Everyday Life

Ten Years

Dear Husband of Ten Years Today,

You are God’s greatest gift to me.

Yes, that’s a pretty big cliché. But don’t roll your eyes, because it’s true. I have an awesome husband, and I can’t take a smidgen of credit for that.

230096_503106429978_3349_nFor starters, I don’t even remember meeting you. I was five. You were eight. I don’t remember our first conversation, but it probably had something to do with dividing teams to play capture the flag in your family’s back yard. I’m sure we ended up playing girls against boys. Those were probably the only conversations we had at all until I was about ten, when you decided you were absolutely bored enough to play Skip-bo with your little sister and her friend on a January vacation to your family’s mountain house. (I won). (No, really, I did. It was the highlight of my year).

In fact, we hardly talked at all until I made it to high school. We didn’t talk a lot then either, but you spent several weeks of the summer trying your best to coach a bunch of girls in our youth group to play a decent game of basketball. At the end of the summer, we were horrible, but it wasn’t your fault. And that summer of humiliation spurred us on to great things—a church basketball team and a four-year losing record. But we had a lot of fun, thanks to you and your friend being crazy enough to try to teach us something about “zone defense” and “jump shots.”

Then three years later, something must have changed because all of a sudden, we were talking all the time. It was like a sneak attack that maybe you planned or maybe you didn’t. And what did we even talk about? Email after email flew between us, until that one that made me freeze, my heart standing still as I tried to take in these words: “Is there a snowball’s chance in Hades you and I could get together someday?”

Words don’t have to be profound to change your life forever.

I stared at that email for at least a solid five minutes, hardly knowing what I was reading. I was seventeen, at the computer desk in my family’s kitchen, my parents and sisters already in bed, and those words on the screen had just uncovered the tip of an iceberg of feelings for you that had been forming, layer upon layer, for who knows how long. I didn’t write you back that night, did I? I wasn’t sure how I was going to say “yes, there’s a chance. More than a chance.” I said something more like, “Can we talk about this in person?” And then I avoided you for a week. Not exactly a promising start.

But here we are, ten years later, married with three children.  And that’s why I think of you as a gift. Because how could I have known then what I know now?

I couldn’t have known that you would be the perfect provider for me. Our journey of discovering how God wants us to use money is one of my favorite things about the last ten years. Marriage experts always talk about how women need to feel taken care of, but I think every woman will define this differently.  I didn’t know ten years ago that you would care for us so well and also encourage our family to give generously and to always pursue good stewardship of what God has blessed us with. How clearly we both knew that we needed a smaller house and a larger life has shaped our relationship for good.

I couldn’t have known you would be The Best Father In The World. Okay, I had an inkling. I saw how awesome of a big brother you were to your six brothers and sisters pretty much my whole life. But seriously? How many people go into marriage with the exact same parenting philosophy already in place? I had hardly considered what kind of parent I wanted to be, yet our parenting journey has been relatively smooth.

I couldn’t have known you would still be hot. You are.

I couldn’t have known we would still like the same things. We do. And we keep finding new fun stuff to do. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have said “I love golf.” But I do now! And you love bookstores! (Right? Right?)

I couldn’t have asked for a guy so good at being a problem solver and a sympathetic listener. I didn’t even know that’s what I needed.

I couldn’t have known you would be the strong and kind leader you are, because I had no idea what a rarity this is. It would not have occurred to me to put that on a checklist. You lead our family through the way you look to God’s Word and the examples of other strong believers. I love how proactively you think, and want to be more like you.

I couldn’t have known back when I was seventeen how crazy good you are at just plain getting things done. You pick a thing that needs doing, you make a plan, and you accomplish it. Thank goodness you’re in my life, because can you say planning is not a strong point of mine? Yes, you can.

I couldn’t have known you + me = The Most Beautiful Babies In the World. Bonus.

I couldn’t have known I chose the one who would I love more deeply with every passing year.

One can only hope when first walking into this crazy thing called marriage, but I hardly knew what to hope for. When I chose you and you chose me, we had ideas of what we were choosing, but there was so much that remained a mystery. If I had a list of husband qualifications on that day ten years ago, most of the really important stuff that matters to me now wouldn’t have even been on it. Yet here you are, ten years later, my awesome husband.

So cliché or not, I can honestly say: You are a gift. The past ten years have been nearly surreal in their beauty and happiness. The next ten years may hold hardships galore, but I look forward to the next decade no matter what because you are my husband.

Thank you for being mine.

With love beyond measure,

Alana

Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books, Parenting

The Girl Who Would Not Brush Her Hair: Friday Favorites, Ed. 10

Oh, I’ve been looking for this book for a long time. Since the beginning of time, or at least the beginning of hair brushes, mother’s have fought the battle of hair brushing with their small daughters. I sympathize with both parties. It’s amazing how one run through with a brush can get rid of one tangle and create ten more. But it’s also amazing how sensitive a little kid’s head can be. Sometimes I have flashbacks of the tough mother love described in Snow Flower and The Secret Fan when I’m telling Ella she needs toughen up about the whole hair brushing thing.  I salute mothers who cut their daughters’ hair short. Regrettably, something indefinable holds me back from giving my five-year-old’s long, honey-colored locks the chop, but it probably goes back to how Disney princesses have ruined my generation’s beliefs about beauty. But that’s not what this post is about! It’s about the book I’ve finally found to end all our hair brushing woes!

The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her HairThe Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair by Kate Bernheimer is an imaginative account of what would really happen to a little girl who decided to not brush hair. It involves a horde of mice taking up residence on top of her head. If you’re thinking “Great, that’s not realistic enough to be useful in my battle for hair brushing,” you’re probably right…but the pictures are the convincing part of the book! The girl is happy and bright at the beginning of the book, but as her hair gets messier and so does she, she looks tireder and sadder. At the end of the book, (picture book spoiler alert!), when the girl decides to evict the mice and brush her hair after a nice, hot bath, she looks refreshed and pleased with life. Her braided pony tails become the envy of her disheveled classmates, and the mice probably went off to live in the room of The Girl Who Would Not Clean Off Her Bed. That girl was my sister twenty years ago, and I distinctly remember my mom telling her a mouse could be living at the end of her bed and she would never know it.  Oh, I can see a whole series coming out of this. The Boy Who Would Not Wash His Face, The Girl Who Would Not Change Her Dress…endless possibilities.

But the proof is in the pudding. The day after reading this book, my daughter asked for braided pigtails. Success! Mothers of daughters, dash out and get a copy of this book right now.

More of our favorite children’s books of the week can be found here. Happy Friday!

Everyday Life, Parenting

Stomach Bugs, Small Children, and How To Deal

Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on PerfectThis isn’t a typical Mia The Reader post, but unfortunately, how to handle those pesky stomach bugs in small children is what’s on my brain these days. This post will be part of the Works for Me Wednesday link up over at Giving Up On Perfect. If you’re not in this phase of life, maybe skip this post and come back next time? Or stick around, you might learn something new. But don’t say I didn’t warn you…

I remember so clearly the first time one of my kids came down with the dreaded stomach bug. She was 18 months old and woke up crying in the night an hour after I put her down for the night. I had no idea what was wrong with her. I sat down in the rocking chair to rock her back to sleep, but you can guess how that worked out. A few rocks later, we were both a mess. In that moment, even as you’re grossed out that you’re covered in your kid’s vomit, it’s hurts your heart to see the panic in your child’s eyes when he or she first experiences this dismal fact of life: everyone upchucks once in a while. Most kids first learn experience this around 12-18 months. It’s no fun to be the sick kid, but it’s also no fun to be the sick kid’s parents. It’s even worse for everyone involved when the parent of the sick kid does everything wrong. Yes, that was me the first time I was the mom of a vomiting child.  Three kids and nearly six years later, I’ve learned a good bit about how to deal with the abominable stomach bug in toddlers and preschoolers. When your child starts clutching at his middle and groaning, grab these three things: mixing bowls, beach towels, and wet wash cloths. 

Step One: Grab a mixing bowl. One of the worst things about taking care of a toddler when he has a stomach bug is his complete inability to get himself to a safe place to throw up. Newsflash: he’s not going to run to the bathroom. It also doesn’t work to ask your small ones to use a bucket when they feel the urge to throw up. Little kids cannot handle a bucket for throwing up in. They need something lightweight that can sit right next to them on the bed or couch to quickly grab. They also need something that’s not too tall for them to bend over from a sitting position.  You need something that you can completely sanitize in the dishwasher when this is all over. Mixing bowls are your best friends.

Step Two: Get out your beach towels. Beach towels will save your sanity when your house is struck with a middle-of-the-night throw up fest.  I don’t know about you, but there is a very limited sheet selection at our house. Once I remove the initial destroyed beach-towelsbedding, I put down a beach towel instead of a sheet on my child’s mattress. Wrapping a bath towel around the pillow is also a good idea. Then I can save the clean set of sheets for when poor little guy or girl’s stomach settles down and she’s ready to get some sleep. I’d still recommend getting those yucky sheets washed right away, but at least this way if you are (miraculously) able to get some sleep, you don’t have to worry about switching clothes from washer to dryer until morning.

Step Three: Keep a cool, wet washcloth handy at all times.  You know that point after your child has gotten out what needs to be gotten out and the heaving commences? (This is so fun to read about, I know. But I warned you!). To stop the heaving, wipe the back of your child’s neck with a cool washcloth. It’s also nice to have around to wipe the whole face down before lying back down in bed.

Those are three things I’ve learned to do when faced with stomach upset in our family. But don’t forget, I did everything wrong the first time. So as a bonus (woohoo!), here the six things I’ve learned not to do when one of my small children has a stomach bug:

1. Don’t give them a bath right away. I get it. Your child smells horrible, looks horrible, is outwardly quite horrible. My immediate reaction after my daughter’s first throwing up ever was to stick her in the bathtub and clean her up. But it’s always best to wait (if you can) until you’re sure the throwing up is done. You can cross your fingers and hope it’s a “one and done” deal, but it’s probably not. (Sorry). Your child is only going to get messier because most toddlers don’t understand the whole “throw up in the bucket” idea. Also, they are probably experiencing a mix of nausea and chills that makes taking a bath an unpleasant experience for them. Clean them up quickly with a wet cloth or wipe and let them lie back down and get whatever rest they can before they’re at it again.

2. Don’t turn on the TV. A movie or TV show is another thing your child may beg for in between bouts of nausea. But the eye movement required to watch TV could very well end up increasing the nausea instead of distracting from it. We are big fans of recorded books and stories during the stomach bug episodes.

3. Don’t leave your child’s side. I don’t even try to get back in my own bed at night if my kids are throwing up. In my opinion, it’s far better for me to lay on the floor next to their beds and be able to shove a mixing bowl in their faces as soon as they need one than to run from my room when I hear them gagging only to get there when everything within five feet is completely obliterated. I’ll take the crick in the neck over the laundry/carpet/sorry-about-your-favorite-doll any day. If it’s a daytime illness (which it hardly ever is for us!), I just forget about productivity that day and keep as close as possible to the sicky.

4. Do not give your child water right away. Yes, you’re worried about dehydration. But worry about that later. These stomach bugs want everything out of your kid’s stomach, and they want it to stay out for a while. Don’t ask me why, but that’s the way it is. I am aware that medical websites say you should give children who are vomiting small amounts of liquid to drink. So that’s my official advice: do what doctors tell you to do. But my experiential, mom advice is  this: don’t give them anything while they’re throwing up. I’d love to know what other mom’s experiences are with that. In my experience, I have to let my kids throw up until there’s nothing left, and usually let them take a good nap before we start rehydrating. This is based on a normal stomach bug, though, not one that lasts more than a few hours. I’ve never seen my children get to the point of dehydration during a stomach bug when those scary symptoms you’re told to watch out for appear. Like I said, my unofficial, experiential advice is to let them get it all out and rest a bit before plying them with Gatorade or other electrolyte replacement drinks. But that leads me to this:

5. Don’t assume kids are all alike: take notes on how your children recover. If you’re like me, you’ll probably read a bunch of websites about how to help your child recover. Sadly, the advice you read might be all wrong for you. A few weeks ago, my 3-year-old son threw up every ten minutes for five hours overnight, then woke up, downed a piece of toast, and went about his normal, super hero action packed day. My 5-year-old daughter had a less intense version of that stomach bug that same night, and she ate nothing but Saltines for the next 24 hours and lazed around the house all day. Apparently, her physical and mental recovery after a stomach bug hits her is a bit more delicate than my son’s. Even after my daughter is asking for Gatorade and hasn’t thrown up in an hour or two, there’s a good chance it’s coming back up. I go ahead and give her fluids as soon as she starts asking for them, but I keep the mixing bowl nearby. This is the kid who after her first stomach bug as a toddler threw up ever day as if by habit for the next week-and-a-half at dinner. Fun times. But I now I know this…

6. Don’t give a toddler whatever food he wants after a stomach bug. Listen. She’s barely two years old. She’s asking for ice cream. You want to give it to her, but DO NOT DO IT! A week-and-a-half, my friends. That’s how long it took me to realize the first time I parented through a stomach bug that I should be giving nothing to my sick daughter other than the good old BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. But mine is more the BRACT diet because I dole out a lot of crackers in recovery times. After I backed off on a regular diet and gave her only BRACT, she recovered completely in two days. As I mentioned in the previous “Don’t,” every child recovers differently and older children can handle returning to a regular diet sooner than children two and under. If they’re under two, I strongly suggest you go extremely slow with introducing any dairy or protein right away. Not even pancakes! (yes,that’s experience speaking). Stick to BRACT for 24-48 hours and hopefully you’ll avoid the week-and-a-half of misery this first-time-mom experienced.

So there you go, information straight from the trenches on how to deal when stomach bugs and small children collide. Here’s hoping my mistakes will keep your sane in your own hour of need. On a bookish note, our favorite sick day book is this one.

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Nonfiction, Reading, Reviews

Love Books: Read This, Not That

Any book worth its salt has some love in it. Friendship, romantic love, sacrificial love, usually self-love whether glorified or not…humans are made to love and they will love something or someone as a default. In the last week, the two books I read actually had “love” in the title, but they were as different as night and day.

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio is classified as literary fiction, but it’s really not. The only The Look of Loveliterary thing about it is the premise. It had potential, in an O’Henry kind of way, but it falls severely short of the mark of good literature.  And it doesn’t make me happy to say that because I loved Jio’s The Violets of March and enjoyed several of her other books. The Look of Love isn’t anywhere close to Jio’s best work. The book’s main character, Jane, has a gift: she can see true love. She’s just figuring out that she has this gift at age 29, and she also learns that she has to identify the six forms of love before her 30th birthday or she will never find true love herself.

Here’s where you start thinking, “Wuv. Twue Wove.” (Books and movies come and go, but The Princess Bride never fails). The definition of true love and the six types of love Jane defines are not love. They are chemistry, lust, the kind of stuff from songs like “Hooked On A Feeling.” In Jio’s book. people can have love and then just fall out of it, find it somewhere else, and it’s all mystical and inexplicable.  I understand that elements of romantic love are kind of inexplicable, but love has reasons and choices and true love is selfless.

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary WorldEnter the next book of the week with love in the title: Love Does. Bob Goff writes in memoir style about the kind of love that has transformed his life. The whole idea is real love doesn’t just feel or talk but it does stuff. It is action. It is being with people or giving to people, believing in people and telling them you’re for them. Real, perfect love is loving like Jesus. Now, before you roll your eyes, make sure you’re thinking about Jesus here and not the people who claim to follow Him. I’ve been a Christian my whole life, met some amazing and incredibly loving followers of Jesus, but I’ve still never seen anyone come close to Jesus. No one can love the unlovable like Jesus. And we’re all unlovable in some way. But Goff tells stories with humor and intelligence and, his favorite word, “whimsy” about how he has experienced love in his life. For example, when he was in high school, he decided to drop out and move to Yosemite. He packed his car, headed out of town, but stopped by a mentor’s house on the way to say goodbye. And this mentor answered the door in the early morning, and a few minutes later, was in the car with Goff, going on his journey not as a chaperon or a parent figure, but a loving friend who still let Goff hold the reigns but said, “I’m with you, Bob.” These and other stories will blows to bits the love presented in pop culture. Love Does is a challenge to trade in the watered down sensation of love in our movies and books for love that is soul satisfying and deeply changing. This book is also just a plain fun read and if nothing else you will laugh (Thanks to my friend, Mary, for lending it to me!).

So if you’re looking for some summer book love, read this, not that. And feel free to chime in with the books you think give a good picture of real love.