Thursday, December 22, 2011

Angelic Interpretations




Noah: Look Mommy, an angel!

Me: Oh, wow! Beautiful! Does the angel have a message for me?

Noah: Yes.

Me: What does the angel want to tell me?

Noah: Um...Jesus was born. Sometime. I think.

Me: Oh, ok! Where was Jesus born?

Noah: I don't know. That's all.


It's a good thing the real angel of the Lord was a little more specific. Luke 2 would read quite differently if the angel had appeared to the shepherds and said "I think Jesus was born sometime. Not sure where. See ya."

And on that note, this is my six-year-old Angel of the Lord in the children's play at church last Sunday.



Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A festive laugh at my expense.

I could never be accused of being a Scrooge. The month of December is without a doubt my favorite time of year. I annoyed my husband with multiple repetitions of the "PLEEEEEEASE can we put up our Christmas tree now?" question until he finally relented the weekend before Thanksgiving. The Advent season touches my spirit deeply, gift-giving completely delights me, and I could happily watch Elf on repeat from now until the 25th. I hum carols and wear out holiday playlists and get all misty at every rendition of "Greensleeves" ever recorded. Christmas music thrills me.

With one exception.

(Brace yourself.)

I cannot stand "The Christmas Song".

You know the one. It's practically impossible to duck into Starbucks or get through a grocery shopping trip without hearing about those roasting chestnuts and that nose-nipping Jack Frost. And yes, I know, I know. It's charming and quintessential and conjures up all kinds of old-timey warmth and coziness. But there is one line that ruins the whole song for me completely:

(Brace yourself again, as you enter my particular realm of crazy.)

"Tiny Tots with their eyes all aglow..."

All of you normal people are scratching your heads in confusion, as you try to discern just what it is about the picture of sweet, excited children basking in Yuletide revelry that I find so objectionable. Well, see, my mind does not play that lovely scene when I hear that line. No. What do I see?

Creepy, alien children with red glowing eyes. A whole posse of them. Staring at me. This image does not enhance the turkey and mistletoe and Eskimo-dressed folks that comprise the rest of the tale. (And the fact that they're going to "find it hard to sleep tonight" frankly makes me think, UM...ME TOO.) It's like sticking the freaky kid from any given horror movie next to Bing Crosby at the piano; Bing crooning "White Christmas" in his beautiful baritone, while the child just stares. And stares.



You're welcome.

Anyway, a few years back, a discussion was taking place on our online Mama board (the one where Megan and I met and became friends) about our favorite Christmas songs of all time. I decided to bare my soul in the safety of this circle of friends and reveal my freako issues with a beloved classic song for the first time (other than to my husband, who frankly finds the whole thing quite amusing and loves nothing more than to CRANK up that particular portion of the song if he can find it on the radio while we're in the car.) Needless to say, my lovely friends were very tickled by the admission, and took much amusement from my attempts to persuade them of the creepiness of the song lyric. It was all fun and merriment and Fa la la la la.

Until.

She struck. You know, our dear friend Megan? Sweet-as-can-be, more loving and kind-hearted than seems humanly possible but just really IS possible with her...the one I'm writing a book with and call my mind twin and count among my very favorite people ever...THAT Megan?

Well. I innocently opened a thread on the board that she had posted with my name as the title, calling me to come and see. And I found that she had taken a photo of my little Maya...my very own tiny tot, if you will...and created this:


Aaaaaaand cue therapy. Or at least shrieking, which I did as soon as I saw this, and the shuddering which commences every year as my precious Common Ground ladies have made it an annual tradition as soon as we've all had our fill of Thanksgiving turkey, to dust off this picture and post it anew in order to kick off the Christmas season with uproarious laughter. They mean it with love - as did Megan.

But I ask you...am I the only one that has ever interpreted "The Christmas Song" to be more frightening than festive? If so, you can tell me. Or lie to me. I'm good with that too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Is it ever okay to cry-it-out?

Happy Monday, everyone! Megan was gracious enough to take this week's post again, as our household was busy preparing a Buzz Lightyear birthday party for a sweet, hilarious four-year-old.

This is a subject that can heat up message boards and comment sections in both constructive and destructive ways. We hope that you truly hear our hearts today, and we look forward to an honest discussion!



We're continuing our series on infant sleep today, and I think you knew this was coming: the sleep training question. We aren't strangers to this conversation, difficult though it may be. Back when we were doing the As He Leads Us series, we shared our concerns on sleep training, and I've spoken more of my own opinions on it in my series on Babywise. This is a conversation we've been engaged with for several years, and we know that after the book's release next spring, the conversation will continue. One question that pops up again and again is whether or not we believe it is ever okay to use cry-it-out sleep training.

We are hoping to reshape the conversation a little bit with our response.

1) We want to encourage more realistic expectations for both baby and parents:

As you may have noted from our first two posts about sleep, we really want to emphasize a developmentally appropriate view on infant sleep. In doing research for our book, I came across a book devoted to getting baby to sleep solidly through the night in the first twelve weeks. The author implied, as so many baby care books do, that if baby is not sleeping through the night by twelve weeks, it's because of something the parent is doing wrong. She even made the puzzling statement that most babies would be sleeping through the night by twelve weeks on their own if it weren't for the interference of parents. I'm still trying to figure out her logic on that remark.

I feel so frustrated when I come across material like this because the first three months of baby's life are a critical time for both meeting physiological needs as well as building trust. As we talked about last week, there are legitimate reasons that babies wake up so often at night. If we can let go of this inappropriate fixation on twelve weeks as the standard for ten to twelve hours of sleep at night and embrace the idea of parenting our new babies through this critical season of their life, I think there would be so much less mental stress on parents in this stage.

And on that note, maybe we could start treating those first three months as a sacred time for the entire family. Our culture is not geared toward a slowed-down pace for an extended period of time, but most every new mama can testify to the fact that the first three months of caring for a new baby are a very fuzzy, survival mode period of time. What if we created some meaningful space in our lives that acknowledged that sleep would be sketchy during that time and focused primarily on caring for ourselves and our families? I wonder if that would take some of the pressure off of everyone when it comes to baby's nighttime sleep.

Ideally, I would love to see our culture honor that entire first year as a sacred time when families are given a little more grace in general before returning to the full swing of life, but I suppose that may be a bit too much to hope for. But even if our culture doesn't honor that first year, it doesn't mean that you as a family can't agree that you'll cut yourselves a lot of slack as you nurture your little one through those all-too-fleeting months of infancy!

2) We want to emphasize that one solution won't work for every family.

It's so difficult to have a general discussion on CIO sleep training. Some of the most popular baby care books make zero distinction between CIO for a two week old, for a two month old, and for a ten month old. As baby grows out of those critical first months of life, parents may feel that a different direction is needed. This is where we want to emphasize again that seeking God's direction on how to respond to sleep issues is going to result in different solutions for each family. God views the unique blend of circumstances, personalities, and other factors and offers wisdom for the moment for your family.

I can say that for our family, I have never felt the freedom in my spirit to do any kind of cry-it-out. I mean, I tried with Dacey, and it was obviously traumatic for both of us. Once I learned about the nighttime parenting approach, I had so much more peace about the sleep question. But my children don't have temperaments that would have responded well to CIO. Also, I have not worked outside of the home when our girls were babies. I have a husband who encouraged me to rest above having a spotless house, and when Aliza Joy was a newborn, Dacey had been sleeping through the night for almost two years. My circumstances are not the same as yours, and so the direction given to me by the Holy Spirit may very well look different from the path He shows you.

3) We encourage you to pursue the most gentle response first.


One of the reasons we advocate nighttime parenting so strongly is because it speaks to us so mightily of how we feel God parents us. In meeting the needs of our babies no matter the time of day or night, we feel we are reflecting the ever-present love, attention, and care of our Heavenly Father.

However.

We do realize that there may come a time when it's just not working for anyone in the family - including baby. Again, our approach is not about laying down new rules to follow. On the contrary, we want every parent to have the freedom to seek the solution about which you have the most peace. In considering approaches to nighttime sleep, our heart for your family would be to start with the most gentle solution and go from there.

Some resources to consider:

The No-Cry Sleep Solution. Elizabeth Pantley has gentle sleep ideas for both babies and toddlers. Laura has used her approach in the older-baby months (with some modifications) and found good results.
The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight: Though we haven't read this one, it looks like from the reviews that she helps parents find non-CIO solutions.
Co-Sleep and Nighttime Parenting Forum at Gentle Christian Mothers: This is an open-to-the-public forum for reading. (Only GCM members can post.) You can read threads from other parents working through nighttime issues and you may find the advice given to another parent works wonderfully for your family, too!

So, I suppose that's the long answer to the question of whether or not to cry-it-out. The conversation that follows is always interesting and we look forward to your feedback today!

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photo source: skycaptaintwo

Monday, November 28, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : The Upside of Up-All-Night

Megan is here today to continue our series on infant sleep! If you are in need of a positive focus during the sleepy days of nights of life with a newborn, here is one to think on.


I loved Laura's post last week on what we wish we had known about infant sleep with our first babies. In our culture, there is so much emphasis on when baby sleeps through the night that the importance of understanding how infant sleep is different from the sleep of a fully-grown, fully-matured, and fully-developed adult can often be overlooked. I think what she touched on in terms of differences in sleep preferences from person to person is so vital to this conversation as well.

"How is she sleeping for you?"

"You getting any sleep at night?"

"So, if she's three months old, she should be sleeping through the night for you now, right?"


These questions are all so common to the early months of parenting. Our culture places a high premium on sleep, and for good reason. Night after night of broken sleep for an adult results in long, bleary-eyed days. It can be so discouraging when you are in the midst of just trying to survive those days to begin to think that there is something wrong with your baby (or with you as a parent) if that gold standard for parenting success has not been achieved.

But what if we really stopped and thought about the biological benefits of all those nighttime wake-ups?

We talked last week about infant sleep patterns. For those of us who believe (as Laura and I do) that we are created according to God's perfect design, we can ask ourselves why would God design babies to have such different sleep patterns than we do? Well, just look at the multitude of differences between a new baby and his parents. He relies mostly on crying to communicate, his diet may consist solely of breastmilk which is digested quickly, he can't tell you if his nose is stuffy or if he is in pain from digestive problems, he can't tell you he is too hot or too cold to get comfortable ...

Nighttime can be an extremely vulnerable time for a baby, and we tend to think it's part of God's design for these littlest ones that they are so sensitive to their environments and what is happening in their little bodies that they are able to awaken easily to alert parents to a need that needs to be met. We don't think it's any coincidence at all that the phase of life when a baby's physiological (digestive, cardiopulmonary, etc) systems are the most immature and underdeveloped is also the phase of life when sleep is most filled with light (REM) sleep. Cycling more frequently into light sleep allows a baby to be more aware of his needs throughout the night.

Now certainly, there are babies who just sleep through the night early all on their own. Maybe you have one of those, and if so, you surely count yourself fortunate. As we look at our older children or our peers, it's easy to be aware of how different people are more sensitive to some things than others. My oldest daughter, Dacey, can go for hours and hours after waking up before she realizes she needs to eat. In fact, last Wednesday when she was out of school for the day, she didn't eat breakfast until 11 AM. Aliza Joy, our younger daughter, likes to have something to eat as soon as she wakes up. I absolutely have to sleep buried under blankets while my husband prefers just a sheet. My sister can't sleep at all if her nose is stopped up but it doesn't seem to bother me a bit. And so there will be babies who just aren't as sensitive to physiological needs throughout the night and there are babies who need a parent to help them meet a need and get back to sleep in the night.

So what is the upside in all of this up-at-night nighttime parenting? I think it helps to take comfort in knowing when baby is up at night, she is doing what babies are designed to do - growing, developing, and maturing. Though it is exhausting at the time, it's also kind of amazing to think about the way God builds in these survival mechanisms that are obvious even from birth. This is also why when it comes to discussions about sleep training, Laura and I are both very cautious about any training that takes place before a baby is six months old. The research indicates there is just so much going on with a baby developmentally in those first six months to take a chance on not attending to baby's cries. You might be wondering if we think cry-it-out sleep training is ever appropriate. You'll have to come back next week for our thoughts on that!

Have you ever considered nighttime wakings to be part of God's design for babies? Does this concept make a difference in how you view nighttime parenting?

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image source: nanagyei

Monday, November 21, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : What we wish we'd known about infant sleep



Thanks so much to all who have read and participated in our series of discussion posts on infant feeding! We're beginning a new series today, on the other BIG TOPIC on the minds of new parents: Sleep. (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...)

As Megan and I shared in our introduction stories (here and here), we each experienced deep struggles with our first children in the area of sleep. We had each been thoroughly primed with the "right" methods for ensuring early success with our babies' sleep habits. Techniques that work very well in many households. Yet we found that these methods led to massive feelings of guilt and failure in our lives, eventually discovering through much heartache that they were an incredibly wrong fit for our families.

Looking back, we have often commented to each other that one thing severely compounding our difficulties during those early months was our complete lack of understanding of three major facets of infant sleep.

1. What is normal

• Medical professionals consider “sleeping through the night” to be a five hour stretch,generally from midnight to 5 AM.

• Breastmilk is digested by a baby’s body in two hours or less

• According to one longitudinal study, at the age of six months, only 16% of babies were sleeping ten or more hours without waking at night

• Another study reported that at twelve months, 50% of children still woke at least once per night

• Even children who have been sleeping five or more hours per night at a time may relapse into frequent nighttime wakings due to teething, illness, gastric reflux or other gastrointestinal issues, or preparing to reach a new developmental milestone.

This is data that we wish we had known while rocking our babies through the nights, hearts aching because our daughters weren't "normal". From everything we had read and heard, we were completely under the impression that we should be expecting 10-12 hour stretches of sleep by the time they were a few months old. And that anything different indicated an abnormality or behavioral issue in need of intervention.


2. Infant Sleep Patterns


Babies' developing systems cause them to cycle through sleep phases differently than we do as adults. It takes them significantly longer to settle into deep sleep, and they cycle between deep and lighter (REM) sleep phases more often throughout the night - averaging between 50-60 minutes between the two, as opposed to the 90-minute average for their parents.

We will discuss in next week's post some of the biological benefits of babies' night-waking, and God's design for their development in those critical first few months. But even without the knowledge of why they wake so often, just knowing that those habits are physiological would have been so comforting to us during interrupted nights.


3. Every baby is different

At the heart of our message in Spirit-Led Parenting is the reminder that we are each a unique creation of our Father God. And our individuality is clearly present from birth. Some infants are "good sleepers" from day one, waking less frequently than others and preferring to self-soothe to sleep at naps and bedtime. Others just naturally require more parental help in the form of rocking or other methods of soothing.

The same differences exist in adulthood, really. I spent a night this past weekend at a retreat with sixteen other women from church. Some headed to bed by 11:00, while others sat up hours later. Some burrowed under thick quilts and others wanted just a light sheet. Many drifted immediately off to sleep, while a few spent time reading to settle down. There were ear plugs and eye masks and I downloaded a white noise app to my iPod at 3:00 AM. Anyone attempting to implement one across-the-board sleep environment for the whole group would have made a good percentage of us completely miserable. We simply have different needs when it comes to sleep.

Megan and I each spent a great deal of time fretting over why our babies just wouldn't fit the mold outlined in the manuals. We wish we could have had the perspective then that pursuing the same mold for every baby - while convenient and desirable - just might be neither realistic nor intended.


Would it have totally eased the bleary-eyed haze of the baby days to have known all of these things as we entered parenthood? Not so much. But an awareness that our daughters were behaving in developmentally appropriate ways would have helped us to respond in peace and confidence to the way that the Holy Spirit was guiding us away from the mainstream model that we were trying to emulate, toward the methods of nighttime parenting that were right for our homes.

Have you ever wrestled with misconceptions about infant sleep? Are any of these three areas as comforting or fascinating to you as they were to us? What else are we missing? If you have more than one child, what differences have you noticed in their sleep habits or needs?

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Image: Jomphong

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Holiday Inn Express thanks you to wear your undergarments while dining.

So, over fall break, our family road-tripped to the lovely land of Oklahoma to spend some long-overdue time with Megan and her family. We had a wonderful weekend, and I've tried for awhile now to come up with the perfect post to report on all of the memories contained in those eventful few days.

I could tell you about how thankful we were that our kids traveled so well, and the debt of gratitude we owe to the inventor of the dual-screen portable DVD player.

I could tell you about how fascinated we were by our introduction to the unfamiliar Oklahoman landscape, with its signs indicating the boundaries of tribal nations and others warning us repeatedly, "Do Not Drive Into Smoke". (We obeyed, although one of the first questions we posed to Megan upon our arrival was what this mysterious smoke was and why Oklahoma was so adamant that we not drive into it.)

I could tell you about how Megan is just as kind and thoughtful and lovely and fun as you would imagine (more so, even); and how it instantly felt as though we had grown up on the same street as life-long friends. About how I treasure our friendship even more now, and have thought many times since we've been home about how I would love to be sitting at her kitchen island again with a mug of coffee, talking about kids and life and God and food and whatever else comes to mind.

I could tell you about how Kyle is a man of many talents - fixing us fabulous meals of his own invention, plus teaching a Sunday School lesson out of 1 Samuel that I'll remember for a very long time.

I could tell you about how I enchanted we all were with Dacey and Aliza Joy, beautiful girls with spunk and spirit whose uniquely charming personalities completely captured my heart.

I could talk about how well our kids played together and about trips to the museum and church and about incredibly refreshing time spent in face-to-face brainstorming and talking through the work of our book.

I could tell you about all of that, and it would be true.

But really, what I'm very much wanting share with you today are these two pictures:

The first, taken with Mark's phone in the breakfast room of one of our hotels on the way home. Please note that this is the cinnamon roll station, and observe the printed sign below the counter.


And now, the close-up:


"In the interest of hygiene, please do not remove briefs when trying on garment. When satisfied with fit, protective polythene can then be removed."


Wise words for the morning meal, my friends. Wise words.

You will all be relieved to know that we left our briefs securely in place during breakfast. And a hygienic cinnamon roll was enjoyed by each of us.

Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Milk Production and Scheduled Feedings

Thank you so much for your patience and understanding as chatter has turned to crickets around here lately with a major lack of posting. We are just about 2 1/2 weeks away from the deadline for our manuscript draft, so most all writing time and energy has been directed that way these days.

Megan
is back to share today some valuable information about milk production as we wind down our series on infant feeding. Very soon, we'll jump into another topic. Will it be sleep? Marriage? Sex? Your guess is as good as ours at this point, but we are excited to continue these discussions in the coming months!

* * *
Image source: ODHD


As you might remember, we've been talking through some issues on infant feeding in our Spirit-Led Parenting series. One of the central issues that comes up frequently in discussions about infant feeding is whether or not babies should be fed on a schedule. Today, I want to talk about some concerns for breastfeeding mothers when it comes to scheduling.

I have to clarify from the very beginning that I breastfed Dacey on a schedule starting at about four weeks or so. This was during the time I was trying very hard to follow both Babywise and The Baby Whisperer. Dacey was a big (!) newborn - she arrived weighing nearly ten pounds and she continued to be completely off the top of the charts in weight and length throughout her first year. I continued to nurse Dacey on a schedule throughout her first year, even after I made the philosophical mind-set change from Babywise to a more AP-centered approach. She nursed until she was newly two and I got pregnant with AJ and lost my milk supply.

I say all of that from the start because I am not writing today to bash scheduled feeding OR to say that all women who breastfeed on a schedule will have supply issues. Clearly, it is completely workable to breastfeed on a schedule with no milk production problems at all.

The concern comes, however, when we begin to notice a trend in moms who have breastfed on a schedule from birth and then begin to have supply issues after baby hits the four month mark. To understand why this happens, we need to look at the science of breastfeeding and the system God designed that controls how our breasts make milk.

If you have time, reading this article at Kellymom explains some of the most important information we can find on milk production. Here is what I want to discuss in terms of scheduled feeding:

Milk production doesn’t start out as a supply and demand process. During pregnancy and the first few days postpartum, milk supply is hormonally driven – this is called the endocrine control system. Essentially, as long as the proper hormones are in place, mom will start making colostrum about halfway through pregnancy (Lactogenesis I) and her milk will increase in volume (Lactogenesis II) around 30-40 hours after birth.

Under normal circumstances, a woman's body creates milk under the direction of the endocrine control system in the first three months. Something extremely important happens within those first few weeks.

The hormone prolactin must be present for milk synthesis to occur. On the walls of the lactocytes (milk-producing cells of the alveoli) are prolactin receptor sites that allow the prolactin in the blood stream to move into the lactocytes and stimulate the synthesis of breastmilk components. When the alveolus is full of milk, the walls expand/stretch and alter the shape of prolactin receptors so that prolactin cannot enter via those receptor sites – thus rate of milk synthesis decreases. As milk empties from the alveolus, increasing numbers of prolactin receptors return to their normal shape and allow prolactin to pass through - thus rate of milk synthesis increases. The prolactin receptor theory suggests that frequent milk removal in the early weeks will increase the number of receptor sites. More receptor sites means that more prolactin can pass into the lactocytes and thus milk production capability would be increased.

Now, I realize that's a lot of science-y stuff. I've bolded what is most important for us to understand. In the first few weeks after giving birth, it is frequent nursing that actually puts a system in place to give mother and child the best possible start of long-lasting milk production. It is our belief that this is why newborns seem to want to nurse around the clock - God designed babies this way to stimulate milk production not just in those early weeks, but the system of production that will guide the milk supply for the months to come.

So, let's go back to the hormonal systems that control milk production. We know the endocrine system controls milk production for the first three months or so. What happens after that point? From three or four months onward, it is the autocrine system that governs milk supply.

Consider this from "Examining the Evidence for Cue Feeding" by Lisa Marasco, BA, IBCLC and Jan Barger, MA, RN, IBCLC

Endocrine control seems to be primary for approximately the first three months or so, until prolactin levels diminish. It is now believed, partly due again to Dr. Hartmann's work, that another process referred to as autocrine (local) control takes over at about this time. Under the theory of autocrine control, the body continues milk production at a more local level that has been set during the early period. What appears to affect successful long term lactation is the proper development of adequate prolactin receptors during the endocrine control period, which in turn appears to be correlated with frequency of feedings: the more frequent the feeds, the greater the stimulation of receptor development.

So when the body moves from endocrine to autocrine control of milk production at about the three or four month mark, there may be a drop-off in supply if prolactin receptors were not adequately developed in the earliest weeks of nursing.

Now, again, this will not affect every nursing mother. For women like me who had overabundant milk supply issues, the four month mark was a wonderful relief. I could finally stop wearing (and soaking through) nursing pads around the clock and I didn't have to swaddle myself with burp rags to catch the copious amounts of milk that were just everywhere each time I nursed one of my babies. For women whose bodies will have abundant milk supply no matter what approach to feeding is taken, this switch from endocrine to autocrine control will probably go unnoticed.

However, for some women who by nature do not have an abundant milk supply, there will be a noticeable difference in milk production, and some women will completely lose their supply between four-to-six months.

So what is the take-away here?

1) If you want to breastfeed, please don't view a new baby who wants to nurse all the time as an indication that you have milk supply issues. On the contrary, your baby is doing exactly what God designed for him to do: helping you build your milk supply for the present time and the months to come!

2) If you think that scheduled feedings would work best for your temperament and for your family's unique circumstances and if you would like to be able to breastfeed throughout the first year, please consider not implementing scheduled feedings until after the first month. I found that with Aliza Joy, my baby who I fed on demand from birth, she very naturally fell into a predicable feeding schedule at about two months or so. I didn't have to watch the clock but I did notice that around that time she wanted to nurse every few hours instead of throughout the day. I mention that because if the idea of demand-feeding is not something that appeals to you, you might find that idea of not implementing a schedule from the start to be unsettling. Babies often find their way to predictable routines, and it is a lot easier to stretch time between feedings for a baby who is a couple of months old to move them toward a schedule.

Several books that encourage scheduled feeding advise a two-and-a-half to three hour feeding schedule from birth through the first eight weeks. Given what we know about the science of milk production, this is not developmentally appropriate and may set women up for, at best, disappointing breastfeeding experiences and, at works, failure to thrive in babies that occurs in the four to seven month range when mother's milk supply begins to drop but early introduction of solids may mask the issue.

We would love to hear your thoughts today! Were you aware of the hormonal changes that govern milk supply? What do you think about breastfeeding and schedules? Feel free to tell us your story in the comments!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Finding Encouragement in His Word

Is it still Monday? Does this still count as a Monday discussion? What year is it?

Yowza. Between deadlines and illnesses and vacation recovery, time has been sprinting away from us these days.

We really do have intentions of returning very, very soon to our series on infant feeding. (Truly!) Today, however, we have no carefully-crafted words or deep thoughts to share. Megan has strep throat, and I am currently inflicted with the inability to form coherent sentences outside some intense work on the two book chapters in separate files open on my computer screen. (That last sentence is a perfect example of the non-coherent thing. Don't try to make sense of it...just move on and toss up a quick prayer for my mental state.)

Anyway, rather than give you a thoughtful post today, we would like to just shamelessly ask you for more input! (Charming, right? Please forgive us.)

One of the chapters in process right now is a devotional section of scripture and prayer points to encourage new mothers in those weary, bleary-eyed days and months with a new baby. If you have particular scriptures that have been inspiring, comforting, or otherwise meaningful to you as you have walked the road of parenting, would you be so kind as to share them with us in the comments? We each have a few that are dear to our hearts, but God's Word is so beautifully vast that we know there are likely many more perfect examples that would be perfect for this chapter!

Thank you so much for continuing to share your hearts and wisdom with us! I was plugging some of your stories into another chapter this afternoon and just marveling once again at the privilege it is to have such incredible input to share with the future readers of Spirit-Led Parenting. God has blessed Megan and me so much with all of you!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekend Links - 10/29/11

I'm going to call this the "Just posting some random YouTube stuff since I'm a little overwhelmed by this manuscript." edition.


This is completely adorable.



I love Will Ferrell.



Mark and I are big Coldplay fans. We purchased Mylo Xyloto on the morning it released earlier this week, on our way through Tulsa. And watched some of this Today Show concert at a hotel in Rolla, Missouri last week.



Megan and her girls introduced us to the Kid History videos while we were visiting last weekend. This one is my personal favorite, I believe!



Back to writing! Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : A long overdue meeting!

We're taking a break this week from our Spirit-Led Parenting post series on feeding, because Megan and I have spent this weekend doing some intensive work on the book.

And the most exciting part?

We've been IN THE SAME PLACE for the very first time ever! Our family road-tripped to Oklahoma for Fall Break, and it was a truly wonderful visit.

More on the trip later, and another post on feeding to come next week!


Laura and Megan


The kids (new great friends)! Noah, Aliza, Dacey, & Maya.


A very happy Monday to you all!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Honoring Your Stories

Today, Megan shares about one of the many things God is doing in us as we seek to serve Him through this book project. I echo her thoughts with a wholehearted "Amen".
* * * *


God's timing is always perfect, even (and especially) when it seems He has let something drag on far longer than you ever imagined.

I can say with 100% sincerity that I am thankful that He didn't allow us to move forward with this book project when we first began writing it. A very well-respected and wise literary agent told us that we needed to wait, that we should look several years down the road before we were ready to publish. That was exactly not what I wanted to hear at the time, but it is exactly what I needed to hear. She may have been thinking about time in terms of building the platform from which we would launch our message, but God knew time was needed to smooth over some areas in my mind that were prone to preaching instead of open to listening.

He gave us the gift of several years to listen.

As we have listened, it has become more and more obvious that when it comes to feeding our babies, there are many conversations happening and that all of the voices contributing to these conversations are important. As we have shared our stories with you, you have responded with such honesty. Whereas I once envisioned a message that would hold almost exclusively to the idea of persevering in breastfeeding, the stories you have entrusted to us have changed the shape of what we want parents to know about seeking God's direction in this area of parenting. Your honesty about your pain and hurt and disappointment and shame have caused us to know that we aren't alone in our search for redemption.

We wanted to honor some of these stories you have shared with us through these conversations. It is our hope that in giving voice to your stories, all of us will be reminded that rarely is this easy for anyone.

As I read through the comments left at SortaCrunchy and here in our series on feeding, I'm reminded that this topic is never as simple as it seems:

Emily: I, too, was determined to breastfeed, but try as I might, my milk never came in. Just a few ounces, but no let down. Ever. Turned out that I had a retained piece of placenta, which prevented the let down. I cried buckets and was so heartbroken until I decided to let it go at 3 weeks (I'd had to supplement from about day 5 since my son had lost a pound!) Although I'm sad about not breastfeeding, I'm more sad about the fact that I spent the first few weeks of my little guy's life being incredibly depressed instead of soaking up every second.

Katy: Thank you so much for this. I can't tell you how many well-meaning people encouraged me to just "try offering him your breast" when my child had a severely damaged heart and just couldn't maintain the stamina to breast feed. I WAS pumping, but it's hard to maintain supply with no actual baby. Worst of all, all those well-meaning comments made me really me hate to even discuss the topic, so much so that I've forbidden any and all conversation about the topic as we plan for our next child.

Beth: If I were living in my ideal world, I'd also like to see the assumption that not breastfeeding is a choice go away. For me, it wasn't a choice. I started bleeding internally after delivering my daughter. It wasn't caught until significant damage had been done. I underwent emergency surgery and spent almost 24 hours on a ventilator while they tried to keep my lungs going until my body recovered enough to breathe on its own. I didn't see my precious daughter much during that time, though the maternity nurses were hugely accommodating and brought her over to me as much as they could. By the point I was released from the hospital, my daughter had been on formula for a week; I was on blood thinners to prevent a stroke; and, they (3 intensivists, my OB, the lactation consultant, & Katie's pediatrician, the biggest breastfeeding advocate I know) felt the risks to her, and to me, were too huge to allow for breastfeeding.

I didn't have a choice. It wasn't a decision. I am wounded when people say I don't love my daughter because I didn't breast feed her, or that I don't respect her because I didn't. Or that I abused her because of it. Or, my favorite, she wouldn't have developed her own health problems if I breastfed. It honestly kills me.

Courtney: I am currently breastfeeding baby #3 and again, having a LOT of trouble with supply. I have so much guilt about it, but have tried pretty much everything. My midwife says I have worked harder than any of her clients in the 7 years that she's been a midwife. BUT, I still feel guilty. And, it's because of people that judge women without knowing their situation. I try to ignore the stares and opinions, but it's difficult. I want to do what is best for my baby!

What's hard for me is that I have an ideal situation for breastfeeding. I had a homebirth, skin to skin immediately, delayed cord clamping, over an hour to feed before they weighed, etc. But, even with an ideal situation, breastfeeding is very difficult for me and causes much anxiety. In the past, I quit after about 2 months of trying because it caused me so much anxiety. This time I will breastfeed even if it's just a little bit. I plan to continue as long as I can. But, I can't judge others who try real hard and still struggle and decide to stop.

Every person needs to do what is best for them and their family. Yes, breastfeeding is best, but a non-anxious mama is more important in my opinion.

Linn: There was no thought in my mind that I would use the bottle. But as we know, babies and our bodies don't always cooperate. My first son latched on and we did everything right, but try as we might, there was no milk. When we had to take him to the ER at four days old, we knew it was time to consider what God wanted...my son to be alive! Lactation consultants, strange contraptions to increase milk supply, medications shipped from New Zealand, tinctures and teas multiple times daily, and pumping with an industrial pump all produced almost nothing. While my son needed several ounces a feeding (or even 1-1.5 ounces if I wanted to feed every hour!) I could only get enough milk expressed to not quite cover the bottom of a bottle. We kept at all this for two months, knowing that he needed all the breastmilk we could give, but it never increased. It was the most heartbreaking part of my parenting: knowing that I could not provide what my son so desperately needed. I became thankful for formula and the chance it gave my son at life. I became protective of my bottle feeding and felt attacked every time I got what I assumed was a judgmental look from breastfeeders. I was sad (and still am, seven years later) every time I saw someone able to breastfeed.

With my second son, I anticipated the problems and began the medication as soon as I got home from the hospital. But it was much tougher to continue with the breastfeeding regimen of breast, pumping, bottle feeding, cleaning up the contraptions, and taking the meds when I had a barely two year old running around. When my second was one month old, the routine was wearing on me, and the medication had begun giving me severe headaches. With much prayer, I stopped breastfeeding for the peace of my family. And God knew best...I was able to enjoy those early months with my second son, while I agonized and missed out on my first son's infancy as I fought against the body God gave me.

thewilkinsiv: When I was pregnant with my first, breastfeeding was never a question. I knew I would do it. It's best for baby and I was made to do it. And then my milk never "came in," and my daughter was losing instead of gaining. We we started supplementing with formula and I started taking every supplement I could find and pumped after every nursing session to try to increase my supply. And it never got a whole lot better. I remember being in church in the early days and wanting to hide when mixing a formula bottle because I was afraid people would judge me and think I wasn't doing the best thing for my baby. Which is exactly how I felt! I had so much mommy guilt that I wasn't able to give my baby what she needed because my body was broken. Everyone says it's the most natural thing, but for me it wasn't. And I had no idea why. I nursed and pumped for 8 months and then went to formula.

Missy: Nightmare. I had a list of "what good mothers absolutely must do" in my brain and heart and breastfeeding was #1 on the list. It never worked. After 8 weeks of waking up every two hours to pump and then feed him, a borderline failure-to-thrive baby, taking all kinds of herbs, several LC visits, many tears, and a good dose of postpartum depression, my husband finally had the courage to say, "You have made breastfeeding an idol. It is robbing your joy of this baby. I really think you should stop."

God immediately sent me several women who assured me that yes, my good-mother-hood was not reliant on having behaving boobies. My scrawny baby went on formula and all was well with the world. Weaning brought fertility - and his sister was born 10 days after his first birthday.

* * * * *

This is just a small, small sampling of the stories we have heard through the years. Oh yes, I am so thankful for the time we were given to make space in this conversation for everyone.

I am becoming more and more convinced by the day that relationships trump systems and coming alongside people is more important than clinging to principles. If Laura and I are going to write with integrity about following God's direction in all areas of parenting baby through that first year, we must be devoted to honoring the stories on both sides of this conversation. If we truly believe that God's plans and purposes for each family are wonderfully complex and unique, then our message must be well-rounded, respectful, and authentic.

We realize not everyone agrees with us here, and we are learning to be okay with that. Thank you for sharing your hearts and stories with us. In a very real way, your influence is growing our message in ways we could not have imagined when we first began this project years ago.

Is there an area of parenting where you have changed your mind on a topic after really listening to the story of someone else? Feel free to share your experiences in this with us today.

photo by: umjanedoan

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Grateful

You guys.

On Monday, I hit "Publish" on this post with a few butterflies in my stomach. I've shared about my difficult breastfeeding experience before, but it's never easy to put a personal struggle on display. Are you really in this, Lord? I trust that they'll be kind. But will anyone relate?

I'm sure God has chucked in affectionate amusement at those questions during the past two days as your stories have rolled in. To say that I've been touched and overwhelmed would be an understatement. You have shared your hearts and your pain and your joy and your wisdom, all wrapped in raw honesty and strength found in Him alone.

Six years - almost seven - removed now from those first days of motherhood, I have long since come to terms with our feeding woes and found solace in God's remarkable redemption. And yet, He surprised me this week with yet another precious layer of healing in my heart through your journeys and your willingness to offer them here.

And words like these...


"Wow. This is so...validating. In my circle, I've met very few women who went through what I did. But here you all are! "


There is perhaps no greater inspiration for Megan and I as we find ourselves in the middle of our heaviest writing phase for this book. When the Lord first put this message on our hearts, He gave us a deep desire to speak to mothers who have struggled to fit into the mainstream boxes; to give them a voice, offer the freedom to follow the Spirit's leading, and create a community of support and encouragement. If He will use us - because believe me, it will have to be ALL HIM - to accomplish any of those purposes in even the smallest of ways, it will be more than we could ever have hoped.

Thank you so much for ministering to Megan and to me so deeply with your participation in these discussion posts so far. You have no idea how much it means to us. As Megan said in her post yesterday at SortaCrunchy (and if you haven't read it yet...you need to), "It is no small thing to trust that much."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Early Breastfeeding Challenges


I never expected to be anything even remotely close to a breastfeeding enthusiast. I planned to try it out, read a few things and took the recommended classes. Along the way, I tucked away one piece of advice that had jumped out at me more than any other at the breastfeeding class. Try to make it six weeks. It can be really hard to get started. But just give it six weeks... Of course, I had no idea at that point exactly how hard it could really be. I would quickly find out that nursing a baby, although one of the most natural aspects of motherhood, can also be one of the most frustrating.

Reality hit almost immediately after Maya’s birth, as I struggled through the first night of parenthood, unable to figure out why I couldn't seem to feed my baby. Over and over I tried to help her find a good latch, while she would pull away, crying. I cried too. In the morning, a lactation consultant sat with us for quite some time, watching Maya's mouth and trying out some new holds and strategies with us to combat the latch issue. Finally, she suggested that I wear a contact breast shield for a few days, until Maya was accustomed to the positioning necessary for nursing. The plan was that I would wean her off of the shield within approximately one week. That didn't happen.

Once at home, I still battled through feedings. The shield made my letdown slower, which resulted in Maya becoming so upset as she tried to begin a meal that she would cry hysterically, making the process all the more difficult. When we could get her latched, she often took forty-five minutes or more to finish a feeding, meaning that I would sometimes end one nursing session and begin another one an hour and a half later, attempting to squeeze a bit of sleep in between. Please, Lord. Help me make it through this. I tried – even begged - to quit several times, while my husband sat beside me, patiently reminding me of my six-week goal. "It's just a few more weeks. Then we can see how you feel. You can do this!" As much as I wanted him, or someone, to just let me off the hook, it didn't happen that way. Looking back, I'm tremendously thankful for that.

Something happened over those next few weeks. We sort of hit a groove. I remember the first night that I didn't feel it was necessary to wake Mark up to help me with a feeding. Maya no longer cried during mealtimes. And while she still ate quite often, her feedings grew somewhat shorter in length, giving me longer stretches of sleep. I felt as though I were getting my feet back under me. By the time the six-week mark rolled around, I was ready to take a deep breath and keep moving forward.

As time went on, breastfeeding became a familiar experience - something I could never have imagined in those first weeks. And a new day dawned when Maya turned six months old. Starting on solid foods and reaching new developmental milestones helped her to naturally transition to less frequent nursing sessions and other ways of soothing herself. And remember that breast shield? The one that we planned to ease Maya off of within a week? Well finally, at six months old, she was able to do without it. It was smooth sailing now, and there was no question in my mind that I'd nurse her through her whole first year.

So, what does breastfeeding have to do with a Spirit-led parenthood philosophy? Well, in itself, not much. I've become an unlikely advocate of breastfeeding. But what I want to get across with my story isn't as much an endorsement of breastfeeding as it is another example of the value that comes from heeding the Lord's wisdom and your own God-given instincts over one-size-fits-all advice when it comes to parenting your child, no matter which feeding choice you are led to make along the way. At first, I could not for the life of me understand why I had been led to breastfeed when it was such a rough road. My baby's eating habits fit no "typical" description or pattern. But looking back, I can see that when I allowed myself to accept the individual needs that Maya carried into this world, to release my predisposed expectations of what my breastfeeding experience should be, and to respond to her cues and to the unique challenges we faced together, I was blessed with some of the clearest revelations I've received from God thus far about Himself and about parenthood. Here's the thing...the important aspect of my story wasn't the way in which I chose to nourish my child. It was the way He guided me to a greater understanding of dependence upon Him, of surrendering my desires and plans, and of what it means to simply trust. For me, breastfeeding was the path this part of my spiritual journey took. This past week I wrote out this part of my parenting journey for the book, and I found myself overwhelmed with emotion at what God did in my life as He used my challenges in feeding my baby to weave a beautiful story of redemption and growth in Him.

So what am I trying to say here? A few things. First, that I know and sympathize in a very real way with the struggles that can come with breastfeeding, and that my story is a testimony to the difference that help from professionals, support from loved ones, and perseverance (sometimes through tears and gritted teeth) can often make in overcoming those difficult times. Secondly, that I relate very deeply with the pain of those mamas who desperately wanted to breastfeed and could not. Your stories have touched Megan and I so much that we are focusing a section of the feeding chapter in our book on that subject, covering you over with words of encouragement and peace. And thirdly, I echo once again the central theme that Megan and I want to hold above everything else as we write these posts and work on our book...in all things, let the Holy Spirit be your guide.

To those struggling with the initial breast vs. bottle decision, the Counselor can bring wisdom. To those stuck at a difficult juncture, He can bring clarity and encouragement. To those mourning a breastfeeding journey that did not end as hoped, He can bring comfort and strength.

May we surrender ourselves to trust and follow – no matter where He leads.



Did breastfeeding come easily for you, or did you face obstacles as well? What got you through the hard times, and what would be your best advice for a mama who is deep in the trenches of a rough breastfeeding journey?

* * * *
Also - don't forget that your submissions of stories for possible use in our book are due TODAY! Details here and here. Thank you so much!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Opening Thoughts on Feeding Choices

Megan is sharing her heart here again today, with some excellent thoughts to kick off our series on infant feeding.

* * * *


Today we are beginning a series on feeding baby - one of the most primary concerns for parents of brand new little ones. We began this discussion over two years ago in this post at SortaCrunchy, and certainly many conversations on feeding have taken place on my blog. But as we work through the material for Spirit-Led Parenting, we are narrowing our focus to looking at what these choices look like and how they develop organically in the life of Spirit-led believers.

Readers of SortaCrunchy know that I am a breastfeeding advocate. The motivation for my advocacy stems from a desire for any woman who wants to pursue breastfeeding to have all of the resources, information, and support she needs to be able to do so. It is no small thing, then, for me to set aside my advocacy hat for a minute so that we can discuss this topic with an emphasis on unity amongst other Christ followers.

Obviously. the first major decision we will make for our babies is the choice between breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or a combination of the two. There are many, many voices speaking to women today on this topic. I think that somewhere in the cacophony of voices preaching, teaching, advocating, deliberating, analyzing, and proselytizing the breast versus bottle question, we as Christian women may neglect to listen hard after the one Voice who is able to speak absolute truth to our lives, our families, and our circumstances.

A foundation of the Christian faith is the premise that at the moment of belief in Christ, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, speaking to us the voice and words of our Father God. As believers, we know we can call upon and rely on the prompting of the Spirit within us in each decision we are called to make. I don't know about you, but I find that I tend to compartmentalize the topics in which I feel God would be interested in providing direction: Ministry opportunity? Yes. Marriage partner? You bet. A move to a new community or a new church? Certainly. Homeschool, private school, or public school my children? Absolutely.

Breast feed or bottle feed my baby? Well, see, my pediatrician says . . . but this parenting magazine says . . . and my best friend told me . . . and my grandmother's advice was . . . and the La Leche League leader said . . .

Friends, this should not be!

Here's what God reminded me of this morning in studying His Word - we need to seek His truth for our family, for each individual child, before we listen and give heed to any other voice in this matter.

In John 16: 13, Jesus spoke, "But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth." All truth. The Truth that surpasses any wisdom of man - the Truth that speaks to every situation. Later, the Apostle John would write to the new church, "As for you, the anointing (referring to the anointing of the Spirit) you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in Him" (1 John 2:27, NIV, emphasis mine).

In context, of course, John was writing to the new believers to remind them that they need not make themselves susceptible to erroneous teachings because they thought themselves to be uneducated in God's truth. John is reminding them that the Spirit dwelling within them was enough to educate and enlighten them of the truth of God and His Word. But I don't think it's a stretch - do you? - to say that God's wisdom is enough to speak and teach us truth in any and every circumstance in our lives . . . including the decision of how we, as mothers, choose to feed the little ones He entrusts to us.

I feel strongly that the very first thing Laura and I need to speak about feeding is to make all aspects of this part of parenting a matter of prayer.

If you have children, did you pray over what choice to make in the area of feeding the new baby? I confess to you today that I did not. I made my choice mostly out of fear - fear that we would be unable to afford formula so I felt I just had to make breastfeeding work. That approach certainly colored many of my first experiences in breastfeeding. I have to wonder how different those earliest days and weeks would have looked had I approached the whole matter prayerfully.

Today, we would love to hear from you. Have you even considered approaching this choice prayerfully? How did that play out in your lives? We are eager to hear what experiences and reflections you can share from your life as we thoughtfully consider how to encourage parents to be Spirit-led in this (highly controversial, emotionally-charged) matter.

* * * *
And just as a reminder, we would love to have your stories and contributions collected by October 10th - one week from today! See this post and also this one for subjects and submission instructions!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Be a part of the project - Part Two

Last week, Megan and I put out a call for your stories related to some topics we are exploring in our book. We have received some great responses so far, and are honored and grateful that you are willing to lend your voices to this project!

As promised, today we are offering the second half of subjects for your input. The submission instructions are listed once again at the end of this post. We would love to have your contributions collected by October 10th (two weeks from today).

Once again, thank you so much for your willingness to share your stories and your hearts with us!



FEEDING
If you breastfed, did you encounter challenges that surprised you? What words of wisdom or resources helped you to overcome those difficulties? How did you handle scheduled vs. demand feedings, and did you feel pressure in that decision? If you embraced extended breastfeeding (beyond one year), tell us about any initial expectations you had about how long you would breastfeed, and how those feelings may have shifted over time.

If you wanted to breastfeed and found yourself making the switch to formula, tell us about how you overcame any disappointment you felt and came to a place of peace.


CONNECTION
In the early months of parenthood, were you cautioned against spoiling your baby by holding them too much? Tell us about the ways you nurtured your connection with your child and formed a healthy, secure attachment.

If you walked through post-partum depression, would you share your story with us? How did PPD impact your entrance into motherhood, and how did God redeem those dark days in your life and your relationship with your child?


PRESSURE
While expecting your child, or in their infancy, did you receive advice from friends and loved ones or popular Christian parenting manuals that caused you to feel pressured toward a certain style of parenting or set of infant-care methods? Tell us about messages you may have received about “the Biblical way” to care for your baby, and any struggles those assumptions caused in your heart and home if they conflicted with the direction you felt led as a family.


EMBRACING GOD’S LEAD
Share with us the joys and struggles you have experienced as you’ve turned from the opinions of outside voices and embraced the leading of the Holy Spirit in parenting your baby in their first year of life. How has this heart focus brought blessing to your home, your marriage, and your relationship with God? What have been some of the challenges?


MESSAGE TO NEW PARENTS
What words of encouragement would you offer to moms and dads who are just starting out on this journey and desire to honor God in their parenting?


* * * *

As you submit your stories, feel free to tell us as much as you'd like! As a general rule, we will probably use portions that would be the length and scope of a typical blog comment. However, we definitely welcome more detail.

Instructions for submission:

1. Send responses via email to stories@sortacrunchy.net

2. Use the subject line to tell which topic you are responding to; for example, subject line should read: SLEEP or CO-SLEEP, etc.

3. Send a separate email for each topic.

4. Responses must be typed into email directly. DO NOT SEND ATTACHMENTS.

5. You will receive an automatic response to confirm your story has been received. As much as we would love to respond to each story personally, there is no way we can practically do so. However, please know that every response will be read by us.

6. We reserve the right to edit all submissions for clarity, format, brevity, readability, and grammatical choices.

7. Please include the name/info you would be comfortable with for reference in the book. (i.e. "Laura, Indiana")

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekend Links - 9/24/11

World's Largest Water Balloon Fight - This looks so fun!




Fast Food Folk Song - One of my favorites.




Webcam 101 For Seniors - This is one of the cutest things I've ever seen.




First-Person Tetris - Just fun.
http://firstpersontetris.com/

Monday, September 19, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Be a part of the project!

Megan and I are very excited about today's post!

In recent years, as we have pursued the call of this book, we have gained an enormous amount of support and encouragement from the discussions and conversations that have followed our posts, both here and at SortaCrunchy. Your comments and e-mails have made us laugh, moved us to tears, reminded us that we aren't alone, and blessed us beyond belief. Community is so very important as we follow God and discern the direction of the Holy Spirit, and we've found that to be especially true in parenting. In those days when you can't see through the haze to the road He has set before you, a word of encouragement or been-there-done-that testimony of grace is like fresh air. In Spirit-Led Parenting, we want to offer a lifeline to new parents by sharing our own journeys through heartache and disillusionment to redemption and peace.

But we aren't the only ones who have been there. And that's where YOU come in!

We would love to include your voices in the pages of Spirit-Led Parenting. As we explore some subjects that loom large during baby's first year, we would be honored to share your stories as well. Your own lessons learned, difficult struggles, and moments of clarity. The ways God has revealed Himself to you as you've cared for your babies. Wisdom, both practical and spiritual, for getting through.

We have several topics that we want to offer for your input. The first half are listed below, and the next half will be posted next Monday. See the bottom of this post for submission instructions.



SLEEP
Tell us how the issue of infant sleep affected your parenting choices. If your baby did not sleep through the night by six or eight weeks, tell how that affected your opinion of yourself as an effective parent and/or how that influenced your conversations with others about how your baby was sleeping at night.

If you practice nighttime parenting (you attend to baby's needs throughout the night just the way you would throughout the day), tell about how you have experienced God's presence or comfort or hope during those times.

If you practice nighttime parenting, tell about the practical measures you take to take care of yourself to balance the physical toll of lack of sleep.


CO-SLEEP
Have you experienced co-sleeping to be a taboo topic in Christian parenting circles? If so, what factors caused you to feel like this was something you couldn't talk to other Christian parents about?

Tell about how co-sleeping had a positive, healthy, or helpful impact on your marriage or on your family in general. Share special moments or memories of sharing sleep with your baby.

Tell about practical ways you made co-sleeping work for your family: i.e., how you made time and space for intimacy; the physical space you created for sleep; part-time co-sleeping, etc.


SCHEDULE
Tell how trying to adhere to a schedule with set times for feeding and/or sleeping caused anxiety or stress for you as a new parent.

Tell about how routine plays a role in life with a new baby. Did the routine evolve naturally? Did you guide it? What does routine look like in your family in the new baby season of life?


MARRIAGE
Tell about the fears you had for your marriage as you anticipated parenthood, and where those worries came from. Did you feel pressure to care for your baby in a particular way because you were under the impression that it would protect your marriage?

Talk about how your marriage has grown stronger and your connection deeper since adding children to your home. Share examples of how God has expanded your understanding of love, commitment, and servanthood as you’ve parented together by following the lead of His Spirit.


SEX
Yep, we're going there! Tell about how you approached sex in the midst of life with a baby. Share any creative solutions you discovered as well as what helped you to be in the right mindset to be open to sex and intimacy throughout the first year of baby's life.

* * * *

As you submit your stories, feel free to tell us as much as you'd like! As a general rule, we will probably use portions that would be the length and scope of a typical blog comment. However, we definitely welcome more detail.

Instructions for submission:

1. Send responses via email to stories@sortacrunchy.net

2. Use the subject line to tell which topic you are responding to; for example, subject line should read: SLEEP or CO-SLEEP, etc.

3. Send a separate email for each topic.

4. Responses must be typed into email directly. DO NOT SEND ATTACHMENTS.

5. You will receive an automatic response to confirm your story has been received. As much as we would love to respond to each story personally, there is no way we can practically do so. However, please know that every response will be read by us.

6. We reserve the right to edit all submissions for clarity, format, brevity, readability, and grammatical choices.

7. Please include the name/info you would be comfortable with for reference in the book. (i.e. "Laura, Indiana")


We would love to have the stories collected by October 10th.



Thank you so much for joining with us! Words cannot express our appreciation and excitement!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm sure it's a lovely shopping exerience for normal people.

Shopping at Kohl's stresses me out. Aside from the sheer volume of items available, my overwhelm-ment comes mostly from never really being sure whether or not I'm getting a good deal on anything. Because Kohls is a master of the sale.

For someone like me who can be a little obsessive over scouting out the lowest price on any given item, I'm never confident about when to buy. Should I go this week when the ENTIRE STOCK of women's handbags is 30% off? Or will next week's sales flyer scream POWER HOURS or EARLY BIRD, letting me know that I'll get a lower price if I shop early? What if the BIGGEST SALE OF THE SEASON is approaching? (As it seems to every few weeks.) And what about the Kohl's cash? Oh, Lord help me. The Kohl's cash.

It's just too much, people.

The other night, however, Mark needed new shoes for work. And we heard - much to our great shock - that Kohl's might be having a sale of some sort. So off we went, joking on the way there about which form of incredible deal we might encounter.

Imagine how tickled we were, then, to find this:


A pair of men's shoes - Regular price $70. On sale for $75.

An interesting sales tactic, but one that made an evening of shoe-shopping much more enjoyable.

(And he even found shoes. At a price that was lower than the regular one.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Foundations of our Philosophy






This week, Megan and I would love to share with you some of the foundational beliefs that have inspired and motivated this book. (Some of you long-time followers of Megan's blog, SortaCrunchy, may recognize these thoughts from a post that came near the beginning of another discussion series a couple of years ago!)

We want to state once again, as Megan did in our last discussion post, that we are not in any way attacking parents who have chosen different approaches to parenting their babies. Parents whom we know and dearly love have found great success in practicing the methods set forth by books such as On Becoming Babywise and other similar parenting philosophies, and we would never condemn any parent for lovingly and thoughtfully choosing to follow what works for them as a family in their unique set of circumstances.

Today we are setting forth the foundational beliefs that we share. These beliefs are at the core of what we have written, and these are the principles we are passionate about sharing with Christian parents who want to consider an alternative to what mainstream books on parenting promote. We realize that some of this may be controversial (in our areas of the country, at least!), perhaps even radical, and we are opening ourselves up to be challenged in the ensuing discussions.

Foundations of Our Philosophy:

1) We believe each baby is a magnificent and miraculous creation of God; each is a unique individual with a personality and temperament all his own. Imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting can frequently lead to undue frustration and/or disillusionment, and may hinder parents from experiencing the wonder of God's creation in the person of their baby.

2) We believe that because each baby is entirely known by our Creator God, it is important to rely on the wisdom of God rather than the wisdom of man in parenting each baby individually. We can call on the Word of God as well as promptings of His Spirit within us to receive divine guidance in our parenting choices.

3) We believe that babies cry to express their needs, not to control or manipulate their parents. We stand with documented and sound research which indicates that responding to baby's cries promotes brain development, social skills, and secure attachment.

4) We acknowledge that babies are, by design, very needy. We believe surrendering ourselves as we meet the needs of our babies in their first year of life is one way in which we can answer Christ's call to servanthood in our own homes.

5) We believe that oftentimes when parents try to avoid the "idolatry of the firstborn" or "idolatry of the newborn," they may fall victim to the idolatry of scheduling. While we fully embrace and understand the importance of routine in shaping the events of a baby's day, we believe that sometimes a preoccupation with scheduling can stand in the way of Christian parents experiencing a deep and meaningful season of spiritual growth and the moments of joy and gratitude inherent in parenting new babies.

6) We believe that God intends the marriage relationship to be the primary and central relationship in the home, and that it should be honored, nurtured, and treasured as such. We believe that parenting together out of a servanthood mindset, led by the Holy Spirit, can actually strengthen the marriage relationship and bring about a deeper level of love, appreciation, and intimacy between husband and wife.

We are not writing an Attachment Parenting manual. While we have each embraced aspects of parenting that mirror or follow some core tenets of the Attachment Parenting style, we have also chosen a number of paths that fall outside of the AP realm. (SortaCrunchy's name is actually inspired by this both-worlds mentality!) We are definitely disheartened by the way that we perceive mainstream Christian parenting manuals encourage a sort of detachment between parent and child, and we do not believe it is possible to spoil an infant by holding, cuddling, or tending to them “too much”. Our overall message, though, is one not so much of method, but mindset. One that encourages consistent response and an attitude of servanthood, and one that we believe is modeled after the very heart of God the Father.

We will expand much more on these topics and many more in the coming weeks! As always, we welcome your comments and look forward to engaging in honest, safe, respectful discussion together.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend Links - 9/10/11 - The How-To Edition

1. How to fold a shirt in two seconds. This one both fascinates and frightens me. I don't get it, but I REALLY want to...




2. How to style long hair in 10 everyday styles. Yes, please. I need help.




3. How to make perfect iced coffee. From the Pioneer Woman herself. Ree always knows the perfect way to make anything.

Perfect Iced Coffee Recipe


4. How to write an incredible blog post. Ok, so this one isn't instructional at all, but Jen Hatmaker's brilliant, moving post this past week about the reality that comes with adopting two orphans from Ethiopia will make you laugh, cry, and think. Beautiful and challenging.

After the Airport

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

They might want to increase the meal rations for the barnyard specimens.

The holiday weekend sort of threw the posting schedule off here, so Megan and I will be back on Monday to share some of the foundations of the philosophy behind Spirit-Led Parenting. We'd love for you to join the discussion!

* * *

In other news, we really need to take our kids to a museum. This past Saturday morning when they were bored and didn't want to go out in the heat to play (before the temperature dropped 40 degrees in two days and autumn arrived with a sudden "hey there!"), Maya and Noah made their own museum. Which turned out more like sort of a strange zoo. Still adorable and creative, but a definite cry for a day trip to Chicago to check out the real thing.


Without further ado, I present..."Maya and Noah's Museum of Animals"!


"Yellow-tailed snake exhibit". The palm tree indicates that this reptile must be of a tropical variety.




"Hippopotamus eating exhibit". After hearing the name, I was relieved that this ended up being an opportunity to observe a hippopotamus having a lunch of Melissa & Doug brand wooden cookies, rather than one where visitors get to sample some hippopotamus.





The "duck pen". Where you can watch a variety of waterfowl in their natural habitat of red brick.





The "barnyard area". This one was right next to the ducks, which made the proportion discrepancy rather alarming. But where else can you say you used a magnifying glass to identify a cow and goat?





The "dinosaur section". As you can see, the herbivores and carnivores have all been perusing Microsoft Server Administration MCITP Exam 70-646. I'm fairly certain that's what killed them.



I did not get pictures of the "African journey", which circled our dining room table, and where we were offered the opportunity to feed a lion or hold a giraffe. I'm thinking this museum must have a crazy-high liability insurance premium. (I opted to hold a giraffe, by the way.)


I love these kids.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekend Links - 9/3/11 - A few laughs for Labor Day

I need a few laughs this weekend, how about you?

1. This isn't really a link, but I had to share it anyway. My friend Rachel and I took our kids to a nearby county park last Wednesday to walk the trails, play on some playgrounds, and have a picnic lunch. I adore the sign that greets each vehicle that enters the grounds.



As a visitor to the park, I'm very comforted to know that this county is serious about cracking down on loose animals, scattered trash, and ethnic candy-filled paper mache crafts. You really can never be too careful about such things.



2. Have you seen these? I was introduced this week to a set of videos produced by R&L Local Commercials, two guys who travel around making real commercials for local businesses, using their employees as the stars. Most local commercials are notoriously painful, but Rhett and Link have a gift for hilarity. If you like this one, check out the rest of their playlist!




3. Another video that made me giggle this week? The World's Shortest Train. (Yes, I know it's totally fake, but I still find it amusing.)





4. I saw this one awhile back but happened upon it again this week. Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake? That's a can't-lose combination. (FYI - This may not be completely kid-friendly!)


5. Also, if you aren't reading Catalog Living...you really should be.


Have a great holiday weekend!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Disqus is making it impossible to discuss at the moment.

In the two weeks since I've installed Disqus to run a better, more efficient commenting system here, they've had two outages that have caused commenting to be completely down and previous comments to temporarily disappear.

You can imagine how happy this makes me.

I apologize to anyone who has been wanting to join the discussion on Monday's post, and all of the multitudes of people who I know are just itching to weigh in on the bacon cake debate. (Or maybe two of you.) Anyway, Disqus claims they are "working on the problem" and "hope to have it resolved soon". So, I think we can all be reassured that it will be up and running at some non-specific time in the near or distant future, and then will likely go down again in about a week. Hooray!

Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I wonder if it could be considered a breakfast food...

So, I made a bacon cake last weekend. Yes, that's right.

Browsing through this month's Good Housekeeping, I had happened upon a section of recipes created by Katrina Markoff, of Vosges Haut-Chocolat. According to the article, her company "specializes in bringing global flavors to chocolate". (You will not find me arguing with that mission. And her website makes me swoon!) One of the recipes in the featured collection was a Bacon-Laced Chocolate Cake. My first reaction? "What the...?" My next reaction? "Well, hold on...I enjoy bacon...I enjoy chocolate cake...I am not above attempting a recipe that asks you to incorporate bacon drippings into a ganache-style frosting...hmmmm."

So I did what any completely secure person would do in this sort of decision-making process: I asked Facebook. Well, my Facebook friends, to be specific. I didn't call up Mark Zuckerberg. Although that would have made this post about 800% more interesting. Anyway, while some seemed unsure and others slightly horrified, there were enough people who expressed intrigue that I decided to try this one out. It was my week to bring dessert for small group anyway, so YAY!

In that status thread, my lovely friend Michelle asked me to blog the process. I promised I would, even though this post will show you in no uncertain terms that I lack the photography and artistic skills necessary to be real food blogger. But, here we go!


1. First, I baked a two-layer dark chocolate cake. (No picture, because I forgot to take one. See? This is why my actual food blog is so sad and neglected.)


2. Next, as one always does when one is ready to make some chocolate frosting, I fried up some bacon! (This is getting weird, right? Bear with me.)



This step left me with the requisite 1/3 cup crumbled bacon, and 1 Tablespoon bacon drippings. Observe them in their splendor.



3. Well, that's enough of that. Now, observe THIS in it's splendor. What we have here is about two cups worth of bittersweet chocolate mixed with semi-sweet. (I would have used all semi-sweet, but this is what I had. So I did throw in a few tablespoons of powdered sugar to kick up the sweet a little bit.



4. Grab some liquid smoke. Because that's not at all strange.



5. Then pour two cups of just-boiling whipping cream over the lovely chopped chocolate, and add a few drops of the liquid smoke and the bacon drippings. Because what your arteries definitely need in addition to a whole bunch of heavy whipping cream is some bacon grease. It's so wrong...and yet a little bit right, don't you think? Whisk it all together until it's lovely like this.



6. You have to put the frosting in the freezer for about a half-hour, stirring frequently, so that it can reach a spreadable consistency. I didn't photograph this, because BORING.

But then you take about a 1/2 cup of the prepared frosting, and mix in that 1/3 cup crumbled bacon. This will be your filling. Mmmmm...



Odd on many levels.



7. Use the rest of the frosting to ice the sides and top of the cake. I always use the wax paper trick, because I am a messy frost-er.



Prettier.



And...tada! A piece of Bacon-Laced Chocolate Cake all ready for our first brave small group tester, Tim, to sample. When he didn't immediately die, the rest of us dove in.




It got pretty good reviews! Everyone agreed that the bacon essence was really subtle - although obviously the filling had it's moments of more obvious flavor-combo. It was really more of a sweet/salty/smoky thing that worked quite nicely. Definitely not as good the second day, though. It's one you should enjoy fresh!

Here's the actual recipe link, if you're brave! (My favorite part? The instruction to decorate it with rose petals. Because when I think of a rich dessert infused with a pork product, yes, rose petals are the obvious garnish partner.)

So, what do you think? Sound like something you'd like to whip up for your next gathering? Or just try a bite of if someone else went through the trouble? Or does this entire post make you shudder? I'd love to hear what you think!