Guest Post: Paging Dr. Momsie

It’s no secret that Jack pushes the limit. He’s extremely passionate. Defiant. Exaggerated. And fearless. In a world of bouncy balls, he’s the super ball. Bouncing uncontrolled from ceiling to floor to wall to window.

Shortly after Ella’s arrival in November, Jack intensified. His tantrums were louder. Longer. He demanded the moon. Battled us over everything. His language/communication skills were getting greater daily, but his communication with others was remaining minimal. One day he started to stutter. And Justin began dreading coming home from work. I cried for the sweet boy who kissed me so softly and hugged me so tightly. It was time to find him.

I started reading the book Raising Your Spirited Child. It helped define parts of Jack. Offered solutions for overwhelming behavior. Ways to handle the stress. But, I just needed something more specific. An expert who could hear our story.  So, about a month ago I reached out to fellow blogger Darlingist Dr. Momsie.

She’s a mom and licensed phychologist working at a bustling urban school district counseling students, parents and teachers on family, emotional and behavioral concerns. She works from a “cognitive-behavioral” orientation, which means a focus on environmental reinforceres and how thinking patterns impact emotions/behavior. She earned a doctorate in school psychology in 2005.

“At that time psychology and education consumed my world,” Dr. Momsie said. “I had read that after completing a doctoral degree, a women’s chance of marrying decreased by 75 percent. I was okay with that.”

That was until she met her husband in 2007. The couple married in 2009 and welcomed a beautiful baby boy in 2011. Having taught college-level child development courses, studied parenting and consulted with hundreds of parents, April thought parenting would be a breeze.

I now realize how challenging (and completely fulfilling) it can be! On my blog, Darlingist Dr. Momsie, I try to combine my training and experience with a good dose of reality.  I share the joys of being ‘Jr.'s’ mom, the challenges of being a working mom, and the insights of a psychologist.”

Seriously adorable family, right? Here’s how she shed light on our life:

A lot of this may be due to developmentally appropriate boundary and independence testing (Terrible Two’s) combined with an anxious personality style. Try the following basic interventions for quite awhile and, hopefully, some will be enough to get Jack through this transition period without too much emotional upheaval. 

Issue: Jack’s tantrums intensified in time out. He’d fight over everything. Brushing his teeth. Putting on clothes. Potty. Eating. Sleeping. Everything. We placed him in timeout, but his scream strengthened. His breath lost. Never a “hold his breath” way, but intense and inconsolable.

Solution: Empathy before discipline. Some kids don’t have the words to express emotions. For example, Jack loses it because he wants cereal not the provided cinnamon roll for breakfast. First, label the feeling (Jack you are very angry that you can’t have cereal. It’s disappointing to have a cinnamon roll). Next, don’t give in to the tantrum (Cinnamon rolls are for breakfast, not cereal). This is so important – and SO hard. Allow him to express his anger, and ignore as best you can, until the rage passes. He’ll most likely move into a stage of sadness/clinginess. Comfort and hug him. But don’t give him cereal. As he gets older and continues to tantrum, natural consequences are best (you tantrum in the store you leave, you don’t and you get a snack). Be ready for the tantrums to escalate and intensify before they disappear. He’ll really test you on this!

Issue: Adjusting to a sister. Jack loves Ella. Always has. But he began hitting and defying Justin and I every chance he got.

Solution: Provide warnings about changes and give him quality “Jack time” without baby sister. It’s important for children to have that one-on-one connection with their parents, even if it only a few minutes a day.  You can just take a few minutes to play with him, noticing what he's doing, reflecting what you se. Avoid asking questions or making judgments.

Books for separation anxiety: "The Invisible String" by Patrice Karst and "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn.  

Issue: Jack’s shy. He’s been at the same daycare for two years. With the same teacher. Although he’s able to formulate sentences and pronounce complex words, he was extremely quiet at school. Even with friends. He’s always experienced some “separation anxiety” since being a small baby. But, quiet days at daycare were followed by excessive meltdowns at home.

Solution: It could just be run-of-the-mill "shyness" or more serious anxiety.  It is probably too early to tell.  If you handle it well, you may prevent further anxiety problems. Encourage him to "face his fear" of talking in large or strange company by gently encouraging him to engage in large settings. At some point, you may want to add a reward for "being brave" and increasing his verbalizations.  An ice cream after school with mommy, or a sticker on his chart might help motivate. Don't push too hard, he is still very young!  However, I have seen cases where early teachers have ignored such behavior until middle elementary, when the pattern has become engrained and hard to change.  Becoming overprotective or making too many allowances to avoid uncomfortable social situations may only increase his anxiety long-term.

Jack’s progress to date: Our genuine little boy is back. And even brighter. I’m not sure if it’s the tools we put in place. Or the acceptance of his role in the family. Growing up. Or maybe just a mixture of it all.

Regardless the reason, we’re smiling again. All of us. Jack rarely tantrums. Mainly over normal things, like more icecream, or when he’s super tired. And never in public. He’s talking at school. I even heard him yelling to a friend one day. “Such a sweet voice,” his teacher said. He apologizes for everything. Even when he accidentally spills his milk. “Sorry, Mom. Sorry.” He agrees to things he doesn’t really want to do. Without a single whimper. He greets strangers. Finds entertainment anywhere. Rarely complains. And sings songs while he plays.

My silly, caring, passionate little guy is melting my heart all over again. Check out Darlingist Dr. Momsie. Maybe she'll have something to help you!


Snapshot Series: Baby Finds Food

The post below is part of my Snapshot Series, an e-journal of my children. Like pages in a diary, I'll share the moments of laughter and smiles that keep my world turning. Captured like photographs. So when Jack leaves for college or Ella goes on her first date, I'll have this to remember. Read the series intro here.


Ella: 6 months

Ella’s fifth month in this world was a big one. Belly-laughing. Rolling both ways. Scooting via belly, arms and butt combined. Da-da’s. Feet-grabbing. Unsupported sitting. And finger foods. The newborn is gone. She’s now a curious, babbling baby eager to explore and share her opinions.

Two weeks ago she mastered the finger-thumb to mouth skill. Reaching the milestone well before her brother did at this age. She’s got his determination. But unlike him, she’s also equipped with patience.

Today, she mastered chewing. For a few weeks she’s been stuffing single Puffs in her mouth. Lips smacking. Tongue in a tizzy. Attempting to swollow without gagging. Only to have the tiny dissolving bite slip from her mouth in drool.

Today she gummed up some Puffs. Successfully swallowed. Finished with a cheeky smile.

Next finger foods on the menu: Cheerios, mushy banana, cooked and mushy tofu, cooked and mushy beans, mushy pears and mushy peaches. 


Down on the Worm Farm

Pinterest is giving me anxiety. I’m overloaded with kid activities, DIY house projects, recipes and tutorial websites.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pinterest, it’s a virtual pin board. You create different boards, such as “Keepin’ Kids Happy” and “Homemade Inspirations” (two of mine), and surf the website, your following or followers.  Basically, combining all your – and the world’s - web surfing into one place. I’m addicted.

Lately I’ve been pinning inspiration for finishing our basement. My husband’s current project. But, mostly I’m fixated on children’s activities. Some are super complex. Seriously creative. But, a few are very simple to put together.

This past weekend, Jack and I put one to the test. A DIY Worm Farm. Lately my little guy has been obsessed with fishing. Catching frogs. And finding worms.

 Here’ s our guide to creating a Worm Farm:

Empty clear two-litter or similar. We used a Simply Lemonade bottle.
Fruit peelings

Step 1
Empty the bottle, rinse. If using a two-litter, cut off the top and tape edge with duct tape to prevent scratches. Our bottle had a larger opening so we skipped this. Peel off labels for prime viewing.

Step 2
Add rocks to the bottom. Just enough to provide an area for water to filter down.

Step 3
Add a thin layer of sand. About a half-inch. Then, add about two inches of soil. More sand. Then soil. Keep repeating until near the top. Add water to sand to keep moist. But be sure not to make it too watery!

Step 4
Add a few fruit peelings. We had some apple skins discarded earlier by Jack. Worms like food. Think compost.

Step 5
Add worms!

Step 6
Place the farm in a dark area or surround with dark cardboard. The worms will wiggle throughout. Creating their habitat.

Step 7
Worm, Slimmy and Fatty are loving it. Sure beats the Walt’s Crawlers tub. Now, Jack can check the little worms daily. See the tunnels they’ve dug and drop in a few fruit peels for food. Easiest pets ever. 


Just My Kind of Day

It was my first Mother's Day with two. A simple day. With ordinary activities. But yet my favorite Mother's Day so far. 

After sleeping in until 10 a.m., I found Jack alone on the couch watching cartoons. Justin was putting Ella asleep for her morning nap. Jack's entire face smiled. He leaped from the couch.

"Happy Mother's Day!" He quickly hugged my leg and skipped to the table to grab my gift. 
He handed me a wood slap, engraved with "Happy Mom's Day, Love Jack" and seal coated by Dad. His eyes beaming proud. 

"Now you eat eggs," he ordered. Matter-of-fact.
I laughed and asked him to snuggle a bit while we waited for Dad.

After breakfast, dressing, lunch and naps, Justin headed to his Moms. It was just me and my two babies. We wasted away the afternoon. Jack peddled his trike around the deck. Ella squealed at bubbles. We built sand castles and caught caterpillars. It was just another typical day. And absolutely perfect.

Craft pictured above: Rainbow butterflies for Grandmas. Jack painted coffee filters with water color paint. After they dried, I folded each like a fan and separated the wings with a laundry clip, the body. With a black permanent marker, I drew a face on the clips and "Happy Mother's Day, Love Jack 2012" on the wings. 


Potty Starts Now

It’s official. Jack’s potty trained.

Almost one year after we stocked his drawer with The Big Boy Pants. Created a Surprise Box for Potty Time. Scrubbed stains off soiled bottoms. Bribed. Manipulated. And offered everything short of $1 million. The 2.8-year-old finally surrendered the diapers. With a smile. Number Two’s in the toilet. And acting like the Superman flying on his undies. 

Tomorrow marks seven days straight. Only one pee accident at school. Well two counting him stripping down on the playground. But no mishaps at home. Straight from plastic to cotton without a hiccup.

I can’t say we mandated the action. Or even unlocked a secret potty training technique. Last Wednesday, Jack just decided it was time. With a little coaxing from Dad.

“I have to poop. I go to my room,” Jack skips away.
“Why don’t you try to poop in the potty?” Justin suggests. Echoing like a broken record.
“Noooo! Me don’t want to,” Jack continues on his path.
“You can do it, buddy. I know you’re a big boy,” Justin keeps at him.
“Nooooooooo,” Jack reaches his bedroom door.
“I’ll give you a Skittle.”
Jack stops.

And that was it. We put on underpants and never looked back. He even wants to wear them to bed. I hate to discourage, but I’m uninterested in cleaning pee sheets at 5 a.m. When a smiley baby usually wakes me. 

So, I’m not sure if it was the Skittles. Ease of drawstring pants. Comfort of Big Boy undies. Accomplishment of "peeing like Daddy." Or, just simply just the right time.

I’m going with the last. Just Jack being the bull-headed boy he is.


He's Not Perfect, He's Mine

May 10, 2008

Today the hubs and I celebrate four years of marriage. That’s eight years together. Now three towns, two dogs, five jobs and two kids later, we’re still keeping things fresh.

While I could write pages on the traits of Justin that raise my blood pressure, I thought it’d be best to highlight the qualities that keep me smiling. In the furry and muddle that we call life, he can make me giggle. Cause my heart to skip a beat. And remind me I’m not alone.

Justin’s most handsome quality is his handiness. Most guys will claim they know how to fix or do anything, but Justin seriously does. With perfection too. The guy can take a part an entire motor. Properly fix a broken lawnmower. Build a retaining wall. Refinish tile flooring. Understands the furnace complexities. And jimmy-rig just about anything. Hubster-of-all-trades.

The Japanese symbol on his shoulder means “to laugh.” He laughs often. Makes others laugh. But, my favorite is his ability to laugh at himself. And there will never be a day when I’m not joining in.

I’m an outdoors-junky. And Justin’s similar appreciation is an entirely higher level. We both like nature walks, living in the woods, boating, fishing, snowboarding, animals. But, his obsession with the perfect lawn and haven on the 4-wheeler make me envious. Stress-relieving through simple things.

At my wedding shower, everyone joked that it should have been Justin’s. The man loves to cook. Or at least he’s taken on that household daily duty. Every night Justin prepares dinner. Usually homemade too. He even asked for utensils for Christmas. No doubt, our kitchen is where the man belongs.

The best aspect of Justin is his love of fatherhood. He’s truly a hands-on Best Dad Ever. Spends hours playing monster trucks. Offers to change poopy diapers. And would rather spend Friday night watching Finding Nemo than drinking beer. I thought I had the best one. But Jack and Ella are genuinely blessed.

So, happy anniversary babe. I love you more with every new gray hair. And look forward to watching us wrinkle together. May we dance together forever.

Oh, and this is your present. Cheers!


Appreciating Our Teachers

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. And we like to celebrate the small things in our house. So, we talked about teachers. Practiced our Spanish. Played Circle Time. Then, baked some cookies for Jack’s preschool teachers. And, of course, sampled the treats to make sure they were good enough to give.

Teacher's Treats

I discovered the nifty "Teacher's Treats (to share or not to share)" printable over at the Eighteen25 blog. Glued it on some heavier decorative paper. And wrote "From, Jack" on the back. Wa-la.

Jack and I baked a batch of Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip cookies. Our fav. Okay, maybe just mine. But Jack does like chocolate chips.

Then I wrapped up and tied with some decorative twine. And Jack hand-delivered them this morning. 

And to all the other teachers out there: Thanks for helping our kids grow!

Betty Crocker's Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip cookie recipe 

1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 oz)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, stir brown sugar and butter until blended. Stir in vanilla and egg until fluffy. Stir in oats, flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches apart.

Bake 9 - 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly, then remove from sheet to let cool entirely. 


Organizing the Little Things

I’m a classic organizer. Maybe a little overboard at times, but it makes me feel accomplished. Put together.

Lately it’s obvious Jack inherited my organizational skills. Not sure if I’m proud or worried. Maybe jealous? Almost three years old and the boy can sort the laundry better than me. My cleanliness didn’t kick in until after college.

At times, Jack’s so involved in sorting and organizing that hours pass. His determined face. Busy hands. Little feet scurrying from one task to the next. Rushing to get the job done. I try to intervene, help even, but always met with frustration.

“Noooo! Not that way, this way,” he shows me. I try again.
“That’s not right. They need to be separated!” He scolds. Anxiety building in his voice. “You go do something. I’ll do this. Okay?”

Every day it’s a new mission. With varying objects and toys. One night it was squishy frogs in plastic containers atop books. Lined one-by-one down the hallway. Another day his markers and crayons were sorted by color. Placed in piles against the kitchen wall. And every time we get the monster trucks out, they must be lined up, “waiting.” He even arranged all the rubber reptiles at Target on a trip with my mom. Spent 20 minutes perfecting the order.

I know his desire to separate and organize is credited in part to his age. But Jack takes the skill to another level. Everything must be “separated” before we play. Everything.

Am I the only one with a compulsive organizer? Surely he can’t be the only 2.8-year-old with impeccable methodical skills… right?

Jack's line of balls against the dining room wall.
The entire wall. And every ball in the house was used.


Six Splurge-Worthy Things

I treasure a good deal. Take pride in our minimal debt. And work from a budget. My dad taught me the value of saving more/spending less when I was little. We frequented Detroit Lions games every year. Would park miles – seriously miles – from the Silverdome. Some business parking lot with no cars or game day traffic. My feet swollen by the time we reached the furthest paying lot. Just so we wouldn’t have to pay the $10 parking fee.

But that’s my dad. Always pinching pennies. I never liked the idea. That was until I became a responsible adult paying bills. And witnessed him relax into retirement. With two houses and a dream come true.

So my family’s daily activities and purchases are met with my dad’s dime-saving techniques.  Even my husband drank the cool-aid. He regularly asks, “What would Jim do?” Joking, but mostly serious.

But there are some things that deserve the extra dollar. The things that sparkle. Add color to life. And most importantly out-last their cheaper counterparts. Splurge-worthy, as I like to say.

Newborn Ella and her stocking from Pottery Barn Kids.
Personalized holiday stockings. My mom still displays my stocking on her mantel to this day. That's almost 30 years of use. 

Jack's one-year photo shoot. Stela Zaharieva Photography.
Yearly family photos. As amazing as a photographer I may think I am, I'm no professional. Plus, Justin always gets my fat face. And I want to look back in ten years. Watch us all change. Grow old.

Jack during the first snowfall in 2011. Hat from Old Navy Kids.
Winter hats. Kids wear warm hats every day in the winter. That's almost six months of cold in Michigan. More than 180 days. Thinking the $15 beanie is worth it, right?

Jack and Ella's Easter basket covers from Pottery Barn Kids.
Personalized Easter basket covers. Same reason as the holiday stockings. You can't put a price on items that make memories for a lifetime. I just purchased cheaper baskets from Michael's Craft Store, then added the more expensive liners. Still a little savings. 

Jack enjoying sparklers during the Fourth of July, 2011 cabin trip.
Family vacations. Again, you can't price memories.

Ella is in Pamper Swaddlers. The fancy newborn diapers. 
Name-brand diapers. We've tried numerous store-brand diapers. My kids keep gushing out. Maybe I'm doing something wrong? I've heard mom's swear by Target brand. Although, once you've had the "I peed" line on the newborn diapers, it's hard to go back. 


Office with a View

I'm not sure how to identify myself. Stay-at-home mom? No, I work part-time. Out-of-home working mom? Nope. I work from my couch regularly. My conclusion: Part-time-working-in-the-office-or-home-while-watching-baby Mom.

Lately, Wednesdays are my favorite working days. Quite the view. Although the babbling is quite the happy distraction.

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