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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

a grateful mama

I'm sure you've noticed that this month Facebook has become a place of giving thanks.
I've so enjoyed reading people's posts of what they are thankful for.

So I'm joining in on the sappiness today. Here are some everyday things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. I could have listed big things like the fact that I was able to be pregnant two times after doctors said I possibly would not be able to get pregnant to begin with, or that my children are healthy developing babies. But we all know those ones.

My list is different today. Here are my 30 days of thanks all in one list, including regular, average, normal, everyday things this mama is thankful for.

What would you add to the list?!

1. Family pictures that make you laugh and remember how insane that moment was. This picture above was taken when my daughter was 10 days old. We had taken a picture like this when my son was 10 days old, so I wanted to re-create that moment. Minutes before this my husband and I were bickering, "Really, Angela? Do we NEED the same picture?! Owen's melting down. I think I'm going to have a melt down." Baby screaming, hating being undressed, toddler wanting to destroy or jump on something. Me laughing, but really gritting my teeth and smirking my swollen post-baby face, thinking, "Oh, please, just get one good picture, please!" Love these moments. Looking back, it's all relative, but it's fun to remember.

2. Pull-ups. I have no idea how potty training would go without things like pull-ups. Seriously. I commute a half-hour away to work, so we're in the car at least an hour a day. Pull-up time for car rides is a must! I could leisurely get myself to work, not frantically asking my potty training son, "Do you have to go? Do you, do you?!" Love pull-ups. And no, I don't believe they confuse kids into not peeing on the potty, they work. They're awesome.

3. Snotty-nosed kids. I know, this part of parenting sucks. I'm not denying colds and boogers are awful. However, I am grateful that's all I have to deal with - knock on wood. I'm grateful for knowing how to deal with snotty noses.

4. Vicks vapor rub. Seriously the cure-all of any cold. I love this stuff.

I think on a bad day I will sniff this stuff for a moment of peace. 

5. Growth. I adore watching my kids learn new things. My son at one point could not crawl normally, he did the army crawl without being on his hands and knees. It was cute but slightly worrisome (at the time we didn't know many babies crawl this way!). Then he was riding a tricycle and a bike with training wheels. What?! When did that happen? Now, he drives his power wheels around the yard with his little sister in it. My daughter says real words, like any word you say she'll repeat. It's amazing.

Growth... it's astonishing every time. No matter how many times I hear my children say a word or start to say a sentence, the awesomeness of that never gets old to me. 

6. Pinterest. Well, duh! Of course this would be on my grateful list. I don't know what type of mom I'd be without Pinterest. Well, OK, Pinterest does not rule my life, in fact I personally have not even been on Pinterest in like six months (I know, I know, slacker! I need to devote some time to it this weekend!)... but my sister finds recipes there that she sends my way and makes my cooking life much easier, my family well-fed. And I have gotten the BEST party ideas from Pinterest. It's such an awesome gift to busy moms.

7. Parenting books, blogs, and sites. I am a lover of knowledge and education. I loved college, would go back in a heartbeat if I had the time. So therefore when becoming a mom I took out every book I could find about pregnancy, parenting, toddler years, etc. to be well-informed. I'm not one of those people who lives by what books tell me though, I take it all with a grain of salt. Yet I love reading still. I think we have so many resources available to us, it's silly not to take advantage of at least reading a blog post here and there. It's good to be updated on various things like car seat laws changing and what most moms think about certain toys. Great info!

8. Melissa & Doug toys. I LOVE literally everything these guys make. I love the old wooden look, like it's a toy maybe I played with as a kid. These make great gifts, too, because I find many of their things are different, unique, good for all ages.


I can't believe it took me to #9 to write this... but there is nothing I'm more grateful for than nap time. Honest. I wait for and feel rejuvenated by nap time. Those two hours are scared to me. I will do anything to keep nap time routine and working. 

As my son gets closer to being 4 years old, when I've heard naps cease for most kids (if naps have not ceased before during ages 2 and 3, which luckily here they have not)... I'm afraid. I don't know what I'll do without those two hours a day where I can regroup. Maybe I'll find a nap nanny... someone to watch my kids for those two hours while I take a nap myself! Awesome!

10. My children's names. I am pretty sure most parents love their kids' names, otherwise they would not have named them those names, but I really, really love my kids' names. The funny thing about Owen is that I have no recollection of where we got it. I can't recall if it was from a show (we were watching Grey's Anatomy at the time) or a baby book (I did force my husband to peruse one a few times during the last two weeks of pregnancy when we still didn't have finalized names). Regardless, I love it. It's simple and totally who he is. I also like that he's able to almost write it after only a few months of learning the letters at pre-school. My poor daughter when pre-school comes around... her name is longer...but still, lOVE IT. Yes, everyone - even family members - spell her name wrong (which I get, but really we only changed ONE letter from the normal spelling), but we still love it. We knew changing up the spelling would cause it to be misspelled forever, and yet that doesn't bug us much. It's good to love your kids' names... we say them an awful lot all day, don't we?! :)

11. Being organized. I always keep a grocery list handy and write down all gifts I buy for Christmas and birthdays, so I'm not wondering if I need one more thing for someone. I clean up every night. I keep extra just in case bags of diapers and other things with me wherever I go. I clean out the car when we leave it. I find being organized and prepared keeps me a saner mom.

12. My brain. 

Yes, I do have a case of Mom Brain, after two pregnancies, newborn sleepless nights, crazy toddler years, working full time, etc. but I still love my brain. 

I love that when I drop my son off at pre-school at 7 in the morning and they tell me two days from then he's to wear pajamas to school and bring his teddy bear for Bear Day, I remember that later in the night and write it on the calendar, and then make sure his pajamas are washed and ready for two days from then. I love that when my sitter tells me on a Friday we need more diapers next week, I get them and they're packed and ready for Monday morning. Like when at the doctor visit and they tell me the weight and height and percentiles, I remember those long enough to text them to my husband and write in the baby book when I get home. It's little things like this that we remember, and I know men would NEVER remember these things. I love being the one who remembers.

13. Being real. I love that I'm the type of mom who is honest, spilling my guts, sharing it all, taking pictures of me and putting them on the blog for all to see even though I know I look awful, so tired, and just not flattering. I'm happy to share my ups and downs, struggles and successes. I admire others who are real like this, so I'm proud to be one of those people myself. There's no point in hiding our struggles. It's all good. You might even help someone feel better about her shortcomings if you put yours out there. Hmmm....

14. Mom in the picture. I try, try, try to take more pictures with me and the kids. I'm even trying to take more of me and my husband. I feel like we have a zillion pictures of us as high school, college and engaged kids... but none since we had our babies, it's always dad with baby, mom with baby, mom and dad and baby, but none of the couple who made those babies! I'm not great at this mom in the picture thing, despite how many pictures I take, but I'm getting there.

15. PHOTOS! Um, you already know this. I take 1,000 photos a day practically. Well, maybe in a week I take that many. Documenting our wonderful moments is important to me. Love photos.

16. Big toys like train table, kitchen set, and doll house. While we can't have too many more big toys around here since our house is being taken over by kids' things... I love these! These three things keep my two kiddos occupied for hours. I love that they love cooking in the kitchen and making "choo choo" noises. Hours of fun.

17. My body. Nope, it's not perfect, but I still am thankful for it. It gave me babies, let me feed those babies, helped me run 5k races, and keeps me strong enough to pick up my babies. It's good. All good.

18. Mom friends. 

People who get what you're going through, who don't get annoyed when you say, "oh sorry only had five minutes to talk, now major meltdown, bye" without waiting for a return word from them. Moms who look at your child's antics and go, "yup, been there, don't worry, it'll get better." 

19. Being a kid again. Having fun. Splashing in mud puddles. Getting dirty. Going to children's museums. I am grateful that in this crazy world I get to have FUN daily.

20. My husband. Not having to do this parenting thing alone is amazing. He makes it easier and fun. He's pretty much the best.

21. Video monitor. It gives me peace of mind. What greater thing is there as a mother?

22. Babysitters. It's so nice having six grandparents and a zillion aunts and uncles and friends who will watch our kids any time we want a date night out.

23. Girl clothes. I spend hours looking at, folding, putting away, and finding girl clothes that my daughter can rock her style in. I'm sorry to say boy clothes are just not as fun. I LOVE girl clothes. I kind of want this outfit my daughter has on in the picture above.

24. Food. While some days we have little in the house and other days I can't come up with a new idea for a meal besides pasta or grilled cheese sandwiches, I'm still grateful I can ALWAYS make something and am not without food.

25. Annie's mac n' cheese. Yup. I love it. Especially on rainy days like today or on weeknights when I cannot possibly make anything else for dinner out of exhaustion from my day.

26. Baby mirror in the car. I never used one of these with my son, but having a second back there with a toddler brother meant I needed to have eyes in the back of my head to make sure all were alive. Love those baby mirrors!

27. Libraries. It's so nice to gather books for free for my kids and myself. I took out 6 books the other day for the kids, and we only liked two of them. It was nice though to read something different and realize which ones we'd want to buy and which ones we weren't into.

28. Seasons. I know that it's not fun when the summer weather goes away and we're left with cold, dreary winter days approaching where you can't get outside. But really, I do love the seasons as a mom. I'm grateful we get to experience various things outdoors with kids... running through leaves, making snowmen, jumping in puddles and watching flowers grow, and of course visiting the beach. It makes it interesting.

29. Details. 

I am thankful that having children makes me realize the details, the little things that are important. 

Things like how my daughter's hair looks so red outside, just like her dad's hair. How teeny tiny those fingers are holding a pumpkin. I love noticing a new scratch or something on my children, realizing that I'm probably the only person in the world who notices little things like that on my babies.

30. Hearing "mama." Sappy, I know, but honestly, it's the best thing in the world, next to hearing, "I love you, mom." Those few words can make me stop and realize the laundry can wait, the whining won't last forever, the neediness is understandable, and that they are only little once. I am their mom and that's the most important thing to be grateful for.

Wishing you a happy, family-filled Thanksgiving! Eat lots of yummy treats, snuggle those babies tight, and relax. You deserve it, moms. 


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

cloth diapers 101 - Grade: B-

I was a part-time cloth diaperer. (yes, I coined the word diaperer, so what?!)

I tried cloth diapering this past summer and have used them for almost six months, part time. I found likes and dislikes about them. The beginning of the story can be found here, back in July 2013, and it continued through this fall.

I was curious. I wanted to save money and do my part with helping the environment. I thought they were cute... just a few of the reasons I was interested in trying cloth diapers.

Well, here is the end of the story: in the class of Cloth Diapers 101, I give myself a B-. 

In the beginning I tried cloth. Keeping up with the smell and washing them just didn't work for me. So I quickly moved on to gDiapers. I LOVED them! I used disposable inserts so didn't have to deal with the smelly part of washing cloth. We used them when home (which was a lot because I work for a school so have summers mostly off to be home with my kids).

Laundry for gDiapers was easy, totally fun actually in the summer. Because it was summer, I could wash them in the morning - when I wasn't working - and hang them out to dry, they'd be ready in a few hours. Put them back together during nap time, we were good to go again that afternoon. Or I'd wash overnight, hang dry in the morning, good to go mid-morning. It wasn't bad with more time and sun around to help with the laundry process.

Then I went back to work in September. And well, things were busy. I lacked time. We were everywhere, soccer practice and weddings and working second jobs and birthday parties... we weren't home to wait the hours it took to get these diapers through a load of wash and then out drying and then folded again.

I started to lack sun and hours where the diapers would dry (it's better to avoid putting them in the dryer, because dryer can pull at the material and make it not last as long).

So we've kept up using gDiapers since September, on weekends only. And that has worked OK. But then, since I only have six of them (didn't want to spend more money on getting more diapers if they were not going to last long), I'd use them in a Saturday at home, then wash them the next morning and they'd take all day to dry... so we didn't use them Sunday... so we were really using them one day a week in October and November. That wasn't the plan. But it was reality with me working out of the home full time.

Then a month ago the size gDiapers we had were not fitting my daughter anymore Every time I took them off of her there were red marks on her skin. She started telling me, "no, no, no" when I'd lay her down to put these gDiapers on her the last couple of weeks. She also was starting to figure out how to take those off... that was a nightmare to me, imagining her taking it off in her nap and smearing poop everywhere... oh no, we had to put a stop to that. That was my sign: we were done. It was game over with gDiapers in this house.

Disappointing, sure. But honestly, slightly a relief also. I was not able to keep up with these diapers anymore. The laundry and pressure to get that done and dried so we had them ready for the next day was beginning to be too much, just one more thing. I did not want cloth diapering to become one more thing to me. I know how easily things can become that extra in a mom's life. I didn't want using gDiapers to become that for me... but it did, I'm sad to say.

If it were the beginning of summer right now, I might look for some more gDiapers the next size up, but it's not and so I'm not searching. These diapers are not cheap... so it's an investment you have to make if you intend to use them for a long while. I'm hoping my daughter begins potty training in the next year, so it doesn't make sense to me to buy some gDiapers that may fit her for a few months when our schedule only allows us to use them on the weekends. (I had stated in my early blog posts about this that I never intended to be a full-time cloth diaper mama.)

So, here we are, and I've posted to some cloth diaper swap and sell groups on Facebook. I'm turning over my gDiaper stash and supplies to moms out there who are actively using them and whose daughters won't have rashes on their skin because they are too tight! I feel good about this. I had considered saving them, just in case, for a maybe someday baby, but realized they can go to good use right now with someone else so why wait?

Here's the thing: I LOVE GDIAPERS! I want to shout that from the rooftop. They are fabulous. 

If you are really dedicated to doing cloth yet don't like or can't put the time into the laundry and smell of regular cloth diapers, gDiapers disposables are a next best thing for sure. I'm so excited these things exist and I won't say a bad thing about them.

The only disappointing thing is there is not a one-size-fits-all gDiaper... you have to purchase small, medium, large, extra large... for the various sizes your child moves through. That's expensive!

So, my cloth diapering is over. For now.
I will always use reusable swim diapers, still have tons of those and think they are the greatest thing ever. I encourage all moms to look into those for boys or girls.

What I've learned through this cloth diaper process is that it's a wonderful thing and I admire the moms who use cloth diapers. It's a full-time effort type of thing. It takes a lot of work.

To me, cloth diapering is just like pumping milk... People used to ask me all the time how on earth I could pump exclusively, every two hours, for an entire year. When you put it that way, honestly I have NO idea how I did it either. Just like moms who make homemade baby food. Just like I'm sure moms who cloth diaper have no clue how they handle the smell or wash that much laundry all the time. They just do it because it's important to them. We all have priorities and things we want to do and just aren't interested in doing or things that don't work for us as moms.

I've learned it's just not for some moms... for personal preferences, for tolerances, for various schedule reasons... it just works for some and doesn't for others. Same with nursing. Same with a zillion other things. It's just one of those different mom situations that some are into and some aren't. I respect it wholeheartedly and am so glad I tried cloth diapers. Now I know a little bit about that world moms are part of.

Thanks, to all the moms who helped me along the way with answering my questions.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

this mom's nightmare

Last Saturday morning I planned to run some errands, pick up books at the library, get some milk at the store, and make sure the kids got an early nap because it had been a busy week.

Sometimes what we plan doesn't go like we thought.

My daughter is 19 months old and had a cold and a tooth coming in this past week. Runny nose, a little coughing, some whiney-ness during the day from teething. Nothing out of the ordinary for this phase or time of year.

Except she had weird red and small dots on her face. They were near her eyes, forehead area. They looked like pin pricks, they were so small. I hadn't seen them before. My husband swore he'd seen them once before on her, but I don't recall that.

It was weird. We moms see something that is not ordinary and we know if it's weird, different, not supposed to be there. 

They don't look like much on the pictures, but they were alarming at the time. 

So I did what any mom would do when she needs an answer... I Googled it.
Not the best idea typically, but hey, it's what we do when we want an answer NOW.
I found something called pitichiae. I had never heard of it, but was sure this was what my child had.

Fast forward, I'm at the walk-in care. The second I walked in and showed them my daughter's rash, the nurse, the doctor, they looked at me like "yikes, this could be serious!" That doesn't calm down a mom's worrying, let me tell you. They fired questions at me, "Has she had a high fever? You noticed this last night? Have you noticed any seizure activity? Is she eating, lethargic, drinking? Have you noticed bruising on her body?"

To say I was freaked out is to put it mildly. I was texting my husband every chance I got when they left the room. I was trying not to panic, but it felt weird.

All the while, my daughter was laughing, singing with me, playing, and eating her snack. Nothing seemed wrong, besides a runny nose and an annoying tooth yet to pop through.

They said this type of rash is typically caused by vomiting or coughing, excessively - neither of which my daughter was doing. She had a slight cough, not nonstop. If it is these two things, it's mild and will go away and is OK.

Or (and OR is the word you hate when you're sitting in a doctor's office, that I learned...) it could be life-threatening meningitis or leukemia. My grandfather died of leukemia. It's cancer of the blood, that I knew. That I didn't want to hear. At that word, my heart started beating faster.

Let the sane mom take over here:
NO, there was nothing at all in my heart or gut telling me my child was really sick. I had no reason to believe she had cancer or anything at all besides an annoying cold and tooth causing her to be stuffed up and runny nose and this random rash that I couldn't explain. I truly did not at all believe she was very sick.

Still... when the possibilities are put in front of you in print on a Google search site, or when a nurse or doctor says they want to check her Oxygen levels just be sure (something I hadn't heard before), you kinda get freaked out.

I'll state for the record this nurse and doctor were amazing! They were not doing anything but their job. It was me causing my own worrying, honest. I commend what they do. They did it fast and smart. I was the one who let myself get carried away.

And that's precisely why I'm writing this blog post... I think it's easy to get carried away as a mother, with our worrying and wondering and freaking out over little things that just don't make sense to us.

We are mothers. We are fixers. We make things better. We take care of it all, every day, for everyone. When something doesn't add up to us, or can't be found in our What to Expect books or if nobody on a discussion board has experienced this, we panic. We start to sweat and wonder and worry more. It's just part of us being female, I believe.

Back to it...
They said to rule out anything serious we could do a blood draw. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I can tell you what I was NOT expecting - me holding my baby down - like literally holding her down. Me on my knees on top of the hospital bed holding her head away from looking at her arm and wiping her tears and staring into her sad, angry, confused eyes as she screamed "no, no, mama, no." Writing that now makes me want to vomit. At the time I wanted to throw up. I had this terrible pain in my stomach, aching to make this situation better for my baby, knowing I was doing the right thing, yet feeling like it was wrong somehow also. That's the worst mom feeling ever.

They took blood from her arm. It didn't work. We had to do it again at another hospital. The 30 minute drive to that other hospital I was a wreck. I tried not to think, to overthink. To imagine the possibilities. I tried to tell myself, it's fine, it's OK, listen to her talking, she's fine, she won't remember that traumatic situation of them taking her blood, she doesn't blame you, she does not have cancer, she's fine.

But. (and but is another word I've learned is something you say sometimes with medical situations... there is always a "but.") 

But... I couldn't help myself. I tried to reassure myself it was fine. I called my husband who said it was fine. I didn't want to call anyone else for fear of worrying them or hearing them worried, which would in turn make me worry.

So I drove 30 minutes really fast, with music on, and barely sang, just imagining the awful things they were going to tell me.

Then the drive back to the doctor we started at, another 30 minutes, to imagine the what ifs. It was one of those "my life could totally change in 30 minutes from now...." moments we sometimes have. Like remember when you went into labor and you were thinking, wow in hours our entire life is going to change? Well that's what this was like, knowing for sure, something was going to be different in a half an hour, yet in the bad way, not good.

And yet of course I wasn't even sure I'd get bad news from the test results. It was of course a possibility that things could be normal, this was a fluke, random rash.

But as a mom... you worry. You wonder and question. It's just how it is, no matter how strong or confident of a person you are. No matter how rational you think you can remain, you worry.

My mind went to places it wasn't supposed to, it has never gone before. I pictured my daughter losing hair. I pictured my son feeling neglected because his sister got all our attention being sick. I pictured not ever having another baby because we could not handle more in our life. I pictured too many stupid, awful, unimaginable moments. Why? I have no idea besides fear. I was scared. So when you're scared you think dumb thoughts and you can't control it.

I hugged my daughter so tight when we returned to the doctor's office. I sang to her and tickled her and told her out loud, "It doesn't matter what those tests say, you are just fine, and we love you and things are fine."

I was scared. Admittedly, I was scared. Of a teeny tiny rash. Little pin pricks of spots on my daughter's face terrified me. The possibilities terrified me.

When the doctor came into the room with the nurse by her side, I thought, "that's it, the results were bad, otherwise why would they both be here?"

The news was GOOD. Nothing was wrong. No test results came back weird. They don't know why she got the rash, so it's still something on our minds and something I'd love answers to, but they said she's fine, normal, she's OK.

My life was back to normal. Nothing was changing. It was OK. I could stop breathing heavy.

I shared this not for sympathy. Like I said, my daughter is fine. We have some weird rash to keep an eye on, but otherwise she is just fine and will be fine. I believe that.

I shared this because I never knew what real panic could be like when it comes to my kids' health. They have had two ear infections between the two of them in almost 4 years (knock on wood!). We have experienced croup twice, which was scary, but OK. Knock on wood, we're lucky and blessed.

I have a dear friend who has held her daughter down for medical tests more times than I have brushed my kids' teeth I guess. I have eternal admiration for this friend, for the struggles she overcame, for the challenges she faced head on because she had to, sure, but also because she's such a strong person. She could get through anything, I know. I'm not sure what type of person it takes to survive a tough medical situation with your child, but I am not sure I could do it. I know you just do it, you have to, there is no choice. But this teeny tiny scare worried me so much.

If you have friends who have children going through such difficult medical situations, and you aren't sure what to do... try just listening, just texting and calling as you can, sending cards, sending little happy presents of stickers or coloring books to her child. But don't get offended if she doesn't call you back or update you every step of the way through that medical process. It's a daunting experience, from what I can imagine, don't make it worse by being upset your friend is not there for you like she used to be. She's probably just trying to keep it together on a daily basis. Have patience and compassion. 

I write this to say, I have such empathy and love for those who are going through or have gone through a difficult medical situation. What I learned in this situation was that you have to follow your gut. My gut told me something was weird with that rash. While it ended up that the test results were normal, the doctor said it was so good I brought her in, because it just have easily could have not been normal.

Listen to how you feel. Don't listen to whatever anyone may say, "she's fine, let it go." If you wonder if something is wrong, advocate for your babies. You are their voice, use it.

And as for worrying, well, we all do it. Just watch yourself. It doesn't need to get too out of hand like it did for me. Save yourself that stress.

Stay strong, moms.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shop & Support Moms - Meaghan and Evelyn

I am so excited to feature these two super mommas and their new business, BeeCH Co. Very awesome items made from a real bee keeper's honey. They are dedicated to not just making extra money for their families, but also building something their two daughters would be proud of. Thank you, Meaghan and Evelyn, for sharing your story with us as part of this month's Shop & Support Moms series. 

This is exactly the type of new small business that I wanted to feature this month on the blog. Everyone wins when you shop and support a local mom team, working to inspire their little girls and do what they love. Enjoy!

To win a prize from these awesome ladies, please comment below or at the Mommy Stories Facebook group! Prize is a FREE chapstick with ANY purchase!

All photos from Meaghan Schoff 

1. How did you start your business? Why did you want your own business? When did you start your business?   
We started in 2012, Evelyn had a baby girl, Harper, in April and I had a baby girl, Caroline, in July.  Not too long after the girls were born we heard of some leading baby products containing cancer causing chemicals, and it struck a chord with us both, especially since I was using those products on Caroline. My mother is a bee keeper and had signed up for a class to make lotions and chap stick out of her beeswax, when I mentioned the class to Evelyn, it’s like a light bulb went off- We both dream of one day either working part time at our jobs or being stay at home moms, so we thought starting our own company could help get us there! From there we brainstormed names of a potential company and what we might offer. 
2. What does the name of your business mean? How did you come up with the title? 
The BeeCH Co. Has a few different meanings. My mother is our beekeeper- and she lives on Beech Ridge Road, so we wanted to incorporate that into our name.  We also wanted to pay a tribute to Caroline and Harper, so we capitalized the C and H at the end of Beech- leaving the word Bee visible to the customer’s eye. 
3. What does your shop specialize in? What is your favorite item to make? 
Currently, we seem to specialize in Bridal/baby shower gifts, it just seems to be the most popular orders we have had and we have so much fun creating custom labels and knowing that we are contributing to someone’s special day. We are both most proud of our Honey Ointment because we are extremely pleased with the feedback from others who have used it. We feel proud that we mastered this one, because it was our hardest recipe to perfect this far. 

4. How do you get inspiration and ideas for items to make? 
Our inspiration is our children and our own family members. 
 We would never make a product with any chemicals in it. We only make products that feel 100% comfortable to use on our own children, so we know it is safe for anyone to use. 
Our ideas mostly come from customers, people will ask us, “do you guys make....?” and we make note of that as something to put on the list of things to make. 

5. How long does it take you to make items? When do you make your items mostly, what time of day? What do you do while creating something - tv on? music on?
It all depends on what we are making, we have spent an hour to four hours on making products. Evelyn and I both work out of the home, 40 hours a week.  We only get so much time to spend with our little girls, and we have vowed that this will not get in the way of bed time rituals, weekend morning rituals, or any special time in between.  We both have the same values and morals when it comes to our roles as moms and wives, and regardless of where this business adventure will lead us- we do not want to lose quality time with our families. With that said- you name a time; we have probably produced products in that time frame. We get together after bed time for the girls, or we get together early on a weekend morning, during a nap time, when daddies are home with them, whenever.  There have literally been times where Evelyn will text me and say “Harpers Napping, want to make something?” and I will get excited with a response of “So is C!” then it’s like, ready-GO and we get some stuff made. We try to make products together, but there have been times where I make a batch of chapstics after Caroline goes to sleep, or Evelyn makes a batch of hand balm for an upcoming shower at her house. We never have the tv on or music. We are best friends, so we use that time as just time to hang, talk, and a lot of laughing.

6. Take me step by step through sending someone's package to them.. what special things do you include in there ? How do you wrap them up? Do you get nervous when you send packages to people?   
I think we will always get a little nervous when we place our product in someone elses hand.  We know that we love our product, so we can only hope that someone else loves it that much also.  We hand deliver a lot of orders, so we package it up in a clear bag, with some ribbon with honey bees on it. We try to keep it simple and natural looking. 

We shipped chapsticks for a bridal shower to Oregon this past winter, and we threw a handful of extras in for the customer, in hopes that she might hand them out to other friends or co workers. I had a cousin order some items from us for her friend who was a military wife, her husband was just deployed and she was home with their three young children. We threw in  an extra Honey Ointment for her and the children as a thank you to the sacrifices she has to make so her husband can fight for our freedom.

7. What is your success rate? How many orders so far? 
We just started a little over a year ago, and for that first year, we spent our time saying- if we are going to do this, we are going to do it right. We did less selling, and more planning and perfecting.  
 We made products and handed them out to friends and family who we knew would give us truthful feedback, we wanted to hear what they liked and what they didn’t like, what they would change or what they would keep the same. We also tested everything ourselves. Lot of trial and error. It is only recently we have started to advertise and have enough confidence in our product to join a local craft fair at the end of this month.  I would say our success rate is great, considering what we have sold. We are totally reliant on word of mouth, and so far that has treated us pretty good!

 8. Why do you think people should buy on Etsy, homemade items? 
Evelyn and I both hope that this business could end up being something great- and we believe that everyone feels that way about their business and homemade items. 
Yeah, you can buy it cheaper on the shelf at a pharmacy store, but you don’t know what it contains.  We can tell you exactly what is in our product and that it was made with hard work, dedication and pride.   
When my husband and I were in Fort Kent for a wedding, we talked to a man there and I mentioned that the town was lacking a popular donut shop, and he said “we had one, but it’s gone, it didn’t make it, because we support local.” I love that.  The only way our business can make it, and one day be handed down to our girls is if people support us. Everyone has a reason for starting their own business, and we think it is only fair and kind to support their hard work adventure.

 9. What are your favorite Etsy shops you buy from? 
We have purchased items from multiple Etsy shops a  couple of our favorites being:  Sniffwhiskers which is a grandpa that makes homemade wooden pull toys for kids and  BagEnvy – which has great custom made diaper bags, 

 10. How does your business allow you to be a great mother?    
We are able to make our products while spending time with our children. They play together at our feet while we do this.  As I stated- we long to be stay home moms/part time workers some day, so this could possibly help bring us to that point.   
We long for the day when our girls can put an apron on and help us make products, and like I said- we hope that one day they will be set up to take it over and have success with it. This business is totally built around them and for them.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

SAHM - Mary Gauvin

Mary Gauvin is not only an incredibly smart and hard working person, but she's also a military mama staying at home raising her little (handsome!) man. We met in college a zillion years ago and she's one of my greatest friends who I never get to see. I admire this woman's strength and perseverance through challenging times of running a household while her husband is dedicating his work to our country. They are an amazing family, and I'm excited to share some of her story here with you all. If I could nominate her for Mom of the Month I would, but I'm not allowed to nominate anyone... so featuring her as a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) is next best thing! THANKS, Mary, for such a real and honest account of being a working hard mom at home.

All photos from Mary Gauvin 

1. How long have you been a SAHM?  
I've been working from home since 2010, but a mom since 2011. 

2. How many children and what are their ages? 
One child, age 2. 

3. What is a typical day like for you ? 
Wake up by 0530, breakfast and out the door by 0630, CrossFit at 0700, home by 0830, and either meetings, Kindermusik, Zoo programs, playgroups, or staying home in the morning, lunch, then nap from noon-ish to three-ish, and more playing! Dinner by 1730, bath and bed by 1845. Depending on if my husband is home or not, I'm usually in bed by 2200. Looking at what I wrote, our day looks pretty scheduled, but it certainly doesn't feel that way to me. 

4. Why did you decide to stay at home? 
My mom (a single parent for most of our school years) was able to work from home and I really liked that she was able to be there for us. 

With so much instability in our current lives (my husband has been gone, either deployed or at training, for over half of our son's life and we have no idea where to or when we'll be moving again), I want to be that constant for him and any future children. 

With my husband on the docket for leaving again early next year, we want Robby to continue to have that stability. It's both heartbreaking and enlightening that when my 2YO is asked where Daddy is (after he's been gone for almost three weeks), he says, "Oh, Daddy WORK!" with a little bit of trepidation and disappointment. But then he goes right back to talking about how and Daddy will play trucks when Daddy gets home. I think part of Robby's smooth adjustment to Daddy being gone this time has been his knowledge that even when Mama leaves him at "school" (drop-in care), she'll be back... and Daddy will be back eventually.

5. What is important to you when it comes to be a SAHM, what do you try to make sure you do each day, what do you want your child to learn from this experience being home with you? 

At this stage in Robby's life, it's important to me that he has the opportunity to play. I don't think being a SAHM has any bearing on that experience but it does give me the freedom to observe and influence that play. 

As a teacher, I know the importance of free play and imagination. But I also know that soon enough, that play will need to be a little more structured. We try to do one lesson each day... whether it be singing the Alphabet Song, counting on our fingers, learning colors, opposites, etc. And as a milkid, we also learn different Army things... I thought my husband's coworkers were going to fall over when Robby was running through the motorpool, calling out types of trucks. It was hilarious! There are so many opportunities for teachable moments at this young age and I try to seize as many as I can.

6. What do you think most people do NOT understand about being a SAHM? What do you think they think about your day that isn't true? 

I think people assume SAHMs have a lot of free time. Yes, our schedules might be more flexible (except nap, don't mess with nap), but free time is minimal. 

I also volunteer as our Battalion's Family Readiness Group (FRG) advisor (I advise and assist four FRG Leaders and the over 600 families that are within our unit. Not deployed, it's 15-20 hours/week. Deployed all depends... forty plus, last time around)... just because I'm not being paid monetarily for my time doesn't mean I'm not super busy!

7. What helps you to be a good SAHM? 
The biggest thing that helps me be a SAHM is seeing my child's successes and knowing I had a direct impact on them. Additionally, several of my military spouse friends call themselves "single parents" when their Soldiers deploy. I disagree with that - having grown up with a single mom until late middle school, I know that a single parent is responsible for not only the everyday care and well-being of their children, but also the finances. I remember going to the grocery store with $75 cash (to last for two weeks, for four people) and having to budget every item out because there weren't credit cards to use in case we went over. And if we did go over, we'd have to put something(s) back. 

One of the biggest factors that helps me be a SAHM is the fact that I can concentrate on raising our son and not worry as much about money things. I also know how extremely lucky my little family is!  

8. What is your advice to a mother thinking of being a SAHM? What tips would you recommend for getting through the days?  
Take it one hour at a time. It's okay to not clean or cook or do other household tasks during nap - watch that TV, read that book, take that nap. I reserve an hour each day to tidy up and do chores, but sometimes by the time afternoon rolls around, I need a break! 

This photo from photographer Addie O, all rights given to Mary Gauvin

9. What is the best part about being a SAHM? 

Not missing anything. Being able to record and journal so my husband doesn't miss too much, either. I'm also currently the only person that can interpret the toddler talk, and that's a big honor.

10.What are the challenging parts of being a SAHM? 
It's all on me. Yes, my son does go to drop-in care a few times a month (I still feel guilty for leaving him... it's that weird mommy guilt - why should I pay someone to do something that I can do perfectly well myself. But he LOVES it!) and I also hire a babysitter a few nights a month to go out with the girls (if my husband isn't here or won't get home from work in time), but from day to day - it's all on me. There are definitely some days that I live for nap and bedtime. 

In my husband's current job (when he's not away training or deployed), he sees our son for about 15 minutes every weekday and spends at least one day out of the weekend in the office. I'd like to say that I consult him on parenting decisions but it's more of letting him know afterward. Or hoping he replies to a text or email in the time needed to make a joint decision. This will definitely be a challenge as our kiddo gets older but since we have no idea where we'll be living at this time next year, I don't worry about it too much. I'm also looking forward to a different job... mostly for his sanity!

11. Anything else you want to add? 

Even on the worst days, I wouldn't want to do anything else. I love being a SAHM! As I tell new military spouses (it also applies to motherhood): The only constant in life is change!

12. If you were not able to be a SAHM what would you be/do/work as? 
So I have a Master's degree and I'm certified to both teach and be a guidance counselor in a few states... but I'm not sure I'm the right fit for a school job anymore. I do eventually want to go back to school and study military families (University of Maryland has a PhD program in Military Sociology). I also work from home for my oldest brother (I do payroll), so I'd probably have a bigger roll in his company. Who knows. That's all part of the fun!

expert mama - Sarah Gammon - bartender/server

Thanks to Sarah Gammon for sharing her awesome tips for surviving restaurant outings with your little ones, as she's an Expert Mama working in the field as a bartender (wish all servers would get the bill ready ASAP, great ideas!)

1. How many kids do you have and what are their names? 
We have three beautiful children. Nathaniel will be 4 in January, MacKenzie will be 3 in May, and Janelle is 7 months old as of the 10th of November  

2. Where do you work? 
I work at the Texas Roadhouse in Newington, NH as a bartender. However I have served there and at many other great, and not so great, restaurants in the seacoast. 

3. What are some great things about your job? 

I LOVE my job. I love the fact that I get paid to literally talk to people. 

As a bartender, generally people actually want to talk to you and get to know you. That is the whole point of making regulars I have people that come in to chat about my kids and theirs and the challenges we face in daily life. 

It's a great way to vent about a rough day, but also humble you and realize that your life isn't the only difficult one...others just have different issues, but everyone's lives are challenging for them. 

4. What are some challenging things about your job? 
People are always the most challenging aspect of my job. Making drinks and serving dinners are not exactly rocket science, however they are vital and have to be done while wearing a huge smile on your face...even when you want to punch said person in the face because they have nitpicked every aspect of their experience...right down to the appropriate amount of peanuts in their HUGE bucket. 

5. What is your advice to everyday parents going out to a meal in a restaurant with their children? What can they do to make it go smoothly? 
Don't allow your children to dictate what happens at dinner. I hate it that parents allow certain behaviors out in public that would NEVER fly at home. Maybe you really do allow Jim Bob to throw his mac and cheese all over the floor at home, but out in civilization it is rude. 

Also don't get offended when the server brings you the child's drink in a restaurant issued kid cup because it is against health codes for the server to fill your cup out back. Some servers will do it, but it isn't allowed and I will blatantly refuse to do so. 

Also, 99% of restaurants don't carry the special vegan organic food that you are told you NEED to feed your child. We mainly carry hot dogs, mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and chicken fingers. If you want special food then either eat at home or a restaurant that caters to that. 

Also don't ignore your child while you are out to eat. That is the easiest way to have a temper tantrum meltdown of epic proportions. 

Also a simple please and thank you from the PARENTS goes a long shows the kids what is polite and correct, but also will make the server happy to get you the 90000 napkins you asked for. 

6. Are there things you as a server try to do to make sure parents with kids enjoy their meal out in public? 

I always treat their child like a person. I don't like it when I go out to eat and my kids get ignored and neither do they. I always talk to the child directly and will defer to the parents if the kids want something that is not allowed. 

I will NOT serve your child soda unless the parent okays it. Kids are not to be ignored, but parents also need to step up and guide them in healthy choices. 

I also ALWAYS have a check printed for the table as soon as I ring in the meals because I know that sometimes the children will have a meltdown and it sucks waiting for a busy server to deliver the bill when you have 3 kids pulling in 3 different directions. 

7. What is your advice for meals parents should choose for their kids while dining out? (stick with same old, try something new, share a meal between siblings, etc.)? 
If you are going to share food with your child that is fine. However, inform the server of the choice. That way the server can bring extra plates and other things needed so that the child can eat too. I think if the child is adventurous with food then trying new things is good, however my kids love the normal routine foods. 

 8. Do most servers think parents should clean up their kids' messes (under high chairs, on table, etc.) before they leave, or leave that all for the server? (I ALWAYS try to pick up after my kids while out, just wondered if servers notice or care?) 
If you are going to leave a huge mess under your table, PLEASE tip accordingly. If I receive a 20% tip, or more, and there is a huge mess I am not going to complain. However if you leave a 10% tip or less and expect us to clean up the mountain that you left, then I guarantee that you will be remembered and your service will probably not be as prompt next time. I have never done that, but I know many servers that will. We are not stupid and we are not your servants. 

We make 3.00 an hour so we survive on your tips...please remember that when it takes us an extra 30 minutes to clean your table after the huge mess where we could have had another table sat in that time frame. 

9. What do you hope working as a mom teaches your own kids about what type of person you are? 
I hope that my kids will continue to understand that it takes work to get the things they need. I bust my ass, as does my husband, to make sure that they have everything. I just don't want them to think that they will have a free ride. I knew the value of work at a young age and I'm hoping that they will too. Would I rather be a stay at home mom? ABSOLUTELY!!! But that is not in the cards that was dealt for my family and I am okay with that. 

10. Do you enjoy your job and want to stay there for a while, or do you have other job interests for your future? 
I would love to use my degree eventually and teach, but we made the decision when we had our children that we would be the ones raising them. I am not talking down to people who opt for daycare. I am just saying what works for my family. I don't have a job that pays me $60,000 a yr so I can afford daycare even if it was an option. I make way less than that and would be working solely for childcare. That doesn't work in my house so I work nights and my husband works days. Our families are gracious enough to help out for the overlap of a couple hours so our family is helping us raise our angels. Once they are all in school I plan on finding a day job to take care of them, but still be able to go to all of their sport/music events.

11. Anything else you want to add?  
Enjoy every second, even the bad ones, because it all goes by way too fast

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

surviving the terrible 2s

Two was not fun with my first child. I gotta tell ya, two pretty much sucks.

All of the horror stories I'd heard, yup they were true. But worse.
It was hell. The worst experience I've had yet as a mother. I cried. I yelled. I worried and wondered. I asked if I was normal, he was normal, this phase was normal. I researched. I read books. I asked for help. I stayed indoors away from anyone who would possibly judge our version of Terrible Two-ness. It was bad.

Did I mention I despise the year of 2 to 3?!

My son's terrible two phase included hitting. Lots of hitting. Hitting as a way of expressing feelings or to get attention or being angry that I was pregnant and couldn't pick him up as easily. Who knows what. But it was hitting. All the time hitting for 10 straight months. It was awful. I never wish that experience on anyone. 

Now that my daughter is almost 19 months old, the same time that my son started having Approaching Terrible Two Problems, as I refer to it, I'm scared. 

I'm admittedly really afraid of what this next year has in store for us. I dread the possibilities. 

You've heard of them... hitting, biting, spitting, tantrums on the floor screaming, kicking, running away, acting like an animal... What's not to love about the age of two, right?! 

I find myself crossing my fingers, holding my breath, taking baby steps, afraid of what to say and how to respond to certain behaviors now that we're approaching two. I am trying to recall how it went down the last time around, so as to avoid pitfalls or things I didn't see that first naive time down the Terrible Two road. 

I'm trying to prevent the catastrophe that was that year with our first. I know this is impossible to predict and control, still I'm trying so hard to figure out some magical method past this stage. Three isn't perfect, far from it, but it's way better than those Terrible Twos, I swear. I don't want to fast forward my daughter's third year, but I hope it's a fast ride over the speed bumps of possible terrible-ness. 

Recently my good friend wrote to me a sort of mom rant, a venting session, a plea for understanding and a request for me to say, "Yes, I've so been there. I know how you feel. You aren't alone, and this too shall pass." I read it and nodded my head in solidarity. I had been there, afterall. I know how that goes... being a new mom with a toddler in the Terrible Two awfulness, jealous of a new sibling in the house. I've been exactly there. And it sucked. Yet I lived to tell about it, so I must know a thing or two I can share with this friend, right? 

So here is what I've learned about surviving the Terrible Twos. 
Hope it helps you in some way, mommas. 

*You aren't alone. You will think you are. That your child is undergoing the worst possible case of Terrible Twos. But it's not true. Five billion other toddlers and their parents have survived this roller coaster ride like you. Ask anyone you know who has a child over the age of 5, they will know what you are going through. I know many friends whose 2 year old did not hit like mine did, and yet they still understood what I was going through. One doesn't quickly forget those tumultuous feelings of parenting toddlers.

*You are not a bad mother. Again, you'll have many days and moments when you think you're the worst, most incompetent mom ever. You will question your abilities to parent a toddler, when you thought you did so well with an infant. Chances are good that you are doing all you possibly can. I imagine you are up at night, reading Web sites, reaching out to people you know and asking the doctor for advice. I'm confident you are disciplining the way you were taught to, you aren't just letting things slide. You are trying your hardest to prevent or curb negative behavior from your toddler. 

And yet things happen. Toddler crap happens. It does not make you a bad mother. Believe me, I felt like a bad mom, but now I know I was not. I just had a toddler going through a bad phase, that's all it was. 

*Determine triggers. The best thing to do when you can't figure something out is look at the reality, the facts, the data, the stats. Get out of the emotional state you're in with this Terrible Two phase and look at what you know. Start writing down what happens just before the awful event (hitting, spitting, biting, tantrum, etc.). Do this for a few days or a week. You'll start to see some patterns. Something will make some sense. With my son, he hit when he couldn't express his words quick enough, because he didn't have the words to say how he felt. He would hit when he wasn't getting my attention for a long period of time. He would hit as a way to say "leave me alone," or "that's mine," before he understood how to use his words to do that. Sometimes it was because he was hungry, needed a snack to calm down his actions. I'll be honest and say sometimes there is no trigger... that part isn't helpful of course. I found that 9 times out of 10 there was a trigger, a reason why my son was misbehaving. Sometimes, unfortunately, it's just because they are in the Terrible Two phase.

*Find solutions. Whatever the triggers, you can find a solution. You just need to pay attention and focus the best you can to find a pattern. A few solutions that worked for me included:
  • Read books about the behavior - childrens books to your child and also parenting books to help you with tips. Hands Are Not For Hitting is a great book by Free Spirit, they offer tons of books including ones about not spitting and sharing. Find on 
  • Carry snacks. I found toddlers need frequent snacks with low sugar to keep them rolling in positive land.
  • Get rest. I know many toddlers begin to phase out their naps at this stage. It's no wonder to me that the Terrible Two behavior begins at the same time kids are lacking sleep. They need rest. Do what you can to keep up a consistent nap time every day, even if it's for an hour when it used to be three hours, take what you can get, but MAKE it happen. Even if they just roll around in their crib day after day for that hour, so be it. Do your best to keep it up. What I've found is most kids will give in to the sleep eventually. Do your best. I know not all kids sleep, but if you are consistent they will respond and at least lie there reading books and their body will rest. 
  • Be aware. You can't attend a play date and just use it as mommy time to talk girl talk. You have to be focused on what is going on with the toddlers in front of you to step in at a moment's notice in case they get to tug-of-war over a shovel in the sandbox. Stay focused. Your child needs you to. 
  • Know when to quit while ahead. If your child is doing great after running a few errands, it's time to head home. If your child is sharing and being kind after 30 minutes at a play date, end it now before things go awry. Don't drag things on too long to a point of no return. 
  • Be positive. Reinforce the good things you want to see more of. Give attention to those great things like sharing or listening or putting shoes on by themselves. Don't just focus on the negative during this tough time. Get rewards. Use charts and stickers and dollar store prizes if you have to. Whatever silly thing you can think of, show some joy and positive every day. 
  • Implement a time out in your house. Start doing 1, 2, 3 counting. Find some type of consistent discipline method that works for your family. 
  • Stay calm. Yelling doesn't help things. It makes you both feel worse. Take a time out for yourself if you need it. 
  • Give them alternatives to the behavior. When my son was hitting we realized he had a physical need to get out his feelings. We taught him to stomp his feet, form firsts in his hands and squeeze fingers in and out, scrunch his face, grunt and make a verbal noise, jump up and down, clap his hands. Instead of biting people make sure there are a zillion teething rings and chew toys around the house. 
  • Spend quality time together. Two is around the age that many people add a new addition to the mix. That is a big change for your growing toddler. It's hard to make sense of that new thing. So spend quality time with your toddler. Sit on the floor. Play outside on the swings together. Do something fun, daily. Show your love. Your baby is still in there under that crazy two year old body... love her like you used to, despite your frustrations. 
  • An eye for an eye is NOT a solution. Hitting back a hitter or biting a biter is not the answer. I've heard it has worked for some, I believe them. But all those people did was teach their child to fear them, they did not teach them to learn a lesson. I understand it works, I don't think people are making that up. I just don't believe in it and think it sends the wrong message, creates angrier, more confused toddlers. Do your best to avoid negatively teaching your child the wrong thing. 
*Be patient. This too shall pass... but not today perhaps. It will take time. You can't rush through any phase. Think of how your child learned to walk... it took a lot of patience and teaching and watching and waiting and wondering when those first steps would finally happen. So wait it out. Stick through it. You have no other choice, right? 

Just be patient... as best that you can. Know that this darkness will end and your little one is going to return to you. You can't rush through this. Just keep reminding yourself of that. 

*Learn the facts. I attended a conference where I was told the brain development and new synapses forming in the brain during the ages of 2 to 4 are the same exact patterns brain researchers see occurring between the ages of 12 and 15. Crazy right?! Think of adolescence... it's insane. Ups and downs, moodiness, emotional roller coasters... same as toddlerhood. The fact is that these terrible two year old kids we're caring for can't control what they are experiencing. They seem to be wicked smart, I'm sure, but they don't know what they are doing half the time. All they know is cause and effect... if I do this then Mommy will do that. I don't care that "that" is bad or that I'm punished, all I know is she'll do something and that's funny." Read one article about two year olds and you'll see yours is a normal child. Again, more reason for being patient. This too shall pass. Seriously. 

*Don't say NO a thousand times a day. It's normal to say "no" to your child at this age probably 100 times a day. They are into everything! They touch everything and run from you in crowded stores. I was saying no a zillion times a day with my son. I didn't realize it until my husband pointed it out to me. I was offended until I realized he was right. My son was tuning me out because I was saying no a zillion times, he was sick of hearing it, it no longer meant anything. When my husband raised his voice to say no my son listened instantly because he rarely said no. Be careful about saying no too much. Being conscious of this the second time around, I started saying "uh uh" with my daughter instead of no, reserving "no" as the stern scary that's dangerous NO instead.

*Set them up for success. If you consistently are telling your child to keep away from some breakable, it's time to get rid of the breakable and save your voice. If you are constantly telling your child to not throw his food, then look for triggers that he's done eating and take away his plate before he gets past the point of food on your floor. If you get frustrated with her taking off her shoes or hitting a certain buddy and it always happens when she's tired, then only make play dates after a good nap, don't do anything when she's going to be fussy or hungry.

Set them up for success, not failure. Think ahead and plan a little, it will pay off I swear. 

Remember snacks and rest time, avoid your child's crankiest time, you all know when that typically is.

*Consistency -Being consistent, doing the same thing over and over, was one thing that really helped in this situation. When we said no we meant no. If we said it was not OK to play with a certain thing then every time our child went to get that thing we'd say the same thing, not let it slide sometimes because we were tired. Toddlers are pushing boundaries, trying to see what will work, what won't. It's fascinating to them to see things go up and down, things thrown, people react emotionally. It all is in their learning curve to test this out. 

*Teach them language - To me, the biggest thing you can do to help your toddler is to teach her or him the language of how to express how s/he feels. The biggest frustrations come from these little ones because they can't easily express how angry, frustrated, happy, upset, mad, etc. they are. They don't have the words or tools to really make you understand. 

Start at an early age - at least a year - by showing them feelings on your face and using words. "I see you are very angry that I took away your toy, but it's time for bath right now." Mimic how they might sound, "It's no fair, is it? It's not fair that I took your toy, you were having so much fun with that toy... I understand. But now it's time to get cleaned up in the tub, so after we can gather your toy or we can play with it tomorrow." Even at that early age when they can't really understand you, they definitely get that you are helping, trying to side with them, not against them when you talk to them this way. The day my son finally said to us, "I'm angry because you took away my toy" instead of hitting us, that made me cry with joy. 

Teach them the skills and they will use them. 

*Give warnings. Something that helps a lot with our kids is giving them warnings of when things are happening. "In one minute we need to put on your shoes and leave your game behind, it's time to go." Give warnings when transitioning from something to something else. Give explanations. Really tell them what's up ahead. "We're going to eat breakfast, then brush your teeth and go potty. Then it'll be time to leave to the playground, OK?" 

*Use fewer words. I read this in an article and totally agree with it. Instead of saying for the fifth time that morning, "Owen, get your shoes on right now,it's time to get going," you say, "Owen, shoes." Shorten up what you're saying so they don't tune out your long sentences. 

*Listen and apologize. Oftentimes if you stop and listen to them, they'll tell you what is going on, even by pointing to something. Try seeing their point of view. Respect them for the little people they are. Don't just be their boss as their parent. Try to see what is bothering them, what they are frustrated by, and speak it aloud. Help them feel heard. "Oh you were working on that block tower really hard, weren't you, and then it just fell over when your brother walked by? No fair. Let's work on putting it back together." And apologize if you make a mistake. If you snap or misunderstand something or tell him to stop doing something that really was OK but you hadn't seen it right the first time, then apologize. Again, it helps them feel understood. 

*Offer choices instead of yes or no questions. "Do you want to wear brown or black shoes? Do you want help getting in the tub or do it yourself? Do you want to eat breakfast in this chair or that chair? Do you want the purple cup or blue cup?" Offer choices that lead to you getting what you want (notice I said which chair for breakfast, choosing to have breakfast was not a choice at all). I started giving tons of random choices during that 2 year old phase... allowing my son to pick his clothes, socks, shoes, silverware, plate, cup, hat, etc. The more little choices you can give them on things you don't care about, the more apt they are to comply with what you are asking later on. 

I love this quote by Dr. Alan Greene from his site: 

"This phase is difficult for parents; it is also hard for children. When children take a stand that opposes their parents, they experience intense emotions. Although they are driven to become their own unique persons, they also long to please their parents. Even now, when I do something that my parents disagree with, I feel very conflicted. I am an adult, living in a different city, with well-thought-out choices — and it is still quite difficult. For a child who is tentatively learning to make choices, who is dependent on his parents for food, shelter, and emotional support, it’s even more intense. Dissolving into tears is an appropriate expression of the inner turmoil that is so real for children who are in the midst of this process.
I like to think of the process as similar to childbirth. Labor is a very intense experience. Pain, after pain, after pain eventually produces something beautiful– a child is born. The episodes of oppositional behavior in “First Adolescence” are psychological labor pains — one difficult situation, then another, and another, and as a result your son’s own persona is being born psychologically. This is a beautiful (but difficult) time with a truly worthwhile result.
As an oak tree is already present in an acorn, this aspect of your son’s unfolding development was already present when he was conceived. Although you will have a large impact on its course, it’s not caused by something you are doing wrong, and it won’t last forever."

So yes, I'm terrified. Terrible Twos still suck in my book. 
I'm nervous as we approach 19 months next week with my daughter. I'm scared of what it could be .... will it be more hitting? Or will biting be something we experience around here? I'm to my core afraid, honest. Despite all the advice I just offered you about what I learned, even I am still scared about what could be up around the bend of this toddlerhood adventure.

All I know for sure is I can't control it. None of us can. 

And I know no matter what that my baby who sucks her thumb and looks at me with those big brown eyes and smiles more times in a minute than I have done in my lifetime, she's still in there, underneath the new "NOs!" I hear often. She's still my little baby who lays her head down on my shoulder as I rock her to sleep, despite that she tossed her dinner plate to the ground for the 10th time this week. My baby is still there. And babies need their mommies.

So here I am, on the brink of disaster, possibly. But I'm still camping out. I'm not going anywhere. I can't flee or skip this part of her development. It is what it is. We can and will get through it. And so will you and your baby.

I can say this looking back because my son is now 3 1/2 and has not hit in more than a year. We have lived to tell about that terrible experience. So I know it's possible. Our babies are in there. They are. Help them grow to the other side of their development.

Breathe. You can survive this. 

(and then hold on tight for the Tumultuous Threes, as I like to call it... I'm almost through with those, and I'll tell you one thing, they are better but a bit louder and with less listening than the Terrible Twos. Oy ve.)