Tag Archives: Stress

Growth Spurt

An experienced parent knows that a baby eating more than usual, sleeping more than usual, fussing more than usual usually means a growth spurt. Most babies follow a similar pattern: 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months mark large periods of growth. During this time a baby nurses for hours on end, many mothers incorrectly assume they don’t have a large enough milk supply for their baby. Many mothers unwittingly supplement. A baby nursing even after the breast is empty will be okay. They’ll feed more frequently, they’ll feed longer, they’ll increase the milk supply just by nursing more. It might take a day or two, but Mama’s body will catch up and baby will thrive and grow – without ever needing supplementation.

It sounds easy enough. Baby wants to nurse, let baby nurse. Baby wants to sleep, let baby sleep, baby needs extra cuddles, then cuddle your sweet baby.

But what about older children? What signs mark periods of growth after baby is walking and talking? Unfortunately, even though they have so much experience with it, children don’t automatically realize they’re growing. In fact they seldom know until one day they grab something that was a foot out of reach the day before.

Parents don’t usually realize their children are growing either, until they buy new clothes. The clothes come home from the store, slightly big. Daddy removes the tags, by nightfall the clothes don’t fit.

There are other clues that our children are growing. Some sweeter than others. At all ages and stages of growth children tend to eat and sleep more while they’re growing. But they also tend to upset more easily.

Recently we’ve been faced with a houseful of growing girls. One day the girls sang in harmony. The next day they insisted no one sing at all.

We see little girls that push each other, bite, kick, or hit more often. They have a more difficult time talking things through with each other. A little stumble creates giant tears, that last for hours. If one girl wants something, the other wants the opposite. No food is the right food, something we don’t have is always the preferred choice.

For us other signs of growing include:

loss of coordination, more likely to stumble


hand wringing or shaking


toe walking

refusing to sleep

gulping/sucking air

burping (think of the sound Gollum makes)

Chewing (on fingers, clothes, anything in reach)


Mostly we ignore the tics while they pass, but we also try to help the girls cope with them. We provide chew toys when needed, straws for drinking, bikes to ride rather than walking, a trampoline to bounce on, soft cushions to crash on. And most importantly we try to offer patience and love. These will pass, and they’ll pass faster if we offer support, rather than consequences.


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A Stand Against Bullies

In elementary school, I sat on the small, white pebbles next to the school doors waiting to go back inside. I never played with the other kids. I wasn’t welcome. In middle school, I cried almost every day, some days I feared I’d be hurt. One memorable day, at the start of school a teacher, the cool male teacher everyone liked, singled me out, made fun of my clothes and the way I talked. That was the best day of the year. The next two years in the school improved only marginally. One day 5 girls encircled me, taunted me, tormented me until the bell rang. I told my teachers. Nothing. I told my parents. They contacted the school. The girls upped the ante.

In high school, I was an outsider. If anyone liked me, I had no clue. I received daily messages in my locker telling me how much no one liked me. A few times I received messages from multiple individuals. My second high school was better. Being much larger it was possible to find a group willing to allow me through the door. But even there a person or two were more than willing to inform me I wasn’t welcome at their lunch table. For quite some time I ate on my own because I didn’t even know anyone else at the school.

I was bullied.

I’m not sure why I was such an easy target. At least not in the beginning. By the end I’d wager those vultures could smell my low self-esteem from a  mile away.

I never want my children to experience anything even remotely similar to what I went through. I want to protect them. Of course there’s really only so much a parent can do to prevent it from happening to their child. Part of me wonders if it’s possible, in an effort to protect their children, they somehow create a child willing to bully others?

I’m not really sure. What I do know is that one woman has taken a stand. A stand against bullies. Not just a cheap show that falls apart the second someone actually gets bullied, but a real stand.

I applaud this woman.


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Why Children Misbehave

About a month ago we went through a period where the girls were completely out of control. Someone was always being hurt, someone always being mean. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of tears, a lot of hurt feelings. The girls needed more attention , more love, more understanding, but the behaviours made it difficult to want to give them what they needed.

At some point, I believe, every parent gets to that point at least once. One night after a particularly rough evening, Ryan turns to me and says, “I just don’t get why she (Ella) does these things.”

The answer was painful. Obvious. We were responsible for her behaviours. Not directly of course, but in a lot of ways the things we did in response to her actions, caused more, bigger actions. At the time I wasn’t modeling calm behaviour. I didn’t model a gentle voice, I didn’t model patience, or a willingness to see someone else’s perspective. Her acting out directly mirrored my own acting out. Between Ella and I, Agatha also acted out. She no longer had comforting arms every time she needed them, she no longer had a soothing voice when scared, her sister no longer gave her the space she needed. With three people in the home angry and hurting, it only makes sense that Ryan felt the tension. It’s expected that he began to act out as well.

Use whatever analogy you choose. A family is a single unit, like the body, a car, or computer. When one part doesn’t functioning properly, the rest malfunction as well. As my hormones came back into balance and the quality of my sleep improved, my moods and level of patience improved. The difference was instantaneous and so beautiful. The girls calmed down, Ryan came home happier and better able to join the girls in their pursuits. Our family healed.

I believe, and please don’t take this as finger-pointing, that if a child is acting in a way that’s unacceptable to the family, then the parents need to look at their lives and see what the root cause is. Children, especially young children, pick up the stress and tension within the home and act on that. The moods in the home become substantial, palpable. A harsh word is as strong as a rough hand, a brick wall. When the people within the home are out of tune, then children aren’t capable of acting in a calm collected manner.

So what’s a parent to do? Sometimes situations are out of control. A person is sick, there isn’t enough money etc. Find out what you need in order to feel in control again. Or what can you do to make things better.

In my case it was a mental shift. I had to let go of needing certain things. I had to reaffirm my conviction that the parenting style we’ve chosen is the best for our family.  If it was a lack of money, we’ve been there, we’d find a way to make the money go farther, or decrease our wants. If a person was sick, we’ve been there too, we’d try to find ways to work around the illness without taxing the person. We’d try to find ways to focus on the rest of the family, rather than the sick person.

In all cases we find ways to have unstructured fun as a family. Before starting our fun we, the adults, talk and try to guess what behaviours we’re likely to see – running, climbing, jumping, screaming, grabbing, pushing, pulling, hitting…. and try to find ways to allow the behaviour without anyone else being hurt or afraid. From the “Playful Parenting” book we’ve taken the ‘love hit’ suggestion to heart a few times. If a child hits us, instead of getting upset, lecturing, saying ‘no’ we laugh and look goofy as we inform them it was a ‘love hit’ and now we’re so madly in love with them we must hug them and kiss them forever. They run away squealing – the hit and whatever caused it completely forgotten. The parents are now back ‘in control’ and everyone is enjoying their time together.

In order to fix hurt hearts and down feelings we don’t need a ton of time, but we do need to prove that we’re there for our children. We don’t need to give them everything, we can still offer guidelines and boundaries, but we must do so gently and respectfully. If we model it, they will follow it.


Filed under Relationships

I Won’t Settle For Mud

Someone stirs. Light blinds me as my eyes crack open. Time doesn’t matter – it’s too early. Anytime is too early. One child or another woke up multiple times over the night. I need more sleep, or want it. Somedays I’m not sure. In the moment before my eyes open for the day, I crave it. But there’s nothing to be done, the girls are hungry. I already feel guilty that I say ‘wait’ more often than I care to admit. Just so I can climb out of bed slower.

I pick the baby up and walk down the hall toward the stairs. I envision myself tripping over… something. I switch her to my left hip. Farther from the railing. One. Two. Three. Down the stairs. I’m careful to step to the left side of the curve, I don’t want to fall. We survive the walk down the stairs and I place the baby on the floor. Double check to be sure there are no small bits in a three foot radius around her, I give her a toy, check to be sure here are no loose bits or broken pieces. I walk to the kitchen. I can’t quite see her hands, so I go back and re-adjust. I need to see her hands and face. I Don’t want her to inadvertantly grab something she shouldn’t have.

I wash the table and wish there were no bugs in the house. But the girls love them so I cringe and wash the table, and counters, again. A crumb drops on the floor, I sweep it up, but the broom was sticky and now the floor is likely sticky. Ella asks for breakfast. I tell her ‘just a minute’ I grab the cloth and wipe the floor. Rinse the cloth, ring, and hang it. Just so. Nothing should touch the counter, or risk getting the cloth wet. Bacteria will grow. I wash my hands and grab clean bowls from the dish washer. Pour the cereal and let the girls pour their own milk. Nothing spills. We’re all good.

I wash my hands.

I take my pills. While the girls eat, I clean. I can see where the bacteria grows. I can smell it. Our compost bin’s in dire need of washing. It’s been two days since I last washed it. With biodegradable soap. The girls ask for more food.

I wash my hands. We’ve been awake for roughly fifteen minutes.

I wash the fruit, cut the fruit, place it on clean plates. Then before bringing it to the table, I wash the table. Rinse the cloth, wring it, hang it. Just so. Wash my hands. The cloth wasn’t clean enough for me to handle food after touching t. The fruit is placed on the table.I take the dish cloths to the dirty clothes. Wash my hands. Get clean cloths.

The girls run off to play, food drops from their laps leaving a trail of crumbs behind them as they dash away from me. I clean. I want to bake some muffins. But I know the girls will want to help. I can’t handle raw egg, salmonella, on their hands today. I don’t want them to mix. Flour could get on the counter. There’d be a lot of cleaning. I’d get stressed, and grumpy. I can’t do it. Not today.I wash my hands. They’re probably dirty.

I cut up cheese, fruit, and veggies, and place some crackers on a plate. There’s plenty of food they can have, without stressing about germs or diseases.

I load the dishwasher. Just so. The water needs to cycle around the machine, get the dishes – just right, or they won’t be clean enough.

The girls bring  toys down to the livingroom. I cringe and try not to tell them to take them back upstairs. They just want to play, and be close to Mommy. They drop the toys and lay down on the floor next to Cordelia. They kiss her and cuddle her. They pull her arms this way and that. She smiles and coos. She loves them. But then something happens. Agatha grabs her and hugs her extra hard, then lets her head flop to the floor. She cries.

I dash over and pick her up. Agatha tries to comfort her, but her hugs only make things worse. The look on her face lets me know she’s upset and didn’t mean to hurt Cordelia. But I can’t bite back my words. “You hurt her, step away.” I turn away from her while I cuddle Cordelia. Agatha cries heartbreaking tears. I get angry. I’m angry at her, I’m angry at myself. I’m tired and I can’t stop myself. But I should be able to stop it. I shouldn’t snap. I should foster the love the girls have for each other, instead I push them apart.

I feed Cordelia and the girls ask for shows. I turn the T.V. on and am thankful for the break. It’s 8 O’clock in the morning and I’m already thankful for a break. Luckily we aren’t going anywhere, otherwise I’d also need to get everyone dressed, and snacks packed, but then there’d be no T.V. otherwise we’d never get out the door.

The phone rings, I get up, Cordelia bites me. I wince as I hurry to grab the phone before it completely wakes her up. I step on a wooden block. I scream at the girls to pick them up or there’ll be no more shows.Ella says, “Soprry Mommy.” as she dashes to comply.

The day continues much like that, until Ryan gets home or wakes up. If he’s on nights the evening is a bit smoother, but once the girls are asleep all kinds of thoughts enter my head. I need to double, triple check the doors and windows. The alarm needs to be on. Upstairs Ella’s window and the playroom windows need to be closed. In case someone with a large ladder decided to break into our home and climb in from the garage roof. As I lay in bed willing myself to sleep I think of what I’d do if the house caught fire. How I’d get all three girls out – in less than three minutes. I figure out what I’d do if someone broke in. A baseball bat can do a decent amount of damage, so can a knife, but then so could that metal framed baby chair. Hmm which would give us enough time to get out of there? What if one of those hares that hop around outside tuned out to be a killer bunnie. What if it decided to eat us? Okay, I might not really think about that one, but now that it’s in my head – who knows.

Not everyday is like this. In fact right now I’m doing pretty good. Since becoming aware of these thought patterns, I’m better able to stop and calm down before I let them get the better of me. I still wash my hands.

For me, I have to let go of the clean home. If I begin cleaning, I contine cleaning. If I’m cleaning, they can’t pull out more toys. We fight. They cry and I feel horrible.

Somedays it takes a lot of effort. Other days those toys come down the stairs, I leave the room. I take a few minutes in an orderly space and talk myself through the mess. Tell myself what it means to them. Remind myself that toys on the floor are okay, smiles on little faces are more important. Most days I succeed and we move on without the girls knowing what went through my mind. Other days, when my blood work is off (thyroid) or I’m excessively sleepy, it takes a lot more effort to stay in control of myself. On those days I can only handle so much before I snap. On those days I try to arrange our day to allow me as much time as possible to adjust my thoughts. If we’re out, I take lots of time getting places, and getting home. I wait until they’re ready to go before herding them to the van – if they’re not fighting, I’m not fighting and vice versa. When home I try to set them up with an activity that’ll keep them occupied without infringing on my warped space.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out what most of my triggers are, to allow myself the freedom to have  a messy house. To know that htose thoughts aren’t ‘me’ and to get passed them. I know things are heading in the right direction when everyone in our home smiles more than they frow, and laughs more than they cry.

Some days I parent like this. Somedays I can’t stop myself, but those aren’t my ideal. Those aren’t even the most common. But they happen, and I try to learn from them. But mostly I try to survive them. I know they won’t last forever, I know my girls will recover. It’s important to me that Ryan points out when I’m out of line. It’s even more important that both Ella and Agatha tell me. Most recently they’ve began telling me to stand on my head when I’m grumpy. It works. By the time I’m on my head I’m over being grumpy. It also provides an opportunity to reconnect with them, despite harsh words. But they shouldn’t need to regulate me, they shouldn’t feel responsible for my moods. They should be free to love, laugh, play, make messes. One day they will be. For now I shelter them, and myself, from others who see nothing wrong with the things I say or do when I’m upset. It’s hard enough to parent without others telling me to settle for less than I aim for.

Sure, if I aim for the stars, I may not get them, but I certainly won’t settle for mud.



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The Life of Mamadandelion

Life is busy, as always. The exterior of our house is almost done. Once it is, the rough grade can be completed, the final grade, and GRASS! In the meantime we have clay sprinkled with rusty nails. Ella is unimpressed, to say the least. She wants to roll in the dirt. She wants to dig, she wants the freedom to do as she pleases. Unfortunately, her paranoid mommy insists she must wait until we get topsoil. At the rate we’re going that’ll be sometime in August.

While we wait for the builder to finish their work, I’m planning. Decking, fencing, patio, trees, shrubs, shed, planting area. I’ve drawn out my plan a few times and think I’ve figured most of it out. Of course it’ll take several years to get it all done, but I’m excited.

We’re also slowly getting our house in order. Ryan’s home for a few days and plans to clean out our garage enough to determine if my van will fit or not.

Ella has two more sportball classes to attend, she’ll be so sad when it’s over. On a brighter note she just started swim lessons and loves them. Our little girl willingly gets her hair wet, and puts her face in the water. This summer she has a couple camps to attend – a fairy one and groovy girls.

Pulling Homemade Taffy

Agatha’s class will be over shortly as well, though I think she’ll be much more upset than Ella is about hers. She’s loved her weekly ‘class’ where she goes off on her own to play with other kids, sing, do crafts (or at least do exactly what someone else tells her to do with the medium of choice), and run around. After her birthday she does have a couple other camps as well. A bike riding camp and a playground camp. She’s excited about them.

Mommy, Take My Picture Please.

Little miss Cordelia is wiggling everywhere and cooing up a storm. I’ve seen her roll. Nice, slow, controlled. No startling involved, however, she’s only done it twice. When on her tummy she gets her knees and elbows working and crosses the room – at least until her sisters block the way. Oh and she’ll have her first (and likely second, third, and fourth) tooth soon. Her gums are widening with the little red spots on top that indicate a tooth is just below the surface. The amount of drool coming out of this baby is amazing!

Ryan’s painting up his armies to play Warhammer, but mostly he’s working.

I’m irritable, tired, cranky. And most days feel miserable. I’ve given up all pretense of having a clean house. Instead I focus on spending happy time with the girls, or taking the time to have a tea or coffee. I’m having a tough time being present for the girl’s but we are truly blessed with little girls who know they can tell me when I’m out of line – and they do. We’re working on finding balance and I’m sure all the ladies in our new neighbourhood must think I’m nuts, but that’s okay. All my friends already know I am.

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Apology Vs Abuse

For about a week now the girls have been getting roughly an hour less sleep per night than they should. Plus a cold’s been lingering around. Everyone’s a bit irritable. Today I took the girls out  all day. Shopping. It wasn’t a fun day, but things went remarkably well, until…

We were at Micheal’s getting some cake decorating supplies  when we passed a display with overpriced books. Ella wanted one. I pointed out that she already had the books on the shelf she was looking at, but offered her a different book instead. She got angry. I explained that she could either get the book I offered or she could leave without any books. She got angrier and demanded both books. I said no.

She screamed louder.

People checked to make sure she was okay.

I hugged her as she screamed, she gratefully accepted. However, the screams didn’t stop and neither did her demands. As we left the store (with her under my arm), she tried to hold onto shelves, carts, anything she could reach. When we got outside I tried talking to her again, but she tried to run back into the store. So I picked her up and carried her to the van. Up until this point I was calm, I was reassuring her as we went. Though I didn’t bring her tiredness to my attention, which I should have.

As I put her in the van she screamed that she didn’t want to be in the van, she didn’t want to come with me. I opened the door and told her she could leave if she wanted. She stayed in the van, but screamed as I buckled her up.

When we got home she screamed that she wouldn’t come into the house. I brought everyone else in first, then came back out for her. I was a horrible parent and told her that if I left her in the van it would get as hot as an oven and she’d get roasted like a goose. I also told her that the police don’t let mommies leave children in vehicles, and if I did the police wouldn’t think I was a good mommy and they’d find her a new one.

Oh boy. Angry or not, frustrated or not, it doesn’t matter. There are so many better ways I could have handled the situation.

As it was she took it well. Said she wanted to stay in the van so she could get a different mommy. She just wanted to be alone. I heaved a sigh of relief and told her she could have alone time in the house. She crumpled and let me pick her up to carry her to the house. Once inside she took off to her room where she ranted and raved about me and the situation for about fifteen minutes. I then knocked on the door and said I’d like to give her a hug.

At first she didn’t want me there, but I told her I loved her and explained to her how I was feeling and what I thought about what happened in the store. We realized we’d had a misunderstanding and she asked if we could try going back to the store again a different day. I said “sure.” She then told me she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. So I helped get her tucked in and settled her toys just the way she wanted them. She was asleep by quarter after five.

I feel drained after that episode. And very much like a failure. Over all things could have been worse, but I crossed the line. Our relationship broke a little bit. I tried to scare her, to manipulate her into doing what I wanted her to do. I could have remained calm and found a better solution to MY problem. Instead I hurt her emotionally.

Yes, I apologized. We kissed and made up. But what about next time, or the time after that? How many times can a parent apologize to repair damage done? When is it no longer an apology, but part of the cycle of abuse?


Filed under Parenting

I Have a Treasure, Not Made of Gold

James P. Sullivan roared. Boo screamed and ran away terrified.

What do your children see when you scream at them?

Disney/Pixar's Monster's Inc.

If this is what they see, do you think they can effectively listen to you? Are they likely to learn from the situation?

There are times I tend to yell. When I’m tired, feeling rushed, when I’m doing something I don’t want to stop doing.

But if I yell, I put a barrier between me and my children. Looking at MY triggers it’s easy to see they really are mine, not my children’s.

If I’m tired, I have less patience. A little spill. Something expected for the age, becomes a big deal. I want the mess prevented in the first place, not just cleaned up. I tend to yell. I tell the girls to clean up. I yell at them because I have more mess to clean. But nothing is solved.

I could take a deep breath and say “Oh-oh, the juice spilled on the floor, can you help clean it up?” They’d probably happily help and we’d continue our day happy. Yelling ruins everyone’s day.

If I’m running late for an appointment I want the girls to hurry. I want them to put their shoes on, I want them to go potty, I want to find my lost ten minutes and end up blaming the girls. But can it be their fault? Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to get us up on time. Isn’t it my job to have everyone fed, dressed, and ready to go? If so, then why do I blame them? Why do I yell. It’s my problem not theirs.

If I kept it my problem, we’d all leave the house in a better mood. We might still be late, but we’d be happy and the rest of the day would run smoother.

What about when I’m making dinner? Food needs to be made, everyone needs to eat. It’s reasonable that I ask them to give me space. Isn’t it?

No it isn’t. Not all the time anyhow. In fact most of the time, I should stop and give them my attention. If they need company, they can help me make supper. If they need a snack, they need it NOW, not in an hour. If I stop what I’m doing long enough to get them a snack it’ll only push dinner back fifteen minutes max, so what’s the big deal?

Those are little issues, easy to solve. What about big issues? Someone gets hurt, someone needs my help telling her sister to let go, to stop taking toys. Is it fair to not only tell them I’m unavaibale, but also to yell at them?

No. When they aren’t capable of solving their problems it’s up to me. I can let them know I’m there, available to help them, love them.

How would you feel if you asked for help and the person you asked started yelling at you? Scared, sad, hurt, angry? None of those emotions help you solve your problem, none of them give you confidence. So why do we create those emotions in our children, and expect them to grow and learn from them?

It’s unrealistic.

Today I challenge myself. For one week I will not yell at my children. I will find other ways of letting them know my thoughts and feelings. I will show them how much they mean to me, even when I don’t like their actions. From Sunday to Sunday I will take a deep breath and remain calm with my precious girls.

My Precious Treasures


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