Friday, July 26, 2013

When your child is THAT kid

Do you ever have one of those days? Those days where you don't recognize your own child? When you want to sink into the floor where you're standing or the chair where you're sitting? Where you're SURE everyone around is judging you for being a terrible parent because you belong to THAT child?

I had one of those weeks. Matthew has just been OFF and I've been struggling. Struggling with his attitude. Struggling with what other people must think of him and of me. Struggling that he's not learning as quickly as I'd like him to. Struggling when he displays his little sinful nature for all the world to see. Struggling with my own attitude when it happens.

A friend once told me that the half of any given age is harder than the whole. I agree. 2 was a piece of cake compared to 2 and a half.

Matthew has just been ornery. Just one example is that he landed in time out two or three separate times during one 30 minute swimming class because he just flat out decided not to obey his teacher and she had given him enough grace and was done. He fully deserved it and I was embarrassed. What parent doesn't like to see their child exceed and impress?

Couple that with the fact that he genuinely struggles with the course material, so we beat our heads in a brick wall and I just felt like a flop.

We've all had those moments, and we'll all have them again. It's life. So what can we do when we hit these moments? I have only been a parent for a few years so I can't say I have this all figured out. But this has been what has been helping me this week.

Pray for God to give you patience with your child and with yourself. Pray for God to open your eyes to new ways to instruct your child. Pray for grace for other parties involved who might be experiencing frustration with your child. Speak prayers of gratitude for them too. Pray for your child, that his heart would continue to be molded into one that wants the Lord, one that wants to obey God-given instruction in his life. Pray for creativity and discernment as you and your child tackle this journey together. Pray for strength and encouragement when you are weary. Speak prayers of gratitude and praise and wonderment to God for this little child who has been entrusted to you. Praying changes your focus, I promise.

Speak Scripture
Speak scripture to your child, and to yourself. Scripture is rich with wisdom. As my friend Diana points out, the Bible is the best parenting book you will ever read so glean from it and use it to teach your child. I find myself telling Matthew, "A cheerful heart is good medicine." And when I say it to him, it echoes in my own ears, too, and I check MY heart and its response to said exasperating situations. I'm reading through this book, and it's a wonderful resource.

Realize your child's limitations
Are there extenuating factors that are exacerbating your child's attitude? Is she overtired? Hungry? Overstimulated? Cold? Wet? Unable to communicate? While I believe an important lesson in childhood is to learn to function even under these circumstances, children ARE still learning this lesson. While it's appropriate to push them a little and help expand their capacities, we need to stop short of setting them up for failure and allow extra grace when there are circumstances beyond their control that are contributing to the problem. Matthew is going to swimming lessons 4 days a week. He's had a few late nights visiting with out of town family we only get to see once or twice a year. He's exhausted. We made the decision to prioritize that extra family time (or whatever) above getting to bed on time, but that means we have to be willing to accept the consequences, which include in our case, a crabby little dude, who generally requires a LOT of sleep. It's fine to break or bend the rules every now and then (for are we under the Law? No!), but make sure grace for your child accompanies that decision. It may also be true that your child has reached his maximum ability for a certain task or skill at the moment. Even if that is short of accurate execution, that's ok. Realize his limits.

Realize that you are not a bad parent
Do you love your child? Do you love the God who made him? Are his needs for food and shelter and clothing and medical care met as much as lies in your power? Is he safe in your home? If you're even evaluating your aptitude as a parent, then it's pretty safe to say you're not a bad parent. I think we're particularly bad at this as Americans, because we have the luxury to play these games with each other and with ourselves. A little perspective helps my attitude a lot. Stop with the mommy guilt and the mommy wars. Relax. We've all had bad days. All of our kids have had bad days. If anyone is judging you, then she is either not a parent, is a parent of a child too young to misbehave, or she is seriously delusional about how perfect her own child is. Most of us are so harried keeping our own kids in line while simultaneously maintaining our sanity, that we don't have time to think about judging you.

Realize it's ok for your child to fail
And along the same lines, it's ok for your child to not be the favorite, or the best at something, or the most likeable, or whatever other superlative you've conjured in your head as a worthwhile goal. This is hard to break free of especially if your child usually is that kid. There's nothing wrong with being that kid, if you keep it in perspective. But that pressure isn't fair to you, your child, the other children involved, or any other adults involved. Learning to struggle, learning to fail, learning to be humble, learning to resolve conflict, learning to deal with being unliked, learning your own limits and capacities for something, learning to lose graciously, learning to be disciplined and corrected are all as important or more important than whatever skill or situation your child is currently attempting.  Don't rescue your child from the chance to learn these lessons. Remembering the bigger picture helps makes the momentary embarrassment or frustration a little easier to bear.

Realize that this will soon be a distant memory, and that persistence will pay off
It took 20 lessons, countless hours of practice outside of class, numerous timeouts, some creativity, some tears, some frustration, but our hard work paid off and Matthew graduated the first level of swimming class. I think this is true in life.

Scripture tells us, "...We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4) Take heart that God is shaping your heart, and your child's heart, through this time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Free Shutterfly Book

Well that was fast. I posted just last night about creative ways to take advantage of free photo book offers.

Shutterfly posted an offer today on their facebook page. New customers can score a free photo book. Just click here (you may have to "like" Shutterfly) and then click the "Get Your Code" button. Shipping is $7 or $8--about the price of a regular kid's book.


Disclaimer: I get no incentive for this post or the one before it. I just like passing on good deals!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I'm a big fan of Shutterfly photo books. I made one for our pregnancy and one for Matthew's first 6 months of life. I made our adoption book as one and then when I wanted to send a copy to the Genetic Family, it was easy enough to go into my history and order another. I love that it saves my projects so I can go back to them at any time.

But I've also made a couple of less conventional books (ie non-Scrapbooks).

I made the first one when Matthew was starting to learn that pictures were of real people and things. Quite a lot of our family is long distance so I made him a book of "his people" so that he could learn the names and relationships of our family members even though he doesn't see many of them more than a few times a year.  I made an 8x8 20 page book and each page has one member of our family on it. I just called it "Matthew's Favorite People." It's so fun for him to flip through it and it really has helped him remember family members between visits.

I kept it really simple-just a large photo or two of each person that clearly showed his or her face, and his or her name printed in big, plain text. Here are the first two pages:

Then I made him a book called "Matthew's Favorite Things" and I chose an ABC Theme. Shutterfly made it easy because there are "stickers" in their book process that you can choose to put on each page, and they had a few ABC sets.

I was pretty tickled with how it came out. I made it more than a year ago and he still loves to look through it. I may do another when he gets older of some of his new obsessions.

You can see the book here or if I am doing this right, right here:

Here is my ABC List:

A: Airplanes
B: Bible, Books, Ball
C: Cat, Colors, Crayons
D: Daddy, Dog
E: Elephant
F: Frog, Flowers, Friends
G: Grandmas, Grandpas, Gears, Giraffes
H: Hugs
I: I Love You
J: Jesus
K: Kiss
L: Lion
M: Mommy, Matthew
N: Night night
O: Outside
P: Pineapple
Q: Quack (I totally cheated here)
R: Rocks
S: Scout, Strawberries
T: Truck
U: Us
V: Veggie Tales
W: Water
X: X (he LOVED to say the X when he was first learning his alphabet)
Y: Yellow
Z: Zoo, Zebra

You can easily enough do these same things with pictures and paper or traditional photo albums. The best thing about these two books? I only paid $8 shipping. Shutterfly runs specials ALL THE TIME for free photo books and all you pay is shipping. I also regularly see them and various other photo printing sites on Groupon and other similar daily deals sites. So if you wanted to do this, you could do it really inexpensively. You could even create the book now and save it in your account until you see a free offer.

 If you do create something, I'd love to see it! Have fun :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Toddler Songs

I think if I were to have to narrow it down, I think the thing that gives Matthew the most pleasure in life is music. Mommy and Daddy and books might be tied, but it's definitely in his top 3. He loves to sing it, listen to it, dance to it, watch it, experience it...anyway he can get it. So, we sing...a lot. We sing about everything. We sing praises, we sing about what we're doing, we sing about what we just did, we sing about our friends...whatever. If I can say it with a tune, I do. I throw in lots of "doo dahs" and "oh doo dah days" between my stentences. If a song about whatever it is already exists, even better.

So I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite songs and I hope you'll chime in (pun intended!) and do the same! We sing a lot of songs everyone knows like "Jesus Loves Me" and "You are My Sunshine" but these are some that are less common. I would love to learn some of yours.

I taught VBS recently and sung this song with the kids a lot and was asked for it by some adults. I have no idea what the original source was. I learned it when I was teaching preschool about 15 years ago. I tweaked it a bit to be about God's rainbow but for the most part, it's not mine.

The Colors Song
Tune: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Red and Orange and Green and Blue
Pink and Purple, Yellow too
All the colors that we know
Way up in God's bright rainbow
Red and Orange and Green and Blue
Pink and Purple, Yellow too

I made this one up for my little dude because he's not really a little teapot. Warning: a composer, I am not.

I'm a Little Dino
Tune: I'm a little teapot

I'm a little dino, short and stout,
Here is my tail and here is my snout
When I get excited hear me ROAR
Stomp around and then ROAR some more

His full name (first, two middle names, last) is within 1 syllable of "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" and people good naturedly sass us about his name length, so we sing that to him, too with this revision

Your name is very long
Whenever we go out, 
your friends are gonna shout
There goes 

We learned these songs at Gymboree Play and Music. I have no idea if they "wrote" them or not.

Pop Pop Pop
Tune: One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians

One little, two little, three little bubbles
Four little, five little, six little bubbles,
Seven little, eight little, nine little bubbles,
Ten little bubbles go Pop Pop Pop!

Bubbles Song
Tune: Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

There are bubbles in the air, in the air
There are bubbles in the air, in the air
There are bubbles in the air, there are bubbles everywhere,
There are bubbles in the air, in the air

There are bubbles way up high, way up high
There are bubbles way up high, way up high
There are bubbles way up high, there are bubbles in the sky
There are bubbles way up high, way up high

Can you catch a little bubble with your hand?
Can you catch a little bubble with your hand?
Can you catch a little bubble?
It won't be any trouble
Can you catch a little bubble with your hand?

Our favorite "real" music:
Veggie Tales Sunday School Songs
The Wiggles Yummy Yummy CD
The Colossal Coaster album I referenced yesterday
Absolute Modern Worship for Kids
Rockin Robin by Bobby Day
Splish Splash by Bobby Darin
Supercalifragilistic... from Mary Poppins
Jump! by Amber Sky Records (another VBS music song--REALLY fun for kids, hear it here)
Do-Re-Mi from Sound of Music
His Cheeseburger by Veggie Tales

At the suggestion of Ashley, we're trying out Steve Green's Hide Em in Your Heart. It just arrived, so I don't have a review or endorsement yet. I am also on the prowl for Psalty CDs.

So, what are your favorites? Made up songs, or "real" songs. Let's expand our repertoires!

Culture of Life Language

I pay a lot of attention to the language about life. Perhaps it's because I worked professionally in the pro-life field for 5 years. Or perhaps it's because of the very early stage of life my children are in when they join my family. Or it might be due to that little rant I went on in my high school classroom against the wishy-washy man running for the State Assembly that got me "gag ordered" for the rest of class and a candidate and an aide who wouldn't look me in the eye as they scurried out.  Whatever the reason, it's an issue I'm highly sensitive to.

Pro-life wars are fought and won or lost over language, much of the time. Petitions, legislation, and arguments have exceptionally nuanced language that either excuse or defend any number of actions on behalf of or in assault of innocent human life. In that spirit, I present a few phrases that I hear tossed around often, and I want to issue a challenge to reevaluate our use of these phrases.

"Soon to be mom/dad/child" I hear this type of language all the time when referring to a couple who is expecting but has not yet given birth. If we believe the unborn child IS an unborn child, then you are already a parent. That child is already your son or daughter. The way you have lovingly taken care of that child and your body (or your wife's body) throughout the pregnancy IS the act of parenting. The way you wait and pray and cheer on a birth mom after you sign those adoption papers IS parenting. Your job changes when the baby is born, but you are a parent now. Parenthood doesn't begin when the child is born. It begins when that child's life begins some 9 months earlier.

"Life begins at conception" Are you reading that and saying, "wait, WHAT? I thought life DID start at conception." This is a mistake that I even see pro-life organizations making on a regular basis. If, when you say this, you mean that life begins when the sperm meets the egg, you are correct. However, something we learned through all our transfers is that in the scientific and medical communities, "conception" means a fertilized egg that has successfully implanted. So by saying "life begins at conception," you're excluding the first 2 ish weeks of life. Now, this subtle difference doesn't mean anything to the average person on the street and they certainly know what you mean when you say it. But lawmakers, politicians, scientists, and doctors know exactly what they're saying when they use this language and laws, policies, and contracts are written accordingly. If you believe that life begins when the sperm pierces the egg, then life begins at fertilization.

"Give the embryo a chance at life" I actually hear this one a lot from embryo adoption parents and advocates. We believe that those tiny little ones are human beings and we believe they deserve the opportunity to grow. The problem with this language though is if we believe this, then those embryos already have a life. That life is suspended, but if we believe they're human beings, they already have life. Again, the average person knows what you mean, but if we want our words to really reflect what we believe about these babies, may I suggest "give them a chance to be born" or "a chance to continue living" or "a chance to grow."

What are your thoughts? Are there other phrases like this that you think we need to evaluate in our effort to build a culture of life?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Under Construction

I'm working on doing some refreshing of my look so if this blog changes on you eleventy times in the next few days, that's why!  It's time for a new look! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Favorite things: Toddler Edition

I love reading these posts on other blogs so I thought I'd post some of our favorite things for the enjoyment or help of other parents :)

Matthew is 2.5 and is all boy. His loves are music, books, and anything with wheels. I've shared his favorite books with you before, but here are some of our other favorite things. For toys, I try to buy toys that will last a long time, that are easy to clean, that are open-ended in their purpose, and that have a learning purpose. I also buy almost everything second-hand, which is a good indicator for me of how durable something is.

Thermos Foogo Phases Leak Proof Stainless Steel Straw Bottle

I found this cup by accident on clearance in tar-jay one day and I only wish I had more. It's my favorite cup for him, especially on the go. It's the only sippy cup that's never ever leaked on us. And it does AWESOME in our Arizona heat. He can take it in and out of stores and leave it in the hot car for HOURS (it's 115 OUTSIDE--you can guess what the interior temperature of the car is) and when we come back to it, his drink is still cold. It's seriously awesome. 

Little Tikes Handle Hauler
 These are hard to find new, but they're pretty easy to come across second hand for $3-$5. The handle makes them easy to push around and the truck is sturdy enough that the car doesn't tip up when he leans on it to push it. They really seem to have mastered the correct size and placement of the handle to make this a great push-car.

Discovery Kids mp3 Player Boombox

As far as I can tell, this little gem isn't made anymore. Boo! If you ever see one secondhand, snag it! I paid $6 for ours at a kid's secondhand store. This thing is awesome. I can sync it to my computer and load his songs on it. Right now he has about 3 hours of music on it and there is still plenty of room on it. It's awesome. He carts it from room to room and it acts as his personal soundtrack from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed. He knows how to turn it on, control the volume, skip a song, and turn it off. It's awesome because then I don't have to hear "more music!?" every 3 minutes throughout the day. I have a variety of songs on it--kids folk songs, hymns, Sunday School Songs, nursery rhymes, etc, so he can choose what he wants to listen to. And it's totally Matthew-proof. It's in a nice rubberized case so it can be dropped, sat on, kicked, whatever, and it keeps playing away. There's no proprietary software to install-just drag and drop your music files and unplug a standard Micro-USB cord. I have loaded both mp3s and WAV files on it.

Colossal Coaster Music Album from Lifeway Christian Books

I taught VBS for 2 year olds at a local church this summer and in my curriculum packet was a CD of the music. Matthew has fallen in love with the songs and so have I. The preschool album has 9 songs. One is instrumental. The other 8 are centered around the theme of the VBS unit, which was "facing fear, trusting God." The music is high quality, pleasant sounding, and fun for kids. Matthew can sing some of the songs now, and I think he'll enjoy it for several years as he continues to learn the others. There is an older kids version too but I am not as familiar with it. He listens to it at least 3 times a day and it doesn't even drive me nuts (unlike a band of middle aged British dudes whose name rhymes with Giggles!)

Magatiles are seriously, the coolest toy ever made, I think. We first encountered these at the Children's Museum. Each tile is a heavy-duty plastic. Each edge has a magnet between the front and back faces, all around each edge. That allows for the tiles to be able to be stacked and built together in any number of ways. Matthew uses them for sorting, building, counting, shape identification, and color identification. I love that they don't have a pre-determined way in which he's supposed to play with them. The only downside is that they're pretty pricey. A set of 32 is about $50. I hesitated buying them for a very long time because of the cost. Then Matthew's great-grandparents sent me a check for his birthday and asked us to choose something for him. I wanted it to be something he would have for many years, and these fit the bill.  At the Children's Museum, kids of all ages are always fighting over these things. All of Matthew's grandpas and his Uncle Jeff are as enamored with these as he is (well, almost). Recently we brought them with us to a friend's house, and her 20 year old son and his friend were practically drooling over them. They carried off with them and came back later with some 14-sided geometric shape that used all 32 pieces. You can get them on Amazon, from Magnatiles directly, or Lakeshore Learning sells them and allows you to use their 20% off coupon on them.  There is a "DX" Set that has different shapes that are only available in this particular set. I am hoping to one day get that set for him.  If you follow the company on twitter, they say they give away one set a month to a follower-I don't know when they did it last or if it is still current but it's still advertised.

Melissa and Doug Wooden Puzzles

Melissa and Doug Wooden Puzzles are great because their themes are timeless. They're not ridden with cartoon characters. They're well made. And they offer graduated steps. They offer big knobby ones for very little kids. The have big chunky pieces or smaller pegs for toddlers, and as you continue to graduate, they ultimately have traditional jigsaw puzzles. They're affordable and easy to find either second hand or at discount chains like Ross and TJ Maxx. Matthew has mastered the chunky ones (the two bottom ones shown) and when resources allow, we'll graduate him up to more difficult ones.

Musical Instruments
I don't have a specific product to recommend here because he pretty much likes instruments of all kinds. We have some that we've made. We have some that are plastic. We have others that are metal, and still more that are wooden. He loves them all.  I even brought out the Little Tikes piano and xylophone baby toys because while he outgrew them as bang-on-them baby toys, he now uses them for actual music. We spend a lot of each day marching, singing, dancing, playing. I wish I had actual music talent to teach him, but so far he's happy.

Gymboree Bubbles

My sister in law once told me, "Don't mess with any other bubbles. Just buy the Gymboree ones." I thought she was exaggerating. Bubbles are bubbles, right? Nope, they're not, as we discovered when we went through 3 other bottles of bubbles at Grandma's house one day, trying to get them to make bubbles. The Gymboree bubbles are neat because they're made with glycerin instead of soap. The wand has two ends. They make oodles of little tiny bubbles out of one end, or bigger, traditional bubbles out of the other. And they're strong enough that the kids can catch them, or for them to land on the ground or other surfaces without popping. Matthew loves to run around the room and pop every single one he sees. You can buy the kits in Gymboree clothing and Gymboree Play and Music stores and you can also buy refill bottles once you have the wand. You can also get them at

Leapfrog's My Pal Scout

In general, we like Leapfrog products. They're typically sweet, well made, and again, aren't adorned with cartoon characters or big-kid trends. We gave Scout to Matthew for his first birthday. At 2.5, Matthew still plays with Scout every day. Scout lives in his bed so Matthew plays with him before he falls to sleep and when he wakes up. Scout talks and sings about colors, letters, numbers, shapes, and animals. And you can sync him to your computer to personalize him with your child's name and favorite songs, food, color, and animal. There's a purple version called Violet if you prefer. Matthew talks and sings to and with Scout every day. Scout is his little buddy. It's so sweet to hear him over the baby monitor. And having Scout helps Matthew transition in or out of sleeping time slowly, which he very much seems to prefer.

There's our list for today at 2.5 years old! 

Do you know about eshakti?

Correction: I originally posted that the code below expired on July 9th. It actually expires July 15th!

It's hard to tell from reading a blog, but I'm really tall. As my almost-as-tall-as-I-am friend likes to say on her blog, "I'm taller than I appear on the internet." Ha! Isn't it funny how people get in their minds what you look like, what you sound like, and how tall you are? I do it too. In my mind's eye, everyone is short, because, well when you're as tall as I am, everyone is short by comparison. I am 6'2".

Being so tall makes shopping a bit difficult. Add to that retailer's propensity to make things that are immodestly short on even an average height person, and most dresses are mini shirts on me. Slight exaggeration. Not really though.

Then you add to the fact that I am more-than-pleasantly-plump, and that I carry most of my extra weight all in one place (my tummy), and finding clothes that are modest, well fitted, well made, AND cute is a challenge.


They make ALL of their garments sized by your height. AWESOME. They offer tops, skirts, and dresses. Many of their pieces have a retro flair, but they also have many classic stalwarts.

It gets better. For an additional $7.50, you can customize ALL of the dimensions of the piece. You enter in your height, your bust, your shoulder, your arm, and more measurements, all to help them make it awesome for you. And it's $7.50 total, not $7.50 per customization. Depending on the piece, you can also even change the sleeve length or the neckline.

And all of the dresses have pockets!  For a fee of nothing, you can request that the pockets be removed but really, WHO DOES THAT? I think they should charge for such insanity.

I ordered my dress for our 10th Anniversary. Last year, I went with a dress that was more slinky than sweet, in order to please my husband.  The dress was modest, but I still felt like I was pulling and tugging at it all night, and I didn't feel comfortable because it wasn't my personality. Some large women can pull off the curvacious look, and I am grateful that my husband finds me attractive even with my weight, but sultry is just not me

So this year, I set out to find something that was flattering and attractive, but still fitting to my personality and shape and place in life. I wanted something colorful (I'll never understand the black in spring/summer thing), something modest, something lightweight (it is eleventy billion degrees out, after all), and something feminine.

I found this most lovely dress, called the Victoria, on eshakti. It's currently out of stock in my color, but it comes in several others. And they replenish stock multiple times a week so keep checking if you really love it.

In the order process, it asks you how soon your need the dress by. I put my weekend in and crossed my fingers. 2 weeks later, the dress was in my hands. They had even DHL'd it 2-day mail (at no extra cost to me!) to make sure I received it in time. It's lovely. The color is beautiful, the fit is great, the product is well made, and it's super comfortable.

I sort of suck at tying bows so mine isn't so neat as the picture, and I wish I would have straightened out the ruffles, but here I am:

Plus, the dress was listed as "knee length." I have a short torso and long legs so even with my height, that wouldn't tell them where my knees were so I mentioned my disproportion in my order comments and asked them to err on the side of long. They wrote back and asked me for even more measurements and asked me for the exact length I wanted the dress. Wow! I loved that they paid attention to my comment section (really, what retailer does that anymore?) I later ordered a shirt, and I asked that its long sleeves be made short and that the shirt be made tunic length instead of waist length. It came out awesome, too.

Eshakti does this neat thing where they give credits for new customers. Usually it's about $25. However, they're running a promo right now where existing customers can refer friends and the friend receives a $40 credit off a $55 order. Plus, on your first item, they waive the $7.50 customization fee. This offer is good through July 15th.   If you want to take advantage of it, my eshakti coupon code is TJWR04JW

Here's a sample of what you could get:
$59.99 dress
$7.50 customization fee
-$40.00 credit
-$7.50 customization fee
$19.99 for a FULLY customized dress (plus shipping)

Go to You won't be sorry. Happy shopping!

Disclaimer: I did not receive an incentive to review this dress. I purchased it and wrote the review because I really like the product. I do receive a credit toward a future purchase if you use my code and the link above to their website is embedded with a referral for me.