Listening skills: do they really have them?

Listening skills. We learn them at a young age. Now that I’m a parent, I’m not exactly sure what age that is. It feels like a pretty important detail when you’re in the trenches of Preschooler 1 and Toddler 2 facing daily struggles of listening.

I can only assume I say the following in my sleep:

  • Are you listening to me?
  • PLEASE listen to me.
  • Please look at my face.
  • What did I say?
  • PLEASE look at me, what did I just say to you?
  • Do you need to go to your room for not listening?
  • IF you don’t listen, I’m going to send you to your room.

We’re struggling hard with this one and I’m a little surprised that it doesn’t appear to have bounds with age. Most days it feels like both boys spend the same amount of time not listening and doing something mean to the other. When Maximus was 2 1/2, Quinten was just born. I don’t remember ever making a big deal about not listening or using as many words or time outs as we do with Quinten. Maybe this is one of those examples of the younger sibling growing up faster than the older one did. Crap. I think our vision is getting blurred in expectations of the boys because they are acting so similar. Age has gone out the window and we both reach the end of our patience for anyone not listening. Sorry, Quinten.  

You learn a lot about yourself as an individual and parent when you’re faced with these issues. I know our little humans don’t know what buttons to push or even that they can push buttons to get a reaction out of me. But it’s so very hard to try to get out of the house TO GET TO WORK and have ears not listening. Or whining because they don’t like the words you say. I try to give more “opportunities for improvement” when we don’t have somewhere to be, but it’s just as frustrating when I’m trying to make dinner or it’s time to get ready for bed.

I feel that one of the most exhausting parts of parenting is the constant repeating. When you constantly tell them the right thing to do and you aren’t sure you’re even getting through. Or, that they’re listening. I’d be ok if I knew I had to say something 100 times before they really had it. I’d still get tired of doing it, but I would know there’s a successful end to it. Right now, we’re trying certain methods but don’t get any positive feedback. Sometimes they listen and sometimes they don’t. Is that because of our approach? Is that because of their mood? Do they understand right from wrong? WHO KNOWS!

No one ever says parenting is easy, especially the early years. Honestly, it’s exhausting most days. Give me two energetic, hyper, not listening boys after a full day of juggling work. Well, I’m sure my patience is lower than it should be for a 2-year-old and 4-year-old. But, I’m sure they are tired too and not using their listening skills to the best of their ability. If only two grumpy people equaled a happy interaction!

I know my little humans are capable of listening, I see them do it consistently with other people. I think that’s the first part of successful parenting. It doesn’t matter what they act like at home, how do they act around other people?

How do you get your children to listen? I might need a new bag of tricks.

Are you for or against breakfast for supper?

Every couple comes to this point in their relationship as father and mother. It happened tonight. The calendar said leftovers and Maximus didn’t want any of them. He just wanted fruit and watermelon (isn’t that fruit?) and a smoothie. He didn’t want meatloaf, chicken fajitas, or hamburger. So we told him he needed to eat something with protein. Peanut butter taco? NO. A cheese stick hot dog? NO. I know, basically four course meals, but we already cooked meals the past few days. That’s the purpose of leftover night. No cooking!

And here’s where you pick a side. You’re either cereal for supper is ok or you’re not. I don’t know that you can convert someone either. It’s a pretty solid line that’s hard to cross.

Here’s the thing, I think I’m right. Breakfast food can be eaten for supper. It’s totally legit. 😃A couple weeks ago Quinten and I had scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches for supper. I loved having pancakes for supper when I was growing up. I know I had them in college, but I’m afraid we haven’t exposed the boys to that awesomeness. And I think it’s because 50% of the adults here don’t think it’s ok to have breakfast for supper.

Maximus, “Can I have cereal?”
Me, “Sure.”
Maximus, “Can you get me the superhero cereal?”
Bryan, “You’re not having cereal for supper. Pick something else.”

And that’s where our opinions differ. I guess I’ll be making some breakfast meals for supper on the nights Bryan is gone. After all, every child should experience pancakes for supper.

Which side of the line are you on? Breakfast ANY Time of the Day or No Way It’s Only for BREAKFAST!

Traumatizing Our Child with Santa

Now that the craziness of Christmas is over, I have time to share our Santa experiences. The boys had many this season. Thankfully, we worked on our wish list early. Maximus and I took it very seriously, he told me what to write down and we put it up on the fridge. The awesome thing about four? His list didn’t change! And he always remembered what it was when people asked him. 🙂 {Plus, it was a reasonable list!}

We went to breakfast with Santa at our church {also Maximus’ preschool}. We walked right in and got our pictures taken with Saint Nicholas. One of Maximus’ teacher was helping and as soon as she saw Quinten, she suggested we do a family picture.

Good call, Miss D. Good call.

Good call, Miss D. Good call.

It turns out that a family picture was a very good idea. He wasn’t happy about it, but a grumpy kid is better than the alternative. Maximus didn’t get to talk to this Santa, but he was happy to get a picture taken.

Next up was the daycare Christmas party. Each kid buys for another kid and she gives them each a gift also. {We obviously give her gifts also. I mean, she’s dealing with The Naughty One. Ahem.} We talked about the Christmas party and Maximus told us what to buy for one of his friends. That’s also the cool thing about four! He told us what the kid said he wanted. 🙂 I didn’t mention that Santa would be there, even though I knew he would. The pictures we got were exactly what I expected. Maximus told Santa he wanted a combine. And, well, Quinten probably just told Santa NOOOO!


Maximus (4 1/2)











Quinten (2), Maximus (4 1/2)









Quinten wasn’t traumatized enough to talk about it when he got home, so I guess it was just an unhappy moment. Heh. That poor man who was trying to hold on to that wiggling child. I have a hard time holding on to him when he’s throwing a fit.

Our next experience was full on planned out. We wanted to have a family Santa experience. Maximus got a little confused about what to tell Santa because he’d already asked for a combine, but he decided he’d ask this Santa for a tractor. We struggled a little deciding where we were going to go so we had to explain why some Santa’s were busy and why there were other Santa’s we could go find. He decided that there were many Santa’s helping because there were lots of places they could live. {I love four-year-old logic about homes. Our pediatrician also “lives” at his work.} We eventually made our way to Ames, a Santa that Maximus had seen before. We pulled up right as Santa was walking into Jimmy John’s to grab a drink. I held Maximus as his mouth dropped open and he just stared. He whispered, “Santa’s in Jimmy Johns. Why?” Well, we soon found out that he was going to feed the reindeer and would be back in an hour. AN HOUR! What the heck do you do with two children in a mall for an hour?! We had one final gift to get and made a cookie stop. What better thing to do during nap time?

Cookie monster

A happy cookie monster. No sharing for us.

When Santa came back, we got in line with the rest of the families. Bryan tried to talk Quinten up and they looked at Santa. I heard Quinten say, “No lap.” Heh. Guess he didn’t want to talk to Santa. I asked Quinten what he wanted from Santa, “Truck. Car. Tractor.” Spoiler alert: he asked for none of those things.

As the two-year-old handbook says, “Thou shall not make nice with the scary Santa man.”


Maximus hopped up on his lap before I could even stow the stroller. He was talking away when I came in close. He asked for a tractor. “What kind of tractor?” “A green one. A John Deere one.” {Because the 8 that we already have aren’t enough.} Then, Bryan put Quinten on his lap and the above happened immediately. I told the girl not to worry about getting a smile. And we picked the best cry face picture! 😉 While Maximus smiled away and didn’t pay any attention to his brother.

Also in the handbook, “Thou shall always say thank you when Santa hands you a coloring book.” Yep. He screamed at the jolly man and did the slow sob when Bryan picked him up. {You know, the deep breath, skip a breath, and hiccup thing.} Santa handed each boy a coloring book and Quinten quietly said, “Thank you” between sobs. Manners unlocked.

Quinten fell asleep within five minutes in the car, but it was 3:30 so he was a little tired. We drove the slow way home and enjoyed driving through our college town and seeing what had changed. Maximus eventually crashed also and we headed home. Santa visits completed with a picture that is a pretty accurate depiction of our life right now. Maximus trying to look like the “good one” while his brother wails next to him. Ah, four and two may be the most challenging combination we’ve experienced.

My face. Bryan's thumb. Sleeping boys!

My face. Bryan’s thumb. Sleeping boys!



7 tips to surviving the holiday vacation with small children

Christmas break has begun! Two weeks of pure Christmas bliss. Er, something like that. I expect happiness and tears. Lots of both to be exact. {Maybe from small people and big people!} Here’s how we plan on surviving.

  1. Schedules. Following our normal nap time and bedtime schedules. This is a pretty important key to survival. We can’t create new routines, because it’ll be ridiculous to break that routine when it’s time to go back to work and school. They say it takes 21 days to make a routine habit. For kids it’s accelerated. It takes once. ONE TIME.
  2. Naps. This is more of a parental wish than a way to survive. Apparently four-year-olds only take naps at daycare, so we’ll see how we do with this. We both know it’s the core element of survival, but we’re going to have to be creative about convincing him to do it. And don’t suggest “quiet time.” We’ve been rocking that label for a long time and it doesn’t feel quiet or relaxing. Every two minutes he’s in the living room asking if he can get up yet and promising that he closed his eyes and slept.
  3. Patience. This is just as much for us as it is for them. Neither of them have a lot of patience for the other. When you’re two you don’t have a lot of understanding about sharing and patience. Patience for other humans or patience for toys that just.won’t.go{and stay}.together. The same is true for the four-year-old, except it’s more about having patience with us. He doesn’t understand that we can’t always do something right.this.minute.
  4. Fun. Hopefully Maximus will end a few of the days by saying “we did something fun today!” We’re a little over the phase that we aren’t ever doing anything fun. It turns out there’s a pretty high bar set for four-year-olds. And when we don’t go do something fun, hopefully we have fun around the house. It’s pretty easy to make a four-year-old and two-year-old laugh. We need to remember to do that more. There’s a lot of {little people} fighting and crying in our house so it gets pretty tense and non-fun.
  5. Plans.  We need to have a plan for each day. We may have a few lazy days here and there, but the key to making it through the next two weeks – plans and entertainment. I know we’d both like to accomplish some projects around the house so we feel like we used the “downtime” to get some things done that we wouldn’t normally have time to do. It’s just as much about setting reasonable expectations. We have two extra “helpers” who make things take twice as long.
  6. Us time. We’d both like to start the new year by having some adult time. Going to a movie or out to eat. Being parents is the most draining thing I’ve ever done and it never ends. {It’s the best and worst mixed together!} A few hours away can be so refreshing and uplifting for the spirit.
  7. Exercise and healthy eating. I’ve spent the past few months trying really hard to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. It’s pretty crucial for the next two weeks. We could easily lose our exercise routines and fall into a rhythm of not working out. Since we’ll be off our normal schedules, we may not feel as active as we are during a regular week. With the holiday treats, I want to try to stick close to our clean eating plan. I know there will be lots of sweets, but I hope there are lots of vegetables also! Maybe I’ll even decide to do a freezer day and pre-cook some meals to help future me out a little!

We are so blessed to have time off between Christmas and New Years. We were fortunate this year to have some vacation days to use up so that means extra time spent with our little guys. The days are long but weeks are short. My hope is that this plan will help us soak up every happy minute and keep the tears at bay a little longer.

How are you going to stay sane this holiday break?

Making sacrifices

The foundation of parenting is sacrificing. I get that. My needs aren’t usually first. It’s a way of life so much that I find myself not doing anything for myself. I get my hair cut regularly but that’s it. And I’m not sure I count that as doing something for myself. 🙂 I’ve struggled so much with getting into a workout routine because I just don’t have anything left to give at the end of the day. It’s exhausting taking care of others!

The boys and I stayed home today. I know enough to only make loose plans. I took them to two grocery stores and to get a haircut for Maximus. They were good! I wasn’t too surprised, but I was happy that they behaved so well.

They both took naps and here’s where it all went wrong … I woke Maximus up after two hours. We had plans to meet a new baby and then look at a bike. I have no idea what went wrong. Somewhere between waking up and putting a shirt on, he lost his mind. LOST HIS MIND. All plans were cancelled and he screamed in his room for an hour. He would calm down and then something would make him mad – Quinten would go in there, Bryan came home, the dog.

I’m used to making sacrifices, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. And it doesn’t mean I don’t still get mad some days. Today really sucked. I had my hopes set on some things and I was let down. Parenting is hard on so many levels.

His first sleepover…kinda

Saturday marked the first sleepover for Maximus! It was completely spontaneous and we were all unprepared. He didn’t want to come home with me from my parent’s house. We had no pajamas, no special blanket with a special tag, and no pull-up. He didn’t care about any of that. My mom found some pajamas and that was good enough for him. For the first time in his life, he didn’t care that he didn’t have his blanket. We have spent a handful of nights searching high and low for that tag. Yet, here he was saying he didn’t need it. He gave me a hug and a kiss, blew me another kiss, and waved goodbye. He seemed unphased. The little boy who will wake up crying in the middle-of-the-night if one of us misses bedtime. The one who gets sad when he goes to bed if we’re both gone. He was good. He didn’t need to go home with me.

He lasted two hours at his first sleepover. He put on pajamas, climbed into a sleeping bag on the living room floor, and drank some water. Then he told my parent’s he was ready to go home. He only wanted to sleep at their house for “a little bit.” Until I got that phone call, I was blown away at his bravery. My three-and-a-half year old had completely surprised me. In what I meant to be a threat to get him out of their house, he jumped on and really, really wanted to stay. I assumed he’d be home at some point, but I thought he might fall asleep first. After all, I’d had him out-of-town all day and he only had a 30 minute nap. So at 10:30, he came home. And cried when we didn’t get to do the normal bedtime routines at our house. 🙂

He claims to have slept over at their house for a little while. He says he closed his eyes for a little bit and then wanted to come home. I’m sure it’s just like all those days that he claims to take a nap even though we hear him banging around in his room. For about two hours on Saturday night, I thought he was growing up before my eyes. I think he’s stuck somewhere in the middle of being a bigger kid and still being my baby. I’ve got five more months before he starts school and really tries to grow up on me!


“Santa doesn’t want us to make a big mess, just a little mess.”


Christmas was lots of fun this year. Maximus was really into it, especially the presents. They got to see Santa twice! Did you know that Santa lives at their daycare? Well, he does. Just ask Maximus. It took a while to convince Maximus that Santa would also be at the mall so we could go see him there. We love our mall Santa, he is so nice and friendly. Maximus got a little shy when we got there but we had plenty of time to look around at all his trees and chat before it was time to get serious about what he wanted. He told Santa he wanted monster trucks, but we’re unsure if he really wanted them or was confused because that’s what he got at daycare when Santa came to visit. Either way, Santa did not bring him monster trucks this year and he didn’t even notice on Christmas morning. {This was a major parenting question: should we go out and buy him monster trucks?!?!? Not doing it worked out well, this time.}


Quinten enjoyed all the festivities, even if he didn’t know what was going on. He knew there was lots of yummy food and lots of wrapping paper to chew on. The toys were ok, but mostly because it’s not worth really enjoying any of them because Maximus Law states that if Quinten has it, Maximus needs it. Regardless of who the gift was given to. Poor second child doesn’t get to play with anything that is new. Mostly, he enjoyed the comfort of mommy or daddy and didn’t want to venture out to others too often. He did use a few people for their hands so he could walk around a little, so he’s not completely biased about who touches him.


Now that Christmas has passed, Maximus is even more into Santa. “Quinten, NO! Don’t make a mess. Santa doesn’t want us to make a big mess, just a little mess.” We really could have used this attitude in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but we’ll see how this can work in our favor for a few weeks. When you live with a three-year-old, you gotta use whatever you can to stay one step ahead! You spend 90% of your day repeating yourself and convinced that he can’t hear a thing. Then out of nowhere he says something to let you know he was listening, he was just choosing not to obey. 



We feel so fortunate to be able to spend an extended holiday break with our boys. Even though I feel like I’m stuck in this awful rotation of cleaning! laundry! cooking!, we’re going to enjoy the next five days at home. It’s what we all needed. A little down time to get back on track. Some of us {the three-year-old crowd}, needed a lot of one-on-one time so we could get rid of the whines and have a little more fun. Right now he’s doing big important stuff, man stuff. Buying wood and searching hardware stores for some important piece to go on something. I don’t ask too many questions, I just scoop up the baby and distract him so they can leave. Because when they come home, Maximus will give me the full report. And that’s one of the best things about being a mommy!