Friday, April 29, 2016

(Not just) surviving the toddler years

Any parent knows that raising children is hard. There are certain seasons that may be more challenging than others, but the toddler years have a reputation for being especially difficult. 

We are in the thick of toddler-hood here at our house, and while there are a lot of challenges, we don't view this time as the terrible twos, or as an awful season to just get through as quickly as possible. No. 

These are formative years, sacred and sanctifying. We want to look back with few regrets on the time we spent raising our big toddler girl, and we want to learn a few lessons we can tuck away for the next guy, who's not that far from toddler life himself ;)

Here are a few things that seem to work well, in decreasing tantrums and power struggles and difficulties in general:

1. Stop and think. 
Is she hungry? Is she tired? Is she over-stimulated by the noise or busy-ness of the setting? Does she need a quick hug/ snuggle? Does she need some time alone (without me)? Does she need a minute of my undivided attention, without Asher around? Does she need some exercise or just to get some fresh air? 

All of these things can be triggers for tantrums and toddler meltdowns. I'd say being hungry after nap time results in excess crying and whining at least once a week. And recently, when Charlotte wasn't falling asleep until too late at night, being overtired in the morning made things a bit chaotic. Thinking about these basic needs can sometimes eliminate the feeling of: "WHY in the world are you screaming right now?!?!" :) 

2. Don't force unnecessary issues. 
She wants to wear sneakers with her dress? Fine. She wants to eat breakfast on a blanket on the kitchen floor? Cool. She wants to get out of the van, and walk around the house to enter through the back door? Okay. She wants to line up every stuffed animal in a perfect row on her bed before climbing in for a nap? Annoying when I'm in a hurry, but honestly not a big deal. 

Disobeying, hurting others, destroying things, being totally disrespectful? Not okay. 

We have rules and expectations that we are teaching our toddler, and there are some things we hold onto with all our might. But the little things toddlers want to control that really don't cause any harm...? We just let them go. It's not worth it to force those issues.

3. Roll with it. 
Two examples for this one: The other day I was doing dishes while Charlotte played in her pretend kitchen. For some reason, she wandered around the corner, grabbed a broom, and said, "I clean a little while." :) I didn't really want to sweep the kitchen floor right then; it was super low on my household priority list. But she was ready and willing, and the kitchen floor was pretty dirty. So we swept it together and I showed her how to use the dust pan. I did the dishes later, once she was happily playing something else.  

Also- on Thursday morning we really needed groceries, so I packed the kids in the car to stop at the playground before going to the store. Once we got to the playground, there were other kids there and Charlotte was having a lot of fun. The sun was shining, Asher was happy, and I realized we didn't need anything specifically for dinner that night. It was easy for me to rearrange my shopping plan so we could stay at the playground a bit longer. Sometimes we can't. Usually Charlotte has to deal with the rest of the family's needs and schedule, but sometimes it helps to just roll with it.

4. When possible, give choices. 
This goes hand-in-hand with number 
5. Stop giving choices when there's no choice. 

Getting your poopy diaper changed isn't a choice. But where do you want to get changed: living room or bathroom? Or, what color diaper do you want to wear next? Going to bed isn't a choice, but do you want to go now, or play for two more minutes? Being kind to Asher isn't a choice, but would you like me to move him away a little bit so he isn't bumping into your block tower? Getting into the van isn't a choice, but do you want to climb in through the front door, or your own side door? (Not always an option, but if we aren't in a rush I sometimes give that choice :) )

Now-- onto number 5, which is one of my personal pet peeves with parenting. If there's no choice involved, don't make the toddler think there's a choice!!! 

How often do we say, "Want to go to the store now?", and the toddler replies, "No."  Truthfully, we should have said, "Get your shoes on. We are going to the store." 

Another habit is to say, "Okay?", after giving a direction.. "Pick up your toys, okay?!" And the toddler is thinking, "Nope, not okay, not interested, I'm still playing." :) If there's no choice involved, we can't phrase things as a choice- it's confusing. 

So, there you have it. Some tried and true ideas for eliminating (well, not really, but at least decreasing the number of!!) toddler meltdowns and power struggles.

Now, who has more to share?!  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Life around here these days

It's strange how the content on this blog ebbs and flows, through different stages of life and seasons of the year. I've been taking a lot of photos lately, all on my iPhone, and usually posting them to Instagram or facebook. But I haven't felt there were many interesting things to blog about, so I haven't been sitting down to write. 

When I look back in future months (or years), though, I want to be able to remember the normal days and the way my children grew, and the mundane challenges of life. So here's a little glimpse into our lives these days. 

Asher mastered sitting up last week. Then got his first tooth over the weekend. Then last night, he slept for the first time in an ACTUAL crib! He's been in the pack N play since he stopped sleeping in the swing as a teeny tiny babe. I was worried he would have a hard time adjusting, but he didn't seem to notice a bit of difference. :) Babies, man. So flexible and awesome. 

Since Asher now has the crib, Charlotte is sleeping on the living room couch. 

Psych. She's settling into her toddler bed fairly well. Naps are consistent and awesome. She sleeps all night long, but bedtime has become very difficult. Fortunately, she doesn't seem to know she can actually get out of her room and has been pretty obedient of our "stay in your big girl bed" rule. However. She plays and reads and talks to her stuffed animals and babbles to herself FOREVER before finally falling asleep!! Last night it was almost 10pm before she was sleeping quietly! Ugh! 

Joel's work schedule has been very full lately. This week alone he was home after six pm three days in a row! Maybe some people are used to this kind of schedule, but he leaves home by 7 most mornings, so being gone for over eleven hours is really difficult. For both of us. I'm exhausted by dinner time, so getting it all prepped on my own while managing both kids is so hard. Joel works a long day, then comes home and jumps right into super dad duties. Needless to say, we are happy for the slightly slower pace every time the weekend rolls around. 

The spring weather here has been amazing!! We have spent a lot of sunny days outside, swinging on our swingset, doing yard work. washing the cars, going for a hike, and walking/running on the trail nearby. After a cold, dreary winter, this sunshine is blowing me away. So grateful! 

We are very thankful for our quiet neighborhood and the connections we have made in our church here. It's been a difficult year, but God has provided so abundantly and lovingly for our needs. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A day in this life

Inspired by a post on erstwhile dear blog, I'm typing (with a bandaid on my left thumb making it tricky...) in bed at 10:47 pm. My family is asleep and I'm just dying to overshare with anyone who will listen/ read in this little blog world. 

6am: the alarm goes off, Joel gets up, and suggests I stay in bed a bit longer. Though Asher only woke up once at 3am to nurse, I'm still tired and lounge in the dark with the white noise app going. 

6:40am: I hear some banging from the bathroom next door, realize it's Asher happily kicking the counter while Joel changes his diaper. I get up, bring him back to my bed to nurse quietly. His first feeding can be his best of the day, but only if Charlotte isn't around to make noise. Asher is sooooooo distracted these days and is constantly pulling off and making milk spill all over my shirt and his face. TMI, I'm sure. 

6:55 am: I hear Charlotte and send Joel in to get her before he leaves. She probably wasn't fully awake and is now grouchy because she isn't falling asleep easily these days and didn't really get there until around 9 last night, though she went to bed at eight. Oops!

7:20: Joel's gone. Scrambled egg and toast for breakfast. Asher makes a complete mess of his egg (and last night's leftovers!) and doesn't get much food into his mouth.. C has to put on her own jelly and then only just licks it off. But she devours her egg, so we can check morning protein off the to-do list ;) She also nibbles some sugar snap peas dipped in Ranch. #breakfastofchampions

10am: My friend/neighbor (a godsend!!), is watching Charlotte during Asher's 6 month check up. She brings her little backpack with diapers, a cup, and one toy. "Bye, mom. Ready go Miss Laura's house." And my heart falls to my knees. 

11:30: Home to get big sister. Asher has charmed everyone he laid eyes on at the doctors office, and I'm reassured that all 18.5 pounds of him are pure sugar. Charlotte is hungry and overtired and needing my attention, but Asher is starving and needs to nap as well. She watches the PBS kids app on my phone, then needs to sit on my lap to eat her macaroni and cheese. She says, "help me, please, Mom." Meaning-- spoon feed me. Every bite. Don't eat your own reheated leftovers. Duh. ;) She hasn't done this since Asher was a week old, so I absentmindedly ponder if she is getting enough attention or what could have triggered this baby-ish action. 

1:15: Asher slept for an hour and wakes up just after Charlotte went to bed. I scramble around, moving laundry, picking up some toys, doing a bit of dinner prep, looking at curtains online. I've started listening to the Coffee + Crumbs podcast while I do chores I don't really love. I wear my phone in my back pocket so I can hear it but also have my hands free.

3pm: both kids are up, though Asher is tired again and will need to nap again soon. We walk to get the mail, take selfies, read some books, "cook" in Charlotte's kitchen, change dipes, fold some laundry. We haven't gone to the grocery store this week so snacks are limited-- goldfish and clementines. Again.

5:40: at the last minute, friends bring over pizza for dinner. Their kids are older, but their whole family is patient with the chaos of ours. C is quiet, Asher happily gnaws on a steamed carrot and some pizza crust. 

6:20: quick bath for both kids because it's easier than wiping all the soggy food off Asher's face ;) They love to be in the tub together and it's sort of entertainment + cleaning all in one. 

7pm: Asher has been nursed and put to bed. Fortunately, he rolls around happily for five minutes and then puts himself soundly to sleep. We push Charlotte on the swing outside, Joel helps the neighbor cut branches, C drinks her cup of milk and we try to move toward bedtime. It's my night to put her down so Joel takes a shower, and then he does school work while I go get groceries. 

9:45: Joel is exhausted when I get home from the store and falls asleep almost immediately. I stupidly drank caffeinated iced tea at 5pm so I'm wide awake. Hence, this blog post :) I realize I didn't get a chance to learn a single thing about his day. Fortunately this doesn't happen often, but sometimes parenting with two tiny kids feels like we are ships passing in the night. 

Phew. A good day. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Chats with Charlotte 5

Me: what was that noise?
C: Charlotte's tooting!!! :)

"Take all friends out of my bed!"
"Any more friends, Mom?"

"Pray someone else, Mom?!"

"Here go go, Asher. Here go go, Mom."

"Go park. Take bonononars. See boats, see whales." 

"Play trumpet, Mom. I play drum. Be loud!" .... "Oh, my! Be loud! Hurt my ears!" 

"Asher did it!" (As Asher grabbed a piece she was adding to the tower, haha.)

"Draw circle, please. Color it in. Draw tiny little stars. Draw big star. Draw triangle." 


"Hold me, please, Mom. Put Asher down over there." 

"I read all my friends. Ready, guys? I read book you. Okay, everyone!"