Monday, August 29, 2016

The thing I realized my toddler craved: Control

Facebook showed me a memory from 2 years ago yesterday. It went like this: "Darrow may look like Cameron, but I'm pretty sure that just now when I pulled him off the bookshelf for the 10th time in a row in a series of 2 minutes and yelled, turned his back to me, banged his head on the floor, and then gave me a dirty look as he crawled back to the bookshelf, that it was 110% me. Neat."

And that statement has been proven true time and time again over the last 2 years. But, I realized something about a month ago that is making a huge difference. And I feel like a dork that it took me nearly 2 years of butting heads with a toddler to realize. 

It's all about the control, ('bout control, 'bout control -just channeling my inner Meghan Trainor there).

See, I like when I have everything under control in my sphere and with things relating to me. I like to plan my own day, have my space the way I want it, and things going the way I planned. It took me 2 years, but I realized that if Darrow is like me (and he's proven that over and over again), then it only makes sense that he's feeling the same way! He wants control. He doesn't want to be directed. He needs to feel like he's in charge of his sphere.

That light bulb was huge for me. I don't know why, but it was. You'd think that'd be an easy one, but it wasn't.

So I've been working to make some changes around here, and is hard! Giving him some control means me giving up some control. But isn't that what Motherhood is about, giving up what we want because what your child needs is more important?

Now, we're not just giving him carte blanche around here. There are things that are non-negotiable, such as staying in the yard, not playing with the oven, no throwing toys at Ione, not running away when we call him, etc. But I've found areas where if I give up some of my control over the situation, he can then exert his control. And it has made a world of difference! This is a much happier boy lately.

The first big one was bedtime and naps. Darrow is a night owl through and through (also a trait he got from me). Bedtime was often a huge fight. We'd put him to bed, he'd get out. We put him back in bed, he'd get out. We tried all different methods over the 2 years from various articles. Silently putting him to bed with no eye contact, calmly explaining why he needed to stay in bed, spanking, lying by him and wrapping our arms around him so he couldn't get off the bed until he cried himself to sleep, sitting down the hall and getting after him every time he got off the bed, and the list goes on. Nothing worked. Naptime was the same. He needed a nap, but it was a huge fight. 

So no instead of bedtime and naptime he has afternoon quiet time and bedtime quiet time. The rules are he stays in his room (in the afternoon it's a designated 2 hours-which is how long he usually naps). That's it. At night we get him in his jammies and do his nighttime routine (brush teeth, read a book, sing a song, prayers, kisses, milk, water, you know covering the excuse bases), and then he goes in his room for nighttime quiet time. During quiet time he gets to choose what he does and it's fine as long as he's in his room. The first 2-3 days he didn't nap, he just played in the afternoon, and at night he stayed up playing until 10 or midnight. But then the novelty wore off. 

Now for afternoon quiet time he plays for a little bit and then probably 4 times out of the week he'll climb in his bed and take a nap. At night he goes in and plays and probably 4 nights a week he is asleep by 8:30 or 9, with the others being up playing until 10-11. And then he sleeps later! Hallelujah! We moved Ione out of the room (she's an early riser and would wake him up before he's ready), and that's made it all even better. 

Everything we read said that kids needed a firm bedtime and a firm routine and having that nighttime schedule was important. So we tried to get that in place for 2 years and it just never worked. Darrow needed to feel that control. That one change has made the biggest difference out of everything lately. 

Beyond that I try to remember to let him choose things as much as possible. Are we playing in the front yard or backyard. What he eats for breakfast (I decide dinner and half the time lunch, but he gets to choose what he eats for breakfast). Which way we go when we take walks. Stuff like that. And it is enough that he feels more in control of his surroundings. 

On my end it means a lot of biting my tongue to keep from getting after him for things that are minor or trivial. Like smashing his sandwich flat before eating it (wiping up the bit of mess is easy, I can do that), or dumping all his toys out in his room just after we put them away, or flipping the curtains around, or carrying our shoes all over the house. I'd rather he didn't do those, but he's not being bad, he's not being destructive, and it's something I can just relax on and not be so uptight. 

So that's it, that's been the magic trick to a much happier, more well behaved, and much more rested Darrow: me giving up complete control so that he could have some control of his own!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Simple DIY Luau Decorations

Not too long ago I was helping come up with the decorations for another youth stake dance (this seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life, but I sure love it!). This time, the theme was a summer luau. Pulling ideas from Pinterst, past dances, the store, and the closet of old decorations that was passed down from previous youth leaders, we had more decorations than we had time to put up. 

Time. Now there was an interesting part to all of this. 

I was excited for this and headed into town to do my errands, pick up final supplies, and head to the church cultural hall to start decorating. I got all the way to Walmart (because that's our choice around here), 20ish miles away, and discovered that I didn't have a cent on me. My wallet was back at home. 

I couldn't really do anything without it, so back home I went and got the wallet. That was nearly an hour wasted. 

But finally I got the last supplies, got to the church and began unloading my car and searching the closet for any luau supplies (which there were buckets full...literally buckets). About half an hour after I got to the church, our President arrived and I went out to help unload her car, only to discover that I'd let the door close behind us, locking us out. See, being the only one at the church for just a little bit I'd only unlocked the one door long enough to get in and then closed it behind me. We were locked outside with no keys to get back in. Along with the church keys were our car keys and our cell phones. There was no way to get in touch with anyone who could help! 

So I went to a nearby house where I knew a church member lived hoping they'd have keys. And they were gone. We were getting ready to start canvasing the neighborhood when out of the corner of my eye I saw the missionaries leaving a back door of the church. We'd had no idea they were even in there! We dashed over there like crazy ladies (which we might have been getting close to at that point), and they let us in the door so we could get back in and decorate. More time lost. 

So in the end I didn't end up making the palm tree, or the palm leafy backdrop, or a few other things. But you know what...the kids had a great time, they ate almost all the refreshments, and it was a positive activity, so it's okay! 

I did get a few decorations made though! I want to share two of them with you because they are super easy and super cute! 

The first was our tiki pole.

I found this idea on Pinterest, linking back to the Design Sprinkles blog. Not wanting to ruin the paper bags, I used masking tape in a loop on the back of each face part to attach them to the bag. Beign in a hurry, I didn't make all the cool different shapes you see on the original bags, but these did the job well!

I had the idea to drop battery operated lights in them to make it a glowing tiki pole. Great idea, but it didn't work. The bags were too thick. I think next time instead of doing a tiki pole, I'll do tiki heads, luminary style with lunch bags so that they can glow all around the room. How cool would that look?!

We also found that if you stacked more than 4 of these up, it fell. So we ended up with 2 small stacks rather than one large one.

The other quick decoration I want to show you are our mini tiki torch lanterns.

These were a mini version of the lanterns found on the Design Sprinkles blog. I had a stack of 5" squares of scrapbook paper that I used for this. I followed the original instructions (folding in half to get a crease, and then cutting strips evenly around the paper, leaving a margin on top and bottom). Next I wrapped one margin end of the paper around a battery operated tea light and taped it in place. I couldn't find our scotch tape and didn't want a chunk of masking tape visible, so I stapled the tops closed. Not the smoothest look, but it sure did the job fast to use the stapler. These looked really cool out on the tables and glowed nicely!

After the dance we threw away the face parts of the tiki pole, but were able to keep all 6 of the bags for future gift giving, and the paper from all the tiki lanterns. It was all easy to put together and quick clean up!