on trusting a toddler

Thursday, February 4, 2016

I think these days some of our ideas about parenting would be perceived as "old school" by some. We believe in discipline. We believe in having children that are respectful towards adults, are polite and well mannered. We believe in having our kids do chores as soon as they are able to (now that Birdie is three she in charge of cleaning up her toys, occasionally helping with the dishes and making her bed in the morning). We believe in never asking our toddler if she wants to go to bed, take a nap, eat or play; we tell her. Discipline with Birdie has been especially difficult since the very beginning as she is a very strong willed and precocious child. But we've stuck to it and we've done ok.
I wanted to share this post because there were many times when we were in the thick of it, so to speak, and just feeling lost and helpless as far as how to go forward and what the right thing to do was. We read everything we could get our hands on and asked everyone we knew for advice in our quest to unlock the mind of a toddler. There are two specific lessons that we picked up that have been immensely helpful in creating a peaceful home and growing a rewarding relationship with our daughter.

Tip #1 "Address the need NOT the behavior"
This was a huge eye opener for me. We went through a stage with Birdie, actually we went through it several times, where she would tantrum three, sometimes four times a day. And I'm not talking about some crying and foot stomping, I'm talking exorcism level, hour long and completely draining kind of tantrums. It was breaking all of us. But we felt that the right thing to do was to punish the behavior (by punish I mean talking to her sternly and putting her in time out in her room). It wasn't working, at all. Then we started doing some research (namely reading a lot of Janet Lansbury) and we realized that she was not simply misbehaving she was going through some serious internal struggles that she either didn't understand or couldn't verbalize. Well wouldn't you know, as soon as we started approaching her with empathy, love and affection during these "episodes" we were able to shorten their duration and pretty much eliminate them altogether within two days. She will still have these sorts of episodes every few months and basically what we do now is just hold her and talk to have in a calming soft voice. It breaks my heart because sometimes she will literally dig her nails into me as she just cries and cries. Being a toddler is hard. For real.

Tip #2 "Trust your toddler to do the right thing" 
You know that hokey saying "speak truth" or "speak light" upon your life? Well my dad was a big fan of that long before Oprah made it a part of her repertoire. Even as teenagers he would always have "discussions" with us about relationships, drugs, sex, alcohol, etc and yet end it with "but I know you will make the right decision." LOL. And the ghost of his disappointed face haunted me all through high school and college and resulted in me earning a reputation for being fairly straight-laced. He started speaking to Birdie in this way pretty much as soon as she could talk and I would roll my eyes in return thinking "she's a kid, good luck thinking she knows what the right thing to do is." And yet... And yet I started coming across child psychologists and others backing up dad's theory and a few months ago I decided to give it a try. I stopped getting involved in fights between the kids, I stopped telling Birdie that she "must or must not do x,y, or z immediately," I stopped forcing the right response from her. Instead I would calmly suggest that she "share the toy with Teddy/return the toy to Teddy/not whine/not be demanding/not be rude." I would tell her that I believe in her and I believe that she will do the right thing and then I would step away. And you know what? After about a month of doing this now 8 out of 10 times she really does do the right thing!! She'll even come and tell me "mama I shared my toy with Teddy" or "mama look I'm waiting patiently!" And it has improved our relationship immensely and I find myself raising my voice so much less often. I can just see it in her eyes - how empowering this has been for her.

We're all still learning here and we are just on the cusp on beginning to discipline Teddy (which is turning out to be a whole different ball game both because of his gender (I think) and his personality). I've just always felt that the more information I have about this the better chance I have at not screwing things up. And it's funny because I think good parenting advice can come from experts, books and journals but it can also come from an old lady at the check out line of the grocery store, your neighbor or a fellow mama. I don't think I have all the answers and I'm always seeking advice because I think raising kids is hands-down one of the most difficult and grueling things I have ever gone through. I'm taking all the help I can get!

banana nut muffins

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I'm always looking to bake something that the kids will eat too these days and banana muffins seem to always do the trick. I wanted something easy that I could throw together in the morning and have on hand for snack time. 
I seriously underestimated how much we would all love these as they were all gone a day after I made them. Oh well... guess I'll have to make another batch :). 

2 mashed bananas
1/2 c almond milk
2 1/2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 large egg
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c quick-cooking oats
1/4 c granulated white sugar
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c chopped nuts
some sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl mix the bananas, milk, oil, egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl whisk flour and remaining ingredients.

Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until they are just combined. Add the nuts and fold in gently.

I made six regular sized muffins and eight mini muffins. Sprinkle the tops with some sugar for an extra delicious crunchy top.

Bake for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Birdie could barely contain her excitement asking me every two minutes "are they ready???"

taking stock vol. V

Monday, February 1, 2016

The last time I did one of these it was the beginning of November and we had all the wonderful holidays on the horizon. Now it's the first day of February and I am finally feeling like we're out of the horrible dark woods of January. This morning I could hear birds chirping, the was a palpable warmth in the air and hearts and chocolates are everywhere! Can't go wrong with hearts and chocolates.

These lists always seem to remind me of what's good and help me get excited about the future. So here we go!

making: messes. I decided to relax a little on the "clean house" thing and let the kids, and sometimes myself, just have so fun.
cooking: pasta and pot roasts. As soon as it gets cold all I want is ALL the carbs!! Mmmm...
drinking: tea. This one is my favorite.
wanting: a hot tub. I'm serious. We enjoyed the heck out of one at the cabin a few weeks ago and now we're obsessed.
looking: forward to spring. Since we're probably not getting snow I just want winter to be over already.
wasting: water. Between the laundry for four people, daily baths for the kids and running the dishwasher it's kind of insane.
sewing: nothing at the moment but I have some projects I would like to get working on soon.
wishing: time would stand still long enough for me to enjoy my babies being little.
enjoying: the new season of Serial. I heard some people don't like it because it's not as "did he or didn't he?" but I find the nuanced material this season much more thought provoking.
waiting: for a certain something...
liking: the idea of not having a huge party for my 30th but a getaway with my husband instead.
wondering: what this next chapter of my life will look like.
loving: slippers. Not earth shattering news but they seriously improve my quality of life.
hoping: I can achieve all the goals I set for myself this year.
marveling: at everything we've accomplished in eight short years of marriage. To think it all started with thinking each other cute!
needing: nothing. I'm still enjoying all my Christmas presents.
smelling: my new perfume, a gift from my mum, and loving it!! Always been a Tocca girl.
wearing: these mittens every day. I can't stand being cold. They're so cute I got them in pink and white! They're on a crazy sale right now too!
listening: to Serial.
noticing: the passage of time. For some reason my thirtieth and the fact that Birdie starts preschool in one year has really been weighing on me.
knowing: nothing really. Does anyone know anything at the beginning of the year?
thinking: about so many things I've had trouble falling asleep lately.
feeling: anxious and excited. I feel like this year has the potential to be amazing.
bookmarking: sewing projects.
opening: new doors. Theoretical and literal ones.
giggling: over the strange things that come out of Birdie's mouth these days. For example, she was walking laps in the hot tub this weekend and then stops and says "Do you think there's a point in me going around again??" #dead

i ain't missing you (well maybe just a little)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The other day I walked past our living room as I was putting away toys, for what felt like the billionth time that day, and I had to laugh to myself at the placement of candles. You would have thought that someone went through with a three foot ruler and measured to ensure that not one candle was reachable to certain, cough*birdie*cough*teddy*cough, kids. You see back in the day I loved to scatter candles across the coffee table [like a normal person]. And I have had to learn the hard way why they must be kept far far away from grubby little hands. Have you ever tried to remove burned candle wick from white carpet?? Try it sometime it's super fun activity for a Sunday morning and guaranteed to put you in the best of moods!
But you know this got me thinking of all those little, and sometimes big, things that I miss about life before kids. Like...

- going to the bathroom in peace without two little people staring at me asking asking me what I'm doing
- cooking for myself instead of two very picky and opinionated individuals who will probably not eat 50% of what I cook anyway
- not having all of my magazines shredded and chewed before I even get to look at them. Now I'll never know that nifty way I could organize my silverware drawer!
- not needing at minimum half an hour but more realistically 45 minutes to get in the car. Then another fifteen minutes before we can get out of the driveway.
- sleeping. More specifically REM sleep, I don't think I've experienced that magical unicorn in approximately three years
- showering, eating, getting dressed, using my laptop for something other than playing "Springtime with Roo" for the thousandth time. It's like these kids smell when I'm about to engage in something that is at least a little bit selfish and they must stop it!
- a clean house. For like two hours. Heck, I'll even take an hour. You know how dogs shed hair? Kids shed EVERYTHING but the kitchen sink.
- not having grimy fingerprints on every flat surface of the house
- unloading the dishwasher in peace. Why, why do kids always think the dishwasher is an amusement park?
- being able to have a phone call with another adult without having to say "I'm sorry about that screaming/crying/whining my kid [wants the "udder tiny muffin/a snack/my udder tiny powka dot ball/my pink bunny socks/snack/pushing thingy"]
- every ceramic item in our house being in one piece
- not having my trash rifled through or... eaten
- going out to eat. With kids it's a tossup of whether or not you will a) finish your food b) end up being "those people" or the ever elusive c) actually have a good time
- sleeping in. Closely tied to sleeping but of course with this one I'm just being greedy now.
- not handling someone else's poop or urine on a daily basis.
- laundry for two people. I want to travel back in time and slap myself for ever complaining about doing laundry.

All that being said I've allowed one of these two children to pee on me in the bed twice so I guess we're keeping them... Might even like them. Probably love them. Like a lot. Like I'll go Katniss Everdeen on anyone that dares to make them cry.