Saturday, August 31, 2013

Prayers for Pregnancy & Birth

I spent the evening at a triple baby shower.  Our church celebrates ALL babies - not just firstborns.  It is a beautiful and thoughtful thing to have a shower/celebration for each baby born in the church family. I know it moves me to tears when I was given one for each of my sons (my girls were born before we attended this church and since I was a teenager the pregnancies were not celebrated too much).

One of the gals was going to be a first time mom - her little boy is due soon.  Another brought her 7 week old daughter with -- her 4th child.  The third was due with her 4th child - her 3rd boy.  I was there with my 6 month old son who was crawling, pulling up, scarfing down food (see my post on BLW), and smiling up a storm.  He was playing with another sweet little girl, only a few months older than he. We may be a small church but we've got a lot of kids!

Lord, would you place a hedge of protection around these women and their wombs?  Protect the babies growing inside and keep them safe.  Grant a safe arrival/delivery of these children and keep both mom and baby healthy.  May these births be trauma-free and without complication.  I also ask for speedy recovery for the mamas - and rest!

I pray this also for all of my girlfriends that are expecting, and are at various stages in their pregnancies.  Specifically for relief of nausea, stress, panic attacks, and other ailments my friends are suffering from.

I also pray for all of the empty wombs longing to be filled with the miracle of a child.  Would You be at work in their lives? Give them strength and patience, and the joy of being a parent!

Would you give comfort and peace to those grieving the loss of a child?  Wrap Your arms around them and help them to feel Your presence and know Your love.  Give them rest - physical and emotional. Give them strength to face each day.  Help them to heal.

Prayers about Discipleship

I had my first BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) leader meeting of the year - our kick off training.  Such a rich time of fellowship with the Lord and dear sisters in Christ! Oh, how it renews my enthusiasm for You Lord, and for Your work.

Would you make me a true disciple for You? Confirm my calling and equip me in it.  Expand my time, Lord, to honor my ministry in the home as a wife and mother, and also as a BSF Leader.  Make me an effective witness for you - help me to live a life above reproach, that I not cause another to stumble.

Give me the wisdom to manage my time effectively to do all my "jobs" well and to resist the temptation of time wasters.  Give me wisdom as I shepherd and hear my prayers for the women in my group.  Help them to know my love for them is genuine and to open up to me.

I ask Lord that I can make an eternal impact - that I be a light for Christ in all that I do, in both blessing and trial.  I pray that my children see me studying Your Word, praying, and making time for discipleship and that they too would have a desire to witness and be in the Word.

I ask for opportunities to minister and great wisdom and boldness.  I often shy away from the opportunity to witness - make me bold and able to overcome my fears.  Expand my spiritual territory. Give me grace, strength, and guidance - give me the right words when words are needed.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Glitter Bottles

I originally found something similar to this on Pinterest used as Time Out Timers.  I thought they would be great for my kiddos to use for "Calm Down Time" as we call it.  Having 3 special needs kids (ASD, ADHD, PPDNOS, ODD, SPD) there is often a struggle with transitioning, sensory overload, and the inability to manage their frustrations.

For my kiddos sometimes a short break to compile themselves, get ahold of their emotions, and essentially calm down and transition really helps.  They LOVED the idea on this blog so we adapted a bit.  They each chose a color of glitter glue.  Fill a clean, empty bottle 2/3 with warm water, the entire bottle of glitter glue, and a Tablespoon of white or clear glitter.  I didn't have any glycerin on hand but I would suspect that would be a great addition.

Make sure some of the glue is spread around the opening of the bottle so that when the cap is placed on and the glue dries it stays shut! I don't want to clean up THAT mess!  Simply shake.

 This is the bottles "calm" with white glitter on the bottom, colored glitter glue on that, and water (tinted by the glue) on top.  Shake and wait for it to settle.  It takes a good 10 minutes, so "time out" is by no means mandatory.  The kid sits in the same place they were - usually on the couch in the middle of our homeschool day - with the bottle.  Focus on the bottle and not on what made them frustrated.

This is what they look like "all shook up."   Yes, that's my kitty photo bombing.  She wouldn't move. The bottles are beautiful and all the kids (12, 9, 4, 6 months) love playing with them.  They used name stickers to put their names on them.  I suggested more stickers but they said it would cover up the view. :)  

We discovered that Baby Bruce LOVED these bottles most of all.  Seriously, he's obsessed - it's like crack for babies.  Shake, roll, chew on, totally entertained!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Simple Preschool Letter Recognition & Sight Word Practice

Please excuse the mess in the background - we are painting Hungry Caterpillars out of egg cartons today.  My 4 year old LOVES letters (and numbers are okay too) and stickers too.  I figure this is a good way to keep him occupied during our homeschool day (for about 20 minutes, but hey, every 20 minutes adds up) and practice his motor skills and letter recognition.

60 second prep: Write all the uppercase letters on a blank paper in various places and numbers 1 -10. (I also did another paper with lowercase and number words because it was very important to my son that I do, LOL.)  

Write lowercase letters on the circle stickers (I picked up those Avery colored dots - the ones they use a lot in garage sales) and number words one through ten.  

Dean loved putting the lower letter on the capital and vice versa.  He needs help with number words, but this is helping.  When all done, he peeled off the stickers and put them on a new paper in alphabetical order.  I'm not sure if it's an ASD thing, but he was very concerned they were not in ABC order.  Silly kid!

One of Dean's favorite books is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, so I searched the Teacher Pay Teachers site and found some free printables.  I love this one of the coconut tree with all the alphabet on it in capital letters.  

While waiting for his sisters to finish their therapies we worked on his letter skills AND had some fine motor practice.  Lowercase letters written on the colored dot stickers worked nicely to place over the uppercase counterparts and then color the trees.

Dean really enjoyed using alphabet stickers (found booklet for a dollar at Michael's) to match letters as well. He made up patterns, such as Capital, Capital, lower, lower, Capital... Kept him occupied the entire 2 hours!

 The sweet part is he would save letters for us - Baby Bruce got to put all the "B"s on, J was reserved for Julia, T for Taylor, and M for me, because I am "Mom" to him, not Nicole. :)

 Now that Dean knows his alphabet we use the ABC stickers to work on sight words.  After I write the word in marker then it is his turn to do the same and then spell it with the stickers.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cheesy Lasagna Roll-Ups

Cheesy lasagna roll - ups -- today I made a couple meals for a family who doesn't eat meat.  I realized we don't go meatless often enough.  There are so many good meals that don't involve meat and it would save a bundle to go meatless a couple nights a week! This meal may be a poor example with all the cheese I replaced the meat with! :)

I couldn't think of any great meat-free main dishes that were easily portable and kid-pleasing off hand. So I made something up.  For one pan (I was feeding 2 adults and 2 young kids - any more and I would have made 2 pans):

12 lasagna noodles, cooked
2 jars Prego 3-cheese sauce (or make your own sauce - I was in a bit of a time crunch)
16 ounces (2 tubs) ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan and mozzarella cheese blend
1/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp fresh minced garlic
(meat can be added to the sauce - I really liked it with Italian sausage)

 Stir together ricotta cheese, parm & moz mix, and garlic. Spread on each noodle and roll up.

 Coat bottom of pan with half of the jar of sauce.  If desired, use a sauce with meat in it (I made a 2nd batch for my family and added cooked Italian sausage - it was fabulous!

Place rolls in pan on top of sauce.

Pour remaining sauce on top.  I only needed 1 and a half jars total and used the other half of the 2nd jar for my 2nd pan.  Top with 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Bake uncovered 350 for 25 minutes.

Praying for Strength in Times of Stress and Worry

I have barely slept in days. My whole body aches. How did I manage to catch a cold in August? I am so overwhelmed even my brain hurts.  Tired, exhausted, a walking zombie.  I had a call with Pepsi's Healthy Living Program today (our insurance gives small gift cards for completing their health programs).  I am currently enrolled in the Stress Management Program.  (Ironically I completed the Weight Loss program a couple weeks ago and am the fattest I've ever been in my life.)

The poor coach kept giving me ideas that simply didn't work. Sleeping pills - sorry, I breastfeed, wake with a baby at night, and my 4 year old has night seizures I must be able to wake up for. Breathing and meditating - that's stupid. Counseling through EAP - no, the medical bills/insurance issues are a hassle not worth it, I don't have the time, I don't have a sitter, it just adds to the stress.  Do I do anything to relieve stress, she asks.

I write.  I pray. I read my Bible.  I am not sure if I feel less stress but I do feel God is with me and I am not all alone.  Do I exercise? I laughed at that.  I wish.  It would likely give me more energy and it certainly can't make me any more fat or less attractive than I already am.  But no, where would I manufacture the time for that? The energy?

I felt bad when the Healthy Living coach referred me to someone else and hung up after only 11 minutes (the calls usually last 30-60mns).  I told her it was stressful making the time for this phone call, in the middle of our school day, with a fussy baby to talk over and a poopy preschooler needing to be changed.  It was the truth.  While I understand the importance of taking care of myself, I simply cannot seem to get ahead enough to sit still.

I am incapable of relaxing.  I have a serious sleep disorder and chronic fatigue.  I was thisclose to getting a blissful and much deserved nap when Bruce once again began screaming.  Remember how I was at the ER last week? Well, there hasn't been much change - my normally happy, pleasant, easy going baby is inconsolable.

Something is wrong. Blood in his diaper, writhing, arching his back, screaming for hours then just stopping. The nurse I spoke to send me to Children's Hospital ER.  Tests revealed a twisted intestine I guess.  It was fixed and Bruce is finally asleep but it is midnight and I have slept 8 hours in 2, almost 3 days.

I am weak. Physically. Spiritually. Emotionally.  My anxiety is high.  I worry about SIDS daily.  I'm afraid to set Bruce down and also afraid I'll smother him in his sleep.  I fear everything - there are so many dangers to my children.  I love them so dearly.  I just cannot lose another child.  My severe anxiety and worries were reduced greatly by Bruce's birth, but they are not gone altogether.

Lord, would you relieve my anxiety?  Ease my worries about money and fears of harm to my children. Please reduce my stress.  Would you place protection over my sleep and help me to get on a healthy sleep schedule and wake feeling refreshed?  Help me to stay awake during the day and asleep at night.

Heal my son, Lord, relieve his pain and keep him from harm.  Place a hedge of protection around all my children and keep them healthy.  Lord, there is just so much.  I can't do it all anymore.  How can my family seriously have so many medical issues? I am taking kids to a doctor or therapy appointment at least twice a week.  There are always new problems popping up.  What am I to learn from all this? How do I glorify you in all this?  How do I keep from falling to pieces?

Lord today would you just give me strength? Hold me up and keep me standing.  I see all the blessings around me but I still need You.  Give me the ability to stay awake to fill out 23 pages of paperwork for Dean's eval tomorrow at the Alexander Center, to make a couple meals for a friend and to feed my own family as well, to school my children, stand firm with my preschooler, and soothe an unhappy baby.

Just give me strength.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Praying about Grief and Gratitude

This morning I prayed for a friend grieving the loss of her son.  He was stillborn a few days ago.  I've been grieving with her ever since and my heart is heavy.  It was only a few months ago another friend went through this as well.  This tragedy seems rampant and ever-present all around.

I have been praying daily for her heart and body to heal. For her family to feel peace and comfort and know her precious son was made for God's glory in eternity.  To know that her son is in Heaven and the length of his life is not in correlation to its importance.  I've been putting off actually blogging about these prayers because I want to "write it right."

Not that I have the words, I don't.  I learned, when my daughter died, that no one has the words.  But the silence was deafening.  I wanted to pray scripture over her, and over all who are mourning.  However, I am busy. And tired. Like really, really busy and really, really tired.  So I spoke to God what my heart felt, with no eloquence or beauty to it.

Today was a challenging one.  My current Facebook status reads: Somedays I just... Can't.  I do and did and will, but my head isn't in it.  It has shut down.  I overslept - the whole house did, since once again we were up to late (and here I am typing at 1 am because it is the only time I am not attending to the needs of a child).  I hate that, it gets the whole day off wrong.

Taylor comes to me tear-stricken with a phone charger and penny.  "I don't know why I did it, Mom." she sobbed. I guess she stuck the penny in the electrical outlet, blew a fuse in the house, and the charger caught on fire briefly, started smoking, and both it and the penny were charred.

I took her face in my hands and asked if she was hurt. She wasn't.  "I don't know why." she kept saying. "Taylor Honey, I didn't ask why. I know you know it is not safe to play with outlets. It is also very important to take your pills first thing in the morning to help you."  She was concerned I was mad and I explained no, she was not in trouble.  I am glad she is not hurt and very proud she told me the truth instead of trying to hide it.  There will be no punishment.  I hugged her; she really needed a hug at that moment.

(BTW - It is by the grace of God alone that I did not yell. A new phone charger costs money. She's old enough to be in the kitchen alone without starting a fire. I had to go to the circuit breaker and fix the fuse, etc.)

Shopping and appointments today were a new level of hell. Dean needed to be weighed and his height measured.  It may have to do with prior experience (he has failure to thrive and often after a weight check blood tests or other exams were needed) but he loathes standing on the scale.  I stood, cringed at the number - the highest of my life - and stepped back on with him in my arms.  Full scale meltdown followed (not tantrum, they are different) and we never did get his height.

He really wanted to go to the park so I gave him a new opportunity to earn it.  I went to Lifeway to buy my friend a book (Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur - regardless if you believe in Jesus or not, the concept that your child is in Heaven has to be comforting) and a figurine.  Dean runs rampant throughout the store. He breaks a toy and drives a car around the store.  I have a baby in my arms and a heavy bag on my shoulder and just had to leave.

At the checkout he grabs candy and asks for it. A firm "no" is, of course, my answer. He asks again, this time shouting and crying. I take it away and he grabs it again. This goes on.  "Dean, I know you want this candy but my answer will not change. No, not right now because of your behavior." Of course logic and gentle parenting do not work on him. I had to carry him out (still holding the baby) and forcefully buckle him into his carseat.

Later he dumped a slushy (his sister earned one) on the changing table and all over the blankets he had covered the floor with (threw them off his bed).  He's down to zero toys (we've been taking away what he does not clean up) so he is finding new ways to make mischief.  I gotta give him credit, he is creative.  While I was putting away groceries in the kitchen I managed to keep a good eye on Bruce but lost track of Dean.  He was in my room with the peanut butter jar, rubbing it all over the walls and bed with his bare hands.  Oh, and he was poopy, in underwear, for the 2nd time today.

The day continued like this.  The kitchen I worked so hard to clean was beyond disasterous by night.  I barely squeezed in the game I promised the girls and wrestled with Dean for hours to get him to sleep.  Bruce was having a rare fussy day as well.  When the chaos settled I pulled out Bentlee's memory basket.  I was looking for a poem I wanted to share with my friend when I drop off meals and a gift on Friday. Instead I found myself reading the cards and my pregnancy journal.

There it was - raw, fresh pain.  As if she died just yesterday.  I read about emotions I didn't even remember feeling and thoughts I forgot I had.  So much despair, so much anger, hurt, numbness.  I had prayed that others would see Christ in me through this.  I wrote how He was getting me through this (I also confessed to being livid with Him) an hour at a time.  The tears came flooding down and I remembered what it was like to feel that grief.

I stopped, looked over at the kids, asleep in a heap on the living room floor (no judging, it needed to happen that way today), the baby at my breast, and I cried.  I confessed my sin of ingratitude.  How quickly we forget all the we have been given.  Lord, I am so grateful for these children and for this life.

Actually, my life is so amazing I have to remind myself not to brag. Not to talk about how happy I am too much because so many others are in a place of deep hurt.  Yes, I struggle with the usual parenting challenges, and special needs, and we are always broke, but I am blessed.  Profoundly and deeply blessed. I mean, I named my blog website Simply Blessed Journey. How can I so quickly forget all that I have?

Sometimes I look at Bruce at I wonder what it would be like if his twin had not died.  If I was raising them together, how special it would be! I feel a twinge of sadness, because it is okay to allow myself to feel sad over that loss.  But Bruce has brought such healing to our family and we are all in such a blessed place right now.

It wasn't long ago I was pleading with God to bring her back.  If I could just go back to the time when she was still in me and still alive.  I remember wanting to enjoy Dean being still a young baby and my girls so innocent but also wanting to move past the pain, past the time in life when it hurt so much.  How can I press pause and fast forward at the same time?!

And I forgot that.  So I set out to offer comfort to another, but instead was comforted by her circumstances.  The loss of my children past remind me in the present to appreciate what God has given me.  How dare I lose sight of the most important truth here: my son, while challenging, tiring, and mischievous, is ALIVE. Sure, I had to drag him kicking and screaming, but I would give anything to be doing the same to my dear Bentlee today.

So once again I am reminded of all that I DO have.  I needed that today.  Thanks for that, dear friend. And know you are not mourning alone, I am feeling your loss and praying for comfort. I'm thankful for the 9 baskets of laundry I just folded because it means I have a family to clothe. I'm grateful for the house that needs cleaning because it means I have a home and children to mess it up.

I'm sorry I don't have more fancy words, but know that you are blessing others right now. I look back on where I was 3 years ago and see how far our family has come.  You too will someday be able to comfort another.  The pain will always be with you and you will carry his memory forever, but it will hurt less and differently.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Praying For My Husband

My hubby totally deserves to be the subject of my prayers! He is truly an amazing man and I am madly in love with him! This man worked 14 hours, slept for 3, played in a softball tournament all day (which included him hurting his knee in a fall and getting a huge welt and bruise from being hit in the leg), played Yahtzee with his kids that night, slept 4 hours, went to work for 5 OT hours, stayed awake in church, pitched in his fall softball league that night, got up early to take a friend to a doctor appointment, had a short nap, then headed off for another 16 hour shift.

No lie, my husband works that hard on that little of sleep and still manages to be there for his wife and kids - and wash the dishes!  But even if he wasn't a great guy, I would still be praying for him. That's an essential part of a Biblical marriage!

Lord, keep my husband safe while he is at work tonight and protect him from harm.  Keep his body strong and his back free from pain.  Give him energy to stay awake and do his job well. Keep him healthy and heal his sore body and all his cuts and bruises. Protect his role in his company that he is always able to provide for our financial needs.  

Give him wisdom as the head of our household and help him to set an example for our children.  Give him guidance in parenting and discipline.  Let his sons see in him all that they should become - Godly, hard working, and loving. Give him patience despite being sleep deprived.  Give him rest. Help him to be the spiritual leader of our home.  Reveal to him Your plans for him and help him carry them out courageously. 

Cultivate in him a deep love for both You and me. Instill in him a desire to know You and draw near to You.  Make him a bold and effective witness for you everywhere he goes.  Give him a thirst for your word and reveal to him his spiritual gifts that he may serve you.  Make his prayer life vibrant and expand his time so he is able to have a daily quiet time even on the days he works double shifts. 

Give him the desire to love me even when I don't deserve it! :) Protect him from temptation and guard his heart. Help him to stand strong against all attacks against our marriage and all temptations that arise. Give me the wisdom and grace to be the wife he deserves and I am called to be.  

Surround him with good friends.  Give him many Godly men in which to seek counsel and encourage him.  Uplift him and encourage him in his role that he sees the fruits of his labor in his household and children.  Help me, Lord, to be an encouraging wife and lift him up, letting him know how much he means to us. Guard my tongue from any nagging or discouraging words. 

I'm sure my husband will never read this (he'd rather be sleeping!) but I do want him to know I pray for him. Specifically, daily, and with deep affection and love.  Will you today pray for your spouse? If you are single, you can be praying for your future spouse - trust me, God knows who those prayers are meant for! 

Deanism #12

So the rule is if Dean gets out of bed I will count to 3. If he is not back in bed (a cot in my room) by 3 then he has to sleep in his own room (I know, I am just an evil mom, right?).  To him, that is torture.  So I counted, made it all the way to 3 and got up to put him in bed. He shouts "No, I just wanted you to count to two!!! Not 3."  Um, yeah, that's the point...

Adventures in Baby Led Weaning

Remember all that baby food I made awhile back? Bruce won't eat it.  Well, he will, but he is really not a fan of the spoon feeding or of purees in general.  He did so well with banana chunks and those breastmilk popsicles that I decided to give Baby Led Weaning a go.  I had heard of it before and dabbled a little when Dean was a baby, so I was familiar with the concept. 

I joined a Facebook BLW support/info group and found this info there:

Basically, you ditch the pureed baby foods and give baby whatever you're eating. Provided it is safe for them - not a choking hazard or allergen, cooked when needed, always supervised while eating, age appropriate, etc. 

What is fabulous about this style is that he eats meals WITH us.  No one has to spoon feed him (wrestling to get the spoon out of his hands with each bite) instead of enjoying their own food.  He can even sit on my lap and pick off my plate when appropriate.  Also, baby only eats if they WANT to - I remember Dean had no interest in food at 6 months and was frustrated when we shoved food in his mouth.  Bruce, on the other hand, reaches for anything he sees and tries to eat it all!

Today my son went to town on chicken from my fajitas! It was date night with the hubs and baby came along, as usual.  He munched on a piece of chicken, cooked pinto beans, grilled peppers, diced tomatoes, and avocados.  It was crazy to watch him eat all this REAL food, even though he has no teeth! And he LOVES it!

At breakfast this morning he ate banana chunks and Happy Baby veggie puffs. He will even drink water from a sippy if I give him one.  He gets plenty of mama milk so he doesn't need water, however since he refuses to take a bottle I thought it would be nice to get some practice with the cup for when I'm away at BSF.

Last week I peeled and cooked up a couple sweet potatoes; instead of pureeing in the blender I cut them in big chunks.  Bruce can easily grab these, pick them up, and mash them up in his mouth. Add a couple dairy-free rice crackers and he's got a meal!

At our softball picnic on Saturday Bruce was chowing down on a chunk of cantaloupe! He chomped on that bad boy until it was almost gone - mashed up and juice sucked out! He also loved the pasta noodles and chicken from our Chicken Pasta Salad.  

A classic Baby Mum-Mum is always great to have on hand in the diaper bag.  It made an impromptu breakfast date with my hubby possible!

So we're loving this whole Baby Led Weaning thing and it makes for way less messy clean up! Foods that have worked well for Bruce so far (we have to avoid dairy):
-oyster crackers are perfect size and texture
-cut up peach chunks (I didn't even need to peel it or cook it)
-cut up apple chunks (these I did peel and cook in a microwave steamer)
-banana chunks
-avocado chunks (he also loved a bowl of chunky guacamole and a baby spoon, it was messy but good practice for him)
-mango slices
-sweet potato slices
-cooked, peeled white potato
-cooked pasta noodles
-animal crackers (organic, dairy free, but yes there was gluten - our pediatrician said it was fine)
-Baby Mum-Mum rice crackers
-Happy Baby banana and veggie puffs
-Cheerios (I'm trying to steer clear of food dyes if possible so his sisters gave him Fruit Loops once and he ate them but I won't be giving them to him again)
-cantaloupe chunks
-seedless watermelon chunks
-cooked baby carrots
-cooked plain chicken - supervise while eating!
-red and green peppers (cooked, cut into strips)
-he LOVED my dairy-free quiche (pie crust, eggs, rice milk, worcestershire sauce, diced ham, cooked sausage, crumbled bacon)
-tomato pieces
-he's really into toasted mini bagels, halved but not cut up.  He chews on the whole piece, seems to help with teething.

There is SO MUCH he can eat - and he loves it all!  What fun!