Monthly Archives: September 2011

Saturday Links – Two Videos and Fall Art Projects

Theory Links

Video: Are Your Family’s Routines Working? – This is exactly why we have routines for everything in our house.  Routines = expected, planned good times.  Lack of routines = panicky, chaotic frustration.

Video: Baby Teamwork – I’m working hard on letting my kids solve their own problems more.  When things like this happen spontaeously between a 1- and almost-3-year-old, it shocks me.  Check it out.

One-Sided Parental Vigilance – Although I’m not on the food hypervilance wagon, I have to agree that I would like to see more studies about kids and media characters.  Not all character play is bad, mind you–I spent a good portion of my childhood playing Sound of Music with a certain friend.  But it makes me sad when young kids are totally addicted to characters on everything they own by age 3.  Childhood (and adulthood) should be a little less branded.

Activity Links

Floor Block Puzzles – I really like the idea of free form puzzles.  Sort of an easy introduction to tangrams.

Display Seasonal Books on a Stuffed Animal Chain – Good enough to go in the family room, I say.

Fun Leaf Projects for Kids – A plethora of ideas for fall themed crafts.  I’m really loving the leaf mobile.

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Family Culture, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Magda Gerber, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Saturday Five, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Spreadsheet Wednesday: Baby/Toddler Clothing Inventory

To me, one of the biggest shocks about having a baby around was the shear amount of clothing they went through.  At first, with all the various leakages newborns are prone to, it felt like Monkey was wearing a new outfit every two hours.  After that, he started growing like a weed, burning through the 4-5 sizes of clothes made to fit an infant’s first year of life.  (Can you imagine changing sizes that frequently?) I couldn’t even find time to go shopping for clothing, much less hold out for good deals, before he would grow out of it.

With Sailor, I have all of Monkey’s old hand-me-downs.  It’s nice not to be under so much pressure to shop for clothing constantly, but hand-me-downs have their own hazards.  Like returning from Old Navy with my favorite white Oxford church shirt that I knew Sailor would need soon . . . except that I already had two in that size and none in the size below it.  It is literally impossible to keep track of that many sets of clothing in your head.

Clothign Inventory

Click to download a copy

Which is why I invented this lovely clothing inventory spreadsheet.  It’s made to be printed double-sided, then folded in half to make a booklet you can fit inside your purse.  Just go through your stash of the next few sizes of clothing up, and mark what you have on the sheet.  I even make things too complicated and have separate marks for “clothing I have which is ugly and I want to replace, but which I can live with if I don’t find a good deal.”

Anyway, I keep my inventory in my purse at all times–it’s got plenty of water stains from leaky water bottles, but it’s still legible.  You could keep it on a smartphone or note program like Evernote, but I find check boxes and a pen are easier to keep up to date.  Having this information at your fingertips can be a real money saver.  Not only do you not end up with duplicate clothing, but you also have the advantage of being able to shop end-of-season sales for 1-2 sizes ahead.  You can buy high-quality, brand name clothing for much cheaper if you plan ahead. This piece of paper has been a huge sanity saver for me as well.  Hope it helps you too!

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Couponing/Money Saving, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Spreadsheet Wednesday, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Library Hits – 9/12/2011

This week’s library returns and and what we thought of them.

Top of the Pile

Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel

Buy
Monkey loved this book.  Granted, it was his first experience with books with chapters, and it took a long time to convince him that one section of the book counted as one story, rather than the entire book.  But the stories are lovely, and just out of Monkey’s easy reading range.

You’re Mean, Lily Jean!  by Frieda Wishinski
Buy
An unexpected favorite of the week.  I loved the illustrations, and the understated, easily resolved story of avoiding bullying, bossy playmates.  Sandy’s solution worked well with the playful ethos of the Busby family.

The Stacks

The Old Woman and the Rice Thief by Betsy Bang
Terrible
Granted that this folk tale is from another culture, but really?  It was totally odd and made little sense.

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett
Check-out
This book was read at least twice a day for about a week, so it’s an understatement to say Monkey liked it.  However, I wasn’t as much of a fan, especially since the ending seemed really rushed.  It’s an Eskimo cultured version of Goldilocks, in case you were wondering.

Al Pha’s Bet  by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Obnoxious
I’ve read my share of alphabet books, and this is not a good one.  It’s supposed to be the story of how the alphabet got in order, but the order is arbitrary and not cute or memorable.  Blegh.

ABC Apple Pie by Alison Murray
Check-out
Now this is what I call an alphabet book.  Simple, clever alphabet words, with not too many stretches.  And for a bonus, it has a compelling plot, which is rare in alphabet books.

Tap Tap Bang Bang  by Emma Garcia
Buy
Garcia’s books are very memorable and some of Monkey’s favorites.  Every time he sees one on the shelf, he checks it out.  Overall, this one is my least favorite, simply because there are so many sound words and Monkey insists we read them all each time they appear.  I prefer Honk Honk Beep Beep or Tip Tip Dig Dig.

The Bunnies are not in their Beds  by Marisabina Russo
Check-out
I can’t whole-heartedly recommend this book.  Although it’s funny and cute, something strikes me wrong about the ending of the bunnies getting out of bed and playing when Mom and Dad go to sleep.  Just not the idea I want to put into my kids’ heads.

Rating Scale

In homage to Harry Potter, our rating scale contains no simple numbers, but is useful nonetheless, and largely self-explanatory:
Awesome
Buy
Check-out
Filler
Obnoxious
Terrible

Disclaimer: These reviews are not intended to be a review of the overall quality of any picture book, but are totally biased and based on their suitability for this mom and her two children reading together.  Your mileage may vary based on your children’s maturity, attention span, and interests.

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Filed under Library Hits, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Mormon Parenting Hacks: “Mom’s Sick” Emergency Preparedness

Okay, I promise this post is way more awesome than it sounds.  Also, it’s not really a hack just for Mormon parents.  It just seems especially Mormon to me since we’re well-known hoarders of 5-gallon buckets.

I first read about this idea last week on Latter-Day Homeschooling as “Emergency” Homeschooling Survival Kits.  The idea was to have three days of homeschooling lessons packed into three 5-gallon buckets, to be used on days when you’re sick or otherwise un-motivated to teach homeschool.

But, really, what mother with toddlers at home doesn’t need an “emergency sick day” kit?  I’m pretty sure this sounds like the best idea ever to me.  Pack a bucket (or reusable grocery bag) with a days worth of activities for your toddlers, then pull it out when you’re ill, or one of your kids is ill, or when the refrigerator breaks and you need to entertain children at home for the day with minimal effort.  Maybe you’ve all thought of this idea before, but to me, it’s revolutionary.  Why not be prepared for the inevitable?

My goal this month is to put together 3 emergency sick day kits for under $15 each.  Here are my ideas of what to put in an emergency kit:

  • New school/craft supplies – because nothing makes coloring suddenly interesting again like a new box of crayons.
  • Stickers – a great activity I recent read of is to give the kids a million little stickers and a paper with a large shape outlined on it.  Have them fill the shape with stickers.  Sounds like 30 minutes of rest.
  • Printed out craft instructions – something simple and non-messy but time consuming?  Also ideal if it’s at the level a child can do by himself without a lot of help from (miserably sick) you.
  • Coloring books & puzzles from dollar section at Target – really, any thing from the dollar section will work.
  • Cake or cookie mix – both activity and comfort snack
  • Picture book
  • Clearanced toy from “the stash” – Do you guys have a stash?  I keep a stash of under $10 children’s toys for birthday presents; they’re also my current “bad day” go to solution, but doling them out like this will keep them more under control.  You could also do this a more expensive way and buy toys that you want to add to your toy collection, but not give them out until sick days.
  • Children’s DVD – great for the last hour before your husband gets home when you really can’t do any more.  Again, think of it as building your collection in a beneficial manner.

What do you think?  Any other brilliant ideas for what to put in an emergency kit?  I also like the idea from the original post to have emergency meals stored in your freezer.  A great way to do a little freezer cooking without feeling like you have to live that lifestyle.

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Cooking & Meal Prep, Family Culture, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Mormon Parenting Hacks, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Saturday Links – Let Crying Babies Cry and Parenting Theory Shortform

Theory Links

7 Reasons to Calm Down About Babies Crying – I like the intro to this article best of all!  Most of the stereotypes of uncaring, strict parents don’t really exist in the real world.  Most of us are on the other end of responding too much.  Great reminders to let babies struggle.

Parenting Theory Shortform – Scroll down past the lovely Pinterest lists, and you’ll get to some great short versions of the current classics of parenting.  I’ve read both Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Free-Range Kids (and loved them–which is ironic, since they don’t work well together at first glance), and I’ve heard about the other two (Nuture-Shock and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids) and am intrigued.  If you are busy with toddlers and don’t have time to actually read, the interviews she links to are a great place to start thinking about your concept of parenting.

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Filed under Free-Range Kids, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Parenting Theories, Saturday Five, Tiger Mother

Theory Thursday: Transitioning away from “Distraction Discipline”

Today’s Theory Thursday is a little pet theory of mine about the best way to teach toddlers to stay away from stuff you don’t want them to have.  I know, it’s not the most profound subject, but it certainly is a time consuming one for SAHMs.  I’d be willing to bet that a mother of a 1-3 year old spends at least 90 minutes every day shooing their child away from dangerous or breakable things.

Of course, the best way to deal with the problem of not-touchable-by-toddlers stuff is to get rid of it or put it out of reach.  But for some things–major appliances, the toilet, computers, DVDs, mommy’s knitting–that strategy isn’t feasible.  You could just keep your baby in a gated room that is baby safe; indeed, I think this is a good practice for at least some of the day to allow a baby/toddler some independence.  However, sometimes you have to cook dinner or brush Baby’s teeth.  Toddlers, with their new-found mobility, are especially likely to encounter forbidden object.

For new babies, there can be no real discipline to keep them away from things, just a re-direction of energy and attention elsewhere, what I call “distraction discipline.”  But on some sad day, this stops working on your toddler and you have to start saying no and dealing with the ensuing tantrums.  As Monkey grew up, I noticed a progression in the discipline I used for dealing with these situations, which I have codified for your convenience.  Basically, I stuck at the lowest level possible until it no longer worked, then gradually transitioned to the next level.  The levels are:

  1. Make the object physically inaccessible, if possible.
  2. Distract, distract, distract.
  3. Say “No” and try to teach them not to touch it, perhaps with a simple reason.  (If you can’t think of a reason, perhaps you’re just freaking out about a new behavior.  Let your toddler experiment a bit.)  But remember, true logic doesn’t kick in until about 3 years old, so don’t expect this to hold from actual understanding so much as from repetition of a key phrase.  Repeat your phrase calmly until the child realizes you won’t give in and gives up himself.
  4. Offer a comparable activity.  If your toddler wants to pour out all of the cereal from the box, chances are that he or she is just interested in how pouring works.  Provide a plastic pitcher and some beans or rice to pour on top of a blanket or cookie sheet.  If he or she wants to drag something against the fireplace grating and create a horrible racket, take the grate somewhere safe and let them experiment with noise, or use cheese graters and metal sieves as a substitute.
  5. Instruct in nature and correct use of the item.  At some point, you’ll have to give into your toddler’s curiosity and teach them how to use the dishwasher, a knife, the sink, the television, etc. etc.  You’ll be surprised to find out how learning to use an item will stick with a toddler.  They very much like to know how things work and how to use them like a grown-up.  (If you’re unsure if a toddler can learn to do something (like use a knife, or put away dishes), I’d suggest checking out a Montessori book from your local library.  Kids can be a lot more self sufficient than we think.)

Viewing Monkey’s curiosity as a progression in discipline and understanding, rather than an act of disobedience, helps us to have a positive relationship about what he’s allow to do.  After all, it’s unreasonable to expect a 2-year-old to hold to the same boundaries as a 1-year-old.  Think how much they’ve learned in that year!  Once he becomes interested in an item we’d previously settled, I know it’s time to move on to the next level.  And once we’ve reached the last level, it’s no longer a problem because he knows the acceptable uses for that object.  For example, here’s how our discipline progression with the toilet looked.

  1. Keep the bathroom door closed.
  2. If the baby wanders into the bathroom, take him out and do something else with him.
  3. Explain “No, the toilet is dangerous.”  Repeat every time Monkey attempts to touch the toilet.
  4. Once Monkey realized the toilet meant open water play, I provided lots of substitute play by filling a large basin with water and setting it on the kitchen floor.  Bring towels.
  5. Explain how to raise and lower the lids gently.  Practice flushing.  Show how toilet paper flushes.  Explain about not drinking the water.  (Eventually, real potty training. :D)

This form of discipline applies mostly to things that children aren’t supposed to touch–stoves, toilets, cabinets, large boxes full of small parts.  But I suppose you could apply this method to social discipline as well.  At first, sharing and turn taking is beyond them.  Swift distraction is the only way to prevent fights.  After a while, distraction no longer works and you can begin to say “no.”  If the child is simply enjoying the act of taking, you could offer comparable activities by playing give and take with the child yourself, or perhaps a tug-of-war type game.  Finally, when the child is old enough to really understand, you can explain the motivations behind good social behavior and expect them to apply them.

Anyway, this though pattern is useful to me, so hopefully, it can help you!

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Discipline, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Parenting Book Review: Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect

After reading some interesting posts on Janet Lansbury’s blog, Elevating Child Care, I was inspired to read the book her philosophy of child care is based on: Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect by Magda Gerber.  I actually read the book about a month ago, but I’ve been holding onto my review because of vacations and visitors.  The delay has given me extra time to try out some of the methods in the book and think about their effectiveness.  Overall, my reaction to this book, and my personal implementation of it, has been quite mixed.

My main gripe was that the book contains a lot of mental coaching on how to think about a situation, but was somewhat lacking in how such a mindset might lead to concrete actions.  As I’m a person who demands implementable results, this wishy-washy mindset talk drove me crazy.  It’s all fine and dandy to say that you have to adapt to new developments in your child’s behavior, but how about some concrete suggestions on how to adapt to stranger anxiety or toilet training?  Where there were concrete suggestions, they were brilliant for the most part. Continue reading

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Discipline, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Magda Gerber, Parenting Book Reviews