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?