The Wonderful Twos

As your wonderful, sweet, loving, happy little baby transitions from infant to toddler-hood, his/her personality starts to shine.  Your once adorable little muffin is now an angry screaming toddler.  Where did that bundle of joy go?

In my household, we are about to embark on this unforgettable journey.  However, through the alligator tears and ear-piercing screams, I still see my precious little angel.  And just like me and his Dad, he is going through some changes of his own.  In fact, being a toddler has to be as difficult, if not more difficult than becoming a teenager.   How, do you ask?  Well, let me begin…

First of all, toddlers are learning at a very fast past.   They want to know how this toy works, or what happens when they push this button.  They become very curious.  I guess this is where the term,”Curiosity may kill the cat,” comes from,  because Nick seems to act just like a kitten at times.  I find him in the strangest predicaments: on top of the tv (that’s on the floor), in his toy box, under a chair.   They quickly learn cause and effect: “If I knock these blocks down, they make a loud noise,” or, “If I pull all these tissues out, Mom tells me no.”

Secondly, children around two years of age start acquiring a language.   Most toddlers cannot speak clearly what their needs and wants are.  Therefore, they get very frustrated and angry leading towards….you guessed it.  When a toy doesn’t work like he wants it to, or  when I don’t fix the right food, Nick gets frustrated.  Granted, I get frustrated too.  He isn’t able to tell me what he wants, and I obviously haven’t read his mind.  It’s usually a back and forth until one of us caves in.  I have a feeling that Nick has so many questions rattling through his little mind.  Sometimes I catch him with a quizzical look hoping to get an answer to one of his many thoughts.  Until then, it’ll be more guessing what he really wants.

Thirdly, toddlers have a sense of independence.  Now that they have mastered walking, holding objects, and some talking, they are ready to go…by themselves.  “I can do it by myself” attitude can test your patience.  When I go to the store, I have to compromise with Nick for him to stay in the cart.  He rather get out and explore the big store and find the cool shiny toys.  I usually have to run my errands during a snack break, right after he has burned some energy off.

Let me finish up by saying Nick is a fantastic, charismatic, adventurous little man.  He amazes me each day by how much he learns and remembers things.  It is not easy being Nick’s Mom, but I definitely wouldn’t trade it for the world.  He has his moments (as well as I) and can throw the best of tantrums.  But those moments are quickly followed by a hug and big toothy grin.  I know the tantrums will fade as he grows older, but those hugs and smiles will last.  He is a big helper around the house: he helps me sweep, throw away garbage, cleans up (sometimes), and is my daily entertainment.  He loves for me to read to him as well as chase him.  He isn’t fond of diaper changes or naps, but he gives in eventually.  He is a good sleeper, once he falls asleep.  I am very grateful for that.

One of these days I will blink, and my little (almost) two year old will be to old for cuddles, blankies, and hugs from Mom.   And I will miss it terribly, because having a toddler can be a rewarding experience.

Choosing Battles

As the new month began, a different side of my son appeared.  For those of you that know Nick, you know he is a very happy child.  He doesn’t normally cry unless he’s hungry, wet, or in pain.  He’s pretty outgoing, and is always on the go.

Now that he is close to 21 months old, his personality has started to shine through.  First of all, he loves being in a routine.  As long as he stays in that routine, the day normally goes smoothly.  I’ve also noticed the older he gets, the more energy he has.  Like a typical boy, he loves to wrestle, jump, run, and bounce off things!  We have to keep his brain stimulated, or he gets bored and cranky.  He loves when Daddy gets home, so he can play rough and tumble with him.

There are many joys of being a mother to a toddler.  They are big helpers, pretty good eaters, sleep longer, and are starting to become more independent.  However, there can be some, shall we say, forks in the road towards happiness?  For instance, everyday Nick and I seem to disagree on what’s “best.”  He wants to play up the stairs…I don’t want him to slip and roll down them.  He wants to pull things off the counter…I feel that’s dangerous.  He doesn’t want to hold my hand.  He wants to pour his own milk…get the picture?  It can get frustrating when trying to get a toddler to understand your point of view.

On the other hand, I can sympathize with Nick.  The world is a big place, with so many shiny and colorful objects.  The most interesting things are totally hands-off (like sharp objects).  When he sees Mommy or Daddy with them, he wants them.  In his eyes, it’s completely unfair that he has boundaries and we don’t.  In addition, communicating at this age is so difficult.  How can he get through to us what he wants?  He’s very good at understanding what you say, but he has yet to communicate in full sentences (and when I say “full,” I mean 2-4 words).  So his response is to cry, which leads to frustration.  It’s at this moment when most parents ask themselves, “Should I fight this battle or give in?”

So far, the only way to respond to Nick is to be firm, yet loving.  We don’t give in to his tantrums, and we don’t let him make the rules.  If he doesn’t like something, tough.  But, I want him to know why he can’t do them, not because “I said so.” I know this phase will disappear and things will get better.  Until then, I just keep telling myself to give him his space to cool off, and offer him choices.  And above all, continue to love him and guide him through the rough journey we call life.

Yummy Yummy, Hummus in my Tummy!!

Here is an easy recipe for hummus.  This is a Mediterranean dish that can be flavored in many ways (with red pepper, olives, garlic, etc…), but I enjoy the old fashioned flavor.  The most expensive ingredient is the tahini sauce (sesame paste), but the $8 jar lasts a while.

Easy Hummus

2 cans of chickpeas (I like the less sodium Bush’s brand), drained (reserve the juice)

1/3 cup tahini

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil (you might need more)

1 pinch paprika

 

Drain your chickpeas and reserve the juice.  In a food processor, combine all your ingredients except for the olive oil.  Puree your ingredients until well combined and you have a smooth texture.  While the processor is running, add the olive oil through the top of the lid.  If your hummus is too thick, add some of the reserved juice, 1 tsp at a time.  Sometimes I’ll add a touch more olive oil for taste.  This is optional.

Cut up pita bread with a pizza slicer and serve.

This is a perfect dish for appetizers, showers, and snacks! 

Spaghetti Squash in a Nutshell

We all love pasta.  It’s the first thing that children learn to eat.  It’s comfort food that stick with us.  Unfortunately, it’s not something that should be consumed everyday.  Here’s is an easy substitution for that yummy pasta, and one that’s good for you!

What you will need:

Spaghetti squash

jar of your favorite sauce

garlic salt

mozzarella cheese

hamburger meat or vegetables (optional)

Your instructions:

1. Cut your squash in half using a large chef’s knife.  **Be careful!!!  The squash will fight–keep one hand on the squash and out of the way of the knife.**

2. Clean out the seeds with a spoon (if some of the guts come with it, that’s ok…You’ll have plenty to eat).

3. In a large pot of boiling water, carefully place each half in the boiling water using long tongs.  Boil for 15 minutes.

4. Using the tongs, take the halves out of the boiling water and drain in colander. Let it cool for a few minutes.

5. Take each half and scrap out the guts using a fork.  Here is where the squash gets its name.  It looks just like spaghetti!  Scrap all the guts into a bowl and set the squash skins aside.

6. Add garlic salt (I would suggest half a palm full) to squash and stir.  Mix in your sauce mixture (I add ground meat to my sauce).

7. If the skins are intact, you can use them as bowls and fill each skin with the squash and place in an 8×8 glass dish.  If they aren’t, then discard and use only the glass dish.

8.  Sprinkle cheese on top and bake in a 425 oven for 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.  Set aside and allow to cool before serving.

Naps Designate Your Day

Naps…aahhh, such a great word in the Mom-vocabulary.  Who would’ve thought such a small task of sleeping would make a big difference in everyone’s day?  Certainly not I.  As I was carrying Nick, my mind was filled with so many great ideas, one being I was going to get him to sleep through the night sooner than most infants.  How was my big plan going to work?  I won’t let him nap longer than 2 hours at a time.  Ha! I’ll show everyone!  I was going to be the Mom Saver!

Then I entered into reality and realized that plan was a load of diaper poo!  Nick was like most other newborns…eat, sleep, poop.  Repeat.  Around the clock.  I executed my plan flawlessly…nurse, sleep, change diaper, play a while.  In my sleep deprived state I felt this was going so well… Until Nick had tantrums around 3:00 every afternoon.  Why is my sweet little angel giving me fits?!  Why can’t I calm this child down?  Only after reading an article on “overtired babies,” did I realize what I was doing…I forgot to give Nick a nap!!!  What kind of crazy mother would do that?

Now I see why naps are so important.  It’s a way to let our bodies rest and reset our clocks.  Babies need so much rest.  I see now they sleep like cats.  Nap all day, and stay awake at night.  The problem is we Moms (and Dads) lose our sleep and the ability to function during the day.

Nick kept switching his routine up with me.  Some days he’ll take 3 naps;  sometimes 2 long ones.  They would start at different times each day.  It took me almost the entire first year to realize we need a routine and fast.  I must plan EVERYTHING around his nap schedule, or my husband and I will be paying for it later.

So here are 10 things we do that WORKS! You’ll have to make your own routine because every child is different.  Some needs more sleep than others.  I do hope that you get some reassurance that you are not alone in trying to get your kids in a routine and this post gives you ideas on how to set up your own day!

1. Designate a wake-up time: You’ll soon discover what time your little one likes to wake up.  Mine luckily likes the 7:00 hour.  Sometimes it’s earlier and sometimes it’s later, but it’s usually within an hour of 7:00.

2. Keep activities to one part of the day: We run all of our errands and set up all play dates before lunch.  This is when Nick is the most energetic.

3. Make sure your little one is well fed: No one likes to go to sleep on an empty stomach.  Nick is a “grazer eater,” so he eats every 2-3 hours.  Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, supper, light snack (usually milk and a cookie), bedtime.

4. Look for signs that your little one is tired: You’ll pick up those signs pretty quickly.  Nick’s is yawning, rubbing his eyes, and getting cranky. If you can catch it early, he’ll fall asleep faster!

5. Don’t be afraid to let that napper keep napping:  Nick’s naps are usually 2-3 hours long.  He needs at least 2 to feel rested, but 3 makes him feel a lot better.  It does affect his sleep at night, but in a good way!  He isn’t overtired when it’s bedtime and sleeps longer.

6. Make his/her environment relaxing: Turn down the lights, play soft music, and turn your cell phone down.  When your surroundings are relaxing, you are relaxed.

7. Get at least one good nap in at home: If you are go go go, then it’s always good to let your baby nap at home at least once during the day.  Nick and I were always out and he slept a lot when I could carry him in his car seat, but waking up at home makes the day better!

8. Big kids needs down time too: We haven’t gotten here yet, but when Nick transitions out of naps all together, he still would need some down time.  Your house should still be relaxing, but instead of napping, coloring or reading for at least an hour could work in everyone’s favor.

9. Nap in the same place: Nick loves his little seat, so he naps in it and sleeps in his crib at night.

10. This is your down time too: Once your little napper is off in dreamland, this is your chance to do what you want to do.  Laundry, sewing, blogging, are some of the things I get done when he naps.  It’s my time to do something for me.

***I’m not an expert, nor do I have a medical degree.  I’m simply a Mom, and I want to share what I did to other Moms out there!***

Bye Bye…Bottle?

It takes a lot of trials and head-scratching to determine which is the right bottle for your baby.  When you go register at the baby store, you become overwhelmed at all the choices you have.  Glass? Plastic? The ones with inserts? Slanted body? Wide mouth or narrow? The questions keep going.  Once you’ve figured out which bottle you love the most, register for it, and receive your stock, it’s time for your little one to arrive!  Once they’ve figured out how to drink their meal from it (whether it’s through formula or expressed milk), they love it!  It’s their life line.  They can’t live without it.

This goes on for most of their first year of life, and then they aren’t babies anymore.  Now that they are toddlers, it’s time to turn their life upside down.  Throw away everything they know–bottles, pacifiers, jar food.  Give them that shiny new sippy cup and finger foods and put them to bed without that paci.  They’ll adjust, right?

Ok, if you believe that, you either have lost your marbles, or you’re raising a robot.  It takes time to adjust to a new lifestyle, and it even can be traumatizing to some babies.  That was our situation…

Nick used a bottle since he was a few days old.  I pumped milk so I could get rest.  He stopped nursing at 9 1/2 months, so he was strictly on bottle after that.  When he turned a year old, we knew he was too attached to the bottle for us to take it away.  When he got to 15 months, we lessened his intake of milk drastically to 3 bottles a day (morning, nap, bedtime).  He was getting his nourishments from other foods, so it wasn’t so important how much milk he got.

We decided to attempt weaning at 16 months.  We made a special trip to Babies R Us and found a great cup with a soft spout.  We got home and immediately tried it.  He was already drinking out of the big sippy cups with juice and water, so we thought he would agree with our idea.  BIG MISTAKE.  He thought the milk was poison!  He wouldn’t even swallow what was in his mouth!

We decided to take the bottle away all together.  Offer the cup of milk to him.  If he didn’t want it, then he didn’t get any.  This went on for a week and a half, NEVER taking one sip out of that cup.  It was only after a painful tantrum did I decide he wasn’t ready.  We could put up with the fussiness and the tantrums, but this particular one came with physical pain to him.  I didn’t want  my child to have to go through that.  My husband and I decided right then and there to let him lose the bottle on his own time. (Our pediatrician agreed.)

That decision proved to be the winner.   A couple of weeks ago, my husband boldly offered the milk in his special cup, and Nick took it!  We haven’t looked back since.   Each parent has their own way of getting solutions, but I feel this is the best way for us.  Nick is the kind of child that stops doing something when he wants to.  He weaned himself off nursing, and never had a problem with formula or whole milk.  I know in time he will grow out of other things too like the pacifier and diapers.  He is in charge of his destiny, and we are along for the ride.

Couponing

Hi, My name is Elizabeth, and I’m a couponer…

Yes, yes, I am one of those people.  The kind of shoppers that lugs in the bulky binder and stand in the middle of the aisle calculating and recalculating.  What is the point of “wasting my time, ” you ask?  Let me explain…

The extreme couponing phenomenon started a few years ago.  Before the all too famous reality show started to air each week, there were newspaper ads, social groups, and word of mouth excitedly proclaiming couponing is the way to go.  I never caught on until later.  I didn’t want to spend those hours clipping and comparing prices each week.  My Sundays were for church and relaxation.

Now I am right in the middle of the coupon craze complete with my share of paper cuts, and they are well worth it.  As I kept delving into the realm of clipping and paying with savings, I realized that by spending a few hours a week, I can save tons of money!  I am not what you would call  “extreme,” buying anything that has a coupon, but  I do take my trusty binder anytime I walk into a store.

Each Sunday I go through the paper and pull out the coupon circulars.  I also grab the local grocery stores and national drugstore chain circulars.  I first go through the coupons and see if there are any that I can use.  One I’ve made a nice little stash, I go through the circulars and see where I can get the best deal.

I really like going to Walgreens for their sales and “Register Rewards.”  CVS and Rite Aid have a similar program.  These rewards are attached to certain products that are on sale.  You can use manufacturer coupons and store coupons with them so they will be a super deal!  For instance, I bought a Gillette men’s proglide razor on sale for $9.89.  I used a $4 coupon, bringing the price down to $5.89.  I recieved $5 in Register Rewards, to be used on another purchase, making my final price for the razor $.89!

Another way I like to save is at local grocery stores.  Kroger, Publix, Bi-Lo, etc all will double (and sometimes triple) coupons up to $.50.  So if you can potentially get receive free stuff for charity!  Just the other day I bought Huggies baby wipes for free!  They were on sale for $.99 each, and I had a $.50 coupon that doubled to a $1!  Needless to say I stocked up.

When I get a great coupon, I always like to get more.  What I find most helpful are these clipping services.  You can order many of the same coupon for no more than a few cents each.  This way I don’t have to hound my friends and family for coupons or go digging in the recycle bins for them.

Now that I’ve peaked your interest, I hope you can see the benefit of couponing.  Even if you save just a few dollars a month, that still is a few dollars (and maybe a special treat)!  Little savings add up to bigger savings!