Mommy & Me Date Ideas

Mommy and Me Dates

When my daughter started her part time preschool program this Fall,  I knew I wanted to do something special each week that just the two of us could enjoy. Having been home together full time for the previous year, I found that I was really missing having her with me all day every day. To be entirely honest, I still miss her but I know that giving her this opportunity to explore and develop in a learning environment is an experience that’s unbeatable and I feel fortunate that we’re able to provide that for her. One of the things that I worried about when we made the decision to enroll her was the closeness we have together that I feared would start to fade. Even though I still get to spend two full days a week and every afternoon at home with her, it isn’t the same as it was before (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). So, once a week, we go on “Mommy & Me Dates”.  We take some time after school one day a week to do something for just us.

When the weather was nicer, we spent some time outdoors (thanks for the free entertainment, Mother Nature) going to the park or just taking a long walk together. As the weather has shifted and the cold, winter air has started to settle in across the Kansas City metro, we’ve had to find indoor activities to enjoy on our “Mommy and Me Dates”. Even if you’re not a mommy (Dads can do this, too) and even if you don’t work outside the home, I still advocate getting out of your normal ‘zone’ to enjoy some time away with your little one in an environment that’s special. I wanted to share some of the things we do with all of you in hopes that it might inspire you to do the same.

5 “Mommy And Me Date” Ideas (That Dads Can Use Too!) Winter Edition

KidsCoffee Starbucks

1. Quiet Time 

My husband and I are both coffee drinkers and some months ago, our daughter started to catch on. Every once in a while (okay, all the time) she would ask for a ‘sip’ of our coffee (which, for those of you without kids, always means the whole thing). I think that’s why our occasional visits to a local coffee shop are so special to her. Starbucks had child’s sized hot drinks available for about the same price you would pay for a milk at just about any of your local fast food chains making ‘coffee dates’ pretty affordable. Going to these coffee shops is also a great learning opportunity. The first time we went, I had to explain to my daughter that people go to coffee shops for a lot of reasons. Some people go to work, some people go to read, and some people go to enjoy quiet conversations with their friends. I was surprised at how well she understood that it’s okay to talk in coffee shops but we have to keep our voices low and stay in our nice, comfy seats (which wasn’t a problem at all).

books

2. Story-time

Nothing compares to the feeling of sitting down with your child and reading a story together. Books have the amazing ability to take us to kingdoms far, far away where we encounter dragons, knights, princesses, talking animals, and all sorts of fun journeys that only exist in fairy tales. Watching the look on my daughter’s face as we navigate our way through a captivating book is priceless. Also priceless (in the literal sense of the word) is enjoying story time together. Our local library provides lots of opportunity to enjoy books right there in the building. With seating available in the children’s area, it’s a great way to enjoy reading in a setting a little different than your own home. If sitting at the library isn’t your scene, most Barnes and Noble stores have seating in their children’s book sections as well that you can use to read to your little one.

Cat Room SPCA

3. Cuddle Time  

I know there will inevitably be some readers who will cringe at my next suggestion but your local animal shelter is a GREAT way to enjoy some time with your little one. Spending time with animals is wonderful not only for children (who learn about being gentle, being compassionate, and responding to an animal’s cues) but it’s also beneficial for the animals who don’t often have enough human interaction. We’re fortunate in that our local SPCA animal shelter has rooms where the well behaved cats are free to roam around. Even better, our local animal shelter welcomes visitors and allows people to explore the cat rooms freely for as long as you’d like.

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4. Play Time 

We are lucky to have several fun spots that offer open gym time around Kansas City and, as my daughter gets older, I’m finding that she enjoys that kind of activity more and more. While attending open gym isn’t always the most conducive for spending quality time together, it does grant me the rare opportunity to watch my child test out her abilities. It also offers me the chance to teach her that I’m always there for her whether that’s through encouraging her to jump into the foam pit or lending a hand as she works on the balance beam, she knows that I’ve got her back. No matter what. Many places offer open gym time for reasonable rates (ranging from $2 to $8) and kids get to expend all of that excess energy that’s been building up indoors during the colder months.

Be All There

5. My Time

Maybe it seems ridiculous that an hour of completely undivided attention is something to consider ‘special’ but the fact of the matter is that we live in a society where we’re constantly faced with distractions. Many of us take the world with us wherever we go in our pocket or purse. We’re so constantly connected to everything around us that it’s hard to step away and just be connected with the little person who matters most. My favorite “Mommy and Me Dates” are the ones where I’m giving my child my full attention. Even better is that she gets to pick the activity. Sometimes we paint nails together, sometimes I do her ‘makeup’, and sometimes we just play puzzles or have a dance party. I know that whatever we end up doing on these dates is going to leave a lasting impact on her memories of me from childhood and those are moments I hope we can still share together whens she’s an adult.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your child? 

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More On Parenting The Strong Willed Child (Plus a Few Tips)

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Several months ago, I wrote about electing to view parenting a strong willed child as a gift rather than a challenge.  I would encourage you all to go back and read my post here, if you haven’t already.  While every word that I wrote back then still holds true today, I’m learning (as a parent) how I can help alleviate some of the day to day stresses associated with raising a highly independent individual.

I have the luxury of holding a job that I love and am able to do out of the comfort of my own home and so I spend a couple of days each week and every afternoon at home with C.  It’s a great balance between being a ‘working mom’ and a ‘stay at home parent’ and it works for me.  But it’s not always sunshine and roses.  My daughter, who will be three years old in February, attends a Montessori preschool part time.  If you’re unfamiliar with how the Montessori philosophy works, it’s geared towards allowing children the individual freedom to learn at their own pace in ways that are best suited towards their style.  It’s such a wonderful program and I’m happy that my child has this experience.  The only problem is that we don’t have a Montessori home.

I try to be somewhat organized in my parenting style…making sure to pick out clothes for the next day before bed each night, ensuring that toys are put up before new ones are taken out, and other things of that nature (read: mommy might be slightly OCD).  My parenting style doesn’t always jive with my child’s personality.  She wants to be independent, to pick out her own clothes, to have the freedom to do the things she wants to do when she wants to do them and it’s hard finding the right way to make both of us happy.  I want her to learn boundaries but I also want her to feel free to be the person that she is.  Most days, I fluctuate from feeling like I might be a contender for the “Mother Of The Year” awards in my household to feeling like a complete menace when things aren’t as perfect as I’d hoped they might be.  But I’m learning.  I’m learning to let go of the things that don’t matter and to focus on the things that do…like teaching my child responsibility,  compassion,  respect and love for others and the world around her, and how to try new things and explore all while allowing her, in the best way that I can, to be herself (a sweet, energy filled, independent toddler) in her most natural state.

I wanted to share some of the things that we’re doing in our home to encourage our child’s independence.  I’m finding that, more often than not, when I’m more organized (for her) many of the stresses we were experiencing before are no longer issues.  I’ll keep you updated, as I try new things with my toddler, as to what works for us and what doesn’t.  In the meantime, I hope that you find these ideas useful in your own life.  Enjoy.

1. Give Her Options

One of the biggest struggles I face in parenting an independent child is balancing her strong desire to decide for herself with my own will for her. I’ve discovered that if I pick a few options that I would be okay with before presenting something to her (like clothing options, food at a restaurant, etc), it makes situations that might otherwise be stressful feel like a breeze. It’s a win-win. She has the freedom to pick something for herself and I’m happy with any of the choices she has to make.

2. Stay Organized 

You might think that being organized for your own sanity is a no brainer but it took me a long time to figure this out on my own. Living with a child that is picky, changes her mind about things, and won’t let it go when she decides she needs something can be a struggle. Having a space for everything (extra blankets, stuffed animals, certain towels that she loves, etc.) has been a tremendous help in avoiding some of the issues we used to face.

3. Remain Calm

Even when I give my child options and I stay organized, we still have frustrating moments with our daughter (who doesn’t, am I right?!). The best advice I can give when your strong willed child throws a fit is to stay calm. Stay calm. Stay.Calm. Take a deep breath, count to three, do whatever you need to do to prevent yourself from getting worked up because, believe me, it does absolutely nothing to help the situation. When C is being a monster having a moment, I have to take a step back and realize that the best thing I can do for both of us is to help calm her down. How? Breathe, stay focused, give her a hug and tell her it’s going to be okay…in a moment or two, she’ll start to calm down, too and all will be right with the World.

4. Drink Wine

Okay, maybe this last part is sort of a joke (but not really). After a long day or a hard, stressful battle with your child, take some time out for you to relax. Spend an extra few minutes in the shower before bed, drink a glass of wine, read a book, do whatever it is that you do to rejuvenate yourself. Above all, let it go. Let all the stresses from the day go. What’s the point in carrying them with you anyway, right?! 

Always remember that you’re raising a child. You’re raising an independent person who will one day grow to be an adult. You’re helping to shape the future of this planet. I’m pretty sure that makes you a superhero. 

 

Potty Training: We Did It! (Plus Some Helpful Tips)

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As you might remember, we’ve been working on potty training our two year old daughter. Several months ago, I had it in my mind that we were supposed to be aggressive when it came to potty training. Now that I look back, I’m glad that my (somewhat) relaxed parenting style overshadowed my internal desire to push my child into potty success. A few weeks ago, something just clicked and she got it. It was one of those incredible, amazing moments where you’re immensely proud and completely blown away by the small child that lives with you. She’s so smart and allowing her to lead the way (with our help and encouragement) was one of the best parenting decisions I’ve made to date.

You might remember my post about utilizing a potty chart as incentive to get your child to use the restroom. While I still advocate the use of sticker charts to help motivate young children (we use a sticker chart for ‘daily activities’ that C is expected to complete and she loves it), I’ve also learned that sometimes children will figure things out on their own in time. Some children might prosper having that ‘push’ for potty training but, in observing my child’s behaviors, I learned that she is more motivated by independence than she is by my encouragement. I found myself asking her, time and time again, until I was almost blue in the face, if she needed to try and use the potty and she never seemed to want to…on my time. So I stopped. I wasn’t going to make her feel guilty for eliminating in her disposable pull up and I wasn’t going to punish her for not sitting on the potty. Eventually, I knew if she wanted to try to go…she would. And she did.

About a week into it, we abandoned the potty chart (but we still used a chart for daily activities) and decided that we would take a break and re-visit potty training when C seemed to be more ready. Fast forward a few weeks when we toured a preschool that we were interested in part time. One of the stipulations for enrollment is that the child must be in underwear. So I sat down and explained to her that if she was big enough to attend preschool then she must also be big enough to use the potty and not wear pull ups anymore. Not wanting to push her too hard, we tried again.

We took the leap of faith and simply stopped putting her in pull ups. Much to my surprise, the transition into underwear was really easy. We didn’t try giving her an absurd amount of juice. She didn’t run around naked. We didn’t make her sit on the potty all day. She just got it. We had a few accidents the first day, a couple the second day, and one or two occasionally ever since. My husband and I are always encouraging of her, almost to the point where we embarrass ourselves when we’re in public with the “Wow! You did it! Good Job!”  and the “You went POTTY?! AWESOME!” but I am so proud to announce that my child, at two years and seven months old, is fully potty trained and it was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done with her. Hooray!

horray

I wanted to share a few things that I learned in our potty training experience with you…

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff 
  2. Give it time
  3. Children should never be made to feel guilty for accidents
  4. S#it happens
  5. Celebrate each accomplishment

More than anything, I want you to know that potty training doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be enjoyable and it can be simple. Knowing your child, stopping when something’s not right, and letting your child lead the way are the best things I’ve learned in this process and they’re things that I will take with me in other parenting adventures down the road. If you’re preparing for potty training, I wish you the very best with your little one!

 

It’s Potty Time (Getting Started)!

 

Potty TrainingRemember this picture that I posted over on Twitter the other day?!

It’s official: We’re Potty Training! 

When my daughter turned two, she was so excited to sit on the potty like a big girl. Like any parent of a toddler, I excitedly purchased a potty of her very own. All of this, of course, under the assumption that potty training would be a breeze. That hasn’t so much been the case. Now that she’ll be two and a half next month, I know it’s time to get serious about potty training but every time we ask her if she wants to sit and try to use the bathroom, she cries. Logically, I know that forcing her to do something that she clearly doesn’t want to do isn’t going to do any of us favors and so I decided to turn potty training into a game (of sorts). The other day I went to my local Target (my home away from home) and purchased some poster board, a ruler and incentive stickers all with the purpose of creating a potty chart.

How To Make A Potty Chart

For each day of the week (from Sunday to Sunday) there are nine boxes. The game is simple: For every attempt to use the bathroom, she earns a sticker. If she fills out nine stickers every day for 8 days, she gets to have dinner at our local T-Rex cafe (it’s a pretty big treat for her since we don’t go there often).

Its Potty Time

I tried to make the chart bright and fun. What toddler doesn’t love a good sticker?!

Potty Chart

Potty Incentives

I hung the potty chart on the mirror in the bathroom and there it will stay until next Monday morning.

How To Potty Train A Toddler

Although she earned her first sticker this morning, she didn’t seem all that interested in going. I love the idea of using a chart but if this doesn’t work by week’s end I’ll try a different approach (a pre-purchased gift that she can only have if she tries to use the bathroom all week). I’ll keep you updated on our progress on Twitter and over on Facebook. In the meantime, what are your tips for first time training?!

 

The Strong Willed Child

| Difficult | Stubborn | 

There are a lot of labels we put on individuals in life. Perhaps accurately. Perhaps unfairly.

But I don’t believe in labels (unless, of course, your label for me is awesome).

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My two year old is amazing. Being her mom is, hands down, the greatest joy in my life but not every day is full of puppies, rainbows, and glitter. The “mean mommy voice” surfaces far more than I’d like and I often find myself saying things like, “You need to be ALL DONE!” and “Your behavior right now is UNACCEPTABLE!”. Parenting, for me, becomes a balance of lessons and love. (Read my post “Walking the Line”: On Parenting). My child, like many other others, enjoys doing her own thing. She likes to make her own choices (even when they don’t fall in line with what my husband or I want), and she isn’t always receptive to change. Maybe it’s just a phase that she’ll grow out of, maybe not. As frustrating as that can be, I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing.

If her personality at two is any indication of how she’ll be as an adult (maybe minus the crying at nap time and the difficulty sharing with friends), I am confident that she’ll go on to do amazing things. She’ll march to the beat of her own drum. She’ll be confident enough to do what she thinks is right instead of following the crowd. She’ll set goals and work hard to achieve them. She will have a vision for her life that is uniquely her own and she will work hard to make her dreams come true.

No matter what she does or who she grows up to be, I will always love her.

I will always be proud of her. She will always be my little lady. 

So maybe the world views raising strong willed children as a challenge but I view it as an opportunity to grow the kind of human being who will one day go on to make great differences in the world around them. In the meantime, we’ll continue setting boundaries, teaching her lessons about life, and loving her each and every day.

iFamilyKC Fun at Gage Center in Blue Springs, Missouri (Pictures)

If you’ve been following along you may remember that I blog for iFamilyKC, a local resource for families in the Kansas City metro area. As part of my blogging arrangement, I have the opportunity to attend fun events and visit some great places in the area. On Saturday, my husband and I brought our daughter to an event at Gage in Blue Springs. I’ll post a link to the review, along with more information about the center, on my Facebook page (have you ‘liked’ it yet?!) as soon as it’s available. Until then, I hope that you’ll enjoy some of the pictures I captured of the event.

Gage Logo

Gage Center Blue Springs, MO

Inflatable Slide

DodgeBow

Toddler Room at Gage Center in Blue Springs

Gage Center Blue Springs

Toddler Room Gage Center

Toddler Area at Gage Center in Blue Springs, Missouri

Gage Center in Blue Springs, MO

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iFamilyKC Event at Gage Center In Blue Springs

iFamilyKC at Gage Center Blue Springs

Rock Wall

Gage Center in Blue Springs MO

Our First Ever “Messy Night”

Messy Night

Our involvement in our local Parents As Teachers program not only introduces us to some incredible ideas for fostering our toddler’s development but it also awards us some opportunities to connect with our local community. Last week we attended an event, sponsored by Parents As Teachers, called, “Messy Night”. We arrived, signed in, and then navigated our way through several stations designed to engage children in fun, creative activities. I was surprised by the turnout of families with young children. It was enjoyable to watch my child lead the way and I learned a few things about her along the way…

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My child loves anything related to music so it was hard to break her away from the interactive activity they had at the event. There were a couple of songs that she’d never heard before and the look on her face as she intently listened to every word was amazing. She loves Play-Doh, painting, and coloring which are all things that I knew before but one new thing was how much she likes to play with shaving cream. It’s definitely an activity I’m going to bring outside over the summer since it’s easy cleanup and a fun way for her to experience a different texture. I learned that she doesn’t care for play mud (made out of soap) and, unless you’re doing music, she prefers to lead the way instead of having structured play.

Toddler Messy Fun

If you have a Parents As Teachers organization in your area, I definitely recommend signing up for it. We requested to be in the program when I was working because I thought it would be nice to have an additional resource to help us figure out some great, creative ways to spend time with C while building on her skills and abilities. Now that I’m not working, we like having that resource to know what areas she’s doing well in and tips for things we can be doing to help her develop new skills.

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It’s Just Pictures! (Just Some Recent Photos)

With Easter last weekend we had a lot of great photo opportunities. I shared some of them on my Easter post and a couple more on posts throughout the week but here are the rest! Last Saturday we went to a great event in Blue Springs, Missouri (just outside Kansas City). It was sponsored by local church groups and a few businesses in the area and featured inflatables, games, live music, an Easter egg hunt for the children, and lunch for everyone who participated. My toddler enjoyed every bit of it (so much so that we had a hard time getting her out of the bounce house). Take a look:

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Here’s one of my absolute favorites from Easter Sunday. I took this one at home while C was climbing up and down our stairs counting:

“One-Two-Three-Five-Seven-Nine-Ten!”

Somehow when we’re counting with her she remembers four, six, and eight but when she’s going at it solo the numbers seem to slip her mind.

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Toddlerisms: Is My Child Insane?! (And Other Fun Stuff)

They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result…

So why does my toddler keep asking me for cookies?!

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Missed my last couple of posts on Toddlerisms?! You can find them here:

The Terrific (But Sometimes Terrible) Twos!

$#i!+ Happens

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If I had to use three words to describe the things that have been coming out of my child’s mouth lately they would be…

 | Hilarious | Shocking | Sweet |

Hilarious:

C managed to climb into her booster seat as I was preparing dinner. She buckled herself in and then realized she couldn’t get out on her own.

C: “I stuck, honey!”

Me: “What did you just call me?!”

{She looks around for a moment, confused, and pauses before answering}

“Mommy.”

Another hilarious new habit she’s developed  is tattling. She now tells on my husband and me when either of us do something she doesn’t like (read: told her “no” or sat her in time out). She comes running into the room: “WHAT DID DADDY DO?!”

Prompting me to ask her, “Well, C, what did Daddy do?!”

To which she usually responds by telling me (or my husband) that she wasn’t allowed to have a treat, or that she had to sit in time out. Within the last week or so she started tattling on the dog. Sometimes she even picks fights with the dog just look at us, expecting us to get the dog in trouble. It’s very bizzare.

Shocking:

We don’t usually keep c-o-o-k-i-e-s in the house so on the rare occasion that we actually have some they’re much like the Sirens in the Odyssey calling to her every time she approaches the kitchen. The other day I made the mistake of buying some Famous Amos cookies from Costco and just like the magnets that those little bites of delicious sugary goodness are, they kept drawing her closer and closer. Thankfully, she’s not quite smart enough to know what the bag looks like and so she mistakenly took my Twinning’s English Breakast Tea for cookies. When I corrected her and told her that the little packet was not a cookie she argued with me…for five minutes.

C: “Cookie Mommy!”

Me: “That’s not a cookie, that’s tea.”

C: “No! Cookie!”

When I say that this continued for five minutes…I’m being serious. Five minutes.

Want to know who won the argument?! I’ll give you a hint: it was me.

Sweet:

I’m going to let you in on a little fact secret…I value sleep. A lot. Maybe more than a cat. As you can well imagine, it’s hard to come by with a toddler in the house. That said, my daughter is incredibly sweet. Every time we snuggle together she pats my pack and says, “Shhhh! Mommy, go to sleep.” or “Night, night Mommy. I love you.”

She got a mini pack n’ play for her baby doll for her birthday. Watching her put baby to sleep at night is incredible. It’s the exact script my husband and I follow for C’s bedtime routine.

Step One: Hugs

Step Two: Kisses

Step Three: More hugs (for good measure)

Step Four: Lay child (or doll) in bed

Step Five: Say, “Night, night C! I’ll see you in the morning. Love you!”

Walking The Line: On Parenting

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As my toddler daughter continues to develop, change, and learn about the world I, too, am growing as a parent. One thing I’ve come to realize over the past few months is that being a parent is really a big balancing act and the future of your child is what’s at stake. One of the toughest things about being a mom is finding that perfect balance between letting your child express their creative individuality and ensuring that they learn the proper boundaries which will help them later on in life. How strict is too strict? How lenient is too lenient?

At two years old, C is constantly on the go. She likes to explore, try new things, and test her limits. I try to give her just enough room to be herself but not enough that she might accidentally get hurt or break the rules we have in the house. But it’s hard, parenting. Sometimes I get frustrated and I raise my voice. Sometimes I lose patience and stick my child in time out when I probably should just sit down and talk to her calmly. Sometimes, okay a lot of times, I feel like a complete jackass. Those are the moments when I realize that we need more balance.

As a mom, I need to understand that my daughter is not perfect. I need to recognize that I’m not perfect.

I need to be okay with that.

I have to learn to take the extra time to help my daughter through a rough moment when we’re out in public instead of offering (sometimes) empty threats of timeout at the store (I have actually had to sit her in time out at Target). I have to recognize that just as I’m learning what it means to parent a toddler my child is learning what it means to be a toddler. I can’t even imagine how difficult that must be for her (it’s probably a good thing that we don’t remember those years) to have this great big world full of challenges and things to explore and to lack the ability to fully express her wants and needs with the people who are responsible for her safety and well-being.

Finding that balance requires me to take a step back, a deep breath, and to look at situations more objectively. To remind myself that my daughter is young and that the moments of frustration she has are only temporary and that it’s my job to help her through them. Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world but it’s definitely one of the most important and it is so, so worth it.