Well, the preschool dilemma has been solved, at least for the next 6 months. Whew. I went to visit the last school I was considering, a Montessori school really close to our house (less than five minutes in the car, and probably less than 10 minutes by bike, although it involves a rather steep overpass). It is not perfect, but then I don't think I will find a school that is. The big plus is that they're willing to hold spaces for us until March, so I left my paperwork and deposit check today.
It is a big load off my shoulders! They don't do 2-day spots (which seems weird), so we are signed up for 3 days per week, which is a bit of a change, but one that I think I'm ready for. I am starting to get ready to move on with my life and consider a new career, and I will need that extra day, so I think it is a blessing. I also think, or hope, that the kids will adjust better if they go more often. And 3 days at this school is cheaper than 2 days at our current school, so yay!
As I said, it's Montessori, which is a plus. They have two big classrooms with mixed ages in both, which I also think is good because I think it's more natural for kids to be in a mixed-age setting to a certain degree. It has a great play yard, and a pet snake and rabbits. It's right across the street from a gym, where they do some extracurricular activities, such as swim lessons in the summer. I have to pack lunches, but I'm ok with that - it's better than eating the junk they get at their current school. So that's settled, and I'm relieved.
I am almost done with several projects/gifts, and I'm excited about them. I will hopefully finish them and be able to post some photos on Thursday or Friday. We are celebrating Christmas on Sunday with my family, so I'm trying to get the gifts done by then. My mom got the kids the IKEA toy kitchen, which I put together today. I really hope they like it. I think I might make them little potholders someday, too, and I'd like to somehow make a fridge to go with it at some point in the future. Also, I don't like the white color (the natural wood part is ok), so I'm plotting to someday paint it (possibly when the kids are older and get bored of it).
Toddler discipline is a tricky subject, and one which I suspect is a source of marital problems. We have a lot of disagreeing around here. Our main problems with the kids are fighting over toys, wanting something we don't want them to have (i.e. cookies, keep watching TV when we say enough, etc.), not wanting to do something they need to do (wash hands, brush teeth, go to bed), bedtime/sleeping struggles (which I've written about a LOT lately), and mealtimes. The simple way to deal with all of these things, of course, is to set rules and then stick to them.
It's not as simple as it sounds, though.
For one thing, how do you know which rules are appropriate? And since toddlers develop mentally and physically on a daily basis, what they are capable of and how much they understand is constantly changing, so the rules can't be too rigid or pretty soon they won't make sense. And if you have rules about everything, you will constantly be in a power struggle with your kids and that is really no fun for anyone.
And then, what do you do when the rules are broken? Punish? Natural consequences? Explain other consequences and then follow through (i.e. time out, loss of privileges, etc.)? What happens when one parent doesn't always follow through? What if the kid is sick? What if you weren't watching and you don't know what happened? What if the kid doesn't seem to understand the consequences (i.e. doesn't understand that he doesn't get dessert because he doesn't understand or remember what he did wrong)? What if he is throwing a tantrum? Ignore it? Put the child in his room? Try to comfort him?
I'm really struggling here, although through a bit of trial and error, I'm coming up with solutions. I'm having a hard time setting some rules, but I think I've worked out some discipline solutions for the obvious stuff. I've read about helping children work through their own solutions to problems, and while mine are too young to really do it, when a fight breaks out, I try to offer suggestions and work with them to fix it. I think the best thing for saying no TV or no cookies or whatever is to just calmly keep repeating the rule, once you've decided what the rule is, and offer other possibilities if the kid is open to them. So I'll say "I told you that would be the last video for today, but we can build with blocks or play with play dough now". Does it always work? Definitely not. Sometimes I ask the kid to repeat the rule, like "Do you remember what we agreed before we started that video?" Also doesn't always work, but sometimes it does.
And for when these things don't work, I ignore the tantrum for a bit, depending on how things are going. If Turtle (my typical tantrum kid) is open to listening to me talk, I keep repeating myself over and over, saying what the rule was, and what his other options are, and telling him I'm sorry that he's mad but that's the rule. When he's being receptive, it's nice. He still needs to calm down and get over it, but mentally I can see he's there. Other times, not so much, and if he pushes me away, I tell him I'll be ready to talk or play when he's calmed down, and then I check back every few minutes, and at some point, he's ready to cuddle and eventually to do something else.
It's not easy. We haven't figured out the bedtime or mealtime battles, not by a long shot. It's always harder to get the kids to do something they don't want to do (like eat or go to bed) versus stopping them from doing something they want to do (stealing a toy, throwing things). Some days I have a lot of patience, and it goes really well. Other days, I just don't know how I will get through 5 more minutes. Those days are hard. Really hard. I sometimes wonder how people with more than 2 kids do it. Really, how?
But it's really good, it really is. I don't always remember it, but it is. Life is sweet, so sweet, and I am so lucky to have these two complicated, loving creatures in it.