May

07

Unshakable

This is one of those posts that i’ve been dreading. It almost feels impossible to write well. And writing it out means its all final and done. And the thought of that often takes my breath away.

So many of you have prayed over the last 5 years for my friend Anne. You have asked me for updates, privately emailed me your stories of survival and cancer and your own battles. Thank you. A blogging community is a powerful thing.

My precious, sweet friend passed away 6 weeks ago. She fought with every single breath, and it was amazing to watch. NOT ONCE did she question “why me?” Not once. I have learned so much from watching her, journeying with her. I have learned that I am not like her. I view the world through a lens of justice and fairness and this just doesn’t seem fair. Anne…she doesn’t operate like me. She, full of trust and patience and strength, did not question what is fair or not, but graciously walked through the final chapters of her story with dignity, garnering the respect of anyone who had the privilege of knowing her.

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She leaves behind her husband and a 5 month old son, Anson, which means “Gift of God” and “Son of Anne.” there does not exist a more perfect name for that sweet child.

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I know I have not updated you along the way. Mainly because I simply didn’t know how. Anne miraculously became pregnant last year…it was her heart’s greatest desire, and she was over the moon excited. She was and would’ve continued to be an amazing mother. In fact, I still have a voicemail saved from her on my phone from months back…her sweet voice asking a few momma kinds of questions regarding BabyWise. Even in the early stages of her pregnancy, she was preparing.

Anne and I and two more of our closest Chi O sisters had our annual girls weekend planned for December 5-7…complete with sleepovers at Anne’s new house, celebrating her as the Ambassador for the Annual Brain Alliance/Miles for Hope walk, and a much anticipated baby shower. Instead, Anne went into ICU on December 4th, with news of the tumor back and bigger than ever, and delivered Anson at 32 weeks via Emergency C-Section on December 6th. We spent our girls weekend instead in the ICU with her…time that, although I wish were different, I still treasure.

Over the next few months, Anne underwent aggressive treatments to reduce the swelling and the tumor, as Anson grew and flourished and very quickly threw off any remnant of being a premie.

Anne had some good days and some bad days. Even though we do not live in the same place, I was so gratefully able to visit her multiple times over the last few months, along with our sister Allison, and spend a few good days with her…ones where we laughed…hard…and reminesneced and looked at photos, and stared at each other in awe that we were now all mommas.

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We spent some days in the hospital, some at home, and some later in Hospice, where just being in her presence brought an unbelievable amount of comfort instead of sadness….i can’t explain it. My last time seeing her was shortly before she passed away, in Hospice. She was aware, and we Face-timed some sisters and sang our favorite old songs from college, her remembering more words than me, always smiling, always full of joy. I said goodbye, knowing full well that it was most likely the last time, and you would think it would’ve been so sad, but it just wasn’t. The sadness seemed to come for me when I was not in her presence. I think there was just something about her demeanor and what the Spirit was doing inside her heart that brought an unbelievable amount of joy in her presence. Only God….

We celebrated her life just a few weeks ago, in the auditorium at the school where she taught 5th grade. It was packed, a sea of yellow, her favorite color, which we all wore. It was a reunion, and she would’ve loved every single bit of it.

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The part of reality that is really hard is that life goes on. I still have a family to take care of, kids to feed, laundry to fold, school drop offs and pick ups…Life does not stop. I don’t like that. It feels like everything should just stop now, or at least for a time period. Like in biblical times, where people wore mourning clothes and took time to mourn, to process. But it doesn’t seem to work like that anymore. So life goes on. And multiple moments throughout the day, I think of Anne, and it literally takes my breath away and my heart hurts. I know so many of you know that feeling all too well.

I could write pages and pages and pages of memories and funny stories, and describe the kind of person she was. I could tell you the story of how I met her my first week at UF during Rush, we instantly connected (that does not happen often for me) and she not only became my Big Sister in my soriority, but my BFF throughout college and beyond.

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I could show you letter after letter and card after card that we wrote to each other (long before the days of email), I could show you the hundreds upon hundreds of pictures we have of socials, date functions, football games, weddings, road trips, girls weekends:

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I could tell you how she stood by me as I said my vows to Jake on our wedding day:

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how she celebrated the births of each of my kids:

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I could tell you how she made it a point to spend time with me and my family, even when life as “real adults” became busier and busier.

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I could tell you about our last girls weekend together with our 2 other sisters, Allison and Kristy, which to this day…is one of my favorite weekends ever….the way we talked non-stop for 3 days straight…from morning to night, and left the weekend feeling like we had solved all the world’s problems. But none of that would do her any justice…

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Instead, let me tell you this….when we got word that the cancer was back…i just felt like she had so much more life to live. In some ways, it seemed as if her life was just beginning. And then as I watched her fight, and decline, and just simply not be able to do it anymore…i’m not sure I would be human if I didn’t question God. So I did. A lot. I asked him why in the world he thought this was good? He could’ve healed her. He could’ve changed the timing. He could’ve done any number or things. It wasn’t for lack of people asking him to, it wasn’t for lack of her having the willingness to do whatever it took to live. I wondered what it all means anyway….Why pray. Why beg. Why even think that He does all things Good. Is it even true? Cause, to be honest, it didn’t feel like it. Still doesn’t sometimes. Still feels unfair, and unjust, and just plain crazy. I felt like I was shaky. That’s the best word to describe me. My foundation was still there…but I was shaky. I still knew and believed enough about who God says He is:  loving, good, wise, always for us…that I still ran to him, told him all these things, questioned him, cried to him. But I was shaky.

And then I wondered…what if its not all true? I’ve staked my life to this…and the only thing that brings comfort…is knowing that there is so much more than this life. That this mess here, this life…its just a wisp, a vapor. (James 4:14)  It comes and it goes in a short breeze…and then what’s waiting is where the real treasure is found. Even just one day there…is like 1,000 of our best days here. (Psalm 84:10)  HOPE is what I call it. Confident expectation. Except…the confident part…was less confident. And so I told God all that…that I want with everything in me for it to all be true…but how do I know? Like for sure know? And how do I come to terms with not understanding His ways and purposes, but trusting Him anyway?

That is scary to write. Chrisitans aren’t supposed to feel that way, right? We are supposed to have faith…not seeing but believing. Not knowing but trusting anyway. I could lie to you and tell you I’ve got so much faith, even though life is hard. That I know all this is good, and for the best. But what good would that do you or me? To lie? Cause I don’t feel like that. I have questions and doubts. I do know that my genuine heart knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me, and my heart loves Him in response…but it has battled big time to trust Him. That knowledge of love…at moments just doesn’t feel like enough to stop the doubts, the questions, the feeling of unfairness, the shaking. It doesn’t seem like enough to give me the kind of faith that is unwavering.

And then…after a few weeks of the battle, the back and forth with God, the fear that my lack of faith was causing me, the “I do believe. Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24…one of my all time favorite verses. It just describes me so well)…I was worshipping at church one day, and God pretty much declared this out loud to my heart… “I’M THE UNSHAKABLE ONE.”

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as I sang Hillsong’s annointed words:

“I have this hope

As an anchor for my soul

Through every storm

I will hold to You….

 

There is hope in the promise of the cross

You gave everything to save the world You love

And this hope is an anchor for my soul

Our God will stand

Unshakeable…

 

Your promise sure

You will not let go…

 

Your word unfailing

Your promise unshaken

All my hope is in You.”

its all I need to hear. God…is the unshakable one. Which means…i can be the shaky one. I can bring all of my shaking to him. All of my doubts. All of my questions. All of my wonderings. It will not move him. It will not cause him to be less than who he is. He…is…unshakable. I can waver…but He never will! I can be shakable…because HE is unshakable!

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i’ve often thought that having faith meant that you have no doubt that what you believe is true.  but maybe all this…is a more realistic picture of faith.  not just some blind trust, where there is an absence of feelings and questions and doubts.  but instead maybe its in the midst of the doubts and the questions,  just simply a deep knowing….that God is who He says He is, and He cannot be moved.  Unshakable.  that makes for a much more genuine relationship i think.  cause i get to be honest with Him about what i really am feeling, doubts and all, instead of pretending that i’m just all good, all full of faith, cause i think that’s what i’m supposed to be like.  cause if He’s unshakable, then i get to go to Him just as i am, without fear that He’s going to waver.

Maybe its all semantics…but its not. God knows. He created the human heart. He knows we cannot understand. All this…its just small glimpses. We are peering through a fog. One day the fog will be lifted. (1 Corinthians 13:12) But in the meantime, my shaky-ness…does not scare him. It does not disappoint him. It does not make him love me any less. No…not at all. It is an opportunity for him to remind me of WHO..HE..IS…THE UNSHAKABLE! THE STEADFAST. THE UNWAVERING.

The fog has been lifted for Anne now. “To die is gain” is the way Paul writes about it (Philippians 1:21). Anne has gained. I can barely imagine what that must be like. And one day I will gain too. And there will no longer be shaky-ness. But until that day, when the tremors come, I get to run to a God who is solid and firm and unshakable.

Anne’s death brought me to a newer place with God…that though “my flesh and my heart may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)  He doesn’t need me to be solid. He does not need my faith to be unshakable. He does not need my trust to be unwavering. He gets to be the strong one.

I think Anne knew all of that better than anyone.

 

 

7 Comments

Apr

13

Cooking Party

we threw Bella a Cooking Party for her 8th birthday last month, and i wanted to share the details with you, because it was a super simple party, that didn’t take too much prep, and the girls had a total blast!

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we started out with a homemade apron invitation, using card stock and ribbon:

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i kept the decor really simple:

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i bought inexpensive kid’s aprons and paper chef’s hats from Oriental Trading Company.  the aprons were made from pretty thin, white fabric, and a little too plain for my liking, so i added a little fabric pocket and some jumbo ric rac using some scraps i had, and attached it with Stitch Witchery, or iron on seam tape.  i then personalized each one using this felt monogramming technique.  (use caution when using an iron on these aprons.  thankfully i had a few extras, because i most definitely burned holes in a few of them!  make sure the iron does not come in direct contact with the apron, so use a cloth between the iron and the apron if you do attach fabric or felt.)  i also added some ric rac to the chef’s hats with some hot glue so it looked more like a matching set.

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they served as both decorations and party favors, and made the girls look so festive during the party!

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the first activity was to make some individual pizzas.  i used store bought dough and divided it up so each girl had their own dough to roll out:

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i set out a variety of toppings besides the basics of pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese (mini pepperonis, spinach, Parmesean Cheese, sausage, and broccoli):

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the girls used their hands and a few small rolling pins to roll their dough into any shape they wanted:DSC_0250 copy

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and then they topped their pizzas with as much toppings as they wanted:DSC_0273 copy

we baked each pizza on a piece of parchment paper with their name on it so they didn’t get mixed up, and added a little bit of cornmeal underneath the pizza, so they just slid off the paper after they were baked:DSC_0279 copy

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while we waited for the pizzas to cook, i set out bowls of strawberries, blueberries, and grapes, and the girls made fruit kabobs.  i let them cut off the stem of the strawberries with plastic knives:DSC_0286 copy

and they had fun arranging the fruit into different patterns:DSC_0290

after they had eaten their pizza and fruit, and after a little impromptu dance party broke out:

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we sent them outside for some piñata action.  because, according to an 8 year old, its not really a party without a piñata!

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while they were enjoying the piñata, i set up for the last of the cooking activities:  Cake Decorating:

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a few days before, i baked each girl a 3 tired, 6 inch cake, and froze them until the morning of the party (simpler than it looks.  keep reading.  i’ll show you how i did it).  you could also order small cakes from your local grocery store or bakery, but making them myself saved me a good chunk of money.

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i used these Wilton Easy Layers! 5-Piece Cake Pan Set, 6-Inch, but since using all 5 layers would’ve made the cakes too large for the girls, i instead used 3 layers per cake.  since i could bake 5 layers at a time, using just one store bought cake mix, this went fairly quickly.  and since the pans are small, making the layers the perfect height, i didn’t even have to cut the cake into layers, but could simply frost in between the layers and stack them up.  

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then the morning of the party, i pulled them out of the freezer and frosted them while frozen, eliminating crumbs in the frosting.  they sat at room temperature for a few hours and were perfectly defrosted in time for the cake decorating.

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then i let the girls decorate them however they wanted.  i used these plastic Wilton Squeeze Bottles, and filled each one with a different colored buttercream frosting that Bella and I made the morning of the party.  i used a simple buttercream recipe for all of the frosting (butter, powered sugar, and milk), and just made sure the consistency was not too stiff to make squeezing it out of the bottles difficult, but not too runny that it wouldn’t hold up on the cake.  using these bottles really prevented what could’ve been a huge frosting mess!
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the girls LOVED this part!  they traded around bottles of frosting and got right to work on their masterpieces:DSC_0400 copy

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i loved seeing each girl’s creativity on their individual cakes!DSC_0420 copy

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according to Bella, there’s apparently no such thing as too much buttercream, hence the double fisting!

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the girls were so proud of their cakes!

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instead of eating the cakes at the party, we boxed up each girl’s cake in an 8 inch cake box, using cake boxes like these: Cake Boxes White, 8 x 8 x 5 Inches, and let the girls take their cake home to show their families.  because…we had special cupcakes on hand as dessert…cupcakes that looked like each girl!

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 i was so excited about this element of the party.  my Sister in Law, who is an insanely talented Pastry Chef, recently opened her own business in Maryland, specializing in personalized cakes and cookies, and an assortment of many other treats.  so i commissioned her to help make my cupcake dreams a reality.  here’s how we did it:  i bought the actual cupcake at my local grocery store’s bakery, and asked them to flat frost them in a skin colored frosting.  then i sent my SIL a list of each girls’ traits:  eye color, hair length, texture, and color, and she made each individual piece, including the adorable chef’s hats.  she then shipped the pieces to me:

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and i assembled all of the cupcakes in about 3 minutes flat, Mr. Potato Head style…by just sticking each piece where they needed to go!  how brilliant is that?  here’s Bella:

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the girls absolutely loved this, and each girl was very quickly able to pick out which one they were:

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it amazed me how much the faces really did look like the girls!

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my SIL’s company is called Bake My Day, and she does everything from these kinds of personalized cupcake pieces, to birthday cakes (ridiculously tasty and amazingly decorated), to gorgeous wedding cakes, to the cutest sugar cookies you’ve ever seen.  and…as i showed you above, she ships lots of her creations!!  honestly, how amazing to get adorable, personalized cupcakes or cookies for your parties but not have to go through the pain of trying to create them yourselves.  on top of that, to get to work with someone like Melissa, who is so patient and just wants to create for you whatever you are dreaming up.  so if you are ever in need of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc. for your party, please go check her out.  they are currently in the process of getting their official website up and running, so in the meantime, you get info and see many of her creations here:  www.facebook.com/bakemydaymaryland and you can also email her directly at melissa@bakemydaymaryland.com.  and for a limited time, if you mention my blog, you get 10% off your order!  also, if you happen to be on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, stop in the shop at 415 S. Talbot Street in St. Michael’s, MD.  i’m constantly amazed by her talents, and i love watching her in action.  she has absolutely taught me some great tricks over the years!  i just wish she lived closer and we could play all the time!

after singing Happy Birthday and making wishes: (I’m guessing for a real Rainbow Unicorn.  its been the consistent wish for the last few years!):

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we capped off the party with some trampoline action, which became a heck of a lot more exciting when daddy jumped in too!DSC_0469 copy

this might go down in my books as one of my all time favorite parties.  the prep was super easy, the party itself flowed quickly, and the girls had a ball!

can’t believe my girl is 8.  lots of exciting things coming up for her this year…a new school, a new adventure of being on an All-Star cheerleading squad, lots of new tricks and flips and skills, another Nutcracker.  i’m absolutely loving this age, and just want to freeze her here!  so here’s to an amazing year of life, Bella Bug!

9 Comments

Mar

03

Baby Wise

Y’all ready for this? Dund dund dund…

do you remember that song from the 90′s…i think it was the Space Jam theme song.  I’m pretty sure I still remember every move of my 8th grade cheerleading dance to that song. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast today, but I could show you some pretty epic dance moves…which included the throwing out of a peace sign. I wish I was kidding…Funny how the brain works.

DSC_0118 go right ahead.  laugh away….

Anyway…today’s post is not about that. Its actually about a much more heated and controversial subject. Which is why i’m asking if you are ready?? I recently listened to a podcast from This American Life (i’m obsessed. There is no way around it. Serial changed me, and podcasts are my new BFF.) anyway…it was about “internet trolls” and how people are so bold (and nasty) on the internet….fascinating. I could throw my two cents into that subject matter, cause as a blogger, i’ve been on the receiving end of nasty more times than I’d like to count…spanning the issues of everything from my grammatically incorrect writing style, to my poor mothering because we have an EOTS, to my utter ignorance of how to correctly use elastic thread. There’s lots you could bash me for, for sure…and truth be told…I’m slightly afraid that this post will be added to that list.

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(Canaan)

but…I have been wanting to write about this subject for the longest time, because as with everything on this blog, I write about the things I love, the things that i’ve found to be so helpful personally, things I want you to be able to benefit from as well…and this…its basically changed our lives as parents.  so…i’m just gonna go for it….and write about Baby Wise. For those of you unfamiliar with Baby Wise, at a very basic level, its a sleep training technique that we used for all 3 of our kiddos.

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Its controversial, because, lets face it, all parenting techniques are controversial depending on who you talk to. Cause you’ve got a bunch of emotional and passionate mommas (and dads too), who have many different thoughts on the best way to raise children, and so when faced with the idea that their way may not be the exact way that everyone else does it, you might end up with all the makings for WWIII.

So even though I know this could stir some controversy, and some of you may already feel your blood boiling just at the mention of Baby Wise, my ultimate hope is that this will serve to be of massive encouragement to those of you who want more info on the subject. This isn’t one of those posts where i’m taking a stance, or pleading my case, or taking a side. I’m simply aiming to pass along some information that has been very valuable to my family, in hopes that it might be valuable to your’s too. So please. Let’s be kind. And I hope you read this knowing that you have FULL freedom and i’ll cheer you along the way to do whatever it is your heart feels right about doing for your own babies, Baby Wise or not. Amen.  i really really mean that.

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(Canaan and Bella)

So here’s the deal, just so you see it in writing:

I DON’T THINK THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO PARENT!!!

do you hear that? Honestly. I do not believe that in order to be a good parent then you have to adhere to the Baby Wise program, or that you even have to sleep train at all. If it floats your boat to cuddle and snuggle with your sweet child in your bed till they are 10 years old, nursing all along the way, more power to you. For real. That’s what’s so great about how God created us…we are all meant to be individuals, with different brains, and emotions, and passions…that’s a good thing. But Baby Wise…its just what happened to work for our family, and I would’ve given my right pinkie toe to have been able to read a real life momma’s account when I first started out. But i’m not writing about it because I think this is how everyone should parent.

Also…just so i’m on record…WE MOMMAS NEED TO BE KIND TO EACH OTHER!!

this is big y’all. Aren’t we hard enough on ourselves already as moms? We certainly don’t need to be hard on each other too.  I contemplated turning off the comments on this post, because somehow when you mention different parenting techniques, mommas get nasty. I’m telling you now…if there’s even a hint of nasty in a comment, I will remove it immediately and you will get a spanking :)  just kidding on the spanking part (talk about a controversial subject!) but I will remove it immediately. So…if you don’t have something nice to say, let’s just subscribe to the ol’ golden role, and don’t say anything at all. I am leaving comments open because I think blogs are a great forum to discuss subjects such as this, and seeing as I certainly don’t have this parenting thing in the bag, I would love to hear your thoughts, or your questions, or your encouragements, but I would love to hear them in a humble, non-judgmental manner. So go forth and comment, but BE FREAKIN’ NICE ABOUT IT!! thank you in advance.

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(Canaan)

Now that all that is clear, I find posts such as this to be so super valuable. I love to see how real mommas do the real things…like feeding and sleeping schedules and all things baby…so if you are preggo and wondering just how in the heck you are gonna care for your child…or if you are a sleep deprived momma and searching for something…anything….to give you some rest…or even just someone who knows someone who might benefit from reading about Baby Wise…this post is for you.  

Now…after doing Baby Wise with all 3 kiddos, it would seem logical that I would be an expert, right? Well, i’m not. Unfortunately. Shocker, I know. Don’t you wish things worked like that? So just know…if you want an expert, quit reading. But if you want a real-life, mistake making momma, read on, warriors! but also know…i am not a doctor, or a nutritionist, or a lactation consultant, or a baby expert.  i’m just a normal mom, who had normal, healthy, to-term babies, so use this as a guide only, but determine for yourself what is best for you and your baby.  I am going to give you specifics as it related to my own babies…times, schedules, etc. but please please know that every baby is different, and these are only meant to give you a picture of what this might look like in real life, and not meant to be a formula for your own child, or a means of comparison.

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so…here’s why we chose to do Baby Wise:

we had friends who had kids before us use this method…we watched it work successfully…so we read the book when I was preggo with Canaan, and we decided it would be a good method for our family. When Canaan was born, we were in full time youth ministry, so we had lots of events and meetings at night, and students at our house often. This meant two things…we needed to train our kids to have a consistent bedtime, and an easy and doable bedtime routine, and we needed to know that if we put them down to sleep in one place, but woke them up to transfer them home, that they would be able to go right back to sleep once home.

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(Canaan)

Once Baby Wise was established, it allowed us that flexibility, which has proven to be priceless, not only for their well-being, but for our jobs and lifestyle too.  It has also given us consistent and predicable time together at nights after bedtime for just us, so that our relationship and marriage and life did not end completely simply because kiddos entered the picture.

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The thing that caught my attention right away was the overarching theme of the book, and it’s this:  “Kids are to be a welcome addition to your family, but they are not to be the center of your family.”  that feels slightly unnatural, and had I not known, I would’ve revolved our entire world around my kids. However, not only have I come to believe that it is not good for my kids, it’s not good for me and Jake and our marriage either. I think one of the very best things that we can offer our kids, if its possible (I know sometimes its not) is for them to see our marriages as strong, healthy, and massively important to us.  I know that this takes a lot more than a simple sleep training technique to accomplish, but Baby Wise certainly helped us in that area, not only with a healthy mindset, but also with actual time together.

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I also think one of the best things we can offer our kids is to set ourselves up to be the best parents we can be. Which means, for me, that I need sleep. God knows how I tick, and I think He knows that I need to be well-rested in order to be the kind of momma He’s calling me to be. I know what kind of parent I am when i’m sleep deprived, and I know what kind of kids my kids are when they are sleep deprived…and not sleeping…its just plain ol’ HARD. And if you are like me, it makes you crazy. So establishing those sleeping patterns right off the bat has given us years of the kind of rest that our bodies and minds need. I’m not saying this is the same for everyone…but for me, that is the absolute truth. And not having to be up in the middle of the night for months or even years, was the right thing for me and my family, and Baby Wise was the method in which we were able to establish great sleeping patterns, that have benefitted my children (and me) since they were infants.

What this does NOT mean is that being a parent does not require loads and loads and loads and loads and loads and loads (you get the picture) of sacrifice and lots of succumbing to the needs of your children. I’m saying instead that I learned that there were loving ways to take care of my kids needs, while also protecting the needs of our marriage and life and overall well-being in general. I loved that concept.

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Since you can read the book and get all the in’s and out’s and specifics for yourself, i’m just gonna give you the absolute highlights that really helped us, and how we worked it in. if you have more specific questions, you can leave them in the comments and i’ll try really hard to answer them if I can. i’ll also give you our specific schedules, because I tend to think seeing exactly the way someone else does it is super helpful.  but please use our specifics as a guide and not as the rule.

Just to note: I don’t necessarily agree with everything written in the book, and I for sure would not have presented the information the same way as the authors. In my opinion, it tends to come off a little bit like they have it all figured out and this is a fool-proof method. I don’t think either of those are necessarily true. i hope you don’t read this post and think that we’ve got this whole parenting thing mastered and figured out.  nothing could be farther from the truth.

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Also, just for reference, I was very lax on the scheduling in the first few weeks, cause they are so little and there is so much adjustment going on. I don’t think I really started the actual sleep training with Canaan until he was around 4-6 weeks old, although I did start the 3 hour feeding schedule pretty early. I pretty much started at the beginning with the girls, cause it was familiar to me, but it was very loose still in the first few weeks, especially with the sleep. I mainly focused on the feeding schedule in the beginning.

Also…i nursed all three babies until they were 1 year old, so I will be referencing nursing, but you can totally insert bottle feeding/formula. The concept, etc is the exact same, although your timing and scheduling might be different depending on if your baby stays fuller longer on formula.

To set the stage, here is a quote from the book that I think will help in understanding the methods i’m going to describe below:

“Our conviction is that a baby should be fed when he or she signals readiness. With PDF {parent directed feeding, basically the Baby Wise method, as opposed to demand feeding, or feeding the baby when he cries, instead of at set scheduled times…you can read more about that in the book}, a mother feeds her baby when the baby is hungry, but she takes advantage of the first few weeks of life to guide the baby’s hunger patterns by a basic routine.”

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(Berkeley)

the things i’m going to describe that were the most helpful for us are the ways we guided our babies’ hunger patterns in the early days to set up a routine.

Here are my best, most important go-to tips in setting up a Baby Wise routine:

1) START YOUR FIRST FEEDING OF THE DAY AT THE SAME TIME EVERYDAY.

One of the most important things about Babywise for us was to start the first feeding of the day at the same time everyday. For us, it was 7:00 am. i chose 7:00 am because that made bedtime 7:00 pm and that was a good time for our family. This is where you can pick what time is best for you, because the rest of the day will fall into place according to that time. So I would work backwards, meaning…decide what time you want bedtime to be, and then adjust the first feeding accordingly (counting back 12 hours.) In fact, we pretty much stayed on that wake time and bed time schedule for many many years! In order to stay on schedule, that meant that some mornings I was waking my babies up to eat. And some mornings, they would wake early and I would do different things to make it closer to that 7:00 am feeding (more on that in a minute.) but eventually, all 3 of my babies would wake like clockwork at the time of the first feeding, ready to go.

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(Bella)

2) MAKE SURE YOUR BABY IS TAKING A FULL FEEDING AT EVERY FEEDING.

this is soo soo key. So for my breastfed kids, once we guided their hunger patterns to fall into a set routine, they were able to go 3 hours between feedings, so the 3 hour schedule (more on that later) was established pretty early on. But…the only reason they were able to establish that routine was because we worked HARD to give them full feedings at each feeding. Babies tend to snack if you let them. They will eat a little, fall asleep a little, and wake up not much later wanting to eat a little more, and the cycle repeats, resulting in almost round the clock nursing, and short, quick naps. (that falls more in line with on-demand feeding.) But if babies are able to get a full feeding before dozing off, their little bellies will be full enough to last until the next full feeding, which for my babies was 3 hours later (from the beginning of the first feeding to the beginning of the next feeding.)

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(Canaan)

but…this takes loads of work at first, because it is more common for babies to want to snack. It seems natural to let your baby eat and then fall asleep whenever they want. But for scheduling purposes, this is really hard, because what it trains the baby to do is to take small, snack-like feedings and short naps, waking up hungry every hour or so, and never quite rested and never quite full. But when a baby is trained to take full feedings at each feeding, they learn to eat until their bellies are truly full, instead of just quickly satisfied, and then they are able to sleep for much longer periods of time, actually getting fully rested. (to some degree, this is establishing your baby’s hunger patterns…training them to know when they are really full and when they are not, and how long they can go before they feel hungry again.) I hope that makes sense. Once I figured out this piece, it really did seem so logical and healthy to me. This is what I ultimately wanted for my babies…for them to be full and completely satisfied, so that they could also be fully rested. This is the crux of this whole thing…full feedings. And this really really helps the rest to fall into place more easily.

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(Berkeley)

This is not an easy task in the beginning, but its so worth it. The time it takes for a full feeding depends on the child. For my kids, who were pretty efficient nursers, 30 minutes was enough (15 minutes on each side), but please decide for your own child what is enough. For my babies, that meant that for a full 30 minutes…they were actually eating and sucking, not just sleeping in position. So as my baby would doze off, I would take all kinds of measures to keep them awake to continue eating. I would reposition them until they began eating again, I would gently stroke their cheek with a wet washcloth to wake them, I would change their diaper, I would take off their blanket, I would change their clothes, etc. whatever it took to wake them enough to get a full feeding each time…for my kids, at least 30 minutes of actual sucking and eating, which meant that in those beginning days, some feeding times were LOONG. This will feel like work, as I would often have to do each of those things at each feeding. But it is SOO short-lived, and will be worth every single amount of energy you put in now, because you are setting the stage for years and years of sleep habits that will benefit both you and your child.

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(Berkeley)

because…if your baby gets acquainted with taking full feedings, they will naturally fall into a very manageable schedule on their own, because their little metabolisms have been established to get hungry every 3 or so hours as opposed to every hour, etc, interrupting sleeping. Hope that makes sense.

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(Berkeley)

3) PUT BABY TO BED WHILE STILL AWAKE

I put my babies to bed for nap times and bedtimes when they were sleepy, but still awake. That means, if i wanted to rock them, I did so, but I generally didn’t rock them to sleep. So once they were in their cribs, they were able to fall asleep on their own, without my aid. The benefit to that is obvious…they didn’t need me to put them to actual sleep, and if they woke up in the middle of the night, as babies often do as they transition in and out of sleep cycles, they didn’t need me to put them back to sleep, but were able to happily fall asleep on their own again.  That became very normal to them, because they were used to being put to bed still awake.  that allowed me plenty of time during the day or right before bedtimes to rock, and cuddle, and sing, and read…but they just didn’t learn to need those things to actually fall asleep.

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(Berkeley)

In the beginning, my kids would fight this at times, so when my babies struggled, there were times when I would let them cry it out…we are believers in crying it out, but not excessively.  Meaning…i had to learn my babies’ cries. I knew the difference between a tired fuss, one where they were just trying to settle themselves to sleep, and a screaming cry, one where they needed to be comforted. I was fine to let them “cry it out” if it was a tired fuss, but when it became a screaming cry, I intervened. so if my babies needed some help to fall asleep, i helped them, especially in the beginning.  for example, Berkeley would often at a few months old be so sleepy but struggle when i put her down (she LOVED being held.)  so i would let her fuss for 5-10 minutes, then go in and comfort her, but put her back down awake again.  if she was still struggling after a while, i would again hold her and rock her for a bit and then try to put her down awake once again. But if she was really still struggling, even after a few attempts to cry it out, i would just go ahead and rock her to sleep and then put her down.  i just made sure i didn’t do that every time. It did not have a negative affect on the Baby Wise program if in the beginning I had to do that to get her adjusted to the schedule, because you are still making an effort to establish the sleeping patterns.

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(Berkeley)

it can be tedious in the beginning, and feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, but i PROMISE you will get there!  Nine weeks was around the time my babies began sleeping through the night, and i would say by 5 months, our entire daily schedule was a no-brainer, including easy nap times and bedtime, with hardly any struggle.  for some babies, its earlier.  Bella was a very easy baby and loved her sleep (she still does) so she was great with her naps much earlier.  but even for babies who liked to be held (Canaan and Berkeley) they were totally on schedule by 5 months with very little to no crying. And if there was crying at that point, then I knew something was out of the ordinary.

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(Bella)

4) EAT, WAKE, SLEEP CYCLE

The main component of the Babywise system is Eat, Wake, Sleep, in that order. (see schedule below) This pattern is used throughout the day to establish a consistent and predictable routine. Sticking to this schedule made my days so much easier with my babies.

I’ve already talked about the specifics on eating and taking full feedings, and on the napping, but let me say something about the wake time. This is hard to do. In the beginning, even a minute or two of wake time is working towards your goal, so don’t worry too much about not being able to keep your infant awake, especially after all the work it takes to just get a full feeding in. eventually, your baby will eat and be awake for longer periods of time. Just start off with the general concept, but know that the actual wake time will extend as they get older.

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(Berkeley)

SCHEDULES:

A few notes:

*feedings are scheduled from the START time of one feeding to the START time of the next

*all wake-times may be non-existent or very very short when a newborn

*feeding times take at least 30 minutes, if not more, especially in the beginning, so those wake times, although they look long, are not really long because you are feeding for a good portion of that.

BIRTH – 5 MONTHS-ISH:

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(Berkeley)

7:00 am: EAT THEN WAKE TIME

8:30-10:00 am: NAP

10:00 am: EAT THEN WAKE TIME

11:30-1:00 pm: NAP

1:00 pm: EAT THEN WAKE TIME

2:30 – 4:00 pm: NAP

4:00 pm: EAT THEN WAKE TIME

5:30-6:00/6:15 pm: NAP (this nap was usually shorter since it was before bed.  they would sometimes only sleep 30-45 minutes, or i would get them up a little early for bath, etc).

7:00 pm: EAT THEN BEDTIME (no wake time).

- i would usually bathe sometime after the 4:00 feeding, or before the 7:00 feeding.  so once i fed at 7:00, it was right to bed.

10:00/11:00 pm: DREAM FEED

i would wake them up to eat again and then put them right back to bed (called the “dream feed” cause they are pretty sleepy during this feeding since i was waking them.) i kept this feeding for a long time, about 5-6 months, mainly for my own milk supply.  but dropping it wasn’t a problem for my kids at that point. Once I did drop it, I pumped that feeding for a few months to build up my frozen milk supply so that I could leave bottles if I ever needed to go somewhere without the baby.

after the dream feed at 10 or 11, i would let them wake up on their own and feed them when they woke in the middle of the night.  For the “middle of the night” feedings, i would feed them and put them right back to bed. My babies slept in a cradle next to my bed until they were sleeping through the night (usually around 9 weeks) so if they woke to eat in the middle of the night, I would feed them right in my bed, and then burp, change a diaper, and put them right back down, with as little stimulation as possible. They usually went back to sleep with no issues.

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(Berkeley)

As newborns, my babies would generally wake up twice in the middle of the night to eat, usually around 1:00 am and 4:00 am (pretty close to the every 3 hours). I looked back at Berkeley’s schedule, and around 4-5 weeks old, she dropped down to only one feeding in the middle of the night, usually around 3:00 am. For the first few weeks of dropping a feeding, she would sometimes wake early, before 7:00 am, and I would do different things to try to stretch her to 7:00 am (i’ll talk about that in the next paragraph). By 9-10 weeks, all three of my kids dropped all middle of the night feedings, although I still kept the dream feed at 10/11:00 pm to ensure that they were still getting 6 feedings a day. Around that time is when we moved them out of the cradle in our room to their crib in the nursery.

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here’s a little tip to stay on the schedule with the first feeding starting at the same time each morning, even if your baby wakes earlier. As I said before, my goal was always to start the day with the first feeding at 7:00 am. so if my baby woke up before 6:00 am (for mine, it was usually around 5 or 5:30 am for the first few days of dropping a feeding, as they were still adjusting), i would usually try to let them cry just a little to see if they would fall back to sleep.  if they didn’t, i would get them up, nurse on one side only (so not really a full feeding…this is the only time I would purposefully let them snack) and put them right back to bed, treating it as a “middle of the night feeding” like I mentioned above. then i would wake them at 7:00 am and give them a full feeding then. (you may have a little less milk if you just fed on one side at 5:30 am, but just feed as best you can…i would still feed on both sides at 7:00 am, starting with the side that I didn’t feed on earlier, and I always had plenty of milk for them).

 berk

(Berkeley)

if they woke up after 6:00 am and wouldn’t go back to sleep, i would try to stretch them as close to 7 as possible before feeding, so we might play, or cuddle, etc until it was as close to 7:00 as I could make it. (a half hour on either end is okay) i know that might sound weird, but one of the most important things in Baby Wise to get your baby to adjust is to start your schedule at the same time everyday. This is also so short-lived, and before you know it, they will be waking you right on time!

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(Bella)

I used this same technique if my babies woke early out of their naps and couldn’t settle themselves back to sleep after a minute or two, except I wouldn’t do the “snack” feed, but just let them have wake time until it was time to feed again. The only time I would adjust that and feed earlier than scheduled was if they were showing signs of hunger, due to a growth spurt, etc. which does happen and which I will mention later on.

At around 5 or 6 months, we transitioned to an every 4 hour schedule, and the time it took to nurse was much shorter, and playtimes were more of actual playtimes:

5 MONTHS – A YEAR (OR MORE):

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(Canaan)

7:00 am: WAKE AND EAT, THEN PLAY

9-11:00 am: NAP

11:00 am: EAT THEN PLAY

1-3:00 pm: NAP

3:00 pm: EAT THEN PLAY

5:30 pm: NAP (30-45 minutes)

7:00 pm: EAT AND BEDTIME

as I slowly introduced solid food at 6 months, I would nurse at the times listed, but offer food after I nursed, beginning with once a day, and slowly transitioning to 3 solid meals a day too. As I weaned at a year, I first dropped the late-afternoon feeding, and only nursed at the three meals, and then slowly backed off each feeding, dropping the early afternoon feeding next, then the bedtime feeding, and eventually the morning feeding. That’s just the way I did it, but that could be done any number of ways.

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(Canaan)

As with any method, there’s lots that can and should be adjusted according to your child’s individual needs. There are also lots of things that I changed with subsequent children, as I learned what worked well and what didn’t. My poor Canaan…he was my guinea pig (as most firstborns are with lots of things.) but it seems as if he’s adjusted fine! And now we can tell him stories and laugh about how we were as young, first-time parents. I mean…i was 23 when I had him….23 and CLUELESS!

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so…WHAT I LEARNED ALONG THE WAY AND DID DIFFERENTLY WITH #2 AND #3:

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once the girls came along, and I had one kiddo under my belt, I was not so afraid that I was gonna mess it up, or that it wasn’t gonna work. I learned along the way…that it IS going to work. And even though consistency is key, I learned that I could be consistent but still be flexible.

so….here are a few things I did differently:

I was not such a slave to the clock. I’m telling you, with Canaan, I was to the MINUTE! Like…if the next feeding is supposed to be at 3:00 pm, but its 2:53 and baby woke up early and is hungry, i’d wait until 3:00 on the dot. However, I quickly learned that 30 minutes either way isn’t gonna mess it up, so if you need to feed 30 minutes early, do it! Or if your baby is taking a longer nap, you can give them an extra 30 minutes. Or if they are showing any signs of hunger, even if for no good reason, its okay to feed them!

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(Berkeley)

I went slower. Meaning, I worked on staying on schedule as best as I could, but I didn’t freak out when things had to be adjusted, or if the day wasn’t going according to plan. I was way more laid back with #2 and #3, cause I knew that some days i’d just need to survive, and not sticking to the exact schedule wasn’t gonna mess it all up. Also…i soaked in them just being babies, and wanting to sleep in my arms, and be rocked and cuddled. I tried to stay on schedule with feedings, but often times with naps, especially in the first few months, I didn’t let them cry it out much at all.

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(Bella)

I paid more attention. I was aware of growth spurts, and off days, and teething, and I adjusted as needed, adding in more feedings, more naps, etc. this is my biggest regret with Canaan. I was such a first time, nervous-nelly of a mom, and I needed a formula to follow cause I had no clue how to be a momma yet, so I followed our Baby Wise schedule to a T…but when he hit a growth spurt around 4 months, and would cry after his feedings, it never crossed my mind that he was still hungry (because I hadn’t really experienced growth spurts yet), and since he had just taken a full feeding according to my clock and schedule, I failed to see at first that what he really needed was more milk!

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(Canaan)

I think this is more related to being a first time mom and just simply still figuring it all out, and less related to Baby Wise, but sticking to my schedule at this time wasn’t what he needed during that growth spurt, and it took me a bit to see that.  Thankfully, we caught on that something wasn’t quite right, and with the help of our pediatrician, I learned to add in more feedings and did some bottle supplementing with frozen breast milk and even some formula for a few days to ensure he was getting enough. But if I had just kept going according to my schedule, without paying attention to his needs or the needs of my milk supply, it could’ve been bad. So although Baby Wise is wonderful, it should be used as a loose and adjustable formula, and should never take precedent over your individual baby’s needs, at any specific time. So pay attention.

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Along those lines, I paid more attention to the kind of crying too, like I mentioned before. If I could go back to Canaan as a baby, I would’ve let him cry it out less. I think I was so afraid of “getting it right” that I was terrified that I would mess it up if I didn’t do it all exactly right, cry it out and all. So looking back, I feel like I let him cry it out the most. Now that i’ve done it a few times, I know that the system works, and they are gonna eventually get it…so I was more quick with my girls to comfort them and not let them cry it out for too long.

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(Berkeley)

These are a few areas where we adjusted the book to our individual family, and took and used the concepts, as opposed to being hard and fast with the “rules.”

in conclusion, let me say this…my kiddos are big time stinkers. Every single one of them. Sweet Berkeley might even be leading the pack in stinker-ness these days. They are normal kids, precious and fun and full of life, but also full of sin and selfishness and entitlement. But…they are healthy, well adjusted, brilliantly smart, very social, average-sized, loving, caring, empathetic individuals, who as much as they try to convince us otherwise with some disrespect and disobedience, really do love us and trust us as their parents. We cuddle, and hug, and kiss, and physically show affection for one another daily, and tell each other we love each other multiple times everyday. We are a normal, loving family, and although we screw it all up to tarnation all the live long day, I genuinely do not believe for even a second that sleep training my kids, or letting them cry it out, has led them to be anything less than, well, normal! And i’d think by now, at ages 10, 7 and 18 months, we’d know otherwise. I’m also pretty sure i’ve got a slew of friends, who may not have necessarily used this same method, or even who agree with it, but who would still vouch for my kiddos well-beings, mentally, emotionally and physically.

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I know that this is not the right system for everyone. I also know that some people actually feel hatred towards Baby Wise, or sleep training methods in general. So even though the “haters gonna hate,” I really do hope you hear the heart and motive behind why we chose to sleep-train, and the benefits we’ve experienced from Baby Wise. I also know for sure that there are mommas out there like me, who are dying for some real life momma advice on sleep training. This is the kind of post that I wish I had come across when I was a first time momma. so I really hope and pray that for those of you in that boat, this is helpful and valuable information. I can only speak from my own personal experience, but I can tell you that we have loved the outcome of those early days of the hard work of sleep training through Baby Wise, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

alpinexmas15-23

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