There is no ‘winning’.

I’ve been struggling with something over the past month and I’m a bit nervous to share my feelings, but I read something this morning that put words to my exact feelings. So here it goes.

Last month, Peep’s parents signed an entrustment; basically signing over their rights to him. It was honestly the most brave, selfless act. That day, and recently when it was approved in court, we got so many congratulations. They ran the gamut from “He is so lucky to have you” to “Thank God he gets to stay with you”. And all of those are true, I think. We are able to provide a safer environment for him and God has provided us with more resources for helping him battle his developmental delays. And I was incredibly happy to be one step closer to having Peep be a permanent part of our family, because we love him dearly and no matter what I will always be his mama. But I could not enjoy the happy congratulatory phrases. I had such conflicting feelings battling inside. Outwardly, I was happy and celebrating in the fact that Peep was moving towards permanency with our family. Inwardly, I was mourning. For his parents. When you aren’t an active part of this process, it is easy to view the the situation in terms of “us” (the foster parents) and “them” (the birth parents). But I can’t. And we shouldn’t.  We did not win that day.

“Terminating parental rights is a very serious thing, and even when it is best interest of the child, or requested by the child, it doesn’t make it any easier.

NO ONE WON TODAY. There were NO “winners” in that courtroom today. No one cheered at the outcome. No one was excited. There was no joy. It was a somber day for all involved. Everyone knew what today meant and it weighed heavy on all of us in the room.

Parents walked out without a child.

A child, no matter the age, walked out without a parent.

There were no winners today.

Today was tragic. Today was hard. I am sad in my heart tonight for all parties because I am human.”

– from Humans Of Foster Care facebook page

There is joy in this process. There is happiness and relief and hope for Peep’s future. But God calls us to also share in the sorrowful burden his birth parents are carrying, and only God can provide true healing and peace for all parties. I hope you’ll take a minute to pray for that for Peep’s birth parents; and then take it a step further and include all parents, kids, social workers, attorney’s, and judges involved in these types of situations. 

God will heal and mend. It is who He is and what He does.

Home Team

I’ve had a ‘good cry’ coming on for a few weeks now. Ever since I heard one of my closest friends is moving away in a few weeks. Today I just couldn’t hold those wet, soggy sniffles back anymore. Maybe it was the lack of sleep from snuggling a sick Peep all night, or I could possibly blame the tears on raging hormones {that’s pretty much always a given}…. but for sure it was today’s blatant reminder of what I am about to lose when she moves away. This morning she came over, dropped an iced coffee into my hand, snagged my almost 4 year old and dragged her along on their errands for the entire day so I could focus on snuggling my sick Peep, catch up on laundry, and maybe wash some dishes in peace.

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She did this for me when she’s preparing to MOVE in 3 weeks.

Y’all, that is a GOOD friend.

Not just a friend, but a member of my home team. my tribe. she is one of my people.

Home team

(from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist)

 

Change is hard for me…. like most humans, I’m certain. I know she and I will stay friends, but our friendship has no choice but to change, with 400 miles coming between us and our “let’s get the kids together so we can drink coffee and craft” days. We are the queens of mommy play-dates.

I’m contemplating laying in front of their moving truck when the day comes. Or at least slashing the tires to delay them a bit. Too much?

I’m feeling rather selfish and sad for myself because I’m losing someone I rely on regularly to just be there and somehow always be a step ahead of me in planning… anything {I seem to attract friends who literally GET ME THROUGH LIFE… or maybe I actually stalk them and just don’t give them a choice to leave me}. It’s hard to have a level 10 friend move away. They are difficult to replace. Not just anyone can step into that role. They are the ones that can invite themselves into your fridge and you don’t have to cringe at the thought of them finding something that isn’t food anymore. They are the ones that are paying attention to your kids at the park even when you aren’t. They are the ones that tell you straight up you need to tend to your unibrow. Though I’m sad, I’m also super happy for her and her awesome family and what’s ahead for them. New state. New home. New {chokes on sob} mommy play-date friends.

I know she’ll always be a part of my home team since, like she puts it, “it’s only a 6 hour drive”. And I’m sure she’ll still tell me straight up to get my brows cleaned up, regardless of the distance.  I’m thankful not just for her but for all the other members of my tribe too. Our home team is so essential to our family. We just can’t survive without you guys, even those that help in the most small ways. Those small acts {like bringing a coffee, or washing a dish, even distracting a child so some other task can be completed} add up to great love for our family. You keep our marriage strong. You help us keep our home open to the foster care needs in this area. You help us become better parents.  God has provided us with awesome people and it’s so important to our family to pursue being a home team for others. People need people. I hope you have people; but if you don’t, the first step is to strive to become the home team for others. You bring the coffee. You wash the dish.  You change the diaper. You send the text to check up on someone to make sure they’re surviving. You ask “how can I help?”. Before you know it, you’ve got a stellar home team to call on when you need them.

#PresentationRegrets

I’m a fast talker. I didn’t realize this until my husband took a video of one of our conversations. I can honestly say that even I had a hard time understanding what I was saying when he played it back for me to see. Why has nobody told me?! To be fair, the video was taken after I finished a really fun exercise class at the YMCA (#groupfight) and I was super pumped with endorphins and ready to kick some imaginary thug’s arse.

I digress. This revelation got me thinking about the times that I’ve spoken in front of a group and I’m really panicking now. Have I been speaking like an auctioneer all this time? Last week I had the opportunity to speak in front of about 80 students (AND some of my former professors and now colleagues…. ACK!) at the ODU chapter of the national student association for my profession (NSSLHA).

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I was invited to speak on the topic of beginning my own private practice (which I know barely anything about) as well as therapy for children with Autism (which I know a little bit about). I was STOKED! I could speak for days and days to anyone who will listen (and I often do, whether they ask me to or not) on therapy for children with Autism. However, I’m fairly certain my lecture was the least interesting thing those students heard all day and was fed to them at a breakneck, rapid-fire rate. I’m so passionate about the topic and discussing new research in the field makes my heart pitter-patter with excitement, but I forgot that not everyone feels that way and I SO wish I could go back and tone things down a bit. You guys over at ODU, don’t hate me! I swear there are better parts of being a speech therapist than what I showed you and I so wish I’d shown you more useful therapy tips! I was stressed and my mind imploded when trying to create those slides and you’ll just have to forgive me for whatever word-vomit you endured that day.

I kid you not, I have given that presentation over and over in my dreams every night since….. it’s now perfect and so full of completely relatable points and truly useful information. I wish you were there to see it. I speak slowly. I don’t go off on tangents with useless information. And I don’t say ‘like, like, like’.

I was gifted with a mug after speaking, so that’s something.   #likeaboss

Close to Jesus

Charlie has had a blue vein on the bridge of her nose since birth. Some days it is more prominent than others, and we often get questions or comments about her ‘bruise’. It may fade as she gets older, it may not. I rarely notice it anymore, but as she’s gotten older she’s begun to notice it and ask about it. We typically tell her that it’s a special mark that God gave to her.

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Today she announced proudly: “Mommy, I have a blue spot on my nose that God gave me…. so I will always be friends to JESUS!”

Bless. Yes you will, kiddo. Yes you will.

A Q&A on Foster Care {pretty much more than you even wanted to know}

We’ve been on our journey as foster parents for almost two years now. Just as all foster parents, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs. We’re still super new at this. I feel like I know maybe 1% of anything. Maybe next year I will know 2%. Most of the time we have no idea what’s going on or what to expect for our next step; as is the way with the foster care system. We get so many questions and comments about foster care and I absolutely love answering them, because there seems to be a shroud of secrecy (or fear, depending on who you speak to) and a whole lot of mis-information floating around out there about what it means to be a foster parent.

I’ve been hesitant to put this out there because… fear. I’m afraid of hurting feelings by being blunt. I’m afraid of stepping on toes. I’m afraid of my words from my heart being read through the filter of someone else’s heart and misconstrued or taken in the wrong way. I’m afraid of my own self-serving nature. I’m afraid this may come across as a slap-in-the-face for some of us, because so often truth stings in a similar way. And that’s why we sometimes turn our head and try to ignore it.

But I will press publish on this post, because God is good. I’m afraid, but God is good. And the lives he creates are good and deserving of love, no questions asked.

I’m loving these words from Rebecca over at No Hands But Ours. She wrote them as they apply to adoption, but they can clearly be applied to so many aspects of life and how even when A or B or C happens, God is still good.

“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.”

Psalm 119:68

“So I can question His promise and character, or I can open my clinched palms and accept that He is good, and His work is good. I can let go of my expectations, efforts, timing and struggling. I can look beyond my adoption and parenting challenges, and remind myself of the profound truth. He’s always at work, and it’s always good.      

Adoption sings His name, all the time, in its beauty and in its stretching. Both the bitter and the sweet are saturated with His goodness. 

He is good. Let’s make that the cadence that we train our hearts to beat to.

good:

1. right, proper fit

2. morally excellent, righteous, virtuous

3. satisfactory in quality, quantity or degree

4. of high quality


5. kind, beneficent, friendly

6. honorable or worthy”

 

So with the mindset of “training our hearts to the cadence of God’s goodness” and the action of loving others because we are loved, let us begin this Q&A.

I hear some of these comments and questions almost daily. Maybe you’ve uttered them to me. or to someone else. or just quietly to yourself in your head. These are not the answers from every foster parent across the globe. These are my answers to tough questions and comments. This is a look into the hows and whys for the Baker family:

“I don’t know how you do it.”

Speaking from a true, honest place – I don’t know how I do it either. I don’t know how we do it. I don’t know how all foster parents do it. Being a parent to a child who is not your own {and probably won’t ever be} is hard. It truly is; I won’t sugar coat it. I don’t know exactly how we do it but I do know that even on my very best days, there is not enough compassion, love, selflessness, forgiveness and non-judgment in my body to accomplish the task of a foster parent. But God. God has given us his Spirit, and with the Spirit comes things that we have no hope of accomplishing on our own: love. joy. peace. patience. kindness. goodness. faithfulness. gentleness. self-control. {Galatians 5:22-23}.

And I don’t know how I will handle the things to come. God does, though. and He will sustain me emotionally. mentally. physically.

As far as the day-to-day operations go, we are able to do it because we have a team. Our teammates are fosterparents-by-association, and they are so so important to us. Teammates are all over the place and come into our life in all different ways.

My mother and father-in-law who watch Charlotte at the drop of a hat so I can make it to appointments for myself and for kiddos {as in…. sometimes with just a few hours notice because I’m so bad with planning-ahead}.

The mom-friend who had a bag of appropriate sized/seasoned clothing waiting on our doorstep before we even get home from picking up a child.

The teacher friend who kept her Spring break schedule open to help me shuffle kiddos around from here to there.

The church friends who take turns holding/feeding/changing a baby or holding/feeding/playing with Charlotte so other things can get done.

My private clients who don’t mind that I bring our littlest kiddos into our speech therapy sessions until I can arrange permanent child-care.

The girlfriend who picks up my slack and overlooks the rest, or brings me a latte because she knows I may not have birthed the babe, but I’m still dealing with all the things that come along with a fresh baby {like sleepless nights and quadrupled laundry}.

Our family members and friends who love on our visitors unconditionally.

Our team has been strategically placed by God. Our team is everything.

“I couldn’t do that.” 

Lies. That is actually a lie you tell yourself. You could do this. A more appropriate phrase would be “I don’t want to”. And I don’t blame you, I’ve said it before in regards to so many commands, whispered or shouted, from God. And sometimes I still say it daily, usually under my breath so God  won’t hear me: “but… I don’t want to”.

Fortunately for us, there are no parameters to God’s command to “care for the widows and orphans”. He doesn’t provide an ‘if’ clause. “Care for the widows and orphans if….. you have enough money. if you are married for at least 2 years. if you have your own children first. if you have a spare bedroom. if you can be a stay at home mom. if you are under 40. if you’re empty-nesters. if you have your whole life together”.

Remember me? I can’t plan ahead. I never finish laundry all the way. I’m not really in to the whole ‘cooking dinner’ thing {though I’m trying}. I dust never. I recently started my own business…. so I make practically $0. It’s a win in my book if I hit my snooze only twice. My gas tank is almost always less than half full {don’t tell my dad}.

and yet God uses ME! And fortunately for you and me, children don’t need much. Really, they don’t. They need food, water, shelter, love, and snuggles. They need someone present in their lives. They need time. We all have all of those things.

“I’d get too attached.”

Honestly, that’s kind of the point. I recently read this from another foster parent and I love how she just lays it out there. Attachment is the point of foster care. It’s why the United States uses Foster Care instead of Orphanages; to allow for appropriate attachment and bonding in a family environment. If you don’t get attached, you’re doing it wrong.

Research shows secure attachment in infancy results in better social and emotional outcomes later in life, and the inverse of that is also true: insecure attachments result in destructive outcomes. Having a caregiver who provides consistent, loving, responsive care (meaning they consistently meet a child’s needs) helps children learn to regulate their own behavior and emotions, as well as satisfies their innate need for feeling loved and lovable. All of these are good, necessary things for a functional, quality life. Many children in foster care have experienced disorganized (aka: dysfunctional) attachment as a result of abuse or neglect from their previous caregiver. It is possible (and necessary) for a child to build secure attachments with a surrogate caregiver (aka Foster Parent) if their birth parents are not currently able to provide them with that crucial developmental experience.

“Aren’t you afraid?”

Yes, absolutely. But, God has given me a spirit of power and love. not timidity. not fear. {2 Timothy 1:7}. What truly frightens me is the thought of living my life for only myself. For all of my thoughts to be spent on only myself. For my money, and time, and possessions to be hoarded for only myself. That is what I’m afraid of, because that is most definitely not what the creator of everything created us and redeemed us for. There is so much more life out there beyond the small confines of the Baker home in Chesapeake, Virginia. Lives in need; and children in foster care are a portion of those lives who have great needs {sometimes very great needs}. Needs that we can meet.

I am also afraid that I am not enough. I am not enough of a mother, or a therapist, or a compassionate and patient person to be what some of these children need. Chris and I don’t yet foster children over 4 or 5. Those are the boundaries we have requested, based on our space and time and abilities. And any long term placements we have had so far have been little fresh squishes, the ones that are needy but also cuddly. We have not yet entered into the realm of foster care that is the older child. The one who is needy, but maybe resembles a porcupine rather than a cuddly puppy. The one who has experienced more life {and the terrible parts of life, at that} in a year than we have in all of our years combined. When the time comes, we will most likely experience that aspect of foster care as well. And we will be afraid. I’m actually more afraid, though, of not cuddling that porcupine. They are ‘the least of these’; they have the greatest needs. If we don’t, who will?

“Are you worried about Charlotte?”

Yes. I  worry about Charlotte. Every.Single.Day.

She’s ingesting GMOs. There’s BPA in that water bottle. She skinned her knees. When did I bathe her last? She doesn’t know all her letters. She won’t stop picking her nose! I didn’t put sunscreen on her. I raised my voice at her. Are we parenting correctly?

But I know what you’re really wondering. No, I’m not worried that our involvement in foster care will hurt her in some way. I’m actually excited for her to have these experiences. We protect her from as much in life as we can, and we will protect our foster children from as much in life as we can. That may mean parenting or scheduling or abiding a little differently than we have in the past.

She does suffer, though, in the same way an only child suffers when the attention is no longer only on themselves. She shares her toys. her food. her mommy and daddy time. and it’s good for her. She was born with a big heart and her experience as a big sister to other kiddos is making it even bigger.

Big Sister Charlie

I’ve had this ‘big sister’ shirt sitting in her drawer for a long time; it was passed down from a friend but Charlotte hasn’t had the opportunity to wear it yet because we haven’t expanded our family {and won’t, at least biologically}. It occurred to me, though, that she is very much a big sister to all of the kiddos that we get to love on, and will continue to be to be a big sister to so many, whether it’s ever made official or not.

Just speaking from a real place here: I know foster care isn’t for everyone. We all can’t do all the things! But we each can do some things.

Thank you for asking those questions. And for being open enough to ask them. Thank you for reading this and for considering what your next step may be. It may not be foster care, but it will be something. Will it be a step towards providing for yourself? Or will it be a step towards providing for someone who isn’t able to help themselves?

He is good. Let’s make that the cadence that we train our hearts to beat to.

Thoughts on waking up from a naps

I’m just sitting here watching Charlotte’s post-nap behavior. It includes, but is not limited to:

Angry crying and thrashing around in her bed. Kicking the rails a few times for emphasis.

Asking for mom to pick her up, then pushing away in disgust and contempt.

Screaming bloody murder when mom puts your feisty butt on the ground.

Wiping snotty nose on her shirt and making sure to nuzzle snot and tears into her neck once back in her arms.

Allowing cuddles on the couch for exactly 2 minutes.

Wandering around in circles looking at ……?

Requesting a snack.

Standing in a zombie trance for 5 minutes.

Melting into a tearful puddle on the floor.

Laughing maniacally while chasing the dog.

Then finally reaching emotional equilibrium again.

oy. I totally understand kiddo. I feel the same way when I wake up in the morning.

 

 

“She just woke up from her nap” and other excuses I make for my daughter’s social anxiety

Y’all, I’ve been dealing with some anxiety. It entered my life about 2.5 years ago. It walks around in the form of a pint sized human. Its name is Charlotte.

If you know Charlie, then you know she can run pretty hot & cold. She doesn’t hide her emotions, and there are oh so many emotions flowing around in that 25 lb toddler. What you see on Facebook isn’t always what you get in ‘real life’. For example…

One-on-one with mommy before the doctor comes in

(even with raging pink eye):

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After the doctor comes in:

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I’m sure you’ve experienced it when interacting with her. Some times you get smiles and giggles. Many times you get the icy stare. The silent treatment. The cold shoulder. Eyes averted, shoulders slumped or head buried in mommy’s coat. Nobody is safe from it; even daddy receives this reaction sometimes. I usually explain away her behavior with comments like “She’s shy”, “She’s so dramatic”, “She’s two”, or “It’s almost nap time”.

I’d be lying if I said her reservation in social situations didn’t bother me. We all want our children to be outgoing, friendly, polite…. happy. My first response to her unwillingness to interact with others is usually to cringe. I fear, selfishly, that her silence will be perceived as rudeness and her failure to return a wave, answer a question, or even smile at someone is a reflection on my parenting skills. I’m slowly learning, though, that it has nothing to do with my parenting and everything to do with my little one’s ability to cope cope with stressors in her environment. It’s not an intentional reaction from her. It’s not rudeness. It’s not disobedience. It’s not unfriendliness. It is so much more than that.

– In the grocery store, it’s the fearful cry and scramble up my leg when another person starts pushing their cart down the same aisle we’re on. buying their groceries. like you do. at a grocery store.

– On the playground, it’s staying frozen on the stairs if another child gets too close.

– It’s startling and covering her ears when someone opens the front door.

– At her grandparent’s house (whom she sees at least twice a week) it’s the refusal to talk to them or give affection until a ‘warming period’ has passed (usually about 30 minutes).

– In the carpool line at school it’s remaining stoic while the teacher puts her in her car seat, only to come to life and joyfully tell me she had a boogie on her finger as soon as the car door is shut.

– It’s confidence changing abruptly to silence when someone addresses her directly.

I’ve always been confused with her ability to flutter between playful and isolated, between conversational dominance and suddenly refusing interactions altogether. I didn’t understand why she would demonstrate this uber social, outgoing, verbal character at home or in the car with me, but lock it down as soon as the environment or company changed. “It’s just a stage” I’ve heard. And part of it still most likely is. She’s only two. She behaves like a two year old. My mom instincts have been kicking in though, and they let me know this is a bit more than being ‘just two’. I’d be doing her a disservice as her parent if I just let it go and see what happens. I’ve personally struggled with anxiety a little bit throughout my teenage-adult years; occasional therapy to talk it out and coping strategies to work it out have helped me greatly. There are things I can do now to help her so she can cope independently later on.  I’ve been educating myself so I can guide her as wisely as possible.

All children have some stranger anxiety. And separation anxiety is normal at various ages and stages of development. Kids get overwhelmed. They get tired and cranky. They don’t always ‘perform’ in front of others. And this is all normal, to an extent. Children have various temperaments – combinations of characteristics including activity level, adaptability, mood, emotional responses, sensory thresholds, etc. A ‘slow to warm-up’ temperament is not a negative thing, and research actually shows it may also indicate stronger resistance to peer-pressure in the later years. The ‘slow to warm-up’ child typically watches from the sidelines and eases in to interacting with peers and adults at their own pace. That’s Charlotte to a T.

What’s becoming more evident to me, though, is that Charlotte’s ‘slow to warm-up’ temperament is coupled with some true toddler anxiety; it shows itself as hives when we go to the doctor, scratching and pulling at her skin when nervous, night terrors, and extreme emotional responses to things {usually tears and melting into a puddle on the floor} in which she’s difficult to calm down. She’s easily frustrated when things aren’t perfect {her fork won’t stab the blueberry, her hand has a smudge of yogurt on it, her pajama zipper is up too high}; and this mixed with some tactile sensitivities often results in tears or shut-down.  At home with us she is the silliest, most talkative, and creative kiddo. Very few people get to witness that side of her. Her affection is not easily won by outsiders {meaning anyone but mom, dad, or our doggy Baxter}. And I don’t want to change that about her.  But I do want to learn as much as I can about her anxious tendencies so I can help her. Parenting strategies are not ‘one size fits all’ and our actions now will either strengthen her anxious responses to stressful situations or strengthen her self-confidence and coping skills to deal with various stressful situations. I’d prefer the latter. I’d also prefer to just give her a shirt that says “please give me time to warm up”, but I can’t, so instead I’m using these guidelines to help me help her:

1. Hold her.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with holding your child for comfort {or allowing them to cling to your leg}. It’s not coddling them. It’s not feeding into a weakness. It’s not reflecting poorly on you as a parent. It is providing them with a safe, comforting place from which to observe their surroundings, study who is around, what is going on, and allows them to safely begin interactions at their own pace. This is the one I struggle with the most; I think I assume she should continue to be confident and independent in all situations just like she is at home. That’s not the case and I can’t force her to be comfortable in all situations. But I can comfort her and encourage her.

2.  Pick my battles.

If eating broccoli is stressful and being at a birthday party is stressful, then I will not make her eat broccoli while at a birthday party.  We’ll save that for a day at home around the kitchen table. What kind of sick people have broccoli at a birthday party anyway?!

3. Model appropriate social behavior and language.

This one is something I feel I’ve been doing with her since birth since that is what I get paid to do {ahem, my business}, but you can never ‘over-do’ it when it comes to modeling appropriate language and behaviors. For example: A friend comes over for a play-date. Friend says “here Charlotte you have this truck”. Charlotte looks away and ignores him. I model “Thank you for sharing!” or “No thank you”, as well as the appropriate body language for a friendly interaction. I also speak directly to her – “It’s ok if you don’t want that truck” or “I bet we could find another truck and have a race with him”. Then demonstrate playing with said friend. It may seem silly if you aren’t used to that type of over-exaggerated role play, but it can go a long way with helping a kiddo who isn’t able to ‘use their words’ or isn’t exactly thinking of how their ‘social avoidance’ is coming across to their peer.

4. Distract her.

The more she feels the attention on her, the more she will avoid interactions. When in a place that Charlotte is not comfortable {i.e.: anywhere but home for the most part} Chris and I focus on play or engaging in a familiar activity to help alleviate anxiety and reduce the amount of attention placed on her. Chase, I spy, tickles, offer a snack… all serve to distract her, break the ice a little, and show her that this is a safe, fun place and she can enjoy herself.

5. Maintain Routines.

Sometimes she is ‘just tired’ or ‘just hungry’ and for her those needs outweigh the need to maintain social norms by interacting with others. I can help her by not scheduling appointments or activities during nap time and making sure I have food to offer her when she gets ‘hangry’ {anger due to hunger = hangry}.

6. Allow her to respond in her own time and in her own way.

Kids are cute and whenever we run into someone in the outside world {even strangers}, the attention is usually on Charlotte. People touch her, they ask her questions, they get too close … they do what comes naturally when interacting with kids. I’m not saying I’m going to stop people from interacting with her, but I am going to stop feeling bad about her reluctance to interact with them. I usually fight an inner ‘cringe’ moment when she gives a blank stare in return to someone’s friendly greeting. I take it personally when she doesn’t respond in a friendly manner to other people, as if it’s a slap in the face to my parenting skills and my ability to teach my child manners. So I usually give one of the excuses I mentioned before and hope for a better response from her next time. I’m going to stop putting that pressure on her {and on myself}.

7. Give her options and don’t take it personally.

Instead of forcing a particular response {i.e.: “Say hi to ____”}, I’ll suggest appropriate options {“Would you like to say Hi or wave?”}. As adults we gauge the depth of our relationships with one another by the interactions we have {If I kiss you on the lips, we’re married. If I throw a casual wave, you’re just a friend. If I begin to ignore your questions or move to the other side of the room,  that’s signals that I don’t really want to interact with you… and maybe you smell}. We can’t hold our interactions with children to the same standards, though. If Charlotte doesn’t run to you for a hug or won’t laugh at your tickles, it’s not a personal snub or rejection. It may have nothing to do with you at all! She may be overwhelmed, the room may be too noisy, or she may just be processing  her environment. She adores her daddy, but sometimes isn’t able to cuddle with him as soon as he gets home from work {no matter how much he would love that!}. He knows to give her some space and she will eventually initiate play with him. Something my mom loves to say to Charlotte is “Do you have a hug for me”? – that’s a very low pressure way of ‘asking’ for a hug, but allows Charlotte to choose, and many times it’s ‘no’, which is okay! If we attempt to force an interaction she actually seems to take longer to warm up to an environment than if we just let her go at her own pace from the moment we arrive.

8. Praise her.

This is sort of a no-brainer, but it’s important for Chris and I to encourage and praise Charlotte’s social interactions. “I love the way you showed that lady how old you were by holding up 2 fingers”, “You were so brave sliding down that slide with a friend”, “I’m glad you gave Lola a hug, that made her feel so happy”.

Chris and I are working on being more supportive of Charlotte’s emotional needs; whether it’s her ‘just being two’, her ‘slow to warm up’ temperament, or something more; our efforts in helping Charlotte develop the skills to process stressful situations are hopefully laying the groundwork of bravery, self confidence, and self esteem she’ll need later on to build friendships and enjoy life’s interactions, not suffer through them.

 

 

 

 

 

Please, no autographs.

Chris’ video of his and Charlotte’s nightly after-bath routine has gone viral.

I’m not completely surprised – Chris and I watched it about 5 times before we even posted it; we could not stop laughing. I guess I always just assumed we think she’s hilarious because she is ours and we made her; I don’t really expect others to adore her since they don’t have the same ‘parent goggles’ we do (making everything she does awesome).

The internet is an amazing place. I, too, am a little famous in my own way. The pregnancy announcement I made when we first announced we were expecting Charlotte 2.5 years ago has been featured on Parents.com and will be featured on another site next week!

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http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/signs/breaking-the-news/valentines-day-pregnancy-announcements/#page=6

What a week for our family’s celebrity status. Please, no autographs.

 

Poop Is My Kryptonite

I’m sure you can guess what this post is about.

Spit, vomit, pee, even slimy boogies. I can handle it. Maybe it’s the nature of my job that has desensitized me, or maybe it’s my natural ability to deal with those kinds of things that led me to become a pediatric therapist. Whatever the reason, I generally don’t have an issue with those sorts of icky things that typically go hand in hand with kiddos.

Poop, on the other hand… poop is clearly from the devil. And you know what? Kids poop every day! Often multiple times a day. It’s kind of annoying. I guess I typically take it in stride like any other parent, but Jack-Jack poops at least 5 times a day… at least!

A very stinky diaper amidst a crying toddler, a dog begging to go out, a cup spilled on the floor, a mound of laundry waiting to be folded… it’s just the straw that breaks the camels back for me. It’s my kryptonite and makes every ounce of patience in my body disappear. But patience must persist, because kids are kids. And kids poop.

If you’re like me and there are times in your day where you feel like you just might come undone, keep these words in mind:

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When you’re in the pit of poop, God is there.

An update on Charlie Grace

Before Charlotte was born I purchased an adorable baby book. She is now 2 years, 3 months and there are exactly 2 lines of the entire book filled out. That really hurts my heart. I loved looking at my baby book growing up. It’s so special to me that my mom would take the time to write those things down and I want Charlotte to have the same. I’m thankful that I have at least recorded her biggest moments here on the blog, but I’d still love to get those words and pictures into her book. Maybe one day. I so wish I could record every single one of our moments together, because she’s pretty special and my memory is just not reliable.

On a slightly related note, Charlie can’t seem to remember Jack-Jack’s name. She refers to him as ‘that one’ (“mommy, that one smiling at me”) or ‘neighbor’ (“mommy, neighbor miss his mommy maybe”). In other language development news, her new favorite words to throw into conversation are ‘also’, ‘but’, and ‘maybe’:

 “we doing that also, but…… he not got a cheese stick, so…. neighbor go night-night upstairs maybe.”

There are always a lot of pauses for effect and to allow for more words to be added to the run-on sentence. She is quite opinionated. and dramatic.

Since I’ve already turned this into an update on Charlotte, here are some of the photographic gems you didn’t get to see while I was on my month-long Facebook hiatus. Prepare yourself for Charlotte overload.

Emotions were high on the way home from school. I only brought 2 crackers for the ride home.

bad day

Bed head.

bad hair day

 

Reading bibles with a buddy.

bible reading

 

Meeting her newest obsession in cardboard-cutout form.

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Getting her wiggles out.

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mall play2

 

Helping grocery shop. Peanut butter always gets a place of honor next to her.

shopping buddy 2014

 

Ready for her preschool Thanksgiving party!

thanskgiving dress 2014

 

She’s been such a trooper with all of the crazy things we’ve had going on this month and I can see so much growth in her since beginning her preschool class. A little lady.