Friday, August 31, 2012

He Gently Leads...

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms 
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Isaiah 40:11, NIV

I went to a sweet baby shower a few weeks ago where that last portion of Isaiah 40:11 was displayed.  I have thought about the verse since, and today, after a particularly long week, I am especially thankful for that picture of Christ as Shepherd, gently leading those that have young.

This morning I woke up feeling tired and beat up.  You know how it tends to swing, and feel like everything is sunny and going well, or like everything stinks and there is a dark cloud over life?  (Or is that just me?)  Maaan, this week was one of those weeks where the gloomy cloud starting rolling in.  I felt drained.  I felt like I take one step forward and two steps back.  I felt like I try to do everything and end up doing nothing.  This morning I just felt overwhelmed by failure.  And face to face with my sin.

My first instinct is to retreat and feel sorry for myself.  Followed quickly by an urge to blame and criticize, and just quit everything.  Then I'm tempted to wipe my tears and take matters into my own hands, trying to chase away the storm cloud with a well organized to-do list or beckon the sunshine with some new goals or gathered up gusto.

But today, in His grace, I hear my Shepherd gently remind me that He is all I need.  "Danielle, Danielle... you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed--or indeed only one... Choose what is better and it will not be taken from you..." (Luke 10... sort of.)  What I was really in need of this morning, all I am ever really in need of, is time sitting at the feet of Jesus.

The book of Isaiah offers up a complex canvas portraying sin and Savior.  When I read 40:11, I see beautiful brushstrokes depicting Christ as compassionate Savior, painted upon the backdrop of the rebellion and judgement of God's people.  Isn't the nation of Judah just like us?  I know their lack of change characterizes me.  I try to do it on my own, my way, time and again.  I've woken up to these gloomy days before.  I will probably even do it again.  But I pray for grace to hear His voice and choose to sit at His feet instead of continuing in the busyness and frustrations of life around me.  I pray I will hear His call to repentance and hope, instead of turning back to my sinful self.  I pray I will lean into His gentle leading.

He gently leads those that have young... I don't know if Isaiah 40:11 really speaks of young moms, or if it means young believers, or both.  Maybe it speaks of Jesus as Shepherd tending carefully to and aiding anyone who carries a precious burden, whether that of young children or something else.  Those in need.  Some other translations of verse 11 say He gently leads "the mother lambs," "those with little ones," and "the nursing ewes."  I love the message paraphrase too, where the shepherd is "leading the nursing ewes to good pasture."  I needed some good pasture today.  He is faithful to restore.  Maybe you are weary today too.  Maybe you are heading back into rebellion or choosing to do things your way again, or just in need of some nourishment after giving of yourself sacrificially.  Maybe you're just tired.  Jesus gently leads and guides and refreshes as we follow Him.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
(Psalm 23)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Use Your Noodle

Oops!  I forgot to mention one of the best vacation tricks we got to use at the beach!  Have you seen the pool noodle turned bed rail floating around Pinterest?  Brilliant.


You simply put a pool noodle on the edge of the bed under the fitted sheet to keep a toddler from rolling out of bed.  I probably wouldn't have tried it six months ago when Reed was fresh out of his crib, but it worked great for this summer's vacation.  We use a pool noodle bed rail for the big boy bed at Grandma's house too!

Isn't that the best idea!?  I heart pinterest. :)  If you hadn't already seen the noodle idea, sure hope it comes in handy for you and your tot!

And here is the rest of Design Dazzle's fun list of Twenty Ways to Use Pool Noodles.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top Fives: Beach Tips & Tricks Remix (for 2's and infants)

Yay! We survived the beach!
Tybee Island 2012

When we hit the beach last summer, Reed was 14 months old so my first tips and tricks report focused on the young toddler.
Okaloosa Island 2011

This year, with an (almost) 2 1/2 year old and an (almost) 4 month old, it was back to the drawing board as we crafted our beach game plan.  I got some great ideas from friends who charted the waters before us, and have some revised tips and tricks to pass along to you...

First, though, if you are vacationing with young kids for the first time (or maybe just as a reminder), you should read Mobile Mama's post about vacation priorities.  She is totally right.  One of the best things you can do to enjoy your family vacation is to set realistic priorities and make them happen.  Go ahead and read it.  I'll wait.  We really enjoyed our time at the beach, but we worked hard and without the right outlook and getting on the same page, we could have been in for some major missed expectations.

And without further ado, here are my top five beach tips for the 2's and the Tiny:

Reed (aka the 2's) Top Five

5. Sun Protection
 Last year, all Reed could do was waddle a little bit in the sand, and he was very content to splash in buckets under the safety of the umbrella.  This year, however, he's 100% little boy and was all over the place, so keeping him safe from the sun meant lots of sunscreen prior to heading down to the beach, as well as his uv clothing, a good hat, and his shades.  I think the hat and clothing are particularly important because with all of his antics in and out of the water and rolling around in the mud, I don't think his sunscreen stayed on for long.  And reapplying would have been interesting.

4. Beach Toys
 Buckets and shovels.  'nuff said.

3. Puddle Jumper
This was one of our best purchases this year!  At the recommendation of several friends we ordered Reed a Puddle Jumper Deluxe.  He doesn't really like to play in the water by himself, but the PJ allows him to swim ("float") without any assistance at all.  The puddle jumper is actually a life jacket, and I think for little guys it is way more comfortable than a traditional life vest.

2. Snacks
Snacks were easier this year since Reed can now eat pretty much any foods.  But snacks are a must.  Everyone knows how much work it is to set up camp at the beach, and who wants to get all settled in just in time to hear, "I'm hungry."  Those two words are inevitable.  Pack lots of snacks for your busy preschooler!  We had peanut butter crackers, goldfish crackers, frozen watermelon, granola bars, and of course cold water.
1. Shell Hunt
 The first day out, Reed loved the beach and entertained himself for the afternoon- digging, splashing, finding, even chasing birds.  On our second day, though, he wanted a constant partner in crime.  In order to give Matt some relief and since I didn't really want to get in the ocean, I took Reed on a shell hunt.  We walked the beach for awhile and he had a big ole time gathering shells.  It was really fun.

Molly (aka the Tiny) Top Five

5. Sun Protection
Keep that little cutie out of the sun!  I didn't like the idea of using sunscreen on Molly, so I opted to keep her out of the sun all together with four lines of defense.  First, a hat (and sometimes sunglasses).  Second, positioning her away from the sun (in the stroller).  Third, the stroller canopy.  Fourth, a big tent (or umbrella).  To me, setting up camp with a substantial source of shade, like a tent or umbrella, is a must!  We don't go to the beach often, so we borrowed an awesome canopy tent from a friend.  (Unfortunately the wind totaled it, but the upside was that it happened at the end of our very last beach day and we get to buy them a new one instead of having to clean it off. Ha.)  If you aren't able to stay out of the sun completely, then definitely use a safe sunscreen, even on a young baby.

4. Seat
Three quick options: First, we tried to use the bouncer seat that we brought.  It didn't block any wind and Molly was not the happiest camper.  Second, I almost bought one of those pop-up baby beach tents from BabiesRUs because I knew we wouldn't have access to a BRU store if we decided we needed a tent once we got to the beach (I think they are about $30).  I didn't end up buying one, but everyone I know who has one enjoys them.  They block sun, sand, and wind.  Maybe a good option to borrow from a friend, or to buy if you frequent the beach.  We ended using the jogging stroller mostly.  The large tires are great for the sand, the sides and canopy block wind and provide shade, and the handle bar and basket can be used for hanging/holding extra beach gear.  A yard sale is a great place to find a jogging stroller for cheap.

3. Fan
This idea came straight from a beach pro friend, and was definitely one of our best buys for Molly this summer.  I've used it a lot the last several weeks to keep her cool during outings.  It came in especially handy on our last day when we visited Savannah.  I kept it pointed at Molly while she slept through our carriage tour, and clipped it onto her stroller while we walked River Street and ate lunch at City Market.  It runs on batteries, and the blades are foam so they are not dangerous.

2. Chair
 Make sure you have a chair, (duh), but especially for feeding babies.  (No, I am not nursing in this picture- just cuddling!)

1. Fashion & Accessories
Last but not least, babies can't really do anything at the beach except sit there and look cute.  So they might as well own it! :)

:) Bonus: If you have to travel far to the beach, I also recommend the following products:

We are so thankful we got a chance to visit the beach this summer!  Any additional beach or vacation tips to share?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New Mommy-to-Two Follow Up

"I don't think there's enough good literature that effectively addresses how difficult it is to lose the dyadic relationship between a mother and her firstborn.  It's painful--for both of you--to lose the exclusivity that, up till now, has been a hallmark of your entire time together."
(Parker, Natalia Swenson. "And Baby Makes Four." Nov-Dec 2009)

A Must-Read Article
This evening, I was searching through my good friend's blog in search of one of her potty training posts (yep, it's almost that time!) when I scrolled past a post that made my breath catch a little.  Another dear friend, Kelly, had blazed the trail into second baby territory ahead of both Lauren and me, and she gave us a magazine article about the difficulties of transitioning to mother-of-two.  At the time, Reed hadn't even turned one, but the article had me in tears.  And poor Lauren, who was already expecting her second, was reduced to bawling.  This was well over a year ago, so I had read cried over the article, passed it on, and completely forgotten about it until I saw it just now.

As I scrolled through Lauren's blog, I immediately recognized the photocopied article and pieces of the content flooded into my thoughts.  I leaned back in my chair and re-read, this time from a new perspective, from "the other side."  (You can read the full article and Lauren's post here).  Man, part of me is annoyed that it didn't come to mind while I was pregnant and thinking so much about the transition, or at least upon our homecoming in the thick of the raw emotion.  I really wish I had remembered it before now as it isn't much help in retrospect.  Ironically, though, I was actually searching Lauren's blog for the potty post on behalf of a different mutual friend.  And she does have a baby #2 who's still steaming from the oven, so I'll for sure send her to the article post as well!  As Lauren states, the article is so honest and a must-read for mommies... just remember to read it when your #2 is actually on the way :)

Pre-Molly Big Bro Follow-up
And here's the quick follow-up (as noncommittally promised) to my pre-Molly From Baby to Big Brother thoughts.  (I am just going to allude to and follow up on our battle tactics, but you can read the original post at the link above).

Bedroom Transition- Definitely glad we transitioned Reed to his new room and bed a few months before Molly.  The timing worked great for us.  It gave us time to let Reed's old room sit before we made it hers, and let him get used to a new space for himself that wasn't at all associated with a baby sister ousting him.

Room Time- Room time is a life saver.  Again, starting it early made it completely separate from Molly's arrival and presence, so that's good.  However, Reed just isn't a big fan most of the time. :)

Potty Training- So far, I am glad we've waited.  (Of course, I can't speak to the alternative because I didn't do it that way!)  I don't know because I am still selfishly trying to hold him off until after our vacations, but I think Reed is basically going to potty train himself.  Lauren says she wants to punch me in the face.  I hope she at least waits to make sure it really is going to be as easy as Reed is leading me to believe. ;)

Talking about Molly's arrival and celebrating Big Bro- I think both of these went a long way with Reed, but mainly because he is so verbal.  Some of his jealousy started to come out even before Molly arrived, (like when he ran away during any of the family pictures that included my baby belly in them!), but I kind of think that helped spread out his feelings and lessen their intensity when we really brought her home(?)  ...Both of these tactics were ongoing, and are difficult to truly evaluate, I guess.

First Weeks at Home- Of course, these didn't go like I had "envisioned."  Those initial couple of months are a blur of trying to learn how to redistribute myself.  I know we did our best and we survived, and I think that is all anyone can ask of themselves! :)

A Few Additional Post-Molly Thoughts
And last, here are a few additional thoughts on the #2 transition, (as written in a recent email exchange with the mommy-to-two I was originally searching Lauren's blog for).  Do you notice the similarities to the magazine article!  The garbage can?!  And the "Molly voice"-- guess some of the advice did stick from the first read!

Oh my. The tears over their little big brother hearts.  I ache just remembering with you- I bawled.  If it helps to have someone commiserate, then know that Reed cried, acted out, and even once asked me to put Molly in the garbage can. :)  I wanted so badly to spend special time with him, but most of the times I could finally time a feeding so that I could be the one to put him in bed or give him a bath or read with him he only wanted Matt :(  I tried to strike a balance between non-chalant and sometimes forcing my way in. (I didn't want to make a big deal, but also wanted him to see me "fight" for him).

Each big brother is different, but a couple of things that were helpful for the first several weeks:

- Lots of distraction, especially during feeding, and talking about what he is doing.  ("wow! can you jump that high again?")
- Making him a big helper (can you bring me a burp cloth?)
- Reed really took to "teaching" molly things- he thinks he taught her how to burp, how to open her eyes, how to stick out her tongue, etc haha
- Last- and this is totally dumb- but he loves when we talk in a "molly" voice, as if she is saying something to him.  "hey big brother! I love when you give me kisses" or "silly big brother! don't yell that loud! my ears are so little!"  "Wow!  I love to see you run so fast!  Will you teach me when I am bigger?"
- A couple of times I ran out for a special date with just Reed in between feedings.  (We got ice cream and threw pennies in the fountain).  I don't know if he cared or noticed but it made me feel better :)
[big brother] loves you, knows that you love him, and will fall in love with [baby sister] before you know it!  This is all just a season and passes by so quickly.

Does anyone have additional thoughts on the mother of two transition?  I so hope some of this stuff is helpful to someone some day.  What a crazy season!  I'm so grateful for the reminder of my deep, deep need for Christ.  When we are weak, He is strong!