Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Parenting toddlers

Toddlers are tiny bullies!

The following post I wrote back in 2014 when I was in the midst of parenting a toddler. If you are currently or ever have parented toddlers, I’m guessing you’ll relate!

I love my children. They are awesome. OK, now that I’ve cleared that up, let me continue with my premise that toddlers are tiny bullies. My daughter, at 4-1/2, is past this phase, but my son at 16 months is just getting into the thick of it. And, oh my, is he ever in the thick of it! I know my daughter did many of the things her brother is now doing, but he’s also different from her in many ways and pushes the limits of pushing the limits.

Toddlers are adorable and sweet. They really are, but they do resemble bullies in some ways. As such parenting toddlers can push you to your limits — and beyond!

1. Bullies and toddlers are food thieves.

While bullies may steal your lunch money, toddlers just steal your lunch — or breakfast or dinner or snack or anything you think you’re going to eat without sharing. It doesn’t matter if my son has the exact same food on his tray as I do on my plate; he still thinks my food is way better and I must share it. If I don’t, he protests.  

Just last week when he was off schedule and I was eating lunch while he wasn’t eating, I paid him off in the oyster crackers I was having alongside my salad just so that I could eat without him screaming at me the whole time.

2. Bullies and toddlers are physically abusive.

I’ve never been hit by a bully, but I’ve been hit plenty of times by my kids. I’ve been head butted and smacked. My nose has been pinched and my lips pulled and contorted.  We won’t even discuss the internal organ squishing I endured while they were in my belly.

3. Bullies and toddlers think only of themselves.  

It’s true. My son is a sweet boy, but he wants what he wants whether it’s hard on anyone else. If he wants to stand on the back of my legs while I’m kneeling at his sister’s bed reading her a story, then he will. He won’t consider whether that might not be comfortable for me. If he wants a cuddle in the middle of the night, he won’t consider that maybe I was trying to sleep.

4. Bullies and toddlers can make you question your self worth.  

I know we’re not supposed to take toddler actions personally. I don’t always, but there are times I’m tired and weary when question if I even know how to be a mother. They wear you down!

5. Bullies and toddlers are unpredictable.  

You never know what you’re going to get. One day when I go get my son out of his crib, he can hardly wait for me to pick him up. The next day, he wants to stay in his crib for a few minutes and teasingly play with me. And let’s not get started on food. One day grilled cheese is like manna from heaven that he can’t shove in his mouth fast enough. The next day it’s the most disgusting food he’s even seen or tasted, and woe to the person who puts it on his tray.

6. Bullies and toddlers can hold you hostage.  

OK. I don’t know if bullies actually do this, but toddlers sure do! When my son isn’t feeling well in some way, he doesn’t want to go to sleep alone in his room. I have sat on the floor, laid on the floor and slept on the floor.  I’ve been his hostage knowing that if I leave the room even to go to the bathroom across the hall that he will erupt in wails.

7. Bullies and toddlers have no regard for your personal space.  

My son does not understand that anyone has a personal bubble. He steps on my toes while I’m making dinner without a care in the world. He plops in my lap with no regard just as I was starting to get up to go to the bathroom. At any given time, he crawls all over me. He delights in putting toys down the front of my shirt. Personal space for me? No way. Instead, I’m his personal, portable playground.

8. Bullies and toddlers are possessive.

Everything that’s mine is his. If it’s his sister’s it’s his. Everything that’s his is his. And, of course, everything that is my husband’s is his. Just yesterday he was lugging around his big sister’s backpack while she was trying to put things in it. It ended in a battle of wills between the two of them with one yelling for him to let go and him just yelling that someone was trying to take what he felt strongly was his. I won’t even begin to explain how he also is sure everything in the trashcan is his. That’s an ongoing battle around here.

9. Bullies and toddlers are loud.  

I don’t think any of the bullies I knew as a child were ever described as the quiet kid in the corner. (Nope, that would have been me!) Toddlers are the same. My son pays no mind to where we are, what we are doing or even who might still be asleep as his hollers and carries on whether he’s making happy noises or distressed ones. He gets quiet when we’re out to dinner or in public oftentimes because he’s too busy observing everything. People remark about his quietness from time to time. I want to tell them how they’re being fooled. I usually just smile. The boy is not quiet.

10. Bullies and toddlers want their way and get mad when they don’t get it.

If the dog is sitting beside me on the futon in his room, then the dog must be moved. This can best be managed with force. If I’m in the middle of making dinner and he comes to the kitchen holding a book up for me to read to him, then he’s going to be loudly (see number nine) angry when I don’t comply. When I remove him from gathering contraband from the trash or standing on the end table for the 10th time, he turns into a spaghetti noodle and flails about protesting on the floor.

Parenting toddlers has its pros as well

All that said, bullies and toddlers do have their differences as well. Toddlers can be quite lovable, entertaining and funny. I’m pretty sure if this wasn’t the case then humans would have died out long ago. Because there are just as many times that he comes to my lap for a cuddle or gives me his huge, sparse-toothed smile that melts my heart. There are many times I see him love on his sister, his dog or my husband and I burst with pride and love.  

This toddler/bully stage still has some time to go. My son is learning how to interact with his world. My husband and I are teaching him. We’re teaching his super sensitive big sister to not give in to him all the time because he’s upset or crying. And we’re getting there. We made it through toddlerhood once before. I’m sure we’ll survive this final time. Pretty sure. Mostly sure…

Our family tent camping fails

Camping and life lessons learned from tent camping failures

I’m a relatively simple person. I enjoy the small things in life and quiet moments. I love nature and feel at peace in the solitude of being in the mountains or on a lake. And so I feel like tent camping should be a great activity for me. I mean, of course, I’m not all that outdoorsy and am kind of allergic to the sun (I get hives). I also can’t sleep on the actual ground because my fibromyalgia-ridden body would complete revolt. But otherwise, this camping thing should be perfect for me, right?!

In theory, tent camping is completely up my alley. It’s something I’d enjoy and be happy with. I don’t even mind too much getting dirty. I’m the kind of girl who baits her own hook when fishing with worms. (I’m also the kind of girl who goes on said fishing trip with a full face of makeup!)

But, alas. Tent camping seems to be something I just don’t have a knack for. Or maybe it’s just something that I have bad luck with. Each time we go tent camping, I go with a positive attitude that this time will be different. And, other than two overnights in a tent at a theme park (which doesn’t completely qualify as camping), I have been wrong.

Tent camping fail number one

My husband and I took our first camping trip just the two of us a few years before we had kids. We headed about three hours away. We left most of our belongings in the hatchback of our vehicle because the tent wasn’t huge. It worked just fine.

We camped in an area surrounded by sand dunes and lakes. We rented a dune buggy and had fun. Then we decided to rent a jet ski. While I grew up nearly constantly being in the water, my husband didn’t. Without thinking, he put the car keys in the pocket of his athletic shorts. He wasn’t planning to do much swimming.

But the jet ski tipped over on a wave in the huge lake and into the water we went. Back on shore after our rental ended, we realized my husband didn’t have the keys. Yep. They floated out of his pocket and were somewhere in the lake. We couldn’t get into our car, back to our campground or to any of our dry clothes. We were stuck. Doh!

My parents came to our rescue and headed to us with the spare set of keys from our house. They got an unexpected trip and rescued us. I’m not sure this fail was from tent camping or just our crummy luck, but it was my first experience as an adult with camping. It is certainly an unforgettable one!

Tent camping fail number two

Fast forward about eight years and our family had grown. We bought a larger tent on sale a couple of years previously and decided our kids were old enough to try some tent camping for a night. They were 3 and 6. We loaded up the car. Our first stop was to see Thomas the Train and then camp. But, the town where we planned to camp was inundated with rain with more forecasted. My husband suggested we look somewhere without rain and change our plans. So, we did so. We drove in the opposite direction and found a campground.

The campground was a bit soggy, but no rain was predicted for a couple of days. We didn’t get to roast marshmallows or anything by the time we got there, but we did get settled in for the night. I woke up in the middle of the night to hear the pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent roof. I thought it was relaxing. When I woke up cold soon thereafter cold, I even felt wet. As I woke up even more I realized it wasn’t a brain trick; I was wet. It was the middle of the night and the roof of our tent was leaking horribly.

We all woke up, cold and wet. I settled the kids in the car then helped my my husband tear down our tent in the rain and mud. We were soaked through and covered in mud. In our frustration, we threw the tent in the dumpster, assuming the rain protection was faulty.

Because all the nearby hotels were inexplicably booked, my husband drove us three hours home. I tried to keep the kids happy since they were tired.

When we got home and reasonably clean, we fell asleep — after remembering that we had packed ponchos in case we needed them. Doh!

Successful camping

Our next camping experiences were about two years after the rain leak fail. The kids wanted to go to a theme park nearby to ride roller coasters. I discovered the theme park offered an in-park camp night once a summer. It was a great deal, and we decided to go for it. We did that camping trip two years in a row.

I’m not so sure it was actually so much camping as it was sleeping in our (now new, bigger and easier to assemble) tent on a manicured law. But we liked it and made good memories. So, I’m calling it successful camping!

Tent camping fail number three

And that brings us to the most recent tent camping failure that happened just a few weeks ago. My kids keep wanting to go camping. As summer break wound down, we had a lapse in the heat and headed to a state park for two nights of tent camping. Our kids are now older (8 and 11). We were now wiser. This would be the camping trip of our dreams. Plus, the state park offered horseback riding — something both kids love right now!

The first night went swimmingly. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. We played some games and had a good time. It rained overnight, and we didn’t get wet at all. The next morning we were raring to go and hit up the horseback riding. After lunch and a couple of excursions, we headed to our camp site to rest. Backing into our parking spot, we hit a tree stump that pulled about 1/3 of the front bumper loose.

It wasn’t a great way to start our downtime that afternoon. With some ingenuity and a carabiner clip, my husband got the bumper to stay in place until we got home the following day and he could repair it.

We all had a rest after that and then decided we’d go out for dinner. The sky was a beautiful blue. The weather forecast said 0% chance for rain. We talked about it and decided leaving our tent windows open was a good plan to keep the tent cool while we ate our pizza in town.

As we sat down for dinner, the wind dramatically kicked up. The sky grew dark. The rain poured down for about 10 minutes. We hoped the trees shielded our tent. We speculated that maybe it didn’t even rain at the campground, which was about five miles away from town.

But, we were wrong. We arrived back to camp to find our tent wasn’t in standing water, but it was wet. Our bedding, chairs and clean clothes were all wet. We discussed options and decided heading home a night early was the best choice. We tracked mud through the tent as we packed up to leave. In the end, we tied the wet, muddy tent on the roof of our vehicle. On the way home we frequently checked to make sure the bumper and tent were still attached.

The next day, we spent a few hours (quite literally) cleaning mud off of things. We hosed down the tent a couple of times and used the wet vac. My husband repaired the bumper. The kiddos sprayed down the chairs. We took a brush and hose to our shoes. Exhausted, we got everything put away and ended our camping adventure.

What we taught our children

While our oldest daughter remembers the second tent camping fail, our son doesn’t remember it quite as well. But now at 11 and 8, they certainly remember the most recent fail. We had discussions while we were unexpectedly packing up our campsite and the following day as we cleaned.

We told our children feeling disappointed by cutting our trip short was normal. In fact, we were disappointed, too. I mentioned that having had very minimal positive tent camping experiences, I felt all the more determined to go tent camping again and not let it defeat me. (Though I had a moment the day of scrubbing mud from the tent where I was fine to let camping be the victor!)

We also talked about working together. I was incredibly impressed with my children. They helped us pack everything up at the campsite and also clean everything up when we were home the following day. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but we determined this crummy thing happened and we got to choose how we reacted to it. Both packing up and dealing with the disappointment were much easier working together.

My husband and I each felt some responsibility for the soggy tent. We decided to take the risk and leave the windows open. But we didn’t blame each other. We explained to the kids that we had certainly learned a lesson. (Never again will we leave tent windows open while we’re away from the campsite!) And that’s what failure is about. We learn lessons, take them with us for the next time and move on. I pointed out to them that everyone messes up, and we don’t have to get really angry at ourselves when it happens. It’s an important lesson to learn.

In the end, our tent camping fails have given us memories at the least. And they’ve allowed us to teach our children how to react when life goes sideways. These weren’t the first time we’ve taught them that lesson, and they won’t be the last. I want my kids to be prepared for times life goes unexpectedly, because it surely will.

Now we just have to gather the courage to take on tent camping again with our lessons learned. One of these days, we will prevail in tent camping. At least I’m pretty sure we will!

Easy microwave fudge recipe made five ways

Chocolate, mint chocolate, brownie batter, cherry cordial and toffee bar chocolate fudge easily made in your microwave!

Microwave fudge recipe Pinterest image

A few weeks ago, my daughter wanted something chocolate, but we were out of chocolate in our house. Sad state of affairs that it was, we decided to try a chocolate microwave fudge recipe. It turned out so well that we’ve made it multiple times since then.

And my daughter, unlike me, likes to experiment with recipes. I tend to follow the recipe to the letter and change very little about it. But, my daughter did some experimenting and I’m so glad she did. We ended up with an easy microwave fudge recipe that you can make four different ways. It’s so easy and delicious. All of it starts with the basic chocolate fudge.

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Microwave chocolate fudge recipe

Prep your 8×8-inch baking dish. We usually use our glass baking dish for this recipe because it’s dishwasher safe. If your pan is a non-stick dish, you don’t need to do anything to it. Otherwise, give your pan a light coating of non-stick cooking spray to keep the fudge from sticking.

Prepping the glass 9x9-inch pan for the Microwave fudge recipe

Set your dish aside and in a microwave-safe bowl, mix together 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1/2-cup of cocoa powder, 1/4 cup of milk and 1 stick of butter cut into small pieces. We found out that Crisco shortening also works for this recipe in a pinch, which is why the “butter” in this photo looks so white!

Mixing the batter for the Microwave fudge recipe

Microwave the mixture for 2 to 4 minutes until the butter is melted. It should look something like this:

Melted batter for the Microwave fudge recipe

Next, stir in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Pour the fudge into your prepared baking dish.

Microwave fudge in the glass pan to cool

Let it chill in the refrigerator for an hour or speed up the process by using the freezer for about 15 minutes. Once it is set, it’s ready to cut and serve. It doesn’t have to be chilled again.

Microwave fudge all finished

Microwave mint chocolate fudge recipe

The first variation on this microwave fudge recipe is mint, because nothing goes together better than mint and chocolate (in my opinion!).

All you do is switch out the vanilla for 1 teaspoon of mint extract. Note that it is half the amount of vanilla, because mint is a stronger flavor.

Brownie batter fudge recipe

Again, after microwaving is when you make a simple switch for the brownie batter fudge recipe. This was the first variation my daughter made, and I loved it. For the brownie batter fudge, add the 2 teaspoons of vanilla extra PLUS 1 tablespoon of chocolate syrup (like the kind you put over ice cream).

Cherry cordial fudge recipe

This was the newest concoction and, dare I say, my absolute favorite. Even my parents, who don’t particularly like chocolate, loved this version. My husband, who is a particular eater loved it as well. It truly tastes like a cherry cordial (aka chocolate-covered cherry).

After microwaving your ingredients, stir in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons of cherry juice. We used juice from a jar of maraschino cherries.

Toffee bar chocolate fudge recipe

This is one of the easiest variations to make. I had some toffee bits left from making my chewy toffee cookies, so my daughter decided to use them with fudge. She topped the original chocolate fudge with them and applied them liberally. It gave the fudge a bit of a crunch with the toffee flavor and was delicious. You might think of your favorite chocolate and toffee candy bar while you eat it — I did!

 

Easy microwave fudge recipe made five ways

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 stick of butter margarine or shortening, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Prepare an 8x8 baking dish. If it is NOT a non-stick dish, cover it with a light layer of non-stick cooking spray.
  • Put the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk and butter pieces in a microwave safe bowl.
  • Microwave the ingredients for 2 to 4 minutes, checking on it every so often. Once the butter is melted well, remove the bowl from the microwave, add in the vanilla extract and stir it all together until smooth.
  • Put the mixture in your prepared pan.
  • Chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour or in the freezer for about 15 minutes until set and firm.
  • You can vary the recipe after it has melted in the microwave before adding the vanilla extract by using a few different ingredients.
  • For mint chocolate fudge, omit the vanilla extract and use 1 teaspoon of mint extract. (Mint is a stronger flavor than vanilla, so it only needs half the amount.)
  • For brownie batter fudge, add in 1 tablespoon of chocolate syrup in addition to the vanilla.
  • For cherry cordial fudge, add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla and 2 teaspoons of cherry juice. (We use juice from a jar of maraschino cherries.)
  • For toffee bar chocolate fudge, mix the fudge as described and then top liberally with toffee bits.