Blog Feature

My guest post for And Nobody Told Me on March 7, 2011

When you’re pregnant, you have so many hopes and dreams and wishes for that little being inside you. You want to protect him from any harm.

Neither of my pregnancies were easy. You hear some women say that pregnancy is beautiful and perfect and the best time of their lives. They are complete liars; being pregnant is hard. My children are beautiful and perfect and the best things in my life; that much is true.

I won’t bore you with the details of my labor with Gabe. I am a wuss when it comes to pain, so it was long and arduous. After hours of contractions, it was suddenly time to push, and then…suddenly he was born. I was so exhausted and emotional that I didn’t grasp that there was a problem right away. The nurses had him in the bassinet and were cleaning him up when they noticed that he was having trouble breathing. They had the neonatologist come look at him, and they took him to the NICU for “observation.” He had sucked in some amniotic fluid on his way out, and it went into his lungs, which led to further complications.

Gabriel Joshua was born on December 3rd, 2009, and spent the first 12 days of his life in the NICU. He was on a C-PAP machine at first, then later a nasal cannula, and was being tube-fed breast milk that I had pumped. We spent as much time with him as we could. I would go to the hospital to be with Gabe after spending the morning with my daughter, come home for supper with my mom, daughter and husband, then my husband and I would go up to visit Gabe after putting our daughter to bed. Thank goodness for Grandma Jan, who came to stay with us and cared for our 3-year-old daughter Bailey during the whole ordeal.

One of the most difficult parts to deal with before I was discharged from the hospital was when I was alone in my hospital room at night. I’d lay there after my husband had gone home to help put our daughter to bed, and just stare in confused fury at the empty bassinet where Gabe should have been sleeping…not in a covered bassinet, with tubes and wires attached to him, in the NICU. I sat in my room alone and cried. When I was discharged without him, I was in agony. It felt so wrong to be coming home without him. I told myself that I was going to wear my hospital name band with his name on it until he came home. I joyfully cut it off the day he was discharged.

I look at him now and I marvel at how perfect he is. At 14 months old, you’d never know that my wild and crazy little man who challenges my patience and my sanity on a daily basis, had had such a rocky start in life. I consider myself blessed with the crazy chaos that is life with children.

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Dear Other Mother at the Grocery Store

This post has been on my heart for a few weeks now. The woman ahead of us in the checkout lane at the store looked overwhelmed…and was doing her best. But I could tell she was struggling. So, here is my letter to her, and every other parent who feels the same way.

Dear Frazzled MamaDear Frazzled Mother at the Grocery Store,

You were ahead of us in line, with a cart full of groceries. You had a little one in the seat of your cart, and another Big Kid standing near the cart as patiently as a 5-year-old can. It was supper time and I could tell your kids were at that “hungry and crabby and need to get out of public NOW!” stage. I could see that you were struggling and trying your best to keep your cool, despite the little one’s fussing and thrashing, and the growing impatience of your big kid.

I could also see the careful, analyzing eye that you kept on the food on the conveyor belt and on your rising total. You were figuring out how much the bill was going to be. You were calculating how much you had left on your EBT card and how much you were going to have to pay out-of-pocket, and what you were going to have to put back. Hoping you had enough to cover all of what you needed.

I’ve been there. I’ve stood at the checkout line keeping track of my WIC items, fumbling with the vouchers and balancing my wallet on my humongous pregnant belly. I’ve also seen the dirty looks from people behind us in line, shuffling their feet and clearing their throats in annoyance at being inconvenienced by waiting for us. I’ve felt the burning stares at the back of my head and have heard the mumbles.

I’ve also been in your shoes, with bored and tired kiddos rapidly approaching the meltdown stage. I’ve felt overwhelmed with stuff to do, places to go, kids to care for, fights to break up, and a life to live.

And I heard the ignorant young cashier say as you walked away, “Somebody needs to control their kids…” Hear me, Mama: I came to your defense. Whether you heard it or not.  We mamas must support each other, not judge.

Hold your head high, Mama. You’re doing your best.

Deep breaths, Mama. Those who judge you do not know your whole story.

Live your life, Mama. Hug those kiddos tight and love them like only you can.

You’re doing okay, Mama. You got this.

Edible Peanut Butter Playdough Recipe

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The much-anticipated post is finally here! I’ve been asked before to share our recipe for Peanut Butter Playdough, and I’m going to share it with you today!

We got the original recipe from a friend and made it our own. That’s the fun part of cooking and crafting, right? 🙂

What you’ll need: 

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
2 cups powdered sugar

Grab a big bowl and put in the peanut butter, honey, and then the powdered sugar. Let the kids dig in there and knead all the ingredients together until the powdered sugar is mixed in. Then divide it up and let them play! (Don’t forget to snag a little for yourself!)

My kids’ favorite part is using their play dishes, and making “food” out of the play dough. I give them chocolate chips and they make little peanut butter pizzas!

There you have it, folks! Have fun!

Kim xoxo

My Mother’s Hands

**This post was originally featured on Yahoo! Voices, which is no longer in publication.

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The other day my mom and I were sitting on the bench at the park while the kids played on the playground. She said something about “these old hands” as she struggled to open a water bottle. Her hands have age spots and wrinkles, and show the characteristic bend and twist of arthritis. She calls her pointer finger her “witch’s finger,” going along with an old joke about her infamous exasperated finger-point at countless students over the years who pushed her buttons and tested boundaries.

As I looked at her hands, I realized once again that she sees her hands differently than I do.

So I told her…

Her hands have held, carried, and fed 3 children and 5 grandchildren. Her hands have rocked, comforted, and protected. She has cleaned faces, wiped noses, brushed hair, prepared food, wiped tears, bandaged owies, played games. In her decades of teaching elementary and middle school children, they have guided, encouraged, and instructed.

These actions, while they may seem insignificant on their own, have given her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, little friends and hundreds of students the gift of her touch in their lives.

Those “old hands” are a blessing.

Traditions and Celebrations of Life

I’ve been writing this post in my head for a while now, trying to get the words just right. But I’ve concluded that they won’t ever be “right” at all, regardless. It’s such a raw subject for some people in my life right now.

As Christmas draws nearer and nearer, I’ve been thinking about family traditions. How when things change, and people come and go in our lives, our traditions change as well, whether we like it or not.

The recent death of my husband’s beloved grandmother Betty has left a giant hole in the lives of many people. I haven’t written about her death yet, because to be perfectly honest, I just COULDN’T, if that makes any sense. The line from one of the Jay and Silent Bob movies about “sobbing like a little girl with a skinned knee” comes to mind. I’m tearing up now as I type these words. And as ridiculous as it may sound, I feel almost selfish in my grief because she wasn’t MY grandmother or MY mother. But I know in my heart that she saw me as one of her own, because she told me and treated me as such. She loved each of us with such a fierce love that only she could. Betty, a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, sister and dear friend will be missed and remembered every.single.day.

I was blessed to spend an afternoon with Betty this past summer, just the two of us (a rare event, as she was so often happily visiting with people just dropping by, or running off to help someone somewhere in the community–one of her passions). We were staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a family event, and I had taken the kids back there so that they could nap. Betty and I sat and chatted for nearly 5 hours. I will cherish that time forever.

There are so many people dealing with grief and loss this (and every) holiday season. It’s difficult to imagine going through the motions of the “usual” holiday traditions without those we love around. A young family in our community is struggling with the death of husband and father, Officer Tom Decker, who was killed in the line of duty just last week.

A dear friend of ours is remembering his mother today, as she passed away two years ago today due to cancer. Two fellow bloggers, Daddy Doin’ Work and Cubepiphany are dealing with the recent loss of their dear friend to cancer. Another blogger, Cappuccino Queen, is fighting her way back up after the tragic death of her toddler son. SO MANY LOVED ONES.

When it comes down to it, all I can think to do is to love the ones I’m with. Keeping up tradition or not,  making new traditions, or bucking tradition altogether, we need to celebrate the lives of the people we lost, and hold on tight to the ones we’ve got.

Our beloved Betty, with husband Clif, and our Miss Bee

Our beloved Betty, with husband Clif, and our Miss Bee, 2007

Our Favorites: Top iPad and iPhone Apps

A while back, I promised someone I’d share a list of my kids’ favorite iPad/iPhone apps, and I’m finally getting around to it! In our house, our iPad has somehow become part of our daily lives. It’s one of those things that I knew I wanted, but until we got it, I didn’t know just how awesome it would be to have it. We use it every.single.day for web searching, email, Facebook, YouTube, our fun apps, you name it. There are times when we’d all like to use it at the same time!

We’ve found some really great apps since my husband got his first iPhone about 4 years ago. He LOVED the iPhone, but I wasn’t really sold on it. I really, REALLY wanted an iPad when they came out, so we got one earlier this year. I finally made the leap to iPhone after getting the iPad, and haven’t looked back! We mostly have kids’ apps (go figure), but my husband and I have our own fun ones, too.

Most of the apps that we use are free from the App Store but do have in-app purchases available for more levels. Keep in mind that some apps can be used on both the iPhone and iPad, but translate better on the iPad (but most of the ones I have listed do well on both).

So, here we go…

Our Top iPad/iPhone Apps for Kids

PBS Kids (Free!) Features more than 1,000 videos from over a dozen top PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! shows, in a kid-friendly platform. Love this one, because they get to watch TV and I don’t have to worry about annoying commercials or the kids accidentally coming across inappropriate videos. This apps runs best on WiFi. Both my preschoolers AND school-aged kids like this one.

Farm 123 Free (Free, with a full paid version for $2.99) An interactive pop-up book with counting games. You only get a couple of levels of the games, but in-app purchases add more levels. The boys (almost 3 years old) LOVE this one, because they get a kick out of the bouncing animals. I LOVE it, because they are already learning to count. 🙂

Tozzle (Free, with a full paid version for $1.99) A drag-and-drop puzzle game with fun sound effects. Each puzzle gets a little harder, and when they finish the puzzle they can play with it by tapping for the different sound effects.

Tappy Tunes (Free, with a paid full version for $1.99) A fun app to play favorite songs by tapping out the tune, including children’s songs, classical music, holiday songs, and more. This one is a go-to for us to fend off the wigglies while waiting in line at the grocery or waiting to be seated at a restaurant.

JumpStart Preschool Magic of Learning ($1.99) We got hooked on JumpStart online, and found this app to be a great on-the-go learning tool. There are lots of games that teach letters, colors, shapes, numbers, and counting.

Quizzing Toddler Preschool by ToddlerTeasers ($1.99, with the complete set for $3.99) This is the “quiz” version, with a spoken prompt to pick the correct picture of letters, shapes, animals, and more, and correct answers earn stickers for a “sticker page.” There are over 1,000 in 30 categories available to download for free within the app.

Netflix (Free, with a paid subscription) Obviously, you have to be a member of Netflix already to use this app. You use WiFi to log into your account, and watch it as you would on your TV. We love this app, because we love Netflix. We do not have cable at our house (by choice–we prefer NOT to see the inane commercials, and honestly, we grew tired of paying for cable when we rarely watched TV in the first place), so this app is especially handy since we have wireless internet. The Netflix app was VERY useful just recently, when we were staying in a motel in Nebraska and our kids wanted to watch their favorite shows, but were overwhelmed when we turned on the TV and were accosted with loud and annoying commercials, lame dialogue, and laugh tracks.

Google Translate (Free) This app has been extremely useful lately, with our daughter being in Chinese Immersion Kindergarten. Impossibly, our SIX-YEAR-OLD is speaking Chinese, and Google Translate has helped us understand some of the words, and to practice saying them. We’ve spent time just sitting together, typing in words to hear how they are said in Chinese. Neat, right? 🙂

I could go on and on, really. So, here’s a screen shot of some of our other favorite kids’ apps, if you’d like to peruse.

(If you can’t read the text under the apps in the picture, they are: Math Magic, Word Magic, Flash Cards (by Dalmation Press), Flash Cards (Parents Magazine), Letter Quiz, Pop Words, TouchWord, ABC123 Lite, Doodle Buddy, Doodle Kids, Kizzle Lite, Pirate School (Jake and the Neverland Pirates), Happy Fish, and Little Things.)

I hope this has been helpful! If you’ve got questions, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

What are YOUR favorite apps? Do you have suggestions for apps that you love?

She’ll Be Fine

I know that everyone and their sister is writing blog posts about the start of school, but, you know me…I write what is on my heart and mind. 🙂

Miss Bee starts Kindergarten next week. This fact fills me with pride, but I’m finding I’m also feeling a little bit of trepidation, sadness, and dare I say it, doubt.

She’s ready for Kindergarten; we know that. She’s BEEN ready. As advanced as she is, we feel like adding the challenge of Chinese Immersion Kindergarten won’t hold her back. In fact, I think she’ll thrive. 

It’s just that… She’s MINE. You know? 

Our first day at home with our sweet girl

She’s been in preschool part time for the past 2 years, so I have had sort of a cushion of time to prepare me for letting go, but I’m finding it’s still breaking my heart a little. As a stay at home mom, I’ve had the privilege of being her mama, her teacher, her cheerleader, her shoulder to cry on, her playmate, her snuggle partner, her hand to hold. As her mama, I’ve seen her first words, her first steps, her first haircut, her first ABC’s, her first chapter book, her first forray on her own on her bike, her first loose teeth. 

Putting her on that bus her first day of kindergarten is going to be excrutiating. I’ll put on a big brave smile for my big brave girl, but after the bus drives away, taking my baby girl with it, I give no guarantees I won’t be a complete mess. 

A teeny tiny seed of doubt in my mind has me quietly pondering, though. Will they be kind to her? Will they see how brilliant she is? Will she miss me?

I can hear my husband now, saying, She’ll be fine. She’ll have a blast. Her teacher will guide her. She’ll make friends. Yes, yes to all of that. Before we know it, she’ll be asking for the car keys, and rolling her eyes when I tuck her hair behind her ears so that I can see her pretty blue eyes.

But for just a little while longer, I want to keep her to myself.

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Our little girl playing dress up in my wedding dress