Toddler Thursday: Tips for Waiting Patiently in Line

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Categories Going out, Parenting, Toddler Thursday, ToddlersLeave a comment

No one likes to wait, right?  And having to wait with twin toddlers in tow can be considered a rare form of torture.

waiting

My twin girls are now 6 1/2, and I still employ some of the “entertainment” techniques I used when they were toddlers when we find ourselves waiting somewhere.  For us, this made standing in line at the grocery checkout [mostly] bearable, and waiting in the pediatrician’s office not [quite] so torturous.

Here are my top five tips for waiting patiently with the littles.

Put your hands…  The girls could be “entertained”, at least long enough for me to unload the grocery cart, with a game of “put your hands”.  “Put your hands on your head.”  “Now put your fingers in your belly button.”  “Put one finger in your ear and one on your nose.”  “Do you have pockets?  Put your hands in your pockets.”  This makes me laugh now to remember, but I tried to dress the girls in something with pockets if we were going grocery shopping.  They LOVED to put their hands in their pockets, and it kept their hands from touching everything in the checkout line!

Pick a square.  This gem still serves me well in public restrooms (ICK!!!).  I’ll tell the girls to look around and pick their very favorite square of tile to stand on.  Or, “Put one foot on one square, and your other foot in a different square.”  “Can you reach your feet across four squares?”  “Can you both stand on the same square?”  My kiddos are six and they still love to tell me how many squares they can stretch across.  (Knock yourselves out, girls…as long as you don’t fall down in the public restroom…ICK!!!)

I spy.  Our girls loved to play “I Spy” with a magazine or book while we waited in a doctor’s office.  We’d look for certain colors, animals, shapes, letters.  As our girls grew, this game evolved.  “How much does this cost?” asked in the checkout line, was a great way for them to practice numbers.

Sign language.  We did Baby Sign Language with our girls, and they loved to show off their stuff.  It would buy me some time to run through the list of words they knew.  “How do you sign ‘cow’?”  “How do you sign ‘book’?”  “Now, ‘book’, ‘ball’, ‘book’?”  Cue laughter.  (And a couple of times this led to me meeting someone who spoke ASL…that was super cool for the girls to experience!)

Fill in the blanks.  We’ve all read the same books 1,459,297 times, right?  Especially with rhyming books, I found I could recite them quite easily, and the girls LOVED to fill in the blanks.  “‘A’ is for apple that I like to (bite), ‘B’ is for (bear) whom I cuddle at (night).”  Songs are also fair game here.  “Mary had a little (lamb), it’s fleece was white as (snow)”.  And throwing in something silly, mistaking that Mary had a little “horse”, for example, would keep our girls in good spirits.

Waiting with twin toddlers (or twin six-year olds) is not something I relish most of the time, but we usually find a way to occupy ourselves…have some fun…and maybe even learn a little something.

Do you have any tips and tricks to share for when you’re found waiting somewhere with your littles?  We’d love to hear!

MandyE is mom to 6 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Quintessential Twin Pictures

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Categories Friendships with Other Multiples, humor, Infants, ToddlersTags , , 2 Comments

When my girls were born 6 1/2 years ago, I wasn’t on Facebook. I hadn’t started blogging. And — to my knowledge — Pinterest didn’t yet exist. I barely had any mommy friends, let alone friends with twins. (That’s funny to think now, since almost all my mommy friends have multiples!)

I say that to say, I didn’t have a ton of inspiration for pictures. I took a blue million. Now, though, I look around at all the adorableness on social media, and I wish I could rewind the clock, if for no other reason than to take some adorable smooshy baby pictures.

One picture I’m thankful I captured is what I think of as a truly quintessential “twin” picture. I’m not sure where I got the idea back in the day (how old am I???), but it’s one that just makes me smile.

What is cuter than a baby in a bucket swing? Twins in a bucket swing!

Two kiddos, back to back in a bucket swing at the park. How I love those matching hats, baby-soft skin, chunky little legs, and uber-clean tennis shoes…all TIMES TWO.

If you have infant or toddler twins and haven’t taken such a picture: GET THEE TO A PLAYGROUND. FIND THYSELF A BUCKET SWING. Aaaaand GO!!!

These days I’m almost always at the ready with my trusty camera. And a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had an opportunity to sorta-kinda recreate this quintessential twin shot.

No, I didn’t cram my kiddos into a bucket seat at the park. (They’re slight, but I think that would be pushing it.) My dad has a disc swing [there’s probably a real name for this?] at his house. The girls were delighted to play on it last month when we went down for a visit. They were taking turns well enough, but then I suggested they try to swing together. (Oh, and please do so while I find the perfect camera angle… HA!)

Too big for a bucket swing, perhaps, but these twin sisters are never too big for an outdoor adventure.

Voilà!

I still love that baby-soft skin, now with matching ponytails and scruffed up tennis shoes.

I can’t foresee what my next recreation might be, but know I’ll be on the lookout, ever ready to capture the moment.

What’s your favorite twin/triplet/more pose? Share it on our Facebook page. We’d love to see!!!

MandyE is mom to 6 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Toddler Thursday: What’s Your Religious Holiday? We Call Ours “Eid”

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How to get toddlers involved and excited about a holiday when you are strung out from months of lack of sleep, the twins can’t stay up past 7:30 p.m., and are too little to really understand anyway?

First, some background on this holiday I’m talking about. Last week, millions of people across North America celebrated Eid-Ul-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of daily fasting. There are two Eid holidays that occur within a few months of each other. The second one, Eid-Ul-Adha, marks the pilgrimmage to Mecca which millions of faithful followers perform each year.

These days, many Muslim families with young children are looking for ways to adapt the customs and rituals of Eid celebrations from “back home” and adding a North American twist.

Eid is usually celebrated by dressing in new clothes, going to early morning community prayers, visiting friends and neighbours, and noshing on delicious spreads of sweet, salty, and fried foods that you normally wouldn’t eat all in the same day! Growing up, the excitement of Eid was always in dressing up in cultural clothes, going to “Open Houses” where the aforementioned food would be laid out, and getting small amounts of cash in envelopes from older relatives and family friends, called an “Eidee”.

The first couple of Eids we dressed our little ones up in cute outfits, skipped the community prayer due to it being a logistical nightmare, and instead visited close family for lunch and dinner. When they became toddlers, I searched online for trendy, printable decorations to hang up on our fireplace to make things festive. They were only 2.5 years old that summer, but old enough to get excited about parties and Christmas. I found some adorable, free printables for Ramadan and Eid banners at Sakina Design.

Our first EId banner
“Eid Mubarak” (Happy Eid)

For the stairs, I wrapped thick, multi-coloured ribbon from Michaels around as you would tinsel. And of course, there were the gold star decorations which I bought from Christmas clearances past. (Anyone else buy shiny Christmas decorations and use them for other holidays?) When Mister and Missy came home, their reaction was “Wow, niiice” and “Star!” By the next day they didn’t take notice.

For Eid Year 3, I invested in some Eid-inspired cookie cutters from an online Ramadan and Eid decoration store called Eidway. They come in the shape of a five- and eight-point stars, moon crescent, lantern, and mosque, which are all recognizable symbols of the faith.

Eid and Ramadan cookie cutters by Eidway
Unique cookie cutters shapes by Eidway

Since Mister and Missy were experienced play dough shapers, they loved making shapes with the cookie cutters.

Twin Bakers hard at work
Twin Bakers hard at work
Mastering the cookie at three years old
Mastering the cookie at three years old

This year now that the twins are four and a half years old, Mister and Missy were very excited about making Eid cookies. The only problem was, lack of time! Although they are off school since it’s summer, we are still working full-time, and it’s been hard to find enough time (and energy!) to start the four step process of making the dough, rolling and doing the shapes, baking the cookies, then decorating. It took us a few days, but we managed to hold a few sessions of cookie cutting and decorating. All for four cookies which they get to eat all by themselves. (the rest I set aside and decorated for friends and family)

Other things I had planned which I didn’t get to do was make sheer korma (traditional sweet vermicelli in sweet milk dessert), make cookies for more neighbours, put up more Eid decorations including lights, and doing some craft activities. Oh well there’s always next Eid!

How have you incorporated a unique holiday or celebration into your family lives? What new traditions have you started (or are thinking about starting) as your children get older?

Ambereen is a proud Canadian-Muslim MoM of 4 year old BG twins. She is already making plans for fun activities to do with the kids for the next religious holiday. You can find her blogging at 2CuteBlog.

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How the 1-2-3 Magic Approach Supports Parental Consistency

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Categories Books, Discipline, Parenting, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers44 Comments

I’m a huge believer in parental consistency. When the parent is consistent, it gives each child a feeling of security. In a world in which they have little power and even less context, they can trust that their parents will always follow through on what they say and can be relied on implicitly. By demonstrating self control, we teach them lessons that will last their whole lives. Yes, I know. It doesn’t much seem like they’re learning any self control at all at ages 2 and 3, but they are.

The challenge is that consistency is hard. Being sleep-deprived and pulled in eleven directions at once as a new parent makes it even harder. 1-2-3 Magic is a book by Thomas W. Phelan that provides parents with a practical approach to achieving consistency.

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

MandyE wrote a review of 1-2-3 Magic that is a good counterpoint to the summary I provide below.

I have to confess that I came to the book late, when my kids were at the tail end of the Terrible Awful Horrible Threes.  What I discovered was that I’d been practicing its tenets already. I had a leg up, though. My baby sister is 10.5 years my junior so got some parental practice as a pre-teen and teen. I also spent a lot of time in therapy before getting pregnant talking through exactly how I wanted to parent, in my attempt to break harmful family patterns. As my former husband put it, 1-2-3 Magic is just a matter of common sense, but it’s common sense spelled out with practical steps for application.

Premise

The basic premise of 1-2-3 Magic is that structure can help parents achieve consistency.

Phelan’s approach also assumes something that child psychologists know well: the ultimate reward any child seeks is attention. If a kiddo gets attention from her parent for bad behaviour, then she’ll continue it. If you withdraw attention for bad and give attention for good, you’ll quickly retrain his expectations.

That’s where time out comes in. Time out is simply the withdrawal of parental attention. It doesn’t have to have special chair, unless that’s what works for you. It certainly doesn’t involve talking or eye contact.

Goal

So, what is consistency? It boils down to two things:

  1. Parents do what we say.
  2. Parents are predictable.

Technique

The 1-2-3 Magic approach is a combination of counting and time out.

First, you set expectations. Tell your children that you are going to count 1, 2, 3 if they’re naughty. At 3, they’ll go to time out. Don’t worry if they don’t understand. They’ll pick it up.

When they do something against the rules, say 1. The next time they do something inappropriate, or if they don’t stop the original behaviour, say 2. At the next infraction, you say 3 and put them in time out.

If they come out of time out, don’t make eye contact. Don’t try to reason with them. Just gently pick them up and place them back in time out. The total time for time out should be one minute per year of age for neurotypical children.

When the time out is over, don’t try to reason with them or tell them what they did wrong. You can go over basic rules at a point when they’re not already upset. Don’t go back over examples of early indiscretions. They’ve already paid for the rule they broke, and listening to a lecture is a second punishment that accomplishes very little.

I’d recommend waiting a few hours, maybe until the next day.

My personal approach — I can’t remember if this is in the book — is to talk about rules when we’re happy and having a good time together. I don’t even bother trying to reason with the kids when they’re upset. I just say to my 9-year-olds is, “I love you, but we can’t have a discussion like this. When you feel calm, we can talk if you want to.” What cracks me up is that my girls now use that on each other!

If you stick with the 1-2-3 Magic approach, your kids will know that you’re serious. Don’t let them get away with someone one day and punish them the next (except the day you start implementing 1-2-3 Magic). It gives them a feeling of safety to know what the rules are, and this is far more effective than talking it through. Yes, there’ll be a lot of screaming at first, but they’ll figure out you’re serious.

Personal Example

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

I haven’t had to count past 1 with my girls in at least 3 years. Seriously. I don’t think they have any idea what would happen if I got to 3. I don’t even know what would happen. My daughters are 9 and are generally reasonable human beings. But when they hear me say, “One,” in an I-am-not-messing-around tone, they straighten right up.

An even better example of effective use of the 1-2-3 Magic philosophy occurred with my nephew. By the time he was two years old, he hadn’t had consistent nutrition, much less consistent discipline. I had to go to London to take care of him for a week while his custody was being determined.

It took 6 hours for him to figure out the system. Six hours.

Sure, I had to pick him up and place him on the chair I designated for timeout 26 times the first time, but he got it. I just picked him up and placed him in a chair, saying the word “time out”. I avoided eye contact. Every time he slipped out of the chair, I gently picked him up and placed back on it. When the fifth time out came around, he didn’t try to escape. He sat there, crying, for 120 seconds. When the time was up, I picked up him up, hugged him, and told him that I loved him. We returned to playing with cars.

At the end of the week, when he saw his mom, he begged to stay with me (which broke my heart, because I couldn’t bring him to the US to live with me because of immigration laws). He didn’t see me as Mean Auntie. He knew that I was predictable, and that predictability made him feel safe.

If you want a much more well written explanation of the whole thing, buy the book. It’s a very quick read.

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Everything I Need to Know About Toddlers I Learned From Story Time

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Categories Activities, Parenting, Toddler Thursday4 Comments

I first went to story time at the library when my oldest were almost 2. I thought it would be a one time activity, but Ms Jen was so compelling we ended up there every week. That was 5 years ago. My little girls are 2.5 and although other activities tend to get in the way, we still make it a priority to go see Ms Jen on Thursdays at 10:30. They always start the half hour session with “Bubblegum” and end it with “Alligator”.  The favorite activity was always petting the stuffed alligator puppet. I ended up buying the song and searching the internet for 2 stuffed alligators just like it. Recently my kids wanted to give away those beloved puppets but I wouldn’t let them.

Ms Jen always started her story times with some guidelines that I found were pretty helpful for the rest of the toddler day too.  I’m going to share them with you, but you might want to sit on a rug with alphabet letters on it to fully absorb this information!

PARTICIPATE

I don’t mean the toddlers. We all know they participate plenty. We all know our kids grow up too quickly. They don’t need to be reminded.

Maybe need to be more connected. When your little one puts on a funny hat and says, “Look at me!”, don’t just look. Put one on too! It takes 2 seconds and you’ve managed to catch their eyes light up just a little bit more.

Now, I understand that you can’t participate in everything everytime. Even the toddlers sit and watch sometimes. But make sure your sit and watch time is active too. I remember waking up for 3am feedings and timing it so I could watch a 45 minute Ellen episode. It was just enough time for me to feed, change, and swaddle 2 babies back to sleep. They got what they needed and so did I. That feeding was for me. The rest of them were saved for the babies.

MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS

This is a tough one cause I know we’re all on our phones a lot. Multi tasking always!

Wouldn’t it help us get through a tantrum if we also didn’t have to get the cookies out of the oven. I know, we don’t have time to make cookies. I mean make a doctor’s appointment.

When you’re on “mother time,” be on mother time. Save the phone call for when you’ve locked yourself in the bathroom. I like what one mom said to me. She mentioned that she doesn’t ask her toddlers to do something until she is physically able to help them. If you say, “Go get your shoes,” don’t be surprised if they need help. Be ready yourself so you can provide that help. Tantrum avoided!

If we were texting during a job interview I doubt we would get that job. Let’s give our children the same respect.

BE PREPARED FOR BAD DAYS

And we all have them.  We have bad minutes and hours too. Guess what? It’s okay!

If you’re prepared, then not much can faze you. If you know your toddlers hate to get in their carseats, just know you’re going to have to add 45 minutes to your errand. Get a cooler for your car so your milk doesn’t spoil while you pry them in.

If you know they are going to climb out of cribs every bedtime, grab yourself a snack, pull up a rug with your device of choice and get caught up on Netflix. You can’t be prepared for every situation, but you can be prepared for enough of them to avoid problems.

Today I brought 3 towels to the pool instead of 4. I now know that was the biggest mistake ever and I will never do that again.

RELAX

You don’t have to take yoga in order to relax. (It helps, though.) It’s true that kids follow your mood and your flow. So if you’re relaxed, they will be too.

I could tell my toddler was about to get frustrated, so I got there first and stamped my foot and screamed, “I can’t do it!” She was so surprised I knew what she was going to do that we had a big giggle fest instead and the moment was diffused.

Ihave hardly had to yell lately because of this principle. I just calmly give them choices that they can live with. “We are going to change your diaper. Do you want to do it the sad way or the happy way?” This principle doesn’t mean you have to be floating on a cloud all of the time. It just means that the cliche is true: “This too shall pass.”

ASK FOR HELP

Yes! All the time, for anything.

It doesn’t always mean we will get the help we need, but if we don’t ask, we don’t get. It seems natural to ask for help when we have newborns, but they don’t go away once they start sleeping through the night. They become toddlers and then teenagers!

  • Get help from the internet: Your hubby needs razors? Amazon Prime.
  • Get help from neighbors: Have a sleeping baby and need to do a school pickup? Bring the baby monitor next door.
  • Get help from friends: Have a lunch date at a playplace. You get adult conversation and kids burn energy.
  • Get help from family. Yes, we may have in-law problems, but if they do your dishes while you nap then you don’t have to talk to them.
  • Get help from your spouse: Let them load the dishwasher their own way; I promise it’s ok.
  • Get help from anyone: Hire a cleaning service!!
  • Most importantly, get help from God/church. True story: I prayed for 10 more minutes of sleep and sure enough my babies went back to sleep and then on the dot of 10 minutes started fussing. Didn’t need an alarm clock that day!

How will you implement your own “Story Time Rules” in order to deal with your sweet* toddlers!

 

*I highly recommend a book called Toddlers are A**holes! It helps with the relaxing part!

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Toddler Thursday: Two Year Check Up + Milestones

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Last week was our 2 year check up.  I am desperately awaiting the once a year days.  We went from every other day when we first brought Jane and Emma home from the hospital 2 years ago, to twice a week, to once a month, to every 3 months, to every 6 months, and here we stand.  Some of the things that we look forward to these days at each check up include:

Weigh-ins.  The girls went from not even being on the growth chart at under 5 lbs each when we brought them home, to quickly gaining weight and staying steady.  At this past visit they weighted in at around 25 lbs., which is in about the 40th percentile for their age.  Tell you what, I’m just happy that they are ON the chart!

girls

Height checks.  Let me start by saying that I am pretty short.  I am only 5’2″, and my 6’3″ husband picks on me constantly for not being able to reach things on the middle shelf.  I am prefacing my daughters’ current measurements this way because they are only in the 10th percentile for their age.  They are peanuts.

Different Developmental Checks.  I had to fill out a very involved developmental survey prior to going to our appointment.  They asked about walking, running, jumping, different reactions in situations, speech, etc.  Turns out that not only are Jane and Emma just fine, but a bit ahead for their age.  They are speaking in simple sentences and following directions (sometimes), and can even “dress” themselves (although the clothes are usually backwards by the time they are finished, IF they haven’t thrown a total s-fit in the process).

janey

Vaccines.  There.  I said it.  The word ‘vaccination’ seems to have become a dirty word in Mommyville, but having our children vaccinated was not even a discussion that Hershey and I had.  We just said “YES” when they asked us in the NICU.  And we’ve followed the recommended schedule closely ever since.  And although we didn’t actually get any vaccines DURING this visit, the girls are scheduled for their 2 year old vaccines next Tuesday and we have to schedule some blood labs for them in the coming summer months.  Never a fun time when Daddy has to hold the unsuspecting ladies down and Mama cries even more than the girls do, but such is life.  They forget about the shots before we walk out the door, and usually only run little TINY fevers a couple of days afterwards, along with the crankiness and weepiness that is typical.

I like to ask every question that I can think of during these visits, knowing that the doctors specifically put aside extra time for wellness check ups.  This time around, I asked about

  1. eating (toddlers are only expected to eat one GOOD meal a day, and if they throw the other 2 meals all over the floor, “it’s ok, and normal”);
  2. milk (switch to lowfat at this stage, as they no longer need the full fat for their brain development and the cholesterol is no good for them);
  3. pacifiers (try to get rid of them, as they are damaging their pallets);
  4. SLEEP (toddlers at this age are expected to get 12 hours of sleep a day, between nighttime sleep AND naps, and getting up at 6:00 every SINGLE morning is “normal” – ACK!!!)
  5. potty training (get a potty seat for the toilet and spend some naked time in the summer, but understand that in America the standard age for potty training is 3 years old, so not to push them or get discouraged if it doesn’t happen now because 2 is considered “early” in our culture); and
  6. dentist visits (yup, it’s time!).

I was happy to hear that Jane and Emma are in the normal range, even a bit ahead, considering they can sing their ABCs from start to finish, count to 14, and are even starting to be able to identify letters.  Another thing that they do now that I think is REALLY cool is that they sit and read by themselves, reciting the words on each page of their favorite books the way I did when I was itty-bitty.  I’m hoping that this means that I have trained little fellow readers, because I am DYING to have someone to talk about books with, as my students are all sick of hearing me talk about how much I love reading!

emma reading

I also had to ask about the CONSTANT fighting, as the girls seem to have some sort of the-first-rule-of-baby-fight-club-is-that-you-don’t-tell-mama-it’s-baby-fight-club-time pact going on.  We were also assured that this is “normal”.  Not so sure about my hair loss due to baby fight club, though.

crash

What are some milestones that your little ones have reached that you are super excited about?  Anything shock you?  Anything worrying you?  I’d love to hear from you!

We are almost done with the school year which means that it’s almost summertiiiiiime, when the living is easyyyyy….

Happy Thursday, friends!

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Toddler Thursday: Parenting After Teaching

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Categories Parenting, Toddlers3 Comments

PARENTING AFTER TEACHING

I think I’ve come to the realization that parenting really isn’t easy. But really, what role is? In my life, I’ve been a mom, a wife, an actress, a 4th grade teacher, a kindergarten teacher, a 2nd grade teacher, a preschool camp counselor, an essential oil educator, a blogger, a lamp shade salesperson, a purse distributor, a camera store and film developer, a paralegal assistant, a daughter/sister/cousin/niece/granddaughter, and countless other “roles.” So I think I can honestly say that all of them have their shares of ups and downs. Yet, I find that I constantly can pull from one to help the next role in my life. So while it seems like I have done vastly different things in my life, I find that the skill and experiences all help each other.

Take teaching and parenting: both involve working with children and educating them. Teaching is supposed to focus on teaching knowledge while parenting is teaching skills and behavior. Yet anyone who knows a teacher, has been a teacher, or has seen a teacher in action knows that there are far more life lessons in a classroom (especially an elementary school classroom) than book knowledge.

Classrooms are filled with with why and how. They have investigations and real-world experience. They allow questions and behavior- and life-lessons in dealing with our best of friends and our worst of enemies. And teachers (at least good ones) help facilitate the child in these experiences.

Parenting, likewise, is also filled with why and how. There are explorations about the world around you (both near and far) and field trips (even if it’s just to the local grocery store). They allow questions and behavior- and life-lessons in dealing with our best of friend and our worst of enemy (sometimes Mom, sometimes Dad, sometimes Sister/Brother, and sometimes even the dog). And parents help facilitate the child in these experiences.

In my classroom, I loved my students. We laughed and cried and celebrated milestones together. They were my children. I had high expectation of them, and because of the love and respect and community that we built in between those 4 walls, they rose to meet them. I’m not saying it was perfect, but I helped my children accomplish great things.

Teaching has certainly been a great precursor to parenting. But I was never prepared for how unconditionally I could love my own little humans so much. How my stern (sometimes called “strict”) teaching/parenting style would go out the window the moment they looked up at me or called me “mama.” How I want to protect them over all other things.

But through teaching, I also have seen many different parenting styles and the way that parenting styles influences children and how they act and learn. I know that I am ok being stern, but loving. Informative, but kind. Allow independence, but supportive. It’s a balancing act, but by parenting in this way, I feel like I can bring out the best in my children.

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Getting Children to Eat

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Categories Feeding, Foodie Fridays, Solid Foods, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers42 Comments

I’m a huge advocate for dinner. I cook it almost every night and there is really no predicting what it might be.

When my husband and I were first married cooking dinner was actually a sour point of our nascent marriage. Scott had been a bachelor for 11 years and for 11 years he had pretty much decided what he’d eat for dinner. Usually it was a salad. . .or some take out. This arrangement worked well for him until the new wife decided that she, armed with the wedding gift, Marc Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, was going to do just that. . .cook everything.

She thought it was an act of love. . .he felt it resembled gastronomical homicide–and it seemed a little threatening to his bachelor ways. It wasn’t that she was a bad cook. . .it just was that he wasn’t used to the cooking. . .and then the inevitable clean-up. Life was so much easier with a salad or ordering take-out.

It probably took us a good part of our first couple of years for Scott to realize that cooking was my way of showing love (oh, he could have thought of a better way. . .). And, even when kids arrived on the scene, cooking was still my norm because. . .well, have you ever taken two newborns and two toddlers out to eat. Don’t. Ever.

I remember Scott coming home from work one day and saying that one of his colleagues couldn’t believe that I cooked dinner every day. I looked at him quizzically and asked, “Well, what would we eat if I didn’t cook dinner?” And, honestly dinner time is the WORST time in a mom’s life. The kids are hungry and needy and cranky and many a dinner was cooked with literally one hand as I was holding someone in one arm while the other child tried to scale up my leg. I’d then put one child down and pick up the other and continue cooking. Rinse. Repeat.

But, on the flip side, and if you are one of those mothers or fathers who try your hardest to get a meal on the table, there is a flip side, my kids are pretty much good eaters. And, they will eat almost everything. . .well, except for Will who has a thing about tomatoes. . .and sautéed fresh spinach. . .and if truth-be-told  would have Honey Bunches of Oats for breakfast EVERY DAY if it was available.

SONY DSC
Dylan Eating Cantaloupe

So, when I read Mark Bittman’s article from the NY Times, Getting Your Kids to Eat (or at Least Try) Everything, I felt somewhat vindicated that for the past 14 years I’ve been cooking my family meals.  (Bittman’s actually been all over the media these days promoting his new book, How to Cook Everything Fast.) He is also an advocate for home cooked meals and his newest book is about how easy it is to get something on the table for you and your family.

So, how do you get your children to try or eat just about everything?

  • Cook real food. Yes they’ll eat heated chicken nuggets until you think they’ll start to cluck. . .but you replace that with a roasted chicken (it is SO EASY) or Korean Beef –another super easy recipe.
  • Offer a broad variety of food and let them decide what they like or don’t like.
  • Serve at least one healthy thing you know they’ll like but if they refuse to eat what you’ve prepared, let older kids make themselves a sandwich. Never make food a power struggle.
  • LIMIT SNACKING and GET RID OF JUNK FOOD. This is a hard one. . .but let me tell you that kids are  finickier when they are only somewhat hungry because they’ve been snacking. Food looks good to someone with an appetite and kids are more prone to try something if they are hungry.
  • Engage children and your partner in the food prep. Teach them how to do things. TALK OUT LOUD about what you are doing and why as you are cooking. Even after you set the meal on the table tell them HOW you made one of the items.
  • When the kids are older than 3: Always honor the meal AND the cook. . .have someone set the table with real placemats, forks and plates. Heck, get some of that china out and set the table with that! Light some candles!
  • Even if children didn’t like something the first time. . .serve it again and maybe again. Babies sometimes take 15 times of trying a new food before they’ll eat it. Their palates are just developing. Countless times I’ve served something that flopped only to serve it again to RAVE reviews.
  • BE UNAPOLOGETIC about cooking for your family. Never say something like, “Oh, because I’m a stay at home parent I have time. . .” or “Well, this part time job allows me to get home. . .” I’ve qualified my meal prep with these words. But the truth is that I’ve made some of these decisions in order to feed my family and I shouldn’t have to feel that my choices were somehow less than someone who chooses to work a 60 hour week. But in the long run. . .oh heck, even in the short run. . .everyone in your family will be better for that meal that you made.

Last, but not least, there is nothing in this world better than when your child walks into the house and says, “Mmmm, what smells so good, Mom!”

(A huge shout out to my mom, Judy, who had a good meal on the table almost every night and who raised a daughter and four boys who are damn good cooks! Thanks mom!)

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Toddler Thursday: Why Kids Ask “Why?”

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Categories Development, Education, Language, Talking to Kids, Toddler Thursday, ToddlersTags 46 Comments

It was 2008. I was cutting 2-year-old M’s nails. (She was 25 months old, if you seek precision.)

M: Mommy cut my nee-uls.
Me: Yes, I’m cutting your nails.
M: Mama cut my toe.
Me: Yep.
M: (pointing to her knee) Mama cut my knee?
Me: No honey. Your knee doesn’t have nails.
M: Why?

When a child between two and four keeps asking “Why?”, it’s definitely not to annoy you. It’s often not even to understand the causes of things, although they are certainly starting to understand the concept of cause and effect.

Your child asks “Why?” to indicate interest in the topic at hand.

The child’s “Why?” translates to your, “Tell me more.“.

M didn’t need me to explain to her narrowly why her knee was without nails. Instead, she was interested in me talking about the distinct purposes of the different parts of her body. I could show her how similarly her knee and elbow bent, allowing her to move around. I could explain why her nails and hair grew and needed trimming while other parts of her did not. I could point out the similarities and differences between her fingers and toes. I could compare her dimpled toddler hand to my lean vein-ridden grownup hand.

By hearing what my daughter was trying to ask, instead of what she did ask, we were able to embark on a wonderful educational discussion. It all started with the simple word “Why”.

Once I realized what “Why” meant, I didn’t hear it repeated any more. The girls were satisfied with my first answer, because I was responding to their request for more information instead of giving a quick cause-and-effect brush-off.

Has your child reached or gone through the “Why?” phase yet?

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Toddler Thursday: Crazy Little Thing Called Sleep

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Categories Parenting, Perspective, Sleep, Toddler Thursday4 Comments

You know that boozy college friend(s) that everyone has? The one that always starts their story with “We were so drunk…”?

I am that friend. But, since I’m a mom, my stories start like, “I was so tired…” and, since I’m a mom of twins, my stories actually go more like, “I hadn’t slept in thirteen days…”

It sounds like an exaggeration, but I can assure you it’s not. Exactly. I can joke about it, but I truly realized how much of my motherhood has been colored by sleep deprivation when my brother-in-law, who is expecting his first child, came to visit. Always the baby-crazy one, I was happy to share whatever memories he was interested in hearing, and I noticed that I prefaced each story with a disclaimer: “at that point, I was so sleep deprived…”

To give you some context: my twins did not sleep through the night until they were just over two years old. They are now two and a half, and I can hardly believe the sleep trials we went through. I first realized how bad it was when I read an article about REM sleep, and how you normally don’t start dreaming until you’ve been asleep for about 70-90 minutes. I’d had the most intense dreams during my naps of 20-30 minutes, because my body would just crash. (For more on the interesting link between sleep-deprivation and vivid dreams, read this article).

For those of you who are still fighting the good fight, know that you are not alone! (But don’t expect me to go back there just to keep you company, because that’s just not gonna happen.) I remember hearing people casually mention that their precious angels slept through the night at six weeks AS IF THAT WAS PERFECTLY NORMAL, and I remember feeling very strongly that we could not be friends.

I refused to believe that such a thing as “STTN” actually existed. I grew resentful because I felt like I had paid my dues–I breastfed on demand, I tried to honor each twin’s individual timing, and I didn’t have unreasonable expectations for sleep (as did the moms of obviously fictitious sleep-through-the-nighters).

But two years?!?

Finally, it happened. It wasn’t an overnight miracle, but a slow process–for the twins, it was sleeping, but for me, it was actually about awakening.

Now that I can reliably get 6 or more hours of sleep each night, I feel like I am actually living again. I feel like life now should have the hashtag #nofilter, as opposed to all those #nosleep memories during infancy. The best thing, for me, about toddlerhood is–unequivocally and necessarily–sleep.

Once I read another twin mom describe the first couple of years as being ‘underwater’ and I do like that metaphor. Not that having your head above water is easy! With two and a half year olds, it now feels like I am treading water. All day long. And I don’t know about you, but treading water makes me tired–very tired!

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