Tag Archives: toddler

Childcare Transitions

At one point or another, every child I’ve ever watched has had a “first day” and each day is unique.

In the last two months, I’ve had the privilege of adding two new clients.  The first was an older infant who has been in daycare almost from the start and the second is a little boy who will be 2 in about a week.  He has been in childcare in the past, but it has been months.  His mother has been unemployed for awhile and just started a new job this week.

The transition for the infant was seamless.  She’s fairly easy going (although not a great sleeper yet) and has been in the care of babysitters of daycare providers continually since she was 8 weeks old.  Being in unfamiliar areas is normal for her.

I knew the little boy would have a more challenging transition.  I expect that it may take a full 6 weeks for him to adjust but it was clear today that he is making good progress.

When children have a hard time transitioning from the care of a parent to a babysitter or daycare provider, one of the things I have learned is that a quick drop-off is the best for all parties involved.  Parents who linger, continually trying to reassure a teary-eyed child only add to the emotions because it is abundantly clear they don’t want to leave, either.

If your child is unhappy about your leaving, there are some things you can do to help out.  First, before the first drop off tell your child when you’ll be back to pick them up.  Time has little meaning, but saying things like, “I’ll be back to pick you up after naptime” can be a big help.  Don’t repeat the message; once is enough.  Then give your child a firm hug and/or kiss, then leave.  If the child tries to follow you, allow the new caregiver to pick him or her up and soothe them.  Do not turn back around for another quick goodbye or to reassure because it makes the transition harder.

As a care provider, there are a few things I’ve learned that I can do to help with the transition, too.  The first is to immediately engage the child in his or her favorite activity.  Whether it’s playing with trains, singing time, or a trip to the park–DO something engaging.

Some children will continue to cry or whimper for hours on end which can be frustrating.  Today was the third day and although he went whimper free for an hour yesterday, he spent the other three hours whining.  I didn’t want that to become his standard mode of operation.  I do not allow whining in my house so I stepped up my game.  We left for the park just as soon as all the children for the morning were here.  Before leaving I packed snacks and drinks, knowing we’d stay at the park as long as we reasonably could.

The walk to the park was slow, but once we sat down for a quick snack, the little boy’s face began to light up.  We then played.  I took advantage of the empty playground and left the babies in the double stroller and jumped onto the play equipment and played with the children, rather just sitting on the bench and watching them or standing by to catch them if they fell off one of the climbing walls.  He thought my shenanigans on the zip beam were hilarious and motioned for a turn. 

Everything was going smoothly and it was getting to be naptime for the babies so we headed home.  As we approached my door he began to whine again.  We entered the house and I left the stroller in the entryway, placed the little boy on the bottom step, put my finger gently on his lips and told him firmly that whining is not allowed in my house and he was to stay on the step until he stopped whining.

It took about fifteen minutes, with a finger-in-the-lips repeat every 2 or 3, until he understood that I meant business.  At that point I followed my guy.  I *knew* that if I just had him play he’d start whining again.  So instead, it took his diaper off and placed him on the potty.  He stayed there until he peed, about a half an hour.  I sat right next to him and the babies tried to climb all over him, so he wasn’t just sitting in a corner (he was actually right in the middle of the playroom).

When he peed I quietly got up, grabbed his diaper, then put a huge grin on my face and used my excited voice to tell him he had done a good job going pee on the potty.  He seemed rather underwhelmed, but that’s alright.  His real feelings were revealed when his mother arrived about 10 minutes later.

When she came in, he opened up again and started chatting.  There was no whining or crying like the two previous days and he even kept waiving and saying “Good bye!” as she walked out the door.  It made me feel good to know that my “tough” discipline with requiring him to sit on the steps until he could stop whining and then the time on the potty were rewarded with such a warm goodbye.

I can only hope that in the next few days, each drop-off transition will be smoother and quicker.  If the mother follows my advice about the quick separation, it should be.

*fingers crossed* Here’s hoping!!

I Missed a Febrile Seizure

Twice in the last 5 years I have held a child who was having a febrile seizure.  The first time I recognized it almost immediately but the second time, just a couple days ago, I didn’t realize that a seizure had happened until 2 days later.

If you’ve never heard of them, febrile seizures are sort of like electrical storms in the brain.  They typically occur in 2% to 5% of children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years[1] and the seizure generally happens at the onset of a high fever (102⁰F taken rectally).

A febrile seizure is not caused by epilepsy.

Some statistics worth sharing:

  • Febrile seizures tend to run in families
  • Children under 12 months of age at the time of their first seizure have a 50% chance of having another febrile seizure
  • Children who experience their first febrile seizure after 12 months have a 30% chance of having another febrile seizure

Would you know how to recognize a febrile seizure?

While teaching in public schools I overheard a conversation that a new special education teacher was having with her experienced assistant.  The assistant mentioned that many parents and teachers fail to recognize small seizures in their children because the signs can be hard to spot and don’t last long.  She mentioned that sometimes it’s as simple as a far off stare with the arms raising slightly seemingly of their own will. 

At the time, the only type of seizure I had heard about was grand-mal seizures: the kind typically represented in mainstream media with a person falling to the floor and convulsing. I hadn’t realized that the signs of a seizure could be so subtle as a bizarre stare and arm-raising.

About 5 months after overhearing the conversation, I had the opportunity to witness a febrile seizure first hand in my daughter.  She was 16 months old and had just developed a high fever in a very rapid period of time.  In the matter of half an hour her temperature went from normal to over 103⁰F taken orally.

My daughter and I were visiting family out-of-state and we didn’t have health insurance.  While discussing the financial pitfall a trip to the doctor would create for us due to our lack of insurance, her eyes rolled back in an unusual way, followed by a blank stare and some abnormal drooling.  Her body had stiffened during the event and she completely slumped over when it ended.  The whole thing probably lasted only 10-15 seconds, but it was enough for me to know that something had happened that wasn’t normal.

My brain went into “research memory mode” and stumbled upon the information about seizures from the conversation and I determined that health insurance or not—my daughter needed to see a doctor.  At that point, I still had no knowledge of febrile seizures but was fairly certain my daughter had had a seizure.

The doctor we saw confirmed that my toddler had massive ear infections as well as her sinuses and upper respiratory tract being infected.  He then went on to tell me that she’d had a febrile seizure and talked to me about them.  He mentioned that they tend to run in families, but to my knowledge, nobody in my family had ever had a seizure.

The next morning when I called my mother-in-law to share our experience, she told me that all 4 of her children had, at one point in their youth, experienced a febrile seizure.  This would have been very useful information BEFORE it happened!

A healthy dose of antibiotics and some fever reducers helped get my daughter back to her cheery self in a day or two.

Sadly, my second experience with a febrile seizure happened without me knowing it at all.

Monday afternoon one of the little boys I babysit (age 25 months) began to act really run down.  I held him to give him a hug and realized he felt a little warm.  As his level of tolerance decreased and his crabbiness increased, I picked him up and held him close in my rocking chair.  His mother was due to arrive at any minute and he clearly needed some loves.

While holding him, his eyes closed and I thought he was on the verge of sleep. 

You know how sometimes as you fall asleep you sort of jerk yourself awake?  Or have you ever held a child who did that?

Well, that’s that this little boy did, except the jerky motion was magnified and it happened 3 times in quick succession.  I would have to say the first two convulsions happened about 8 seconds apart and the last one, which was milder, was about 15 seconds later.  These were definitely stronger than the typical “falling asleep shake”.

I was holding him at an angle so the side of his head was resting on my chest.  His eyes definitely had a far-off stare, but I attributed that to his “falling asleep”.  I suspect that if I’d been looking at him straight on that I would have seen an eye-roll similar to what my daughter had done.

When his mother arrived he immediately put his head on her shoulder and didn’t move.  I took the time to explain what had happened.  A fever-virus-cough had made the rounds through my home so I thought perhaps he’d caught that.

When his fever didn’t go down and his mother realized he was one sick little boy, she took him into the emergency room.  She gave the ER doctor a description of the jerking I’d mentioned and the doctor said that he’d had a febrile seizure.  Like me, she didn’t know much about them and was given the same information I had been given several years ago about treatment (there is none), their harmless effect, and cause.

In this little boy’s case, an ear infection was to blame.  He has tubes in his ears so his mom was surprised to find out there was an infection.  In fact, further testing revealed that his infection is in the mastoid bone as well, so it had spread quite rapidly beyond the typical ear infection.

In a nutshell, if you have a child who develops a high fever, particularly if the fever goes up rapidly, watch for any one or combination of the following:

  • Far-off stare or “eyes rolling back in the head”
  • Abnormal and/or excessive drooling
  • Jerking/convulsive movement, particularly on one side of the body or with just one limb
  • Loss of consciousness

If you suspect your child has had a febrile seizure, the American Academy of Pediatrics says to call your doctor right away.  Although there is no treatment for febrile seizures, the doctor will want to examine your child to find out why the fever is there in the first place.

For more information on febrile seizures, click here.

If you’d like more information on infections of the mastoid (mastoiditis), read here.


[1] American Academy of Pediatrics www.healthychildren.org

 

Car Seat Safety Rant

Someday I’ll write a post about car seat safety in general but now this will be more of a rant/vent than anything else.

So let’s say you’re a parent and you’ve heard that the minimum guidelines for child car seat safety have changed but the laws in your state have not.

Do you follow the minimum requirements by law or the minimum requirements as given by the American Academy of Pediatrics?

Since when is the MINIMUM recommendation the best option for a child?!?  Don’t most parents want MAXIMUM safety, not minimum??

It’s the 21st century and by now every parent should know that children under the age of 13 should not sit in the front seat.  Even Dweight Schrute from The Office sits in the back when he rides with Jim!

So can someone, anyone, please tell me why Kindergartner A at our bus stop was sitting in her high back booster in the front seat of her mother’s Odyssey yesterday.  There were 5 other seats, in the rear, that were available.  FIVE.

And then today, Kindergartener B was in the front seat of her mom’s minivan without a booster AT ALL.

Virginia law states that all children must be in a child restraint system (i.e. 5 point harness or booster) until their 8th birthday.  And although the law doesn’t state it, the shoulder belt should always sit across the proper spot on the shoulder, not cutting into the side of the neck.

Both of these kindergartners are between average and small for their age.  Under no circumstances should either of them have been in the front seat!  

So what would you do?  These are mom’s who I’ve never really talked to and I don’t know where either one lives.  Finding their home would be easy though since we have no garages and they both have vehicles that are unique in our neighborhood.

Suggestions?  

My Pants to Church Experience

For those of you who may not know, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In other words: I am a Mormon.

For those of you who do not know much about this church, please take a look at www.mormon.org

Growing up I thought my parents knew all the questions I would ever have about church/gospel related things.  When I entered my teen years I realized they didn’t know as much as I thought they did and I accepted that wholeheartedly.  If my parents, who were 23 years my senior, still had questions then it was certainly okay if I had questions, too.

In fact, the think one of the best pieces of advice my mother ever gave me was, “If you don’t know, then ask.” 

Since then, I have spent quite a bit of time asking questions and even more time listening to answers and doing my best to put my answers into how I live my life and how I raise my two children.

In my home it was always understood that we wore dresses or skirts to church.  Pants were not allowed.  It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I saw women who regularly wore pants to church and it was always the same woman or two .  It was rare and I always wondered (a better word would be judged) why they did that if the wearer appeared to be of normal health.  Obviously an elderly woman with a walker wearing pants wasn’t at all an issue to me because it seemed safer than risking catching the hem of the skirt under a leg.

Over the last few years I started to see grown women wearing leggings under their “too short” skirts and it bothered me because the skirt was too short!  Never mind that those same women were in fact dressed more modestly than others whose hem line was 3 to 5 inches longer when standing but would ride up and show an incredibly amount of thigh when sitting.

That skirt hiking was something I’ve fought for years and it drives me crazy.  I prefer to keep my thighs covered so fighting my skirt and my toddler just doesn’t work for me.  This means I wear far less attractive long skirts or maxi dresses.  Yes, some of them are seriously cute but it’s not the same look as a knee-length pencil skirt.

Over the last few years as my weight has fluctuated with pregnancies, miscarriages, and health issues my wardrobe has been a mess.  On many occasions I’ve stood in my closet in my bathrobe and lamented to my dear husband how much I hate my church clothes and wouldn’t be nice if I could just wear pants to church?

I must give the man some credit—he’s honest and open minded in so many wonderful ways.  On several of the mornings where I mentioned my disgust at my wardrobe he’s told me, “Then just wear pants.  It’s okay. “

But to me it wasn’t okay.  I was raised in a home where you simply didn’t wear pants to church!

In December 2012 that all changed.  I learned of an event put on by a group of (mostly) church members in support of gender equality within the church.  As I followed the blog posts, comments, and Facebook page associated with the “Wear Pants to Church” event, I realized just how judgmental I had been with respect to something so simple as leggings and pants. 

The group who organized the event, called All Enlisted, has this as the group description:

All Enlisted is composed of faithful Latter-day Saints, their allies, and advocates for social change. It is intended to be a place of action where active LDS men and women can engage in acts of peaceful resistance to gender inequality in the LDS church. Drawing inspiration from suffragettes and civil rights leaders, we aim to display a respect for personal revelation and community strength as we seek to build Zion, a place where we fully realize and embrace the truth that all are alike unto God. 

We strive to keep our actions consistent with those of the Savior by showing a commitment to Christ’s injunction to love one another as ourselves. We echo the words of Gordon B. Hinckley when he said, “God will hold us accountable if we neglect his daughters.”

Logically and doctrinally, it stands to reason that women are equal to men in the eyes of our Heavenly Parents. Thus, women’s realm of influence is, and ought to be, much broader than those defined and promulgated by existing church policy.

By preventing women from fully participating in the church, many women who consider themselves Mormon feminists feel forced to choose between their divine nature as women, and the church organization they love. By equalizing the role of women in the church, all members will be edified as members make decisions based on personal revelation instead of rigid gender roles. 

Equality benefits both men and women, allowing us to see our brothers and sisters as the Savior see them: as individuals with unique needs and talents and limitless potential regardless of gender. 
Our group’s name reflects the belief that all members maintain responsibility to enlist in causes dedicated to improving the church. 

While I do not agree with every aspect of this mission statement or group description, I agree with several parts of it and it put me in a position to start thinking in ways I hadn’t thought before.  It was during this few days of introspection that  it hit me:  I was, in fact, JEALOUS of those women wearing those adorable skirts and dresses, looking fabulous, while I sat there feeling frumpy and fat and constantly fighting my clothing each time my toddler climbed in my lap or squirmed.

**I have quite a few opinions on equality within the church as well, but I’d prefer to keep most of those to myself for now.**

There was quite a bit of anger on both sides of the Pants event (those supporting it and those that didn’t). Because of this vitriol, I wanted to make sure that if I began wearing pants to church that I would be doing it for the right reason.

Leading up to this decision I knew it would be a lesson to me in just how deep my cultural roots go.  How uncomfortable was I going to feel?  Did it really matter if I was the only one? 

This “wearing pants to church” was the first time in my life I’d ever done something I’d specifically been told not to do.  That morning as I dressed I was filled with both nerves about what others might think as well as a sense of excitement the came from knowing I was supporting what I consider to be a just cause and knowing that it would not be the only time I wore pants to church.

I wore a pair of medium grey dress slacks, my favorite black wedge shoes, and a bright yellow fitted cardigan.

What I didn’t anticipate in all my preparation was the lesson I was given on compassion.  The only time I’ve felt truly judged at church was when my husband and I had been married for almost 4 years and still did not have children.  Week after week people would ask about our intent to have children.  Some of it was “good natured ribbing” but some of it was hurtful.  They thought we were putting off our family because my husband was in law school, because I was too busy making a name for myself at my school, etc.  

What none of those people knew was just how hurtful all their comments were.  My husband and I tried to get pregnant for a very long time before our eventual success.  It was so hard to go to church, watching couples who had just been married have children while we sat there, childless, and being informed we weren’t good enough because of it.

In the end only my toddler and I went to church that day.  My husband had to stay home with our oldest because she was sick.  This meant I was the only adult who could help entertain our toddler and that she’d likely be in my lap, squirming, for a good chunk of the meeting. 

I’ve never been so grateful for a pair of slacks in my life!  My little girl squirmed, wiggled, and climbed and not once did I have to fight my clothing!  As I sat there, holding her, I was able to turn my focus fully on the Sacrament (something along the lines of what others call mass), my Savior, and the speakers who taught of them.

I was filled with such a sense of peace that I knew I’d made the right choice.  I know there were eyes following my slacks as I walked in and between meetings.  Hesitant smiles and averted glances were noticed, too.  Nobody was saying hello in their usual friendly manner.  I felt it.  And compassion for others who had felt left out filled me beyond anything I’d felt before.

I’d made the right choice.  For the right reasons.  For me and in support of others who have felt the sting of inequality and the bitterness of being judged.

Three weeks later I heard a story that will stick with me for a long time.  My father was dating a women who had spent some time about 35 years ago not attending church.  What is interesting is that her time away from church started on a Sunday back in 1974 or so when, as a teenager, she sewed herself a pair of culottes and wore them to church.  As my dad tells it, she was treated poorly by her peers and their parents.  She didn’t feel welcome and quit going.

I began to wonder how many other women, before and since, felt so unwelcome at church because of their attire that they never returned? 

I know a little of what it is like to not fit in.  It seems I am frequently on the outside of things and for a period of time in my life it really bothered me.  For years now I’ve felt my divine worth as a daughter of God and the power that came with that knowledge has improved my life in so many ways. When I gained that knowledge, it made being on the outside a little easier.

 I know a great many people who have not been blessed with that same understanding and strength; men and women alike who walk into the Chapel and immediately feel unease because they aren’t dressed as others are, because they believe they are alone in their parenting style, political beliefs, family dynamics, or because of reasons related to health, etc.  It is a horribly unpleasant feeling.

If you have time, I highly recommend reading the stories of other women here:

 http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2012/12/pantscapades-the-after-party/

As you read them, whether you are a “pants supporter” or not, you’ll see that something truly amazing happened:  Women attended Sacrament meeting who had not been attending church for quite some time.  This single event helped to bring daughters of God to Christ.  And isn’t that what Sacrament meeting is all about? 

 

Flying with Children Part I

For many parents, the thought of air travel with children brings on emotions akin to panic attacks.  I’m just finalizing prep for another trip with my 2 daughters and would like to share some of the things that I do that make flying an enjoyable experience!

The first thing is to talk to your children about flying before their first trip.  Show them some pictures of the inside of the airports you’ll be going through as well as the types of planes you’ll be flying on.  If you have photos of the security check-points, share those, too.  This way, as you go through the process you can talk about it.

“Do you remember when we talked about checking our luggage?  See? They put it right on that belt and someone will put it on our plane so that it’s waiting for us when we get there!”

“Here’s Security.  Remember what we do?  Shoes and sweatshirts off and put your bag on the rolly-bars.”

By walking your children through the process before it happens, it limits surprises and can keep the children, no matter how young, interested in what is going on and that is VERY important!  Children who are interested in what is going on are much less likely to have a melt down!

My absolute biggest word of advice it to take a deep breath and remember that families fly all the time and many of them fly with just one parent.

My second daughter is almost two and a half years old.  In her life, we’ve flown coast-to-coast and back again 4 times with both girls ALONE.  Nobody has ever been lost or hurt but we have had a couple of tears related to using the restroom.  It is what it is.

When packing, keep things light.  Unless you have magic capabilities, you’ll be wrangling multiple children, suitcases, car seats, and carry-on.  Lighter is better.  Some things, like shampoo, can be purchased after you arrive and that definitely helps to lighten the load.

What you include in your checked luggage is up to you.  I’ve been crazy enough to actually pack my toddler’s favorite potty seat before (sanitized first!) because items pack around it nicely and it was something I knew she’d appreciate having while in an unfamiliar environment.

The carry-on luggage is a whole different story.  There are some very specific things you should pack to make the security check point and flight much easier.

First: Ditch the stroller if your child is flying in his own seat.  If you have to have it for your trip, check it.  All the airlines I’ve ever flown do not count the stroller as a piece of luggage and it checks for free.

If you have a lap-child (must be under 24 months of age), I recommend getting a chest/back carrier such as the Ergo carrier.  This keeps your child close, safe, and your hands free.  You are allowed to wear them during the flight but not during take-off or landing.  This can also work for older toddlers to get through the airport, but only if you have a second adult coming with you.

If your child is in an infant seat in the car, bring that in the stroller.  Once you get to the gate, walk right up and ask the attendant if there are any extra seats on the flight.  Many airlines, if there is an extra seat, will willingly change your seat so that the spare seat is next to you, allowing you to use the seat for your infant.  I have flown on American Airlines and they’ve actually given my lap-child a seat assignment when the flights aren’t too full.  Asking NEVER hurts!  If there is an extra seat, take advantage of the advice in the next paragraph.  If there isn’t, be sure to get your infant seat AND stroller tagged for gate check-in.  When pre-boarding begins, put your little baby in your chest/back carrier.  If the car seat is headed under the plane, you don’t want to make everyone behind you wait while you unstrap your child with nobody to hold him while you collapse the stroller, fasten the seatbelt straps and lower the handle on the infant seat.  The carrier is perfect for this!!

And, if you do happen to get a seat assignment for your infant, you can bring your infant car seat on the plane, child in it, and place it next to a window seat.  Keep in mind that every model of infant carrier I’ve ever seen can be used WITHOUT the base!  CHECK the base with your luggage.  If you try and fit the base in the seat you’re going to have a very hard and unnecessary fight on your hands.  Just check your seat manual for details on how to use the seat without the base using a lap belt only.  It’s there, I promise!

Once my child is too old and needs her own seat, I make a point of ensuring that her car seat is used in flight.  Is it a pain to lug through security? ABSOLUTELY!  But consider this: You child is used to being in his car seat and knows how to behave appropriately in it.  Also, any semi-curious toddler will figure out quickly how to undo the seatbelt—a BIG no-no during good chunks of the flight!

Tantrum + plane – car seat = Very Aggravated Mommy.

In addition, most young children are familiar with napping in their car seats, too, and nap-time on an airplane is really important to help avoid extra crabbiness as travel continues.  Napping without the car seat is very difficult because there is no adequate place for your child to rest her hear.

And remember: The car seat HAS to go next to the window.  I believe it is an FAA regulation.  And keep in mind that only 5-point harnesses are allowed.  A simple booster seat is not allowed to be used during flight.

So imagine me lugging my very heavy Britax car seat through the airport with my loves-to-run-from-mommy two year old and my too-scared-to-leave-mommy’s-side six year old.
If you’re picturing something like this, you’ve got the right idea.

I love this http://www.amazon.com/Childress-Ultimate-Seat-Travel-Black/dp/B0009RNXNA/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1355798456&sr=1-1&keywords=airplane+carseat+carrierk.  I wish it was just a touch bigger because my Britax is a tight fit, and the seat does have to come out during security, but it leaves my hand free as we navigate the airport and that is important.

So I’ve covered car seats and checking luggage.  But what about the rest of carry-on??

Last night I packed the carry-on for my girls like this:
My 6 year old has a rolling backpack.  It is appropriately sized for her to wear if needed but she’s pretty good at rolling it.

It contains:

  • 1 gallon sized Clear bag containing a full extra outfit including slippers and toothbrush for the toddler
  • 1 gallon sized Clear bag containing a full extra outfit and toothbrush for my 1st grader
  • 1 tightly rolled up fleece blanket—my toddler’s favorite and it’s large enough to cover laps for both girls
  • Child sized headphones
  • Kindle Touch (belongs to my 1st grader) in the outside pocket
  • 1 pint sized Clear bag with hand sanitizer and chapstick, as per FAA regulations
  • Slippers for 1st grader
  • 1 empty re-usable water bottle without straw attachment (inevitable pressure changes make the straw a bad idea!  If you don’t know why, feel free to ask!)

The backpack is full, but not heavy.  This back pack will be the sole responsibility of my 1st grader and she will keep it under the seat in front of her.

Why the bags of extra clothes?  It’s a preparedness thing.  What if a drink gets spilled?  Someone gets pukey? Turbulence so bad someone pees their pants because they aren’t allowed to get up?  A flight problem that leaves you overnight without your luggage?  I’ve had ALL of those happen except the puke (knock on wood!)  The gallon sized bag gives you a place to put the soiled clothing and neatly keeps everything together so you can grab and go.  The slippers are for them to use if they want to during flight and as back-up if their shoes are rendered un-useable.

When my daughter was in diapers I put the changing pad, cloth diapers, and wipes in a similar washable but waterproof bag known as a wetbag.  My toddler has been out of diapers since she was 14 months old so I haven’t had to pack a wetbag for awhile.  Phew!

When packing entertainment, keep your child’s attention span in mind.  Do not expect a child who won’t sit still to watch a movie at home to magically sit and watch one on the plane.  It. Won’t. Happen.  Blank paper, a single coloring book, and a pack of crayons are handy if your child likes to draw.  A charged cell phone with age appropriate games that your child has enjoyed in the past are a good idea, too. I went ahead and purchased a couple of new games for our new cell phones with our upcoming flight in mind.  My daughter has fallen in love with “The Monkey Game” and it will entertain her for a good hour, if not more.

Don’t overload the entertainment though.  Remember, it all has to go through security and some children will just love watching out the window, napping, and talking to mommy one-on-one.

My 1st grader will probably read one of the 2 new books I bought for her Kindle.  She’s to a point where she’ll set and read for an hour or two and I can’t WAIT for her to do this on the flight!

My toddler will also have a small back pack.  Hers contains:

  • 1 gallon sized Clear bag containing about 10 pieces of paper, crayons, and one coloring book
  • 1 pint sized Clear bag containing 3 squeezable fruit pouches (one for each person who will want one) in the outer pocket
  • Small stuffed unicorn – for my toddler to hold while on the plane if she wants.
  • 1 empty sippy cup with valve in place
  • Potty Seat covers.  I really like these

Potty Topper

Again, my toddler will wear this back pack as we go through the airport and it will get stored under her seat.  She won’t be able to access anything in it during flight because she’ll be in her car seat, but I can always give it to her and help her out if she asks.

I usde my old college/teaching backpack when I had the infant car seat and stroller combo or when I have flown without a carseat.  It has a spot for the laptop, waist and chest straps to help distribute weight, and is RED so it’s easy to spot if for some reason I wind up chasing my toddler down the hallway after setting it down.

For the last few flights, where I had the heavy Britax in it’s own backpack, I used a rolling carryon that is sized perfectly for under the seat in front of me.

Besides the laptop, my carry-on will hold:

  • 1 gallon sized Clear bag with a set of undergarments (sans bra), yoga pants, t-shirt, socks, and toothbrush
  • 1 quart sized bag full of candy!!  Especially our favorite tic-tacs!!
  • 1 quart/gallon sized bag full of healthier foods like bananas, raisins, frozen Go-gurts
  • Letter sized envelope containing necessary identification documents for the girls
  • My driver’s license, flight paperwork, one credit card, and usually about $30 cash
  • 1 pint sized clear bag containing: chapstick, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, hand moisturizer, all sized per FAA regulations.
  • Cell phone
  • Charger for laptop and cell phone (even if my layover is too short for charging, you never know when your flight might get delayed)
  • Kindle Fire
  • Two pairs of ear buds; one for me and one for my toddler.  If I had another set of full headphones, I’d be bringing them for my toddler instead of the earbuds, but I don’t.

All the items that have to be screened separately (liquids and gels) are put in the outermost pocket of the backpacks for quick removal at the security check point.  I generally put the “fruit squeezies” bag in the bin along with the other liquids to keep things easy for security personnel.

I’ll post about navigating the airport, bathroom breaks, and food during a later post.  If you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to ask!  Comments about your experiences while flying are always appreciated!

My Take on Spanking

Raise your hand if you were spanked at a child:Mom Spanks Child

*Raises Hand*

Raise your hand if you’ve ever spanked a child:

*Raises Hand*

I read something this morning resonated with my view on parenting.

Most parents feel angry when they spank. An angry person is determined to assert control in a situation, and doing something physical feels like it will bring some relief. So spanking a child may make a parent feel temporarily righteous, back in control, or vindicated. . .

Parents have to steel themselves emotionally in order to follow through with a spanking. We have to harden our hearts. Or, perhaps more often, a challenging situation that we’ve been trying hard to deal with finally sends us into emotional badlands; where love can’t be felt. And there, we feel that our child has driven us to spank—it’s their fault, not ours, that our hand hit them.  Read the full article here

Studies have shown repeatedly that spanking teaches fear and increases what is generally considered bad behavior in a child and depression as an adult.  More on those studies can be found in the full article I quoted from if you’re interested or doubtful.

Someone here is reading this and thinking “I was spanked as a child and I’m okay”.

Are you sure?  Do you think you are the perfect form of yourself?  Had your parents *not* spanked you, do you think your life and emotional reactions to difficult situations would be different?

I can think of a few instances as a teen where I would certainly have handled things differently had it not been for the fear of what my parents would do.  I was so worried about physical punishment for one thing that happened that my parents and I both missed out on what should have been an important discussion about something that had happened in my life.  And I never did get the opportunity to talk to them about it because the fear of physical punishment was so strong.

I don’t ever want my children to be afraid to talk to me.  EVER.

But wait—I was spanked and consequently feared punishment and yet I also have confessed that I do spank my child.

What gives?

I don’t consider myself a “normal spanker”.  And I know that the time will come when I don’t spank at all.  I discovered a long time ago that when I spank my child in the “heat of the moment” that I have lost control of my own emotions.

And I HATE losing control of myself.

In my opinion, spanking a child in the heat of the moment is no different than that same child hitting someone else when they get mad–except that I’m an adult and should *know better*.  But that just makes it worse, right?

To demonstrate how spanking generally works in my family, I’ll share an incident that happened this afternoon.

Every parent knows that silence in the presence of multiple toddlers always means trouble.  I was met with said silence while feeding the 10 month old.  A quick turn of my head and simultaneous recognition of the sound of chalk on the door had me jumping up with lightening speed.  My natural inclination was to yell and yes, smack my child on her behind so hard she cried.

That is not what I did.

Instead I more-than-firmly (just short of yelling) told the oldest toddler to go sit on the mat in the playroom, the youngest (who did not appear to have been involved in anyway) to go find a ball, and my own child—middle in age—to sit on the steps and fold her arms.  As I did this I grabbed a washcloth and scrubbed as much of the chalk off the door as possible.

The scrubbing was MY time to gain control and make sure I didn’t flip a lid over something as harmless as sidewalk chalk.  I knew from past experience that the reddish chalk wasn’t going to come off entirely and I was right.  The door will have to be painted before we sell the house but it was going to have to be painted anyways because of the green chalk from a few months ago.

Once the chalk was [mostly] gone I sat on a chair and called the oldest over to me.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me: ______, why did you color on the door?

Him: [shrugs]

Me: Are you allowed to color on your walls at home?

Him: No. [looks off towards my daughter who is squirming on the stairs]

Me: [addressing my daughter]_____, hold still and fold your arms. [turning back to the boy] You need to apologize and tell me you won’t color on the walls again.

Him:  I sorry—[turning his attention to the stairs again]

Me: [placing my fingers on his chin and redirecting his gaze] Look at me, ______.  Try again.

Him: I sorry I cowored on the walls.

Me: Aaaaaand?

Him: I won’t do it again.

Me: Now go in and go potty and then start picking up toys. [turning towards my daughter]  Come here.

[she sulks over]

Me: Why did you color on my walls?

Her: [shrugging] I don’t know.

Me:  Are you allowed to color on the walls?

Her: Uh uh [shaking her head slowly]

Me: Where is it okay to color with the sidewalk chalk?

Her: Outside!

Me: Are we outside?

Her: No, we INside.

Me: You need to apologize and tell me you won’t color on the walls again.

She apologizes, but I have to hold her chin to get her to look me in the eyes when she apologizes and tells me she won’t draw on the walls again.  It takes several tries for her to get it right.

Me:  You know better than to color on the walls so you’re going to get a spanking.

At this point I gently turn her around and give her behind a firm but definitely not painful spank.  It’s enough to make her step forward but not enough to hurt.  Teammates smack each other’s butts after a nice play harder than I spanked her.

Me: I love you, _____.  Thank you for apologizing.  Now go help the boys pick up the playroom.  It’s almost time for the mommies to come.

It’s worth noting that throughout the short conversations with the children I keep a calm, matter of fact tone.  I’m not yelling but I’m not being sweet, either.  Also, I try very very hard to never say, “I love you but you can’t [blah blah] anymore.”   The word “but” negates the statement of love.  It leaves proverbial strings attached to my love and that simply isn’t the message I want sent to my kids.

I hope that my two year old understands that she’s not being spanked because I’m mad at her but because it is a consequence of doing something she knows is wrong.   Spanking is one of the consequences she has, but it’s certainly not the one we use all the time.  Sometimes we take away her Kindle privileges and sometimes it’s an extended time out.  On the rare occasion that she has a complete melt down we send her to her room until she’s ready to calm down.

Those complete meltdowns are rare—especially for a child who is considered to be in her “Terrible Twos”.

My other daughter is six years old.  It has been so long since I spanked her that I can’t remember when it was.  This actually makes me very happy!!

The older daughter is not the type of child to color on walls.  She did get into my make-up once but that was to put it on her face, which maked total sense since I’d never told her she couldn’t play with it.  Instead, most of the discipline issues we have with our oldest has to do with her listening to direct instructions.

The phrase, “If I had a dollar for every time I told you to put your shoes and backpack away I’d be rich!” comes to mind.

Unless I look her straight in the eye or stand over her, she doesn’t do what she’s told to do.  It’s highly annoying.  Looking her straight in the eye while talking to her 100% of the time is impossible; I have 5 other children to keep an eye on, too!

When she does need discipline, I’ve decided that I really like having her write about what went wrong.  She has to tell me why she did something and what she should have done differently.  Sometimes she looks at me with puppy dog eyes, silently begging me to tell her what to write, but I remind her that it’s not my feelings she’s writing about.  When she gets really stuck trying to find the words I let her draw a picture or two or three until she can get her point across.  Asking her what the pictures are about always results her ability to verbalize what I had hoped she’d be able to write so the end result is the same.

She misspells  about 20% of what she writes, but hey, she’s SIX.

For more minor things she’s simply sent to her room until I’m ready to talk to her about where her behavior went off track.

This six year old used to throw 45 minute (or more!) tantrums—constant kicking and screaming—and my way of dealing with the tantrum was to ker-plunk her on her bed and shut the door behind me, telling her she could come out when she was calm.  It took over an hour the first couple of times (she was 3) but over time she learned to calm down faster. Her bedroom is now her refuge; the place she goes to regain control over her emotions and calm down.

And while she is in her room, I can maintain my calm, too.  It really is a win-win for the both of us.

So do I spank my kids?  Yes, but not often and not when I’m losing my temper.  (Unless I’m having a really bad day and then I feel like the scum of the earth and end up doing all the apologizing).

Zen+one+hand+spanking+cartoon+buddhistlinks.org_

How to Shop for Groceries with Kids in Tow

I NEVER get to go grocery shopping with less than 2 children tagging along.  It’s usually 3 or 4 and the oldest is still 2 years old.

Have you ever been grocery shopping with 4 children under the age of 3?  I know moms that whine about taking a mere two kids to the store.  Are you one of those moms?

If going grocery shopping with 2 kids puts you on edge, IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

From the moment I decide I’m going shopping until everyone is seat belted in the van takes me at most 20 minutes.  Generally speaking I’m out the door in about 13 minutes. 

Grocery shopping is always a last minute decision around here.  This means I don’t get the best deals all the time, but I’m much less stressed about it because the children are cooperating.

The key:  Recognize when the *perfect moment* arrives.  For me that time is almost always between 8:30 and 9:15am.  The earlier, the better. 

When that moment arrives I know I have to get out the door FAST.  Today I had 2 toddlers and an infant and we were out the door in 8 minutes flat. *Pat self on shoulder*

Are you thinking, “BUT THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!”

Here is how I do it.  If I mess these steps up there will always be a fit at the store.

  • Trips to the bathroom:  Everyone goes, including ME!  This isn’t optional.  Even the 6 month old gets put on the potty before we leave.  This takes up about half of the time it takes to get out the door.
  • Shoes and Snacks.  Once the kids are about 24 months old they can put on their own shoes.  While they work on that I make sure to grab one easy-to-share snack such as cheesy crackers or graham crackers and either a pack of Tic-Tacs to share or a lolly-pop for each toddler.  I know that those are considered sugary snacks but since we only go grocery shopping about once a week I don’t worry about it.  I’ve also cleared these snacks with the parents.  While grabbing the snacks I can make sure the kids are getting the shoes on the right foot.
  • Grab a soda for me!
  • Sweatshirts: These go on quickly and most of the kids can do it on their own.  There’s a simple technique I learned from our childcare provider several years ago.  Even an 18 month old can do it on his own with this easy easy trick.  I’ll have to show you that later though since my demonstrators are all napping right now.

*I do not EVER put a child in a car seat with a coat on, even if it is 15 degrees outside.  Car seat straps cannot be tightened properly if your child has a coat on.  I grab the coats if it’s super cold to put on them when they get out of the van, but generally I just have blankets to tuck around them once they’re strapped in on really cold days.   

  • Car seats: the baby in her infant seat goes first and is usually done before the toddlers are done getting their shoes on.  I load from the rear forward.  My 2 year old can climb into her seat and get the straps around her shoulders by herself.  This leaves me with getting the one or 2 toddlers strapped into the back seat. I find it’s much easier to just climb in and stand in the middle and strap all 3 kids in from one location rather than stretching myself over seats to try and reach.  I’m fairly skinny so this is done quite easily.  The infant goes in last because her infant seat has to be put in manually with the seat belt.  I make sure it’s perfect so this takes about 60 seconds.
  • Buckle myself in and enjoy the ride!

 

The grocery shopping itself usually goes smoothly.  The Tic-Tacs or lollypops provide some distraction and the crackers can help, too. 

You may notice I mentioned nothing about drinks or a bottle for the children.  I do not bring these.  Grocery shopping doesn’t take more than an hour and no child is going to die of thirst in one hour and the “power struggle” some kids get into about their cups can’t happen if the cup is left at home.  Aaaaaaaannndd they can’t throw it on the floor, have it get all germy, then whine until you want to scream when you don’t give it back because it’s now gross and has to be washed.

And giving a baby a bottle while shopping slows down the whole process so just don’t go if your child is going to need to be fed while you’re gone.

No Drinks.  Trust me. 

If one child is behaving super well I will let him or her walk along with the cart but at the first sign of toddler-driven-need-to-touch-everything they go back in the cart. I give one warning when we’re home but at the store there is no warning.  Consequences are immediate. However, because I am so consistent with them, the children know the boundaries and don’t generally give me any grief about being put back in the cart.

And I ALWAYS go to the store that has double toddler seats—even if it means going out of my way to get there.  It’s worth it.  I don’t like the car carts—they cause more fighting than the regular carts do.

Always engage and interact with the all the kids. 

Me:  “Should we buy 5 bananas or 6?”

Toddler: “I want 3!”

Me: “Alright, 3 bananas for you and 1 for me!” [leaning over infant] “You’d like some bananas too, I’ll bet”.

Toddler: “I want gapes!! “  What toddler actually puts the “r” in grapes??

Me: “The green ones are cheaper so let’s get those this week.”

Down another isle . . .

Me: “Ooooh! Noodles are on sale!  Do you want this box or this one?”

Toddler: “Those ones!” [pointing to an entirely different box]

Me: “Nope, that wasn’t an option, so we’ll get these.” [placing the box in my left hand in the cart]

You get the point.

Checkout quickly but let the kids help unload the cart if they can.  Just make sure they don’t reach for the eggs or milk!!

I put the groceries in the car then put the children in if they are still holding on to their sanity.  If things have deteriorated, then THEY go in the seats first and the food leaves the cart last.

  • On the way home: DRINK MOUNTAIN DEW.  This is my reward to myself and I savor each and every sip. 

I try and talk to the kids on the way home, asking them questions, pointing out things I can see, etc. to keep them alert.  If I didn’t have to resort to the crackers at the store I give them some in the car.  Car seat snoozing really messes up my nap schedule so I do my best to keep the kids awake.

And I’ve been known to throw a cracker or lollypop (unwrapped!) to the backseat when sitting at a red light. 

In fact, I did that this morning. =D

So here is a run-down:

DON’T go if children are due for a nap within 90 minutes.  You’re inviting a tantrum if you do.

DON’T bring drinks

DON’T bring diapers—they just take up space and if your child just went, you should be FINE.

DON’T wear coats

DO bring one or two easy-to-share snacks

DO have everyone go to the bathroom before you walk out the door

DO praise good behavior

DO let children make choices and respect the reasonable ones

DO thank them for their help, no matter how little, when you get home. 

 

If the trip was a complete and utter disaster, just breathe.  You made it home alive, right?

 

Or did you leave your wallet on the counter??