What You Need to Survive a Teething Baby

Miss H never really teethed. I mean, she got teeth, of course, but there was none of that inconsolable crying, drooling, fever, diarrhea, whatever. She was totally chill and then bam! I’d notice there was another tooth. That’s kind of how she does life though.

If we’re being honest, I don’t fully remember Mr. B getting teeth other than some molars coming in at 20 months when I was staying with my sister-in-law…and he cried every night while I paced back and forth in the bedroom with him. And he was a pretty drooly babe and everything went in his mouth. Okay, and J might have once said he’d happily get the little guy some dentures if we didn’t have to endure anymore teething. So it was probably a wee bit more helacious than my tired brain can recollect.

But M. Sweet M. Dear, lovely perfect M. Whooo boy!

He’s drooly. And clingy. And sad. And tired. And unable to sleep. And in pain.

I feel for him. I really do.

And he’s an overachiever, that kid of mine. Completely.

He’s getting not one tooth, not two teeth, but three teeth in a row on the bottom. Yep, you heard that right. My little 5-month-old is getting three teeth. They’ve been visible in that “right under the gum” way for over a week now. I can seem them; but they haven’t broken through the gums yet.

I wish they would. So much sweet relief.

But in the meantime, I’ve got survival tactics.

First, he wears an amber necklace.  The theory behind it is that the skin heats it up and it releases pain relieving oils onto the skin which helps with teething. I’m pretty sure science says it has to be heated to like 200 degrees F for it to release said oils. So who knows? But lots of people swear by them, and my older two both wore them until they were well over 3 years old. I figure if it doesn’t help, at least he looks pretty darn cute while he’s screaming in my face.

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I wear this really cute silicone necklace similar to this one for him to chew on whenever he so desires. And oh does he ever desire! I don’t typically ever wear jewelry outside of my earrings and wedding bands, so this adds a bit of flare to the tired, rumpled momma look. It’s a win-win for us both.

We recently purchased a toofeze teether and everyone is a fan. I love that I don’t have to stick it in the freezer for hours first, which I always inevitably forget to return to the freezer and thus do not have a teether when needed, and Sweet M loves that he can hold it and his tiny hand doesn’t get cold. And yes, of course he told me that. I told you, he’s an overachiever.

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I’m a pretty big fan of Hyland’s teething tablets, and M seems to like them too. Or he just loves that I’m putting something that has some semblance to food into his mouth and he thinks he’s big stuff. Either way, he gets super excited when he sees the bottle and eats them happily, and I think they really do help a bit.

I also would not survive this time without my trusty ergo. I’ve got a few too many baby carriers, but when the going gets tough, I always fall back to my ergo. Always, always, always. While Sweet M insists on not being out of Momma’s arms even while she pees – yep! – I can still get stuff accomplished while I hold him. Okay, I can only get some stuff accomplished because unless he’s asleep he feels like he’s being jaded if he’s in the carrier and not my actual arms, and then when he’s asleep I can’t really bend over and scrub the bathtub, so…I still stand by the ergo.

I’ve yet to find a bib I really love for drooly McGee over here (so if you have one you love, tell me about it!). He’s got a thick, short neck and is prone to heat rash. So the super cute bandana ones mostly seem to choke him and emit heat rash. And I’ve not brought myself to buy any generic regular ones…maybe I should. But really, a bib would be helpful right now. Until then, I’ll just use it as an excuse to play dress up with him a few times a day when his clothes are soaked.

Ear plugs. No joke. J gets some great ear plugs at work. I love my baby, and I totally sympathize with him, but I can sympathize even better when I’m rocking him around and his screams aren’t quite as piercing in my ears.

I’m also pretty keen on natural nipple butter by Earth Mama Angel Baby since he’s reverted to nursing like a newborn at night as a pain reliever.

If your baby loves soft things like Sweet M, then you cannot have enough bamboo blankets. My very favorite are Kickee Pants swaddling blankets. They’re so soft and Sweet M puts it right up to his cheek and will often drift to sleep. He insists on soft things by his cheek while he falls asleep. Somehow we only have two though, so when they are inevitably in the wash or misplaced, we use an Aden and Anais muslin blanket because that’s what we have on hand. Though they make some bamboo ones, as well as silky ones that I’m dying to get my hands on because I imagine sweet M would love those too, and I foresee blankets being a thing for him for many, many years.

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Sweet M also loves this Under the Nile dolly for chewing on. But ours has been MIA for the past two days, so things have been a bit harry around here. Actually, even if your babe isn’t teething, they probably need this dolly. It’s M’s favorite thing ever.

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And I admit, it’s not very green hippy of me, but when the going gets tough I break out the acetaminophen. Okay, okay, I had to go buy it first and then I called the pediatrician four times to confirm that it really, truly would not damage his liver if I gave it to him. But the little dude just needed some relief.

And let’s just be honest, even with all of that, teething just sucks. But at least we’ve found ways to cope. And I hope to remember this for the next baby. Actually, I hope to block out how terrible teething is so that I still desire a next baby.

 

Ellery Jane Boutique

When Sweet M was born I vowed that I would not resign myself to your typical baby boy clothes.

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I’m not a huge fan of the most traditional clothes that baby boys are dressed in: sports, big trucks, puppy dogs.

I like fun things: dinosaurs, robots, wild animals, feathers and arrows, and tiny-man clothes. I’m a lover of all colors, but candy shoppe colors really do it for me (you should see the walls in my house!).

So when I came across Ellery Jane Boutique, it’s no surprise it was love at first sight.

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We are mega legging lovers over here. They’re cute, simple, and versatile. They fit the skinniest of babes and kids (and mommas!) as well as the chunkulicious ones without a hitch. Plus, I don’t have to switch the size my baby can fit in if we are travelling and not using a cloth diaper, which is always a good bonus.

When Mr. B was a babe I always had to buy his leggings from the “girl” section. Boys just didn’t wear leggings. But even now he prefers leggings for the functionality and comfortability over jeans any day. Now, however, it’s slowly getting easier to find “boy” leggings.

Ellery Jane Boutique makes adorable, custom,  handmade clothes for both girls and boys. Her dresses and ruffle pants are to die for. But what caught my heart were her organic animal leggings – elephants, bears, deer, oh my! And they come in beautiful, fun colors!

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Sweet M is the proud owner of elephant leggings in pool blue (the entryway in my house is nearly the exact same color!). I was crushing hard on them. The second they arrived in the mail I couldn’t get them on him fast enough to see how adorable they were on!

The leggings are fantastically handmade. You can tell it’s a labor of love for sure. The material is durable and soft, perfect for a baby M who will be wearing these while learning how to crawl!

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M is solidly in 6-12 months clothing at 18lbs and 27″ long, so I went with 12 months sized leggings to be safe. They are a wee bit long, but they cuff perfectly, which actually works to my benefit because he will get extra long use out of them.

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And I super love that they’re made out of organic material. There is nothing better than feeling good about the material I’m putting on my baby.

So if you’re shopping for some new duds for your little man (or lady!), or in the market for a baby gift, Ellery Jane Boutique has you covered. Sweet M is definitely a fan!

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Why I Will Always Make You Food After Having a Baby

When I had H, I was two months shy of turning 22. Most of my friends were preparing for their last finals as undergrad students (I had graduated the semester before). Needless to say, I was the first to do the whole baby thing.

I hadn’t yet acquired “mom friends” and didn’t really have any family around, so it was just J and I figuring out the whole baby, sleep deprivation, survival thing on our own.

At least one baby, even our high-needs, vivacious, colicky, don’t-sleep-til-Brooklyn first born, in hindsight, is easier than when you’re on #3. Of course, by the time you have three, you’ve been around the block a few times and have a solid groove going on, so it’s easier in some ways, too.

But the one things that is always, always, always helpful, whether it is baby #1  or #19, is food.

I will forever go out of my way to bring food to a momma who has just had a babe; whether it’s a close friend or someone I barely know through the grapevine, because I know how so extremely helpful it is.

With H and B, I had no food deliveries outside of what I ordered in (and we aren’t going to discuss how much carry out we ate during those days, ha). We fended for ourselves and we survived. We didn’t even know that there is a world where people bring others food after they’ve had a baby, ha.

But by the time we had M, it was a game changer. The half dozen or so meals that friends brought us was quite nearly life changing.

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but seriously. When you’ve got a new babe and two other kiddos, not having to think about dinner when you’ve survived the whole day solo is a Godsend.

At this point, I will make people food for nearly any occasion: new baby, broken bone, illness, bad day; it doesn’t matter. Who doesn’t enjoy a night off from cooking, but still eating a yummy home cooked meal? I aim to make half a dozen pans of enchiladas a month to deliver to friends, because hey – who doesn’t want them!?

When you have a baby, everything is so time consuming. You’re racing against the clock in between naps and breastfeeding and playing with big kids that it can be hard to even squeeze in a shower some days, so obviously meal prep can seem unobtainable at times.

Whether you’re a parent or not, if you know someone who has a new baby, make them a meal. If you don’t live nearby, or simply don’t enjoy cooking, order them their favorite carry-out, delivered straight to their door.

Seriously, the #1 thing you can do for any parents, no matter what number baby they are on, is provide them with food. They will appreciate that more than anything else; I guarantee it.

I Tried not to Blink, but I Did

Motherhood is a tricky sport.

The days are long, so long. You spend your time wiping butts, cleaning up spilled milk, driving aimlessly for hours while the toddler naps, rocking the teething baby in the wee hours of the night, doing laundry, and then more laundry, and then some more laundry. The to-do list never gets shorter; it simply seems to grow exponentially with each tick of the clock.

And then somewhere in it all you blinked, and your tiny little, chunkalicious pickle; the child who first made you Momma, is this gangly, beautiful girl; a person you can’t really call “little” anymore, though she’s only 6.

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I tried so hard not to blink. I really, truly did. I told myself I wouldn’t. I knew that my time was precious and it would be so fast. And I know that I still have 12 more years before she’s an adult; but I’m 1/3 of the way done raising her. Because I’m a daughter, too, I know she’ll flee the nest, a bundle of independence and self-reliance, a brilliant lady that I have had some hand in – only time will tell if she’s amazing because of or in spite of. But I’m really hoping for the former.

I know I can’t take all the credit. So very much of it is nature, even though some days I wish I could take credit for it being nurture.

But then some days I’m all too happy to blame it all on nature, because she’s a pickle for a reason.

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I can’t tell you exactly when this very attached little girl became so independent. I don’t know the day, the time, the moment. I just know everyone told me she’d be dependent on me forever if I carried her all the time, nursed her until she self-weaned, let her co-sleep as long as she wanted, didn’t force her off to preschool, or elementary school.

And yet I held her close. So, so very close. And all ready she is so far some days.

So lovely and beautiful, but more importantly so vivacious and inquisitive and driven and powerful.

No other person drives me quite as crazy as Miss H. But no other person reminds me so much of myself, only so, so much better (thankfully!). I see in her all of my faults, but I also see in her all of my beauty. And even more so, I see all of her beauty and person, and you guys, there aren’t words.

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I have moments where I have to stop and ask God what in the world He was thinking, granting me with this dear girl. How could He be so certain that I would have enough patience and love to help shepherd her tenacious spirit? How did He know I’d have to delve deep into myself to become the calm, mindful momma she would need? Or what that just part of the plan? Was that the reason she’s mine?

That child has all ready moved mountains. I cannot imagine what the rest of her life will bring. But I do know that I am incredibly thankful to have a front row ticket to it all.

I blinked. I tried so hard not to, but I did. And she’s practically a little lady.

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Parenting with “It” (aka Anxiety)

I’ve written this post so many times in my head.

But putting the words down in print is a whole new ball park.

It’ so much bigger. So much more.

So much more real.

When I was kid I was often told that I had an overactive imagination. That I was dramatic.

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I took it at face value and assumed that those were bad things, which in turn made me assume that I must be bad somehow, which of course only fueled the fire roaring deep within me that I’ve only recently been able to name: anxiety.

If my mom was running five minutes late getting home from work, picking me up from a friends house or an afterschool activity, she was, no doubt, face down in a ditch after a horrific car accident taking her last few breaths before forever leaving me an orphan.

You may chuckle; I can roll my eyes at it now. But those feelings were very real for me. Until I actually saw my mom again, there was no convincing me otherwise. I just knew this was the only possibility.

And thus went so much of my childhood.

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As I entered college and adulthood I had a pretty good grasp on it. I was able to chalk it up to overactive imagination and learned to not watch shows like “Criminal Minds” if I was going to be spending my night solo. Basically, I learned how to cope with it, grasping at strings, because I didn’t realize it was an it that needed to be coped with; that there was actually healthy ways of learning to manage it.

If you’d have asked me a year ago if I had anxiety, I’d have said no without even questioning it.

But I’ve been around the block a few times since then.

I had a lot of anxiety while pregnant with M.

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Every day that J walked out our front door, I felt sick to my stomach. I knew for sure it was the last time I’d see him. When I’d kiss him goodbye as he left for a work trip, I’d linger, wondering if this was in fact the very last time I’d ever touch him, taste him, smell him, see him. Was I saying goodbye? It seemed likely.

I spent most of my pregnancy unable to shake the feeling that my perfectly healthy little M would not survive.

I know. I know. If you’ve never experienced anxiety you’re thinking, “that’s batshit crazy!” I get it. Because even in those moments, those moments of panic and worry; I knew it wasn’t rational either. It’s all I had to hold onto sometimes.

The turning point was the first day I picked Mr. B up from preschool after M was born.

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I had all three babes in their seats, driving the same 7 minute drive I’ve driven hundreds of time, when I was overcome by unrelenting dread. My heart was racing, I felt hot and clammy, and all I could think of was if our car were to hit a slick spot in the road and run off of a bridge into a raging river, I’d never be able to save all three of them. It was not raining, nor is there any river, let alone a raging river, anywhere I typically drive. Most especially not on the short drive home.

It felt so real though as I raced through the scenario in my mind. I could let H swim by herself. She was the best swimmer of the kids; she stood a chance. But if it was a raging river, she didn’t stand a very good chance. And how could I ever forgive myself for letting her fend for herself because she stood the best chance, if she didn’t actually make it?

And the boys. M didn’t stand a chance; a tiny new babe. He might not even make it to the surface. And B is so squirrely he might drown me while I tried to save him. And who are we kidding? I’m not even a very good swimmer, the boys probably wouldn’t make it at all.

And thus it spiraled until I pulled over, certain I was having a heart attack.

You guys, that was one of the most surreal, terrifying moments of my life. And the whole time I just kept telling myself it was completely ridiculous and irrational. But it wasn’t helping.

J psychoanalyzed me through it later which was insightful, but wasn’t a cure for it. The anxiety.

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I’ve not had a moment like that since, thankfully.

I’d be a liar if I said it was all miraculously gone, but it has gotten significantly better since I’ve been able to put a name on it and do a lot of research.

I like to think that I won’t have bouts of anxiety my whole life, but I probably will. The good part is that I’ve had large chunks of my life where it’s been nearly nonexistent, or at least manifested itself in more helpful ways (we eat a significantly better diet than most of America thanks to it, ha!).

The truth is, I will probably always be a little hyper vigilant about doing things “right,” especially parenting, because I can’t get past the anxiety of the “what ifs” if I screw it up, even in small ways. It doesn’t mean I actually do it right, but it is definitely why it seemed crazy important that we create a beautiful nursery three times over for babies who never actually spent a night in said nurseries.

It plays a role in why I strive every day to know better, to be better, to do better.

I can’t make the anxiety disappear, but I can do my best to cultivate it for good. I can find healthy ways of living with it and dealing with it. I can be in control of it instead of allowing it to control me.

Everyday I am learning more about these sweet babes God entrusted with me. I’m learning so much more about me and the little fires that make me me. I’m learning about parenting my children with all of our quirks, with inevitable bumps along the way.

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But from the view I have of these three kidlets, I’m pretty certain that despite my anxiety, these babies are going to be straight up masterpieces. So I’ll take it; imperfections and all.

Meeting Everyone’s Needs

A good momma friend with one lovely babe asked me recently, “How do you meet all of their needs? Some days I feel like I’m failing to meet the needs of just one!”

First and foremost, there is not such thing as “just” one. Things are certainly different, perhaps a bit more chaotic, than when we had only one babe; but I was definitely winning and failing just as much now as we were then. Just in different ways. So whether you’ve got one kiddo or 12, you’re still just as deeply in this as the rest of us.

But how do we meet the needs of three kids daily?

Well, some days we don’t.

Most days we do though.

Sometimes, oftentimes, we have to put ourselves aside. I feel quite strongly about self-care, but I also know that this season of life is so terribly short, so many times I just don’t get to come first. Some days I have to run off of fumes and one measly square of dark chocolate and delicious wafts of my husband’s coffee (thanks, Sweet M, for not loving caffeine as much as Momma does).

We’ve rearranged our lives for this current season (the parents of three children, one a young infant), to best meet everyone’s needs. We decided early on that working out would not be a priority until M is at least 6 months old. I feel much better when I exercise each morning, but M and his siblings feel even better when they get adequate rest and snuggles (and they wake if Momma gets up).

We made budget cuts and changes to allot for a housecleaner. It sounds really luxurious, but when you’ve got control issues like I do, it’s super helpful, but slightly stressful. But this is what we need right now so that we can spend more time focusing on our babes, on our marriage, on ourselves, as opposed to cleaning toilets. The time will come around soon enough when we’ll be back at it ourselves, but for now, this is it.

Meeting the needs of three kids means some mornings I accept being Groot for my four-year-old and spend over an hour saying nothing but “I am Groot” no matter what is going on. Actually, this is pretty entertaining for me. I accept this role as often as possible.

It means spending longer at the Farmer’s Market in the hot sun than I personally want in order to let them play music for the second time.

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It means that when I am super looking forward to a solo grocery shopping trip, I am the one who sucks it up and realizes that B really needs some special Papa time and change my plans to accord for taking M and H with me so that J and B can go to the Wonderlab for two hours.  And then when we come home I have to tweak our media rule so that B can play quietly for an hour while I nurse and love on a teething M and J appeases H by making a very fancy dinner with her that she chose all the ingredients for while we were shopping.

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It means dressing up in the fancy clothes my daughter chose for me even though I’m exhausted and haven’t showered in two days because she insists on it in order to eat the delightful meal she and her papa prepared.

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It means reading an extra super hero book to B at bedtime, and taking a deep breath and telling my tantruming six-year-old that I really need a hug and to cuddle when all I want to do is flee downstairs and mentally check-out for the night.

It means sleeping (well, laying mostly awake during night hours) with a baby on my chest for most of the night and loving on him while he fusses through sleep because of those dang teeth ripping his gum tissue as they push their way to emerge above his flesh.

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Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean J and I are chopped liver who never get our own needs met. As I said, self-care is really important to me.

It just means that sometimes we don’t. And we have to be okay with that in this season.

And sometimes our babes don’t get their cups filled either.

Some nights, I admit, I’m not as loving as I should be. I don’t make allowances for extra books and stick with our two book rule because I just have nothing left to offer in that moment. I know I’m hanging by a thread and that my need for some solo quiet time is greater in that moment than my child’s need for an extra book (welcome to parenting as an introvert!). Some nights, most nights, it’s reversed, but it’s okay that some nights it is this way, too.

Sometimes I am not half as patient with my feisty, vivacious daughter as I wish I were. When she is crying at me for the umpteenth time because her swimsuit is the wrong color or she’s misplaced her favorite hair bow or the pencil isn’t sharp enough or the bandaid is crooked or, or, or…yeah. Some days I just sigh and walk away until I can collect myself to be the loving, patient momma she needs. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes, as much as I dislike it, I can’t be the momma she needs at all. And I really hate that. But it is what it is.

So how do I meet the needs of three kids? I don’t. I do. I try.

Sorry, Adorable Holiday Outfits; It’s You, Not Me

When H was born, that kid was decked out to the nines from day one.

Truthfully, they’re still mostly wearing Cadillac clothing while I’m over here with most of the same things I wore in high school.

I love clothes. I love kids’ clothes. I especially love that I have a Fancy Nancy little girl (though she’s admittedly getting less fancy with each passing day). So when one of those kids – or myself – hones in on a clothing item, I’m sold. I cannot say no.

Over the years they’ve had perfectly themed holiday outfits. Specials apparel for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween and Turkey Day.

Y’all, that’s a lot of utter adorableness.

But I’ve had enough.

Yes, me. I’m done.

Cost aside, I cannot keep up with the ridiculousness of special outfits for one-time use days. I’m even including family pictures in this – the horror! They’ll have to make do with what’s in their closets. And since they’re overflowing as is, I feel confident they will somehow grow up, the children of a millennial and a Gen X-er, mostly intact, without adorable, coordinating, holiday outfits (they’ll have lots of other reasons for therapy, I’m sure, but if it’s because of the lack of holiday outfits, I’ll probably call it a win).

But if we do want to do some simple math and factor in cost, we can. We’ll say each holiday outfit cost $15 (and we all know this is a huge under estimate). That’s $45 per holiday. Above I listed 7 major holidays (let’s not even discuss family photos). That’s $315 on outfits they literally wear one time (and it’s likely double or triple that, but J might read this so…we’re sticking with $15/outfit).

Yeah. I’m just going to sit and think about that number for a moment. And all my other first world priveleges while I’m at it.

Don’t get me wrong; holiday outfits are cute! And kids are practically like life-sized baby dolls; gotta dress ’em up while they’ll still let you!

I mean, look at this cuteness pictured here,

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here

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(that’s homemade, ya’ll!)

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here,

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(Look at the adorableness I created for last 4th of July!)

and here.

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Who can look at that without gushing?

Regardless of gushing, however, this madness has got to stop.

It’s a miracle if I shower daily. The idea that my kids need perfect little holiday-themed outfits is no more.

In this season of life I’m all about simplifying. Everything.

So I’m sorry ridiculously over-priced, undeniably adorable holiday outfits, you’re out.  Momma ain’t playing that game no more. So, so long, sayonara, adieu and adios. We won’t have even a frenemy relationship.

My adorable mismatched, self-dressed hooligans will have to suffice. And let’s just be honest, they’re probably cuter that way anyway. A whole lot less maintenance anyway.

All About Reading: The Only Reading Program You Need

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When we first started considering the world of homeschooling, something I was originally sure I would never do because it was so foreign to me, my greatest fear of all was that of teaching my children to read.

I mean, that’s the foundation for everything. The rest of their lives.

That’s kind of monumental if I should screw it up.

I researched “how to teach your kid to read” until I’d left no link unclicked, no book unread, no person’s anecdotal story untold. I needed to know everything.

And after a few trial and errors, we finally stumbled into All About Reading.

All of my prayers were answered.

My kids love it. And I’m not just saying that! (And no, they’re not paying me to say that either!).

Yesterday when I had to take B to the doctor, H asked to bring a book. We only have 29384793849813 books, but she chose one of her All About Reading readers. Seriously. And she read it for nearly an hour to her little brothers.

After sleeping most of the day away with a fever over 102, B woke up at 6pm and begged me to please do his “schoolwork” with him.

Guys, they love it that much.

Now don’t get me wrong. We’ve had a few hiccups. When the content has been particularly challenging for H (aka, she hasn’t fully understood it within the first 5 seconds and it’s taken more like 5 minutes for her to get the gist of it), then H would get all mad and “I caaaaaan’t!” But that’s more tell-tale of her personality than of the program.

B has had zero interest in learning his letters, and it’s not been something I’ve pushed at all. I want my kids to learn as organically as possible. I definitely need resources to help with that, but I want it to be as true to their nature and developmental readiness as possible. But B asked me a few weeks ago if he could have his own reading program after watching H do hers; and of course, yes! Yes, you can, sweet boy.

I ordered him the pre-reading program when I ordered H’s next level up. And he loves it. He asks to do it each day. He’s eager to do it. The lessons are just short enough to keep his attention, but long enough to help him transition into what it will look like someday (waaaaay down the road most likely), when he’s ready to do a full actual reading lesson.

And the actual reading lessons are short, too. We very rarely spend more than 20 minutes on a lesson each day. And when we do, it’s often because we’ve done two lessons that day.

Truthfully, I’m learning things I didn’t know before. Reading rules that maybe I was once taught, maybe not. But the English language in all of its complexities is making more sense to me now, so I can only imagine it’s serving my children well, too.

My favorite part might be how laid out it is for me, the teacher. The teacher’s book literally tells me word for word what to say to my kids to explain the lessons and help them understand. I couldn’t mess it up if I tried!

So whether you’re homeschooling, or just need some additional resources to help your kiddo read, I cannot recommend All About Reading enough!

My Little Wild Card

Since M has been born, H and B have been all about me recounting their birth stories to them.

At this point, I’m telling them their stories so often that I’ve got them down to be pretty short.

For H: “I pushed for two hours, and then finally, I gave one big push and you came flying out. None of that cute, ‘oh the head’s out! Now the body!’ stuff. Just one push and bam! You were all out! And you were screaming (at this point I make a fake baby cry, which they find hilarious), the cord looped around your neck once, and you promptly pooped all over me. And I didn’t even care. You were perfect.”

So much of that short story sums up H’s personality too. She does everything on her own time. Sometimes she drags her feet and it feels like she’ll never be where I’d like her to be, and then when she’s ready she’s all in, and I’m flailing to catch up with her. She’s loud and in charge. Always. And even when there are obstacles that might hinder others (cord), she’s unaffected and still greatly intact; a mighty little girl. And, let’s be honest, she doesn’t care who gets pooped on along the way, ha. But she does it all gracefully, and you don’t even care, because she is so damn lovely.

And B: “Your labor was 8 hours of sporadicness, off and on. But when I was ready to push, all 9 pounds of you came out with ease. They placed you on my tummy and you were so calm and peaceful. I kept squealing that you were a boy, because I was convinced until then you were a girl, but you were so perfect. And right when I started to worry that you should be crying, you let out the most beautiful little noises.”

And again, it’s all so much of who B is now. I’ve always called him my wild card, which is funny because it is his sister whose middle name is Wilde. But I’ve never quite known what to expect with B. He’s ever changing, a rhythm enitirely of his own. Much like his labor. But once he’s ready, transitions are always so seemless for him. My tiny, peaceful observer who is always changing things up, and making sure he doesn’t get lost in the mix of it all.

Oh B. Sweet, lovely, adventurous, mischevious B.

There is something special about that boy. He’s changed me as a momma so much.

When he was one year old he was diagnosed with elevated lead levels. If it’s not something you are very knowledgeable about or have experienced yourself, it’s one of those things that is easy to brush off as “no big deal” and “thank goodness it isn’t my kid” and not think anymore of it than that.

What followed was two and half really intense years of researching and educating myself on something I’d never really ever heard about before. I spent a lot of sleepness nights just watching that lovely child sleep, wondering why him? Why us? What had I done wrong? What could I have done better?

I’ve long surpassed that. I know it wasn’t anything we did or didn’t do. Not even our historical house that I was sure would be the culprit. After extensive testing inside and out; it was ruled out. It didn’t stop us from doing renovations we couldn’t quite afford though. Or converting us to a more hippy lifestyle and The Great Purge of all plastic toys (we have since, obviously, added “unsafe” plastic toys back into the mix). We even had him and H’s car seats replaced.

It’s challenging to battle something when you don’t even know what it is exactly you’re fighting. But we knew exactly what we were fighting for, and that is all that mattered.

We will likely never know the true cause. Was it environmental? Something ingested (spinach and other produce can often have high lead levels if grown in soil with high levels)? Was it from his toys or carseat (lead in plastic is mostly unregulated)? Was it, as suggested a highly likelihood, that his body simply could not filter and remove the lead from his body, so “normal” exposure quickly rose to toxic levels in his tiny body?

We don’t know. We know it wasn’t until he was 4 years old that he finally had “normal” levels (there is no “normal” level – any lead is bad. But under 5 is considered acceptable. By someone).

But being B, he never let’s anything slow him down.

He’s got such a versatile personality and is up for nearly anything. I had no idea what was in store for us with B, but I couldn’t have asked for a child more perfect for this family.

He’s forced me to change ideas, to learn new things. His personality has taught me to parent him a different way than his sister, and likely his baby brother will be just as outstandingly original.

He’s allowed me to see first hand how sometimes pushing a kid is not in their best interest; that slow and steady wins the race. That he will come into his own on his own time. That first is not always best, that fast is not always best. That he is best, just as he is. And that some days I will have to dig deep into my parenting resources to figure out just how to parent such a laid back, sensitive little dude without causing too much damage in the process.

I think it’s easy some times to get caught up in what works with one child. We decide it’s law and we’ve got everything figured out. Even when your second child is as “easy” as B, you still have to be ever-changing and ever-bending. It’s okay to change your mind; it’s okay to do things differently.

Some days I worry that my little wild card will slip through the cracks of it all. That his laid back, easy personality will get overlooked because he just isn’t as needy or verbally demanding.

And then I remember that tiny, peaceful baby on my chest. And how he squawked just so in reassurance that he’s perfect; and can certainly never go unnoticed.

 

 

Disciplining for the Long Term

It never fails, whichever parent spends the most time with the kids ultimately ends up being the primary disciplinarian. Not on purpose, but simply because they’re around the most so statistically they’ll be the one there the most to correct.

You know what? It sucks.

There is nothing I loathe more than disciplining my children.

We are primarily non-punitive. We don’t do time-outs or other arbitrary punishments. I do send them to their rooms to read some books or play quietly when they’re clearly overwhelmed with too much togetherness and just cannot summon it within themselves to treat one another lovingly and kindly; but they’re just having quiet time playing. They’re not sitting in a corner “thinking about what they’ve done” (because what kid is actually contemplating their “misbehavior” in time-out?).

We are all about talking and working together over here. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at that. Once upon a time I said, “Gentle hands” and “Hands are for hugging not hitting” so many times I wanted to roll my eyes too. But somehow we all got through that phase in tact and they pretty much know not to hit now; time-outs, being yelled at, and spankings not needed.

But still. B’s always had a temper, and H is so dramatic and sassy. It’s exhausting.

I remind myself daily what my goals are for my children long term, not necessarily today. And just focus on those.

Most of the time it seems like they’re utter angels for J, and absolute hellions for me. But when I break it down, I probably get more sweet angelic moments than he does; I just also get those crazy terrible ones too.

I want so badly for our days to be all sunshine and roses that I have to bite my lip from screaming, “I want to be freaking Miss Honey but you’re all a bunch of baby Trunchbulls making this impossible!” (We are obviously reading Matilda right now.)

On those more stressful, gray-hair-inducing days, I pour a glass of wine and remind myself that they are such precious little gifts. That they’re disciplining me (and by discipline, I mean teaching, always, always, always), just as much as I am them. Which is why it is so very important that I show them immense grace and patience, even when I have to search deep down into my core and muster up the very last slivers I have left in me, because it will always be worth. The pay out will far exceed what I must put forth right now.

But some days it is so challenging. That terrible little monster named Jealousy pokes her head up when I find it seeming like all the time J has with them is fun, and I’m doing all the hard work.

Then I am reminded that it’s not true when I watch him in the throes of it. Baby on his hip, H demanding he help her, B crying for his attention, and him just standing there, needing to get a million other things done. I’m not doing it all alone. Some days are longer than others, but he’s in this just as thick as I am.

It’s not all roses and sunshine. Not even remotely close. But it is all beautiful in its own crazy, chaotic, every-challenging way.

So although I despise the least fun parts of discipline, I just keep reminding myself that I’m helping to model and teach them to be kind and loving little people, and sometimes that means I have to correct and reprimand and have them angry at me, and I have to do it all with patience and gentleness, because we are disciplining for long term results, not punishing for in-the-moment mishaps.

*** The winner of our giveaway for Strengths Based Parenting is Shelley! Thank you all who participated!***