Monday, August 29, 2016

My Birth Testimony: A TOLAC Success Story - Part 3

The Learning Points

(Before reading, you may want to check out Part 1 and Part 2)

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So, as I mentioned, it was clear that God was protecting baby #2 and me in our crazy labor and delivery!

There are many things I've been learning as a result.

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I am still sad my deliveries had to happen this way.

My doula told me about a website called Surrender Birth, where people share their birth testimonies. She encouraged me to write my own (hence these posts).

Anyway, as I read these testimonies, I sensed some bitterness when I read the stories that were along these lines: "I've never felt as close to God as I was during my delivery! It was magical and went exactly the way I wanted—home birth in the birth pool and everything! What an answer to my fervent prayers!"

Or this mom who accidentally had a natural birth. (How is THAT fair?!)

I've spent a bit of time fighting that bitterness and the "why couldn't I just be one of those women who can birth naturally?" question. I've visited Scriptures that remind me who I am and who God is... like the end of Job. He gives and takes away. 

Why does God say "no" to anyone about anything? 

Why are there some who can't have kids at all? 

Why are there some whose loved ones die too young? 

I get that, in the grand scheme, my problem is small compared to some others. But that doesn't mean I don't still have to process through the Big Question: Why pain? 

I've spent some time reading The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis to grapple with this question more. This Big Question is something I've been wrestling with for the past few years, as many friends and family have passed away in the past few years as well.

I still don't have all the answers. But God's been humbling my heart to come under His sovereign authority over all things—life, death, and birth stories.

Job 42:1-3 - 
Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.




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For a while at first I felt embarrassed that this VBAC I talked about wanting so badly was not something I ended up accomplishing. People kept asking about it, and I sometimes I felt a little silly having to tell everyone it didn't work out how I'd hoped.

I've had to wrestle with that a bit, too. There's simply nothing to be embarrassed about. 

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As I mentioned in Part 2, they (not just the OB's, but the midwives, too) told me no more VBAC attempts—only c-sections from now on. That was sad news to hear.

But it also helped to provide closure for me. No more wondering or open-endedness. Just a closed door that I can fully grieve now, which is a blessing in a sense.

And the planner in me intends to fully enjoy the benefits of a scheduled cesarean next time, like lining up all my babysitters and getting a good night's sleep beforehand!

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There are so many Small Kindnesses from God that I'm thankful for and don't want to overlook. Some of the many (besides the main one—that God obviously protected our lives—and my ability to continue having more children) include:

  • The entire staff at Mt. Sinai (besides the OB's I had to deal with afterward for an infected incision) was AMAZING. The whole time during labor and delivery I felt heard and respected. With each step the midwives took they explained my options and allowed me to make the decision that I wanted. They were not in a hurry to get the baby out. I knew I could trust them completely. Even the anesthesiologist was wonderful. And every nurse. They just have amazing staff there.
  • They gave me time to process and grieve even during the labor, when things didn't go how I wanted. When we decided to have the c-section, I knew better this time. I knew I needed to process. Last time I was whisked away too quickly (and for no good reason, since it was not an emergency) and sobbed the whole way to the OR. This time, I asked to be left alone with Eric and Amanda for a while. I had Eric come sit on the bed and hold me and tell me true things while I cried and let out all the things I was feeling. It was SO GOOD to have that time beforehand to process the surgery before it happened. 
  • That awesome epidural that allowed me to still move around easily.
  • I had the opportunity to TRY. I know I did everything within my power to make a VBAC happen. The only "what-if" I'm left with is "what if there was no knot in his cord?" There are no other questions like the many I had last time (such as "What if I'd known to choose a different provider or tell this one no?"). I have no regrets and wouldn't do much differently if I could.
  • I didn't feel laughed at. I didn't feel like they thought I was silly for trying, or like they were looking down on me or questioning my decisions.
  • I got to labor outside in the sunshine on a perfectly beautiful day (something I didn't even know I wanted till it was happening).
  • Despite the One Big Request being answered with a "no," there are many specific prayers that God graciously answered with a "yes," just to remind me that He hears me. These "yes" requests—these Small Kindnesses—included: 
    • being able to labor in the whirlpool 
    • making it past 7cm (where things stopped the last time) 
    • being able to experience natural/non-induced contractions
    • not having my water break before contractions began
    • having Eric with me the whole time
    • having Amanda AND Eric in the OR (not typical)
    • having Eric present for everything they did to the baby
  • Recovery has been a thousand times better this time—even with the infected incision and much resulting antibiotic ridiculousness. I'm much more able to do things and feel already at three months the way I felt at a year or more after my oldest was born. I think this is because I'm pretty sure I had mild PPD (postpartum depression) after my first delivery, which is not the case this time. Now, I'm like "What?! You mean I can feel mostly like my normal self and not living in a dark cloud after having a baby?! I had NO IDEA!"
  • Amanda (my doula) was able to be present for the actual birth. This was a concern because she had to leave a few times since my labor was so long. But when the actual birth happened, she was there for it.
  • My little guy has been a super nurser! He had latching figured out from the very beginning and is efficient, too. He's also been a good sleeper overall (despite his recent sleep regression). He's such a happy, low-key, straightforward kid.

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One thing that's been hard/fun/interesting/sad/happy has been the switch to a family of four. Big sister loves him but is also having a rough adjustment period. It's hard to watch her experience grief. It's hard not to give her the time I'd like. But it's fun to see her bond with Daddy in a new way, and to see her love on her brother and learn about babies and how they grow, etc.

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One other thing I've thought about is the fact that, at its root (though perhaps I held it too highly as an idol), the desire for a natural birth is a good thing! After all, vaginal delivery is God's good design and the healthiest route if possible. And the fact that I'm disappointed it didn't happen makes a lot of sense.

We were created for heaven, so life under the sun is bound to be less than what our hearts long for (recent Ecclesiastes sermon series influence there).

When God cursed Eve after the Fall, He said she would bear children in pain. It never says that pain is limited only to the pain of contractions and pushing. It very well can be the pain of births not going as planned, of surgery and resulting complications, etc. it also never says anything about my being exempt from the effects of the Fall.

It is my hope that, as I process through these ideas, my "mad at God" attitude will continue to dissipate and become instead humility and a longing for That Day.

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Well, there it is, guys. My whole birth testimony. I hope you can see how I can call it a TOLAC Success Story despite a repeat cesarean, and I hope you enjoyed reading these posts! It helped me so much to write them.

If you had a disappointing delivery or a difficult recovery, can I encourage you to write out your story? Grab a journal or a computer... and just write away. It can be so therapeutic. I'd be happy to read it if you want to share 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Birth Testimony: A TOLAC Success Story - Part 2

Birth #2: A Second Chance. And a Chance to Trust Him.

Before reading, check out Part 1 here.

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In August 2015, we found out we were pregnant again!




I'd known since the day I had my daughter that I'd want to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I also knew I would need to go with a different provider if that endeavor were to have any chance at success. 

So I opted for a group of midwives in Milwaukee (45 minutes away). They came highly recommended by the doulas in my ICAN group.

I could tell at my prenatal appointments that this experience would be totally different. They had a very mom-centered approach to childbirth.

I hired an amazing doula (Amanda).

I did everything a woman should do if she is trying for a VBAC.

And then the day arrived!

Here's how it all went down. It's a long story, because it was a long labor.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

6:00 pm (hour 0)
Contractions became regular and increasingly stronger while we celebrated an early Mother's Day with Eric's parents.

9:00 pm (hour 3)
JM was in bed for the night after I dawdled putting her to bed because I knew this was the last time I would with her being my only baby. I tried to sleep as best I could despite increasing contractions.

Sunday, May 8, 2016 (Mother's Day)

4:00am (hour 10)
I could no longer sleep through contractions. They were 4 minutes apart and a minute long, which is typically indicative of active labor. So we called my in-laws and our doula and headed to the hospital (a 45-min drive). Amanda met us there.

6:30am (hour 12.5)
It was determined that, though completely effaced, I was only 1/2 cm dilated. How discouraging! But, I was trusting God—and my providers—to help me persevere. We walked around the hospital for a bit to try and move things along. We also grabbed some breakfast.

8:00am (hour 14)
I was still only 1 cm, so we went ahead with a membrane sweep, and they told me to leave the hospital until things progressed further (How will I know if things have progressed further if I'm already having contractions 4 minutes apart?!?!). Amanda went home to rest up for when we needed her most.

9:30am-2:00pm (hours 15.5-20)
Eric and I took a nap in the car, then walked around Milwaukee for a while (didn't want to drive all the way home just to have to drive all the way back). We walked around the Marquette campus (Eric gave me a tour of his alma mater), while I did some exercises that my doula sent me.

It was a beautiful day and laboring in the sunshine on that beautiful campus was therapeutic for me. The tulips were in full bloom, and the way the sun hit them had them shining golden, violet, and red like jewels.



I would close my eyes and lift my face to the sun during contractions, and I could feel God's tender care for me through the warmth and light. These moments were glimpses of the "ideal birth" I'd always pictured: intensely painful, to the point that it brought me into some other realm of being where I could commune with God and fall completely dependent into His arms.

Eric and I held hands and talked about anything and everything. It was like your typical perfect date... um, except for the being in labor part. That part was not typical date material.

By the time we finished our sweet onion chicken teriyaki sub from Subway, my head was swirling with the pain, contractions were closer, and it all felt unbearable.

2:30pm (hour 20.5)
We went back to the hospital, where they found I was at 1.5 cm (womp womp). They brought me to a labor and delivery room (even though I was still technically not admitted) because triage was full. They wondered if baby was nudged in wrong, hindering dilation—possibly posterior. So I labored on a birthing ball, continued doing the Miles circuit as best I could, and also tried to get some rest.


6:30pm (hour 24.5)
I was sent home for the night. Things were simply not progressing very quickly. Despite it feeling otherwise, I was still in early labor. But going home only produced a ton of anxiety for me. I felt like I was going backwards.

7:30pm (hour 25.5)
When we got home, the neighbors were having a huge, loud party (seriously—there was even a bouncy house). Some kids were coming into our yard, and I yelled at them as if I was a grumpy old man. Our landlord (who lives upstairs) saw us arrive and was concerned there was no baby yet. All of our parents were there because they were switching who was watching our daughter. It was good to see them and to see my little lady, but the commotion was more than I could handle being in labor. Soon enough everyone left and the party next-door died down. I ate some lasagna from the freezer.

9:00pm (hour 27)
I called my angel chiropractor and met her at her office way after hours for a middle-of-labor adjustment to try and get my little guy in the right position to descend. I then tried to get some sleep—and failed miserably.

11:00pm (hour 29)
Around midnight things got super-intense. I couldn't handle the contractions. They were super-long, and I wasn't getting any breaks in between them. I could no longer breathe through them well on my own. Life was basically one big contraction at this point. So we went back to the hospital. I called my doula, who joined us there—again.


Monday, May 9, 2016

12:00am-3:00am (hour 30-33)
I was 1.5 cm and stayed in triage for a while with Nancy, the midwife who was on shift at that point.

4:00am (hour 34)
I was finally admitted to the hospital at 2 cm after baby descended a bit more.

5:00-6:30am (hours 35-36.5)
I got to labor in the whirlpool. I finally got to relax for a while. It was so desperately needed. I'm so grateful I had an opportunity to labor there. My exhausted mind melted into the twinkle lights on the ceiling. I think I may have even gotten some sleep.




6:30-8:30am (hours 36.5-38.5)
I rested in bed, as my contractions had become much more spaced out after the whirlpool (good for resting, bad for progressing). Nicole (one of the midwives I hadn't met and hands-down the best midwife I had the whole time, which is saying a lot because they were all great) came on shift. God was gracious to place her there for this part of my labor. She was amazing. She even let me order oatmeal (which was a big accomplishment, believe me)!

9:30am (hour 39.5)
Nicole took about an hour to thoroughly discuss with me my options for either getting some more rest or speeding things along. I could do some walking (which hadn't accomplished much of anything up to this point), go home (we all saw how poorly that went last time), do therapeutic rest (morphine so you can sleep, essentially), or induce with Pitocin. I opted for induction, as I have had adverse reactions to narcotics in the past and had a relatively high Bishop score that indicated conditions for induction were favorable (basically every factor was cooperating except dilation, which was still only at 4 cm).



11:00am-9:00pm (hour 41-51)
I labored this way all day, for about 10 hours. I spent some time in the shower, and tried many positions in the bed. Labor definitely intensified during this time since they were now Pitocin contractions. I had a lot of back labor, and during every contraction Nicole, Eric, or Amanda would push on my back for counterpressure, which felt so good (relatively speaking, anyway). I could hardly bear contractions without that each time. I really, really wanted to have my Bible verses for labor read to me during this time, but we couldn't find them in our bag. I was disheartened and frustrated about it, but didn't have the wherewithal to communicate how much I needed them. By 8:00pm I was at 4 cm, fully effaced, and at -1 station.

9:00pm (hour 51)
At this point I opted for an epidural. Fatigue was a bigger enemy than any potential results of an epidural. I had the best epidural EVER. The doctor who did my epidural was a total sweetheart—complete night and day from the snarky anesthesiologist who had done the epidural for my first birth. I could barely feel the contractions but was still able to use my legs well enough to change positions pretty easily on my own! I slept well that night, and woke every hour or two to switch sides since gravity was causing the epi to lose effectiveness on either side after a while.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

2:30am (hour 56.5)
We decided to have them break my water and put in an internal monitor to better regulate the Pitocin.

5:30am (hour 59.5)
My IV came out so they put in a new one. They also topped off my epidural since I started to feel too much. Rockstar Amanda went home for a while to care for her kids and get some rest. My backup doula, Eleanor, arrived (she has a British accent, which is essentially always a calming thing).

7:00am (hour 61)
I measured 6 cm. Baby was at -1 station and had some caput (scalp) swelling. Midwife Paul came on shift. I continued to labor in various positions. There were a couple times that baby's heart rate decelerated, which brought in crews of OBs and nurses to help me change position and monitor him until things improved. Those moments were a little scary. We started to wonder what might be causing that and trying different positions to get him off his cord.

8:00am (hour 62)
I reached 7 cm—the point at which labor had stalled with my first labor.

12:00pm (hour 66)
I was 9.5cm and 100% effaced! It seemed like it'd be happening soon! Things were getting so close. Eleanor left and Amanda returned.

1:30pm (hour 67.5)
Things were not looking good. Baby had more swelling on his head, and things had regressed to 9cm and 70%. Something was causing the little guy to move back up instead of descending properly. Paul recommended a c-section. We agreed and opted for the cesarean. We knew something wasn't going right for our baby and just knew it was the right decision. I asked for some time alone with Eric and Amanda.

When all staff had gone, Eric came over and held me in his arms. I cried and cried and cried. I had peace about the decision, but was still grieving the loss of the VBAC I'd wanted. I asked Eric to tell me true things, and he preached the Gospel to me, reminding me who (and Whose) I am. The OB stopped in, asking if I was ready, and I said that I needed a little more time. It was so very good to have the time I needed to cry and grieve in the moment. I'm grateful to have had the realization to know I needed it, and the strength—even after 68 hours of labor—to ask for it. Besides that little "intrusion" from the OB, I did not feel rushed to finish the grieving I needed to do.

3:00pm (hour 69)
They prepped me for the cesarean. I was able to feel too much when they tested the epidural strength so I had to be too drugged to remember the actual operation.


3:53pm (hour 70)
Little Man was born at 3:53pm!

I'd hoped for a family-centered c-section where I'd be awake, have immediate skin-to-skin, etc. That didn't happen because I was essentially on another planet during the surgery. But the first thing I remember upon "coming to" was having my baby placed on my chest to nurse—a welcome change from last time.

While doing the surgery, they found two things that could have been catastrophic had we continued to labor much longer: Baby's cord had a knot in it. (He was a little blue, needed oxygen, and his 1-minute APGAR was only 5.)




AND, my uterine scar had a 7cm window in it that could have become a rupture! So, all in all, it's obvious that God was protecting us, and I'm thankful that He very clearly showed us WHY, which He didn't have to do.

Yes, it was still really disappointing to have another cesarean. And, given the circumstances, all my providers agreed that in the future I should only have cesarean birth(s), which was also disappointing news, as I know that only increases potential risks and complications... and major surgery is no walk in the park.

But, I'm grateful for God's protection and His clarity in showing me the "why" and in clearly closing that door. In some ways, it'a a relief to at least know the door is closed, so I can fully grieve and move on. I will always wonder what would have happened had I had a different experience with birth #1 (what if I'd been able to wait for labor to begin naturally, what if I'd waited to agree to the c-section to see if things progressed more, etc.), but I simply must take this as an opportunity to trust that God knows what he's doing and allowed all of it to happen that way for a reason. He could have given me more knowledge about my options back then, but He didn't for a reason. And I know my God, and I know He's trustworthy and perfect. I know He's faithful. So, despite the questions, in the end, that's all I need to know.

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read part 3 here....





Wednesday, August 17, 2016

My Birth Testimony: A TOLAC Success Story - Part 1

NOTE: If you are currently expecting your first baby, you may want to use caution in proceeding with reading this. Just because I had a traumatic experience with my first birth does not mean you want to hear about it in this season of your life!

Did I have a second c-section? 
Yes. 

Was my TOLAC (Trial of Labor After Cesarean) successful? 
Yes. 

The two are not mutually exclusive. 

After my second birth, my doula pointed me to the Surrender Birth website. She encouraged me to write a birth testimony. 

Thing is, my birth testimony starts about three years ago, when we were newly pregnant with #1...



Birth #1 and My Heart

We found out we were pregnant with our little Poppyseed in May 2013. Hooray! 

Like many women, I started excitedly making plans. I figured I should probably get in to see a doctor soon, so I asked a few friends for recommendations and picked an OB who seemed good and was in my network. 

In retrospect, I wish I'd taken a lot more time to choose the right provider for me and my birth. Many OB's in the United States today are simply do not have the same birth philosophy I do. Or, perhaps a better way to say it is that most are in a different place on the natural birth/medical intervention spectrum than where I'm at on the spectrum. 

But I didn't know. I didn't know that provider and place make a HUGE difference in your birth experience.

Or I underestimated how important it would be to me to have a positive birth experience.

Or perhaps it was simply that I wasn't used to how very medical everything is when you are at the hospital... I just wasn't prepared for IV's, BP cuffs going every 15 minutes, nurses coming an and out every time I closed my eyes to rest...

There's so much more I could say than the following, but the story of birth #1 is as follows:

I had a very traumatic birth experience. I had wanted a completely natural, unmedicated, vaginal birth. Unfortunately, this dream of a natural birth was shattered. 

Worse, I did not often feel respected, valued, or genuinely cared for as a patient during my six days at the hospital. I truly believe that no one person, but rather the system in place, is at fault for this outcome.

After my water broke on January 27, 2014, we headed straight to the hospital to be induced (as instructed). After about 9-10 hours of laboring this way (which included sweet moments of God bringing Scripture to mind as I labored), I opted for an epidural (those nasty Pitocin contractions!). Around 36 hours after my water had broken, they told me I had been at 7cm for several hours. They thought I should have a c-section because "things weren't progressing." 

So I did what they said. Because I figured it's probably best to listen to the doctor. I didn't know there were other equally safe options. 

I hadn't written an "in case of c-section" birth plan. Because I didn't know there are different ways to do c-sections. They didn't cover that in the hospital birth class.

And I sobbed the whole way to the operating room.

Laying, cold, on a hard operating table.

In a fog, spiraling amidst bustling.

Then, baby cries!

No one said "It's a girl!" I had to ask. And ask. And ask. Repeatedly.

No snuggles.

No celebrating.

Just a brief glance.

And then whisking my baby away.

Then waiting over an hour before I got to see my husband or by baby.

In the following days...

Nurses waltzing into the bathroom talking on the phone while I'm peeing and would like privacy.

People making me look at paperwork while I'm attempting to nurse and bond with my new daughter.

Nurses asking me, without explanation to breathe into an incentive spirometer while I'm trying to talk with my doctor.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event I'll remember all my life. 

And for them, it seems just another day in the grind. 
And I sobbed a lot for a long time afterward.

That week in the hospital was the most traumatic experience of my life. I wrote this to a friend about a month later. It gives a pretty accurate picture of how things were for me in the early days after that experience:
It's been a lot to process, because labor and delivery did not go at all how I wanted. I was writing in my journal the other day everything I could remember from my time there, and I realized that I'm angry, because I hardly remember what it was like to hold and feed my baby for the first time. And just the way things are run at hospitals, I felt like I couldn't just be together with my family and enjoy bonding with our new baby.
She really felt like a stranger at first. Our second night at home, I remember sitting on my husband's lap and just sobbing that I just wanted her to go away because she was an intruder and I just wanted to watch a movie with my husband and then go to bed and sleep all night like we'd always done. And then I felt like a terrible mother for thinking such terrible things about my baby.

But things have gotten better now. There was one day that I realized that, since I'm not just doing motherhood for my husband or for my daughter or for myself, but because it is what God has called me to do... that made it easier to do. I don't know if I could have the strength for it otherwise.
It's still hard sometimes. I'm actually sick with sinus stuff right now, so I'm really hoping the baby doesn't catch it. Yay for antibodies in breast milk :) Today was a hard day because my head hurt so much and was all in a fog, so I was not a very attentive mommy... but there was one sweet, cherishable moment when I looked at JM and said, "Sorry I'm being a lame mommy today, sweetie." And she looked at me and gave a big smile :) I'm really glad that happened today in particular.

Grieving it took a long time. I joined the local ICAN chapter. I realized I'm not the only one who has had a disappointing birth experience. I wrote letters to some of the doctors and nurses who were there for my labor and delivery. I met many friends who were grieving their births, too. And when I talked with them, they understood: I needed permission to grieve.

"You should be happy! You have a healthy baby!" Many say.

I may have a healthy baby. But that does not mean I don't have a loss to grieve.

Birth is something inherently part of who a woman is. 

This is something I'm supposed to be able to do! 

This is something women just do.

Why can't I?

I fought bitterness, anger, and feelings of failure for a long time.

I still do, a little bit.

(In retrospect, I've come to realize that I also may have had postpartum depression. I know now that PPD is more common after c-sections and is more common than you might think).

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to be continued....  

(and don't worry; the story gets much happier from here — read Part 2 here)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bible Verses for Labor & Delivery

Just wanted to post a list of verses to meditate on during labor & delivery. I gathered it from several other sources for my own labor & delivery. I hope it helps you!
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The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deut 33:27

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23

The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Prov 3:5

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. John 14:27

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

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

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”   The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you." Psalm 39:7

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3


Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Monday, February 1, 2016

Good Grief! A Charlie Brown Party!

I just wanted to write a quick post sharing some of the fun ideas I incorporated into our little one's birthday party!

It was a Peanuts/Charlie Brown theme. I couldn't find anything Peanuts at the party store! So, I went with yellow decor with black zigzags instead. Here are the favor bags and the decorate-your-own cups, for example:


The kids (and adults) had a blast with decorating their cups!



Decorations were kept simple, using red and yellow:


For the food, we had various Peanuts-named/themed dippers and dips, since most toddlers just love to DIP things!







Then, we had some fun Peanuts-themed desserts and drinks, too!




Thanks to the help of our family, it turned out great! And our little one had a blast!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Toddler Advent Reading & Activity Plan

I just wanted to share the Advent Reading & Activity Plan I made to do with my toddler this year (she'll be 22 months old when we do it). I've had several friends ask me for the plan when I told them about it, so I thought others might like to have it as a resource, as well. Feel free to use, not use, or modify whatever you want.

The Reading Plan:


Here's the reading calendar I made (based on the Jesus Storybook Bible). We'll read those, along with the Bible verses listed, at dinner with Daddy as our family devotional time. 

November 29: The Story & The Song  |  Psalm 19  |  CANDLE 1
November 30: The Story & The Song  |  Psalm 19
December 1: The Story & The Song  |  Hebrews 1
December 2: The Beginning: A Perfect Home  |  Genesis 1
December 3: The Beginning: A Perfect Home  |  Genesis 1
December 4: The Beginning: A Perfect Home  |  Genesis 2
December 5: The Terrible Lie  |  Genesis 3
December 6: The Terrible Lie  |  Genesis 3  |  CANDLE 2
December 7: God to the Rescue  |  Exodus 11
December 8: God to the Rescue  |  Exodus 12
December 9: God to the Rescue  |  Exodus 13
December 10: Ten Ways to Be Perfect  |  Exodus 16
December 11: Ten Ways to Be Perfect  |  Exodus 17
December 12: The Teeny-Weenie ... True King  |  1 Samuel 16
December 13: The Teeny-Weenie ... True King  |  1 Samuel 16  |  CANDLE 3
December 14: Operation “No More Tears!”  |  Isaiah 9, 11
December 15: Operation “No More Tears!”  |  Isaiah 40, 50
December 16: Operation “No More Tears!”  |  Isaiah 53, 55, 60
December 17: Get Ready!  |  Nehemiah 8-10
December 18: Get Ready!  |  Malachi 1, 3, 4
December 19: Get Ready!  |  Ezra 7
December 20: He’s Here  |  Luke 1-2  |  CANDLE 4
December 21: He’s Here  |  Luke 1-2
December 22: He’s Here  |  Luke 1-2
December 23: The Light of the Whole World  |  Luke 2
December 24: The Light of the Whole World  |  Luke 2
December 25: The Light of the Whole World  |  Luke 2
December 26: The King of All Kings  |  Matthew 2
December 27: The King of All Kings  |  Matthew 2  |  CANDLE 5

I based this plan off of one I found online that had a different story each day, but I customized ours so there would be more repetition of the stories since she's still pretty young. The one with a different story each day would be great for older toddlers or preschoolers, so I'll be referencing it in the future, I'm sure!

I also customized my plan to start at the beginning of Advent (rather than on Dec 1), and I extended it to the 27th to wrap things up after the dust settles a bit.

The Activity Calendar:


These are the activities I made to coincide with the readings (or some don't too). I got a lot of my ideas from this lady who made activities to go with the original reading plan I found. I also got many of the ideas from my sister. 

I changed a lot of them to fit with our schedule (such as just reading a book on days we're going to visit family, etc.) and to simplify them—for my sake and because my kiddo is still pretty young. One note: some of the activities require toys and books we have around our house already. You could probably pretty easily modify these to use books and supplies you have.

November 29
The word "ADVENT" means "Coming" (just like when we say daddy is COMING home). Jesus' birthday is coming soon, when we celebrate the day He was born as a baby. Each day for the next four weeks, we'll get ready to celebrate Jesus' Birthday on Christmas Day by opening an Advent surprise like this one!! I wonder what tomorrow's surprise will be!
[Tape A-D-V-E-N-T letters on wall]

November 30
Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus' birthday, the day he was born! The Bible tells us the story of his birth many years ago. Let's read the story together from a book now.
[Read “The Story of Christmas”]

December 1
Christmastime is a great time to give to those in need. We like to show Jesus’ love to others just like He showed His love to us by coming as a man to rescue us. Let’s give to children in need today by choosing one of these gifts for them.
[Choose gifts from Compassion catalog]

December 2
Let’s make a sweet Christmas treat today! Christmas cookies are a fun way to celebrate.
[Make sugar cookies and decorate them together]

December 3
God made everything! He made the trees. Sometimes we like to celebrate Christmas by decorating trees like this one in our house! Let’s read about the things He made and make a little tree now.
[Read “Poems and Prayers” poems about what God made, make a green paper Christmas tree with ornament stickers]

December 4
God made a perfect home for Adam and Eve, didn’t He? Let’s think about that while we make our own home more beautiful by hanging these pretty ornaments on the Christmas tree.
[Hang 5-10 ornaments together]

December 5
Let’s color a fun Christmas picture together today. This is a picture of the day Jesus was born. Jesus is a special baby. Can you find Jesus? What else do you see in the picture?
[Color Nativity picture]

December 6
One thing people like to do to celebrate Christmas is make gifts and greetings for each other. Let’s make some cards for our librarians to deliver when we see them.
[Make Christmas cards using paper, stickers, and markers]

December 7
While we wait for Jesus’ birthday, let’s go to the library to deliver our cards and get a Christmas book to read today!
[Bring cards to librarians and get a book to read that day]

December 8
Passover, which we are learning about in our Devotions, is also known as the feast of unleavened bread. God’s people left Egypt quickly and didn’t have time for their bread to rise (or leaven). So they eat this special bread when they celebrate Passover.
[Eat Matzo bread, listen to Passover song, and watch Passover video

December 9
Moses and his sister and God’s people danced and sang and made music, praising God for His protection. You can make music to God, too. One great way to celebrate Christmas is with music!
[Make a jingle bell instrument (bells on pipe cleaner), gather other instruments, and listen to Christmas music and play along]

December 10
God provided for His people as they wandered in the desert by giving them manna to eat every day. He provides for us, too. Let’s pretend to eat some manna together while we watch a special Christmas movie.
[Eat “manna” (frosted flakes) and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas”]

December 11
Candy Canes can remind us of Jesus at Christmastime. Let’s read a poem about candy canes and then make a candy cane!
[Read Candy Cane Poem and then make candy cane craft]

December 12
Candy Canes can remind us of Jesus at Christmas time since they look like a "J" upside-down and "J" is the first letter in Jesus' name! [Hold up like a “J”] They also remind us of a shepherd’s crook (read book and explain about how Jesus is our Shepherd and what a crook is), like King David talks about in Psalm 23.
[Read “The Lord is my Shepherd” book and then share candy cane treat]

December 13
Let’s write letters to your grandparents today, wishing them a Merry Christmas and telling them how much Jesus loves them.
[Write letters on Christmas paper and mail them]

December 14
There are lots of fun stories, pretend and real, about Christmas. The stories about Jesus from the Bible are true stories. Let’s read some make-believe, pretend stories now.
[Read “The Silver Christmas Tree” and “Clifford’s Christmas”]

December 15
Let’s celebrate Christmastime by making a pretty decoration for our Christmas tree today!
[Make paper chain and hang on tree]

December 16
God announced the news of Jesus’ birth by having a very bright star shine down on Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Let’s make a pretty sparkly star today!
[Make star of David out of popsicle sticks, glue, and glitter]

December 17
Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Here is a picture of the star over Bethlehem, shining on the place where Jesus was born. Jesus is a very special baby! Let’s color this picture while we listen to a song about Bethlehem.
[Color Bethlehem picture and listen to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and other Christmas music]

December 18
One way we can announce good news like Jesus’ birth is by blowing a trumpet loud for all to hear! Let’s read a story about trumpeting the Good News and then make a trumpet.
[Read Good News, page 66, in “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” and make a horn (cone) out of yellow construction paper.]

December 19
We like to celebrate Christmas by spending time with the people we love. Let’s read a book about that as we visit with our family this weekend!
[Read “Willow at Christmastime”]

December 20
Let’s read a Christmas story about one of your favorite friends, Charlie Brown!
[Read "Charlie Brown Christmas"]

December 21
Today we can read the Nativity Story in Mom's Bible. We can act it out with our little nativity people while I read.
[Read Luke 2 in Bible, use Little People nativity to reenact the story]

December 22
See how mom's tummy is betting bigger with the new baby growing inside? The same thing happened to Mary when she had baby Jesus! But even before Jesus started growing in her tummy, an angel named Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would have a very special baby! God made angels to help Him and help people. Today, we can make an angel decoration together!
[Make a Paper Plate Angel]

December 23
Jesus is the shining light. He shines in the darkest of night.
Later we'll have a special treat, you'll wear PJ's in your car seat!
We'll take a family drive tonight, to find the fanciest Christmas lights!
[Drive through Christmas Lane this evening]

December 24
Today is Christmas Eve, which means the day before Christmas!! Remember the word "Advent" that we talked about and taped on the wall? Do you remember what it means (“coming”)? We've been waiting for Christmas a long time now, but soon we won't have to wait anymore! Let’s make a Nativity Scene with your Nativity stickers today!
[Make a scene with construction paper and Nativity stickers]

December 25
Merry Christmas! Let’s go visit Grandma and Grandpa and celebrate!

December 26
Let’s read about what it might have been like in the stable where Jesus was born!
[Read “The Stable Where Jesus was Born”]

December 27
Did you have fun with these Christmastime activities? Let’s do one more as we end our Christmas celebrations. Here is a picture of Jesus, the special baby, for you to color. Let’s watch a Christmas movie while we draw!
[Color picture of baby Jesus in manger and watch Nativity video]

The Finished Product:


I then put the slips of paper with the daily activities in these little bags so she can open one each day to find out what the surprise is. If the materials for the activity were small enough, they went in these bags. 



I also gathered a basket with the books and other too-big items for each daily activity. I knew I wouldn't be able to follow through as easily if everything wasn't in one place and ready to go!



Hope this helps and blesses you as you prepare for Advent with your kids!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dairy-Free Chicken & Rice Casserole

Recently, I've needed to eat a dairy-free diet on and off. One thing I've been missing a lot are those tasty creamy casseroles that are so easy to make and so yummy! But, alas, they usually contain cream, cheese, milk, and/or other dairy products. I went on a hunt for a dairy-free casserole and found this gem. It seemed like it might be a bit bland, so I made a few modifications, including adding onions and french fried onions.


Ingredients
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups cooked shredded or cubed chicken
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3-4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
  • 3 cups water
  • 1-1/4 cup frozen peas 
  • 1/2 cup sliced frozen carrots
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 1/4-1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs (make sure they are dairy-free)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup french fried onions (make sure they are dairy-free)



Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. In large skillet bring 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp water to a light simmer.
  3. Add flour slowly and blend until smooth.
  4. Add 1/4 t. thyme, 1/8 t. onion powder, 1/8 t. garlic powder.
  5. Slowly add 3 cups of water and bouillon then continue blend until its a smooth consistency.
  6. Add cooked chicken and stir.
  7. Lightly grease a casserole dish and layer rice in bottom.
  8. Layer peas, carrots, and onion onto rice and sprinkle with salt and any additional spices you want.
  9. Carefully pour chicken mixture over vegetables.
  10. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the casserole.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes. 
  12. Top with french fried onions and bake 5-10 minutes more.
This casserole turned out better than I'd expected a dairy-free casserole to be! For not having any cheese, it was very good! It hit the spot, and I hardly missed the cheese and milk (ok, I did kind of miss them).