Confessions of a Temper Tantrum Survivor

Hello Readers! Our good friend, Pamela, is sharing her experiences dealing with the terrible twos as a stay-at-home mom of two kids – Aubrey, 2 1/2, and Evan, 9 months. The terrible twos – that dreaded stage where tantrums can hit without any warnings, test your every nerve, patience and sanity and leave behind a trail of destruction. No shelter can shield it, no parent is immune to it, no discipline/punishment/method/medicine/bribe can prevent it. You just have to buckle down and weather the storm as best as you can. To Pamela and all the parents of toddlers – godspeed.

I think it is safe to say we are in full fledge tantrum hell.  Our little soon to be threeanger is a completely different creature than the sweet baby girl who graced our lives these past 2 ½ years.  Don’t get me wrong – she is still my best friend and the sweetest girl that I have ever met (of course I say that because she’s deliciously mine). However, this sweet baby girl has an attitude of a teenager girl and no fear of public shame.

I think my all-time low came in the parking lot of Home Depot.  It was a beautiful day, one of the first warm days of 2016, Aubrey (my soon threeanger) and I were out pretty much all day.  It was as perfect as it can be.  With a 9 month old baby boy, it’s rare to get any alone time so I really relished this girls day for us.  We picked out some flowers then walked a few doors down to get some pizza together.  On the way back to the car, I needed to change her soiled pull-up.  As I removed her pants and diapers, she decided she didn’t want to be clothed from the waist down.  She threw a tantrum in the middle of the parking lot.  With safety and sanitary means in mind I couldn’t just leave her to throw her tantrum.  It was nearly impossible to physically hold her up so I gave her a warning then a spanking.  At this point, she really didn’t care about being spanked or the punishment.  She was going to have her tantrum.

Strangers stared as I struggled to physically hold this demon possessed child in my arms, trying not to restrain her too hard so she doesn’t get hurt.  Finally I managed to get her pull-up on and into her carseat.  A mere seconds later she was cheerful, happy and snacking on her gold fish crackers.  I looked back while driving home and gave her a smile all the while thinking in my head, my child is certifiable.

Sounds familiar?  Well, it’s our life right now.  A tantrum of some sort or intensity occurs at least once a day.  I used to be confused and try to reason or discipline her during these outbursts…bribery, coercion, yelling, threats, etc.  What I realized is that my emotions only added to the steam and made me regret my own behavior later on.  I’ve learned what works for us for now, is for me to pray in silence for patience and God’s grace.  Then I wait for the tantrum to run its course.

I often feel defeated and a failure as a parent.  However, Aubrey and I are starting to discuss her misbehavior after a fit.  She and I agree that she was not listening and obeying.  Sometimes she will even imitate her own hysterical behavior. We’ll laugh and then I set forth the privileges she’s lost due to the tantrum.  At best, we have found a way to cope with these dismays.  At worst, I dread the imminent coming of the next tantrum.  I try to stay positive and think about the countless parents who have endured and survived.  My husband and I encourage each other to look forward to the end of this phase.  After all, God’s promise is that “this too shall pass”, right?  In the meantime, I find myself anywhere between laughing or crying at the thought of my daughter’s terrible tantrums.

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3 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Child’s Sleep

Many of you know that I have worked as a baby and toddler sleep consultant for over 2 years and I have interacted with hundreds of families in regards to their children’s sleep.  In considering this blog post, I wanted to think of some of the commonalities among many of these families and what I “usually” recommend to them. The problem with that is that it is always different.  Every family and every child has their own unique situation so sleep is something that is difficult to generalize.  With that said, there are definitely a few things that you could start doing right away to help your little one sleep – regardless of their age and their current sleep environment:

  1. Put your child down in the bed awake.  I’m sure you have all heard this a million times but it is certainly difficult to do.  When your little one falls asleep while nursing or rocking and you have the option of gently waking her or putting her into the crib asleep, it seems absolutely ludicrous to wake her!  Do it.  I know it seems crazy but even if you wake her and then gently pat or rub her tummy to help her stay calm, you want her to know she is in her bed it is time to go to sleep.  It is very important that a child learns to fall asleep without help or you will end up with  a baby that wakes constantly (after just about every sleep cycle) and needs help to go back to sleep.  If you want to give this a try, start with bedtime first.  Once bedtime is going well, then move on to night wakings.
  2. Schedule can make or break you. I have so many families that write in with questions about why their little one was doing well but now is waking for long periods in the night or just a mess all around.  Schedules are key for little ones and toddlers.  Now, don’t get me wrong… I usually do not use a by the clock (BTC) schedule for most babies (with twins being an exception) but rather, look at the wake times or nap gaps. Depending on your child’s age, you don’t want them to be awake longer than a few hours before sleeping again.  For example, a six month old baby shouldn’t be awake for more than 2.5-3 hours before sleeping again. Constant night wakings, long night wakings and early morning waking are all usually attributed to schedule issues.  Never underestimate trying an earlier bedtime.  Many issues will arise from bedtimes that are too late.  Sometimes just a 15 or 30 minute shift forward can do wonders.
  3. Create the Best Sleep Environment.  Speaking of underestimating, so many people do not consider the importance of the child’s sleep environment and their bedtime routine. These things will add considerably to the consistency in your child’s sleep and are worth some thought. In regards to your child’s sleep environment, it should be dark, safe (nothing loose or too fluffy in the bed) and white noise can be an excellent tool to help a child who wakes from noise.  We also recommend blackout blinds (these really help with early morning wakers and naps!). Establish a very consistent bedtime routine and it usually helps to end it with the same song or phrase every night. Recreating this environment and bedtime routine will also really help if you travel a lot with your little ones. Regardless of where you are, they will expect sleep if things are consistent.

Let us know your thoughts on sleep!  Speaking of… I’m off to catch some zzzzzz.

Is 3 The New 2?

So, let’s jump right in…. I get asked this question A LOT.  “How is it REALLY to have three kids?” “Is it really that much harder than having two kids?”  I find these questions interesting and funny at this point in life (even though I’m sure I have asked these same questions before having my third baby).  But, since you asked, here are my answers (broken into parts because it’s never just that simple):

It’s hard (but everything in life worth doing is hard):

  • You will have to buy a bigger car
  • You will never be bored and you will always be laughing (or crying)
  • You will have to wait 30 minutes longer than 4 person families at any given restaurant on a Friday / Saturday night
  • You will always have someone to hug, squeeze, kiss or cuddle-one of them always needs you at any given time.
  •  It will be nearly impossible to find a hotel room that will accommodate your 5 person family (no, they don’t care that the youngest is a baby – don’t even bother asking) and truly impossible to find an affordable hotel room
  • Don’t even worry about the aforementioned hotel room because you won’t be able to fly your family of 5 anywhere – too expensive!
  • Don’t plan on going to sleep for at least two hours after putting three kids to bed because they will somehow take turns waking every 10 minutes and needing something different.
  • Say goodbye to kid free vacations because three young kids is a bit much for anyone to take on for the long weekend so you are bringing them with you.
  • All your friends will think you are a “super mom” even though you are just barely hanging on but, hey, take the compliment and be happy that you kept them all three alive all day!
  • Your wardrobe might as well consist of black and white stripes because  you will referee ALL day long. Surprisingly, it is hardly ever 2 on 1 but rather they are all for themselves and will fight over anything.
  • You will end up buying diapers for 8 years straight, seriously…

In all seriousness, three, four, five… whatever makes you happy is what works for your family.  There is nothing that I or anyone else will tell you that will make it the right or wrong decision. To grow your family or not is obviously a family decision and I would say that three is the new two if you don’t require a lot of sleep.  I joke a lot about the craziness that is my life but having three kids is amazing. Many moms wonder if it “really is much harder than having 2 kids” and I will  wholeheartedly answer a resounding YES to that.  The jump from one to two kids was really difficult for me but going from two to three was much harder than I would have expected.  People joke about going from a man to man defense to a zone defense and it is a perfect analogy. Going anywhere with all three of them alone is exhausting and usually involves some tears and lots of sweat. When you are that outnumbered, everything is difficult.  The other side of this coin is that even though it is difficult, it is fun.  Having kids in general invites a lot of chaos into your life but having more than one or two kids just makes it a lot more insane. If you thrive in that chaos, as I do, then yes, 3 is the new 2.

P.S.  If you decide to go from 2 to 3 kids… become really good at asking for help :).

Organizing Life

I used to have really great memory. I could remember my grocery lists, to-do’s and people’s birthdays without writing any of it down. Of course occasionally I’d come home and realize I forgot the vanilla extract but for the most part, I had a lot of confidence in my old noggin. But as life got busier and more chaotic, my trusty brain became less trustworthy. I ignore it at first, calling it a brain fart or a slip but soon there were too many brain farts to ignore the smell (ba dum chi!). It wasn’t that my brain wasn’t working the way it used to but I just didn’t have as much time to think and process. After years of trying to make the old way work, I finally gave up and found new ways to adapt. After all, I had things to do, little humans to take care – it was time to maximize efficiency.

Declutter email. Without realizing it, I had developed a routine. Every morning, I would open up my inbox and delete the same emails. Most were marketing emails from sites I had subscribed to but 9 times out of 10, I was deleting them without even opening them. It didn’t take a lot of time to delete these emails but they cluttered up my inbox and cluttered my brain.

The emails were also great distractions. Whenever an email claimed sale, I had to check it out. I would spend precious time checking out the site, putting things into my cart, comparing it against others sites only to leave without buying a thing. It was a huge time waster and draining on the wallet because I would buy things I didn’t need. So I singled out the emails that I read consistently (such as news sites, blog feeds) and edited my shopping sites to the stores I wear now (if its a store that you only buy from 1-2 times a year – ditch it) and unsubscribed from the rest. Its amazing how this little change can boost your productivity.

Maximize your calendar. With four people in the house, its hard to manage everyone’s schedules and make plans without a barrage of back and forth texts. To keep track, we put everything into the calendar on our phones. We have three calendars that we share:  a family calendar for family events such as birthday parties or the kids’ activities and personal calendars for Mike and me for our individuals events such as  work events or a girls night out. So if I’m trying to schedule a dinner with a friend, I can check my calendar to see if Mike has a work event instead of sending Mike a text for available dates, waiting for his reply, then making an angry call asking why he’s not answering my very important text. Additionally, it helps us keep track of our events and a make sure we don’t forget when a class time has changed or the dinner we schedule a few weeks prior.

Write out your grocery list and share it. Mike and I have different lists for different stores (Costco, Wegmans, Home Depot, etc) that we share on our phone. As soon as something runs out, we add it to the list. Not only can I can run in and out of the store without forgetting anything but if Mike makes an impromptu Wegmans run, he can get everything we need without texting me, waiting for my reply then inevitably calling me because I never hear my phone. We do the same with to-do’s around the house or things to pack when we’re going on a trip. It helps to share the daily load and creates a back up system. We use Wunderlist but there are tons of great list-making apps.

Just write everything down. Questions for the doctor, recipes, REI member ID – I put it all in my Notes app that I sync with my gmail which makes it searchable in my inbox. So when I’m buying something from REI online, I can do a quick search in my gmail for REI and there it is. There is an exception to this rule: I do not use it to store my username/password – there are better ways for managing this. But any information that I will need at some future point, I put it in my Notes app.

Slice. Since becoming a parent, I order everything online. No time to go to the mall – no problem. To help track all my packages, I use Slice. Slice will automatically track your packages and notify you when its shipped, out for delivery and when its delivered. It will also notify you if there’s a price drop or a product recall (though I haven’t tested this part yet). Its easy to forget about a delivery (especially with Amazon Prime) but Slice makes sure you get what you paid for.

Are there any apps/tips that you swear by?