Category Archives: Siblings

Preschool Playdate: A.A. Milne

Play date: January 21, 2016
Theme inspired by A.A. Milne’s birthday (January 18, 1882)

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme: talked about the characters in the series
— Storytime: Tigger’s breakfast
— Unsquiggle activity: “take the ants out of your pants”
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

Thank goodness for all our dollar store flash cards! I had purchased these when Puma was a preschooler because she adored Winnie-the-Pooh.  They came in handy today, after a good dusting off!

Today’s craft and discovery table were inspired by the Sugar Aunts blog.  The take-home mask craft was printed from the Surburban Mom blog.

We got these little books for Puma’s first birthday party so that guests could share a little story time with their Sweet Peas.  I selected a story that recounts Tigger’s search for the perfect breakfast. I emphasized that he tasted everything until he found the food that tasted just right to him.  We also had our stuffed animal friends help us tell the story!



We had two options here – both games created out of the cards.

Activity 1: Word Match
It could be played as a memory game, or very simply as a “show and find the match” for the younger children. If they were playing the “show-match” version, I encouraged the parents to emphasize the first letter/sound as their child searched for the matching card.

The second activity was for word correlation.  It was a self checking game – if they matched the words correctly, they would form a picture on the reverse side that incorporated the two words that they had matched.  This is a great game to reinforce the “go-together” concept, and also to do visual recognition once the items were shown on an illustration.

We had two card games for this center as well…

Activity one: Shape or Color Match
This could be played as a “show and find” or a memory game.  We added the same shapes in orange if the Sweet Peas wanted to play memory.  Otherwise, we stuck to the primary colors to reinforce the colors as well as the shapes for the younger Sweet Peas.

Activity 2:  Number Match
The Sweet Peas matched the number to the card with the corresponding number of pots. To further emphasize 1-to-1 correlation, they could pin the “honey bee” clothespins to the card to match the number of pots.



Another use for the “honey bee” clothespins! There are several ways to play:
Level 1: fine motor skills only – celebrate picking up a flower with the clothespin!
Level 2: Pick up flowers of a certain color
Level 3: Name a number to pick up of a certain color.  This could be done progressively: take out 1 pink, 2 yellow, 3 blue, etc.,
Level 3a: Name a size of flower to take out…you could also request a certain amount here, too.



ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
We made a couple of adjustments to the craft as suggested by Sugar Aunts.  We have lots of younger siblings that come to play date, so wiggly eyes were definitely out, and, there was absolutely no way we were going to plug in a hot glue gun for the wings…so we put out markers for the Sweet Peas to draw faces on their “bees”, and we used tacky glue for the wax paper wings.  They ones we made as samples and for the centers all held up pretty well; here’s wishing that they survived once the Sweet Peas took them home!



We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.

Join us next week when we share all the fun we had today for our Australia theme!

Boys will be boys: File under “unacceptable”

Boys will be boys.

I find that phrase a bit frustrating.  While I believe that there are definitely attributes that are inherent to the sexes, I also believe that as parents we have a responsibility to raise our children to act beyond their impulses so that they can learn compassion, kindness and empathy.

I watched our boys thoroughly enjoy themselves as they roughhoused with other willing children at our Pirate playdate.  They were all boys in the “mosh pit”, with mothers keeping an eye out and making sure that there were boundaries around the play, like keeping the hands off the face and neck, swords off the head, hands above the belt.

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In the back of my mind as I was watching this kind of play, is the lesson that we had read in science.  We were reading about wolves, and one section talked about how male wolf pups play fight in preparation for survival in adulthood.

Lightbulb!! So maybe in our human history, there once was a time when boys *had* to fight – it was a matter of having the survival skills they needed in a primitive society.  Except…in this first world country, we are far and away from being creatures of survival or subsistence.  We are, for the most part, living within four walls and purchasing food from stores; we are no longer battling our rivals for land or water.  Those days are part of our history, not day-to-day reality.

In the childbirth work we do, I talk about how women’s bodies birth in “cave mode”.  Our instincts don’t know we are birthing in the 21st century.  Unless we get rid of the virtual “tigers” prowling outside the cave, our bodies are closed to the birth journey.  Why wouldn’t that hold true for our sons? Maybe there is some deep instinct to fight for a variety of reasons: survival, defense, protection.  Watching the rough play, I realized that within our sons’ instincts there is probably a time and a place for that kind of play.

However, in this century, when we know better and can do better, we have to stand up against the “boys will be boys” idea as an excuse or an explanation for inappropriate behavior.  There is no reason why, in a civilized society, we are still hearing stories of rape and abuse.  Real men do not hurt, belittle and harm.  Why are we still accepting aggressive behavior from the white collar CEO who rants and raves at his staff?  Why does the rapist who preys on unsuspecting women know that he can, because the blame will fall on the woman and what she was wearing or drinking?  It has to stop.

The ideas that raise my biggest ire are the belief systems that teach the woman is mainly responsibility for a man’s desires.  Those in power tell women to dress modestly and wear a certain type of clothing, or else men will be tempted.  Really?? This is what we are spending time teaching from pulpits when there are so many other responsibilities that the church is charged with (widows, orphans, the homeless to name a few). Are we no better than base animals when females are in heat?  Are we to believe that there is nothing that a man can do to resist his urges??

Yes, I have learned that men are visual.  I get that images are interesting.  And guess what? There is such a thing as self-control, another teaching that is in many belief systems.  Why not emphasize that as well??  Every woman that boys and men are looking at is someone else’s mother, daughter, child.  That alone should be enough to exert some self-control, change their gaze, and start checking their impulses.

Where does this self-control begin?? It begins by introducing the idea when children are playing.  Stop “letting boys be boys” all the time, and start teaching them to be human beings with a heart as well as with impulses.  We can teach them that it is okay to have times when we play rough as long as everyone is in agreement, and then there are other times when we use gentle hands.  We have to be willing to intervene when other children are getting hurt, or when we see that the play is escalating to bullying.

As one of my friends says, “No matter what I do, I can’t keep my two boys from being rough with each other. They play by jumping all over each other. Constantly. I choose to allow that type of behavior, and I also choose to make sure it stays safe and respectful. I allow it because I feel that they are “born that way” and that it helps create bonding between them. I feel like that’s the way they talk to each other. Do I understand it? No. But I allow it with limitations while teaching them that there’s a time and a place. They can be crazy together, but they’re also required to be gentlemen when they interact outside of their circle.”

We can start by intervening when we hear a playmate say No or Stop, even it it still looks like they are playing to us.  When we are teaching the very basic concept of “No is no!” or “Stop is stop,” we can also teach them the reverse is true.  “Just like (playmate) is asking you to stop now and I am asking you to respect them, I would also expect someone else to respect you when you say No or Stop.”  And I am not talking about yelling, “No is no!!” across the room, and then continue on with whatever we are doing.  I mean that we are going over to the child, getting down to their level, and looking at them in the eye when this conversation happens.  We have to take the time to show them how important it is to respect others.

We can also demonstrate that concept when our children say No or Stop to adults in our social circles.  Something simple to deflect unwanted hugs, kisses, pats; whatever we know bothers our children based on past conversations or the body language we are seeing as the interaction is playing out in front of us. Here is a way we have handled it in our family, “Sorry, (family member)…it looks like (child) isn’t giving out (hugs) today. Maybe next time. (Child), please use your words to say good-bye today, okay?”  

Children will emulate what they see and experience.  It is paramount that we teach them that their personhood is respected, and they alone have the right to say what does and does not happen in their personal space.  Unless we can stand up and lead and guide with love, we will remain in the rape culture where a person says No and despite their protests, is forced to engage after the No.

I hold both my daughters and my sons to expectations of compassion, kindness and empathy – the qualities that bring out the best of our humanity.  Will you?

Special thanks to the SPB community who offered insights and suggested edits as I crafted this post: N.C., A.L., K.N., and J.S. – thank you so much for your time!!

Here is a question:
What if you are at a playdate or at the park, and one child’s parent is okay with the aggressive behavior, and the other child’s parent is not? How would you handle it, or how have you handled it if you found yourself in this sistuaion?

Sibling Preparation Part II: Post Birth

This is part two of my (Cassandra’s) sibling preparation journey, what we did after the birth of our daughter in January to help my son (2.5 yo) with the transition. You can read what we did during pregnancy in part one here.

It has only been four months since we welcomed sweet baby P into the world (see photos of her birth here) and although we still have moments here and there we have established a pretty good routine as a family of four, our son is honestly thrilled to have a baby sister 99% of the time… Our son, T, is definitely a rise-to-the-occassion kind of guy. He really never does anything until he absolutely *has* to, case in point, he slept through the entire night without waking for the FIRST TIME EVER the night after his sister was born, he was almost three. He has also since decided he would start talking. That being said, he really took to his role as big brother and embraced our changing family, it could have absolutely nothing to do with what we did before or after. BUT these things did help everyone feel more at ease and help us get into a nice, new rhythm that now included a baby.

1. Help for our son

We asked my mom in advance to visit after the baby was born for additional help, mostly for our son. Her trip coincidentally was planned for the very evening our baby P was born, we had a great day resting as a family of four post birth and the next day my son was SO excited to see his Granny. She stayed for more than a week and I think it was one of the best things we could have done immediately for our son. He was so busy having fun with her, out and about all day he didn’t even notice that I was at all restricted. Another lap, another set of hands and undivided attention for him.

2. Mama Milk Access

My son hadn’t nursed in many long months but was still used to his share of milk cuddles, I knew shutting him out when baby was nursing would trigger him emotionally, causing him to act out. I always welcomed him to snuggle me while simultaneously nursing the baby, we talked about how the baby didn’t eat food and needed lots of milk to grow bigger and stronger so she could play with him and he got into a routine of coming to “kiss baby P milk” each time we nursed, he would give a quick kiss to her head or my breast and then usually run off. It’s not always easy when he climbs all over us or I am feeling touched out or the baby was fussy at the breast but over the long haul I think it was really important to welcome him into our nursing time in order to combat jealousy.


3. Only Positive Reinforcement 

This was actually a tip from one of my midwives, to only focus on and model the positive aspects of his interactions with the baby and not the negative. So very basically, instead of “don’t be rough with the baby” say and show him “we are very gentle with the baby, we touch her gently and kiss her gently” We did this with EVERYTHING and we also refrained from making things “because of the baby.” If the baby was sleeping and we needed to be quiet we didn’t say we need to be quiet because the baby is sleeping we would say we need to be quiet because we are having quiet, restful time and we can be loud and crazy as soon as we get outside or something a long those lines. I tried to ONLY mention ANYTHING about the baby in a positive manner to him. I felt like it was really important at the very beginning, that although fantastical, he did not feel the baby was affecting him. Obviously everything was going to change but if the change was gradual and organic for him rather than abrupt I knew we would all fair better.


5. Keeping it Low Key 

I was on my own with both kids for the first time when my daughter was two days away from turning 3 weeks old. I was feeling fantastic so that was a MAJOR plus, but things were obviously still very new and scary and taking a tiny almost three week old baby out of the house is not comfortable for me. My son and I rarely ever stayed home the entire day though and I knew keeping things similar to his normal routine would have the best results. For the first couple of weeks I did some of our same activities, just toned down a bit. I invited one of his friends over to play, instead of the usual 3 we have play dates with. I walked to the closest coffee shop (instead of our usual spot that is farther from home) and then the park across the street. I went to a nearby science class as our outing for the day, instead of planning anything before or after as we usually would. This helped me from feeling entirely overwhelmed and it was really nice for all of us to gradually transition back into “normal” life.



6. “Pretend Me Baby” & Snuggles

Pretty soon after the baby was born my son started asking to “tend (pretend) me baby” and would want to fake cry while I rocked him or make sucking sounds over my shirt or pretend we were driving and he was crying in his car seat. I embraced this and it gave us a good time afterwards to talk about him being a “big guy” and how he differs from the baby, etc. At four months postpartum he still likes to play this game and we always get lots of laughs out of it. Whenever he would start getting frustrated about diaper changes or wanting mama I would ask if he wanted to PRETEND he was a baby and have a pretend diaper for a moment or have a good cry, etc. it almost always works! I also try to give him as many extra snuggles and physical contact as possible, even if it doesn’t seem like he needs it. As soon as baby is sleeping in her swing I check in with him for snuggle time or cuddle and read books and we play lots of tackle and wrestling games when possible. I know that once he is depleted it is much harder to fill his cup back up so I try to be mindful of frequent mood lifting activities.


At four months postpartum there are already new challenges on our journey as a larger family (toy possession, baby’s increased need to being “put” to sleep and quiet, etc.)  but these above were all extremely helpful for surviving the fourth trimester and setting the stage for our new normal. What else have you done before or after the birth of a sibling that have helped the transition, emotionally and physically?




Sibling Preparation: During Pregnancy

Krystyna has wrote various pieces on preparing siblings for the arrival of a newborn brother or sister and even specifically preparing them for a home birth of that sibling over on Sweet Pea Births blog, but today I am going to share what exactly we did with our 2.5 year old son during pregnancy and birth in anticipation of his sister’s arrival.

We talked about the pregnancy, baby, breastfeeding, what he could expect, etc. every day in all different contexts and situations, it was a regular topic of conversation and everything was always positive. In addition to that ongoing dialouge the following was all extremely helpful in easing the transition.

1.  Big Brother Books.

We picked up all sorts of different books: I’m Going to be a Big Brother , Daniel Tiger’s The Baby is Here and Big Brother, Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee and were gifted Berenstains Bears’ New Baby and The New Baby. We read them throughout the pregnancy and he still likes reading them today (3 months post birth).

2. Watching Birth Videos.

We were planning a home birth so towards the end of the pregnancy we watched home birth videos online quite often. I searched for ones with siblings present and we talked about how this is what it would be like when baby sister arrived. We talked specifically about what labor was like and how she would come out and join us.

3. Breastfeeding: Remind, Remind & Remind Again.

We were in the process of weaning when I found out I was pregnant. My son was completely weaned very early in the pregnancy but still was interested in and asked about “milk” ALOT. I knew that breastfeeding might be a point of frustration / anger / sadness for him when the baby arrived so we talked about it early and often. We talked about how babies have mama’s milk when they arrive (and watched newborns nurse in the above mentioned birth videos), we watched animals nursing online, we talked about how little babies need mamas milk but he is big and has things like yogurt and ice cream that babies can’t have. I asked him over and over again what the baby was going to do when she got here so he could respond with “mama milk!” and over and over and over just kept the conversation going and always kept it very upbeat.

4. Big Brother, Little Sister Gift.

We talked a lot about how when little sister got here she would bring a gift for him (my parents and grandparents so generously purchased him an iPad mini! We wanted it to be something notable) and we took him around my due date to a local children’s store and let him pick out a gift for her. He picked out a little plush giraffe and a couple hours after the birth he started asking about his gift and was extremely excited to give baby her gift too! This really worked like a charm for us and definitely promoted his interest in her when she arrived I believe.

5. Recognizing & Pointing out Siblings.

As soon as we started talking about a baby joining our family we started emphasizing siblings wherever we went. We talked ALOT about his friends that had babies and what it was like for them and how exciting it was that *he* was going to get a baby too, just like them. When we would see babies at the park I would always point them out and say “a baby like your baby sister that is coming”, etc.

These are all extremely simple and were not hard to implement but for our family they really did make an impact. Our son knew exactly what to expect during and after the birth and I could not have been more pleased with the immediate transition. I feel like a large portion of the work actually came *after* she was born in order to preemptively mitigate tension and maintain peace within our day to day though. Stay tuned for those in part two, Sibling Preparation: Post Birth, coming on Thursday!

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What else did you do to prepare your older children during pregnancy? We would love to hear in the comments, cheers to siblings without rivalry!

Tuesday Tips: Sibling Preparation


This article is a part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering hosted by GrowingSlowerEvery Breath I TakeI Thought I Knew MamaAfrican Babies Don’t Cry, and Adventures of Captain Destructo. This month’s topic is Siblings. Be sure to check out all of the participants’ posts through the links at the bottom of this page.

Prompt:  Siblings
There is no relationship quite like the sibling relationship! Tell us how you prepared your family for the addition of a new baby. We’d love to hear how you foster a strong bond between your kids. Or, maybe you’d like to write about lessons learned from your own sibling relationships. Let’s talk about ways we can foster love and connection between our children this month.

Sibling preparation…this is a topic that has been coming up a lot lately…very exciting times for our students and our homebirth community!!  Thoughtful families wonder how they can best ease the transition as they add siblings.

BLOG ww spf outandabout.8Here is our brood enjoying counter-time at a local diner.

We are by no means experts.  What I have listed below are the things that have worked for our family.  Please feel free to add your suggestions and advice in the comments!


1.) We made a family birth plan using words and pictures

2.) We did family relaxation practice and labor rehearsals to help them prepare for labor and birth…

  • we talked about what a “working face” looks like – tension/pain vs. relaxation face
  • we talked about blood – ouchy blood from a cut vs. labor blood that means mommy’s body is working

3.) Point out other children who were big brothers and sister and talked about the kinds of things they were doing and the baby who was “just sleeping” or “just sitting”

4.) Depending on interval between children:
Have siblings help clean/set out the newborn items.
Use it as an opportunity to share

    • how they were so little once
    • how neat they are at their current age (point out all the things they have learned since then)
    • boundaries and expectations for their interaction with the newborn (you can hug and kiss baby while mommy is holding baby; if you want to, you can hold baby if I help you; you can help pick out clothing, diapering, bathtime, etc.)


1.) With caregivers during labor: Children had a box especially set aside of new things to play with: play-dough, coloring books and crayons, books, a little toy car or miniature dolls, disposable camera

2.) Homebirth – give the children the opportunity to participate as little or as much as they wanted to.  They could come in where we were laboring, they could walk with us, eat with me, nap – or not.

3.) First visit/immediately after:
Giving a gift to the older sibling(s) from the newborn (Note: This worked especially well for our oldest who’s love language is giving gifts)


1.) We did lots of reading/picture books that explored pregnancy and  new babies/siblings

2.) Toddlers tend to be egocentric – make it work in your favor.
You are big!  You can _____ , not the baby, (s)he is too little. (spoken in a sing-song voice for emphasis.)
– eat (their favorite food)
– run
– play
– go (special trip)
– mention things they can do by themselves

3.) Reminding them that the baby was not going to be fun like them until they were older – they would have to let the baby sleep, nurse, and grow before they were ready to play.  I phrase this in relation to a season or the siblings age.

The baby will be able to respond to you/play ___ with you
– in the (season)
– when you are (age)
– after you turn (age)

4.) Use whichever phrasing resonates with your child.  We would set the expectation for 6-9 months for responding; after the 1 year birthday for actually playing things like ball, climbing, hide and seek, etc.

5.) It will look like a lot of work/It is a lot of work for mommy because the baby is going to need lots of help/sleep/breastfeeding instead of being a big helper like you;

Children of any age:

Big Helpers
Letting the children help with newborn in age appropriate ways – picking out clothing, doing diapers with assistance, bringing mommy snacks or water.  The key here was only if they wanted to help – we never wanted them to feel like they existed to be our “go-fers”

What can they do independently?
Point out those things and let them do them.  Recognize their initiative whenever they make an attempt to do something for themselves, even if you have to help them re-do it or clean up a mess – hard to do when you are tired from caring from a newborn, I know.
What centers around them?

Do they have a favorite book/story/food/activity? Choose them! Often!

Field trips
Is there someone you trust that you they can special dates with? (other parent, grandparents, aunts/uncles)  Arrange anything from free picnic+park dates to things that cost $$, give them independent time, and as a bonus – you get alone time with your newborn!  The key again is to build them up as the big kids that are old enough to go do special things – not the baby – they’re too little.

“Let’s let the baby sleep so that we can play together.  I want to play with you!”
This reinforces the idea that the baby needs to sleep so that the older child doesn’t pinch, kiss, hug, whatever to get the crying reaction that they find so curious!  In addition, if they can be patient and quiet, the big reward is getting you all to themselves!

“I have something to tell you, so scoot over here and come closer to me.”
Changing the tone – whisper to them so that they have to be quiet to hear you.

Family bath time with mommy, baby, siblings in the tub and Daddy supervising and drying off kiddos as they came out of the tub

Sensory play
– water
– sand
– beans
– rice
– make a bin with different textures and colors
Sensory bins are a great way to engage them in exploration and busy-ness without having to do a lot on your part (other than set it up!).  You and the baby can sit with the older siblings and watch and interact while the older siblings entertain themselves with pouring, feeling, and learning.

Going out for a walk or a drive together
Fresh air and sunshine are good for everyone!


I will close with this idea from Charlotte Mason, a 19th century British educator whose works have come to light again as parents search for alternatives to cookie-cutter education

Every day, children need something to love, something to do, something to think about.

If you believe that this is a valid philosophy, then think of the ways that you can fill those needs as parents.  I feel that if we are meeting their needs, then one presumes that their cup is full and they are less likely to act out in search of attention “just because”.

What worked to ease the transition to more siblings in your family?

Read more about Sibling Preparation on our Sweet Pea Births blog

There is always Grace

Sorry I have not been very active on here this week.  We did some spring cleaning and are preparing for a very special guest and event this weekend.

So while I don’t have any ‘day in the life of” writing to share today, here is a story from a couple of week’s ago.  We are very spiritual people, although I wouldn’t say we are religious.  Whenever the opportunity comes up to share the grace of God, I feel called to share it.  Maybe someone reading it needs a reminder that there is a bigger picture and a master plan.  Maybe someone needs to know that we are loved.  We certainly felt all of those things as we reflected on the day.  Most of all, we are just continually humbled by God’s grace and mercy…we know He loves us because we see His hand in our children’s lives over and over again.

It took me some time to process the day…sometimes it’s hard to let go of the “could haves” and “what ifs” and get to the unending praise.  Here is how we found out that Otter is very reactive to scorpions, and why she will never get to walk barefoot on our patio again.  Thank goodness we have some grass for her to enjoy.

Otter’s Scorpion Story

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday morning: usually involves craziness as we get ready to go to church.  In addition to the usual crazy, we were getting ready to host a class reunion for our Fall 2012 Class later that day.  Daddy Bruss and Otter were outside, moving furniture, and getting ready to clean the coolers.  A scorpion was under one of the cooler, and Otter unwittingly stepped on it when the cooler was moved.

Daddy Bruss came in calling my name.  The fact that he was saying “Krystyna” over and over again instead of calling me Mommy tipped me off that something was wrong.  I met them in the kitchen and we put her foot over the sink to rinse it off.  We made a baking powder paste on her foot, and held her there with some ice.  She wanted to nurse, so we did that, too.

We texted our amazing chiropractor to check in with him.  He does this “thing” where he can check in with us remotely…he suggested a baking soda paste…checked off the “we did the right thing” box and thought we were going to be in the clear with this sting incident.

She calmed down – we calmed down.  Ten minutes later, we got her off the counter and we went on with getting ready.  Kids dressed, food packed, it was my turn to get in the shower…and Otter starts crying inconsolably.  She said her “peepee” hurt – I thought maybe she was feeling a little numbness from the sting.  Then along with crying she starts to spit…this was not looking like the after-effects of the other children’s scorpion stings.

We called poison control and found out that if she was spitting and her symptoms were intensifying, we should go straight the hospital emergency room.  We loaded everyone up in the car, I quickly rinsed my face, and I hope I brushed my teeth!

As we were pulling out of our community, a caravan of bikers – hundreds of them, blocked us.  They were not going to let us pass – they were exercising their right of way.  I started banging on the windows, and Bruss rolled down his window to tell them we needed to pass – we were on the way to the E/R.  They were blocking traffic for fully two miles.  They took up one whole lane, and another lane was blocked by construction barriers – not a lot of room to maneuver when you are in a rush to get to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Otter is still screaming & spitting…cue the vomiting…. and I am beside myself.  I am begging Bruss to honk the horn and roll down the windows so we can tell these people to move over.  I don’t know how we got to the hospital in one piece – it was a lot of crazy driving.

Once we finally get past the bikers and the traffic blocks, the hospital E/R entrance we are familiar with is gone!  Due to construction, everything is re-routed there, too.  We finally get to the door.  I jumped out with Otter and ran into the E/R.

I quickly tell the desk person that a scorpion stung our daughter, and that poison control sent us to the E/R.  She takes one look at Otter and puts a call in to take us straight back – and straight back we go.  Within a few minutes, we have a doctor there with three nurses and a respiratory therapist.  He tells us the course of treatment, gets our consent, and starts the process.

Somewhere in here Bruss grabs my phone and calls his sister, Cindy, to see if she can come take care of our older children so they don’t have to be in the E/R with us. She is available, and comes over to watch the kiddos.

As part of the consent, I tell them I will only consent to them trying to put an IV in Otter if they will find their best person to do it.  I tell them, “I know I sound like a crazy mother – I am telling you her veins are tricky.  They look good, but they blow the minute you put pressure on them.”  They give me their pat answer…and proceed to blow two veins in her foot that they thought “looked good”.  I contain my, “I told you so!”

Now they really believe me and call up to the pediatric unit to have someone come down.  The charge nurse arrives, and she blows one in the crook of her left arm that looked good.  One of the other nurses who has been holding her arm points out a vein up by her shoulder that looks good and strong.

Up to this point, I had been singing her Twinkle Little Star in Spanish.  I can tell the nurse is freaking out a little, and I want to pray but I don’t want to stop singing, so I start singing the Lord’s Prayer so Otter can hear my voice and I can still say a prayer. 

 The pediatric nurse is nervous about it, and the other nurses chime in and encourage her to try anyway.  “A vein is a vein,” they say, and lo and behold, it goes in.

Praise God – we have a line in and they can start the medication, known as “anti-scorp”.

Doctor is holding her shoulders and stabilizing her head, one nurse is holding her left arm, Bruss has his hand on her chest, another nurse is holding her hips and knees, I am at her right side making eye contact and talking to her, and then to my left is the respiratory tech with oxygen and the “vacuum” to keep her from choking on her saliva and vomit.  Three rounds of medication go in…the saliva production is starting to slow down.  She is still screaming bloody murder and insisting that she is done and wants to go home.

The doctor assures us that all the symptoms we are seeing are the effects of the venom: screaming, thrashing, spitting, vomiting, eyes shuddering and unable to focus.  He points out how easy it would be to believe in demon possession when you see all these symptoms exhibited at one time.

We have to keep holding her as we wait for the timer to tell us that it is time for the next round of medication…she doesn’t like the cold feeling and gets amped up again when the fourth dose is started.  That runs it’s course and her eyes settle down a little and she isn’t thrashing so much.  The vomiting has stopped, although she is still spitting a bit.

We still have to calm her as we wait for time for the fifth round.  The timer is up again, and the fifth dose is administered.  By the time the fifth round is done, her eyes are able to focus again, the saliva and spitting are under control, and she is still asking to go home now.

We were able to let her up after that fifth dose.  We asked that they tape up the IV line because it was clearly bothering her.  Good thing they did because the first thing she did once unwrapped her from the swaddle in the sheet and her arms were free: she went straight for the IV line.  My “mama quick” reactions blocked her hand and I tucked it under my left arm as I cradled her.  She was still agitated and unwilling to sit still.  We walked a couple of laps around the nurse’s station.  After a few minutes, she had settled down enough to nurse.

Thank God for nursing - once she was settled it was exactly what we both needed to connect and feed our tired girl.

Thank God for nursing – once she was settled it was exactly what we both needed to connect and feed our tired girl.

Within 5-10 minutes she was sound asleep.  I heard her breathing start to sound labored, so we asked the nurse to check her.  She called the doctor and came to listen herself.  We were assured that it was probably just the congestion in her sinuses from the fluid and the crying.  Doc came in and confirmed that.  We were kept for about an hour after the last dose for observation.

Finally sleeping peacefully after an eventful morning.

Finally sleeping peacefully after an eventful morning.

As we are waiting, I start to get texts from students.  I wonder how they found out we were in the hospital…when one spills the beans…they saw a post on Instagram and wonder if she is okay.

Instagram??  I take a look at my account.  While the kiddos were in the waiting room with my phone, Puma took a picture of she and Charger, and posted a plea for prayers for our family since Otter was in the hospital.  I was touched to the point of tears – what a blessing that our eldest daughter’s first instinct in a situation like this was to post a prayer request!

Otter woke up, they took one more listen, signed off on us going home, and took out the IV.  We left not a moment to soon.   As we were leaving, another patient who was being administered CPR was waiting to be wheeled into the room we had vacated.

We went home, where Cindy helped get the kiddos settled, took a take-out order, and went off to Rubio’s with the older three to pick up lunch.  Bruss and I got ready for class and our reunion.

I taught the early-bird class, we held the class reunion…and then it was time to regroup and reflect on the day as a family.  Somewhere in the events of the day Puma shared with me that she had been so scared; so she pulled the boys into a corner at the hospital waiting room and led them in prayer for Otter and the doctors taking care of her.  Again, from the mouth of babes: pray – call on His name for all things.

We went around the room and each of us shared:
Me: Thanked the kiddos for their amazing teamwork and behavior.  Thanked Puma for remembering to pray, Night Owl and Charger for behaving, Daddy Bruss for getting us to the hospital safely.

Puma: Aunt Cindy not being in yoga class that morning so that she could come take care of them.

Night Owl: Thankful Otter was okay now, and for our family

Charger: Was thankful for the doctors that took care of Otter

Daddy: The scientists who developed the medicine and the doctors and patients who tested it.  He also thanked the kiddos for being amazing today.

God’s hand in all this:

  • Otter was stung during the day – we “have heard” that the best staff at the hospital is the day shift.
  • She was stung by a mature scorpion that measures it’s dose of venom.  Baby scorpions give you all they’ve got since they do not know how to regulate their sting.  Given Otter’s severe reaction, I cannot even begin to imagine how much worse it could have been.
  • Finding a usable vein with only two people trying, and finding it within minutes when the second person tried to run the IV.
  • A doctor with a newborn daughter who was moved to personally provide care the whole time Otter was being administered the medicine, instead of leaving a nurse or PA to take his place.
  • Cindy was not in yoga class as she usually is on Sunday mornings and she was available to come down and help.
  • Puma, Night Owl and Charger were visited by a therapy dog in the waiting room.  Her name was Lexee, a Red Setter…looked so much like the dogs my Nana Mil used to have…hi, Nana <3…a reminder from heaven that God is always with us.

It was a scary day.  It was a day that worked God’s blessings and grace in so many ways.  As I read over the story again as we brace ourselves for another full and wonderful weekend, I am reminded of the lesson Puma taught me…just pray and receive the grace.

P.S. Big props to the E/R crew at the Chandler Regional Hospital that morning.  I love that we received care in a Catholic hospital.  IMO it never hurts to have the Holy Family on your side when you are receiving medical care.

Explaining Breastfeeding to Children

As we continue with Breastfeeding Awareness Month posts, it made sense to write about children and breastfeeding on our family blog.  Pictured above is an image from the Alpha Parent’s blog listing children’s book that show and/or talk about breastfeeding.  I think that picture pretty much sums up how older siblings feel about new babies and nursing!

So, continuing on with yesterday’s Thoughtful Thursday topic,  “Normalize Breastfeeding” over at Sweet Pea Births, how do you explain breastfeeding to children?  Here are the things that worked for us.

If you breastfed your older child(ren), it is helpful to share pictures of you breastfeeding them.  It is natural for children to feel jealous of all the time the new baby will be spending with Mommy.  Showing them how they were fed and close to you until they became more independent may help.

Side note:  My friend Rachel Davis made a photo book for her children showing their progression through pregnancy, labor, birth and their first year.  Depending on how old they are, it may help the older sibling understand that the newborn phase is not forever and that soon, they will not feel like all your time is consumed by the baby.  She does caution to be mindful of which pictures you put in there…your child will be proud of this book and show it to anyone and everyone that will read it with them.

We have also taken the time to point out all the things we will still be able to do with them while nursing the younger sibling(s):

      • we can snuggle together and read a book
      • we can sit on the floor and do a puzzle
      • we can sit next to each other and play quietly or color
      • they can let the baby fall asleep so we can get our own together time without the baby

We have found that including them in the nursing sessions helps them feel like they are still part of the “inner circle”.  We try to be mindful that although they may have weaned, they still crave our time and our touch.

I also take the time to show them the mechanics of nursing.  How does the baby latch?  How can we tell if the baby is actually feeding for nutrition, or might they be comfort nursing?  Does it hurt?  I want them to not just accept it, but to learn about how to nurse.  If they have more questions, we talk about them.

Talking to children outside your family:
I have nursed our children wherever and whenever they have been hungry.  Sometimes that is at a family gathering, at a playdate, at a park.  When I nursed with a nursing cover, children would be curious and want to know what was going on under the cover.  I would ask the parents permission first, and if it was okay with them, I’d let them look under the cover to see the baby nurse.  If parents were not okay with it, they would simply tell their children that it was not okay and to leave us alone.

Either way, I would take a second to tell the children that I was feeding our baby my milk. I made sure to say it was one of the ways to feed children, being mindful that maybe they were fed differently.  Again, if they had more questions, I would answer them.  Some questions I got:

  • How long did the baby eat?
  • When would they start eating food?
  • Did I ever give them a bottle?

Now that I nurse with a loose blouse instead of a cover, the nursing is not under or hidden.  Curiously, I get less questions about breastfeeding – isn’t that interesting?  Nothing to hide, nothing to explain.

Have you talked to children within or outside your immediate family about breastfeeding?  What did you share with them?

Want to read more about normalizing breastfeeding with the younger generation?  Try THIS piece about breastfeeding on a children’s program, published January 2012.