Spring is Here!

Spring is really in the air here in Seattle. The cherry blossoms already peaked, the daffodils have come and mostly gone and now it’s tulip time! The weather is showing signs that it’s starting to turn into “spring” – which means still chilly temperatures and a lot of rain with a few nice days interspersed throughout the week. I’ve been loving watching the buds quickly turn into leaves and less so the weeds starting to multiply on our gravel driveway. Time to get out my gardening gloves, I guess!

In any case, it is truly spring here. Ben celebrated his first Easter {I don’t think we even acknowledged it last year?!} this year. It was fun to use Easter as an opportunity to welcome spring, eat some ham and freshen up some of his toys.

{No candy in this Easter basket! A cuddly lamb, some books, dot markers and sidewalk chalk for our tot this year.}

We’ve gotten the spring cleaning bug in more of an organizational and out with the old in with the new kind of a way this season.

{Traded in my “Let it Snow” mug for this one! And then we tossed out our sub-par coffee maker and traded it in for a less fancy, better quality producing Bonativa coffee maker.}

I did a major pantry overhaul and completely re-arranged the shelving in our black hole closet under the stairs. It’s amazing how making a few tiny adjustments can go so far! I also re-arranged just one shelf in my baking cabinet and it has made it so much more organized and easy to find things {I already had the containers on the bottom two shelves}. Now we just need to re-design Ben’s closet to make room for his sister. It’s so overwhelming even contemplating how we’re going to hold another child’s wardrobe in our little house!

Some of my favorite organizational things have been little clear organizational bins for food {you can see them sort of up on the third shelf above}, along with adding baskets and a big canned organizational system. My absolute favorite change, though, was being able to stand up my baking sheets vertically instead of stacking them on top of each other. These changes have made a world of a difference in our house!

There’s always a never-ending list of things to do, especially as the seasons change, and we are happy to welcome the warmer weather, birds chirping and the thought of sunshine. Oh, and thank goodness the window washers come this week!

{Even when it rains, though, it’s ok… we’ve got rain boots and raincoats to keep us dry as we go out to count the worms….}

The Hole

In the midst of a crazy week last week we got some unexpected news from our builder that he was breaking ground on our lot out in the mountains! We knew it was bound to happen sometime in the next month or two and were anxiously awaiting the news – it still caught us off guard and seemed to happen really fast!

In any case – Alex and I drove out to our property just outside the town of Leavenworth, about two hours east of Seattle, over the weekend to check out the “hole” in the ground and make sure the excavator put it in the right spot.

It is darn perfect. The house will be nestled in the evergreens, facing out on a bluff atop a river overlooking the valley. I’m not sure how it all came together so smoothly but seeing that hole made it feel all the more real to me. If everything comes together as expected we should be in the house before Christmas, which was what we were really hoping for.

{The view from our future deck – even on a rainy spring day it sure is nice to look at!}

This mountain home will be life changing for us and our little, growing family as well as our extended family and we are so grateful that things are coming together as well as they are. We can’t wait for Ben and his little sister to be able to grow up spending so much time in the mountains.

Baby #2 Update

Like many pregnancies, this one has been filled with ups and downs. I officially reached and passed the “halfway” point and am currently 22 weeks {or 5 months} pregnant.

So far, there have been a lot of similarities with my pregnancy with Ben and some definite differences. Neither pregnancy has involved food cravings, oddly enough. Both were filled with food aversions, particularly in the first trimester, some nausea and a whole lot of heartburn. This one includes some significant lower back pain {darn!!!!} and so far, especially in the second trimester, a “normal” amount of energy.

I remember loving the second trimester in my pregnancy with Ben. I felt almost normal, and that’s sort of the case with this one, aside from the back pain. I’ve been sleeping really well almost my whole pregnancy so far and surprisingly have had less sheer exhaustion than I remember having with Ben. I’m staying up until a reasonable adult time in the evenings and waking up feeling well-rested, which is a joyous feeling, especially since I know what’s coming once this baby girl arrives.

This pregnancy, though, is a little different. I’m more experienced and less naive. While I realized quickly in my first pregnancy that once you see that “yes” on the pregnancy test, you’re never “out of the woods” so to speak, on anything, forever, in the rest of your life.

Experiencing a serious pregnancy complication, as I did with Ben, and living through a month in the NICU is enough to change anyone’s perception of future pregnancies. My worries with the second pregnancy have nothing to do with the color of the walls, whether the theme for our nursery will be woodland creatures or airplanes, nor finding the best “organic, all-natural crib mattress” on the market.

My concerns with my second pregnancy include the hope of a healthy baby at the end of a full-term pregnancy, wondering what labor is like {I never labored before delivering Ben via c-section}, how we’ll adjust to life with two, whether I’ll still get my morning and evening cuddles with Ben, if I’ll be able to breastfeed this time, and hope hope hoping this baby will adjust to napping on-the-go so I can keep up with my toddler. And let’s be real, baby #2 is probably sleeping in a pack & play in our closet.

{19 weeks pregnant}

During the first half of the pregnancy my doctor’s appointments were fairly regular, though because it’s a high-risk pregnancy they included additional ultrasounds. In my mid-point ultrasound this week we got a big scare. The doctor told us after the ultrasound that the baby had a heart defect, which in it of itself could be just fine, but it could be an indicator of something more serious. Fast-forward two nail-biting days to our echocardiogram where the pediatric cardiologist tells us there is absolutely nothing wrong with our girl’s heart and that it’s perfectly normal. It seems as though the ultrasound was mis-read.

In any case, our babe’s little heart is not the only thing developing normally – she is too! We got a confirmation that she is indeed a she {a little doubt in the last ultrasound} – and she’s huge! According to the ultrasound she is in the 85th percentile for size {so that means if she was compared against 100 babies, she’d be bigger than 85 of them!}. Wowza! Our fingers are crossed that she keeps on growing normally and that we get to meet her in late July or early August.

~

Looking back on my pregnancy with Ben:

  • 20-week post
  • 24-week post {and for the record, I don’t think you’re technically 6 months pregnant until 26 weeks. Oopsies! First time mama mistake!}

Ben is 22 Months Old!

We are rounding the corner towards age 2! It’s sort of funny – for about the first time ever, people are accurately guessing Ben’s age. Parents at the park or random strangers will say “oh, is he almost two?” Typically when someone guesses how old Ben is they are wildly off, but lately it seems like he’s started “looking his age” I guess!?

Ben’s 22-month stats:

  • Weight: 24 pounds + some ounces {~ 10th percentile}
  • Number of teeth: 12
  • Clothing size: all over the board – anything new I’m sizing up to 2T for tops. Bottoms are so funny – he’s still in 12-18m at the very largest, but still fits into some 9-12m bottoms. He’s very difficult to buy clothes for!
  • Shoe size: 5 {toddler size}
  • Favorite foods: cottage cheese, smoothies, crackers, any kind of pork, broccoli
  • Favorite activities: dancing, climbing, singing songs, cuddling his stuffed animals, reading, watching ABCs in Espanol {Elmo video}, going to the playground, running, going to school.

I feel like the theme of Ben’s last month has been fun and talking, talking, talking. Maybe talking will be the theme for all of toddlerhood!? Boundary testing is most definitely another theme lately. We’ve employed the “ok I’m going to count to 5 and then we’re going to be all done with xyz” which has been surprisingly effective so far.

During the last month Ben spent the better part of a week on vacation with Alex and me – we had such a fantastic time just the three of us. Ben has been a dada’s boy a lot more in the last couple of months – it’s been so sweet to see. I just love watching those two together. There are few things more endearing than seeing a dad and his kid having fun and living in the moment. It melts my heart.

We signed Ben up for swimming lessons, so he’s been able to be a little fish a ton in the last month. He loves jumping in the pool and is working on blowing bubbles, kicking his feet and scooping his hands. Aside from when he’s jumping in the pool he is suuuuper calm in the water. It’s so funny to see that part of his personality come out since he’s basically never calm or sitting still. I think he loves swimming lessons and will regularly talk about “swimming in water” throughout the week. I only wish the water and locker rooms were a tad bit warmer! Brrrrrrr.

Ben was an early talker, for sure, and in the last month we’ve seen another major leap in his vocabulary, speech and general language development. He’s more forward in talking to strangers and he is stringing together much longer sentences and his overall vocabulary and understanding has exploded. He’s asking questions now, which is basically the coolest thing ever! I can’t get enough of hearing him talk. Some of my favorite things he has started saying are:

  • What is that?
  • Good morning!
  • What are you doing?
  • Pee-yew! {while plugging his nose}
  • Ouchie! Mama kiss it.

Additionally, Ben has started singing songs – multiple verses, too. He sings the Wheels on the Bus, parts of pat-a-cake, parts of Old McDonald. He loooooves music. He’s starting to string together the Spanish ABCs and he’s working on counting to 10 in Spanish {and English, though his Spanish counting is oddly better!}. Colors are basically a lost cause for now.

In addition to singing, Ben has become quite the dancer. He’s been a little entertainer for quite a while now, but his new show includes dancing. The other day we were at Starbucks and there was some upbeat music playing and he went over to some girls, said hi and then started dancing for them. It was hysterical! He is such a flirt and really loves to be the center of attention.

I love watching the associations he makes with things. We were talking about an alligator recently and he “snapped” his arms like an alligator and associated that with a song he sings at school. It’s been interesting seeing him make the association from his three caregivers – we can tell he’s connected some type of parallel between them.

We’re preparing to say “bye bye” to Ben’s high chair. He is protesting it like none other. So far in his 22 months he’s been receptive to our rule that he needs to remain in his chair until everyone is finished eating {trying to instill good manners!}, soooo… we’re working on coming up with some new ideas, likely including a booster or a cool kids chair of some sort.

Another thing we are working on is re-setting Ben’s naps. The last three months Ben has been a terribly inconsistent napper. Two hours is an ideal naptime for Ben – lately, he’s been waking up very upset, clearly not ready to be awake, after exactly an hour. We’re establishing some new naptime habits and using our handy dandy Hatch light to help Ben to know when it’s okay to wake up from his nap {hint: the light turns green!}. So far the first week is going well and he’s been much more calm when he wakes up.

We are so excited about the recent change we’ve made to our childcare situation – we are feeling very positive about Ben’s new au pair and the care he is receiving throughout the day. We’re hoping Ben will continue to make leaps and bounds as we move closer and closer to his second birthday.

Big Changes for the Allens

We’ve had kiiiiind of a lot going on since I last posted about our early-March trip to Arizona! Not only has spring come to Seattle, but it feels like we’re in a new season in our family, too.

Just after we returned from our vacation, Alex began his new job. He’s now three weeks in and is working at a very large tech company that is based here in Seattle. So far, he loves it. He really likes the autonomy, the increase in responsibility, and definitely the commute. His office is close to downtown Seattle and he has loved riding his bike almost every day {3 mile commute – hard to beat!} and he is enjoying being in a more vibrant environment.

The transition to his new job has been fairly easy so far in terms of its impact on our family. We’ve adjusted our morning routine a bit, and Alex is getting home only slightly later in the evening. So far, he’s been home almost every night for dinner, which is a goal we both have. Navigating a new benefits system and insurance policy has been pretty straightforward. I expected to feel the change a lot more. Ultimately, all that matters is that Alex is happy, and that definitely seems to be the case.

At the beginning of Alex’s second week of his new job we came to the realization that our childcare situation was not working out as well as we had hoped. Ultimately, we decided that we needed to move on from our au pair and find a replacement for her.

For about a minute we toyed with some alternate ideas that strayed from having an au pair. Then we realized the cost of having to pay for two separate childcare arrangements for our kiddos {once the baby is born this summer} and realized that an au pair fits very well with our family’s desires, as well as our budget.

Things happened very fast once we made the decision to enter the re-match process. We ended up finding Stacey, a lovely British au pair awaiting a re-match in New York. Stacey was available to begin almost immediately and we were able to work out the logistics so she arrived five days after our re-match process began.

We had a few days, though, where we had childcare gaps, so Alex’s mom “Grammy” came out to watch Ben last week. The two of them had such a special time. Grammy has unlimited energy, it seems, and kept Ben entertained and taught him new things all week long. We were so grateful for the time that they had together.

{Decorating cupcakes with Grammy!}

In the background while all this has been going on has been the final pre-construction process we’re managing to get our mountain house ready for building! A huge high five goes to Alex for navigating that. We’re SO SO close to breaking ground.

Now we’re about to start our first full week with Stacey as Ben’s solo caregiver. We’ve had several days of training and getting acclimated to our family and the city and I think she is ready. So far she is fitting in extremely well with our family and she and Ben bonded right away. Stacey is very sweet, comes with a ton of tot experience {baby too!} and is very conscientious and intuitive. I think we are in good hands!

We are very, very happy to be into a new month and a new season here in our little house. I have a feeling this season will be a great one and we are looking forward to it!

Arizona Family Vacation

We’ve had an unusually crazy winter this year – typical winters for us are filled with trips to the mountains, ski vacations and chasing the next snow storm. This winter threw us off with a difficult childcare transition, Alex’s job search and the intense preparations that went into getting ready for interviews, and me being pregnant. So! We made an impromptu decision to head to Arizona for what will probably be our last vacation as a family of three.

We packed our bags and headed to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area for four nights and five days to enjoy some time together just the three of us. We have been to Arizona several times before and we stayed at the same resort as we went to last winter with Alex’s family.

I put quite a lot of thought into airplane activities for our very active toddler. I found some awesome “things that go” gel stickers, washi tape, new Water Wow coloring books, fun new snacks and a couple new books. Turns out I really didn’t need to bring much to hold his attention. He snoozed for half of the flight down to Arizona, snacked for a bit, watched the people and then requested to watch his favorite Elmo video – “ABCs in Espanol” a few times, and then we were there!

We opted to buy Ben his own seat, which was a smart move, since he’s so active {you don’t have to buy a seat for a kid under age 2}. It was really nice to have the whole row to ourselves and allow him to spread out a bit. Just after takeoff Alex asked if Ben wanted to put his head down in Alex’s lap and take a nap and Ben said yes, laid his head down and fell asleep. It was a really precious moment, especially given that Ben is on-the-go about 93% of the time.

The timing of our flights allowed us to optimize the travel days quite a bit. We were checked into our room by 1:30 and I think we arrived at the pool by 1:45. We knew right away that Ben was going to love spending the next four days swimming.

The middle of most of our days were spent swimming. The resort we stayed at has a main pool with poolside dining and is perfectly heated. They also have a fantastic kiddie pool that is so perfect for toddlers – it’s a zero depth entry with a max water depth of 18 inches. The kiddie pool is the sole reason we selected this resort and our decision held strong when we saw how ideal it is for Ben right now.

Another thing we hadn’t considered is the stairs and ledge around the big pool offered Ben a great deal of independence, which is key for him right now. He loved walking around the edge of the pool and practicing going up and down the stairs. The first day he was content cruising around in his floatie but then he realized he could be more independent and the floatie was a thing of the past.

Later in the trip Ben discovered the joys of jumping in the pool. I’m positive if we would have let him he would have jumped to Alex a thousand times. He absolutely loved it and continued to request “more” jumping.

Somehow I forgot how chilly it can get in Arizona in the evenings/mornings. Our little toddler is an early riser – especially in an earlier time zone – so our days started before the sun rose. This meant we had several hours to fill in a hotel room with limited activities while we waited for it to warm up enough to head to the pool.

Much to Alex’s and my surprise, Ben entertained himself really well. He loved pushing the stroller around our unit, opening the kitchen drawers and putting things in his stroller, pushing the luggage rack through the room and watching out the window for golf carts.

We managed to remain pretty consistent with Ben’s nap times and keep to a regular meal schedule, too. Our first full day we enjoyed lounging by the pool while Ben napped next to us. After the first day, though, we decided he would get a better nap back in our room.

One new thing Ben got to experience was television. We had 2 TVs in our room – one in the living room and one in the bedroom. In our actual house our TV is down in the basement in my office and Ben almost never goes down there so he really hadn’t been exposed to TV before, and the few times he had, he was not interested. We randomly turned on the TV and he watched a cartoon about puppies and seemed to love it. I don’t anticipate him watching much TV at home, but it was sweet to see him engaged in the show for the first time.

Ben does get the occasional privilege of watching videos on the Sesame Street app on his iPad at home and he loved playing “ABCs in Espanol” over and over again. He’s starting to learn the ABCs in English and in Spanish.

While this was a very different trip than it would have been if just Alex and I traveled to Arizona together, we absolutely loved the dynamic that Ben added. We all had to be a little flexible and work with his early morning wake-ups {and the sweet, sweet snuggles that followed}, the need for a mid-day nap, the inability to have the patience to sit in a chair and eat at a restaurant three meals a day for five days, and the need to run around a LOT. It’s all a part of parenthood and we were happy to make accommodations for our little guy.

The memories we made on this trip will undoubtedly last a lifetime for Alex and me. It brought us so much joy to see our little boy so in his element and be exposed to so many fun childhood milestones. The best part, though, was the time we spent. For me, seeing Ben and his “dada” have five days together was priceless. We could have been hunkered down in an igloo for all we cared – the time we spent together was so special and I hope to remember the sweet little moments forever.

It’s A…….

Well it’s probably a girl!

Apparently wiggle worm #2 is on her way and made it difficult for the ultrasound tech to get some good views. As far as she can tell, though, it’s a girl!

We are so excited that Ben will have a little sister to pal around with. It’s encouraging that she’s starting out wiggly and rambunctious so she can keep up with her big brother. It looks like Ben was right all along – he’s been saying he’s having a sister for a while now.

Otherwise, all is well with the pregnancy. The size of the baby is totally normal. Boring is good!

Ben is 21 Months Old!

We’ve reached the end of another month and this time it means that Ben is 21 months old! We’ve begun preparing for his second birthday already and this little boy is a full-fledged toddler on the move. I just can’t believe it.

Ben’s 21-month stats:

  • Weight: 23 pounds 11 ounces {10th percentile}
  • Number of teeth: 12 {he has finally been catching up and getting more teeth! I think there are two more on their way in.}
  • Clothing size: all over the board – he officially broke out of 18-24m pajamas, and anything new I’m sizing up to 2T for tops. Bottoms are so funny – he’s still in 12-18m at the very largest. I bought him 9-12m shorts for our upcoming trip. He’s very difficult to buy clothes for!
  • Shoe size: 5 {toddler size}
  • Favorite foods: cheese, cottage cheese, oatmeal {a new favorite}, crackers, getting a “steamer” {steamed milk from the coffee shop}, pork in any form. He still likes broccoli but is back to being “over” bananas and virtually all other types of fruit, though he can’t get enough smoothies or applesauce.
  • Favorite activities: running, climbing, singing songs, reading, making coffee with his new {toy} coffee maker, playing with his toy train, digging through his backpack to find snacks, dumping things out, jumping in puddles.

Over the last few months Ben has been practicing using a fork and a spoon to eat with. I think he’s officially gotten to the point where he prefers utensils instead of his hands. His dexterity is getting quite impressive the more he practices. He has been proving that he’s really ready for major eating independence on things like applesauce, yogurt and cottage cheese – all things we at one time spoon fed him. It’s been fun to see the progression and how proud of himself he is.

{Homemade toddler pizzas were a hit one night when mom & dad went out for dinner.}

Ben’s morning wake-ups have been a little funny for a few weeks. Most days he’s been waking up quiiiiite early. We use a fantastic tot clock so he knows that he has to wait for the light to turn green before we’ll come in. Recently he started singing to himself in the mornings as he awaits our arrival. It is the sweetest thing listening to him in his room singing songs. I love that he’s actually starting to sing songs – he will occasionally request some of his favorites or just start singing the words.

“Getting cozy” is one of Ben’s favorite morning activities. We put him up on our bed, pull my big cozy blanket up over us and read stories while Ben drinks his milk. Sometimes he’ll get cozy in his chair in his room all by himself. He’s also figured out how to get Alex or me out of his chair if he wants to sit there by himself – he’ll put his hand out and say “walk” and then take a couple steps forward with us, let go and then go climb into the chair and take it over. Clever boy…

In keeping up with common developmental themes over the last few months I think language skills is again the biggest area where Ben has grown this last month. He’s putting together phrases and stringing together more dual/multi-word sentences and making noticeable connections. It is so fun to watch this take shape.

His communication skills are becoming more and more fun and helpful. He can point out an “ouchie” now, which of course is very helpful. He has begun to ask for more of something specific. He’s answering more questions and following more instructions. Very occasionally without prompting, he will say please or thank you. He has started to say “it’s okay!” to himself if he is scared of something. This is precious – seeing him connect emotions and how to deal with them all on his own is remarkable.

Some of his new {and adorable} phrases include:

  • “Come up Jackson!” {telling Jackson to come up on the bed}
  • “No way!” {has replaced plain old “no”}
  • “What is that?” {when he doesn’t know what something is}
  • “Come on!” {when he wants you to come with him}
  • “Want some”

Ben is definitely getting more and more into the toddler phase of testing boundaries as of the last couple weeks. It’s pretty amusing to see that as a parent. We approach it with a sense of humor and a whole lot of patience, as well as acknowledging that he’s trying to figure things out. It’s just really funny, though, watching him test, test, test the boundaries and hearing me tell him not to do something several times and watching the look in his eyes when he decides to do it again and again to figure out what he can get away with. We’re learning more and more about the toddler years and how quickly things change.

Some of my favorite moments of the last month have been snuggling with my sweet boy, hearing him say “love you” and “good night” and “morning” and getting more kisses. This little boy just melts my heart and his dada’s too.

An {Extra}Ordinary Saturday

Saturday morning was coolddddd and wet and just plain dreary. Ben started the day by making us some coffee in the kitchen with his new coffee maker. This has been such a hit. He loves coffee and can feel helpful and included when we involve him in our coffee adventures. Adorable.

We planned a fun outing that could accommodate a damp Seattle day and included a trip to MyGym, Ben’s tumbling class, and a stop at a cool park on the way home.

Alex and I had so much fun watching how much confidence and coordination Ben had during his gym class. It was really neat to see him climbing so thoughtfully and also to see how comfortable he was in the class. {Photos are courtesy of my friend Ali from a different day’s class.}

After MyGym the clouds cleared and the sun was out!? We were expecting a rainy morning, which is why we picked a “rainy day” park to stop at on our way home. Alex had heard about the Dragon Park in Mercer Island a while ago and we thought it would be a perfect rainy Saturday stop.

It turned out, Ben seemed to have wished the rain had continued. All he wanted to do was jump in the puddles! We had the whole playground to ourselves and he had zero interest in it – just climbing the dragon and seeking out puddles. Too funny. Side note: Hunter rainboots for tots are AMAZING. They go on so easily and they stay on!!

{Naturally, jumping in puddles of mud results in falling in a puddle of mud…Thankfully we have a washing machine}

Ben took a very early nap, courtesy of the car ride home. When he woke up he became my little baking assistant and we whipped up some banana muffins. Yum!

Our family days tend to look pretty much like this – we love planning an outing in the morning, having some cozy time together at home, getting outside and doing things together, whether it’s sitting on the floor drinking “coffee” out of Ben’s wooden coffee mug or reading his “choo choo” book 17 times over and over in front of the fire, family time is the highlight of our weekends.

Toddler Tips

As a way to help guide our au pair and make sure we’re on the same page I took some time to put together a little “toddler tips” basics/manual. Alex suggested sharing it on the blog since we have so many friends with tots, so, here it is, without much adjustment for other people.

Buuuuut, before reading it please know:

  • The purpose of this was for our family and stresses values and discipline models that are important to us. We realize not all of these tips and values align with every other family’s structure.
  • Of course there are hundreds more tips that I didn’t include/think to include. This list is relevant for our family right now and the needs we felt should be addressed. Surely as Ben gets a bit older we’ll add to the list.
  • Our au pair isn’t a fluent English speaker so instead of having her read a book or a bunch of websites I created this as an easy-to-read manual that was specific to our family. That’s the spirit by which this was written.
  • Most of the information, below, is from personal experience; however, some things I learned/tips I got are from The Danish Way of Parenting and parents.com.

Basic Info about Toddlers

Toddlers are trying to figure out the world and become independent little people. Their moods change very quickly as a result of developmental changes and limitations. Their brains are not as developed as adults and they have trouble reasoning, understanding consequences and danger. As their caregivers, we’re responsible for setting fair limits, loving them, keeping them safe and teaching them.

  • Toddlers (and children) are inherently good – they are supposed to push boundaries and test the rules. They’re not trying to misbehave or be manipulative. This is how they learn.
    • Embrace it with patience – it’s fascinating watching a toddler try to figure things out.
  • Toddlers can’t communicate their wants and needs as well as they want to.
    • It’s our job to remain calm and help him explain what he wants.
  • Toddlers don’t understand the concept of time and don’t have much patience.
    • Use this to your advantage and distract him – sing a song, read a book or fill the sink with bubbles.
  • Tots have trouble controlling their emotions. They have very strong emotions and don’t know how to deal with them.
    • Acknowledge that he was having fun in the sandbox and doesn’t want to go home and that it must make him angry. Help him learn label his emotions.
  • Toddlers have trouble switching from one task to the next.
    • Tell him what to expect next – “now we are going to get your hands wet, then we will put soap on them. After we put soap on your hands, we’ll rinse it off and then dry off your hands with a towel.” This teaches coping skills.
  • Toddlers test boundaries to see what they can get away with and what’s acceptable. He’s not trying to be manipulative – he just doesn’t know.
    • Teach him what is okay and what’s not. Be patient when he is testing the limits. It’s how he learns.
  • Tantrums are very normal for toddlers – it is part of how they are figuring out the world.
    • Help him calm down by remaining calm yourself, patting his back, and acknowledging that he must be very upset or disappointed. Don’t give into what he was upset about – talk him through the disappointment. Work through it together.

Our Family’s Philosophy

Above all, our parenting philosophy is pretty simple – we want to provide a nurturing, loving environment for our children to grow up in. We want our kiddos to value themselves and others, be empathetic and hard-working people. We want our children know it’s okay to fail – that’s how we learn.

Empathy: This is a concept that is extremely important to our family. In the US, shaming and judgment are more prevalent than empathy and we are working very hard to be a family that prioritizes empathy and compassion rather than pointing out the flaws in others.

  • See the good in others – pointing out positive traits in people helps us focus on the good and for it to become more natural. “Do you see Shoshana sharing her toy with her brother? She is so sweet. That’s so considerate of her.”
  • If another child is misbehaving or throwing a tantrum mention “maybe he was tired or hungry. Sometimes people get grumpy when they’re hungry or miss their nap.” This avoids negatively labeling another child.
  • Validate his feelings – his feelings may be different than yours. Acknowledge his feelings by saying “I can see that you’re really upset that it’s time to be done painting.”
    • Avoid telling him how he should feel – don’t say “you have nothing to be upset about – stop crying” and instead say “I can tell you’re upset. Can you try to tell me what’s wrong?”
  • Read books about feelings or notice the expressions on other children’s faces in stories or in real life. Talk to Ben about the emotions the characters might be feeling.

Encouragement versus praise: We want Ben to become resilient, strong and well-adjusted. It’s important to us that Ben have a growth mindset, which means that the way he thinks about things and himself can change. For example, if something is difficult, he should practice so he can improve, rather than thinking it’s too hard and he’ll never be able to get it. We also want him to realize that if he does something well it’s because he worked hard, not because he’s smart.

  • Encourage hard work, learning a new skill or trying something by himself.
  • Say, “Wow – you did that all by yourself!”
  • Get his validation: “Look at that painting you did! Do you like it?”
  • Instead of saying “you’re so smart!” (please never say this to Ben!) say “I can tell you have been working really hard at practicing counting. You’re really getting the hang of it!”
  • Avoid saying “Great job!” and instead, focus on the achievement.

Be a role model: model the behavior you want to see. If you want a toddler to calm down, be calm yourself (he’s definitely not going to calm down if you’re angry or worked up!) – crouch down, speak softly and this will show him that he is safe.

Positive attitude: remaining positive, even when your patience is being tested, is a skill that requires practice. This is also a life skill that leads to resilience and hard-work.

  • Be careful about what labels you give a child/toddler (what you say about a child) – labels can stick around forever. Choose positive labels. (Example: Say “he knows what he wants!” Instead of “he is so stubborn!”)

Hugging and affection: it is Ben’s choice if he wants to give someone a hug. Please ask him if it’s okay if you give him a hug. Respect him if he says no.

Basic Tips & Ideas

Provide choices: toddlers (and children of all ages) want to feel like they are in control. Allow them to make some of the choices during the day.

  • Instead of saying “do you want to brush your teeth?” Say, “it’s time to brush your teeth – do you want to use the green toothbrush or the blue toothbrush?”
  • When leaving the park (of course after a warning!) say, “it’s time to go home now. Would you like to carry the bubbles or the chalk?”

Anticipate transitions: changing from one activity to the next can be difficult for tots, especially if they might not like the transition.

  • Explain what is going on and what is going to happen next.
  • Give a warning – “it is almost time to clean up your blocks so we can go have lunch.”
  • He wants and needs to know what to expect will happen next.
  • If you’re taking him away from something fun, be prepared with distractions.
    • If it’s nap time and mom and dad are around, make sure Ben has the opportunity to say good night to mom and dad and that he knows it’s about to be nap time. This will help with the transition.

Set limits: the toddler years are spent figuring out boundaries. Tots need to know what is okay and what is not okay. It’s critical to set limits for them so they can learn.

  • Consistent routines help tots to know what to expect, which makes it easier on everyone.
  • Use “Freeze!” at the park or outside if Ben is running and won’t stop. Tell him to “freeze!”
  • Think of what is good for him, not what he wants/doesn’t want.
  • It is okay to make him wait – this teaches him delayed gratification, patience and that he doesn’t get what he wants when he wants it.

Involve him: getting Ben involved in regular chores, like laundry, selecting his plate for lunch or putting away toys teaches him valuable life skills, including responsibility.

  • Have Ben hand you the silverware when emptying the dishwasher. Bonus: count how many spoons he hands you, etc.
  • Ben can put away his pajamas in the drawer or help sort socks.
  • Have Ben put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, or put all of his laundry in the washing machine.
  • Make it fun to put away toys – “can you find all of the blue blocks and put those away first?”

Always remain positive: tell him what you want him to do instead of telling him what not to do.

  • Say “please use your fork to eat your broccoli” instead of “stop banging on the table with your fork.”
  • Instead of simply saying “no” or “stop it” tell him what you want him to do.
  • Any attention to behavior is attention, even if it’s negative. Focus on the positive.

Creative play: one of the best ways for Ben to learn is by playing. It is our goal to provide new opportunities for him to explore the world.

  • Go outside! Jump in puddles, look for worms or ants on the sidewalk, play in the shade if it’s hot, wear mittens if it’s cold and warm up with some hot chocolate or steamed/warm milk. Play outside every single day.
  • Get messy – of course be smart about this and don’t ruin clothes/rugs/anything in the house, but it’s okay for Ben to stir flour into cookie dough and make a mess; it’s okay for his hands or his face to get muddy or covered in paint (washable paint, soap and washing machines were invented for a reason!).
  • Try something new:
    • Let Ben touch and feel different things – get a small empty box and fill it with sand or shaving cream or bubbles and water or dried pasta or ice.
    • Practice learning colors by getting different colored paper (example: red, yellow and blue paper) and corresponding toys (example: red, yellow and blue blocks) and having Ben put all of the blue toys onto the blue paper.
    • Paint with a fork or a cotton swab or your hands instead of a paintbrush.
    • Play sorting games – put all of the teddy bears in one pile and the stuffed dogs in another (group different animals, shapes, colors, sizes, etc.)
    • Trace shapes with cookie cutters.
    • Find creative ways to practice counting, the ABCs and learning colors and shapes.

Talk!: Explain everything and talk, talk, talk. Tell him what you’re doing, point out something on a walk, ask if he sees the bird flying out the window. This helps him build his vocabulary. Talk to him all day long. Especially in Spanish!

Read!: Read to Ben every single day. As much as you can. Tell him what’s going on in the pictures. Ask him to point to different things in the pictures. This helps him build his vocabulary.