Dealing with Toddler Tantrums

Not to throw my favorite little boy under the bus or anything, by hoooooo-boy are we dealing with toddler tantrums these days. I’ve always said that Henry has big feelings. When he laughs, it’s from down deep in his toes and every part of him rejoices. When he cries, it’s this huge, wailing sob that you can tell he just feels so deeply. And when he’s mad, right now it’s tantrum central.
Dealing with toddler tantrums
It hasn’t always been this way. We actually made it through the “terrible twos” pretty unscathed. It was right around when he turned three that it got real. His tantrums are usually triggered by frustration or a lack of autonomy. If we tell him it’s time to brush his teeth and he’s not quite done with whatever activity he’s doing, he goes from zero to 100. Or if he is trying to accomplish something by himself that he just can’t figure out, it makes him lose it. I mentioned this recently on Instagram and said that we were dealing with toddler tantrums little by little, giving Henry tools to understand with his feelings and navigate his way through them (as best he can, at three years old), and got lots of questions about how we’re dealing with it. So I thought it might be helpful to break it down.

Dealing with Toddler Tantrums

First off, let me say that we’re no experts. This is definitely not a proven method; it’s just what has proven to show results in our family. And the results, you should know, are incremental. When you’re dealing with toddler tantrums, it’s not going to dissipate in a day. Or even a week. It’s a long process that takes an insane amount of patience and consistency on the part of the parents. It’s also exhausting. Ha! So here are the ways that we’ve adjusted our own perspective, and the tools that we’re trying to give Henry to help him through.

Recognize the Triggers

For us, it was a huge deal to start understanding what exactly is going to set Henry off. It helps to know whether it’s hunger, or fear, or lack of sleep, or whatever the case may be. For us, it’s pretty clear that our little dude is most often set off by emotionally challenging moments, when his freedom is taken away or when he can’t do something himself. If a kid is triggered by something physical like hunger, it’s simple to just make sure that he’s always fed. But with the emotional triggers, we’ve found that you need some tools to teach the kid how to deal.

Give them Tools

This is what has been crucial for us while we’re dealing with toddler tantrums. We’ve started amassing a little “tool box” of things that we say or do when Henry’s having a tantrum. Firstly, we never ever reward the behavior. So whatever he’s having a tantrum to achieve definitely does not happen. Secondly, we realized that our little dude usually needs some time to cool off by himself when he’s losing it. So he sits in his room and we tell him to come out when he’s ready to be kind.
After he comes out, we ask him what went wrong and why he got so mad. Then we start talking about the tools. We go through the lists of things that are “okay” vs. “not okay” when you’re mad. Some of our “okay” things are going outside and kicking a ball, saying, “I’m mad!”, scribbling hard on a piece of paper, and we even let him go in his room and stomp his feet as hard as he can if he needs to do something physical. Things that are “not okay?” Hitting, kicking, hurting anybody or anything. Throwing things. Spitting. (Ew.) Basically anything destructive. When we talk about “okay” vs. “not okay,” the goal is that the next time, he thinks about his other options to express his feelings.
We also have a few mantras that we repeat a few times every time we’re dealing with toddler tantrums. One is “it’s okay to be mad/sad/frustrated.” Another is “a tantrum will not get you what you want.”  And another is “you’re not allowed to hurt someone else just because you’re hurting.” (I think about this one a lot, and sometimes wonder if the world would be drastically different if we taught this emphatically to all of our kids. Especially now, with such scary news coming at us all the time.) We repeat these with the hope that one day they’ll pop into his head as a guiding light without us having to say them.

Consistency is Key

The other thing we know without a doubt is that we, as parents and as a family, have to stick to our plan. If Henry sees, even one time, that a tantrum will get him what he wants, it’s game over. We start from square one. So it’s crucial for us to be consistent in the way we’re dealing with toddler tantrums. And none of our tools are magic bullets, but we definitely see incremental improvement. We can see him trying to use the tools, even though he doesn’t want to yet. He knows them, which for us is step one. And hopefully soon they’ll become more ingrained and help him navigate those big feelings.
If you have more help for dealing with toddler tantrums, leave a comment! Parents helping parents is a beautiful thing. 🙂 xoxo
P.S. Find my diaper bag here and my shoes here.

This Week. Alternate Title: Yikes.

Purple Sky
Holy cow, gang. This week was a doozy. I mentioned in a few times on IG stories, but in case you missed it — Henry got his tonsils out a week ago today. And helping a toddler recover from a tonsillectomy (and an adenoid removal!) is intense. I remember having my tonsils and adenoids out when I was little, and I still remember that pain. To see your little dude dealing with that pain is so heartwrenching. And while he’s old enough to understand what’s going on, you just can’t expect a toddler to calmly withstand a procedure like that. He’s been a total trooper, trying to be up to his usual hijinx, but it’s just tough. Especially at night — not a lot of sleeping has been going on in our house lately!
And of course, darling Mags picked this week to bring home a nasty strep throat germ, so suffice it to say we’ve got our hands full. I’m pretty sure if you caught a glimpse of our household in the middle of the night it would just look like two adult zombies stumbling back and forth between the kids’ rooms, rocking and shushing and doling out medicine all night long.
But I have high hopes for this weekend — we cleared all of our plans and we’re just focused on staying home and getting these babes of ours a little closer to 100% healthy. Maybe someday I’ll do a post on how we’re dealing with Henry’s recovery and how to help a toddler get through it. Although I’m not sure we nailed any of it, so maybe that’s better left to another expert! Haha!
In any case, hope you are super healthy and get to enjoy a fun spring weekend, wherever you are! xoxo

Overcoming Fear of Flying

I love travel, and always have. And up until a few years ago, I had no problem with flying whatsoever! It was only after a particularly stormy, bumpy, turbulent ride in a small propeller plane (complete with jolts so heavy I grabbed my neighbors’ hands and started praying, for reals), that I developed a serious fear of flying. And now, with every trip, I find myself busy overcoming fear of flying. I guess, more specifically, it’s a fear of turbulence. Let me explain.
Overcoming fear of flying
I’ve done a lot of reading and I see over and over again that  fear of flying or turbulence often comes from a perceived lack of control. And I supposed that’s true. I, as a passenger, have zero control over what happens to the plane, the way it’s flown, the weather we fly through, and on and on. And I find that to be partially true. But for me, there’s another layer to it — it’s the lack of knowledge. I’ve found that when we’re going through some bumpy air and the pilot comes over the intercom to explain what’s going on, I can maintain my cool much more easily. If there’s a simple, “Folks, we’re going through some bumpy air trying to navigate through this storm, but we’re trying to find some smooth air and it should be better in 10 minutes,” I’m pretty good. Uncomfortable, but… hopeful? But if there’s radio silence from the cockpit during substantial turbulence, I spiral. My mind immediately imagines that the turbulence is so bad the pilot can’t take his hands off the controls and we’re definitely going to die any minute.

How I’m Overcoming Fear of Flying

I also know logically that flying is one of the safest methods of transportation, and you’re way more likely to be injured in a car crash than in a plane crash. They always say the most dangerous part of flying is the drive to the airport. But when that turbulence kicks in, that logic doesn’t stop my heart from racing or my eyes from filling with tears or my breath from getting short. So over the years, I’ve developed a couple of (possibly weird) tricks that I do in the air when it’s bumpy and I just can’t calm my brain. Here’s how I work on overcoming fear of flying.

Sit By the Window

Some people tell me it seems counterintuitive, but I always feel better if I can see the ground. As soon as turbulence starts I always find myself looking out the window. (Partially because if the ground isn’t rushing up to meet us I know we’re okay so far. 😉 ) I also find that if I can see clouds nearby outside, the bumps make sense. My mind wants to equate the smoothness of the flight with the status of the weather, I guess. Once we start getting closer to the ground for landing, it’s also comforting to see landmarks getting bigger. Instead of just seeing mountains or bodies of water, soon you’ll see cities. And then roads. And then cars. And then you land.

Counting

It might be bordering on OCD, but my number one go-to for getting through a bumpy patch is counting. Once the bumps start, I look out the window and breathe as calmly as I can, while I count seconds. I try to get to 100. Then 200. Then 300. Most of the time, the bumps end before I get to 300 (five minutes) and I stop counting without even realizing it. If I get to 300 and it’s still turbulent I start over and take comfort in the fact that we haven’t crashed yet. 😉 This actually started on a bumpy flight back from Japan. The pilot told us to expect turbulence for 15 minutes, so I counted to 300 three times, and sure enough — the turbulence ended right on cue. I always take comfort in that.

Find a Mantra

This is sort of along the same lines, but if counting doesn’t work for you, maybe a repeated phrase will. Sometimes I say, “It’s just like a bumpy road,” over and over again in my head, to a solid rhythm. It helps to have something to focus on and even zone out with while you’re riding out the bumps.
None of this is to say that it’s curing my fear by any means. But the goal is overcoming fear of flying so that I can go through the fear and travel anyway. Because I’ll be danged if this gets the better of me — I have too much world to see! Are you working on overcoming fear of flying? Do you have any go-to tricks? Leave them in the comments — I’d love to know what works for you. Happy travels! xoxo

Is it Just Me, Or is it Kind of Nice to Have Enemies?


There’s this line from The Office that I always think describes me perfectly. Pam says, “I hate the idea that someone out there hates me. I hate even thinking that al-Qaeda hates me. I think if they got to know me, they wouldn’t hate me.” THAT’S ME! I am so painfully uncomfortable with confrontation that I avoid it at all costs. And I constantly make every effort to know that I’m on everyone’s good side — it has always made me so twitchy to think that I might be in somebody’s bad graces. It goes way back for me, I’m a peacekeeper at heart.
A few months back I was talking with a friend and asked if they had ever really, truly told somebody off to their face. I was half wishing that they would have a great telling-off story, because I think deep down I wish that I had one. There have been so many times when I’ve been in a situation where I really should have spoken my mind, stood up for myself, and just sort of let somebody have it. But I just… don’t. Because I don’t want to make waves. And then, of course, later I play the conversation over and over in my head and immediately come up with one zillion snappy responses or comebacks. But in the moment, never.
So I had been mulling this over for a few days and it hit me that I actually have had a couple of these experiences in my life, where I was forced into a confrontation and stood up for myself. I feel like I almost blocked them out because it makes me so uncomfortable. But I started remembering, and these conversations came back to me. Both of them were with good friends, where there was a misunderstanding or argument, and for once, I didn’t back down. I held my ground and said my peace. And you know what? Neither of those people are my friends any more.
In one case, it was my choice. In the other, it was my friend’s choice. And if I ever saw these people in person again it would be awkward at best. For a long long time, I agonized over both of these friendships. I felt lots of guilt and sadness and anger. But just recently I started wearing those two incidences like little badges of pride, because I sort of have enemies. And you know what that means? It means I stood up for myself! I stood by my convictions and I voiced them out loud and I wasn’t willing to waver. I’m still sad about the friendships, but I also know that friendships deteriorate for a reason. And in the midst of losing those friends, my upper lip got a little stiffer and I gained a few bravery points.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not out cruising the neighborhood with my leather jacket on, looking for a fight like a Jet looking for a Shark. (Hellooooo musical theatre reference.) But I’m also glad to be on the other side of those experiences and be able to see that having enemies doesn’t always mean that you’re in the wrong, or that you made too many waves. Sometimes it just means that you can’t see eye to eye, and that you weren’t afraid to say so. xoxo
P.S. Do you have any enemies? Do you feel the same way about it that I do? Tell me your stories!

Happy Friday + Three Kids

Little girl climbing a pasture fence
Happy Friday! And oops, I just realized that title was accidentally kind of misleading. No, we’re not pregnant. (Nooooooo neverrrrr againnnnnn!) But! We’re babysitting my niece for an overnight this weekend for the first time! And I’m pretty pumped about it. I’ll have all three kids by myself on Saturday, so I’m trying to figure out what we can do with a 7 year old, a 3 year old, and a 1 year old that everyone will love. Tall order? Yes. But we’ll figure it out. I’m thinking we bake something? And do some craft projects? And hit the park? And let’s be real, probably watch a movie while the 1 year old is napping. 😉
Anyway! I would sincerely love you forever if you have any great ideas of what we can all do together. Leave me a comment if you’ve got a brilliant plan and then cross your fingers for me that we make it through the weekend. Kidding! Sort of. Have a good one. xo
P.S. That photo up there was from our visit to my parents’ farm last weekend. Seeing them climb those old pasture fences that my sister and I used to climb just did me in.

Love Notes with Your City

Chalk street art
Chalk street art
Our city had its second annual “State of Downtown” address yesterday. Kind of like the State of the Union, but for our downtown area and everything that’s happening there. There are so many people where I live who are pouring all of their love and effort into our town, trying to make it a place that people want to come to and stay for. And it’s so, so exciting.
The keynote speaker was Peter Kageyama, who wrote For the Love of Cities. His message is all about creating vibrant communities and building a strong bond with the places that we live. We are in a relationship with our surroundings, he said. And relationships are a two-way street. So there needs to be both “what can my city do for me?” and “what can I do for my city?” And believe it or not, he talked about love notes to and from your city.
LOVE NOTES! This guy gets me. I was sitting there thinking of our silly chalk stencil love notes and just thinking, yes. He gets it. That’s what those are about. They’re a love note to our city and to the people in it. For no other reason than to be enjoyed. And I believe that my city sends me back love notes all the time. In the almond blossoms. In the parks. In the really great pizza at my favorite restaurant. In the architecture. Love notes to and from your city are why people come and stay.
What are the love notes your city sends to you? And what do you send back?
And while we’re on the subject, I’ve had a number of people ask if I would ever sell the stencils that we use for our downtown love notes. Would you ever be interested in that? If that’s something that you would like to see, leave me a comment and let me know. We’re in the mood to make things happen over here. 😉 Have a great weekend! xoxo
Chalk street art

Flashes of Motherhood

Mother and children
Days used to be made up of big things. Events. Plane rides. Long lunches. Things that took a few hours, or a whole day. Things that all ran together in the way that they were wonderful but sort of non-specific. Things that we chose to do because we wanted to and we could, and we didn’t have any reason not to.
Days are made up of different things now. A mother’s day is littered with small things, filling every moment. Thousands of moments every day. Horrible and wonderful and scary and top-of-the-world-I-never-knew-I-would-feel-this-happy moments. You don’t just go to the grocery store. You teach your kid to velcro his own shoes on the way out the door and marvel that he actually did it. Then you sing a song to your other kid in the car and laugh when she tries to sing the same notes (and succeeds). You call your husband to tell him both of these things. You wrestle the bananas away while they’re sitting in the cart so they don’t bruise the fruit. You let the little one hand the clerk the credit card. You tell the big one to say please when he asks for a sticker.
I was helping Henry put together Valentines for his friends the other day and all of a sudden saw myself from the outside. A grownup, a mom, completely in charge of these two little ones. I can remember being little and just knowing for sure that my parents had all the answers and could fix anything. Is that how they feel about us? I came back to myself and the task at hand, helping his chubby fingers put little red heart stickers on the Valentines to seal them up. And immediately started thinking of all of these other little moments that have made up motherhood so far for me.
Slicing strawberries for a Valentine’s Day party at Henry’s school.
Holding four-month-old Maggie up all night for weeks on end because she couldn’t breathe lying down, working my way through every season of Friends. Knowing that I would do it forever if that’s what she needed.
Watching Henry watch his first Star Wars film at movie night in the backyard.
Feeling an overwhelming amount of pride when Henry said thank you to the librarian for the first time without being prompted.
Cutting gold leather to make a fresh bow for Maggie to wear at her first birthday party.
Matching tiny socks. Over and over.
Holding Maggie during her first ride on the Disneyland teacups, and being completely unsurprised by her calm observation.
Wrapping Henry in a blanket and driving him to the emergency room by myself in the middle of the night. Realizing I was the one in charge.
Maggie climbing into Henry’s lap while Ryan reads him a book.
Henry putting his favorite book on Maggie’s tummy during her first day at home, so that she could read it.
Holding our second baby for the first time, and Ryan telling me that she just knew her name was Maggie.
Henry at 9 months old in Mexico, falling asleep sitting up in his bike seat.
And it’s not the big things that make up motherhood. It’s not how many decorations you put up at the birthday party or how many playdates you schedule. It’s the impromptu grilled cheese sandwiches and the Paw Patrol bandaids on their first skinned knee and the twentieth game of hide and seek. That’s where you can find motherhood. In the millions of little flashes, every day. xoxo