parenting

RSV :: Hudson’s Story

With 6 kids and a limited income, I’ve become an expert at researching my kids’ sicknesses and staying out of the doctor’s office whenever possible. Despite all the wonderful medical info online, I often find myself drawn to personal stories written by parents describing their experiences with their kids’ illnesses. Since we’ve experienced hospitalization with RSV, I thought it was my turn to write a story in hopes that it will be helpful to parents looking for answers.

Please note that I am a stay-at-home mom, not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor concerning your child’s illness.

 

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Meeting their baby brother

Hudson :: Background

Hudson is my 6th child. He was born much like the rest… fat and healthy at full-term via a vaginal birth. He came home from the hospital right away with no issues. Unfortunately he was born in December and straight into flu season.

How it began

At 3 weeks Hudson became very congested which caused very noisy breathing. I figured it was just a cold. But when his temp went above the infamous 101 mark, I took him to the ER in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. Of course by the time they took his temp, it was down in normal range. They took a urine sample and hooked him up to the oxygen and heartrate monitors. Being that it was 3am, he quickly fell asleep. With nothing else to do, I watched the monitor and noticed that the oxygen saturation would occasionally fall to 88, even 87 once. This would sound an alarm but no one would come in the room. As the number went up, the alarm went away. This happened again and again. Finally I googled “oxygen saturation” and learned that a reading of 87 is very dangerous. I mentioned this to the nurse when she checked on him, but she told me it’s normal for O2 sats (as I learned they are called) to drop that low when infants sleep (this was not correct). We were discharged a few hours later and basically told those dreaded words, “it’s just a virus.” I felt like they were treating me like an over-reacting mom. I wanted to scream… and probably should have… I have 6 kids and I know what I’m doing. Why in the world would I come here at 3am and pay gobs of money if I didn’t think it was serious?!

When I started to worry

A day or 2 went by and I noticed Hudson was very sleepy and not feeding well. He was also spitting up all the time, which is unusual for my babies. His noisy breathing was still there and so was his fever. I remember looking down at him in my arms that morning and thinking he just doesn’t seem well. I started messaging some nurse friends of mine with some questions. One of them stopped by and looked at him. “They didn’t check him for RSV in the ER?” she asked. She seemed amazed by this. I really started to worry.

How I figured it out

Hearing about RSV set me off on a flurry of googling. That night as Hudson lay in my bed breathing loudly, I read everything I could find about RSV. I found some great YouTube videos (like  this) that explained all the terms I was reading such as cyanosis and retractions.  They explained that RSV can cause bronchiolitis, among other things (this video was very helpful). That night I barely slept as Hudson quickly deteriorated. From my research I learned to count his respirations. They were definitely above the limit. Using the light from my phone I looked for the retractions I’d learned about and noticed his sides sucking in around his ribs as he breathed. And I felt so dumb as I remembered that earlier that day the skin around his mouth had seemed bluish… and I’d just thought it was a newborn thing. I now know that he had all the signs of RSV and was entering respiratory distress.

When they finally took us seriously

The next morning we went to our pediatrician. As soon as they put on the oxygen monitor we all saw the reading… 88. There was a flurry of activity. They tested him for RSV (it was positive.) They put him on oxygen and then gave him a breathing treatment. Within an hour’s time I was driving him to be admitted at the hospital.

The hospital stay

Hudson spent 5 days in the hospital with RSV-caused bronchiolitis. Although it sounds very serious (and it was), the stay was very uneventful. He received IV fluids for 24 hours due to dehydration from poor feeding. He received oxygen through a nasal canula and they slowly  weaned him off of it until he could keep his O2 levels at 97 and above for 4 hours. They also did deep nasal suctioning, which is just as violent as it sounds!  Basically they were just supporting him as his own body recovered from the virus.

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Right after the nasal canula was inserted

 

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After a long night he was taken off IV fluids and I started mine!

 

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Even though he was sick and drowsy, he still managed to fuss whenever it was my turn to eat 🙂

 

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After 5 days of staring at these numbers, a reading of 99 was a beautiful thing! This was the day we were discharged.

 

The good news

At discharge I was told that Hudson would very likely develop asthma and have frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. Although it took over 5 weeks to fully recover, he is now 14 months old and I’m happy to report that he has been mostly healthy. However, when he does develop a cold the doctor can hear some slight wheezing (I never can hear it.) After a few days of nebulizer treatments he is fine. We continue to monitor him closely and watch for signs of asthma, but I’ve been thrilled so far at his health!

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Hudson at his first birthday!

What I learned

I am my child’s BEST advocate and so are you. I often wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t done so much research on my own. I could have easily assumed that the ER doctors had done a thorough exam and left it at that. So my advice to you is to follow your mother/father instinct and advocate for your child. As a PA friend recently told me… the doctor only sees your child for a small window of time. You have been with your child 24/7. You know best what their symptoms are and what is and isn’t normal for them.  Don’t be embarrassed to go back to the doctor for the same issue. And be willing to get a second opinion if you’re not sure the first one was accurate or well-thought out. Doctors are just people who can miss things and make mistakes. You are the expert on your child.

I also purchased this pulse oximeter for use at home. Did I mention that I’m cheap and hate to go to the doctor? This has saved me many trips when I’ve just wanted to check his O2 levels.

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Having my own pulse oximeter has been so helpful!

If  you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading!

What the kids & I are into these days No. 2

After my previous post What the kids & I are into these days, I really enjoyed the feedback from you all about the products, shows, etc that your family is into.  So I thought I’d write another post and keep the conversation going!  So here are a few more things rocking our world right now.

Sling TV

slingWe have been cable-free for most of our 15 years of marriage, mostly because we are ridiculously cheap frugal.  So we normally have an exterior HD antenna (like this one) for our local channels and Netflix.  This works GREAT, especially since it costs a whopping total of $8/month.  The only drawback is that we can’t watch many sports.. and we love us some football around here.  So last fall we decided to cancel Netflix and give Sling TV a try.  We loved it!  I’ll do my best to explain it.  Sling TV is an a la carte live cable service with no contract.  Their basic package is $20 a month and includes CNN, ESPN, Disney Channel and lots more (see pic).  Not only can you watch shows live, but there are also many previous episodes available to watch.  You need a device to stream Sling and we purchased a Roku to do this.  If you prepay your first 3 months of Sling TV, you can get a Roku from them for 50% off (info here).

What we loved:

  • Watching live sports
  • Disney movies
  • Live news
  • Movies on AMC
  • House Hunters, Duck Dynasty and of course Fixer Upper!

What we didn’t like:

  • Commercials.  We’re SO not used to commercials since we’ve had Netflix for so long.  I am amazed at how evil some of them can be!  So I had to stay close if my kids were watching.
  • There wasn’t as much for kids as there is on Netflix.

So we kept Sling TV through the football season, then cancelled it and resumed Netflix for the kids and to save money.  We’re planning to switch back when football season is here (go Noles!)

The Book of Virtues

book of virtuesI love to read aloud to my kids.  And I love classic literature.  The Book of Virtues combines both, so it makes the perfect addition to your home library.  Right now we are reading one or two short passages each morning.  The book is a collection of “moral stories” and is categorized by character quality, such as self-discipline, compassion, etc. You will find classic poems, Bible stories, writings by America’s founding fathers and much more.  Here’s an excerpt from one of our favorite poems called Boy Wanted…

A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl.

A boy who does not smoke and has no desire to learn how.

A boy who never bullies other boys or allows boys to bully him.

A boy who, when he does not know a thing, says, “I do not know”; and when he has made a mistake says, “I’m sorry”; and, when requested to do anything, immediately says, “I’ll try.”

How great is that?!

Trikke Carving Scooter

trikkeMy kids don’t play with toys.  I don’t get it.  But I’ve given up.  The truth is that they want to be outside playing with their friends, climbing trees, building fires, chopping down trees, fishing and piling way too many people into a paddleboat.  So when it’s time to make Christmas lists for the grandparents, I’m always on the hunt for anything that they can use outside.  Two years ago I hit the jackpot with these Trikke Carving Scooters.  Granted, these things are expensive, but hear me out.  They are equally fun for my 4 year old and my 13 year old, meaning this toy has lasting power!  It can either be powered by one leg like a traditional scooter, or by standing on it with both feet and twisting your body back and forth.  And they go really fast if you want them to.  I can’t say enough about how much we love these!

 

Now it’s your turn!  What is your famiy into these days?

 

Why I’m a little tired of being called a super mom

I could never do what you do.

Better you than me.

I don’t have as much patience as you.

These are the top comments I hear from other moms when they hear that I have lots of kids or that I homeschool.  And I’m here to say that those 3 statements couldn’t be any further from the truth.

You can do what I do.

You would probably do it better than me.

You SURELY have as much patience as me.

BThere is a myth that large-family and/or homeschooling moms are somehow a cut above the rest.  That only a select few can succeed at such a feat and the rest of moms shouldn’t even try.  As my tween daughter would say, that’s “riDONCulous.”

Just like a runner finishes a marathon or an accountant finishes an audit or a nurse graduates from school, any mom can raise lots of kids or homeschool.  And just like running, business and college, it’s not easy or for the faint of heart. Dare I say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done?  But it should be hard.  Molding little tyrannical toddlers into responsible adults is no small job.  But it’s doable.  And worthy of being done.

So why shouldn’t you do it?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to raise a bunch of beautiful babies who go out and change the world?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to teach those minds of mush what they need to know?  Why not you?

But I must confess that I do have one secret weapon.  And I’m guessing many moms in my situation would agree.

I have Someone who steps in and takes over when I am spent, done, gone, about to run away.  He made me a promise a long time ago that when I am weak, He would be strong on my behalf.  I’ve taken Him at His word and found him to be completely trustworthy.

You have access to this same secret weapon.  His name is the Lord of Hosts. God Almighty.  He is the source of patience.  The source of order.  The source of organization.  The source of love.

How many times have I cried out to him (usually by about 8:00am,) okay Lord, I’m all out of patience!  I need to draw on yours now.  And He delivers.  Every.single.time.

So, yes, mom… you can do it.  Because He has all that you need.  He loves those babies even more than you do, if you can imagine it.  He spent 9 months crafting them in perfection in your womb, just the place He chose for them to begin.  And He has big plans for those mini monsters.  Plans for them to learn, to influence and to thrive.  Surely He will give you all you need to partner with Him in this incredible role of Mom.

Time with God:: How I manage to stay connected in the midst of kids & chaos

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Because if I go read my Bible in my room for 30 minutes, the 2yr old will find the chocolate cake batter!

I was 19 and away at college.  I would wander out of my red brick dorm and across the street to the breezy outdoor amphitheater, complete with white columns among a pristine lawn.  There I would sit with my warm coffee, full journal and frequently-read Bible, praying and reading and writing complete sentences.  THIS is what a “quiet time” with the Lord is supposed to be… or so I thought for many, many years after.  But I found it impossible to recreate that sublime moment as my blessed life brought me a house to care for and babies to puke on its floors.  On those few days when I could actually FIND my Bible, I spent the entire time re-reading the same chapter five times because each verse had been interrupted with butt-wiping or fight-settling or snack-providing.  And at the end of my so-called quiet time, I felt more stressed than when I had begun and more prone to giving up on the whole idea.  And maybe I would have if it hadn’t been for the GUILT. See, I was a youth leader. I was a small-group leader.  I SHOULD BE HAVING PEACEFUL, ANOINTED, INSPIRED TIMES WITH GOD EVERY DAY. But I wasn’t. I was fighting to read a chapter that I wasn’t even comprehending.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Well, girlfriend, I am 12 years and 5 kids into this parenting adventure and I have some advice for you.

Give up on having a daily quiet time.

At least that white column, hot coffee type.  Girl, you are in a new season and you need a new strategy.  I feel like I’ve finally found it and MAN is it liberating!  Now, slow down.  I didn’t say to give up on connecting with the Lord.  That is more necessary now than ever!!  I mean, what did I even have to pray about in college?  Which elective to pick?  What to wear on my date?  Oy.  NOW is when we need to cry out, ask for wisdom and draw on His strength.  But not in the same way. New season.  New strategy.

So how do we do it?  Here’s what’s been working for me.

work willingly

A dear friend gave me this and I’ve had it by my sink ever since. Such a great reminder!

Put Bible verses up in my house

No, you don’t need the help of Pinterest or a trip to Hobby Lobby.  (unless you want to go to Hobby Lobby, then by all means use this as your excuse)

Just grab some computer paper and your Bible and write down a few verses that encourage you.  Tape those things around your house. No tape?  Band-aids work great! I put mine by my kitchen sink, washing machine and fridge.  Which means I’m guaranteed to read those verses about 100 times a day!

Listen to worship music

Whether you use Pandora, Spotify, or YouTube, make yourself a good playlist.  And if you’re not tech savvy or want to cry at the thought of anyone having enough free time to make a playlist, just go to YouTube and search “worship playlist.”  Hit play.  Done.  Do this while you wash dishes, make dinner, fold laundry, nurse the baby, whatever.

Listen to quality Christian teachers

During the day, put on a video of a good Christian teacher.  Some of my favorites are Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and Matt Chandler.  Even if you only catch bits and pieces as you walk in and out of the room (what is this “sitting down” thing that people speak of?), that’s fine.  And it’s great for your kids to hear too!

Follow Christian people & organizations on social media

Let’s face it.  What you see while you scroll through Facebook / Instagram / Twitter really does affect your perspective. Next time you’re sitting in a car line  or sitting at the 22nd pediatrician visit this month, go through your social media and delete all the trash, all the new age nonsense, all the gossips, etc.  Then start following some people or organizations that post truth. Some of my favorites are GraceLaced, Lysa TerKeurst, Franklin Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, and Dr. Henry Cloud.

Read the Bible and pray with your kids

Did I lose you?  Has your mom guilt already overcome you?  Wait, hear me out.  This is what it looks like at my house.

Me: “Kids!!!  Grab your Bibles and come sit down.”

{10 minutes of searching for Bibles, me included}

Me: “Let’s read [whatever pops in my head / a story that’s been on my mind / something my church has been teaching / today’s Proverb]”

Big kids take turns reading the verses.

By now your littles may be coloring on your walls or sitting on your head (I wish I was making that up).  So you might be done for the day.  But maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit’s sweet peace has descended on that room (try it, it happens!) and maybe there’s time for a few questions.  Ask the kids what they thought.  Explain the verses to them.  Make some sort of practical application.  Now take turns praying.

{10 minutes later… after THAT child has prayed for every known creature and situation in the entire universe}

You’re done.  You did it!  No one died!  And guess what?  You learned something too.  There is NO better way to learn something than to teach it.  Trust me.  I’ve just figured out compound interest, thanks to homeschooling!

Talk to your kids about God during the day

Isn’t the sky gorgeous?  God painted that!  He paints a new one every day!

Why do you think God made a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly?

Did you know that God made this tangly hair?  Let’s brush it and see if we can count it.  Did you know He knows the exact number?

I’m sorry your tummy hurts.  Let’s ask God to heal it.

That was very naughty.  God says that children should obey their parents… and he promises long life if you do!

I promise you that these types of comments will do so much to direct their AND YOUR hearts toward the Lord.

Pray all day long

Who said prayer had to be a 30-minute event that happens in a closet?  Here’s what my prayer life looks like these days.

Lord, thank you that my children like to greet the rising sun, so that I can see your sunrise… and forgive me for maybe not meaning that.

Lord, help me make breakfast for 5 kids with 2 bananas and 3 bagels.

Lord, forgive me for yelling at the kids and lecturing them about how starving kids in Africa would die for a breakfast made from 2 bananas and 3 bagels.”

Lord, our attempt at a family devotional was a disaster.  Help me to do that better next time.  Give me a better strategy.

Lord thank you that I get to stay home with these kids, an answer to prayer from a long time ago.

Lord thank you that we have the money to pay for these clothes and this washing machine that I get to spend so much time with.

Lord, it’s 3pm and I don’t think I’m going to make it through this day without hurting someone.  Please be my strength.  You say that You are strong in my weakness.

Lord, I just heard about someone who is sick / hurting / lonely / poor.  Please be with them and thank you for giving me a new perspective on my wonderful life.  Help me to stay grateful.

Lord, we made it through another day.  Those sweet babies are the world to me.  What a privilege it is to raise them, even though I am currently wearing more than one of their bodily fluids.

So there you have it.  My uber-spiritual prayer life.  Now, is there time for true intercession, true undivided time with God? Of course!  It’s tough to manage, but it is necessary.  But I think in this season, God is okay with our one-liners.  You see, He already knows the cries of your heart.  It is our choice to cry TO HIM that is so pleasing to Him.

So be at peace sweet mama.  Make some intentional efforts to weave your connections with God into your day.  And then relax.  He is with you.  Look to Him for all you need and cut yourself some slack.

Screen Time :: How we cut back

I hate TV.  The brain drain.

I love TV.  The silence.

I hate TV.  The questionable messages.

I love TV.  The silence.

So what’s a mom to do?  Sure, I could throw the TV out, but honestly, I like to watch TV sometimes.  Hello… Downton Abbey!  Football!  But my kids were watching too much.  In fact, they were watching more before breakfast than I wanted them to watch all day.  Plus we have a PS3, 2 iPod Touch’s and 3 computers.  It was getting out of control.

My Cinderella watching Cinderella for the first time.

My Cinderella watching Cinderella for the first time.

I scoured Pinterest for ideas, but I’m not down with charts, cute popsicle sticks in jars or basically anything I have to keep track of.  So I came up with my own lazy simple system, which we’ve used since July… and it works!  So here goes…

No TV in the morning.  Wow, they get up and do their chores and get ready!  It’s a beautiful thing!

After school, you can only watch TV by earning it.  I made a stack of index cards.  Each one has a chore or activity on it.  Each day I pick what goes on top.  When they want to “earn” screen time, they have to do that activity.  Examples:

  • Listen to 15 minutes of math songs
  • Listen to 15 minutes of Classical Conversations memory work
  • Read for 15 minutes
  • Play piano for 15 minutes
  • Ride your bike or shoot baskets for 15 minutes
  • Do a household chore (like sweep/mop kitchen, pick up family room and vacuum, etc)
  • Clean your room

Each of these earns 22 minutes of screen time (the typical length of an episode.)  Each kid can only earn once per day.  The other kids can watch what they pick.  So since I have 3 kids doing this plan, it equals about 1 hour of total screen time per day… about what I am comfortable with.  Of course, there’s plenty of “free” screen time, like when we watch something as a family, or when I am at my limit and gosh-darn-it someone turn on the TV!

It’s beautiful.  They don’t beg for TV.  I don’t have to remember who watched more or whose turn it is to pick.  And I’m getting them to do all of those activities without me even asking them to!

The littles watch TV on an as-needed basis.  So they may watch some while we do school or while I make dinner.  Once they start school, we’ll switch them to this plan.

So that’s what works for us.  Each family is different, with different convictions and styles.  But if you’re looking to cut back on screen time, I suggest you give this a try!

Birthday gifts:: How I managed to cut back on what we spend

carrieschuessler.wordpress.comIf your kids are at least preschool age, you know the reality of the birthday party scene.  For the next many years, you will spend a fair amount of Saturdays sitting next to a bouncy castle, eating carrot sticks Olaf noses and making small talk to people you’ve just met.  And all these parties will require a trip to the store where you’ll try to guess which princess or super hero the birthday kid is into, gawk at how much toys cost, then realize you need to spend $8 more on a card, bag and tissue paper.  Geez, did I really just spend $30 on a present for a child we barely know?

Disclaimer: This is not a post about being stingy.  I love generosity.  And God does too.  It’s His thing for sure.  This is a post about balance and perspective.

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Forget the glitzy gifts. What kids really want on their birthday is to feel special.

Take a moment and try to add up how much you’ve spent in the last 4 months on scenarios like I described above.  Yikes. Probably more than we’d all like to admit.  Let’s say you went to 8 birthday parties and spent $30 on each one.  That’s $240. (Thanks to homeschooling, my math skillz are impressive).  So, is it fair for me to tell my daughter I can’t afford dance lessons this spring, but I can spend $240 on kids in her preschool class?  Now, maybe you’re in a great financial place and you don’t have to make those kinds of trade-offs.  That’s great.  But I’m guessing I’m not the only mom on a tight budget.

So how do we cut back?  After all, birthday parties are major social events for the preschool and elementary school crowd.  My kids count down the days, sometimes hours until they happen.  Well, here’s a few ideas:

1. We don’t go to every party.  It’s okay to pick and choose.  Go to all your besties’ parties, but maybe not to all the school ones or the football team ones or the I-think-we-met-at-the-library-once ones.

2. Start a “Gift Box.”  In my house, this is a cardboard box in my laundry room.  When I find things on clearance, I buy them and throw them in there.  Hit up the end-of-summer clearance at Target.  Grab some water guns, bathing suits, bubbles and beach toys.  Put them in your gift box and then pull them out for next year’s summer birthdays.  Instead of spending $20 on a full-price water gun, you can spend $10 and give them a water gun and a fun bathing suit.  Keep the gift box stocked all year and you’ll save a ton.

3. Think outside the toy box.  (See what I did there?)  Instead of the toy aisle, head for the craft or grocery store.  Do they love to draw?  Grab a sketchbook and good pencils with your Joann’s coupons.  Do they like to cook?  Buy them their own apron, measuring cups and cookbook at Ross.  No, these might not get the oohs and ahhs at the party, but they may get the most enjoyment later on.

4. Buy wrapping supplies on clearance.  Just a few days ago I scored a bunch of solid red wrapping paper at Ikea for $0.50 a roll.  It’s from Christmas, but who cares?  It’s solid red.  Add some bakers twine and I’ve got myself some Pinterest-worthy gift wrap.  Also, the dollar store sells brown kraft paper for $1 a roll.  Leave it plain or let your kids jazz it up with some markers.  Keep an eye out for bags and white tissue paper on clearance and stock up.  Oh, and don’t forget to save the bags you get from parties, if they are in good shape.

4. Skip the card.  I just saved you $4.  You’re welcome.  Grab some construction  or computer paper, stickers, whatever.  Sit your kid down and have them draw or write something.  Honestly, I adore these kinds of cards and they are usually the only ones we keep around here.

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My daughter received this journal about 4 birthdays ago and she still uses it! It wasn’t a toy, but it was still a wonderful gift.

5. Stop caring what other parents think of you.  Seriously, I could write an entire series on this.  Your identity is in Christ, not in the fact that your gift got the most squeals from the kid (or the parents.)  Oh, how much better life would be if we all (me included!) would live this out.

Now, there is a time that I gladly break all these rules.  When I buy gifts for family.  Nothing out of the gift box.  We go to the store, grab just that perfect gift and wrapping paper.  We might even buy the musical $6 card.  But that’s only a few times a year and I always look forward to it.

Last thing.  Can your kids remember who got them what and how it was wrapped from their last birthday?  Probably not. Do you know what kids want?  To feel special on their birthday. So skip the glityz gifts and wrapping and instead show that birthday kid that they are the most special one in the whole world, even if you’ve only met them twice at karate.

How do you manage the birthday scene?  Comment below and let me hear your ideas!

Morning Chores :: How I managed to get my kids moving in the morning on their own

Somewhere around the time when my kids were entering the preschool stage, I realized that our mornings were a mess.  They were staying in their pajamas too long, forgetting to brush their teeth, watching too much TV and generally falling into the undisciplined, stay-at-home stereotype that I badly wanted to avoid.

So I came up with a super simple list of what each kid needed to do every morning.  And I called it “morning chores” because that sounded better than “get your shiny hiney off the couch.”  In the years since then, we’ve seen lots of charts and plans come and go, but the morning chores are still going strong.  So I thought I’d write about it, in case this idea can be helpful to any of you.

Morning Chores

Am I the only one with a serious shoes-by-the-door crisis?

What do you want your kids to do every morning to start their day?  Write those things down on a piece of paper (cute printable or chalkboard paint not required, thank you Jesus).  Post them somewhere in the house. Choose an approximate time you want them to start and finish.  Then each morning, make it happen.  This will take lots of consistency and repetition. (I’ve decided about 90% of good parenting is comprised of those two words).  But over time, all you will need to do is say, “Okay, precious cherubs, it’s time to start your morning chores.”  To which they will respond with, “Yes dearest parent” and skip away, whistling while they work.  Well, something like that.  But seriously, the day will come when they will even start this process without your nagging prompting.

Want some ideas?  Here’s what my kids’ lists look like:

My almost 12 year old

  • brush teeth, hair, wash face
  • get dressed, put away pj’s
  • eat breakfast
  • sweep kitchen floor
  • clean off school table
  • clean up shoes by the front door
  • 25 sit-ups, 15 push-ups, 25 jumping jacks
  • read one chapter of the Bible and pray

My 10 year old

  • brush teeth, gel hair
  • get dressed, put away pj’s
  • eat breakfast
  • take out the kitchen trash
  • empty the dishwasher
  • pick up the kids’ bathroom
  • 20 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, 25 jumping jacks
  • read 10 Bible verses, pray

My 7 year old

  • brush teeth, gel hair
  • get dressed, put away pj’s
  • eat breakfast
  • clean breakfast table and chairs
  • clean up remotes, cords, controllers, games, dvd’s
  • 15 sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks
  • read 5 Bible verses, pray

My 5 year old

  • brush teeth and hair
  • get dressed, put away pj’s
  • eat breakfast
  • empty the silverware from dishwasher
  • push in the dining room chairs
  • put away blankets and lovies that were brought out of bed

My 3 year old

  • brush teeth
  • eat breakfast
  • put away blankets and lovies that were brought out of bed

Morning choresSince my kids generally like to greet the rising sun, this happens between 8 and 9am around here.  And it really helps if we don’t watch TV in the morning.  The only thing kids hate to hear more than “do your morning chores” is “turn off the TV and do your morning chores.”

Beyond helping us get our mornings started, I’m hoping that these routines will have long-term benefits.  Wouldn’t it be great  if they got in the habit of starting off the day with good hygiene, exercise and worship?  Isn’t that a pretty cool benefit of parenting?  Being able to instill good qualities in the next generation, no matter how basic?

Now if only I would make a similar list for myself….

A Peek at our Grandchildren’s Thanksgiving

Each year on Labor Day, one of my kids will ask, “Mom, what is Labor Day about?”  And I will make up something half-way intelligent, but honestly have very little idea for the reason myself.  At this point, my husband will google the heck out of it and we’ll all learn something new.

I predict that my own daughters could have a very similar conversation with my future grandchildren about Thanksgiving.  “Mom, what is Thanksgiving about?”  And she will struggle to make up something about turkeys and Indians.  Her husband will use his google brain chip to look it up and then teleport it to the kids’ google brain chips and all they will all learn something new.

See, this is exactly what a certain group of Americans want.  They want Thanksgiving to go away.  I mean, who wants to be reminded of how pasty-faced Europeans descended upon the tranquil, peace-loving Indians, practically dousing them with Typhoid and Bibles?  Isn’t Thanksgiving just a monument to greed, colonization and white supremacy?  Who wants to spend all day in the kitchen to remember that awful affair?

There’s another problem with Thanksgiving.  Pardon my language, but it’s so family-centered.  Sorry, I know that word is super offensive.  Babies are loved on and cherished.  Married, opposite-sex grandparents invite children into their home, where the patriarch (gasp! so many bad words!) may stand and pray to the God of the Bible (!!)  The women will cook food for the group (what?!) and the men may watch the barbaric game of football… in which someone might be injured!  You see, Thanksgiving brings together all that is wrong with America!

So how will the anti-American, anti-family progressives strip our grandchildren of the formerly-beloved Thanksgiving holiday?  Will our President outlaw it?  Will they take away it’s holiday status?  No.  They will do two things.  First, they will teach them about the evils of our nation’s founding.  Second, they will turn Thanksgiving into a shopping holiday, just like Labor Day and Memorial Day and all the rest.  Think “Thanksgiving Day Mattress Sale!”

A Peek at My Grandchildren's ThanksgivingI hope that my grandchildren will be part of the old-school few who will still eat too much, do Pilgrim crafts and thank the Lord that He led those pasty-faced Europeans to the most beautiful land on the planet.  That He rose up mighty men of God to establish a nation based on inalienable rights from our Creator.  That long ago there were brave men and women who sacrificed, worked hard with their hands and built something new and something better.

What about your grandchildren?  How will they celebrate the fourth Thursday of November?

 

 

The Beautiful Grossness of Motherhood

I am an introvert.  I have five children.  This is proof of God’s sense of humor.  After spending 5 hours homeschooling each day, my ears and mouth need a break.  So many words.  From me.  From them.  So then I say these words: Go outside. And close the door.  

We are blessed with a big yard and five homeschooling besties next door, so this works.  But there is one problem.  Dirty The Beautiful Grossness of Motherhoodfeet.  (Should flip flops even count as shoes? But I digress.) So several times a day I find myself in the bathroom, scrubbing the backyard off my littles’ feet.  I’m not a big fan of this activity.  It’s gross.  Super gross.  For all the diapers I’ve changed and boogers I’ve picked, the foot-washing ranks at the top of my eeewww list.

But it’s not just gross.  It’s almost pointless.  Because those shiny little feet don’t stay shiny for long.  They will soon be covered with backyard again.  And we will be back at the sink, digging dirt from between tiny toes.  And sometimes while I scrub, I look at myself in the mirror and look at my un-make-uped face, my hair that needs colored and maybe even brushed, and I feel small.  I feel like “just a stay at home mom.”  How no one will ever know or thank me for all the little things I do for my family.  I think about a woman somewhere with her freshly colored hair, in her pencil skirt and stilettos, sitting in some important meeting with important people, thinking her own thoughts and peeing whenever she wants to.  I imagine the appreciation she receives, the attention her work brings.  And I feel small.  

Then I read a story.  Maybe you can guess which one.  A story from John 13 about a very important person, in fact the most important person who ever lived, who spent time washing dirty feet.

Jesus…rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet…

It isn’t everyday a stay-at-home mom can say she’s done exactly what Jesus did.  I’ve never fed five thousand or raised the dead, but, I have washed feet!  And so did He!  What a beautiful moment of being able to personally relate to my Savior!  This seemingly menial task takes on tremendous importance in this new light of revelation.

But surely Jesus didn’t just wash their feet because He was tired of the stink or wanted to protect the floors.  No.

So when He had washed their feet… He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

The sight of God Almighty on bent knee over a basin of dirty water sends a very clear message.  That He values service.  That humility is paramount.  That menial tasks have worth in the Kingdom.  In that moment, He saw me at the sink, and He said, “Carrie, I value what you do for your kids.  It’s important.  It’s the work of the ministry.  Keep at it.”

carrieschuessler.wordpress.com :: The Beautiful Grossness of MotherhoodSo, what “small” tasks occupy your days?  Do you care for an aging relative?  Remember to call a lonely friend?  Do you work a little extra so you can support a missionary?  Do you write encouraging notes to your pastor?  Mow your neighbor’s yard?  Spend hours in prayer that no one ever sees?  Do you work with excellence for a boss who doesn’t seem to notice?  Do you serve a spouse who never says thank you?  My friend, you are washing feet.  He sees, He knows and He is pleased.

Suffering: What a privilege

Written April 2014

I was 16 weeks pregnant, yet I was losing weight.  I hadn’t felt the baby move.  After having 5 babies, my instincts told me something was wrong.  But instincts can never prepare you for a silent doppler, an eerily-still image on an ultrasound.  The face of your doctor who doesn’t want to say it out loud.  Carrie, there is no heartbeat.

Suffering - What a PrivilegeThe next 3 days are a blur.  But one memory is crystal clear.  Being wheeled out of the hospital with an empty womb and empty arms.  How could this be?

Twelve days have passed since I lost my baby boy.  I have cried more in those twelve days than probably my entire life.  But I can honestly say that this experience, this crisis, this incredible loss has been a gift… a good gift from the Lord.  How could this be?  In Philippians 1:29, Paul writes,

 “For you have been given the privilege for the Messiah’s sake not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him.”

Given the privilege?  To suffer?  And yet Paul was a man who was well acquainted with suffering… more so than I will ever be.  And he regarded it a gift.  During these twelve days, that mystery has become somewhat more clear to me.

How has our suffering been a gift?  Here are three reasons…

We have seen the Body of Christ in action as never before

I have yet to cook a meal since this happened.  Multiple friends and family have watched all 5 of my kids for hours, even days.  I have no room left on my mantle for all the cards that keep coming.  There have been bags and bags of groceries, multiple gift cards to restaurants and more emails/texts/messages than I can count.  I have been a Christian for 29 years and yet I have never felt more loved by God’s people.  I want to respond that way when people face crisis.  I want, more than ever, to be His hands, His love, His compassion.  Because now I know what it feels like to be ministered to in that way.  I could not have this perspective without the gift of suffering.

We can now relate to others who suffer the loss of a child

Like all of us, I have known many women who’ve had miscarriages, stillbirths and even the loss of an infant child.  While I have been deeply saddened for these women, I could never put myself in their shoes.  I couldn’t identify with their pain.  That is different now.  From now on, I hope to put into practice the things I have learned to do and not to do, to say and not to say, at these times of immense grief and loss.  It is a gift to be able to come alongside someone and say I’ve been where you are.  And it’s terrible.  I am here for you.  And you will get through this.

Our view of heaven is forever changed

We have always talked to our children about Heaven… a place where God is.  A place free of sickness and death.  A place where we will worship God forever.  But now our view of Heaven is forever changed.  Now it is a place where my baby boy lives.  And he is free of any sickness or pain that caused him to stop living on this earth.  What a joy to know that he is happy and whole.  The night before I went to the hospital to deliver the baby, the Lord gave me a simple picture that I will hold onto forever.  I realized that my son had met Jesus before me.  And that Jesus had met my son before me.  And one day I will get to meet them both at the same time.  What a comfort that gave me.  So now we see Heaven as a place of reunion.  A place where my family will be whole.  And Jesus is there, preparing it all for us.  What a gift so see Heaven in this new way.

Have you suffered loss?  Are you still reeling from a death, a divorce, a diagnosis?  I am so sorry. These things can be so hard.  But can you let the Lord bring beauty from the ashes?  Can you let him show you the joy that comes in the morning?  Can you let Him apply his resurrection life to the pain and grief you feel?  I hope you will join me in this journey.


 

When I wrote this 5 months ago, I had no idea the journey that lay in front of me.  If you have walked a similar path, you know that so much of the pain is deeply personal.  It’s hard for others to step into that place with you.  And so it can be incredibly lonely.   In those impossible moments, I have practically forced myself to look to the Lord and He has always met me there.  Recently, He gave me this passage which ministered to me tremendously:

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed

That I would see the goodness of the Lord

In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Psalm 27: 13-14