“She has unlocked the secret language of babies.”
“Five words that all babies say, regardless of race and culture.”
Okay, I totally thought this was bogus the first time I heard about it. But I was also expecting a baby and reading everything I could to prepare for her arrival, so I went ahead and watched the 17 minute clip on Oprah with Priscilla Dunstan.
And then I made Ben watch it, because I was sold.
“A universal secret language that babies use to talk to us.”
Babies only have a few basic needs, right? Eat, sleep, poop, repeat. It can’t be that hard- just try the next one, right? Well, if you really believe that, you clearly have no new parent friends, because if taking care of babies were that easy, your new parent friends wouldn’t all be exhausted and frustrated all the time.
A few months ago we were talking with some soon-to-be-parents about the different types of baby cries, and my husband half-jokingly suggested they tape a cheat sheet to the wall by the baby’s crib. And maybe outside the door and on their phones… and I joked that I’d even write a post about it so they could find it on my blog if they needed.
And then I wrote this post so they could find it on my blog if they ever needed :).
BABY CRIES CHEAT SHEET:
“NEH” = HUNGRY
“OWH” = SLEEPY
“HEH” = DISCOMFORT (like burping)
“EAIR” = LOWER GAS
“EH” = BURP
We were at Home Depot a couple weeks ago checking out their after-Christmas sale. My 3-year-old daughter sat in the cart quietly waiting while I studied the options- there were many. I mean, everyone’s going with LED’s these days, but did that mean we’d have that “cool” glow happening, because I was really looking more for a “warm” gingerbread house kind of look. And what about light clips? Did I have to get those too, and which kind would work for our hou-
Something slammed so loud and hard that we both jumped. It was a big warehouse, and the sound resonated loudly and I felt my heart skip a beat. After my brain took a few milliseconds to assure me there was no danger at hand, I looked at my daughter and saw it on her face: WHAT WAS THAT, MAMA?!?!
Suddenly, BANG!! The loud crash happened again! It didn’t help that I jumped again. I’ve always been easily startled. This only added to her anxiety. I saw panic in her eyes and in a flash, I knew what she was going to do. She was going to throw her arms out for me to hold her, begging, Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa hold me hold me I’m scaaaaaared!
Before she could say anything, I suddenly heard myself cut in with a lighthearted smile, “Oh!” I giggled in a high pitched voice, “That was loud!” I said, throwing my hands in the air in exaggerated surprise.
She laughed, so I did it again and then I told her to try it. She did.
Guys, I don’t giggle. I’m just not a giggler. Anyone who knows me can attest to that.
But I do it for the 3-year-old. Anything for the 3-year-old.
“See, this is a corner,” I say slowly, poking my finger against the point of the puzzle piece. “There are only four corners in this puzzle, so there are only four places th-”
“Here?” she interrupts, trying to shove the piece in, “Here?” she continues, trying another spot haphazardly.
“Well, look at the colors-”
“Here?” she says, sticking it on a non-corner spot.
Ugh. Okay, new strategy.
“Well, look there’s also a border. This line right here,” I pull her finger along the bright blue line, “This is a border. So turn the piece so the lines connect on the outside.”
I know I’m losing her, even as I’m trying to make it tactile for her.
I’m super excited to share this printable with you! I’ve created a customizable chore chart to help your toddler or preschooler gain independence in getting herself ready at the start and end of each day. She simply looks at the picture, follows the activity, then flips up the magnetic flap to to mark off each accomplishment. It has been working wonderfully for us, and I think it would be a great way to start getting your child ready to get ready on his own!
A few weeks ago, my little girl graduated out of her crib and into a big girl bed. With this move came the freedom to get up and go potty whenever she needed, to fiddle with the light switches in the middle of the night, and to come and go from her room as she pleased. But she’s not the only one who was about to get some lifestyle upgrades: so were we! As sad as I was to see her finally lose all traces of babyhood, I was also ready to charge forward into big girl life. That is, a life where Ben and I could sleep in!!!
You see, with great freedom comes great responsibility… for her! And a little bit less for us. Little did she know that as much as I would miss the crib, I had also been anticipating this day. As soon as she gave us the green light and the crib was gone, I put my grand plan into action. Ideas had been brewing in my mind for months, and now the day had come. We were ready to commence Operation Sleep In.
Someone in my favorite mommy Facebook group had once posted a picture of a cool magnetic chore chart, but I couldn’t find a good template online. I quickly slapped together my own chore chart, drawing simple pictures of five activities I wanted her to learn to do on her own, then gluing strips of magnets down for each flap:
When she was a baby, all I had to do was poke a cool toy in front of her face and she was distracted from her crying.
As she hit the early toddler years, I found that offering a little snack was my easy out when I was desperate:
Crying child: “WAHHHHH!!!”
Mother: “Here, have a Cheerio.”
Child: *nom nom nom*
But as she neared three, I found it increasingly difficult to calm my toddler when she was in the crying-so-hard-she’s-gasping-for-air stage. HAVE A CHEERIO. HERE’S AN APPLESAUCE POUCH. LOOK IT’S DANIEL TIGER! LET’S PLAY CATCH! WANNA GO FOR A WALK? LET’S FACETIME AUNTIE JAMIE! …SQUIRREL!
Nothing was working, and she’d cry for what felt like hours. In reality, it was probably under half an hour, but it was torturous. I’d hold her little brother on one side and I’d hold her on the other and she’d just go at it and I would just sit there tracking Ben on my phone like a creepy stalker: Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Leave. Work. Now. Leave. Work. Now.
Guys, I know I get all sentimental and nostalgic on my blog a lot, but there are definitely rough days. I guess I haven’t found a constructive and encouraging way to talk about them without complaining or entering an unhelpful negative zone, so I don’t usually go into much detail there. Also, I don’t want my kids to hate me in ten years for exposing their less angelic moments here…
But the crying. It’s real. The inconsolable tantrums. They happen. And I have a new favorite trick to calm the crying child down, and I wanted to share it with you just in case it works for you, too. Because when it’s one of those days, it’s these tricks that get you through the day.
Little did I know when I picked her up and out of her crib this morning, it would be the last. The last time I would walk into her room to see her standing there, patiently waiting for me. The last time she’d be cozy in her blue sleepsack, fluffy and as squeezable as a teddy bear. The last time she’d need me to help her start her day.
I carried her up to our room, “Let’s have some morning snuggles!” I said, hoping I could relax in bed for a few more minutes before her baby brother woke up, too.
We snuggled in bed, warm under the covers when her face suddenly popped in front of mine. She looked at me with wide, serious eyes, and whispered, “Mama, today I want to nap in a grown up bed. So I can get up and go potty all by myself and wash my hands and get back into bed.”
I looked back at her, my mind processing this sudden request to grow up.
She nodded seriously as she saw me considering, “Yeah, Mama, I think that’s what I want to do. Can I nap in a grown-up bed?”
Ben and I had been talking about switching her out of her crib. Eventually. But it never feels like the right day to change up routines that are working beautifully for the family, so it took this confident, determined request to finally bring about the change.
Have any of you taken the leap and started an art space for your child? I was so happy to hear that my brother and sister in law went out and stocked up on art supplies after seeing my post! I’d love to see pictures of your child’s work or photos of your space if you’ve done it, too! Now, if you’ve actually gone and started the whole art thing, you’re probably running into a common problem/fear of parents of kids with paint: MESS
We are fortunate enough to have a dedicated art room. I basically decided we weren’t going to attempt fancy dinner parties anymore and gave away the dining table and chairs. (Everybody likes scrappy dinners better anyway, right?? I mean, at least they happen.) And just like that, we had a dedicated room just for making things.
I didn’t fill the space with a ton of stuff. Just a low shelf, a kid-sized table with chairs, and a rolling “art cart” full of art supplies. But before we got rid of the dining table, when I was still in my let’s see if this art thing is really going to stick phase, the only thing that made that space “the art room” was the art cart. It was a great start to our art studio, and if need be, it would have been enough on its own to accomplish most of the things I wanted to do with the art space.
What is an art cart? It’s just what it sounds like. It’s our 3-tiered rolling IKEA cart that I’ve stocked full of the most-used art supplies. Here are five reasons why I love it and would keep it even if we downsized:
Elephant: Tissue paper squares and a spray bottle 🙂 I drew the elephant outline with a sharpie. The rest was all her!
Originally, I wanted a maker space. A “tinker lab.” A place where my child could go and cut, glue, saw, tape, wire, and mold things from her imagination to reality. Robots, pulleys, cars, machines.
But she’s still two, so for now, I need her to get familiar with the basics first. So far, that means paper, markers, glue, tape, scissors, and paint. You’d be surprised how much a toddler can do with those few items and, paradoxically, how hard it is to think of new things to do with those few items. At least it is for me. I’m not super creative myself, but I really like copying neat stuff other people do. So I’ve been all over the Internet and Instagram researching and now have endless hours of inspiration at my fingertips. I’m sure you’ll be seeing some of that here :).
This space has been GREAT for our family for so many reasons. My toddler has developed her fine motor skills like craaazy with all that drawing, coloring, painting, taping, and cutting. She has learned to use a bunch of different tools (like scissors, brushes, tape, glue, straws, syringes, pipettes, and clothespins) and mediums (watercolors, crayons, markers, tempera paints, ribbons, washi tape). Some days, she comes home and declares that she needs art time, and she walks right over and starts cutting paper. I think it’s one way she unwinds and calms her mind after busy activities, and I love that she has that option.
This story is several months old, but I think of it all the time.
It was a Sunday. I know this, because we skipped church that morning. We had to, since my daughter had come down with a 104 degree fever. She had been sick for a couple days, and I was grateful for the weekend so Ben could step in and take on some of the burden of taking care of the kids. She’s usually a darling, but this sickness was making her kind of a mess- a hot, crying, whiny, screaming mess. So this weekend, I was especially grateful for backup.
It was still a lot of work. Taking care of a sick toddler and a newborn is hard. I was still nursing my son several times a day, and we were also in the middle of working through my daughter’s TWOS. Full blown 2’s on top of 104 fever = ROUGH TIMES. I think I was getting through a cold, too. So I was pretty ready to zonk out and call it a day.
Except I couldn’t. Because on Sunday morning, I woke to Ben sitting stiffly on the edge of the bed, looking at the wall.
“Oh no,” he said.
“What?” I said, groggily.
He slowly turned his body to me, “I tweaked my neck again.”
“I can’t even move my head. Ugh. Oh man this is such bad timing.”
“…” (<–Yes, it is. It really is.)
“I can still get her ready this morning…” he started, referring to our sick toddler.
“No. You shouldn’t. You could make your neck or back worse. I’ll get her.” I mean, my intentions were kind, but I couldn’t control my tone of voice. I was NOT pleased with the situation. Ben was going to be out of commission the entire day?!?! NOOOOO!!!
“Ugh, no, you’re so exhausted already,” he began, “I don’t want you to have to-”
“It’s fine. I’ll be fine.” I was huffy. I knew he really did feel bad, but this was seriously not the best time for a tweaked neck! I tried to be sympathetic, but I think selfishness overwhelmed me and I was more sympathetic for myself than for him.
So the hard work continued. I got both of the kids up, dressed, fed, cleaned, and played with them. I took her to the potty and I changed all his diapers. She continued to be sick, I continued to be exhausted, and Ben… lay on the couch. In pain.