Wrapping up 2012

What a year 2012 has been! We began the year in our home in Washington, enjoying the snowy winter (including a 10-inch snowfall and power loss!). In March, life changed dramatically when Mark lost his job and we felt God tell us it was time to move to Idaho. What a huge and fast change for our family! In 3 weeks time we had completely relocated. Our summer was a fun time of bike riding, pool play, shaved ice, and exploring our new town. Things were starting to settle down a bit, and then came our crazy, busy fall, complete with the discovery that were would be having a fifth child! Now we are wrapping up the end of the year, and getting ready to begin hosting a Messianic home fellowship in less than a week. What a wild year our family has had!

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These questions were posted by one of my mentors, Sally Clarkson, this morning on her blog, http://itakejoy.com. I thought they were a good, concise list of things to meditate on as we wrap up this year and move into the next.

The first question addresses stress. What source of stress in my life can I eliminate as I go into the next year? I think for me, my biggest source of stress is sleep deprivation. I am always tired. And for the most part, I bring it on myself by staying up to late. Ugh. This is something Mark and I have been struggling with for a long time, and I feel like I will never know my full potential until I master my sleep habits. It’s a major goal for this year!

The second one is hard to answer. I don’t feel like I do much to please others. I have one volunteer position that I’ve had for a long time now, and I’ve thought about taking it off my plate, as the commitment causes some stress to myself and the kids. But honestly, it’s one of the only things that I do outside of my family and friends, so I feel like it’s important to maintain a healthy perspective. I have to figure a few things out in that arena.

The next question is a good one to think about. My biggest goal for my children this year is to help them learn to resolve conflicts between each other without my constant mediating. My older two are just starting to understand this concept, but they often default to coming to me first. I’m looking forward to helping them work on their communication skills and empathy with each other.

The word that comes to mind with question four is Grace. I want my children to understand that while we try to do what is right, we serve a God who freely gives grace to His children. And I know I definitely need to work on giving more grace to my kids as well!

And now, I must get back to my little crew. 🙂 Happy New Year to you and yours, and may your 2013 be blessed!

~Judy

Journeys of Thankfulness

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Every feel like your life is one giant roller coaster?  I do. Lately it totally feels like I’ve been on a roller coaster ride, and not one of those new smooth ones – one of the old-style wooden ones that constantly shakes, even when you’ve slowed down a bit! And I’m not a fan of roller coasters either. I don’t like feeling out of control, I don’t like that feeling of shaking up my insides. I usually only ride them to appease the people I’m with. And when I’m done, I don’t feel that, “Wow, I did it!” feeling – I just feel sick and unsettled.

Such has been my life. On the outside, I’m doing my best to keep it together, to maintain some sense of normal – mostly for the sake of my kids. But on the inside I feel like one more twist on the rails and I’m going to lose my lunch.

(For some context, here’s the update on me/baby: Since my last entry here, I have continued to have unexplainable bleeding issues, to the point that my midwife has referred me to an OB. Hopefully I’ll be seeing him asap and getting some answers.)

This week was the beautiful holiday of Thanksgiving – a day we set aside to focus on something that we should be doing daily – giving thanks. And I’ll be honest, I really wasn’t feeling it this year! I don’t think I realized just how much I was struggling until Thanksgiving came and I actually sat down to think about it. I’m struggling with a lot of feelings that, as a follower of God, I should be overcoming. Fear, anxiety, inadequacy, incompetancy, and of course, sheer exhaustion.

I’ve been trying to talk to God about it too, but even that has been so hard, because I just feel so lost. In the stress of everything, I’ve neglected my quiet time, which makes me feel so far away from God.

But I think He designed this morning’s Shabbat service just for me. 🙂 Our friend, Ken, spoke on how we don’t have to work to get to God’s presence, or try to find it somehow in our own power, but He is always there – right there with us. And then Rabbi Hylan spoke on thankfulness when it’s hard, when your feelings aren’t with you. It was exactly, precisely what I needed to hear this morning! It was so encouraging, so full of hope. And so honoring – that God used these men in this worship service in another state to minister to my exact needs. I was brought to tears more than once.

And now? I guess I try to take some joy in the roller coaster for as long as it lasts. Soak up the smiles in my kids’ faces, the new words my daughter is learning, hearing my son sing worship music at the top of his lungs in his adorable toddler voice, and cherish every moment.

And I think it’s okay to pray for the ride to be over soon too! ;-D

Heart Changes and Thankfulness

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged!  I love blogging, but the first trimester of pregnancy has kind of hit me like a mack truck, and I just haven’t been able to take the time for it.  But something happened last weekend that I want to write about before emotions and memories start to fade.

{Content warning: Some slightly graphic content below.}

Things with my pregnancy had been going like I’ve always experienced in the first trimester.  I’m blessed to have fairly easy pregnancies, and have never had morning sickness to the point of vomiting.  I do have some nausea and a lot of food aversions, but my main challenge is fatigue.  I wake up exhausted, struggle to get meals on the table throughout the day, and try my best to lay down and rest at some point in the afternoon.  It’s rough, but not totally unmanageable.  And it fades after the first trimester.

Emotionally, I have still been struggling with frustration about going through another pregnancy, and ambivalence regarding the baby himself.  The bitterness I experienced when I first found out that I was pregnant has faded, but I have been having a hard time taking joy in the life growing inside of me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Last Friday, I was enjoying a lovely tea party with my beautiful daughter in her room after dinner.  We were having a great time together, reading and drinking tea out of the miniature tea set that I had when I was a girl, when I suddenly felt like I was having an incontinence issue.  I got up to use the bathroom, only to find that I was dripping blood.  It was scary. I got cleaned up and went downstairs to spend the rest of the evening on the couch.  I called my mom, my mother-in-law, my midwife, and sent emails to several friends to ask for immediate prayer.  I was having some cramping as well, which was also very unnerving, as bleeding with cramping has a much higher risk of miscarriage.  I did some googling (bad idea, by the way, if you’re concerned about a very scary possible outcome!), and just sat in shock for a long time.

I had so many thoughts going on in my mind.

Am I losing this baby?
What is this going to be like?
Why?
Am I really going to lose this baby after finally coming to grips with this pregnancy?
Is this happening because I wasn’t thankful enough for this baby?
Will we have another child?

Anyway, I spent the evening on “bedrest” and praying – for protection for my baby and for peace for me.  It was a quiet, somber night.  By morning, the bleeding had slowed dramatically and darkened in color (meaning no new fresh bleeding) – both of which were good signs.  I called my midwife who made plans to come by that afternoon and see if she could find a heartbeat.  I spent the morning on the couch, trying to allow the Lord to calm my fears, working on trusting that my baby and me were in His most capable hands.

Donna, my midwife, arrived just after 3pm.  She pulled out the Doppler and went to work to find my tiny babe.  And miracle of miracles, there it was! The most beautiful sound I have ever heard – the quick “lub-lub-lub-lub” of a tiny baby heartbeat.  Ahhh… 🙂  Donna told me that there are many reasons why the bleeding may have occurred, but at this point, all that mattered was that our baby was perfectly fine.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now that the scary part is behind me, I have realized that this scare was really a gift from God.   Before last weekend, my feelings regarding the baby inside of me ranged from resignation to ambivalence.  Now, however, I feel this amazing thankfulness that the baby is safe and well.  I feel protective and possessive (in a good way!) about this baby – my baby – who I am growing inside of me.  And I am so thankful that I was able to experience this shift in emotions.  It is a gift.

Anyway, I wanted to share this experience with you.  All of us, at some point, struggle with an aspect of our lives that seems like more than we can handle, or something we don’t necessarily want to deal with.  And we can choose how we react to it.  What kind of feelings do we foster?  How do we direct our thoughts?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~Philippians 4:8

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

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

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. ~2 Corinthians 10:5

Many blessings to you, this week and always!

– Judy

Pregnancy + Co-Sleeping + Refusing Solids = Sleepless Nights

As you can guess by the title of this post, we have had our share of sleepless nights around here. Last night was just awful. I was up most of the night with Avigail, until my dear husband sent me to the guest room to get a couple of hours of sleep before the day began. 

I’ve always been a huge proponant of attachment parenting, ever since Eliza was born. I’ve been able to enjoy the priceless fruit of parenting through connection with each of my kids as they’ve grown. And I’ve never regretted my decision – truly, I haven’t!

Many look at AP from the outside and think that all of us crazy AP moms must reach a point where we just completely snap – that this lifestyle is impossible to maintain for the long-term. And speaking from 6 years of experience, there is some truth to that thought. If you let yourself become ruled by certain “AP Rules”, burnout is inevitable.

That’s why Attachment Parenting International has its principle #8: Strive For Balance in Personal and Family Life. And this is what I’m going to be focusing on in my own life this week.

I love co-sleeping – I really do. We have been sharing our room (and our bed) with our children since Eliza was born, at one point having a family bedroom for all 6 of us! I love having everyone I love most gathered in one room all night. And I love how easy it makes nursing. Baby wakes and fusses slightly, mama latches baby on and drifts back off to sleep. It’s awesome.

But with every pregnancy comes that lovely feeling of being completely over-touched and exhausted, and co-sleeping loses its charm for a season. With each of my pregnancies, I have chosen to night-wean my toddler. This helps a lot with my overwhelmed feelings and allows me a bit more sleep. So a couple of weeks ago we decided to begin night-weaning Avigail.

With each of our other kids, night weaning was hard for a few days, then things clicked and sleep-filled nights ensued. But Avigail is a different story! First of all, she hardly eats solid food. She is perfectly healthy, but requires night nursing to maintain a high enough calorie intake. Secondly, she absolutely loves me at night. Our other kids were ok with having Mark help put them back to sleep (which helps avoid the nursing issue), but she gets SO mad! And her stamina is incredible. She cried and fussed (with us, not alone) for the majority of the night last night. And it seems like things are getting worse, not better. 🙁

So, all that to say that figuring this dilemma out has quickly become my highest priority. My first step is to my darndest to find food she will eat. I must get those calories into her during the day! We might introduce a sippy of cow’s milk too if need be. Mark volunteered to take her next weekend to try the night-weaning boot camp again. So I’ve got until then to get the food thing figured out.

Anyway, I know that this whole scenario might sound a bit foreign to some AP families, but it all goes back to balance. It is so important.

How do you find balance in your parenting life? Do share with us! 🙂

This Crazy, Beautiful Life

It’s been a crazy, busy month here in our home! In the past month, I have taken 3 trips out-of-state, leaving my kids (except Avigail) for the first and second times. It has been challenging, but it has been good. Even my trip to Minnesota for my uncle’s funeral was a good trip – getting to be there with my family for this difficult time was priceless.

Now that I’m home, we’re working on getting back into a routine.  We’ve restarted school again after a 3-week break.  I’m so thankful that my home was kept in great shape (thanks especially to my wonderful mom-in-law!), but I’m trying to get caught up on the random chores that tend to get neglected when I’m busy.

And on top of all of that, I’m super tired because… I’m pregnant again!  Yep, we’ll be welcoming another sweet little one to our family next May.

And I think this is where I want to go for this blog.  I’ve been trying to figure out what to blog about, because I have had so much on my mind lately that it’s been hard to focus it all into a cohesive thought.  But I think that what the Lord has been teaching me has a lot of value, and hopefully you will be able to glean something from it as well.

Finding out that I was pregnant was not just surprising, but rather terrifying.  To be brutally honest, when I saw that second blue line, I sobbed and sobbed – body-racking, uncontrollable sobs.  When I was finally able to stop, it wasn’t for long – I cried many times during that first day.

See, way back when Mark and I first had Eliza, we wanted to have five children.  And that has been the case ever since.  But when I was pregnant with Avigail, Mark told me that he was thinking that he really wanted to be done having children with four.  I told him that if the baby was born a girl, I would probably be okay with that, but if it was a boy, I’d want to try again for a girl.  🙂  He sorta-agreed with me, and we left it at that.  It was still very stressful for me.  I didn’t feel done having children, didn’t feel complete, didn’t feel ready to end that season of my life.  Then Avigail was born, and the talks began again.  I actually struggled a lot with depression because of it. Even though I was sorta-okay with the idea, it was like a part of me would have to die.  But I love my husband, and I totally understand that he’s exhausted with parenting young children and ready to move on to the next season of life.  And over the next year, I finally came to a place where I agreed with him.  I was ready to move on.  While I knew I’d miss getting to have another baby, I also knew that I’d always wonder what it would be like to have just one more!

Anyway, back to my story.  So, I’d wrestled with all sorts of emotions over the past year in coming to a point where I was excited about being done having children and being ready to move beyond diapers and sleepless nights.  And no sooner had that happened (and we’d decided to take the next step towards that), than this happened.  It was as if God was answering us with a firm “No.”  I didn’t understand it.  Why?  Why had God caused me to get pregnant when I shouldn’t have been able to?  Why didn’t He listen to my exhausted husband’s heart’s desire?  Why did He wait for me to finally come to grips with not having any children, just to yank the rug out from under me with this shocking news?  And why did He pick me (again) instead of one of those couples who can’t have children and want so desperately to??  I was angry, hurt, sad, frustrated.  I felt so lost, and walked around all day in a daze.  I called my best friend, my mom, and my mom-in-law – all in tears.  It was a hard, long day.

But in the back of my mind, I knew that I really didn’t have an option.  I really didn’t have a right to question God, a right to argue with His infinite wisdom and power.  So I had my day-long pity party, and went to bed an emotional mess.

The next morning, I came downstairs for my quiet time.  Thankfully I was up before the kids were, so my quiet time was actually quiet.  Ahh..  I opened up my gratitude journal, as is my habit first thing.  But I couldn’t think of a single thing to be thankful for.  My heart was hurting and raw.  I began to cry again.  I sat there on the couch, talking my thoughts out to the Lord.

“Why, God?  I don’t understand!”
“I’m SO tired, so very tired.”
“Why did you let me finally get to be okay with being done and then put this on me?”
“I can’t do this again!”  

And one by one, the Father answered me with His calm, sure words.

“Yes, Judy, you can do it.”
“You have learned so much through each of your children, but I have more that I still want to teach you.”
“I want you to trust Me.  Trust that I know best.  Trust that I will give you the strength you need.”
“You will come out of this stronger, and better equipped for the life I have for you, but you have to trust Me.”

As I began to let go of my own worries, He filled me with peace – and even a bit of joy!  I’m not saying there aren’t times when I still struggle.  It’s been 4 weeks already since I found out, and I’m still not always very joyful about it.  But if I keep my eyes on my Creator, He helps me see the joy and the blessing.  Remember this post? (You Are Joy)  This was my heart’s meditation that day, and it still is now. God IS Joy – He IS Peace – He IS Love.  And His ways – they are perfect.

Four Months of Grace, Thanks, Joy

“I run my fingers across the pages of the book. I read it slowly. In the original language, ‘He gave thanks’ reads ‘eucharisteo.’ I underline it on the page. The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning ‘grace.’ Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.

But there is more.  Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, also holds the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy.’ I breathe deep, like a sojourner finally coming home. That has always been the goal of the fullest life – joy.”     ~Ann Voskamp, Selections From One Thousand Gifts

Two years ago I read a book that moved me deeply.  “One Thousand Gifts”, by Ann Voskamp, challenged me to see my life through the constant lens of thankfulness and grace.  I started a gratitude journal – a list of thanks, of blessing, of grace.  It is a discipline, this learning to see grace in all things.  But it has deepened my walk with the Lord and helped me to see through His eyes so much more.  It has brought me more patience, more understanding, more joy.

It has been four months now since we moved to Idaho.  There has never been a doubt in my mind that this is where God wants us to be, yet there are times that it has been very hard.  Settling into a new home is a long process, especially when that includes starting over in the area of relationships.  But we have been blessed to meet some great people and are excited about what the future holds for our family.

As we hit our 4-month anniversary in our new home, I also reached 500 in my gratitude journal.  It’s a big mark for me, and as I reached it I took some time to look back and read many of my entries over the past several months.  I was struck by how many of my thanks would not have been possible without the Lord bringing us here.

193. all of our friends who helped us move – working so hard, long, and selflessly
196. laying-on of hands and prayers from cherished friends
199. the sweet surprise of a beautiful drive to get to our new home
200. our new home – beautiful – and on the outskirts of town, in a beautiful setting off a country highway
213. grandparents living close
237. the homeschool freedom we enjoy in Idaho
250. horses down the street, in pastures of wildflowers
257. our first time enjoying our neighborhood pool
274. two generations of brothers, throwing footballs in the backyard
280. joy-filled days spent at the grandparents’ house
285. the freedom, space, and safety we enjoy in our new home
294. summer days!
296. family time at the pool
298. mountains in the distance, decorating the horizon
299. grandparents, close enough to babysit
300. renewed vision for the future, with God’s calling at the center!

I know that big changes can be so scary.  Even when you know that God is speaking, taking that big step of faith is so hard, so unsettling at times.  We doubt, we wonder, we can’t see the future, and it is so, so hard!  But as I’m learning and growing, the Lord is good – always good – only good – and He knows the beginning from the end.  He knows the plans He has for us.  He knows the desires of our hearts.  And His plans for us are bigger than our own!  But in order to get to that place of being used, we must trust.  We must choose to take joy and offer thanks even when it is hard.  It is a discipline, but one with amazing payoff.

311. evening family walks around our neighborhood
367. family time to explore our new town
393. clarity, given by God, about His purposes
396. sunny days – now the norm
399. grandparents around for birthday celebrations
429. making new friends!
440. the sun, red at sunrise and sunset from all the smoke – beauty from the ugly
448. blue sky again after so many days of smoke-haze
458. Avigail’s love for the outdoors, and how easy it is for her to access it
480. three kids in a row, all on scooters
501. the multitude of birds in the tree next door, all chirping together in the morning
507. my children’s growing comfort in the water
509. the park behind our house
510. a summer of children riding bikes and scooters to their hearts’ content

If you’ve never done it (or if you’re just struggling with faith or joy), I highly recommend keeping a gratitude journal.  It will bless you, because it will bring you closer to the One who gives blessing. 

~Judy

Cultivating a Peaceful, Purposeful Home

Home management is something really important to me. I’m pretty sure I would have completely lost my mind by this point if I wouldn’t have picked up these tips along the way.  I originally prepared this material for a La Leche League enrichment meeting, knowing how valuable this sort of advice can be, especially for new moms.  I thought I’d share it here in hopes that it will helps some of you!  Enjoy!

Areas of Home Management:
1. Time – Family Activities, Time Spent Together, and Daily Routine

Managing time is the first major aspect of home management that every mom must learn how to do.  There are so many things that we need to fit into each day or week! Developing a method of managing your time is so important. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a family calendar (either physical or digital, whichever works best for you), and use it regularly!  Check it every night before going to bed and look it over at the beginning of each week.  Make sure you and your spouse do this together so that you are on the same page about your schedule.
  • Create a written routine.  Or a lot of them!  I have a loose daily routine, a weekly cleaning routine, and a list of extra cleaning jobs that aren’t weekly.
  • Use a timer to help manage your time in chunks.  If you’re like me, you may get carried away with one thing, allowing it to take up way too much time.  Or you may feel overwhelmed with a large project, and breaking it into pieces makes if feel lighter.  Egg timers (or your microwave timer) can be so helpful in many cases!
  • Incorporate your kids input into your routine.  Allow them to help design your routine, and keep them posted as to what is going on that day and week. (See This Post)
  • Assemble a home management binder.  I started doing this a year ago and love it!  It keeps all of my stuff together – calendar, finances, meal planning, routines, projects, etc.  Type in “home management binder” into Google and you’ll get all sorts of great ideas!
2. Food – Meal Planning, Grocery Shopping, and Cooking

I tend to go through seasons in my meal planning and cooking life.  Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it.  Sometimes I’m a rock star about planning everything out and never forgetting anything, sometimes I go for a week or two on last-minute throw-togethers (“Is spaghetti okay again, guys?”)

Here are a few things that help me:

  • Have a weekly meal routine.  Each day is assigned a different “genre” of food – for example: soup/bread day, pasta day, rice day, meal salad day, etc..  This takes so much out of the guesswork of creating a meal plan and helps you to incorporate new ideas easily.
  • Keep a list of favorite meals that your family enjoys (with page #s to recipes), that way you can quickly make your list rather than thumbing through your shelf full of cookbooks every week.
  • Take advantage of your freezer and slow cooker.  I make certain things in bulk (marinara sauce, marinated meat, ice cream… wait, ice cream doesn’t count?!), that way when a day goes differently than I planned, I can throw a freezer bag into a bowl of hot water and thaw it in no time.  And I love my slow cooker (or my cast iron dutch oven) for fall and winter days.  Mmmm…
  • Try seasonal eating!  By varying your menu by the season, you will enjoy a variety of foods every year, and not get tired of the same thing over and over.  Certain foods just taste better in their proper season, and bonus – you will save money at the store by buying your food in season!
3. Cleaning – Home, Car, Closets, Purse, etc…
As a mom with 4 young kids who I also homeschool, our home is never spotless.  But, I can also honestly say that if I stay on it, I am able to keep our home regularly clean.  Everyone has different solutions that work well for them, so take what works here and leave the rest!

Ideas to help keep your home clean:

  • Get rid of clutter!  Seriously, I think I could (and probably will!) write a whole blog or several about decluttering and keeping a simple home.  For now, I will simply say that the less stuff you have, the less you have to keep clean. 
  • Take the time to organize.  Another topic I could talk about for hours.  I’m actually one of those nerdy types that loves organizing, but even if you aren’t, I still strongly recommend you give it a try, at least for your most hectic spaces.  Keep it simple, and easy to maintain.
  • Have a daily cleaning task that stays the same each week.  For example: Monday is laundry, Tuesday is vacuuming, Wednesday is kitchen thorough-cleaning, Thursday is the car/garage, Friday is laundry again.  Something like that, anyway!
  • Do a 15-20 minute “sweep” of your home every day.  We do this in the early evening before Mark gets home from work, and I get the kids involved too.  We usually pump up some Newsboys and make it fun.  
  • Teach your kids to take some responsibility for their own stuff.  Help them remember to clean up one activity before taking out another.  Teach them to take care of their own laundry and make their beds.  
4. Self Care – Mom must care for herself in order to be able to care for others!
This is such a big deal in our home!  It’s easy to spend every moment of the day cleaning and cooking and maintaining – there’s always another thing to do, isn’t there?!  But if we don’t take good care of ourselves, in the end it will all crumble apart.  We serve our children and husband by taking good care of ourselves.

For me, as a major introvert, I get overwhelmed easily by the constant needs and company of my little brood.  The most vital part of my self care is making sure that I get adequate time alone.  But it has taken me a long time to realize just how important this is and learn how to make it a priority.

Here are some other ideas of ways to take care of yourself.  This post (click here) also has a few ideas on hitting the “reset button” on a rough week.

  • Develop a morning ritual.  Mine is tea, my gratitude journal, my Bible, and a book (for personal/spiritual growth, not entertainment).  Yours can be whatever helps you most.
  • Exercise.  Make sure you don’t care for everyone else while neglecting your own body.  This will eventually catch up with you!
  • Eat well.  I know, we all fall into the habit of eating whatever we can scrape together in the middle of everything else we’re doing.  But with just a bit of planning, you can feed your body what it needs to thrive instead of simply exist.
  • Get out!  Go to a mom’s night out or even playgroups where the moms can hang out while the kids play.  Both are valuable. Try to go on a date with your husband on a regular basis.  Have tea with a friend at night after the little ones have gone to sleep.  Get up early and hit up a nearby coffee shop before your family arises. 

I hope this post helps you!  Below are a list of links to resources that have really helped me.  I hope they help you as well!  Please leave a comment with any great tips that have helped you to better manage your home!

~ Judy


Resource List:
Websites:
Books:
Smart Organizing, by Sandra Felton
Organized Simplicity, by Tsh Oxenreider
Binder Helps:

Attachment Parenting… and the Bible, Part 1

Today I am going to start an 8-part series on attachment parenting and the Bible. I haven’t directly referenced attachment parenting on this blog before now, partly because I don’t want it to be the focus of this blog, and partly because I don’t like labeling myself as one “type” of parent.  But, nonetheless, attachment-style parenting is really important to me. It has laid a strong loving and godly foundation for our family.

“Wait, godly?” You might be wondering about that claim. Attachment parenting has a reputation for being humanistic and indulgent, not at all things that the Bible supports. But while AP can be applied that way, it isn’t that by nature. In fact, the “founder” of attachment parenting, Dr. William Sears, is a Christian father of 8. His books established AP as a legitimate, fact-based parenting method and offered parents some practical ideas for what that meant.  Since then, much more research and many more books have been written about the subject, and an international organization, Attachment Parenting International, has been formed.

In this series, I am going to go through each of Attachment Parenting International’s 8 Principles of Parenting and present some biblical support for each, as well as share some of our story. I hope this is a blessing to you!

Principle #1: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
“Become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth. Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about routine newborn care. Continuously educate yourself about developmental stages of childhood, setting realistic expectations and remaining flexible.”

There is so much wisdom in this principle. Scripture has a lot to say about gaining understanding, in fact, most of the book of Proverbs is dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge.

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.”
                                    – Proverbs 1:5

I believe that an important part of being a good steward is educating yourself about what you are stewarding. Remember the parable of the talents? The man who was praised for making more money with his talent needed to first know how to best invest that talent in order for that to happen. We are entrusted with something far more valuable than money – we are entrusted with life! How much more, then, should we study and learn!

God has given us 9 months to prepare for our new babies, and I would challenge you to make the most of that time. Learn about birth options. Learn about infant development. Learn about breastfeeding. And discuss things with your spouse too – learning together is a great way to strengthen your relationship!

For me, this part has always been pretty easy. I’m already a bookworm, and I love learning about babies! But it has been so beneficial for me, especially in the areas of natural birth and infant development. We decided to have unmedicated home births after reading about the dangers and ramifications of managed, hospital births. Learning all we could gave us peace of mind and faith in the body that God has given me.  And learning about infant and child development has helped us to have realistic expectations of what our children are capable of and how their brains best develop.

When studying these things, especially development, you will probably come across books written from a secular worldview.  One of my favorite books is called “The Science of Parenting”, and is written from an evolutionary viewpoint.  From what I’ve seen, sometimes Christians write off these kind of books as non-relevant because they come from a different worldview.  But while we do have to read with more caution, there is usually a huge depth of information in those books – just without the knowledge of God.  Part of being mature as believers means being able to sift through these materials and gain valuable knowledge while skipping over the stuff that doesn’t fit your worldview.

I hope that you found this post to be thought-provoking and interesting!  Stay tuned for Part 2: Feed With Love & Respect!

~ Judy

*For a practical list of things to prepare for and read about when getting ready for a baby, please click here: API Principle #1.

My Baby is One!

Watermelon instead of cake for this baby!

Yesterday, my baby girl turned one year old. It is a bittersweet day for me. I am so ecstatically happy that the Lord gave us Avigail – she is such a gift! Her sweet smile and gentle snuggles melt our hearts. Her love for her siblings brings a smile to my face on a constant basis. But her first year has completely flown by, and I am struggling to come to grips with that.  I am finding myself clinging desperately to her babyhood, wishing I could slow time.

She just realized that we’re singing to HER!

As parents to small children, it can be very overwhelming at times.  Their needs are intense, and there are so many of them!  Mark and I have often caught ourselves lamenting our lack of freedom, and looking forward (maybe too much) to the days when our children will be able to take care of themselves a bit more.  It has become difficult to appreciate this stage of life for what it is.  But is the problem really the crazy intensity that is our life?  Or is the problem our attitude about it?

She loves it!
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Over the past few months, as we have settled in here and I have had more time to ponder our home and family life, there are some things about this stage that the Lord has really pressed upon me.

First of all, I need to accept each day for what it is, and consider it a blessing.  Every single day, I start my day by writing a few entries into my gratitude journal. By starting out this way, I have found it easier to return to it when I’m struggling later on.  There is so much power in thankfulness!

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” – I Thessalonians 5:18

Second, I need to have realistic expectations for my children.  They are supposed to act like young children – that is what they are!  If the Lord wanted kids to be born mature, He would’ve created them that way.  But instead, He gives them to us completely dependent – dependent on us to help them walk through the stages of life, to grow and develop.

Third, I need to remember that our children are like plants in a garden – given the right environment, they will grow.  My job is not to try to force growth and maturity on my kids, my job is to foster an environment where growth is encouraged.  That means that I have to be a mature person, and model those character traits that I’d like to see developed in my children.  Of course, those things that they struggle with so much also tend to be the same things that I struggle with, making this step so hard but so necessary!

Lastly, I need to remember that God has given me children to bring me closer to Him.  These daily struggles that I have with how I choose to approach my relationship with my children have the power to deeply change me.  I have blogged about this a bit before (click), but it’s such a powerful truth to embrace that I want to mention it again today.  Through our relationships with our children, the Lord can work through sin and struggles in our own lives, bringing us into a closer relationship with Him!

– – –

So, as I embark on my baby’s second year of life, it is with a renewed conviction and determination to embrace life as it happens!  I want to soak in every moment of her remaining baby/toddlerhood (ouch, it hurts to see that word “toddler” on the page!), and not just for her, but for each of my children. I want to cherish my children, to enjoy them, to truly love them in a deep way – thankful for the blessings that they are in my life!

With you on the journey,
~ Judy

Getting Through the Dry Times

Internet has a funny way of altering reality, doesn’t it?  I enjoy the outlets of social media such as Facebook and blogging, especially now that we’ve moved and I’m physically away from most of my friends.  It’s great being able to stay connected online. But we all have a tendency to present only the best part of ourselves online, don’t we?  It’s really not reality.  I mean, when is the last time one of your friends posted a photo of their child throwing a tantrum, or of herself crying at the end of a hard day?  This whitewashed view of people’s lives around us can cause us to judge our own lives wrongly, and can make us feel inadequate and incapable.  And I am not immune.

This morning, after my quiet time, I sat on the couch trying to figure out what to blog about.  I’ve been quiet on my blog for a week or so now, and for the past few days I’ve been thinking about different ideas that I’ve had for possible posts.  I even posted about my dilemma on Facebook.  And a dear friend gave me some great advice: Just be real.  This morning, as I was pondering my different blog ideas and my friend’s advice, I realized that to blog about any other than what I’m about to write would not be real.  So here it goes!

As I was saying, I am not immune to the nuances of internet communication.  I both struggle with judging myself based on other people’s cute haircuts, happy kid pictures, and awesome dinners, as well as the temptation to always present myself as put-together, with a happy family.  So today, I want to share about my week – my real week.

Things have been kind of challenging this week, and many evenings I wanted nothing more than to get into Mark’s car and drive away for a long time.  We have struggled with a nasty cycle – you know, the one where your children have had a rough week, which makes you feel inadequate and cranky, which makes them feel & behave worse!  Yeah, that’s been our week.  For some reason, my 6-year-old, who is normally mature and able to reason very well for her age, has been struggling with a lot of anger and has had several tantrums – one of which was in the grocery store.  Ugh.  My boys have been fighting and hitting/pinching a lot.  And my babe is cutting 4 teeth, and hasn’t been sleeping well, leaving both of us extra tired all day long.

And as a result of this, I have been feeling very overwhelmed and inadequate.  I’m having a hard time connecting with them (and therefore not able to give them what they really need to work through these issues).  I’ve been testy with my dear husband.  It’s just been an “Ugh” week that I’ve been looking forward to seeing the end of.  So, here I am at the end of it.  I’m very thankful for a husband who understands my need for alone time, and has graciously given me an hour this morning to read, pray, think, and hopefully reset.

Now that I’ve done that, I can honestly say that I feel a lot better, a lot more capable of being the mother that I want and my children need me to be.  I’m giving myself some grace, replenishing my cup with God’s word and the encouraging words of a great author, drinking a yummy cup of tea, and taking a deep breath.  My job as a mommy is the highest calling I have.  HaShem has entrusted me with these 4 little lives, and He chose me to be their mother!

Maybe you’ve had a week like mine, and can relate.  I want to wrap up this post by listing out some things that I can think of to help you in your attempt to reset:

  • Give yourself some grace. Remember that ups and downs are normal and even beneficial.  Those down times can teach us a lot too!
  • Be thankful.  Keeping a gratitude journal has really helped my maintain a healthy focus and perspective.  I highly recommend it!
  • Take some time out.  Go out to coffee by yourself or with a good friend.  Go for a walk/drive.  
  • Talk to God.  Be real with Him about how you feel and your thoughts.  He knows them anyway and it can feel really good to voice them!
  • Enjoy something beautiful.  Music, art, and poetry have a powerful way of working in us.  You may enjoy creating something as well.
  • Find some alone time with each of your children and talk to them.  Apologize.  Apologies are powerful for restoring relationships, and it sets a godly example. Encourage them with things you appreciate about them, and how God wants to see them grow and develop.  
  • Go on a date with your husband, and talk things through with him.  Sometimes husbands can be a great source of encouragement and healthy perspective.
  • Do something physical.  Sometimes we need to release stress in a physical way, whether that be going for a run, doing some gardening, or lifting weights.

Do you have another way that you reset from a hard week?  Share in the comments!  And now, I’m off to nurse my teething babe!

~ Judy