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Errand day!

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A few weeks ago my parents gave us a van, and we were a two-car family finally. That lasted two weeks, then I wrecked our first van, so we’re back to being a one-car family until Josh has a saturday free to work on it (that should happen in about 5 years). Having a second car makes life so much easier, but we’ve shared one car for so long, I don’t mind it–much. The one thing that’s stressful about it is having to compress all of our errands into one day.

We left the house about 8:30 this morning trying to have good attitudes. Honestly, the kids are pretty good sports about errands. After several embarrassing grocery store meltdowns (and that’s just me), I’ve learned a few tricks to cope with grocery store stress.

1. Bribes. This morning it was McDonald’s sausage biscuits and orange juice for breakfast. It’s a lot to ask a 4-year old and a 21-month old to spend three hours running errands, so I figure they should get something fun out of it. If they go into it feeling like they’re being punished, then the whole morning is shot.

2. Rewards. If they obey they get to pick out one treat. This also stops Emmeline from asking for every single thing on the shelf. Today she picked ice cream, which we ate for lunch as soon as we got home.

3. Involvement. Emmeline gets into trouble when she’s bored, so I try to find ways for her to help.

4. Low expectations. This is the most important one for me and also the most difficult. I tend to get upset about every little thing. Then I get wound up and lose my temper, so I have to constantly remind myself to let things go. I try to go in expecting Gareth to scream and Emmeline to run off a couple of times. But as long as no one gets kidnapped or run over by a car, and they don’t pull all the food off the shelf, it’s probably not a big deal.

5. Avoid the juice aisle.

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Halloween

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So far in our kids’ lives, we’ve held off doing anything for Halloween. They’re young, Josh and I never celebrated it so we didn’t have a huge emotional attachment to it, and we were just undecided on the whole tradition. Last year Emmeline was two at halloween, and she was just barely old enough to notice that other kids had candy and she didn’t. I can’t speak for Josh, but I’ve always gotten hung-up with Halloween because it seemed unsafe. Growing up (in the suburbs of a big city), I remember seeing hospitals advertise free x-raying for your halloween candy, and I remember that being a normal part of other families’ halloween routines. So I always thought, “What is fun about being given a candy bar if it might have a needle in it?” The first time I asked Josh “Where do people in Nashville take their candy to get x-rayed?” He looked at me like I was from some war-torn third-world country. I’ve gotten that same look from basically everyone in Nashville whom I’ve mentioned candy x-raying too. I guess I’ll concede that if no one here has heard of having candy x-rayed, then it can’t be too dangerous. Plus, I’ve met our neighbors, and they’re nice people with young kids like us. None of them strike me as the lollipop poisoning types.

Speaking of neighbors, they’re the main reason we decided to take the kiddos trick or treating this year. When I was a kid, it was normal for kids to play outside and for our parents to visit while we all rode bikes in the cul-de-sac. Nowadays I hardly ever see parents outside (we sometimes see kids, but not often). Whether it’s because people don’t feel safe or because they’re all inside playing video games, it’s much harder to feel connected to your community these days. Halloween is one of the few nights when everyone comes outside and visits with everyone else, and because it’s important to us that we get to know our neighbors, we’ve decided to be a part of it.

Emmeline is going as a ladybug princess (we have to put princess at the end or she won’t wear it) and Gareth is going as his cartoon doppelganger, Charlie Brown. Between thrift stores and sales, we’ve spent less than $15 on their costumes. Cost of costumes was another big hang up for me. Why participate in a tradition that requires me to spend $30 a kid on a costume? Thankfully we’ve been creative and found ways to get costumes cheaper.

We told Emmeline she was going trick-or-treating this year, and of course now she asks me every day when is “Trick for treat.” You read that right. Personally, I think Emmeline’s version, “Trick for Treat,” sounds a lot more entertaining. We ought to make those kids work for their candy! “A sommersault? You call that a trick? The last kid played a mandolin! Sorry kid, I can only give you one treat for that performance.”

Also, Emmeline basically thinks that “Trick for treat” is going in the backyard with a dollar-store pumpkin bucket and collecting rocks and sticks. If only we could convince every kid that’s what trick or treating is, then we’d all have a few less cavities come November 1.

Sleep Training

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Emmeline was a perfect little sleeper. She was such a good sleeper it got her in trouble when she was a newborn. She had jaundice, which made her tired, and she would not wake up to feed. She was so stubborn about it that her jaundice levels got scary high, and she ended up in Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. To this day, if she wants to be asleep, nothing can wake her up. Not loud alarm clocks, not waving McDonald’s fries in her face, and not late night surprise donut trips (tried once. failed. not her thing.). Heaven help our eldest child when she’s a college student.

When it was time to move her out of mommy and daddy’s bed and into her own crib, we went with the Ferber method for training her to put herself to sleep. It was a horrible three days, but it was also horribly easy. She did everything by the textbook, and with a few rare exceptions she has basically slept through the night since she was three months old. We thought we were awesome parents. Then her younger brother was born.

With his signature charm, Gareth has fooled everyone into thinking he’s a good sleeper. And yeah, as far as quantity of sleep goes, he’s fine. But getting him to fall asleep and stay asleep has been a different story. Gareth is a lover, a snuggler, and a party animal. He’s also a light sleeper. Footsteps outside his door? He’s awake. Rumbly tummy? Awake. Sick or teething? Awake. Just feeling lonely and wanting to snuggle? Awake.

When Gareth was a newborn, we were warned that after he was circumcised he’d probably sleep for several hours until he felt better. Not Gareth. He wanted to nurse. And nurse. And nurse. It was as if he was saying, “WOMAN! What did you let them do to me?! Now feed me until I feel better and never set me down again!” (He’s a little drama queen.) But loving as he is, he hasn’t consistently slept through the night ever.

I think we’ve tried five or six different times to Ferber him. We thought, “It worked so well on Emmeline; we’ll try it again.” And five or six different times Ferber failed us. At first we thought we were doing it wrong, but then finally we threw in the towel and admitted that Gareth had just outsmarted us. I mentioned how much he loves to eat for comfort? He won’t go to sleep without a bottle. It’s his preciousss. Anytime we try to cut him off, switch him to sippy cups, or change his sleep routine so it doesn’t involve drinking a bottle in his crib, he goes on a fluids strike. I’m serious–he will refuse all liquids until he’s so dehydrated that he’ll have gone several hours without needing a diaper change. Eventually his dehydration forces our hands and we give him a bottle just so he’ll drink something. Then he falls asleep for hours. Unless he feels like playing–then he’ll wake up two or three times more for kicks.

This, unfortunately, is a story without a resolution, since he’s still outsmarting us in the bedtime department. He’s gotten a little bit better as he’s gotten older, but he mostly just does what he feels (and if he occasionally feels like going to bed without his bottle, then yay for us). We try to brush his teeth religiously to make up for his bad bottle habits, but other than that, here’s what Gareth’s little addiction has taught Josh and I:

It’s just a phase; it will pass, and there is no such thing as perfect parenting. Gareth will not be drinking bottles in college, and as much as I might miss our late night cuddles one day, he won’t always need me to rock him to sleep when he gets a little bit cold at 2 a.m. Meanwhile, the next time Emmeline pees in her booster seat on purpose just to prove to me she doesn’t have to use the potty if she doesn’t want to, I’m going to remind myself, “At least she’s a pretty good sleeper.”

They’re so cute when they’re napping. It almost makes me want to wake them back up. Then I remember that they’re napping because they threw food, peed everywhere, and called me a mean mommy. They can sleep a little longer.

I Don’t Mean to Brag, but…

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When I went into Gareth’s room to get him out of bed this morning, he said hello. Now, I know he’s just imitating something I say to him every morning, and he doesn’t actually understand what he’s saying, but it’s still proof that he’s one of the cutest kids ever.

Last night I was in my room crying, and Emmeline said, “Mommy, why you are sad? Why you are crying?”
I answered her, “Because sometimes it’s hard to be a grownup, sweetie.”
I could hear her thinking, then finally she asked, “Mommy, why you gotta be a grownup?”

Good question. Also proof that Emmeline is one of the cutest kids ever.

I haven’t done anything particularly cute lately. I did make myself scones though. I may not be able to control the whole “grownup” thing, but I can at least make myself something good for breakfast.

She Got the Drama from Her Momma.

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Emmeline is 3 going on 13. That old rhyme, “Girls are sugar and spice and everything nice”? Sure it’s true some of the time, but more often the rhyme should read “Girls are tears, tantrums, ‘but I want!’ and ‘I never!'” Emmeline’s latest thing is to storm into her room crying and shut the door. I take responsibility for that one. She also cries any time she perceives someone as screaming and yelling at her. Knowing this, I’ve tried not to be short tempered with her. But the stress of trying not to be short tempered sometimes makes me short tempered. She’s also very fond of sighs, huffs, and puffs. Then there’s the growl + eye roll combo. Another classic. She learned them all from me–unfortunately.

But it’s not all bad drama. She has enough imagination for several kids. And she’s the only three year old I know who does voices when she tells a story. She learned that from me too. When I read Llama Llama Red Pajama, it doesn’t really get anybody calmed down for bed, but we have fun. We’re building a stage in the basement. If we can’t get her to stop the huffs, puffs, sighs, and tantrums, then maybe we can at least convince her to save it for a dramatic death scene.

This is Emmeline giving us a ballet performance. Shortly after this she stormed into her room crying because “I CAN’T dance like Angelina Ballerina!” You know. The usual.

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Travelling

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We just got in from out of town Saturday night. Twelve days ago the babies and I kissed our husband/daddy goodbye and got on a plane to visit family. I can summarize our trip in a few short sentences: God bless people in airports who carry your carseat for you, the inventor of portable movies, and anyone who volunteers to change a diaper. Grandmommies, Granddaddies, aunts, uncles, and cousins are all great fun to play with. Finally, teenagers are a lot cleaner than toddlers. My house feels very messy now.

Trying to lose weight?

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Don’t pay for an expensive personal trainer. I’ll just send Emmie over to your house. Most nights after dinner I take the kiddos on a stroller ride around the block. It gives us quality family time, gives me some exercise, and it helps wear Emmeline out before bed. I always hear coming from Emmeline’s seat, “Go fast, Mommy!” So I run until I’m tired, then as soon as I slow down I hear, “Again! Again!” She’s Jillian Michaels in diapers.

The little go-getter:

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