Everyday Life, Parenting

Babies And Technology – My Favorite Blogs and Podcasts

Every time I have added a baby to my life, I have also added a new technology to save my sanity. You may be thinking of baby monitors or food grinders, which are good for maintaining sanity in our work loads, but there’s another kind of sanity that needs maintaining underneath all the ins and outs of caring 24/7 for a baby. I’m talking about brains here, folks. There is nothing I hate more than the term “mommy brain” (okay, yes there is, things like terrorism I hate more, but let’s go with it as a figure of speech). Sure, moms have a lot to think about and keep track of, but the idea that we get dumber as we have children is so insulting and wrong and we actually embrace it is an idea. Why do we do that to ourselves? Granted, we do have to face the fact that lots of mothering, especially with newborns, is monotonous. I think that’s why I felt a need for something to change up my routine and add a way for my brain to be active while also nurturing the new life I was responsible for.  Maybe that’s why every time I added a baby, I found myself adding a new technology, as well.


With my first child, I discovered the blog world. People were writing blogs about everything and I never knew it before 2009! My favorite blogs at the time were ones that made me laugh or that were sympathetic to the new mother plight. Here are the ones that are still my favorites:

Memories on Clover Lane – I respect this blogger’s opinions on raising children so much! And we have similar tastes in books…

Modern Mrs. Darcy – Anne is a way more sophisticated book blogger than I’ll ever be!

Wenzel Photography – I love her photos. Especially since sometimes my kids show up in them, and almost always my nieces and nephews. #familyperks

Shauna Niequist – Her writing is so vivid and convincing, she makes me imagine I could actually be a “foodie” or “a creative” or all kinds of other crazy things that I’m not. =) No, I’ll never be a foodie, but one of her books really changed my perspective on life.

The Big Mama Blog – I find I have less and less in common with her, but she still makes me laugh.


When my second-born was a few weeks old, we moved what felt like a long way away from any library. It was a temporary move, but I still thought it was pretty thoughtful that my husband decided it would be a good time for me to get an e-reader. He presented me with a Nook, and I honestly thought “He doesn’t even know me. I am a BOOK lover! How can he think I’d like one of these things?” But oh, how well he really does know me. Because suddenly, with a few clicks, I had a new book at my finger tips.. I didn’t have to drive 45 minutes to the library and I didn’t have to take my little children anywhere! What’s more, I could hold that book in one hand while holding a baby in the other, and I could read it in the dark, all night long if need be! Yes, yes, I still prefer paper books, but I am a fan of the e-reader. I now use a Kindle because the books are usually a bit more affordable and it’s easier to borrow books through my library’s website.


The birth of my third child found me in way over my head. I had a five-year-old who was a wonderful big sister, very thoughtful and good at taking care of others. She was also precocious, and her highest love language has always been quality time, so it’s easy for me to feel like I can’t give her the attention her intellect and heart need from me. Then there was my then three-year-old, a delightful boy and brimming over with raw, unending energy. I had no idea to harness it into anything good in his life. And then there was this baby who was so different than my other two. She cried. A lot. I needed help. I needed constant wisdom drumming into my head. By chance one day, I saw a friend post on Facebook that she loved to listen to podcasts while she went on walks. I checked out a few she recommended, and I kid you not when I say they have been a game changer in my mothering. The perspective they offer on all kinds of issues is invaluable. I realize that the podcast genre is wide and there are all kinds of topics – I’ve even listened to some of them – but what I come back to in this stage of my life are these blogs that speak to the struggles and joys of life in the trenches as a mom:

God Centered Mom – Heather is raising four boys and the questions she asks her guests are exactly the kind of questions I have in my mothering journey.

Inspired to Action – Kat is full of practical wisdom and so are her guests

Read Aloud Revival – This podcast centers on the topic of reading aloud to your kids – what to read, when to read, how it looks in different families…it’s just a fun book gab, really.

Sally Clarkson – Sally Clarkson is the mentor I don’t personally know. I love her book Mission of Motherhood and her podcast reminds me of the big picture and the ultimate goals I have for my children.

I don’t know where I’m going to turn for brain food if we add another child. Video games? Netflix? Just kidding. Still, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was looking for brain food each time I was in the very demanding but very basic phase of newborn mothering. Mothers need brain food! We are not dummies! [Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now]. I’d love to know if any moms out there felt similar needs when they’re babies were little. And I’d love to know if you have any favorite podcasts or blogs I should check out!

Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books, Parenting, Three Book Thursday

Cookies and Books: Nurturing Yourself and Your Children At The Same Time

girlreadingjwsmithAfternoons are hard. Everyone is tired, and trying their best to transition from morning to evening, from resting to ramping up their energy again, or in my case, from folding clothes quietly to cooking dinner with three kids underfoot. I’ll be honest: some (many) days when the kids get up from their afternoon quiet time, they get to watch TV. I try to keep it to every other day, but it’s kind of a seasonal thing. In the summer it’s less, in the winter, it’s more. But some days, the attitudes are especially shoddy, making me more aware of my children’s need for time with me. And I feel that tug: how do I give these children anything when at this point in the day, I’m running on empty?

The answer? Cookies and books.

One of my favorite book mom mentors, Sally Clarkson, often says it’s important to bring your children into the activities that you enjoy and that feed your soul. I love that concept – we as moms can be nurtured and nurturing at the same time.  Sometimes I remember that, and sometimes I have the wisdom and energy to do things a little differently in the transition hours, more commonly (and accurately) called “the witching hours.” I lay out some real plates and glasses on the table, get some cookies from the freezer and stick them in the microwave (or graham crackers if the baking hasn’t happened in a while!), and pour milk in fancy glasses. Then I go to the kids’ room a few minutes before their quiet time timer dings, and whisper, “Come to the kitchen!” Sometimes we have a IMG_4547little bit of hot herbal tea with honey instead of milk and cookies. Sometimes we’re finishing up some lemonade or cake from a family birthday party. Whatever the food is, along with it is always a book. This time is for a book I choose that I know will feed their minds. Their small hands are busy with their cookies, but their minds are taking it all in. When we come together at the table, all of the bickering, busyness, and mess of the day is suspended for a few minutes. I love these times at the table. They bring the things I like doing – reading books, eating cookies, and spending happy time with my children – all together. We all get what we need, and it’s always worth the few extra dishes or the lost productivity because the children feel loved and cared for and able to cope with the rest of the day, and so do I. I wish I did this cookies and books time every day! That’s not a reality right now. But I cherish the times when we’re able to set everything else aside and pick up a book, a cup, a story, an idea, a love of learning, and a love for each other.

Not everyone likes books and cookies (okay, everyone probably likes cookies). Maybe you love to run. Maybe you like scrapbooking, cooking, walking, or maybe what you love above all else is window shopping. My kids and I sometimes make up silly stories together. Whatever it is you like to do, maybe try doing it with your children? It gets really hard to do the things you love as your children take more of your time, but it helps you all to speak the same language later in life if you share what you love now. Your favorite activity won’t be the same when you bring your children into it with you, but it will be better than nothing! Choose your Cookies and Books – whatever you like to do together- and make it happen once in a while! You’ll be glad you did.

Here are the books I’ve chosen for our Cookies and Books Time this week:

Rachel and Obadiah – We loved Obadiah the Bold, so we had to track down other books by Brinton Turkle about Obadiah. However, this one was more about Rachel. Where Obadiah was great for a little brother, Rachel and Obadiah is great for a little sister who feels the need for some appreciation. The illustrations are so lovely, and it’s fun to read the Quaker wording. Isaac was not as big a fan of it because the girl is the winner in the end, but Ella liked it a lot.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald PartridgeWilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge – Mem Fox is an famous children’s author with whom I am sadly unfamiliar. I enjoyed my first experience of her books this week! This book made me want to cry a little, because my kids have a great, great aunt who is exactly the age of the woman in the book. Wilfrid, the little boy, thoughtfully gathers all the things he thinks will help her find her memories again, and the result is very touching. That was my take on it, anyway! When I got done reading it to Isaac and Ella, Ella’s response was, “Well. That was a weird book.” So maybe don’t expect your kids to love it. But it’s a sweet book that could aid in discussion about elderly family members whose memories aren’t what they used to be. The illustrations by Julie Vivas keep things lighthearted and fun.

What books are you reading with kiddos this week?

Everyday Life, Parenting

Loving The Littles Who Persecute Us

I wrote this as a devotional for the leaders meeting of my MOPS group last week. It’s a topic that’s been on my mind a lot in the last month. I’m sharing it on the blog today in hopes that we can all find some encouragement to keep on loving when we don’t know how. 

A few weeks ago, I was reading in Romans, trying for the 40-billionth time to get into my head how to extend love and grace to others, specifically….my own children. Maybe you’re thinking love and grace shouldn’t that difficult to give our kids, but sometimes, it is. I’d been through a trying week and I was feeling particularly resentful about my day-to-day life. There were some moments of joy and pure love for my children, yes, but there were more moments clouded with dark thoughts about how I’m wasting any talents I have, or feeling used and unappreciated, or just desperately wanting five minutes without being yelled for. I didn’t like feeling so oppressed by my everyday reality. So I was in Romans on that rare early morning that I actually made it out of bed before the kids got up, seeking some hope and some help, when I came upon these verses:

Romans 12: 13-14 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice Hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

My official Boiled Egg Peeler

It hit me, hard: I was feeling persecuted by my children. Their constant neediness wasn’t their fault, they’re still so little after all, but I was feeling persecuted by it, and the resentment was like my own form of cursing them – rolled eyes at their whining, pursed lips at their calling me for one more drink of water at bed time, or straight out anger at misbehavior when I had “just had enough.”

Do you ever feel persecuted by your children? Whether they mean to or not, they can put us parents through the wringer some days! We can walk around feeling persecuted by these human beings only three feet tall, or less, sometimes only 22 inches tall (when will she stop crying all day and all night so I can get some sleep!?!)  I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling persecuted by my children, I don’t usually respond with a heart of blessing. After reading these verses and realizing where my spirit was, I sure wanted to respond better! The word “curse” is the opposite of “bless,” and if I’m not blessing my children in my heart and in my attitude, what exactly am I doing? I think we all want to bless our children every minute of every day.

But how?

This is how we can bless people, even our children:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” v.

Well. I could start with being empathetic with my children. They need me to pay attention to their feelings, instead of brushing them aside as childish or inconvenient. I could continue by pursuing peace in my household – what a blessing it is when a mom is a force for peace in her home, in her marriage, in all of her relationships! And I could IMG_4446embrace the fact that these “people of low position” in my house, these powerless, small people I am entrusted with, who are not beneath me in any way besides physical stature. I need to stop being conceited about how I might be “wasting my intellect” or spending all my time in the mundane actions of life, but realize that this is a work of blessing and of loving the way God wants me to love.

Could these verses in Romans be a new mothering template? Be welcoming and serving to our needy children. Bless them when we feel persecuted by them. Empathize with them. Be at peace with them. Realize that they are equals with us in the family of God, and it is our honor to communicate to them how precious they are in His sight, and in ours.

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Everyday Life, Parenting

May The Sum Equal Love

If a six-year-younger version of me walked into my house right now, with her firstborn so new and rosy in her arms and her eyes bright with ideas about the future, there are so many ways she wouldn’t recognize herself in the Here-and-Now-Me. The younger me wouldn’t understand the mess. She wouldn’t believe my voice could elevate that quickly to angry tones over seemingly silly offenses (“I told you not to growl at your baby sister!”). She wouldn’t understand the exhaustion pouring from my posture as my very frame slumps over the dishes in the sink. She wouldn’t get why I have to remind my kids every single morning to brush their teeth. (Really?)

Whether we mean to or not, we all enter into parenthood with ideals of who we will be. Some of them aren’t even fully formed in our brains before our hands are clenched tight around them. They can range from “I’ll be the fun mom who plans great birthday parties” to “I’ll be the intentional dad who plans one-on-one time for each child once a week.” Sometimes our ideals are so abstract like, “My kids are just going to love talking to me one day!” Then we get into the thick of raising human beings, and it’s at that point we step back and think, “this is not the person I was planning to be!” That’s when we realize how much we had our hearts set on a specific version of ourselves, and how far we are from hitting that mark.

But maybe we are better than the person we planned to be?

Yes, my six-year-younger-self would probably walk into my house today and see too much stress, too much mess, a mom with un-washed hair and an overflowing laundry closet. After that, though. After that, she might see a mom spreading peanut butter on apples for her older kids with a perfectly happy, mostly clean toddler on her hip and think, “huh, that should be hard but she makes it look easy.” Maybe that younger me IMG_20150916_190051413would see a mom who knows what kind of music to put on to get her kids out of a slump and into a dance party on the living room floor. Maybe she’d see a woman who keeps on going on four-hundred-and-one nights of severely interrupted sleep. She might see this girl trying to be a wise, adult mother who will still lie flat down on the floor next to a mopey six-year-old in a desperate attempt to show her, “I am with you in this day. Let’s make it better.” Maybe she’d see a mom who makes sloppy cakes with her kids? Maybe she’d see a mom who tears up when her 4-year-old son puts his arms around his older sister and says with wonder and kindness, “You looks so pretty today.” Maybe she’d forgive me for yelling sometimes. Maybe.

My children are still so young, just 6, 4, and 1, but already I can see the harsh difference between the mom I thought I’d be and the mom I am now. Sometimes I don’t like what I see. And sometimes, I really do. Here’s what I know now: mothering is not a minute to minute equation, balancing the bad ones and the good ones and striving to make sure all the bad moments are cancelled out. Parenting is the sum of all the moments. There is no erasing the bad moments. And there are some pretty bad ones! I know now, I make big mistakes regularly and I can neither deny them nor hide them from my kids. But praise God, there are so many good moments as well. The hope I have replaced my ideals with is this: that the sum of my moments will add up to love in my children’s hearts. I hope and pray that I will play enough games with them, make them do the hard stuff to build their character consistently enough, hug them enough, stretch out beside them in their beds at bedtime and hold them close so many nights, look into their eyes and really hear them so many times….that I will do all these things enough so that when they are grown, all the time we had together in their childhoods will scream and ooze warmth and safety, acceptance and care, affection and security that lasts and leads them ever onward to the Parent whose love is all they need.

May the sum of my moments equal love.

Everyday Life, Parenting

The Debris Of The Day

It’s 4:00 o’clock. The time when monsters come out.

Not really. But 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon is not the happiest time in my day. Rest time is over, the littlest one is done with her nap, and the dinner prep and clean up looms ahead. 4:00 o’clock should be the time when you sigh and tell yourself “Almost done.” But that’s just not true. Ever heard of “the witching hours?” Whether you like the term or not (and I try not to think too hard about it), there’s just no denying that when I  stand at the end of my time on earth and add up all my hours, late afternoons will undoubtedly be the doldrums of life.

Take today for instance. It was our second day of homeschooling in 1st grade, and it went ten times better than the first. Both the first grader and the preschooler were fascinated by the diagram of the inner ear we studied (is there anything more fulfilling than fascinated students? I think not). The complaining over writing vocab words went from 15 minutes to 5 minutes. And math (math!) was a cinch. Not to mention we read all kinds of books. It was nearly a per2015-06-23 08.21.16fect homeschool day. On top of that, I washed three loads of laundry, cleaned two bathrooms, vacuumed a room, kept up with a one-year-old, and stayed on top of the dishes. So maybe I’m crazy, but I really did think that when I surveyed the house and the children around me at 4:00 p.m. on such a smooth, wonderful day, my eyes would not be met with the molten lava of meltdowns and toys explosions. Yet there it sure was. A few words popped into my head when I looked around me at 4:00 o’clock today, and I found them strangely comforting. I took it all in and took a deep breath. “This is not my fault,” I whispered to myself in a soothing voice. “This is just The Debris of the Day.”

The Debris of the Day is one of my formerly unnamed triggers in the late afternoon that leads to irritability and a sense of exhaustion. The Debris of the Day makes me feel like all my work is for naught. Today, however, when I named it, I realized none of that is true. We live here. It’s a fact of the homeschooling or stay-at-home-mom life (and probably many other lifestyles I haven’t experienced!) that junk will surround you when you feel like the day should be winding down. The kids will be whining because they’re tired and maybe a little bored because you told them “no TV” (good for you!) and they want attention but you’ve got other things on your mind at this point. The glass doors will be smeared. The bathroom will have toothpaste stuck to the sink (and mirror? how the heck…). There will still be dishes (a few or a few meals worth!) in the sink because we have eaten here today. Books will be scattered hither and yon. All this is true for me, in one way or another every single day, but today I came to realize that The Debris of the Day is not a failure. It is just what a day brings right now in my house.

And it’s okay.

Deep breath. Say it with me. It is okay. Maybe we can call the kids, put on some music 2015-06-07 08.51.07(and a smile even?), and clean some stuff up. Maybe we can just send the kids outside and leave it be for a while during the dinner hours. However we handle this, we can decide that it’s perfectly normal and it’s okay for now.

And maybe tomorrow I’ll try not to think of it as debris. Debris makes it sound like a storm blew through, which is accurate enough some days, but not the most pleasant image in the world. Tomorrow, I might get all sappy and think of this crazy mess of emotions and stuff as The Proof of Life, or even The Proof of Life Abundant…or maybe not. One mental step at a time. Right now, I may not be too thrilled with the debris, but I can tell myself it’s not a failure in my motherhood, and it’s all going to be okay.

Everyday Life, Parenting

Let Her Make Cake

I am really bad at making cakes.

When Ella was  turning two, I made the mistake of asking her what kind of birthday cake she wanted. “Orange and purple,” she replied. Well, those colors are pretty unpopular in our Gamecock loving, Clemson Tiger hating family. But I tried to leave the college sports rivalries aside, and envisioned this purple round layer cake with a white icing flower on top and an orange center. Kind of cheating, but there was orange in it! I failed to remember one important thing that you may recall…oh yeah, I’m not so good at making cakes. About three hours before party time, that cute daisy cake had fallen apart in three pieces on its serving plate. It was not salvageable (believe me, I tried. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken a picture for this awesomely comforting website). On to cake number two of the day! There was no time for cuteness. This rectangle sheet cake with chocolate icing with badly written purple and orange letters would have to do.

Spring and Isaac 059

Told ya. I’m bad at cakes.

That was not the first or last time I made two cakes for one birthday party. In fact, I now always keep a backup box of cake mix on hand. So it seemed like a cruel joke when about a year and a half later, Ella developed a fascination with cake decorating video tutorials. Thanks to Youtube’s suggested videos on the side of a Sleeping Beauty sing-along-song, we ended  up watching princess cake tutorials just for the fun of it. The ghost of bad cakes past was out to get me. “Mommy, can I watch some cake videos?” became a daily request. You know when your child watches cake decorating tutorials in her spare time, she is not going to be too thrilled by by a repeat of the cake above. I respect her innate desire for beauty in culinary art (and I kind of love the kid), so together we concocted this for her fourth birthday.


Despite appearances, those turrets did manage to keep from sliding off into oblivion until after the candles were blown out.  Whew.

Then I found salvation in cupcakesIMG_1952(but no improvement in photography).

A month ago I would have said, “Looks like Ella’s cake decorating phase is over.” And I would have only been a tiny bit sentimental about it.

But a few weeks ago, it was Isaac’s fourth birthday. I had planned to make him something pretty classic and simple. I mean, you can’t get much simpler than this Robin Hood cake I served at his last birthday party:

Isaac Birthday 019

Face palm.

(Hey, there aren’t too many ideas floating around on Pinterest for Robin Hood cakes, okay?)

Cupcakes. Cupcakes are good for fourth birthdays.

But the plan was changed by something seemingly unrelated. My relationship with Ella was struggling. In the past few months, I had noted a resentfulness in her attitude towards me. I saw her happy face change to a frown when I started speaking to her. She didn’t seek me out to play or read or do much of anything. There had been too many times in the last year that I had said “no.” In my floundering and fragile mothering philosophy, it’s important for me to say, “go find something to do” a healthy amount of the time. At age six, I want my children to play well, to imagine big, to read some books on their own, and blossom into independent people. But I also want to still be friends. It’s hard to balance out being in authority and being friends, and I was doing a poor job of it.The day before Isaac’s birthday party, the tension was pretty high and it was killing me. So I did something crazy. I opened up my laptop and said, “Hey Ella, let’s find a good cake to make for Isaac’s birthday.” She oohed and aahed over car cakes, airplane cakes, even a dragon cake. (Help.)

But thanks to the mostly doable videos from Howdini and Liv Hansen, we settled on a modified rocket cake. Modified, because we can’t just do anything easy, can we? It had to be a fighter jet, didn’t it? (just roll with it).


Two trips to the store and 24 hours later, the cake was done. It was far from perfect, but it was so much more to me than flour and icing. It was hours of planning together and shopping together. It was thinking about what her brother would like most. It was a six-year-old who is dearly loved spinning cake fantasies into something real on a platter in our kitchen and laughing and smiling with her mother. It was her brother’s face that said, “wow” when it was done and how loved he felt. And it was a start to this mom remembering to say “yes” to things that build relationships and feed souls.

It didn’t have to be a cake, but it had to be something to show Ella that I wanted to spend time with her and to build her up.

(And let’s be honest, it was also a hope that when Ella’s ten, she’ll be the master cake maker around here and I’ll get to hang up the cake making apron. Life skills, right? Can I count this as a school day? Just kidding. )

This summer has been a quiet time for this old blog, but it’s been full of cake making and soul filling here on the other side of the screen. I miss the writing, but summer is such a perfect time to replenish our children as we let them delight in their passions and whims. Isaac builds airplanes and cars and creates worlds for them. Ella asks to turn the hall into an art gallery and is eagerly awaiting the day when we will paint her playhouse. Last week she made a closet for her doll’s clothes out of a cardboard box and an old golf club. It’s this stuff of making and playing that tells me it’s going to be a great summer, not the vacations or trips to the water parks and the zoo.

And when things start to get a little strained or boring? We’ll make a cake.

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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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Wear The Beads

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Everyday Life, Parenting

Wear The Beads

Lately, I’ve been struggling with what to tell people when they ask “So, what have you been up to?” It seems to me I should be able to sweep my arm in the direction of my three young children with a flourish and say, “Exhibit A.” I don’t want to be a one dimensional person, but really, I don’t have any other answer right now. When real life happens, it doesn’t always translate so well into a short and sweet small talk answer. Maybe when there has been a major life event, there is a good answer. But when there has been no big one thing? What does a mom of little kids say? We haven’t gone to Tahiti. We haven’t moved. We haven’t had a disaster of any sort. There have just been days one after the other like beads on a string. And I’m not talking pearls. No, no. These have not been pearly, luminescent days, though they all have their gorgeous, unforgettable moments. These days have been the clear plastic bead on a piece of yarn kind. The kind full of dishes, play dates, grocery shopping, cracker crumbs, breakfasts/lunches/dinners, sick children, sick self, and so much coffee.

Nothing special has happened in the last few months. Until I remember this: every moment.


Though they can seem like just a bunch of mundane minutes, these clear bead days are precious, too, and who decides that pearls made by some ugly oysters on a  dark ocean floor are more lovely than the gift a five-year-old considers a work of art? The clear beads are everywhere in my house right now, under dressers and in corners, clogging up the filter in the vacuum cleaner. They’re like the in-your-face, never ending responsibilities of mothering littles that can completely overwhelm me. But the curve of soft, round cheeks? The plump little toes in their first pair of sandals? The freckles appearing out of nowhere under sea blue eyes? Those facets of my right-now life can overwhelm me in a whole ‘nother way if I just see them with the right pair of eyes on.

I could choose to wear the necklace made up of those clear beads all tinted green, purple, pink, and blue and in no particular pattern or order, and know there is love in these days hidden all over the place and also bowling me over every morning as I roll out of my (absolutely wonderful) bed. Really, literally, bowling me over (Hello, 3-year-old son).  I won’t ever have a day when I feel like everything about motherhood is perfect. Peachy. Pearly. Almost every good thing is disguised in something sort of annoying when you’re in the thick of things. A hug when you’re tired of being touched. Really beautiful singing about Jesus when the baby is asleep. These things are beautiful and an exquisite gift and are driving me crazy all at the same time.  But if I don’t want to go crazy? There’s really only one good choice to make when I’m overwhelmed by all these clear beads rolling around my house and I need an answer for where all the minutes are going.

Wear them.


Wear the beads.

Everyday Life, Parenting

The Bird Feeder

My Bird Feeder
I have a bird feeder in my backyard.

Big deal. Everyone has a bird feeder.

Well, actually, it is kind of a big deal. I used to kind of scoff at bird watching. Yep, I am pretty much a terrible person. But I’m growing up. (It turns out, growing up just means you buy your own groceries, you decide for yourself when the speed limit is too fast on a certain road, and you scoff less).  However, I didn’t realize I was such a scoffer when it came to bird watching until early January of last year, when one day I found myself staring through my kitchen window at the frantic birds scrounging around in the soggy, bleak backyard. My hands deep in the hot, sudsy water, rubbing grime off dishes that had sat in the sink too long, I watched the birds’ fretful hopping and pecking and was deeply thankful I had a grocery store right down the road. Then I realized, “Wait, why am I identifying with those birds? I’m bird watching! I’m like those people I’ve always laughed at.” And that’s when the self realization dawned: “<Gasp> Why do I laugh at bird watchers??!!” There it was, another bit of snobbery realized in my life.

A few days later, it snowed. My house was the warmest, coziest place it has ever been, but I found my eyes wandering out to those same little birds that I had watched a few days before. It turns out they were chickadees. I was watching them, and I was actually worrying about them. Where are they going to find any food? Why don’t I have a bird feeder? What kind of horrible human being am I? Wait, why am I worrying about this?

But those birds…they had a hold on my mind all of a sudden.

Then it didn’t seem so much like I just coincidentally started noticing birds. It was like it was all part of a plan.  I attended the IF: Gathering at a friend’s home a month later in early February 2014 and listened to Shelley Giglio talk about birds. Why birds? What in the world? Well, birds are often used in the Bible to show men and women how God cares for his creation and how much more he cares for us. Shelley Giglio’s talk focused on verses from Psalms that have two bird references:

“1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.” Psalm 83:1-4 (NIV)

Giglio went on to explain that a swallow is a very plain bird, brown and ordinary. The swallow in these verses was going about her natural work, being a mother, but the thing that stood out is that she was mothering in the presence of God. It was such a beautiful reminder to me that I don’t have to wait to seek God until all is quiet and still, I can bring my young and be with God in all things. I can dwell in my daily life, and the work of motherhood- the building the nest and having the young – can intersect with the sacred God who loves me as I am, ordinary and plain.

A year later, I still don’t exactly watch birds. I asked for a bird feeder for Christmas and it’s outside my kitchen window.  The chickadees come and go on the frozen winter mornings, and it makes me happy to see them and give them a few seeds, but I’m still not fascinated by the actual creatures that I’m feeding out there. What I love is that anytime I see that bird feeder, I remember all I have learned in the past year. I know the work I do is sometimes mundane and not at all profound – it has all been done before. Yet, it is sacred. I’m in the presence of God in this nest of mine, and my children are, too.  I’m reminded to scoff less, to appreciate the way I am cared for by my creator, to delight in the work of my hands. It’s amazing what one bird feeder can do. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be carrying around a copy of National Audubon Society Field Guide for North American birds. At this point, I wouldn’t put it past me.  All kinds of things can happen when you’re growing up.

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