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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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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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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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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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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Pumping Mama

Thoughts on being a working, pumping mamaThis is my second go around being a working, nursing, pumping mom.

My thoughts on that follow:

  1. It’s time consuming. We’re all busy. Home life is busy, work is busy, society in general is busy. Finding time is not easy. If you’re like me, you have found the ability to multitask while pumping: I can often be found writing work reports (or sometimes future blogs—where this one may have come to fruition) while my electric pump and hands-free pumping bra does the majority of the “work”!
  1. You’re tethered by a hose. Enough said.
  1. You may never feel sexy again. If you have ever seen what happens when a woman is attached to a pump, I’m certain you agree!
  1. It’s uncomfortable. For all you men out there reading this: it’s as uncomfortable as it looks.
  1. All you get is a storage room. If you’re like me, there is no designated space for a pumping mother at my work place. So, I get the pleasure of spending time in the storage closet in order to have some privacy. At least they let me keep a chair in there so I don’t always have to drag one in with me!
  1. Cleaning pump parts. You have just spent roughly 15-20 minutes pumping, do you really want to spend another 10 cleaning all the parts? If you’re like me you just throw them all in your cooler to save for cleaning later which, including all the bottles the baby used while you were away from them, leads to plenty of dishes every night.
  1. Your life is dictated by the schedule of your boobs. As if your life being dictated by a tiny human (or many tiny humans) isn’t tough enough. Skip a pump/feeding and the evidence will be there right on the front of your shirt.
  1. Car Pumping. For my job, I often travel around throughout the day. This means pumping must occur in my car. Not easy to do completely discretely. Thank God for hand-less pump bras and nursing covers!
  1. Lugging the pump and parts. EVERYWHERE. As if you don’t have enough to tote around by just having the baby. And what about those days you forget one little piece of the crazy contraption… ugh, guess you won’t pump that day (then you can refer to #7)!
  1. Counting ounces is stressful. Did I squeeze out enough? How much does the baby eat while I’m away? Should I try to pump a little longer? Ugh. The stress. And please tell me you did not spill a drop of that liquid gold!

Keep it up mama.  This too will pass.  And in some twisted way you might even miss it a little bit (like I did after I stopped nursing/pumping for my first—seriously though, now that I am back in the midst of it, what was I thinking?!) .

And even through all those undesirable and unattractive things that go along with pumping and nursing—there are a few positives that for me, outweigh my list above:

  1. Burn extra calories—who doesn’t love to eat an extra piece of candy every once in awhile!
  2. Decreased chances for breast cancer—I want to see the babies of my grandbabies and will do whatever I can to increase the chances of that!
  3. Ideal nutrition for my baby—I can even produce the antibodies my baby needs to fight off colds and give them to him through my milk. Wow—amazing!