Thursday, March 8, 2018

Busy Hands: Hats and Shoes

Ever since I found out we were having a boy, I have been working on making little hats and shoes for Stafford. I hope these will all fit him! I think the brown newsboy hat will be too small even when he is a newborn. I made it using the last of a skein of brown yarn, and I made it as big as the amount of yarn would allow.

I used this simple beanie pattern for the top two hats. And I used this pattern for the Yoda hat. I am hoping that the Yoda hat will fit Stafford for Star Wars Day on May 4th. May the fourth be with you! :)

I have also crocheted a lot of baby shoes. The bottom two bootie patterns are made using the Loving Hugs Newborn Booties pattern. I have used this pattern for all three of my children now. The little boots in the top of the picture were made using the Winter Snowflake pattern from Croby Patterns.

More baby shoes! I made the Winter Snowflake booties again, but switched the colors around. The gray boots were made using the Parker Crochet Baby Booties pattern. And the little tennis shoes were made using the Crochet Baby Sneakers pattern.

I am looking forward to putting handmade hats and shoes on Stafford in the months ahead. I think the little tennis shoes are my favorite.

Have you been working on any crafts or projects lately? What have you been doing to keep your hands busy?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Teatime Conversations: Ideas and Resources for Chronically Ill Mother and Daughter

Reader Question: I'm a solo mother with a chronic illness. I can't work in paid employment, but am still able to help my 14 year old daughter homeschool. She has been getting sick, tired, suffering from chronic pain, and we are in the process of getting a diagnosis. I want to be able to lighten her burden and have more fun with her as she is very mature for her age, but has had to shoulder a huge burden over these years. I've been trying to think of things I can do with the limited energy we have that would be fun, lighten her load and mood, or just make things easier for her. I've been working slowly on decluttering and setting up systems to use less energy, watching movies together, helping her sew upcycled clothes and so on, and listen to her as much as I can. If you could offer any ideas, resources, and so on, I'd be grateful :) Thank you.

My heart goes out to you, friend. It sounds like both you and your daughter are facing a lot of challenges. Living with a chronic illness is hard enough, and being a single parent on top of that must be even more physically challenging. You and your daughter have been in my prayers today.

That is wonderful that you are able to homeschool your daughter. What a good gift to give to her. With her chronic illness, it is probably especially helpful for her to be at home for school. I can tell that you love your daughter very much and that you are doing all you can to serve her and take good care of her. You are a loving and courageous mom.

I have been brainstorming lately to think of fun things you can do with your daughter and practical things that might make life easier. I’ve also been thinking about other organizations that might have resources, help, or practical tips for you. I hope some of my readers will chime in with their ideas too!

Fun things to do together:
  • Start a simple book club. This could be just the two of you reading and discussing a book together. Or if you are up for it, you could invite another mother and daughter to join you in reading a book and then coming over to your home to discuss it.
  • Do a Bible study together. Like a book club, this could be something for just you and your daughter, or you could invite another mother and daughter to join you for a regular Bible study.
  • Watch a True Woman conference. I have always enjoyed these conferences and the ability to watch from home. This year’s True Woman conference will be September 27-29, and they always offer an online live-stream for free. You and your daughter could attend a conference together from the comfort of your home! Revive Our Hearts also makes all of their main speaker sessions available for free online, so you can watch sessions from past year’s conferences too.
  • Attend a Joni and Friends family retreat. I don’t know if this would be too exhausting for you and your daughter. I have never been to a Joni and Friends family retreat, but I have heard so many good things about them. Maybe there would be a family retreat close enough that you could attend. There is a cost for the week, but Joni and Friends also offers scholarships, and that might help to make it affordable. 
  • Start a blog. If you and your daughter enjoy writing, you could start a blog together. The two of you would have a unique perspective to offer as a mother and daughter who are facing chronic illness together. Or you could write a blog that has nothing to do with chronic illness. Maybe you could share about the upcycled clothing items you are making. You could take pictures and make tutorials for those who want to learn how to alter clothing and make something new.
  • Try new crafts together. YouTube has lots of tutorial videos for crafts. Maybe there is a new craft you and your daughter would enjoy together – perhaps knitting, crocheting, painting, quilting, or card making.
  • Try out a new board game or card game. Cribbage is one of my favorite games. Pente is another fun game for two people. Maybe there are new-to-you games that you and your daughter would enjoy.
  • Participate in a service project. Is there something you and your daughter could do from home to serve others? It could be praying for the needs in your church, praying for a ministry you want to support, sending cards to others in your church or community who need encouragement, making baby hats to donate to your local hospital, or making a blanket for an elderly or chronically ill person in your church.
  • Watch television or movies together. You did mention this in your message to me, but I think it is worth repeating. There are many days with chronic illness when brain fog and fatigue make it impossible to read, do a craft, or do anything that requires much thinking. Sometimes watching tv is a wise use a of time. And if that is what you need to do with your daughter, then enjoy your time together watching tv!

Tools for making life easier:

I don’t know exactly what your needs and your daughter’s needs are, but here are some tools that have been helpful for me. Maybe they would be for the two of you as well.
  • A lap desk. Having a lap desk has made it much easier for me to use my laptop computer while in bed or in my recliner.
  • A recliner. I do many things from my recliner – read, eat, scrapbook, work on taxes, talk, rest, and look outside. On the “bad days”, a recliner can enable me to be out in the living room with my family for a short time when I might otherwise have to be in bed.
  • A Kindle. There are days when my arms are too tired to hold open a book, but I am able to still read if I have my kindle. I can prop up the kindle, and then all I have to do to turn the page is a simple tap on the screen. 
  • Shower stool. A shower stool makes showers less exhausting. If fainting is a risk, it can also help to lessen that risk. 
  • Mobility aids. A seat cane, wheelchair, and/or walker can make getting around the house easier. I have all three of these, and I use them at different times in the day depending on what my needs and energy levels are in the moment.

Resources for further help:
  • Joni and Friends response department. Joni and Friends does an excellent job in encouraging and supporting those affected by disability. You can contact Joni and Friends to ask for prayer, encouragement, information, resources, and more. They always send a kind, helpful, and gracious reply.
  • Online chronic illness community. There are ideas and support to be found through the chronic illness community online. This can be through blogs, Facebook groups, and websites and online forums for specific illnesses. If you are interested, you can find some of my favorite blogs, books, websites, and forums on the Resources page.
  • Your local church. I don't know if you have a good local church or not. If you do, it would be helpful to let your elders and deacons know of the struggles you and your daughter are facing. The church may be able to offer some practical help or sponsor you to attend a Joni and Friends family retreat. If you aren't part of a local church, I recommend looking for a good church near you. 9Marks has a helpful online church searching tool. 
  • Local Joni and Friends office. Your regional Joni and Friends office may be able to share about local help and resources. They may also be able to help connect you with a local church that has programs available for people with a chronic illness or disability.
  • Independent Living Center. Your local Independent Living Center may have ideas for resources in your area. Sometimes they also have durable medical equipment they can loan to you if you need it.

Cranberry Tea Time friends - we would love to hear from you! What ideas do you have for fun things this mom and daughter can do together? What things might make life easier for them? What resources have you found helpful??

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Preparing for Stafford: Your Questions

Over the past few months I have received several messages and questions about preparing for Stafford from readers and friends who live far away. People have been wondering what they can do to help if they don't live nearby.

I thought there might be more questions, so I asked on Instagram and Facebook what questions you might have about preparing for Stafford, dysautonomia and pregnancy, etc, and y’all came up with a lot of questions! Today I am here to answer them. This will be lengthy, but feel free to skip over any question you aren’t interested in.

If you missed any of the other posts in the Preparing for Stafford series, you can find them here:

Preparing for Stafford: Your Questions

How do doctors handle labor and delivery when someone has dysautonomia?

It varies a lot from one doctor to another and from one patient to another. Some doctors are nervous about it; others are ready to take on the challenge. Some women with dysautonomia do well during pregnancy; others get worse during pregnancy. One doctor told me that some women with dysautonomia choose to have a C-section because it won’t require the physical exertion of labor. Other women want to do things as naturally as possible. If heart rate, blood pressure, and other symptoms are under control, from what I have heard, doctors will let a woman go through labor. However, they will probably monitor her more closely.

I don’t know many more specifics about how doctors handle labor and delivery with their dysautonomia patients, but I can share some from my personal experience. I have lived in a different place with each birth, so I had a different practitioner each time, and each one went about things a little differently.

I went to a Certified Nurse Midwife with William. She delivered in a hospital, and she worked closely with an OB and a high-risk OB, so I was very comfortable with the situation. When I had William I wanted to avoid all medications and interventions if possible because I didn’t know how my body would respond. I especially wanted to avoid an epidural because it can lower blood pressure, and mine was already low. 

After laboring through the night and all day long, I was so sleepy and fatigued that I couldn’t continue. The only options were to either get an epidural and take a nap or have a C-section. I opted for the epidural. I was also given Pitocin to help my uterus contract better. I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t contracting well because of my dysautonomia, but we really don’t know. Once the epidural kicked in, I took a nap, and just a few hours later William was born. It was tiring, but it all went very smoothly, and I didn’t have any complications with the epidural or Pitocin.

I went to an OB with Adelaide. The doctor referred me for a consult with a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist just in case, but after the MFM specialist gave her okay, I was allowed to stay with my OB for the remainder of my care. My OB also had me go for a consult with anesthesiology a month before my due date. She wanted them to be familiar with my illness before I went into labor.

My OB and I had planned to induce so that I could go into labor after a full night of sleep. We wanted to avoid the sleepless night that I’d had during my first delivery in order to help relieve some of the intense fatigue I experienced that time. However, Adelaide grew so big so fast that I had to have a C-section. The delivery and recovery went well. 

The first OB I went to when I was pregnant with Stafford was very uncomfortable with my dysautonomia. Having a doctor who was so nervous about my health conditions was unsettling, so I found a new OB. She is the sweetest doctor, and she gladly takes high-risk patients. She did refer me to a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist just to make sure it was okay for me to stay in her care. We received the okay from MFM, so I have continued in the care of this OB who has an interest in high-risk cases.

She is being extra cautious with me because of my age, dysautonomia, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The nice part about this is that I get to have a lot of ultrasounds! It is fun to have a peek into the womb every few weeks. If I feel well enough, I would like to try for a VBAC, but because of my age, a prior C-section, big babies, and EDS, it would be risky. My doctor is willing to let me take this risk, but I would be monitored closely throughout labor. 

Because it is risky for me to go into labor, I will need to go stay in a hotel close to the hospital when my due date gets close. I live a couple of hours away from the hospital, and it could be dangerous for me to be in labor on a long drive to the hospital since doctors wouldn't be nearby to intervene if needed.

I will likely end up having a C-section with Stafford. I can’t be induced because of EDS and my prior C-section. If my pregnancy goes past 40 weeks, Stafford will probably be so big that I would have to have a C-section anyway. My body may be tired, but it sure can grow big babies! I have been praying that if a VBAC is best for Stafford and me that I will go into labor early. And if I don’t, then I will trust that a C-section is the safest option for us.

Is your recovery time longer after childbirth?

Based on what I have seen and heard from other moms, it does take me significantly longer to recover from the lingering pain and exhaustion of childbirth. After William was born I couldn’t even get out of bed to pick him up or change his diaper. When Will wasn’t in the room, I had to call a nurse if William needed care. 

I had a C-section with Adelaide, and that made the initial exhaustion less than if I had gone through labor. However, the physical toll of taking care of a newborn soon tired me out anyway.

How will you deal with a newborn baby feeding all night long while having chronic illness? Will you bottle feed so others can help with that? 

We have always had to primarily bottle feed in the past. Based on my past experience, we will most likely be doing some bottle feeding early on, and we will probably have to switch to exclusive bottle feeding sometime in the first few months. 

When we had William, Will and I took turns feeding him at night. When we had Adelaide, I was only able to do night time feedings for the first two weeks. After that, Will did all of the midnight feedings.

Who is in your support team? You’ve mentioned you’ll be handing Stafford to others to care for. Do you get paid help or family/friends or a combination of both?

I will take care of Stafford as much as I possibly can, but I know that I will need significant help from others. We won’t have paid help, but we have received offers of help from friends and from our church. Our family will also be helping as they are able. Most of our extended family lives far away, so family help will be limited, but it will be there too. 

My parents will be coming up to help out for a while before and after Stafford arrives. They will also come to take care of the children and me while Will has to be gone for a week for the on-campus portion of law school this semester.

When we don’t have family living with us to help, local friends and our church family will be helping with meals and in-home care.

Do Will, William, and Adelaide have a good support system?

They do. We are pretty close as a family, and we talk to each other and support each other a lot. Our children will probably be more open with Will and me than they are with others, but they do have other friends and homes they can go to for an escape from the stress of severe illness if they need to. They also have a good school and amazing teachers, and they enjoy their time at school each week.

Will's dad and stepmom live nearby. Will has a very kind and understanding boss, and we are grateful for that. Our pastor also checks in with Will regularly to see how he is doing and if there is anything we need.

Preparing for Stafford: Your Questions

In terms of needing help, are there any options for people with disabilities, who have a child, for in-home help? What does your level of disability have to be? Or is there an option for subsidized daycare for someone with a disability?

As far as I know, there isn’t any help like this in my area. Anytime I have looked into it, both parents had to be working, or looking for work, in order to qualify for childcare assistance. Unfortunately, being disabled and unable to work does not qualify a parent for childcare assistance.

It sounds like you’ve let your church know, and your close friends know, what you need. I’d be curious to know what those things were that you asked for.

Back in September we told our church that we had a baby on the way. We also told a few people how hard life was now that Will had started law school. He was struggling to keep up with full-time work, school, and taking care of his family. It was impossible for him to do all that needed to be done. One of the deaconesses came to me and asked me to send her an email to let her know what we needed. I sent two long emails. The first email detailed what kind of help we needed right away. 

The needs that I mentioned in that first email were:
  • Help with yard work
  • Meals once or twice a week
  • Someone to go grocery shopping for us
  • Someone to take me for short errands in town
  • Help with house cleaning
  • Baby items (I had given away all of our baby items except for the few I kept for sentimental reasons.)

The second email gave details about my health, what a crash is like for me, what happened after William and Adelaide were born, and what kind of help I would likely need after Stafford is born.

The specific needs I mentioned in the second email were all of the same needs from the first email, plus:
  • Women to come into my home to take care of both Stafford and me while Will is at work
  • Help with nighttime feedings 

I also mentioned that I will not be able to have visitors after Stafford is born, and I explained that I will need to have a lot of quiet when people are here to help. 

I forgot to mention in my emails that we need to do all we can to avoid colds and other viruses, but this is something I have told many people since then. If someone has a runny nose or cough, we kindly ask that they not come into our home to help. We have had a baby with RSV and whooping cough, and it was hard to go through that. It would be even harder now that my health has declined more, but it isn’t just the “big” things we need to avoid. We also need to avoid simple cold viruses. What is a slight cold for a healthy person can cause me weeks of extra fatigue and weakness as my body puts energy toward fighting off the cold.

I wasn’t quite as specific with a list of needs when talking with my friends. Most of these things came up naturally as we were talking. I did share details about what is likely going to happen sometime in the months after Stafford is born. I didn’t live in Minnesota when either William or Adelaide were born, so my friends here have never seen me at my worst. It was important that I let them know ahead of time what was likely coming in the next year. 

I didn’t even have to ask my two closest friends for help; they just offered. And they gave specific offers of help, which is always great because then I don’t have to wonder, “What do they want to do? What should I ask? What is too much?” These friends just poured out their love and shared what they could do for me. They also expressed that they wanted to do these things, which helped me to not feel like a burden to them, but to feel like a valued friend.

What are some things that I could do, or that someone else who doesn't live nearby can do? Are there tangible ways from far away for us to help? Are there gift cards we can send for restaurants with take-out near you? 

These are questions I have received a lot in the past couple of months from blog readers and friends who live far away. You all are so kind to want to help. I do not want anyone to feel like they have to help simply because they read my blog. Please know that you are under no obligation! But since so many of you have asked about this, and have even asked specifically about gift cards, I feel like I should answer this question too.

Here are some ways you can help if you live far away:
  • Pray for us. Many of you have already told me that you are praying for us regularly, and we appreciate that so much! Thank you! If you would like to know specific prayer requests, I mention several of them in this blog post.
  • Send encouraging notes and messages. Many of you already do this as well! Thank you! I am always grateful for encouragement that comes through your emails, Facebook messages, snail mail cards, Facebook and Instagram comments, and blog comments.
  • Share an uplifting song. Some of my favorite songs have come from friends far away who send a link to a YouTube video. These songs have encouraged me on my hard days.
  • Sending a gift card if you feel so led. But please do not feel obligated. I wouldn’t have mentioned this if you hadn’t asked. In fact, I wouldn’t have even thought of this if this hadn’t been asked about so specifically! But you are right that gift cards to local restaurants for take-out would be helpful for us. We do have two meals a week that are provided by our church. Even now it is helpful to buy an additional meal from a local restaurant when Will doesn’t have time to prepare supper for us. And I'm sure it is only going to get harder for Will to have the time and energy to prepare meals for our family after Stafford is born. There aren’t many restaurant options for us, but nearby we do have Pizza Ranch, Casey’s General Store, and Subway. If you want to send a gift card, you can send an e-gift card to
  • Your ideas could be helpful too! Often the best help and encouragement comes from someone who sees a need or has an idea, and then does that. So if there is a way you would like to give support or encouragement, that may be just what we need and don’t even know it!

Preparing for Stafford: Your Questions
The Lego Lundys 
by William and Adelaide

Thank you so much, friends, for caring about our family. Thank you for praying for us and for rejoicing with us in the gift of Stafford! I look forward to introducing you to him sometime next month!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Teatime Conversations: Date Night for Married Couples

Teatime Conversations: Date Night for Married Couples

Reader Question: I'm wondering what your opinion is regarding "date night" for married couples. I have heard from several people how important it is, but, frankly, I'm not convinced. It seems to me like it is impractical (financially, logistically) and I wonder if we've lost the ability to just sit on the couch with our spouse and connect. What are your thoughts?? Thanks! :)

I'm not convinced either! I have often heard the advice to have regular date nights out of the house, and many of you who are married probably have too. I’ve heard it from speakers, and I have read it in books. I have heard it so often that I don’t even remember most of the sources, but it is advice that couples are given regularly, and it goes something like this:
Married couples need to have a date night at least every other week. They need to go away overnight every two months. Once a year, the couple needs to go away for a long weekend together.
This is supposed to be extremely important, and it is supposedly one of the keys for a healthy marriage. Going out on dates and having trips alone with a spouse sounds like fun, but it is not physically or financially possible for many. I’ve been told that it doesn’t need to be expensive. You can trade off babysitting with another family. You can go on a date that is a walk through a park. I suppose you could go camping for your overnight trips, and that would be cheaper than staying in a hotel. But even these kind of dates and overnight trips are still not feasible – financially or physically – for many of those with chronic illnesses (and even for many who are not chronically ill).

The advice to have regular date nights and regular overnight trips as a couple seems like a modern American thing to me. This is not something that is commanded in Scripture, and we don't read about godly couples like Isaac and Rebekah or Mary and Joseph having the type of date nights or regular overnight getaways that we are encouraged to have today. The type of "date night" that we are encouraged to have today is not something you see happening throughout history either, yet there certainly have been strong and godly marriages throughout history.

We do need time alone with our spouses, but this can take place in our home. If a couple has children, after the children go to bed the couple can spend time playing a game, talking, watching a movie, working on a puzzle, or doing some other activity they enjoy. I like your idea of simply sitting on the couch to spend time together and connect. Going out to a nice restaurant or special event can be fun, but it isn’t necessary to build a strong marriage relationship.

Teatime Conversations: Date Night for Married Couples

Will and I usually have “date night in” instead of leaving our house for a date. This is much easier on me physically. I do enjoy going out for a meal occasionally with my husband, but a date out of the house usually only happens once or twice a year for us. If I am not feeling well enough, then it is too hard to sit up at a table and talk anyway, so staying at home can allow for better conversation. When I am not up for talking, we enjoy watching a favorite TV show and eating popcorn while in bed. Usually I have energy for both a little bit of talking and watching television. But when I don’t have energy to talk, and I only have energy to watch TV with my husband, I enjoy his company and simply being with him.

Date night out is great, but what if instead of focusing so much on having regular dates and overnight getaways, we spent more time studying what the Bible says about marriage and the role of husbands and wives, and then we put that into practice? How might our marriages change and flourish? If we all took seriously the commands in Titus 2:1-8, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, I think that would go much farther in strengthening our marriages than regular date nights.

A few years ago Tim Challies wrote an article called You Don’t Need a Date Night. After hearing for so many years how important date night is, I was so happy to read this article!

I don’t think we need to put pressure on ourselves to have date nights with our husbands in the modern American way. There are plenty of ways to grow closer together as a married couple without going out for a date night.

I would love to hear from all of you! What are your thoughts on date nights for married couples? Do you find them to be a necessity? Do you consider them fun, but not a key to a healthy marriage? What ways do you enjoy connecting with your husband that work within whatever physical or financial limitations you may have?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Busy Hands: A Special Blanket for Stafford

Busy Hands: A Special Blanket for Stafford

This is a very special blanket for Stafford. It may be my favorite crochet project ever! I did not make it by myself. I had some help from my Oma.

Oma is my grandmother. She had a lot of yarn leftover from her many projects over the years. Oma passed away several years ago, and after she died I was given her yarn. In the box of yarn there were twelve blue crochet blocks. I didn't know what to do with them, but I couldn't bear to throw them away because of the hours of work that went into them. So I just kept them in the box.

Busy Hands: A Special Blanket for Stafford

After I found out that Stafford was on the way, I knew just what to do with the blue crochet blocks! I would make some white blocks of my own, and then I would piece them all together in a patchwork crochet blanket.

Busy Hands: A Special Blanket for Stafford

I found some white yarn, and I crocheted thirteen blocks that are roughly the same size as Oma's twelve blue blocks. Then I crocheted a border using a blue and white yarn. I followed the instructions from Cheryl for a flat braid join.

This is the first time I have done a blanket like this. Piecing crochet blocks together was completely new for me. I searched Pinterest for ideas of ways to join the pieces, and the flat braid join was the prettiest idea I could find. It looked difficult, but Cheryl had such clear instructions that she made it easy!

Busy Hands: A Special Blanket for Stafford

I love how it turned out! It makes me so happy to have a special blanket for Stafford that was partially made by his great-grandmother. The blanket is about 38 inches by 38 inches. It's the perfect size for a baby. 

Busy Hands: A Special Blanket for Stafford

For the boarder I did a row of single crochet, a row of double crochet, and then a row of single crochet. I only had one skein of the blue and white yarn to use for the braid join and the blanket border. I wasn't sure if I would have quite enough yarn, but I did! There were only two yards of yarn leftover.

Busy Hands: A Special Blanket for Stafford

A close up of one of my Oma's lovely blue crochet blocks.

Busy Hands: A Special Blanket for Stafford

The special blanket is in our living room waiting for Stafford's arrival.

Have you been working on any projects lately? Craft projects or any kind of project? I'd love to hear what you are doing to keep busy.
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