Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ella & Everyone Else

I started writing this post on Monday, but it's been such a long week I had to take a break to deal with everything else that was going on. Five days later, I'm finally getting around to finishing it.

Monday night Ella walked in the door from daycare and I immediately heard Joe bark, "To your room - now!" There's nothing better than spending your day with a fussy baby boy, to then follow it up with a night full of naughty little girl.

When she left the house that morning she was told for the one millionth time that she needed to be a good girl; listen to her teachers, not pee her pants, be nice to her friends and take a nap. You can guess that the day didn't go that way, however to her credit - she did nap!

We spent the entire night with no television, videos or pictures (she likes to looking at photos on Facebook) and instead talked about the bad choices she had made that day and how she needed to correct her actions the next day. If she chose to not listen again on Tuesday she would have to pick one toy to get rid of and after dinner go directly to bed.

After all that talking she had to be better the next day, right? After all - we had beat the proverbial dead horse. Nope - she strolled in the house after daycare and this time no words from Joe were required. She walked directly to her room and returned with the toy she had to forfeit and after dinner went to her room with minimal fighting. That day she not only disregarded the rules mentioned above, but she also bit two of her friends. She was bathed, fed and in bed before 7 p.m. (our typical bedtime starts at 8).

The daycare teachers are beyond frustrated with her and I don't blame them. I can't imagine handling Ella and 20+ other 3-4-5 year olds. At this point there are two teachers in the room at all times and usually one is solely dedicated to handling Ella, while the other has to deal with the remaining 20. I asked if they had any other kids like Ella and they replied, "We have elements of Ella in a lot of the kids, but we don't have one kid that has them all like Ella." 

As you can imagine, Joe and I were at a loss on what to do with this child. We have tried every parenting tactic - calm talking, reward methods, punishments, etc. - with little to no success. She is definitely smart enough to know what she is doing because when asked she will tell me the entire list of things she needs to do in order to be a good girl. I've said all along - she hears, but doesn't listen.

One of the things we hadn't thought about and seems obvious now was changing her diet. One of my good friends vows to feed her family real food vs. processed things loaded with chemicals and sugar. After doing some research and examining our pantry it was obvious that our snacks are most likely contributing to the behavior issues.

We came across an article that said kids Ella's age should consume 12.5g of sugar per day. In our morning routine Ella has consumed 3 times that amount and we're not even out the door! The ingredients list on her fruit snacks was very long and full of things I had no idea what they were.

So I cleaned out the closet and we went shopping. I replaced her fruit snacks and granola bars with things like dried fruit, pretzels, organic yogurt and products from Plum Organics, Clif Bar and Larabar. Am I all of a sudden a "Granola Mom?" No, but I do think it's important to be aware of what goes into our bodies and to make an effort for those things to be as natural as possible. And if it helps - then I'm all in!

It's only been a few days but it seems to have made a difference. Sure there is still sugar in the things we bought but much less and the important part is to keep track and be aware. If she eats a Larabar with 9g of sugar and is still hungry then we opt for some fresh grapes instead.

Another change we have made that has made a difference is to let her chew gum more often. Ella seems to have an oral fixation and even at the age of almost 4, puts everything in her mouth-to the point that it's dangerous and quite frankly, gross! We first introduced gum when she was younger and going through her biting phase to keep her mouth pre-occupied. Not only has the gum helped to keep her from chewing on other things, but her daycare reports that it seems to help her focus and sit still more often. We use Trident so it's sugar-free and contains Xylitol, which helps fight cavities. All in all another win for us and Ella.

The last thing we've changed is picking our battles. Ella is very rambunctious, therefore there are a lot of opportunities to scold her for various things; stop running, not so loud, get off the coffee table, don't climb on the chair, eat your dinner, etc. The list could and did go on and on and on. She heard us telling her to do something so often that it just became noise. So together, Joe and I decided the things that are most important and will only focus on those for now.

I think a common misconception today is that parents with the naughty child aren't trying hard enough or aren't parenting their kids. Sometimes that is the case but in our household it's quite the opposite. Ella makes us better parents. She makes us exercise creative parenting and to think outside the box for solutions that aren't the norm. On the bright side, when we find something that works for her it makes parenting more rewarding!

Ella has always been our one of a kind, "spirited child" and there will always be something we need to tackle with her. Wether it's peeing her pants, slamming doors or sneaking out of the house - it's a guarantee that we'll be battling with her until the day we die. Lets just hope the saying, "This too shall pass" applies and it happens sooner than later.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Work to Live

A follow up to all the television I've been watching on maternity leave, House Hunters International has been a consistent go to. The show has made me really want to pick up and move to a foreign country to experience new adventures and enjoy beautiful weather year round.

More importantly, foreign countries typically place less value on work and more on living. There's a saying that Americans, "Live to work" while foreigners, "Work to live."

Will was fortunate to be born without a cleft lip or palate so everyone I know was worried that I would be bored on this maternity leave. They all said I would have a hard time slowing down -and I agreed.

Despite the amount of television I've consumed - we were all wrong! Im not bored and I have slowed...almost to a halt! In the beginning I was a bit worried because my motivation was no where to be found, but since then I have embraced the slower pace.

I love leisurely mornings with Will- in bed with a cup of coffee and Good Morning America. There are a ton of things I could do, that I've been meaning to get to and yet I don't.

Why don't we all do this? Instead we value our worth and who we are based on our job. Someone asks you to tell them about yourself and it goes something like this, "I'm a mom of two and work at an advertising agency."

Those two things aren't even in the same league when it comes to importance, yet almost everyone would respond with something about work. Instead it should go something more like this, "I'm a mom of two beautiful, energetic children, the lucky wife to an amazing husband, own 3 crazy wild pets, have the best family & friends a girl could ask for and love to be outdoors enjoying the warm sunshine!"

We probably value ourselves based on our jobs because we place so much value on our things. Our house, cars, clothes, jewelry, etc.- all say something about who we are. I will admit I'm a bit of a car snob, but I could be content in this starter home forever. Besides a bigger house just means I have more to clean - and it wouldn't mean anything without friends and family to fill it!

Before I had kids I was guilty of all of these things. My career path was at the top of my priority list and my life goals included fancy cars and gated communities. That's not who I am! I wouldn't even fit in living in McMansion Neighborhood.

Now my only dreams revolve around the family we've built. We need a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, clothes on our back and a vehicle with wheels.

I might not be able to uproot my family to move to Barcelona, but instead of living to work, I'm going to work to live!