Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mary Through the Eyes of aToddler

I have been having "one of those days" for the last two days. For some reason I woke up on Tuesday morning with my patience stretched very thin and it got worse as the day went on. To be honest, I have no idea why I was so stressed out. Sure I've got a Christmas to-do list, but nothing extraordinary. I guess you could just say that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Any mom will understand when I say that this attitude is contagious. Caleb felt that I was "cranky" and therefore was not his usual easy-going self. He started out just a touch more needy than usual which aggravated me even more which, of course, he picked up on and got more frustrated himself. It's a vicious cycle. One that I should have nipped in the bud. But I didn't. And despite Caleb's adorable attempts to cheer me up (by petting my head, kisses and hugs, and caressing my face) this nasty tension just wouldn't let up.

As Tuesday progressed, I got more and more tense and stressed over pretty much nothing. Anything was setting me off. Caleb wanted to feel more at ease and to do this he wanted to nurse more often. I just wanted him to leave me alone for a while. I also desperately wanted him to nap to give me some time to relax and gather my emotions. Why is it that when we need our children to nap they seem to get an extra burst of energy? Anyway, by the time Adam came in from milking I was nearly in tears (yet unable to cry for some reason). I made dinner while he showered and then Caleb nearly fell asleep in his booster seat so I nursed him (for like the umpteenth time that day) and he FINALLY fell asleep. This was great timing because Adam and I wanted to play our computer game.

Caleb woke up and I turned off my computer and asked Adam to do the same. He didn't which wouldn't have bothered me as much if I hadn't just had "one of those days." But it bothered me, I threw a fit and went to bed angry (despite Adam's apology). So this morning... another bad start. So poor Caleb and Adam had to deal with another day of Mama being on edge.

But miracle of miracles!!!!
Caleb napped today!!!
Only for an hour but he was very chipper when he woke up so I didn't try to put him back to sleep. During the time of his nap, instead of catching up on my to-do list, I was on the Internet. I read several blogs regularly and made the decision today to buy a couple books that one of the bloggers has authored. And her blog today was about shifting your attitude, something that would have helped a lot with my tension the last couple days! But better late than never right? Since he woke up, Caleb and I have colored (I'm not sure who enjoyed that more, me or him), done several puzzles, and read several books. It's been a much better afternoon than yesterday, for both of us.

So now I'm rambling off topic a bit. Back to the adorable topic at hand. I decided to "act out" the Christmas story with my little ceramic nativity scene for Caleb. He normally doesn't get to touch it so it was quite a treat for him to help me march them across the bench on their way to Bethlehem. He got very excited when the wise men came because they had shiny "hats" on their heads. He also really enjoyed the animals. My favorite part of the story was as the end. The book that I used as a guide talks about after the visitors left (not an easy tasks to take the shiny hat men away from Caleb), Mary held baby Jesus close and agreed with the angel that Jesus was a very special baby. There is a picture of this in the book. Caleb decided to imitate that picture with the ceramics. Baby Jesus was placed, manger and all, into Mary's lap.

I kept saying "that's baby Jesus" because I really enjoy seeing Caleb sign "baby" (it's one of his newer signs). He made Mary and Joseph "hug" and Joseph danced/wrestled with baby Jesus. It was neat to see Caleb's interpretation of how they must have interacted as a family. Pretty much the same way that Adam and Caleb and I do.

After playing with Mary and Joseph and Jesus, Caleb got it in his head that Jesus needed some milkies. Some of you who have ready early entries of my blog know where I'm going with this. I explained that Mary was Jesus' mama. So there went baby Jesus again, manger and all, to Mary's breast while Caleb made little "num num num" noises for Him. I have to say that was one of the sweetest sights ever!

Now I'll leave you with the same thought that I've had for the last few days. Breastfeeding is such an amazing and intimate time between a mother and her child. What must it have been like for Mary to nurse the Son of God?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Last year Caleb was 8 months old at Christmas and could have cared less about anything that we were doing. He's still a little young but, at 20 months, he is much more aware of the fact that something is going on. He notices the Christmas tree and sees them at other peoples houses (he points at it and shakes his head because he knows he's not supposed to touch it). We had our Christmas celebration with my husbands extended family yesterday and he understood that a gift was for him and that certain gifts were for others. He even handed his cousin the gift that "he bought her."

This year Adam and I wanted to start making our own Christmas traditions. We want to celebrate Christmas with our own little family. The original plan was to go to church Christmas eve and then do a nice brunch of Christmas morning. After brunch we would read the "Christmas Story" and give gifts to Caleb (Adam and I didn't get any for eachother). Then Adam could go out a milk while Caleb napped and in the evening maybe we could watch a family movie or something. That would have been my ideal "schedule" for this year.

Once again, God had different plans which means that I needed to rearrange my plans. There is no church Christmas eve, just Christmas morning. We are spending Christmas eve with Adam's family and will be going to church Christmas morning. Which means we have a couple hours before Adam milks to eat a nice meal and then we will have the evening to give gifts and read. I'll be honost, I don't like that my perfect plans were turned upside down! But we are certainly blessed that we have family around to spend Christmas with. (We go to my parent's place next Sunday for lunch and the afternoon).

One thing that we really want to teach Caleb is that it's not about gifts. Don't get me wrong, I love to give gifts! But so many kids get excited for Christmas because they know they will get gifts. I want Caleb to get excited for the right reasons. I love Christmas because it's a reminder of our Saviour's miraculous conception and humble beginnings into this world. It's a reminder that although Jesus is still the same God that He was all year round, He's also human. In short, He's been there, done that. And most importantly, He's overcome it all.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love. Adam and I have talked about how to move the attention away from getting presents to giving love. One thing that we decided was that every year Caleb can choose one (or more) of his toys to give to a little boy whose parents can't afford toys. Our hope is that he will be reminded at Christmas that not everyone is as blessed as we are and that one way we can show God's love to others is to give them gifts. (As an added bonus, it will also help prevent our house from getting overflowed with toys.) So the plan is to have a box to put "give away" toys in and after we take care of that we will open gifts.

What are your thoughts or some ideas that you would like to try or some traditions that you already have in place?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Babies and Housework

I have contemplated writing on this topic for quite some time. I actually dreamt about this post last night and what I should write in it! A big part of me hesitated because it's definitely not something that I have down to a "t." But it occurred to me that's probably the point. You don't have to do it all perfectly.
As of the time of my writing this I have dishes in my sink, laundry in my washer and dryer, toys all over the floor and I think that all the floors in my house needs to be either swept/mopped or vacuumed. I'm ignoring that part of my housework right now. I focus instead on the fact that I folded and put away 3 loads of laundry yesterday, I cleaned all my baking pans yesterday, I have a cake in the oven (for my mom's birthday today) and my family is fed and happy (Adam cooked breakfast).
Probably later today, when Caleb is napping, I will spend some time finishing up my laundry (diapers are in the washer so I kind of need those). If he's still napping I might even get up the gumption to clean my kitchen.

I had the HARDEST time getting into a routine when Caleb was first born. Part of it was that I just physically did not have the engery (I was recovering from a c-section and suffered a lot of fatigue) so I spent most of my days napping. I tried very hard not to allow myself to feel guilty about it. I think that it was about 6 months when I noticed that I didn't need to nap every single time Caleb napped. But I also didn't want to spend that precious alone time cleaning house. I found that when I cleaned during his nap, I would resent when he woke up. So I made a deal with myself: I would take 10 minutes to "power clean" and then I gave myself permission to sit down to take some "me time." As he got older and his naps were a little more consistent (and longer) I began to expand that time to 15 min and then 30 min, but I always kept at least half of his nap time for personal time.

Now that Caleb is down to one nap per day I find myself adjusting my housework again. Certain things I can do when he is awake (such as washing dishes with a ltitle helper or vacuuming because he loves the noise) so I spend some time in the morning doing that. Most kids are happiest in the morning after they've eaten breakfast and had a good sleep. Caleb will usually play on his own or help me with whatever I'm doing. When he goes down to nap is the best time to do laundry for me because that way I don't have to fold everything two or three times. But a lot of times when he is napping I've already accomplished a couple of things in the morning. That means I get to take that quiet time to read or cruise the internet or play computer games etc. When he wakes up in the middle of his nap (he's been doing that a lot lately) I can take the time to lay down wih him for half an hour and be able to focus on him instead of everything that I should or could be doing in that time instead.

Whenever I choose to spend time with Caleb over housework I have an inner dialogue with myself. I ask some questions: What do I feel like I should be doing right now? (washing dishes) What will happen if I don't do it? (I'll have to do them later) What does Caleb need from me right now? (love and hugs) What will happen if I don't do that? (he will cry and be cranky) Which is better to do in the longrun? Caleb nearly always wins out.

Like I said, I'm not the perfect housewife. I cook dinner AFTER my husband is in from work (for a couple reasons - he can watch Caleb and he can remind me to cook and tell me what he's hungry for). I only wash my floor once a week (on a good week). I usually only do laundry when Caleb or I have run out of clean clothes to wear. My bathroom doesn't get cleaned every week (*gasp*). But my family still loves me and I get to spend every day feeling like I've accomplished what's important.

My mom always says that people want to see me they are welcome to come by. If people want to see my house they have to make an appointment in advance. I also have had friends say to never apologize for your house or kids.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Throwing a Fit vs Communication

I've mentioned how Caleb is such an easy child to pretty much every one that I know. And I will mention it again for those of you who don't know. He's very laid back and doesn't really get into stuff he shouldn't be into. He's also perfectly content playing by himself for sometimes hours at a time. Every once in a while he comes to check up on me and pulls me to where he has been playing because he has something so exciting that he wants to share with me. He doesn't complain when it's bedtime, he doesn't fuss for more than a few minutes when we need to come inside, and he is all around just a very even tempered and easy going little boy.

Now that I've bragged about my amazing son (every mother is entitled to let others know how great her children are) I will let you know that he's not perfect. He is a toddler and toddlers aren't all that great at communicating their emotions. Caleb's current way of letting us know he's upset consists of laying down on his tummy and whining (sometimes very angry sounding whines). Adam has tried to call them "fits" or "temper tantrums." I, however, would like to give my son the benefit of the doubt. I call it "inability to communicate."

Here's what I think: Caleb doesn't talk. He feels emotions very strongly and they are all new to him. He doesn't understand my reasoning when I tell him he's not allowed to play with something. So it makes sense that he gets upset and doesn't know how to express his feelings. I think that looking at his behaviour in this way has taught me to deal with it a little differently than if I looked at it as a temper tantrum.

The first time Caleb laid himself on the floor when he was upset I sat down beside him and tried to explain what he was feeling. I did that because he didn't know how to explain it but when he starts talking he will have the words necessary to tell me instead of show men how he feels. I said something along the lines of "You're upset aren't you? You don't like that mommy took away your porch privileges" Then I went on to explain to him why I did that. "Mama has told you that the kitty dishes are off limits. They are not a toy." Sometimes if it's something dangerous then I tell him that and why it's dangerous. Then I try to build up his emotions again "Mama loves you, Caleb I love you. You're a wonderful boy. Would you like a hug?"

My theory is that I'm teaching him that it's okay to feel those emotions but there are better ways to deal with them. And once he makes the decision to get up off the floor, I'm waiting with open arms. Sometimes I rub his back, just to give him that human contact and remind him he's not alone. And sometimes he pushes my hand away at first, but he always accepts it after a little bit.

Another important thing that a lot of moms have found is to see when they start that behavior. It is usually at a time when they are either bored, hungry or tired. Eliminate those factors and you'll find that those times of difficult communication lessen drastically. Or at least they don't last as long.

I know that it will make a difference in the long term. I'm a firm believer in "train up a child in the way he should go." That and I believe that children are just that, children. They don't understand things the way that we do. We expect way to much of them a lot of times. They like to try things and explore reactions and don't mean any harm by it. Just like I mentioned with the water cooler, they see something that looks like fun and don't understand the consequences. Yes, even if you're told them 100 times, they don't always remember. Kind of like husbands who need to be nagged sometimes.... not that I ever nag of course.... ummm yeah....

So anyway, Caleb barely lays on the floor like that. He did it really bad a couple times but now he will just lay there and wait for me to sit by him. Then he holds up his hand for me to help him up and crawls into my arms. It's really cute actually. Yes, I give my son attention when he "throws a fit." He's learning that I am paying attention to him and that his feelings do matter.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm on a Veggie Strike Mom!

For the last two months Caleb has been on a veggie strike. He refuses to eat them. He had never been picky at all until a couple of months ago. He actually loved to eat his vegetables (especially peas). Then one day he decided that they were no good. I tried to prepare them in different ways and offer him different types, but he always picked around them. I'm not sure why he decided that vegetables are no good but that is exactly what he has done.

There was one day, after about a month into this strike, that he ate about a cup of cooked baby carrots. He just kept shoving them into his mouth like they were going out of style. I thought to myself "hallelujah, the strike is over!" But I rejoiced too soon. The next day he refused them. I watched an episode of "The Doctors" a while back in which this kid refused to eat at all during dinner time. They pretty much just ignored him and he felt left out and started eating. We tried that. It didn't work. Caleb just sat in his chair and made a big mess. He picked around the veggies and ate everything else. Every other food group was fine. Isn't it amazing that a kid can see a new food and know instantly which food group it falls into?

I know that I'm not the only one going through this with my little man. I think that nearly everyone has heard the old adage of kids hating broccoli. So I gave Caleb extra fruits and I made sure to eat my own share of vegetables. Another benefit of nursing my toddler is that as he goes through these picky phases I can rest assured that he is still getting the nutrients he needs through me.

I have been a little sneaky though. I started making fruit smoothies and adding cauliflower and carrots into it. I made pasta and coated it with tomato and lentil pasta sauce (don't tell Adam that he ate lentils and actually liked them though). But other than that, not one kind of vegetable has passed those adorable little lips that have taken the role of a picket line for the last two months.

Last week I made grilled cheese and vegetable soup. I dipped my bread in it and Caleb copied. He also grabbed his spoon and ate some of the veggies in it. He doesn't normally like soup but I think the grilled cheese made it more fun. On Saturday he grabbed a piece of raw cauliflower and dipped it in my veggie dip (I have never given him dip before) and he put it in his mouth before I could grab it from him. He then did the same with a piece of raw broccoli. On Sunday he had rice with peas and corn mixed in. Normally he would have picked around the peas and corn but he actually ate some. Last night I gave him something similar and he ate a VERY small amount of it. I'm hoping this is the end of the strike.

Things I've learned from this:
1. Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing for children learning what they like to eat and don't like.
2. Ignoring a child at the supper table makes a mess but allows them to explore their food without someone constantly looking over their shoulder.
3. Keep trying because "this too shall pass."
4. Kids are very observant and will want to copy you with everything you eat. They can tell the difference between a cookie and a whole wheat cracker. (I try to only eat junk food if he is asleep, so I'm typing this with a bowl of chips beside me)
5. It's okay to be sneaky for the benefit of your family.
6. I'm glad that Adam is willing to eat healthy for the sake of Caleb. We rarely have junk food in the house and he (usually) doesn't complain.