My 2015 Reading List

The other day someone asked me if I had written anything lately. “No,” I replied. “With a four year old and a one year old I can’t seem to find the time to focus.” Someday I will have time to write again, but right now I am just living the life that I will write about in the future. Right now I’m storing up my stories and ideas.

I have, however, made time to read some books. Some of them I have actually listened to on Audible, in audio book form, as I’ve been driving in the car or doing the dishes, but either way I have consumed a handful of books over the past fourteen months and wanted to share because I always appreciate when other people share their book lists. Most of what I’ve read I heard about from someone I know.

You’ll quickly notice a theme in my reading. Currently, my reading/listening is focused on material that helps me to make the most of the season that I’m in. I hope you find something you might like. I would have liked to include a short review for each book, but…like I said, I don’t have much time to write. However, I can say that I would recommend every book on this list.

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Loving The Little Years: Motherhood In The Trenches, by Ranchel Jankovic

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Stronghold, by Beth Kinder

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Christ In The Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood, by Kimm Crandall

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Grace-Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel

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Bringing Up Girls, by Dr. James Dobson
*In my opinion, Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson was a much better book.

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Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When The Stakes Are High, by Patterson- Grenny – McMillan- Switzler

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Love & Respect, by Emmerson Eggerichs

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Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, by Jack Klumpenhower

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For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men, by Shaunti Feldhahn

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Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, by Ben Carson, M.D.

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The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self Discovery, by David G. Benner

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Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life, by Ruth Soukup

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Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money, by Dave Ramsey, Rachel Cruze

 

I’m currently reading:

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Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother Load, by Jen Hatmaker

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Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy, by Gary Thomas

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The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child’s Heart For Eternity, by Sally Clarkson

 

And Next in Line To Read:

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Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, by Dan Kindlon, Michael Thompson

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Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and my Soul, by Jennie Allen

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My Experience With Miscarriage

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Monday marked the two year anniversary of when I lost the baby from my second pregnancy.  I wanted to share these old posts in case it may be helpful to someone going through something similar.

Love,
Erin

Waiting. For Life or for Death
Losing the Baby
Mourning
Joy Through Pain – playlist
Sweet Cameron
The Most Amazing Gift
5 Rules To Go By When Someone You Know Has A Miscarriage
11 Bible Verses For Someone Who Has Had A Miscarriage
We Planted A Tree

That. Was the Fastest Year Ever

This year was the fastest year of my life.

It didn’t necessarily feel that was when Cora was two months old and I was so sleep deprived that I was questioning my own sanity all day long, but as a whole, this year sped by like none I have experienced before.  Maybe that’s what happens with each new child that enters your family.  If so, then any more kids is going to send me straight to my fortieth birthday.

This year, while it was exhausting at times and full of total joy and silliness in others, was one of deep growth for me.  This is the first year out of my life where I experienced God come into my anxiety and depression and I’ve been living in more freedom there than ever before.  But more on that in a minute.

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Rio Vista has been growing on me.  I still sometimes wish for the conveniences that come with living in a more affluent city.  I still wish there were more places to go and things to do and a place besides the grocery store where I might bump into someone I know.  I still wish the local parks had bathrooms and shade.  I still wish there was something to hike nearby.  However, despite all that is lacking in this small town, there is a lot that I’ve come to appreciate.  I like that when I drive down the street, people I don’t even know throw me a little wave and some of the older men still tip their hats.  I like how we don’t live right next to tons of shopping malls and chain stores and have to fight our way through traffic to get anywhere.  I like that I can put my kids in the stroller and walk almost anywhere in town.  I like how on Friday nights in the fall I can hear the cheering from the high school football game as I sit in my living room.  I like driving on the highway through peaceful fields of cattle and sheep.  I like the herds of turbines and how on our drives as we see them out in the distance we say, “Turbines mean we’re almost home.”

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Like I mentioned earlier, this year I experienced a huge breakthrough in my struggle with anxiety and depression.  Throughout my life and Christian journey, it’s been something that has continued to come up.  At times it’s been minimal and during others it’s felt like life was swallowing me up and there was no way out. I’ve tried managing it through getting more sleep, exercise, supplements and medication, but while some of those things helped, they never cured it, only helped me cope.

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After I had Cora, my anxiety was high.  The lack of sleep combined with the new tall order of expectations made me feel like I was spinning out of control.  I was on edge because for a while it felt like my whole day revolved around keeping kids from crying.  Feed the baby. Make the kid breakfast. Hold the baby. Clean up breakfast. Make a cup of coffee. Get the kid dressed.  Feed the baby.  Clean up spit up.  Put on baby wrap.  Start a load of laundry.  Heat up cold coffee in microwave.  And on and on it went.  With no family or close friends living in our small town, at times I felt so alone.  Who was there, besides my also sleep deprived husband, to help pick up my slack?  Who was going to offer to swing by for an hour to visit just to boost the morale in our home?   There is nothing quite like the cry of an infant to make you want to jump out of your own skin.

So during this time I struggled.  I just didn’t want everything to feel so hard all the time.  I longed for some rest and peace of mind.  Another thing that was difficult for me during all this was knowing how to view my struggle.  Was it depression?  Well, sometimes I did feel depressed.  I would wake up physically exhausted and lacking any motivation to get through the day, but it didn’t last for weeks or months on end like I saw in the commercials.  Oftentimes it was a day here or a day there or just for a few hours at a time.  Was it anxiety?  Sometimes I definitely felt anxious.  Some days were full of it, but then on other days I felt great!  I’d suddenly have tons of energy and a surge of tenacity.  On those days I would accomplish a lot and make up for the days on which I barely scraped by.  Was it a mild case of bi-polar?  I had one psychiatrist agree that it could be that after I told her about my days which were very up and then very down.  However, through all of this I was frustrated because I didn’t really know what my problem was.  I wanted to call it something.  Having a name for it might help me find peace, but none of the titles seemed to be an accurate diagnosis.

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When Cora was six months old, a new friend invited me to a women’s workshop on a Saturday morning at church.  I hadn’t planned on going, but I was eager to get to know this new friend more so I decided to join her.  When the workshop started, the worship band took the stage for a time of singing.  It was during this time of worship that the Lord spoke two extremely powerful things to me.

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He said, “You’re my Cora.”  Something so personal that it could have only come from my Maker.

And he also said, “Whatever it’s called, I will lead you out.”  Again, so personal that only the Lover of my Soul could have known I needed to hear those words.

I didn’t walk out of that workshop instantaneously healed, but for the first time in my life I really believed the Lord was with me in that struggle.  Even though he had brought me out of so much already in the past, for some reason I doubted whether or not God could help me in that area.  It had been something I’d dealt with for such a long time that I wondered if this was just something I was going to have to carry forever…  But his words to me showed me that he understood my inner confusion about what I was dealing with and that he had a plan.

I left the workshop with new hope.  I didn’t know HOW God would lead me out, but I was certain that he would do what he said.  That next season was one where I tried to memorize scripture like I never had before.  I don’t consider myself great at memorizing things, but through the trying the Lord brought me into more freedom than I had ever experienced in this area.  I wrote Bible verses on 3×5 note cards and stuck them to my bathroom mirror, next to my bed and on the cupboards above the sink because let’s be real, the most time I have to read all day long is while I’m doing the dishes.  I stopped being a total victim to my emotions and I started to experience how God’s Word CAN in fact shape my emotional life, little by little, if I will keep putting it in the forefront of my mind.  I also read Stronghold by Beth Kinder, the woman who spoke at the workshop.  Her stories and inspiration also coached me on how to believe the Word as being more powerful than my emotions.

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From this past year, the first year of having two small children, I can say that motherhood is messy.  So much messier than I anticipated.  I am more messy than I anticipated; both my home and my appearance at times, but especially the interactions that go on throughout out our days.  There are a lot of sorrys and will you forgive mes.  Lots of outbursts and not enough caffeine to help us on the hard days.

And yet, these years are intentional.  They must be.  Why would God make it so that no matter how type-A you are, there are so many moments that are going to break you in motherhood?  Success in these years cannot be measured by how clean your floors are or by how stylish your clothes or your hair look.  Success cannot be measured by whether the bed is made or the fridge is stocked.  Of course we pursue these things and feel good when we accomplish them and of course we’d like to feel like we have it all together all of the time. Of course.

But success in these years is forged in the dark.  Not always in the literal dark, but there too because when you’re up late and then up again early to care for your baby the presence of God is there with you.  In the dark, when you’re stuck at home most of the day because your children are napping or crabby and you wish you could be anywhere else – anywhere with more people around.  In the dark, when you flop it up and act like a toddler yourself in front of your children, but instead of just walking away, you humble yourself and ask that tiny person to forgive you.  In the dark, when you work so hard to clean up a room, only to have it destroyed again the following day or even moments later.  In the dark, when the dishes and laundry never end.  In the dark, when nobody is praising or even noticing all your hard work, nobody except for God.

God must know that the work that is done in a mother’s heart during the moments or the periods that are overwhelming and lonely cannot be done anywhere else.  God can’t reach your heart when you think you’re fine; when your life’s activities shine with perfection and spin effortlessly.  God forges perseverance, love, humility, tenacity, gentleness and strength during these times when you think that there is no possible way you can wake up and do this all again tomorrow.  During these messy years God can form gold in the heart of a mother.  The kind of stuff that she will use year after year after year once she posses it.  That is what success looks like when you’re a mother of small children.  Grace, grace, grace defines you.  More grace for yourself and more grace for others is success.

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As for the birthday girl, she’s snuggly, adventurous and has an obsession with my hair.  When she’s sleepy she likes to grab it and rub it all over her face.  She has the deepest ocean blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair.  She already has eight teeth and two more on the way and it seems like she is constantly eating.

Cameron is obsessed with airplanes and captures my heart daily when he always finds an opportunity to pick me a flower from the grass or bring me a “special leaf” if he can’t find a flower.

Both my kids have unusually loud voices.  Both are precious, fun and just weird enough to be Kidwells.  Being their mom is sweet and difficult and totally worth it.

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Battlefield 8 p.m.

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Bedtimes around our house lately do not look anything like this picture.  In fact, moments like the one pictured feel so rare these days, which is why I tried to capture the peace and quiet in picture form.  I got the creative writing bug the other day and decided to try and capture what our evenings have looked like lately.

***Disclaimer: The following short story is not meant to be alarming and is not some attempt at an online cry for help.  I do realize that this stage of life is brief and while bedtimes might be especially intense and wearing at times, there are plenty of heart-full moments through out the day and plenty of great moments with my children.  That being said, you may now read on. 🙂

 

Battlefield 8 p.m.  

“Come over here Cameron Bridger,” I said, my tone sharpening by the third time.  He swayed his body and made sounds as if he were in pain.

“I don’t want to go to bed,” he whined.  He grimaced and then collapsed onto the floor.  I rolled my eyes.

“Come over here Cameron Bridger, it’s time for bed.”  We were an hour and thirty minutes into the nightly dance.  Each time I felt as if the night were coming to a close, he erupted in anger or energy or both.  I softly told him it was time to brush his teeth and as soon as it rolled off of my tongue he rolled to the floor like dry ice pouring out of a cauldron.  No matter how many exciting things we’d done that day he had never seen enough, never tasted enough, never had enough.  He could never give in to the fact that it was now dark outside and the day’s adventures had come to a close.  As long as he could find a light switch there was still adventure to be had.

She, on the other hand, lay snugly in her blanket, eyes wide, not making a sound.  Her protest was due to begin soon.  Her eyes shifted back and forth, trying to find something to explain all the commotion.  She gripped her hands together and twiddled her fingers before trying to shove both fists into her mouth in one sudden movement.

He screeched for someone to come lay with him and bed.

She then shrieked for someone to come pick her up.

My dinner sat quietly on the table, cold and aloof.

I glanced at my husband.  His eyes told me that he would help however was needed.  I looked back and forth between the child laying on the floor in the doorway to his bedroom and the smaller one in her tiny bassinet.  My patience had run out four hours earlier so my choice would be for him to get both to sleep while I curled up on the far side of our bed with a remote and a glass of something sharp.

Each evening my husband and I had conversations with our eyes because with actual words we were constantly interrupted  His told me that I was doing a great job and reminded me that it would not always be like this.  My eyes questioned his sincerity by asking if we would ever spend time alone together again.  His eyes answered back, ‘yes’ and so we split off once again, each with one of our children, trying to coerce them to sleep so we could have a few moments together before we had to retire ourselves.

On some nights it worked, but on most it didn’t.  It had only been three months since she’d been born.  Sometimes it felt like just yesterday and other times I felt as though my husband and I were nearing a mature age.  We’d gone on our first date in six months just two weeks earlier.  That day had been so frazzled for me that as he escorted me to dinner I smeared on some lip gloss, hoping to detract from the yoga pants and muddy tennis shoes that accompanied my plain face and greasy hair.  He was just happy to finally be on a date with me.  I was just unhappy that I looked exactly like I had twelve hours earlier when I awoke as I did on our so-called date.

We chatted through dinner, mostly about how it felt so strange to actually be alone and I ordered a single bowl of clam chowder because my yoga pants seemed to disqualify me from the seared pork chop and potatoes.  A girl on a date in yoga pants and a pony tail is probably worth about as much as a bowl of clam chowder and maybe a slice of sourdough, or at least that’s how it felt.

Sometimes I longed for more free time like I once had.  We used to cook dinners together and stay up late watching whatever new series was on and talking about how one day it would be so great to have babies…we used to kiss a lot and eat slow dinners full of conversation.  But then again, life felt meaningful.  In moments of clarity when I was drinking a hot cup of coffee I knew that it was all worth it.  My babies were worth it.

From down the hall I could hear the clatter of toys as the older one dumped out his toy bin all over the floor.  Seconds later the baby went off like an alarm.  My husband swooped in and pick up the baby, walking her around while I slowly made my way down the dark hallway to the toddler who held onto a ruler and swung it around like a sword.  I squinted my eyes and prayed that he might just fall over into a deep sleep so that I didn’t have to put in so much effort to calm him down.

By 9:30 both babies were sleeping so I brushed my teeth slowly then crawled in next to the older one for a moment just because I suddenly missed him.  I breathed in deep, smelling his hair and trying to store the sweet smell in my memory bank.  The little one was sleeping hard, arms out at wing span, eyes darting around beneath her eyelids.  Something within me missed their loud voices and cries.  Something else within me told the other part of me that I was crazy.

As I slipped under the covers next to my husband his eyes told me that it wasn’t always going to be like this.  My eyes agreed with his and that thought somehow brought me relief and sorrow both at the same time.  Someday 8 p.m. would be quiet and I will be wishing that I could fit back into my yoga pants and rock and fussy baby to sleep.

I closed my eyes and tried not to think about waking up in a few hours for her first feeding.

 

The Transition To Having Two

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The past two months have been a blur.  My heart has been full and at the same time I’ve felt hopeless at times in my ability to ever be a fun mom again.  Before Cora was born I felt adventurous and accomplished, but at soon as we brought her home I was met with circumstances that I was not expecting.

I didn’t expect Cameron to throw fits and argue constantly for the first three weeks.  I could tell he didn’t like being at home all the time.  He was used to having more interactions with friends and more activities outside the house.  He was used to getting more attention from me.  A few times on the way home from preschool he told me that he didn’t want to go home.  Stab me in the heart little man, stab me in the heart.

FullSizeRender (27)I didn’t expect my house to be so chaotic at times.  I’m a fairly organized person (understatement) and I could feel my standards being washed out to sea and I swam like mad for a while to try and get them back.

I didn’t expect to have a baby girl who cried all evening, most evenings, making it almost impossible to spend any time with my husband.  Some nights, literally two minutes after Jon walked in the door, she would go from calm and quiet to crying.  On average the crying would last about three hours until she was asleep for the night.  One of us would take on the toddler while the other paced around the house, rocking an upset baby girl.  I wondered how my husband and I were ever going to feel like friends again if we never had any quality time together.

FullSizeRender (28)I didn’t expect to feel an overwhelming anxiety at times about messing it all up.  It wasn’t all that uncommon for me to have a brief crying spell sometime within an hour or two of waking up, some days even more throughout the day, when I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with the demands associated with keeping two small humans alive.

I didn’t expect to have a pinball machine for a brain; feeling like as soon as I started to do one thing I was interrupted by another.  I didn’t expect to feel so physically exhausted considering I was in pretty good shape.  Hunching over to nurse and carrying around a newborn can drain the energy out of anyone I think.  I didn’t expect to feel so torn when both kids needed something at the same time and I was forced to choose which one to focus on first.

Call me crazy, but I really didn’t expect having two kids to be all that different from having one.  Not that I should have expected the worst, but I should have expected for things to be MUCH different once the new baby arrived.  That way maybe I could have embraced a bit more of the crazy.

Catching a theme?  There were a lot of things I just did not expect.  And to top it off I was upset at the fact that I was upset.  I was unhappy with the fact that I wasn’t happy.  I felt guilty over the fact that I was having a hard time transitioning.  I felt like it should be easier.  So I felt like I must be doing something wrong in all this.  Lots of people have two, three, four or more kids so how come I couldn’t even handle two?!!?  I was starting to feel like a giant failure.  And guilty.  Really guilty because I had two stunningly beautiful, healthy kids and all I wanted to do was run away and be by myself.  Or just sleep.  Sleep would be nice.

I started listening to Tim Keller sermons last week.  That was a good choice.  I scrolled through the list of sermons on his podcast list and found one called “Peace – Overcoming Anxiety.”  Sounded right up my alley.  In this sermon he talks about expectations.  To paraphrase his words, he says: Imagine a room.  Someone tells you its a honeymoon suite.  But when you go in it’s simple and dirty and you’re disappointed.  Now imagine the same room, but this time before you go in you’re told its a jail cell.  Upon seeing the room you think, “Well that’s a really nice jail cell.”  So the same room is viewed completely differently because of different expectations.  He says that’s why we sometimes have a hard time in life; when we expect it to be easy and then it’s not.  Then when we freak out we freak out over the fact that we are freaking out.

I think a huge part of the reason the transition in adding another person to our family has been so rough is because I went into it with warped expectations.  I envisioned having a newborn as a huge relief from being pregnant; which it was in some regards.  Waiting and enduring are challenging.  However, the burdens associated with pregnancy are quickly replaced with new challenges and a steep learning curve that come with having a new baby around.  Plus, all I wanted to do was snuggle my sweet baby girl and take naps, but how was that supposed to happen with an energetic toddler running around?  The other part of the rough transition was due to the postpartum emotional tidal waves I was experiencing. It happened in the months following Cameron’s arrival as well, so I don’t know why I was surprised.  I took medication for just over a year after having Cameron so I am now faced with that same decision again.

In the past few days the words of a close friend, who also has two kids a tad older than mine, have been running through my brain.  She’s always joked, or not joked I suppose, about it being a miracle and a success if she has kept both kids alive for another day.  Prior to having two myself I think I took her statements as a bit of an exaggeration.  Surely she was making it sound more sensational than it really was.  Umm, no.  I’ve recently discovered that she has been quite on point all this time.

Another friend told me last week that in her life with three kids she came to the point where she had to make a decision to focus more on relationships than on getting things done.  (Picture an arrow shooting out of her mouth and striking me right in the heart with that one; right where I needed it).

So for the past few days I decided to try out using these new perspectives: If I can keep both kids alive for another day and have some meaningful interactions then I can call the day a success.  I can’t tell you how much lighter my heart felt going through my day using this approach.

Previously, my success list consisted of:
If I can keep the house clean,
If I can keep up on laundry,
If I can prepare super healthy snacks and meals,
If I can shower and put on make up and style my hair,
If I can provide fun activities for my toddler
If I can get in some exercise
If I can find some time alone for myself
If I can get out of the house and interact with an adult
If I can stay on top of my life and not get behind in any area,

…then I will feel successful.

That list is a tall order and basically impossible at this point in my parenting journey.  Maybe some people abandoned their huge perfectionist list after having their first child.  For me, I managed to hang on tight with one, but now with two I’m having to adjust my standards accordingly.  Right now, keeping my kids alive and giving myself grace so that I can still be a fun and happy mom for my kids and my husband is more important than accomplishing my large list.  If I can accomplish one or two of those items each day on top of just taking care of my kids then I think I could consider that an exceptional day.

I know that as time goes on I will probably get back to feeling like a really fun mom.  And I will say that after completing the first two months things seem to be getting a bit easier.  I will probably also eventually feel somewhat put together again at least a few days a week… at least until I have another child and then I’m sure we will enter into a new level of craziness again.  But I’m grateful that the Lord is helping me focus on what’s really important instead of trying to just keep all my ducks in a row.  Ducks are dumb.  I’d rather be happy.

 

Here’s a picture that’s guaranteed to make you smile:

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Cora’s Birth Story

Week 39: The doctor asks if I want my membranes sweeped  (A procedure where the health care provider puts her or his finger into the cervix and uses the finger to gently separate the bag of water from the side of the uterus near the cervix).  Jon and I talk it over for a few minutes and decide to decline.  With Cameron, I did the sweeping and it was successful in kick starting labor, but only after two days of painful cramping.  So this time around I decided to hold out to see if baby girl would come on her own.

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Spent the rest of the week staring at the clock.

40 week appointment/2 days before my due date: Decided to go ahead and do the membrane sweeping.  Why?  Because I was already uncomfortable and miserable so I figured that even if it got worse for a little while, I would rather just get on with having this baby.  So the doctor did the sweep (around noon) and I went home to rest as much as possible.

Once Cameron awoke from his afternoon nap we hung out around the house since it was in the upper nineties outside.  Blah.  After a while though I could tell that Cameron was getting restless, so I offered to take him to the park at the elementary school down the street.  He scootered to the park and I walked behind him as quickly as I could.  Once there, he played on the playground and ran around a wide open grassy area.  I snapped this photo of him running away.

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When we returned home, we found that Jon was home from work.  Jon and Cameron played football for a while in the backyard and I found myself back on the couch.  I kept a heating pad on my belly to help with the cramping and only had some very mild bleeding.  I couldn’t stop wondering if the sweep was going to work or if I had another week of pregnancy ahead of me.

Once it started to get dark I asked Cameron if he wanted to make popcorn and watch a movie – one of his favorite things to do.  I purchased The Land Before Time on Amazon Instant Video because I really wanted to make the night enjoyable and special instead of just constantly thinking about not wanting to be pregnant anymore.

After the movie, I discovered a text from one of my best friends telling me to call her if I wasn’t in labor yet.  We connected with her and her husband on Face Time and got to celebrate their happy news – that she was pregnant with her first child!  We all stayed on Face Time until about 10 pm.  After hanging up, we quickly put Cameron to bed and we rushed to get ready for bed since we were all up much later than usual.  Especially if labor was around the corner I needed to get some good sleep.

Just before 11 p.m.: Finished brushing my teeth and washing my face.  I chatted with Jon as I picked up a few things in our room.  He was already lying in bed and I could tell he was getting ready to drift off in the middle of one of my sentences (that happens pretty often…okay, very often).

It was then that I noticed myself having some increasingly painful cramping in my abdomen.  I asked Jon if he had packed his hospital bag yet.  He said no, so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind throwing a few things together quickly.  He looked at me reluctantly since he was already half asleep.  I told him that I thought there was a chance that we may need to go to the hospital before morning.  He again, looked at me reluctantly and told me he really didn’t think that was going to happen.  I told him I thought there was a chance so that if he could pack his bag that would be really great.  He quickly packed some basics and crawled back into bed saying, “Well I better get some shut eye if I’m going to have an early morning.”

At this point, some instinct must have kicked in because I suddenly felt more revved up than tired.  Weird.

By ten minutes later I was having what I thought were contractions.  They were painful enough that I was leaning over to brace myself on the bed at times.  At this point I also texted Pam, a friend who was planning on watching Cameron whenever I went into labor to tell her that we may need her to come over sometime during the night, just so she could be ready.  I wanted to give her a heads up, just in case.

I told Jon that maybe we should time my contractions.  Reluctantly, (theme word here?) because he still kept trying to drift off to sleep, he sat up and pulled out his phone to use the stopwatch feature.  At this point I could tell he thought I was overreacting because just a very short time ago I was completely fine and nothing was happening.  But sure enough, it seemed that these pains I was having were five minutes apart and lasting for about a minute each.  Those numbers sounded familiar, but we couldn’t remember what numbers like that meant so we Googled it.  According to whatever source we found on Google, it was definitely time to go to the hospital.  Five minutes apart and lasting a minute are when first time mothers are supposed to go to the hospital.  For second time mothers, it is recommended to go even earlier at seven minutes apart since second labors tend to go much quicker.  Considering that we had a forty minute drive to the hospital I knew I didn’t want to stay at home too long.

After a few more rounds of contractions I realized that the intensity of the contractions was escalating very quickly.  This was very surprising considering that I’d only been having contractions for about twenty minutes now.

Ten minutes later Jon called Pam to tell her to come over. I worked through contractions while Jon hustled around to pack up the rest of his things and the last minute items on my list.

Pam arrived and we chatted for a few minutes.  She prayed for us and off we went.  As soon as I got into the car I realized that I was hungry so I had Jon run back inside to grab me a to-go bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats so I wouldn’t feel queasy on the drive.  It’s a good thing too because at that time I wasn’t even thinking about how once you arrive at the hospital they don’t let you eat or drink anything other than ice chips until you give birth.  So looking back I am reaaaallly glad I had that last minute bowl of mini wheats.

It was midnight when we drove away from our house.  The ironic thing was that multiple times over the weeks leading up to that day I had told friends, “I just hope my labor doesn’t start at 11 p.m.  I want to wake up in the morning, after a good night’s rest, drink a cup of coffee and then realize that my labor is starting.”

So off we drove into the night to the hospital, exactly what I hoped WOULDN’T happen.  However, even though leading up to that point I had hoped it would happen differently, in the moment I was feeling incredibly thankful that all this was happening while Cameron was soundly sleeping in his bed, not having to deal with any kind of stressful transition as we headed off to the hospital.

Just as we left Rio Vista we were greeted by a man holding a STOP sign on the highway.  Construction had been going on all summer long on the highway out of town and at night they switched over to one-lane traffic.  After a minute of waiting I was wondering how long we were going to be stuck.  The contractions were strong at this point and I was needing grip onto something during each one.  I asked Jon to ask the construction worker how long it was going to be.  “Three minutes,” he replied.  This was reasonable enough that I wasn’t going to make Jon insist that we get to go any sooner.

Shortly after we started driving again I felt the urge to start groaning through the contractions.  I wanted to listen to something that would hopefully distract me during the drive.  Out of all things, Jon turned on a motivational high school graduation speech that he’d stumbled across earlier that day.  So random.  So during the drive we listened to a military officer talk about doing something meaningful with your life.  I remember trying to listen for the first ten minutes or so and then just blocking it out.

It was a very peaceful drive to the hospital.  Not the contraction part, but otherwise.  I think we passed only a couple cars the entire way.  The drive to Vacaville is a two-lane highway that runs through miles and miles of fields home to herds of sheep and cattle.  I remember the moon being bright and it feeling like we were the only people out after midnight on a Tuesday…probably because we were.

By the time we arrived at the hospital, the contractions were starting to undo me a bit.  We hurried from the car in through the spinning glass doors, now stopping each time that I had a contraction.  When we arrived at Labor and Delivery it was a bit like checking into a hotel.  Whatever man was behind the desk calmly asked for my ID and my medical insurance card.  He slowly typed information into the computer and looked unphased as I doubled over groaning now once every few minutes.  After what seemed like a rather long check in process, a nurse escorted me and Jon into a room with a hospital bed and a machine used to monitor contractions.

Once I was in the room my contractions escalated to yet another level and felt incredibly thankful that we had left the house when we did.  I couldn’t imagine getting through contractions that strong while still having to sit in the car.  At this point, I was in the rocking-through-contractions phase and I asked for an epidural.  Right before I did I second guessed the decision.  Nobody had even asked me yet if I wanted one.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to be the person who walked in the doors and instantly asked for an epidural.  However, after one more contraction I realized that I was already approaching my breaking point so I put in the request.  The nurse told me I was at a 6, which was encouraging, but I still wanted the epidural.

In my labor with Cameron I made it 23 hours before I agreed to an epidural, but it was a much more slow and steady build of contractions.  I labored for 12 hours at home and then 12 more at the hospital.  I had gone into my first labor so sure that I would have a natural childbirth.  After 23 hours I was still only dilated to a 4 and having almost no break between contractions…at which point I broke down and got the epidural.  After receiving it I gave birth to Cameron 15 minutes later.  The epidural relaxed my body and boda-bing boda-boom.

So while part of me still wanted to try for a natural childbirth this time around, I had promised myself that I would not let myself get to my breaking point before asking for an epidural again.  With Cameron, I waited until I felt I could not handle even one more contraction before I asked for it.  Then the anesthesiologist still had to be called and had to ride his bike to the hospital.  In the meantime, I started hyperventilating and they had to put an oxygen mask on me.  I felt like I was dying and it wasn’t a pretty picture.

So I asked for the epidural and I was still amazed at how long it took from the time I asked for it to the time I actually got it.  Much too long, let me tell you.

They moved me into a delivery room and started to go through the routine procedures of putting an IV into my wrist and getting everything prepped.  It was about an hour and a half from the time I asked for an epidural to the time that I got any relief.  I actually had to have it done twice because after receiving the first one everything still felt the same.  So the anesthesiologist said she’d try it again.

Once the epidural kicked in and the nurse administered a narcotic pain killer I went from experiencing some of the worst pain of my life to just chillin in my double wide hospital bed.  It was so incredibly wonderful to have the nurse tell me that I was actually in the middle of a contraction and not be able to feel it at all.  The nurse turned down the lights in the room, Jon took a nap, and I tried to nap, but found myself unable to really sleep.  I wanted to sleep, but even though I couldn’t feel the pain anymore I was still wildly aware that I was about to have a baby and therefore, couldn’t turn my brain off enough to sleep.  I talked to God for a while and got incredibly emotional at one point over the fact that I was about to meet my daughter.  I also kept checking Facebook because I was bored, but there was not a lot happening on there at 3 a.m.

Around 4:45 a.m. the nurse came in to check on me.  She found that I was a 10 and that my water had broken sometime since the last check.  She told me that she would get everything ready, but that I should be careful not to sneeze or cough very hard or the baby might just pop out.  At first I thought she was kidding, but when I realized she was serious I made myself very careful not to do either of those things.  At this point I started telling Jon to wake up.

About an hour later it seemed that everything and everyone was ready.  Nobody was in a hurry and I wasn’t either since I was just enjoying not being able to feel my toes.  A smiley, bright eyed medical student was also present.  Apparently this was the first birth he had witnessed.  Having him there was amusing because the whole time he looked very amazed slightly shocked at what was happening.

I had the midwife set up the mirror so I could watch the birth.  She told me to do a few quick very small pushes.  I did this a few times and before I knew it I was holding my daughter, Cora Bethany.

From the first contraction until I met her was 6 hours.  Cora was born before Cameron even woke up that morning and realized we were missing.

It was one day before my due date, September 23rd, at 5:49 a.m.  She weighed 6 lbs, 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long.  She was perfect and healthy and beautiful.

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Approaching Labor

This pregnancy has been a bull ride.  Which is why you haven’t heard much from me for the past, oh five, six, seven, eight months.  With one hand on the bull and the other trying to keep track of a toddler, I haven’t had enough free hands for typing for a long while.

Today I am just under two weeks away from my due date on September 24th.  September 21st is the date that I miscarried during my second pregnancy.  September 18th is my birthday and the date that I began the miscarrying process.  So the coming weeks are full of significant dates for me.  To me, it’s not as much coincidental or ironic that this baby is due around the same time that I miscarried last year, as it is redemptive.  Of course I’m praying that she would be born on either the 18th or the 21st because I love redemptive stories, but regardless, God’s faithful hand is on this entire event and He knows when baby girl should and will be born.

This pregnancy, like I stated, has been a bull ride.  Some days I’ve felt incredible – kind of like a super woman when I’ve been sweating it out at the gym or keeping up on projects around the house or doing something adventurous with my son.  However, plenty of other days, and probably more of them then the super-feeling ones, have been incredibly difficult.  There’s a good chance I just blocked a lot of it out the first time around, but I truly don’t remember pregnancy being so hard physically when I was pregnant with Cameron.  A lot of it probably had to do with sitting at a desk all day at work and being able to rest every evening while my husband cooked dinner instead of scurrying around to finish household tasks and wrangle a squirmy toddler into his bed every night.  Yeah, that could have something to do with it.

That being said though, I am fortunate.  I haven’t had any pregnancy complications or anything abnormal.  Just a lot of the normal pregnancy symptoms that are difficult to endure over a long spread of nine months.  Of course the nausea, headache and fatigue in the beginning months.  Then the belly aches, cramping and the acid reflux that set in.  Then the back aches.   At one point, my skin itched so badly every night that I couldn’t sleep.  Waking up every morning for the past eight months having only five minutes to get something into my stomach before I feel sick – yep, can’t wait for that one to go.  Someday soon I’ll eat again because I’m actually hungry, rather than to stave off nausea.  Now, in the final stretch, I’m getting weird nerve pinches in the lower half of my body and I literally feel like the baby is between my legs when I’m walking around.  Getting up to use the restroom seven times a night wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to roll myself off the bed like an elephant seal flopping towards the water.  And lastly, there have been times where I’ve just had a real winner of a personality.  Enough so that on more than a few occasions I have closed the door to my room and taken fifteen minutes by myself because I’ve recognized the boiling pot of hormonal imbalance inside of me and decided it was in the best interest of everyone around me that I take a little timeout to let the emotions fizzle out as I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook.

But with labor approaching, I’ve actually found that this last week has been one of my best.  Maybe it’s because I know that this entire pregnancy journey is truly almost over and I’m already beginning to feel giddy about that.  In the half marathon that I ran last year, the last two miles were the easiest and most exciting because I knew I had already completed the bulk of the work and I could see the finish line floating on the horizon.  So I turned up my music and just jammed my way to the finish line, legs wobbling and arms swinging around.  And whether you believe me or not, I can honestly say that training for and running a half marathon is SO much easier than completing a pregnancy – both mentally and physically.  In fact, I’ll take a full marathon over pregnancy any day!

I’ve definitely been preparing for this labor differently than I did my first labor with Cameron.  For my first labor I read a lot of crunchy books and decided that I was going to prepare for the most calm birthing experience possible.  I decked out my hospital room in white Christmas lights to set a nice mood-enhancing glow.  I comprised a few different playlists of worship music that would carry me through each contraction.  I came prepared with a soft labor gown and fuzzy socks to help complete my cozy hospital stay.  This time, while I do plan to incorporate each of these items in my labor experience, I will also be showing up to the hospital ready to kick down the door because I’m going to have AC/DC’s Thunderstruck playing as my mental theme song and more adrenaline pumping through my over-sized body than a seventeen year old boy on steroids.  If it wouldn’t result in judgement and possibly sub-par medical treatment or arrest, I might even show up with my face streaked in war paint and a club of fire to start waving around at everybody.  This time, while I may be wearing fuzzy socks, I am coming prepared for an all out war, followed by a peaceful flood of emotion as I get to finally hold my daughter.

If this sounds a little over the top or exaggerated to you, then you have either A) never given birth or B) had better labors than me in the past and I therefore envy your experience.  My labor with Cameron was 24 hours, my miscarriage labor was 4 hours and I am just hoping and praying that this coming labor falls a bit closer to the 4 than to the 24 hour mark.  I’ve been drinking that delicious Third Trimester tea for months now and popping those red raspberry leaf capsules daily as well so hopefully my uterus is nice and toned like the box of tea promises it will be…but soon enough I will be finding out for sure how my daughter plans to enter this world.  She will either come out to a tune of clanging gongs and birds chirping or she will always have a strange, yet powerful affection for AC/DC and probably never know why.

Here are some cute pictures from the nursery and where I found some of these items – This is by far my favorite room in the house right now, which will hopefully help me feel all sunny during all those 3 a.m. hangouts with my girl.

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Dresser: yard sale (and my super cool husband reconstructed it into this masterpiece of femininity!), Changing pad cover: Iviebaby.com, Mirror: thrift store,  Arrow sign: World Market.  And I am still missing one key piece of art to hang in that gap on the wall.

photo (13)Dresser hardware: Home Depot

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Mobile: re purposed a Christmas tree ornament and painted some brown tags from Michael’s gold, Canvas: spray painted it baby pink and then splattered gold paint.

photo (7)Nightlight: bought this strand of lights on Amazon and then put in a jar from the dollar store

photo (8)Elephant bank: Thrift store, Squares: Target spice racks painted white, Flameless candles: Costco

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Shelves: Ikea spice racks painted white, Lamp: Target (with a soft pink bulb – they are my favorite and create perfect soft lighting), Hamper: 3Sprouts (bought on Amazon)

photo (10)Couch: Ikea (Craigslist find), Ottoman: Ikea (gift from a friend), Ottoman fabric: Spoonflower.com, Rug: Ikea, Side table/stool: Ikea and spray painted pink, Pillows: yardsale but originally Target, Wicker dresser: Bed Bath & Beyond

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Crib: bought second hand, but painted gray a few years ago for Cam’s nursery…took 9 hours…so I don’t recommend painting a crib unless you feel like tackling a long, long, tedious project, Crib skirt: queen bed skirt from Bed Bath & Beyond that used to be on my bed, Crib sheet: Circo brand from Target (probably the softest/fuzziest sheet in the world!) White crocheted blanket: made by my aunt, Coral blanket: made by my grandma

Loving Our Kids On Purpose

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A couple months ago Jon and I were looking to join a small group through our church.  Our church has small groups that go in semesters and that are topical.  So after browsing through the available groups online we decided to check out a group that was for parents of young children.  The group would be reading through a book called Loving Your Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk of Bethel Church and childcare would be provided; which may have been the selling point for us.

The book and coinciding DVDs that we’ve watched have been great so far and the people in the group have become fast friends that we’ve been very thankful to know.

To summarize the book:

-The idea that we can control our children is a lie
-If we spend our time dictating to our children, they become dependent on being told what to do rather than developing the ability to make good choices on their own
-The Bible says “there is no fear in love,” so how do we parent in love instead of instilling fear of punishment in our children?
-Parents need not be afraid of their children’s sin.  God is not afraid of our sin.  He deals with it and loves us through it.
-God does not control us.  He gives us choices and employs us to make the right ones.
-Parents need to allow their children to make mistakes and handle their own mistakes (with some guidance of course), without jumping in to rescue the children from natural consequences
-Children need the opportunity to make choices.  “Would you like to eat your carrots or broccoli first?  Do you want to drink water from the red cup or from the green cup?  Do you want to wear this shirt or that one?  Do you want to climb off the table yourself or would you like me to help you?”  These kinds of everyday choices empower your child to make decisions and grow in confidence.
-Nobody likes to be told what to do, even small children.  So framing things in a way that give the child ability to feel in control and exercise their freedom keeps your child from wanting to overpower you.
-Children who are dictated to and controlled often rebel later on.  Once they get a taste of freedom go crazy because they were never trained how to properly handle their freedom.
-Parents need to first learn to control themselves and not let themselves get so wrapped up in their children’s problems that they take on anxiety and anger.
Main Point of the book: It’s all about maintaining an intimate relationship with your children.  Relationship is the basis for parenting, discipline and training…not to just get your kid to do what you want them to do.  This is also how God relates to us.

That is just my loose summary of the book so far.  The DVD is great because Danny Silk gives lots of entertaining examples from life with his own kids about what it looks like to actually carry this out.

 

 

Running Into My Second Trimester

The dishwasher is humming, my floors are freshly cleaned and Cameron just went down for his nap.  It’s a rare peaceful moment where naptime won’t be spent bustling around doing chores.  Well, some chores, but just not as many as usual.  After having two sets of guests for the last week my house feels neat.  My guests all happened to be the kind who washed their own bedding before leaving, swept the kitchen floor and cooked breakfast.  Not the kind of house guests one would expect, but the kind that would be welcomed back tomorrow and again next week.

Today is the first day of my second trimester.  I could literally put about twenty-seven exclamation points after that statement to help you understand the enthusiasm behind those words.  I’ve been feeling good for 3.5 days now and I really really really hope it continues.  However, as pregnancy goes, I traded in my morning sickness, extreme fatigue and headaches for some acid reflux and a sometimes mild fatigue.  It’s still the most painful acid reflux that I’d imagine there is, but at least it lasts for a much shorter time than the other ailments.

On Sunday I found myself catapulted back into an active lifestyle.  A while back I had agreed to run in the Oakland half-marathon as a part of team supporting a young man with Autism, named Will, and a friend’s ministry called Wheelchairs for the Least of These.  Soon after I agreed to this race I began to feel about as good as a piece of gum on the bottom of a shoe.  So, I did what anyone would do and I volunteered my non-running husband to take my place in the race.  We arrived at the Oakland Marathon and I was ready to putz around with Cam while the team was running.  I had worn my leggings and tennis shoes just to be comfortable, but about five minutes before the race started I decided to run in it along with Jon since our friends were willing to take Cameron and the stroller.   We only ran the first two and the last two miles of the race where we helped push Will, but it felt so amazing to run after a couple months of moving around as little as possible and to do it all as a part of such a great team.  In fact, I liked it so much that yesterday I went for another run and decided to start training for a 10k.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to finally have a new goal that does not just consist of keeping myself and my son alive for another day and to be out of the life-sucking first stage of pregnancy.

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A little back story: While serving as missionaries in Chad, Africa for ten years, the Donoghues found a way to help the people that were stuck begging on the side of the road because they had no way to get around due to malformations and problems with their legs, arms, hands and feet.  The Donoghues began disassembling bicycles and making them into unconventional wheelchairs that could handle the terrain of the area and the specific needs of the person.  Now, after being back in the U.S. for two years, they continue to make wheelchairs and ship them back to Chad, Africa as well as make them for people living here in the U.S., like Will.

523846_322185734513153_1117296716_n(This young boy, Ali, had crawled his entire life until this very moment when he was given his own set of wheels.)

Wheelchairs for the Least of These truly is a beautiful ministry.  You can be awesome and follow Wheelchairs for the Least of These on Instagram and Facebook.