Answering Hard Questions

Answering Hard Questions

Recently, our nearly six year old has been asking some real gems about the world. I have entertained several queries about God, her body, my body, the bodies of others, people’s intentions, what happens when people die, and even questions about disasters and murder.

This is not something you generally prepare for when expecting a child or when raising a youngster. Thankfully, answering hard questions can be simplified by keeping in mind three simple guiding ideas: truth, tact, and appropriateness. Please take a moment to read more at my post today on Natural Parents Network: Answering Hard Questions, and leave your own thoughts in the comments.

Its not our house without a dog!

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and pets.

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“It’s not our house without a dog”

Abbey and Raven 2009Those were the words my children sang to me a few weeks after we arrived in our most recent home at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak, Alaska. I had previously met their “when will we get another dog?” with a simple “maybe soon- we’ll see.” I told them that getting a new dog and training him or her was a lot of work, and that mommy was kind of enjoying not having to clean so often and that our family was still getting used to being in a new home. . . I explained that our housing unit did not have a fence around the yard, and that we already have a dog (just “on vacation” with the in-laws for our tour in Alaska). . . I tried all of the adult logic that I could, and then with one line they convinced me to take yet another trip to the shelter like Hubs and I had done early on in our marriage and see if there was a helpless canine that struck our fancy that needed a nice place to live.

“Mommy, it’s not our house without a dog.”

It’s true, in the most literal sense, and in an emotional way. We have had a dog in the family (at times 2) since I was 5 months pregnant with Abbey. Raven (our now 8 year old lab) lived with us from before Abbey was born until we moved to Alaska last summer. She is now spending time with her dog-grandparents in Wisconsin – we weren’t sure how a move all the way to Alaska would affect her. The kids have never known a house without a dog. And obviously, having a dog in some way meant something to them. . . so we went to the shelter.

We came home with Mya, a pitt mix with a lovable personality, that had sadly been roughed up by the other dogs in her former home. You could see relatively new scars where she had been scratched and bitten, and she was energetic, to a fault. The poor thing really did need a loving home and some exercise and discipline. So, she became mine.

Our dog Mya

Mya is extremely strong, so I needed a little help training her to walk and obey. A neighbor gave me a pinch training collar and blessed me immensely by showing me how to safely use it to curb Mya’s pulling and teach her that I’m in charge. It was a real necessity in the beginning, but now, after consistent training, she walks and obeys without it for the most part. We got a yard and park training collar for her as well – it shocks if she needs a serious reminder like if she tries to dart out in front of a truck or jump on a child, but mostly, all Mya needs to hear are the positive and negative tones of the collar and she remembers what she ought to and ought not to do. I spend a lot of time training her to obey, and all of our neighbors remark at what a different dog she is now than when we first brought her home from the shelter.

The kids (now 3 and 5 1/2) assist with feeding and watering Mya and they love to pet, love, and play with her. Sometimes, they accompany us on walks, but Mya and I are pretty brisk walkers, so sometimes I walk Mya in laps around the park while the children play. Even though Mya is all muscle, she is very gentle with the children, and I am so happy for it.

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In the past 10 months, Mya has come a long way from the neglected and super-hyper puppy that we adopted into a gentle, silly, and loving canine part of our family. It’s hard to imagine what kind of life our sweet dog would have if we had not decided to give her a second chance in our home. I’ll get on a soap box for a second and say that I agree wholeheartedly with Bob Barker: “please spay and neuter your pets!” because there are SO MANY unloved and unwanted pets in shelters all over the world that wouldn’t have been there if their parents had been spayed and neutered.

10426576_10103742821662281_4687028894505643436_nSome would wonder why I “gave in” to the pleas of the children and got “another dog” to take care of when I could have just stayed dog-less and avoided the cost, stress, cleaning (can you say shedding?), and extra responsibility that comes with being a dog owner. My answer to that question is that it’s not a dog or cat’s fault that they’ve come into the world. It’s not fair for them to be mistreated or to live in a shelter (no matter how humane). Abandoned, neglected, and abused pets don’t deserve to waste away with no one to love and discipline them. If I can help one have a comfortable and useful life, I will. In our married life, Hubs and I have fostered 2 puppies that we found on the street, and fully adopted 2 dogs that bring love, energy, joy and a sense of discipline and responsibility to our home.

So, I guess the kiddos were right when they said in their way-too-grown-up-tone: “But mommy: Our house is not our house without a dog.” Both Mya and Raven have challenged us to give attention, love, and discipline to something other than ourselves – and I think that in a nutshell, that’s a main positive of having a pet.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • What Animal Rescue is Teaching My Children
  • Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shares some tips she’s learned on how to find the perfect child-friendly dog for your family.
  • All New Animals Are “Woof” — Baby Boy is still learning animals. Life Breath Present doesn’t yet have any at home, but he still believes that all animals are “woof.” Here’s the proof.
  • Dude, where’s my Horse? — Adora loves horses, but Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different really doesn’t. However, Adora’s longing wins out; learn about their interactions with horses here.
  • Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet — When is a family ready for a pet? Donna at Eco-Mothering discusses her worries as well as the benefits of adopting a dog, including how it will affect her seven-year-old daughter.
  • Parenting Challenge–Learning from Animals–running the emotional gammut — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the emotional learning her family has experienced through sharing their lives with animals.
  • Puppy Love for our Family — In case you didn’t catch it from the blog title, Pug in the Kitchen, the family pet is an integral part of Laura’s family and home life!
  • Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook is mostly vegetarian…not 100%, and not because of animal rights…yet she has found that the idea of not hurting animals is the aspect of vegetarianism most easily understood by a young child. She explains what her son has learned about not eating meat and how it has affected his social life.
  • Pets & kids: The realities — Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the benefits and drawbacks of pet ownership when young kids are involved.
  • HOW PETS CONNECT WITH EMOTIONS: KIDS & PETS AFTER 9-11 — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence discusses the importance of pets in lowering stress after traumatic situations, why children choose certain pets, the loss of a pet, and the role of parents in teaching care-giving to animals in a warm, gentle way.
  • It’s not our house without a dog! — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work describes why giving a loving and disciplined home to at least one shelter dog at a time enriches the life of her family, and has become a vivid memory in the minds of her children.
  • Canine Haikus

    Kids, dog, haikus, at

    Dionna (Code Name: Mama).

    Pet-centric poems.

  • Beanie’s BunniesOur Mindful Life‘s Sofi Bean has gotten her first pets!
  • Montessori Care of Pets — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her experiences with kids and pets and shares Montessori resources for pet care.
  • How to Nurture Your Child’s Awareness of Spirit Guides — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a post from her regular contributor Lauren of SpiralElixir.com. Lauren looks at the concept of animals as spirit guides and how deeply children are connected to this realm. She also encourages us to open ourselves up as parents to the reality that children are naturally more connected to the animal world, giving us ideas on how to nurture their relationships with their Spirit Guides.
  • No Puppy! — Meg at the Boho Mama shares her tips for dealing with toddlers and the (very real) fear of animals.
  • Year of the Pets — Jorje of Momma Jorje wasn’t sure she ever wanted pets again, but things have changed a lot this year!

Mindful Inventory – Winter Edition

Haven’t been writing much recently – have I? Well, I have been writing term papers for college classes, but blog articles? Not so much. So, what’s been going on with ME that’s made me so “blog-silent” the past few weeks? To answer that, I’m going to do what I call a “Mindful Inventory” . . .

I like to do these for myself when my head starts spinning with lots of things going on. It helps be remember to be proud of my accomplishments, aware of the joy in my life, and to plan for the time ahead.

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IMG_4768THE MAIN IDEA of the Winter has been: Acclimating to a new place, and especially to a Kodiak Winter (totally different than a New England Winter, apparently!) And as a native Texan, I am missing my warm, sunny weather. Bad. Abbey has followed suit. She talks constantly about Grandma and Grandpa and how she wants to visit them in Texas.

THE BEST THING about the Winter has been: Celebrating Christmas, Valentines Day, and getting ready for Easter as a family. Sledding has been super fun this winter (though we only got a chance to do that twice . . . the rest of the snow was not powdery enough for sledding).

TOP 3 WINTER HIGHLIGHTS:

1. Continuing my online college courses with A’s and B’s (I only have two full-time semesters and one 1/2 time semester left till graduation!)

2. Sledding with the Hubs and kids.  Abbey and Joe are getting so big, and are sledding down the hill all on their own now!

3. Meeting new people and getting to know Kodiak better: This is a very different place for me, having grown up (and always lived in) a moderately large to huge city, and having been born in the South.  This winter was both depressing and uplifting, depending on the day! I’m proud to have gotten through it and I am looking forward to the Summer!

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE SUMMER: The SUNSHINE, picking salmonberries, and doing more outdoor play and hiking. This winter has been so dreary and grey. I cannot wait for some brighter weather!

WHAT I WISH I HAD DONE MORE OF THIS SEASON: Writing for Amywilla.com and Sewing and marketing for Silly Bear Handmade

WHAT I DID JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF: Getting to know new people and taking Abbey and Joe to the indoor pool. Seriously, the indoor pool saved us this winter. I also did very well on my online college courses and talked with my advisor to plan out my last three (yes – only three!) semesters!

WHAT I’M PROUDEST OF THIS SEASON: Being able to balance school and home responsibilities, overcoming obstacles to get back to exercising regularly, and learning some new recipes.

GOALS FOR THE SPRING & SUMMER:  Sew more, and worry less. Write more, and procrastinate less. Enjoy the family, and get Abbey ready for Kindergarten in the fall and Joseph for his first days at preschool! Hubs is planning to teach Abbey to fish and to ride her bike on two-wheels. . . I’m hoping that Joseph will be fully independently pottying (he still wears a pull up at night) by the end of the summer, and I would like to have written more here at Amywilla.com.

Thanks for reading, as always. I blog to share my life and thoughts with YOU so that we can have a dialogue about life.

How has YOUR Winter been?

Are you ready for the SPRING and SUMMER?!

Mindful Inventory Winter

Milestone Moments: I gave away my cloth diapers!

Joseph has not been wearing diapers for a few weeks now. He still has trouble remembering to go potty when he wakes up in the morning – hence the night time pull-up – but as of two months before his 3rd birthday, he has been wearing big-boy underwear full time during the day, with accidents few and far between.

At a certain point in these past few weeks, I had to decide what to do with my stash of cloth diapers.

Sweet Ride Diaper

Most of them were sewn by me: Mama made, Silly Bear Handmade fleece diapers made up about 90% of the stash. I couldn’t fathom trying to sell them on a swap site, since my WAHM diaper brand is not well known, aaaaand I’m pretty attached to some of them. . . not gonna lie. But I wasn’t sure if or how to give them away. . . because I spent so much of my time (nearly) perfecting the art or sewing cloth diapers, and all the memories of Joseph with his fleecy little bum are still so fresh in my mind.

But they had to go. I wasn’t using them anymore, and someone else could. But who?

Finally, I wandered into the perfect conversation: A friend of mine in the Kodiak community that has a large family (talking, kids from college-age to diapers) was talking about her youngest boy, who is a friend of Joe’s. He is nearly two, but she wants to hold off on doing any potty learning or training with him until they get back from a family vacation to the lower 48 this summer. Smart. However, she said, lately, J. had been pooping in several diapers per day, and she said that she just felt so wasteful throwing out diaper after diaper. I offered my stash of fleece cloth diapers, and she accepted – she asked if she could buy them off of me, but I told her NO.

“Enjoy them, take good care of them, and pay it forward to another family once you are finished with them” I said.

And then I packed them all up, handed them to her at the next play date, and that whole two-year period of Joseph’s life was absolutely over. No more diapers.

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What a milestone moment.

I have a second preschooler now, wearing underwear and the nightly pull-up. Not a baby, not a toddler: a kid. Nearly three. And I gave away my cloth diapers. Wow. Amazing how life just bulldozes forward and we all grow and grow and grow.

I was very pleased to have found a family to gift with my diaper stash. And I hope that they are pleased with their gift. And I am incredibly proud of my big boy Joe that just keeps growing as if there is no stopping.

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What did you do with your cloth diaper stash after your littlest was finished using it?

 

What kind of emotions did you experience as your children learned to potty independently?

Yes, I nursed two children at once!

This is a question that I get frequently from friends and from mothers when I’m leading La Leche League meetings. Many moms and expectant moms are curious about how (and why) I tandem nursed our two silly bears, Abbey (now 5) and Joe (now nearly 3).

Amywilla.com: Yes, I nursed two children at once!

Amywilla.com: Yes, I nursed two children at once!

Here is a post that I wrote a while back to discuss tandem nursing. It may not be a goof fit for everyone, but for us, with some reflection and adaptation, it worked to our advantage and to our children’s great benefit. Abbey weaned naturally at 4 years and 11 months – and Joe, now nearly 3 years old, comes to my breast an average of twice per day (surrounding sleeping times).

Navigating a Tandem Nursing Experience

When I became pregnant with our second child, Joseph, I was elated. Instantly, I thought forward to tandem nursing Abbey (who would be 2.5 years at Joseph’s due date) and our new baby, and I was really looking forward to enjoying the experience of nursing two children and the bond that it would form!

When the actual tandem nursing experience came to pass, elated wasn’t quite the right word for the feelings that surfaced. At times I found myself feeling like a mommy dog, nursing a litter of pups! But it still was wonderful, and it’s been an interesting and beautiful experience, and a stunning example of how our bodies are made to mother and how our mothering is meant to evolve.

 

Tandem Nursing During the Newborn Period

 

One of the first things that Abbey said about her baby brother was “Mommy, you need to give my brother Mamas. He wants mamas to drink!” and she started to undo my nursing tank and gently nudge Joseph’s head toward my breast. Sharing was not an issue for Abbey. She constantly wanted to “share mamas” with Joseph, and was happy to do so. But she wanted to share with Joseph every time that he ate. . . and as a newborn eats upwards of 12 times per day, I had to tell Abbey that sharing with him every time he nursed was just not feasible nor was it a comfortable thing for me.

 

When planning to tandem nurse, I urge you to do some meditating on the newborn stage, and prepare some appropriate limits and explanations for your older child about why a newborn baby nurses so frequently, and how that is different from the pattern of nursing that they use as an older child. For example: You’re not a baby; you’re my big girl: For Abbey, it was vital that I explain to her that she just could not nurse all day long. . . statements like “Babies drink mamas all the time because they’re growing really really fast. You’re a big girl, and big girls drink mamas sometimes AND eat food to grow tall and strong!”

 

Abbey still enjoys eating her snack and then running around the house showing off her strong muscles and long legs. Feeding Abbey a snack while Joseph nursed in mid-morning or mid-afternoon was also helpful. I’d preface her snack with “Wow, won’t Joseph be excited when he is old enough to have this yogurt like you! What a special snack!” and then when she was settled with her snack, I would settle down to nurse Joseph.

Tandem Nursing an Older Baby and a Preschooler

Simply saying “No thank you” and asking Abbey to respect my words when she would ask me for “mamas” started to happen more and more as Joseph grew into a crawling infant and would need to nurse for reasons other than just sustenance.

When he would [and still] “ask[s]” to nurse by rooting at by breast or signing for milk because his gums were sore from teething pains or if he fell and bumped his body while trying to learn a new gross motor skill, I would scoop him up and nurse him. . . and Abbey wanted me to do the same for her.

At this point, I just had to start saying “No thank you” to her requests to nurse. . . evolving my child-led-weaning ideals to save the happiness of the household, and do best by both of my children.

I was feeling touched-out and challenged by Abbey’s intensity and demanding nature regarding my “mamas”. And mommy off balance is not good for a family.

Teaching Bodily Integrity:

I needed to come back to a place of balance and peace, and setting limits with my nursing preschooler allowed me to reinstate balance and peace in our tandem nursing relationship and in our household.

I had planned on letting Abbey naturally wean and not imposing my feelings on her requests at all. But this type of all or nothing approach just didn’t work out for our family, and so I taught Abbey a respect for my bodily integrity right alongside teaching her about her own.

Committing to and explaining bodily integrity: I told Abbey, “This is my body, and these are my “mamas”. I choose to share them with you because I love you, and I know you need to nurse sometimes. But I can’t nurse you all the time, and I feel so unhappy when you throw a fit over nursing. Ask me calmly about nursing, and then mommy can enjoy nursing you!”

If you find yourself feeling touched-out by tandem nursing, I urge you to contemplate the WHO’s recommendation on breastfeeding past infancy, and meditate on what it means for you.

They recommend breastfeeding to 2 years of age and then after that, as long as is mutually beneficial and desired.

I asked myself, “I know that breastfeeding my older child is normal and healthy for both of us. But I am having a hard time. What would make this nursing relationship desirable once more for me? What can I change to make it beneficial for ME?” So that I could provide a peaceful and comforting nursing relationship for Abbey instead of one filled with strain and struggle.

Finding Peace:

What I needed was peace in our nursing sessions. With some work, establishing and enforcing nursing limits for Abbey, we have once more come to a place of peace in our tandem nursing story. Now, Every day when Abbey comes downstairs from her nap, she asks to nurse on the sofa – she offers her brother one breast or the other, and takes the other “mama” for herself. Switching after a couple minutes, holding hands, playfully tickling and tugging at each other, my little toddler and beautiful child tandem nurse at my breast . . . and I am finally, actually elated about tandem nursing, just like I dreamt I would be.

This post was originally published on www.amywilla.com.

Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits

amywilla.com: Encouraging Healthy Sleep HabitsIt was a cool, fall night, a couple years ago. The curtains were drawn but I’d left the windows cracked, and I was enjoying the soft night air as I sipped some wine and knit in front of the TV. Joseph and Abbey were snugly tucked in for night-night time, and I was relishing in the peace and quiet.

Until I felt that something was amiss.

I couldn’t concentrate on Emily Deschanel and David Borneaz and the Booth/Brennan love affair on the TV. . . I messed up my knitting three times in a row. So I got up to go check the house and see what was bugging my mommy-senses.

When I got up the stairs, I noticed the glow of Abbey’s flower light. Her door was wide open and her bed was empty. I checked the restroom. No Abbey. I checked our bedroom, quietly, so as not to wake Joseph, sleeping by our bedside. Abs wasn’t in there, either. So, where was she? I started to panic just a little and headed back downstairs. I checked the whole house twice over, looking for my preschooler, and started to panic that she had gone outside without me knowing! Then I heard a thump in the dining room and a little voice that scared me out of my skin.

“I’m just hiding mommy” she peeped.

You should have seen me.

I nearly peed myself, I was so startled.

Abbey had been under the dining table the whole time. Quiet as a mouse, she had ninja-sneaked her way out of her room, down the stairs, through the kitchen, and under the dining room table without me even hearing her. And scared me to death both with the thought that she may have gone outside in the middle of the night and with her startling reappearance.

“In your bed, NOW Abbey. You scared me! Bed. NOW.”

And now, the same scene repeats itself with Joe as my new little escape artist.

Bedtime. . . how should we handle it?

Encouraging Healthy Sleeping Habits

(How to deal with sneaky bedtime escape artists)

amywilla.com: Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits Sleep is a huge target issue with all parents. It’s how we recharge our batteries – and as adults (and especially as parents) we get so little of it that we find sleeping precious. Ironically, our little ones. . . don’t always share that sentiment. From naptime struggles to endless bedtime negotiations. . . from silliness and slyness to serious and scary nightmares and fears, sleep is an issue that affects every parent and child. Sleep is also a necessary and vital component to a child’s overall health and well being. Toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep per 24-hour period and preschoolers require 11-13 hours to be at their best 1. It’s important to make sure our children get enough sleep and that they develop healthy sleeping habits to serve them in adolescence and adulthood. But how? With ninja-like sneaking, stall tactics, tantrums, fears, etc. . . our little ones can make naptime and bedtime incredibly tricky. Here’s my list of tips to help resolve naptime and bedtime struggles so you and your Silly Bears can rest well.

  1. Compassion and Authenticity. Let’s be real, parents: coping with a child who is sensitive or troublesome at bedtime is incredibly irritating, no matter how truly frightened they are or incredibly hilarious their antics can be. Naptime and Bedtime are important, and we really don’t like it when bedtime snuggles become bedtime struggles. Be compassionate with yourself and allow yourself to be upset about sleep issues. I find that if I allow myself to be frustrated, it’s easier to be calm and solve the issue. Also important to remember is that you are not alone in having sleep time struggles and issues. Being authentic and compassionate with yourself is a great first step to overcoming the issue at hand and encouraging healthy sleep (and stress) habits for your little one.
  2. Clarity. Don’t let the cat get your tongue when your little one escapes bed, but don’t turn into Tolstoy with your response, either. A simple “It’s bedtime. Let’s go back to your bed.” is good enough.
  3. Calm. Nothing ruins parental authority faster than an emotional meltdown, or an adult temper tantrum. If I need a moment to compose myself after several times of putting a sneaky escape artist back to bed, I take one – and I am always glad that I did. Yelling, threatening, or chastising a toddler or child for sneaking out of bed sometimes feels satisfying, but it is far from successful and definitely not a healthy habit. I find that when I stay calm but firm in my voice and word choice, “It’s bedtime” resonates much more with my children.
  4. Consistency. I cannot stress this enough: Children thrive on consistency. Make a plan for yourself, and get your partner in on the plan as well. Make an effort to respond the same way each and every time that a child gets out of bed or protests going to sleep. Ours goes somewhat in this order:
  • Defining Night Night: “It’s night night time. At night, we get comfy in our beds, close our eyes and go to sleep. It’s your job to rest and I’ll see you in the morning!”
  • Do you need something to help you sleep? (our list goes extra kisses, a bedtime water cup, a small snack, and then and only then, extra cuddles)
  • Mommy and daddy love you, but its bedtime – it’s time to sleep now!

We repeat this as much as we need to, as calmly as possible, for as long as it takes to settle our Silly Bears. Usually, it takes no more than one or two go-throughs. Other nights, it can be a marathon.

5. Candor. Be truthful with your children about their need for rest, and be truthful with yourself about how much energy you can give to entertain your child’s bedtime push-back. Try not to compare your bedtimes to other families routines, but being truthful about how you do bedtime with your parenting peers is helpful for everyone, if it comes up.

How do you handle sneaky bedtime escapes, or toddler tenacity when it comes to night time?

 

Do you find that Consistency, Calm, Clarity, and Compassion help YOU and your family to maintain a healthy bed time routine?

Tell me in the comments!

Friday Focus: Love and Discipline

www.amywilla.com: Busy Mom

These two can keep a mama busy and create some stress! Self-control is so important in parenting with love and respect.

I often get questions from personal friends and from online followers on why (and how) we choose not to punish by spanking. I will be totally honest and say that both my husband and I have failed in this and have laid hurtful hands on the kids in moments of weakness and helpless anger. But mostly, if we feel angry and unable to handle things calmly, we try to take a parent time out util we can deal with the problem and/or behavior with calm and consistency with our house rules.

Modeling and consistency are key.  Discipline is showing a child the way to live. They’re following in our footsteps. So, spanking makes absolutely no sense. It’s telling a child, “I don’t like what you did, and I’m bigger than you, so I can exert my power over you and hit you” it also says “you’re bad!” to the child. So I try not to do it. I don’t want to create more stress in hour house than there already is!

 

Modeling and Consistency

www.amywilla.com: Compassionate Time-Outs

I usually carefully police my OWN behavior in order to make sure that I am showing my babies the kind of person I want them to look up to. I do use time outs, but only when one of the kids really needs a break from the situation at hand – and the time outs are not punishments, they are time to stop and think about the rule that they are disregarding. So, I sit WITH them, we watch the clock, and take deep breaths for one minute (or three minutes, sometimes, for Abbey). Then we recite the rule that the child broke, talk about what happened to lead to the destructive or disrespectful behavior, and think of something we can do differently next time.

Time outs aren’t shame-based when they’re used with compassion. . . and they’re not useless when used with consistency and presence. It helps the child think about what they’re doing and the actions that they’re taking. And lets them know that mommy (or daddy) cares about them. Responding with sensitivity can be so useful in consistently supporting house rules and respectful behavior without shaming.

In Their Shoes

Of course, this example uses breastfeeding as an example for an adult to get “in children’s shoes” . . . the topic is so central in my life as a LLL Leader and student of Public Health. So, here we go: lets get into a situation in which we are upset and someone is trying to change our behavior with words.

Suppose you are a mom (or maybe you are a mom) who tried awfully hard to breastfeed, but ended up weaning from the breast early and using formula. Would you feel empowered to try again if someone said “shame on you for not making it work the first time! You need to be punished for the way you behaved! Babies deserve breastmilk! What’s wrong with you!?” or if someone said instead, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out the first time. That must make you feel sad. I can help you try again. We can talk about this, and next time you try, I know you can succeed!”

I’m pretty sure that in both of the situations above, you would prefer the gentle, supportive, sensitive approach. It’s human to be self-preserving, and being yelled at or shamed is scary. We respond better to positive language and perform tasks (including learning how to calm down when upset) better when positive, supportive language is used.

Obviously, we as adults don’t want to be shamed and ridiculed for our behaviors – It feels awful, even just thinking about it, doesn’t it!? So why would we want to put that same heavy, awful feeling on our little ones?

Do you try to parent with compassion?

What do you think your discipline tactics say to your child?

Mamatography January 2014

www.amywilla.com: January 2014

This New Year has been rainy, cold, and foggy (with a little snow and LOTS of ice) for our new home in Kodiak, AK. We have done some playing outside in the elements, but mostly, we find ways to have fun inside. Playing ball inside and learning how to use the computer have been frequent activities (gentle, Joe!)

www.amywilla.com: Mamatography January 2014
We also all got sick after the New Year. It was an awful stomach bug, but thankfully we are all well now. Abbey and Joe have been having fun playing together, building and playing pretend. And when Abbey is at preschool, Joe likes to relax in her new “princess bed” and hang out with mommy (this last photo is from a mommy-Joe date at the base pizza parlor). He is growing SO FAST. He will be 3 in April. Where does the time go!? www.amywilla.com: Mamatography January 2014

I have also made my first steps into preserving food. Pictured is pressure canned vegetables and chicken broth, hopefully to help make chicken gnocchi soup more easily. We’ll see!

Fit Mama: Figuring out Exercise Again

So, it’s been a while since I could call myself “fit”

Healthy? yes. But fit? Not so much.

Why I love Working Out:

  • I love the endorphin release after exercising – so I mostly work out first thing in the morning.
  • Working out sets up my day in a positive way
  • I have more energy
  • I’m proud of myself for doing something GOOD for me
  • I know I’m setting a good example for my kids – showing them that fitness is fun!

What I’m Working On, Workout Wise:

When we were stationed in Maine/New Hampshire, I had the amazing blessing of a local YMCA with a KidsZone day care area. This particular KidsZone was staffed with ladies that I came to know well, and trusted with the care of my children, and my children loved playing there! So, I had the opportunity to have a full, relaxed workout for at least an hour if not an hour and a half. I would shower, and then pick up the kids and we’d start our day!

Here on Kodiak Island, AK, that is not the case. I have been struggling with the lack of a gym with a day care. Finally, I decided, my environment could not dictate my activity level, because putting myself first with regard to what I need to feel good was something that I needed to do to survive here. I thrive on stability in exercise, whether or not I am trying to lose weight.  Exercise just makes me feel good, and its something that I need to do to be balanced and healthy.

For now, I am working on keeping to my schedule and making sure that I am exercising my body 6 days a week, like I used to. The biggest challenge for me has been exercising with the kids around. They distract me so much. But, I’m working on it!

 

Workout Schedule: Figuring Out Exercise Again

How do you feel about fitness?

 Is it something that you work into your daily routine?

 

How do you balance family and fitness?

 

Fume all about it . . . or not. Researching Anger to Deal with Stress

5085242776_454151d7eb_b*Uuuuuuuuuggggghhhhh*

Do you know the feeling?

There are many times a day in which I feel overwhelmed with a sense of annoyance. Sometimes it escalates to genuine anger, and I’ve been trying to do some meditation, prayer, and research on how to alleviate that feeling, while still acknowledging the reasons that I’m feeling stressed. I used to have real issues with anxiety, so I know that paying attention to my feelings, physical and emotional, and seeking information about how to manage them healthfully, is important in being able to overcome emotional barriers in my life.

In my introspection and research, I’ve found that it is not usually worth it to fume over things. Apparently, I used to fume quite often. . . hoping that “making a scene” would encourage those annoying me to come to my aide and apologize or offer help. I have found through introspection and experience that not only does this not work. . . but it really just makes things worse. When anger is “suppressed, and then converted or redirected,” it can easily end up “turned inward, and can cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression” 1

The American Psychological Association explains that the three main approaches of dealing with anger are “expressing, suppressing, and calming” 2. Calming is the most effective and healthiest option, because expressing and suppressing anger can cause emotional, physical, and social health issues if used exclusively, and without self-observation and self-control.

I find that I personally use the first two methods (expression and suppression), and only a small amount of calming. Usually, I do some expressing of my anger, and then I think of something positive to distract myself and remember that “it’s not that bad” and “this too shall pass.” I’ll call a trusted friend, or one of my parents, and talk about what has frustrated me. Sometimes, I’ll talk to whoever is around about it. This tends to be the kids, so I’m not sure if that is good or bad. Maybe I am modeling a positive anger management technique for them. . . as long as I keep my words loving and not too full of candor!

Sometimes, if I have a moment to do so, I pray. I ask God to lift the feelings of anger from my heart and that I can use the energy I would direct toward being angry to accomplish acts of love instead. Sometimes, I put on the Indie Singer/Songwriter station or Christian Rock station on Pandora (if one of the two are not already on). Those genres of music really tend to calm me down.

What I definitely want to avoid is to develop a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. This can happen when someone suppresses anger, without calming down in the moment, and then ends up “constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments.” 3

So, what helps?

After doing my introspection and research into anger, I have constructed this plan of action to soothe and calm my anger in moments of *uuuuuuugggggggghhhh* . . .

  • Fuming doesn’t help. Expressing my anger in a harmless way, like venting to a trusted friend or praying can be beneficial in helping me calm down initially. But obsessing over the moment or issue that has made me angry creates an environment in which letting go of the negative aspects of anger is impossible. So, I’ve decided that I’m only allowing myself one expression of anger per anger-inducing moment. I won’t allow myself to fume over it.
  • Calming my body by breathing can be very helpful. Physiologically calming ones body by breathing deeply and slowly, picturing air flowing into the gut and out, can really help in calming down anger.
  • Calming mantras and meditation can be effective in treating anger as it happens, and to prevent anger from affecting me. One of my favorites is using water imagery and a water-inspired mantra that was introduced to me by a fellow blogger and natural parent.

AmyWilla.com: Researching Anger to Deal with Stress

What do you find effective in dealing with anger and stress?

Do you find that researching and taking action to understand something helps you to cope?

Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

  1. American Psychology Association. Controlling Anger-Before it Controls You. http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx?item=2#
  2. American Psychology Association. Controlling Anger-Before it Controls You. http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx?item=2#
  3. American Psychology Association. Controlling Anger-Before it Controls You. http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx?item=2#