Friday, December 31, 2010

Life Lessons

-written a couple months ago-

Life’s full of lessons, and lately I’ve been especially learning a lot. Lately as in the past 5 ½ months. Children are good at teaching adults lots lessons, especially when they belong to you.
Recently a new friend had a post about her passion for co-sleeping, but the fact that in the end, it only worked the first 8 months for them with their first one, due to his personality and tendencies. As we were talking some about her journey and lessons through that, I was thinking some about mine. Viviana’s been pretty adamant about teaching me not to judge people who live different lifestyles, have different parenting philosophies, etc. And I’m getting there- though, I admit, it’s been a journey- when something is one of your utmost passions it’s easy to be passionate about it. J
I am an idealistic person. It’s my personality, so I don’t foresee it changing anytime soon. Idealism and passion aren’t bad things. Channeled, they can be blessings. Idealism pushes me to always pursue higher, passion sets me on fire for the things I love. But when it crosses over into deciding how other people should live their lives, it becomes a problem. A problem that will hopefully continue to be cured…without too many more teachers.
I went into marriage and motherhood more or less experienced. I’m the oldest of a dozen, and I’ve had lots of hands on experience. I ran the house while Mom was down with morning sickness, I had the opportunity to assist with homeschooling, I booted Mom out of the kitchen and entirely took over it for a few years (I think she likes having a little bit of say in it again, now). And, of course, there were the daily chores that taught housework, the patience and nerve trying aspects of living in a large family, and so on. Excellent training ground! It made life a lot easier for me than it might have otherwise been, when we got married. So I was certain that just having one kiddo couldn’t possibly take all my time, and I’d still have free time. I wasn’t quite sure how some moms could feel so swamped with just one munchkin. I’m hooked on natural mothering, and I thought especially with those plans in mind (like babywearing), I’d be good to go.
So, God laughed. And He gave me a special baby (LINK). He gave me a little girl who needed constant attention. It wasn’t enough for her to be worn or held all day- she needed my full attention. She needed me to be bouncing on an exercise ball just so while she napped or to put her to sleep, or to be walked back and forth down the hall. It was hard to keep her content during the irregular movements of cooking, sewing, cleaning, etc. And I learned….if God really wants it to, your one baby can take up all your time. I have a good belly laugh occasionally, remembering back to the first months. It’s not often I hear of a baby like her…and thinking of some specific circumstances, I can’t help but smile. It could only have been to teach me a lesson. Such as, the time I needed to get some diapers sewn, so I sat at the machine on an exercise ball with her in the ergo, bouncing while trying to whip a few up- and it still didn’t work! Our first few months were survival mode- dinner got put on the table, laundry usually got done, minimal cleaning got done….and very, very occasionally, some sewing and extras got done, if we were having a great day. About once a week, for about 20 minutes, I could get her down for a nap and spend some time with just Ben.
You know the afore mentioned exercise ball? I swore before I had her that I wasn’t going to use any tools that I would be so attached to I had to haul them all over everywhere with me. So I’m sure you can guess what we ended up taking with us every week to my in-laws the first few months. (The only reason we didn’t take it to my family’s, is that my mom has one.) I broke down and did it….because without, she was much crankier- besides the bonus that it meant I’d get to sit down at some point in the evening. Some of the other tools out there don’t seem so bad anymore- after all, most don’t take up your whole back seat!
Pretty amazing that I’m still learning, huh? You’d think all that would be enough to teach me. Through each new day, I’m learning that God orchestrates each family and each baby differently. I’m learning that all have different needs. And while there are some styles which I still do believe to be harmful or negative for baby and family, I’m recognizing that there’s plenty of styles out there which aren’t any lower than mine, if for a different family and different baby. I’m learning that as long as a family has everyone’s best interests at heart, they will strive to do what’s best, and baby will be loved.
I still have my ideals and passions for my life. And I still love to share my passions with others, because I think many of them do work for most people, and are great tools, thus helping to create a beautiful home atmosphere. But I’m willing to own up, now, that some things work better for some people and others for other people. I’m interested in hearing what you do, and why it’s worked for you. I’m interested in hearing your reasons for the conclusions you’ve reached, and not just so I can counter you.
Bit by bit, I’m learning….and maybe someday, I’ll receive a child who won’t need to teach me quite so much.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Look At What's Coming Up...

Lots of articles are in the works or scheduled to be posted soon. Want a sneak peak at what’s coming? Here you go: a two-part series on preparing for a homebirth, a two or three-part series on having a wedding on a budget ($1000 for us), a series on why you need an extra freezer and utilizing it to your best advantage, children’s Bible story review, family visions, health stuff, yummy recipes and more! So, stay tuned, and have a happy new year’s!

Husband First?

Recently, my husband and I were talking about what it looks like to put your husband “first”- or, more, to complete the typically portrayed three-tiered priority triangle- God, husband/wife, kids. The concepts really make sense to me. It all seems good….but I remember struggling a lot after Vivi was born, feeling like by the standards of marriage people, I was failing at it. But I felt like if I remedied it, I’d be failing as a mom. You see, Viviana didn’t go down. At all. Till eventually she hit a space in there where she started napping, at some point during the day or evening, for about 20 (30 if we were really lucky!) minutes. We were definitely thankful Ben worked at home, so we could make use of any time she gave us. I felt really bad, and like I must be doing something wrong during the stretches where I knew Ben desperately wanted a few minutes with just me, and I couldn’t give it. He kept assuring me that it was okay, right now he wanted me to take care of Viviana’s needs, and that it was only a season. He assured me I was doing fine with the whole balance thing, and he was more than happy to express his love by making a few sacrifices for us. Sacrifices? Yikes….him sacrificing his desires so Vivi can have what she needs….isn’t that putting her first?

Needless to say, it was quite a battle of the mind, in spite of Ben’s total support. I just had this huge picture in my mind of what a “good” wife should be, because all the marriage books say so. But, I was equally committed to and passionate about natural mothering. In my heart, I knew these two had to fit together- I knew that “natural” mothering is close to God’s heart, and what He wanted for me. The marital books also say you should never let a baby sleep with you, and would probably tell you to just let the baby cry. Neither of us wanted to go there. So….after two or three months, she gradually started taking one nap down a day, which gradually grew in length, and now I always get her to sleep in our bed, and I put her down for the night a couple hours before we go to bed. Let’s just say… feels easy. But- to get back on topic….

What does it look like, really? Ben expressed his feelings that it just isn’t practical to put the husband “first” in a physical sense, and furthermore, that it’s no fun being a check-list item. He suggested that what it really is, is thinking about your spouse. It’s seeking out ways to bless him, letting you know he was on your mind. Then we were talking about it with his brother-in-law and his wife, and he expressed it so perfectly. It was so tangible, concise, and clear- and talking through that and Ben’s views, I finally felt freed to be a daughter of the King, a wife, and a mommy, all to the best of my ability.

So, here’s the kicker….it means putting their desires first. It means serving in the ways he would want you to. It doesn’t necessarily mean throwing your newborn in nursery so you can worship God “unhindered”- it might mean pacing the hallways, worshipping God as you care for one of His little ones. It means doing what you know your husband desires, fully blessed by him and free to care for your munchkins. It means loving your husband passionately, pursuing him sexually and romantically, is an expression of love to God. It means that it’s okay to feed your hungry newborn first, or to succumb to a season of wearing your baby 24/7…as long as you’re seeking out your husband’s heart, reminding him of how loved he is, and sharing with him your dreams for spending time with just him, once it becomes practical.

All that said, it’s not a “get out of jail” pass. :-) Your husband needs you. Period. You can’t just make up excuses not to spend time with him, or make up reasons why you simply don’t have time or energy for him. That attitude is an entirely different topic. You need to spend time with your husband, and you need to figure out how to do so during the kid season of life- someday the kid’s will be gone, and it would be so much more beautiful if you were still situated at home with your best friend. But if you’re struggling with guilt when you are trying your hardest to fit everything in “correctly”….rest assured. This is a passing season, and God sees your heart. For that matter, your husband probably does, too. And he knows if your heart rests with him first and foremost. He knows whether or not you’re working to create time for him. He knows if you’re seeking out ways to bless him and make him feel special. During the early months of Vivi’s life, I did what I could. One of those things was writing lots of love letters- something I could do while holding a sleeping baby, which also reached out to his primary love language- words of affirmation. Even if I couldn’t snuggle up with just him, I tried to reach out and touch him. And the moment I did break out a few free minutes, I made him clock out of work immediately. He understood my attitude, and never once held the struggles against me or Vivi. He never saw him and Vivi as being “enemies” fighting for my attention (of course, if you know my husband, you know how ridiculous the very idea sounds).

It’s been really freeing to come up with a definition of what exactly the pyramid of priority means, together with my husband. It leaves me feeling like I can pursue the passions God’s given me whole-heartedly. It’s reminded me that there isn’t anything faulty with natural mothering, and it can fit in beautifully with giving my husband priority- something I felt in my heart, but wavered about on the surface when I felt like maybe I was failing as a wife. I’m so thankful God created me to be a wife and mother- and that He knows how to fit them both together!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Love Christmas!

I love the Christmas season. I enjoy the family closeness, the busyness, preparing/finding gifts for people on our lists. I enjoy the baking and music, the tree decorating, and being warm inside while a snowstorm whirls outside. I enjoy the extra time spent focused on relationships. I like being thankful together, and celebrating the birth of Christ.

I have lots of fond memories of Christmas growing up. The excitement and anticipation, as us kids waited for Christmas to arrive. Picking out gifts for Toys for Tots or like ministries. Participating in Christmas pageants, sometimes seeing relatives, decorating sugar cookies with mom. Going to pick out a Christmas tree, and cutting it down. I remember one particular place that gave sleigh rides and free hot chocolate and candy canes. I remember enjoying the time of Dad off work, and everyone just being home together.

There was a phase in my teen years when I wasn’t so fond of Christmas. Several of my friends didn’t celebrate it, and I was convinced my family was pagan to do so. My family (thankfully!) wasn’t interested in listening to me, and felt like Christmas was an excellent time to reach out into your neighborhood and community. Regardless of roots and when Jesus’ birthday actually is, even non-Christians associate Christmas with the birth of Christ. So to not celebrate would err on the atheism side, in the eyes of others. I’m thankful that I moved out of that rut (and lots of other legalism ruts I fell into) and get to enjoy Christmas once again- memories, family time, lights, music, and the other wonderful things that go with it…. And now, I get to share it with a husband and daughter!

May you have a wonderful Christmas, celebrating the birth of Christ, the love of God, and the specialness of family and friends! I know I will be, with all my favorite people!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Family Christmas Newsletter

Merry Christmas, Friends and Family!
We hope this Christmas season finds you enjoying the blessings of family, warmth, and love. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season- but my favorite part about the holidays is enjoying relaxed time with the people I love.
As most of you know, the highlight of this year was the birth of our daughter, Viviana Marie, on May 18, 2009. She weighed in at 8lbs 4oz, and was 20 ¾” long. We’ve been so blessed to be her parents! She’s growing up very fast- already it’s amazing to look back to her newborn pictures and think she was “that small”. Viviana is a very alert, happy baby. She loves to see everything and figure out the whole world all at once. Like every baby, she’s taught us lots of lessons- I’m inclined to think we parents learn far more from our munchkins than the other way around!
Ever since she was a tiny baby, she’s had a particular fascination with lights and trees. Consequently, we’ve gone on lots of hikes with her, so she can feast her eyes! Vivi’s really enjoying all the pretty Christmas lights. When we go over to Ben’s family’s, who have colored lights all the way up their stairs, she just stares and stares, totally enraptured.
Vivi and her aunt, Brylee (5 weeks older than her), have recently started to “discover” each other- it’ll be so much fun to see what all transpires as they learn to sit up, crawl, and interact more. On the Graber side, Vivi’s sandwiched between cousins who are 8 months older and, any day now, will be 7 months younger- so as she gets more interactive, I know she’ll have tons of fun with her cousins. They think she’s great, and love to talk to her and pull at her- which she’s starting to really enjoy. The first couple months, she wasn’t sure what to think of her noisy cousins, aunts, and uncles!
This year also brought another huge change, shortly after Viviana’s birth. Ben is going back to school to get his Masters in math education. We attended CHEO (Christian Home Educators of Ohio) Convention this year, and there was a speaker encouraging people to pursue dreams. The wild idea of becoming a teacher was laid on Ben’s heart, and as he contemplated it, he also talked to a CollegePlus vendor, who told Ben about some options he’d have for fast tracking it, and also being able to do the degree from home. The options he mentioned actually didn’t use CP- we were grateful he was willing to help us just as an honest friend! Well, the dream didn’t go away, and a few weeks later, after counsel from a variety of people whose opinions we value, Ben was enrolled in online courses at Liberty University. He should have his MA in math education by Spring 2012, at which point he’ll start looking for a job in his new field. All of Ben’s courses will be online, except 3 “intensives”- each one week fast-track classes. We’ll be heading down to Virginia this winter for 2 weeks, when he’ll complete two of these. The third will get done next summer. Ben’s doing great with his classes so far, and as someone who loves learning, has thoroughly enjoyed them. So, they’ve been a pleasant means to the end goal. Ben’s a very gifted teacher, as we’ve discovered through the tutoring he’s done of siblings, and he has a passionate desire to make learning come alive for students, and take math from being something abstract and difficult to being tangible and fun. His new job will make far better use of his talents and passions than his current job as a software tester does. That said, we’re very grateful for this job, as it’s been perfect for the current and past seasons of life. Because he can work from home, it’s also enabling him to go back to school while working full time, while still having time for people, too.
As for me….just life. I feel so privileged to be a mom- something I’ve longed for ever since I was 3. It’s been amazing to watch my dreams of wifehood and motherhood unfolding in far bigger ways than I ever could’ve dreamed of- and as one friend mentioned, I get to have my dream job, as Ben’s pursuing his. I’m so grateful I get to spend all day at home, with Viviana. We have lots of fun together in the kitchen, working on sewing projects, cleaning, and so on. We also enjoy reading and playing together. I started making cloth diapers before she was born, so that’s one of my “constant” projects. There’s also various other projects going at any given time. With all the writing Ben’s doing, I’ve been inspired to get back to it, and start making more use of our blog again, which has been thoroughly enjoyable. I’m working bit by bit on a larger project; a cook book of all my favorite recipes. Another exciting thing that’s just taking off is starting a baby carrier library, where I can educate women about benefits of babywearing and how to use different carriers, which they can borrow. Specifically, I’ll be teaming up with our local pregnancy center, though the service will be available to anyone. All going well, we’ll be off the ground in February! I feel so blessed that God’s opened up doors for me to share my passions with people.
Together as a family, we’re pursuing our vision- to love each other, to love our children, and to let that love spill out into the lives of those around us. We’re pursuing our goal of holding out grace in a world where there’s plenty of condemnation, legalism, and judgmentalness. Grace might not always be the most perfect thing, but there are plenty of people willing to pick up the tab on the other side, so if we can’t walk a perfect middle-line, God’s called us to fall on the grace side. It comes naturally to Ben- always understanding, always ready to love, never desirous of holding out judgment. I’m a work in progress….but I’ve seen enough of the negative of the other side to be desirous of putting aside self, and following Ben’s leading in holding out grace.
May your year be richly blessed!
Ben, Brianna & Viviana Graber
Viviana, 2 months old- too cute not to share!
Viviana, 5 1/2 months old
Hanging out with Daddy, 9/2010 -- Doing dishes with Mom 12/2010
Family shot September, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy Review

The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy Review

A couple months ago, Ben and I finished reading The Hawk and The Dove Trilogy, comprise of The Hawk and the Dove, The Wounds of God, and The Long Fall. If I had to sum them up in one word, I’d say “life-changing”. I can hardly believe how much God used these books to change me- for the better!

This story takes place in two settings- one, the home of a girl and her family in England in the early 1900s, the other about a circle of monks in ­­­­­­­­­the 13th century. The girl’s mother tells her stories about a distant relative, and all his adventures as a monk.

When I first heard this description, I wasn’t too sure about the book….somehow, monks just didn’t capture my interest. But, since it was recommended by a person whose literary opinions I value above most others, and since Ben remembered liking it as a kid, we plunged in. I’m so glad we did; it’s been a rich and rewarding experience!

You’ll laugh and cry, you’ll have trouble putting it down, and most rewarding, you’ll likely see your life shaped and molded gently, quietly- in ways that only the very best in literature can.

In spite of being centuries apart from the world we live in now, the real-life struggles and triumphs experienced by the characters are so relatable. Sometimes I felt like I was reading about me, or someone I know.


The first book, The Hawk and the Dove, gives glimpses into the life of the girl, Melissa, and the monastery. Melissa is a young girl who loves to hear stories and spend time with her mother, as she grows up in her penny-scrimping family with three other sisters. Melissa’s mother is a delightful person. Here’s a small piece from a description of her: “My mother. She was not a pretty woman, and never thought to try and make herself so. She had an uncompromising chin, firm lips, a nose like a hawk’s beak and unnerving grey eyes. Eyes that went straight past the outside of you and into the middle, which meant that you could relax about the torn jersey, the undone shoe laces, the tangled hair and the unwashed hands at the dinner tables, but you had to feel very uncomfortable indeed about the stolen sweets, the broken promise, and the unkind way you ran away from a little sister striving to follow you on her short legs.” You’ll meet Father Peregrine, the abbot of the community, who’s life is gradually molded into one of perfect beauty- through trials and afflictions anyone would shirk from. A fascinating tale unwinds about Father Peregrine’s past, and the daughter he didn’t realize he had. You’ll be introduced to Father Matthew, the all-too-strict novice master. You’ll get to know, and likewise, grow to love, Brother Tom, who starts as a novice and becomes one of the most beloved characters. Journey with him through all his ups and downs as he meanders through life at the monastery. And that is only the beginning!


The Wounds of God is even better than the first book. A transformed Father Peregrine becomes good friends with all those under his charge, as he melts them with his infamous quote, “Tell me about it.” He has a way of getting into their hearts and sympathizing with their struggles. He and Brother Tom are fast friends by now, and Brother Tom is with Father Peregrine through everything.

Read about how Father Peregrine out-wits those who seek to humiliate him, put him down, and cast aside God’s love in a debate amongst all the abbots as to Old Testament law, God’s justice, and His love.

You’ll be inspired by Tom’s down-to-earth care for those he loves. You’ll hurt for Brother Francis, who finally wavers to all his pain and insecurities, well hidden behind lighthearted jesting and smiles, and pours it all out to Father Peregrine. You’ll triumph with Brother James, who finally discovers who Jesus really is- and who he is.


The Long Fall is an incredibly real book, detailing the last months of Father Peregrine’s life. He suffers from a stroke which leaves him unable to communicate. Slowly, Brother Tom and others help him build his speech back up. Brother Tom learns about showing love even when it hurts, as he gets over his urge to simply run from the situation and let Peregrine be cared for by those in charge of the infirmary. He learns to open his heart to others, slowly, and share of the incredible hurt he’s suffering. Father Peregrine learns to lean on God all the more, and listen to his friends, who remind him of the things he’s always believed before.


Best of all, though, is the doctrine wound throughout the book. Little bits and pieces reminding us of God’s love for us, of Christian community, of forgiveness, of the trump of love and grace over judgment. Of the triumph of tenderness and compassion. It’s a breath of fresh air, and so real.

Just listen to this quote, from The Wounds of God: “A funny thing happens with the Bible. It acts a bit like a mirror. People who come to it resentful and critical find if full of curses and condemnation. People who come to it gentle and humble find it full of love and mercy. The truth of God is not a truth like ‘cows have four legs’ is true. God’s truth is him, himself. There are no short cuts. You have to get to know him.”

Or this one, the very last line in the book: “Love has no defences, and you only know it’s love when it hurts.”

I hope you’ll decide to pick this book up and read it- and may your life be as blessed by it as mine has permanently been. I know I’ll never be the same person, simply because of reading this book. That’s the great thing about reading literature- it works on you and molds you without your even realizing it, till one day it suddenly hits you- “Something has influenced me and changed me for the better.” The characters are so inspiring, but their struggles are so real that they feel touchable and attainable, instead of some far-off picture of perfection.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blessing my Hubby

Yesterday, I spent about $30 in over-priced food. $20 for a 5lb bag of frozen raspberries, and $9 for 24oz of fresh raspberries. I’m a budgeter and tightwad. I don’t waste money frivolously when I go shopping. I don’t buy something unless it’s an absolute need. And personally, raspberries are totally not worth what they cost, even if they do taste good.

So, why did I spend that much on raspberries? ‘Cause I have a husband who adores them. In his book, they’re the most amazing fruit ever. And you know what? While I’d never spend $5-6 a pound on fruit for the sake of the fruit itself, that’s definitely a good deal for making my husband grin. I buy raspberries on occasion because it makes Ben feel special and gives him a treat he particularly loves.

It’s good to contemplate ways you can particularly bless your husband- whether it’s buying a particular food for him, making a special treat (in this case, a combination of the two), doing a chore he hates being left with, or something else.

Now I’m off to make a fresh raspberry pie….. By the way, fresh berry pies are the most amazing thing ever. Especially topped with homemade whipped cream. And especially for breakfast. Oh, you’re jealous? Well, then, I’ll share the recipe….

Fresh Berry Pie

1 9-10” pie crust, baked

several cups (4-6) fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries- peaches work well, too, or any combination of the berries/peaches), sliced if neccessary

1 ¼ cups mashed berries (the same or different from the berries in pie- and you can use frozen for this part)

½ cup cold water

¼- ½ cup honey or cane juice crystals

3 tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch

Pour sliced berries into pie crust till heaped up; set aside. Mix arrowroot powder with water till free of lumps, pour into medium pot. Add honey and berries, bring to gentle boil over medium heat. Cook and stir till thickened, about one minute. Pour over pie, gently mix in to berries. Refrigerate; serve cold.

Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream

2 TBL cane juice crystals

½ tsp vanilla

Pour all ingredients into a bowl. Using electric beaters, whip till whipped up, but not too stiff. If you have a Bosch with the beater attachment, it makes this totally easy. Eat fresh, or store in refrigerator.

*We use about a double batch or so of this per pie.*

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Edelweiss Patterns

Edelweiss Patterns is a fairly new website, created by a twenty-one year old stay-at-home daughter, with a passion for modesty and- by all appearances- Sound of Music. The creator, Katrina, is a pattern-creator, currently focusing on Sound of Music style dresses. Right now, they have “Liesl’s dancing dress” available, with more that will be coming soon. She also offers several different stretch laces, to be used to fill in low necklines. What a fantastic idea! One of Katrina’s focuses is helping people turn immodest clothes from the store into modest, stunning creations. And that brings me to my favorite product- an e-book detailing how to do so with tons of items, from t-shirts to formal wear!

Here’s what Katrina says about the book: “ Here is your key to adjusting those store-bought tops, dresses, and formal gowns so you can actually wear them! No more having to pass up a beautiful garment just because it is too low or strapless! With these instructions you’ll be able to take a piece of clothing from immodest to modest in half an hour or less.

This book contains many helpful methods for altering clothing, along with detailed instructions and corresponding photographs. We discuss everything from t-shirts to eveningwear, and prove that the “too-low”, “strapless”, “off-the shoulder”, and “spaghetti strap” problems can easily be fixed in ways that produce stunning dresses, and most of them in a short amount of time. You’ll never need to cover up a gorgeous formal with a shawl again!”

I’m really excited about reading and trying some of her ideas, because it’s so frustrating to never be able to find anything in the stores! Especially something cute…. And personally, I really like the look that a v-neck with something under it can lend, so I’m looking forward to trying some of her ideas.

During my last pregnancy, almost all of my tops were v-necks (because those were the only cute ones!), and I only had one shirt that worked well to wear under them- definitely a laundry problem. Hopefully not so this time!

*I’m being compensated for this post with a free copy of Katrina’s e-book.*

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Learning from the Sling

I wrote this in Viviana’s journal last week: You’ve discovered that you can grab things, and you love doing so! You also seem like you’re really figuring out life, and you love helping mommy with all kinds of stuff throughout the day. That’s one of the things I love about sharing life with you, Sweetheart- as you ride along in a carrier, you get to learn all about my day, figuring out life, and then during our breaks, we get to play and gab on the floor together, or enjoy a good book. Dinner plates and the stuff on them fascinate you- especially considering how much you love the taste of vanilla (for teething), clove oil (for teething), garlic, and Echinacea, I know you’re going to love food once we start on that adventure! When I was doing dishes with you kangaroo-style in the sling, you had a blast grabbing onto my arm while I scrubbed something hard, reaching for pots with me, and touching the water. When we put clothes away, now, you love grabbing onto the pile, and helping me put them away. When we were sewing this morning, you enjoyed “helping” me hold the fabric, turn it, crinkle it, and pull it. You also love grabbing for your toys, and the past few days, you’ve especially enjoyed grabbing and chewing on some of your teething toys.

If you’ve been around here much, or know me very well, you know I’m a huge fan of babywearing. I’m a fan of it for so many reasons…including sharing life. Another reason I think it’s so wonderful is that I believe it’s highly educational, giving little ones a front row perch from which to learn about everything, eventually getting their hands involved in “helping”. Observing right at your level is about as ideal a learning center as it gets!

So….you can imagine my excitement over the past couple weeks as Viviana’s begun figuring things out and helping me. I knew she was learning, but I didn’t expect to see tangible results at just 6 months old. It’s so thrilling to see what I believe in unfolding, perfectly true. To see and help my daughter learn about life. To enjoy working together, and playing together. Life is a lot of fun when you’re helping a little munchkin learn to love and appreciate it! It’s a good personal challenge, too- if she’s learning so much, she’s also definitely picking up on my attitude, which happens to be rather contagious. I want her to see life as fun and exciting- but she only will if it’s what I model.

So, we shall continue to share life- I can’t wait to see what all she continues to learn! I know I need only blink a couple times, and she’ll be standing on a chair next to me in the kitchen….or wanting to use her own scissors to cut fabric….putting her own clothes away….where does time go?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sharing Life Together

Sharing life together. It’s what Ben and I love to do….we don’t just exist together, coming together for certain activities. We live together. We’ve learned to be interested in the other’s interests, we enjoy the same activities together, we talk about everything together…. There’s something really special about sharing life with someone!

And now that we have a beautiful daughter, I get to share life with her, too. As a babywearing mama, I get to share life with my daughter all day. Babywearing means I share my daily activities with her, letting her observe and learn from her perch as I clean, cook, and work on projects. The fact that I get all those things done with her attached to me means that I also get to share in things geared at her- playing on the floor with her, reading to her, going for walks outside to explore nature. It also means that when she naps, I have free time to work on things she doesn’t enjoy (and/or I don’t want her to) like writing on the computer or sewing.

Most of all, though, it means that she and I are creating bonds. Just like Ben and I have since our engagement. It means we’re forging a special relationship that has elements which can only come alive where you work and play together.

That Moment

[written a month or two ago- but still just as true :-)]

Tonight I’m remembering….remembering labor and delivery for our beautiful baby girl. And most especially remembering that moment….that moment when I gave the final push and our baby’s head came out- then one shoulder- then the other shoulder- and finally her whole body came sliding out into the hands of our midwife, and then into my arms. Oh my goodness….words can’t possibly begin to describe what that moment was like. When I felt Viviana making her grand entrance into the world- and scooped her up- and looked at our baby for the first time. When I saw perfection written all over her face and body and realized this was our baby that God gifted us with….that I had spent the last 30 hours bringing her into the world….that this was the baby I spent 2 ½ hours pushing out…this was the precious little one who’d kicked and stretched inside my womb for 9 months… Such joy, exhilaration, fullness, completeness, awe, sweetness….such perfection. One of the most amazing experiences of my life, and one I’ll never forget. And tonight….I’m looking forward to doing it again, should God bless us with more bundles….there would be few things as wonderful as bringing forth another life into the world through labor and love.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ear Infections and Natural Healing

A few weeks ago, Viviana had her first ear infection. She had a cold the previous week, which kept lingering in spite of giving her garlic and Echinacea. Within a couple days on that she was feeling much better, but the congestion held on. About a week later, she woke up one night screaming, which doesn’t usually happen for her. She almost always just whimpers or “calls”, and I nurse her back to sleep in a short period of time. I nursed her, but she continued to cry. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with her, but Ben offered to walk her for awhile and see if that calmed her down, as it’s something he’s done in the past when she gets worked up. She fell asleep a few times, always to wake up 15 or so minutes later screaming. At that point, we knew something was hurting her, and Ben suggested her ears. This made perfect sense- at her age, it’s all too easy for fluid to make its way to the ears, the lingering congestion would be the perfect cause, and it would explain why she wasn’t crying quite so much when walking (due to being held upright). Ben made a heroic midnight run to Walmart for children’s tylonel, and I put some garlic ear drops in her ears. I don’t like using synthetic pain relievers, but nothing else was working, and I felt like I needed to help relieve her pain if it was hurting so much that she couldn’t sleep at all. Prior to taking the tylonel, the most she would sleep at a time was 15 minutes, which wasn’t giving her the vital rest her body needed. I also gave it to her twice the following day, but didn’t do any after that. I spent the rest of the night in the rocking chair with her, and the next day she took most of her naps on me. By the second day, I noticed huge improvement, and by the third day, she was acting almost completely herself again. By 5 or 6 days, she was 100% healthy. For a solid week, I gave her garlic and Echinacea 6-8 times a day, and did the garlic ear drops a minimum of 4 times a day.

Ear infections can be a scary thing to deal with….especially since they can involve some large complications if you don’t get rid of the fluid. They’re also extremely painful, and as a parent, it’s heart-wrenching to see your munchkin experience so much pain. But you can have excellent success treating ear infections at home, instead of going for the typical antibiotic. It was really neat to see how effectively the garlic worked- we haven’t had a lick of trouble with her ears since! My Dad, a biology professor, mentioned that from a biologist and medical point of view, while antibiotics typically do work, garlic ear oil works much more efficiently. This is because when you put garlic in the ear, this amazing healing food is getting directly where it needs to, immediately. On the other hand, an antibiotic has to go through the entire body- destroying probiotics and breaking down the immune system as it goes along- before it gets to the organ that needs healing. This is not only a waste of time, it also breaks down the rest of the body. Like my husband described, it’s kind of like blowing up a whole town just to kill one household.

On a side note, antibiotics do have their place, and I’m not entirely opposed to them. I think there’s cases where natural healing isn’t working fast enough and you’re dealing with something too serious to mess around with.

So, if you’re going to forgo the doctor trip, what do you do, and how do you know the ear’s infected anyway?

We didn’t know for certain that Viviana’s ears were infected. Everything pointed to that, but we couldn’t see and know for sure. However, unlike antibiotics, if her ears had happened to be healthy, garlic ear oil wasn’t going to hurt them. In fact, using garlic ear oil during a cold can be a good preventative. My family owns and makes good use of a Dr. Mom otoscope, which allows you to see inside the ear, just like a doctor. This is a good determiner if you want to know whether the ear’s healthy, fluid-filled, or infected.

Next, treat rigorously with garlic ear oil drops, as well as garlic internally. Heat your bottle of ear drops in hot water, till they’re neutral or slightly warm when dropped on your wrist. Make sure you don’t burn the small ear- but you don’t want to shock it with cold liquid, either. Drop one to two drops in the ear, and place a small piece of cotton ball in the opening to help keep the liquid from spilling out. You don’t have to leave this in very long, just 5-15 minutes.

Consistency is the key, and it’s something I can be rather bad about remembering. I used Vivi’s sleep and wake times to remind me to “drug” her, as I was desperately adamant about seeing this one through consistently, and totally kicking the cold/ear infection.

Garlic isn’t guaranteed to get rid of all the fluid, though all its healing properties do help immensely. However, antibiotics don’t necessarily either- lots of people go on repeat or long-term doses of antibiotics, in failed attempts to get rid of lingering fluid, which can cause permanent problems. Even though garlic isn’t guaranteed to get rid of all the fluid, keep at it for a solid week or longer- several days after the issues seem to have dissolved. Towards the end, you can cut down to 2 or 3 times a day, if the congestion has disappeared and the ear seems to be healthy.

My Mom purchases this garlic ear oil which has been really effective. Since I didn’t have any on hand last year when I had some minor issues (which the garlic took care of within a couple uses), I made my own, which has worked effectively as well. All I did was cover several cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped into small pieces, in olive oil and heat on very low for about 4 hours. Then I let it cool, and strained it through a cheese cloth. I store it in a bottle with a dropper lid. You can also use the same technique, but instead of heating it, let it sit in the sun for several days. I needed the ear oil immediately, so I didn’t have time to try this method. I also used this oil on my breast when fighting mastitis this last summer.

All the information in the health realm can get pretty confusing, which is rather intimidating. However, it’s always worth it to do your own research- your family’s health, well-being, and life-span are all at stake here. I know I have much to learn, and I’ve been blessed to learn some of what I do know from others who’ve already done the homework. That’s one great benefit to finding others who enjoy natural healing- you can swap homework results. :-)

May your journey into natural healing be blessed!