Titus 2:3-5

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Monday, February 28, 2011

If at first you don't succeed...

I grew up hearing the saying "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." It was apparently inspired by a tale of Robert the Bruce, who while fleeing from the advancing English armies was hiding in a cave. To pass the time he watched a spider as it tried to weave a web. Many times the spider would fail to attach a strand, but it never gave up. It just kept trying until it succeeded. The Scottish King took inspiration from this and returned to fight King Edwards army and finally succeed in battle. Growing up in Scotland it didn't really matter if all the details of the story were true, it was the principle it taught us that mattered. No matter what the odds we only really fail when we give up or give in.
Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland

And so we decided to once again try for a home birth for our new blessing. However learning our lessons from our previous experience has very much been at the fore of our minds. It has only been with several months of hindsight behind us that Rob and I have been able to take a truly honest look at what happened at Aidens birth that led to our hospital transfer and unplanned c-section. I thought I was prepared, although I knew Rob was not as prepared as he could have been. I did all the reading I could. I read too many birth stories to count. Everything I read basically said the same thing, "Your body knows how to birth this baby, just trust your body." And so I went into my first labor and birth just trusting my body to know what to do. There is a degree of truth to this, but I discovered that it is not always all there is to it.

The last month of my pregnancy was not easy. I began to retain fluids and in the last week I started having protein in my urine. Both of these came down to the simple fact that I was not eating enough protein. (Not that I totally understood that at the time.) I had very little appetite as my short body held on to my every growing baby. After only a mouthful or two of food I was too full to keep eating, so I would stop. The problem was that I didn't go back to eat again often enough. I was too busy preparing for my parents arrival and the birth of this baby. I was uncomfortable and not getting enough rest either. The lesson has been learned and Rob and I have already talked about ways to make sure I eat enough protein at the end of this pregnancy. We have also decided that we will not be having overnight guests around the time of birth ever again, as it is simply too much for me to try to deal with.

Then there are many lessons we have learned about preparing for labour. Last time labour started with the rupture of membranes (waters breaking) followed about 20 minutes later by my first definite contraction. However I had been experiencing contractions that would start and stop for several days before hand. (I never really had many braxton hicks type contractions in the weeks and months leading up to birth.) The night labour started we had only been asleep about 2 hours, and in my excitement I didn't try much to go back to sleep between contractions. I was not well rested at the start of what would turn out to be a very long labour. A mistake I don't plan to repeat. When the intermittent contractions start happening I plan to start getting as much rest and sleep as I can until I can't sleep any more.

Throughout the actual labour I was so focused on "doing" labour that I used up more energy than I should have during the early labour. I also didn't allow myself to relax enough between contractions, and I didn't eat and drink enough during labour either, further depleting my energy reserves. Again Rob and I have talked already about what we can do differently and together this time to make these things different. Last time Rob wasn't really sure what he needed to be doing to help me. This time he knows he is going to have to be the one responsible for making me relax between contractions and keeping me regularly topped up with food and fluids.

The biggest surprise to both of us however has been learning that not everything comes naturally in labour. Some skills for birthing better need to be learned ahead of time. And we are making sure that this time around we both are doing the learning, together. I have two wonderful sources that we are learning a lot from. The first is the website spinning babies. From everything we have read on that website our best guess for many of our difficulties with Aidens birth is because he was asynclictic, or malpositioned during his descent through my pelvis. Thanks to spinning babies I have learned a lot about how I can try to prevent this from happening again, including staying off the sofa.

The other major tool we are using this time is a child birth preparation package called The Pink Kit. It was developed by a group called The Common Knowledge Trust in Nelson, New Zealand. A very good friend recommended it, as she used it for her first home birth after c-section. I have learned so much already from this material that I don't think I could ever recommend it enough. We have already learned how to map our pelvic outlet, to give us an idea of the space the baby has to work with, and so be able to concentrate on positions that will work best for my unique pelvic shape. I have also learned that I have a very flat sacrum, and so will most likely have some degree of back labour with all my births. The important thing about the sacrum and back labour is that last time the midwives had Rob apply counterpressure to relieve the pain, but this actually slowed things down. In the Pink Kit we have learned how to rock the sacrum to help relieve some of the pain for me without hindering the space the baby is trying to make by pushing my sacrum out. One of the skills I am most excited about learning to perfect with Rob is what they call a uterine lift, to help the cervix dilate. One of the reasons for such a long labour last time was how slowly I was dilating, so anything that can be done externally to help with that process is a great help as far as I can see.

While I know that there are many people around us waiting to see us fail again at home birth I am confident with the new knowledge we are gaining, lots of prayer and a lot more preparation, we will be going into this birth much better able to succeed.

If at first you don't succeed . . . learn what lessons you need to and then try again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Best Kind of Blessing

Two days before Christmas 2010 Rob and I received the best kind of blessing. We found out that the Lord had blessed us with another baby. Now that I'm officially out of that first trimester I wanted to share that blessing here on the blog.

Having another child is not the only blessing either. We have also been blessed to find a wonderful home birth midwife who will allow us to try a home birth after cesarean (HBAC) which we are very excited about. After the slow labor and complications of Aiden's birth we were not sure if we would be able to find a midwife who would be comfortable with allowing us to home birth so soon after that surgery. We happen to live in an area that is very hostile to normal vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) and our nearest hospital actually has a ban on such births. It is not only our most local hospital, but all of the five nearest hospitals with maternity services do not allow, or do not encourage a normal birth after a cesarean. This in light of the fact that it is safer to have a VBAC than to have a repeat cesarean. So we are understandably excited that we are being given the opportunity not only to try for a normal birth, but to be able to do so at home.

So far everything has been going well. The first trimester has been trying at times, as I suffer all day nausea and extreme fatigue during my first trimester. Now that I'm entering my second trimester my symptoms are beginning to ease and my energy is slowly returning. Apart from those two particular issues I have to admit that I love being pregnant. It is an amazing thing to know that another human being is growing inside of me.

We also already know that this new baby is going to be such a blessing to their big brother. Aiden is almost 9 months old, and is already showing some of the signs that show he is currently an only child. He is such a sweet child, and we really have been blessed that he is so easy to care for, but there are times when he demands constant attention. This is especially true on a Monday. It is usually impossible for me to do much on a Monday other than play with Aiden. He has had both parents home all weekend to give him unlimited attention, so come Monday morning he doesn't understand why it should be any different. In becoming a big brother he will learn the precious and important lesson that life does not always center on him. He will also eventually have a playmate for those times when Mamma just has to get some chores done. There is going to be about 15 months between these two precious children, so I'm sure they will be great friends as they grow up. There was only 18 months between my big brother and I and as children we were great friends. Rob and his brother also have less than two years between them, and are still very close as friends as well as brothers. How wonderful that Aiden will have that kind of opportunity too.

It truly is a wonderful blessing to trust the Lord with our family, and to be given an opportunity to grow not only our size, but also our hearts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Family Meal Table

My wonderful husband and I are very deliberate in some of the choices we make. One of them was purchasing a large dinning table. While I would have settled for something much less ornate than the one we eventually chose, we were very careful in our selection. We wanted a table that would accommodate a large family. The largest table we could find was the one we ended up with. It seats ten people. It only seats ten people because the chairs that go with it are very wide (and very comfortable) so that fully extended the table will take four of these chairs down each side and another each at the top and bottom. If we swap a few of the matching chairs for ordinary kitchen chairs we can increase the capacity to twelve, or even fourteen. In our current home we have removed one of the extending leaves so that we have only eight chairs around it. However it currently can operate this way as a nine person table as we have a high chair for Aiden on the corner between where Rob and I usually sit.

Our dinning table just after we bought it.

This post isn't to just talk about our dinning table, rather I want to share why we deliberately chose such a large table. From the very beginning of our marriage we agreed on the importance of this piece of furniture in our home. Why? Because having the whole family sit down together for meals is very important to us. We wanted to start our life together the way we intended it to be if we were ever blessed with children. We wanted our meals to be eaten at the table, together, and without just rushing to get it over with.

For us we knew that once children came along it would not always be possible to have everyone together for breakfast and lunch every single day. The morning person that Rob is, along with semi-flexible work hours, would often mean Rob had already left for work before the rest of the family is awake. He also works too far away to be able to come home for lunch. Those meals would be reserved for the weekends. The one meal we knew would always work, no matter what, is dinner. Our evening meal could always be the whole family together around the table with no need to rush away in various different directions.

Now that Aiden has a more predictable routine, and is staying up later than 5pm, he sits with us at the table for his evening meal. For Aiden this has become the start of his bedtime routine. He eats alongside us, then he gets some milk to drink before getting ready for bed and going down for the night. Like both his parents Aiden is a creature of habit. He likes the routine, and knowing what comes next. Now that he is eating real food, and having three meals a day, sitting at the table to eat helps to punctuate his day, and let him know what comes next. After every meal there is sleep and rest for him. He loves being able to sit with us and listen to us talk while we share our meal. At breakfast and lunch it may just be two of us sitting together, but it is still an enjoyable time of interaction.

This brings me to why we feel that having the whole family together around the table for meals is important. It is a time not just to fill our stomachs with food, but a time to fill our minds and hearts too. While we try to make all our meals as nutritionally full of goodness as we possibly can, we want mealtimes to be more than just physical nourishment. The interaction that happens around the table is just as important. It is time to remove from all the other distractions around us and focus on each other. When we do on the rare occasion eat somewhere else like the sofa, our attention is drawn away from each other to the DVD we are planning to watch, or the TV show that just can't be missed, even for food. When we sit at the table we are not just in a better position for eating, we are also in a better position for interacting with each other. Sitting around the table enables easy eye contact. We can look at our plates, or we can look at each other. The eye contact makes conversation much easier.

In eating together around the table we nourish each other relationally as well as nutritionally. We bind ourselves together as a family by spending that time together. It doesn't take much to make it happen. You don't need an expensive table either. One of my favourite Christmas memories from my childhood demonstrates this.

One year my grandparents decided to host Christmas dinner. Their house wasn't really furnished for a large dinner to happen, but with some imagination they made it happen. They emptied out one of their spare bedrooms upstairs. Then they set up two wallpapering tables, long ends together, covered them with a bed sheet, and instantly a large dinning table to accommodate everyone. Chairs were borrowed to make sure there were enough. My other grandparents were invited to join my Mum's family for dinner that year. In total there were at least eight adults, two children and two toddlers around that table. It was a wonderful meal, not because of the food (I can't remember what we even had to eat that day) but rather because the family, my grandparents family, were together around one table, sharing a meal, and lots of laughter.

Making the family meal table work is about making time for the whole family to be together, in one place, at the same time and interacting with one another. The physical process of sitting around a table facing each other makes it easier to remove other distractions, and facilitate better communication. It doesn't have to be a long drawn out process either. Half an hour a day, once a day, isn't a whole lot of time.

We know that those with teenagers may find this more of a challenge. For the eight months we were the host parents of two teenage boys. We understand the challenge of getting them to the table, and keeping their attention at the table. We had to make a few rules to work around the distractions those teenagers brought with them. In our situation we tried to keep the rules minimal, but some were necessary. For the table our rules were that everything electronic was switched off. There was no TV playing, no video games, and most importantly no cell phones at the table. We also had an additional rule that nobody left the table without asking to be excused, and then being given permission. Meals often only took twenty minutes or less to eat, so there were not many reasons for which we allowed the boys to leave the table early, not even homework. It didn't take the boys long to adjust to eating at the table, and it became a time where we could all connect and find out what was going on in each others lives. We certainly learned a lot about the lives of teenagers by sitting at the table together.

With the busy schedules many people live today I know many wonder how they can possibly fit this into their family. Is half an hour really too much to ask? Is the busy scheduled activities really more important than spending time together in interaction? It may be that work schedules make it difficult for both parents to be around for meals every day, especially for those who work varying shift patterns. One parent and all the children is still better than no interaction at all, and then when the other parent can make it there is less change to the normal routine. Perhaps breakfast would be a better meal to focus on, rather than dinner. If there is currently no meals in the week that everyone shares regularly, perhaps chose to start with one particular meal, and make that your priority. In an entire week is half an hour for the whole family to eat together too much to ask? If you can't fit in just one meal a week I'd like to kindly suggest that perhaps you are too busy. Maybe one of those activities that draws the family apart needs to be stopped so that you can all come together for that one meal a week.

For us as a family, as our family grows, dinner is still going to be our priority every day. Even when Aiden reaches those busy teen years he will still be expected to sit down for dinner with us every night. For us no activity is going to be allowed to be more important than spending time together as a family around the dinner table. That time is part of the glue that will hold us together as a family. For us it is important. For us it is a priority.

Why don't you try it sometime this week, and see how well it can work for you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Staying Home, feeling invisible.

I recently had a friend over for lunch. She became a stay at home Mom for her teenage girls just a few months ago. However she is struggling with some of the adjustment from working for pay to being home full time. She is struggling with a common problem for women who suddenly stop working outside the home to become a full time wife and Mom, a loss of identity.

I can remember my own Mum telling me about that when I was a young adult. My Mum had always wanted to be a wife and mother. She got married at 20, had my brother just 9 months later, turned 21 the month after that, then had me at 22. She very quickly got busy just looking after two small children and running a home on a very tight budget (I think everyone had a very tight budget back in the 1970's.) Then one day it hit her. She wasn't her anymore. She was her Dad's daughter, her husband's wife, her children's Mum, but never just her. She was no longer known just for being herself. Everyone knew her in relation to someone else. It took my Mum a long time to figure out who she really was after that loss of identity.

I've seen this same thing happen to many friends. For some it is so difficult to overcome that they give up and return to the paid workforce so they can find a sense of accomplishment and identity again. It is only by returning to paid work outside the home that they feel they are still themselves.

After my recent conversation with the friend who is currently dealing with this identity crisis I've been pondering why we as women undermine ourselves in this way. Being a mother is probably the single most important job we could ever do. Being a mother is shaping and influencing part of the next generation, and beyond. It has been said that our personality and core values are shaped for life within the first 7 years. Who we are at 7 is for the most part who we will be as an adult. The single biggest influence in our life in those 7 years is our primary caregiver, historically mothers. It is a role that until recently was held in esteem. Being a mother was seen as the most important job we could do.

To me being a mother is still the most important job I can do, but somewhere in the last 50 or so years our society has began to disagree. Now we are seen as somehow surplus to requirements. Our role in society is minimalised. We are ONLY a stay at home Mom, as if we should be doing something more important instead. Staying home full time we easily get dismissed as irrelevant to larger society. Is it any wonder that so many women begin to loose their identity, or feel invisible when they do choose to stay at home?

I love being at home with my son. I often remark to my darling husband that I really admire him for being able to leave every day to go to work. I know it would break my heart to beyond distraction if I were the one who had to leave every morning to earn a living. I am fortunate. I have a husband who strongly supports me in being a stay at home wife and mother. He tells me regularly that he can cheerfully go out to work because he knows I am home taking proper care of our son. He doesn't have to give the welfare of Aiden a second thought while he is at work, because he knows as his mother I am taking care of him the way he needs to be taken care of.

I feel very privileged to be home every day, being a mother to a happy contented little boy. I get to use my creativity and intelligence in so many more ways than I ever did in any paid job I have ever done (and I've had some really great jobs over the years.) I get to watch this child grow and develop before my very eyes. I am witness to all his firsts. I am also the biggest influence in his life. Who he will become as a person is largely under my influence. The values and attitudes he develops in life will mostly be thanks to me. What he sees me do will influence what he does. How I live will be reflected in how he lives. I can take that responsibility and grow to be a better influence for him, or I can hand that over to strangers at daycare. Personally I'd rather do it myself.

My husband and I have a vision. We want to establish a godly dynasty with our family. It is having that vision that helps us both keep going in our respective roles within our family. I stay at home on purpose. I also have a purpose in staying at home. This is not idle time in my life. Rather together we are building foundational blocks in Aiden's life that will work towards our vision. This will extend to future children too. As our family grows, so our vision will grow. By the time they are adults we hope and plan to raise godly men and women for the Kingdom of God. We pray daily for our children to catch a hold of our vision and legacy and for them to then pass it on the the next generation after them.

The problem as far as I can see it is that so many of us have lost sight of our purpose and responsibility as parents. Our society tells us that it isn't important, that anyone can raise our children. When we loose sight of just how important we actually are to our children, then we begin to listen to all the negative voices around us. When we don't have a purpose and a vision for staying home, we get lost in the maze of emotions and other peoples comments. When we see ourselves as ONLY a stay at home Mom it gets too easy to feel invisible, unimportant and swallowed up in life.

If we want to avoid feeling invisible and lost we need to find our purpose. We need to ask ourselves why we are doing this? We also need to ask ourselves what can possibly be more important right now that investing in my child's future? The truth is that NOTHING is more important, no matter if your child is an infant or a teenager. Nobody can be a mother to your children as well as you can.

Feeling lost, get a vision. Feeling invisible, get a purpose. After that your imagination is your only limitation.

Let us all remember that stay at home Mom's are not JUST, they are ALL.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Crock Pot Yogurt

Yesterday/today I made my very first batch of crock pot yogurt.

It was so easy I can't believe I haven't tried to do this before now.

I ended up with 7 cups of yogurt and 2 cups of whey from this process. The whey we will keep and use in smoothies or soup to add extra protein.

So here are the ingredients:
1/2 gallon (64fl oz) milk (must not be ultra pasteurized)
1/2 cup plain live yogurt ( I used Greek style as its what we had in the fridge.)

Heat the milk in a crock pot, on low for 2 1/2 hours.
Turn OFF the crock pot.
Leave to stand for 3 hours.

Remove 1-2 cups of the milk, and mix thoroughly with the 1/2 cup of live yogurt.
Add the milk & yogurt mix back into the crock pot.
Wrap the whole crock pot with a large towel to insulate the warmth inside.
Leave for at least 8 hours. I left it overnight.

To remove some of the whey strain the yogurt through a coffee filter. Removing whey produces a thick consistency.

Best served cold from the fridge.

You can also just keep aside 1/2 cup of this homemade yogurt to be your yogurt starter the next time.

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Baby Mordecai

Our blessed first baby, Mordecai, gone to heaven on July 23, 2009 at 13 weeks gestation.

You will never be forgotten by us.