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Emma’s 5th Birthday

Every year, our kids dream up fantastical cakes they want to have for their birthdays. Cake decorating makes me break out in hives, so I’m really grateful I married a man with a gung-ho attitude towards birthday baked goods. Emma wanted a dog birthday cake, and Ryan delivered.


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I have lots of feels about this fifth birthday of hers.

This is what I posted to Facebook: “The terrible twos are a myth, and threenagers are a cute joke. It’s 4-year-olds you need to watch out for… The FOURmidable fours… A FOURmula for fiasco… FOURtunately, those 365 days are over. Happy birthday to my now-favorite five-year-old who promises to have a fantastic, fabulous fifth year.”

The fourth year is SO HARD. It’s when that thirsty need for independence combines with a terrifying new ability for sophisticated arguing… and it’s all mixed in with a complete misunderstanding of how the world works.


Oh, but there’s that cuteness too!


Five seems to be a year when things level out. They’ve argued their best arguments, gained a bit of worldy knowledge of how things work, and… they start school!


I have big hopes for the fifth year, and so far, those hopes have not been misplaced. This is the first picture shoot Emma participated in that didn’t involve slouching, crying, frowning, and incoherent growling since she turned 4.



5-year-old Emma is passionate about leopards, hyenas, porcupines, doggies, and kitties. She loves to collect them, talk about them, and pretend to be them.


She is brave. She had a real fear of dogs for a while, and would avoid going to friends’ houses because of the fear. Then one day, she decided enough was enough, and told me she’s not afraid of dogs anymore! She will now pet dogs without too much hesitation. I wish I knew what motivated her, but I think she just had to get there on her own.


She is so loving. She can often be found snuggling and comforting her siblings, and she’ll even give me extra hugs when I’m sad. She likes to ask questions about how we’re feeling, and she remembers the answers. When she was 2, a friend of mine named Rose passed away, and Emma was there when I got the news. She was the one who hugged me as I cried, and for days and weeks after, she would ask me: “You sad about Rose, Mama?” She later received a stuffed puppy and named it Rose. As she gets older, that ability to see hurt and know just the right thing to say or do keeps getting stronger.


She is generous. Whenever she receives a treat, she gives part of it to her family members or best friend — even when it’s only one piece of candy, she’ll somehow break it into three pieces so she can share it with her siblings. If she and I are eating the last of the Oreos, she always insists we save one for family members who aren’t present. (She doesn’t seem to notice my grumbling as I put the last Oreo back to comply with her request.)


She’s a good reader, but likes to pretend she’s not. Often, she’ll tell me she can’t read something, but when I walk away I hear her sounding out the words with ease. I haven’t figured out what that means yet, but I think it has something to do with her version of that fierce fourth year.


She’s FUN. So much fun! She loves to play, and she loves to be around friends all the time. She has a hilarious sense of humor, and an awesome deep laugh that comes out of nowhere.


She is a delightful middle child, sometimes lost in the sandwich of her older and younger siblings, but always persevering to be the happy girl she wants to be (That is, when she’s not acting like a frightening 4-year-old).

4-year-old Emma:


3-year-old Emma:


2-year-old Emma:


1-year-old Emma:


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Happy Birthday to Rex

Two year olds. There is no better year.

For Rex’s second birthday, we threw a slip ‘n slide on the lawn, concocted a PVC pipe car wash thing-a-ma-jig, and let the kids run wild. Perfection in a backyard.



Ryan had a lot of fun putting this PVC pipe thingy together.


We dumped a whole bottle of baby shampoo on the tarp to make it slippery.


And this is why I love 2-year-olds. Everything is thrilling! A present? That calls for applause, shock, and awe.



A cake? Grins of anticipation.


And singing to yourself, right along with everyone, is a perfectly acceptable thing to do.



Then, back to playing, of course.



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Just a Small Moment — Not Really

When somebody is going through something difficult, people like to tell them: “It’s just a small moment.” Or: “This, too, shall pass.”

It’s meant to be comforting.

And sometimes it is.

In the last minutes of delivering my baby boy, when I was in excruciating pain — that was a small moment. It was difficult and hard and painful. It was powerful. In the moment, it felt like eternity. But then, it was over in a small moment.


The people in the room shouted words of encouragement that were similar to “It’s just a small moment.” Things like: “You’re almost there!” “You can do this!” “The baby is almost here!”



And those words helped so much. Because they were true — and I knew it.


When Rex was then hospitalized two months later where he was poked and pinched; when he was sick and didn’t get better for months upon months upon months; when the doctors didn’t know what to do; when I poured out what felt like my very guts to God to beg Him to heal my boy… that was not a small moment.


When on his first birthday, I could finally relax — he had gained weight consistently for three months; he could finally swallow food without ‘Exorcist’-style spewing it across the room; he was developmentally on track for the first time ever; we didn’t have to go to the doctor for weekly weigh-ins anymore — I looked back and thought, “That was NOT a small moment.”

Now having just passed his second birthday, with an entire YEAR of health to counter the year of sickness, an entire YEAR of peace, I look back and still think, “That was NOT a small moment.”

Long gone are the days when I would wake terrified each day — How will I feed him? How will I help him? How will I keep him alive?

Long gone are the days when my Google search history resembled a med student’s textbook as I studied and analyzed every possible disease that shared even one symptom my boy had.IMG_2237

Long gone are the days when my body was so tense you could have snapped me in half with a flick to my spine.

Long gone are the days when my boy wouldn’t eat.

Long gone are the days when we finally got him to eat, but he would eat, vomit, eat, vomit, eat, vomit.

Long gone are the days when people would look at my tiny, skinny, failing-to-thrive 6-month-old and ask me how many WEEKS ago he had been born.

The buckets of tears I filled during that first year are many.

But those days are gone.

And the buckets of peace and happiness I’ve filled in the year since then are plentiful — more plentiful, even, than the buckets of tears. The buckets of peace and happiness are now inching into the buckets of tears, trying to move them out of the way as they grow more and more plenteous.

But still, those buckets of tears were not just a small moment.

They were eternity.

Even though they’re over, I’ll carry them around with me forever.

After we were sure Rex was better, I worked hard to “get over” what had happened. I saw a therapist, I read about healing, I began to work again, I focused, focused focused on that healing.

I worked so hard to “get over” that first year of Rex’s life that I ultimately exploded.

And I realized — I am not meant to “get over” what happened to Rex. I am not meant to “get over” the physical pain I watched him endure. I am not meant to “get over” the physical and emotional and spiritual pain I endured. I am not meant to “get over” the agony that enveloped my whole body and soul.

Move on — yes. Get over it? No.

I will carry it around in the pit of my stomach forever. It will grow smaller as time goes on — this I know. But it will always be there to bring me back to truth and reality — I almost lost my son.

And this is why that time was an eternity rather than a small moment — it will always be with me.

When I walk into a room, and my boy runs to me on sturdy legs with strong arms open wide, I revel in the joy of his health while simultaneously cringing at the memory of his tiny legs, the skin literally hanging off them.

When he effortlessly picks up new words and combines them in hilarious sentences, I laugh at the ease of his current development while simultaneously wincing at the memory of the doctor teaching me how to teach him to roll over — long past the time he should have been attempting this on his own.


These memories are painful. They bring me to tears, even as I write them in this moment while he sleeps securely in his crib, healthy as can be.

But I carry them with me, because they help me cherish him even more. They remind me of how far we have come; how hard we have worked.

Do we ever “get over” these events that shake our world? I won’t try and force myself to “get over” these memories. I will let them dull with time, but they will continue to be a part of his life and my life.

It was never a “small moment.” It was — and is — eternity.


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Happy Birthday, T-Rex!


Our little T-Rex has turned 2! He is all kinds of squishy, cuddly, sweet, funny, silly love. It’s such a cliche, but I really can’t imagine our family without him. He’s pretty much absolute perfection.


Rex is a kid who’s up for anything. Time to take a picture by a giant R? You got it. He’s there.


And ready to ham it up over and over.


As the youngest child, he feels very sure of his place in the world. Nobody has to tell him twice that he’s special. But he has a real gift for making everyone else feel special too. He’s generous with his hugs, will sing a rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to a sad or hurt sister, and runs to someone with outstretched arms any time they walk into a room after being gone for a little while.

Lately, as he runs with open arms to me, he also shouts, “I find you!”





Rex is a keen observer and fast learner. He has mimicked our sounds and words from a very young age, and now that he’s getting older, he’s becoming a more sophisticated mimic. He recently told us his first “knock-knock” joke, and he followed all the steps correctly!

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”


“Banana who?”

Pause (timing is everything, of course): “Banana.”

OK, so his punchline could use some work…


He’s a problem solver, which is adorable, but also sometimes frustrating for him. At the grocery store, I handed him a couple containers of spices to hold. When he asked for them to be opened, I told him they were locked, thinking that would be the end of the asking. He furrowed his brow and said, “Need a key!”

Not sure where to go from there, I told him I forgot the key. “Daddy key!” was his answer. There’s always a solution — from his point of view.

From my point of view, there’s always a need to come up with better distractions.


He snuggles and cuddles and loves as if it’s necessary for living (and I think it might be). There is truly nothing better than feeling those little arms wrapped around my neck.


He throws tantrums, of course.


But he’s really such a happy boy, and I often catch him wandering around giggling for no reason.




He is full of so much light and happiness. We can never get enough of our little Rexy boy.IMG_1416 IMG_1417 IMG_1432 IMG_1443 IMG_1458

Happy birthday, baby boy.

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Where Is the Empathy?

When Harambe was killed and the internet exploded with anger, I assumed it was all from ignorant people who don’t have children; who don’t understand that children can slip away in an instant and can wander into danger; that GOOD parents can look away and turn around to see that the scariest moment of their life began happening in the one instant they turned away.

When I noticed actual parents blaming and shaming the mother, I thought: “They must be so far removed from the early years of parenting that they forgot what it’s like to keep two eyes on six pairs of legs all at once.” But then I noticed parents from my own generation insulting the mother, and I was shocked.

When the alligator incident happened; when other parents revealed that they, too, thought the beach was a safe place for their children to play; when brochures emerged showing the hotel actually advertises with a picture of two people walking in the very water where the boy was snatched, I thought: “Surely nobody will blame, and if they do, they will not be parents.”

When my overactive imagination kept me awake at night as I imagined the fear and pain the boy suffered, as I felt my own soul scream at the anguish the mother and father are surely feeling, I thought: “How can any parent NOT put themselves in their shoes?”

I was happy to see that many of the comments defended the parents, but still — the blame from fellow parents seeped through the supportive comments and tainted everything.

When a few days later, a mountain lion attacked a 5-year-old as the boy played with his brother IN HIS BACKYARD; when the mother heard the scream and reacted quickly by running out to physically PULL HER SON’S HEAD OUT OF THE JAWS OF A MOUNTAIN LION, I thought that surely nobody could find fault with this situation. It was at home. It was a heroic story of a daring rescue that ended happily.

But no — the comments were there: The mother should have been outside with her kids. She shouldn’t live in a place where mountain lions live. Maybe now people will understand that you shouldn’t move to Colorado.

Seriously? You shouldn’t move to Colorado?

I always hear that the reason for hateful comments on the internet is because people feel safe from behind their computer screen. Maybe this is true.


But I wager these people would probably also say these same things in their own circles of friends. They would sit on their front porches, sipping lemonade, and demonize GOOD parents who’s children fell victim to the most dangerous creatures in North America.

Where Is the Empathy?

I don’t think it has to do with the safety of a keyboard. Not entirely, anyway. I think it’s just that meanness has infected our culture. How someone can read about an amazing rescue from a mountain lion and say, “Tsk tsk. Shouldn’t have lived in Colorado” is simply MEAN.

How someone can read the news of a death of a boy at the jaws of an alligator and shout that the parents are neglectful because they should have been holding their child’s hand is MEAN.

Where is the empathy? It’s a rush to be the biggest blamer, and when blame instead of compassion becomes the loudest sound, we all lose.

And that meanness scares me more than anything. Do you remember reading The Scarlet Letter in high school? Remember how shocking it was to read that an entire society would shun a woman AND HER CHILD for a mistake in her past? That they would force her to live the rest of her life paying penance for her sins?

I remember my classmates and I shook our heads and said the townspeople were ridiculous. Surely, people can mind their own business. Surely, they can look at their own sins and feel enough shame that they don’t need to outwardly shame another person.

But now I’m seeing this play out again and again.

And it scares me. How can I protect my children from this meanness?

A Terrifying Culture

Like all parents, I’m worried about dangerous animals, childhood predators, speeding cars, and heroin needles in the ball pit. But more than that, I’m worried about this culture. I’m worried my children will grow up hearing the comments after a tragedy and begin to develop a skin so mean they won’t even realize they’re being mean; in fact, they’ll think they’re justified.

I’m worried this mentality will rub off on them; that their first instinct will not be to comfort or feel empathy and love in the face of tragedy, but to find someone to blame. That their finger will forever point out as they search for someone to take the fall.

Dangerous Animals

One of the comments I see over and over is: “Duh. It’s a dangerous animal. A parent should be aware and protect their children.”

And as I look at the mean, animalistic comments from my fellow human beings, I think to myself: “Yes. Yes. How right they are. I need to be aware of the dangerous animals who gleefully prey on the tragedies of their brothers and sisters; who can’t wait to crow about their own superiority and the mistakes they would never make.”

I’m aware these dangerous animalistic attitudes exist. I’m aware I would be thrown under the bus at the first sign of a true accident or a real misstep. If my child fell victim to a tragedy, I’m aware the masses wouldn’t shed a tear over my own child’s demise because they would be searching for the many ways I would be at fault.

Yes, I’m aware of the dangers of the animal behaviors out there. Now, how do I protect my children from them?

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How to Get a Picky Eater to Eat


I’ve had this post in my head for a while now because I have stupid good experience with the subject of picky eating.

No, I’m not a nutritionist. No, I don’t have an extremely picky eater child who I’ve patiently worked with until pickiness is a thing of the past.

Nope. It’s me — I’m the former picky eater… to the extreme. It used to be that the only vegetable I would eat was a potato (Does that even count?). I wouldn’t touch Chinese, Japanese, or Middle Eastern food. We had Vietnamese neighbors when I was 7 or 8, and I lived in real fear of being offered food while at their house. We traveled to the South (of the United States) when I was 14, and I was scared out of my mind about the chili we were served. I wouldn’t even go near the biscuits and gravy.

And now? I eat anything. I’ve eaten Ethiopian food… with my hands. Have you ever seen Ethiopian food? It looks like mud. I’ve tried sushi, I regularly go to a Japanese Hibachi grill, I love Iraqi curry, I eat vegetables (true story), and I eat big salads full of beans and cilantro and tomatoes and peppers and onions.

I’m a walking, talking, eating success story.

I would say I know a thing or two.

But my thoughts on the matter aren’t based on science. I have no idea if they’ll work if your child has sensory issues. I have no idea if they’ll actually even work for anybody besides me, but I thought I’d share about what went on in my picky head — and how I stepped out of it. Maybe something that worked for me will work for you or your child.


What Went On in My Head

Today there are diagnoses for whatever I had going on in my head. No idea what my diagnosis would have been, but I can tell you my picky eating was a psychological issue. I was actually afraid of unfamiliar foods. I remember going to my friend’s house to eat spaghetti. Spaghetti? Great. I can handle spaghetti. Nope. Her mom put ground beef into the sauce. I couldn’t eat it. The look, the texture, the taste, the smell… it was all so different, and I just couldn’t handle it.

When cookie dough ice cream came out? I couldn’t stomach it. It was too different. Vegetables? Couldn’t even touch them. Crispy rice in chocolate? I actually threw up. (I still don’t like that combo very much.)

I didn’t like being this way. It was embarrassing. I felt left out when other kids were enjoying ants on a log at Girl Scouts, but I couldn’t even touch the celery. I wanted to like these things, but I couldn’t. I think it’s safe to say that most picky kids feel this way. Nobody wants to watch other people enjoy food from the sidelines. But it just feels a lot safer that way.


I knew it wasn’t healthy. I remember wishing my taste buds would disappear so I could eat all the healthy foods my mind and body wouldn’t allow me to eat.

I knew I annoyed my friends’ moms. I knew my parents wished I would eat better.

Hunger didn’t motivate me. I would rather have gone hungry than eat a carrot. I’m not sure how hungry I would have let myself get, but I do know I was hungry quite often. And I didn’t care.

What Didn’t Work

You’ve read the experts:

  • They say to let kids cook dinner. That would only have limited my meals further because I would have seen that things like onions and garlic went into my favorite dishes — and I would have been repulsed.


  • They say to let your kids grow their own food. I would have happily grown a head of lettuce, but there’s no way that lettuce would have entered my mouth. If you have a kid like me, those things simply won’t work.
  • Shaming does not work. Plenty of people pointed out my eating deficiencies. It only made me feel worse.
  • Maybe you think you should force your kids to try something. My parents made me eat my vegetables once or twice. I hid most of them, and gagged on the rest. I don’t know if my parents were just too busy raising five other kids, or if they were inspired, but they stopped forcing me to eat things I didn’t want to eat. They just turned it into a non-issue. That doesn’t mean I eventually became a daring food taster — on the contrary, I stayed in my safe bubble of meat, bread, and fruit for years. But they just took the pressure off. And because of that, I tried more within my safe bubble. My list of fruits, breads, and meats even expanded by a few degrees.


Honestly, nothing would have worked. There was something in my head preventing me from eating foods I deemed scary. I’m not saying every picky kid is like that, but a lot of picky kids probably are. I probably would have benefited from some sort of therapy, but who knows if that even existed back then? (Somebody knows. But that somebody isn’t me.)

What Did Work

  • As I mentioned above, turning my issues into a non-issue allowed me to expand my limited menu — even if only be a few degrees.
  • My parents typically always allowed me to have a piece of bread or fruit with dinner if I was still hungry. This made mealtimes safe for me.
  • I took vitamins to hopefully make up for my nutritional deficiencies.
  • I tried more things when I was away from home than when I was at home. I had my first salad at camp because my peers pressured me into it. I took little nibbles of fresh raspberries because my best friend’s mom suggested I give them a try (Yes, salad and raspberries — I’m telling you — I was pickier than picky).
  • Now this is the big one. This is what put me on the fast track to the girl who will eat anything — I was taught it’s rude to not eat food at someone’s house. Eventually I got tired of being rude and leaving food behind. I started sliding peas into the mashed potatoes and swallowing them whole, so I wouldn’t have to bite them. I speared a carrot in between two bites of chicken. Eventually, by eating scary foods in the same bite as the foods I liked, I learned to like more foods. I learned to not be afraid. If you have a kid like this, teach them that trick.

What I Do With My Own Kids

My oldest is 8, and she will try anything. My 4-year-old is less brave about food, but she’s a far better eater than I was. Some of it is just who they are. But I also consciously do a few things that I know help my kids eat better than I did.

  • I tell them about my history. When we eat bean burritos for dinner, I say, “Do you know I never would have even tried these burritos? Isn’t that crazy? I was totally missing out on delicious food!” My kids love it when I say these things because they feel like they’re better than me (and they are). They gobble up their food and tell me, “Mom, you’re so crazy. How could you not like this?” (They’ll even do this with food they originally said they didn’t like, just to be better than me.) If you don’t have this history, you can say, “I know this lady who wouldn’t even try ___ (fill in the blank, and you’re probably right). Isn’t that nuts? She was missing out!”
  • When my kids try something new, I praise them like crazy. And I compare myself again. “I NEVER would have tried that! I’m so impressed!” They beam, and often take another bite.
  • Because I can see my kids aren’t terrified of food like I was, I do have a one-bite rule. They have to at least try what’s on their plate. But because I’m always talking up their food bravery, this doesn’t need to be enforced very often.
  • I take a page out of my parents’ book and back off. If they don’t want to eat something (after the one bite), I don’t make them.
  • I put everything on their plate — even when I know they hate something in the meal. But here’s the kicker: When they protest, I say, “You don’t have to eat it. But I’m going to put it here every time because one day you’re going to want to try it, and it will be there in front of you.” That ‘one day’ has come many times. I don’t say “IF you want to try it.” I say “When you want to try it.” It works.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have the best eaters. Even though I’m not picky anymore, I still have simple tastes. My husband and I share the cooking, but I do the meal planning — so our meals are pretty basic as culinary creativity is not my strong suit. I know this limits my kids, so I keep working at bringing more unique foods to the table.

There’s no research behind anything I’ve said, so don’t take this as science. But if you have an extreme picky eater, chances are — she doesn’t want to be. Some of these tips might help.

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It was one of the first days on my own with my newborn and 3-year-old. I’m pretty sure I had the baby blues, and was sad and overwhelmed with the new challenges that a second child brought. The baby was crying, but she was fed, changed, burped and in my arms. So all that was left was to bounce around the living room, trying to calm her. That’s when the 3-year-old tried to get my attention. Frustrated, I shushed her away — which only caused her to start crying.

Overcome, I sat down on the floor to let her sit in my lap while I continued to bounce the baby. With both girls sobbing uncontrollably, strewn across my lap, I finally stopped bouncing and just joined them in their tears. There we were — three vulnerable people hovered together on the living room floor, sobbing our eyes out with nobody to rescue us.

I did not enjoy that moment.


{See Emma? It was like that… times 3.}

They Grow Up So Fast

Previous to this time and since that time, I’ve heard the refrain repeated again and again from older mothers: “Enjoy every moment because they grow up so fast.”

We young mothers seem to collectively agree that this phrase is sandpaper to our brains. Sometimes it seems to even literally hurt to hear it.

When you’re in the midst of raising small children, these little moments of crumpling to the floor in tears seem to last forever. They’re so hard in the moment that it just really feels like they’re never going to end. It seems like the present will be the future — it’s just one never-ending expanse of hard, hard, hard.

“Enjoying every moment” is out of the question. Sometimes it seems that if we could just enjoy a few moments a day, that would be noteworthy.

There are happy times too, of course — plenty of them. I mean, have you ever been given a hug by a toddler? Realized your newborn recognizes your voice? Watched in awe as your child learns to read? Bliss. Pure bliss.

But the feeling of oppressive overwhelm can still always hover near.

This Too Shall Pass

Lately though, since my oldest has turned 8, I’m realizing that I’m actually getting a front row seat to what “this too shall pass” means.

She doesn’t hang on me anymore. She still hugs fiercely; she still needs me near; she still wants to snuggle at bedtime. But she’s not always by my side. She’s not always scooting into my lap. She’s not always asking for more and more and more things — she can do so much for herself.

It’s giving me perspective. While I still have two young children who hang on me for dear life, I can now actually see it won’t always be this way.

I know what you think I’m going to say: One day I’ll miss my kids needing me, so I should enjoy the needy years now.

But that’s not how I feel. Sometimes it’s still oppressive. But more often, there’s hope. I feel hope. I see hope. I see that I made it through that difficult, needy time with my oldest — and I still enjoy her. It helps me look at my other two hangers-on with fresh eyes. I can let the oppressive feeling lift.

To do that, I’ve decided to try “enjoying every moment.”

How to Enjoy Every Moment

Well, honestly it’s impossible. So don’t try it.

But aiming for enjoyment rather than endurance makes raising my children increasingly happier.

We sat at Lydia’s dance recital a week ago, 1-year-old Rex in my husband’s lap and 4-year-old Emma in mine. There was an empty seat next to us, but neither child wanted it. Four years ago, this would have been hard for me. (Somebody sit it the blasted seat and give me a break, fer cryin’ out loud!)

But now, with this new perspective, I didn’t mind so much. Even as I had to tilt my head back uncomfortably so there was room for my chin over Emma’s head (she’s really getting too tall for my lap), I didn’t mind. Even when Rex became fussy and we switched kids in a complicated, messy motion to see if it would help (it didn’t), I didn’t mind.

I just realized: This isn’t going to last forever. If they need to climb all over my lap for comfort in this moment, I can allow that. Heck, I can even laugh about it.

These times of hanging-on, of needing, needing, needing — gosh, they’re so ridiculously exhausting. But they aren’t the only moment of motherhood (even though it sure seems like they are, sometimes!).

Sometimes It’s Too Much

It’s true — the time of little children can be more than we can handle. It really can. I should have hired babysitters more so I could get the breaks I needed. Maybe I should have even been seeing a therapist. Hindsight is 20/20, but I’m applying that hindsight for a happier present. I host more playdates so my kids don’t need my attention constantly; I use babysitters more often. I take the time I need for myself.

I look at my 8-year-old with happiness. We made it through that time. No regrets for being overwhelmed while she was young. It was hard, but I still like her and I still love her, and I get to enjoy her as a totally different person now. Those needy times were a necessary part of our history, and I love her all the more because of them.

The Test

Of course, as soon as I made this resolution to enjoy more moments, toddler Rex decided to test my limits by exchanging his cheerful baby voice for a demon voice of whine… and an endless supply of tantrums.

It was hard.

It lasted for probably three weeks.

But it didn’t unhinge me as much as it would have a few years ago. I’ve now seen my older children go through demon phases, only to eventually return to their former angelic selves. So because I was choosing to look for enjoyment, I found it within myself to scoop him up during tantrums instead of getting frustrated (most of the time). I stopped trying to be “on” all the time, and let my husband handle far more of the child responsibilities that overwhelmed me.

And we made it through! (I know. I’m surprised too.)

So if you’re a mother who doesn’t yet have the blessing of perspective, borrow mine for a second. It won’t always be so demanding. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel overwhelmed now. I think that overwhelm is part of the process. Allow yourself to feel it. But also realize that… well, there’s hope.

And from a mother who’s still in the middle of it, but sort of out of it — I declare that you undoubtedly deserve a break.

And I’m talking about one that doesn’t involve a bathroom, tears, and tiny fingers reaching for you under the locked door.

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Brili Winner

I’m a little late in announcing, but Angie Harlow won the Brili giveaway I ran last month! I’m confident she’ll be seeing more smiles and fewer tears in the coming months as her family uses the Brili routines system.

Since then, I’ve heard from several friends who have purchased the app and loved it. I feel like it’s one of those parenting secrets that should actually be shouted from the rooftops! If you haven’t checked out Brili, do yourself a favor and look into it today.

That is all.


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Spoiled? Yeah, but so what?

{The amazing Brili giveaway is almost over! The routines system from Brili has revolutionized our mornings and bedtimes. Don’t miss your chance to win an unlimited license!}

I do a lot of my writing work in bed in the mornings. While my husband feeds everyone breakfast, I furiously tap away at my laptop, trying to get as much work done as possible before he has to leave for work.

And every morning at about 7:30, my bedroom door swings open with a crash, as little Rex confidently marches in with a huge grin on his face. “Mama!” he shouts, throws his hands in the air, and rushes over to the bed where I scoop him up and ask about his dreams from the night before.

Oh, the sweetness. This boy is bliss.


At night, when I zip up his jammies, I stop at his round tummy and ask if he wants to finish. He nods, then with a shy smile gingerly takes the zipper and pulls it up to his chin, watching me to make sure I’m paying attention to his skill the entire time. If Daddy happens to be in the room, he shyly glances from Mom to Dad, Mom to Dad, making sure we both know how amazing he is.

Once the zipper reaches his chin, he gives a sigh of relief, then throws his arms around my neck while I shout, “You did it! You did it!”

How long will this ritual last? It’s pure joy right now.

When I carry him in my arms, he reaches for my fingers under his legs, and holds on tight. “I love holding your hand,” I say. He grins.

He willingly and happily holds his sister’s hand in the car.


This boy is happiness.

He dances his heart out, raising his hand in a gesture while inviting all the family members to “Come on!” At a recent wedding, he danced with all the girls he knew, happily clapping and spinning to the beat.

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He even danced with a girl nobody knew.


This boy has everyone wrapped around his little finger.

And we’re all just fine with that.


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{Make sure you take a minute to enter the amazing Brili giveaway, and help your children learn responsibility}

When I was young, our family would spend a week or so every summer at my grandma’s house in Idaho. She lived on a road with just a few other houses that were spaced by several acres. Her own white farmhouse was on acres and acres of land, which she rented out to a farmer for his cows. I would spend the first day or two of our visit wandering around her property, marveling at the outhouse still standing, looking for interesting rocks in her gravel driveway, searching for stray cats, and talking to the cows.

As thrilling as all that sounds, I’m sure you’re baffled to learn I would quickly grow bored.

One summer, my brothers brought their baseball gloves and spent a good deal of time playing catch under the Idaho sun. I had recently learned how to use a glove, and begged to play — but there was never a glove for me.

One hot day that summer, everyone was lying around the house doing nothing. The gloves were free, so I grabbed them and went to each of my brothers, asking them to play with me.playball

One by one, they turned me down. The prospect of standing in the hot sun with an 8- or 9-year-old who had only recently learned how to throw and catch a ball was simply not enticing enough for anyone to take me up on my offer/pleading.

I was devastated — and more bored than when I started, because the hope of fun had now been dashed. So I went off to sulk somewhere.

Not too long after, my brother Ryan, having had a change of heart, found me and tossed me a glove. I was elated! We went outside and threw the ball around for a while, as he patiently taught me better form.

Six years older than me, Ryan and I never shared many of the same interests, but he often took time to patiently play games with me. I can now see how tedious it must have been for him, but at the time I was just thrilled to have attention from someone while I was doing what I wanted to be doing.

As a parent, that game of catch memory often comes back to me — typically when I’m in the middle of something and am trying to shoo a child away, rather than stopping and giving them what they’re asking for.

I don’t always heed the memory, but when I do, I find a greater reward than I would have had from finishing the important task I was working on.

An Easter Egg Hunt

Yesterday, my husband and I were elbow deep in dinner preparations when 4-year-old Emma approached and asked us to find the Easter eggs she had hidden in the family room. We were having company over in a short time, the table wasn’t set, dessert wasn’t prepared, dinner ingredients were in every nook and cranny of the kitchen. We were stressed.

But as she asked, I saw myself standing in my grandma’s Idaho backyard, awkwardly throwing a baseball to my bored-but-pretending-to-enjoy-himself older brother.

And so I set down the frosting for dessert and went on an Easter egg hunt.


It was quick. Emma had only hidden two Easter eggs, but she was positively giddy as I searched for them. Bouncing up and down, laughing, and covering her mouth to keep herself from revealing secrets as I walked past but didn’t see the hidden eggs, she was having the time of her life in that brief moment.

And so was I.

If I hadn’t participated, I would have missed her adorable giggle when I found the Easter egg in the bookshelf; I would have missed her proud smile when I opened it to reveal it had been stuffed with a gift of play-doh.

And I can tell you exactly what would have happened if I had decided to put her off, like I so often do: She would have grown grumpy and restless, and would have followed us around to beg us to play while we would have continued to shoo her away. She would have started picking fights with her sister, and everyone would have ended up angry and punished for bad behavior.

But less than two minutes of my time made her the happiest girl of the afternoon — and it lifted my own spirits as well.

She just wanted her idea to be taken seriously.

A Ladybug Club Meeting

8-year-old Lydia posted a sign-up sheet for the Ladybug Club outside our bedroom door a couple weeks ago. After we all followed her instructions to add our names to the club list, she informed us we would need to attend the first meeting.

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Every day, we put it off because it honestly sounded like more of an interruption in our busy day than anything else.

Finally, on a weeknight when we were all tired, she begged again for us to have the first meeting of the Ladybug Club. I remembered the fun I had on that hot Idaho day so many years ago, and reluctantly agreed to participate in the Ladybug Club meeting.

Lydia beamed as she ran to gather supplies, gaining momentum and enthusiasm as she scurried around the house shouting instructions on what we, as the attendees, should do.

After she had prepared, she invited us into her room.

“Welcome to the first meeting of the Ladybug Club,” she stood and said as we walked into the room. Then she gracefully gestured to her dresser: “There’s water for everyone on the dresser. Help yourself.”

We each sipped water as she led us in a discussion about how to protect the environment (we decided we would pick up trash outside) and several other agenda items I no longer remember now.

While I can’t remember the details of the conversations we had, I do remember how proud and grown up Lydia was as she took control of the meeting she had organized herself.

We actually enjoyed ourselves at the Ladybug Club meeting, and Lydia felt important as we valued her plans and ideas.

Everyone went to bed happy that night, and my husband and I learned something new about our oldest — she’s quite capable.

Had we continued to put it off, she would have grown increasingly frustrated with us. What’s more — she would have felt as if her ideas aren’t important.

Paying Attention Isn’t as Easy as It Sounds

When my children were babies, I had grand dreams of guiding them to self-confidence and greatness by teaching, coaxing, loving, and playing with them. In my dreams, there was always plenty of time to teach the appropriate lessons and dote on my obedient children. Nobody was ever fighting, and nobody was ever tired.

The reality is a bit more difficult than I imagined. Responsibilities are heavier than expected, and children are more tiring than I knew. Personal space is more important than I ever knew it could be, and childish games are really dull.

Children do gain self-confidence from teaching, coaxing, loving, and playing. But the trick? Most of that ends up taking place when I would rather be doing anything else.

The happy twist? As soon as I give in and shower my time and attention on my children, I find that it’s actually the only thing I want to be doing. Funny how that works.

{Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to enter the Brili giveaway! Brili has truly helped us enjoy our children more!}

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