Friday, December 23, 2011

What does Christmas mean to you?

I was curious as to what Christmas means to each reader, but since I didn't get many responses, this post is mostly going to be about what Christmas means to me, I guess - ha!

Both of the responses I did get were very similar to what I'm going to expound on. Cara said "Getting together as a family and being thankful for the year's blessings ♥ and of course Jesus, after all He's the reason for the season!" Along those same lines, Melinda responded with "Celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus and time with family!"

Ever since I was a little girl Christmas was a big deal. Not because of presents (though that was of course an added bonus and why we - my brothers and sister and I - were so super excited about it! Ha!), but mostly because of the time we spent with family and worshiping our newborn Savior. My folks were always really involved with the youth at our church (they were the youth group leaders), so some of my earliest memories are hanging out with the "big kids" (aka junior high and high schoolers) throughout the year, but also while mom and dad directed them in the Christmas Eve candle light service. It was always really cool. My mom is wonderfully creative and a born leader, so the productions were always fantastic. Now, it's important to note that I grew up in the very small town of Platte, SD, so it's not like it was a huge production or anything....but the church was always packed to the brim and people from the congregation and community loved it. By the time I was in high school, it had become quite grand, and we always made an impact. So, because of that, you can imagine how important the celebration of Jesus' birth really is to me. In addition to our involvement with the candle light service every year, we made a point to read the Christmas story out of the Bible before we got to open any presents, and at both my extended family celebrations we did the same thing. I remember my mom's mom doing things like printing out Bible verses for each of the grandkids to read...once we read it we lit a candle. It was always very moving (looking back at the time it was mildly amusing, but for sassy teenagers it was mostly just appeasing Grandma).

That brings me to time with family. Family and extended family has always been a central part of my life. I grew up with tons of cousins - I think there are 35 on one side and 20 on the other...yes, we had big families. Obviously, we aren't all the same age, so there was more like a group of about five on one side and four on the other that were really close and played together all. the. time. We were best friends. So when Christmas came (and family came from out of town and stayed for awhile) we were in family / cousin / best friend heaven. We had SO much fun! If there was enough snow we would take a day and go sledding on my dad's side...then on my mom's side we would pull taffy another day. It was truly the best time of the year for so many reasons.

These things still mean so much to me. Family is a very central part to our Christmas celebrations. Of course now that I have my own family with a wonderful husband and small children, it's getting to see the look in the kids' eyes when they see pretty lights, beautifully wrapped presents, and the fun little traditions we are putting into place as the years go by. That is definitely the most important thing to me right now. But we have some extended family traditions as well. I absolutely love getting to spend time with both Randall's and my families this time of year...the love, giving, camaraderie, laughter, and of course good food is simply perfect.

The very most important thing to me, though, and truly the reason for Christmas, is the little baby that was born so long ago in a stable in Bethlehem. He was born to save me (and you!) and has given me new life. Seriously - what could be a better reason to celebrate such a wonderful Holiday?

So...what does Christmas mean to you?

~Evie Dewitt

As a side note - I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and pray your celebrations are perfect in whatever you do! Many, many blessings to everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa...yes or no?

A couple weeks back I asked our Facebook readers if they "do" Santa at their house and why or why not?

There was a big response with a lot of diversity, so instead of going into detail about what we do (so you can get on to reading these great responses), I'll just tell you that we "do" Santa at our house, but we want to make it clear to our kids that Christmas is not only about getting gifts from Santa (or anyone else for that matter), but that giving is even more important.

So, enough from me on the subject...what do our readers have to say?

Yes we do! Just because that's how we were raised and it's something for the child to look forward to. Christmas is so exciting through the eyes of our kids!

Yes, it's tradition

Nope, not anymore. Last year was a big debacle with a certain gift that Emmie didn't get. This year everyone is getting three gifts just like our Savior got on His birthday. I am trying to get them to realize the true meaning of Christmas. We have an Advent wreath and Advent calendar this year too. The kids will each get one thing they want, one thing they need, and we will have one family gift to share plus just a couple odds and ends in their stockings. We will also again have a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas day as well.

We do Santa but we only get them five or six gifts total including Santa gifts. But we talk about what the true meaning of Christmas is and what happened and why we celebrate Christmas daily. We talk about Jesus and the manger and the story of Christmas all month, then on Christmas day we celebrate Jesus' birthday.

I have a feeling that this will be the last year my oldest (8) believes in Santa...I'm sure he'll break the news to my 5 year old as well. I don't mind the Santa thing while the kids are young. Honestly, they don't care who gives the gifts. I'm ok with that. We also talk about the meaning of Christmas. I'm not extremely religious, more spiritual.

Santa has always done stockings in our house. Along with fruit, candy, nuts, and a toothbrush, he wraps some SMALL gifts and leaves them in the stockings (gift cards, CD's, DVD's, games, puzzles, lip balms, lotions, etc...). In my opinion, Santa bringing the "main" gifts leads to heartache in older children when he "miraculously" doesn't get them what they want, if they KNOW the main gifts are from family, then they understand WHY they don't always get that really expensive item they want. Haha!! Now that said...Tasha REFUSES to believe there is no Santa, seriously. She informed her teacher that she "agrees with my mom and dad when they say there is no Santa, just so they don't argue with me about it"...<sigh> One of the many joys of having a mentally impaired 18 year old.

We also do Santa, because it was the way we were raised. In the past we have done the big gifts as "Santa" gifts. After reading Sheila's thoughts it really made me think...We spend SOOO much time stressing about making sure we get the things they asked from Santa because they are usually the most expensive things. If we DO NOT succeed in getting them, it leads to a big ol Santa let down. So I think this year, WE are gonna claim the big gifts and let Santa bring the petty stuff!

No Santa in our house. We have an incredibly strict 'no lies' policy in our house, and it covers everything. They were allowed to believe as long as its what they thought on their own, but when asked we tell them the absolute truth, including the true story of St Nicholas and reasons for the holiday. They all still get stockings along with a couple of gifts, and we're all good with that. Only the four year old seems a tad confused, she asked the other day "if you and daddy are going to be Santa, then who is going to be your reindeer this year?"

We do! I love the magic of Santa and his elves. :)

Nope; no need to set 'em up for any further disappointment than they'll experience already with us and life and the world...can't justify lying about it, either ~

Yes and no-- I don't bring up Santa, make cookies for him or any of that, when he says stuff about Santa you just ask questions back. The media, grandma and grandpa and friends supply a lot of information/ideas of Santa. I teach him about Jesus and His birthday. But if he wants to believe in Santa I don't want to rain on that parade. If he ever asked I'd tell him, otherwise I think it's harmless to let it go.

We definitely do Santa. We will also do the tooth fairy. Childhood is full of magic and the unexplained. I like to foster that as long as possible. As long as my kids are young enough to WANT to believe in it, I will encourage it.

Wow...I have heard a lot of new things on this post that I have never heard before. I honestly didn't realize that people around here wouldn't "do" Santa for little kids. People make good points though.

We don't "do" Santa, because of the whole make believe thing. Because when they are older and find out it's fake they might have a harder time believing in something we find real but can't see like Jesus/God. However it's been really easy to skip Santa because she is only three. I just had a lady ask her today what she was going to ask Santa for and she looked at me like "what is this lady talking about mommy" I am sure we will be having some interesting conversations in the coming days/weeks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Time for Gratitude - Mothering like Mary

Ok, so I would be completely remiss if I didn’t talk about our son Porter today since we are so close to Christmas which is also his 2nd birthday.

For any of you that read this blog regularly, you know that I had a home birth with him. Even though I haven’t written my entire birth story for you yet, someday I definitely will. Basically, he was born two years ago in the middle of a raging blizzard (like, seriously - thank the Lord we planned a homebirth because I don’t know if we would have been able to get to the hospital which is only about 10 blocks away…for real) on Christmas morning….while our daughter was eating her breakfast J. About an hour after he was born we were all in the living room opening Christmas gifts…it was fantastic.

Anyway, this Christmas I’ve really been thinking about being a mommy, how blessed I am in so many ways, and of course my children…particularly Porter since he shares his birthday with Jesus and, frankly, ‘tis the seasonJ.

One of the things that has really, truly been on my heart, though, is a Bible verse that I’ve heard and read probably 100 times…maybe you have too…”But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” Luke 2:28 NIV. This is, of course, from the story of Jesus’ birth. Many things had transpired…Mary and Joseph traveled a long distance when she was very pregnant, once they reached their destination they were turned away from staying in a probably over-crowded and noisy inn (a blessing in and of itself, I would think), but because she was so pregnant (and possibly in labor at the time…who knows?) the innkeeper let them stay in the stable. After he was born, angels appeared to shepherds in fields not far away and with a great and magnificent chorus they told the shepherds what had just happened and where to find the baby Savior. After they had seen the baby, the shepherds went and told everyone what had happened and what the angel had told them. This is where it says Mary took all these things and pondered them.

What got me thinking about this is a few weeks ago my Pastor was reading this passage from the New Living Translation, and this verse jumped out at me ”but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” It’s amazing how hearing something in just a little different way can bring so much meaning to it. I had never really even considered Mary before…as with most Christian churches, the focus has always been on Jesus – makes sense, right?

I mean, for the first time in my life, I looked at Mary as a mother…just a regular excited, scared, joyous, protective young mommy …just like me! I mean, what mother doesn’t have memories of their births and surrounding events, thoughts, emotions, worries, joys, etc that she keeps in her heart and thinks about often? I’ve been really wondering what kind of things she thought. Was it how her labor went? Was it how Joseph supported her during labor and delivery? (I wonder how that went, by the way…in those times laboring women were usually surrounded by other women, weren’t they? They weren’t even married, so I wonder how comfortable he was being so close to her in such an intimate way?)  Was it the way it felt as her Savior’s head was crowning? Or perhaps it was the angel that told her of her immaculate conception, or of the visiting shepherds and what they told her they saw. Maybe it was the unbelievable responsibility that she must have felt…seriously – how would you feel having to raise the Son of God? I feel enough responsibility raising our own precious babes…tack on that one of them is the world’s Savior and I think I might feel a bit overwhelmed – ha! Maybe she was just in complete awe of how perfect (literally) her baby boy was and just drank it in.

Anyway, today and the past week or two I've been very reflective of all this. It gives me such a sense of comfort and camaraderie with Mary to know that she thought about things just like I do; that God made us all the same, no matter where or when we lived…we are all mothers.

So, this Christmas morning, I will most definitely be “pondering” some things in my heart…as I will on January 22nd (Vienna’s birthday) and frankly probably every day for the rest of my life - let's be real. 

I’m so thankful and grateful to be a mommy who ponders.

**Please note that I am not comparing myself to the mother of Christ J. I am simply commenting on my revelation that she was just a regular mommy, too, and I'm sure we have thought at least some of the same things about our children. I wish many, many blessings to you all as you celebrate this joyous season!

By Evie DeWitt

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Childbirth Professional Day - Meet Rose Marie Hoiten

1.    What is your Childbirth Profession?

I am a certified nurse midwife, certified family nurse practitioner, and international board certified lactation consultant.

2.    Describe your profession and why someone would want to choose your profession for support in pregnancy and/or childbirth.

(I will talk mostly about my role as a certified nurse midwife.)
Nurse midwifery is a profession that has a background in nursing and also midwifery. Midwife means “with woman” and that is exactly what a CNM does - spends time with women. They care for women in all stages of their life cycle from adolescence to menopause.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) provide primary care during all stages, but are most known for the care they give women and their families during pregnancy and childbirth. CNMs can practice in hospitals, birth centers, and homes. Here in South Dakota, CNMs are not able to practice in all places concurrently and due to the laws currently in place, I made the decision to practice as an out of hospital nurse midwife.

I love my profession because I have gotten to apply the knowledge and skills that I acquired from years of education and experience in the traditional hospital setting, and now I use it to care for women and their families in the home setting. I get to know my patients very well and support their decision to birth at home. I very much enjoy the work and travel I do to assist patients with labor and birth in their homes.

My background as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) and international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) have given me a solid knowledge of primary care, well child care, emergency medicine, and lactation. These certifications both enhance the degree of services I can offer my clients in the out of hospital birth setting.

3.    Why did you get started in your profession?

I was first certified as an IBCLC while working as a labor and delivery nurse. I then went back to grad school to complete the family nurse practitioner program. I was working out in rural SD and realized that women in our state had very limited options for pregnancy and obstetrical care. I had always wanted to be a nurse midwife, but the distance to a program was the hardest thing for me considering I had several young children of my own.

While working as an FNP in central South Dakota, I had come across several patients in a couple weeks time that really needed a nurse midwife. Their options were limited and since I could not do intrapartum care, I felt moved to pursue midwifery training. I had contemplated this for a long time, but those couple weeks in my life moved me to make a phone call to the University of Minnesota nurse midwifery program. In 2 days I was signed up for a class doing post graduate work to become a Certified Nurse Midwife.

4.    In detail, what is your personal childbirth philosophy?

I believe that women should have the resources and available providers to make the decision that is best for her and her family. We need to have hospitals and physicians available, but for low risk patients the hospital is not always the appropriate place to labor and birth. When women come into the hospital setting, it is easy for hospital routines and practices to “just happen”, even if the woman and her family have strong reasons for attempting to avoid certain interventions.

A woman knows how she should birth. As a certified nurse midwife doing homebirths, my job is to ensure that whatever a woman decides is safe for her and her unborn child. I believe that it is my job to thoroughly screen my patients and make sure that any women that I am caring for remains low risk. I want to have the time to get to know my patients on a personal level and build a relationship of trust, so that should the need to abandon a planned homebirth arise, we already have that trusting relationship and we can work together on the appropriate and necessary steps to take.

I don’t believe that any women should have to birth unassisted. Women should receive support from the healthcare community to do what is right for them and that includes hospital birth, birth center services, and homebirths. Women should be able to make the choice where they want to birth and have access to trained birth attendants in all settings.

5.    If you could tell all pregnant women in the world something, what would it be?

Every pregnant woman has the right to decide what type of care is right for her. If something does not seem right for you, then investigate your options and make an informed choice. 

6.    How long have you been in your profession? Are you certified? If yes, by who?

I have been a Certified Nurse Midwife since 2010 - I am certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board and am licensed in SD.
I have been a Family Nurse Practitioner since 2005 and am certified by the American Nurse’s Credentialing Center and am licensed in SD, IA, and Alaska.
I have been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant since 2002.

I have been a Registered Nurse since 1992 and am licensed in SD and Alaska.

Additional certifications include: CPR, NRP(Neonatal Resuscitation Program), ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support), ALSO (Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics), and ATLS (Advanced Trauma Life Support).

7.    Do you have a business name? How can people contact you for pregnancy and childbirth support?

Journey Home Midwifery

Call my phone to set up an appointment (605)769-0807.
My website is still under construction, but more is going up everyday:

8.    Where do you practice?

I am currently seeing patients either in my home or a small office space that I rented in Salem, SD at an old chiropractor clinic. I will be moving back into my home office early in the spring to my rural Montrose home. I am approximately 30 miles west of Sioux Falls.

I will travel to births in the eastern South Dakota, approximately 2 hours from my home. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Favorite Childhood Christmas Traditions...

My holiday traditions were a little different then everyone else’s when I was growing up.  Every Christmas Eve my family went to the evening church service and/or went to go look at Christmas lights around town.  My dad would take us on a tour of all his favorite themed light streets and my sister and I would count the minutes until we could go back home.  “Why?” you ask.  Because we were special.  That’s right, Santa was so overanxious to give us our gifts, that he would wait until we were out of our house to come snuggle those beautiful presents under our tree.  As soon as we got in the house, we would launch downstairs to see if Santa had come to visit us. 
            Of course he had, and the next hour or so was spent in a flurry of glossy wrapping paper and ecstatic shrieks of joy.  After we opened our presents we would usually have some snacks and hot chocolate and stay up late watching a movie.  (More likely than not, A Muppets Family Christmas, which my family knows all the words to.  Much to my husbands chagrin.)  Occasionally, when my sister was little, my dad and I would go to the late night candlelight service at church.  We would go to bed and sleep in on Christmas morning, then usually do Christmas dinner at home or a nearby relative’s house.  In hindsight, this was a serious planning win on my parents’ part, because we crashed hard from our sugar/present high and usually slept in pretty good on Christmas morning. 
            Now that I have my own children, my husband and I are trying to incorporate both of our separate sets of traditions into some conglomeration of a tradition for our own kids.  I am adamant about doing gift opening on Christmas Eve., especially this year as I will be hosting Christmas dinner at our house, because I always thought that made our family special when I was growing up.  We are slowly but surely beginning to morph our families’ way of doing things into one.
            I love seeing my kids’ faces when they experience the awesomeness of Christmas.  It isn’t just the gifts, or the food, but the chance to spend time together and make memories.  Whenever I think of Christmases past, my memories have a sort of happy hazy glow around them, and this feeling of comfort and joy is what I most wish to pass on to my children through my traditions.

By Rochelle Lund

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Teaching Kids to Give

This is a time of year that children (and adults) can very, very easily get wrapped up in the season and have an attitude of "gimme gimme gimme" "What wonderful things am I going to get?" "I want this and this and this and this and this and this!"

Even though we are living in a time where things are financially tight for many many people, for some reason we feel the need to give our children pretty much anything and everything they ask for (just take a look at people's carts at your local Wal-Mart and Target). Hubby and I are no exception...we want to give our kids what they are dreaming about and something that they will love...they are at an age where their "dreams" are not that expensive so it's easier to get caught up in giving them so much. It's not because we want to spoil them, it's because we love them and want them to have the kind of Christmas they will remember and look back on with fondness and wonderful memories, and I suspect many other parents feel the same way. This year we have forced ourselves to cut things back...they are getting some things they really want, but we are not going overboard like we did last year.

So, in the midst of the flurry of giving, glitz, glitter, and the spirit of the season, how do you teach your children the value and joy of giving?

Well, at our house, we have been talking a lot about being a light to others and showing God's love. We especially focus on it at bedtime prayers. Vienna and I talk about how we can be a light and things we can do or give to others to show and be an example of God's love. Randall and I feel that giving isn't just about the physical act of giving something to someone, but also things you can do for others...that giving of yourself can mean so much. Of course, we also make sure the kids are "in" on any gift giving, we wrap a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child, and we talk about how fun it is to give to others. Our kiddos are still really young, but it's fun to see their understanding coming about. Vienna did something for Porter yesterday and when I thanked her for doing something so meaningful and nice, she asked if she was being a "light". Yes! She's getting it :)

Here are the responses from our readers on this question:

We always emphasize that it's not about us, as we are very blessed. We may not have everything we want, but we have what we need. We try to stress that all year long, not just Christmas. We pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and they have so much fun picking stuff out to go into them. As they get older, they have really taken notice of the Salvation Army bell ringers and always want to put something in the kettle. So we are going to ring bells with the older ones this year too. I think it's important to answer their questions honestly and have an open dialogue about why we need to give and help them to realize how blessed they are. The last couple of years we also stopped doing big presents under the tree and just do stockings. If something doesn't quite fit in the stocking we make a treasure hunt out of it with clues in their stocking and they have to find it in the house :)

We sponsor a local family

We do it all year long

I was raised that we give up one gift at Christmas to buy one for the angel tree. We picked out what we wanted and donated it. I hope to do that with my children.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finding Balance at Christmas

"How do you find balance this time of year - kids, family, shopping, Christmas programs, parties, etc?"

Ok, so when I asked this question to our readers, I was really hoping for some good tips, advice, and ways I could better balance things. I didn't get very many responses (though the ones I got I will post here), but after I thought about it a little bit, I realized that I actually am balancing things pretty well.

No, I'm not perfect - not even close, but this year I've really haven't had much choice but to have some balance in my Christmas preparation. I've started a new business, and I have had several custom orders that I've had to do, and I have one really big custom order I'm working on right now. The thing is, is that some things are just gonna have to take a back seat. We had our son's birthday party yesterday (he turns two on Christmas day), and while she was here for that, my sister asked me if I wanted to go to her place in Watertown today and we could make Christmas cookies/goodies together...our mom was going to go, and it would have been a very fun that we try to do every year. I didn't have a choice but to say no this matter how much I wanted to go. I have other things that take priority, and until those are done I need to not do some of the "extras"...perhaps I'll be able to do something like that in a week or so, but right now it just isn't possible.

So, my advice is to prioritize. What is most important to you? For me, it's my family and some of our Christmas traditions. Vienna and I made popcorn strings for a tree, as a family we made little Christmas tree treats, we have decorated our house and done a little shopping and gift making, and we will make cookies on Christmas Eve. Church is also a priority, and we look forward to the Christmas program there next week. My new business is important to our income, so as with any business, I need to give it my time and make it a will never come ahead of my family, but some other things definitely can be knocked back a bit...some things just aren't as important.

So, for those of you that usually get a Christmas card from us, maybe just don't expect one, but if you do get one it will probably be late...sound good? ;)

....that's my story, so how did our readers answer this question?

Very carefully :)
~Shellia Ann

Sadly I skip most parties, enjoy the family when I can and work eats the rest.

Don't be a perfectionist. The kids won't remember perfect sugar cookies, they will remember the time you spent making them together.
Evie's note: I really like Angie's advice!! I have taken it to heart and really applied it in things we do this year - you should see our very non-classy tree decorations - ha! :)

Drinking. Lots of drinking. And I keep wondering where these kids come from...
Evie's note: Kimberly - I think this is hilarious! :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Traditions...

This month I am asking questions on our Facebook page and compiling the answers in a blog post so everyone can enjoy each other's thoughts on Christmas and family this time of year. I will be including my own thoughts on most of the questions as well, so.......enjoy! :)

Today's question was "What are some Christmas/Holiday traditions that you have with your kids?"

We are just beginning our Christmas traditions, but this year we will be doing the same thing that we did last year, so it's a start :). On Christmas Eve we baked cookies together and Vienna decorated them.Then before we went to bed, we set out cookies and milk and Vienna "wrote" her letter to Santa asking for what she wanted. We woke up in the morning and opened gifts and spent the day all together just playing and enjoying our time together. This year will be even more fun because Porter will be able to join in :).

The Christmas pickle. :) We have a glass pickle ornament that gets hidden in the tree on Christmas Eve and in the morning the kids get to search for it, the first to find it gets an extra little gift (usually a trinket or little candy).

We usually try to go pick out either individual ornaments for each kid, or they pick their own. Or we get a family one that has "us" on it. And of course family baking day!

We hunt and cut down our Christmas tree every year. The kids get to pick it out, so not always the straightest tree, but they picked it :). We also allow them to open one gift on Christmas Eve (pj's) and this year we are adding slippers!

We have the elf on the shelf and his name is zartmax. Then last year I found a tiny elf that had the same sort of look so they begged santa in a letter to give that elf (zartsam) magic as well :). So every night they fly to santa telling him how the boys behaved and they are in a new spot every morning to they have to search the house for them.

We watch Polar Express on Christmas Eve in our Christmas pj's with popcorn and apple cider

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time for Gratitude - The Greatest Generation

Picture found and borrowed from the Official Pearl Harbor Tour Website

Today is “Pearl Harbor Day”. Not only is it the anniversary of that fateful day in American History, but it’s the *70th* anniversary. That’s 70 years since America was catapulted into the middle of the war that was raging in Europe and the rest of the world.

I found this snippet on the History Channel’s website that includes President Roosevelt’s remarks about the attack. I think this is a really good representation of how our nation felt, reacted, and how Japan didn’t get exactly what they expected in the aftermath of  the attack:
Pearl Harbor Awakens the "Sleeping Giant"
“Yesterday,” President Roosevelt said on December 8, “the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked.” He went on to say, “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.” After the Pearl Harbor attack, and for the first time after years of discussion and debate, the American people were united in their determination to go to war. The Japanese had wanted to goad the United States into an agreement to lift the economic sanctions against them; instead, they had pushed their adversary into a global conflict that ultimately resulted in Japan’s first occupation by a foreign power.
On December 8, Congress approved Roosevelt’s declaration of war. Three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy declared war against the United States. For the second time, Congress reciprocated. More than two years after the start of the conflict, the United States had entered World War II.
Picture found and borrowed from the Official Pearl Harbor Tour Website
My husband, Randall, is a historian (he plans to be a History professor someday) and he has a passion for WWII. His beloved grandfather served in the Pacific theater on the USS Crescent City APA-21. He passed away in 1997, but to keep his memory alive and honor him, Randall is writing several WWII historical books. He has had the honor of interviewing over 500 WWII veterans, and is piecing together their stories.

We have also gotten involved with the USS Crescent City’s reunion group. Randall serves as President of the USS Crescent City Association and Reunion Group, and we had the pleasure of planning the reunion in the summer of 2010 which was held in San Diego. As you might imagine there aren’t a lot of veterans that served on the USS Crescent City still living (let alone healthy enough to attend a weekend-long reunion), so several years ago the group joined forces with the USS Hayes, USS Adams, and the USS Jackson. When they were in the war, these four ships actually fought and worked together and were known as the “Unholy Four”. They were Attack Transport ships, and they brought Marines, Navy Sailors, and Army Soldiers from one battle point to another and were also able to defend themselves and attack as necessary. Now they get together for a fun weekend of remembering and fellowship with each other each summer.

Anyway, with our involvement with the Reunion Group and Randall’s talking with so many veterans, his research, and writing, we are immersed in WWII at our house! We have had the pleasure of spending time with and getting to know many men and women from this great generation. They lived and fought in a very different time in our country, and it’s because of their sacrifice (both in the war and on the home front) that we are able to live the lives we do today.

So, on this 70th Anniversary of the day that changed our country’s history and future, I am grateful for the men and women who served in WWII and all wars fought on our behalf. Thank you to the generation that sacrificed so much for us…you are a generation of the values and work ethic that this country was founded on, and my family and I strive to be like you.

I leave you with this “Sailor’s Version of the 23rd Psalm” that was Selected from “Chatter”, and Published aboard the USS Crescent City APA-21:

The Lord is my Pilot, I shall not Drift,
He lighteneth my way across the dark waters;
He steereth me in deep channels,
He keepeth my Log.
He guideth me by the Star of
Holiness for His Name’s sake,
Yea though I sail ‘mid the thunders and tempests of Life, I shall dread no danger,
For thou art near me;
Thy love and Thy care they shelter me.
Thou preparest a Harbor before me in the Home of Eternity;
Thou anointeth the waves with oil,
My ship rideth calmly,
Surely sunlight and starlight shall favor me on the voyage I take,
And I shall rest in the Port of God forever.

~ By Evie DeWitt

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Breastfeeding during the Holidays

The busy season is upon us with the hustle and bustle of a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  It is a joyful time but it also can bring some stress.  When you add nursing your new baby to your to do list, it can bring some challenges especially if it’s your first Christmas with your nursing baby.  Here are some suggestions to keep a great breastfeeding relationship while celebrating with family and friends.
  • Agree beforehand with friends and family members to limit gift giving.  This helps with shopping and saves money, too!
  • If you decorate your house, ask friends to help instead of doing it all yourself.  You can direct operations from your rocking chair.
  • If possible take your baby to the party. Hosts are usually referring to older children who can get into trouble underfoot when they say “Adults only.”  Wearing you baby in a sling or wrap makes it easy to nurse discreetly.
  • Baby-wearing is also useful when you have guests.  It enables you to keep your baby from being passed from one person to the next and becoming over stimulated.  If you keep a running list of chores on the refrigerator, you can point to it whenever someone offers to help.
  • Ask guests to bring food contributions instead of making all the meals yourself.  Telling Aunt Marge that you have been looking forward to her special spinach dish all year should do the trick!
  • Work around nap times and other times when baby is sleeping.
  • Avoid long car and plane trips if possible.  If it’s unavoidable, make sure to take plenty of time for nursing breaks.
  • Shop for gifts online or from catalogues.  Keep “real life shopping” trips short or take plenty of breaks to breastfeed.  If you are still feeling shy about nursing in public, feed your baby just before you leave home, in the car or dressing room.
  • Eat well!  Those holiday treats may look yummy but be sure that you eat a meal first!  We don’t have to follow a strict diet when breastfeeding but good food provides energy.  Also, be sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids. 
  • Rest….  Make sure that you are getting sleep!  Take naps if you can with your napping baby.
  • Watch your baby’s cues.  If he becomes fussy, sneak away to a quiet room for some mommy-time. 

LLL of Sioux Falls is meeting this Thursday at 6:30 at Elegant Mommy.  We’d love to see you there!!

I hope you all enjoy a wonderful holiday season!  

~ Sarah Alberts, La Leche League Leader

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

L is for 'Lessons Learned'

            They say that when a door closes another one opens.  My son is living proof of that saying.  A year ago at Thanksgiving time, I had a job I was starting to despise.  I worked either too much or too little and nothing would make the bosses happy.  Truthfully, I was at the point of going to work just for the good money I was making just because I was planning my Labor Day wedding for 2011. 

            The Friday before Thanksgiving, I was let go.  The weird thing was I was not upset.  I just wondered how I was going to be able to pay the bills for the wedding.  As I left, I immediately informed my fiancĂ© that I was coming to his parents’ home for Thanksgiving.  He was excited to see me but also wondered how we were to pay for our wedding as I was making more money between the two of us.

            January 12, 2011, I learned I was pregnant with my son.  His due date was August 12.  Three weeks before the wedding date.  Our plans were changed, and we married in April.  

            During this pregnancy, I tried to find work and was not very successful until my last two months of pregnancy.  It was also during this time I truly learned the saying’s meaning.  While looking for work, I took care of my niece who was born in January, returned to school and brought my GPA up considerably, and fell in love with the occupation of being a stay at home mother.

            I have the loss of this job to thank because if I maintained this job, I would not have my son here today playing peek-a-boo with his giraffe named Bubbles as I write this blog and talking to me when I miss one too many of his peeks.  I would also not be in school finishing my degree, nor would I know what a wonderful blessing it is to stay home and care for my child and know I will never miss a major milestone because I am here to see it.

            I have always heard those wise sayings but never truly paid attention to their truths until my son’s arrival forced my eyes open to seeing them and reflecting upon my life over the past 25 years and remembering how many of them were proven true but I did not see it.

            The next time I have a loss, I will give it the time to grieve the loss but I will also look and see what new opportunities are available for me to take advantage of in thanks of the new loss.  “Do not cry because it ended, smile because it happened.”  has become my new mantra when it comes to losses. 

            As strange as it is, I am thankful that I learned to be thankful for losses great and small over the past year and it is all in thanks to my 3-month-old son.

By Eryn

Monday, November 28, 2011

November Giveaways - Week 4

Enter now to win our last $25 Gift Card to Elegant Mommy!!!

How do you enter? Well, to enter this week you need to comment on this blog post (**Make sure to enter your name in the comment, too - especially if you are an "anonymous" comment-er**), or on the Elegant Mommy or Educated Mommy facebook page giveaway posts.

What do you need to say in your comment?

Tell us your four favorite things about winter

Yep, it's that easy. Just tell us your four favorite things about winter and you will be entered for a chance to win a $25 gift card to Elegant Mommy! The winner will be drawn on Friday afternoon around 4:00 pm CST.

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

U is for 'Unpredictable'

When you think of the word thankful, negatives don’t usually come to mind. All the stress, bad luck, hardships and heartbreak are not usually the first things you think of. When I found out I was pregnant my whole world changed.  My once very predictable life changed tenfold.  Needless to say I was far from ready for it.  I wasn’t ready for the UNPREDICTABLE battle I was about to endure.

I found out I was pregnant in January a few years back; I had just gotten back from a girls weekend out of town. I had been taking a test a few days before my expected period for almost 6 months, only to have a negative every time. My husband and I were not preventing pregnancy. When I took the test I treated it as it was already going to be a negative like all the tests I had taken before. So I left it on the counter and went about my daily routine. I was shocked to get that + sign when I finally looked at the test! I was pregnant; I was going to be a mom! It was my dream come true. The only thing I had wanted in life since I could remember was to be a mom.  I had all these images of being this perfect mom, always put together and the mom other moms wanted to be. I was going to do it all, be the best mom and wife I could be, I wasn’t going to raise my voice to my kid, lose my temper or anything. (Go ahead and laugh) I would have this perfect family. I sailed through pregnancy and even had an easy labor, and delivery. I had this mom thing down….it wasn’t till my daughter was actually in my arms that I was hit with reality.

I didn’t love my baby the moment they laid her on my chest. I didn’t love her the first time I nursed her. I didn’t love her the entire time we were in the hospital. The feelings of overwhelming love didn’t arrive until we were home from the hospital. For a very long time I felt so guilty that I felt so indifferent about my child. I still cannot explain why I didn’t feel that immediate bond. It obviously did eventually show up and we were inseparable. Part of the reason we were inseparable was because I was also the only one who could calm her, I was breastfeeding, I was stay at home mom, I was everything to her and it was exhausting.  My husband turned out to be not as hands on and as involved as I thought he would be.  There were many nights I would be upstairs consoling a crying baby while he was downstairs with the TV louder than normal to drown her cries. That created a lot of resentment and anger towards him. He had every excuse on why he “couldn’t” help. He couldn’t feed her because I was nursing, he hated the cloth diapers and he had no idea how to use a baby carrier even though I had showed him countless times how to use it. Our marriage grew strained and we started to fight all the time. I wanted to go to marriage counseling and he wanted me to get on medication for depression so he didn’t have to get “yelled at all the time.”  He would ignore my “honey-do” lists and requests for help around the house stating because he went out and worked, and I stayed home the housework was my job.

Along with a strained marriage, also came a very strong willed infant/toddler; I won’t call her difficult, instead I will use “spirited.” She tested my patience like no one else had done before. I unfortunately often got furious at her for certain small misbehaviors. I took a lot of stress out on her.  I was exhausted, I couldn’t wait to hand her off to my husband and escape to the grocery store or target and wander up and down every aisle just for time alone. I was beginning to dislike my own child. I loved her, but I didn’t like her. She was so well behaved for other people but with me she was a monster. She didn’t sleep; she would wake up every 45 minutes to an hour every night. My husband would not get up with her and if I made him it usually ended up in a huge fight, which would last for a few more hours. My dreams of being this perfect wife and mother were shattered and I felt defeated.

On top of that I hadn’t gotten use to my post baby body. I didn’t have the time or the energy to put any thought into my wardrobe. I wore stained t-shirts, jeans or sweatpants every day threw my unwashed hair into a pony tail and skipped make up all together. This only caused me more anxiety because before kids I would never leave the house without my hair done and wearing at least mascara.

I reached out to people who were also moms, went on online forums trying to make connections. I still didn’t know anyone in our area even though I had lived here now for almost 3 years. The friendships I found with other moms were not true friendships. There was always the competition of whose kid did this or they always seemed to try to “one-up” each other. And the gossip and trash talking that went on was unbearable. I fell into their toxic pattern and my stress mounted. If I shared personal struggles with one of them all of a sudden all of them knew my business.  I was no better. I gossiped about them as well.  I eventually couldn’t take it anymore and my “friends” and I had a falling out. I was back to being an isolated stay at home mom with a child I didn’t even like, and a marriage to a man I didn’t even know, who I couldn’t talk to about all these things because his solution was always the same, get on drugs for depression.

I hit my breaking point last year. I was going to have surgery for a double hernia. Because my husband was so uninvolved in our lives I had to have my mom come in from out of state to drive me to the hospital and to take care of me afterwards. She stayed the weekend and then took my daughter back home with her, while I recovered because my husband refused to take off any work to care for me or our child. So when my mom left for home that Sunday I was on my own for a whole week, learning how to move to not cause myself pain, getting my meds, preparing my meals and cleaning up after not only myself but my husband as well.  It hurt too much to cry, so I didn’t even though I missed my daughter (it was the first time I had ever spent the night away from her let alone a whole week from her.) I was on a strict no lifting for two weeks, but our daughter was only going to be gone for one of those weeks. So when she came home I still couldn’t lift her. It killed me that I couldn’t pick her up or take care of her how I wanted to. What made it worse was the lack of help. That’s when I decided I had had enough.

I made my husband go to a marriage counselor. I even had him pick the counselor out. I told him it was counseling or I walked. He made it through 2 sessions before he decided he didn’t need to go anymore. I was the one with the problems and I still needed to be heavily medicated for severe depression. So at the beginning of this year I took my daughter and we left. We went home to my parents. Two weeks later he asked me to come back. I did thinking he would change. We continued to fight, it didn’t matter when or where, in front of our daughter we would scream at each other. He would tell me he wished he could hit me. He would call me every name in the book and tell me how worthless I was. He accused me of cheating on him, lying and stealing from him. I was a horrible mother and wife. I had failed. I had failed at the one thing I ever wanted and it killed me. I had a child I disliked, I had a husband who I didn’t know and didn’t love me and I had nowhere to go but back to my parents. I had no friends to help me (I shouldn’t say no friends, I do have a few that have been amazing support and you know who you are!)

My daughter and I have been through hell and back in her short life. I have so many parenting regrets that I can never take back. She is still a spirited child, but since I made the choice to leave permanently she has become a whole different person (I truly believe now that she was acting out and feeding off the stress of her father and I) I love her and she is my whole world. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without her. I am slowly becoming the mom I want to become. I don’t yell as much (work in progress) I am learning to be independent and to manage life as a single parent. Luckily I have the support of my family (who were a state away before).

 When I look back at my life as a parent I don’t dwell on the negative, on the hardship and strife. I am actually very thankful for them. I am thankful that these last few years happened. I am so thankful for the UNPREDICTABLE life that was thrown at me when I entered mommy hood. Without it I wouldn’t be so strong and independent. Without it I wouldn’t have found who I am as a person, without these last years I wouldn’t be a mom. Without the UNPREDICTABLES that come when you become a parent I would have never been strong enough to stand up for myself and my child. I would have never discovered who my true friends were.  I would have never chased my dreams and found my voice. I know there is a lot ahead of us still, and life won’t be easy as a single mom, but instead of fearing the unknown and the future I am embracing the UNPREDICTABLE knowing that I have the strength to forge ahead for my daughter and me. 

Submitted by an Anonymous Guest

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

F is for 'Fertility'

I am thankful for a lot of things beginning with the letter F. Family,
friends, faith, food... to name a few. What I have decided to focus
on today, however, is fertility.

Growing up, like many little girls, one thing I dreamed about being
some day was a mommy. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to have
children. What I did not expect as a little girl, would be the battle
I would face to become a mother.

Fertility, in my case, was not something I was certain I would be blessed with.

After over three years of trying to become parents - with no success -
my husband and I consulted a reproductive endocrinologist. There, it
was decided, that I suffer from Poly-cystic Ovarian Sydrome, also
known as PCOS.

Once discovered, fertility came more easily for me than for some
others who battle. For this, I feel blessed. After a few rounds of
oral medications and failed attempts, within five months, my husband
and I conceived our miracle. Spencer was born without complication on
November 1, 2010.

Fertility is something that can be easy for many to overlook and take
for granted, especially if they have not had to battle. I feel that,
because of my personal struggle, I am extremely thankful for a period
of fertility in my life and for the son I was given as the battle was

By Nicole Worthley

Monday, November 21, 2011

This Week's Sale!

So, we posted about this week's giveaway, but now, how about some exciting sales!?

Online and in our stores, you can now receive

20% off all soap and accessories! 
(not including soap refills)

This includes:

  • Rockin Green
  • Charlies
  • Sprayers
  • Wipes
  • Wee Essentials Wipes Cubes
  • Wetbags
  • Inserts
So, stock up on your soap and accessories today through Wednesday!


(New sales coming Thursday)

November Giveaways - Week 3

Enter now to win a $25 Gift Card to Elegant Mommy!!!

How do you enter? Well, to enter this week you need to comment on this blog post (**Make sure to enter your name in the comment, too - especially if you are an "anonymous" comment-er**), or on theElegant Mommy or Educated Mommy facebook page giveaway posts.

What do you need to say in your comment?

Tell us three reasons you are confident in your parenting skills

Yep, it's that easy. Just tell us three reasons you are confident in your parenting skills and you will be entered for a chance to win a $25 gift card to Elegant Mommy! The winner will be drawn on Friday evening around 7:00 pm CST.

Good luck!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Time for Gratitude - Birth Options in South Dakota

In addition to being Elegant Mommy’s “online face”, I am also a doula, birth activist, and plan to soon begin training to become a certified childbirth educator. Now, when I say “birth activist”, I know that can have a negative connotation to some people. Let me just clarify what I mean. I am *passionate* about helping women and families understand and know that they have CHOICES in their birth plans. I am really an activist for “educated birthing”. I want to help women and families know that they don’t have to just do whatever their provider tells them to do. It’s the provider’s responsibility to tell pregnant and laboring women what their choices are and perhaps even what they would recommend…not tell them what to do. It is the pregnant woman’s responsibility to be educated and informed about what they want and what they don’t want. If their provider doesn't tell them all the information they need to make an educated decision, they need to know the right questions to ask to get their answers. I help them with that.

In addition to that, I have gotten involved with the politics of birth in South Dakota. Now, I can go on and on about the political aspect of things and what our laws are, who has the most influence and seems to “run it all”, etc., but I really want to focus on something in the political realm that is extremely positive for birthing families in this state right now.

This year the state legislature *passed* a bill that will allow Birth Centers to be licensed here! That is HUGE and wonderfully exciting for families here!!

The first draft of regulations for this bill was released recently, and on Wednesday, I had the pleasure to attend the Public Hearing for input on these regulations in Pierre. There were several Certified NurseMidwives in attendance, as well as a representative from South Dakota SafeChildbirth Options, and myself. I spoke on behalf of the American Associationof Birth Centers (AABC); as a South Dakota member of the AABC, and also a member of their national Birth Center Licensure Working Group, I was honored to submit comments on their behalf. There were also several representatives from the medical community – Medical Association, Nursing Association, and Hospital Association, as well as the two gentlemen who put the rules together from the Department of Health.

Overall, there was wonderful discussion between all parties about some clarification in the rules, as well as recommendations from the parties in attendance. The Department of Health, who is responsible for coming up with workable rules, listened to all suggestions and recommendations, and I am confident will make positive changes to the rules based on input from everyone. There was definitely an air of solidarity in that we all want the same thing – more birth options for South Dakota families. Even if we didn’t all agree with *everything* that was suggested, we were all basically on the same page and really just want Birth Centers to be a viable birth option for South Dakota families.

Though there’s still more work to be done, I’m very happy to report that we are one step closer to more healthy and safe birth options here!

By Evie DeWitt

Thursday, November 17, 2011

K is for 'Knowledge'

As I write this, I am pumping at work while on my lunch. It’s not the most fun way to spend your lunch break or any break for that matter. The sacrifices we make as a breastfeeding mother are boundless. Not all of us are lucky enough to be a stay at home mom or a work at home mom. I think it takes a lot of courage to be a full time working mom and still provide breastmilk. Not all workplaces are friendly to the idea; judgment, time, and location are all factors to a mother’s comfort in doing such a personal and yet disconnected way of expressing milk. So many moms can relate. With that said, I am not your typical pumping mother.

When I gave birth to my second son, Jameson, I was beyond determined to breastfeed. I was a complete breastfeeding failure with my first son whom I tried and tried to make it work. My determination was like a fire brewing over the course of 2.5 years. I anticipated the jaundice, the pain, the tears, the fight to make it work... because unfortunately the natural practice didn’t come natural for me. What I did not anticipate was the fact I couldn’t get him to gain weight. Despite the hours and hours of nursing, skin to skin contact, and all the loving a mother can give to a child… he simply didn’t gain weight. He lost nearly a pound in the hospital and from there we got no where. Especially with a 2 year old ruling the house to nurse for an hour, pump and nurse again left me feeling as though I had abandon my first born. Slowly, our nursing sessions became newborn screaming, mother crying sessions. What’s a mother to do? How do you make a baby eat? Did I fail once more? Am I not cut out for this? What more can I do to make him gain something? I felt so defeated and defective; again.

Based on how I started this entry, you obviously know that I did find a way. After a lot of research, reading, searching, and googling I found one website with an amazing community of mom’s in my shoes -Exclusive Pumpers. It’s definitely not how I pictured my breastfeeding relationship with my son, but it does provide him the one thing I wanted for him. I can honestly say I didn’t know what I was really getting into when I started. In the first 9 weeks I pumped 9 times a day including 3 times at night while my baby slept all night. That equates to hooking myself up to the horns 63 times a week, 252 times a month… you can about imagine the disdain I had for my pump. I would have loved to take a bat to it “Office Space” style. However, the complete joy, self-appreciation, and satisfaction I gained at seeing bottle after bottle of breastmilk gave me the confidence to keep going. His weight began to increase slowly, he wasn’t as fussy in between feedings, nor as hungry and he was sleeping like an angel… all of which were more reasons to keep pushing myself.

Those first 12 weeks were definitely the hardest. There are rules to follow as an exclusive pumper that a nursing mother doesn’t. Finding time to pump a strict schedule of 15-30min every 2-3 hours (just as you would nurse) is only the beginning. Along with feeding, changing, playing, comforting your newborn you must also entertain, parent, love, and keep your two year old occupied simultaneously. Forget about a shower and remembering to eat. On top of that, you start to count ounces you’ve pumped. Nothing will send an exclusive pumper into a state of paranoia faster than coming up short on ounces. It’s been a rocky, stressful, and yet rewarding journey. As time has passed, it has gotten easier and more manageable as my supply has leveled out and I am able to drop some pump times.

Of course, there will always be the skeptics. To prove just how determined I was to nurse I did keep offering him the breast as the weeks and months passed. I was able to get him to comfort nurse around 5 months old… in fact it was the only way he would go to sleep many nights. However, it is definitely not a sustainable way for him to eat since it was solely for comfort.

I chose not to take the easy way out, but you can bet I thought about it. If it weren’t for my completely awesome husband I wouldn’t be so dedicated. More importantly, if it weren’t for my research, my deep rooted determination, the group of exclusively pumping moms I met, and the wealth of KNOWLEDGE I learned, I wouldn’t have been able to provide. I had no idea that using a pump at all times could be an option for breastfeeding!! Again, it’s not what I wanted, but it was the next best option. There are so many moms with high hopes of breastfeeding who were/are faced with breastfeeding obstacles. Issues can range from poor latches, lazy nursers, or biters to babies that are tongue tied, have a cleft palette, preemies and NICU babies who really had to make the best of their situations.

For all of this, I am so incredibly thankful for the ‘K’nowledge I obtained to make breastfeeding possible. At 5 pumps a day, my now 6.5 month old is happy and healthy. It may not be my nipple in his mouth, but it is my milk.

By Teresa Plautz