Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Loss & the Older Sibling

I love surprises.  My boys know it, and they enjoy being surprised.  It was so much fun to share with our friends and family that we were expecting again!  This is our pregnancy announcement from November.  I adore it!  We had fun telling the boys what it meant.  Manasseh, our 4 year old was super excited about being a big brother again.  He really wants a little sister named Annie.  (Even if he has a little sister some day, her name will not be Annie).

How do you tell a 4 year old that the baby he is so excited about welcoming will not be coming after all?  I'll admit, I had shed a lot of tears.  It took a few days to come to a place we could share with the boys that we would not be having a baby.  When we did tell him, he was crushed.  He snuggled in my arms and cried with me.  "But I wanted a baby," he told me.  I cried too.  "Why did the doctors say we can't have it?"  I asked the same questions, only in more complex ways.  I love the simplicity, the clear thinking that my children bring.

So how do you talk to the older sibling about losing a baby?  How do you keep that sibling from fearing that he'll be lost as well?  In our case, Manasseh already struggled with issues of loss, how can you help them through it?

1.  Be Honest - Kids thrive on truth.  They want to understand the world around them.  They want to make sense of this reality just as much as we do.  Truth is really hard sometimes, it's hard to get the words out of our mouths.  Our kids learn honesty from us.  They respect us when we show them how to be true.

2. Use Ideas They Can Handle - My 4 year old is not ready to handle the mechanics of why a woman's body might not be able to carry a baby to term.  He is, however, ready to know that sometimes baby's die.  Know your child's ability to handle information.  Keep it simple.  If you aren't sure how much she can handle, give her a little bit if she seems ready and asks for more, fill in more detail.

3. Express Emotions - Truth?  I have a really hard time expressing emotions in front of people - especially negative emotions.  My kids need to see that I do have emotions and they will learn from me how they should handle their own emotions.  "I am sad because..." is an excellent start to showing emotions.

4. Allow Self-Expression - Make sure your child knows it's okay for him to have feelings.  Give him space to grieve with you.  You have lost a baby, he has lost a sibling.  He may be just as grieved, upset, and depressed as you are.  If he is not great at expression, help him draw pictures about feelings, paint, or find another creative way to express feelings.

5. Be Patient - Know that you are likely on edge emotionally, hormonally, spiritually, phsyically.  Some days every little thing your child does may be frustrating.  Know she does not want to upset you.  She is struggling too.  Practice patience.  Go to another room and take a deep breath before dealing with a frustration.  Think about what might be causing her behavior.

6. Call on Friends - It's okay to ask for help.  Your child needs some special attention right now too.  Friends and family can be a great source of comfort for your child and a stress relief for everyone.  Set up a play date or two that will allow you to have time alone and your child to get special attention.

7. Address Fear of Loss - When Manasseh is feeling insecure, he starts asking questions about our former foster sons.  He often recounts when the puppy ran away (over 2 years ago), he talks about the cat that died.  Those are cues to me that he is concerned about being left.  He's a sensitive guy.  We regularly have to reassure him that he will stay with us and we will continue to protect him.

8. Pray With Your Child - Take time to pray and thank God for your family.  Name each person by name. Thank God for your pregnancy and pray that God keep your baby safe while it waits for you to join it some day in Heaven.

9. Give the Baby a Name - Naming the baby helps (me) with grief.  I know this was a baby, I can remember the baby and talk about it.  My boys can know that they won't be forgotten either.  If the baby that we never met has a name and stays in our hearts, they certainly always will.  (Our lost babies are Shalom and Selah).

10. Join a Support Group - This can be an especially good idea with older children.  My boys are young enough that they are able to be open with us and ask honest questions.  Some children are more comfortable talking to other children or adults outside of the family.  If your child is really struggling with their loss, ask your doctor or school counselor about a support group.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Setback

36 weeks pregnant with Azariah, who is now a healthy 19 month old.
"Consider it a setback."  The doctor said it as though I had broken an arm, or was being diagnosed with an ear infection.

A setback.  Really?  This is what you call it when you lose a baby?  Casually he stated, "You're likely to have more miscarriages, but I see no reason you can't have another healthy baby some time in the future."

What?!  This was not my regular OB.  It didn't matter.  Once again, someone of the medical profession tried to explain away a miscarriage, as if it really shouldn't hurt.

Have you been there?  We have.  Twice this year.  It's a painful place to be, it's lonely, scary, and extremely sad.  I recognize that the OB, and the doctor at the ER (who saw me in November) see patients who are having miscarriages very regularly.  What I think they failed to recognize was this:  I am a mother who is losing a child.  This does not happen to me every day, or even once a week.  I'm not disappointed, I'm GRIEVING.  I have lost a baby - yes it IS a BABY.

Over the next few weeks, as I continue my own healing process, I will be sharing advice to medical professionals, words of love to mamas, and ways to support friends through miscarriage.

Please join me in my journey.  Learn what it means to lose a baby, and how to begin your own process of recovery.  Learn how to help a friend during a very dark and difficult time.  Hear some things NOT to say.

Understand, it is a healing process.  It takes time.  I'm not sure that I've fully emotionally healed from our loss in November, I know we haven't recovered from the one in April.

Have you experienced the loss of a baby?  What wisdom would you share with others about this very sensitive topic?

Grab button for Wellness Wednesday

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beautifying the Camp with Birdfeeders! (sponsored post)

** This is a sponsored post.  I was given a product or products in exchange for review.  All opinions are my own.**
 It is spring at Yellow Creek Lake Camp, where I work.  Come to think of it, it's quite possibly spring wherever you are.  One of my favorite things to do in the spring is watch the birds.  For this reason, I love having a good relationship with Perky Pets!

I currently have 6 bird feeders hanging around campus.  Yes, I know that may seem a bit excessive, but I want other people to enjoy the beautiful birds that we have visiting us every day!

This is one of my favorites, it sits on the lake side of the cottage we stay in while I work.  As you can see, it is in need of a refill.  I love the look of this feeder, and the fact that it holds a LARGE amount of seed!  It's called the Squirrel Be Gone II Country Style Wild Bird Feeder.  Pictured above is a Finch Feeder from Perky Pet.  My boys really enjoy identifying "Mr. and Mrs. Finch" that often visit us (we have at least 2 ladies) and now we appear to have a pair of Pine Siskin visiting this feeder!

Our featured feeder today is this fantastic hummingbird feeder.  I am really pleased with the design of this particular feeder.  I've had a couple of other hummingbird feeders in the past, and this beats them all hands down!  Now - to see some hummingbirds would be fantastic!

This is the Perky Pet Funnel Fill 16oz. Glass Hummingbird Feeder.  It sells for just under $13 on the birdfeeders.com website.   It is incredibly easy to use!

This is the bottom of the feeder.  There is a stopper that unscrews to allow easy pouring, the hole is funnel-like and mess free!  Once filled, you screw the camp back on and quickly turn the feeder over.  That's it!

I really adore the site of this feeder outside my window!  The only improvement I might make on it (if I were the designer) would be to include some type of rope or thread for hanging it.  We were fortunate to find a good thin rope in the cottage that holds it up quite nicely.

Overall, I give this a 5 star rating for quality, price, innovation and functionality!  Great job on this feeder Perky Pets!

Follow Perky Pet on Facebook and Twitter.

What is your favorite bird to watch?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Most Important Lesson I Learned at Church Camp

I started attending camp at Yellow Creek Lake about 27 years ago.  As a young camper I was impressed by all the great, fun activities.  I especially loved crafts and swimming.  I enjoyed the relationships that I built with other campers and with volunteers over the years.  I could not imagine a summer without YCL.  In fact, during high school I began volunteering at the camp as much as I was allowed.  I even spent 6 of my 8 summers during college in ministry at the camp.  I never imagined that as an adult I would end up back in this same place that has so touched my life.  I can see though how God has been working on me for this place and this time at Yellow Creek.

Through the many years as a camper and a staff, I was learning something again and again - and it only hit me about a month ago.  I just realized that all of that time I had been learning the same lesson: Spiritual Retreat.

Just over a year ago, I began working at YCL as the program director.  This was not a part of my plan as a happy stay at home mama with 3 little boys.  I knew, however that God was leading me back to the camp, and that was confirmed after I chose to do the things I felt as though he had urged me to do.

During those first weeks, as I talked with a children's minister, who I highly respect, she asked me to, "explain why church camp is relevant in today's culture."  I was stumped.  I mean, I know it's valuable - but how do I explain what makes it "culturally relevant"?  I spent most of a year trying to figure this out.  Then, one morning as I was preparing to share with a church about the camp - I realized that our kids are in DIRE need of spiritual retreat.

Do you know that there are preschoolers involved in 3 or 4 activities a week?  I don't condemn their parents for wanting to have active, involved children.  Those kids are learning things my kids won't ever understand.  By high school many parents become chauffeurs, only spending time with their children as they shuttle them from one activity to the next.  Our kids are busy all the time.  When they are not busy - they are watching television, using the internet, talking on the phone.

Kids don't know what it is to have quiet in their lives.  They don't know what it is to "rest in the Lord".  It is hard to hear God's voice in a world that is constantly moving.

Church camp is culturally relevant because it helps kids learn spiritual retreat.  It gives busy students a chance to have a break from their constant movement.  It slows life down.  There is a unique opportunity to bond with spiritual leaders in a new way as students participate in small group devotions away from home.  Often it's easier to be open and honest when they are not afraid of who might be listening.

Church camp is relevant to our culture because it teaches healthy relationships with others (and without a computer or cell phone in the way).  It offers community in a very real way.  The relationships that children build at church camp can grow over the years and allow for life-long friendships that encourage spiritual growth beyond the school days.

Church camp is important in our culture because it allows students to step out of their comfort zone without fear of condemnation.  Kids can try new things, take risks, and have a supportive family behind them when they fall down.

It allows students to ask difficult questions of adults who are trained to help them search for answers.

Camps get kids that are media saturated outside, breathing natural air, chasing kick balls, fishing, shooting arrows, and so much more.  Camp is active in a world of inactivity.  Many children feel lost without a screen in front of their faces.  This is an opportunity to put the screen away and really interact, really live.

Many churches are failing to present the Gospel message in a meaningful way to children.  Many do a great job at presenting the message, but neglect to invite children into a relationship with God.  Church camp tells the story and invites the relationship.  Camps like Yellow Creek Lake even report back to the churches when life changing decisions have been made so that church leaders can follow up on them.

Have you considered sending a child to church camp?  If you're in or near northern Indiana, I highly recommend Yellow Creek Lake Camp Ministries.  If you are not, I recommend searching for local church camps that offer activities your child enjoys.