Baby James - a Month Early!

Hope everyone is having a good 2016!!!

Since Christmas, I've been wanting to spend some time blogging, but life has intervened. We've had a job loss, a move, a snow storm and THIS precious event...

Baby James arrived one month early!!!

By the hand of God, he was 6.15 lbs. upon arrival, so he was not in any danger, but he was wheeled into the NICU anyway, because, well...he was a month early! He spent five days there under a blue light with nurses getting him on a wonderful schedule, and his parents holding him whenever they could.


I can smile about it now, but at the time...my heart was breaking because I so wanted to be here to see our first grandchild arrive. I figured traveling a month before James' due date to see my sister, I would be fine. James had other ideas. The best laid plans...

I met James the night I came home. We drove straight to the NICU from the airport, where I got to cry over this beautiful child with a full head of hair.  He was wrapped up like a burrito and as warm as a baked potato. I think he winked at me in our time together, but I'm not positive.

I looked at our son, who was now a father, through tears, and I cried as I embraced our daughter-in-law, who did a marvelous job of handling labor (she pushed for only about ten minutes before the boy was free - who gets that?!?)

I don't even have words to describe our love for this child, who is now home. Every grandparent knows the feeling. I'm now in the 'I'm nutty about my grandchild' club, and yes, you'll have to tolerate photos now and then of this sweet boy.

A side note - I had a great visit with my sister, even once the snow began. I've not seen snow like this in 25 years. It was beautiful, I must say. And we had fun digging out.



It was an emotional week. The day James Daniel was born in sunny Florida, even the skies in Maryland celebrated, raining down two feet of angel flakes.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.


A Special Book Review: "Kissed by an Angel"

I'm thinking of a dear blogger friend this week named Robyn Campbell. She has a special needs son named Christopher.

Robyn is a writer of children's books; Christopher is her inspiration.

The two come together in a precious book I read just after Christmas called "Kissed by an Angel."

Christopher has Sturge-Weber syndrome. Robyn has "we'll-not-be-defeated-by-this-challenge" syndrome. Sturge-Weber is characterized by a congenital facial birthmark and neurological abnormalities. "We'll-not-be-defeated-by-this-challenge" is characterized by eyes that see purely and a heart that loves as God loves.

Robyn is a warrior for research on this disease and found one way to bring awareness to the subject by compiling ten short stories and one poem (written by friends) for this children's book. I read it in an afternoon, one adventure after another. The protagonists (all kids) of these short stories exhibit special gifts, traits that enable them to solve mysteries or see magically.

There are tales of time travel, and one story about a sneaky millipede. "The Captain's Call" is about friendship and bravery and sacrifice. I think it's my favorite. Unless it's "The Flying Fish Mystery" about a missing painting and how a pastrami sandwich offers telling clues. Then, again, I loved "Grandpa and Loor" because of its unique and magical take on the relationship between a girl and her grandfather.

These are great bedtime stories. Or day time stories. Read aloud tales, or read-on-a-road-trip tales. All the young heroes take risks, and do so bravely. Children with Sturge-Weber syndrome (and other disabilities) take risks too, and that's why this is such a touching book. Families who deal with Sturge-Weber must be open to procedures and medications that are sometimes cutting edge, but can be frightening as well. In the search for a cure, there are risks to be taken. There are hugs to be given and tears to be kissed away.

I'm highlighting this book today, because I want to collaborate with Robyn in her efforts to tell her story and find a cure for Sturge-Weber. If you know a youngster ages 8-12, please purchase a copy of this anthology - it's under six dollars. If you have no youngsters in your life, buy a copy or two for your local elementary school library. I'm telling you, these are great stories for kids. All proceeds from this compilation go to the Sturge-Weber Foundation.


If you'd rather simply make a donation to the Sturge-Weber Foundation, you can do that here. STURGE-WEBER FOUNDATION. 

I had never heard of this disease until I met Robyn. This cause has stayed with me because seizures usually accompany Sturge-Weber, and my brother Greg had seizures, due to epilepsy. It is a unceasingly worrisome problem.

In the New Year, we often try to commit to new endeavors - lose weight, stress less, give up something, take on something, maybe learn something new. Take just a few minutes and read about Sturge-Weber on the link above.  It will make you grateful for your own healthy children, and I pray it will inspire you to share a bit of what you have towards helping those like Christopher, who is the apple of his mama's eye. Robyn would be forever grateful.



And I would too.


Happy New Year, Baby James!

Dearest baby James,

We celebrated Christmas last week, and your mom and dad came to visit. They like to sneak little smooches when no one is looking.

Or, they think no one is looking.

There you are, being held by both your mom and dad. You're 32 weeks big and before long, they will hold you, skin to skin, and finally be able to smooch on you too.  (I'll be smooching on you as well, just so you know.)

We had a great Christmas with too many holiday goodies, and now I'm having withdrawal symptoms from not having a Christmas cookie every thirty minutes. Boo-hoo.

I wanted to share some of the year's events with you, as 2015 has ended. The most beautiful thing that occurred last year was that YOU were created. You weren't here in 2014, and now you are just weeks away from being born. Isn't that amazing?

Here are some other tidbits you might find interesting.

1. In this family, we visit the doctor a lot. Between your grandparents and your great-grandparents, we had 140 doctor visits this past year. 140! You need doctor visits all your life. You're getting a visit with your doctor once a month already. I'm grateful for doctors and nurses and all the people in the medical field. They know a lot of things, and do things I would not want to do. So, thank you, Jesus for health professionals!

2. Your great-grandfather (my dad) turned 92 years old. Your great-grandmother (my mom) turned 95. You and these great-grandparents are almost 100 years apart!

When you are born, you will need lots of tender loving care and help doing everything. Your great grandparents are a bit like that too. We all get older, and we all need more help. So, babies and great-grand parents are alike in many ways. They are both very dear to God's heart, because babies come straight from heaven, and the elderly are getting close to returning to heaven. We each have our turn at being a baby, and getting older.

3.  I, your Nana, published a book this year. It's a great story/project I love to talk about, and when you're older, I'll tell you all about it. I hope you love to read, because you can learn so many things about the world and people and trucks and dinosaurs and baseball, if you love to read. We'll read together once you get here, and you'll see how fascinating it can be.

4. Your grandpa and aunt jumped out of the plane this past year! I thought they were a little nutty, but they love adventure, and they had a blast floating to earth with parachutes after free-falling for a bit. Your dad and I watched from the ground. I bet someday, you'll want to jump out of a plane too!

5.  Your Grandpa and I celebrated 40 years of marriage. That might not mean much to you until you're married yourself, but one thing that made it extra special was that we knew you were coming. We have been very excited about that. I bought a baby boot for my charm bracelet and I started making you a quilt. These are the girly things grandmothers do for their grandchildren.

6.  I lost a friend of mine this year to an awful disease called cancer.  People get sick sometimes, and they don't get better here on earth. God takes them home to heaven with Him, and that's where they become healed and happy again. So, even though this life has some heartaches and losses, we find peace again in God's loving arms. Always remember this.

There are things we learn every year of our lives. Your first year of life, you will learn an amazing number of things: the sound of your own name, how to wave goodbye, how to roll over, how to sit up, how to say a few words. You will learn that your mama and daddy will take care of you. They will make you laugh and keep you warm. You will meet the family animals. You will learn what oatmeal and bananas taste like. You will learn that growing teeth can be painful. But, also that gnawing on a frozen bagel feels good.

And that's just the beginning. Every new year, you will learn exciting things. God has a life full of adventure planned for you. "Plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope," He tells all His children. He's a really big God with all kinds of crazy ideas, so trust Him and look forward to what is coming next.

Happy New Year to you, sweet baby James! (I will see you in just a few weeks. I'll be the one with tears in my eyes.)

love, Nana


Baby Jesus and Baby James

Amy Grant's Home for Christmas, Josh Groban's Noel and the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas...these are the tunes I'm listening to as I write.  These CDs, along with a few others, are on a loop in our house during the holidays. Especially this year. I had to turn off the news and away from the reports on terrorism and random mass shootings. My heart couldn't take it any more.

I'm kind of a news junkie, but over the past month...the violence has been nonstop, and I became so discouraged by the worst of mankind and the hatred that is rising across the globe. Only God can change the hearts of the brutal, the greedy, and the lost. I can be kind in my own small circle, but I cannot fix much. So, I deliberately turned to setting up our nativity set and remembering a miraculous night an infant King entered a just-as-troubled world in a cold stable surrounded by smelly livestock.
There might have been a pine cone or two at the scene as well.

How brave God was to send an innocent child into this filthy world. What an investment He made in His children, who had already failed Him so.

Such is true love. To engage and invest in and commit to something when all past evidence proves the object of affection is untrustworthy.  It's only through this sacrifice that I understand anything. If not for the love of God, I would have no hope in human nature at all. On our own, we are aimless and wasteful, fearful and self-absorbed. We truly are immature children. Once God gets a hold of us, though...we have such potential.

The Christ child reminds me that God still invests in us. With every new life, He says, you're all still worth it.

Which brings me to our 30-week in utero grand baby, James. Here's what he looks like now, via his beautiful mama.

Innocence and wonder hidden in a warm belly, almost ready to emerge into the world in the form of James Daniel; another sweet life that comes from heaven with the message of here you go - more hope, new dreams, vast potential, and likely curly hair. Babies are straight from God, so we get the closest glimpse we can get in the flesh.  I still believe in you, God says. Look at this.

Baby James doesn't yet know how loved he is; how fearfully and wonderfully made he is. I'm going to tell him as soon as I meet him. And I'm going to tell him every time I see him. In this often dark world, it's important he understands that his heavenly Father is bigger than any tragedy he will ever see in his lifetime. I want James to always have hope as he grows and faces life's disappointments.

I will tell him about the baby Jesus and what hope He brought to the world. I will tell him that babies have great power to soften adults and prompt maturity and sacrifice, and how these things can change a family, which in turn can change a community, and then, yes, the world.

Ten more days, baby Jesus; ten more weeks (maybe less), baby James.

No matter what circumstances into which a child is born, he has the potential to change a human heart. That is the miracle of life.



Our FAVORITE Holiday Tradition! (going on 23 years now)

Merry almost Christmas! So happy to be a part of this holiday blog hop! Thanks to the gals at BLOGS BY CHRISTIAN WOMEN for orchestrating this festive event!

I'm excited to tell you about our favorite holiday tradition!

It started over twenty years ago when our family was anonymously given 12 days of surprises over the holiday season. The daily gifts were small, but precious. The following year, we gave this 12 days adventure to someone else. We have been doing this every year since. The project has evolved and can be altered depending on the recipient. We typically choose an individual or family who's had a rough year, but gifts can be given to celebrate something great, like a new baby, as well.

Gifts can be anything, large or small, but over time, our gifts became more based on the lyrics of the carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. This is when the fun really began! Four years ago, I started documenting the gifts because some were so "punny." We also include a homemade greeting card with each gift, which links the gift to that day's lyric, so recipients get a chuckle or two.

I'll share a few of our favorite gift ideas here, but the beauty of this adventure is the way it can change hearts. We received this gift in 1993, when our kids were 7, 13 and 16. From the first delivery - when our doorbell rang, but no one was on the doorstep, just a solitary fresh pear - our kids were hooked. They loved the daily surprises and repeatedly tried to catch the giver.

The following year, when we gave the 12 Days to friends, our kids loved being the "ring and run" deliverers. From then on, every December, our hearts turned from discussing what we all wanted from Santa towards choosing our "12 Days adventure" recipient. Our focus shifted to giving rather that getting. This is the miracle of The 12 Days Adventure.

Recipients are always moved by the project. Everyone we have given this to is so surprised and warmed by the fact that someone has thought about them for 12 days in a row during the craziest season of the year. I tell you, this gift spreads the love like nothing else.

So, onto some gift samples!
For Day 1 (a partridge in a pear tree), a simple pear works just fine. OR, create a partridge in a prayer tree with construction paper and art foam. Write scripture verses on the pears. Your giftee can hang it up year after year.

Day 2 (turtle doves): shape turtles out of pipe cleaners and 'o' shaped cereal. Loop on tree branches for the birds to enjoy during the winter season.

Day 3 (French hens): Three French fries - and some of their buddies! Make a simple tree ornament out of art foam by gluing strips of yellow between squares of another color. Punch a hole in the back square for an ornament hook.

Day 4 (calling birds): Play on the number 4 and create the four seasons! From cookie cutters, pie tins, and acrylic paint, cut out ornaments representing the four seasons. Tape a loop of fishing line or sturdy thread on the back for hanging.

Day 5 ( gold rings): for the man in the house, 5 rings of tape! Thread them onto a candy cane for a festive look.

Day 6 (geese-a-laying): play on the egg theme here and give six hard-boiled eggs! A fun homage to Dr. Seuss can be added as well.

Day 7 (swans-a-swimming): create seven beautiful origami swans from wrapping paper! There are easy instructions online.


Day 8 (maids-a-milking): how about 8 Milky Way candy bars? Of 8 packets of Swiss Miss cocoa?

Day 9 (ladies dancing): there are many movies with dance numbers in them; from the classic "Singing in the Rain" to "Mamma Mia!" with Meryl Streep. A DVD musical is just one idea for this day.


Day 10 (lords-a-leaping): how about 10 leaping reindeer? 10 sugar cookie cut-outs fit the bill!

Days 11 (pipers piping): Pipe jewelry! Rotini pasta looks like little pipes - dye dry pasta with a mixture of hand sanitizer and food coloring, and thread onto yarn or fishing line. 

Day 12 (drummers drumming): anything with drums! From cardboard, I created and colored a little drummer boy. For the head, I pasted on a photograph. Tape a paper clip on the back to create a hanging ornament.

If you are tired of and frazzled by the holiday chaos that accompanies Christmas (I was) and are looking for a way to create a different atmosphere in your home during the month of December, The 12 Days of Christmas Adventure is something you might want to try. It's a very hands-on way teach your children that Christmas is about giving, not consuming. It's a fun, sneaky, holiday project that we get excited about every year! (If you want more gift ideas for this project, check out this colorful, inexpensive ebook: THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE.)

I hope you are enjoying this holiday blog hop from BLOGS BY CHRISTIAN WOMEN! I love reading about how different families celebrate Christmas. We all have so much to share about how to celebrate the Christ child in new and wondrous ways! If you missed yesterday's holiday hop blogger, you can catch her post here: LOTTIE BROOKE. Try to catch all of these lovely holiday posts!

Thank you for visiting today. I pray you have a blessed and peaceful holiday season!