Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas

Happy Boxing Day! I hope you are enjoying this day after Christmas as much as we are. So far it has been a beautiful, relaxing day here. 

I thought I'd post some pictures, most I've published already on Instagram and Facebook but I have family who aren't on Facebook who I know would like to see pictures of our kids - so here goes:  

My mom visited a couple weeks ago, bringing presents. One of the family's favorite was this mini etch-a-sketch. Beth figured out how to write out "Hi!" 

My mom taught me how to crochet a hat.
My mom also brought some games from my Grandma's house - just in time for winter break!

Here is Eli with his Etch-a-Sketch.

The boys were given plastic toy guns for Christmas. They played with them on and off pretty much all day long.





Emma got a baseball glove for Christmas. She plays catch with her Dad a lot and was really excited about having her own glove. 

Emma & Katie were twinning at Christmas. They are nearly the same size again! Thei hair is the same length too so we get asked if they are twins a lot.

Josiah got a video game for Christmas so the boys played that for a bit. They really like their Lego Movie game.

Emma loves her stuffed animal.

We went to the park today so that Josiah could ride his scooter. While we were there Eli & Emma climbed the rocks.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Christmas movies I want to watch again

I wrote this last week when we were sick and just now have a few minutes to add the pictures. So here you go, some of my Christmas(ish) movies to watch this week... 

At my house right now we are all pretty sick. Katie-Abigail has this weird virus that has a fever, a caugh plus achy red eyes. Everyone else has fevers and caughs. I spent a day feeling miserable. So we have been spending a lot of time on the couch and we have been watching movies. Some of the movies we've been watching get a huge eye-roll from me, especially some of the Christmas movies the kids found on Netflix, but here are a few I love.

Tonight we watched Sleepless in Seattle. This is one of my all-time top-ten favorite movies. It's not exactly a Christmas movie, but it takes place between Christmas and Valentines Day and stars Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan. Watching this again made me so happy  (though there was some inappropriate dialogue between the boy & his dad while they are brushing their teeth, watching it with my kids that was definitely a fast-forward moment) I read in the notes to the soundtrack that the director took great pains to give this movie a classic, timeless feel. The music is great... (Hmmm I think I have the soundtrack somewhere on CD. I wonder where that is?) I just love Annie's character and the scene where Sam is describing his wife (who has died) is one of my all-time favorite movie scenes ever. The technology is crazy-outdated (no cell phones. no email. basically no internet) and that was fun to see.

When my great-aunt told us about Sleepless in Seattle, back when it was newer, she said "but first you have got to watch An Affair to Remember since there are so many references to that movie. I remember watching it and thinking it was okay, but I liked Carey Grant in The Bishops's Wife better.

The Bishop's Wife is an old black and white that might be even better than It's a Wonderful Life it's romantic and sweet all about the true meaning of Christmas without being extraordinarily religious. This movie was re-made delightfully with Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington in The Preacher's Wife. It's a fun Christmas movie with great music and a good message.

Another movie starring Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan takes place from Septmeber to Spring is You've Got Mail so again, it's not exactly a Christmas movie but it's one I love to watch this time of year. There's a fast-forward moment when Meg Ryan's character is talking to her sales associate about how she met Tom Hanks' character in a chat room, but overall it's another great movie with a great soundtrack. I love the sweetness of the book store, the moments when they are writing their emails - so many quotable lines in this movie!

Another not-exactly Christmas movie that I have loved forever is While You Were Sleeping it takes place from Christmas Eve to New Years. It stars Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman and is about a girl who falls in love with a stranger and then poses as his fiancĂ©e after she saves his life. My favorite scene is when she is pulling up her Christmas tree through the window of her apartment. As a shy quiet person I always related to her quiet life at the start of this movie and I love how she slowly falls in love with someone real and gives up her fantasy.

The Family Man is sort of a spin-off of It's a Wonderful Life and stars Nicolas Cage as a wealthy man who lives his life without heart until one Christmas Eve he is given "a glimpse" of what his life could have become if he had married his girlfriend and followed a dramatically different path. The co-stars in this movie are fantastic. It's a heart-warming movie about what really matters in life.

Maybe it's because I watched this as a kid but I have an undieing love for the movie All I Want for Christmas about two kids in Manhattan who plot to get their parents back together on Christmas.

The Holiday is one of the few movies with Jack Black that I don't hate. It's about two people (Cameron Diaz & Kate Winslet) who switch houses for the Holidays and dramatically change their lives. So romantic. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Read-Watch-Listen 2014

I have tried to do this every year, more or less - and it's always fun to look back to see the things I've enjoyed over the past year. Some years there are more or less books, most years I can't remember what I watched last week much less throughout the whole year. This year I attempted to keep an ongoing list in Evernote (which a very handy website/app that I highly recommend) and that has helped but there were plenty of movies I watched this year that I haven't bothered mentioning and a few that I vaguely remember loving but forgot to write down. So here we go. Year in review read/watch/listen.

This year I finally got into a groove with reading. I requested tons from the library and only finished a handful. But there were Saturdays here and there on the couch with a book I just could not put down and occasionally found myself up till 2am because I simply had to find out how this book ends. It was great. Here are a few of my favorites.

Veronica Roth
The essays at the end of Insurgent made me love this trilogy even more, especially the one about writing secular young adult fiction as a Christian. The series was a quick easy read for me, and I especially liked the first book - it is so much richer than the movie. 

Rainbow Rowell
This was one of those sit-on-the-couch-all-Saturday reads for me. I loved it so much. It's about two kids in high school in 1986. It is about comic books, a walkman, batteries, and mixed tapes. It's about step-dad's and poverty and bullying and about two people who fall in love sitting next to each other on the school bus. It was a little dark without being totally creepy, it was sweet without being like cotton candy sweet. I loved it. It reminded me of the time in which I grew up (without cell phones or email... till I was a teen anyway) and it reminded me about how it felt to fall in love. I also read FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell. Not quite as good but I still enjoyed it as quick light read. It's about a freshman in college who writes Fan Fiction, and the highs and lows of her first year away from home. I enjoyed this peek into a young writer's mind and the begining stages of romantic interest were really sweet. It went downhill midway but recovered enough that I am still mentioning it here.

Maze Runner
James Dasher
This book had one of the best first chapters in any Young Adult book I've read this year. If I'd had more time to read I definitely would have read more of it. (p.s. I just watched the movie and it was so scary!!! and so pessimistic. Now I'm kind of glad I didn't read the whole book... also I'm pretty sure it's a series and not one I really want to get sucked into right now.)

Gregor - Underland Chronicles
Suzanne Collins
Before she wrote the Hunger Games Trilogy Suzanne Collins wrote The Underland Chronicles. Book one is called Gregor the Overlander Beth read all of the books in this series this year. I tried to read book one. It was good and like the Maze Runner I would have loved to have finished it - I just ran out of time (and renewals at my library).

Dandelion Wine
Ray Bradbury
This is an easy-breezy collection of loosely connected short stories about a boy during summer of 1928. I read a chapter or two every night and enjoyed it quite a lot.

Gayle Foreman
I read this one in about 24 hours. It's about a teenager, her boyfriend, her family and her out-of-body near-death experience. I didn't read the last couple chapters because when I watch the movie I don't want to know how it ends. (P.S. I watched the movie last night and I didn't think it was as good as the book.) There is a sequel called Where She Went that I want to try to read sometime next year, maybe over the summer.

John Greene
Like everybody else (right?) I read this over the summer. I let Beth read it too and then we went to go see the movie together in the theater. I cried. Oh how I cried. I loved reading this book. I attempted to read An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska (also by John Greene) and didn't get very far. This one was so so so good though. 

David Levithan 
This was one that the young adult book club at our library was going to discuss. I read it to see if it was appropriate for my almost thirteen year old Beth to read. I decided not to let her read it yet but I will definitely request it for her in a few years, it will be a terrific book to read and discuss with her once she is a little older. It is about a soul who wakes up in the body of someone new every day. It was totally weird, emotionally gripping, incredibly well written and had a satisfying ending, but yeah - like I said, very very weird.  

Alan Bradley
This is a murder mystery set in the 1950s and is a tale told from the perspective of a young, precocious girl named Flavia de Luce. It was riveting, well-written, and I agonized waiting to find out what had really happened and who had really done it. Next year I definitely want to try to read another book Alan Bradley.

Ann Patchett 
After reading the book This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Anne Patchett (which turned out to have very little to do with marriage and was simply a collection of auto-biographical essays - which I loved.) I requested as many books of hers as I could get my hands on. Confession: I just could not get into State of Wonder. But I just loved The Patron Saint of Liars. It's about a woman, only a few weeks pregnant, who leaves her husband to live at a Roman Catholic home for unwed mothers and then marries the groundskeeper and stays at this home to raise her daughter. It is told from the perspective of the mother, her second husband and her daughter. I felt like it lagged just a little in the middle but overall I really enjoyed it. The characters were amazing and the ending was worth it.

Laine Moriarty 
Because I have seen this book everywhere I requested it from my library along with The Husband's Secret. Both were highly un-put-down-able. I liked them both equally well, though I found it highly annoying that they are both written in the form of triplicate female perspective. It's cool the first time, super-annoying the second time and from what I can see it is a format she writes in regularly. Otherwise both books were very enjoyable, also these books are set in Australia - how cool is that?

What Alice Forgot is about Alice who hits her head and forgets the past ten years. It's also about her sister who is suffering from infertility, and her older female relative who is sweet but pretty much irrelevant to the story. It really makes you think about the impact of our choices and attitudes, especially compacted over time. It's the kind of story that you think about for awhile after you've put it down. 

The Husband's Secret is kind of like a murder mystery. There's the mother of a teenage girl who was murdered many years ago (but was never solved) and also two other women in the community, one of which is a young woman who's husband has had an affair with her best friend so she has moved back into town with her mother and strikes up a relationship with the P.E. teacher at her son's school, who was one of the suspects in the murder and then the third woman who's husband has a secret. It's not like your typical mystery but it's also not just a strait up romantic drama either. I enjoyed it.

Mandy Kaling 
One word: hilarious. Short chapters that are autobiographical. Awesome.

Myquillin Smith 
Every bit as good as it as been hyped up to be. 

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I try to read this every summer. Such a good reminder to keep things simple.

Anne Lemott
My favorite book on writing that I've read so far.

Natalie Goldberg
I really liked her Zen approach to writing. Very helpful.

Ann Patchett
I checked this one out of the Library twice. I didn't read every single essay but overall I really enjoyed this collection, especially as a wanna-be one-day writer. 

77 Reasons Why Your Book Preposal Was Rejected (and how to make sure it won't happen again)
Mike Nappa
If you are thinking about some day getting published and know nothing about the process (like me) this is a terrific book. The guy is really nice, despite the terrible title it's a great, interesting book. I ate it up and then the Hubs bought it on the Kindle for me. Can't wait to read it again next year. 
I have become such a fan of Jen Hatmaker. This book was very easy to read and super-helpful. 

I just watched this a couple weeks ago but it tops my list of movies I enjoyed in 2014. I didn't think I'd enjoy watching it as much as I did. It's an amazing story about leadership and real love in a time of high tension. It's about doing what is right despite what is expected, it's about the importance of every life and the immense difference just one can make when that one person has vision. I also loved the sign language in this movie, it looked so expressive and genuine to me. You might also want to watch the movie that came before this one Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

X-Men Days of Future Past
I almost never watch movies in the theater anymore. I only watched a few. This was one of them and I think it is my favorite X-Men movie so far. The cast is simply epic.

Mia Wasikowska & Michael Fassbender 
I liked this movie so much I watched it two or three times then checked the book out of the library. The book was very hard to get through, there were fantastic moments but the pace was so slow it was impossible for me to get very far very quickly. This adaptation of the book is SO GOOD! I think it helps of you already know the story or have at least seen an adaptation or two already. This is cinematically exquisite and Michael Fassbender is my favorite Mr. Rathburn by a mile. 

Despite the awful name this was such a good movie. It's about a professional assassin who has decided to retire and attempt to reconcile with his ex-wife and estranged teenaged daughter. However he is poisoned and is forced to come out of retirement for one last job. It's a great date movie if you have an action-flick-loving hubs like I do. There is surprisingly very little objectionable material for this genre, there is subtle humor, a lot of great acting and best of all the good guy turns out to be a truly good guy even though he's being put in a difficult situation. 

Daniel & I watched this together a few months ago and I thought for sure he would fall asleep but he enjoyed it a lot, so did I. It's a little bit like Pride & Prejudice meets The Help. It is about slavery and race, wealth and status, family and love. It is based on this book and was a very good movie.

I watched this again a couple months ago and just had to mention it. The language in this movie is so bad but the acting, character and story are so good that in this instance it is forgivable. Daniel falls asleep every time I try to watch this movie with him. It's a character drama so it feels like it moves a little slowly sometimes. I loved it.

This movie was every bit as quirky and sweet as I'd hoped it would be. 

This year I watched a lot less TV than previous years which has been good, I think. This year has been all about "reality" shows at my house - mostly about cooking. We watched Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, D.C. CupcakesMasterChef, and this season of MasterChef Junior is proving to be just amazing as the first season. We've also been watching The Taste which is in it's 3rd season and is kind of like The Voice of cooking competition shows. We also watched a good bit of SharkTank as well as getting hooked on The Profit. Daniel & I watched The Newsroom together and I watched season one of The Hour by myself on Amazon Prime Instant Video. I loved it, though I thought season two was not at all as good. 

This has been the year of Spotify at my house. I listen to my playlists on Spotify almost every day. Here is what I've been listening to this year:

You may know them from the song "Beautiful Things" - my favorite songs on this album are I Am Mountain and Wandering

All Sons & Daughters
I listened to my All Sons & Daughters playlist all spring. The honesty and beauty of their music gets me every time. My favorite songs are Great Are You Lord and Called Me Higher

Meredith Andrews
She has been one of my favorite artists. Maybe you've heard her song Not For a Moment. Her newest album is so very good. Her song Strong God is one of my favorites

Her album If We're Honest was playing on repeat at my house pretty much all summer long.

Ellie Holcomb
Have you heard her song The Broken Beautiful? It is so good and the whole album is just as good.

I started listening to the Divergent soundtrack which features a song by Ellie Goulding. My kids also told me about her other songs Burn & Lights and they became my favorite songs on my get these kids out of the house with a smile playlist. 

I went through a major Ed Sheeran phase during the month of November where that was practically all I was listening to. Favorite song (obviously) is Thinking Out Loud but I like the groovy beat of Don't too.

Favorite song on 1989: Blank Space
And yes, I totally thought she was saying "Starbucks" which is why I totally love this parody so much. But if you're in the mood for watching Taylor Swift videos this one is also really fun. While I miss her older style I admit I've enjoyed 1989 every bit as much as I liked Red. Though I disagree that this is not a boy-centric album, to me it totally is. It's also even more of a sex-centric album than Red which is disappointing. 

She first appeared on the first season of the X-Factor as Besteice Miller and totally killed it until she was (cruelly) voted off. I would like to think that she would have done even better on the show if she'd been there while Demi Levato was a judge. Anyway - she finally has a single out with 4 tracks and it's awesome.

They won the latest season of X-factor (at least the last one I watched) and their new album is fantastic. The tracks they pre-released Scarecrow, Bumper Cars & Little Do You Know are my favorite tracks and are pretty much exactly what you'd hope they would have produced.

You might also be interested in: Read/Watch/Listen 2013 & Favorite Movies of 2011

Monday, December 15, 2014

How to take better Christmas photos with your smartphone

This weekend the weather here in Augusta warmed up and we spent the afternoon at the big park near our house. While we were there I noticed a few families all dressed up to take their own family photo. I made every effort to mind my own business and spend my time with my own family but right before we left the park I spent a couple of minutes with just my girls to share just a couple of tips on how to take better family or group photos with your smartphone. Here are just a couple of tips that will dramatically improve your group shots.

Look for shade
The number one tip that will make or break your group shot is choosing the right location. Our eyes are naturally drawn to bright sunny spots with interesting features. They look great in our eyes but through the lens of a camera a sunny spot is actually the worst place to take a photo, especially for a group shot. 

This beautiful sunny spot in front of the live Christmas tree at our park is a great example of this. While I was taking this picture of my kids someone walked up to me and asked if I wanted them to take a group shot for me,  confirming to me that yes, most people think that this is the perfect spot to take a picture but take a few steps closer and this is what you get:

Squinty eyed smiles and harsh shadows on their faces. You can't even see their eyes.

Look up at the picture above this one again, see that shadow, one the other side of the tree? 

Let's try again there:

Their faces are more relaxed, you can see their eyes a lot more clearly because the light is not so harsh. 

Here is another example of using shade:
The location: in a spot of shade in the picnic pavilion. Here is the close-up:

It's not perfect but you can see their eyes more or less and there are no harsh shadows or a ton of bright spots on their faces. It's not 100% perfect but it's okay.

Here is a sunny spot on a park bench:
This shot is, overall really pretty. You can see the blue skies and the bare winter trees. But here is the close-up:

What you actually see is bright spots of sun on their faces, shadows and squinty eyes. Also, the background ends up looking like a long line of cars from the parking lot. 

Here are some pictures we took at the big pavilion -

In the sun:

In the shade:

So the next time you need to take a group shot - step into the shade!

Pay attention to your background 
There is nothing worse than taking a great picture of your kids only to notice later that someone else was walking through the frame. 
My oldest daughter took this of my second oldest and middle child and me. Did you notice the figure walking through the frame behind me, sticking out of my head?! There is also a massive bright spot behind us - not fantastic for taking pictures. I prefer to have a group of trees or brick behind my group shot whenever I can.

Take lots of pictures
Okay, here is another tip - sometimes your best moments and most genuine smiles are in between the "1-2-3 say Cheese!" moments. Yes, most of the pictures I took came out looking like this:

But if you can keep your sense of humor and try to steer your group gently into position you are more likely to get genuine expressions than if you simply line everyone up to say "cheese"

Set your exposure
Yes, you can do this on your smartphone! In most camera apps you can set the exposure by touching the screen on the point you want to focus and it will also meter the exposure for that spot. Some apps let you set the focus and exposure on seperste points, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. If you touch your screen on the faces of the people in your shot you'll ask the app to readjust the exposure for that exact spot. Some camera apps do a better job than others of doing this automatically than others.

When your smartphone meters the light in a shot it is usually looking for faces and will try to get those to come out looking good but sometimes, especially if there is a lot of background in your shot, the camera tries to meter the whole shot so that there are no overly dark spots or overly bright spots and you get a shot like the one above. If you are getting shots like that try stepping closer to your group so that more faces fill the frame, then touch the faces in your shot so that the exposure is perfect for that one spot.  

I hope that these tips will help you the next time you step out to take a group shot and you'll remeber to:
  • Step into the shade (no bright spots on faces!!)
  • Pay attention to your background (you don't want people walking through your shot)
  • Take lots of pictures (especially in-between shots)
  • Set your exposure (tap the faces)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A little bit of writerlyness


I have this amazing online friend named Corinne. She is one of those friends that I made through my blog several years ago and have kept in contact with through social media for quite a long time. We ocassionally check in with each other's blogs and like each other's posts on Facebook and Instagram.

A few months ago I reached out to her. I was at a dead-end moment - after months and months of running up against this same wall I finally gave in and asked for help. I was at a point in my writing that I needed a fresh pair of eyes. A fresh pair of writer's eyes. 

Corrine was really gracious. She worked with me one on one for a couple of weeks, we exchanged a bunch of emails, she read an awful lot of my notes and half-finished manuscripts and then she opened a door in the walls I kept running into. I really had just one question that needed any kind of answer and Corinne helped me find it. She stepped into my mess with abundant grace and helped me sort it out a bit. She asked good questions and gave the feedback I was desperately needing. And she is opening up a class for writerly folks like you and me. 

Registration is open now for her class which will be running January 5-16th so if you have at all been thinking that some kind of writing class/collective would be a good thing for you to commit to in the coming year - well then I highly recommend that you click here, register for her class and then read a few (or a lot) of her blog posts.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Parenting struggles

A while ago I wrote this post about my kids, about our issues, about ADHD and about mother-guilt. After I wrote that post and started getting the ball rolling on trying to figure out why my good kids were getting such bad grades I talked with their teachers who assured me that they are doing great. It took some wind out of my sails and made it difficult for me to move forward. I felt like I'd come back to the over-reacting mom.

Then we had a pretty traumatic few months. We were moving metro-areas. Then we weren't (yay!) but then my husband was working insane hours (I honestly didn't think it was possible that he could work more than he was at his old job. I was wrong.)  and the kids went on break for the summer. 

We started a new school year with some new priorities: encouraging words and gentle actions and Josiah has had a fantastic year at school so far. I am remembering my days of teaching 6 & 7 year olds in Sunday School classes at church and what a huge difference it made in all kinds of ways for boys between the ages of six and seven. A six year old boy can hardly sit still, a seven year old can sit still and write some words on a paper or read a simple sentence. Seven just may be one of Josiah's golden years. He's still struggling here and there but with his school work he's staying on-task. Completing his work and scoring 100s across the board. 

However when we got Katie-Abigail's progress report and it said that she is a solid B student. Okay, I can take that. But she is failing in her science/social studies class. Mostly because of the way that it is being taught. She does not seem to absorb information that she hears or reads very well. Filling out her worksheets is hard, especially if she has to write a response. I've noticed that her writing has improved since last year but we are a long way from where I'd like for her to be. 

A couple months ago I sat in the kitchen at a friend's house. We were talking about our kids, about potty training about the hard parts of mothering. One of the moms has a child in occupational therapy for severely things but especially sensory processing disorder. I asked her so many questions. A lot of the things her son does are things I've noticed with Eli. 

So today I came home with another load of books from the library and took another picture. It looked like this:  

Tonight I spent my quiet hours at night reading about sensory integration disorder. I'm still trying to work out what is (and what isn't) going on with my kids. My head is buzzing. In all honesty I'm still in information overload mode.  This is what my overarching thought is: it is super important to try to understand our kid's behaviors before we run strait to trying to change their behaviors.  Especially if those behaviors are related to something physical. I feel like there is so much power in recognizing our children's physical struggles. It takes so much of my fear out of the situation.

I have also started reading "The Highly Sensitive Child" and it has been really good so far. It is very positive in tone which helps me a lot. It also helped me think about my family within a framework of sensitivity. I am a pretty sensitive person. I'm intuitive, I tend to feel the emotional climate of a room intensely, I am overwhelmed easily by new places and people. I don't like to try new things. I used to think  that being a sensitive person meant that I am a fragile person but as I look back on my life I have seen over and over again that I have a lot of internal strength, even though I also have this tendency to be easily overwhelmed. 

It also made me think about my husband as a highly sensitive person - which is something that I sometimes forget about since tends to be very task-oreinted. But he is a highly sensitive person, just in different ways than I am.

Every single one of my kids has sensitivity/sensory issues  - from lack of sensitivity/processing to being highly sensitive, to being sensory seeking. I have one who is highly sensitive in social situations - but being highly sensitive can also tie into anxiety. I have kids who were tough to potty train, except for my socially sensitive one who was a dream. I have kids who don't feel when they have to pee and don't care if they are wet yet freak out if their hands are dirty and don't want to be touched. They only want to eat familiar foods and can be picky eaters. I have kids who slouch, I have kids who are in semi-constant motion. Every single on of my kids has allergies of one kind or another - which is an indicator of being highly sensitive or having sensory integration problems. 

I think understanding these things is important for me, as their mom. It gives me power and takes me out of the picture.

I was thinking a lot about that today - this idea of taking myself out of the picture. In the text in the picture further up it says that parents should not respond with the same fear and frustration as the child. But I know I sure do. I take it personally when my child isn't performing well in school, or is hard to potty train. However when I understand that my child has a physical issue, like that he can't feel when his bladder is full and doesn't process the sensation of being wet the way that I'd like for him to, then I stop blaming myself and start to try to solve the problem. I set a timer and take him to the toilet.

When my oldest hit nine it was awful. We were fighting a lot. She was getting angry at me more than usual. She was crying more than usual. Then I started noticing it was going in a cycle. She'd be great, she'd get cranky then she'd explode then she'd be great again. Then I started realizing that her behaviors were pretty typical of how I feel when I am about to get my period. She didn't start her cycle for a few years, but when I realized that our fighting had more to do with her hormones at the moment than how I was failing her as her parent the less I freaked out and overreacted and the more I was able to work things through with her in a more gentle and understanding way. And for the record, so far thirteen has been a dream compared to nine. No one warned me that the pre-teen years could be so hard!!

When Katie-Abigail was four I was at the total end of my rope. She was screaming and throwing tantrums everywhere we went. I could not get her to behave for me. Then I learned about the concept of triggers and it revolutionized my parenting strategy. I began to realize that her trigger is hunger and started packing snacks. I practically had a brand-new child. We also found activities that calmed her down in general like painting and doing puzzles and we did those every day so that her overall stress didn't get too high. Josiah needs to be well-rested. He can go practically forever between meals but if it was too near nap-time he'd melt down. Eli can go forever between naps and meals but he needs to know the plan. He likes to have our trips out mapped out and if the plan changes he likes to know about it. If I make a last minute decision to stop at the grocery store by our house before we go home and he sees us pass our neighborhood he will start crying. He thought we were going home, we didn't turn into our neighborhood. His little world has ended. Knowing what makes them tick helps me help them.

I am still figuring things out as I go. I don't know where all of this will end, I guess with parenting it never really "ends" it just continually morphs into something different... anyway. I just wanted to share my experience in the middle of everything. It's overwhelming but I think at the end of the day it's worth it.

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