Correction through Kindness

momcon

I attended MomCon over the weekend.  What’s MomCon?  You may ask.  Exactly what it sounds like.  A convention for moms.  Young moms, specifically.  Mothers of preschoolers and younger children.  It’s put on by MOPS, which stands for Mothers of PreSchoolerS, and is a huge international Christian organization, with chapters all over the US and other countries.  We’re getting ready to start a chapter at Greenwood Christian Church.

The main thing I can say about MomCon was that it was INTENSE.  Three solid days – dawn to dusk and beyond – of sessions and workshops, where we listened to a variety of speakers talk about all thing MOM.  It was great, though.  Very helpful stuff.  It was nice to come together with other moms and talk about issues that affect us, be uplifted, and hear some practical tips for handling our tiny humans.

It can be lonely, being a mom.  And we often feel judged.  I mentioned that to one of my non-mom friends and was surprised by the response – total bewilderment.  I tend to forget that you non-moms out there are unfamiliar with all the mom-shaming that goes on within mom circles.  Don’t turn your child’s carseat around.  Don’t switch to formula.  Don’t use disposable diapers.  Don’t feed them non-organic snacks.  For God’s sake, don’t feed them McDonald’s.  Don’t throw a party that’s not Pinterest-worthy.  Don’t yell at your kids.  Don’t work outside the home.  Just to name a few.

All of these are things I’ve done and therefore felt judged for by other moms.  And here’s the thing: IT’S OK.

We all have our different opinions and styles for raising these little monsters, and IT’S OK.

That was the message I received at MomCon, and it was a great reminder.  I think I learn that same lesson every couple of months, but I’ll probably never stop needing to learn it.  So, it was great to go to a three-day conference and have that message shared again and again, in different ways.  The whole experience was uplifting and encouraging.

And again, I did actually learn some practical tips as well.  For example, the two most powerful sessions I attended were “Celebrating the Season” (as in, this Season of my life – raising little ones) and “What to Do When Your Anger Scares You” (gasp!).

It’s funny, when I was choosing workshops, and I came across the Anger one, I marked it in my book, but I thought, “I’ll just sneak off and go there, without telling anyone.”  I didn’t want to admit to my friends that I have an anger problem at home.  It feels so shameful.  How can anyone lose their temper with their little angels?

Needless to say, I did admit that I would be attending the anger class, and one of my friends immediately agreed to attend with me.  When we walked into the class, it was standing room only!  There were probably 1000 women in that classroom!  The place was packed.  I quickly realized, I’m not the only one!

So after attending that workshop as well as the others, I’ve made a decision: I’m going to be a kind mom.  No more yelling. When I lose my patience, I’m just not going to yell.  I’m making a list of things I’m never going to say to my kids again, and then just not say them.  I won’t be perfect right away – in fact, it’s only been a few days and I’ve already messed up numerous times, but I’m committed to this.  One of the tips the lady gave us is to tell your kids what they’re going to do/what they’re going to be.  Just tell them.  Kindly.  I didn’t really get that at first, but already it’s coming together a little bit:

Yesterday afternoon, it was time for Gwen’s nap.  These days, if she’s been good, we’ll let her have “quiet time,” instead of an actual nap.  “Quiet time” means she still has to go to bed, but she gets to have a bunch of books in there with her, and her light on.  When I told her it was time to go upstairs, she started a full-blown tantrum.  Screaming, crying, kicking.  Then she started yelling, “I want quiet time!”  Normally I would probably yell back at her.  Instead, I stayed calm, gently took her face in my hands, and quietly said, “Next time, you’ll remember to ask nicely for quiet time, and say please, instead of throwing a fit.”  That was it.  I simply told her what she was going to do.  No, “and if you don’t,…[insert various threat]…”  Just told her.  Then she stopped crying and asked nicely, but I told her it was too late.  “Next time,” I said.

And you know what?  It worked.  When she got up from her nap, she told me that next time she was going to say please and ask for quiet time.  And that night at bedtime, she did it!  And again today!

Suffice to say I was pretty pleased with myself on that one.  Of course, that was until she was getting ready today and taking FOR-FREAKING-EVER and my patience went bye-bye.  But that’s ok.  I’m trying!  Baby steps to being a kind mom.

Preschool Car Line Drop Off

Whew!  I made it through my first Preschool Drop Off Car Line!  I was so nervous about that!  And now it’s done, and I’m a Car Line Pro.  Woot.

Gwen started preschool this week, which of course has been an emotional roller coaster.  I’m glad it’s finally here, but I can’t believe it’s already here.  I’m smiling one minute and crying the next.  I’m so excited for her, but I’m so anxious.  But then, she only goes two mornings a week, so really it’s a nice little transition and introduction to school.  At any rate, we’re well on our way now.  We made it through the first day of school on Tuesday and the first Car Line day today.  We’re working our way through all these Firsts.  Her first School Picture day is next week, which pretty much turns me into a basket case whenever I think about it, but that’s another story.

Car Line was an intimidating mystery to me.  Ok, I mean, how hard can it be to line up and have your kid get out of the car and go in school?  Well, glad you asked.  Here were my concerns…

  • Gwen had to be on the passenger side of the car.  The drive goes in front of the school so the building is on the right, so the teachers need the kids to be on the right side so they can get out and go in, without walking around the vehicle and in front of other cars.
    • Gwen’s carseat was on the driver’s side, because when Ian was a tiny baby, I wanted him on the passenger side so I could easily look over my shoulder and see him.  Ok, now he’s older so it’s not that big of a deal; they just had to be switched.  Carseats are not the easiest things in the world to move, but obviously it can be done.  It just had to get done before I tackled Car Line!
  • Gwen can’t unbuckle her seat belt.  She’s in a five-point harness carseat, which are difficult enough for adults to unbuckle, let alone a three-year-old.  Besides, I don’t really want to encourage her to learn how at this point.  The last thing I need is for her to unbuckle herself while we’re driving down the road.
  • I can’t reach her from the driver’s seat, so I can’t unbuckle her.  I was worried about this, because I didn’t think the teacher would want to have to lean into every car and mess with five-point harnesses on each kid, then wait for them to grab their backpacks before they can climb out and go in.

These logistics terrified me!  I figured it would be easier if she was already unbuckled and had her backpack on before I got to the front of the Car Line.  So I thought, “Should I stop in the parking lot, get out, walk around to Gwen’s door, unbuckle her, have her put her backpack on, and then stand or sit unbuckled while we get into the Car Line and inch our way forward?  Should I have her sit in the front passenger seat for this?”  Then I was all afraid that we’d get rear-ended while in Car Line, and the airbag would go off while she’s in the front!  Or even if she’s in the back, it’s still not safe!

Alright, so yes, I’m [a little] paranoid, over-thinking, and neurotic.  But really, this whole thing was new to me, and I just didn’t see how it was going to work.

Turns out, it’s fine.  Matthew switched the carseats last night, the teacher unbuckled Gwen without any issues, and Gwen was quick to get her backpack and go in.  No crises.  On the way home, Ian did cry “Mama!” a lot more than usual, I think because he was weirded out that he couldn’t see me in the car.  But oh well!  He’ll adjust.  And hopefully the therapy he’ll face down the road for abandonment issues won’t be any worse than the usual.

Baby Envy

Gwen’s got Baby Envy, and it’s driving me crazy.  What I mean is, she is so jealous of Ian she can hardly function.  I’m doing everything I can to give her extra attention, and to recognize things that only she gets to do, but it’s not enough.  All I can say is the end of this phase can’t come soon enough.

When Ian was smaller, Gwen would have flashes of jealousy, but most of the time she enjoyed helping take care of him and watching him.  I think she saw him as a doll, a plaything, something completely separate from herself.  Now he’s mobile and vocal, and she can’t stand it.  So, she’s started acting like him.

People have been telling me that the Three’s are worse than the ‘Terrible’ Twos.  I’m not sure I agree with that.  The Two’s were pretty terrible, believe me.  I think it’s just a different kind of terrible.  Still, I’m convinced this new phase has little to do with age and everything to do with Baby Envy.

A perfect example is when we greet someone, especially a relative whom she hasn’t seen for a while.  I’ll say, “Say Hi, Gwen,” and she’ll do one of three things:

  1. Make a weird face and an “uh!” noise
  2. Stare and say nothing
  3. Hide behind me or cling to me

All these actions are completely out of character for her.  She’s not a shy little girl.  She’s usually very social, and generally gets excited and likes to give hugs to family members.  It took me a while to finally realize that these 3 actions are exactly what Ian does!  (duh. lightbulb!)  Of course, no one cares when Ian does it – it’s expected of a one-year-old.  People even comment how cute it is.  So now Gwen does it.

It’s not so cute on her.  The thing is, I never know what to do in the situation.  It’s awkward.  The person is standing there, smiling at Gwen, with their arms out waiting for a hug, and she’s doing her “uh!” thing.  When I bend down and get in her face and ask her to go over there and be nice, of course things become more awkward.  She still doesn’t do it, and by now, the person is trying to save the situation by saying, “Oh, it’s ok!  She doesn’t have to give me a hug.”  But the thing is, it’s not ok!  She can’t act like that!  What I want to do is smack her bottom, but the middle of the greeting scenario doesn’t feel like an appropriate time/place.  Then she’ll start crying and screaming and get all worked up, and she probably still won’t do the hug. Talk about kicking up an awkward situation even more.

So I’m trying to talk to her about these things when we’re removed from the situation, but so far it hasn’t helped.  I’m trying nicely talking her through it, explaining how she’s a big girl and not a baby, as well as the not-so-nice yelling and threatening approach, and the after-the-fact spankin’, but none have been all that effective.

These “greeting situations” are just one example of her Baby Envy in full effect.  Of course there’s more.  I’m struggling to navigate this phase and doing the best I can, but I feel at a loss.  I, along with all the other adults in her life, are trying everything we can to celebrate her “big girlness.”  We give her one-on-one attention, and do things with her that babies can’t do.  Whenever she gets a cookie, I make sure to point out that, “Ian doesn’t get one!  Only big kids get cookies!”  She gets excited for the moment.

Maybe it’s starting to sink in?  Right now, she’s playing with markers, and I just told her she’s lucky since only big kids can use markers.  She said, “When you’re a baby, it’s ok, but big girls get special stuff.”  Maybe one day we’ll get through this.

No more “just run in real quick”

If you’ve never tried to run errands with a toddler and a baby, you don’t know what you’re missing! Who needs to go to the gym, when a true workout can be found just doing what you’ve always done, but with the added strength training of hauling little ones?

The other day, I just had to “run in” to the Post Office. Now, normally, I avoid these types of trips at all cost. I stay well-stocked in stamps, and I like to put any outgoing mail in my own mailbox with the flag up, so our nice maillady will pick it up take it on its merry way, with no inconvenience to me.  Likewise, I try to avoid going in any store whenever possible.  Drive-thrus are my favorite.  When I stop at CVS for a prescription, I often wish I could ask the guy at the window to grab me some bread, milk, and maybe some baby puffs.  And some wine.  He’d probably look at me a little strange when I ordered the 3 different types of milk I buy for our family.  Oh well.  Anyway, this time I was mailing out two items which were too big to go in regular envelopes, so a trip into the PO was necessary.

Ian is H-E-A-V-Y now.  So it’s not so easy to carry him in and have him hang out on my hip the whole time I’m in line. He’s also super mobile now, so I can’t put him down when we get inside and expect him not to toddle off and get behind the counter, into the trash, on the mail scale, … or wherever else he could find.  He’s too big for his baby carseat/carrier, so I can’t bring him in in that and set it on the floor where he’d be restrained.  So, really my only option is the stroller.  Gwen is less of a wander-risk, but still likes to get into everything at a new place.  So it’s best to have her in the stroller, too.

I call our double stroller “The Big Rig.”  It is big, bulky, and weighs 33 pounds when empty.  Even folded up, it’s so long that we have to remove the sun shades and cup-holder tray just to fit it in the car.  Hauling it from the trunk and unfolding it is no small task.

All aboard The Big Rig!
All aboard The Big Rig!

So I pull into the Post Office parking lot, park as close as possible, unload and set up The Big Rig, extract Ian from his five-point harness carseat, strap him into his seat in the stroller, go around the other side of the car, remove Gwen, get her strapped in, grab my purse and keys and lock the car and head inside.  I always have to pause to make sure I’m bringing in everything I need, because if not, running back out to the car isn’t simple either.  All this for a less-than-five-minute stop.  I’m so glad it’s starting to get warmer outside, because coats make this whole process that much more complicated.

The errand complete, I load everyone back into the car, and head off to the next stop.  As a mom of little ones, I’ve become an expert on which stores have the best carts to haul them.  The big department stores have the extra-long carts with seats in the back for both of them.  I was afraid of those for a while – I feel like you should have a special license to drive them!  Aldi’s has large carts where they can sit side by side in the top part.  Kroger’s has the fun carts with little cars attached to the front so they can “drive” around the store.  Dollar Tree and Joann’s are the worst – tiny carts that don’t even fit the baby carseat carrier, and only have room for one child anyway.

And of course, in addition to all these logistics that need to be considered, there’s the fun task of actually doing the errands.  I always hope the kids will be in good moods for the duration, and I try not to push it too far.  I try to keep the whole ordeal to under an hour.  I make sure to change Ian before we go, and hope for no diaper blowouts during.  I make Gwen go potty before we leave, and try to avoid public restrooms if possible.  (Where do I put Ian when I take her in there?  The carts are too big to come in!)  I make sure to feed them both before we leave, in hopes that they won’t become “hangry” while we’re out.  Of course, I always have snacks in the car, just in case.

And such is a glimpse into the exciting world of “just running in” for quick errands with two small children in tow!

Show us to the diapers!
Show us to the diapers!
Ready to Target!
Ready to Target!
Driving around Kroger!
Driving around Kroger!
Who's driving this thing??
Who’s driving this thing??

The Case of the Shrinking Boobs

Note to self: don’t buy new bathing suits a month before you’re going to quit nursing.
That would have been good advice two months ago.
The good news is: Ian is done nursing! Hooray! But I’m also kind of sad. I miss cuddling my baby and nursing him to sleep. It’s nice to have my body be my own again though. And to be able to get ready to go places much more quickly – without having to plan for an extra twenty minutes to nurse before leaving the house.
Gwen pretty much weaned herself at about 8 months. Nursing her was never all that easy in the first place. Early on, it was hard for both of us to get the hang of it. And as she got older, she was more interested in other stuff going on than trying to nurse, so she would roll over and squirm away. Finally I got tired of fighting her on it.
Ian on the other hand, was all about it. I kept waiting for him to wean himself, but it became clear that wasn’t about to happen! And at 11-12 months, he was still waking up to nurse at night. But finally, that did stop. And shortly before he turned 13 months, I started a weaning schedule. I went down to nursing just 3 times a day, then 2 times (morning and night), then none! He hardly seemed to notice. He didn’t really cry for it or anything. I thought I’d have to have Matthew rock him to sleep at night; I figured if I was there, Ian would want the goods! But it wasn’t an issue.
So now I’m free! Which is great, but I kind of forgot that when nursing ends, boobs go back to their original size. So…when I bought two new bathing suits for our vacation to Florida later this month, I didn’t account for that. I put one on the other day and it looked ridiculous. It gaped so much that I couldn’t really move, let alone bend over, without showing “it all” to the whole world.
So it’s a good thing I happen to be a (amateur) seamstress! I took it in by several inches. It’s no professional alteration job, but it’ll do!

You can see where I had to take it in - in 3 places.
You can see where I had to take it in – in 3 places.
Stitching!
Stitching!
The finished product! Fits pretty well. There are no "before" pictures. Believe me, no one wanted to see that!
The finished product! Fits pretty well. There are no “before” pictures. Believe me, no one wanted to see that!

 

 

Nothing endures but change

The main thing I have learned, am learning, and continue to learn as the mother of two small children is that nothing stays the same.  The minute I adjust to a change, everything changes again.  I like routine.  It helps keeps me sane, and I think it’s helpful for the kids to have a regular,  somewhat-set schedule.  The problem with this is, they’re kids!  There are too many variables!

As soon as I think I’ve got this parenting thing under control, one (or both) of the kids throws a curve ball.  I should be expecting it by now. I should be able to hit these curve balls, or at least dodge them so they don’t knock me on my butt.  Still, it inevitably takes me time to figure out what’s going on and adjust accordingly.  And by then, they’ve switched directions again.

In a previous post, I mentioned some of my favorite “baby items” are the ottomans in our living room that we use to create a kid corral.  This worked great for Gwen.  She would happily play inside the corral, and it never seemed to occur to her to bust out.  Ian will not be contained.  Not only does he push over the heavy ottoman and keep going, he also will search the perimeter for any other potential weak spots.

It happened suddenly.  One day, he and Gwen were happily playing like they always do, and the next thing I know, an end table with an attached lamp is crashing to the floor.  He’s breaking free.  It got my attention and made me realize was time for me to adjust again.  I had gotten used to being able to leave the room for a minute to put in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, etc. but now, no such luck.  He’s quick.  And strong.  And curious.  Bad combination.

I had also gotten used to nap time, which I love because it’s break time.  Now I’m realizing Gwen is outgrowing her nap.  It didn’t happen all at once, but more and more often I would put her down for her nap and she would just sing and talk the whole time.  For hours.  I finally realized it was time for me to make another adjustment.  When we first moved her to her big-girl bed, we went through this, too.  She’d get out of bed, run around, sing, and shout for hours.  Then, for several months, she got over that and would actually go to sleep.  Now we’re back.  She’s a little older, so I’ve switched her to a “quiet time.”  Sometimes she naps, but not always.  Either way, she goes to bed for a few hours.  I leave the light on and give her a pile of books.  This works pretty well, and has become the new normal.  For now.

Gwen loves to keep me guessing on feeding her.  One day, she loves spaghetti and will ask for seconds and thirds, and the next time she “doesn’t like spaghetti.”  Same for chicken nuggets.  Or salad.  Or bread.  Or eggs.  But not pizza.  She always likes pizza.  For now.

Ian is in his Mama’s boy phase right now, and I actually kind of love it, because he’s so cuddly.  Gwen was never as cuddly.  Ian lets me rock him to sleep and likes to be held, which is nice.  On the other hand, if he can see me, he wants to be with me.  He cries when I try to hand him off to anyone else.  When I leave him off at the church nursery , I try to sneak away when he’s not looking.  When I walk in the house after leaving the kids at home with Matthew, Ian immediately starts crying and reaching for me.  Matthew always says that Ian’s completely happy the whole time I’m gone; still, the minute I walk in and he sees me, I better be ready to pick him up!  I’m getting used to this.  For now.  Until the next change!

One way I'm trying to keep Ian contained right now. At least for now, he doesn't climb out of it. Yet.
One way I’m trying to keep Ian contained right now. At least for now, he doesn’t climb out of it. Yet.
Happy girl coloring eggs for Easter!
Happy girl coloring eggs for Easter!
Big boy Ian in his big boy carseat. Time marches on.
Big boy Ian in his big boy carseat. Time marches on.

Reflections on life as I know it – as a Midwest suburban mother of an infant and a toddler