Right from Terrible Twos to My Little Threenager

The middle child. The younger and far more spicier bruise.

HOLY MIDDLE CHILD!

No seriously, I don’t know if it’s just a stereotype or some funny joke that people make but our middle child is the epitome of MIDDLE CHILD. And I’m tired. Like I can’t fight the exhaustion any longer. And when his daycare provider starts asking me questions about his ability to listen, attention span, you know, all the things I’m frustrated with at home, I get that pit in my stomach like oh gosh here we go he is that child.

A few nights ago we started weaning him off the pacifier. And he was addicted so we fully anticipated it’d be hard. We used the “snip the tip” trick. If you don’t know, now you know. Our pedi recommended it when the oldest bruise was having trouble weaning from his…after we had tried both cold turkey and the binky fairy. And it was a miracle. But we also weaned the oldest at just over 2 years old, and Dominic is closer to 3 years old right now (I know, I know, we’ve been lazy about it but ehh who cares!). He’s only been using it at night/naps since turning 1, but still he was addicted.

Honestly, it’s been easy…he whined a little bit night one, but we told him his binky was getting smaller because he was getting bigger and offered him his favorite stuffed dino instead and eventually he went to sleep. And then he was fine at daycare and each night as I’ve snipped a little bit more off the 5,000 binkies he has, he’s been totally fine.

BUT let’s talk about awake time, because since the first snip, during awake times he’s been a monster. He’s always been our more emotional, loud, intense, mischievous, physical (any other adjectives I’m missing?) child but these past 5 days have been a whole new monster, a bigger one. Of course I love this monster with all my heart so please don’t take this post that way. I’m really wondering if this new monster was birthed out of the pacifier transition. Could it be?!

It’s this new monster that inspired me to write this post because it also got me thinking about terrible twos and threenagers. And I realized we’re probably in the heat of it because we have the best of both worlds colliding since he is turning three in a few months. I feel like we were lucky with Luca because he didn’t really give us a terrible two phase or a threenager phase. Maybe that’s just because he was the first child. But it’s got me thinking and I want some advice. Here are the things we are struggling with right now:

  • Voice volume: On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being no voice and 10 being outdoor-voice-scream-as-if-you’re-in-trouble, he’s at a hard 10 most of the time.
  • Patience: If he asks for his water and I don’t give it to him before he’s done asking, it’s an immediate whine fest, which leads to the next one.
  • Whining: 24/7 whining to the point where he needs to be reminded to “speak like a big boy” or “ask nicely”…I’m at that point where I model for him what he should be saying/doing, and it often sounds like this: “Dominic, try saying ‘Mommy can I please have a snack?’ instead of ‘I WANNNNTTTTT SNACKKKKK NNNOOOWWWW!'”
  • Anger and Biting: The oldest bruise was long over the biting phase by now. But when Dominic is really, really, really angry – at his brother – he still bites, and he bites hard. We have had a handful of occasions where he has bitten Luca so hard that there is blood, and a full teeth circle bruise left over on Luca for weeks. The good news is he hasn’t done it to anyone other than Luca in a year, but I still worry so much about his anger management if, at his worst, it comes to this.
  • Listening: This one doesn’t make me lose my temper, instead it just makes me worry. Any time we give him a direction or ask a question, he definitely hears us, but doesn’t actually listen to us. We have to tell him to get his shoes from the bin 20 times, each time more aggressively and loudly before he actually gets his shoes. His daycare provider says he’s always the last one that everyone has to wait for during transitions (because, and I quote my daycare provide, “He’s usually still in the middle of the room dancing or jumping around.” Yup sounds about right). Or sometimes we will even tell him something, he’ll look at us and smile, and completely ignore (or do the opposite!) of what we just asked. It’s maniacal actually.

Before I go running to the pedi at our three year appointment with all of these concerns (that are probably just normal but when it’s your kid you worry way more right?), what’s your take? I want all the tips and tricks for everything above, because I can’t keep losing my patience any longer. Is this all related to the binky? Or some type of bigger developmental phase? (Usually I’m pretty good at understanding these phases, but this just seems kind of out of the blue.) And if it’s some bigger developmental change, what can I do that’s different from my usual lose-my-patience-then-lose-my-sh*t approach? Help a sister out because I need it!

Winkies and Whoo-Whoos

I had a moment last night. A moment of “pinch me am I delirious or is this really happening?”. Felt like it could have been out of an SNL sketch. It was happening. Here’s what happened.

Look at poor Tessa. What do you think is going through her head? THESE TWO NUTBALLS I HAVE FOR BROTHERS, HERE WE GO AGAIN! P.S. She’s happy if she has her sponge. Doesn’t let that thing go when she’s in the bath. Loves her dang sponge.

Threw these three into the bath together because Daddy was still in work meetings and Mommy was already running wayyyy past bedtime. Usually the bow gets a bath first by herself and then while mommy puts the bow to bed, the bruises get a bath together. I wasn’t prepared for this, and honestly, I see-sawed between just straight up laughter or parenting meta-moments wondering if I should really be jumping in and being the voice of reason? Or explanation?

Luca started it with “Mommy, me and Dommy have a winky and Tessa has a whoo-whoo!” Just randomly. Like no big lead up and no precursor studying of naked baby bodies before the onslaught of questions and comments. I immediately buckled up.

Dommy: Why does Tessa have a whoo-whoo? Where’s my whoo-whoo?

Me: *Crickets* (I’m too tired for this so I’m sitting there quietly weighing my options for how I want to proceed.)

Luca: Because girls have whoo-whoos and boys have winkies.

(Luca for the win!)

For the record, I tried to explain the appropriate anatomical word for female part and male part a while back, but it never stuck and just made my husband feel awkward (He says it’s weird if they say “vagina”). Who knows, if, to this day, they even know the real scientific words for private parts. But regardless here we are in the middle of bath time tossing around “winkies” and “whoo-whoos” like it’s our job.

Dommy: My winky’s right here! *Furiously pulls on his winky in his best effort to show me…as if I haven’t seen it before…and as if it can detach from his body.*

Luca: Dommy, my winky’s bigger than yours!

Dommy: NO! My winky’s bigger! (Is this a boy thing? Why do they compare winkies so freaking much?)

Luca: *Giggling and pointing* And see that’s Tessa’s whoo-whoo! That’s where her poop comes out!

*Dommy leans down and stares intently at Tessa’s whoo-whoo trying to process that’s where poop comes out, which it is in fact NOT where poop comes out.*

For this fleeting moment in my head I had to think about whether or not I actually wanted to explain the difference between the poop hole and the pee hole but honestly I was so exhausted I just let it go.

And then Luca did it for me.

Luca: My pee comes out of my winky! See! *Begins peeing in bath straight across Tessa (she’s in the middle) towards Dominic and thinks it’s hilarious.*

Dommy: *Looks down at his own winky, which is still submerged in the bathwater (thank goodness – otherwise we would have had criss-crossing fire hoses straight across Tessa).* And I start seeing a stream flowing and now know he is peeing in the bath too, right in Tessa’s direction.

Poor girl is sitting right smack in between her two nutball brothers getting her whoo-whoo scrutinized while being peed on.

So I guess my question is this: That was normal right?! That’s totally what happens when kids start to notice private parts and think potty talk is hilarious. I handled it fine right? Maybe I shouldn’t have put Tessa in the bath with them? But goodness they’re only 4 and 2, that’s fine right? Or is Luca or Dommy going to tell everyone at school that they showed Tessa their winky and they saw her whoo-whoo?! Oh god oh god oh god.

Also, how do I get boys to stop peeing in the bath? And to think it’s gross instead of funny?

And, like, how on earth am I ever going to handle the birds and the bees conversation? Actually, I won’t have to, at least for the boys. Gona make dad handle that one.

I think I’ll just keep bath time separate from now on, that was too much for my exhausted brain at 7:30 at night on a work day. Time for wine. And bed.

Good thing they’re cute.

Where are all these emotions coming from?!

(Part 1) Back to School Eve

It was a weirdddd weekend for me. I’m usually not the emotional type, but I’ve somehow caught myself in unusual emotional moments the past 3 days, and to be honest it blindsided me.

But then I realized it.

First, we made it through 2 weeks of quarantine as of this Friday, of which the first 7 days we were convinced our kids (and probably us too) had COVID and I swam in mom guilt. They were showing symptoms, and one of my kids had confirmed positive exposure so we thought it was a done deal. After several agonizing days of waiting for 3 kids’ test results to come back, all were negative. Really relieving, but at the same time we were hoping these mild cold symptoms were all it would be if it actually did hit us. So a little disappointing in that sense?

Second, the second 7 days of a quarantine were official back to work days for me, except I had to do it all remote instead of in person because of this quarantine. You’d think it’d be a silver lining to have 7 extra days home with the kids. But by Thursday and Friday of this past week, I was in back to back to back meetings from 8am till 5pm daily with a four year old, two year old, and almost eight month old basically fending for themselves. We survived, but it was hell.

Third, I’m realizing now that it’s been since March 13th with my little family unit. I’ve watched my four year old turn into a little independent human. HE actually taught ME how to play a board game this weekend. One that I didn’t even know he knew how to play. I’ve watched my two year old become the wild one with big feelings that I’m pretty sure he’ll always be. I’ve watched my newborn infant turn into a baby girl full of sass and zest and playfulness.

Months of us all together, all the time. Though hard at times, it’s been precious, and we’ll probably never get anything like this back again, at least when the kids are this little (unless of course, the COVID situation goes to sh*t again and we’re back in stay at home orders). Now it’s about to end, and we have to try to get back into some sense of normal. After spending months figuring out what our new normal was.

Fourth, I’m about to leave Tessa after an unexpected almost eight months of being my little baby kangaroo, attached to my hip all the time. If this year was normal I would have left her after three months. But it’s been eight! A lucky eight, for sure, and I’m so grateful for the extra time. But it’s making this normally rational, normally logical, normally put together mama extra emotional. Add that to the fact that she still doesn’t take a bottle and cries when she’s with other people. You know. I’m feeling….good about it? Nah not really.

I know there are so many other parents who have already transitioned back to work or back to school or back to whatever their normal was before COVID. I know it can’t stay this way forever.

We’ll do it though. Tomorrow will come and go and we’ll survive it. I’ll probably look at pictures all day long and text my husband wondering how everyone’s doing. We’ll do it though. Tomorrow will come and go and we’ll survive it. I probably won’t cry but I will worry and I will watch the clock go by minute by minute. We’ll do it though. Tomorrow will come and go and we’ll survive it.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Check back tomorrow for part 2. Cross all your fingers and sleep with your pjs inside out for me please!

SOS, Haircut Help!!

Pre-haircut. Hiding out of fear when I found him.

You know when you sign your kid up for an activity or it’s a new school year so the teacher sends a “get to know you” form to fill out? And on that form is usually a box for “your child’s fears”? Usually I write ‘loud noises’ and ‘itchy tags’, because he’s uber sensitive to loud noises (won’t ride a school bus, covers his ears when a smoke alarm goes off, gets scared when a motorcycle drives by…) and he loses his sh*t if an item of clothing has a tag he can feel (Nike is THE WORST – absolutely massive tags).

So what’s this have to do with haircuts, you ask? Well the two things he fears most in this world – loud noises (buzzers) and itchies (hairs) combined into one. It is the definition of sensory overload for him. It also doesn’t help that a while back, a hair stylist accidentally nicked his ear, too. You’d think it’d be no big deal, but he remembers it vividly. The kid has PTSD, I swear. And I’m not making light of PTSD – I legit think he has it. Haircuts have progressively gotten worse and worse as he’s gotten older (it wasn’t this bad when he was much younger).

30 seconds post-haircut.

The last time we actually went to a barber, it took my hubby plus TWO other employees to restrain him and they didn’t even make it all the way through the haircut – meanwhile I sat in the car with the other littles and refused to go in with him because it is traumatizing for ME to watch! (Yes, I hesitate to use the word ‘restrain’ because of such negative connotations but this is MY truth so, judgements and trolls, beware!) We’re at that point where we can’t even take him to the barber anymore. It’s too traumatic and embarrassing for all of us.

There’s not a lot that really gets me in the momming world, especially with the oldest. But haircuts with my little big guy make my heart shatter into a million pieces.

This is what they look like these days…(And time-lapse gives us the grace of making it look a little better than what it’s like in real time.)

Before everyone starts suggesting things we can try to help ease his fears and get through haircuts, here are the things we’ve already tried:

  • Electronic distractions: iPad in his hand or favorite show on the TV, no difference.
  • Desensitization: Backtrack and just use scissors, watch his brother, watch his dad. Slow lead up.
  • Treats: We’ve tried treats during the haircut and the promise of treats after the haircut. No dice.
  • New toys: Does that count as treats? “Luca, if you let us cut your hair you can pick out a toy on Amazon” (pandemic). Or “Luca, if you let us cut your hair we can go to the toy store after!” (pre-pandemic).
  • Ripping off the bandaid: Not mentioning a thing about him getting a haircut until we walk through the door (or sit him in the chair if it’s at our own house).
  • Giving plenty of notice: Talking about it a week ahead of time, and letting him ask any questions he wants, or share any emotion he feels.
  • Model: Watch the buzzers on Daddy’s head. On Dommy’s head. Feel them on your arm. He does this all just fine…on his head/near his ear is a different story.
  • Mama snuggles: “I will hold you and hug you and kiss you and won’t let go of you until it’s all over. You know I love you and you are brave and you are strong.”

I’ve consulted everyone I can think of, too. The hair stylists at the kids’ place where they usually go. My hair stylist. The pediatrician. Even put a poll out on IG stories a while ago.

I’m at that point where I’ve only got one more thing up my sleeve. I’m taking a page out of my special education colleagues’ background with this one. Just made him this social story and gifted it to him today. He LOVED it, and read it to his brother right away. And we’ll keep it in our playroom library till the next haircut. It’s my last hope!

If this doesn’t work, I am really not sure where to go from here. Am I scarring him for life? Maybe just not ever take him to get a haircut and let him grow his hair out until forever? Or at least for a while until we attempt it again? Honestly, help!!!! Is there anything – ANYTHING – I haven’t tried that I could try? Special tricks that I don’t know about?

This mama needs your help, or at the very least, your sympathy!

Pee and Poo and Potty Parties

Potty Training. In case you’ve been following my IG stories and wondering why we’ve been living in PJs and no pants and never leaving our house, this is why.

It’s time to face the music. I’ve just been putting it off and off. This bruise has been ready for a while now, and we finally took the dive and committed fully this past week. (We weren’t anticipating committing fully – at least I wasn’t – until I got off a work call and randomly found my hubby with this guy on the mini potty. “He said he wanted to go potty.” One week before we all go back to school and daycare. Sure, that sounds like the most optimal and convenient time to attempt potty training!) I’ve been knee-deep in pee and poop ever since.

So let’s rewind for a bit. Flashback to two years ago when we potty trained the oldest bruise. Mike and I agonized over when to do it. Should we do it now? How about now? Is now a good time? Do you think he’s ready? What about now?

We ended up setting a goal: If he doesn’t come around to it by Christmas break, we boot-camp-it-out over the holiday. Well, turns out this kid just started doing it on his own the first week of December. He was a little over 2.5 years old. And for whatever reason I don’t remember it being so bad. We stayed at home for 2 days just so he could learn to wear underwear and get used to it, and he did great.

We ventured out to Chipotle on day 3 (we figured this was our safest bet) and I vividly remember being down on my hands and knees cleaning up a massive puddle of pee under his high chair while the rest of the joint continued eating around me. I was mortified but I’m not really sure anyone else noticed? Maybe they did but just honored me with grace knowing what was going on. Yeah, let’s go with that.

But honestly, after that day we never looked back. It was a lot easier than I had anticipated. Occasional accidents here or there but it was rare.

Fast forward to now, with my middle bruise. I can’t even begin to tell you how different it has been so far. While this kid has been able to sit on the potty and make himself go pee for a few months now, Dominic has been having trouble noticing the urge when it comes naturally. And it takes everything in my silent willpower not to get frustrated.

So, what’s my secret?

Wish I had one. Things with Luca just kind of fell into place on their own. But here are the things we’ve been doing this time around to hopefully help our cause.

Treats. I’m kind of worried he’s going to force himself into a UTI because he is so enamoured with treats that he literally jumps up and yells “Time to go potty!” every 20 seconds because he knows he gets a treat right afterwards. I can’t figure out if I’m harming him with this reward system or if it’s going to pay off.

Nudity. Yup, good ole fashioned no pants parties and potty parties. At first it’s super cute seeing a little butt playing all over the place. But after a while I feel like the joke’s on me – especially when we are firehose peeing all over the ground (or secretly peeing in random spots only for Mommy to find a few hours later because of the stink), and especially when his older brother regresses because he sees all the attention on the little guy. Basically everyone is running around my house naked or in underwear right now. Not just my house either, all around the yard too – the neighbors must think we’re crazy.

Portable potties. Even when we are house-bound, portable potties are super convenient. If I want to take all the kids outside to play, it’s a lot easier to tote around a little portable potty than have to run inside every 20 minutes for potty breaks. Ones with splash guards (like the one pictured above) are a major plus, especially for boys! I have to be honest, I’ve been running around like a crazy person trying to find our portable potty for the car from when Luca was potty training. But think I can find it? Nope. Just ordered this one as a replacement from Amazon to go in the car. The replacement bags are also a must have to be able to easily dispose of portable pee and poop!

Lots of extra underwear. Especially because this bruise is having a heck of a lot more accidents than the first one ever did. It’s been a lifesaver to be able to throw poopy splattered underwear right in the garbage rather than trying to clean and disinfect everything. Maybe I’m just lazy?

Patience and calmness. I need to preach to my own choir with this one. Because when my child went pee pee on the potty and earned his treat today, I proceeded to find him outside standing in the front yard pooping in his underwear while eating his treat. (He’s successfully potty trained when naked; add underwear to the picture and it’s a different story.) It took everything in my power not to lose my sh*t. On one hand I feel like the little bugger knew exactly what he was doing. On the other hand, I have to consciously tell myself he’s 2 and learning – every kid’s journey is different. Woosahhhh.

This moment today is also when I went back to Dr. Google out of frustration to refresh my memory on potty training. It can take 3 to 6 months, they say. Respond to accidents with kindness and calmness, they say. Each kid will potty train differently and at different ages, they say. Have kids clean up their own accidents, they say (Uhhhh this sounds like a terrible idea to me – I envision my 2 year old playing in his poop….anyone else?). Be patient and offer lots of encouragement, they say.

I was hoping to write this blog post once we were considered officially potty trained and it was considered a success. But I’m quickly realizing this might be a longer journey for Dominic, so we’re in it for the long haul and I’m practicing patience. In the meantime, enjoy this video of my kids mowing the lawn in their underwear. (And if anyone wants a good laugh these days, just take a drive by our house.)

WFH

I had every intention of doing a Books post today. Lot’s to share about toddlers and emerging writers. It’ll have to wait until tomorrow because this is how my morning went trying to work from home to prep curriculum for the start of the school year. I could tell the morning was going to sh*t so for the first two photos, I happened to set my phone up in the corner and pop the self-timer on. The other photo was a result of me hearing my 2 year old excitedly sing, “Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, up, up!” from the kitchen prompting me to wonder what he was riding.

(Please note: No animal was harmed in the making of this photo, I quickly yelled for him to get off the dog once I was able to snap the picture.)

Let’s play Where’s Waldo? Or seek and find. Whatever you want to call it.

1 point for spotting the stressed out teacher mama on a work zoom meeting in the middle of summer.

1 point for spotting the dog, who came to the playroom to check us out for all of 2 seconds before this happened. Haven’t seen him the rest of the day.

1 point for spotting the bruise who thinks it’s funny to ride the dog.

1 point for spotting the jumping bruise who knows exactly how to quietly break the rules when Mommy steps out for a second.

1 point for spotting the chalkboard that lists the daily routine we should be following but haven’t been following for the past 3 months.

3 points for spotting the caffeine – mom juice in my book.

3 points for watching the video below, in case you wanted more perspective on my day.

3 points for spotting the Hurricane Isaias forecast, hence canceling oldest kid’s day camp for the day and confining all kids indoors for the day – this mama’s worst nightmare. (At least at this very moment we still have power!)

25 points for spotting the perfectly behaved bow (or the baby monitor that shows she is sleeping upstairs like the angel that she is).

100 bonus points for counting the number of toys this mama will NOT clean up today, but probably step on or stare at until one of the bruises decides to actually take me seriously and actually clean up.

250 bonus points for posting a picture of your WFH situation in your IG or FB stories and tagging bruisesbowsandbooks!

An additional 500 points if your WFH situation trumps mine.

109309890345094385 bonus points for telling me this is a productive and efficient work environment, and that it’s possible to work from home and carry out your job responsibilities well while simultaneously parenting young children.

Who wins? Would love to see your point values below. Honor system! And go give your fellow working mamas a hug or a shoulder to cry on, knowing this is what they are experiencing daily. Heck, go give your fellow SAHMs a hug or shoulder to cry on, too!

The Magic of Summer Camp

Before Camp (T-shirt linked – click on photo)
After Camp

Can I just start by saying, I sent this bruise off to summer camp this morning for the first time this summer and the only thing missing when he came back was his socks. WIN!

Preface

Before I get into it, I feel like I need to give lip service to the current COVID situation. I DON’T feel like I should have to defend my decisions for what I do or don’t do with my kids in regards to COVID. Nor should I have to explain them, so I’m not going to. We all need to practice getting in the habit of honoring and respecting others’ decisions, rather than judging or questioning them. So when I tell you I sent my kid to summer camp, your response should simply be, “Wow, I’m really proud of you for making that decision! I know it must have been really hard.” (Because trust me, this is the nature and reality of any decision-making surrounding families with kids and camp/school/daycare). No room for hate or judgement when families are already dealing with all sorts of stress and anxiety as it is.

Now for the magic of summer camp.

Summer camp is one of those growing-up memories lots of kids have, whether they went because they wanted to or they went because they had to. I grew up going to day camps all summer long because I had two working parents who did everything they could to provide for us. I’m lucky in the sense that I chose to be a teacher, granting me summer vacations to spend with my own kids. But I want them to experience the magic of summer camp, just like I did, so we compromise…I’ve sent Luca (and I’ll send Dominic next year when he’s old enough) to a half-day (9:00am-1:30pm) program for Scouts (preschool age) at the lake we belong to for two weeks in August right before we all go back to school.

But let me let you in on a little secret: No one ever tells you that when you hear “the magic of summer camp”, it’s really the parents who experience magical bliss while their kid(s) is off burning energy and exhausting themselves just in time to come home for nap, dinner, and bedtime.

First and foremost, by August, this Mama is spent. By this point in the summer, I’ve spent 2+ months of my year changing diapers, wiping butts, preventing life-threatening injuries and accidents, eating leftover mac and cheese, ignoring temper tantrums, putting bandaids on boo boos, not ever showering, and not using a single adult brain cell (HUGE shout out to all the SAHMs out there!!). And this is night and day compared to my day job during the rest of the year – despite what most people think – this is a far cry from teaching! So sending 1 out of 3 off to summer camp for a few hours a day and consequently only having to deal with 2 kids instead of 3 is MAGIC.

You want to know what else is MAGIC? It buffers the transition back to school. Gets Luca back into a normal routine – getting up in the morning, brushing his teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and getting out the door. Mama and the rest of the kids get to do camp drop-off in our pjs. Starting slowly by getting one out of five family members ready for the day is a lot easier than trying to transition back to doing all five of us at once. That’s why I’m super systematic about it and only send him at the end of the summer when I need a break and when he needs to get his butt back into school mode.

It’s also pretty great when everything you’ve been fighting with your toddler about doing himself this summer just falls into place because Mommy’s not at camp with you to help you wipe your butt. Or put your swimmies on. Or spread your towel out. Or open your lunch. Or carry your backpack. Or change back into your dry clothes. Or put your socks and shoes on (probably why we came back with no socks today, but I’ll take it…). Literally he fights us tooth and nail about getting himself dressed. “But Mommy shirts are a little tricky!” (Insert Mom eyeball roll here.) But somehow, MAGICALLY, he can do it all by himself at camp!

And am I the only Mom out there who, most days, literally counts down the hours until bedtime just because I know I’ll finally get 30 seconds to myself and go pee without an audience? I really hope not. Guess what? Summer camp is MAGIC for that too because Luca comes home at 2pm so dead tired that he immediately takes his rester (thanks, cousin Ryan for coining the term to describe laying comatose on the couch watching youTube kids on the iPad) while the rest of the kids are actually napping. On a good day, no one wakes up till 4 and Luca will go back and forth between youTube kids and independently playing with his toys during this whole time. Giving me some earned hours back in my day, and also that much closer to bedtime!

Honestly, I can’t wait until NEXT August when I can send BOTH the bruises off to summer camp, giving me very rare girl time with my bow. That sounds like an absolute dream.

Really though, BIG shoutout to all the high school and college kids who agree to spend hot summer days with toddlers at a lake…during a pandemic.

Empty Threats (And Other Discipline Techniques That Never Work)

Send help. I damn near lost my mind last night. We went to the drive-in and, I swear when I say it, the bruises were the craziest kids on the block. They were SO BAD. I was straight up embarrassed – like throw-my-hands-in-the-air-and drink-a-whole-bottle-of-wine kind of embarrassed. I even accidentally butt-dialed my boss (Sorry Carrie!) mid-curse rampage because Dominic decided to act like a puppy all night. The poor, poor people who happened to have spots around us. We were THAT family.

I don’t know why the automatic preset for this video is to display it the wrong way. Need blogger help. At least when you click it, it plays the right way.

So it got me thinking about all the things we do for discipline…which never seem to work. I’ll admit, for some of them, I know why they don’t work. Others, I really don’t. I’m just trying to survive and keep my kids alive over here. And I have a two year old who doesn’t listen to a word I say. EVER. Like a puppy. I’ve compiled a list of all the discipline techniques we use, ordered most used to least used.

  1. Empty Threats. You know. “If you don’t stop wrestling you’re brother we are going home right now.” And, “Dominic. STOP. If you want to go to the lake you need to STOP. Ok you’re not going to the lake. I guess you’re staying home all by yourself.” *Whole family leaves for lake 20 minutes later.* This is one of the ones I know why it doesn’t work. Follow through. No follow through means they don’t believe a word I say.
  2. Time Out. Luca responds to time out really well! I deliver the time out and he heads right over to whatever spot I’ve designated. He sits and waits, and most of the time I forget he’s even in time out. He eventually politely asks if he can get out yet and I quickly remember he’s there. Dominic though. I deliver the time out and the little devil stares into my soul and smiles or laughs maniacally. So I deliver the time out again, this time a little sterner and a little louder. He straight up runs away, to the point where I chase him and drag him to the designated spot. If I happen to go in the other room, he’ll slither his way out or quickly find Luca to continue poking and prodding.
  3. Take away the item or toy or food in question. Usually results in immediate (crocodile fake) tears from Luca, and immediate attempted biting from Dominic (followed by tears post-bite). It seems to work for a hot second, until they find something bigger and better to be sword fighting with.
  4. Ignore completely. I believe the experts call this extinction. If you ignore something long enough the behavior supposedly happens less and less over time and eventually becomes extinct. You’re telling me the beat-each-other-up will become extinct if I do this enough? Ha. I think my kids would be dead before this happened, thus defeating the entire purpose…right? Side note, everyone knows when I ignore completely it’s because I’ve lost all energy and am waving my white flag.
  5. Tell them Santa’s watching, or tell them Elfie’s watching. Christmas. Don’t mess with Christmas. I have to say, this one DOES work if it’s close to Christmas. But when I whip it out mid-May, Luca will come back with some fresh response like, “But Mommy it’s not even winter yet.” Touche kid, touche.
  6. Mimic them. This one usually just results in a good laugh or doesn’t register with them at all. And I don’t do this one in public. I don’t think it’s a good idea to flop myself down in the toy aisle of Target and scream and cry till I get what I want. But if one of them is throwing a tantrum, have you ever tried flopping yourself down on the floor next to them and doing the exact same thing? They look at me like I have five heads and ask, “Mommy what are you doing?” They don’t even realize I’m copying them exactly. Whiney voice too – if I talk back to Luca in the same whiney voice he’s using he’ll innocently ask, “Mommy why are you talking like that?”
  7. Scream like an absolute maniac (but close the windows so the neighbors don’t hear how loud it really is). This is that last straw, I’m-gona-lose-it, are-you-ok, do-you-need-a-second kind of thing. The one where I hope and pray that the volume as well as pure and distinct rage in my voice is going to strike a chord and they GET it. Also the one I’ll never admit to anyone I actually do here and there. Usually, both boys immediately start crying – not because they feel remorse but because I scared them, and then my heart melts and I feel terrible and I run over and hug and kiss and apologize and proceed to have mom guilt for the next month and swear I’ll never do it again. Yes, I do need a second.

So I guess if you’ve figured out something that works for your toddler boys, send it my way. I’m begging you. Otherwise I think I’m just going to be a hermit and not allow my kids to leave the house ever again. Either that or I’m running away. Far, far away.

FACT CHECK.

Take a good, hard look at the photos above. What do you see?

To be honest, I didn’t see what my husband saw when he snapped these. Or what he saw when he decided to put them on social media. He saw a baby girl eating up (pun intended) the beach on a hot summer day. He saw a mom and her daughter in vacation mode. He saw his wife making memories with him and his family. Well really, when I asked him what he saw, he said, “I couldn’t really see anything…it was really sunny and I had my sunglasses on.” *Shoulder shrug*.

You know what I saw? I saw an intense widow’s peak from postpartum hair loss. I saw holy boobs because of breastfeeding. I saw thick thighs and a double chin. I saw sunglasses that all of a sudden look too small because my face is rounder than ever before. And I saw extra skin flaps and lots and lots of belly fat. Rolls for days.

So, no. This is not my typical blog post. It doesn’t fall under bruises, bows, or books. And it’s not really the content I ever anticipated putting on here. But I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon reflecting on these photos, coaching myself to NOT ask my husband to delete them or take them off social media. To NOT crop myself out of them. And I know if I want to be real on here, then I’ve got to be honest…even if it means being serious every now and then. The pressure on us mamas is so, so real. And it’s so, so hard. I owe it to myself and I owe it to all of you to let you in and see this side of me. In the span of 6 hours (we got home from the beach around 2pm), there are hundreds of facts that crossed my mind when looking at these photos. I forced myself to fact check every single one of them. Here are some of the ones I struggled with the most:

Fact: I’m feeding my kid a pouch of mangos, not all the fruits and veggies I’ve pureed myself.

Fact check: Who cares; fed is fed. Plus, I shouldn’t be self conscious because I made a choice that would make things easier for me at the beach.

Fact: Depending on the angle, I legit look like I’m balding.

Fact check: It’s only temporary.

Fact: I have lots of stretched out skin and rolls that are uber obvious when I sit criss-cross-applesauce.

Fact check: I don’t think my kids or my husband have ever once made note of extra anything on my body. I get the same amount of hugs, snuggles, squirmies, and hits. And I can eat my freaking ice cream if I want to; I earned it.

Fact: These boobs are enormous one minute, and flat, empty bags the next.

Fact check: My baby is fed because of me, and only me. No one else could give her what she needs right now.

Fact: Three babies in and my body is not, and never will be, the same as it used to be.

Fact check: I carried and birthed three freaking humans. (!!!!!) They are all healthy, and happy, and I am GRATEFUL.

Fact: Thank god for technology. It’d be really easy to fix this with photoshop or iPhoto. If the kid looks cute and I don’t, I can still salvage the photo of them by cropping myself out.

Fact check: Do I really want my kids growing up without any photos of me with them because of my insecurities? No.

Fact: I looked at these photos and the first thing I saw was all my flaws. Not the cute, happy, smiling baby next to me.

Fact check: I want my kids to grow up loving all humans, no matter shape, size, or color. And I want my kids to grow up accepting themselves exactly as they are because they are perfect. So I better start accepting MYSELF exactly as I am (no, I’m not claiming I’m perfect, at least not in that way, anyway). I am me, and that’s worth fact checking any day.

My Top 5 for Him

Wah, wah, wah. I feel like I had to write this post because I did a top 5 for her. Boys clothes. The no-fun, non-creative, can’t-find-anything-unique gender. The way I see it, with my bow, I can be all sorts of creative. I can find the most ridiculous bows or dress her up in sparkly tutus, and it can still be fashionable and cute. With the bruises, I feel like I basically have to dress them like mini-men. To get my inspiration, I usually just think about current trends for my husband’s generation and look for replicas in mini sizes. I’m pretty traditional when it comes to the boys too. My absolute favorite colors to dress them in are navy blue, red, and grey or white (hence the reason we have themed outfits for Memorial day, Fourth of July [well the whole month of July, really], and Labor Day…no matter what). For other colors, I tend to stay plain and simple with olive greens and baby blues and sometimes the occasional masculine pink or purple. And every now and then I’ll throw in a pop of neon colors. We’re also at the age with Luca where he wants to pick his own clothes, so he almost always insists on comfy pants. Hence owning every pair of sweatpants and joggers known to mankind. Here’s my top 5 picks for him:

  1. crewcuts by J.Crew. I love J.Crew for me and for Mike, so it’s logical I’d love it for the bruises. Simple, traditional pieces that can keep the boys looking cute but also comfy. One of the biggest benefits of crewcuts is J.Crew factory, because sometimes J.Crew/crewcuts can be pricey. I’ve found full wardrobes of THE SAME STUFF FROM REGULAR J.CREW on factory before and paid 1/3 of the price. The one drawback to crewcuts is it only starts at size 2T (they do sell baby clothes, but they are partnered with other brands), and in my experience, sizing tends to run larger (though there is shrinkage with washing and drying). I remember eagerly waiting for Luca to get to 2T just so I could start shopping here…and it was worth the wait!
  2. Gap. Gap/Old Navy made honorable mention for my top 5 for bows, but it comes in second for my top 5 for bruises for one main reason. Quantity and affordability. Honestly, I haven’t found a ton of brands I love for boys the way I have for girls. With Gap, I know their sizing like the back of my hand (they run big!), and I can rely on them for staples in colors that I like. The bulk of my boys’ wardrobe comes from Gap – any time I need to move Luca up a size, my base purchase is a haul from Gap.
  3. H&M. I love H&M for boys the way I do for girls. I like that most of their boy clothes have a European style and fit. Less baggy and a cleaner cut. Love their skinny jeans and jogger sweatpants especially. They have plenty of fun prints that still look sophisticated and stylish without looking to baby-ish or busy. My only problem with H&M is I can’t figure out their sizing for boys no matter how hard I try. Some of their stuff runs big, some of it true to size, and some of it runs small. When all else fails, err on the side of caution and buy big, so at the very least he can grow into it if it doesn’t fit right away.
  4. Burt’s Bees Baby. Also made the list for girls, and it’s on here for the same reasons. Great sleepers and casual wear for boys. I especially love their sweatsuits for boys, that usually come with zip-up hoodies and joggers. Remember, with BBB, the more washes, the softer so wash and dry as much as your little heart desires!
  5. Target (Cat & Jack). I almost exclusively shop Cat & Jack for the boys when I go to Target. Sometimes it feels like they throw their clothes away at the prices they list for. This is the brand I usually hit up when I’m interested in neon or a pop of color. What I also appreciate about Cat & Jack is they tend to run SMALLER. So if I have an abundance of crewcuts and Gap for the boys, I know I can offset the larger sizing with smaller sizing from Cat & Jack.

Honorable mentions for boys include L’ovedbaby, Nordstrom, Zara, Kyte Baby, and Kohl’s (bear with me on this last one before you LOL). I don’t shop L’ovedbaby as much for boys as I do for girls, but their sleepers were still mainstays in our PJ collection for baby boys. If you want to know when and why I shop Nordstrom, read “My Top 5 for Her” in the Bows section of this blog. I’ll just say ditto to that. I LOVE Zara. Like love, love, love it. But they are even more European than H&M, and so for that reason I mostly buy from them in person, where I can eyeball sizing and style better. (Side note: need this pandemic to end so I can hit up Providence Place Mall again!) I’m not as confident shopping from them online, which is why I put them as honorable mention rather than in my top 5. Kyte Baby just has the softest sleepers and onesies imaginable. Ok, and now Kohl’s. I rarely step foot in this store, but my husband loves it. I will say, they have a really good selection of Nike and Under Armour clothes for baby and toddler, and I like loading up on lots of these every summer. Highly recommend!

A note on L’ovedbaby and Kyte baby. Super gender neutral. Most of their items are either/or and it really doesn’t matter what gender you are shopping for.

**Please note, I am not employed by any of the above brands, just simply a mom on the internet sharing her opinion.