This blog is for Moms and Dads who have limited time and need quick parenting tips.

26 September 2010

For Margolis

A message for sweet Margolis who lost her baby boy at 18 weeks. A lady with so much love and empathy, and now so much hurt and sorrow.

"Why? That is what we ask. The truth is we may never be able to know for sure why. But we do know that there is no single "should have done" or "could have done" or "did" or "didn't do" that would have changed that why. All that love could do was done"

Donations are now closed.  We raised $2890.00

10 September 2010

Flying with Young Kids

We have done flights between the US, UK and Australia with our three youngest kids. The flight to Australia for us is 7 hours to the west coast of the US and then 15 hours to Australia. We last did this with 6 month twins and a 2 year old!

So how to survive:  Set realistic expectations.  Any long flight with kids is unlikely to be pleasant.  If you can, try to  travel during nap-time and on off-peak days.

Before the Flight
  • If it is long-haul, contact the airline and pre-book a bassinet.
  • Print boarding passes at home.  Kids love window seats.
  • Pre-order childrens meals or other special meal requests.
  • If you have infants, many airlines will not let you check-in online - ring them and they can do it on the phone.
  • Older kids can still get lost in an airport - talk to them about what to do if they lose you.  To avoid this, have Dad go first, then the kids (youngest to eldest), then Mom -  for things like escalators and security checks. 
  • Split your packing between bags so that if one bag gets lost or delayed, it does not contain all your child's clothes you need at your destination.

Packing for the Flight
If you have a few young kids, you really need your hands free and so I suggest packing only one backpack for carry-on and not a diaper bag.  Yes it can be done even with twins and a toddler.  What to pack:

  • Non-messy snacks - crackers, Cheerios, grapes etc.  Definitely no chocolate!
  • Check out the rules for traveling with breastmilk and/or formula from the TSA.
  • Lots of wet-wipes.
  • A change of clothes for each kid and yourself.
  • A portable DVD player if you have one.
  • A comfort item for each young child - blankie, lovey or favorite stuffed animal.
  • Diapers and change mat. Ziplock bags for dirty diapers.
  • Older kids can pack their own small back-pack. 
  • Plenty of cheap, small toys that the kids have not seen before - hit the Dollar Store for these.

Getting Through Security
  • Make sure both Mom and Dad have their cell phones.
  • Wear slip-on shoes (Crocs are great).
  • Don't wear belts etc that can set off alarms.  Empty all pockets before getting to security.
  • Talk to your kids about what to do so they don't get scared.  Make sure they walk through ahead of you and not behind (always better for herding).
  • Use an umbrella stroller that you can check at the gate or a Baby Bjorn / sling if you have a baby.  This is one time a toddler leash may be really useful.

Before Boarding
  • I suggest parents eat a decent meal before the flight as when you are looking after the kids you may not get a chance to eat on the plane (plus the food is generally horrible)
  • Bathroom stop for everyone and diaper changes.
  • Have young kids burn off some energy by running in a safe area of the terminal.

  • I personally do not board when they call for kids - it is often an extra 1/2 hour stuck in a small place whilst people push past you.  But, if you are taking your infant car-seat then it may be worthwhile getting onboard early. 
  • If there are two parents, one can board with all the kid's gear at the first call and the other joins them towards the end of boarding with the "worn-out" kids.
  • I always apologize to the people sitting near us as soon as we get on the plane.  A lighthearted "I am so sorry they put you near us", followed by "would you like an extra set of ear-plus" usually lightens the situation.

Once in Your Seat
  • You can bring your own car-seat for infants but that is a lot to carry.  I like the CARES product which is special restraint for use on planes.
  • Strap the kids in and give them an activity to do - I love Color Wonder books for kids.
  • Stuff the seat pockets with things you might need before the seatbelt sign is turned-off.
  • Make sure the most needed things - like diapers, bottles etc are packed close at hand - under the seat in front of you if possible.
  • To prevent ear trouble - give your baby a pacifier/bottle/breast during take-off.  Older kids can suck on a lollipop.

During the Flight
  • Bring out the new toys when the going gets tough.
  • Try to stick to your routine.  When it is nap-time for instance, get out their blankie, read a book and say good-night.
  • Ask the airline crew for help.  If you have multiple young kids there are times when you just need an extra pair of hands!
  • Accept help from people near you.  A lot of people would love to hold your adorable baby whilst you eat your meal or use the bathroom.

06 September 2010

Potty Training

My first three kids were all totally different to potty train - yep each kid is an individual. My eldest daughter was easy - done in 2 weeks and "trained" at 22 months. Second daughter - took about 4 weeks and "trained" at 24 months. Her twin brother, took 3 days but this was at aged 3 years and 3 months! When I say "trained', I mean not having more than the occasional accident which I think happens to all kids at least up until age 4 years old.

Are they Ready?
You can generally tell if they are open to starting to use the potty by these cues:
  •  They are interested - they like to watch you go, they ask about it, use the word "potty" and love to see you flush.
  • They are uncomfortable when wet and let you know - pull at their diaper, take it off or just tell you they are wet.
    • Note - my son was not ready for a long time and told us that in many ways - refused to even sit on the potty, "no" whenever the potty was mentioned etc.
  • Can follow simple directions - "let's go to the bathroom".
  • Can stay dry for about 2 hours at a time.

     Making it Fun
    • Take a shopping trip to choose a potty.  There are all sorts with bells and whistles - we used a variety including a very simple one from Ikea which were also handy for the car.  If you live on multiple floors - invest in a couple.
    • Check out the Big Boy / Girl pants together and let your kid choose their new gear.
    • Pick-up a fun reward - M&M's, stickers etc.  Something cheap as you will need a lot of these!
    • Pick up a library book on using the potty - there are so many fun ones to choose from and as you only need it for a short time, the library can be a great resource for this.  There are also DVD's as well which some of the diaper companies put out. 
    • Cheerios - these are great for target practice for boys and girls alike.  Throw in one or two and get them to hit it hard.
    • Potty song - you can make up a fun tune for potty time.
    • Of course - summer is a great time to train - less clothes to wash.
    A friend recommended this Fisher Price Froggy Potty and I have to say, it looks great for boys!

      • Make sure you are aware of when during the day your child generally goes.  Usually this is about 10-20 minutes after a drink and for my kids, pooping is always mid-morning!
      • For the very first time, start the day off with a trip to the potty whilst they are drowsy and less resistant.  If you let them get up and settled whilst still in their diaper they will invariable go in their diaper.  Most kids need to go upon waking - take advantage of this and it can also help establish a morning routine.
      • Make it fun and talk your child through the process.  "We just had a drink now lets go and use the potty.  We need to put our wee/poop in the potty now.  Let's go!"
      • Asking a child at this age if they need to go is generally not helpful.   Set up a routine and pretty soon they will get the hang of it.  I would suggest before and after every meal, before and after nap-time and anytime when a lot of drinking has occurred.
      • Sometimes a child will give you cues they are about to go - grimacing and hiding are common tactics for the would-be pooper.

      The First Time
      • My kids follow me in whenever I go so they know what the potty is for, but if yours have not done this, take a full diaper and dump the contents into the toilet for your kid to see.  Then have fun flushing it down together.  Warning - the noise might frighten them so let them know there will be a big whoosh! 
      • Make it a rule that the child can ONLY flush after they have contributed to the toilet. 
      • Make a really big deal of any success.   It might be a big step even to sit on the potty - so reward this too.  We did a cake, phone calls to the grandparents and, of course, lots of cheering when we had out first wees and poops!

      The best thing for my son was to sit him on a big toilet facing the back of it.  Those pee guards on a lot of potties were not cutting it for us.

      A Word On Pull-ups / Piddle Pads / Training Pants / Clothing
      • Pull-ups.  These slow the process down as the child does not get the wet, uncomfortable sensation in them.  My son would be quite happy to sit all day in a wet pull-up.  They are great for outings though when you may have to run to the toilet and of course, accidents always happen in the car!
      • Piddle Mat - I would suggest you invest in a couple of these.  They protect your car-seats and highchairs from accidents.
      • Training pants  - These are great - they are like padded underpants which will catch a lot of an accident and the child will still feel the wet sensation.  Make sure you get a multi-pack.
      • Elasticised pants for boys are a must.  You don't want to be struggling with zippers at that very second you need the pants off.
      • Dresses are great for girls - avoid shorts and jeans - again a hassle to get off quickly.

      These will happen a lot.  Don't make a big deal of it as it may upset your child so he won't want to use the toilet at all.  A simple "Oh I see you had an accident. Remember wee and poop go in the potty.  Next time you want to go potty, tell Mommy and I will help you".

      A lot of kids are totally potty-trained during the day but take months and even years to stay dry at night.  Tips for night-time:
      • This is one time I vote for pull-ups as they can get out of bed, go potty and get back into bed without too much trouble.
      • Limit liquids before bed-time.
      • Make it part of the bed-time routine to go to the bathroom just before bed.
      • You can buy expensive monitors that signal an alarm with bed-wetting but I am not sure these actually teach the kid to anticipate going - it is more about waking them after the fact.
      • A good couple of mattress protectors will be needed.  I have one that covers the whole bed and a smaller crib one that I place over it just around where they lie.  This way, I can remove the crib one if wet and hopefully not have to wash the big one.

      Best Tip
      Get the camera out and take photos of the big event.

      Not Getting It
      If there is real resistance, take a bit of a break and try another time.  All kids eventually will get it and it is not worth stressing over.

        01 September 2010

        Toddler Tantrums - A little Story About Connecting with Emotions

        I am talking about the under 3 year age group here and definitely not little babies. The bullets will come latter as I want you to read the story!

        So here is how things usually went at out house with our 3 year old Diva. I would hear blood curdling cries from the Diva and run to see what limb had been cut off. A quick check for blood and I am asking "what's wrong?", "Are you hurt?". Diva continues to cry so hysterically that she can't answer. I calming keep asking her to tell me "why are you crying?". After 20 minutes of this (I kid you not), I am yelling at her to stop crying and go to her room until her tantrum is finished. She does this and cries for another 1/2 hour.  I am still listening to this feeling both stressed and frustrated - and extremely mad!

        The light goes on in my head. Diva has just seen my tantrum - everything I have just asked her not to do, I just did.  So, my new approach - hug and gently say words to reflect how she might be feeling.  Things like:  "Oh you are really upset. You are really crying hard and can't talk. You must be so sad". It is mentally hard for me to make the switch in my head as my stress levels go up the instant I hear the hysterical crying - it is an effort for me to calm down and really try to connect emotionally with her - as opposed to stopping the offending behavior.  And yes, it actually works faster, with both of us feeling a lot less stressed.

        Oh - and her twin brother is normally standing nearby with a guilty look on his face.

        So tips if you have an emotional diva:
        • Try to connect with emotions.  Reflect what feelings they are expressing.  Focus on understanding her emotion.
        • Get down low and give a hug.
        • Calm yourself down - this is really hard but try to think of a mental image of your child that always makes you happy.
        • Talk about what happened when they are calm. 
        • Introduce new behaviors to deal with frustration or whatever sets your Diva off - I have told mine to come and ask for a hug when she is getting mad.
        So the tantrums will no doubt continue for a long time, but I am in control of how I am going to react and I am not going to be that yelling, screaming mother.

        PS - I am reading a great book which is helping me with this: "Ten Days to a Less Defiant Child" by Jeffery Bernstein.