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Mommy Truths: November 2007

Mommy Truths

The Hard Learned Lessons and Eye Opening Realities of Raising Young Kids

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Power of No

I’ve been working recently on my ability to say “No” to my three year old son. Oh sure, I can say No quite easily and say it many times. It’s the random question from him, that I quickly reply No to, and then regret with the onslaught of his crying and carrying on. He sure knows how to plead his case. And I’ve found myself to be more of a sucker than I thought I'd be. After incessant whining for several minutes, what’s the harm in a bowl of Cheerios right before dinner, an extra television show, or dirty hands before eating? Well, over time, quite a lot is wrong if I give in to his demands. After all, he’s interested in his immediate gratification. It’s my job to see the bigger picture, set the rules, teach him the basic structure of how to live well in society. I know what’s best.

In reality, I needed a little training before I could help train him. So, I consulted my library of parenting books (is yours getting as big as mine?) and was fortified and comforted by one in particular: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (see my booklist to the right). This book takes a different spin on the standard parenting issues. Its author, Wendy Mogel, Ph.D, uses Jewish teachings to emphasize the values needed to raise our children. It’s a bit more applicable for older children than mine, say six years and up, but on my first reading a year ago I found its principles to be a solid framework for parenting and one that closely matches how my husband and I hope to raise our kids. She pulls from the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) to create nine “blessings” that guide parents in raising responsible, caring children.

So, I thought of Wendy’s book when looking for the power to say and reinforce my No’s. In Chapter Three, she discusses the need for children to honor their mother and father and asks some pretty pointed questions about how well your children might be honoring you. As I squirmed in my seat, she noted that many parents have trouble in this area. They have “bred disrespectful children in large part because they don’t demand respect from them.” Her reason? “Deep down parents don’t believe they deserve it or that they can master the struggle.” This phrase alone got me thinking. I realized the truth is that I’m not sure I can “master the struggle.” I don’t want my son to suffer and when he cries and whines and becomes close to desolate when he can’t have what he wants, I relent out of sympathy. But that’s not what is best for him. And it certainly isn’t setting the stage well for when his demands will become bigger and have more impact on his well-being (or our finances!)

Wendy goes on to set out helpful guidelines to establish authority but I decided right then and there that I would have the courage to “master the struggle.” And here’s what happened: My son cried and whined less. Yep. When No means No, they eventually move on. Sure, I think he senses when I may waver and plays upon past experience of my waffling tendencies. But a calm, firm No with a couple of choices sets a tidy parameter for both of us.

We’ve all heard that children like rules and limitations. It grounds them and provides security. Limitless options or the knowledge that they set the rules is actually very frightening for them. And this is why I think the Power of No is so positive. The results have certainly been. After all, if I hold firm, C. is the one who relents. He eventually comes around because no other options are presented to him. “No, you may not play with the vacuum (after finding him with the plug in a socket). This is for adults and those are the rules.” Or, “No, you may not have juice right before dinner. You may have some milk and a cracker or wait until we eat.” In this type of circumstance and when he says No himself with enough “power” for both of us, I find it most effective to present two choices: “You can brush your teeth now and we’ll read three stories or you can go to bed without stories tonight.” He gets a choice (this is a power struggle after all) and chooses the one in his best interest.

One of the biggest benefits of this approach is that when I feel confident that I can say No calmly and firmly and STICK TO IT, we don’t get to the point where I lose my temper. C. isn’t the one pushing me to my limits. I’m in control of the situation and guiding him to the right choice. Of course, it’s more difficult to stick to No when it’s over a trivial request that I realize is actually okay and find myself wanting to give in. In this case, I’ve realized it’s necessary to invoke my mother’s tried and true responses: “We’ll see” or “Maybe.” I never understood the reasoning behind these phrases until now. But I now see that a little careful consideration gives me time to determine whether a firm No is necessary so I can confidently hold my ground.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Toddler Travel Tips

Last weekend we traveled up to Boston to visit family and had our first stress free travel morning. Some background. Since C. was born nearly four years ago, we've been learning how to travel with a young child - and a couple years later - two young children. You all know... it's not easy. The "cost of entry" (as I like to call it) for an overnight is the same as for a two week vacation. You need a lot of gear. Without fail, we forget a crucial piece such as the monitor, crib sheet, white noise, or this time, C.'s winter jacket. Without fail, we manage to survive.

The hardest part of our stressful departure morning, however, is not gathering all the gear, per se. It's that my husband and I are usually ready to kill each other by the time we leave (for this long awaited trip or vacation.) We know why it's stressful to get out of the house with two young kids and all the gear, we laugh about it (later), but until this weekend, we couldn't seem to make it go more smoothly.

So, here's what worked this time. First, and I think most important, I packed for the kids and myself the day before and laid out our travel clothes. This gave me relaxed, adequate time to think about what we'd need (well, except the missing winter coat) and even made for a fun activity as the children got excited to visit their aunt and cousin. Next, I made a list of the gear we'd need to put in the car the next morning (this usually falls to my husband). This list also included last minute critical items such as "blankie."

The next morning was so enjoyable we felt like we were already on vacation. I didn't have to worry about what to pack for myself (which I usually leave until the last minute even if I pack the kids ahead of time) and could shower and get dressed in a much shorter period. And, to top it off, instead of trying to keep the kids from watching much TV since they would watch movies on the portable DVD during the long drive, I suggested they watch TV while we get ready. This was huge. It's very difficult to take time out to pack or get ready, clean up and check lights, heat, etc. in the house when the kids are running around excited to leave. One of my smarter moves (you've probably been doing this all along...)

So, in summary, here are some tips for a less stressful departure on your next trip with young kids:
  1. Pack clothes for everyone ahead of time (at least Mom and the kids)
  2. Lay out clothes for travel
  3. Make a check list of what to put in the car the next morning including:
  • Blankies and loveys
  • Two types of coats for various weather
  • Hats and mittens, if necessary
  • Two types of boots/shoes for various weather
  • Baby Monitor
  • Pack and play with crib sheet
  • White noise machine or radio
  • Pampers and wipes (for travel and the trip)
  • Stroller
  • Booster seat
  • Sleeping bag, if necessary
  • Books for travel and bedtime
  • Snacks and drinks for travel

Longer trips (to condos, hotels, etc.)

  • Outlet covers
  • Nightlight
  • Small flashlight
  • Extra plastic grocery bags (for easy dirty diaper disposal)

Anything else? Submit a comment if you have more ideas.

Happy Travels!


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Preschool Lunch Ideas

I’ve been getting bored with my lunch repertoire for C. and S. and can’t seem to think beyond turkey or ham and cheese, carrot, celery and cucumber sticks and fruit. Sometimes we expand into hot dogs or leftovers at home, but it’s hard to think creatively when they’re clamoring for food and I’m hustling around the kitchen like a short order cook.

C. goes to preschool three days a week so I need to pack him a lunch and they both go to an in-home daycare a couple mornings or days and this requires snacks and lunch. Help - I’m running out of ideas!

Fortunately, I have some very smart and creative friends who helped me out with their lists of lunch ideas. It was interesting to hear that many other toddlers, like mine, want nothing to do with a “sandwich” (unless it’s PB&J) and that inventive gimmicks work the best.

Main Course (sandwich alternatives)

  • Sandwich Roll-Ups - Flatten bread or tortillas, spread with whatever, roll and slice to show spirals. May freeze slightly to make slicing into wheels easier.
  • Raisin Bread Fingers - spread with cream cheese, may add apple & dates.
  • Graham Crackers - spread with cream cheese or peanut butter or topped with cheese, raisins & app
  • Meat Spread - combine 1 c finely chopped cooked beef, chicken, turkey or chicken livers and 1 c chopped celery or onion in a bowl. Add 2-3T mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

We make"homemade" Lunchables. I use a biscuit cutter and cut out rounds of bologna, thick sliced ham or turkey. I also cut out rounds of cheese. I put these in round, small Tupperware containers and then put crackers in a separate container.

  • Leftovers that are ok chilled or room temp - pasta/mac n cheese/ cut-up chicken and rice
  • Hummus and lettuce sandwiches
  • Egg salad, light cream cheese on wheat bread (sometimes with jelly)
  • Greek salad (grape leaves, olives, feta cheese with chopped lettuce
  • Whole wheat pasta with chopped broccoli, olives, feta or parmesian cheese, touch of oliveoil
  • Whole wheat pasta with chopped egg and a touch of mayo
  • Lox, tomato and cream cheese on a whole wheat bagel or the english muffin;salmon salad on whole grain bread or on lettuce
  • Ham or turkey and cheese, cubed, with wheat crackers

My youngest son loves cold pasta (after seeing my first child eating it I know a lot of kids started bringing it to preschool too)…I make wheat elbows or rotini and top it with a little parmesan cheese

  • Mini whole wheat pitas or bagels filled with: - cream cheese and jelly- cream cheese and smoked salmon- cream cheese blended with raisins- peanut butter and banana- jam and banana- egg salad
  • “Cracker sandwiches” with stone wheat crackers and turkey or peanut butter
  • Breaded chicken cutlets (leftover from dinner) cut up and cold for lunch
  • Small yogurts (the mousse kind by Danon sticks best to the spoon for less mess but only comes in vanilla)

    In the Winter I sometimes will give them Chicken Noodle or Tomato soup in a Thermos ( I didn't start this until Kindergarten).


  • Celery Sticks, Carrot Sticks, Bread Sticks, Pita Wedges or Rice Cakes spread with- peanut butter- cream cheese, raisins & sunflower seeds- cream cheese blended with apples and dates- a creamy dip or dressing- hummous
  • 1/2 of a pitted avocado... I just squeeze a little lemon on it and send it in with a plastic spoon.
  • Ants on a log: celery sticks stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese, with a few raisins on top
  • Cucumber sandwiches - sliced rounds with cream cheese in the middle
  • Steamed broccoli or green beans (so they’re softer but still crisp) with Ranch or Caesar dressing or hummus
  • String cheese, pretzels, goldfish, chewy granola bars, peanut butter crackers, yogurt or yogurt drinks (these can double as main course items if yours is picky like mine)!
  • Sliced carrots/peppers
  • Raisins
  • Graham sticks (Earth's Best)
  • Trader Joes rice and seaweed snacks and soy chips (high protein, low fat)
  • Trader Joes dried apple rings or dry mango
  • Veggie Booty, Pirate Booty
  • Shelled edamame is a fun vegetable.S
  • tonybrook Farm smaller sized yogurt smoothies
  • Baby Bell cheese (cute and fun for them to unwrap the wax covering)
  • Corn nuts, sesame sticks, yogurt covered raisins for fun snack
  • Veggies fries or pita chips

  • Dessert/Fruit
  • Cut up strawberries dusted with powdered sugar (they LOVE these), peeled apples with caramel (individual caramel sold in produce dept.- especially this time of year).
  • Any kinds of berries in season
  • Dried fruit: apricots, raisins—even prunes! I also pack cut up pears

I also find that any fresh fruit that is cubed and served with a toothpick for eating goes over well. It is the toothpick that is magical, I believe.

  • Pudding snacks
  • Rice crispy treats (pre-packed), sweet snack items
  • Mini-packaged applesauce
  • Cookies: Fig Newman’s, ginger snaps, chocolate chip cookies, Nilla wafers
  • Mini muffins
  • Homemade oatmeal cookies
  • Fruit bites


  • Milk
  • Small bottled water or low-sugar, high vitamin/calcium juice box/drinks
  • Lemon or grapeade juice box (no sugar added)=
  • Apple or grape juice


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