Category Archives: parenting

Ribbons Undone: The Whirlwind of Being Six

She sat at the dinner table and said, in all confidence, “Daddy. When I snap my fingers, it means you need to bring me more water.” This one sentence sums up my daughter in so many ways. First, she’s six. She still calls her dad “Daddy.” Second, she’s clever. In her mind she’s made up a new rule and calmly states it as fact. Third, she’s taken on the persona of Queen Victoria a bit too literally.

After a brief moment of surprise (awe?), we gently laughed and said, “Yeah, nope. That’s not how we do things in this family.” But “A” for effort?

This girl, this six-year-old, is, in all honesty, the most emotional, beautiful and frustrating thing in my life right now. She’s up, down, all around and doing cartwheels and sword fights all the while. She can’t stand to be corrected, and yet is eager to learn. She hates to be hugged but longs for affection. She rolls her eyes and is disrespectful yet starts weeping at the first sign of discipline. She speaks with the air of a queen but her words are that of a child. She’s a conundrum to me, and once she finally falls asleep, I leave her room an emotional, exhausted mess.

People say girls are full of drama. I’d like to agree but can’t quite. True drama is intentional, a choice to behave a certain way to elicit certain results. While Victoria certainly knows her choices have consequences, I’m fairly confident that most often, she’s not being dramatic, she’s just being SIX. And this is where my difficulty lies.

She can be so all over the place that it makes me want to scream. It’s so hard to handle emotional whirlwinds of other people when at times I’m an emotional whirlwind myself! When I collect her from school I never know if she’ll approach me with a smile or a stuck-out tongue and rolling eyes, therefore subjecting me to make reprimand be the first of our conversation together.

It’s the hardest thing for me to be the “good mom” who goes through the checklist of why she might be acting that way (is she hungry? Did she quarrel with a friend? Did she perform badly on a test? Etc). Rather, I jump right in and address the behavior, not the reason, and in the end we both feel miserable.

My most ardent prayer is that God will show me the way to be the mother she needs. Because, in the brief moments of peace and laughter, I can see that this age is truly precious and one of the most beautiful things I’ll ever see. Victoria is in a delicate balance of willful confidence and still desperately needing her mama. She’s developing a strong personality and I pray that I can encourage and refine it, not thwart or deflate it. Most of all, I want her to know that I love her, and that God loves her.

There’s a beautiful song called Ribbons Undone by Tori Amos (click to listen!). It’s been one of my all-time favorite songs, and now that I have a little girl of my own, it means that much more to me. Victoria is my own flash of lightning, my thoroughbred, my little girl running with ribbons undone. And, as she would add, my own little queen.

She’s a girl
rising from a shell
running to Spring
It is her time it is her time
Watch her run with Ribbons undone

she’s a rose in a Lily’s cloak
she can hide her charms
Is it her right there will be time
to chase the sun with Ribbons undone

she runs like a fire does
just picking up daises
Comes in for a landing
a pure flash of lightening
Past alice blue blossoms
you follow her laughter
And then she’ll surprise you
arms filled with lavender

Yes, my little pony is growing up fast
she corrects me and says
“you mean a thoroughbred”
A look in her eye says the Battle’s beginning
From school she comes home and cries
I don’t want to grow up Mom at least not tonight

you’re a girl
Rising from a shell
Running through Spring
with Summer’s hand in reach now
It is your time It is your time
so just run with Ribbons undone
It is your time yes my angel
It is your time
so just run with Ribbons undone
run run darlin’
Ribbons undone

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Parenting in Public

I could feel people staring at us as they walked past. My daughter was crying and so was my son, and, to be honest, I was near tears as well. We were walking home from school and it had been one of those afternoons when not a single nice word had come out of Tori’s mouth since I picked her up. Whining, complaining, sassy-I-don’t-care kind of words came instead. “MOM! Get my jacket NOW,” was the first thing she said to me. Not, “Hi Mom!” or “Can you get my jacket?” We had made it about half-way home (a full mile one-way commute) when she chose to snatch her brother’s snack from his hand, eliciting tears from him. When I made her give it back AND give him a piece from her own snack, she lost it. “How dare you?!” she yelled. “NO!!”

Meanwhile, cars and cyclists whizzed by, dozens of people walked past, and we were in the middle of the sidewalk. I stopped walking, squatted next to her, and gave her a stern talking-to. We didn’t start walking again until she apologized and chose to change her attitude. It was a cold, wet wait, and we certainly received our share of curious looks from passers-by.

I’m sure this kind of thing happens to every parent. Whether it’s in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or even just with friends, we parent around other people. But here’s the thing that’s changed for us since living here: we don’t own a car, so I am CONSTANTLY parenting in public, even on our way TO the grocery store or restaurant.

There is no moment in which I am ever alone with my children except when we are literally in our house. No drives home from school, no road trips, no seat belts limiting the kids’ movement, and certainly no drive-thru restaurants. And, when bad choices or tantrums start happening, there are no threats of “don’t make me pull this car over, young lady!” haha!

Don’t get me wrong, driving with kids can be so very stressful; they’re yelling or crying or whining, all while you’re trying to pay attention to the road. BUT. In a car, there are not random strangers listening to every word you say. No one watching you, just to make sure that you don’t seem abusive or inappropriate. No random person walking by and offering unsolicited advice or an eye-brow raised stare when you’re choosing to let your child continue with his tantrum on the sidewalk.

Overall, we really love not having to drive! But it can be hard to be constantly scrutinized and judged (or feel you are) by the behavior of your children, and not have the respite of getting into the privacy of your car.

Parenting in public can be so, so exhausting, can’t it?? The looks and stares are enough to make you question your parenting choices. “Maybe I’m being too hard on her. Maybe I’m not being hard enough. Yes, thank you, ma’am, for saying ‘oh my’ when my son hit my daughter. Should I even bother addressing Tori’s attitude right now? But if I wait until we get home it will lose its effect… But it’s raining out and I really don’t have the energy to wait out here in the cold while we talk about this…” and so on. Sometimes I deliberately speak loudly so people around me can hear that, yes, I am addressing the issue, and no, I’m not swearing at her or threatening her with violence. But then speaking loudly can seem like I’m yelling at her. Yet speaking softly seems to imply malice!

I’m most grateful when I make eye contact with a stranger and they give me a sympathetic, smiling look which says “I’ve been in your shoes, hang in there,” and then go on their way.

Our extra time in public has forced me to stay true to my convictions, and to learn to just ignore the people walking by, and to realize this: It’s a lose-lose situation if I start to care what strangers on the street think about me and my children. My psyche can’t handle trying to impress people. It’s an exhausting and dangerous downhill battle that can lead to dark places.

We’ve all had that moment when someone offers you unsolicited advice or condemnation when you’re already stressed about your children. We must choose to stick to our convictions and instincts, and, dare I say it? parent our children the same in public as we do in private. Otherwise we’re sending our kids a mixed message and that’s not fair to them!

It’s so much easier said than done… I’d love to hear your thoughts about parenting in public; do you parent the same way at home as you do in the grocery store? Is it really possible to parent in public WITHOUT taking into consideration that you have an audience?

Well, I’m off to do the “school run,” as they say here; praying that our walk home will be full of good attitudes and happy kids :)

Tough Questions: Handling Cultural Diversity with Young Children

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We were at our local grocery store in north London when my four-year-old daughter, Tori, tugged on my sleeve.

“Mommy. MOMMY.” She whispered fervently, eyes wide and face solemn. “There’s a MONSTER over there.”

She then, as children do, pointed. And when I saw who she was pointing at, I was taken aback. Not because of who I saw, but more because I wasn’t sure how to respond in the moment.

She was pointing to a woman dressed in a full abaya and niqab, a black cloak and veil Muslim women sometimes wear, which draped her from head-to-toe, covering everything except her eyes.

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London’s markets are rich with diversity.

I’m going to be brutally honest here. I wasn’t sure what to say to my daughter. What I did say (whisper) was something like, “Oh, no, that’s not a monster, she’s a woman just like me! I think she’s even a mommy! And do you see how by wearing those clothes we are forced to look at her pretty eyes?” And then we kept shopping.

Yeah… I still have no clue if that was the right thing to say. Here’s what I was feeling: “I know it LOOKS like she could be a monster to you. She is wearing the color of Halloween, she has a mask on, and she’s staring out at you through that mask. And you don’t see people like this very often, do you? It sometimes startles us when we see things we aren’t used to seeing.”

But of course I didn’t say that there. We talked about it more at home, but even then it was on the level a four-year-old could understand, and my main point to her was that those women are mommies and sisters and are just like she and I, and are nothing to be scared of, and should be loved just like everyone else.

Cultural diversity is one of the big reasons we chose to take our adventure to London, and we haven’t been disappointed! Tori literally had NEVER seen a woman in a niqab before. In fact, she had barely seen women wearing a hijab (head covering) until we moved here. I’ll be brutally honest again: our corner of Tucson just wasn’t very ethnically diverse. I’m not saying Muslims and Buddhists and people of MULTIPLE different religions, languages and race don’t live there, I’m just saying it’s not nearly as prevalent as in a city like London. (And, admittedly, we didn’t make a huge effort to leave our little corner often…)

Tori's adorable "Reception" class.

Tori’s adorable “Reception” class. She’s the one with the blonde pig-tails :-)

Tori, with her blonde hair, fair skin and light eyes, is a minority at her school. Many of her playmates are bi- or tri-lingual! They speak Spanish, French, Farsi, Hindi, Italian… One of Anders’ friends has an Italian dad and African-Muslim French-born-in-Paris mum! Tori has a playdate with a friend from India this afternoon, our babysitter is from Romania and we’ll be seeing some German friends later this week.

I love that we are here while my children are young enough to have this become a “norm” for them. One of our goals as parents is to provide our children with the opportunity to LOVE EVERYONE they meet, and to be able to look beyond race or ethnicity or religion or any other lifestyle that might be different from theirs, and show them the love Christ would have shown.

But I’ll admit, answering the cultural questions of a four-year-old is HARD. “Mommy, why does my friend wear a scarf on her head every day?” or “Mommy, is that a man or a woman?” or “Mommy, why is that old man wearing a skirt and a funny hat?” or “Why does my friend live with her mommy and not her daddy?” or “Why are there shops in that church?”

Ummm…. :-) It’s been a challenge for us, but a good one. A NEEDED one. We were getting too lazy and complacent in our little bubble. Answering Tori’s questions has forced AJ and me to really be thoughtful about all those topics, and to be very deliberate in answering them in a way that she’ll understand. Or, in some instances, say, “Um, I’m not sure” and go home and do an internet search to find the answer, haha! (Because, I’ll be honest, I had no idea what the Muslim woman’s face veil was called until I researched it, and even now I HOPE I called it the correct name!!)

How DO we want our children to view the world? It’s a very tricky question but one we’re excited to explore answering.

12 hours on a plane, 8 hour jet-lag, two small kids…

Many people have been asking me about how the kids handled the long overseas flight, so here you go!

Kids on planesI’ll start with this disclaimer: our flight to London from Tucson, AZ was by no means the first time my children have been on an airplane. They’ve flown to Florida, New Orleans, North Carolina and Boston (many times). Whether this helped them or not, hard to say :-) But it certainly helped us in our planning.

Probably the most unusual element of our flight to London was that we did not know our exact flight date or time until 8 days before. Yes. 8 days. We knew we were going, so I had been able to plan almost everything, but I had no idea WHEN it was going to happen! No clue as to what day of the week, or what time of day, or through which airport, or which airline, or how long a flight.

I think this might be stressful for anyone, but it was especially stressful for me since I was trying to prepare our 2 year old and 4 year old children for this flight, trying to consider meal times, sleep time, potty time, etc.

Needless to say it was a HUGE relief when we finally booked our tickets for a Saturday flight, which left Tucson mid-morning, ~2 hrs to Dallas, then an almost 6 hr layover, then a 9hr flight to London. Total time change: 8hrs ahead.

Here’s another huge disclaimer: my parents-in-law flew with us! Ahhh, such a relief and such a blessing. But to be honest, our kids really were the CHAMPIONS on these flights! I could feel the prayers surrounding us and was constantly amazed at how well my children handled everything.

So below are a few of the things we did to ease our travel. Hope it can help even one other mum or dad in their preparation for even a short flight!

In advance:

  • Talk a lot about going on the airplane. Watch TV shows about airplanes (the airplane episode of Bubble Guppies was one of our favorites). Talk about going to the airport, WAITING at the airport, getting on the plane and SITTING on the plane “for a very long time” and getting off the plane and WAITING in another airport, etc. You get the idea. Keep telling them about it! Even our two year old could understand most of it.
  • Have your child practice using earphones while watching a show or using an iPad. This is really critical, especially if they are young (Anders was 2 years old, and on our flight to Florida a month earlier, didn’t really want to use the headphones, but used them frequently on our flights to London…) We bought them each a set of these headphones and have had no complaints! And consider purchasing a splitter if your device doesn’t have two ports.
  • Buy surprises and treats. I watched the Target $1 section for clearance. Pull aside several books a month in advance so that when you bring them out they are “new,” or buy several used books at a book sale. Buy stickers. Lots of stickers.
  • Perhaps buy a new movie or two (or download a few onto the iPad). Younger kids might need to see a show a couple of times before they are able to sit through the whole thing, so consider watching it once or twice before the flight.
  • Make sure the two or three days prior to departure the kids have as normal a schedule as you can possibly manage. Meaning low-key days, meals at home, baths at night, regular mornings, etc. The worst thing is to have a tired grumpy kid even BEFORE you leave!

During travel:

  • Allow 10-20 extra minutes for going through security. Since I’ve been traveling with children I almost ALWAYS have to have something tested or re-scanned by security. Tell other folks to go on ahead of you. Take your time and smile. Don’t let the rushed grumpiness of other travelers make you feel stressed!
  • Purchase water bottles in the airport once through security. (My kids didn’t need any special food or water, but when I was bottle-feeding, I would ask the cashier in the news store to get me a bottle of room-temperature water, which sometimes was only in the back room. This made mixing the formula much easier than using cold water.)
  • Pre-boarding!

    Pre-boarding!

    Sometimes we take advantage of pre-boarding, sometimes we don’t. If we have a ton of carry-ons or a carseat, then pre-board. If it’s just a bag or two, we prefer waiting to allow our kids more time to run around :-)

  • Once on board and in our seats (after my daughter literally seems to bump into every person in an aisle seat), the first thing I do is give the kids several sanitizing wipes and have them clean their seats! This activity is so great. They literally wipe down everything in sight and love doing it! It’s a great activity to allow you time to get settled.
  • Allow your kids to stand up in the seats (if they’re young) when you first board, and let them give big smiles to the people sitting around you. This (might) promote sympathy instead of anger later when the kids get fussy.
  • Hold off on screen time as long as possible!! Preferably at least until after drinks have been served and consumed. There’s not much worse than having a sticky, orange-juice covered DVD player or iPad… :-)

Sleeping (or should I say, “sleeping”):

  • It’s completely hit-or-miss. There is no way to anticipate if your child will sleep or not. When they are babies, snugglers often sleep better because they love being held. My daughter hated sleeping in our arms and therefore barely slept on a plane until this trip!
  • For shorter flights, if you’re hoping they’ll take a nap, don’t be discouraged if they don’t, and praise Jesus if they do! If they are fighting sleep, put on a show and then try again later.
  • For longer flights when sleep is necessary, both for you, your child, and the people around you, make sure everything you do is intentional:
    • Eat some sort of meal before you want them to sleep, even if it’s just a snack. Don’t rely on the food provided by the airline; it can take a VERY long time for them to get to you, and even if you pre-order a kids’ meal, you might not get it. (This happened to us.)
    • After the food, put their pajamas on! PJs=sleep to them. Brush their teeth. Bring along a couple bed-time books. Try to make some sort of familiar routine. Keep lights low or off. And of course bring each child their own full pillow, blanket and one stuffed animal.
    • If you’re lucky, your daughter will say to you, “Mom, I’m tired, can I sleep now?” and fall asleep. No joke, this is what my 4 year old daughter did!! She then proceeded to sleep for the entire remaining 6 hours of the flight. Probably got better sleep than anyone else on the entire plane!
    • If your child is normal, haha, then he/she might need more coaxing. Anders was pretty restless. I put a show on for him and had him lay his head down. Then I turned the show off, turned all the lights off, and gave him zero stimulation, and eventually he fell asleep. Of course half of the time his sister’s foot was in his face, but oh well!
    • If traveling with someone, take turns sleeping. When it’s your turn, put in earplugs, use an eyemask and forget about your kids :-) For the next couple of hours THEY ARE NOT YOUR PROBLEM!
Waiting... and more waiting...

Waiting…and more waiting…

 After you land:

  • Prepare yourself for the worst-case scenarios: lost luggage, huge line at rental car, zero food stands open, a quarter-mile walk to customs (with no stroller – it happened to us!!), a two-hour line to get through customs, major traffic, etc. Basically lots of waiting around. Consider it a full last leg of your trip, and it can be as critical as any other part. Bring lots of snacks for this specific time! Hungry kids can make waiting MISERABLE. Save a couple of activities or books for while you are waiting after your flight.

Jet Lag:

  • For up to 3 hours of time change, we do our hardest to immediately put the kids on the schedule of wherever we are. It’s kind of rough but seems to be the best bet. It might mean an extra power nap in the late afternoon to keep them awake until bedtime, but it’s worth it. My kids usually adjust to a 3 hr time change quite easily.
  • For longer, (say, 8 hours?) :-) It’s quite another story. The first two nights our kids went to bed at a reasonable hour and slept fairly well through the night. The next four nights were TERRIBLE. Tori woke up at 3 am WIDE AWAKE and ready to play. I sat with her, using my phone as a flashlight, and read books quietly until she went back to sleep, 90 minutes later. Ugh.
  • Have a bottle of wine ready. Or popcorn. Or SOMETHING that you can consume in the bathroom with minimal noise. The next couple of nights the two kids stayed awake until almost midnight, laughing and joking and making fart noises. Nothing I could say or do would make them sleep, so AJ and I poured wine into the hotel coffee mugs and sat in the bathroom and watched a movie on the iPad. Not our best nights.
  • It took a full 7 nights to be completely adjusted. Part of this I believe is because my kids were not used to sleeping in the same room together. If your kids share a room already, they’re better prepared for hotel living :-)

Anyway, sorry this was so wordy! It really is just a brief synopsis of our travel, but I hope it gives some of you an idea of how we handled such a long journey :-) Imagine if we had gone to Australia or Japan!

Thanks for reading! What are some things you do to survive travel with kids?

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Adjusting to Britain

So, I haven’t written in a while. Again. Sorry. I’ve been pretty busy so I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  :)

I am now officially a “migrant spouse” living in the UK! It’s been a whirlwind 4 weeks (whaaat? FOUR WEEKS ALREADY!?!?!) but it’s also been an amazing journey.

We’ve been tested in so many ways. My children have been amazing-super-troopers and have withstood said tests. My marriage has, so far, also withstood said tests. We celebrated our 9th anniversary last week, sitting on our couch paying bills, ordering delivery groceries (my entire grocery list delivered for 4 quid? Yes, please.) and celebrating our newly installed wifi. And we were both so happy.

On the Tube!

On the Tube!

People have been asking me, “What been the biggest adjustment?” Well, in short, the biggest adjustment has been for my children. They’ve slept in 4 different beds in as many weeks (5 if you count the airplane?), experienced an 8 hr jet lag, been traipsed through a foreign city via buses, cabs, the Tube and their little feet were blistered and sore from all the walking. They’ve learned to drink from adult cups because there’s no such thing as “kids’ cups” at restaurants here. They can’t always understand the other kids at the playground. (“Hi, my name is Jennifer!” said one little girl. Tori replied, “Hi Jannika!” lol.) The Bubble Guppies have British accents. And. The. Big. Deal: THERE IS NO BLUE BOX MACARONI AND CHEESE IN THE ENTIRE BLOOMING COUNTRY.

New habit of using fingers instead of pacifier...

New habit of using fingers instead of pacifier…

We’ve seen the effects of the stress on them. Anders still uses a pacifier (we had deliberately put off weaning him from it until after the move) and during the first two weeks of being here, if he didn’t have his pacifier, he’d put his fingers in his mouth at all times. He’d never done this before!! Thankfully this habit has stopped, but it certainly was a sign that he felt stressed, poor guy.

Crying all the way home from the market.

Crying all the way home from the market.

Tori has shown her stress in a more verbal and behavioral way… Lots of tantrums and acting out, and random-to-us bouts of major tears. She’s expressed sadness about being away from her friends and family, and gets easily offended if a child won’t play with her at the playground. We’re in the (stressful) process of finding a school for her, which I think will help quite a bit. It will get her into a routine, will give her an outlet for play and learning, and will, hopefully, reinforce some of the behavior training we’ve been teaching her. (For example, it’s not ok to call anyone, especially a grown-up we’ve just met, “poopy face” and then stick your tongue out and spit. Sigh.)

The most stressful part for me, so far, has been seeing my kids stressed! It’s amazing how many of my thoughts and actions are centered around trying to make them comfortable, even more than before. I’ve questioned my ability as a mom, I’ve questioned why I even bothered to have kids in the first place. My heart has been broken time and time again as my daughter weeps uncontrollably on my shoulder.

But. BUT. I have not once questioned whether we made the right decision in moving here. AJ and I both have a sense of right-ness, for lack of a better word. These adjustments are exactly that: adjustments. With, in theory, an end. It will take a little while but we’ve come so far. We’ve been loving our location, in a north-eastern borough of London, where everything we can possibly need is within a few blocks walking distance. There’s a playground or garden literally around every corner, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of seeing all there is to see here. We’ve been thoroughly enjoying exploring the city and chatting with the local mums and dads on the playgrounds.

Exploring London!

Exploring London!

I think next I’ll compile a list of the things we’ve found surprisingly different here; that’s the other big question people have been asking me: “What are some of the cultural differences?” So stay tuned for stories of creamer in yogurt containers, trash collection, burnt out electronics, peeing on the playground, and ham. :-)

Cheers!

The Amazing Spica Cast That Changed Our Lives!

To say it’s been a crazy couple of months would be an understatement! In this and the next couple of posts, I will try to give you a glimpse into our recent medical, emotional, and spiritual experiences :)

I’ll start by describing the Amazing Spica Cast That Changed Our Lives!! (Insert: Dramatic announcer voice)

My son, Anders, turned two in April and has been a healthy, active little guy. Shortly after his birthday he learned to jump with both feet, which is what ultimately caused our Big Excitement.

We were having a laid-back Friday evening in early May; AJ and I had put on Mary Poppins and dragged the cushions off the couches and were watching the kids jump off the couch and onto the pillows. Pretty normal, right? Right. Until Anders jumped, landed on a pillow on his knees and didn’t get up. Little did we know it would be almost eight weeks before he took another step.

At first it didn’t seem like a big deal, the guy didn’t even cry! And I, mom-of-the-year, told him, “It’s ok, bud, get on up!” But when he didn’t, we moved him to the couch and watched as he refused to move his leg and wouldn’t let us touch it. A phone call to the doctor convinced us to let him sleep the night at home and then bring him to the ER in the morning if he was still acting this way.

Waiting in the ER at University Medical Center, Tucson.

Waiting in the ER.

Which, of course, he was. Many hours and several x-rays later, we learned that he had fractured his left femur, poor guy!! To say my heart was wrenched was an understatement! He was such a trooper, though. We were admitted overnight to prepare him for full anesthesia in the morning, when the surgeon would set the bone and administer the cast. The SPICA cast.

The moment we heard the word, we looked it up on google. Enter the thought: Our lives are going to be changed, for a very long time. A hip-spica cast fully wraps around the waist and hips and goes down the affected leg, and often the other leg as well. The pictures online are quite shocking.

Marks left from the IV attempts.

Marks left from the IV attempts.

With all of this in our minds, we watched as they tried to administer an IV on our baby boy. It took FOURTEEN tries. FOURTEEN times they poked a needle into my son. His hands, wrists, feet and ankles were covered with needle holes. And the IV ultimately ended up in his NECK.

Watching our son scream and writhe in pain and confusion until he vomited was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so helpless, so torn between wanting peace for my son but knowing the pain had to be endured. It was a small help to know he probably won’t remember much, if any, of it.

Recovering from the spica cast application.

Recovering from the spica    cast application.

He came out of surgery, and it would be a full 5 weeks until we would see his little leg again. We were released that evening, mainly due to my persistence and nagging. It had gotten to the point that every time a nurse even walked past our door, Anders started crying in fear. Ugh. You guys, it was truly awful. We needed to go HOME and start our new, crazy life.

I’m so grateful for AJ’s parents, who had watched Tori for two nights. It allowed us to settle in at home and try and figure out how to deal with a two-year-old in a spica cast.

So, how DO you deal with a two-year-old in a spica cast?? We honestly had no clue. Many children who have a hip-spica have hip dysplasia, and their parents have months to research spica care. We, obviously, did not.

So in case anyone is reading this because you, like I was, are furiously searching the internet for any, ANY advice on spica cast care, here are some tips I learned based on our own experience. If you’re one of my regular readers, feel free to skip this part :) Gets kinda detailed!

The first two weeks are the hardest!!! They are stressful, emotional, and physically demanding. But once you’ve passed the two-week mark, it gets slightly easier. So hang in there!

Pain. If your child has broken a bone like mine did, expect him to be in fairly severe pain for almost the full two weeks. Keep movement limited. We were tempted to take him to birthday parties, etc, in the stroller, but followed my maternal instinct and laid VERY low at first. The best thing for healing is REST, after all! So be prepared to be home-bound for a while. It sucks, (especially if you have, say, a 4 yr old daughter as well…) but you do what you’ve got to do.

The ice pack seemed to help with the pain.

Diapering. Ugh. Terrible!!! Many people are able to tuck a diaper up the front and back of the cast, all the way to the top. We were not, because the cast was too snug, at least until the last week or so when the little guy had lost weight :( So. The first week ended in a rash. I’m pretty sure it was a combination of true diaper rash and natural blistering from the cast on his bare skin. I felt sooooo bad. At his one-week follow up, I insisted that his cast be trimmed around the waist and bottom. This helped a LOT. If you’re having difficulty diapering, I’d suggest asking the doctor to trim the cast. Also, one word that saved Anders’ bottom: MOLESKIN. Use it all around the cast that touches the diaper. Change frequently, as soon as it gets wet. Use small pieces and “butterfly” it around the edges. It really, really helps. I’d also recommend getting very soft, very absorbent diapers. Now is not the time to get cheap diapers!! We bought Pampers Swaddlers size 3, trimmed off the Velcro, and put it on backwards, wedging it up into his cast, front and back, as much as we could. We then put size 5 diapers around the entire thing, OVER the cast. At night we’d also line under his bum, (in the size 3 diaper) with a wing-less sanitary pad, ultra thin. Remember that since they are sleeping only on their backs, all urine will seep to the bottom and back of the diaper. Change them more frequently than you normally would, and asap when they poo!

Bathing. Flashback to newborn baths. Yep. He lay on the counter while we gave him a sponge bath and shampoo. He hated every second of it, but we endured.

Bathing with a spica cast.

Bathing with a spica cast.

Entertainment. LOTS of tv. I can’t even tell you how many episodes of Bubble Guppies we’ve seen. Because of the position his body was in, he couldn’t sit up straight, which really limited the activities he could do. Even coloring or puzzles were awkward. We bought him this lap tray with pockets on the sides which helped, but even that was precarious. (And easy for a grumpy guy to throw to the floor, haha). Because of his age (barely two), I had to sit with him to help with the activities. But, even still, playdough got eaten and juice was spilled and we’re still finding goldfish crumbs from his little area of the couch. It’s a messy business.

Eating. Ugh. Take an already-picky eater and make him immobile and you’ve got an almost impossible eating situation. He did not fit into his high chair, so one of us ate with him at the couch. Because of the angle in which he was lying, we often had to spoon-feed him. One tip I’d recommend is buying some tall plastic (disposable) cups in which to put his dry snacks. The taller, the better, because a shallow bowl will spill very easily when he tips it.

Beanbag chairs! A super great idea to give your child a change of scenery. That is, if your child will sit in one. We were given a bean bag chair and Anders REFUSED to sit in it until a week before the cast was removed. Oh well. At least his sister enjoyed it :)

Sleeping with a spica cast.

Sleeping with a spica cast.

Sleeping. Ugh. Awkward at best. We raised the crib to the middle level – lifting him out from the lowest level without hurting him was almost impossible. We laid him on his back (obviously) with some small blankets under his upper body to ensure the cast didn’t cut into his back. The we placed a small pillow at the foot of the crib for his casted leg to rest on (otherwise it would’ve been hanging elevated…) Try all different types of support to see which works best for your child. Definitely use the prescription AND non-prescription pain meds for the first week or so at night. After about 4 weeks Anders started rolling to his side, which was such a relief to see. He actually slept pretty well, considering the awkwardness of it. But we did set our alarm to re-dose his medicine for the first week or two. Keeping ahead of the pain is always best!

–  Transportation. We were very lucky in that Anders’ cast went down only one leg! Many spica casts are on both legs, in which the baby’s legs are very wide apart. This means that children in a spica cast often have to get either a special carseat (we could’ve borrowed one from our hospital) or a harness type of thing. Anders fit into his regular carseat (Britax Marathon), with just a few adjustments!! I was so grateful for this. He also fit in his stroller (City Mini) fine, with it reclined a little. This was a lifesaver for the last couple of weeks when he wasn’t in pain and we wanted to GET. OUT. OF. THE. HOUSE. :) I’ve read of other parents using a wagon with pillows to get their kiddos around, too.

So, there you have it. That pretty much sums of the logistical end of almost 6 weeks of our lives. I have been wanting to write about our experiences and the things I’ve learned but needed to also get the details out of the way, so now that’s done :)

I haven’t delved into the emotional and stressful parts of it! In my next post, I’ll talk about how this experience has affected my depression, my marriage, how I canceled a much-anticipated trip to Boston, how we learned that we are moving to England (!) and how we prepared ourselves to travel to Florida for a week on the beach and my brother’s wedding, potentially with a boy in a spica cast.

So tune in again, soon!

 

Why I’m Content With “Just” Two Kids

Well, it’s official! AJ had his “procedure” on Friday, so we are done having babies. While some of you might consider this TMI, you’d be amazed at how many people ask us “are you having more?” or “when’s number three coming along?” as if there’s no way it could be a personal or sensitive subject.

"They're so cute, you should have another one!"

“They’re so cute, you should have               another one!”

It may be just my surrounding culture (read: fairly conservative southwestern suburbia), but I find that people look at me oddly when I say we’re perfectly content with our two children. One friend told me, “Aw, come on, your kids are so cute! You should have at least one more.” Right… because cuteness is a legit reason for having a child. (I’m being sarcastic here, btw.) :-)

So I thought I’d share with you our reasons for being content with our two children. [Disclaimer: This is not an invitation for arguing or disagreement. If you disagree with me, let’s just agree to disagree, yes?] So here goes:

7 Reasons We’re Content with “Only” Two Children:

1. We have two children! Many people can’t have children. I have seen two couples very close to us struggle with infertility, and my heart breaks when I think of the emotional and physical pain they have gone through. We have two children! That fact alone is a very big deal that I think some people overlook, especially those who are able to get pregnant very easily.

2. Neither my husband nor I feel that God is calling us to have more children. This is not something I say flippantly. Nor is this a decision we made flippantly. We truly believe that God is 100% okay with our decision.  [For a great article that further expresses this, please read:  http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/does-the-bible-permit-birth-control. Again, let’s agree to disagree.]

3.  I did not like being pregnant. (Understatement.) I have “moderate/severe” scoliosis of the spine, which, combined with carrying my jumbo babies completely out front, led to a VERY painful pregnancy. I had regular, frequent contractions with both babies starting at 24 weeks. I was one of the 4% of all women who had 3rd degree perineal tearing, with both deliveries. And, least of all, my stomach is, no joke, COVERED with stretch marks all the way up to my rib cage. So, call me an ungrateful wuss, but I really don’t want to go through it again. :-)

4. We have a girl and a boy! I honestly think that God gave us a boy so we wouldn’t be tempted to try for a third. :-) (And, side-note: this was one of the questions the nurse asked AJ while prepping him for his “procedure” – “Do you have one of each? Because usually people want to try for both…” I mean, really!)

5. I am still struggling with depression. Again, this is not something I say flippantly. It is a very real presence in my life and, therefore, my children’s lives. It takes ALL of my strength and energy (and I rely heavily on God’s strength and energy!) to care for my children in way that won’t harm them emotionally, along with equipping myself with the tools I need to fight my own battles.

6. We would gladly consider adoption, should God place that calling in our hearts. We have a niece and nephew from Ethiopia and are so blessed by them. Watching my in-laws go through the process of adoption has definitely softened our hearts to the orphans of the world.

7. When I look at my children, I feel at peace! I am so happy with our little family. We are a tightly-knit team, and I truly am content. And I know that if God decides we should have more children, He’ll make it happen one way or another!

So, now you know! And if you think I’m crazy or selfish or un-“Christian”, well, that’s nice. But I know my God, and He knows me, and I rest my confidence in that! OK, well, I’m off to help Tori look for grasshoppers and make sure Anders doesn’t eat [too much] dirt. Have a great week! :-)