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Everyone wants to be a good parent, right?  But how many really think they are?  How many single parents really think they’re doing a good job at parenting?

I’m always looking for ways to be a better mom to Grace.  Twice in the last few weeks I’ve heard “Beth, you’re such a great mom.” from friends of mine.  When I hear that, my brain kinda goes “huh?” Don’t get me wrong,  It’s not that I think I’m a bad parent, but do I think I’m a really good parent?

I always feel guilty that I don’t have as much time to spend with Grace as I’d like to.  I feel guilty because I don’t do as many activities with her as I’d like to.  Here are some of the things we do together:

*Walk the dog.  I really like this one because not only do we get to spend time together, but I get in some much needed exercise.

*Go to lunch together.  This is so much fun.  Grace picks the place and we have a great time just eating lunch together.

*Play games.  She loves activity books and games.  Last week at dinner, I got out some addition flash cards and told her it was a “mystery game” and that we had to use the clues to figure out the answers.  We used a box of colored pencils to help us with the clues.  So if the card said 8+3, she counted out 8 colored pencils and then counted out 3 more and then counted all of them together.  She LOVED this “game”

*Bake together.  Grace is an EXPERT egg cracker.  Whenever we make something, she gets to crack the eggs.  She loves stirring and pouring things in, plus it’s just tons of fun to bake together.

*Watch a movie.  I’m not a big TV person, but once in awhile, Grace and I will get ready for bed and snuggle up to watch a movie before going to sleep.  She loves it when I’m doing nothing else but rubbing her back and paying attention to her.

Good parenting isn’t just the things you do together, but it’s also how you handle situations the require discipline.

I have to tell you that this stage is the best one yet.  I didn’t think I’d make it through the twos.  The threes were rough, but MUCH better than the twos.  The fours are just so much fun.  I’m finding that with each stage, I have less discipline to take care of.  I think it’s because I had to do SO much work during the twos stage, it’s starting to pay off.

I think one of the biggest things were working on right now is her attitude.  Grace can get a bad attitude in a split second.  I told her yesterday that she had to the count of three to change her attitude or she’d have to go to her room…..amazing, the attitude changed.

A few months ago, her room was becoming unbearable.  I was cleaning it at least three times a day.  I know she’s still little, but I told her that she had to start keeping her room clean, so we made a “clean room chart”  that had the days of the week on it and a spot for a sticker by each day.  I told her that if her room was clean at night before she went to bed, she’d get a sticker for the day and then once she had 7 stickers, I’d take her to Kid’s Fun Center.  (It’s a kids dream come true.  Lots of slides, trampolines, ball pits, climbing stuff.  Basically an indoor playland.)   Well guess what?  The girl who couldn’t keep her room clean had it cleaned up every night for 7 nights THE FIRST WEEK we used the chart!!!!  She still keeps it much cleaner than it was before we implemented the chart.  Now instead of cleaning it 3-4 times a day, I only have to do a once a week clean up in there to really straighten everything up.  Other than that, she keeps it clean 🙂

The other thing I’m working on diligently this year is not yelling.  I began to see that yelling is a vicious cycle.  You child pushes you until you yell at them, then they react.  Pretty soon, they only act when you yell at them, and beside that, it’s just not worth it to get all riled up and get your child upset too.  So, I’m trying very hard to be patient, take a deep breath, and make things fun instead of a battle.  The other day, she was really, really pushing me.  I asked her to do something and she was being very sassy.  I asked her again and again, she was sassy.  I looked at her and said in a calm voice “Grace, you are making mommy very angry right now.  I’ve asked you to put your jacket away. You’re not doing it and you’re being sassy about it.  I’m about to yell at you and I don’t want to, so please go put your jacket away.”  She just looked at me and said “oh, ok Mama, I’ll go do it.”  And she did!  It made me very happy that I maintained my calm, and that she didn’t want to make me angry, didn’t want me to yell, so she obeyed.  Those moments are priceless.

Parenting to me is a constant analyzing process.  I’m constantly analyzing her behavior.  What is it that we need to work on?  I don’t expect her to be perfect or to work on it all at one time, but I also know my child isn’t a complete angel.  She has areas that she needs to work on.  I also analyze how to work on her behavior.  What worked or didn’t work in the past?  What can we do differently so that I’m not using the same methods over and over?  Grace loves rewards.  Whether it’s a day at Kid’s Fun Center, a dollar, picking where we get to eat lunch, choosing an inexpensive item when we go to the store, she just loves rewards.

Honestly, I see her behavior improve the most when I take time out of my schedule and we spend time together.  I think that sometimes she gets sassy or acts up because what she really wants is my attention, she wants to spend time together.

I also pray and ask God to show me how to be a better parent.  I ask Him for wisdom, ideas, solutions.  He is the Master when it comes to parenting, who better is there to ask for parenting advice from?

So, if your child pushes you to the limit, or acts up…..don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Being a single parent is tough stuff, but with a little creativity, analyzing, prayer, and patience, you can do it.

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Well, 2010 is off to a good start so far.  Here’s what’s happening around here……

I’m as busy as ever teaching piano lessons, cleaning out closets (and selling what I’m getting rid of on ebay 🙂

Grace is doing FANTASTIC in preschool this year and in piano lessons.  She LOVES piano lessons, and picks up on it quickly which is a real relief for me.  (We’re using the “Music for Little Mozart’s” series from Alfred’s and she’s just moving right along!)

I’m about to add to my lengthy to do list…….drum roll please……..

I’m going to take Violin lessons!!!  I told the teacher that I can only do a lesson every other week so that I actually have TIME to practice.  I’m not exactly sure HOW or WHERE that’s going to fit into our schedule, but I really want to learn to play another instrument.

As of this morning I have 9 LBS left to go…..I can hardly believe it!  It seems like I’ve been trying to lose this baby weight FOREVER.  I’ve only been working on it seriously for the last year and a half and the end is in sight!!!

We’ve added taking a walk on Saturday mornings to our routine and we’re having a lot of fun with it.  I don’t like to exercise, but I always tell myself that a little bit of exercise is better than none!

On a side note, I bought a label maker a few weeks ago, and Grace just LOVES it.  She wants a label maker of her own and only told me that like 300 times last Saturday, so I told her that I will buy her a label maker of her own when she can spell 100 words that are 4 letters long or longer 😉

She is so strong willed that she’s taking me up on the challenge!  She has to come up with 92 more words she can spell and the label maker is hers.  This is what happens when you speak before you think about the fact that you’re sending your child to a preschool where they work on the sounds of letters…You end up buying a label maker……..she amazes me.  Here is her list so far:

*Sock
*Great
*Plan
*Plane (She spelled plan and I told her if she added an “e” it would be plane, so she said, “OK, I’ll add an “e” and she spelled it again with an “e” on the end!)
*Clock
*Love
*Stop
*Soup

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I wish my voice was as beautiful as Susan Boyle’s.

I wish I knew as much about the Bible as my friend Loren.

I wish I was as beautiful as my friend Carissa.

I wish I was as skinny as my sister in law.

I wish I was 5′ 7″

I wish my hair turned out good everyday.

I wish I could play the piano as good as several of my piano playing friends do.

I wish I could sing tenor like my friend Donna does.

I wish I always had the right words to say like my friend Patty does.

I wish I was as patient with Grace as my friend Star is with her 5 children.

But I am not any of those things, nor can I ever make myself be like anyone else.

I am Beth.  I have the voice that God gave me.  I am as tall as God made me.  I am as thin as I can be at this point in my life.  I don’t always have time to make my hair perfect in the morning.  I look exactly the way God intended me to look.  Things don’t always come out of my mouth the way I intend them to.  I am human, sometimes I yell at my child.  I work as hard as I can to take care of my little family, and sometimes that means I have dark circles under my eyes and my hair is thrown up in a pony tail.  I don’t have as much time to practice on the piano as I’d like to.  I am Beth.  I have to live my life, not Patty’s, Lorens, Carissa’s,  or any other of my friends’ lives. 

I cannot spend time or energy trying to be like someone else.  I can admire the gifts and the talents God gave them, but I can’t beat myself up because my voice isn’t like someone else’s, my hair isn’t like someone else’s, or I’m not as thin as someone else.  I have to be who God made me to be.  I have to use the talents that God gave me……I can work to improve them, but I can’t try to be like someone else.

I’ve found that when I listen to someone sing and think “I wish I could sing like they do.” or I look at someone I know and think “I wish my hair always looked as nice as their’s does.” I start beating myself up………every day that week I look at myself and think I’m having a bad hair day.  Everytime I sing during music practice, I cringe when I hear my voice comes out, I look in the mirror and think about how much more wieght that needs to come off (15 lbs).

Satan has a way of distracting us, making us our own worst enemy.  Giving us thoughts that we’re not good enough to serve God, not thin enough or pretty enough to find someone to marry, that we’re not good parents to our children, and on and on.  He will find ANYTHING he can to distract us and mess with our thoughts.

Paul said it best:

“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
II Corinthians 10:12

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I’ve been asking Grace what she wants for Christmas every week for the last few weeks, just to make sure that’s what she REALLY wants.  (I don’t like buying toys that don’t get played with.)  Amazingly, her list has stayed the same since the first time I asked her.

Here it is:

A Scooter
A Helmet and knee pads
A “detective thing” (magnifying glass)
A Bicycle (she thinks she’s 8 or something…..)

These are the BIG things she really wants…I think she wants them for a couple of reasons, #1, Little Bill was wearing a helmet and knee pads on an episode last week when he was learning to skate.  #2, these are all things that she sees the “big girls” playing with, so I think she has the idea that if she gets them for Christmas, she’ll automatically be a big girl…….she’s already growing up too fast for me, and in her mind she’s just like the big girls.

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There are days that I feel like my 2 year old has got some major behavior issues to work on and then I turn on Supernanny or Nanny 9-1-1 and I decide she’s pretty good after all.

I found a book at a local thrift store by Supernanny Jo Frost.  “How to Get the Best From Your Children” and I was excited to read it.  Those nannies always work wonders on the show, so I bought it.

The first thing I was happy about is that I already do 80% of the things suggested in the book!  Yea, so I’m off to a good start.

A few things I learned by reading this book:

  • Don’t say “If” to your child, say “when”  i.e. “When you put your shoes on” (not if you put your shoes on.) We will go to the park.  If gives them an option.  I liked this tip, so I tried it out right away, and Jojo is right……it works like a charm.
  • Use the “Voice of Authority”  I’ve made it a goal this month not to yell at Grace.  As patient as I am, I will admit, there are days when I lose it and start yelling.  I know this isn’t constructive, but sometimes it happens.  Jojo says to avoid yelling, go over to your child, bend down so that you’re not towering over her, look her in the eye, hold her arm and explain in an authoritative voice (no yelling, or gritting teeth) what you want your child to do.  Again, I loved this tip, so I put it to practice right away.  This takes care of situations 90% of the time…..Thanks Jojo!
  • Instead of “time outs” Jojo uses the “naughty step” or the “naughty chair”  it’s the same as a time out, but she says that there’s nothing wrong with a child knowing that what they did was “naughty”  I never really thought about this.  It’s not that you constantly want to tell your child that they are being naughty, but I don’t think it hurts to let them know once in awhile that what they did was naughty and that’s why they are taking a time out.

She gives tips on everything from potty training to picky eaters, getting your child to stay in bed, getting dressed, TV, whining, discipline and boundaries.

Again, I was glad that I already to lots of things suggested in the book like the “Involvement Technique” where you involve your child in whatever you’re doing, cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc. and I picked up several good tips for a few things that I was at a loss for.  So all in all, I was pleased with this book.

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Grace is working on potty training. 

Everyone has their own thoughts on potty training.  I’ve had people tell me that as soon as she turned 2 we should have started on potty training.  I’ve had people say, just wait, when she’s ready, you’ll know. 

I’ve had people say that they trained their child as soon as they could because diapers are “so expensive.”  (compared the the $200 a month I used to spend on formula ALONE, $30 a month for diapers is NOTHING.)

I’ve had friends tell me that they had to strongly discipline their child to get them to stop having accidents or make them go on the potty. (Good grief….is it really worth that?)

So here is what has worked for Grace and I.  First of all, I bought a little potty for her, shortly after she turned 2, when she would wake up in the morning, I’d take her diaper off and have her sit on the potty.  For the first 4 months, she did NOTHING in the potty, but she was at least getting the idea.  We’d also do this before bath time at night….. and then one night, she did it!  “We’re almost there I thought.”  Yeah, right…….this girl is strong willed.  It was several weeks before she did anything in the potty again, but I still had her sit on it just twice a day to help her get the idea.  We also talked about going on the potty a lot, and about how that’s what big girls do.

I bought her “big girl” underwear and she wore it over her diapers……..then we started staying home on Saturday evenings and Grace would wear her underware with NO diapers on and I’d pull her little potty out into the hallway by the bathroom, and she would go several times in the few hours she wore her underware.  After a few weeks of this, we tried for all day one Saturday, and even went to lunch at a restaurant with NO DIAPER, just underware on, and there were NO ACCIDENTS!  “We’re getting there!” I thought to myself, now if I could just get her to do this every day……

I have a box of prizes that I use for my piano students and Grace always wants to pick a prize, and I’d always tell her “No, those are for the piano kids.”  Then, I decided that since it’s something forbidden, it just might motivate her, so I started telling her that if she’d go potty, she could pick out of the prize box, so on the days when she would wear her underware around the house, if she went on the potty she got a prize from the prize box.  It worked like a charm!

One day, I decided that I was tired of “talking” about going on the potty and wearing big girl underware and that it was just time to start doing it, so I sent her to daycare in underware, she had two accidents each day for the first two days and after that, no accidents.  The first week, she wore her diaper to nap and bed, just underware when she was awake.  After a week of wearing underware, we tried nap time with underware and in a week she only had ONE accident!  So the next week, we tried going through the night in underware, just TWO nightime accidents that week, and for the last two weeks, we have been ACCIDENT FREE!

Starting this week, Grace only gets a prize from the prize box if she poops in the potty (because that is a struggle for her.)  But the prize box is still motivating her and she is even acting more like a big girl, walking through stores and staying right with me instead of riding in the cart.  Saying “bye mom” when I leave for work rather than screaming and crying and asking for “just one more hug”

So there we have it.  A transitional and patient approach to potty training.  No tears, no running to the bathroom constantly, no frustrations, no pressure, one very happy mom, and one very happy big girl (when she picks out her prize : ) )

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As a mom, I want Grace to stay healthy.  No mom wants their child to be sick.  As a single mom, I REALLY want Grace to stay healthy because if she is sick and I stay home with her, I fall behind on things at work and that creates more stress.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like I don’t stay home with her when she’s sick, it’s just that I like to prevent her from getting sick in the first place if I can help it.

Here are a few of my tricks for staying healthy.

  • Daily Vitamins.  Grace takes the Enfamil daily vitamins for infants.  I put them in her first cup of juice in the morning and she drinks it with her juice.  No fuss trying to get her to take them 🙂
  • Vitamin “C”  I found vitamin C’s that are gummy bears and she takes two each day.  At first, I had to watch her closely with them to make sure she got them down, but now she’s a pro at taking them.  If she’s coming down with a cold, or doesn’t feel well, she takes two of them 3 or 4 times a day to help boost her immune system.
  • Drinking lots of fluid.  Grace drinks lots of juice and water everyday to help flush things out of her system and stay hydrated.
  • Staying home if she doesn’t feel good.  I am a planner and I like to have things scheduled, but if Grace doesn’t feel well, we use plan “B” for the day, STAY HOME.  This helps her relax and take a longer nap if she needs it, it keeps her from catching something additional since her immune system is already weak at that point, and it keeps her from spreading what she has around our community.
  • Staying away from friends who are sick.  Some people think I’m crazy when I don’t want her around their children if they have a cold or a fever.  My theory is that a lot of illnesses present themselves as a “cold” and then they end up being strep throat, tonsillitis, sinus infections, mono and more.  So if her friends have runny noses or are coughing, we STAY AWAY from them.
  • Wearing 2 pairs of jammies to bed.  I started this because last year, Grace kept kicking her blankets off at night and I couldn’t get her to stay covered and I was afraid that she’d get sick, so she wears a pair of pants and long sleeved shirt jammies (kind of like long johns) and then she wears a fleece pair of zip up jammies with the feet in them over the long john style jammies.  It keeps her nice and cozy warm all night long.
  • Naps or rest time.  Grace is going through a phase where she doesn’t want to take a nap every day.  I’m sorry, but rest is a MUST especially when you are two years old.  My policy is that you don’t HAVE to take a nap, but you do have to rest.  This entails getting in bed and covering up.  She takes a toy or a book with her and 99% of the time, she falls asleep.  Sleep not only helps children grow, but it also helps them recoup from all of the activity in the day.  If I allowed Grace not to take a nap when she said that she didn’t want a nap (about 90% of the time) I think she’d catch more illnesses just from the fact that she’s not getting enough rest.

This is not to say that by following what we do your child will NEVER get sick, but it can cut down the number of illnesses in a winter.  Last winter, Grace had two colds and that was IT.  No flu, no ear aches, no perpetual cough.  Just two colds.  I attribute this to vitamins, staying home when she’s not feeling well and staying away from other people who are sick.  It’s much more fun to have a toddler who’s able to enjoy the holidays than a toddler who’s miserable because he or she is ill during the holidays.  An ounce of prevention goes a long way!

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