Category Archives: Family

Everything I’ve learned (and am still learning) about marriage and motherhood.

Five ways to prepare your child for a new sibling

28th September 2014

Bringing a baby into the world is, without a doubt, the most unique, exciting and overwhelming experience that Matt and I have been fortunate to have.  And we have done it twice! 

When the time came to welcome our second son, Owen, into the family, we had to consider how it would affect Liam and how we would attempt to prepare him for the massive change that was about to rock his world.

Liam would be three years old by the time Owen arrived. This is some of what we found to be helpful but each child is different. No one knows their kids better than you so, remember to communicate with them about their feelings and give them space and freedom to handle the situation in their own way. Don’t get discouraged if you do a million things to get them excited and they show zero interest. As my friend, Laura Rugh reminded me, it’s normal!

If your babies will be closer in age, check out these tips from Laura herself. She is a talented designer and amazing mom who has been a wonderful support for me in this transition. 

By now, you may or may not have assembled some version of a baby book featuring your first child.  Retrieve a handful of copies of those photos and some of the keepsakes and spend some time with your #1, looking through them, explaining the birth experience and working together to make a new  baby book.  It does not need to be elaborate or fancy.  This will not only make your child feel incredibly special and loved, but it will also be a great visual “sneak peek” at what newborns are all about.
Liam loved looking at baby pictures of himself!

Liam loved looking at baby pictures of himself as a baby!

Check at local hospital, OBGYN, or pediatrician’s office to find out if they offer any sibling classes.  We took Liam to one about 4 weeks prior to our due date and it was AWESOME. They showed them goofy videos, and fed them snacks.  It even included a tour of the maternity wing and nursery where they got to see a real live newborn through the window! At the end, they all got to take home a goodie bag that included a swaddling blanket, newborn hairbrush, hat, newborn diaper and a certificate. If you don’t have access to a sibling class, make the goodie bag at home and make a game out of it. Take one of your child’s favorite dolls or stuffed animals and “practice” swaddling, changing a diaper, and holding a baby.  It’s a fun way to get them involved in the process and a great refresher on the basics for you too!
Proud Liam after changing his first diaper!

Proud Liam after changing his first diaper!

We all know how important it is to wash our hands before we hold a brand new baby.  We also know it can be awkward to constantly be asking people to sanitize or wash their hands every time they walk into your house or hospital room. Cue the big brother or sister.  Make it their job to remind visitors to please wash their hands before touching the baby.  It will be one of the few times they get to tell grown-ups what to do and it actually takes some of the pressure off of you and your partner.  Let them know what an important job it is to keep germs away from the baby and it will indirectly help your child remember to wash their own hands without you having to call them out on it all the time… hopefully.
There is a lot of thought that goes into what to bring to the hospital for us moms but this could also be a great opportunity to include your child in the busy preparations. Grab a kid sized duffel bag or back pack and load it up with some practical items to keep your child busy during those inevitable waiting periods at the hospital. Packing a bag can make it feel like a real adventure! Here’s what we packed in Liams hospital bag.
– change of clothes
– new coloring book he had not seen before
– crayons
– small thomas the train puzzle
– memory game
– stuffed toy of his choosing
– packet of gummy snacks
Just because you have a constant reminder that you are going to have a baby, doesn’t mean your child should. During this transition, make sure you show plenty of interest in your child and try to stay tuned into his or her emotions. Kids can be subtle in the way they communicate their feelings but you’ll know something’s up when you see it. Help them identify feelings and let them know it’s always okay to talk about them, no matter what they are.

Going from one to two children is a big transition but I’ve learned that kids are extremely adaptive to change, even if it’s hard at first so be patient and take it one day at a time. Give yourself permission to hand your child the iPad while you take a little nap or let them stay up past their bedtime every now and then so they can “read” to the baby. Be flexible and they will follow your lead. You’ll be missing sweet moments like these before you know it.

Showering his brother with love. Photo by Mariel Leonard Garza.

Showering his brother with love. Photo by Mariel Leonard Garza.

Congratulations and best of luck!

Please share your wisdom about this special challenge and let us know what worked for you!

Four MORE ways to prepare a young child for a new sibling

28th September 2014

I shared my own experience of preparing Liam for the arrival of our second child, Owen in this post. However, if your children will be closer than three years apart, the following tips may be more helpful. My good friend, Laura Rugh has graciously shared her mommy wisdom on this crazy transition. Thanks Laura! 

1. Having a gift from new baby to give to big sister or brother.

Our pediatrician recommended this and it was a sweet moment in the hospital when the girls first met. Our daughter still refers to the bunny as her sister’s gift to her. It helped her to feel special and was a “peace offering” of sorts from the new baby.

2. Keep the routine the same for first child as much as possible.

Keep the school drop-off, naps and meal times as close to normal as you can. Throw in some special “dates” alone with Mommy  and/or Daddy to get frozen yogurt or whatever gets them excited. Bedtime routines are particularly important to maintain in the first few months with a new baby in the house.

3. Let go of high expectations that your child will love his or her new sibling.

Honestly, she or he may completely ignore the new baby for a while and even act distant toward you. Try not to take it personal and to let them have their space to adjust in her own way. Never pressure them to help if they don’t want to and give them some space until they feel more comfortable participating.

4. Don’t be surprised if your oldest child regresses.

You could experience trouble with potty training or your child may all of a sudden act like a baby (ie. put a pacifier in their mouth). This is totally normal and again just a way that they are learning how to deal with a new sibling and baby around. It’s also a way that they are seeking attention since new baby seems to get a lot of it, especially at first! Be patient and give lots of grace to your first child since it is a major transition. They will come around! (Here is where the special “date nights” helped!).

If you could only see what went on behind the scenes during this photo session. Slightly less than idyllic.

If you could only see what went on behind the scenes during this photo session. Slightly less than idyllic. Photo by Mariel Leonard Garza.

The Peacock and the Goat

23rd September 2014

In Austin, the weather has been gradually improving from extremely hot and dry to moderately warm and humid so the first overcast day we had free, we headed to the Austin Zoo.

Where peacocks and goats get together and chat.

Where peacocks and goats get together and chat.

If you’ve never been there, please go and if you can become a member, do. It’s actually a wildlife sanctuary, which I’m all for because all of the animals are rescued and rehabilitated, some, from horrific circumstances. Like the three-legged wolf who was found chained to a trailer and had to have his leg removed because of the extensive infection and damage from the chain. Really… this stuff happens ALL. THE. TIME. Thankfully, the good people of the Austin Zoo work from a true calling to help animals and more importantly, to educate people about wildlife so you can feel great about your time there. (Bonus tip for parents of small children: They have a large collection of strollers that you can just pick up and borrow for free while you’re there so you don’t have to bring your own.)

Liam's favorite, the tortoises.

Liam’s favorite, the tortoises.

It’s not a huge place so a couple of hours is about all it takes to get through the whole thing. Must sees are, of course, the lions, tigers, bears, wolves and goats. I really love goats. Is that weird? For a long time, Liam was nervous about feeding them but this time he went for it and loved it! My work is complete.

These two became fast friends.

These two became fast friends.


There you have it! If you live in or are visiting Austin, this makes a great half-day trip. As an animal lover, this is a special and important place where I get to teach my kids about  our responsibility to respect and protect wildlife and have fun doing it.


Share your Austin Zoo favorites with us!

Why Happy Handful?

21st September 2014

Back in 2012 when my handful was all Liam.

Back in 2012 when my handful was all Liam.

The idea for this blog began as a bit of an accident.  Like so many parents out there, I often find myself going through a store with my arms full of more items than any one person should ever have to carry.  Picture a car seat (with baby), overflowing diaper bag, caffeinated beverage, the hand of a little boy and perhaps a grocery bag or two.  I assure the check-out clerk that I don’t need help out to my car and waddle myself out the door.  Inevitably, someone will step out of the way to let me through or  observe me passing by and call out some version of “Wow! You’ve got your hands full!”  Maybe I bump into someone I haven’t seen in a while and they’ll look at me and say “Well, I don’t have to ask what you’ve been up to. You have quite a handful!”  It’s a frequent occurrence and mostly I don’t think much of it.  I know plenty of people who juggle way more.

One day, however, a lady remarked on my “handful” with a particularly pitying look on her face and in the most organic and unexpected way, I smiled at her and replied, “Yes, it’s a happy handful.”  She was very surprised at my reaction and it seemed to change her perspective, at least in that brief moment.  I began to think about my little handful and how, at times, I am not connected to that feeling of happiness that they represent.  I spend my share of time complaining about the challenges of raising two little boys and keeping the house in decent shape, spending time with my husband, friends and myself, which usually comes last.  I find myself thinking ahead to less stressful times when the kids are in school and I have more time for everything I don’t have time for now and even wishing away the more dependent phases of their development. This is usually followed by guilt and some reminding of how wonderful and amazing everyone in my life is. Deep breaths… and I move on.

I decided to do something a little different.  What if I spent some time sharing things that inspire me to enjoy life with others?  What if I could stop waiting for that “less busy” time and find more happiness in the life I live TODAY?  What if I could create a community that sparked creativity, motivated people and provided solutions for common challenges?  A place where you go to lighten your load while you enjoy your morning coffee or a glass of wine after a long day.  Thus, Happy Handful was created.  Everything in it is designed to do just that.  It’s for everyone and anyone who has a lot on their plate and wants to enjoy it a little more and wish it away a little less.  A small idea growing and evolving out of a desire to connect people.

Happy Handful. The perfect companion for your morning (or afternoon) jo.

Happy Handful. The perfect companion for your morning (or anytime) joe.

So, come often, leave comments, and share it with your friends and family.  Let’s bring the village back one happy handful at a time.