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Heart & Soul Parenting

Are you raising your kid different than me? Great, let’s be friends!

9 May 2018

There are no other people on this Earth who criticize and fight more than… us moms. The interesting thing is that, instead of showing more love and compassion towards another, because that’s what we want our kids to see and learn from us, we immediately turn exactly in the type of person we don’t want our kids to become. And yes, I’m using plural because I too am a mother and I’m telling myself this firstly.

How could we ask our kids not to say mean things, when we as adults can’t control ourselves on the phone, when we speak badly about someone else who does things differently?

How could we expect our little ones not to develop an egocentric character, when we can’t accept the fact that a mom found another way to handle this parenting hoopla?

How could we get angry when our kids would do anything to get their way and would step on anyone including us, when we are so full of ourselves and believe that we are parenting experts, criticizing any solution, other than our own?

How could we tell our kids to stop talking badly, when we can’t stop offending other moms?

How could we expect our little ones to be peaceful, when we constantly throw shame and frustration on others?

How could we tell our kids to watch their mouth, if we can’t stop our own?

Why do we run after things that don’t exist? Evey mom is perfect for her own children. There’s no such thing as a perfect recipe or standards. And if there were, is it really worth fighting over it all, just because we do things differently? I’m not talking about extreme cases when a child is treated badly, I’m talking about small differences that create real avalanches between us moms.

We shouldn’t let individualism ruin our relationships and push us far from one another. Now, when we are more exhausted and sensitive than ever, when we all know just how hard this motherhood thing is, let’s drop that judgment shield and embrace the beauty of diversity.

Let’s not hide behind the idea of perfection, let’s just realize that we have things to appreciate and learn from one another.

Are you raising your kid different than me? Great, let’s be friends!

Parenting

Activities for 2+ year-olds | Things we do lately…

16 April 2018

I finally managed to put together some of Emma’s favorite activities, things she loves and does on a daily basis. Some of them we started doing around age 1 and adapted them on the way, others are more recent, but they are equally loved.

First of all, I’d like to mention (again) that children are different and every family has it’s own lifestyle and principles. Emma loves spending time outside, even if it’s raining, even if it’s very windy or she runs in her grandma’s garden during the night with a flashlight. She loves going to the park, playing in sand and deep puddles. But when we are at home, she enjoys helping in the kitchen, actively participating in chores or choosing different activities. I would say that 40% of her day she plays with toys and 60% she enjoys “school”, crafting, chores, things that she considers fun, anyway. One other thing is that I never forced her into anything, but on the other hand, I never harshly criticized her ideas, I always appreciate her efforts, guiding her to the right solution, without disregarding her way of thinking. For example, she’s not into plants at all lately, she is very much into animals, history and astronomy. She enjoys numbers and geometry, writing not so much. She loves painting, not writing on a chalkboard. And without further ado, here are some of her favorite things to do:

1. Usborne activities

 

 

 

 

 

 

My best friend recently became our best book lady, offering us a great book palette to choose from, one of the reasons we only buy books from her. We just felt in love with Usborne. Their books are just so inspired and interesting and they are so well made. Plus, the prices are great considering the quality! You can take a look at my book lady’s page here and you get a lovely 10% discount using the code “AMY10” when you order. If you’re not from around here, you can look for a local Usborne seller in your area.

 

 

2. Montessori activities

Montessori inspired activities started at birth and they are still going strong in our house, especially since we can see real results. Now we use Montessori workbooks but we also enjoy collecting interesting ideas from Maria Montessori’s books for our daily life. For example, Emma still enjoys picking up leaves and rocks, taking them home to find their origin and name in her books, using them in her art sheets afterwards. After a while, I make sure that all the rocks and strange objects that Emma brought in our home, subtly and strangely disappear from our lives 😂.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Books in general

Emma  loves learning new things. She would spend hours listening to me reading books about painters, musicians, animals and planets. She loves Bible stories and The good manners for children book that she choose all by herself. 😅 It’s really interesting for me that since she discovered the idea of evil and danger, she chooses books without a bad character, a choice that I respect. I read about 4-5 books a day, and I don’t feel like it’s a lot. Anna is part of our stories routine and she loves it, mainly because Emma sits quietly by her side. 😅

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Accepting her active participation in chores

Like any curious kids, Emma and Anna are all about learning new things about everything and teaching themselves new skills. Sometimes it’s hard. Extremely hard. Letting a toddler beat an egg, or put her own clothes in the drawer without rearrange things afterwards, it’s so difficult. I think that as a mother, that’s one of the hardest battles that I have to deal with everyday. Sometimes I fail but I try to constantly remind myself that letting Emma learn things it’s far more important than having a perfectly clean house that gets messy again anyway. Do you know what I discovered? Parents don’t yell at their kids for a bad thing that they deliberately did, but for good intentions that didn’t really had a great ending. Sometimes our lack of sleep and daily stress build up bad reactions and wrong explosions on our side and we need to learn to control them, but mostly to analyze them to find their source and kill them from the ruts. That way, our mind finds a self control sistem that becomes a routine, before letting our body transform in the green version of Hulk. Do we succeed every time? No, and that’s normal. Adults and parents also make mistakes and the little ones must know it, even if some people might disagree. Admitting that you were wrong and apologizing to a 2 year old is more difficult than jumping from a plane. During the night. But the long term effects are so rewarding and visible. Trust grows. And respect brings respect. My mom can confirm all of this, she’s the one who introduced me to this “parenting” way that I even read about it in many books, years later. What’s interesting is that 20 years ago my mom was heavily judged for things that are now considered indispensable for a healthy parent-child relationship. This is one of the reasons why I appreciate so much her power of will while being surrounded by people who did things so differently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emma loves dressing up, she does it everyday. I rarely intervene, it happens when we need to go out and she chooses uncomfortable things or inappropriate for what we’re about to do. She understands because I have the “talent” of explaining in detail where we’re going and she forgets about the swimming costume that she wanted to wear over her leather jacket.

She loves poems and music, obviously. She loves learning songs and using them in her pretend play games.

Does she push boundaries? Of course, and I’m actually happy about it. It’s not just about breaking rules, It’s about her trying to test my character and learning how far she can get with me, one of the reasons why I try to weigh my words and never forget what I say. It’s absurd to ask our children not to lie or be very frustrated when we are not actually doing what we affirm. It’s wrong to tell them that we’re gonna leave them at home if they don’t stop from their activity in that second and put those shoes on. All of that for them to later discover that our words were just empty threats, things we say to hurt them and scare them, only because we as adults feel like we’re losing control. But I won’t insist on this subject, I am still an imperfect mother of two and I didn’t go through much yet. I don’t know what my future holds, but right now I’m not sure if I have kids or angels in my house. We’ll see about that when they’re teenagers 😅.

Until then, I’ll keep on reading with them, for them and also for myself. I realized that I learn so many things by their side, things that I never heard of and it’s always a plus to see what else Wernher von Braun did and what more beauties Pablo Picasso painted.

 

Heart & Soul Parenting

This little hand

16 March 2018

This little hand once tickled me from inside my belly when I was pregnant and it didn’t let me sleep.

This little hand grabbed my hand when you were only a few minutes old and it was magical.

This little hand scratched your face so bad when your lactose intolerance was at it’s peak.

This little hand scratches me when it’s 3 AM and all you want is to be attached to my body like we once used to be.

This little hand grabs everything, from toys, your sister’s socks, curtains, my hair and I don’t have very much left.

This little hand will learn to play an instrument and will delight my ears and my soul.

This little hand will rest in my hands when I will teach you matters of the heart when you’re older.

This little hand will hold a diploma when you will graduate and I will be there, proudly clapping as hard as I can while you’re smiling to me.

This little hand will maybe one-day wear a beautiful ring and it will want to hold another hand instead of mine.

This little hand will wave so happily when you’ll be leaving for your own home and it will break my heart to pieces.

This little hand, your little hand tells a love story, our love story, sweet little Anna.

This little hand.

 

Lifestyle Parenting

Our Montessori approach

6 March 2018

Oh, Maria Montessori, you were such an amazing woman!

When I first started reading her books I felt so much love from her for children, parents and the whole family institution. Her work was amazing and so many people benefit from it nowadays, more than ever. I can’t say we are 100% living in a Montessori type of environment, not at all. If you’re looking for that, there are many families who do adopt a full lifestyle, we just took some elements which suited our home better.

Montessori is all about freedom in moderation and learning to learn (think about that for a second, I did too 😁).  The child’s push for independence is real and so hard to handle at times. One of the simplest phrases that sums up the whole Montessori philosophy (in my opinion) is “help me do it myself”. I experienced that with both of my girls and the first thing I did after acknowledging that my children need independence to learn and be happy, was changing my lifestyle for the better and have patience while living a slow life in their rhythm. It wasn’t easy at first, but I realised it was a good change even for me. I won’t insist on that, I will go straight into the ideas we took from this method that we love. We are experimenting daily with different things but I will only mention the things we do on a regular basis.

 

 

 

1. Having a routine, a well established plan for the day

Children need stability, just like adults do, maybe even more. We all like to return to our home at the end of the day, we like having our things and we don’t change our hobbies and likes everyday. We find comfort in our own bed and we miss it when we’re away. Same with children. They like knowing what comes next and be part of the little decisions, they find comfort in having a schedule. That’s why Emma has a timetable on her door and she knows it by heart. She actually tells me if I forgot something, like brushing her teeth before naptime. #milkbrain 🙈

 

 

2. Using any opportunity to learn something new

When Emma was born I realised that I will be starting school again because I want to be able to answer all of her questions. So I needed to learn and know things about the world, first. When Emma learned the word “why?” everything escalated quickly. I now learn so many new things while we do our daily “lessons”. I didn’t want to let her wonder about things without having an answer. So we have many books about everything, that Emma enjoys tremendously. Also, we use Google when we are on the road and I don’t know what a ladybug eats.

 

 

3. Toys

We try to keep toys to a minimum and organised. So we have separated baskets for musical instruments, puzzles, Lego and artsy stuff. We have bookshelves all around her room and the books are organised on certain categories, like bedtime stories, school, colouring books, etc. I try teaching Emma who is almost 3 to put back a toy or book before taking another. It’s not easy because she gets caught in an activity and forgets about that and her room looks like a fighting scene sometimes. But I tell her the same thing again and again and she knows the rule. It’s actually a part of her bedtime routine to clean up her room if it’s messy, but she always asks for my help because she says she feels dizzy 😂.

 

4. Independence starts somewhere

I can’t bear to hear “Let me do it for you, because you’re too little.” Emma doesn’t either. 😅 A baby needs time to learn to crawl and get that toy.  And a child needs time and space to practice things like dressing alone, eating, climbing or putting shoes on. I let Emma try for an hour to unbutton her jacket when we get home and we are not on a hurry. Or I let her know that we need to go somewhere and to get there in time I need to dress her. And while I’m dressing her I keep telling her interesting things about our destination, for her to know and accept the fact that there is a time and space for everything. I respect her wish to learn and I encourage her. If it’s obvious that she can’t do something but she insists, I let her try and try until she asks for my help. But she surprises me everyday with new and improved abilities so I trust her. And she trusts me. The whole idea is to never underestimate your child and don’t let time be your enemy.

I will make a separate post with Montessori inspired activities we do daily and I will stat from 6 months old up to 3 years old, because that’s where we’re at with the girls. 😊

I hope that these little things will inspire you or give you some new ideas to improve your daily life with children at home. But don’t forget, our experience is just an interpreted information. To get a better idea about the Montessori method it’s better to read veracious books on the subject.

Have a slow, happy, productive day!

P.S. These photos were taken a while ago when Emma was about 18 months old and are not to be taken seriously.

Parenting

Rules for both mother and child – establishing healthy principles

3 March 2018

I’ll never pretend to own the key of success in education or saying that our principles will do good for every mom and child. But I want to share with you a little bit of our experience as a family, hoping that these little things we do will help someone who is struggling with their little ones.

First of all, it all starts during pregnancy, or even sooner. The reality is that in parenting you first take the exam and then you learn the lesson that makes you go “Aaaah, that was it!” Still, there are things you can do and learn ahead of time, so that you don’t lose you mind later.

1. Read, read and read some more

I read many books and articles, many were in vain, until I realized that only authorized people and specialized doctors are capable of teaching me about my baby’s sleep and development, about breastfeeding and things that a woman goes through during pregnancy and after. Someone else’s experience may be of great use, of course, but it’s better to search for an uninterpreted, correct information in a veracious book.

Also, I think that everybody knows the benefits of reading with your baby, even from birth: developing the imagination, memory and subsequent vocabulary, increasing concentration, creating a peaceful environment and a healthy ritual that may influence the baby’s future. It’s amazing for me to see how passionate Emma(3 years old) is about books and not only stories, but books about maths, astronomy, biology, zoology, calligraphy and many others that are right for her age. Basically, we do “lessons” almost every day, only if and what she feels like, but usually I have to decline her because it’s what she wants to do all day. But I always find something interesting for her to do around the house hold and she’s sold. That brings me to the next idea…

2. Involve you child in your daily routine around the house, anytime he or she wants

Emma was about 6 months old when I started looking for activities that she might enjoy, in accordance with what I was doing at the moment. For example, I was asking a 6 months old baby to help me place daddy’s socks back in the drawer after they’ve been washed. Of course they ended up scattered across the house, but one day, don’t know how and when, she understood the idea of order and she found great satisfaction in doing her job. Now she loves doing things her own way and I rarely interrupt her. Sometimes she finds better solutions than me and I love seeing her mind at work.

 

 

 

 

3. Respect your child if you want to be respected

I will be respected by my child if I first show respect, keeping my authority as a parent but considering my child’s wishes and personality, and counting all the extra factors.

Until now I never faced a tantrum that I couldn’t control, but hey, I don’t know what the future holds. Still, I think that treating Emma with respect help build her lovely character today. I always thank her for doing something I asked, without falsity, I always say “please” and I ask for permission to pass if she’s in my way. Also, I never say “Don’t!” without explaining the cause and effect problem. For example, I don’t say “No.” and that’s it, I usually say “If you have another snack you might feel ill later and even if you don’t, it’s not healthy for you.” I hold her anytime she needs me to, I always tell her how much I love her and assure her that I understand her wish but we can’t only do what we want to, we have to do what needs to be done. And that pretty things might actually be bad for us even if they look appealing. And so on, until constant communication, expressed love and shown respect are the 3 main pillars in our relationship.

 

4. Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’

This is a Biblical perspective, but trust me, it’s such an important thing to apply in the relationship you have with your child. Emma still asks me only with a look if she’s allowed to do something, and I give my answer the same way. Usually she obeys but sometimes she keeps bringing arguments by whispering from a distance and I love it. I have to use that “No.” tone very rarely, but when I do she knows it’s something important, because she doesn’t hear it very often.

She listens because she trusts me. Because I always kept my word ( I hope so 🙈) and she saw that cause and effect thing, that I was talking about earlier, is real and exactly how I described it. This is probably the hardest thing I do everyday, in my relationship with my toddler. For example, if we cook and she drops something on the floor I politely ask her to put it back up. When she was maybe 12-18 months old I had to go there, stay down at her level and explain why she needs to pick things up. With a very sweet and tender voice. I never pick things up for her, the only exception is if she can’t do it or asks for my help. It’s hard but so worth it! She cleans up after herself now without me asking and she does it because she understands, not because I push her to do it.

 

5. Declutter your home from unnecessary things and let your baby explore the house, not only the crib

Well this is a hard one. 😅 It’s easy to forget the baby’s right to explore and learn about the world or at least about the house. It’s hard to give the baby the possibility to learn what’s allowed in the bathroom, kitchen or hallway. It’s hard to be there, constantly explaining why it’s not ok to do or touch a certain thing, especially when the baby seams too little to understand. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t put a stop to my life just to crawl with my baby all day long 😅. But I tried to teach her about everything surrounding us. What’s positive about this is that after explaining the same thing a couple (or hundreds) of time, your baby won’t be interested in the same object again. Soon your baby will learn your home and will observe very quickly if something new appeared. So you can let your baby play with plastic bowls while you happily do the dishes. 😊  Emma sleeps in a floor bed since she was 4 months old and Anna didn’t have a crib at all. That way, when they wake up, they can go and have some water or play a little until they get changed (that’s for Emma and what I’m hoping for Anna in the future). It’s so easy! Especially while breastfeeding during the night.

There are many more things to say but I’m gonna stop here. I will talk later about our experience with the Montessori method. Until then, it’s important to remember that we as parents need to put some extra effort in the relationship with our children. Maybe it’s hard to give up on our comfort and time, but the fulfilment in our familial relationships it’s so rewarding. It’s amazing to see how children learn from us and build their character. We are partly responsible for the adults that they become and that’s huge!

You know, some things work and some don’t. But seeing my children happy and well makes me look forward and I realize how blessed I am to be their mother, even if I’m constantly exhausted, truly sleep deprived. These years will pass and I don’t want to look back and think that I should have known better. I want to be able to say that I did the best I could and that I tried. I tried to be a good mother. Don’t know if I succeeded, but at least I tried.

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