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Why Oh Why Am I Always Running Late?!

Time

Am I the only one who just can’t seem to figure out how much extra time to give myself to get somewhere with kids?  I really hope it’s not just me.  But really…I’m terrible at it.  I am not consistent at all.  Some days I’m right on time.  Some days I’m 5, 10, even 20 minutes late.  So ridiculous.  Sometimes I’m early.  One time we were 25 minutes early to gymnastics class and I had to chase my toddling baby all over the lobby as we waited.

After some trial and error I can usually figure it out if we’re going to the same place each time…although there are always variances.  Such as…

On their way to the van, they manage to get soaking wet and need to change their clothes.

My three year old took her pants off without me noticing and although we we arrived on time, I had to wait in the parking lot as she took her socks and shoes off, put her pants back on, and then put her socks and shoes back on.

Many times Little Sis gets out of the van without shoes.  Usually she has taken them off while we drive, but there have been times when she got into the van without shoes and I just didn’t notice.  Luckily, I usually keep some in the van for just that reason!

Sometimes everyone will get ready to go surprisingly fast.  I actually gave us more than enough time to get ready.  We’ll have thirty minutes before we need to leave.  So I let them play for a bit.  Sometimes that works out fine.  Other times my three year old decides that this is a good time to take everything off that we just got on her and, instead, put on a fairy costume.

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They can’t find socks. They can’t find shoes.

I want them to wear hiking shoes for a specific reason and they want to wear dress shoes or flip flops.  Reasoning with a three year old doesn’t work well.

One time my alarm went off and my husband and I got everyone up to get ready for church.  Little Bear was so tired and crabby that I laid him back down to get some more rest while the rest of us got ready to go.  The girls commented on how dark it was outside and we gave them a little homeschool lesson on winter days vs. summer days.  Then we looked at a clock and realized it was two hours earlier than we thought it was.  Someone (my one year old who likes to push buttons) had changed the time zone on my atomic alarm clock and we didn’t notice until we were pretty much ready to go.

They are hungry.  They are thirsty.

There is a sudden, excruciatingly painful injury that has come out of nowhere and it has greatly affected the five-year-old’s ability to walk.

Someone needs to go potty.

The baby has pooped even though I just changed his diaper.  Or worse….pooped on his clothes and has gotten on me.  That hasn’t happened lately but is not uncommon with new babies.  haha

The only coat in the whole world that is worth wearing is the coat we cannot find.

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They want to bring a toy.  They can’t find the toy.  They are afraid the toy is lost forever.

Suddenly the three year old does NOT want to go to the place we are going and she does NOT like our friends.

Just as I’m about to buckle her, Little Sis realizes that her hair is in a pony tail instead of a messy bun and wiggles and kicks and refuses to be buckled because she wanted a bun…even though she never told me that she wanted a bun.

She does not want my help.  She needs my help.  She does not want my help.  She needs my help.

And then, of course,  there are my own flaws.  I’m up most of the night because kids keep waking me up and I can’t get back to sleep so I oversleep in the morning.  I can’t find the diaper bag.   I can’t find my keys.  I can’t find my water bottle.  I just remembered that I was supposed to pack a lunch.  What was that address again?  Ugh, I fed the kids but forgot to feed myself.  Oh shoot, I was going to run this errand while we were out…do I still have time?  Why isn’t the van starting?!

THEN on top of all THAT, there’s…

Agh, we’re just barely on time but now we have to walk all the way over here and juggle kids, bag and wallet and pay for parking!

Traffic!?  It’s 10am on a Tuesday….

Oh no…I forgot to give myself time to set up my stroller.  (I have an awesome stroller that is a bike trailer and a stroller.  It comes apart and lays flat but takes quite a bit of time to set up.)

I’ve been a mom for almost six years.  You’d think that I’d have it down by now.  You’d think that I’d remember that even though it only takes twenty minutes to drive somewhere doesn’t mean I can wait until twenty minutes before we need to be there to say, “OK!  Everyone to the van!”  But you’d be wrong.  That still happens.  And then how late we are depends on all the variables.

Sometimes it all goes smoothly and we are right on time.

I think that’s the problem, really.  If we were never on time I’d realize that I really need to change something.  But when we’re on time about 50% of the time, it messes with my mind!  🙂

All this being said…I do not think it’s cool to use my kids as an excuse for always being late.  I do try hard to be on time and think others should, too.  But kids sure don’t make it easy!  As important as I think it is to be on time, I also don’t think it helps to get bent out of shape about it.  It is what it is…apologize and do something different next time.  Let’s remember to give others, and ourselves, grace.  I wrote this post because I think it’s good to be able to laugh about it, rather than just feeling frustrated.  I hope this post gave you a chuckle and maybe some of you out there are nodding your heads because you experience these things as well.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?!  Any funny stories? Any tips for being on time?  Are you the kind of person who is just always on time no matter what?  We don’t want your kind here.  No need to comment.  😉  

 

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Some Ways To Help an Angry Toddler

Toddlers are so unpredictable.  You never know what is going to set them off.

One day she loves hot dogs and the next day she does NOT like hot dogs.

She doesn’t like the spoon I gave her.

Or the way I have my legs when I’m sitting.

She doesn’t like how the cat is looking at her.

Or the sounds the baby is making. (One day my daughter was sitting in the car next to her baby brother and she sighed loudly and said he was being so annoying. I asked what he was doing to annoy her and she mimicked his happy baby sounds. Wow, that sounds…awful?)

She will want to do something until I smile and say that it’s a great idea and then suddenly she thinks it’s a terrible idea.

Angry Toddler

So of course, the way you deal with them has to constantly be changing too. I always try the same things to start with because if it works, then great. But when that doesn’t work, I have some backup ideas. I wanted to share them with you because they might be helpful to you, but also for myself because it’s so helpful to have really well thought out backup ideas. When I don’t have ideas ready in my mind, it can be difficult to come up with something that is going to work, especially when I am feeling frustrated and she is getting more and more worked up. If I don’t have any ideas, I get worked up myself and sometimes respond angrily, which definitely doesn’t help.

First…let her know you hear her. Before trying to do or say anything else, if I remember to first say, “do you want ______?”  Depending on how upset she is, I might need to talk about it more a little bit. “Oh that sounds fun.” “Mmm, I like that too, those are yummy.” Before trying to move on to saying that we can’t have that thing or will have to wait. It helps. If I just start with a “no”, even if it’s a “not right now, but you can after dinner”, she just hears the “no” and freaks out.

Blowing out the candles. When my toddler is “totally freaking out” (as Peg would say from Peg Plus Cat), we blow out my finger candles. This really helps more than anything I’ve tried to calm her down. We do it regularly so she is familiar with it and actually asks for it sometimes. She takes deep breaths and blows out all five fingers on one hand. If she is resistant I ask her if she wants to blow out her candles instead, which she has chosen to do a few times. Or I say, “ok, I’m going to do it then.” Whenever I start to do it, she almost always says, “no no no, I going to do it!” Once she is calm I can talk to her more easily, but this isn’t guaranteed to end a problem because if I’m saying that yes she does have to take a nap, or no she can’t take that toy from her sister, or no we aren’t going to have popsicles for breakfast, the tantrum may start up again.

Whispering. I haven’t actually had a lot of luck with this. I keep trying it, but she usually just gets mad at me and hits me in the face. Toddlers can be so sweet. But it works for my husband a lot. If he just starts talking super quietly and is saying things like, “you’ll have to be calm to hear what it is I am saying,” she will (for him, anyway) calm down to hear him. I think this is a neat idea to have in your figurative back pocket, even if it doesn’t work, because it’s nice to whisper when what you really feel like doing is yelling.

Singing. Another thing that doesn’t work with my current toddler. Big Sis liked it when I sang. She really liked the Daniel Tiger songs. Like “When you feel so mad, and you want to ROAR, take a deep breath (breathe) and count to four. One. Two. Three. Four.” It worked so well for Big Sis. Little Sis just tends to get more mad and screams at me to stop singing. But every once in a while I will ask her if she wants to pick a song to sing and she’ll scream no and I’ll say, “ok I’ll choose one”, and I hear “no no no, I choose.” Haha. Do you see a pattern starting for what works with my toddler?

Identify triggers and come up with a consistent solution. One of the most common arguments in our house is over a toy. When my toddler wants what her sister has, first I remind her to calmly ask for a turn when her sister is done. That usually makes her pretty happy. Knowing she will get a turn is sometimes enough. But trying to find a great toy to play with in the meantime is helpful too. And as a preventative measure, I try to make sure that there is something for each kid if I am offering it. If Big Sis wants toast and Little Sis doesn’t, I make her some toast anyway because the odds are very good that once she sees her sister with toast, she will change her mind and want some too. Counting to ten rather than just pulling her abruptly away from something.

Choices. This, of course, is a pretty well known method for dealing with kids. Give them the power to choose between two acceptable things. Sit up in bed or lay down for quiet time? Books or toys? Light on or off? Pink or purple bowl? This works really well most of the time. But, you know, nothing works all the time with toddlers. This is a really good preventative strategy. If I am doing a good job of empowering her with choices regularly, we have less tantrums.

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She didn’t want to wear a coat so I gave her the option of putting it on herself or letting me put it on. She chose to do it herself. Haha. Of course it didn’t take long for her to realize that she couldn’t play well this way and came and asked for help.

Distraction. Sometimes she is angry but hasn’t done anything wrong. Nobody needs an apology. I will just try to redirect. “I am so excited to go to the park when we are done with the store.” “I have a snack ready in the kitchen for girls who are calm.”

Humor. Figure out what makes your kid laugh and incorporate that. For my current toddler, tickling doesn’t work…it makes her more mad. But using words like “poop” or “butt” get her every time. (Yes, I am very proud, and thrilled to be sharing this with you…) So if she won’t calm down I might say, “I would really like to talk about this with you when you are done being a poop butt!” She laughs and starts down the road to being calm much more quickly. Being able to recognize that something is ridiculous and laugh about it is a great skill to have. My toddler is three now so there are times when she does something and I just say,”really?” And we both laugh. Then I talk with her about what she could do instead.  I also will act like her sometimes. Pretend screaming. In a silly way, not a mocking, shaming way. This works a lot too. She laughs and laughs and then we talk about what to do instead.

Time in/time out. Call it what you want, but the idea is to remove the angry child from the situation. Whether it means taking the toddler to sit in the car while the rest of the family finishes shopping, sitting in a special time out spot alone until she can become calm, or sitting with a parent in a quiet room and doing breathing exercises, the purpose of time outs should be to become calm and in control (and, I personally think, most often NOT for punishment.)  I find this especially useful, although challenging, if we are in a public situation where I have to hold her so she won’t run away or do the thing she shouldn’t be doing, like hurting her sister. When she gets so focused on getting out of my arms (any time I give her the opportunity to get down she starts to take off) I try to find a place to go ASAP so I can let her go but she can’t run away. A room or the car. I often take her out to our van and she calms down so much faster when I’m not forcing her to be in my arms. She will scream for a bit but she can’t get out of the van, and I’m not reacting to her, just waiting for her to be calm…so she calms down quickly and we talk. This works so much better than trying to figure things out while I’m forcing her to be held.

Consistency. Although the methods need to change sometimes, I at least am consistent with letting her know what is or is not acceptable behavior and I always expect her to apologize the same way. Once she is calm enough to apologize, it’s easy because she is used to doing it.

Be calm yourself. Although it is pretty obvious that a parent who yells, stomps, slams doors, etc. is not teaching the toddler to behave any differently, it doesn’t mean it’s always easy for us to keep our cool.  What do you need to do to get a hold of your own emotions?  Take a little time out in the bathroom.  Find something to laugh about.  Remember to make time for yourself on a regular basis.  Remind yourself that they need to be taught (over and over and over and over….) how to act, how to treat people, how to deal with their emotions.  And…

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As frustrated as parenting a crazy toddler can make me feel, when I can stop and see the humor in things, I am a much better parent. Look at this hilarious kid. I told her she could get in the bath tub. She decided that meant she could get in without taking her clothes off!

Set realistic expectations.  Read up on how children typically see the world at this age.  Of course all children are different.  But developmentally most toddler just don’t understand certain things, like compassion.  That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it with them and explain and show how important it is to think about how the things they do affect others…but don’t get too upset if it’s not sinking in very quickly.  On the other hand, don’t expect too little of them either.  I find that when I empower my kids to talk to each other and try to solve problems on their own, with my guidance, rather than me coming in and telling everyone what to do and how to share, that things go a lot better.  They feel better about the situation and about themselves and are more likely to try to do it that way again in the future.  With enough help, and with time, they can possibly start to get some things that seem too challenging for them to understand at first.

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She’s not really mad here. But she’s being a stinker. I was trying to get a picture of her cute overalls and pigtails and she kept making silly faces. I like that “sassy” is on the book she’s holding. She is sassy indeed!

I will end with that.  I took forever to write this post because I kept having more thoughts and, as you might have noticed by now, I can get a little long winded.  I struggled with trying to shorten it down to a post people might actually read.  But, I didn’t end up shortening it very much.  I ended up deciding that the information is there for anyone who wants it.  Skim it and read what interests you 🙂

What about you?  Do you have a spirited child?  🙂  What do you do to help him/her to deal with big emotions?

Check out my post Life With a Toddler, if you haven’t already for more thoughts on this subject.

Thanks so much for reading!


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Life With A Toddler

This morning my toddler snuggled up to me in bed and said it was time for breakfast. We talked about what she wanted for breakfast. Rice Krispies and mangoes. So we got up, out of bed after a long night without much sleep. Rough night. I didnt feel like getting up yet, but that’s what moms do.

I got her some cereal and mangoes and sat them on the table. I gave her a spoon for her cereal and, like a slow moving zombie, turned to figure out what I should eat.

I heard a scream and a clang and turned around to find her spoon on the floor. She did not want that spoon. “Uh oh…if you want to eat, you’re going to have to pick your spoon back up.”

She pushed her food away as far as she could and screamed that she didn’t want her cereal or mangoes. Worried that she was going to spill stuff all over, I took the food away from the angry child. So of course she screamed. She wanted her food. I said that I wanted her to have her food but she needed to calm down and pick up her spoon.  She kicked her spoon and tried to grab her food.

This went on for a while. Big Sis was halfway through eating her breakfast and Little Sis kept wanting her food, not wanting her food, picking up her spoon, throwing her spoon, pushing her sister, pushing me.

Finally she sat down to eat and acted like it had never happened, laughing and singing.

About an hour and a half later…

I was sitting on the couch, doing something online. I got up for a second and Litte Sis sat down. Later I came back and she was gone and I sat there again. She screamed. So I moved some stuff so she could sit with me. She screamed. She put the stuff I had moved back. I ignored it. She screamed. She moved the stuff again and climbed on my lap. I moved my legs to be more comfortable and so she could sit on me more easily. She screamed. She tried to move my legs back the way they were. I told her I liked the way my legs were and that I would really like to snuggle. She screamed and kicked me. I stopped her from kicking me and asked her to please be sweet. She yelled that she wanted to kick. She screamed and kicked and the started to cry because she could only kick my hands and not my stomach.

Finally she grabbed a book and sat on my lap, looking at the book and laughing. She became her happy, cheerful, sweet self. As if the tantrum hadn’t even happened.

Start countdown to next episode of big toddler feelings.

Do you sometimes wonder if your child has a serious issue? OCD? Bipolar? Multiple personalities?  (Yeah, I’m only partially kidding. I know you are out there. Other moms like me who have had the thought cross your mind, if perhaps only for the briefest of moments…)

I understand. Especially when we are out and my child is the only one throwing screaming fits. Or if I’m telling someone what I think is a funny story (like the stories I just told) and someone looks at me horrified, like THEY think something is wrong with my kid. Those moments really stink.

But most likely, you (and I) just have a normal toddler. 🙂


Every kid is different.

Some kids do things like cut their hair or draw on the walls or try to give the bunny a fun ride on a spinning office chair.

Some kids feel something and react immediately without thinking. Some kids really think about things and withdraw. Some kids whine and negotiate. Some kids yell. Some kids cry dramatically about every little thing. Some kids throw themselves on the floor to kick and scream. Some kids bang their head on things.

Some kids need time alone to cool off. Some kids need breathing exercises. Some kids need hugs.

All kids have feelings they haven’t learned how to deal with yet. And hopefully they have adults in their lives who can calmly teach them what to do with those big feelings.

Sometimes I find myself just getting annoyed. Seriously, we are going to do this again? This is making my day so hard. Why can’t you just listen to me…I have told you about twenty times today not to push on your baby brother’s head like that!! And nothing gets my heart pounding and makes me as crazy as when she won’t stop screaming when the baby is sleeping.

But I try to remind myself of my job. My job is not to get mad at my kids for acting in ways that are totally natural to act at their age. My job is to teach them how they should act instead. And if my words can’t get through to them, hopefully, with time, my patience and the example that I set, will.

LIfe with a toddler is difficult, hilarious, precious, and short.  Nothing else in my life has made me want to scream and laugh and cry all at the same time the way raising a toddler has. I fail her daily as a parent. She teaches me to be better.

Want to feel not so alone? There are some pretty funny photos out there of why kids get upset. Here’s one funny list. 

Need help figuring out some ways to deal with an angry toddler? I will be addressing that in another post soon. (*edited: here is the post!)  What are some things you do with your toddler?


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A Beautiful But Eventful Outing and How I Said YES…On Accident

Yesterday was a gorgeous day.  We went to a nearby wildlife refuge with some other homeschooling preschool families.  It was a fun time and a beautiful day full of sunshine and smiles.  But it was also a little crazy.

As I was driving there it occurred to me that I didn’t for sure know where I was going.  One of my downfalls is that I’m so used to knowing how to get everywhere that I sometimes forget to look up the little details and then I make a mistake and get lost.  It doesn’t happen often…which is probably why it happens at all!  I just normally don’t need any help.  It’s at those times though that I wish I had a smart phone.  I have an ipad but need wi-fi to use it. So it doesn’t do me much good on the road.

I remembered seeing signs for the refuge so I decided to just go for it and follow the signs.  It worked for the most part.  I would have been able to get there that way with no problems but it’s kind of a big place and I got a little lost trying to find the exact place I was supposed to meet my friends.  We made it there though!

IMG_0553When we first got there the first thing Big Sis asked to do was climb a tree.  I looked at the tree she was pointing at and said, “It’s not really a climbing tree…there aren’t any branches.  You won’t get very high…but sure.  Go play.”

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So I’m talking and taking pictures and then Big Sis says, “Look at me!”  She had climbed using the deep grooves in the bark of this big tree.  She wasn’t super high but she was quite a bit higher than I thought she’d be able to get.  I started walking over there to help her down because I could tell she would need it…and she fell.  She fell hard.  She was fine and there were no visible wounds other than a few scrapes but she didn’t want to walk and spent a lot of time in the double stroller with Little Bear.  Good thing I had it.

But she felt better pretty quickly and by the time we were stopped for lunch she was running around with her friends and climbing more trees.

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My friend was just commenting to me how impressed she was that Big Sis had gotten over any fears she may have had and got right back into another tree.  I was agreeing as I heard, “Look Mommy!”

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All of the moms sitting there chatting looked up to see Big Sis really high in a big tree and clearly thinking about going higher.  In the picture above the bird feeder is about level with my head so she’s pretty high.  I enthusiastically told her how awesome it was, took her picture, told her not to go any higher, and started talking with her about how whenever we climb UP we need to have a plan about how to get DOWN.  Had she thought about how she was going to get down?  That made her a little nervous.

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We checked the visitor center to see if they had a ladder.  They didn’t.  So all the adults circled around where she was and I climbed up as much as I could.  But again, she had climbed a tree without many branches by putting her tiny hands and feet into the grooves of the bark and that was not going to work for me.  So I reached as far as I could and talked her down.  She didn’t have to go too far before I was able to reach her feet and was able to help her climb down by supporting her feet.  Once she was at a safe distance from the ground she did the rest on her own.

She told me next time she wants to get down all by herself.

Next time?

She might give this mama a heart attack….haha

Big Sis thought it was so awesome.  She kept telling me how proud of herself she was and how she wants to do it again.  I admit that her independence and bravery…traits I want her to have….are starting to scare me.  I don’t want my own fears to hold her back so I am going to try to find a balance.  Letting her do things but in ways that are safe.  I haven’t made any set rules yet but I’m thinking no climbing trees unless she asks…and no climbing past a certain point without me right there with her.  At least until she’s older.

Do your kids do risky things like this?  What are your rules?  How do you balance their freedom to challenge themselves, explore the world and try new things…with the fear every mom has for their child’s safety?

Thanks for reading!


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Staying Sane Amid all the Crazy

Parenting is hard!  There are days that I lay down in bed after a tough day thinking, “Well, I guess we’ll just have to try again tomorrow.”

I realized one day that every word out of my mouth was spoken with annoyance.  And I had been yelling. My husband and I started a yelling jar to try to nip that habit in the bud. The next morning I put five chips in. Five. All before 10am.

The fighting. Hitting. Screaming. Whining.

The baby waking up because of the loud siblings.  (Little Sis is loud even when she’s happy!)

The toddler who throws herself on the ground or runs away when she doesn’t want to do something.

The way I look when I’m carrying a baby, a diaper bag, and a kicking and screaming two year old to the van and trying to explain to the upset four year old why I can’t hold her hand.

Putting the toddler back in bed for the tenth time in one night.  Eleventh.  Twelfth. (Seriously.  This is happening as I am writing this.  I think the time change is messing with their heads.)

How are we always running late?  Why can’t they ever find their shoes?

Will there ever be a meal, other than pancakes, pb&j’s, or mac and cheese that my four year old does not say “but I didn’t want THAT” to, even before she bothers to look at it or try it?

Asking them to do something or not do something and then one minute later they are doing the opposite of what I asked.

Oh the messes! Not just an untidy house, but silly putty in the carpet, mascara all over my toddler’s face, pen marks on kid and clothes and toilet, marker on the walls, pieces of toilet paper all over the bathroom floor…

The list could go on and on.  We have to be able to laugh or we’ll go crazy!

This toddler….

….likes to draw EVERYWHERE.

Do you ever feel like you are at a complete loss for what to do?  That you just keep trying and trying and nothing is working?  Do you maybe have that one kid that you aren’t sure how to parent?  You’re definitely not alone.

I took the kids to a fun class the other day and Little Sis really liked the singing and story time.  But then they played a game and she was pushing the other children who were trying to play.  I tried talking to her about it but she kept doing it. They were stepping on pictures for the game and she really thought that kids should not step on pictures. Haha! So I took her to the coloring station and she colored for a bit.  But then she spotted some scissors and started screaming when I wouldn’t let her play with them.  (There was only one pair and everyone needed to share for the craft.) Then we went to a station where there were a lot of toy animals to play with.  She was having fun playing with another girl and her mom until the girl had something she wanted.  Then she yelled and tried to take the toy away and wouldn’t listen to anything anyone said while she could still see the girl with the toy. I knew all the “right” things to say to my two year old in this situation but she wouldn’t even calm down to listen to me.  She just fought me and fought me until I decided that we’d just go home because the class was pretty much over anyway.

I took classes in child development.  I have a degree in interpersonal communication.  I was a part time nanny for five years.  I worked at or ran summer camps and after school programs for six years.  I was a trained mental health aid for children with attachment disorders.  I read parenting books and blogs.  My favorite game with my husband even before we got married was “what would you do” and we’d talk about different parenting situations.  I feel like I’ve trained to be a parent my entire adult life…and you know what?  I STILL find myself feeling at times like I have no flippin clue what I’m doing!  🙂

Even if things are going well and I do feel confident in how I should handle a situation, there are always bad days or difficult circumstances…and there isn’t just one right way of doing things. What worked with Big Sis does not always work with Little Sis. What worked for your kid may or may not work for my kid.  Or at least not as quickly and easily.

We just need to keep at it. Keep encouraging each other. Sometimes when my child is being a crazy little stinker and I’m feeling overwhelmed and impatient, a smile from another parent is what I need to stay calm and handle it the way I really want to, rather than getting embarrassed and angry.

Nobody has it all together. There is no secret to having perfect kids that some of us just haven’t discovered yet. But there are things that help us not-perfect-moms to deal with our not-perfect-children without going insane. What are some things that you do? Please share things that you do to keep your sanity amid all the crazy and I might feature your idea on my blog!  OR do you have a situation that you are looking for ideas on how to handle it?  Ask away!  Not all ideas work for everyone.  Even an idea that works for you now might not work a few months later.  But I love asking my friends for ideas or advice or reading blog posts.  I find so much encouragement this way and I hope that this blog can be encouraging to you.

Thanks for reading!


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HoHoHo? Why we don’t “do” Santa

santa He’s in all the Christmas movies. The big jolly man in red. People who don’t believe in Santa tend to be sad or angry and somehow they just need a little faith and then they will be happy again. He not only magically brings all the children toys, but sometimes, like in the movie Home Alone 2, people end up looking up at a Christmas tree or something and speaking their desires out loud for Santa to hear. “Please Santa, let me see my family again.” And Santa always delivers 🙂

I was reading a discussion about this on a parenting website and was amazed at how angry and passionate people can get about it. A mom got on with a legitimate question about whether to “do santa” with her children and a crazy debate ensued. Let me say first that I think each family just has to do what seems best to them. I certainly am not writing this to try to make people see that my way is the right way. I just thought some people might be interested in what we have decided to do and why. It is a question I have gotten a lot from my friends over the years.

When I was a kid, we did Santa and I actually believed a lot longer than a lot of my friends because a lot of them had older siblings. I wrote letters to Santa and put out milk and cookies. The whole shebang! When I was in second grade I asked my mom if he was really real and she told me a beautiful story about how he was a real man but that was a long time ago and now his giving spirit lives on through all of us. She told me about how I had been an angel on one of those Christmas trees in the store and after that we started to pick an angel every year and be “Santa” to them.

So I didn’t have some tragic experience that turned me off of Santa. I had a great experience. But there are several reasons why I don’t want to teach my kids to believe that Santa is real.

First of all, I want my children to be able to trust me if I say something is real or true. One of the people on the web discussion I was talking about pointed out that it’s ridiculous to say that your reason is that you don’t ever want to lie to your kids…are you going to be brutally honest about everything, even if they are too young to understand? But I think there is a big difference between a temporary lie for a surprise party, the watered down truth for young people to understand, and teaching your child to believe in something that you will later recant. This by itself is not my reasoning. But I do remember that while all my friends were saying that there was no Santa, I said that I still believed because my mom wouldn’t lie. I trusted her. And although I don’t think I was emotionally scarred because of it, I don’t want to give my children a reason to stop trusting me or start to wonder if other things aren’t true either. If Santa isn’t real, what about God?

Which leads me to my next point. I wasn’t a Christian growing up, but I am now. I don’t need to make something up to teach my children about miracles and faith. We have God! They don’t need to look up at a Christmas tree and call out to Santa. They can cry out to Jesus. The things that the moms on the web discussion are so adamantly defending are things that I want for my children too. But I don’t have to take it away from them when they get older.

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The other argument that I saw a lot from pro-Santa-is-real-ers was that we should let children be children and let them use their imagination. I agree! But this is a silly argument. This can happen with or without Santa. My kids have amazing imaginations. Every day they are pretending with dolls or dressing up to be different characters of made up stories. A lot of times there are bad guys and magic. Sometimes they even play Santa and pretend to bring each other Christmas presents.  I LOVE fantasy stories.  Stories about super-hero powers, magic, elves, dragons, fairies….  I encourage my children to read about, pretend, imagine, and dream up all sorts of fun things.  But I am not going to try to convince my kids that these things are real. 

It does get more challenging as they get older and get conflicting messages. Other people assume that since my kids are so young that they must believe in Santa so they talk to them as if he were real. I don’t like looking like the grinch so I smile and nod and then I have to have conversations with them in the car if needed. (Well, really only Big Sis right now.) And Santa is everywhere. I thought that I could explain that he is a nice man pretending to be Santa and that it is all in fun, but Big Sis gets so excited that I think she does believe at least a little bit. That’s ok though. She believes that my kisses heal her even though I have told her that, unfortunately, my kisses are not magic. So as long as I am doing the best I can to teach them the truth, they can choose to believe what they want. They will have to make their own decisions about all sorts of things as they grow up. Like about God! He gave us all free will to believe in what we want to believe in 🙂

I still think the way my mom handled the Santa thing is beautiful and if you have taught your children about Santa and are looking for a way to break the news, I highly recommend this way of doing it! Either way you decide, there are going to be a lot of questions to answer. I bought a book called The Legend of St Nicholas and I think that is one good way to teach them about the good-hearted man without teaching them that he is a magical, all knowing, God-like being. There is a Veggietales that tells a story of a young Saint Nicholas too. We will learn about Santa and can be Santa for others, but I want God to be the center of Christmas as He should be every day of our life. We can have a giving spirit like Santa, but more importantly we can love like Jesus.  

I am super happy about our decision. Good luck with yours!

I just saw this post today too and thought it was good food for thought.  It’s another Christian perspective.


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What Are You Teaching Your Sister

Do you ever feel like being a parent is going to get the best of you?  There are things that come up with the girls that sometimes I just feel at a loss about.  I deal with it, but I don’t feel like I deal with it well.  It just frustrates the heck out of me and I have no idea how to make it stop.  Recently it’s been sister squabbles.  I feel like I am telling them to stop whining, complaining, hitting, pinching, pushing, and fighting over toys ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY!

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The photo above is one of Big Sis and Little Sis fighting over a belt.  That’s right…a BELT.  Why did they both care so much about a belt?  Because they have both decided that anything the other one has is something that they have to have immediately.  It doesn’t really matter what it is.  In this instance Big Sis was using the belt as a seat belt for her “car” and Little Sis decided she needed that belt desperately.  Although Big Sis is guilty of wanting what Little Sis has, too, Little Sis is more often the instigator in these scenarios.  Which makes sense.  She’s two.  So I’ve been trying to get Big Sis to respond better.  Because she’s capable of that.  She’s four.

But what happens is Big Sis gets really mad and yells and fights and hurts Little Sis and Little Sis gets mad and screams and hurts Big Sis.  I give time outs.  I snuggle them both and talk to them about being loving to each other.  I even raise my voice sometimes, desperately trying to get them to hear me.  Nothing seemed to be working.  They would hug and kiss and share and play nicely and be at it again five minutes later.  To be fair I should say that they do have wonderful days in which they play beautifully for really long periods of time.  But still, the squabbles happen enough to really get to me at times.

Today was one of those days where it seemed they just could NOT play together without fighting.  I was starting to feel at a total loss because I’d tried every way I could think of to get them to play nicely.

And then I had a moment of pure genius.

It’s probably not actually anything special.  But after feeling like this situation is going to get the best of me, and then feeling like maybe I just turned it into a parent win, it’s pretty exciting.

What I started to do was listen for even the smallest sign that they were about to squabble.  Grunts.  Whiny voices.  Accusing attitudes.  Anger.  And as soon as I heard anything like that, I would say, “Big Sis, what are you teaching your sister?”  Because these signs are pretty much always from her.  Little Sis is often the original problem.  She takes a toy or won’t move so Big Sis can see the show, etc.  But Big Sis is the one who escalates the problem quickly with her anger.

“Big Sis, what are you teaching your sister?”  At first she just complained about what Little Sis was doing and was very blamey.  But the more I handled it this way, the easier it got.  Now when I ask her this she stops and thinks and says, “To yell?”  “To push?”  Or whatever else she had begun to do to Little Sis.  I say, “That’s right.  What should we teach Little Sis instead?”  “To be calm and talk nicely.”  “That’s right.  Please talk nicely to Little Sis.”  “Little Sis, can you please scoot over so I can see too?”  or  “Little Sis, I was not done with that toy.  Can I please have it back?”

After a really terrible morning of nothing but fighting, this one sentence has changed everything.  It might not always work.  Or I might have my own bad moment and forget to say it and raise my voice and threaten time outs instead.  But I just LOVE how well it is working so far and was pretty excited to share about it.

Have you had any genius moments lately?  Or issues that you are starting to feel are getting the best of you?