Tongue tied…AGAIN.

One of my more recent posts was about my baby girl’s journey–well, the whole family’s journey–with her Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). I wrote out of absolute gratitude for all of the folks who invested in our care during those challenging first weeks and for how Jesus continues to sustain us as we grow in the hard times. It certainly wasn’t my first time to talk about breastfeeding, and it won’t be the last. See some other posts on breastfeeding here and here.

SO many mommies reached out to me after each of those posts. It blew my mind and blessed my heart. I love hearing from other mommies because it solidifies for all of us that  we are not alone. I am humbled by the responses I get from you all. It’s absolutely amazing. I was told that I should include more breastfeeding posts on my blog, and while that’s not the topic of my focus, it sure does take up a great deal of my time every day considering I have an infant. It’s on my mind a lot.

Remember how Baby K had to be spoon fed, syringe fed, and even bottle fed during those first weeks? Exhausting. Absolutely exhausting. But oh, so worth it. I would literally fall asleep sitting up at night in the wee hours pumping after she nursed so I could immediately feed her more with hope that she’d gain weight. And she did! We were able to stop that process (praises to Jesus! haha!) and she just eats when she wants to do so…which of course sometimes still feels like around the clock. She weighed in at 9 lbs 12 ounces when she went for her 2 month check last week, and I (internally) jumped for joy and experienced overwhelming gratitude!

It’s interesting to note that it felt like when she was born Baby K had more than just IUGR to fight in gaining weight. No, she also had an upper lip tie and a tongue tie. That made breastfeeding even more laborious since I had to learn new ways to feed her. Between one of my LCs and my pediatrician we all decided to wait on having the ties revised since sometimes babies will go into shock and stop nursing at all. We wanted to make sure that she gained and maintained first.

So…sad face because she had both of those ties but a heart of gratitude that I knew what to look for and was therefore able to identify them both the day she born even with her teeny tiny mouth. I’m so grateful that my LC friend Jennifer took the time to Skype with me and confirm various signs that I’d noticed on my own.

I learned so much during those appointments with my LCs. Considering that’s my absolute dream job, I rejoice through these trials since life experiences are often the best teachers. I am constantly learning more and more–I’m so thankful! Did you know that you can actually compress the breast in order to help your baby gather more of the areola for a better latch and suck/swallow pattern? I had no idea until recently. I also didn’t know there was skill in listening to how a baby swallowed to know whether or not it is “organized”. Or how about that side-lying position? That can also be a great position for the tongue-tied baby since the breast is naturally compressed as you lie down! I’ve nursed four babies in the last nine years and continue to learn.

We all have gifts and passions that, when we take hold and grow, can be used to serve others and help them grow, too. I’m longing for the days when I will be able to go back to school so that I can finish up what’s necessary to become an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Until then you will find me enjoying and savoring the moments with Baby K and helping any mommy who asks. One day I want to be on the front lines at the hospital taking those exhausted and frazzled mommies under my wing. For now, I’m grateful for those who do that for me and mine. Absolutely grateful.

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A *Grand* Rescue

If I could sum up the last month in just a few words they would be: uphill battle. No, this isn’t my inner pessimistic expert talking here. Each of the last 27 days has had multiple challenges to greet me, sometimes before the sun even begins to warm my face, many of them beginning with a certain toddler who has a love/hate relationship with his new baby sister.

I feel like my family has been the continuous recipient of some Grand Rescues. I say Grand, because we’ve had all four of the grandparents visit our home at one point or another in the last month and it has been absolutely wonderful!

I’ve always loved having my mom around when a new baby arrives, and this time has been no exception. Momma was here for 17 days after Baby K’s birth. She cooked, cleaned, shopped, transported, played, chatted, watched, mentored, loved, and snuggled. It’s the longest she’s ever been in town and I keep scheming ways to get her back out here for another lengthy visit. I’m not sure who enjoys her more, the kids or me!

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Gramma & her first granddaughter. I love that Baby K *looks* like she’s smiling at Gramma. 😉

My dad came out for a couple of days to help us celebrate Christmas, and I always love watching when he gets goofy with my boys. It warmed my heart. And then he held my baby girl, and I watched him melt.

Most recently my in-laws drove to our rescue last weekend when we suddenly had to take Baby K to the ER after realizing she had RSV. They just ended their two week shift as house parents who work 24-hour shifts caring for a house full of girls aged 7-13. We called to tell them our situation just to let them know what was going on and they offered to come out knowing they’d be trapped by the snow/ice when they arrived. Normally they would have gone straight to bed to hibernate for 12 hours from sheer exhaustion. I nearly cried from relief and gratitude when my hubs told me their offer especially since I had been wishing for their presence at the exact same moment.

The Grands have been our cheerleaders while Baby K and I have been working super hard to fatten her up. See this post for why. Each time we had a weight check I call the Grands with Baby K’s progress and listen to them share in our delight. They are equally as excited about her gains as Stephen and I are. When I struggled through long nights of every-three-hour feedings, they encouraged me and picked up the slack by waking early to cook breakfast, intercepting some of those tantrums, and even folding mountains of laundry.

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The G-Daddy and his first granddaughter. She was so tiny in his hands!

Grands to the rescue. I love that my mom had the opportunity to come out and take care of my family as my body, mind, and spirit recovered from delivery. I love that my dad took time from his work to visit for a few days to meet our little girl (his first granddaughter) and celebrate the holidays with us. I love that my in-laws’ job has them living less than two hours away and that they jumped at the opportunity to take care of our family when we so desperately needed them. The love our parents have for us and demonstrated for us in the last month reminds me of another rescue. A Grand-er one, if you will.

Every single day I need to be rescued from myself. Every day. I know that I can’t even survive the day on my own; I don’t have the strength within myself to do it regardless of how much positive talk I lavish upon my mind. On days when my heart and mind are focused, I remember to fix my thoughts and hope upon Jesus. Why? He is God incarnate, the One who laid aside His glory to become a man and live among us. Not only did He live, but He lived and faced every temptation without giving into any sin at all. How I wish I could go one hour with that same accomplishment! Jesus obeyed His Father at all times and that included making Himself the ultimate sacrifice to pay for all of my misdeeds and disobedience against God the Creator. He took my punishment of forever death in hell and He says that to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He will give them the right to become children of God. (John 1:12) My parents and in-laws rescued my family and I from daily stresses, from exhaustion, and from having to worry about so many things so that we could take care of our new little one. BUT, Jesus offers a rescue that is beyond my comprehension. He offers to rescue me from eternal separation from the God who created me and loves me more than I grasp. May I daily be in awe of this sacrifice and rescue so that I will fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.

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Popeye reading to the Tiny Banana.

Thank you, Daddy, for making time to trek out here and hang out with this noisy family. Thank you for loving on my boys even when they couldn’t keep their busy fingers still long enough to finish a board game.

Thank you, Momma, for how graciously you served my family. Those were the best 17 days ever. I’m not sure I can adequately express to you how precious those days were and how I can’t wait for more of them. Thanks for teaching me the Sunshine song when I was a little girl…it lulls mine to sleep, too.

Thank you, Gene & Dayna, my out-laws in love, for dropping everything and coming to another (!) noisy house when you could have just stayed in your nice warm apartment to rest in silence and peace. You say you invaded my home, but it was a delight to have you here and a comfort when our world was shaken with Baby K’s sickness. And thanks for showing me that boiled stew meat is still tasty. 😉

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Nanny & Baby K.

My gratitude for you overflows, and I love you.

Every Single Ounce

Somehow, it has already been nearly three weeks since Baby K has arrived. She was born two weeks early on December 15th. So many events led up to this day and they all make her story that much more miraculous, so I’m gonna back up just a tad.

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Taken just 3 days before she was born, this was Baby K’s final eviction notice. Get out, girl!

I wish I could recall exactly how many weeks pregnant I was when we first were told that Baby K had Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). It was shocking to find out that she wasn’t growing on track and was in fact three or four weeks behind in weight gain. Stephen and I prayed often as I ate more protein and healthy fats, guzzled Ningxia Red, and waited until the next ultrasound. Honestly it was agonizing. Trusting that Jesus is sovereign over all things and events in my life is easy to talk about, but when I have to flesh it out in real life, it’s so hard to believe sometimes. Not even gonna lie. Every day felt like its own eternity as I waited and waited to see what the next visit would reveal. When you can’t see everything going on even when it’s going on in your own body…there is so much uncertainty. Still I was determined to trust in Christ, because HE is my hope (not the ultrasound, not the food, not the weight gain or even her weight gain).

At one of our visits we were told that her growth seemed to be back on track again and we wouldn’t need another growth ultrasound. That changed again when at 37 weeks my belly measured 4 centimeters too small. I was sent for another growth ultrasound, and we learned that Baby K just wasn’t growing as well in utero as we needed. We’d made progress and had some success along the way, but we found ourselves at 38 weeks in the dark room of UNC Rex having to make a choice. The doctor and midwives told us that a safe and healthy birth was becoming riskier the longer we wait, so much to my husband’s surprise, I requested a pitocin induction for Thursday, December 15th. I’d been induced with my eldest two and vowed to never do it again. Those weren’t by choice, though. The doctors thought my boys were late. That’s another conversation. At this point, however, we were desperate to make sure that she would thrive after birth.

I won’t go into the birth story, though the journey from labor to delivery was absolutely incredible. That, too, is for another conversation. Suffice it to say that it went far smoother than I expected and I survived the pitocin without any pain medication. If you know my husband, ask about how he barely caught her. Haha!

She was SO tiny. So little. Little everything. But she was breathing, and she was eating, and she was content to be with me when she arrived.  My new Little Bit was just that–little. At a whopping 5lbs 14.8oz, we knew we had to fatten her up as soon as possible. The first 24 hours was H.A.R.D. In a whole 24 hours, I managed to get three measly hours of sleep for all the nursing, hand expressing, spoon feeding, and then starting over again almost as soon as we finished.

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Sweet liquid gold. Spoon feeding a newborn is no easy task ESPECIALLY without spilling!

Baby K’s blood sugars were too low, and we had to feed her every two hours. Less than a day after she was born those numbers were satisfactory enough for us to go home; she was now maintaining. But 48 hours after her birth we received difficult words when the nurse visited us at home: Baby K had lost 15% of her body weight since birth. I was crushed. Her advice was simple: feed Baby K every three hours around the clock at the breast, then either pump and feed her another ounce from the bottle, or give her another ounce of either donated breastmilk or formula. Let’s pause here for a moment and just revel in the glory of God’s goodness and provision, shall we? Why??

With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
Psalm 142: 1-2

First of all, I was bound and determined to fatten my girl, and I know that so much of a mommy’s success in breastfeeding is bound up in her attitude and drive (note: not all of it, and sometimes success doesn’t come at all). So I prayed and cried wept to Jesus to provide her with milk even though I knew we didn’t deserve His goodness, provision, or grace. After I ingested two drops each of my Young Living fennel and celery seed essential oils to promote lactation, I texted and called about eight of my precious mommy friends that I thought might still be nursing to ask if they had any extra milk to share with my girl. One mommy had a neighbor about to move who was devastated to throw out over 60 ounces of frozen milk, and she gleefully shared it with us instead. One friend who is weaning her son, started taking the same oils to increase her own supply in order to help. Another mommy friend brought about 60 ounces of frozen milk and told me that she had more in her freezer if it is ever needed. And a final sweet mommy, who claimed she could never get much milk out when pumped, must have worked so very hard because she brought me about 12 ounces. Rejoice with me, friends. God is gracious. Good. Amazing. He is Yahweh Jireh, our God Who Provides. Once again I wept at God’s kindness toward my girl and me, toward our family.

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Five days old and is swallowed by Newborn sized clothing (and hats!).

Feeding an IUGR baby is just plain exhausting. After getting her latched on at each feeding (and her mouth was SUPER tiny), I struggled to help her keep her latch strong, keep both of us awake, then pump, then feed her an ounce with a teeny tiny medical syringe, not to mention burping and diaper changing. It took 30 syringes to feed her an ounce. From start to finish, it took an hour to feed Baby K, and I then I could rest or sleep for two hours. But by the grace of God, ingesting those EOs three or four times helped my milk fully come in by day 3. It was incredible. By the time Baby K was nearly 5 days old (48 hours after that 15% weight loss), she’d gained back 11.5 ounces. I cried. My mom cried. My husband didn’t cry, but I know he was ecstatic. I looked at her tiny frame in awe of how quickly she was gaining back. Two days later, she was at 5lbs 13oz. Are you ready for this? When Baby K went in for her two week check, I begged God to let her have reached the 6lb mark. He blew my mind though. She was 6lbs, 9oz. WHAT?!?! Yeah, I cried again. I laughed while crying. I’m laughing and crying right now. Haha! All the ounces count when your baby is born tiny and has trouble being anything other than tiny. All the ounces.

I called my lactation consultant at the birth center, and she was as amazed as I was. And, she said that at that point I was free to give Baby K the supplemented pumped milk at every other feeding and let her sleep at night until she woke on her own to nurse. Hallelujah! Sleep is so precious. So now we nurse once at night instead of three times. PRAISE. JESUS. The bags under my eyes aren’t quite as heavy anymore.

These last three weeks have been long. And hard. And exhausting. And my poor boys have seen hardly any of me between all of the appointments Baby K and I have had to attend and how frequently she’s had to nurse. Yet we have all survived and are trying to discover a new “normal”. I’m in awe of my fellow mommies and daddies who have babies with IUGR who struggle longer than just two weeks. Some of them have babies who don’t leave the NICU for a long time. We were never there. Once again I’m convinced that because my passion is to one day be an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (and be a darn good one), I’ve run through another gauntlet to help me understand and learn more about breastfeeding and how to better serve my fellow mommies. Remember the last time I had trouble? It’s a journey within a journey, for sure.

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10 days old and still being eaten by her jammies, but growing every day!

I’m still amazed at God’s goodness each day when I notice subtle changes. Baby K now has a nicely sized double chin that is perfect for kissing. Her cheeks are plump and ripe for munching. She still has chicken arms and chicken legs like Brother #2 before her, but the muscles are beginning to hide behind a nice layer of cushy fatness. And her belly, oh her belly. It’s nice and round, and it’s full and happy. My baby girl is happy and healthier and I praise my Jesus for helping us get here. I don’t know how much she weighs right now, but we’ll find out next week. Until then, we’re just gonna keep doing our thing and praising God for what we have.

Home is…where I’m trapped. Right?

Two nights ago my husband asked the most random question: “When is the last time you wrote on your blog?” It’s been about two months, I shamefully admitted. “You should write something soon.” I don’t think he knows how encouraging those words were nor how motivating, so here I write…

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid who dreamed about the future? I don’t. Haha. I think I spend too much time thinking about the “what if’s” that my father always told me to stop worrying about. But there was a time for each of us when we dreamed and schemed about what we wanted to be when we grew up.

I have vivid memories of being with other kids and pretending to be a school teacher. I was the oldest at the in-home daycare my brother and I attended for several years, so I was always the teacher. Sometimes we’d play house, and I was always the mom. Do those early role-playing years have any indication of what I truly wanted for my future? I dunno, but here I stand a wife of 10 years, a mom of eight years, and having done teacher-esque duties of various kinds for more time than that. Yet what happens when we have exactly what we want? Often times we forget to have gratitude; we become greedy for more or maybe want to push away the awesomeness of blessings that we’ve been given.

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I’m really grateful for the flexibility that homeschooling brings. They can sit wherever is most comfortable and still get work done. I don’t feel trapped when this happens.

Two weeks ago I realized that that so often I feel trapped within my own home. There are always toys all over the floor (and seriously, how did that Lego brick get in there?!?), always laundry piles to be done, always dirty dishes, and there is always dirt on the floor. There are always arguments to dispel, hearts to correct and encourage, boo-boos to kiss, and hugs to give (more so, it seems, when I already feel especially over-touched for the day). And since I also homeschool and own my own home-based business, those “still need to be done” list items spill over into other categories. There is always something.

Recently, by God’s incredible grace, I have been getting up earlier to focus my heart and mind on having a new and different attitude, and I’m seeing changes, albeit small ones. Last week I had one of those days where absolutely nothing went as I wanted or planned and the frustration and anger soaked every word I spoke. After 33 years of life, 10 years of marriage, and 8 years of parenting, why on earth would I be crazy foolish enough to expect most things to go the way that I planned them to go? Ha! Some days it seems there are constant tantrums, arguments, why’s, and stop-touching-me’s…even from this mama. So today, I want to be especially focused and intentional in my prayers and thoughts so that no matter what comes my way I will not let my attitude be determined by my circumstances but rather by truths that I know.

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His favorite spot in the house. I love that he yells for his brothers from the window. He doesn’t feel trapped here. Why should I?

Praise God that in His grace and crazy awesome kindness He granted the desires of my heart. I think all the time, “There’s no way I should be a mother. I’m terrible at this!” yet God reminds me that I’m not to do anything in my own strength but in His. (Philippians 4:13) That goes for any title I hold: wife, teacher, boss-lady, homemaker, etc.

I’m so thankful that I remember dreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up (not sure I’m a grown up yet, but whatever), because it gives me greater joy each time my sons tell me what they want to be. The best part is that what they want to be changes about every two weeks when they get excited about some new topic or finding. Their aspirations challenge me and excited me. I can’t wait to see what they do!

I’m thankful that my husband and children still love me. Of course they love you, Ashley, how could they not?! I can just imagine folks saying that in response. My friend, we are all wicked, and sometimes that wickedness is so great that we are surprised that anyone could love us and keep us around. My husband is one of the most patient people I have ever met in my life, and God put us together knowing that I would need that from him. My sons love me with a crazy big love, and when I confess whatever sin to my children that I’ve committed against them and ask their forgiveness my 6yo often says, “I will always forgive you, Momma.” Is your heart melted? Jesus’ grace right there in the words of a child.

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Getting out of the house even for just a walk seems to relieve so much tension! I struggle to remember this. Don’t make yourself feel trapped.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to stop and be renewed. Days like yesterday cannot determine the attitude of my heart today other than to give me a fervor of focus on the Word of God and prayer as I get ready to greet the day ahead of me. So this morning while praying, the Spirit of God reminded me of this:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)

I’m glad the Apostle Paul wrote this. I have a tendency to get stuck in the muck of “Woe is me. I suck because yesterday was a sucky day and I sinned a lot and I suck and I can’t pick myself up and keep going today.” So then I have to force myself to remember this:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV)

Indeed. I will hope in the Lord God. He will renew me day by day whether I am in my home or outside of it. Oh, and I’m learning to get out of the house every. single. day. for some amount of time to maintain sanity. Sounds simple, right? I’ve got three kids and one on the way…there’s nothing simple about getting everyone out the door for anything, but getting out of our home for a little bit every day seems to bring refreshment to all of us! So forward we go!

What IS in a name?

Have you ever considered the gravity of the situation when you choose a name for a child? I mean, that’s what they’ll be called by friends, family, teachers, the presenter of their high school diploma, and maybe even a spouse. For. Eh. Ver.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes that makes choosing a name for a child kind of nerve wracking. For real. How will it be spelled? Will it be some off-the-wall name that you want so that your kid’s name is uber unique and sticks out? Will it be a traditional or classical name? Maybe you’ll choose a name of a popular actor/actress or character name (done both of those ourselves) and hope that every other parent doesn’t think that moniker is awesomeness at the same time you do? How do/did YOU choose the name(s) for your child(ren)?

My husband had our eldest’s first name picked out back in 1999 when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was popular. This was way before we met and were married, mind you, so I didn’t choose the middle name until 2007. His names mean “Defender of man” and “God will help”. We wanted the names to sound good together and have a nice flow, but we find it important to also choose names based upon their meaning. It’s just what we do.

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This is one of our first pics as a family of THREE. 2008. Be still, my heart. He’s 8 now.

Our second son was born less than two years later. His first name came from an actor in the film Taken, and like his older brother his middle name comes from the Old Testament. His names mean “Strong-willed warrior” and “Strength of God”. Some folks balked at our choices asking if we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We don’t believe that the name makes the person, but his character certainly does reflect his name to a degree.

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Big Brother is just shy of 2 years old. So. Much. Love. That baby is now 6.

Our third son’s name was harder to choose. I felt like I had run out of good names at that point, and it took me months to find something that we both liked. Since we’d thought we were miscarrying at the beginning of the pregnancy but then continued to carry him, I really wanted a name that reflected the joy I was experiencing at God’s grace. Well, joy and grace are girl names, and any name I could find that sounded masculine and had one of those definitions was very foreign and hard to spell, let alone pronounce. Eventually after months of looking and thinking, we decided that a good fit would be names that mean “The LORD is my God” and “God is good”. We reveled in God’s grace toward us in allowing us to not lose our little one, and we felt these name meanings reflected our faith and trust in our King Jesus.

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Yes, we are ALL wearing TMNT attire. That little boy is now 2. How is that even possible?!

Enter baby girl. Girl. Weird. Still it is odd for me to think of a room decked in pink (though I told my friend the other day maybe she’ll favor purple and red like her momma). Since we’d had three boys, I totally expected the tech to tell us that we were having a fourth boy. Then again, I’d had a feeling for a while that I was growing a little girl. Intuition? I dunno. Whatever. Choosing baby girl’s name was both difficult and easy. Easy because my husband decided 10 years ago when his grandmother died that if we ever had a girl, she would share her grandmother’s name, though in the middle. It means “of nobility”. Difficult because her first name was tricky, and we’d have to add a second middle name or risk her sounding like an hispanic food.

Six years ago a Missionary Kid came and talked to a class I was attending and her name was one I’d never heard before that night. She shared its meaning and its origin. I haven’t been the same since that night. The origin is Hebrew, though her spelling is what my husband calls the “anglicized version”. Her parents pulled it from Exodus 34:6…The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…”

That steadfast love of God? It’s unrelenting in pursuit. It’s faithful. It’s unbreaking. It’s never-failing. It’s constant. It’s firm. It’s amazing. God’s love is steadfast. That’s long been one of my absolute favorite attributes of God and consequently a favorite passage, plus the concept is repeated throughout Scriptures especially in Psalms (one of my favorite books). I fell in love with her name because it constantly reminds me how fiercely God loves His people. It’s not a common name. It’s rather unusual, really. It’s a name I’ve only heard once six years ago. Her name shall be called Kesed. That’s KEH-sid. Her name represents the character of a most gracious God to whom I have clung since I was seven years old. Her name will open gateways for the Gospel of Jesus. Her name, just like those of her three older brothers, was chosen with great care, thought, and prayer. 

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Sweet baby girl. 17 weeks left.

Kesed’s name is bound to raise eyebrows and get funny looks, but we don’t care. I’m SO thankful that my husband loves her name and appreciates how important it and the meaning are to me. I am SO thankful to Jesus for demonstrating this kind love, this steadfast love, on the cross when He sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for my sins. I’m SO thankful that we can choose names that reflect our journey in life and how we are choosing to live it. We chose this name just for her and choosing her name has been an act of glorifying God our Father. I can’t wait to tell her this story because it is my heart. I hope she loves it as much as we do.

The Secret of the Secret Bump

Never, ever, ever did I imagine that our little Bird Nest would grow to have so many kiddos.

Never, ever, ever did I imagine that after three boys we would finally produce a girl. Like, whoa. This is the story behind why and how we hid our pregnancy for 21 weeks!

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We’d just found out a day ago that we were five weeks pregnant. A happy couple celebrating 10 psycho years of marriage in Florida and an early babymoon!

After our most recent miscarriage at 12 weeks last Thanksgiving, I’d sort of given up on having any more children. Just before we lost, we were almost to the “safety zone” of the second trimester when we lost the baby, and that was so very surreal. My other miscarriages had happened at 4 and 7 weeks, respectively. Those were so early on. When I got pregnant last fall, I was shocked beyond comprehension. I wasn’t ready emotionally for the pregnancy. Not at all. Not many folks know that I struggled with depression during that pregnancy, because I didn’t know how to deal with how I was feeling let alone talk about those feelings. But that’s another conversation.

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Baby #7. Say what?!

Enter Baby Bird #7. Yup, SEVEN. That’s how many times I’ve been pregnant. Side note: Some of those pregnancies were close together, like this one now. I have three [rambunctious] boys. Plus I’m a stay-at-home-and-work-like-a-boss mom. Plus I’m 33. Y’all, I’m tired! Haha! When I found out I was pregnant with this little one, my hubs and I of course kept it a secret with the goal of just trying to “survive” those first 13 weeks. And boy, did those pass s-l-o-w-l-y! Every singe day was a battle with my heart and mind and spirit as I had to lean on and pray to the Father for the ability to trust in His plan (aka not mine), the ability to have peace in Him knowing that He is in control and already knows what’s happening and what is to come. Every single day waking hour that was my prayer.

So we got to the 13 week mark. We’d had the fortunate blessing to have seen our wee little baby on the screen, hear the heartbeat, and revel in the glorious miracle of God that is a new creation. That heart beat gets me every time! But I was still nervous even as we entered the second trimester. So very nervous. As I’m tall and slender, I wasn’t even showing yet at 14 weeks (at least not to everyone else around me), so we hadn’t even told our three boys yet. That’s when we decided to just keep going with our secret. “What if,” asked Stephen, “we just waited to announce the pregnancy on the same day that we find out the gender?” That would be at least another six weeks. The idea was both nerve-wracking and hilarious. What a shock that would be to everyone! But we did it anyway.

Somehow we managed a trip to Pigeon Forge, TN with Stephen’s extended family–there were about 32 of us staying in the cabin at one time–and nobody figured it out, not even my mother-in-law. Haha! I was feeling like a genius. It’s a great thing I don’t suffer from hug-the-toilet morning sickness. Nope. Just all day indigestion and nausea. I’m not sure which is worse! In fact, the kids didn’t even know until we told them on Big Banana’s 8th birthday in mid-July!  In late July, when Stephen took our eldest to PA for a birthday trip and his parents took the middle on his own private trip to the beach (dude, I was so jealous), we finally broke the news to our parents. Wanna know why? Of course you do, or you wouldn’t still be reading! We were worried the Medium Banana would accidentally spill the beans to his grandparents! So we preemptively spilled the beans and told our parents they’d have an extra special Christmas present this year with a due date around Christmas Day.

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Three boys…little did they know here that they will eventually have a sister!

Honestly the last three weeks have been the hardest for me as I had to find creative ways of dressing when I have gone out into public, which thankfully isn’t that often. (lame-o homebody here) Church was the hardest especially since I sing in the praise team and as baby gets bigger I lose the capacity for large gulps of air between phrases! I practically begged Stephen last weekend to be able to wear comfy maternity clothes to church on Sunday that would show off the swelling of my belly. But he was determined to make it until the ultrasound, and I relented since I knew the idea had lasted thus far and could certainly make it through the weekend.

What a morning it was. Monday, August 15th I sat on that ultrasound table surrounded by my husband, my three boys, and my mother-in-law (poor Momma couldn’t make it into town) watching the screen come to life. Our technician showed us the four chambers of the baby’s heart, the growing brain, all of the attached limbs and toes. But Little One just wouldn’t give us a clear picture of the bits until we jostled my belly and I even rolled from side to side. Yawn. Stretch. Sleep. Haha! I’ve never before seen a baby yawn in utero–it was incredible! Finally, Sharon said, “I think I know what baby is. You have a GIRL!”

Whoa. Slam on the brakes. Estrogen? Not testosterone? Ponytails and braids and pink and tea parties and dresses and, and, and???? I will no longer be the lone female in a house of men (well, eventually they’ll all be men…if I don’t eat them first). This will take some adjustment for sure. Nevertheless, we called family members and then made the post that seemed to rock the Facebook world. I’ve never seen so many comments and likes on a singular post. Haha! In fact, one of my friends asked me last night if I taught a class on pregnancy and essential oil safety because I’m pregnant (nope, just a needed class!). We’ve almost chosen her name, and her name is ever so dear to Stephen and me. So precious. Breathe, momma. You’re having a girl. Whoa. IMG_20160815_115412

Support: Give It, Take It

I spent hours and hours reading about techniques and methods and prevention. I went to a couple of classes to learn from experts in the field. Funny thing about learning is that sometimes it takes hands-on engagement in order for a student to truly understand how something works. Even more, sometimes a student needs one of those experts to lead, guide, and direct during the experiential learning so that the concepts are mastered. I wish I had known how important it was to have someone like that by my side when my journey began in July 2008.

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“The logo depicts a ‘triad’ of two adults and an infant, which reinforces the importance of support. The proportions and forms between the two adults, have been equalised to symbolise equality, equity and the collaborative act of nurturing.” ~ worldbreastfeedingweek.org

Did you know that August 1-7, 2016 is World Breastfeeding Week, coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and they partner with UNICEF, La Leche League International (LLLI), and the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA)? I honestly had no idea that this was World Breastfeeding Week until yesterday, but I figured I would help support this movement because the topic of breastfeeding is so very important to my family and especially to me. Note: this is NOT a post about “breastfeeding is the ONLY way to go, and if you didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t breastfeed your baby then you suck as a mom.” You won’t find any of that here.

My eldest was born in July 2008, and I was dead set on breastfeeding him for 12 months because that’s what I read was best for him developmentally. Even after starting solids, my milk would continue to provide many nutrients and antibodies. I was ready. Let’s do this. Then he came, and there was NOBODY there at the hospital in Fort Worth who was knowledgeable enough to help me properly begin nursing my hungry little man. I’d latched him improperly, and he nursed until I bled. A sweet nurse saw me later that evening, but she was also unequipped to help me and gave me poor advice that a licensed Lactation Consultant later said to ignore. The LC was amazing. Aside from her gorgeous and intriguing Scottish accent, she gave tender care to support me and was available via phone several times after I went home. I’m so thankful she was able to correct our latch. I’d looked at pictures and read tips before Big Banana was born, but breastfeeding requires more than just textbooks and pictures.

When the Big was a year old, I found out I was preggo with #2. Exciting! Wait…can you nurse during pregnancy? At some point during Big’s first year, my husband supported my decision (based upon more research, of course) to keep nursing him until…..? But now I was pregnant; could I keep nursing? Would he deplete baby #2’s milk supply? At that time I had no idea how to get in touch with a lactation consultant, and I didn’t even know what La Leche League was, so I went to research mode again. Enter “The Adventures of Tandem Nursing“. If you’re pregnant and nursing or nursing two babies (whether older and younger or multiples), this is an excellent read. Thank God for Amazon and for IBCLCs who write amazing books. That book was at my side for the next 41 weeks as I figured out how I’d handle two nursing babes.

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About 36 weeks pregnant with Medium. Big loved to kiss my belly.

Big Banana nursed until he was 27 months. Yes, that’s a little over two years. Yes, I received many weird looks from many people including family members and friends. They were concerned that I was scarring his psyche, that I was spoiling him, that he was a “Mama’s Boy” because he was “still attached to the boob”. I’m sure more discussion happened outside of my hearing, but I don’t care. I did what I knew was best for my son, and he’s healthy, thriving, sociable, and not a Mama’s Boy. My husband never balked. I’m so incredibly thankful for his support. My Medium Banana nursed with his brother (though rarely simultaneously) for about five months. It felt like the craziest thing I’d ever done, but there were some really amazing moments as well. There’s nothing quite like trying to juggle a four-legged, four-armed octopus. Medium Banana breastfed for 25 months.

And then there is Tiny Banana. Golly, he was a tough one. Big Banana was rough for the first three weeks while I tried to figure out motherhood and how to get this tiny little thing to properly get his milk. Medium Banana was a piece of cake aside from sharing the goods with his brother for five months. But Tiny Banana? He’s been a mess from the beginning. I recently shared about the uphill, rocky battle with breastfeeding my little booger. I couldn’t bear to give up. My husband was my rock the whole time, and my good friend (and flipping awesome IBCLC) Jenn Majors was always available to help. A very thick upper lip and posterior tongue tie were to blame for our struggles…but we persevered. Tiny Banana stopped nursing about two or three weeks ago after self-weaning very slowly. Haha. He was 25 months when he stopped.

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Hungry Tiny Banana. Only hours old. How I miss that age!

My mom nursed me until I was 17 months old, but here’s something I find interesting and didn’t realize until someone said something similar a few years ago: before I breastfed my eldest son, I had never seen another mommy breastfeeding her child. I had no idea what it looked like, how it worked, what it was for, and why. Not a clue. It wasn’t even a topic on my radar until I was pregnant. In the last eight years, though, we have seen a significant increase in publicized articles on the benefits of breastfeeding, even extended, “brelfies” (a pic of yourself breastfeeding), and world organizations are working that much harder to encourage moms to return to breastfeeding.

So, while my story is just one out a bajillion, I hope that it encourages, inspires, and helps other moms. We can get over the bumps, we can get past those hours of absolute fatigue, and we can be successful at breastfeeding. However, mommas of this world, we should not try to do it all alone. It’s too hard. Put aside your Women Can Do It All empowerment for ten minutes and ask for support. If you don’t have someone to support you, go find some. Find a La Leche League near you. Do research. Join a Facebook support group. Don’t do it alone. Your breastfeeding journey will be far more likely to succeed if you have even just one person who has your back on those days when you’re ready to give it all up, someone who will remind you how important this is to you. I’ve heard from too many moms who gave up on nursing because they didn’t have the help they needed and wanted. They have so many negative feelings, and it breaks my heart. And to the mommas out there who have been successful, don’t hide it in a closet. Be a gentle encourager to new mommas and those who are struggling. Don’t throw all the facts and “you must do it this way”-isms in their faces. Be a sister. Hold her up, and hold her hand.

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SPD: Making Progress

Medium Banana has always been so much more different than his older brother. They both are creative and fun-loving, energetic and friendly. Both of them want to do well in school and enjoy being around people. Yet there has always been something different about the way Medium Banana interacted with the environment around him; it’s taken me the entirety of his six years to figure out why.

His Daddy and I have always wondered why when we walk through a store of any kind Medium Banana can’t stop touching every. single. thing. his body passes. Put your hands in your pockets, buddy. Put your hands on your tummy. Stop touching–you almost knocked that end-cap over! We’ve wondered why he puts all the things in his mouth like shirt sleeves, stuffed animals, pieces of metal found on the ground, etc. Not pica, nope. And then there’s the way he seems to push his body faster, harder, and farther than his older brother and accidentally hurts his friends and family as if he has no idea just how fast, hard, and far he is moving. What about his constant need to talk as if standing in a sawmill? Or how about the 50x/day question, “Can I watch something? Can I eat something?”

Remember that post from a while back about how I’ve been learning to address MB’s love language (touch) and how sanctifying that process has been for me? Yup. Still is. Except that in the last 6-8 weeks I’ve had new reasons to be thankful. I’ll give you the short version.

For MB’s 6-year check up I asked her for help knowing how to help my son work through his inattentiveness, fidgetiness, and lack of understanding of personal space/boundaries. We’re getting ready to start first grade in the fall, I told her, and I think that learning some techniques for coping will help both of us. I told her that medication was not an option; I will be researching essential oils to help him naturally, but I’d also like to learn some behavioral strategies. She sent us to a counselor, and we sat through a 2-1/2 hour questionnaire session. Phew! He was all over the room before the end of it. I realized three weeks later when they finally called me back (after I’d reminded them we’d been there and were waiting to be assigned to someone), that counseling wasn’t what we needed. Nope.

Thank you, Jesus, for friends who have kids like mine. My friend from church came to mind one day because her son is on the Autism Spectrum. I don’t know why I thought of her, but I contacted her and asked her about how she helps her high-functioning son work through his day. I told her about all the things I was dealing with in Medium Banana, and that while I didn’t believe he had Autism, we needed help to figure this out before I go crazy. She gave me a book called “The Out-of-Sync Child” by Carol Kranowitz. Apparently Autism, ADHD, and Sensory Processing Disorder look so much alike that sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate between the three; additionally, many children can have dual or triple diagnoses within the three. I read the first chapter the day before our counseling appointment and could check off nearly every bullet point in the “sensory seeking” category. It was like reading a book about my son. I cried from relief, being overwhelmed with new understanding, and anxiety over what the future would bring. Sigh.

One week later I was cancelling the counseling appointment and requesting occupational therapy from the pediatrician. Best. Decision. Ever.

I’m so, so thankful that I took three different classes in college on child growth and development, classes on psychology and abnormal psychology. Even though we didn’t learn about Sensory Processing Disorder in my classroom ten years ago, I have other skills and knowledge tucked in my belt that have proven useful since learning about SPD. (See mom? That education is paying off!) Additionally, I’ve had some experience working with children and adults who have Autism, so even though that’s not what we’re dealing with, I still have some ideas for how to work with MB.

I’m so thankful for Pinterest. Oh. My. Word. I have spent at least an hour or two searching for ideas for at-home therapy methods and ways to helps us through the day. Today I picked up a bunch of tools at the Dollar Tree based on some pins, and here’s what I ended up with!

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Before

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After! Ready for stimulation!

I’m looking forward to trying these things out in the near future. For now we’re implementing the Wilbarger brushing technique with joint compressions every two hours. That’s right…it’s like nursing a newborn baby. Haha! Every. Two. Hours. It seems to be helping him to be calmer. The OT says it helps to “reset” his system to help avoid sensory overload. I intend to ask more questions since I want to know how it affects his brain chemically.

Does your kiddo have sensory needs? Or maybe YOU do? What are your favorite ways of managing and teaching? I’d love to get your input. Comment below. In fact, if you got your fave idea from a blog (or have written in your own), please link below. I’d LOVE to read all about it!

Joy in the Mundane?!?

cutlery-on-a-plate-1416247-1599x2132I’ve heard a lot of parents over the years describe different lessons they’ve learned from their own kids, and it’s always neat to hear them. Those moments are humbling and always catch us off guard. I have had several of those moments in the last eight years of motherhood, as well.

My boys are 8, 6, and 2 (Yes. I have three boys.). They each have chores that they are expected to do daily. Well…the toddler doesn’t really have “chores” to do, but I do have him help out with simple tasks like putting the silverware in the drawer (which I then have to sort if he’s feeling particularly rambunctious that day), putting his diapers in the trash, putting his laundry in the basket, etc. These are simple tasks that teach him to own his responsibilities, and he loves feeling involved, important, and independent.

My 8yo, “Big Banana”, has the job of setting the table for all three meals every other day. It’s really super-duper simple but often elicits groans and hunched shoulders and stomping when I call on him/brother to do this chore. On this particular day he decided that while I was cleaning up the evening’s dishes, he would set up the table for the next morning. I loved that idea, because once upon a time before I had kids I also had a brain that appreciated being proactive and doing things ahead of when they were necessary. Now I just have a brain that seems to be slowly leaking out of my ears. The sweet part of what he did was in the way that he took it several steps further. He refolded our rectangle napkins into triangles and the place settings were complete with cups and all three pieces of silverware. He set the salt and pepper on either side of our vase of flowers as well. What caught me off guard was his attitude while he set the table: he had absolute joy and pleasure in doing his job. He didn’t complain about having to set the napkins and utensils out. He wasn’t content to just set the table. No, he delighted in doing his job with excellence and beauty.

As I bemoaned washing the knives and sippie cup straws and other items that cannot go into the dishwasher, my son was humbly and joyfully taking care of a separate mundane task. I was instantly convicted and wondered to myself Is it possible to do all of my daily work with a cheerful heart? Isn’t everything that I do supposed to be to the glory of God? Am I glorifying God if I go from task to task with moaning, hunched shoulders, and stomping (even if only in my heart)? 

So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

I’ve been thinking about Big Banana’s attitude since that night. Obviously I don’t always put into action what I’ve learned, but I’m working on it. I’m thankful for the Lord giving me that display of cheerful obedience through my son. He wanted to make it beautiful so that others would enjoy something lovely. It’s not easy to find joy in the mundane–you know, changing diapers, washing endless loads of laundry, taking an hour to cook a meal that takes all of 5 minutes to eat, etc. The tasks go on and on and on… Honoring the Lord in all that I do is difficult, but I want to get better at it. He designed me to work, whether inside the home or outside of it, and I want to learn to enjoy my work. May I serve my family, my community, my God with a cheerful heart even when I set the table or wash the dishes again.

A Little Bit of Validation

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Look how little they were! Ca. 2011 They still like when I read to them.

I’ve been homeschooling now for five years, but it’s only been “official” in the eyes of the state for one year. Well, maybe I’ve been homeschooling for almost eight years as my son is almost eight, and truly every child receives the start of his/her education from home, whether the parent thinks of it that way or not. We all start our learning at home.

I still remember the first time my eldest wrote his name. We made a birthday card for his great-grandfather, and my boy was four. I even took a picture because I was so excited for what he had accomplished.

And his first word that he read? Box. I have it on video. It was one of my most exciting moments as a mom. He was four. We were playing some kind of reading game. I only started working with him because he was interested in learning. He and I would work only as long as he was focused, and sometimes days went by without another “lesson”. He loved that game, and I used it to help my second-born learn to read as well. That “aha” moment of watching my sons learn to read has been the best. (It trumps learning to ride a bike in my memory, but that’s probably because I’m not all that outdoorsy.

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Fat Cat Game, and learning to read!

Even though my husband and I agreed several years ago that we wanted to actually provide our children with a formal education at home, and even though “we” are only rising 3rd and 1st graders (with a preschooler in tow), we’ve heard criticism and doubts and questions since the first day we expressed our desires aloud. It’s not hard to doubt one’s ability to fulfill a duty (or a dream!) when so many voices influence your mind toward that direction. Buuuut, we did it anyway.

I’m really thankful that just as we were ready to get started really getting our school together I simultaneously started meeting more and more moms in my area who also homeschool. Regardless of what type of schooling your family does, you need a support system. You need a group of folks who are on the same path who will cheer you on when the going gets tough. I don’t care if you’re in public, private, charter, or home, school is hard. Teaching is hard. Parenting is hard. It’s easier, even if only just a bit, when we know we’re not alone in our journey. My BFF Angela is forever my listening ear as I badger her with questions about what she did with her four boys.

We are finishing up our second grade year with the eldest boy and kindergarten with the middle. Phew. I spent so many days wondering if I was doing it “right” or even doing it well. Honestly, I don’t have anyone standing over me telling me what curriculum to use or how to teach or even on what schedule everything must be done. I’m totally a check list girl, and I’m also that girl that panics just a little bit when the deadline comes and all the items aren’t completed. This makes homeschooling really hard for me, and I know that I have consequently put undue pressure on my son.

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Medium Banana in 2013, age 3. Sounding out BOB Books words.

When I was pregnant last year (miscarried in November), I was so tired and even sick that homeschool days happened, but they were light. There was also a two-week period in the fall when we had guests living with us, and their bedroom was our schoolroom. Then of course there are illnesses, family visits, etc. My mind’s timetable was lopsided, and I have felt super anxious about it all. Is my kid “on target”?

This year he had to take his first end-of-grade exam for the state. I chose the test and was able to administer it at home. Truthfully I prayed and prayed so that I would make it a calm and cool environment so that he would have absolutely no pressure to make a certain score. I just wanted to know what he knows. We got the results a few days ago, and I. Was. Floored. He did so well!

I didn’t set any expectations for his scores before I administered the exam. I didn’t really know what to expect. I just kept hoping that I’d taught him what he should know for his age and grade level, you know, because sometimes I still feel like I have to keep up with the grade he is “supposed” to be. He exceeded what I ever dreamed. I say this not to boast. Not at all. In fact, my husband said, “Do you feel any better [about your pace and what you’re doing]?” And I said, “I think so? Yes?” Haha.

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This kid LOVES worksheets. He’d much rather use paper and pencil than a computer any day.

I’m so thankful he’s learning. I’m so thankful that even though I’ve put too much pressure on him this year that he’s still retaining. And I’m totally praying with a renewed heart that the Lord Jesus will help me to sit next to him everyday  during school and have that peaceableness that I had when I gave him the CAT exam. Every. Single. Day. I count myself blessed to be able to  teach my kiddos at home (even if they drive me nuts), and I love watching when that lightbulb turns on and they “get it”. Those are my favorite moments. I’m thankful to know that I’m on the right track, and I’m thankful that my boys aren’t the only ones learning along the way.