Thursday, December 11, 2014

Joshua's Second Birthday Letter


Dear Joshua,

Tomorrow it will be a whole month since you turned 2 and I'm just now sitting down to write your birthday letter. I'm sorry it's late, sweet boy. Better late than never, I suppose!

Every year is a big deal when you're a child, but the change from 1 to 2 is truly astounding. You have gone from my baby boy to being one of the big kids and you just keep growing and changing. You are a really big boy. At your most recent check-up, you weighed in at 33 pounds and were in the 95th or higher percentile for all your stats!

In the last few months it's been so fun to see your vocabulary grow my leaps and bounds. Being able to communicate better with you certainly makes life easier for all of us. You are pretty hard-headed and have your own ideas about how things ought to be. The ability to communicate those ideas to us pleases you, and so often is a source of smiles and laughter in our home.

I think you are the most strong-willed of my children at this age, which is really saying something since Miss Katie certainly gave us a run for our money at 2! Behind the strong will, though, is a sweet, sweet boy who still loves a good snuggle with mama (at any and all hours of the day and night...*sigh*). Many times each day, you love to shower me with kisses and "yuh"'s, your sweet way of saying, "I love you." It is so precious!

You nursed longer than your brother and sister, making it until 23 months. I was sad for our nursing relationship to end, as I always have been, but it was time. And I am so thankful for the extra time we had! You sure did love your "wilk," and still occasionally ask about it. But, you're always happy with a cup of raw milk and don't really seem to miss nursing a bit.

You are a pretty good eater and have recently "graduated" from only cooked veggies to eating some salad too. It's not your favorite, but you'll usually eat it when I tell you to. Your favorite foods are probably bread, cheese, and milk.

If ever a little boy loved cars, you certainly do. Anything with wheels (including the vacuum cleaner and the bottom drawer in the dishwasher!) is immediately turned into a car, train, or truck in your mind and you get such delight from seeing vehicles when we go out. A plane in the sky gets you particularly excited. You literally spend hours every day playing with cars and will listen very intently to books about cars and trains--even really long ones!

Right after your birthday, we moved to a new house. That's largely why your birthday letter is late. The move was a lot of work! It was bittersweet to say, "Goodbye," to the house where you and your brother were born, but the move has been a good change for our family.

It has been fun to see you blossom this year from a baby to Katie and Benjamin's little side kick. I'm so thankful for the joy, sweetness, and laughter to add to our family. You truly are a gift from God, my sweet, sweet son.

We plugged your stats into a size predictor online this week and it estimated you would grow up to be 6'6". I know these toddler days, these days when your chubby feet follow me around and you beg me in toddler-speak to hold you again, these days are fleeting. Some day, you'll be all grown up. These days are precious, and even though they're often exhausting, I love them. And I love you.

Oh, how I love you!

My sweet boy, I have loved you since the moment I knew you were a little poppy-seed sized babe in my womb. You captured my heart when I first held you in my arms, and now two years later, I can truly say I love you even more now than I did then. My prayer for you on your second birthday is the same as it has always been. May you grow up to be a faithful man and serve Christ all your days. As your mama, that is my heart's greatest desire and my most important mission.

Happy birthday, Joshua.

Love,
Mama

Note: I wrote this some time ago (about a month), but didn't get it edited and posted until today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Gallbladder Saga (and how I ended up on GAPS)

Back in September of last year, I had a gall bladder attack. The next day, my chiropractor referred me to a naturopath, I did the cleanse she recommended, started taking some digestive enzymes, and went along my merry way assuming all would be well. Until I had another attack...and another...and another...and so on. Though I did have some improvement in that my attacks were less frequent, less severe, and shorter, after experimenting with diet and supplements (and repeating the cleanse 5 times) and continuing to have attacks, my naturopath recommended that I visit a licensed doctor.

I knew a conventionally-minded MD would probably just want to remove my gallbladder and that wasn't the route I wanted to go unless a life-threatening emergency presented itself. Yes, attacks are very painful, in some ways more-so than unmedicated childbirth. But, I'm convinced that in most cases the gallbladder is not the underlying issue and removing it may (or may not!) help with symptoms, but you'll be left still with a very compromised digestive system, which it was gets you to the place of gallbladder attacks in the first place. After a lot of research and phone calls, I found a DO [what is an osteopathic doctor?] about an hour and a half from me who was able to fit me in the following week. That was in November.


Now it's March and I'm still not completely better, though I am doing much better than I was. I am eating some fat with every meal (olive oil and avocados) and after taking a close look at my diet while I kept my fat intake very consistent for a month, we finally figured out that it was the type of carbohydrates I was eating rather than the type of fats that trigger my symptoms. This was not something I had expected!

With that piece of information, we were able to conclude what I stated before: my gallbladder is not the problem, but rather a compromised and dysfunctional digestive system that can't digest more complex starches. Those starches, in turn, sit in my stomach so that when I eat fat, my body needs extra bile to digest it because all the enzymes are being used to digest the starches, and then my biliary system goes into panic mode and I have an attack.

So, what next?

Enter: The GAPS Diet.

At my doctor's encouragement, I officially started the GAPS Diet today. Because I'm still nursing, I'm skipping the introduction and going straight to full GAPS, which is basically a diet consisting of lots of meat stock, meat (in my case lean chicken and turkey for now), vegetables, fermented foods, and after the first few weeks, fruit and honey, and then eventually fermented dairy products. No grains, no sweet potatoes or potatoes, no sugar/sucanat/maple syrup/etc, no beans except for lentils and navy beans. For 1.5 to 2 years. Challenging? Yes. But worth it if it works.

I have a whole host of autoimmune diseases in my family, and the more research I do, the more firmly I believe that autoimmune issues begin in the gut. Hopefully in addition to taking care of the problem I've been dealing with over the past six months, this GAPS diet journey will help me to avoid those.

For the curious, I'm not planning to put my family on this diet for now. My husband absolutely does not want to do it, and my children aren't showing any real signs of needing it right now. Hopefully it says that way. Thankfully, while I enjoy really good food, I don't mind terribly much eating the same thing several days in a row, so I plan to stay sane while cooking two sets of meals by making myself large batches of things and eating them over and over again. 

I think I'll keep a journal of sorts on here about the process, largely for my own records, but also because I know I enjoy reading that sort of thing on other people's blogs. So, if you care to stick along for the ride, you're more than welcome!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Goals for 2014: February Update

Thankfully, I was able to keep up with most of these goals for another month. I'm hoping to make some extra progress with a couple this month to make up for lost time!

Personal Goals

1. Read through The Quiet Place in the mornings-Done
2. Memorize Ephesians 1 and 2-Memorized 1:6-10
3. Read 12 books-I have completed three books so far
4. Wrap up my Family Herbalist Course and complete the first two modules of the Holistic Wellness Professional course.-Completed the first unit of Module 1

Marriage Goals
5. Go on one date per month-Done in February
6. Have one overnight stay sans children this year (this would be a first for us since our honeymoon!)
7. Write 12 love notes-None in February
8. Iron Ben's dress shirts every week-Still failing here.
 
Parenting Goals
9. Finish Kindergarten with Katie-We are making progress here.
10. Start preschool with Benjamin
11. Train the children to diligently help with chores-They are helping keep their room clean and helping with bathroom cleaning; want to work more on having them help with the living area
12. Memorize through Question 75 in the children's catechism with Katie and Question 20 with Benjamin-Making progress, though slower than I had hoped
13. Set aside at least one hour every week to just play with the kids-Done in February

Homemaking Goals
14. Establish a cleaning routine that works for me-Still enjoying The Confident Mom planner
15. Use Flava app on my phone and a notebook to keep track of milestones/funny things the kids say each month-Did not do much with this in February
16. Upload and organize our photos every month-Haven't done this at all yet.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Katie's 5th Birthday Letter

This is late! My sweet Katie turned 5 on February 26. But, better late than never, I suppose! :)







Dear Katie,

Five seems like such a big age--and yet here we are, on your fifth birthday. Time sure has flown since you emerged out of my womb and into this big world. You were the answer to my prayers and the fulfillment of my life-long dream to become a mama. As much as I loved you then, how much more do I love you now!

You are such a sweet girl, Miss Katie. I am touched by the way you love your brothers and help me take care of them (even though they do drive you completely batty at times!). You are becoming a willing helper to me around the house, which I really do appreciate! As I've struggled with some health issues in recent months, you have been so sweet and understanding, and showed a lot of maturity.

We started your formal schooling this school year and I think we've both really enjoyed it so far--even though some days you say it isn't fun anymore (like when you'd much prefer to be playing outside). You have recently caught on to reading and are doing great with small, simple books. Since you're my firstborn and my home school guinea pig, I find this progress very encouraging! When we started school, you absolutely despised handwriting, but over the weeks, you've worked at it and improved so much, and you don't complain about it nearly as much as you used to.

In addition to your reading easy readers, you have grown to love listening to me read chapter books, which I have really enjoyed after years of reading lots and lots of picture books! We've made our way through the first nine books in the Boxcar Children, three books in the Imagination Station series, and several other books as well. Pretty much every time we finish, you beg me to read, "just one more chapter!" You are also usually disappointed when we actually finish a book because you don't want it to be over. I think this is really cute.

Thanks to your Aunt Hannah's influence on you, for which I am very thankful, you have become extremely interested in art over the past several months. You are on your way to becoming quite the little artist, always drawing pictures and making cards for people you love. I may need to come up with a budget category for paper the way you go through it, but that's alright. It's worth it--especially if you end up teaching me to be an artist like you've promised. ;)

In addition to your love of art, you really have a love of all things beautiful. You save every lovely thing you come across and use it for a decoration on your night stand. Few things make you happier than fresh flowers and things that sparkle.

Almost all of your pretend play involves princesses in some way. You spend most of your time in dress-up clothes and always have an elaborate plot going on. Baby dolls almost always make their way into your playtime as well. Even though your playing preferences are decidedly girly, you manage to involve your brothers most of the time without emasculating them in any way. They are usually your princes or knights--and they frequently make appearances as bad guys as well.

As you've gotten older, you've also began to form some friendships with other girls at church. Most of them are older than you are, but you manage to fit right in with them and have a lot of fun together. This process as been really sweet for me to watch. You're not the least bit shy around other children and are quick to make new kids feel welcome.

Probably my favorite part of the last year has been the clear evidence I've seen of the Lord working in your life. You're so tender and quick to reform you behavior when I rebuke you with God's word. You are quick to apologize when you do something wrong, and you're full of questions about God and His word.

I pray that the Lord will continue to work in your heart and bring you to faith and repentance even as a young child that you may live all your days out in service to Him.

You are such a blessing to me, Katie, and I love you so, so much.

Happy birthday!

Love,
Mama


Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 23, 1929

85 years ago this coming Sunday, a baby girl was born who changed the course of history.

She was a sweet girl from a humble farming family in rural North Carolina with two brothers and two sisters. She had little and worked hard. Married at just 15, she brought four children into the world. She left behind everything she knew and loved and followed her husband as his job took him all through Central America for many years.

Finally they happily retired back in their beloved North Carolina. During her retirement, seven grandchildren and a dozen great grandchildren were added to her numbers. She cared tirelessly for her dying husband of over 50 years. She married again, her next door neighbor and old friend who lost his wife the same year. She never stopped humbly serving and loving others until her dying day.

Doesn't seem like a world changer?

She was my grandma.

She never had a big career. She didn't go to college and didn't even finish high school until she was 40. By most worldly standards, she was unremarkable.

Except that she wasn't.

That humble farm girl from North Carolina lived out her days loving and serving her husband and children, steadily, gracefully pointing them to Christ with her words--and more importantly, with her actions. Her genuine Christianity confused her unbelieving husband, but eventually, her gentle example and the reality of his mortality won him over. My dad, the most oppositional of her children to Christianity, came along too. I don't know how many hours she spent crying out to God on his behalf, but I am thankful for every minute she spent pleading with the Lord for his soul.

The grandbabies came along, and in the midst of changing our diapers and reading books and singing songs ("I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck..."), she pointed us to Jesus too.

And now we're raising her great-grandbabies (who she was so very proud of!), changing their diapers, reading them books, and singing them songs, and by God's mercy, pointing them to Jesus just as she did us and our parents.

It's been almost a year since I stood at Grandma's bedside, holding her hand as she left her earthly temple, worn and used for her Master's service, and exchanged it for immortality. There are moments now when the sense of loss and homesickness for my Grandma are just as raw and painful as they were last May.

This year will be the first February 23 in my life I can't wish her a happy birthday. I'm sure I'll miss it far more than she does. I expect in Heaven, worshipping at the throne of the Christ who bought her salvation with His own life, she is celebrating more than her own birth 85 years ago.

But me? I'm awfully glad she was born--and even more glad that, by God's mercy, Grandma lived in such a way that, though most people won't ever know her name, did truly change the world.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 Goals: January Update

So, I was thankful to make good progress on almost all of my goals for the year during the month of January. If I can keep up, I should actually get most of them finished by the end of the year (of course, being mostly caught-up at the end of January isn't particularly impressive...we'll see where I am at the end of this month).

Personal Goals
1. Read through The Quiet Place when I nurse Joshua in the mornings-Done every day
2. Memorize Ephesians 1 and 2-Memorized 1:1-5
3. Read 12 books-Read 1 book
4. Wrap up my Family Herbalist Course (should be done this month!) and complete the first two modules of the Holistic Wellness Professional course.-Waiting for the grade on my Family Herbalist final exam!

Marriage Goals
5. Go on one date per month-Done in January
6. Have one overnight stay sans children this year (this would be a first for us since our honeymoon!)
7. Write 12 love notes-One done in January
8. Iron Ben's dress shirts every week-Only ironed once. Fail.
 
Parenting Goals
9. Finish Kindergarten with Katie-We are making progress here. She's started reading!
10. Start preschool with Benjamin
11. Train the children to diligently help with chores-They are getting better at picking up their toys. Yay!
12. Memorize through Question 75 in the children's catechism with Katie and Question 20 with Benjamin
13. Set aside at least one hour every week to just play with the kids-Done in January

Homemaking Goals
14. Establish a cleaning routine that works for me-Still enjoying The Confident Mom planner
15. Use Flava app on my phone and a notebook to keep track of milestones/funny things the kids say each month-Did this in January, would like to do more than I did
16. Upload and organize our photos every month


How are y'all doing plugging away at your goals for the yar?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Confident Mom Household Planner

One of my goals for this year is to find a cleaning system that works for me and use it consistently. Everyone in the family (well, at least Ben and I) is so much happier and more relaxed when the house is not a mess. Keeping it clean is an area I really struggle with.

One of my other goals is to be more intentional in spending focused time just playing with my littles, which I have a really hard time doing when there's a disaster everywhere I look.

A friend mentioned this FREE Confident Mom Weekly Household Planner on Facebook last week. Based on her rave review I decided to give it a try.

I've used it all week and there is a definite difference in the tidiness of our house. A major bonus is that it's fully customizable. Any of the chores can be erased or moved around as desired. I'm a major list person. I love checking things off of lists. And having extra things on the list that I don't need to check off really bugs me, so my slightly OCD side loves that I can delete the unnecessary things.

Training the children to help with cleaning was another item on my list of goals for this year. Prompted by one of the daily items in this planner, we've started having a "15 minute clean up" immediately after dinner each day. While I clean the kitchen, Ben plays music and sets a timer and he and the children pick up the house for 15 minutes. This alone makes a huge difference!

We're only a week in, but I'm enjoying the fruit so far. We'll see how it goes for the other 51 weeks this year! Since the planner is free, I wanted to share it with y'all so you could try it as well.

Here's to cleaner, calmer, saner homes this year! :)