Monthly Archives: November 2012

Birth Story- Ava

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Birth Story- Ava

My last birth story is a bit shorter than the others, clocking in at roughly 3 hours overall. There is a pattern here that generally ends in every woman hating me. But every time, it was preceded by 3 weeks of miserable “false” labor.

Miss Ava came into the world in a HURRY. I woke up, 3 days past due date, at 7:30 am, thinking to myself. “I’m staying in bed, this isn’t it, because I feel NOTHING.” 7:45, a pretty big contraction hit. A bit nonplussed, since labor hadn’t ever made itself noticeable before I went into the Hospital before, I began to time them. By 8:15 I’d had quite a few contractions, and had timed them. Some were 10 minutes apart, some were 12 minutes apart, some were 7 minutes apart, but they were really spontaneous and erratic. My Doctor told me to come in to the office to be sure it wasn’t false labor. I knew it wasn’t, but I humored him.

At 9:00am my Mom showed up to take our two girls with her. My husband and I arrived at the Dr’s office at 9:15. I was panting and laying on the receptionist’s desk, telling her over and over “Can I just please go straight to the hospital?” She recognized how far along I was, and told me
“Honey you SHOULD be going straight in! I’ll tell the Dr. you’re here.”
The Dr. saw me, he ordered me placed in a back room, hooked up to a monitor, and told me
“We’ll let ya cook awhile…”
My husband was fuming, but I told him
“You know they are pretty erratic, maybe he’s right, lets just chill out.”
We sat there 30 minutes, by which time I was doing labor breathing. It HURT. My husband went out and told the Dr. to see me NOW.

It took him 15 minutes to come my way, at which point he discovered I was 7 cm dilated. He told me to head to the hospital NOW, and that he’d be along shortly. The hospital was only 15 minutes away, but with traffic and all, we didn’t arrive there till 10:15am. My husband thought we would have Ava in the car and was shouting at the traffic. Little good it did us, but it helped him out!

We got there, and I was about ready tackle someone for a bed and some painkillers. It HURT! We stood at the reception desk, but the lady was on the phone with the ever important “WAIT!” finger wagging in our direction. I was doubled over with contractions, and my husband was ready to take the phone out of her hand when she FINALLY said “Well… Someone is here, I guess I GOTTA go. Ahem, Can I HELP you?!”
My husband informed her I was in labor, and needed in the maternity ward NOW. She let us into the maternity ward, and we were given a bed quickly.

Once there and settled, I told the nurse, on no uncertain terms (remember, I’m a rude laborer… some shirt grabbing, shouting, and maybe a bit of teeth baring and growling was involved.) that I needed an epidural NOW! She told me she’d put me on fluids first. Within 15 minutes she came back to check on me to find me pushing. She delivered the baby halfway til the resident came in. (3 pushes really) The resident did the rest of the work, at which point the anesthesiologist waltzed in and announced “Guess you don’t need me!” and wheeled the table back out.

At that point, I did NOT care. I was holding a beautiful baby within a minute. Miss Ava was 8 lbs even, with BROWN hair, like me! Finally! A little Sicilian baby! All told, this adventure clocked in at roughly 3 hours overall, and resulted in a sweet little Ava Grace. The best part? Recovery was a cinch compared to the other two! I’m thinking the epidural isn’t so great after all!

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Holiday Goodies!

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Holiday Goodies!

We’ve been working overtime to get ready for both Christmas and Thanksgiving. The baking scene is unreal! This morning, the girls requested a morning in tutus, so they can dance and dance, and take a break from baking, after school is done, of course.

Being a seat of the pants kinda gal, I’ve decided to go the food basket route for gifts. And… plans have changed. Still doing a food basket, but the food changed to meet the supplies in the pantry. I’ve been thinking about documenting these, but I just hadn’t had the time to do so, until this morning. To add incentive Life In A Shoe has a linky post! So here I go! These are some of the foods we are baking/making for the Holiday, or for the gift baskets:

  • Apple Butter/ Applesauce: We made and canned A LOT of that this year. Seeing how many cans we have, and how fantastic this homemade batch tasted, we’ve decided to add that into our baskets.
    The recipe is easy. For Applesauce:
    Core, cut, and peel the apples. (no need to dice, slices are fine.)
    Put them in large pot, with a little water in the bottom.
    Set to simmer for a few hours (slow cook.) keep on a low temperature.
    Once it begins to bubble, turn down the temperature even lower, and stir regularly to avoid burning. (Once every 15 minutes is fine.)
    1-3 hours later: Voila! Applesauce!
    The size of your pot will change the cooking time, as will your individual taste. The more smooth you like your applesauce, the longer you cook it. I like it chunky, and I’m impatient, this great combo makes me cook it for less time!
    If you want to make it into Apple Butter:
    Add sugar (to taste, a few cups per pot usually does it)
    spices (to taste: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.)
    Cook it down for a few more hours in a crock pot to make apple butter, it will be a smoother consistency.
    Use an immersion blender to finish it out if you want it really velvety. Personally, I like that *rustic taste.*
    If you are one of those folks who needs a recipe: Check this one out. It is a FABULOUS step by step. Not to mention, she even goes through how to can it. You don’t have to, if you don’t like, as it will be good in the fridge for two weeks, without the canning process. If you like the pantry ready way, though, feel free to can!
  • Pumpkin Bread! I have a lot of pumpkins that we used to decorate our porch. Three in fact, three massive Jack O Lantern Pumpkins. To add to that fun, my sister has 2 of the same size, same kind that she is giving me to cook down. Jack O Lantern Pumpkins tend to be a bit stringy, and difficult to make smooth. They also just don’t have the rich flavor of a sugar pumpkin. This makes them almost always useless for pies. But… They are FANTASTIC for breads! I use this recipe I found on Allrecipes for my pumpkin bread. It is moist, light, and delicious. Not at all heavy or overly spicy. I also try to use fresh ginger, it is a bright note in the bread that makes it cheerful and warm, as opposed to mellow and heavy.
  • Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies: These are quick and easy, and I usually use canned pumpkin, as I make these for a snack when I’m in a pinch. I also skip the chocolate chips. You can use raisins instead if you like, but I personally prefer a clean pumpkin taste with no distractions! I like my classics! I also round it out with a few more spices to taste, a bit of nutmeg, a pinch of allspice, just to make it more like a pumpkin pie in a cookie! It is fantastic, quick, and SO moist!

And since I’m self conscious, and didn’t only want to put food in the baskets, we also added a few other goodies, and made a science project out of it. In addition, we saved some wicks, and some wax to do a little history lesson on traditional candle making:

Sand Candles: (makes roughly 20-30 candles, depending on size.) (If you want a photo tutorial, stop by here.)

Buy:

a 4 lb block of plain wax

20-30 tea light wicks with metal disks on the bottom

a bag of sand

a container of glitter (we used gold.)

a baggie of seashells

optional:

A dye block and scent bottle (I used an old candle with scent and a color I liked instead.)

A container to press into the mold (I used an old baby bottle. You can use a candle cup, a candle mold, a handprint (from your child) a footprint (ditto) anything you can imagine!

Here is how you do it: If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make one! I used a metal mixing bowl set on top of a boiling pot of water. The bowl had to extend into the water, but not touch the bottom. Also, it must ‘seal’ at the lip of the pot. The bowl must trap the steam into the pot.
Cut off a bunch of wax, and place it in the double boiler. While it is melting, put the sand in cardboard boxes. A few inches deep is good. I used an old baby bottle for a mold, but you can use anything. Sprinkle a LOT of glitter over the sand in the box, then press your mold into the sand, creating your candle shape. Gently press seashells into the sides of your “mold” making sure that some bits protrude into the mold, to be sure they are in the wax! Place the wicks in the center of the mold, pressing the small metal disks into the bottom of the sand. When the wax is melted, shave off some of your “dye block” (be it an old candle, with no soot or debris on it!) until you get the color you like. If you want to test it, splat a small dot of wax on a piece of paper. It should harden in a moment and give you a true indicator of color.  Once you’ve achieved the desired color, remove the top of the ‘double boiler’, (wear gloves! It is HOT!) and pour the wax into your “molds” in the sand. Wait until they are full hardened to remove them, dust off excess sand, and then make a *new* mold where the old one was!

This was a fantastic science activity that we were able to journal, repeat a few times, and the metal bowl cleaned out admirably with dish soap and hot water! It was also surprisingly child friendly with a few precautions and clear boundaries. Even Ava (our toddler) helped to ‘decorate’ the molds! The girls were VERY impressed with the finished product, and frankly, so am I! It was also quite inexpensive since I was able to go to the craft store, coupon in hand, and buy all my supplies for half off. All told, you have a priceless hand made gift for less than you would buy a generic candle at the dollar store. If you are looking for economical and precious gifts, this is a good one!

We will probably find/do more crafts, foods etc this season, but hopefully this little list gets you thinking about what you can make this season for family and friends!

Organic Learning vs. Curriculum Learning

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Organic Learning vs. Curriculum Learning

I’m finding this subtle balance in our school days as we are almost at our halfway mark in the school year! I’m finally finding a balance! I want to comply with State laws (PA is a stringent state with their homeschooling laws, in my opinion, they are *too* strict and overbearing, and in their over regulation they limit the parent’s ability to school their child as the child needs. But that is for another post!) I also want to teach Sarah on her level, at her pace, and in a way that reaches her experiential knowledge, instead of just giving her a lot of useless facts to memorize and then forget by the time she turns 16, or 18, or 23.  Useless facts can be good for cognitive function, memory development etc. but I want to teach her things she can apply to LIFE!

In trying to strike a balance between curriculum and life, we’ve found that we can hit all “curriculum” areas, and easily log them, if we make sure to emphasize certain concepts.

Formal Curriculum Use:

Each day we do at least two ‘formal’ curriculum activities. We do a formal math activity, which is a written math exercise. I like to do 2 pages for Sarah. She blows right through them, even with the difficult concepts! What a Math centered child she is! We also do a formal Reading/Writing exercise. Which usually includes one of these, a book read aloud, a writing exercise, a journaling activity, a McGuffy’s Primer Lesson, Or a Reading Comprehension exercise. We do mostly the McGuffys, but on some days we stop to do a Reading Comprehension, and often when we do a HUGE science project, we journal about it, and practice 1st grade science related Vocabulary words.

Several days a week we do other formal Curriculum activities. For Science we use “The World God Made” By Edward J. Shewan, and “History for Little Pilgrims” by Christian Liberty Press. These have overarching themes and build on prior knowledge.

Every day we try to do a Bible activity. We use the Bible itself, studying passages that apply to daily life, such as Eph. 6, Matthew 18, and whatever else we deal with daily that we need scriptural exegesis to find principles to live by. If we aren’t having a day where that is the focus, we may review Proverbs (we try to listen to each Proverbs every day, so that by the end of the school year they are at least familiar, if not memorized.) We also supplement with a Catechism Book called “Small Talks on Big Questions” which is a classical catechism approach. On most days we also study AWANA verses.

“Unschooling”

This is the fun aspect of homeschooling! The unschooling doesn’t mean that they aren’t schooled, but that concepts and ideas are reinforced in everyday life, and not JUST in curriculum activities. It is a philosophy of purposeful living, catching those “teaching moments” in the act, and using them as a moment to encourage thought, skill building, or the forming of good habits. For instance, We don’t just do a formal review of the Bible, it is mentioned, quoted, referred to, spoken of, and lived by in every aspect of daily life. For instance: If somebody is being mean to the cat we discuss what Leviticus has to say about animal cruelty. Or If someone throws trash on the floor, and is asked to “think of others needs higher than self.”  so that they learn to be considerate and consider the need to keep our home tidy!

Apple Picking is a yearly activity for our family. We’ve gone from picking apples at orchards, to growing our own fruit trees in our backyard.

  • Math: this is reinforced in things such as cooking, portion sizing, dividing up legos fairly when playing, setting a timer to clean up the toys, figuring out how long it will take to drive to Grandma’s, counting out coins for a grocery store purchase, choosing how many potatoes to bake for dinner (if there are 5 of us, and everyone gets 2 how many should we bake?) Organizing toys for put away, how much can I fit into that bin? etc.
  • Reading: This one is my favorite! Reading a headline on a news article, the words in their favorite cartoons “Hey MOM! That says DANGER!EXPLOSIVES!” A funny picture on facebook with a caption, trying to decipher what that sign says, how much those peanuts cost at the grocery store, what does this book say? How do I navigate the menu on the DVD player and/or Netflix? Who is calling us on the phone? The possibilities are endless and change daily. It is just a matter of noting, and making the most of, the use of text in our daily lives. Fluent readers don’t even realize how much we read, until you have an inquisitive 6 year old beside you saying “Mom? What does that say?”
  • Science: This one is a whopper! Things such as cleaning out a pumpkin to cook, picking apples, caring for the garden, finding a caterpillar, discussing the pregnant cat’s gestational cycle, why the woodstove makes our house warm, how to prevent a fire, how to start a fire in the stove safely, why ice cubes freeze, melt, what happens when we mix a batch of wet ingredients, add heat, then they are done? Making Christmas presents for relatives, etc etc. Collections in the backyard (Hey Mom! I found 500

    Ren Faire Costumes sewn when the girls were little.

    rocks!) (Hey Mom! I brought in a WHOLE PILE of leaves!) (Mom! Look! The cat killed this mouse and ate half of it! What is THAT?!)  It can be gross, difficult to explain, but terribly fun and adventurous, if you’re willing to stop the gag reflex long enough to explain!

  • Social Studies: The outright lie  erm… myth, that homeschoolers are socially inept is just laughable. The opportunities for social development within a homeschooling framework are much more rich and diverse than the day in and out peer dependent framework of a traditional school setting. On a regular basis homeschooled children can participate in church services, group functions (of ALL ages! birth to 100!) donation efforts for Christmas, emergencies, etc. They can, and do, interact with that lady at the store, my co worker and employers (I clean homes on the side, and sometimes they come with me.) cashiers, teachers, our Pastor, their friends on play dates, special events such as plays, gatherings, etc. They know how to interact with new babies, young toddlers, other children their age, older children, teenagers, adults, etc. They talk to the friendly couple at the restaurant, manage the business interaction at the grocery store, post office, gas station etc. They also join me at the bank, when meeting with our tenant, viewing our property, and other business activities. They see, learn, and participate in many different social situations as they grow, and mature into new roles and opportunities.

    Pumpkin Cleaning, something we do EVERY year to prepare for all the holiday goodies we will gladly bake!

  • History:This is just a regular thing for us. I am SUCH a history buff it isn’t even funny! We sew costumes, attend the Ren Faire on occasion when the wallet allows… Or we watch movies with a historical setting (I am a HUGE Jane Austen Fan!) We discuss the differences in social niceties, items available (Mom! What DO they do without TV?!) food preparation… etc etc. I am also a huge fan of museums, field trips etc. It is HIGHLY likely that we do more field trips than most folks. I just LOVE them! I also have become quite adept at finding free/cheap places to go

    Every year we spend all of Spring preparing our garden for what will hopefully be a full summer of fruits, vegetables, berries, and beautiful flowers!

    .

  • The Arts: This is also something I am vastly interested in. The children are always on the lookout for new ballets available in full online, or on Netflix. The Nutcracker and Swan Lake are the current favorites. They also enjoy local band and orchestra concerts. We make it a point to find out when and where we can attend those. Each time the kids give their own pop quiz on instruments, their sounds, uses, and distinctive qualities. Hopefully, as God provides, we can add into that a bevy of personal music lessons. The dream right now is for a violin. We’ll see! 🙂
  • Documentaries:This has a category all of its own! The girls are avid fans of Dirty Jobs, How Its Made, MythBusters, Discovery Channel Documentaries, The Creatures That Defy Evolution series etc etc. They are more likely to request these things than Superman, (1942 cartoons, I’m SO into classics!) Rocky and Bullwinkle, or PopEye. If they want to spend an hour a day watching documentaries on Ancient Egypt rather than Blue’s Clues, I’m totally cool with that!Overall this combination of Curriculum led activities and “unschooling” methods with purposeful teaching has led to some pretty fun “ah HA!” moments, and an education that isn’t just a passive submission to a plethora of facts being stuffed into one’s brain, but an experience that lasts a lifetime, and teaches an application of theory that has more longevity than any test, quiz, or other paper and pen application of education! And, it starts long before any of the children are “of school age.”

“But I’m not ready to be sorry yet!”

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“But I’m not ready to be sorry yet!”

Saturday, depending on the week hovers between a cleaning day, and a day to go to parties. This week, it was cleaning day! We had a few wonderful experiences, in which the children were very helpful, like this one that I put on my facebook this morning:

While cleaning the kitchen and putting the groceries away, I gave Emma a box of cans, and asked her to put them in the pantry one by one. Emma tried to pick the WHOLE box up, (rather than one at a time… typical Emma. ♥) and dropped them. Sarah swept into action: “Here! I’ll help you! Lets all line up and put them away, it’ll be faster that way!” She and Emma took an end of the box each, carried them over closer to the pantry, then Sarah lined everyone up, Emma, Ava, and herself, and started a canned foods brigade! Haha! *Totally* the oldest child! I was SO proud of her leadership, kindness, and organization!

It was a heartening moment where all the training came to fruition, and the children worked together as a team! I was in heaven! However, these aren’t the *only* moments in this house! Later this afternoon we had another one in which I realized I was in a position to teach Emma some very important doctrinal ideas.

Emma was asked to empty the silverware container from the dishwasher. This, among tidying up her room, making her bed, wiping the table after dinner, and cleaning up her toys after play, is one of her own chores. This is a non negotiable task. It has to be done at least once a day, or no one will have any dishes to eat off of! Emma said “Ok, ok, I will do it!” then continued to play. I gave her a minute to comply, and when she didn’t, I then reminded her of the task, giving her one chance to correct her behavior on her own. “I’m going! I’m going Mom!”and yet, she sat. Playing. Uh oh. We’ve definitely entered disobedient territory!
I took her into my lap, and told her she was being naughty. I took her toys away, and told her she was being disciplined. She had lost her privilege of play. She cried bitterly, upset at being interrupted tangibly.

“Are you ready to say sorry, Emma, and do your job?” I asked.
“But I’m just NOT ready to say sorry!” She said, and folded her arms across her chest.

“Then you may sit here, without your toys until you are ready to do what needs to be done.”

She began to cry “But I want you to forgive me and hug me!”

I told her I gladly would, all she had to do was realize what she had done, and apologize. Not knowing how to put it in her terms, I said: “I love you, but you can’t be forgiven until you say sorry!”

Then I thought, ‘Can I say that, is that true?’ How do I explain to a child that although in my heart, I have forgiven her, and all she has to do is realize there is a sin to be forgiven, acknowledge that, and accept my forgiveness?
Isn’t it just like that with God? He has forgiven us, offered a sacrifice in our place, but it does nothing to us, or for us, until we see our own sin, its effects in our life, and surrender that sin nature to him? Here I was, at an impasse with my 4 year old daughter, just like the one I had been in with God a few years ago, but here I sat on the other side.

I believed for the longest time that because of grace, God loved me no matter what I did. I often excused my bad behavior this way. My terrible marriage, my halfhearted mothering, and my selfish ambition in my own career. I took refuge in a feel good church culture where sin has no weight, and God’s Grace makes it ok. I don’t know how to explain, but I justified my behavior with a selfish idea of God serving me, a cosmic vending machine to whom I prayed only when it got financially dicey. I was not made for God, God was made for me.  I forgot what Paul said about God’s Grace in Romans 5 and 6:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
(Romans 6:1-4 ESV)

We must walk in newness of life. That what our old self was, a slave to sin, must no longer be a slave to sin!

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 6:20-23 ESV)

To be sanctified, to be new, to be God’s, is to die to our own wants, our own ideas, our own sin. This is a heavy 2 chapters. It is, in a nutshell, what our family has been learning, living, for about 2-3 years now. We forget SO many times in today’s lukewarm churches that grace is received *after* repentance! We are nailed to the wall by this idea that “God gave the chance of salvation to EVERYONE!” And so he did, but there is the matter of the Holy Spirit producing that conviction in each heart. Salvation doesn’t just happen to the whole world instantaneously because Christ died and rose again. Salvation happens when we die and resurrect with him! When we say no to self and yes to God. But first we must die to sin.  We must put God’s Glory first, and take his Word seriously when it comes to sin.  As Paul says in this passage:
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

(Romans 6:12-18 ESV)

We have forgotten in this current culture to reject sin, in our own lives, in our own families, in our own homes. We have forgotten that sin has no dominion over us. This doesn’t mean we should be out there holding everyone else accountable, 24/7, but that we should be living such a life that it is clear who owns us. Our life, our choices, they affect others. This goes from parenting, to politics, to how we eat, what we say, what we watch, how we dress. In being sanctified, all of God’s Word is useful in ALL areas of life. ALL of God’s Word.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
This was written in a time when ALL scripture included the books of law. The gospels hadn’t been added to the canon of scripture yet, nor had Paul’s letters. We forget as a church, and as individuals what a light we carry as God’s children, and as ‘slaves to righteousness.’ We are placed here, in grace, to glorify him, not gratify ourselves! And he has equipped us for such a task with his Word, and the Holy Spirit.

Now I did end up sorting things out with Emma, and oddly enough, that included a good nap! Haha! A little grace and mercy  extended to Emma on my part, but there is where grace and mercy come in. They are not expected, demanded, or taken. They are gifts. God gives them to us. We claim them, yes, but they are still his gifts, and nothing to do with our own actions. Remember as you live out a life under God’s grace, that your presence in this poisoned sinful culture is a tangible reminder to others of God’s grace, and the truth of his Word.

Birth Story- Emma

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Birth Story- Emma

With Emma, I also suffered three weeks of “false labor” but had enough sense this time to forego 5 or more hospital visits that were unneeded. A few days before she was due, I went in for my normal prenatal check up in the early morning. Thanks to checking my dilation, I started to spot. The Dr. told me that at 3 cm dilated with spotting, he’d be surprised if I didn’t go that very day.

I went home to “wait it out” (this is why I love my Doctor!) and promptly decided that NOW was a fantastic time to re organize ALL of the closets in my house! I ripped all of them out, put them ALL back together. Still I was spotting! at 4pm the Doctor called to find out how I was doing. When I told him I was still spotting and cleaning out my closets, he told me to get to the hospital NOW considering my quick labor during the last pregnancy.

My husband had just gone to work (at the local deli,) and so I called him, all frantic
“Honey the Dr. says I’m in labor! Hurry back home, it is time to take me in!”
“Ok! I’ll clean up and be there in ten minutes!”
I waited. 10 minutes…
15 minutes…
I called my Mother in Law to tell her to come get my 22 month old, Sarah.
20 minutes…
I called again. My husband answered.
“What are you STILL doing there?!”
“Well, a lady came and ordered a hoagie, so I made it for her, and my coworker said I gotta find a replacement before I leave, so I found one, she’ll be in soon.”

Needless to say, that isn’t where the conversation ended, I was in labor and I was MAD.

After that unpleasant scene, I hung up the phone.  I promptly grabbed my 22 month old, the hospital bag, and in a huff of indignant fury, I began to WALK, carrying both! I walked a mile down a hill, and a man from my workplace passed me in his car. I hid my face, knowing full well he would try to pick me up and give me a ride. NOT in the mood for that right now! I was headed to the Hospital! When I had just made it a mile down the road, both my husband AND my Mother in Law showed up. My Mother in law took our 22 month old, Sarah, and my husband popped me in the car.

We went straight to the hospital, where I asked for an epidural IMMEDIATELY. I was NOT skipping out on one this time!  I was roughly 5 cm when we got there. 4 hours and 10 minutes later, we had a healthy happy Emma weighing in at 7 lbs 8 oz. She had beautiful Blue eyes and Blonde hair. heart

 

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Sibling Conflicts From Matthew 18 Weekly Goals: Part 2

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Sibling Conflicts From Matthew 18 Weekly Goals: Part 2

So since I got a bit long winded yesterday, I turned this into a 2 parter to discuss this week’s goals. This past week, Raising Olives had a question and answer post. In this post she linked to another, older post of hers, on solving sibling squabbles. This is an issue that grows as they grow! And I was beginning to wonder, if like in many other areas of life, I’ve allowed bad habits to form. I have it much easier with Ava, and Isaiah, because with these two, we are starting from scratch. I don’t have to break a bad habit and replace it, I just start a good habit. This has been proven in Ava’s response to things which I found terribly difficult with Sarah. When you expect specific things from a young age, children have a way of rising to the occasion! When you expect it suddenly at an older age, they (as we adults sometimes do!) have a much harder time of making it a normal behavior. Change is HARD! But, in this case, change is necessary! Sibling squabbles can’t continue as they have, or things will deteriorate as more kids arrive into the Sacks Brood! Must. Get. A. Handle. On. This. NOW!

Now, second lesson I’ve learned is I never have a handle on ANYTHING! This is where God comes in. First thing to do? Get on my knees. I know the particular passage that Raising Olives mentioned in her post: Matthew 18. In fact, I’ve quoted it a lot myself in other quarrels with adults, and issues within my extended family. My husband and I have discussed it at length in solving issues with others when it comes to disagreements over life choices. (and believe me, we have PLENTY of those! Lately we’ve become quite a lightning rod for that. But that is another story!) I never, oddly, considered it as a principle to teach my young children. This is where I find I failed in the early years of mothering. Applying scripture correctly, on their level, and faithfully. But at that time in my life, scripture was only referenced when it was useful, and inspirational. Time to roll my sleeves up, and apply scripture liberally!

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So how can we apply Matthew 18 to our little girls, 6, 4, and 22 months?

Well. First we read it. A friend recommended ESV for little kids, the language is clear, concise, and doesn’t lose its weight in trying to be simple either.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17

We break it down, often right when it is most applicable. I started this week, and am already noticing an uptick in peaceful negotiations! 🙂

It goes like this:

Sarah: BUT I WANT THAT TOY!

Emma: But I want it TOO!

We stop, separate, and often, I encourage some kind of positive physical contact with somebody. Me, or the other child. If it is especially heated, they are encouraged to hold hands with me. This might change as they get older, but when they are little, it has an instant calming effect. The toy in question is set in a neutral place until the argument is settled. It acts as a motivation to settle.

We start with confrontation. “What is your problem with your sister?” Each child takes a turn stating their issue. The other child is asked to consider it in terms of selflessness, not selfishness. If we’re still resisting, often we quote this scripture at this point: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

If there are other sin issues, a stolen toy for example, those are also dealt with immediately, the offending child is asked to state what the Biblical law is on that point. Should we hurt? Should we Steal? What does God say? Often, this reminder is enough to solve the issue on the spot. The offending child hands the toy over, apologizes, and they are encouraged to hug or otherwise comfort the other crying sibling.

We’ve also asked each child to apologize when sin is present. I have been told many times in my teaching days that forcing a child to apologize is wrong. But the Bible has a different standard than the world. In some cases of law, apology isn’t even enough! Restitution is needed. If a child repeats the offense of stealing, in some cases, they will be asked to provide restitution. (You took her toy, now you must give hers back, AND one of yours.”) If that doesn’t stop the stealing in its tracks, we take time alone together to address the heart issue, maybe it is envy, covetousness, and I try to be aware of what that child is doing constantly.

Part of the apology process is the healing. A quick hug, a word of forgiveness, and all is over, and everyone happily returns to play. If we still have some petulance on one side or another, it still isn’t resolved, and we move back to square one. Oddly enough, Although Ava needs constant prompts, and nudges to properly complete an argument, Sarah and Emma have caught on quickly, and do attempt to solve it themselves in some cases. 50% of the time I am not asked, and don’t need to intervene. If they can’t solve it on their own following these steps, they come and get me, and ask me. (Getting a third party, as per verse16) Usually then, before I go and intervene, the child who approaches me is confronted on her sin. “What happened?” The child may tell a tale of woe where the other child will not give her a desired toy. “Are you being selfish, and putting your wants before hers?” Sometimes, that even makes my intervention unnecessary. If the problem is really a heart issue with child no. 1, it can stop there, and they play on happily.

Although every situation, every argument is different, what really blows my mind is how scripture has a principle, a word of wisdom for each one of them. It reminds me of that moment in Matthew 22 where a young lawyer tries to trap Jesus into a disregard for some portion of the law, and fails:

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)

Everything depends on loving God first, and loving your neighbor as yourself, putting their needs on par with your own. Oddly enough, almost all (in fact, I might say all) of the arguments we confront in our home have to do with either selfishness or pride, or a combination.

(Mom, you might be laughing right now, because as I type this, I can hear you saying that to us as we all sit in the back of that big van, arms folded across our chests, rolling our eyeballs at your latest mention of selfishness and pride!)

Arguments are by no means gone, or as well handled as I’d like yet (after all, we’re only a week into applying Matthew 18! Although we’ve been using restitution as a consequence for a year now, and apologies have always been expected.) We aren’t perfect, and kids struggle, just as adults do, with selfishness and sin. But using this goal as a working point, and teaching the children to meet this standard is making a difference, and I am hoping with perseverance and hard work will become a life long habit.

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Bringing them up in the Nurture and Admonition of the Lord – Weekly Goals Part 1

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Bringing them up in the Nurture and Admonition of the Lord – Weekly Goals Part 1

I’m going to try and start a new series, something to keep me accountable, on our weekly goals in applying one, or two scriptural principles to our family life. This will be a prod on the rear on a weekly basis to keep up with teaching my children not only the Word of God, but why he gave it to us in the first place! God’s Word applies to ALL of life, and when we let the Holy Spirit convict us in an area in which we are failing miserably, he can work wonders through God’s Word, to change not only our daily life, but our attitude as well. The principle for today applies to all of us, all the time. Obedience is its own blessing when it comes to God’s Word. Choosing to sin, is choosing to suffer.

The children and I have been focusing on scripture lately as a means to manage the difficulties of life, and believe me, we fail often. We aren’t perfect by any means, but that is why God gave us his grace, his mercy, and his Word, right?
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There are several people in my life who have challenged me to live by scriptural principles and see the change it brings. The two scriptural principles we have been working on this week are toughies.

No. 1
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
(Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV)

As a child, I always found that first verse uncomfortable and angering. I had other ideas that eclipsed my ‘parents’ ideas, and I chafed under the umbrella of obedience, looking out at the world with wonder, curiosity, and envy.
As a parent, I began with admonishing my children with the first part of this passage, but strangely uncomfortable by the second part. What did it mean “Do not provoke your children.”? They WILL be upset sometimes when we ask them to obey. As my oldest got older and older, and the seeds of rebellion are beginning to grow (at 6!) I’m understanding more what this means.

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So we all sat down together and talked over this passage, and I felt more taught by my daughter’s perspective, than I was teaching her! The first part, we discussed the blessing of obedience, that God promised a blessing for those who obey. We also talked about why sometimes, we don’t want to obey, and when that has turned sour, or become a problem. Setting the stage has made it easier this week to ask the children, in a tough moment “What does God’s Word say about obedience?” Which can cause them to rethink their actions, not because of MY command, but because of God’s command. Obedience is its own blessing!

This leads to the second part of the passage. The parental part. This is where exasperating your children comes in. Hearing my children talk about why they didn’t want to obey clicked with something someone else had said to me. “Are you asking them to obey YOU and your whims, or God and his law?” I don’t know where I heard that, in a book, or from a friend, but no matter the source, the thought stuck.

As my children described not wanting to obey because I was angry, mean, or demanding, I realized how often I place the emphasis of their obedience on MY satisfaction. I also realized that in doing so, I was exasperating them, provoking them. I wasn’t asking them to obey cheerfully the law of the Lord, or to avoid a threat to their safety, I was displaying annoyance with their childish foolishness. I wasn’t teaching them with an attitude of humility, but an attitude of ‘this isn’t serving ME and MY needs.’ I need to acquire an attitude of humility, and walk beside them as a guide, a teacher, in learning God’s laws, and part of that is being honest when I fail, and apologizing for my failures as a parent. How can I expect my children to obey God’s Word, and show self control when asked to obey, when I do not do it myself? I’m slowly learning that my example of Godliness colors their perception of it. That is a BIG responsibility!

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So, lets look at the parent’s portion: (I prefer the King James version, so I’ll quote that here.) “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
(Ephesians 6:4 KJV)

So we’ve got a two part command here. We shouldn’t provoke them to anger. that is part one, we’ve covered that. Now for part two. Bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Nurture: This is the love part. being patient, understanding their human sin, and pointing them in the direction of grace and mercy as they get back up and recover from the consequences of their sin. This includes direct instruction in what God expects from his children. Giving them scriptural examples for specific situations, (part two of this week’s goals, which comes from Matthew 18, applies to this. We are learning how to solve conflicts Biblically, and so, when they have a conflict, I should, as a parent, intentionally train them in the way the scripture commands. I should walk them through the conflict, and train them lovingly. This takes perseverance, hard work, and doesn’t happen with one discussion. It is a constant maintenance of this particular procedure of Biblical principles.)

Admonition: This is the harder one. Admonition means “advice, counsel, or caution.” or “A gentle reproof.” In other words, this is when we warn our children. “Sarah, if you try to pick up that broken glass, you will cut yourself. Do not touch it!” Sometimes, if the warning is not listened to, and I am not quick enough to prevent the inappropriate behavior, there are consequences, natural or otherwise. This is the hard part of parenting. The training has been completed, this is the reminder that the training is valid. Perhaps my child may pick up the glass, and cut herself. That is a natural consequence. In the past (and this did happen once) I spent the clean up and band aid application asking Sarah about how disobedience worked out for her, and reminding her of the blessing of obedience, that she chose to forego. Next time, I will say “Do you want to be blessed, or hurt again?” It is a natural reminder that Mom and Dad, in following God’s laws, are wanting the best for her.

Now, there are those other times that require admonishment, because the natural consequences may either a.) take longer or b.) not be enough.

“Go to bed Emma, you’ll be tired if you do not.” If Emma doesn’t listen, she has other consequences, parent driven ones. She is placed in her bed over and over again, and not allowed to remain out of it. This may be coupled with a stern warning. “If you do not obey, then you will (lose movies for tomorrow.)”

For littles, the consequences are usually more tangible, like a gentle swat on the hand if they reach for something they shouldn’t.  It is enough of a reminder that they stop.

“Ava, don’t touch that food, it is hot!” Ava reaches for the food, there is a gentle swat and a no. This hasn’t happened often. It really only took once for it to occur to her it wasn’t worth it. Now when she hears the word hot, we’ve taught her to blow on her food. She’ll sit and blow and blow and blow until a go ahead is given. It is too cute!

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We have noticed that in requiring obedience from them, and gentle warnings as per God’s law, not our own personal whims and moods, we have happy healthy children. It is consistent, predictable, and built on an unchanging standard, that is not my standard, it is God’s Word. They have realized the blessings that accompany obedience. We have found that there are many  blessings, such as happy family outings, natural rewards for obedient children, like extra play time because work was done quickly and efficiently, or a bit of playground time after church, because everyone sat beautifully, not to mention my favorites, lots of praise, hugs, and kisses, are often a good motivator.
This doesn’t mean we are perfect, and that no one is ever disobedient, cranky, nasty, or unkind, we are human, and we still sin! But following God’s plan can often times minimize, and marginalize sin, and its painful consequences.

Well, I’ve used up so much space writing this, I guess our second goal for the week: Family Friendly Conflicts, as per Matthew 18, will have to be a second parter for tomorrow, or even next week!

Birth Story- Sarah

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Birth Story- Sarah

Over the next three weeks I’ll be doing a “Birth Stories” Series. Each Thursday one of my birth stories will be posted!  Feel free to share YOUR birth stories in the comments! Then, by March, I’ll have a whole NEW birth story posted!

First, a little Background. When I was pregnant with Sarah, I was a very young 18. I turned 19 halfway through the pregnancy, but I was terrified of being a Mom so young. As you can tell, by God’s grace, I’ve grown quite a bit  since then, and Motherhood suits me just fine! In fact, I enjoyed it so much, that since my husband I got married (slightly after Sarah’s first birthday.) we’ve managed to go on and have a few more children! Each one is a special blessing in our family, and hold a special place in our heart.

Someday I will write down our whole family testimony (in parts, it is too long to do in one post!) for you all, but until then, hopefully you enjoy the birth stories! Sarah’s is the shortest and most to the point, because my memory of it is a bit blurred due to the meds they had me on. I’ve heard stories about some of the exclamations I made regarding child birth, and women who went on to have more than one! It is funny now, but at the time I was quite scared, and quite inexperienced! As a result the entire memory of the experience is blurry, and filled with a general taste of fear. So here goes!

Our first baby, Sarah, was a week late. The Doctors didn’t want me to ruminate too long in pregnancy. I went in to be given pitocen, but thanks to weeks of “False” labor, I was already pretty far along without even knowing it! (5cm dilated.)

During the many “false labor” scares in the three weeks prior,we had a lot of runs to the hospital with nurses and doctors shaking their heads in amusement, and sending me home. But when it was for real, we were all surprised! I didn’t even feel the contractions that were registering on the machine. But, I wasn’t moving along at a fast enough pace, and so they broke my water, and gave me the pitocen.

Shortly after that the contractions were whoppers! Between contractions my husband (then fiance) and I played rummy, and just hung out. At one point in the game, exactly ONE hand from me winning (I had a decent lead.) The contractions got so bad we had to stop the game. My husband I dispute this part of the labor. I insist it was the ONLY game of Rummy I have ever beaten him at! After all, my score was higher, and we had to stop to have a baby! He maintains that since the game wasn’t completed, he maintains his tidy record of undefeated. This piece of family history may well remain in dispute until the day I die…  😉

I was determined NOT to get an epidural, but within an hour of the big bad pitocen contractions showing their faces, I was requesting it, and none too politely either… (during labor, I am not a very nice person…) I finally got the epidural, but to my chagrin, it wasn’t working! Within minutes of getting it, I had dilated to 9-10cm, and it was time to push! Within 15 minutes, Sarah was out! She was all of 9 lbs 7 oz. (Which I never let ANYONE forget!) The epidural kicked in, just in time for labor clean up. Oh the irony.

All told, that was 5 hours of labor, 15 minutes of pushing for Miss Sarah, She had GORGEOUS Red hair and BIG brown eyes.
I have a lot of toddler pictures, but not a lot of “baby pictures” on digital copies yet: Here is Sarah the toddler!

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