5 Simple Ways To Help Your Child Be The Smartest In The Class

As much as I harp on about the trials and excitement of raising a toddler, there really are so many more positives and moments of joy. One of my favorites moments is seeing my son's excitement when he reads a word for the first time, or counted to 100 for the first time. But this didn't come naturally to him, we worked hard, but thankfully, he was having so much fun learning, he was all for it!

Without further ado, my very best tips to Help Your Child Be The Smartest In The Class!


1. Talk To Your Child.  I know this may seem like a "duh" statement.  But what I mean is talk to your child about every single thing you do, pass on the street, read in the book... Constantly keep talking and pointing out objects and explaining why you are doing something.  For example. While driving in the car, FTD non-stop asks Ollie questions... "Can you see a bus? Can you see the RED light? Can you see a tractor?..."  I'll admit, it was annoying at first--mostly because FTD would not shut up!-- but when Ollie began to point the things out before the questions, I got it. I started constantly talking to him during our car rides too. I could see why non-stop talking made sense, especially in a setting outside of our house where new things were constantly in front of us. It's those small things you wouldn't think of that add to your child's vocabulary and understanding of daily life.

2. REPEAT Everything!  I read this somewhere... not that I can remember where... When you hand something to your child, or point it out for the first time, you say what it is once, then slowly enunciate it a second time before moving on. The article I read said that when handing something to your child, say what it is, and then hold on to it firmly as your child tries to take it, repeat what it is for a second time, then release the object to your child.  I still do that to this day when introducing something new.

3. Count Everything. I read this tip somewhere too. Count the steps when going up and down stairs. Count the train cars when stopped at the railway crossing. Count each other's fingers and toes. Count the blocks, cars, dolls, bananas, and even the books on the shelf.  Count everything, every chance you get. At the zoo (we have a membership), he names the animal, then counts how many there are... "one, two, three gorillas!"

4. Get Creative.  I remember when I first tried flash cards with Ollie. He HATED them. I could not keep his attention through the first one. I quickly learned that if I wanted him to be engaged with learning it had to be fun! We now have puzzle flash cards that he loves, and bath foam tiles with numbers, letters and objects on them. I also love the puzzle apps that are made for toddlers that teach numbers, colors and letters. (That's right, I FULLY support screen time as a supplement for learning!)  I also use coloring books to talk through colors and shapes, and of course encourage book reading all day. I am constantly looking for fun ways to get him excited about learning the fundamentals he will need when he starts preschool.

5. Be Patient! From the minute I got pregnant I made it my life's mission to do everything I could to help my kid be the smartest kid EVER! While pregnant, I listened to classical music, I ate all the right foods, I took those nasty nausea inducing prenatal vitamins the entire ten months, I read out loud to my belly... I did everything I knew to do. Then once my baby was born, I started reading books to him. As much as I want to say it was this perfect mother son reading session, it was not. In fact, reading to my infant sucked.  All he wanted to do was reach out, grab the book and eat it. This went on for the first year of his life.  All he ever wanted to do was rip the book out of my hand and demolish it. I was terrified that my son was going to hate books.  Or worse, he was going to grow up to be Captain Beatty from Fahrenheit 451.  A book burning imbecile.

Let's just say the wheels on this bus have not gone 'round and round' for a very long time.
By the time my son turned one, every single book we owned had been ripped, chewed or missing a page or two. Luckily, I finally learned to stop buying new books, and read between the missing pages until this stage was finally over. It was more the act of reading than anything. I also learned to accept that there was no such thing as reading a book word for word straight through to a baby/toddler.

Today, at two-years-old, my son LOVES his books. LOVES them. We read "Easy Street" all (damn) day. He knows it by heart now.  Moral of the story, even though it made me nuts, I kept reading to a child who at first could not be less interested. I learned to be patient, while he learned to love books and learning in general. Now, he wants to read so much, I find myself dreading it at times. Still, I read...

The key for us was to constantly introduce new things in a fun and engaging way. I have no doubt if you follow these tips, your child will blow your mind with his/her brilliance too!

Do you have anything to add?

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Sorry, I Can't Hear You. My Toddler Broke My Ears

NOTE: This is a republish of a favorite post of mine. It's dedicated to the good ol' days and those parents out there with littles just exploring their voices and volume control...

OK. So my ears aren't really broken. But if they were, I wouldn't be upset about it. Why? Because my toddler's volume control is stuck on scream.

As in, he can only let sound come out of his mouth that resembles very poor operatic singing. He Scream-Talks. Scream-Sings. Scream-Cries. Scream-Laughs. Scream-Screams... Chances are, if you are quiet enough, no matter where you are in the world, you can hear my toddler screaming about something... or nothing... right now.

The scream-scream is the norm. All day long, my kid screams. It appears that it's mostly just for fun. Out of nowhere, he will just start screaming. I seriously think it's just to hear himself. Possibly, to piss me off.  Whatever it is, he is clearly enjoying it.

I always know when it is coming because he puts his hands over his ears. Yes, he covers up his ears before he starts the toddler opera from hell. Then out comes the blood curdling, ear drum rupturing scream. It usually lasts a minute or so, from first scream to last. What do I do? When he pauses to take a breath, I will interject a NO SCREAMING! with some sore of explanation why. Then I will either ignore him, or send him to time-out.  Sometimes just to let me know he is really the one in charge, after he takes a breath/finishes time-out he will tell me in a whisper, "no screaming," before covering his ears back up for another round of scream-scream. A-HOLE!

He sounds exactly like you would imagine this guy to sound. 
The worst of it is when we are out in public. If I deny him something, say NO!, or hold him back from something, he screams. And I mean, SCREAMS until he is red in the face and out of air. Fists balled... the whole shit storm. Then to add insult to injury, it never fails that someone in ear shot feels the need to either laugh or make a joke about it. It's usually something to the effect of, That's how I felt when I got out of bed this morning. Or, I hear ya kid, it is a tough world!  I know the stranger is trying to make light of it, or make me feel better... BUT! When I am trying to pretend like we invisible and no one but me witnessed the toddler shout out from hell, comments don't help. 

FTD and I are at a loss at this point. We have tried EVERYTHING! Time-Outs, Talk-it-outs, removal of toys, ignore him... Nothing helps. I keep telling myself that this is some sort of toddler phase from hell, and any day now he will be on to some other defiant annoying activity... I even try to tell myself that this is somehow a developmental thing. That the screaming is necessary for his growth and vocal/ear development--yes, that's how desperate I am.

Unfortunately, we are about three weeks into the scream fest, and there are no signs of him letting up.  Each time FTD and I explain that what he is doing is wrong, and then ignore him from there.  Sometimes we add in a timeout. We parent. He toddlers.  Business as usual...

Here's hoping it's over soon.

Are you, or have you already dealt with the scream phase?  Any tips? Please don't tell me it's only my kid?!

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What It's Like To Be The Mother Of A BOY!

From the very beginning of my pregnancy, I hoped for a boy. As the proud aunt of three super rad nephews, I thought I knew boys. In my mind I was sure they were so much easier than girls. I was convinced that boys were content with flip flops, shorts and Hot Wheels. I really believed that was all I would need to have a happy son. Girls on the other hand... I was sure they needed all kinds of crap like matching head to toe ensembles and barbies with head to toe ensembles for them too, lots of frilly things, shopping carts and mini kitchens... Well, my friends,  just like with everything else I thought I had figured out about children before having them, I was wrong.

So. Wrong.

My life is all about planes, trains, automobiles and poop... crocs, socks, and rocks... dirt, sticks, forklifts and helicopters. My name is April and I am the mother of a boy.  A dirt loving, stick toting, HotWheel driving, helicopter flying, future "fireman-police-officer-army-dude".

Being that my life revolves around my son, by proxy it revolves around everything boy too.  First and foremost, Star Wars.  FYI: I have never seen a complete episode, though I expect that to change in a few years during a family movie night.

In an effort to provide a visual of an average day in the life of a member of the MBA, here is a little montage I put together for you...

The morning starts with a train track. I build it, he kills it, I rebuild it.  We do this for about 20 minutes...

Then it's off to pushing tractors and trucks around the house...

Then it's off to the store for snacks and the loss of my sanity...

Note: Even the books are boy related.
 Oh, what's that?  The forklift at the farmers market? No doubt we have to climb on it thanks to the encouragement of the original forklift driver.

Next, a stop at the mall... HELICOPTER!!!!

Then home for a nap, lunch, and then a walk... where he will pick up sticks and rocks, and play with dirt and worms.  WHOO HOO!

Sometimes we walk up to the fire station where the incredibly kind firemen put up with a very excited little boy...


Then FTD comes home and off we go to see the planes and helicopters....

All of that is possible in a typical day.  Even the planes and helicopters.  We have a small airport close by where the two of them go at least once a week. So as you can see, my life is all about planes, trains, tractors and automobiles. The poop part comes in with FTD. He and Ollie laugh hysterically over poop and fart jokes, and even burp together. I call them Thing 1 and Thing 2, because together they are dangerous.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, only making an observation. And even though I have grown to enjoy the boy stuff and reading through 20 truck books in one sitting, I just cannot help but wonder what mothers of girls are doing? What is their day like? I also think of dads of girls, and how they must feel as out of their element as I do. Maybe even more so!

I never imagined just how much my life would revolve around everything boy. Or that I would become a professional train track builder that can simultaneously name all of the different types of 'mighty machines.' Oh, yes, I am certainly a proud member of the MBA doing my best to find the joy in planes, trains, automobiles and poop...

P.S. Not only do our band aids have super heroes on them, I wear them!
That's my finger...
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10 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Childcare Provider

As most of you know, when the wild-child turned two, I decided it was time to start a Parents Day Out Program, so Ollie could socialize with other children, while I run errands, sleep, get a mani/pedi, sleep, clean the house, sleep... you know, some things...

I was lucky enough that a dear friend with twenty years of childcare experience, ranging from professional nanny to working in state run facilities for naughty and troubled children, turned me on to the church I currently take Ollie too. It's the same place she takes her daughter, which really was enough for me to just take her word for it.

I took this photo,
with tears in my eyes,
the first day I left Ollie at daycare.
I have to admit, when it came to choosing a childcare facility, I really had no idea where to start with questions, well after the million dollar one, How much will this cost me? Never did it cross my mind to ask how often the toys and carpets are cleaned. Or how how long the teachers have been employed. Even basic questions like what security measures are taken in natural disasters or acts of terrorism, or transitions to outdoor playtime.

Maybe these questions seem like common sense, but to me a first-time parent, I honestly didn't really know what I needed to ask. Thankfully, I had an experienced friend ask them for me. I have no doubt her pre-qualifying questions are the reason Ollie now asks to go to school to see his teacher, friend and the "choo-choo table."

After talking with a few friends, I realize how lucky I was to find a great childcare provider the first time around. So I decided to work with my friend, and the director of the facility, a 35-year childcare veteran, to come up with a list of important questions to ask a facility, to help you find the right fit for you and your child.

To see the complete list of questions with explanations, you will have to head over to parenting.com where the article has been published!  CLICK HERE to see the list of 10 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Childcare Provider.

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Baby-led Weaning; what it is and what the experts are saying

When I was given the honor of , Top 10 Mommy Blog of 2013, from Parenting.com, I was also invited to join their incredibly talented pool of freelance writers. (Gasp!) One of my favorite assignments was to research, Baby-led Weaning; what it is and what the experts are saying.  At first I thought that it would be easy, since I know all about it and did a form of it with my son.

I was so wrong. You all, this one got me...

I had such a hard time writing the article. I needed to stay objective, and not bring my preconceived notions into it. Which was hard, because to me, this was a big deal article. Writing about something as big as introducing solids to an infant, no matter what, I didn't want to screw it up. I also didn't want to mislead people, just to write a good (favorable) article.

For those of you who do not know, Baby-led Weaning (BLW) is a method of introducing solid an infant by allowing them to self-feed, rather than be spoon-fed. Yes, it's giving a six-month-old solid food in finger sized pieces to feed themselves with.  No purees or parent intervention.  BLW is all about offering healthy finger sized soft foods to the baby to touch, smell, taste and then eventually chew and swallow. The control of how much food the baby eats is completely up to them. Where as with the parent-led spoon method, parents often feed the baby until the food is all gone.

For me, BLW was a very scary thing.  All I could imagine was my son choking. For that reason, I fed Ollie purees for the first few months of his introduction to solids, then slowly switched to offering him finger foods. No, he never choked, but I was also VERY careful about what I offered to him, and probably didn't offer enough variety because of that.

All of the being said, I put my own opinions and experiences aside and did the research. I too wanted to know what the experts were saying.  Had things changed in the 18-months since I was researching baby-led weaning for my son?  My friends, it had. In fact, as I type there are a multitude of studies going on surrounding baby-led weaning.

The studies were showing the choking hazards were not an issue, the long-term effects led a healthier and happier approach to food, and most of all, a diminished risk for childhood obesity.  These are HUGE finds! You can read all about the studies in my article on Parenting.com (Link below)

What I really want to know from you is, did you do Baby-led weaning with your baby?  What was your experience? Is your child now a healthy thriving toddler?  Studies said the baby would not be a picky eater later in life. Is this true? Would you do it again with your next child? Any tips for parents giving it a try?

Please, share your story.

To read my article on Parenting.com, CLICK HERE.


10 Tips For Transitioning From The Crib To A 'Big Kid Bed'

I still look back on the day we we moved our son out of the crib and into a toddler bed as one of our biggest parenting fails. He wasn't ready. FTD was. My son LOVED his crib. Even though he was able to climb out of it right after his first birthday, he still slept through the night in it. He NEVER slept in our bed. never. 

Then, we took his crib away. 

It's been nearly two years since that dreadful day, and every night since, my son has been in MY DAMN BED! 

Unless this is your idea of a "toddler bed,"
then you better be sure your toddler is ready....
Without further bitching and complaining ado, my top 10 tips for making the transition:
  1. Pediatric sleep disorders expert, Deborah Lin-Dyken, says there's no set time to make the move. Studies show most children make the switch sometime between ages 1 1/2 and 3 1/2.  So don't make this about age, but more about your child's comfort. 
  2. Don't rush right out and buy a new bed the day your toddler climbs out of the crib. This is NOT an indicator that he/she is ready. Lower the mattress all the way, and discourage climbing.
  3. The switch may really freak your toddler out. Place the new bed in the EXACT same place the crib use to be. Use the same bedding, crib toys/stuffed animals... Change as little as possible. 
  4. Don't just spring the new bed on your toddler.  Start talking it up at least a week in advance.  One expert says throw a big party to celebrate the bed's arrival. 
  5. Independence is an indicator that your child is ready to make the switch.  If your child takes pride in individual accomplishments, including feeding and dressing themselves, then it may be time. Kyle Pruett, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center, in New Haven, Connecticut, says a sign of readiness is when your child calls out in the night and can be reassured just by hearing your voice.  
  6.  Don't introduce the new bed during potty training or moving to a new house.  "Too many changes can freak a familiarity-loving toddler out", says Dr. Laura Markham
  7. If the transition is due to the arrival of a new baby, experts recommend the transition be made and well adjusted to at least TWO months before the baby arrives.
  8. Let your toddler be involved every step of the way; including if possible, picking out the bed, and the new sheets, blanket and pillow if necessary. Make the new bed cozy and inviting.
  9. If you do not already have one, create a bedtime routine and stick to it leading up to the big night. Familiarity is key before this transition. One expert says to add white noise or music to the bedtime routine, if it is not already part of it, to help your child doze off.
  10. Be prepared for a long battle. This could (most likely will) be very scary for your little one, and may take quite a few nights of both, getting to sleep AND staying in the bed through the night, before things settle. Remember, this is ultimately your decision, you have to be comforting and understanding that this is very scary. Talk though your child's feelings and be reassuring that this is a wonderful thing.  'All big boys/girls sleep in a big bed.'

I would LOVE to hear what parents have to say. If you have dealt with this already, please share your experience or tips.

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5 Tips For Brain-Damage Free Potty Training

It's fair to say, I spent a stupid amount of time trying to potty train my son. Thanks to my Mother in-law announcing that FTD was patty trained shortly after his first birthday,  and her birthday gift to of a complete Aussie potty training kit complete with training pants, we felt compelled to start potty training WAY TOO EARLY! Seriously, Tip #1, wait for your child's cues, not you mother in-laws.

Over the course of two years, we tried and bought everything to help potty train our son.

Ok, not everything. We didn't get this...
However, thanks to a tip from a been-there-done-that bestie of mine...we did find this little potty training gem at our local hardware store!

What is it you ask? Good news, FTD and I made a video to explain it!

Well... When I say, "FTD and I," I really mean, I tried to make this video educational, FTD... well... I am not sure, but you will get the idea of what I was getting at...


Very cool, right?  Beats the hell out of those little plastic potties you put on the floor.  I have no desire to clean the crap out of his diaper, so why would I want to do it out of a plastic bowl? Seriously, what's the point of teaching my son to take a dump in a plastic bowl on the ground, only to teach him to do it in a porcelain one later? Screw that. I am all about one and done!

Now, on to my five best tips for potty training:

1. Wait for the cues, before forcing the poos. This seems to be the most important tip since EVERYONE agrees on it. Don't push your kid into potty training.  Nothing is going to happen until they are ready.  (Ollie is telling me he has to 'poo poo' then we run, and try... more about that later... As in later this week, I need more time with this for a proper post...)

2. BRIBE IT OUT! That's right, finally the experts are saying we CAN bribe our kids! Use something like tiny M&Ms before and after. Think bribe then treat.

3. Do the potty dance! Make it seem like your child just figured out the answer to ending global warming! Dance, cheer, clap, go crazy with excitement...

4. Out on the town, don't pass up the porcelain crown- At home offer up the potty regularly, and when out of the house, don't pass a public restroom without offering up it's services.

5. Patience is a potty training virtue. Eventually the diapers will come off... Don't get discouraged, or your child will be too.

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The Key To Sleep-Training Infant-Toddler

Somehow, I have been "Sleep Training" my child since he was born. He's four. Seriously. Four. And I still feel like I'm sleep training the kid. Or possibly, he's training me. Whatever it is, bedtime and wakw-time have been a constant struggle over the past four years. 

Luckily, the near half decade has taught me a great deal about the art of sleep training and toddler. So with every curve and wave thrown at me, I have a methind. 
Below, are the things I learned 

Even at 2-yeas-old I was STILL waking up with him at all hours of the night. Sometimes he went back to sleep easily. Sometimes, not so much. That's right, nearly 24 months of on and off sleep training.

This latest trip through sleep training hell began WAY back in October, when daylight savings time and my Mother-in-law (MIL) came a knocking at our door... within days of each other. Right at that time Ollie started waking up at 4:30 ready to make the day his bitch. Then he started waking up every couple of hours... turning mommy into a bitch.

When, after a few weeks of this constant early waking, I reached out to every mother I knew, looked into every print and online resource I could find, and even called the doctor for help.  I was given some great advice from, going with the classic cry-it-out method; to getting a crib net to put over his crib to keep him in bed; to getting a gate to put at his door to keep him in his room until it was time to wake up for the day; to all types of self soothing techniques like stand close to his crib, don't stand close, nurse him/don't nurse him, keep putting him back in bed...  but above all, The Key To Sleep Training A Toddler is Consistency.  I was told it was crucial that I stay consistent with what ever method I went with. Which, now that I am three months into this madness of not sleeping through the night, clearly I have been consistent... with not fixing the damn problem!

I have been consistent with giving in to what ever it takes to get him back to sleep.  I can only handle the screaming and crying for so long.  Plus, I am afraid he is going to wake up the neighbors with his screaming fits! I have consistently given in at 2:30am to walking him into the kitchen for water, then rocking him back to sleep.  I try so hard to just pick him up and put him back in bed, but just last night I did that for TWO HOURS straight! TWO. He was so worked up from screaming and crying that it took forever to calm him down. SUUUUUUUUCKS!!!!!

Here is the worst of it, I am sitting here typing this at 4:30am because I also have the horrible issue of waking up with him, getting him back to sleep and then staying up from nervous energy/anxiety.  I CANNOT WIN!

Well, dammit, I want to win.

I need to find some sort of fix for all of this because since mid-October I have not slept more than four solid hours, unless of course I go to sleep at 8pm when the kid does. Which, that sucks too.

If this is an issue for you too, then take it from me, you have to pick a battle plan and stick to it. I have found putting him back in his bed a hundred times does help. If he wakes up before 5am I can get him back to sleep this way.  I just stand outside of his door waiting for him to come out, and then put him back in his crib, until he finally gives in and stays in his crib for another hour or so. Again, sometimes it works quickly, others he loses his shit and takes forever to calm down. I just consistently keep putting him back in his bed. I pray every night that he will finally get it, and stay in bed for good. So, here is hoping this last horrible round was the one that won the battle.

Also, people swear by keeping the child in their room with a gate or crib net, I just do not have the backbone to deal with the screaming.  Plus, my doctor said it is best not to traumatize him by yelling, locking him in his room, or associating sleep with crazy mommy.  Though a few times I am sure he has seen crazy mommy.  The main issue is that no one thing has really worked for us.  He wakes up, I do my best to get him back to sleep without any extra stimulation, and when that fails, I break and do what it takes--rocking, milk/water, reading... whatever it takes.  I know this is not good, and that it is most likely what has me in this situation for so ling, but at the wee hours of mooring, I am more concerned with getting him back to sleep as quickly as possible.
 I know from all the hurdles I have overcome with my child, it usually takes three days of being consistent to make a change.  So... I will let you know how this works out for me.

Just know, if you are up at the ass-crack of dawn with a crazy toddler, so am I, and probably a fair number of parents reading this. I just keep telling myself, this shit will pass! Eventually. I mean, even though everything about the teenage years is supposed to suck, I know for a fact teenagers sleep.

(If you came here desperate for some answers, then check out this post with some good tips from the baby sleep site. CLICK HERE

Got any ideas?  Did something work for you?  PLEASE SHARE!!

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10 Parenting Lessons Learned The Hard Way

Below are a few lessons I learned about parenting, the hard way. While I think every parents has to learn these lessons the hard way too, the least I can do is send up a warning flares.

1. Parenting is ridiculously hard! All the time. Everyday.  If you are a parent, no explanation necessary.

2. EVERY preconceived notion I had before becoming a parent was so far off. I was SO SURE I was going to be the perfect mom with the most perfect kid. Not. Even. Close. Because, neither of those exist.

3.  Breastfeeding is not plug and chug. I had absolutely no idea that nursing my son would be so hard. How could something so, "natural" not be. HA!  It's hard. very hard. At least, it was for me. It was also frustrating, painful and required a ridiculous amount of lactation consultations and pumping to get the job done. Two years and four months of nursing later, it was one of the greatest and most fulfilling accomplishments of my life. I'd do it all over again. The pain and frustration was worth it.

4. Toys will take over. Regardless of gender, toys will take over your life. Doll shoes will make it into your shoes, Hot Wheels will make it into your pillow case, rocks will turn-up at the bottom of the washing machine... Toys take over, there is absolutely no way to stop it. Hint: Buy toy boxes, and storage shelves.

5. Potty Training is messy business. Regardless of the method you chose to get the job done, you will hate every minute, and find yourself, the bathroom, and possibly the entire house turned into the world's largest potty.

6.  Nap time is the new happy hour.  I use to decompress with friends after work, now I decompress VERY quietly on the couch... terrified if I make one loud noise my 'happy hour' will come to an abrupt end.

7. Toddlers can say, mommy/daddy/please and/or ask the same question four-million times in less than a minute. FYI: This will not stop until they are completely satisfied.

8. The attention span of a baby/toddler/child is about 4-seconds. This is the reason they can watch the same show or movie over, and over, and over again. This poor attention span is also the reason the minute you finish building the train track or doll house, they have no interest and have moved on to something new. It's impossible to keep up. 

9. Your child will outsmart you before two. Those little geniuses don't even have to know how to talk before they can trick you into doing, giving, or allowing them to do and have whatever they want.

10. Your kid is 100% positive that THEY are in-charge, and their job is to train YOU.  FYI: Teaching them how wrong they are is the main reason parenting is so damn hard. 

What lessons have you learned the hard way?


The One Thing ALL Parents Should Have.

It astounds me that even after hours and hours...and hours, of pregnancy and parenting advice from friends, books and strangers, I was still grossly underprepared for what being a mother really entailed. I had no clue how hard it would be, or that my bundle of joy would rock the hell out of my joyful marriage. I was not prepared for the constant fear, worry and endless sleepless nights for one reason or another. Most of all, I had no clue how important it was to have a dependable person to watch my son periodically to save me from the nonstop 24/7 365 life of a parent.

The majority of the advice focused on parenting and how to rock my baby to sleep, change a diaper without getting peed on, ... not to make sure I ran from mommying a couple of times a month to maintain my sanity.  Not once did anyone tell me to make sure my husband and I had at least one date night a month to reconnect and decompress from parenthood, starting the very first month. Not once did anyone tell me how hard it would be to find that one person, so start looking early.

When it became apparent that we desperately needed a babysitter, I started asking around and quickly learned finding someone was not going to be cheap or easy. It turns out, if someone has a great babysitter they are apprehensive to share their name, or worse, every parent in the zip code has the sitter on speed dial. Another option I entertained was a nanny/babysitter services that has a large group of well screened and qualified sitters. The issue is that the service has a $50 minimum, which is astronomical when you are talking about looking after one kid for three or four hours! Plus, you are not even guaranteed to get the same sitter every time, so while the sitter is qualified on paper, their personality may not be right for your family. 

My son is two, and I am still looking for that one person. It's hard to leave your child with a stranger, or someone you do not know very well. Because of this, we have had to turn down numerous invites from friends and coworkers, and have all but alienated ourselves from our single or childless friends. This inability to find time to be alone together has also caused our relationship to suffer. We used to go out all of the time and have a blast.  Now we do our best to get out with a toddler in tow, which is not always easy, or fun.

Bottom line: EVERY parent needs a break and someone they can trust to give that to them. If you are an expectant or new parent, start looking for that one person you can depend on and trust right now, because you will need them.  If you are like me, and desperate for your third date night in two years, you are not alone, keep looking. We have two good options we are looking into now thanks to our new neighbors! For those of you who have family close by who will help, thank them and your lucky stars...


Are You And Your Partner A Cohesive Team?

Photo Credit: My toddler

There's no two ways about it, Co-Parenitng Requires a Cohesive team. 

Unfortunately, in the beginning, I thought a cohesive team meant my husband understanding my ideas, plans, and goals. Then, implement them according to my specifications. I'm the mother, I have the God given gift of Mothers Instinct! No way could he know better than me? 

To my horror, my husband didn't agree. He had his own plans and ideas, and every intention of implementing them as well. To add insult to injury, his ideas were born of a different culture. His Australian ways versus my American ways, led to many a disagreement.

Needless to say, the first couple months of our son’s life were not met with a cohesive  parenting team. Quite the opposite. 

Nothing would frustrate me more than when he would question me, or try to tell me how to do something with our son. 

Yes, I was doing the same to him, but I felt completely justified. I was the one with the all-important mother’s instinct! 

By the second month of my son’s life, between the fear, anxiety and nursing around the clock, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I needed a break from trying to be a do-it-all super mom. I started to slowly, albeit reluctantly, let my husband implement some of his own ideas and plans. 

After about a week or two of letting the hubs do his thing, I started to see the clear difference between my methods and his, and how they both worked.

 I was very soft and wouldn’t let Oliver shed a tear. I’d jump at the first whimper. I lived according to the hours and minutes of the day, to keep the ever important 'routine' going. 

The man didn’t care about the routine. He wanted to play and laugh and be silly with our son all day.  

It didn't take long to realize, not all of my ways were the best. Maybe I needed to relax a little and let dad do his thing. Unquestioned.

We parent very differently, and that’s a really good thing. Plus, sharing the work has helped me realize he's better at a lot of things, and it makes him a very proud papa to show me.  

We have a very long and winding road of parenting ahead of us. Knowing we can depend on each other and share the ups and downs equally, is the key to making that road as smooth and enjoyable as possible. 

A quick note: To the single parents out there doing the job of two, being a team of one, well done. Your job is is not an easy one.  

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How To Tame Your Dragon... Er.. Toddler

Yesterday, I got a question on the First Time Mom And Dad Facebook Page from a friend and reader that read: I need some mommy help. My little one is getting to a mean stage. He is taking toys and pushing kids and generally just being a douchebag. What can I do to correct this behavior. If it gets to be too much I intervene and explain to him that he's being mean and needs to be nice or he gets a timeout. It doesn't seem to be helping. Is this just a phase? Please help me.

First of all, I promise I did not write that... It only sounds like I did because that is pretty much a summary of my posts over the last couple of months. I told her that I completely felt her pain, since I was dealing with the same issues. The only difference being that her son will be two next month, so I have a four month head start on dealing with the terrible twos. Wanting to help, I reflected on the past four months and came up with five tips that were helping me (and Ollie) survive his full court press for Independence and control.

1. Consistency is KEY. If you are going to say No, say it the first time. Toddlers thrive on routine and constancy. Flipping the script midway through on a toddler is the worst thing you can do. Letting bad behavior slide the first couple of times makes it near impossible to correct down the road. For example. Taking my son out of the shopping cart at the grocery store and either holding him or letting him walk, will forever be one of my biggest regrets. If you learn anything from me, do not let your kid out of that cart! It's almost impossible to put them back in! Another of my regrets is letting Ollie help me in the kitchen. Every morning he tries to slide a chair over to help. This sucks since I have hot coffee and knives out making sandwiches. He is too young to help, I wish I would have waited until he was at least three. If only I said no to the grocery cart escape and helping make meals the first time, I would not have the daily battles. 

If you don't want your child to throw toys, correct them EVERY time! If you don't want them screaming, hitting or biting, reprimand every time. If things belong in a certain place, put them back every time. This gets old, but eventually it sticks... and becomes second nature for you too.

2. "NO" is not enough, explain why, and ALWAYS have a redirect ready. Being that my son is CONSTANLY testing boundaries and getting into things he should not, it quickly became apparent that a simple, 'NO', would not be enough. I learned very early that my son responded best when I said, NO... and this is why, then showed him an activity that was appropriate for him to be doing. This way, I could teach him why what he was doing was wrong, and then show him something else he could be doing that was even more fun. Like instead of banging things on the floor, he could be driving cars on his toy table or playing with his blocks. That is much more effective than shouting NO, removing him from the activity, and then leaving him there with nothing to do but find more trouble.

3. Consequences are KEY! Since two-year-olds are not cognitively developed enough to understand spankings, or long time-outs, consequences are the best bet. FYI: empty promises of consequences are lazy parenting at it's finest hour. I know, this lazy parenting was me. "Oliver, if you do that, NO Park." He did it, we eventually went to the park. FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! Now, it's, "If you smash your car into the wall one more time, I am going to take it way!" Thanks to my prior lazy ways, he would smash the car into the wall. Now, I get up off my lazy butt and take the car, and explain again why I am taking the car so he is clear about the consequence. Of course he throws a fit, flopping like a fish on the floor, but eventually he stopped smashing the car into the wall.  

It's a process, everyday he is on to something new... but the consequence are reinforced now.

4. Ignore the temper tantrum. a.k.a the flopping fish out of water routine. I know most all parents who have made it though the terrible twos, threes, and yes apparently the fours too, will agree with me on this one, you cannot play into the tantrums, or they will just keep happening. I tell Ollie that he is hurting mommy's ears, and when he wants to use his words we can talk about what is upsetting him, then I walk out of the room. It's not always immediate, but eventually, he will calm down and move on.

5. It's not your fault. You are awesome. Going back to the mom that sparked this, during our back and forth she said this: "I think I'm a good mom and I'm hoping it's not something I'm doing or not doing." I struggle with this, but I know in my heart I am a good mom too. I know I am doing everything I can, even on my lazy to-tired-to-get-off-the-couch days, I still do my best. This IS a phase. ALL children go through the terrible toddler phase to some degree. This is a time for testing and learning for both the toddler and parent. Somedays we both get it right, others... Not. So. Much.  

As a whole, I know I am awesome and doing my best to navigate the toddler phase with my toddler. I am certain that staying patient, consistent and compassionate, is the key to surviving the toddler phase with my sanity, and a well-mannered and grounded child to show for it.

Do you have any tips to add?


What The Parenting Books Are Afraid To Say

There's no doubt about it, the parenting books seem to leave out the scariest parts of parenting.  I get it, freaking out a pregnant chick is not the best thing to do, but making a first-time parent think parenting is easy if you follow the steps in the book, is crap too!

In an effort to do the job the parenting books won't, and in honor of top 10 Tuesday, below are 10 Things The Parenting Books Are Afraid To Tell You.


My Toddler Plays By His Own Set Of Rules

I had such an eye opening experience at Ollie's first soccer practice. Oh, do I have a story for you...

We got to the practice with five minutes to spare. I've learned showing up early usually only leads to disaster in the form of a bored toddler, so as a rule, I aim for a five minute buffer, MAX. Since we had never been there, I wanted to leave time for the level of confusion and anxiety I was already feeling.

We walked in behind two ladies and a little boy Ollie's age. It was clear this was not their first time being there, so I decided to follow close. This worked out for navigating our way to sign-in and finding Ollie's name tag, but failed once I realized I was following her to the bathroom.

Thankfully, next to the bathrooms was the entrance to the soccer field, so we migrated with the rest of the parents and kids. Ollie's coach greeted us, and after introductions and pleasantries, he said, "Come on Ollie, let's go play soccer." Ollie barely glanced back at me before taking the ball out of the coach's hand and running out onto the field.  #peaceoutmommy

Much to my delight, the lady I followed in, sent her son onto the field right after Ollie, so I decided to follow her again to see where I should sit. We made our way to the bleachers, right as the coach called the toddlers, about a dozen 2-3 year olds, to the center of the field.

After ice breakers and rules, the coach described the first drill. Once he finished talking, Ollie takes off! But not with the other kids.

Quite the opposite.

In seconds, he's at the other side of the field, by himself, kicking and chasing a ball. FYI: The first drill is to make a turtle shell on your back with your arms by clasping your hands and "slowly" kick the ball.

Not my kid.

He has one speed; haul ass

I shook my head and started to get up when my new friend told me he was right on track for his first practice, and to let him run wild. She said the coaches would corral him every time they began a new drill, but when Ollie runs off, and expect him to, don't worry about it.

She told me today's only goal (pun intended) is to get him to have fun and like being there, and not to worry, every practice he will pay more attention and participate in the drills more and more. It turns out, this is her third kid, so she knows the ropes very well.

You all, no shit, Ollie did his own thing pretty much the entire time.  I was so embrassed at first. There's the group of kids in the center and then there's my boy... Doing his thing FAR from the center.  Sure enough, a couch would coral him back to the center for a new drill, and sure enough he would run right off once the kids started.

This pretty much sums up the practice:
Ollie chasing, tackling, kicking and carrying a soccer ball, while everyone else did mini-drills.
By the end of the 45-minute practice, I got over being embarrassed about having the ONLY wild-kid running around and not sticking with group. Of course, he will get better at listening and participating; preferably, sooner than later.

He is still two years old after all, so taking everything into consideration, I'm super proud of him! There's no denying he was having a great time kicking his ball and running freely. To Ollie's credit, when a couch would corral him for a new drill or water break, he always listened and joined the group. He just had no desire to stick around.


This Should End The Mommy Wars...

The other day while talking with a friend about the ridiculousness of the so-called "Mommy Wars", I realized that regardless of whether a mom is working out of the home or in the home, they are both essentially spending their day doing the same things. 

Below are 10 undeniable Ways Working Moms and Stay-At-Home Moms Have The Exact Same Day... 

1. Mornings SUCK. Every morning, every mom, is up way too early to have enough time to make breakfast, pack lunches and get everyone dressed and started on their day... Then spend whatever time is left trying to make herself look fabulous presentable.

2. Both wipe asses all day. Whether it's a kid or a boss, someone needs their ass wiped.

3. Both clean up messes all day... that they didn't make. Whether it's a kid or a coworker, someone is making a big mess that needs cleaning up.

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