Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ah, summer; hot and hectic and gearing up for it's fully glory.
Jeremiah came in at about eleven last night with Asher and Jack dragging in behind him, sleep in their eyes and pillow pets under their arms, mutter big fish stories on their way to their beds.  They left Monday morning for a fishing trip at Lake Greason with my uncles.  It would appear from the phone photos I was having regularly texted to me that they had a blast.
Tobias and I stayed behind because he isn't quite big enough for sun and boating yet. I had grand plans of productivity in mind, but my allergies had other plans and they won.  I did get a chance to take some photos of my sister while she visits from Oklahoma City.

And she snapped a few of Tobias and me...

My sweet Tobias who is pushing 10 lbs. now!

We found a really lovely new location that I'd never shot before.  The wheels are turning in my head with ideas to go back.
Today will be full of catch up around the house but I have several cool projects, photography goals and fun kid activities planned for summer!  I will be back soon!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Angry Bird-day

The angry bird birthday party was a huge success!  I have never had such a good time planning a party.  Thanks to pinterest, I'm already looking forward to the next one!

I think photos are probably the best way to tell you how great it turned out.

The lifesize angry birds game.  We had originally planned on painting the boxes to make them look like wood and ice, but we decided kind of last minute not to spend the extra time and money. No one cared. :)

The ammo.  Found these balls at Wal-Mart (Large size were 2.50 each, small were 1.50) and freehanded the faces on with acrylic paint.  I had to let them dry and do a couple of layers to get good solid color. 

Things like this leave me in awe of my husbands creativity.  He came up with this slingshot using scrap lumber, exercise bands and a whole foods bag!  The head swiveled too!

I made a trade with a friend from church: photography for these awesome angry bird cupcakes. Gotta love the barter system and talented baking friends! 

The popcorn bar.  Printed the faces for free off here: The Party Animal.  Air popped popcorn into one dollar buckets from Michael's and provided an array of flavors and toppings like Parmesan cheese and M&Ms.

The bags for the popcorn bar. 

The boys and I made these cute little guys to use in place of confetti when decorating the tables.  Little pom-poms, 5mm googly eyes, pipe cleaners, tacky glue and card stock. All from Michael's.  These were a cheap little touch and were a lot of fun to make. 

And the very best part, my sweet Asher.  So proud to be 5. 

The food was devoured before I was able to get photos but I can share my recipe sources.  I went with as much of an angry birds theme as I could without getting too processed in the food. I intended to make little signs with cutesy names and clip art, but alas, time ran out.  So the theme was lost on most people but they all enjoyed the taste!

Angry Birds Party Menu

Sweet Smoked Piggies (Bacon wrapped little smokies in brown sugar and butter)
Red Bird Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips (I put the apples and strawberries in the food processor so it would be a little more salsa-y than this recipe.  And I omitted all the sugar. It was quite sweet enough without it)
Angry Bird Rojo Roasted Salsa (Recipe below) and tortilla chips
Ham and Cheese Sliders (Did these on Kings Hawaiian rolls)
BBQ Pork Sliders (Recipe below)
Very Angry Eggs (Deviled eggs made by the mother in law)
Popcorn Bar (Angry Bird Food)
We also had a bit of randomness like some mason jars of black olives, grapes and blueberries. And a plate of Asher's all time favorite food, Cheese!

Red Roasted Salsa

6 lb. roma tomatoes
2 sweet vidalia onions
10 serrano peppers
1 bunch cilantro
a head of garlic
1/4 cup of honey
3 T. Kosher Salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Slice the tomatoes and onions in half.  Cut the caps off the peppers.  Peel the garlic.
Lay it all out in cookie sheets (I use pampered chef stoneware so they don't get too charred or stick) and roast for about 30-40 minutes.  You want things to get nice and toasty, a little black around the edges, slightly caramelized.  Keep checking it though because if it burns on a regular cookie sheet, it will wreck havoc by sticking.

After roasting is done, put the ingredients through the food processor with the cilantro, salt, and honey.  You'll have to go in batches because this makes a lot of salsa.
Taste and adjust.

You could turn up the heat with more peppers.  I originally started with 20 but they were HOT so I only put 10 in.  I also made this the day before and packed it in mason jars in the fridge for the flavors to meld a bit. It was delicious.

BBQ Pork Sliders
Makes 12 Slider Sandwiches (we tripled for the party)

1 pork tenderloin (either pre-marinated or plain)
1 package Kings Hawaiian Rolls
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
a splash of apple cider vinegar
1 T. BBQ Rub (any variety either sweet or spicy, I used Pampered Chef Smoky Applewood)

If using a plain pork loin, rub it down with some additional rub before cooking. If it's pre-marinated, don't do anything extra.

Cook pork loin at 350 for 45 minutes.
Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting so juices and redistribute.
Slice thin.

Slice rolls open for sandwiches.

Mix ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar and rub together for sauce.

Serve all together on a tray for people to assemble their own sandwiches.  I stacked the rolls up on one side, spread the meat out on the other and used a little mason jar with a spoon in it for the sauce.
You can also cook the meat the morning or night before, wrap in foil and just heat it up before serving.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A quick hello.

The response from my last post has been amazing.
I have had so many women contact me with their personal stories of similar situations;  undetected ear infections causing developmental delays, a fractured arm that went for a week before seeing the doctor, a baby screaming in pain after eating for months before simply switching to soy formula, other failure to thrive stories.  Turns out, just about every mom I talked to had some story, some little failure, that she has been carrying on her back for years.  

I find it curious how universal guilt is among mothers.  Mom Guilt.  It deserves it's own title.  As I saw sympathy and understanding written all over my friend's beautiful faces, as they offered up their failures to me as consolation, I could see the fact that these stories still stung for them.  These stories still registered in their mind as tiny deficits: the times they let down their children. 

The weight we feel as mothers is overwhelming.  I have been blessed with many words, but I find my vocabulary wholly insufficient to describe the crushing love and guilt that grows in us with our first child.  We know we will never be what we wish we could be for our babies. We will always fall short.
I wonder sometimes if this is what God meant when he cursed Eve (Gen. 3:16).  He said "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thy shalt bring forth children" (KJV)
I've always thought this referred to childbirth, but I don't think it ends there.  Childbirth hurts. I know, I've experienced a completely natural birth and it can feel like you are being turned inside out.  But it's for your baby.  It's fulfilling your role as a woman.  It brings with it feelings of elation and accomplishment, not failure. 

My husband is one of the best dad's I know.  He loves our kids and strives to be the father God wants him to be.  In the ER with Toby, he wasn't blaming himself.  He wasn't choking on guilt and blinded to God's power by our mistake.  He just looked forward to a solution.  Because he's a man and from my experience, that's just how they function. Mom Guilt though, it is a sorrow that truly does multiply. It doesn't dissolve in the happiness of a resolution.  It keeps coming back. And without Christ, it could easily destroy your effectiveness as a parent.

It helps me to understand why I feel things.  It has helped me this week to understand that this experience was not uncommon, and that my initial reaction was shared with many mothers. 
Most importantly, it helps to know that my babies are ultimately in the hands of God.  I will surely fail them, but in taking up God's commission to raise children in His ways, I am arming them with the tools to overcome my failures and have life. 

Enough of that. I'm ready for some not-so-heavy blog posts. 

I will end this on the lighter side of motherhood with a performance from our Mother's Day church service. 
We are in full swing with preperation for Asher's Angry Birds birthday party. More on that later. For now, enjoy the mom rhapsody....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Sweet Tobias

I'm not really sure how to start this blog post. How do I chronicle this week which has been hectic and hard yet for which I am thankful?
I suppose I should start with the bottom line, the good news, what really matters. I have a healthy 9 week old.  He is going to be ok.

Wednesday I took Toby for his 2 months well baby check up.  I expressed concern about how skinny he was at the start of the appointment.  He's never been a big baby but over the last few weeks, the comments have been becoming more frequent; "He's awful small isn't he?" or "Look at those tiny legs."
You read on all the breastfeeding pages to nurse on demand and to allow the baby to end the nursing session instead of timing, to make sure he is having a normal amount of wet and dirty diapers.  Breastfed babies just weigh less than formula babies they all say.  I kept telling myself it was fine. This is the third child I've nursed and I tried my hardest to shrug off the comments, my confidence lying in the fact that I would know if something was wrong, that I had to knowledge to make the call.

I didn't know. I didn't know until the weight came up on the doctors scale. 7 lb, 14 oz., one ounce less than the day he was born.  I felt my heart hit the floor and I looked at the nurse.  "Something's wrong. That's under his birth weight."  And then I saw it, that look that medical professionals get when they don't get their Calm-The-Patient mask on fast enough.  She made a non-committal noise and ushered me back into our little room. I started to cry.  She was whispering in the hallway and the doctor came in, much quicker than it usually takes.  It's a blur now, but he seemed angry with me. "Why haven't you brought him in sooner?", he asked.  "He's starving", and he pinched the loose skin on Toby's rail of a thigh and stretched it out.  "Can't you see he's starving?"  And I did.  I saw completely for the first time and in the horror of the way I felt, I could only shake my head.  I texted Jeremiah, who had Asher at the salon getting a haircut. "Miah, they are going to take him away".  It's all I could think.  Of course they would take him away!  I felt like nothing more than a mother who had blindly been starving her precious son.

We drove directly to Arkansas Children's Hospital's emergency room.  They were waiting with our information.  Doctors came in, nurses came in, hours passed.  Jeremiah told me to stop apologizing.  He told me that our trust is in God and He is bigger than this. But I wasn't listening.
They took blood, they put in a catheter.  They came in to start an IV because he was dehydrated and the nurse kept blowing his tiny veins.  She kept repeating, "He's just so dry" and I wanted to hit her because he was screaming and being angry with her gave me momentary reprieve from being angry at myself.

After 10 hours in the ER we were admitted and moved to a room to stay.  The nurses fed him a bottle of formula, the first in his life.  We didn't sleep much.  He woke up hungry and wouldn't latch so I gave him pumped milk.  At 3 a.m., a hispanic family with no english was moved into the other side of the curtain in our semi-private room.  Her baby was crying and she was too. She was saying over and over "Leche para mi bebe?"  The nurse talked to her like she was a child and when the translator came, she told the woman that doctor had ordered that her baby could not have anything until morning.

The baby kept crying and I took Tobias from his crib, brought him to the pull out bed with me, and curled my legs up, encircling his little body, swaddled tight to keep the IV arm from being pulled or snagged. He slept peacefully in my arms, but I laid there dozing and being awoken again and again by a hungry child that wasn't mine until morning.

He gained 3 oz. the first night.  We met with doctors through out the next day, but mostly we just fed him while people came in, took his vitals, and recorded his intake and output.  He continued on an IV and continued to spit up the bottles of pumped milk.  We tried more formula and he kept it down. They said it's heavier, so if he was refluxing it wouldn't come up so easily.  He started looking different, his color changed and I realized how palled he had been.  In the evening, we were successful in getting him to hold down expressed breastmilk by feeding him completely upright and stopping for burping after every ounce.  He ate 3 ounces then almost 3 of formula and fell into what we call a "milk coma" for the first time in weeks.  And I realized I should have noticed the absence of that sign of sated tranquility.

In the morning he had gained 6 more ounces. I fed him after the weigh in, another feeding of a couple of oz. of pumped milk followed by a couple of formula.  They came in and unhooked his IV from the bag.  I kept dissolving into tears, replaying the thought "I've been starving my baby" in my mind.  The grotesque image of my childhood pet cat feeding her kittens, licking them all the same and not realizing one had died, kept haunting me.  I beat myself with the blunt edge of how blind and stupid I had been.

Our friends and family were overwhelming us with love while texts and facebook messages poured in.  It felt like the entire world was praying for us and for Toby and he was improving drastically before my eyes. Yet I could not fight the waves of despair and the shame of my mistake. I couldn't bring myself to answer the phone calls or update on my facebook wall.  Because my son was labeled failure to thrive and I just wanted to tell everyone, "I promise, I thought he was ok. I didn't know."

Then he woke up, and he smiled.  Not just a weak little smile but a smile that changed his whole, healthy face. And he made this loud, happy noise and the volume of it startled him so he smiled even bigger.
In that moment, I tell you, the grace of our almighty Father filled our little hospital room so fully that I started to laugh. And so Toby smiled more. He cooed again, louder and happier and I laughed and it went on for the most refreshing 10 minutes I think I've ever known.  It was as if God showed me the truth on the face of my precious boy and my guilt was gone.

Last Sunday, I led our youth kids in a study of Nehemiah chapter 2.  One of the main points was that when Nehemiah met his opposition, armed with the blessing and the military guard of the king of Persia, they attacked him with accusations of not honoring the king. "Their accusation was weak and clearly untrue," I told my high school students, "the only weapons that satan really has against us are untruths and despair."
It's easy to say these things, to teach them to people younger and say, "Trust me, I've been there", but it's so much easier to fall short when faced with the real life application.

The first morning in the hospital, a good friend sent a text to Jeremiah and me from his morning bible study.  He quoted Daniel 6:22, telling of the morning after Daniel's night in the lion's den and how he came out unscathed because he trusted in the Lord.   He asked, "What den do we find ourselves in today?  If we are in what seems like a den of lions, what kind of attitude do we have about it, and what's our attitude about God?  Psalm 18:30- As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.  He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him."  When I first read the message I responded with thanks, and acknowledgement of the truth of it, but I did not let it break down the wall of my desperation as I should have.  However, after Toby's smiles had turned on the lights for me, after I had realized the truth of the situation and given the reigns back to my big, powerful, heavenly Father, I read that message again.  I was able to see so clearly how uselessly self serving I was being, how my lack of faith was crippling me into ineffectiveness.  I recognized the contrast between myself, capable yet too pitiful to be proactive, and the poor spanish speaking mother on the other side of the curtain. She was in the big, scary hospital with her sick baby too, but lacked the ability to communicate that I had been taking for granted.  I prayed for her.

I started to ask questions.  I requested a meeting with the lactation consultant and I started asking WHY Toby wasn't gaining because I knew I had been feeding him frequently and for as long as he would eat.
After multiple consults, it was determined that between his worsening reflux, my overactive milk letdown and forceful flow, he was in pain trying to nurse.  He was drinking just enough to no longer feel hungry, but it wasn't enough for normal growth.  That, combined with the amount he was spitting up, led to the dehydration.  He was sleeping so much not out of contentment, but due to a lack of energy.   The solution I was given was to continue to pump, supplement only what is necessary and follow up with weekly weight checks.

It really was the best diagnosis we could have hoped for.  The tests for metabolic issues came back negative.  He has no absorption problems.  He is a perfectly healthy little boy with a healthy, milk-making momma and we just had a feeding issue that needed a resolution.

We came home last night and slept in our own bed.  I can tell already how much he has grown in these incredibly LONG few days.  I like to think I grew a bit too, as has my trust in God and my thankfulness that when I get off track, He will always lead me back.

Thank you all for caring so much about our son.  We named him Tobias, which means "God is good."  Turns out, it suits him well.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A few of my favorite things.

Chalkboards, mason jars, and fresh herbs.  These three things, in my opinion, should have a place in every kitchen.  In my house, mason jars serve all sorts of purposes aside from the preserving job they are meant for. At about 10 bucks for a dozen, they are cheap and dead useful.  They are glassware for sweet tea and storage for any refrigerated leftovers that will appropriately fit.  A votive dropped in transforms a mason jar into a candle holder and in the hands of a little boy on a June evening, they become the home of glowing fireflies. They stand proud on the table as a vase for dandelions presented by loving children and today they took on a new role as a window sill herb garden.

My friend Jessica and her family joined us for lunch yesterday and my giant wall calender started a conversation about our shared adoration of chalkboard paint.  It reminded me of this project I've had in my head for quite a while.  I love mason jars and I love all things chalkboard, so I decided to marry the two and throw in some fresh cooking ingredients for good measure.  Sounds like a win all around.

For this little undertaking you will need:
 a few wide-mouth, quart mason jars (one for every herb you want to use)
small herb plants
chalkboard paint
potting soil

I used a small bottle of chalkboard paint from Michael's.  I think I paid about 4 dollars for it after using a 40% off coupon.  If you are planning any larger chalkboard projects, you might go ahead and invest the 15 dollars for an entire quart of paint at Lowe's.  I've also read that you can make chalkboard paint by mixing two tablespoons of tile grout to 1 cup of flat paint in any color.  

I didn't have a paintbrush so I just finger painted it on.  I like things to be a little imperfect so this delivered a satisfactory result, but you could use a stencil and a brush if you wanted something more precise.
After one coat, it was still a little see through...

so I let it dry and added another coat. 
The finished jars before planting....

Now you could probably fit an entire small herb container in each jar, but since I have large pots of herbs on my porch and I was mostly doing these for decoration, I just separated small portions from my big plants to keep inside. 

And another idea for mason jar planters...a cute touch to a front porch with flowers and words/sayings. 

Monday Monday

The weekends are generally too short for all we try to fit in them, and Mondays are generally spent catching up on the neglected house.  Because of this, it's easier for me to recap in photos than time consuming words.

The big boys had their last soccer game of the season. 

The little boy has been more freely giving grins.

Cheese and yogurt making adventures will soon follow...

Finally got the herbs potted with my helper.

Great garage sale find, a 10 dollar bread machine that had only been used once! The first loaf is baking now.

That's all for now. I'll be back soon with more time and more words. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband was because he is passionate.  He loves God, he loves me, he loves our kids, and when he gets excited about something, he makes it happen and makes it happen big. A few weeks ago, he got the idea that he would get some kids from the youth together to go to the Avengers premier....in costume.

I am generally the creative half of this relationship, but I can take no credit for the fabulous outcome of all their planning. Here's a photo I snapped on my phone before they headed out the door: