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Monday, March 31, 2014

Who says you CAN'T?

Who says you CAN'T?!
"But Mom, I CAN'T!"  Ever hear that one before?  And, how do you respond?  If you're like me, you roll your eyes, sigh, and say something to the effect of, "You can't or you WON'T?" 

CAN'T is such a limiting word, implying that it is physically impossible to do whatever it is you're being told to do or considering doing.  Kids are expert at using that as an excuse.  But what about us?  How often do we tell ourselves that we CAN'T do something?  Are we any different than our kids?

I've heard mom's say they can't lose weight because they can't work out at a gym.  I've heard mom's say they CAN'T keep their house clean because they have little kids.  I've heard mom's say they wish they could go back to school but they CAN'T because they're stuck at home.  They CAN'T be stay-at-home moms because it's too stifling.  They CAN'T...

There may be legitimate things you are not able to do at the present time but why think about the limits you have?  For everything you are unable to do right now, there are numerous things you CAN do to better your life and make a difference in the lives of those around you.  Regardless of your circumstances, you can continue to learn, grow and contribute.  Don't let your new baby stop you from taking care of yourself.  Don't let the fact that you have children stop you from expanding your skills and interests. 

Being a mom doesn't mean that you stop being a person.  The many roles you perform can coexist side by side.  Sure, it takes effort and maybe budgeting your time better but why not?  Focus on what you CAN do and enjoy your life! 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Power struggles...kid style

What would parenting be without the occasional power struggle with children?...a LOT more pleasant, that's for sure!  Unfortunately, it's wishful thinking if you think you're going to get though raising children without having them test their boundaries.  What IS surprising is how early that can start.
The blur is intentional...he's in perpetual motion!

To be honest, a baby or toddler is not trying to usurp power from you when he refuses to go to bed or refuses to eat.  But the way you handle it will set a precedent for future interactions.  A calm, gentle but firm response is always the best way to deal with a battle of the wills with kids of any age.

Two year old Andy has become a picky eater.  He's a healthy little boy, energetic and rarely sick.  His mommy is frustrated by his new refusal to eat the food he's served at meals.  Looking closer though, he is a "grazer"...eats little bits throughout the day.  Also, the food he DOES eat is healthy and nutritious.  Is Andy getting enough to eat?  Yes.  Does his eating pattern conform with his parent's expectations?  No.  So, the parents can either accept that he's getting enough to eat and live with it or stop letting him graze and wean him towards a more scheduled eating schedule with the rest of the family.  The WORST thing this mother could do is make a big deal of it.  That will only escalate the conflict between Mommy and Andy and set the tone for later food battles.  Not worth it.

When parents set reasonable rules and expectations for their children, the children know what to expect and what happens when that "rule" is tested.  Hopefully, NOT a power struggle but a gentle reminder and firm stand.  Will you be tested again?  Most likely yes.  Your children are constantly changing as they grow so they will be constantly testing boundaries and rules.  Maybe not the SAME rules all the time, but they'll find new ones to try out.  :)

Keeps a Mom on her toes!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The popped finger

Four year old KP wanted to play outside with her older brothers and sisters who had just built a see-saw from some old boards, a tree stump and who knows what else.  Apparently she got just a little too close at just the wrong moment because it wasn't long before there was screaming, crying and running.  Oh yes, and blood.  I learned something very quickly that day.  Smashed little fingers don't flatten like a pancake.  They pop open like a grape.   It was immediately clear that we were going to spend the afternoon at the hospital getting stitches.

When things like that happen, there is no question what is needed to do.  Not so clear are the times when you just don't know if an injury is bad enough and if it will get better on its own.   The same is true with illnesses.  No one wants to take a sick child to the ER and find out she just had a cold.  But no parent wants to miss something that is truly an emergency.  It is a judgment call and personally, I think it's better to err on the side of caution than have regrets later.   The decision is ultimately up to you and your gut instinct. 

If you're unsure what to do, a quick call to your doctor's office can help determine whether symptoms can wait or should be seen immediately.  They are a wonderful resource for parents, especially unexperienced ones!  They also can prevent an unnecessary trip to a crowded ER.

At the hospital with KP that day, the doctor wanted to give her a general anesthesia because of her age and the procedure.  I told him that I thought she'd be ok with just a local.  The doctor told her not to watch.  She held perfectly still and stared intently at the doctor's face.  I watched her closely and realized what she was doing.  I asked her if she was watching her finger get stitched through the reflection of his glasses.  She nodded slightly and continued watching.  I guess we didn't have anything to worry about  :)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring thoughts...

Thinking Spring thoughts today!

I am what you might call a lazy gardener.  I don't enrich the soil before planting.  I plant seeds but forget to water them.  When weeds start to grow around my pathetic little plants, I might pull them or then again, I might not.  Protection from predators?  Naw.  It's a wonder that ANY of those plants grow to maturity.  I guess I shouldn't complain about the poor yield of my little vegetable patch.

Do you know where I'm going with this?  That's right...children!  Packed in their tiny baby bodies is tremendous potential.  How we nurture, protect and enrich those budding "sprouts" will determine their strength when they reach maturity.

Just like a little seed, a baby needs a rich environment to grow strong and healthy.  She needs to be nourished both physically, emotionally and spiritually.  She needs to be nurtured with love.  She needs protection against danger.  She needs to experience a variety of challenges to be able to withstand greater trials as she grows.  And, as she continues to grow, she becomes strong.

There isn't anything haphazard about parenting.  Like a vigilant gardener, a wise parent knows that by addressing the many needs of their children, they are helping them grow into strong and happy adults.

Happy gardening!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Good habits/Bad habits

Begin early!
It's said that people are creatures of habit.  Assuming this is true, is it good or is it bad?  If your habits are good, then it's obviously a good thing.  (Think flossing your teeth, exercising regularly, calling your mother once a week.)  If your habits are bad, it's not so good. (Ok, I admit to eating a handful of chocolate chips every night after dinner!)

Habits are built up over time, which is why it's so important to help your children develop as many good habits as possible.   There is much you can do to help facilitate good habits in even the very young.

A tired, young mother complains that her 8 month old baby won't sleep through the night.  Notice the word, won't.  It's not can't. A baby who is developing normally (according to pediatric guidelines) is capable of sleeping through the night.  What the baby has done is developed the habit of waking up multiple times to eat or get interaction with Mommy or Daddy.  With work and a few more sleepless nights, that baby can learn diferent sleep patterns.

A school aged child whose room is constantly in a state of chaos has developed the habit of throwing things on the floor rather than putting them away.  Again, it's possible to work with that child to develop better habits.

A preschooler is rude, out of control and hits other children.  Believe it or not, that child has developed the habit to behave that way.  It's what he's used to doing and because no one has taught him otherwise, it's his way of dealing with stress, frustration and anger.  For the child's sake and those around him,  this is a habit that really should be dealt with...SOON!

The list goes on...but as a Mom, you have more control over these (and other) annoying behaviors of your children than you might realize. Schedules and routines are a good place to start.  They build the type of habits that you want to encourage.  Routines aren't just the invention of overly obsessive, compulsive minds.  :)  They provide a framework for daily living.  They provide peace of mind to your children.  It's much easier to guide children to develop good habits than to have to help him break bad ones!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Necessities for newborns

Such a sweetie! 
Being a mom for the first time is the ultimate step into the unknown.  :)  The realization that someone is going to depend on you for their very life is daunting, to say the least.   From the time you first learn that you are pregnant, you are bombarded with choices...home birth, medicated birth, c-section, natural birth, water birth, family in the birthing room, bonding, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, immunizations...the list goes on and on.  And the more you research the options, the more confusing it can get.

And then you have to decide what Baby's going to need to be comfortable and what YOU'RE going to need to be comfortable.  More advertising and more choices...going to the store to shop for Baby is more confusing than rewarding. 

Here's my list of what is a necessity for Baby and what's not.

0-6  months necessities
Equipment - 
1. Car seat....essential.  Whether it has a removable carrier is not as important.  Why?  Because studies have shown that when the car seat can be used as a baby carrier, Baby spends too much time in it.  In some cases, a baby's head can become flattened by the amount of time being in the same position.
2. Portable baby crib (like Pack n' Play).  New babies don't need a full sized crib yet and most parents prefer having their new baby sleep in their room.  A portable crib will make that easier and will also be useful when traveling.  Portable cribs can be used exclusively for several months.
3. Soft front carrier...much more comfortable for both Baby and Mommy than lugging around a stroller.  Tiny babies are soothed being close to Mommy.  Mommy has both hands free to shop or do whatever she needs to do.  Compact and washable. 
Supplies -
1. At least one dozen cloth diapers, even if you're planning on using disposables.  Wonderful for burp cloths and cleaning up the inevitable messes.
2. Lots of receiving blankets.  Homemade are best.  One yard of 45" material, hemmed, and you have a nice sized blanket.  Several in single layers and double layers serve many needs.
3. A "diaper" bag.  In parentheses because there are so many cute, roomy bags available, don't limit yourself to a bag labeled as a diaper bag.  Buy whatever you like!
4. Waterproof pads.  For changing Baby wherever you happen to be and for putting under crib sheet in case of leakage.  These can be made also.  Buy a couple of yards of waterproof fabric or buy a waterproof mattress pad and cut it to the sizes you want.  Hem if necessary.
5. If you're bottle feeding, of course you need baby bottles, formula and a bottle brush.  If breastfeeding, you've got all the equipment you need  :)  Here is another time when having a receiving blanket comes in handy...for privacy.
6. Lots of onesies and footed sleepers and a place to put them...probably a dresser or shelves.
7. And of course, diapers...lots and lots of diapers!  And a bucket with lid and liners to put used diapers in until they can be thrown away.   I'm assuming you're going to use disposable diapers.  Cloth diapers are a whole different matter!  In that case, at least 4 dozen diapers, plenty of diaper covers, pins or other fasteners and a larger bucket to hold the used diapers until you can wash them.

For the first few months, that's about all you need.  There are other things that can be useful but most things just cost a lot of money, take up valuable space and rarely get used.   You really don't need a baby bathtub, changing table or all the other gadgets and gizmos sold at your baby superstore.

In a few months, you WILL need a high chair (either free standing or attachable to a table), a full size crib and a stroller.  Oh and a "kid gate" or two.  Once your baby starts to get mobile, you don't want him to have free reign over the whole house and if your house has stairs, it's essential for safety.

Most likely you'll have plenty of time to ask friends what they use for their babies and can keep your eye out for good sales.  Babies do cost money but not nearly what some people spend.  After you have the essentials, you can fill in as the need arises.  You'll get the hang of it and soon you'll be a pro!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Parents parenting practically (I love alliteration!)

She may be small but she won't stay that way for long!
Yesterday I wrote about being a passive or active parent.  It's pretty obvious that being actively engaged in your role as parent is vital to your child's well-being.  The fact of the matter is that you aren't just co-existing or hanging out with your children, you are training future adults.  Your job is to prepare your children to be well-adjusted, contributing adult members of society.  It may seem like the time when your children are grown is far in the future but believe me, it comes sooner than you think!

Knowing that, how are you actively and practically teaching and training your children?  As I said in an earlier post, a goal without a plan is just a wish.  Well, a plan without an implementation is still just a wish too.  You can plan and study and research all you want but until you start putting into practice your ideas and goals, nothing is going to change.

Do you have a routine and schedule in place and do you follow it?
Do you have set boundaries and enforce them?
Are you working on your own weaknesses?
Are you setting a good example?
Are you consistent?

Start with the basics and then build on that.  The younger your kids are, the easier it is to set rules and enforce them.  Patience and consistency are the keys to success, whatever age kids you have.

Our children have such potential.  Help them.  Encourage them.  Direct them towards good activities.  Your influence will never be greater than it is today.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Are you active or passive?

The beginning of a lifetime of adventures!
The word parent can be used as either a noun or a verb.  So, my thought question today is, "Are you a parent who is actively parenting or are you a parent who is passively parenting?"

A parent who actively parents their children...
1. teaches them how to behave acceptably around other people (children and adults).
2. disciplines appropriately when needed.
3. accepts responsibility for their children's actions.
4. is involved in their children's activities (but in a supervisory role, not "taking over")
5. knows who their children's friends are.
6. trains them how to contribute to the home as appropriate for their ages (chores, meal prep, self-care).
7. sets up a routine and structure for each day.
8. believes in letting children experience consequences. 

A parent who passively parents their children...
1. let's them do whatever they want.
2. does not discipline them.
3. does not accept responsibility for their children's misbehavior.
4. has the belief that children will learn what they are supposed to if left to themselves.
5. has no structure or routine.
6. does not let children experience the consequences of their behavior.

I think you can see that I'm painting a picture that being passive is not in a child's best interests.  How can children learn what is right are what is wrong if they aren't taught?  How can they learn what is acceptable in society?  How can they make informed decisions without the "informed" part?  We are their parents.  Supposedly we have experience and knowledge to pass on down to the next generation.  Our children need that direction and guidance.  They won't be prepared for adulthood if they spend their entire childhood thinking that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of how it affects others.

If you have children, you and nobody else is responsible for their welfare.  It's a full time job but immensely satisfying.  Don't sit passively but take an active part in your children's upbringing.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What a beautiful day!

There's nothing like waking up on an early March morning to the sound of birds chirping and the sun streaming in the window.  How could anybody be grumpy on a day like this?

Realistically, I know we'll still have plenty of storms and maybe even some snow before Winter is over but the occasional beautiful sunny day is a reminder that Spring is just around the corner.  With Spring comes new growth, new life and longer days.  Can't wait!
The daffodils and irises will be blooming soon!

Lilacs are budding and the grass is growing!

The strawberries are peeking through the old growth!

Thought I'd throw this picture in for fun.  If you don't know what this is, it's rhubarb poking through the soil.  I don't like rhubarb but the plant is pretty fascinating.  :)

The first dandelion of the season.  What would our world be without dandelions to fight every year?!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The two most important hours of the day

There are two magic hours in every day.  How these two hours are spent will largely determine the level of happiness and satisfaction for the rest of the day.  They are also the best times for strengthening family relationships and bonding.  Any ideas what those two hours are?

The first one is the first hour in the morning.  It's the hour that sets the tone for the day.  It can start out stressful and rushed.  Or it can be a time when your husband and children feel your love and encouragement as they prepare to leave for the day.  A relaxed breakfast, clothes laid out the night before, lunch prepared, all papers and books accounted for, maybe a morning prayer and short devotional.  What makes the difference between stressed and prepared?  Maybe half an hour.  Is it worth it?  I think so.

The second magic hour in the day is the dinner hour.  Having everyone together at the table reviewing their day, sharing ideas and information is incredibly important for building strong family ties.  There aren't many other times in the day when everyone can actually be in the same place at the same time.  It's worth it to schedule activities around your family time, not the other way around.  This is also a good time to practice table manners, polite conversation and respect.  Where else are the kids going to learn it?

Our homes can be a place of refuge and peace amidst the craziness of the world.  Those two magic hours can give your family the strength and confidence to meet the challenges of the day.  We need all the help we can get!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

It's a dirty job but somebody has to do it :)

Measuring the level of "sludge".  Gross!
Home maintenance isn't always enjoyable or even satisfying.  Spending an hour draining a water heater or vacuuming refrigerator coils is a necessary chore but when you're finished, no one can tell that you did anything at all.  The same is true with caring for a septic system (if you happen to live in the country, which we do).  The only sign of activity is a bare spot of dirt where you dug up the cover of the tank.   But I guess that's good.  Who wants to see someone's septic tank or drain field or worse yet, smell it!?!?!?!

Regardless, it has to be done every three years and that's what I spent an afternoon doing.  I'm thankful it wasn't raining! 

Covering up the evidence  :)