Hands Free Mama – Chapter 1


Typically, I’m the girl that gobbles up books taking mere days or even hours to get from cover to cover. About a month ago picked up a book called “Hands Free Mama” by Rachel Mary Stafford and though I have been reading it nearly every day, I just finished the first chapter. You may think this is because the subject matter is difficult or the writing is bad, but these couldn’t be further from the truth.

After just one chapter my outlook on life and parenting has changed. I am becoming hands free and often while I’m reading, I notice a moment that I have to grasp, put down the book and grab the moment with both hands, a sunset moment. I think Rachel would appreciate my willingness to put down the words she masterfully created to enjoy those moments. To creat memories. I’ve heard it said many times to embrace your children while they’re little, they grow so fast. This is the book that shows you how to do that.

I’ll probably write a full review when I’ve completed the book, but I just couldn’t wait to share how much it’s done for me in one single chapter. If you’d like to get a taste of the Hands Free Mama idea, please visit Rachel’s website.

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Review: All Things Hidden


When a book challenges you to think, wonder, and research, it’s a book worth sharing. “All Things Hidden” by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse is a book that had me rabidly Googling Alaska in 1935. This book, though fictional, had just enough fact to intrigue me. In addition to the intrigue, I was also touched by the story of Gwyn Hillerman and how her life is turned upside down, right side up, and upside down again.

Gwyn is a young nurse at her father’s clinic in a beautiful and very rural Alaska. She helps him care for the people in their modest village and the surrounding tribes until their modest village expands with government-sent colonists. This all happens after her mother and younger sister abandoned Gwyn and her father to rejoin their idea of proper civilization in Chicago.

Peterson and Woodhouse have an amazing way of creating beautifully multifaceted characters. I couldn’t help but love Gwyn even in her stubbornness and insecurities. She has a true beauty that far exceeds the picture on the cover of the book. When the handsome and newly eligible bachelor, Dr. Jeremiah Vaughan, travels to Alaska to help Gwny and her father with the growing population, the attraction between the two young adults is unmistakable and realistically awkward. It was a refreshing change of pace that the love story was honest and Godly, yet subtle and second to the overall storyline.

If you want a sweet, thoughtful, and intriguing book, this is the book for you. I highly recommend ordering this and reading it in your comfiest chair with a soft blanket and a hot cup of tea.

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Can Your Child Save Your Life?

911 LOGO

Back in the good ol’ days, when everyone had a landline, it was easy to teach your kids to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1. Now, in a world of endless technology, calling for help in an emergency can prove to be more challenging.


My daughters (6 and 8 years old) who both attend an iSchool, both have iPods Touches, and both use iPads daily in class, could not figure out how to call 9-1-1 on my iPhone. I was beyond shocked when I decided to test them (under the calmest of circumstances) and they fumbled through my phone before becoming frustrated and giving up.

As a single mom, it scared me to think that something could happen to me and my girls would have no idea how to call for help. As a former Park Ranger and Volunteer Firefighter, I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t even thought to go through this with my kids. Thankfully, it wasn’t too terribly hard to teach them. These are the steps I followed:

I started on the lock screen where you swipe to the right to unlock or go to the emergency screen.

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I have a passcode to keep the kids out of my phone, so they would likely have to use the emergency call function to call for help.

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I directed each one through the steps while they performed them.


When it came time to dial 9-1-1, I made sure they didn’t actually push call. I asked them repeat the steps several times over to make sure they had it.

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I then unlocked my phone and directed them through the following steps. First, get out of an app by pressing the home button and finding the phone app.

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Next find the dial pad.

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Pretend to push send. A few days later, I asked them to go through the process to make sure they still remembered.

Some additional things you can teach your child in case of an emergency:

  • Their home address and to associate that address with their actual home. Now that we have cell phones everywhere, they may have to call when they’re not at home and giving their home address to the dispatcher could cause confusion even with GPS capabilities.
  • How to describe what’s happening. Dispatchers are superheroes, they work crazy hours, deal with crazy people, and can still extrapolate a great deal of information from a frightened child. You can, however, help the situation by describing to your child what a dispatcher may say, ask, and how they need to answer as clearly and concisely as possible.
  • The basics of CPR/First Aid. This awesome article from CNN.com has some great tips. 
  • What situations dictate calling 9-1-1. Help them understand the importance of not calling when unnecessary. One way I explained it to my kids was that if the dispatchers at 9-1-1 are on the phone with you and you don’t really need them, they may not be able to help someone that really does need them. On a semi-related note, don’t ever vilify the dispatchers, police, or firefighters. I have heard parents threaten their small children with being arrested if they don’t clean their room, or that the police will take them to jail if they call 9-1-1 and don’t have a legitimate emergency. This really irritates me. Children need to know that police, firefighters, dispatchers, and other emergency personnel are there to help, not hurt, especially in emergency situations. If your child calls when they think it’s an emergency and it turns out not to be, it’s not the end of the world. Better to be safe than sorry. If they call when they know it’s not an emergency, well, let’s just say they’ll be rather embarrassed having to explain to the police/firefighters why they wasted their time.

I have heard of parents teaching their kids to call another parent, aunt/uncle, or grandparent in the event of an emergency. This could work, and though I wouldn’t discredit any parent for their methods, I would personally fear that that other parent, aunt/uncle, or grandparent may not be able to reach the phone. 9-1-1 is always there. Period. The Today Show had an interesting article where a 3 year old called “auntie” and left a message which her “auntie” received in a timely manner and was able to get help for the girl’s pregnant mother, so I’m not saying it couldn’t work, just that it’s not as reliable as 9-1-1.

My last tip, and possibly most important tip, would be to role play. Practice. Seriously, you may feel stupid, but practicing in a calm situation may help your child act in a stressful and scary situation.

I hope this helps other parents, if only to bring up a subject they may not have thought about before. If you have anything to add, I would love to hear about it in the comments!

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Review: Cecelia Jackson’s Last Chance


There are books you read once and may or may not recommend to a friend. There are books that you get half-way through and decide to cut your losses. Then every once in a while there’s a knock-your-socks-off, tell-everyone-you-know, amazing book that you have to read twice and three times because the first time you devoured it like a one year old takes on their first birthday cake. “Cecelia Jackson’s Last Chance” by Robbie Iobst is one of those devourable books.

Belinda Kite is caught up in a bad situation. A single mom in an abusive and inappropriate relationship, Belinda struggles to survive her daily life. Her daughter gets the worst of her, and though it’s heart wrenching to read, it’s honest. When Belinda receives a phone call notifying her that her estranged mentor/mother-figure has passed away, Belinda has to make a decision: return to her old stomping grounds to fulfill Cecelia’s dying wish or continue along her current path.

Donna Dougans and Maggie Shanks have the same decision before them. Long lost friends of Belinda, they have been asked to reunite after twenty-five years to recreate Cecelia’s famous tuna fish sandwiches. Though they all have their demons, grudges, and fears, they reluctantly come together in honor of Cecelia and the results are incredible.

The women in this book are relatable, friendly, funny, and genuine. Robbie has a way of drawing you into another world and holding your heart and mind hostage. Every time I read this book, I don’t want it to end. I have given it to so many of my friends as gifts and if I may go out on a limb here, I can honestly say this is one of my all-time favorite books.

An honest story of redemption, decisions, and God, this is real deal. Laugh, cry, dream, and hope with the women of Boots, Texas and when you reach the end, turn the book over and start again.

~ Thankfully Exhausted