my first mother’s day

First, I want to wish all of my mom-friends a very happy Mother’s Day!  Whether it be by your example from afar or the close-up life and motherhood you have shared, you have all impacted me in profound and lasting ways and I have so much respect and applause for you.  Some of us have similar mothering styles and perspectives and some of us are on polar opposite ends of the spectrum.  But I cheer you on in the daily minutia and the decades of investment.  Both are a reflection of your dedication and your faithfulness to your calling.

All week as I pondered and anticipated Mother’s Day, I found my heart bursting with more love and affection for my son than I ever knew existed. He had a few rough evenings this week, struggling to get to sleep and fussy. I was surprised by how eager and quick I was to simply hold and rock him and comfort him until he was calm and oftentimes, until he was asleep in my arms. Even last night, as he awoke crying in his crib just moments after I had fallen asleep in my bed, and I dragged myself to his room for snuggles and rocking, my heart was still happy as I held him despite the tiredness. I’m sure I won’t always respond with such joy and eagerness, but this week, I was thankful for the grace that made it happen.

On a similar note, it has surprised me how much I have embraced the much slower pace of life that pregnancy and motherhood has brought. I still have a strong tendency to be driven by and find fulfillment in productivity, and to fill every waking moment with something, but the major shift and adjustment to that drive and MO that has come with motherhood, by God’s great grace at work in my heart, has not been nearly as difficult to accept as I had anticipated. How grateful I am for the softening, the patience and the compassion I have felt in my heart in the midst of the [often inconvenient] interruption to my plans/expectations.  This new pace is so worth it and so wonderful.

However, I must admit, this morning I actually find my heart very heavy and sobered.  The older I get, the more I realize and understand that holidays are not always happy times for many people.  And this particular Mother’s Day seems to deepen that understanding in a particularly poignant way.  Becoming a mother was not an easy journey for us.  And I have a number of friends who are grieving this morning over loss, or longed-for joys yet unknown.

There are women in my small group who are pursuing motherhood either biologically or via adoption and are still waiting on the Lord for the fulfillment of that desire.  I have many friends who lost 1 or more babies in the womb before receiving a child in their arms to hold and to raise.  I also have several friends that have been blessed with a child yet now find themselves dealing with unexplained secondary infertility.  A friend of mine recently lost her son at 20wks pregnant and had to undergo the awful pain of delivering a stillborn and holding her baby for the first time after life had already left him.  Another friend, whose firstborn boy was born within a week of Jack and whose due date with baby #2 was within a week of my current due date with our baby #2, recently miscarried and buried her son (talk about hitting close to home).  Or a longtime close family friend for whom this past week marked the one year anniversary of losing her first born son (age 24) in a tragic accident. Mother’s Day will never be the same for any of these women.

For many, Mother’s Day may not bringing sadness because of the loss of a child, but because of the loss of their own mother.  I think of my cousin-in-law and his sister, whose mom died suddenly and tragically.  For him, this was actually the 2nd mother he had lost, his biological mom being tragically killed when he was a toddler.  For his sister, she was young and newly married when her mom died and she now walks out the courageous role of motherhood without the joy of her own mom being there for encouragement and counsel and memories.  My heart breaks for my own mom.  This is the first Mother’s Day that she won’t get to write a card and send flowers and call to wish her mom a happy Mother’s Day.  And even though my Grammy lived a long and full life, and my mom was able to know and enjoy her mom for more than 5 decades, the sting of loss is still sharp and sad.

I don’t share these things trying to bring some sort of “reality check” to anyone who would find today cause for pure joy and celebration.  Do celebrate!  The women mentioned above do too!  But while I rejoice and celebrate the amazing joy and miracle of motherhood in my life and season right now, I simply can’t help but feel sobered and tempered by the reality that this day also brings much pain and tears to others.  I think it’s part of growing up – you realize that life can just be really really hard sometimes.  I have shed tears for my friends today and smiled and congratulated other friends today as well.  With increasing intensity, I am reminded again that we live in a world where very little is as it should be.

I find myself wondering if there will be a special and specific place and event in heaven where all mothers and fathers will meet again those children who have preceded them to glory.  And the Father will hold all in His arms and all the bottled tears from earth will evaporate in the flame and thrill of blessed, heavenly reunion.  Where all will finally be as it should be, with no more pain, no more tears, no more loss, no more longing, no more hurt, and no more death, because of Jesus.  That day gives me a reason to rejoice and celebrate in the midst of many sober and sad realities.  I look forward to that day very much and celebrate today in light of that day.


babysitters – to pay or not to pay?

you may have read that title and thought, “wait.  i can get a babysitter and NOT pay them?? that’s an option for people?!”  haha let me explain…

see, our church places a healthy emphasis on the privilege of serving in all areas of our lives – giving of ourselves in many ways to bless others, build up the church and the community and to glorify God by imitating Christ’s example of ultimate servanthood.  we emulate facets of the Gospel by serving those around us.  an opportunity for young teens to serve can often be found via childcare for others.  zach and i both had specific opportunities as well as consistent seasons where we babysat for families for free out of a desire to bless them by our service to them.  there are many young teens in our church with amazing, servant’s hearts and who are willing to bless others with their time and service.  we hope and plan to raise our children the same way, both by example and by encouragement.

however, sometimes in a church with this mindset, an unhealthy expectation can develop that the teens should serve anyone who needs it, anytime, without needing or wanting to get paid.  i disagree.  but i don’t think that everyone should have to pay every babysitter every time for every childcare need.  i think there is a balance somewhere.  after a number of conversations with fellow moms about this topic, as someone with a considerable amount of babysitting experience, AND as a mom who now has a regular need for babysitters, i felt prompted to post my & Zach’s thoughts for the sake of anyone else who might benefit from them.

zach and i both babysat quite a bit as teens.  him primarily caring for his younger sisters, but also for a few families in his church.  me?  i babysat A TON.  it was not uncommon for me to have babysitting jobs 3 nights a week, for a month solid, for the majority of my jr high and high school years.  and i remember a lot from my years of babysitting.  showing up to a house with cute kids… my huge babysitting bag in hand filled with games, craft projects, stencils and colored pencils, books, a kid’s cookbook, face paint, bubbles, movies, etc… getting the low down on the evening from the parents… planning out the evening so that we had enough time to do each child’s favorite activity and still get to bed on time… doing the dishes and tidying the house… settling in to read or do homework until the parents came home… this was my world for over a decade and i completely loved it!

most of my friends were frequent babysitters too.  we would often swap stories, theories, and discuss the “secret” rules of after-the-kids-are-down-babysitter-food.  things like, “always scoop ice cream by skimming all the way across the top so it doesn’t look like you took very much… or any!” or “if there are the same number of treats left as there are kids in the home, it’s off limits” or “never open a box/package” or “never finish off a box/package.”  😉

i remember some crazy mishaps.  like the little girl who came running into the living room with her shirt pulled over her head, tripped over the dog and cut her lip on the tile floor.  thank God for popsicles.  or the time i was draining the spaghetti noodles using only the lid… which slipped and the whole pot of noodles (the kid’s dinner in it’s entirety) went straight down the disposal.  or the time one of the toilets started flooding the bathroom – water gushing over the side like it was niagara falls.  the little girls and i had a good laugh and sang “it’s a hard knock life” while mopping it up together.

as a college age/single, i also remember discovering – much to my surprise – how therapeutic and stress relieving it was to spend a couple hours making silly faces, eating animal crackers, snuggling up to watch a Disney movie and/or playing on the floor with children after a long day at the office.  i learned a lot about kids through babysitting.  and it certainly helped to foster and deepen my desire for children of my own one day.

given our background, zach and i to lean heavily on the side of believing that “a worker is worthy of [their] wages.”  we live in a capitalist country where people need to earn money to live.  and for young teens, caring for children is an excellent, and sometimes the only, option they have for earning a wage.  and young teens need money!  they have expenses!  granted, they may not be the same type or on the same scale of “expenses” that we adults have, but money is a very real necessity for them, especially if their parents can’t afford to pay for everything their teens need/want.  or maybe their parents are scaling back on what they pay for now that their teens are capable of earning money.  either way, they have a real need for some form of income.

based on our experiences in babysitting, along with insight and observations from those around us, zach and i have been discussing our own personal guidelines for hiring a babysitter.  specifically in the area of where the balance is for serving vs paying.  here’s what we’ve come up with:

short version: if it’s their only form of income, we pay them.  almost every single time.  if we would rather not pay, we ask family, trade with friends, or ask girls who already have a regular income.  here’s how we flesh this out:

for free

there are a two specific categories that we prefer to not pay for a babysitter:

1. daytime things like a Dr’s appointment or a particular errand that would just be WAY easier to do without Jack (ie the DMV, etc)

2. evening church functions that are “mandatory” (ie biweekly small group, a leaders meeting we’ve been asked to attend, etc)

in the case of #1, we turn to specific groups of people for babysitting – my parents or one of my sisters in law; or a woman in the church with grown children who still enjoys caring for little ones for short periods of time, or a homeschooling family with kids who would get a kick out of having a baby around for an hour or two, etc.  for these situations i typically offer to drop Jack off and pick him back up, making it as convenient as possible for whoever i’m asking.

in the case of #2, if family/friends aren’t available or would cause problems with Jack’s schedule (ie – too difficult for him to go to bed at someone else’s house, etc) i turn to college age/singles who already have an income.  i also try to make it easy and as appealing as possible.  maybe set it up so that Jack will sleep for most of the time, not ask for a ridiculous level of frequency or a hard core commitment for the next 3 years, have a special treat on hand for them, or at least point out anything “fun” I have and encourage them to help themselves.  ANY time i’m asking someone to care for my child for free, i will go to an extra effort to make the job as appealing and as easy as i reasonably can.

also, to be honest, i adjust my expectations for anyone watching my child for free.  yes, i tell them when bedtime/naptime is, how to make up his bottle, what the “norm” is for when he goes down, etc. but i also make sure they know that i’m happy as long as he is alive when i get home and they aren’t going crazy, haha.  i don’t insist that they endure 30 minutes of crying until he falls asleep (i can’t even handle that!), or that they rock him for 45 minutes if he’s fussy, etc.  i take on a much more laid back approach and hold things very loosely anytime we are being blessed by free childcare.  it may cause more inconvenience for me later, but that is the “price” i am willing to pay for free babysitting.

you might be thinking, “well that’s easy for you – you only have 1 kid!”  and it’s true.  my babysitting needs are very low and easy right now.  but i don’t expect it to be like that forever.  the choice to have more kids DOES mean more inconvenience and more money – on every level.  with every child that we add to our family, our “maintenance” level will get higher and higher.  some of the “free” options i mentioned above may become less and less of an option.  but that’s part of the choice we make when we choose to have more children and we’re prepared to deal with that as our family grows.

to pay

pretty much all evening outings, especially things that are technically “optional” (date nights, parties, etc).  mentally, i just assume that part of the package of these outings means needing to pay a babysitter.  but again, if we’d rather not or the budget is super tight one month, then we will draw on the above listed categories of people to serve us.  otherwise, i contact a young teen and pay her, straight up.  just a normal babysitting set up.  (btw i will also pay a little extra for an older babysitter, and especially if they drive!  not like, double pay, but definitely a bit more.)  we just feel like it isn’t fair to ask the young teens, for whom this is their only means of income, to babysit frequently, or often, for free, for any childcare need that arises.  does this mean that i’ve never had a young teen babysit Jack for free?  nope.  i totally have.  but i have done my best to make sure they knew my gratefulness for their service and that i considered it an exception.  and i make sure to pay them the next time.  it’s not that i refuse to let them serve me.  i just 1) want to be VERY careful about taking advantage too often of their hearts to serve, 2) 99% of the time, we can afford to pay them, so i’d rather pay them and leave them free to serve other families for whom finances might be tighter and would benefit more from being served for free.

when i am paying a babysitter for their time and skills, i feel a bit more freedom to have higher expectations for the “job performance.”  i expect them to follow the schedule and routine we have laid out and the preferences that i clearly state, within reason.  just like any employer, if i’m paying you to do a job, i have the right to certain expectations about how that job should look.  especially when it’s my own child we’re talking about!

one thing i remember from my years of babysitting were the times when a family would call and ask if i could watch their kids, but weren’t clear about if they were going to pay or not.  or they weren’t clear about why they were asking.  was it a church meeting they heard about last minute and were required to attend?  or were they simply in the mood to see a movie that night and needed someone to watch their kids?   it was suuuuper awkward and really hard to handle.  because frankly, i did factor those things into my decision!  there were times i had plans for the night in question but may have been willing to forego or reschedule them given the opportunity to make money. or if i knew they were scrambling to find a babysitter for a church meeting, i was far more apt to try and help them.  it was just hard and awkward when it was unclear or unknown.  i decided long ago that i would always try and communicate as much information clearly up front when asking for childcare.  for example, saying “is [name] available to babysit Jack for us on thursday evening for our date night?  it would be from 6-9pm and we would pay her $X.”  or, “would [name] be interested in serving us by watching Jack while we attend a church meeting on Monday evening from 7-8:30pm?”  that way the sitter can make an informed decision with clear expectations on both ends.

my current thoughts on how much to pay: rates have definitely gone up since i babysat, ha!  from what i can tell, they’ve more than doubled, actually.  then again, the expenses that young teens have these days have also gone up.  when it comes to paying a babysitter, i prefer to set my own rate.  i asked around to several people (families and babysitters) and decided on a rate that we felt was reasonable and appealing.  i suppose there are 2 approaches you could take.  the first being to see yourself as an employer offering a potential employee a job, where you outline the job requirements and the pay being offered.  the second approach is to see yourself as a consumer looking for the best deal for a service and the worker sets their rate and you decide if you want to hire them.  i prefer the first approach. 🙂  but like i said in the previous paragraph, i will communicate the amount being offered for the job right up front so that the sitter can make an informed decision.  if the job isn’t worth it to them, they absolutely have the right to say no and i will try someone else.  if i can’t find anyone, maybe my offer is too low and i need to raise it.  😉  but hey, that’s economics.  that’s life.

so there you have it.  this is our mindset when it comes to babysitters.  thus far as parents, living with my parents while we remodel our house has been a huge blessing as far as getting a lot of convenient and free babysitting goes. but now that we’re, Lord willing, only a few weeks away from moving into our house, i am excited enter more fully into the world of babysitters for my child.  it feels like a special part of my life has come full swing!

house update – buy all the things!

today was a very fun and exciting day on the house remodel front!  we received a substantial tax return this year (yay for buying a house AND having a baby in 2013!) and thus were able to purchase several big ticket items as well as a few smaller items.

i found the PERFECT refrigerator on craigslist for exactly as much as i was willing to pay, along with a pretty decent dishwasher for a steal.

yesterday i ordered our flooring:


and also the kitchen!  we decided to get our kitchen cabinets from IKEA.  we went with the AKURUM style, except in pure white (not off-white like in the picture below):

i’m particularly stoked about the cabinet below that we are getting to serve as my pantry, since the house doesn’t have a pantry and i prefer not to use regular kitchen cabinets for food:

ALL of the kitchen cabinets will be delivered to the house tomorrow afternoon.  eek!!!

the kitchen sink is already sitting in the garage, with the faucet coming from amazon tomorrow…
kitchen sink kitchen faucet

along with the downstairs bathroom vanity, faucet and light fixture:
bathroom light fixturebathroom vanity bathroom faucet

(i’m kind of weird and like super basic faucets…)

as you may notice, we are going with a very simple look, lots of straight lines, etc.  after living in an apartment for the first 3.5 years of marriage, i’m ready for a house where it doesn’t feel like there’s never enough space to put everything.  i told zach i would rather err on the side of things looking bare rather than risk having it look cluttered.

two of the most exciting parts of today were…

1. finding 10 gallons of “reject” paint at lowes (that we can use for primer on all the walls) for only $50!!!  normal price would have been $300!!!  God’s sovereignty in the timing of zach finding and snagging the paint was unbelievable.  it may sound silly and little, but it was HUGE for us and i was truly in awe of God’s kindness over such a tiny blessing!

2. getting our couch!  we drove out to this random place i had found via craigslist.  it was in a rougher part of phoenix and seemed a tad sketch.  but the prices advertised were amazing enough to at least go check it out.  and boy am i glad we did!  there were actually a TON of really nice furniture pieces for amazing prices!  we scored a couch, love seat and chair for less than $500!

we got this set:

but in this color scheme:

it all came brand spankin’ new, sealed in the box.  i. am. thrilled.

also making some good headway on the construction/remodel work.  it can be slow going sometimes, with zach being the only one working over there.  but tomorrow night he’s got some guys coming to help him knock out some of the small stuff that just needs to get DONE.  we’re essentially chugging away toward getting the house ready for paint.  once we’re ready to paint and then actually DO paint, the floors can go in, the kitchen can go in and then WE can move in!

current projected move date is april 1st and we are very optimistic about that date!

House Update!

Soooo what started out as “oh just some paint, a little minor construction and some updating” on the house has become essentially remodeling the entire interior.  ::wide eyes::

Between encountering set backs, adding some extra projects, and Zach getting scheduled for mandatory overtime at work 3 of the 4 weeks in December… our estimated date of move-in has been optimistically pushed to the end of March.  It’s slow going since Zach only has his days off to work on it.  And we  haven’t been able to enlist the help of friends and family much because A) some of the projects have been 1-person jobs or required specific skills and B) Zach’s days off are in the middle of the week when everyone else is working.  We’re hoping to plan a couple work evenings here in the near future where we CAN ask friends and family for help to knock out a few things quickly.

Here are some pictures of the stuff we’ve been working on lately.  And by “we,” I mean “pretty much all Zach.”  (btw, all “before” pictures are the ones posted by the previous owner on the listing)

one of the biggest projects has been the staircase…

we decided to:
– replace the carpet with stained wood treads
– replace the metal railing with wooden ballusters and newel posts
– make a better use of the space beneath the stairs by enclosing it into a closet with a built-in bookcase on the front

As Zach started pulling up the carpet and the old stairs, the stringers (support beams for the entire staircase) either already were, or started to, crack.  So he basically ended up rebuilding the ENTIRE staircase.
IMG_9031  IMG_9415

The treads came out beautifully!  We LOVE the stained wood!

I was THRILLED with how the built-in bookcase turned out.  It was exactly what we had envisioned!

We also removed the weird/lame plant shelf thing that was on the landing.
IMG_9410 IMG_9405

The ballusters and newel posts will all be painted white.  The top handrail will be stained and curved like the 2nd pic:
IMG_9402  IMG_9403

Zach installed small can lights above the staircase to provide some much needed extra light:

Trimming out the newel posts is the last step before painting.  2 down, 5 more to go!
IMG_9495  IMG_9492

Zach has really LOVED working with wood.  He trimmed out the entryway between the living room and the kitchen and it turned out fabulously!  We are going for sleek, simple and straight.  A little nod to the California Craftsman style that we both really love:

Zach has also removed 80% of the popcorn ceilings and I have been working on mudding the walls.  Neither of us care for textured walls so we decided to make them smooth.  Neither project is expensive, but they ARE rather tedious and labor intensive.  Removing the popcorn ceiling was definitely needed to update the house and help with eventual resale value.  Making the walls smooth was simply a matter of preference and not the kind of thing you can do after moving in, so if it was something we really wanted (which it was), it was now or never.  Choosing to do BOTH projects was probably not our brightest move (HA!) and potentially the 2nd biggest reason for delaying our progress/move-in date.  Oh well – we’re almost done now.

We’re hoping the next several weeks bring a greater sense of forward movement and momentum.  Painting, installing the floors (laminate wood), trim/baseboards and installing the kitchen (we completely gutted it) are the biggest things to be finished prior to moving.  Most of the rest of the stuff (new light fixtures, medicine cabinets, hardware on the kitchen drawers, and all the decorative elements, etc) can be completed and/or worked on once we’re in.

Whew!  It’s exhausting work sometimes but we are really excited about all the ways we get to make this house beautiful and OURS!

i am severely underpaid ;)

the other night zach and i were talking about our current house project (basically remodeling the entire interior of the home we bought back in october) and he says to me, “the other day i found myself wondering… how do other people DO stuff like this?  and so fast?!  not crazy rich people, but normal people like us?  and then it dawned on me…. they have TWO incomes.  oh right…”

thankfully, my husband and i are fully on the same page about having me stay home full time and devote my days exclusively to being a wife and a mom.  and right now, that’s not bringing in any additional income.  and also thankfully, my husband has a really great job that he not only LOVES but that also provides very well for us.  but it doesn’t mean there aren’t monetary sacrifices that go with being a stay at home mom.  this house project for example – choosing to have me not work outside the home means that we chose to do the remodel largely ourselves.  as in nearly all things in life, you pay in time or you pay in money.  sometimes paying in money is totally worth saving the time.  sometimes it’s worth the extra time (and work) to save the money.  in this case of our house, it’s the latter.  and it takes extra time for these projects as well because having a baby greatly limits the amount of work and help *i* am able to contribute.  zach is doing 95% of the work ON TOP OF his full time job.  i know.  crazy.  and incredible.  and hot.  😉

recently i came across a few things that outline the “worth” of a stay at home mom based on the work she does daily (and sometimes nightly!).

fun image/chart: What Is a Stay At Home Mom’s Work Worth?

blog post: Why My Wife’s Job Is Harder Than Mine

not that a monetary value can be placed on any mother’s work (whether she works inside or outside the home), but i find things like this fun.  plus, it’s encouraging sometimes to realize – especially when money is tight (or it’s not, but you still have to pay attention because it’s not like you have a money tree in the backyard) –  that choosing not to work outside the home does have significant financial ramifications.    they’re good reminders that while i’m not paid in dollar bills for the work that i do, it in no way means that my work is any less legitimate or valuable.  it’s just a different type of value.  🙂

(HT to my sis in law Jess and fellow SAHM, by whom i came across these 2 links)

Happy Birthday Grammy


january 13th is grammy’s birthday.  the day after mine.  we actually almost shared a birthday.  when i decided to come 7 weeks premature via emergency c-section, my dad actually stopped the doctor and asked him if he could wait 10 more minutes so that i could be born on my grammy’s birthday.  the doctor, ahem, said no.  um, it was an emergency c-section.  i needed to come out NOW.  and so i was born at 11:51pm on january 12th, just 9 minutes shy of sharing my grammy’s birthday.  but growing up, it really felt like we shared a birthday since i always saw grammy on or near my birthday when she treated us to a birthday dinner or lunch.  for years we went to Marie Calendars and grammy would always laugh when i ordered the same thing – grilled cheese, french fries and a shirley temple.  🙂

i attribute my love of theatre to my grammy, as she took me to my first production – The Nutcracker ballet at Gammage Auditorium.  it’s still one of my favorite shows to this day.

this might sound strange, but when i think of grammy, i think of her jewelry.  she had such beautiful and tasteful jewelry.  she gave me my first set of pearls, my first gold chain and my first silver cross necklace.  she always looked so refined and put together.  she was the epitome of class and grace.  simple and sophisticated in her appearance, she was polite, warm and composed in her manner.  elegant.  funny.  sweet.  respectable.  thoughtful.  generous.

i miss her.

yesterday was the first birthday of mine that wasn’t paired with hers.  3 weeks ago was the first christmas eve at her house without her there.

in remembrance and celebration of her birthday today, i wanted to share the words i shared at her funeral (on behalf of myself, my brother and our 2 cousins):

“Grammy was by far the classiest woman we have ever known.  She had a grace, an elegance and a composure about her that, in our eyes, rivaled Jackie Kennedy.  She was always perfectly put together, without ever putting others down.  Growing up, we remember how her home was neat and orderly, but in a way that was still warm and inviting to us as children.  As the 4 of us grandchildren have been reflecting on favorite memories these past two weeks, we realized that we shared quite a few of the same ones – like spending every Christmas Eve at Grammy & Poppa’s house eating the best mexi-flank steak we had ever tasted, with Grammy’s famous buttered tortillas.  We remember waiting very impatiently to open presents – and the beautiful stockings that Grammy always hung above the fireplace.  I’m convinced that all things magical about Christmas originated at Grammy’s house.

Speaking of Grammy’s house – oh how we all loved to go to Grammy’s house.  Some grandmother’s are known for their cookies and lemonade.  But for us, going to Grammy’s house meant clubhouse crackers and orange crush soda!  And swimming!  Swimming under the sun-shaped fountain spouts that were totally a dream come true for little girls who like to play ‘mermaids.’  Grammy always welcomed us into her home and smiled when we made pillow forts in the living room, or laughed as we curiously patted the sheepskin seat covers in her car.  Grammy didn’t just love her grandchildren – she delighted in them.  From peeking her head over the fence when she heard Michael shooting hoops in the backyard, to sitting through far more basketball games and dance and piano recitals than any non-parent should ever have to endure.  Yet she did.  She unselfishly gave of her time, showing up to all our stuff with a smile and usually treating us to dinner or ice cream afterwards.

‘Giving’ is a word that definitely described Grammy well.  She gave her grandchildren so much.  Not just her time or her money, but she gave us her smile, her open arms, her refined example, and her love.  Life from here on out won’t be the same for any of us grandkids without Grammy. And while such a precious, beloved, gracious, amazing, beautiful, selfless, kind and special woman has left a huge hole in our lives, she has also left an indelible mark on our hearts.  Grammy, we miss you and love you more than we can say.  Thank you for being the best Grammy in the whole world.”

the last time i saw grammy was when i drove up to her house to introduce her to my son.  it was a precious time seeing her smile and laugh and gaze at jack.  i’m so grateful to have such a sweet and happy memory as my last one of her.

happy birthday, grammy.  i love you and miss you so so much.  can’t wait to see you again one day.

2014 Goals

i have several goals in mind for 2014.  but the one that is paramount in my mind is:

to read my Bible EVERY DAY.  this new season of motherhood and being “on call” 24/7 for my precious son has presented a new (but not insurmountable) challenge to making my time in the word a priority.  i am a total believer that when something is truly a priority, 99% of the time, it’s my own fault if it doesn’t happen.
two things prompted this goal:
– the richest seasons of spiritual growth in my life have been the seasons where i simply made my devotions a priority.  not the years that i went to the most conferences or the times that i read the most spiritual books – although those offered significant contribution.  but just being in God’s word on a regular basis produced more peace in my heart, awareness of God’s work, deeper desire for Jesus and fruit in my life than any other single Christian discipline.
– i realized that i have recently taken on an unhealthy “all or nothing” mentality.  meaning, if i can’t have a full blown “quiet time” of reading my bible for X amount of time and praying for X number of minutes and reading X number of pages in a supplemental growth book, then i just blow it off altogether and do nothing, thinking “oh well, we’ll try again tomorrow.”  and while i want to still pursue more lengthy times of being in the Word, i don’t want to be so quick to dismiss the power of reading even small amounts of scripture.

so my goal for 2014 is to read my bible 365 days in a row.  even if it’s just 1 chapter before i fall asleep at night, or if it’s a much longer and deeper time during one of his naps – i want to prioritize reading God’s word every single day.  and i am not going to give up if i miss a day. i want to get as close to 365 days as i can.  a perfect “record” is not ultimately the goal – consistency and a pattern of prioritizing time with God in His word daily is the true heart behind this goal. and by God’s grace and the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit, i am excited to pursue growth in this area in 2014!

cloth diapers

while i’m on the topic of being a little crazy and a little “crunchy,” i thought i’d throw up a post about the cloth diapers we are using.  if anyone is interested or has been thinking about using cloth diapers, maybe you’ll find our experience helpful?  ::shrug::

once the fog of the first 6-8weeks post partum had cleared and i needed to start buying larger quantities of diapers for Jack (gifted packages had run out), i flinched deeply when i realized that we would be dropping close to $50/month for diapers.  for us, the more expensive name brand diapers really did work the best – far fewer leaks and issues, and even buying in bulk from sam’s club proved to cost a pretty penny.  now, i care about the environment as much as the next person, i guess, but the biggest draw for me toward cloth diapering was the monetary savings.  the savings of cloth diapers over disposables simply cannot be disputed.  it’s crazy, actually (in the $thousands)!  however, i realize that “paying” in money is only one side of the issue.  yes, cloth diapering means paying more in time and also a certain level of dealing with the dirty diapers a bit more…directly.  but personally, i was willing to “pay” in both those areas more than i was willing to fork out the dollars.  but that’s me. 

i had been toying with the idea of cloth diapers before Jack was born and now decided to look into it more closely.  ooohhhh my.  all the different types and styles was overwhelming!  this video series on YouTube was extremely helpful in getting a grasp on the various types and pros/cons of each.  i also posted a status and a note on facebook asking for friends’ opinions and experiences – love hearing from people i know!  lastly, i ordered a customizable trial package from a cloth diapering company that allowed me to try 6 different types of diapers (for only $10 plus shipping) – all after i had established a general idea of what i wanted to try.  the trial was exactly what i needed and i knew what kind would be best for us within 2 days.

we opted to go with the Best Bottom diapering system and here’s why:
1. both zach and i disliked the idea of having to wash an ENTIRE diaper every time there was even just a little bit of pee (which is the case with pocket diapers and “All in Ones” (AiOs). best bottoms (BBs) is an “All in 2” (Ai2) system with outer shells ($17ish) + inserts ($3-$5ish depending on what type of cloth/fiber you get) that snap into the shell. so for pee-only diapers, you just snap out the insert, snap in a new one and diaper back up. you can often do the same for poopy diapers and just wipe the shell of any poo that got on it. or, if the shell is too soiled, you drop that in the wash pail and grab a new one. but you end up needing only a handful of shells and a decent supply of inserts total.

2. BB seemed to have excellent “gussets” – the elastic enclosure around the leg openings – which held in pee and poopy blowouts very well.  several of the other diapers i tried leaked badly from even just a light pee.

3. BB is a pretty slim fit, which fits my lean little man much better. a few clothing items will need to be “sized up” to fit over the bulk of a cloth diaper, but not a lot and not by much. plus, these diapers were adjustable both in waist width AND length, making them a “one size fits all” option that aren’t particularly bulky and will theoretically last until we potty train!

4. have to admit, the BB shell color/pattern options were darn cute! i ended up getting colors that leaned more toward “boy,” but were also fairly gender neutral should we have a girl next. that way i’ll only have to purchase a couple extra shells if we have a girl.
Screen shot 2013-12-17 at 2.34.57 PM

5. BBs are slightly closer to the “cheaper” side of the pricing scale. total cost so far has been: $10 trial package + $10 s/h trial package + $10 to ship BACK the trial package* + $200 order** (6 shells, 18 inserts, 3 “doublers” to thicken reg inserts for overnight, etc, 1 small wet bag for the diaper bag and 1 medium wet bag for the nursery or laundry room (i’ll graduate to the large wet bag when we have more kids)) = $230. depending on how old jack is when we have a 2nd kid and how many inserts/diapers he’s going through per day, i anticipate spending maybe an additional $100 for a few more shells and inserts plus a larger wet bag. but still! less than $350 for pretty much ALL the diapers i should need potentially for ALL our kids (i’m planning for jack to be out of diapers by the time a possible 3rd and 4th child come along, Lord willing)!  a GREAT deal in my mind!

*i did the trail package through Jillian’s Drawers. they advertise that it’s a $10 trial, but it really works out to be $30 because they charge you an additional $10 for shipping and you also have to pay to ship the trial package back. however, they give you free shipping on your next order… (not a “break even” deal necessarily though unless you order $75+ worth of items)

** i ended up placing my BIG order from Nicki’s Diapers because they were slightly cheaper (discount if you buy quantities), offered FREE shipping on orders of $75+, and had WAY more color/pattern options for both the diaper shells and the wet bags. unfortunately right now, Jillian’s inventory is a very limited, at least as far as the BB stuff goes. however, i would like to at least remark that i had a WONDERFUL experience with Jillian’s customer service.  reasonably prompt email responses, personal and very helpful. no complaints about the company AT ALL.  simply chose Nicki’s because of the better inventory and pricing.

a word on the maintenance/work of dealing with cloth diapers:
yes, it IS faster and cleaner to simply fold up a disposable and drop it in the trash.  no arguing that.  but honestly, the amount of “extra” time i have put into the handling and washing of the cloth diapers we got comes to a grand total of about 1.5 hours… per WEEK.  i’m not even kidding.  pee diapers? drop in the wet bag until laundry time.  soiled diapers?  i drop them in the bathtub and spray ’em down with our combo/hose shower head that we already had, then drop them in the wet bag until laundry time.  (breastmilk poo is very runny and essentially water soluble so it rinses right out and down the drain easily.  since jack has been on the goat milk formula, however, his stools are now thicker.  i started using flushable liners and rinsing any spill-over.  still quick, easy and cheap!)

i “use up” the cloth inserts about every 48hours.  so every other day i put everything – shells, inserts, wet bag – into the washing machine, run a cold rinse/pre-soak, and then a hot wash using a scant 1/8cup detergent.  after that i have the option of putting it all in the dryer on medium or low heat, but i usually opt to put them all up on the clothesline outside.  the sun is a natural bleaching agent and kills any remaining bacteria and/or smell.  they smell all clean and fresh when i bring them back inside!  the whole process literally takes me less than 10 minutes, not including the time they’re actually IN the washer. 

here’s a few tips/opinions of mine, if you’re thinking about / looking into cloth diapers:
– wait until your baby is 6-8 weeks old.  not for the baby’s sake but for yours!  let the post partum fog clear a little.  let your body adjust to the sleep deprivation a little.  get past the thick and tarry meconium poop.  get past the “changing their diaper every freaking hour” stage. 
– do your research and do the trial package!  talk to friends!  that was the most helpful part. 
– still keep disposables on hand!  i use disposables when we travel or when Jack is with a babysitter or in the church nursery, etc.  this is a personal choice we have made and i don’t want to inconvenience others or gross others out by making them use the cloth diapers if they don’t want to, or asking to wash my cloth diapers in their washing machine.  and actually, since Jack has been on the goat milk formula, he is SOAKING his diapers like CRAZY.  it’s a good thing and a good sign of hydration, etc. but the cloth diapers aren’t cutting it during the long stretch at night.  so i’ve started using disposables at night too.  i can handle buying 1 bulk size box of disposable diapers every couple of months.  it’s worth it to not have to change his clothes and the sheets and his blanket at 2am every night because he’s soaked through it all! 
– do cloth diapers because you WANT to, not because you feel guilted into doing it because your friends are, or it’s the big thing in the “all natural” community, etc.  not that there may not be future seasons where you use disposables for awhile, but if you’re not all in and up for the extra work, you’ll fizzle out fast and the feel even worse about the money you invested. 

i have yet to feel any regret or remorse about our cloth diaper choice – in fact, i LOVE it!  🙂

a hungry boy and homemade formula

a week before thanksgiving i took jack to the doctor for an eye infection.  i thought it would be a quick visit, they would confirm if his eye was truly infected (no improvement after keeping it clean and treating it with breastmilk for 48hrs), we would determine a course of action and that would be that.  well, that visit turned into a whole lot more…

the routine weight check revealed that jack had lost 9oz over the 6 weeks since his last appointment (at which point he had been trending upward).  yikes!  losing weight in any amount isn’t a good thing for babies and especially when you’re a string bean like my little boy.  clearly, he was not getting enough to eat.  i was honestly shocked.  jack had never really given any clear indication that he was still hungry.  he would nurse fully on both sides and when he was done, he was done.  no whining or crying or complaining.  he was still happy and smiley.  i assumed that if he wasn’t getting enough and was still hungry, he would “tell me”!  nope.  apparently he takes after his daddy and eats what’s put before him but otherwise doesn’t think about it.  (i have no idea what that’s like!)  jack’s sleeping had seemed to “regress” over the prior 4-6 weeks. where he had been sleeping a good long stretch, waking up to nurse once between 2-4am and then going right back down till 7/7:30, he had begun to wake up every 3ish hours or so during the night.  i would just nurse him and then he always went right back to sleep.  this also had pretty much started around our trip to Michigan, so i assumed it was a result of traveling/jet lag/being off schedule, etc.   again, because he never acted hungry after a feeding, i never assumed the sleeping troubles were connected to eating.  another thing had had happened on our trip – my cycle had returned.  the more i thought about it, the less shocked i became.  it was actually all starting to make sense.  my supply must have started dwindling with the return of my cycle and jack, being the happy, pretty laid-back kid that he thus far has seemed to be, never complained – so i had no idea.

the doctor handed me a can of formula and instructed me to give him 2oz 3x/day in addition to nursing.  i went out to my car and cried as i stared at the can of formula.  i wasn’t upset that my body couldn’t provide enough for my child.  i was upset because he had not been getting enough to eat and i had no idea!  i felt awful!! the thought just broke my heart!  and i also cried because as i stared at the list of ingredients on the can, i kept thinking, “i can’t do it.  i just can’t give this to my son.  but i have to give him something!”  i have my own personal convictions and opinions about commercial formula that make me very uncomfortable with giving it to my son.  but what other option did i have??

**(let me just stop right here and share word of explanation as well as my heart: to any and all of my friends who have used/do use commercial formula – i sincerely hope you can read this without hearing any judgment from me, for i certainly mean none toward you whatsoever!  i promise, i have not been silently judging you in my head while you give your kid a formula bottle.  with every passing day that i’m a mom, i grow more and more aware of how personal and individual the decisions are that you make for each of your children.  heck, they start before you even HAVE children!  from the birth control you choose – or don’t, the type of delivery you choose – or don’t (some women don’t have a choice!), when to vaccinate your baby – or don’t, how and what you feed your baby, sleep scheduling or not, when to start solids and which ones to start with – those decisions have to be made by you and your spouse based on what you feel is best for your child, your family and your season of life.  and the list of decisions above are just within the first 6-12months of your child’s life!  and as i watch my other friends and family members with older kids, i realize that the decisions only increase in volume and complexity as you throw in discipleship and parenting and morals and values – and more kids!  so for ALL of you who may be reading this, please know: i am NOT writing this post to say “this is THE right choice.”  i AM writing this post to share what has become the best option FOR US.  it’s something that i’m in the midst of and currently really excited about and want to share!  one other thing:  i am well aware from my own experiences that many struggles that people encounter in the throes of conception, pregnancy, delivery and infancy are not commonly/openly discussed and therefore can become very lonely trials.  it can feel like things are working smoothly and perfectly for everyone around you… but not for you.  and when faced with a struggle/challenge  you never expected to face, especially the first time around, you can often feel a little (or a lot!) lost, confused, helpless and unaware of options.  so another reason i am sharing what happened is for the sake of any of my friends who may find themselves facing something similar and looking for an alternative solution like i was. and to any of you who think i am crazy and extreme – well… isn’t that part of being a parent?  oh the crazy things we do for our kids… 😉 )**

i called zach and told him what had happened and poured all my tears and fears and concerns and opinions.  he helped calm me down and assured me that everything was going to be just fine and we would do the best we could and find a good solution for jack.  he also reminded me that jack’s health and growth and gaining weight were the most important things here and if we needed to set aside a few of our ideals for a short time in order to make sure he got what he needed, then that was ok too.  this was not going to be the last time we would face a decision like this.  🙂  after hanging up the phone i took a deep breath and began driving home from the Dr’s office.  on the drive i suddenly remembered (translate: the holy spirit brought to mind!) a blog post i had read just a few days earlier from a mom who had to stop breastfeeding and instead made her own formula using goat’s milk.  i jumped on the computer as soon as i got home.  as soon as i re-read the post i KNEW that this was the solution for us.  i already have a fairly strong leaning toward doing things “naturally” and zach has grown accustomed to my thinking and has even started to get on board with a lot more of it – so it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get him to “let” me give this a try.  🙂

(btw – increasing my supply of breastmilk wasn’t much of an option – i had been getting plenty of calories and tons of water already… and a pump had stopped having any effect on me over a month prior.  plus, even if i was able to get my supply up, that would take time i didn’t have.  my son needed something NOW.)

from what i’ve researched and understand, goat’s milk is actually the one type of milk that most closely resembles a human mother’s breastmilk, making it the ideal choice for a formula base.  all the other ingredients on the list help provide the additional nutrients, vitamins, minerals and immunity boosters found in breastmilk in a more naturally-occuring state.  i actually recognized pretty much everything on the list of ingredients and was able to obtain them easily from Sprouts or amazon.  we know a family who raises goats for their milk and has very kindly agreed to give me some of it since they aren’t able to consume it all themselves – what a blessing! any additional goat milk that i need i buy from whole foods or trader joe’s.

i spent about $200 in up front ingredients and supplies, which should last me for several months. (i’m hoping to only need 1 round of supplies as we’re planning to start jack on solid foods in january)  i eagerly made up a batch of the formula, filled up a bottle and gave it to jack.  aaaaand he wanted NOTHING to do with it.  he grimaced and turned away and spit it out.  and i started to cry all over again.  what was i going to do?!  well duh.  he had never had anything other than breastmilk up until this point – of course it was going to taste weird to him!  we needed to transition him onto it slowly, mixed with breastmilk.  more tears on my part because i didn’t have any breastmilk left in the freezer to use!  my sister-in-law came to the rescue and gave me 2 bags of frozen breastmilk that i used to transition jack over.  and boy did he guzzle!  after the first few bottles it became obvious that my supply had dwindled MUCH more than we realized.  instead of giving him 2 extra ounces 3x/day, i would nurse him on both sides and then he would drain a 5oz bottle!  i was simultaneously sad and thrilled.  sad that he had wanted/needed so much more to eat for over a month and i hadn’t known, but thrilled that he was now going to get all the food he needed – AND it was a solution that i felt comfortable, excited even, giving to him.  the sad feelings abated quickly and my heart soared with each bottle he drained.

after 12 days of nursing + formula, we went back to the Dr for his 6month check up.  he had not only re-gained the weight he had lost, but gained almost an additional full pound MORE!  YEAH!  and within 2-3 weeks his sleeping went back to what it had been before – and is continuing to get even better.  we might, just might, be on the brink of him sleeping through the night!

i’ve made several more batches of the goat milk formula.  like the mom in the recipe post, i actually make 6-8 batches at once, freezing what i don’t need right away and keeping the rest in the fridge.

the ingredients:
photo 1

i put each batch’s added ingredients in a small dish first – especially helpful when you’re making 6 batches at once!
photo 2

my parents have a vitamix machine – with TWO containers!  i find this method to be the quickest and easiest for mixing up the formula.  once we move into our house and i get all my stuff back from storage, i plan to just use my ninja blender.  in goes the milk and water, then 1 small dish of the extra nutrients.
photo 3

my finished formula – i learned the hard way to leave plenty of extra room at the top AND to let them freeze for 24hrs WITHOUT the lids first.  yeah… let’s just say this is my second round of mason jars.  the other set is laying in pieces in the trash can (the formula was able to be salvaged and strained, thank goodness).
photo 4

it takes me less than 1.5 hrs to make 2 weeks’ worth of formula!

he likes it!
photo 5

i’m so excited and grateful that God led us to this particular solution.  not to over-spiritualize it, but i truly believe that this came about as clear leading and provision from God – an answer to the tearful, desperate prayers of a mom who didn’t know what else to do and really wanted to find an alternative.  but most importantly, i’m elated that my son is putting on weight again and growing, growing, growing!  (not to mention sleeping long stretches at night again.  i’m pretty excited about that too!)