Infant Silent Reflux Is NOT Silent – 5 Ways to Help Older Children Cope

Infant Silent Reflux Is NOT Silent: 5 Ways To Help Older Children Cope | thisgratefulmama.com

Adding a baby to the family is a big adjustment.

For everyone.

And when that baby hurts and has perhaps more needs than some other babies do, it can be an even greater adjustment.

The newest sweet addition to our family has silent reflux and had a tongue tie and lip tie that caused feeding issues which caused pain and crying for much of each day for three months.

Despite the challenges, we are so grateful for our growing family. We are grateful that even though our baby hurts, she is healthy and thriving.

But watching a baby cry in pain gut-wrenching. It motivated us to seek treatment and to research everything we could find. This is our third time around with silent reflux and we are still learning. Every baby is different. There is no magic recipe for treatment that works for all babies.

For a while, it seemed like nothing could help her. But we kept praying. Kept searching. God has been faithful throughout the journey. When I have time to process the past months I’ll share what did help our daughter. She is still medicated for reflux, but it is now under control most of the time. God is so good. And His timing is perfect.

While we waited for the solution to control her reflux, we did our best. Many days we carried everywhere, all day long.

Often, she cried whether we held her or not. At least when she was in my arms, she wasn’t in pain alone.

If you’ve spent time around a baby who cries a lot, you know even the most seasoned parent can get frazzled – even a mom who cared for two other reflux babies.

A frazzled mom is simply not at her best, even when she is giving her best.

This frazzled mama has two older children who were not getting my best. Given the volume of crying, most interactions with my kids was done at an elevated volume and tone. I am not proud of some of the sharp replies and responses they got from me these past months. It is not surprising that our older children also struggled to cope. 

Our son had severe silent reflux, but he was our first child, so he had our full attention. Although our second child also had reflux, her symptoms were present more so at night than during the day, and were never as severe as her brother. Her older brother did not have to cope much with her crying because he slept through most of it.

While we are so grateful our third child has been a champion sleeper, her symptoms are expressed mainly during the day. And the pain and crying expression of that pain has been profound. In the second and third months of her life, it was not uncommon for her to cry for 5-10 hours of the day. She was either eating, sleeping or crying. There was little time or energy for anything, or anyone, else. For any of us.

If you are a parent of older children and a hurting baby, here are some tips for helping your older children cope with what is going on at home.

Infant Silent Reflux Is NOT Silent – 5 Ways To Help Older Children Cope

1. Don’t Expect Too Much

When frazzled by a screaming baby, we seems to expect older children to be on their best behavior. However, kids get just as frazzled as we do. I often found myself dismissing them, or asking them to wait for unreasonable amounts of time for basic needs because I was overwhelmed. But being overwhelmed does not mean they don’t need me as their mom, nor does it give me the right to expect them to not need anything while the baby is crying – especially when the baby is crying for most of the day.

If I am not at my best, it is not fair to expect our children to be at their best. But how should we expect them to behave? It is certainly OK to ask them to follow already established family rules – we wont’ be encouraging bad habits or lowering our standard of discipline because  that would have to be corrected later. However, it is appropriate and important to extend grace to an emotionally frazzled child who may just need more attention. Is your child’s misbehavior a cry for attention, or simply from frustration and confusion about what is happening in their home? If so, they need your help to cope.

2.Carve Out Quality Time

If siblings are struggling to behave or are emotionally frazzled, MAKE time to spend with each older child. This doesn’t have to be a big event. Take advantage of baby’s nap time and spend it with older children – household chores can wait, no matter how messy the house is. Sit down, read a book out loud, play Legos, or color. An amazing attitude adjustment can be seen in our kids after just 15 minutes of dedicated time. They need more of us. We need to make the time for them, no matter how old they are, or how much the baby cries.

3. Recruit Other Adults

After quality time, your children may still struggle. If so, it might be time to recruit some help. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and trusted family friends are perfect to lavish love on older children. Often, they do not know you need help and are more than willing to help. Or, those who don’t want to overstep may just waiting for you to ask. Not good at delegating? Check out this post for some ideas of ways others can help and have graciously helped our family. Then go ASK!

4. Talk About It

Siblings may not know if it is OK to feel frustrated, sad, or confused about what is going on at home. The crying, and decreased attention from their parents on top of the normal adjustment to a new family member can be hard for them to understand and may need help sorting through their feelings. One way to get them talking is to share how you are feeling. Tell them you are aware you’ve been spending less time, that you miss them and cherish the time you do have together. Gently, kindly share what you have noticed about their behavior and mood. Give them time and assurance that it is alright to share their feelings and that it is OK to have those feelings. Assure children that this season will not last forever, and be sure to make sure to tell them how much you love them and how proud of them you are. Repeat.

5. Get Out Of The House

It can be easy to just stay inside when baby cries most of the day. But isolation is not helpful for anyone. Resist the urge to stay inside and get out of the house. Don’t worry if people look when your baby cries – most of them think you are doing a great job. They may look only because they heard a noise. What they see is a mama who is doing her best. You don’t have to go far to escape the house. Go for a walk, to the park, the zoo, or anywhere that is out of the house and out of routine. Even if baby cries the whole time, go anyway. Crying never seems as loud when you’re outside, and you never know, you might get a break from crying if baby gets some fresh air.

 

2015 thisgratefulmama Winter Bucket List

The ThisGratefulMama 2015 Winter Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

  1. Make homemade hot chocolate with peppermint mini marshmallows
  2. Get your exercise shoveling snow instead of using the snow blower
  3. Attend church every Sunday during Advent
  4. Share the true meaning of Christmas with your kids and others
  5. Make snow angels any time, any where – the more spontaneous, the better
  6. Do your best to put up Christmas Lights without harming yourself or your spouse
  7. Build an epic snow man
  8. Put the hot chocolate in a travel mug and enjoy a hike through America’s largest walk-through light display Bentlyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN – now – December 27, 2015
  9. Go ice fishing
  10. Pray for loved ones to come to know the Lord in 2016
  11. Bundle up and invite friends for a snow-bonfire
  12. Rent snow shoes and explore a MN park
  13. Enjoy a peppermint or gingerbread mocha
  14. Drive through nearby neighborhoods looking for Christmas lights – be sure to mix in plenty of oohs and aahs
  15. Go ice skating
  16. Don’t miss the MN Pond Hockey Tournament January 14-17, 2016
  17. Keep a Gratitude Journal in 2016
  18. Have a neighborhood Christmas gathering
  19. Sled in a state park
  20. Give a gift to a stranger
  21. Search for the medallion during the St. Paul Winter Carnival – January 28 – February 7, 2016
  22. Cross country ski through the Three Rivers Park district (can rent equipment)
  23. Donate unused coats, clothes, shoes and boots to charity or local shelter
  24. Spend a family evening packing meals at Feed My Starving Children
  25. Take the kids to a nursing home and play games and visit with residents
  26. Host brunch for your closest friends
  27. Leave an anonymous bag of groceries or a meal for a family in need
  28. Go snowmobiling
  29. Serve a meal at a soup kitchen
  30. Spend 2016 waking up before your kids
  31. Explore a new way to serve in your church in 2016
  32. Buy and donate gifts to Children’s Hospitals of MN
  33. Create a snow fort
  34. Ring a Salvation Army Bell
  35. Watch the start of the Beargrease Dog Sled Marathon in Duluth, MN – January 31, 2016
  36. Check out the MN Snow Sculpting Competition at the MN State Fair grounds January 29 – 31, 2016
  37. Take a romantic winter outing to Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, MN for candlelight hiking, snowshoeing and ice skating – February 13, 2016
  38. Organize a neighborhood Christmas cookie exchange
  39. Have a family Gratitude Tree
  40. Make mulled cider and make your house smell amazing
  41. Memorize scripture with your kids
  42. Read the Christmas story every day to your children
  43. Do the Polar Plunge for a worthy cause
  44. Drink Egg Nog
  45. See Canadian Pacific’s Holiday Train on one of its stops -(Hastings – December 9, St. Paul – December 11, Cottage Grove – December 12, 2015)
  46. Escape the cold and go bowling
  47. Catch Birkie Fever watching or skiing in the American Birkebeiner – February 20, 2016
  48. Set 2016 goals on New Year’s Eve and keep them
  49. Bundle up and take a winter walk or winter scavenger hunt
  50. Have a snowball fight
  51. Set up and decorate your Christmas tree
  52. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk
  53. Join your local BSF bible study of Revelation – now through May 2016
  54. Donate food to the local food shelf
  55. Go Christmas Carol-ing
  56. Watch your church children’s Christmas pageant or find one nearby
  57. Go snow tubing at Eko Backen in Scandia, MN or Green Acres Recreational in Lake Elmo, MN – check websites for hill conditions
  58. Drive through Lake Phalen park to see the ‘Holiday Lights in the Park’ ($10) – now through January 1, 2016
  59. Pack an Operation Christmas Child box
  60. Make the time to see at least ONE of these amazing christmas light shows synchronized to music:

The thisgratefulmama 2015 FALL Family Bucket-List

2015 Fall Family Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

The 2015 fall bucket list focuses on activities to enjoy with your family during the fall season, with an emphasis on gratitude and service to others.

I hope these 100 ideas help you fill fall with joy. 

Hello, Fall!

Cook

 Events (Twin Cities)

Do

  • Play a board game
  • Start a Fall Family Tradition
  • Rake leaves and jump in the pile
  • Be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army (starts in November)
  • Set your fall schedule
  • Play backyard football with the whole neighborhood
  • Visit a new playground and have a picnic lunch
  • Help your kids start a nature collection
  • Plant tulip bulbs in your yard with the kids
  • Write letters to deployed service members
  • Spend the day cleaning the garage as a family before winter
  • Stay warm on a chilly night around a bonfire while enjoying hot cocoa and S’mores
  • Start a family prayer journal – keep track of requests and answers this school year
  • Volunteer to serve meals at Loaves and Fishes
  • Take a family photo shoot in the leaves
  • Make the most of dark evenings – have a candlelight dinner date after kids go to bed
  • Set goals for the school year and encourage each family member throughout the year
  • Spend an afternoon at Feed My Starving Children
  • Clean out the closets and give warm clothes, hats, mittens and coats to those in need
  • Go to a local high school football game
  • Let your child do chores to earn money to give on Sunday at church
  • Deliver Meals on Wheels in your area
  • Help the kids write letters and mail them to grandparents and extended family
  • Spend the afternoon doing homework and reading together at the library
  • Sign up for the family oriented fall Public Programs in the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge
  • Start a Gratitude Journal
  • Get lost in Minnesota’s Largest Corn Maze in Brooklyn Park, MN (Sept 19 – Oct 25)
  • Gather all the neighbors and play an epic game of flashlight tag
  • Download and start the JOY DARE from A Holy Experience 
  • Create your own family Fall Scavenger Hunt and take a nature walk together
  • Read fall-themed books as a family
  • Spend the next large family gathering playing a huge game of Capture the Flag
  • Say Thank you to those who go out of their way to help your family
  • Collect acorns and have some fun with Acorn Races
  • Help your child take photos of fall leaves
  • Help your child find a pen-pal and help them write and send ‘snail mail’
  • Practice gratitude
  • Clean out the toy box together and take your children to donate items
  • Have a movie night with blankets, jammies and home made popcorn

Make

Go (Minnesota)

101 Rainy Day Boredom-Busters For Preschoolers and Toddlers

101 Rainy Day Boredom-Busters For Preschoolers and Toddlers | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Play

  • Bubble wrap – Pop!
  • Dominoes – set up and watch them fall
  • Indoor camping – why not roast marshmallows over the stove?
  • Closet fort – a very private, very dark fort
  • Go on a trip – pack ‘bags’ and take a trip on a couch-airplane
  • Build a toy city – block  homes and businesses, masking tape roads
  • Blanket fort – a pile of books and flashlights. Be sure to climb in and read to them in the ‘dark’
  • Play Doh – change it up with cookie cutters, silverware, Lego men, matchbox cars or simply explore color mixing
  • Animal pretend –  act out different animals and guess what they are (our son calls this playing ‘Wild Krats”)
  • Opposites – learn what opposites ARE, then get silly practicing doing the opposite
  • Obstacle course – send them through, around, over and under
  • Tongs pick up – give tongs to pick up toys
  • Marshmallow and toothpicks – build bridges, buildings and more
  • Puddles – make good use of those rain coats and rain boots and splash like you won’t get wet!
  • Foam letter tiles – call out different letters to find and stand on, put them in alphabetical order, or create words
  • Float or sink bath party – put on swim suits and guess which toys will float or sink, then test it out
  • Expanding foam capsules – found a pack for $1 at Target. Just as fun as when we were kids
  • Balloon rockets – tape a straw to a balloon and send it down a string. Set up a few ‘tracks’ and race them
  • Giant Tic-Tac-Toe – use masking tape for a giant Tic-Tac-Toe board
  • Indoor bowling – set up an indoor bowling lane with empty plastic bottle ‘pins’
  • Store, restaurant, or library – practice counting money, writing orders and following directions
  • Act out a story – help them act out a favorite book or bible story – record to watch on another rainy day
  • String spider web – grab a ball of string or twine and crate a web – ‘cut it out’ when it gets too tangled
  • Dance or jump party – find some peppy music and let loose
  • Indoor sand – fake sand is so fun!
  • Paper airplane games – throw through hoops, see how far it can go, throw from top of stairs
  • Shadow puppets – a great activity for that closet fort. Silly voices and a silly story make them tons of fun
  • Dress up – it never gets old
  • Board games
  • Hide and seek – focus not only on hiding but on counting!
  • Simon Says – we always play outside but it’s a great activity for a rainy day
  • Puzzles – do as many as they can OR find a puzzle a little (or a lot) out of their skill level and work on it together

Kitchen Fun

  • Make their own recipe – help them choose and measure ingredients. Write down their very own ‘recipe’ (yogurt parfait, french toast and toppings, trail mix). Decorate their own recipe box
  • Tea Party – boys and girls will enjoy this, especially with water in the tea-pot and snacks – make it extra fun by dressing up and talking in silly voices
  • Homemade popsicles – juice, fruit, blend and freeze
  • Jello juice jigglers – cut out shapes with cookie cutters
  • Bake – practice following directions, measuring, mixing, and making observations (smell, color, texture)
  • Make healthy trail mix – practice counting and picking healthy snacks – raisins, crasins, roasted soy beans or chickpeas (or nuts), sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and maybe surprise them with a few mini marshmallows

Create

  • Paper plate frisbees – decorate and toss for some indoor fun
  • Create ‘rain’ with shaving cream
  • Pipe cleaner fun – make shapes, decorate a colander, sort them, make flowers
  • Build a box car and enjoy a ‘drive in’ movie – what to do with old boxes and paper plates? Make cars. Add popcorn and a PBS show…
  • Make photo prayer cards – print and cut out pictures of friends and family and glue onto index cards. Grab a few per night to pray for loved ones
  • Activity jars – a fun idea to make together!
  • Glue paper scraps – one of our son’s favorite activities is to take all his paper scraps and glue them into something (they turn out amazing – birds, houses, you name it!)
  • Make a Mural – stretch out a long roll of paper and create a long story or one long picture
  • Diorama – remember making these in elementary school? Provide a shoe box and help them make a scene from their favorite book, or a city of landscape for Lego people or mini dinosaurs
  • Record a video – record a video message or photo sign message and send it to a loved one or friend
  • Rainy day art – water colors make great rainy day pictures, or just open the box of art supplies and let them create
  • Decorate and celebrate – let them decorate with leftover streamers and party supplies and throw a birthday party for their favorite bear or toy
  • Write and mail letters – create cards, practice writing, and mail a special note or card to a loved one
  • Explore color mixing – grab paints and explore mixing different colors together
  • Indoor snow storm – cut paper snow flakes and string them up all over
  • Create a blog post – I’d love to post something the kids wrote if they are interested in doing so!
  • Paper chain – make enough loops to count down to the next big activity, birthday or holiday
  • Make up a song – encourage them to sing a silly song or make up their own words to a familiar tune
  • Crazy crayons – you kept those broken crayons for a reason!
  • Jewelry – practice fine motor skills with beads and string
  • Life size portrait – trace their body (use the backside of wrapping paper if you don’t have a big roll paper) and let them decorate it
  • Write and illustrate a story book – fold paper to create a book to illustrate and help them write their own story
  • Make photo pendants – yes, even a child can do this with help
  • Cut straws – cut straws into ‘beads’ then string together or glue onto paper
  • Large connect the dots – on the biggest roll of paper you have – as high as they can count (and higher with your help!)

Science & Learning

  • Non standard measurement – see how many body-lengths a room is, then measure with their feet, their favorite blanket or toy. Measure with a measuring tape to tell them how big it really is
  • How Crayons were Made – old school Mr. Rogers Neighborhood video of how crayons are made – and then do some drawing
  • Homemade balance – explore weights
  • Sensory guessing box – have them feel inside and guess what the items are
  • Play I Spy
  • Clean pennies – using vinegar and salt. Vary times and make observations
  • Extract DNA from a banana – did you know you can extract DNA that you can SEE right at your kitchen table with supplies you have in your house? It is so cool! A preschooler can than do this (and yes, even YOU who may not know much about science)
  • Explore capillary action – use food coloring and celery or some fresh-cut flowers
  • Plant beans in a jar – you know that bag of beans you bought for soup but didn’t use? Plant some beans and learn about the plant life cycle
  • Watch a documentary – find a kids animal or nature documentary on Netflix (watch for G ratings and be prepared to fast forward through animal hunting scenes as needed for your child)
  • Make your own rainstorm – by exploring steam and condensation
  • Tornado in a bottle – with two 2-liter bottles, water and duct tape
  • Baking soda and colored vinegar – pour baking soda on a baking sheet + drops of food-colored vinegar = foamy colored bubbles
  • Oil and water – explore both mixing and freezing
  • Measure rain fall – put a container outside (bucket, cup, anything will do) and measure the rainfall as it comes down
  • Learn about rainbows – and why God made them
  • Explore speed and distance – set up a ramp and see which car goes the furthest and which is the fastest

Just BE together

  • Watch the storm – count the time between lighting and thunder. Explain what thunder and lightning are
  • Read – start a chapter book or read as many picture books as they want
  • Encourage – make a game out of telling each child what you like about them, what makes you proud of them, and what they are good at

 Practice

  • Sort change – dump change on a baking sheet and sort by size, color, or cleanliness
  • Flash cards – numbers, letters, sight words
  • Tape hopscotch – use masking tape – practice motor skills and counting
  • Somersaults
  • Learn and recite scripture memory verses
  • Write the alphabet – big and small letters

Develop New Skills

  • Gratitude list – help them write their own or start a gratitude journal
  • Quiet time – set them up in a comfy space with their bible and those prayer cards – model what to do by doing your quiet time too
  • Learning while cleaning – sort the toy box by color or shape as you clean it out and put things where they belong together
  • Chores – at this age, it’s still fun to ‘help’. Put them to work matching socks, folding their own laundry and putting it away
  • Photography – let them pick what to photograph and explore what different camera settings do
  • Make music – find musical instruments (or make some). Record it
  • Listen to classical music – explain what instruments are being played
  • Tape balance beam – create a long straight or zig zag ‘balance beam’ out of masking tape
  • Indoor scavenger hunt – make a list and send them hunting
  • Yoga – kids can do yoga and they think it is pretty fun, especially with their own mat
  • Hammer time – let them hammer golf tees into dense styrofoam, or for the more skilled child – nails into a board
  • 10 Minute Challenges – so great!

The thisgratefulmama 2015 Twin Cities Summer Bucket-List (70+ Toddler & Preschooler-Friendly Places To Visit)

 

The thisgratefulmama 2015 Twin Cities Summer Bucket List (70+ Toddler & Preschooler-Friendly Places To Visit) | thisgratefulmama.com

In preparation for summer, I’ve been compiling a summer bucket-list so we’ll be ready with an activity when we are hankering to get out and DO something. The list contains places and activities in and around the Twin Cities (MN), appropriate for families with little ones.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the variety of activities we could do this summer. While I don’t think we’ll make it through this list in just one summer, we will have a lot of options.

Of this I am certain – this much fun is meant to be shared!

Below is the current bucket-list, or if you prefer, you can find the summer bucket list (and me) on Pinterest (oh yes, I recognize the blatant self-Pinterest-promotion – I’m not ashamed).  I plan to keep adding new ideas to the Pinterest board throughout the summer and have just started fall and winter lists.

Without further ado…

The thisgratefulmama 2015 Twin Cities Summer Bucket-List

Family Friendly Events

A selection of the best family friendly summer events the Twin Cities has to offer.

  • June 5 – June 7 – Edina Art Fair
  • June 6 (and Saturdays this summer at 10 am)- Free Family Sensory Flicks – Free, first-come-first-serve until the theater reaches capacity with special arrangements for those affected by autism or other sensory disorders, with lower sound, additional staff and other accommodations
  • June 7, 2015, 1 pm – Parade of Boats, Centennial Lakes Park, Edina. The Edina Model Yacht Club members sail their radio-controlled boats – free
  • July 7 – August 25, 2015 – Summer Tuesdays in Stillwater are a family event with a movie in the park at dusk
  • June 6, 2015 – Explore Your Parks Day in Washington County Parks – Free admission. No Vehicle Permit required
  • Jun 18 – July 4, 2015 –  Manitou Days in White Bear Lake has over 70 events on their schedule, starting with a parade on June 19 (at 6:30 pm) and ending with 4th of July Fireworks (at 10 pm)
  • July 4, 2015 – Afton’s Parade and 4th of July Celebration. Small town feel, great fun!
  • July 17-19, 2015 – Stillwater Log Jam Parade at 1pm on Sunday the 19th
  • July 22 – 25, 2015 – Minneapolis Aquintennial. So much to choose from with a few main events listed below.
    • July 22, 5:30 – Family Fun Night in Loring Park
    • July 22, 8:30 pm – Torchlight Parade
    • July 23, 6 & 8 pm – Twin Cities River Rats water show
    • July 25, 10 pm – Fireworks
  • July 29 – August 2, 2015 – Washington County Fair
  • August 28-30, 2015 – Woodbury Days festival – Kids 5 and under are free
  • August 27 – September 7, 2015 – MN State Fair. No words needed – Kids under 5 are free

 

The Great Outdoors

Soak up the sun and fresh air with these outdoor parks and activities.

 

Indoor Fun

Escape the heat or rain and fend off boredom with some indoor fun.

 

Day Trips

You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a fantastic day-trip.

‘The Bunny’ Isn’t Going Anywhere…Ideas For A Christ-Centered Easter

'The Bunny' Isn't Going Anywhere...Ideas For A Christ-Centered Easter | thisgratefulmama.com

Did anyone notice that the Easter candy arrived at the same time (or earlier) than Valentine’s candy? I know we joke about Christmas in July, but I am not so sure how I feel about Easter in January, even though the hope and joy of a risen Jesus Christ is worth celebrating every day.

What I’m not so sure about is the drawn out bombardment of the Easter bunny, spreading his marketing agenda through children’s cartoons, billboards and aisle endcaps – obviously targeting children, parent and grandparents.

Now, I’m no bunny-hater – I grew up celebrating Jesus’ resurrection at church, with a basket of Easter treats at home. ‘The bunny’ hid eggs and treats all over our house (because usually MN Easter is cold and snowy or very wet) and we enjoyed many challenging egg hunts as a family. We dyed eggs and I have very fond memories of all aspects of Easter and the childhood wonder that goes with it.

What I struggle with is how to embrace both the bunny and Jesus with a consistent, Christ-centered message. I want Easter to be so much more meaningful to our children than a day celebrating a bunny, hopping from house to house, leaving eggs filled with candy. Up until this year, we’ve kind of avoided the issue. Last year our son was 3 and participated in an egg hunt but there had been little talk about the actual bunny.

It has never been our intent to shelter our children from the bunny entirely. Plus, sheltering from the bunny is simply not practical, and perhaps not even possible. The Easter Bunny is a dug in, popular figure who isn’t going ANYWHERE. The way I see it, the bunny and I are going to have to find a way to co-exist, and I’d rather it benefit our children by pointing them towards Jesus. Easter means so much to me, I long for them to feel the same way, long after the childhood wonder of the bunny has worn off.

When our son learned about Easter at preschool last Thursday, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since the preschool is in a church, I was hoping what he learned would be in line with what our family believes. When I picked him up, he had decorated a cute little white bag with a face and ears like a bunny. He was extremely amped up and excited to see what the Easter Bunny had left in the bag while they were outside playing.

I thought…uh-oh. We haven’t talked about the Easter bunny yet. But I was blessed and pleasantly surprised to see the careful and intentional instruction of his preschool teachers. Inside the bag were 3 small (nut-free!) treats, some of that fake grass (annoyingly messy, static-charged, impossible to clean up…but I digress), and one easter egg with a heart sticker on the outside.

The egg was empty.

I asked my son, why is the egg empty? With delight in his voice, he told me what he had learned at school:

“It’s empty because Jesus isn’t in there anymore! He’s alive! It has a heart on it because Jesus is in my heart” (let’s talk about how these words make MY heart leap for joy). Then, “Easter isn’t about candy or the Easter ‘rabbit’, Mom, it’s about Jesus”.

If he’d have been a teenager, I’m sure his final, matter-of-fact statement would have been followed by “Duh” by the tone he used. For now, I’m glad he doesn’t know that term yet.

While we’ve been talking about Easter and Jesus’ death and resurrection for weeks, with reinforcement from Sunday School, this is the first time he really seemed to be able to verbalize it.  I was amazed to hear him profess how the Easter bunny wasn’t at the heart of Easter. We’ll see how he feels on Sunday after he gets his basket, but for now, this is a good start.

Friday morning, he informed me that if we don’t have a bag or basket to leave out for the ‘rabbit’, he won’t come. He reasoned, “We need to get one. For baby (his sister), too”.  As in, right now. 

SO, off we went to Target so he could pick out two buckets with shovels to use as ‘baskets’ this year. He wanted nothing to do with a true basket, because “you can’t play with it. It might break.” I found this logic to be pretty smart, and forward-thinking for a 4-year-old.

While I wasn’t sure how we would embrace the Easter bunny, I see no harm in using ‘the bunny’ to educate our children about Jesus and the true meaning of Easter. This year, ‘The Easter Bunny’ is planning to give our son the book, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones in his Easter Basket. It is our plan for our family to read the book together as a family devotional every evening after dinner.

Other book ideas for ‘the bunny’ to put in your little one’s Easter baskets include:

Given our son’s new-found understanding of the Easter bunny, I figured I better get my act together. I spent the past few days, searching for other, free ideas to incorporate into the next couple days, and to plan for in future years.

For a wealth of great Easter ideas, I recommend you pop on over to the Happy Home Fairy – the blog is filled with simple and great free printables and activities. While we won’t be doing all of these activities this year, I pinned a bunch of them on my Easter Pinterest board to use in the future. In particular, I liked:

Other options from other websites to use for Easter baskets or activities include:

What are your best go-to ways to discuss the ‘bunny’ and Jesus at your house?

He is Risen, Indeed! 

Happy Easter!

6 Strategies to Keep the Peace When Your Child is Ill

We all know those days…your normally well-behaved and easy-going child becomes an opinionated, cranky, and whiny little person. As the day goes on, symptoms of illness that were not at first obvious, present themselves and the sensitivity of your little one is magnified even further.

Pretty soon you, and your family are walking on eggshells around an emotionally unpredictable tiny child who doesn’t feel well.

In our house, it’s not the days the child feels the worst; those days, they want to snuggle up, sleep, read books and watch TV. The hardest days are the day the child falls ill, and the day they start to feel better. They have a spark of energy and desire to play, but are frustrated by feeling badly and are emotional and hyper-sensitive.

It is obvious they do NOT feel well, and as a result, they are no longer equipped to cope with simple frustrations.

Whether home all day with the children, or spending time with them after work, you need a strategy to smooth out the rough edges and keep the peace of your household.

6 Strategies to ‘Keep the Peace’ When a Child is Ill

1. Lower Your Voice

These days can also frustrate you, so intentionally lower your voice. Speak more softly than normal, and encourage siblings to do the same. Quiet words are more likely to be received calmly and are less likely to be mistaken as yelling by a sensitive child. As a general rule, the quieter my voice, the quieter the response from the child (sick or not).

2. Run Sibling Interference

When one doesn’t feel well, tension between siblings can run high. A sick child is more inclined to perceive normal interactions as ‘unfair’, and be less equipped to graciously deal with the occasional ‘butting of heads’ (figuratively and literally). Helping the well child understand the other child isn’t feeling well may diffuse a few arguments, but if too many, the well child may feel slighted.

Let them play nicely together as long as it lasts. When the peace has ended, efforts to keep each child occupied and perhaps in their own space can pay dividends. Try keeping the other sibling busy building their OWN Lego tower, if possible, try staggering their naps/rest time, or see if they will play nicely in their OWN rooms for a while. Some alone time may allow them to miss the other and play nicely for a while later in the day.

3. Get Creative with Restful Activities

Fill the day with quiet activities that require your child to SIT: play-dough, books, coloring, puzzles, blocks, and that indoor ‘fake’ sand. For most of these activities, each child can have their own space and activity. I can buckle the little one into a high-chair (which allows for easy sibling interference), and the one who doesn’t feel well stays busy in a way that promotes REST. A few other ideas include:

  • bath time with plenty of toys – make it extra special by putting on swim suits, playing music, and adding sunglasses for a ‘pool party’
  • build a fort (or let them play in their closet so you don’t have to keep rebuilding it, fill it with their bedding and pillows and give them a flashlight and some books
  • build a tape road on your carpet and supply the trucks
  • any type of sensory play at the table
  • making cards or craft presents for grandparents or daddy using water-color paint, glue and cut paper, pipe cleaners or whatever else you have on hand
  • setup a ‘zoo’ with all their stuffed animals and give them little people to come and visit
  • sit and play doctor, restaurant or other pretend prop activity
  • paint a steamy mirror in the bathroom-keeps them busy while loosening congestion
  • play a board game if they are old enough
  • practice numbers and letters and writing them at the table – even better, use flashcards or a magnetic drawing board and do it snuggled up on the couch

4. Lengthen rest-time (if possible)

Plan ahead! Make sure they’ve eaten if hungry, have some water and tissues nearby, and if necessary, have had a fresh dose of fever reducer or paint reliever a little while BEFORE the rest. Do what you can to help them rest. My son no longer naps, but I TRY to get him to sleep when he is sick. Usually, if I do some extra work, he will sleep (which as a bonus gives ME a needed break!).

If helping them sleep means you need to sit and read a few extra books, or rub their back to help them fall asleep, DO IT! The longer they rest, the quicker they feel better, and the quicker your family can stop walking on eggshells. If the other sibling wakes first, spend some dedicated time with them as they may be getting less attention than usual.

5. Give in to Technology

I generally try to keep the kids away from TV, but am willing to use it liberally when someone is sick. They see TV as a treat, so getting to wrap up in a blanket, snuggle up with mommy and watch Mighty Machines on Netflix is special and exciting. Try to sneak in snuggle time with each child so no one feels left out. As they feel better, reduce TV time accordingly so you don’t have a battle when they feel well.  Try giving them a turn using the tablet loaded with a new kids app, scroll through family pictures on the computer, or play their favorite CD and let music distract them for a bit.

6. Adjust Discipline

The whine – you can’t mistake the sick whine because they’re laying it on pretty thick. Usually, I respond to whiny voices by asking the child to say it again, nicely and I get a chipper, smiley response. It may be over-the-top FAKE happy, but it is un-whiny nonetheless. When the child is sick, my request to say it nicely is often met with tears, and a MORE whiny and insistent request (aka demand). If the child was healthy, I’d  reinforce that crying and whining to do not get us what we want. EVER. Except when you’re sick. A little whine isn’t going to do much more than hurt my ears and test my patience. The sick child gets a minor whiny-pass, with gentle reminders to try to use a ‘happy face’.

Actively course correct – In addition to giving a break on whining, readjusting discipline to focus more on course correction instead of punishment can help avoid meltdowns. This does not mean ignoring a major offense, but trying to head off a behavior before it needs to be addressed. This can be done by suggesting something else to do, distraction with music or simply by scooping them up in a hug. If you can break their train of thought, you can usually prevent a behavior that requires discipline. On a normal day, I let them figure out where their actions are leading, so they can learn cause-effect of behavior; but when one is sick, I simply try to keep the peace.

Switch methods – You know your child best. Avoid using discipline that you know will amplify their emotions. When my son is sick, I try very hard not to give him a time-out because he hates being alone when sick. A time-out that usually takes 2 minutes becomes an all-out meltdown, sometimes inducing worse behavior that then requires even further discipline. SO, if the offense is minor, I try to adjust how I discipline so we still address the issue, but do so without a time out. For example, if he is takes a toy from his sister, inducing tears, he needs to apologize, say he is sorry and kiss her on the head (avoid kisses if you think they are contagious). OR, I might have him make her a ‘present’ to say sorry by coloring a picture, which can interrupt activity so he doesn’t do the same thing right away. I will then tell him that if the behavior happens again, I will have to put away a toy for the day (his favorite digger or dump truck are the first to go). When sick, confiscating toys works better than time-outs, BUT when he is feeling WELL, taking a toy usually induces a tantrum, so we start with time-outs. Don’t be afraid to try something new if your standard discipline isn’t working.

6 strategies for keeping the peace

The good news about minor illnesses is they go away. A little extra effort from you, and you can help keep the peace so the illness doesn’t set your house into a perpetual whiny and tear-stricken place.  Good luck!