Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Letter from God to the Woman Experiencing Pregnancy Loss

My Dear Child,

My heart is breaking with yours right now. I have not forgotten you, but I am right here beside you, present in your pain. You are so precious to me and I bottle up each of your tears as you grieve the loss of your child. This tragedy was not my plan- it is the result of the sin of a fallen world, far from the perfect place I had originally created for you, dear child. I love you so much, and I am devastated that you have to experience such pain.

I understand your pain all too well. I also experienced the loss of a child when I sent my own Son to earth to die a painful death and be separated from me. But I have redeemed that loss, because the result was that your child is experiencing eternal life with me in heaven at this very moment. I am eagerly looking forward to the day when the pain of this world will be redeemed in the same way, for your present suffering is not worth comparing to the glory and joy that will be in that day!

Satan wants to use this loss for his own purposes, but if you continue to trust me through this dark time, our relationship will grow so much stronger than it was before. I will use this new strength to prepare you for other challenges and victories in the days ahead that can only be overcome with faith in the face of doubt. I know that you have a lot of questions right now, and asking them is good. Look in my Word and I will show you the answers. Listen to the truth that you find there rather than the lies that the evil one is whispering in your ear. If you can continue to put your faith in me, then even this terrible loss can result in something beautiful and good. Do not give Satan the satisfaction of winning this battle!

I know that you have certain plans in mind and are worried about the timing in which those plans will be complete, but my timing is perfect. I command the sun to rise and set, and I alone know what tomorrow holds. I am just going to have to ask you to trust me and know that I have your best interests in mind. I have a good and perfect plan for you. I know each of your children intimately, for I have created them. I know them by name, and love them even more than you do! I have a plan not only for your future, but also for today! You are right where you are for a reason, and even the waiting has a purpose.

I know that you feel betrayed by your own body, and you feel like you are unable to do what you were created to do. Your body is not broken- you are fearfully and wonderfully made in my own image! I have created you and know every detail from the hairs on your head to the days of your life. I know each part that is working properly as well as those that are working against you. This body that seems to have betrayed you is only temporary and will one day be made new, but it is still my very own creation! Where it has failed you, I will one day restore.

I know that you are hurting. I know that it is difficult to think about anything other than what you have lost. Just remember that there are many things to be grateful for even in the pain. Hold tightly to those who love you and the blessings that you have as you work through the grieving process. A grateful heart that counts its blessings is one that can withstand even the most devastating of losses.

I know that you feel like this is the end. You had so much to look forward to and now you aren’t sure how to move forward into the emptiness. Your heart is so shattered that you wonder if it will even be whole again, if it will ever experience joy again. Let me assure you- this is far from the end! Do not put a period where I have put a comma. My plan for you is not complete, and you can rest knowing that I, your Father, who loves you more than you can imagine, holds your future. I am in the work of redemption, and I am making all things new! I have so much more in store for you. Bring me the broken pieces of your heart, your hopes, and your dreams. Entrust them to me. Take my hand, dear child. Lay your head on my chest, release your pain and your fears and your hurt, and rest. Let me show you what I will do...

I love you more than you can imagine,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ninja Sleep Training Method: For the baby who fights sleep- we fight back!

Baby keeping you up all night? Having trouble getting baby to nap during the day? Are you exhausted and dread hearing that little cry yet again? Aren't we all! You know it's time. Sleep training. 

There are a lot of theories out there... But I have to say that none of them seem to fit my very advanced child, so I have come up with something new and groundbreaking.

Introducing: the Ninja Sleep Training Method (or N.S.T.M.) Other sleep training methods run the spectrum from very strict to purely free form, but they all tend to focus on the baby's inability to sleep as the problem. The Ninja Sleep Training Method focuses on the true root of the problem- not the child's sleep habits, but the parents' lack of ninja stealth skills to cope with them.

It isn't your baby's fault that they wake up when you put them in the crib, the parent must learn enough stealth skills to levitate the baby down so gently that they never even perceive the change in environment. This sleep training method not only allows for flexibility, it requires it. Some other methods claim that if you have to sneak out of the baby's room at night, you are doing something wrong. The Ninja method teaches that you are only doing something wrong if the baby wakes up while you are sneaking out of the room.

There are a few things that have to happen before I can publish my writings on this subject. I am a mother so I understand the sleepless nights, but this is obviously not enough credibility to speak authoritatively on the subject. Understandably I need to become a doctor of some kind, because staying up late studying for the MCAT or writing my PhD dissertation resembles the sleeplessness of mothers closely enough that I will then have the authority to tell all women everywhere how to raise their children. 

I intend to publish a 300 page book outlining all the details soon, but until then here is a chapter by chapter breakdown of what you can expect. 

Chapter 1- Why every other sleep training method is wrong

Chapter 2- Why the Ninja method is right

Chapter 3 and 4- Repeat what I said in chapters one and two so that every woman reading the book questions why she is wasting her time reading this instead of spending her precious time as a new mother taking a nap understands how important and true this information really is

Chapter 5- Overview of the system- this will help parents understand that their child's lack of sleep comes not from the child's inabilty to sleep, but rather the parents' lack of stealth training in creating the perfect environment of non-interference in which their child's sleep can truly thrive. You simply must make the baby believe that they have never left your arms for a single moment while in reality they are in their crib and you have full freedom to do as you please.

Chapter 6- Creating the environment- this will help you prepare your baby's environment for Ninja method success. This involves ridding any creaking doors, floors, and mattresses, clearing toys, learning to hold your breath, sneezes, coughs, etc., finding the perfect room temperature and sound machine setting, exercises in tip toeing, soundproofing your house from external disturbances, learning to use sign language or telepathy to communicate with your husband, and more.

Chapter 7- Specific techniques- Each of the following techniques will be taught and different belt colors will be awarded for mastering each new skill...
White belt- How to transfer the baby's mouth from breast or bottle to pacifier without waking
Yellow belt- How to lull a baby to sleep while checking social media on your phone without them noticing
Orange belt- How to place a sleeping baby into the crib without waking and effectively exit the room
Green belt- How to transfer sleeping baby from one spot to another without waking (from a carseat or stroller to the crib, etc.)
Blue belt- How to take a baby's temperature without waking them
Purple belt- How to change a baby's clothes without waking them
Brown belt- How to cook a meal requiring a food processor without interrupting a nap
Red belt- How to clean the house (including vacuuming in the baby's room) without waking the baby
Black belt- How to change a diaper in the middle of the night without the baby's awareness
*Most of these techniques require strong mind control and extreme stealth but can be achieved with practice. 

Chapter 8- The Catch- This chapter will explain how babies will actually absorb ninja skills that the parent has been learning through osmosis, especially if breastfeeding. Therefore, continued education and training is always necessary to stay one step ahead of the baby's ever-increasing knowledge of the methods used.

I haven't decided whether to market this as a simple 71 step program in a Bible sized book or offer it as a workout video series to get new moms back into shape post-pregnancy through stealth. Either way I'm sure it will be wildly popular. I'm also already working on a companion piece on how to get the baby to actually fall asleep called Wine and Dine: the art of drinking before breastfeeding Rock around the Clock: How to rock your baby for hours without getting seasick.

I hope that you are able to find your inner ninja and achieve the highest goal of any parent- sleep. Until then, just keep on keeping on, and know that you are not alone! When babies fight sleep- parents fight back!

DIY Lemon Extract

This is the first year that our lemon tree has given us a pretty significant amount of lemons, and I was thrilled to juice them all with dreams of dreams of blackberry lemonade this coming summer. However, I didn't want to throw away all the lemony zest of the leftover lemon peels. What can one make with a lot of lemon peels? Well, lots of things, but most importantly, lemon extract! The real stuff costs a pretty penny, but there is nothing like the taste. Once you know how easy and inexpensive it is to make it yourself, you will never run out again!

What you will need:
- Lemon peels (LOTS of lemon peels)
- glass jars
- Vodka (the cheapest kind you can find)

1. Zest the lemon peels or use a vegetable peeler or mandolin to remove only the yellow part of the peelings. You don't want to get any of the white pith because it will add a bitter taste to the final product. I could have zested, but when making this much I opted for the much less time consuming vegetable peeler. Be sure to juice your lemons and freeze it in an ice cube tray for easy use in other projects!

2. Put your peelings in a sterlized glass jar. It took about 18 lemons to fill a one quart jar.
3. Fill the jar with vodka and seal it.
4. Shake the jar every day or two and keep it in a dark place for 3-6 weeks. 
5. Strain out the peelings and enjoy as many lemony recipes as your heart desires!

So simple. So delicious. So inexpensive. 
It's amazing how such a small project can make the whole day feel productive!

Mulberry Chipotle Sauce/ Raspberry Chipotle Sauce Recipe

I love the mulberry tree in my yard, and I realize that Christmas is not the time of year for mulberries. However, I just happened to have a baby the week that the mulberries were ripe this year, and they have been sitting in my freezer, all lonely, waiting to be turned into something delicious until this week. This mulberry chipotle sauce is amazing! It is the perfect mix of sweet and spicy. After putting this over cream cheese on a cracker, I'm pretty sure I will never go back to pepper jelly again, as much as I used to like it. 

I first got the idea for this recipe when my husband planned a picnic lunch for our anniversary with crackers,  wine, cheese, summer sausage, chocolate, and a variety of spreads. Beautiful scenery and exceptional company- a girl couldn't ask for more!
One of the sauces was a roasted raspberry chipotle sauce that was out of this world. It cost $3 for the 2.5oz jar, and we both loved it so much that I decided to make a batch for us with a mulberry twist! And it turned out so delicious that I had to make another batch with raspberries. Both good!

Quick disclaimer for this recipe: I hardly took any pictures at all. Canning is not something you can really stop in the middle of once things get rolling, but I had to put a certain little girl down for a nap at the beginning...and then get her up again at the end (what are you doing awake again already?!?!). All of that to say, the pictures just didn't happen this time. Use your imagination!

What you'll need:
- jars (4oz, 8oz, or 16oz)- yields 42 oz. so divide it up as you will
- canning supplies
- 6 cups mulberries or raspberries
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 box Sure-jell

What to do:
1. Rinse and mash the berries. Mulberries are pretty hard to mash, but it doesn't have to be perfect. If you are using raspberries you can you a food mill to remove the seeds, but I just left them in.
2. Blend the chipotle peppers, garlic, and red wine vinegar in a food processor until smooth. (If your baby is sleeping in the room right next to you, get creative and take the food processor outside and plug in it in the carport...)
3. Combine the pepper mixture and berries in a large pot on the stove.
4. Stir in the Sure-jell and turn up the heat.
5. Stir continuously until the mixture boils while stirring.
6. Add the sugar, return to a boil, and keep a rolling boil while stirring for one minute.
7. Pour the mixture into your hot and sanitized jars.
8. Process jars in a water bath for 5 minutes.

All done! Actually no, next you have to enjoy some with some crackers and cream cheese! Sweet at first and then it finishes with a kick! I love it! This spread is also great on grilled meats and appetizers. Bon apetit!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Christian's Guide to Buying a House

Our family recently grew by one and while our current house has plenty of space for the three of us, we are anticipating a future with more kids. I would rather move with one child in tow than two or three, so my husband and I have been keeping an eye on the real estate market, knowing that we have plenty of time to make a decision, but wanting to be ready if the right house came along.

For six months there has been nothing to write home about, but this week, we found the house. The perfect house. Vaulted ceilings, laundry room, great neighborhood, yard for kids, gorgeous kitchen. It basically looks like the reveal of a Fixer Upper episode. It checked every box on my list...except for the price. It was bigger than what we had originally been looking at, but would be enough space for all the children we wanted to grow up in. Of course I prayed and asked God for direction and wisdom about whether or not the house was right for us. We didn't want to get in over our heads.

In the middle of the night while I was awake dreaming about walk-in closets and double ovens, the still small voice began to speak, and He had a lot more to say than a simple yes or no. He spoke, as He so often does, in the form of Bible verses that I have read and reread, memorized and cherished over the years. Here is what He said:

1. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also." Matthew 6:19-21
Houses are a good thing. However, the place where we invest our time, money, energy, and thoughts becomes where we place our heart. Something good can become a real distraction from what is truly important if we allow it to take first place in our hearts. It is definitely something that I have to actively guard against in my own life.

2. "Men may make their plans, but the Lord directs their steps." Proverbs 16:9
We have wonderful plans about what we want our family to look like, but even this early in our marriage and family life we have faced many situations in which things did not go the way that we had planned. But one thing I know for sure, every time God has directed us away from what we thought we wanted, His plan was so much better. So we can plan ahead about what our future may look like, and it not come out anywhere close to that. I don't want to be so tied down to the things of this world that I hesitate when He calls us to something different than we had originally envisioned. I don't want to jump on something good, or even great, and miss out on what He has, which is best!

3. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation- the old has gone and the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17
Part of me has this idea that a new house will change some things about me. For example, if I had a better kitchen, I might be more inclined towards the gift of hospitality (which does not come naturally for me). Or, if I had more closet space, I would be more organized. I have a view of who I would be in the new house. And honestly, it is pretty crazy to think that changing the four walls around me will magically make me love cleaning house, give me the ability to stay on top of the laundry, and make dinner always finish on time. In fact, it is most likely the opposite! If I can't keep my current sized house under control, how would I expect to keep a larger house clean and tidy? The verse says that if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, not if anyone is in a new house. I cannot depend on a house to transform me; I have already been transformed! God has already taken my heart and redeemed it, making me a new creation. If I cannot accept that renewing act and embrace it, but instead look to a house to do that work, I am certainly wasting my time!

4. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
Another lie that I was listening to was almost opposite from the one above, although simultaneously in my mind- this house is too good for me. I don't deserve such a beautiful house! I am so incredibly blessed- how could I possibly ask for more? Satan wants us to feel guilty about the things that God gives us, but in the end, it is His choice to give and take away, and our choice how to be good stewards of those gifts. If we get this house, it has nothing to do with whether or not I personally deserve something so nice. And if I did feel like I deserved it, then I would not have the gratitude that God desires when He gives us good things.

5. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen in temporary and what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18
Why do I really want this house? What is my motivation? Is it so that I can have a place to raise my family in a safe and loving environment? Or is it so that my everyday can look like my "dream home" board on Pinterest? Am I investing more of my time and energy into square footage than I am into my relationship with God and others? Will this house contribute to those relationships or distract from them? If I am being honest, I don't like the answers to those questions...

6. "Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This man could not finish what he started to build.’
In the same way, any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:27-29, 33
God has called us to be good stewards of the resources that He has given us, and they are not all for us to spend on ourselves. We need to count all of the costs involved- not only the price of the house, but also higher property taxes, utilities, upkeep, etc. as well as the lost income from what could have earned through investing the money over the long term rather than putting it into a house. Knowing all of the numbers is a good thing, but ultimately this parable was talking about sacrifice- giving up what we want for the sake of the Kingdom of God. We have to count the cost and make sure that this house will not stand in the way of us being able to be generous with others.

7. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27
Feeling financially secure when looking at the numbers is great, but ultimately the rock is Christ. I have to find my significance and security in Him and Him alone. Not in our savings, our house, our investments, or anything else! It can all be gone in an instant, and all that will be left is Christ. If we have built out lives on Him, then no loss or gain of temporary things can shake us. I think sometimes having too much can be a trial of faith just as much as having too little, which is why it is so important to keep our foundation sure.

Like I said, I asked for wisdom, and He gave me plenty to think about. So what does all of that mean? Yes or no? I think what it means, is that God is not as interested in the beauty of where I live as much as He is in the condition of where He lives- my heart. If I have a house a beautiful as a Chip and JoJo remodel, but have not love for Him first, I have nothing. If I am the perfect housewife, mother, and host, but have not a priority for the eternal and get caught up in external appearances, I gain nothing. If I have security in the world's eyes but have not built my life on the rock of Christ, I am nothing. So whichever way we move forward, I need to spend just as much time cleaning, organizing, and preparing my heart as I do my house, and make sure that I am not letting the temporary take the place of the eternal. Looks like I have quite a job ahead of me!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Real Personalities of Breastfed Babies

I don't know about your little eater, but my baby seems to have the widest range of emotions and personalities that come out only through her eating style. Each feeding is a surprise- I never know which feeding personality I will be dealing with that day. There are so many different moods that come out when she's eating, and I'm sure the it's the same with your lo. Here are just a few of the many real personalities of breast-fed babies!

The self-sabotaging eater
This baby hasn't quite figured out how to control their arms and legs. When frustrated baby pushes against mom with her arms, she wonders what is keeping her from latching. Just when mom pins the arms down, baby pushes against the arm of the chair with her legs and unlatches. Baby gets infuriatingly frustrated at this force keeping her from latching! If only she knew that she was the culprit...

The head banger (aka the woodpecker)
This one usually goes hand in hand with the self-sabotage. Once mom is using both hands to hold down the rogue arms and legs, the unsupported head bangs against her chest trying to latch. This is a lose-lose feeding scenario. Once mom lets go of some limbs to support the head, baby repeats self-sabotage as stated above.

The NOT asleep eater
This baby isn't eating, she's asleep! Try to pull away and she is determined to show you she isn't asleep at all! Suck, suck, suck! And then back to sleep...until you try to pull her off again. Suck, suck, suck! Who can pull away from this little eater that keeps snuggling in?

Intimate romantic
This baby wants to look deep into your eyes while eating. And stroke you gently with her little hands...ahhh! It is so sweet, but sometimes that look is too intense... I swear that baby can see right into your soul!

Food critic
This baby has something to grumble and complain about and wants mom to know it. Oh she'll eat all right, but you're going to hear about it. "Mrrm, mrrm, mrrrrm..."

Playing with her food
Not hungry anymore but definitely not finished playing! This baby likes to lick, rub their nose back and forth, and blow milk bubbles all over mom.

Down to business
No games, just milk. Eyes ahead and steady sucking, that's all.

Lazy messy eater
When baby latches sort of and then unlatches with a mouthful of milk, dumps said milk all over you and repeats until you are both so slippery that latching is impossible, and you both have to change clothes.

Angry eater
This one consists of more screaming at your chest than actual eating. Baby is hungry, but way too mad to do anything about it. Or maybe she's not hungry...but either way the joke is on mom because she sure has mom stressed out trying to get baby to latch while she leaks everywhere.

Worm on a hook
This one only happens when baby is in a swaddle. They latch on and then wiggle their whole body around like a worm on a hook. Not sure if they are trying to free their arms but they sure won't unlatch to give mom the chance to take them out!

Snooty eater
You've seen this one. Eyebrows raised, noise in the air, stating just over mom's shoulder at something much more important. "Mom, I'm to good to give you eye contact today."

The satisfied customer
This is a happy eater with no complaints. She quietly finishes her meal and unlatches with a satisfied smile and a little "ahhh..."

The glutton (aka milk drink)
When baby eats just past the satisfied customer stage and continues into complete unconsciousness. Hope mom wasn't planning on play time after because this flopped over baby is good for nothing but a nap!

The greedy eater
This baby doesn't realize that mom only has two sides. She eats on the first sides, burps, the second side, burps, and then is ready for the third side... How long will it take before she realizes that side three is actually side one again?

The anxious eater
This baby is worried that you will run out of milk any second. She eats so fast that she chokes and makes anxious noises as she frantically eats. Where does she get the idea that there won't be any milk? She eats all the time and it's always there!

The bluffer (aka the pacifier)
She acts like she's hungry, so mom offers food. Baby latches happily, sucks for like two seconds and goes to sleep. Can't believe mom fell for that!

The multi-tasker
Baby is hungry but also needs to go #2. This involves a mix of intermittent sucking and straining. No real eating happens until the deed is done. Let's face it- babies are horrible at multitasking.

The independent eater
This baby's motto is "I can do it all by myself!" Don't try to help this baby latch. A lack of motor skills will not stop this baby from trying to latch on her own. Too bad her hands end up in the way and she latches on those instead. But don't try to help, mom, really, I got this...

The fidgety eater
This baby has busy little hands while eating. Pulling on mom's shirt and hair, sometimes even her face, scratching tiny fingernails on mom's arm, etc. Mom finally offers a finger for her to hold on to, but we all know that won't satisfy the fidgeter for long!

The burper
For the baby with reflux, this is a common one. They get halfway through a feeding and then feel that air bubble in their belly and start to flop and writhe around in pain. Burping is not in order, but they don't have time for that! You will hear all about how hungry they are during the burp break until eating is resumed. This can happen countless times in a single feeding.

The biter
They say not to bite the hand that feeds you, and the same should be applied by this little eater! Enough said.

There are really more than I can list! Which ones does your little one use most often? Which ones did I leave out? I would love to hear your additions to the list!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Things to do While Breastfeeding

The first six weeks of having a baby is a lot of feeding. I mean hours and HOURS and HOURS of breastfeeding. Clocking in at around six hours a day, it is quite literally a full-time job just to feed your newborn. It can start to get monotonous really fast, but instead of turning to games on your phone or marathons of daytime television, make the most of the time with these activities...

1. Stare at that Sweet Baby
I could do this forever. Study that sweet face, wrap your finger in her tiny hands, play with those little toes, and look into those precious eyes.

2. Pray over Your Child
Thank God for the incredible blessing and miracle that you are holding in your arms, ask for wisdom to raise them with character and integrity, and pray for the person that they will become under your influence.

3. Read
This is the perfect time to put some ebooks or audio books on your phone. You will be amazed at how fast you fly through them. This is a great time to read some books on raising a baby, but also pick some that have nothing too do with babies. Pick a good fiction that you can get lost in or a nonfiction on a topic that interests you.

4. Overcome Pregnancy/Mommy Brain
At first you will be too exhausted to think clearly but once that phases passes, your body will be busy but your brain will be bored. Find some apps to exercise your mind! With the amount of hours you have to work on this new skill, the possibilities are endless- learn a new language, memorize scripture, learn the basics of acrylic get the idea.

5. Eat
Sleep when baby sleeps and eat when baby eats is my motto! Get a box of healthy (or not so healthy) snacks to put by your breastfeeding spot so that something to munch on is always within arm's reach.

6. Journal
Keep a journal on your phone of all of baby's firsts, funny faces, and quirks that you will want to remember. It doesn't have to be a novel- bullet points are fine. You'll be glad you did!

7. Call a Friend
If you have a slow and quiet eater, this will work for you. If you have a loud eater, skip ahead to the next one... Go ahead and call a friend on speaker phone. Talking to another adult will do wonders for your sanity!

8. Talk to Your Baby
Adult talk time is good and so is baby talk time. Tell your baby how much you love them, how special they are, and the things you love about them. They may not understand what you are saying, but it will create a habit of positive affirmation from you so that it comes naturally later when they do know what you are saying.

9. Indulge in Guilty Pleasures
Finally! It's OK to watch some episodes of your favorite reality show or zone out scrolling through some social media, just let it be one of many things you do rather than getting sucked into hours of mindless time killing activity. Let it be a treat when you really need it!

Have some other ideas? What do you do to fill the time???