Feel Good Friday-From the Kitchen

I’ve been in the kitchen almost all day. When I haven’t been out running errands or taking care of my sweet baby boy, I’ve been cooking up a bubbling batch of cinnamon applesauce in the crockpot…

…and baking homemade “Twix” bars in the oven.

My house smells super sweet for my sweet boys, and that makes me feel good.


Hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend and enjoy some good eats of your own!


**If you would like to see where I come up with these delicious concoctions, you can follow me on Pinterest. I don’t do much recipe-making on my own, but I love finding new ones to try! ūüėČ **


Underwater Adventures… From the Kitchen Floor

Our school district only goes to school Tuesday through Friday, so I am blessed to have both of my boys home with me every Monday. There is something about Mondays that I am growing to love. Our weekends are usually pretty full. It seems that there is always somewhere we need to go, whether it’s a soccer game, a birthday party, or visiting with friends and family. I love the weekends, because my husband is home, and it’s generally just an all-around good time, no matter what we are doing. But then Mondays come, and the pace is much more relaxed than the rest of the week. I don’t feel such a push to get things done around the house, because I’d rather spend the time enjoying being with my big boy. Another reason I’m loving Mondays is because I’m using that day to find something special (but inexpensive!) for us to do. Last Monday, we went to a local state park where we enjoyed the beautiful weather with a picnic lunch, read books while lying on a blanket in the grass, and went for a short walk on a hiking trail.

This week, we had another fun adventure, but this time it was in our own kitchen. My parents and sister came back from a beach vacation in Mississippi this past weekend, and they brought the boys two windup submarine toys. Two very simple toys, but the newness of them had my oldest son very excited. As soon as we opened them, he wanted to test them out.

Even the baby boy was giggling and watching with awe.

He had so much fun playing with them, that when Monday came, we took a trip to the local dollar store in search of some fun treasures we could add to our submarine play. Here is what we came up with:

Some rocks and treasure coins.

A couple of different textured sponges and a scrub brush.

Stacking cups.

All of these items can easily be repurposed to do other sensory or art activities, so it was totally worth the few dollars that I spent.

I put a beach towel down on our kitchen floor and filled a large mixing bowl with water. Any large bin would work, and a sensory or water table would probably be better. I think I know what my baby boy is getting for his first birthday already…

Anyway, then we started adding things to the bowl. We took turns winding up our submarines and watching them spin and dive and race.

We sorted the stacking cups from smallest to biggest. We did a science experiment to guess how many rocks each cup would need in order for it to sink. (And I learned that my son is pretty good at making and testing a hypothesis.)

We also purchased a pair of swim googles that were on end-of-the-summer clearance, and my son loved those! He loved diving into the “ocean” face-first like a regular underwater explorer.

He also liked putting every, single item available into the bowl to make a “traffic jam” and using the sponges to create a “secret hideout” for the submarines.


Can you see why I’m loving Mondays? ūüôā

**I’m linking today’s post with The Kid’s Co-Op! There are some awesome family friendly activities linked here every week. Please click to browse around or link up an activity of your own! Lots of wonderful inspiration here.**

A book review: Parenting with Love and Logic

There are an overwhelming number of parenting books that are in print today. Each of them has value that speaks to some parents. While it is one of my ongoing, ever-changing goal to be a great parent, I rarely read parenting books. Does that seem strange to you? When I was pregnant with my first son, I read What to Expect When You Are Expecting. Aside from the few unnecessary worries that it gave me (preeclampsia, premature labor, etc.), it was very helpful to me as a first-time expectant mother. However, with the emergence on an internet-driven world where you can Google just about any parenting issue and find a number of helpful articles, I tend to lean on that as my parenting support. I am geared more towards going on my own instincts, following my heart, and as any bumps pop up in our road of parenthood, I smooth them out with the advice of other moms, or an article or two, usually based in the psychology or biology of children. To me, having information from the experts that have put research behind their work is worth having, but I don’t emerge myself into a hundred different parenting books.

And still, I heard about a book called Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay, I read an excerpt or two, and I was sold on it. I had to read it. My sister-in-law happened to have a copy of the book, and she was gracious enough to let my husband and me borrow it. Since it’s such a rare occasion that I read an entire book on parenting, I wanted to share my initial thoughts on its concept and advice, and let you know how it has helped us.

Here is one excerpt that caught my attention, so that you will know why I chose to read this book:

“If you want to raise kids who are self-confident, motivated, and ready for the real world, take advantage of the win-win approach to parenting. Your kids will win because they’ll learn responsibility and the logic of life by solving their own problems. And you’ll win because you’ll establish healthy control–without resorting to anger, threats, nagging, or exhausting power struggles.”

Well, who doesn’t want that for their kids? No anger? “Stop getting right in your brother’s face!” No threats? “If you don’t finish you supper, you won’t get a snack later!” No nagging? “Son, can you please come and put these toys away?” No power struggles? “Son, it’s time to go to bed.” “No.” “Excuse me? I don’t think that’s a nice answer. It’s time for bed.” “I don’t want to go to bed! I’m not tired yet.” “Well, it’s 8:00, and that’s bedtime.” “But I’m not tired!” Sigh. You get the picture. And even parents with the best intentions go through some of these issues with their children from time to time. I have a wonderful son, don’t get me wrong. And I’m a firm believer that most of the problems that we have as parents, are mostly the results of things that we have done to encourage the exact behavior that we don’t want. With my son about to start Kindergarten where he would in deed be on his own, I knew we needed a better foundation for encouraging him to embrace responsibility. Here is how this book has helped us do that:

  • We model good behavior. This is something we have always tried to do, but now we have renewed purpose. I’ve always known that children are little sponges, soaking up every behavior you do, every word you say, and in some way, applying that to themselves. We teach them more with our unintentional actions and words than we do when we are intentionally trying to teach them something. It’s impossible for a child to learn how to talk to people nicely, if we are not careful with our own tone of voice when speaking to them. It doesn’t make sense to say, “Don’t talk to me like that!” when we are clearly being just as disrespectful in our own response. A better way of getting the same point across is by saying, “I will listen to you when your voice sounds calm like mine.” By modeling calm, cool, and collected, it’s inevitable that he will eventually respond in the same way.
  • We give more choices. It makes sense for a young child, whose every aspect life is typically governed by parents, teachers, and other figures of authority, to want to have control. And they will fight hard to get that control, if they have to. For example, if we tell our children to pick up their rooms right now, they will likely argue, dawdle, or find any excuse to avoid the chore. But if we give them an option instead, “You may watch TV with us, as soon as the toys are put away.” He isn’t being told to put away the toys. He can choose to continue playing with his toys and opt out of TV watching. And that decision would be okay with me. The key that the Love and Logic technique would stress is to make sure that the choices you give them are 1) not a hidden threat or punishment, such as “If you don’t pick up your toys, you’ll have to go to bed early.” and 2) that you are okay with whatever choice your child decides. As they say throughout the book, “it’s a win-win situation.”
  • We try to let our son’s problems be his problems. With Love and Logic, it’s all about keeping the problems of our children on their own shoulders, not ours. It’s so tempting for me to step in and try to give solutions to my son’s problems, whether with friends, or with school, or not doing as well as he would like at a task. I want so much for him to succeed that it’s hard not to give my input. The book gives an example of a child who does not want to wear a coat when it’s cold outside. Before Love and Logic, I would have been that parent that insists that they put on a coat after arguing the point that it’s too cold to go without one, only to have him eventually say, “Fine, I’ll wear a coat,” but only because I made him. No lesson was learned there other than when mom says to do something, there is no other option and that he is incapable of making his own decisions. No thinking required on his part. A Love and Logic inspired technique would be to say, “It’s pretty cold outside. I’m going to wear my coat today.” He may choose a coat. He may not choose a coat. He will either be thinking, “Man, it’s cold. I’m glad I decided to wear my coat!” or “Man, it’s cold. I wish I had worn my coat.” Either way, his brain is turning, and learning a lesson without any more input on my part, other than modeling how to take care of myself.
  • When my son suffers a consequence from a choice he made, we show empathy. It is sometimes tempting to say to my son, “See, if you would have eaten more of your supper, then you wouldn’t be hungry at bedtime.” But that statement shows no empathy. It’s putting us on one side and our child on the other. It’s so much better to be on our child’s side and to show them unconditional love. A better way to address my son’s consequence would be to say with whole-hearted sincerity, “I can imagine what you feel like. I feel hungry when I don’t eat a good meal too. We will make a great breakfast in the morning.” He is smart enough to make the connection on his own: “If I don’t eat my supper, then I’m going to feel hungry later. I better eat a good supper next time.” There’s no need to spell out what he’s learning for him.

There are a few parts of the book that I do not agree with. They provide an example on learning responsibility for punctuality, where a twelve year old boy is given the option of being picked up at 7pm, and if he isn’t there by 7:05pm, then the parent will return at 10pm to pick him up, etc. Although this technique worked for the parent and child in this scenario, and the child did indeed improve on being punctual, I just can’t imagine leaving a twelve year old alone in public for that long, with no supervision.

Most days, I would say that we have a pretty good thing going over here, and Parenting with Love and Logic¬†has showed us a better way to go about getting the principles and values of respect and responsibility to hit home with our five-year-old. When we use the Love and Logic techniques, our house seems a little more peaceful. He still doesn’t always like going up to bed at 8:00 every night, but having the option to stay awake (as long as he stays in his room and quiet) has kept him from coming up with half a dozen excuses to come back downstairs. And 9 times out of 10, I peek in on him at 8:30, and he’s sound asleep. There are many more interesting points that they make throughout this book that are beneficial to parenting, but these are the techniques that we are trying to focus on for now. If you feel like your children could use a little Love and Logic, I say it’s absolutely worth the effort.

Do you have a favorite parenting book? I would love to hear about it!

*Please note that I wrote this review on my own terms, and I do not receive any sort of compensation or acknowledgment from the founders of Love and Logic from doing so. These are purely my thoughts that I wanted to share with you, from one parent to another, that are based on what I took to be the important messages of this book. Thanks for reading!*

Small Child, Big Heart

If I gave you a mirror, a pencil, some crayons, and a piece of white paper along with the instructions to draw a picture of yourself, what would you draw? If it were me, I would start with the basic shapes. I would trace the oval outline of my head, then my neck, and then my square, broad shoulders. I’d outline my eyes, making them large, round, and brown. I’d add a nose, slightly long and wide and a bit pointy at the end. I’d add small, thin lips with just a touch of pink, along with thick, reddish-brown eyebrows, and brown freckles dotting my peach-colored face all over. I’d add ears, but then cover them with reddish-brown hair, flowing downward in wavy strands and coming to rest just past the tops my shoulders. If I were to add the rest of my body to the paper, it would be somewhat short, with a boxy, athletic (although not very toned) shape. And finally, I would add a black “Rise Against” T-shirt and a pair of grey gym shorts (ready for a workout after I blog).

Would your process be similar to mine? Some might add a background. Their home? Their family? Their job? Their pets? Maybe some would draw their favorite hobbies such as a book in hand, or sitting at a computer, or going for a hike in the woods.

How do you picture yourself?

My son was faced with this assignment during his first art class in his first week of school. Here is what he came up with:

He got all of the essentials in there (except, where did his ears go?). His blonde hair was spiked up with gel that day, and he captured his big blue eyes and adorable smile. He put five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot. As his background, he surrounded himself in a place of happiness: his own backyard with his dog (our dog is three-legged), his cat, trees, grass, a blue sky, and the sun shining down on him as he plays. But if you look at his torso, he added something that never would have occurred to me to put into my own self-portrait: his heart. When he pulled his self-portrait out of his backpack to show me, the heart was one of the first things I noticed, and I was taken aback by its presence.

I pointed to the heart, and I asked him, “Can you tell me about this?”

“It’s my heart,” he said. Plain and simple.

“Could you see your heart in the mirror?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “But I just wanted to draw it.”

There are other things in his portrait that he couldn’t see in the mirror, but those things I didn’t question. The things he put in his background didn’t make my heart swell or the gears in my brain start turning. I probably would have surrounded my self-portrait with things that I enjoy as well. But I never would have included my heart.

Would you have thought to put your heart in your self-portrait?

As a parent, I have found that my son often teaches me much more than I can teach him. Sure, I may have more knowledge, but give him enough time, and he will accumulate the same knowledge and then some. The day he brought home his self-image on paper, with his heart so bold and evident, he made me wonder: what happened to my own heart? Why would I leave out something so vital to my life and my well-being? To him, it wasn’t something profound or deeply thought about. It was just there. It was his heart. It was a part of him. It needed to be expressed just as much as his eyes or nose or mouth. And yet, to me, his simple art project has shaken me to a thought: I give love to those around me, but am I keeping enough for myself?

Had I drawn a picture of my children and husband or doodled their names onto paper, I probably would have surrounded them in cute little hearts. I show my love for them (although not always as much as I should), and that is important. But we need to keep a little bit of that love and continually pour it onto ourselves. I’m not talking about being selfish or self-centered, but to have self-love and confidence. We need to love ourselves so much, that you can see that love when we look at ourselves in the mirror. If we can do that, if we can keep our hearts showing through to the outside, then it’s almost impossible not to give love to the people around us. We need to find a way to preserve that childlike self-love, so that our children will never lose theirs.

<;3 Make your heart show today. <;3

At Three Months Old…

**Warning: You are about to be bombarded with a ton of cute baby pictures.**

My baby boy is growing, growing, growing! It’s been a while since ¬†I have given an update on him, and I wanted to let everyone know that his health is doing extremely well right now. CF symptoms don’t typically begin surfacing until they are a bit older, but other than an occasional cough, his health is pretty much perfect so far. His weight gain is right on schedule, as his height/weight ratio was at 49% at his last clinic visit, when the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation¬†recommends that it be at 50%. We hope to cross that fiftieth percentile mark at his next visit in September, but that number is up from 17% when he was three weeks old. Between nursing well and the addition of special vitamins and enzymes to his diet, he is growing exactly as he needs to.

Developmentally speaking, he is also chugging along right on track. Although there is a huge range of what is developmentally “normal” (having a baby with special needs has made me dislike using that word!) at this age, all of the things that experts say a baby “might” be doing by three months old, my little guy is doing them.

He’s rolling over from his tummy to his back, and he’s lifting his chest off the ground while resting on his elbows during tummy time.

“What’s up with all the flashes today, Mom?” PS-He LOVES this little radio that sings nursery rhymes and spins when you punch it in the nose.

He makes eye contact and has a lot of coos, giggles, shrieks of joy, and a new “gurgle” sound that he has learned to make. He recognizes his dad, big brother, and me, and he greets us with a big toothless smile!

Talking to Mama.

He’s rolling from his back to his side (this one is very recent!). He has found his hands and loves to put them together or put them in his mouth.


He’s swatting at and grasping for toys. He’s opening and closing his hands, and he can also hold onto and shake toys and sometimes put them to his mouth. When he gets ahold of something, he has a pretty strong grip! (Just ask my hair…)

“I got him!”

Another of his faves. We call them Mr. Orange Giraffe and Mr. Blue Giraffe. (Creative, I know.) He pretty much ignores the ball in the middle.

He likes being read to and looking at books. As long as he’s not hungry or sleepy, he will sit still and listen to just about anything I read to him. Sometimes, he likes to give me his input and read along with me. (He is definitely going to be a talker like his brother! And his dad. And his mom… No wonder?) ūüôā Some of our favorite things to read are:

Sandra Boynton books. The sing-song words of her stories are so much fun to read to a baby.

Books that have bright colors and bold illustrations.

Books with textures. He loves making the books crinkle or feeling soft fur.

Magazines. Sometimes I read the articles to him, sometimes I just point out interesting pictures and talk about what he sees.

He listens and looks just as intently with magazines as he does with board books. Babies love real photographs. He seems to particularly enjoy pictures of space, weather, faces, and animals.

And we can’t forget an all-time favorite at this age: Peek-a-boo! He also loves other interactive games and songs like “Pat-a-Cake,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and this fun exercise game that goes to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus!”

“Where’s the baby….?”

“There he is!”

He loves sensory activities. He isn’t afraid to get messy with paint, crinkle some tissue paper, or splash in water! He also has started following things with his eyes, and he loves to watch me blow bubbles while he’s in the bathtub! Also, with being able to sit supported and better head/neck control, he is able to use his Bumbo seat (or a highchair works just as well) to do this!

“Sorry about the couch, Mom!” PS-As long as it’s washable paint, a baby wipe will probably get it out. Feel free to do messy activities away from furniture and carpet if you want an easier cleanup…

“Hey, that’s a neat sound!”

Some other things he’s loving right now are:

  • Flying through the air like an “airplane” or Super-baby. He just squeals with delight at this game!
  • Going outside. He gets so quiet when we do anything outdoors. We love to sit on the porch or walk around the yard and talk about how the wind feels, what the birds and bugs sound like, and watch a car or two go by.
  • Music and dancing. I already mentioned the toy radio that he loves, but he also loves when we sing nursery rhymes or lullabies. I also like to put on some dance tunes and hold him as I dance around the living room. And other times, I put on some classical music to relax to.
  • Being tickled. He loves “This Little Piggy” and being tickled when the littlest piggy goes “Weee Weee Weee” all the way up to his armpits!
  • The stroller. I went on my first run with the jogging stroller last week (that is SO hard to do!), and while he slept through most of that, he does enjoy a leisurely walk in the stroller, just taking in the world around him.
  • Snuggles. He is doing so many new things, but one thing that hasn’t changed yet is his love of being held, rocked, hugged, and kissed. He’s my little cuddle bug, and I hope that doesn’t change for a while!

So there you have a day in the life of our three-month-old! I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, I will be posting another one at his six-month mark. It will be here before we know it.

How I Make the Most of My Day

When my big boy started Kindergarten last Tuesday, I suddenly had much more free time during the day. My little one is now three months old, and while he is becoming more awake, alert, and aware of his surroundings every day, he still spends several hours during the day resting his quickly growing body and brain. With my oldest son at home this summer, I spent much of those hours playing, eating, talking, and cuddling with him. Now that I have those hours to spend as I wish, I decided I needed a tool that would keep me on task.

For those of you with the super-organized, no-amount-of-time-is-wasted, Type A¬†personalities, you are way ahead of me on this concept. Without the presence of a full-time job or a five-year-old to determine how I spend my time, it’s almost overwhelming for me to have such freedom. And also counter-productive. I have about a hundred different projects, chores, and ideas that I could begin on any given day, but without some sort of organizational tool, I can’t seem to focus on any one task in particular, and my day ends with laundry in the washer but never dried or put away, halfway washed dishes, and the bathroom torn apart, because I started reorganizing our toiletries, but never quite finished…

Hence, I went back to a concept that I learned years when I sold Mary Kay products for extra cash. As part of the training process, my leaders taught me to use a tool that Mary Kay herself used. It’s called “The Five Most Important Things.” Every day, Mary Kay used to make a list of the five things she knew she needed to get done that day. Whether is was chores around the house, things to do for her family, tasks to push her business forward, or for her own personal development, she wrote down the top five things that she needed to accomplish that day, and she made sure that she did those five things.¬†Because that’s the kicker. You can make plans and utilize the best organizational, task management tools that are out there, but if you don’t actually see to it that those things are accomplished, then the time you spent thinking about, writing, typing, or organizing those tasks was wasted.

So last week, I found a spare spiral notebook, made my five most important things list, and I made sure that I got those things done before it was time to pick my son up from school. Not only did this help clear up my evening and weekends to spend more quality time with my big boy and husband, but the house has been cleaner, and I have a greater sense of accomplishment. I look at those five things crossed out at the end of the day and give myself a mental pat on the back. It takes away stress, and gives me more time to focus on things that are truly important to me: my family.

A quick way to get organized. No fancy print-out needed. ūüôā

Here’s a little glimpse into my weekdays:

6:30am-Wake up time for myself and my big boy. Snuggle and watch cartoons.

7:00am-Breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, combing hair.

7:30am-Leave for school.

7:40am-Drop of my big boy with a hug and a kiss.

8:00am-Mommy and Baby time. Nursing, intriguing conversations, peek-a-boo.

9:15am-Baby’s “poundings” (a treatment for his CF)

9:30am-Baby takes a nap. Mommy starts tackling that list!

11:00am-Baby wakes up! Mommy stops whatever task she is doing to nurse and play with baby.

1:00pm-Baby gets sleepy again. Mommy rocks him to sleep and gets back to her list.

3:00pm-Daddy comes home. Dog barks and wakes up baby. Mommy nurses him, and keeps him entertained while Daddy has some post-work destressing/showering time to himself.

3:35pm-Daddy is calm, cool, and collected. He takes Baby, and Mommy goes to picks up her big boy from school.

Let’s be realistic. My day doesn’t always go quite this smoothly. That two hour afternoon nap sometimes ends up only lasting thirty minutes. Sometimes I’m holding my little guy in my arms while I blog, because he’d rather sleep there than in his crib (or my bed, or the swing, or the vibrating bouncy seat.) Sometimes I play peek-a-boo with my little guy using our clean clothes as I fold them. Sometimes I may only get three or four of the things on my list done. Sometimes I get them all done by noon. It’s just as important for me to be flexible as it is for me to have a plan. Without a plan, I may start everything but finish nothing. With flexibility, any little setback can leave me frustrated or stressed. Like all things in our lives, a¬†healthy¬†balance is key.

Another thing that has a big impact on my day is television. I can be a TV junky at times, and having a decent amount of time to myself everyday, it is tempting to plop on the couch and start flipping channels. For that reason (and to keep my little guy exposed to the least amount of TV as possible) the TV mostly stays off during the day. I may watch The Price Is Right while sorting through worn or outgrown clothes to donate to charity, or I may watch a recorded episode of Project Runway while I eat lunch and blog, but 80% of my daytime hours are TV-free.

Last, but definitely not least, is that I make a little time for myself during the day. Things that will make me feel good about myself. Most days, this is time to read the Bible and pray or reflect during my son’s morning nap, and time to exercise in the afternoon (or vice-versa if I want to go for a run with the jogging stroller. It’s still too hot in the¬†Midwest¬†afternoons for me to run outdoors!) I think it’s important for our well-being and as models to our children to make time for ourselves every day. If we are constantly putting everything else in our lives first, that’s what we teach our kids to do. Our physical and mental health suffers when we don’t give them a high priority rating.

Obviously, I left out a detailed description of how I spend my time when my little one is awake. You can look forward to that later this week! We’ve been having a lot of fun. ūüôā

How do you make the most of your time?

Growing Up

The night before my son started Kindergarten, he showered, wiggled into his PJs, brushed his teeth, kissed his daddy and brother goodnight, and hiked up the stairs to his bedroom, holding my hand in his. He picked out the movie,¬†G-Force, the same movie he has watched at bedtime for the past week. Before I started the movie, we climbed into his bed, and I read him a story called¬†Off to Kindergarten¬†by Tony Johnston. We kissed and hugged and said “I love you. Goodnight.” And he and I both slept well, as if it were any other night.

In the morning, he woke on his own, wide-eyed and ready for the day at 6:30 am, a half of an hour before his scheduled morning wake-up. We snuggled in my bed for a bit with cartoons on the TV. We ate breakfast at the table together, talking about what we thought his first day of school might bring him. He was mostly quiet, a sure sign of his nervousness, and I gave him a silent hug and pat of his head. We got ourselves dressed, and he watched¬†The Mr. Men Show¬†while he brushed his teeth and I made his hair “spiky,” just the way he wanted it. Throughout the morning, he frequently asked me, “Mommy, what time is it? Do we need to leave? I don’t want to be late!” And I consistently replied, “We’re doing just fine. We’ll be there on time.”

After compliantly posing with his brand new backpack and lunchbox for a few pictures for mom’s sake, we loaded ourselves in the car and headed to school. When we arrived, I asked him, “Would you like to go in on your own or would you like me to come in?” He said, “I want you to come in today.” So I did. On the way, we passed many moms with plenty of tears welling in their eyes or streaming down their faces. I braced myself for the same. I knew it was going to come. We found his class sitting in the gym in a line, waiting for the morning assembly to start. My son was greeted by his teacher, and he took his place on the floor. I found a spot against a nearby wall and stood, taking a few pictures. Taking it all in. So many children, so many parents, many of them with tears of joy, pride, sadness. I waited for mine to come. As the teachers introduced themselves, I watched my son sit still and quiet, his backpack still strapped to him, taking up nearly the same amount of height from the floor as he small frame. I took a few more pictures and watched him stand as the rest of the students did in a jumbled unison for “The Pledge of Allegiance,” placing his little hand over his big heart and saying the words he had learned in preschool. My heart was filled with joy and pride and disbelief at how fast this day had come. When it was time for parents to leave, I called his name, and I met his big blue eyes with a smile and one last wave goodbye. As I walked out the door, I waited expectantly for the emotions to overtake me… And nothing came. Nothing but a smile and thoughts of “I hope he has a good day. I hope he does well. I hope he has fun.”

No one was more shocked than I was that I didn’t cry on this day. Not the night before, not the morning of, not even during any of the hundred times that I thought about him, wondering what he was doing while I waited for 3:30 to come, so that I could bring him home again.

And for the past two days, I’ve wondered, why didn’t I cry? I was sad to see him go, wasn’t I? And then something occurred to me. I can’t remember ever crying about any of my son’s firsts. Not when he was born, not when he said “mama” or walked for the first time, not on his first, or second, or third, or fourth, or fifth birthdays. I did shed a couple tears during his preschool graduation, but I was also having a bit of post-partum depression and any number of things was making me cry then.

Why am I not sad to see my little boy grow up? He is my first born, my love, and a huge part of what my life has become. I see and hear about moms crying at all these milestones, all these moments of realizing that their baby has just gotten a little bit bigger, a little bit closer to being big enough to be on his own.

So where are my tears?

I’ve thought back on this a lot during the past couple days, and I’ve gone from a place of thinking that there was something wrong with me to a place of acceptance. Which is the place I think I’ve been since the day he was born. I’ve loved and cherished every stage that he’s been through: seeing him smile at me for the first time, hearing him coo, watching him make his first friends, or learning to throw a ball, or hearing him read to me words that I didn’t know he knew. With every new step he takes towards the independent young man that he is so quickly becoming, I’ve realized that I’ve always focused so much on what he is turning into, that I’ve never really looked back what what he isn’t anymore. Sure, I look at his baby pictures and say “Oh! I remember when he was that small. He was so cute!” or “I remember that moment.” or “I loved that chubby little smile, and that squeaky little voice.” But I’ve never really wanted the time to go backwards. Without realizing it, I’ve just been marching forward to his future right along side him, without looking back.

And I think either way, it’s okay. It’s okay for the moms who wish their little boy or girl was that fresh-smelling, soft-skinned newborn again, just to be able to hold them and hear them coo and smile so innocently again one more time. But I think it’s also okay that I never really have wanted him to be at any stage other than the one he has been presently in. I can look back on the memories, and look forward to the future, but I’m mostly right with him in the present. I’ve realized that I’m not void of emotion (yes, that question really came to my mind!), I’m just happy and proud to watch my son grow up.

And like they all do, he’s growing up quicker than I can blink.

Five years ago.

“Look out, Kindergarten! Here I come!”

It’s back to school time for children all over the United States, and that includes my handsome little guy. Just look at how ready he is for Kindergarten:

My big boy ready for his first day of Kindergarten today! Handsome, huh? ūüėČ

But how can we be sure that our children are really ready for school? Starting elementary school is an important life change for our children, and we want them to be as prepared as possible for it. But how do we do that? (I realize this post is a bit late for those of you who already have students, so this is more useful for those with the little ones. Trust me, it goes by fast, and it’s never too early to start thinking about this and preparing for it!)

This question can be answered a number of ways. First are the essentials. Upon enrollment, every district requires certain information to be provided by the parents in order to get your child in the system and prepared for school on paper. This basically involves you filling out and turning in various forms about your child. Easy peasy.

Another way we can talk about preparing our children for Kindergarten is by helping them get ready for the change physically, emotionally, and mentally. The first few days of school (like any life change) can be super stressful for all involved, it can be smooth-sailing all the way, or it can be somewhere in between. I’m guessing that in most situations, the beginning of the school year will be somewhat in between. How can we help ease this transition?

  • To help our son physically prepare, we started sending him to bed at 8pm and waking him up at 7am every morning for a few days prior to the first day of school, in order to get his body adjusted to the sleeping schedule he would need during the school year. Summer can get a bit relaxed if your child stays at home with mom or dad, and starting them on a healthy, consistent sleeping schedule will prepare their bodies ahead of time. Our school does not do naps for Kindergarten students, and it is a full-day program. Therefore, we also cut out naps this summer from our daytime schedule. School can be exhausting for little ones at first, so they may need to take a short rest or nap when they come home from school. Your best bet is to watch your child’s mood, and adjust his or her schedule accordingly!
  • The start of school can feel like an emotional roller coaster for children (and parents too!). We feel excited, anxious, nervous, scared, intimidated, happy, sad, and many other mixed emotions as the first day of school approaches. The best way to reach out to our children emotionally is to talk it out. Ask questions about how they’re feeling: “What do you think about school starting soon? How are you feeling about going to school?” Share with them your own memories of starting school. Or if you don’t remember how you felt then, relate it to the feelings you have when starting a new job. Be honest with them. My son has been feeling about “10% excited” about starting school. What the other 90% covers is a mixture of all the other emotions on the list. He is sad about not being able to spend all day at home with mommy and brother, scared of the unknown, and worried that it will be “too hard.” We can’t make any of our children’s worries go away for them, but what we can do is be there to listen, and let them know we’re there to support them, however they may feel about the situation.
  • There are several things that teachers need from children mentally before they start school. This is where all of you parents of the little ones that are thinking “Kindergarten still seems like light-years away” come in. It’s never too early to start on these fundamentals that teachers want all children to have in their learning toolbox. These are things that take time, practice, patience, and effort on both the part of the child and the parents and caregivers. Some key ingredients for children who are prepared to learn are listed in this article as:
  1. They show an enthusiasm towards learning. Children have curious minds. From the time that they are born, we should be aiding in the development of their curiosity. Those toddlers and preschoolers who ask about 5,000 questions per day? Those infants who point at everything in sight? They have are expressing an enthusiasm for learning. We want to keep that going! It can be frustrating to answer the same questions over and over again, but repetition and exploring their environment are probably the two greatest keys to successful learning. And if they aren’t natural explorers (and certainly, if they are), show your own enthusiasm for exploring the world! In your backyard, “Wow! Look at how tall that tree is! How on earth did it get to be so big? Where did it come from?” In the car, “Look at that big sign over there! What shape is that? What color is it? I wonder why it’s there.” While grocery shopping, “Do you see all these letters? They are everywhere! Let’s see how many of the items we need start with the letter “C”… carrots, cantaloupe, cauliflower… How many “C” items are in our cart?” Learning opportunities are everywhere, and the more excited we are about it from the beginning, the more likely our children will be too!
  2. They have a good foundation of oral language skills. Children develop vocabulary at such a fast rate. They go from babbling, to repeating “mama” and “dada” all day, to speaking in sentences in just two short years or less. Experience is key. Wherever you go with your children, talk about what is around you. Go to the zoo and talk about the different animals. At the store, talk about the different types of food groups and the specific foods within them. Exposing your children to a variety of nonfiction books can help with this as well. Teachers want your child to recognize the difference between a crayon and a pencil. A cat and a kitten. A tomato and an apple. Language development has everything to do with exposure to language, the words that we use to describe what is around us. The more we talk to our kids using a varied vocabulary, the more words they are able to learn.
  3. They are able to sit still and listen. Young children have short attention spans; that is no secret. The key to getting them to remain interested in an activity or story for a longer period of time is to practice, practice, practice. Read to your children every day, for at least twenty minutes. If they interrupt or lose focus, simply say, “When you are quiet and ready to listen, I can continue to read.” If they remain uninterested, stop reading to them, and try again later. But don’t give up! You can’t force a child to listen. You can’t force a child to sit still. Patience and practice are the way to win this one for even the squirmiest of young learners.
  4. They want to be independent. Preschoolers love to do things for themselves. “Let me do it!” “I want to try it!” So let them! Whether it’s pouring their own milk in a cup, or zipping and unzipping their coats over and over again, child have to learn to do things for themselves. In most cases, it’s easier and faster to do these things for our children. However, if we constantly help our children, they will remain reliant on that help. Twenty-something children can’t ask the teacher to put their coat on for them, or else recess would be over before they could get outside! So if your child insists, “I want to do it all by myself,” let them! And for those who are constantly asking, “Mommy, can I have a drink?” or “Daddy, can you help me put on my socks?” give them a firm and encouraging, “Let’s see if you can do it! Give it a try!” Independent children are generally responsible children, and responsible children tend to care more about their own education. At school, “I want to try holding that pencil” turns into “Look at how nicely I wrote those letters!”
  5. They have strong fine-motor skills. Again, practice is key here, and it starts when an infant uses their pincher grasp to pick up their first finger foods. Things like threading a shoelace through holes on cardboard to make a pattern, or squirting each other with a water gun on a summer afternoon are ways to help develop those small muscles in the hands and fingers that children need for things such as writing, gluing, cutting, and coloring. Make it fun, and they won’t even know it’s going to help them in Kindergarten. ūüėČ
  6. They know the letters of the alphabet and can count to ten. I also want to add that they may want to know how to spell and be able to write the letters of their name. Taking the opportunity to point out letters and numbers all around us is a great way to get this information into their little brains. Reading and books that are geared toward counting help with this tremendously. Our Kindergarten student is probably reading on a first-grade level at this point, partly because he attended a great preschool program, partly because of his own ability to catch onto things quickly, and partly because of our encouragement.

No matter how early we start preparing our children (and ourselves!) for this life change, things can still go wrong. My son is geared much more toward an enthusiasm to be active and learn to play sports than he is to sit at a table or desk and learn about letters and numbers. Do I think he will do poorly at school because he isn’t showing an enthusiasm to learning on his first day of school? Absolutely not. I think he will do just fine. The reality is that our child’s learning experience is up to them. Once they start Kindergarten, we can’t make them sit still, or listen to the teacher, or control their feelings towards school. What we can do for them, however, is show our own love of learning, to show them that learning never stops, and to expose them to as much as we can in a safe, relaxed learning environment. Once we’ve done what we are capable of to prepare them for this day, we can only sit back and watch our child say, “Look out, Kindergarten! Here I come!”

Bacteria: Our tiny little frienemies

My husband and I love science. Our world is so large, diverse, complex, and still unknown, and our world is only the starting point of the vast, mostly unexplored universe. It’s so interesting to follow some of the new, exciting things that we learn about our environment and ourselves, just by following modern science. One of our favorite shows appears on the Science Channel, and it’s called TED Talks. While the following video from the TED Talks series is dated 2009, we recently watched it for the first time with amazement and wonder for the the future of modern science and medicine:

Did you catch what Bonnie Bassler said at the end of her presentation? This was all discovered, researched, and developed by young people. In their 20s and 30s. My age. Your age. Imagine for a moment what these young people can accomplish in their lifetime, and what it means for the next generation of out-of-the-box thinkers: my children. Your children.

But what has all this science and research and findings and bacteria got to do with Close Families? Well, it got me thinking about the bacteria in our home. The bad and the good. The kind that hurts us, and the kind that works hard to protect us.

Part of being a parent means protecting your children. We all want to keep our children healthy and to keep them from getting sick when at all possible. Especially if they have a disease that causes the body to have a weaker immune system. I am terrified of pseudomonas. Tiny little microscopic organisms that threaten my son’s well-being, and scary as it may sound, his life.¬†When I found out that my son had cystic fibrosis, I bought all kinds of antibacterial cleaning products. I kind of went crazy about it.

Just a *little* overboard on the antibacterial products.

And like a lot of moms with newborn babies, I felt that once we left that sterile hospital environment, that every inch of every surface held bacteria and germs just waiting to cling to my son and take him down. And realistically, that is somewhat true. But what I’ve found through this TED Talks presentation and other research is that when we kill the bad bacteria, we also kill the good bacteria. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be proactive in preventing illnesses. But as research suggests, if we try to wipe out every bit of bacteria within our contact, we are 1) fighting a losing battle, because those little suckers are EVERYWHERE , 2) we are robbing our children’s bodies with a chance to use its own defense system (including those friendly bacteria) to prevent illness, and 3) we are exposing them to a higher risk of food and environmental allergies. We want to keep our children safe, but it’s okay (and probably more helpful!) if we don’t follow them around with a bottle of antibacterial Lysol. So why do we feel the need to buy these products and spray every inch of our home with them? Because the media and advertising companies know how much we care about our children’s health, safety, and well-being. They use our emotions to make us think that if we aren’t buying their products, then we just aren’t protecting our children enough. When the truth of the matter is, antibacterial products may be helpful (if used properly) when protecting someone with a weaker immune system, but for most people, plain old soap and water does the trick.

Some ways to keep your children healthy without going overboard (even for CF parents!):

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick. Make sure child care centers are following state procedures with children who are ill.
  • Keep yourself and your children up to date with immunizations, including a flu shot.
  • Use proper hand-washing techniques! This means lathering with soap for twenty seconds and then rinsing and drying hands thoroughly at all the appropriate times: before and after eating, after using the restroom or diapering, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, before taking medicine or any other treatments, and any time your hands appear dirty.
  • Exercise.
  • Avoid sugar, especially when sick. It lowers the immune system! This may also be helpful that if they aren’t bouncing off the walls and touching everything in sight from their sugar rush, they aren’t coming into contact with as many germ-lurking objects. ūüėČ
  • Laugh! “Laughter is the best medicine” is always a great motto to have. I honestly feel that people with a typically negative attitude are sick more often, and the opposite is true of those with a happier, more optimistic outlook.

Last but not least, relax. Those enemy bacteria are bound to find their way to your children one way or another, and your children will get sick from time to time. And they will fight it off with their bacteria friends and maybe a little help from their doctor. It’s all a part of the interesting world of science, but knowing and learning how we can live better in that world will only help our families in the long run.