Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ 9.30.10

Going to end the month with the Simple Woman's Daybook...

Outside my window...
Gorgeous. I really need to get Elijah outside to enjoy this weather...but after the mosquito buffet he provided a week and a half ago, I'm a little wary. Hoping they're gone finally, or will be soon...This weather is also just perfect for long walks, but unfortunately my hips can't take long walks anymore.

I am thinking...
that writing this post has taken me way too long and I need to get back at the to-do list (I jump all around and am answering this question last :)

I am thankful for...
husband, doula, friends who will hold their shields of faith for me when I am full of fear. Imagery from last Sunday's sermon that has stuck with me all week. A high priest who can sympathize with my weaknesses and promises mercy and grace in my time of need.

From the kitchen...
Pepsi Pot Roast in the crockpot for tonight's dinner. The leftovers will turn into vegetable beef soup for us and for my friend Lydia who just had her baby on Tuesday! I've also got apple stuff going on everywhere, now that they are finally in season. Slices in the dehydrator for apple chips; raw applesauce in the fridge (love my BlendTec for that!) and more applesauce in another crockpot cooking down for apple butter. Planning on making some pumpkin bread later today--hopefully Elijah will be in the mood to help. We won't talk about the state of my kitchen after all that :)

I am wearing...
sweatpants, and a bright yellow t-shirt from Buckeye Girls' State. Which is about 11 years old. The only t-shirts I can wear these days are a few leftover from when I was in high school and used to wear my t-shirts about three sizes too big :)

I am creating...
a clean environment for my homebirth. Washing linens, gathering supplies, scrubbing times.

I am going...
to get up and scrub the bathroom floor as soon as I finish this blog post. Unpleasant tasks don't get any more pleasant the longer you put them off; crossing them off the list is so much more satisfying!

I am reading...
nothing much at the moment. I recently finished Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (and loved it). I've dipped into Birthing from Within just a little, and have read a few chapters of Childbirth Without Fear but mostly just end up annoyed that Grantly Dick-Read is full of it.

I am hoping...
to sense the presence, comfort and grace of God very powerfully throughout labor and delivery of this baby.

I am hearing...
quiet: Elijah's white noise machine over the monitor; cars buzzing by outside; the click-clack of the keyboard as I type.

Around the house...
signs that a baby is on the way. Co-sleeper sits in our bedroom, waiting to be set up; newborn diapers are stacked under the changing table. Homebirth supplies are piled and organized in the dining room; my doula is bringing the birth tub tonight, and Steve has built a support beam in the basement (the house is 75 years old--better safe than sorry). And, we can finally have a few windows open (all of them were painted shut when we bought the house)!

One of my favorite things...
frozen pizza. So wrong, so tasty.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
my doula is coming over tonight for one last prenatal meeting. Tomorrow I have a prenatal appointment with my midwife and will be taking food over to Lydia. Then on Saturday I am looking forward to University School of Nashville's annual Fall Book Frenzy. We need more books like I need a hole in the head...but what can I say, I'm a sucker for a good used book sale :)

I *wish* my weekend plans included a trip up to Marion, Indiana...Indiana Wesleyan University, my alma mater, has assembled an alumni chorale (which would be enough fun in and of itself) who will be singing with the Gaither Vocal Band for homecoming. So many of my chorale friends are going...I hate to miss it, but at 38 1/2 weeks pregnant, going was not exactly a realistic possibility.

A picture thought I am sharing...
Elijah and his lion--I've been taking this picture semi-regularly since he was three months old. This one is over a month old, but here's the 3-year-old shot:

For reference, here he is with the lion at:
3-6-9-12 and 15 months
2 1/2 years

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reformed Praise: Merciful to Me

Recently I was offered the opportunity to preview a new album from Reformed Praise. Their desire is to provide excellent music for corporate worship. They aim for rich theology, diverse style, and gospel-centeredness, and they work on both updating old hymns and writing modern ones.

Their new album, Merciful to Me, is "an eclectic mix of styles, including bluegrass, pop, classic jazz, driving rock, and orchestral arrangements." Given my love for Sovereign Grace Music, Indelible Grace Music and others who produce beautiful songs that also have deep, meaningful, biblical lyrics, I was more than happy to check it out.

I think the number-one lesson I learned is that I don't like reviewing a CD based only on listening to streaming audio online! I rarely listen to music while I'm on the computer, especially new music; I just can't pay attention both to what I'm reading and to what I'm hearing. And oftentimes I've had to listen to an album several times to really fall in love with it. So I think I could give Merciful to Me a better review if I'd been able to put it on the iPod, listen to it in the car, etc.

I came away from yesterday's focused listen thinking that hymns are not my preferred music style. In some sense I love singing hymns, and I'm glad our church sings a combination of hymns and other praise songs. But when it comes to music I'm going to listen to in the car or throughout my day, hymns aren't my first choice. The strict meter doesn't invite me to sing along or tend to run through my head, and the lyrics are often *so* packed with content and so different from the way I speak that I can't think about them or process them quickly enough to sing them from the heart--at least when they're unfamiliar.

In general, I really enjoyed the male voices on this album and didn't really enjoy the female voices. Some of the songs had beautifully simple accompaniment and I could imagine my church singing them on a Sunday morning; others were really not my style. But my experience has been that if the lyrics are great, I can definitely get past a vocalist I don't love--so I look forward to getting a downloadable copy of this album and listening to it more. I think as I hear the songs a few more times and reflect more on the inspiring lyrics, I'll appreciate the music more and more.

I'm thankful for the people at Reformed Praise and their commitment to helping the church worship in spirit and in truth! Clearly there were some really talented people involved in the production of this album, and I love their passion to create heartfelt, theologically sound music.

My apologies for the late notice, but if you're interested in a free copy of this CD, Reformed Praise is running a big giveaway through tomorrow, September 30! Visit their website for ways to enter, as well as for song samples and more information about their music.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Elijah's Book

One of my favorite things that came out of our participation in the KidTalk study is a book. It's not available in bookstores; it's a special edition, just for our family. And it's called Elijah Becomes a Big Brother.

At some point during the summer, Megan (Elijah's therapist) asked me what we were doing to prepare Elijah for the new baby's arrival. I mentioned that I planned to get a doll and talk about "gentle touches," and that we had a handful of books about new babies/big siblings. Otherwise, what can you do? We've talked to him about it, but I don't know how much he really understands at this age. He'll tell you that there's a baby in Mama's belly (and that the baby's name is Gogu Kookaba), and he will kiss my belly or say, "Hi, Baby!"--but I don't think he really has any idea what's coming.

So Megan suggested we write a story. There's a special term for it that I don't think I can use here due to trademark infringement issues, but here's the website where the concept originated. Basically, for any transition or major life event that you think is going to throw your child for a loop, you write a story about it--a story about *him*. It prepares the child for the changes that are coming and helps him know what to expect.

Megan thought that with Elijah's love for books, combined with the fact that he does really well with being prepared in advance for what's going to happen next, he would do much better with the new baby if we wrote one of these stories for him. She offered to help me write one, so we got to work.

I decided to do a real photo book. We used lots of pictures from when Elijah was a baby, and staged several with a doll. Shutterfly had an awesome Groupon a few weeks ago, perfect timing--and the finished product arrived last week. I'm so excited about this book!

It starts out by talking about how Elijah was once a tiny baby, and now he has grown to be three years old.

It goes through what's going to happen when it's time for the baby to be born (with photos of my midwife, and the girl who's going to care for him, and her house where he will go). Then it explains various scenarios of life postpartum: who will come and visit; what he can do when the baby is nursing; what he can do when the baby cries; etc.

He has enjoyed reading it over the last few days and pointing out all the people he recognizes--especially himself :) I am hopeful that this book will go a LONG way in helping Elijah adjust to what is surely going to be a very dramatic and potentially difficult disruption in the world as he knows it!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Eighteen Inches Lighter

My hair grows super fast. And contrary to popular belief, in my experience long hair has been much easier. And I think I've gotten one short haircut in my life that I actually liked. And I don't have a stylist here in Tennessee, and with long hair you don't have to pay for regular haircuts anyway, never mind lining up a babysitter to go to an appointment. So...after my last short haircut in 2006, my hair just sort of grew. And grew. And grew.

I sort of figured I might as well let it keep growing, and donate it--which I did the last time it got this long, when I was a sophomore in college. Then several months ago, my college roommate told me about Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program. Unlike the famous Locks of Love, which is for children's wigs, Beautiful Lengths provides wigs for adult women with cancer. My roommate, Stephanie, was particularly interested in this because her mom died of breast cancer when Stephanie was 15.

I never had the privilege of meeting Renee Longbrake, because I didn't meet Stephanie until a few years later. But over the years Stephanie and I lived together, I came to know her secondhand, and love her. I found that although it inevitably brought tears all around, Stephanie loved to be asked about her mom and have the opportunity to share her memories. As a result, I have many bittersweet memories of my own, of late nights in our dorm/townhouse, listening to stories about Renee and thinking how I couldn't wait to meet her in Heaven someday.

On Saturday, it was finally time for a haircut. I splurged on an appointment at a really nice salon, in hopes that you get what you pay for. I have never had my hair this short in my LIFE (excepting the kindergarten pixie cut my mom chose before the infamous mullet...), and it's definitely going to take some getting used to...but I think I like it. And I think it's going to be reasonably low-maintenance, which was hugely important to me. So without further ado: I walked out of the salon with this haircut...

...and an 18-inch ponytail, ready to send off to Beautiful Lengths...
in honor/memory of Renee Longbrake.
[Love you, Roommate.]

Multitude Monday, Take 177

Thanking God this week for...

907. the US Postal Service (and UPS/FedEx)
908. getting squeezed in off the cancellation list at the dentist
909. their graciousness about my bringing Elijah with me
910. a visit with a dear friend
911. opportunity for her son and Elijah to play at the park

912. the privilege of staying home with Elijah
913. late-night blogging time
914. reading book after book after book to Elijah
915. the privilege of bearing a child
916. the ways God uses motherhood to kill the selfishness in my heart and sanctify me

917. tiny baby clothes, washed and folded and put away
918. words on anxiety everywhere, speaking His truth and promises to me over and over
919. a friend's chicken enchilada recipe
920. more meals stocked in the freezer
921. the ability to listen to my pastor preach while I fold laundry

922. waking early, feeling refreshed
923. back stretches
924. our church's practice of having a "family of the week" on the weekly prayer list
925. the members' honesty in submitting meaningful requests
926. fresh eyes to see Hebrews 11

927. Saturday: Mama's Day Out, with time to read, journal, pray, eat out and be pampered (I could do a whole gratitude list just for this, for sure!)
928. coming home to my guys and seeing evidence they had had fun together (sidewalk chalk all over the patio, cornhole boards and bags out, pictures colored all over a big sheet of paper)
929. yesterday's sermon on Ephesians 6
930. cooler weather
931. a broken-down truck and a towing operation right outside our front door first thing

932. Psalm 27
933. His words of reassurance to fearful people

holy experience

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Study Ends; A Grateful Goodbye

[continued from part 3]

The intervention portion of the KidTalk study wrapped up at the end of August, and it was with great sadness that we said goodbye to Megan. What a blessing she has been to our family!

We had a little “graduation” a couple of weeks ago, and the before and after video clips Megan showed us were amazing. What progress Elijah has made in just a few months! I can hardly believe it when I think back to what he was like in April/May. I am to continue using the strategies I learned, and Elijah (and I) will be evaluated again in six months and then six months after that.

What's also exciting is the possible implications of this study and our participation for kids all over the country. Megan and her colleagues have already been invited to train Early Intervention personnel in other states. Apparently this study is a Really Big Deal in large part because of who's running it. Vanderbilt is the best in the nation for special education, and the principal investigator (Megan's boss) is Dr. Ann Kaiser, who's at the top of her field. So her findings through KidTalk could affect EI and special education nationwide.

And the timing of all this could not have been better. Steve and I didn't originally plan to have a three-year gap between our kids; we imagined them closer together. But how glad I am now that God orchestrated it this way! I never could have done this intensive intervention with a new baby. Instead, we were able to really focus on Elijah and get him the help he needed before his little sibling arrives—and the intervention ended just in time for us to prepare for the new baby's arrival.

So that's the story of our summer: a new friend for our family, new words for Elijah, new skills for me, and fresh evidence of God's sovereign, gracious care.

[previously in this series:]
part 1: Elijah's Growth and God's Gracious Care
part 2: Growth for Elijah *and* for Mama
part 3: Elijah's Skills Take Off

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Elijah's Skills Take Off

[continued from part 2]

The first strategies we focused on in the KidTalk study were basic things like conversational turns (working not to say three times as much as Elijah says, but to wait and give him more opportunities to communicate) and "mirroring and mapping" (imitating what he is doing and then "mapping" language onto those actions). Then we got serious. Megan and her staff analyzed transcripts of Elijah's sessions and determined targets--what level was he currently speaking at, and what level did we need to use to best help him?

Megan's instinct was that although Elijah was using many longer phrases, he was not actually communicating functionally at a three/four-word sentence level. He had learned the phrases in one chunk, and didn't necessarily understand that the individual words were building blocks which could be combined in different ways. As I explained in my last post, he was talking a lot, but doing very little spontaneous communication.

So the first huge challenge for me was to back up and speak much more simply. My goal was that 50% of the time, I was to respond to Elijah using only two-word phrases. Then if he repeated it, I could add another word, and build longer phrases one word at a time, so we could make sure he understood each individual word. That sounded impossible at first! But it soon became more natural--and Megan's instincts were dead on. The progress we saw when we implemented this strategy was incredible. Elijah just learns language differently than a lot of kids--and once we figured that out, he really took off.

It wasn't long before Elijah was speaking at the two-word target level and we had to bump it up to three-word targets. I learned a few prompting strategies, and it was like something clicked in his little brain. It was clear that he suddenly understood that he could switch words in sentences and construct his own sentences, that he was grasping how to communicate his thoughts and desires!

After one particularly encouraging session, Megan analyzed the video and compared it to our very first session. The hard data confirmed what she and I had been seeing. One basic measure of language is “mean length of utterance” (MLU)--in other words, average sentence length. At the first session, Elijah's MLU was around 2. Two months later, it was 3.1—and to give you a frame of reference, Megan explained that typically they expect that to increase by one word per *year*!

It isn't the slightest exaggeration to say that the first six weeks of this study were more beneficial than an entire year of Early Intervention. I don't mean to disparage the people who served our family through EI; they did their best and were a blessing to us in many ways. But they really need to adopt these methods and strategies!

[part 4: The Study Ends; A Grateful Goodbye]

Friday, September 24, 2010

Growth for Elijah *and* for Mama

[continued from part 1]

Our participation in the KidTalk study began with a round of evaluations and standardized testing (including two days of wearing a recorder all day at home!). In May, we started the intervention. We were assigned to Megan, a licensed speech-language pathologist and the director of this particular branch of KidTalk (this is her doctoral work). We loved her right away--and she loved Elijah immediately, which totally warmed my mama-heart :)

All summer, we went to Vanderbilt every Tuesday morning. Megan would play with Elijah for 15 minutes, occasionally commenting to me about what she was doing and why. Then I'd play with Elijah for 15 minutes, and she would coach me. Everything was videotaped.

Unlike Early Intervention (which said its goal was to be this way...but it really wasn't), this study really focused on training *me*. Every few weeks, someone else would entertain Elijah while we'd have a workshop for Megan to teach me the next set of skills and strategies. She'd explain what I needed to do and why, and she'd show video clips of me playing with Elijah or her playing with Elijah as examples. It was fascinating, and so helpful!

I also had to keep a detailed log about our time at home during the week and how often I was using the strategies in daily life. This study focuses on "enhanced milieu training," meaning that rather than sending a child to speech therapy for an hour a week, you train the parent to create an environment for language development at home. Much more progress can be made, because therapy is happening 24/7--during meals, errands, diaper-changes, getting dressed, bathtime, in the car, you name it.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I realized very quickly that this was going to be good for *me*, not just for Elijah. I'm ashamed to admit it, but if I'm honest, I have to say that I have struggled to engage with Elijah. I'm not sure why, exactly; maybe a combination of factors—the rough start we had; his laidback personality and willingness to play independently; sin issues in my own heart... But he wasn't the only one who had growing to do. I needed to step it up as a mom in terms of working diligently to help my child overcome language struggles.

It is humbling--humiliating, even--to think that you need to be taught how to engage your child, how to be a good parent. There's this sense of, what is my problem? All these other moms I know don't need to be taught these things, and here I am needing to participate in an intervention program to learn how to parent my son. Not to mention how it was painful to think about how my lack of engagement has perhaps contributed to his struggles.

But God had some important truths to teach me. I always need lessons in humility, and as this study began, I was forced to go back to the gospel. Christ knows the truth about me--my failures as a mother, plus a whole lot worse. The cross broadcasts for everyone to see how bad I really am, what I really deserve. So it is really that shocking to think I am an inadequate mother? Who am I trying to put on a show for or impress, anyway?

And lest you think this was merely a painful, discouraging revelation...there is *hope* when you begin to see ways that your problems are related to your sins. There's a Savior for sinners! Christ died to give grace not only to cover sin, but to enable me to change.

Similarly, if Elijah had some sort of developmental or physical disability like autism or cerebral palsy, I would be completely powerless to do anything about it. It wouldn't be my fault, but I wouldn't be able to fix it, either. Whereas if he has minor delays that have been caused (or exacerbated, at least) by my failures as a mother--well, I can do something about that! There is grace to grow. I can get help; I can compensate for where I have fallen short.

It became clear very early on that our participation in this study was way more significant than I initially expected. God was up to much more than simply "help Elijah talk better"! How thankful I was and am for His sovereign, wise, guiding hand bringing this opportunity to us. How thankful I am that He loves me enough to prune me, to teach me humility in hard ways, to entrust a precious child to my care even knowing I will screw up and hurt Him. He is good and loving, and our participation in KidTalk was yet another way to experience that.

[part 3: Elijah's Skills Take Off]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Elijah's Growth and God's Gracious Care

About six months ago, Elijah graduated from Early Intervention. We had been receiving services from the state for a year due to his delays, primarily in language--and a February evaluation revealed that although he still had a language delay, it was not significant enough to qualify for EI services any longer.

The developmental specialist who tested him gave us a flyer. And that little flyer was the beginning of a tremendous display of God's sovereignty and goodness in our lives.

It advertised a study at Vanderbilt University called KidTalk, which the specialist thought might be a good match for Elijah. At first we wondered whether it would be worth it (the small compensation wouldn't begin to cover our gas expenses driving downtown so many times), or what would be the purpose of participating. I have to shake my head in amazement when I think back to those questions. We decided to go ahead and check it out...little did we know!

A preliminary screening revealed that Elijah didn't have any other delays (they wanted kids with *only* language delays, not autism spectrum concerns, etc.) and that he qualified for the study--though barely, because his language delay was different than that of many other kids. He was (and still is) highly imitative. So although he was saying a lot of words, it was primarily phrases he had heard us use and was parroting, rather than phrases and sentences he was constructing on his own.

Kids like Elijah can easily slip through the cracks. And a gap that isn't super noticeable or severe now can get bigger and bigger if unaddressed. But--in God's kindness--Elijah was "randomly" chosen to be in the intervention group. Thus began four months of really intensive work...and four months of incredible growth in our little man.

[I'll break this up into a couple of posts since it's already gotten so long. That's what happens, I guess, when I put off writing about something until five months' worth of experiences and thoughts have piled up :) To be continued...]

part 2: Growth for Elijah *and* for Mama
part 3: Elijah's Skills Take Off
part 4: The Study Ends; A Grateful Goodbye

Monday, September 20, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 176

Thanking God this week for...

883. a whole week with no hormonal, emotional late-pregnancy meltdowns
884. a friend who picked up a few things for me at Costco (we don't have a membership)
885. Picasa's face-recognition feature for sorting photos
886. white grape peach juice
887. random little things that bring back funny memories of friends

888. the fact that His salvation is daily, not just a one-time event (I mean, the cross is a once-and-for-all event...but its application/implications are ongoing, not just a one-time "I prayed the prayer and got saved from hell")
889. opportunities to provide hospitality to women who have served/are serving our family
890. Scotty Smith's fabulous blog Heavenward--a powerful, gospel-centered prayer each day
891. being the Good Shepherd who gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart
892. the built-in dresser in the nursery (Steve's handiwork)

893. the way contact lenses protect my eyes when I'm cutting onions
894. Steve's practical help in fighting laziness
895. decent sleep in spite of late pregnancy
896. Compassion International
897. initiating a covenant from which He had nothing to gain because He needs nothing...and everything to lose because it would cost His only Son

898. colorful, beautiful patterns on fabric and paper
899. lots of sunny days in a row for sunning cloth diapers
900. new baby's carseat, in Ohio State colors :)
901. the kindness and generosity of a sweet mama who doesn't even know me but wanted to bless me by doing me a tremendous favor
902. our awesome pastors and their commitment to shepherding our souls

903. yesterday's pastoral oversight meeting
904. sustaining Baby and me safely to 37 weeks = I can officially have a homebirth!
905. the women who will be my support team for the birth, and last Thursday's opportunity to get them all together
906. being my Burden-Bearer

holy experience

Monday, September 13, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 175

Thanking God this week for...

866. news that Ann is writing a book!
867. opportunity to review a new album from Reformed Praise
868. more hand-me-down clothes for Elijah than I need or can use
869. desperately-needed reminders of His gentleness
870. the way He gently leads those that are with young

871. opportunities to share stories of His faithful provision
872. Steve's caring for Elijah every Tuesday evening so I can go pray with friends
873. a phone call from a dear friend, and the freedom to be a mess with her
874. Steve's strong, reassuring arms around me
875. open windows

876. leftovers in the fridge
877. grace to finish my final paper, complete my class
878. days without emotional meltdowns
879. brightly colored sidewalk chalk
880. cloth diapers hanging on the line

881. a friend's note to say she's praying for me
882. Elijah's giggles

holy experience

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Better Than Ex Nihilo

Just needing to preach to myself again this week...feel free to listen in :)

"...the God...who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Romans 4:17).

My friend Lydia pointed me to this verse recently, sharing how encouraged she had been to read it and think about this aspect of God. Primarily it refers to creation, of course--the wonder that God created everything out of nothing. But, Lydia said, couldn't it also apply to what God can do in my own heart?

There is HOPE in who God is! He is the God who calls into existence the things that do not exist: love and compassion for others; joy in difficult circumstances; courage to speak hard words; trust in Him despite the unknown future...He is able to create all these things and so many more, out of nothing.

In fact, in some ways His work in my heart is *more* impressive than creating the world out of nothing, because apart from Christ my heart was not simply empty, without form and void--it was full of rebellion and unbelief and love for self. When He breathed life into my heart and gave me faith in Him, He was not just creating out of nothing; He was creating the exact opposite of what was already there!

This powerful, life-giving, transforming God continues His astounding work in my heart. He is committed to remaking me in the image of His Son, which means I can have hope--not in my own efforts to change or ability or knowledge, but because of who He is and what He has done and continues to do. He calls into existence the things that do not exist in my heart.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Look Out: It's a Baby Hurricane!

The old joke has never seemed more appropriate than at our church this year: If you don't want to be pregnant, don't drink the water! The new year brought a huge string of baby announcements--a total of SEVEN women due between September - December. That might not seem all that impressive until you consider that our church has only 29 adult female members. That's not "married women of childbearing age"--that's *all* the women who are covenant members. A quarter of us are pregnant!

Appropriately enough, the non-pregnant women decided that a party for all these babies couldn't really be called a shower--it was more like a hurricane :) So on Saturday, we had a little celebration anticipating all these new little lives. One of the pregnant women couldn't be there, and the other is having a separate shower since it's her first baby, but the five of us present lined up for a photo op:

Melita's incredible talent and creativity were on display with all the decorations--she made the paper flowers hanging from the ceiling, our corsages (made of paper flowers) and the centerpieces:

Everything matched our green and yellow nursery, so I swiped a few things that were otherwise headed for the trash!

Another fun feature was a "photo booth" they had set up. I loved looking through the pictures (a link to a private Flickr album was distributed yesterday) and seeing all the crazy photos of various women being silly--two in particular (*cough* Jessie Rae and Donna *cough*). One of my favorite pictures was of my friend Lydia...everyone likes to tease her about the giant hairbows she puts on her little girl's head, so someone had the brilliant idea to put one of the giant paper flowers on *her* head:

I took the opportunity to get a photo with Jessie Rae...this is my sweet friend who will be taking care of Elijah when the baby comes (as long as her sister doesn't go into labor first!):

And I also got to do a belly photo with my sister-in-law! Steve's brother and his family were visiting for the weekend, so Michelle came to the "hurricane" with me. She's not due until next spring, so she hardly has a belly yet--just the tiniest little pooch that you wouldn't notice unless she was wearing fitted clothes and you knew how thin she usually is. But this was our first and only opportunity to take a belly shot together :)

The women of RBCN were a blessing to me, generously giving of their time and talents in planning/decorating/cooking for the shower (we had some seriously yummy food)...and several of them generously ignored the "no gifts" request :P I am thankful to be expecting along with six other beautiful women, and thankful to be surrounded by all these women whom I know will love and support me and our new little one!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 174

Thanking God this week for...

850. Babies R Us and their generous return policy/willingness to bend the policy for a pregnant woman
851. an encouraging, helpful phone conversation with wise gospel counsel from a dear friend
852. the safe arrival of a friend's baby
853. the financial cushion to make mistakes and have them be annoying/frustrating, but not devastating
854. grace to encourage a friend instead of wallowing in self-absorption

855. old, ugly kitchen counters, so I don't care when they get stained by Kool-Aid dye
856. the amazing way God has provided a doula for my upcoming birth
857. my sweet husband making dinner when I was a mess one afternoon
858. a visit from my brother- and sister-in-law and my cute niece
859. the baby shower our church threw for me and four other pregnant women

860. my sister-in-law's using her mad sewing skills to bless me
861. Steve's patience with Elijah and insight into E's behavior
862. an extension on my final paper for my CCEF class
863. gorgeous weather all weekend long
864. pouring out grace beyond what I ask or imagine

865. demonstrating His faithfulness when I am faithless and full of unbelief

holy experience

Friday, September 03, 2010

Family Photo Shoot

My sweet, generous and talented friend Emily agreed to take some maternity photos for us a few weeks ago. I am so excited to have these! Elijah was being very "three" that day--but all things considered, he didn't do too badly and we got some fun shots. Just thought I would post some favorites...if you want to see more, the full set is here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Baby Kannel #2: A Preview

Belated posting is the name of the game at the blog this week, apparently. Though I do have a slightly better excuse for the lateness of this one. For the longest time, I couldn't get our scanner to work. Now that we're only a few weeks away from actually meeting Baby Kannel #2...shall I post some ultrasound pictures from almost three months ago?!

I was happy that we got a much clearer 3D photo this time. Elijah had his arm over his face the entire time, so we didn't get great shots of him. This little one gave us a better glimpse:

I've tried comparing the ultrasound photos to see if they look alike, but I can't really tell. (Honestly, even look at Elijah's ultrasound photos, I'd never be able to tell it was him.) That's one of the things I'm most curious about: Will this baby look like Elijah, or completely different? I know families where you can tell without a doubt that all the siblings are related, and then other families where brothers don't even look like they came from the same parents--so I can't wait to see this baby's features. I am hoping for Steve's eyes this time around :)

With Elijah, we didn't find out the gender--we weren't even tempted; we knew for sure we wanted to be surprised. This time, Steve and I both agreed early on that we'd like to find out, just to see how it would be different knowing in advance. So we did receive news of the gender at our June ultrasound...but much to the chagrin of our parents and several friends, we are keeping it a secret. I'm not even sure why we decided to do that, other than to be ornery :) It's kind of fun to have a big secret--but also really hard to not say "he/she" instead of "the baby"!

We have the first name picked out, though we haven't decided on a middle name. It's hard to believe how quickly this pregnancy has flown by. I'm well into my last trimester and needing to start preparing in earnest for the birth! We are planning a homebirth this time, which I'm excited about and thankful for, but I do have to admit it is more of a hassle in this one way, having to order/collect supplies. I'm asking God for a joyful and positive, rather than traumatic, birth experience this time--and hoping that delivering at home, possibly in the water, will be a huge factor in helping that happen.

So that's the 34-week pregnancy update around here. We just got photos back from a maternity shoot that a friend of mine did a couple of weeks ago--if you're my friend on Facebook you saw them already--so I'll be posting those here soon.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

My Little Man Turns Three!

Now that it has been nearly a month since his birthday, shall we catch up here on the blog a bit?

We started with this tiny bundle of adorable-ness:

He grew and he grew. We celebrated surviving the first year:

He grew and he grew, and I finally started to get comfortable in my mother-skin. I rejoiced when he turned two:

He grew and he grew. And then we got to celebrate three years with this delightful little boy:

Daddy helped blow out THREE big candles on our big boy's cake...

and after present-opening, he enjoyed running around with his only cousin, Olivia:

These two are kissing cousins. Literally:

We had the blessing of being in Ohio the weekend before Elijah's birthday (he turned three on August 10), so we got to celebrate with our families. And while Elijah definitely did not relish being the center of attention in a big crowd, he did love spending time with beloved family members and eating birthday cake with Pops's homemade ice cream :)

I know I keep saying this...but it really does get better and better. Not one to grieve the passing of the newborn stage, I enjoy each age more than the last. Two didn't turn out to be terrible for us after all, and though I have heard warnings that three is worse than two, for now we have a sweet little boy who is (most of the time) a joy to be around.

I'm so thankful for the growth we have seen in Elijah over the past year, and over the last few months especially. His language skills have improved dramatically as a result of the Vanderbilt study (more on that soon, really!) and it's so much easier to be able to communicate with him. Beyond that, it's fun to see his personality develop. He has unfortunately inherited a few of his mother's less desirable traits, but he also has some really wonderful qualities: a great sense of humor; his daddy's laidback/easygoing temperament. He's tenderhearted and can't stand to think that we are upset with him, but desires quick reconciliation. He loves books, animals, and playing outside, and he loves to imitate Daddy and play with Daddy's tools (Steve is now experiencing firsthand what it must have been like for his own father to constantly have tools missing, find rusted screwdrivers in the yard, etc :)

When I stop to consider it, I'm amazed that God would entrust the care of such a precious soul to me, a sinner who He knew would screw it up over and over again. I'm thankful that He is much more patient with me than I am with my son, and that He has chosen such a kind way to refine me. I'm thankful for His grace, and praying for wisdom to know how to extend and display that grace to my little boy.

This is certainly a season of anticipation, as the birth of our next little one approaches. But I'm also trying to make it a season of soaking up this stage of Elijah's life and being grateful for my sweet firstborn son. Happy (belated) birthday, Elijah.