How I Became A Human Vending Machine

How I Became A Human Vending Machine | thisgratefulmama.comOnce upon a time I began giving our kids snacks in the store – a welcome and needed diversion, providing extra time and distraction. And, a more pleasant shopping experience for all.

The goal of the store snack is time.

MORE time.

Now, I’m not saying my kids are unruly or unmanageable without snacks. Most of the time, they are great. I can count on one hand times our kids have melted in the store – with or without snacks. They know how to behave. But when it comes to kids, even with the best laid plans, melt-downs do sometimes happen so we need to be prepared to deal with them with grace and move on.

Every child, even the most pleasant child, has a time limit. That limit may vary but could be caused by boredom, hunger, fatigue or some unexpected issue. Whatever the looming threat may be, we’re always on the melt-down clock when running errands.

For us, snacks keep the peace while warding off the real and serious problem of the hangries.

Tick-tock.

At first, the kids slowly ate and talked while we shopped. It was really quite lovely. Foods that take time to chew are first on the list: carrot sticks, snap peas, apple slices, etc.

These bags of healthy goodness were a win-win – they ate without complaint, and stayed happy longer. Generally, appetites for lunch weren’t ruined, and if they were it was OK – they got the good stuff in first.

For a while – it was almost foolproof.

Gone were the days of running through the store at break-neck speeds tossing things in the cart to get in and out before the melt-down clock ran out.

Our pace was just right. Leisurely, even.

I seemed like a brilliant solution. And maybe it was

But the glory-days of snack shopping was limited to about one year. As the kids grew older, that shiny brilliance has faded.

It isn’t that snacks don’t work anymore. They do. But trips just aren’t leisurely anymore.

Snacks can be a slippery slope. If there’s one snack, why not another, and another?

We’re back on the clock – but now it’s the snack clock. Better get everything done before the snacks run out.

My now older children scarf down even the chewiest snack in 2.2 seconds. They don’t want to chat and eat, they just want the next snack. Fast. So they inhale them – I mean, do they even chew them? At dinner, the same foods would take FOR-EV-ER.

Bottomless pits, I tell you.

I delay the next snack by requiring that we find a garbage to get rid of our trash first. It’s kind of a game, but more so just a tool for getting a few minutes between snacks. You can find us easily, my kids are the ones shouting at the top of their lungs – mom, I see a garbage!

Hooray (note sarcasm)...now you can have more snacks.

It seems that the store snack solution has slowly made me into a real-life human vending machine. For the payment of quiet, happy children, I fork over snacks while I get my workout pushing a cart loaded with 3 children and all our stuff at record speed.

It’s a mad dash, but, generally still a pleasant one.

Now that the kids are older, snacks still include healthy veggies and fruit. To try and slow the bigger kids down, they get beef jerky, raisins, roasted chickpeas or sunflower seeds (no shell), and mini bagels. The chewier, the better.

As you may assume from that list, sometimes snacks become lunch. It isn’t ideal, but does work out well if you need to do a lot of errands in a row. 

Plus, returning home and immediately plopping them in their rooms for a rest still feels somewhat shiny and brilliant. Unloading groceries in peace is a gift.

Don’t tell my kids, but I may also keep a bag Dum-Dums in my purse for emergencies (ahem – when snacks run out). IF the kids were good the whole trip, they just might get one.

I’m not above bribing them.

But one could argue that all store snacks are bribery – I prefer to use the word incentives. 

Although snacks no longer provide a luxurious shopping experience, they are still effective in making our errands happier on a regular basis – and for that I’m grateful.

The human vending machine – yep, that’s me. Or perhaps more like the genie from Aladdin – Poof, what do you need?

Either way, I’m OK with it.

How do YOU feel about snacks in the store? 

‘Hey, You’re Not My Friend’

A normally joyful girl leaves preschool happy then immediately succumbs to tears in the car when asked how her day was.

‘Today the kids were laughing at me, but I WASN’T being funny!’

Hugs, encouragement and more questions reveal that several children laughed while pointing at her in line.

Her feelings were hurt. My heart hurt.

I told her how sorry I was. We talked about possible reasons they laughed – maybe they weren’t laughing at her.

We discussed what to do if it happened again – ask them why they are laughing, and if needed, tell them she doesn’t like what they are doing and please stop. Then if needed, find an adult to help.

She calmed down and didn’t bring it up again until dinner. This time she told the story differently. She decided someone else must have been funny. We may never know for sure, but for now, she’s not hanging onto it.

Phew. Crisis averted.

But maybe not?

The thing is, this is not the first time she’s been upset after school. Several other afternoons she sadly told me no one would let her play with them. Further questioning revealed that in those instances she did play with one or two other kids, but not in the group.

Initially, my husband and I figured it was the result of little misunderstandings. But the repetition and escalation of hurt feelings made us decide to ask her teacher about it.

The next class day, I spoke to her teacher. Our concern was well received. Apparently the kids often play in groups with one or two ‘leaders’ who like to direct play during free time. She explained our daughter is easy-going and often bounces between groups. She does often play one-on-one outside of the group. They had not observed her being upset or any direct exclusion but agreed to be watchful going forward.

I felt heard, and we had a plan – I felt relieved. 

Then, a child still in the hallway looked directly at our daughter and declared,

‘Hey! You’re NOT my friend!’

Thankfully, our daughter was not paying attention. She was busy entertaining her baby sister, so we quickly left. I was so grateful to hear the child’s shocked mom intervene behind us. I am certain she addressed it well.

Now I was the one choking back tears in the car. All those other sad moments were validated with five powerful words.

I feel deep sadness that at the age of just three, we need to teach our child how to deal with rejection.

Truthfully, I’m not sure why the age surprises me so much – I’ve heard our kids say things like ‘you can’t play with me’ to each other and to other kids before. No age is too young for other kids to try to exclude another – they are testing boundaries. We address it and move on. I think what saddens me most is that it seems to be happening to our daughter repeatedly and is causing increasing hurt.

Rejection is a feeling most adults can identify with – we’ve all felt rejected to a varying degree. We have adjusted our behaviors and internalized feelings in positive or negative ways after feeling rejected – whether deserved or not.

Regardless of the cause, rejection leaves a stinging wound – one I am sad our children will experience.

We can’t prevent it, but we can proactively EQUIP them to cope with it. Over the past week, I’ve been pondering and praying how to do that. Another day I’ll flush these ideas out – for now they are best summed up by these three main points:

  1. Encourage kids to share their feelings about circumstances and relationships with us – whether those moments were joyful, hurtful, concerning, confusing, or exciting. We WANT to listen, validate, comfort, encourage and help.
  2. Our words and actions matter. Knowing what it feels like to be hurt helps us remember not to treat others that way. Teach our kids to be kind, defend others if they can, and be quick to apologize and then change their behavior if they cause another to be hurt.
  3. Instill and confirm who they really are to us, and to God.  This experience confirms that no age is too young to start. They need to know these truths about WHO they are deep in their hearts:
    • WHO made them – and who HE is
    • HOW loved they are – by us and by God
    • No person determines your value – only God
    • Jesus knows about rejection and offers comfort and understanding

 

Infant ‘Silent’ Reflux is NOT Silent: 5 Survival Tips for Parents

silent-reflux-is-not-silent

1. MAKE Time For Sleep

Duh-this may seem like a no-brainer if you haven’t had a hurting baby. But our baby hurt, and could not sleep. We rarely slept more than 4 hours per night, and those were non-consecutive 40 minute spurts. Sleep broken up like that is not restorative. As days months pass, the need for any solid chunk of sleep becomes desperate.

Here are a few ideas to schedule sleep:

  • Trade off – one parent goes to bed early while the other takes the evening shift. Take turns during the week.
    • If your child cries most of the night, use a loud fan, ear plugs or noise machine to block the noise so you CAN sleep while the other parent is awake.
  • If you are a working parent, allow yourself one day a week to go home and sleep for an hour or two before picking your child up from daycare.
    • If daycare isn’t a possible outlet for you, ask a trusted family member or friend to come hold the baby while you sleep. And when they come, don’t do anything else. Just sleep.
  • Do whatever it takes to help your child sleep – I held our son on my chest in a big chair with pillows propping my arms up so he couldn’t fall for his first 3 months of ‘sleep’.

2. See a specialist

No matter how good your pediatrician is, see a specialist. A pediatric Gastroenterologist (GI) just knows more because of their specialized training. They see more cases of severe reflux than a pediatrician and have resources and ideas even the best pediatrician may not.

3. Be Honest and Transparent

While no one wants to complain about their child, it is not complaining to admit or explain what is really going on. Take time to explain why you can’t volunteer, go to an event, or why you might be late or need to leave early. Being open and honest will help others understand, give grace, and even offer to help. People who don’t know you need help will not offer to help.

Another reason to be open and honest is that sharing your experience will add a new level of authenticity and trust in your relationships. You may be surprised which relationships thrive in this time and which ones do not – true friendships are forged in fire. These are the people who walk through struggles with you. Life isn’t perfect and we shouldn’t pretend it is – don’t be afraid to share the hard stuff.

4. Seek Experienced Reflux Parents

In addition to a great pediatrician and GI specialist, others have been in these trenches before you. They have spent their days and nights loving and doing everything they can to not only soothe their child, but also to learn how to do it better. As a mom who has gone through what you are going through now three times – I know the advice and encouragement from seasoned veterans is invaluable. If you don’t know any such moms, here’s a few resources that may help:

5. Pray and Then Pray Some More

In the middle of the night, all day long, when your ears, back and arms hurt from rocking and soothing the screaming, prayer is your lifeline to the God of all creation. He made you, your baby, and He knows exactly how hard this is for all of you.

He listens, He answers, and He equips. Reach out to Him for strength, comfort, and peace.

I recently studied John 11 and was so moved by Jesus’ compassion and how deeply troubled He was over the death of Lazarus. He comforted Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha and wept beside Lazarus’ grave. Even though death had to happen for Him to show His power over death as He raised Lazarus from the grave, He took NO joy in seeing the sorrow of those He loved. And, He felt His own sorrow over the situation. Cry out to Him, He hears you. He is your help and holds you both in His good, sovereign hands when there is simply nothing else you can do for your child.

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:6-8 (NIV)

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child With Food Allergies – Thank You For Keeping Our Kids Safe Even When You Don’t Understand Allergies

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child With Food Allergies - Thank You For Keeping Our Kids Safe Even When You Don't Understand Allergies

During a recent grocery store trip, I overheard a fellow mom on her cell phone. She was asking what on earth to buy in the bakery section for her child’s class room birthday treat. It needed to be peanut free.

She went on to say she didn’t understand why, if peanut wasn’t on the label, she couldn’t buy it. Then she mumbled something about the equipment.

I could tell she was in a hurry. Intending to point her in the right direction, I made my way to the display of Lofthouse Nut-Free frosted cookies. I planned to hold them up and just point to the ‘Nut-Free’ label. I didn’t want to interrupt her conversation but knew it can be hard to find a peanut-safe option in the bakery section – especially if you aren’t sure what to look for on the label. It would be easy to unknowingly buy a treat that isn’t safe.

Or maybe just give up.

As I walked up, she released a loud sigh of frustration and exclaimed into the phone, Why can’t those kids just be normal so I can buy a box of cupcakes“. 

Sigh. Normal? Ugh.

Now what?

I felt my face flush. What ran through my head was to educate her – you know, with strong, emotion-filled, angry words. 

But I could see that type of ‘education’ would not do either of us much good. She was already frustrated, and heaping my anger on top of her anger isn’t likely to produce much understanding.

I’m also not real keen on starting an argument in the bakery section of the grocery store. With my kids.

Plus, here she was, trying to read the labels, and trying to pick something all the kids could enjoy. Despite what she said, her actions were those of someone trying to do the right thing. 

She just didn’t understand why.

She didn’t need anger, she needed grace. So instead of marching up with a lengthy defense of children with food allergies, I walked up, smiled, and pointed at the Nut-Free label. She looked, paused and looked up at me.

Relief. Gratitude.

She told her friend ‘just a minute’ and put her hand over the phone. She whispered ‘Thank you. I have no idea how to make sure what I buy is right or not. Last time it wasn’t. They wouldn’t serve it in class and my daughter didn’t have a treat for her birthday‘.

Wow.

As a food allergy mom, I know all-too-well the disappointment when my child can’t have a treat. This might be the first time I realized it also happens to children without food allergies.

I see how this could cause frustration in parents whose children don’t have an allergy.

Sometimes, as an allergy mom, I just wish other parents could put themselves in my shoes – maybe they’d finally understand what its like.

This time, I put myself in her shoes. There was a time when I knew very little about food allergies and food allergy labeling – before I became an Epi-Pen carrying mom and had to take a crash course in keeping our own child safe. If I had gone to the store with good intentions, it would frustrate me if I still bought the wrong thing. Food labeling even confuses food allergy parents sometimes. If I tried to buy something safe for all the children, I’d be so hurt to hear they didn’t serve it because it still wasn’t safe.

Yeah, that would make me pretty upset. And it would make me easily frustrated the next time I’m in a store, again, trying to do the right thing. Especially if I’m still not sure what to actually buy.

So, as she looked up at me, I smiled back and nodded. I whispered that the frosted Lofthouse cookies that say Nut-Free are always a safe option.

And then I said, Thank you for doing your best to keep children like mine safe.

She smiled back, and then looked slightly embarrassed, probably realizing I overheard her comment. But I chose to give her an encouraging smile, a little wave, and move on.

This encounter wasn’t about me. Or my child. It was about simply doing something small to educate another mom who was actively seeking a way to keep other children safe while giving her child a special birthday. Now she knows a safe option for the future. And she has been thanked by one allergy mom for her efforts.

Are you one of the parents out there who try their best to keep all the kids safe?

Thank you, to each of you, who don’t understand food allergies, but try to buy safe options anyway.

Thank you for trying to learn about food labeling, and for asking questions about what to buy. If you ever have questions about what to buy (or why it matters), I’m happy to help.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to make your best effort with good intentions.

I’m sorry when those good intentions have not been rewarded. Please know they are appreciated nonetheless. 

Thank you for doing your best to keep all of our kids safe. We will happily do the same for you in whatever challenge your child or family may face now and in the future.

As I’ve shared before, it truly does take a village to raise a child with food allergies.

Thank you for doing your best – from this grateful mama to you.

DIY: Winter Organization Project Sneak Peak

 

My husband and I went out and bought thirty 1×3″ common boards.

DIY Winter Project Sneak Peak | thisgratefulmama.com

Can you guess what we’re making?

Here’s a hint: We have one particular room in our house that makes us feel overwhelmed every time we set foot in it. This will be an organization solution for that room.

Guess away. I promise to give you the answer, but not today.

First, let me tell you what we learned about 1×3″ common boards.

First, there is no such thing as a straight common board. They are thin, and the wood is fairly soft. Naturally, they warp easily. Just when you find a straight board length-wise, you realize it is warped across the width.

Second, the boards are, well, common. They are full of knots, dings and unfinished edges. But you do get what you pay for – they are one of the most inexpensive options for a project like this.

Third, and possibly the most surprising, 1×3 common boards are actually NOT 1″ x 3″. They are actually 3/4″ x 2-1/2″ – I know, go figure. So, when you do a project, make sure you take into account the adjusted size or it may turn out just a little smaller than you planned! I’m grateful my husband knew all about it. I was looking at him like he was crazy when he told me, but turns out (as with many other things), he was right.

Picking out common boards is not a common job. We ran by the store on somewhat of a whim, unprepared for the task at hand. I mean, why wouldn’t it be quick and easy to go to the store with 3 kids under the age of 6 and leave with what we needed in a timely fashion?

Rookies. 

We spent a very long time pulling out almost every common board from the stack. We chose the ‘best of the worst’ boards. Since it took longer than expected, one of us examined boards while the other kept the little people from getting too rowdy – reminders to ‘be kind’, snacks, bathroom breaks, rattle shaking and rocking the baby.

And then there’s the cart problem. It’s kind of hard to buy large supplies when one cart is full of just children. We were a bit of a parade with our flatbed of supplies and cart loaded with children – apparently high ceilings mean outside voices. We may have drawn attention to ourselves and stuck out like sore thumbs. Maybe.

It wasn’t exactly the most relaxing trip to the hardware store I’ve ever taken.

But, I’m happy to report we did survive. Next time we’ll be a little more prepared and perhaps leave the little people at home. Here is the list of what we used, borrowed or bought for our project:

  • Supplies
    • Clamps
    • Belt Sander
    • Hand Planer
    • Palm Sander
    • Wood Glue
    • Miter Saw
    • Table Saw
    • Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner
    • Espresso Colored Wood Stain
    • Spar Urethane Sealer
    • 4×8′ Plywood
    • White Paint and Primer

look-what-weve-been-up-to

It might not look like much quite yet, but we’re having fun creating something for our family to enjoy. 

Can’t wait to share our progress soon.

 

 

To The Weary Mama of Sick Kids

Hello mama of sick kids.

I woke up this morning weary after getting very little sleep. Our 8 month old has an ear infection and pneumonia. After trying to rock, cradle, nurse and soothe her to sleep for hours, I gave up around midnight. In all honesty, I was getting frustrated with the situation, and with her.

I mean, just GO TO SLEEP already.

But being frustrated was not good for either of us. What she needed was her mama to help her feel better and just be there. I needed to stop trying to force sleep and just accept we were doing the best we could. So, we just got up. At midnight.

We came downstairs where she was happy to just crawl around on the floor. With her content, I did prayed and my bible study homework (although my answers sure needed some help in the morning – a little jumbled and scribbled with bleary eyes). She finally went to sleep after 3 am and slept for a couple of hours. Then she was up for 2 more and back down just when the big kids were getting up.

Some days, there just isn’t enough rest to go around. Are you in this place too?

You are not alone. I am walking through this season right along with you. Every time one child gets sick, it sets off a chain reaction and the others get sick too. One by one. Sometimes it is hard to tell when the first sickness ended and the next one began.

These winter months can feel incredibly long.

And isolating.

I am sorry you’ve had to cancel play dates, volunteering, your own doctor appointments and so much more. I know you were counting on these activities to break up your week. I know you needed a change of pace from just being at home with the kids all day, every day. Missing these activities leaves a void for your children and for you. It is hard when you have little adult interaction for days (or weeks).

I also know how cancelling over and over can make you – a responsible and good friend – feel flaky. Parenting little ones sometimes makes you feel like you have no control over your schedule – because the sickness and these little people control the schedule instead.

Although you may feel that way, as I’ve experienced in my own life, your friends and family DO understand. Many experienced the same with their kids and are happy to extend grace and encouragement to you. They also appreciate you not sharing your illness when you do show up. Be honest and just reach out when you can. Then, extend grace when this happens the other way around.

Because we’re all in this thing together.

This morning I was greeted by a now-healthy child who brought the plague home in the first place. He was ready for breakfast and all I could do was muster a smile and grunt as I rolled out of bed.

So. Very. Tired.

I sent him downstairs so I could take a few minutes to myself before jumping into the day. My main thought was sleep. In moments like this, I must confess I may be worshiping sleep – as if I will never, ever get any more again. I speak from experience when I say being mad about sleep is not helpful. With three kids, a nap for me will not happen. So I decided to just pray for help to survive the day.

But as I prayed, I gained some perspective and realized sleep will come, as it did with all other sicknesses, and with the other two babies. Then the following came to mind:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

Today it will not be my power but God’s as He equips me to serve Him and my family well. For His power is perfect in my weakness. And it is certainly enough for my tiredness.

It is no coincidence that my daily devotion later this morning just ‘happened’ to be based on this same scripture. Apparently God really wanted me to hang onto this truth today. I’m so glad He did. It’s a lifeline I desperately need today (and every day).

Now I am passing it along to you.

What do you need an extra measure of today? (Besides the obvious need for sleep and healthy kids – lets just trust He will cover those in His perfect timing). Maybe you need more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control? I sure do. I believe He delights in being generous to us when we ask Him for more fruit of the Spirit.

Ask Him to shine through your tired eyes and work with those worn out arms and hands. And He will. Just surrender – you’re too tired to stifle His power, and that is to your benefit.

He is strong. He is capable. He is full of energy and joy when we feel depleted. And He has compassion on us and our children when we are struggling.

Tap into His strength and power today. He will carry all of you to easier, healthy days.

Hang in there mama, you’re not alone. These kids are worth it and you are exactly the mama they need today.

sick-baby

She may be sick, but she has amazing hair 🙂

Goodbye sickness, we’re over you. Go away.

 

Infant Silent Reflux is NOT Silent – God is faithful, still.

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

Watching our third baby suffer in pain from silent reflux is not any easier than with the first or second child.

A tiny baby writhing in pain, arching their back and screaming, red-faced until they have no more breath, is gut-wrenching for even the seasoned reflux parent.

Silent reflux is still awful.

While this time around we were more proactive in asking for and accepting help, daily, we were in the trenches, trying to soothe our hurting child. And, as I shared before, this time around, we also struggled to help our older children cope.

It was not easy for our children to watch their baby sister suffer either.

Many days, I sat back and observed how our entire family was affected by our baby’s pain. I often wonder why? Now when I say why, I don’t mean the science behind it – I actually understand that quite well by now.

No, I mean WHY?

Why would God allow a baby to suffer this way?

Why our children?

Why is this so hard?

Why isn’t He answering my prayers NOW?

My emotional response is to ask why, neglecting to go any deeper. Asking why only allows me to dwell in a dark place of mourning and frustration. It is not wrong to come to this place on occasion, but staying there long does only damage. There is no hope there, and as your little one suffers, trust me, you need all the hope you can get.

Like many injustices and suffering, we may never know why on this side of heaven, so dwelling there is not a fruitful endeavor.

Instead of asking why, I should be asking where God is as we walk through it.

I don’t know why He allowed this again, but I do know where God IS.

Right here.

With me. With my husband. With our baby. With our older kids.

He has not looked away even for even one second, even thought there were times we took our eyes off of Him.

God is not surprised that our baby has reflux.

He made her. Carefully. Without mistake.

God is allowing reflux to happen for a reason, even though I want it to be over without all the suffering.

I also need to ask WHAT is God doing?  

What is He teaching our family?

What is He working out in me?

What is He equipping me to do?

For now, it is evident He is teaching each member of our family to be more dependent on Him. He is teaching my husband and I to trust Him with each child He has given us, and to parent with His strength.

And to trust His perfect timing.

I am grateful that we have already seen Him work in this situation twice before – and He has an excellent track record. God never changes. I am confident He will work here too. I have already seen how He has used these experiences already to encourage other reflux families, just like I have seen Him work for good in our family’s life because of our son’s food allergies.

I expect Him to show up big here too.

God walks through all suffering with us – comforting, supporting, equipping, and carrying us through the worst of circumstances. He gently, lovingly guides us freely offering peace, kindness, love and forgiveness along the way.

From day one.

I admit, I do not agree with our baby suffering, but God’s character is good, regardless of our circumstance.

I trust Him and believe He will use this suffering for good. The countless hours spent fervently praying over our babies for relief have not been spent in vain, although I do wish He would answer those prayers now.

He answers all prayers in His timing. And I do trust His perfect timing and care. And that His ways are higher than my ways.

He knows the entire plan for my life, my family’s life, and this sweet baby. He is working for good, in something that feels only bad. The Bible is clear that God works for the good in ALL things of those who love Him – And I believe Him. And so I cling to this truth.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

He has shown Himself faithful to me and to each of our children.

So, while we walk through this, we keep our eyes fixed on Him. We expectantly wait for Him to make His presence known.

And every day, He does.

Because He is faithful, still.

 

*I CANNOT wait to share how God has worked in this situation already – our daughter has improved SO much since I started writing this in July. In the craziness of those days, I never published this – so here it is (With a few more posts to come explaining new lessons learned about infant reflux the third time around, and just how God’s timing was perfect in this situation).