Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Keeping Christmas Simple and Christ-Focused

I really appreciated Leah's post on "What do you want for Christmas?" because it very closely echoes my heart as well. We undoubtedly want Christmas to be about Jesus' s birth, not about the presents. I'll admit, though, that I absolutely love the Christmas season and have so many traditions that I want to do with my girls just because they are fun. And some of those have nothing to do Christ's birth. So I thought I'd share just a little about how our little family tries to keep a balance and keep the focus on Christ.

--- We make a big deal about the Christmas story and read it often. We request every book at the library that deals with the nativity and read them together (over and over :) and discuss them. Some that my girls have particularly enjoyed are: "Mortimer's Christmas Manger," "Room for a Little One," and "Who is Coming to Our House?" We also read each version of the Christmas story in all of our different children's Bibles. This has been a lot of fun for the girls and they both LOVE any book they can find that has Mary and Baby Jesus in it. I have also tried to extend the story so that they get more background, including Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Anna and Simeon.

--- I try to ask them regularly, "why do we celebrate Christmas?" (Because it is Jesus's birthday!) My Mom usually does a "Happy Birthday Jesus" cake that Karis looks forward to decorating and eating. Like Leah, we don't talk about getting presents, (and they have no idea that they will be receiving any!) but we do discuss giving presents to others because it is kind and just like the wise men gave gifts to Jesus. My girls get very excited about giving presents to Daddy and wrapping presents for their cousins. Karis has even come up with some ideas for giving to others all by herself! She was bound and determined to take cookies to our next door neighbor and pestered me about it until I finally made time to do it! They have been thoroughly confused the few times people have asked them what they want for Christmas and were so surprised and delighted this Sunday when some sweet members of our church brought them some small gifts :) I am sure that as they get older and start to remember Christmas morning at the grandparents' each year, then it will be harder to keep the focus on Jesus's birthday and giving, but that will definitely continue to be our goal each year.

--- My husband and I have decided to keep our little family gift exchange very simple to avoid distracting the girls from the real reason for celebrating. We just give them a book (usually the next level of Bible that Karis is ready for) and a CD (because our girls absolutely LOVE Christmas music and it is really hard for them when we put it up for the year!) Last year we got them The Big Picture Story Bible and the Songs for Saplings CD:Questions With Answers. This year we are giving them The Children's Everyday Bible and Seeds of Praise CDWe also do simple stocking stuffers of things they need (like a new toothbrush, socks, gloves, etc.) and something fun (this year it is fingernail polish for Karis and play dough for Karlie). Now I have to be honest with you and let you know that the girls end up getting spoiled rotten at their Grandparents' houses, with lots of presents and super fun stockings, but they get spoiled there pretty much anytime they go visit so it doesn't take away from the season too much... they just see it as the fun of being at the grandparents' houses!

--- We have presented Santa to our girls as something fun and "pretend" that people like to talk and sing about around Christmas time, much like Frosty the Snowman. Next year I plan to get some books about St. Nicholas and try to delve into the historical tradition a little more, but for now, Karis has been happy to see Santas everywhere and just know that it is a fun story people like to read and sing about during the winter time. When she gets a little older, I'm sure I will have to discuss with her about the fact that some children actually believe the stories and that she shouldn't spoil their fun by telling them it is just pretend, but it hasn't been as issue for us yet :) She views Santa more as a decoration than anything else.

--- Have any of you done the Jesse Tree for Advent with your children this year? I didn't have it together this year and just now got all my ornaments made, but it is something that I am very excited about doing with my girls next year. Basically, each day you read a passage from the Bible and place an ornament on the tree --Each ornament represents a different story, starting at the beginning of Creation and working all the way to the coming of Christ Jesus. Each reading shows how all the Old Testament points towards the coming of Christ as the Messiah.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Breastfeeding advice

Several of my friends have asked me for advice on breastfeeding lately, so I thought I'd share this list that my dear friend, Leah, gave to me right before I had my first baby. It was REALLY helpful to me and I hope that it will be for you! (I've added in my own notes in italics)

Leah’s Advice on Nursing
**Disclaimer: Of everything I’ve learned, the most important is that advice is just advice. Take it for what it’s worth. Some things work for some people, but not others. You can’t live up to everyone’s standard. And you don’t have to. Just take the best of everyone’s advice and do what works for you and your baby. Your baby is unique – and that’s a good thing!**

  1. Start praying now that God would give you His wisdom to make good decisions and His peace to rest in Him while you are starting out. It can get really discouraging in the first week of nursing, and you really do need His strength to trust in Him and know that He is helping you along.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your nurses and the lactation consultants in the hospital. I called a nurse in to help me each time I went to feed Samuel so they could help me get him started correctly. It’s tempting to want to try to figure it all out yourself, but starting correctly from the very beginning is a big help in the long run.
  1. Write everything down – when she nurses, which side and for how long, and each diaper you change. The hospital should give you a little chart to fill out while you are there so you can keep track of when you are nursing and when she is having wet/dirty diapers. Keep up with the chart until at least your first pediatrician’s appointment. It will help you to see what is going on with your baby, and it will help the pediatrician see that she is progressing well.
  1. Keep in mind that women have been breastfeeding for thousands of years. Long before there was Baby Wise or La Leche League, women were successfully nursing their children. You can do it.
  1. Buy a sports bra style nursing bra and a tank style nursing bra. These are the easiest to use, especially at nighttime. I sleep in these bras for the extra support. Or sometimes I sleep in a tight fitting tank top that pulls down easily. You want to go for comfort and ease in a top/bra when you are feeding at night. (I absolutely LOVE the nursing tanks at Target!)
  1. Engorgement will pass! A few days after you give birth, your milk will start to come in and your boobs will be like two rock hard apples on your chest. I wasn’t too uncomfortable, but I know a lot of women can be. This will only last for 48 hours – hang in there! When you nurse during those 48 hours, sit comfortably and massage your breast while your baby nurses. Gently push from the outsides of the breasts towards the nipple. It will help move the milk through and ease some of your discomfort. After those 48 hours, you should feel a lot better.
  1. In the first few days, after your baby nurses, express a tiny drop of colostrum from your breast and rub it into the nipple. My nurse gave me this hint and it really helped. It is supposed to be the best treatment for keeping your nipples from cracking. Do this for as long as you need – I stopped doing it after the first week.
  1. Give your nipples 5 minutes to air dry. I always left myself exposed for the 5 minutes I used to burp the baby so that my nipple could dry.
  1. Use Lanolin cream from the very start. After I rubbed the colostrum on and then let my nipple dry, I applied a generous amount of Lanolin cream to the nipple area. I did this for the first week. After that, it didn’t seem that I was going to get cracked nipples and I stopped using it. I’m not sure if I was just lucky, or if all of the above advice did the trick. (I used coconut oil instead and it worked great!)
  1. Relax and enjoy the time with the baby while you nurse. It is a sweet, sweet time and the bonding is just as important as the passing of nutrition. Your baby knows you – your voice, your smell, your touch. Use this time to really form that special bond with your baby. She is uniquely yours!
  1. Nursing does hurt at first. Those first few sessions can be uncomfortable because you just don’t know what to expect. But it shouldn’t be painful. If it is like out of this world hurting you, then something is wrong. Take the baby off and try again.
  1. When your baby is drinking colostrum, you won’t hear her swallowing a bunch. It takes a few sucks to get enough in her mouth to swallow it down. Tune in from the beginning to recognize the sounds of your baby nursing. Get familiar with what sucking sounds like and swallowing. BUT, don’t be discouraged if you can’t figure out what sound is swallowing at first. It took me a few days to figure it out.
  1. The standard advice is to nurse your baby at least every 3 hours during the day, and every 4 hours at night. If you have a sleepy baby like me, start trying to rouse her if it’s been more than 2 hours. Although, I will say that I nursed Samuel every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours at night for the first 2 weeks so that he would gain weight quickly in the beginning and I wouldn’t have troubles with the doctors being concerned about his weight. And it worked – he had gained a whole pound by his 2 week checkup and I didn’t have to keep going back in for weight checks.
  1. Start out in the beginning using the “football hold.” It is the easiest one to master and you can really see how well the baby is latching on when they are in that position.
  1. Learn to do the “lying down” position as soon as you can. Sometimes you are really exhausted when the baby wants to nurse, and if you can get her to nurse while you are lying down, it can mean a lot more rest for you.
  1. Drink a lot of water! This is sort of silly advice because you will find that you are SO thirsty while you are nursing and won’t need to remind yourself to drink water. But always keep a glass of water handy. I have several throughout the house so there is always one nearby.
  1. Don’t give up too easily. A lot of women get discouraged and want to quit. I promise you, if you hang in there, you will succeed. If you are getting down, call someone and talk to them about it. Don’t feel like you have to go it alone, or like you are the only one who has ever wanted to quit. Breastfeeding is totally worth it and you’ll be happy you stuck with it.

  2. The biggest question I had in the beginning was “how long should I be nursing each time?” I will tell you that the books aren’t real clear on that answer. It is true that each baby really is different. For a reference, Samuel is a fast eater. He nurses for about 15 minutes each session. Now, in the beginning, I didn’t know he was a fast eater, and I was totally freaking out because I thought it was supposed to take 45 minutes. I was so nervous that I was doing it wrong. My advice here would be to take a deep breath and try to be in tune with your baby. I would aim for getting her to eat at least 15 to 20 minutes. If she is still hungry, she will keep eating. And with the colostrum, it takes them a little longer because it takes more work getting it out and because they are brand new at nursing. This question will make you worry for the first few days/weeks because you’re new at this and you want to do what’s best for your baby. It’s okay to be concerned.
  1. It’s important to keep the baby awake in the first weeks while she’s nursing. Not awake in the sense that her eyes have to be wide open. But, she does need to eat for a full feeding. She will want to fall asleep after 5 minutes. Rub her belly or her hands to keep her eating. The lactation consultant showed Ed how to crank Samuel’s arm to keep him awake enough to keep sucking.
  1. I only feed on one side at a time. I didn’t plan on doing that in the beginning, but the nurse had me do it, and it’s just sort of worked out that way. I asked my pediatrician, and he said that was great to do because it ensures the baby is getting the hindmilk. I think most books recommend that you feed on both sides at each session so that there is adequate stimulation of both breasts. I personally like doing one side each time. If he is still hungry, I offer the other breast.
  1. It is tough to know when she has “drained” your breast. I was dumbfounded by this statement. I couldn’t tell at all. It is a little misleading to say “drained” because it implies that the breast is totally empty and nothing is coming out. But your breast is actually producing milk for the baby as long as they are sucking. I decide to switch breasts when the one he’s using feels totally flabby and he is starting to irritate my nipple.
  1. Make sure you have nursing pads on hand. You will find that your opposite breast leaks when you begin nursing. And sometimes they will spontaneously leak even when you aren’t nursing. This has been one of the most distressing things for me. When you already feel emotionally frazzled, it can be really discouraging to look down and realize that you have leaked through your bra and it is now running down your shirt. Talk about wanting to cry!
  1. Keep a safety pin attached to your bra to remind you which side you should start nursing on for the next session. I actually kept a hairband on the appropriate wrist because I kept forgetting to move the safety pin. But if you are marking which side to start on, it makes it a lot easier.
  1. Last but not least, have a good cry now and again. And lean on your husband for support. Breastfeeding can be stressful because it is so new to you and baby both. It’s okay to cry when you get stressed out. Have your husband lay down in the bed with you, cuddle you, and reassure you that you are doing a good job and that you are an excellent mother. Hang in there, babe.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

First Trimester Tips:

Oh, morning sickness! It seems like just a bad dream now that I am in my third trimester, but I vividly remember how miserable I was and how just making it through the day seemed like a huge accomplishment. I was so incredibly excited to be pregnant, but truly wondered if I would actually be able to make it through while taking care of two little ones. This week I am supposed to be giving tips on how to keep your household going smoothly while feeling under the weather for several months, but I have to be honest: I did a pretty poor job of it this summer. My first two pregnancies were not too bad, but this last one hit me much harder and really threw me for a loop. I pretty much gave up and had to rely completely on my family and friends for most of the 1st trimester. That was really hard for me, but God taught me a lot through it. I’m going to share a few practical tips that I did learn, but just keep in mind that the biggest lesson I learned was to trust God and be humble enough to ask for help!
Random tips in no particular order:
-- If you are lucky enough to find out that you are pregnant before morning sickness hits, stock your freezer!! I usually have about 10 happy days before I am incapacitated and I try to cook up a storm during that time. As soon as I saw that blissful line on the pregnancy test, I threw my schedule to the wind, made a huge trip to the grocery store and cooked all week long: enough bread, pancakes, tortillas, and meals to last about a month. I really don’t know how we would have survived if I hadn’t because once it hit, I seriously couldn’t walk into the kitchen without gagging.
-- Give yourself a break -- I remember so many days during that time where all I did was lay on the couch or floor and read to my girls. I got absolutely nothing else accomplished. My house was a wreck and I felt like a slacker but seriously couldn’t do anything more than that. But at least I knew my girls were happy and out of trouble and I had made it through one more day. There is no reason to beat yourself up for lack of productivity when you can do absolutely nothing about it!
-- Don’t be too proud to ask for help! Your church family is there to help you through times like these and it will bless them as well! One young mother in our church asked if she could keep my girls for me one morning to give me a break. Normally, I would have declined, because the girls didn’t know her that well, but I was desperate enough to accept the help. My girls had a wonderful time and wanted to go back. They ended up going over there every Monday morning for the entire duration of my morning sickness! It started a great friendship with a young family that we hadn’t previously known that well and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! In addition, I cannot tell you what a difference it made in my mindset to know that I could start my week off easily. I had previously felt very overwhelmed on Mondays, knowing it would be so many days before I had my husband’s help again. I also had a young pre-teen girl in my church offer to come over and play with my girls. That began another beautiful friendship and she still comes over one morning every other week! The girls really look forward to her visits and I definitely do! I have been amazed at how God has used my weakest moments to form relationships that I now treasure. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it! God will bless your humility.
-- Switch or stop taking your pre-natal vitamin is they are making you sick. With my first two pregnancies, I was able to take my pre-natal vitamins throughout my first trimester without any problem.This last pregnancy, however, they made me throw up. If I took them, I would spend all day in the bathroom.I decided that they were not doing me any good if I always threw them up, so I just quit taking them. I still felt utterly miserable, but no longer threw up at all. It was definitely worth it to me!
-- Ginger and honey tea can help settle your stomach. I didn’t want any of my normal favorite teas when I had morning sickness, but a simple ginger tea did seem to help a little bit. I bought fresh ginger at the grocery store and would simply cut off a few pieces and let it steep in my hot water for a few minutes. It was a very mild ginger taste and I would add just a drop of honey as well.
-- Try eating before you sit up in bed. If I sat up, I would not be able to eat anything, so my husband brought me buttered toast and ginger tea almost every morning to eat while lying down. Sometimes it was all I could manage for breakfast, but it was better than nothing!
-- Use paper plates and other disposables. I usually try to do everything all natural and “green-like,” but the first trimester is undoubtedly just a time to survive. Dishes became a huge problem for us because they completely grossed me out and made me sick and I just couldn’t do them. I really could hardly walk in the kitchen without feeling ill. My husband had to completely take over kitchen duty while I had morning sickness so he stocked up on the paper plates, bowls, plastic utensils, etc, and it helped so much! I also gave up on cloth diapers during that time.
-- Nap when the kids nap. This was hard for me, because nap time is when I get everything done! But I found that I if I did not use that block of time to sneak in a nap for myself, my body would not be able to make it the rest of the day. I would have to crash at 7:00 when I put my girls down rather than hang out with my husband. But if I took a nap mid-day, then I could stay awake to spend some time with Mark in the evenings.