Saturday, April 27, 2013

Parenting Beyond Babyhood

Last week's sermon was on conflict resolution, on the importance of fighting through conflicts. Fighting fair and growing as a result. Fighting with loyalty and kindness. 

It's not a subject I'm usually all that interested in, and frankly it's not at the top of my priorities. Chou and I are both relatively laid back, and while we certainly have disagreements, it's rare for any rift to last longer than a day; a good night's sleep and we're back to normal. I wouldn't say that we avoid conflict (although it can happen), but it generally dissipates rather than erupts. We're a pretty even keel household. Even so, I greatly appreciated the message and it really encouraged me to fight through conflict in my marriage.

Since Sunday, however, I've been realizing that there is quite a bit of conflict in our home. It crept in slowly, but it's here to stay. Countless times every day we have expectations that are not met, and conflict arises. Our conflict is not in our marriage, though. It's in my daily interactions with my adorable 16 month old. Life with a toddler is no walk in the park. 

snuggling 2 month old E
I have always loved babies. There's something so precious, innocent, and inspiring about snuggling and soothing an infant. It melts my heart. Their tiny toes, small coos, and lopsided grins in their sleep woo me every time. Not surprisingly, I just couldn't get enough of E when she was born. She came home from the hospital at 5lbs 11oz and just craved cuddles. E was never the infant who would sit in a seat and watch the world go by. For the first few months of her life, she screamed at the top of her wee little lungs from the moment she was laid down, getting more angry and unsettled by the minute and therefore making me more upset by the minute, until the moment she was picked back up. You can imagine the car rides! We started cosleeping so that we'd all sleep, rather than all cry. E was rarely put down for the first several months of her life, which made her one happy(er) baby and me one happy mama. Baby cuddles are just good for the soul!

Fast forward a few months and we've now officially moved beyond those tender baby days and are in the throws of toddlerhood. My little girl still loves snuggles (she's sleeping with her head on my shoulder as I type). She's gotten so much more content and can entertain herself for hours (if I'm lucky) while I work from home. She loves to sneak up on me and giggles as she approaches. She likes to feed the dogs, pat their heads, and enthusiastically draws my attention to them when they're misbehaving. She loves trying new foods. She's inquisitive and brave and will do just about anything, whether I approve or not. For the first time in her life she's taking somewhat consistent naps. Praise God!!

At the same time, she's learning about free will. She's starting to decide if she'll listen to me or if she'll laugh in my face as she disobeys. She's starting to protest when she doesn't get what she wants immediately, when her eggs take too long to cook, or when she'd rather run through the store than patiently hold my hand. 

These past few months have revealed not just how amazing infancy is, but how intuitive it was for me! I went with my gut and generally didn't over analyze parenting decisions. I'm great at the mindless bouncing, snuggling, feeding, and rocking to sleep. I like working hard to get a sweet little smile. I can handle frequent night feedings. I can make my baby feel loved and secure. Infancy obviously had its challenges and was a 27/4 job that took over my entire life, but having a toddler often requires me to go against my gut, which can be so much more challenging. 

My instinctual reaction to her unwanted behavior is most often "no" or "stop" or "wait ten minutes til I have time to deal with you". I'm learning that these are so unhelpful to both of us in the long run. Obviously there's a time and a place for these, but they get me nowhere as a sole parenting philosophy. Instead, we're learning to get creative, to help shape behaviors we desire, enlisting her cooperation and helping her learn. She's started sorting laundry instead of unfolding it, feeding the dogs instead of eating their food, helping with dishes rather than standing in front of the sink crying to be held, putting her own toys away rather than hiding various household items all over the house. Well, mostly. I just pulled my credit card out of the dogs' toy bin and a fork from my peace lily. But we're working on it.

mischievous grin
I try hard to set myself up for success in parenting this tiny person, making her feel loved and valued while shaping her behavior and character. I know that conflict with a toddler is unavoidable, but we really try to minimize it as much as possible. E's so much more obedient when well rested, well fed, and well cuddled (Well cuddled? Whatever. You know what I mean.) Even so, conflict arises. Countless times throughout my day I need to stop myself from the easy "no" and search for solutions to unwanted behaviors. This means my dishes are left soapy and unrinsed while I'm working through the latest tantrum, and my makeup is still half done as I'm redirecting her busy hands to something age appropriate. Helping a little girl navigate life is time consuming and often inconvenient. Every cry, tantrum, unwanted act, and disobedient behavior requires my analysis. How do I resolve it with loyalty and kindness? Is it best to discipline, to redirect, to ignore? Is she acting this way because she's tired, hungry, ignored, doesn't know better, or is willfully disobedient? What am I going to do about it? What worked yesterday? What didn't? And afterwards, was that really the best way to handle that situation? Did E learn what she needed or did I take the easy way out that's going to cost us big time tomorrow? Am I modeling behaviors she should be learning? Did I expect too much from her? Or too little? Am I screwing her up for life? 

There's nothing mindless about parenting a toddler! We're learning on our feet and trying not to mess up too terribly as we go. But it's a fight that is so worth it! We will fight with her, for her. We will fight fair and we will all grow.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gardening in the city

Gardening looks a little different in the city than the country. We take what we can get.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Laundry is one task in our house that is always in process. Between three people, three dogs, and cloth diapers, there's always something to be washed.

Generally we're pretty good with the washing part. And usually the drying part. And occasionally the folding. And rarely the putting away. Clearly, there are just too many steps to laundry.

I really, really like for laundry to be folded and put away, but it just doesn't always happen. We're busy, and putting the laundry away is the one task that all too often gets bumped. Until it's time to do more, and we need the laundry basket. Ooops.

We often wash the bulk of our laundry on the weekend, and this past week was no exception. By Sunday evening I had everything washed, dried, and folded. If you've ever tried folding laundry with a toddler in the house, you know this is no small feat. (There are actually a bunch of memes floating around the internet comparing this to organizing papers while a fan blows or brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. You get the point.) I've been learning that E is always willing to help, I just need to try to show her how to be helpful. She naturally wants to be with me, doing what I'm doing. So rather than her "helping" by throwing all my not-so-nicely folded laundry onto the floor or emptying the basket faster than I could fill it, I showed her how to put all the underwear and matched socks into the basket. This simple task kept her occupied while I tackled the rest of the pile.

Yesterday I actually put away all the laundry. Score! It's a great feeling knowing that I can grab my clothes from my drawer rather than digging through the basket. Of course, this could easily be my reality every week if I made the time for it, but, well, yeah...

This morning as I was getting dressed, I opened my drawer to grab a pair of clean underwear, but my drawer was empty. I peaked into my sock draw and found it equally bare. After searching the rest of my dresser and not finding any of my missing clothes, I turned around and found the contents of both drawers on the other side of the bedroom, back in the laundry basket.

Thanks for your help, dear girl!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Favorite Things Friday - Mo

"I think the good Lord is a Yankee" -Mariano Rivera

It's that time of year when paying $70/month for cable suddenly sounds justifiable. I couldn't care less about waiting several days/weeks/forever to see the latest episodes of NCIS or Parenthood or Downton Abbey, but not so with opening day for the Yankees. All of a sudden, I can justify throwing money down the drain and sitting inside on a gorgeous day, watching my favorite men in pinstripes do what they do best. (Or not, we may have had a rough few games.) I was spoiled when we moved to Lancaster, and DirecTV's basic package showed an incredibly large number of Yankees games.

You see, love for the New York Yankees runs in my blood. 

(And now, for those of you who are still reading...)

My dad's dad grew up in Brooklyn, and would cut school and take the subway to watch the Dodgers play (back when they were a Brooklyn team). I'm so jealous!

Growing up in PA, we didn't get to see as many games as we would have liked. We had no cable and no internet (oh, the good old days... or not). Yankees games were usually only broadcast when they were in the playoffs. Even so, I have many fond memories of going to the occasional game and watching all the playoff games as a family.

When I was little, we would regularly go with my mom's dad, who lived in MD at the time, to watch the Yankees play the Orioles in Baltimore. It was always a big deal when they won, since my grandfather was rooting for the home team while we were cheering for the Yanks.

During college, we would drive down to Baltimore to see the Yanks play whenever we could. We'd get cheap, nosebleed seats and sit in the rain just for the chance to watch our favorite team.

One year for my birthday, Chou bought amazing tickets to Yankee Stadium. We took the train, went for a great dinner in Manhattan, hit up Central Park, and went to the game all in one day. (I love NYC's subway!!)

In 2009, we went straight to a Yankees Orioles game after closing on the sale of our house in Newark, with the check from the house in our pockets so that we wouldn't be late and miss the opening pitch.

That year we were in Taiwan during the World Series, and we'd get up at 7am to watch the Yankees play. Fortunately Taiwan is into American sports so all the games were broadcast and we got to see them defeat the Phillies and win the title.

In 2011, I pulled my incredibly sick pregnant self out of bed to take the train to NYC to see the boys play. Totally worth it :)

I'm admittedly not a huge major league baseball fan. I can't list the top players from each team and stats just aren't my thing. I just don't care. But I love my Yankees. I grew up cheering for Jeter, Tino, Bernie, Strawberry, & O'Neil.

But my favorite player, by far, is Mariano Rivera. He is arguably one of the most talented and most humble men currently playing the game. Watching the playoffs in the late '90s, you always knew the game was over when he'd take the pitcher's mound. He was never proud, pompous, or emotional. He just went out and got the job done.  And every year, the only time he'd show emotion was when he won the World Series. Mo has the most saves in the history of the game, and the most post season saves as well, each one earned for the Yankees. 

Last night Mo got his first save of the season. Watching this just isn't the same on the following day (but thank God for the internet, because watching it late is better than never).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Toddler antics

Toddler antics make me smile. And occasionally want to bang my head against a wall. But mostly smile. 

Some snapshots from yesterday:

Of course I eat my dog food with a fork!

Here, Titus. Let me get that ear for you!

Monday, April 1, 2013


We welcomed this past weekend to take time out of our incredibly busy schedule to reflect on our Savior and spend some extra time as a family. After market on Saturday, we experimented with natural dyes to color our eggs and made some chocolates since I wanted E to have some Easter candy without any refined sugars or nasty additives. In the evening we attended our church with my parents. Easter morning we were able to relax (but not sleep in, thanks to our dear E) and go for a run before joining the rest of my family. It was great to pause and enjoy each other's company before diving into another hectic week.

Supervising the egg dyeing

Giving Titus some love
Family :)

Easter Sunday at Grandma & Grandpa's house

Found the kitty cat!