My Secret to Being Dr. Mom

“Do I have to go to school, mom?” she whispered as I handed her clothes. She slowly crept down the steps of the bunk bed as she coughed and swooned, trying hard to look extra puny. “My throat just hurts soooo bad!”

“Let me see.” I pulled out my phone and shone the flashlight down my 8-year-old’s throat. Yep, tonsils were swollen all right, but they weren’t red or goopy. “It’s just a cold, hon. Come on, get your boots.”

As she trudged through the house getting ready, she played the pitiful card on both her father and grandmother, who also got an up-close and personal encounter with her tonsils. My mom said, “Are you sure you didn’t see pus?” My husband, “This has been going on for a few days. Maybe she should go to the doctor.”

Maybe they were right, I thought. I’d hate for her to suffer while her mean ol’ mama ignores her. What if it’s strep? What if she gets rheumatic fever? What if the world ends? What if Toby dies on This Is Us?! Oh no wait, that’s another problem. Anyway…

Reluctantly I called the pediatrician and got her the earliest appointment. Somehow Princess started moving a little more quickly when she knew she was going to the doctor instead of school… My husband took her in, because as much as I wanted to be right, I didn’t want to face Dr. James if I was. He knows I know this. I learned it from him.

Half an hour later my phone rang. “Well,” my husband started, “I’m taking her on to school now… You were right. It’s just a cold.”

I wanted to gloat, but it’s hard to get excited when I just blew $40 for a doctor to tell me I wasted $40. Well, it’s hard, but not impossible. “I knew it!” I quipped. “You know how I knew it? HELPMOMMY.COM.”


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We have been taking our children to Dr. Cliff James since we first became parents in 2008, and it’s easy for me to brag he’s the greatest pediatrician on the planet. For almost 9 years, he has not only been treating my children, he has been teaching me how to up my momming game by taking care of things at home and saving our family money by avoiding unnecessary trips to his office. When my friends’ kids are sick, they call me for advice. This is not because I’m some sort of professional, but they know I have an awesome doctor who has taught me a ton of great skills. It’s immeasurably easier to stay calm in a stressful situation when you know what to look for, how to treat it, and when you need to get backup from a pro. That’s the #1 perk of having the best pediatrician in the world.

But not everyone can send their kids to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to visit his practice. Thankfully, in 2015 Dr. James rounded up some of the best and most common advice he’s been giving parents like me for nearly 2 decades and gave us A First Time Parent’s Survival Guide: A How-to Manual for the First Two YearsI have been giving this book as gifts to my first-time parent friends, but the obvious question is, what about after 2 years? Yes, even after 9 years of learning from Dr. James, some parents (obviously I’m talking about my husband and not me *eye roll*) still need some tips on recognizing the difference between a horrible, deadly (Toby?!?!), bacterial infection needing antibiotics and simple viral inflammation that can only be treated with a little TLC.

Enter helpmommy.com. This collection of videos goes through all manner of issues, illnesses, conditions, and questions you want to ask your pediatrician. From “The Common Cold and When to See a Doctor” to asthma to infant toothbrushing to evaluating your child’s poop, and so much more. With nearly 150 videos already posted and new episodes released almost weekly, this website will soon become your one-stop shop for child healthcare answers.

My Favorite Features:

Organization – Videos are searchable, so if you’re looking for info on strep, or your baby has a rash and you want to explore possible causes, just pop that into the search bar, and you can pull up all the relevant videos to help you find what you need. Videos can also be sorted by seasonal appropriateness (swim safety and bug spray in the summer, croup and RSV in the winter, seasonal allergies in the spring; you get the idea), child’s age, or major categories like illnesses, injuries, or vaccines. It’s easy to find the information you need with the user-friendly organization.

Quick Tips – Most of the videos on helpmommy.com are about 3-5 minutes long, but sometimes you don’t really need that much info, you just need… a quick tip. There are only a few of these on the page for now, but as the site grows, so will this section, which makes it faster and more convenient for you to get answers to your common healthcare questions.

Prenatal section – This small collection of videos is specifically designed for parents who have not yet had their babies. There is so much that happens in the hours before and after baby is born, it’s hard to keep up and think through everything that’s going on if you’re not already prepared. This section is great for explaining what to expect at the hospital, how to read an APGAR score, knowing what decisions you need to make before baby arrives, and one great video reviewing all that stuff the pediatrician tells you in the hospital but you immediately forget upon coming home with the baby. There is nothing more overwhelming that the feeling you get leaving the hospital with your first baby and realizing, Oh crap, I have to actually do this now!! Helpmommy.com is there to make you feel a little more confident and less stressed as you make that transition.

Hacks – You know every time you’re riding in the van with a movie playing and you think to yourself, how did my parents survive without this?! As a matter of fact, there are tons of tips and tricks out there – better known as “hacks” – to make your life a little easier. Whether it’s how to remove toddler “art” from your wall or keeping the thermometer clean in between uses, we can all use these little tips just to make life a little simpler and more sane. HelpMommy.com has a whole section devoted to sharing their own tried-and-true parenting hacks.

Grandmama – We’ve all heard old wives’ tales and antiquated advice about medicine and childrearing, and some things are more “out there” than others. Dr. James’ hilarious Physician’s Assistant, Mel, takes on the role of Grandmama to explain some wacky advice that’s floating around out there, and Dr. James comes in to give you some real, medical facts. Some pregnancy- and newborn-related videos also feature helpful explanations from OB-GYN Dr. Rosalind Cadigan – whose husband and practice partner just happened to deliver all of my children! If nothing else, the Grandmama are just funny and fun to watch, and honestly super strange when you think that Mel’s own grandmama has said many of these things to him…

Subscriptions to helpmommy.com are either monthly or yearly, but you save 25% by going ahead and paying for the whole year at once. Either way, I guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth! If you’re like me, paying almost $40 in coinsurance for every doctor visit, to save myself even one visit using the knowledge I learned on the site has already paid for almost the entire year of the service. Plus, each subscription comes with a referral code, so anyone who signs up using your code will earn you cash back just for helping out! My referral code is 2C4670291 if you want to give me a shout out, but really, I just want you to have access to a great service that will keep on giving to your family. Dr. James has a very successful private medical practice; I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t need the money for this. He just genuinely loves kids, and as a father to 3 boys himself, he wants to make parenting a little easier for all of us out there. And as a mama of 4, I want the same thing.

Check out helpmommy.com and see for yourself. There’s a 7 day free trial, so you can test it out and make sure it’s something you’ll use; I can promise you will!

 

**Full disclosure: helpmommy.com provided a complimentary membership in order for me to accurately write this review.

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My Favorite Christmas Tradition

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The following post originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of the Church of God Evangel in a segment called “Viewpoints.” The prompt was to talk about a Christmas experience that has made a lasting impact on my life. For the sake of clarity and consistency, below is the edited version as it appears in the original publication.


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:1, 4-5, NIV

I love the way John tells the Christmas story. Sure, it’s missing the angels and shepherds and star, but John’s version gives us so much more, in a way.

The miraculous birth of Christ is an amazing story, but what is even more amazing is that it began long before that night in Bethlehem. It began long before the angel visited Mary, before Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist, even before Adam and Eve.

“In the beginning,” John tells us, before anything else existed, there was Light. Not the physical kind that was created on the first day, but a metaphysical kind, “the light of all mankind,” which allows us to see not just what is in front of us, but to see God himself.

In the beginning, God had a plan to reveal himself to humanity through the Light. On that first Christmas, the Light entered our darkness in the form of a baby boy. As The Message puts it, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (v.14). Christ came to us, waded deep into our mess, and brought us hope we never could have found on our own. That’s what Christmas is to me – light and hope where there was none before.

That’s also my favorite way to celebrate Christmas: bringing light and hope where there was none before. This year I will share my fifth Christmas reaching out to women in the adult entertainment industry. It’s not the only time I visit them; my friends and I take gifts and treats on every major holiday and several times in between, sharing love and friendship with those often hurt or ignored by the church.

I believe if Jesus were walking around our “neighborhood” in 2016, he would be leading the way through those doors to reach the people who don’t feel wanted, worthy, or good enough to approach him.

When I think about the darkness in our world, there aren’t many things that come to mind so quickly as the sex industry. Every day across the globe, millions of women, men, and children are sold for sex or adult entertainment, either by a pimp, trafficker, or – like many of my friends – by their own choice. The spiritual darkness is even darker than the literal dimness of the clubs I walk into, and it can feel overwhelming. In those moments I turn to John 1, where I am assured the light of Christ “shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (v. 5, NLT).

Christmas is my favorite time to visit my friends, because as we carry that light into the darkness of the sex industry, I picture Jesus entering our dark world, illuminating truth and hope for all.