Giving Child Words for Emotions

My Jack did not start talking until about 22 months. That includes saying “mama” when he wanted me. Prior to that he used no words at all, just grunted. Despite the fact that he couldn’t talk, I knew he still understood most of what I said. His not talking only pushed me further to talk to him about EVERYTHING. I pointed out everything we saw, named everything we did and were going to do and, probably what I’m most proud of, is give a word to any emotion he was feeling.

Jack has thrown MANY tantrums (and still continues to do so although they have lessoned to some extent, thank God!). The ones prior to him talking were probably the hardest to deal with because our communication was limited. I wasn’t sure if he understood what was going on and was protesting, if he was trying to tell me something and I wasn’t getting it or if it was the usual tired/hungry tantrum (which most often are the culprits). Nevertheless, from that early age on I have encouraged him to give words to what he is feeling.

Once I was able to get him calm and I knew the source of his tantrum I would explain it to him. “You are upset because you are tired and need to rest,” or “you are hungry and will feel better once you have snack.” Sometimes it was “I know you are mad that we have to leave but we must go home now.” Other times I was at a loss and I would just ask, “Jack what’s wrong? Why are you mad?” As you probably guessed, I didn’t get an answer but that was ok. He still heard me and he eventually understood.

When he was a little over two years old an amazing thing happened. After a huge blow up (which for him is usually accompanied with vomiting) he suddenly stopped crying and said “okay, I’m just tired.” I was astonished! The crying and fighting stopped and he just looked up at me and sniffled. I gave him a big hug and told him I was very proud of him for telling me how he was feeling. Now that I knew what was wrong, together we were able to fix the problem. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready to go ballistic. I wanted to shout “yeah, you think your tired? No crap, look at how’ve you been acting the last 30 minutes” but the idea was not to deter him from doing something good. Communicating with me about what he was feeling was a good thing and good behaviors have to be encouraged.

Now, at 32 months, it’s quite common for him to tell me what’s wrong both before a full fledged tantrum or after a tantrum. Sometimes he tells me he’s hungry, other times it’s that he’s tired or that he wants to do something in particular. I think it’s a beautiful thing for him to recognize what he’s feeling and be able to convey that with his words. At times he will also apologize by telling me he’s sorry before he goes into what’s wrong. I should note that I never really forced an apology from him (once or twice in the beginning but my efforts were futile) except when he hits his brother. I should mention that I have always apologized to him when I did something wrong that I shouldn’t have. This could be when I used bad words, when I was cranky and took it out on him, etc.

No matter what your child’s age, they are never too young or too old to help them decipher their emotions and (eventually) communicate them with you. Sometimes it might be us that needs help communicating our feelings with others. While it might be hard to get used to at first, it’s a whole lot better hearing what’s really wrong than trying to guess. It’s also just as freeing telling someone what’s wrong than wondering why they aren’t getting it!

 

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Nine Ways I Wish I Could Act like my Son at Work

My 2 ½ year old son never ceases to amaze me with his various outbursts of words, body movements and sounds. What astounds me is how his grandest performances most often are a result of some basic necessity that needs to be met. (Most often that he’s hungry or tired). I can’t blame him. There are some days when I want to do exactly what he’s doing to let my boss or coworkers know I don’t want to do something or that I need some food! It’s been a year since I’ve traded in being a working mom to being a stay at home mom but here are nine ways my day would have looked if I applied some of his behavior at work:

  1. On those mornings where I wake up exhausted or running late (thanks to the last minute poop my son did as I was ready to walk out the door) and I arrive at work to find that everyone is a little too perky as they say cheerfully say “good morning,” I wish I could just say “no! Go away!” and put my head down on my desk.
  2. When the morning meeting starts cutting into lunch time I wish I could start licking my fists and moving my head from side to side as my son did as a baby. If that still doesn’t get the meeting to end, I’d throw myself on the floor and kick it.
  3. When I finally do get to eat my lunch I would say “num num” as I bite into it and drop crumbs all over me. Hopefully this would deter all the “quick questions” that come my way as I’m trying to eat.
  4. When my boss gives me a project I really don’t want I would say “no!” and if he pressed me further I would say “no, I don’t like it” and then proceed to roll around the floor.
  5. When I had a rude customer at my window that would not take my explanation after the 10th time, I would call him or her an “apple juice head,” laugh and walk away.
  6. On my way to the bathroom when I’m stopped to listen to a story I have no interest in, I would shift my legs from side to side and grab my crotch. If I get asked if I have to pee of course I would say “no.”
  7. As the woman who just uses the bathroom walks out the door without washing her hands I would say “ewww, that’s disgusting!”
  8. When I’m asked to attend a last minute IT meeting I would start banging my head on the floor until they had no choice but to walk away and ignore me.
  9. When I pick up that last call of the day that comes in a minute before I have to leave I would shout “Roarrrrrrrrr, I’m a lion!” and hang up.

No, I was never able to implement these things at work but there sure were some days I wish I could have!

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Four Ways to Stay Organized in a Small Space

I live in an apartment. It’s not super tiny, (it does have two bedrooms) but it’s still rather small. While I wouldn’t classify myself as a slob, I do have a problem with keeping things neat and organized. My biggest problem is surfaces. If there’s a surface, I need to put something on it. Especially paper! I really can’t stand filing and I always think I will get around to something and before you know it I have piles and piles everywhere. For the most part I know where everything is, it just looks messy.

I started doing some internet searches on ways to be organized, best ways to tidy up, etc. The problem is most of what I found applies to big houses. I love the idea of having a room dedicated to shelves with nicely colored baskets that are neatly labeled and cute mason jars with crafty tags on them but I don’t have that kind of space! Instead I took a good hard look at my apartment and decided to dive in. While I’m not where I want to be just yet, below are some of the ways I’m staying organized living in my apartment.

  1. Stop buying everything in bulk! Yes, there are some things that make sense buying in bulk. However, the danger with buying in bulk while living in a small space is where to put everything? If you have the space, that’s great. If you don’t, that item just gets in the way and you almost want to go through it faster just to free up some room. If you do buy in bulk, really assess what you need from what you really don’t need. For us, toilet paper is a must! We need this in bulk. I also need laundry detergent but I don’t need to have two of the mega sized containers on hand, one will do fine. It’s great if you drink soda and you find those cans on sale, but don’t go overboard if you don’t have the room for it or you will find yourself just tripping over them.
  2. Open up your pantry and take everything out. There are some hidden gems in there that you may want to incorporate in your dinner this week. There are also some scary things in there that should be thrown out! You may also be needlessly buying some items that you don’t think you have only to discover that you do. Every few months take a look in there, come up with some sort of organization (I have a canned/jar/box fruit shelf, pasta shelf, soup shelf, etc.) and try your best to stick to it.
  3. Clear those surfaces! You wouldn’t believe how nice that dresser looks with nothing on it (ok if you want you can leave one or two pictures/knickknacks) but really, give it a try. If you don’t like it you can always throw some stuff back on it. I decided to start clearing surfaces this week and I finally finished my bedroom. Yes, it took me a week to figure out where to put all the stuff I had on top of my chest, nightstand and dresser but I did it and I’m so glad I did! When I looked at my dresser the night I finished I felt like I did the night we first got it. It was clean, clear and an empty canvas. I like it that way and I hope I keep it that way. Now to tackle surfaces throughout the rest of the house!
  4. Go through your closets. Every now and then go through the clothes, the boxes and anything else you have in your closet. Take it a box at a time. If you are short on time, set small goals. Review a box every week. Whatever you decide to do just make sure you go through your stuff and be tough. Do you really need that item? Is it best where you have it? Does the item have a happy hold on you or are you keeping it out of guilt or indifference? Sort out what you do not want. Are you planning on selling the item? Do you want to donate it to a non profit? If so make a list of what you are donating, when you donated it and where you are donating it (you may need their address) and you could write it off on your taxes. Is this something perhaps a friend or family member could use? Put back what you do want but make sure you can find it easily should you need it.

While I’m just getting started these four items are keeping me rather busy. The best part about them is that I am starting to notice rapid improvement and I think you will too!  Good luck!

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New Year’s Resolutions

Just like the clothes that need folding and the furniture that needs dusting my New Year’s resolutions were something I just didn’t get around to thinking about yet. However, now I’m ready to think about them and I need to record them before I forget! Here they are:

  1. Incorporate more healthy food in place of less healthier food. I’ll admit it, I have a serious problem with chips. At the end of the day when I finally get both children down, I just want salt… and then some wine with salt… and then some chocolate with salt… and then just salt to end it all. It’s a vicious cycle that I need to break, especially if I ever plan to get rid of this “baby” weight. Jack is also starting to crave chocolate at the end of every meal so he’s part of my motivation to eat better.
  2. To sleep train Manny before he turns 2. I look forward to the day where I can get in a few four hour stretches of sleep, or dare I say it… maybe six or seven?
  3. To wean Manny off the boob. This seems so far off as he’s been slow to want solid food but a woman can dream.
  4. To become a better budgeter and wiser spender.
  5. To increase healthy activities, especially since Jack has so much energy that needs to be burned each day.
  6. To get in a little more “me time” for hobbies like writing.

Those look good for now. What are some of your resolutions?

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Feeling Validated as a SAHM

It’s been a year since I traded in being a full time employee to being a SAHM. To be honest, I still can’t believe it’s been that long. While my days with my two sons may not be perfect, I can say I am much more comfortable in this role than I was a year ago.

When I first became a SAHM I found myself struggling with the fact that I no longer brought home an income. Not that I viewed the money my husband made as “his” but I felt bad spending it, as if that’s all I did… spend money and not earn any myself. I was looking at money as the only thing that would make me valid. Since I wasn’t making any money I felt useless. Yes, I understood that by not working we were saving on childcare, commuting, lunch out (to be honest I brought lunch most of the time), etc. No matter what list I put together, the reality was that by working I would still be bringing in more money than by not working.

These last few months I’ve delved deeper into why I felt the way I do, and realized that it’s not completely the money part that has me down but being able to have something tangible I can see based on my efforts. I spend most of the day chasing two children around. I wash and put away dishes, pick up toys, do laundry, clean the house (in very small segments) – only to have do everything all over again. On a daily basis I cannot “see” what progress I made because it usually becomes undone in a matter of minutes. If I were at work, I would see my progress in the review my boss would give me of my work and in the check I received every two weeks.

One of the hardest parts I find about being a SAHM is being my own cheerleader. I wish I could have quotes fly about my house whenever I’m feeling down. Things like “don’t give up,” “this too shall pass,” “you are doing great,” etc. The day and night is a constant wave of activity, emotions, needs, etc. Sometimes I get lost in all of it and wonder: “will I ever be able to potty train my child?” (I’m letting Jack call the shots when he’s ready) “Will Manny ever be weaned off the boob?” With all the negative thoughts doubting myself as a mother I fail to see the progress my children are making because of me.

While I cannot see my progress every day, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just today my Jack sang me the ABC’s, not perfect, but it was the ABC’s (I didn’t master the ‘LMNOP’ part probably until I was ten). He also apologized yesterday after a tantrum without me asking him. It should be noted that I don’t make him apologize after he throws a tantrum so this was not expected (unless he hit his brother)! Manny, who is just starting to walk is also starting to copy my words. This is progress! It’s these small things that make me feel that maybe, just maybe what I do around here all day does make a difference.

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When I take a moment to write…

I thought with Manny being a year old that I would be out of survival mode and ready to spend my evenings writing. Survival mode being where you do just that; eat, sleep and bath when you can (housework every now and then). When he was born I gave myself a six month timeline to get it together. After six months I gave it a year.

A year later and while he’s advanced in many ways from being a newborn, he still doesn’t sleep through the night. His new random thing is waking up in the middle of the night deciding 3am is a perfect time to be up! He’s teething pretty awful so that means constantly being bit (both me and Jack). Every time I want to sit down and write, he happens to be up. Below is my list of what happens whenever I take a moment to write – dedicated to my Manny!

  1. Manny decides it’s time to wake up, even if he’s only been asleep for 10 minutes.
  2. When I place Manny in the play pen he decides it’s time to throw toys at mommy and then scream until I take him out.
  3. Manny tries to eat the computer wire (yes I sit with my laptop connected to the charger – doesn’t have the best battery life).
  4. Manny decides it’s time to bite Jack.
  5. Jack and Manny decide to fight over a toy car – winding up with Jack being bit/having his hair pulled or Manny being pushed. Either way someone is left screaming.
  6. Jack decides to take a crap and tell me he’s getting irritated.
  7. Manny takes a bite of Jack’s shoe.

I can’t wait for all his teeth come in so we can work on sleep training… whatever that is. I keep saying it to make myself feel better but I’m not really sure how I’m going to “get started.” Have a great day!

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Cheap Substitute for Aquarium

Fish Store

The other day I needed something to do to get the children out of the house. However, being that it’s near the end of the month we didn’t (still don’t) have too much left in the budget for entertainment. While it would have been nice to go to the aquarium (although the drive would be way too long) I took my children to the local fish store instead.

This is not the “buy dead fish and eat them” kind of fish store but the buy live fish as pets kind of store (although I guess you could eat them too). Jack and Manny had a great time! Manny stared at the various tanks from his stroller. One large fish in particular would swim as close as he could get to him on two occasions. Jack enjoyed seeing all the different kinds of fish from the “baby fish” to the “daddy fish” (anything that’s large is a “daddy” size). There were plenty of freshwater fish, saltwater fish and even a pond with some fish swimming around.

While it’s not quite like the aquarium it did get us out of the house and looking at some fish for only the amount of gas it took to get there (and free parking too, woo hoo)! On the flipside we’ve also gone to the pet store to look at dogs, cats and other small animals (Jack is particularly fond of dogs).

Now I have to find a way to convince my husband that we need fish. Maybe we can get a little one for Jack’s birthday. Hmm… What are some places you enjoy going with your children to get out of the house?

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My first contributor post

I am so, so, so excited to announce that my friend Jaimi who blogs at The Stay at Home Mom Survival Guide is featuring my post this week of what I learned being a first time stay at home mom. Even though I had just had my second child, it was a really tough wake up call going from having one son and working full time to being a full time stay at home mommy. Come read about it on Jaimi’s blog here as part of her Mom Motivation Mondays series!

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Things to do during a Blizzard

Hi all!

This weekend we were hit with a huge blizzard! That meant spending a weekend we would normally be going out and about as a family, huddled inside our apartment. Despite it all we stayed busy and enjoyed being together. The days before the blizzard I made sure to take the children out, fill the car with gas, fill the house with food and just get them as much air as possible. Below is a list of some things we did with our children to keep things interesting.

  1. Have a lazy morning. Sleep in as much as you can and let everyone spend the day in pajamas.
  2. Cook something with the kids during the day. Get them to participate in some way, whether it’s something from scratch, a box, etc. Get them to help mix, or help you dump in ingredients, or dry something, whatever it is, make a project out of it – and then enjoy eating it together!
  3. Do something artsy! Whether it be play doh (a favorite around this house), coloring, drawing, painting, etc. get those creative juices flowing!
  4. If you can, bring some snow inside the house for the children to play with. Any large container will do, just make sure to lay out plenty of towels.
  5. Watch a movie together. This is especially nice if you have a child that won’t nap but needs a break or if their sibling is asleep and you want it to be quiet.
  6. Put on some music and dance or just have it playing lightly in the background while playing on the floor.
  7. Make a fort (throw a blanket on some dining room chairs or a couch or whatever you have laying around). Encourage your child to bring all their stuffed animal friends. You can open up the window a crack (if it’s safe) and listen to the howling wind and pretend you are in Antarctica or something. If you have some kind of lighting device (flashlight or lighting music toy, etc.) bring it in the fort. I usually wind up being a hungry bear looking for someone to grab.
  8. Have a meal together. Even if it’s not every meal, have at least one meal all together at the table (turn the television off) and talk to eachother.
  9. Prepare a warm bath. It may be cold inside but at least they are warm, and clean and slowly winding down!
  10. Make sure to end the day with plenty of hugs! Once they are asleep make sure you do some things that help you relax.

What are some things you enjoy doing with your children when you can’t get out?

 

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Why I love Reading Amish Books

Howdy!

I hope the world is treating you alright. I go through many stages in reading. Sometimes I need light fiction – something predictable and happy. Other times I need heart wrenching fiction – where it causes all kind of emotions inside of me and I’m practically in tears reading it (lately I haven’t read any of those, probably due to exhaustion). I also intersperse reading non fiction, usually parenting books of some sort and/or biographies.

Today I’m here to talk about the Amish love stories I’ve been reading. (My mom and aunt share books with other friends and a whole bunch of them were given to me as I rarely have time to buy books or take them out of the library.) They fall into the “light fiction” category. Even though I can basically predict the story by the back cover they are still fun to read.

After an exhausting day with Manny and Jack I look forward to reading a few pages about an innocent budding romance in a culture that is somewhat foreign to me yet simple (in that they live very plain). However, what I find myself enjoying the most is how they cope with life. Amish women have tough lives! Nothing seems easy, even doing basic things like the laundry and cooking a meal. Going out isn’t easy either. First they have to set up their horse and buggy if they want to run and errand. I’m terrified of animals (seen way too many “when good pets go bad”), but the thought of hooking up a horse and buggy in the ice cold winter is not appealing to me! And despite it all, most of them have a bunch of children to manage as well.

What I admire most is how they look at their lives. (Please keep in mind that I’ve never actually met any Amish person, only know by what I’ve read.) They look at how they handle everything in life as a way of worshipping God. So taking care of children, doing the laundry, making a good meal, interacting with people, etc. etc. is all done in a manner that makes them feel they are glorifying God. How awesome is that? I don’t think I can go a whole day without having one “omg!!!” moment, and here these people take everything, the good and the bad and do it in such a peaceful way (ok at least in my books they do.) Regardless, it’s still an interesting way of looking at life.

Yes, I thank God for my blessings in life, I do. But during the day, I just get so bogged down sometimes. I look forward to a little me time and if things don’t go in that direction (Manny refuses to nap or Jack throws a tantrum when I finally get Manny to nap), I find it so hard to keep my cool. I don’t really see myself as being a good worshipper at that moment, rather a pissed off mommy who wants some space!

One night I tried searching the internet for “how do Amish moms handle everything” – as if some search would result in a bulleted list on how to manage a household, children, a farm, etc. without losing your cool. My husband happened to see what I was searching and laughed at me. He said you do realize that they don’t have the internet. I did realize that (I think), I was just hoping… I don’t know that one of them leaked their secrets to the press? Or happened to mail a letter… I should mention I was without sleep for a very long time and I was looking for some guidance.

Currently I’m on a hiatus from reading Amish books as I don’t have any left but if you ever come across one, give it a read. Their way of life is pretty interesting. If you can look beyond the “oh he looked at me for the first time and how I long to have his children at 19 before I become an old maid at 23” kind of thing, you will find they have a very interesting way of looking at life.

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