When #Love(Really)Wins

I love my son.

blogblogAnd because I love him, I want him to feel loved. Accepted. Safe.

I don’t want to do anything to push him away or make him feel alienated.

As he grows up, I want him to be understood. Comfortable. Appreciated. Heard. I want him to have freedom to explore and learn and to do the things he loves.

The last thing I want is to infringe on his free will. I don’t want him to be limited. He may want to make some decisions that I don’t necessarily agree with, but because I love him, I’ll let him make those decisions. I want to be accepting of his lifestyle choices.

There are certain things I believe to be right and wrong. I believe in absolute truth, in moral laws that are designed to protect us.

But I love my son.

And I wouldn’t dare try and force him to live by my set of beliefs. So if I see him walking down a self-destructive path – if I see him disrespecting others and disrespecting my God – I won’t call him out. I won’t speak the truth to him. Because that might make him…

…uncomfortable.

Misunderstood.

Isolated.

And that would make me…

…intolerant.

Overbearing.

Unloving.

And I will be none of those things.

Because at the end of the day, who am I to tell someone what they should or should not do? What right would I ever have to hold my son accountable for his actions?

What could be more unloving than providing boundaries for my family? After all, real love has no boundaries. “Loving” is synonymous with “accepting” – so I cannot both love my son and at the same time disapprove of how he lives.

I hope I’ll never be so closed-minded as to teach my children that morality comes from some place other than their own heads.

Because that’s real love.

Right?

May we never cease speaking the truth in love just for the sake of being politically correct or tolerant. Only then will love really win.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  Ephesians 4:15-16

Ignoring the Need

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go back to work at Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center for a short period of time. It felt strange temporarily trading in diapers for data entry and cuddles for client files. And I have to say, there was something quite magical about making it through an afternoon without anyone spitting up on my shoulder. By the end of the week I was reminded of why the Care Center is so crucial to Greensboro. I was also reminded that I have a crucial role to play in the mission of this place – and maybe you do too.

I was able to share some of my experience on the Care Center’s blog – check out the post here.

 

How to Get Your Child to Sleep Instantly Every Time

In lieu of my typical “3 Things Learned…” post, I’ve decided to share a few extra gold nuggets regarding sleep. Stop looking, everyone, because I have found a foolproof method for getting your child to fall asleep for naps and/or bedtime every time.

Below I have listed a few simple steps along with 34 simple troubleshooting techniques to have your little angel snoozing away in no time. It’s all so simple, I’m thinking about writing a book. Feel free to thank me by leaving a comment on this post.

How to get your child to sleep instantly every time:

Step 1: Inform your child that it is his/her naptime/bedtime.sleepblog

Step 2: Place your child in his/her crib.

Troubleshooting Techniques: If your child does not fall asleep instantly, here are some of the possible reasons to address –

1. Your child is not sleepy enough

2. Your child is too sleepy

3. Your child is bored

4. Your child is understimualted

5. Your child is over-stimulated

6. Your child is hungry

7. Your child’s diaper is too wet

8. Your child’s diaper is too dry

9. Your child would rather stay awake

10. Your child is gassy

11. Your child needs to burp

12. Your child is already asleep

13. Your child just wants to make you angry

14. Your child’s room is too bright

15. Your child’s room is too dark

16. Your child’s room does not have enough white noise

17. Your child is uncomfortable

18. Your child’s clothes are too tight

19. Your child’s clothes are too loose

20. Your child wants to be held

21. Your child wants you to leave him alone

22. Your child is screaming

23. Your child has the hiccups

24. Your child is pooping

25. Your child wants his pacifier

26. Your child hates his pacifier

27. Your child wants to be soothed

28. Your child wants to cry-it-out

29. Your child needs to be swaddled

30. Your child hates being swaddled

31. Your child just woke up

32. Your child is extraverted

33. Your child is introverted

34. Your child stopped taking naps years ago

*Disclaimer: In the event that you run through each of these problem-solving techniques and find that your child has indeed already missed his or her nap time during your attempts, start once again with number 1 and continue the cycle until you or your child fall asleep from exhaustion.

For anyone who’s ever wanted to tell all the sleep experts exactly what they can do with their advice and techniques – know you’re not alone.

Here’s to doing whatever works for you and your child – one nap at a time.

The Intersection of Independence (Bottle-feeding is Emotional)

Ten weeks of 1-2 night feedings was starting to grate on me. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been so blessed to have a kid who gets good long stretches of sleep. But waking up constantly at 2 or 3 every morning – well – we all know that two fragmented four hour sessions is just not the same as 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. (That’s my extensive Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child knowledge talking. Sometimes I’d like to tell Dr. Weissbluth what he can do with his healthy sleep habits…but I digress).bottle

Anyway, we’d been trying to get Benjamin on the bottle for several weeks now, and he was just not having it. My opinion is that it’s because my child is super smart and is not easily fooled, possessing an extremely strong sense of what’s real and what’s not. (Hey, I have to tell myself something to make me feel better…)

Well, PTL, my offspring accepted his first bottle from his dad a few days ago at 3 in the morning. I was awake when it happened, waiting apprehensively in our bedroom and trying to interpret the quietness coming from Ben’s nursery.

After several minutes, Matt came back with the joyous news – Benjamin took the bottle! Fireworks went off. Confetti dropped from the ceiling. Visions of solo outings pranced through my head, and I could hardly get back to sleep due to my excitement. That’s my boy, I thought. This kid was moving up in the world.

And then, just as suddenly, a string of strange thoughts crept into my mind.

Did he seriously just take a bottle from his dad? That easily? He didn’t even ask about me? Dad, I love you but…where’s mom? What’s next? Smiling at complete strangers? Crawling? Sprinting? Moving out? 

It’s funny how Benjamin’s small step towards independence elicited both joy and a tiny twinge of sadness. I wholeheartedly desire to see Benjamin hit all those major milestones – both developmentally and spiritually. But it definitely has a bittersweet taste, and in that moment when I got that great news, I suddenly felt like I better understood what my mom meant when she would always say, “Mary, you promised you would never grow up.”

The next day during tummy time, Benjamin lifted his head high, held it there, and looked me in the eyes. I half expected him to hop up and go running around the room. Yeah, I teared up (sappy mom moment).

Because somewhere at the intersection of joy and sadness, there is this thing called independence – and I think it’s where those purely sweet moments of life grind to a halt and park for a moment.

I think the family design is meant to represent many things about our spiritual life in relation to God. And I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of joy God might feel when he sees his children growing, maturing, and stepping out in faith. What must it be like to see someone who was lost in their sin, now living in freedom through Christ?

But that is really where the analogy ends. Because one day, Benjamin will leave home and, hopefully, start a family of his own. He will be independent, and his relationship with his parents will continue, but change forever.

Conversely, the dependence that a Christ-follower must have on God remains constant throughout the relationship. It brings to mind 1 Peter 2:2:

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

When Ben’s hungry – you’d better get out of the way. That there is a kid on a mission. In the same way, the true Christ-follower’s desire for God and his Word should be insatiable. We never become “free” of our need for God. We actually find the most freedom when we admit how desperately we need him and go to him as our ultimate source of strength and hope.

One day, Benjamin won’t need me like he does now. But my hope is that, during the short time he is with us, he will learn to depend on and hope in his heavenly Father – and that he’ll learn this by knowing that he can trust in and depend on his parents.

Here’s to learning dependence – one bottle-feeding at a time.

 

 

DIY: Balloon Archway

I’ve never done a DIY post before, but as much as I go to Pinterest for DIY ideas and direction, I figured I’d take a whack at posting my most recent DIY exploit – so here it goes!

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog, I previously worked for and now volunteer at Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center. I really believe in the mission of the Care Center (you can read more about that HERE), so I’ve tried to stay involved however possible since Benjamin arrived.

In April, the Center had its annual Walk for Life event, and I was asked to help make a balloon archway that:

1. Could be used again and again.

2. Wouldn’t require the use of helium (helium = high maintenance and apparently hard to come by these days due to a shortage. Weird.)

After talking to several people about what did and didn’t work for them, and also some good old fashioned trial and error, we ended up with an arch that turned out pretty awesome.

arch

Below is a brief step-by-step on how to throw one of these puppies together!

Items Needed:

  • PVC pipe: Lengths are entirely up to you. We wanted this archway to be 10 feet wide and about 8 feet high. To do this, walkpic3we purchased 5 separate 5 foot pieces of 1-inch pipe – Approx. $3.30 each.
  • 2 PVC elbow fitting pieces (1 inch) – $0.69 each.
  • 3 PVC coupling fitting pieces (1 inch) – $0.40 each.
  • Two buckets – FREE – the Care Center had some extras
  • 1 50 lb bag of Quikrete – $3.48
  • Balloons: We made a total of 34 clusters; each cluster had four balloons for a total of 136 balloons. (This was the most expensive part. We purchased each color of balloons in bulk so that we could use for future events. We used OrientalTrading.com, but you can get your balloons wherever.)
  • Ribbon to tie together clusters and to attach balloons to the arch
  • Scissors

Step 1: Saw one 5 foot pipe piece in half to make two 2.5 foot pieces. These pieces will serve as the bases.

Step 2: You’ll need a few extra hands for this part. With one person holding one 2.5 foot piece standing straight up in the center of the bucket, have another person pour in half the bag of Quikrete. Add the appropriate amount of water (amounts are listed on the bag).

*We bought the fast setting Quikrete that didn’t even require mixing – so literally all you do is add water and allow it to set and harden.*

Repeat this step with the other bucket. Now you have your two bases!

Step 3: Now you simply “build” the remainder of the archway. Place one coupling piece on top of the 2.5 foot base. Then connect the 5 foot piece. The elbow piece goes on next. The elbow pieces on either side will con
nect the remaining two 5 foot pieces. The two 5 foot pieces across the top are connected by the last coupling piece.

balloon2Step 4: The Balloons

For this size arch, we used 136 balloons (we made a few extra clusters in case there was some unintentional poppage).

Others who have made arches before suggested tying the balloon ends together to make clusters, but my fingers weren’t coordinated enough (or patient enough) for that, so I used ribbon tie two balloon ends together. I then tied two sets of balloons around each other to make one cluster of four. This also insured that the clusters wouldn’t accidentally come undone when being transported to the Care Center in trash bags.

Step 5: Attaching the balloons to the arch

I tied an extra long piece of ribbon to each cluster so that it could be easily tied onto the pipe by volunteers later. The clusters fit snuggly agaiballoonpolenst one another to hide the PVC pipe (see pic to the right).

And that’s it! We loaded all the balloons into giant trash bags so that volunteers could attach them to the arch the morning of the event. It definitely added a little pizzaz to the whole Walk!

I’m actually thinking of making my own arch (much smaller of course) so that I can use for birthday parties, baby showers, or
other special events. The design is versatile so that you can use it for balloons, or even hang a sheet, fabric, or curtains from it to make a backdrop for a photo booth. It’s a fun (and CHEAP) way to spice up the decorations at any event.

So that’s it and that’s all! Be on the lookout for more DIY projects in the future!

-Mary

Memory Loss, Burp Cloths, and Measuring Up: 3 Things Learned in Month 2

In keeping with my goal of writing down some thoughts on what I am learning each new month of mommyhood, here are 3 new things from month number 2 (if you missed my post from month 1, you can check that out here!):

1. Smiles induce memory loss.

More specifically, my baby’s smiles. There have been so many times that I’ve been completely benoutsideexasperated by Benjamin, and all he has to do is flash that gummy grin of his and I suddenly can’t remember why I was so frustrated. Whether it’s a blow out, incessant crying, baby insomnia, or a constant need to be held and cuddled – something about those little smiles is completely disarming, and suddenly all is forgiven. I’m thinking that God probably designed it that way for a reason.

2. Burp cloths – you cannot have too many. 

You know you’ve “arrived” into the mommy-world when you can literally find a burp cloth within arms length at pretty much any location throughout the house. I’m wondering how I ever functioned without them. Granted, I wasn’t living with a constantly drooling and/or spitting up baby before, but they’re just so darn convenient and useful I feel like I’ve been missing out all my life.

Prior to Ben getting here, I received at least 50 burp cloths at baby showers. I remember thinking – This is kind of excessive. I mean really, how many of these do I actually need…?

The answer? ALL OF THEM.

My personal favorites are the Gerber cloth diapers. They absorb right up and get the job done.

3. The state of my checklist does not determine my worth. 

I’ve found that some days I get to the end of the day and feel like I have either accomplished absolutely nothing or I have halfway done about ten different things. I wake up in the morning with this idea of what I’ll complete, and when the items on my list are not checked off at the end of the day, I end up feeling like a failure.

I hate the feeling when Matt gets home and asks, “What did you do today?” and my mind draws a complete blank. I immediately attempt to dredge up memories of the previous 9 hours. I mean, I was busy the entire day – I barely sat down – but what do I have to show for it besides a shirt with stains all over the shoulders, well-intentioned but unfinished projects, and a slightly frazzled disposition? And don’t even get me started on the frustration that comes when working friends are already asking questions like, “So…what do you do all day?” or “So, how are you liking staying home and just hanging out?”

It can be easy in those moments to get defensive or to feel the need to justify everything I do or don’t do in a day. I want to prove that I did something valuable and/or noteworthy. When you get down to it, it’s a works-based mentality: the belief that the quantity and quality of what I accomplish in a day directly correlates to my validation and worth as a person.

The funny thing is, my entire worldview revolves around the concept that my standing before God depends not on what I do, but on what Christ has already done for me. So if that’s the case, then shouldn’t this worldview affect how I approach my every day moments?

Hey, I’m a work in progress.

I know the title of this blog says “things learned,” but let’s be honest, this is one that I’ll be learning every day for the rest of my life.

My desire is that, when the end of each day comes, I would not brandish my to-do list as my personal megaphone to prove to the world that “Hey, I did something worthy of acknowledgement and validation today!” Instead, I hope to lift up my hands to my heavenly Father and sincerely and humbly say, “I gave You my best; everything I did, I did for You, and not for men.”

Because ultimately, I’m not working to earn the approval of others, or even to earn the approval of God. Everything I do should be a loving act of worship – a response to the grace shown to me by my God.

And just as a sidenote to anyone who may be second guessing a decision to be a SAHM –

Choosing to work full-time rearing, teaching, loving, and caring for your children ( and all the other unsung responsibilities included) is an incredibly valuable, noteworthy, and honorable thing – one that doesn’t need to be justified.

Don’t let anyone – including yourself – tell you any different.

Here’s to finding joy in the unfinished checklist – one gummy grin at a time.

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Thoughts from a New Mom: When the Poop Overfloweth

It had been an incredibly long and endless day.

So around 10 am, Ben and I decided to venture out of the house. I recoiled from the sunlight like an overrated vampire, and hauled Ben’s 10 lb self plus all his many accessories into the car. The kid was sleeping like a – well – a baby.

Perfect, I thought to myself diabolically. I should have a good hour to get some errands done and to walk aimlessly in my mental fog.

Target was my location of choice. After unloading and assembling Ben’s chariot and gathering all his items, I rolled through the automatic doors, feeling pretty snazzy. Heck, I thought, I might even get me a soda and meander through the not-maternity section of clothing.

I leaned down to pull back the stroller cover only to be met with –

Two wide-open eyes staring back at me. Did I imagine it, or was there a smirk on Ben’s face?

Going to enjoy some down time, eh? It’s cute how naive you are, it really is, the smirk seemed to say.

I smiled nervously at Ben.

“Hey Dude,” I heard myself say. “Just going for a walk, let’s go back to sleep, Buddy.”

I immediately got rolling, praying silently that the motion would send Ben right back into sweet oblivion.

Ben continued to stare at me, unblinking.

And then slowly, oh so slowly, his angelic little face began to wrinkle. And then it began to redden.

And then other people in Target started to turn and look, because Ben decided now was the time to exercise his lungs to their fullest capacity.

The kid quickly became inconsolable, and I assumed he must be hungry. Of course, every newborn wants their food yesterday, so I tried to think about how I could feed the guy and still stay out.

Does Target have a nursing room? Yeah right. How about the bathroom? Pass. I’ll just go into my car… That gas light has been on for at least 15 miles – crap.

I quickly decided to just go home, since we were only a few minutes away. Every woman I passed on the way out made comments such as, “Aww, listen to that sweet little cry, how precious!”

Absolutely adorable, I thought, and quickly rushed towards the automatic doors.

I loaded Ben into the car and wrestled his stroller into the trunk, grumbling to myself about how I’d spent about 30 minutes just getting to the store and only about 30 seconds inside it. Ben continued to holler, and I mindlessly spoke soothing words to him, doing my best to mask the fact that I was super irritated.

We got home and I fed Ben, who still seemed kind of cranky. While burping him, I noticed how much he seemed to be concentrating. And then, a stinky smell.

“Someone pooped his diaper!” I said in a sing-song voice. Ben glanced up at me, his eyes full of knowing.

It suddenly dawned on me that my hand – the one on his back – felt very….moist. I looked down at his brown onesie and – wait – this onesie wasn’t brown before…

Ben’s entire back was oozing with a nice brown/yellow substance. He looked at me, pride in his eyes, and I looked at him, wonder in mine.

I’ll save you all the details – but just to give you an idea of the sheer volume of substance in his diaper, I had to eventually cut his onesie off of him. I might have been disgusted if I wasn’t also so awestruck.

(Fun fact – the necks of onesies are actually made so that you can slip them over your baby’s shoulders and down off his body without going over his head and smothering his face with poop from major blowouts. Unfortunately, Google told me this too late. Oh well, it’s funnier the way it happened – it’ll be a good story to share at Ben’s wedding or something).

Anyway, about 10 wipes, 1 soaked burp cloth, 1 destroyed changing pad, 1 shredded onesie, and 1 bath later, Ben was finally clean, dry, and relaxing contentedly in his bouncer. Ben went through the whole ordeal lying on his back happily, looking at me periodically with an amused grin on his face.

I thought back to the moments at Target and to my irritation. My annoyance was now quickly dissolving as I looked at the smiling, chubby kiddo cooing next to me. Ben had no idea about my frustration – if he did he was obviously very forgiving.

I suddenly felt very humbled by the fact that this tiny human life depended so much on me – to keep him fed, to make sure he’s dry and clean, to comfort him when he’s overwhelmed, and to make him feel secure and loved.boba

At the end of the day, a blown trip to Target doesn’t amount to a whole lot. In fact, if I had to choose between shopping at Target or being rewarded with a huge smile from my son after cleaning a blowout, well…I’d choose Ben every time.

God has blessed me with this unique season of life; my prayer for myself – and all new mothers – is that I would not allow frustration and irritation to creep in and steal the joy from this temporary time.

I once wrote about how marriage has revealed in me a selfishness and self-love that I didn’t know existed. Well, being a brand new mom has revealed a whole new level of each of those.

Praise God that he can and does do good things in the midst of our weaknesses. I pray that I and others would not miss the gift of where we are today because we are so focused on what we could be doing, where we could be, and why we’re not there.

Here’s to dying to self, one poop-filled diaper at a time.