Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Control- Alt- Delete....How to Survive Toddler Tantrums

So here I am, another day in mommyland. Things seem to be getting more and more interesting by the day(or should I say more and more challenging). Most people I know, with the exception of my mother and sister, would say I have a decent level of patience when faced with adversity and challenge. I mention this because with each passing day, I am convinced that Chickpea over hears my morning prayer that I be granted the ability to have more patience today than I had the day before. I can visualize Chickpea in her crib, holding her beloved Sonoma (her stuffed sheep toy) strategizing as to how she is going to take it up a notch today, to test her mother's patience level.

It seems that tantrums and meltdowns have become a normal occurrence throughout the day with Chickpea. I guess it is fair to say that at 22 months of age, Chickpea, has officially entered the "Terrible Two's", which I have been kindly informed don't back off until about age 4. All I can say is,"Please pray for me and other moms like me".

So I was running errands yesterday with Chickpea. You know the usual stuff, grocery store, dry-cleaning, etc. There I was in Whole Foods, and Chickpea started with her sweet little voice "up, mommy, up, pleeeeaaase", which basically meant that she wanted out of the grocery cart. Having been down this road before, I knew there was little to no chance Chickpea was getting out of that grocery cart (because getting her back in would be like trying to cage a wild animal). With all this being said, and Chickpea realizing that she was not getting out of the grocery cart, the rest of this situation played out like the final scene of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". And the meltdown followed.

As Chickpea began one of her more epic meltdowns, I started to think. When I am working on my computer, and it decides it is going to have a major malfunction, all I have to do is hit Control-Alt-Delete, and problem averted. So what I want to know is, where is the @$#*ing Control-Alt-Delete button on toddlers? Realizing that this would make parenting too easy, here are some more practical and effective approaches to handling toddler tantrums and meltdowns (Thanks for some great tips).

1. Keep your cool and deal with the tantrum as calmly as possible. Remember, you are your child's role model for handling anger. Though it may be tempting to yell at or lecture your child, you should state your position calmly, and make it short and to the point.

2. Walk away from her when she's having an outburst. If you don't feel comfortable leaving the scene, stay nearby, but keep busy. Don't make eye contact or start arguing with your child. If she sees her tantrum isn't having an effect on you, she'll most likely stop.

3. When your child is having a public tantrum, pick her up and carry her calmly to a safe place. Take her to your car or a public bathroom, where she can blow off steam. Be careful not to overreact or lash out at your child because you're embarrassed. Once you're in a quieter place, calmly explain your position, and try to ignore the tantrum until it stops. Sometimes just touching or stroking a child will soothe her. If your child continues to scream, place her securely in her car seat and head for home.

4. Talk in soothing tones. If your child throws a tantrum in a place that you just can't leave (like an airplane), talk to her in a quiet tone. If it helps to keep you calm, repeat the same phrase over and over. ("God I need a cocktail, God I need a cocktail" usually helps for me)

5. Don't try to reason with a child who's having a tantrum. They are so emotionally out of control that this won't work. While every parent tries to prevent tantrums, there will be times when little ones simply lose their cool. When this happens to your child, there's not much you can do, they simply have to vent.

6. Use humor or distraction to draw your child out of a tantrum. Make a funny face or point out something interesting to take your child's attention away from the source of frustration.

7. In some cases, give in to the tantrum (within reason). Sometimes this is a smart strategy,although bribery ("I'll give you some ice cream if you stop crying") should never be an option. Although, if you want to have a peaceful car ride, you might give in to your child's request to hear the same CD over and over again.

8. Don't ignore aggressive actions. If your child is behaving aggressively during a tantrum (kicking, hitting, biting, throwing, or breaking things)take action. If possible, remove your child from the source of her anger, and hold him or give her some time alone to calm down and regain control. For children old enough to understand, a time-out may be effective.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ode To The Stay at Home Mom

I once heard Oprah herself declare, that she felt that stay-at-home mothers have the most difficult job in the world. And you know what? I would have to agree with her after living the "stay-at-home dream". Yes, I said the "stay-at-home dream", because there was once a time that I would fantasize what it would be like to not have to deal with the rat race of work, getting dressed up, conducting appointments, being productive, and following corporate America's rule book. Yep, being a stay-at-home mom was where it was at.

What the hell was I thinking? Now, don't get me wrong it is not all bad. The feeling of being stuck comes and goes for the us who decide to dedicate a portion of our life to concentrating fully on the needs of our families. One nice aspect about being a stay-at home mom is that it can be a bit of a power trip. You basically decide what is eaten, what is worn, what is said, and what goes on from the bathroom to the mudroom. But then, without a paycheck to validate our work, or camaraderie shared with coworkers, us stay-at-home moms can feel equally powerless.

We are so caught up in the needs of others, it feels as if us stay-at-home moms are in a state of free fall. Some of the signs include, but are not limited to:

1. Wearing the same outfit for weeks on end (washing it of course). It requires little thought when having to get ready in the morning.
2. A vague feeling of having forgotten something.
3. An inability to hold an intelligent conversation around current world events.
4. The habit of talking too loudly or overlapping sentences like a child.
5. An occasional short temper, that may be accompanied by tears.

Let it be known to the critics and cynics, being a stay-at-home mom is intense and involved. Some of our greatest challenges are making our days as interesting as possible for us as well as our children. Time seems to be stretched out, and strangely compressed at the same time. An author once phrased it as "Stillness at warp speed".

Yes, there are days I envy women that get up, get dressed, report to the respite of a cool office, who "lunch" with clients, or anyone who can speak in full sentences for that matter. But the next time someone is compelled to ask, "And what do you do?". How do you tell someone that you do many things in a very detailed way? How do you say "stay-at-home mom" without feeling like you have to justify it as a "real" job?

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You Know You are A Parent When....

So I understand it has been a while since my last blog. I actually have a really good excuse. My poor Chickpea came down with the meanest stomach virus I have witnessed to date. I will not get into the graphic details (I'll save them for later), but I will tell you I have not witnesses so much bilateral excrement in my life. For those of you that are lost, that means projectile barf accompanied by jet propelled poop. Hey, after what I have lived through for the past ten days, I find that comment rather funny.

So my poor girl came down with a wicked stomach bug that landed her in the hospital hooked up to IV fluids (not a fun experience for her or her parents). And yes in case you were wondering, this shit is majorly contagious, and yes I got it too (thank God for only 24 hours). I'll just say that karma has a really @%$*-up sense of humor, so be careful when you comment that you will do anything to lose a few pounds, she may just hear you.

The long and short of it is, Chickpea is feeling better, and back to her trying toddler ways. This entire experience got me thinking. There are things I now do as a parent and don't think twice about, but prior to being a parent my normal response would have been "You want me to do what?" For example, when Chickpea was about to throw up, and I did not want it to get all over the floor, I simply cupped my hands and allowed her to puke into them (that gives new meaning to the term "hot mess"). I know you are either absolutely grossed out right now, or completely empathetic having experienced the same thing with your child.

So when you hear that parenting is unconditional love and attentiveness no matter what the circumstances or situation that is not bullshit. In fact it is the honest truth. Below are some other fun and humorous references made by other parents regarding: "You know you are a parent when". Enjoy!

•You know all nursery rhymes/child songs by heart. This goes without saying. A slightly less obvious observation is that you get so sick of certain songs that you spontaneously compose new lyrics just to freshen things up – think “The Wheels on the bus have been jacked by thieves, jacked by thieves, jacked by thieves!”

•Mac and cheese and PB&J's are considered food groups.

•Rummaging through your once It Bag (the last expensive thing you bought for yourself), in the midst of a wallet and lip gloss you find a half full bag of Goldfish to give your child on the go.

•You walk into a non-child friendly house (e.g. grandparents with lots of things on counters) and do a 007-like scan of all of the objects in the room that your child is likely to pickup/throw/break/hurt herself or others with/steal/swallow and you implement "The Sweep".

•You can smell poopy diaper a mile away.

•You seriously contemplate Mister Potato Head’s value as an object of contemporary art, and leave it on your mantle in the living room.

•You think nothing of eating the apple peels your child discards as she eats the real part of the apple. You used to be grossed out by sloppy seconds but now you are, well, a parent.

•The 2 hour mid-day nap no longer means you are chilling out recovering from your hangover (though having a hangover may still be true); rather, it means time to fold the laundry/start dinner/fake a manicure/finish a house project/unload the dishwasher/deal with emails/do 10 push-ups (counts as a workout, right?)/vacuum/ clean apple sauce from the cabinets (HUH?)/and take a shower. Bottom line: you get more done in a 2 hour naptime than you used to get done over an entire weekend in your world of "BK" (before kids).

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Super Fun "Tot Spots"

I realize that living in Florida I should never complain about the weather. I feel an exception is in order based on the craziest winter we have seen in some time. So after feeling the worst of my cabin fever, I decided to do some research, and try to come up with some fun and inexpensive places to take Chickpea.

Now I understand that my family may have the good fortune of residing in the number one destination city for most families, but I think it is fair to say that there is life and fun outside of the mainstream theme park attractions (that and I am not brave enough to endure taking a 21month old to visit "the mouse" just yet). So I have taken the time to come up with a list of some great "Tot Spots". I hope you enjoy.

First let me share a great website This website allows you to locate parks within a specified area (by entering your address, zip code, or city). What is really genius about this site is that the parks are rated on a 1-5 scale to really help narrow which parks you would like to visit. Parks I feel are great places to take your toddler. They provide great space for them to explore, take hikes, and get out some of the endless amounts of energy they seem to have. Parks also provide a great opportunity to turn a morning or afternoon of fun into a learning experience. Indulge your toddler's curiosity, by talking about what you see and come across. Some of Chickpea's favorite things to do are find the squirrels hiding in the trees, and to point out the different flowers. I have to admit there is little that compares to watching your child explore the great outdoors with such wonder.

Another great website helps to locate kid friendly museums in your area. Museums and galleries are another gem to share with toddlers. Many galleries and museums have special areas and programs that are designed for children and encourage them to touch, play and explore. We are fortunate enough to have several amazing museums here in the Orlando area. Chickpea's favorite is the Orlando Science Center. It is a great place for kids of any age (including big kids like me and hubby). The OSC has so many great things to offer like, a habit for indigenous Florida wildlife, a great Kid Zone where toddlers and young children are encouraged to get a hands on perspective, dinosaurs, and various traveling exhibits like the science of chocolate, and Mr. Potato Head. Even in tough economic times the OSC offers a great value with an annual family membership for only $125 which includes parking fees, and admission to all special events (hubby and I are huge fans of Cocktails and Cosmos).

Research shows that access to books and one-on-one reading time is an important predictor of future literacy skills. Reading to babies from infancy on exposes them to the alphabet, and to the sounds that words make. Talking to children about a story increases understanding and vocabulary. Do I need to provide any further rationale on why libraries should be a part of every child's life? Experts feel that it is never too early to fill your little one's head with a sense of wonder about reading. Chickpea is a regular at story time every Tuesday and Thursday. It is so great to see her excitement as stories are read out loud, and she interacts with other children her age. Many local library branches also offer free programs for toddlers and children of all ages. Hearing books read out loud by someone other than their parents can make your child listen even more attentively, and activities like story time help to develop social skills. Be sure to check out some books with your little one before you leave the library. Libraries are a great place to escape on a rainy day; in addition they help to establish good reading habits at a young age.

So whether you choose to venture off to the park, musuem or library my message is to get out and explore with your toddler. With a little research you can find some great spots to visit with your favorite tot. Happy and safe adventures until next time.

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