Four Year Old Peanut

Peanut,

Wow! You’re four years old! I’m finding it hard to believe.

For months now, we’ve been talking about your upcoming birthday. You started to plan your party back in December without my so much as mentioning it. For the last few weeks, I’ve been making the mistake of calling you a four year old. To this, you reply “No mom, I’m almost four!” Well, now you’re really four.

IMG_8697Four doesn’t seem that big in the scheme of things, but at the same time, it seems like a lifetime away from three. As I look back at the newsletter from a year ago, I see a lot of similarities. You still like the same tv shows (and some new ones too). You still have an awesome memory and love your music class. But at the same time, you’ve excelled so much.

Like a year ago, you liked to go around singing songs from music class, but I doubt you could sing all of the words to She Sells Sea Shells, including the “brown and grey and blue, yellow, pink, white, green” that’s sung rather fast at the end. And you’re working on tone too. You go higher when you’re supposed to and you think it’s hilarious to sing super low. This fall, you’ll start musical bridge, which is a class that teaches you music theory before you start lessons. I think you’re going to love it.

DSC_0073You’re also back in the preschool on campus, which you adore. You love all of your friends there so much that you insisted on inviting 9 of them (plus 4 non-preschool friends) to your birthday party. It’s going to be insane! You can’t stop talking about it. I think you’re more excited about the party than your actual birthday.

You’re also excelling developmentally. Over the last year, you learned to write your name and most other letters of the alphabet. Some of them you need help remembering how to do it, but once I show you, you’re good. And, while they’re all still very large, almost all of them look correct. Your R’s and Y’s are a bit screwy, but I’m not worried.

You also learned to paint. Sure, you could paint before, but now you can really paint. You paint (and draw) people who actually look like people. You color mostly in the lines. You make up whole scenes of who’s doing what. It’s awesome.

Taken just now while modeling your birthday present.

Taken just now while modeling your birthday present.

You can hop on one foot. Sure, this may not seem like such a big deal, but it was for you. As little sister was learning to walk, we’d have her walk between mommy and daddy. Since you wanted to do it too, we decided that you should hop on one foot to us instead. You got really good at it! So much so that when you were practicing in preschool as part of an activity, your teacher said you were the very best in all the class!

You’re a great big sister too. Sure, there are plenty of scuffles, but in the end you two are great together. Twig just loves you to death. She’s always so happy when you’re playing with her and she’s excited to go get you from preschool. You’re great with her too. You still make silly faces and do funny things and she just laughs and laughs. You go run and grab her a toy when she’s upset and you’re happy to go get me things I need for her.

IMG_6600 copyThe biggest thing that hasn’t changed from last year is the fact that you’re my best friend. We were going through some tough times a year ago, but we stuck through it and we’re on the other side. You’re still my little cuddle buddy and you want to help me with everything. You’re growing in your independence, but still coming back to me to check up and make sure things are okay. We spend our days together as us three girls and while it can be stressful, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re awesome and I’m thankful to have you in my life.

Love,
Mama

Preschool Peer Pressure

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When I read the topic for this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting, I thought it was going to be a cinch. Tough conversations? Peanut has that nailed down to a science. It seems like every day she’s asking me something incredibly awkward or weird. I mean, she’s a{n almost} four year old, for goodness sake! She’s asking questions about her Great Aunt that died a year and a half ago. She wants to know where our other kitty went. She recites to my mother how women bleed out of their vaginas every month. She asks why she doesn’t nurse anymore. As I said, piece of cake.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized talking about the awkward things has been a piece of cake for me. It just hasn’t been a big deal to explain to her why some words aren’t appropriate for her to say or what the dog is doing when she’s licking herself down there. I’m not an easily embarrassed person. I am good at talking about tough things like death matter-of-factly. Then it came to me, the one conversation that I’ve had a hard time addressing. The other little girls.

Peanut will be four this month, so you’d think it’s too early to have to worry about cliques. You’d think that all of the boys and girls in her preschool would just run around happily and play, but that’s not the case. Every day she comes home there’s a drama about one little girl. Of course, this happens to be Peanut’s favorite little girl.

We’ll call her Sam.

Peanut’s first day back at preschool was exciting, but also terrifying. Within moments of entering the class, a little boy yelled at her and she started to cry. So when I little girl walked up and offered to show her around, I thought it was the best thing that could happen that day. That little girl was Sam.

Sam is a year older than Peanut, but in the preschool 3 and 4 year olds are together. They quickly became great friends and I was happy for it. The problem is that Peanut is a child of habit, and when Sam didn’t want to play with her one day at school, Peanut was not so happy. From what I heard, there were quite a few arguments because Peanut wouldn’t stop following her around the playground.

This was just the beginning. Since then, they’ve had what I describe as a love-hate relationship. Sam always runs up and gives Peanut a big hug when I bring her to school, but that’s no telling how the day will actually go.

From watching Peanut (there’s a one-way mirror), she doesn’t take it too hard when Sam won’t play with her in class. She doesn’t even play with Sam every time that Sam is being friendly. She has many friends at her preschool besides Sam. The problem is that when she gets home, Sam is the one she talks about.

It started one day with her saying on the way home that Sam wouldn’t play with her today and it made her sad. We talked about who she did play with and how she had fun anyway. Since then, there have been many conversations about why Sam won’t play with her some days.

I’ve tried to explain that sometimes we just get tired of playing with someone for a while. I’ve told her that she’s a great kid to play with and Sam is missing out when she doesn’t want to play with her. I’ve tried talking up other friends who don’t sporadically decide not to be her friend. All of it is to no avail. She keeps not understanding and I’ve run out of explanations.

It all gives my flashbacks to when I was in Junior High. For whatever reason, a group of three girls decided I was (and a couple of my friends too, but I was the main target) their enemy. They spread rumors and called me horrible names in the halls, even though I’d never even kissed a boy. I soon started to have panic attacks and miss school, later transferring to a different school. I started to see a psychologist (who I still occasionally visit, like when I was dealing with my PPD). Throughout all of it, I remember my own mom being often at a loss of what to tell me. What do you tell your little girl who just doesn’t understand why someone can’t be her friend?

So here I am, feeling like I’m at the beginning of watching my own little girl go through problems with mean girls. Feeling at a loss of what to tell her when one of her favorite people in the world tells her to go away. How to I broach the subject that sometimes people are just awful with a four year old? Why is this starting so soon? Isn’t four too young for cliques? Or is this just the beginning?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn’t Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she’s explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she’s learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren’t so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she’s had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller’s Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter’s horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges–when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Protect your kids from sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who’d want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn’t have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.

Positive Time-Outs

A very low quality photo of a very crabby Peanut.

A very low quality photo of a very crabby Peanut.

I change my parenting a lot. Really, I’m sure most parents do. We read new things that make us rethink past choices. Our children grow and change day to day, so what worked yesterday might not work today. Situations change when siblings are added or mama goes back to work or parents get divorced or many other things both big and small. I oft worry that I look like I’m always jumping on a new bandwagon on this blog, but I’m sure you all understand these reasons why my parenting changes. I’m sure you experience all these changes yourself.

Back when Peanut was younger, I was firmly against time out. Time in worked wonderfully for us about 90 percent of the time until she was around 18 months. At that point I started to send her to her room, which worked for a while, but we changed again when she started to cry and have a fit over going in her room.

Then after Twig was born, we needed a new solution. Talking through it just didn’t work when she was hitting me or hurting Twig. She needed to be physically removed. This also worked for a while until she started to refuse to go. Then I’d feel angry and try to push the issue, which would make it all worse. It didn’t help that I was in a dark place at the moment. So we had another solution that stopped working.

Now though, I’m revisiting the idea of going to her room. We’re doing things a bit differently and she’s a bit older. Now I just tell her to go to her room, no fuss or anger (okay, there’s occasional anger, but I’m working on it), when she does something way out of line. This is only really when she either hits or does this screaming in my face thing that she’s been doing lately (I correct her, so she turns to me and screams as loud as she can with a mean look on her face). There’s no option or pleading, she just has to go. It’s not a punishment. It’s not a threat.

Second, it seems to help her when she leaves the situation. That physical separation is really what she needs. When her preschool ended for the semester and we were at home all together again every day, we’ve also implemented a “quiet/alone time” every day. I set the timer for 20-30 minutes (sometimes extending it when she’s playing happily, but mostly trying to keep it where it was as to not violate her trust). I let her know as soon as the timer goes off instead of letting her stay playing, which has shown her over time that I will tell her rather than her thinking I’m just going to leave her in her room forever.

Giving her that time by herself, no mommy nagging or sister getting in her business, really helped her attitude. She’s much less likely to have a meltdown after we’ve done quiet time and I’m less likely to freak out once I’ve had some time with only one child (or no children, if I can time quiet time to coincided with naptime) One of the keys is to get her that time before meltdowns start happening, or there will meltdowns about having to go into quiet time. Also, when she comes out before the time is up, I just matter-of-factly tell her that time isn’t up. We have an apple timer that I got at Target that ticks the whole time it’s counting down, which is kind of annoying, but helpful for the 3 year old to see (and hear!) that time is indeed not up. Since she’s in preschool again (which happens at the same time that we were doing quiet time), we haven’t been doing it every day, but we still do it on days that she doesn’t have school and some other days when we’re having a rough morning.

Overall, both of these things are working really well for us. Sure, it may not be the best possible parenting response to send my three year old to her room. The fact of the matter is that my other reaction is to scream at her, which I feel is the worse of the options. If she just goes in her room and we both get calm, we stay much happier. And getting that little break now that she doesn’t nap anymore is really helpful for me, which makes things better for her even if she didn’t have a mood change.

Who knows if it’ll work months from now (or even a week), but for now it’s working well. If you’re having similar issues, I’d suggest you give it a try. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work and you try something different. I’ll try to keep you all updated on what new things are working for us.

What works for you to get your preschooler to settle down? How do you keep your cool at the end of the day with small children? I’d love suggestions! 

Homeschooling… Or Not

Last year waiting for the bus to take us to school.

I case you all haven’t noticed, I change my mind a lot around here.

It’s not that I’m indecisive or that I love latching on to the newest thing, but more that my perspective is constantly changing. As is often in parenting, something that works perfectly one day will simply not work at all the next. I think that it’s a good thing to be able to admit that something isn’t working and try something new. So on with the announcement!

I’m not planning on homeschooling my children.

It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for a while. My husband has never really been on board, but I was convinced that if I was determined enough that I could convince him. Really, that’s how a lot of our parenting decisions have worked. I do the research and relay it to him and it changes his perspective. I fell in love with the idea of unschooling (something I still plan on incorporating into our daily lives) and started to plan out what it would be like to take the girls’ learning into my hands.

And I was terrified.

The idea of being 100% responsible for their learning. The idea of having them home with me 100% of the time for however many years. The idea of trying to finish my own schooling while doing all of this. It all turned me into a big ball of stress. So I decided that, at least for our current situation, it’s not in the cards.

It feels like I’m breaking some rule by deciding this (I suppose this could fit under the “I’m a natural parent… but” carnival?). I’m going against those who go against the grain! How can I be a natural/attachment parent without homeschooling? How can my children get the education they deserve from someone else?

It’s pretty simple. What works for other families may not work for mine. It’s me making the best decision for our family. Just as some parents wouldn’t be able to handle staying at home with small children *cough*myhusband*cough*, I am one of those who can’t handle homeschooling. I have nothing against homeschooling. The parents that do it are wonderful people and educate their children in fantastic ways. I’m just against homeschooling for me. And that’s okay.

So, I started Peanut in a preschool again. Actually, the preschool she used to attend on my campus. As shown by my scattered posts to this blog, life is a little stressful right now, as it often gets in the middle of a semester. It means that not only am I stressed about getting school work done, but I don’t feel like I’m getting as much done for Peanut’s learning. When I started looking for what we plan on doing next year (I’ll be taking classes on campus again) it turned out there was an opening for now.

So I decided to take it and try to help myself with some of the stress from school and take care of her learning at the same time. She started yesterday and loved it so much that she didn’t want to leave at the end. I had a bit of time with just one child to deal with while I was studying for my physiology test. It’s 2.5 hours 4 times a week, which I’m sure at times will stress me out (there are advantages and disadvantages to every situation), but for now it’s what’s working for us. And that’s all that really matters.

My Little Birth Partner

Peanut,

Inflated birth pools are obviously for napping.

I was so worried about how you’d handle the birth of your little sister. We spent hours talking about birth, reading books from the library, and watching birth videos online. You came with to every midwife appointment. You helped me set up the birth pool. You felt the baby kick. You were so excited. Still, I was worried.

As it turns out, all that worrying was wasted effort. You were a wonderful little birth partner. 

It all started with mommy’s water breaking as I was trying to change you into daytime clothes that morning. I rushed to the bathroom and you followed me right in. A quiet and excited observer. You knew that mommy and daddy needed to figure out what was going on, so you patiently waited. Finally when mama got back out of the tub (where she had run trying to keep from making a mess), you wanted breakfast, so down we went.

Mama got you a bowl of cereal and a muffin for us to share. When the contractions were getting too intense, mama started to pace around the room. You wanted to know what I was doing, but again, you were patient with me. I could tell you were frustrated that I wouldn’t sit down with you and eat, but you didn’t complain. You ate your cereal and when mama said she was going to get in the shower, you were happy to join me.

A little Peanut head poking up at mama’s weekly pregnancy photo.

Mama hopped in the shower and started to wonder why you weren’t coming up. I called down to you, probably with a tone of frustration, but you happily came in and got in the shower. You tried to tell me something, but I was in the middle of a contraction and didn’t hear you. Rather than getting frustrated with me for not responding, you happily played in the shower. Daddy came in and told me that you were supposed to tell me the midwife’s assistant was here. Oops.

As mama was checked by the assistant and daddy was on the phone with Mema, you patiently waited. You were so patient that mama hardly remembers you being there. Daddy came back and we all went upstairs. Mama paced the hall with you following, but you were happy to just observe. When daddy helped mama through contractions by pushing her back, you got upset because you wanted to help. Daddy gave you the job of pushing on mama’s leg, a job invented to keep you happy, and you were immediately calmed. We continued with the contractions this way until mama couldn’t stand through them anymore.

We moved to the bed because the birth pool was still being filled. You knew to be careful to avoid mama’s stomach as you climbed on the bed, likely from all the practice we got about mama’s stomach being sensitive during braxton hicks contractions. You kept helping me through contractions and didn’t break down when I got snappy with you.

A very blurry photo of all of us after your sister was born.

When the pool was filled, mama got in. You wanted so badly to help, so daddy gave you the job of giving mama water between contractions. At this point mama got even more loud, but you weren’t scared. You just stuck to your job until Mema arrived and sat with you on the other side of the room. I felt sad to have my little helper leave me, but was too busy to voice it. Your baby sister was almost here.

When mama was done pushing Twig out, we pulled her up onto my stomach and covered her up to keep her from getting cold. We sat there for a few minutes in awe, all just looking at our new little baby. Mema started to ask what the sex of the baby was and I remembered that I wanted you to tell everyone and said as much. We lifted the blanket and you announced to the world that she was a little sister. You were so excited!

The “Best Sister Ever!” shirt you wore for days after Twig was born.

The days and weeks after Twig’s birth were difficult for our relationship. Mama had postpartum depression and it was a difficult transition for you to go from being the only one to not the only one. It took some time, but we got back to our normal happiness. Throughout it all, you loved your little sister with your whole heart and made that obvious every day. You are a wonderful sister.

It’s been nine months now since your sister was born. I still feel weepy in the eyes when I think about that day, and it’s not just because it’s when Twig was born. It’s because you showed me that day how strong you really are. You showed me your patience. You showed me your joy. You were selfless and helpful. You were focused on mama and you were excited for your new sibling. You showed me the adult you will one day be and you made me overjoyed over being your mama.

I would never take back having you at your sister’s birth. The birth of a child is not only life changing for the parents, but for the siblings too. Having you present allowed you to be a part of the experience and it helped you to grow into the role of big sister. Thank you for being my little birth partner.

Love, Mama

Why I Spend an Exorbitant Amount of Money on Music Classes

Twig playing with the mirror in the music room after class.

We pay over $18 per class and drive 40 miles each direction (or take the train) every week to Peanut and Twig’s Music Together class. Starting this fall, it’s even more because we are paying for Twig also, who was free until she turns 8 months old.

I’ve tried to find a different music class. We tried one out where the teacher literally played Sponge Bob Square Pants and told them to run around the room in a circle. We tried to set up a similar music class, meaning one where they actually learn music, closer to home, but couldn’t get enough people for it to be worth it. We tried doing other non-music classes, but all of them expected things that were not developmentally sound (e.g. a 2 year old must sit on this spot and not move for 20 minutes or they’re not allowed to participate), didn’t actually have a benefit in the future, gave them candy as a bribe, or a combination of the above and more.

Maybe we would have liked these other classes, had Music Together not spoiled us. What is Music Together, you ask? Simply put, it’s a music class that introduces them to real music. That’s only one of the many reasons we love our class though.

Non-coercive. Children are told not to run. That is the only rule. No sitting in one spot. No forced participation (except the parents, we most certainly must participate). They actually acknowledge that your child will go through phases where they just want to observe. It’s a normal part of development!

Real music. Most children’s music, heck, most adult music too, is written in C major. That is only one of many, many chords. To be frank, I find it quite boring! It’s probably the requirement to repeat it over and over and over whilst playing the cello that has given me a bias. It’s important for children to be exposed to all sorts of major and minor chords for musical literacy. There’s also real rhythm in these classes. Not only triplets, but even 5′s (I’m not quite sure what that’s called). That even threw me off! I don’t know that I have ever played a song in 5′s.

Long term benefits. Peanut already has wonderful tone. Dare I say better than myself or my husband? And she’ll make up tone and rhythm patterns for us to repeat back to her. This class leads directly into Musical Bridge, which teaches them musical theory before learning to play an instrument. It gives them a head start to learning music.

Short term benefits. When Twig was born, she immediately started to be soothed by the music from class. I can not tell you how many times I sung “One little drummer marching up, marching up, marching up…” whilst changing a diaper. There were many times that it was the only thing that could get her to stay still long enough for me to get the clean diaper onto her. Not to mention when she’s crying or just when having fun.

Making me sing. I don’t have a horrible voice by any means, but the idea of singing, especially around adults, makes me nervous. I remember when Peanut was young that one of the moms of an older child was telling me how much she uses song in her everyday life. My immediate thought was that I could never do that because I just don’t have the gall. Turns out I do. Not only do I sing happily through our class and all around our house, but I sing in public too! When the girls are being grumps in the grocery store? We start marching up the isle singing. When Twig is crying at the park, I sing a lullaby in her ear. When we just feel like having some fun, let’s sing! Singing is a glorious parenting tool and Music Together has helped build my confidence to use it.

Making my husband sing. Sure, he’s not quite as cavalier as I am when it comes to singing in public, but I honestly can’t tell you that I really heard him sing before he started attending Music Together with us. He has a deep baratone that I enjoy listening to, so this is quite a shame! I suppose I’d have to confirm this with him, but I believe that singing is a useful parenting tool for him too. At very least, it gives him another way to connect with his girls. Which brings me to…

Peanut taking her turn playing the autoharp after class.

Connection. We connect as a family through this class. We go every Saturday all together and sing and dance. The Peanut sings to Twig when we get home. Peanut sings tonal and rhythm patterns for us to repeat. We sing to Peanut. We sing in the car. We dance around the kitchen to music while waiting for dinner in the oven. This class helps us to really incorporate music into our lives and the lives of the girls, all whilst making a stronger connection as a family. After Twig was born, this connection was especially important for Peanut.

So, that’s why we continue with our music class. That’s why we have a special cash envelope devoted to Music Together that gets a good chunk of change every month. That’s why we continue to drive to Salt Lake to take this class every Saturday. It’s all worth it.

I feel the need to put a little disclaimer down here. Music Together did not pay me to write this. Imagination Place did not pay me to write this. This is all of my own accord because I feel more people need to know of the benefit of music, and specifically this program, to their child. 

Teaching Preschoolers About Menstruation

Yeah, I couldn’t resist putting this image here.

Warning: If you don’t want to hear about my bodily functions, don’t read this post.

I was able to go a whole 8 months (and change) postpartum of lactation amenorrhea. Not as long as I’d hoped, considering I was following the standards of ecological breastfeeding as much as possible. Still that darn nap stopped me up. Maybe that was it. Or maybe it was the horrific stomach bug I was dealing with this weekend taxing my body too much. Or maybe it was the stress of school and children. Or maybe it was the fact that Twig has decided to have a party in the middle of the night multiple times a week for the last few weeks. Who knows, but regardless, I am officially menstruating again. Blah.

So what does this have to do with the blog other than an utter and complete overshare?

This first must start with one of those things no one tells you about parenting in your pre-kid days-you never get to go to the bathroom alone. Sure, there are some parents who somehow manage this because of their own modesty, but my only guess is that they hold it all day until the children are asleep or something along those lines. As a general rule though, no child-free pee-pee time for you!

So given that fact, you can only hid new occurrences in your bathroom habits from the wee ones (haha! wee ones!) for so long. For me, this was about 0.02 seconds, considering Peanut walked in right as I was pulling out the Diva Cup. Maybe it was my large sigh of “Really world? Do I need this right now too?” that pulled her into the room. Regardless, she immediately demanded to know what I was doing with that thing and why.

So, I explained it to her. Of course I could have gone into more detail than I did, but gauging my audience, I went with the most simple and truthful explanation I could think of without advanced notice (considering I figured I still had another half a year before I needed to have this conversation). I told her that women bleed from their vaginas sometimes. I said that it’s what a woman’s body does when they don’t have a baby growing in it. I told her it wouldn’t happen to her until her body was old enough to have babies (Which I realize is a stretch, but biologically you are prepared to carry young in your teens. Trust me, there’s a whole show on tube about it.). Simple. Truthful. Direct. And she was satisfied. Beyond asking me the next day how to pronounce that word again, which say says is men-nu-sation.

We all dread having the talk with our kids, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. By starting to talk about it early on, we’re already having that talk, but not in an awkward way. We’re just talking. Just as she’d ask me why we have toenails or why some people’s eyes are blue, she asks me questions about sex. Why would I answer her any way but truthfully? Sure, I’m not going to go into the intimate details (hardy har har, I did it again) that are too far beyond her comprehension, but she deserves to be given answers. 

When I was pregnant with Twig, Peanut and I had many conversations about how babies are made and how they come out. Considering I planned on Peanut being at the birth (if she wanted to), the latter was necessary. The former, I believe, was a simple statement that mommies and daddies make a baby together. No further questions were asked so it didn’t go any further. We did spend many hours watching birth videos, talking about birth sounds, and talking about birth in general. I will still never forget the moment that she realized she could have babies too. Playing in the tub and talking about birth, she suddenly gasped (no joke!) and said I have gina! I can have babies come out!!! She was thrilled!

Getting back on track, I will continue to answer my daughters’ questions about sex. I will give them answers that are appropriate for their level of comprehension and interest. I will talk about these things frankly and truthfully. I will do all these things with the hope that they will, as adults, understand that sex is healthy and nothing to be ashamed of. Because sex is normal. And yeah, even though it makes me a little uncomfortable to talk about it, menstruation is normal too. Even if I would have liked to go a few more months without it.

How do you talk to your kids about sex? About menstruation? 

Your Baby is Not Trying to Manipulate You… And Neither is Your Toddler

Twig spent the majority of her newborn photo session screaming.

It always drives me crazy when people try to tag babies with malicious intent. Every week I hear a mom saying that her baby is “being bad” by staying up at night or “manipulating her” by crying. People who propagate these lies are the same ones that think you can spoil a baby by holding and soothing them.

Your baby is not trying to manipulate you. Period. Babies do not cry to “get what they want.” Babies cry because they do not have wants, only needs. Babies lack the articulation necessary to specifically tell us these needs, so they cry. Crying is their form of communication. Crying is not a way they get mom to do what they want.

Really, the same applies to toddlers. I’ve always believed that children have a natural desire to please their parents. When a child does something to get their way, it’s not because of malicious intent. They are learning cause and effect. It’s the same reason why parents are told not to get mad at white lies that children start to tell when they are developing their imagination. They don’t understand that it’s bad to lie, they’re just experimenting to see what happens.

A toddler, even a preschooler or young child (beyond that I’m unsure), is not doing things to make you upset. They love you and want you happy. Children are not bad by nature. Sometimes, yes, they push your buttons. Sometimes they do things to get a reaction. Sometimes they are absolute monsters. It’s not because of their ill will, but rather because they are learning about the world.

In our house, we’re having a classic case of this. Twig started crawling over the last month and now she’s zooming along and even pulling herself to stand and shuffling along furniture. With this spike in development comes the ability to get into things, including Peanut’s things. I knew from reading The Discipline Book that this was a common time for things to get “rough” with my toddler again. I knew it was coming, but it still sucks to be here.

Of course there’s direct sibling rivalry. Peanut is pushing Twig away when she’s getting in her things. Peanut needs to be in the exact spot that Twig is sitting. Peanut has to have the one toy that Twig has even though she has 3 identical toys already. That stuff is easy enough to handle. Twig is still at a very distractible age, so it’s easy enough to direct her towards something new when Peanut wants what she has. It’s not too difficult to have conversations with Peanut on why she needs to wait her turn or she needs to be careful with sister. It’s easy enough to make sure that she is reassured that her life is not being taken over. Frustrating, but doable.

The part that has been difficult for us is the side effects of the new sibling rivalry. Peanut is experiencing the broken cookie phenomenon. In her case, the big trigger is any sort of negative word. Whether it be “no” (regardless of what the no is an answer to or the tone) or a “please don’t,” the reaction is the same. Absolute. Breakdown.

The way I’ve handled tantrums in the past is to just let her get her emotions out. Generally she’d flop on the ground and scream and thrash. I initially tried to comfort her, but quickly realized that, for her, it ended up making things worse and getting myself and/or Peanut hurt. So I’d let her cry to her little heart’s content, generally less than a minute, and then we’d go about our ways. I’d stand right there and watch her. I’d sometimes say “let me know when you’re done and we’ll talk” or something along those lines, since I know that during crying, a child’s brain is not fully functional (really, is your brain fully functional while crying?) so there’s no point in talking about the situation until the crying is over. She’s never been a huge tantrum-er, but I think it’s partially because we’ve always handled “tantrums” matter-of-factly (in quotations because I feel really frustrated that we’ve labeled normal behavior as a “tantrum”). It’s not some evil thing that children do, just a simple release of emotion. It’s the same reason that they can switch from that crying to a happy child who you wouldn’t think was just screaming at the top of their lungs in anger. Do you cool down that fast? Nope, because you have a fully developed prefrontal cortex (not to mention myelination!).

Screaming because she didn’t want to leave the birthday party.

Recently though, her “tantrums” have changed. It follows the general sequence of 1) negative word said to Peanut, 2) break out in tears, 3) run to mommy for comfort. Initially, I would comfort her by holding her and shushing her or things along that line and then we’d talk about it. I read somewhere (I can’t seem to figure out where anymore) that I shouldn’t be comforting her during her “tantrums” because that’s reinforcing that she should cry to get my attention and comfort. For whatever reason I decided to try that, even though it rubbed me the wrong way.

I’m not quite sure how I decided that it was a good idea to ignore my child when she was crying. It initially started with me standing near her and waiting, but not letting her climb up into my lap. As this continued over a couple of weeks, my patience ran out and I started taking her into a separate area and setting her down, sometimes trying to walk away. Often she’d immediately stop crying and tell me she was done. Rather than comforting my child through her emotions, I was teaching her to bottle them up. Rather than helping her deal with the things that were upsetting her, I was teaching her that she shouldn’t come to me. I feel ashamed of my parenting. During a time in my child’s life where things were rough, I abandoned her.

What really got me thinking about it was this post on Natural Parents Network. I came across it while searching the word “tantrums.” I was looking for more positive and attachment-promoting ways to deal with her outbursts. The part that really got me was the “responding with sensitivity,” which was the exact opposite of what I was doing. I continued to read (thank you further reading section) this post from Hobo Mama, which is where I saw the mention of the broken cookie syndrome. She says “if your child is frequently breaking down over “trivial” things (trivial to you as an adult, of course, not to the child), it might be because they’re repressing emotion about something bigger and it’s bleeding through in short bursts as they’re unable to hold it all back.” This was the exact case with Peanut! Her life is suddenly in turmoil again, so she’s filled to the brim with stress. So much so that when any little thing happens, it’s cause to break down.

Continuing on with a link from her post, I got to My World Edenwild (link above) and agreed profusely that if I were crying inconsolably, no matter the reason, and my husband ignored me or just got up and left the room, I would be livid. It is simply not okay to ignore an adult who is crying. Why is it okay to ignore a child who is crying? If anything, it’s even less okay because they’re less able to deal with it. How did I decide that it was okay to ignore my child in the middle of emotional uproar? How is this helping the root cause of her being insecure about her place in this family? How does it help anyone for me to be frustrated and walk away?

So I changed the game plan.

Pouting because she didn’t want to garden anymore.

Over the last week, I’ve consoled my child when she cries. (Once again, how could I ever have not done this?) Guess what? She’s crying less when she breaks down, she’s breaking down less, she’s overall happier and less emotional. Rather than shushing her and telling her that “It’s alright” (Most. Condensenting. Phrase. EVER.), I’ve been just holding her. Sometimes I acknowledge her feelings (such as “It hurt your feelings that daddy said no.”) as she cries, but I don’t try to dismiss them. I let her cry as long as she needs to, which has been decreasing exponentially since I started this technique, and then when she’s done I ask her what she was crying about and we talk about it. I try as much as possible to avoid laying any blame on her.

An example being when we were at lunch today, she asked her uncle if he would run up and down the isles of the restaurant with her. He told her no because we were in a restaurant and she burst out in tears. After she was done crying, I asked her why she cried. She told me that her uncle hurt her feelings when he said they couldn’t run together. I told her that I was sorry it hurt her feelings, but it’s a rule that we can’t run in restaurants. Then I suggested that they run outside together after we left, which she was excited about. In the same meal, my mom and I both told her not to climb on the table at the same time and she burst out crying. After she was done crying, I asked her what was wrong and she said that it was that we both told her not to at the same time. It’s not that she couldn’t climb on the table, but that being corrected by two people simultaneously was too intense. Not only was it not what I expected, but I totally get it! I wouldn’t like that either! So I told her that in the future we’ll try not to talk over each other and she was okay.

It’s amazing how trying to put yourself into your child’s shoes can help a situation. Children are not something that we need to break or make behave, they are small humans. Small humans that, if anything, should be held to lower standards than we hold ourselves, because they’re still developing and learning. We are here to teach them, not belittle them. Even the most well-intentioned mother needs that reminder sometimes.

What do you do when your child has an emotional outburst? How do you help them when they’re going through a rough stage? 

Mixing Primary Colors and Chemical Reactions

Peanut knows all her colors, with the exception of sometimes thinking white is yellow and vice versa. Since she’s pretty set on her colors, I’ve been trying to show her the concept of mixing colors. How green is actually a mixture of yellow and blue. That sort of thing. When I came across this experiment, I realized it’s the perfect way to show her colors mixing. Plus who doesn’t love chemical reactions?!?

It’s a pretty simple experiment and Peanut didn’t want to put it away, even when all the baking soda was used up. It can get little hands messy though, so watch out!

Just take a tray of baking soda (cookie sheet worked well for us) and 3 bowls of vinegar, one for each primary color. Color one yellow, one blue, and one red. Give the kiddo some sort of utensil to get the vinegar out with (we started with a medicine syringe, but quickly moved to measuring spoons) and let them go at it!

While Peanut played, we talked about the colors. We made guesses as to which color mixing two together would make. We talked about how just a little bit of the red on the baking soda made pink. We talked about how the three colors of food coloring are called primary colors.

While big sister played, Twig showed us her own chemical reaction. Baby saliva dissolves all solid matter.

After mixing colors for a while, the activity became a sensory one, which Peanut quite enjoyed. I wouldn’t suggest this for kiddos who are likely to try to eat it though.

Peanut had a ton of fun. It was really hard to get it away from her. Next time, I think we may do it outside so that she can just keep playing until her heart’s content, rather than mama deciding it was getting too liquidy and risking pouring food coloring on the new kitchen tile.

 

 

 

 

Summer Unschooling

As I mentioned before, I’m really interested in unschooling. Unschooling is how everyone naturally learns, so I guess you could say that we’ve been doing it from the get-go, but now we’re really focusing on it. While there are plenty of unschooling things we can do at home, I think a big part of unschooling is getting out  and actually doing. I want to give you experiences and summer is a great time of year to do that. I had a two-week break between summer and fall semester (online only still, but a little break in having homework to do), so we decided to take full advantage of it. Our house is a mess and we’ve spent almost no time at home, but we’ve had a load of fun.

The Living Planet Aquarium

We went to the Living Planet Aquarium for the first time in probably a year. We used to have a membership, but I decided it was too far away, so we didn’t renew it. I decided that while it is still far away, it’s worth the travel, so we renewed them. Our friend Shelby came with us (one of Peanut’s favorite people in the world). Peanut was so excited that she touched a baby shark!

Playing with her friend at the Treehouse Museum

The Treehouse Museum had a special carnival that we haven’t been to before, but it was a blast. We invited Peanut’s friend and they ran around playing with the moms chasing.

Davis County Fair

We went to the Davis County Fair (not actually our county, but the one next to us) with Daddy. We spent some time manning the booth for the Davis County Breastfeeding Coalition and walked around the fair. This was the first time Peanut had been to a petting zoo and she loved it. We talked about which animals were which and she had to pet one of each.

Twig thinks our adventures are grand, just riding on my back.

Boating with Mema and Pop Pop

Boating is tiring! We studied a baby fish that uncle was nice enough to catch for us in a cup, we talked about why the boat and inner tube float, and we had fun in the water!

Thanksgiving Pointe

Peanut loves dinosaurs, but decided that the dinosaur museum near our house is too scary. So we decided to take a drive (with Shelby) down to Thanksgiving Pointe to see their dinosaur museum, along with a cool exhibit they have on sound at the moment. It was a blast. Peanut particularly enjoyed the erosion circle, pictured above, with its sand and water. She also enjoyed the sand area where you could find fossils.

Ogden Farmers Market

We went with Daddy to the Ogden Farmers Market and then to Science Saturdays at the Ott Planetarium. At the farmers market, Peanut made a friend at the playground, which eventually turned into a little cliche of four girls. They literally just sat around and chatted. Whoever says that homeschoolers aren’t social should be shown my child. She walks into any place and finds a friend immediately. Afterwards at Science Saturday she particularly enjoyed an activity where you take a bowl of water and spin your finger in it, then take your finger out and wait until it looks calm and drop in a couple drops of food coloring. It’s not calm! It’s still spinning!

With Shelby at the Hogle Zoo

As our last hurrah before my semester started, we went to the Hogle Zoo yesterday with Daddy and Shelby. Peanut loved looking at all the animals and particularly enjoyed the seals. It took her a few times of not wanting to leave an animal to believe us that there were more coming up. She loved looking at all of them.

Throughout all of our adventures, the main purpose has been experiences. She’s seeing things she wouldn’t have otherwise. She’s playing with things at the places we go. I purposely haven’t been focusing heavily on the information at the museums and what not because I’m thinking she’ll get more interested in learning more about the animals and exhibits as she gets older. For now, she’s excited to see an elephant or fossil and just hear some basic information about it.

Also in the realm of unschooling, I’m teaching myself to do more with my camera. For so long I’ve been shooting on auto (gasp!) and even using flash (gasp!) because I’ve been too afraid of tarnishing memories with crappy photos. Going to a class at the Breastfeeding Cafe (taught by my friend Timbra) about photographing your child made me realize that I need to get out there and mess with my camera. Her lovely self helping me with some controls on my actual camera after the class was great too. So, I may not be taking the absolute best photos in the near future, but I’m working on it. Bear with me.