Life · Motherhood · Parenting

Ain’t That a Kick In the Head

Hi guys! I’m still here, I promise. Things have just been a little wild lately. A project I joined early in the year has been essentially taking up all my spare computer time and my toddler decided she wants to make things super fun and stop napping. So things have been interesting around these parts… That, and I swear I’m tired all the time now, even though Jonas is sleeping really well these days (putting him in his own room a month ago was the best decision we’ve ever made! He immediately started sleeping almost through the night!)

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::cough:: favorite child ::cough cough::

I jest! But our daughter is giving me a serious run for my money these days. To be honest, it’s hard right now. I am losing my mind. And I know I need to be better at regulating my own mood and behavior, but man… when there’s a tiny person permanently glued to your side who whines and cries at the drop of a hat and refuses to sleep so she NEVER EVER goes away… it’s rough. (I know, poor me. I’ll stop my complaining. Shortly.)

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A very rare moment of peace. The constant battles are exhausting.

I know what you’re thinking right now. “But didn’t you just write about getting over the no-nap slump?” hahahahahahaha. Bedtime was getting to be a nightmare and she wouldn’t fall asleep until 9pm or later because she wasn’t tired, so I finally had to bite the bullet and get rid of naps. I know, right? Life. And the folly of a still-learning mom who thought she’d figured something out.

Oh, and want to laugh? Potty training has gone completely down the toilet too. We couldn’t get past #2, and I was sick of literally washing human excrement out of everything, every day (remember, I have a baby too…), so we gave it a break. Whatever.

Let’s see, what else am I awesome at right now: Being nice to my toddler? Really struggling. We have our ups and downs. Responding to emails quickly? HA. Screen time under control?

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Meh. It could be worse. My own media consumption has been pretty bad lately — whenever things get rough I tend to bury my head in my phone to escape. Time for another media fast… an acquaintance recently shared that she logs off all social media every other day these days, and I kind of like that idea. Or what I’ve done in the past, only looking at my phone when the kids are asleep (WHICH MEANS NEVER THANKS TO A CERTAIN SOMEONE). Ahem.

So yeah, we’re really winning around here. Lest anybody be under the illusion I have even a semblance of my crap together… I don’t. I know one-on-one time with her is what she craves and needs, and we do have good moments — she’s really into reading books now so I love doing that with her — but then her brother wakes up and I need to nurse him and she’s literally climbing on top of him to interpose herself… deep breaths. We’ll get there. This is what we call the trenches of motherhood, right? At least she makes us laugh plenty too!

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On the plus side: there’s been a lot of exciting stuff this summer already, and we are going home to France in one month! My sister was married this month and it was insanity for the kids, but it was so fun to be a part of it all, to spend time with my family, to relive all the excitement of a wedding and a new life.

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Reminded me of these kids…

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Ha! We were such babies! So much has happened since then. Life is a lot more complicated, and a lot harder. (man, parenting! careers! home-ownership!) But it’s good to have this guy at my side to go through it all.

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Parenting

Lessons Learned After Three Weeks of Potty Training

We embarked on the potty training journey about three weeks ago now, and we’re surviving. Actually, it went rather well. I think it was time, she was ready, and the bulk of potty-training is over. But as anybody who has been there remembers, it’s never as simple as you’d think. And it’s not a three-day affair even if the main learning portion does happen then.

Here’s what we did, some advice from friends, family members, acquaintances, and some good online articles, plus a genius tip from a good friend of mine! Oh, and a little encouragement to get through the tough days.

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What we did

Day one: post nap, put her in panties, let what may come, come. We went through at least five pairs of panties the first day. More the next. (We started off just doing a few hours in the afternoon to keep ourselves from going crazy) There were a lot of puddles. I started to despair that she just wasn’t making the connection.

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Then, day three, it clicked, and there were only one or two accidents. We did two M&Ms for every pipi in the potty, and lots of reminders. She was really defensive about not wanting to get on it — still is frequently — but after those first few days with lots of accidents she started just going by herself when she was ready. We also kept her pumped full of as many juice boxes as I could give her to keep things going (I bought CapriSun juice packs and plied her with them all afternoon long. Yes it’s a lot of sugar, but this is temporary). A lot of thoughts went through my head that first week:

I am so sick of wiping urine off the floor!

The M&Ms aren’t actually for the kid — they’re to reward mothers for not cannibalizing their children.

YAAAAY! (I can’t believe I’m getting so excited about this…)

Anyway, we survived. We stuck around the house for almost a week — or close to it — so we could stick with the program. For now I still use pull-ups for leaving the house (and naps and night-time, although honestly she doesn’t really need them for naps, I have a potty in her room and she uses it just fine by herself)

We are still using Pull-ups when we leave the house, but the first few days was pretty much the nuclear option, all panties. I think it really helped to get a feel for things. Another little thing I picked up — which I think will come in especially handy once we’re only in panties — is this “piddle pad” to protect the car seat.

We have two little plastic potties (I love the IKEA one) — I’ve found she generally prefers having a seat of her own, although I hear some kids want to do it “just like a big person!” — as well as this comfy toilet-seat insert and stool for the bathroom. One potty in her bedroom, one in the living room (whatever, it’s how we live right now, ha) and then I keep the toilet seat insert on in the main bathroom.

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I also put together a little potty basket full of the necessities: Clorox wipes, regular wipes, hand sanitizer, plenty of panties, and of course TP. I’m not much for trademarked character clothing, but in this case, Frozen panties were helpful in getting her really excited about wearing them!

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Number two was a different story, by the way, but after a few weeks and some despairing conversations with friends, we’ve made some progress. Thank goodness for people who have gone before! It was also helpful when my in-laws came to visit the next week and brought some of their own special treats and lots of enthusiasm and encouragement. She was definitely surrounded by positive reinforcement!

And there’s this too: Everybody talks about how awful potty training is. We’ve been in the thick of it lately, and it certainly isn’t super duper fun time. But what you don’t often hear is how proud you’ll be when they start to figure it out — and how much pride you’ll see in their face too. The shyness or defensiveness turning to pure joy when they figure it out and see how excited you are for them. It is the sweetest!

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Here are some of the insights I’ve gleaned from other mothers:

It might take a while for the child to get used to how it feels when they need to go before they can give you advance warning. I was frustrated the first two days because she would just go and then realize immediately she was wet and wanted to be changed. I kept thinking “why isn’t she telling me, I literally asked her if she needed to go two minutes ago!” But I asked around thinking maybe it was too soon, and friends told me it takes some time for them to recognize that feeling and have the presence of mind to warn you. So in the meantime I just kept asking, a lot. And looking for warning signs (squeezing legs, dancing around… so funny). And by day three, it clicked.

There are still plenty of setbacks and accidents. Like when they are way too engrossed in an activity. I try to keep an eye out for warning signs and encourage early action, but there are still some accidents here or there.

Things that were recommended to us:

  • Do it in blocks of time so you don’t completely lose your mind. It’s a lot of work to be so hypervigilant and watching their every twinge, so it’s been nice to start by just doing those hours after naptime until bedtime. I go get her from her room, put her on the potty, and change into panties for the afternoon where I try to keep her on the hard-surface portion of the home. Or outdoors on the deck.
  • Elmo’s Potty Time. I would have her watch it while sitting on the throne and she really liked it, I think it helped her relate to the concepts a little better.
  • I liked some of the tips over here from The Pinning Mama
  • For #2, constipation and pain or discomfort might be an issue too. A few friends of mine said they used fiber gummies or even metamucil for a while to keep things nice and smooth so it’s not scary or painful. I’m definitely going to get those fiber gummies started now!
  • “One of my kids: I had to put a bucket of warm water in front of them with bath toys in it. They played in the water with their hands while they sat on the little potty seat. This helped stimulate them to pee. This child had issues connecting how to go. This really helped.”
  • “With our oldest 2 once they were in real underwear anytime they went in their pants we made them walk from every room in the house to the bathroom before changing them. We would go to each room & say, “if you’re in here & need to go potty where do you go?” Apparently it isn’t comfortable walking around that much in gross undies. Took 3 days tops for both of them.”

Another thing I’ve learned: the potty becomes a new excuse in the toddler’s arsenal of stalling techniques (for us, it’s typically bedtime)… it’s absolutely maddening. One friend has the same issue with leaving the house: “Things are going really well, but our biggest hiccup is that he’s a boy who cried pee every time we try to leave the house! Any time we go to a store he’s insisting he needs to pee every 10 mins, which is a blast when you have a cart of groceries and are 27 weeks pregnant.” Yup. Little stinkers!

Actually, for me, this is the aspect that is the most frustrating about potty training. It’s not the cleaning up of messes or excessive laundry, but the fact that it creates one more power struggle with an already-willful child. I’ve had to arm myself with a lot of patience, and I haven’t always been successful. You never know if they actually need to use the bathroom or are just using it to avoid going to sleep, and sometimes it’s just an additional opportunity for metldowns! Gah.

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A note about Amazon Prime: I had a lot of friends recommend the Subscribe and Save feature for diapers/pull-ups, but at first I was frustrated that you didn’t get Prime shipping. You have to set up shipments that can’t be any sooner than a full week out, and sometimes that wasn’t fast enough for me. But now that we live in a very rural area, it’s become a necessity and I’ve learned to just plan ahead. You definitely save quite a bit that way.

OK, here’s the last tip, and this is the one that I’m pretty sure helped us with that final breakthrough! It’s goofy, but I swear it worked.

One friend’s genius secret to making #2 happen in the potty: “I told her if she does it in her diaper/panties, it has to go in the trash, poor caca! But if she does it in the toilet, the caca gets to go on an adventure!” I thought this one was hilarious, but anyone who has been around toddlers knows it just might work. I tried it. We talked up the adventures of the caca, how it would go down the pipes — like a slide! — and into the ocean, and go swimming with Dory! (Finding Dory has been a favorite around here the last month or two) Yes, I know, this is an absurd conversation. I also talked up the lollipop she’d get for a caca in the potty… and would you know, somebody earned a lollipop that very day!

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So don’t knock it until you try it. Sometimes, it’s all about the psychological manipulation!

I kid, I kid. Anyway, there it is. These are a few things that have worked for us, and I’m sure there will be plenty more insights as more kids with different personalities come along. It’s definitely more of a long-term learning curve than I expected — the whole “potty train in three days” thing is misleading — but it is encouraging to finally be on the way. And if you’re in the thick of it: courage!

Share any and all of your tips, tricks and insights below in the comments!

Parenting

How We Got Past the No-Nap Slump

People, there is hope.

A few weeks ago I thought for sure Adelina was done with napping, because it had become a monumental fight that took half the afternoon. I know you can’t technically force anyone to sleep, but dang it I sure was trying my very best. And by the end of one particularly difficult week, she had torn the door of her bedroom off its hinge! It was an exhausting battle of wills, and I was so tired of spending at least an hour trying to get her to sleep every day. We were both at our wits’ ends.

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Then I had an accidental epiphany.

I resigned myself to the reality that it was probably time for some quiet time in her room instead of nap time, and maybe if I got lucky she’d fall asleep from time to time. So one fine Monday, I took her to her room at nap time and explained that she could play with her toys (I set up her cars to inspire her) or she could nap, or do both, but she just needed to stay in her room for some quiet time. She cheerfully agreed and sat down to play, I closed the door and left. There was some fussing once she got bored after about an hour, but I was not giving up on quiet time. I told her through the door she could play or sleep, but she needed to stay in her room until quiet time was done (we use this toddler alarm clock, it was pretty helpful in dealing with early wake-ups). She fell asleep right there on the floor, about five minutes before her toddler alarm clock went off…

(I had to have a cut-off time otherwise bedtime becomes a nightmare)

The next day, she needed a diaper change after a little while, so I went in to help and then asked her if she was ready to sleep a little bit. She just went with it! I tucked her in, walked out, and she was asleep.

What?!

I texted my husband, jubilant. The next day, we went through the same motions, with the same result. And the next day, and the next. It was working!

After debriefing a little, I realized two things: One, maybe it had been a phase. If there’s anything that’s a constant in parenting, we all know it’s change… But also and most importantly, I really think releasing the pressure I had built up around nap time allowed her to relax, have her own way for a while, and then willingly be ready to nap.

I was stressed about getting her down before a certain time so she wouldn’t nap too late, and I was NOT willing to let go of naps, so it had become such a battle with constant back-and-forth and willful defiance. Once I decided she could do whatever she wanted with that time — in her room — she suddenly decided she didn’t mind napping after all.

Who would’ve thought?!

Of course this does mean we still have some odd sleeping arrangements from time to time. Her stuffed animal basket is a favorite hidey-hole, which I think is kind of cute!

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I want to make it perfectly clear that we still have tough days. Some days she still refuses naps — especially on days I need to hurry home and get things going on a shorter timeline. But for now, at 2 1/2 years old, nap time usually happens if I give her enough time to get to it on her own. Once I gave up on forcing nap time and allowed her to make the decision, it magically came back. I’m sure there’s some greater metaphor about life and motherhood here. I’m slowly learning that with this girl at least, independence is really important. But hey, I’ll take the naps while I can still get them! And in the meantime, a lot of the tension is gone and we can both just enjoy that time.

Share your nap time tips below, I’d love to hear them!

Parenting

Sometimes, the Problem is Me

People talk about the terrible twos, and it’s true that it can be challenging at times. But sometimes — often — the problem is me. Toddlers have their bad days just like us, and I have to constantly remind myself of what I can and can’t expect for her at this developmental age. We expect impeccable discipline from them, then sit down and binge watch Netflix while eating out of the ice cream container?! I don’t think so! (not that I’ve ever done that…) And sometimes our bad days line up. I’m tired, I’ve lost my patience, and I just want her to obey, now. I don’t want to negotiate, I don’t want to get down at her level and look her calmly in the eye. And those are the times it tends to get especially difficult.

Yes, toddlers are trying, but I’ve noticed when we have a happy environment that’s conducive to good behavior (not having to say “no” to everything, having some structure, spending some quality time together to fill up her cup…), she’s quite delightful. But the thing is, life happens, and I can’t possibly control all the external factors. Sometimes I have to care for her baby brother and can’t get to her right now. Sometimes — often — life is happening, or I’m not where I need to be mentally, there are deadlines and definite time limits, and I can’t possibly build it all around her. I feel like that is what really brings out the terrible twos. And she’s going to have to learn it doesn’t all revolve around her as life goes on anyway!

I’m not a perfect parent (faaaar from it), so I know that sometimes I just need to give myself a break and go breathe in another room for five minutes, but I’ll tell you this: when I lose it and get angry, she models my behavior impeccably. It never solves the problem, and always escalates.

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I learned this the hard way: we spent a night at a hotel a little while ago for Jonas’ treatment — all four of us in the same room — and she had just learned to climb out of her crib, so she was having none of this bedtime business. She was wired and kept jumping out and popping up at my bedside and running around and talking and singing and refusing bedtime. No way.

As an hour wore on and ate into the next, I’ll be honest: I was no longer calm and patient. I started pretty roughly grabbing her and putting her back into her bed, every ten seconds when she popped back up. She thought it was hilarious and just went wild. Eventually, we made some headway by changing tactics and she finally, finally went to sleep. The next morning, we were all exhausted and rushing to get to the clinic, and at one point she wasn’t happy with something so she hit me. I had never seen her do that, but it was crystal clear: she had learned volumes from my behavior the night before. I was instantly chastised.

I cannot expect her to do something I do not do myself.

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For me, the problem is almost always tiredness. It leads to irritability and grumpiness and I have thinner patience. I don’t always think rationally in those cases. And I know if you’re a mom, you’re laughing right now, because that’s what is so hard about motherhood: constant fatigue. That being said, it can be a reminder to take a few minutes for myself, recompose, rest, instead of whatever I had planned during quiet time.

Yes, it’s hard, but here’s the thing: I’m the adult in the relationship. Sometimes I just have to pull up my big-girl panties and tone down my emotions before it escalates. I guess what I’m getting at is the most difficult part of parenting is that you can’t just apply a handbook or employ a set of techniques: who you are and how you behave are what set the tone and make all the difference. I feel more and more that my energy is best spent working on myself, because that will have the greatest impact on my children — do what I do, not what I say. And I’m definitely still learning, but it’s worth it!

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Parenting

Toddler Tornado & Turning “NO” Into Options When Your Toddler Isn’t Cooperating

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Toddlers are awesome. I mean that in the most literal sense: they inspire awe, both at how sweet and intelligent and hilarious they can be, but also at how difficult they can be. My toddler’s destructive powers know no bounds these days. In the space of about a week, she managed to literally pull her bedroom door off its hinges, twist her video monitor beyond repair, tear tassels off her cute new bedding, send a bobby pin down the backup drain in the bathroom sink, cover our dining table in crayon, pour water all over the piano bench, smear my lipstick all over her face… you get the picture. She can trash any room in about a minute.

I know it’s just her job as a two year old discovering the world around her. I know it’s just natural curiosity, but it can be incredibly frustrating. It’s not malicious, but it exists nonetheless, and it’s a lot of work to clean up after her all day. Who knew I had to worry about her REMOVING HER DOOR?! And with all this destructiveness also comes a whole lot of boundary-pushing. Oh boy. Naptime is a constant struggle for example…

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And there are all the other little moments she wants to assert control. Diaper change, putting on socks, eating, not eating, who gets to push the button, which position we set the baby doll down in, the fact that it’s a Tuesday… you name it, there’s a power struggle! It was happening more and more and getting exhausting. Then I remembered something I had read about creating an environment that’s conducive to your child’s success. The gist of it is: of course they need to learn to obey, but life is hard for a toddler. Don’t make things more difficult than they need to be by triggering them — make sure they’re not tired or hungry, create boundaries and expectations that will help them feel more secure. (Go read that article, that mom has some golden tips that have really helped me re-frame the way I see my daughter and how I relate to her. Things like “Set up our home and routine to allow as many yes’s as we can” and “Say yes as much as possible, make our “no’s” count”).

I don’t like the term “Terrible Twos” because I feel like it’s too negative. This age is actually really delightful — she is speaking, helping, she’s funny and affectionate, we’re developing more of a relationship — but it is also very frustrating sometimes. Creating a positive, calm environment is incredibly helpful, and I’ve been making efforts lately to do that.

And then, there’s this magic little technique I learned. I wish I could remember where I first read about it, but what it boils down to is this: giving a child options almost always helps defuse a “no!” situation.

Example: “Time to put on your pajamas!”
– No!
– Okay… do you want to put your pajamas on starting with your arms or your feet?
– (pause) Feet!”

And would you believe it, she was absolutely delighted to help put on her pajamas! She did what she needed to do, but she had some choice in the matter. I once heard it explained this way: imagine if you spent your day having no idea what would happen next and being arbitrarily told to do things, dragged from one place to the next? You’d be frustrated too! This technique has been a game-changer around these parts.

Do you want to eat a pea or a carrot first? Would you like the pink cup or the blue cup? Here, come pick out the bib you want to wear. Want to help me mix the noodles? Should I brush your bottom teeth or your top teeth first? Do you want the big book or the beach book? Here, come help me turn on the white noise. Is it Papa’s turn to say the prayer or Mama’s? Do you want your little pillow or your big pillow?

You get the idea. You can seriously make up anything and for us at least, it’s been amazing to see how she responds to this. She’s still obeying, but she has some flexibility within those boundaries. I’m sure it won’t work forever, especially as she gets wise to my little subterfuge, but hey, it works right now and it’s making life so much more pleasant for all of us! Defusing these little situations means I can have my sweet girl back.

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To be clear: sleeping has always been and — I’m pretty sure — always will be our mountain to climb. And I don’t have a perfect angel child who always obeys, even with this helpful tool. We haven’t eliminated whining. But this has helped defuse many situations. I don’t see it as never telling my child no, but rather picking and choosing my battles so that when I do need to resort to saying “no,” it actually means something. 

Have any other toddler tips? Please share, I can use all the help I can get! How do you handle stubborn little people?

Motherhood · Parenting

Breakthrough 

This right here means so much to me. Look at that drawing: those are faces!

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Some milestones just sort of take your breath away. And this one was especially important to me because of a fear I’ve kept tucked away in the corner of my mind…

I once saw a comparison between drawings made by a child who’s exposed to too much media vs one who gets less than an hour of screen time a day. The one looked like worthless scribbles, the other was a normal kid’s drawing. It’s a lot like that spiderweb comparison you’ve probably seen before:

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Yikes, right?! My best intention was always to keep screen time to a minimum, but you know what they say about good intentions… an exhausting pregnancy, caring for a newborn… let’s just say my daughter has had a lot of iPad & TV time the past year.

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I know that times change and people adapt, and she’s probably just fine. In fact, objectively I truly believe we as a society are probably being a wee bit overdramatic about the whole thing.

And yet, I’ve been worried about rotting her brain. And every page full of senseless scribbles secretly scared me as I displayed it on our fridge.

I know, I know, it’s a fine motor skill that takes time to develop, but I couldn’t help but worry. Was she drawing scribbles all over the page because she just hasn’t developed this skill yet? Or was it because she was spending too much time consuming and not creating?

So these faces that I found her meticulously drawing last night are everything. I’ve never seen her do this before.

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We were doing the bedtime routine and she wasn’t really paying attention, quietly scribbling on her doodle pad. I figured she was trying to stall bedtime (shocker!) and was about to give her a hard time about not looking at the picture book papa was reading to her when my husband looked over at what she was doing. “She’s drawing faces!” Sure enough, there they were, no doubt about it! I asked her what she was drawing and she pointed to the middle one, explaining that it was a baby with a binky.

It’s hard to put into words how I felt right then. The cognitive leap she had made seemed enormous. My heart just burst with pride at this girl of mine! This is one moment where I realized, in an instantaneous flood of relief, that we’re doing OK.