Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ten Months

Wow. Double digits. I can hardly believe Micah is already 10 months old! He is so active, he gets into everything! He's also very curious and wants to know how everything works. Whatever Mommy and Daddy are doing he wants to be part of, whether it's cooking, reading, cleaning, whatever! He's also starting to play by himself more. The past couple of days he has really enjoyed looking at his books. He'll just sit there and page through them. He could honestly do this for at least 10 minutes. I always wonder what he's thinking when he's looking through the books! This month wasn't as busy as the past couple of months, but he still had some "big" things:

*We went to Palos Pool one day and met a family there that I used to baby sit for. Micah loved all of the attention that Jane and George gave him, and he really loved playing in the water with them!

*Micah finally got his first tooth! We thought it would never happen!!

*Micah met some of Daddy's family from Ohio. He had a lot of fun at a BBQ at Nana and Papa's house.

*One beautiful morning we decided to head to the zoo with Oma. Micah always loves going to the zoo. This time he got to hear the lion roar and see a herd of buffalo running.

*At Micah's 9 month check-up he weighed 20lbs. 8oz. and was 29 1/4in. long. He's a growing boy!

*Micah has started to sign "all done" for us.

*He can now stand on his own for several seconds at a time. I swear, it'll be no time before he's walking around the house!

*Micah helped host a playdate with some of Mommy's friends from MOPS. He did a great job sharing his toys with the other kids.

*He went shopping at Michigan City with Mommy and her friends from high school. He did so great, never cried or complained about Mommy taking too long at a store. My friends loved having him with us. I had to make sure he was still in the carseat when I dropped them off to make sure no one kidnapped him! :)

*We've started to baby sit one of Micah's friends, Benjamin, two days a week. Micah's kind of indifferent to Benjamin right now, except when Mommy is playing with him!

*We spent Micah's 10 month birthday with Mommy's college friends at Warren Dunes. Micah had a great time playing in the sand with Jackson and kept trying to crawl to the water on his own.

Overall, a very fun month. I'm really hoping September brings some cooler weather so that we can get outside some more with my energy being completely zapped from the heat. I'd really like to take advantage of the free days at the museums. But I can't believe my baby is getting closer and closer to being one year old! It's gone by way too fast!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cloth Diapering 9 Months Later

A lot of people ask me how cloth diapering is going. Honestly, I think many of them are secretly hoping I will say, "It's terrible, I'd quit but we invested so much money I just can't justify it." Not because they're mean or wish us ill-will, but because, I mean, come on! It's cloth diapering! Who could like that? To say that we still like it is an understatement.

Both Brad and I are so glad that we made the decision to cloth diaper. We use pocket diapers exclusively, which means we change the whole diaper at every diaper change, just like with a disposable. I have a garbage can with a flip top lid sitting next to both of our diaper changing stations (one upstairs and one downstairs)which has a pail liner in it. When we change his diaper we just shake the little insert out of the diaper and put the whole thing--insert and diaper into the garbage can. Then, every 2-3 days we wash diapers. The washing is not that difficult. The only downside is that I have an old washing machine and it's in my basement. That means I can't just set it to do an extra rinse after the wash. That means I have to run downstairs for each new cycle. But it's really not that big of a deal. First, I put the diapers on a rinse cycle to get all of the pee out of the diapers. Then, I do a complete wash to clean them. Then, they get an extra rinse at the end to make sure that the detergent is rinsed out of the diapers. On sunny days, I like to line dry my diapers (the sun also has awesome bleaching powers so my diapers stay white!), but when it's not sunny I just throw them in the dryer. Then, I just have to stuff one insert into each diaper and *voila* diaper laundry is done! It might seem like a lot of work, but it's honestly not.

One thing I love about the cloth diapers is how soft they are. Recently I forgot our diaper bag at home and Micah pooped. I had to go to the store and buy disposable diapers. They felt so papery and irritating! Nothing like his cloth diapers. Also, we've never had poop explode out of the cloth diapers! I feel like his regular laundry actually cut down once we started using cloth because he wasn't going through two or three outfits a day because of the poop explosions! Another thing is Micah has never had diaper rash. That's because there's no irritating chemicals in his cloth diapers.

Of course, I have to admit, one of my favorite parts is the awesome colors! I love the bright colors and how fluffy and soft his little bum is! So, in answer to your question, the cloth diapering is going great. We are so happy that we made the decision and we will definitely be cloth diapering any future children. Of course, if you have any questions about it (other cloth diaper systems, the cost, etc.) I would gladly answer them.

*I seriously need to start taking more pictures of him in his cloth diapers!

Friday, August 19, 2011

That Time of Year

I can't believe it's already that time of year. You know, the time of year when kids go back to school. Families fall back into routines and schedules. I love this time of year. I am seriously giddy with excitement as I think about all of the wonderful activities Micah and I can do this fall: Should we sign up for music class at the park district? What about going back to Gymboree classes? Story time at the library? And don't forget Beth Moore Bible study. And MOPS. And playdates with friends. I just love it. But what I love most is starting school.

I don't know if I'll ever go back to teaching, but I will always miss the first day of school. I love meeting new students. I always woke up super early because of the butterflies in my stomach. I was so excited, but I convinced myself that I couldn't beat the janitor there, who opened the school building. I loved planning new themes, new activities, new units. I loved showing my students how to organize their desk. Or how to write in their assignment notebooks. Later in the year things would get so busy I often couldn't take the time to do it with them, but always at the beginning of the year we took probably 5+ minutes every time we had homework. I loved it! Teaching them how to be organized. Setting them up for success. They were so full of potential at the beginning of the year. We all had clean slates. It was so exciting. There's so much about teaching that I will miss. Some I may be able to fulfill one day by teaching my own children, but I will always miss the first day of school.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Woman After God's Own Heart Part 4

Phew! I wish that I could truly tell you about all of the lessons I learned from this book. Every day I think about it. Every day I'm trying to improve as a wife and mother. It feels like every day I have a chance to put into action something that I've learned. I was challenged so deeply by this book, I think it will follow me for many years.

There's so much that I could write about, and I'm sure I will throughout the years, but today I want to talk about what the book says about being a mom. I know that I've said it before, but all I've ever wanted was to be a mom. I've always wanted to take care of my own children. I had visions of doing craft projects, walking around the zoo, swimming at the pool, snuggling up in bed reading books, sitting on the couch with the lights turned down low watching a movie, wrestling on the floor, and sneaking into their rooms at night just to watch them sleep. So many people encouraged me and told me that I would be a great mom. I might have gotten a little cocky. I mean, I baby sat for 15 years before I actually became a mom. I did overnights, trips, whole days. I've rocked a crying baby for hours, cleaned up puke, driven in the car with two fighting kids in the backseat, fed a baby, given kids of all ages a bath, comforted a crying child in the middle of the night. I mean, I thought I had covered it all. How different could motherhood really be?

I was wrong. There's something about not being able to give your child back at the end of a set amount of time. Something about being home all day with a little person who doesn't talk to you, and when he does, you can't understand him! Something about being up half the night and then up the whole next day. And the child was up to so he's tired and cranky. I just didn't realize how frustrating motherhood could be. Yes, people told me, but I thought it wouldn't be like that for me. But I'm learning that 90% of it is about my own attitude. The book focuses a lot on the mother's attitude. I set the tone for my entire household. Even though Micah is only 9 months old I've already discovered that to be true.

Since finishing the book about two weeks ago, I can honestly say I have not had a frustrating day with Micah. I've just changed my entire attitude. And, boy, does it show! The book talks about seeing our children with God's eyes and desiring to teach them about God. I have no desire stronger than that. However, I didn't know how to live it out, especially with a 9 month old. But I picked up a few suggestions from Elizabeth George. Now, whenever I am putting Micah to bed, while I walk him to sleep (yes, we still walk him to sleep!), I pray for him. Somehow the time goes by much quicker. I use prayers that I learned from another book that I read, Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, by Jodie Berndt. I pray for his health and safety. I pray that he will grow up to be a man who loves Jesus with all of his heart and desires to serve his people. I pray that Micah would have a thirst for Scripture, even at a young age, so that he can memorize Scripture and be able to use it in times of need. I pray that he will be a man of integrity, someone that others know they can depend on and trust, that he would be respectful and fair. And I pray that God would guide Brad and me as we raise Micah. They we would make wise decisions and love him in the way that he needs to be loved. I love that time. And I find that now I forget about how long it has taken me to get him to sleep because I've been spending my time talking to God.

I also learned how important it is to teach a passion for God's word, even now at a young age. Brad and I always read Micah a Bible story before bed. And we pray together at all meals. I've also taken to reciting a Scripture verse over his crib when I put him down to sleep. I want Micah to grow up in God's arms and feel safe and secure there, not judged and tied down, like so many adolescents do.

One thing that I was really challenged by in this book was how I spend my time. If I'm to make teaching my children about God a priority, than it should be reflected in my time. That means really focusing our day on that. That does not mean that we need to spend hours reading the Bible every day or talking about how much we love God, his people, his creation all the time. This is not sit around the campfire, kumbaya. This is real life. However, I need to prioritize. I need to prioritize my time with my children and prioritize what we do with our time together. For example, watching TV is such a waste of time. I'm not saying that TV does not have any place in a home. I understand the desire to veg out and just relax. But, really, how often do we need to do that? Especially when my children are young, I'd rather spend my time going for walks or reading Bible stories. I don't need to use the TV as a baby sitter. I need to prioritize my time better.

I want my kids to know that they are my priority. That means being home when they get home from school, having a snack prepared, ready to listen to them talk about their day. That means spending special time with them, going out on dates, sitting in their room chatting. That means telling a friend that I can't talk right now because I'm spending time with my child (how many children remember talking to mom about your day at school, her answering the phone and talking for 30 minutes? what does that say about your priorities?). It means setting an example. Letting my children see me spending time with God. Memorizing Scripture with them. Praying together at meals and before bed. Serving together in our community. Worshipping together at church. My job as a mom is so important. I'm in charge of raising a child to love Jesus with all of his heart. I need to devote all of my time and energy to that. I know it can be exhausting and frustrating, but it is the most important job I will ever have. I should give it the time that it deserves.

I don't mean all of this to say that I'm the perfect mom. I'm not. I make mistakes. I will continue to mistakes. I have bad days. I know that I will make my child feel like less of a priority. I know that I will choose some other activity over him. But it doesn't mean that I can't try. Or that I shouldn't.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Goodbye Scrapbook Room!

It's official. My scrapbook room is no more. It was nice while it lasted. A place just to myself where I could have all of my paper, stickers, markers, cutters, and stamps organized. A place where I could keep my stuff out and not be worried about the "mess."

But two weeks ago I caved. I was tired of telling Micah "no" all the time. Of sitting down on the couch only to jump right back up and pull him away from the bookcase. Or the TV. Or the Wii. For the hundredth time. He needed more space to call his own. A room where he wasn't constantly being told no. Space where he could crawl around. Pull himself up and not get yelled at.

So, we transformed my space into his space. It didn't take too much work. We moved the desk upstairs to the guest room (we took the twin bed out of the guest room and moved it to the attic--no one really uses it anyway). I emptied all of my stickers, papers, and embellishments out of the cubicles and filled them with Micah's toys and books instead. Then, we threw Micah in the room and let him go at it. I even brought out some toys that we've been holding on to, but haven't brought out yet because there just wasn't enough room (like the awesome chair from friends of ours in Michigan and all of his stuffed animals from various aunts and uncles).

He loves the room. He loves playing in there, pulling toys off the shelves. Crawling around to sit in his chair. Eating a book one minute, then throwing it on the floor to head for the ball on the other side of the room. Not getting yelled at. Everything in the room is for him.

It was worth the sacrifice.

Monday, August 8, 2011

June Dates

We did it. We completed our dates for June. Only took us until August to do it. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that we took the time for ourselves and did it.

Our out date for June was to go canoeing. We hired a baby sitter for the day and rented a kayak so that we could go down the Kankakee River. Brad and I have done this a couple of times together now. We always love it. It's so peaceful floating down the river. It's a great way to spend the day, getting some sun, eating lunch on the river. We had a lot of fun.

Our "in" date (believe it or not, the one that took us forever to complete!) was to watch a classic movie. Originally we thought we'd watch a true classic, an old movie. We just didn't have any real ideas. So, we texted our youth pastor because he's a movie buff. When he asked us to define "old" we decided 80's movies could be included, too, because so many people refer to some of them as "classics." He gave us a good list to choose from and Brad decided on Sixteen Candles. Only took us a month and a half to watch the thing! We watched the movie last night. I have to be honest, I didn't like it at all. It was too scattered. There was too much going on. Silly things that just made no sense to the movie. I'm glad we watched it because I now know what people are talking about when they refer to the movie, but I really wish we had stuck with a true classic. Oh well, guess we'll have to schedule another date!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Woman After God's Own Heart Part 3

I have to admit, this part of the book is probably what I had the hardest time reading. Elizabeth George spent a great deal of her book talking about my role as wife. It was hard to swallow at times. Our culture tells us that we're equals. I deserve the same benefits as my husband. We should split the household duties. I should go to work and earn money too, because I can. While I don't disagree with this, I don't believe that's how marriage was set up to be. I'm not saying that the man shouldn't have to help around the house. Or that women shouldn't go to work. But God created marriage in a certain way. My role as wife is much different from Brad's role as husband.

The truth is I've always been a stronger leader than Brad. I'm loud and good with words. I have no problem speaking my mind. Brad is a people pleaser. He's a listener. He's very thorough and thoughtful. It would be easy for me to be the "head" of our marriage. But that's not how God designed it. He wants me to submit to Brad. Because Brad is supposed to submit to God. I need to trust Brad's relationship with God. I need to understand the responsibility that he has when making decision for this family. I need to trust that he is seeking God's will and doing what he's supposed to. I'm not asked to blindly follow. I'm asked to trust. And, as a good husband, Brad does consider my feelings. He does listen to me and my thoughts on a decision. But, ultimately, my job is to make it easier for him to do what God wants him to do.

One way that I was challenged about this was how I'm supposed to encourage Brad in his job outside of the home. I love Brad very much, and I know that he loves his job. And I'm so thankful that he works so that he can provide for our family. I'm especially grateful that he works enough so that I don't have to (not that I'm lazy and don't want to work, but I would much rather stay home and spend the time with our children). However, I hate that Brad's job takes him away from us. I so enjoy when Brad is off from work. I love going to the park as a family or walking around our neighborhood. I love when Brad can put Micah to bed or when he helps me wash the floors. I wish that he could stay home with us all of the time and never have to go to work. I have to admit, I often make it hard for him to go to work because I so much prefer it when he's home. I know that he'd rather be home too, but I'm not always supportive of him leaving. This book reminded me of how important it is that I support him. If he didn't leave to go to work, I wouldn't be able to stay home with Micah. So, I need to do what I can to make the little time that we do have together the best time.

That's easier said than done. The author talked about how wives are on assignment from God to be a helper to their husbands. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. This means focusing on your husband, asking what you can do for him every day. She has a list of steps we can take to be a helper for our husband, including making him first priority, ensuring that your actions help rather than hinder him, etc. She also talks about respecting him and honoring him. Women don't understand this completely. We want love. Men want respect. They want to be respected in front of other people. A woman might think nothing of interjecting when her husband is talking to clarify a detail or correct him about something, but to the man, he has lost respect in front of those listening. As a wife, I need to honor my husband. While I think that I do honor my husband, I realized just how often I am actually disrespectful of him in front of other people. I correct him, I interrupt, etc. I never thought of how disrespectful it was, but now I do! And while I'm not perfect, it is definitely something I'm working on. But it used to be something I never even though about!

She also talks about the importance of maintaining the house so that the husband doesn't have to. Again, I truly believe that if Brad is to be a servant leader, he should be more than willing to help with household chores. But I make it my goal to not need his help. I'm not always successful, but since reading this book, my success rate has improved at least slightly. At first when she mentioned that the house should be picked up and dinner done or almost done by time the husband comes home from work I thought she was crazy. But then she talked about how it makes for a less stressful evening and for better quality time as a family. If I'm done with the household chores by time Brad gets home from work, we can spend our time together doing something we enjoy, such as going for a walk, getting ice cream, or watching a movie without the stress of unfinished chores on my shoulders. As much as I'd like Brad to help me clean the bathrooms, I'd much rather spend our time together doing fun things, not cleaning!

The last thing I'm going to talk about is how she emphasized how important it is to make your husband your number one priority. Prove it to him by doing random acts of kindness, preparing special dinners, planning special times alone, planning special dinners alone, planning an early bedtime for the children, and planning to go to bed at the same time. Our actions speak louder than our words. It is so important that we make time to be with our husbands. Since the beginning of our marriage, Brad and I have gone to bed at the same time. Even when he was still in school and had to stay up late studying, he would sit in bed with me until I fell asleep and then go out in the living room to do his studying. We love ending the night together. It's a way for us to re-connect and just check up on each other's day. I think showing that he is number one priority is increasingly important as our children get older. The fact is that our relationship was before we had kids and it will last past the time our children are in our home. So, I have to make him a priority. And I think it's important that our children see that, too. That they see modeled in us what a Christ-centered relationship is, one that takes time for each other. Always.

A Woman After God's Own Heart Part 2

I'm going to go into a little more detail about what I read over the course of the next few posts (well,, they may be interrupted with more Micah posts). This book has seriously changed my life and I am really looking forward at seeing how it continues to make an impact on my home and family life. I guess the natural way for me to split up my "review" is how she has split up the book. I will talk about the top 3 (maybe 4) priorities in our lives: 1)God 2)Husband 3)Child(ren) 4)Home.

Obviously, God should be top priority in our lives, above all else. She stressed the importance of having daily time with Him. This is not something that is new to me. Ever since I was in high school, I have heard of the importance of spending daily quiet time with God. However, she stressed how important it is as the woman of the household because I set the tone. My children will feed off of me and my attitude. They will emulate me. So, if I'm not setting an example of spending time with God every day they won't see the importance of it in their own lives.

The author recommends starting your day with God. As the mother of a baby, I find that very hard. I never know when Micah is going to wake up for the morning. However, I have to agree with her. Since I do still usually wake up with Micah I have started doing my quiet time as soon as he goes down for his morning nap. It may not be first thing in the morning, but it's still pretty early in the day. And, boy, does it make a difference! If I don't spend that time with God first thing, chances are I will forget later. And I almost always end up having a bad attitude about the day. I get easily frustrated with Micah. I'm tired. I get upset with Brad for not helping. It's one of those days where I get very nitpicky about everything. So, I'm learning how important it is for me to do my quiet time every morning.

The author also suggests having a special place where you spend your time. And preparing that place with supplies you will need (a Bible, pencil, highlighter, worship CD, journal, etc.). My place is on my bed. It's comfortable and private. I'm working on expanding my time because I find that I fall into the same rut. I read a passage in the Bible, but that's probably what I struggle with the most (at least right now). I just don't give it the time that I know I should. I spend more time with a devotional book. Which is not wrong in and of itself, but I know that I need to spend more time directly in the Word. I have a degree in Bible, I should know how to read the Bible on my own! But I get stuck and allow myself to glaze over it as if I've read the same story 100 times. This is definitely something I'm trying to work on. During my quiet time, I also have a journal. The journal serves a different purpose depending on how I feel. Sometimes it's a place for me to write down my prayers for other people, sometimes it's a place to keep an account of what is going on, and other times it's a place for me to just write out what I want to say to God. It's my place to cry out to him, to seek wisdom and guidance, to ask for forgiveness, to praise him and thank him.

I've been pretty consistent with this time with God for 2 weeks now (I've waivered with consistency for the past 2 years or so), and I can tell you it makes a world of difference! My whole attitude is different. And my relationships are better. It's just like she says.

A Woman After God's Own Heart

At the beginning of summer Brad was part of a men's Bible study at church. He's been in several of such studies and always enjoys them so much. We usually talk about whatever the topic was that night and Brad loves sharing with me what he has learned about being a husband, father, and just a man after God's heart. He is so encouraged to be a strong leader for this family. He has learned how important it is that he serve his family, not just sit back and let me do all the work/child rearing. He has learned the importance of encouraging me through words, service, time together, etc. I'm always so impressed with the studies and how dead on they are about what I really want from him. It's so encouraging to know that men are being encouraged to take a more active role in the family. That they're being told especially as Christian men they need to step up and realize how important they are in their family, not only as the breadwinner, but also as a discipliner, supporter, encourager, house cleaner, etc.

After this last session I told Brad that I wish there was something like that for women. Oh, there are lots of Bible studies for women. Lots of studies about how to love people, how to get over our own insecurities, how to find strength in the Lord, etc. But I have never really seen a study on how to be a good, Christian wife. Not like the studies Brad goes to. What is my duty as the wife? How should I serve my family? What role do I have in the family, as opposed to my husband's role? What exactly does it mean to be a "help mate?"

In a totally unrelated conversation one day I was talking with my friend about how excited I was for her to become a stay at home mom (she was previously a working mom). I knew that she felt the same as me and secretly wanted to be like June Cleaver, with the house cleaned, dinner on the table when her husband gets home, and well-behaved children. We were talking about that and what the reality of it is and she recommended I read this book, A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George.

This book was exactly what I was looking for.

Much of this book is very counter-cultural. She talks about the importance of having the house clean, greeting your husband at the door when he gets home from work, only leaving the house to do errands one day a week, not talking on the phone with friends while spending time with the children, etc. All things that are deemed "old fashioned." And they might be old-fashioned, but when you think about it they make sense.

I think in order to not make this post super long I am going to end up writing it over a period of a couple days. However, as an overview I will say that I found this book very challenging. I didn't like a lot of what it had to say (greet my husband at the door?!), but I can honestly say I didn't disagree with much. It was more that I don't want to take responsibility. A lot of it is more work for me. And, let's face it, I'm lazy. I don't want it to all fall on me, but when I thought about it, it all made sense. So, this book was very challenging, very insightful, very thought-provoking. It was exactly what I needed. I've already started to put some of what I've learned into practice and I can tell you it is already making a difference.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Dude

Micah got a haircut on Thursday. I can't say that it was his first because I've cut his hair three different times. It was his first real haircut, though. We took him to Pigtails and Crewcuts, a place that specializes in children's haircuts. We wanted to make sure that he went to someone who was familiar with children just because we weren't sure how well he would do.

He did great! We picked the airplane chair for him to sit in. He got a cute little smock over him to protect his clothes and he thought he was The Stuff. Seriously. Brad gave him his keys (Micah's absolute favorite thing to play with) to chew on just in case. He was very curious about what the lady was doing, but he sat very well. No tears, not even when she brought out the electric razor. He was a bit wiggly, but nothing that isn't normal for a 9 month old.

And when he was done he looked so cute! He looks like a big boy now, not a little baby. What's happening to my baby boy? He's growing up way too fast!