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I'm moving

I've decided to move to wordpress, because it allows much more features when it comes to blogging. Still haven't learned how to do much there yet, but I know I can do more. So here's a link to the new blog-

http://crunchandcaramel.wordpress.com/

Brian is ONE!

My goodness, this year went by so quickly! I can't believe my wonderful little person is a year old. 

I wish I would have kept up with this blog this past year, as Brian has such a fun personality and I really should have written down the fun (and maybe not so fun) moments we had during the year. So I have a goal going into this second year, and that is to put up at least one photo a week of Brian. Hopefully I'll better document the highlights, joys and challenges this wonderful little boy brings as we continue this crazy journey together. 

Obviously, this week's photos will be of Brian's birthday. Oh, what a day. Just under 80 people came and celebrated with us. The theme was "B" and we had a BBQ, and the kids enjoyed playing with blocks, bubbles, balls and books. 
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Brian wasn't exactly a fan of the texture of frosting, so we had an extremely clean "smash cake" photo. Ah well, I'm pretty relieved that he didn't get sugared up. 

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Eventually, he decided to go for some sweet watermelon, in lieu of cake. I hope he continues to make healthy choices as he grows!
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And of course, I just have to throw in that I actually did a few things that I got off Pinterest! Happy Birthday, my sweet Brian!
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A week of milestones

As I was preparing Mya's lunch today, I put Brian in the living room to play. I'm at the kitchen counter, preparing food and less than a minute later I turn around and what do a see? I happy, smiling little boy, sitting up on the kitchen floor. What the? He just reached a major milestone- sitting himself up, and I missed it! I literally turn my head for a moment and miss it! My, how everything happens so suddenly. He's shown me several times since that it wasn't an accident, and he truly knows how to sit up.

This week just seems to be full of milestones! On top of being able to sit, he can also pull himself to a stand. He LOVES standing and will pull himself up, give a little victorious laugh and then stand and stand and stand until his legs get tired and finally give out. He's also getting teeth, and is able to tear small pieces off his food (cucumbers, broccoli) and swallow them. I can see the beginning of a pincer grasp, although he still has a lot of work to do to master it, he still occasionally picks up something he wants with his pointer finger and thumb.

What I love the most is that it seems to me that he wants me to notice his accomplishments. Often times after he pulls himself to a sit or a stand, he looks at me, gives me a "hmmm" and a giant smile as if to say, "You're getting this, right mom?"

Enjoying Brian

One regret I have is that I haven't been keeping up with the blog. I'm not as eloquent with words as my sister, and I always feel like I have to write something beautifully soulful in order for it to be worthy to post. So I've been kind of silent, with the exception of a few occasional rants about my parenting choices.

So I'm making a new resolution to write once a week. Even if its just a few sentences. So I can remember some of the fun little things.

Brian is 7 1/2 months now and on the move. He figured out how to scoot about 2 weeks ago and has been mastering it and building up speed ever since. At the house I babysit, he is constantly scooting towards the front door. Since he was a tiny infant, he's loved being outside, and that remains true today. He'll scoot all the way across the room just to get to the screen door, and will spend a considerable amount of time looking outside, babbling, smiling and just being happy. Sometimes he even gets Mya in on the fun.



Why We Co-Sleep

I am going to make a confession.

We co-sleep with Brian.

This is a highly controversial parenting choice, and I've been warned by several people not to do this. I know their warnings come from concern and love, so I don't take it as a judgement or get offended by the shocked, concerned looks or well-meaning advice. But since its something that Hieu and I are not only comfortable with, but also enjoy, I'm going to take the time on my blog to address some of the concerns and some of the reasons we embrace this particular parenting choice.

Concern #1: It's not safe.
Many people have heard horror stories of a baby being rolled on by a parent during their sleep. It has happened, and we don't discount that. However, Hieu and I are both pretty light sleepers. Even before Brian was born, the neighbor's dogs would easily wake us up and we'd have to sleep with ear plugs. And even with ear plugs and fans going, I'd still sometimes wake up. So with Brian, instead of being COMPLETELY woken up by loud crying in another room, we are only slightly woken up by small movements, and are able to quickly resume sleep. We still practice precautions, and never use any kind of medication that causes drousiness or drink any alcohol within 2 hours of going to bed. Brian always sleeps on top of the covers (never under) and we make sure there are no blankets near his face. Lastly, if I know that Hieu is especially exhausted, Brian will sleep on my side.

Concern #2: It'll kill your sex life.
First off, why are people so concerned with my sex life? But since you are, let me just assure you that we're doing ok. Brian often sleeps his first stretch of sleep somewhere other than our bed. That's all I'll say about that. Happy now?

Concern #3: You're spoiling your child. He's never going to learn to be independent. 
I feel like the idea of being independent is very reflective of our individualistic society. When in history did we deem it necessary for a 6-week old (or 6 month old, or 1 year old) to be separted from his or her parents for 8 to 12 hours at a time? I'm not saying that those who do put their baby in a separate room are in the wrong, but I also don't think it is something that must be done to cultivate independence. For centuries, and in other cultures and societies today, babies have slept in the same room and bed as their parents. Although the Bible doesn't say it, I'm willing to bet that Jesus slept in the same bed as his parents in the beginning, and he turned ok, and was even independent enough to stay back and teach in the synagogue at the age of 12 (and it took 3 days for his parents to even notice, so he was obviously out of the bed by then!)

Now that I've addressed some concerns, I'd like to explain a few reasons why we gladly co-sleep.

1. Ease of breastfeeding, and its benefits.
With Brian next to me, when he wants to nurse, I can easily "whip it out" without really waking up. Nursing releases a hormone called prolactin, which is not only soothing to the baby, but also to the mother. It helps me sleep better, and feel happy. Nighttime nursing also keeps my supply up, without me waking up in the morning completely engorged. Although many babies go the entire night without eating, there is no evidence that shows that short nighttime feedings are harmful in any way. As my pediatrician says, a baby cannot overeat on the breast, so I am not worried about that. But I am happy to know that even during sleep, Brian is able to get healthy nutrients and important bonding during these short midnight snacks.

2. Allows extra time for bonding.
This is especially true for Hieu, since he works and is away from Brian during the day. If Brian were to sleep in his own crib, in his own room, Hieu would only get about 3-4 hours with him a day, until the weekend rolls around. I truly believe that part of the reason Brian and Hieu have such a tight bond is because they get that extra snuggle time at night. Think about it. Instead of Brian only getting 15-20 hours with Hieu during the work week, he's getting  an extra 40-60 hours. That really adds up! I also notice that Brian often faces towards Hieu while they are sleeping (so sweet!) I believe he's taking in Hieu's scent and presence while they sleep. 

3. Decreases risk of SIDS. 
Studies have shown that babies that sleep with their mom have less and shorter deep-sleep cycles. Some research believes a possible cause of SIDS is when an infant is in a deep sleep for too long and is unable to rouse themselves. Other studies have shown that a baby's heart rate and breathing are more regular when sleeping next to the mother. Lastly, if a baby were to choke or gasp for air, a mom that is co-sleeping or rooming-in with their baby is more likely to hear and intervene than if the baby was in another room. I know Brian is 6 months now, so the risk for SIDS is significantly decreased, but it does put me at ease, and I believe I sleep better when I hear Brian breathing. 



I've had many people (even a random woman at the mall one time!) tell me that I need to sleep-train my baby and let him cry it out. Hieu and I don't plan on having Brian in our bed forever. We know that eventually we'll transition him out of his bed and into his own. But although it works for many, we have decided, at least for now, that we are not going to do cry it out (CIO), so I figure I'll explain a few of our reasons why. 

1. It's not fair.
Isolation is one of the worst punishments a prisoner can receive. Now, I know that letting a baby CIO is not punishing them. We are trying to help them get much needed sleep. But they don't know that. All they know is that they are alone, in a dark place, they are scared, and despite their persistent cries for help, mom and dad aren't coming to their rescue. They don't know that eventually they will fall asleep, morning will come and they will be reunited again. Babies are simply too young to understand that. So they finally cry themselves to sleep, and after several days or a week, learn that once they get placed in their crib, no one is going to get them and they learn self-soothing techniques. But this simply goes against my instincts to meet my son's emotional needs. Yes, he will someday be in his own bed and his own room, but we are ok with it being a long, smooth transition, rather than an short, severe and rough transition.

2. Crying is stressful for the baby and parents.
Excessive crying can cause a baby to produce high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Increased levels of cortisol can have a negative effect on appetite, immune system, and nerve connections in the brain. So several days or a week of CIO would not only affect our nighttime, but our daytime as well. Plus, when Brian is extremely fussy, Hieu and I also get stressed and usually take it out on each other. So obviously this is something we don't care to put Brian, or ourselves through. 

3. Crying it out doesn't work long-term. 
Yes, after a day, two days, or a week of CIO, babies often figure out that they need to go to sleep on their own. However, life happens. Your baby gets sick, starts teething, or you go on vacation and that throws a wrench in the whole nighttime routine. Before you know if, you've got to schedule another exhausting, excruciating CIO session. 


In conclusion, yes, eventually Brian will sleep in his own room, in his own bed. And we wouldn't mind it being in the near future, because we have a queen size bed, and this little person sure knows how to stretch himself out! But for now, we are absolutely confident and happy with our sleeping arrangement, and are fine with a slow transition. I can't tell you when he'll be on his own, but hopefully we can guide and encourage him to make a peaceful transition.

As a final note, I want to make sure anyone reading this knows that I do not judge anyone that does sleep train and has used CIO methods. My parents let me cry it out, and I have a great relationship with them and feel like I turned out to be a pretty ok adult. Like I've told many of my pregnant friends and new mommies, there isn't one right way to go about this whole parenting thing. What works for one family may not work for another. If sleep training and crying it out has worked for you, YAY! But if you are considering co-sleeping but are afraid of all the naysayers, don't worry. Go with your instincts, be safe, be confident, and trust that the decisions you make for your family are out of love and absolutely perfect for your family.




Brian's Walks

Just thought I'd write a sweet little blurb on a Brian-Hieu ritual that I got the pleasure of joining. 

When Hieu gets home from work, he often grabs Brian and takes him for a stroll around the neighborhood. Brian is really into touching and investigating, so Hieu encourages that by allowing him to touch the leaves of several bushes on their walk. Brian is so used to it now, that as soon as he sees one of "his" bushes, he's already reaching out his arms.








Then they swing a little bit on the playground. 



If he's interested in touching other things, like fences, he'll reach out and let Hieu know.


And then they head back home. 
 



Daniel Fast: Conclusion

The Daniel Fast ended this past Sunday. 

I wish I would have continued to journal during my fast, but I began my job as a full-time nanny and it just kinda wiped me out. I am super thankful for the job, but it took a while getting used to juggling two babies and by the time I got home, my brain was flat-lining.

So I'll try to sum things up. God did speak to me through scripture reading, and through a book I've been reading called A Hole in Our Gospel. This book talks about how the Bible speaks so much about justice, mercy, caring for the poor, the broken, the destitute. Jesus tells us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. However, somehow in the history of Christianity, the focus veered from loving your neighbor, to morals, rules and regulations. Morals and religious practices are good, but if we aren't loving others, we aren't truly loving God. 

The biggest thing that stood out to me was the passage when Jesus is speaking of the day of judgement. Jesus says to those he separated to the left, " For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ -Matthew 25:31-46

The author of The Hole in Our Gospel paraphrased in his own words: "For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you wanted more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved."

When I read this, it really hit home, and I had to put the book down, cry, and ask God for forgiveness. This is where my heart had been for a long time. Could I honestly say I was loving my neighbor? Absolutely not. When I saw someone in a neighborhood pushing a shopping cart, I'd automatically think "that is so trashy. AND they are STEALING shopping carts." If you took an honest look at my heart, you would have found that I was indifferent towards homeless and beggars, annoyed (you could even call me racist) by illegal immigrants, and smug when I'd read about someone getting the maximum sentence when they broke the law. Where was my compassion? My empathy? Its easy to love family and friends, but what about loving those that may not "deserve" it? Remember, it wasn't the priest or Levite that helped the Israelite that had been beaten, but the Samaritan. I realized that I was that person that walked on the other side of the road. 

Where does that leave me now? I'm not sure. However, during this time I asked God to forgive me, to open my heart, to help me truly love my neighbor and to show me ways I can do that. I'm not really doing anything at the moment, but my heart is in a different place. When I see people, I feel like I see them, and my heart goes out to them. I look them in the eyes and smile. I hurt when I hear of someone hurting. I want to do something. I feel love for others. And I feel like this has renewed my relationship with God.

When I love others, I am actually loving God.

I pray that this upcoming season will be a time in my life that I see ways I can love others, and have the boldness to act on them. 

Daniel Fast: Day 5

Today I continued with the Daniel Fast, but I did not feed myself.

Well, I ate "Daniel-fast approved" food, but I did not spiritually feed myself. Today was really busy. I had to go to Golden West College to pick up a book for an online class I'm taking. Then I figured I should visit my grandparents because I was in the neighborhood and I hadn't visited them in a while. Then I had to go over to my friend's house and get a bunch of information since I'll be watching her daughter full-time starting Monday. Then I saw a great deal on craigslist for a double stroller (for Brian and Mya, the girl I'll be watching) and I had to get it right away before someone else bought it. Brian didn't nap today and this evening we met with a couple that we meet up with every Friday. So it was a busy day.

And I got a revelation.

need God's daily bread. I didn't realize how much I needed it until I went all week with it, and then one day without it. Every day this week I've done a reading through my chronological Bible, a chapter of Daniel and read aloud a Psalm (and read a chapter of The Hole in our Gospel). And though I'm figuring things out, I've felt a peace with God. I've felt happy and loved. 

But today when Hieu and I finally had a chance to be together after our long day, I was filled with stress, loneliness and irritation. I was frustrated and Hieu, feeling unloved and thinking about all the things Hieu wasn't doing right. We ended up fighting in the car on our way to meet with this couple. And it hit me later when I realized that I did not spend time in God's word today. If I don't allow God to fill my spirit with love and peace, then I expect Hieu to. And if he doesn't, I get pissed. Because he's my husband and should be able to know my mood and exactly what I need and what right words to say and... wait, no, he's not God. He'll never be able to live up to that. Marriage can be hard and stressful at times and no one is perfect. He may sometimes be able to do things that make me feel cherished and special, but he can't possibly know exactly what I need every day.

So there you have it. I am actually getting a lot more out of spending time in God's Word than I realized. And if I don't get that, then I suffer, Hieu suffers and no one is happy.

Very eye opening. Can I eat a steak now?

Daniel Fast: Day 4

Two things I read today that stood out to me:

God does not promise that all His followers will be protected from hardship and suffering. Christians get cancer, lose loved ones, and suffer financial setbacks just like everyone else. But God can also use our tragedies to expand our territory in ways that show a skeptical world a different way to live. (The Hole in our Gospel, p. 41)

What stood out to me here was the reminder that God does not promise us health, success or even our life. Its hard for me to remember this. I don't know why I had such a miserably sick pregnancy, or why my best friend's son was allowed to die. I don't know why God cures some people from cancer and not others. I'll probably never see the entire picture, but this is a good reminder that God can use these hardships and tragedies to show a skeptical world how to live. 

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” -Daniel 3:16-18

What stood out to me here was that Shad, Mesh and Abed knew that God could deliver them from the fiery furnace, but didn't necessarily know if he would. Regardless, they were steadfast in their faith to worship God and not  bow down to the idol set before them. Lord, this is the type of faith and devotion I want.

Daniel Fast: Day 2 (and half of Day 3)

I didn't journal/blog last night, so I'm catching up now. Here's how I'm feeling:

Emotionally
Hieu told me last night that he wanted to support me and stand with me by doing the Daniel Fast for dinner with me. He'll eat normally during the rest of the day, but I don't have to cook/prepare/see him eat meat and other delicious "illegal" foods. This makes me feel very loved. He doesn't feel called or convicted to do the fast, but the fact that he is willing to give up yummy food for dinner in support of me says a lot. Last night we had a time of prayer and worship at Don's house. This was very refreshing, and it reminded me of my "Mill" days (college group I used to attend in Colorado) when I'd spend hours with friends in worship and prayer. There are few things that lift my spirits as much as hearing people worship God. Not mouthing the words, not clapping hands while looking half asleep, not putting on a production or enjoying a concert, but really singing and worshipping. Makes me happy.

Physically
This is an excellent fast! Physically I feel great. I'm eating healthy foods. I'm getting out on long walks with Brian and bringing my attention to God. I'm sleeping better and have more energy. Today I did some pushups, sit-ups, leg-ups, and scissor legs. (A few... not much 'cause I'm still out of shape). I've also noticed less of a need for sugar. For breakfast I had a banana and oatmeal. Wasn't tasty, but I did get it down. Before, I would have drowned it in honey or agave or brown sugar. I didn't completely give up dairy for the Daniel Fast, because I get a lot of my calcium and protein from dairy, and since I'm still breastfeeding, figured I'd keep it in my diet. (Just milk and yogurt). Normally I don't like the taste of nonfat, plain greek yogurt. But its starting to grow on me, and I'm actually beginning to like it! I am truly feeling good physically, and I believe because I feel good physically, it helps me feel better emotionally, and when I feel better emotionally and physically, I feel better spiritually...

Spiritually
I'm still in a place of healing and rekindling my relationship with God. After sharing a little bit, my friend Julius pointed out that I'm probably angry at God. I believe this is true. Its hard to admit being angry at God, because he is God and in control and I should trust him. But I have a hard time with that. I know he doesn't promise that our lives will be fine and dandy, but I just don't understand prayer and why we should pray? I begged God during my pregnancy to just not feel miserable. I didn't ask to feel good, or great. I just wanted not to be miserable. Those were some really tough months feeling like God didn't care. On top of that, my very best friend recently lost her son at only 6 days old. I begged God to heal him, to allow him to survive and thrive and many other people were praying the same thing. I believed God would heal him, but he didn't. I love my Brian so much, and the thought of my friend having to go through so much heartache grieves my soul. (Amazingly, she isn't mad at God, but able to lean on and trust in him, which is an amazing testimony). There's many other people I know with unanswered prayers. I also have a beef with a lot of stories in the Bible, and God not seeming too gracious with some of what I would consider the faithful people (Hagar and Esau, to name a few). I don't want to be angry with God, but I admit, sometimes I just don't understand him and I have a hard time trusting.

Nevertheless, I am trying to spend time with the Lord- I'm reading a Psalm a day out loud to Brian. I am also picked up my Chronological Bible again and am aiming to finish reading the entire Bible this year. I'm also going through Daniel, since I'm doing a Daniel Fast. And I'm reading The Hole in our Gospel. God's Word is living and active, so I prayer that he'll speak to me through these readings. Although I have this anger issue I need to work out with God, I am enjoying my time in the Word and feeling a sense of peace.

Here is a few verses I'm meditating on from my reading in Psalm 145 today:

15 The eyes of all look to you, 
   and you give them their food at the proper time. 
16 You open your hand 
   and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

 17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways 
   and faithful in all he does. 
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, 
   to all who call on him in truth. 
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; 
   he hears their cry and saves them.