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Living with a colicky baby can be an intense emotional experience.  Your baby is crying and crying and crying…and you can’t seem to do anything to make your precious new baby feel better.  You’re worried.  Being a parent wasn’t supposed to be this hard!  Maybe something is wrong with your baby…there must be!  All that crying must be a sign that something is wrong, right?

I’ve been there.  So far, we’ve lived through it once, and now we’re living through it a second time (though not nearly as bad as the first).  That’s my first piece of advice…take heart, you will live through it, even though it may not seem like it right now!  Our first go round was with our oldest child, Bear.  We evaded the dreaded colic with three more babies.  Now, with the fifth, it seems that we must do it again.  

Crying and colic...take heart, you will live through it, even though it may not seem like it… Click To Tweet

What is colic?

A very young baby (less than 5 months old) that cries a lot, typically for a few hours at a time, and usually at approximately the same time every day is said to have colic.  Often, they cry like they’re in pain, and pump their legs up and down and pass gas. They arch their backs and pull away from anyone who tries to hold and soothe them.

Sometimes, your doctor can pinpoint a cause, such as reflux, but often, there is nothing apparently wrong with these babies.  Try telling that to a parent who has to endure their precious little baby’s screams all night long without being able to soothe them!  Try telling that to big brothers and sisters whose parents are a wreck from having a baby screaming in their ear all evening.  Colic affects everyone in the family, not just Mom, Dad, and Baby!

Our first experience with colic

When we first brought Bear home from the hospital, she was so tiny and cute and perfect.  I’d had preeclampsia, and had been induced at 37 weeks, so she was definitely on the small side, weighing in at just under 6 pounds.  The very first night at home, she slept 5 hours during the night without waking us up!  I thought, “Well, well, well!  All this talk about never getting any sleep with a newborn is nonsense!  I just gave birth to the best baby ever.  I’ve got this parenting thing down!”

As my dad used to always tell me, “Pride cometh before a fall!”

By the time Bear was 2 months old, she spent most of her waking hours screaming uncontrollably.  I had just gone back to work.  Her preferred time of day to be up and angry was from around 6 every evening until about 3 in the morning.  Every.  Single.  Night.  None of us were getting any sleep.  My job performance tanked (I was sleep deprived, and I desperately wanted time with my baby when she wasn’t screaming).  I wanted to be a good mother, but I couldn’t even make my baby feel better!  I felt like such a failure.  

When I took Bear to the doctor for one of her check-ups, I mentioned that she cried all the time.  He asked several questions about it, then told me she had colic.  He also thought she might have some issues with reflux, since she did spit up quite a bit.  Then, he prescribed some medication for the reflux, and, while sympathetic to my plight, basically told me “good luck” with the colic.  It was just a stage, and it would get better.

Our next door neighbor, who ran an in-home daycare, watched Bear every day.  It was really nice to have someone so close to our home!  She had some great tips for finally getting her to sleep…and they helped some.  I don’t know how I would have dealt with the stress if I hadn’t had a couple more rational heads than my own (my husband’s and my neighbor’s) giving me advice.  

Eventually, Bear did grow out of it.  By the time I left my job to stay at home with her, she was a happy, healthy 6 month old.  We finally had lots of quality time together.  But, boy, were those first few months tough!

More Crying

Our newest little one has gone through a similar stage, though it hasn’t lasted as long, or been as severe as Bear’s case!  When she first came home, Baby cried every night starting at 7pm…just after my husband gets home from work.  Fortunately, she winds down and sleeps well when I put her to bed at around 8:30.  So, at least she can be helped!  It’s still trying to listen to a baby cry for an hour and a half each night.  There are a few things I know this time around that have helped this stage be a little more survivable.

Baby is now just over 3 months old, and does seem to be coming out of it.  We’ve been 2 nights in a row now that she hasn’t cried through dinner.  When you’re living with an infant, you have to take all the small victories when you can! 

So, here we go, here are some tips you can use to help calm a crying baby!

Stay calm!

I know it’s easy to say, and really really hard to do!  Believe me, there have been nights when I’ve walked the floors with one of my babies, and I cry just as much as they do.  If you can keep your cool, though, you’re more likely to pass the mood on to your baby.  If you tense up, so will your baby.  I think one reason Baby’s colicky phase hasn’t lasted as long as Bear’s did is because between my husband and I, one of us was able to stay calm with her crying periods.

If you can’t stay calm, pass the baby to someone who can.

When I would start crying just like the baby, that’s when my husband knew it was time to take over for a little while.  I was with Baby (and all 4 of her big brothers and sisters!) all day long, and my patience was already stretched pretty thin by the time he got home from work every day.  He would often (like, every night) take her outside to walk while I ate dinner with the other children.  By the time we were done, I would be in a better frame of mind to calmly take her and get her settled down to bed.  We have sure missed eating together as a whole family, but it was a necessary (and temporary) sacrifice.  We know that it is just a stage, and that this too shall pass.

Swaddling

Swaddling saved our sanity when we finally figured out (thanks to our neighbor) that Bear liked it.  I knew the nurses in the hospital had done it, but I wasn’t any good at it.  So, when we got home, I just stopped.  It would seem like torture to an adult, but some babies really need that snugness that swaddling provides.  Sometimes, babies fling their arms and legs when they get upset, and they upset themselves even more with this behavior.  They make themselves feel like they’re falling.  Swaddling keeps those arms and legs under control so they can’t cause trouble.

Baby really needed swaddling during her rough time of night for the first month or so, too.  It was the only thing that would calm her down enough to eat and go to sleep each night…until it wasn’t.

Ditch the swaddling

Confused?  First I said swaddle, then I said don’t!  Yes, that’s what I meant to say…babies are confusing.

At some point, a baby will go from requiring a swaddle to detesting it…usually within 24 hours.  Just because it worked last night, doesn’t mean it’s going to work tonight!  They like to keep us on our toes.  

A few weeks ago, Baby’s swaddling switch flipped.  I swaddled her to feed her and put her to bed one night, and she got MAD about it.  Now, mind you, the night before, she couldn’t sleep or calm down from her daily crying fit without it.  After a couple of reminders from my husband about how all of the other kids had done that at some point too, and some protestations from myself that they hadn’t done it as young as she was, I finally gave in and took the swaddle blanket off.  She quit crying, and was perfectly happy to settle down to her pre-bedtime nursing session.  I was concerned that she wouldn’t sleep very long without it, but she continued about her regular nighttime pattern without interruption.  She has been sleeping unswaddled ever since.

Sing!

Sing a song…any song.  It doesn’t have to be some sweet, pre-planned lullaby you’ve always wanted to sing your baby to sleep with.  Trust me, by the 17th time you’ve sung that song in an hour, you’ll be ready for something new.  When I can’t think of anything, I start singing hymns that I learned long long ago.

Talk

Have a little conversation with your baby.  Tell them anything you can think of.  Make sure that you’re using a calm, soothing voice.  Tell them all about the things you can see.  Describe the sky, or the clouds, the grass or the trees.  Tell them all about the family members that are still waiting to meet them, or maybe about how much their grandparents enjoyed meeting them the day they were born.  Read something to your baby.  Your baby likes the sound of your voice!  It’s warm and soothing and familiar.  

Walk

Hold your baby close and take a walk.  Gently and quietly take a walk outside.  Combine the walk with a little singing and conversation.  The fresh air and change in temperature and scenery will do you both good.  Plus, you get a little exercise out if it too!  It’s a win-win.

Wear your baby

Get a good, secure carrier that’s designed for small babies and get your baby all snuggled up next to you.  The snugness right next to you is soothing for a baby.  Remember that sometimes your baby may fuss while you’re putting them into the carrier and getting everything settled and secure.  All of mine have hated the process of being put into the carrier.  But, once they get there, they really like being close and the movement.  If they’re having tummy issues, the pressure of your body against their tummy can be really soothing.  Plus, your arms can finally have a break!

Check in with your doctor.

Chances are, there is absolutely wrong.  However, it’s always a good idea to bring up excessive crying with your doctor.  There are a few things that can cause a lot of crying, and if it’s something that the doctor can fix, everyone will feel a whole lot better!

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

JENerally Informed

 

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Blueberry Dessert Recipes

 

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Life Love and Dirty Dishes

My kids are weird...and why I'm ok with it

My kids are weird.  

Whew!  I got that out of the way!  I love my kids.  They’re really, really good kids!  My kids just aren’t normal kids.  At least they aren’t normal based on today’s standards.  A hundred years ago I’m sure they would have been normal, run-of-the-mill, cookie cutter kids.  But not anymore.  My kids are weird.  But, I’m okay with that.  I might even encourage it.  They have seen more and understand more about real life in their few short years than many adults.

You see, my kids are country kids.

I grew up in town.  No…not in town, in the city.  I grew up in Dallas.  Well, in the rough, tough, suburbs of the northeastern corner of Dallas county, anyway (please take note of the sarcasm dripping off that statement!).  Dallas…it’s currently the ninth largest city in the United States, the fourth largest metro area in the United States.  That is, according to Wikipedia, anyway.  My grandfather’s (my mom’s dad) family were sharecroppers.  My grandmother (my dad’s mom) grew up on a farm.  I visited my great-grandparents’ farm a couple times per year until they died…I was in elementary school.  My uncle and his family lived in a rural area north of Dallas for a while.  I visited them every once in a while.  More importantly, I heard all his stories…about the chickens, and dogs, and coyotes.  I might have been a city girl, but I knew all about “country” stuff.  I was sure I had experience.

But I had no idea.

Did you know that meat doesn’t actually appear in the refrigerated section at the grocery store through some sort of magical process?  I didn’t.  Well, when I actually thought about it, I did.  But, like most people, I never had to think about it.

What about fruits and vegetables?  Most people grow beans for some sort of science project in elementary school, but that’s the end of food production…they rarely think of it again.  Many folks never think about the work that goes into producing enough for your family to eat for an entire year.  I know I didn’t…but my kids do. 

We moved out here, and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  I had no idea what I was getting our kids into.  I’m glad we did it.  Our kids are better off because of it.  But, our kids are most definitely weird.

Our kids eat their vegetables.

Gasp!  That one little fact probably makes them weird all on its own!  They don’t usually even complain about it…as long as no one did anything silly to the vegetables, you know, like cooking them.  They prefer them straight out of the garden (see number 8 on this list).  I don’t think we even managed to get any of our peas into the house this year.  The kids ate them straight off the plants for “outside snacks”, as Monkey called them.

Now, don’t try cooking their precious vegetables…that is ill-advised.  Don’t try to heat up canned peas and tell my kids to eat them because you’ve heard they like peas.  They will look at you like a cow looking at a new gate…and then absolutely refuse to eat whatever it is you just served them (it certainly wasn’t peas!).  Cooked carrots?  Forget it!

Our kids are homeschooled.

This is probably why they don’t realize that our family is a little bit different than most.  They get plenty of time to play with other kids, don’t get me wrong.  But, they’re not around the same set of other kids every single day like they would be at school.  We teach the things that we feel are important, not what the state tells us to teach.  We set high standards for what they learn.  

Most preschoolers learn about farm animals from picture books.  Our kids don’t just learn how to point them out in a book.  They learned that cows are huge.  They know that big brown one ain’t a cow…and not to mess with him.  There’s a difference between a cow and a heifer, and my four year old can tell you all about it.  Eggs come from hens, not from roosters, and even my 2 year old knows how to tell the difference.  Pigs really do enjoy a good wallow in the mud, and if there is no mud available, they will make their own!  Our kids know all about farm animals, and they know how to treat them, and how to behave around them.

Our kids pull their weight

Now, some of them weigh more than others, and we certainly make allowances for that.  But our kids have to work.  Most of the time, they actually enjoy it!  When I say it’s time to clean our bathroom, Bear jumps up and says, “Ooh!  I’ll clean the potty!”  No, I’m not making that up.  I actually did it myself this past week, and she honestly got upset with me.  There are certainly household chores they don’t enjoy, like cleaning up their rooms, but they are learning to do them anyway…like it or not.

All the kids have a blast helping their daddy with his work outside.  They go with him nearly every night to lock up the chicken coops and pull water for all the animals.  They help as much as they can.  When Daddy is out planting the gardens, the kids are right there helping him out.  They help pick the vegetables once the plants start producing, too.  Once the vegetables are picked, they help wash and sort it as well.  They know what goes into making the food they eat, and they probably have a better appetite for it!

Our kids understand that death is part of life.

This made me a little uncomfortable at first, but our kids have a very healthy view of death.  Without death, there is no life.  They understand where their food comes from.  They feed their food apple cores…our latest set of pigs recently went to the freezer, but we sure went through a lot of apples while they were living in the barn.  Our children know where the pigs are, they understand…but they aren’t upset by it.  It’s just part of life.  We take care of our animals, and when the time comes, our animals take care of us.

Many kids find a lot of blood and gore in video games.  Fascination with these types of things, while often disturbing to adults, is (to a certain degree) part of healthy development.  Our children don’t need video games…they’ve seen their dad slaughter chickens to feed his family.  It’s certainly not a pleasant task, but in our lives, it’s a necessary task.  Our kids understand that, and they’re blessed with an understanding that these animals have fulfilled their purpose.

The understanding of death gained by our children through their involvement in food production also prepares them for the death of loved ones as well.  They aren’t frightened of the concept of death and they understand what it means.  That means we can intelligently discuss our beliefs about what happens to people after death on earth.  My Granddad (their great-granddad) recently passed away after a year of confinement to a nursing home due to dementia and a hip injury.  When we told the kids about it, they were able to process the information.  Of course they were sad, especially Bear who remembered what he was like before his dementia got really bad.  But, since they already understood death, it allowed us to concentrate on the life that comes after death.  Without death, there can be no life.

So, there you have it.  My kids are weird.  But, I wouldn’t have it any other way!


I linked up with:

 

Teaching What Is Good

 

Tuesdays With a Twist

 

 

JENerally Informed

 

Epic Mommy Adventures

 

Coffee and Conversation button

”TheNaturalHomeschool”

Messy Marriage

 

Think Tank Thursday

The Blogger's Pit Stop

 

Awesome Life Friday


I am a wife and the mother of five children.  I love my family.  We live on a farm…no pavement in sight.  You know what that means, right?  Dirt.  Dirt, dirt, and more dirt.  Then it rains.  Then comes the LAUNDRY!  Loads and loads and loads of it.  But, that’s just the tip of the iceburg.  

Let’s not forget the dishes.  My youngest doesn’t eat solid food yet, and is exclusively breastfed.  She doesn’t contribute to Dish Mountain.  So, that makes six plates, six cups, six forks, six spoons, six knives…plus all the pots and pans to cook in…for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Doesn’t my life sound glamorous?

Housekeeping is NOT one of my gifts.  Yes, I said it.  I don’t enjoy housework…I’m really not very good at it.  I don’t see all those little tasks that need to be done to keep a house truly clean and comfortable.  I’m generally happy if I manage to keep the dishes clean and enough clean clothes in my kids’ drawers.  I’m very lucky that my husband is an enormous help in this department, too!  He can often be found washing dishes with the kids (like, every night after dinner while I’m putting the baby to bed), folding laundry, or sweeping and mopping the floors.  But, there are always so many more things to be done…and with a two month old infant, even the basics often seem to slip.  Alas, I fall further and further behind.  There’s not enough time or energy to tackle that growing pile of clothes waiting to be folded…much less that big project that needs to be done!

But, I knew what I was signing up for eight years ago when I quit my job to stay home with my oldest…I thought.  Of course, the load has gotten a little heavier with each addition to the family, but that’s to be expected.  My biggest problem is that I tend to look at the housework all wrong.

Zone Clean ‘n’ Flip – Make Chores Fun!

I’ve always measured myself, and my personal success, on what I can complete.  What I can finish.  What I can check off that good ole’ to-do list.  With my housework, I always felt like such a failure.

“I found the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper!  Yay me!  I did such a great job today!”

Ten minutes later, I visit the bathroom and the hamper (OK, I’ll be honest, it’s usually the floor in front of the hamper) is already full again!  “All that time spent, and nothing to show for it.”  Sigh.

“Yay!  The dishes are done and put away.  The counters are clean and disinfected.  My husband’s coffeepot is sparkling!”

But then, “Mom!  Can I have a snack?”  And of course, if one person is hungry, everyone else realizes they’re famished too.  They find and finish their snacks, leaving dish carnage in their wake.  It’s not enough to justify a whole new sink full of dish water (No, we don’t have a dishwasher), but if I don’t do it now, after dinner it will look like a dish sculpture of Mount Everest.

 

I looked at the housework as something to be accomplished.  Completed.  Defeated!  But I got so discouraged because it just simply cannot happen.  It isn’t possible.  Even if I were to get every single article of clothing in the house clean, folded, and put away, we’re still wearing something while it’s getting done.  So it isn’t done.

If I can help my kids learn the right attitude about it all, they’ll be so far ahead of me.  My way isn’t the right way to think about all the housework.  Now that I have daughters who are getting old enough to actually help, I have to do my best to make sure they don’t get this attitude about work, and about life in general.  Because honestly, that’s what housework really is…LIFE!  If I can help my kids learn the right attitude about it all, they’ll be so far ahead of me.  

So, now, for that all important question.  How should I try to teach myself to think about housework?  How should I teach my kids?  I already know how NOT to do it.  But how SHOULD I do it?  Well, I’ve got to look at it as an on-going process, not something to be completed.  We can’t stop living because I just swept and mopped the floors.  I have to learn to accept that life happens.  There’s going to be a dog (or 3) who just took a nice swim in the pond trailing my husband who’s carrying a big pile of still mud-caked turnips inside from the garden the day after a good rain.  That’s ok.  So what?  I’ll try again tomorrow (and make my husband sweep again after he’s done washing the turnips!).

I also have to learn (and teach!) that if I’m doing my job right (which I rarely am), no one is going to notice.  But, that shouldn’t be why I do it anyway.  Housework is my act of service to care for my family, to make my guests feel welcome and comfortable…whether they called first or not!  This is one (of many) ways I should be showing love for others.  I should expect nothing in return…not even praise for a job well-done.

If I can impart this hard life-lesson early on in my daughters’ lives (and my sons’ too), that’s just another way to help them live happier, healthier, more satisfying lives than have I.  One way I’ve started is by making sure we do ourZone Cleaning  twice a day, every day!  This program really helps them break down each cleaning task into manageable chunks.  It also helps us all remember that keeping our home neat and clean is an ongoing process…not something to do that stays done forever.  We have to come back to it many times every day!

It’s a work in progress, but someday, maybe I’ll figure it all out!

 

 

I linked up this week with:

 

Blended Life Happy Wife

 

Coffee and Conversation button

 


A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she had lost her phone.  She has been looking for it for a couple days.  Hopefully, by the time I finish writing this post and get up, she will have found it! 

It can really be frustrating when things get lost.  It’s even more frustrating when you look everywhere you can think, and you still can’t find it.  If you have small children who share your home, you must learn to think like a toddler if you want to find your missing item.  Maybe it’s your phone, maybe your car keys or wallet.  Maybe it’s the keys to the tractor.  So, for those of you who are lucky enough to have a toddler or preschooler living in your home, I’ve put together a list of the strangest places I’ve ever found my missing items…maybe it will help you locate that long-lost set of house keys!

1. The dishwasher

Thoroughly inspect every crevice of your dishwasher.  Look on the inside, look on the outside.  Check inside that little hollow area right under the door handle.  Bear hid my phone in that little hollow once.  I searched and searched for my phone.  It disappeared on a Friday afternoon.  We looked all weekend, but we couldn’t find it.  I was pregnant with Monkey at the time, and we decided it would probably be a bad idea for me to be alone at the house without a phone.  So, Monday morning, I loaded the girls into the car, and went to purchase a new phone.  All was once again right, and I had learned that I should keep my phone up in a higher location!  A few months later, we were giving the dishwasher a thorough cleaning.  I saw something weird in the gap underneath the handle.  I got a pair of kitchen tongs and managed to pull it out.  There it was…my long lost phone…found months too late.  It even still worked!  It became a decoy phone for the kids to play with.  It’s still wandering around the toy boxes to this very day.

2.  A child’s play purse…

…that is inside a stuffed animal backpack all crammed down together in the bottom of a dress-up box.  I can’t make this stuff up!  One of our dear children once absconded with the tractor keys.  For a week, my husband had to hotwire the tractor if he needed it (it just happened to be that time of the year when it was needed…often).  Daddy was mad!  We looked all around the tractor for the lost keys.  We knew one of the kids was responsible for the disappearance, but we weren’t sure which one…though we had our suspicions that it was Lizard.  We really thought they had been dropped outside somewhere, so we searched the entire yard.  I had the kids out searching every day.  One day, I had the girls inside cleaning their room, which looked like a scene from some sort of natural disaster stricken area.  Bear pulled out the backpack.  She looked inside, and pulled out the purse.  Lizard looked up and said, “Oh!  I wondered where this was!”  Then Lizard grabbed the purse and looked inside, wondering what sort of long-forgotten treasure she would find there.  Her face was priceless.  She looked up at me, and back down into the purse and sheepishly pulled out the tractor keys.  “I forgot!”  was all she said.  Then, she started laughing hysterically.  We showed Daddy, who was still a bit irritated, but glad to have the keys back.

3.  A bag of flour

This is one of Rhino’s favorite places to hide things.  Of course, being a family of seven, we don’t ever get the small bag.  Oh no…we buy the 25 pound bag.  I’ve pulled phones, keys, and toys out of the bag of flour.  It’s at that perfect height that just invites little hands to investigate!  Plus, it’s in a bag that’s in a box under the cabinet.  The multiple containers make it extra fun!

4.  Inside a table

This is Rhino’s other favorite place to hide things.  But, inside a table?  How does a small child put things inside a table?  Well, we have two tables that have an inside.  One is the coffee table.  It’s on wheels, so he can push it around the living room.  The top opens so that ideally, you can store blankets or magazines or books…whatever you need accessible but out of site.  It also has doors on the sides so you can access the inside that way.  Rhino likes to put things in the top, then locate them in the blanket stack from the side.  It’s a fun game…until something gets lost in the folds of a blanket.  Then, the mystery can quickly become a tragedy…especially if no one saw him put the item inside the table.  We looked for his “nice” for days once.  His nice is a little blanket that he always sleeps with.  We finally found it inside the coffee table, wrapped up in another, much larger blanket.

We have another table that folds up and stands against the wall most of the time.  It only comes out when we have company and need extra seating at meal time.  The chairs for the table fold and are stored inside the table.  There’s a little door on each side that opens so that the chairs can be removed.  It’s a neat little table that has been with me since my college apartment-dwelling days.  Since the children came along, though, many a small item has turned up inside that little table, sometimes fallen between the cracks in the folded chairs.  

 5.  In the tupperware drawer 

We were visiting my parents a year or so ago.  Rhino was toddling about with his sippy cup most of the afternoon.  When dinner time came, he was very thirsty, and really wanted some juice.  But, no one could find his cup.  We looked everywhere!  Still, no cup.  We finally caved and got out a fresh cup for dinner, but we still needed to find it before we left.  We didn’t want to forget the cup (we only keep a couple at home), and I’m sure my mom didn’t want to find the cup months later…no one enjoys that kind of surprise!

The next day, I happened to open the tupperware drawer (looking for something else, but still unfamiliar with they lay-out of my parents’ new kitchen), which was one of the lowest drawers in the kitchen.  Again, it was the perfect height for little hands to explore!  Low and behold, there was something bright orange showing from an upside-down stack of Ziploc containers (or possibly Gladware…who can tell!).  The color caught my eye, since everything else was clear plastic.  It was also odd for the stack to be in the drawer upside down.  So, I lifted the overturned stack, and there it was…the missing sippy cup!  Found at last.  We were all relieved.  


So, if you ever find yourself missing an item and you have little ones in the house, think like a toddler.  Look inside of stuff that’s inside of something else!  Your mom may have told you to look where you left it, or maybe to retrace your steps.  “It didn’t grow legs and walk off!”  Well, the moral of the story here is…maybe it did!  It just have grown some pint-sized legs and walked somewhere strange…somewhere strange and exciting-to a toddler anyway! 

 

Think Tank Thursday  

 

 

 

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Awesome Life Friday

 

 

 

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

 

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Darling Downs Diaries

 

Amaze Me Monday

Blended Life Happy Wife

 

Coffee and Conversation button

 

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My granddad died on March 27th…one day before his 87th birthday.  The emotional roller coaster that I’ve been riding for the past month and a half is almost unbearable.  I’ve gone from the incredible joy of the birth of a new baby, to the grief that can only be felt when you lose someone you love dearly.  I loved my granddad dearly.  He was a great man, who’s joy for the simple things in life was infectious.  He left behind a wife, two sons, three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.  Granddad touched countless lives.  We knew the end was coming for a little over a year, and for him, I’m sure death was a great release.  I know he hurt so badly, and that is over for him now.  For that I am grateful.  

I have so many fond memories of Granddad.  He helped to raise me.  I spent countless hours with him and my grandmother growing up.  They only lived a couple of miles away.  Granddad and I would go down into the creek behind their house.  We spent hours exploring up and down that creek.  We would find interesting “artifacts” in the mud and silt.  He would tell all kinds of stories.  During our explorations, we would play all kinds of pretend games.  One of our favorites was for me to pretend to be a teenage girl, and Granddad would pretend to be my little brother.  He would get into all sorts of mischief in our games.  It was my job to keep him out of trouble!

The big sister/little brother game was a common one with us.  We didn’t just play it while exploring the creek.  We would also play on our long bike rides.  Granddad would ride bikes with me farther than anyone else.  He would take me clear up to the main road.  He would ride with me down to the elementary school a couple of miles away, so that I could play on the playground (and he could take a rest).  Every once in a while, he would stop to point out something interesting that he had seen while we were riding.

Granddad was a master storyteller.  He had a way of telling stories that made you feel like you were really there.  He could tell a funny story about the trouble he and his brother got into while they were growing up, and by the time he got done, it was as if you had been there too, right along with them.  I can still remember the suspense and fear I felt when he told me a story about the time his brother dared him to stick his tongue to a frozen train track during a Missouri winter.  They didn’t believe a tongue would actually stick to the metal.  So, Granddad’s brother dared Granddad to try it.  As it turns out, tongues do stick to frozen train tracks.  And then they heard the train whistle.  The way Granddad told the story, I’m sure he managed to peel his tongue off the track mere seconds before the train came speeding along the track, with my granddad and his brother barely escaping certain death…or at least tongue amputation.

I can still remember, as a small child, when I would ride anywhere in a car with Granddad, he would tell me stories about the road lice.  Now, you may not know it, but nearly all roads have road lice.  You can tell, because of all the little bumps.  Most people think they are there to separate the different lanes of traffic.  But Granddad knew the truth.  Those bumps in between the lanes were actually road louse houses.  He would have me staring at those little bumps throughout the entirety of a long road trip, desperately trying to spot a road louse.  Of course, I didn’t know what they looked like…and according to Granddad, they were very shy creatures.  After all, wouldn’t you be scared to come out of your house if cars ran over it all the time?  I sure wish I had his talent for keeping kids entertained in the car!  With five kids of my own now, that kind of talent would really come in handy!

Along with his talent for storytelling, Granddad had another great talent.  My granddad could whistle.  It wasn’t just any whistle.  He had his own very special whistle.  I could tell his whistle apart from anyone else’s.  It had a very unique sound.  Granddad was always whistling.  He whistled any tune that came into his head.  But, I most often remember hearing him whistle The Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Not a song you’d typically hear whistled!  Now, every once in a while, he would sing it…rather badly!  His rendition was very loud, and always overly dramatic.  He enjoyed my pained reaction.  But, the sound of his whistle is something I will never forget.

Granddad also had a couple of great culinary passions: popcorn, and ice cream floats.  He had a special pan that he used to cook popcorn on the stove.  The bottom of it looked like a typical sauce pan.  But, the top had a lid that attached to the handle.  On the end of the handle was a crank that turned a mechanism in the bottom of the pan that kept the kernels moving.  It looked a lot like this one.  I thought it was so awesome when he made popcorn.  He would let me pour the popcorn into the pan, AND turn the handle while it popped!  My mom never let me play at the stove…but Granddad did.  Of course, he was standing with me the whole time making sure I wouldn’t burn myself.  Now, the ice cream float went perfectly with a popcorn snack.  Granddad liked root beer in his.  But I was never a fan of root beer.  So, he would make a Coke float for me.  The ice cream had to be Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.  We were in Texas, after all!

When I got a little bit older, Grandmother and Granddad took me with them on a number of vacations.  I spent weeks every summer, travelling to some exotic location.  They took me on a road trip to Washington D.C. (Remember the road louse houses?  He even managed to get a teenage me to search for them!).  We went to England, three different times.  I even joined them for one week out of their three week 50th anniversary trip to Hawaii.  They probably would have asked me to join them for all three weeks, but the first two weeks were during dead week and finals during my first semester of my junior year in college.

Driving in England with Granddad was always an adventure.  Of course, to us Americans, the British drive on the wrong side of the road!  On our first trip to England, on the very first day, we were driving from Gatwick airport to our first temporary residence.  We were all tired and jet lagged.  Granddad started veering off the road, and knocked the headlight and side mirror off our rental car.  That woke us up!  Then, after we got off the M road (I can’t remember which number it was), Granddad went to turn on our next road, and of course, turned onto the wrong side of the road!  More excitement!  He finally got it figured out around the time we were about to leave to come back to the US after 3 weeks each time.  But, we always had fun.  We stayed lost a lot, since Grandmother was the navigator…but that’s a story for another day!

I could tell a million more stories about my granddad.  But, I’ll save some for another time.  I have many, many happy memories of this man.  He will certainly be missed.  I am sad.  But, I also know that I have hope.  Hope because we will meet again…free from pain, and free from the confusion and haze of dementia.  So, until that time, I will have to be content to remember.  I will remember all the time I had to spend with him.  I will remember how blessed I have been to have had my granddad in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sincerely, Paula

 

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Last week, my oldest daughter turned eight.  We had a small celebration at home.  We’ll have a party for some friends after the baby comes and we all get settled again.  For our family celebration, we baked a birthday cake to have after dinner.

Baking in a small, galley-style kitchen can be a challenge when you’re 8 and a half months pregnant, and roughly the size of a river barge.  Add four children who want to help to the mix, and you have a situation brewing that’s likely to make you lose your mind!

These experiences, helping Mom or Dad in the kitchen are so important for young children.  They need to learn how to help…and actually be helpful!  They need to learn how to clean up once the job is done.  They need to learn how to read a recipe…and it’s a great way to teach fractions, too!  So, how can you, as a parent, help them to learn all these things while not losing your mind?  You want it to be an enjoyable experience for you all!  You want your children to look back with fond memories of baking in the kitchen with you.

 

I have to admit, before my kids started getting old enough to help, I had very unrealistic expectations of how these cooperative cooking experiences would proceed.  We would have pretty, matching mother and child aprons.  I would look like June Cleaver, with high heels and perfect hair pulling cookies out of the oven with a giant smile on my face (as if anyone can really smile while wearing high heels!).  We would carefully measure, and stir, taking turns nicely while nary a drop was ever spilled.  There would be no flour explosions in our perfect kitchen!  Never an egg shell dropped in the wrong spot!

Oh, how foolish the expectations of a young mother can sometimes be!!!

Well, I’m certainly no June Cleaver, and cooking with even one child is a mess.  Cooking with four is nothing short of a natural disaster of the proportion that deserves its own name!  But, if I let it, cooking together can also be a hugely rewarding experience…both for me, and for the children.

Bear is old enough now that she is actually quite a help.  She knows how to read a recipe, how to measure ingredients, and how to make sure she gets those ingredients (completely) into the mixing bowl.  Lizard is learning, but still needs a lot of help.  On Sunday, she was helping her Daddy make hamburger patties, and managed to squirt raw meat juice all over both their faces!  But, hey…at least she’s excited to get her hands in there and get things done.  Monkey tries-but he still needs very careful oversight!  Rhino…well…he can’t really be trusted not to eat all the flour!

 

If I had never let Bear into the kitchen in the first place, she wouldn’t ever have learned as much as she has so far.  If I don’t let Lizard try to measure and pour by herself, she’ll never figure out how to do it without spilling.  Now, does that mean I don’t offer correction when she makes a mistake?  Absolutely not!  I try to patiently show her a better way, then, let her try it for herself (hopefully without the raw meat juice!).

Patience is not a virtue I possess naturally.  It is something I have to constantly practice and work on.  Sometimes, I have to just stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself that they goal isn’t a perfect cake.  The goal is teaching my children enjoyment of an important life skill: cooking.  When I can keep that goal in mind, it’s much easier to make cooking with my children a fun, relaxed experience…and that’s better for us all!

Here is the finished product for Bear’s birthday cake.  She frosted and decorated it herself, too.  It’s a dinosaur in a field of flowers, in case you’re wondering.  She has never been so proud of a cake!  I’m so proud of her.  She’s growing up so fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A couple of years ago, we realized we were watching way too much TV.  That’s mostly because, well, we were turning it on at all!  Our children were growing older, and we were becoming more and more sensitive to the messages coming through that little box straight into our home and our minds.

We subscribed to a popular satellite provider.  For the first two years, we got a fairly decent price…you know…the special new customer contract pricing designed to get you hooked.  Once the special pricing ended, however, the price skyrocketed.  Of course, we knew ahead of time that this would happen…it wasn’t really a surprise, but it really affected our family budget.  We had a new baby, and were a brand new family of six…and living on a single income.  We were always looking for ways to cut our costs!  We started doing a careful analysis of where exactly our money was going…and more importantly, was it worth it?

We took a long hard look at satellite TV.  We were paying a lot.  It was sucking down more money every month than it cost us to feed all of our animals!  But were we using what we paid for?  We we getting our money’s worth?  

The short answer was a definite, resounding, NO!

We were paying for hundreds of channels, but only regularly watched about ten.  Our children watched some cartoons on the kids channels, of course.  We watched our local news station.  We watched mostly sports channels in the evenings.

Now, for the more important question in our analysis.  Was the money we were spending for these channels (the small fraction that we did watch) helping us raise happy, healthy, faithful children?

Again, the answer was a big, fat, NO!

Sure, there were kids shows that the children enjoyed.  Some of them were even “educational”, and though not completely devoid of social engineering, they were fairly innocuous.

However, when we started considering what our kids were seeing on some of the other channels we were watching, it started making us uncomfortable.  We enjoyed watching a good football or baseball game, and yes, we liked watching bull riding too.  Those seem fairly safe, right?  I mean, what could be more important than encouraging that good ole’ American sportsmanship?

But, then came the commercials…all those commercials intended to get into your head to sell you something.  They’re supposed to be flashy, they’re supposed to stick with you.  There were scantily clad women dancing around.  There were spots touting how awful and confining it was to be “tied down” with children.  There were even segments advertising our culture’s favorite ways to prevent that from happening…some of them nearly pornographic.

No, these were not the sorts of things we wanted being tucked into our children’s young, impressionable minds night after night after night.  Satellite television was definitely not a tool that would help us raise happy, healthy, faithful children.

It would have to go, we decided.  I called our service provider, and cancelled the service.  They offered me all kinds of deals to try to get me to change my mind.  But I held firm.  Still, more than two years later, I still receive little love notes from them in the mail.  They tell me how much they miss me, and how much they will do to get me back.  Such desperation is kind of sad, really.

We kept the TV hooked up to the DVD player, and yes, the VCR (we’re still a little old-school).  We can watch a movie any old time we want.  VeggieTales is often on our “Feature of the Day” list.  The TV schedule can no longer rule our day.  I can choose to turn it on, or send everyone out to play.

To be honest, we don’t even miss it.  Our evenings are full of family time.  Our days are full of laughter, learning, and play.  There are days when we go the entire day without any screen time at all…and we’re better off for it!

Life isn’t about prime time.  It’s not about sports or cartoons.  It’s about spending time with your friends and family.  It’s about making sure your children grow up happy, healthy, and faithful.  You won’t remember the score of that baseball game in ten years.  But, I’d be willing to bet that your kids will remember all the time you spent with them instead.

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the second in a series of posts to remember the life of our dog, Trinity.  She was a dog who escaped death many times.  If you missed the first part of this series, you can read it here.  And here, you can find another story about one of Trinity’s many scrapes with death.


After Trinity’s unfortunate adventure at my parents’ house, we got back to my apartment and got settled in.  Eventually, she recovered fully.  She still had some digestive issues that stayed with her.  I put her on a special hypoallergenic food, and that mostly solved the problem.  Otherwise, Trinity was a happy, healthy young dog.  She had a happy tail that wagged constantly.  It could put a bruise on your leg, or knock your drink off the coffee table!  Sometimes, it was hard to tell who was wagging who!

A year went by.  I moved into a house with a couple of friends.  Trinity would have a backyard to play in.  She would have other dog friends to play with (once she got used to them, of course).

She was happy living in that house, and so was I.  We’d take walks around the neighborhood together.  We played fetch with Trinity’s toy hedgehog in the backyard.  We played chase in the backyard.

One day, one of my roommates fried up some venison backstrap.  She put the trimmings and scraps in a plastic bag in the trash.  Apparently, Trinity couldn’t resist.  She got into the trash, ripped open the bag, and ingested the contents.  She got very sick – again.  This time, it was, according to the vet, E. coli…or an E. coli-type infection.  She had to stay with the vet for a couple of days.  Again, she made a full recovery and was able to come home.  We resumed our life as a care-free college student and her dog.

Another way, another move.  I moved a little way outside of town.  My new roommate already shared the property with a dog and two horses.  Trinity really enjoyed the rural life.

About a week after we moved in, my roommate had her horses tied to the front yard fence, washing them.  I came home and let Trinity out of her kennel, and out in the front yard to do her business…just as I did every day.  I was obviously not thinking clearly!  She went charging out the door, straight for those horses on the other side of the fence.  She ran up to them, barking.  As she got to the fence, though, she looked up and realized just how incredibly big those horses were…and how small she was!  Just at that moment, the younger of the two horses reached his head over the fence, and began to nibble up and down Trinity’s back.  Trinity froze.  It was the funniest thing I had ever seen.  Trinity had met her match.

She remembered her lesson for a while.  But one day, I had the bad luck to let Trinity out at exactly the same time that my roommate was letting the horses out to graze.  They would always take a few minutes to run and buck and play before settling down to eat a little.  One of Trinity’s favorite things to do was chase things.  And that’s exactly what she did.  She ran straight for the fence, scooted underneath it, and ran after those horses.  I don’t know if the horses even noticed her.  She chased them to the back of the property.  The horses came back, making their full circle.  But Trinity didn’t.

My roommate and I started walking out towards the back of the property, calling for Trinity.  We walked a little way, and finally saw Trinity coming…on three legs.  One of her front legs was very clearly broken.  My roommate very kindly offered to drive us to the vet.  
So, I lifted Trinity and carried her to my roommate’s truck.  Off to the vet we went.  It was fairly late in the afternoon, so Trinity had to stay overnight to have her leg set and casted.  I brought her home on my way home from class the next day.  She was still the same happy Trinity with the same happy tail.  The cast made it hard for her to walk, but she soon figured it out.  It took about two months, but her leg finally healed.  Needless to say, I as on a first name basis with the entire staff at our veterinary clinic.

Trinity got used to her newly-healed leg.  She was back to running and playing chase in no time…just not with the horses!

 


Part Three of Trinity’s story is now up, too.  Enjoy.



Six and a half years ago, our lives changed forever.  We bought a house in Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas.  Then we moved from our nice, conveniently located house in town to our new little piece of property that was an hour away from anything.  At the time, Bear was around 18 months old, and we were expecting our second.  I was so sick, and so busy taking care of a toddler.  Andrew had to do pretty much all the moving by himself.  I was useless!  What were we thinking???

Once we got moved in and at least nominally settled, we had to get to work on a way to keep our agricultural tax exemption.  We had always intended to stock the place with animals.  I only had one rule.  One rule, never to be broken, when I agreed to move out to the middle of nowhere: 

NO CHICKENS!!!

No chickens.  How hard is that rule to obey?  We could get anything else…cows, goats, sheep, horses, even llamas.  Just no chickens.  The possibilities were endless.  I always assumed we would get some cattle.  I mean, this is Texas.  Of course there would be cattle.

 But then, my dear husband started with the crazy talk…

He wanted to get…chickens.  Yes, chickens.  I thought I had made myself perfectly clear.  Why on earth would he want to mess with such foul, disgusting fowl which are useless for anything except feeding the local bobcat and coyote populations?  My uncle had chickens years ago when I was a kid.  I was certain that this one experience in my youth made me an expert on the matter.

Unfortunately, my husband did make some good points.  We did eat a lot of chicken.  We ate a lot of eggs.  We would know what was going into our food.  It would be cheaper to raise them than to pay full price at the store.  It was starting to become clear that I was going to lose this argument.  But, I held fast and firm to my decision.  

NO CHICKENS!!!

Eventually, after many conversations about chickens, I finally made my fatal mistake.  Instead of my patented “No chickens!” response to end one of these little talks, I said, “I don’t want chickens!”

“So,” says my husband, smiling mischievously, “You don’t want chickens.  But that means I can get chickens.  You won’t have to mess with them at all.  They’ll be my chickens, my business.”

I was nearly 8 months pregnant, and I was tired.  I finally conceded the loss.  

“Fine.”  I pouted.  “But understand me now.  I will NOT do anything with those chickens!  They are yours, just like you said.  I won’t touch those nasty chickens.  And don’t come crying to me when the coyotes get them!”

We had finally reached an agreement.

A few days later, my husband came driving home from the feed store with a box full of chicks that he had ordered.  Thirty of them.  Thirty!

They were kinda cute.  Even my hard heart had to admit that.  They were all fluffy and yellow, with all the little cheep cheep noises.  But I still wasn’t going to have anything to do with them.  Nope…no way!  Wasn’t gonna happen!

My husband had a big crate in the garage that he turned into a brooder for them.  It was fall, it was actually rather cool, and chicks have to be kept very warm until their feathers come in.  He put chicken wire over the top of the box, and a piece of plywood on top of the wire to keep the heat from the lamp in the box, leaving enough room uncovered for air to circulate.  He weighted down the wood on the top to make sure it wouldn’t come off.

The next morning, as my husband was leaving for work, he asked me to come out to the garage every few hours to check the brooder to make sure the chicks weren’t too cold, and make sure they had enough food and water.  Remember, that I was eight months pregnant.  The walk (waddle) from the house to the garage was no small undertaking!  But, the compassion for these poor little babies in my hormonal pregnant heart was stirred.  So much for being completely hands-off with the chickens!  My resolve had lasted less than 24 hours.

Tragedy would soon strike our household, however.  The third day after their arrival, after my daughter was down for her nap, I went out to check on the chicks.  My pregnant, hormonally-charged brain knew something was amiss the minute I stepped into the garage.  It was too quiet.  There were no sounds of cheeping and scuttling about as I approached the box.  The lid was knocked off, and the chicken wire was pulled up on the corner.  Oh, what a horrible, gruesome scene I found in that brooder!  Something had gotten into the brooder and killed every single chick save one…but when I looked, I didn’t see the live one.  It must have been hiding in the corner under the light.  I thought they had all been killed.  

They had not been eaten.  They had been eviscerated.  The perpetrator had extracted the parts he wanted with surgical precision from each and every chick.  The rest of the parts were scattered about the bottom of the box, untouched.  This MO suggested that a raccoon was to blame.  I cried and cried and cried.  It was too much.  My emotional state was already unstable.  I didn’t even want those silly chicks.  And now I had to deal with this grizzly murder scene.  I called my husband at work, and I cried at him for about 5 minutes before I could make any words come out.  Of course, this resulted in a panicked husband.  Imagine your very pregnant wife who is alone with your young daughter out in the middle of nowhere, calling you at work, unable to do anything but cry.  I finally managed to pull myself together enough to tell him what had happened.  He was also upset, but told me he’d take care of it himself after work.  When he got home, he found the one chick that had survived.  I held and cuddled that little chick while he cleaned out the brooder.  All those poor, helpless babies were just gone!

It was the first of many life and death lessons we would learn about how hard, and sometimes vicious life could be out here.  Andrew fixed the brooder up and made many improvements so this would not happen again.  He also went on a raccoon hunting spree, the first of several.  We got more chicks.  In fact, since there was one survivor, we had to get more chicks the very next day.  Our lone survivor would get too cold without some compatriots to keep him company.  Andrew built coops and fenced enclosures when the new chicks were ready to move out of the brooder.  Since then, we’ve grown our flock quite a bit.  We keep a permanent flock of layers, and hatch out some as replacements for our older layers, and some for meat for our family each year.  

I still don’t like the chickens.  I like raccoons even less.  And, despite all my big talk at the beginning, I was the one crying when predators got to the chickens.  Whatever my opinion on the matter, the chickens are here to stay.  I even have to mess with them occasionally.  Guess who takes care of them when Andrew is out of town?  Yep, that’d be me.  And guess who has to make sure their water misters get turned on every day during our scorching Texas summers?  Yep.  Me again.  I have to admit, I do like the fresh eggs, and producing our own food is pretty satisfying.

So…I deal with the chickens.

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