Friday, April 6, 2018

Toddler Sensory and Mindfulness with Food


We live in such a busy go-go-go culture. Go to playdates. Go to library events. Go to mommy-and-me classes.

But isn't life more peaceful and enjoyable when we slow down and savor all the little pleasures that make up the mundane? Mindfulness is a practice of slowing down and being present in the moment. Most of us are totally disconnected from this way of life, so using our five senses alongside our toddlers makes perfect mindfulness practice.

(Pin to finish reading later!)

Pick a new fruit you want to try together, or experience a favorite fruit in a new way by engaging all five senses.


Visual
How does the strawberry look on the outside? Red with little dots. Green leaves. Is it shiny or starting to turn dark? What does the inside look like?

Scent
Smell the strawberry. Scratch the surface and smell it again. Can you get a tease of the taste this way?

Sound
When you bite into the strawberry, how does it sound? Is there a crunch, or is it more of a mush? What about as you chew?

Touch
How does the strawberry feels on your fingers? Is the outside different from the inside? When you take a bite, how does the strawberry feel on your teeth and tongue? What about when you swallow?

Taste
Chew with slow diligence. Taste the juice. Notice the way the flavor slips over your tongue and fills your mouth.

This is a simple exercise anyone can enjoy with any food. And food is great for mindfulness beginners because it's already a time when we should be sitting down and connecting. Connect with yourself and your experience, and connect with each other. When we have this connective relationship, we're more appreciative of the beautiful small things, and we're more in tune with what makes or bodies, minds, and spirits light up.


Don't miss another post! Find more gentle parenting, crunchy, Christian content on the Her Arms Are Strong Facebook page and connect with a community of moms in the closed Facebook group. You can also see snippets of my personal life on Instagram or find more posts on the Her Arms Are Strong Pinterest board.

Friday, March 30, 2018

I'm Not an Instagram-Worthy Mom or Wife

I'm not an instagram-worthy mom or wife.


In this picture, I'm wearing the same comfy shirt I've worn to bed all week, no bra, and my hair is a mess because I slept on it wet. My kitchen is a disaster because I blinked. And the filter is called My-Tiny-Apartment-Kitchen-Has-Florescent-Lights-That-Flicker.

I stopped trying to venture out into the winter wonderland halfway through winter because I just can't be cold anymore. I missed taking my son sledding again, which makes me feel pretty crummy. I'm holding my breath for spring and just shaved my legs for the first time in like two months. And to be honest, I only did it because I could feel the breeze move through my hair as I walked.

My carpet has a squished strawberry in it that's so old it's practically part of the family. Because if I choose to spend my child's short independent play time cleaning up weird food squished in my carpet, there go the dishes again, and I can't breathe. Sigh. My home will never be an instagram-worthy home.

I have days where I don't make sure my tank is full, so I sputter along on fumes and lash out at my family. Instead of getting "the best of me," they get "what's left of me."

But THANK YOU GOD, I don't have to be instagram-worthy. My worth doesn't depend on how I look, how my home looks, on my bad days, my good days, the ways I don't measure up, or even the ways I excel. My worth comes from only one thing: that Jesus loved me so much, He died for me and rose again. Jesus lives and has given me an abundant life! His grace covers everything, and if He walked into my home, He'd look around and say, "Hi, love. What squished strawberry?"

Are you looking for a community of moms who are full of support and encouragement? You can find just that in the Her Arms Are Strong closed Facebook group for Christian, crunchy, gentle parenting moms. 

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How to Peacefully Get Boogies Out of Your Toddler's Nose

My toddler, M, hates when I have to get boogies out of his nose. He fights it, and I've struggled and failed to clean his nose peacefully.

But tonight, I had a revelation/breakthrough!

(Don't have time to read right now? Pin for later!)

A seed was planted in my mind last week when I read Parent Allies' tips for being an ally to your child during teeth brushing. One thing the author brought up was that kids create strong memories of pain, so if a toothbrush knocks into their gums and it hurts, they associate the toothbrush with pain.

Fastforward to tonight when I was determined to clean my M's nose peacefully. It's something we have to do before bed or else he sleeps poorly all night long. We've resorted to holding him down and just pushing through to get the job done, but it breaks our hearts. Finally today, I put my foot down. No more holding him down while he screams and thrashes!


The first thing I tried was reversing roles. I told M it was time to get boogies out of his nose, but that he could get mine out first. I handed him the nose bulb thing, and he clumsily jabbed it in my nose. OUUCCHHH. That thing actually hurts! I tried so hard not to flinch the whole time because I didn't want to scare him. And then I remembered the above article's mention of pain memory. I must have poked his nose too hard at some point, and now he's scared of it. I had no idea! So I'm throwing that bulb away tomorrow. It's a goner.

Then I asked M if the bulb hurt his nose before. He said that it had, so I told him I was sorry and asked if he would forgive me. My sweetie said yes. But this was just the beginning because that pain memory was still there. I had to create new, gentle boogie memories.


"I'm going to gently touch the top of your nose, okay? See, that didn't hurt. I'm learning to use new touches. Now I'm going to touch your nostril. That didn't hurt either, did it?"

He giggled and said it did hurt.

"Nuh uh!" I said in a singsong voice. He laughed. We played with gentle nose touches for a long time, goofing around.

Finally, I told him I was going to use the new gentle touches to get his boogies out. (AKA I was about to pick his nose. Haha! But I've heard others have success with the snot sucker.) He squirmed, still scared. So I asked him to tell me about his favorite part of the day. We recounted all the fun we had that day, which kept him distracted enough to lay still and not dwell of the pain memory. I got his boogies out quickly and peacefully!

Quick tips:
  • Start early so you aren't tempted to rush through it.
  • Get yourself in a peaceful state ahead of time.
  • Make sure your child's needs are met first and they're in a pleasant mood. 
  • Notice your own emotions and own them, no judgement.
  • Accept your child's emotions without judgment.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Explain A LOT, repeat key words like "gentle touches." 
  • Be playful. 
  • Use slow movements.
  • Respect your child's "no."
  • Take a break and try again later if you have to.
It takes a long time to override a pain memory. I'm sure we'll have to spend a lot of bedtime just on boogies for a while, but it's worth the time it takes to show my son that I respect him and won't overpower or hurt him. Respect and gentleness are worth all the time in the world.

Have you found a peaceful way to get boogies out, or is this a struggle area for you too? Tell me about it in the comments or join the Her Arms Are Strong closed Facebook group to bounce ideas off a community of crunchy, gentle parenting, Christian moms--no matter where you are in your journey. 

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Grace When Kids Color on the Walls


"Some of the most important things you can communicate to a child are that feelings are okay, mistakes are fixable, and there's nothing they can do that would push you away or make you love them any less." -Kelly Bartlett

I love this quote. I got to experience this all in one instance with M a couple days ago. He's 2, which means he hasn't even begun to develop impulse control yet. I'm so glad I know this because it gives me peace and perspective in those moments where it might otherwise seem like he's being downright defiant. 

I was on the potty, and M brought me a marker because he needed my help opening it. Right after I handed him the opened marker, he started coloring on the wall. I blocked him and said, "I don't want you to color on the walls, but you can color on paper."

He left the bathroom and I heard the sound of him coloring on the wall right outside the bathroom. "You're not coloring on the wall, are you?" I asked.

He ran back inside and said, "Color wall ummm..." He looked around like "Who? Me?" And then he colored on the wall again right in front of me.

I chuckled and said, "M!"

He jumped at my exclamation even though I didn't think I sounded angry at all. Because I wasn't. I understand how much fun it is to color the wall. But he started crying, wearing his sad I-feel-bad face. This face breaks my heart! I was such a guilt-ridden kid, and I never want him to feel that way.

I hugged him close and told him I wasn't angry. He cried harder. I told him the wall was okay, I was okay, I was there for him, that he was safe to feel sad. I think he knew perfectly well he wasn't supposed to color on the wall. But when you don't have impulse control, curiousity wins. Still, even with all that curiosity and developing sense of self, a two year old has the desire to please. He felt bad, I think, for doing what I asked him not to do because while he's curious, he also does want to make me happy.



Kids don't need to be shamed, blamed, and berated in order to know what's right. They have an innate sense of right and wrong. They may choose wrong out of curiosity or to push boundaries, but they aren't little villains, spoiled brats, or defiant monsters. They're good people. Sometimes sensitive people, like my M.

In these instances, they need our understanding, gentle guidance, and unconditional grace. I understand how hard that can be at times when you just want your child to listen and do what you say. I have a hard time sometimes too, especially when I'm tired. We're all going to mess up and respond harshly to coloring on the walls. (Or whatever "coloring on the walls" is for your kiddos.)


But time is a funny thing, and so is grace. Time moves forward. Grace moves us forward, and with each new minute, we have another chance to choose understanding, patience, and peace. We have a new opportunity to give the same grace we've received from the Father who is always patient with us. 

Grace means "I love you." Grace means "I love you even when you color on the walls." Grace means "I love you and nothing could ever change that."

***

Is there a time your child colored on the walls literally or figuratively? Share with me in the comments!

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Sunday, February 4, 2018

I'm Celebrating My Kid by Not Throwing Him a Birthday Party

I love planning parties. And I love birthdays. Birthdays are huge in our family, so I've always dreamed of throwing big birthday parties for my kids.

But my son, M, is turning two, and we're not throwing a birthday party. I struggled with the decision to let go of my past fantasies of what my kid's birthdays should look like. Sure, it would have been fun for me to plan the party, and I'm sure our loved ones would have liked it too, but more than that, I want M's birthday to be a celebration of him and for him. That means giving him the kind of celebration he'd actually enjoy.


M is an introverted, sensitive boy. He takes a while to warm up to people and socializing drains his energy (even after playing with his best friends, he's cranky the rest of the day). So he probably wouldn't have a good time surrounded by his family and friends all at once.

Instead, my husband and I are taking him to an aquarium! He loves seeing the fish in the grocery store, so we're giving him the gift of a fun, fishy experience with Momma and Daddy. Plus a balloon because he loves balloons!


We're going to celebrate our kiddo by honoring not only that he was born, but the way he was born. He doesn't have the personality type to enjoy big parties, and that's awesome. Because he has the personality type that makes few and strong connections with other people. He has the personality type that has a huge capacity for empathy. He watches, listens, soaks it all in before he enters the scene with his gentle spirit and vivacious curiosity. I'm so happy to let go of the classic birthday party if it means nurturing this amazing person just as he is.


Thanks for reading!
You may also like...
Why I Refuse to Call My Son Shy

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

30-Day Fun Mom Challenge


Every mom and her relationship with her children could benefit if Mom, well, loosens up a bit. Right? I mean, it's so easy to get caught up in maintaining the home, getting our kids to activities on time, making sure we teach them to be kind humans, etc. All good stuff, don't get me wrong. But we can lose the fun side of ourselves when we focus too much on our to-dos.

I want to start 2018 with a month full of FUN, and you're invited to join us! Let's start the new year making memories our kids will look back on when they later think of their childhood. Let's be the fun moms. Find joy in motherhood and carry that joy with us the rest of the year. 

Are you in?


I've made a list of 31 fun activities to do with your kiddos--one for each day of the month. If you want to follow along with other moms, we'll be sharing our fun pictures and videos in daily threads in the closed Her Arms Are Strong Facebook group. If online mommy communities aren't your thing, you can share your pictures and view other moms' pictures with the hashtag #HerArmsAreStrongFunMomChallenge on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Let's inspire each other with our fun!

You can follow the list as I have it, jump around, or skip days. The point is to have fun, so if any of these aren't your thing, that's okay. You can even add your own. This list is more of a guideline. Some are pretty specific while other days will give you lots of room for creativity. If you need to brainstorm ways to incorporate these fun mom ideas or tweak them for your child's age, we'll be brainstorming together in the FB group.

The only rule is TO HAVE FUN WITH YOUR KIDS.

We'll be starting as a community on January 1, 2018, but I'm sharing the list early so you have time to prepare and share with your friends. And please do share! The more, the merrier. Every mom needs a little more joy in her life.

Are you ready to reign in the new year with lots of laughs and special memories with your kids? I'm just assuming you shouted, "YES!!" while jumping up and down. Ha. Let's do this!

1. Make a goofy video you can look back on for years to come.
2. Let your child do your hair.
3. Go on an outdoor child-led adventure.
4. Spontaneous dance party!
5. Ask your child to plan dinner, shop for the ingredients together, and cook it together--WHATEVER they plan.
6. Family game night. (Do you have young toddlers? Here's a way include toddlers family games.)
7. Build a fort.
8. Go somewhere fun. 
9. Make a mess.
10. Have your child pick your outfit, and then go out in it.
11. Leave a small gift on their bed to wake up to.
12. Family movie night with your kiddo's favorite snacks.
13. Lazy pajama day.
14. Try something that's new to the whole family. New food, new park, etc.
15. Make a colorful snowman.
16. Collect nature materials
and make figurines.
17. Dessert for breakfast.
18. Video chat with a family member or friend.
19. Leave a clue.
20. What's your child's favorite thing? Do extra of that!
21. Family picnic! Inside or out. Invite your child's favorite toy along.
22. Take extra time before bed to read one more story, sing one more song, whisper to each other about the day, their dreams, anything.
23. Blast fun music and paint to the beat.
24. Fancy dress-up day.
25. Roughhouse. Hug monster, tickle tarantula, etc. But respect boundaries.
26. Flashlight or glow stick fun in the dark.
27. Make animals or other fun shapes with snack.
28. Take selfies together with silly filters.
29. Go to a pet store/shelter to visit the animals.
30. Give kiddo a disposable camera or your phone, go for a walk, and have them photograph things they love.
31. Which challenge brought your family the most joy? Do that one again!


I can't wait to see all your pictures! Remember to either join the Her Arms Are Strong Facebook group or use the hashtag #HerArmsAreStrongFunMomChallenge to share your family fun with a community of other moms. Have FUN and enjoy the new year!


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Sunday, December 17, 2017

How to Include Toddlers in Family Games

Our family is HUGE on games. Our go-to for any family get-together activity is a board game or card game. We could play all day, laughing and yelling and really getting into good-natured competition.

And then came the first baby...

We could get away with playing games when my son, M, was a little baby, content with milkies and cuddles. But when he became more aware and curious about his surroundings, he was a destructive force during these game days. Plus, I felt bad that we were doing something the whole family, except for my little dude, could enjoy. He just wants to be included. And we want to include him!


Some games flat out won't work out with a toddler in the room. Do your game pieces need to maneuver the board safely? Forget about it. There's no hope. Retire that bad boy for another time a few years from now.

But if you have a game with some elasticity to the rules and gameplay, I encourage you to find a way to include the littlest members of your family. After all, family is family no matter the age, so family games should include everyone who wants to play. This will give your kids a strong sense of family and belonging.

To give you an example, Uno is one of our family favorites. My brother has like five versions of the game that we mash together to make a crazy, unpredictable game of Uno. One day this past summer, we played giant uno outside. M kept taking cards from each of us and handing them to other people. At first, we were like, "Well this isn't going to work. How are we supposed to play?" Then it dawned on me...


My kiddo could be the ULTIMATE WILD CARD. So basically whatever Ultimate Wild Card does, you go with it. If he takes some of your cards and gifts them to another player, awesome. If he steals some cards off the pile and hands them to you, too bad for you. We played the rest of the game this way. All of us, including my toddler, were laughing and having a great time.

Apply this Ultimate Wild Card principal to any game where you can bend the rules and add random fortune or misfortune. Be flexible, have fun, and remember that the time spent together is more important than playing the game "right."


If you try the Ultimate Wild Card method, leave a comment to let me know what you did and how it went! Need some inspiration? Leave a comment with the game you'd like to play, and I'll help come up with ways to include your toddler.

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