Moss & Marsh

Summertime Safety with your Baby

Guest WriterDr. Ben Spitalnick, MD
Hooded Towel

Coastal Georgia has a year-round offering of outdoor activities for your family, but summertime is really when options are most plentiful.  The beach, the pool, the boat, and the park are great places to have family fun with kids of all ages.  A successful outing comes with just a little preparation, to make sure the smallest ones are safe from common outdoor hazards.  Below are a few tips that may help you make the most out of your summer.

Protection from the sun can be easily forgotten, especially on a cloudy day, or when the expectation of a short day in the sun becomes longer.  There are many excellent brands of sunscreen available, but it’s important to make sure to choose one that offers “broad spectrum” coverage (both UVA and UVB protection).  It should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outside, and should be reapplied about every 2 hours, especially with water activities (the term “waterproof” is less effective than you think).  And yes, even on a cloudy day, or away from the peak of Summer, the sun is bright enough to cause sunburn.  I’m at my laptop writing this just after most schools in our area have had spring break, and already seeing so many babies and children with first sunburns of the season.  As usual, many parents forgot the March and April sun is indeed bright enough to cause damage.  Sunscreen can be used as young as 4 to 6 months old.  And for the youngest, barrier protection is key, including canopies, hats, and other shelters from early sun exposure.

 Our large  Swaddle Blanket  is great for lawn seating!

Our large Swaddle Blanket is great for lawn seating!

Bug repellant is also essential, especially in the coastal areas where mosquito season lasts most of the year.  Insect bites are a common cause of superficial skin infections (often caused by bacteria that live on our own skin), called cellulitis or impetigo.  Also, mosquitos in our area can in rare cases transmit severe diseases, such as West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and others.  Bug sprays can be used safely starting at 2 months old.  And yes, DEET is both safe this young, and, the most effective for mosquito bites.  The DEET concentration is found on the front label of most commercially available insect repellant, written out as “N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide”.  The concentration of DEET is an indicator of how long the protection will last; expect about an hour of protection for each 5% of DEET concentration (10% should last 2 hours, 25% should last about 5 hours).  Concentrations above 30% have shown little increased benefit, and not recommended for children.  DEET products should be applied just once and not be reapplied throughout the day.  There are DEET free alternatives that some parents prefer, which include eucalyptus, citronella, or cedar.  These are safe to try, but often less effective than DEET.

There are also combination “bug and sun” products available, but these are not recommended for children by the AAP.  The reason is sunscreen should be reapplied frequently, but insect repellant should not.  And, the insect repellant may make the SPF less effective.

 Pictured: Moss & Marsh crustacean  Burp Cloth

Pictured: Moss & Marsh crustacean Burp Cloth

For a baby spending excessive time outdoors, hydration is an important concern as well.  Water is a large component of both breastmilk and formula, thus generous feedings are the best help in ensuring good hydration.  Commercially available electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte are a useful supplement at times.  While plain water is ideal for rehydration of older children, it should be avoided in infants, since it does not contain important electrolytes.  A common question from parents is to how to tell if their infant or child is showing signs of dehydration.  There are indeed subtle signs, such as decreased urination, warm skin, or dry lips and mucous membranes.  These, however, can be difficult for even the most experienced parents to identify, thus any concerns you have should be taken seriously and addressed by your physician or other medical personnel immediately.

 Dry off after a fun pool session with our snuggly  Hooded Towel !

Dry off after a fun pool session with our snuggly Hooded Towel!

Swimming pools are another fun experience with your baby, starting at about 4 months of age.  Younger than this the effects of chlorine are not fully known, and new studies suggest early chlorine exposure may lead to respiratory issues.  Also, under 4 months old infants are less able to regulate their body temperatures, especially when submerged for long periods of time in cold water.  Infants in swimming pools should have “touch supervision” at all times, which means an adult is always within touch distance, even when the infant has some sort of flotation device attached.  And, pool barrier safety is key, as the most severe pool accidents happen when toddlers and children wander into the pool area alone.  Most experts recommend childproofing include a fence directly around the edge of the pool, even if the pool area itself if fenced in.  These fences include alarms if the fence is penetrated, and should have no furniture pushed up against them that a child could climb up on. 

Go outside, and have fun!

Ben Spitalnick, MD, MBA, FAAP

“Dr Ben” is Co-Author of the AAP parenting book “Baby Care Anywhere: A Quick Guide to Parenting On the Go”, and President of the American Academy of Pediatrics Georgia Chapter.  He practices with Pediatric Associates of Savannah at their Waters Avenue and Whitemarsh Island locations.

All photos in this blog post were taken by Monica Jean Photography.

Expectations: Breastfeeding and the New Mom

Guest WriterChristina Flaherty

When I meet with pregnant women at their prenatal doula meetings, I often get asked, “What can I do to prepare for breastfeeding my baby?”  Often times, women have preconceived notions of what breastfeeding will be like from watching friends or family members.  Maybe they have heard how wonderful it is to bond with your baby or how inexpensive breastfeeding is or maybe they have even heard horror stories about mastitis or thrush.  Every woman brings her own unique perceptions of what to expect in the first few days and months of life with a newborn.  So when I get the question, “What can I do to prepare for breastfeeding my baby?” I first have to break down that woman’s already preconceived notions.  What have you heard?  What have you seen or read?  She must ask herself how that has impacted her perceptions.

 Photo by  AdLib Photography  featuring our  Nursing Cover

Photo by AdLib Photography featuring our Nursing Cover

A big misconception about breastfeeding is that moms sometimes think that they will be able to get a lot of projects done or tackle those novels that they have been wanting to read during the time that they are home with their baby.  WRONG!  Breastfeeding takes a lot of time.  A LOT!  So when a woman who believes that she will have time for all of these extra projects comes home with her baby, it is sometimes a very rude awakening (no pun intended for those sleepless nights!).  It is normal for babies to want to nurse around the clock – from every hour to every 3 hours.  It can often feel very overwhelming.  Many women feel like they don’t even have time to do some of the regular every day things that they used to (like showering).  But rest assured, this is the way nature intended.  After women give birth, they need their rest to recuperate – breastfeeding forces women to sit down and keep off their feet.  Breastfeeding frequently also helps the mother and baby to bond - something which is so important in the first days and weeks of the baby’s life.   The tummies of babies are the size of a marble when they are born, so it does not take much to fill that tiny space.  Therefore, breastfeeding frequently will allow babies to gain weight even if they are eating only small amounts at a time.

 Photo by  M  onica Jean Photography  featuring our  Nursing Cover

One of the most common expectations is that breastfeeding is going to come naturally. For some lucky women this is true.  God bless them!  But for the majority of first time mothers and even second and third time mothers, it is a work in progress.  Therefore, it will give you much more mental sanity if you think about breastfeeding as a process.  Just like you didn’t get pregnant and then give birth the next day, try not to think about giving birth and breastfeed perfectly right away.  It is a process of learning for you AND your baby.  Over the first few hours of life, your baby is learning how to coordinate the ability to suck, swallow and breathe – all at the same time!  This is a lot to learn all at once for your little human.  So give them the time they need and be patient.  The first few feedings are an introduction – not a Thanksgiving meal.  Your baby puts on a lot of extra weight at the end of your pregnancy so they are nice and pudgy and have what they need until your milk comes in.  Plus, the colostrum that you are making is packed with tons of calories and immunities for your little one.  It is absolutely normal for your baby to lose up to 10% of their birth weight.

 Photo by  M  onica Jean Photography  featuring our  Nursing Cover

An important thing to know about breastfeeding is that you are not alone.  It is easy to feel isolated when you are spending a lot of time at home.  Over the first few weeks of your baby’s life, you may encounter some breastfeeding challenges.  Challenges can range from engorgement to milk supply issues to mastitis.  If you know about resources in your area to turn to for help, you will not feel the pressure to get through these challenges alone.  Go to a Le Leche League meeting or breastfeeding support group and talk to other moms who have been through this before.  Contact a lactation specialist and schedule a personal consultation.  Getting the right help will increase your chances of having a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby.

In addition to Christina being one of the doulas of Natural Baby Doulas, she is a Certified Lactation Specialist offering in-home breastfeeding consultations to new mothers.  Christina also teaches Breastfeeding classes in her home in Elon.  To contact Christina, email Christina@ncnaturalbaby.com

Preparing Kids to Read Early!

Guest WriterRobyn Drake Castellanos

Learning to read and write is an ongoing process that starts early in life.  Therefore it is never too early to start preparing your child to read!  Research has shown that the more early life experiences a child has with language and literacy the more likely a child is to succeed in reading, and school in general.  Contrary to popular belief, children don’t start learning how to read in kindergarten and first grade-- the learning starts at home!  You as the parent get to play a key role in your child’s early literacy development.  In this article I will lend some advice for preparing your child to be a successful reader!

Reading Terms:

First things first- Print concepts and book handling skills:  Before a child can learn to read they must understand what it means to read.  You can start by showing your child the front cover and back covers of a book and demonstrate which way to turn the pages.  Demonstrate to your child that you read from left to right by tracking the words with your finger.  When you get to the end of a line you “swoop” your finger down to the next line, starting from the left again.  These are basic book handling skills.  Knowing concepts of print means that your child understands that print is made by using letters of the alphabet and that letters combine to make words.  This also includes environmental print- the words around you!  Be sure to point out labels and signs to your child!  This also fosters a child’s natural curiosity to learn about the world. 

Ideas to engage your child in reading:

Read out loud to your child!  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Reading to your child expands their oral vocabulary and strengthens your child’s listening comprehension skills.  When I was in graduate school studying early children’s literacy my professor told me that children who are read to regularly enter kindergarten with a vocabulary of over 1,000 more words than children who are not read to regularly!  By reading to your child you give him/her a sense of words and sentence structure, plus it makes reading a meaningful shared experience.  If you have trouble finding the time there are tons of great audiobooks available for free in libraries or online.  One website I use in the classroom is www.storylineonline.com.  It’s free and kids love it!

Read Wordless books

Wordless books are a great way to start your child’s love of literacy.  Wordless books can be read at any age with or without an adult.  These books are told entirely through illustrations, so your child can be the author of the story!  Sharing wordless books with your child can be a wonderful experience that promotes storytelling and conversation.  These books also help children start to understand the basic elements of story structure.  Sit back and enjoy your child’s response when you show them a wordless book and say, “Tell me what happens in this story!”  You are bound to hear some very creative (and sometimes hilarious) stories.

Here are a list of great wordless books for kids of all ages.

Read Nursery Rhymes and Poems

The first steps of learning to read are speaking and listening.  Children must learn to speak and listen before they can read and write.  Rhyming is a part of phonemic awareness.  A huge part of early literacy and phonemic awareness is rhythm and rhyme.  When children listen to nursery rhymes, poems, and songs, they start identifying common sounds in rhymes.  Children can eventually start predicting rhyming sounds, and this prepares them to make predictions when they read.  Dr. Seuss books are also great for teaching rhymes!

Build conversational skills

Language and literacy develop together and influence one another.  The better a child’s communication skills the better a student will be able to understand sentence structure and communicate with someone about what they are reading.  So believe it or not, just talking with your child is setting him/her up for success!  It’s especially important to have conversations when you are reading.  You can start introducing your child to basic story elements: characters, setting, beginning, middle, and end. 

Build vocabulary

The more words you can expose a child to the better.  This can happen in day to day life.  Vocabulary knowledge supports a child’s comprehension and helps a child gain meaning from what they are reading.  This betters their understanding of the world around them!  Vocabulary development is essential to reading achievement.  Have fun pointing out strange words to your child like “platypus” or “hippopotamus”!  Children with strong vocabularies are more likely to be able to figure out a word’s meaning while sounding a word out.

Make reading fun!

Most importantly, teach your child that reading is a fun experience.  With so many distractions like television and video games, it’s hard for books to compete.  If you encourage a love for books early in life your child is more likely to become a lifelong reader.  Kids learn better by not necessarily being “taught” but by having enjoyable conversations and experiences with books.  Bringing your child to story hour, for example, can be an excellent way to expose him/her to books.  It’s usually free and most public libraries and bookstores have story hour.  Find out what your child is interested in and find books on that topic!  Expose your child to a variety of different texts, including fiction and nonfiction.  Some children are more interested in books that teach information rather than books that tell stories.  Another way to encourage children to read is to set an example- let them catch YOU reading!  If they don’t see you reading, why should they?  Finally, make reading a tradition in your home, even if it’s just for ten minutes at bedtime.  This way reading will become a cherished memory in your child’s life that he or she will want to continue for a lifetime.

 

Good luck and happy reading!

 

Robyn Drake Castellanos is a first-grade teacher in Raleigh, North Carolina.  She went to Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she received her Master’s in Elementary Education with a specialty in Literacy.  She lives in Raleigh with her husband, rescue dog, and a big collection of books.

Redefining "Mom Goals" to Empower Yourself

Kate Engelmaier

Hey Y'all! My name is Kate and I am a mom and lifestyle blogger from Savannah, GA (Moss & Marsh’s home). I am a young single mom to a sweet, 11-month-old James Max. The comparison game is a game I have found myself playing far too often and I hate to admit it’s not all the media’s fault. Yes, I see all these moms on Instagram with what looks like they have it made but is everything you see the full picture? No. Never. A picture can only tell so much and as a blogger I can tell you behind every one great picture is a screaming child, spilled product, crooked frame, bad lighting, and posed shot. So, why am I still trying so hard to be 12 versions of moms that aren’t me?!

 Photo by  Shutterbug Studios .

One thing I am focusing on in the new year is being my own version of “mom goals”! One of my favorite quotes is:

Today you are you. That is truer than true. There’s no one alive that is youer than you.
— Dr. Seuss

I think this quote translates perfectly in motherhood. There is no one more meant to be YOUR child’s mom than YOU. God placed that child in your life for reasons - some you may not even know yet. Max teaches me something new about myself each and every day and I try to teach him something new just as often - if not more. So why am I trying to change myself into a mom that I was not meant to be? Well, because it looks nice but as my mom always told me “it’s not always about the looks” which is SO TRUE in motherhood.

With it being the new year and all I thought that I would set my own definition of mom goals that applied to me and I challenge you to do the same! Make them realistic, meaningful and empowering. Don’t set a goal that will bring you down - focus on not only empowering others but empowering yourself. You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself.

 Photo by  Monica Jean Photography . Kate is using her Moss & Marsh  Nursing Cover !

Photo by Monica Jean Photography. Kate is using her Moss & Marsh Nursing Cover!

My #MomGoals for 2018:

  1. Be present - in Max’s life, in my friends and families lives, and in my own life.

  2. Lean on God - being a single mom is tough and I may not have a man to lean on when times get tough but I do have The Big Man and He is always there.

  3. Community over competition - in the world of social media it’s very easy to get lost in comparing yourself to others. I would find myself asking why I didn’t have this, why I didn’t look like that, why my kid wasn’t doing the things other kids were. I spent so much time worrying about others I forgot to focus on the things right in front of me. This year I want to spend more time building friendships with the amazing women I have met through social media. Empowering and encouraging them to be their own definition of mom goals.

  4. Award myself - being a mom is TOUGH. Sometimes ya gotta award yourself the first place trophy even for the smallest accomplishments because a small accomplishment for a mom is like going to space for anyone else! You are super mom - NEVER forget that.

  5. 5So, if you need someone to hold you accountable, check in on you or just a lending ear, I am always available to listen and would LOVE to hear your steps to becoming your version of MOM GOALS. Feel free to send me a DM over on Instagram at @abravemess or through my website, abravemess.com ! I hope your 2018 is all that you hope for and that you remember that there is NO mom better for your baby than you.

xx,

Kate & Max

 Photo by  Monica Jean Photography . Max is wearing his Moss & Marsh  Bandana Bib !

Photo by Monica Jean Photography. Max is wearing his Moss & Marsh Bandana Bib!

Family Worship: Delight or Drudgery?

Guest WriterCatherine Stewart

Catherine Stewart is a wife, mother of 6, author and pastor’s wife. She currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is the editor and a contributing author of “Letters to Pastor’s Wives: when seminary ends and ministry begins” which can be purchased here on amazon.com. And she is currently working on a second book for pastor's children.

 Catherine Stewart, her husband Neil, and their six children. Photo by  See Anything Photography

Catherine Stewart, her husband Neil, and their six children. Photo by See Anything Photography

I dare say it would be nothing short of a practical victory to say that after 6 children, we have got this family worship “thing” down. I wish I could relish the opportunity of you coming into our home and spectating our efforts to show you how perfect family worship works and how we have accomplished all of our desires for our children’s spiritual learning. Alas, having considered our first daughter to be the proverbial family worship guinea pig, we find ourselves wondering if we will ever “arrive” and produce that picture perfect scenario where we all gather around the kitchen farm table, singing with jubilant joy, with every child hanging on every word their daddy says.

In reality, it hasn’t quite worked that way. However, we have not yet ‘thrown the towel in', because our long-term goals remain unchanged. All of our efforts in family worship are simply a desire to attain a little picture of an orderly Sunday morning worship service. Why? Because, as believers, that is where our souls are most fully nourished and where we meet Christ to worship him with the gathered body of his people. Naturally, we want our children to share in those blessings that come to them as covenant children. But is it realistic to expect our little ones to walk into a church service, plop their little derrières onto the pew, sing, pray, confess their sins, listen to a 40 minute sermon, and not launch a small child size ballistic missile in the process? Well, actually, yes!!!! And it is attainable; not without considerable planning on both mommy and daddy’s part, and not without a little sweat and much fervent prayer. But family worship is the perfect training ground for our little ones to taste something of the glory of the bigger, better place of Sunday worship. So how does that work? Undoubtedly, cultivating a methodology isn’t necessarily going to lead our children to Christ, and yet the most effective ground in which to plant their foundational experiences of worship, is found in the mother of all learning; repetition. If I might add Zig Ziglar’s addendum to that quote it will perfectly convey our desire;

“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”

Training our children from a very young age, even from the moment we walk out of those hospital doors with that newborn baby in our arms, leaves them with an inestimable legacy. Instilling predictable habits from their earliest moments provides a framework for limitless understanding of God’s Word as they mature in the faith.

Let me throw out a few practical guidelines to spare you the trial and error that we took 21 years to work through. At the end of it all, while you may not have your perfect scenario, you might just have a little more order to your worship table and thus facilitate a place of worship and spiritual growth.

 Catherine Stewart and her husband Neil. Photo by  See Anything Photography

Catherine Stewart and her husband Neil. Photo by See Anything Photography

Prepare...

Mommies, be sure, the process of this effort does not lie squarely on your shoulders. It is of course primarily in the hands of your husband, and yet reality dictates that many mommies are going this journey alone, either as a single mommy or with an unbelieving husband or with a man who simply doesn’t share your passion. Don’t lose heart! Many women have gone before you and many great men and women of the faith owe their spiritual nurture entirely to the tender teaching of their mothers. Read on!

Keep it simple: Please don’t begin this journey by taking out your church bulletin from the previous Sunday and attempt to embark on a full blown worship service at the kitchen table. Your children are little and you are not throwing enough mud in the hope that some will stick! Pick a time that works for everyone. For our family that is first thing after breakfast in the morning. Fellowship is so much sweeter over a meal and worship easily becomes a continuation when it’s done around the meal table.This is true of adults and it is also true of children. If that doesn’t work, be flexible and work out a time that is going to be a good fit for your family.

1.

So where do you begin? For some of you this will sound radical, but why not begin by singing a hymn or a psalm? Granted, our family singing is not always very melodic, in fact sometimes it sounds more like a squawking cat than a hymn, but it is a joyful sound, and after all, that’s what the Lord wants us to bring to him. If you have only recently come to a desire for family worship, your older children may find this “uncool” or awkward. Singing is rarely a passion for children once they get into the middle school years, but along with all of the other insecurities that age entails,“this too shall pass!” Persevere!

2.

Secondly, keep it short. No one wants to live with the burden of endless “sermonettes” or clock watching while trying to worship. Let the older children know what time you are planning to start and what time you will finish. And for the sake of your little ones you, remember their capacity for attention and dwell with them with understanding.

3.

Thirdly, if you aren’t comfortable opening up the Word and sharing some truths from it yourself, there is no harm in utilizing the wisdom of others. A couple of excellent books that we have used are “The Children’s Storybook Bible” by Sally-Loyd Jones, and you might also consider using, “Leading Little ones to God” by Marian Schoolland? This latter book also incorporates catechism questions which are a fabulous tool for teaching snippets of theology to unwitting hearers! These two books will be sufficient for up to a 1st grade level.

4.

Fourthly, when you have finished singing and reading, be sure to pray around your table, whether it is simply a one sentence adoration or a brief supplication, teach your children to pray out loud from a young age. This is incredibly helpful in bypassing the later challenges that so many children dread when asked to offer up a prayer if it is anything other than giving thanks for a meal.

5.

Fifthly, when you have little ones in diapers or at their mother’s breast, the easiest way to keep them settled is to nurse them. And yes, it is possible to nurse and do worship at the same time: We mommies are superstars at multitasking right?! And sometimes those wriggly little arms and legs are best stilled with a soft small toy, no bells and whistles, but something that their hands can hold while training their bodies to be still.

Oh, a thousand other ideas run into my head as I write this: it’s a subject worthy of a lot more attention, but for now, suffice it to say that I hope this will at least set you on the first rung of the ladder.

P.S. Be real with yourself, we are literally in the middle of the craziest season of the year, so don’t go doing any heroics by trying to start implementing all of this first tomorrow morning. Give yourself a bit of grace and take some time to plan and in the meantime, why not start with simple memory verse work or even wait until things settle into a workable rhythm.

Adoption Changes Everything

Beth Oliver

In 1988 a thought went through my head, “I want to adopt”. I was 12, it was a thought. I never verbalized it that I remember, nor did I think anything else about it. It was just a thought, but it seemed to speak a truth. Little did I know that thought would shape my entire marriage and place my husband and I on a path to serve as foster and adoptive parents for many years.

 The Oliver family after returning from China. Photo by  Sarah Kohut Photography

The Oliver family after returning from China. Photo by Sarah Kohut Photography

In January of 2003, I was almost 27, I went on a date and then another with a friend of a friend who “finally got the nerve to ask me out”. He was 35. In those two dates, that thought became a conversation, as I now verbalized my desire to adopt. It was immediately met with “I want to adopt too, my father adopted me when I was 18 months old and I’ve always wanted to do the same”. After these two dates, I knew this is who I would marry.  By March 17th we were engaged, then married in August of the same year.

Jeff and I knew that we would never be the family who “made lots of money” so immediately after we were married, in November, we attended a meeting to set “life goals” and figure out how much money we needed to save or what we needed to do to provide a home for a child, or children who needed it. Within that first meeting, we first found we were financially able to immediately adopt and second, our hearts were opened to the desperate need for foster families. We immediately signed up to do respite care for other foster families and began to open the doors to adopt if any child would need a permanent home.

A few years after serving as foster parents we found out we were pregnant with a little boy, soon to be followed by a little girl. Our hearts never lost our desire to adopt or foster. Once our youngest was 18 months old we were able to list our names as an adoptive home with a private adoption agency and wait to be chosen by a birth mom who would read our file and choose us as her child’s adoptive family. We waited patiently at times, as we never wanted mothers or fathers to have to make this hard choice. We prayed for moms and dads who may have been placed in a situation that would need an adoption plan. We prayed for people to come into these mom’s and dad’s  lives and love them and give them wisdom and support. We worked with some birth moms and dads and organizations that loved on them, helping them gather what they needed to parent. We were actually matched with a birth mom who then decided to parent after the baby was born. We were sad that we would not be welcoming a new little one into our home but so joyful that she would be able to parent. Adoption is a hard thing. It’s not a word to use lightly. We have attached it to so many things that it almost loses it’s impact. Lives are changed. Forever. And that’s big, hard, sometimes messy and wonderful all at the same time. As Jeff approached his 45th birthday we felt that maybe that “thought”, that “conversation” was just that. At 45, we would no longer be able to be listed as an adoptive home, so we requested our file be mailed to us. We wanted to send our file to several agencies to let them know, we had a home for those that might need it. The phone rang on October 10, 2012, a Wednesday, less than one month before my husband’s 45th birthday. I was teaching an art class, but  when I was able to return the phone call,  the voice on the other line did not sound like she was about to say “we mailed your paperwork”. As I listened to her speak and zoned in and out in unbelief, I managed to hear “can you be here Friday to pick up your son?”. In just 48 hours after that phone rang, after opening our home to adopt about 9 years earlier, we would adopt a beautiful baby boy and lives would be changed forever.

On Friday, October 12th, 2012 we met our 12 day old son. He was perfect. And as much as I remember that day, I can’t remember a day without my son in my life. Maybe because he’s been there since I was twelve. Maybe that thought was to prepare me for this day. And now, with him we gain another family, his birth family. Our family grew more than just one little one, we gained an entire family. His life has it’s own story as much as our story changed and I’m able to write about adoption, he is adopted, that’s part of his story. His beautiful birth mom chose this life for him. And I think of her often, she indeed is part of our family too and I am thankful.

When our newest son was 18 months old we accepted a placement to be a temporary home for a newborn, 5 months later he was united with his permanent home. We had the blessing of loving on several other newborns temporarily as they awaited a permanent plan of adoption or parenting. Our hearts were again restless with the word adoption. It’s like we answered half of the conversation we had and the other half remained unanswered. So we started looking, looking at ways to open our home again. We had one more bed available, this time for a little girl, or whomever, but the boys shared a room and our daughter was in a room alone. So it made sense, not that it had to make sense, but it seemed like a starting place. Jeff was working nights and there I was on the computer every night looking at requirements for the state, private agencies and even international adoption. We were happy and content and all those things, but the thought of knowing we had one more space and the number of children who had no permanent place to live just really moved us once again.

We found out through the state that due to the lack of time as active foster parents, we would need to start over, all the way to an orientation meeting. We found out through private agencies that we did not qualify for the age requirements and several other factors that would delay the process maybe for years. And then I landed on an international adoption website, so I thought. And night after night I started seeing pages and pages and pages of children as I read about 140 million orphans around the world and I was overwhelmed. How can this be? For weeks I would just look through pages and pages and Jeff would come home and he would look through them with me and after a while the same 3 little girls just kept tugging on us. We had NEVER thought about international adoption but no doors were opening for domestic and so we began to ask more questions. We carried a picture of three little girls on our phones for 2 months and just prayed, and talked and wondered. We finally just said we can either pray about this as if we need not act or just act and pray that the doors open or shut, whichever is the way our hearts should go. I realized I was indeed on an advocacy site not an adoption site so I emailed about the first little girl, who two months later, had been matched. So I emailed about the second little girl and we were asked to do a preliminary qualification assessment. And the doors began FLYING open. We were “matched” with our newest daughter and the only thing that seemed like an obstacle was the expense. We called the bank and within 24 hours we were fully funded with a loan. We walked through one door after another as we gathered papers and did fundraising and waited and wondered and missed our daughter that we had never met. Within a year of that first phone call Jeff, my oldest daughter and I were on a plane headed to China. We aren’t travelers nor did we know that a conversation on our first and second date would shape the next 14 years and take us to China.

So here we are, Oliver party of 6, and our family was grown out of adoption and it not only gave us a family that now has 4 children, it changed everything: how we spend our time, how we spend our holidays, how we spend our money and just about everything else. Although our children are a part of our story, a thought, a conversation, each of them also is writing their own. We weren’t a part of the first six years of our daughter’s story, nor were we a part of the story that brought our son to us, so we have a big family, even though only six of us live here. Our family crosses oceans, has taught us some Mandarin, encouraged us to do 5ks, and brought us into large fellowships of adoptive families. We spend birthdays writing letters to our son’s mom and celebrate Chinese New Year. We go through the Chinese drive thru to talk to our Mandarin speaking friend, we talk to strangers that ask questions or offer help as we struggle, we take lots of pictures because we can’t believe we get to live this powerful and fun life, we love the mailman because he helped “deliver our daughter home”, we celebrate good English and kiss our kids in the mouth, some of our dearest friends are caseworkers, we cry during certain hymns and songs with lyrics like “hallelujah He has found me”, we celebrate gotcha days and let our 6 year old do things your toddler probably isn’t allowed to do anymore, we laugh, we yell, we are far from perfect, we are far from “good parents”, we forgive, we laugh when our son says he didn’t come out of my belly but his daddy’s belly, we don’t have scheduled date nights or Netflix and have iphone 4s and I’m glad we didn’t wait until we were ready to adopt because all the while so many children are waiting to be adopted. Adoption doesn’t fix the brokenness of this world but it helps heal the broken. It has changed and grown our hearts, our children’s hearts and those around us in ways that no other worldly experience has.

My husband and I went out the other night to attend a formal ball, which is totally out of character for us but made us feel like rock stars. And somehow after dancing to young people’s music, we found ourselves talking about our family. As hard as the last 14 years of marriage have been, through highs and lows, my husband celebrates every bit of it. He always sees the joy in our circumstances. This night, as we were dressed like prom king and queen he admits “my only regret is that I didn’t meet you sooner so we could have started earlier”. Adoption changes everything.

Mom of the Month: Gigi

Candace Brodmann
 Three generations in one photo; my sister (Marie), my mom (Geory), Ettalee, and myself. Photos by  Sarah Kohut Photography .

Three generations in one photo; my sister (Marie), my mom (Geory), Ettalee, and myself. Photos by Sarah Kohut Photography.

For a Mother's Day and birthday present my sister and I got our mom a girls photoshoot with her daughters and granddaughter from the lovely Sarah Kohut Photography (aren't these photos gorgeous!?). Plus we took my mom to get hair and makeup done at 40 Volume Salon followed by a delicious brunch at Collins Quarter (definitely the best brunch in the city). It was a wonderful day and I highly recommend this gift idea ;)

We've skipped a few months since our last "Mom of the Month" post because this mom and grandmother deserves more than just one month. My mom not only raised me, but my sister who is sixteen years older than me, and now she is helping to raise my daughter Ettalee. I'm so blessed to have her and my dad here to help with Ettalee a few days a week so I can make this business happen. Not to mention she is the one who initially taught me how to sew when I was just a child! Hopefully this interview with Gigi (as Ettalee calls her) who has parented through multiple eras will be inspiring and encouraging to all the new moms in my generation.

1.  What is the best thing about being a grandmother?

My first thought when I think of the word "grandmother" is it's grand to be a mother, but it's even more grand to be a grandmother. It's just really neat to watch your child have a child and witness love in a whole new way.

2.  What are the biggest differences in raising children and helping to raise grandchildren?

I'd say the main difference is it's a little more relaxed, because I only watch Ettalee a few days a week. Basically I get to enjoy her without all the constant responsibilities of being a mother.

3.  How has parenting changed since you became a mother for the first time (1971)?

Oh goodness, there's so many things that have changed. However, when it comes down to it the fundamentals of raising children are the same; they need boundaries, a little discipline, and they need love. While the new technologies do add convenience for parents, you don't really need them. 

4.  Are there any products you wish you had with your children?

Cloth diapers. Everyone was quick to choose disposable in back then because the cloth diapers were such a nightmare and now the cloth ones are more user friendly with the snaps. After being introduced to them with Ettalee, I think I would've used them with my children if they were available. (We used BumGenious!)

The conveniences of some of the products now can make a big difference. Something as simple as spill-proof sippy cups - that's a big one in my book!  ( Playtex Sipsters are our favorite!) Or even the video monitors, we only had sound on ours, the new ones are so neat.

And last, I would definitely have wanted an electric breast pump, what a game changer.

(And breast pumps have even advanced since I had Ettalee. How cool is this wearable one from Willow?!)

5.  What is your favorite thing to do with Ettalee?

I've always liked to expose her to new things and I enjoy seeing her experience things. She's either happy-go-lucky or she's really intense, but when she's really excited she can't contain her excitement. 

6.  What are some of the best activities you’ve found to do with your granddaughter?

I'm always looking up to see what's going on in the community to do. I love taking her to the different events at the library or places like Henny Penny. She and I both love outdoor/nature things so we often take her to playgrounds or to feed the ducks, go to the UGA Marine Science Center, or Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Just get her outside if I can.

7.  Do you have a favorite memory with Ettalee?

The first time I saw her she was laying on your chest in the hospital and the first time I held her were both of course very special. The face she made when she tried a pickle for the first time was priceless. But one of my favorites is of her in her dress-up heals, in a diaper, dancing and shaking maracas to "The Little Mermaid" song - I have a video of that and it still makes me laugh every time.

8.  Finally, what is the best tip you would give a new grandmother?

Learn to respect your children as parents. Feel out a situation before saying too much, you can give advice, but don't push it if it's not warranted. Basically, establish boundaries so everyone is happy and you can continue a healthy loving relationship.

Mom of the Month: Kelley Hagemes

Candace Brodmann
 Kelley drawing a new piece with her youngest daughter in arm and two older daughters photos hung nearby on the wall.

Kelley drawing a new piece with her youngest daughter in arm and two older daughters photos hung nearby on the wall.

Kelley of Claw and Bone Art is not only a philanthropic Savannah artist, but she is a wife and mom of three; Fiona (10 weeks), Ava (6), Madilynn (8). Not to mention we've been fortunate enough to have her sweet family as neighbors for the last four years!

1.  In one word how would you describe your mothering style?

That is a hard one. Probably “improvisational” – things change so fast at any given moment.

2.  What is your biggest struggle as a mom?

The struggles seem to change as soon as you adjust to one. I think the struggle that stays constant through every phase is staying present; not worrying about your internal to-do list and staying off your phone. For example, I want to do another art show and I catch myself planning it in my head instead of watching the girls in those little moments.

3.  What is the highlight of your day?

Right now it’s when Fiona wakes up before the kids go to school and she’s super smiley. And then the kids are like “Good Morning!” and that’s going to be the happiest they are for the whole day, it’s all downhill from there. (laughter)

 Her husband, Kyle, and the girls.

Her husband, Kyle, and the girls.

4.  What is your favorite thing about being a mom?

Watching them learn. Seeing them experience things for the first time. It makes you realize the things you take for granted when they see something so simple and think “this is so wonderful” and I’m like “wow, you’re right!”.

5.  As an artist, how has your work changed since becoming a mother?

My art has always been about drawing from experience. So, inevitably it changed when I had kids because my experience changed so drastically. But having children has also opened me up and made me more emotionally vulnerable than ever before. My subject matter changed to focus not just on my children, but on children in general. I had to change my medium because I needed something more portable, I no longer had 8-10 hours to sit in a room and paint with oils. Now I use graphite because I can take it anywhere.

Some of Kelley's beautifully ornate artwork:

6.  With two older children, is there anything that is different this time around with a newborn?

Every one of them has been so different. When I was pregnant with Fiona I thought “this is going to be a breeze because I’ve done this twice”, but with everything that happened it was night and day. But now that she’s here it’s a lot easier. When we had madeline I was going from being a kid myself to well, the end of my childhood essentially. You would think a third kid would be overwhelming, but since we’ve been in parent mode already for so long, it has been easier. You’re already getting up early every morning and you know the feeling of devoting all your time to someone else.

7.   What's your favorite rainy day activity?

We are big tent builders. As soon as it even gets cloudy the kids are like “It’s tent time!” and we build forts in the living room. We actually used to have eyelets that were screwed into the walls where we would just tie ropes in so it was just automatic on rainy days.

Get ready for the next rainy day with your kids and study up on 25 DIY Forts to Build!

8.  Favorite "mom hack"?

I probably have a lot over the course of three kids, but they’re so ingrained it’s hard to think of one. The only thing that I can think of is having the older girls read to Fiona. They have to read for homework anyway and the baby loves it so I can listen but do other things. It’s more of a time saving hack I guess.

9.   Favorite lifesaving parenting product?

Any sort of swaddle and a noise machine has been a necessity every go-round.

Check out the 8 best baby sound machines of 2017!

10.  What's your go-to weekday meal?

I’m Italian so it’s going to be some sort of pasta product with some sort of sauce and cheese. It’s always ready in the pantry so I don’t have to think about it.

Check out this article on "What to always keep in your pantry" - pasta is definitely on it along with other good ideas to be ready for the unplanned dinner!

11. Finally, what is the best tip or insight you would give a new mom?

Oh, a first timer – that’s a hard one to think of because I always try to think back to when I was a new mom. I think I would tell them to ignore most advice you get because you get so wrapped up in trying to prepare yourself for things and you just can’t. When I had my first kid I remember thinking “this is not what you said it would be at all”. You can’t explain it and you feel worse if you listen to too many things. I think “mom advice” as a whole has gotten too invasive. Is your kid fed? Is your kid alive? Then you’re doing great.

 Fiona July sporting her Moss & Marsh  Bandana Bib ! 

Fiona July sporting her Moss & Marsh Bandana Bib

Moss & Marsh Anniversary Party!

Candace Brodmann

Come celebrate Moss & Marsh's one year anniversary! 
Not only can you check out the brand new Henny Penny Art Space & Cafe, but there will be lots of fun for the whole family including:

*Free "Under the Sea" kids craft! 

*Block print your own T-shirt & onesie with Moss & Marsh characters! 
Shirts (2T, 3T, 4T) and onesies (NB, 6mo, 18mo) available for $10. Or bring your own shirt with a $5 suggested donation. Printing profits go to St. Jude Children's Hospital.

*View our full product line up and meet the owner/designer of Moss & Marsh!

*And of course stop buy the in-house bakery for your caffine and snacks! (for purchase)

We can't wait to see you there! Visit our facebook event for more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/119947098548574/

Mom of the Month: Nan Whitney

Mom of the MonthChloe Minick
  Nan has an incredible smile and is a positive light to those around her. Pictured:  Diaper Clutch

Nan has an incredible smile and is a positive light to those around her. Pictured: Diaper Clutch

Soft instrumental music plays in the background as I sit down to interview Nan Whitney, Moss & Marsh’s first Mom of the Month.  Her three children play together in the next room: Brynn (4), and the twins, Sadie and Landon (22 Months). She is currently 14 weeks pregnant with her next baby! Add all that comes with being a mom to three plus being a pastor's wife and you've got a super-mom.

 The whole family! Photo taken by  S  tefani Ashley Photography  in October 2015.

The whole family! Photo taken by Stefani Ashley Photography in October 2015.

In one word how would you describe your mothering style?

(she laughs) Oh goodness… that’s really difficult… semi-structured.

What is your biggest struggle as a mom?

Discipline. It’s the hardest, hands down.

On a smaller scale, what are the daily struggles?

Keeping the kids alive— just kidding. Probably finding activities for them everyday, so they’re not just watching TV all the time.

What is the highlight of your day?

Bedtime! (she laughs) No, nap-time. It’s nice to have some downtime when the kids are asleep.

What keeps you focused and energized?

Exercise, prayer and time with Jesus, spending time with other moms.

What is something you didn’t expect about having twins?

That’s hard— I read a lot about it before I had them. It was probably keeping them both on the same schedule. I didn’t expect it to be so difficult.

What’s your favorite rainy day activity?

Besides TV and movies? (she laughs) I like to try and get the children to participate in little craft projects like make your own PlayDough- that's a great project that the kids can keep playing with too.

Favorite “Mom Hack”?

Pyrex dish microwave eggs. Instructions here!

What’s your go-to weekday meal?

Frozen fish sticks or chicken tenders, veggies, sweet potato fries. I love making casseroles too.

Finally, what is the best tip you would give a new mom?

Make sure to take time for yourself to re-energize. It helps you be a better mom when you take a break.

 Sadie relaxing in the triple stroller. Pictured:  Swaddle Blanket

Sadie relaxing in the triple stroller. Pictured: Swaddle Blanket

Did you learn something from Nan? Or somehow feel like you're not alone in this #momlife thing? Let us know what you think! Thanks for reading and check back next month for another super-mom!

Moss & Marsh Team Search!!

Candace Brodmann

Do you love Moss & Marsh products? Want to be part of the Moss & Marsh team? And get free products?! Oh, and a 30% discount?! If you answered "YES! YES! YES! YES!" you're in luck...We're searching for a team of Moss & Marsh Brand Representatives. We need babies & toddlers, NB-3 years! And because we make parenting products, we need parents too!! This search is OPEN from now until 3/20!

Our Team Members will get 3 free products and in return we ask that you post (and tag us!) 4 photos of each product over a 3 month period (roughly 1 photo a week). And help us by sharing and promoting any sales, giveaways, or promotions as well. 

HOW TO ENTER ON INSTAGRAM:

  1. Follow us @mossandmarsh.co
  2. Repost this picture and tag @mossandmarsh.co (please also tag us IN the photo) and use  hashtag #mossandmarshteam2017
  3. Tag at least 2 friends below that you think would be great candidates!
  4. Comment below and tell us a little bit about your parenting style & child and why you'd be a great addition to our team.
  5. Tag at least one photo of your little one with our hashtag #mossandmarshteam2017 so we can check out your feed & kiddo!

A FEW RULES:

  • Instagram Accounts must be PUBLIC until reps are announced so that we can see your entries. If your account is private we will NOT be able to see your entries. *If you don't want to make your account public please ask us to follow you. • You MUST have over 500 Instagram followers to be considered for a Brand Rep position.
  • This search is open to USA only and ends at 11:59 pm EST on 3/20/17
  • By entering this search if you are accepting all Brand Rep position duties as listed above and consenting to our usage of your photos on our website, social media, and advertising. In submitting an application, you are agreeing to the following terms stated in this Photo Release:

I hereby authorize Moss & Marsh LLC to publish the photographs and videos taken of me, my family, and/or the aforementioned minor children, for use for promotional/advertising purposes in both print and electronic format when used lawfully for, but not limited to, promotional purposes, publicity, advertising, social media, and web content. 

I release Moss & Marsh LLC from any expectation of confidentiality for the aforementioned minor children and myself and/or my family and attest that I am the parent or legal guardian of the children listed above and that I have the authority to authorize Moss & Marsh to use their photographs, videos and names.

I acknowledge that since participation in publications and websites produced by Moss & Marsh LLC is voluntary, neither the minor children nor I will receive financial compensation. 

I further agree that participation in any publication and website produced by Moss & Marsh LLC confers no rights of ownership whatsoever. I release Moss & Marsh LLC, its contractors and its employees from liability for any claims by me or any third party in connection with my participation or the participation of the aforementioned minor children, myself and/or my family.