Thursday, April 24, 2014

Emotional Birthdays: Shedding Tears and Years

By Katie --

I admit to getting a little emotional each time one of my kids or stepkids has a birthday. I usually cry the night before, grieving another year lost of their childhoods, then rise with the sun to make a fancy breakfast for everyone to enjoy, tears falling into the pancake batter. When my firstborn turned five last year, there were a few weeks of random, unexplained crying outbursts that left my husband wondering if I needed to talk to a therapist. I didn't talk to one. And I recovered. But something about the passing of time, marked so distinctly by my children's birthdates, stirs up emotions inside of me that are difficult to explain.
6 years old today

Today my firstborn turns 6. I'm nearing the end of a turbulent first trimester and so my tears seem to be coming in waves this year. For the past month or so she has been reminding my husband and I that she is "5 and three-quarters." When the dentist recently reminded my daughter that she needed to quit sucking her thumb at night before the adult teeth come in, Emilia asked me to buy her a box of princess Band-Aids.
Every night since, she has unwrapped one and put it on her sucking thumb after brushing her teeth. She has not put that thumb in her mouth even once since she implemented her own quitting policy, and that has even meant giving up her favorite blankie. Instead of holding it (which makes her want to suck her thumb, she tells us), she simply places it under her pillow. For many years I've half-heartedly tried to help her break the thumb-sucking habit but never with a whole lot of luck. She came up with this recent, successful plan all on her own and something about her thought process and determination has really impressed me (admittedly, I am easily impressed). 

She took ownership of the task and didn't wait for me to tell her what she should do. She's growing up sooooo fast.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Homemade Coconut (or Almond) Milk is Easier than you Think


Because of my oldest daughter’s IBS, our family consumes a pretty limited amount of dairy. By swapping out for some alternatives and doing a lot of trial and error, we've found that we really like almond milk as well as coconut milk.

As we've continued on our journey to attack her symptoms as well as some other medical concerns I was having as naturally as possible we really began researching and studying labels. The results, in our opinion, were very alarming and we set out on a journey to start making our own milk.

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.

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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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