Saturday, August 13, 2016

I'm reading to you for them.

My heart is heavy as the school year is about to start without me.  I have spent the past three years as "Teacher," and the last two in Middle School, which I think must be a special calling of mine.  So many people don't enjoy this age group so the fact that I find them delightful must mean something.  In a way, it is peaceful not having to get into the hustle and bustle of preparing for students.  At the same time it just feels strange.  This year instead of planning lessons, building relationships with my students, and grading papers I will be changing diapers, snuggling my baby, and planning ways to leave the house so I don't lose my mind.  Even though I believe that I am choosing the highest good for my young family, I will miss my students this year.  I will miss my brightly decorated classroom filled with supplies designed to encourage active learning.  I will miss being a professional and having important people respect and believe in my work.  I doubt my new "boss" will give me that kind of affirmation.  I will miss doing something that I am good at, something that I love.

The other day I watched with glee as my husband read to our newborn.  He is always looking for a way to interact with the little guy.  I feel connected to Emerson through nurturing, but Philip wants to bond with him through play.  He's tried doing tummy time.  He also puts E's toys near his hands and waits for him to grab hold.  And he reads to our son.  As Philip pointed to the pictures and read with expression I couldn't help but think of them--my students.  "How many of them have ever had this experience?"  I wondered.

 The district I worked in is low-income.  Many students have parents who don't speak English.  Many of their parents work long into the night just to be able to put food on the table.  Reading time can't be a priority when you are focused on survival.  Or when you can't read yourself.  So many of my students struggle to read.  They say they hate reading.  They would rather stare at a book and pretend to absorb it than actually take the time to sound out each word.  Over half of my seventh graders last year were reading at a third-grade level or below.  I did everything I could think of to make reading fun, engaging, and accessible to them.  But you can't replace the experience that Emerson is having right now.  The magic of sitting on Mom or Dad's lap as the words become enchanted and the stories come to life.

So, Emerson, we will keep reading.  Not just for you, but for them.  I am reading to you for all of those kids who don't get to have that experience.  I am reading to you so that, hopefully, you won't have to struggle through English (and through many other subjects because it turns out they all require you to read) like my students.  I am reading to you so that you won't feel stupid.  I am reading to you so that you will be able to find the joy of books.  I am reading to you so that you will have the confidence to take risks in learning.  I am reading to you, for them.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Baby Gadgets That Are Actually Useful

There are so many baby gadgets out there.  You could spend all your millions on stuff for your baby.  It seems to me like babies aren't that expensive as time goes on, but that the start-up costs can be astronomical.  Everyone has different opinions about which items are totally necessary, and every baby is different. Something that is awesome for my son might not work at all for yours.  My advice to you is to get Amazon Prime or the free six-month trial around the time that your baby is born.  That way, anything that you decide you need you can get with free shipping and it will arrive almost instantly.  That said, I found even registering for items, let alone buying them to be so stressful.  How do you know what a baby needs when you have never had one before?  But I did appreciate just hearing what other people thought about things to give me a starting point.  Take this with a grain of salt, but here are a few items that we bought that have totally been worth every penny.  Also, note that my baby is less than two weeks old.  As time goes on, I might have a completely different list.  It seems like this parenting gig is constantly changing as baby grows.

Wipe Warmer

Munchkin Warm Glow Wipe Warmer

Okay, I know this seems kind of ridiculous. Like, I'm pretty sure a warm wipe is something that the baby butler brings you at the baby mansion.  Jeeves walks up to you with your freshly heated and pressed wipe like, "So sire's bum won't be cold."  Silly as it may seem, my little guy HATES to be cold.  Getting his diaper changed is one of his least favorite things.  I can hardly bare listening to him cry out in agony as I wipe him.  So we ordered one of these.  It has made diaper changing significantly easier on our wee babe.


I cannot say enough about this.  I love snuggling my Emers, but sometimes you just need a break.  Your arms get tired.  You need to eat, or God forbid do a chore or two?  Ok, if I'm honest I haven't done much outside of loving, feeding, and changing my sweet boy these last couple of weeks.  This swing is so great for just setting him down for a bit while he sleeps.  It rocks which keeps him happy.  It's high off the ground which keeps my dog away from him.  It is light and portable so you can take it anywhere.  When Phil goes back to work I plan to use it while I shower.   I think it is also great if you stayed the night somewhere with an infant--it would be the perfect little place for him to sleep away from home.

My Brest Friend Pillow

My Brest Friend Original Nursing Pillow, Fireworks

What?  A boob pun is in the name?  That might be reason enough to purchase this little number.  Let me tell you breastfeeding ain't no joke.  For awhile it is painful.  Like, real painful.  Like, is-this-baby-part-beaver painful.  Also, it takes some time to learn and get used to how to hold the baby, how to get the baby to latch etc.  After a frustrating few days, I decided to order this nursing pillow.  After my first use I was singing a hallelujah chorus!  It gives me so much more support than just holding the baby or using a regular pillow.  I can get his head into position so much easier the pillow is keeping his weight up.  The pillow also allows me to have more access to my hands so I can read, or use the remote, or let's be real, eat, because that's what I do all the time now.

Waterfall Bathtub

Summer Infant Warming Waterfall Bath Tub

Yep, my baby's bath has a "waterfall" function.  I am probably starting to sound like a Kardashian.  Honestly, we didn't realize that this was a feature when we bought the tub.  I chose it mostly based on how it looked and the reviews it got on Amazon.  When it arrived we read that it needed batteries and we were really confused.  It turns out that the bath trickles a stream of warm water down baby's back to keep him warm.  It also came with a perfectly sized wash cloth that you can get wet and drape over his front like a blankey.  Again, for a baby that is unhappy being cold, to me this is totally worth it.  It also has a soft pillow for cushioning his head.  Another feature I like is that it has a little holder on the back to put things in--including a small cup with little holes in it for rinsing baby off.  When you have a new baby you have so many things everywhere so this little organizational function feels really convenient.

Is there anything I haven't discovered that I need to add to my list?  I have Amazon Prime's free trial on stand-by ready to order anything that will make my mommy life easier.  Stay tuned for more lists as baby E grows.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Not Every Day Is Promised

I've been a mom for three weeks, and it is already by far the hardest thing I've ever done.  It would be easy to spend my days discontent, or to wish the time of a thousand diaper changes and late-night feedings away.  I have to remind myself to choose joy.  I have to intentionally soak up the moments I get with my little one.  My mantra these days is:  "Not every day with Emerson is promised, so I will enjoy today with him."

On the Rocks

(I wrote those post pre-baby being born and am just getting around to posting it now)

Matthew 7:24-27  English Standard Version (ESV)

Build Your House on the Rock

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

I have been having daily quiet times--a chunk of time spent in prayer and reading the bible--for over a year now.  I don't say that to brag.  Believe me, I have struggled so many times in my life to be disciplined in this practice.  I've found that whenever life changes I have to struggle to get into the routine again.  I have to find something that works with my new schedule, energy levels, etc.  So, I'm sure I'll have to figure things out all over again after baby is born.

I started really having success with it when I was in college.  I got involved with a Christian Ministry called CRU, and some older women invested me and taught me how to have fruitful quiet times.

Since then, I would say that I've consistently been in the word and prayer.  I have not always spent that time every day.  I have not always enjoyed that time.  I have not always been focused while having that time.  There were times when "consistent" meant, two, three, or even one time a week.  But I have not gone a period of being away from the word or prayer since then.

 For the past year or so, though, I have had a quiet time almost every day.  This season of my life meant getting up early to spend time with God--something I once believed I could never do.  To say I'm not a morning person is an understatement.  I had tried spending time with God in the evenings after work.  That was a disaster.  My brain was so befuddled that I found myself spacing off more than paying attention.  I would often drift from my bible app to my facebook app because what I really wanted was something to numb my mind.  One day I felt God ask me to try morning quiet times.  I was not happy about this.  But I tried.  Sometimes I would sleep through my alarm.  Other times, I would head downstairs, feed the dog, make myself some chai tea, and curl up on the couch with my ipad open to the bible.  Finally, I was able to make this a habit.  After a while, my husband starting waking up early to work out (and have quiet time) so with him out of the bedroom I could have my QT laying in bed.  This was perfect, especially for early pregnancy when I was feeling nausea first thing in the morning.

The other day I reflected on this, and quite honestly wondered, "Has it been worth it?"  I always thought that time in the bible and prayer were key to personal growth in relationship with God.  Sometimes, though I envision quiet time as a "fix-all."  Like, all my problems will go away if I just spend time with God.  I do think there is a shred of truth to this--I think that abiding in God is key to health in lots of areas.  I looked at myself and my life and thought, "Well I'm still a hot mess."  Maybe it wasn't working?

God brought my attention to the above passage.  I am about to enter a season that I know will be difficult.  Just transitioning into something new always throws me for a loop.  Change can be a hard pill to swallow.  In fact I might need to hide it in a spoonful of ice cream like my mom used to do when with medicine growing up.  Plus I have heard that few things are tougher than parenting and especially parenting someone who doesn't know how to sleep through the night or feed themselves or use a toilet.  God reminded me that my quiet times have been producing fruit.  He reassured me that as "the rain" of this new season fell that I would not be shaken because I have built a foundation on his word.  I think it's important to persevere with what God asks us to do even if it doesn't always seem like it's producing results.  I take comfort in knowing that God is going to take care of me through the trials to come.  Things may be difficult, but I will not crumble.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Parable of the Boob

Jesus often spoke in parables.  I thought I'd give it a shot.  Of course, my parable involves female anatomy.  Maybe it's because I've been hanging out with Middle Schoolers for the past few years.  Maybe it's that giving birth has taken away any shame that I once felt about the human body.  Maybe it's because I spend half of my waking hours nursing my newborn.  Maybe it's just sleep deprivation.  Whatever the case, I think there is something to take away here.  So here it goes:  the parable of the boob.

My baby does these strange things.  He loves his hands.  They are always up by his face.  When he gets hungry those little fingers often end up in his mouth.  He loves to suck on them.  What's weird is that there are times when I am trying to feed him and I can't because his hands get in the way.  In fact, sometimes I have my breast right there waiting for him, and instead of taking it he opts for eating his fingers.  There he is next to something that could provide him exactly what he needs.  My breast milk is designed especially for him--it has all the nutrients to help him grow and keep him healthy and happy.  Yet he sucks on his fingers.  He feels a need, and thinks he can fulfill it.  All the while he is missing out on the one thing that can sustain and satisfy him even though it is readily available..  There's nothing inherently wrong with sucking on his fingers.  In fact, under different circumstances--self-soothing through the night, for example--sucking on his fingers is even useful.  It's just that when he tries to meet his need to feed by sucking on his fingers instead of my nipple it just doesn't work.  Now, my baby always seems to figure it out.  He finds the nip and gets the food he needs.  However, if he were to continue trying to feed himself using his hands, and he never made his way to my milk, he would starve to death.

I couldn't help thinking this parallels what we go through as human beings.  We feel a need.  We are hungry for love, acceptance, and relationship.  We try to meet this need in our own ways--through achievements, through other people, through substances--you name it.  Yet all the while the perfect source of life is standing by just waiting for us to latch on (if you will).  Sucking on fingers may make my baby feel better for a few seconds.  Just like our addictions may make us feel fulfilled temporarily.  But if we never get connected to Jesus our needs will never truly be met.  Eventually, we will die.  Jesus is offering himself to us like I am offering my, well, boob, to my newborn.  Only he can fulfill us.  We have to choose to take hold of the one thing that can give us exactly what we need.  He is our source of life.
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