolerate solid foods (around six months), their tummies are capable of digesting milk protein again. I plan to avoid dairy through the summer.  By September, Macie will be eight months old and I will try adding dairy back into my diet.  I've read that a gentle way to do that is to eat a small portion of dairy one day, wait two days before eating a bit more, and then gradually increase the amount and the frequency.  In other words, no matter how much I may crave pizza, it would not be the way to begin!

Does your family eat dairy-free also?
When I plan dinner, I only choose to prepare dairy-free dishes or ones that allow the cheese, sour cream, etc. to be added by the individual. I do not keep a dairy-free house so everyone is welcome to prepare and eat what they want for breakfast and lunch.

Every Sunday, I'm sharing our menu for the coming week on my blog Facebook page.  It's dairy-free and can be done without turning on the oven!  For more details, click here, and then go on over to Facebook Sunday evening to see the menu for the week.  (This week's menu is already there.)

Do you find it hard to eat this way?
Telling myself this is temporary helps. I think it would be harder if I thought I needed to make a permanent change.  Finding things to eat has not been difficult.  I read labels and have to avoid some packaged foods, but sticking primarily to whole foods-- veggies, fruit, meat-- takes the guess work out of the process.

What do you miss?
I have never been a milk drinker, but I do love ice cream and butter.  I also ate a fair amount of Greek yogurt for snacks before I made the change.  The thing I miss most, though, is pizza.  I have one child who prefers pizza without cheese so one night in April when we needed to order out at the last minute, he and I shared a cheese-less pizza, his half plain, my half with chicken and spinach.  It was good, but I greatly missed the cheese!

So what do you eat for breakfast and lunch?
I'm eating a lot of steel-cut oatmeal, because I love it and because it is good for nursing moms.  I use this method which can be prepared one-handed.  Plus it only takes a minute of hands-on (or hand-on) work and the grains are soaked to perfection. Scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs are good, seasoned with salt and pepper.  I am also eating copious amounts of natural peanut butter.  For lunch, my favorite thing to prepare when there are no leftovers is a skillet dish of chicken, diced red potato, and broccoli.  I cook it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, and it is delicious.  I also make a similar dish with chicken, sweet potato, and quinoa. 

Can you eat lactose-free treats?
In our case, lactose isn't the problem.  Babies with milk sensitives are usually bothered by the milk protein.

Are there dairy substitutes you can eat?
I keep a container of almond milk in the refrigerator for cereal, baking, or the occasional cup of hot chocolate. I also discovered that Ben and Jerry's makes several vegan "ice cream" flavors with almond milk.  I was skeptical, but the one I tried was a great treat. 

Wouldn't it be easier to switch Macie to formula?  
Actually, no.  Even if eating dairy-free was difficult for me, giving her infant formula would not be a simple option.  Because of her milk sensitivity, she would need to be on a more-expensive hypoallergenic formula.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Month of Meals

When I shared my plan for meals during the summer, someone mentioned that they would like to see my menu to get inspiration for their own household. I've decided to share one week at a time on the blog Facebook page.  A few things you should know:

1) I'll post a weekly list on Sunday evenings for the next four weeks.  

2) Links to specific recipes will be in the comments. 

3) I'm only planning five dinners per week.  One night we eat out and on Sundays we eat a shared meal with family.

4) The meals we are eating are dairy-free because of my temporary dietary restrictions, but you can incorporate milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, etc. if you wish!  

5)  Some meals are very similar.  For example, we are doing Mexican every Tuesday night.  My family agreed to sacrifice variety for simplicity during the summer. 

Next week, I want to do a separate post here on some of the questions I've been asked about going dairy-free.  If there is anything you would like to know, I'll include your question, too!

Happy weekend to you all!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Meal Planning For the Summer

We finished school today and it feels good.  There are moments of sadness, too, when I think of how Gavin will be in high school next year.  (How did he get to be so old?!)  But all of us are more than a little excited to have finished the school year well and to take a break from the formal stuff.  We always sneak a little academics into the summer, but we don't call it school and everyone is happy.

the oldest and the youngest

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster.  We all passed around a cold.  Brian ended up with a sinus infection and pink eye on top of now we're taking turns with his pink eye germs.  At first I had visions of being stuck in the house with goopy-eyed people all summer while it slowly took us out one. by. one.  But I've calmed down from that now. Aside from having to randomly quarantine a new person from the rest of the world for 24 hours every few days, it's not a big deal.  No one feels sick and no one is uncomfortable.

Macie is finally settling into a happy routine.  She is not your stereotypical "easy" baby, but she is a napping rock star and her reflux is under control.  Most days she is pleasant and smiling. She has started giggling and can hold her back and neck straight to practice sitting alone.  We're praying the out-of-control fussy days are behind us. 

We finished our school year today and now I'm experimenting with a new way to meal plan.  We tried a  super-easy system  after Macie was born and that is still working, but I wanted something even simpler for summer.  We have several restrictions. First, our house gets sticky, hot when I turn the oven  on, and secondly, I need to eat a dairy- free diet to manage Macie's reflux. 

I decided to make a 1-month meal plan.  I plugged in all the things we eat that use the griddle, slow cooker, or stove top, and I chose only items that don't contain dairy products (milk, butter, cheese) or that can have those ingredients added at the table by the individual. We'll simply repeat the same menu each month until the weather cools down.  

Most of the menu consists of old favorites like tacos, blackberry chicken, and tangy meatballs.  I sprinkled in easy meals like BLTs and salads.  I added one or two new recipes like root beer pulled pork.  I even included some side dishes my kids love but I never serve, like baked beans and Jello (separately, not together!). 

I'm hoping this plan will serve us well through the busy... and sunny... days ahead. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Behind the Scenes Confessional

Yesterday was a little emotional.

My parents moved out of my childhood home on Saturday.   Everything is fine and they bought a new house that they love and that meets all their needs, but it is still hard.  I don't consider myself  a sentimental person, but I'll admit I shed a few tears realizing I won't step back into the place that holds so many, many memories.  

Then on Sunday at church, I missed almost the entire service because Macie was crying.  She and I did slip back in at the end to sing the last song with the congregation, but it's not the first week I've had to sit out and it was a little discouraging. 

I keep forgetting that I'm only three months postpartum and that the hormones and emotions are still pumping strong.  Sometimes I feel like I'm the only mom with a fussy baby (I'm not!) and that everyone else is watching me and judging my parenting decisions (they're not!). It's so easy to think I'm the only one.  I've had "easy" babies and I've had "hard" ones and there is not one thing I can do to control it!

It's easy to put on a happy face for a blog or to only share the happy photos on Facebook.  Of course. Who is going to post photos of their baby screaming in their car seat? But I think it's helpful to show that no mom has it all together, and that even if she does, babies are babies and toddlers are toddlers.  (And big kids pout and teenagers mope...)

My baby may take 4 hour naps (she does!), but she also cries every time I take her grocery shopping. What babies need are moms who loves them whether they show their best selves to the world or whether that transition is a little harder.  What moms need is to remember each child is an individual, designed by God, and that He will walk with them as they learn to navigate the hard days. 

And now, all moms unite!  Your baby is quirky and so is mine.  Here are some things about Macie (3.5 months) that may or may not be like your baby: 
  • She drools like crazy.  I have to change her 2-3 times or put up with soaked clothing, but...
  • She rarely spits up!
  • She won't take a pacifier, despite my numerous attempts since she was 2 days old.
  • Sometimes she finds her thumb or her fingers for comfort, but neither make her very happy.
  • She doesn't like to be worn in a sling or baby carrier. I've worn all five of my other children to various degrees, but never had one who resists so vehemently!
  • She loves a bath in the sink but hates getting dressed afterwards.
  • She is irritated by a wet diaper and loves a diaper change.
  • She gets forceful, almost violent, hiccups.
  • She loves gripe water and it cures her hiccups about 95% of the time.
  • She protests being strapped into her car seat, but she often falls asleep in the car once she settles.
  • She wants to nurse much more often than the suggested every 2-3 hours but then gets mad at me when she's not actually hungry.
  • She can roll from her stomach to her back and from her back to her side.
  • She prefers sleeping on her tummy.
  • She wants to nurse to sleep, but sometimes I have to walk and nurse at the same time to get her to settle down.
  • She does not like to be rocked to sleep and I can't get her to lay her head on my shoulder to sleep, but often she'll drift off if Brian holds her and bounces on the exercise ball.
  • One time, she slept in her crib from 10 pm to 7 am, but now she wakes between 2 and 3 and prefers a nursing buffet until morning.
  • She already shows signs of separation anxiety if I'm not holding her.
  • She turns into a pumpkin between 7 and 7:30 in the evening if we aren't at home. 
  • She sucks her probiotics off my finger like it's candy.
  • She is very expressive with her eyebrows.
  • She likes to lay and kick around on the floor...until she doesn't.

Macie is her own person and it's okay.  Your baby may be happier, fussier, more active, quieter, louder, more content, more insecure, sleepier, or more wakeful. Your baby may be different, but  each mom and baby was made by God and it's all okay.

And if it's an emotional day for you, too, I understand.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Our Silent Reflux Story

I'm writing to share our experience in the hope that it could help another family with similar issues.  

For the first seven weeks of Macie's life, she was a happy, content baby.  She slept well and long at night  She let anyone hold her.  In the car, she cried for only a minute or two before falling asleep.  We called her our "dream baby" because of how easily she adapted to life.

The week Brian went back to work after his winter break, Macie got a bad cold. What seemed normal at first progressed into something more serious and we needed to take her to the ER for labored breathing.  She was diagnosed with RSV on March 7.  There was a lingering cough and congestion for days so saline and a nasal aspirator became part of our daily routine.  Macie started waking often at night and not settling easily.  She cried much of the day, plus resisted naps and nursing.  At first we thought the congestion was irritating her and disrupting her sleep.  Then I thought maybe my supply was low and she was not getting enough to eat.  

By the end of March, the cough was gone and she began sleeping more soundly again, both at night and during nap time, but after only a day or two of clear breathing, the stuffy nose came back.  It was especially noisy in the morning.  We feared she was getting another cold, but no other symptoms developed.  We also considered allergies.  Regardless of the cause, something was making Macie cry for hours of every day.  We feared  it was our new version of normal.  I've parented a high-needs baby before, but his cries were different.  Nothing comforted Macie.  The kids couldn't hold her anymore and it was intimidating to take her out because we never knew when she would begin crying loudly and inconsolably.  I held it together okay in the daytime, but each evening I was zapped.  I had more than one sobbing break-down of my own. 

One day while she was sleeping, I started googling her symptoms-- hours of crying, stuffy nose, frequent hiccups-- and realized she was exhibiting signs of silent reflux.  Babies with this type of reflux rarely spit up because the stomach acid only comes partly up the esophagus before going back down.  Though it can occur from birth, it often does not begin until the baby is closer to eight weeks old. I felt as though a light went on.  The difficulties we'd been experiencing over the past weeks were all related...and there were ways to treat it!  We didn't have a high-needs baby or a colicky baby.  We had a reflux baby.

I made Macie a doctor's appointment for the next day.  As is typical with babies, Macie showed her happy, cheerful self to the doctor, but the doctor listened to my concerns and asked lots of questions.  She agreed that Macie was suffering from silent reflux and laid out our options.  She said we could try an elimination diet to see if something I ate was triggering the reflux or we could begin medication.  Considering we had been dealing with a crying, miserable baby for close to a month and we were all desperate for relief, I chose the medication. The doctor counseled me to be aware of the foods I was eating and to pay close attention to anything that seemed to exacerbate the symptoms.  

That evening I gave Macie her first dose of ranitidine (generic Zantac).  Ranitidine is an acid reducer and begins working within an hour, but can take up to three weeks to fully take affect depending how much damage has already been done to the esophagus.  We noticed a change in her temperament the first night!  She was visibly relaxed and nursed to sleep without a fight for the first time in weeks.  Over the next few days, she smiled more and interacted with the older kids.  They were able to start holding her again.  We had to be vigilant about her medication, though. Ranitidine has a very short half-life and Macie would grow irritable when it was near time for her next dose.

About a week after starting the medicine, Macie had another fussy day.  All babies have bad days so I didn't worry, but when we starting having whole strings of bad days, I felt a sense of dread. I read online that ranitidine dosage is sensitive to weight changes.  Since babies grow rapidly, I wondered if she already needed to up her dosage.  

I began researching natural ways to treat reflux and bookmarked this article about natural treatment.  

On Sunday, April 10, we were at a birthday party and I noticed Macie was happy and bubbly all day.  It was a strong contrast to her mood on the preceding days so I took a minute to write down everything I had eaten the day before (Saturday).  I noticed that, quite by accident, I had consumed very little dairy.  However, on Sunday at the party, I ate cheese and ice cream, plus we had pizza for dinner later in the evening. I waited and sure enough, on Monday, we had one of our worst days yet.  It gave me pause.  

Everything I read online said that if dairy was a suspected trigger for a baby's acid reflux, it needed to be totally eliminated from the mom's diet for two weeks.  That was how long it would take for the proteins to leave the body-- and therefore the breastmilk.  I cut dairy from my diet and noticed a reduction in symptoms in 24 hours.  Most noticeably, she only cried when she was sleepy or had a wet diaper, not all day long! For me it followed this formula.  Eat dairy and have a cranky baby the next day.  Avoid dairy and have a happy baby.  

The first few days I was afraid to hope.  Maybe it was coincidence, maybe wishful thinking, or maybe my imagination.  The kids started commenting on it, though.  They noticed how Macie was happy again.  They noticed how I was able to get in the shower before 9 am  instead of hanging out in the PJs until the middle of the afternoon. 

Macie's congestion cleared up, too.  Six days after cutting dairy, the congestion was mild enough to clear on its own in the morning without needing to irrigate and suction.  Nine days after eliminating dairy, she woke up with a clear nose.  The hiccups are better, too.  She still gets them, but only every few days.

Two surprising things came from cutting dairy from my diet.  One: the ranitidine became unnecessary almost overnight.  Where once we were counting the minutes until the next dose, now I would sometimes forget to give it to her right away.  (Cutting the medicine cold turkey can cause an acid rebound..)  And two: her pooping became more regular.  She had been going every four to five days and then having blow-out poops.  Her tummy wasn't hard and it is normal for some breastfed babies to wait days between pooping, but as the milk proteins left her body, she began pooping four to five times per day again.  (The color and consistency were gold and seedy so this was not diarrhea.)

Cutting dairy from my diet has not been as difficult as I expected.  I've never been a milk drinker, but I do miss cheese and I have a feeling that, foregoing ice cream this summer will be tough.  It can be tricky planning meals for my family, too, but there are so many good foods and flavors that don't involve dairy.  It simply takes new thinking. (I also discovered early that she and I can tolerate small bits of chocolate.  Better yet, Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate is made without milk.  The milk chocolate, obviously, but also the dark chocolate, do contain milk.)

I"ve added probiotic supplements both to my diet and to hers, to aid in gut health and healing. I bought mine over the counter at Target.  I specially ordered Macie's from Amazon.  It is a multi-species probiotic in powdered form, made specially for infants that contains 10 billion CFUs. I wet my finger so that the powder will stick and let her suck it off.  She loves it!

Today, Macie had a follow-up with her pediatrician. The doctor was pleased that she has gained weight. Reflux babies often lose weight either from excessive spitting up or because they resist eating when they associate it with pain.  In fact, Macie weighs a little over eleven pounds now-- only the ninth percentile for babies her age, but up from the third percentile where she hovered for awhile. The best thing is that she can use the medicine on a needs-only basis.

There were many days that the kids and I prayed for Macie  and asked the Lord to either make her well or give us patience and the wisdom to comfort her.  We are so thankful for Macie's health!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Old-school Blogging

Remember when blogs used to be nothing more than glorified family journals? I'm returning to some old-school blogging today with a look at our comings and goings of the past few weeks. (If you follow my blog page on Facebook, you've seen some of the highlights.)

Macie struggled with weight gain during her first six weeks.  She was tiny when she was born-- 6 pounds, 11.5 ounces-- much smaller than either of my other five kids at birth. She also lost some weight in the hospital which is normal.   Those things in themselves were not an issue, but by 16 days old, she was still under birth weight. Her pediatrician was concerned that either she was not getting enough calories per day (perhaps because she tended to sleep long, long stretches at night) or that there was an underlying condition preventing her from absorbing nutrients.  My mother's intuition told me that everything was fine and that she was simply a slow gainer, but for close to a month, we drove back and forth for weight checks.  By the end of February, her weight settled into a stable track, still only in the 3rd-5th percentile but consistent.

In early March, she caught a cold.  It moved into her chest and brought a nasty cough.  Aside from making her want to sleep and eat more often, it seemed like a normal cold, but on the fourth day, she had some trouble breathing.  She starting gagging on mucous and we noticed the skin around her ribs pulling in as she inhaled (intercostal retractions).  Late that night she developed a high-pitched wheeze so we took her to the ER.  She was diagnosed with RSV and given a breathing treatment in the hospital.  We brought home an baby inhaler and spacer with instructions to use it as needed and to take her to her pediatrician the next day.  (We found out later that her oxygen levels were too low and that she should have stayed in the hospital.) We got home at 3 in the morning and she was still very sick so I dozed upright while holding her because I was afraid to lay her down and miss hearing if she was in distress.  By the next afternoon, her oxygen levels returned to normal and she passed the peak of her illness.  (Textbook RSV is worst on the fourth day of illness.)

The problem was that Macie continued to fuss and cry for much of every day.  At first we thought it was irritation from the lingering congestion.  Then I thought maybe I had supply issues and she wasn't getting enough to eat.  Hiccups terribly upset her and she got them multiple times a day.  She stopped sleeping well at night and struggled to settle down for naps.  The kids couldn't hold her anymore without her crying.  I had a few sobbing breakdowns, wondering what had happened to my happy baby.  I'll devote another post to the details, but the short story is that she was diagnosed with silent reflux two weeks ago and after the very first dose of medication, her temperament changed back into our cheerful, smiley baby.  Since then, it's been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but we're working toward a solution.  I suspect I need to eliminate dairy from my diet. 

In the midst of all the tumult, Brian started back to work for his fourteenth year of landscaping and cutting grass.  It was a tremendous blessing to have him home for the first seven weeks of Macie's life as we adapted as a family of eight, but now it was time to begin a new normal and a new schedule. Spring is Brian's busiest time of year, even more so than summer which means he sometimes works past dinner.  I'm very blessed to have children old enough to help in the kitchen or hold a baby while I cook.

I taught the kids to clean their bathroom when Macie was born.  They had taken over the daily freshen-up cleaning routine months before, but I turned over the weekly deep-clean, too.  It's been a game changer, though I've had to lay aside my perfectionist standards and accept good enough.

We bought a new-to-us vehicle.  It seats eight so we can all ride together again.  No more taking two vehicles everywhere we go!  It's bigger and higher off the ground than our minivan, but I can drive it with ease now and I'm started to get more comfortable parking.

The kids beloved gym glass is mid-way through its spring semester.  Maddie continues to attend her book club.  The theme this year is world geography and the specific theme this month is South and Central America.  The other kids love when she attends because it means the rest of us go to McDonald's for ice cream sundaes or cookies. (I'm not a fan of McDonald's food so this is a big treat for them!) Maddie, Owen, Ben, and Alaine are part of a children's choir at church that practices weekly. I even got to participate in an one-time adult choir at church that  sang a song on Easter Sunday. Owen's piano lessons have been on hold since Macie was born, but he still plays semi-regularly and he has taught Ben and Alaine to play "Jesus Loves Me."

School continues on, but we are all looking forward to summer break which should begin in mid-May.  I'm not pinning down a date yet, but I have one in mind.  I've never been a history lover, but I'm enjoying our study this semester, using this book about Abraham Lincoln. Ben finished his math book last week and Owen will finish his on Thursday.  Gavin will complete science by the end of the month.  He loved his study of marine creatures this year, using this book.  He compiled a notebook of sketches and information throughout the year and entered them in a local science fair in March.

We had a friendly family March Madness competition.  We all filled out brackets and kept track of who had the most wins.  A milkshake was the promised treat for the winner.  On the first day, Gavin said, "I want to get a mint Oreo milkshake from Cook Out."  Owen said, " If you win," and Gavin replied, "Oh, I will win."  And he did! Even Alaine who knows nothing about basketball came in only one point behind Brian.

And life continues. 

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain. 
 In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him. 
 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

Psalm 127

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