07 December 2009

Letting it all go

Sometimes, the best way to be a good mom is to be a little laissez faire.

For most moms, the natural instinct is to hover. We want to protect our kids from any accident that might find them as they make their way in the world. I learned early on in my mothering career that while it was my instinct to try to protect Zack from the world, the best thing for him would be to let him "run" free.

As a toddler, this meant letting him explore the playground equipment without me trailing him up and down the slides. As a preschooler, this meant letting him do his own art projects, no matter what the finished product might look like. I saw parents drive themselves crazy with worry following their kids around the playground, up the ladders, around the sandbox, all around the obstacles. The kids learned to fear the challenges that are intended to be fun for them. Seeing their parents' fear led to reluctance to explore and try things.

Like any mother, I hate to do laundry and clean up after everyone, but I have forced myself to let that hang-up go. Letting the kids run and play and get dirty lets them grow up as independent confident kids.

Years ago, I heard a teacher say that if the day ends with the child needing a bath, it must have been a great day. I took that to heart and just take a deep breath as the four boys head outside to the mud.

See the pictures of  Dwight, above, as an example. What should I do? Make him stay in? He had a wonderful time and will probably remember these days when he's older. What does a stained coat mean in the scheme of things when a child makes memories like these?

10 November 2009

How do they do it?

Last night, Horatio was tired. He'd had a long day at work and when he came home, it didn't get much better. The boys were a little wired and Zack had a loose tooth, which always creates chaos in his life. Horatio even commented that it's a good thing he is not the stay at home parent because he thought he'd have lost it by dinner time.

So, he went to sleep at 9 and by the time I went upstairs, at 9:20, he was asleep. I heard Dwight coughing so I asked Dwight been coughing a lot or had just started. Horatio said he had not been coughing but it soon became clear that the coughing would not stop any time soon so I took the inhaler and went to give it to Dwight.

In the process of climbing the bunk bed ladder, I shook the nearby dresser a little and a pottery robot that Dwight had painted in 2005 fell, hit a wooden chair and crashed into 100s of pieces. I expected to see Horatio running in to make sure everything was ok, but the hallway remained quiet. I picked up the big pieces of pottery and then went to get the vacuum cleaner and vacuumed up the small bits so no one would step on the shards in the morning. Everyone slept through it, including my darling husband.

What I want to know is, how does he do it? I wake up if one of the kids sneezes. I can practically hear when they stir in their sleep and there lies my husband, sound asleep from the moment his head hits the pillow.

I always remember to check the door and window locks and put the bar behind the sliding door and set the alarm when Horatio travels. Perhaps I ought to be as careful when he is here, now that I know that an intruder could come in and practically take the pillow from under his head without him knowing!

05 November 2009

Time management?

Sometimes a mom doesn't have time to go to the bathroom. When my "non mom" friends hear this, they shudder and shake their heads in disbelief but, sadly, it is true.

When the washing machine buzzes at 8 in the morning and the wash is soaking wet, indicating the machine is broken, a mother's whole day is thrown off completely. What was once a day filled with leisurely run errands to Target and Trader Joes becomes a scramble to find a repairman, a neighbor's machine to spin the clothes, a plan B for dinner and other ways to occupy an almost 2 year old.

When the repairman comes at 10:30 and stays until it is time to pick up the kindergartner at the bus stop, lunch needs to be made and a toddler must be settled for a nap, a mother knows what she must do...

When leaves are all over the floor from 4 boys and their friends going in and out of the house 45 times per day and they need to be vacuumed up, it must be done...

The laundry must be folded, towels replaced on the bars. Playdates have to be scheduled. The cake you promised the kids has to be baked and iced and when the spatula you used to put the icing on the cake falls on the floor you have to clean it up. By then, it's time for dinner to be made so everything else must stop even if it can be made in the microwave.

The trash and recycling have to be taken to the curb and the compost container is starting to smell, so it has to be emptied and cleaned.

Homework has to be dealt with and diapers have to be changed and baths must be given. Teeth must be brushed (mom's own, too, if there's time), books must be read.

Sometimes, these things all run together and a mom forgets to stop and take a break and sometimes she forgets to eat or take her vitamins or even take a shower. But, in the end of the day, she knows she's done her job and done it well and has the hugs and kisses to prove it.

02 November 2009

What are they thinking?

Several people have forwarded the stories about the refund offer from Baby Einstein. My first reaction was excitement about the prospect of getting $15.99 for each of the dvds I purchased over the past 5 years, but that thought was fleeting. I quickly reconsidered and here is why...

I, like countless other moms, have purchased and let my children watch these dvds. The kids love them and I, like many others, enjoy the few minutes the little one sits quietly watching so I can get things accomplished around the house.

Depending on my child's mood, I will put in a Baby Einstein video, Blue's Clues, Ni Hao Kai Lan, or something else. Do I like the educational value these programs offer? Yes. Do I think they will make my child smarter? No.

Maybe I should rephrase that statement... No, of course not. It seems ridiculous to me that parents would think that watching a video would make their children smarter. It might help a child learn colors or letters or numbers sooner than if he or she was watching Spongebob, but the child will eventually learn these things. An early reader is not necessarily a smarter child. Does listening to classical music make a baby smarter? Perhaps. The jury is still out on that one. Listening to Mozart might help children (and adults, for that matter) focus on a task, but a rise in IQ is questionable.

Another issue is whether watching tv does harm to our kids. My personal opinion... No.

The most important thing to do with our children is expose them to lots of things and provide them with the opportunities to learn and explore things that interest them. These actions help our kids become eager learners and enthusiastic school children.

I have three school aged children. Each one has learned to read at a different age and by a different method because each is motivated by different things. My oldest son is now 11 years old. He started reading fluently before he turned four. He watched shows like "Between the Lions" and dvds like "So Smart" because he liked them. One of his favorite activities was to play with foam letters and numbers. He learned to read because he loved the game it was to him.

My second son knew all his letters and their sounds when he was 18 months. He learned them from me, he dad, his brother and from videos and loved the fun he had with them. He did not read well until the end of kindergarten and is a great reader now, as a third grader. He has a wide range of interests and isn't afraid to try any of them.

My third son knew all his letters and sounds as a preschooler and started reading simple words before starting kindergarten. He watched plenty of videos and got plenty of input from me and from others. His teachers say he is doing great as a first term kindergartner. He has many interests and I'm sure he'll do just fine in school.

All three boys watched plenty of tv from toddlerhood on up to the present. I think the programs have enriched their development because they offer reinforcement to the other fun ways they learn and grow under our direction. I do not think the programs made them smarter, and I don't think they have stunted the boys' development. Just like any other element in our lives, tv is a tool and a toy and can be a healthy part of our kids' lives.

The Baby Einstein franchise is just one of the many great ones in the many choices out there. Perhaps it was irresponsible of them to claim that their videos are educational but aren't we, as parents, responsible for knowing what is best for our kids? Our kids all have potential, we'll always have to work hard to help them make the most of that potential. Let's not hold an entertainment company responsible when parents shirk the responsibility of raising their kids themselves. Don't expect a video of any kind to do your work for you.

The bottom line is, if you have a kid? Be a parent. Perhaps The Baby Einstein company could lower their prices as a gesture to parents who take the high road and do not take advantage of the offered refund. I leave that up to them. I will not be sending in my dvds and I will continue to let my 22 month old enjoy them as part of his fun path through childhood.

06 October 2009

Sleep Begets Sleep

I guardedly say that we are headed in the right direction. I decided to get serious with the sleep begets sleep idea. I put Harold to bed 45 minutes earlier than usual and... miracle of miracles... he slept about thirty 30 minutes later in the morning. I did the same thing last night and it happened again. So, we'll see if it stays this way. Of course, 5:00 is still too early but at least it's later.

02 October 2009


This morning, Harold called for me at 4:09. The first thought in my mind was "are you kidding me?" So, I went in to his room and without saying a word, I checked to see if his diaper had leaked. It hadn't. I laid him back down in the bed and walked out. He screamed and cried. Five minutes later I went back in and, from the door, told him it was still night time, the moon was still up, and to go back to sleep. He cried for another 2 minutes or so and then stopped and was quiet until 5:30. Yes, this is still early but MUCH more acceptable.

01 October 2009

on the bright side

Harold is still waking at 4:30. My latest tactic is to drop the morning nursing session. He usually nurses as soon as he wakes up, so I'm hoping that if he does not have that to wake up to, he might just stay in his cozy bed.
I've tried a later bedtime, earlier bedtime, shorter nap, longer nap, and all combinations of these. I thought it would be a short phase but we are going on more than a month now, so I am ready for a longer night's sleep.
On the bright side, I can get a lot accomplished when my day starts at 4:30. This is particularly key since we are buried in boxes from our shipment of our household goods. I dream that one day before 2010 our house will be free of boxes and clutter.

09 September 2009

Sleep, oh how I long for you

Harold went to bed at 7:30 Monday night and woke up at 4:30. Tuesday he slept for two hours during his nap. I had to wake him so we could go pick up Zack and Dwight at school. So, I wondered what might happen this morning. I hoped that, despite what I know about sleep leading to more and better sleep, he would sleep later in the morning. Sadly, my hopes were crushed. He went to bed just after 7:00 and woke at... 4:04! Help. I am at a loss... I might have to resort to the Benadryl.

Today we have men here all day installing carpet. We cannot get upstairs at all, so Harold will have no nap. I can only wonder what might happen tonight.

07 September 2009

More on sleep

So, about a day after I posted about the early wake up calls from Harold, he started sleeping past 5:00 again, thankfully. I was so pleased, until a few days later when he started yelling for me at 4:30 again. So, I have been going in to his room, quietly telling him it is still night time and that he needs to go back to sleep. He cries, quietly, and lays down and I leave the room. I don't know if he sleeps but he is quiet for a little while, often until 5:00. He then calls to me, louder and more persistently, at this point and it is clear that he is not going to go back to sleep. So, I bring him into my room, put a dvd in for him, and TRY to get a little more sleep.

The process continues. I just keep reminding myself that this too shall pass. I focus on the positive. I get to spend a little extra time with a sweet, cuddly, 1 1/2 year old... My last baby.

27 August 2009

Sleep 101

When you have 4 kids sleep is a luxury. Everyone is sleeping through the night, usually, and everyone was sleeping past 5:00 every day. 5:00 may sound early, but in our family, I'm the only one who does not like to rise early. 6:00 is the earliest the boys are permitted to get out of bed once they can read a clock well enough to know "six-oh-oh" and it is a hard and fast rule.

Harold, our 20 month old, does not read a clock yet and has not gotten the message that it is important to stay in bed past 6:00. Lately he wakes between 4:30 and 4:50 and it is starting to wear on me.

I've read the books and the biggest message I've gotten from them is that sleep begets sleep. When the children were babies and woke up early, everyone told me to keep them up later than I had been so that they'd sleep later in the morning. No matter what time I put them to bed, though, they'd always wake up early, never sleeping past 7:00. I am not exaggerating. Eventually, I got a few books about babies and sleep.

I read Babywise, and took the scheduling ideas as guidance when my 2nd, 3rd and 4th babies were new. Feeding, playing, sleeping... in that order, but fed on demand. I tried the Ferber method and, while it works, I don't particularly like letting babies "cry it out" and never would use it before my children had reached the age of 9 months or older. Later I read Healthy Sleep, Happy Child and while it also advises a version of the "cry it out" method, the "takeaway" for me was the message that more sleep leads to more and better sleep.

I definitely found this concept to be true. My first son was crabby all the time until he was over 7 months old and I figured out how to get him to nap. He started napping and then started sleeping better at night. My second son was a pretty good napper from the start. He slept so much, in fact, that when I was staying with my parents during my husband's deployment, they wondered if something was wrong with him. He slept so much. He'd wake up at 6:00ish, then nap from 8:00-10:00ish and 1:00-3:30ish and then go to sleep for the night at 6:30. If I did not let him sleep that much, he would be crabby. People would express doubt in my methods, but in the end, I knew I was right.

So, Harold is 20 months old and is suddenly waking up at 4:30 in the morning and will not go back to sleep. I've tried every variety of going in and telling him to go back to sleep. I started tough, walking in, checking to make sure he's not wet or hurt, giving a quick kiss and telling him to go back to sleep. I tried letting him nurse for a few minutes before putting him back in bed. I tried calling to him from the doorway. I tried shortening his 3 hour afternoon nap. (Never a good idea, especially in our family where no one wakes up from a nap in a good mood and no side of the bed is the right side if someone is woken up from a nap before the nap has run its course!) I tried putting him to bed later. Nothing has worked. No matter how I adjust his day time sleep or bedtime, he continues to wake at 4:30. So, I revert to the tried and true... "this too shall pass." I will wait it out and I am sure that he will soon be sleeping until 5:30 or so. Yes, it's early but it is tolerable. Despite the early wake up, he is happy and in a good mood, so I am grateful. Also, he does not fall asleep when we go for a drive during the day, so I know he is getting enough sleep. (A side note... If your child falls asleep every time you get in the car, he/she is definitely not getting enough sleep.) I will wait it out and look forward to an extra hour of sleep, eventually.

I will keep you posted.

06 August 2009

1-2-3 Cool It Refresher

8 years ago I started using a modified 1-2-3 consequence/time out technique and it was life changing. At the time, my 3 year old was throwing major tantrums, whining, and not doing anything independently, it was a daily trial.

The main premise of the technique is that using the technique will eliminate the battle of wills that occurs when parent and child are on opposite sides of an issue.

For instance:

"Mom, I'm hungry, can I have a snack?"

"Dinner is in an hour, so you need to wait."

"But I'm so hungry."

"Sorry sweetheart."

"But I want something. If you don't feed me, I'll starve..."

I probably don't need to go on, we've all been through it and it lasts for the entire hour leading up to dinner. Using the cool it, 1-2-3 technique, you put an end to the madness! The key is to use it consistently and not waver from it.

"Mom, I'm hungry, can I have a snack."

"Dinner is in an hour, sweetheart, so no."

"But I'm starving."

"That's 1." Say it calmly and matter of factly. No need for an explanation, your child knows why you are saying it.

"But, Mom..."

"That's 2."

If you get to 3, the child pays a consequence. A time out of 1 minute per year of age might be appropriate, but whatever it is, it should be consistant and fair.

In our house, we also use the technique for ongoing problems, like whining. Kids seem to enter the whining stage at age 5. I institute the 3 strikes and your out method to attempt to minimize the whining. The child gets 3 strikes per day. The rules are discussed ahead of time, so it's not a surprise when the child gets his first strike. If he gets 3 strikes, a consequence that is meaningful to the individual is given. Right now, loss of video game time is the most common consequence.

When I use the method consistantly it is very effective. The key is to always use it so the child knows what to expect.

As I type this entry, I am using it! My 8 year old is asking for a snack and dinner is in 45 minutes. He asked for a snack, I said "no" he protested, so I said, "that's 1," and he stopped! It's a little trickier with the 5 year old.

Coming soon...

Time outs- what works and what does not work...

03 August 2009

Grocery Shopping With Kids in Tow

OK, so it's not the ideal situation but we all have to do it. I mean, really, what would you rather pay a babysitter for? Time spent at the grocery store, or time out on a date with your husband (or a mani-pedi...)?

So, today I set out for a major stock-up trip at the commissary. We live about 20 miles from the nearest base with a commissary, so just getting there is an adventure. We set out at 9 a.m. and by 10:00 we were there. I was feeling in-the-zone, so I decided that we could also accomplish a short list at the Post Exchange. Of course, that turned into a 45 minutes journey up and down the aisles, "stop poking each other, stop pulling things off the shelf, no, we can't get pokemon cards," etc...

On the the commissary...

I quickly realized that I must utilize some sort of strategy or I'd barely survive the adventure. So, I took one of those carts that can seat two big kids in the blue seats and a toddler in the cart itself. I had the five year old sit in a seat across from the toddler and rotated the 8 year old and the 11 year old in and out of the other seat. This way, only one child was out on the loose at a time. This turned out to be a great strategy, though I kept finding myself looking for the kids to be scattered around the aisles, only to find them exactly where the should be... seated in the cart.

Before I knew it, it was 12:30 and I could hardly believe no one had complained how hungry they were. I guess I owe this to the fact that I had them each choose a snack to eat in the car on the drive to the store. By 12:45, the toddler had begun to melt down. By this I mean he was pulling items out of the cart and dropping them on the floor, quickly escalating to him taking the frozen pizzas and bopping his brothers on the head. So, I planted the 4 kids and the cart at the end of an aisle, ran back to get the packaged cheese and yogurt drinks and quickly headed to the check out lanes.

I enlisted the help of my brawny 8 1/2 year old to move the overflowing cart of groceries on the belt, paid the $271 bill and headed home.

Lessons: Give the kids jobs, keep them contained, and let them each choose at least one item you don't mind buying anyway.

21 July 2009

Moving with Kids in Tow

As a Navy wife and mom, I've had to move house 10 times in 13 years. Last month, my husband, four children and I moved from Beijing, China to the Washington DC area. In all the moves we've done, I think the most important thing to do, to lessen the chaos and instability, is create familiarity wherever we go.

For us, stability means staying together; keeping the children's favorite items with us, such as: books and toys and anything that goes to bed with them at night; and making the new house look as mch like the old as possible. The best way to do this is to make sure the first thing I do when we move in is put up pictures and get the children's bedrooms and playroom and kitchen in order.

Once the children have their living spaces in order, they can start to adjust and settle in to their new surroundings. All the other unpacking can come later. If the children are happy in their home, they can play and relax and you will have time to unpack everything else.

My number one piece of advice during a move is to pack tools, lamps, cleaning supplies and bedding, and other linens, in boxes that will be easiest to find and the first to be unloaded.

More to come...


Hello. Now that we have moved from China, I am starting a new blog to go along with the Every Baby Book site.

My site is www.EveryBabyBook.com. Prenatal to Preteen, I Read Every Baby Book... So You Don't Have To...

I've been reading books about pregnancy, childbirth, babies and kids ever since I was expecting my first child. There is a lot of great information out there. Unfortunately, each book only has bits of the great information and lots of other stuff to sort through to get to it. So, I decided to be the source to put all the good information together.

In addition to all the reading I do, I have 4 children, I'm a Navy wife, a special needs Mom, and a teacher. I have all the experience from these roles, plus written resources, in my head and I love to help other parents. Not a day goes by that I don't have some kind of issue to deal with at home. Our house is by no means perfect but I try to put what I know to use and I am always available to help any parent who needs help.

I answer questions by email: Erin(at)EveryBabyBook.com and I will answer questions left as comments on the blog.

I do parent coaching in your home or mine and I conduct "Parenting with Poise" seminars.

Send me an email for further information.

I look forward to hearing from you.