My 7-Year-Old Minimalist

Playing children clip art

Slightly revised and re-posted from April 2013

It’s hard to find writing done by people who have raised their children minimalistically.  I remember searching through articles and blogs, looking for success stories.  What I mainly found, at that time, were pointers for getting your children used to the idea that you were adopting a simpler lifestyle.  I wondered if we were doing the right thing, by actually raising our child counter-culturally, from birth.

My research led me to write this post, about the benefits of simplicity, for everyone.  Throughout my minimalist journey, I have corresponded with many minimalists who have successfully raised their children this way, “before it was cool.”  It was heartening to hear so many success stories, and not one negative.

So, here we are.  My daughter is 7 years old.  She has attended public school for 4 years.  And she doesn’t own a television (although she does watch Netflix when she is sick,we occasionally have a family movie night, and she loves her Wii), has rarely watched a Disney movie, has been given equal access to “boys'” and “girls'” toys, and enjoys a hot, homemade dinner every night.

What surprises have we seen?  Plenty!

  • Beanie does know all the names of the Disney princesses, through osmossis.
  • She has a VERY strong love of reading.
  • Beanie has excellent problem-solving skills, and tries to find solutions on her own, before coming to us.
  • She hates it when people are doing anything threatening to children in movies (She especially hated “Brave” when she saw it at a friend’s house–she couldn’t finish it!).
  • She also gets mad when characters in movies talk back to adults.
  • She does not really recognize ownership–and she prefers other children to toys.
  • Beanie definitely prefers living on the boat, and talks about it frequently.
  • Her play is 50/50, as far as “boy” activities and “girl” activities.  She’ll play with toy trucks, while wearing a princess costume.
  • She is comfortable entertaining herself.

I would say, at this point, raising our daughter minimalistically is working out well.  What have your experiences been?

Are you working toward a simpler lifestyle?  Then I would love to share your story!  Please submit your original (not published anywhere else) story about how you are simplifying your life.  You don’t have to be an extreme minimalist–I would love to share stories of people who are just starting out of their journey.  If your story is selected to be featured, you will receive 50% off the the Simple Living Basics E-Course, after any other discounts.  Send your story to . 

New to Simple Living?  Then check out our Simple Living Basics e-course.  There are plenty of discounts available, and it will be an investment in a lower-stress more focused lifestyle!

Why Do We Judge?

Shortly after we got married, one of my friends had a baby.

While I enjoyed watching her parenting journey, I was pretty certain I could do better.  She was lucky her child had a good temperament, because she wasn’t strict enough.  Her child wasn’t talking super early, because she was clearly doing something wrong.  Maybe she wasn’t reading to her?  Talking to her enough?  Whatever the reason, I would definitely do better when I had my kid.

Then, my other best friend had her baby.  And–lo and behold–she wasn’t fast to talk.  Obviously because they were doing *something* that I wasn’t seeing.  Pushing her too much?  Too much television?  Nothing I would do, for sure.

There were more.  The relative’s child with autism?  The school system and labeling.  The friend whose kid had behavior problems?  Not enough attachment parenting.

And then along came the Bean.

I breastfed her 22 months.  She co-slept.  I read to her from the beginning, sang to her.  No television until age 2.  We did everything “right.”

And she crawled at 12 months.  She didn’t speak in complete sentences until age 6.  And she potty trained the same year.

So was this a slice of humble pie?  Not really, because I don’t think that my “judging” was due to a character flaw of any sort.  However, I do think that my judging had nothing to do with the people being judged–it had everything to do with my own fears.

Recently, I’ve seen this story shared on Facebook.  Again, although I don’t know the whole story, I think that the mother doing the “judging” had her own issues.  I’ve learned a lot about the judging and “advice” we give other people, whether it involves parenting, minimalism, or something else.


What have I learned?

  • I learned that I judged others to assuage my own fears.  This is what I was doing when I judged my friends.  I was terrified, after years of teaching special education, of having a child with a disability.  I wanted to believe that it was possible to avoid having a child with a delay.  Autism, especially, was my biggest fear.  If there were some magic techniques I could use to avoid this, I would.  So, of course, I was given a child with autism, and a severe language delay, so that I could learn and understand.  I judged out of my greatest fear, which in the end was nothing, meaningless.

Beanie 2

  • I learned that I judged because I doubted myself.  It goes back to elementary school.  We criticize those who are making the mistakes in the areas where we have the most doubt.  Will I read to my child enough?  Will I discipline properly?  I don’t know the answer now, and I certainly did not back then.

 Beanie 5

  • I learned that I judged because I was trying to find my identity.  Parenting–like junior high–is made up of cliques.  Will you be a sleep trainer?  A natural parent?  I wanted to be “crunchy,” in order to define myself and find support.  So I became fiercely critical of those who were not.  Who would dare use formula?  Eat fast food?  For shame!

Beanie 6

So when you find yourself judging, understand that it is not a character flaw, but a doubt you have within yourself.  Be curious with your own mind.  What fears do you have?  How are you doubting yourself?  How are you trying to define yourself?  Because your “judgements” are all about you, not about the other person.

And what about the times you feel judged?  What about the times when people make comments to you?  First off, understand that those comments are all about the commentor, not about you.  And second, why do they upset you?  They would not, if you did not have doubts.  What doubt did that person “step” on?

Look deeply, and you will see that judgement, as a concept, is just a fancy name for misunderstanding.

Time for Some Resolutions!


That’s right.  I’m rocking it old school this year and making resolutions.

For the past two years, I’ve chosen a one-word theme, in lieu of resolutions.  Two years ago, it was “love.”  At that time I was just learning to accept love from those around me, and my mind was beginning to entertain the notion that I might be deserving of it. 2013 turned out to be a year of big changes, and I learned about love in so many different ways.  In fact, love has continued to be my guiding light, and it really could be my one-word theme every year.

My word for 2014 was “surrender,” and this was also very appropriate for the year.  In accepting myself as I am and in accepting life as it is, I’ve been able to grow more than I ever knew I could.  Surrender is really just an extension of love.

And so love will be my focus once again, but I will be making some concrete goals to guide me through this journey to love.  In 2012 I made 5 resolutions.  While I wasn’t perfect in meeting these goals, they did lead us closer to creating the lifestyle we wanted.

At that time, my goals were to eat less poison, get off the grid completely, generate one plastic shopping bag of garbage per month, put together a 12-piece wardrobe for myself, and have Christmas shopping done by January 1.  Some of these goals can be elaborated upon to help me meet my goals now, some of them are not irrelevant, and some are things I will work on later.

These are my resolutions for 2015:

1.  Lose 35 pounds.  Weight-loss had eluded me for years, but this will be the year I make it happen.  I’ve learned that willpower is a limited tool that can be counter-productive in the end, so I will be relying on other strategies.  I will work on staying organized with my meal planning and food preparation–and this includes delegating and using convenience foods (such as pre-made salads) when life gets in the way.  I will also look deeply when I am wanting to snack, so that I can learn to address the emotional need that is leading me to overeat.   I will join the gym that is walking distance from the marina, and begin attending classes there 3 times a week, eventually moving up to 5.

2.  Amass $10,000 in savings.  Living on Breaking Tradition is great, but we will eventually want something with a more comfortable layout.  Our plan is to save up for a center cockpit boat, which we will live on until we are ready to cruise full-time.  Then we will need something faster and more practical for long runs (our dream is to get a cruising catamaran!).  I don’t have a great history with money management, due to disorganization, feeling mentally overwhelmed, and fear of knowing our true financial situation.  There is less pressure now, so I am going to take baby-steps to get more comfortable in this area.

3.  Develop small income sources outside of my job.  If we’re going to cruise full time, we will need income.  We won’t need as much money as I make now, but we will need something.  So I will be experimenting with ways to make money through my writing.  I’m piloting an e-course and will try self-publishing, simplicity coaching, and other creative ideas.

4.  Spend structured time with Beanie.  My happiest memories have been of outings and art projects with her.  I actually joined Pinterest, so that I can find more potential activities!  My ultimate goal is to do an activity with her everyday, but we’ll start with 3 times a week.

5.  Do something social once a month.  I’ve always felt like establishing community was important, but the truth is that I’m kind of shy about actually getting together with people IRL.  So this year, I’m going to do something with a friend–have them over for dinner, go out or coffee, etc. once a month, at the very least.

January is an excellent time to start new habits, and I will be updating you on my progress on each of these goals, at least once a month.

May this be a new year where we all learn to love ourselves better!

Snowball Fight in Adventure Field

Sometimes, we just have fun.

We’ve got a structured evening routine, here on Breaking Tradition, but it does leave room for fun and games.

For example, yesterday, I came home and read with Beanie while dinner cooked.  Then, after I ate, I got her started on “homework,” which meant writing a letter to a friend in Michigan. Then, after piano practice time, we played rhyme Dominoes.

After that, we had an hour until shower time.  What were a mother and daughter to do?

Well, we headed out to “Adventure Field.”  There are two good-sized grassy areas in the marina, and Beanie has named them Adventure Field and Chaos Field.  Last night, she wanted to go to Adventure Field.

We couldn’t find her ball, so we brought a bag of cloth “snowballs,” made by one of our friends in Michigan.   A fun (and funny!) evening ensued.












I hope your October is treating you equally as well!


First Day of School,Take II

School has always been something Beanie has loved, even with the number of times she has been the “new kid.”  She has always gotten excited about going, and she has always chattered endlessly about her friends and about science class.

But this year, something changed.


Beanie has always gotten into mischief, but she started getting bad reports daily.  And her behaviors went from “normal” trouble-maker limit-testing, to hitting and screaming.  Instead of talking about her friends, she made up a bunch of imaginary friends.  She still enjoyed doing her homework and going to piano lessons, but she began throwing tantrums when it was time for school.

With her ARD meeting coming up (those are called IEP meetings in the other 49 states), I had a lot of correspondence with her case manager.  I learned that Beanie was screaming in class nearly everyday, in spite of the added supports and sensory diet they had her on.  She was needing an aide 4 hours out of the day, instead of the 30 minutes she had needed before.  And the kids were less interested in hanging out with her, due to her screaming.  And all of this was affecting her academically–her reading level dropped from a level F to a level B.

I have to admit I was nervous.  I knew that this was not the best situation for my daughter, but what would be? She really wouldn’t benefit from a resource room, where she would go for smaller reading, writing, and math classes.  She’s not very far behind academically, and this wouldn’t solve the problem of The Rest of The Day.

And she really didn’t belong in a life skills program, which would be a special class just for kids with autism, where she would learn cooking and other independent living skills.  This wasn’t the place for a kid with above average intelligence.

And she certainly wasn’t going into a behavioral program, where she would copy the misbehaviors of her classmates.

Those were the three options I was familiar with.  And I knew that the resource room was the only  one I would be willing to entertain at all.


So I was worried, but not surprised, when her principal called me.  She took a long time preparing me, which only increased my nervousness and defensiveness (which I suppressed quite well!).  So imagine my surprise when she told me about a program I had never heard of!  Their district has a self-contained classroom for kids who have severe speech and language disorders.  Beanie would be in a class with no more than 5 kids, would get lots of one-on-one time with her teacher, would learn her academics but really focus on getting caught up with her speech, and would be worked back into general education classes, until she would eventually be ready to return to her neighborhood school.

All of my defensiveness was replaced with the question, “How soon can we start?”


Beanie was hesitant to visit the classroom, but once she saw the puppets in the “break” area and the stretchy therapy swing, she was sold.  Since Beanie is above grade level in math and science, she would be in a general education class, with support, for those subjects.  She would also go to P.E., music, and art with her general education class.  She would work on speech,  reading, writing, and social studies with her special education class.  The speech therapist would come into the room to work with her and the other students, and the class would visit the large motor lab on a regular basis.

Beanie met her special ed teacher, her aide, her general education teacher, and her speech therapist.  She then led everyone on a search to find and meet the principal.  And she charmed every one of them.

Beanie rides the bus to her new school, but it gets her home in time to make it to her piano lesson on her old school on Wednesdays.

So how did her first day of school go?  Beanie came home with a very good report and a smile on her face.  She couldn’t wait to tell us about her new friend in her class, and she was eager to go back.


And thus, the charmed life of the Bean continues.













First Day Excitement!

The first day of school has always been exciting for Beanie!  Even though she’s done it four times now.

Onto the bus for Head Start when she was 4…

Now'r School 069


In Grand Haven the weekend before she boarded the Head Start bus once again when she was 5…



Getting ready to ride a bigger bus to kindergarten, when we lived in our apartment in Clear Lake…



This year, however, there were some changes!  Beanie would not be riding the bus through Clear Lake Shores

Somebody's excited!

Somebody’s excited!









Don't worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

Don’t worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!












It’s only a couple blocks (less than a mile) from our marina to the school, and we thought bicycling would be easier and quicker than riding the bus or dropping her off by car.  When we get a dinghy, there is a canal that ends across the street from the school, so she will probably arrive by boat then.

Beanie had an excellent first day.  This year, she is in a co-taught class, like she was in preschool.  In kindergarten, she was in a general education class, with an aide who came to work with her for 30 minutes each day.  Her teacher and case manager recommended inclusion for her this year, so that a special education teacher or aide would always be in the room, though not specifically to work with Beanie.  That way, Beanie could get the one-on-one time she required, without being stuck with a certain time period where she got the extra support.  So she is in a general education classroom, with the same expectations as the other kids, but there is also a special education teacher in the room.  (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but I spend the majority of my day co-teaching as a special education teacher at the intermediate level).  She will also continue to get OT and speech.  I think this will be perfect for her!

As for Beanie’s opinion?   I think her joyful rendition of the school song spoke volumes.

The Quest for the Chickenpox Shot


The week before school starts is a crazy time.  I’ve been getting back into the routine of waking up and leaving every morning, packing my lunch, attending training sessions, looking at my caseload, preparing lessons, meeting with co-teachers, and setting up a classroom. It’s definitely a time when I write fewer blog posts and rarely check in on Facebook!

And then, on Wednesday, it occurred to me that I am not the only one in my family who will be going back to school.

Sure, I took Beanie’s IEP over to her new school, as soon as their office opened.  And I wrote their special education department head a lengthy e-mail, explaining all of Beanie’s idiosyncrasies.  But I hadn’t bought a single school supply.  And I hadn’t taken her to get her booster shots.

Vaccines are complicated for us.  When she was 13 months old, Beanie ended up in the hospital with a reaction, after getting the MMR, Chickenpox, and three other shots.  After that, we decided (with our new doctor’s blessing) to only give her one shot at a time, and to space them at least a month apart.

This plan worked well.  She got a slight fever for a few days after her MMR booster, but nothing as serious as what we had encountered the previous time.  Everything went wonderfully until only the Polio and Chickenpox vaccines were remaining.  When we showed up at the doctor’s office to get these, they were out of both.

They continued to be out of both everytime we came in, for a year.


When we moved to Houston, I forgot about getting the boosters, until it was mentioned when I signed Beanie up for school this year.  Students can be sent home on the first day if they are not up to date on their shots, so I wanted to take care of this right away.

The first issue was getting ahold of Beanie’s shot records.  We had lost our copy in the move, and her school records were in limbo for some time.  On Thursday, I called and learned that they had arrived at our new school, so I came in and got a copy.  After working until 6:00, doing home visits, I rushed home and scooped up Beanie, life jacket and all, and drove her to the clinic, which closes at 8:00 on Thursdays.

We made excellent time, arriving at 7:30.  On the way there, Beanie found her smelly markers in the car and gave herself a cat face.  She decided that she was Meowth, the Pokemon.

I darted into the clinic, with Meowth still wearing her life jacket, and handed the receptionist our shot records.  She eyeballed us skeptically, then said that those two shots were the only two they didn’t have in stock. Frustrated, I asked if there was anywhere we could go, and she produced a list of clinics in the area that would accept our insurance.

One clinic was nearby, so we drove to the high rise building that housed it.  Beanie squealed in excitement, and whispered, “It’s a hospital!”  It’s been a few years since her frequent hospital visits, but Beanie still remembers how much she loved that place.

We ran into the building, only to find that the clinic was closed.  As we made our way across the parking lot, and into the neighboring CVS store, Beanie yelled, “I need to go to the hospital!”

CVS had neither shot in stock, but the pharmacist recommended Walmart and Walgreen’s.  The Walmart was a block away, so I plopped Meowth (still wearing her life jacket) into a cart and ran inside.  After a long wait, the pharmacist said they were out of the shots until the next afternoon.

Walgreen’s was across the street, and they had the Polio but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  However, their pharmacist told us that we needed a prescription to get shots from a drug store.

So, admitting defeat, we headed home.

As I drove past Beanie’s school, I slowed down and considered stopping to find out who her teacher was.  I decided against this, as it was 9:00 and we needed to be getting home.  However, my pause attracted the attention of the police officer in the parking lot, and he pulled out behind me and followed me to the marina.  As soon as we were in the gates, he turned on his lights.

The very polite officer introduced himself and, after verifying that I wasn’t a criminal, wrote me a warning for a tail light being out.  This made Beanie’s day, and she couldn’t stop talking about the police officer who “rescued” us!

So back to the drawing board.


On Friday, I made my way down the list of clinics.  The clinic in the “hospital,” had the Polio shot but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  The health departments on the list did not accept private insurance, but they recommended the Redi Clinics that happen to be located in HEB grocery stores.

I Googled Redi Clinics and made my way down that list.  After encountering a few that did not have the Chickenpox vaccine, I found one that was getting a new shipment that afternoon.  I figured we were golden!

I got home at 5:00 and promptly called that clinic.  They were out already!  I was finally able to locate a clinic two suburbs over, that had both shots.  Scooping up the life jacket-clad friend (no cat face this time!), we pointed our Volvo toward Friendswood.

Beanie was fascinated to see a doctor’s office in the middle of a grocery store, and she anxiously awaited her shots.  (She had been practicing with her Doc McStuffins doctor kit).  We were in good company–the waiting area was overrun with kids waiting to get shots.  We bought a soda from the nearby check-out and enjoyed it until we were called.

Beanie was beginning to lose heart, when the nurse finally called her name.  While she eagerly took her place on the examining table, and readied her leg, the doctor showed me Beanie’s shot record, as well as the immunization requirements for Texas schools.  It turns out that Beanie does not even require anymore Chickenpox boosters!  After all that….but I was relieved, since she had a reaction last time.

After learning that Beanie was tipping the scales at a whopping 41 pounds, it was finally time.  Beanie got the shot in her leg, since she’s still so tiny.  She gritted her teeth, then smiled when she got her band-aid and a sucker from the “big girl” box.

As we were leaving, she yelled out to the doctor and nurse, “Thank you for the shot and band-aid!”



The CTFO Manual to Life


When my daughter was born, I bought parenting books.  Lots of parenting books.  I read about sleep training, about co-sleeping, about attachment parenting, about breastfeeding, about nutrition, and about every other magic bullet that would guarantee that my daughter would come into this world with every advantage possible.

The pictures are from Beanie's and my recent outing to the Children's Museum!

The pictures are from Beanie’s and my recent outing to the Children’s Museum!

And then I realized that I was human.


I introduced the pacifier sooner than I was supposed to.  I set her in her bouncy seat when I did housework.  Occasionally, I even showed her *gasp* cartoons.


And you know what?  In the end, I didn’t even feel guilty about doing these things.  Even without being the perfect non-consumer earth mommy, I have developed a great relationship with my daughter.


And my husband told me that I should write a parenting book of my own.  And call it “CTFO Parenting.”  Chill.  The.  Frick.  Out.


But, I’ve come to learn that CTFO does not just apply to parenting.  Because we’re looking for magic bullets for every aspect of our lives.


For me, it was a slippery slope.  My reading about attachment parenting gave way to crunchy parenting.  If I could live a sustainable lifestyle, with no television, minimal technology, and nothing made by a corporation, then my daughter would be smart and well-adjusted and I would find inner peace.  Crunchy parenting led to minimalism.  I purged and purged, hoping to reach that point of arrival, where I could comfortably call myself a “minimalist.”  I wanted to belong to a group, wanted to find something that would make everything come together to a point where I would find peace and happiness.


As I tried all these magic bullets, I found myself becoming critical of those who chose otherwise.  They were “mainstream,” and we were “counter cultural.”  I rolled my eyes at people who fed their babies formula, used disposable diapers, and ate fast food.  I felt very smug about the fact that my daughter had never seen a Disney movie.  I felt superior to the parents at the playground, who were glued to their Smartphones.


The problem with judging, is that we are really only judging ourselves.  I was critical of everyone else, because I wanted some sort of validation that I was doing it right.  That the magic bullet I had chosen would work.  That the lifestyle I had chosen was the “answer,” that it was the “right” way to do things.


It was this blog post, written by one of my friends (who definitely could be considered an “extreme minimalist”) that first led me to question my obsession with having a “separate” lifestyle.  And, more recently, all of the discussion about this article criticizing a mother using her cell phone at the park.  Some people agreed with the author, while others wrote retorts like this one.


My thoughts?  They’re both right and they’re both misunderstanding.  Because only that mother knows what works for her.  Perhaps she needs to unwind a bit, perhaps she has a friend who is going through a difficult time and needs some attention.  Perhaps she works from home.  Or perhaps she would be happier if she put the phone away.  The only thing anyone knows is that they don’t know.  And it really isn’t their business.  Our job is to support each other, and to stop judging ourselves too much.



Because that’s the real issue, isn’t it?  And the only solution is to CTFO.  Don’t judge, don’t worry about what you “should” do.  Because life really isn’t a test, that we can either pass or fail.  It’s more of a class, a hands-on tutorial.  There really isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to do it.  If you’re happier going technology-free during family outings, then leave the phone at home.  If you need some time to unwind, while your kids play, then go ahead and check in with your friends online.  If you feel calmer and happier with fewer possessions, keep purging away.  But don’t panic is you realize that you would like to watch a movie once in awhile or want to buy a video game console.  Just observe, and make adjustments that work for you and your family.


Stay true to yourself, and you’ll find that you have plenty of space to allow others to do the same.





I’ve never told you that sometimes I’m a bad mom.

I don’t always remember to read with my daughter every night.  I didn’t do a single in-kind activity with her during her last semester of preschool.  Some nights, I forego the bath, because we were out so late having fun.  And she’s often the one who reminds me that her teeth need brushing.

I am the parent who forgets to sign the forms for school, and needs frequent e-mail reminders.  Some nights, when we’re at the boat, we pick up a Happy Meal for her to enjoy.  Bedtime involves her watching Cinderella, until she’s ready to go to bed (which, surprisingly, always happens at a reasonable hour).  In spite of my resolve to be “natural” and “countercultural,” she knows all of the Disney princesses by name, owns numerous electronic toys, and loves playing Mario Kart with Rob and me.

Our life is one of squalor.  While we once aspired to have the elegant label of “minimalists,” we now live in a way that transcends labels.  My bicycle, with my helmet slung off of the handlebars, is the focal point of our living room.  Beanie’s tricycle stands next to it; there is no point in putting it away, because she rides it nearly everyday.  At times, her toy train runs through the entire apartment, acting as a means of transporting her toys from one room to another.  Boxes are strewn about, with boat and moped parts ordered from around the world.  Behind our table, a tiller handle is propped up against the wall (oddly enough, we don’t have sails stashed anywhere in our apartment.  That might be a first).  The once-empty master bedroom is now completely full.  The plastic kitchen that we pulled out of the dumpster has become a Doc McStuffins hospital, with a few teacups hanging amidst the stuffed animals.  In the middle of the floor, Beanie’s bicycle and scooter stand ready for action.  Her cardboard playhouse occupies the wall opposite the kitchen, and that is where she enjoys her movies.  The closet is filled with toys removed from the toybox, and her Pikachu and pirate costumes are strewn about on the floor.

It was in this squalor that my morning began, today.  I had made my way through our kitchen, filled with the remnants from last night’s cooking experiment (I have yet to have success with perogies, but I won’t stop trying!), and created some coffee for Rob and me.  After coffee and conversation, followed by a shower and my morning routine, I made my current favorite breakfast, one fried egg with pepper jack cheese. So far, I’ve loved 10 pounds off of my body, by eating simply and mindfully.

While fully enjoying the soft yolk and crispy whites, I heard some chattering just before the master bedroom door opened with a cracking sound.  Beanie emerges, with her hair disheveled, wearing the sundress she fell asleep in, with temporary princess tattoos covering her arms.  With a sleepy smile, she climbs onto my lap and leans against me, her ear over my heart.

A year ago, she could not speak in sentences.  Today, she proclaims, “I love you, Mommy!”

She draws her head back, grins at me, and relives our spring break adventures.  “I go to Kemah boardwalk,” she begins.  “I ride Jungle Bounce.  It is so high!  I go to music park (the park near our marina slip has an area where you can stomp the ground and hear a great drum beat.  At the end of this post is a video of Beanie dancing to it).  I go to Houston Children’s Museum.  I want to be a doctor.  Or an ambulance.”

I know she means “paramedic.”  I smile at her.  The world is your oyster, Beanie.

I’ve finished my egg, and it’s time for her to eat something.  Breakfast and lunch are when Beanie eats the most, and she’s still pretty twiggy, so I’m always eager to get her lots of healthy calories.  I consider making her a PBJ, but today seems to require something special.

I’m not a good cook.  But I have a friend who is, so I used his pancake recipe.  I poured too much batter into my cast iron pan, and it spread to completely cover the surface.  Thus, Beanie was treated to a “gigantic pancake,” which she excitedly took, once I had placed it on a plate.

“I want a Pacman pancake!” she announced.  I asked her if she wanted me to make it into a Pacman.  “No, I make a Pacman pancake,” she insisted.

So Jelly Bean joyfully ate her creation, then caught me trying to make more giant pancakes for the rest of the week.  She danced in front of the container in which I was placing them, until I gave her one more.

Later today, she will head over to Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment, where she will spend the night.  On Monday, she will accompany me to the gym, for my yoga class, and she looks forward to playing with the kids in the nursery.

I’m not supermom.  But who is?  Within the squalor of our life is something very real, very pure, and very deep.

This is love.


Discipline and Kids With Language Delays

Re-posted from June 2011

When I was pregnant, I figured that two areas of parenting would be easy for me: discipline and language development. After all, I have a strong professional background in both, being certified in emotional impairments and learning disabilities (which are mainly language disorders). My kid would be perfectly behaved and be talking in complete sentences by their first birthday.

Well, there’s an old comedy routine, where Bill Cosby states that God has a sense of humor. While the Bean is fortunate enough to have excellent social-emotional skills, when she does misbehave, it is different.

If you pick up a parenting book–any parenting book–, or if you read any book at all on behavioral theories, you will find language. Talking. And lots of it.

Reality therapy is one of my favorite techniques at work. Once the kid has had the opportunity to calm down, you pull them aside and discuss the incident. What happened? What undesired consequences occurred because of the behavior? What can you do differently next time? Lots and lots of dialogue. Do you think I’ve tried this with Beanie?

It would be hilarious if I did!

So what about behavior modification? That’s how we were raised. If you do something undesired, you get a punishment. If you do something good, you get a reward. Of course, these must first be explained. And they are very symbolic, even abstract at times. Other than very simple rewards and consequences, I have not had much success with this.

All that being said, the Bean is very well-behaved! If the goal of discipline is to teach appropriate behaviors, then we are having a great deal of success.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned, about disciplining a child with a language delay:

–Nip problems before they happen. If you know your kid is prone to grocery store tantrums, for example, pick up an apple as soon as you get to the store. These take a long time to eat and will keep your little one busy. If your kid gets into trouble at other people’s houses, get out the bubbles before they have time to get in trouble!

–Repeated redirection. Beanie loves shopping at antique stores. When we first took her shopping, every time she tried to touch something, we said, “No, not for babies.” (She was a baby then). We said it calmly, and as simply as possible. Using too many words is a problem, if your kid has a language delay. It took a lot of repetition, but now she enjoys going to the shops and just looking.

–Distraction. Kids with SPD, especially, get stuck on things. It takes a new, fun activity–preferably in another room–to get her unstuck sometimes.

–Routines. Beanie loves to clean up. She insists on doing it anytime she has finished an activity. This is because her therapists sing the “Clean Up Song” and start cleaning up on their own. Beanie joins in, and at home she will sing the song herself. If she knows that “this is how it’s done,” she will do it that way.

–Make it fun. If you sit the Bean down and tell her to draw a circle, she’ll get mad and flop on the floor. If you both have a crayon, and you start drawing circles (while excitedly saying “circle!” each time), she will join in.

–If there is a problem, it is a language issue. 99% of the time. If the Bean is misbehaving, it is for one of two reasons. 1. She wants to ask for something but doesn’t know how. 2. She doesn’t understand what’s going on.

–Dealing with tantrums. You can’t reason with any kid who is having a tantrum. Don’t even try! Figure out what calms them down the best. Beanie likes to be alone in her room. We send her there when she gets whiny, but she’ll often go there on her own! Some kids like to have you there. Some kids like to be held. While I would love it if we could talk after the tantrum, that is currently an exercise in futility. She still doesn’t get whatever she was trying to get, which may lead to more tantrums. Kind of a floppy repeated redirection. But she’s never had to go to her room more than twice for the same issue. Here’s how it usually goes: I sing the lunch time song. Beanie walks to the table, and sees that there is not candy, ice cream, or at least berries on her plate. She takes my hand and leads me to the fridge, to seek out these items. I tell her that her food is on her plate. She flops on the floor and cries. I tell her she needs to go to her room to calm down. She goes. 5 minutes later she comes back, sees the plate, and leads me to the fridge. The sequence repeats. Then she comes out of her room, nonchalantly has a seat at the table, and eats her grilled cheese.

–Very simple rewards and punishments. I like to use these sparingly anyway, because they are completely extrinsic. But we stick to clapping if Beanie does something well. As far as punishments go, she gets removed from the activity if she is being whiny. If we’re at the park and she get floppy, we go home.

One thing that I always try to keep in mind is that behavior is communication. There is a reason that a child acts a certain way. Our job is, first, to figure out that reason. Next, we need to teach the child to get their needs met in a more acceptable manner.

With a child who has a language delay, it is more of a challenge, but it can be done!