Thursday, April 30, 2009

Creatures Great and Small

To culminate our March lion unit, I wanted to take the children to a local zoo to see a real lion. A zoo trip would also add variety to our study of birds this month, and our entire family enjoys outings that involve animals. Last Thursday, with Don having the week off from daytime work, it was the perfect opportunity to sing, "Daddy's taking us to the zoo..." as the four of us drove to Boston to visit Franklin Park Zoo.

The Lord blessed us with a sunny day (we had expected some rain) and free admission thanks to the pass from our local library. In spite of icy winds, we were able to enjoy several hours of siteseeing, covering the entire zoo without finding it to be too much or too little. Our first stop was a close encounter with an ostrich - one of the most distinct members of the bird family!

Soon we spotted one lion and two tigers (no bears, oh my). The lion was sleeping, as lions often do, but it was still exciting to see a real one before our eyes after learning so much about them. (And don't worry, this picture was taken with a zoom lens through a thick sheet of glass!)

We saw all kinds of interesting birds, from chickens and swans to condors, ibis, flamingos, and free-ranging peacocks. In the Bird's World building, we were dazzled by birds with brilliant colors, and amused by a duck that sounded just like a cat!

Thanks to the exhibits in the Tropical Forest, we also came face-to-face with a mandrill, a gorilla, a couple of silly monkeys!

I have been to about eight different zoos in recent years, yet each time I discover new creatures of which I had never heard. Observing the vast variety of nature is a powerful reminder to me of God's awesome creativity. What human could have conceived of feathers, fins, stripes, spots, and all of the amazing and amusing creatures that exist? From the mighty lion to the silly ostrich to the common sparrow, it took the wisdom and ingenuity of an Almighty Creator to make each one unique. What an awesome God we serve!

How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

Psalm 104:24

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Donny's Birth Story

With the busyness of this year and season, I have not devoted much thought to this pregnancy. Somehow the weeks have passed until now my due date is a mere six weeks away. As I begin to think ahead to the arrival of this little one, I am also reflecting back on my previous birth experiences. As any mother knows, the day my firstborn entered the world stands out vividly in my mind.

Donny was due on December 21st, 2004. My original due date had been the 12th, but my mid-pregnancy ultrasound indicated a later date, and the doctors told me to be prepared to go late because it was my first child. With those suggestions in mind, I expected to be in the hospital sometime around Christmas. In fact, on Thanksgiving all of my relatives made guesses about when the baby would be born, and several family members chose Christmas Day as the potential date.

But the second week of December, just a few days after I stopped working as a nanny, Don and I stayed up too late one night. Around 1 or 2am he suddenly became violently ill with some kind of stomach flu. I stayed up with him and tried to be helpful, but finally at 5:00am I decided that my very pregnant body needed to get some sleep. (Plus I really didn't want to catch whatever he had!)

I got up around 11:30am the next morning, December 11th. I was having some Braxton-Hicks contractions - at least that's what I assumed they were. It was only in the last three weeks of pregnancy that I had experienced any of these "practice" contractions, and at that they were nothing more than mild cramp-like feelings for about five minutes each day. These contractions continued throughout the day, so around 3 in the afternoon I started writing down how close they were, and they ranged from about four to ten minutes apart. I thought it was odd having so many Braxton-Hicks contractions in one day. This pain was more intense in my lower back, which I knew was a sign of early labor, but I didn't have any other symptoms to indicate that baby was near.

Don slept on the couch nearly all day. I tried to get some things done around the house, including scrubbing the bathroom, and even went to the store to get some gingerale and soup for my sick husband. Towards 6 or 7pm I noticed that I was really sleepy, and the contractions were still coming every five to ten minutes. I eventually tried to take a little nap on the couch, remembering that Braxton-Hicks contractions are supposed to go away when you change positions. Still the pains continued, so I didn't get much sleep.

At 8:50 I started timing the contractions with a stopwatch. They were only a few minutes apart and were getting more intense. I found myself getting on my hands and knees for each one to try to encourage the baby to turn over. (At the last prenatal visit, the doctor thought the baby might be head down, but face up, and rocking is supposed to help babies turn over.) Don woke up and I finally told him, "I might be in labor." In between contractions I tried to finish packing our hospital bag, but I found myself stopping very frequently.

After an hour of having contractions three minutes apart or less, I finally called my midwife and got ready to head to the hospital. Since Don was still sick and could hardly stand up, nevermind drive, I called my dad and step-mom and asked them to give us a ride. I also called my mom and step-dad, who had gone away for the weekend. They interrupted their weekend getaway to start the two hour drive to the hospital. Don and I sat in the backseat together, me bracing myself through each contraction while he tried not to get sick. And of course, when we got in the car my gas tank was on empty, so we had to stop and fill up first!

We arrived at the hospital at 11pm. On the way upstairs, I thoughtfully pointed out trash cans to Don in case he needed to throw up. Once I was checked into the waterbirthing room, they had me on the electronic fetal monitor for a while. I ended up being on it quite a bit actually, though I would have preferred not to be. Fortunately, my nurse was very kind and helpful the whole time. She and another nurse did internal exams and estimated that I was 4-5cm dilated. Shortly after that I was lying on the bed when my water broke - or more accurately, popped like a water balloon. What a strange feeling!

Since things were progressing slowly, I walked around the maternity ward a little, and told all my parents they could go home and get some sleep. I waited a while before getting into the waterbirthing tub because I had heard that getting in too soon could slow down labor. I finally did get into the tub; although the nurses still wanted to keep me on the monitor, they were able to do it underwater. I kept moving around in the tub trying to find a more comfortable position, but I never did. The water was uncomfortably hot, too, but the temperature needed to be that warm for the baby to be born in the water. I had no other other birth experiences to compare it to, but I thought I was definitely having "back labor."

Don slept the first half of the time I was in the tub, but my nurse and midwife were very helpful. I finally had them wake him up when the pain was getting unbearable and I needed someone to put pressure on my back. He did, and that helped a little bit. I was starting to worry that I was going to be all up all night with no sleep, and remember I had very little sleep the night before. The nurse reminded me that they could give me some pain medication if I wanted (I had said in the beginning that I didn't want anything) that might help me get some rest, but I still wanted to give myself and my baby a drug-free birth.

Finally, just when I thought I could not stand the pain anymore, I went into transition. I thought I had to go to the bathroom, but it turned out it was the baby coming! I got out of the tub for a few minutes, but got back in for the pushing. I was supposed to call my parents when I started pushing, but there was no time, and we were all in or around the tub, not near a phone! After a little while, my midwife was having a hard time finding the baby's heartbeat. I did a little more pushing, but he wasn't quite ready to come out yet. They decided I needed to get out of the tub, so I actually climbed over the high tub walls, with a baby's head practically poking out between my legs. I don't think I'll ever forget that feeling! I reached down to touch his head, and exclaimed, "It's all wrinkly!"

I got on the bed and in a push or two, my little man was here. They cut the cord and whisked him away immediately – I guess the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. Luckily "away" was just the other side of the room, but I couldn't see him at all. A crowd of NICU staff rushed in while I recovered on the bed, but thankfully, the baby was fine.

I got to hold my firstborn son a few minutes later, at 4:00 in the morning. The baby only weighed 5lbs. 5oz., so they were concerned about his body temperature and his blood sugar level. He ended up spending some time in the nursery because of that (while I got a little some sleep), and he received a couple sips of formula later on to help his blood sugar. I wasn't happy about either of those things, but otherwise, it was a positive birth experience. I was so glad I was able to do it all naturally and feel all the sensations of my baby making his entrance into the world.

I think the way God designed the female body - to conceive, carry a baby, give birth, and breastfeed – is one of the most amazing things in nature. He is an awesome God, and I am so thankful for the beautiful baby he blessed me with on December 12, 2004!

To read other blogger memories, visit Wednesday's Walk Down Memory Lane, and be sure to check back next Wednesday for Hayden's birth story!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sunny Day To Do List









This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Backyard Visitors

In lieu of a completely Wordless Wednesday, today's attempts to capture the great outdoors through a picture window will feature explanatory captions. Enjoy the little visit to our backyard!

Tufted titmice and chickadees are the most frequent visitors to our birdfeeder.

Mr. Cardinal thinks he owns the place. When he and his mate aren't pecking seeds off the ground, he likes to perch in the tree and "chip! chip!" at other birds.

We have seen lots of robins - up to five at a time - pacing the yard in search of something good to eat.

This bird is new. I think it's a song sparrow.

The pair of goldfinches are my favorite. They're so pretty!

And of course, not all of the visitors to our birdfeeder are birds! This chipmunk must have an extensive stash of seed by now, because he spends every afternoon tirelessly collecting it off the ground.

And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky."
So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.
And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:20-21

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blessed Work

First of all, I'm excited to be today's featured blogger on Lynnette Kraft's Getting to Know You event over at Dancing Barefoot on Weathered Ground. Welcome to everyone stopping by from Lynnette's! And for my regular readers, if you are looking for some other interesting blogs to read, be sure to check out the event every Monday and Friday to see what blogs Lynnette is featuring!

Our family also has some exciting news. Ever since we considered moving to Texas last summer, Don's resume has been posted online, although he has not been actively seeking a new day job. We bought our house in the town we wanted to live in, close to family and friends, knowing that the only drawback would be Don's hour long (longer with traffic!) commute across Massachusetts. Lately, he has been receiving lots of phone calls from recruiters who come across his resume online, but they are usually trying to fill contract or temporary positions that are just as far away. Since Don has been employed at a large software company for the past three years, he certainly would not consider leaving a steady job with excellent benefits for something temporary.

Then a couple weeks ago, he got a call about a job that sounded a bit more promising: a permanent, full-time position only half an hour away. Don went into the interview knowing that the company would have to make a good (translation: much higher paying) offer in order to make it worth leaving his current position. And less than two weeks later, that is exactly what happenned! After lots of prayer and mathmatical calculations, he decided to accept the new position that will cut his commute in half and greatly increase the time he spends at home.

As the sole wage earner in our family, has been coaching gymnastics five nights a week in order to make enough money for us to own our home, which has resulted in him being out of the house for about 14 hours every weekday. At this new job, even after deducting the increased cost of medical insurance, he will make enough money to comfortably support our family with just one job, which means he will no longer have to work nights. He keeps telling everyone that now he will be able to have dinner with his family every night - something that, because he has worked nights for much of our marriage, has never been the norm in our family. What a wonderful blessing for him to have more time with the family just as our family is about to grow!

And since he left his former day job and has a couple weeks before the new one starts, he is on a sort of vacation for a little while, which is another praise! With everything we want to accomplish around the house, having him home for more than a few weekend hours will be very beneficial. The boys love being able to spend extra time with Daddy, too. If you don't see many posts from me in the next few weeks, it's either because I'm busy spending time with my sweet husband...or because he is hogging my computer! :)

I know that God's hand has been in this, because everything seems to have fallen into place with no effort on our part. Even though Don was getting increasingly frustrated with his job, we were not seeking a new one, and yet God has handed him not only a source of income in these times when many are out of work, but an even better job that will make life more comfortable. His real dream, of course, is to own a gymnastics facility so that he can do what he loves, make a comfortable income, and spend lots of time with the family. But since we do not yet have the money to start or purchase a gym, this new job seems to be a step in the right direction: closer to home.

I am very, very blessed to have a hardworking husband who responsibly supports our family even when the work is frustrating, demanding, and difficult. Please keep him in prayer as he prepares to start a new job in a new place, and pray for me to be a fitting helper, encouraging him and helping him to succeed in every endeavor. Just as the husband in Proverbs 31 is respected at the city gates, I pray that my husband would likewise be respected for his integrity wherever he goes, and that my own character and works would add to the respect others have for him. I do not envy his responsibility to financially support our family and to be our spiritual leader. Instead, I thank the Lord for the great privilege and responsibility of being a helper to the husband He has given me. Whether I am packing his lunch, keeping his work clothes clean, teaching his children to respect their daddy, or overlooking an annoyance for the sake of harmony at home, I know that my role is important to my husband's success. May God give me encouraging words and a servant's heart to build up my husband as he moves into the next stage of his career!

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

Proverbs 31:10-11

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Divine Nature Discoveries

I noticed the first signs of spring a few weeks ago, the first time I stepped outside to begin my lawn raking project. And a project it is; the former home owners moved out last October, and we moved in just after the snow started falling in December, so the yard was never raked through the fall months. Thankfully we only have a small patch of grass, which covers the space between the front of our home and the street, but it will still take me a while to find what is left beneath the debris. After spending an hour raking and carting away leaves from an area the size of a parking space, I concluded that if I work on it every nice day, I may finish cleaning up the front lawn by the time the baby is born.

Anyway, it was exciting to find, nestled among the dead leaves and pine needles beside our driveway, some completely random flowers! In fact, I keep noticing green things sprouting up in all different places where I do not expect them. Apparently at some point in time, this house had a nicely landscaped exterior. I thank whoever it was who planted those bulbs for bringing a little early spring joy to my family...and of course the Creator, who has given us the brilliant colors of spring and the freshness of new life to remind us of His breathtaking glory.

The crocuses and jonquils were not our only outdoor discovery. In the midst of the last autumn's crumbling leftovers, Donny spotted this bright green leaf...with legs!

And underneath one of the wet leaf piles I raked up, the boys found "Wormy." They were very interested in the slimy creature that day. The next time they found him (or more accurately, "it," since earthworms are hermaphrodites), Donny remembered the theory that if you cut a worm in half, both halves will live. (Later I did some quick research on this, and learned that it is not exactly true; some species of worms will regenerate lost parts, but the severed part normally dies.) From across the yard, I heard Donny - with chopping stick in hand - exclaim excitedly, "Mumma, we're making more worms!"

Speaking of sticks, our little yard is full of them. Last winter's ice storm rained down a selection of everything from large branches to tiny twigs. Donny has already lost his stick privileges a few times due to close encounters with his brother's face while Donny was off in his imaginary world, oblivious to whom he might be poking with the branch in his hand. However, the mere fact that we have an abundance of sticks at our disposal is exciting, for half a year ago, sticks were a rare commodity. Because there were no woods or mature trees near our landscaped apartment community, it was rare to find a stick anywhere on the property. The boys sometimes brought sticks home from Grandpa's house, stashing them behind the bushes outside to use as digging tools until they were lost or broken. Now in our new home, we have been having campfires with the fallen branches from our yard, and even our pool is full of sticks from the many surrounding trees!

Since hanging our birdfeeder, we have noticed an adundance of wildlife, too. Chickadees, tufted titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, juncos, and goldfinches come to eat the sunflower seeds and millet in our feeder. So do two pesky gray squirrels and one bold chipmunk, and there is a red squirrel who prances in the trees nearby. We have also observed robins on the ground, crows cawing from the tree tops, and some sort of large beetles crawling on tree trunks and house (yuck). Today I even noticed what appears to be a small bird nest tucked beneath the overhang by our door. How perfectly fitting for our study of birds! It really is amazing to see so many living things just in our own little yard.

Seeing all this, I wonder how anyone can doubt the Creation. How could purple crocuses spring up through dead leaves, and goldfinches chirp alongside red cardinals on a tree branch, and bugs that look just like leaves creep along, just by chance? There is an order and harmony and beauty to nature that bears obvious testimony to the One who created it. Spring is such a colorful reminder that everything we see is part of our Creator's purpose and design. And while I may wonder why He declared ants and flies and mosquitos necessary for the world's survival, it is not for me to question such an intricately designed universe. All I can do is praise Him for allowing me to see His Almighty hand in every flower, every bird, and even every bug...may others delight in the same revelation!

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Signs of Spring

See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring Celebrations and Easter Reflections

On Thursday, the children and I baked our own matzah to celebrate Passover in our own small way. We ate the unleavened bread, drank grape juice, and read the stories of the first Passover as well as the Passover Jesus celebrated with His disciples, the one we know as the Last Supper. (Incidentally, Biblical Holidays is a great resource for Christians who are interested in the reasons for and ways to celebrate traditional holidays such as Passover.) Next year, I hope perhaps to have an actual Passover seder that focuses on God's promises and the life of Christ.

On Friday, we made edible birds' nests, including a chocolate free version for Hayden, to tie into our study of backyard birds. The messy project resulted in a fun dessert that will be perfect to share with family after Easter dinner on Sunday. Yet I am hesitant to call it an Easter dessert, because something in me always feels a little uncomfortable about anything that equates Easter with spring. It is much the same feeling I have about Santa and reindeer dominating the holiday called CHRISTmas. Is the day really about Christ, or something else?

It wouldn't be so bad if the holidays were on different days, or at least had different names. But if we as Christians declare a day sacred to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, how can we then embrace the American holiday of the same name that celebrates a magical, egg-hiding bunny?

The day of Christ's resurrection had nothing to do with bunnies and chicks or pastels and jelly beans. A day worth celebrating? Absolutely, for it was that morning on which the course of history was changed. Sinful man was given a chance at redemption. Mercy and grace were poured out by a loving heavenly Father. And with His return to life, the Son proved the validity of His claims to deity, as he stood triumphant over death and destruction. Certainly, we have cause for celebration.

Yet somewhere in time, our so-called Easter celebrations started to focus on the season of spring. Between choruses of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," families are dying eggs, hunting for treasures, and filling baskets with goodies. (If you like hunting for Easter eggs, I suggest learning about finding the Afikoman during Passover, a tradition that reminds us of Christ!) Traditions, old and new, can provide opportunities for families to spend time together and make fun memories for our children, but they can never take the place of true worship. Too often, they take the focus away from the supposed reason for the holiday. I do not want to claim a holiday as religious if the thoughts of food and festivities are so consuming that Jesus, the Son of God Himself, becomes an afterthought.

If Easter is about celebrating spring and new life, then bunnies and eggs are appropriate, but our celebration mimics that of the pagans. If Easter is about Christ, I want it to be about Christ. If He is all, then nothing more is needed. I do not need chocolate bunnies or even substitutes that trivialize the significance of the old rugged cross. I do not need to see someone dressed in a rabbit suit as a rival for my attention. I do not need to dine on the traditional ham that Jesus, being Jewish, would never have eaten. I need only to know that my Savior is risen.

And not just on Easter or Passover or Sunday, but every day, I must hold that event precious in my heart. The hope of new life is not found in an egg; it is found in an empty tomb. Christ's resurrection gives my life meaning, for through His sacrifice I can have eternal life with Him. How can baskets of bunnies and colorful eggs compare to that glorious hope?

Whether you celebrate Christian Easter, American Easter, Passover, or consider each day alike, I hope you will join me in reflecting on the death and resurrection of our Savior. Jesus has risen from the dead, just as He promised He would. May we all rejoice that our God is forever alive!

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." - Matthew 28:5-6a

Friday, April 10, 2009

100 Posts

Believe it or not, this is my 100th post here on Lambs in His Arms. To commemorate the occasion, I thought I would share 100 random things which you may or may not know about me. Thank you for reading along, and I hope you enjoy getting to know me a little more!

1. My real name is Amanda
2. ...but I much prefer to be called Manda. I have never liked pointy A's.
3. The "All About Me" book I made in preschool says "My name is AMANDY."
4. My sister is also named Amanda.
5. No, my parents aren't crazy. Amanda Rae is my stepsister. I have a sister and a stepbrother too.
6. I have never had a dog or cat.
7. I have lived with cats though. I'm not a fan.
8. I have two boys, Donny and Hayden, and a baby girl due in June.
9. When I was pregnant with Donny, I craved baked goods, especially muffins from the supermarket bakery. Mmm, carrot cake.
10. Donny LOVES muffins.
11. I ate ice cream every night when I was pregnant with Hayden.
12. Hayden is allergic to milk, so he has never tried ice cream.
13. While nursing him, I could not eat ice cream either...or any of the many other foods he is allergic to.
14. I picked out Hayden's name. It is still my favorite boy name.
15. Donny has the same name as his daddy and grandfather.
16. I once considered having 10 children and giving them all J names. Years later, the Duggars became famous for having 18 children...and all of their names start with J.
17. Don and I really hope to be blessed with lots of children.
18. We would love to adopt children in the future if God leads
19. ...and we will welcome as many biological children as God gives us. :)
20. Being a stay at home mom is my dream job.
21. In fact, I was distressed on high school career day because homemaker, housewife, and mom were not considered legitimate careers.
22. I am one of the youngest moms I know.
23. I am not an athletic or adventurous person.
24. I have never gone skiing, and do not intend to.
25. I have never broken a bone. See #23 and 24.
30. My favorite fruits are red/pink (apples, watermelon, cherries, strawberries...)
31. ...and my favorite vegetables are orange (carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, and orange peppers).
32. I don't drink coffee or alcohol because I don't like them, and have no desire to acquire a taste for them.
33. Homemade oatmeal with cooked apples is one of my favorite foods.
34. I prefer pretty much anything homemade, since I can make it the way I like.
35. I bake bread every week.
36. I like my food cooked. Cereal, salads, and sandwiches do not appeal to me.
37. I find it challenging to feed four people with very different tastes and dietary restrictions.
38. Music affects my mood, so I prefer to listen to hymns or praise songs, if anything.
39. Snuggling with my husband is pretty much my favorite thing on earth to do.
40. My favorite book of the Bible is Psalms.
41. I also love Ruth, Isaiah, and pretty much all of the New Testament letters.
42. I started memorizing Ephesians last year, but gave up in the second chapter.
43. I really should work on memorizing more Scripture; I was blessed by what I did learn
44., memorization is easier for me than for many people.
45. I think that's why I did well in school. I always got A's.
46. I went to public school for 12 years.
47. I plan to homeschool my children for about 18 years. ;)
48. I went to college for Early Childhood Education.
49. I'm glad I have an Associate's Degree, and didn't waste more time and money on education I didn't need.
50. My favorite color is green. I also love royal blue.
51. I love long showers, freshly washed sheets, and clean floors - pretty much anything that feels clean.
52. My hand, feet, and nose always feel cold to other people.
53. I love having green eyes with dark hair, since it's not very common.
54. I wonder how many of our children will have curly red hair like my husband.
55. So far, Hayden looks mostly looks like me.
56. Donny looks like Donny. I think he's a fair mix of Don and me.
57. I am not tall, and people usually gasp over how little I weigh in pounds.
58. Apparently I don't have much muscle. Muscle is heavy.
59. My husband has more than enough muscles for both of us. <3
60. But when I'm done being pregnant, I hope to start exercising again.
61. I love the miracle of the conception-to-birth process!
62. God has blessed me with fairly easy pregnancies.
63. In fact, pregnancy is the only time that I don't have frequent migraines.
64. I am not sure what causes this apparent correlation.
65. I am right handed.
66. I only talk on the phone with my left ear.
67. And the year I did gymnastics, I was a lefty gymnast.
68. My husband is an amazing gymnast.
69. We went to the same high school.
70. ...But we met at church.
71. I thought he was kind of geeky.
72. He is. He fixes all of our computer problems. :)
73. And he's good at so many other things too. I am very blessed!
74. I was baptized as an infant, and by my choice at age 9.
75. I didn't live as a Christian in high school.
76. I am eternally thankful that the Lord drew me back to his side!
77. In college, I volunteered a little bit at a crisis pregnancy center.
78. I love babies.
79. When I worked in childcare, I was an infant teacher.
80. I loved taking care of the babies there, but I would never want to put my own child in a center.
81. I believe breastfeeding is the best and most natural way to feed a baby.
82. I wear my babies a lot when they are small. It's like hands-free snuggling. :)
83. I wish more people would embrace children as the precious gift from God that they are.
84. I do not find parenting or marriage easy; I believe both are for my sanctification.
85. I was an avid reader as a child and preteen.
86. Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and Laura Ingalls Wilder were my favorite authors.
87. I think I owned all of the books written by the above authors as part of my large collection.
88. The said collection has been thinned through several moves. Frequent moving is a great way to part with unnecessary possessions.
89. I am a former packrat who now hates clutter passionately. I started anti-clutter nesting while pregnant with Hayden, and it never went away.
90. I don't read many books anymore, and never fiction.
91. I do like to read how-to type books (how to garden, Christian parenting books, etc.) occasionally, but more to gain knowledge than to enjoy the process of reading.
92. I would love to have a vegetable garden someday, and hope to start a little this year.
93. I also wish I enjoyed sewing...I would make so many cool things.
94. I love having friends and family over to visit.
95. I love having a clean house. It's so much more peaceful.
96. I try to eat well by day, but I must have dessert every night.
97. Dark chocolate is far superior to milk chocolate, and dark chocolate with nuts is even better.
98. In elementary school, I wanted to be a famous author when I grew up.
99. I put writing aside for many years. Then I discovered blogging, and here I am.
100. I am thankful for all of my dear readers who took the time to read this. May God bless you!

The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Job 33:4

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Homeschool For the Birds

A couple months ago, Donny found Backyard Bird Watching for Kids on our bookshelf and wanted me to read it with him. He was fascinated by the information and continued to choose it for his pre-nap book every day, reading one chapter at a time, until we finally completed it. Now that spring is here, I wanted to use this interest to introduce a unit study of backyard birds. Read on for my list of bird-related activities that the children and I will be doing together this month.

- Genesis 1 - God created the birds of the air
- Genesis 8 - Noah sent out a raven and a dove
- 1 Kings 17 - God used ravens to provide food for Elijah
- Psalm 8 - praise of God, who put man in charge of the birds
- Psalm 50:11 - God knows every bird
- Matthew 6:26 - God provides for us just like he takes care of the birds

Books (a few of them, anyway):
- Backyard Bird Watching for Kids: How to Attract, Feed, and Provide Homes for Birds nonfiction by George Harrison
- Birds by Kevin Henkes
- The Happy Egg by Ruth Krauss
- Today at the Bluebird Cafe: A Branchful of Birds poetry by Deborah Ruddell
- Birdsongs: A Backwards Counting Book by Betsy Franco
- What Makes a Bird a Bird? by May Garelick
- Everything Bird: What Kids Really Want to Know about Birds
nonfiction by Cherie Winner

- practice writing letter B
- practice pronouncing and spelling "bird"
- talk to friends and relatives about the types of birds at their birdfeeders
- learn songs or poems about birds
- Donny and I are also working our way through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Arts and crafts:
- create a milk jug bird feeder and hang in backyard
-build a bird house (probably a pretend one out of cardboard)
- make birds' nests treats with chow mein noodles, chocolate, and Peeps
- take pictures of backyard birds
- make a bird beak pop-up card

- read about characteristics of birds
- identify birds we see and observe their behavior
- listen to recordings of bird sounds (we found at a book/CD set called Know Your Bird Sounds at the library)

- interpret a chart of birds' favorite foods (in the Backyard Bird Watching for Kids book)
- count birds at the bird feeder
- create a chart to record birds we see

Other Possible Activities:
- watch Reading Rainbow: Birds of a Feather DVD from the library
- visit a local zoo or bird sanctuary to observe a variety of birds

Although we had the joy of watching a robin family outside of our apartment window last summer, it is even more fun to have our own yard so that we can hang a birdfeeder and see who comes to visit. The boys and I have already learned to identify some of the birds in our area, and we are discovering birds we never noticed before right outside our door. I am excited to continue our study of these friendly feathered creatures!

I know every bird in the mountains,
and the creatures of the field are mine.

Psalm 50:11

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pregnancy Update: 30 Weeks

I am 30 weeks pregnant today, and I am starting to feel it.

Apparently the nesting instinct has set in, because there are suddenly several dozen projects that I want to accomplish before baby comes. The list includes organizing baby clothes, spring cleaning the house, raking the yard, starting a garden, researching and purchasing new cloth diapers, and weeding out last year's unnecessary documents from the filing cabinet. And of course, this is in addition to my regular chores, caring for children and husband, and the occasionally necessary nap. The odds of being able to complete even half of my goals seems to diminish as my belly grows larger, my energy level grows smaller, and my due date grows closer. Coupling these factors with the spring weather that has finally arrived, you can expect to see fewer blog posts from me in the next ten weeks, as I prepare my home, mind, and body for our new addition!

My varicose veins seem to be under control for now, as long as I consistently sleep with my feet on a pillow, wear support stockings throughout my waking hours, and avoid activities that trigger pain. While my legs are still unsightly, and I am starting to hope that I will never be pregnant in summer (a bathing suit is definitely not a possibility right now!), I am thankful that I have not been in too much pain.

Meanwhile, I am beginning to feel uncomfortably large. My belly feels stretched and tight, and sometimes my back hurts. In fact, right now I am leaning against a warm rice pillow, enjoying the pleasant heat. This rice pillow is one of the most useful things I have ever sewn, and so easy too: just stitch two squares of fabric together on three sides (you could use a machine, but I did it by hand), fill with uncooked white rice, and sew shut. Then microwave the whole thing for two minutes, and you have an instant heat pack to relieve sore muscles. I use it for backaches and headaches, and it was wonderful for early labor contractions when I was pregnant with Hayden. You can make rice pillows in whatever size and shape you wish (long thin neck pillows are easy, and make nice gifts) fact, you may want to make more than one, because if you are like me, you will find that your whole body wants to enjoy the comforting warmth!

Speaking of warmth, there is a cozy bed with pillows and blankets calling me to come rest before I start my busy day of cleaning tomorrow, so I think I will head there soon. As I drift off to sleep (filled with vivid dreams, no doubt, as my sleep generally is while pregnant), and feel the exciting movements of a baby who wakes up whenever I stay still, I will be meditating on some comforting verses from Matthew 11:28-29. I love the way the Amplified Bible explains it:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]
Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

I do not have to be overwhelmed with a long to-do list or my lack of energy to accomplish it all. I do not need to give up in despair when I inevitably fail. The King of Kings has called me to His side, and there I find refreshment. While pregnant, my body may require extra sleep, but even more important is this rest for my soul.

The comfort that I find in Christ goes far beyond the physical. He must be my all, for there is my relief from the burdens of this world, my gentle instruction, my blessed quiet and ease in the midst of noise and pain. I am so thankful for the precious new life growing inside of me, but more thankful still for my precious Savior, through whom we can have life eternal!