Four months, an update, and habits in our home

So, baby is four months old. Don’t ask me how that happened! The time has gone both slow and fast. People always say it goes so quickly, to soak up the moments, not to miss this fleeting time. Did I capture all those newborn photos before the moment passed and he got too big, or cuddle enough instead of trying to get up and get things done, or just savor the moment? If I’m not careful I can be rather obsessive over “moments”, over trying to perfectly balance my role as a homemaker and mommy. So instead I lay on the floor and play with little E, reading, talking, tickling, while I try to keep our home in some semblance of order and food on the table, and then look ahead to the future with anticipation, not holding on to regrets or what-ifs about the past.

P1180215

He has changed so much since he was a little, squishy, quiet, tiny, blinking newborn. His personality continues to break through as he observes new things and grows in expressions and abilities. He is our little extrovert, smiley, talkative, and cheerful. He takes three naps each day and sleeps 12 hours at night and is a good eater- packing on the chub. He weighs about 14.5 pounds now, and goodness; I never knew thighs could be so adorable, or chubby cheeks so kissable. He loves to read, is using a jumper now, his favorite toy to grasp is a play silk, he recently discovered the ceiling fan, he laughs when tickled, and apparently watching mommy and daddy do HIIT workouts is quiet entertaining. He is getting better at independent playtime, but he definitely prefers to be close enough to mommy to have conversations and share smiles. He’ll spend up to 30 minutes happily in his bouncy chair in the kitchen, watching me cook, as long as he can hear me talk and sing, and smile at him.

P1180227

Daddy and I are learning a lot… though I’m probably learning the most, what with my fear of man (pride) to help refine me as we make decisions for our unique little boy, and for our family. (Wait, we’re adults? We can do that? Talk about responsibility!) As a first time mom I feel pressure from the general populace to conform to what research suggests, or what method works best for most people. It could be that some of this is self-imposed, or it could be that like me, other young moms are silently crying out for a little grace, a little breathing room to try out new things as they love on their little ones. But with expectations aside, I’m truly grateful for advice and input from “the older women who teach the younger”.

P1180255

So life has settled into a new normal, a happy, drooly, spit-up-all-over new normal, but we continue to learn and grow as parents to our precious baby. Just like I want to catch those fleeting baby moments before it’s too late, I want to catch on to bad or unnecessary habits before baby is too big… big enough to copy them! Or, to start creating habits that we want him to always remember having in our home. I don’t think we give babies enough credit for how smart they are, so I am of the firm opinion that we can indeed start teaching him things now; through instruction, and through example.

P1180244

Some things we’ve been working on are:

  • Always talking around him as if he can understand everything we are saying… especially if we are talking about him. He may start to pick up on things audibly before we realize it, and we want him to hear things that are positive, not gossip, respectful towards him as an individual, and loving towards each other as his parents. This includes our tone of voice when we get frustrated; making sure we stay in control (good habits regardless that become all the more important with little ears in the home).
  • Never copying him when he whines or fusses. It’s such a natural thing to copy babies when they babble and coo, but I found myself doing it when he started to make those “complaining” noises when he was tired or frustrated, and realized that I was either encouraging or mocking him. So we are much quicker to recognize what types of noises we are making, and try our hardest to make sure they are cheerful and appropriate.

P1180234

  • Saying his name when talking to him. I want to get into the habit of getting his attention before asking him a question, or telling him to do something, and that needs to start now.
  • We’re trying to be more cautious in music that we play or movies that we watch with him in the room, and we also try not to let him look at or watch an electronic device.

P1180251

  • We’ve also chosen not to have electronic toys in our home, at least not yet. A little baby doesn’t need much to be happy, and when mom isn’t playing with him, his teddy bear, colorful play quilt, books, play silk, and teething toys (oh, and the ceiling fan) are a wonderful source of entertainment.
  • Having bible time together each morning. It only takes a few minutes with him being so little, but we read a chapter together, pray for our day and sing a song. As much as I’m able, I want him to remember always having bible time in the morning with mom.
  • We don’t use baby talk. And that’s just because… I hate baby talk.

P1180228

  • We’re just starting infant potty training. I have no expectations, but it never hurts to try! If we can save on a few diapers, avoid some blowouts, and help him learn to use the potty at the appropriate time, then I’d say it’s worth it.
  • We schedule. There, I said it. And, after the first three months of seemingly constant changes due to travel and growth spurts, we have settled into a nice routine that works very well for E and our family.

I feel like I have so many thoughts, lessons, and emotions going through my mind as I consider how life has changed since our little man arrived, eight days early and ready to meet the world. But really, what it all comes down to is, we are blessed, we are thankful, and we are having so much fun as a family of three.

P1180221

A blanket for baby

Ethan was baptized at four weeks old on Sunday, April 26th, and received this handmade, soft blue blanket from his Grandma Duff for the special occasion. Mommy just now got around to doing a photoshoot with it; at 10 1/2 weeks!
P1180105

P1180101

P1180092

P1180115

P1180095

“Thank you Grandma!”

DIY Nursery Project

 

P1170815

Before

Back in July of last year, our next door neighbor was moving out and cleaning out his apartment. When people clean out their apartments, they dump all sorts of things in the giant dumpsters available… sofas, old TVs, headboards, you name it. I have a rather embarrassing knack for looking at trash and trying to figure out what can be done with it. (The fancy name for reusing junk is “repurpose”. I rather like that better…)

Our neighbor’s article doomed for the dump was a dinged up dresser, missing half it’s drawers, sporting ugly handles and with a back half torn off and splintered. However, it was solid wood, and I convinced my obliging and patient husband to haul it back up to our second story apartment, where I decided it would do quite nicely as a repurposed dresser/changing table for our nursery, which we had just found that we would need in about 8 months.

P1170818

Before

It only took us about 7 months to actually complete the final project, and my wonderful hubby ended up doing the bulk of it as my size and condition necessitated help with reconstructing and painting (Ethan’s Grandpa helped too!). But we did get it done! We replaced the back with a new board, glued boards onto the empty drawer spaces to create shelves, painted it with chalk paint, distressed it, waxed it, and finally replaced the knobs with ones I had chosen at Hobby Lobby (50% off!).

P1180126

After

 

All told we probably spent about $200, between the supplies, boards, chalk paint, wax and knobs. But we did it ourselves, and rather like the finished project. P1180127

The handy baskets fit perfectly in the odd sized drawer spaces. I registered for them, and was thrilled to receive them at a baby shower. They are nice and sturdy but also collapsible. P1180129_2

Yay for DIY projects that actually turn out as they’re supposed to!

Announcing…

A bit late, but here it is… announcing with great joy, the arrival of our son,

Ethan Edward Bandy 

 Friday, March 27th at 10:02am 

7lbs 12oz

DSC_0008

Protected: Our Birth Story

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Baby Bandy: 38 Week Update

How time flies! Back in my first trimester, baby was so small and tiny, and delivery day seemed so far away. There was still that nagging feeling of “what if something happens to baby while he’s so fragile?”, and even as we talked about plans and child training and home birth, the reality of it actually walking through it all was always “later in the future”.

Now reality is upon us! Today baby is 38 weeks old and, at least physically, pretty much ready to meet the world. In celebration of greeting week 37 last weekend, the warmer weather, and our general enjoyment of capturing special moments together as a couple (WE’RE HAVING A BABY!), we did our maternity shoot around Peoria. I’ve included my favorites from our session below. Technically I should have scheduled the shoot for about 2 months earlier when I wasn’t quite so huge, but who wants to take photos in dirty snow with their noses running?

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionThis pregnancy has gone fairly well, and we are so very thankful. I recently read a blog post including photos of a 14 week old baby who was miscarried, and showed the photos to my husband, both of us in awe over the perfection and details of the tiny life that was lost so young… the parents having to say goodbye as soon as they said hello. I found myself in tears as I felt our son move inside of me, realizing how often I have taken for granted God’s protection over our baby these past 9 months.

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysession

I would definitely have to say that the first trimester was the hardest; with feeling sick, having a hard time eating, being more tired and sleeping a lot, and dealing with inflammation that caused some pretty intense lower back/hip pain. Thankfully once I moved past that, the 2nd trimester was great, and the third has only brought the normal little complaints that simply mean I’m carrying a chubby human being inside of me!

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionAshton has been wonderful throughout the pregnancy, allowing me to rest and sleep in, doing the dishes as my belly makes it difficult to reach across the sink (who knew?), being patient with my changing needs and desires, and talking through everything baby-related with me so that we’re both in the decision process together… even decisions like which brand of changing pad to get for the nursery. 

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionWe’re so ready for this next adventure. At least, we think we are!

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysession

The past month in preparation for baby, I finished up teaching the last session of ballet/exercise classes I had been doing with moms and daughters once a week. I’m really glad I was able to teach throughout my pregnancy- it was refreshing to get myself out of the house even when I wasn’t feeling well, and a good motivation to try to workout when I could… plus I just had fun with the ladies in class!

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionWe also attended two baby showers and received so many adorable, lovely things for baby! Unpackaging, washing and folding all the blankets and clothes was so much fun as I freaked out over how tiny and adorable everything was… and the fact that my own little baby will be filling out those clothes very soon. 

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionOur prenatal visits have gone very well, and we are so excited to be having a home birth. We love our midwife, our doula, and the fact that (Lord willing, barring any need to transfer) I will be able to labor and we’ll be able to bring our son into the world in a peaceful, familiar and natural environment. We are blessed to have supportive family and friends throughout the process of planning the best we can for baby… desiring to be natural but wise, and are confident that the Lord will give us wisdom in each decision as I deliver baby, and as we raise him. God’s providence, I think, is such a huge source of peace and comfort as we look ahead to the huge responsibility of caring for and raising our child. 

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionWe love him so much already!

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysession

I’m still in shock that we’re so close to meeting him. It’s also weird to think about going into labor soon, because I haven’t had any braxton hicks at all throughout this pregnancy, and other than a few aches and pains, really have nothing with which to liken oncoming labor to. The idea of going from “normal” to “get-this-baby-out-mode” in a short amount of time is rather odd. Right now, though, I’m just hoping my water doesn’t break in Church… you know, right during the prayer time.

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionI’m so thankful that regardless of how long labor is, when it happens, or how difficult it may be, I know I’ll have my husband beside me to walk me through it. Plus, we’ve been to Bradley class, so he’ll know how to recognize signs of different stages in labor and help me (and him!) stay calm throughout the natural process even when it’s all so new. Husbands really are the best!

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysession

One thing I specifically appreciate- and so desperately need from my husband- is his constant and genuine affirmation of me as my body is changing. Especially with a dancer’s background, it’s been more difficult than I thought it would be to reconcile the fact that my body will never be the same again. I always KNEW this about pregnancy and motherhood, and that it is so, so worth the changes… but of course reality is always different on the other side of the fence.

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysession

Even as I want to take care of my body, this temple for the Lord, as best I can, I know there will be increasing demands on my sleep, energy… goodness, even my wardrobe will be greatly affected (challenged? slimmed down?) as I enter the world of nursing. Believe it or not, this can be a huge emotional hurtle for someone who likes her affordable, flattering, and wide range of clothing options!

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysession

I also have to be careful not to look at photos of myself pre-pregnancy or I’ll feel like a whale with no hope of ever wearing pencil skirts again. But through all of this, my husband blesses me by not just being okay with the changes, but appreciating them! It does this proud heart good to catch him looking fondly at my giant belly, or looking for stretch marks because they’re “badges of honor”, or still finding me sexy… and to humbly realize that my standard of beauty is not God’s, and my husband’s delight over my changing body is a special way He uses to strip me of my pride and self-imposed standards of false perfection.

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysession

It’s a lesson I know I’ll need to keep on learning in the years ahead. My body is not my own! And when I realize and fully embrace His calling to give up of myself for my family (what greater privilege could there be!) I know in the end, I will be blessed in return.

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysession

We are so in awe of this gift the Lord has given us, and we can’t wait to see our son’s face, to hold him, to study his tiny features. The whole picture of raising him, teaching him, guiding him and being good and godly examples seems so impossibly overwhelming… until I bring myself back to the present and realize that God in His mercy only gives us one day at a time. And I know each day as a mommy, whether hard or easy, sweet or monotonous, will be precious.

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysession

Only a few more weeks!

Dear baby…

Dear baby,

Let me tell you about your daddy. I can’t wait for you to meet him! Besides seeing your perfect little face for the first time, I really can’t wait to see your Daddy’s face when he meets you, his little boy, his firstborn. He loves you so much. He loves me so much! And you are already a blessed child to have him as your father and role model; the man you will look up to and learn from. Many of the same qualities that made me fall in love with your daddy will be the same qualities that will you will grow to admire as well…

Your daddy is a gentleman. He opens the car door for me, helps me with my coat, guides me around the ice, never laughs at my “girly” tears and emotions, and cheerfully serves me when I’m weak, in pain, or just feeling big with you in my belly! I can’t wait to watch as you learn to be gentle with and protective towards women and children, just like your daddy.

Your daddy is a leader. He reads bible to me every day, he prays over me, he makes decisions for our family as the Lord leads, despite pressure from society or others to conform to what is popular. He doesn’t seek the limelight, but he is visionary and willing to step out and stir others up to action for the kingdom. This is one of the main things that won me over to your daddy… he showed initiative and leadership skills in our courtship, and I can’t wait to see how you learn to humbly lead others, just like your daddy.

Your daddy is a follower of Christ. He is submissive to the Lord and His word, which is the center of our home. He desires to honor God in how we practice hospitality, relate in our marriage, operate as a family, and raise you. His relationship with the Lord is so important, it’s one of the main things he prays about for you. We pray that you would not know a day apart from the Lord’s goodness and mercy… just like your daddy.

Your daddy is funny! I do have to warn you, baby, that your daddy can be goofy. He makes me laugh in ways other people wouldn’t get, and I’m pretty sure he’ll be the one to coax those adorable belly laughs out of you first. He likes to have fun, he plays with legos, he teases me, and he knows how to balance work and play. I can’t wait to see you grow up having fun in our home and in life, just like your daddy.

Your daddy is handsome. And I hope you get a boyish grin, strong hands, and curly brown hair… just like your daddy.

Your daddy is not perfect. He does make mistakes, just like I do. He won’t always feel cheerfully selfless when taking care of us, when he’s tired and had a long day. He will say things that won’t come out the way he meant them to. There may be times when he makes decisions you don’t understand or like. But baby, no one is perfect. No daddy is perfect. But I do know this; the daddy the Lord gave you is perfect for you. When he makes a mistake and apologizes, you will see a humility that can only come from the Lord. When life throws a curveball and he chooses to trust God rather than despair, you will see a faith that only comes from above. When you disobey and he lovingly corrects you, you will experience a taste of the unconditional, unmerited love that comes from our heavenly Father. Just like your daddy does.

I can’t wait for you to meet him!

Photo Credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

Photo Credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

Our 2014 Christmas and New Years Letter

As we usher in the New Year and reflect on all that has happened in 2014, we are so thankful for the Lord’s provision and blessing. Ashton completed his third year as an assistant to the CIO at Samaritan Ministries and kept busy coordinating board meetings, taking a public speaking course, and becoming certified as a project manager. He volunteered to help coordinate our church’s annual Reformation Faire in October and has been giving more time to local ministries… and he keeps fairly busy spoiling his wife, especially when it comes to Valentines Day!

I called six English Country dances and taught 14 weeks of dance/exercise classes… a fun, low-commitment outlet for teaching and dancing after leaving my studio in Omaha. I have enjoyed practicing hospitality and being able to really focus on homemaking, as well as developing new friendships at church and in the community… not to mention taking care of my hubby, which has definitely been the highlight.

We have been both blessed and challenged as a couple in 2014. In March we were in an accident that totaled our car, and grew a lot as we dealt with the frustrations of insurance and having to buy a new vehicle.

We viewed several houses while we were seriously looking but finally decided to stay in our current apartment as long as we can. You can’t beat the commute and daily lunches together! We joined the local Right to Life chapter, as well as our Illinois’ homeschool Legislative Task Force. We were able to travel to Cincinnati twice, Nebraska several times, and Wisconsin.

We’ve had a good balance of “busy” and “fun” as newlyweds, from having fun volunteering to also experiencing firsts together… a canoe trip, walking local trails, enjoying the local farm-to-table restaurants, taking a moonlight cruise down the Illinois river, babysitting together for the first time (practice!), going on road trips, reading, and learning together. We love doing hospitality and discovered that we really can have my seven family members stay with us in our two bedroom apartment for 4 days!

But of all the memories we made, finding out on July 21st that we are expecting a little one was our favorite. Our little truffle is due in April… a boy! And we can’t wait to meet him and expand our family as we move into a new and fun season of discovery. We are taking Bradley classes and reading a lot, but most importantly we are praying and taking in the amazing changes as baby grows. We are very excited to be parents!

On September 21st, we celebrated our first anniversary… we are so thankful for a wonderful first year as husband and wife. We rejoice in this season and pray that He would bless you abundantly this New Year!

In Christ,

Ashton and Jennifer

 

It’s a boy!

I realize this post is a bit late, since I rather ruined the surprise in my previous pregnancy update. However, my motto recently (especially as I move into motherhood) has been “better late than never”, and as a first-time parent I’m sure it’s my duty to show off baby’s first photos, however blurry they may be.

Ashton and I really thought (we were nearly convinced!) that we were having a girl, but we did want an ultrasound to confirm the gender, and to see our little one for the first time. We were planning a trip to see my family (and I really wanted to share the experience with my mom), so I contacted my friends at the women’s pregnancy center in Omaha and asked if we could have one done there. I had volunteered at the center as an advocate for seven months, and at the end of most appointments I was able to be with the women as they had their ultrasound done and saw their baby for the first time. We thought it would be so special to see our own little one at the same center, with the same nurses I had volunteered with around us sharing in the joy.

US pic 2So during our trip to Omaha to see my family in October, we stopped in to the center, excited to see our little one and hoping (though not counting on!) finding out the gender. I was 17 weeks along and we knew it would be rather early to tell, but we were hoping! My mom went with us, so between us and the nurses, we had a room full of people excited to see the miracle inside my womb. And I must say… even after seeing plenty of ultrasounds as a volunteer, there really is nothing like getting a glimpse inside of your own womb, getting to see the profile and outline of your own baby, witnessing life growing in such a natural yet mind-blowing way.

US pic 3Our little truffle was very active the whole time. I honestly thought that I could usually tell when baby was awake and really moving around, but I was surprised to see so many strong, sharp movements going on that I couldn’t feel. We were thrilled to see our little one kicking up a storm, punching, twisting, rolling, swallowing, touching his face, and even waving at us (eliciting a lot of laughter and “awwwws” from the women in the room). I had no idea our baby was so active. Now that I’m even further along I can feel it more, but at the time it was so amazing to realize how much was going on inside my belly that I was unaware of.

US pic 5While we weren’t concerned about health issues or finding something unexpected, it was such a joy to see the perfect little body of this miracle our Creator has been knitting together… fingers, toes, little feet, strong femurs, the spine, the beating chambers of the heart, the brain, the skull, the ribs, the cute belly and the most adorable little nose you’ve ever seen.

And I’ll spare you the photos, but after long last we were able to get baby to hold still long enough to find out if we were having a son or daughter. And after four good pictures, everyone in the room pretty confidently agreed that we were looking at our little boy. Of course, we know an ultrasound can only be so accurate, and we could always be surprised in April! But we were confident enough to announce the gender and start planning for a navy blue themed nursery. We were pretty shocked, to say the least… a boy! I grew up with five brothers, but as we walked out of the center, grinning and stunned and so happy, I remember thinking… what am I going to do with a BOY?!

US pic 7But as surprised as we were, I know the answer. First, I’m going to kiss him, and snuggle, and examine his little nose, fingers and toes. Then, we’re going to raise him to fear the Lord and to walk in His ways. We’re going to play in the park and go exploring, build with legos and travel around with model trains. We’re going to build things and read books and play hide-and-seek. And we’re going to enjoy the moments we have as we raise a son for the Kingdom.

We are so excited!

DSC_0436

 

20 Weeks and a Pregnancy Update

Friday marked 20 weeks of life for our little baby boy! We’re already halfway through this pregnancy and can hardly believe how time has flown by… after the holidays speed past, April will just be around the corner! There are days we are just in awe over the fact that life is growing inside of me… that the bumps and kicks we feel is a precious child that the Lord knew from the beginning of time… and that child is ours! With his own unique personality and character, physical features and body type. We are savoring this time of newness and anticipation, but are so looking forward to meeting our son and watching him grow outside the womb.

Baby Truffle has grown right on track, and is now roughly 10 inches long from head to toe, about the length of a banana. He has pretty good range of motion, and we already know our little one is strong, after both feeling him kick his little legs at an early 15 weeks. We can feel him punch, kick, roll over, and sometimes wonder if he’s jumping and turning somersaults as well. His favorite time to be active is when mommy is getting ready to sleep, but he gets pretty quiet when daddy reads a book out loud, since he can hear our voices now.

DSC_0460

So far, the pregnancy has gone fairly smoothly and I am feeling like one blessed momma, especially after hearing stories of prolonged morning sickness and ongoing pain issues. I had about a month and a half of morning sickness towards the beginning where it was almost impossible to eat full meals, and all I really wanted was toast. Then I had about 4-6 weeks of lower back pain that peaked to a point where I was having a hard time walking up stairs and couldn’t turn over in bed. That was by far the lowest point of the first trimester, as I didn’t know how I could make it through a healthy pregnancy if it continued or got worse. It gave me an opportunity to really cry out to the Lord, place my trust in Him, and learn not to waste the pain but learn from it. And praise the Lord, He almost completely lifted the pain and soreness the day of our anniversary at 12 weeks, and it hasn’t come back since.

DSC_0473

Otherwise, my list of complaints is fairly short. I occasionally have pelvis issues but nothing that can stop me from going through my day. I do have to be more careful what I expect my squished, rearranged stomach to digest, and my gag reflex is functioning amazingly well, especially with leftovers I’m tired of.  I’m slowly phasing out pre-baby clothing from my closet, though I’m definitely holding out as long as I can before shopping maternity. I’ve been able to teach an exercise/ballet class once a week, which feels great, except for the fact that bending over is starting to feel kind of weird (oh yeah, I guess I can’t really do that anymore!). I’m still sleeping well at night, though, and naptime isn’t always necessary to make me feel human (yay!).

Ashton and I are very blessed to be in a Church community that supports and helps equip us as we prepare for a natural, hands-off, healthy pregnancy and delivery, so we feel fairly prepared even as we continue to pray, read, and prepare. We started taking Bradley classes and I continue to read books on nutrition, breastfeeding, and natural childbirth. We’re starting to rearrange our second bedroom and plan out the nursery, as well as build our registry… which can seem like an overwhelming task, with so many different baby products and items on the market today. However, we strongly feel that natural is best, that babies don’t need every new gadget under the sun to be happy, and that we can take a more minimalistic approach as we consider what to bring into our home. Even then, the list is quite long!

DSC_0474

We continue to pray for our little boy… that he would be strong, healthy, meek in character, a joy to many. We pray that he would follow the Lord with all of his heart, and that God would equip us with the wisdom and love we need to raise him to fear and follow his Creator. It seems like such an unattainable goal, to be good, godly parents and role models, but we are excited at this responsibility, and know that our feeble efforts will be blessed as we commit our ways, and our children, to the Lord.