Monthly Archives: February 2012

Bringing Back the Bliss


I have so, so very much to write down about Blissdom.  As always, it was perfectly sparkly and wonderful and happy.
I want to tell you about sitting down to dinner with people I’ve admired for years and became friends with in seconds.
I want to tell you about meeting new people who danced right into my heart, took off their shoes & planned to stay awhile.


I want to tell you about staying up late and giggling about silly things like boys and clouds of cologne.
(And about ninjas and monkeys and saying inappropriate things to inappropriate people.)
I want to tell you about sitting on the stairs and laughing and sitting in a session and tearing up.
I want to tell you about the sessions that pushed me to reach deeper and about the ideas that came to life.

I want to tell you that Blissdom is a blogging conference, but it is so.much.more.
Blissdom is about friendships and inspiration and life changing.
Blissdom is about laughing and crying and enjoying the moments more than you thought you could.
Blissdom is about finding your bliss and bringing it back home with you.

(Also?  There are a loooooot more pictures to come.  I’ll post a link to my flickr stream soon!)

Nobody Told Me That! {Tween and Teen}

Since my kids are only 1, 3, 5, and 7 years old, I don’t know much about tweens and teens, but my friend Heather does!  She has two teenage daughters and offered to share a few things about teens.  Thanks,  Heather!  (Also?  She’s one of my roommates for Blissdom.  I’m leaving right!now! to head to Nashville!!!)

  • Having a cell phone, a computer, a driver’s license, and a car are privileges and not rights.  Even if your teenager pays for their cell phone, their computer or their car.  Which, by the way, I highly recommend them having to chip in to pay for these things.
  • Try to plan at least one night a week where everyone is home together.  You can watch movies, order pizza, play board games or just connect as a family.  Really listen to your teenager, because chances are if they think you are listening, they will share.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions and punish them prematurely.  In our house we want the girls to come and talk to us openly.  When things happen I want them to feel that they can talk to me or my husband.  Listen to everything they have to say and then discuss together what you think the result of these actions may be.  Most of the time they come up with a far worse punishment than I could have thought of.
  • Be involved in their school.  While I am not at the middle school and high school volunteering everyday like I did when they were in elementary school, the office staff at both schools know who I am and know that I will take full advantage of their open door policy.
  • Don’t buy the supplies that the school sends home.  The middle school and high school teachers always send home a different list and the stuff you bought won’t even be on it.  Yes, they may get extra credit for bringing in some of those things and while it may seem silly to you, sometimes an extra box of kleenex or a bottle of hand sanitizer is the difference between a B and an A.
  • Your teenager will be hungry when they get home from school because they used their lunch money to buy gas or soda or are saving it up for something special.  I remember doing the same thing, I am sure you did too.  Just make sure you have lots of healthy stuff for them when they get home.
  • Encourage them to get a part time job.  While I know that we would want them to focus on school and extra curricular activities, it is good for them to get a job, even if for a few hours a week.  They will learn new things and have a greater appreciation for your money. Trust me.
  • When they want to give something up that they have been doing for a long time (scouts, sports or other activities) let them.  Chances are good that your teen isn’t going to make millions of dollars off of whatever they are doing that they want to give up.  Talk to them and understand why they don’t want to do whatever it is anymore.  As heart breaking as it is for you, know that in the end they will be happier.
  • If they are driving make them have a deductible saved up in case they get into an accident.  It helps them to save and teaches them responsibility.  And if they happen to get into an accident, have them use it or part of it to help pay for repairs.  I know that they have worked hard for every dollar they have saved, but you have too….don’t sell yourself short.
  • Enjoy the little time you have left with them.  Know that they love you and do respect you, even if it doesn’t always show.

Nobody Told Me That! {Elementary Edition}

My kids love going to school.  They think it’s fun and exciting. They love their teachers.  And they’ve made some great friends.  But there are things that have either changed since I was little or I’d forgotten (or maybe I was just completely oblivious back then) and there were a  few things that caught me off guard about having school-aged children.  I’m also sharing a few things I’ve learned along the way about sharing life with these little people.  (I love this age so much!)

  • You will be asked to provide at least one ream of paper at the beginning of the year.  And then you will get 50 million pieces of unnecessary papers each week to tell you what is going on at the school.  There will be, however, so many of these papers that you skim them and miss the most important things.  Like the fact that your kid was supposed to wear pajamas to school on Thursday.  Oops.
  • Even your kindergartener will have homework.  Regardless of how you feel about homework, your child will be required to do it.  (After reading this mom’s letter, I contemplated sending one of my own.)
  • Go ahead and decide where you stand on fund raisers.  We have chosen not to do them.  Our kids know this and while they still want to win a $0.59 plush ball for collecting $50 worth of product, they don’t even ask about it any more.  I will find out how much the school would get per dollar and will donate an amount based on that.  So if the school gets 40% of a $100 sale, I will donate $40 instead of buying $100 worth of stuff I don’t really want or need.  It’s really a win-win in my opinion.  We don’t need more stuff.  (Want to donate to a project?  This one at our school (via DonorsChoose.org) has less than a month to reach the funding goal.  We would love your help.)
  • Kids loooove choices.  So I give them choices.  But I am very careful about what choices I give.  First I list a terrible choice and then the choice I want them to choose.  99% of the time they pick the one I wanted them to pick.  They will eventually catch on, but it’s working for now.  :-)
  • Fun Friday!  This is something I started when I was a nanny.  I think I enjoy it as much as they do!  We always have something fun planned for Friday after school.  It may be as simple as doing a craft or playing a game or getting an ice cream, but we make it a really!big!deal! and have fun being silly.
  • My kids love mystery trips.  We get in the car and start driving.  Sometimes it’s just to the local park, other times it’s an overnight trip that we didn’t tell them about ahead of time.  We let them ask questions about it until they figure it out or until we get there, whichever comes first.
  • Being extraordinary.  I’m not sure how this word came into our vocabulary, but we like to celebrate when they do something extraordinary.  Being extra helpful or extra kind or extra awesome can get you and extraordinary surprise.  They usually choose getting a slushie at school.  (We don’t do slushies on a regular basis, so this is a big treat for them.)

What is your favorite thing about your school-aged child?

Nobody Told Me That! {Praying Through Preschool}

Preschoolers are adorable, there’s no denying that; but they can also be insistent and assertive.  You often hear about the terrible twos, but I honestly find that the threes are much more difficult.  The ‘me-do-it’ stage will drive you insane and don’t be surprised if you end up in the ER getting stitches or a cast.  Their curiosity has no bounds.

A lot of the same tactics that I started using with my toddlers still work for my preschoolers but as they get trickier, you have to get trickier, too!  :-)  Remember that the independence they’re beginning to exhibit is a good thing.  (You might want to tattoo that on your arm.)  Most of these are really common sense, but are things I have to remind myself daily.

  • My way may be faster and less messy, but they won’t learn by watching me do it.
  • Preschool is a great time to start letting kids help in the kitchen.  Even if it’s just mixing one thing into the bowl, they really feel  like they’ve made a significant contribution.  When they are proud of their creation, they are more likely to taste it…so go ahead and make some homemade granola.
  • With my older kids, we didn’t allow them to use a lot of electronic devices until they were a little older.  But we’ve been letting the 3-year-old play a few iphone apps geared towards preschoolers.  The ones he and I both like are Shape Builder, Cars 2, and (of course) Angry Birds.
  • When your child seems to be ignoring you, make him or her stop what they are doing and look you in the eye.  It’s hard to ignore someone when you are staring at them.  Be firm and make sure they are understanding.
  • We make promises a big deal.  If need the child to do something specific, I make them raise their right hand and repeat after me: “I promise…to not hit my sister…anymore today.”  (It works more often than it doesn’t, but it’s not 100%.)
  • When Christmas or a birthday gets close, we play The Gift Bag Game.  Each person takes a gift bag and puts something in it.  You call come back to home base and exchange gifts.  Then each person takes turn opening his or her ‘gift’ and saying Thank You.  They think it’s a lot of fun and you are teaching manners.  Win-win.
  • Bubbles.  Just buy the biggest container you can find.  (Or make your own.)
  • We don’t ever force our kids clean their plates but when they reach the 3 year mark, we make them eat at least one bite per year old.  So the three year old has to eat 3 bites.  The 5 year old has to eat at least 5 bites.  Seven year old, 7 bites.   (For our 3 year old, that first bite is the hardest.  Then he usually forgets that he only has to have three bites and gobbles up most of his food.)
  • We go on lots of ‘nature walks’ (i.e. wander around the backyard) and pick up ‘treasures’ (aka leaves, acorns, pine needles, etc).  Sometimes we even glue our treasures onto pieces of paper to display.  One of my favorite nature art projects was using leaves and sticks to make tree art.
  • Now that your child is old enough to talk to you (somewhat) and do things (somewhat), your child can really get into doing fun activities and crafts.  My two favorite go-to blogs for preschoolers are No Time For Flash Cards and Impress Your Kids.  Allie and Amanda are top notch moms with great ideas.  At Impress Your Kids, Amanda shares some really great ways to teach your children about God and faith and she does a great job breaking things down to an understandable level.

Tomorrow I’ll be tackling elementary school and then my blog-friend Heather will be talking about tweens and teens on Wednesday.
And by then she and I will both be in Nashville.  Woo-hoo!

Nobody Told Me That! {Toddler Times}

There are so many great things about toddlers!  You don’t have to haul around quite as much when you leave the house.  You can grab food on the go if you need to and they can drink through a straw.  (That changes your life.  Seriously!)  They can (sometimes) tell you what is wrong instead of just wailing until you figure it out.  They force you to look at the world with fresh eyes.  That’s my favorite part.  “Mama!  Bird!  Mama!  Mama!  Bird!”   (Honestly, how often do most of us get really excited about seeing a bird?)

There is certainly a big difference between a one year old and a three year old, but I still consider 1-3ish the toddler years.  A LOT of changes happen in that time, so there are a lot of things that won’t work with the littler ones, but will with the bigger toddlers.  There’s no way to cover it all anyway, but here are a few tidbits I’ve learned about toddler times:

  • Offer nutritious foods as much as possible, but don’t expect them to eat it all.  There will be days when your toddler eats nothing at all.  There will be other days when (s)he is a bottomless pit.  Don’t worry so much about getting all the required nutrition in one day, but over the course of the week.  (Also don’t  join the “Clean Plate Club”.)
  • Along the same lines, if you make up funny names for nutritious food, it seems to make them much more palatable. For example we call edamame ‘pop beans’.  English peas are ‘power dots’.  Carrots are ‘rabbit sticks’ and granola bars are ‘candy bars’.  It’s all in the marketing.
  • Magic Air is a miracle tool.  If your child falls and hurts themselves, ask  if they would like some magic air to make it better.   Over acting is a plus when doing this.  Then blow on the boo-boo.  I’ve found that this stops the tears approximately 97% of the time.
  • Also invest in a can of Monster Spray – aka air freshener with a sheet of paper wrapped around it that says MONSTER SPRAY.  No need to be high-tech, just a sheet of paper, a piece of tape and a marker and you can do it up in about 20 seconds.  Whenever those pesky monsters start scaring your sweet babe, you pull out that Monster Spray and spray ‘em away.  (Bonus: Nice smell in the closet!)
  • The sillier, the better.  Make funny faces.  Make up silly nonsense words.  Dance around like a fool.  You may feel like an idiot, but the laughs are worth it.
  • Let them explore without interfering.  As parents we tend to want to show our children how to “do it right” when really just doing it is what is most important.  Let him pull all of the clothes out of the laundry basket and put it back in 10 times.  Let her read the book upside down.  Let them toddle around in the yard and feel the grass and dig up the sand.  And remember “God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt”!  (I assume that’s a southern thing.  Does the rest of the world know this little ditty?)
  • Temper tantrums.  The best possible thing to do about temper tantrums is pay attention to what triggered it.  Once you learn what sets your child off, try to avoid those things.  For example, Asa naps about every other day.  If it is a nap day, I try not to make plans.  And when I do, I usually regret it.  An example with Anna Alden is that the girl does not like to be hungry.  I try to anticipate when she’ll be hungry and plan around that.  But if you do find yourself dealing with a full-on tantrum, act don’t react.  Depending on which child is melting down, my response is different.  Some of my children simply need to get it out.  I actively choose to ignore it and once (s)he realizes I’m not phased by it, (s)he stops.  For some of the others, they just need to be held.  I wrap them up in my arms and squeeze tightly (but not too tightly!) until (s)he snaps out of it.  It is embarrassing as hang when a temper tantrum happens in front of other people.  (I tend to close my eyes and pretend that if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.   )  The main thing is not to let your frustration make the situation worse. Choose how you will calmly respond and act on your decision.  And please please please don’t negotiate with your child…that never ends well.  (<—That right there is experience speaking.)
  • Even though most laws state that you can turn your toddler’s carseat around when the child is one (laws vary per state), it is best to leave it rear facing until your child is 2 (or as long as possible).  Looking at the data, it’s hard to imagine why everyone but the driver doesn’t sit in rear-facing car seats.  (I mean just watch the difference!  Rear facing vs. Foward facing)
  • When your sleep-through-the-night child starts waking up at night, (s)he may be ready to potty train.  (S)he may be waking up because of an uncomfortable bladder situation.
  • Potty training.  Different things work for different kids.  There are lots of different tactics and methods.  For us I’ve found the easiest to be just wait until they are ready.  I tried to work on it with Carter and it left us all frustrated and annoyed.  With the others, I’ve just waited until it happened.  (I’m still waiting with Asa, but I think we’re close!)

One to three year olds are a wild little bunch, but they are so much fun!  They absorb so much information during this time period.  Isn’t that so much fun to watch?

Nobody Told Me That! {Notes on Newborns}

There are hundreds – probably even thousands – of lists of things that you should know before you have a new baby.  You should know about back sleeping and car seat safety and how to feed your baby, but what about the hundreds of other little things there are to learn?  These are things I wish someone had told me and are based entirely on my(our) experiences.  These aren’t concrete facts, just things that would have been helpful to know ahead of time.

  • Go ahead and learn about the “Free Wipe Diaper Swipe”.  When you’re changing a dirty diaper, use the clean(ish) front flap of the diaper to take care of that first swipe of poop.  Wipes aren’t all that expensive, but I’d rather save as many as possible.  (Besides, you might need it to get deodorant off of your dress or clean the bathroom.)  (Also?  This doesn’t work as well with cloth diapers.)
  • Certain brands of diapers have little yellow lines running down the center of them.  They turn blue when they are wet.  Sounds silly until you find yourself sniffing a diaper in the middle of the night.  (And your doctor will probably ask you how many wet diapers your baby is making per day, so you’ll want to keep a tab at first.)
  • Some babies love to be swaddled.  Some hate it.  But go ahead and learn how to make a baby burrito before (s)he arrives just in case.
  • Baby girls may have vaginal discharge or even some bleeding.  WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS?  It doesn’t happen to every little girl, but it is normal if it does.  Just wipe it away and don’t freak out.
  • Baby girls and baby boys might have some discharge from the nipples.  Once again, it doesn’t happen with every child but it’s not abnormal if it does occur.
  • Clothing sizes are a joke.  For some brands, ’6 months’ means 3-6 months.  For some it means 6-9 months.  And then others are just straight up wrong.  (In my experience Carter’s brand seems to be most accurate.)
  • Also…girl’s dresses can be used for a much wider window of time.  Lydia got a size 4 bishop dress when she was 2.  It was long on her(ankle length), but she can still wear it now.  Some girl dresses can become adorable swing tops if you just add pants or leggings.
  • Let a friend keep your baby while you run to the grocery store.  You will feel like a different person after getting out for even 20 minutes.  People want to help and while they may not do things exactly like you do, it’ll be okay for just a little while.
  • Breastfeeding is hard.  Your nipples crack and bleed, and for some people it just.doesn’t.work.  Do your best to make it work, but don’t feel like a failure if you can’t.
  • Enjoy the newborn-ness.  Not just the sweet smell and the adorable tiny clothes and the wonderful cuddles, but also the fact that they sleep quite happily in their carseat when you need to go out.   Feed him/her, strap them in, and then run your errands or go eat lunch.  The window of opportunity is small, but I promise it’s easier to go out to eat with a newborn than it is with a one year old.
  • Sometimes babies don’t quite have this pooping thing down pat.  You may have to help them out.  I’ll spare you the details, but it involves lube.  Your doctor can give you detailed directions.
  • No matter what you do or how you do it, some one will tell you that you’re doing it wrong.  Ignore it.  Do your research (if you want) and go with your gut.

Oh…and it’s not all about the baby.  What about postpartum you?

  • Embrace the mesh panties.  When you leave the hospital, take the extras home with you.
  • You will bleed for.ev.er.  (Or at least it will seem like it.)
  • Breastfeeding is not a form of birth control, so um…keep that in mind.
  • Of course, having a baby ripped out of your groin is fairly good birth control for at least a few weeks months.
  • Remember yesterday when I said your girly bits will never be the same.  Yeah.  That.
  • The baby blues might suckerpunch you.  Punch back and call your health care provider if it seems like more than just a little sad day or two.

What postpartum things did you not expect?
What did you learn about newborns in those first weeks that you’d never heard before?

I’m sorry. (Again).

The moment it came out of my mouth, I knew I shouldn’t have said it.
You flinched ever-so-slightly but then brushed it off.
I felt horrible, but in the wave of frustration I brushed it off too.

I was still working when you went to bed and I didn’t even get to say goodnight.
That doesn’t happen often and it breaks my heart for the Mamas and Daddys who don’t get to give kisses every night.
There is so much good in our lives, and I am so grateful for your sweet spirit -
Tender yet resilient, gentle but assured.

Even though you were asleep, I couldn’t go to bed without apology.
And so I crawled into the bed and you wrapped your arms around me.
Your left hand landed in that little space between my neck and shoulder.
And it lay there so lightly that I could barely feel it without trying.

I matched my breaths to yours.
And breathed in your little boy smell.
Sooner rather than later you’ll object to the smell-good shampoo I love.

I was so harsh.
And it was wrong.
I’m sorry.

(Parenting is so much easier when you are asleep.)

 

*Linking up with Just Write.*

Nobody Told Me That! {Prenatal Notes}

This week I’m doing a parenting series on things I wish someone had told me before I had kids.  (It’s possible that someone did indeed tell me these things and I just wasn’t listening.)  I do not claim to be a parenting expert (not even close), so take what I say with a grain of salt.  Everything you see here is based on my experiences.  Yours may be different…and if so, I’d love to hear about it!

Today I’ll be talking about the things that no one ever tells you about pregnancy, these things that you won’t find in the informative weekly prenatal newsletters you have delivered to your inbox.  (I’ve touched on some these before, but it’s been a while.)

  • Your girly bits will never be the same.  (Go ahead and start preparing yourself now.)
  • Neither will your boobs.
  • You will probably pee on yourself.  Sometimes it’ll happen when you cough, other times it will just happen.
  • Buy a Bella Band (or something comparable).
  • And a body pillow.
  • Research but don’t obsess.  About pregnancy symptoms.  What carseat to buy.  Cloth or disposable.  Epidural or drug-free.  Bottle or breast.  Just make a decision and run with it.
  • Be prepared to buy bigger shoes.  My feet got fairly swollen during each pregnancy and grew and average of 1/2 size with each child.
  • Follow the ‘rules’ if you want.  But don’t feel like eating soft cheese or lunch meat will automatically hurt your baby.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I followed all the ‘rules’ with my first baby and he was born with 8 toes.  I didn’t worry about the ‘rules’ with the other pregnancies and they were fine.  That being said, use common sense!
  • You will cry over the oddest things, get pissed off by things that normally make you happy, and periodically question your sanity.  Pregnancy hormones are cuh-ray-zee, not you.  Just stay aware of the fact that it’s the hormones and try not to freak out the people around you.
  • Okay…well, maybe you are crazy.  But it’s only temporary.  And just being aware is half the battle.  Find a friend who can listen and share your crazy with them.  It makes it much easier to handle that way.
  • If your symptoms don’t fit the books or don’t follow the timelines that you see online, don’t worry.  Every pregnancy is different.
  • You are the perfect size and so is your baby bump.  Some people start showing when they are 10 weeks along and some people don’t show until well after 20 weeks.  Some people look like they are about to pop when they are only 30 weeks and others get to delivery day looking like they’re only a few months along.  Remember, every pregnancy is different.

What did I leave out?  I’m sure there are tons of things that I’ve forgotten!  What surprised you about pregnancy?

Finding Myself Under All The Glitter

There are moments that you look back on and realize that while they seemed rather insignificant at the time, they were indeed fairly pivotal in your story line.  And then there are moments that blow the doors wide open and announce “THIS IS IMPORTANT!”   Blissdom’10 was – for me – most certainly the latter.

I could write volumes about the things you can do and see and learn at Blissdom.  I could talk about what to pack and what to bring and how to not get lost.  (Those are all great things to know, especially if you’ve never been before.)  But the thing that no one can prepare you for is the emotion.  No one tells you that you should come to Blissdom expecting to come home changed.

Here’s the post I wrote right after I got home from Blissdom that year.  I can re-read this and bring back every single one of those feelings.  And I cannot wait to be back in Nashville and see what awaits us all this year.

Blissdom 2010

I could tell you a lot about Blissdom.  I’m sure there will be hundreds of posts chronicling the sessions, the parties, the speakers, the food.  Well-written posts about friendships made and cultivated, the beautiful Opryland Hotel and Harry Connick, Jr will surely be out there, too.

And although those things were awesome and I learned so much and met so many, something bigger happened.

Somewhere inside me, in that quiet little place that I sometimes hesitate to share with even my closest friends,
I felt a movement, a revolution.

There were times this weekend when I laughed so hard I cried.
There were times when I was my normal, loud-mouth self.
There were times I stepped outside my comfort zone.

But often I found myself just being quiet.
Watching others.  Listening.
Listening to others and listening to that inner part of me that so frequently gets drowned out at home,
shushed and squashed by my to do list.

Blissdom was not a Christian conference.
Blissdom was not about religion or God.
Blissdom was not about growing in your faith
or becoming a better person.

But Blissdom was inspirational.
And Blissdom was educational.
And Blissdom changed me.

Over and over and over, whether in sessions or conversations or within my own mind,
the same three phrases kept re-surfacing:
Be authentic.
Be passionate.
Focus on what’s really important.

Not really novel concepts.  Not something I hadn’t heard a hundred times before.
But exactly what I needed to hear,
what I wanted to hear,
what I was ready to hear.

Several panelists talked about finding your voice, but I realized that in order to find my voice, I must first find me.
I’ve gotten lost in the shuffle.
I’ve gotten wrapped up in things that don’t matter.
I’ve let some influence me too much, and others not enough.

It’s time for a change.
Thanks, Blissdom.

You are incredible.

One dog perched on my feet, the other uses my leg as a scratching post.
The kids are just beyond the threshold of my hearing.
I can make out the sounds of their voices, but no words.
But they are laughing and that makes me smile.

The baby’s asleep and I suppose I could (should?) use this time constructively.
But I find myself staring blankly towards the kids – looking, but seeing nothing at all.
I can’t seem to break the trance and so I close my eyes.
Although it is a beautiful day, my imagination is even more vivid.

I lie down on the grass and let the sun dance on my skin.
I take in a big, deep breath and feel myself breathe.
It is still a miracle to me that the human body does this -
this in and out and in and out -
without me even knowing.

It’s incredible, you know?
We are incredible.
How we breathe and blink and digest both food and information.
We are nothing short of miraculous.
Even when we are broken, we are still a miracle.
That thought overwhelms me.
So complex that it’s simple.
And so simple that it’s complex.

I don’t hesitate to tell my children how special they are.
I encourage them to embrace what makes them unique
And to celebrate what makes them alive.
But I forget to tell myself these same things.
Don’t you?

I need to hear that, even if it’s just in my own head.
(And you do, too.)
You are an incredible miracle.
I am an incredible miracle.
We are all fearfully and wonderfully made.
Thanks be to God .