Happy Halloween!

It wasn't until about three days ago that I finally got into the Halloween spirit. I've been overwhelmed by midterms and the flu, and haven't felt like myself at all.  Finally on Thursday (just two days before our party) it finally kicked in and I started going crazy cleaning and decorating.


Kyle and I still didn't know what we were going to be (usually we know by August!) so we threw out some last-minute ideas and decided to be Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon (played by Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey) from the TV show 30 Rock.


There were tons of great, witty costumes, but I must say that my personal favorite was our friends Jacob and Aileen, who dressed up as us! They were great identity thieves.


Aileen cut her bangs, and Jacob put white in his eyebrow. So funny!


Tomorrow night we will welcome trick-or-treaters dressed as zombies. Should be a great Halloween!


An Update on Diane

Thank you so much to the many, many people who have been praying and encouraging our family since we found out about my stepmom's cancer! It sounds so cliche, but even words from strangers have meant to much to her and my dad throughout this nightmare.

Since I first wrote about it, Diane changed her mind about getting chemo and is now receiving treatment down here in St. Louis at Barnes Jewish Hospital.  They had a little more hope to offer her, not that they could get rid of it, but that they could slow it down.  I honestly think she decided to do it for my dad, and he has been so happy she chose to do so.

Before they started chemo, they also found that she had a tumor in her brain that was inoperable.  They were able to treat it with radiation and as far as we know, they got it all.  Praise the Lord for small victories!

Once the started the chemo, things weren't going too badly until one day Diane started having horrible pain in her abdomen.  She soon found out that she had kidney stones, and this would be the story of her life for the next two months.  After seeing three urologists and having four surgeries to try and remove them, they just keep coming back.  No one really knows what is causing them to develop so rapidly.

Diane has been in almost constant pain and completely miserable.  She said the chemo alone wouldn't be so bad if she could just kick these kidney stones.  After her most recent trip to the hospital this week with one, she said that something has to change.  Finally, the doctor realized that the chemo could be causing them (something we've been asking about this whole time) and they are investigating what they can do differently.

Out of the hospital and enjoying a beautiful autumn day in St. Louis.
(Photo taken after leaving the hospital from round two of chemo, and after surgery 3 for kidney stones.)

They are mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Being in almost constant, severe pain is something I can hardly imagine.  Taking care of someone you love and watching them suffer for two months straight is something I can hardly imagine.  My dad and Diane still need so much prayer and so much support.

Once she is healthy enough to get her third round of chemo, we will hopefully be able to find out if it is actually working.  However, if they can't figure out what to do about the kidney stones, there may not be any more chemo.  The girl can't live that way, and we can't blame her.

This morning my dad said they would just like a little time to be "normal." Only God knows what comes next. We still trust, still pray, still wait.


For my mommy friends: 20 tips for early language development.

Hello to all my friends who are parents. Some of you are seasoned parents, and some of you are brand new. Yesterday I went to a great seminar with the fabulous Dr. Celest Roseberry-McKibben and I was inspired to share some things with you about speech and language development for your little ones.  I'll try to post a few of the things I've learned across the lifespan, but I really want to start with how you can help your little baby during the first year of his or her precious little life.

Most of these things are simple and natural. You probably already do them, but maybe you don't even know how important they are and how many people don't do them!

  1. Read to your baby. This is something most of you already do, but it's so important! Language development starts on day one and it is never to early to start reading. When you do, point to words, identify title and author, and let baby turn pages.
  2. Talk to your baby face-to face. It helps when they can see your mouth and your expression.
  3. Label common objects. Yes, even infants can benefit from seeing written words and understanding that words are symbols for things in our lives.
  4. Introduce music and singing. Don't be shy! Your baby won't care if you are tone deaf.
  5. Let the baby have a safe-glass mirror to look in.
  6. Point out and name body parts during dressing, and bathing.
  7. Use short utterances with simple grammar.
  8. Heighten facial expressions, gestures, and intonation. You may look ridiculous, but studies have shown this "motherese" is really beneficial to development!
  9. Play turn-taking games such as patty cake and peek-a-boo.
  10. In very early infancy, introduce black and white objects. Newborns need the high contrast of black and white. (Sorry, but all those bright colors you used to decorate the nursery? Yeah, they can't even see them yet.)
  11. Imitate the sounds the baby makes, and introduce new sounds to the baby. These could be actual speech sounds or just silly sounds you can make with your mouth. 
  12. When your baby makes sounds or babbles, respond to him/her. Baby will begin to see that all this jabbering has a positive effect and helps them achieve something.
  13. Make a habit of using greetings and saying goodbye. Say hello/goodbye to anyone and everything. Say goodnight to stuffed Elmo when he goes in the toybox.
  14. Provide simple opportunities for baby to put items in and take items out of containers like tupperware. This is great for fine motor skills and teaching concepts like in/out, on/under, in front/behind, up/down.
  15. When you do chores or run errands, bring baby and describe what you're going. "We are walking in the grocery store. We are picking out apples and bananas," etc.
  16. Expand on what your baby says. If you read a book and baby sees and says, "Bear!" then you might respond, "Yes, I see a brown bear in a tree." Soon, you'll see baby's phrases getting longer!
  17. Introduce two languages from birth, if possible. Yeah, that's pretty a big one, but even throwing in some simple words and phrases from another language can help!
  18. Remember that the American Pediatric Association recommends NO television before the age of 2. I realize that's pretty strict, but try to keep it to a minimum.
  19. Try to give baby as many different experiences as you can. Baby needs as much context and world knowledge as possible so he/she can conceptualize things later.
  20. Love and snuggle baby. Never underestimate the power of physical closeness and lots of smooches. A secure attachment to you can literally affect baby's whole life.
Maybe you already knew all of this. Great! Maybe it was a nice refresher or confirmation that you were doing the right things. Great! Maybe you got some new ideas. Great! 
I'm excited about everything I learned yesterday. I hope I can share more soon!