Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thursday Three: Children's Books I Want to Reread with My Daughters

By Rachael

Laura Ingalls Wilder for the youngest readers
I’ve been a bookworm since I was young. To this day, children's chapter books hold a special place among my memories, and I’m excited to share some of those same books with my daughters as they grow. Here are some of my favorites:

1.       The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve already introduced my 4-and-a-half-year-old to Laura. We started with the MyFirst Little House series from our library, featuring gorgeous illustrations and text adapted for the preschool and younger elementary crowd. I’ve now begun reading the first book in the original series, Little House in the Big Woods, out loud to my daughter. I’ve always romanticized life in the 1800s, and these books are a big reason why. Once our daughters have gotten acquainted with Laura, our family will visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum a few hours away, near Springfield, Misssouri.

2.      The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. If I had a book in my hands as a kid, chances were good it was from the Ramona series. I owned a plush Ramona doll (and still do) and wore my hair in a bob style with bangs just like my favorite heroine. Ramona is plucky and funny and never afraid to be herself, and I like that. I’ll start reading some of these books aloud to my oldest daughter after we finish Little House in the Big Woods.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mean Kids: The Ones at Home

My "pack," welcoming the newest member in May
By Katie

I absolutely love the close relationship that my older three kids have with each other. Despite the fact that we have only been a combined family for a little over a year, they adore each other and mesh quite well. Heck, they even fight like full-blooded siblings.

I have recently found one characteristic about their closeness that bugs me, however. When I take two or more of them somewhere public -- like the park or the library -- they want nothing to do with other kids. It ranges from them simply showing disinterest to them actually being mean to other kids and telling them that they do not want to play with them. It is horrifying, really, to see your kids hurt the feelings of other little ones on a relatively regular basis.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Birth Story: Twins that Just Couldn't Wait to be Born

By Heather C.
**It is safe to say that basically my entire pregnancy was spent in labor. I was first treated in L&D at 16 weeks, told to take it easy and put on pelvic rest. Things calmed down and I went on as normal until a routine check at 24 weeks determined I was in preterm labor. Contractions started at 25 weeks and continued until I delivered at 31 weeks, 6 days. This is an excerpt from my private blog written a few days after Natalie and Sophia were born**

Tuesday, December 6, 2011
At some point during the week, after discussing all of my questions and concerns, my doctor and I decided that we were now at the point in pregnancy where my condition was stable enough to no longer need the 24 hour monitoring of hospital bed rest. To be fair, it was actually the insurance company that began to question the need for me to still be under hospital care and there was only so much stalling my doctor could do.
I understood the concern and made all the arrangements to make sure that I stuck to my bed only once I got home. Saturday was the day. I'd be 32 weeks along. I'd get another round of steroid shots (one shot Friday morning followed by the second booster 24 hours later on Saturday morning) before leaving and out the door I'd go.

I was extremely nervous but also really excited. I just had to make it 4 more weeks at home before bed rest was going to be lifted completely! Jeremy had to bring me back once a week for monitoring, non-stress tests, ultrasounds, etc. They promised me they'd combine everything I needed into one day’s worth of visits since the hospital is 35 minutes away.

So, Friday morning my doctor checked in with me. I was surprisingly in really good spirits. I had been having rough nights the few nights before, having over a dozen contractions an hour for a few hours before bed, calming down only once I got to sleep on a heating pad. I cried Thursday night. I didn't think I was strong enough to keep doing this. The contractions were getting painful, taking my breath away. I was scared. The residents kept telling me the contractions were just irritability but how was I supposed to know? How was I going to go home and tell the difference?
Jeremy assured me that we'd be okay. He missed me. Lily missed me. And I missed them so much. It had been 8 weeks since I lived at home. By Friday morning, I was ready and I told my doctor that. She told me my schedule for the day and made sure I knew she was on call for the night/weekend. She switched things around to make sure she was there when I was discharged.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Living with Autism: How I Knew

This is the first in a series about the real-life impact of autism on families. Check back for future posts.

A guest post by Lindsey Nichols

My son Dominic
My name is Lindsey and I am the proud parent of an autistic child. When people find this out I am usually faced with many different responses. Usually one of the first questions I am asked is how I "knew" he was autistic.(I will save the other responses for later posts such as "I am so sorry" and "That must be SO hard," etc ). Well, I always knew something. I just couldn't put my finger on it. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Enter Dominic Derek Henning, born on September 12, 2002 weighing a whopping 8 pounds 8 ounces. My pregnancy was as normal as any other aside from the three weeks of false labor that terrorized my last days of pregnancy. My actual labor was tough, a full 24 hours, where he was finally born after some drops in his heart rate using a little vacuum helmet to finally make his debut.

Something was wrong. In my heart, the journey always begins here although the realization didn't come until much later. Dominic was not breathing well, He was coughing, sneezing, blowing bubbles and a nasty shade of grey/blue. His cries were soft and his tiny chest sunk in every time he took in a breath. He was whisked off to the NICU where he spent his first 16 days of life. Was he autistic from this? Maybe, but that's an answer I will never know, Looking back I will always wonder what this did to him.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Birth Story: Welcoming My Junebug

**This memoir was written three years ago during the days surrounding when we welcomed our oldest daughter into this world. **

June 18, 2009

I researched the early signs of labor this morning, not because I'm convinced that it's going to happen any day now but more because I like to torture myself! I realize I am not even full term yet and the chances of going having this baby soon are so slim. I can't help but to read as many stories and examples as possible though. There doesn’t seem to be any consistency at all so it's not like I'm setting myself up for disappointment or anything. The baby has to come out at some point.

So, without further ado, I bring to you other signs of early labor that I am personally experiencing:

1. Restlessness. Even though I feel SO tired, I can't sleep. I haven't quite hit the crazy nesting this week, but Sunday I was all over it. This morning I was awake yet again at 4 a.m. and I couldn't think of anything to do to make myself fall asleep. My best idea was to finish packing my bags but Jeremy was sleeping.

2. Uh, intestinal stuff? Let's just leave it there.

3. Weight loss. Who knew the end of pregnancy could be so generous that you start losing weight before the baby even comes out? I'm down 2 lbs in the last 2 days.

4. Baby movement. Now this one surprised me but it makes sense. The last week or so before birth the baby is basically SO crammed that its movements slow dramatically. Some say it's even because they know what's about to happen and want to save up as much energy as possible. This is not to say that the baby doesn't move at all. It simply can't and won't move the same ways that you are used to. Supposedly you feel a lot of rolling as the baby prepares to get in that final position.

So I have all of those combined with the more obvious things like bloody show, lost mucus plug, pressure and Braxton Hicks contractions, lower back pain and cramping. I’ve had some of these at least a week now.

It's kind of cool to be like a test animal for all the signs. Do they really mean anything? We'll see!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Speedy Deliveries: Why Fast Births Aren't a Blessing

By Rachael

A two-hour labor with this little one?
Women in my family tend to give birth quickly. Sometimes it happens so fast it has its own medical term, precipitous labor, meaning that labor lasts three hours or less.

Precipitous labor is mostly unheard of with a first pregnancy, but it becomes more common with repeated pregnancies. Mothers are at greater risk of tearing during a precipitous delivery, and babies are more at risk for fetal distress or head injuries. Labor’s onset is often sudden and strong. The experience can be intense, and mothers may have difficulty coping with the pain, especially because there often isn’t time to administer pain medication.

In my family, my maternal grandmother, mother, and I all gave birth to our first babies in eight to nine hours.

My grandmother’s second baby was born in four hours, and her third was born in two hours.

My mother is the most impressive. Her second and third babies were born in two hours. One minute she was feeling fine with no signs of imminent delivery, and two hours later she was holding a baby in her arms.

Mom recounts the story of her second labor, when she and my dad were getting ready to leave for the hospital but my grandfather, a retired minister, insisted on praying with them first. Mom is a devout Christian, but she sensed things were going to happen fast and confessed all she could think about was getting out the door.

My mom talks about how forceful her third birth felt, and she believes the experience left my sister with a headache for the first day or so of life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Feeding Frenzy Friday: Learning to Love Breastfeeding

By Katie

Someone likes to eat...
So here's the thing. Breastfeeding is quite possibly one of the most natural things shared between mother and child. I do not even mean that in a figurative sense.

I mean -- literally, nature intended for women's bodies to produce nutrient-rich milk for their small children to drink, flowing from their breasts. At it's basic core, this is what breastfeeding entails -- the unstoppable production of sustenance for our children that only has one (well, two) ways to escape a mother's body. Breastfeeding is healthy for both baby and mother.

Okay, so now that we have all that on the table, there is something else I'd like to say. Breastfeeding may BE natural, but for me, it does not feel natural. It is awkward. It is sometimes painful. In the newborn days, it is messy. It does not make me feel like a natural mother. It definitely does not make me feel like a sexy wife. The time I spend doing it makes me feel like less of a mother to my three older children.

But you know what? It is getting easier. Everyone says, "just give it two weeks" and then every mother should be pretty well-adjusted. Well shoot. Two weeks came and went, and yes, I was a lot less engorged. But no. I was still not "used" to it. It took me about 10 weeks to really stop hating the task.

Disclaimer: If you are pregnant with your first child, reading this, don't swear off breastfeeding and look away now. I'm going somewhere with this.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tell-Tale Tessa: How I Missed Pregnancy Signs for Six Months

A Guest Post by Melissa Kirchner

Well you can't know any story without knowing the "whole" story, so let me start at the beginning.
My Christmas surprise, Tessa
When I was a 17-year-old senior in high school I got a call from an Army recruiter wanting to talk to me about joining. He came and talked, and I signed on the dotted line. It was an amazing adventure I was and still am very proud to have embarked on. A few years into my stint, 9/11 happened. Four months later I was called for a 12-month deployment to Iraq. I met my husband Tyler on that deployment!

After a year of dating and eight months overseas, we got a two-week leave. That was when our first daughter Makayla came to be more then the sparkle in her daddy's eye.

When I returned to Iraq I took a pregnancy test before receiving an anthrax shot, and was sent home when it was positive. Makayla came late in September, and when she was about four months old her sister Tayden became more than a twinkle. After having two kids so close together, I wasn't sure I wanted more. But seeing how amazing my husband was with our girls, I wanted to try for a boy.

So when the girls were 2-1/2 and 3-1/2, our first son Treyton was born. After that, my hubby got deployed for a year in Iraq along with his brother. It was the hardest year ever. I lived 600 miles away from family in Indiana and had three kids and a job to juggle -- with my husband overseas.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back to School: Do Kids Benefit From All-Day Kindergarten?

Is a full day too much for a 5-year-old?
It used to be standard that kindergarten students attended school for a half day. In the last decade, the majority of kindergarten programs have moved to a full-day schedule to prepare students for the rigors of first grade. Then I noticed my oldest daughter’s preschool will begin offering an extended day this fall, “to prepare students for all-day kindergarten.”

The trend is to schedule longer school days for younger and younger children. How effective is all-day kindergarten anyway? Is all-day kindergarten really age appropriate?

Proponents argue the longer school day provides more time for instruction and in-depth learning, promotes a more relaxed atmosphere, and allows teachers to get to know children and their families better. All-day kindergarten also is convenient for working parents who don’t have to arrange other child care for the afternoons.

Opponents of all-day kindergarten believe the day is too long for 5-year-olds, putting unnecessary stress on children and perhaps turning them off to school.

But what do the experts say?

While all-day kindergarten does provide immediate academic gains, many studies raise a yellow flag. Research shows that gains fade soon after kindergarten and disappear by third grade. The latter study also indicates that social benefits of all-day kindergarten are mixed, and some children may exhibit more behavior problems.

More interesting, one study that marked no significant academic differences between all-day kindergarten and half-day kindergarten indicated that the trend toward full-day programs is not backed by much long-term research. Instead, it’s often school districts’ “knee jerk” reaction to controversial laws like No Child Left Behind. The study notes how costly all-day kindergarten is, especially if the benefits are questionable. It also acknowledges that many other less tangible factors contribute to a child’s success in school, such as culture, emotional competence, and parental involvement.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School: Why We (Probably) Won't Home School

By Rachael

My daughter is eager to attend school.
We have a little public elementary school right around the corner from our house. We take our daughters there to the playground on warm summer evenings. My husband and oldest daughter fly kites on the athletic field. Sometimes we head over to hunt for bargains when the PTA has a rummage sale in the gymnasium. And when our oldest daughter starts kindergarten in another year, she will likely attend this school.  

My husband and I have considered all our options. I experienced a little bit of everything as a child, beginning in public schools, spending a few years at a small evangelical Christian school, home schooling, and then graduating from a small Catholic high school. My husband attended an evangelical Christian school for a few years and graduated from a public high school. My husband is a public high school teacher, although that doesn’t mean we are staunch advocates of public schools.

For our own children, a private, faith-based grade school is appealing, but we can’t afford for me to stay home with our younger daughter and send our older daughter to private school. Home schooling is more affordable, and it’s a popular choice among Christian families like ours.

Home schooling’s real appeal is that it offers an academic program tailored to an individual child’s strengths and weaknesses. It also gives parents some control over children’s social experiences during their early formative years. I’ve walked through the neighborhood as school lets out and heard the language some kids use; it was one factor that led me to consider home schooling.

Yet, we’ve opted to go the public school route. We may change our minds at some point in the future, but for now, the following are some of our reasons for choosing public schools:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back To School: What I Really Need This Year

By Sally

Dear Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, or other designated adult,

Summer is coming to an end. 

I do not understand the cosmic dilemma regarding the rapid movement of time during the months of mid-May until early September.  Does the earth spin at a hastened pace?  I have been taught that there is more daylight during the summer months (in the northern hemisphere at least). So, why oh why does this school break end so soon?

Don’t take this wrong.  I have had a great time…the pool, amusement parks, picnics, 4th of July, skateboarding, tree-climbing, baseball, camping, fireworks and, dare I say, sleeping in late and afternoon naps.

But, the newspaper is filled with “Back to School” bargains.  You’ve had me trying on my older siblings clothes from last year, and I have been asked to hand off my “too short/too tights” to the one I prefer to ignore.  It pains me to see him in my favorite football jersey.  But so is life.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back to School: What I Want My Daughters to Know

By Rachael

It was my weekend to volunteer in my daughter’s preschool Sunday school class, and the two girls I chatted with were insistent.

Don't follow the crowd!
“His name is Justin BEAV-er,” one proclaimed, clearly exasperated at having to pronounce his name for me. “It’s not Bee-ber. It’s BEAV-er!”

“I love his music,” the other girl confessed.

I found the entire conversation highly amusing, but then I glanced over at my daughter, Megan, sitting alone at the other end of the snack table, left out of the discussion. In our house, children’s bards like Steve Songs and Raffi reign. She has no clue who Justin Bieber – sorry, I mean Justin Beaver – is.

So here, at 4 years old, it all begins. The pop culture trends. The peer pressure. That feeling that everyone else is two steps ahead. One of the things I love most about being an adult is that I can leave all that behind. Except now I must watch my own daughters navigate the same tumultuous classrooms, playgrounds, and even youth groups, all populated with young people unsure of themselves, still learning, and most of them desperate to not stick out any more than necessary.

My husband and I are just beginning to talk about how we will guide our daughters through their school years. We know they will encounter kids whose values differ vastly from ours. How do we help them manage when the cafeteria lunch table conversation revolves around a television show they don’t watch? Our daughters will likely struggle more because, for personal and financial reasons, we have cut cable television. How do we help them save face when they’re teased for not wearing the coolest fashions? For having the most basic cell phone? For being kind to the unpopular kids?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back To School Virgin

By Heather C.

Each year, I’m reminded of what holidays are coming up based on the seasonal section at my local Target. Mid-January, everything turns red for Valentine’s Day. Mid-March, everything turns to pastels for Easter. Late September, I’m surrounded by orange and black for Halloween. And around October, everything goes red and green for Christmas. But late summer, there is another “holiday” retail stores go all out for, one that I’ve lovingly ignored since graduating high school nearly a decade ago: Back to School Season!

It’s the only time of the year where you can buy folders for $0.10 a piece, where you see pallets full of notebooks and loose leaf paper in the middle of aisles and where backpacks hang like decorations above the cash registers.

This year, I’m a back-to-school virgin. I have a small, simple school supplies list (that I’ll purchase using my state’s tax free weekend). I’m already making my checklists and setting the girls up for a good morning routine so school mornings flow without a hitch.

Wordless Wednesday: Back to Cool

Submitted by Rachael

If you have a photo to submit for Wordless Wednesday, email it to us at:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Back to School: The Perfect Mom's Back to (Pre)School List

By Heather Novak

Back to school?  Oh yeah, as a mom I should be thinking about school.  My sweetest, rottenest child is three and will be attending preschool formally this Fall.  She has gone to a month to month  preschool here and there, but this time we pay tuition and register and visited and will have a bucket tote.  There will be a schedule and everything.  Maybe I should start putting the dates into my Cozi Calendar? Hmm. 

With the Back to School Syndrome heading into full swing and having no understanding or experience with it, I have compiled this handy list for all of you to use.  I will be checking up on you and using red ink.

The Perfectionist Mom's Back to (pre)School List
1) Buy a lot of brand name new clothes for children.
2) Buy a lot of designer new clothes for you. (gotta look awesome at drop off)
3) Buy school supplies in custom colors for each child.  Themes are great.
4) Spend three hundred dollars on labels.  Cute. Labels.  (No, sharpies aren't good enough.)
5) Teach children a third language and ballet and a new sport to impress teacher.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Back to School: Why All-Day Kindergarten is Okay with Me

By Katie

Ferris -- Happy after preschool graduation
I'm going to say something unmotherly.

I'm pretty excited for my stepson to start all-day Kindergarten.

Not because I want him out of the house, per se. But because he wants to be out of the house and quite frankly, he is ready.

Last fall he started a preschool program that was five hours per day. This sounded like an awfully long time for a four-year-old boy that had never spent even one day in daycare. We decided we would pull him out if it was too overwhelming. Occasionally at home if he gets too tired or frustrated, he melts down (what kid doesn't?) and we didn't want his first school experience to go sour.

Well, he ended up loving his preschool and the feeling was mutual. At his graduation ceremony, one of his teachers pulled my husband aside and told him that Ferris was the most well-behaved in the class. He also got a special award for being the best reader.

Now he's had a few months off and it's starting to wear on him. The novelty of summer vacation and the new baby are starting to fade. He saw three of his preschool friends at a pool playdate last week and he was over the moon.

In Florida, all-day Kindergarten is mandatory. Everywhere, no excuses. There are no arguments here because the mandate was passed several years ago and the critics have stopped wasting their breath.
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