Hard, But Worth It

Welcome to the August 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Sibling Revelry

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about siblings — their own, their hopes for their kids, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I remember towards the end of my pregnancy with Twig, I absolutely freaked out about what I was doing. How could I possibly be having another baby? How was this fair to Peanut? Was this going to ruin our relationship? Was I going to go crazy?

Obviously, by that point there was no turning back. And I’m happy that I couldn’t change my mind like that because the moment Twig was born, I was so happy not only for my new baby, but for giving my new “big girl” her little sister.

Sure, there are still times when I wonder what in the world I was thinking, but in the end I’m always happy that I have two children instead of one.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being an only child, but there certain things you just don’t get from not having a sibling. You don’t get that constant playmate. From the beginning, Twig has adored Peanut. When Peanut was a baby I could never leave the room without her or I would face her wrath. Twig though, so long as sister stayed, she was mostly good. Of course it was only for a moment, but I could go one room away to put the laundry away without picking up the baby.

With one child, silence is bad. If you don’t hear your child then they’ve probably found a marker to draw all over the wall with or figured out how to get their poopy diaper off by themselves. With two though, silence is often great. As early as 6 months after Twig was born, I would find them together playing happily. Peanut would be playing peek-a-boo or showing her a toy. And even before that, as early as 2 months, they would play together in the tub. Peanut has always been Twig’s favorite person, making her laugh (when no one could) and playing with her. It’s been amazing to watch, both on the side of Peanut being the big sister and Twig loving her big sister.

On the flip side, there are difficulties that siblings experience and only children don’t. Lately, they’ve been driving me crazy with their arguing. Now that Twig is 18 months old, she’s much more grabby. Peanut doesn’t react well and generally starts grabbing things back from her, which ends in Twig melting down. Or Peanut gets bossy with Twig and that ends with Twig in tears. One second they’re happily playing together and the next either one or both is running to me crying. We’ve had lots of talks and we’ll get through it, but I have a feeling this is just the beginning of their arguing.

And then there’s the copying. Twig loves to do everything that Peanut does, even when it’s completely out of her ability (and threatening serious injury). Or even when I’m asking Peanut not to do something (thought the opposite often works and if I ask Peanut to come to me when I really want Twig, Twig follows her). Or when Twig is climbing on me because she’s feeling insecure, suddenly Peanut starts to feel insecure too and copies every move that Twig makes. It’s pretty difficult to handle two children climbing and trying to cuddle on you at the same time without dropping one, let alone if I had anything else in my hands when they started.

There’s definitely good and bad when it comes to having siblings. Some days I’m so frustrated that I wish I could sell them both. Sometimes I’m so happy that it makes me want to have 5 more (don’t worry, I’ll never actually do that!). All in all, I’m happy that we decided to give Peanut a sibling. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely always worth it.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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:

  • The Damage of Comparing Siblings — Comparing siblings can lead to hurt feelings and poor relationships. What Jana Falls has learned and why she hopes for more for her son.
  • Connecting Through Sibling Rivalry — With four children who are spaced so that each child grows up in a pair, Destany at They are All of Me shares her method for minimizing the competition so her children can focus on bonding, rather than besting each other.
  • Sibling Revelry — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares the two-week transition that happens every summer as her kids transform from bickering to learning how to play.
  • Baby Brother born from an OceanAbby Jaramillo describes how her toddler connects in a possibly mystical way with her new baby brother and his birth at home, and Abby draws parallels with her own sister’s new baby.
  • Hard, But Worth It — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl discusses how difficult having two children can be, but how it’s definitely worth it.
  • Raising Attached Siblings — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy and her husband are making conscious choices about how they raise their children to foster sibling connection and attachment.
  • It’s Complicated — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea reflects on how life’s twists and turns have taken her from a childhood with no siblings to a constantly changing family life with five children, including one in spirit.
  • Supportsustainablemum reflects on how the differences between her relationship with her siblings and her husband’s have affected their family and at a time of need.
  • Peas in a Pod — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys the special relationship her oldest two children share.
  • Lessening the competitive enviornment in the homeLisa at The Squishable Baby discusses how downplaying competition in the home has led to cooperation, not competition.
  • The complex and wonderful world of siblings — Lauren at Hobo Mamareflects on her choices to have not too many children, spaced far apart — and how that’s maybe limited how close their sibling relationship can be.
  • 5 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship — Charise I Thought I Knew Mama shares the strategies that help her three year old and 14 month old have a somewhat beautiful relationship and aid in keeping peace in their home.
  • 4 Steps to Encourage Sibling Revelry, even in Hot Moments of Rivalry — Sheila Pai of A Living Family share 4 Steps she uses to shift hot moments of sibling rivalry towards connected moments of sibling revelry and human compassion.
  • Twins Are Fun — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot witnesses the development of her twins’ sibling bond.
  • Growing Up Together- Sibling Revelry in Our House — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work realizes that there is great utility in raising siblings that are close in age, and is grateful to have been blessed with healthy siblings that both love and challenge one another every day.
  • Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares ideas that helped her two children be best friends along with Montessori resources for peace education and conflict resolution.
  • Sibling Uncertainty — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras wonders how her children’s relationship will change now that the baby is mobile.
  • Living with the Longing — Rachael at The Variegated Life sees that she can live with her longing for another — without changing her plans.
  • For My One and Only DaughterPlaying for Peace mommy reflects on her choice to not have more children in order to focus on other dreams.
  • Siblings: A Crash Course in Relationship Training — How have your siblings prepared you for later relationships? One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s top priorities as mama of siblings is to help them learn how to navigate relationships.
  • The Joys of Siblings: An Inside Joke — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the a glimpse into the joys of having siblings through sharing a perplexing yet hilarious inside joke betwixt her and her own.
  • Sibling Support, even in the potty! — Even though Laura at Pug in the Kitchen‘s children didn’t start out best friends, they are joined at the hip these days, including cheering each other on with potty successes!
  • Don’t Seek What Isn’t There – On Sibling Jealousy — Laura from Authentic Parenting analyzes the seeming desire people harbor for seeking out hints of sibling jealousy.
  • Sibling Love / Sibling Hate?Momma Jorje speculates whether her children will have a different sibling experience than her own. Did she make the right choices based on her own history?

Free-range Parenting

The girls playing outside by themselves.

The girls playing outside by themselves.

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I’ve mentioned the blog Free-range Kids on here before, but I realized that I hadn’t ever really delved into why I love it. So here we go!

I first came across Free-range Kids when Twig kept falling down the stairs. First off, calm down. Our house is a split level, so we only have 6 stairs in each staircase. I check her every time she falls and the only time that she’s fallen all the way from the top, she’s made her way to the doctor (and was just fine). We do not have gates at the top or bottom of either case and I was beginning to doubt myself.

You see, when deciding if my kids should be allowed to do something, I ask myself “Will it send them to the ER?” If the answer is no, it’ll make them cry and I’ll have to console them and then they’re fine, they get to do it. If the answer is a trip straight to the ER being very likely (not likely in a sense that if they fall in just the right way they could break something), such as crossing the road without holding my hand, then it’s a no go on the safety front. Yes, this means that my children climb on the coffee table, but I don’t mind it. Of course there are other things they’re not allowed to do even if they won’t go to the hospital over it (like climbing on the kitchen table, which I don’t let them do because I don’t want dirty children climbing around where I eat). Anyway, when it comes to safety, if they won’t go to the hospital I’ll allow it.

But I was starting to doubt my parenting when Twig kept falling. It started as learning to go up the stairs, which I supervised because she was so slow and so clumsy. Very few tumbles happened in the beginning. When she got good at it, I stopped watching quite as well. We go up and down these stairs all day so it’s just not practical to wait behind her Every. Single. Time. she goes up or down. But then she decided to get a little too confident about her abilities and start turning around to look at things as she was going up or down, so she tumbled. Then once she got over that, she decided she had to walk up the stairs. That made some more tumbles happen. Then she decided she needed to sit and play on the stairs and more tumbling happened. Really, none of these were a big deal (other than that one that I was concerned about and took her to the doctor over) and most of the time she stopped crying the second she saw me coming. Anyway, it happened so many times that I was doubting myself.

So I started searching online. Was there anyone else like me who refused to buy something (or four some things) that cost at least $100 each (for the ones that wall mount like you’re supposed to have for stairs) and make living life a huge pain in the bottom? I couldn’t be! Well I never did find someone online who said they were like me (hello anyone who was searching similar things and found me! You’re not alone!), but I did find Free-range Kids. I also found her book (Kindle version here) and saw that my library had an eAudiobook copy available right then. I downloaded it and finished it in less than 48 hours.

I had no idea how many things I was doing based on fear.

You know the feeling when you’re at the park and you suddenly can’t find your kid? Logically, you know they’re on the other side of the playground so you just can’t see them. Still though, my heart starts thumping and I immediately jump to the conclusion that my child has been kidnapped. She’s cute and little and those kind disappear all the time! Right? Well, actually wrong. The chances of a child being kidnapped by a stranger (most lost children are either runaways or have been kidnapped by someone they know) are astronomically small.

So many things that I was worried about without even knowing it aren’t that big of a deal. So many of my little practices that I hadn’t ever realized I was doing for “safety” (like never letting my preschooler out of my sight) were beyond what’s necessary. Not only that, it’s damaging to kids to never get out and experience the world without their parent holding their hand. Some of my favorite memories growing up are those of going to my grandma’s house and promptly running off to play in a small forest hidden in an unused lot in her neighborhood. Yes, once I got stung by a bee, but that little risk doesn’t negate all of the other times of learning and having fun.

So I’ve changed a few things since reading that book. Of course my children are small, so they can’t do something like running around the neighborhood without supervision, but they can do a lot of things unsupervised. Like going in the backyard. Even Twig, who is less than a year and a half old (and was more like a year old when we started doing this) is okay to play in the yard with big sister with me inside. I can hear them if something goes wrong (often Twig falling off the swing or a disagreement about who gets to play with that particular shovel) and they know to come inside if I don’t hear. It’s my favorite way to prepare dinner and I will miss it when it gets cold outside and they can’t go out as long. I’m not worried that anyone will snatch them or some sex offender is going to come flash them through the fence (really, there’s a lot about the sex offender list that I didn’t know, like how it doesn’t really work and just creates hell for a lot of people).

Even as small children and toddlers, they need to explore. They need to get out into nature. And they need to deal with relationships with others on their own. I used to be that mom at the playground that jumped in every time that my child had a disagreement with another child. It’s taken some getting used to on her end, but I’ve started letting her handle things herself. Sometimes this means that I’m stepping in still, but it’s to help her handle it, not to handle it myself. And she’s doing grand with it. She has friends across the fences on all sides (though most are grandkids, so not always around) that she chats with. She  makes friends with all sorts of kids at the park. She’ll chat anyone’s ear off if you let her (even another mom the other day at the park, which was hilarious). She did all these things before I backed off, but not to the same extent. I think letting her learn to navigate the social waters alone has helped her confidence.

I’m loving this whole philosophy. We teach our kids to handle life and then we let them handle it. This wasn’t even some big movement back when I was a kid, it was just life. And things are actually safer now than they were then, regardless of what the media is telling you. So if you’re interested, read the book. Check out her blog. Let your kids explore the world without hovering and see how much that can change things.

Quiet Time

She called me in yesterday to show me the cat in her closet.

She called me in yesterday to show me the cat in her closet.

As I type, my four year old is purposely isolated in her room.

That sentence seems really weird for me. How is it respectful to force my child to be in her room alone every day for an hour? How is that gentle? Well, I’ve figured out some ways to make it so.

We first tried out “Quiet Time” back in January. With a combination of preschool every day and Peanut’s severe hatred of being alone in her room, we stopped shortly after. But when the semester ended, which meant that we were all together for 24 hours a day, things got stressful pretty quickly. Peanut’s preschool was only 2.5 hours four days a week, but it’s still a break. Just a bit of time for Peanut to be away from little sister all over her and me to be away from having two kids all over me. Time for me to accomplish something like loading the dishwasher without two little “helpers” (which I’m completely grateful to have, but jeeze chores take longer with “help”!). Just time for a little bit of alone.

So when I was reading this guest post on Free Range Kids (great site and great book, by the way!), it occurred to me that I should try again. A quick summary is that every day, her children go to their rooms for one hour and she is left alone to do what she wishes. And not only is it good for her, but it’s good for her kids too! This sounded like a dream! When your child stops napping, it makes life both easier and harder. Yes there’s less timing around naps, but man everyone is grumpy by day’s end. Most definitely including me. A little break in the middle of the day sounded devine!

So, I decided to make it so. And thus far, it’s been going great. There have been a few key things that I did in order to make this gentle and respectful and honestly, it couldn’t be going better.

1. Be matter of fact. Quiet time must be announced very matter of factly. Quiet time doesn’t start while you’re upset or in a “being sent to your room” fashion. It’s simply time for quiet time so it starts. When my daughter comes out of quiet time (for a variety of reasons), I just tell her I’m pausing the timer (I use the timer on my iPhone) and she does what she needs to (e.g. goes to the bathroom) and tells me when she’s going back into her room. Handling it in a matter of fact way has turned this from something to get emotional about (either angry or sad that she’s going into quiet time) into something we just do.

2. Use a specific time. I have an alarm that goes off on my phone every day at 1PM (except Sundays, where we eat lunch at my in-laws’ at 1PM, so it goes off at 11AM in order to do quiet time before we leave). Quiet time is always one hour long. There’s no arguing either of these times. When the timer goes off, it goes off.

3. Be flexible. Just like I said in number one, I don’t get upset when she leaves her room. I just pause the timer (because otherwise she’d sit on the toilet for 20 minutes just to be outside of her room, because somehow that’s better) and start it up again when she’s done. She still leaves her room plenty, but she still gets her hour in and she understands that she is going to get her hour no matter how many times she goes potty or needs a drink or needs to tell me just one thing. I have started a rule that if she comes out purely to ask how much longer quiet time is that she gets 5 minutes added (because she started coming out every 2-3 minutes to ask), but since imposing the rule, all I have to do is remind her. She’s never actually had the 5 minutes added. Also, if we’re out and about when the alarm rings, Peanut knows that we’ll do quiet time when we get home.

4. Focus on my needs. Peanut is 4. Sure, that’s not really that old, but it is old enough for her to understand that I have needs. I’ve explained to her (and re-explained when she wants to hear about it again) that mama needs quiet time too. I’ve told her that it makes me a happier person and a nicer mama when I get a little break. She seems to understand this and it negates her arguments when she tries to tell me that she’s happy so she doesn’t need quiet time. I just tell her mama still needs it and she understands.

I plan on continuing with “quiet time” for the foreseeable future. Once Twig stops napping (crossing my fingers that it’s not any time soon!), she’ll get quiet time too. I also think this is a great way to get Peanut used to her school’s “nap time” (during which the children aren’t forced to nap, but must lay quietly with the lights off on their cots) that she’ll have to start doing again in the fall. It will mean that she doesn’t get quiet time at home when we start that, but we’ll all be getting breaks from each other while I’m in class anyway. So if this sounds like something you’d like to do, give it a try. Remember you can be a separate person while still being respectful to your child. And remember that it’s good for both of you to get some alone time.

Peanut’s Tea Party Birthday Party

Last month, Peanut turned four. She requested a tea party themed birthday party. I love to plan parties, so I was up for the challenge. Sadly, I hadn’t considered the camera prior to the party actually starting (too busy with other things!) and it was on manual. Being silly, in that moment I didn’t think about the fact that I could turn it back to programmed and have my husband handle the photos. So there are very few photos of the party (if you’re someone who attended and you see this, send me your photos!), but I still figured I’d compile all of the things I did for anyone who is trying to do a tea party in the future.

First, here’s my Pinterest board that I used to bookmark all of the things that I liked for the party. Yeah, I drank the koolaid. I still mostly use Pinterest as a fancy bookmarking system. It was pretty handy for finding ideas for the party though. Most of my ideas are from other places and I’ll do my best to put credit here where credit is due, but for other ideas that I didn’t end up using, the board is pretty useful.

Let’s start off with the invite:

 

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I used the printable invites from here and chai tea, which I picked because I have had it in my pantry forever and it smelled delicious. After getting all the invites ready, I realized I forgot to put “No presents, just your presence.” so I had to take them back out and write that on, which is why it isn’t pictured. It was written in purple across the bottom of the tea cup where it’s the blue and pink argyle. We invited 13 kids! I didn’t want to invite so many, but Peanut insisted on quite a few friends from preschool. In the end, only 6 other kids showed up, which I was perfectly fine with, besides the fact that no one who wasn’t coming RSVP’d so I didn’t know how many were coming.

And now to food:

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We served chicken salad sandwiches and tuna salad sandwiches (my mom’s recipe that includes egg, lettuce, and cheese), deviled eggs (just struck me as tea party food and they were a hit!), peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that were cut into spring-ish animal shapes (I was going to use this idea with flowers, but couldn’t find a flower cookie cutter that wasn’t ridiculously priced for a piece of plastic) and the ends were later used to make bread crumbs, chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting (from a box because the homemade recipe I tried kept sticking to the cupcake liners), my grandmother’s snickerdoodle cookie recipe (the only recipe that I never share!), and sweet tea for the parents (juice for the girls in their tea cups at the actual party). The cupcake platter was my own idea. I bought three plates and two teacups from the Salvation Army and hot glued them together to make the platter. I’m very happy about how it turned out. I also printed little labels with what the foods were in fancy letters, cut them and folded them in half to make little cards.

For decorations, you can see some of what I did on the table. I was very lucky to be throwing a tea party in spring because I was easily able to find plenty of decorations. I found flower banners (not pictured) and other decorations at the dollar store, the butterflies on the tablecloths along with the nest and other things at the cheap section of Target (the one in the front with $1-$3 items), and that pink rabbit in the middle of the cups is from Savers. I made a banner like this that said “Happy Birthday Dea” from fancy letters that I printed off and cut out and doilies that I found at Joann’s. I tried to make pom poms, but they were more difficult than I had planned and I couldn’t get them to stay folded when I took them out. I also printed off this banner and hung it above the tea party table. All of the table cloths were vintage ones I got from my mom.

When the girls (we invited boys too, but none came) first arrived, there were tea party themed coloring pages waiting for them. It worked really well last year, so I figured I’d re-use the idea. All I did was Google something like “tea party coloring pages” and print off 5-6 of each one I liked. It was a good idea this year too.

After that, we moved onto the hats:

Peanut wearing her hat a few days later.

Peanut wearing her hat a few days later.

I found a bunch of hats at the dollar stores and bought some fake flowers there too. I put all the big flowers in one bowl and small flowers in another. I told the girls to pick out 2 big flowers and 3 small. Most of them didn’t do that perfect amount, but got close enough. They brought me their hat and flowers and I hot glued them to the hat. They had to wait until I was done with the hat after theirs before they could put it on so that the hot glue could dry. I also got some dinosaur hats and saved the leaves from the flowers for the boys and was planning on gluing those on for them, but as I said, no boys showed up. Everyone got to take their hats home.

After the hats, the girls went up and played dress-up for a bit in Peanut’s room. I won’t post pictures here because I didn’t ask anyone’s permission. They didn’t turn out very well anyway. Next we did the scavenger hunt:

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I took some more tea bags and print off little rhymes to direct them to the next clue, then taped them together and hid them. This was a last-minute idea to make up for the fact that the weather was worse than I had anticipated (the weather took a turn for the worse just in time for the party) so they couldn’t go play outside on the swingset like I’d planned. I  was actually taping and hiding them while the girls played with dress-up. I’m happy the weather was bad because this turned out to be a huge hit. It was pretty fun watching the group of little girls running and screaming to the next clue. I had to read them out loud for them, but they figured out where to go with each clue. The end took them to the magic room where pots were waiting.

Another modification I made for the weather was switching from paint to markers. It was too cold to paint under the patio like I planned and I didn’t want a huge mess in the house. I tested one the day before, but didn’t realize that adding wet soil would draw the marker in, so most people took home faded pictures on pots. After they colored them, I put in a handful of wet potting soil and let them plant a bulb from some I had sitting around. Everyone took their pots home. I’m not sure how these worked out for everyone else in the realm of actually growing the flower because Peanut’s got tipped over a few days later.

Lastly, we did the actual tea party:

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I got the teacups from the Salvation Army, as well as the flower vase and the bird bells. The napkins and kettle were from my mom’s. I got the idea for mismatched teacups from this. The girls sat down and poured their own “tea” out of the kettle and we passed around the food. Other than the cupcakes, everything had been free to eat before the actual tea party. We took the cupcake with the candle and sang happy birthday to Peanut.

After the tea party the girls continued to play. Sadly, one of them puked, and it just happened to be the girl that her mom had dropped her off. So my husband called her mom while I got her cleaned up. Luckily it was just that she had eaten too much, so she was good after resting for a minute. I could tell she felt bad when she was watching me clean up the bathroom (also luckily, almost all of the puke got in the bathroom), so I made sure she knew that I wasn’t mad and after that she went off to play.

Everyone sat around and chatted and played and I finally got a minute to relax. It was a ton of fun and Peanut loved it. I’m happy we did no gifts again too, which took a little bit of talking Peanut into it. She didn’t even mention gifts the day of the party though. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to talk her into it, but at least for this year it was a success. I just reminded her that she would get plenty of presents from her family and that some of her friend may not be able to come if they have to bring a gift. I also reminded her that she had a lot of fun last year at her party and there weren’t gifts there. If she would have fought it hard I probably would have caved in.

It all worked out great and I think I spent a total of around $80 on the party. Pretty good I think! And Peanut, along with all her friends, loved it.

Sunday Surf: School, School, and More School

Welcome to the Sunday Surf.

I’ve been absent around here for the last week because of school. Schooooool. I’m feeling so done, but I really am almost done, so I’m forcing myself to chug along and get ahead so I can be done faster. I just keep reminding myself that I’ll be free a month from now, at least for a few months. Then it’s more schooool. Until then, here’s a cute photo of the girls playing outside in the glorious sun. Oh, and Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it! Yay for eggs!

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First off, here’s a great post published just today from Hobo Mama (on her Sunday Surf, actually) on the importance of breastfeeding and not guilting moms who nurse and don’t have a perfect diet. I was so busy with school that I didn’t even know about the Breastfeeding Support Blog Party, but I’m very happy to read all of the posts from it. Breastmilk is still superior, no matter what mom’s diet is. I’ll share more on that another day.

Also from Hobo Mama is A Trick to Unlatch a Sleeping Nursling. Her interesting idea is that, rather than relatching baby to the same side if they start rooting when you unlatch, that you switch sides. Often when I put Twig down it takes multiple times of relatching her on the same side to get her to fall asleep. I’m definitely going to try this trick.

Have you gotten into this “in a mug” trend going on? Well I hadn’t tried any of them out until just recently, and I must say that this one is delicious. Peach cobbler in a mug! I wasn’t sure about the whole thing because it makes dessert so readily accessible (yeah, like I need that), but it also means that it’s just one serving. No more going back for another helping, unless I want to go to all of the work of mixing the ingredients again! And no more eating a whole pan of peach cobbler over a few days!

Peanut and I did this awesome Egg Geodes Experiment this week in celebration of Easter. Peanut loved adding the different things to the different cups (we did sugar, rock salt, sea salt, baking soda, and honey). We’re still waiting for it to finish evaporating (We originally put it in a room where the cats wouldn’t get it, but since the door is shut the room gets cold. We’ve since moved it outside.), but Peanut is loving checking on it every day and looking at how they’re changing.

Have you ever made granola? Well, I suppose I’m truly “crunchy” now that I have! This vanilla granola is to die for, seriously. We made a half batch (because we didn’t have enough oatmeal, we go through that stuff like crazy!) and finished it in just a few days. I’m planning on making more today. So much cheaper and even more delicious than store-bought!

Given my current lack of time and effort to do my hair (well, to be honest, that’s all the time), I’ve been really loving buns lately. These fun bun alternatives are mostly easy and great for getting my hair out of the way for the day. I’m trying to put more effort into my appearance every day because it helps me feel confident and happy, so it’s great to have some quick and easy ways to do my hair that make me feel great. I especially love the Simple Gibson Tuck and Twisted Sister.

Surf with us:

Sunday Surf with Authentic Parenting and Hobo MamaWe love following along with fellow Sunday Surfers. If you have your own post of reading links to share, please link up your post on Hobo Mama or onAuthentic Parenting. The linky will go live every Sunday, and you can link up any day that week. You only need to add your post to one of the sites, and the linky will automatically show up on both sites.

You can get the Sunday Surf button by Jenna Designs and some code to add to your post from my Sunday Surf page.

Check out previous editions for good reading, and you can find more shared items during the week at my Tumblr blog, Hobo Mama’s Shared Items.

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.