Tag Archives: toddler

When I Get Bigger + Bigger

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Nora starts a lot of her sentences now with, “When I get bigger and bigger”. She says things like:

When I get bigger and bigger, Ima gonna put on my own shoes…and my coat and my mittens…and Ima gonna take my umbrella…and go outside and STOMP all the puddles. By MY-SELF.

When I get bigger and bigger, Ima gonna walk all the way to the MU-seum.

When I get bigger and bigger…Ima gonna eat my LUNCH at work.

But last night, in the bath, she said:

When I get bigger and bigger, Ima gonna pick out my pajamas… And my DIAPER…and Ima gonna turn on the bath water and… Ima gonna get in the bathtub…by MY-SELF.

And I said to her, “But Nora, you did most of those things tonight. You got out your pajamas by yourself, you turned on the bath and I helped you into the water. When you were smaller, I had to do all of those things for you and now you’re getting bigger and bigger and you helped me.”

She just said “Yeah,” and went back to smearing bubbles all over her face.

I have found that when I am in the middle of parenting my toddler, I have forgotten how far we’ve come. At almost 2-1/2, Nora can’t do a lot, but she can do more and more each day. Each day, she is sliding down the stairs a bit faster, climbing on furniture with a bit more facility, and voicing her opinions more clearly and adamantly. And each day gets a little easier in some ways and a bit harder in others.

Like her, I want to train my eyes on those days when she gets bigger and bigger. But right now, living with my funny, helpful, smart and adventurous almost 2-1/2 year old girl is really good too.

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Sizing Up

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Over the weekend, Aaron and I took some much needed time to weed through Nora’s clothes. Since she potty trained early, and she’s kind of on the lean side, she fits into 24 month/2 T tops and 18 month (or sometimes 12 month) bottoms. All of her 18 month tops are now like belly shirts, so it was time to organize. We also took the opportunity to clean out her closet, which was crammed with old toys and clothes, to make room to actually hang up (for the first time) her sweaters, coats, and dresses.

Because we know (as much as we can know) that we’re only having one child, there’s something that feels a little wasteful about the accumulation of stuff during the path from infant to toddler.  In our basement, we have piles and stacks of clothes that Nora has outgrown, from size 3 month to 18 month. We have toys that she doesn’t use anymore or that we don’t like. We have baby carriers and strollers we no longer need. And it’s just sitting there, waiting to be passed along to someone else or to be sold.

In the same way, we’ve had to set aside some of the skills that we’ve learned, to make room for the skills needed to raise a toddler. I no longer need to worry about how to best tie a Moby, because my wiggly toddler would never sit still for getting in the wrap. (I know its safe for up to 35-pounds, but Nora started to reject babywearing about 6 to 8 months ago.) I no longer need to worry about how to soothe a child out of a non-verbal tantrum, because now we are starting to talk about our feelings. I no longer need to do everything one-handed, because Nora can climb up into her Learning Tower and work right next to me.

I don’t really know if I’ve emotionally or mentally caught up with all of her changes. I feel like I’m constantly one developmental leap behind, honing my skills to cope with one phase just as she is coming out of it. I admire those other parents, who somehow manage to adapt their methods while the child changes, providing developmentally appropriate discipline and love in equal measure. These past two years, I’ve struggled with balancing between treating her like a baby/toddler/child and recognizing that she’s smarter than I can really know.

I never really thought about the speed of change that a family goes through, from snuggling a 6-1/2-pound newborn to chasing a 24-pound bundle of energy, until I actually went through it myself. I also never thought about how difficult it must be for the child, since its her body and mind changing every day. It’s hard to hold on to this though, when you’re in the middle of it, until you have the opportunity to see how far you’ve come.

When cleaning out her toys from the closet, Nora rediscovered her tummy time mat/baby gymnasium from when she was an infant. We probably haven’t used it since she was six months old, because she was the type of baby who didn’t want to be set down often. Despite our best efforts to keep it in the basement, Nora wants to play with it again. She calls it the baby mat. Sometimes, she sets one of her baby dolls underneath it, helping the baby nap by covering it with a blanket (cloth napkin). Other times, she tries to crawl underneath it and play with the hanging toys, even though she barely has to lift her arm to bat at them.

It’s a little funny to see her in there, head and toes stretching beyond the borders of the mat, so clearly beyond this once necessary tool. I can almost see her infant body, superimposed over her lanky toddler body, rolling around on the yellow and red polyester. It’s a hazy memory, from some other distant life.

It makes me wonder what we’ll grow out of next.

Starting Week 3 at Daycare

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Image from my Instagram feed

After the first not-so-awesome night after daycare, which I learned was caused by Nora’s first daycare-transmitted cold, we’ve been engaged in transitions. A lot of them, but the biggest two are sleeping and eating. You know, the two things that kids need to sustain existence. Nothing big.

Sleeping

Nora has never been a great sleeper. She has always been a wakeful child, who struggles to fall asleep. Aaron and I have done tons of work over the past two years, just to get to the place we are now: two hour nap in the afternoon, hour-long bedtime routine that leads to 3-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and then co-sleeping until 6:30 AM. It works for us, for now.

We knew that transitioning to napping at daycare was going to be a struggle. But, we didn’t realize how smart she would be during the transition. By her second week at daycare, she had learned the triggers for when it was nap time. And she talks about it at home. “Miss Sarah turns off the light. Turns on music. Brings out the cots. Not sleepy.” Imagine her overemphasizing the words cots, so that it is very loud and drawn out.  CAWWTSS!  She talks about the cots like this every night.

For her first two weeks, she refused to take naps. She would take fifteen minutes at the most and then ask to play. Luckily, she played quietly while the other kids slept. This made our evenings at home painful after dinner. She would get so tired that she would pass out during the evening walk and then she would launch into hysterical fits during the evening routine. We moved up her bedtime, which helped, a little.

Eating

Nora has always been a rough eater, as well. She goes through phases of wanting to eat only one or two foods. She’ll eat only yogurt and honey or clementines or garbanzo beans for every meal, for a week. And then it’s over. Knowing this, Aaron and I struggled with what to pack for lunch. We tried her current obsession (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) during week one, which didn’t work. We tried a new dish (beef, broccoli and noodles) during week two, which didn’t work until the last day.

In the meantime, she was on a hunger strike during the day. But when she came home at 3:15, she would eat tons of snacks and she would ruin her dinner. During dinner, I would have to feed her in my lap while eating my own food, just to get a few bites of food in her.

Where We Are Now

As you can see, for our routine filled lives, this has been a huge shift. The good news is that it’s getting easier. On Friday, she had some weird/awesome breakthrough. She slept for 1 full hour on the cot (CAWWT!) and ate  all of her lunch and all of her snack. We’re crossing our fingers that it holds for the next week.

Our next hurdle that we’re jumping through is helping her to predict her schedule. She talks about going to daycare, even on our non-daycare days, so we want her to understand the new rhythm of our lives. Over the weekend, we took one of those large blotter calendars and converted it into our daycare calendar. She helped me to highlight each day she’s in daycare with with green markers and a green stamp. (We can’t decide whether or not to highlight the non-daycare days. Suggestions?) Once it’s hung up, she’ll help me cross off each day before going to bed.

That’s where we stand as of the end of week 2. We start week 3 on Tuesday. We’re hopeful that her successes from last week will transfer to this week.

How did your little one react to moving to daycare? How long did the transition last?

Transitioning from Care at Home to Daycare

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Image from my Instagram feed

Yesterday marked another big transition in our family life. Nora, who has been cared for at home by my husband Aaron for her whole life, transitioned to part-time daycare. Aaron found part-time work on campus, which he also started yesterday, which means that for about 19 hours per week, Nora attends a brand new (as in licensed yesterday) parent co-op daycare located across the street from my office on campus.

The situation is about as ideal as it can get. My husband was hoping to find a flexible but permanent part-time position close to home. It’s taken him exactly a year since we moved here to find it. Nora is now nearly 23 months old and at an age where she craves interaction from other kids, so part-time care seems like a great solution. The daycare, which again is yards from my office and about a block from my husband’s, almost closed at the end of the school year. A group of our friends saved it from closing and spent the summer converting it to a parent co-op. Nora knows almost all the kids who attend the daycare. Plus, they have brand new teachers and a cleaned up location.

And yet, transitions suck. Big time. For everybody.

Due to the nature of job changes, we had about a week’s notice to get Nora ready for daycare. In that short time, I think we did the best we could in preparing her. We bought her a cute little lunch box at Target. We converted one of my husband’s small bags into a backpack for her. We started talking to her about the daycare she’ll attend, who she’s going to play with, and how much fun she’ll have there. Since the daycare was reopening, there were several parent work days over the week, so we took her to the location about 3 or 4 times. We let her play in the playground and in the “little kid room” where she spends her day. I even got her to pee in the little toilet that she’ll use each day.

Yesterday was the big test. During the day, she seemed to pass really well. We both took her to the daycare together. When she arrived, all of the kids were playing in the playground with the teachers. While Aaron put away her things and learned the system for storing lunches, I pointed out a few of her friends and encouraged her to go play. She walked off and began playing, without even looking back. When it was time for us to leave, we both gave her a quick hug and a kiss, reminded her to ask an adult when she needed to go potty, and left. There were no tears, no drama. For the record, my husband did look like he was going to puke after we left, but it was a big day for him between starting a new job and leaving Nora in daycare for the first time.

She spent about 4.5 hours there, as she will four days a week, spanning over lunch and her nap time. She had fun, behaved, and went potty twice. However, she barely ate lunch and only napped for 30 minutes when she normally naps for two hours. This is not surprising, since she has always been a challenging sleeper and eater. When I talked to her about her experience at the end of my work day, she talked happily about seeing her friends and going back the next day.

I thought it went as well as could be expected. Then the evening hit. She hadn’t eaten much lunch, so Aaron had her eat a late snack. During dinner, she was barely interested in our food, so we had her eat on my lap while I spoon fed her. Not our normal scenario, but it worked. We took a walk as a family as we do every night, but she passed out for about 10 minutes in her stroller. So we woke her up and helped her walk around. We tried to keep her bedtime routine consistent, but she kept complaining about how tired she was and understandably so. I had to skip several components, because she was crying. All told, by the time she got to sleep, she was about 35 minutes ahead of schedule.

She woke up 1.5 hours after bed time. This can be normal, because again, she is not a good sleeper. Last night, she was inconsolably crying, which is strange, because she normally wakes up happy. It took me about fifteen to twenty minutes to get her to stop crying and fall back asleep. Then, of course, I couldn’t sleep. She woke up again about two hours later and joined us in bed, only crying a little bit. She refused to nurse, which is a little strange, but we are on the path to weaning.

She is processing the transition more subconsciously than I expected. I don’t know if she’ll connect her sleep troubles to daycare or if she’ll be grumpy from the crying episodes last night. I’m not looking forward to the drop off today, because I don’t know if she will once again play happily or lose her shit.

I know that it’s only day one of the transition and it will likely get better. I have to hold on to that. I also know that transitioning to being without us in her daily world is a natural part of her development and that as she gets older, she’ll spend more time in the care of others. But hot damn, last night was unexpectedly hard.

How did you transition your child from care at home to daycare? Are there any strategies that worked well for you?

Tantrums & Accidents

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Photo from my Instagram feed

Here, we are moving completely into the toddler years.
She is testing boundaries, with a gleam in her eye.
She is learning how to climb. She is pondering jumping.
And I am holding my breath, biting my tongue from saying no.
When I can.

She is failing. She is falling off of the couch, off of the swings.
She is stumbling over her growing feet. She has yet to learn
how to brace her fall. She sprawls and splats, pauses
and needs comfort. In a big way.

Everything is big – big experiences and big emotions.
When she loves something, she repeats it over and over again.
Nora go to museum. Nora scoop and scoop AND SCOOP the water.
When she wants something, she wants it now and often.
I have to say no, for safety or for time constraints or for a break
from reading the same book twenty-five time.
She doesn’t take it well.

Some nights, all we do is cry. She screams and whimpers,
whines and sobs. I hold my breath and hold it together,
try not to cry with her. It’s all I can do to say,”Pick yourself up and dust yourself off,”
or, “I’m sorry. You sound frustrated, but the answer is still no.”

In all of this, the tripping and the screaming,
the physical and emotional testing, there is beauty.

For every time (or two) that she melts down,
there is one where she redirects easily.
For each thump-pause-WAIL,
there is a moment where she learns
to climb the slide, from the bottom to the top,
holding on to the railing and hoisting herself to landing.

This is where we’ll live, for the rest of her life,
in this place of beauty, as she stretches toward her independence,
as she grows into the person she is already becoming.

(Belated) Links I Love Volume Five

Each week, I will post links about the things that I’m thinking about, reading, watching, or doing, and of course, they’ll be content that I love. In this practice, I’m hoping to curate my own storehouse of media that showcases my interests. You can find all of the Links I Love posts here.

It was one of those weekends where I didn’t have time to think, let alone write. It was a goof weekend, don’t get me wrong, but I missed posting my links and my last small stones and my next monthly project. Oh, well. Such is the life of a working toddler mama. On to the links…

Education

I don’t really blog much about my work, even though I love it. I think I enjoy keeping my worlds separate. However, I found an article on Inside Higher Education that I must share. This week, a PhD candidate shared her strategy for teaching media literacy and critical thinking through internet memes. It’s fascinating and such a great idea.

Toddler Life

I feel like toddler life should be used as a phrase similar to thug life. Both make you hardcore, right? Through a discussion on Facebook, I was reintroduced to Dr. Laura Markham’s parenting site and this article on toddler tantrums. I tried the caveman-talk strategy she suggests this weekend and it seemed to calm Nora down more quickly.

Birth Story

Again, I love birth stories. And this story from Offbeat Families may be the funniest birth story I’ve ever read. If you ever wanted to know how a gamer would write a birth story, well here it is.

In a totally (and I mean totally) different vein, Birth Without Fear shared a birth story from the father’s perspective. In addition to hearing the father’s telling (unfortunately rare in birth stories), this birth included lots of natural interventions, like chiropractic and energy work.

Creative Practice

This week marked the end of the January Mindful Writing Challenge, (Cue the hallelujahs.) On Writing Our Way Home, Kaspa shared why writing and mindful awareness is good for you. I couldn’t agree more.

On Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken (love this blog and its name), Beth shared her struggles with choosing a word of the year. In it, she talks so lovingly about words, I just had to agree. I wonder if the pressure to pick a word by January 1 leaves some of us (me included) with a less-than optimal word.

Self-Care

As part of my effort to find wholeness this year, I splurged on a yearlong online yoga class called Serenity Seasons. I found the class through an ad on Roots of She and I bought it on pure instinct. The instructor, Rachel Hawes, shared on her studio’s blog the connection between her style of yoga and cultivating mindfulness. After reading this post, I thought, Yep, this is the yoga for class for me.

What are the links you love this week?

Sundays with Nora: Dyed Spaghetti Sensory Play

My Sundays with Nora turned out differently than I hoped. As you may recall, I had four consecutive Sunday afternoons on my own with Nora, when I hoped to try crafts from Pinterest.

Week One we played with home made finger paints. Success! Week Two, Aaron had a vicious, evil stomach virus, so I couldn’t try a new craft while caring for the both of them. Finger painting again, with more painting and less eating. Week Three, I tried beans and lentils in various containers, to make rattles. We ended up opening the containers and spilling lentils on the carpet. Fail…and lots of vacuuming.

This week, our final week, I wanted to try food dyed spaghetti, which I did. We had an ice storm here, so Aaron missed his bike class, but I had already made the spaghetti.

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Red and green food dye and water, waiting to boil.

It’s incredibly easy to make. You simply boil water, colored with food dye (I used about 15 drops per quart) and cook the spaghetti as normal. Some colors, like red and green, turned out better than others. Blue was identical to green, thanks to the yellow tinge of my pasta.

After the spaghetti cooled, I scrupulously cleaned one of her play tables, so that we could just dump the spaghetti there.

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Spaghetti, but prettier.

Nora took to it immediately. We had two old plastic margarine containers that she scooped the spaghetti into, like a bucket. The problem was, she also wanted to out the spaghetti on the floor.

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She thinks the floor needs more spaghetti.

But, I didn’t scrupulously clean the floor. Because I don’t think like a toddler…yet. I could see food particles and dust bunnies and I know our cats walk there. Ew. Once I let go of my need to keep the spaghetti neatly on the table, we had a lot of fun. She loved flinging it, standing on it, scooping it into buckets, and generally reveling in its sticky-slimy-colorful glory.

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This is when it is such a blessing to have a toddler, when I get to get down on the floor and dig into my senses. This is the fun part.

Portraits: Toddler Toys

I have a new mini-obsession. It’s been growing for weeks.

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I love to take pictures of Nora’s toys. Not while she’s playing with them, though. Just as still lives.

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There’s something expressive about them, something beautiful in there strangeness.

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I love their primary colors, the smiles on their faces. I love the tableaus they create.

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Most of all, I love where I find them, the places that Nora leaves them. The front windowsill, the floor in a patch of sun.

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In these everyday objects, I see the course of my daughter’s day. I see the things that she loves.

I see her.

Sundays with Nora – Finger Paints

Since I work during the week, I very rarely get concentrated alone time with my daughter. I get a half an hour here and there, but for the most part, when I am with Nora, I’m co-parenting with Aaron. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just the way it’s been.

This month, however, Aaron is taking a class on bike mechanics at a shop in Madison on Sunday afternoons. With travel time, he’s gone for about 4 hours. Nora naps for about an hour of that time, but I still get several hours of uninterrupted quality time with my (now) 15 month old girl. It’s a little scary, because there is no safety net or release valve of the other parent, but it’s also terribly exciting.

I’m taking this opportunity to use my time with Nora to introduce her to age appropriate crafts. She’s at that perfect she where she wants to “do” things and be involved with what we’re doing. So, I’m delving into my seldom used Pinterest pins to find projects for each week.

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First on the docket was edible finger paints, which I initially pinned a while ago. Maybe when Nora was 3 or 4 months old. The recipe is deceptively simple: corn starch, cold water, boiling water, and food dye. (I’m totally aware that I could make food-based dyes out of tea and tumeric and beet juice, but I’m not that crafty, honestly.) The process was a little tricky. In order to get the proper consistency, Aaron and I had to add twice as much corn starch and then heat the liquid on the stove, to activate the thickening. After that, I played mad scientist and added drops of food coloring until I got colors I liked. My colors included: white, gray, pink, blue, lavender, green, yellow, and orange.

So, what did Nora think? Well, I’m glad I chose edible paints, because she tasted every single color…often. I had to let go of my hope that she wouldn’t eat the paints. After taste testing, she did enjoy the tactile sensation of feeling the paints. When I pulled out the pink color and spread it across the paper, she exclaimed, “Wow!” She also enjoyed flinging paint off the plastic knives as well as pulling large clumps from the jars.

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Most importantly, I got to be present when Nora had an important (to me) first: first finger painting. Presence was a big element of the project’s success. I slowed down, watched her reactions, followed her cues, and explored with her. And then quickly stopped when she was done.The alone time was a gift for me, a series of moments when I could interact with her in my own way.