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Sometimes, I get so angry at my daughter I can’t handle it.

Growing up, my parents raged at each other — and us. It set a precedent for not understanding anger or how to deal with it from an early age, so that the only thing I thought about being upset was that it was dangerous to feel that way or be around that energy. As I grew into adulthood and embarked on relationships, I realized that instead of getting “angry,” I’d simply get “sad” which seemed like a safer way to feel.

Recently, my almost four-year-old daughter has been really testing limits. It’s a natural phase of development, her wanting her own independence, and as we’re navigating a lot of change with an upcoming divorce from my husband and temporarily living in a new locale with new people, it’s understandable she might feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately, my ability to be compassionate is somewhat limited to my ability to be compassionate with myself: I’ve always been told I’m too hard on myself and I can see now how I can be too hard on her, becoming a tiger mom when what she really needs is more love.

Last night, she once again decided that she didn’t want to go to bed. She was having too much fun. The disruption in sleep routine is another reason she’s having a hard time tempering her normally calm demeanor. After a 15-minute back-and-forth struggle, we were finally able to get into bed, side-by-side.

I asked her, “What is that you really need?”

Her response? “Compassion, love, and empathy.”

I was astounded.

“What does compassion mean for you?”

“It means love, kindness, kisses, and putting it all in my backpack,” she smiled at me.

Mothering a willful child helps me to deal with aspects of myself that I’ve shoved behind the veil of maturity and more practiced meditation. I’m learning that in the heat of the moment, if I can’t get myself in check, then I can do damage that may not show on the surface right now, but could very well lead her to a therapy room one day, sharing how her mother scarred her the same way I’ve sat in front of a therapist to say the same about my own tiger mother.

Given that anger isn’t something I’m accustomed to dealing with — how do I handle it better with my daughter now?

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Snowy’s Favorite Things at Almost 5

I can’t believe I’ve been a mom for almost five whole years. My daughter, Snowy, is an absolute joy. She is a firecracker: a boundless bottle of energy from the moment she wakes up to the moment she falls asleep. She is fearless and loving. She is also really growing into her own when it comes to her passions and interests. She knows what she likes, and these are five of her very favorite things right now.

1. Dinosaurs.

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Most kids go through a stage where they are absolutely fascinated by dinosaurs. I never remember having one, but I joke that my husband, who long wanted to be a paleontologist as a child, never grew out of his. Snowy is on her second dinosaur phase. Her first began the summer when she was 3, when there was an awesome dinosaur ride at our local zoo. She wanted to know all the dinosaur kinds and learn as much as she could… but the interest faded as quickly as it began. It came back a year later, this summer, and it came on STRONG. She loves watching Dinosaur Train, coloring dinosaur pictures, playing with her toy dinosaurs, and just anything that has to do with dinosaurs. Her favorite kinds are the triceratops and the T-Rex. Currently, I’m really doing my best to help Snowy pursue her dinosaur interest. It’s so fun to see how into them she is, and I’m learning a lot too: I’ve finally entered my dinosaur phase right along with her! Stay tuned for several posts I have in the works for dino-crazy kids, including:

  • a gift guide for kids who love dinosaurs.
  • a dinosaur lover’s train trip.
  • a dinosaur lover’s road trip.
  • planning a dinosaur and dolls birthday party

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Etsy Gifts for My Girls

Etsy is one of my favorite places to browse. I’m always in awe of the amazing things I can find on there, and have pinned so many ideas hoping to spark a new hobby or simply try something new with my own hands. Over the summer I was searching for favors for Fiona’s unicorn rainbow birthday party, and found these adorable unicorn necklaces I knew my girls would go crazy for. In the end I didn’t end up getting them as I was worried they wouldn’t arrive in time, but I saved them for a gift idea down the road and started a little folder for all the amazing things I’m sure my girls would love. Here are some of my favorite finds.

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Decor – I have been admiring this store for years. I have been dying to learn how to embroider for years and shops like this remind me how amazing things can really look when someone really masters a craft. The hoop art is gorgeous and would look amazing in either of my little girls’ rooms.

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Wooden Play Set – Wooden toys are some of my favorites; they remind me of toys I had growing up, and this shop has so many different sets to choose from.

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Gingerbread Pear Cider

For the last few years, I’ve tried to plan gingerbread house building parties sometime during December. I gather all the supplies, pipe in the Christmas music, and let the kids cover the houses (and my own house) in sprinkles and powdered sugar. And I always make a hot drink to sip while building. I’ve done the usual apple cider and hot cocoa, and it has gone well. But last week I ended up with, let’s just call it… an abundance of pears. 13 pounds, to be exact. I decided to experiment with a pear cider, and after three tries, I came up with a recipe that is both delicious and simple, and that kids can help make too! The addition of molasses gives it a gingerbread flavor. Try to start the cider early in the morning on a day when you want your house to smell amazing, because it needs about 8 hours to cook. My house has smelled like cider for a week straight and no one is complaining!

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Destination: Vanliving throughout the U.S.

When we moved off of Kauai in Hawaii, we got ourselves a gently used 1984 Toyota Warrior Winnebago (that we named Summer) to drive around the mainland of the United States. My then-husband, 1.5 year old daughter, and I packed up everything we owned, placed them into the cupboards of a 24’ van, and set off from San Diego. We had to learn what “rv black water” was, how to fill up the gas tank for our stove, and how to keep ourselves warm in what was essentially a large tin can.

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Our old school camper van, Summer.

Once, on the eve of my 39th birthday, my then-husband figured out how to warm our rig in Oregon by placing tea lights on an upturned terra cotta vase hanging from the ceiling (something he watched on YouTube) and then, at 2am, I opened up the curtain of our bedroom area to find that our entire rig was covered in smoke.

I quickly woke my husband up, went to make sure our daughter was okay in her makeshift crib, then aired out all the windows, causing her to wake up and cry in the wee morning hours, much to the dismay of the fellow campers around us.

Vanliving proved to be quite the adventure – different from what Instagrammers will show in that pretty little square – because along the way, we learned unexpected lessons:

  • People automatically assumed we had no money, given that our rig was an old school giant house on wheels rather than the sleek Sprinter vans that passed beside us on the highways.
  • The people we met who were most friendly to us were those who had almost nothing and lived out of tents at campgrounds (which were much more expensive than we initially realized).
  • Once your toddler goes to sleep, there isn’t much you’ll be doing, because you don’t really want to move your rig and wake up your babe, since it’s also your house!

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Two and a half Year Update

So much has changed in the girls’ lives over the past six months since my last developmental update. We moved cities and states and homes, they transitioned out of diapers, they switched nannies (twice!), and they started preschool. It’s honestly difficult to think of a way that the girls’ lives have not changed since their birthdays in May and June!

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Language

The girls’ verbal abilities have continued to take off over the past six months. We have entered the toddler stage where they are starting to say really funny things and they regularly engage us in full conversations.

My youngest, Audrey, has always been very verbal and her cutest trait right now is her constant stream-of-consciousness narration. She doesn’t understand that she can have thoughts to herself so anything that pops into head is said out loud for all to hear. Walking near our fireplace we’ve heard her say to herself, “No, no, Audrey. Fireplace is hot. Don’t touch.” Listening to her sister cry with a tantrum she will say, “Lilly is crying. It hurts my ears. Gives me a headache.” While I find her constant narration adorable and it’s probably my favorite thing about her at this age, it also means that there is not a quiet moment to be had around Audrey these days!

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Christmas Babies

In my family, we have a lot of December birthdays. Three of them are in the first three weeks, and then we hit the dreaded holiday birthdays. My mom is 12/23, my uncle is 12/25, and baby Lou is 12/27. Right in the middle of both Christmas and New Year’s.

A quick google search shows over 10 million results for “Christmas birthdays are the worst.” And it feels like I’ve read them all! I grew up hearing about how much my mom hated her near-Christmas birthday. She never got to have parties, because everyone was either out of town, too busy with family, or sick. She never got special gifts, because everyone would just give her joint Christmas/birthday presents. And she never felt celebrated, because everyone was so focused on the big upcoming holiday, that they didn’t have time to make her day feel special.

I am determined to do things differently! Personally, I’m not really a birthday person. I don’t like the attention or reminder of aging. But when it comes to other people I LOVE celebrating. I go all out for Ace’s parties and love the planning aspect as well. For Lou’s upcoming first birthday, we are just having a small family party at home. We did the same when Ace turned one. But as she gets older, I have a bit of a plan in place to combat the issues of having a Christmastime birthday. A few tips:

Plan a party that people can actually attend. This will look different for everyone. Some may do a Half Birthday party in June, or perhaps schedule for early December or Mid January. For us this year, we are doing a small party on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a few days after her actual birthday. In future years, when Lou wants to invite friends, we will revisit this.

Ask the birthday child first. If your baby is now old enough to have opinions then you should certainly ask them what they want to do! You may be surprised with what they choose.

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