Saturday, February 26, 2011

Of chaos and celebrating and copper wire

I love alliteration.  I hate coming up with titles. I think I just may overthink it, but I don't like to spell out in the title what my whole post is going to be about.  At least I don't want to say it without a bit of mystery.  That being said, it is possible to be annoyingly cryptic.  Don't you just hate it when someone posts something on Facebook like, "So excited, " and then waits for all her friends to ask her why?! 

I guess if I were like that I could say something here like, "Giveaway today," and then when you ask where, I could send you to Suzanne at TheJoyfulChaos  who is celebrating five years of blogging this week.  I don't even remember how I discovered her blog, but it was one of those links that went immediately to my favorites list and has stuck around through my frequent maniacal weeding out.  (I am so not a pack rat.  I can't even stand to keep too many lists on my computer.)

Anyway, Suzanne is a mama of five like me and I literally spent hours reading through some of her old posts when I was a weepy, insecure postpartum mama in the days and nights after Alaine was born.  Her words soothed me in a rough patch of time.  She's pretty funny, too.

Today is Day 5 of her celebration and series of giveaways.  Today she is giving away a copper wire necklace that I made.   Well, I haven't made it yet, but I will.  

I made this one for myself with five eggs and I made another for my sister-in-law with three eggs and I'll make one for the winner with however many eggs they have in their little homey nest.  So go say hello to Suzanne and celebrate with her and laugh and  be encouraged.  And sign up to win my necklace, too.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Year of Good-byes

Why do I think that each time will be easier?  I guess it is because the sad feelings usually don't hit me until the moment arrives and the final hugs are given.  Last month, we had to say good-bye to my brother and his family as they went back home (many, many miles away) after a week-long visit.  We talked and ate and laughed for six days and I tricked myself into thinking the good-byes would be easier this time and yet, when we put on coats and turned to say those final words, tears clogged my eyes and my throat in a unexpected instant.

Today we had to say good-bye to some of our very best friends.

 They leave this weekend for a journey across the country, going and living where God is calling them to go.  Their son and my Gavin have known each other since they were only months old.  Their littlest and my Benjamin were born weeks apart.  We play together, we laugh together, we have fun together and yet, I didn't expect to be so affected by the parting.  


Today we spent the day with them, helping to load their moving truck.  

We shared a last meal.

Then we put on coats and turned to say those final words, and again the tears came.  

 Even tonight, I feel the tug of sadness, wishing things could stay as we know them, in our comfortable groove. 

And just like in so many things, God draws me to Him.  He reminds me that one day, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  (Revelation 21:4)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dotting His I's and Crossing His T's

 A glimpse at copywork:

Gavin recently finished his copybook and rather than order a new one mid-year, we created our own.  I bought a simple 77-cent three-pronged folder and added loose-leaf paper.  Then we brainstormed (Brian, Gavin and I) and typed out pages with his address, the names of all of our family members, the days of the week, and familiar scriptures and tucked them into the folder.  Each morning, he chooses a passage or a few lines to copy (...he doesn't have to go in order...) and in ten minutes, his copywork is complete!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Love Story (Countdown To Our Day)

(Part 1: One Plus One)
(Part 2: Two Hearts)

After the proposal, the wedding plans went into high gear.  My mom was homeschooling and caring for my 7-year-old sister and was pregnant with my youngest sister-- not your stereotypical "mother of the bride"-- and Brian and I were both working full-time jobs with opposite schedules so we planned in the cracks.  We ordered bridesmaids dresses from a catalog.  I bought my dress on Ebay (and it needed NO alterations!).  We talked flowers and favors and candles and music on Sunday evenings (one of the only times we both had off). 

We originally discussed a fall wedding, but settled on Saturday, August 11 of the next year which was exactly one week before my 21st birthday.  A woman at work told me I should at least wait until after I turned twenty-one so I could enjoy my birthday as a single woman, but I thought there was no better way to spend the day than with my new husband! 

Four months before the wedding, my mom was hospitalized again, this time for premature labor.  Her water broke at 32 weeks and she spent a week in Labor and Delivery, trying to hold back labor, but on Good Friday (April 13, 2001), my sister, Rebekah, was born seven weeks early, weighing close to six pounds.  Our plans came to a standstill for a bit, but soon we had to carry on.  My mom, now caring for a seven-year-old and a premature baby who was having trouble nursing and gaining weight, told me that the planning was going to have to fall almost entirely on me and Brian. 

Along with organizing the wedding, we were also trying to find a place to live since we were both still living at home with our parents.  Most apartments had a waiting list, but we needed to secure a place. Maybe that's why I don't have lots of romantic memories of the two to three months before our wedding.  I was too busy. I do remember lots of stressed-out tears and a dead car battery and a flat tire and having to be driven to work every day on the week leading up to my wedding. 

The summer of 2001 was beautiful.  Several acquaintances had been married that season and they had lovely, seventy-five degree days.  Me?  Not so much.  The day before our wedding was hot and muggy.  When we arrived at the church for the rehearsal, the pastor said, "Before you come in, I need to make sure the air conditioning is back on.  It was broken this week, but I think the repairmen came today."  Visions of sweat dripping off my wedding gown and sticky, flushed guests flashed through my mind.  But alas, the church was cool and the everything was back in working order.  The actual day of my wedding was hot and rainy.  You know what, though?  It was still a wonderful, unforgettable day.  Brian's dad officiated and we gathered together with co-workers, old friends, newer friends, and lots of family to promise our lives to each other and pledge our relationship to the Lord. 

We often think back on that day and see the pictures of us looking like two young kids and say, "We never could have imagined what life would look like almost ten years later and five kids richer."  Thankfully, Someone knew.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Love Story (Two Hearts)

(Part 1: One Plus One)

Our college's fall semester began in September (1999) and we again took several classes together.  One of our classes was an art history class which included two all-day field trips to art museums.  They were the ultimate dates,  spending whole days together in  big cities (yet still accountable and surrounded by chaperones).  We also had two regularly-scheduled afternoon/evening shifts a week together at the library (they called us Romeo and Juliet) and spent every weekend together either at my house or with friends. We were inseparable.

Summer of 2000 was the turning point.  Brian left the library for a full-time job  that had crazy hours and I graduated with my associates degree and applied for a new job so our time together was compromised.  My mom was hospitalized with a serious heath problem and my brother was preparing to leave for school five hours away.  For a few weeks, life seemed uncertain and scary, but somewhere in those hazy weeks Brian asked my dad if he could marry me. 

One Friday night in November, Brian and I went ice skating and I just knew he was going to give me a ring that night.  I suspected he had one and I thought it would be the perfect evening.  He didn't agree.  In an effort to beat my curfew, I drove home a little too fast. By the time I got home, I was late, disappointed and holding my first (and only!) speeding ticket.

On November 18, 2000, we went out to dinner with Brian's sister, Amy, and her husband, Lee.  After the meal, we drove to the beach and walked onto the boardwalk, overlooking the water.  It was cold and windy and almost too dark to see the water, but Brian had plans.  He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a ring box.  He says I never said yes, but somehow the ring found its way to my finger. 

(Part 3: Countdown To Our Day)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Story (One Plus One)

Those who have known me since I was a teenager (!) know that the answer to my Love Story guessing game is a, b, and c. Several commenters were correct, though the first one with the right answer was anonymous so I don't know who to call the unofficial winner. (Updated to say the anonymous commenter has been identified as my friend, Joanie!

In the spring of 1997, when I was a junior in high school, I got a part-time job at the county library shelving books.  I worked in the children's section alone so it was several weeks before I was introduced to any of the other shelvers, but one particularly slow evening, my friend, Ginger, who also my co-worker, took me over to the other side of the library and introduced me.  "This is Jen.  And this is Kim.  And this is Brian," she said. We smiled and said hello... but Brian has no memory of meeting at all!

It's funny because we think we may have even met years before.  When I was in fifth grade, I played clarinet in the elementary school band.  Brian was a sixth grader at another school and played trombone.  The two schools shared a band director and one year he asked several of us at my school to play in the spring concert at Brian's elementary school.  I remember the concert and Brian remembers the concert, but we don't remember each other!

So anyway...Brian graduated high school a month after we were introduced, got another job, and quit the library.  I don't think I even knew he had left since I had a boyfriend and was pretty absorbed in my social life. The following summer, though, was different.  I graduated high school and began working the front desk at the library.  Some time in the year, Brian had come back to the library and was also working the front desk.  My boyfriend moved away to college out of state and our relationship fizzled.

Brian was assigned to train me on the library's computer system so we began to get to know each other.  By November when we spent a weekend setting up for the library book sale, we had no problem talking for two days straight.  At Christmas, a friend and I went with Brian and his brother to a Christmas production at their church and out to dinner.  By winter, we would scan the calendar at work for any day we were assigned the same shift so we could take break together.  By spring, we registered for the same classes at the community college we were attending together. 

It was the summer of 1999.  Brian was twenty and I was barely nineteen.  My parents were still hesitant about us spending too much time alone, but we spent every spare minute together with groups of friends or at my house.  My six-year-old sister declared that she wanted to marry "B" as she called him...and I was beginning to think I wanted to marry him, too.

(Part 2: Two Hearts )
(Part 3: Countdown To Our Day)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Children's Book Monday

Kiss Good Night and Don't You Feel Well, Sam?
by Amy Hest
illustrated by Anita Jeram

My Benjamin is a busy boy, but when I say, "Benny, want to read a book?" he runs to the shelf or the library basket and selects a favorite, a grin stretched across his face.   He used to love Tom and Pippoand he still does, but his new favorites are the Sam books. We've read them time and again in the last month and he never tires of them. 

And you know what?  I'm not tired of them either.  

Maybe it is because I know that my older children have moved on to more complex stories with more complicated plots and I know that he will move on, too.  I know that the days of delighting in the cozy stories of a bear and his mama are fleeting (although Maddie still peeks over my shoulder while I read these books to Benjamin.  The girl will listen to me read anything!).

But maybe I'm not tired of Sam because, though the stories are simple and easy, they are rich in warmth and home and comfort.  I can feel  the red blanket that Mrs. Bear tucks around Sam.  I can hear his little cough when he begins to get sick.  I can imagine the bedtime stalling and the cuddles, too.  When Mrs. Bear kisses Sam, I can't resist kissing my Benjamin and he giggles when I do.

There is nothing like a little boy body nestled against mine, feeling his shoulders relax as we begin the story and hearing his sigh as we finish. 

These books were surely made for these February weeks of chill and tissues and quilts and love.

(Friends, the links included are affiliate links.) 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Woman to Woman: Breastfeeding, Pt. 4

(Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)

My (Current) Story

Until Alaine came along I had never had a baby who refused to nurse, but Alaine will happily sail through her day, fighting the urge to nurse until she is super-hungry or super-tired.  She will indicate that she wants to nurse, but then cry and pull away if I try.  There are times when I worry and think, "If I switched her to a bottle, I wouldn't have to wonder if she is getting enough to eat."  But I've refused to let that be an option for me.  Supplementing her will only start the slippery slope of interventions that are hard to pull up from once they are started. As long as she continues to wet her diaper and as long as she has no other way of gaining calories, I know she will nurse when she is hungry!

Last month, though, we reached a crisis point in our nursing relationship.  She began  refusing to nurse at all.  When she was hungry, I'd attempt to feed her and she would scream and arch her back.  It puzzled me and I began to think through the possible causes. 

Could it be that my supply is lacking and  I don't have enough milk to feed her?  No, because the milk is there. It's just that she won't drink it.  (Her resistance lasted close to a month and at the peak, my supply did go down, but it was a result, not a cause.)

Could it be that she is having digestive issues?  No, because she is not fussy any other time and she is sleeping well.  She is not gassy or uncomfortable.

I worried and prayed and worried some more until one morning I changed her diaper and noticed that her poop was greenish in color.  I remembered reading that green poop in breastfed babies often means that they are receiving too much foremilk  and not enough of the fattier hindmilk.  It made sense since usually, I was only able to convince Alaine to nurse for a minute (literally) and she never nursed long enough to reach the hindmilk, and though she was still plump and developing well, her weight gain had plateaued. 

So...I still didn't have a cause of the resistance and striking, but I did have a mission, and that was to get her to nurse long enough to ingest the rich hindmilk.  It proved a tough challenge.  The only way I found to nurse her was to nurse her standing up!  Also, though it seemed to be counterintuitive, I found that spacing out her nursings helped because when she was very hungry, she was more willing to take it seriously.  For days and days, I nursed her standing up.  At night, I could no longer nurse her lying down either.  It was exhausting,, both physically and emotionally, but it worked.  Gradually, I noticed her diapers were wetter and her gulps noisier.  In the first 6 days of my experiment, she gained 14 ounces. 

I never did figure out why nursing in a standing position was the answer because her position never changed.  I still held her in a cradle position with her tummy against mine.  Possibly, she liked the movement and rocking when I was upright.  I don't know, but slowly, slowly, I was able to transition back into sitting down to nurse.  First it was once a day...and then about fifty percent of the time...and now, we nurse sitting down most of the time. 

At five months old, Alaine is still exclusively breastfed, but she doesn't always make it easy.  She nurses in quick bursts and I have to be proactive to ensure that she is eating enough.  She prefers that I am sitting up (though not always standing up) and she wiggles constantly.  

Still, the rewards are endless.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Little Game

asked:    How did you and your husband meet?
Carrie said: I would love to hear how you met your husband as well.


I'll share our love story next week on Valentine's week, but until then, let's play a guessing game:

How do you think I met Brian?

a) at the library
b) at work
c) through a mutual friend

(And keep the questions coming.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Children's Book Monday

My friend Barbara asked me how I find the books that I review on my blog-- you know, books that are fun but not silly, and just as enjoyable to me as to them.  My answer is two-fold.  First of all, we read lots of books.  We may bring twenty books home from the library, but only ten or eleven are worth reading a second time and maybe only four or five are what I consider excellent, reviewable, recommendable (is that a word?!) quality. 

Secondly, I am always on the look-out for other readers' recommendations.  I visit Elise's blog and Kathi's and Stacy's and Anna's and if one of them writes a few words about a book that piques my interest, we put it on hold at the library and give it a try.  For Christmas, my parents gave us a copy of Sarah Clarkson's book Read For the Heart and I'm tagging at least one book every few pages so we can borrow one or two at a time from the library.

Jodi recently started a fun feature on her blog called Five on Friday where she highlights five children's picture books each week.  My recommendation this week comes from one of her lists!

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Snow Globe Family
by Jane O'Connor
illustrated by S. D. Schindler

When I was child, I was fascinated by those pieces of artwork that would show a painting within a painting within a painting.  The concept blew my mind and perhaps that is what drew me to this particular storybook.  This is the tale of a family-- a mama, a papa, a boy, a girl, and a baby--who owns a snow globe that is home to another family-- another mama, papa, boy, girl, and baby.

The snow globe sits on a mantle in the big family's dining room.  It is one of those decorations that was placed there so long ago that no one notices it anymore, except to give it a weekly dusting, but the tiny family who lives under its clear dome longs for a blizzard like the ones from days gone by.  Someone in the big house does remember the snow globe, though, so there just might be the chance for the hoped-for storm.  

My children placed this book in my lap over and over again.  Maddie giggled while the real mama served  slices of crumb cake and cups of tea and the snow globe mama served  crumbs of crumb cake and  half drops of tea.  Benjamin pointed out the baby on every page (since at the ripe age of  two, he no longer considers himself a baby!).  Finding a story simple enough to reach my toddler and engaging enough to captivate my older children is a real treat.  Finding this story of great quality yet few words was a feast!

Elise is back!  For her weekly Children's Book Monday recommendations, click here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

questions for me?

Last February had me in the grips of writer's block.  I was stuck in the house for days upon days, snowbound and stir crazy.  My blog was going through an identity crisis.  What direction should it take?  What did I love to write about?  What did you love to read about?  Did anyone care what I had to say?  Was He honored by the words that were spelled out on these pages?  I asked for help-- asked you for ideas-- and you responded with a list of fun questions that fitted me back into my writing groove.  

Over the past 12 months, I've had a chance to mentally work through my blogging purpose and prayerfully let go of certain feelings about comments and followers and the like. So this year-- just for fun-- I ask again: what do you want to know about me?  What are you curious to know about how I live, how I believe, how I teach?  What would you like to have me share and what stories should I tell?  Ask anything.  All I ask is that you be respectful of me, my family, and other readers.

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