Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Making salt dough to play with and make into ornaments
 A few of our activities this week:

Dutch spiced cookies made with our clay stamps -- baked and . . .
cookies packaged for neighbor gifts!

gifts all wrapped!

Reading her last Advent book
We are just WORN OUT! :)  Ready to relax and enjoy Christmas

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advent Goings-On

I have been neglectful in posting some of our fun Advent activities mostly because we've been extra busy and also because I have been getting very little sleep the past week or so.  Nonetheless, I didn't want to go too long before I shared some of the things we did that were really special to Susie.

1.  She has really loved doing the Advent candles at mealtimes.  Whatever meal is our "sit at the table together" meal (sometimes lunch, sometimes supper), we light the number of candles for whatever week of Advent it is.  She is just starting to understand numbers, so counting the candles is great.  We say "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men" as I light them.  I figured it would be an easy way to learn that verse by saying it every day.  I really should add another verse -- she knows this one so well. :)

Chip checking out the nativity and books

2. Of course she has loved unwrapping books.  I give her one every Sunday and then another at some point in the week.  We keep them under the tree by the play nativity set so she can look at them as much as she wants (and keeping them central has encouraged her to reach for them over and over).  I realized a couple years ago that what I put under the tree seems to be the biggest deal.  So if there is a big pile of presents, of course that's the focus!  Instead, we have the nativity for her to play with, and a big box for all the pieces and her new books.  (There are a few presents, just to clarify).

3. I printed these off for her thinking she could color them each week, but instead, I let her get out her watercolor paints and make them really special works of art.  They are!  She loves to paint and really has pretty good technique with her brush.  After they dry, I've been hanging them around the dining room so they are part of our Christmas decor.

Singing with Daddy under the tree
4.  Singing -- oh goodness gracious.  The girl loves her some Christmas Carols!  Hark the Herald is her fave, but Away in a Manger, Joy to the World, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and Silent Night are all being learned.  She sings them at the drop of a hat.  Hark is the best -- she knows every word to the first verse and most of the second.  She found a microphone in Target while we were shopping the other day and stood and sang such a perfect performance that strangers were gathering to listen (she didn't see them or she would have stopped, I'm sure).  I was actually in tears yesterday when I heard her singing the precious words "God and sinners reconciled" as she worked on her painting.  So thankful that we celebrate such an earth-shattering thing at Christmas!

Please share what you are doing to make Christ the focus of your Advent season!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So Thankful

My heart is filled with thankfulness.  I love so much to look at my darling babies and memorize their tiny faces and sing out thanksgiving to the Lord for lending them to me -- sometimes out loud, sometimes just in my heart.

Susie and I have been enjoying the poem "Over the River and Through the Woods" -- I checked a copy out from the library that was illustrated with fantastic woodcuts.  I'm very fond of woodcuts.  Yesterday after we read it, we made pumpkin pie!  She loves to "make" (aka cook), so it was so fun! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Children's books for Christmas

I was fine with just giving my kids 4 books during Advent this year, but now I've more than doubled the number I've collected due to discovering several old titles when visiting my family last weekend.  I've also checked out a couple good library books that I MIGHT wrap up for Susie to open as well (why does that feel weird?  It's not like I'm planning to keep it!). ;)

I wanted to share these other books we'll be reading starting just NEXT WEEK!

1. Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo -- the most lovely illustrations accompany this simple story of a girl inviting a poor homeless organ grinder and his monkey to her church's Christmas pageant.  I'm a sucker for a story that touches on our prejudices -- I think children are more open to dialogue about this tendency than adults!  The little girl has great joy when the man attends her pageant, and you see him welcomed in by the church at the end. 

2. The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson illustrated by Eloise Wilkin (my favorite illustrator).  I love how this little old Golden Book uses actual parts of Luke for the wording on the pages.  I also love the illustrations.  I've decided that I'm not taking issue with halos at this point in time.  Maybe down the road it will matter to me, but for now, it's fine.

3. The Night Before Jesus by Herbert Brokering -- this is an out of print title published by Concordia.  It does rhyme and obviously is trying to follow the pattern of the Clement Heard poem, but it's actually pretty good.  I like the way it emphasizes that we are NOW in the "night before Jesus" because earth is still longing for his coming -- his second coming.  It makes a good one for Advent.  I wonder how long my mom had this book stowed away. :)

4. Carol Time by Brimax publishers -- this little board book has the words to several Christmas Carols with precious little illustrations.  This publisher is from Australia, so I don't remember where I got this, but I think someone passed it on after Christmas last year.  I just refound it.  I will be using this when teaching Susie Christmas songs.  We sing carols around the tree before bed -- a tradition started by my parents when I was little.

5. A Stable in Bethlehem by Joy Hulme -- this "First Little Golden Book" is a counting book and counts down to the ONE baby all the others have come to worship.  There is a newer edition than the one I am linking to, but this is the one I have, copyright 1989.  It's not super deep, but it does in fact point to Christ.  Great for very little ones.

Since I will be traveling for Thanksgiving, I guess I better get to wrapping!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Come to the Cradle

I wanted to share a bit of what the Lord has taught me through the past six months in caring for my baby.  Yesterday at his six month doctor appointment, I discovered he'd gained over ten pounds since we brought him home from the hospital.  Despite the fact that Chip is not a great sleeper, he has an incredibly cheery disposition and has never been sick.  My pediatrician affirmed my efforts to exclusively nurse him as much as I have because of his good health and growth.  Of course I would love it if my baby slept through the night.  But he doesn't.  Not even close.  But each night as I drag my sleepy head off it's pillow to respond to his cry for me, I have to remind myself that I have chosen this to care for my baby.  It is easy to be tempted to feel sorry for myself, to complain about my lack of sleep, but in truth, I would not trade that path I have taken!  It would be wrong for me to complain when the Lord has been so good to us, blessing us with Chippy's life and health.  I have prayed for more sleep, and for the most part, the Lord has answered that prayer with "no, not yet".  But truly, the Lord is good even when I'm tired.  I have prayed for wisdom over and over and tonight when I put Chip to bed, I turned on the CD "Come to the Cradle" by Michael Card.  I used to play this for Susie every single night, and the words are just wonderful.  Inside the album jacket, though, I found this encouraging word, and it brought tears to my eyes:

"For the cry of a baby in the middle of the night is not simply a summons to change a diaper -- it contains within it more than our ears can hear.  It is a call to leave the cozy self-interest of our warm beds; to come, saying no to a thousand voices that tell us to remain where we are comfortable  It is a call to come away from ourselves.  No one who has ever heeded this call will tell you it was in vain." (emphasis mine)

 And that is me.  I have gone, night after night to feed my baby when he wakes, and now I look at him, round and chubby and cheerful and know that I have done the right thing.  The Lord is good to bless me with this kind of encouragement, and I hope it blesses you as well.

Thank you, Michael Card for writing beautiful songs and words that feed this tired mommy's soul!  Let me recommend his book Sleep Sound in Jesus which has the words to other lullabies by Card as well as outstanding short devotionals for parents that have fed my soul so well as I stumbled through the earliest months of having a baby.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Some Advent Activities

I thought I'd wrap up my posts on planning for Advent by sharing some of the activities I'm hoping to do with Susie (and Chip, at times) this year.  My children are very young, so this won't be what everyone would want to do, but perhaps it will help get your ideas flowing.  As I mentioned before, I've been writing down in my planner something for each day to make the entire season of Advent a celebration, beginning with the first Sunday of Advent.

That Sunday we will get out our regular Nativity set, candles and do our Advent Scripture reading.  This will also be the first day Susie gets to open a book.  The next day is when we will put up the Christmas tree, and the day after that is when we will get out the toy Nativity set and a few days after that, the Advent calendar.  I feel like having a good amount of Christmas decorations beautifying our home increases a child's awareness that we are celebrating something special!

On the days that we do not have a scheduled event, I am writing "Advent craft" on these days.  I have started gathering some fun craft ideas that I think Susie will enjoy.  Here are a few:

This free downloadable preschool pack has lots of activities with colors, numbers, letters, etc, all based on people and characters in the nativity story.  I'm not sure we will do all of it, but it's very cute, and I think Susie will dig it.

I want to make salt dough ornaments with Susie and Chip's little hand prints on them.  I found the directions for the dough on this blog. 

This blog post has quite a few adorable craft ideas for nativity scenes, including a gingerbread nativity, one with people made from toilet paper rolls, etc.  I'm planning to have Susie and Chip act out the nativity story as well, complete with costumes (like she shows in the pictures) even though I only have enough children to play Mary and baby Jesus. :)

Here are some great little lessons written by Amy Brown (who I know from my days as a student in SWI at SBTS) as well as Advent coloring pages on "Ministry to Children".  I definitely plan to use coloring pages!  Susie is into coloring big time.  I like how Amy focuses on different characters in the nativity but points to Christ each time!  These could easily be tweaked for family devotions, or even just playtime with the Fisher Price nativity set.

I don't currently have a structured plan for teaching Scripture memory or Christmas carols, but I've found with Susie it works well to just go with the flow.  We say verses at dinnertime, before bed, in the car. . . wherever.  We sing while she goes potty, cleans up toys, in the car, wherever.  I want to make learning enjoyable, not burdensome for her at this point.  When I was a child, we sang Christmas carols around the tree before bed, and I've done that the past couple years with Susie, so I'm planning to do so again this year.  I feel like making up hand motions helps young children with memorizing -- songs, verses, etc.  So we do lots of motions. My motions are pretty predictable, but if I come up with anything really fun this year, I'll try to post it here.

Pepper into all of this some family outings to see lights, special baking projects and most likely shopping for gifts!  My thinking in taking Susie shopping (especially for other children) is for her to see things that look pleasing to her, and to buy them to give away to someone else.  I cannot give her a heart that is not prone to selfishness, but I can try to foster a love for giving.  In the past, we have shopped for a child Susie's age from the Angel tree or elsewhere, and if our finances allow, I hope to do that again this year.  I want her to pick out gifts for others that we won't even be able to enjoy seeing them open, and certainly won't be able to play with herself. :)  

Anybody out there do a Jesse Tree or celebrate Saint Nick's day?  I'm thinking about both of those, but maybe not for this year.  Still have time!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Christmas (or Advent) books for Kids

In general I think it is easier to find good Christmas books for children than, say, Easter or Lent books.  Christmas -- a celebration to be sure, and one of a baby at that -- is just already closer to a child's level of understanding and enjoyment.  So there are many more quality books that could be written about, but I'm going to share the ones I have for my kids this year.  We will continue our tradition of giving a book to each child during Advent and pulling out the books they were given in past years as well.  Since this year we have a total of 4 books, I'm wrapping them up and letting Susie open one each Sunday of Advent. 

For Chip -- Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck illustrated by Felicia Bond.  I stumbled upon this book and ordered him a good used board book copy and I am delighted by it!  It reads well and has sweet illustrations -- just perfect for a baby's first Christmas book.  Susie will love it as well, and will probably memorize it since it rhymes.  I tend to look for books by Christian writers/publishers, but not in this case.  It's truly not important to explore the depths of the incarnation with an infant, so I'm happy with this little book that ends with "I am the baby asleep in the hay; I am the reason for Christmas day".

For Susie -- Song of the Stars, A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  This is a new title just out this year and it's very good.  I checked it out of the library just to be sure it was going to be on Susie's level, and I would say it is a touch above her, but it's so beautiful and she enjoyed it anyway.  I'm getting my copy from LifeWay with a 33% off coupon tomorrow which is a better price than Amazon!  As Sally Lloyd-Jones does so well, she has brought to life real drama and excitement that is particularly fitting for a book you'd read during Advent.  All over the world creatures are announcing "it's time! It's time!" as the Savior is born.  Younger children will enjoy all the animals in the pictures even if they can't grasp the idea of all creation yearning for Christ's arrival (and thus, his 2nd coming).  

Two other titles I considered this year, and would still like to get down the road are Little One We Knew You'd Come also by Sally Lloyd-Jones (but out of print, bummer. . . gotta find out what the deal is with that) and Mary's Happy Christmas Day by Kathleen Bostrom.  The former is a gorgeous hardcover with rich words and the latter looked like a cute board book for Chip (I have not read it in person, so don't bank on it being amazing! In this case, I am quite literally judging a book by its cover!).

I have written about the books I've given the past couple years in past posts, so I'm linking to those below.  Keep in mind that I have a 2 year old, so we've done really young books!  I tend to jump ahead of myself, but Lord willing we have many more years to get to those deeper things.

Here are links to what I have done for Advent in the past:
Last year
Pre-children years here and here (there are some kid-affiliated ideas in these posts) 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Plan ahead for Advent

I just love celebrating Advent, and focusing on the coming of Christ over the weeks before Christmas!  It's not just "pre-Christmas" or some countdown to Santa coming, but a lovely celebration of Christ spread out over several weeks.  I've started planning for our Advent celebrations already, and wanted to post some of my ideas to help you plan a Christ-focused holiday season!

First, on the 4 Sundays of Advent, I'm giving my kids their "new" Christmas books.  I've chosen some really good children's books about CHRISTmas -- not Santa, Frosty, Christmas trees, or anything else -- and I'm going to wrap them up and let Susie open one each week (Chip just isn't old enough to care yet -- but I do have one specifically for him -- more about that later).  I will also wrap up the 2 books Susie got the past 2 years during Advent to let her open.  Also on those Sundays we will do Advent candles around our Nativity set.  Haven't quite decided where we are going to put that yet, but I do want to reinstate that tradition this year -- I think Susie is old enough to enjoy this and be careful as well.

Second, I'm planning something (even a small something) special to do each day during Advent.  For instance -- put up the tree/decorate for Christmas (what makes a celebration more celebratory than decorations?), get out the Little People nativity to play with, go caroling, shop for an Angel tree child, crafts, etc.  I'm not saying that there will NEVER be anything Santa/Frosty/Reindeer in our Christmas season, but the things I am planning are not along those lines.  They are focused on Christ's coming (and 2nd coming) and serving others and enjoying time together as a family.  I've actually pulled out my planner and written in things to do.  I still have more days to fill, but the point is that I'm planning now.  When I remember being a child, and anticipating Christmas, I honestly have such warm memories for some of those days leading up to the Holiday where we did these things as a family.  I want to help Susie create a category in her mind for Advent being special.

Third, Scripture memory and Christmas songs -- Susie has a quick memory and does well learning her verses for Sunday School and LOVES to learn songs.  I'm going to do a little better capitalizing on this this year and work with her on memorizing portions of Luke 2 and as many carols as we can!  We will sing around the tree before bed at night again . . . I'm not sure if we will ever get Susie to go to bed this year! 

Fourth, we will use our new Advent calendar!  My mother in law sent us this from Fisher Price last year, and I'm thinking Susie will be ALL ABOUT IT this year!  I'm going to try to use this along with the words Noel Piper used with her Advent Calendar, since I LOST MINE!! :(  

In the next several days, I will be posting some ideas for Christ-centered children's Christmas books and maybe some craft ideas I come across (on Pinterest, of course!). 

The first Sunday of Advent this year is at the end of this month -- just 3+ weeks away -- so start planning now!  What will you do?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Melt my heart

I hope I see many many more scenes like this over the next several years.  Of course, it may not be much longer that he'll be so absorbed by what she is "reading " to him, but I certainly hope so!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Some crafty stuff

Like most of the world, I've gotten UTTERLY hooked on Pinterest.  I opened my account on my birthday as a gift to myself. . . yeah, it was a good one. :)  I have tried to attempt some of the project I found on there, and here are a couple pictures:
Chip is modeling the baby legwarmers I made him -- the accessory every cloth-diaper wearing baby needs. :)  Any baby, really!  I found the directions here, and it was SO easy.

Here's Sus dancing in the tutu I made her.  Again, incredibly easy.  This project does not require sewing.

I did sew this -- an apron made from an old t-shirt (I actually used 2 shirts to make it heavier).  I got the directions from this tutorial.  Making stuff from t-shirts is so fun!  I have STACKS of old ones to use!  Sewing the knit can be tricky, but you don't have to hem it.

I've done some other stuff, too, but not as cute as these (being modeled by my kids makes it cuter). :)  I've got lots more plans as well!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reading for Art appreciation

Susie is a little artist.  At about 18 months, she started drawing babies (that's what she told us they were) -- whole notebooks of circles with a line drawn down from them.  Around 19 months she'd draw part of a face for you (like add a tongue to a smiley face you'd draw for her).  By 20 months, she was obsessed with circles, and was drawing DARN good ones!  She has always held her writing instrument correctly (except with sidewalk chalk -- too thick), and picks up on the instruction Josh gives her in a snap!  The other night he was teaching her to do a tree and I heard her mutter to herself "line. . . line . . . scribble, scribble, scribble" as she tried to replicate it.
Susie drawing a face -- age 2

To encourage her in her artistic ways, I'm doing my best to expose her to great children's literature with great artwork.  She's had quite a bit of that, of course, just naturally through the books she already reads, but now I'm being intentional to choose a range of artwork and ask her questions about the pictures after we enjoy the stories together.  I also try to select something from the Caldecott award winners during our weekly library trips.  Here are some of the books we've read so far (just been doing this for a couple weeks now):

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (an instant hit, of course!  She's already asking for it back and we just returned it today.)

The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward (VERY long, but she really liked it. . . I was a bit surprised, to be honest!)

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (she started drawing houses after this one)

Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field (I thought it was sweet and she's been quoting "let no danger come to fright" ever since)

The Three Little Pigs by David Wiesner (haven't read it yet -- but it doesn't look quite like my cup of tea. . . still, I want her to try out a range).

Count and See by Tana Hoban (love the black and white photographs -- so did Chip who joined us reading it -- and the urban setting of many of them).

A little board book of nursery rhymes illustrated by Tomie dePaola because she loves nursery rhymes and I like his illustrations.

SO MANY MORE I want to get!  Do you have any favorite children's books because of the pictures?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Two and a Half

Susie isn't quite two and a half yet, but I came across this poem, and it was so sweet I wanted to post it along with a picture or two of my precious girl.

Two and a Half
Author Unknown

Hold her a little longer
Rock her a little more
Tell her another story
(You've only told her four)
Let her sleep on your shoulder
Rejoice in her happy smile
She's only two and a half 
For such a little while!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SAHM and a 4 month old

I've been as happy as a clam the past month. . . working in my home full time.  Cannot express how much I love being able to snuggle with my kids in the morning without the rush of needing to get out the door to work, spend as much time as I like playing with them, reading to them and just paying attention to them.  This afternoon when Susie woke up from her nap, I climbed in her bed, lay down by her and read a whole stack of books to her while she sucked her thumb and turned the pages.  I do not regret spending about an hour this way. :)

Chip is more darling than ever -- 4 months old.  He weighs 12 lbs and 5 oz, which is EIGHT POUNDS more than he did at birth!  WOO HOO!  He's getting much stronger on his tummy and holds his head up looking around like a big baby.  And on his 4 month birthday he LAUGHED for the first time!  I was standing there with the camera in my hand and was able to turn it on and capture the moment as Josh made him laugh again and again.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What we've been up to

It's been quite a while since I've posted.  Here is what we are up to:

Susie -- using the big girl potty! She's done well, and usually has a selection of books to read while she's in there. :)  She's also getting pretty great at "reading" out loud to Chip.  She likes to read Dr. Seuss books, especially Green Eggs and Ham and The Ear Book.  She can recognize the letters S, O, Y, X and E.  I am not sure where she picked them all up!

Chip -- smiling, bouncy seat, tummy time and getting chubby.  It's a full time job, and he's OH so sweet!

I'm reading Loving the Little Years and Give Them Grace right now.  Both very good and encouraging.  I'm getting ready to move to becoming a full time SAHM, which I'm really looking forward to!  Big plans to read more and write more on the blog.  But mainly. . . snuggle my kids and play with them more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My story as a preemie mom

I've been wanting to write about my experience with having a preemie in the special care nursery for quite a while now, but having 2 little ones at home, I haven't been able to catch enough brain power to write about it. :)  This is meant to encourage other moms who may find themselves in this situation unplanned.  I'll put out a warning that there is going to be some breastfeeding info going down in this post, so if that does not apply to you, feel free to skip it!  I am by no means an expert, but I do think I learned a few lessons that could be helpful to someone else in my place.

The story:
When my son was born at 35+ weeks, I figured he'd have a lengthier hospital stay and perhaps be put in a special nursery.  Since I delivered at a hospital without a NICU, I was praying that he wouldn't move to the children's hospital downtown, and thankfully the Lord answered that prayer!  My hospital did have a special care nursery, however, and babies taken there are obviously guarded more rigorously, but not having been in that situation, I did not know what the set up would be.  He had to stay in the SCN and I could come to visit him there, but he was not able to come to my room with me.  After my c-section I held him and nursed him in recovery, and then he was admitted to the SCN.  My husband walked down to see him later that night since I could not go in my big bed since it was during a shift change.  I told my nurse that I'd like to go down as soon as I was allowed out of bed the next morning (like at 4am), so that is what we did.  I was still hooked up like crazy, and pushed in a wheelchair, but the aide cheerfully took me down to see my baby.  He had an NG tube down his nose where he was given formula, and the nurse caring for him was about to give him a bottle.  

Let me interject here that I do not think poorly of those nurses.  I LOVED most of our nurses!!

 This young nurse briskly told me that after I had been there for a while she would show me how to do the bottle. . . I was aghast!  In my foggy early morning state of mind, sitting there watching my tiny baby, I felt sure that something must be wrong with him and that was why they weren't letting me nurse him again.  Out of fear to hear bad news I shied away from asking to nurse him, which I see now was completely foolish!  This same nurse told us that most babies in the SCN stayed until their due dates.  We were dumbfounded.  We assumed that since he wasn't on oxygen, we'd be ok MUCH sooner than that!  This experience leads me to

Lesson #1 -- Many nurses are wonderful, but get the info from the neonatologist.

We were blessed with some amazing and kind neonatologists.  I immediately got a completely different vibe when Dr. Obi assessed my baby and spoke with me (a few hours later).  She assured me he was fine, just small, and that she was going to order some tests to rule out possible problems.  She was thrilled at his ability to nurse (a refrain I never tired of hearing, but heard quite a bit over the next week) and was incredibly pro-breastfeeding.  She encouraged me to do kangaroo care and come to the SCN when he was going to have his feedings through the NG tube so that he could "nurse" at the same time and get the sucking/getting full belly sensation.  She even wrote that into his orders (which I overheard) so I could refer to it when other nurses were present.  Many of our nurses were pro-breastfeeding/kangaroo care, but every few shifts someone would cycle in that gave this mom the feeling that I was in the way.  They may try to talk me into skipping a feeding (true, it was a hassle for them to have me stumble in every few hours and need screens set up around me so I could nurse) or question why I was trying to take him to the breast since he was early (apparently preemie boys have a bad reputation of being poor nursers).  Since I had connected with my neonatologist, I was able to gently but firmly establish my plans for teaching my baby to be exclusively breast fed.  
I could go on and on about Dr. Obi and the other neonatologists I encountered.  They were simply wonderful, and I see God's hand in giving them to me!  I also have a friend who works in SCN (though she was off the week Chip was born) who gave me the 411 on the other people who worked there!  It was great to have that insight!  However, I know that might not be a possibility for other people, so I want to share another lesson I learned:

Lesson #2 -- embrace the lactation consultants, because they are in your corner!

When so many people are telling you what to do, it's natural to sort of avoid more input, but do not skip over this one!  I probably met every LC that worked at my hospital because when I was asked if I wanted to lactation to come by I always said yes, if they were available.  Everyone has different personalities and it's likely you won't just click with everyone, but those ladies were extremely helpful to me.  They made my seats comfortable, got me drinks and pillows, and most importantly, they were my cheerleaders.  I knew we shared a goal in getting to exclusive breastfeeding, so I could depend on their help!  Here are some tips I got from them:
  • pump, even when you don't feel like it, especially right after holding your preemie.  It's a hassle but it will help your milk come in. (I HATED pumping, I wanted my baby instead!  But DO IT!)
  • call them to help you and don't be afraid you are interrupting.  
  • proper holding of baby and breast to make latching work (esp. helpful if you are a 1st time nursing mom)
  • let people take care of you so you can rest.
  • ways to wake up your sleepy preemie:  wet wipes on bare skin (ohhhhhh!!), pumping little arms, rubbing under chin when he pauses eating, or just holding skin to skin for a while.   
Since I had already successfully breastfed my first baby, I felt just a bit more confident about asserting myself when it was time for a feeding, but in such an emotional time, you need someone in your corner, and the lactation consultants are great for that!  

Lesson 3 -- be winsome, but make your baby your priority, not having everyone like you.
I wanted all of Chip's nurses to like me so they didn't groan to see me coming every hour or two.  I tried to be conversational and complimentary to them -- those were some hard working ladies and many of them appreciated conversation with a mom in the middle of the night (esp. since there was often only one nurse working in the SCN during our time there).  However, I learned the hard way that that was not my greatest priority.  One day I left the SCN after chatting with the nurse about her hair color, and feeling like she really liked meLater when I returned, a new nurse was working (Teresa) and told me that Chip's feeding schedule changed because that nurse gave him a supplement of formula through his NG tube about an hour after I'd left.  I was totally dismayed, and expressed to Teresa that I wished she would have called me to come back and feed him again if she thought he was hungry!  I had started storing up a bit of breastmilk that I wanted him to have, but for whatever reason, she didn't use it!  I guess I'd hoped that since she liked me then she would automatically be super pro-breastfeeding mom, but I didn't exactly spell out my wishes to her either, so it was just as much my fault.  Teresa and I were much better at communicating, and she was fantastic about calling me as soon as Chip started to act hungry, even if it were a bit early for his scheduled feeding.  This was as close to "on-demand feeding" I could get in this situation, and I was very thankful for it!  After that night when a sweet sister from my church cared for Chip, and called me when he acted hungry not an hour after I'd left, we turned a corner.  He gained a few ounces every day, and best of all they removed his NG tube!  

Lesson #4 -- Trust the Lord for He IS good.
Many people will tell you that life with a preemie is a roller coaster.  You get all excited as they do very well, but then devastated with a set back.  Certainly postpartum emotions and hormones play into this roller coaster experience as well!  You absolutely must continually reaffirm in your mind that God is good and he is caring both for you and for your tiny one.  He gives life and breath and all things.  Steep your mind in Scripture, maybe even just one passage that you can read over and over and embrace.  Or listen to good songs that will comfort your heart.  For me, the song "Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus" by Sovereign Grace was an immense encouragement.  I played it over and over on my MP3 player, and then when the batteries died on it (probably because I'd fall asleep listening to it), I just hit replay over and over on the YouTube video.  The last few days of our hospital stay Chip had a less than helpful nurse that enjoyed giving me news in a way that made it seem like more of a dire situation than it was.  Right after I was allowed to have Chip come to my room, he "desatted" in the early morning hours and I had to keep him hooked up to a monitor when he was with me even.  This meant I couldn't sleep with him in the room because it made noises on a consistent basis and frequently sounded false alarms (so scary!).  It was such a blow to have this happen when things were going so well, and you can imagine I cried many tears to the Lord at that time!  But my faith was rock solid in the Lord's goodness to us -- sometimes you must fight for that faith!  

I'm sure there are many other people out there who have experienced far worse situations and have stories to tell, but this is mine.  I hope someone is encouraged by it, and I'd love to pray for you or help you with any insight I may have!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stationery card

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Big Sister meets Baby Brother

A nurse let Josh bring Susie into the special care nursery for a few seconds to see her brother.
Holding Baby Chip for the first time.  The kisses were plentiful.

Project 52: Glimpse Into Motherhood

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Welcome to this world, Baby Chip!

Our baby boy was born into this world unexpectedly on May 9th, 2011.  This is the story of how he came to us.

For the last several weeks, my doctor had been concerned that my baby was not growing like he should be.  I was measuring smaller and smaller at each appointment, and was not gaining much weight.  We had multiple ultrasounds to determine his size, the amount of fluid, and general health of the baby.  The conclusion kept being that he was small but healthy, so nothing to be alarmed about at that point.  I went in every few days (and last week, every 2 days) to either have a non stress test done or have him looked at via ultrasound.  I also did kick counts at night.  My doctor was GREAT -- she was concerned but not freaking out, and just really stayed on top of the situation.  She called me on her cell phone after updates, she was super attentive and involved.  I am so thankful for her -- the Lord, in His sovereignty gave us this wonderful woman who cared for me and my baby.  

I will say during that time when I was going to so many appointments and having to do the kick counts, the Lord was very gracious to keep us from worrying.  For the most part, I did not struggle with fear, but of course that did come from time to time.  Over the weekend, I could tell his kicks were not as active.  He moved, but it was more like flutters, and took a bit longer to count to ten.  Continually I prayed and trusted the Lord with our child, who He created -- he is the giver of life, and all things belong to him.

Monday morning we went to another ultrasound at the hospital.  The doctor said "so you're getting really close -- what is your delivery date?"  I told him May 31st, and he said "no, this report says delivery at 36 or 37 weeks."  Josh and I were very surprised.  At my last ultrasound, the doctor had not told me that was his recommendation, but apparently put it in the report.  Immediately our minds were whirling.  The ultrasound showed what I had suspected by the kick counts -- that he was sort of resting, and focusing blood flow to the brain.  His BPP was good, and he appeared totally healthy, but the specialist doctor sent me to see my OB and have an non stress test done.  At her office, she saw the same thing playing out on the non stress test -- a consistent heart rate, but a flat line, no big accelerations.  She said we could deliver that night or the next morning, and if it were in the morning, I should stay at the hospital overnight for monitoring.  Well, with that being my choice, I chose that night of course!

She let us go home to pack our stuff (after we were able to wake the baby up a bit and get him to act up a bit more), and make our arrangements.  I had to be checked into labor and delivery by six for an eight o clock c-section.

I tried to enjoy the time with Susie that afternoon, and not be anxious about my baby's condition.  Truly, the Lord was near, and I had peace.  I did feel relived once we were at the hospital and the monitor on the baby showed a normal heart rate.  My blood pressure started to rise shortly before the surgery, and I'll never forget the feeling of tension -- sort of a feeling that I couldn't make small talk.  I asked the Lord to give me grace and help me to relax, and again, that prayer was answered.  I felt really calm during the operation -- much better than during Susie's c-section when my body sort of went into shock.  

Shortly after our little guy was pulled out -- we heard it!  A cry!  I couldn't see anything, of course, but Josh was narrating for me.  He was teeny, but just fine.  "Go take a picture of him!" I said so I could see him, but I didn't need to worry about that.  They let Josh bring him up by my to see him nice and close.  I had been prepared for our baby being whisked off by doctors and nurses as soon as he was born, but here he was, snuggling by us.  He weighed a tiny 4 pounds 5.2 ounces!  That was smaller than the last ultrasound had even indicated, but he looked just like Susie did -- fully developed with a cute face.

Our wonderful doctor
After my c-section, Dr. Nusz came over and gave me a hug.  I was crying and hugged her so hard, and thanked her.  She showed me the placenta and umbilical cord after that, because they confirmed her suspicions that there was a problem there.  The placenta was small -- about 2/3 the size of a normal one, and the cord was not normal either.  Dr. Nusz told me that when she tugged on the cord, it detached from the placenta pretty easily.  All the nurses and doctors were gathering around to see, and kept telling me I was lucky I hadn't gone into labor.  I was overwhelmed by God's providence.  None of this was our plan, but it was His, and He was so good to us! Since then, I've learned that the placenta was analyzed and indeed, it was beginning to wear down, and that is why my baby had slowed down growing.  Like the Psalmist says in Psalm 139 "my frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth". 

My biggest hope was that I would be able to hold this baby during recovery since I had to wait so long to hold Susie after she was born.  I wanted to try to nurse him if I could, but kind of expected he'd be gone by then.  But I was wrong!  Once they wheeled me into recovery, the special care nurse brought my baby Chip into me to hold skin to skin (this hospital does kangaroo care) and try to get him to eat.  I'm not sure how long he stayed with me, but probably about an hour.  I was able to rest after that, satisfied that I had seen my baby first!  

This week has been long and trying at times, but mostly just sweet.  The Lord gave me the song "O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus" -- I like the Sovereign Grace version from the album "Come Weary Saints".  The words are so beautiful and comforting when passing through murky waters.  "Oh the deep deep love, all I need and trust, is the deep deep love of Jesus".  I've listened to this song over and over these past days.  I trust his deep love for me, and I can trust his care for us.

We named him Charles Altman.  Charles is Josh's great-grandfather's name, and Altman is his mother's maiden name.  We chose Charles because we wanted to call him Chip -- after Chip Stam, a man we love and admire, and we pray our son would grow to be like him.  As Chip Stam led many to worship Christ, we hope our baby Chip will proclaim Christ and lead others to worship and adore him.  Even through his birth and young life we hope people will see the sovereignty and goodness of God and marvel "such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it."

Charles "Chip" Altman Neisler born May 9th, 2011, 4lbs 5oz, 17 inches long.  Rejoicing over God's goodness to us in this precious gift!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Thinking more about Chip Stam

My mind is full of memories these days.  When someone passes away, I love nothing more than to reminisce about them.  I think many people in my church felt this way -- the night Chip died, it seemed that Facebook was flooded with Cliftonites and former members posting thoughts, videos, and memories of this dear man.  We had a little online memory fest, and so many quotes that were posted I could hear coming right from Chip's mouth, in his tone and style.  

I don't have any pictures of my own to add to the mix, but I did want to pull out a few memories, things that I have tucked away in my mind as special and significant.  Here are some ramblings in no particular order:

1. One Sunday night Chip led us in the song based on the poem by William Cowper "God Moves in a Mysterious Way".  He said something along the lines of "you can't sing along this time unless you have suffered and seen the Lord to be faithful" (I think he was semi-joking).  At that point, I felt like I had not actually ever suffered in my life, and realized that the words we were singing weren't as significant to me as they were to him.  As time moved on, however, this song became one of the most significant songs I knew.  Shortly after my mom died, I read a biography of John Newton that told in depth about the poem Cowper penned and the truth of God's sovereignty over human suffering resounded in my heart as never before.  Over the course of the next several months, when I was gripped with fear these words would come to mind when I needed them most, for instance when Susie's heart rate dropped while I was in labor.  I am so thankful for Chip teaching me not only this incredibly precious song, but how to embrace the truth in its words while in the midst of trial.

2. My first service back to Clifton after my mom died, Chip led the congregation in "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and told a story about its author, Thomas Chisholm.  Chip's grandfather knew Chisholm back when they were both Gideons, and told about how this man had become nearly destitute as he cared for his ailing wife.  How sweet the words to that chorus were -- "all I have needed Thy hand hath provided".  My sisters and I had sung this song to my mom while she was in the intensive care unit just a few weeks before, and singing it with my church family that night, I felt as though the words were bursting from my soul.  Indeed, the Lord had provided the faith and grace I needed to walk through that dark valley.

3. Being in choir.  REALLY wish I could have a memory session with so many friends who have moved away about the zany shenanagins that went on under Chip's leadership. . . often due to his leading.  He never ceased to crack me up with his careful use of words when we were singing TERRIBLY (Chip was so talented, and really had to deal with quite a ragtag choir at times!).  If someone slipped in without their binder of music, and just tried to look off someone else, Chip would berate them with the comment "I hate sharing!" Hahahaha!!!  We all loved it when Chip would get off track and start telling stories or reading limmericks or dancing with his wife.  It was flattering to be the one he teased or praised or welcomed back after a time away from rehearsals.  I loved it when he would call me to ask me to read Scripture or light the Advent candle in an upcoming service -- I have one such voicemail saved on my phone from recent months in which Chip cheerfully told me to call him at home, since he was home from the hospital, but felt like he'd been run over by a train.  Wow.  LOVE that guy.  The other night I told Josh I wished so bad to have back one of those Wednesday nights of rehearsal just to experience it again.

4. When my grandmother died, I e-mailed Chip to tell him we'd have to miss the Christmas communion service because we were driving to her funeral.  His e-mail reply was precious, and the fitting words have remained with me all this time "May Christ be your portion".

5. Chip's cap -- somehow Chip lost his scholar cap that he wore for every graduation and convocation service on campus.  And for several years, I was in the process of getting him a new one.  SOMEHOW every time one came in, it would not fit.  Too big, too small, yada yada.  He would borrow his daughter Clara's high school mortarboard to use in the meantime, or we'd lend him one of the extra rental caps with pink tassels.  Sometimes he'd try to remove the little year charm attached to the tassel, sometimes he'd just leave it there.  Oh my.  How did we NEVER take care of that cap situation?  Not that he seemed to mind too much!  It was all a big joke, always one more hurdle to jump over in our path to finding a cap that fit!  

6. Fast e-mailer -- in recent years and months when Chip was going to the clinic or in the hospital frequently, you could count on his e-mail replies coming in about 90 seconds.  I must say, I really appreciate that sort of speed.  I found an old e-mail in which he must have responded to me in record time because I said to him "Wow, that was the world's fastest reply."  I can only imagine the scores of people who have received answers from Chip via e-mail in this fashion.

7. Singing and playing -- love this video of Chip and Doris singing love songs together last year at our church's Valentine talent show.  Not only is it cute and funny, it shows a bit of his musical talent.

Thanks for walking down memory lane with me a little.  If you have a good Chip memory to share, please post it here!  I'd love to hear it! 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Praying for the Stams

This is Chip Stam -- someone very dear to our family.  Over 4 years ago, He roped us into singing in the choir at Clifton before we were even members, and became one of our very favorite people at our new church -- or even in the world! 

Chip has had cancer since the summer of 2007.  I will never forget that week of VBS when his Doris suddenly had to step away from teaching her class (Josh and I took it over) because of Chip's diagnosis and hospitalization.  I have never witnessed someone suffering first hand like this, for so long, with such true strength from Christ.  Who could forget Chip's antics?  He wore a back brace for a time, and would keep time in choir practice with the velcro straps -- I can see him now,  "rip-ripping" it and stomping his brown Crocs in beat to the music.  I remember Chip coming into the bookstore while I was working to inquire about a piece of music or something and while standing and talking to me, handing me handfuls of his hair to throw away for him that he was losing to chemo.  And I'm sure we cracked up about it! 

Every person who has known Chip would say he is one in a million.  So upbeat, so joyful, so gifted.  My life has TRULY changed from knowing him, and being in the services where he led the music.  We love Chip, and our hearts break to think of him being taken from us.  I pray for him and his family every night when I put Susie to bed -- that the Lord would give Susie a good night's sleep, and that he would also give Chip and Doris and Clara a good night's sleep; to be able to lie down and trust God and rest.  I do not know how many more days Chip has before he will enter the TRUE rest, and be taken home to his eternal reward, but for his family I continue to pray. 

I could never summarize all that Chip has meant to us, but I needed to write about him, because he is so present on my heart.  I pray that the Lord will be a gentle Shepherd and carry him and his family forever.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good Friday to Easter Sunday

All dressed for church on Easter Sunday

I had such a great time making this past week a celebration with Susie, and have collected lots of ideas for next year!  Here's what we did, and what I'm planning to do next year:

Good Friday -- we ended up spending this day away from home for the most part because of what we thought was an emergency with the baby I'm carrying (turns out he's just fine), so we didn't get to the Easter mountain until dinnertime, but Susie and I talked about Jesus dying on the cross and then put him inside the mountain and put the rock over the opening.  I taught her the song "Easter Friday" from Emu Music that she just loved.  We must have sung it 50 times.  I sang the first two lines with a sad face, and covered my eyes, rubbing them when I sang the word "cried", and then spread out my hands slowly on the line "Sunday morning what a surPRISE", which always made her get really excited!  She requested we sing this song all weekend, calling it "Jesus sad" or "Easter". We also went swimming Friday night -- I tried to have some fun and special outings during this time to really make it special.

Saturday -- our church participates in the Easter parade that takes place on Frankfort Avenue, where Clifton Baptist is located.  Susie and I showed up to walk in the parade, but bad weather (and potential thunderstorms and hail) forced us to pull our float to keep the kids safe.  Back at the church parking lot, we passed out candy to parade watchers and watched the parade ourselves.  Other than re-reading our Easter books and checking to see if Jesus was still in the tomb on Saturday, we didn't do anything really original.  I wanted to make Resurrection cookies, but we attended a birthday party, and by the time Susie got a bath, the day was done.  I'm sure she'll appreciate doing the cookies more next year!

Sunday -- I hung a banner in the dining area that said "Jesus is Alive" and put Jesus outside the mountain with the stone rolled away before Susie got up.  I also set out a basket with a couple pieces of candy and two Christian Focus board books.  I let her eat some M&Ms pre-breakfast while we read them . . . may not have been wise. :)  We ended up with a little bit of spare time that morning (probably because I didn't fix a big meal), so Susie and I turned on her Gettys CD and had fun dancing in the living room.  I'm really glad that happened, because it certainly communicated to her "celebration".  After church, we went out to eat with some friends, and Susie had a really late nap.  When she woke up, we had a small egg hunt for her in the living room (downpour outside all day!).  She ate lots more candies that way, but amazingly still went to bed happily last night!

For next year, I want to do a little more decorating for Easter -- maybe with a special tablecloth, table settings or something.  I feel like decorating communicates celebration to kids -- and we decorate a ton for Christmas! Along with this, I would like to do an Easter tree (with a white branch) that we can decorate all week (or during Lent, maybe) by finding eggs with the decor hidden inside.  I have some things that I collected this year that may work for that next year.  This would be an adaptation to doing Resurrection eggs. I'm also hoping to do the Resurrection cookies (that you bake overnight Saturday and they are hollow inside when you bite them) next year.  The last thing that I feel like I may have dropped the ball on is making an Easter dinner.  We just had such a busy week and weekend, and ended up eating out (which was great!), but I want to be more intentional next year so we could invite people over and maybe start a tradition with our meal even! 

Here are some great ideas from GirlTalk blog for next year as well!

Project 52: Glimpse Into Motherhood