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Being a parent means you will at some point (or at millions of them) have one of those days. If you have ever given your children directions, a task to complete, or a set of instructions for a household chore, only to return to find it untouched, you are not alone.
What happens: The backpack might make it to the front door, but it is not ready for the next day with the necessary supplies.
What went wrong: When a parent gives directions like the ones in this example, he or she knows what is included in each of these steps. All too often when we give directions we do it when our kids are distracted and we assume they understand all of the unsaid information. How to ask for effective talking back: First of all, realistically understand from what maturity and development stage your child is coming and communicate with him based on that. Older kids don’t need as limited instructions or as much help, but asking for talking back is still helpful.
By asking your kids for feedback and input, you are letting them know that their ideas and perceptions are important. Core Beliefs are the basic beliefs that make up how we see ourselves and our relationship with others and the world. A few of my personal negative ones that affect my thoughts and feelings are “I can’t handle this,” “I am not safe,” “I am not good enough.” These affect me in my daily life when I have big emotions that feel unmanageable, scary and never-ending. I learned a lot about this in training as a Social Worker and the personal therapy that I engaged in as a young adult. Jack sees me struggle to handle big emotions, become overwhelmed and tell myself that I can’t handle it. Abby Theuring, MSW has a master’s degree in Social Work and worked with abused and neglected teenagers for 14 years before her son, Jack, was born. Many of you have been following my oncology saga and have been so supportive with your comments, prayers, and thoughts, and I will be forever grateful for each and every one of you. Okay, friends, I’m freaking out just a little bit here and need lots and lots of positive and hopeful stories! Raise your hand (or, you know, click like or leave a comment ?? ) if you are like me and say stupid things when you’re nervous. Full week of hospitals and doctors and tests for these swollen lymph nodes, friends, so it’ll be a bit quiet here on FB. Heading out for more medical tests (lucky me ?? ) but just wanted to pop in and address a few comments I’ve seen recently.
So, let’s take some time today to share a bit about ourselves here in the comments, to open up and get to know and appreciate the colorful array of backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, and parenting choices represented here. Life will throw us curveballs and bad things sometimes happen, but our little ones only get one childhood and they need us to be the adults and help and guide and empathize and encourage and comfort them no matter what we’ve got going on in our lives.
For those of you following my oncology saga, my only update at the moment is that there are no updates.
I just had to delete a snide comment from the Little Hearts site, which I have to do every once in awhile. Do you have anyone in your life who just always seems to say the wrong thing at the wrong time or a family member or friend who said the wrong thing when you were hurting? I try to prepare ahead for ‘life’ as much as possible because I’m a planner by nature, but sometimes life just happens and you have to roll with it.
For those of you following my oncology saga, I’m having an MRI on Wednesday and a PET scan on Friday this week. I shared the status above yesterday, and I so appreciate the amazing support and love that you mamas and daddies poured out in the comments. I’m back in the hospital on this grey and stormy morning for some more tests as I continue my oncology saga, mamas and daddies. So I may or may not get results of my biopsy today which, of course, necessitates me being late because I had to paint my toenails.
For those of you following my oncology saga, I got the results of my biopsy today and…well, they recommended another biopsy, only this time of my lymph nodes instead of my lung. Since I’m a “difficult to diagnose case” I’ve been referred to the Oncology Department at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Many of you have asked me how I’m staying so calm and positive in the face of a rapidly approaching surgery to remove the tumor that doctors are 99.9% certain is a rare form of cancer. When I’ve spoken with a bit less patience than I normally do to my littlest, she will first ‘check with me’ to see if I’m mad at her, “Do you mad a me, mama?” (“Are you mad at me, mama?”) and I’ll say, “No, I’m sorry. My pre-med guy, Doc (now 20!), is that stalwart rock of a person that everyone needs to have in their lives.
My older children are checking in with me frequently to see what they can do to help, rearranging their work schedules to be available during and after my surgery, and pulling together to put in place a plan for my surgery, recovery, and possible treatments afterward. And, of course, my burly bear of a hubby is being his normal amazing self, offering to talk when he thinks I need to, asking what he can do to make all of this easier, taking the small ones for ice cream and to the park, and simply being the good, kind, and wonderful person that he is.
This I know, I cannot control all of the random happenings of life, but I can control my response to them. We leave for the 3 hour drive to Mayo in Jacksonville early tomorrow (Thursday, September 4th). Okay, final update (and a small anatomy lesson as a bonus ?? ) on this crazy oncology journey before my surgery, friends. My Renaissance Girl (15) already struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, severe Dyslexia, and a myriad of other issues that she handles with incredible grace and maturity for her age. My youngest son, Doc, newly graduated from university at the tender age of nineteen and working to get into med school, takes the weight of the world on his strong young shoulders. Yesterday I wrote about my disappointment in the article written by Elizabeth DeMeo, 10 Scary Books for Kids to Avoid at Bedtime. The first book in a series is usually the best, and while the first one in this series is a favorite, the rest do not disappoint. My parents read Shel Silverstein to me, and as a child in the hospital recovering from knee surgery his poems kept me smiling.
Appropriate for all ages – the rhythmic rhyming was a favorite of my babies and toddlers as these poems were like spoken songs. This whimsical story by Dr Seuss is appropriate for all ages, and my children grew up on the silly rhymes and premise of the book – there is no such month as Octember. Talk about things you wish you could do but likely wouldn’t happen until the 1st of Octember (never) – and let your imaginations run wild.
Watch the cartoon movie – which is different from the book – but a great way to compare storylines and favorite parts of each. Don’t forget to follow up Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with Pickles to Pittsburgh (by the same authors). The type of day where your child just does not seem capable of listening to anything you say. I’d be a gazillion-are if I had a fraction of a penny for every time this happened in our home.
Get the backpack ready actually means putting that artwork into the folder and adding it to the backpack. For some kids this might mean changing the directions to include something such as: “It is time to get your backpack ready for tomorrow. For my 15-year-old I can give her the same directions as those listed in the example, then follow it with, “Do you need my help getting any of that done?” Asking for her to respond to my directions makes her responsible for ensuring the outcome, but lets her know that I am available if needed, such as for signing her field trip form before putting it in her backpack. For younger kids and times when the information is detailed, repeating back will help both of you make sure you are on the same wavelength.
They can dismiss your words more easily when they aren’t looking your way, and the same goes for you.
We can get so caught up in doling out the information we think our kids need that we forget that they have ideas, concerns, and even basic ramblings.
It is also a lifelong skill that they will need in academics and their future careers and relationships. She is also on an incredible journey as she home schools her 4 children, and is supported through it all by her husband of more than 15 years, Steve. The earlier we intervene in our negative thinking (that is ultimately a result of our Core Beliefs) the easier and quicker we can ward off intense negative feelings. He will learn to react this way to big emotions if I myself don’t routinely work to manage my own. Upon the birth of her son she quit her job and refocused her passion for advocacy to breastfeeding and gentle parenting.
I have a little one on breathing treatments, too, so positive thoughts and prayers for my family are much appreciated this week! For instance, my super mellow non-tantrum-prone littlest had a major meltdown after I got home from my doctor appointment today. Anyone want to help keep my mind off of things by sharing something cute or sweet or funny your little one’s done lately?
I have several more tests coming up to investigate the two small lumps next to my spine and several small, swollen lymph nodes in my neck, under my arm, and in my leg. It doesn’t really bother me when people have a differing opinion as long as they express it politely, but that is rarely the case. The good news is that the swollen lymph nodes didn’t show signs of malignancy, so they are just reacting to something else going on.

I’m not walking wounded, blaming my childhood traumas and anything and everything else I can for my adult mistakes and issues. I’ll be radioactive after my PET scan for a few hours and have to stay away from my littlest, which neither of us will enjoy particularly, but my older children will keep her occupied. Some of you have asked why I’m willing to share such a scary and difficult time in my life with you, and I wanted to share my thoughts about that before I go in for my next test.
The node is in the center of my chest at the back and bottom of my right lung, so it’s pretty difficult to access. Clearly, you have to have pretty, pink toenails if you’re facing a possible cancer diagnosis, lol. Not entirely unexpected since they couldn’t get to the lung node with the hollow core biopsy and had to settle for a fine needle biopsy which has only a 50% accuracy rate. My two littlest have been increasingly clingy and cranky recently as my surgery date approaches and, while some believe that preparing children for a separation involves getting them used to separation by leaving them for increasing periods of time, I’m taking the opposite approach. The simple answer is, “I’m not, at least not entirely.” There are times I feel overwhelmed and stressed and can’t help thinking about the ‘what-ifs’ and times I worry desperately about my children’s futures.
She’s clingy right now, having a bit of trouble sleeping, asking a lot of questions, and using the word ‘cancer’ frequently (causes a minor shock to run through me every time, but I’m getting used to it…I guess) because that’s how she processes things, chipping away at them and examining them and familiarizing herself with them. When I’m getting overwhelmed she will often simply feel it without me saying or doing anything, and she’ll quietly ask if I need her to take the smaller ones for a bit so I can have a break. He’s preparing for his MCAT’s, working on his medical school application, taking classes to get certified as an EMT so he can work his way through med school, and is working his schedule around helping out with the girls and has arranged time off to go with us when we move temporarily to Jacksonville for my surgery and recovery. My pre-op is scheduled for that afternoon and my surgery for the following morning on the 5th. She NEEDS her mama to gently guide her to a happy, healthy balance between her heart and her indomitable spirit.
But she NEEDS her mama to continue to support and encourage her and protect her as she grows. He NEEDS his mama to remind him to live and laugh and love because life is not all work and responsibility.
It is time for me to put my money where my mouth is and describe my list of 5 books that I have loved to read with my kids – and why they may become your favorites, too.
The chapters are short, there are minimal pictures (which gives them exercise for the brain), and the setting is decades ago in America. The classic poems are funny, touching, whimsical, and sometimes on the edge of appropriate (which is probably why kids love them so!). Now that the kids are older, if they ask for something or want to know when something will happen, we often joke that is will be on the 1st of Octember, as the story pokes fun at a day and month that doesn’t exist. Write down the 12 correct months of the year on 24 notecards (2 of each), and then write down Octember on the 25th one. Your list might be go back to 3rd grade, become an international spy stationed at the International House of Pancakes, etc. The idea is that doughnuts are alive and one particular doughnut named Arnie isn’t so sure he wants to be eaten. Make a list with your kids of all the things Arnie could do as a doughnut instead of being eaten (Arnie comes up with a partial list in the book). The town of Chewandswallow is a fantastical place where weather in the form of food supplies rains down on the town – first in wonderful supplies, then in stormy seas on gravy and ginormous pancakes. Believe it or not, you might actually be able to get your kids to listen by teaching them to talk back.
Then I learned through the eyes, or ears, of my son who is being tested for auditory processing disorder, how important it is to ask for parents to ask for feedback. It also means make sure you have a snack packed for the fieldtrip and there is a needed pack of travel tissues added to the front. If we take an extra minute to ask for our kids to talk back, we will save ourselves and our kids the time and frustrated pain of retracing steps. Do you know what you need to include in your folder?” Asking for feedback helps your child to take responsibility, and it also gives them the opportunity to verbalize their understanding of the instructions.
It closes the conversation at letting them know what you have to say is more important than their questions or their responses. Ask them open-ended questions and get them to take the leadership role in the conversation. Our words make sense in our own minds, but by giving our kids the opportunity to talk back, we make sure that they understand our words as we intended them.
Abby struggled to get started with breastfeeding and now hopes to empower mothers through blogging and public speaking to breastfeed, breastfeed in public and practice gentle parenting. I have some lymph nodes that have been swollen for way too long and now I have a small lump under my arm and some numbness and tingling in that arm (makes typing interesting!) and some other minor stuff going on. I feel healthy and look and feel perfectly normal, but knowing that something ominous may be going on in my body makes me feel a bit like a deer in the headlights. It is those unexpected moments that make life beautiful and mundane and exhilarating and painful and unutterably, exquisitely rich…moments all wrapped up in small, timeless vignettes of shared tears and laughter and hugs and arguments and hopes and failures. Some of the testing has caused adverse reactions, and I pretty much feel like I’ve been hit by a truck most days, lol. They actually talked about removing a portion of my lung (yikes!), but they are going to try to put me into a cat scan machine to guide the hollow core biopsy thing between my ribs and see if they can get it to the right area of my lung. All of the support and prayers and encouragement you have given me through this has been absolutely priceless. I had an adverse reaction to the meds and also ended up with a probable minor pneumothorax (a small pocket of air trapped outside of my lung) which makes it very difficult and painful to breathe.
They are the strengths that make navigating this world and changing it for the better possible. This thing has taken so many turns that I want to wait until I get an official diagnosis before sharing it with everyone. I’m spending time with them in the places and with the people that will be caring for them so they will be comfortable with those people and places. Those are the times that I gently ‘parent’ myself and I find my children gently ‘parenting’ me. She is alternately acting out her own stress and worries (and we’re working together through those feelings and behaviors) and stepping up to help in any way she can. She’s also been making dinner on a regular basis, which, as you’ll know if you’ve followed Little Hearts for any length of time, is a HUGE blessing for me. The girls are used to being with him at home, so this is greatly easing my mind about how they’ll handle me being in the hospital for several days.
I offer to turn on or off the fan, offer drinks and food, but nothing satisfies and her clinging and crying intensify. As the eternal teacher and homeschooler, I’ve included some lesson plan ideas, activities, and extensions to help make these books come alive for you and your kids (which is why my list is just 5 this time around). Look for titles such as Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and The Giving Tree – but any of his collections will become your favorite.
The illustrations and side comments throughout the pictures are what make this storybook a treasure.
Visit your local television station for a tour and see if you can check out the “green screen” – our kids got to sit in on the newscast as well. My husband sometimes takes the boys and has guy reading time, and my daughter and I will snuggle for a good read – sometimes taking turns.
Getting ready for bed includes donning pajamas, brushing teeth, putting the dinosaurs away where they belong, and feeding the pets.
For some kids, it is important to leave this portion of the conversation as is, without giving the unrelated instruction for getting ready for bed. Speaking and listening with intention is one of the most valuable gifts we can give our kids. It wasn’t until recently that it hit me that now that I am a mother this concept is far more important than I could have ever imagined. I was always looking at this as the adult who had many years ago developed my Core Beliefs from my parents. When he is having his own big emotions I try to tell him everything will be OK, that he is safe, that mama is here. I came into gentle parenting through breastfeeding struggles that led me to Attachment Parenting that led me to a broader sense of parenting gently. Chances are it’s just a stubborn low level infection, but when people start running tests for scary stuff, things start getting really real. As the benign causes get eliminated one by one, the chances of finding something like lymphoma increase exponentially. I remember feeling like I’d suddenly been punched in the stomach by someone I trusted just when I needed support and understanding the most. It’s hard to treasure those moments in the moment, I know, when the tears seem to outnumber the giggles and the pain seems to outweigh the joy and the hopes seem to be crushed by the failures, but as the years go by and these present moments become part of the past, they soften and mellow and one day we suddenly discover that the things we were so desperate to leave behind are the very things we hold onto as our most precious memories. We all have good times and bad times and hopes and fears and successes and failures and joys and traumas and triumphs and tragedies in our lives. Now my middle two are playing with my two smallest and keeping them away from me per the oncology dr’s instructions.
I’m a bit better today, though, and hopefully will have the results from pathology sometime next week.

BUT the biopsy did indicate some findings that are highly suspicious for lymphoma, which is actually what they’ve been suspicious of from the beginning. My mother (who astounds me to this day with her ability to remain strong and kind and good despite what my biological father put us through) eventually remarried, and my wonderful new stepfather adopted me when I was sixteen. My eight-year-old, Funny Face, is also already showing some anxiety, and I’ve been working with her to help her process her feelings and fears. And I’m filling their buckets with my time and my presence and my patience and with laughter and cuddles and sweet memories that we are building together. When I’m lying awake, too stressed to sleep, I tell myself, “It’s okay to be scared and overwhelmed.
I will not only live through cancer…I will continue to live and love and enjoy my life and my family and my work throughout this cancer journey. It consists of nerve cells and endocrine cells and exists to regulate all of the functions of the other body organs and systems.
It took our family several times of reading through to pick up on all of the jokes, silly sidebars, and extra story lines.
I try to have as little of the back-talking as possible in my house of 4 kids, but do try to encourage as much talking back as possible. Wait until the first task is completed and then give the instructions for getting ready for bed with something like, “It is time to get ready for bed. Because I tell myself that I can’t handle it the feeling increases and I feel even more out of control.
No, this won’t fix everything, but it’s my effort to give Jack what might have been missing when I developed my personal Core Beliefs. Just ruined!”), I breathed through my initial stress reaction and took a few moments to listen and observe so I could respond intentionally and compassionately to the need she was expressing instead of just reacting to the behavior itself. That was unbelievably hurtful, honestly, but I realized something then and at other times when the wrong words were said at the wrong times that has helped me to respond to the heart of the person rather than to their words. It’s not their choice to fill their little lungs with a carcinogen, but they may be the ones who have to face the consequences of your choices one day. But instead of responding defensively and reactively to the person, I breathed through those negative feelings instead of acting on them and simply waited for the internal storm to pass.
We all have to live and work and be good citizens and spouses and friends and parents and just good people, even in the midst of crisis.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to pray and send me positive thoughts and encouragement. On a very practical level, though, I’m looking for ways to help my oldest children cope with the two littlest who will undoubtedly be stressed and probably exhibiting stress behaviors such as difficulty sleeping and unwillingness to cooperate.
Those feelings are normal,” and then I try to identify specifically what it is I’m stressed about at that moment and come up with at least one solution, one proactive thing I can do, to address the issue. But, I’m using the gentle coping strategies that I normally employ with my children, and I’ve got my incredible family support system, and I have all of your wonderful and supportive thoughts and prayers to help me through. Talking back involves a process of teaching your child to verbalize what he heard, which can be sometimes vastly different from what was said. What do you need to do in order to be ready for a bedtime story?” Again, this helps build responsibility and you will know whether or not your child fully understands everything that is expected. Because they are so long in the making and so deeply ingrained, they are inflexible and rigid. Every single one of us has a list of positive and negative Core Beliefs that affect how we react to situations. I prefer homeopathic remedies and don’t even take over-the-counter medicines, so just going to the doctor makes me uncomfortable.
I’m having to focus copious amounts of self-control and intentional gentle thoughts to stay a peaceful mama at the moment, but the positive side is that practicing peace intentionally toward others has a rebound effect of peace from others that is incredibly healing and lovely. I realized that every person’s belief system is a collection of deeply held hopes that are based on their own unique life experiences, and when they share words of comfort and advice it is really their hope that they are offering.
It’s just not possible to see the beauty and the strength and the wonder of our daily lives without the clarity of hindsight. That’s just part of the human experience, and I believe that all of our human experiences have value, even the hard ones. Then I’m headed up to Mayo with all of my scans and labs and results so they can evaluate everything and possibly do another biopsy, this time on my lymph nodes. This diagnostic process seems endless, but I think I’m getting to the stage where the process feels like a safer place to stay than actually getting a diagnosis. My amazing hubby and I have struggled through multiple lay-offs, injuries, sicknesses, and the loss of thirteen babies, including a set of triplets I lost at three months pregnant and our sweet son, Sammy, who we lost at birth. Here is the Bucket List for a Happy Childhood that I wrote awhile back with some of the things that we do on a regular basis along with some we’re revisiting to make new memories these days.
The doctors at Mayo won’t know if or how far the cancer has spread until they get me into the operating room. Talking back is one of the most effective ways I have found to ensure that my kids are listening, and it has taught them to be better listeners, something we can all probably use a bit more of in our homes. It hurts to know that Jack will take all of this in and live his life with negativity passed down from me.
Bed-sharing, breastfeeding, babywearing and so forth are wonderful concrete concepts to introduce parents to that they can fully understand and participate in if they choose.
I stayed close and told her that I was here and I heard her and asked how I could help her. My energy is focused on helping my children process all of this in age-appropriate ways and my sweet hubby’s energy is focused on supporting me and helping out wherever and whenever he can. For the record, though, I have six children from young adults all the way down to a preschooler, two of whom are strong-willed, three with sensory issues, two with ADD, and one with a significant learning disability.
While I may not agree with their belief system, I can appreciate their heart and respond to their intention rather than their articulation with a simple smile and a hug. But do hold onto the knowledge that these days will pass and one day you will look back and be so proud of yourself for your successes and forgiving of your failures, and try to remember that all the hard moments and small triumphs and tired tears and warm hugs and little frustrations and big belly laughs will be the most beautiful memories imaginable when tiny, pattering feet grow into the footsteps that will take your children out into the world to create a lifetime of memories of their own. I don’t know what private pain fueled their reaction, but I do know that it is hurting people who hurt people, and so I can give this hurting person grace and compassion. We can learn and grow and develop empathy and compassion through our experiences if we don’t allow ourselves to be hardened and embittered by them. I guess you never really do, but you think you have forever and there’s so much confidence and comfort in that thought. They plan to collapse my lung (o_O), take out the portion with the tumor, and then look for any evidence that the cancer has advanced beyond the tumor. But it is true, it happens to all of us, and I want to remember this so that I can continue to do the work to understand myself, make changes and challenge my negative thinking when it arises.
At first she got angrier and tried to hit me, so I gently stopped her and told her that it was okay to be upset, but not okay to hit me, and I asked her if she needed something like a pillow to hit or kick or if she needed a calm-me-jar to shake. And then I can let the words themselves fade away and focus on the loving heart that prompted the person to reach out.
And we can exponentially expand the value of our experiences if we share them instead of isolate ourselves with them.
Of our six, we have some with asthma, a couple with heart issues related to their prematurity, three with sensory issues (one with full-blown SPD, severe dyslexia, ADD, visual and auditory processing issues, and other learning disabilities), and two of our children are gifted with wills of steel. So just trying our best to recognize when our thoughts are leading to negative emotions and intervening as soon as possible is what counts. Being close to my baby, being fully present for my baby and focusing on positive attachment depend on something much bigger. Thank you to everyone who has left comments and sent me messages and emails expressing your care and concern. Sharing the hard things in my life like the devastating loss of my son, Sammy, makes those hard things a little less hard, a little more bearable, because knowing that someone else finds comfort and healing in my words is deeply comforting and healing for me. My oldest son has been through two spinal surgeries in the last couple of years, and, in the last year alone, my hubby was injured in a terrible mower accident that kept him out of work for almost three months and then a few months later was out of work again after a foot injury, and, to top it all off, I have been going through months of diagnostic testing for suspected lymphoma. And sharing this scary oncology saga with you as I go through it makes it just a bit less scary because I know how life-enriching it is seeing someone go through a difficult time and watching how they process it and learning that sharing the good things in life, the necessary things like kindness and hope and compassion, doesn’t just stop when bad things happen.
I can bed-share until the cows come home, but unless I focus on being aware of myself and what I am passing down to Jack I am not really present in our relationship.
Having ideals simply means that I work for what I believe, and when I fail (and I do) that I keep working and trying again and again until I get it right. When it is shared in a less-than-expertly-wrapped package, we have the choice to discard the wrapping and accept the beautiful gift of hope. Giving those good things to my children, to my husband, to my family, to my friends, both in real life and virtually, becomes even more necessary, more precious, a gift that I can continue to give even though I am scared and stressed and feeling overwhelmed. We were able to reconnect through play and go on with our day peacefully, but more importantly she was able to work through some big emotions she was feeling and had no idea how to express. We are all connected in the deepest of human experiences, and I find such joy and comfort in knowing that this global community of gentle, loving parents is on this journey with me, whatever may come.

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