Showing posts with label Toddlers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toddlers. Show all posts

Monday, October 07, 2013

a family dinner by any other name

Selfie in Sweden, pre-kids
After graduating college, Nate and I embarked on a journey as a newly minted family, leaving behind our home state for adventures in the uncharted beyond. Moving away from our families of origin was exciting! Graduate school and moves to the Midwest, the US capital, and across the Atlantic Ocean opened our eyes to different and interesting ways of thinking and living.

Along the way, we became parents. Welcome to the best learning experience of all! While we were thrilled about our growing family, we also encountered our share of challenges and foibles. None of our friends had kids yet, so we navigated the choppy new waters solo while they smiled and did their best to understand the dark circles and panicked voices. Without family in town to assist us, we floundered quite a bit on just what to do with our new bundle of joy. We relied on our nanny to tell us what and when to feed Vivi. I chuckle to remember how we browsed stacks of parenting volumes promising new and different ways to achieve better results, as though she were a new iGadget instead of a person.

Although advice was still only a phone call away, the temptation of “the unknown better” beckoned louder. Eschewing family secrets for propaganda, we replaced the village with pop science. Whereas pride in continuing our families’ traditions was once the goal long ago, shiny-new-object syndrome stepped in and took over.

Unfortunately, our manic pursuit of novelty did not improve our lives. The promise that the latest parenting trend would solve our problems didn’t deliver. We were paralyzed by choice and growing dizzy from the pendulum of polarized philosophies. Put simply, we were not happy parents.




******************

Thursday, April 11, 2013

on not becoming The Goops

Alternate title: But I still refuse to eat snails.

Have you read French Kids Eat Everything yet? I'm not finished with it, but it's already a game-changer for us. A lovestruck Nate turned to me at dinner last night and wistfully said, a hint of a glistening tear in his eye, "This is just how I wanted dinner to be." Okay, I'm kidding about that. That kind of husbandly praise is the stuff of dreams...

With how much I talk (read: gloat) about feeding my kids real food, it might surprise you I have a lot to learn about teaching kids to eat well. Yes, I usually manage to get my kids to eat healthy food, BUT I have come to dread meal time due to their whininess, messiness, disregard for normal decibel levels and decent personal space, and sibling rivalry that accompany every meal. I was becoming a cross between a hair-raising psycho and a punch-drunk lunatic at dinner, getting into immature discussions with my kids about who was going to get the purple plate and which child would be allowed to sing the third verse of the rainbow song.

Then, the clouds parted, and this book fell into my lap. Or something like that.

But, seriously y'all, I was skeptical at first about whether the tricks in this book would work for us. I have employed some aspects of attachment parenting, and one of them that I associate with the trend is to offer children choices and let them articulate their preferences and control aspects of their food world. If I had to pick one thing I've learned in the last week, it's that the science does not agree; in fact, it suggests children aren't capable of deciding what they should eat, and these decisions actually stress them out.

But the proof is in the pudding: how did the experiment work for us? I am dumbfounded by the fact that not only did these fancy tricks work, but they have made ME enjoy food more. Who could have thought that was possible?

Here's a nutshell about why I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, with a few caveats (so maybe, one enthusiastic thumb and another regular thumb):

Caveat first: I don't have as many ingrained issues with food as the writer apparently does [Example: she is a self-professed lover of McDonald's. Gag me with a spoon.], so I had trouble identifying with her tendency to whine about her great luck. She seemed to have begrudgingly taken on the challenge to feed her kids French food--WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE AND MARRIED TO A FRENCHMAN--whereas I look at these opportunities to mold and change my kids as fun experiments. To me, a person who doesn't thank her lucky stars that she can benefit from the wisdom of the best foodies in the world has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. But then again, I try never to judge a woman for a reaction to her mother-in-law's advice.

Having said that, I learned loads from this book. I've only been to France once and then only to Paris, but even after a few days there, I learned easily that the French have figured out how to make good food. They enjoy food so much and so well. What I didn't know was that they have many rules about what, when, and how to eat. Being someone who likes to cook and eat--and someone who is sometimes painfully attempting to teach my kids good manners--I appreciate a culture that is willing to take time in crafting good, well-mannered eaters.

I also didn't realize how many bad American eating habits I have--and even worse--that I'm passing down to my kids.  I had become resigned to my fate, forgetting--or perhaps never knowing to begin with--that I have role in their meal-time education (Rule #1). Could it be as simple as they were misbehaving because they weren't aware that there were meal-time rules?


French Food Rules

Food Rules
Illustration by: Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything

Here are few of the rules she discusses in the book that I am most taken with (in my own words):


Up the formality! 

The French lay a tablecloth (!!), even for small children; they forgo paper napkins and sippy cups, opting instead for glasses, cloth napkins, and real silverware; and they announce the beginning of the meal with a quick phrase, "To the table!" When everyone is seated, they say "Bon appetit!" to signify that everyone may begin eating. My kids love rituals so took to these improvements like buttah. Vivi sets the table with a purpose, as though she has been lying in wait for the chance to be given this task. We've always said a blessing, which is now like icing on the cake instead of the only ritual.

Documentation of our first foray into tableclothing. It's a Kenyan wrap skirt. Cute, huh?


Respect each other...and the food! 


Imagine a meal with small children in which you don't have to endure loud interruptions and whining. Wonderful, right? How is this magic accomplished??

Actually, it isn't that hard. Once I got started, I figured out quickly that the rules I was implementing were exactly what they were already doing at school. Duh. If they say "But I wanted the purple plate!," I say "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." If they say "I don't want tabbouleh!," then I say "You don't have to like it, you just have to taste it." And after both of those phrases, they pipe in with "That's what my teachers say!" Oh, right.

I can't believe I didn't use these rules sooner. I always imagined that if I stopped them from jumping around and yelling, I would somehow be stifling their joy. But while I previously would have used my "Let kids be kids!" go-to parenting rule, I now realize that what I was doing was robbing everyone, including myself, of a chance to eat a peaceful meal. By stopping the chaos, I offer respect to my dinner guests and myself--and to the food we are eating, for that matter.

Plus, I've added an element of fun by asking them a few questions about their day, like their favorite thing, something they didn't like, a funny part of the day, and a time they helped someone. Both of the girls relish this time to shine with everyone listening. And I relish the opportunity to start new Mom catchphrases.


No food bribes or rewards (Rule #2). 

This rule is actually harder for me than I had thought. In my opinion, this rule exempts the once-a-year bribe of "If you do well at the doctor, you can have a lollipop!" But it also means that you can't stuff your kid's face with animal crackers every time you're in line at the bank. You can't jump into the car knowing you're going to get stuck in traffic and bribe your kids with fruit snacks and chips to make it the duration. You can't swoop in after your kid falls down or doesn't get the purple plate and say "If you eat your peas, you will get a popsicle!" What I failed to realize is that I was teaching my kids to fill their voids with food, and by doing that, I was making their relationship with food emotional. Yikes.


No snacking (Rule #7). 

This rule is tied with the rule above. "It's okay for them to be hungry" has become my new internal mantra. Once I attempted to stop our constant snacking, it occurred to me I had been teaching Charlotte to be a snack monster (see: toddler terrorist post). Her hunger monster still rears its head on occasion; however, just as I wouldn't back down when I tell her it's time to brush her teeth, I feel confident that keeping her from simple carbs and sugary juice is going to pay off in the end when she learns to reward her patience with satiety instead of stifling it with empty calories.


Eat family meals together (Rule #4).

I always wanted to enact this rule, and I had done it sometimes, but I admit there were many occasions that I would spend their meal doing dishes or reading blogs in the kitchen instead of sitting with them. Now I look upon meal time as an important part of their education and sit at the table with them, even if I on rare occasion am not eating a meal myself (and I try to make sure I am eating with them). When they are finished with the meal, I let them have time to blow off steam and be silly (read: not at the dining room table), and I take that time to do my quiet recharging or cleaning.


I've been reciting a poem to the girls called "The Goops" that my parents recited to me as a child, and it has taken on a new meaning lately. Turns out that "The Goops" is actually a series of books written in the early 1900's to teach children manners, so it's no wonder it stands out now.

The Goops 
by Gelett Burgess (1900)

The Goops they lick their fingers,
The Goops they lick their knives,
They spill their broth on the tablecloth-
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew,
And that is why that I 
Am glad I'm not a Goop--are you?


the goops
Image credit: Gutenburg.org
Author's Note: I shared this post with Tasty TraditionsWorks for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Friday, April 05, 2013

rage, rage against the scattering of the jewelry

A few days ago I sat down to dinner with the family with a sort of smug satisfaction. All food groups were represented, it was on time and delicious, and Charlie had just wowed me with her cuteness by coming downstairs to dinner dressed like this:


But the mood would change suddenly a few minutes later when I noticed Vivi wearing a ring from my jewelry drawer. I let the fork drop to the plate, stunned for a few moments, which was long enough for Vivi to figure out what was happening and blurt, "Charlie took your jewelry, Mommy!"

I raced upstairs, and sure enough, in the place where I keep my engagement ring, my mom's wedding ring, and my great grandmother's cameo necklace, there was nothing. Instead, my ring was on the floor in the hallway, and all of the other various pieces of jewelry were scattered to the wind, amidst sheets and under toys. Oh Lawdy be!

Reader, I would love to report to you that I had a very calm and rational discussion with the girls about Mommy's personal belongings that are not to be played with, etc., but I think we know that isn't the case. I'm not proud of my reaction; as I've said before, I sometimes have trouble caging my inner tiger. On the plus side, I do try after a blow up to explain later that sometimes grown-ups misbehave and need to be reminded of the rules, and that I want them to let me know when they feel sad about the way they're being treated. If we can't be perfect, at least we can be honest.

I have since made our bedroom "off limits," and the point seems to have gotten across because I haven't seen either child step foot in that room again. Today Vivi said to me, "Mommy, I wish I could dig a hole into your room from the bathroom so I could sneak in there." Oh, sweet child of mine! I really didn't want to place a no-entry limit on them. I love the idea of them being able to come in there and lay on mom's big bed and peek into my closet. Hopefully in a year I'll be able to reinstate our room as a fly zone, but while I have a toddler who knows how to use a step stool but doesn't know how to employ self-control, it's probably a good idea to ban entry for a while.

I have more stories to share with you from the week. I missed you, friends! For now, I'm going to share one of my favorite dinners to eat when I'm spending an evening alone, as I am tonight. I'm eating a Spanish omelette, which is really called a tortilla, but I call it an omelette so as not to confuse my brain. Please don't bother telling me how many calories I'm ingesting when I consume this meal. I know, and I don't care.


fatty omelette for one

3 eggs
dash of milk
oil
1/2 c. pre-cooked diced potatoes
smattering of caramelized onions
grated cheese
enormous glob of sour cream
salsa

There are some time-savers in my omelette process. When I have red potatoes on hand, I dice most of them up right away and either freeze them or par-boil them and put them in the fridge for the week. You'd be surprised how useful they are. I do this prep work because organic potatoes go bad very quickly (note: If you don't yet eat organic potatoes, here's why you should consider it).

Another time-saving step is that I caramelize onions while I'm making dinner for the girls or doing dishes, whatever. Y'all know how to do that, right? Cut an onion in half and then slice thinly. Start a skillet over low heat with some oil, add the onions, and let sit nearly untouched for 10 minutes. Then add some salt and mix them up. Cook for a total of about 45 minutes at the lowest heat setting, stirring only every 7-10 minutes or so. These are another item that I can put into almost anything, and it adds an extra layer of deliciousness.

Whisk eggs together with a smidgen of milk, then add to a preheated skillet coated with oil. Season with salt and pepper. In the first minute, push the eggs toward the center in a few places to allow the runny egg to move around the cooked egg. Sprinkle the omelette with potatoes and onions. Cook over medium on the first side for about 4 minutes total. Make sure it is loose, then slide onto a plate, invert the skillet over the top, and flip the omelette back into the hot pan to cook the second side. Sprinkle some cheese on top and let cook for 3-4 more minutes. Slide it out onto a plate and top with too much sour cream, salsa, and more salt and pepper. Eat it while you watch Midnight in Paris again. It's a little less fun the second time, but a glass of red wine helps.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

my toddler, the terrorist

You'll have to trust me that there's a toddler under that blanket. Talking to some necklaces.

I'm fond of joking that Charlie is our very own teensy terrorist because of how often she reverts to scare tactics--screeching at the top of her lungs, crying, sitting down in the middle of traffic--to get what she wants. Sometimes I'm not sure even she knows quite what she wants. Add to that baby-psychosis that she is stubborn as the day is long. Often I have trouble finding the humor in my terrorism joke. Yesterday after a moment of such megalomania, I consulted the Interwebs and found that a humorist blogger I like, How to Be a Dad, has a post on this topic too. A few laughs later, I at least see I'm not alone in my occasional torment.

When the tyrant in her comes out, I say a little "Serenity now!" prayer and try to summon some compassion for her. I realize she isn't crying to manipulate me--at least not usually--and that it must be very tough to be the little sister. So much of her day she hears the word "NO!," from Vivi as much if not more than us. I vacillate between wanting to strengthen her patience muscle and just wanting to shut her up. While I feel like I fail at times more than I succeed, I have on random occasion achieved some success at calming the tiger.

When dealing with the terrible twos, I try to look at the bright side; for the most part, she's still my easy-going kid, eating pretty much everything that's put in front of her and using the bathroom since before the age of two. I count those wins as major victories. When she does fight me, I assume she is trying to gain some control in her world and offer her some control when I can. A choice between two options is often the solution, and if that doesn't work, distraction is my second favorite tactic. Talking to her in the voice of one of her favorite stuffed animals works quite well--Alligator says "Charlie, I really hope you'll put on your sweater because I think it's so pretty!"

I keep an arsenal of snacks at home and on the road to keep her blood sugar up, I try not to skip her nap when I can, and I keep TV and sugar to a minimum. From trial and error, I've learned these tricks help me most, although calamity still comes around despite my best efforts.

Do you have experience with this territory? How do you keep your tiny dictator at bay?

p.s. Because I loved it so much, I'm also sharing Design Mom's Olive Us episode called "How to Be Two." If you don't know Gabrielle Blair, her current two year old is her fifth or sixth child, and in my visions of what their life is like in France, I imagine them taking her tiny tantrums in stride, laughing and clucking about what an adorable soul she is. Meanwhile, I am sighing and playing another round of Candy Land.


How To Be 2 from Olive Us on Vimeo.

p.p.s. I liked up today with Works for Me Wednesday because this (sort of) works for me. Winky face!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

pumpkin pasta: a fast fall feast!


I stood at the refrigerator yesterday afternoon wondering what I could make for dinner. I had three requirements: 1) it was the end of the month, so I needed to use up leftovers before making my next grocery trip; 2) I was headed to an appointment after dinner, so it had to be fast; and 3) I had a cup of pumpkin (the rest of the can from making pumpkin cheese bread) and a cup of sausage (the remnants of sausage pizza). Easy decision!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

alligator song, part deux

I am home for a few hours of nap between session one and two with a laboring mom. I'm scarfing down a banana and peanut butter while the kids eat lunch, then planning to put on tele-nanny for Vivi while Charlie and I sleep. Some weeks are all about threading seconds together to make minutes, and it feels like there is a never-ending trail of stuff not being done along the way. But the kids are fed (even it is the eleventh day in a row of PB&H) and entertained. Sometimes that has to be enough.

I couldn't end the post without also providing you some entertainment, so here are videos of Vivi and Charlie singing the same song as two-year-olds. FYI, the lyrics are actually:

Five little monkeys swinging in the trees
Teasing Mr. Alligator
You can't catch me, you can't catch me
Along comes Mr. Alligator quietly as can be
And SNAP! that monkey out of the tree

I love how the kids butcher it. And whispering is the cutest.

video

video

Thursday, September 13, 2012

bye bye, plug: {giving up the pacifier}


Charlotte has been an easy child from the get-go. It's not that she never cries, but we can usually figure out what's bothering her. Tantrums have taken us by surprise lately; however, they are predictable and short-lived, my two favorite descriptors when it comes to phases.

She potty trained incredibly quickly, which I've mentioned I believe has much to do with her easy temperament--and perhaps the second sibling is naturally more malleable by necessity. Whereas Vivi proceeds into changes and new activities cautiously, Charlie adapts seamlessly. I figured it would be the same for giving up the pacifier, although I did predict there would be more bumps in the road. And there have, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Friday, April 13, 2012

the library: an urban homesteader's most trusted companion

As a budding urban homesteader, I often felt disconnected from my rural counterparts, who I imagined were spending their days picking up tips and tricks from each other in knitting circles and at community pot-lucks. Whether they actually ever attend these events is unknown to me, but these scenarios have been firmly entrenched in my fantasy of rural life. I felt left out of their knowledge loop, like a shy schoolgirl who sits on the periphery of the cafeteria.

I'm happy to report I have managed to join the homesteading reindeer games, and the instructions weren't as difficult to come by as I once imagined. My take-home point is an old lesson but a good one: Ask, and you shall receive. Today I'm sharing a prodigious source of information for the urban homesteader that connects me to the past, present, and future of natural family living and DIY homesteading: My library!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Erin go braugh (or "the Dude abides")

I'll begin by saying I really do not like the word vomit. I don't like when people say "I vomited in my mouth a little" to be funny. It is not funny to imagine you vomiting in your mouth a little. Having said that, I went grocery shopping yesterday, and it looked like St. Patrick's Day vomited everywhere. I'm not even joking. I only wish I could show you the NINE pictures I took with my phone of the NINE St. Patrick's Day displays in Stop 'N Shop, but my phone is evil and hates me and refuses to allow me to share. Darn you, dumb phone. I will definitely be swapping my phone for Nate's in a matter of days. But I digress.

Friday, March 02, 2012

poop talk = good?


Do you live in a world where discussions of poop are a good day? I've been waiting to start Charlie on potty training, but if I'm honest with myself, I couldn't really say why. She has been talking about the whole general concept for a few months now. "Pee pee!" is announced every time one of us goes to the bathroom, and she even says "Uh oh, poop" and runs to stand in the vicinity of the potty when she's about to go. Yeah, it probably doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure she's ready.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

what's for dinner?

Inspired by bleubird's bird food and ohdeardrea's "what Marlowe eats" series, I am sharing what the kids have had for meals recently. I'm calling it "what's for dinner?," even though I'm sharing any and all of the three meals of the day, because at every meal Vivi marches into the kitchen cheerily asking "what's for dinner?" It makes me chuckle that she can't seem to learn the order and meaning of these three simple names for meals. Ask me if Nate loves it. Better yet, take a guess. Hee hee.

What Nate does love is that Vivi is an exceptionally good eater. The girl will eat a green olive stuffed with an anchovy; the very idea makes me nauseous. We have not encountered many food-related obstacles in her almost four years, which could be why I responded poorly to our recent incidence of picky eating in both girls after a rare but lengthy household sickness. Uncharted territory makes for rocky parenting decisions.

Monday, February 06, 2012

I am a regular June Freakin' Cleaver

I am not the crafty sort. I am nearly positive I cleverly conned sweetly asked my parents or my talented, artistic best friend into helping me make every craft assignment required of me by grade school. I love being creative, so it's not the ideas I have trouble with, it's the follow through. There was a time that I used to needlepoint, but I never finished a single piece. Sigh. When Vivi asks to do an art project, I find myself doing either finger-paints, gluing cotton balls onto paper, or coloring a giant piece of kraft paper A LOT.

I do love the parent-child connection that an art project provides. As I child, I remember really enjoying pressing flowers with my mom and helping my dad paint furniture. My parents both selected careers that involve working with your hands, being on your feet all day, and being able to think creatively, so needless to say they are both incredible crafters. When I was growing up, I would casually I mention to my dad that I would like a playhouse or to my mom that I'd like to garden, and before you could say boo, they'd be outside banging on 2x4s or tilling the ground. Talk about energy.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

quarrel of miniscule proportion

Do you guys get frustrated when your gimpy, broken-leg husband, couch-ridden in the next room, shouts pearls of wisdom like "Just feed her already!" about your sick, whining baby--when you are already in the process of making her a scrambled egg and all he's doing is watching TV?

No?

Me neither. Just checking.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

wordless Wednesday: any box will do

This is what happens when people stop being polite and start being real. Ha! Not really. It's just some funny places I found my kids recently... 


Monday, January 23, 2012

croup, there it is (aka. why I didn't sleep last night)

Yesterday evening I did some yoga in the office while hubs watched the semis or the playoffs or whatever that round of NFL games was called. It was peaceful and uneventful, my kind of evening, and I went to bed early with a book and was asleep by 10pm. I should have known never to trust a calm evening, and sure enough, by midnight the storm was brewing.

Charlotte's coughing startled me out of sleep because of how pathetically weak it sounded. It was as though she was trying to cough with a ball in her mouth. I was so worried that she had something stuck in there, but since there was nothing in her crib but pacifiers, and since she had been sleeping soundly since 6:30pm, it seemed unrealistic. I bounded into her room, and she seemed upset but had a healthy pink face and no fever. Horrible, barking cough continued. Unsure of what to do, I went for the old standby of children's ibuprofen and running upstairs with her to wake Nate up.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

goodbye clean house, hello hovel

Charlotte is eating finger food...which means I can't keep the friggin' fraggin' stuff off the floor and walls...which means I keep stepping on it in my bare summer feet...which means I have started to curse...

Dare I go on? It's amazing how quickly these kids change, and just exactly when I am at peace with the changes, i.e. don't mind stepping over a gate every two seconds and of course occasionally stubbing my toe in the process, another change comes--WHAM!--and smacks me full-on in the face. Then, quite suddenly, I am back to bemusedly staring out the window and wondering how this all happened to me.

Pardon me?

I did this to myself?

Indeed not. I beg to differ.

Oh, you say I chose to have kids?

Hmmm, yes, I see what you mean.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

1-2-3 magic

1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (123 Magic)1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This has been the most effective discipline method we've tried so far. It's a keeper for sure. Vivi is a challenging kid on whom it doesn't work just to praise the good behavior. She needs some discipline for the times she challenges our authority and is just plain obnoxious. The best part about the method is that it removes emotion and talking (my two previous favorite discipline tactics!), which leaves nothing but a clear message about what she did wrong and allows for a quick decision about changing her behavior. I liken it to the clicker some people use for their dogs.

I owe this book recommendation to my excellent therapist. She also works with parents and children who are having difficulties with discipline, ADD, etc.; I was ready to give up on child-raising books altogether, but since she recommended it so highly, I decided to give it a chance. I am so glad I did. What I love most about the author is that he notes the fact that the more you discipline your children, the more you are able to enjoy them. I couldn't agree more. I know I said in a recent post that I am attempting to ignore the annoying but tolerable behaviors. And I am! But there are plenty of annoying and intolerable behaviors, like asking "Why? Why? Why?" after I've already provided an explanation and whining. As sweet as she is, Genevieve is also an astute and clever child who is prone to boredom, and thus a perfect storm of A#1 annoyance is born. Lord, beer me strength.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

i love you, you're perfect, now change

I love the title of that play because I think it so aptly describes human interaction, especially with spouses and children, at its basic emotional level. As Vivi grows into an intelligent and headstrong three-year-old, I am continually challenged to strike the balance between instruction and acceptance. After all, what are parents if not adults who impose our values and expectations on our little sponges?

Parents who've seen the proud smile of a praised child--and any child psychologist worth their salt--can attest that the secret to achieving lasting behavior modification is positive reinforcement. In our case, Nate and I realized the most glaring example of this truth last fall in a manner too disgusting to describe here, even for a mommy blogger. I'll sum it up by saying after your kid does the most dirty of deeds on your living room floor and then dances a little jig while you and your husband scream and pull your hair out, it doesn't take long to realize you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Sure enough, as soon as we stopped making a big deal about it...voila! Potty trained child.

So if we have hard evidence of the benefits of positive reinforcement, why is it so hard to enact consistently? I've been pondering this question frequently. Perhaps it seems counter-intuitive to praise the good and ignore the bad given our adherence to the Biblical adage, spare the rod, spoil the child. And an authoritative parent like myself who has witnessed many gross displays of overpraising ("Oh good, Johnny! Thank you for not smacking Mommy in the face! What a good little boy you are!") desires to avoid going down that laissez faire road at all cost. But I find with some compassion and a lot of patience, I can offer both discipline and praise. After some soul searching and good old fashioned hard work, I believe I've come to strike a zen-like, albeit sometimes stressed, disposition in my household. In my mind, the key to this delicate equilibrium is to punish consistently the behavior you find intolerable, whatever that might be (for me, it's back-talk and hitting), but ignore the annoying but tolerable behaviors like thumb-sucking and seat-kicking.

"When you understand, you cannot help but love. You cannot get angry. To develop understanding, you have to practice looking...with eyes of compassion. When you understand, you love. And, when you love you naturally act in a way that can relieve the suffering of people." -Thich Nhat Hahn

I am a lover of Buddhist teachings, less on a spiritual level than a practical one. A former psychology student, I routinely scrutinize my interactions with those I love most dearly, and I seek advice of the wise and experienced out there, whatever their philosophical or religious leanings might be. Since I haven't yet found myself a personal monk or guru, I read books and attend therapy sessions instead. I freely admit I have needed both lately to tame the beast I've previously described here. Again and again, my studies lead me to one word: compassion. Who would think that such a primitive and vital principle would be at times so elusive? And yet, even with all of the outpouring of emotion, the unconditional love, the joie de vivre I express to and for my family, it is unconditional acceptance that I find tricky to attain. Managing my expectations and withholding attempts to control my kids are my parenting Achilles' heels. I am reminded again of Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, who says parents love their children not because they are good but because they are their children. And so, I will endeavor to be more compassionate.

Friday, May 20, 2011

organizing loves: kids edition

I showed some of my favorite organization accoutrements earlier in the week, and I thought it only fair to those readers without children that I separate my kid-related paraphernalia from the rest. But no one comes with more crap, figuratively and literally speaking, than those tiny little monsters. So for the parent readers out there, here are my best-loved kid-themed tools:

At 3 years old, Vivi is old enough to pull these bins out to play with the toys by herself, and better yet, put them away when she's done!

We're lucky our closet came with an organizer. It's a must purchase for any non-outfitted closets.

Are you picking up on a theme yet? I love bins!

More bins!

Diaper caddy from Munchkin. Who needs a changing table? We use the top of a dresser.

Use up all that space.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

toddler tip: moving to a big kid bed

Fussy Vivi being passed around at her baby dedication. "Auntie M" (aka my sister Millie) holding her here.

The bad news about Vivi as a baby was that she was horribly colicky from 2 months to 5 months. The good news was that from 6 months on she was a very easy baby. It wasn't that she was easy-going; in fact, it was quite a while before I could hand her to someone that wasn't me or Nate and she wouldn't explode in tears. But when it came to feeding and sleeping, two of the major activities of babyhood, she was a champ! She would occasionally wake in the middle of the night if she was having a growth spurt, teething, or just generally feeling icky, but for the most part she slept through the night from 6 months on, from 6:30pm to 6:30am (or even as late as 8am on weekends).

I give a lot of the credit to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. He is an advocate for early bedtime, which I think single-handedly changed the way Vivi slept. He also says that it's not as much where you put your baby, in bed with you or in a crib, as much as it is that you are consistent. While I also like the Dr. Sears' collection of baby books, it just never made sense to me to put our kids in bed with us. I have seen many households where bed-sharing lasts throughout childhood. Even now I feel a cold shutter just envisioning that unfortunate predicament. And as I've said, I love and need my sleep, and I just can't imagine giving up our tranquil bed (a king size with flannel sheets=my idea of heaven), even for my beloved children.

When it came time to transition Vivi out of her crib, I knew that we could encounter some difficulties. For one thing, we weren't making the switch because she asked us for a bed (one of the traditional reasons) but because Charlotte needed the crib. We had also been having trouble with her climbing out of the port-a-crib when I was at my mom's, so I figured as soon as the jail cell walls came down, she would be getting up at all hours of the night to play or visit with us. I had even read that some kids will wake up at 5am and assume they can get up, so they come storming into their parents' bedroom to start the day. My worst nightmare realized!

Luckily, Vivi's great sleep habits have continued on to toddlerhood. Since we moved her to a bed, we haven't had a single night of her getting out of bed. Naps are a different story, but when she gets up before it's time, I simply use Dr. Weissbluth's "silent return" technique, which works like a charm. More about that method and others are on this website. Mommy bloggers gave me some additional ideas that I think also helped. Below is the timeline of what we did.

1. Transition slowly; put the bed in the room before you plan to use it. We let Vivi sit on the bed during story time or jump and play on it until it became a regular part of her room and not something scary and new.

2. Get a book that explains the transition. I recommend this trick for potty training too. Vivi loved her Elmo book and wanted to read it over and over.

3. Let them pick out their own sheets. This tip would likely work with picking out the bed too, but we got ours as a hand-me-down (thanks Uncle Joe & Aunt Kim!). Target has some adorable and reasonably priced bedroom sets.

4. Buy a toddler clock. This clock is expensive, but it's worth its weight in gold. No kidding, get one of these!! It turns blue at bedtime and nap time, and it turns yellow to signify it's ok to get up. I was amazed that Vivi understood the concept right away. I found out about this idea accidentally when googling "good night light" because Vivi has gotten to the age when she's a bit afraid of the dark (this clock came up in my results). The reason I got the pricey one is that it also turns green when you want to have some "special play time." It turns red for time-out too, although it seems a bit melodramatic to take your kid to their room and turn the clock red for a 2 min time-out. There are even some features I don't use: it will play music and/or white noise, and it will read a story. Why you'd want your clock to read a story to your kid instead of doing it yourself is beyond me, but to each his own.

Share

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...