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Cupid needs a diaper change and a nap

Legend says Santa hits white sand beaches on December 26, a well-earned reward for the hard work of gifting the world with knick knacks and board games and electronic book readers. What does Cupid do the day after Valentine’s Day? Is he smugly thrusting his fat baby toes into sand on a pristine shore?

I just spent my 15th Valentine’s Day with my husband. I have no doubt that he loves me and I love him. We don’t need Cupid’s inspiration for our hearts to zing. I am impervious to the arrows because Cupid is pretty much just a big baby. Don’t let the lustrous locks of hair or mad archery skills fool you. Like most tots, he is motivated by an appetite for mischief. Plus, his brain is still developing.

When Cupid counts, he says, “One, two, free, eleventy, nineteen, six, ess, four.”

Cupid is nutso about Elmo.

My oldest kids are in middle school. To them, Valentine’s Day is full of mysterious

Couple’s efforts transform system, find homes for thousands of Chinese orphans

Lily Nie is the ultimate tiger mother, matriarch of 9,350 children whose adoptions were facilitated by Chinese Children Adoption International, the Centennial organization she established in 1992.

Instead of seeking the limelight, she prefers to slip to the side. Her office door is papered with a giant handwritten tribute, one of many outsized Mother’s Day gifts, including bouquets of paper flowers made from thank- you notes, that Nie has received over the past 18 years.

Most of the notes are from the Chinese children she’s helped place. Behind each childish hand are parents who adore Nie, 47, and her husband, Joshua Zhong, who co-founded the agency.

“Lily runs

Mama Drama: Positives for Power Struggles

Dear Mama Drama:

My four-year-old son has become exceptionally defiant and I am at a loss of how to respond.

When I ask him to do something, he tells me no. When I tell him to do it or he will not be able to watch TV or he will lose his toys he isn’t cleaning up, he says he doesn’t care. I have threatened to put his toys in the trash and he tells me that he’ll just buy more when he is a grown up.

I am worried that these struggles are causing angry feeling between me and my son all the time. Any ideas you have are appreciated.

~Struggling Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Struggling:

Constant battles with your children take a toll on all of you emotionally. Power struggles can be so exasperating and we often don’t recognize we’re in them until our heels are dug in and our backs are against the wall. Then, we feel like we’re giving in if we try to change something, so we dig in further. It’s a very human response, but requires a change of perspective if we want to alter the course of our parent-child interactions.

A good rule of thumb is that if you feel like you’ve picked up that rope for a tug-of-war (I often notice my fists clenched in this moment of recognition), let it go and take a breath or three or four. Think about your options. Ask yourself if this is a battle you need to pick or if you can look at the situation differently. Be ready to say, “Let’s start over…”and come up with a different plan of action.

When figuring out what to do about challenging behavior it is important to determine what needs the child is meeting through his or her behavior. Your son sounds like he is working to exert some control in his life and he is testing in out every situation he can find. He is also avoiding tasks he doesn’t want to do and appears to be getting a fair amount of attention from his behavior.

The first step I suggest is to create lots of opportunities for him to have control by giving him as many choices as possible throughout the day. Make sure the choices you offer are reasonable, limited, and that you can live with them if he makes that choices. If we take a moment to look, we can offer choices for what and how our children do things all day long. “Do you want to wear jeans or sweatpants? Blue socks or white socks? Put your shirt on first or your pants? Brush your teeth first or wash your face? With help or by yourself? Cheerios or oatmeal for breakfast? Milk or water to drink?” The possibilities are truly endless if we take that extra moment to think of them.

Next let’s look at attention. Logically we think kids would want positive attention over negative attention. Most of the time that is true, but sometimes any attention will do and kids learn quickly how to get it. Begin focusing on the positive choices your son makes, again down to the miniscule actions that we expect them to do every day. “Thank you for washing your hands with soap. You ate all of your oatmeal! Thank you for putting your book on the shelf. You remembered to hang up your coat. You used your napkin without being asked.” Giving lots of attention for the actions we want our children to engage in encourages them to repeat those actions again.

We all avoid tasks that we don’t want to do at some time, but an incentive can often make completing that task easier to do. Two strategies can help you here: using contingencies, first this/then that, and a positive behavior chart.

When asking your son to clean up, think about what he wants to do next. “First clean up toys, then we can go to the park. First put the blocks away, then we’ll have snack. First put the puzzles away, then we’ll make cookies. First put the trains away, then we’ll read a book.” It is easy to fall into the trap of threatening to take things away, but it is usually more effective and pleasant when we can offer positives options.

You can create a behavior chart for your son focused on following directions right away. It can be as simple as a piece of paper or white board with his name on it or you can make it elaborate and fancy. You can also have him help make it to increase his interest. Explain to him how it works. “Every time you follow directions without fussing we will put a smiley face on your chart. When you earn five smiley faces we will do ___ together.” Then brainstorm a list of things he’d like to earn by following directions. Be creative by thinking about favorite activities and things that will involve positive interactions between the two of you. Playing Candyland, having a ten minute dance party, going for a walk, having a picnic, painting, making cookies, riding bikes, taking a bubble bath, etc. Try to stay away from buying toys or having lots of activities that cost money. You can throw those in sporadically or have those as bigger incentives for several days of meeting his goal.

As he gets better at following directions begin to increase the number of smiley faces he needs to earn, always keeping that positive spin. “You earned five smiley faces five days in a row, yeah! I bet you can earn seven smiley faces today.”

As you begin to look for and recognize the positive choices your son makes, you will both feel happier and more successful. It often feels like a lot of work at first, but think of the pay off of the fun times you will have together versus the battles you could have instead. A great resource for more ideas is Love and Logic Magic for the Early Childhood Years by Jim and Charles Fay.

Sometimes behavior patterns are so difficult for families to change that they need more intensive support from a mental health professional. Please don’t hesitate to seek more assistance if you feel unable to implement these strategies on your own.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Underneath it all, teaching anatomical correctness is correct

I really messed up with my older kids.

I taught them that the protuberance on their faces is called a nose. If I had my wits about me as a young mom, I might have seen the wisdom in teaching them that it is called a Sniff Sniff or maybe even a Snot Hovel.

Nose is so in-your-face. There’s nothing to soften the blow or diminish embarrassment when one of them has to tell me his nose is runny or she had a bloody nose at school. It’s uncomfortable to talk about noses in such unapologetically honest terms.

Plus, it would be much cuter to hear a 3-year-old say his

How to lighten the burden of bed rest

Go directly to bed. Do not stop at the washing machine. Do not collect your thoughts. If you roll a good number at your next OB appointment, you might be released.

During the last month of my most recent pregnancy, I was put on bed rest.

To many moms, the idea of being sentenced to bed for a spurt of time sounds heavenly. It’s license to read, write, nap, watch movies, and daydream. It’s not as delicious and cozy as it sounds, however.

My most pressing worry was the care of my older kids. At the time, I had 7 kids spanning the ages of 18 months to 13. I am wildly blessed to have a mom who could drop everything to help run our household. My husband has a demanding job and he needed to save time off for our baby boy’s arrival, so I couldn’t rely solely on him. Despite knowing that life downstairs hummed and tumbled along at its usual frenetic pace, I worried.

Baby and I survived our month surfing a Doctor’s Choice mattress. I’m back to smooshing down crazy hair before school and lugging people and things around.

Even if you never go on bed rest, chances are you’ll know someone who is advised to get in touch with her

Predictions for a Very Viral 2011

In January, someone is going to catch a cold.

February will bring some snow and a cold.

March will find us at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Someone will have a cold and will be wearing green ON HIS FACE.

The Easter baskets in April will be full of Cadbury Mini Eggs, but we will miss church due to someone having a cold.

In May, things get really hectic before the end of the school year. Immune systems will be strained. Colds.

June will bring wild sunshine and colds caught from ice cream cones scooped by someone who should have stayed home from work.

Fireworks will shatter the velvety night sky. Emotions will run high. Is that sniffling caused by patriotic pride or viral overload?

Back to school in August! Hello, new germies brought in from vacations to places far and flung. I wish the school district would ban air travel for families within two weeks of the first day of school.

September means harvest time. Perhaps a trip to the orchard? Pluck an apple from the tree and—Oh! Is that a worm?—No, she just has a cold.

There I’ll be, in late October, trying to convince a child his brothers will collect plenty of candy on his behalf. Go back to bed. The bowl of chicken noodle soup costume will wait until next year.

On Thanksgiving Day, I will have to break up a fight over who will get to test the mighty and mysterious powers of the turkey’s wishbone. I may break it myself, wishing with all my might that an easy and sensible cure for the common cold will be found.

In December, someone is going to catch a cold.

Mama Drama: Stay at Home Success

Dear Mama Drama:

We have recently adopted a three-year-old twins. I am fortunate to be able to stay home to help them adjust to our family and bond with us.

I love children and am thrilled to finally have two of my own, but I have little experience with keeping them busy for an entire day. I would love some ideas for creating meaningful and fun activities for them.

~Inexperienced Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Inexperienced:

Congratulations on your growing family! Three-year-olds are busy little people learning, exploring, and discovering the world and themselves. Keeping up with their energy can be

After son’s rescue, Denver mom gets turn to save a life

When seven men lifted a car off 3-year-old Josh Johnson last year and saved his life, his family members talked of how they hoped they could one day repay the debt to the good Samaritans.

And, in classic pay-it-forward manner, the opportunity came nearly a year later during the Brighton Turkey Trot race Nov. 20.

Josh Johnson’s mother, Karrina, a nurse, was running in the race when she came upon a man in his 50s seemingly having a heart attack. She performed CPR while another woman tried to help resuscitate the stranger.

The man, whose

Popcorn balls and other ghosts of Christmas Past

They are impossible to eat, but look nice in a big bowl on the kitchen table.

Popcorn balls were a part of every Christmas celebration held by my mom’s side of the family. My grandma and my great-grandmother made them using the same ancient techniques the Mayans used to make the bricks to build the pyramids of the Yucatan peninsula. The pyramids still stand. The hard part for that Mesoamerican civilization was lifting them off what must have been massive sheets of wax paper.

Somewhere near Montrose, Colorado, there is a landfill with several layers of pink and green popcorn balls defying the forces of erosion and decay. Maybe someday Wheel of Fortune will give away fabulous trips to the Popcorn Balls Fields of Montrose County.

Even though I never managed to chew through an entire popcorn ball, I

Genetic screening test helps older moms decide on implanting embryos

An increasingly popular genetic-screening test is offering new hope to older women trying to get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization.

The procedure, offered by three Colorado fertility clinics, examines cells from 5-day-old embryos to determine which are likeliest to become healthy full-term babies.

Fertility specialists say the new test, which evaluates a larger number of chromosomes than other practices, is significantly more promising for women in their late 30s.

And it might be safer for embryos, which have been more routinely tested at a fragile three days.

“It is as if we are turning back the biological clock for women ages 38 to 42,” says William Schoolcraft, director and founder of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.

For such women as