Friday, August 26

Oh, what to do when your child is two!

The "Terrible Twos," like many stereotypes, has been a bit overrated in my world. I actually like my two year old. (knock on wood) She is sweet, responsive, obedient, caring, understanding, and a whole lot of other things that I wish I was. (KNOCK ON WOOD) I keep trying to decide what exactly is supposed to be so bad about 2 year olds. Probably the fact that they understand so much, and yet are not quite capable of expressing all that they understand. Well, being the first time mother of one two-year-old girl, I can't speak with any confidence about patterns in childhood behavior. What I did want to share is my own experience with my 2 year, 4 month old daughter.

Truth be told, I LOVE Greta at this age. Totally my favorite age so far. She really is my little buddy at home. We are together all day long and I find myself looking forward to seeing her in the morning when she wakes up and after her afternoon nap. In between, she is generally very good and very busy. She really isn't a needy child. We've always let her and Joseph entertain themselves, so it's typical to see Greta sitting on the floor, reading a book to herself. Or she will be in the bedroom, periodically rearranging my underwear drawer. Or she finds her puzzles and puts them together (after a fashion). Or I'll find Joseph and Greta together, playing some game where Greta makes a funny noise and Joseph shrieks with laughter.

The real purpose of this blog post, however, was to talk about the ways I found to amuse Greta and teach her at the same time. I very much agree with Like Mother, Like Daughter that kids thrive on being useful. With that in mind, I try to include Greta and Joseph in my daily housekeeping activities. The down side of this is that you have to everything very slowly. If you're like me and used to doing 5 things at once and very quickly, this change of pace can be agonizing until you realize that you are not only doing laundry - you are teaching your child about colors. So you're really still multi-tasking :)

It seems to me that the developmental stage Greta is at now includes learning colors, learning commands, learning to identify objects, and learning to count. With that in mind, I try to incorporate these activities into whatever chore I'm doing. Here are a few ideas. Feel free to share your own. I'm always looking for more.

Washing dishes (she's sitting on a high stool next to the sink with me):
"Greta, pick up a fork, please."
"Greta, please put the cup on dishtray."
"Greta, where is the orange cup?"

Putting away dry dishes:
Hand her a  bowl and show her the shelf it goes on.
Sort spoons and forks (usually ends up messier than we started)
Hands me plastic cups/bowls, etc. from the dishwasher or dish tray.

Laundry (the best chore ever!)
Greta carries her little laundry basket to the laundryroom.
Greta sits on top of the dryer, while I hand her clothes, ask her who they belong to, ask her what color they are, and she drops them into the washer.
I pass clothes to Greta, who puts them in the dryer.
After a fashion, Greta hangs up small items on the drying rack.
Folding - not really! Greta passes clothes to me, tells me whose they are, and I tell her what they are ("Mommy's red shirt", "Daddy's brown shorts"). Not much folding gets done because Greta has to "fold" too. I've given up on having drawers of folded clothes. My kids are far too fond of reorganizing our drawers.

Making dinner:
Greta tells me, or I tell her, what vegetables and meats we are preparing.
Greta shreds lettuce, spinach, or kale.
With a dull butter knife, Greta will "chop" zucchini.
Greta will put vegetable parings in the trash (very useful skill and pretty time consuming).

Grocery shopping:
We shop at our local co-op for veggies, and the small size of the store makes it very kid friendly. Joseph sits in the cart, while Greta walks next to me.
I tell Greta what fruit or veggie we are buying. I hand it to her, while she counts them and puts them in a plastic bag.
I'll hand her milk or yogurt to put in the cart, and she tells me what they are.
When she takes things unasked off the shelf, I teach her the oh-so-useful skill of "put it back, please."

Tidying the house:
Pretty self-explanatory. I ask Greta to put a specific object away in a specific place. It doesn't work to tell her to "pick up your toys" because her attention span isn't very long, and I believe in asking for smaller tasks that she is more likely to succeed at. So I ask her to put her doll in her room, or to put her puzzle on the table. Then I thank her and ask her to do something else (or finish it myself).

Watching younger siblings:
Greta is invaluable. Joseph is almost 9 months and at an age where he is very entertained by faces and by interesting objects. If he's crying while I'm in the middle of something, I ask Greta to bring him a toy, talk to him, read to him, turn his music on. She never fails to quiet him (at least for awhile!). When he wakes up in his crib and begins to cry, Greta is the first to tell me "baby cryin'!" after which she runs to the room and climbs in the crib with him. Which invariably causes him to cheer up.

My general observations about my two year old are:
Kids at two are very eager to do things.
They understand way more than they can communicate.
They learn very quickly if they aren't overloaded with information.

My reciprocal action as a mom is to:
- Offer lots of opportunity to learn small, everyday living skills.
- Speak distinctly and clearly. I have a natural slur or accent where I drop "g's" as in "stayin' " or "goin' ". When Greta talks now, I hear this repeated back to me. Uh oh!
- Don't say things you don't want your kids to say. Case in point, I cuss when I'm stressed. Result? Greta may or may not occasionally say "sh*t" when she drops something. It's since been changed to "shoot", but still....!
- Be very patient. You aren't actually going to get much help from your kid at this age. Any help you do get will be because of lots of patience and work on your part. But the point isn't to have help... yet! The idea is to start teaching your child skills that will help them in daily living and help you around the house eventually. Why? Because they really want to learn now and they enjoy it. What's there to lose? Chores done and children amused.

Monday, August 8

Thank you, God...

for my wonderful family. For Josh, his constant, patient love. His perpetual sense of humor. His genuine care and devotion to our children. For the way he loves me on my bad days. The way he puts up with my overabundant energy and need to improve everything. His smile, his little gestures of affection and concern for me. For his hard work and motivation to support our family and give us the best life possible. Thank for you for those little babies of ours. Thank you for Greta's cheeriness. The way she greets every day with enthusiasm and joy. For her protectiveness and care towards her little brother. For her love for me and the way she never fails to cheer her mommy up when I'm having a rough spot. For the adorable way she wipes Joseph up when he's dirty, without being asked. For her independence and interest in everything. Thank you for Joseph. His beautiful smile that never fails to wipe away my impatience. For his strength and inquisitiveness. For his health and good appetite.

Thank you, God, for all the family and friends who have blessed our home with their presence in the past 9 months. I know I've complained a lot about the "invasion" but I am and will be forever grateful for the ability to share our family's joys with others. Thank you for the love and care they have shown my children and myself. Thank you for this wonderful life and help me to always appreciate it. Help me to find small things in which to rejoice, whenever I'm in the midst of stress or frustration.

This is not to say I'll never complain again, but it's good to remind yourself once in a while to "count your blessings."

Tuesday, August 2

Much Ado about Nothing

I was having a conversation with a friend recently in which she chided me for belittling what I consider my "problems." That was nice of her. It's always nice to hear that your struggles are neither as big or as insignificant as you'd be inclined to think. However, it touched a chord with me because I live in this perpetual state of thanking God that my issues aren't worse than they are, while occasionally feeling completely overwhelmed and unappreciated. Sound familiar?

With that fine warm-up, you must be on tenderhooks to know what I'm talking about. Ah, sorry to let you down. It's not that exciting. I am just so sick and tired of having people live with us. We have had one family member or another or several living with us since Thanksgiving of last year. I'm normally a pretty hospitable person. I love having people over and around. But I like them to all go home at a certain time. I'm neither an extrovert nor an introvert. I get energy from being around people, but I also get the energy to socialize from being at home and by myself. The problem with perpetual houseguests is that you can't really get away from them. For any of my readers who may have been a houseguest, no offense. I'm not talking about anyone in particular, just everyone in general. Besides, none of my family reads this blog anyhow :)

However, the good news is that the last of the Mohicans goes home this weekend!!! For the first time in 9 months, it will be just Josh, Maria, Greta, and Joseph here. I can't even imagine what it will be like. I suspect it will be a combination of honeymoon and sheer boredom. But I think I can deal with that. Yes, I can definitely deal with having the freedom to walk around in my pj's if I want to, let the kids cry once in a while without feeling guilty that someone else has to listen to them, not prepare dinner on time, not feel guilty about feeding people leftovers, not feel like the house has to be 100% tidy 100% of the time, have a good argument with Josh and not worry about possible scandal to possibly scandalizeable ears... oh, the freedoms we take for granted until we lose them!