A Silver Lining to Kids Having to Frequently Be in The Hospital or Doctor’s Office?

The Medical Merry-Go-Round

“Ok, I’ll see you back here again in 9 months! She’s doing great!”

Those are some of the most refreshing words I’ve heard.

9 months!

We’ve been blessed with healthy kids, overall. Really, almost our whole family has been physically healthy if you look at the grand scheme of things.

Our oldest had some chronic ENT issues in his early years. Then there was literally a period of years that we had no doctor or hospital visits for illness or injury. Zero. None.

3 years ago, that began to change.

Thankfully, we have not faced a terminal illness. At that turning point 3 years ago, multiple family members began facing chronic or long-term health challenges. Then emergencies were thrown into the mix.

Clusters of doctor appointments led to recurring appointments with specialists. And more appointments for testing. Some of which required hospitalization. All of which led to medications, braces, and orthotics. Which led to medication side effects. And more follow-up appointments. And emergency room visits. And hospitalizations. And surgeries. And more appointments.

Every week it was something…

or a few somethings.

We found ourselves on a medical merry-go-round that sucked up huge portions of the rest of our lives like an industrial water pump in a $10 baby pool.

Sound familiar?

Those of you who face a terminal illness or lifelong condition, or care for someone who does:

I am in awe of your strength.

Our experiences were really, really hard. But although they were hard and they seemed long while walking through them, I can already look back and see that they were short.

I know I don’t have a clue how hard your experiences have been and will be. I don’t pretend to.

I share our experience to say I can sympathize a little.

Does being at the doctor’s office or hospital all. the. time. have a silver lining?

I also share because I think I’ve started to see silver linings in those stormy clouds.

Looking for silver linings is one of the ways I cope.

I noticed many things through our medical merry-go-round journey.

And I wonder,

have you noticed them too?

At her appointment the other day my three-year-old ran gleefully into the waiting room of her Pediatric Orthopedist. The Children’s Hospital here has volunteers in the waiting room ready to do a craft, play with toys, or read a book. We go early just so my daughter can play. It’s one of her favorite outings.

So Little Miss Extrovert bounds into a group of kids who are busily working on a craft and starts chatting them up.

She introduces herself, asks their names, asks what they’re making, asks if she can try too, shows them her picture, asks if they play Toy Story or Princesses or Super Heroes, asks if they like snacks, on and on…until we’re called back for her appointment.

My eyes are moist with joy as I watch her.

She doesn’t notice the other stuff anymore.

She’s just a kid. Being friendly. Totally unfazed.

Unexpected Benefits

The medical merry-go-round has all kinds of inconveniences, stresses, heartaches, physical pain, and difficulty.

I suggest that it also has some amazing opportunities.

I think children in particular can receive surprising benefits from being at doctor’s offices and hospitals on a regular basis.

Off the top of my head, here are 5 opportunities I see for kids on the medical merry-go-round:

1) The opportunity to learn to treat people like people. Naturally. Automatically.

Our medical journey has exposed us to prosthetics, wheelchairs, braces, casts, eye patches, bald heads, ports, IV’s, EEG monitoring, and all kinds of tubes, wires, and other stuff from which kids often recoil.

Children who are exposed to people with disabilities — either directly or indirectly — have more positive attitudes about those with special needs.”1

Michelle Diament, disabilityscoop.com

The exposure is the opportunity.

How the adults involved respond and what they say (how we respond and what we say, mamas!) is key to helping your child benefit from the exposure.

Here’s a great article that gives very practical tips on teaching your child about peers with special needs.

And medical surroundings may not only build disability awareness!

We happen to live in a diverse, multicultural area. So we share medical space with people who have a spectrum of skin tones, speak unfamiliar languages, and wear clothing we wouldn’t usually see. (Everything from hijabs to Catholic habits to turn-of-the-century dressses and bonnets.)

I don’t have the data to back it up, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and hypothesize that the same principle of exposure + adult responses apply to any other kind of people we encounter who are different that us, whether in appearance, ability, or culture.

“As a mom, one of my main goals is to make sure I raise a child who grows up to understand that the world is filled with a variety of unique people who are all deserving of respect and understanding.”2

Priscilla Blossom, Romper.com

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And this first opportunity doesn’t depend on the medical merry-go-round.

In or out of the doctor’s office, we can take action to intentionally teach our kids that people are people. Unique people worthy of love and respect because they’re created in the image of God.

There are lots of resources out there to help us teach our kids about disabilities as well as other issues.

One unexpected benefit of our medical merry-go-round was repeated exposure to a wide spectrum of abilities and people that served as an ideal training ground for our kids.

2) The opportunity to conquer fear of medical equipment and personnel.

One of our adult sons has only seen a doctor the bare minimum of times. Regular well check-ups faded out once he started school. He didn’t play sports, so he didn’t need sports physicals. He’s never broken a bone or needed stitches. (Which is impressive given the level of risk he’s always taken and the number of falls he’s had!) I don’t think he’s ever seen the inside of the Emergency Room. I’m pretty sure he’s never had blood drawn. It wasn’t until high school that he needed a little bit of testing done for a potential stomach issue.

This guy’s anxiety about medical experiences is ridiculous.

He gets queasy when he sees an IV in someone else’s arm. Everything in the medical realm is unfamiliar. This element of the unknown and unfamiliar absolutely drives him up the wall sometimes.

On the flip side, our other adult son rode the medical merry-go-round from age 4 months through about age 7, and our other two children have been on it for the last 3 years.

Yes, those three had plenty of fear in the beginning. (I still cringe when I think about that adult son’s fearful breakdowns as a little child! He was convinced that nurses were some kind of ultra villian.)

Now, though, the settings are familiar. The tools are familiar. Many questions have been answered. They’re comfortable enough to ask questions when they come up. They know that doctors are there to try to help.

The older ones also know that doctors aren’t perfect, and they know how to do things like advocate for themselves and ask for a second opinion.

And when they visit loved ones in the hospital, they’re unfazed.

All my kids are now eager to sympathize, encourage, and help.

They have an appreciation for doctors, nurses, and support staff.

Things they would have a hard time learning outside of the medical setting.

3) The opportunity to build a broader understanding of reality, and cultivate thankfulness.

Like #1, this opportunity is also found outside the perpetual doctor’s visits.

When we interact with people who suffer, and especially when we actively seek to help and encourage them, we develop a broader perspective of the world. This clearer understanding of reality can curb our children’s sense of entitlement and nurture their gratitude.

My three-year-old can see children who require more orthotics or other physical support than she does. She can be thankful that she no longer has to wear restrictive braces, and that even with her braces she could run around much more freely than many of her counterparts at the orthopedist.

My son has now met many other teenagers who suffer(ed) as bad or worse than he did. He used to believe that his childhood was terrible and oppressive, but now he has heard story after story after story of real oppression and abuse. He used to perceive that all the other teenagers in the world were as confident as they try to project walking down the school hallway. Now he knows that far more are hiding deep struggles – physical, medical, emotional, other, or all of the above. This completely changed his perspective on life.

For every patient who undergoes emergency surgery and lives, like I did, how many more don’t make it?

How many patients in the Emergency Department (or the specialist’s office, treatment center, radiology center, epilepsy monitoring unit, hospital room, etc…) are there for something much more severe? What are their stories?

How many are getting the care and services they need? The follow-up they need? How many will be financially crippled under the incoming pile of bills?

The medical merry-go-round hold a wealth of opportunities to discuss the less fortunate with our children. Not only does this give us the opportunity to show them a broader picture of reality and cultivate gratitude for their blessings, it also gives us –

4) The opportunity to build empathy and compassion.

When your kids learn to see and treat people like people (#1) and are exposed to the reality of the less fortunate (#3) parents have a perfect opportunity to instill some deep empathy and compassion.

Imagining ourselves in others’ shoes, discovering what can be helpful, and purposefully pursuing ways to be helpful is so easy to incorporate into our medical journeys. I know of multiple close-knit communities built among families who frequent the same offices and wards.

Non-profits and support groups are birthed from empathy and compassion – often from someone who once walked right where the beneficiaries now walk.

The rest of life is full of opportunities to build empathy and compassion in children. The medical merry-go-round just happens to be one of the big ones.

5) The opportunity to see lots of stepping off points for deeper learning.

I’m a home educator. I love interest-driven education. I can’t help but to get a little nerdy about this!

The medical merry-go-round is an amazing opportunity for learning about specific aspects of the human body and practice of medicine. We can answer our kids’ questions and build on them with library books, online videos, articles, and more.

My three-year-old probably wouldn’t care less about otoscopes, ophthalmoscopes, IV’s, x-rays, or ultrasounds if it weren’t for so much time spent in doctor’s offices and hospitals. Now her vocabulary includes those terms and many, many more. She knows the basic differences between a surgeon, pediatrician, orthopedist, and nurse. She knows about body systems and has some real-life framework to hook new information on. She listens attentively to non-fiction kids books on those topics – books that really aren’t that engaging or well-written. The information means something to her.

Some kids might be so sick of the experiences that they want to avoid the topics. I don’t suggest pushing that kind of learning unless the child is actually interested.

But for the child that becomes fascinated with the surroundings and how and why everything works, why not jump on that opportunity and let them learn all about it while the interest is there?

What about you?

Can you relate?

Have you ever been on the medical merry-go-round?

What silver linings or opportunities did I miss?

I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment below!

If you’re wondering how you can support a friend who is living on the medical merry-go-round, check out this post.


1Diament, Michelle. “Kids’ Attitudes About Disabilities Improve With Exposure.” Disability Scoop, 22 Nov. 2013, https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2013/08/30/kids-attitudes-disabilities/18615/.

2Blossom, Priscilla. “How To Teach A Child About Disabilities, According To Moms & Kids With Disabilities.” Romper, 16 Aug. 2018, https://www.romper.com/p/how-to-teach-a-child-about-disabilities-according-to-moms-kids-with-disabilities-9920750.

13 Essentials for the Homeschool Preschool Classroom

I’ve homeschooled for 10 years.

That’s kind of amazing to me, since I once vowed I’d never homeschool my kids and felt pressured to start on a year-by-year basis out of necessity (one son’s special needs)…I’d have never believed you if you’d told me before then that I’d go on to do that! But I digress…

Our oldest two children have graduated. Our third child is now finishing his last two years of high school in a traditional school setting.

With the 13 year gap between our third-born and our youngest, this is the first summer in over a decade that I did not spend planning for the upcoming school year.

It feels SO weird!

Even though my “hardcore” homeschooling decade has passed, I have been doing an informal morning basket time with my youngest for the last year. 

She turned three this spring, and I am putting together a plan for her first year of preschool-at-home, starting this week!

I really enjoy the opportunity to approach this planning with way more wisdom and knowledge than when I first began homeschooling.

One of the many benefits is I’ve been able to boil down which supplies we used the most and which were the most helpful.

Doing preschool at home doesn’t have to be hard.

It also doesn’t require a bunch of fancy supplies. 

(Though they are so, SO fun to browse and buy!)

Here are the 13 things I’ve found most essential for the at-home preschool classroom:

1) A plan.

No stress here, ok? I use the term “plan” loosely.

For preschool, you don’t actually need to make full-out lesson plans for each school day.

(If that’s fun for you, then by all means, go ahead and plan away!)

All you really need are three lists to use as guidelines:

  • A loose daily routine
  • A general monthly theme
  • A list of skills to teach

2) A white board and dry erase markers.

Preferably a white board that’s also magnetic, like this one.

This will probably be THE open-ended tool you use all the way through high school. 

You want one that’s at least 24″ x 36″.

3) A way to play audio.

Some still use CD players. (My daughter has this one on her dresser for quiet time audiobooks.)

For school I now use my smartphone and a bluetooth speaker. We use it for sing-along songs, playing the composer of the month in the background, streaming audio books, and more. So many possibilities!

4) Lots of great books.

Whether you use a library card, Amazon Prime, used book sites, or swaps with other homeschool moms, you’ll want a steady stream of fresh, living books and stories, field guides, chants/songs, and poetry.

Check out my preschool booklist on Amazon.

5) A wall calendar.

We have this one, designed for a classroom.

By doing a simple “calendar time” most mornings, many preschoolers will quickly learn the days of the week, months of the year, and basics of reading a calendar. 

We had ours laminated and I use dry erase markers to write on special activities and events.

We use the included weather and seasons charts as well.

6) A child-sized table.

I didn’t consider this essential with our older kids. We did lots of work at the kitchen table, around the coffee table, sprawled on the floor, on sofas or beds, etc…

But I started homeschooling them when they were already in elementary school.

There’s something really helpful about a sturdy table that fits a little one. She can sit comfortably with her feet touching the floor. She can stand and fidget and easily reach all the materials.

We have this coffee table set up as our daughter’s “kitchen” and this child’s table and chairs for seated activities. They’re both inexpensive and have held up well (with one child — I can’t vouch for how they’d do with multiple children!), and they’re cheap enough that I’ll have zero guilt tossing them when she’s outgrown them.

7) Blank sketch books.

Drawing, coloring, painting, stickers, writing, and tracing can all be done on open-ended, blank paper.

I prefer using spiral bound sketch books so we can turn the pages completely around.

I have one for myself that I use for “anchor charts” and illustrations, and my daughter has several. She has one for each place she might want one – by her table, in her nature backpack, in her church bag, in the car, and in her meeting bag.

You can often find these at Dollar Tree or in dollar bins at other stores. There’s no need to get artist-quality paper, unless you really want to and/or you’re going to let your child explore with a specific medium, like watercolor.

8) Writing utensils.

It literally does not matter what type you use.

A dollar sketch book and a one of the free pens your insurance guy gave you will work just fine.

Really.

Ok, I have to tell myself that sometimes. Because I’m an artsy-fartsy gal who loves having a huge spectrum of writing utensils and other stuff to spread on paper in its glorious color.

Which is cool, too.

Just don’t think you have to have it all. Or have the best.

It’s fun, but you don’t need it.

That said, my favorite writing utensils for preschool include Crayola Twistable Crayons, Crayola Pip Squeaks Markers (I love this caddy they come with!), Gel Crayons, and No-Drip Paintbrush Pens.

9) Magnetic alphabet.

There are so, so, so many quick, simple activities you can do with these “in passing” that will teach your child all kinds of pre-reading skills.

Simply Charlotte Mason incorporates at least magnet activity in their preschool materials. It teaches letter recognition and letter sounds.

I think the DVD I own from SCM may no longer be available (I’m having trouble finding it on their website) but this post has all kinds of resources, including their Delightful Reading Kit.

If I can’t find the SCM resource I’ll follow up on this post with instructions on alphabet magnet activities.

10) Index cards and box for memory work.

It took a little set up and getting used to, but it’s been so wonderful using the Simply Charlotte Mason Memory System.

It’s presented as a way to memorize Bible verses, but don’t limit memory work to just that (or don’t think the system won’t work for you if you don’t have religious texts you want to help your kids memorize).

In our homeschool we’ve added to our memory box poems, rhymes, days of the week, months of the year, Q&A for various subjects, catechism questions, bits of famous speeches, the US Presidents in order (check out the memory rhymes by Carol Barnier!!), States and Capitals, and other short or short-ish memory-worthy things from all our subjects.

And, no, you don’t have to hand write all your cards out. Many of ours I typed on the computer, printed, cut out, and then pasted to index cards.

Besides, you only need to make them as you go. There’s no need to make a whole bunch at once.

To set up the memory box system you just need an index card box (a locking one like this helps prevent accidental dump incidents!), index cards, and index card dividers. Simply Charlotte Mason has full instructions in print and video on their website.

Even if you don’t use the memory box system, index cards are super handy for making flash cards, puzzles, matching cards, and all kinds of other teaching tools.

11) Objects that can be counted.

This could mean actual math manipulatives or fancy math rods, or something as simple as small toys, craft do-dads, rocks, or dry beans.

Just some kind of visual, tactile item your child can count, gather, and sort. Nothing too big or too small. Something between the size of a kidney bean and a match box car.

12) Two or more go-to outdoor areas.

We’re bombarded with reports and articles about how important recess is and how healthy it is for kids to spend time outdoors.

If you’re following a Charlotte Mason or Waldorf approach, or another that emphasizes time outdoors, you’re going to try to spend time outside every day.

This will be so much easier if you have at least 2 outdoor places you enjoy spending time on a regular basis.

I say at least 2 because (a) that allows you to offer your little one the option of Place 1 or Place 2 when they’re reluctant, and (b) it gives you a little variety.

It doesn’t matter whether you prefer your backyard, a park, a trail, or a playground. Just having a place to go without having to figure out where to go can enable you to actually get out there.

13) Dedicated blocks of undivided attention.

Unschoolers might hate me for this, but I think it’s essential to prioritize a minimum of 1 hour every day that you’ll spend 100% focused on your preschooler(s). A half hour outside and a half hour inside.

They can be all in a one-hour chunk or broken into two or more smaller chunks.

Work them into your routine in such a way that you can make sure they happen just about any ordinary day.

These are the times you’ll do your morning basket, memory box, games, activities, read-alouds, and/or just hang out with your child(ren) without distractions.

That means no phone, no screens, and no chores.

Keep this time light and low-pressure. Enjoy your child. Let him/her show you what they’re doing and exploring.

Spend the time bonding, with a little learning worked into the time together.

This right here has made the biggest difference in my relationship with my kids and in their love for learning.

Every household is unique. What would you add to the list? Tell me in the comments!

PIn this! My 13 Essentials for the Preschool at Home Classroom

8 Great Picture Books for Preschoolers

Let’s talk about book lists.

I plan out monthly themes.

I carefully pick out books ahead of time.

We attempt a beautifully curated basket time.

I intend to share those lists here on the blog.

But one of the most beautiful things to me is how each child has always picked books they personally enjoy and read those books over and over for a season.

It’s really fun to see each child’s interests and personality blossom and evolve.

We see this in many areas of their lives. One of those areas is the books they favor.

My three-year-old has been asking us to read the following list of books on repeat all summer. (Some of them have been her favorites for over a year.)

Have you read these? 

A stack with some of the best picture books we've read in 2019. My 3 year old's favorite books. Great books for preschoolers.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read these books aloud this month!

My 3-Year-Old’s Favorite Books

I Want My Hat Back

by John Klassen

I don’t know exactly why, but we are really amused by this book. It’s also been a great tool for teaching about “tricky people” and truthfulness. The ending definitely doesn’t teach a positive moral, but it makes a great conversation starter.

In this story, a bear searches for his hat and all the animals he asks can’t help him find it. Suddenly he realizes that the rabbit was actually wearing his hat at the time they spoke and had stolen his hat and lied about it. The bear runs back, confronts the rabbit, and takes his hat back. It’s then implied by the bear’s denial that he ate the rabbit. So the bear took justice into his own hands and then proved he is just as unjust as the rabbit. 

It’s a fun, short read with vibrant illustrations and a lighthearted take on untruthfulness that can be used as a springboard for all kinds of great conversations.

Nibbles the Book Monster

by Emma Yarlett

This book is just downright adorable! 

Nibbles, the cute, yellow book monster, escapes from his own story and chews his way into classic fairy tales, rewriting the stories and causing all sorts of problems along the way. You and your child “chase” Nibbles as you read the book so you can catch him. Just don’t look away! Not for one second!

The story is even more fun if your child is familiar with some version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. 

(Note: Nibbles is available from Usborne books. If you have an Usborne rep, be sure to support him/her!)

Pirates Don’t Change Diapers

by Melissa Long and David Shannon

Grandpa (my dad) builds boats and speaks fluent pirate. He gave our older kids this book and its prequel, How I Became A Pirate. Our 18-year-old son has delighted in reading them to our youngest, and she is equally delighted. I recommend reading both books. Pirates Don’t Change Diapers just happens to be our daughter’s favorite of the two.

In this story, the pirates return to the boy’s home to retrieve their treasure, which he helped them bury in his yard in the previous book. But the boy is supposed to keep an ear out for his baby sister while his dad is napping, so the pirates have to help him so they can have the chance to go outside and dig. You can probably imagine how funny things turn out!

Dragons Love Tacos

by Adam Rubin

Are you getting the feeling our daughter likes comedy? Here is another funny book. 

The narrator guides a little boy through the process of throwing a taco party for dragons, with very specific guidelines. It seems to go off without a hitch until he realizes that he didn’t read the fine print on the “mild” salsa. Oops!

The text is fun to read and the instructional style is a nice change from a typical narrative.

Dogger

by Shirley Hughes

This is one of the many gems from Shirley Hughes. She’s probably most famous for her books about a boy named Alfie

This story follows a beloved stuffed toy dog that is lost, accidentally bought at a rummage sale by another child, and then bought back by a heroic big sister.

Hughes’ writing captivates both me and my daughter. I recommend all of her books. My daughter gets all caught up in the real-life drama. The tension, the emotions, and the resolution. All the conflicts are very relatable for small children, and the resolutions are realistic and non-cutesy.

Kite Day

by Will Hillenbrand

We fell in love with this book’s characters, Mole and Bear, in another book called Spring is Here. When we saw the cover of Kite Day displayed at the library we had to give it a try! With simple language and repetition, both books are very accessible to toddlers and preschoolers (and probably twaddly for older kids).

One warm, breezy day, Bear realizes it is perfect weather for flying a kite. He and Mole plan and construct a kite, then fly it. A storm rolls in and the hard winds break the string. The friends pursue their kite, but when they find it they see it’s now being put to even better use.

Ladybug at Orchard Avenue

by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Full disclosure: I find this book tedious to read. Our daughter loves it, though. She asks me to read it at least once a day, so it had to make this list!

This book follows a ladybug on her pre-winter journey. You learn all sorts of things about ladybugs along the way. 

The illustrations are beautiful. The information is great. The story is…a little hard to get through at times. 

Manners

by Margaret Wise Brown

I didn’t expect this book to become a favorite, but I am so thankful it has! I bought it about three weeks ago, because manners are something we need to address with Miss Three. 

Surprisingly, she fell in love with the book. And, thankfully, it’s working! She is learning from it and putting those lessons into practice.

In this book, different situations are presented with “a way to do xyz” and “a way not to do xyz”. Cute illustrations make the points clear. The text is short and simple. 

Sometimes we discuss the illustrations. Sometimes we just read straight through. 

I appreciate how the text in this book models full sentences that are good to be repeated. I and my daughter find ourselves quoting this book frequently as we apply the principles to life in real time. It’s been a very helpful tool for us!

What are your favorite picture books for preschoolers?

Drop them in the comments below! I’m always looking for new ideas. #bibliophileprobs

What is Mama Rhythm?

What exactly do I mean when I refer to “mama rhythm”? 

Well, there is a long answer and a short answer to those questions.

Let’s start with the short answer. 

Mama rhythm is the vibe, feeling, or atmosphere a mother sends out through her words, attitude, and actions. It’s the ongoing, evolving expression of who a woman is, particularly as a mom. 

Mama rhythm is essentially a mama’s ethos.

It involves a mama’s character and personality, values and beliefs, habits and responses.

It involves priorities, purpose, and identity.

Your mama rhythm will probably have similarities to other moms’ – maybe even a lot of similarities –  but it is still distinct for each mother. 

A mother’s mama rhythm is separate from her circumstances, although her circumstances will both influence and reveal it. 

It’s not dependent on where she lives, how nice her home is, or how much money the family has.

It is influenced by her background and cultural heritage, but not determined by them.

It’s not about whether she works outside the home or is a full time homemaker, about what kind of education her kids receive, about whether she breast or bottle feeds, or any other mommy-war kind of decisions.

Mama rhythm is more about our attitudes about those things.

It’s easiest to explain mama rhythm by breaking it into 6 areas:

Responses

A mama’s responses to her kids, circumstances, and other people. Includes her reactions and temperament as well as her more thoughtful, intentional responses. 

Habits

What a mama habitually says, thinks, and/or does. Includes her daily routines, self-care, and sleep schedule, as well as verbal habits, non-verbal habits, work habits, thought habits, relational habits, and habits of rest.

Yearnings

What a mama really wants. Includes expectations of children and spouse, preferences about the home and family, and desires for a wide range of things. 

Teachability

How open a mama is to learning and growing. 

Hopes

What a mama hopes for and what a mama hopes in. Includes her aspirations and dreams, and what/whom she trusts for security, stability, peace, and happiness.

Mindset

A mama’s attitude, outlook, and mentality. Includes her mental health, self-image, identity, perspective, values, beliefs, assumptions, priorities, and overall spirit.

Together these 6 areas form a mama’s rhythm. Her ethos.

They create an atmosphere around her that is felt by her children and other people with whom she comes in contact. 

Each area overlaps with the others. Each area affects the others. 

Each area can have a profound affect on a mama’s children, relationships, and life.

Each mama is on a unique journey, and her mama rhythm develops and changes over time. It’s part of the wild, breathtaking, heart-rending, delightful adventure.

We’re each unique and spread out on diverse paths, and yet we can be in this thing together, ready to lock arms or lend a hand along the way.

On each of the next several Mondays we will go into more depth about what mama rhythm is, how to discern yours, and how to both celebrate your strengths and grow in areas you feel like you could improve.

My hope is that Mama Rhythm Monday will become an ongoing conversation around which we will build a supportive community as we each morph and grow as mothers.

Use the hashtag #mamarhythmmonday or #mamarhythm to join the conversation on instagram. Tag me @mamarhythm and introduce yourself, and tell me what you love about your mama rhythm!

I might feature you in my stories or feed.

How to Make Custom Etched Drinking Glasses – Using Your Kids’ Drawings

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Guess what? You don’t need a Dremel tool or etching machine to etch glass!

You know those super cute custom-etched canning jars, glasses, and glass baking dishes on pinterest and etsy?

Many of them were probably made with etching cream.

I love this stuff, you guys! Your imagination is the limit with it! You can go any direction: classy, quirky, fun, elegant, or something else entirely.

Etched glasses make awesome DIY gifts.

You can personalize a glass or set of glasses for your favorite teacher to celebrate the end of the school year.

You can make a one-of-a-kind Father’s Day gift for your husband or dad. Maybe some custom designed etched bar glasses?

I really want to use etching cream to monogram the bottom of my glass baking dishes! So many possibilities!

The very first project I made with etching cream was a variety of custom drinking glasses to give extended family for Christmas – and all the designs were drawn by my kids. The project turned out so much better than I expected, and we had a great time.

(Warning: Etching cream will burn skin. Do not allow children to use the etching cream, and do not leave the project to rest in reach of young children. When you use the etching cream wear gloves and take care to keep it off your skin and off surfaces others may touch.)

How to Etch Glass with Etching Cream

Materials:

  • Plain glass drinking glasses (we bought a box at Dollar General)
  • Rubbing Alchohol
  • Paper towels
  • Etching cream (we used _)
  • Cheap paintbrushes
  • Disposable gloves

If you’re using precut stencils:

  • Flexible stencils and stencil adhesive

If you’re making your own stencils:

  • Contact paper (a dark color is helpful)
  • Carbon paper
  • Stylus, pencils and/or chopsticks
  • Optional: copier/scanner
  • Plain paper (Thin computer paper is good if you have a copier. Otherwise, use tracing paper.)
  • Pens & pencils
  • Masking tape (painter’s tape or drafting tape is best)
  • X-acto knife
  • Self-healing cutting mat
The plain glasses we etched for our project.
We found plain drinking glasses at Dollar General. Smooth glass work best.

Note: If you have a Silhouette or other craft cutter you could use that to cut designs from vinyl and use the reverse for this project, instead of fooling with the contact paper. I think it was worth it to use the contact paper and transfer the boys’ drawings.

Making Stencils from Contact Paper

I assigned recipients to the boys and told the boys to draw a picture, artistically write each person’s name, or create some other image or pattern that would represent the recipient well.

1) Draw your image(s). Use thick, dark lines for best results. Permanent marker works great. If you don’t have a copier or scanner, then draw your images on tracing paper. (I like a heavier tracing paper like this.)

2) To make your life much easier, use a copier or scanner to print mirror images of the drawings. Make extra photocopies of the drawings in case you mess up and need to start over.

If you don’t have access to a copier or scanner, then hopefully your drawing is on tracing paper. Carefully fill in the drawing on the backside of the paper as needed until the mirror image is clear.

3) Cut a piece of contact paper and a piece of carbon paper, each slightly larger than your image. Lay the contact paper face down on the counter. Lay the carbon paper on the backing of the contact paper. Lay your image on top of the carbon paper. Secure the layers with masking tape

4) Use a pencil or chopstick to trace the image, pressing firmly to transfer the image to the contact paper backing.

5) Once the drawing is transfered, use your Exact-o knife to cut out the areas you want to etch.

6) Set aside all your stencils

Setting up

1) Protect your work area with paper or another covering. Get out all your materials.

2) Put a little rubbing alcohol on the corner of a folded paper towel and use that to wipe down the outside of the clean glasses you plan to etch. Set the glasses aside to dry thoroughly, and be careful not to get fingerprints on them.

Etching the Glass with Etching Cream

1) Working with one stencil and one glass at a time, carefully remove the contact paper from areas of the drawing that you wanted to be etched, and then apply the remaining Contact paper to the glass. Use a chopstick and/or your fingers to press down all the cut edges tightly to the glass.

2) Put on your gloves. (Etching cream burns are no joke! Don’t let the kiddos mess with it.) Use the paintbrush to apply etching cream liberally over the opening of the stencils.

3) Allow the etching cream to set for 15 minutes, or according to the instructions on the package of your particular brand of etching cream.

4) After the setting period, (with your gloves on!), rinse the etching cream off the stencils/glasses under running water. Remove the Contact paper, and rinse the glasses completely. Set them all aside to dry.

It was sure difficult to photograph the finished product! We all love how they turned out!

To wrap these, I inserted Christmas tissue paper in each glass along with a slip we typed up in Publisher which gave the Artist’s name and care instructions.

I then wrapped each glass in tissue paper with the “floof” at the top and a gift tag tied on with a ribbon.

Etched glasses are a simple, fun homemade gift idea. They make a practical gift with a sentimental touch.

Empower Your Child To Be Kind And Assertive

At just three years old, our daughter Bear is very outgoing most of the time. There are times she’s timid, but usually that’s more because she needs food or sleep than because she feels shy.

She usually loves greeting people. And she loves the greeters at Walmart.

We teach our kids a lot about “tricky people” and safety. At the same time, we also teach them about loving our neighbors by being friendly and polite. There is so much to learn about both concepts and all the nuances in between.

One woman who works as a greeter at our local Walmart especially enjoys interactions with Bear. Bear and I made a quick Walmart run the other day, and this sweet woman was on the job. As usual, Bear made a point of getting eye contact, waving, and cheerily saying “hi!!” on our way in.

That day I let her “help” me push the cart for the first time. She felt like a big girl walking around. After we finished shopping and checking out, the greeter saw us heading toward the exit.

“Oh wait a minute! I have something for you!” she called as she rushed to grab a roll of iconic yellow smiley face stickers.

Bear immediately became uncomfortable and pushed close to my leg, looking down at the floor. Maybe it felt less secure to be offered a sticker on the ground when she was used to receiving one while in the cart. Whatever the reason, she wasn’t open to receiving a sticker right then.

The greeter held a sticker out toward Bear.

Bear shook her head and dropped her chin to her chest allowing her long curls to hide her face.

I smiled at the woman and accepted the sticker on Bear’s behalf and placed it on my shirt.

“Thank you! Have a great day!” I cheerily told the greeter.

Disappointed, the greeter pulled another bright yellow sticker from the roll and held it out towards Bear.

“Here, now. Your mama took one. You saw how to do it! Now you take one too!” She insisted, cheerily, but emphatically disapproving.

Bear burst into tears.

I thanked the greeter again, took the second sticker on my finger, and led Bear out the door. She was sobbing.

On the sidewalk outside the building, I stooped down and gave her a hug. Once she was calm enough to talk I asked why she was so sad.

“Were you feeling shy?” I asked.

“I. said. no. and. don’t. want. it. and. she. didn’t. do. it.” Bear sobbed.

It dawned on me that she wasn’t upset because she felt shy. Her tears weren’t about the sticker. They weren’t about the offer.

She was upset because the greeter didn’t respect her “no.”

She saw the sticker on my finger and began tearing up again, saying “I don’t want to have to have that!”

“Honey, you don’t have to have this sticker!” I said with surprise.

Her brow furrowed with confusion and relief.

“I just took it from the woman in case you changed your mind and wanted it after all. You don’t want it?”

She shook her head. I asked if she wanted to throw it in a nearby trash can. She nodded, and we did. Then we hugged and went to the car.

I replayed the scene in my mind on the drive home, analyzing, making observations, and thinking about what we needed to learn from it.

People think they’re being helpful by pushing friendly gestures on “shy” kids.

I don’t know the source of the philosophy but I see it often in practice. Along the same lines of picking on a sensitive child to “toughen him up,” people force interactions and insist on responses from children who appear shy, often in an effort to “get him out of his shell.”

Many really believe they’re doing a good thing.

They don’t realize they’re actually being a bully.

Parents often feel pressure to force their child to take the friendly gesture.

I’m guilty of this, you guys. I have wished so many times I could go back and do things differently with my older kids.

Maybe sometimes we push them out of embarrassment because they’re melting down or rude when they reject the gesture. (Word to the wise: embarrassment is almost always a bad justification for parenting decisions!)

Maybe we’re right there with the camp who’s trying to “break” the shyness. Maybe we don’t know what to do and we’re just trying to be polite in the moment.

We need to recognize the damaging messages this sends the child.

When a child says no to something that’s her right to refuse, and an adult forcefully insists, it tells the child that her “no” doesn’t warrant respect.

When a child says no to something that’s her right to refuse, and an adult forcefully insists, some children will misunderstand and actually think it’s wrong to speak up for themselves.

Notice I said “says no to something that’s her right to refuse.” I’m not talking about parental instructions for the child’s good. I’m all for teaching obedience.

This isn’t refusing to take a bath, or clean her room, or stop hitting a sibling. This is turning down a gift she doesn’t want.

It’s ok to do that.

(I hope you know that it’s ok for you to do that, too!)

It’s ok to refuse a gift. To set a boundary. To speak up.

Some of us understand this when it comes to physical contact. This is exactly why in our home we don’t force our children to hug anyone if they don’t want to.

There are some things people have a right to refuse. There are thigs even a small child has the right to refuse.

I want my children to know this – to practice this.

A healthier response

So you don’t want your kid to break down sobbing when she’s offered a sticker. Or to scream something rude. Or to take a swing at the Walmart greeter. Or be super anxious about going to Walmart because she doesn’t want to be offered a sticker.

The key with this is to teach the child she can choose to say “yes” or “no,” and to teach her how to express her “no” appropriately.

If you teach the child how to express her “no” appropriately you will teach her to be polite. You will empower her to overcome shyness. Those boxes will still get checked.

You will also help her establish a skill that will lead her to have healthier interactions and relationships.

In the long run, that’s better for all involved. (Even the lady with the stickers.)

Later that day, when Bear was back in her usual happy mood, we talked about how she should handle something like that next time.

If she wants a sticker, she can take it and say, “Thank you.”

If she doesn’t want a sticker, or if she’s feeling uncomfortable, she can try to be brave and say, “No, thank you, I don’t want a sticker.”

And if the greeter presses after being told “no, thank you,” then she can say, “I said no thank you.”

And she knows mama will back her up.

We have been roleplaying this and other similar hypothetical situations for a few days now. We’ve thought of times she may need to speak up for herself with her friends, her siblings, and her classmates, and come up with acceptable ways to be kind and assertive.

Maybe next time she feels timid she’ll have the courage to speak up.

Even if she doesn’t – or if she speaks up inappropriately – Daddy or I will model a confident response for her in the moment if one of us is present, and then we’ll just keep working on it.

Feelings are real. Learning takes time.

I’d rather her try to speak up and fail – or speak up rudely – than to think she can’t speak up at all.

Help your shy child speak up and become kind and assertive.

Quick and Easy Mother’s Day DIY Decorated Flower Pots

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Here is a simple, quick, and adorable DIY Mother’s Day gift idea that works great in a small classroom setting: Custom decorated flower pots, personalized with photos.

DIY decorated flower pot personalized with child's photo, perfect for Mother's Day or other gift.  It's a cheap and easy activity idea!

Aren’t they adorable? 

It might be a bit much to try with a large class, but with some prepping ahead it worked out perfectly for our small preschool Children’s Church class. 

This project is a throwback to when our oldest three children were in elementary school! 

(Awwwww! My mama heart!)

The church we attended at the time had a Mother’s Day tradition we haven’t encountered anywhere else. In that church, women typically taught Children’s Church and worked in the nursery. (Nothing against men doing so, it’s just the way things worked out there at the time.)

However, on Mother’s day each year, men volunteered to serve in Children’s Church and the nursery so all of the women could be in the main service.

This particular year, my husband taught Children’s Church. He thought it would be nice to do a craft with the kids that would double as a Mother’s Day gift. After some brainstorming, this is what we came up with.*

He did most of the prep work the day before so that what actually had to be done in the short time with the kids was manageable. 

This lower level of involvement was about perfect for preschoolers. If you did this at home, or with older children, you could include the children in more of the process.

Some version of these would be a cute birthday gift, teacher appreciation gift, or any number of other variations. 

You could decorate any flower pot, empty or full. My husband chose these hanging pots because we thought it would be nice to give a plant the mothers could enjoy through the summer. 

Less than 10 mothers were represented by our small class, so that route wasn’t too expensive. For a larger class you might pick up empty pots from Dollar Tree. This project can accommodate a wide range of budgets and needs. 

Personalized Decorated Flower Pot Craft

Supplies Used:

  • One 8″ hanging flower pot per mother (we bought impatiens)
  • 2 pieces of card stock (any color, for templates)
  • Construction paper and/or pretty scrapbook paper
  • Photos of the children, taken ahead of time, printed so that each child’s face fits a 2 to 2.5″ circle
  • Scissors
  • Zip-close baggies
  • White Glue 
  • A hot glue gun and sticks
  • Permanent marker
  • Crayons or markers

Optional: 

  • Acrylic paint (or leftover house or wall paint)
  • Mod Podge

Prep ahead:

1) If desired, paint the exterior of the flower pots using acrylic paint of leftover house or wall paint. We used leftover interior latex. 

2) On the cardstock, print out or draw templates for three different flowers with 4″ diameter, and one or more flowers with 2″ diameter. Also make a template for a 2.5″ circle.

3) Using your flower templates, trace and cut out flowers. For each pot, you’ll need three 4″ flowers and five or six 2″ flowers. 

The children will decorate the 4″ flowers, so a plain color is probably best for them. The 2″ flowers look nice cut from plain or patterned paper.

4) Using your circle templates, trace and cut out circles of photos of each child. Also trace and cut out circles in a contrasting paper color for flowers that won’t have a photo.

5) Lay out a zip-close baggie for each child. Write the child’s name on it with a permanent marker. In each bag, place three 4″ flowers and three 2.5″ circles (either from that child’s photo or from paper). We made 2 extra baggies with plain paper circles in case visitors attended that day.

6) If you want to include a message, quote, or greeting on your gift, you could either type it up or handwrite it on pretty paper. 

We typed up Proverbs 31:28 and printed several copies on little ovals. We glued these to slightly larger ovals cut from contrasting scrapbook paper. 

Proverbs 31:28 is a classic Scripture used to honor mothers.

You could use any number of quotes and messages. For Mother’s Day, something about blooming under mother’s care would be cute with the flowers.

7) Once the paint on the flower pots has dried, use a permanent marker (or paint pen) to draw stems and leaves around the perimeter of the pot. Draw three stems for the three 4″ flowers, and five or six stems for the 2″ flowers. 

Leave room for the message or quote you created in step 6, if you’re take that route!

8) Use a hot glue gun to attach the message and the 2″ flowers.

During class:

1) Have the children sit at a table or desk. 

2) Give each child the 4″ flowers from their baggie and crayons or markers. Allow the children to decorate their flowers however they please. 

Even two-year-olds and preschoolers can make a lovely gift for their mother this Mother's Day.

3) Assist or supervise each child in gluing the photo and/or plain circles to the centers of their flowers. Set aside to dry.

Photos of children make the center of the flowers for the DIY Mother's Day craft.

4) While one teacher engages with the children, the other can use the hot glue gun to attach the three flowers to the flower pots.

DIY decorated flower pot personalized with child's photo, perfect for Mother's Day or other gift. Makes a great classroom activity.

Done! 

The children were so proud to hand the big, beautiful gifts to their mothers!

Note: If you were able to keep these overnight or if you were making them with your children at home, you could finish them with a couple coats of Mod Podge to help them to last longer in the humidity outside.

Ok, now I really want to go grab some hanging baskets for my front porch!!

*Side note: If you do this in a classroom for Mother’s Day, please be sensitive to the particular households who will be receiving these. Thankfully we had two-parent stable homes to work with, but that is not always the case. Just be aware and make adjustments accordingly – some families find Mothers Day and other holidays to be very painful. 

Quick and Easy Mother's Day DIY Decorated Flower Pots. Fun, cheap, and easy. Adorable gift kids can help make.

Friday Favs 3-22-19

It’s Fri-yay!!! Every week I round up a few of my favorite things from the web, locally, and from life, and I share them here:

Tuff Kids Outdoors

Y’ALL!!!!! If the sizes you need are still available, you will flip over these sale prices on outdoor gear for kids! Free shipping, too!

The Oakiwear ran suit I mentioned a few weeks ago is almost too small for bear. (She’s so long in the torso!) I paid full price for it on Amazon. I hope to snag a replacement in the right size from Tuff Kids. Maybe a separate rain pants and jacket set instead of the one piece suit.

(Other than the fit, that OAKI rain suit is awesome. Seriously. We had way too much fun in the rain the other day and I didn’t take any photos. They’re heavy-duty, breathable, and really seem like they’re worth the money.)

Journey Sticks!

First of all, this blog’s Instagram feed is gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. Follow Run Wild My Child on Instagram. You won’t regret it.

Those people are so much more hardcore outdoorsy than I am. I’m both impressed and inspired.

I also luuuuuurve this idea of making journey sticks!What a fun way to encourage narration, and a fun twist for nature study or hikes! Love, love, love!

Flower Crowns

Bear’s class at Charlottesville Waldorf School will celebrate a spring festival at the end of the term, and we’re supposed to make our child a flower or spring party crown for the occasion.

Bear’s teacher distributed patterns for two basic felt crowns we can embellish as desired, but of course I have to look around on Pinterest for further inspiration. (I’m going to have to force myself to stay simple and realistic over here!)

The crowns are supposed to be made from felt or fabric, or could also be made from fresh flowers. No paper crowns here!

I love this floral crown. But maybe I should do something more headband-like? Or use fresh flowers? Something different entirely? So many possibilities!

Seriously…look at this knight and dragon felt crown! So fun! (It was on etsy but is no longer available. I found the image on Pinterest.)

What were your favorite things this week? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Friday Favs 3-1-19

{This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I might make a small percentage of the sale, at no additional cost to you.}

It’s Fri-yay!!! Every week I round up a few of my favorite things from the web, locally, and from life, and I share them here:

These Alphabet Activities

I’m a big fan of the resources from Hands On As We Grow. The ideas there are soooooo helpful when Bear needs to something to do and I am running low on ideas. (Why, oh why, is it sometimes so hard for me to come up with these simple ideas?)

This OAKI toddler rain suit!

I just bit the bullet and bought one of these rain suits for Bear. One of her classmates in her weekly outdoor preschool class was wearing one, and I was really impressed with the quality. We just received ours a few days ago, and now we’re waiting for a rainy day so we can test it out! After we give it some thorough testing I’ll write a review.

Blue OAKI Toddler Rain Suit

Story Time From Space

Bear loves books. She loves being read to. And she is kinda obsessed with planets and outer space. She’s seen photos and diagrams of the International Space Station, and photos and drawings of astronauts. I can’t wait to see her realize these are videos of astronauts who are actually in space reading a storybook. I love this idea!

What were your favorite things this week? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Heart Shaped Rice Hand Warmer Valentines

One thing I try to prioritize when deciding what crafts to do with my children is the usefulness of the craft.

As cute and easy as little foam shapes are, adorned with pom-poms, glitter, and sequins, they often end up adding more to our clutter problem than to our life.

So when the time comes to create something for ourselves or for someone, I always try to make sure the end result will be useful in some way.

This winter, Bear was part of a weekly outdoor parent-child toddler class. (Which was amazing, by the way. Loved it so much!) The final winter class landed on Valentine’s Day and we ended with a celebration and gift exchange.

We were asked to bring homemade gifts that did not feature commercial characters. Examples of past gifts included everything from greeting cards to candles. 

I thought about just making some kind of card. There are so many creative options to go with there.

DIY Heart-shaped Rice Hand Warmers

Then the idea for hand-warmers hit me.

You know, the kind you warm up in the microwave and stick in your pockets or gloves to keep your hands toasty. (What some of us wished we had a few of the more frigid January class sessions!)

And, of course, for Valentine’s Day, we’d make them heart-shaped! 

There were only 5 children enrolled in the class, so it wouldn’t be an unrealistically long project. We also already had almost everything we needed on hand.

For this project you’ll need:

  • Felt in colors of your choice (we used pink, red, and burgundy)
  • 1 piece of card stock
  • fabric or acrylic paint
  • A sewing machine – OR a quilting needle, if you’re hand-sewing (It’s a great starter sewing project for kids 5 and up!)
  • thread in a color of your choice
  • plain, dry rice (we used Jasmine because it’s what I keep around)

To make the felt hand-warmers:

  1. On the card stock, draw a template for the shape you want to make. A good size for each hand warmer is about 4 inches across. Once you’re happy with it, cut out your shape.
  2. Trace the shape onto the felt, and cut it out. Cut 2 shapes for each hand warmer you want to make. 
  3. Lay down some paper to protect your table. Put a smock or apron on your child, if desired. Allow your child to paint the front of half of the felt cutouts. Allow to dry thoroughly. (Good time for a break – we didn’t move on to the next step until the following morning.)
  4. Place one of the painted shapes on top of one of the plain ones, with the painted side on the outside. Sew around the shape, about 1/3” from the edges, leaving a 2” opening somewhere on the perimeter. Repeat with the remaining felt until all your pieces are sewn in to pouches.
  5. One at a time, fill each pouch with rice (so it’s full, but not so stuffed you can’t close the opening), pinch the opening closed, pin if needed, and sew the opening shut. 
Girl paints felt hearts for making rice-filled handwarmers for Valentine's Day gifts, a project from Mama Rhythm Blog.
Felt shapes for rice-filled hand warmers are sewn together at a sewing machine
Leave an opening un-sewn so you can fill the pouches with rice
Child fills felt pouches with rice to make hand warmers

To include Bear (who won’t be 3 until April) in the pouch-filling I put more rice than we needed into a little bin, and supplied her with measuring spoons and a little pitcher. (I would have offered her our chocolate funnel if could have found it.) I then showed her how to spoon rice into each heart pouch. She spent a long time happily filling the heart pouches and playing with the rice while I adjusted the amount of filling and sewed them shut.

This is as close to a sensory bin as I’ll get. There’s no way two of her older brothers would have ever sat and filled those pouches at her age. At least, not without pelting someone with rice or shoving rice up their noses or something. Gauge your child’s level of involvement based on your child’s particular strengths, abilities, interests, and needs. 

Once the pouches were sewn, we packaged 2 per child in sandwich bags with little printouts of instructions for use. 

We were told to only make tags say “from:” and not “to:” to make distribution easier.

This is brilliant, y’all. Definitely a trick I’m going to remember. 

Whether they use them as hand warmers or bean bags, these are a quick, fun project that the kids really seemed to enjoy. 

Anyone else have a favorite Valentine’s Day DIY gift?? Feel free to share in the comments!