Put a Bib on It


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Get Outside!

Did you know that sunlight can actually positively affect your mood? There is actual, legitimate research that proves it. I can honestly say that I didn’t need a researcher to tell me that was true, though. I love outdoors. I love everything about it; I love the adventure it brings, I love the learning it brings, I love the exhaustion it brings, I love the smiles it brings, I love the smells it brings. Seriously, I love everything about the outdoors (except maybe the mosquitoes)!!

I was raised to love the outdoors. A lot of our family time growing up was spent bonding outdoors, whether it was at the lake, around a picnic table, playing whiffle ball in the front yard, going on bike rides, or just exploring. I want my children to have the same passion for the outdoors. For that reason, I am constantly on a mission to get outdoors and explore all that it can offer and what I have found is that the opportunities are endless!

Not only are the options and opportunities endless, so is the learning!

climb-tree
Bryce has been desperate to climb a tree ever since he saw his big brother do it. However, he is still too short to get himself into the trees at our house (unlike his big brother) and I have a rule about putting children into positions they can’t get themselves into (I don’t do it). When we were at a park the other day he noticed these bushes/trees that he could easily climb onto. He had a blast working on his gross motor skills and developing his spatial reasoning!

pond
This is Bryce, Drew and I at a pond full of fish and turtles. They come right up to the edge, making it easy to see these animals in their natural habitat. We had a blast watching them swim around and talking about the different things they do and eat. Even without many words, I knew Drew (11 months) was enjoying the experience, he spent the whole time babbling and pointing at all the animals. What a great science lesson!

caterpillar-1
Here we are at a butterfly garden. We got to experience both caterpillars (Bryce is here checking one out, up close and personal!) and butterflies. We even saw some catalysts! As we discussed how caterpillars change into butterflies, Bryce said “Like the book?!” (Very Hungry Caterpillar).  He is using his memory to recall what he has learned from books we have read in the past and making sense of it in his world!

creek
Here are the boys exploring a creek. We saw minnows, felt the water current on our bodies, and touched and discovered rocks. Talking to the children during this outing produced an overwhelming number of new words (vocabulary) we were able to experience: Cold, fast, small, hard, sharp, slippery, wet, current, creek, river, bank, and the list goes on! Books are great, but experiencing the real thing is incomparable!

water-fountain
Here is Bryce at a local park using a water pump to fill up a watering can. He then poured the water on plants, in the sand, on the sidewalk, and anywhere his heart desired (with the exception of his brother’s head). This is a great lesson on cause and effect. If you lift up the handle, water will come out and if you tip the watering can, water will come out!

evening-walk
Even something as simple as an evening walk can lead to learning! Just be sure to take the time for you and your child to notice all the amazing things around. Here, Bryce discovered an ant hill. He had a blast watching the ants crawl in and out and all around. In addition to the experience, the walk helps burn some excess energy before bed, leading to easier bedtimes. It’s a win-win for me!

Get out and enjoy the weather and the learning!


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Child Rearing Is Personal

parenting-is-personalI am always worried whether what am I doing is BEST for my children. Society seems to have all these rules and expectations that we have to follow, but sometimes the “rules” are complete opposites of each other, depending on who you are talking to. Are these “rules” best practice for children or are they one person’s persuasive opinion?

  • Cloth Diaper or Disposable Diaper
  • Breastmilk or Formula
  • Cry it Out or Never let them Cry
  • Baby Wear or Stroller
  • Helicopter or Free Range Parenting

Child rearing is personal. I have close friends who choose different parenting techniques and strategies. In my opinion, there is not a 100 percent right way to child rear for everyone.  We don’t all choose to do it the same way. We make different decisions on things depending on our personal situation and our own personal research. In the end, I like to think that we all have the same goal: happy, healthy children.

Next time you are at a park or store and you see someone child rearing differently than you, I challenge you to try to assume the best. We’re not all the same, all our situations are not the same, and our children are not all the same. Thankfully, we live in a country where we can choose to do things differently than our neighbor or friend.

If you find yourself passionate about a particular aspect of child rearing, and feel you must share, find ways to share the information without sounding bossy, negative, or nasty. Once, when I was out with my boys, I actually had a mom approach me and, what felt like, demean me because I was pushing my young son in a stroller rather than “baby wearing” him. After my initial frustration and anger about her approach and condescending tone, I was able to search through her comments to find the positives (this isn’t an easy task): she’s passionate about her beliefs and is doing what she feels is right for children. I am absolutely not saying I am against baby wearing (because in certain circumstances and times I have made the choice that baby wearing would be the best for me and my children), what I am saying is that everyone is different and has different reasons for child rearing differently at different times.

Let’s assume that all people have their child’s best interest in mind at all times. And assume that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. To think parents never make mistakes is ludicrous; distractions happen, life happens, bad days happen. The world would be a much better place if we could rally together as parents (and humans) rather than rally against.


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Play With Everyone!

play-with-everyoneWhen I was growing up, I loved to play. I think that most kids do. I grew up in the country and had lots of long days playing outside. I have three brothers and although we didn’t always get along, playing together would eventually teach us how to get along with, take care of, and protect each other.

One activity I really enjoyed was Scouting. We played often at Scouting meetings and camp outs—while also learning a lot. Baden Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, spoke of Scouting as a game with a purpose, and I have to admit I grew as a person even without knowing I was learning or developing character. I feel that like Scouting, play lets my son grow and learn to adapt to the world around him.

We took our son to play at the park and at a mall play area. It is so much fun watching him move around and choose where to go, what to do and who to play with. It is wonderful watching him explore with sand and water, although he is a mess when he is finished. He and I don’t seem to mind being messy.

He enjoys everything and everyone. He has a character and spirit that reminds me of my grandpa, who never met a stranger. He says hello and acknowledges everyone that he comes across. I wonder what he is thinking. Maybe “Wow, what should I do first?” Or, “Those kids look like new friends.” He tries keeping up with the big kids running and zooming down the slide, and then goes to greet every new parent and child that comes to play.

Many young children don’t seem to care who they play with—which is great! Thinking about recent events, it makes me wonder when society lost this open, non-judgmental friendliness. As children age, they sometimes begin not playing with others for a specific reason, and become exclusionary in who they play with. I can only guess that the reason this happens comes from experiences and what we learn from our parents. Young children of all nations, colors, and religions look past everything and seem to find the positive possibility of a play partner, new friend, or buddy even if just for a few moments. I hope to be able to foster openness to playing with anyone in my child as he grows up.

I’ve been accused of being a big kid even as an adult, and I hope that I can help shape my children’s learning through play like Scouting did for me. I wish my son never loses his character and continues to play, have fun, and enjoy learning from all of the people that he encounters in his life journey. Differences are something that make us special, and being friends with those who are different from us brings new experiences and learning so that we can all grow.


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First Day of School—and Beyond!

We’ll bid a fond farewell to Sadie after Ev heads to his first day of school… next month, join her on our blog for parents of young children, Blink…And They’re Grown!

kindergarten1

Ev started kindergarten in August. It’s true what they say, about it being such a transition, such a coming of age life moment. My baby is no longer a baby.

I just felt like so much was changing. The same week Ev started kindergarten, Ev switched from a car seat to a booster chair—no harness buckle. Drop off meant no more walking into the classroom and Ev just getting out of the car at the door to the school. I don’t even have to put my car out of drive. It means leaving the Put A Bib On It blog and joining our other parent blog, Blink…And They’re Grown. Because I no longer have a baby. I have school-ager.

I have once heard of change being compared to an elephant and its rider. The elephant is our emotions and the rider is our analytical side. Usually the rider has control over the elephant, but if the elephant doesn’t want to obey—who would win? I did everything in my power to keep my emotions, my elephant, from running amuck. What if drop off didn’t go well and Ev got out of the car crying? What if he is lonely all day and misses me and his dad? What if he doesn’t make friends? What if he doesn’t make the right friends—those who encourage him to be a leader and make good choices? What if he isn’t kind? What is he doesn’t stand up for himself? What if he doesn’t stand up for others? What if there is a zombie apocalypse and I can’t get to him in time?

The rider in me made some plans to prepare Ev and to prepare me. We set up some play-dates so that Ev would have the opportunity to meet some other children in his class. I took him to meet the teacher and to drop off school supplies. We also spent some time at the school. Ev played on the playground and we walked around inside. We practiced how drop-off would go. We talked at-length about kindergarten. We made a laminated picture schedule of the morning routine and a laminated family picture for the book bag.

The first day of school arrived. Ev hopped out of bed, got dressed and started the morning. He was excited. We took first-day pictures and loaded the car at our pre-determined time. As we were in the car line to drop Ev off, we talked about having courage and being kind and went over things one last time. An aid approached the car, opened the door and Ev got right out with a simple “Bye.” I of course, started bawling (and proceeded to do so on and off until pick-up time; I could no longer control my elephant). But Ev was fine!  He was great, even. And I am so proud. He has been in kindergarten for several weeks now and I am still so proud.  He has handled the transition so well. We discuss good parts and challenging parts of the day. And the good far outweighs the bad.  He looks forward to school and seems very confident. While I miss my little baby terribly, I am so proud of my school-aged boy.


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Perseverance

toddler-running

Allowing children to explore their world is an important part of their development!

Our son is walking, almost running now and trying to be a daredevil with the furniture in the house. He has started looking right at me, smiling a little to see my reaction and then leaping, falling, and testing my reflexes. When he wants to get into something he is a pretty creative and persistent problem solver. We now have to lock the baby gates because he has figured out how to open them without much effort. He is adventurous to say the least and is extremely aware when I am actively present in the room. He has begun the “dada dada dada” as he’s doing something and I’m ready to  hear the “Watch me dad!” soon before he does something like jump from the top of the stairs.

As dangerous as some of his actions seem he is exploring his world and testing me a little —sometimes a lot. What I find really encouraging is that he is getting better at being a problem solver. He might fail for what seems like days to master opening something or getting to a book that he really wants that slipped under a chair. He never seems to get frustrated and continues to try. I could get it for him, and I do sometimes, but he is learning and it is inspiring to  see his mind working. I want to do all that I can to help him persevere as an independent little person so that he grows up and is able to see things through, meet goals, and ultimately be successful. But even if he can’t always follow through, achieve goals, or win it all that it isn’t the end of the world—we get up and try again.

I’m reminded of the persistence of athletes during the Olympics. Many people remember the Dream Team from the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, but I remember a runner from that year. His name is Derek Redmond and he was a projected to win a medal. During his semifinals he tore his hamstring. He could have stopped, maybe he should have. But he tried to hobble toward the finish. Then a man came running onto the track through the security and judges. That persistent man was Derek’s father, and after he reached his son they gradually crossed the finish line together. I’m sure that it would have been great to win a medal, but a father and son crossing the line together is what life is about. Things happen in our journey, and it’s how we handle these bumps in the road that helps us learn and grow. Derek had worked so hard to get to the race and he probably would have gotten to the finish line on his own but sometimes it’s okay to let someone help out. This is the kind of relationship that I want with my son.


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Positive Risk Taking

PositiveRiskI want to raise children willing to take risks. The kind of risks I’m referring to are willingness to try or do things, even if they seem scary or overwhelming. I want my children to be confident in their abilities, even when faced with difficult circumstances or situations. I want my children to be willing to speak their minds and stand up for what they believe in. I want my children to know that I am completely supportive of them and are behind them (whether physically or philosophically, or both) in everything they do.

However, risk is something that can be difficult to teach. I have thought often about this, and have come up with a few things I do that I believe will help build confidence in my children.

Validate feelings. Whenever my children seem hesitant about experiencing something new, I always try to put what they are feeling into words for them. At library story time recently, they had a puppet show.  Afterwards, the librarians brought out the puppets for the children to meet. For whatever reason, Bryce (3) was hesitant to go up to meet and touch them. He clung to my leg, looking at me with eyes that made it clear he was nervous about approaching them. Rather than marking his fears as irrational and dragging him to the puppets, I reassured him and validated his feelings by saying, “I understand you feel nervous about going up to the puppets, we can go when you are ready.” We waited, watched all the other children go up to the puppets, all while talking about what the children that were visiting the puppets were experiencing. We talked about how the puppets were nice to everyone they met and how the children smiled as they said hello. As the line was dwindling down, he said he was ready.

Encourage and support, but don’t force.   Encouraging positive risk can start at a young age. In a world where safety seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, positive risk doesn’t mean “unsafe”. When we go to the park, I let Drew (10 months) climb up the stairs of the climbers and slide down the short slides. I never lift him (or Bryce) up onto something. If they want to be there, they will persist, acquire new skills, and grow confidence in their abilities. Their look of accomplishment is worth the wait!!

Avoid reasoning and bribing. Telling a child they are going to like it or that it is fun likely is not getting to the heart of the problem. Bribing children will likely not lead to overcoming the fear either. Providing reassurance that you are there to support them when they are ready to take whatever challenge they may be facing will help them to overcome their fear in order to take a risk.  In my house, we try to never bribe or reason when it comes to food.  We lead by example and talk through when one of our children are squeamish to try something.  We discuss how everyone is eating it and each of us talk about how it tastes. We never force any of our children to eat anything, yet all three children will always eat anything put in front of them.  In Florida, we all even tried alligator without having to persuade anyone!

Foster independence and exploration. Children are naturally curious.  At a park recently, Bryce saw a boy go up a climbing wall that was bigger than he had ever been on. I observed him watch the boy in amazement and awe as he scaled it to the top. I then watched him slowly approach the climber. I could see and sense his hesitation, but he continued to approach it. He looked back at me for support; even though I was a little nervous for him, I smiled and nodded in encouragement. Then he started up the wall. It took him awhile to navigate the wall, but he made it to the top. I could see the pride in his face as he turned around and smiled at me.

Acknowledge Success. Take time to acknowledge when children overcome fear and take a risk. Retell what occurred to help solidify in the children’s mind what occurred. After Bryce climbed the wall, I said, “You were nervous to climb that wall, but you did it and it was fun!” In the face of future challenges, your child will remember that he felt that way then, but it ended up okay.


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Why

life-is-precious

…we are reminded that life is so valuable and precious, and we have faith that it will work out.

One of the happiest days of my life was finding out that my wife was pregnant with our son. It comes to no surprise that when my wife was acting strange I was suspicious that we might be expecting again. My wife almost couldn’t contain herself and did her best to capture my reaction on video like many other people. I was speechless and wanted to share our excitement with some close friends. It was such a joy. Parenting has taught me so much and I was about to learn another lesson.

Sorrowfully, it wasn’t the lesson that I had expected. After only one week my wife began not feeling well and knew something was wrong. We lost this precious joy a few days later and were stunned. There were no words, only emotions. We wondered what we had done to have this happen. We started asking, why? Questions of how and why float through my head. I’ve not quite felt the same since. My wife has taken this very hard and time is the only thing that has brought me to the point of being able to write about it. There are few words that can console a soul from hurting.

My wife and I have leaned on our faith as we question and try to understand why something like this would happen. Through this we are reminded that life is so valuable and precious, and we have faith that it will work out. I can’t imagine all the things that my wife has had to endure, and all I can do is love and support her and give her space to feel what she needs to feel.

I remember thinking that being a parent is the most important and difficult thing that I could ever do in my life. Life continues to teach us and we learn through every experience.  I think about what I can learn from going through this. Time helps, but only a little. I keep revisiting in my mind what I could have done differently or done to help. I struggle with the answers, but I know that we will get through this together as a family.