Raising Children: The Power of Positive

I have a confession: we rarely say “no” to McKenzie. Now, that’s not to say we let her do whatever she wants…that would not fly. BUT according to one UCLA study, the average 1-year-old hears “no” more than 400 times a day. That’s a lot! And that really stuck with me. So for us, instead of focusing on what she can’t do, we focus on what is acceptable behavior. We make a concerted effort to be positive, and I think it’s made a huge difference in her life! She has a very positive attitude, and now that she’s more independent she needs less direction. And isn’t that our goal as parents? To raise happy, self-directed children?

FBHeaderSunsetNow, of course kids need tough guidance here and there (especially where their safety is concerned), but it can easily be achieved without saying “no.” When she was younger, we’d simply say, “We don’t do that, let’s do this instead…” (redirect) but now that she’s older we’ll ask, “Do we do that? Is that acceptable behavior?…Why not?” And she answers us every time.

Another example is, “We don’t do that, because we could get really hurt if we play with the stove. It doesn’t feel good to be hurt, does it?” Yes, we actually say that…sometimes harshly. We are still firm, but instead of yelling “No, no, no,” she understands why. ((Adding the “because” also does an excellent job staving off the “why?” stage…because you’ve already answered the question.))Positive-Thinking1

Other times, when she asks for candy, a toy, or something else, instead of saying “no,” we’ll reply, “Oh, of course you can have it! After your nap/After lunch/After you clean your room/Tomorrow after school/etc.” Sometimes she fusses, but she responds very differently than she would to a flat-out “no.” And any ensuing argument is quickly remedied by, “Well would you like ______ after school, or not? We don’t reward this kind of behavior.” By responding to her requests in a positive way, she knows that she will eventually get what she wants, which in turn teaches her the importance of delayed gratification (for a fascinating Stanford Study on children, linking delayed gratification and future life success read this Wiki article).

And you may have noticed we really focus on her behavior. It makes me sad when I hear a parent say, “You’re a bad boy,” or “You’re a naughty girl.” To a degree, children internalize those words, so I think it’s really important for parents to emphasize that it’s the behavior & actions that are “bad” or unacceptable, and that doesn’t make the child “bad.” After all, every child misbehaves. Now, of course there’s something to be said about “Nature & Nurture”…obviously each individual has predispositions. BUT, I firmly believe that the way we interact with McKenzie influences her behavior in a positive way. It’s simple to change small words we use with our children to create a more positive environment.

And the winner is…

So, I shared our Love Story on the Facebook wall of The Pasta Tree (our favorite restaurant) to win a Valentine’s Day giveaway for a 1-night hotel stay, a round-trip horse-drawn carriage ride, and a complimentary dinner (a $600 value!)…and we WON!!! Thanks to everyone’s support we had over 100 “likes” on our story, and we are SO excited to spend a romantic night together. What a wonderful way to spend Valentine’s Day before Jon leaves for the Army next month. <3Jon&Nic

Like I mentioned, this restaurant is incredibly special to us: we had our wedding reception there, and it is literally “our” place. The food is delicious home-made Italian, the service is excellent, and it is SO romantic and quaint. If you’re ever in the Milwaukee area and you’re looking for a romantic evening with amazing food and atmosphere, look no farther than The Pasta Tree. Seriously, the food is to DIE for.

I have an obsession with seat belts.

Maybe it started when I was little…my dad would routinely say, “You will die if you do not wear your seat belt.” (Well, that’s an attorney for ya…he also told us we couldn’t have a tree house because it was a “liability.” And in case you’re wondering, my first sentence was: “Daddy, will you buy me an irrevocable trust.” Truth.) So perhaps that’s the origin of my obsession? I don’t know. All I know is this: McKenzie must ALWAYS be buckled in properly. Always. And I always wear my seat belt.

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Why would I do anything to jeopardize the life of this precious little girl? (The chest clip here is even a little low for my taste…I’d move it up an inch.)

I absolutely CRINGE when people post “cute” photos on Facebook of their children in their carseats sleeping and their 5-point harness is buckled wrong. Oh. My. God. CRINGE. All I can think is, “Seriously?!?! Do you want your child to die?!” Now, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic…but am I?

According to the CDC’s Child Passenger Safety Fact Sheet, “Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States.” Furthermore, “Child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. One study found that 72% of 3,500 observed car and booster seats were misused in a way that could be expected to increase a child’s risk of injury during a crash.” To translate: nearly 3 out of 4 children are not buckled in properly.

So maybe I’m not overreacting? Parents.com made a list of 8 Common Carseat Mistakes to Avoid. My biggest pet peeves are: #3 Infant turned forward-facing too soon (American Association of Pediatrics recommends 2 years! Better a broken leg than a broken neck.) and #5 Using the retainer clip incorrectly (“The retainer clip should be at armpit level, resting across your child’s breastbone. The clip assures that the harness straps are in the right place. When the retainer clip is in the wrong place, the straps can easily slip off a child’s shoulders, and the child is at risk of being ejected from her seat in a crash.”)

Two more facts for ya: The safest spot in the car is the center seat in the back (next is the rear-passenger seat), and children are not supposed to wear coats in their carseats (although I have been known to break this rule, I’m not perfect).

Sometimes McKenzie says that the clip is choking her…but I know it’s not. I’d rather have her be safe & uncomfortable than the alternative. And she gets over it quickly.

Sorry for the lecture. But not really. Keep your kiddos safe. Proof I practice what I preach:

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Big News!!!

For those of you who haven’t already seen via Facebook…we’re expecting baby #2! I’m 7 weeks 4 days, so it’s still very early…but we had an ultrasound today and everything looked perfect, with a steady heartbeat of 167. It made it so real to see it, especially for Jon, but for me too. We’re all very excited! In the pic below, the little bean floating in the black area is the baby. The top of the little bean is the head, and the white spot is the eye. It’s measuring perfectly, so they confirmed my due date of September 15th, 2013.7wks4days

And McKenzie is over-the-moon…she is so excited to be a big sister! Every morning she asks, “Is the baby snoring?” It’s adorable. She will be 5 by the time the baby is born, so I think I’ll have a pretty awesome little helper. I’m so glad we waited longer before having a 2nd, the timing is really great for us. =)

IMG_1120bwWe had already told our families, but to make the pregnancy “public” (aka: a Facebook post), I had this photo-shoot with McKenzie in her new “Big Sister” shirt. Her bedroom walls are purple, so it worked out nicely! I like how they turned out. =) I was excited to find a cute shirt, because sometimes I think the shirts like that are a little too “kiddie” looking.

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As for me, I’m feeling pretty well for the most part, just super tired. And most foods sound gross…I haven’t gotten sick, but I’m definitely queasy. I’ll wait too long to eat (until I’m overly hungry), and then nothing sounds good and my empty stomach is upset. I’ll usually just end up having a few crackers. And one night I had wicked heartburn, which I never had with McKenzie. Nothing too terrible though, it could be worse.

For those of you who are curious: yes, we plan on finding out the sex of the baby (I’m too impatient not to know!). To be honest, I’m sorta hoping for a boy because I think one of each would be pretty awesome…but hey, if it’s a girl we can reuse all McKenzie’s stuff so that would be awesome too. Either way, we were so excited to see the little heartbeat today, and we can’t wait to meet “it”!

So tell me, y’all, are 2 kiddos a lot crazier than 1? Were your 2nd pregnancies different than the first?

He Graduated! Woo!

After 5 years working part-time at UPS, going to school with a  3/4-course load, and being an awesome husband and daddy, my hubbs graduated from UW-Madison! Now we just need a Rose Bowl win. ;) Here are some pics, as promised…2 weeks late. But I can’t believe he’s done with college, almost exactly 1 year after me. I’m so, so proud! In high school, he would not have been the kid graduating from a top-tier university. Funny what a good woman can do for ya. *pats self on back*

But now the Army is less than 3 months away. *eek!* Thankfully, we’re going to Cancun in less than 2 weeks now, which should be super-fun “alone time” before he leaves. ;) Can’t wait.

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What’s in a background?

My photography business has been (understandably) slower in the winter, so it’s wayyyy fun to get out and play around with McKenzie & my camera. I miss it! I posted these photos about making a wall-collage with the same pose for every season, which I think is a ridiculously fun idea. Funny thing is, I took the winter photo on the 2nd floor deck of our condo…who would’ve thought?

Surely if you are an experienced portrait photographer (or a photographer in general) you understand the importance of “framing,” but I’m just posting this to illustrate that backgrounds don’t have to be fancy! I only use natural light, meaning I don’t even have a studio. So be creative! Here’s an example:

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And since I’m missing my photography, here is another pretty winter one that I took on our snow day…this tree actually broke in half from the weight of the snow the night after I took this photo. IMG_0672 copy

Snow Day!

McKenzie’s school was cancelled today because of the blizzard “Draco.” We made sure to get out and play, and we definitely got some use out of her new snowsuit. I even wrapped Cali’s tail with a plastic bag so she could join us.

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We had fun sledding, making snow angels, and building our first snowman as a family! Logan (our Golden) LOVES the snow. By the end of our time outside, his coat had grown snowballs. IMG_0773

We put her brand new Disney Princess sled to use too, and we built a wicked-awesome snowman named Frosty. =) Overall it was a very fun day, complete with hot cocoa!

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In other news, Jon graduated on Sunday! I’m going through pics now, so I’ll have up some photos in a couple days. It was such a nice ceremony. We’re so proud of him!

Cuteness for Every Season

I’ve been planning a seasonal collage of McKenzie for our hallway, and I’ve got 3 out of 4 photos now! I took the winter one today since we have some fresh snow. I think it’s so fun! Maybe I’ll start doing 1 every month so I can make a calendar next year. Just thought I’d share…I can’t wait to order the 8×10’s so her adorableness can adorn our hallway. It will be super-easy to replace one every 3 or 4 months, nothing too crazy. =) Any ideas for spring? I was thinking something with Tulips maybe…? Or maybe in a puddle? I’m sorta drawing a blank…

McKenzieCollageOh. And FYI: Netflix currently has Pocahontas, The Aristocats, and Fox & the Hound! Some of my favorite kids movies (thanks for the tip Jesse)! I LOVE the songs in Pocahontas.

And then our dog ripped her tail off…well, just the tip.

Last night, our crazy, happy Yellow Lab (Cali) ripped the tip of her tail off. That might sound like a joke, but it was anything but funny. Oh. My. God. Blood was EVERYWHERE.

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Miss Cali Lou. Poor Girl.

So here’s what happened: We had just gotten home and I was rushing to snatch Eddie (our Elf on the Shelf) out of McKenzie’s room. Out of nowhere, Cali let out a yelp. I glanced at her, but she looked fine…she’s always had a high pain tolerance, but if she whines, you know it’s bad. I quickly stowed Eddie in a kitchen cabinet. Then Jon walked in the door behind me and said, “Why is there blood everywhere?!” And there was. Good God, it really was everywhere.

The offending closet door...

Offending closet door…

I quickly ran Cali down the the stairs and outside from our 2nd floor condo…when she was finally outside, I noticed her tail: WHERE THE HELL IS THE TIP OF YOUR TAIL, DOG?!?!?! There was blood pooling on the sidewalk. [Insert mini-meltdown here.] Now, I’m not “afraid” of blood, but between helping our poor injured doggie, and cleaning our entire blood-spattered house, I was suddenly extremely overwhelmed…

Jon came downstairs to comfort/bandage Cali, while I went upstairs to try and figure out what the heck happened. When I came back in the house, it literally looked like a scene out of Dexter…blood ALL OVER the couch, the recently professionally cleaned carpets [groan], and 5 feet up the walls.

I went into McKenzie’s room, where the initial “yelp” occurred, and looked around. Blood spatter was everywhere, but I couldn’t locate a specific spot where it originated. Then I saw the closet. Now, McKenzie has bi-fold closet doors with little horizontal vents in them. OH SH*T. I walked over and there was blood on the closet…AND THE TIP OF HER TAIL WAS STILL STUCK IN IT! *gag* It made me queasy, so I left it for Jon to deal with. I’m such a great wife. Haha.

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Yes, the tip of her tail is in a baggie. =(

I ran down and gave him gauze and bandages, then began the chore of cleaning the blood from the house. It literally took a TWO HOURS to clean everything. I had to whip out the Little Green Machine and scrub the carpets (a great investment if you have carpets in your house…and if you don’t know, COLD salt-water removes blood the best…from clothes, carpet, etc). Then I scrubbed the walls. I didn’t mean to be insensitive to poor Cali, but you have to be fast…once blood sets it’s practically impossible to get out.

Meanwhile, Jon wrapped her tail and put her in her cage, then carefully removed the tip of her tail from the closet door. Then he and McKenzie scrubbed the common hallways of our building and washed the blood off the sidewalk, while I finished cleaning the inside of the house.

After the cleaning was done, I called the local emergency vet. I was concerned because there was a little bone in the missing tip, and exposed nerve endings can be extremely painful. So Jon went to sleep (since he had to be to work at 2:30am), and I took her to the emergency vet.

After they examined her, they suggested either: 1) suture it closed and hope it doesn’t re-open, or 2) amputate another inch so there is enough skin to properly close the wound. EEK. We went with option 2, since I’d rather do it once, and do it right.

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Resting up after her partial-tail amputation.

A $500 vet bill and an overnight hospital stay later, Cali is now at home and resting in a painkiller-induced sleep…minus 2 inches of her tail. I can only guess that in her excitement upon our arrival home, she wagged her tail just right against the closet and it got stuck in the horizontal slat, then she pulled away and the tip stayed lodged in the closet. Poor girl. Send her your positive thoughts her way for a quick recovery!

“Elf on the Shelf” Mod in 6 Easy Steps

IMG_0318I was so excited to run out and get “Elf on the Shelf” this year, I knew McKenzie would love it. At $29.99 it was a little overpriced if you ask me…but I figured we will use it for several years, so I considered it an investment. We named him Edwin “Eddie” the Elf.

Initially, I was a little surprised that he wasn’t more pose-able…he kept falling off the shelves I would put him on, so I googled a quick solution: Elf on the Shelf Hack. You simply add some wires, velcro, and magnets! I ran to Michael’s craft store and bought the supplies right away. After the modifications, he can now bend, hang, and climb to his heart’s desire! And I even gave him little feet, ’cause I though he looked a little weird with stick legs. Anyhow…

You’ll need:

  • White velcro
  • 16 gauge wire (I found it at Michael’s in the bead aisle)
  • Magnets
  • Needle & white/red thread
  • Glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Pliers/wire cutter
  • Stitch ripper (I don’t have one, so I used a pin to pull out the stitches, then a scissors to cut them free)IMG_0288IMG_0272

Steps:

  1. Step 1: First, snip the thread connecting the hands. Then, gently rip 2 stitches from the end of your Elf’s hands…or enough to fit the wire. This was pretty easy and I didn’t have any issues. Start heating your glue gun for the velcro in Step 5.
  2. Step 2: Measure the wire to the size of his arm, adding about an inch so you can curl the wire ends over (you don’t want it to poke through!). Then measure another piece of equally sized wire and wind them together. This makes him/her stronger.IMG_0305IMG_0301
  3. Step 3: Fold the ends of the wire to the exact length of the arms, and insert the wire into your Elf’s arm. Be sure to get it all the way to the end. There are circular tubes in the arm…try to get the wire to go through them. It was tricky, but I managed after persistent wiggling. Then sew him up! (Be sure to use matching thread, and use whatever stitch you think looks best.)
  4. Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 with other arm & then the legs.IMG_0307IMG_0308
  5. Step 5: Next, you will add velcro to the bottom sides of your Elf’s hands. First, cut the pieces to size and use your glue gun to secure the velcro on both hands. This will make the elf easier to hang on things! (Be sure to use the different sides of velcro so they stick.) The velcro option is great…you can use it to have him display clever little notes! The possibilities are endless.IMG_0309
  6. Step 6: Get your magnets ready and cut velcro to size. Again, be sure to use opposite types of velcro. Also, ensure you are not using the sides of the magnets that stick together. I love the magnet option, because now he can “chill” on the refrigerator (get it? haha), but they’re still removable. That’s it! You’re done!IMG_0313

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    Now he has feet!

This project was super-simple. I have very little sewing experience, but I pulled it off just fine! Feel free to share with me if you do the project too, I can’t wait to see how yours will turn out! What a fun little tradition “Eddie” will be. =) Pin away, y’all! And be sure to “like” Life So Lovely on Facebook to receive updates of new posts in your newsfeed. ;) Oh, and I also did a pretty rad tutorial for a DIY Christmas Tree Preservative, or if you have younger kids check out my post on 10 Awesome Holiday Gift Ideas for Preschoolers/Kindergarteners.

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