Put a Bib on It


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Swim Lessons

SwimLessons-editYou know your child is getting older when he begs you not to go to swim lessons (or some other organized sport/lesson/activity). This experience was yet another first for us and another time when we didn’t know what the right answer was.

Ev has been going to swim lessons every week since February. Often he tells us he doesn’t want to go or seems anxious about it when we are en route. However, once we are there he seems content and when asked he says he likes going. We really like where he gets his swim lessons because the groups are really small (more times than once he was the only child for the lesson and no more than 4) and children move through the levels based on skills, not age. Also, the teachers all seem to work really well with young children. Plus, almost every lesson is a family event. Both Craig and I make it a priority to go so we value the time together.

Lately it seems much more frequent that he loses focus or doesn’t seem to listen to the teacher—which is frustrating. It’s frustrating because when he is paying attention and actually trying, he does really well. And furthermore, learning to swim is serious business and we want him to take it seriously.

Last week, the day of swim lessons fell on a day we took Ev to a Red’s baseball game and to play at a park. On that morning Ev woke up very early (by coincidence, not excitement). We had a really fun day. We had some time between leaving downtown and going to swim lessons so we decided to go home to rest, which we all needed. Ev was laying in his bed and when I told him it was time to start getting ready for swim lessons, he fell out. He began crying, saying he was too tired and really didn’t want to go. He genuinely didn’t want to go, I could tell, but my husband and I were still conflicted. On one hand, the lessons are expensive so not going potentially wastes money—money we don’t have to waste (not that anyone has money to waste but you get the point). Also, I was worried about setting a precedent. When you commit to something, you should do it, even when you are tired, and I didn’t want Ev to get in a habit of bailing or being lazy. Lastly, Ev’s gotten some momentum with his skills and I didn’t want to lose that. He is right on the verge of swimming, arms moving, legs kicking, swimming. I worried that missing a week would cause him to regress or something. On the other hand, he was tired. And I was tired. I knew if I made him go, it would be battle from start to finish (with no winner at the end). Also, so far swim lessons have been a positive experience for him for the most part and I didn’t want this to ruin it for him.

I told him to take some deep breaths and that I would talk with his dad about it and be back in a few minutes. I talked about all the above with my husband and in the end decided not to go. I called to let them know we weren’t going to make it and was able to reschedule (two nights in a row next time) therefore we didn’t lose money. We also decided to take a break from lessons for a bit. He has 3 more before we break. I went back to Ev’s room to let him know that he was off the hook. His relief was obvious as he smiled big and thanked me. I told him he would have lessons two evenings in the row to make up for it but he was okay with it. I am sure as Ev gets older, we will have similar conversations. And there will be a time when we make sure Ev goes to a lesson or other commitment that he’s made. But for now, he is still only five and what looked a little like laziness was actually exhaustion, which is very different and I’m glad we recognized that and didn’t force him to go.


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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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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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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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Screen Time Boundaries

screentimeWe recently implemented a new rule in our house. No iPad on school days/nights. Prior to that, we had been allowing Ev to have his iPad before and after school. Admittedly, it was helpful—a crutch of sorts. In the morning, Ev would get on his iPad and I could drink my coffee/do my hair and make-up in peace. And in the evenings we could make dinner and complete other chores waiting to get done like emptying the dishwasher. Ev never spent more than two hours total on any given day but it did start to control his life.

Ev was becoming obsessed with his iPad, addicted even, maybe. It was starting to ruin our mornings. Even with warnings when it was time to go, it was a struggle. He always wanted five more minutes to play whatever game he was playing. Then I would get frustrated with him and the domino effect would continue from there. I can’t believe I am admitting this in writing, but I even began letting Ev bring his iPad in the car. Honestly, I just didn’t want to have the battle. But then I was missing out on time with Ev on days when our time together feels so limited. In the evening, it would be the same; Ev would rush to his iPad and then get so upset when it was time for dinner—time to turn it off.  That battle would ruin dinner. He would refuse to eat while my husband and I were trying to eat. We’d give him warnings; saying things like, “When dinner is over, you will not be able to eat,” and, “If you choose not to eat now, you will not get another chance.” But even so, Ev would wait until we were finished with dinner and then say he was ready. But dinner was over and we felt strongly that we should not give in. We like dinner time to be a family re-connection time where we talk about our days and enjoy each others company. It was quickly becoming not enjoyable.

After some discussion, we implemented the no iPad on school days/nights rule. It’s been about three weeks and we have noticed a positive change. Granted the transition wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies (although it didn’t take nearly as long as I expected for Ev to adjust to the change). One time Ev had to call me out. My husband was on a business trip so it was just the two of us. I pulled out my iPad at dinner and Ev immediately told me it wasn’t fair that he didn’t get to have his. On a recent morning Ev asked if he could have his iPad and when I reminded him of the rule he told me he didn’t care if he rotted his brain and he didn’t want to be smart. Apparently those are some of my words from some point in the past.

Our mornings are smoother and full of good conversation. (Today on the ride to school Ev told me he wanted a pet bird and then changed his mind to a snake and then changed his mind to a spider and then we talked about what was necessary for proper care-taking). Dinner time is better. Most evenings Ev eats with us and we enjoy our time together. The decision didn’t come lightly. We knew in our brains that losing the iPad on week days was the healthier, more appropriate choice but we also knew in our hearts Ev was going to be bummed. It’s good our brains over powered our hearts this time because we are all better off for it.


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Mommy Again!

mommy & DrewOur newest bundle of joy has arrived. 8 pounds, 20.5 inches and affectionately called Baby Drew.

After a routine c-section and a three-day hospital stay, I landed in my living room responsible for two small children while my husband worked (we own a one man show small business) and my 11-year-old went off to school. I was outnumbered (2 to 1), slow to move (due to the large incision across my abdominal region), super tired (from waking up through the night to feed), and it only took my 2-year-old about 10 minutes to figure that out.

Infant care has presented new complications that I didn’t have to worry about when Bryce was little. Having a hungry baby attached to you while your 2-year-old “plays” can get interesting—balls flying through the air, sensory table beans all over the floor, crying breakdowns because the block house falls over (this is really interesting because usually this is so funny to him), instant dire hunger pains that cannot wait, diapers removed from the clean and orderly diaper basket and spread all over the bedroom, and my personal favorite (sarcasm)—climbing and then jumping off EVERYTHING he can get on top of! On a good note, though, I never cried at the thought of latching Drew—though tears may have been shed a time or two out of frustration for lack of control. I learned rather quickly that I had to have a plan in place for toddler care that can work in harmony with baby care for our newest addition.

Food: As mentioned, dire hunger always sets in as soon as I start to feed Baby Drew “mommy milk” (as it is affectionately referred to in our house). Having Bryce eat while I feed Drew provides a more peaceful environment for everyone. The biggest sacrifice of doing it this way is my comfort. Instead of being able to breastfeed in the comfortable recliner, I end up sitting in a hard kitchen chair—worth it for peaceful eating!

Helping: This one is especially useful when diapering Baby Drew. Getting the diaper and wipes or even picking out a new sleeper can make Bryce feel like he is important. I really enjoy encouraging him to talk to Drew as he gets his diaper changed too. I feel like I can already see their brotherly bond forming as he talks to him.

Individual and focused attention: When Baby Drew is sleeping or even playing calmly on the floor, I am always certain to provide Bryce with individual attention—playing with him and talking about things he is doing. When possible, I include Baby Drew in the play.

Multi-task feeding: Often times I end up feeding Drew while playing with or reading to Bryce (and Drew inadvertently as he listens to the words). Keeping Bryce in close proximity makes it easier to get through an entire feeding without having to unlatch and address his behavior. A basket of small toys and books next to where I normally nurse provides a convenient selection of things to do when needed.

When friends have asked me, “Is it easier the second time around?” The best answer I can give them is, “It’s different.” Many things that were challenges the first time are no longer challenging (at least not as challenging anyway), but a new crop of challenges have sprung up.

Being a mommy again is different—not bad different—just different.


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The Whole Truth

Parenting is hard.

I don’t care who you are, what you do, how much money you have, where you live, how you parent, or even how many children you have. It’s hard.

I have many friends that have recently become parents and this topic has become a common theme. I ask how things are going and they always start with the rainbows and butterflies of parenting. But then I ask, “No, really. How is it going?”

And then the whole truth comes out.

Sleepless nights, inconsolable crying, tension and stress, tantrums, post-delivery discomforts, breastfeeding pains. These are the things we feel like we have to hide from others, that we aren’t fantastic parents if we don’t have giggles and smiles all day long. Facebook does an injustice to future parents, painting a picture that children are easy to care for, parents sharing pictures only of the happy moments. Where is the picture of Jack inconsolably crying at two in the morning when you have to be up at five? Where is the picture of Johnny figuring out how to open the front door and taking off down the driveway, or Susie laying in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store screaming because she can’t have a bag of Skittles?

We all have good days and we all have bad days. We all have good moments and we all have tough moments. When you’re having a tough moment, try to remember the wonderful things. Take a breath. If you are able put your baby in a safe place and take a parent time-out, do it. Phone a friend, a relative, anyone who has had children, and vent to them, let out your frustrations. Because one thing I have learned for sure is that if I let my negative emotions get the best of me, nothing gets better.

Parenting might be hard at times, but remember you’re not in this alone. Others have been there before, others will go through what you’re going through in the future. Build yourself a support system. Parenting is hard for everyone.