picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

What do a firehose and the Energizer bunny have in common?

I’d better preface this with an apology: Ben, when you Google yourself in 5 years (oh, who am I kidding – you’ll probably do it this afternoon), I’m sorry. But is is a mommy’s prerogative to record these stories for future reference. If you play your cards right and become a rocket scientist like Uncle Chris, I won’t include them in mother-of-the-groom speech. Probably.

Part of our night-time routine involves taking Ben to the bathroom when we go to bed. He usually stumbles through this groggily, waking up just enough to cooperate. Some nights he’s sleeping more soundly – the tip-off is when I walk him to the bathroom, he tries desperately to go back to sleep on the bathmat. Last night was a particularly sleepy night – I walked him to the bathroom and gave my usual warning —

Oh, hey – let me interrupt myself for a second – if you are grossed out by pee, you might as well stop reading now. If on the other hand you enjoy bathroom humour, URINE luck!! heheheheheheheh

— Back to the story! So I gave my usual warning, “Ben, I’m going to take your pull-up off. DO NOT START PEEING until you’re on the toilet, okay? Don’t start peeing yet. I’ll tell you when. DON’T start when I take your pull-up off. Ready?” (You may think this seems like overkill, as warnings go. It’s not.)

Sadly, last night the warning did not penetrate his sleepy fog, and when I pulled down the aforementioned pull-up, he went off like a FRIGGING FIREHOSE. (Did I mention that we had T-ball last night and he drank a FULL BOTTLE of water on the way home? Yeah, that.)

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Picture it: There’s pee spraying in all directions, Ben still fast asleep, and I’m shrieking, “No! Stop peeing! Stop!!” while simultaneously trying to sit him on the toilet and duck and cover. Unfortunately, when I sat him on the toilet, the pull-up wound up positioned in such a way as to pin his…er…nozzle straight up. Imagine on of those lovely garden water features with a statue of a little boy frolicking in the crystal spray. Except that instead of frolicking, he’s sleeping, and instead of crystal spray, it’s, you know, PEE.

A seeming eternity of urine-avoiding, pull-up ripping, and sleeping-Ben’s-junk adjusting later, the monsoon cleared up and I could start on the clean-up. Now, on any other sleep-walking Ben night, I could just point him towards the bathmat and he would curl up and fall asleep – in fact, I have had trouble getting him to the toilet BECAUSE of this zombie-like attraction to the blasted bathmat. Last night, for some reason, he seemed to be stuck in “on” mode, so when I pointed him towards the bathmat and said, “Okay, sit down while I clean up,” he started channeling the Energizer bunny and trotting in bathmat-sized circles. Over. And over. And over. I was tired just looking at him!

I managed to get his PJs off and drag him to his room where he continued to pace in circles like a wind-up toy, pausing ever so briefly to climb into a new pull-up. I gave up on the idea of fresh PJs and tucked him into bed, where with a sigh of relief he finally left perpetual motion mode.

Molly woke him up this morning with a “Hey, Ben! You’re nudie-butt!” and poor Ben just looked confused and said, “Yeah…”

~ karyn

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Other parents’ judgement? That’s the leash-t of my worries.

I love Today’s Parent. I don’t always agree with everything in it, but it’s always a good read, and gosh-dang-it, y’all know I’m a sucker for any kind of child development material!

The topic of this month’s “Debate” column is “Should you use a leash to control your toddler?” and I felt it missed the mark. I was frankly offended by Nadine Silverthorne’s assertion that “parents who use leashes look lazy,” and although Amy Morrison’s “Yes” column made a great case for leashes, I was saddened by the caveat that she never actually used one herself due to fear of judgement – a fear that was clearly justified!

Since Today’s Parent hasn’t been able to find anyone willing to admit to actually using a toddler leash, I feel compelled (anyone surprised by that?) to add my own two cents!

Although I use the term “toddler leash” facetiously among friends, it is not at all the same as an animal leash. There is no “obedience training” involved and it is not a punitive device used to jerk back a disobedient pet to ensure compliance born out of fear of a repeat performance. A toddler “leash” or harness is a safety device that allows your child the freedom of walking a few steps away from you while giving you the means to respond effectively to any unexpected danger.

Toddlers value independence above all else. The “Terrible Twos” exist because it is around that age that children first learn to do for themselves, at their own pace, and heaven help the parent who says, “Just let me do it for you!” Is it really fair to strap your fearless little explorer into a 5-point stroller harness just because he or she is too dazzled by the wonderful world around him or her to stop dead every time you shout, “Freeze!”?

Going back to the statement that toddler leash-toting parents “look lazy,” I asked my own mother, who, as a full-time doctor and mother of 3 in the 1980’s is the least lazy person I know (Case in point: She recently returned to work on crutches 9 days after breaking her hip in a skiing accident), what she thinks of parents who use toddler leashes. She responded dryly, “Karyn, if I hadn’t used a toddler leash, your brother Chris wouldn’t be around today.”

When Ben was a toddler, I kept his lightweight harness in my diaper bag, ready to throw on him any time the situation warranted. If I was going to be wandering the Eaton’s Centre or downtown Toronto, or taking a trip to a train station or waterfront with a 2 year-old, you bet your bippy I’d have that leash at the ready!

Ben with leash 2

Ben, on leash, walking by a river in Germany.
©PicklesINK 2013

It was the best option for both of us – Ben was free to explore without being stuck in the stroller or having his hand held (just take a minute to imagine how uncomfortable it must be to have someone much taller than you holding your hand up above your head until it falls asleep, gripping it hard enough that you can’t pull away) and I had the security of knowing that I could stop him if he suddenly bolted towards a hazard.

Ben with leash 3

And Ben, off leash!
©PicklesINK 2013

There are certain situations in which even the most anti-leash parent would be unlikely to argue that a safety harness isn’t a good idea:

Ben with harness on sailboat

Ben on a sailboat with a lifejacket and safety harness.
©PicklesINK 2013

(For the record, the harness Ben is wearing in the preceding photograph is actually an adult boating harness intended for sailboat racing – safety devices ain’t just for toddlers, y’know.)

And how about in the case of special needs children? If you don’t think that’s appropriate, take a minute to walk a mile in some other parents’ shoes by reading the testimonials on this website from users of special needs child-to-adult harnesses. Or take it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak:

I’ve got the best harness in the world. When I first got it I didn’t like wearing it, but now I love my harness. I never get lost and I don’t have to keep holding hands all the time and its comfortable to wear. Big kids and little kids should wear a harness because you are never too old to be kept safe. And I love the colours.

– Tyler, Australia, Age 9, http://www.childharness.ca/testimonials.html

There are important guidelines to follow when using a toddler harness:

1. The whole idea is to give your child the freedom to explore on his or her own terms, so try to follow at his or her pace and guide your child with your words (“Time to go this way! Come on!”). Your child is not a puppy, and the harness is not an choke-chain, so do not jerk him or her back to you.

2. If you aren’t holding the harness, tuck it firmly out of the way, and take it off completely if your child is playing on something like a climber or slide where it could become a strangulation hazard.

3. When it comes to wrist straps, just don’t: If you can manage to get them tight enough to stay on, they’re just a broken wrist waiting to happen.

4. And of course, make sure that you come prepared with pithy rejoinders for those inevitable judgments, such as,

“Well, the breeder suggested that we try this first, but if his behaviour doesn’t improve soon, it’s off to obedience school!”

“Dear God! You’re right! This isn’t my dachshund Olympus – it’s my neighbour’s kid! I can’t believe I did it AGAIN!”

Or the classic, “You know what they say about people in glass houses.”

As Nadine Silverthorne points out, it is our job as parents to teach our children “the rules,” including the expectation that when we say “Freeze,” they will. I say that even more importantly, it is our job to know our own children and to keep them safe whether they are listening or not.  The call-and-response method that she describes is an excellent training tool, but at the toddler age it is simply not foolproof. There is always potential for distraction, and the use of a toddler leash can ensure that a moment’s  impulsiveness doesn’t turn into a life-altering tragedy.

~ karyn (aka that horrible, lazy, toddler-leash-using mom everybody love to judge!)

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The coins on the bus go clink-clink-clink

….assuming you still use coins, and not tickets or some sort of magnetic swipe pass or retinal scan….

(Almost) since the dawn of time, parents have wrestled with the age-old question: When should you start teaching your kids about money?

Scene: A Cave, 500,000 B.C.:

*grunt* *grunt grunt* *grunt* OG *grunt grunt grunt* *grunt GRUNT* [Translation: “How many times to I have to tell you, OG?? The pointed stick is worth 5 flat rocks, not 3!!”]

And when you do talk to your kids about money, HOW do you do it? How do you translate such an abstract concept into something they will understand?

“Experts” suggest starting to talk to your kids about money around age 5-6, talking your kids through the transactions that you make and looking at the relative value of coins and bills. That was hard enough for our parents back when they had, you know, actual money as a frame of reference. I don’t know about you, but it’s an even more intangible entity now since my kids see me making purchases using a plastic card, a series of numbers, or simply by tapping a password onto a touchscreen.

I hadn’t even begun to give any serious thought to this issue, but with Ben’s help, I accidentally stumbled upon an amazing technique that has helped Ben and Molly grasp the concept of money beautifully.

A few months ago, after watching an episode of Franklin the Turtle, Ben said, “Mommy, I have an idea. I think I should do chores, and every time I do a chore, I get a sticker, and when I have 5 stickers, I get a new engine. Okay?” I said, “All right, bud, I love the concept but I think the terms some adjustment.”

After some discussion, Ian and I came up with this plan:

Ben’s Sticker Chores

  • A grown-up assigns a sticker chore or determines if something counts as a sticker chore (Ben can suggest a chore or ask to be assigned one)
  • When Ben completes a sticker chore, he puts a sticker on the calendar, and each sticker on the calendar is worth $1
  • Ben decides how and when he wants to spend his stickers (but we control the rate at which he earns them)

Ben keeps a tally of his stickers in his head (counting them on the calendar to double-check), and keeps revising his plans of what to do with them. Originally he was going to earn 100 stickers so he could buy a double-decker roundhouse for his trains, but he has now changed his mind and is working towards smaller goals. Molly loves to help Ben so many of the chores are actually communal efforts and Ben assures her that she will share in the rewards!

Two days ago was the big day when he spent his first 4 stickers on the Thomas Day of the Diesels app (which was enjoyed by all).

Ben, daddy and Molly with iPod

Daddy, Molly and Ben listening to a Day of the Diesels story at bedtime.
©PicklesINK 2013

When we put this together, I thought it was going to be a simple chore/reward system – I was not thinking of it as a way of addressing the concept of money at all! Around the same time as we started, though, Ben got very interested in doing keyword searches which lead to his finding DVDs and apps on iTunes and asking to download them, saying, “But you just have to put in your password!! It’s easy!”

He just wasn’t understanding why we kept saying “no” until inspiration struck and I said, “Ben, the trouble is, downloading that DVD actually costs 15 sticker chores!”

The lightbulb went on for both of us! Ben said, “WHAT? FIFTEEN! But I only have 5 sticker chores now and I need 100 to get the double-decker roundhouse!! That’s WAY too many!!” and I said, “I know! If we got it, that means unloading the dishwasher FIFTEEN MORE TIMES! That’s a LOT of work, isn’t it?’

stickers on calendar

Money Smarts: Brought to You by the Canadian National Bank of Princess Stickers
©PicklesINK 2013

Since then, everything money-related has been framed as “sticker chores,” and through this analogy Ben has come to understand:

STUFF costs money & money = work; therefore getting stuff = WORK

Whether “money” is represented by stickers, coins, plastic cards, or a password on the computer is irrelevant.

As a grown-up I do well to remind myself of that every once in a while too – when I think back to what it takes to earn that money, sometimes I think twice before clicking “Add To Cart”!

~ karyn

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Yep, this post is going to be about poop.

Molly has been almost completely toilet-trained for about a year, with one notable exception:

Her utter refusal to poop on the toilet.

Now, I’ve done all the right things. I know (theoretically) not to get emotional about it, not to make it into a power struggle, not to let her see that it bothers me…

Molly with iPad on toilet

Molly on the toilet with the iPad. Yes, I went there.
©PicklesINK 2013

I’ve calmly cleaned her up and washed pair of underpants after pair of underpants. I’ve read stories to her while she “has a try.” I spent an hour on my hands and knees scrubbing the carpet the day she (unsuccessfully) changed her own diaper. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of wiping a bum after pooping on the toilet versus changing a diaper.

Ben has even demonstrated for her, repeatedly, the art and science of pooping – “See, Molly? You just push your tummy like this *ERGGHHH* and the poop comes RIGHT OUT – see?!”

I even anthromorophised “Poop” in a long dialogue begging her to please, “Push me out because it’s dark in here and I’m afraid of the dark and I really want to go swimming!” (FYI – Poop has a high, squeaky voice. Don’t judge me. You ain’t seen what I seen.)

I finally concluded that she just wasn’t physically ready, but as of last night I know that this is not true. The problem isn’t that she isn’t capable of controlling her bowels.

The problem is that she’s a JERK.

Last night as we were snuggling together at bedtime, Molly pulled her usual stalling tactic of, “Oh! Mommy! I have to pee and poop!” “Fine,” I sighed, and took her to the bathroom.

As usual, she sat on the toilet, smiled at me, and said, “Nope! No pee or poop!” and I said, “Good! You’d better not poop. In fact, don’t you dare poop. Don’t you push out a poop…because if you do…”

Molly looked me dead in the eyes, grinned an evil grin, said, “I WILL!” and did.

~ karyn

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Don’t be fooled by the cuteness. This shirt isn’t some cutesy ironic saying. It’s a warning. (Shirt reads “TROUBLE”)
©PicklesINK 2013

Update (May 21, 2013): My thoughts are with the moms and dads in Oklahoma who would give anything to change another poopy diaper. Like many of you, I’m going to be hugging my kids a bit tighter today, jerks or not.

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What’s ha-pinning?

What, me? NO! I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I would never…NEVER!! I SWEAR!! I mean, probably never… NO! There are FOUR LIGHTS!!! I’ll never crack so OMG JUST STOP ASKING OKAY OKAY OKAY FINE I DID IT I JOINED PINTEREST NOW ARE YOU HAPPY???

How do I feel about Pinterest, you ask? I hate it. HATE IT. In a weirdly irresistible way. Do you remember Choose Your Own Adventures? I despised those books. I would read them through once the way you were supposed to, and then I would go back, choice by choice, to read each of the other possible paths in a logical, step-wise fashion, until I had uncovered all of the possible permutations. Pinterest is one giant, frustrating, inescapable, Choose Your Own Adventure. Trying to take it all in is like, as my big brother so aptly described the internet in 1995, drinking from a fire hose.

As a blogger, I decided that I needed a Pinterest presence, so I joined, but I have composed a Pinterest Code of Conduct  to keep my usage under control:

1. I will NOT travel more than 2 layers deep from any 1 pin (if I click on a pin, and it shows me a board, and I click on another pin on that board, I will NOT go any farther).

2. I will ONLY repin those DIY or craft ideas I can envision myself ACTUALLY DOING in the foreseeable future. Or ever.

3. I will NOT repin a pin without first clicking through to the original link, thus saving myself from the embarrassment of repinning something like this

Water marbles

Screenshot of infamous “water marbles” pin.
©PicklesINK 2013

with the caption, “Water marbles! Crazy how a few kitchen ingredients will make these. Weird, I can’t wait to try,” which when clicked, directs you not to the instructions you are expecting but instead to an article decrying the whole concept as a video hoax.

4. If I try something, and it doesn’t work, I will comment on it to save others the frustration. (WD-40 to clean your burner pans? DOESN’T WORK. Just FYI.)

Signed ______________________

I encourage you to take the Pinterest Pledge too!

Having waded through Pinterest for a couple of weeks, following the rules I set for myself, I do have one amazing success story — yesterday, combining ideas from a couple of pins (how to make a skirt out of a men’s shirt and how to make a child’s dress out of an old t-shirt), I FREAKING MADE A DRESS FOR MOLLY.

My to-do list for this week included:

To-do list

To-do list excerpt:
– learn to sew
– make cool stuff
©PicklesINK 2013

Simple enough, right? I had been looking at tutorials for how to make grown-up tank-top/t-shirt/men’s shirt dresses and got all excited to make one for myself. Then I tried to wrap one of Ian’s old shirts around my waist and realized that for it to work, either my hips had to be a size XXXS or the shirt had to be an XXXL.

New plan: Dress for Molly!

Molly in dress

Molly in upcycled shirt(s) dress.
©PicklesINK 2013

Without further ado, I present to you:

How to make a toddler dress out of a child’s t-shirt and a men’s dress shirt.

Please note I am the most NOVICE of sew-ers so my sewing instructions will be vague and the terminology probably entirely inaccurate.

You will need: scissors, child’s shirt, men’s dress shirt, sewing machine, pins.

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Child’s shirt, men’s shirt, scissors (not pictured: sewing machine, pins)
©PicklesINK 2013

1. Cut off the child’s shirt 1″ below where you want the skirt to be attached and cut off the men’s shirt just below the armpits or just below the pocket if there is one.

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Where to cut child’s shirt
©PicklesINK 2013

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Where to cut men’s shirt
©PicklesINK 2013

2. Sew a gathering seam on the men’s shirt: Set your stitch length to a long setting (4 or 5) and sew a seam all the way around about 1″ below where you cut. Knot one end of both threads and then pull on the other end, sliding the fabric back on the thread to gather it. Gather it until it is the same circumference as the bottom of the child’s shirt and then spread the gathers evenly and knot the other end of the threads. If I’m not explaining this well, Google it or check your sewing machine’s instruction manual, but you probably know how to do it better than I do!

3. Pin the top of the men’s shirt (now the skirt) and the bottom of the child’s shirt (now the bodice) together with the outsides facing in to each other.

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The inside of the dress at the waist seam.
©PicklesINK 2013

4. Sew this seam together. I tried to do this with a straight stretch stitch, but I don’t think I was particularly successful (it doesn’t really stretch) and still seams (heheheheh) fine. Now turn it right side out and admire your work!

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Finished dress. PRAISE ME!! PRAISE ME!!
©PicklesINK 2013

5. If there is a pocket, and if you want to, carefully detach the pocket from the leftover piece of men’s shirt and reattach it to the skirt (Molly LOVES pockets, so this was the highlight of the dress for her).

6. Show it to everyone you know, either in person or through the use of social media, because you are SEW FREAKING AWESOME!!!! <—- see what I did there??

Who knows? Maybe there’s hope for me and this Pinterest thing after all.

~ karyn

Four lights

There are FOUR lights (Pinterest logo).
©PicklesINK 2013

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10 Ways to Save the Planet

As parents, we can all relate to Kermit – It’s Not Easy Being Green. We are constantly bombarded with “BUY BUY BUY” messages — You need to get the latest toys! You need to get the DVD as soon as it comes out! Look, this one is EDUCATIONAL! Second child a boy? Well, that pink corn-popper ain’t going to cut it – better pick up a gender-neutral one!

Fisher-Price Corn Popper toy – pink
Photo: http://www.toysrus.ca/product/index.jsp?productId=2688007

And don’t forget to buy NEW CLOTHES NEW WASHCLOTHS NEW RECEIVING BLANKETS NEW SHEETS SOPHIE THE GIRAFFE NEWBORN BABY SHOES AT LEAST 5 PAIRS THE LATEST NURSERY MONITOR TECHNOLOGY AND YOU DEFINITELY NEED THAT WIPES-WARMER BECAUSE THERE’S JUST NOTHING WORSE THAN THE FEELING OF A ROOM-TEMPERATURE WIPE ON YOUR BUM CHEEKS.

Ever since my kids memorized The Lorax I’ve gotten much more in touch with my inner tree-hugger, so in celebration of Earth Day I’ve put together a list of 10 ways that Team Pickles tries to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

"I yam the Yorax! I 'peak for the fwees!" ©PicklesINK 2012

“I yam the Yorax! I ‘peak for the fwees!”
©PicklesINK 2012

  1. When it comes to the 3 R’s of living green, REDUCE should always be at the top of the list. We try as much as possible not to consume too much. I try to always shop with a list — if it’s not on the list, we probably don’t need it, and if I can resist the impulse to buy it right then, I probably won’t miss it!
  2. I try to buy things used as much as I can – partly because I’m CHEAP and partly because it’s more environmentally friendly. Second-hand stores are GREAT sources of books, toys, and clothes for kids and adults. Most sports stores have swap programs which can reduce your costs when it comes to getting your kids involved in expensive sports like skiing or hockey. The exception of course is safety equipment like helmets and carseats, which it is best to buy new or receive used from a source you trust.
  3. Make use of hand-me-downs if you are lucky enough to have friends or family members with kids older than yours, and pay it forward (or back to them) when your kids outgrow the items. For a lot of big-ticket baby items, such as crib mattresses and particle-board furniture, used can actually be healthier than new because they will have finished off-gassing their chemicals into your home’s air.
  4. Buy local! You don’t have to follow a strict 100-mile diet, but as much as you can, buy local and in-season to reduce your carbon footprint and support your neighbours and your local economy. I try to plan meals around what is in season and to shop at my local farm stands and farmer’s markets.
  5. REUSE containers, and use reusable containers — my kids go through A LOT of yoghurt, and I use the empty tubs to freeze things like soups, wine (for cooking! Not winesicles! I swear! Although as ideas go…hmmm), and cooking stock. And if you have the choice, store things in washable containers instead of disposable bags.
  6. Think outside the (craft) box — before you recycle cards or paper, think about whether they might be still be useful. I keep pretty paper scraps, Valentine’s cards, post-cards, etc. in a Ziploc bag in Ben and Molly’s craft cubby for their “cutting and gluing” projects. The scraps can also find new life as grocery lists or even the rough notes for a blog post!
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    Rough draft of this post on remnants of a Ben and Molly art project.
    ©PicklesINK 2013

     

  7. Be prepared when it comes to food and travel — I toss snacks and water bottles in my bag for the kids if we’re going to be out for an uncertain amount of time. Apples and bananas are grab and go (and come in their own handy packaging); bagels with cream cheese and plain waffles are easy-to-prepare favourites of my kids as well; and bite-sized crackers and cereal, on their own or in a mix, make great car snacks. (And I’m sure it goes without saying, but of course packaged in reusable containers rather than baggies.) This avoids those grouchy hungry kid meltdowns and saves you money!
  8. REUSE gift bags. Having kids generally means working the birthday party circuit pretty heavily, and I think the same gift bags have been making the birthday party rounds through Ben’s group of friends since they were all born (the friends, not the bags)! Let’s just say I’m pretty sure Ben got a gift last year in a bag that we gave a gift in the year before, and it NOT to the same friend. Now that’s recycling!
  9. On the subject of birthdays, get your kids to make their own birthday cards for their friends (or, in a pinch, use their already made artwork to make a card). It’s fun, inexpensive, green, and personalized. These are two of the cards Molly got for her birthday – Hallmark’s got nothing on these two!

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    Molly’s handmade birthday cards
    ©PicklesINK 2013

  10. Instill these values in your kids as early as you can. Instead of just saying “No!” to buying that toy at Walmart, explain WHY – because they have so many toys already or because we might find it used at another store without all that plastic packaging that will just go in the garbage. Explain that you are having asparagus for dinner because it is in season, which means it’s growing fresh at the farm right down the road instead of being shipped on a big truck across the country using up fuel and making smog. Have them help you pack up the clothes and toys that they have outgrown and talk about how exciting it is that someone else is going to be able to use them now.

If you get your kids involved and invested early, you’ll soon find that they’re the ones keeping on top of you when it comes to saving the planet!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

~ karyn

How do you reduce your carbon footprint? If you have kids, do you find it easier or harder since having them?

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Giving myself a pat on the back

This morning was rough. Ben and Molly clearly woke up on the wrong side of their beds and everything I asked of them was met with flailing, screaming hysterics resistance. Now a year ago, thanks to a mild but chronic chemical imbalance in my brain commonly known as “dysthemia” or chronic depression, I would have been all:

Baby Ben in full tantrum mode
©PicklesINK 2013

But this morning, with the aforementioned chemical imbalance under control, a good night’s sleep under my belt, and my Supernanny and 1-2-3 Magic inspired parenting toolkit in hand, I was all:

Grinning baby Ben
©PicklesINK 2013

So when I told Ben that he couldn’t have his usual morning cereal bar because I was ready to give him his actual breakfast and he screamed, yelled, and hit the table with his hand, I led him to the time-out step and calmly explained that he was sitting out because he had yelled and hit and needed to calm down.

And when I told Molly to go to the bathroom before she finished getting dressed and she refused and collapsed to the floor crying, I told her that if she didn’t go pee before I counted to 3, I would NOT take her underpants off Ben’s head and give them back to her.

Thinking back over the morning routine, of the about 40 minutes of actual routine parts — feeding breakfast, doing bathroom stuff, getting kids dressed and out the door — probably 3/4 of it was spent with one or both of Ben and Molly yelling or crying (NB – I think an early night is in order tonight). But amazingly, in that time I didn’t cry or raise my voice, and what’s even more amazing is I didn’t FEEL LIKE crying or raising my voice.

And the end result was that by the time we were ready to go, Ben and Molly were all:

This is actually Ben and Molly last week when they decided to play a funny joke on me and switch outfits!
©PicklesINK 2013

And I call that a WIN for everyone!

~ karyn

How do you handle it when your kids are melting down? How do you keep your cool?

 

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To My Silly Munkin-Bum on Your 3rd Birthday

Dear Molly,

Time sure flies, eh? Four International Women’s Days ago, I went from this:

Me with pregnant belly
March 8, 2010
©PicklesINK 2013

to this:

Ian, me, and baby Molly – March 8, 2010
©PicklesINK 2013

…and now suddenly, somehow, you’re turning 3! Really – 3, even though I know you sometimes fudge the truth a little. I’ve heard you tell other kids that you’re 4 or 6, and you say it with such conviction that despite all evidence to the contrary, they actually believe you. Because really, who wouldn’t believe this face?

80s Molly

Grinning Molly in 80’s dance outfit
©PicklesINK 2013

I think it’s fitting that you were born on March 8, the day that we celebrate the achievements of women around the world as well as remind the world how far we still have to go. You are well on your way to becoming a strong-minded and empowered woman and I sure hope the world will be ready for you by then, whatever you decide to do or be!

Molly fixing sink 3

Molly fixing the sink
©PicklesINK 2013

As it is, by your 3rd birthday, I’ve already experienced your single-minded determination – like last summer, when you refused to wear anything that didn’t match, which meant that you left the house every day dressed from head to toe in pink (except for the one day a week that you wore your green outfit).

Pink-tastic Molly on rope bridge in Germany
©PicklesINK 2013

Or all those nights you decided that instead of going to sleep when you were tucked into your nice warm bed, you would read some books, rearrange your furniture, and make a couple of wardrobe changes before falling asleep in your favourite pink dance outfit and tights. (Thanks for that, by the way. I enjoyed that middle-of-the-night strip-off-your-leotard-and-tights-to-put-your-diaper-back-on-fiasco. We’ll call it mommy and Molly bonding time.)

Molly in bed 1

Molly asleep on her Dora couch in her dance outfit surrounded by the evidence of a wild night
©PicklesINK 2013

Yes, my funny bum, you may look cute, but your impulsiveness may one day get you into real trouble. Take this morning, for instance, when you were downstairs making a craft and I heard Ben say, “Molly! You’re not supposed to do that with TOYS! You have to go show mommy!” and then you came upstairs, seemingly abashed (although I could still see that gleam in your eye) as you showed me what you had done.

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Molly’s “craft” – a black toy car, now with hearts, glitter, and a face.
©PicklesINK 2013

We will have to keep working on the principle of “look before you leap.” At least we know that Ben has always got your back. He loves you SOOO much – and I know you love him too!

Ben and Molly – BFFs!
©PicklesINK 2013

I love hiding around the corner and listening to the two of you play together. You can play and chatter for hours, and even if you sometimes disagree, your arguments blow over as quickly as they started with both of you apologizing and working out a solution together.

Ben and Molly drinking their fuzzy water on our Valentine’s dinner out
©PicklesINK 2013

I should probably apologize in advance for the nicknames you’re going to endure as you grow up. It started out so innocuous, with “Molly-Moo” and then “Monkey,” which you quickly grew to answer to more consistently than your given name…then it devolved to “Monkey-Bum,” even given your Auntie Caitie’s dire warning that It. Would. Stick. After that came “Munkin” (I have no explanation…it’s kind of a combo of “Monkey,” “Munchkin,” and “Pumpkin” that slipped out one day…), “Munkin-Bum,” “Molly-Magoo,” “Funny-Bum,” “Silly-Munkin,” and I’m sure a multitude of others that have slipped my mind right now but will be equally traumatizing when they slip out in front of your middle school friends. I apologize in advance for being that mom.

Molly first pic

My favourite newborn Monkey-Bum!
©PicklesINK 2013

So, as you move on to the wild world of 3 years old, whether you’re getting your hands dirty…

Molly in the garden covered with dirt (that Ben was shoveling over her head)
©PicklesINK 2013

…or keeping them clean…

Molly at playgroup playing with shaving cream
©PicklesINK 2013

…just make sure you keep on being your awesome self, even if that means sometimes being a square peg in a round hole.

The dental floss that Molly discovered would fit perfectly in a toilet paper roll.
©PicklesINK 2013

Dance to the beat of your own drummer…

Molly in her own production of “Blackbeard Takes Swan Lake”
©PicklesINK 2013

…show the world that there are two sides to every story…

Molly wearing her Santa costume over her ballerina dress
©PicklesINK 2013

…and when life gives you pepperoni sticks, lie down on placemats and eat them on the floor!

Molly enjoying a snack of apple, pepperoni stick, and pretend tea lying on the floor
©PicklesINK 2013

Mommy, daddy and Ben love you millions and millions and millions, our favourite Molly-Moo! To quote your favourite song, “Molly is my favourite monkey, favourite monkey, favourite monkey! Molly is my favourite monkey – She says, ‘Ooo-ooo, ah-ah!” We hope you have a very, very happy 3rd birthday and that you are always as happy as you are today!

Love,

Mommy

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Today Sucks – So Let’s Be Thankful!!

This morning was a little crappy. Yesterday my Mazda5 started making a really loud rattling noise, so I got off the highway and to the closest gas station, where I waited for Ian to come and pick us up. This morning I brought it to my mechanic, who had a look and a listen and informed me that I was now in the market for either a new engine or a new car – my call. Le Sigh.

Anyway, I’ve been sitting here moping about 1. How can I possibly afford a new engine (or a new car)? 2. How on earth am I going to get the kids to and from school tomorrow?  3. Why didn’t I notice sooner that there was something wrong? 6. Etc. Etc. Etc.

And then suddenly I thought to myself, I’m pretty goddamn lucky! I’m sitting here in my heated house when some people who have houses can’t afford to heat them and others don’t have homes at all. I’m worrying about the fact that I can’t drive to the grocery store when a) I’m fit and healthy and could walk there; and b) I have enough food in the house that I don’t actually have to go anyway. I’m worrying about a car that I don’t owe anything on when just being able to drive a car, let alone owning one outright, is a bloody luxury. I had to cancel Ben’s violin lesson tonight because I can’t drive him there. Violin lesson? How many kids get violin lessons??

So I’ve decided to set a timer for 1 minute and in that time write down everything that I can think of that I am thankful for. As they say on Top Chef, “Time starts…now!”

1. I have a working computer to write this on and a reliable internet connection.

2. I have beautiful, articulate, gifted children with no medical issues.

3. I have a loving, supportive husband, who comforted me on the phone this morning when I was blaming myself for the car.

4. I have people whom I can ask for help at a moment’s notice – like the woman whom we met when she used to work at our farmers’ market who is picking Ben up for me and the friend I called for advice about the car yesterday when I couldn’t reach Ian and who offered to lend me his car to finish my trip to Toronto.

…1 minute is up…

5. My fridge, freezer, and cupboard are full to overflowing, even though I haven’t been to the grocery store for a week.

6. I have credit and savings enough that though it will be an inconvenience, I can get through this.

…2 minutes is up…

7. I have a funny, active 3 year-old who is “bugging” me as I do this, giggling and pulling my hand away from the keyboard.

8. I have a skilled and sympathetic mechanic who looked at my car this morning even though he was swamped, had his son give me and Molly a ride home, and is going to find me the best deal on a used engine that he can.

9. I am healthy and happy – really happy – and since my depression is treated I actually can think about the positives in my life instead of being overwhelmed by the one negative!

10. I have to keep resetting my timer because it keeps running out before I finish thinking of blessings!

…3 minutes…

I mean, seriously – could anyone look at this kid and not grin back?

80s Molly

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” Molly channeling the 80’s in her dance outfit.
©PicklesINK 2013

As Bif Naked would Tweet: “Word of the day: Gratitude *beam*”

~ karyn

What are you grateful for today?

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Update – Momminus horriblis has returned to hibernation

Last week I posted about having one of those days when you feel like the most horrible mommy ever and everyone around you knows it and thinks it too….

I got so much wonderful support and feedback that I felt comforted and embarrassed all at the same time (I’m not good at being reassured — I’m the reassure-er, not the recipient!!). Anyway, you guys are fabulous and it was greatly appreciated!

I mentioned at the end of the post that my plan was to drop Ben off first for the rest of the week to get him used to the idea. Most of my commenters felt that was a good call, and that preparing him for it in advance would help. My mom dissented, suggesting taking the “path of least resistance” and avoiding a power struggle. Now, my mom has had a lot of experience raising inflexible, headstrong children (Not me, mind you. I was perfectly pliable and obedient. My brothers, on the other hand…well, I’m sure you can imagine… and if they want to dispute that, they’ll have to start their own blogs) so she knows what she’s talking about, but in this case I felt that it was a power struggle worth having.

A note on power struggles – I think sometimes we give “power struggles” a bad name. There are parenting philosophies and experts that espouse responsiveness and equality between parent and child  but these do not sit right with me. I believe that there is (and should be) a power imbalance between parent and child, and like in any relationship in which there is a legitimate power imbalance (employer/employee, teacher/student, therapist/client, etc.) the onus is on the more powerful party to use and not abuse that power.

It is the parent’s job to guide their child’s development, encourage appropriate and discourage inappropriate behaviour, enforce safety rules, etc., just as it is the employer’s job to support their employee’s professional growth and monitor their productivity and the teacher’s job to impart knowledge and test the students’ retention and understanding of that information. Using that power in a way that violates the bounds of these relationships, such as to humiliate a child or force a sexual relationship with a student however is abuse. Finally, within these relationship it is also important for the powerful party to create opportunities for the other to experience autonomy and power over their own decisions.

I have a little bit of an obsession with child development reference books – one that I acquired a while back (long before I had children of my own) was The Explosive Child, by Dr. Ross Greene. This is an excellent book and well worth a read. Dr. Greene gives good advice for parenting and for life (and agrees with my mom) when he posits

inflexibility + inflexibility = meltdown

and outlines a framework for choosing your battles. He suggests figuratively placing your child’s behaviours in 3 baskets: Basket A contains decisions that must be enforced and are worth enduring a meltdown over (power struggles worth having); Basket B contains behaviours and decisions that are important but that you are willing to discuss and problem-solve with your child (opportunities for compromise); and Basket C contains behaviours that you are willing to simply ignore (opportunities for your child to experience complete autonomy).

Dropping Ben off first was a Basket B issue – I had decided that it needed to happen, but was willing to discuss with him how it would happen. When I picked Molly up at lunchtime on momminus horriblis day, I had a quick word with Ben’s teacher to explain the situation, and she agreed to be at the door to help bring him into the classroom if necessary (and I agreed to be on time!).

On the way home that afternoon I explained to Ben (this time calmly!) that sometimes I would have to drop him off first without him getting upset, so we would be doing that for the rest of the week to get him used to it, and once he was not getting upset about it, we would take turns dropping him or Molly off first. Then we talked about why he likes dropping Molly off first  – it makes him feel special to be the one to bring her to her classroom and kiss her goodbye – and what he could do that would be special when he gets dropped off first. He decided that he would give her hugs and kisses for her pocket (I give him hugs and kisses on his hands to put in his pocket before he goes into his classroom so he has them during the day if he needs them).

The next morning I reminded him again in the car what we were doing when we got to school, and it all went perfectly smoothly. Naturally, I assumed it was a fluke, but Thursday went well too, so I think we’re on a roll! Momminus horriblis has returned to her cave to hibernate indefinitely, and this particular issue seems to have been resolved successfully. I will remember in future to examine my Baskets A, B and C regularly, and I have learned that with a situation like that, in the moment it’s probably best to toss it into Basket C and deal with it in advance next time.

~ karyn

Of course, several days of pathetic sickie children has made it all the easier to banish momminus horriblis and welcome back momminus cuddlius protectivus on an indefinite basis!

Sickie Ben

Pathetic sickie Ben
©PicklesINK 2013

Sickie Molly

Pathetic sickie Molly
©PicklesINK 2013

 

 

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