Put a Bib on It


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Get Outside!

Did you know that sunlight can actually positively affect your mood? There is actual, legitimate research that proves it. I can honestly say that I didn’t need a researcher to tell me that was true, though. I love outdoors. I love everything about it; I love the adventure it brings, I love the learning it brings, I love the exhaustion it brings, I love the smiles it brings, I love the smells it brings. Seriously, I love everything about the outdoors (except maybe the mosquitoes)!!

I was raised to love the outdoors. A lot of our family time growing up was spent bonding outdoors, whether it was at the lake, around a picnic table, playing whiffle ball in the front yard, going on bike rides, or just exploring. I want my children to have the same passion for the outdoors. For that reason, I am constantly on a mission to get outdoors and explore all that it can offer and what I have found is that the opportunities are endless!

Not only are the options and opportunities endless, so is the learning!

climb-tree
Bryce has been desperate to climb a tree ever since he saw his big brother do it. However, he is still too short to get himself into the trees at our house (unlike his big brother) and I have a rule about putting children into positions they can’t get themselves into (I don’t do it). When we were at a park the other day he noticed these bushes/trees that he could easily climb onto. He had a blast working on his gross motor skills and developing his spatial reasoning!

pond
This is Bryce, Drew and I at a pond full of fish and turtles. They come right up to the edge, making it easy to see these animals in their natural habitat. We had a blast watching them swim around and talking about the different things they do and eat. Even without many words, I knew Drew (11 months) was enjoying the experience, he spent the whole time babbling and pointing at all the animals. What a great science lesson!

caterpillar-1
Here we are at a butterfly garden. We got to experience both caterpillars (Bryce is here checking one out, up close and personal!) and butterflies. We even saw some catalysts! As we discussed how caterpillars change into butterflies, Bryce said “Like the book?!” (Very Hungry Caterpillar).  He is using his memory to recall what he has learned from books we have read in the past and making sense of it in his world!

creek
Here are the boys exploring a creek. We saw minnows, felt the water current on our bodies, and touched and discovered rocks. Talking to the children during this outing produced an overwhelming number of new words (vocabulary) we were able to experience: Cold, fast, small, hard, sharp, slippery, wet, current, creek, river, bank, and the list goes on! Books are great, but experiencing the real thing is incomparable!

water-fountain
Here is Bryce at a local park using a water pump to fill up a watering can. He then poured the water on plants, in the sand, on the sidewalk, and anywhere his heart desired (with the exception of his brother’s head). This is a great lesson on cause and effect. If you lift up the handle, water will come out and if you tip the watering can, water will come out!

evening-walk
Even something as simple as an evening walk can lead to learning! Just be sure to take the time for you and your child to notice all the amazing things around. Here, Bryce discovered an ant hill. He had a blast watching the ants crawl in and out and all around. In addition to the experience, the walk helps burn some excess energy before bed, leading to easier bedtimes. It’s a win-win for me!

Get out and enjoy the weather and the learning!


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Child Rearing Is Personal

parenting-is-personalI am always worried whether what am I doing is BEST for my children. Society seems to have all these rules and expectations that we have to follow, but sometimes the “rules” are complete opposites of each other, depending on who you are talking to. Are these “rules” best practice for children or are they one person’s persuasive opinion?

  • Cloth Diaper or Disposable Diaper
  • Breastmilk or Formula
  • Cry it Out or Never let them Cry
  • Baby Wear or Stroller
  • Helicopter or Free Range Parenting

Child rearing is personal. I have close friends who choose different parenting techniques and strategies. In my opinion, there is not a 100 percent right way to child rear for everyone.  We don’t all choose to do it the same way. We make different decisions on things depending on our personal situation and our own personal research. In the end, I like to think that we all have the same goal: happy, healthy children.

Next time you are at a park or store and you see someone child rearing differently than you, I challenge you to try to assume the best. We’re not all the same, all our situations are not the same, and our children are not all the same. Thankfully, we live in a country where we can choose to do things differently than our neighbor or friend.

If you find yourself passionate about a particular aspect of child rearing, and feel you must share, find ways to share the information without sounding bossy, negative, or nasty. Once, when I was out with my boys, I actually had a mom approach me and, what felt like, demean me because I was pushing my young son in a stroller rather than “baby wearing” him. After my initial frustration and anger about her approach and condescending tone, I was able to search through her comments to find the positives (this isn’t an easy task): she’s passionate about her beliefs and is doing what she feels is right for children. I am absolutely not saying I am against baby wearing (because in certain circumstances and times I have made the choice that baby wearing would be the best for me and my children), what I am saying is that everyone is different and has different reasons for child rearing differently at different times.

Let’s assume that all people have their child’s best interest in mind at all times. And assume that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. To think parents never make mistakes is ludicrous; distractions happen, life happens, bad days happen. The world would be a much better place if we could rally together as parents (and humans) rather than rally against.


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Why

life-is-precious

…we are reminded that life is so valuable and precious, and we have faith that it will work out.

One of the happiest days of my life was finding out that my wife was pregnant with our son. It comes to no surprise that when my wife was acting strange I was suspicious that we might be expecting again. My wife almost couldn’t contain herself and did her best to capture my reaction on video like many other people. I was speechless and wanted to share our excitement with some close friends. It was such a joy. Parenting has taught me so much and I was about to learn another lesson.

Sorrowfully, it wasn’t the lesson that I had expected. After only one week my wife began not feeling well and knew something was wrong. We lost this precious joy a few days later and were stunned. There were no words, only emotions. We wondered what we had done to have this happen. We started asking, why? Questions of how and why float through my head. I’ve not quite felt the same since. My wife has taken this very hard and time is the only thing that has brought me to the point of being able to write about it. There are few words that can console a soul from hurting.

My wife and I have leaned on our faith as we question and try to understand why something like this would happen. Through this we are reminded that life is so valuable and precious, and we have faith that it will work out. I can’t imagine all the things that my wife has had to endure, and all I can do is love and support her and give her space to feel what she needs to feel.

I remember thinking that being a parent is the most important and difficult thing that I could ever do in my life. Life continues to teach us and we learn through every experience.  I think about what I can learn from going through this. Time helps, but only a little. I keep revisiting in my mind what I could have done differently or done to help. I struggle with the answers, but I know that we will get through this together as a family.


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Swim Lessons

SwimLessons-editYou know your child is getting older when he begs you not to go to swim lessons (or some other organized sport/lesson/activity). This experience was yet another first for us and another time when we didn’t know what the right answer was.

Ev has been going to swim lessons every week since February. Often he tells us he doesn’t want to go or seems anxious about it when we are en route. However, once we are there he seems content and when asked he says he likes going. We really like where he gets his swim lessons because the groups are really small (more times than once he was the only child for the lesson and no more than 4) and children move through the levels based on skills, not age. Also, the teachers all seem to work really well with young children. Plus, almost every lesson is a family event. Both Craig and I make it a priority to go so we value the time together.

Lately it seems much more frequent that he loses focus or doesn’t seem to listen to the teacher—which is frustrating. It’s frustrating because when he is paying attention and actually trying, he does really well. And furthermore, learning to swim is serious business and we want him to take it seriously.

Last week, the day of swim lessons fell on a day we took Ev to a Red’s baseball game and to play at a park. On that morning Ev woke up very early (by coincidence, not excitement). We had a really fun day. We had some time between leaving downtown and going to swim lessons so we decided to go home to rest, which we all needed. Ev was laying in his bed and when I told him it was time to start getting ready for swim lessons, he fell out. He began crying, saying he was too tired and really didn’t want to go. He genuinely didn’t want to go, I could tell, but my husband and I were still conflicted. On one hand, the lessons are expensive so not going potentially wastes money—money we don’t have to waste (not that anyone has money to waste but you get the point). Also, I was worried about setting a precedent. When you commit to something, you should do it, even when you are tired, and I didn’t want Ev to get in a habit of bailing or being lazy. Lastly, Ev’s gotten some momentum with his skills and I didn’t want to lose that. He is right on the verge of swimming, arms moving, legs kicking, swimming. I worried that missing a week would cause him to regress or something. On the other hand, he was tired. And I was tired. I knew if I made him go, it would be battle from start to finish (with no winner at the end). Also, so far swim lessons have been a positive experience for him for the most part and I didn’t want this to ruin it for him.

I told him to take some deep breaths and that I would talk with his dad about it and be back in a few minutes. I talked about all the above with my husband and in the end decided not to go. I called to let them know we weren’t going to make it and was able to reschedule (two nights in a row next time) therefore we didn’t lose money. We also decided to take a break from lessons for a bit. He has 3 more before we break. I went back to Ev’s room to let him know that he was off the hook. His relief was obvious as he smiled big and thanked me. I told him he would have lessons two evenings in the row to make up for it but he was okay with it. I am sure as Ev gets older, we will have similar conversations. And there will be a time when we make sure Ev goes to a lesson or other commitment that he’s made. But for now, he is still only five and what looked a little like laziness was actually exhaustion, which is very different and I’m glad we recognized that and didn’t force him to go.


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Keepin’ It Positive!

keri-familyLove for others. Responsibility. Fairness. Trust. Courage. Thankfulness. Honesty. Respect. Leadership. These are some of the values that my husband and I want our children to embrace and live by. Listing them is easy. Ensuring that our children are living up to our expectations and applying those values as they grow older is much more difficult.

We believe by consistently exposing our children to people with similar values as our own and by always talking with them about those traits, we will ingrain in them the kind of values and morals we hope to instill in them. I always point out to my 2-year-old, Bryce, whenever someone does something nice for him, by saying, “Wow—that was really nice how they …” We always try to focus on the positive actions happening around us and within our family, and while sometimes it is impossible to completely ignore the negative, we try to only speak briefly about it and move on. We also believe being involved in any positive organizations together as a family can teach our children so much.

My family attends church fairly regularly. We enjoy our church family and everything that goes along with being a part of the church. I believe being a part of the church has impacted my children tremendously. My 12-year-old, Ethan has been involved in volunteering in many different capacities, including serving the homeless meals and raising money for an effort to end Malaria. Bryce has experienced his mom and dad (and older brother) greeting and having conversations with a variety of people, and he now  walks around during greeting time, on his own, shaking hands with congregation members and offering them a sincere and hearty good morning!

Baseball season is currently getting underway in our household. My husband is coaching Ethan’s team and I am coaching Bryce’s team (3- & 4-year-olds playing baseball—I’m sure you can imagine the entertainment). We feel it is important to be involved in our children’s lives in order to model what we expect from them. We are constantly modeling positive interactions and gratitude to those around us. We always try to focus on the positive things that are happening on and off the field and we often talk about those things.

Something as simple as the way we, as parents, act in public (grocery stores, restaurants, library, etc) is a simple way to show our children how to act appropriately. Children become what surrounds them. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what I say or tell them to do, if I don’t portray those same traits and expectations. The old saying, “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear what you’re saying” rings so true.

I encourage you to get out in the world and get involved in making it a better place to live—as a family! Model how to behave in group situations. Surround your children with people with the same values and morals as you. Your child is watching—be the adult you want your child to grow up to be!


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The Kindness of Friends—and Strangers!

Bryce-hospitalLast week, Bryce, our 2-year-old, woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible cough. He had been dealing with a little cough for the last few days, but this was different. Years in the child care field told me it was undeniably the croup cough. Beyond my diagnosis, I wasn’t sure what our next step was.  Do we call the doctor, do we let him settle down a little and put him back to bed, or do we head to the ER?

We ended up calling a friend who is in the medical field for advice (It’s always best to trust your instincts; if you think your child probably needs to go to the doctor, take him!). As we told her what was going on, she could hear him coughing in the background. She told us we really needed to take him to the ER for a breathing treatment and probably some steroids. As she said it, my husband and I looked at each other, undoubtedly thinking the same thing: who will go and who will stay home with the other children?  Luckily, our friend went on to say she was getting dressed and would be out the door so we could take him to the hospital together.

She and her husband have four children of their own (ranging from ages 2 to 16), so to ask her to drive 30 minutes in the middle of the night to our house seemed ridiculous. We tried to persuade her to stay home and told her we could divide and conquer this challenge. She was persistent, though. She said, “We have been there—it is so much easier with both parents.”

She arrived a short time later and we left for Children’s. There were many times throughout our five-hour visit at the hospital that I was thankful my husband I were both there: parking, bathroom breaks, rotating short cat naps for sleepy mom and dad, and giving the medicine (Seriously—have you ever tried to give medicine to a child who didn’t want it? They somehow suddenly become a tiny hulk, angry and strong, just without the green skin!).  I’m sure all this could have been done with just one of us, but I was so thankful that we were both able to be there.

That’s why today I am thankful for kindness and selflessness. I’m thankful to have people in my life that are willing to go above and beyond, even when it might be an inconvenience for them. I am also thankful for perfect strangers willing to help a hand—like the man who helped me unload an overflowing cart at Kroger while I dealt with my 2-year-old throwing a fit and my newborn who was wrapped on me with an overflowing poopy diaper. Yes, even my shirt was covered in baby poop. And I promise to be that person too. Even if it is just a reassuring word to a struggling mom at the playground or holding a door for a stranger, you too can help make the world a little brighter and easier for someone!


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Breaking Up With Christmas

Feeling sad that Christmas is over? Treat it like a much-needed breakup.I often explain the need to put away decorations and organizing stuff after the holidays as similar to needing closure after a breakup. It’s always such a blue time for me when my family all go back to their out-of-town homes and it seems the giving, magical spirit of Christmas has drifted back to the North Pole. Staring at the lit Christmas tree and stockings on the mantel just makes it harder to get over.

But like in most break-ups, it’s actually for the best. Because the craziness of gift buying, wrapping, swapping, dinner parties, road trips and late nights are behind us and life can get back to normal. Putting away holiday decorations and organizing the house is helpful in moving forward; therapeutic, even. Turns out, it’s the same for Ev.

It’s so easy to forget, especially in the throes of the holiday madness, that children need structure and routine. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, not to mention a wedding and a birthday party, Ev’s routine was totally disrupted. It’s no wonder some of his behaviors were undesirable. Things he would have handled better, like not getting what he wanted, were cause for some melt downs and foul language thanks to overstimulation, lack of sleep and sugar. Oh, the sugar.

I’m not saying it wasn’t for good reason. Some of my most cherished childhood memories are during the holidays and I want the same for Ev. We only get to see some of our family members during this time and I know he enjoyed spending time with them. Plus, he got presents. Lots and lots of presents.

What I am saying is that hindsight is 20/20. I can now see some possible reasons Ev was a little out of sync because of how rejuvenated I feel now that’s it’s time to get back to real life. Ev helped with cleaning up, donating some unwanted items, and reorganizing, and I can tell that just like me, he feels good about moving on, too.