I Did Something Controversial

This post contains links to websites where I bought products. They are not affiliate links and I gain nothing from any purchases.

Controversy is part of my life, as an atheist woman married to a Mexican immigrant with two bi-racial children (which I hate to label any child as such).

If I talk about my lack of belief, I’m trying to be controversial. If I do/say/dress the wrong way, as a woman, I’m acting controversially.

Some people in Walmart find my husband and I to be controversial, standing there talking about peppers in Spanish. We see their looks.

However, I really did something controversial this time, at least, in the eyes of my gringo family. However, my husband’s side of the family has been pestering him with questions on when it will be done.

I’m talking about piercing the ears of a baby girl. (I have known white girls who’d had their ears pierced shortly after birth. Not trying to make any generalizations about the Latino community). I just have noticed a cultural trend. My grandmother especially finds it to be barbaric and my own ears weren’t pierced until I was 12.

That piercing was a failure because I didn’t take care of them properly. I had them re-pierced later on. I always wished that I’d had earrings since infancy.

Reality struck when I had Marisol

I could not take that tiny baby to Claire’s and let them punch holes in her ears. I just couldn’t. So I waited and waited until about a week ago, after my husband asked me again when we would pierce her ears.

With the COVID-19 pandemic there was no way to have them professionally pierced. My husband said he would do it. I ordered a kit of two pre-loaded, sterile ear piercing guns from Sally Beauty and they quickly arrived in the mail.

Well, my husband wasn’t home that day. I was sure I could do it myself. So, I washed her ear lobes with alcohol (front and back), marked the natural dimples that she has in her lobes and removed one gun from the package.

One snap, two snaps, and Marisol had earrings in her ears. She didn’t cry and she barely messes with them. I clean them twice a day with Claire’s Ear Cleaning Solution and the lobes appear white and not swollen.

My grandmother was not happy when she saw the pierced ears, but the girl is so cute with them that how could one be mad? Also, she’s one year old and some change – not a newborn.

And honestly, Marisol’s pretty lucky that I’ll be doing all of the work for her (cleaning, etc). I hope she appreciates them as an homage to her Latino culture one day.

Piercing baby or toddler ears may be controversial to some, but I’m happy I did it.

House Cleaning With Two Toddlers: A How-To

Disclaimer: Its not actually possible to deep clean your home with two toddlers in tow. Therefore it is wise to do small things every day as part of a cleaning routine. However, if you are forced to clean up the whole house in one day here’s how I do it. (My kids make big messes every day so I’m always cleaning.)

  • First, I recommend taking a thirty minute break or so, just to mentally prepare yourself for task(s) ahead.
  • Set the kids up with some screen time if you allow it. I am trying to keep screen time to a minimum so I let them play in their mountain of toys until I’m ready to tackle that room, which is the living room and the main part of my house. It never looks like I’ve done anything until the absolute end. Ugh.
  • Change diapers and give snacks (no chips!! Those end up smashed into the carpet) right before beginning.
  • Turn on some music or use your headphones. Try listening to an ASMR video while cleaning. It might change your world.
  • Walk around a bit or stand amidst the mess and just marvel at it for a moment. The popcorn on the floor, the window that’s smeared with something, the sticky habdprints on the fridge door. Resist the urge to quit before you even start – sometimes the hardest part.
  • Follow this order to a degree: kitchen first (I usually wipe the kitchen down before bed so that its easier to clean up after breakfast. It doesn’t always get done though. Pick up all garbage and take it out. Wash dishes and put away. Start a load of laundry. Fold those clothes on your “clothing chair” (I know you have one). Put folded clothes away and dust. Change sheets after spraying shower and toilets with cleaner. Wash glass surfaces, wipe down and clean toilets/bathroom(s), and sweep. I also have to vacuum. Then, mop or swiffer.

Some Tips

  • Check on the kiddos often! While you scrub the toilet they could be coloring on your couch or something.
  • Keep them in the room with you if you can and encourage them to help with picking up their toys or dusting the coffee table.
  • Accomplish one task (or room) and give yourself a pat on the back. Take a cofee, tea, or Red Bull break and get back to work before you decide to give up.
  • Pro tip: always multi-task and never leave a room empty-handed!

Good luck! I’m off to vacuum up some of those chips I was talking about.

Lessening Screen Time With Sergio

Day 6 was a success! Sergio didn’t use the phone once, mainly because he didn’t have abuelita’s phone anymore. And also because I am loathe to give up my own phone so that he can look at YouTube.

Now, on day 7 we are making some real progress. The phone’s whereabouts have not been sought after and the hose is going full blast. (Indeed, a worm was just brought to me).

I’m not sure what the end goal will be for this trial. I’m not sure how much screen time my children will be allowed yet. And there are a lot of recommendations out there. I just want my children to have fun off the phone. I’m sure we’ll find a middle ground soon.

Or I hope so.

Lessening Screen Time With Sergio

Days 3 and 4 have been rough. I’ve won some battles and also lost a few. However, he had very little screen time on Day 3, even though when I awoke later than usual I found that my husband had already given him a phone.

Day 4 was full of arguments over the phone. By 9:00 a.m. Sergio was begging for the addictive device.

“It’s too early!” I told him.

Around 11:30 we went outside to play in the hose (an excellent tool for distracting children). Things went smoothly until the daily afternoon phone calls started coming in. Abuelita answered and tried speaking with a sibling of mine.

As my mother tried to speak on the phone Sergio became very loud, boisterous, and frankly, bratty. The phone call was cut short. Sergio asked for a cellphone. We caved.

Sergio promptly ran inside to sit on the couch with the phone, Marisol hot on his heels. Marisol likes to try and watch the phone with him but Sharing is not Sergio’s forte. I don’t mind that Sergio doesn’t share YouTube with Mari because she’s too young for it anyway. Soon she grew tired of Sergio’s stinginess and came back outside with myself and my mother.

While my mother, Marisol, and I gardened outside, Sergio watched his phone. We are always in and out eating snacks and such. Then, suddenly, at 7:15 p.m. (which is close to bedtime) Sergio came out onto the porch dancing and singing to a music video. Marisol carried a toy that sings Baby Shark (my. favorite. song.).

We all clapped and danced. I stubbed out my last cigarette of the day and hauled my ducklings off to bed.

As I laid next to my children in bed I started looking through my own phone. Then, from the darkness, came a little voice telling me to turn it off.

I smiled and did so. I guess we all need a reminder to turn it off once in a while.

Lessening Screen Time With Sergio

Day 2

Surprisingly, our second day of abstaining from YouTube went quite well. At 10:00 a.m. there had still been no mention of the phone and shortly after, the two babes went on a rare outing with S. to wash his work truck.

The day was not without its hiccups, however. When my family returned from the truck washing, S. offered Sergio the phone because he was being whiny and inconsolable.

“Let’s go outside,” I suggested, putting a stop the argument over the phone.

We ventured forth into the sun and spent most of the day outside. We had a backyard picnic and watered our garden boxes. Things went well.

Until around 4:00 p.m. when I considered giving in. S. had gone to the store, sending Sergio into a temper tantrum. Thankfully, S. returned rather quickly and the phone was forgotten.

Around 5:00 p.m. Sergio begged for the phone again. I ignored him.

Finally, Sergio got his phone from 7:30 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. He laid in bed with it, relaxing until he fell asleep.

Ah well, we did our best.

Lessening Screen Time with Sergio

Being in isolation (nothing new to me), the cell phones in my household have been in use quite often lately. Though we don’t watch very much TV and the baby is allowed no screen time, Sergio is an adept YouTube scroller. However, it needs to stop.

Against my better judgement we let Sergio start playing with a cellphone about a year and a half ago. Now there are some days where he is on it for hours. Call it bad mothering, call it what you will. I call it a little screen addiction.

Anyway. I have decided to begin the process of removing the phone from his clutches. Here’s how the first day went.

Day 1

Sergio asked for the phone around 9:30 a.m. I firmly told him no. He firmly told me no to breakfast. Ah well.

I gave Sergio the phone at ten a.m.

At 10:30 a.m. tornado sirens could still be heard from the living room (he loves tornado videos).

At 10:45 it was nice enough to go outside. We played with the hose, dirt, mud, sand, and the like.

Around noon we ate lunch and the two ducklings played quietly (side by side) in the living room. This was shortlived and we moved back outside for the remainder of the afternoon.

S. was on his way home so rigorous bathing was needed. After letting the two play in the tub (with many Hotwheels added in) I scrubbed their hair, ears, and hands. Screaming and crying ensued but they were especially dirty and muddy last night.

After drying off and getting cozy, dressed in PJs, it was bedtime. Sergio didn’t ask for the phone once during this time, which is rare.

Two sleeping babies later and Day 1 was a success. Let’s call it beginner’s luck for now 😉

Before the Postpartum

Judging by my postpartum experiences, one might expect that I had traumatic birth experiences. Well, I didn’t. I gave birth two both of my children easily. I received the epidural with my son when I was dilated to 7 cm and I received an epidural with my daughter at 9 cm (I should’ve skipped it but I was tired by that point). Each pregnancy and birth are different for each woman. I had two perfect pregnancies (except for the fatigue in the first trimester) and two easy births.

Postpartum depression doesn’t take that into effect, I guess, and according to Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, there is no one cause of PPD. Hormones seem to overwhelm my body and the chemical imbalances in my brain cause me to suffer postpartum depression (and psychosis with my daughter). According to the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, there is a spectrum of mental disorders that occur after birth including the baby blues, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis. The center also claims that 85% of women suffer from some sort of postpartum mood disturbance.

Postpartum depression and mood disorders are serious, but more common than you might think. I will be continuing my research and am participating in research through the MGH Center for Women’s Health with their study on postpartum psychosis. I am lucky to have support, medical care, and an outlet in this blog to help me recover.

If you, as a new mom, or someone you know is feeling guilty for no reason, has changes in sleeping or appetite, has obsessive thoughts about the baby, or has thoughts of harming themselves or others, call 911 or go to the nearest ER. This post is not to diagnose or treat postpartum disorders. The symptoms I have listed are from the MGH Center for Women’s Health website and from the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy offers some suggestions for treatment but talking with your doctor is the most important. I advise that you speak honestly with your doctor as well, something that I was too ashamed to do when I suffered PPD with my son. The Mayo Clinic offers tips such as exercising daily, eating well, staying connected with family, and asking for help. Above all, talk to your doctor.

Remember Me

Hopefully, you do. If not, that’s okay, too. I have been suffering lately from a rare form of Post Partum Depression – something that I thought I had under control. But, looking back on things and the manic writing I was doing (the climate crisis has traumatized me because I am concerned for the futures of our children), I was sick. I am healing by following the advice of medical professionals and will not be sharing every step of the journey.

I did not want anyone to think that I had forgotten them, so this is just a note of “Hey, I’m still here,” for some of you. I hope you have all been taking care of your flowers, yourselves, and your babies. One day soon we will be sharing lots more stories – and all of them will be beautiful, full of hope, laughter, nature, and that bittersweet twang of truth.

How I Promote Bilingual Literacy at Home

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. I try to only recommend items that I personally own or have used, and hope that they serve you well also, if you do decide to buy.

When I was in college in Minnesota, about five to seven years ago, I majored in Spanish Education with a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language. During my last semester, in 2015, I fell in love with my now husband and left the state. I was passionate about my studies and loved what I was learning. Now, I live it. Promoting literacy at home is essential in raising strong readers, and bilingual speakers have more success when literacy is valued and practiced in both languages. Literacy is a skill in itself, but for today I want to focus on the little ways you can increase your child’s awareness of and familiarity with letters and words, books and pencils, and whichever combination of languages you choose.

I dropped out of college and don’t have a degree, but I kept many of the textbooks and continue to conduct my own research. I observe my son closely and try new things. This is how I promote reading at any age, and in any two languages.

First of all, we speak two languages at home. We speak two languages in front of our children, to our children, and practice our second languages with our children. We talk about the importance of speaking, writing, and reading in two languages. We turn our Netflix shows on Spanish, watch movies in Spanish, and read to each other in Spanish. One of my favorite authors is Gabriél García Marquez and I let my children see me struggle to read his work in his native tongue. I ask my husband if he understands the vocabulary. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. We are always talking in and about different languages. We find bilingualism and literacy important. Our children listen and hear this.

I like to write and can do so in Spanish because I have a good understanding of the vocabulary and am able to write well in English. My husband, who had a different childhood, does not like to write or read very much. He works hard and has little energy to spend on words. He likes me to read to him and I acquiesce. My preferred way of writing is to use pen and paper. I do this often, writing anything, and Sergio likes to copy me. I give him paper and pencil and he writes as well.

All parents have been told to read to their children. It is important. Reading is fun for children, and requires that you show them how to do it well. Ask questions, make guesses, summarize past plot events, point at the pictures, talk about the title, etc. If you and your family are bilingual, don’t just read in English. Even my husband has begun to read to my son, finding Spanish children’s books in our library one night. Try to ask questions and make guesses in your second language as well. If your level of proficiency at your second language is not high, read anyway, it can only help you, too.

It is also important to show your little ones that you like to read as well. Establish a respect for reading as a valuable past time and skill. Create a library in your home, no matter the size or style, and keep books around you. When a child is curious and plays with a book, they are becoming familiar with pages, letters, and words. They may not know what the writing says, but they begin to understand that it does speak. I often find my son in his room, playing with his books (many of which are from my own childhood), and pretending to read aloud to himself. Reading before bedtime is an important routine that we try hard to follow but it can occur at any time of the day.

Taking trips to the local library is also critical. The library is a good place to find books that may be written in your family’s second language. These books are free, as long as you bring them back! The library also inspires a love and awe of the books lined up all around you. Like-minded families can be found there as well. A bookstore is another great trip to take when your son or daughter is ready for it because the value of money and books can be discussed at once.

Cultural relevancy is important also, so don’t read a book about riding a bike if your little one can barely walk. Don’t read books about crafts if your family is more into outdoor adventures. If you live in the city, read about other people who live in cities. If cooking is a love of the family, peruse cookbooks in either language. It is also a good idea to read books that talk about the culture of your second language: where it’s spoken, who speaks it, how these people live and think.

This book is full of songs native to the Latin-American culture. Its pictures are beautiful.

There are many other ways to promote literacy as well: graphic novels, picture books, some video games (not those that are violent), music, and certainly, art. I love to promote literacy through art: using words and letters as part of the aesthetic. We like to create art around the alphabet, both the English and Spanish version.

Some quick and easy art involving letters.

If you and your little ones would like to start your own library at home, here are some of our favorite English and Spanish books.

I like to have books in hand, but there are ways to download books or listen to them now. If you are still learning Spanish, some of the above books are great for learning vocabulary and practicing comprehension in another language.

Continue to read with your children as they grow, in any language. There are many creative ways to get older children involved, such as book clubs at home, prizes for books read, writing and binding your own book, or creating artwork based on their favorite books. However you choose to promote literacy and include another language in your home, it is an ambitious but worthwhile goal. If one language is more your style, that’s okay too, as long as literacy is valued.

Wash That Baby’s Toys

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. I try to only recommend items that I personally own or have used, and hope that they serve you well also, if you do decide to buy.

Flu season is coming, whether we like it or not. This means that it will soon be time for flu shots, more consistent hand washing, and a scrub down of all the toys in the house. I like to wash toys twice a year, before flu season and after. There’s never a wrong time to do it, though. Especially if you have little boys or girls that like to leave food on the play table or dump milk into inconspicuous containers. Round up the toys, turn on the hot water, and grab some bleach or dish soap.

I clean up my kitchen, counters, and island before beginning. It’s a clean-up day, so expect to clean. If you don’t have as much counter space as I do, clear off a table and whatever counter you have. I lay out several linen dishcloths on the clean surfaces, and fill a plastic tub with hot water in the sink. I like to add about two capfuls of bleach, but I think dish soap works fine, too.

Throw some toys in. Make sure they are all at least covered with the water. Leave the toys in the hot water and soap/bleach for some time. I like to work on laundry or dust while Sergio’s toys are being cleaned. When I return to the toys, I pull them out and rinse them, finally laying them on the dishcloths to dry. This way takes some time because it usually must be done in several batches.

Make sure you are not adding battery-operated toys into the water without removing the batteries. Books and iPads should also be wiped off, and play-doh (one of my favorite toys but probably a trap for bacteria) should be tossed. Put some more play-doh on the Christmas list if it’s a bit hit with your family.

When the toys are dry, toss them into their designated baskets. At this point you can organize the toys, put some aside for future rotation, and toss out broken toys or sets that are missing crucial pieces. I love these baskets for toy storage because they are made from natural resources, are easy to wash and dry (I like to dry baskets in the sun), and are perfect for easy clean-up (just scoop everything into one basket if you want the floor picked up in a hurry).

No matter the kind of toys your child likes, they should be cleaned in some fashion a few times a year. Remember to use HOT water, and rinse well, especially if you are using bleach. Good luck this flu season!

Put Protective Eye Wear on Your New Baby Checklist

The title of this post is intended to be humorous, as well as a warning to new parents. When my son was about 10 months old, I almost lost my right eye (it felt like it anyway).

When my sister and I were babies, my sister poked my father in the eye with a toe, causing extreme pain and the need for an eye patch. It was a funny story in our family, but as a new parent I came to wish I had listened to its moral.

My husband and I have families that live five hours away from us, my family to the north, his to the south. We try to visit each at least once a year, and the travelling has really put us through the tests of parenthood (and marriage). Well, we were visiting my husband’s family in Mississippi, and upon returning to our hotel for the night, I placed Sergio on the bed and began to play with him. We were in a good mood, having spent time with people we care about, and I was cooing to the baby near his face.

Suddenly, Sergio reached out and poked me in the eye with a tiny finger. I reeled back but the pain came a few minutes later. Something was wrong with my eye and I could not open it. It felt as if particles of sand and glass were rubbing across my eye when I moved it, even with eyelids shut.

The following 48 hours were pure hell. I could not sleep, I could not lift the baby and each scream seemed to stab into my eye. It was late at night, my husband had imbibed, and I was not interested in going to a hospital in Mississippi (I’m a total Yankee, sorry). So, we waited until the morning.

Nothing improved, so my sisters-in-law took me to an Urgent Care clinic, where I was told that my cornea, a thin layer across the surface of your eye, had been ripped in half, right across the middle of my pupil. They numbed it and patched my eye with gauze. I wish this had been the end of it.

The next day, a Sunday, I had to drive home. By myself. My husband is very serious about work and must travel many hours to job sites. I have a high pain tolerance, am often a martyr, and hate to complain. We parted at a gas station, my baby in the backseat of my car. Oh, I was mad, but I didn’t have any options.

The sun has never shone brighter than it did the day I drove home with one eye. Highway 55 was packed with crabby semi-truck drivers and impatient weekend-vacationers like myself. But I only had one eye! The pain, from the sun and my ripped cornea, was intense. I had to stop several times along the way, calling my mother and crying once or twice. A five and a half hour trip turned into a six and a half hour drive, a frustrated baby screaming in the back. It was get there or die (maybe not literally, but I still felt that it was dangerous).

My mother took me to an eye doctor the day after we returned home safely. He told me had to scrape off the broken cornea to allow a new one to grow (normally they completely replace themselves within 7 days). My cornea was so injured that it was just hanging there in shreds. The doctor pulled out a strange tool that looked like it had a small, circular saw blade at the end. My mother left the room. I gritted my teeth. He scraped my cornea off.

I can’t describe that feeling and I’m sure you don’t care to know it. It was stomach-turning. Thankfully, with the help of black-out sunglasses and many eye drops, my cornea recovered. However, that eye is much weaker now, twitches once in a while, and squints uncontrollably at the sun. I can still see fine, but something just feels different.

Be careful with those cute fingers and toes; they can cause a lot of damage. If you are going in for a close snuggle, close your eyes around flailing arms and legs. Also, don’t let your guard down; it has almost happened to me several more times.

It is difficult to imagine that my sweet, innocent son could cause me so much pain (way worse than labor) in such a short amount of time, but he did. Protective eye wear may not be a necessary item for parenthood, but two eyes on the road are always better than one.

Parenting Sex and Gender: It’s really none of your business

I have a son, Sergio, and a daughter, Marisol. I didn’t believe in the whole ‘gender’ thing, being one of many that was educated in Gender and Women Studies while in college. I thought gender roles to be an invention of patriarchy. Still, I am not an expert in the sexes or gender, and would never dare to make assumptions. I’ve only noticed a few things.

There are real physical differences in male and female children, but you can do your own research if you wish. There are huge differences in the personalities of my children, and I’ve recently stopped thinking about it altogether, unable to combine what I’ve learned in the classrooms with what I see in front of me. Gender, I still believe, is yours for the choosing. Each of our bodies are our own, and no one can, or should, tell us how to treat or view them. Sexuality would be an entirely distinct conversation, and is already happening. I have nothing new to say on the matter besides leave people alone.

What I have noticed is that my son truly is wild. He likes to play rough: boxing, throwing himself on the floor, pulling hair (NOT MINE) until it’s no longer funny. He also has a problem coping with the word “no,” and is just a tad needy (sound like any men you know? Sergio is three, however, and will learn what “no” means). He’s got incredible hand strength (already taking the tops off of everything!) and is a funny guy all around. I love him, but he surprises me with his masculinity.

Marisolita, on the other hand, is mostly quiet, very agreeable, and incredibly social (already laughing and smiling constantly at five months). Sergio is social too; they really are more similar than dissimilar. Also, I am not encouraging a gender-free environment, so maybe the little people of our home are already learning about our society. I do have rules about respecting gender, sexuality, and the like. I do not tolerate slurs or disparaging comments about any group of people under my roof. That goes for everyone. But there is a division of labor in our house, one that adheres to society’s current rules. None of us can do everything, so my husband and I agreed upon our terms and signed the contract at the courthouse.

In my opinion, it is not our business, as parents, to worry about who our children will be in the realm of sexuality and gender. I don’t know how these things are chosen, I only know it’s not my choice.

We must, however, do our best to educate our children, to the best of our abilities. Sergio and Marisol with learn, at the appropriate times, about the realities of sex and gender: their importance as a biological process, the anatomy of intercourse, the necessity of consent, protection, and what “love” supposedly means. I hope to make my explanation so technical and boring that their little curiosities will be dispelled, until they are of the ages to care and choose for themselves with sufficient knowledge.

For now, I’m focusing on creating a great childhood for my children, and foundations for critically-thinking, healthy minds. I have some time to prepare for the awkward lecture, and Sergio and Marisol have a lot of growing still to do. Focus on observation without judgement, creating a loving bond with your children, and minding your own business when it comes to things that are out of your control.

Tips on Painting with Toddlers: Don’t Toss Out That Easel Just Yet

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. I try to only recommend items that I personally own or have used, and hope that they serve you well also, if you do decide to buy.

Sergio and I like to paint. Not every day, because you can imagine how messy and time-consuming that would be. But, on rainy days like today, we like to fire up our creativity with a few art projects. I am not a creative person when it comes to colors, paints, or anything visual. I’m still learning, I suppose. However, I am one of those stay-at-home moms with nothing better to do than cook up ideas for the kids. Painting is one of those ideas that always sounds fun. It can be frustrating for mom or dad though, so here are a few tips to keep it fun.

I am interested in researching how to recycle paint, and which paints are better for the environment. For now, we paint what we can (old jars, rocks, pieces of wood, and of course, paper) with what we have. This keeps the price for materials down (canvases look great, but are incredibly expensive).

Washable Crayola paint, watercolor palette, brushes, and a recycled jar to put rinsing water in

I love trays. This one is made from silicon (I think? It doesn’t say on the bottom) from Aldi. It has handles and is lightweight; Sergio can lift it also when helping to clean up. Trays tend to keep everything together, easy to reach, and this particular tray doesn’t mind a few spills. Other good options are available on Amazon.

Set up your area, including snacks, utensils and paints, mediums, and whatever else you want to add, before telling your son or daughter about the day’s activity. I have made this mistake many times, and am often followed frantically by an excited, chattering three-year-old on my quest for supplies.

Something else to consider is where you and your little artist will paint. I like to set up a spot outside, so that stubborn paint stains can be pressure-washed from concrete areas or, more ideally, absorbed by the grass and dirt underfoot. For me, painting can have calming effects, which are multiplied when practiced in the open air. I have a screened-in patio, so making a paint station outside is easy for us. If you have a few more obstacles in the way, think creatively, and hoard some cardboard or old linens to use for covering important spaces in your home.

Once your area is clean, covered with an old tablecloth or piece of cardboard, arrange your tools of creativity and make sure the child can reach everything. I also use this easel (I love that it is not made largely from plastic and is easy to carry from room to room) to give Sergio ample access to his work. This is not a fun activity for the children if you don’t allow them to explore and grab their own materials.

On this note, painting is an excellent way for toddlers to dabble in colors, shapes, and textures. It’s a good time to practice vocabulary, so don’t forget to talk about whatever they’re doing. (Today Sergio said the words “dark” and “star” while painting.)

I practice my own creative efforts while spending time with my son.

Mistakes and spills will happen, making supervision necessary. Young children are prone to tasting, smelling, and smearing things all over the place. While working with paints (washable or not) supervision is very important. While sitting next to Sergio, I looked away for one second, and turned back to see a blob of blue paint in the tin of rocks still to be colored. My son had opened a paint jar by himself, and dumped everything out; at least it wasn’t on the floor. Another good reason to use washable paint.

We quickly found a solution by simply painting the rest of the rocks blue. Painting is a nice way for children to explore their surroundings because accidents can turn into artwork.

Another tip is to slyly remove items or tools that are not currently interesting your child. Too many objects to use or things to do can be overwhelming for young ones, and you might have less mess to clean up if you secretly take away the less exciting stamps, stickers, or glitter. Please don’t let them catch you doing this, and remember: I am not liable for any tantrums that occur in your house.

Don’t forget to have fun and don’t worry about cleaning up: everything is much easier with a tray to toss it all into. If you and your artist made it outside, there should be even less to worry about cleaning. Stick your brushes in a jar of water (mineral spirits or paint thinner for acrylic and oil-based paints), and go take a break. You’ve earned it. Keep that easel for the days when you’re not sure what to do, or those times when inspiration strikes.

Plans for a gallery of Sergio’s work are under way because displaying your toddler’s artwork is just as important as making it.

Tantrum in the Salon- How to Get Your Toddler’s Hair Cut

We cut our son, Sergio’s, hair for the first time almost two years ago. His father did it with an electric razor and Sergio was perfectly fine. I kept some hair. Some of the baby’s hair went around the base of my favorite garden member, helping the sickly hosta to grow strong and beautiful, with smooth, bright green leaves. That’s a totally different story, though. No, today I’m going to talk about the temper tantrum in the hair salon.

My son is a great kid, and I don’t mean to sound like all the other moms. Really, he’s way smarter than I am, more friendly, and overall more hilarious than I could ever be. However, he’s got some of my faults in him. He’s very cautious about trying things that could result in pain (maybe not a fault), he gets frustrated easily, and he cries or whines all the time, just like I did. He’s a hoot, and a wonder to me.

Like I said, he’s had a haircut before. Several, in fact. His papá is no hairdresser, however, so most recently, we took him to a local hair salon. My mother was referred to this hairdresser and she does a nice job. Referrals, as most of us probably know by now, are a great way to find your car mechanic, hairdresser, or next favorite book.

As a new mom, I think I know what I will need to bring. Half of the time I’ve got the basics. I forget one thing or another every time. So here’s my list of things to do or bring for the next haircut.

  1. Book your appointment. Duh. Call the salon. Make sure they can schedule your appointment for a time that works for you, (the salon might need notice, too) or ask if they accept walk-ins (not all do). Make sure they can cut children’s hair. After the tantrum I witnessed today, I’m surprised our lovely hairdresser didn’t just throw up her hands and kick us out. She had experience cutting children’s hair, but some may not.
  2. Ask a friend or family member to go with you. My grandmother also wanted a haircut, so she came along for the ride. I have two children now, and I think people often underestimate the difficulty of taking them places. If you have someone to go with you, ask ’em. At least you won’t be embarrassed alone.
  3. Charge your phone! It didn’t help this time, but it might have. Nothing is worse than a dying phone in the hands of a thoroughly entertained toddler.
  4. Pack your bag or purse with the stuff you will need: candy (yes, as a bribe), an extra diaper if the toddler is not potty-trained, (If your tot is potty-trained…well, aren’t you special), an extra T-shirt because there will be hair, a favorite snack (don’t rely on the stale stuff they may or may not have at the salon), and some water to cool everyone down after the fight. I also needed to bring the baby’s bottle, her diaper necessities, and an extra muslin blanket. She’s perfect so I didn’t need toys for her (she is interested in everything around her). If you have two (or more) rowdy babies with you, I’m sorry.
  5. Wash your hair. Or the child’s hair. Whoever is getting a haircut should have clean hair. You don’t want to be gossip for the next client.
  6. Prepare for the worst. I thought everything would go smoothly, since Sergio has done this before, but I was so wrong. He screamed and tried to push her hands away as she combed his hair. He almost wriggled out from my arms as she clipped and snipped. Afterward, he continued to scream and beg for candy. As previously stated, I always forget something.
  7. Don’t forget that this is something new for your son or daughter. Try not to get upset, it can only worsen the situation. As my son stood, yelling into my face in front of the surprised hairdresser, (“He’s got some lungs, don’t he?”) I wondered why I had even bothered. His dad could just do it. But I took Sergio outside, knelt and spoke to him at his level, and he calmed somewhat, better able to cope with the unknown situation. I have to remember, before everything else, to bring along my patience and look at things from Sergio’s point of view.
When all was said and done, he took to a hat.