Put a Bib on It


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A Tough Day for Mom

tough-day-for-momToday is a tough day for me.  They just wheeled my baby to the operating room.  Literally, I am sitting in a room with tears rolling down my face, looking at the spot where my two-year-old once sat coloring and racing cars around his bed with me.  He was so brave and didn’t even shed a tear. In fact, he sat on his ‘race car’ bed as they wheeled him down the hall enjoying  watching Mickey Mouse with the staff member responsible for befriending the child and making the transition away from parents and into surgery as calm and pleasant as possible for the child.  By the time he left, he was actually looking forward to seeing the “play room with lots of blue stuff”— aka the operating room!  I, on the other hand have had a constant stream of tears (I did put on my brave face until he was out of sight).  Fortunately for us, it’s just a fairly simple outpatient procedure that he has to be sedated for—I am certain there are families here for far scarier reasons and procedures.

My heart feels like it has escaped from my chest as I sit here typing this. My son’s safety and well-being are in the hands of another and I lack control in a situation I so badly want to have control over.  I want to be able to be there through the whole surgery, but I can’t. I want to be able to fix it without the procedure, but I can’t. I want to suffer the pain of recovery for him, but I can’t. I can’t be the mom I want to be able to be right now, and that’s tough.

The nurses have assured me that he did great the whole way to the ‘play room’ and only cried when they went to put the mask on him to put him to sleep. Now I must sit and wait for a grueling (at least) 2 hours before they will return him to the room I am waiting for him in. At that point, his procedure will be complete and he will be awake. I know he is in great hands, but I just can’t help but feel helpless in a time when I feel like my son might need me the most—or maybe when I need him most.


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Marble Jar

behavior2Ever have a moment when you basically get called out by your child? I have. At a recent visit at the psychologist, when asked if he has any chores at home, Ev said, “No. My mom does everything for me.

Hello, truth bomb. At first I got defensive. Like, “Hold up, buddy, that’s not true. I don’t do everything for you.” I was feeling defensive and guilty because it is a little bit true. Ok, a lot bit true. I often do things for Ev that he could do for himself and moreover, that he should do for himself. One example is getting him dressed. I know he is fully capable—but in the essence of saving time and irritation, I often just did it for him. He can be a very stubborn, strong-willed child and sometimes I don’t want the fight or the struggle. As I talked with my husband and what I knew, deep down in my heart, was that I was not doing Ev any favors. Building independence and responsibility are an important part of his development.

We are trying something new. Remember when I talked before about the things I said I’d never do as a parent and now do without hesitation? One of those things I swore I’d never do was use “behavior modification strategies.” That’s a fancy way of a saying rewarding desired behavior, for example, a sticker on a chart every time your child uses the potty. Well, we are trying one. We got an old pickle jar and some marbles. Ev gets marbles for very specific objectives during specific time frames. So, from wake-up until going to school, Ev can get a marble for:

  • Getting dressed on his own;
  • Brushing his teeth after only being asked once,
  • Not saying any bad words during that time (Ev’s current favorite is butt crack);
  • Not being asked more than once to do anything during that time frame and
  • Eating healthy for breakfast (which is usually aclementine or yogurt).

There are also specific objectives for after school.

Each marble represents 2.5 minutes of iPad time during the weekend. (Remember the no iPad rule on week nights!) My husband and I talked about rules for ourselves as well. First of all,we want him to be successful, so we started with sections of time versus all day. Before we walk out of the door to school, Ev already has some marbles which I think starts the day with in good spirits. When you are feeling good, you do good. Secondly, we vowed that marbles cannot be taken away. Once they are earned, they are earned—regardless of how frustrated we may get.

The first week went really well. Ev was excited to collect marbles. He picked them out each time. He was excited to see the jar fill up. We did encounter one problem. Once the weekend came, Memorial Day weekend, Ev spent the entire time outside. He hardly used his iPad. He had a great weekend, playing on a water slide and using real bricks to build a pretend house. But when Monday rolled around, we emptied the jar which was kind of difficult to explain. I was worried Ev would feel like it was all for naught. But we’ve started week two and he seems just as engaged. We are hopeful this will be a good way for Ev to start feeling good about doing things on his own. I want to eventually add tasks, such as chores (i.e. feeding the dogs, helping to clear table after dinner). And it also helps me not do so much for him.


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First Birthday

first-birthdayWe just celebrated the traditional big milestone in a child’s life, the first birthday. Like many first-time parents, I felt there was a lot of stress to make this a special day, but at the same time, I don’t remember my first birthday or many birthdays growing up. My birthday always landed near a special weekend and was a busy time for our family. I don’t want this for my son—birthdays are a day of celebrating getting older and thanking and celebrating his mother as well. It doesn’t have to be a national holiday, but it does need to be special.

For this birthday, we knew it would be more of an event for the parents. We decided on setting some traditions to move forward. Since my wife is from China and our son was born in the year of the lamb, we had some toy lambs as part of our theme and hope to continue this tradition as he grows older. We decorated the house with balloons and flags making the house look like a rainbow. We also decided to have some sort of game to play each year. This year we played a fun game about occupations with items scattered on the floor that symbolized occupations/interests. First, he picked up a little football, and then he made his way through several other items until finally he was drawn to a little green New Testament bible. So maybe one day he will be a missionary, minister, writer, or librarian. We sang happy birthday and had fun with his cake, and even though he was a little sick he eventually made a huge mess for us.  He certainly gained a lot of energy after eating the cake. We finished with opening presents, and while he was most interested in the paper and bags, he really liked his lamb book from grandma.

Sadly the party had to come to an end, but our little boy did seem to have a lot of fun with everyone that day. We took lots of pictures and will have plenty of memories for this first birthday. As a worn out dad from setting things up and cleaning up afterwards, I reflected on the amount of time we are able to get together like this with our friends. I am hopeful that in the future we will have company more frequently, especially now that we have some practice after this gathering!


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Five Ways I Knew My Son Needed Help

play-outside-inflatableOver the past several months Ev has exhibited some less than desirable behaviors. I am sure (because some said so out loud) that family members and other observers judged the situation, determining he just needed a good spanking or other ways to teach children “respect.” If I am being completely honest I also questioned (as we all do) whether it was my parenting that was causing some of the issues. But my gut was telling me there was something more there. Terms like ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder were bouncing around my head and I was worried.

After consulting with Ev’s preschool teacher, my husband and I decided to call our pediatrician who referred us to Children’s for an evaluation. We filled out several assessments, his teacher filled out an assessment, and a psychologist met with us and Ev separately. As a result, we found out that Ev struggles with anxiety.

Here are the top five ways I knew my son didn’t need a spanking, but needed help.

  1. Transitions are hard. Very hard. But here’s the thing—for Ev it wasn’t just about needing warning. He had trouble transitioning into something he likes I’m talking going to get ice cream or heading out for a play date. I learned the hard way that warnings actually made it worse. It was like I kept reminding him the end was coming. What I’m learning is he really needs help seeing what is next, what he has to look forward to. For example, when preparing to leave for school, I might say “How many times do you think you’ll laugh today?”
  1. Ev got very frustrated when his work didn’t look like he wanted it to look. When building with Legos and pieces fell off, he would lose his temper, throw pieces and yell things like “why do my Legos hate me?!” If this happened at school, unfortunately nearby children suffered the wrath. If the children weren’t building or doing what was in Ev’s brain to be “right,” he didn’t handle it well. I’m not trying to justify his behavior but it was more than being a bully…Ev is a perfectionist.
  1. Ev would get very worried and dwell about things. The children had a tornado drill at school and also learned what a tornado was and now Ev is very scared of tornados. If the skies darken or it rains even a little, he needs reassurance that it’s going to be okay. We talk about tornados often, going through protocol if one were to strike. Ev also likes to watch the news during storms or the Weather Channel App on my phone so he can keep an eye on the radar. These worries can steel his attention. At times when he was not focused on what was being presented i.e. morning meeting at school, he was actually focusing on his worries instead.
  1. Ev gets very angry, very fast and at times, it seems at the drop of a dime. One minute he seems perfectly content and happy and the next he is angry. When asking Ev a simple question, “What do you want to do today,” e would respond by yelling and/or calling names. That was a mystery to us and one of our biggest concerns. The psychologist we met with it put it very well: it comes down to “fight or flight.” If we meet a bear in the woods, our brain tells us to either fight or fight—we either fight the bear off or we run. That is a good thing because otherwise we would likely perish. However, Ev feels the same thing all throughout a typical day. It’s good to feel that way when meeting danger in the woods; it’s not good when picking out what shoes to wear. Furthermore, when Ev is feeling those intense feelings, he can’t determine between anxiety and anger all the time so sometimes it comes out as anger, when in fact it’s anxiety.
  1. Ev needed help acclimating to his classroom every. single. morning. The issue wasn’t friends—he has friends and makes them easily. Merely joining the room, joining in on play or starting something was hard for Ev. So every morning, I stayed with Ev, helped him choose an activity until he was feeling strong enough for me to leave.

It’s so hard when you’re feeling exhausted and inadequate as a parent and your child is obviously struggling. Add to it melt-downs in public and you have shame and guilt. We’ve all been there on some level. The good news is my husband and I are the experts on our child. And while we appreciate the love and support (and even unsolicited advice sometimes), it really comes down to relying on our own knowledge (and what our guts are telling us) to determine how best to support Ev.


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Keepin’ It Positive!

keri-familyLove for others. Responsibility. Fairness. Trust. Courage. Thankfulness. Honesty. Respect. Leadership. These are some of the values that my husband and I want our children to embrace and live by. Listing them is easy. Ensuring that our children are living up to our expectations and applying those values as they grow older is much more difficult.

We believe by consistently exposing our children to people with similar values as our own and by always talking with them about those traits, we will ingrain in them the kind of values and morals we hope to instill in them. I always point out to my 2-year-old, Bryce, whenever someone does something nice for him, by saying, “Wow—that was really nice how they …” We always try to focus on the positive actions happening around us and within our family, and while sometimes it is impossible to completely ignore the negative, we try to only speak briefly about it and move on. We also believe being involved in any positive organizations together as a family can teach our children so much.

My family attends church fairly regularly. We enjoy our church family and everything that goes along with being a part of the church. I believe being a part of the church has impacted my children tremendously. My 12-year-old, Ethan has been involved in volunteering in many different capacities, including serving the homeless meals and raising money for an effort to end Malaria. Bryce has experienced his mom and dad (and older brother) greeting and having conversations with a variety of people, and he now  walks around during greeting time, on his own, shaking hands with congregation members and offering them a sincere and hearty good morning!

Baseball season is currently getting underway in our household. My husband is coaching Ethan’s team and I am coaching Bryce’s team (3- & 4-year-olds playing baseball—I’m sure you can imagine the entertainment). We feel it is important to be involved in our children’s lives in order to model what we expect from them. We are constantly modeling positive interactions and gratitude to those around us. We always try to focus on the positive things that are happening on and off the field and we often talk about those things.

Something as simple as the way we, as parents, act in public (grocery stores, restaurants, library, etc) is a simple way to show our children how to act appropriately. Children become what surrounds them. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what I say or tell them to do, if I don’t portray those same traits and expectations. The old saying, “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear what you’re saying” rings so true.

I encourage you to get out in the world and get involved in making it a better place to live—as a family! Model how to behave in group situations. Surround your children with people with the same values and morals as you. Your child is watching—be the adult you want your child to grow up to be!


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Stroller Etiquette

Stroller time!My wife and I enjoy getting out of the house when we can with our son. Strollers or buggies are one of the most useful tools that we have with us when we go out. There is great debate online around forward-facing versus rear-facing strollers, with a main concern being the ability to communicate with your child as you walk. We have a forward facing stroller and make a conscious effort to talk with him and narrate what we see and experience on the walk. Our son generally enjoys riding in his stroller as we explore the world. He must have an interesting perspective at that level as we roam around. If the weather is cold, we go out to large stores and malls.

Some days, however, the experience isn’t so great for the driver of this chariot. It is estimated that 13,000 children under the age of three are involved in stroller accidents each year. I didn’t realize how dangerous it can be. There are specific issues with the actual stroller, such as lack of supervision or not fastening the child. Both of these I have control over, however it didn’t take long to learn that there are no standard driving rules for other strollers, shopping carts, or surrounding pedestrians. In fact, there are times when other people are oblivious of their surroundings and it keeps us on our toes when we go out.

There are a lot of things to think about when we go for a stroll and getting through pedestrian traffic can be difficult. I often open the door for my wife and the stroller, but people quickly get through the opened door before she can navigate the doorway. Although occasionally someone holds the door for us, and we politely thank them each time. Shopping carts roam everywhere and can be a dangerous collision for a child. A stroller isn’t a shopping cart, so I am careful to keep extra space between us and the other “drivers.” I find that it could be easy to have some “stroller rage” from what appears to be inconsiderate people at times, but I try to focus on being patient. There is no need to rush through life with my little one. I want to soak in every moment that I can. Although, I would encourage everyone to share some kindness when you come across your next stroller. If we are all patient with one another, whether we’re casually walking through the park or busy shopping at the store, it will help us all to have a better day!


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Baseball Players Don’t Wear Diapers

Bryce-Baseball

My mother always told me that potty training me was as simple as building up hype to wearing big girl panties, receiving said big girl panties for my second birthday, being super excited about receiving the panties and never looking back to diapers. I thought it might be as simple with Bryce. I was wrong.

When it was Bryce’s second birthday back in July, I knew he wasn’t ready for underwear. Call it mother’s intuition—or maybe call it mother wasn’t ready (I was 8 months pregnant then, after all!). But, when Christmas rolled around, I decided to take the plunge. I was hoping it would play out just like it did for me and my mom and decided to give it a try, thinking, “How hard can it be?”

Christmas morning, he woke up to a present of some awesome big boy underwear with baseballs and basketballs on them—his favorite! To say he was interested in that particular gift would be a big stretch. However, we decided to proceed with the plan. We hoped we could spread the excitement about the underwear and he would want to go pee in the potty like daddy, mommy and big brother Ethan. His plan was much different than ours. There were a lot of outfit changes over the next few weeks, and very few potty celebrations. The frustration was evident throughout our house and we decided to back off until Bryce took more of an interest in the toilet himself.

As soon as we stopped hassling him to use the potty, and put him back into pull ups, he began to become more interested in it. He actually began asking to wear his underwear, and would tell us when he had to go potty. We usually just did short periods of time, to encourage positive results. (We had seen a lot of failure the previous month and we didn’t want potty training to feel like failure.) At that point he still didn’t want to wear underwear to child care. We didn’t force him to. By the end of February, he was still only using the toilet less than half the time and going in his pull up the majority of the day.

I knew Bryce had the control to go to the bathroom, we just hadn’t found the motivation he needed. We tried candy and small rewards for keeping his pants dry or for going in the potty. He just didn’t care about those rewards. Then we found the key: baseball.  It wouldn’t necessarily work for every kid, but for Bryce, it was the golden ticket. He loves baseball, and baseball players do not wear diapers. Baseball players go pee and poop in the potty. Simple as that. Upon this realization he began using the potty all the time. The first time that Bryce pooped in the potty, he looked at his accomplishment and said, “That’s baseball player poop?” I knew that day he wasn’t going back to diapers.

Potty training can be frustrating, not only for you as the parent but also for the child. It doesn’t have to feel like failure (like it did for us for a time). Trust your parenting instincts and listen to the cues your child is giving. It probably won’t be easy, but learn to trust each other and you will get through it together.

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