Sunday, August 24, 2014

Taking your Toddler on a Short Term Mission Trip - the emotional side

Despite our efforts in life to expose ourselves and our family to diversity, most of the people with whom we interact on a day to day basis look, dress, and think a lot alike. They live in the same types of homes and have the same type of life rhythms. We don’t want O to grow up unaware of or unconcerned with either the weaknesses OR strengths of the world beyond her home.  And because of that, we decided this summer to take her on our church's annual mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  The details of that trip and relationship are enough for a separate post.  But today, I wanted to address some of the "why" of going and how it turned out for us.

The bible would say “raise up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.” As a speech pathologist, it’s my job to take big goals like “Raise up O in the way she should go” or “O will not depart from the ways we’ve taught her.” into short term, measurable goals. And of course, there will be different goals for each age dependent on her developmental level, emotional level, and knowledge level.

So this year, I set a few (hopefully measurable) goals for my family that we worked on before the DR and continued to work on while we were there and now have to keep in mind once we're home. Some of them are very basic and you might even laugh when you hear them. But we though that each of them was a “first step” toward that bigger goal of raising her in the way she should go. Here's the goals and how I phrased them/thought about them before we left...

1.O will listen, obey, and be polite. She might not like it, but we expect her to stop when an adult says stop, come when an adult says come, and pay attention when someone is speaking to her. She is expected to follow short, simple directions and be a productive part of society (e.g., throwing away her own trash, cleaning up her own messes). When she asks for something, she should say please. If she doesn’t, I often will prompt her by asking what nice words she should use.

2. Olivia will try new foods. She doesn’t have to eat the whole thing. But she does have to tolerate items on her plate and hopefully will even put items in her mouth and chew (even if she then spits it out). We do plan to travel with preferred foods/snacks too just in case.

3. Olivia will observe her surroundings. When we walk or ride on buses/trains/planes, we ask “what do you see?” and then follow up with conversation about things we see. We try hard to point out what we can actually observe and not to make judgments about it. (aka, “I see a woman with children” is different than “I see a mother and children.”)
4. Olivia will wait. Travel requires patience and toddlers don’t have much of that. When she requests something (either formally or informally), I often expect her to be able to wait a few seconds or a few minutes for that item. If the wait is going to be unusually long, then I’ll try to distract her with a different, preferred item while she waits. We also use a lot of “first XXX, then YYY.”

5. Olivia will display a spirit of adventure. At home, this means that while we have a typical routine, when fun things come up like visiting friends or attending special events, we don't let our schedule dictate when we say yes or no. To this end, we expect her to participate in all of the activities we do in whatever way she’s capable—even if that means sleeping in the carrier while we are out and about. I think “participating in whatever way she’s capable” is easy when we’re playing with kiddos in HdY or going on team outings/adventures. I’m not really sure what it looks like during medical days, construction days, but we’re all going to figure that out together this year.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Happy Birthday to my big 2 year old

I'm almost a month behind in writing this post... and as I start to write it, I went to look at my 21 month post and realized I never wrote that either.  I dream of having more time to chronicle Miss O's life, but honestly it hasn't been a huge priority for me recently.  As Miss O gets bigger, I continue to struggle (in good ways) to find space for me as mother, me as wife, me as employee, and me as child of God in the very few hours per day that we're all allotted.  Sometimes in the evening, I think through a blog post, but I can't bring my fingers to dance over the keys to actually write one.  But today, I'll take the time, since it's been more than 6 months since I told the world about how amazing my little (now BIG) girl is!

Miss O has learned to run.  She's so cute when she does.  She clenches her fists and pumps are arms back and forth and shouts "run run run!" while she does.  Occasionally she giggles and says "gonna get you!" instead.  She's so powerful.  We're also seeing more jumping and climbing than before.  And she can maneuver challenging situations better than she used to-- she's not so afraid to be "stuck" at the top of a step stool or alone while sitting in a big-person chair.  

In the last month or two, she's definitely outgrown her "baby" puzzles- the ones where each piece fits in it's own hole.  I'm struggling to figure out which toys would be best for her next to develop both brain power and fine motor skills.  We've started a little beading (but she needs a lot of support to sustain this task for more than a couple minutes) and we're also doing cutting (with a pair of scissors auntie Heather got us for our birthday).  Miss O also loves painting at school-- I want to be bold enough to get the normal paints out at home, but I picture a huge mess... so we're sticking with water colors for now, for which the mess is slightly more contained.  It's hard for O to coordinate water -> paints -> paper... she sometimes forgets to do the paint or wants to do ALL the paints but no water.  But she's happy while she does it and I don't care about the end product, just the imaginative spirit and the motor task of doing it. 

I wouldn't say that O has become a "picky" eater, but she definitely has her preferences... which are likely played into by my fatigue in coming up with new things.  She'd eat nothing but cheese and fruit if I let her.  On occasion she'll sneak some meats in via lunch meat or hunks of chicken if we have it in our dinner.  And if all else is failing for food, she's really happy with mac and cheese, spaghetti, or home made pizza, so as much as I don't love making grains a HUGE part of her diet, we do a fair amount of them at this point.  Vegetables are more challenging, because of flavor and texture both, I think.  But she loves a green smoothie, so I sneak spinach and kale in that way.  And she doesn't mind pureed pumpkin or squash or sweet potato mixed in with applesauce or tomato sauce or even a cheese sauce, as long as I'm careful with flavors and portions.  So I do that too.  And I figure as long as we're focused on "healthy" for now, then variety of veggies will come as I can reason with her more.

In february, I was pretty anxious about Miss O's language.  I was contemplating getting a hold of a doc earlier than her 2 year visit to try to schedule a meeting with a pediatric SLP who could help me figure out why her "language explosion" wasn't happening yet.  But around the time we went to Panama City Beach (mid-march), the explosion finally started... We started seeing two word combinations -- first basics like "more please" and "no want" and now onto more complex things like "kitty floor" and "booboo hurt."  After models, she'll string 3-4 words together like "mama, more please" or "my yogurt spoon," but these types of things are far more the exception than the rule.  I still feel like she's fluttering around on the low end of normal, but her receptive language is SO excellent and her social pragmatics are good, so I try not to get worried.  Expressive language will continue to come with time.  It's not uncommon for other moms at school to say "she's so little, I forget how old she is," but I don't think it's her size, I think it's her slower speech that makes her seem little to everyone.  There's a boy that is just one month older than her who talks WAY more, and even the teachers say to me, "but he's SO much older..." and he's really not.

The big, exciting news that really prompts me to finally write is that we're officially potty training!  O first expressed interest in the potty at 15 months.  But since I have been working essentially full time, it's been hard to commit to it.  We've gone through phases where we do treats or stickers for sitting on the potty, but I couldn't get anything consistent.  On the rare occasion that I'd begin a potty "boot camp" on a Saturday morning, I'd give up after the 4th or 5th accident in the afternoon.  But about 2 weeks ago now, O had a bowel movement on the potty 4 evenings in a row! So last weekend, I decided to get serious and O had an "unfurnished basement" weekend.  We only had 2 accidents the whole time, and both were while she was running to the potty.

This week, I've been doing unfurnished basement in the morning and evening and letting her do diapers at school (mostly because school doesn't seem to care whether I want to potty train her right now or not... ugh... the topic of a whole different post).  And we haven't had any accidents at all.  We're coming up on 3-day Memorial Day weekend, so I'm hoping to move from unfurnished basement to cloth undies and still be successful.  Then we'll switch to pull ups at school, undies at home... my goal is to never buy another diaper in my life!  We'll see if I'm being realistic or not... :-)

Okay, that's probably about it for now... I'll leave you with these two pics, taken on her actual 2nd birthday.  Not a bad smile, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Keeping your Toddler in Bed

Because Miss O co-slept through infancy, we didn't have a TON of trouble keeping her in her bed when we moved to a toddler bed in her own room around 16 months.  Sure, there's the occasional night that she would get up and come to the living room when she heard us and friends chatting during our Financial Peace University class or Bible Study.  And we've had a few sleep-walking type events at midnight or 1am.  But these things are truly the exception not the rule.

Mornings, too, haven't been a huge issue.  Because O loves cuddling in our bed (and so do we!), if she wakes up "too early" in the morning, she comes straight to our room.  So long as she has a binki, she cuddles in just fine for a few more minutes of rest for mama and dada.  And again, while it's rare, a little Curious George on an iPhone will keep her busy for 30-60 minutes if mom and dad want to sleep LATE (aka, 9am).

But even before O, we had friends who SWORE by the concept of a toddler clock.  You might know the type (this one seems to be the most famous brand).  The idea of these clocks is that your toddler learns what colors mean what-- blue as time to go to bed, yellow as time to wake up (or get out of bed)... and the fancier ones have timer functions as well with red for "time out" and green as "reward time."  I've always heard AMAZING things about these guys.  And even considered buying one, not as a need to keep O in bed, but as a want to teach her independence with her daily routine/schedule.  The problem for this cheap-o mama... these guys can cost $50!!!

But this week, I learned about a GREAT idea that I think would possibly work just as well.  The simple dial timer!  My family bought these a couple years back when our home was broken into.  We decided to put timers on the living room lights so that they come on and off in the evening, even while we're out.  And despite the fact that our anxiety about burglars has significantly reduced, I still enjoy having the timer on difficult to reach lamps.  I change the times along with the sunset times at different times of year too, which helps cut down on using lights during the day time when we can use sunlight from the windows instead.

But the brilliant idea this week was to install one of these little guys onto a lamp or string of Christmas lights in the toddler's room!  You can set the timer to turn the string of lights on at the "right" time to get up and out of bed.  With the slightly fancier ones, you could even set a second timer to turn the lights on at the end of a previously scheduled nap time too!  And the BEST part, these guys cost about $4-5!!  Amazing.

What work-arounds do you and your family use to save money in comparison to the typical item on the Toys'R'Us shelf?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

25 Days of Christmas

As many of you know, our family is VERY into the whole Advent Conspiracy movement in which we spend the month of December focusing on Spending Less, Giving More, Worshiping Fully, and Loving All.  A big part of that is reducing the money we spend at the holidays so that we can do more charitable giving.  Since Ben and I are still in the midst of our Debt Snowball,  we're not so much focusing on charitable giving in large amounts yet.  But we do want to set up some traditions and teach these values to O.

A while back, I saw this idea floating around pinterest and I LOVE it.  So I decided to begin instating in this new tradition this year...

Instead of an Advent Calendar with trinkets, toys, or candy inside, I decided to wrap up our Christmas books!  Then, instead of looking at all of our Christmas books all at one time, O will have the opportunity to open one each day leading up to Christmas.

In order to keep this activity cheap, I've actually been on the look out all year for used and otherwise cheap Christmas books at the Goodwill and at garage sales.  You'd be amazed how many there are, even in July!  Sure, the ones I have aren't necessarily my "all time favorites" right now, but I figure as the years go on, we can weed out, replace, and add to this collection until it becomes Olivia's favorites from her own childhood.  The idea is that you wrap each one, and then number them, opening the one that corresponds with the date each day.

I'll admit that we don't have 25 of them yet… I only own 15 Christmas books at present.  But that works out nicely, since we're not starting until today (12/3), and we are going out of town on 12/18… so we won't be able to continue from 12/18 until 12/25 anyway.

It sort of seems counter intuitive to "teach" Olivia to open one present per day when we're also trying to teach her that the holiday season isn't about gifts.  But here's the lessons that I think are important for her to learn:

1) Being grateful - While Santa isn't going to spray our house with a million gifts on 12/24 and Mom and Dad don't believe in a ton of gifts bought at retail value, O will receive many gifts during her lifetime from family and friends.  It's important to learn to accept gifts graciously and be be happy with each one you receive.

2) Patience - the idea of delayed gratification is very hard to teach any child, much less a toddler.  We may not be totally successful at doing this, the idea of seeing 15 wrapped presents and only getting to open one each day might be hard.  But if we can start instilling this now, maybe it will reduce or prevent the obnoxious habit that many of us (me included!) had as a child to open 15 presents in a row, as fast as possible, and then be bored or disappointed 15 minutes later when it's all over.

3) Reminiscing - this year, all the books will be new for O.  But next year and in the years to come, these will be "old friends" that she remembers from the past and enjoys again, as if they were new!  I have fond memories of the time of year in which my family got out the Christmas books, set them out in the living room to be read over and over for the month.  It was nice to see so many "old friends" on the bookshelf that I'd forgotten about in the 11 months between holidays.

4) Quality Time - each day when we open a book, we'll sit down and read it together, as well as the other books that we've already opened.  Olivia loves to sit on mama and dada's lap and look at pictures.  When we do this, we're not just teaching about receiving a present, we're teaching about spending quality time with family during the holidays-- it's an interaction, not just an item.

5) The Joy of Reading - simply put, any time I can teach my child to love a book instead of a plastic toy that makes noise, I'm thrilled.  I could blather on about that, but it would be a whole post of it's own.  There are all sorts of 'pre reading' skills that are important for O to learn at this age though-- holding a book right side up, turning from left to right, pointing at the pictures and commenting on each page, etc.

And for your viewing pleasure, I thought you'd appreciate the beginnings of our other Holiday pictures from this week…

but before you scroll down, in what ways are you and your family giving less presents and giving more presence this year???

Friday, October 25, 2013

Baby O is 18 months!

I can't get over it.  She's 18 months old.  A year and a half.  I'll be honest, I'm not the mom who's in awe on a daily basis of her kid.  She's work.  And she's challenging.  And many times, I'm over it.  And even if I'm not over it, I'm often so busy, I don't stop to smell the roses.  But occasionally, I stop.  And look.  And remember.  And I'm amazed how far we've come.  So where are we?

Motor... Eh.  Gross motor changes aren't that exciting between 15-18 months.  She walks.  She practically runs.  She climbs.  I guess the "exciting" thing is that she goes a lot farther before she gives up and wants to get in the stroller.

Fine motor isn't too much more exciting... She's been self-feeding pretty well for 3 months or more, using spoon, fork, and straw cup along with finger foods.  Now when she does "fine motor" tasks, though, it seems more exciting about the learning tasks that are going with it, not just the motor movement.  She has a little toy, given to her by Auntie K, which has 4 different animals that pop up.  They pop up with different "buttons" - one left/right, one up/down, one just a push button, a 4th is a "turn key."  Over the past 3 months, she's figured out how to get ALL of them!  She's also now doing way better at putting wooden puzzle pieces in-- sometimes she's a little rough, but if she finagles 'em long enough, she usually slides them into the right spot.  Oh!  And she builds SUPER tall towers with her blocks.... and then smashes the blocks right onto the floor. :-)

Since the 15 month mark, we continued to wean toward full time real food.  I really thought for a while we were going to be night nursing until she was in kindergarten!  But this fall, she transitioned from home babysitter to day care.  Literally over night she started sleeping through the night-- no night nursing.  We've even had several day periods that O hasn't asked to nurse at all.  Once I thought our relationship was over and without warning.  But she still does ask to nurse occasionally... usually in the early morning when she wakes up and sometimes when she's sleepy or sad in the evenings.

Eating is becoming more challenging some times.  Her favorite foods are definitely dairy-- cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt.  Sometimes I worry that all she ever eats is cheese and fruit.  But when I'm lucky (like I was tonight), she will also dip little pieces of pulled pork into peppercorn ranch dressing and then ACTUALLY chew and swallow them!  Then I feel like a real mom... feeding her more than goldfish crackers.

And I guess that leaves learning/language stuff-- I'm amazed at Miss O's brain.  She can take all the puzzle pieces out and then put all 8 animals back in the right place in her farm animal puzzle.  She even does them in the order you request if you point at the spots-- her matching skills are amazing.  She follows a ton of simple commands/directions like "Take your diaper to the trash," and "Give the bowel to Nana."  But her expressive language is frustrating to me.  Somedays it seems like she's all vowels.  Sure, we get an occasional "baby!" and Mama and Dada are consistent at this point.  And "wa-wa" comes along with her WATER sign now.  But it seems like everything else is all intonation and no consonants.  "ah-ah!"  "ah-ooh!"  I just feel like we've never gotten a full "babble" and I'm (as an SLP) totally panicky about it.  Oh.  And then there's "pa-bo."  Eveyrthing is "pa-bo."  Its only been about a week, but I think I'm tired of "pa-bo" 'cause it seems to mean about 5 different things.  And I don't know how to tell which is which.

Okay... it's late.  I'm gonna leave it there.  If I haven't said it yet, this is hard.  But I love it.  And I love her!  And when I look at these pictures, I can't help but giggle and my wonderful, smart, kind, and challenging little girl...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Am I the only one that didn't know these existed?

Many moons ago (maybe when I was pregnant?) I saw these cute little guys in a store while I was window shopping:

"Cute, funny, intriguing," I thought to myself, but I'm trying to get out of debt here... I really don't want or need to spend money on these things.  But when I saw a similar product on a shelf at a CVS (or was it Walgreens), a few months ago for a lower price (I think I paid $3), I decide to go for it!  I mean, sure, the ones I got were plain yellow with no cute hedge hog face... but come on... I waste more than $3 on other things, even if this was a flop, it was worth trying.

Little did I know that The Dryer Ball would be my new favorite invention!  Have these things always existed and I just didn't know it?  We L-O-V-E our dryer balls.  Let me count the ways...

1) My mom always told me never to use dryer sheets with towels.  Not sure why.  Something about making them less fluffy?  Or less effective?  Yeah... less effective... which I never really understood, but did anyway.  But now that I process it, it makes sense because...

2) You're not supposed to use dryer sheets with cloth diapers, because the dryer sheet leaves a coating on the cloth diaper that makes it less absorbent.  So any load that I wash that has cloth diapers in it, automatically no dryer sheets.  And that means that the clothes in that load (I often wash my own delicates with Olivia's cloth diapers) don't get the benefit of dryer sheets either!

3) Here's the kicker... did you know... that... the dryer sheet not only coats your clothes, but it also coats the inside of the dryer?  So if you use a dryer sheet with one load, then the little dryer sheet particles will still be in there for the next load... thus even when I keep the dryer sheet out of my cloth diaper load, they're getting residuals from other loads!

and 4)... you all knew this was coming... not only is it a green choice (less waste, not disposable, made of good stuff...) but it's CHEAPER!  These things last supposedly forever.  So my initial investment of $3 divided over the number of loads I'll use them for???  WAY CHEAPER THAN DRYER SHEETS!  What a win. :-)

Ben and I have started using these little guys in all of our laundry.  We don't have a single issue with static cling.  I think we actually have less lint.  And our diapers are SUPER absorbent, rarely ever need stripping.

All in all, I HIGHLY recommend 'em!

What's your favorite green/cheap household product/invention?

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Weaning (the process of transitioning from breastmilk or formula to adult/table food) is, like many other things in parenting, something that each diad or triad has to figure out for themselves.  There's no "right" answer or way to do it.  So if you're reading this looking for advice, please don't feel like this is a prescription for what to do.  Just a description of how we did it, in case that's helpful for you and your family.

Miss O was fully breast fed or nursed until I went back to work at 3 months.  We did occasional bottles during that time, to get her used to someone else feeding her (see this post for an explanation).  But MOST of the food was with me.  At 3 months, I started pumping full time at work, which meant hiding out in my office 2-3 times per day with the double pump, so that O could have enough breast milk to last her during the day while she was at day care.  We continued on that pattern until 4ish months.

Between 4-5 months, we started giving O "tastes" of foods.  she'd lick a carrot (yes, raw) or we'd put a spoon full of something in her mouth for the flavor, knowing she'd push it back out with her tongue.  We did this just as she was beginning to sit up supported, such as in a bumbo chair or well supported in one of our laps.

At 5 months, the daycare provider told us "Olivia cries when other babies eat food and she doesn't have any!"  I know that her crying was about wanting to be part of the experience, not about hunger.  But it made me feel guilty anyway. :-)  Thus, even though we never really planned on doing purees at home (which reminds me I need to write a post about baby led weaning), I started sending 1-2 little containers of pureed veggies, fruits, or meats into day care for them to play with.  During this process, she still was getting all her required nutrition from breast milk.

Between 6 and 9 months, we started offering solid table foods.  This phase of the game took a LOT longer than I expected.  I thought my curious daughter would start eating food and really pull back on the breast milk... but no, she didn't.  I got more efficient with my pumping, so that I only needed to pump twice daily.  But I still was S.O.L. if I couldn't pump the 10-12 ounces she needed during the day.  That's why all of you who know me in real life started noticing how much weight I lost around 9 months!  I couldn't keep the girl satisfied with enough breast milk!

All of that leads me to the decision process on weaning.  By 12-13 months, several things had happened.  A, I was SO SICK of pumping at work. B, I'd increased from 20-32 hours, meaning that I'd have to pump even MORE than I used to.  C, Olivia had transitioned from day care 3 days a week to being home with our awesome summer nanny 4 days a week.  D, she was REALLY doing well with eating solid foods.  I could tell that she was doing more than playing with the food, actually eating it.  Our grocery bill was going up.  Table food was successful.  Thus, I decided the time was right to slow down on the breast milk and really increase the solid food intake to meet O's needs.  I felt like I needed to do one thing at a time-- night weaning or pump weaning.  And since I hated the pump so much... it was what I got rid of first.

The process of weaning from the pump was stressful to me.  I didn't know how much to pump, how frequently to pump.  I was worried about engorgement.  But it all worked out.  At 13 months, I started pumping less, but still twice a day.  A couple weeks later, I transitioned to pumping once a day but still on both sides.  And finally, I started pumping once a day, but only one side (alternating days).  At 14 months, I had a couple of really busy days at work, forgot to pump all together, and realized I survived!  Thus, I brought the pump home, sterilized it, and sold the darn thing!

Simultaneously, I weaned Olivia off bottles.  She went from 3 a day to 2 a day at around 12 months.  Then from 2 a day to 2 smaller ones per day around 13 months.  Then down to 1 a day at 13.5 months. By 14 months, she was getting a little 2 ounce bottle of breast milk, mostly just because she liked it and not for the calories.  Then, of course, I'd stopped pumping.  But I had this frozen stash of breastmilk that I'd been managing all along since storing up during my maternity leave.  So I decided we should continue with the little "snack bottles" until it was all gone.  I started defrosting 2 ounces at a time, and MOST days, O would drink one.  Though some times either the nanny or daddy would forget.  At this point (we're nearing 16 months), we have one week left with summer time nanny and then O goes back to daycare.  The timing is going to work out perfectly, because I have about 8 ounces of breast milk left in the freezer!  I can't believe how many transitions are happening this fall.  But at the end of next week, no more bottles, no more breast milk in the freezer will be one of them!  Crazy, right?

At 15 months, I also started getting tired of night nursing.  We were still waking twice per night (midnight and 4ish) to nurse.  And though we have a "family bed" and a montessori bed next to it, O can come and go as she pleases, the lack of consecutive sleep had begun to wear on me big time.  So, Ben and I flip flopped places in bed and we started night weaning.  It's taken about a month to get it down consistently, but O is going from 7pm to 6 am more often than not without nursing.  She frequently wakes and cries at which point daddy will soothe her back to sleep with a pacifier, back rub, and some water from the straw cup if needed.  But night nursing is essentially done.  Even on nights when daddy isn't home, we can get the same pattern with me (though I am more likely to just nurse her if she wakes... I'm lazy when I'm woken out of REM sleep).

All in all, it's been successful and by 16 months, I think we'll be consistently only nursing about twice daily-- morning before day care and evening before bed.  I hope we'll continue that pattern and relationship through the rest of this year (up until O's 2nd birthday in April), but I think she'll tell me when she's ready to be done.

How did you and your family decide to wean?  Cold turkey? Night wean first then bottle wean? Other?