Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kid Books Reviews

Not long ago I wrote that we're having trouble finding kid books that explain death to small children. Read the criteria I'm looking for HERE.

Here are a few books found by readers that have been passed on to us. And a few notes of review for each.
Some books are stories, some allegories, some are factual and conversational in content. But I feel I can recommend them to you confidently to give kids information about death, Heaven and life after losing a loved one.

This list will be updated as we find more resources worth passing on.

No New Baby: For Siblings Who Have a Brother or Sister Die Before Birth (Nnc)
Good for Preschool - Early Elementary School aged children. 
We received this book from the hospital we delivered Jairus at and just recently rediscovered it. It does a very good job of addressing the loss of a baby from a young child's point of view. The disappointment, confusion and sadness are discussed, as well as the fact that children react to grief very differently than adults, and that it is ok not to be sad, to play and have fun too. It does not address any spiritual issues but instead displays an excellent example of a family coming together at the loss of their baby. 

God Gave Us Heaven by Lisa Tawn Bergren
God Gave Us Heaven
Good for kids in Preschool - Early Elementary School
This sweet book is a dialog between Daddy and daughter Polar Bear (always a hit at our house). The book address issues like different ages of people (or bears in this case) going to Heaven when they die, that we will not become angels because God made us unique from them with our own purposes in His work. The book has a clear yet simple message of Jesus being the way to get to Heaven. It does not deal specifically with the issues surrounding death but is a sweet story of the gift of Heaven and how wonderful life is there.

Someone I Love Died by Christine Harder Tangveld
Someone I Love Died (Please Help Me, God)
Good for kids in Preschool - Elementary School
This book is not a story but gives information in a kid friendly way, looking at the basic issues around death (including explanations of a burial and what a casket is) and the range of emotion children may experience. It explains what a "soul" is and has places throughout the book where an adult can dialog with the child they are reading to, places to fill in their own names and experiences with losing a loved one through death. The book points to Jesus as our hope and has lots of tips for parents too.

The Dragonfly Door by John Adams
Good for kids who are Elementary School aged
This sweet and sad story is an allegory for death. Two water nymphs friends do everything together, until one day when they have a fight and separate. Seeking reconciliation, one nymph looks for but cannot find her friend and comes to learn she has turned into a dragon fly. Her friend can not come back but now lives in a beautiful, wide new world above the surface of the water where she is more happy and free than ever before.
Because it is an allegory is does not deal with any specifics about death and real life or specific spiritual issues. But the story is a good way to introduce death, that life isn't over but different, and begin discussions about our relationships with other people, especially, that children are not responsible for the death of a loved one, even if they were mad or upset with them before they died, which is a common issue for many kids who face death.It also showcases that grief lingers, even when we know our loved one is in Heaven.

What is Heaven Like? by Beverly Lewis
What is Heaven Like?
Good for kids Later Elementary - Middle School aged
What his grandfather dies, a young boy asks questions about Heaven to those in his community. From his sister to the Librarian to the Ice Cream Man, to his Grandmother and more along the way. It is a sweet story of not only what Heaven will be like, but of a supportive community. Addresses well that we can be simultaneously happy for our loved one who is now in Heaven and sad for our own loss. It also drives home the point that the true treasure of Heaven is getting to spend eternity with Jesus Himself.

Someday Heaven, by Larry Libby
Someday Heaven
Good for Elementary - Middle School aged children
Rather than follow a story line, this book addresses different questions that kids may have about Heaven and what life may be like there. For example, " Where is Heaven?, Will it always be light in Heaven?, Will I need money in Heaven? Will my Grandpa still be old in Heaven? How do I get to Heaven?, etc. Each question is answered using a Bible verse and more in depth explanation. It brings up many good questions that a lot of children have about the mysteries of what life in Heaven will be like, though it does not really address death.

**Still Looking For**
Books addressing stillbirth, miscarriage and infant loss that are specifically for children and are Christian in theme/theology.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope

One of the struggles for women who lose the life of their children is the overwhelming feeling of isolation. Many feel like they are the only ones who are hurting, who have experienced such a deep wound. That they should not mourn their unborn baby's lost life. That they are to blame for the fact that something terrible happened to their child inside their womb.
Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope is trying to combat those lies and help women understand that they are not alone, nor to blame, for what has happened to them having gone through a miscarraige, stillbirth or infant loss. It offers a community for grieving parents (mostly mothers but not all) who are struggling to come to terms with their new realities.
Check out their website for many stories of hurt as well as healing, and also for resources that are helpful for friends and family of couples going through the loss of a baby. You can search by keyword for specific types of loss or circumstances. Be forewarned though, its a website that is for healing and grieving, so tears and heartache are a part of the stories you will find there. Grab a tissue.

Here's my own entry, a recap of Jairus's birth story.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mmmoommmmyyy!!!...Dealing With Whining Kids

Ahh, to have preschoolers in the house.
I LOVE these ages, 2 and 4 are so fun, the kids are learning so many new things, they actually play together instead of side-by-side and their imaginations are awe inspiring in their creativity!

But there are the drawbacks of preschoolerdom. For one, whining. Or, actually in my house, it's WHHIIIIIIINNNINGGGGG!!!!

It's exhausting and tries the nerves. So we're on the search for help with our 2 whining loves. Here are a few tips from the experts. Side note, I find the term "expert" and "child rearing" to be antonyms. Anyone who does work with kids knows first hand that the kids haven't read what the experts have to say, and so try, try, try again inevitably comes into play! But I also recognize that those who have been-there-done-that DO have great tips and tricks for those of us coming into our own with regard to parenting. Just keep in mind that your kids are unique (that is, after all, one of the things you love about them!)

Here are a few articles I read about whining, the whys and the how to stops:
WebMD Looks at prevention and modeling for your children the correct way to speak
Parenting Magazine examines why kids of different age brackets whine and different approaches for parents
Mighty Mommy offers her thoughts on a few different techniques and some quick tips to try.
Consistent Parenting Advice uses a blogger's story if her own daughter's whining, bringing the point back to the personal interaction with your child and how you may want to be responded to if you were in their shoes

Here's the run down if you don't want to read each article (though each has good points and helpful hints):
**The best way to stop whining is to prevent it. Make sure blood sugar levels stay even and enough sleep is gotten by your child.
**Teach your children how they should speak. That being tired or hungry is understandable but whining is not acceptable. Model for them how you want them to speak to you and have them repeat you.
**Don't cave in to whining, once you've explained yourself some resources suggest ignoring the child until they comply (this does not work at my house however, it just gets louder. Though I do agree with not caving in)
**Whine back at your child so they know what they sounds like (this was a TOTAL FAIL in my house - I did this to Hazen a few times and he started sobbing that I was making fun of him instead of listening to him. It was not my finest hour.)
**Let the child be part of the solution to whatever problem they are upset about
**Listen to your child, respond the first time they request your attention (or as soon as you are able)
**Think about how you would want someone to respond to you if you were feeling ignored, frustrated, overwhelmed, angry, exhausted and/or hungry. Remember your children are tiny people and they needs may be complex. Listen to their underlying issues as well as their requests. (Maybe 5 minutes of snuggle from Momma or a big hug from Daddy would do wonders)

So we are embarking on yet another trial and error parenting stage. For me, I need to remember that sometimes my kiddos really do need my undivided attention, that I need to respond to their requests of "MOM!" sooner so it doesn't escalate into whining, I need to explain that whining makes it hard for Mommy to understand them and I want to hear big kid voices.

And most of all I need to love and serve them above my relentless to-do list. Because one day they'll be grown up and I'll still have dishes to wash and house projects to finish, and I'll wish for the days when they just wanted to snuggle on the couch while I read to them, or make cars dive bomb off the stair-case, or cook Mac-N-Cheese in my high heels with Veggie Tales music blasting through the stereo. All of that sounds much more fun than my to-do's anyway.

What are your tips and tricks for dealing with whining kiddos and keeping your sanity in tact in the mean time??

Monday, June 20, 2011

Praying Our Tears

Sometimes God gifts a person with an ability to speak into our lives and hearts in a way that changes the way we see the world. When done in love of God and faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus, it is a gift that can work to bring you a newness of life, heart and hope. One person who speaks into my life is Dr. Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. His gift of preaching and writing continue to minister to my family on a daily basis as we listen to his old sermons on-line or on the i-Pod and as we read his books. He is a great communicator of truth, making it simple enough to understand and deep enough to reach your very soul (though only through the power of the Holy Spirit).

"Praying Our Tears" is a sermon I have listened to several times. I heard it before Jairus died and I have returned to it since. If you have 35 minutes to listen (I usually have sermons on either while working on the house or driving in the van...ah, multitasking...) it would be well worth your effort. It's a free down load, as are many from the church's website. Find them all HERE. Actually I highly recommend any of Keller's work. He's solid and real and honest and incredibly relate-able.

The sermon speaks to me on many levels. Some of them include:
**Sorrows will come in my life. They are inevitable. Especially if I am trying to follow hard after Jesus.
**Suffering is not in my life because of my actions or my sin. Jesus already paid for all my sin, its not my place to suffer for it..
**God wants me to invest my tears, not hide them. To let Him use them for His purposes. To sow them like seeds in a field. He promises the harvest of those seeds is JOY. (Hello reason for this blog)
**God understands my suffering and pain. Jesus experienced the deepest most utter suffering imaginable when he died on the cross and the Father turned away from Him as Jesus bore the sin of the world on Himself.
**I don't have to be polished in my prayers. I have to be honest, even if what I cry out is not theologically correct (meaning it doesn't have truth about who God is but is instead raw and how I am feeling in my rawness).

So please take the time to listen to Tim Keller preaching from the Psalms "Praying our Tears"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Firsts

To my husband,

Thank you for always being you.
For your warmth and encouragement and laughter. No one gets me like you.
For digging into my soul and heart, for offering your own so freely.
For holding our family up when you hardly had the strength for your own two feet.

Thank you for always being you.
For learning and loving and living each day for us.
For working hard to provide as you were led to do.
For letting me be a professional Mommy.

Thank you for being you.
For being a man among men.
For being imitate-able, so Hazen will not grow up wondering what a true man is.
For being honorable so that Emma has the chance to rest in the knowledge that her Daddy loves her.

Thank you for always being you.
For seeking and following the One worth going after.
For sacrificially leading and guiding, turning our faces toward what awaits.
For standing firm on the foundation that won't give way.

Thank you for being you
For years of laughter and memories behind us and those yet to come.
For bringing smiles where there are tears and joy where there is sorrow.
For celebrating Heaven's True Father and the honor our boy has to grow up in His presence.

It is no small thing. 

I am honored to be your wife and gratefully blessed my children may call you Daddy. 

Happy Father's Day Mark. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hanging Pictures

I hung up new pictures today
Beautiful shots
Like moments of a fairy tale captured
Plucked out of time

I hung up new pictures today
Smiling faces
Bright greens and yellows and pinks
Jumped off the page

I hung up new pictures today
Change comes
New memories add to our being
Surrounded by home.

I hung up new pictures today
Without change
No updates, no milestones, no more
Stuck in a photograph

I hung up new pictures today
Black and white 
Contrast vibrant colors of spring
Reminded me they've grown

I hung up new pictures today
Frames gathered
Dust washed away by new tears
Pictured as our forever baby 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Back to the Hospital

Yesterday we had the terrifying experience of returning for the first time to the hospital Jairus was born at.

Hazen had some problems with his intestines and we needed to have him seen at the ER. He's fine. He was actually better by the time we arrived at the hospital but we wanted him seen just the same. And the Doctor assured us it's not a big deal, that we can treat him at home if there are any future problems. Praise God for his healing.

With the panic I felt that something was really wrong (and the fears of hospital stays, surgeries and other unlikely possibilities that a parent immediately fears when their child is ill) I never for a moment second-guessed where we would take him. I still strongly believe the Children's Hospital is the best place for your little ones, they specialize in tiny patients and have top rate facilities for tiny bodies. Away we went.

It wasn't until we walked out of the hospital that the emotions of being there really hit me. To get to the car, we had to walk past the doors that go into the Birth Center. And I remembered how we ran in that early morning in December, the fear mingled with an evaporating twinge of hope that we still had. Emma and Hazen were also born there, and we've experienced the joy and anticipation of coming in pregnant before leaving that place with a new baby. I tried to remember the feelings and memories we had with our first two deliveries, but the most recent experience crowds most of them out, makes those first memories more bitter-sweet.

Then we walked the same hallway to the parking ramp we had December 29th, again with empty arms. Again leaving the hospital without Jairus. It all flooded back. We saw a new father bringing the carseat into the hospital, about to bring home his new son/daughter. We remembered the empty carseat in the back of our van, never to be installed. I remembered the shock and fear and numbness of leaving there without my child. My surprise to see all the lights that night, as I had completely forgotten that it was still Christmas time. The end of one life and the beginning of a new one for our family. A more painful and confusing journey than we'd had in mind.

It was inevitable we be back there someday. They are an amazing hospital and their staff is fantastic. We'd recommend them to anyone and never bring our children anywhere else when they are in serious need of medical care. Its just a hard place to see so soon.

Sometimes I wonder if the first time doing something is the hardest, and you just have to get it over with to help conquer your fear of it. I tell myself that a lot this in this first year without our baby. Like a mental checklist of things I have now done (Easter, check...Mothers Day, check...first trips to grandparents homes with only 2 kids in tow, check...) We've gone back to the hospital now. Which means if we have to again, I know we can. We've done it before.

But I hope its not for a long time.

Through the Valley

Maybe the title of this blog is a familiar phrase to you, maybe its a foggy memory of something you're sure you used to know, maybe you think I made it up (no way am I that original, as you may have noticed). But whether you've heard it a million times or today is your first intersection with this phrase, here's the skinny on "Through the Valley"

It is a phrase from one of the most famous Psalms (songs) in the Bible. Psalm 23. It's a beautiful song about God providing abundantly, even through the depths of suffering in our lives. While in the "valley of the shadow of death" God is present, bringing peace, healing and guidance at all times (even though it may not feel that way). So as we journey through our own "valley of the shadow of death" we cling to the promises we have for who God is and that He will ALWAYS be with us. Using this pain and blessing us in ways we never expected, to the point of over flowing. God doesn't wait until we're out of our valleys, He joins us in them. He doesn't give us promises only for the future, but for the present as well. He not only covers our deep wounds, he restores our souls.

When you are struggling through life (no matter what the source of struggle) you need to be able to lean on promises that this pain is not without purpose (or else despair can creep in). God does not enjoy suffering, He hates to see His children in pain. But because He is good, He's going to take this evil in your life and (somehow) use it for something that is Good. Scripture is filled with promises of God's relationship with us and His promises to us, and this song is no exception. One commentator breaks this Psalm into these  7 specific promises...
       The Lord is my Shepard therefore… 
          1.) I shall not be in want
          2.) I shall not lack rest (Psa 23:2) 
          3.) I shall not lack life (Psa 23:2)
          4.) I shall not lack guidance (Psa 23:3)
          5.) I shall not lack safety (Psa 23:4)
          6.) I shall not lack provision (Psa 23:5)
          7.) I shall not lack a heavenly home (Psa 23:6)

When you are in the valley, you have to cling to Truth, as your emotions will not bring it to you. You have to know it with more than your feelings, because the valley is dark and long and frightening.. It may seem you're lost in this valley, alone and aimless. Cling to the promise of Scripture. You are loved. You are provided for. You are within God's care even as you suffer. You have a future. You are never alone. Learning to cling to Christ is hard. But it's where you find out who you really are and what you really believe.

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 

all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD 


Thursday, June 9, 2011

To Emma and Hazen....Love, Jairus

I'm Going To Live In Heaven Now

Hello Brother! Hello Sister!
It's almost time for me to go. 
I'm going to live in Heaven now, 
Jesus has called me home. 

It's OK to miss me
And it's OK to cry
It's OK to feel upset
And to ask the question 'why.'

But it's just fine to be happy too,
And to go on with your play.
Tell Mom and Dad I'm full of joy...
That I'll be with you all one day.

Dying means saying goodbye
It's time at last to go, 
To Heaven where I will worship God
Over the bright rainbow. 

Don't be scared brother. Don't be scared sister. 
Dying is not something to dread.
It's like taking off your dress-up clothes.
But I'm taking off my body instead. 

My body will stay here on earth,
From it I've been set free.
I'm going to live in Heaven now, 
Because Jesus has saved me!

Mommy and Daddy will bury my body, 
But I'm not in the ground. 
I'm going to live in Heaven now, 
Where I'll be safe and sound.

I love you Brother. I love you Sister. Remember, 
Death is not the end. 
One day you'll come to Heaven too. 
We'll be forever friends. 

Then we will dance
On the streets made of gold,
We'll laugh with the angels, 
We'll see Glories untold.

Where God lives with us,
And we'll always be
With Him because 
Jesus died on the tree.

When He rose up again, 
He beat death once for all. 
So when we're done here
Our names He will call. 

Goodbye Brother. Goodbye Sister. Jesus 
Told me its my day!
I'm going to live in Heaven now.
I'll see you again someday. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sealin' the Arm

Back in April I decided to get a tattoo. Not realizing that when you tell people you're getting a tattoo on April 1, no one takes you seriously.:) It's all healed and un-swollen now so I thought it was time to get it out into Internet world...

Photo taken by DnK Photography

It takes about 3 separate pictures to see the whole thing on a flat image but you get the idea and here are the specs...
**The footprints are Jairus's actual footprints. I brought in his inked prints which I got at the hospital and the artist traced them to get the details right.
**His name is above and below it reads "...and so will always be with the Lord" which is taken from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17...

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 

This passage of Scripture has continued to minister to me over the last 5 months. In that I know one day the rest of us will join Jairus in the presence of Jesus (either by way of death or Jesus coming back to Earth) and that my little boy is continually with the Lord. That's his gift of having left this life so soon. So the words fill me with hope for the future and joy for the present.

For those of you wondering - yes, it hurt. But I love it. I love having the physical representation of my son with me. He was here. He's real. It matters. I like that people ask about it and it gives me a chance to share our story, and our hope that is in Jesus.

I hate that He's not in my arms. But because that's not an option for me, I'm grateful to have his footprints there instead.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Family Photos

I am SO grateful to be able to tell you about our friends at DnK Photography!
Dan and Karin attend our church and recently gifted our family with a family photo session! We were so incredibly blessed by their generosity and giving of their talents. 

I especially appreciated Karin's willingness to help us include Jairus in some way in our pictures. It was my biggest concern with having pictures taken, how could we get "family" photos without our whole family? It also brought up my regret of never getting a picture of Emma and Hazen with Jairus. It was a decision made in the shock and fear of what was happening on the morning of Jairus's birth, but I have since regretted that we won't have a picture of the whole family. So I was anxious to try and include my 3rd child in a family photo, even in some small way. Karin was amazingly supportive of this idea for which I am so grateful. 

I brought along Jairus's hat and blanket that he wore in the hospital, the teddy bear we received in the hospital in a grieving families care basket and the blanket my parents gave our then unborn baby #3 for Christmas. I also wore a locket a friend gave me that has 2 of Jairus's photos inside and his name on the front. You can see them in some of the shots below.

I'm sure I'll use these again and others in future posts, so you'll probably have to put up with some repetition. I'm super happy with how they all came out and its hard to not show you all of them at once!
THANK YOU to DnK Photography for these beautiful pictures of my sweet family. 
We praise God for you guys.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kids Books

My family LOVES reading. The kids devour books. It's so fun to watch., They both love being read to and looking through picture books on their own. How fun to walk into a room and see them both pouring over the pictures, often "reading" on their own (as they've memorized most of our library). I can't wait to teach them to read and see how their love of literature will (hopefully) mature through their own new freedom of discovery!

There is one subject of children's book I have struggled with though. For 5 months (last Saturday) we've been searching, unsuccessfully, for children's books that do 3 things:
1. Introduce death to a preschool aged child in a developmentally appropriate and honest way
2. Uphold the biblical perspective of death and Heaven
3. Are colorful and engaging for small children so that they actually want to read it

It's pretty slim pickings. Actually we have yet to find a single book that gives us all 3, and none that give us #2. I know they must be out there, but probably in small publishing's, for individual churches or ministries. But I can't seem to get my hands on them.

What I have found are books that:
1. Mention death but do not explain it in a child's understanding
2. Are geared for middle school or high school aged children
3. Give unbiblical information (like people turning into angels or which have a very loose view of "spirituality")

I don't think this is anyone's fault, death is obviously not a popular topic. And the view we hold is not mainstream by any means. We've been given several children's books that try but fail to satisfy. I usually end up having to correct what is read (for example: people are different created beings than angels, with different jobs and purposes. So I don't want my children to think of their brother as being an angel. He's a person. But he lives in the same place angels live.) which is obviously confusing for Emma and Hazen. And you may think I'm nuts for getting worked up about it but it bothers me just the same.

Maybe one day I'll be able to sit down and write my own book. But for now we're doing mostly conversational learning about death and Heaven and Jesus' relationship to us. And that's more interactive anyway. But for a family that loves to read, I do wish there were better resources out there. If you know of any, please fill me in! I'll make a recommendation list on the sidebar of the blog page as we find books worth passing on!