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Saturday, 01 June 2013 07:00

Explaining Death to a Toddler

Two weeks ago one of my Grandma's died. Brian had to work the day of the funeral, so I hired a babysitter to join me for the four hour each way drive and to take the girls to a playground during the funeral service itself. I debated leaving the girls behind at home with a babysitter, but I knew my family would want to see them so I brought them along. 

The babysitter kept the girls occupied during the service, but joined us at the churchyard for the burial.  This was mostly because the burial was delayed, and not because I intended for Clara to be a part of this, but as it turned out she was witness to the casket-lowering process. 

She asked a lot of questions, and because I'm a fan of 'telling it like it is' I tried to be as honest - but simple - as I could. 

I told her that her Great Grandma had died, and that she was in the box, and that we were going to say goodbye.  She stood with me as flowers were handed out for us to throw on top of the casket after it was lowered. Clara was given a flower, and I explained that we were going to give it to Great Grandma 'to say goodbye'. 

"What is she doing, Mom?" 

"She died, Clara, she is in the box."

"What is she doing, Mom?"

"I don't know Clara, she died - remember, just like Grandpa died, so we won't see her again."

I did mention something about my Grandma going to be with Jesus, and maybe she's living in a big castle now - just like a princess - mostly just to try to curb the questions, but Clara could not be distracted. I'm normally not really comfortable stating anything about the afterlife, because although I firmly believe in heaven and hell, I don't feel like it's my place, or appropriate, for me to state where a person has gone.  

"Where did she go?"

"She's in the box, Clara."

"What is she doing in the box, Mom?"

Maybe trying to include a toddler in this wasn't such a good idea...  And then it occured to me that Clara has a number of Great Grandma's, and this particular Great Grandma she hadn't seen in nearly a year so when I said that 'Great Grandma is in the box' she may have been picturing any one of her Great Grandmas. 

Later in the week, I was talking to another of my Grandmas and Clara had a short conversation with her on the phone as well. As I was telling Clara to 'say goodbye to Great Grandma', a shocked look crossed her face and she suddenly asked my Grandma "Are you in a box?". My Grandma laughed and said "No, not just yet!"

Someday she will be. Like we all will be. Not to be depressing, but maybe I don't need to worry so much about how well, or how poorly, I explained this to her. Maybe it's not really a big deal. 

Hopefully this summer the cemetary in my parents' city will be finished (up until now there hasn't been one), and we will be able to give my Dad's ashes a burial.  I will again have to explain to Clara that Grandpa has died, and that we are there to say goodbye. 

How have you handled this particular issue? Have you come across it yet, and what did you explain to your kids? 

Published in Blog
Thursday, 16 May 2013 06:00

My Growing Toddler

I was determined when Audrey was born to not neglect documenting her life - I would keep up with her baby book, take just as many pictures of her, etc. etc. etc.

I kind of failed at that. We realized that because everything Clara did was different and new and exciting for us, we took a million photos and documented everything because it was just so interesting. With Audrey, very little is new or exciting, and because nothing jumps out at us, we also don't feel the need to take note of all that much. 

However, I have been doing monthly 'Audrey' posts, updating the world (and myself) on her growth and progress - and I am not doing the same for Clara.

So, here it is. Clara was 'exactly' 2 years and five months old last Saturday, and I think it's about time she deserves her own update post! No new pictures though, sorry, I've been trying so hard to take photos of Audrey that I've actually been forgetting to photograph Clara.

This was her last year at about this time...

It was pretty much on the day of Clara's second birthday in December that something inside her decided to suddenly grow up.  The biggest difference was her sudden ability to string a sentence together, which made her seem so much older instantly.  I realize that the clarity of her speech as I understand it is largely due to the fact that I spend so much time with her, and her speech is much clearer to me than it is to anyone else, but I believe her vocabulary is quite astounding.

She knows a ton of words, and is constantly surprising me with the things she says and the concepts she seems to understand.

The other day a friend of mine asked her if she knew who the pastor of our church was (she mentioned him by name) - and Clara had said "God... Jesus".  I very clearly explained to her that he was NOT God, but that he taught us ABOUT God, but I was still pretty impressed that she had made the connection.

I also recently discovered that if she is being asked to do something, or if she is asked not to do something, she is much more likely to be agreeable if she is given a reason for her compliance. She was wearing her muddy rubber boots in the car one day, when I told her she would have to remove them, and then pulled them off her feet - she kicked and screamed until I told her that because her feet touched the back of Daddy's seat, and because the bottom of her boots were dirty, we needed to take off her boots so that we could keep Daddy's seat nice and clean. She sulked while looking out the window after that, but her tantrum stopped.

Clara's obsession with Disney princess movies - particularly Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast - has encouraged her to exercise her musical abilities as well. She now wanders around the house acting out scenes and singing along to the soundtrack in her head. The other day she had a baby wash cloth in her hand and she swung it around her head like a kercheif and said "No sir! Not Me! I guaran TEE it!"

Her physical abilities have never been overly advanced for her age (read... really slow), but neither Brian nor I are exactly top-level athletes.  We leave sports alone as much as possible, actually... So I suppose it's no surprise that at almost 30 months old, Clara has just barely started taking stairs on her feet as opposed to her knees or on her bum, and that she still refuses to go down even the smallest slide no matter how much peer pressure she's exposed to. 

She desperately wants to do everything herself, even things she is physically not yet able to do. She will throw a tantrum of epic proportions if we forget to let her climb into her carseat 'by-self', and her tantrums don't subside quickly... she has gone on for over an hour on more than one occasion.

Which brings me to her stubbornness... Clara has the ability to stick to her guns about something she wants for an insanely long amount of time. She will decide at night that she wants some specific thing in her room, and she will scream for it until she finally falls asleep - sometimes over an hour later - exhausted. 

She and I have battled over so many things in the past few months, and there are times when I admittedly don't have the energy to deal with her and have given in when I know I should not have.  There have also been times when I have 'given in' without knowing it (she's actually tricked me). Like the time when she decided that her 'gummy' (pacifier) needed to sit on her bed right next to her pillow. We agreed to this for days before realizing that our instructions had actually been that her gummy belongs UNDER her pillow during the day, but she was determinedly side-stepping our rule to make one of her own. 

This one is going to be trouble... 

Anyway, that is where Clara is at right now. Thus begins her own monthly update posts - hopefully they will fall closer to the 11th of each month, to match her birthday.  And hopefully this month I will take more pictures...

Published in Blog
Thursday, 25 April 2013 08:01

Denying My Child Water

Despite the fact that I know I am doing what is best for her, I can't help but feel like an ogre when I deny my daughter water and she dissolves into my arms in helpless sobs. 

Clara has been sick and vomitting for the last 12 hours. It began with a puke-explosion while watching TV in the basement, and then it came every half hour for a few hours. We changed her bedding until we had no more bedding left to change, and the laundry was unable to keep up. Then, somewhere around 10:30pm, it started coming every few minutes. 

Partly it was because we were concerned about how dehydrated she was becoming, and had begun to give her water in between episodes.  She would settle for about five minutes, and then it would seem as though every drop of water would violently propel itself back out of her little body. 

After midnight, we called the healthline just to see what we should be doing or watching for, and the nurse suggested giving her Pedialite (which we don't have in the house, and no Pharmacy would be open now) or watered down Gatorade for the electrolytes. So, Brian went out to get her a bottle of Gatorade. We gave her about a teaspoon at a time of what we called 'special medicine juice' - for our daughter who loves any kind of medicine - and she began a like-clockwork schedule of drinking the juice, and then vomiting it back up exactly four minutes later. I know it was exactly, because I was trying to time her teaspoons of Gatorade at 5 minutes apart using a stopwatch.

For the last hour or so, I have been giving her small amounts of water as well. She has been puking everything back up, but it seems (or maybe it's just wishful thinking) that she isn't throwing up quite as much as before, and she's falling asleep in between episodes so I suspect her body is able to absorb a little bit more. 

The difficult part is knowing that I don't want to let her glug it back - but she's thirsty enough to desperately want it! She begs for her 'thermos' (the brand of the water bottle we keep next to her bed) and I let her have a few sips, but then I have to pull it out from between her lips so she doesn't take too much and make herself puke it all back up.  The nurse suggested that smaller amounts were better, and it makes sense to me that too much might trigger her stomach to propel the liquid back up, but I can't help but feel absolutely terrible for denying her! 

As I write this, I realize that I began writing over fifteen minutes ago, and so far she is still sleeping... I'm praying 'this is it', and maybe she'll finally get some proper sleep?

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 13:53

Scary Parenting Moments

I'm a big fan of the website Free Range Kids - and the 'Free Range' parenting philosophy.  To me, that means that although I will do my best to keep my children safe using reasonable methods, I do not believe in stressing over the slim possibilities of unlikely occurences.  

I believe that it is hugely important for kids to develop their independence by giving them age-appropriate responsibilities, and I believe that the possible risks associated with these responsibilities are too small to allow them to factor in. For example - it is good for a kid to learn the dangers of traffic, etc. and to be competent to be able to walk to school or to a convenience store on their own by the time they're... let's say 10... even though there is a SLIGHT possibility that they could be kidnapped or something on the way. 

Part of this stems from the fact that my Dad was over protective of me when I was growing up, and I feel as though he damaged me a little by doing this. I was raised to be aware of everything that could kill me at any moment, and to this day I can't hear a sound in the night without wondering if some psycho is coming to attack me... The fact that I know it is POSSIBLE makes it impossible for me to chase the thought out of my head... but I strongly believe that risks such as these do not deserve the amount of brain power I give them. I wish for my kids a more relaxed outlook on life.

All of that being said, my over protective nervousness reared its ugly head the other day while I was going for a walk with my daughters and some friends. Clara and the other kids were wearing rubber boots and were enjoying the puddles that are everywhere these days. Many of these puddles are in the gutter - between the sidewalk and the street. I was wearing Audrey in a baby carrier, and was unable to move very quickly.  

It didn't really occur to me to worry about the fact that the kids were basically playing on the street - we live in a quiet neighborhood with wide streets, so they were safe enough if they stayed next to the sidewalk. 

Suddenly, though, Clara was not staying next to the sidewalk. We were on a curved part of the road, and at the same moment that a small grey sports car came speeding into view around the bend, Clara decided to take her freedom into the middle of the street.  I was too far away to do physically do anything but yell 'Clara - STOP!'. She must have heard the panic in my voice, because she stopped instantly.  This would not have been enough, as she was already in the middle of the road and I am so glad the woman driving the car saw her and slammed on her breaks. 

Clara ran back to where I was on the sidewalk, and I tried to explain how dangerous cars could be without bringing up the possibility of death - even though that was all I could think of. I was absolutely shaking and near tears as we finished our walk.

We have been cooped up for months, and despite how beautiful it felt to get out of the house, I was almost ready to decide never to leave the house again for fear of something worse happening.  For me, it was a wake-up call. I don't want to forbid Clara from ever again playing in puddles, but I think a rule about holding hands whenever she steps off a sidewalk would be a good one. We already have a hand-holding rule in parking lots, so this would be much the same. 

I need to remind myself that I don't want Clara to fear the world. I want her to enjoy her childhood and, yes, develop a healthy respect for dangers - but not to fear. 

Right now, I feel a lot of fear... and relief! 

Published in Blog
Thursday, 18 April 2013 08:05

How Do You Discipline a Toddler?

I certainly don't have this parenting thing figured out.

If I had to prioritize my goals for my kids, the most important thing I hope they leave my house with is the ability to do things for themselves. Please don't get me wrong, I hope they love themselves and know how loved they are by others, I hope they get along with other people, are kind hearted and confident, have a great sense of humour and do well in school, etc., etc., etc.

More than anything, however, my parenting goals - at this point in time - stem from the root goal that by the time they turn about 18, Brian and I could die suddenly and they would be absolutely capable of continuing on without us. Meaning that at about 18, they no longer need to live in our house, eat our food, or take our money. Again, don't misinterpret me here - I would love to be able to help them out, but if helping them out means that I am somehow holding them back from learning how to be independent, then allowing them to live in our house, eat our food, or take our money is no longer helpful. 

In my story, both of my birth parents were no longer available to help me out with life by the time I was 28 years old. Many people are left with no parents much younger than I was - there are no guarantees. I was blessed to have a 'step' mother who I have always referred to as Mom, and is as much of a parent to me as anyone ever has been, but again - not everyone has this. So, for me, self-sufficiency is key.

What does this have to do with disciplining toddlers? 

Basically, I'm explaining my overall parenting worldview so that you know where I'm coming from. 

My parenting worldview is also that parenting involves baby steps to bringing our children into adulthood. I don't really understand parenting methods that do one thing, and then suddenly switch over to allowing something else. Not to criticize 'attachment' methods - because obviously we all do what makes the most sense to us - but it doesn't make any sense to me to ensure an infant's sole dependence on its mother, only to expect that child to be independent and self-sufficient later on. I know it works sometimes - I've seen it work - but it doesn't make any sense to me. I can't see how a child who desperately NEEDS his/her mother constantly until the age of four will suddenly be able to leave their mother confidently without some kind of difficult transition in the meantime. So, I try to always look ahead to what my long-term goal is for my child and try to make baby steps toward that goal now.

For example - I would like my daughters to be disciplined and able to follow directions and listen to authority figures when they are school-aged. A logical step toward this would be to teach my daughter to listen to ME and follow MY directions. 

What terrifies me about where we are right now is that my daughter is doing just about everything that I hope she doesn't do when she is older.

She ignores me when I ask her questions or give her directions. This stresses me out, because I witnessed a friend yell 'Stop!' to her child one day as he was running around on a sidewalk near a parking lot. He was nearing the edge of the walkway and for safety reasons she didn't want him to go any further. He stopped instantly and came back to her. It was like magic. I tried that on Clara one day and let's just say that if there had been a car coming, it would not have been pretty. 

She talks back frequently, trying to control what everyone around her does. For example, when Brian and I are talking (pretty much every time) she will angrily yell 'Don't Talk!'. Our obviously ineffective way of handling this is to calmy say 'No, Clara, that's not nice. Mommy and Daddy like to talk'. Like she cares.

If I tell her not to touch something, or to leave something alone, she will convulsively and spastically touch and slap the very thing I just asked her to leave alone. 

When she is trying to do something 'By self' and she struggles for about six seconds, it becomes a panic of epic proportions when she can't do it immediately. She will yell 'You do it!' at us, as she throws the toy/shoe/piece of clothing across the floor. Besides laughing at her melodrama, I have no idea what to do with that.

Besides praying every morning that God would help me to be the Mom that she needs me to be, I'm a bit at a loss about how to handle her. There's no doubt that I would like her to be able to manage these behaviors - for her sake, as well as for my sanity - I just have very little clue how to do this. 

Is her behavior just normal for her age, and as long as I'm patient it will go away with time, or does the fact that she already does these things mean that I have dropped the ball somewhere? 

I have a nice little fantasy about the kind of children I want my girls to be... unfortunately it doesn't include the kind of parent I need to be to make that happen... 

Published in Blog
Monday, 15 April 2013 08:13

Sharing a Room - The First Full Night!

We have been rapidly running out of time to get Audrey moved over into her crib permanently, since her head and feet can almost both touch the ends of the bassinet at the same time. Last night they finally spent  the entire night together!

During the last couple of weeks, we have been putting Audrey into her crib for a few hours each night - putting her down after Clara has fallen asleep. She has typically, then, gotten up in the night to feed and then been in our bed for the rest of the night. The night before last I noticed that neither I nor Audrey slept very well lying next to each other. She kept making strange grunting noises, and I was unable to find a comfortable position to sleep in around her. 

So, last night when this happened, I took it as an excuse to try putting her back in the crib. When I picked her up from our bed after she had eaten, she wasn't really awake, but she was grunting and clearly uncomfortable. When I set her down in her crib, she instantly calmed and slept quietly. Obviously she loves her crib! 

Her schedule last night went something like this:

8:30pm - Nap in bassinet while Clara went to sleep in their room.

10:00pm - Last feeding of the day, swaddled and returned to crib.

3:30am - Woke for early morning feeding, I brought her to my bed to nurse

4:00am - Her grunting became insistent, so I returned her to the crib

6:30am-7:00am - Sometime during this half hour Audrey must have awaken and then so did Clara.

The 7:00am (or earlier) wake-up call was unfortunate, because Clara typically sleeps until about 8 and we're already pretty sure she doesn't get enough sleep. All in all, however, it was a success! Both girls spent almost the entire night together in their room and for the most part, everyone slept great! 

This is a pretty exciting step for us!

Published in Blog
Thursday, 11 April 2013 12:47

Take My Dress Away?

Clara's latest movie obsession is Cinderella. I had found a small Polly-Pocket-like Cinderella doll lying around my house - I think someone had left it behind at some point - and when I gave it to her, she carried it around with her everywhere for days. Then, because I seem to be unable to stop myself from compulsively buying movies (439 was our latest DVD/BluRay count, I believe...), I bought her 'Cinderella' on BluRay.

So now, this is her favourite movie to watch - luckily for us she occasionally still enjoys some of her old favourites like The Lion King and now Nanny McPhee - and her favourite scene is the one shown in the image above.

Cinderella has just discovered the beautiful dress that the animals have surprised her with so that she can go to the ball after all. She excitedly runs downstairs to join her step-mother and step-sisters, and they jealously tear her dress apart, leaving her alone and despairing while they continue to the ball. 

I have no idea how Clara processes what happens in this scene, but I find it disturbing that she seems to love it so much.  She has a number of dress-up dresses that she loves to wear around the house, and will even create necklaces out of random ribbons and long purses so that she can be a 'princess' like Cinderella. Then she will come up to whoever is around and ask 'You take mine dress away?' or 'You take mine necklace away?'. 

My response to this is, 'No, we don't take dresses or necklaces away, because that is a very mean thing to do' or something like that. I find the idea that she is obsessed with imagining someone ripping her clothes apart completely disturbing. 

As a child, I was exposed to many inappropriate things and was victimized in a number of ways, which makes it impossible for me to see this from an innocent perspective. I honestly wish I could just laugh it off, but it really bothers me. Should I be concerned about this? Is my daughter wanting to be a bully in this scenario and does she enjoy what the mean sisters do, or does it mean absolutely nothing? 

In the meantime, I will continue to turn down her requests to 'take her dress away' or to 'take her necklace away' and tell her that this is a very mean thing to do... and try not to let it bother me so much.

Published in Blog
Saturday, 09 March 2013 21:07

Rubber Boots and Cupcakes

Today was a great day - we went to a local Home Show with my Mom. I love looking at vendor's displays, and Clara got all kinds of free 'swag' that each booth was handing out including a lot of candy! We went out for lunch then, and Clara behaved so well all morning and through our late lunch that when we walked past the cupcake shop on the corner we just couldn't resist getting her a treat. 

We told her that we would go home and eat them after her nap, and she's gotten really good about waiting for things like this.  We went home, and she crawled into bed happily and then when she woke up I asked her what we said we would do after her nap.

She said "Cupcakes!" Excitedly.

She picked chocolate.  She's very intent on loving her chocolate! 

A friend of ours has offered to show us around his family's farm sometime, and suggested that during calving season would be fun for Clara. Tomorrow, we're going to brave the inevitably slushy and muddy farm yard to show Clara something she won't get a lot of opportunities to see in her lifetime - a real farm. 

Today Brian went out and picked up her first pair of rubber boots for the event - I found these at a local store and thought the drawstring top was really clever.  These weren't the nicest ones they had, and I can't stop thinking about how gross those laces are going to look after the first time she wears them, but they were the only ones they had in her size and she'll need them tomorrow for our muddy excursion. 

I tried to get her to pose for a photo in her very first rubber boots, but she kept trying to crawl onto my lap so this was the best picture I got:

I managed to get her to hold her foot still for a second, though:

We had actually been looking for a size 6, but all they had was a 6.5 which surprised me - half sizes for toddlers? Anyway, Brian found these and I looked up what the average rate of growth for toddler feet was and read that a 2 year old on average will go up a shoe size every 6 months - or, a half size every 3 months - until they are about 3 when the growth rate will slow somewhat. 

So, since we thought her feet were a size 5 about 6 months ago, size 6.5 is probably realistic - hopefully they'll fit her through this summer!

Published in Blog
Friday, 08 March 2013 14:30

I Guess You Get What You Pay For?

The other day, when I took Clara to the play area at a local store, she located a couple of Disney Princess finger puppets and carried them around with her for almost the entire time we were there.

About three days ago, I went online to the Disney store website to price out some of their Disney Princess figurines since Clara is becoming more and more interested in the Disney Princess characters and after watching her at the store this week, I think she would really love them. Also, Easter is coming, and I was trying to think of some small-ish toys (instead of candy) that I could use to fill plastic Easter eggs.

I was excited to discover that sets of Disney Princess figurines (they call them 'play sets' on the website), where very reasonably priced at only $12.50/set and if you purchased two or more, they were only $10/each. So I filled up my cart and went to check out, only to discover that on an approximately $40 order, I would be paying about $35 in shipping to Canada.

WHAT??? It's not like we're overseas here, people! We live closer to where these items were shipped from than some states! 

I gave up on the Disney site for the moment, and started looking on Canadian sites - Amazon.ca, etc. - but when I found the same sets of toys, they were $25-30 each, which actually made them more expensive than simply paying for shipping on the Disney site. 

Sigh. In the end, I sent the Disney store a cranky email complaining about the exhorbitant shipping cost but purchased on their site anyway.  I made my order a bit smaller, just because I didn't want to spend TOO much, and ordered three sets: A set of Disney Princesses (#2, according to the site), Winnie The Pooh, and The Lion King.

I'm sure it was only a few days ago that I ordered these, and today they arrived! I couldn't believe how quickly they came! 

Then, of course, I had to pay an extra $12 COD at the door... 

Oh well - next time I'll have to simply factor in that for me - living in far away Canada - prices on the Disney site are actually just over double what they are on the site - because I'll probably order from them again.

*I should note that I did get an emailed response from the Disney site, but it was obviously a cut-and-paste from their shipping policy which didn't even answer my question to them. 

So, if I were reviewing the Disney Store (which I'm not, really), I would have to say that their prices are insane, their customer service is pretty bad, but I'll buy from them anyway, because I don't really have a choice. And Clara will love these toys...

Published in Blog
Thursday, 07 March 2013 10:00

Toddler Bikes

Last weekend we were wandering the mall with Clara, and the Sports store in the mall had all of their bikes lined up and ready for Spring.  I remember hearing about these balance bikes a year or two ago, and thinking they were a brilliant idea and that I would like to get one of these for Clara, but now I'm not so sure.  

The sports store also had toddler bikes with pedals and training wheels - for exactly the same price - and Clara tried both of them around the store for a while. 

I liked the balance bike because it was lower to the ground and she could get on it by herself. The idea behind these bikes is that kids will learn to run and propel themselves on it while their feet are still ready to touch the ground at any sign of tipping, and unconsciously they will learn how to balance on a two-wheeler on their own. 

At the moment, however, Clara is slightly too small or too nervous about the bike and didn't seem confident enough to hold the bike upright and move with it on her own. I assume this would change quickly as she got used to it, but it gave me the impression that it would be a long time until she would be confident enough to actually self-propel it.  Brian mentioned, though, that she would be able to play around with it on the grass in the backyard, which she couldn't do as easily with training wheels.

The training wheeled bike was slightly bigger than the balance bike, and she was only barely able to touch the pedals, but it was easy for me to lean over and hold the handlebar and help her along.  This gave me the impression that if we wanted to go for a walk with her on her bike, she would be able to go faster to keep up - even if it was only because we were helping her along at first.  She felt much more confident on the training wheeled bike - probably because it didn't threaten to tip over when her balance wasn't certain. 

The downside of this one is that she would not be able to play with it on the grass in the backyard - it would require an outting with us.

What have you used for your toddlers? Have you tried out the balance bikes, and what are their strengths and weaknesses? 

Is Clara too young for this anyway? Should I wait until she's 3 1/2 next year?

Published in Blog

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