Sunday, April 29, 2018

Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

Climb aboard Book #2 of Jody Hedlund's Orphan Train series, and join Marianne Neumann as she works for the Children's Aid Society. Marianne, sister of Elise (main character of Book #1), has an ulterior motive in her work with the orphans. Yes, she cares about them and desires to help, but she chooses this job because she hopes it will lead her to her younger sister, Sophie, who disappeared along with the two children the Neumann sisters had been caring for. Marianne feels she's to blame for their disappearance, and she intends on searching at each stop along the railroad.

But of course, she has a job to do. She, along with her partner, Drew Brady, must find homes for each of the orphans in their care. As they journey west, Marianne finds herself beginning to care more and more for the children even as she must let them go, and she finds herself caring for Drew as well.

Drew has worked for the Children's Aid Society for a couple of years, and his love for the children is obvious. He's a fun and cheerful agent, but he's also tough and strict.

As Marianne and Drew work together to care for the children, they begin to care for each other. But Drew has a past he's running from, a past that tries to repeat itself. Marianne finds old habits are heard to break, and her lies, though seemingly innocent, quickly catch up to her.

Marianne definitely grows in strength and in purpose. In the beginning of the novel, she seems timid and uncertain, but circumstances stretch and push her. She learns to fight for those she loves, but she also learns when she needs to let go.

As with the previous book, it was interesting to learn more about the Children's Aid Society and what the orphans had to endure. It is almost funny seeing how easily orphans were shoved off to new homes. In today's world, there's so much red tape, money, background checks, etc., the mere thought of adopting is the beginning of a long journey.

An innocent lie spills out of control, and Marianne is frantic to undo the charade. In His own time, and in the nick of time, God untangles the mess, and brings the sweet story to a close. Marianne learns trusting Him and letting go is the best thing because He knows what is best for her. Even little Jethro gets a wonderful, happy ending- even better than what he tried to get for himself.

Once again, Jody wrote a winner! I truly enjoyed immersing myself in this story!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Why Is Slowing Down So Hard?

Well, hello.

It's been a while.

I truly have missed writing here.  I have missed my little space in this big blogging world.  Most of all, I have missed pouring out my heart and filling empty, white space with letters and words.

It's late, so I will keep this short.  Suffice it to say, I am still having seizures.  The boys are still having their many developmental delays.  My heart still breaks when I think about how behind they are, and inside I truly do ache over it.  I am doing everything in my power to help them.  Not the least of which is to revamp our entire diet.

I thought we ate reasonably healthy before, but I realize now I had no clue.  We are now doing the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Diet, which is a very strict diet intended to heal the gut, and when the gut is healed, the brain follows.   The boys and I need this.  Months ago, I found out I have Candida (yeast in the gut), and this very well could be causing my seizures.  The mother's gut flora gets passed on to her babies, and so my boys received the lovely present from me, and in turn, they are having developmental delays.  This is what I have pieced together, though no doctor has told me this, because, what good are traditional medical doctors today?  Excuse me for saying so.  Give me someone who practices homeopathy or holistic methods or even herbal remedies.

So now, we drink broth with every meal.  We eat tons of meat and veggies.  We consume no sugar except honey and what already exists in fruit and dates.  I make EVERYTHING from scratch.  The only thing we eat out of a package is an occasional Larabar.  There is a long list of things we cannot eat, such as potatoes and corn.  Celtic sea salt is healthy and good for you, and that is added to meats liberally.  Even lard from healthy animals, raised the way God intended, is good for you.  We buy our meats straight from a farm, and while we are spending more money on food than we ever  have before, we are getting good, quality meat and eggs.

It is a lot of work.  I spend more time in the kitchen than I truly want, and sometimes, I'd rather be on the floor with the boys.  But even when it FEELS like I am ignoring them for prepping food, I have to remember that what I am doing is for all of us.

I cannot expect God to bring healing to the boys if I am not willing to start at the beginning.  This diet was so hard at first, and I DID not want to do it, but I did, and I believe it is the right course for us at this time.  Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride invented the diet, and she used it to cure her son of autism.  I pray this diet will bring healing to my boys as well, and me, too, of my seizures.

I will be back to write again, hopefully.  There is so much my heart longs to say.  But I have to start somewhere.

Until then.

Monday, June 12, 2017

With You Always by Jody Hedlund

Before I begin this post, I want to say that I have taken an unplanned blogging break, mainly for one reason. Silas is my little boy stalker, and he is so clingy, that I can barely breathe.  Sitting down and typing up blogs is almost impossible in my world at present, because he is all over me, all the time.  I do miss writing here, and I hope to get back to this at some point.  My heart longs to write... but when you become a mother, many of your passions take a back seat.  I am even reading much less these days, which greatly saddens me.  I hope this is just a season.

On to my book review!

Two people come together from totally different worlds and discover that maybe being different is the best thing!

Elise Neumann is a poor immigrant struggling to keep her family together. Fresh from the streets of NYC, she only has any shelter at all because of a Christian worker's generosity. Her garments are threadbare, and her stomach knows what it is to be hungry.

Thornton Quincy, on the other hand, knows no financial hardship. The son of a very successful businessman, Thornton has been raised with every advantage. Yet, even growing up with all sorts of privileges, Thornton is not without a heart.

That heart is put to the test when trying to build a town, all while meeting the challenges of a contest his father has established for him and his brother. Elise, one of his employees, helps him to consider the needs of others, and he finds himself thinking more about those needs, and less about beating his brother in the contest.

While love between them develops, there is no way it can work. Elise is not the kind of woman Thornton's father would approve of, or is she?

I really liked reading about the life of fictional Elise. Her life was far from perfect, and at times, it is good as a reader to get out of my comfort zone and step into someone else's shoes. I liked learning about the conditions in the city that led immigrants, specifically women, heading west in desperation, often leaving their families behind in hopes of sending them funds in time. Jody Hedlund wrote this book with the true life incidents of September 1857 in mind, as women headed west on the "orphan trains" to seek work where cheap labor was sought. I enjoyed this bit of history.

Elise learns that God really was with her always, even on the dark days. I'm thankful when a book reminds me of that. It is a lesson that can't be learned enough. Jody weaved together another beautiful story!

*I received this book from Bethany House Publishers and was required to write a review.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Never Forget by Jody Hedlund

Misinformation spins out-of-control and becomes a web of deceit, taking on spirals and turns that no one saw coming.

Abbie is a devoted granddaughter to her grandfather who suffers from dementia. She must run the lighthouse, because his days of being able to are pretty much gone. Abbie would do anything to help him, and her love for him knows no bounds.

Nathaniel's life has been filled with money, women, booze, and careless living. When Abbie saves him after his boat capsizes, his memory is gone. Her grandfather mistakenly thinks he is her dead husband, and Nathaniel overhears their conversation just as he is waking up. Abbie, knowing how prone her grandfather is to temper tantrums, lets him believe that this stranger is her husband, so Nathaniel believes they are married.

While Abbie knows it is wrong to deceive Nathaniel, she sees how much her grandfather likes him. Nathaniel's presence is a balm to him. She also knows having a husband will protect her position as keeper of the lighthouse. So Abbie thinks she'll let the deceit go just a little bit longer...

Meanwhile, Nathaniel is mesmerized by this beautiful woman whom he thinks is his bride. He can't remember his past, but he has a feeling he wasn't a great guy. He determines to win her and woo her, be a better man, and have a new start. While Abbie knows the truth, she can't help but admire this man who tries so hard to please her.

But we all know that the truth must come out eventually. How will Nathaniel react? How can his rich, fancy world mesh with Abbie's? Will he forgive her? Will both of their pasts come back to haunt them?

Jody does a great job showing how two people realize they are sinners in need of God's forgiveness. She shows how no matter the sin, we can all have a fresh start.  This is one of Jody's strengths as a writer, and I see this theme through many of her books, though the journeys of the characters are completely different. She also describes the characters receiving the contentment from the Lord alone, apart from the person they love so much.

I like Jody's writing style. She pays great attention to detail, especially with physical description. She has a wonderful way of writing about the ever changing range of characters' emotions.

I do think she sometimes writes a bit too much description as far as physical affection, because in my opinion, in the world we live in today, we don't need to stoke the flames any further. I thought some of the flirting at the end, while not inappropriate at all, was a bit overboard.  However, that is just my opinion, and Jody is still a wonderful writer. She clearly has done her research on lighthouses and settings!

A quick note on the cover:  That is Jody's daughter!  I recently read a blog post of Jody's, and she described the process for making the cover.  Normally, professional models are chosen for covers of books, but her twin daughters were graduating high school and having a photo shoot, right on the water.  After their regular photos were taken, both girls wore borrowed period dresses, and a batch of photos was sent to the publishing team.  This photo was chosen!  Jody is quite proud, to say the least.  You can read her story here:

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Boys: An Update

It was high time I got on here and gave an update on the boys and how they are doing these days. The problem is, it is not easy finding time to be on the computer. :)

First, let me get this topic out of the way.  Silas still is a lousy sleeper.  And you know what?  I have decided to accept it at last.  There is no use fighting it.  I have tried all without fail.  CIO (cry-it-out)- check, change bedtime- check, pray without ceasing- check.  I have come to the conclusion that it is going to be this way for a while.  Silas is so inconsistent.  He has a good few days or a week or so where he sleeps til 3:30/4, then, he is waking up all various times.  Naps are still horrible.  I am trying to transition him to one nap, and it is still usually a half hour only.  (Caleb takes a longer nap than Silas!)  Every morning, when Silas wakes up at 3:30 or 4, I go to him, and nurse/sleep with him for another hour or so, until he is up for good.  I have tried not going to him, to try to "kill" the association, so to speak.  Nope, doesn't work.  He will just scream his head off and there is no peace for me in that.  Brian can sleep through it, but I can't.  It is easier for me to stumble to his (really, our) room, and lay down with him.

So, this is the way it is.  And I have decided to accept it instead of fight it any more.  It has made me far less bitter this way.

It appears that Silas will have a speech delay like Caleb.  He has not yet made any clear sounds at 15 months old.  He did say "ma ma" when he was younger, but he stopped.

He still will not do any kind of self-feeding, at all, nor will he drink out of a cup.  I am his water bottle, if you will.  To say that I am dehydrated is an understatement.  He nurses for 1) comfort 2) food.  Although I think he does more of #1 than #2.  I try to fight him off, but you try fighting off a toddler hanging onto your knees in the kitchen so that you are held prisoner, unable to move.  I love nursing; it is one of the most beautiful things in this whole world.  However, I wouldn't mind if Silas cut back just a wee bit.  Mama can barely breathe sometimes.  And did I mention I am dehydrated?

He is also behind on eating solids.  He gags easily, and I have had to move very slowly with him, and he is way behind what Caleb was eating at this age.  I rely on pureed foods much more than I'd like, but Silas's occupational therapist is encouraging me in this.

But, but... Silas is smart.  He is acknowledging things more and more.  For example, each morning after story time with the boys, I sing the "Days of the Week" song, and point out the days on a chart on the fridge.  I start by asking "What day is today?"  Silas began walking to the fridge before I did.  Then, just yesterday he starting pointing with his finger to the chart.  There are more examples, like when I started reciting from memory one of our books during his diaper change and he immediately grabbed that book after we were done.

Caleb still struggles with his speech delay, however, he is saying more all the time.  Sometimes, I am surprised by the things he says.  He is way behind with his fine motor skills.  Thank the Lord he feeds himself much more easily than he used to, but he has no interest in using crayons and markers beyond two seconds.  He lacks any and all skill there, and quite frankly, interest.  (I brought out kiddie scissors, and he merely glanced at them and walked away.)  He shows little independence, for example, he won't even try to get himself dressed and he is happy with Mama doing it until the end of time.

He has an over-the-top fear of the POTTY!  Don't even get me started.  There is no training this boy, because his fear is that bad.  It is THAT BAD!  Silas's occupational therapist asked if Caleb can, ahem, "aim", and I said we are no where near that point!  His fear is so bad, that when I was trying to wash Caleb's hands before dinner and Silas was following us into the bathroom, Caleb was SCREAMING, panicking that Silas would open the toilet.  (Silas has never opened the toilet, so why that was a fear, I have no idea.)  He only trusts me in the bathroom with him.  He doesn't trust Daddy, because Daddy playfully opened the lid once in April during Caleb's bath, and now, only I can be with him at bath time.  Daddy can't even relieve me for two seconds, because Caleb will scream his head off, thus waking our difficult sleeper up, which, trust me, we don't want to do.  Do you see how hard this is??

Caleb is also increasingly defiant.  I'm not going to go into details, because honestly, it hurts too much, so I'll leave it at that.

But, but... Caleb, like Silas, is smart.  He has an excellent memory, and he can remember Daddy climbing his grandparents' tree months ago.  He has soaked up so many things:  the alphabet, his numbers, colors and shapes, days of the week, and we are doing spelling now.  He wants to learn.  He might resist at first, but after persistence, he will start to take it in.

Silas has a wonderful occupational therapist, and honestly, she has been an incredible blessing to me personally.  She's been doing this for a long time, and she has SEEN IT ALL.  She has declared, in very strong terms, that she doesn't believe the boys are autistic.  "Thirty years ago," she said, "they would not have been diagnosed with autism."  The scale, she said, has broadened over the years to include so many traits, that doctors fear lawsuits and whatnot if they are not diagnosed.  There are other reasons, too, but I cannot remember the entire conversation.  She said to me, "Look at them.  Your boys are here with you.  They are all here."  I let her words pour over me like a warm fountain, and it was lovely.

She believes they have Sensory Processing Disorder, and now that I know more, I agree.  As she said, "I have seen autism.  Believe me.  Your boys don't have it."  She's right.  My boys are both here.  They have delays, yes.  There are issues with processing in the brain that result in behavior issues (with Caleb, Silas is still a bit young), but they are here.  They are not off in a corner beating a pot over and over again without paying any attention to anyone or anything.

They are here.

What hope she gave me!  I talk her ear off every time she is here, and it never feels like it is enough.

Is there a cure?  Obviously, some of this they will outgrow in time.  Some of it will work itself out.  I will not ALWAYS have to get Caleb dressed and change his diapers.  I want to, in time, get both boys tested for food sensitivities, which, long story, but if someone is sensitive to a certain food and it creates yeast in the gut, the gut affects the brain.  Caleb has very bad cradle cap, which is a sign of a food sensitivity.  This is why I began going gluten/dairy free, but it could be more than that.  This is why I want to get him tested down the road, when we are able.

I pray that my boys won't always be held back by these sensory issues.  I pray that if God wants them healed, He'll open all the right doors for us and give us the information and wisdom that we need to deal with this.

But for now, I'll continue to soak up that reminder, that my boys are "all here".

My dear friend, Theresa, purchased this Willow Creek figurine for me, used, at a garage sale.  She saw it, scooped it up, and gave it to me while saying, "This is how God sees you."  I was misty-eyed at this figurine of a mother and her two sons. And give my boys time.  They'll probably have brown hair eventually, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Right (and the Pain) To Vote

On Tuesday, I, like just about everyone else, went to vote.  Except that I wasn't alone.  I had my boys with me.

I guess I am still used to NJ, where the polls are open longer than where we are here in PA, and I never had to wait on a long line in NJ.  I can't remember ever having to.  I was warned that there might be long lines here early in the morning, but I thought, "How bad can it be?  Let me just go get it over with."  And so I went.

I got there at about 7:30, or maybe a few minutes before.  There were cars up and down the street, and I thought, "Oh, boy.  Maybe it just looks worse than it is."  I figured I would check the parking lot.  If there were no spaces, obviously, I wasn't going to haul the boys down the street.  But lo, there were several spaces, quite a few, in fact.  I thought perhaps it was moving faster than it looked, so I got the boys out of their car seats and walked toward the building.

The line was out the door.  But again, I thought it would move quickly, after all, it takes two seconds to vote.  I hauled Silas in my arms, all 25 lbs. (but probably more), and I held onto Caleb's hood.  I thought, stupidly, that someone would take pity on a woman with a baby and another child and offer to move her forward.  I took my place at the end of the line, realizing it was very cold outside, and yikes, was this a bad idea?  But I was already here.  I'd have to put the boys back in their car seats, and come back out later, putting them back in the car, and taking them out again.  I didn't want to do that.

The line quickly grew behind me.  And it moved... slowly.  We voters struck up conversations with one another, not revealing anything about for whom our votes would be cast.  It was all friendly.  We took teeny tiny steps.  I could not put Silas down, because when I tried to stand him next to me, he either wanted to sit on the cold ground, or toddle away, so I was forced to hold him.  My arm was tired.  As we moved forward, one person offered for me to move in front of him.  Then, one of the poll workers noticed Silas's missing shoe, and announced the second half of the alphabet could move over.  Yay!  We were inside, out of the cold.  We inched forward.  As we did, another man said I could go in front of him.  Silas began having more meltdowns.  Yikes, it was bad.  Another guy said I could move forward.  (These were all teeny jumps- just the person right in front of me.)  Finally, I was up there.  I got my wallet out, not realizing the change zipper was partially open, and change went on the floor.  Silas was LOUD.   The man helped me pick up my change.  The poll workers told me I should have come to the front of the line.  (Was I supposed to just cut people?  People have to OFFER that.)  Somehow, I managed to sign my name.  Man, my arm was burning by this time.  I took my boys, and I placed my vote.  I scrambled to the car, so relieved to put Silas down.  All told, it took me about an hour.

By the time we got home, my upper body was so tired and sore.  Silas fell asleep in the two minute drive.  A simple task, and we were wiped out.  I was glad to settle back into our routine with a cup of tea.

As the results were coming through that night, Brian and I watched with anticipation.  Trump was losing PA.  I felt so dejected.  After all, I had WORKED for my vote.  I struggled for it.  (Two days later, my arm, back, and neck are all still sore.)  I wanted my vote to count.  I didn't just press a button.  I had labored through that line!

But then, he pulled forward.  We were so anxious to see if he'd win PA, which would make him the winner of the whole thing.  But it was getting late.  We were on pins and needles with anticipation, because it was our state!  Our votes!  My hard work!

I finally went to bed before Brian.  He was on the computer, while I got a few zzz's, then woke back up.  I asked him for updates, and he announced that Trump won PA, and he was over 270.  We clasped hands and were so thankful.  Our votes mattered.  My vote mattered!  Never had I worked for a vote more!

I'm not going to get into a political dissertation here on this blog.  Many Christians won't vote for Trump due to the myriad of reports coming out about him.  I didn't care for those things either. However, I didn't put Trump in his spot.  Brian and I voted for someone else in the GOP primaries. But this was the choice before us.  At the end of the day, we are conservatives, and we have to go with our party, and not waste our vote on someone who has no chance of winning.  Trump has his list of flaws.  But he has many good stances on issues that are important to us, as Christians.  Stances that Democrats are completely against.

We don't place our hope in Trump, but rather, the God who sits on the throne.  His majesty puts anything to shame that exists on this earth, and we await His coming kingdom.  But for now, it was a sweet, small victory for those who uphold conservative values.

I'm proud I was able to share that day with my boys.  Though they'll never remember it, I will.

And I am still waiting for all my muscle tenderness to fade.

P.S.  Brian voted after work, and he had to wait an hour and a half.  He was so proud of me, because he said all he had to do was stand there, the next day he bought me an iced coffee on his way home from work!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


No eloquent title post today.  One word sums it up.


Exhausted is another good one.

Silas continues to be up at night, and his times are becoming more random.  Last night it was 1:43.  I did not go in, because I did not want to start a new habit.  But I heard him cry nonetheless, and it meant a great loss of sleep for the both of us.

I can barely keep my eyes open today.

I have also been losing some weight.  This is not intentional.  I have lost all my pregnancy weight, and am now hanging in some numbers that are lower than I was before my pregnancy with Caleb.  I think it is due to two things:  Silas's incessant nursing, and this gluten-free, casein-free diet, which greatly limits the options.

I simply don't feel all that healthy.  With my never-ending tiredness, and my weight dropping a bit, I just don't feel like I can go conquer the world.  I can't even keep my kitchen clean.

I wish this was a better blog post.  I never did write about our trip to the pumpkin patch two weeks ago, or Brian's birthday.  It hasn't ALL been bleak.  But I will admit, I am ready to be done with this months-long trial God has seen fit to allow me to endure.

There is Silas crying now... off to my duty.