Ordinary Joy Mama Review

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To read my review of this 3-in-1 cover from The Undercover Baby (and for a discount code and giveaway opportunity) head over to www.ordinaryjoymama.wordpress.com. I’ve set this blog up to work in conjunction with my Instagram account and keep reviews, etc. separate from my more personal updates here. :)

{Mommy Journal} Our Current Top Five Picture Books

Both our moms taught us to LOVE books, so Andrew and I were determined to make them a big part of our children’s lives. :) We are so thrilled that our little Monkey absolutely adores being read to. I thought I would share some of our current favorites that may be a little more obscure. It’s hard to narrow it down, but here are our current Top Five. These are affiliate links to Amazon. :)

All the Places to Love by Patricia McLachlan

Brought to you by the author of Sarah, Plain and Tall! This was a favorite of mine growing up, and it just so happens that the little boy’s name is Eli, so now it is even more dear to me! The paintings in this book are truly stunning and the nostalgic tone with which it is written might bring a tear to your eye. It does to mine, but I’m not even two months postpartum. ;) Caleb is completely enraptured by the pictures!

 

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

This author has several cute books, and this is Andrew’s and Caleb’s favorite. The fun plot and quirky illustrations make it a hit, especially for boys!

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

This title is just plain cute and heart-warming. Caleb loves to point out silly things in the peculiar illustrations, and I enjoy reading it in exactly the way that the narrator did when we had it on tape growing up. ;)

Lentil by Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey is one of my all-time favorite authors, so be sure to check out his many other picture and chapter books! His black-and-white drawings are full of sweet details and great facial expressions. Lentil is Caleb’s favorite of our McCloskey collection: the story of a little boy who can’t pucker his lips to whistle, but can play a harmonica…and how that skill saves the day!

 

Paddington by Michael Bond

I love this picture book version of one of my favorite chapter book characters, and Caleb requests it often. The pictures are darling and it is well-written, so it’s fun for a grownup to read. Sometimes I practice my poor British accent for added interest. ;)

Next on my list to purchase is Nine for California...yet another favorite from my childhood! What’s the current favorite picture book in your home?

{Mommy Journal} The Difference 15 Minutes Can Make

imageWell, here we are almost into February, and I’m still working on my list of 2017 goals. The New Year took me kind of by surprise, with a new baby and all. So far it’s been a stretching and fulfilling one and I am so eager to keep growing over the next twelve months.

I thought I would at least share one specific goal I came up with a few weeks ago, in case it resonates with other mamas. I am purposing to, whenever possible, leave the house 15-20 minutes before I actually need to. We live in an apartment, a flight of stairs and two doors from our parking garage, which makes getting two kiddos and their paraphernalia to the car a bit of an ordeal. Leaving really early will allow for my mom brain to go back inside for things I have forgotten, and give me time to address correction with Caleb if needed, without arriving late.

But more importantly, I want to stop rushing Caleb. When I leave with only minutes to spare, we have to hurry. Caleb likes to stop and pick up leaves on his walk down the steps. He spots bugs and wants to discuss them. He gets distracted by the construction across the street. He is two and he will only be two for 10 more months. I want to leave time for him to be a child, and for me to enjoy that. Our trips will be much more pleasant and peaceful if we can take our time walking down to the garage.

I’ve been implementing this simple goal, and already it has led to much happier treks to the car. I can interact patiently with my little man over his observations and discoveries. We make small memories and Caleb learns new things. It is a very simple and realistic decision that is already bearing sweet fruit.

I hope that one day when I look back on our LA apartment life, I will remember getting out the door with my little ones with a fond smile and a full heart.

{Mommy Journal} Eli’s Birth Story

Elijah’s birth story was so different from Caleb’s! You can read Caleb’s birth story here

There may not have been anything particularly out of the ordinary about Elijah’s birth, but every single birth is miraculous and points to the incredible design of our Creator. I am so thankful for the birth story that God wrote for us yesterday. So…if you’re a weirdo like me and love a good ol’ birth story, enjoy. ;) If you’re squeamish….read at your own risk. ;)

On Wednesday, December 14, after a restless night of sleep full of Braxton Hicks and numerous dreams about my water breaking, I woke up at 5:40 AM to a painful contraction. It hurt in my abdomen and wrapped around to my back…I immediately knew this was different. I timed a few before waking Andrew at 6:15 to tell him I was pretty sure labor was starting. We were so glad he had been able to take his last seminary final a day early, just in case!

As we hurried around the house gathering our things, the contractions ramped up quickly in intensity and intervals. By the time we were in the car around 7:00 and dropping Caleb off with our friends, the contractions were coming every five minutes, lasting about 50 seconds, and were pretty painful but totally bearable.

We met my wonderful midwife Rachel at the Ventura Birth Center (an hour drive from home) and were ecstatic to learn that I was 3-4cm dilated! Since I was still in early labor, she left to allow us to settle in and labor alone until we wanted her support.

It wasn’t long before the contractions died down. I was discouraged, but glad not to be in the hospital, where I likely would have been started on pitocin at this point. We went on a walk to the mall a half mile away and Andrew got his hair cut! I never had “early labor” with Caleb, so the notion that I could be laboring at the mall while my husband got a haircut was hysterically funny to me. Throughout the afternoon, I enjoyed a sweet time with Andrew as we rested, ate, worked through sporadic contractions, and waited for labor to pick back up. Around 3:30, it did.

The contractions were really painful, but I felt in control as I rocked and moaned through each one. Andrew provided counter pressure on my back or let me sway with him while I contracted. He encouraged me constantly. I was beyond grateful not to be experiencing back labor this time! What a difference!

Between 4:30 and 5:00, things became really intense and a lot more painful as I hit transition. I got super emotional and began crying between contractions, and I lost that sense of control and had a hard time dealing with the pain mentally. Rachel and her assistant, Sue, both showed up within about five minutes of my water breaking (gushing!) with a contraction around 5:30. Now the contractions became seemingly unbearable. I felt trapped in the pain. I got in a warm tub and labored there on my hands and knees. I was now 7cm dilated.

I remember thinking, If I were in the hospital, I’m pretty sure I would be begging for an epidural right now. I kept telling Andrew I couldn’t do it and telling him how bad it hurt as I swayed back and forth in the water. He kept telling me I could do it and that I was doing amazing. Rachel and Sue kept encouraging me as well. The contractions were super close together and sometimes I couldn’t tell where one stopped and the next began. The heaviness  and piercing pressure of my baby on my pelvis was tremendous. As the urge to push came on, I started to do so. For some of the contractions, there was less pain when I pushed through them. On others I just writhed and couldn’t push. Rachel checked me…I had one centimeter to go. She used a technique on the next push to help my cervix fully dilate. It felt excruciating but was so worth it!

I wanted to crawl out of my skin with each contraction, as I’m sure everyone does at this point in labor. ;) I yelled or groaned through most of them. The thought of a baby coming was no longer comforting because in my mind I truly didn’t believe I would ever be able to push him out. With some pushes, I felt the beginning of the ring of fire burning. I knew I could be close, but I kept remembering how I’d pushed for almost four hours with Caleb, and my heart sank. Andrew prayed aloud for me as I cried.

Then Rachel said she could see hair! I got out of the tub and sat on a birthing stool. They continued checking Eli’s heartbeat between contractions. Suddenly Sue said something like, “The baby’s in a place he doesn’t like now. On the next contraction, you HAVE to push him all the way out. Don’t worry about tearing, just push with everything you have and make sure he comes out!”

With Caleb, I had followed Rachel’s (my doula that birth) wise instructions and slowed down at the end when I felt the ring of fire, allowing his head to stretch me and thus, evading a bad tear. But now, I trusted Rachel and Sue’s expertise and did the opposite, giving every last ounce of energy to pushing my baby out. The ring of fire passed very quickly as I felt Eli’s head slip out. One more hard push and his shoulders followed, and there he was in my arms. My slippery, squirming, crying baby was against my chest and he was absolutely perfect.

An indescribable wave of relief and love swept over me as I clung to our baby with Andrew right beside me, taking in his precious, pudgy face. He was perfection. Rolls and hair and pudgy cheeks and big, dark, beautiful eyes that stared right into ours. It was 6:59 PM when he entered the world.

The midwives explained that Eli’s hear rate had dropped and then spiked, indicating he may be in distress. When he came out, his cord was over one shoulder. It had likely been briefly pinched in the birth canal, causing the change in heart rate. I got a second degree tear and needed ten stitches, but I was so thankful that my midwives erred on the side of protecting Eli, and thankful the tear wasn’t worse!

Following birth, I got to take Eli to bed with me and just snuggle as long as I wanted to. I experienced violent, uncontrollable shaking for over an hour, and the subsequent stitching process was uncomfortable, but cuddling our new baby overshadowed everything unpleasant.

When I finally turned my sweet Elijah Steven over to Sue for his measurements, we were shocked to learn he was nine pounds, 20.5 inches long, and had an enormous 15 inch head. He was well over a pound bigger than Caleb!

There are so many things about this labor to praise God for. That I was allowed to let my body “do its thing” and not get rushed. That I could labor in water. That I was supported tremendously, emotionally and physically, by my encouraging, steady, rock-of-a-husband. That I was in excellent hands with the intuition and genuine care of my fabulous midwife team. That I was able to relax and enjoy my prize following labor, and take him to the comfort of our home just four hours later. That God watched over Eli’s heart and oxygen levels and kept him totally safe. That God provided me with the strength to push Eli out when I needed to. That I had no back labor or pitocin, only had about two hours of active labor, and only pushed for 19 minutes! So spoiled!

Every single birth story is amazing. Every single baby is a gift. I am so grateful to have been blessed with the opportunity to witness God’s wondrous miracle of birth again, with all its agony. The prize was worth every bit of the pain and I am SO excited to get to know our sweet little boy in the days and years ahead. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above.” Thank You, Father.

A Letter to Our New Baby

IMG_0067Dear Seggie,

Just because you’re baby #2 doesn’t mean we love you any less. But your big brother sure does make life crazy, compared to when I was expecting him! Although I haven’t journaled weekly updates this time, I’ve kept up on how big you are each week and read about your developments just like I did when Caleb was still Yaffie. You are growing like a weed!

Daddy and I were so excited the day we found out about you, and we could hardly believe it was true. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of another child to love and cuddle. It was so fun getting to tell our families in person and they were all just as excited as we were. As the days went on, you started to make me really sick. The weeks felt long, but I never for one tiny moment doubted that you were worth it. We talked about you a lot, what we would name you and when you might arrive–our little Christmas baby. We told Caleb about you and he learned to pat and kiss you through my tummy. We are reading books about being a big brother so that he will be ready when you arrive.

Gradually, I started to have some good days, after we hit 14 weeks. Between weeks 15 and 16, I started to feel some of your very subtle movements. On the Sunday I was 16 weeks, you danced to Psalm 139 put to music at church–so appropriate! We were singing about how God knew you before you were even formed in my womb.

Daddy first felt you playing at 16 weeks, 2 days. Your wiggles were soft but definitely there. Things really started getting real then. You were developing personality and we knew you could hear our voices. I feel you throughout the day now, and it brings a warm smile to my face.

We love you so much, sweet Seggie. We can’t wait to get to know you as the weeks progress. Will you be active and outgoing like your big brother? Or quiet and laid back? Will you love long snuggles, or will you be a squirmer? Will you devour books? Adore animals? Only time will tell.

Love,
Mommy

{Marriage Journal} A Baby Is Not An Escape

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Here are a few thoughts I drafted one month before Caleb was born, but never posted. 15 months later, I’m convinced more than ever that a solid marriage is the best foundation from which to begin adding children to the mix! =) 

Andrew and I are bursting with excitement to meet our first child sometime in the next several weeks. It’s truly a day we’ve talked and dreamed about for years, and it’s finally here.

Goodbye, Just Us

Saying hello to this beautiful new season of life called parenting has meant bidding farewell to an equally amazing time as just the two of us, and that makes me sad. Andrew is my very favorite person and best friend, and no matter how much one-on-one time we are blessed with, I could always enjoy even more. I’m never tired of his company, and when he is at school, I look forward to his return all day long. Sometimes we can’t even wait through his 20 minute commute and one of us calls the other when he’s out of class so we can start talking while he drives. =)

This is not to say that we do not sin against each other, behave selfishly, hurt one another’s feelings, have conflict, and hit bumps in the road, because we do. But thanks entirely to the grace of God, our relationship is characterized by unity and camaraderie. He has enabled us to establish the habit of keeping short accounts, so that matters of conflict are addressed quickly and willing forgiveness is granted regularly. This makes for an imperfect but oh, so sweet friendship. Praise God!

Hello, Parenthood

The natural progression of life is to start having children sometime after your wedding, and that’s a very good thing. But I think it would be easy to seek this “next step” of parenting as a means of escape from the monotony of a marriage that has become at best boring, or even downright unhappy.

Escape is never the right reason to begin having children. Adding babies to an unhealthy marriage is a sure way to make that marriage even worse. I cannot imagine navigating just the challenges of pregnancy with a husband I’m not close to, let alone trying to raise a little person(s) together. That sounds like the recipe for disaster.

If you happen to be someone currently married and pre-babies, I would encourage you not to crave that “next step” as a way to restore excitement or add a new distraction to your life. It may be wise to evaluate your relationship with your husband and take purposeful steps to help it flourish. (This is always a good idea, regardless of your season of life.) Pinpoint where you are sinning or slacking off in your marriage and ask the Lord to change you from the inside out and grow you into the wife He has called you to be. Communicate with your husband and work together to strengthen your friendship. Of course, all our people problems can be traced back to where our hearts are at with God, so this area of our lives must be addressed first.

Having children should be a joyful step that married couples decide to take as one happy unit. I don’t know this first hand yet, but I have observed that parenting is a team effort and should draw dad and mom closer to one another as they learn to lean on God through brand new challenges and responsibilities that children bring.

You’re Already a Family

Instead of thinking of “starting a family” as the morning you get a positive pregnancy test, think of your wedding day as that moment. You are a family, just the two of you. Soak up this precious season of life as “newlyweds” (even if it’s been years) and build into your friendship with your husband. After all, when the kids are grown and gone, you’ll be right back where you are now. If your littles were your escape from “just the two of you”, that doesn’t sound like a happy way to enter the “empty nesters” phase.

I know there are countless stories of unhappy couples having children, and God using parenting as a tool to refine the marriage and bring the husband and wife closer together. All is certainly not lost when babies are added to a rocky marriage. Praise the Lord! But it is ideal to work toward that healthy relationship before the kiddos come along, so consider how you might do that now. Never view a baby as an escape; instead ask the Lord to create a marriage you don’t want to escape from.