4 Ways to Create and Maintain a Successful Family Routine

When routine changes it can throw everyone off, especially a toddler who LOVES consistency. I recently started a new job that’s extremely fulfilling but requires more office time than my previous job. When I worked remotely I could drop my kids off later and pick them earlier than most parents, but now I must drop them off earlier and pick them up a little later than normal. My three-year-old picked up on this change immediately, and let’s just say, he’s not a fan.

My son quickly became hyper sensitive and started not listening/following directions as well as he used to. One could say this is happening because he’s at “that” age, but it seems suspect for this to have started around the same time I began my new job.  I’m not a detective, but I can clearly breakdown the evidence.

My husband and I sprang into action to make a new “norm” for our household. It’s important to us to have a space where our kids feel and actively participate in a healthy routine. Now, I’ve only birthed two little ones, so I can only speak from my experience with them, but thoughtful consistency is key.

Here are the four ways we successfully found our new routine:

  1. Communicate – Seems simple enough, right? You can never over communicate with your kids, at least in my opinion. We talk about and talk through our routine constantly with our kids, more specifically our toddler. He seems to respond to well to repeated verbal communication.
  2. Cool and Calm – As parents it’s easy to lose our cool when our kids react in a not-so-attractive manner when they get frustrated about the change in routine (I know from experience and I’m not proud of it). When we act in a level-headed manner, our kids will have a positive response. We set the emotional example.
  3. Sleep – When our kids are well rested, the world seems to be a safe place, but when they don’t, you might as well duck and cover. When my kids get a great night’s sleep, they are prepared to take on the day with a positive attitude. My one-year-old sleeps a solid 13 hours a night and my three-year-old clocks in between 10-11 hours a night. I truly believe sleep makes a big difference in achieving a new “norm.”
  4. Fun – It’s important to add a new and exciting component to the routine. Make it worthwhile for all involved parties. My husband and I “let” our toddler guide the bedtime routine. He picks the books, he turns off the lights, he arranges his bed, etc. We are known for putting on a performance. If it’s a song, a monologue, an interpretive dance of the book we are reading, we make it fun. This is part of the routine that is specifically tailored for him and something he looks forward to every single day. It’s HIS mom and dad time.

I’ll say it again, change is hard, but if you work to make it a positive experience, your kids will adjust. Fingers crossed we can maintain our son’s positive perspective and make the one-on-one time we have with him memorable in the best way. What are some tips that have worked for you? Let me know if the comments.

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You Know You’re A Boy Mom If…

A boy mom is a special breed. We are in the trenches 24/7 collecting bugs, battling in lightsaber fights, and catching our children as they fling themselves off anything with some height. It’s a tough and messy job, but we are well equipped to take it on.

It amazes me the things my boys decide to do on a daily basis. Honestly, the depth of my imagination is not large enough to make up the things that my kids do. The way my household works, I should really have my own CBS comedy. We would be breaking all of the sitcom charts.

I thought it would be fun, well, more for you than me, to share some of the crazy things my kids have done; a list of instances that only a boy mom could really appreciate. Here is my list of 7 “you know you’re a boy mom if” situations:

  1. You know you’re a boy mom if you’ve been handed your child’s turd as a present.
  2. You know you’re a boy mom if you’ve been slapped in the back of the head by a LED blue Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber.
  3. You know you’re a boy mom if you’ve had to tell your child on multiple occasions that his penis is OK and it is not going anywhere.
  4. You know you’re a boy mom if you’ve learned every type of dinosaur and can recite them while giving your child a piggy back ride roaring at the top of your lungs. Quiz me; I dare you!
  5. You know you’re a boy mom if you’ve had to tell your two-year-old son not to wrestle his six month old brother. You’re going to win dude, I promise!
  6. You know you’re a boy mom if you’ve received a high five from your toddler congratulating you on your ability to poop in the potty (I am a big girl).
  7. You know you’re a boy mom if you’ve told your child to stop licking his boogers, the piece of gum off the floor, or the illustrations of food in his bedtime books.

These are just a few of my boy mom moments. The list could go on and on and on. Perhaps I will create a “you know you’re a boy mom if” list part two. That’s a thought!

What are your parenting moments?

4 Ways to Address the Loss of a Loved One with Your Toddler

Losing a loved one is never easy. I lost my best friends when I was in college and my Nana, also known as THE Nana in my family, last year. To say they were/are two of the most important people in my life would be an understatement.

I still mourn the loss of my loved ones, but as an adult I am able to process my emotions and understand what it means to lose someone that I love so much.

My Nana was a fighter; she battled through four, yes four, types of cancer. She is quite possibly the strongest person I know. I was able to spend the last minutes of her life with her and watched her battle until the very end. She never gave up! Her strength, hardworking attitude, and commitment to her loved ones are attributes I want my boys to have as they grow and develop into young men.

Wedding Day with Nana and Papa

My oldest was one and a half when my Nana passed away, but she had a very active part in his life and I was able to tell her that I was pregnant with my second son. I am so lucky that my oldest son was able to spend time with her, even if it was for a short period of time.

The girls and Rorie

When she passed away, I thought to myself, how am I going to explain this to my toddler? He has no understanding of death and what it means to have a loved one pass away. Here are four things I learned during this process:

  1. Speak in simple words – get as basic as you can, terms that well, a toddler would understand.
  2. Keep their memory present – Photos of my Nana are all over my house and my son will often go over to the pictures and point to her and say “That’s Nana!” She also gave him a number of books and stuffed animals. He knows that Nana gave them to him and he cherishes them deeply.
  3. Share all the love – Kids are so aware of our emotions. When we are sad, they will often become sad as well. When I was/am feeling sad, I go in for the hugs, kisses, and extra snuggles. It comforts both of us, not to mention, it’s one of my favorite things to do.
  4. Take care of yourself – We can’t support or little one(s), if we are not taking care of ourselves. Self-care is the most important thing you can do!

If you have lost someone special in your life, please know I am sending all of my love, hugs, and positive thoughts in your direction.

How have you explained this life process to your kids? Let me know in the comments below.

Toddler Time – Monster Marshmallows

Growing up in a household with one parent in the medical field and one parent in the field of science, we were encouraged to do activities that expanded our minds and increased our curiosity. I never went to your “typical summer camp” where you lived in a bunk house and participated in kayaking and archery. My parents put me in marine biology, chemistry, and physic camps. It’s not what you would envision an elementary schooler participating in, but it was the best thing they could have done for me. My desire to learn more, I believe, encouraged me to participate in different courses and electives throughout my school career. I was excited about learning!

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I say this because it is never too early to get your kids excited about STEMS. When we got our hands on DK Publishing’s Maker Lab book of 28 kid-safe projects and crafts, it became the perfect introduction to the world of science for my toddler.

This wonderfully delightful book has step-by-step experiments, ranked from easy to hard, designed for 8 to 12 year olds. Even though this is designed for older kids, there are plenty of options for a mom and her toddler to get their science game on!

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I am constantly looking for ways to engage my son outside of his iPad on the weekends. When I came across the Monster Marshmallow experiment I knew I had found the perfect experiment for my two and half year old. What toddler doesn’t love delicious, gooey, and sticky marshmallows? I, myself, could go for a s’more right now!

All you need for this yummy experiment is a marshmallow(s), microwave safe plate, microwave, and an appetite.

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I had my son pick out his marshmallow and place it on the plate. Together we moved the plate with marshmallow to the microwave. I punched in 30 seconds and he hit the start button. About 15 seconds into the cook time, we saw our marshmallow expand and grow! He was in awe and learning about how “air heats up, and the pressure it exerts increases and the pockets grow bigger!”

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This wasn’t just a 30 seconds experiment for us, we did it over and over and over again. If you’re looking for a way to let your kids have fun and learn at the same time, DK Publishing’s Maker Lab is the book for you. I know we will be cracking this book open again very soon!

Get your copy of Makers Lab here >> https://www.dk.com/us/9781465451354-maker-lab/ << and let me know what experiments you try with your kids in the comments below.

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The Five Minute Rule – Parent Style

Have you ever been the middle of doing five million things at once? I’m constantly prepping for the next day, cooking dinner, answering work emails, and trying to stay sane – on any given day. This is my norm and I’m use to it, but I must add, in addition to all of these moving pieces, there is a small toddler standing behind me screaming at the top of his lungs “MOMMY!!!!”

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Listen, I love my little one, but he sounds like a broken record when he says my name.

Insert Family Guy meme of Stewie screaming Mummy on a continuous loop at Lois

I want to share every moment with my kids, but sometimes as parent, we have to get things done, so that we can have more time to play. To a two-year-old that means nothing. Your attention as a parent is demanded and expected to be given at the drop of a hat

I have learned since my oldest became a toddler and stepped into his role of “emotional tiny human” to use what I like to call the “five-minute rule.” When he demands my attention with pleas of “up mommy, peas,” “mommy more cwackers,” or “again, again!” I ask him to give me five minutes.

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Folks, it’s amazing! Giving my child a timestamp has turned into my personal sanity saver! Now, he doesn’t fully understand the concept of time, but does accept the fact that I will be there, present and accounted for, when I am able to complete my tasks at hand.

Have I abused the five-minute rule in the past? I wouldn’t say abuse per se, but I have extended the five minutes to ten from time to time. With this said, I am always ready to leap into mommy action whether it’s five or ten minutes later. I have never neglected my children’s needs. Time is going by too fast and I want to be there for everything, but sometimes I need a moment to gather my thoughts and finish my work, so I can be there, fully present for my kiddos.

Have you tried the five-minute rule? Do you think you’ll give it a try? Let me know if it works for you!

Storytime: A Toddler in Ikea

Am I the only one who fantasizes about living in an Ikea? I would float from room to room chowing down on Swedish meatballs and lingonberry spread without a care in the world. No. I’m the only one? OK, no problem!

As an adult, there is something truly magical about Ikea. The countless opportunities of different things you can do with your home is what dreams are made of. I work from home about 80% of the week, so having a workspace that is just mine and not that of my kitchen table, is extremely important. With this said, we went on a mission; a mission called “Project Get Hannah a Desk.”

I packed the diaper bag full of snacks, bottles, and juice. We loaded the ninos into the car and made the drive to the mega store also known as my future homestead.

PSA – Do not attempt to take two small children to Ikea by yourself. I am so lucky my husband was there to help.

When we arrived to Ikea, my toddler’s attitude changed right before my eyes. He went from a happy kid to that of an emotional mess. He lost his mind when we attempted to put him in the shopping cart. As he clung to my body, I made the decision to hold him throughout the store for as long as my arms could carry. As a parent, I have to pick my battles, and this was not a battle I was willing to take on.

Rorie at Ikea

About thirty minutes into the trek, he decided he was a big boy and would sit in the cart. The following 10 minutes were great and then he demanded his freedom from the metal entrapment. Listen, I don’t want to be that parent who let’s their kid run free throughout a store, so we kept him very close and of course, he hated it! What mother would I be if I didn’t frustrate my child at some point in his life?

So, we made it through the display floor of Ikea (applauds self), but it was the warehouse where everything really went South. My toddler sat on the furniture push cart as we maneuvered through the aisles grabbing the furniture we would take home to build.

Spacing on the cart was limited, and we had to take him off of the cart to load my new desk, but we were going to put him right back on. Well folks that’s when it happened – the meltdown to rule all meltdowns. He was inconsolable. The fact that we had put something on the chart threw him over the edge. We tried to reason with him, but the yells of frustration just got louder and louder, until finally I threw him over my shoulder and took him out to the car.

Every patron watched and stared as I marched out the front door into 95-degree weather, with a screaming toddler and sleeping baby in the stroller. You want to know something, I didn’t care. Of course this was a frustrating moment as a parent, but I did my best to remove us from the situation and tackle the problem while in the car. Of course, he calmed down once we got into the car and was sad he had to leave Ikea. We talked about why we had to leave and if he wanted to go back what he needed to do. He was as receptive as a two-and-a-half-year-old could be. I’ll take it as a small victory during the battle of tantrums.

Oh the mood swings of small child. You never know which way they are going to go! The lessons here folks are to first, reevaluate if you should take your small children to Ikea and two, keep you cool and help your kid process through all of the crazy emotions raging through their bodies.

Where were you the last time your toddler lost his/her mind? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments below.

To My Husband on Father’s Day

With Father’s Day this weekend, I wanted to take a few moments and gush over my husband. I am beyond fortunate to have found my person when I was 14-years-old. Not many people can say they found their soulmate in high school, but I can!

Douglas and Hannah High School

Wow! Throwback!

When we started dating, I knew in the depths of my soul we were going to be together forever (dun dun dun!). The idea of getting married and having kids with him was more than a dream, I knew it was going to be my reality.

This man is not only a phenomenal husband and best friend, but he is also a stellar father to my boys. When we found out we were having our first son, we were overjoyed. I remember looking over to my husband when the ultrasound tech gave us the news, and the look on his face was priceless. His eyes filled with tears of joys and he grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly.

Rorie and Douglas

Photo courtesy of Hillary Carpio Photography

I looked at the monitor where the first image of my baby boy was proudly displayed and thought of how fortunate this baby was to have him as not only a father, but as a role model. My husband is hardworking, committed to his family, loving, and a true gentleman.

He does everything in his power to make sure my kids know how much they are loved. The words “I love you” are said nonstop in our household. He also expresses his love for me in a way that sets the perfect example for how they should love others.

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Even during the rage of a toddler tantrum, my husband is beyond encouraging. He helps my son work through all of those baby hulk emotions. When my son can’t decide what snack he wants and bounces from crackers to goldfish to yogurt, he shows an immense amount of patience (honestly it can be a 30-minute decision-making process).

In a world full of corruption, I know my sons will make a difference. They will be loving, kind, nonjudgmental, supportive, and advocates in their community. The positive impact they make will be because they have two parents who do their best in raising them, but more importantly they have an outstanding dad!

When I see the love of my life with my baby boys, my heart just melts and I see all of my dreams coming true! Thank you sweetheart for loving me and blessing me with the two best kids around. We love you!

Summer 2017 Family Music Playlist

It’s a rare day if my family is not playing some sort of music or dancing around the house. I do my best to change up the music we listen to, but it’s often easy to default to our “go-to” playlist.

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Since we are now officially into the summer season, I wanted to spice up our jams. Here are our go-to songs/albums for the next few months (or longer, which is extremely likely)!

Trolls (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack): We were just introduced to Trolls via Netflix and let’s just say, WE LOVE IT! I’m so sad we haven’t been watching this for months. One of the main reasons we truly enjoy this flick is because of the music. The soundtrack, all of it, is just wonderful, cheery, and upbeat, just like any successful summer vacation should be.

Harry Styles – Carolina: I was never one to listen to One Direction, but now I’m sad I didn’t, because Harry Styles’ voice is that of an angel. As a Carolina girl, of course I love the song, but my toddler loves to bob his head and tap his foot to this uniquely upbeat song. “Oh yeah!”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2: We loved the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 and still play it all of the time, so to say we were excited to get our hands on the Vol. 2 is an understatement. There is something about blasting “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra that pumps up the entire the family. SPOILER ALERT – we are dancing around the living room like toddler Groot in the opening scene. Watching my two-year-old dance to this song just confirms that he would be the perfect little Groot for Halloween (now that’s an idea!).

Ed Sheeran – Shape of You: I know what you’re thinking, “that’s a strange selection Hannah.” You could be right, but this is the first song our 2-month old heard on the way home from the hospital, so it holds a special place in my heart. Ed was the first artist both of my boys heard when they entered this world. His soulful sound usually lulls my babies to sleep, but this song is so catchy, all we want to do is dance!

Dwayne Johnson – You’re Welcome (from Moana): I often listen to Disney playlists, because I love to belt out a princess tune from time to time, and recently I came across the Moana soundtrack. We haven’t seen Moana yet, because the toddler was too little to go to the theatre, but we are looking forward to the day it becomes available on Netflix. While we wait to watch it, we love listening to soundtrack, in particular Mr. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s song “You’re Welcome.” Who would have thought a WWE Champ would steal our hearts with his musical stylings?

Talking about these great songs/albums has me wanting to bust a move!

What’s on your family’s summer playlist?

Parenting the Best of Each Decade

It seems we are always asking ourselves, what is the best way to parent? Now, I certainly do not have the answer (could you imagine if I did? I would be a millionaire), but what I do know is how I parent my children.

I look at the generations before me, in particular those closest to me, and think to myself, “well they turned out pretty good” (mom and dad you’re perfect J). So, what did my great grandparents, grandparents, and parents do when raising their kids?

The Girls

Four Generations

I’ve realized I am raising my children with bits and pieces of tactics from the amazing parents that came before me. Here are what I believe are the best parts of parenting styles through the decades.

1950/60 – During the 50s and 60s there was the method of trustful parenting; the idea of letting kids explore without rules and restrictions. Now don’t go to thinking I’m letting my two-year-old gallivant around the neighborhood without supervision. I don’t even want to envision what that would look like. When it comes to exploration, I encourage my little ones to discover new things (with safety boundaries of course). There is nothing like seeing your kid’s face when they discover something new and exciting!

1970 – Before I dig into the parenting style of instinctive parenting, I must preface that I do ask for help and guidance when I need it; sometimes I just don’t know what to do.  Parents of the 70s trusted that they knew what they were doing when it came to raising and caring for their kids. I try my best to be confident in the decisions I make when it comes to my children. Are they always the best methods? No, but I learn from them and move forward on what’s best for my kiddos.

1980/90 – As a child of the 90s, there is absolutely nothing (in my opinion) that can touch the decade that brought us the Blues Traveler, jellie sandals, and Fruitopia. I should also add, that I think my parents did a good job raising us to be independent, self sufficient, and hardworking individuals. The 80s and the 90s really focused on independence. We understood and appreciated self play; we let our imaginations take over. My toddler is great at playing with his little friends at school, but he is also a wonderful self player. I will often catch him playing with his toys, acting out a scene, and laughing. His imagination takes over!

Baby Hannah

Baby Hannah via 1991

2000/Now – I am a child of the 90s, but I am a parent of the here and now. Like most millennial parents (is that a bold statement to make?), we focus on the emotions – our emotions, their emotions, and the emotions of others. When my son is having a “toddler moment.” I’m right on it, talking him through all of his feelings. To be honest, my hope is that the atmosphere of openness I am developing within my family, will create a true and positive line of communication between all of us. I want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me and expressing their feelings no matter what.

My Boys

My Boys – Photo by Hillary Carpio Photography

So, what does it mean to be a good parent? I’m not sure, but I am being the best parent I can be for my kids. I’ll have my victories and my losses, but in the end, I know my kids are well loved and I would do anything for them.

3 Simple Ways to Raise Charitable Children

Over the weekend my family participated in the Charlotte Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis walk in support of The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. This is the second year we have taken part of this event with Team Christian B.

My two-year-old has had an active role in raising awareness for Crohn’s and Colitis for each year of his life and our newest addition is starting the trend as well. As a nonprofit employee, advocate, and volunteer, I understand and appreciate the work of the nonprofit, but especially the individuals who commit their time to various causes.

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As a parent who hopes to raise young men who care and respect others for who they are, it is important my children are exposed to various causes throughout their lifetime. These organizations are on the front lines working towards improving the health and wellness of citizens, the equality of individuals no matter their race, age, gender, etc. and I want my kids to be right there with them.

My fellow parents/guardians/role models, I challenge you to join me in creating a culture where becoming a catalyst of positive change is inherent in the younger generation.

Here are 3 simple ways we can raise charitable children:  

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1. Exposure – In this day and age, we have an overabundance of resources available at our fingertips to share with our kids about charitable work and how to give back to our communities. For most of us, we read to our kids before bed. Reading time is a wonderful opportunity to share stories of volunteerism, causes involving children (for example, The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation), or kids donating back to a cause. Along with reading, society is attached to it’s electronic devices, which means we can share videos from local charities with our kids. Videos and audio easily explain the work of the organization, but it truly takes hold of their focus.

2. Communication – How often we speak to our kids about giving back says a lot about our commitment to raising charitable children. The conversation needs to go beyond the initial exposure and into daily conversation. I’ve made it a point to talk to my son about doing what’s right for others, loving our friends, sharing what we have with others (I use giving his toys to children as an example he will understand). How are you talking about advocacy and awareness?

3. Take Action – Now my sons are two and two months, so their ways of giving back are limited, but they can participate in my charitable efforts. For example, joining me as we walked for a cure for Crohn’s and Colitis or attending an event through the nonprofit I work for, are simple ways of exposing and communicating causes with my kids. As they get older I will push them to research and find an organization that speaks to them. Once they make a connection I will encourage them to make a contribution to their selected cause such as donating a portion of their allowance, fundraising on behalf of the organization, volunteering their time, etc. There are so many ways to get them involved in one of the many, many causes out there.

Taking part in charity is something my kids will have been exposed to since the start of their lives. It’s important to me they will understand the importance of giving back and what it does for those in their communities and in their country. They will make a positive difference.