Monday, October 29, 2012

Proud Mommy Moment- Hayden's Riding a Real Bike!

I think one of the best feelings in the world has to be mommy pride- when you're just so proud of something your child has done that you feel like your heart will burst! I had a moment like that on Saturday and I wanted to share it with you.



Last Christmas we got both kids balance bikes. Best money we've probably ever spent on something for the kids. They absolutely loved them! Hayden was 3.5 when she got hers and learned quickly how to ride it. At first she was upset because it didn't have pedals like her tricycle did, but thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to show her some YouTube videos of kids riding on balance bikes, and she figured it out pretty easily. She was riding within the day, and after a couple of months she had learned how to go really fast and could lift her feet up and coast for long distances.



The whole point of a balance bike is that it teaches kids the hard skill, balancing, first in an easy and safe way. Once a kid can balance on a bike, it's easy for them to learn how to pedal, and thus be able to ride a regular bike. (There are many, many other benefits to balance bikes, but I'll leave it at that for now.)



So this weekend on the way home from ballet class, I stopped by a couple of garage sales, and picked up a little pedal bike for just $10. Hayden was sooooo excited. We took it home and tried it out right away. I couldn't believe how quickly she picked it up! I held onto her back to help her balance and get started, but then she pedaled away from me and rode all on her own! It only took a couple of tries for her to be able to get started on her own too, and then she was riding an actual pedal bike(with no training wheels!) completely independently!


We had only made it halfway down our street when she said, "Mom, we can go ahead and find someone else that needs my other bike(meaning her tricycle)". Needless to say, she's pretty thrilled about her new bike- and I'm so proud! I couldn't believe how quickly she picked it up, or that a four year old could ride a pedal bike with no training wheels! As if I wasn't already a big believer in balance bikes, this totally sealed the deal for me. (I keep telling Thad that I won't be surprised at all if tricycles are obsolete in 20 or 30 years- balance bikes are just that much more awesome!)



I as going to add a video, but apparently I either can't or don't know how, so you're going to have to use your imagination.

She's having so much fun, and now that the weather's finally cooled down a little, we've been riding bikes just about every day!


I know I'm not the only one with a super proud mommy moment- what have your kids been doing lately that makes you burst with pride?


Friday, October 19, 2012

Kangaroo Care Breastfeeding and Babywearing Necklaces- a Review

It's always a pleasure to write a review of a product that you totally love, and that's exactly what I'm doing today! After browsing the Kangaroo Care shop, I had a pretty good idea that I was going to like the necklace I chose, but I had no idea just how much I would end up loving it.

The package arrived on Saturday(all the way from Estonia!), and as soon as I opened it I was in love. The necklaces look pretty and fun on the website, but totally don't do justice to how nice they look in person! The necklace really is gorgeous- and I picked a boring black! You should check out all the other options in the Kangaroo Care story- Varja, the momma behind Kangaroo Care, is definitely not afraid of color, and there are some really fun color combos to choose from. I picked black because I needed a new black necklace, but I think next time I'm going to get one of the rainbow necklaces or another colorful one.

 I'm not a photographer, and my camera is crappy. You should definitely check out the great photos in the Kangaroo Care shop too

The necklaces are made to be worn while breastfeeding or babywearing(side note- I love the gorgeous nursing photos in her store!), and while I couldn't really put the necklace to the test for those purposes, I can definitely see how it would be helpful for both. The necklaces, particularly the colorful ones, would easily catch a baby's eye, and the contrasting textures between the smooth wooden beads and the knitted beads could provide sensory stimulation for a baby, whether they were touching it or chewing on it. Heck- I'm an adult and I can barely stop touching it when I'm wearing it- it just feels so cool! Both of my kids have noticed it and wanted to touch and smell it.

I was concerned that I wasn't going to like the fact that the necklace was on a string type foundation, or that you have to tie it in the back to wear it(I can be sensitive and picky with those kinds of things), but neither one of those things have bothered me at all. The necklace is actually really lightweight to wear, but not in a "this is really cheaply made" kind of way. I can barely feel that I'm wearing it when I have it on, which is always nice. I've only had it for a week, so I can't speak to durability, but the necklace seems like it's very well made and should hold up for quite a long time.

I was so, so pleasantly surprised to discover that the necklace has a wonderful scent! (I should totally have read the description a little closer, because it tells you about the scent right on the item description.) The wooden beads are made out of juniper wood, which I had never smelled before, but the scent reminds me of cedar- it's like a light cedar-y scent. It's very refreshing, and I love getting little whiffs of it throughout the day.

As you can tell, I totally love this necklace. I've had it for 7 days now, and I think I've worn it 5 out of those 7 days! It's so comfortable and goes with so many things in my closet. I've gotten several compliments on it too. My only complaint, and it's not even a complaint about the necklace, is that there are no earrings to match! I like to wear earrings to complete my look, and I would love to have a pair of super simple earrings to match my necklace. I can picture a small dangle earring with one of the smaller wooden balls and a knit ball below it, or even just a simple stud earring with one of the knit balls would look really nice and really help to complement the necklace. Although I suppose if baby's used to being able to grab at and pull on the necklace, you wouldn't want something encouraging them to pull on your ears! Maybe earrings would only be realistic for us mommas with older kiddos.

Go check out Varja's shop, and make sure you like her page on Facebook too. She's got amazing products, and is very pleasant and friendly to work with! Thanks Varja!

Disclosure: Everything shared in this post is my honest opinion of the product. I was not paid to do this review, but I did receive the necklace for free.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Proverbs 31 Woman You Never Knew

This week, I read Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James. I'm not going to go into details about what a total game changer this book is, how much it changed my outlook and inspired me, or how much you should really, really go read it. (Psst- the Kindle edition is still only $1.99.) No, I'm not getting paid to talk about this book- it's just that good.


Instead of talking about all that, today I just want to talk about one tiny little point that was mentioned in the book- something that totally grabbed me and inspired me. Today I want to talk about the elusive "Proverbs 31 woman". You know, the famed "Virtuous Woman". Virtuous woman- what does that even mean? says that virtuous means "conforming to moral and ethical principles; morally excellent; upright". I asked the "likers" on the blog's Facebook page what the word "virtuous" made them think of. They came up with words like, honorable, integrity, noble, kind, just, and principled. Two people said that it made them think of someone that has strong convictions and lives up to them. One person said that the word virtuous made her think of the Proverbs 31 woman. Not surprising, considering that most of us know Proverbs 31:10 to say this:


"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."


That's something we all want to be, right? All of those words listed above are definitely things that I want to be true of my life. But what if I told you that the Proverbs 31 woman wasn't actually a "virtuous woman"? What if I told you that when you look at the actual Hebrew words, and not the translator's interpretation of the Hebrew words, this scripture means something totally different?



The Hebrew word for the word virtuous in Proverbs 31:10 is the word chayil. While virtue is a very good thing, something that we all want to have, and surely even a word that could have been used to describe the Proverbs 31 woman, it's not the word that was used to describe the Proverbs 31 woman. Chayil means something totally different.


According to my Blue Letter Bible concordance, the word chayil means strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army, ability, and force. Wow- that's a bit different from the picture I get when I think "virtuous". Chayil is a battle word, used most often to describe the strength of an army in battle. It's most often translated as "army", and is also translated as the words man of valor, host, forces, valiant, strength, riches, wealth, power, and so on.


That's quite a different meaning than the meaning of "virtuous", wouldn't you say? I also asked the readers on my Facebook page what things the word valiant brought to their minds, and while some of the answers were similar to what they said for virtuous, they also said things like courageous and fearless. One person said that they thought that a valiant person wouldn't be afraid to be a voice for those that can't advocate for themselves. Another person said the word brought to mind an animated film about a pigeon in a war(fitting, since Biblically this is a battle word), and another told an inspiring story about how her grandmother overcame many hardships in her life. Cool stuff! says that valiant means "boldly courageous; brave; stout-hearted; marked by or showing bravery or valor; heroic".



Maybe you're wondering if chayil can't mean both things- maybe it could mean virtuous and valiant/strong/powerful? Not only does chayil's definition not have anything to do with the word virtuous, but get this- chayil is only translated as virtuous when it's being used to describe women. Now I'm no Hebrew expert, but even I know that's awful translating- and it also shows the male bias of the people doing the translating. You don't get to change the meaning of a Hebrew word just because it's being used to describe a woman and not a man. If the original author of this passage, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had wanted to describe the Proverbs 31 woman as virtuous, he could have used a word that meant virtuous. But he didn't! He used a word that means strong, valiant, powerful like an army, and he used it to describe not only a woman, but one of the most esteemed women in the entire Bible.



So lets read that scripture again, but this time with the proper understanding of the word chayil. I'll try it a couple of different ways, and you can see how these hit you.

"Who can find a valiant woman? for her value is far above rubies."

"Who can find a woman as strong as an army? for her value is above rubies."

"Who can find a mighty woman? for her value is above rubies."

Wow! That's such a different picture! This is definitely the kind of woman that I want to be. This translation brings to mind the famous saying, "Well behaved women seldom make history." It takes a valiant, strong, courageous woman to make history- and those women are to be celebrated!



The sad thing, of course, is that people, especially church people, tend to be afraid of powerful women. But God says that a valiant, powerful woman is someone to be praised! What if we stopped being afraid of powerful women, and actually started embracing the good that they can bring to the world and the church? What if Godly Christian men accepted, encouraged, supported, and learned from their strong Christian sisters instead of being intimidated by them? What if we raised our daughters with these qualities in mind for their future? What if we stopped telling half the church that they're just supposed to be virtuous, and not also valiant? How much more could be done for the kingdom?



Women have so much to offer the world and the church. I think it's high time for the church to stop telling women that their only callings and giftings lie in the home and with their children. We're not called to only be virtuous, gentle women- we're also called to be valiant in battle.



"God is shaking his daughters awake and summoning us to engage. His vision for us is affirming and raises the bar for all of us. We cannot settle for less. We have work to do. There's a kingdom to build, and what we do truly matters. Our compass is fixed on Jesus. We can no longer listen to those who call on us to love him with less than all our heart and soul and strength and mind."

~ Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church, p192.

Monday, October 1, 2012

To the Boy Who Taught Me How to Love.

Dear son:

When you were born, I had already been married for 4 years and 8 months. I had already been a mother for 21 months. Yet somehow, I had not learned how to love. You were the one that taught me that.


Your birth was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was one of the most real experiences of my life. I had said that I wanted to be truly present for your birth, truly in the moment, and I was. I can't even explain how incredible your birth was for me- to go through the pain, the struggle, the agony, while fully experiencing all of it, knowing that you were waiting for me at the end. When that pain finally ended, and then you were there- all 8 pounds, 11 ounces, 15 inch head of you- and I had done it! I had never felt so joyful, so accomplished, so empowered. Your birth was the beginning of something wonderful, and not just because you had entered the world, but also because your presence in it would change me forever.


Just 6 hours after you were born, we had to take you in to the hospital. Your lungs didn't assimilate the small amount of fluid like they should have, and you were having trouble breathing. They stuck you with a needle several times, put an iv in your head, and put you in a bassinet in the NICU. I was scared. I was disappointed. But I was also numb. I didn't feel bonded to you yet. I would have done anything to protect you, but not because of the bond that we have now, more because I knew in my head that you were my baby and I'd someday fall in love. The bonding that we should have had right after birth was cut short. When they told me that we had to leave you in the NICU, that we weren't allowed in the room with you from 7-8AM, that everyone had to leave, I didn't fight to stay with you. You weren't even 24 hours old yet, and I left you. I regret that, and I'm forever thankful that nothing happened to you while I was gone.


When we got to take you home 2 days later, you and I made up for lost time. My midwife told me to climb into bed with you and stay skin to skin for the next week or two, and we did. Those were beautiful days. Oh, the cuddles. I couldn't stop examining you all over. I couldn't stop taking pictures of you. And we bonded.


When you were 6 months old, you taught me that not only was this Attachment Parenting stuff healthy for you, but that they were right about babies being people too. You were playing in the playroom, and I wanted you in the living room where I could keep an eye on you. I picked you up to carry you into the living room, and you started to cry! I froze- surely you couldn't be crying because I was taking you out of the playroom? Sure enough- as soon as I put you back, you stopped crying. I was amazed! You were a little person, and even though you couldn't talk or move around much yet, you had your own opinions and desires. From that day, I started to think about what things were like from your perspective, and how I could show you that your perspective was valuable to me too.


When you were about 18 months old you taught me even more about that, about respecting your needs and communicating with you. You still couldn't talk much, but you could understand almost everything I said, and I was learning that very quickly. I learned that I could get you to easily go along with things that were unpleasant for you, but necessary, if I would just explain them to you beforehand and coach you through them. It seems so simple to me now, to just treat you with the same consideration that I would anyone else, but at the time that was a very novel concept to me. Your nearly instant positive responses were an excellent teacher.


All of these things helped us to form an amazing bond. I knew what made you tick, and like any baby, you were crazy about your momma. But what I never expected was for that bond to grow even deeper as you made your way through your second year. I had chosen to nurse you, of course, just like I had nursed your sister. She and I had a wonderful 15 months of nursing, and the first 15 months of nursing you were much the same. I never expected a surprise to come along after all the experience I already had. I knew from the beginning I wanted to nurse you for longer, to let you self wean when you were ready, but it totally caught me off guard that it was so very much different than what I had already experienced, both with you and your sister.


With Hayden, and at first with you, nursing was a bonding experience, but it was also a functional one. You were hungry; I fed you. Simple as that. Yes, it was wonderful, and of course I treasured it, but at the core it was still an act of necessity. Not so as you got older. You tried food for the first time at 9 months old, but by the time you were 18 months you were crazy about it. You were eating everything you could get your hands on! Even so, your favorite thing in the world was still your num nums, and like I had planned, I continued to nurse you. It was so different for me now though. You weren't a baby anymore- you were growing into a boy! You were walking, talking, playing, interacting! You were eating food, and not just bites here and there, but a regular diet! I knew you didn't need to nurse for sustainment anymore. Our nursing relationship was no longer a mainly functional one, but had become an emotional one.


It was both strange and exciting for me at first. I had never experienced anything like it before. Not only did I love you as part of my family, as my child, but I was willingly sharing my body with you- not because you needed it to survive, but just because I loved you. That realization, that sharing of such a deeply tangible part of me with another human being began to open my heart in a way that it never had before. I had never shared myself so freely, so deeply before. It was revolutionary for me!



And then, as things started to fall apart, you taught me once again how to love. You see, as I was growing closer to you, your sister and I were pulling farther and farther apart. We became enemies. I didn't enjoy being around her. I didn't know how to handle her. I didn't know what to do with the angry feelings inside of me when she did something I didn't approve of. They scared me. I started to hate motherhood. That really scared me. I knew something was really, really wrong. I was starting to suspect that it had to do with the discipline method and mindset that I had. Your sister was getting lots of spankings back then.


One day I was looking at you and thought about how someday you would get bigger, and I'd have to spank you just like I spanked your sister. I had barely finished the thought when I felt my heart breaking into a million pieces- just at the thought of doing that to you, of violating your trust in me like that! I knew I could never strike you. Then the sobering, life changing truth dropped into my heart- How could I feel that way about you, while at the same time hitting your sister just about every day, sometimes multiple times a day? What had I done?


That thought led me on a journey- to grace, to love, to relearning what I knew about parenting, about grace, and about myself. It ultimately led me to gentle discipline, to learning to disciple the two of you, instead of punishing. I began to change the way I interacted with your sister, and the way that I thought about her. I stopped spanking, and started connecting. I learned how to set boundaries without punishing. I learned to start letting go of my fears and my need for control. Just how I had learned to open my heart with you, I began learning how to open it to others too. The bond that I had lost with your sister is being restored. The bond between your dad and me is more real than ever before.


Amazingly, as my heart began to open to love, I began to feel God's love more deeply, and in a more real way than I ever had before. For the first time, and after 26 years of following Him, I truly began to understand just how much He truly loves me. I began to truly follow Him, to long for Him, to love Him and allow Him to love me too. Then I understood that this was His plan all along- that He sent you to me to teach me how to love, to teach me how to draw closer to Him. You were just a baby- of course you didn't know what you were doing, how deeply you were changing me. But He knew, and He used you. Because of Him, and because of you, I'm learning how to truly love, and I feel more alive, more real than I ever have before.


I don't know if you'll ever understand this impact that you've had on my life, but I'll always be thankful. Thankful for you, the boy that taught me how to love.


To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
~ C.S. Lewis