Monday, March 26, 2012

Toddler Empathy

As a counselor, having empathy with your clients is a must. It's one of the reasons I decided to work with children way back in college. I felt I had a great sense of empathy with them and understood how they see things in our world.

But now that I have my own child, I realize I get caught up in her fast paced life and forget to look at the big picture.  Yesterday when we were at a friend's birthday party at her home, my toddler went up to their water dispenser, one of those Ozarka things, and started playing with the cold water spout.  I told her "that is not for playing with" as I was talking to another mom friend.  And then a few minutes later, I turned around and saw that she had touched it again, and spilled water on the floor. I set the limit again and she finally listened to me and she came over to help me clean up the spill.  I redirected her to another toy and the problem was solved.

BUT, on the way home I was thinking about it and it hit me! That was the first time she had ever seen a water dispenser before and was probably just curious to see what the heck this big, tall, water machine was.

And I thought to myself, "gee, I forget that my little child is only 22 months old and is seeing so many things in the world for the first time in her life, and it must be so amazing to her!"  I need to stop and use more empathy with her.  Put myself in her shoes and see what she must be seeing.

My statements should have been more, "Wow, you found a really cool water dispenser!  And you noticed that when you touch the blue tab, water comes out of it!"  She must have been mesmerized by this fascinating new toy she found.  Instead of sharing in her joy and discovery, I quickly just told her, "that's not for playing with," as I was too consumed in another conversation.

I should have continued with her excitement and then stated the limit, "I know how fun it must be to explore it, and you can still look at it, but the blue tab is not for playing with.  It will spill water in the floor if we do." And then showed her how we use cups to catch the water to drink.

It reminds me of a scene I saw the other day at Target where this mom was in the towel aisle with her barely 12 month old looking little girl sitting in the grocery cart.  The child had turned around and grabbed a bundle of washclothes out of the grocery cart to look at and the mom grabbed them out of her hands stating, "those are not yours! Why do you have to be so selfish and think that everything is yours!"  Seriously??  I'm not going to judge, but come on, the child is 12 months old.  This would be a great example of having a little empathy and understanding that hey, this poor little girl is just wanting to explore.

I know we don't always have the time or the energy to be so enthusiastic and empathic about our children when they are not listening to us, or not doing what we say, breaking limits and throwing tantrums.  But I figure if we can manage a few empathic moments here and there, then we are doing a pretty good job!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

I was asked to review the book The Fault in Our Stars recently by the site BlogHer as part of their book club for bloggers.  It was by an author I had not read before, John Green, and yes, he is a Young Adult author.  A bit skeptical about reading it? Maybe.  I was thinking, hmm, another Hunger Games, Twilight young adult phenomenon. Absolutely not!  Once I started this book, let me tell you, I could NOT put it down!

As a mom and counselor, it touched on so many life issues. Mostly, it deals with life, love, loss and grief. The main character, Hazel, is dealing with having a terminal illness as a 16 year old girl and living at home with her parents, with her GED already in place and dealing with life's ups and downs.  She is an amazing character and I loved the way the author made her so real and I felt as though anyone could identify with her, even a 60 year-old male.

The book really makes you think about the meaning of life, goals, and yes, the topic we all hate and avoid, 'death.'  But it's not a sad, tear jerking Terms of Endearment story that I thought it might be.  It really inspires you to appreciate the little things in life and that as rough as life might get, eventually, it really IS going to be o.k.

And the mother element in the book was very moving as you can identify with the main character's mother and how her new full time job is caring for her sick child and wondering if she will still be considered a mom if her daughter does not make it.  I like how it also touched on how parents need to find their own meaning in life and to do things that they enjoy outside of their main role as 'parent.'  We can't forget our own hobbies and interests once we become a mom, which is so easy to do.  Now that I have a toddler and pregnant, I find that my extra activities are now reading parenting magazines, working on baby books, and other mom activities and have neglected some of my old interests like music, baking, crafts and outdoor interests.

I know, you are probably thinking, okay, a book about teens, are you serious? Yes, I am.  As I was reading it, I was thinking of how much I want to recommend this book.  Most people I know would really enjoy reading it and would each gain something different from it.

Okay, enough bragging about how great this book is.  Go out and read it and join us in the discussion at BlogHer here for the next month!  I mean it, you will finish this thing super fast and ready for his next one.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own." 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Planning Children's Birthday Parties

With my little toddler's 2nd birthday fast approaching, I know I have a lot of planning to do.  Favors, themes, guest list, activities, etc.  I came across an excellent website called The Party Works to help.  And I was so excited that Lisa from The Party Works offered to write a guest post for my blog to help me and my readers out!  Here is her excellent party planning 'to-do' list:

Kids’ Birthday Party To-Do List

When it comes to throwing your child a birthday party, you can never be too prepared. It’s a lot more difficult than many people think to pull off a great children’s party. You have to send out invitations, get some Mario party supplies, buy food, make food, and do what seems like a hundred other things depending on what your little one wants at his or her party. Even if you start planning weeks in advance, it’s still likely that you might forget to do something in preparation for the party. That’s why it’s essential to make a to-do list to help remind you to do everything you need to do. Here are some of the more important things you may need to do in preparation for your son or daughter’s birthday party:


1. Send out invitations early.


You may want to send them out up to a month in advance. This will give all the party guests time to RSVP and adjust their schedules as necessary to be able to attend the party.


2. Ask a few parents to help you chaperone.


You’re going to want to ask around early to see which parents might be open to helping you chaperone the party. You may also want to ask your parents or other family members to come to the shindig. Having a few extra adults at the party can be a huge help.


3. Get the cake, snacks, party supplies, and favors a couple of days in advance.


You’ll probably want to get these one or two days before the party. If you’re going to bake the cake, it’s a good idea to bake it the night before the party. You don’t necessarily want to save running errands to pick up these essential party items until the day of the party when you’ll have a whole lot of other stuff on your plate.


4. Create a party agenda.


Get together with the birthday boy or birthday girl and make a list together of the games and activities the children will play at the party. If your child wants to play board games at the party, make sure you have these board games on hand. Having an established party agenda will help the party go smoothly, since the kids will be too busy with activities to get into any trouble.


5. Go easy on yourself.


Planning a child’s birthday party is hard work. Don’t expect everything to go exactly as planned, and don’t blame yourself if something goes on at the party. Just deal with whatever needs to be dealt with and make sure both you and your child have fun.


Author’s Bio: Lisa is a mom and guest poster on the topics of party planning, child rearing, and being a working mother. When she’s not working or hanging out with her family, she likes to paint, draw, and write.



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Learning to say No

I know I have touched on the topic of saying 'no' on my blog before.  And right now, temper tantrums are a regular thing in our household.  Now that my child is approaching the 'terrible two's' I can see where they get that saying.  But I still choose to look at it as more of a 'I'm trying to exert my independence stage.'

Of course language delays are still a source of the problem with my child not able to get her point across as easily and gets frustrated.

Toddlers love saying the word 'no', but it's even harder for parents to say it and mean it too!  It's so easy to set a limit and say no and give in, because the crying, whining and temper tantrums will stop instantly the moment we give in.  It's like giving a child a pacifier.

But giving in now, will only set the stage for a spoiled and whiny child in the future, not to mention a child who will be running the household.  Ever seen kids like that before? Not a pretty sight.

Toddlers act as if the world is ending when we say no! Tears, tears and more tears.  But sticking to it and holding your ground, as hard as it seems, will pay off in the long run.

Believe me, my child has daily tantrums and her main ones are when I tell her 'no' to having more Juice Plus chewies, watching Elmo all day long, no to standing on her little table and no to coloring on some piece of furniture.

As parents we are there to teach them right from wrong and that we don't always get our way in life.  If we don't, we will end up that stage mom on American Idol trying to convince the judges that our child is going to be picked!  In real life, unfortunately there is rejection, so learning that we won't always get what we want is a powerful and important lesson.

If your child is older, it's important to set limits as well but also to let them tell their side to teach them how to reason.  It lets them know that their parents care and want to listen to them, even if the final answer is still no.

If you feel like you are saying no all day long, some parents suggest having a 'yes' chart.  Explain to your child you are going to keep track of all the nos and yeses on a chart and if at the end of the day if there are more yeses to limits set, then he will have a special activity to do together.

What else can we do to decrease temper tantrums (and say the word 'no' less)?:

- Use alternatives such as 'I know you want to throw that toy, but toys are not for throwing because they might hurt someone or break. If you want to throw something, you can go outside and throw a ball' or  "Trash is dirty, not for touching!"

-Have that 'look' such as shaking your head so they understand

- When you take your child to one of those "I want it all" stores like Target or Toys r Us, make sure they understand before you go in there that you are not buying a toy, or if you are, if it's just for a friend's birthday and bring their own toy with them and a snack to keep them happy.

Also remember to take their developmental stage into consideration!  This is a big one.  It is hard to witness parents being super hard on their kids and making unreasonable expectations.  Such as expecting a 2 year old to keep their room completely clean and punishing them if it's not. Or expecting your 2 year old to use a fork correctly :)

If you are looking for a good book that talks about developmental expectations on each level (social, emotional, etc.), Ages and Stages is always a good reference:


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Baby Must Have's

I went out of town this week for our real first trip away from home without my toddler.  We were sooo thankful for my sister-in-law to come and watch her for us, for a much needed Babymoon.  While we were getting our child's things together for her, it made us realize just how much a toddler needs every day and how hard it is to plan on caring for a toddler, even away from home. And she reminded us how hard it is to plan and take a toddler out to just run 1 errand, and when baby #2 comes, it's going to be even tougher!

I always see the moms at the grocery store with 2 kids in the cart and a third strapped to their Baby Bjorn carrier and wonder how the heck they do it?  Now that we are expecting again, it is really making me evaluate how to plan for this- 2 kids, both in diapers and two years old and younger. Yikes!

Moms are supposed to have it all together right? Please, if you see one that looks like she does, believe me, she does not. And I am here to tell ya, even though I am a child counselor, most of the time I do NOT have it together.  So if you see me in public and I have a toddler clinging to me, barely hanging on and a newborn strapped into a baby carrier crying, and I have what appears to be pajamas still on at 3pm, you can have a good laugh :)

So what can we do to make our lives easier???

Good strollers and efficient diaper bags is my answer (and a good easy in and out car, but that's not much of a quick buy).

What strollers are quick and easy for more than one kid?

I have been researching several double strollers now because my current strollers I wish I could just take a bat and beat them up and then toss them- yes, that is how much they frustrate me. Too heavy, bulky, hard to fold, and cheap parts that break.

So, my 2 favorites that I have researched and found good results from testing out in the stores (and stopping some moms at the mall to ask their opinions) are the Citys by Baby Jogger, the City Mini and City Select:

1) City Mini Double (399$) and the City Mini Double GT (599$). Both are side by sides, and come with infant attachments if needed for a car seat.  The main 2 differences between them are that the GT has more padding in the seats, and a better shaped basket underneath so you can reach in and out fast.  I like these models as they have room for kids to grow compared to the tandem ones.  It also is great as it folds super easy with one hand and does not weigh too much.  Also, it is as wide as a wheelchair, so it can fit in a standard doorway.

Baby Jogger 2011 City Mini Double Stroller,

2) Baby Jogger City Select Stroller with 2nd Seat(659$)  You can purchase this stroller for 499$ as a single and then add the second seat later (159$).  The greatest thing about this one is that you don't feel like you are pushing a limousine down the street.  It's short and you can push it very easily at the mall and not feel like you are running people over.

Also, check out the 16 different positions in the picture below!  Lots of combinations to choose from, and you can add a 'step/stand' for your child so when they want to ride on the back and not in the seat, they can jump right on.

The only drawback to this one is that it seems a little cramped for older kids over 3, so if you have a tall child, they may not fit in the back seat.  But I love how well this one is made and I know I won't be tossing it into the trash anytime soon!

And diaper bags....

As a purse fanatic, it was hard for me to find one for my first, as I used to constantly update my purse a few times a year, and loved changing my look with the season.  With a diaper bag, you don't really get that luxury, but believe me, I tried to find the easiest and most stylish one for us moms.

What makes it an easy diaper bag?  For me it's 2 things, ease of reaching in and out of the bag quickly and how you carry it- backpack is a must!

When you reach in and out of your bag (which you do constantly), it helps to not have to constantly be zipping and unzipping the bag.  When you need that baby wipe because your child just put her hands in her food and decided to shampoo her hair with it at a restaurant, believe me, you will need it fast!  So a wide open bag is a must for me.

Another thing I realized helped me the most is a bag that has a backpack option.  When you are grocery shopping, you need both hands free, and not on your shoulder either. There's not much room in a grocery cart if you want to put it in there too.  Especially if you are wearing your baby, you will definitely need free hands and nothing on your shoulder to weigh you down.

My favorites I've found so far are Timi and Leslie brands and Petunia Pickle Bottom, because they are wide, have backpack options, as well as their stylish fabric options so you don't feel like you are carrying a typical black backpack.

1) Timi and Leslie makes canvas water resistant bags (80$) that have either a messenger strap or a backpack option, and a flap so you can keep it open if you want easy access.

2) Petunia Pickle Bottom has 2 different bags I am a fan of.

The first is the Abundance Boxy Backpack that was made for multiples, but I like it for its largeness even if you only have 1 child.  The regular Boxy is not wide enough for me to stuff things into, since it has a zipper that makes the mouth of the bag small.  The Abundance is much wider and you don't have to keep it zipped because it also has a flap and the backpack option. Here is the Petunia Pickle Bottom Women's Abundance Boxy Backpack (200$).

The second one they make that I love and love how stylish and retro it is, the their Cake line of bags.  The only one that comes with a backpack attachment is the Society Satchel (325$).  I currently own a green one and LOVE it! (I got mine on eBay new with tags for half price). I just wish it was a little bit bigger. Look at how cute they are:

So there you have it, two musts for moms whether you have one, two, three or more kids.  I know there are a few more must have big items out there for us busy moms, like sippy cups that don't leak, so if you have any good suggestions, send them our way!
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Massage and prenatal

I just wanted to pass a deal on to those of you who live in the Dallas area that on they are featuring a massage deal for the next 72 hours! It's a great massage place called Serenity Massage and a great way to unwind for moms and de-stress. They also have a special pregnancy table just for those needing a prenatal massage, not just telling you to lie on your side!

Then deal is for 39$ for a hour massage of your choice, out of 15 different types of massages and medical massages!

Go to
Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Siblings

Lately in my playgroup circle, there are a lot of pregnant mommas!  A lot of second pregnancies and most of the babies are going to be around 18-24 months apart from our first borns.  If mine comes on her due date, mine will be 24 months and 2 weeks apart exactly.

But how do you introduce a new baby to the first born? And how do you make sure it's an easy transition?  How do you avoid sibling rivalry?  How can you guarantee that they will be best friends and not hate each other?

I believe these are the million dollar questions, and sorry to say but not really an easy answer.  Sooo much goes into how siblings will interact, from temperaments, and different personalities, to the overall home environment.

Do any seasoned moms out there have any advice?

I obviously don't have personal experience, but there are a few good tips out there (from several sources as well as and as well as some books, including my favorite authors, Faber and Mazlish.

While you are Pregnant:

Telling your child you are pregnant: Young children have trouble understanding time, so it's best to say the baby will arrive when the weather gets warm or cold, or around a holiday.  I personally have been pointing to my belly and telling my toddler there is a baby in there and she will be coming out soon to meet her big sister! (Of course she doesn't really get it, but at least we are talking about it :)

Remind her she used to be a baby: As you are setting up the new nursery, get out the old baby clothes and tell them they used to wear them, like their new sibling will and be sure to pull out photo albums from when your little one was an infant and talk about the new baby.  Talk about what a cute baby she was and how much fun it will be to have another little one in the house.

Expect some crankiness:  For older children, it will really be evident and will be perfectally normal for your child to have different feelings about the new baby day by day (or hour by hour). As mommy’s lap begins to get smaller and she can’t bend and pick up an older child, she may be angry as she feels like her life is being changed. No matter how your child reacts it’s important for you to listen carefully and not make your child feel badly if she’s not acting especially warm-hearted to the idea of a new baby.

Don’t Rush Milestones!: This is a big one. Trying to teach them to potty train? Thinking about moving over to a big-boy/girl bed? You may want to hold off for a little while. Children regress big time after a new sibling is born, potty training goes out the window and thumb sucking can begin.  Also, you don’t want your little one to feel displaced because the new baby needs his crib. (But usually newborns sleep in the parent's room the first few months so keep that in mind when planning.) Once the mother has entered the third trimester, it’s a good idea to hold off on introducing any new major aspects to your child's life.

Keep Some Focus on the Big Sibling: Since toddlers are really focused on themselves, feed their little egos by talking about what a great big sibling they are going to be and how the family is going to need their help. A good idea for younger preschoolers, try purchasing a baby doll similar in size to a newborn. Let your little one practice holding, changing and feeding her “baby.” Treat it as close to the real thing as realistically possible, taking it for walks in the stroller and even placing it in a car seat as the due date nears.

Getting a Doll:  Purchase a baby doll (yes for boys too), and show them how to change the diaper, burp them, put them to sleep, push in a stroller, etc.  That way they can see what you will be doing once the baby comes AND they can practice too and learn to take care of their new sibling, NOT that they will be the ones taking care of them, but so they can learn to be nurturing and caring towards the new baby.

Books to Prepare: What to Expect When Mommy is Having a Baby by Heidi Murkoff and Laura Rader (HarperFestival, 2004) and The New Baby by Mercer Mayer (Random House, 2001) as well as I'm a Big Sister and Big Brother:

After the Birth:

Visitor #1: Let your child be the first member of the family to meet the baby, as close to its birth as possible! And keep the meeting private. One friend of mine recommended having someone else hold the baby when your child enters the room, that way they don't see you with the new baby first.  Have the family member bring the baby to you and hold her/him and then introduce them to your older child.  The first time your preschooler sets eyes on a new sibling, could be overwhelming emotionally for them, so it’s important that you stay in tune with what he’s feeling.

Celebrate! (with Presents): Be sure to let you preschooler pick out a gift to give to her new baby brother or sister and have the new baby “bring” a present to your little one. While you are at the hospital, after the baby has been born, it’s likely the new addition will get lots of gifts from well-wishers. This could be hard for your preschooler, so you may want to stock up on little items like coloring books, crayons, stickers and small trinkets to bring out.

At Home:

Caring for the newborn: Make sure that while you are sleep deprived, you are still the primary caregiver of the newborn.  Having your older child step in and do little chores for the baby could be too much for them.  They may start to feel responsible for the baby and feel stress that they are not doing a good job, or that something may happen to the baby.  Also, for older kids, taking on too much caregiving is called Parentification, and the child becomes the parent, and feels responsible for them and could lead to later resentment.

Mommy and Me time:  If you can, try to plan some alone time activities with just you and your older child.  Sign up for a mommy and me class for just the two of you.  And try to enlist family or a babysitter to watch the baby so you can make sure your first born has some special time with you.

Then what? What about the sibling rivalry?  Well, that will have to be for another post, but the best book out there that I get my advice from is by Faber and Mazlish, Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too

Okay seasoned moms, advice for those moms having a second child??