Category Archives: Children

Coming Out About Isolation

If you haven’t read my previous post, “Coming Out About Fussy Babies,”
please jump over there now and then come back here. 
Thanks!

After sharing “Coming Out About Fussy Babies,” many people said that they have been dealing with this same thing or did ten, twenty, forty years ago.  Unfortunately, mothers who go through this often feel that if they talk about their struggles, they seem ungrateful or resentful.

One friend said,

Michelle, you are saying something I’ve been saying for 6 years, 5 months and 11 days. And I seriously got tired of being judged for saying in so many words (I don’t beat around the bush) that this stuff was HARD! And maddening! And isolating! And depressing! … AND I LOVED THEM! BUT IT WAS SO HARD!

But if I said so, I wasn’t “embracing the joy” of motherhood. Um, really girls? This is how we are Christ to one another? By saying “You’re focusing on the negative,” while inside you’re thinking “You’re a real buzz-kill,” and just not being there anymore?

I haven’t figured out where I think the balance is, but I know what I experienced isn’t it.

I have encountered this very same thing.  If you hold everything inside, you feel like you are going crazy, but if you share with friends, they seem to back away or give you advice that ends up making you worry more than you were originally.

And, to many people, you may appear to be complaining.  It is cathartic to be able to talk about something difficult that you are going through, but when that difficult thing is a baby, people think you are a complainer and that you are not grateful for your child.

Sad

I am constantly phrasing things like this: “he cries a lot and it is very difficult, but he such a sweet boy and we love him like crazy.”  I feel like I need to make up for what I said.  I never feel ok to just say, “this is hard.  He is difficult.  I’m struggling.”  The End.

Of course, I love him.

Even in the most difficult of times when I feel disconnected from everyone and even like I am not bonding with him, I still love him.

IMG_20140518_160206Others will say that we chose this path.  It was our choice to have kids.  That may have been the case, but that doesn’t mean that good things aren’t difficult sometimes.  So, saying that it was our choice doesn’t help at all.  It might have been someone’s choice to be a doctor or a missionary, and that is hard work, but we don’t judge them for it.  So, why are people always judging mothers?

One of the greatest reasons that mothers become isolated is judgment.

If our child is crying out in public, we feel like a failure.  When we go out with friends, but end up standing behind the table, bouncing our baby until he falls asleep, we feel all alone.  Then, the invitations cease and the friends stop calling because who wants to spend time with a mother who is completely stressed out and at the end of rope.  That doesn’t even sound like fun to me.

We know it will get better, but in the midst of it all, the light at the tunnel looks very, very dim.  And the problem with all this judgment and isolation is that
we are forced to do it all ourselves.

So, we know that we can, but that doesn’t mean we want to.  

Friends, my advice to you is this:

One of the best ways to be her friend
is to take her other children to your home or the park for a playdate.
Drop off a meal so she doesn’t have cook while holding a crying baby.
Offer to come to chat and when her children need something,
you can get it for them or you can hold the baby for her.
And let her vent.
Don’t offer advice, don’t give words of wisdom, just listen.
Give her a hug.

And, never ask if she needs help,
if you think you should ask, then she needs it.
If you ask her, she will say that she is “doing ok.”
She’s just trying to be strong.
Help her.

 

Coming Out About Fussy Babies

One Sunday morning, my husband and I walked into church, with our four little ones in tow.  We attend a young church where many people have babies or young children or both.  Our baby was just seven or eight months old at the time.  He had spent the majority of that time crying, fussing and being held by me.  It was one of the most difficult times I’ve experienced in my life.  I had very little sleep and was exhausted to my very core. 

When I looked around and saw many other babies, happy and content, I broke down.  I stated weeping and had to leave church.  I couldn’t handle the fact that my child was so very difficult and others had it much easier.  I was angry, jealous, depressed and worn out.

Jump ahead a couple of years and we are dealing with this again with Eric.

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Eric wants to be held by me almost all the time.  He doesn’t sleep well, especially at night when he wakes up almost every hour.  I rejoice at getting two hours of sleep in a row. If he is content with my husband or the other children and then sees me, he falls apart.

It seems like he can do well without me for a short period of time and then he needs to be cuddled for a while.  I’ve noticed this pattern since he was very young.  He will play on his own for about ten minutes, maybe twenty on a good day, and then he needs me to hold him.  Many times, he will just lay there on my chest or in my arms, looking up at my face.  It seems to regulate him, and then he is able to play on the floor again for a little bit.

John was even worse.  He cried and fussed for nearly ten months straight.  We tried to diagnose him to determine what was wrong, but, all in all, John is a very healthy child.  He is very intelligent, curious, inquisitive, funny (SO funny!), loving, a great eater, friendly and painfully shy.  He is also gorgeous, I might add.  He is an amazing child.  So, when we looked for answers as to why he was fussing so much, we came up dry.

I recently read an article called,Why It’s Not ‘Just’ Colic or Fussiness and it hit home with me probably more than most articles I read.

The author lists ten results of having a baby who fusses all the time:

  • the sleep deprivation
  • the isolation
  • the crying
  • the being judged
  • the unpredictability
  • the feelings of failure
  • the no down time
  • the second guessing
  • the impact on marriage and family
  • the lack of bonding.

I have encountered all of these at some point in time with each of my fussy babies.  For me, the worst part is the isolation which directly affects the feelings of failure, the impact on marriage and family (and friends), and the second guessing.  Isolation is also affected by the sleep deprivation, the crying, the being judged, the unpredictability, the feelings of failure, the no down time, and the lack of bonding.

IMG_20140526_141638So, for me, it appears that isolation is the number one problem that comes from having a fussier-than-normal baby.

Obviously, you can’t go out in public because your baby will scream, you will have to hold him all the time, you will feel judged by others, you’ll compare your baby to the other babies that you encounter, and you will be worn out by the end.

So, rather than looking forward to going out and seeing family and friends, you become anxious and stressed about leaving the house.  And if you do leave the house, you come home feeling depressed and discouraged.

And then, you are isolated again because you stay home until the effect of the bad experience of going out has worn off a little bit.

Being a parent is hard enough without having a baby who cries and fusses all the time.  So much of parenting is about giving of yourself for you children.  It isn’t always easy, but, even after a sleepless night, you can look into the beautiful face of your child and know it was worth it.  And the good news is that it does get better… eventually.

More on this topic to come…

How to Support Someone After A Miscarriage or Stillbirth

I arrived home after running an errand
and opened the back door of the minivan to find my baby boy fast sleep.
I looked his face and suddenly a feeling of melancholy came over me
as I wondered what our little Julian would have looked like.

In the summer of 2010, we lost a baby in the very early stages of pregnancy.
I wanted that baby to make it so badly.
I rested my hand on my slightly enlarged belly
and prayed that God would protect his little life.
Sadly, he was gone just a few days later.

How to SupportA child who has died during pregnancy will always be part of the family
and will forever be loved.
Unfortunately, many people do know what to say
or how to act after a baby has died.

I’ve compiled a list of ways you can support someone after a miscarriage or stillbirth:

  • First and foremost remember that it is better to say less than say a lot.  Say, “I am sorry for your loss,” “I am here for you,” or “I am praying for you.”
  • Listen.  Do not offer advice, insights or your own stories right away.  I will say it again: listen.
  • Give a hug.  Sometimes people just want to cry and be held.  This is incredibly meaningful to someone who is grieving.
  • Offer help and follow through with it.  If you say, “please let me know if you need anything,” the person is not going to ask for it.  You must say, “I am going to do ______. When would be best for you?”
  • Ways to help: make a meal, cut the grass, run errands, watch their children, bring over flowers or a food basket, ask him/her to go out to coffee or a movie and pay for him/her, offer to clean the house or do laundry.
  • Give a special memento: a tiny blanket, a little hat, a shadow box that the parents can fill, a special bracelet or necklace, a plant, a memory book or journal, a picture frame, a candle, a prayer book or card
  • Remember or write down the date that the baby died and call or email the parent on anniversaries: one month, two months, six months, and every year.  Some people use the due date as well, so ask for that, too.
  • If the parents named the child, call the child by his or her name.  Every parent loves to hear the name of their child said aloud.
  • Randomly ask how he/she is doing.  Grief is not reserved for anniversaries; it can come at any time.
  • If you are pregnant or have living children and your friend does not, refrain from talking about your children or your pregnancy.  Give your friend time and space.
  • Help him/her find a local support group, like Share.

It is very important to remember that everyone grieves differently.
There is not correct way to grieve.
Do not judge.
Grief may come in waves, so be ready for that.

We can’t know why the lily has so brief a time to bloom
in the warmth of sunlight’s kiss upon its face
before it folds into its fragrance and bids the world
good night to rest its beauty in a gentler place.
But we can know that nothing that is loved is ever lost
and no one who has touched a heart can really pass away
because some beauty lingers on
in each memory of which they’ve been a part.

– Ellen Brenneman

Our Lenten Candle

Several years ago, the children and I decorated a candle for Lent.  We only used it during our morning prayers, and it lasted a long time.  Now, we are in need of a new candle.  I bought a simple vigil candle at the grocery store in the Mexican food section.  Our previous candle had been decoupaged, but I wanted to do something a little bit different this time.
coffee filter art
I pulled out the liquid watercolors, coffee filters and a dropper.
I let each child make their own designs on a coffee filter.
coffee filter art
coffee filter art
coffee filter art
They enjoyed it so much that they even used the leftover colors on the paper towels to make more decorated coffee filters.
coffee filter art
In the end, I only needed three coffee filters to cover the candle, so I’ll have to come up with something fun to do with the other…. twenty.

I took this photo tonight, so the lighting isn’t perfect, but you get the idea:
lenten candle

Orthodox Prayer Book for Children {Free Download}

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOADDSCN2024

My Orthodox Prayer Book for Children has now been downloaded over a hundred times by individuals around the world and has been used in Sunday School classrooms throughout the United States.

I think it is about time for me to simplify things with a free download:
Orthodox Prayer Book for Children

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The first half of the book contains simple prayers
for children, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer;
the second half has twelve pages for each
Great Feast in the Church Year
with the troparion or kontakion.

Prayerbook Screenshot

Directions to assemble the book are included in the description of the download.

How to Order the Pages:Treat each page as having columns where you would go down and then back up to the right corner and back down. So, on the printed first page, the Icon of the Resurrection would be the very first page of the book. Then the words “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen….” and then the icon of the Theotokos and the Christ Child.  Follow this throughout.

Holy Week Craft for Children

Palm Sunday Craft

Today we began a craft for Holy Week. When it is complete, it will be an eight-piece chart containing Palm Sunday through Pascha. David made the piece for Palm Sunday:

This is a simple craft that you can make with your children, even very young ones, because a parent or older child can do the writing and cutting while the little ones glue and color.

The chart with directions is found below.  Click Holy Week Chart for Children to obtain the pdf version of the chart.

Holy Week Chart for Children

Holy Week Chart for Children

I used this as my inspiration and adapted it to fit
with the services of the Orthodox Holy Week.

Understanding Gifted Children

One of the reasons that we decided to homeschool our oldest is due to his giftedness.  He was bored in 1st grade, and, even now, as we do 2nd grade Math and Language Arts at home, he says most of it is “too easy.”

report  card

Gifted children tend to be those who do exceedingly well in school, possibly in all areas, but most likely in one or two specific areas.  The public schools attempt to identify students who are not challenged by standard school curricula and offer additional or specialized education for them. Unfortunately, most of the time, these types of classes/programs are not offered until 4th or 5th grade.

Generally, gifted individuals learn more quickly, deeply, and broadly than their peers. Gifted children may learn to read early and operate at the same level as normal children who are significantly older. The gifted tend to demonstrate high reasoning ability, creativity, curiosity, a large vocabulary, and an excellent memory. They can often master concepts with few repetitions. They may also be physically and emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic, and may frequently question authority. Some have trouble relating to or communicating with their peers because of disparities in vocabulary size (especially in the early years), personality, interests, and motivation. As children, they may prefer the company of older children or adults.

from Wikipedia

Writing A New Way

In the case of our son, he became bored in class during instruction, because he understood the lesson immediately, and would then tune out the teacher. Many times, he would get into trouble for not paying attention or being unprepared to answer questions. His teacher understood this and was very patient with him.  She was also aware of his “idiosyncracies,” as she called them.

Gifted children are often extremely sensitive to environmental stimuli. Their senses are assaulted daily by things that others cannot imagine even being bothersome. The florescent lights that hang above their desk, the smells in the lunchroom, the frantic activity on the playground, the heart wrenching beauty of the tree outside the classroom window, the tag in their new shirt…. These distractions can border on truly painful at times. It is often that as they are dealing with this overload to their senses, people expect them to perform highly in school and to act with greater maturity than their classmates. When they break down, and they do breakdown, people around them may not understand why and accuse them of being overly dramatic. The fact that the child themselves is unable to explain why things bother them so much only solidifies the accusation. Given that they only have the experience of living in their own body, the child does not know that others feel the world differently, and so they accept the accusation. It is important to always use the “lens of giftedness” when viewing the behaviors of gifted children.

found here

Gifted children are sometimes described as “neuroatypical.”  This does not mean that the child has a disorder, but rather that his brain just functions differently from the average person.  It may be unfair to expect a gifted child to behave and perform in the ways that an average child might.  It is important to get to know your gifted child and know him well.

Drawing

To understand highly gifted children it is essential to realize that, although they are children with the same basic needs as other children, they are very different. Adults cannot ignore or gloss over their differences without doing serious damage to these children, for the differences will not go away or be outgrown. They affect almost every aspect of these children’s intellectual and emotional lives.

from Gifted Education Digests

A Review: The Hidden Garden by Jane G. Meyer

The Hidden Garden by Jane G. Meyer Our family has loved all of Jane G. Meyer‘s books, and The Hidden Garden: A Story of the Heart is no exception!  Our copy of Jane’s latest book arrived while we were away.

The next day, I sat down with our three year old and read the book to him.  He was enamored by the beautiful illustrations and listened intently to the story.  When we had read through the entire book, including the lovely section at the end called “To Help Tend Your Garden,” which contains practical tips for growing in the grace and love of God, I asked my son what he thought.

He paused for a moment and then said, “grow flowers in your garden, and grow beauty in your heart, too.”  I quickly wrote this down, so that I wouldn’t forget how he, a three year old child, was able to understand this book, rich in spiritual depth, which teaches such a beautiful lesson.

The Hidden Garden by Jane G. Meyer

The Hidden Garden: A Story of the Heart is an inspiring book that demonstrates the beautiful redemption that can be found through faith in Christ.  It is an encouragement for all, young and old, to seek beauty and truth in all things with the knowledge that God is always with us.  We need only to open the gate to let Him in, and our lives can be transformed.

I am not going to give anything away regarding the storyline,
so you better quickly go HERE and buy a copy for yourself!

A Calm Bottle

Calm Bottle

I have seen many types of Calm Jars online, especially on Pinterest, but when I came across this Calm Bottle, I knew I had to make one!

It is made with a SmartWater bottle, so it fits well into the hands of a younger child.  It is also unbreakable and smooth to the touch, which is important for those with sensory issues (just make sure you clean off all the glue residue).

I let my children pick out the colors that they found most soothing.  I agree that blue is a very calming color, so I’m glad that was the chosen one.  This entire project cost only a few dollars (the water bottle was the most expensive part!).

I followed the directions on My Crazy Blessed Life, adding a little clear glue at the end because the glitter took a very long time to sink to the bottom.  It works great!

Calm Bottle