Thursday, April 29, 2010

Giveaway - Robeez Soft Soled Shoes

Does anyone else have a mini-crush on Jamie Oliver of the Food Revolution? I know he’s not the cutest man ever but his passion for food makes me drool a little bit. It’s also inspired me to try to be a better mom and get my kids eating healthier. Not that we eat all that terribly, mind you. But life gets busy and sometimes I find myself reverting to Happy Meals and Ritz packs more often than I would like. So I’m on the lookout for new ideas for healthy kid snacks. Comment on this post with an idea for a healthy snack for kids and you’ll be entered in this month’s give-away for a pair of Robeez soft soled shoes!

Robeez are adorable little shoes that are made specifically for wee ones. Their super soft soles allow the shoes to fit gently around babies’ feet so that babies can wear shoes but still have the flexibility needed for their developing feet. Kasia and I tried them out last month; you can see my review here: Robeez Review.

When you comment, make sure you include your first name and e-mail address so we can let you know you’ve won. You also might also want to add your e-mail to the mailing list for this blog so that you know when we have our next contest! The deadline for this contest is May 17th. Good luck and happy spring!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review - BabyLegs

Kasia and I got to try out BabyLegs this month. BabyLegs are adorable leg warmers for babies and kids; Baby Bella carries them in a huge variety of styles and colors. BabyLegs can be worn under pants to add an extra layer of warmth, under skirts as a substitute for tights, or even on arms!

Kasia and I enjoyed our BabyLegs. We mainly used them when we were heading outdoors for walks in the stroller or the baby carrier. Kasia’s pants tend to ride up around her calves and I wanted something to keep her ankles warmer during these times. BabyLegs worked beautifully. They were very easy to put on prior to heading outside and I loved that BabyLegs could be pulled down around her toes to keep her feet warm at first, but up around her ankles if I felt like she was getting too warm. And if it was really chilly out, I pulled the BabyLegs down around her feet and topped them off with a pair of Robeez. Love it!

Kasia also wore the BabyLegs under dresses and we discovered that this is when BabyLegs are at their very best. Not only did they keep Kasia’s legs warm, but they protected her knees when she was crawling around. Plus they made diaper changes super easy. And they were SO darn cute. My only regret was that we didn’t get a pair of cream BabyLegs in addition to the darling Neapolitan ones we got. The Neopolitan ones jazzed up pink dresses, but I would have like to have pair of BabyLegs that were even more versatile and could go with any outfit.

I should mention that prior to trying out BabyLegs with Kasia, I was concerned that they would be too tight for her. BabyLegs are “one size fits most” and the standard size is designed to fit newborns to size 10. Still, Kasia isn’t like “most” girls…as I’ve previously mentioned, she is a wee bit bigger than most. One time when she was about 4 months old, I put her in socks that were a bit too small. I didn’t realize this until I took the socks off and discovered a bright red ring around her ankle, which is still apparent today (and yes, I still feel guilty today). So I was a bit worried that the same thing might happen with BabyLegs. It didn’t. We’ve worn the BabyLegs up to three hours at a time with no major incidents. Whew!

The bottom line: BabyLegs make a fun fashion statement and help keep kids warm all at the same time.

A note from Baby Bella: We are having a GREAT promotion on BabyLegs right now... Buy two, get one free!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random musings from a tired mom

It’s been a crazy week in our house. We’re having our floors redone (goodbye 1970, hello 2010!). I’m super excited about the new floors but not so in love with the process of actually getting them redone. Nothing says craziness like having the refrigerator and stove in the middle of your living room. As a result, I haven’t had a lot of time to form many coherent thoughts about motherhood recently. I have, however, taken notice of some of the random questions that have flittered through my mind over the past few days. Here’s a sampling.

*Is the gassiness that awakens Kasia in middle of the night due to the chocolate I am eating? If so, does that mean I have to choose between good quality sleep and chocolate? And if so, does anyone know how to do this?

*Is it possible to get arrested for pumping while driving? And if I do get pulled over for inattentive driving, will I also get a citation for indecent exposure?

*Did my parents sneak candy from my Easter baskets, too? How did I not know this?

*Will these children of mine ever understand how much I love them? Did my own mom love me this much? And how did I not know *this*?

*Is it considered bad form to watch Dancing With the Stars with James when Kasia takes her nap? Does it change your answer if I tell you that, when we went to vote for our local city council, James answered a man’s question about who he was going to vote for by saying “Kate Gosslin” ?

*Why can I never remember to cut my children’s nails while they are sleeping?

*How do those other moms get their baby girls looking so snappily dressed? Do they do it on the first try or are they secretly changing their babies’ outfits a few times before leaving the house? And which is the worse of two evils: Going out in public with a sadly dressed, frumpy little baby girl or subjecting said baby girl to four outfit changes while I try to get it right?

*Why on earth did we wait so long to get the darkening curtains for James’ room?

*How bad is it, really, to bribe my son with a Happy Meal to keep him quiet during a phone call for work?

*Why, oh why, do my children insist on waking up early only on those days when we could sleep in late?

*How long is too long to go without shaving my legs? Does the answer change if I only wear long pants?

*When is Kasia going to get some teeth? And, when she does, will she bite me while nursing? And if she does, how much will that hurt?

*How did I forget how hard it is to change the poopy diaper of a baby who just wants to flip over and crawl away?

*How did I get so lucky? What did I do to deserve this? And how can I get the time warp I’m in to slow down so it doesn’t go so fast? :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Top 10 Mommy Mood Lifters

Hands down, I’m a way better mom when I’m in a good mood. And yet motherhood is ripe with situations that can get anyone down (cranky kids, messy houses, those unending, every growing, stinking piles of laundry). Even the most Zen mothers get a little frazzled sometimes, right? With that in mind, here are my top 10 ways to find your way from cranky to cheerful.

1. Do a little dance.
When we start getting a bit grumpy with each other in our house, I turn on the 90s radio station and James and I dance for at least one song. It’s really hard to refrain from smiling while dancing to Manic Monday. Especially when it’s me that’s doing the dancing.

2. Reach out and touch someone. Or poke someone.
Ma Bell had it right. When feeling down, it never hurts to pick up the phone. These days, firing up the computer and taking a quick spin through the land of facebook works just as well. The day last winter when I was stuck inside with sick kids and no car was saved by the empathy bestowed upon me by my facebook friends.

3. Strike a pose.
James’ very wise 4K teacher recently began doing Yoga with the class as a transition into the day. James asked me if we could do some at home. Thanks to the advent of Youtube, I was able to quickly find an online demonstration of Yoga for kids. A little bit of Downward-Facing Dog is good for everyone involved.

4. Take a break.
I used to feel guilty about taking breaks from my kids. Truth be told, I sometimes still do. But I’m learning that I am a much better mom when I get little moments of peace sprinkled throughout my day. If Andy’s home, I’ll ask him to take the kids for 30 minutes or so. If he’s not, I’ll ask James to find something quiet to do in a different room for a bit while Kasia naps. Then I will sit and do something, anything, other than that-which-needs-to-be-done (i.e, no cleaning, returning phone calls for work, folding clothes). Even 15 minutes of quiet reading is enough to re-charge my batteries and bring me back into my happy mommy zone.

5. Go outside.
Sure, this is an easy one now that spring is upon us. But even in the dead of winter, this suggestion is a literally a breath of fresh air that often brings with it a quick change in attitude.

6. Adjust your expectations.
Goals are good. I love goals. Especially the kind that I can put on pretty color coded charts and check off when I’m done. But sometimes my goals get in the way of a good day. When I find myself frustrated that I’m not getting things done as fast as I want to, sometimes I step back and return to just the basics with the kids: feed ‘em, clothe ‘em, and and keep ‘em safe. I allow this to be enough, if just for one day. Pizza and paper plates work wonderfully on days like this.

7. Clear a surface.
Okay, I totally stole this one from Gretchen Rubin over at She writes that one of her happiness mantras is that outward calm brings inward calm. True enough--when I’m feeling grouchy, it’s often because my environment is really messy. Clearing off just one surface (usually my kitchen counters) brings an instant boost of happiness.

8. Chocolate.
Mmmmm, chocolate.

9. Find something to laugh about.
Our little family was cranky for no good reason last night. To make matters worse, James decided to try out my razor. On his thumb. After we stopped the bleeding (now there’s a phrase I had hoped I would never utter as a mother), we bandaged it up really well. I thought we were in the clear until I heard James gasp. Thinking that his thumb was bleeding again, I hurried over to him. Only to find that his distress was not due to any new blood loss but was instead a result of the discovery that he could no longer make the number “4” with his hand (because his bandaged thumb stuck out instead of being able to bend in). I’m not sure why he felt the need to make the number 4 (nor am I sure why it did not worry him that he couldn’t make the numbers 1,2, or 3), but it was enough to make me start laughing out loud. Disaster averted. Mood lifted.

10. Snap a picture.
Get out a camera and document the craziness of the day. Capture the crying faces, the spilled milk, the piles of laundry. A camera has a way of adding perspective. As you take the pictures, remind yourself that one day—too soon—you will look at those very pictures and wish that you could go back, if just for a moment. Then put away the camera and enjoy what’s right in front of you. :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Choices, Choices

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve been extolling the virtues of my new favorite parenting book, Parenting with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline and Jim Fay, for quite some time now. We started using the method of parenting described in this book a few months ago now, when James’ 4 year old tantrums were rapidly spiraling out of control. At the time, I recognized that his behaviors were likely a response to the arrival of his baby sister; toward that end, we put some important strategies in place to address his feelings and help him feel more loved (see my State of the Household: Part 3 post for more details). But we desperately needed a method for helping resolve some of the daily eruptions that were quickly weaving their way into the fabric of our lives. Enter Love and Logic. Without a doubt, this method of parenting has had a huge impact on our little family. Andy and I are finally on the same page of the same parenting book (a feat that is not easily accomplished). James’ extreme tantrums are all but gone. Love and Logic strategies are simple, yet can have a profound impact. With that in mind, here are the steps we took to bring more peace to our house.

Step 1: Stop the lectures. Allow children to fail and let the consequences speak for themselves.
One of the major tenets behind Love and Logic is to let children experience consequences now, when they are young and the consequences are minor. In other words, rather than prevent children from failing, encourage failure! Encourage failure? This simple phrase is enough to let any good parent gasp in horror. And yet it’s exactly what we did. Rather than say no, we said yes.

If James didn’t want to wear a coat in 30 degree weather (“It’s sunny out, mom!”), we said, “okay.” When he got cold, we empathized and he learned. If James wanted to open the creamer at a restaurant, we said, “Okay. But remember we don’t waste food. So if you open it, you’ll need to use the whole thing.” When he realized that he didn’t actually like creamer, we empathized. But we still made him drink the whole thing. And he learned. When he didn’t want to us to pour him any milk for lunchtime, we said, “Okay.” When he was thirsty 20 minutes later, we told him that he could have a drink at snack after rest time, as usual. He protested that he simply could not wait that long. He was sooooooooo thirsty. We empathized. He learned. When he wanted to sniff the ground Cayenne pepper, well… I did warn him that it was not wise. I actually took the pepper away. But when it spilled a couple days later, he took a sniff before I could blink. When the tears started to fall, I empathized with his pain and helped him wash out his nose. And oh, did he learn from that one.

It’s hard to let our little ones fail. Our job as parents is to protect them and help them succeed. To let them make poor choices and then stand back and watch them experience the results runs counter to our natural tendencies to protect and defend at all costs. And yet I have learned how incredibly important it really is. Letting our children make their own decisions gives them some semblance of control and reduces power struggles. More importantly, it teaches them to choose wisely, to learn from their mistakes, and to listen to themselves, rather than outside influences. Who wouldn’t want their children to learn those lessons?

Step 2: Change demands into choices. Any experienced parent knows the value of offering choices. Children love to exert their power by making a choice. Prior to reading Fey and Cline’s book, I already had a habit of speaking in choices whenever I thought it was possible (Do you want the red cup or the blue one? Are you going to wear your Spider man shoes or your white ones? Did you want your sandwich in two parts or in five?). But there were still many times when I issued commands rather than questions (Stop banging your fork on the table, please. Don’t throw the ball around your sister. It’s time to get of the tub, please. Yes, now. Right now. Get.Out.Of.The.Tub. NOW). Fey and Cline’s book helped me realized that there was still a choice being made in these situations and that it was wise to present it as such. Instead of telling a child what *not* to do or what he *has* to do, Fey and Cline recommend giving choices that explain what the child *can* do.

So, “Stop banging your fork” becomes, “You are welcome to use your fork properly here at the table in the kitchen with us, or you could take your plate and fork to the table in the dining room where I can’t hear you bang.” And, “Don’t throw the ball near your sister” becomes “Would you like to sit down on the floor and play in the living room next to your sister or would you like to take the ball outside to play?” And “No, you can’t stay in the tub any longer; you need to get out of the tub NOW” becomes (deep breath of calm here) “Well, I guess you can choose to get out of the tub as asked or you can stay in the tub and play for longer and then take showers for the rest of the week so that we can turn off the water and get you out faster when we need you to be done.”

Each of these choices is offered in a nice, easy-going tone without frustration, reprimand, or sarcasm (this was the hardest part for me—I do so love my “mommy” tone). One also has to be careful not to turn a choice into a threat. Saying “You can stop throwing that ball or you can go to your room” isn’t really a choice; it’s a punitive statement in disguise. When framing my choices, I often had to stop and think for a minute before offering up the choices. But it’s amazing how many choices I found when I took the time to be creative.

It’s worth noting that James certainly chose the choice I didn’t expect at times. One time he actually did move to the dining room table instead of staying with us in the kitchen. After about five minute alone, he asked if he could come back with us; we welcomed his return. When I offered him the choice about staying in the tub and taking showers the rest of the week or getting out of the tub when asked, he chose to stay in the tub for a while longer. I did not enjoy having to wait the extra time for him to get out of the tub at his own leisure that night (I wanted to watch Survivor!). But I did enjoy the quick convenience of showers for the rest of that week. And as it turned out, James took showers for a week, decided he didn’t like them after all, and then returned to the tub. He has since chosen to get out of the tub when asked, each time.

Now, the wise parent who reads this will quickly surmise that there will be times when their independent child will simply refuse to make a choice. What then? Fey and Cline write that there is always an unstated third choice: either the child makes a choice or the parent does. If James doesn’t make a choice, we make it for him. We only had to do this a few times before he learned that he was much better off making his own choices than have us choose for him.

When we first implemented these strategies, we were met with resistance. At that time, resistance from James was often accompanied by yelling or hitting (anything to provoke a reaction from one of us). When we offered a choice, James wouldn’t make one. When we chose for him, he became angry. If this happened, we offered the following words of wisdom for him: “Hmmm, it looks like you need some time to calm down.” And then the following choice: “Would you like to walk to your room, or would you like us to carry you?” (And yes, we had to carry him the first few times). Then: “Would you like your door open or your door shut?” If he was still yelling or hitting, we told him—gently, calmly, lovingly—that it looked like he was choosing to have the door shut.

I won’t kid you, it wasn’t pretty at first. He yelled. He threw things. He broke things. (I pause here to note that I had previously tried other strategies to calm him down. I tried hugging him, I tried talking to him, I tried having him hit pillows to get his anger out, I tried taking away privileges. None of it worked). When he finally calmed down, we opened up the door and told him – gently, calmly, lovingly—that it looked like he was ready to have the door open. He was asked to wait in his room for 5 minutes, calmly, and then come out. When he came out, he was welcomed back into the main rooms of the house, given a hug, and the day moved on as if nothing happened. (Although he did have to pay for anything that had been broken and clean up his room if he had thrown things).

The first couple days of this were, to put it lightly, tough. But it’s always the darkest before the dawn. Here I drew from my knowledge base from working with children at my job: when dealing with extinguishing challenging behaviors, the behaviors often escalate to a fever pitch just before they are gone. Sure enough, after just a couple days of consistently and gently implementing these strategies, the extreme behaviors decreased as quickly as they had increased. Now-a-days, James still has to go to his room to calm himself down at times, but he almost always chooses to walk there and he most always chooses to have the door open. In fact, he’s discovered that he enjoys turning on the radio while he is in his room and he emerges from his room a much a calmer boy. We have gone nearly 30 days without any extreme behaviors. Yippee, Skippee!

Step 3: Follow through, follow through, follow through. Step 1 and Step 2 won’t work without careful adherence to Step 3. Enforce consequences. Follow through with choices. Calmly, gently, lovingly. Step 3 is the most simple one, but the most crucial of all.
That’s it. It seems so simple, but as Leonardo de Vinci wrote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” The simplicity of this approach makes it easy to remember in the face of a grumpy preschooler. It also makes it relatively easy to get on the same page with your parenting partner. But the simplicity is also deceptive. This approach is really rather sophisticated and thoughtful at the same time. It allows us to be coaches for our children, not drill sergeants. It teaches our children to control their own impulses, to take responsibility for their actions, and to experience their consequences and learn from them. And that, my friends, is anything but simple.