Friday, April 18, 2014

An Inconvenient Pregnancy

By Katie --

None of my three pregnancies have been planned. My first was the result of a short-lived relationship following an awful breakup and a string of alcohol-infused nights. My second happened when my new husband and I decided to try natural planned parenting by tracking my cycles and eschewing other forms of birth control. Let's just say that neither of us is a rocket scientist.

All photos courtesy of Amy Straka Photography
The news that I am pregnant with my third has probably been the most earth-shattering for me, though. Despite feeling settled with our combined family of four kids, and more in love with my husband than ever, the plus sign on the CVS pregnancy test broke something inside of me. The first dozen people I told about the pregnancy, including my husband, had to hear the news between wailing sobs.

I know that my life isn't ruined. I know that I will never regret bringing this beautiful baby into our lives. I know that he or she will bring myself, my husband and my kids a world of happiness. I've never had misgivings about any of those truths. In those first early weeks, as the shock weighed heavily on my shoulders, reminders of just how inconvenient this pregnancy and baby are going to be for me seemed to pop up at every turn, though.


I called my running friend and told her I would not actually be able to run the Chicago Marathon with her in October. Why not? I'll be three weeks out from delivering a child.

I had plans of enrolling my soon-to-be-two-year-old in preschool a few mornings per week in the fall. That would give my husband and I, who both work mainly from home, a few hours of focused, quiet work time -- and would give my inquisitive, intelligent daughter a chance to learn more than I can teach her at home. She will still benefit from it, at least.

My small business revenue goals, that are highest in the final three months of the year, will now need to be scaled down - just in time for the holiday shopping season.

There is also no veil of naivety this time around. Any  moms reading this probably remember the pregnancy euphoria from the first time around. Being a mom was going to be SOOO great, and perfect, and easy! Our firstborns were all going to eat on a schedule, sleep through the night early on, happily play independently, and never throw tantrums in public. OH! And they would never get colds, or ear infections, or fevers that meant we had to pick them up from childcare early. With my first, I anticipated challenges. I often think I over-anticipated them to the point that being a single, working mom DID feel easy -- compared to the obstacles I had imagined in my mind. My oldest daughter was (and is) happy, independent, a good eater and a great sleeper too, which has helped.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Therapeutic Limit Setting: Using Play Therapy at Home

No Child Was Harmed During the Taking of this Photo :)

Back in March, our school district put on a free two-week seminar to help parents deal with behavioral issues in children ages 2 to 5. I came away with some very fascinating ideas. I often wonder exactly what the right way to handle bad behavior is in my own house. There are a variety of ways to take this on and I am not here to tell you which ones are right or wrong. I am here to tell you what I learned, though.

The older my kids get, the more I realize just how much I want to use natural and attachment parenting techniques on them. I did many of these things early on like practicing skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, room sharing, babywearing and later cloth diapering as well. Naturally speaking, we are very aware of our diets and have cut out processed foods, including ingredients we believe to be harmful like artificial colors and sweeteners. We use amber teething necklaces and make our own soaps.

Anyway, my point is, this parenting style really feels right for me. My husband unfortunately could not attend the seminar, so he’s a bit slower catching on, but I use these techniques almost daily and they've prevented numerous tantrums. It is both shocking and completely amazing. If you don’t remember, I have 2 ½-year-old twins and an almost 5-year-old daughter, all girls. If any family is best suited to be guinea pigs, it’s ours. And I am not even kidding you; it works.

Background

Therapeutic Limit Setting was created by Garry Landreth. It was originally presented as a 10-week field therapy training for professionals. The process is based on child-parent relationship therapy, which tackles behavioral issues caused by trauma in kids. This can be anything from experiencing death of a loved one to abuse to witnessing an arrest or violence. Many cases are less severe and can be things you may not even realize (i.e. behavioral issues from older children when a new sibling is born).

This therapy is known to decrease negative behaviors, increase a trusting relationship between the child and adult, empower children by increasing their responsibilities and self-control, and increase the child’s self-esteem and confidence. Studies show that practicing this form of limit setting and choices for just 30 minutes each week still impacts the child. Limit setting becomes the child’s natural language so much that they will request choices from authority and learn to internalize the process to make their own choices. In his film, Choices, Cookies & Kids, Garry Landreth says, “When we walk down the road five years from now, it will be crystal clear what we need to do right now.”

ACT

The process of setting limits is through a series of steps referred to as ACT. Not surprisingly, you can easily do this with adults as well and get equally positive results.

First, A = Acknowledge the FEELING – When you do this, use YOU statements rather than *I.* Use this time to point out both good and bad feelings. Keep this brief, non-confrontational and keep moving through the steps. Examples include:
  • You really like playing outside.
  • You are upset right now.
  • You are so excited!
  • You are frustrated.
Next, C = Communicate the LIMIT – Again, be specific, clear and brief. Do not transition from A to C with “but” or end C with “though.” This will feel unnatural and take some practice. It’s okay to think it in your head, but when children hear those words, they feel the limit is a justification of some sort rather than the rule and they are less likely to respond. A limit is simple:
  • It’s time for school.
  • It’s time to go to bed.
  • We do not hit.
  • We walk on the sidewalk.
Finally, T = Target ALTERNATIVES - Give two choices that are acceptable to you as the caregiver. The choices should seem equal in your mind. One should not be more powerful than the other. When giving your child the alternatives, use the word “choice” or “choose” four times. Children like power. Is this news to any parents out there? It IS okay to let your child feel powerful. This is something they must learn as they grow up. Example:
  • It’s your choice. You can choose one more minute on the iPad or you can choose two more minutes on the iPad. What is your choice?
Repeat the cycle up to three times. Give children up to a minute each time to think about and make a choice. If children provide a third choice, even if it is an acceptable choice, stick with the first two. You can transition the conversation back to your lead by saying, “You do really want to do number three. That is not a choice right now. You can choose number one or you can choose number two. What is your choice?” If the child does not make a choice, end the session with “You choose for mommy to decide. I choose number two.” It is okay if your child chooses number one at this point as long as they follow through with the choice and it was in your limits.

Rules of Thumb

Garry Landreth also has general rules of thumb for implanting ACT conversations with your child. One is, “Be a thermostat not a thermometer.” As an adult, surround yourself with positive energy rather than negative. Choose the Tiggers over the Eeyores. Love your kids enough to admit your mistakes. Learn to RESPOND rather than to REACT. A thermostat is constant and regulates the temperature. A thermometer fluctuates and moves from hot to cold and back. Be your child’s thermostat. They have to see you as calm to stay calm themselves.

Another rule of thumb is, “Don’t try to change everything at once.” Start by implementing ACT during play time to set limits. Use peaceful examples, things that do not matter in the grand scheme of things. For multiple children, focus on one at a time. Others will naturally mirror the actions.

Finally, and most importantly, “When your child is drowning, don’t try to teach them to swim.” Limit setting does NOT prevent tantrums. In my experience it has absolutely helped, but once your child gets to a tantrum, they need you to be on their level and they need time to process those feelings. They will not hear you and they will not understand their punishments while they are in the middle of a tantrum. This does NOT fix situations while your child is in the middle of a tantrum.

A tantrum is a drowning brain. To understand what a drowning brain is like, think of it like this: Babies are born with brains like dragons. When they are hungry, the dragon wakes up, and they cry. When they have a dirty diaper, the dragon wakes up, and they cry. As a child grows, a wise owl comes to perch on top of the dragon while it is quiet. When the child gets irritated, the dragon wakes up and where does the wise owl go? The brain is not fully formed until age 25. You have to set limits NOW so your child can make decisions before the dragon wakes up. Your child NEEDS the wise owl to stay. The drowning brain is STRESSED. Teach your child when he or she is afloat.

What questions do you have? Are you intrigued about this process?  

Practice these steps and next month come back for the second half, when I’ll discuss how to take these steps and encourage your children to understand their choices and avoid consequences. Children need to be empowered. Our futures depend on it.

Heather C. is the owner and blogger for Our Magical Chaos. She uses the lessons her kids teach her to take each day at a time and embrace the twists life throws at her. Being a parent is what she knows best. Our Magical Chaos features stories, product reviews, and tips for parents just trying to make it through. You can like Our Magical Chaos on Facebook or follow Heather on Twitter.  Heather is also a volunteer for her local NICU. She specializes in parenting girls, all things twins and living life to the fullest.

First time here? Like Mumbling Mommy on Facebook to continue the conversation!
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Our Quarterly Charity: Nurses for Newborns

We are continuing with our new charity feature at Mumbling Mommy. We have committed to donate a portion of our advertising revenue to a different charity that supports children or families every quarter. From April through June, we'll be highlighting Nurses for Newborns. 

Here are a few quick facts from Nurses for Newborns' website: 
  • Nurses for Newborns operates in Missouri and Tennessee and provides in-home nursing visits to at-risk families to prevent infant mortality, abuse, and neglect. They advocate for health care, education, and good parenting skills. 
  • Nurses for Newborns serves families with babies born with medical issues, mothers who are teens or who have disabilities or mental health concerns, and families who don't have enough money for basic needs. 
  • Through donations from the public, they also provide families with diapers, clothing, toys, bedding, baby food, formula and more.
Editors’ Note: Mumbling Mommy supports charities that have a four-star rating at charitynavigator.org

While you're here, take a look at other charities we've featured: 

Alex's Lemonade Stand

Operation Christmas Child

Making a Bunny Cake - My Easter Tradition


By Alyssa --

I am sure everyone has memories of things their parents made or did during holidays. Easter and April is a special month for me. I love the spring, the feeling of new color blooming outside, and warm air. As a child I loved having family over and chasing down Easter eggs to put in my basket, then counting all the coins I got for my loot.

In fact I love Easter so much I waited to go to the hospital while semi in labor until after my Easter was over with my family. Ha! April is also full of birthdays in my family. My dad and I always had birthdays within 10 days of each other and then when we added a sister in law who shared the birthday month. Now my son has an April birthday. It just seems like a good month to celebrate!


My dad, sister-in-law, and I celebrating our birthdays with our Bunny Cake.

One of my favorite things about the month is making our annual 'bunny cake'. I grew up making this cake and now my kids love making it. It's very simple and it is fun to be creative. 
Directions for making a Bunny Cake!

The directions are simple:
  • You just use two round cake pans which consist of one box mix (following directions on the box and baking according to directions on the box for two round cakes).
  • You will cut one round cake to make ears and a bowtie (see picture below), the other round cake will be the face.
  • You only need one container of frosting (white) but you can add any food color to make it whatever color you want! I like to use a different color for the bowtie.
  • 
  • You can garnish with candy to make a face and decorate the bowtie. I use Twizzlers for whiskers and whatever I have laying around for eyes, nose, mouth, and buttons. Some examples are M & M's, Life Savers, Skittles, Mints, etc.  My kids also like to add coconut to the ears and collar to add texture like a bunny.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tips for Struggling Stay-at-Home Moms

By Lori --

Stay-at-home moms, if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times. “Don’t you get bored? When are you going back to work? You’re so lucky you have time to clean the house and make dinner.” 

While I would call myself fortunate in countless ways, and you’ll never catch me saying I’m not, that doesn’t mean I don’t face the occasional struggles that accompany staying at home. While it may be hard to admit there are times you feel overwhelmed, especially to your working friends who would love to be in your place, it’s okay to feel that way. Here are a few tips for stay-at-home moms who may need a little pick-me-up.

Find time for you.
A recent night out
with my dear friends.
When you are employed outside of the home, you have the responsibility of fulfilling all of your job duties. Some people are on call many hours of the day. Working parents may have just a few minutes of time alone -- maybe a lunch hour (or twenty minutes), a commute or even just a few minute's break when you chat with a friend in the break room.

When you’re a stay-at-home mom to young children, you don’t get many breaks if your children don’t nap. Right now I have two children at home, including one who does not nap. He does attend preschool some afternoons, giving me the chance to quickly clean and write, which is the way I earn an income. While I adore my children, I find it a huge challenge to get even just a few minutes for me. In the nearly two years I have stayed at home, I have sat down and watched a television show while children napped fewer times than I can count on one hand. My husband realizes how busy my job is, so about once a month, he keeps the kids while three of my friends and I make a point to go have dinner and laugh and talk. It’s so refreshing! Usually just those few hours away with my girlfriends leave me relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to return home to my babies.

Even though I don’t get much time alone, it’s a tradeoff I was very willing to take to be at home with my children. I’ve realized that being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean I have to stay at home. I make it a point to set up play dates so my kids get some social interaction, plus I get some time with adults, too. Getting out for just a couple of hours each day can really help boost all of our moods!

Find a hobby.
If you are able to get some time away, it’s important for women to find a hobby. Doing something you love can help alleviate feelings many stay-at-home moms have: that this very important job isn’t fulfilling. Often, stay-at-home moms find themselves enthralled in their children’s lives — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but it may leave these moms feeling as if they have nothing going on with themselves. Whether you like photography, piano, reading, writing or cooking, finding an activity that makes you happy will help you find your sense of self again. Moms rarely get the credit they deserve, so doing something that lets you be more than “just” mom is so important.

I love these faces, but sometimes I need a break!
Truly enjoy the time with your children.
It’s essential to view this time at home with your children as a special time. There will be plenty of years to get a job, but you cannot get back the time with your small children. While it was a transition for me to stay at home and leave my full-time job outside of the home, I’ve now settled into a beautiful routine. Working part time from home and growing alongside of my children each and every day has been wonderful. I love seeing each of the milestones in my children’s lives firsthand. As a stay-at-home mom, I always aim to remember that I have a job – a very important one. It’s my job to nurture and teach my young children. While the rewards may feel small some days, they are, in reality, life changing. When you are home day after day, sometimes it’s easy to take those moments for granted because you know you have many more days at home.



Staying at home all day with children is far from a simple job. It requires adjustment, time talking with friends, and it can be totally crazy. But it is something I know is worth it. Childcare costs make quitting easy for many moms, but I always knew I wanted to stay home even if I only had one child. Lucky for me, once we had our second child, the deal was sealed and it became a reality. I can safely say I’d never change being home and missing out on these kisses and hugs, the “Mommy, I love you’s,” and even the constant snack serving, the tears and tantrums (okay, I could do without the tantrums!). While it’s sometimes a struggle to stay at home, I know it’s where I’m meant to be.

Lori is a work-at-home mom living in Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis. She is mom to two children ages 3 and 1 and enjoys watching them grow. Lori also enjoys taking walks, shopping, spending time with her husband and kids, reading, decorating, amateur photography and traveling. Leave her a comment below or e-mail her at mumblingmommy@mumblingmommy.com


 

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Earth-Friendly Easter: Opting Out of Plastic Eggs

By Rachael --

I’m a tree hugger. I recycle everything from cans to cardboard to junk mail. I maintain a compost pile behind our backyard shed. I keep a stash of cloth napkins for my family to use. I turn out the lights when I leave a room, and I adjust the thermostat before leaving the house for the morning. I like my 1,000-square foot house and our fuel-efficient vehicles because they have smaller carbon footprints. I shop at the local farmers’ market and grow some of my own veggies and herbs at home.


Hunting for jelly beans.
I’ve noticed certain holidays are not so environmentally friendly. There’s Christmas with all the gift wrap and packaging, most of which are recyclable, thankfully. Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day come with lots of gaudy beaded necklaces and bangles that get tossed in the trash later. Then there’s Easter, a holiday during which people feel compelled to purchase cheaply made little plastic eggs by the bagful, along with fake plastic grass. Some of that plastic may contain harmful products like lead or BPA. All those small trinkets also require energy and natural resources to produce – not to mention the fuel it takes to ship them from China where they’re manufactured. That wouldn’t be so bad if plastic eggs were things we actually kept and used for the long term. The reality is most of them end up clogging landfills once the holidays are done.

Every year my kids collect gadzoodles of plastic eggs from family and community celebrations. We save some to play with or to use the following Easter. I often dump the excess in our curbside recycling bin in hopes they might be recycled, but a brief Google search indicates most community recycling centers probably don’t accept plastic eggs. I’ve tried to get rid of them in garage sales, offering a giant grocery bag full of them for a quarter, but everyone has too many plastic eggs of their own back at home. One of my friends returned the plastic eggs her kids got at a local egg hunt to the community center. She told the office staff she didn’t need them and maybe they could use them for next year’s hunt. They gave her puzzled looks, and we’re not sure what they actually did with the eggs.

For small family celebrations, it is possible to have fun during Easter without plastic eggs. My siblings and I hardly saw a plastic egg when we were kids. Our family did an indoor hunt with jelly beans and small chocolate eggs wrapped in colored foil. My parents would hide single jelly beans, or sometimes they grouped them in pairs, around the living room and dining room. They nestled in (freshly dusted) corners of bookshelves, on the piano keys, next to the VCR, in the lamp shades, and on end tables and dining chairs. It kind of grosses me out now, but my siblings and I were delighted to find foil-covered chocolate eggs in our shoes lined up by the front door. Sometimes we forgot to check in a shoe and found an egg days later when we pushed our toes against it. My family’s tradition lives on with my young daughters.

Another way to celebrate Easter without so many plastic eggs is to use real hard-boiled eggs (just be sure to follow food safety guidelines and don’t leave eggs out of the fridge too long). You can also use more natural types of materials to make reusable containers or bags in which to hide treats. Try making handcrafted wool felt eggs, painting nesting dolls to look like bunnies, or crafting felt bunny bags. Craft treat holders out of recycled toilet paper or paper towel rolls that can be tossed in the recycling bin when Easter is done. You can also use hollow wooden eggs. You can also consider going easy on the candy and giving small toys like jump ropes or consumable gifts like markers and paint.

For an alternative to the fake plastic grass, try shredded paper, which is recyclable and less toxic if the cat decides to have a nibble. Most of the time, I don’t put any type of “grass” in the baskets. Who wants to waste time fishing around in that stuff to find the jelly beans?

For the plastic eggs that do find their way into our house from community or family venues, I’ve got a few ideas. Maybe I’ll turn them into little teacups, bumblebees, or alphabet matching games. Who knew there were so many ways to reuse eggs?

How do you celebrate holidays in an earth-friendly way? 

Rachael is associate editor for Mumbling Mommy. She previously worked as a newspaper editor and reporter and has a bachelor's degree in English and writing from Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not busy with her husband and two daughters, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, singing with ladies from church, or reading Charlotte Bronte novels. You can contact her by e-mailing Rachael@mumblingmommy.com.
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cake Decorating Ideas for People Who Hate Decorating Cakes

By Elizabeth --

I have a confession to make. Even though I love baking decadent cakes and desserts, I'm not very good at traditional cake decorating. I don’t like squeezing icing out of a bag, I always lose those little decorator tips, and I’ve never learned how to make pretty little roses and leaves anyway. I can use fondant a little, but that’s about the extent of my icing skills. (And yes, I know about the pre-made, canned “easy-to-use” icings, but I don’t like the way that they taste.)

One of these days I’d like to take a cake-decorating class. But in the meantime, there are a lot of easier ways to decorate a cake for Easter, birthday parties, or any time you want to make a special treat.

Arrange, don’t decorate

With a few inexpensive supplies, you can make beautiful toppers for your special occasion cakes and barely use icing at all. For spring or Easter cakes, choose a theme that fits your party, such as “spring garden,” “bunnies,” or “Easter eggs.” Then try fresh flowers in small baskets, small stuffed toys, pastel candies, or any seasonal décor that is small and easy to use. Our local dollar store has tons of seasonal décor that is cheap and fun.

I used this method when my younger son requested a Peter Rabbit cake for his birthday this year. I looked on Pinterest for inspiration. My favorite had a 3-D Peter Rabbit surrounded by garden vegetables, all carefully sculpted out of pastel fondant. It was beautiful, but it looked much more advanced and time-consuming than I could manage.

Instead, I took the idea of “Peter Rabbit and his garden” and used an actual stuffed toy and real vegetables. I went to an upscale grocery store and bought the prettiest, smallest vegetables I could. I got a watering can and a plastic flower pot at the dollar store and topped it all off with a little stuffed Peter Rabbit.

The cake is a basic vanilla sheet cake, and I frosted it with lemon buttercream frosting. I bought a foam board at the dollar store and cut out two pieces: one larger than the cake and one slightly smaller than the top of the cake. I had my kids paint the foam boards to look like “grass,” using acrylic paint.

To protect the cake, I took four plastic cups and cut the bottoms off, leaving about 1 inch. I put these cut-sides down on the four corners of the cake to create four “feet” for the foam board. This way I could take off the foam board to cut and serve the cake without losing the top layer of frosting.

The easiest part was the assembly. I surrounded the Peter Rabbit toy with his vegetables, and voila, I had a beautiful cake in just a few minutes. The whole “decorating” process took less than half an hour, including waiting for the paint to dry.  My son loved it, especially since I kept the toy a surprise until the last minute.

Use Berries

Berries are a natural fit for spring and summer cakes. Growing up, we ate a lot of angel food cake topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Simple and delicious; and of course you can buy the cake pre-made and just top it. So easy!

·     Strawberries - pair best with sweet, mild-flavored white or yellow cakes. Favorites are angel food cake, silver white (“wedding”-style) cake, pound cake, or white chocolate cake.

·     Blueberries - Tart blueberries, such as the frozen variety, pair very well with chocolate. Sweeter, milder blueberries are good for the same cakes as strawberries. Or mix the two 50/50 for extra color and flavor.

·     Raspberries - They’re fine with milder cakes, but if they have a strong flavor, you might only taste the raspberries and not the cake. Their tart flavor holds up really well with dark chocolate, which is why that pair is such a classic.

Using Frozen Berries:

Frozen berries do not hold their shape, but they have great flavor. They are better for using on individual cake slices than as a topping on a whole cake. They will also produce juice, which will looks great on an unfrosted cake (angel food, pound cake), but it does not work well on top of buttercream frosting. It will dilute and stain the frosting and look messy instead of artistic.

Defrost in the fridge overnight or in the microwave for about 1 minute. Toss with 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon sugar and allow to “rest” for at least one hour. Serve individual slices of cake with a spoonful of berries and either a dollop of whipped cream or a dusting of powdered sugar.

Using Fresh Berries:

Choose large, attractive berries that are fairly even in size. I love fresh berries on layer cakes. For a simple but lovely chocolate cake, drizzle melted chocolate between the layers and top with fresh raspberries and more drizzled chocolate and/or chocolate curls. For vanilla cakes, smear whipped cream-based or cream cheese-based frosting between the layers (and a few sliced berries, if desired). Top with another layer of frosting (you don’t need to coat the sides!) and arrange the fresh berries on the center of the top, leaving a 1” “frame” of frosting around them. A little bit of powdered sugar sifted over the top is pretty, but it will disintegrate quickly. Only use powdered sugar right before you’re ready to serve.

Use Chocolate

Chocolate is the lazy decorator’s dream, and you don’t need any special tools. You can shave it into curls with a vegetable peeler or shape them over a rolling pin. You can melt it, place it in a sandwich bag, snip off the end, and drizzle it beautifully over just about anything. You can even get fancy and create chocolate leaves (mint leaves work great for this.) Try mixing white and dark chocolates for your curls and leaves for extra impact.


Buy Edible Flowers

Many large grocery stores sell edible flowers in the produce or floral department.  They’re not cheap, but they are much cheaper buying a professionally decorated cake. They are prettiest on top of a simple white buttercream frosting. Just sprinkle them on and enjoy. Or surround them with pastel candies to “frame” the flowers nicely. They would be seasonal and festive for a holiday, baby shower, girl’s birthday cake, or Mother’s Day.

What are your favorite easy cake decorating methods? Share them here!




Elizabeth is a full-time stay-at-home mom, part-time professor, and loves to cook with her family. Contact her by emailing her at mumblingmommy@mumblingmommy.com  

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