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Making the Most of Rainy Days

To continue kicking off the month of February with guest posts and parenting resources, here is another amazing article about how to keep our kids' screen time productive during this rainy, cold season! Visit Jenny Wise at for more creative ways to parent!

Do you find yourself pulling your hair out every time a storm rolls in? Between sports, trips to the park, and running around the neighborhood with friends, we’re pretty good at keeping our kids active and busy when the weather is nice. But despite their treasure trove of toys and gadgets, our kids inevitably end up driving us crazy with complaints of boredom every time it’s too cold or rainy to go outside — or worse, they spend their day in front of the TV or latest video game console, and we get major parental guilt.

There’s no reason that rainy days need to be a waste or put your sanity at risk. But if you’re going to keep everyone happy when they’re stuck indoors, you’ll need to plan ahead. These are some favorite activities for rainy, snowy or otherwise blah days.

Coding games

Today’s kids seem to come out of the womb knowing how to use smartphones, tablets, computers and every other tech innovation that hits the market. And as parents, we’re in a constant battle to limit screen time and persuade our kids to do something other than play video games. But what if computer games could teach our kids valuable skills?

That’s the idea behind Scratch and ScratchJr, a pair of free apps that introduce kids to computer programming by letting them create interactive animations, stories, and games. Created by MIT, Scratch is more than fun  — it’s a way to foster creativity, logical thinking and basic programming concepts in children.

Online music lessons

Nothing beats the way kids’ faces light up when they’ve learned to play a new song. But playing an instrument isn’t just great for kids’ self-esteem, according to Time magazine, it also boosts their brain power and improves school performance. Rather than chauffeur your kids to yet another extracurricular, sign them up for online music lessons so they can learn and practice from the comfort of home. The only downside is that you have to listen to their trials, so you might want to skip the big brass instruments and drum sets in favor of something quieter.

Of course, you’ll need to buy an instrument before signing up for lessons. While there are a lot of cheap student models on the market, many are of such low quality that they never sound quite right. Rather than buying the cheapest instrument you can find, consider renting or buying a higher-quality instrument secondhand to give your child a chance to fall in love with the hobby. Music & Arts points out, “If you buy an instrument, you’ll have to decide whether to go new or used. Either way, the instrument needs to be easy to play, durable, repairable, and have a warranty.”

Geography Games

Your kids can become world travelers from the comfort of home with some creative geography games. You can make up your own game by letting kids choose a country on the map and then sending them on a quest to answer a list of questions you’ve devised. Depending on your children’s ages, you might ask them to look up basic details like the capital city, spoken languages, and greetings. Or, for older kids, have them uncover details of the country’s founding and explore its roadsides using GeoGuessr. If you don’t have the time to devise your own geography scavenger hunt, you can find a list of great geography-themed games online at Kid World Citizen.

It’s not easy to avoid screen time on dreary days, especially when you have things to get done. But screen time doesn’t have to mean wasted time. With a little legwork on your end, you can keep your kids’ brains growing with fun and educational online activities like these.



(Image via Unsplash )



The Spirit Animals of Our Children

When I think of special needs parenting, I feel exhausted... mainly because I'm living it daily, as many of you are. Those daily "quirks" that make our kids extra crunchy, the idiosyncrasies that feel like nails on a chalkboard - those are the things that nervous break downs are made of. After all, there are times when I look at my children and all I see are wild animals. They act like they can't be tamed and they have the social skills to prove it!

So, this week, I decided to battle these quirks with some humor. In a day and age of memes and gifs, I thought it would be appropriate to create a post that let us giggle a bit at our children's oddities...

These are the Spirit Animals of our children.

The Isolator


The Depressed


The Binger


The Tantrumer


The Self-Stimmer


The Liar


The One With No Personal Space


The RAD - Inhibited

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The RAD - Disinhibited


The Anxious


The Self-Harmer


The Unmotivated


The Oppositional Defiant


The Attention-Seeker

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The Artificially Charming

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The One With Pica


The Uncomfortable Starer


The Bully


The Fecal Smearer

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The Inappropriate


The Hoarder


The One With ALL The Rage


The One With A Few Learning Delays

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The Refuser of Showers


The Runaway

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The Illegal Substance Experimenter


The Thief


The Promiscuous


The Screamer


The One With OCD


The Property Destroyer

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The Socially Awkward

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And Finally....

The Mama by 8:00 pm


"Strength and dignity are her clothing,and she laughs at the time to come."

                                     Proverbs 31:25



The Heartbreak of Living

            I would say that my heart breaks on an average of 25 times a day. Some days, some months, that number is significantly more. I think that’s the price we pay for loving people. Honestly, I can’t think of any relationship or situation I’ve been in where there hasn’t been a time of heartbreak. Sometimes I’m even the one doing the breaking. But at the end of the day, the only way to avoid this pain is to hide away and ignore the world entirely – not look at the news, not read social media, not have a family or friends, not leave the house. In a sense, to avoid heartbreak, you can’t actually live.

            However, since I’ve chosen life, I’ve consequently chosen some pain. And true to form, when it rains, it pours. In the midst of grieving a dear friend’s illness, I’ve continued to hear horrendous reports on our little Isaac’s situation. My heart breaks continuously for these two situations alone. Then I’ve had to deal with a personal ordeal that has left me devastated and questioning things about myself that I haven’t felt in a long time – feelings of insecurity and vulnerability – things that have reignited my panic attacks with a vengeance. And then I read the 2016 and what is to date of the 2017 Child Protective Services Annual Reports, only to find that the PA fatality and near fatality rates have more than doubled in this year alone… and we still have 6 months to go! So, my heart broke significantly more, not just for my own situations, but for the hurting children all around me.

            Naturally, in the middle of all of this, my own children decide to let their RAD hang out all over the place. It was only 9:30 am yesterday when I thought I was going to have to admit my oldest to the hospital for his rage (which the poor fellas doing construction on our new house had the privy of hearing). He was told “No”… that was it. That was the “big trigger”. The mooing cries started. The punching his head came next, followed by screaming at a pitch that would compete with a dog whistle. (Obviously I was to blame because I couldn’t understand what he was saying.) As he picked up a toy and cocked his arm, ready to bust out the window in our toy room (it took him over 6 months to save up to get his bedroom window fixed, by the way), I saw my toddler standing in his direct aim. We’d already been to the hospital twice within a week and I instantly feared that my youngest was going to be next.

            Jumping in front of him as quickly as I could, Cameron screamed that he hated me. That I’m a child abuser. That I always blame him for everything. That I’m the worst mother in the world. And when I told him that I was calling the police if he didn’t calm down immediately, he screamed some more and went upstairs to flip his bed. This happened 10 minutes before I had to leave and take Taylor to camp. Knowing that Cameron was hoping his sister would have to miss for the day, I was going to move the earth to make sure she made it, even if she was late!

Thankfully, my pastor’s wife jumped in her car and came to sit at my house while I got my daughter to camp, our builder was ready to step in and assist if needed, and a good friend picked my daughter up from camp, keeping her for a few hours while Cameron eventually calmed in his room.

            That same daughter, however, got mad at Wyatt only a few hours later, shoving him off her tall bed! I went running into the room upon hearing my toddler wailing in a heap on the floor while my daughter tried telling me the most physically impossible stories about what “could have happened” in order to avoid getting in trouble. There was no remorse when I told her that he could have been severely hurt. No. She cried when I told her she was in her room for the night and would miss choir practice.

I screamed like a lunatic for the hundredth time that day, ensuring my craziness to our neighbors. I sobbed, I slammed my door a few times, and I did a whole lot of hyperventilating! To sum things up, I was the perfect picture of an untherapeutic disaster, but I couldn’t have cared less. All I wanted to do was be by myself and sleep for a super long time.

But that’s the thing with choosing to live… you don’t get to step away from hard parenting moments. You don’t get to heal your friends or stop child abuse, fix broken hearts or save the world. What you get instead is an infinite amount of opportunities to be loved. Prayers from a parent, encouraging texts from fellow mothers, a pastor’s wife who will drop what she’s doing to step into your craziness, friends who will listen to your prattling daughter when you just can’t, children who eventually apologize (sometimes), and a God who is bigger than all of your heart breaks.

As always, I blog to process and to heal. My only hope is that someone out there who is also going through heart break will realize that it’s just the cost of living and loving deeply. Look for those moments to be loved back and wrap yourself up tightly in them… even if it’s just a little love from a blogger out in Western Pennsylvania. My heart is with yours.



Just Another Day

               Ok, so yesterday was just an average day. And I know I should feel ashamed about this, but my toddler watched the movie “Cars” 3 times yesterday (twice back to back) while I did work from home. I made sure he was fed, changed, and safe… but otherwise, I did very little parenting for the little fella outside of helping him build a train track. This kept him occupied for all of 4 minutes before he would scream out of frustration because one of the train cars would derail, at which point I would give him a bowl of crackers and cheerfully suggest he go watch Lightening McQueen some more.

            Parenting score, right?

            So later that evening, my kids returned home from school and The Hubs helped them finish homework while I got dinner on the table and rushed my son off to youth group. Realizing I hadn’t really talked to my oldest outside of hurried dinner conversation, I casually asked him how his day at school was.

            Now, usually this would be answered with a “fine”. And good moms would then press for more information. Unfortunately, I was not feeling in the mood to be a “good” mom. I hate pressing for more information because then I usually hear about how he got in trouble for something and we have to write apology letters and call school personnel and figure out consequences… and who has the energy for that day in and day out, really?! Not this mama.

            But last night, after I ran a trillion errands and listened to the “Cars” background music while making umpteen phone calls, I asked the question, “How was your day, Cam” and was then regaled with a 15-minute monologue about his day. He spoke in speeds that could rival an auctioneer. Only his words made no sense and his stories never really came together clearly. But I was not given the chance to ask for further explanation because, well, he wouldn’t shut up long enough for me to do so. (And honestly, was I listening all that closely? Mmmmm, no.)

            I dropped him off at the church and drove home while my ears finished ringing. All I wanted to do was to go home, put my feet up, and play candy crush (on mute) so that I could unwind from the frazzled day that was not close enough to being over.

            And that’s just when the female child wanted all of the attention. ALL OF IT. She wanted to play games and paint nails and have me guess random objects she was holding behind her back (I mean, seriously, that’s desperation, right there). And all I wanted to do was zone out for the briefest of moments….

            However, just as all hope felt lost, I remembered my old faithful trick. “Taylor, I have an idea of what we can do! Do you want to practice doing hair? I’ll let you practice on me…” We hadn’t played this game in a while, mainly because I have curly hair and she has the talons of an eagle, scraping and clawing at my curls without the slightest bit of compassion. Yet I knew that if she was this desperate for a playmate, she would be gentler than usual.

            Sure enough, this child of mine sprang to attention and immediately ran for my brush and all the hair accessories she could find. And for the next hour, I sat there as she gently played with my hair, putting me into a partial coma, me barely hearing the long stream of high-pitched words emerging without stop from her lips. With each brush stroke and each careful twist of the hair, I was instantly transported into a state of complete calm.

            And then she asked if she could massage my feet….

            What is happening to my life right now?!? I could barely fathom my luck, but there she sat, rubbing my tootsies and tickling at my ankles. My body felt like putty and all I wanted to do was tell her that I was sorry for all the times I’d grounded her or scolded her for getting into my things. I was willing to forgive all wrongs and forget the past entirely. We were starting fresh in that moment, and I was going to sleep like a baby.

            My husband arrived home with my oldest from church at 8pm and it was time for everyone to brush their teeth and get ready for bed. Sadly, my time of soothing had to come to an end - but that was okay, because I was still fully relaxed...

And then the kids argued over something stupid in the bathroom and the lights were left on and clothes were left everywhere in the kitchen (why are they in the kitchen in first place? No one will ever know.) and people kept finding reasons to avoid bedtime and, wouldn’t you know it, my feeling of calm left as quickly as it had come.

            I had to do the yelling and threatening once more… I was willing to charge them their Christmas money to pay the electric bill, tape them to their beds if they got up once again, and I was all about ready to light “Cars” on fire if the toddler screamed to watch it for the fourth time that day (because honestly, 4 times is where any decent mother draws the line, right?).

            Distressed but trying to appear “normal”, I ran the idea of Ben and Jerry’s past my husband… but he wasn’t biting. “You’re not asking me to go to the store for ice cream right now, are you?” he asked.

            “Gosh no, I was just saying that if you ever feel like it, it’s on sale at Uni-Mart…” I replied hopefully.

            He didn’t take the bait, so I retreated upstairs with the toddler to watch Peppa Pig and make a blanket tent out of my bedding in an attempt to calm him enough for bed. After a half hour of suffocating under my sheets, I was able to wrangle the little guy into his crib, accompanied by his handful of matchbox cars.

            Twenty minutes later, I heard the familiar clang of a car falling out of the crib, followed by the equally familiar calls from my youngest. “Mama! Oh, Mama!! My car car fall out da bed!” I arose and retrieved his car, kissed him goodnight again, and went to watch something non-animated on the television as I tried to fall asleep. Then the clang happened again… but this time the car had fallen behind the crib. There was no way in the world that I was moving his bed at 10:30pm to pick up a toy car.

            And I told my sobbing child just that. Although that didn’t seem to stop him from yelling, “Mama, oh Mama” a million more times with increasing vigor. So, I did what all “good” parents would do… I turned up the volume on my TV, turned down the volume on the baby monitor, and I willed myself to close my eyes and wake up on a beach somewhere. (PS, I still woke up at home and next to a hairy man hogging my side of the bed.)

            It was just an average day… nothing unusual, just a day. And my house isn’t the beach, despite the January rain acting deceptively like a monsoon. But I am content with these chatty, arguing, squawking little people with all their quirks and peculiarities. I’m happy with my hairy bed-sharer. I am fulfilled at my job that makes me talk on the phone CONSTANTLY and neglect my child to the television sometimes. And I am happy being just a “good” mom. We make it work and I’m kinda proud of us for doing so.

Photo by:

Photo by:



Kissing Childhood Good-bye

Feeling submerged in the wide world of potty-training, Christmas festivities, and running a homeless shelter, I apparently neglected to realize that my older two (almost 9 and almost 11) have “fallen in love”. (I know, but don’t laugh because if you laugh it makes them really angry… unless you’re trying to make them angry… and then you can laugh all you want!)

Gone are the good old days of crushes and dreams of marrying a llama – in are the traumatizing years of the pre-teens. The crazy stage in life that makes insane children contemplate finding a mate and want to reproduce, passing on their sub-par genes to yet another generation. Just what this world needs more of these days.

So last night, while I was caught up in all the thoughts that come when you drive (not stop lights and turn signals, gosh no! I’m talking about grocery lists and last minute Christmas cards, and trying to remember if I ate dinner or not), my children caught me off guard with this question:

“Mom, how old do we have to be to kiss?”

Not quite understanding the question, I asked, “Kiss each other??” This was obviously the wrong answer as both kids simultaneously burst out into gags and comments about how despicable I am as a human being for even suggesting sibling affection.

“Mom,” Taylor clarified, “how old do we have to be to kiss who we want to marry?”

Hold the phone, stop the train, shut the front door. Do all of the things that need to be done to halt this conversation and bring me up to speed! “Wait a second… what are you talking about?” I asked while trying to see their shadowy faces in the rearview mirror as we drove past the street lights.

Cameron was the one who spoke next. “Okay, so Taylor and I know who we want to marry and they want to marry us back, so when can we kiss them? That’s the answer we want to know.”

This may seem rude to you, but my first thought wasn’t about getting the shot gun and protecting my children from unwanted suitors. Nope, it was outright awe that my children had found requited “love” in the first place! Who were these other children and are they being blackmailed? Held at gunpoint perhaps? I tried to verbalize my words carefully, not wanting to hurt my kids’ feelings too badly.

“Um…. So… people like you guys, then? Is that what you’re saying? Like, real people? People your age?”

“Mom, I told you weeks ago that Michael and I are getting married! Don’t you even remember at all?” Taylor actually looked hurt. And now that she mentioned it, I vaguely recalled the conversation after meeting this child at the school open house back in the fall. But kids are so fickle, I obviously didn’t think he would still be the crush (um, I mean “true love”) of the week.

“And Mom, I’ve liked Addison almost this whole year! She already told me we’re getting married so I thought, hey, we might as well kiss, then.”

I stared at my children with my mouth hanging open far longer than I’m comfortable with as a perpetual nose-breather. But I couldn’t fathom what was happening in our universe that was causing this ridiculous conversation to take place! Cameron hates physical touch and is asking to lock lips with some girl who proposed to him because they’ve been “going out” for like, almost 2 months… and Taylor just keeps telling me how utterly obsessed she is with her current boyfriend and his “delicious blonde hair” (and no, I’m not kidding). No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t find this cutesy and not creepy. Could Not Do It.

“Ok… So, Taylor. What exactly do you have in common with Michael? I mean, how do you know that this is the boy you want to supposedly marry?”

“Well, I don’t know what supposedly means, but I think I should marry Michael because he’s really cute and he’s got adorable dimples AND he likes to do cartwheels just like me.”

Adorable dimples? What on earth is happening here?

“So you think he’s cute and he can do a cartwheel… those are your qualifications for a spouse?”

Taylor seemed prepared for her next answer and delivered it with confidence. “Well, you married Dad and he’s cute and can do a cartwheel, so why can’t I marry Michael?”

How do you argue with that logic, I mean, she had a point.

“You do realize that Dad and I didn’t fall in love because he could do a cartwheel, right? And that’s certainly not what made us choose to get married. You really should have more in common than cartwheels at least.”

“Well, Michael loves to swing – so do I. And he loves to play volleyball – so do I…”

“Taylor, you’ve never played volleyball in your life!”

“Well, it looks fun and I bet I’d like it.”

Cameron interjected that he, too, has very important things in common with his future wife. “Addison and I both love art and hate Math. But she dated all the other boys in my class already and still chose me to marry so that’s pretty good!”

Aw, he looked so proud of that fact. Apparently words like “floozy” and “trollop” haven’t made it to the vocab tests yet. Regardless of their obvious misunderstanding of all things love-related, they had asked a question and I needed to give them an answer.

“No one can kiss anyone who is not a family member until they are 16 years old, understood?” There was no need for them to know that my first kiss came just before my 13th birthday and that I probably wouldn’t even allow them to kiss at 16 either.

“Sweet!” Taylor exclaimed. “I’m almost allowed to kiss! I just have… (doing mental math) 9 more years!”

“Nah uh, Taylor, you have 10 more years and I have 9 more years. I get to kiss before you because I’m older.”

Sweet Lord, they can’t even get the numbers right. And that gave me an idea…

“New rule… no kissing until you can do math correctly.” I proclaimed.

“Aw, that’s not even fair!” Taylor squawked while Cameron said, “I guess I better tell Addison we’re NEVER going to be able to get married then… thanks a lot, Mom.”

Apparently their true loves were not motivation enough to study their math facts more effectively. But my plan worked so I wasn’t too upset by it. Hopefully Michael and Addison will one day be able to move on (although I’m guessing Miss Addison already has) and that another girl who can add will find Michael’s dimples just as adorable.

(***The names of both crushes have been changed to protect the innocent. However, I would strongly encourage all 5th grade moms out there to talk to their daughters about responsible marriage proposals. PS, I’m very sorry for calling your daughter a floozy. Kind of.***)

PSS.... buy my book (subliminal messaging inserted here).

Photo: Tumblr

Photo: Tumblr