A Year of Growth

DJ and I took a walk with Bryce today, and we had a chance to talk and reflect on the last year.  In some respects, it feels like it has been about five years, but in other ways it has really flown!  Bryce of course had many, many milestones.  Last year, he was still a chubby little baby, and now he looks more and more like a little boy every day.  DJ and I both had some major personal and interpersonal growth.  We had to relearn how to be a couple in the midst of navigating parenthood, as well as figuring out our individual new identities and roles.  Ten years ago, DJ and I were waking up late from an amazing Cinderella-like New Year’s Eve at the Kennedy Center.  I had JUST discovered Orff Schulwerk,  I was still scarred from teaching middle school, I was so in love with DJ and we were less than two months away from getting engaged.  I definitely feel much older and wiser at the close of this year, but life is so, so good, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Some major events and memories for me this past year:

I successfully nursed Bryce until he self-weaned at 13 months.

I presented two sessions at the Denver AOSA conference.

I was invited to teach a summer Orff Level 1 course at Winthrop University.

I had a miscarriage.

I joined a playgroup.

I quit a playgroup.

I reached out to a random mom I met at Wegman’s, and we are becoming really good friends!

I met all my neighbors while out walking with Bryce.

I discovered FlyLady.net, decluttered my life, and reclaimed my sanity.

I made it out to Mobtown Ballroom a handful of times, but discovered that I don’t miss dancing as much as I thought I would.

I learned how to grill pizza.

I maintained my health and my weight, in spite of having a baby (and in spite of learning to grill pizza.)

I found my first gray hair.

I got my 25 year waterski club trophy at Woodloch.

Running finally felt good again.

I still really love my husband, not quite the same way as I did at the Kennedy Center on New Year’s Eve ten years ago, but with less flash and more depth.

Some Bryce memories I don’t want to forget:

Nursing him; the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve done.  I was sad when he weaned without me really realizing it, but I got some closure when he signed “Milk” while watching me put my bottles and pumping equipment away.  There were three sad little bags of pumped milk in the freezer.  I defrosted them, and he drank them all up, signing “milk” the whole time.

Bryce’s signing taking off after his first birthday.

Bryce singing “Uh Oh” along with Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason” and totally getting down to “Blurred Lines,” “Lucky Strike,” and “Light ‘Em Up.”  He would say “Yay!” every time he heard a song he likes on the radio.

Taking his first few steps at the Lilly Reunion.

The gigantic poop explosion on the way home from the Lilly reunion (maybe I’d rather forget that….)

Bryce saying “Grandma!” every time he saw my cell phone.

Bryce saying “Hi!” to everyone we see at the grocery store and out walking.

Many, many miles logged on his pushtrike.

Bryce saying “Ball! Ball!” while picking up big green walnuts at the playground.

Meeting my neighbor, Maureen, and her grandson Owen at the tot lot.

Bryce saying “Uh Oh” and alerting us whenever we forgot to latch a cabinet lock.

One snacktime, I was singing “Bryce likes to eat grapes grapes grapes” to the tune of Wheels on the Bus, and he totally on his own inserted “Bar bar bar!” because I was eating a granola bar.

When he first learned how to give kisses.

He is such a sweet, friendly, playful little guy, and I am really treasuring this time with him.  I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings!

 

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Beginning to Discipline

And so it begins!  No longer is Bryce a sweet chubby little lump who lies on his back and bats benignly at objects.  He is On the Move and On a Mission to explore anything and everything!  We have done a pretty thorough job of babyproofing the house, so there isn’t anything that would cause him harm, or any irreplaceable valuables within reach.  However, there are definitely limits that need to be set for acceptable behavior!

I have the advantage (?) of having been hardened by 10 years of teaching elementary school, so I know all too well the children who were so cute that their parents didn’t deny them anything.  I will admit that it is definitely difficult to remain steadfast when you see this:

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However, I am determined that he will not be one of those kids that people think “He’s adorable, but he’s SUCH a brat!”

I started doing my homework while Bryce was still a baby.  I read and re-read The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp and Simplicity Parenting by Kim Payne, both AMAZING resources!  I browsed Pinterest for ideas.  I brainstormed some basic rules and behaviors that I wanted to reinforce, and I talked with DJ to make sure that he was on board (Memorize this response: ‘Ask Your Mother.”)  😉   I wanted to make sure I had a bag of tricks and a plan in place, so that when the time came I was ready to jump right in.  I am such a teacher it’s not even funny.

So far, things are going really well!  I wouldn’t say that the Terrible Twos are in full swing, so I’m not relaxing and patting myself on the back just yet, but I feel like we are laying a solid foundation for managing behavior in the future.

Here are some things that are working really well for me:

1. Baby Signing Time.  Number One recommendation for reducing fussiness!  Bryce is just beginning to verbalize things, but with his signing vocabulary he can tell me what he wants for snack, if he wants his blanket or pacifier, when he wants music on, when he wants to go outside, if he needs help, if he has a dirty diaper.  I feel like signing has made him a more sociable baby as well.  Other kids at the playground are very self-involved, but I think because Bryce is used to looking at people for communication cues, he walks around and tries to interact with everyone.  All I did was buy the Baby Signing Time DVDs and let him watch them.  I had to relax my “No Screen Time Before Two” standards, but it was totally worth it.

2.  Time Outs. This comes from my Happiest Toddler reading.  If Bryce is tantrumming or doing something he shouldn’t, he gets a slow count of 3, or a redirection, depending on the situation.  If he continues to fuss or misbehave, I take him up to his crib and leave him alone (with the light on and the door open) for 1-2 minutes.  This is AMAZINGLY effective.  Now, if he starts to throw a fit, 80% of the time if I count to three, he will calm himself down.  When we put up the Christmas tree, he started playing with the tree skirt and wearing it like a cape.  When he continued to mess with it even after I offered him another toy, I gave him a time out, and he hasn’t touched it since.  The Happiest Toddler book offers lots of other suggestions for managing behavior as he gets older, but right now, time-outs are working well.

3.  Setting a schedule up for success.  Simplicity Parenting talks about the concept of “pressure valves,” and how people need to balance periods of stress and activity with periods of rest and recharging.   I know I get cranky if I’m sleepy or hungry, or have been running myself ragged, so I try to make sure Bryce is in a state of homeostasis before I unleash him on the world!  I usually plan errands around Bryce’s sleep/meal schedule, either after breakfast, or after his nap and lunch.  I make a plan, I try not to take more than an hour and a half, and I always take a sippy cup and a finger-food snack just in case.  If we have a busy afternoon with a playdate, errands, or a class, we’ll keep the morning low key, or vice versa.  Simplicity Parenting offers other suggestions for reducing stress and overstimulation that can lead to tantrums and misbehavior.  I feel like many of the suggestions given in the book can help adults to reduce stress in their lives as well, whether or not they have kids!

Giving Bryce a way to communicate his needs, gently but firmly establishing my parental authority, and setting him up for good behavior by working with his schedule have really helped to keep him (and Mommy!) happy and balanced.  I hope that I can continue to build a strong relationship of respect and love on this basic foundation!

A Morning with Bryce

Bryce is an early riser.  There was a period of time where he would wake up at 5am (or before!) ready to go, but thankfully he’s evened out and now sleeps in until 6 or even 6:30.  I never considered myself a morning person, but now I don’t really have a choice.  Pre-6:00 wakeups are still kind of painful, but I’ve actually grown to enjoy my morning time with lil B.

I set my alarm for 6:15 on workdays, but I rarely need it.  The monitor on my night stand rouses me when it starts to broadcast “Hi! Whoo whoo! Arf arf arf!”  from Bryce’s room.  He has a stuffed dog in his bed and an owl-shaped clock on his wall, and he never fails to greet his friends every morning.  =)

I take 5 minutes to do my morning routine and then open the door to his room.  “Hi!  Hi!”  He is usually sitting up in his crib snuggling his blanket, and he stands up and begins frantically signing “Eat!  Eat!”  when I walk in the door.  He is warm and snuggly, and I always take a minute to cuddle him and smootch his chubby cheeks.

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I’ll spare you the details of what I usually find in his diaper.

I carry him downstairs, and he walks around lifting his hands and grandly singing “Ta Daah!!” as I turn on lights.  I begin to empty the dishwasher as I heat up his breakfast, and sometimes he helps by handing me the dishes from the bottom rack.  (I frantically snatch all the knives from the silverware rack when I hear his little feet padding into the kitchen.)

I set him up in his highchair with his breakfast, and he immediately signs “Music,” looking pointedly at the radio.  I usually attempt to start off mellow with my Nickel Creek Pandora station, but baby boy digs the funk.  He protests until I start up Robin Thicke or Justin Timberlake, although sometimes we can meet in the middle with Coldplay.

I’ll make my coffee and light a candle on the table while he enjoys his food, saying “Yum yum yum!  Mmmmmmmm…” He’s definitely his mother’s son!  We watch the birds and squirrels on the deck, and talk about our plan for the rest of the day.  If it’s a workday, I’ll go give DJ his first wake-up poke (it usually takes at least 3) and start gathering my things. If it’s an off day, I’ll clean  Bryce up and head out for some playground time before I start morning chores.

There are some mornings that do not go like this.  Some mornings, he wakes up screaming, smelling of poo, refusing to eat his breakfast, and can’t decide whether he wants up, down, or neither.  But, whether relaxing routine, or battle of wills, I try to cherish every morning I have with my special little boy!

Cracker Monster

The first sign that Bryce used was “milk,” but not far behind was “cracker.”

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That is pretty amazing to me, because I don’t think he had ever seen a cracker before, except on Baby Signing Time.  I NEVER eat crackers unless I have the puking bug or I’m having a party.  I don’t buy snack food for two reasons:

  1. If I’m truly hungry, crackers and pretzels aren’t going to cut it.
  2. If I’m not truly hungry, I should probably drink some water and move on.

But, Bryce wanted crackers, and I wanted to reinforce his signing, so I bought some crackers.  They have actually come in very handy!  They are easy to keep in the car for snack emergencies.  They (sometimes) occupy him long enough so that I can change his diaper without putting him in a leglock on the floor.  They can also be vehicles for some pretty nutritious spreads.

One of my favorite spreads to put on crackers is  Peanut Butter Hummus.   Lots of protein, fiber, and healthy fats for my growing boy.  You can also roll this into little balls with chocolate chips for a quick Mommy-treat!

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, or more if desired
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T maple syrup or honey (can be increased or omitted if desired)

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until smooth.

Spread on crackers, on bread, roll into little balls, mix in raisins or chocolate chips, anything you want!  You can sub any nut butter you want, but peanut butter is the most flavorful.

Enjoy!  I know my little Cracker Monster does. =)

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A Skype Date with Rachel!

What a great weekend! Lots of cooking, cleaning, chilling, and playing with Bryce, but the HIGHLIGHT was a Skype date with Rachel Coleman from Baby Signing Time.

Rachel sings "Baby Signing Time" to Bryce

We have used the Baby Signing Time DVD’s with Bryce since he was 3 months old, and he LOVES them. (Probably because they are the only TV we let him watch….) They have my full approval as a teacher, musician, and a mom. When I found out that Two Little Hands Productions was working on a new project, “Rachel and the Treeschoolers,” I knew that it was going to be amazing. I didn’t think twice about backing the project on Kickstarter, and when I saw that one of the backer rewards was a Skype with Rachel, I knew that was something I wanted to do!

Rachel is truly one of my personal heroes. She created Signing Time because her own daughter, Leah, was found to be deaf when she was a year old. I highly recommend reading Rachel’s story if you have the chance; she took a challenging and painful situation and turned it into an opportunity to help countless other people. Not only is she an example of faith, strength, and optimism, she writes and performs all the songs for the shows herself!

I set up an appointment, and we were waiting anxiously around the computer when she called us on Skype this afternoon. Bryce had actually been asking to watch Baby Signing Time, and he got this huge smile on his face when he saw her on the screen! He loved seeing his special TV friend, and it was so wonderful to talk to her and get to express my gratitude in person. I got more than a little teary thanking her for the ability to communicate with my son! Bryce can verbalize hi, uh oh, ball, and a few animal noises, but because of Rachel, he can sign almost 40 words. She was just as you would expect; animated, enthusiastic, kind, and friendly.

I thought I would be supersmart and run a screen capture so that we could record the call, but it didn’t record the audio. Whomp whomp. Oh well, it was a great experience for us, and helped to support the production of “Rachel and the Treeschoolers!” Here’s a preview from the first episode, I had no idea “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” could make you cry!