He's on the go, now. Watch him crawl and watch him try to climb everything...

Of course it means time to baby proof. Make sure those cleaners aren't in a low shelf. Move the knives to the highest drawer. And start sticking those socket plugs in like crazy.

But embrace it too! Pull the couch cushions off and make a crawlers paradise. Lead some up to the couch and your little mover will feel so proud!


Just Go to Bed!

My hubby has been deployed for two weeks and ever since he left, my two daughters (ages 2 and 3) have been staying awake after I put them in bed. They've been making messes, doing dangerous things, coming downstairs wanting this and that and everything they can come up with... I think part of the problem is that my two year old is trying to give up her nap (the 3 year old has been done with naps for a long time). She refuses to stay in her room for naps and ends up falling asleep on the couch or the floor... And then we have bedtime battles again. I've tried to cut the nap out completely, but I cannot for the life of me get her to stay awake until bed time--even an earlier one! What can I do?

Nights are hard as is, but I can only imagine what you are going through. I'm guessing that nighttimes aren't just hard for your girls, but for you too. Here are a few thoughts...

I wouldn't give up the two year old's nap just yet. If it is three hours, you could always wake her after one, but I would probably just let her sleep. So, here are some ideas to help with the bedtime routine...

1. Dark. I think it helps to get the room as dark as possible. Then, they aren't able to get up and make as much trouble. It is hard in the summer because it stays light so late, but I would even pin towels up to give it a try, if your windows aren't dark enough.

Bath before Bed. I think that one of the hardest things before sleep is just calming our bodies down. And the more calm the children are before you put them in their beds, the easier it will be for them to drift off to dream land. And there is nothing like a WARM bath to calm the muscles.

Music. I remember trying to sing to my children as they were in their bed, and one of them saying, "Mom, please don't sing any more." And even with a wounded ego I think that lullabies are awesome for ending the night. I think that a turning on a CD as you leave the room is one of the best things. We have a bunch of lullaby music that I rotate. It is nice to have something to listen for...tell them to listen for the song about Winne the Pooh (Kenny Loggins has a Return to Pooh Corner lullaby CD).

Choose Wise Words. If I hear, "But I don't want to go to sleep." I always respond with, "OK, You don't have to go to sleep tonight. But you do have to lie still and quietly and rest your body. But don't close your eyes. Have a nice quiet time. Love you (kiss, kiss). Now if you get out of bed, you are going to have to go to sleep. But if you stay in bed and lie still, than you can stay awake." I think Mary Poppins has her own "Stay Awake" song, now that I think about it. I guess this idea is centuries old.

Don't Give In. If you let them stay up with you on the couch, they will know that if they push hard enough, there is a chance you will do it again. So, stick to your word (whatever you decide your word should be).

Stagger Bedtime. Sometimes, I think that two just fuel the fire. So, often I will put one to bed (whoever sleeps the most soundly) and then put the other one down a half an hour later. Sometimes I switch it, so it isn't really an age or specific child each time. But, sometimes it helps.

Break the Cycle. It sounds like getting out of bed is the new routine. So, sometimes it takes something to break the cycle. Stay up really late with movie and popcorn. Put up a tent in the front room, and sleep in it. Put a sleeping bag in their room for a sleepover. If you can do something a few nights in a row, you can start with your new plan with a fresh start.

Think Ahead. Whatever the viable excuses they give, try and preempt them...have them go potty last thing. Bring a glass of water with you, and let them have a final sip.

Take Away a Sleep Friend. When I am really at my wits end, I usually take away a privilege. So, if they sleep with a pacifier, or a blanket, or a certain stuffed animal, I use it as leverage. I say, "Blankie Blue doesn't want to be in bed with you if you aren't sleeping. So, if you get out of bed again, I'll have to take Blue." Sometimes the tears that come from Blankie leaving are perfect for then returning Blankie minutes later with the immediately relief.

Those are a few ideas! Good luck - let us know if anything works - and if not, I can brainstorm a few more!


Doctor's Visits

Any tips on how to handle kids at a doctor? I work at the office and parents come in all the time and let their kids go crazy. They trash the office and the patient rooms and leave us to clean up after them. I have crayons and lots of pictures to give to kids when they are needing something to do but not very often it works. It is starting to worry everyone not only for the cleanliness of the clinic but for their safety as well. What is the best way on our part to keep kids behaved for just an hour? HELP!

What a great question. I appreciate the chance to look at this question from a different angle.

I know that personally, I am hyper sensitive in a Doctor's office...I don't really want my children touching anything. If I had my wish I would freeze them in some quiet pose and read my magazine until it was our turn. But unfortunately, going to the doctor's is almost like being on sensory overload. There are so many new things in one room - scales, and tables, and tools. So, Doctor's visits are always a bit tricky...there is a lot of waiting in an unfamiliar (but tempting) environment. When I lived in New York I would save my best toys and special snacks for the doctor -- but the wait time was at least a half an hour. And it was hard.

But, for you, I would suggest making the expectations really clear. When the nurse brings a patient to the room I would suggest that you have them say something like, "The doctor will be here in 5 minutes (or whatever time is accurate) and until the doctor comes feel free to draw with crayons (or read the books--whatever is in the room for the children) and please do NOT step on the scale nor touch any of the doctor's instruments (it would be here that they lay out the expectations). I would hope that everyone would be trying their best, but I think sometimes the lack of expectations keeps the bar too low. So, I say, set the appropriate expectations BUT be sure to share them with the patients. I know that I am never entirely certain what I can and can't touch (so, I usually default to the touch nothing policy) but I am sure that there are others that default to the touch everything policy.

Good luck.

PS - I think that crayons is a really nice gesture, but a little scary. Have you seen those wax sticks or model magic - less dangerous than crayons!
Painting: Norman Rockwell's Before the Shot


Back Talk

I need advice on how to handle a 4 year old little girl who talks back like a 13 year old. Time out has not worked, telling her we do not talk to mom or dad like that has not worked and many other tactics. What tips can you offer for this issue??

Here's a simple one to try...

Let's say you ask your daughter to, "Go and pick up the toys in the bedroom." And you get a response like, "murmur, murmur, back-chat, back-chat, no-thank you" (or something)...try instead giving her a model of the right way to respond and just tack it on to your question. So, it would go like this, "Go and pick up the toys in the bedroom [change to a higher pitch] Oh, sure, mommy, I'd love to."

Just assume there will be some back talking, because habits are hard to break. But you can preempt her and try and replace the habit with a new one.

This is just a side note (and something that I have thought about for awhile). I know that when my kids approach me with a question like, "We're hungry can you get me something to eat...Will you play trains with me...Come see this, Mom..." that a lot of times I give the "in a minute" answer. It is a mom's own version of back talk. So, I've made a conscious effort to answer, "Yes! I'd love to..." if the answer will eventually be a yes. I try to make the yes something they hear me say. And think about the way your husband, or father responds to your questions. Is it will a, "Sure, honey" or something else? The more you can model the behavior you want your children to exhibit, the better!

Painting byMorisot: Artist's sister with her child


Summer Break

Have you noticed I've been on Summer break? Well, the truth is, I felt a sudden inadequacy...I mean, really, who am I to think I know the answers. Because, I don't. And I'm not anyone in particular.

But, I think those are the common factors; we don't have answers and we are just normal people. Parenting isn't a 2 + 2 = 4 kind of equation. But we care because the stakes are so high (not my words, but my sentiment). And so because we care, we'll keep thinking about the problems, in hope that we will find the solution that is right for us. It is probably a different solution than my neighbor, but it works for my kids, in my house, for me.

And I'll try to answer questions, but feel free to add your two cents. Because the more cents, the more sense we can make out of our own questions and doubts.

Thanks for your questions!


Books, Books, Books - Seven

Foam Bathtime Letters are the best toy ever invented. You can take an "O" and stick a "T" into it to build a little raft. In fact, you can make all kinds of rafts you want. And if you make enough rafts, your child will start asking for the "boat parts" by name. "Mom, where is that "L" it makes the perfect anchor."

I think it is much better to learn about letters when kids don't even know they are learning - it beats flashcards!

Painting: Ulysses deriding Polyphemus - Homer's Odyssey by William Turner


Street Danger

My hands are full with a very busy and quick little 2 1/2 year old boy and a 5 mo old infant. When home I'm able to juggle both of their needs and am glad for the time being that my 5 mo old isn't mobile yet. Today I went to the library with a friend who also has young children. My friend said, "I'm afraid your little boy is going to be hit by a car, he just runs straight out into the street without fear" I realized I have got to find an effective way to teach him that the street equals danger!!!! I always explain to him that cars don't stop for little boys and he needs to stop when he gets to the street to wait for mom and dad to help him cross. Obviously what I'm doing is not working. Please help me with a strategy to teach him to stay away from the street!!

This is a situation I recently faced. I will share with you the why and what of my actions.

I was trying to load the car with the diaper bag, a large stack of boxes for the mailbox, and my children. Just as I got the last box in, out of the corner of my eye I saw that my little one put his foot in the street.

I turned and yelled, "STOP!" I didn't use a you-are-in-so-much-trouble voice, but more of a panicked-what-if-there-were-a-car voice. I ran over to him, as if though he had been hurt by a car. And scooped him up and said, "Are you alright?" over and over. I started kissing his arms and legs, "telling him that I was so happy his arms were safe and his legs didn't get hurt."

I think that my mind's eye had taken me to the moment of a car crash and I wanted him to feel my fear that something really bad could happen (more than anger or a casual response). I wanted him to feel the gravity. And when I started crying (yes, I am pretty sure the tears were more real than forced), I then told him that it isn't safe...something very bad could happen (I think I used the words tire and squish - but I can't remember) and that he always has to hold my hand in the street. He started crying a little bit, realizing how serious, not because I was angry, but because he had done something that made me scared and very sad.

We haven't had another problem. He is very careful, and I have now empowered him to help me check both ways and tell me when it is safe. But, he always has a hand.

So, that is the what. The why is that sometimes I think helping a child understand the emotion behind a serious situation helps them learn. Sure, some kids can be told not to go near the street, and just won't. But, I think it is important to help teach them, that it isn't just a rule - don't eat on the couch - or something. That it is about safety, and the consequence could be really big.

I am sure there are other ways, so please share what has worked for you...

Painting: Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877/Gustave Caillebotte — The Art Institute of Chicago


My husband and I have been married many years now and he has an excellent stable career that he plans to be with until retirement. We own our home and I am ready to start our family. He thinks otherwise. He would like to wait another few years and I am getting very frustrated. I know we should wait until both husband and wife want to have children but I am starting to wonder if he will ever come around and what it will finally take to have him ready. Do I shut my mouth and try to not get frustrated or is there anything to be done?

I think one important thing to realize is that it isn't about being ready right this minute. It is about being ready nine months from now. It might make it easier to think of that way.

But, definitely do not shut your mouth. I think that being emotional honest is really important - and I would perhaps suggest that you pick a time (a starting and ending time) and a date to sit down and talk about this very question.


To Kindergarten or Not to Kindergarten...

My first child has a birthday in November. The cut off date for school here is December 1st. So my son could start preschool this fall or I could hold him back and wait a year. I put him in a formal preschool this year with every intention of sending him to Kindergarten this fall. However, now that he is in preschool (and loving it) my husband and I are seriously considering waiting another year before sending him to Kindergarten. He's a great kid, smart, tall, athletics are in his blood. He's confident, well adjusted, yada yada yada. So him being the youngest in his class wouldn't be a problem. I've got a 2 1/2 year old and an 8 month old at home as well, who also keep me busy. Would it be better to have my son home another year to help strengthen his character and possibly make school a bit easier for him as he will be older? Or would we be doing him a disservice by holding him back thus making him bored in school? We are soooo on the fence on this issue and would love any insight you can provide.

Hard Question (and of course, I remember you!) - I was on that boy-born-in-December fence. And because it is so personal I don't think I can give you a do or don't...but I can share the thoughts I've had and information I collected in the process:

Sign-Up - It doesn't hurt to sign up now. It almost helped taking my son to the school he might attend. It made it real for him and I was able to really listen to those instincts. It helped make my decision when I knew more and was in waist deep. You can always change your mind and start later.

The Shifting Deadline - So, the deadline for Kindergarten is different everywhere. In Manhattan it is the end of the year. In California it is December 2nd-ish. In many midwest states it is September. So, if you are planning on moving or changing - you may want to look into where you will go, because those will be his peers.

The Current Trend - In general, more and more children (especially the boys) are being held back. At one point we were looking into private schools in NY and even the parents with children who had summer birthdays were holding them back. It was just nice to know.

Social Aspect - So, in general, boys seem to blossom a bit slower than girls...especially socially. So, I would really ask myself about how he interacts with other children. Is he ready to voice his opinion and start conversations (aka Please don't take my puzzle piece or I was watching Bionicles...)?

Physical Aspect - Most Kindergartners are skipping and running and running and running. They are starting all of those American sports - basketball, soccer...and did I mention running?! So, if he is ready to just join in then that is a really good sign.

Bored in School? - I feel like this is a common concern. But, I have to say, that Kindergarten is such a new change - new rules, new friends, new schedule - that this isn't really a major problem. And not surprisingly, the kids are bright and the level of learning is quite high. I've heard it said that Kindergarten is the new first grade...

More Time at Home - Although it wasn't the case, I felt like I was saying good-bye forever at the door of the Kindergarten Room. I was no longer his only influence. He was going out into the world and had I taught him enough kindness or helped fill him with self-esteem? But, your influence isn't lost when he leaves. In fact, it is expanded as you get to talk through new situations. We talk about situations - What would you do if this boy says this or does this? It is nice to know that it isn't the end.

Think Down the Road - Do you remember being the first friend with a Driver's License - or were you the last? And does that matter to you at all as a parent?

Just so that you know, either way will be ok, he'll be ok. I worried that I would significantly be shifting my child's life...but as long as your instinct isn't a loud, "No!" it is going to work out with all of the bumps that any road has. In the end, school will happen now or in a year. And it will all work out...just make sure you open all the doors you can!


Cat Naps or Rather, Baby Naps

My little one is 4 and half months old now, and I can't seem to get her on the 9/1 nap schedule. She wakes up about 7, then I try and put her down and 9, and she won't have it. it maybe will last for an hour at most, and then I have to get her up, and then she'll be tired again by 11, and then she'll take a good nap, but then I have to give here a later nap around 3. So she takes 3 naps a day instead of 2 long ones. Is this just normal, and I should be glad for the extra time on my hands, or is there something else I can do?

I don't think normal is a word that ever works with naps - oh, how I wish. But, waking up at 7 - that's not too bad to start with! And, I think that it is still fairly common to be on three naps.
I think transitioning from three to two, and from two to one is one of the harder things to do.

The only advice I can offer is that the first nap of the day is the most important nap. If you can get a good first nap in, the whole day goes more smoothly, including following naps. So, here's something you could try: give an earlier first nap. I've always noticed that little ones get tired so quickly in the mornings (literally 45 minutes or an hour after they awaken). So, watch your little one, and the first time she yawns or rubs her eyes, put her down then. And then do everything in your power to be perfectly silent that first hour. It is your best chance for her learning to take a two hour nap. Once she gets into deep sleep, she'll stay asleep that next hour.
So, to recap, put her down earlier! Be as silent as you can (while you are experimenting) to give her a chance to stay asleep longer.

I know it is our nature to think, I've got an hour, what can I get done. But, if you read or stay really quiet, you can let her natural sleeping habits take place. Of course, third and fourth babies don't get the luxury and still turn out wonderfully. But, while you have the chance, help her take that longer nap, because it will ultimately make your life easier when you don't feel tethered to the crib.

Anyhow, does anyone else have ideas?

Painting: Road with Cypress and Star by Van Gogh


Learning to Read

What was that website again to help kids with reading where you put the letters into the machine and words come out?
I think you are thinking of...The Letter Factory and the Talking Words Factory by Leap Frog. Love them, and think they taught my child to read - by the by, saw the movies at Target for 9.99 just last week...As for a website - Starfall is all the rage amongst starting to read Kindergarteners.


My 18-month-old son has been going through a big screaming phase recently. I'm wondering if these are just normal tantrums. He seems to scream when I can't give him my undivided attention (e.g. I'm cooking dinner) or when he gets frustrated that he can't communicate what he wants (he doesn't have many words yet). Any thoughts on how to survive until he can talk more and on helping him not be so upset when I can't give him all my attention?

I feel like this is the cop out answer...but I think that screaming is just part of it all. If I could think of a way to entirely be rid of screaming I am certain I could win some award - a Nobel Peace Prize perhaps!

But, I think that there are some things you could probably do to help.

"Use your words" - This is a favorite phrase of mine. I think that little ones that are starting to use words forget to use them entirely when they are frustrated so they fall back on their infantile way to deal with needs - crying. So, sometimes, calmly saying, "Use your words," can actually really help.

Let him help you - It might take twice as long to cook dinner, but if you get him out his own bowl and spoon and entreat him to help you with dinner it can help. I know that my three year old is a permanent helper now (he's been sitting on the counter so long, he now knows it is his roll, so he comes running into the kitchen at the sound of a mixer - to help).

Talk, Non-Stop - I think it goes against most of our nature to just talk and talk and talk. But, when you are cooking dinner and your hands are full, your mouth is probably not (except for occasional tasty morsels). So, I would narrate what you are doing - give your own little cooking show for your child. Help him decide which lettuce you should use for the salad. Tell him that you are chopping up an orange carrot. Tell him what is happening, but also use it as a time for imagination. If your child likes trucks, or balls, talk about those things. Say things like, "It is a good thing the garbage truck isn't in our kitchen because he may smash these carrots and then we couldn't eat them...you know, the strange stuff that kids like to hear.

Painting: Acceptance by Cezanne


To Do Ideas

Every week, my son's teacher gives a list of fun learning ideas - it always helps spark my creativity - so I thought I'd share this week's...

Play With Me - Ideas for Learning
1. Take a walk together. When you get home, draw a picture and write a message about what you saw.
2. Say your phone number. Write it down. Learn your address.
3. Help fold the laundry.
4. Count the windows in your house. Help wash a window for spring cleaning.
5. Look for something beautiful outside. Tell someone about it.
6. Write a list of 5 things that are red in your house.
7. Read a book.
8. Put on some music and make up a dance.
9. Find a picture in a magazine and make up a story about it.
10. Draw nutritious foods that you like on a paper plate.
11. Hop, skip, gallop, and jump outside.
12. Say some nursery rhymes. Tell which words rhyme.
13. Practice what you would do if there were a fire at your house.
14. Find 8 objects that start with "B."
15. Teach a song to your family.
16. Think of words that rhyme with "man," "cat," "like," "hot," and "bee."
17. Cook something for your family to eat.
18. Go on a shape hunt around your house. Find squares, triangles, and circles.
19. Play "I SPY" with beginning letters: "I spy something that starts with D."
20. Name the months in a year.
21. Draw a picture for someone you love.
22. Read the cereal boxes in your cupboard.
23. Count the spoons in your drawer. Count the forks. Add them together.
24. Make an ABC book about any topic or theme you like...The ABC's of Valentine's Day (For each letter of the alphabet think of a word that starts with that letter and relate it to Valentine's Day...A is for _____, B is for ____, C is for ____, etc.)

Thanks, Maribeth!


Medication Question

My 8 month old son recently had two doses of a medication that was transfered through my breastmilk (doctor's said it wouldn't, but side effect tabs and on-line medicine info confirmed it) which has made him throw up violently several times. It was scary! But the medication is out of my system and out of HIS now and he acts happy and healthy all day long...but he is waking up in the middle of the night throwing up! Is this just a case of a weakened reflex or should I worry that something else is wrong?

I am so sorry.

I would definately call your doctor and at very least talk to the "advice nurse." I'm not a doctor and I don't know about the specific medications you were on...but I think it is best to be safe. Isn't it great to know that we can talk to our doctors without having to drag our kids into the office!

But, personally, certain medicines last longer in some people's system than other's - I can take a Claritin and be great for three weeks, it has always lasted longer than 24 hours for me. But, I know that I am really sensitive to all medicines...you may just have a really sensitive one on your hands.

I hope he gets all-the-way better soon!


Bedtime Troubles

My five year old is going through a bedtime regression. She use to go to bed fine after her nightly routine, but recently she throws HUGE tantrums. She claims she's afraid of the dark, or needs water, or wants someone to come sleep with her because it's not fair that mommy and daddy get to sleep together. Nothing in our routine has changed and we've tried everything (a lamp, a night light, a bedtime water bottle, even locking her in)! Any ideas on what might be causing this and what else we can do?

I am soooo sorry. Kidney stones is my excuse. But, you probably talked to a sister or a friend and already got better advice then I could give (isn't that the genius of community) but in case you haven't here is a thought.

I feel like this idea is true with adults as well as kids. Somehow, we can all get focused on our fears or sorrows and the more we focus the bigger they feel. So, no doubt, she is really feeling afraid or worried. But, instead of trying to fix the thirst or dark. I would try from a totally different angle.

I would get her favorite doll/stuffed animal or even get a new one (preferable a baby or young animal), and then tell your daughter that this baby doesn't like to go to bed. In fact, the baby doesn't know how to go to bed. I would start the dialog in the morning and keep it going all day. Help her mother the baby. And then before bed, take your little one AND the doll to get water, turn on the light. And have your daughter tell the doll all of the reasons it is ok. She will become the authority. She will be the one taking care of the doll. Sometimes, it just takes a different focus...

Another thing I always say, is, "You don't have to go to sleep. You can stay awake all night. You just have to lie still. But, certainly don't close your eyes." You could let her listen to a cd of lulluby music so she can focus on that instead of her fears.

A final idea. You can tell her that you can't sleep in her room, but that you will miss her so much that you will sit outside of the bedroom door. And really do it. Do it for a week or two. She'll get up and out of bed and see that you are really there and it will help build the confidence. It takes a little while - but it is worth it when the sleep routine is back to do-able!
Painting by Sharp: Blanket Bull, Crow Papoose 1908


"You parents, you fathers and mothers…live the kind of exemplary lives before your children that they will find in you the polar star to which they can look as they shape their own lives."

Gordon B. Hinckley


Potty Training - Making the Toilet Fun

I need as many ideas as possible here since I seem to have exhausted them all here. I'm potty training, and the problem isn't bladder control, it's physically getting my three and a half old daughter on the toilet!! She won't sit on a training toilet, a special seat on the toilet, or the toilet itself, in fact she refuses to go in the bathroom these days. When I try to get her to go she says over and over, "I can't do it, it's too hard, it's not working." I have tried any sort of bribery, I have tried taking away all that is most dear and precious to her (candy, cartoons, pacifier), asking her to not pee, just sit on the toilet and count to 5 (or even 2 gor goodness sakes), sending her to bed early... Seriously, my child cannot be coerced to do anything she doesn't want to. No form of bribery, punishment or reward works on her. Any ideas I'm not thinking of?

Ok, you need to make the toilet the best part of the entire house. It needs to be a party! Some of the ideas may be over the top, but you'll get the feel for what I am saying.

First of all, I wouldn't try and convince her - I don't think reason and ration help with a determined 3 year old (if she says it's too hard, she'll stick to it). So, I would just focus on getting her to sit on the toilet.

A potty present is the first idea. Buy her a special potty present - the catch: she can only play with it on the toilet. So, to unwrap it, she has to be sitting (not going) on the potty.

A potty party is another idea. Decorate the bathroom with streamers and balloons. Have your little one help you in the kitchen. Make potty cookies, or potty hot chocolate. Again, she can only eat the treat when sitting on the toilet. But, really talk it up the entire time you are making them. And then I would even say something like, "I want the first potty cookie!" I get to sit on the toilet first. Let her see you sit on the toilet. And make sure you have a running dialog, "This is so fun. I love to sit on the toilet. I feel so grown-up. Babies can't sit on toilet, but I can!" You get the idea. But, it is good for kids to see their parents on the toilet, especially if they have an aversion or fear.

Ok, this is silly, but have you ever thought of plugging the tv into a closer outlet, so that they can watch their favorite show on the potty. A potty show, I guess...I know it is crazy, but sometimes you just need them to happily sit there. I never tried this one, but I heard of it and loved it!

Finally, story time on the potty. I am telling you, that I did a lot of reading to my eldest on the toilet.

It sounds like you just need to make the bathroom the best place for awhile - if she's got the control, the next part will be easy! Good luck!


Potty Training - Regression

I have a 4 year old boy, who shows his stress through his accidents. I could give you details, like he has been potty trained for over a year but not through the night - which in my experience is normal. I have 4 kids and he is number 3. He is very verbal and extremely physical (he can ride a 2 wheeler), but the question is...What can I do to help a preschooler who takes out his stress by peeing in his pants? Any thoughts?

Thoughts...you know I do!

I feel like every child is so unique when it comes to potty training. And the fact that your little guy is in preschool tells me this - his world is changing and different. School at any age poses new situations and frustrations. There can be a new situation everyday, and he could be taking in more than you could ever imagine. And to be number three of four means that he has a lot going on at home. Any given day there are so many people, and infinite number of situations and he is probably really sensitive (a tangent - I just love third children, they are so wonderful and good, they are my favorites).

I feel like the first thing you can do is spend extra time with him. Not talking about potty training or accidents. Just something personal - coloring, playing basketball, cooking. Invite him (literally, you could make an invitation) or just ask him to do something with you. Just you two. And while you are coloring, make sure you tell him how wonderful he is. Really build his confidence. Help him remember how important he is.

The secret weapon - DADS. I would have his dad do the same thing. Spending extra time for at least two weeks will really help how he feels about himself. The most balanced child in the world can loose confidence when they are nervous about something (and he probably doesn't even know he is - he could never verbalize it). But, really have his dad make time for him alone, just while things are rough.

And then, when an accident does happen, treat it as if though you were cleaning up after dinner - totally routine. Don't give it extra attention - don't talk to him about it.

And then, have him go a lot. Do all of the preventative things you can. I know that this conversation happens a lot: "Go potty..." in response, "But I don't have to go..." But, I can share a phrase that has helped us a lot, we started saying, "Go empty out!" It makes more sense, and solved that "I don't have to" phrase.

I would talk to his teacher. Get her on your side. Most likely, it has to do with preschool stress, so having her be understanding, may help her watch out. Show more patience towards him. All the things a teacher should be doing, but could use a reminder.

And then in about two weeks, if it's still happening, I would start at the beginning. Pretend like he has never been potty trained. And I would work on helping him get through the night. Just have him sleep without pull-ups and be prepared for a couple of busy nights with a lot of cloth changing. When he wets himself in the night, walk him straight to the bathroom and say, "empty out" (even though he probably has nothing left, its the habit you want to establish). You could even do the, "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Blastoff!" And then clean the bed and put him back down. Off course, you probably have the better advice, so be sure to share what worked for your other ones!

Good luck! It is normal - but it is nice to have new ideas, too!



Colic - what do you do for it? My son and daughter-in-law are exhausted.

I am so sorry for that little sweet baby.

I wouldn't wish colic on any baby or any parents - it is so miserable and never-ending (trust me - I was there). I feel like it is more about managing the situation than ever solving it...

Parents first on this one. I feel like the hardest part with colic is that there is no solving it. So, the most important thing is to learn to take breaks - without doubt - it is a MUST. Buy a lovely lullaby cd - wrap your baby snug - and then leave the room. At another time in the day put your baby in a swing and go to another room and listen to your music. Shower with the door shut so you can't hear the crying. Take several 15 minute breaks throughout the day. Because your baby will be just fine - but you may not be. So, just schedule the breaks as part of the day. The breaks will help you love and give even more. So, its ok!

Babies next. There are ideas that everyone should try - try one or two a day. But don't rush it, there is a good chance nothing will make a difference, but it will ease your mind to know you tried everything:

1. Baby Massage - rub their tummies clockwise

2. LOUD music and the dark

3. A car ride, Sitting on the dryer, anything with a hum and a vibration

4. Swings

5. Tummy Pressure

6. Long Walks

7. Warm baths

I swear it worked. Now most people say that you can't medicate it, but my Doctor (Zimmerman - highly tauted in Manhattan by the plaques on his wall, etc.) prescribed Hyoscyamine (levsine™, or gastrosed™) pronounced hycosamine. It was a gift. It was only used once a day (at night when it always seems the worst). And it was a gift and eased his little stomach - we didn't experience any side effects. I would talk to your doctor about it - and seriously think about trying it once or twice. You would have to go in requesting it, but relief is such a gift for baby and parents!

I wish I would have known. My baby was colicky - but it got worse at feeding times. He would eat really quickly. And I didn't learn until waaay to late that he was lactose intolerant. Lactose Intolerant!! It seems like every other baby these days has food allergies, so it might not hurt to try a soy milk bottle for a 48 period and see how it goes. I really wish I would have known, I feel like it was probably my answer - but at the time I just felt like breast milk was the best gift I could give my crying little baby. I wish someone would have suggested this, so I'll pass it along.

Anyhow, here is a more complete website:
Colic Website

Good Luck! Let us know if anything helps!

Painting: "Mother and Child" by Thomas Sully


Independent 3 Year Old

I have a 3+ year old boy. He has always been very independent...wanting to do everything by "myself!". On the contrary, there are also multiple times a day when he wants ME (and noone else-not even Daddy) to do the most simple task for him. For example, he may drop a toy in the tub and then say, "mommy pick it up!" when it is right in front of him. Or he won't finish eating his food until I spoon feed him, which he can clearly do himself other times. One time, he threw a ball in the neighbor's yard and the neighbor brought it back to him but he wouldn't accept it unless I went back and got it for him where it landed. I most often refuse and stay strong until he'll give in and do it, which usually turns into a big battle, but then there are times in public or in a hurry where I just do it for him to avoid conflict. I feel like he is trying to control me. How would you recommend I handle these situations and do you think there is a reason for his doing this?

Reason 1: Well, if you have given in, then it almost becomes a game. A child's thought could be something like - she did it once, so if I ask long enough she'll do it again.

Reason 2: And the other big one - attention. Sometimes, even if they really have all the attention in the world, they aren't sure - especially around other people (which is what it sounds like is happening).

Solution 1: I feel like it is a phase that will pass - so its more about enduring or getting through it. So, I would just totally give in - end the game. Everytime. Just do it. But, you don't want to feel like your three year old has the one up. So, what if you tried to get the last word (so that you feel like you are teaching him something). In other words, switch tactics.

So, when he asks you to do something respond like this, "When you ask me so kindly it makes me really happy to help you." And if its asked in more of a whine, then I would repeat his sentence exactly with a kind tone and add a please. Usually a child will repeat. If he doesn't. Still, say somthing like, "I really love the word please." And then help him.

Solution 2: I would seriously feed him everytime he asks for about 5 days. And then, once you have switched tactics, start trying to work on it from a different angle. So, with the food, when he is eating by himself be sure to say something like, "Wow, are you a four year old? You are sure using your fork like a big four year old. You must be four." Or something that resembles genuine praise. Then, when he asks to be fed - make sure it isn't any fun. Just do it really absent mindedly - in fact, get on the phone or something. The message being, you will get more attention from me for your good behavior.


To Say or Not to Say

I feel like word choice for talking to your little ones is one of the most important things...and most influential things we do every day.

But, instead of telling them what NOT to do, I like to tell them what TO do. Its hard at first; I say a lot of things like: don't kick your brother, don't dump your water on the floor, don't do every other crazy thing you do...but its so much better to say things like: do use your legs to run around with your brother, do drink your water its a better choice, and do the crazy things that I can live with...

Just a thought.


Wits End

I am at my wits end with my 3 1/2 year old son! This year he has progressively gotten worse with his behavior. He seems so unstable most of the time. He cries over everything! And it seems now he is digressing in his behavior. Like if we are at the store he will ask for something and I say no and now he will cry and throw a major fit. He already knows the answer is no, it always has been. But now he cries, pouts, whines, etc. all the time! Why? And what is the best method for my response?? Ignoring, time-outs, take away privileges?? I do not know what to do!

I am so glad you asked this question, because I remember feeling in this same place before. I really was out of ideas...it was almost as if everything that had been working so well stopped working at all.

First, I just have to say this to get it out of the way, make sure he is sleeping well and he is well fed (I feel like three year-olds grow a lot and need a little snack in between meals a few times a day). I know its a silly thing to say, but sometimes the solution is simple - so I thought I'd start at the beginning.

Second, I'll say from personal experience, that if you really are in a period with a lot of tears and breakdowns - I would actually dispense with a lot of the more traditional discipline ideas. I wouldn't ignore, or take away privileges, or even do time-outs--these are too emotionally confusing.

This is what I think, from the very beginning, babies grow in stature and intelligence. It sometimes feels like you can watch them growing - you know when they figure out how to do a puzzle or drag a chair over to the sink. But, then around three there is a new factor, EMOTION. And for every situation there seems to be an emotional factor. Its not about getting dressed in the morning, its about how they feel about getting dressed. Because once you've conquered putting on your own pants, its a lot less fun. So, I would suggest that you deal with your little guy in an emotional way.

What do I mean? Well, instead of helping him see how his behavior is wrong when he cries at the store, I would try to help him feel better so that he can behave better. Here's the best analogy I can think of at the moment...you know when you are cooking and you accidentally put too much salt in your spaghetti sauce - so to try and fix it you add a little bit more Italian seasonings, then a bit more tomatoes, then maybe a bit more garlic to mask the flavor, and you keep adding until you have a disaster. Well, I feel like sometimes we are trying so hard that it is just complicating things. Like, maybe if I say this or do this it will just solve the problem. When the truth is, that a lot of parenting is modeling good behavior -- the one thing that takes a lifetime to demonstrate.

So, I would scoop him up in your arms, and hug him. Try to just give him extra love and patience. I know that this is the ONLY thing that works for me when my kids are at their hardest. And it takes about three days of unending patience, and then I start to see a difference. They are just happier. I can get back to my discipline tools in two weeks, but right now, I can just love them.

But, a tool would be a nice:

Telling stories.

1. Kids love to hear the story of when they were born. You could tell them everyday and it wouldn't be enough. So, pick up your little boy and in a quiet voice right in his ear say, "I'm sorry that you are sad. I'm sad too sometimes. But, I remember a time that I wasn't sad. It was the day that you were born..." And then launch into the story. You'll see the tears will end fast.

2. Kids love to hear stories about when you were a child, especially the toys you played with. Again, in that quiet voice, hug him and say, "I'm so sorry that you feel like you need to hit right now. Sometimes I feel so frustrated I want to hit too. But, I always try not to. I remember one time when I was four years old. I was playing in my back yard and I wanted to dig a deep hole..." Just tell any story.

3. Imaginary Stories are great (I thought I couldn't tell them, but I you get better and better with practice). If you are going somewhere that is high stress, like a grocery store, I would do a Preemptive story. Start the second he is in the grocery cart. "Once upon a time, there was a hungry monster. He was purple and had polka-dots. But, every time he ate something, his fur changed colors." And then everything you add to the cart, let it be monster food. And when you pick up green beans and put them in your cart, tell him how the green beans turned the monsters toes green - or whatever. Just turn the painful ordeal into an adventure.

Good luck! It isn't easy.

Painting: Henri Matisse, Jazz: Icarus, 1943


Running Around in Circles

My son is a runner, and a fast one at that. He likes to run in circles around the couch, up and down the hall, etc. I usually think it's cute, except for when we're in a public place and he wants to run. I've tried strollers, carrying him, and even bringing treats to distract him, but he'll kick, scream, and foam at the mouth until I finally cave and let him down. Then, off he goes and the chase ensues. Any advice for this "out of breath" mom?

In truth, if there was a simple answer to this question, they wouldn't have invented the leash for kids (oh, no way am I suggesting this - but did you see that Saturday Night Live where the kid is attached to the play structure - too funny! - ok, I am clearly digressing).

Here's an idea or two, but because he's little you'll want to keep the option short and clear. I would bring the stroller and say, "You can sit in the stroller or you can hold the side of the stroller." (Sometimes holding the stroller instead of your hand feels like such freedom and could solve the problem just by doing this). Once he chooses, then make the consequence clear, "If you let go, I will buckle you in."

Of course, he's probably used to running around so its going to take some serious stick-to-it-ness. But, I would go somewhere closer and try it out. He'll probably end up right back in the stroller. But, when he wants out, try again. Once he realizes you won't budge, he'll get used to it (sounds simpler said then done).

When he is happily holding the side of the stroller be sure in that instance to tell him how important his job his. The instant he is being an angel, reward him with your words! Isn't it fascinating how children love tasks and to feel essential.

Anyhow, he is really young, and the honest truth may be that he needs a few more months until he is not bolting.
Painting: Cherubs (Detail Sistine Madonna) by Raphael


Loud Little One

My three year old is LOUD. He seems to find yelling is the way to talk. It isn't like we don't hear him when he doesn't yell and we aren't yelling or loud parents... When we ask him to talk quietly or use your indoor voice, he says he is or that he can't talk quieter. I have tried just whispering to him to see if he would catch on, doesn't work...What can we do? He is teaching out one year old to be loud too and I am not sure my head can take anymore noise!

The best phrase I can offer you is, "My ears can't hear when..." So, every time your little one shouts that he needs you, you can respond with, "My eyes can see that your mouth is moving, but when you talk too loud my ears can't hear the words very well." And then, this is really important, model what you would have liked him to say and in what volume and tone.

For example, he shouts that he needs cookies. You quietly say, "Mom, I would like a cookie please." He tries it. If its right, great. If not, then try again. Sometimes it may take a few times going back in forth. But MODELING is the way I've had the most success.

Of course, if you really can't tell the difference - then you may need to do something like a Volume Bootcamp. You could go outside with the intention of exploring volume. It might be really eye opening if he hears you yell...what it is like when you shout too loud. You could simply go outside to play in the snow - and try and role play. But be too loud or too quiet. Ask him to help show you the right voice to use outside.

In the end, there isn't a wrong or right volume. But, perhaps a right or wrong time to use that volume. So, giving your little one control might help!

Painting: Peter Breugel's Children's Games


Traveling with a Baby

We are traveling next month and I'm not quite sure what to bring for a 9 month old...does anyone have anything good for little ones?

Traveling is a hot topic right now, and traveling with babies is very different than traveling with a toddler or older child.

First. I echo my advice for older kids--the first thing I do on an airplane is bring Clorox wipes in a plastic bag and wipe down all of the airplane seats and trays first thing. Babies seem to get their mouth on everything - so its nice to not worry.

Second. Non-toy toys are the best and seem to hold babies attention the longest. So, I suggest bringing a calculator or a remote. Mini flash lights. Empty infant Tylenol bottle with the squeeze top. A marker (not to draw with - but its great fun to hold). Eye lash curler. You get the idea.

Third. Go with the tried and true books - not that many - they are heavy and not very helpful. Oh, and there is that cute Cheerios Book where you actually use Cheerios as wheels and then the baby gets to pick it up and eat them.

Fourth. Change of clothes. So important. I swear the worst eruptions seem to happen on planes.

Fifth. Something to chew on/suck on during take-off and landings. Some babies do great. Just be sure to fill your bottle as soon as you get on the flight - as for the beverage as you walk to your seat (you know, with the no liquid flight restrictions).

Here's a start, what can you add to this list?

Originally Published 7/12

Sketch: Baby with Dummy by Horace Mann Ivans



"Mom, I am scared!"

"I can't stop thinking about those scary eyes."

"I just can't sleep, I'm feeling too scared."

I feel like sometimes we want to help explain away the scary. Like, there is nothing to worry about, there is no monster under your bed. Or, that sound was nothing. There is nothing scary here...

But, sometimes ration and reason don't work with kids. If they are really scared, they need to learn a coping mechanism. Something to help them deal with the scary feeling that is very real to them - regardless of why it isn't rational.

So, one solution I tried that worked was to help my little boy turn his scary creature into a funny one in his head. Here' what I mean. We decided to give him a big funny rudolph nose and then put chicken legs on his body. We gave him a pink umbrella that had a hole where the rain was dripping in. We made his scary image a silly one. We were laughing together after just a few moments. And when I said goodnight a second time, I said, "If you have another scary guy be sure to dress him up extra funny!"

Anyhow, it worked. It was only a scared moment, not a terrible night or even week!


Books, Books, Books - Six

I don't know what it is about illustrations of food - but I always have to stop and take a pretend bite of everything. Tonight as we were reading about that little blue engine for the millionth time, my little one had to stop and give me a taste of the "red cheeked apples,", oranges, spinach, and peppermint. Hey, I say, if they are pretend eating healthy food -- great! But mostly I just love the interaction with the book - its literally giving back with each pretend bite!

Sketch by Hablot Knight


A Trick for Following Directions

When your little one asks you to watch tv and you say something like, "Ok, but only one show. And then you have to turn it off." And they respond with an ok. But will they really turn it off? Probably not.

The best way I've found to make sure they heard me and will do it is a little quiz. "Are you going to watch tv?" Wait for the Yes.

Then, "What are you going to do at the end of the show?" Usually, they can't answer. All they intially heard was, "Ok!" So, repeat the instructions. And start the quiz over.

When I can get my little one to tell me that he will stand up and turn it off, it usually happens! And of course it works for any kind of direction giving.
Painting: The little knitters by Albert Anker


Inspiration Can Breed Motivation by Hannah

My sister-in-law was here over the holiday and had a question that stumped me. She has a very intelligent 6 year-old girl who is completely losing motivation for everything. She doesn't want to get out of bed in the morning and when she finally does, she just wants to play my-little-ponies and refuses to get ready. At school her teacher complains of her not focusing and "daydreaming". She doesn't want to finish her dinner, just stir it around in her plate, doesn't want to do her homework, so a 10 minute assignment takes 60 minutes. Her mother is getting exhausted trying to come up with ways to get her to do things. Any tips on how to help her become more motivated? My Sister in law doesn't want to squelch her daughter's creativity or make her think life is only about work, but it's getting to a very frustrating point for her and she is looking for advice.

This is a great question - and I have put a lot of thought into the answer. For starters I asked for ideas from one of the best teachers/moms/person I know. Hannah taught little ones and has a wonderful perspective. She is a true treasure (you can tell from the response she gives). My answer is after this post. So, here is her beautiful answer:

"I think inspiration can breed motivation. As a teacher of young children, I think one of my primary responsibilities (& joys in teaching) was to inspire my students: inspire kindness, trust, silliness, resiliency, a can-do attitude...the list goes on. So when a student was having trouble in class, I would ask myself "How can I inspire & motivate little Jane?" I was never big on "do this, get this" reward systems where prizes were doled out. Some kids need that in the classroom, but I've found that most kids don't. Most kids can be inspired and motivated--but you have to know what makes him or her tick. It sounds like this little girl may be bored in school--I wonder if any of these things might work to add some enthusiasm and focus...? These are all things I found easy, quick and doable in my classroom. But of course, not everything works for all kids, and her teacher would need to be willing to try these things.

*Extend assignments creatively to make them more interesting to her. Write & illustrate a story to go with the pictures on the math assignment. Make math problems from the illustrations in a book. Write a different ending for a story. Of course, these need to be things she can enjoy doing independently.

*Does she like helping? When I had a bright quick finisher in my class, I found they often liked and were quite skilled at helping their peers. I taught them some little "insider's tricks" on how to be a teacher by helping, not doing, the work for other kids. In order to help others, she needs to set a good example by finishing her work--then she can help. Most kids love knowing they're helping their teacher and friends. And it was so cute to see little helpers say things like "What word would make sense there?" or "Get your mouth ready" when reading, for example.

*Does she like to write/draw? I had a very bright kindergartner last year who finished her work quickly. But she LOVED to write and draw. That inspired her. So she had a "Words Book" that I made her. (Just paper stapled together.) She titled each booklet "Volume ___" and wrote and drew the most lovely, creative pages. She was learning, thinking, creating. I looked at her book every few days and wrote comments and asked questions, so it also became a 2 way journal for us. But, she was only able to work on this when she had completed whatever classroom assignment I had given her. This motivated & inspired her.

*She seems to like her ponies--maybe she could have a "pony journal" and when she finishes her work, she can write about what she and the ponies will do after she finishes her homework that afternoon (maybe it'll help with motivating the completion of homework in a more timely fashion, too?). The teacher could write at the top "After I finish my homework, my ponies will..." and then she can write about the magical kingdoms they'll explore, etc.

*One of my all time favorite tools was giving choices, which you wrote about a while back, Ang. "Would you like to complete your assignment at your desk or at the writing center?" "Would you like to do your math problems from top to bottom or bottom to top?" And when it comes down to it, "Would you like to do your assignment now or at recess?"

*Speaking of choice, that can be inspiring and motivating, too. Maybe the teacher would be willing to create a menu of acceptable independent choices for AFTER she finishes her assignment. Make the menu cute and colorful. Put it in a special place where the kid can consult it. I've found kids can be motivated to finish the must-do classroom assignments when they know they have a choice waiting for them after.

*Some kids need a visual reminder of encouragement. For one little boy who struggled to stay focused and complete assignments, I wrote some encouraging words on index cards and taped them to the inside of his pencil box, on the inside of his journal, math workbook, etc. He loved trains, so I wrote and illustrated trains with words like "I think I can, I think I can. I believe in you, Marcus! You can do it!" If he was daydreaming or not focusing, I'd stop at his desk and point to one of these cards, not saying anything. Just a smile and a tap, tap, tap. He got the reminder without feeling nagged.

*Draw a picture of something she loves or get some pretty paper and write something like "I am the queen of focusing!" or some such thing. Tape the paper to her desk or inside her pencil box. When you catch her being really focused, draw a little star or crown or flower--whatever she likes. When she collects an agreed upon number of drawings, send home a handwritten note to mom and dad on some beautiful stationary sharing the good news. That can be very inspiring and motivating for kids. It also gives them a visual reminder and keeps track of progress, so that they may start self-checking and being aware of their own behavior.

As a teacher, I found I usually only had a few students (at most) who needed these kinds of motivational tools each year. So, these were quick and easy things that I could do in my classroom. Maybe some of them could be adapted by mom at home, too. I firmly believe that "there's nothing more unequal than an equal education." Meaning, kids need different things to feel successful and reach their highest potential. I never had a problem with other kids saying "that's not fair" or "why don't I have a special journal/menu/paper in my pencil box?" And if they did, I'd explain "Different kids need different things." and they were usually content with that explanation.

I think as adults we need to be inspired and motivated, too. Inspiration is so pivotal in life. When I worked for a really super school principal, who inspired me in the way he interacted with kids, smiled at everyone in the hallways and led staff meetings with such a kind and positive attitude, I felt motivated to be the best teacher I could be, even on the most challenging of days. When I have dinner with a really amazing, resilient, funny friend, I leave feeling inspired...and motivated to be a better friend or be a better story teller or look at things in a new way. And now as a new mom I consider it one my greatest jobs and challenges to inspire my daughter to live a happy, creative and joyful life."

Thank you, thank you, Hannah! What brilliant ideas. Reading so many beautiful ideas is inspirational.
Painting: Renoir's "Portrait of Claude Renoir Painting"

Motivation by Angie

Any tips on how to help a child who is daydreaming and loosing focus become more motivated?

I know that sometimes its hard to motivate our little ones. But I would do whatever it takes to change the cycle. It sounds like she is in a rut. And if one of the beautiful ideas above doesn't work, you may need to try something big enough to break the cycle and re-create a new one at home.

But while you are figuring it out be sure you don't label her. Never use words or phrases like "can you go faster" or "hurry up" or "slow". . . I would be sure to carefully watch her and the moment she is putting on her clothes with determination or the instant she takes a big bite of cereal tell her with descriptive words how wonderful that moment is. Be sure to really give her praise for doing and being. Even if its something as simple as, "I saw the way your eyes looked when you saw the ingredients on the the table for cookies, the seemed to tell me I am so excited about this!" Really watch and emphasize it.

You may need to talk to your child's teacher to see if you can stop homework for awhile. If simple things like using special pencils and pens sitting in a special spot, or switching rolls while you have her teach you, or sticker charts aren't working then you could try something like this:

1. Invent projects that really inspire her. Like Hannah said, knowing what makes them tick is so important. If its dolls, or Pet Shop, or Dora...take that as your springboard. Spend at least a half an hour (in place of homework) doing something different.

Write a play with her for her dolls to act out and record it with your camera.

Watch Dora sitting in thrones you built and pretend to be royal letter counters and everytime she says something that starts with "D" ring a bell...the stranger the better (and if you tell me what she really loves I can help think of random ideas to tailor her).

Anyhow, use reading and writing only for the fun projects.

2. Start using "super speed" and "slow motion" around the house. You model this for her. When you are getting bowls out for breakfast turn your switch to one of the two and let her see you hurry around. Then half way through switch to slow motion. Walk sooooooooo sloooooooow and taaaaalk soooooo slowwwwwly. Do this for a week throughout the day. And then have a more serious conversation that there are times we need to use our different speeds. This way there is nothing "wrong" with daydreaming or moving slowly...help her understand that there are just times for doing the two.

3. When you start homework again, really get excited. Make a production out of starting again. Enjoy it - I even say do part of it because "you are just so excited about it you couldn't help it!"


Big Brother/Sister Envy

When I hear a great idea I just have to share...

With baby number two you find yourself without the seconds, minutes, hours to just hold your infant and revel. Of course, there is the night, but the sleepiness sometimes overshadows the moments of quiet bliss.

Anyhow, you want to talk and love your little one, but with older ears listening in it sometimes creates more jealousy than before. So, this is what Lys-An does...she talks to her infant about the older sibling. In a sweet baby voice telling the infant what a wonderful runner her brother is, or how high he can jump. Of course, its the face time your infant treasures, and your older child gets the benefit of extra compliments and love. A win-win!

Love this idea, Lys - hope you don't mind me sharing!

Painting: Polynesian Woman with Children by Paul Gaugin


I Know My Telephone Number!

Any ideas on how to help my kids memorize our home phone number and address?

I say a song - one you make up or know.

Does anyone but me remember the Safety Kids? If you click on Brite Music, then scroll down, you can hear a piece of the Telephone Song.

Here's my little guy singing a made-up number over and over...


Hugs and Kisses

Give your little ones
extra hugs
and kisses.
Take them by surprise,
wait until they are doing something
extra naughty,
and when they are
go and give them
a great big squeeze!
Tell them that you will always love them!
Isn't it nice to be taken by surprise!
Painting: Maternity by Pablo Picasso


Independent Walkers and Thinkers

Or The Treacherous Target Toy Aisle

I have a 17 month old boy. He likes to walk with me instead of being carried or being in a stroller, etc. He doesn't run away from me or anything, he just wants to do his own thing. I take my time with him and let him look, stop and do something but when I tell him to come, he never does unless I come take his arm (which usually results in the limp body trick).Are there any ways to help him obey my directions or is it too early to expect that???

It sounds like you've got a bright and independent little one! From the little bit you said, I would guess that obeying directions isn't really his style (yet). I think that you may have to help him decide that you want the same thing. Inspire his decision, make him believe that he decided it.

Example: Going to Target can be the longest experience of my life because the seven toy aisles take an hour to browse. But, if instead of saying, "Its time to go to the next aisle," I try something like feigning enthusiasm, runninh down the aisle exclaiming, "Look! Diego toys! Oh, wow, oh, look over here - Dora! I see Dora down here! Oh, look, this next aisle has even more toys! Come push this button, you've got to see what this Scoop can do!" Doing it this way we can get through the treacherous Target toy aisle in ten minutes! I set the tone and they were none the wiser.

So, I would suggest you lean down and whisper in his ear (almost like a secret) what you want him to do. Here are some words to try: "I just remembered there is a red fire truck in the car - I wonder where the car is?" OR "I see a big yellow bus over there - I wish I could see it" (the bus or other vehicle would be closer to your destination) OR "What is that over there? I wish I knew?"

Of course, I would start introducing the idea of following directions. Pick one or two things that are really important and just don't budge. So, if he wants to walk then be sure that when you come to a street you explain that he needs to hold your hand you you need to hold him. Give him to options and then if he doesn't choose, you choose. And just stick with it. It doesn't matter if the street is empty - its about principle. So, pick a few things (few being the key word) and don't budge. It will help him as he gets older to know that when you say something you really mean it!

Good luck!

Painting: Garden at Vétheuil by Claude Monet


Becoming a New Mom

Originally Posted 7/3/07

I'd love any advice on surviving (& enjoying) the first months after your first baby is born. Any tips, thoughts, suggestions that you wish you had known before diving into motherhood? Everyone says to "enjoy your sleep now" and "go to the movies with your husband", but what about the day to day reality of having a new little person in your life?

First, its so wonderful. There is really something remarkable about babies.

But, in truth, there is also a lot of awkwardness as well. And knowing about the awkward, less than marvelous moments help prepare you for the truth of it all. So, in the name of truth...here are things I wish I knew.

1. Newborns take forever to eat. So literally, out of three hours, babies nurse an hour of that. A third of your entire day is nursing (or bottle feeding). And its really awkward and painful at first. So just hang in there. Did I mention its painful - I would say far worse than birth - but it often gets over looked!

2. You have to wear a bra 24 hours a day. Especially at first, your body produces a lot of milk, and if you don't want to wake up soaking wet - you wear a bra to bed (with your Lansinoh disposable breast pads - hands down the best). So be sure to buy at least one nursing bra without an under wire.

3. You will be doing laundry every moment of every day. I swear - babies spit up on every piece of available cloth - and you! - so keep the extra blankets from the showers - they will come in handy! And be prepared to change clothes a lot - its not the baby clothes that fill up the washer - it will be your clothes.

4. Those mean doctors - literally they will cut a slice out of your baby's foot (heal to be precise). Apparently little finger pricks aren't enough. About a week after your baby is born - there is one blood test that literally starts with a slice. I was so shocked - I wish I would have known. (Oh, and I really liked my doctor - just not the 4cm heal slice.)

5. You cannot hold your newborn too much. I remember feeling worried I was starting off spoiling my child with all the family attention - and then I would literally hold him through most of his naps to help him sleep. But, don't worry, you can't even dream of spoiling them until they are six months old. Just help them feel secure! Its ok, hold them as much as you want.

6. It's so busy. The first few weeks you will really wonder how to do it all. So, keep expectations of yourself really low. Making dinner was really too much for me in the beginning...so don't feel like a failure. Give yourself two months to do nothing but get accustomed to the new routine.

7. It's so slow. That just sounds awful. But, after you get the routine of it all, you find yourself with extra time. Babies just sleep a lot. I loved to read with the extra time - but if you don't - plan projects for yourself. Things in the house. Buy some cook books - and think about trying out new recipes. Start a journal. Plan a trip. Just know that you will have a lot of down time.

8. Baby gear - there is so much and its hard to know what is important. Maybe people can expand on the gear topic...but I know that a changing table is surprisingly nice. Your back really starts to ache after using your bed so many times - its just at an awkward height. Oh, and I did really love my rocking chair - but be sure to get soft sides!

Painting: Mother and Child by Gustav Klimt


Computer Play

No one told me about this type of thing when I had a little one...so in case you didn't know there are great keyboard-a-rama games. You know, when you push the "T" on the keyboard you Tickle Elmo on the screen. This is great for little fingers who can push one key at a time all the way up to kids who are learning their numbers.

Click Below to try...

Anyhow, there are a ton, if you have a great one you should share!
Picture: Flowers by Andy Warhol


Hansel and Gretel Style or How to Cure Clinginess

My one year old is entering a really clingy phase. He used to play really well on his own, but now he follows me around and pulls on my pant legs and cries. He really just wants to be held or engaged. All. Day. Long. So is this a normal--and temporary--phase? Is there anything I can do? I'm not sure if I should ignore him (it doesn't seem to make him stop) or if I should indulge him. Any suggestions?

Normal. Totally Normal. But "normal" doesn't make it enjoyable.

I vote for something in between indulging and ignoring...

Remember when your baby would happily play with the remote like it was the greatest toy alive. It would genuinely consume him for an hour; or at least until he sat it down because he saw that the chair was near and he needed to experience that too. Well, I'm sorry to say, that those days are sadly more behind than ahead of you. Because your baby's memory is developing it isn't as interesting to play with the same toys all of the time. In fact, to play really well, he has to be really interested.

I'm all about "sorting and classifying" my toys. For example: the puppets, the playdough, the blocks, the cars, the Little People, the foam puzzles, etc. all have their own spot. And when its play time, I get down one thing. The puppets - for a one year old it would be just a five-ish minute play. And then (here's the key) I take it away before it gets boring. Then, give him the blocks and again, take it away while he's still wanting more. I know it takes some work - but the idea is to start stretching their play time. Its a learned (not innate ability) to sit and entertain yourself.

Ok, second part, you need to start creating some distance. Not all at once - because his memory is just learning that when you leave you might not come right back. So, you want to help him understand what happens when you exit the room. So, plop that fun toy down and hurry towards the exit to the room - but don't go out. Just watch him far enough away that he can still see you. Then, everyday scoot farther back. Literally, a big step at a time. And try and come back before he wants you. Try to switch the toys fast enough that he doesn't have time to get worried about the distance.

This may seem like a lot of juggling of toys and you - but if you work on it for two weeks consistently you'll start to see a change.

At one point, sit out of the room so that he can feel comfortable playing and just seeing a leg. And then, for awhile, be right outside or around a corner. So, that if he crawls to find you, you are right there. I'm not really big on hurrying to them when they cry because they are missing you -- because it sends the message that if "I cry she'll come faster." So I like to let him come to me...and then pretend that you barely notice his cry - just his presence.

Finally, I'd put a few extra awesome toys in his path. Hansel and Gretel style - but instead of bread crumbs leave out a kitchen pot or a set of measuring cups. A few things to slow him down will stretch the time he is away from you. Little by little, he'll trust that you aren't far if you aren't visible.

Sorry for the novel :)

Painting: Carnations by John Singer Sargent


"Boy and Girl Stuff"

i have a darling 3 year old boy. he LOVES his blankie and could carry it around everywhere. but, we've limited it only to the house. for the last 8 or so months, he LOVEs wrapping his blanket around him like a "skirt". i thought this was cute at first but now, he does it ALL THE TIME. my question is...should i IGNORE this completely and try not to teach him about "boy" and "girl" stuff--is it destructive to label stuff for a girl or boy? i know this doesn't seem like a big deal to most people, but it really has started to bug me...what do you think i should do, if anything?!

First, I would say, don't really worry. Three is the time they really start to mirror their world. And you are his world. So, wearing a skirt doesn't mean anything to him. In fact, I would avoid saying things like, "skirts are for girls" because it only draws attention to it and he probably doesn't really understand the concept of girls vs. boys (sure he can point out girls and boys, but it doesn't mean what it means to us). So, he could be doing it out of exploration. ie. When I do this - mommy notices in a different way then when I finish a puzzle, hmmm.

Second, I want to validate how you feel. Its ok that you think about it a lot. And of course, you'll love him no matter what. You will just want to be careful about how you express your worries. So, I've tried to think of some solid ideas...I'm thinking that you could try being positive. For example, my little boy's favorite color was purple - purple, purple and more purple. And I would always say, "What a royal color" - because purple is indeed a royal color. So, when he wears it like a skirt you could say, "You look like a knight wearing a tunic - wow, you really make a great knight." Just think of all the kilt wearing men and tunic wearing kings, knights, peasants. Just express it the way you would like him to have it perceived.

Third, if its time to start making the blanket smaller, Kevin Henkes has a great book about a little boy named Owen who takes his blanket everywhere. Its a cute book where the mom ends up cutting the blanket into four smaller pieces so that he can take them everywhere. Its a cute idea, when the time is right. Its also an un-skirtable size if that's a solution that would work for you.
Fourth, really, don't worry! And don't label girl/boy stuff - they start doing it themselves at four or five anyhow.
Anyhow, good luck! Thanks for asking!
Painting: "Portrait of Artist's Son" by Järnefelt
Knights Templar Tapestry