Thursday, May 30, 2013

Discipline Reminders

My strong-willed, high-needs two-year-old has been in one of the most rotten phases of her life the past few weeks. She has been testy, sassy, moody, rebellious, defiant, violent towards her little sister, yells at us and has meltdowns constantly. I have been so frustrated and discouraged and at a loss of what to do to the point where I have found myself on the Internet searching for preschool openings to stick her in and a job for me to pay for it. I know my calling is to be a stay at home mom for now and I would never seriously get a job and throw her into preschool because I can't handle her behavior issues, but my goodness sometimes I really want least temporarily. 

All of the best and most effective discipline techniques that we use for Mercedes I've gotten from The Discipline Book by Dr. Sears. I recently lent my copy to a friend, so the other day during my peak of discouragement and frustration, I searched and found some answers. Somehow these past few months, during sicknesses, teething babies, my dad passing away and marital struggles, I have lost sight of a few important aspects of discipline for Mercedes. So I wrote out a list of reminders and hung it on my fridge to keep me focused on some of the things I've forgotten:
  • Treat her with respect.
    • Bend down to her level, give her eye contact, talk face-to-face.
    • Speak in a respectful, calm tone of voice.
    • Acknowledge her feelings.
    • Ask her opinion or if she has any ideas when coming up with a solution.
    • Be polite...Say please and thank you. Even sorry when necessary.
  • Remember that high needs children feel challenged when they are pressured, cornered or forced into something.
    • Keep the mood light with humor or turn it into a game.
    • Give her choices.
    • Give her reasons and explanations.
    • Implement the chill spot and punishments or spankings.
    • Give reminders and warnings, not threats.
  • Do not become emotional, angry, or take her attitude personally. When her emotions are out of control, she needs us to remain calm.
  • Choose the most important battles. If it's not hurting anything or anyone, let it go.
  • Keep it positive...substitute a phrase that starts with “no” or “don't” with a positive phrase about what's expected instead (Instead of “No grabbing”, say “Wait your turn, please”)
  • Acknowledge and praise desirable behavior.
  • Let her know we're on her side, that we understand her and we want to help...acknowledge her feelings and help her come up with solutions.
  • Always end conflicts with hugs and reassurance of our love for her.
Be patient. Remember that she is TWO.

Magically, Mercedes has been much happier and willing to listen the past few days. It is a process, but slowly I am getting my sweet, helpful, well behaved little girl back.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ice Cream Dough (First Attempt)

I love this amazing new recipe invented by Play Create Explore. It is simply 3/4 cup hair conditioner and 1 1/2 cups cornstarch. This stuff looks identical to ice cream. Mercedes didn't believe me when I told her she couldn't eat it!

Mercedes helped me mix the dough.

Because I didn't measure it out exactly, the first sundae we made looked a little bit "melted", or maybe like soft serve ice cream.

I gave Mercedes some "sprinkles" (bits of pipe cleaners, beans, bit of paper, and sequins) and some "whipped cream" (cotton balls) to top her sundaes with.

Next we made strawberry ice cream by mixing a few drops of food coloring into the dough. This batch came out much more realistic because I added a little extra cornstarch to the dough.

This is the face Mercedes made when I told her the ice cream dough was not for eating.

She decided that the pretend toppings were not good enough for this amazing pretend ice cream, so we used real sprinkles for the rest of the sundaes.

Vanilla ice cream.

I added a little too much food coloring to our blueberry ice cream, so it too ended up looking like soft serve.

MMM-mmmm, it's hard not to want to eat this stuff!

The last flavor we made was chocolate. I mixed cocoa powder into the dough so it even smelled like chocolate. It took some experimenting to get the texture right but I think I perfected this delicious-looking pretend chocolate ice cream.

This was ridiculously fun and super easy. Now that I've experimented and found the perfect consistency, I can't wait to try it again!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Emerald's Zoo-Themed 1st Birthday Party

We threw Emerald a zoo-themed birthday party for her 1st birthday. I transformed the living room into a pretend zoo. I used green and brown streamers for jungle vines. 

My mom turned one wall into a giant aquarium.

She also dug out some tropical birds and flowers from her basement (from past parties) to hang on the walls and ceiling.

I hung a few stuffed animals from the ceiling with wire.

My mom also contributed a small tree to sit in the corner of the room.

I pulled out all of the girls' stuffed zoo animals to sit on the couch.

The balloons had tiger stripes.

I found these giant wall stickers at The Dollar Tree

We bought the plates, cups, napkins and table cloth at Party America.

I ordered a bucket of tiny zoo animals on and stuck them on top of each of Emerald's cupcakes. I dyed the vanilla frosting green to look like grass.

We served the cupcakes with ice cream and pink lemonade.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Limiting Screen Time

Mercedes has always watched a rediculous amount of TV. She's the kind of kid who needs a lot of "chill time". She needs time to relax, to unwind, to give her brain a break, and she likes her privacy. Away from me, away from her sister. So her favorite thing to do when she's sad or sick or tired or anything but playful and perfectly happy is to lock herself in the TV room and watch show after show or movie after movie. I have tried to limit it as much as I can, but there are times when I let it go way too far...when we're sick, when Emerald is teething, when I haven't slept for more than 3 hours a night for 2 weeks straight. Recently we went through a 3 week cold/cough/flu (it was really nasty!) and I realized how bad the TV watching was getting. Mercedes did nothing but watch TV or whine about wanting to watch TV whole 3 weeks. It was affecting every second of every day of our lives. So I came up with these awesome Screen Time cards.

I let Mercedes pick out a cartoon picture of a TV on Google Images and then went into Microsoft word to create the cards. I cut them out and used clear contact paper to laminate them. Here's the idea: Each card is worth 15 minutes of screen time. This could be tablet, computer, TV or movie time. Each day she gets 1 1/2 hours worth and once the cards are gone, she's done watching TV for the day.

I also made a few "Bonus Cards" to reward her for having a good day, or for "emergency" days when she's sick or when I need to get some things done.

I used a tea box with a slit at the top and wrapped in shiny aluminum foil for her to slide her cards into each time she wants to use one.

I cut a hole in the back for me to get the cards out at the end of the day.

Pretty good system, huh? Well, I thought so. It did work for a couple weeks. But then the fussing continued. She'd use up all her screen time cards by lunch time and then whine about it for the rest of the day. Maybe she is too little for the cards, or maybe she's too smart for them or not smart enough, or maybe I didn't do a good enough job helping her to spread them out throughout the day. I think the cards are a great idea which is why I blogged about them, and I will probably try to implement them again when she gets a little older. 

I did find a solution to the screen time problem that has worked for us, and here it is: WE GOT RID OF THE TV. No joke. Eliminated it completely from our lives. Drastic? Yes. Affective? Completely. Simple solution? Yep. Healthy? Absolutely. The morning after we "threw the TV away" (stuffed it in the basement), Mercedes woke up and said, "can I watch...I mean, can I, can I, can I....we threw the TV away?" I said, "yep" and she asked, "can I read some stories?" I rejoiced silently at that question and told her she could read as many stories as she wanted, ALL DAY EVERY DAY if she wanted. And that's how it's been ever since. I rearranged her bedroom so she has a quiet, private, peaceful place to go for some chill time. She can read stories, color, do puzzles, listen to music, play with toys, whatever she wants to do and whenever she needs a break.

I'm thrilled that we've found a solution to the TV problem. Mercedes is a happier kid now that she spends more time reading and almost no screen time. We still have weekly family movie nights in the basement, and sometimes I let her watch a show on the computer while I make dinner, but that's it. After months of mommy guilt trying to figure out how to limit Mercedes' screen time, problem solved!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Emerald's 1st Birthday Letter

Dear Emerald,

Today you are 1! I can't believe how fast this year flew by. It's amazing how quickly you are changing from a baby into a tiny little person, with your own thoughts, your own feelings, your own plans, your own unique little personality. 

Oh sweetie, you bring me so much joy. You are my sunshine. Playing with you, making you laugh, experiencing your smile (the biggest smile in the world) make me so happy. You make being a mom so much fun. You are truly God's gift to me. 

We have an amazing bond. You need me and I need you. We both sleep best when we're together. We both love it that you still breastfeed. We both get sad and anxious whenever we are apart. We are both perfectly willing to stop whatever we are doing for a cuddle break. I am so thankful that I get to stay home with you and not miss a second of your life. 

You are so happy almost all of the time. You are experiencing and learning all the joys of your little world but none of the heartache and pain. I'm so thankful for that. Your world is so innocent. So safe. So happy. Everything is exciting. Everything is new. You are seeing and enjoying everything for the very first time. I love being there to experience it with you. 

You are a toddler. You wasted no time learning to walk, and by now you are running around all over the place completely independently. You want to go everywhere and explore everything. It's my job to set limits and keep you safe. Sometimes you get mad and have meltdowns because I intervene for your own safety. Someday you will learn to trust me. Someday you will understand what's safe and what's not and why. But for now, I promise to be patient with your frustrations. I promise to keep reminding myself that you're 1 and your meltdowns and tantrums are out of frustration and you're not being "bad" or doing anything "wrong". I promise to try to sympathize with your feelings and be as gentle, kind and understanding as possible while I remind you of the limits and rules and keep you safe. I promise to let you explore and learn to your little heart's content as long as you are being safe. I promise that everything I do and every decision that I make is to keep you healthy, happy and safe. 

This year has been so much fun. I love watching you learn and grow and celebrating over every milestone. You are so amazing.

I love you, my sweet baby girl. Happy Birthday!

You may also want to read Emerald's Birth Story.