March 31, 2013

Happy Easter 2013!

Lord Jesus, we celebrate not only your Resurrection over 2,000 years ago - but we celebrate that You resurrect hearts and lives today so that we may know YOU personally! We praise Your name this Easter!

March 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Kay Kay!

We had a wonderful time as a family celebrating my sister Alyssa's birthday! She is better known as "Kay Kay" (her middle name is Kay) around here. :)

My mom always does the best job of picking out our birthday cakes. But of course all the girls in our family are pretty easy - Disney Princess always covers it. Haha!

Singing to Kay Kay!

Sweet Leeler - he found a Bible and kept saying "Bobble! Papa? Chuch. Bobble!" (Bible, Papa, Church) - haha! It was so precious! I love my sweet boy so, so much.

Happy Birthday, Kay Kay! We love you!

March 25, 2013

Lynley's Family Shower

On Kurt's side of the family, we're definitely in a season of having babies! When I was pregnant with Evy, we started the tradition of getting Kurt's family all together (along with some friends in that area) and having a couples/family get-together to celebrate a new baby coming. I love it because everyone gets the chance to fellowship and it's small and low-key. Here's a picture from the very first Lancaster Family Shower when I was expecting Evy!

Since then, we've celebrated several more babies and it's always so fun to see how our family is changing. This time around, my sister-in-law Jennifer (she's married to Kurt's twin brother, Kelly) and I are pregnant at the same time, so Kurt's mom and the other ladies in the family put together a joint shower! It was so much fun!

The adorable diaper cake. My favorite part was that they used Evy's tutu from when she was just a few weeks old!

A little fairy was there to make sure everything was in order. You'll notice that Liam was too busy for pictures. He LOVES his boy cousins and they were running around the house like crazy. You'll see in a minute that it was almost impossible to corral him for a picture!

Celebrating Abby and Lynley!

I thought I got another picture of the table, but there were two cakes, one with each baby's monogram!

Cousin craziness! Our little friend Bailey was also there (in the cute patterned pants).

Every time Liam would race by me I would say, "Liam! Buddy! I need a picture with you!" but to no avail. This is the one time he paused and "smiled" so I could snap his picture - ha!

He also made one pit stop to check in on the gifts. :)

It was so funny - the girls all stuck near the gift-opening and the men/boys were all too distracted talking and playing that they didn't even KNOW we were opening gifts!

Speaking of, we still have everything from when Evy was born, so there was nothing we were needing. It was so sweet because we got a few special "new" things for Lynley from our family and friends. Kurt's parents also gave us a new diaper bag - I love it so much!

Finally, a picture with my two babies! As you can see, Liam just wanted to get back to playing with his buddies!

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I don't have any "belly shots" with this pregnancy (I barely took them with Evy) but that's okay. I've realized that you blog so differently with your first pregnancy/first baby because you just have TIME on your hands. I think every mother deals with the struggle of not "documenting" enough with subsequent babies. But of course that doesn't mean I love or adore my second, third, etc. children ANY less! Please tell me other moms relate?! Anyway, here we are with baby Lynley (I was almost 29 weeks in this picture)!

We could never express enough thanks for all that Kurt's parents (and my parents, and all of our family) do for us and how much they love our family. But all that they've done for us aside, I am so thankful for the close relationships that I have within Kurt's family (and of course within my own). I love spending time with them and I am so blessed to have married into such a wonderful family!

March 24, 2013

Goodbye, Google Reader!

Because my life isn't about to change enough in the next few weeks, Google decided to join in the fun by announcing that Google Reader will become extinct in July. SO, I've noticed that a lot of blogs I follow are making the switch to BlogLovin', and I hope you'll follow me there! This is the "reader" I'm going to use, at least for now. I like it so far, so we'll see how it goes!
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

March 21, 2013

Advice for Parenting Toddlers

Leslie is hosting a series over at her blog to celebrate her sweet daughter, Emma Ramey's, first birthday! Below is the post I wrote for the series. I really encourage you to go over to her blog and read what the other contributor's had to say - there are so many good takeaways for parenting these precious little people!

As I was thinking about what to write for this guest post, I realized it could go a MILLION directions. How do you even encapsulate in words what it means to be a parent, specifically a parent to a toddler? Honestly, the first word that comes to my mind is AMAZING. I like that word because it can be used to describe the myriad of emotions you feel while parenting a little person that is truly coming into their own self. 

I have two toddlers. Well, I'm not sure if my daughter, Evy (who is 4) counts as a toddler, but I'm definitely including her in this category for right now. :) Evy was my easy, compliant infant who actually breezed past the age of 2 with nothing "terrible" to report. The age of 3 became more challenging, but we've really seen her assert herself the most now at age 4. So I kind of feel like with her, it has been a delayed "toddlerhood," in the sense of navigating some difficult (but very typical) toddler moments. We adopted our son Liam from South Korea when he was 14 months old, and he is now 2.5 years old. This has DEFINITELY shaped who I am as a parent and how I view these years. Liam would be considered more strong-willed, and we know that he's been this way from birth in talking with his foster family. He just has strong little opinions (again, very typical) and that's not a bad thing!! He is absolutely the sweetest baby boy, and there are so many layers to who he is that we're trying to still figure out. I feel like adopted or not, you're ALWAYS trying to figure out how your baby is wired. God makes every single little person so differently and it's fascinating to see that play out. Evy's moods and "hard stuff" happen in episodes, and Liam's personality is more of an ongoing thing to navigate. I DO NOT mean he's more challenging, but we're just used to dealing with smaller moments day to day with him, while Evy has more sporadic meltdowns, if that makes sense. I've learned so much in having two kids, and I'm thankful for that gift. It's a constant reminder that what works for one baby DOES NOT work for another! They are both such treasures to me and my husband Kurt - we adore them!! I am pregnant with our third child, Lynley, and she will be born sometime in May. I really, really can't believe I'm about to turn 28 and I'll soon have 3 children. I LOVE IT! 

I love lists, so I decided to organize my post as one. I AM NOT an expert (I will never claim to truly have a handle on ANYTHING), but I can only write from my experience in loving and trying to shape these little souls. 

You must have equal parts of structure AND nurture. I think a lot of parents (myself included) tend to be on a teeter-totter going between high structure (needing a schedule, predictability, and very clear behavioral boundaries and rules) or high nurture (very psychologically focused, touching/hugging, making decisions situationally). The BEST thing in the world is when you can level out and match both of these things equally. Kids love and REQUIRE nurture, but they also thrive within structure, and vice versa. Just like adults! 

Don't Over-Analyze and Relax. Once you find a system, mindset, or whatever that works for you - chill out and go with it. There will ALWAYS be someone (probably lots of someones) that disagree or think differently. Always be willing to absorb and think about new ways of doing things, but I kind of feel like there's just WAY too much anxiety in parenting lately (and I'm absolutely guilty of having my moments). Yes, kids are impressionable and we need to be intentional with what we do, but overall, they're just kids. Watching a little too much TV (by the "experts'" standards) or having Goldfish instead of vegan-whatever is NOT WORTH THE ANXIETY.

Phases Will Happen - Ride It Out. Some phases are so much fun I NEVER want them to end. For instance, Evy is absolutely obsessed right now with the movie "Brave" and Princess Merida. She wears her Merida dress every day, but the best part? The Merida wig. It's this mullet-shaped, BRIGHT red wig full of curls and Evy wears it day in and day out. You just HAVE to smile when you see her, and I think it's the most awesome phase ever. On the other end of things, she went through a phase of INTENSE separation anxiety just recently at age 4. There were times when we HAD to push through and be gone from her (meetings, etc.) but there were also times when I brought her with me to things because I knew it would just help her little heart. We just kind of grabbed a surfboard and rode the waves until it passed (which it did after a couple of months). I think just using your instincts to take one day at a time with phases is the best approach, because every day, every situation, and every little Nugget is so different. 

They're Going to Watch (and Love) Things You Don't Enjoy. I think it's best to just accept that while Barney isn't your fave, sometimes you just need a go-to show that makes them smile and calms them down. Liam went through a phase of being obsessed with The Polar Express movie and I honestly hate that movie - ha! But he loved the "choo-choo's" and it brought him so much happiness that it was our go-to for a good while. Seeing him light up when the music would start definitely trumped my annoyance with all the weirdness in that movie. :) It was just comforting and familiar to him. I'm not saying to use a TV show every single time they need calming, etc. but no normal-thinking adult is going to actually enjoy an episode of Barney, Dora, etc. You're not meant to. They're designed for kids. Sometimes you just grin and bear it and watch what they love because it's not about you anymore. However.....

Teach Them to Watch (and Love) Things You Love. I'm one of those people that if there's a show that absolutely gives me chronic anxiety and annoys me over a cliff (Phineas and Ferb, anyone?), I do draw the line and we don't watch it. Because I'm the parent and I can do that. I've been surprised at how kids don't actually need a ton of explanation for some things. I just say, "That show doesn't have very kind attitudes and they don't use a quiet and respectful tone of voice. So we're watching something else." Period. Do you know what my kids love? Musicals. You know why? Because I love musicals. I will put one on and while they don't understand the plot line, they absolutely love the music and dancing. My kids' favorite things to watch are Fiddler on the Roof and Yankee Doodle Dandy. I just started putting them on and singing along with them because they make ME happy, and my kids just got used to it and started to love them too. My mom did this with us growing up, and I credit her with giving us a love for things a little more deep and mind-shaping than your average kids' show. My point is, it's give and take. Understand when they just need to be kids and enjoy Doc McStuffins, but don't sell them short either. They're absolutely capable of sharing your love of Rogers and Hammerstein. :)

Absorb Everything You Can. I've written a little about this before on my blog, but I tend to be a person that understands the weight of a moment as it's happening. I'm thankful for this trait, because it helps me to really be present. I think this is universal advice from every mother everywhere, but we all just need to soak in the fact that our babies are growing literally in front of our eyes. Almost EVERY day I "freeze" a moment in my mind and think, "When Evy's at college I'm going to put this moment around me like a blanket." and "At Liam's rehearsal dinner, I'm going to bring this memory with me so I'm not so sad." For me, once my kids are grown, i KNOW what will bring me the most comfort is knowing I absorbed all I humanly could, and I just soaked in every second with them. Like today, when I realized they were "hiding" from me and of course I played along:

When I "tripped" over them while "looking for a book on the shelf," they HOWLED and fell over with laughter - and I thought to myself, "Bottle this up in your memory RIGHT NOW!!!" Their huge laughs and smiles and the glee of "tricking me" made my heart so full I thought it was going to explode. Absorb it ALL.

Jesus Is Everything. My heart is that my kids learn, observe, desire, and experience a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus. Do we believe that taking them to a Biblically-sound, evangelical church every single week is important? Absolutely. Do we have Bible story time and help them memorize Bible verses? YES. But I would consider it a tragedy if we only gave my kids CHURCH and not CHRIST Himself. Jesus wants to heal their every heart, be their best friend, their Source, their EVERYTHING. And I'm finding that if I'm actively trying to point THEM to Jesus, I am being pointed and drawn to Him myself. We aren't here on earth for all of the trivial reasons we act like we're here for. We are here to glorify the Lord and tell others about Him, and to experience Him while we're alive here on earth. Jesus doesn't want a family walking into church every week like robots with the perfect Kelly's Kids attire. He doesn't want parents that go through the motions of sitting in a pew and therefore pass on to their kids that sitting in a pew is what it's about. He wants families who are totally committed followers and will do whatever it takes to follow Him with their whole lives. So my final advice, above anything - give them Jesus. Show them Jesus. Do whatever it takes to get YOURSELF where you need to be with Jesus, because He wants to be your everything. He is the only one who can equip you to parent your children at ANY age - let Him!

Head over to Leslie's blog to see what other wonderful bloggers had to say about parenting toddlers!

March 15, 2013

Pregnancy Update & Birth Plan

I think it's obvious to EVERYONE that Lynley is definitely child #3, in that I haven't blogged hardly at all about my pregnancy! However, I didn't do weekly pregnancy updates when I was pregnant with Evy and Liam coming into our family was a whole different experience, so it's par for the course, I suppose. I did want to give a pregnancy update and also share what our plan is going into the birth of our next little girl-child.

I'm 31 weeks (almost 32, since my turnover day is Monday) and that absolutely blows my mind! I feel like I BLINKED and I'm now almost 8 weeks out from my due date (which is May 13). I've said this before, but this pregnancy is the TOTAL OPPOSITE of my experience with Evy. From early on, I've just had weird, fluke-y things happen like two severe muscle pulls (literally the worst pain I've ever known in my life, and that includes a C-section recovery), kidney infections and more. We also weathered our entire family being sick the WHOLE month of February. I don't even feel like February happened this year! During my pregnancy with Evy, I got a severe cold/sinus infection/bronchitis situation around 33 (?) weeks, but that was IT. This time I feel like it's just been an uphill battle. I'm also carrying Lynley very differently, and she moves CONSTANTLY. She started out having "movement" time at 10:00pm on the dot every single night, but that quickly shifted into movement all day, every day. And while Evy sort of just rolled around and gave me the occasional nudge, little Lynbit is kicking HARD - it's painful! She's spent most of her time transverse so I get it at all ends and sides of my belly. Physically, I'm starting to really slow down and I find it very hard to get up and down and even physically engage the kids easily. I sound like I'm complaining, but believe me - I am so thankful that relatively speaking, this has been a pregnancy with no problems and Lynley is perfectly healthy. I do NOT take that for granted. My friend's sister-in-law had almost the exact due date as me and lost her baby in the womb after they found out she had a severe chromosomal condition. It was such a strong reminder that NOTHING is guaranteed, and life is so precious. I am thankful for this pregnancy, and I'm simply noting the differences from last time. :)

The nursery is still coming together! The bedding is done and the drapes are almost ready to be hung. We're keeping a daybed in the room, and the bedding for that is almost complete too. My sweet, sweet mother in law is doing all of the sewing and I'm so excited about how the room is turning out. It's just how I envisioned it in my head. She will be coming the first weekend in April (when Kurt and I go to Chicago for our baby-moon) and we'll finish everything up then. Speaking of Chicago, some would think me crazy to go somewhere at 34 weeks, but we've talked with my doctor about it and she will keep tabs on me up until then to make sure there are no signs of distress or the chance that labor could begin spontaneously. Also, we're driving (it's only about 5.5 hours away) so we have the freedom to leave at any point. The biggest thing is that we're going with the intention of simply eating good food, taking in the atmosphere of the city, and just being together. We aren't looking to walk a million miles and see every single thing the city has to offer. We know we'll definitely be back in Chicago and there will be a time to be big tourists, but the point of this trip is to spend quality time together before Lynley arrives. :) We can't wait!

The kids are SO EXCITED about the baby! Evy, being 4 years old, understands more of what's about to happen, and she asks questions a lot. She's really excited to be Mommy's helper and she's especially excited that Lynley will be at her dance recital (June 7)! :) Liam doesn't understand the concept of what's happening, but let me tell you - he adores babies! My youngest sister has had a long-term babysitting job watching an adorable 4-month-old, and Liam's favorite thing is to go visit Baby Amelia. He is beside himself when he gets to feed her a bottle and play with her. It's been so cute to watch! It makes me confident that while he might not understand the concept of a new sibling, he will absolutely adore Lynley and being a helper too. I already know that my favorite moment will be when my kids come into that hospital room to meet their baby sister. I just know that my heart will explode and I'll be so thrilled to have all three of them together in the room for the first time!

Our Plans for a VBAC

As far as our birth plan goes, that's also different from last time. To quickly recap, Kurt was in residency when Evy was born. We had to make the decision to induce labor or run the risk of Kurt not being present at her birth, were I to go into spontaneous labor. For us, this was not even a question. So I was induced at 39 (almost 40) weeks. When I went in for the induction, I was not even 1cm dilated, and my body had shown no signs of labor being imminent. After 9 hours of Pitocin, Stadol (otherwise known as the drug from you-know-where), and NO progression (I only got to a 3) at 4:00pm my doctor recommended a C-section. More background: my mom had 4 C-sections and so that was very familiar to me. I had no fear of them, and at that point it was the logical decision to make. At 4:12pm, in the operating room, Evy Kate made her beautiful appearance. Kurt and I were besides ourselves with joy and it was absolutely the most amazing moment of my life up to that point.

When I got pregnant this time around, a VBAC (v*g*nal birth after Caesarean) immediately came up for discussion. We decided that we would ask my doctor at the time what her policy was for this. She immediately said that she wouldn't do that, and no doctor in town would. Baffled, I left the office and went home to talk with Kurt. He had also been doing more extensive research on this topic and had become insistent that I be given the opportunity to try a VBAC. He even went to his hospital of employment and after talking with MANY staff members, was appalled at the attitude of most physicians regarding this topic (it basically boils down to fear of malpractice suits, but mostly their general unwillingness to labor with their patients and do whatever it takes to see a VBAC through). Almost every nurse that Kurt talked with was so thankful he was bringing up the discussion because they all agreed it was ridiculous how hardly any doctors are willing to give that option. We felt like it was an uphill battle to even get the hospital to acknowledge that this was evidence-based medicine and if they keep denying this service to women, it will have very negative effects. We're hoping that more physicians in our area get on board!

We both felt (and still feel) very strongly that medical evidence and research OBVIOUSLY support this option, as opposed to multiple C-sections. Thus the search began for an OB who would allow me to try. We found one in our whole city (praise the Lord!). I absolutely love her and her bedside manner is awesome (unlike my last OB in Mississippi). She definitely agreed that it's worth a try, and she's willing to monitor my labor for as long as it takes. I'll pause here and give some facts/info about why I'm choosing to try a VBAC.

-If you allow yourself to go into spontaneous labor on your own and do not take labor-inducing drugs (like Pitocin), you have a 70%-75% chance of having a successful VBAC. It also helps if you hold off on getting your epidural until after you get to around 4cm or so.

-Most doctors refuse VBACs because they are afraid of malpractice suits. This stems from the fear of uterine rupture (your C-section scar rupturing because of the pressure of natural labor). However, this only happens in about 1% of VBAC situations. 1%!!!

-The more C-sections you have, the higher your risk grows for complications. Kurt and I do not want to have to limit our family size due to the fact that I'm looking at major surgery each time. Obviously, God is in control and He knows what's best. We follow His leading at all times and this includes when we pray about the size of our family. But I would feel better knowing that I'm not significantly multiplying my risk if I get pregnant one more (or several more) times.

-There are so many more facts and research you can read that I've not included here. This is a great website if you want to learn more about a VBAC.

Now for my disclaimers and thoughts:

-I am NOT trying to "redeem" Evy's birth or trying to "redo" my experience with her birth in any way. I am NOT anti-C-section, and I don't view Evy's birth as a failure IN ANY WAY. I was trying to think of the perfect way to say this, and this is what I came up with: Evy's story is her story. I have NO REGRETS and I look back very fondly on the whole experience. There were certain elements that weren't fun, but I know without a doubt that we made the best decisions for us at the time. I simply view this as Lynley's story, which could potentially be different, or it could be similar to Evy's, ending in a C-section. They both have unique birth stories (and Liam has his unique story). I view them all separately, and not like I have to redeem one because of another.

-I absolutely, 100% believe that there is no right or wrong way to give birth. I've never found an article that I feel articulates this exactly as I would, but I found this one! I'm very careful about articles I post or share, because personally, I want people to really understand my position on something. There are lots of good elements in the article, but I particularly like that it points out that "bullying" can come from both sides. Just like doctors can bully women into having unnecessary C-sections, people from the natural-birth camps can make women feel like complete failures who haven't made it into their "club" if they choose to have an epidural or other interventions. Birth is a miracle. Period. Life is entering the world, and shame on anyone who tries to nullify that by demeaning any woman's experience.

-I feel like I'm in the middle of things, in that our plan includes non-intervention (going into labor on my own, trying to labor at home at first, no epidural until regular contractions are established and I've progressed to at least 4cm), but it also includes intervention (I definitely plan to have an epidural, I don't mind monitoring, I'm not opposed to an episiotomy if it's necessary, etc.). IT IS OKAY to desire elements from both schools of thought! You're not a sell-out if you don't wholly subscribe to one philosophy.

Who knows how Lynley's story will go? God does. I feel like we're making the best choices for us this time around (just like we made the best choices for us last time around), but ultimately we trust the Lord with Lynley's birth and we will ask Him for His wisdom in everything. Ultimately, "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD'S purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21) I am so thankful for that promise!

March 4, 2013

Disney 2013 - Day Four (Final Day!)

On our last Disney day, we went to Magic Kingdom again. On previous trips, I had always done Magic Kingdom on our first and last days, because it was fun to "bookend" the trip with my favorite park. Even though it was strange to not go there on the first day of this trip (and the subsequent weird mood it put me in), I really liked going the last two days in a row (2 1/2 if you count when Mom and I took the kids earlier in the trip). As I predicted, the kids just absolutely loved Magic Kingdom and I was happy to oblige! Since we had been there the whole previous day and half day before, it was great to have the luxury of taking a slower pace and just recapping what we had enjoyed.

Of course we hit the Welcome Show again!

Waiting for the Choo Choo to arrive. . .


We did a few Fantasyland rides again and then did the new Little Mermaid ride again in New Fantasyland. We got in line for the new attraction Enchanted Tales with Belle, which is an audience-participation, interactive experience with Belle herself. I had read that since this just opened, it was important to do it first thing in the morning. However, my app on the previous day had showed waits not being too long, so we hit it around 10:00am maybe (about an hour after the park opened)? This was the longest wait we had our entire trip, and it ended up being about 30 minutes I believe. We had gotten spoiled with hardly any waits the whole trip, so it was kind of hard to keep the kids happy. But we finally made it inside.

Belle's cottage was really quaint. I'm a sucker for details, so I loved looking around. It was pretty crowded (they let a certain amount of people in at a time), but I snapped a few pictures.

Then we were shown into Maurice's work room, where a magic mirror led us into the Beast's castle.

This is where the audience participation began. A cast member selected kids to play "parts" in the story (my kids are too shy in these types of situations to participate - ha!).

Belle and the kids retold the story of how she met the Beast. It was cute, but I just generally don't enjoy audience participation-type things. I think if my kids were older and were participating it would be a different story, but all we did was watch other people's kids do different motions. I think a benefit for shy kids like mine is just watching Belle in her element up close. I sound really negative about the attraction, and like I said - it was cute! But maybe it just wasn't our "thing"?

We hit a few more rides like Country Bear Jamboree and Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

More Buzz Lightyear fun!

This picture cracks me up! Clearly one of our children still requires a nap and the other thinks they don't. . .

Late afternoon it started to rain briefly (typical in Florida), so we just kind of camped out near Be Our Guest restaurant, where we were having dinner!

My parents bought Evy her birthday present - a new Ariel ensemble complete with jewelry and wand. She was absolutely transformed into a child I've never seen. It was hysterical. I think being in "Disney mode" made the difference - she was just putting on a SHOW. The following pictures were all her idea:

The paparazzi:

We were seated in the Ballroom. . .modeled directly after the movie! It was spectacular.

The napkins were folded like roses, which Evy thought was BEYOND.

They gave us some of their celebratory "Grey Stuff"for Evy's birthday! ("Try the grey stuff, it's delicious - don't believe me? Ask the dishes!")

Bitty and her birthday Grey Stuff :)

Our AMAZING server, Ramana, was incredible. He shared his adoption story and is a strong believer. He was just the neatest man and he made our dinner so memorable. Sidenote for cool points: he was in a Michael Jackson video when he was a kid! Showed it to us on YouTube. :) Only at Disney World!

The West Wing area of the restaurant.

Uncle was asked to "waltz" like they do in the movie. :)

I thought we had only gotten one family picture all together but I forgot about this one!

Goodbye, Main Street U.S.A.!

When we got back to the hotel, we listened to the AMAZING band that plays in the lobby each evening. They are the best!

The kids had an impromptu dance party!

Until next time. . .

We were so blessed with a wonderful, memorable time as a family. There just aren't words to describe how thankful we are to have had this time together. As we're all getting older and starting to enter into different seasons, we value being together so much more. We can't wait to hopefully do this again in the future - it was MAGICAL!
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