five + two =

1-2 years old

How to Avoid the Terrible Twos

Monday, April 22nd, 2013 6:47 pm | By Stephanie Woo

“She always trying to get her way. She’s just spoiled,” I hear so many parents say about their toddlers. Even my husband said it this morning about Brooke. 

We’re parked (illegally) on the side of the road because Mark forgot to buckle in Brooke. I’m kneeling on the front seat reaching back to buckle her in as quickly as I can. She starts whining, “Daddy.” She wants Mark to do it because he usually does. I say, “No, Mama is gonna do it.” She stops whining for a while. I buckle the bottom left buckle, she cries, “No, No!” I do it anyway because we need to get moving fast. She starts crying and struggling in her seat, trying to unbuckle the buckle. At the same time, I can see she’s trying to get her other arm under the right strap. With all that struggling and crying, Mark says impatiently, “She’s always trying to get her way.”

I know that isn’t why she’s crying. It was obvious that I wasn’t doing things in the order that she’s used to. First of all, Mark usually buckles her in and he buckles her in a certain way. I’m clearly not doing it that way. Order is critical to the young child, including the order in which you do something as well as the order of things within the environment. If the order is off or it isn’t what she’s used to, you can expect a tantrum. She’s not trying to annoy you, there simply is a need of hers that isn’t met. 

Just to give you an idea of what I mean. Every morning, I need to do these things to wake up: brush my teeth, wash my face, drink a cup of water, followed by a cup of light, sweet coffee. If I miss any of those things in that order, something feels wrong. And then my day is just a little bit off. Unless I’ve run out of sugar, half-and-half or coffee altogether. Then don’t even try to talk to me. Now, imagine you and I lived together, even if you don’t have those same needs, you’d most likely respect mine, right? To avoid my morning rage, you might even put my coffee on for me and gently coax me to drink it as quickly as possible! What about your toddler? They have an intense need for order, which you may or may not need. What do you do when they express their anger, frustration and disappointment because their need for order isn’t met? 

I decided to let Brooke show me what she needed. First, I unbuckled the bottom left buckle that I had forced on her. And then I waited to see what she would do. She slipped her right arm under the strap and buckled the cross buckle. Now that both arms are under the strap and the cross buckle done, she waited for me to buckle the bottom buckles, which I did. I got it right this time. She sat back, looked out the window and started singing ‘Itsy-Bitsy Spider.’ We drove off and heard nothing but singing from her the rest of the ride. She knew exactly what she wanted. If I hadn’t fulfilled that need, we would’ve heard crying the whole way home. Instead we had peace and quiet. 

A toddler needs order around her because she’s learning how the world works. Once she becomes a six-year old and internalized that order, she doesn’t need external order as much anymore. That’s why elementary school kids can be complete slobs and still be happy. People call the toddler years The Terrible Twos and Threes. That’s because toddlers are misunderstood. They have a need that you and I as adults no longer need and we can’t understand what’s the big deal. Well, it is for them. And if you’re looking to coexist peacefully with your little one, start watching carefully. Next time your toddler suddenly starts screaming, figure out what’s different from the way she’s used to. Is something not on the same shelf she’s used to? Is something not done is the sequence she’s used to? Is the day’s routine different than usual? If you can figure out the clue to this puzzle, your toddler – and you – will be much happier. And then you’ll see, the terrible twos doesn’t have to be so terrible. 


We Started Gardening! Part II

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 7:09 pm | By Stephanie Woo

M and Dad are back from the mountains. First they have to mix the dirt they dug up from the mountains with store-bought organic soil to create the optimal soil mixture. M helps Dad cut open the package of store-bought soil with her Muji scissors.

M scoops in soil from the bag, while Dad dumps in dirt from the mountain. 

M crawls into the bucket to help mix the dirt and soil.

Dad dumps the soil mixture into the trough. M helps to smooth it out.

We’ve been collecting vegetable scraps for two days. They add it to the soil as worm food. It’s raining and M looks pooped in this picture, but trust me, in real life, she’s still going!

Dad adds the worms to the soil. Apparently, these red wrigglers help produce the best planting soil. We think we might even start a worm farm! Dad covers up the worms and food with another layer of soil. The worms need one week to do their magic before we start planting. 

The next day, we add more worms. Even B can’t resist getting involved – once you get past the ‘ewww’ factor, they are really fun. Even I’m hooked!

If you’re looking for a reason to plant with your children, consider these benefits:

  1. Sensorial exploration (wet, cold soil and wriggly worms)
  2. Gross motor skill development (treading wet mountainous soil while carrying a pail and shovel)
  3. Fine motor skill development (cutting, scooping, mixing, spreading vegetable scraps, picking up small worms)
  4. Appreciation for nature/cycle of life (composting, preparing the soil, planting)
  5. Language development (‘gardening trough,’ ‘composting,’ ‘prepping the garden bed,’ ‘red wrigglers,’ ‘starter plants,’ ‘clay soil’ vs ‘sandy soil’ – even I had to learn these!)

But my favorite part of this whole process is watching how much effort M puts into it. She uses her whole body to dig, transfer, mix and pat. There’s nothing better than watching young children use maximum effort to engage in tasks they’re interested in. And after a few hours of work like this, M (who usually hates napping) is out like a light-bulb at nap time and stays asleep for THREE straight hours! 

More gardening posts to come!

We Started Gardening! Part I

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 11:59 pm | By Stephanie Woo

I’m a city girl. As a child, I grew up in a condo building in Taipei. As an adult, for 20 years, I lived in New York City. So if you ever tried to talk to me about gardening, worms, dirt and nature in general, I would’ve tried to change the subject on you. 

Well, now that I live in Portland, I’ve decided to do “as the Romans.” Almost everyone here has a garden. If you are not composting, raising a worm farm and eating dinner out of your garden, then seriously, don’t you care about the environment?? 

So, after much research, discussion with seasoned locals and Youtube videos, we decided to give this ‘grow your own food’ a shot. 

First, we went to the famous Portland Nursery and bought a whole bunch of ‘starters,’ or baby plants. You just have to transplant them into your garden and they’ll grow into fruits and vegetables! I sat there envisioning a garden full of food I’d want to eat. We ended up settling on some strawberries, bok choy, spinach, carrots, scallions and napa cabbage. I really would have preferred some watermelons, figs, kiwi and chocolate cake, but apparently Mark thinks we should start with the basics. He’s soo conservative sometimes. 

Of course we decided to involve B and M (now 2 years, 4 months) in the process. And when I say ‘we,’ I mean my husband, Mark. I followed everyone around and took pictures. 

So before you plant, you need something to plant in. Mark decides to build our own gardening troughs. After a trip to Home Depot, he showed up with all these cedar planks and got to work. Whenever he builds things, he thinks of ways for the children to help. Here he is screwing in castor wheels and the girls are helping fetch the screw and lining them up in the hole.

B lines up the screw


B holds the screw in place


Dad uses an electric drill to screw in the screws


The finished gardening trough!

Next, we put on our rain boots, grab our pail and shovel, then go for a short 30-second hike into the mountains (right behind our house). Oh, by the way, we tried to buy dirt at the nursery, but they didn’t have any to sell! I’m not used to that. I’m used to New Yorkers who will selling you anything you ask for. Oh well. We decide we’ll go digging for our own.

B, M and Dad digging for dirt in the mountains


B had enough. She said, “Dirty. Brooke wants to go home.” Just like that, she picks up her pail and goes home.


Dad and M keep going. M is using the smallest shovel you’ll ever find in the stores. Small yet mighty effective!

To be continued…