Thoughts on the new house

Well, we’ve been living in the new house for *checks watch* wow, 2 months now! So here’s how it’s going:

the house itself is pretty great! We haven’t had any major problems, and it still has that new house feel to it. Vanessa loves her playroom and will happily play in there by herself for a short while, although she also seems to enjoy just running around 🙂 We’ve been enjoying all the extra drawers/cabinets in the kitchen area.

the house is big, like pretty darn big. We successfully hosted most of David’s family for Easter, which is one of the reasons we made the house so big. I do feel somewhat guilty about it, though…

the commute in to work takes right around 20 minutes if traffic is reasonable. I realize in the grand scheme of things this really isn’t bad (hi, friends in Bangalore!) but it is noticeably worse than the seven or so minutes we were used to.

there’s a park really close to our house, which is amazing! We’ve already walked there like ten times with Vanessa 🙂

living in the suburbs has taken some getting used to. I like living in cities, and while Pflugerville is close enough that I can still claim to live in Austin, it’s even further away from downtown and such. Not that we, like, go to downtown more than once in a blue moon, but something about the idea of living in a suburb bothers me. (I’ve been slowly working through this)

we live right down the street from the Mendezes, which is pretty great!

we live further away from everyone else, which is sad 😦

you can see lots of stars at night and it’s really quiet, which is a nice change from the old house!

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind review

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing MindNo-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting book! It touches briefly on “natural consequences”, but here are some of the more interesting bits:
– The goal of discipline is to teach, not to punish. Which isn’t to say that you don’t have to punish ever (although natural consequence are best as opposed to punitive ones), but that shouldn’t be your first priority.
– When your kid is experiencing a strong emotion (including a tantrum), the first step should be to connect with them. Probably their “lower brain” is in control, which means being rational with them won’t work, but being firm/yelling at them is just going to scare them. Hold or touch your child, get below their eye level, and comfort them.
– Try not to invalidate their emotions – it’s not really their fault they have strong feelings, it’s where they are in development. (consider how irritating it is if you’re angry and someone says “Hey, there’s no reason to be angry!”) Acknowledge their feelings.
– But how they’re reacting to their emotions may not be OK – i.e. it’s OK to feel really mad, but don’t hit. Instead try to help them find ways of dealing with their anger.
– Talk less in the moment. Listen more to what your child is saying, and let them know that you’re listening by repeating things back to them.
– When your kid does something wrong, ask yourself three questions: Why did my child act this way? What lesson do I want to teach? and How can I best teach it?
– If you’re overly emotional it’s OK to stop the bad behavior but withdraw and collect yourself before going through those steps.
– It talks about being consistent but not rigid. You should set consistent rules but it’s OK to make exceptions for special occasions (especially when you’re traveling!) (this is a fine distinction that I’m not sure I 100% understand)
– The book has an interesting view on tantrums. The usual advice I’ve read is to not engage and just ignore the tantrum until it’s done. This book says that almost all tantrums are caused by emotions in the “lower brain” that kids can’t consciously control, and it’s important to show your child that you love and support them even when they do bad things, so still try to connect with them. But it’s OK to stop them from throwing things, etc. A useful phrase I saw is “I see you’re having trouble controlling your body, so I’ll help you with that”.
– For older kids, having a discussion about why they did what they did and how they can make things right is far superior to lecturing them. You want your kid to learn these skills for herself. Plus if you lecture/punish them the focus quickly becomes “My parents are the worst!” instead of “I feel bad because I did something wrong”. (and you want them to feel a little bad!)
– If kids are acting up, odds are it’s because they’re either Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (HALT!)

Thankfully the book acknowledges that it’s hard to take this approach, but the more you do it the more your child will learn to handle her emotions.

Anyway, it’s worth a shot. We’ve just started disciplining Vanessa a little bit. If this approach actually works I’ll come back in 3 years and update the review to 5 stars 🙂

(thanks to Patrice for lending it to us!)

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Disney World with Vanessa! A Q&A session

Thanks for conjuring me out of thin air for this weak premise of a trip recap!
Hey, no problem!

So…y’all went to Disney World?
Yup! After the trip to Virginia Beach with my family, we took a vacation with David’s parents and almost all of David’s siblings.

How were the plane flights? Last time they seemed to go pretty well!
They went…pretty OK! These flights were objectively better because they were nonstop to Orlando and back. She was still somewhat fussy on the way there and fairly fussy on the way back, for reasons that will become clear later.

Did Vanessa have a good time?
Seems like it! She’s pretty young for a lot of the activities at Disney World, but she likes looking around at people and things, and she had fun with her cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.

What were her favorite rides?
Her favorite was It’s a Small World – the whole ride she just looked around wide-eyed. Hopefully the pictures of her on the ride turned out! Her second favorite seemed to be, oddly enough, the Jungle Cruise, but I think that’s because she got to stand on David’s lap and hold/pat the guardrails on the boat. (she’s very into patting things like that 🙂 )

Was she easier to take care of now that she’s over a year old? (as opposed to the last trip)
Sort of! Food was definitely easier – we brought some stuff for snacks, but for lunch and dinner we just went to restaurants and found something for her there. The biggest problem was that now that she can walk she tolerated sitting in the stroller much less well. But she’s not very good at walking (and she would get run over by people), so the only alternative was carrying her. Which is getting harder!

How’d she deal with schedule changes?
Surprisingly well! We tried to keep her on roughly the same schedule as usual (while staying on Central time), but of course we were often off by an hour either direction, and it didn’t seem to bother her too much.

How was the hotel?
We stayed at the Contemporary, which was very nice. The main reason we picked it was because it’s on the monorail (the monorail actually goes through the hotel!), so that made it a lot easier to get to the Magic Kingdom. (where we spent two of our three park-going days) Since we went back to the hotel every day after lunch for Vanessa’s nap, minimizing transit time for four trips each day seemed like a big deal.

Ooh, monorail!
Yes, many references to the Simpsons’ song were made.

Anyway, how’d that work out?
Pretty well. Honestly, between going through security and walking from the monorail exit to inside the park and then meeting people, transit time was kind of annoying anyway. But then we went to the Animal Kingdom, which we took a bus to, and it was a lot worse! So…yeah.

This was Vanessa’s first time in a hotel room, right? How’d she like it?
Wow, I’m impressed you remembered! She had a grand old time. Of course it wasn’t babyproofed, so we had to watch her like a hawk, which made getting ready in the mornings take a long time. Another downside was that it was just a standard room, so during naps/bedtime we would turn out almost all the lights and then try to make as little noise as possible.

Funny story: at 6 AM one morning David got up to pee, and I was only half-awake. The next thing I remember is David diving back into bed! He later explained that Vanessa was awake and just staring at him. (she did go back to sleep, thank goodness!)

Did Vanessa get any toys she liked?
We brought along some new toys and books, which she liked well enough. At dinner at Restaurantosaurus (located in DinoLand U.S.A. which is a section of the park just like, say, Asia or Africa…) her meal came in a plastic bucket with a shovel. (I guess because the restaurant is paleontology themed) Anyway, we were done and cleaning up and trying to decide whether to keep the bucket and shovel. I was leaning towards no because it was clearly very cheap and didn’t even say Disney World on it or anything, but settled on “whatever”, so David kept it. And now she loves that bucket and shovel!

I know you haven’t been to Disney World in a while – how were the Magic Bands?
Cool! They’re a band you wear on your arm that act as your hotel room key, park admission ticket, FastPass+es, and it makes it really easy to buy things!

Except I lost Vanessa’s on the first day and had to get a replacement. And I wasn’t the only person to lose a band.

So, overall, was it worth it?
Yeah! I mean, traveling is really stressful with Vanessa right now. But she had a good time and we survived.

Would you recommend Disney World with a 14 month old?
Not unless you’re going for some other reason. We spent *checks credit card receipts* *faints* *is revived with smelling salts* a lot of money and went to a lot of trouble for something Vanessa’s not going to remember, although she did enjoy it. I can see her having a great time in a few years, though, just like her cousins seemed to!

Anything interesting happen at the end of the trip?
Funny you should ask! We got back to our house, started feeding her some dinner, and she threw up.

Oh.
Yup.