I’m not the fun parent

I’m not the fun parent

20171117_2256111354219021.jpgThere are times when I wonder how my children really view me.

I know they love me. I’m essential personnel around here. I’m the one they cry for when they fall and scrape their knees. They scream my name in the middle of the night to rescue them from a nightmare. And they blame me when dinner doesn’t suit their fickle tastes.

20151213_1905231925404260.jpgBut when they want to wrestle on the floor, or get a piggyback ride, or get flipped off the couch onto the hard floor, I’m not the one they call. They always ask for dad.

I’m not the fun parent. But I really want to be.

I want to live in the moment with them and race cars along the dining room wall and throw all the toys out of the toy box just to hear them crash on the floor and delight at the mess. I want to help my three-year-old line up every shoe from the front door to the back of the house and then insert toys into the shoes and pretend they are all standing in line.

Because it looks like fun.

screenshot_20171117-2154381438551004.pngBut there’s just SO MUCH TO DO. Let me figure out what to cook for dinner. And oh, let me finish that other load of laundry. I should really take a minute and call my mom. Or my dad. And my grandma, lord bless her most folks don’t have grandparents around anymore.

So I shoo the children away to work on something that needs to be done, fixed, finished, cleaned.

And when I do get a minute, I actually just want to sit and play with my phone and be by myself. You feel me?

Thus, the angst. Because I wanna be fun.

My husband shrugs it off. “We all have different roles,” he says. He reassures me that I’m needed and loved and that the house would totally fall apart and be nasty and everyone would starve without me.

For me, that’s not the point. I want to be fun. And I want my kids to see it and feel it. And love it.

After dinner and right before bed, my husband’s routine is to take the kids to our bedroom and let them jump on the bed and his head. While I clean the kitchen. Sometimes I relish the time alone to think or listen to music or just be alone for a few minutes.

But most times, I want to be right up there with them.

So the other day, I just decided to leave the kitchen as is. I went upstairs and belly-flopped on the bed with my family. The kids screamed and squealed. And I was happy to hear it.

After five minutes, my back started hurting. One of the kids kicked me in my c-section scar. And I had to use the bathroom.

This is why I’m not the fun parent.

 

 

 

 

 

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Potty Training: Trial and Error

Potty Training: Trial and Error

charmin_tipsarticles_howtopottytrainagirl_image2Waking up to epic poop outs in the morning, where you need to change the crib sheets and give the baby a head-to-toe bath, is really getting old.

And so am I. I’m getting too old for this. My baby is two-years-old. She is getting too old for this too. We really need to get this potty training down.

That’s one of the reasons I was excited about Tot on the Pot. It seemed to offer a solution in a box, complete with a parent guide, a stuffed toy with her own play potty, activity cards and a nice step-by-step picture book for the baby.

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I think she’s telling the doll to use the toy potty.  The irony…

It’s the whole parental involvement part that’s bugging me. I’m tired. Everyone in my house has been sick for the past month. Me included, but I’m not getting rest because I’m taking care of everybody else. I thought I ordered a solution in a box and all I had to do was unpack it and let it work.

But it’s really not a casual undertaking, and I think that’s my been my problem. I’ve been putting potty training on my schedule: when I don’t have anything else scheduled outside of the house to do, or when I’ve had some really strong coffee and decide to take on all the things that need to be done, or when I’ve just dropped $100 on diapers and I’m mad so I decide she’s going to wear underwear for the rest of the day (but didn’t you just buy all those diapers) and then she pees on the couch and I slap a diaper on her.

Yea, I’ve been doing this all wrong.

With the Veterans holiday, we had a three-day weekend to get this done. But I just didn’t feel like it. And then I spent Saturday night in Urgent Care with the three-year-old who had a bad case of Croup. Yes, people still get Croup, even though it sounds like something my grandfather used to get.

So tomorrow is Monday, and I will try again. Everybody’s still home sick and snotty and sneezing but we are going to get this done. I’ve got some juice boxes and some salty snacks and I’m going to sit in the bathroom (or really close by) with my commando baby and Tot on the Pot and we’re going to get this done. As god is my witness.

Because I’m definitely going to need his help too.

How did you potty-train your toddler? Please leave your comments in the box below.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pee and Poop on Demand: Potty Training Baby #2

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Has your kid ever screamed, or got pee all over the floor, when the automatic flush in a public bathroom went into action and scared them half to death?

Have you ever thought of covering those sensors with a post-it note so your kid could finish the deal in (relative) peace?

Genius, right? Well, I didn’t come up with that. That tip came from Tot on the Pot, a new potty training system designed to coax toddlers to use the bathroom by encouraging play time and rewards for success. They advertise themselves as “potty training simplified for parents.”

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My Tot on the Pot came with the toy doll, toy potty and activity cards that are part of the rewards and incentives to help your child be successful using this system.

I came across their site on Instagram and reached out to them, particularly after several frustrating days of encouraging my two-year-old to use the potty and having her pee on the floor EVERY SINGLE TIME. Aren’t girls supposed to be easier to potty train?

My Tot on the Pot system came in the mail this week (it’s not available in stores yet; the company is raising interest and money on Kickstarter) and included a toy potty, an anatomically-correct girl doll, activity cards and a parent guide (an illustrated book introducing the doll was mistakenly not included but hopefully will come later).

First impressions: This simplified system requires you to read a 35-page guide to get started.

But don’t let that scare you. It’s pretty large print. And as I started to skim the book, I actually found its advice and tips quite helpful, even though I’ve already potty-trained an older child. The parent guide helps you find ways to use the doll, the book and activity cards as a reward system when your child successfully pees or poops. It also keeps the process engaging and fun for them.

But do I really need a system to help me potty train my kid? Big Mama said she potty trained six kids at the same time all on the same day.

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The guide was a fast read and informative. Now if someone could just publish a guide on parenting and motherhood….

You can start this process over confident if you want to. But trust, know and believe: a self-willed two-year-old will break you down and render you emotionally inept very quickly.

I started off skimming the parent’s guide but I’m glad I ended up reading it. It feels like a preemptive pep talk, encouraging us to be mentally ready, remain positive and consistent throughout the process. I need all of this right now.

Some of the advice includes: Don’t compare this child’s potty training progress to that of another child, even a sibling. This is your child’s very own journey.

Another tip: Some children need to be alone to poop. Casually walking out of the bathroom for a moment might give them the privacy they need to succeed.

And keep the mood light: If your child seems anxious when they catch sight of the poop swirling down the drain, encourage them to wave bye-bye as it disappears from sight.

The guide seems to incorporate some of the science behind potty training without overwhelming readers, as well as Tot Tips based on the experiences of countless parents who have already been through this. There’s also modified tips to support parents who are potty training children with developmental delays.

The system encourages setting aside a block of time–around four days– when the parent and child will be home or nearby to start this process.

So I’m prepping now. Next week, we begin.

I think my little girl is ready. I hope I am too.

 

 

 

Cuddle Time in a World Full of Ouchies

Cuddle Time in a World Full of Ouchies

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My hubby cuddles the kids after a long day at work.

So how did you explain the terror attacks in Vegas to your children?

I wasn’t planning on saying anything to mine. But my three-year-old son caught the tail-end of the news report before I could get around the corner from the kitchen and dining room and hunt high and low for the remote to turn it off. I never did find the remote in time.

“Mommy did those people die? Did that man kill those people?” My heart just ached hearing him say words like “die” and “kill”. Please just let him stay innocent for a little while longer. Let’s turn on Thomas the Train or something happy.

But the questions just kept coming. The simple answer: Yes, baby. He did. “Why did he do that?” Because there are bad people in the world today who hurt other people. “Do they have ouchies now?” Yes baby, they have really bad ouchies. “Will they go to the doctor and get some medicines?” Yes, some of them will.

I could see his little face trying to make sense of what was happening, using leading questions to connect the little bits of life he’s figured out so far. Bless his little heart.

img_20160129_191432-11586642913.jpgA few days later, when his two-year-old sister was caught in the midst of a tantrum, he put his toys down and wrapped his arms around her and said, “Aww you need a cuddle.”

It was so spontaneous — he usually puts her in a headlock– that I just watched in awe, quiet and still, trying to capture the moment in slo-mo. As the two-year-old pulled away, you could see the relief on her face. Cuddle time saved her day. They returned to playing with their toys.

This brief window into their lives proves my kids are watching a fair amount of television — Lambie, an affectionate stuffed animal on Doc McStuffins, solves most problems by offering her peers a cuddle.

But it also showed me that my three-year-old son is learning how to show sympathy to others. Watching his sister, he was moved to show compassion and comfort her. For them, this is how they solve problems, with a little love and a hug that shows that someone else cares about how you feel.

In the years to come, my children will certainly shed their layers of naivete and acquire an understanding of how the world works, including the cycles of sadness and pain, evil and death that have existed since the dawn of humans.

But I hope to also instill in them a sense of sympathy–the ability to show compassion and comfort to others. To naturally be moved with emotion when you see another person in pain, whether or not you know them or agree with them.

20171006_211936791832466.jpgIn the face of horror and unspeakable acts, sympathy and compassion become guiding principles for humanity again.

Comfort provided in a hug, a cuddle, can provide the first stitch of hope to close a raw wound, the promise of a balm and soothing help in just a little while.

In a world full of endless ouchies, we could all use a little more time to cuddle.

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The Eclipse: Finding time to make memories

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Sometimes it takes a rare celestial event – like the alignment of the sun and the moon – to make you drop every thing and alter your crazy busy schedule to witness a breathtaking event.

Initially, I planned to just keep my oldest kid home from daycare and just go get some solar eclipse glasses from 7-11 and go out in the backyard and look up in the sky and hope we see something without going blind. That was my plan. Then come back inside and try to get them to take a nap after 3 pm. Good luck with that.

But my hubby was working from home. And we kept hearing about the best places in the city to watch the eclipse. 

And then I read this article about how the eclipse is best witnessed in a crowd of people. My brother in the Midwest called me and said he was witnessing the eclipse while we were on the phone and it was “pretty awesome.”

Peer pressure (and the Internets) prevailed. We packed the kids up and headed to the nearest public library, where they were holding an eclipse party and handing out free glasses for kids.

20170821_135042And I’m glad we did.

My family loved it. It’s funny how something so constant– I mean, the sun and the moon are always out there and they aren’t leaving anytime soon– could stop us in our tracks and make us take note of its beauty.

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EclipsekidsAnd not just its beauty but each other’s too. We were outside the library with tons of other kids and families, office workers, commuters, passersby.  College students spilled out of a nearby dorm to watch it with us. And we all chose to be together instead of watching it on TV or the Internet or in our backyards. Kids colored their depictions of the eclipse on a group coloring page. Another group of preteens threw a football.

EclipseColoring.jpgWe were all just spending time together really, watching the sun pass by the moon.

It wasn’t quite a once in a lifetime event– this is supposed to occur again in 2024. My kids will nearly be preteens so they won’t remember this one. But we have the pictures to prove it.

More importantly, I have the memories. Because we were all there, together.

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The War on Vegetables

The War on Vegetables

At my son’s 36-month appointment (that’s what his Dr called it, can we just say he’s 3!), I got a lecture about how he needs to eat more vegetables.

MORE vegetables? Can you get him to eat ONE vegetable? 

Girl, bye.

There’s a war on vegetables in my house and my toddler is winning. He went from being the adventurous avocado eating, sweet potato-slurping, pureed peas-pooping 18-month-old to the two-year-old who wouldn’t eat anything but cheerios. And chicken nuggets.

Add a year and the war is still on. He’ll slurp the Catalina dressing off a spinach leaf but he ain’t gonna swallow it. I seasoned the green beans with minced garlic and onions like he used to eat them as a baby and he straight up told me “I don’t like it.”

I got really frustrated the other day and tried to force a spoon of honey-soaked sweet potatoes in his mouth. It was a small spoon. Still a bad idea. He immediately gagged and vomited all his food on the dinner table.

Bestest.Mommy.Ever.

I had forgotten my secret weapon. Veggie smoothies! Yes. YAAAASSS.

Ingredients for a simple, healthy toddler smoothie.
Ingredients for a simple, healthy toddler smoothie.

Two handfuls of washed spinach. Some frozen fruit. A cup of milk. Half a cucumber. A banana to sweeten things up. And a tablespoon of honey. Blend it all up.

Green goodness. I put a lid on it the first time so the green hue wouldn’t turn him off.

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Everyday he gets a smoothie now.

He gets his veggies. And I win the war. At least, this war.

10 Tips to Survive Road Trips with Toddlers

10 Tips to Survive Road Trips with Toddlers

I am now living proof that you can survive a road trip halfway across the country with toddlers.

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Just us, two car seats with two babies, a playpen, and a HEAP of luggage.

But you need STAMINA. Which includes the ability to make decisions and be coherent with very little sleep. FLEXIBILITY is important. Pack a CREDIT CARD for impromptu hotel stays and a SENSE OF HUMOR when the little ones have decided YOU WILL NOT DRIVE ANOTHER MILE WITHOUT ME SCREAMING AND PUKING.

My goal was to travel home to celebrate the marriage of a longtime friend. But we live on the East Coast. And our destination was the Midwest. That’s a 13-hour drive, 850 miles one way, and I haven’t driven it since I moved East a decade ago. It requires crossing mountains and never-ending stretches of cornfields and prairies. It requires TIME.

What I’ve learned: Stay flexible. Kids will make you make time for what’s important.  They will slap cell phones and tablets out of your hand to get your attention. They will cry until you pick them up or feed them or change their diapers. Or stop the car.  You will answer TO THEM. Or else.

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Crossing a bridge from Missouri into Illinois

And once you know who’s really running the show –THEM– you can adapt, pivot, and reach your destination, safe and sane. Here’s how:

  1. STOP. And think it through. Would it be cheaper in the long run and add years to your life if you just bought some plane tickets?
  2. If you will be driving more than 8 hours, consider getting a hotel. You’ll be a safer driver and a saner parent if you’re rested.
  3. Bring a “pack and play”. If you’re not comfortable co-sleeping with your little one, you can easily set the “pack and play” up in the hotel room or at your destination and they can sleep or play in it and be protected.
  4. Add two hours to your driving time to include diaper changes, nursing, meals and potty breaks. Plan on stopping every 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Keep a “go bag” that you can easily reach, with bleach wipes, paper towels, diapers, butt paste and plastic bags to stash dirty diapers. Add another “go bag” at arms reach with sippy cups and snacks.
  6. Put a good quality diaper on the baby and really put on a lot of diaper cream to avoid extreme diaper rash. This will also enable you to drive a bit farther before a mandatory diaper change.
  7. Nursing moms should minimize the coffee drinking, which can lead to leg cramps and dehydration.  Ask me how I know.
  8. Provide distractions for the kids. Add to your luggage small toys, DVDs or a tablet loaded with offline movies to entertain them. And I love these busy bags. My little ones are still a bit young for them but I will use these in the future.
  9. Bring jars of baby food or make your own and have ice packs with you to keep them cold. Eating fast food on the road for several days will eventually make every one bloated and irritable and give the little ones constipation after several hours of riding. And riding several hours with a constipated toddler is NO BUENO. You have been warned.
  10. Bring a booster seat with a tray.  It’s hard to feed a baby in hotel rooms that may not have a dining table.

Now that I’m back home and somewhat rested–nah the baby is teething again, there’s no rest happening here— I’m glad we did it. My toddler loved to see the bridges and point out the big trucks as we drove. The 13-month-old mostly slept, bless her little heart. Me and the hubby got to sit next to each other to talk and laugh for hours.

And that’s worth doing the trip all over again.