Monday, March 30, 2009

Boing, boing, boing


So, according to Danny, here's how it happened:
"Couch. Fall down. Bounce. Boing, boing, boing." This is what he told me when I found him wide awake in his bed around midnight when I got home from work.

As you can see, we're trying to do "RICE" with him ... rest (yeah right), ice (all he wants to do is eat it), compression and elevation.

It's really quite pitiful, actually. He limps around and then starts to run, forgetting that his little ankle is hurt. Next thing I know he's fallen flat on the floor. Don't feel too sorry for him, though. We've told him a hundred times not to jump on the sofa.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wishing I were British

Lately, I've been convinced that there is no good advice in books or articles for dealing with toddlers of the 2-year-old variety. Most of the advice is unrealistic and clearly meant for older toddlers. It seems almost that no one has really cracked the code to the 18 month to 3 year old set. I've gotten the impression that we're just under siege for 18 months. My favorite nugget: Give your toddler some scissors and glue and magazines to create a collage. Clearly this was written by someone with no toddler or a 2-year-old under heavy sedation and/or taped to a chair. (That said, I just gave my little guy some Motrin for nap assistance and teething.) I like James Dobson's Dare to Discipline, but some of it is heavy handed for my taste and, again, for older toddlers.

I get most of my books from thrift shops. The most frequently discarded, I mean, donated book that I see is Ferber's "Solve You Child's Sleep Problems." Sleep training apparently has not solved many a parent's problem with their children's sleep. And therein lies the crux of a book I found recently. The "problem" is usually the parents and their expectations.

The book is "Toddler Taming" and it was written by British pediatrician Dr. Christopher Green. The book doesn't tell me anything new. It's just a reminder of the those things that are so easy to forget in the thick of toddlerhood: toddler proofing, sensible expectations, consistency, avoiding no-win situations and aiming for calm and peace, to name a few. What's nice about the book is that the author is honest about parent-child relations. There's no sugar coating; he states that he's spent a lot of his professional life pulling parents and children away from each other's throats. Sounds like what my husband does around here. Considering the hyper-serious state of parenting in this country, it's pretty obvious why I haven't come across a book so helpful until now. The British seem to take themselves so much less serious than we do. (Monty Python ... need I say more?) It seems that I don't need loads of new-fangled advice; I just need to be reminded of what I already know. Of course, it helps, too, that this book was first written in 1985.

The Daily Groove

Another good resource, when I choose to use it, is The Daily Groove. The author is an unschooling father whose daily emails really make you rethink conventional parenting wisdom. Some days, however, I stubbornly cling to whatever battle I've picked with Danny and close the door on any advice from anywhere. Usually a very bad move, but sometimes it's the only way I learn. This one was particularly helpful this week.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I wasn't kidding

This child has the biggest boogers that we have ever seen. And while Danny was a projectile puker, she is a projectile sneezer. I've found boogers on her clothes and mine hours after she sneezes. Of course, as you can see, she's still beautiful even when she's wearing her boogers. Oh the joys of motherhood!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Holy antenna, Batman!

For months, Jim and I have been talking about ditching the cable and rigging the TVs to pick up the digital signal over the air. It only took me losing my job to actually do it. We broke up with Time Warner Cable last week and hooked up a $10 Big Lots antenna to the digital converter box and, voila, free television over the air in the family room. So, today, we picked up another box with our government coupon, but lacked an antenna for the TV in the living room.

No problem. Apparently, you can make one with materials you may have around the house. Jim made an antenna from an old wok and coaxial cable. He found the instructions online once, got the basic idea and put one together in less than an hour. Click here for a closeup.

It actually works. The picture isn't great, but it works and it's free.

Jungle boogieing through the day

My daughter slept for 10 hours straight last night. I tried to nurse her at 4 a.m. and she just wouldn't have it. I had to come downstairs and pump before going back to bed. And I didn't hear a peep out of Danny until around 8:30 a.m. Something about a good night's rest really makes a mommy believe she can do just about anything in a day or maybe I'm just frantically using the gifted time because I'm anticipating a turn for the worse. Some days they gang up on me, you know. Either way, today has been a good, productive day so far.

I actually dressed to the shoes BEFORE going downstairs. I managed to get dinner ready and in the crock pot by 9:30 while feeding Danny, nursing Fiona and turning the CD back to "Jungle Boogie" at least five times. I got Danny on the potty for a few minutes, too, after he told me "poopie diaper," which is his way of saying he has to poop (no poop this time, though). Then, off to the library where we find out that storytime is cancelled. Rats. That's okay. Danny just played with the puzzles and the other kids. When it was time to go, he followed. We came home, I prepped the raised bed for planting while he "helped." More nursing, Danny played bubbles on his own, lunch (English muffin pizzas), nap, and a quiet hour to plan our garden which we'll begin tilling and planting this weekend.

Danny is now asleep, taking his first nap in days. It would have to be today, too. I have to meet Jim at the bank. We sold the Escort this weekend and are making the transaction this afternoon. Now I must go wake him.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Big brother - the good kind

Danny has surprised us in adjusting to his sister. We had expected a little jealousy; we've seen only engagement, concern and love. When she cries, he urges someone, anyone to hold her, and has even said he'd like to hold her. When she's fussy, he rushes over to entertain her. Fiona responds with smirks and smiling eyes. This weekend, he told Nana "Baby Ona all gone." He missed her while he was at their house. And as his Nana did a nursery rhyme with Fiona, he looked on not with jealousy but with gleeful anticipation because he knew how the silly rhyme ended.

Part of our strategy has always been to have little to no strategy. Moment-to-moment assessments usually guide our approach. During the pregnancy, we kept the "new baby" talk pretty low key. There were no serious talks about babies; after all, he's just 2. We read him the Mr. Rogers' new baby book, but Dan isn't really a sit-down-and-read kind of kid. And the book introduced concepts like feeling jealous or neglected. Sometimes telling a person how they might feel makes them more likely to feel that way. Detecting and explaining these feelings in the moment seemed like a better approach for our son.

When the belly got bigger, we told him the baby was in there. He then tried to put a toy up my shirt for the baby. He put his ear to my belly and would listen to the Doppler when the midwife came. In the last weeks of the pregnancy, he pointed to the midwife and say "Baby." Then, when Fiona's car seat appeared in the van, we told him that one day soon, the baby would be sitting next to him. He just giggled. Interestingly enough, the night before I went into labor, he sat playing on the floor, chanting "Come out, baby, come out." Funny how kids just know. What he also seemed to know was how babies come out ... he repeatedly slid one of his Little People into the neck of a wide-mouth funnel. Hmmm.

This evening, as I finished up dinner, Danny showed me a little plastic bowling ball perched on his thumb. A few minutes later, that ball was next to Fiona in her swing. I smiled. He shared; it came from his heart, not because we asked it of him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My own personal bailout

Today I got a package in the mail from my soon-to-be former employer. Much to my surprise, I do get a severance package. The conventional wisdom this past year has been that laid off part timers would not get severance pay. I'll get two weeks pay for each consecutive year I worked there. That adds up to 10 weeks. My last day will be in mid-April. And now, thanks to the latest porkulus bill out of Washington, part time workers can file for unemployment benefits. According to the Employment Security Commission site, my weekly benefit will be almost $100 less than what I was making. And I'm not ashamed to take it, either. I have been working steadily for almost 20 years now. I've earned it.

So it looks like we'll be fine financially for a while. Even so, we want to put most of my last paychecks and the severance straight into savings. Meanwhile, we're trying to cut the fat in our already lean budget. Funny thing ... the first thing I did Monday was turn down the thermostat. Cable TV is now gone. We've been trying to break up with them for years. Good riddance and hello to an extra $75 a month. Now I need to find cheaper Internet. I had already cut our cell phone bill by using a pay as you go phone. I'm trying to trim the grocery budget. So far, I've come up with a savings of about $60 a month by cutting out ice cream and snack crackers and making yogurt instead of running through six containers a month for Danny's bedtime smoothies. Next step? Potty training. No more diapers ... $30 a month. Luckily, we do cloth with Fiona. Eating out will be rarer than it already is. We're selling one of our three cars. (Anyone need a 1998 Ford Escort?)

This turn of events has given us the urgency to make some changes we've talked about for quite some time. As for me, I am now forced to believe there are good opportunities that I'm qualified for outside the news industry. I'm actually happy to be leaving the job, but cry when I think about leaving my colleagues behind. That is a wound that will take time to heal.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Closed door, opened window

This morning I took the kids to the library for story time, ran into a neighbor there and had a nice conversation with another young mom. She asked how old the baby was and if we had planned to have them so close in age. I explained that we just relied on God's perfect timing since it took us so long to get pregnant with Danny. Then I added, "Besides, I've always been given the strength to deal with whatever comes my way."

When I returned home, I saw my employer's name on the caller ID, checked the message and immediately called back. Today, the door closed on my 15-year career in journalism. I will not likely work in journalism again. Meanwhile I'll be trying hard not to jump out the window God has apparently opened for me.

My job seemed the perfect one to have with two small children. Nights, weekends, no take home work, no need to pay for child care, good pay. I now have to believe that there's a job out there that provides all of those things or that I will be given the strength to accept whatever arises. It seems impossible, but I've learned that impossible is God's specialty.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rainy day projects

It's been raining cats and dogs here for two days and we have two more days to go. Being cooped up these past two days hasn't been too bad. Friday we spent the morning at church playgroup. It was my week to volunteer. We then came home (with a McDonald's Happy Meal and a Big Mac value meal ... yippee!) and we all took naps after lunch (a big YIPPEE!). Today Jim and I both managed to do a project. Jim got another section of kitchen cabinet painted and I sewed a pocket diaper from a newly discovered pattern. (see photos at the end of the post) As for Danny's project today, he pooped in the potty. There are photos of the poopy and the pooper with his poopy ... but we won't post those; we'll keep those to show his wife.

A week or so ago Jim converted the linen closet in our master suite into my sewing space. It's the perfect spot, a triangular space with shelves to the ceiling. An old desk that I refinished a few years ago holds my sewing machine. A desk chair fits perfectly inside the closet. I'm close to the ironing board and a drafting table that is now used as both a cutting and laundry table.

Today's project was the first sewing that I've done in six weeks. You may wonder how I could do this with two small children while my husband worked downstairs on his own project. Danny is a master of self-entertainment these days. He disappeared shortly after his nap and Jim found him in his bedroom playing on the floor with the door partially shut. Fiona actually just sat in her chair and stared and talked to me while I sewed.

As for the pocket diaper, I made it from some flannel fabric. The diaper is basically a fitted cloth diaper with an opening to stuff with a prefold diaper or a soaker. A waterproof cover then goes over the diaper. This arrangement is a three-step process. Right now, we use a two-step process - a prefold diaper laid inside a diaper cover. Seems to me that if you're going to use pocket diapers, it's best to make it an all-in-one diaper with a waterproof fabric for the outer layer. I tried the diaper on my little test baby and it fit okay, not great. Of course, as I discovered, stuffing these pocket diapers is time consuming. And one thing I don't have is the time to wrestle a prefold diaper or soaker into the opening with a squirming infant on the table who could spray pee or poop at any moment. Another drawback is that when this diaper is soiled, there are two items to wash instead of just one. Right now, I can reuse the diaper cover several times. The appeal of these pocket diapers eludes me right now. The next pattern I will try is an all-in-one diaper that will require a mail-order purchase of pricier fabric and a little more time and brain power.

Here are some photos:
From Sew Baby!

Crooked smile

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Musical kids

Fiona dances. Unfortunately, you can't hear the music in this video, but it's there and she's grooving to it. Notice the drumming later in the video ... that would be Danny. He's actually getting pretty good.

Danny rocks out. This is Jim's doing. Danny prefers the Led Zeppelin and Grateful Dead CDs to Raffi when we're in the van. He sings actually sings along, something we may have to curb once his words become a little clearer. It would be really inappropriate for a 2-year-old to be singing about vitamins, reds and cocaine, don't you think? And every once in a while, he lets out a primal rock and roll scream from his car seat while I'm driving. It's unnerving.

Enjoy the videos.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Synchronized sleeping

When I got pregnant with Fiona, Jim accurately predicted what our life would be like when she got here:

"Baby's up. Danny's up. Baby's up. Danny's up."

Apparently, the children take turns sleeping. And they even have two-stage sensors that go off first when our heads hit the pillow and next when one of us (usually me) dares to drift off to sleep.

In Fiona's first few weeks, I was able to synchronize naps. Now that she has woken up a bit and Danny seems less interested in naps, it's getting a bit trickier. Fiona is usually asleep after lunch and while I rush to get Danny settled in his room. It takes him almost an hour these days to get settled. I try to sleep as he's winding down, but can't. At this point, Fiona's still wriggling around, nursing on and off and fussing. As soon as Danny finally settles down and Fiona slips into a sound, drama-free sleep, I'm too wound up and frustrated to sleep. Fiona then sleeps until dinner time and Danny sleeps until about 3:30 ... and me? No rest. Time for another Diet Coke and to get started on dinner.

Nighttime is a different story. Danny goes down to bed beautifully these days, but does chat with himself and his stuffed menagerie for a while. Fiona just nurses on and off for hours while I watch TV, surf the Internet, write or try to clean up the kitchen and toy room. I try to put her in the crib before I go to bed. Last night, I told Jim after putting her down, "This should last of all 10 minutes." More like 10 seconds. I go back to her room, put her in the bed with me and sleep for about 45 minutes until Danny wakes up crying. I go in there and he's asking for Daddy. No problem kiddo ... I'm going back to bed, thank you very much.

Luckily, last night Fiona was back in "I'm too tired to nurse" mode. After two nights of the 3 to 4 a.m. feeding, burping, changing and booger suctioning routine (by the way, this girl has the biggest boogers I've ever seen), I needed a break. She slept from 12:45 to around 4:30. Jim took her downstairs, brought her back around 6 a.m. and she slept until about 8 a.m.

This post made possible courtesy of a ring sling, PBS Kids and my top desk drawer which Danny is sifting through right now.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Days of exhaustion, years of wonder

At the end of some days, it dawns on me that I haven't been alone, really alone in quite some time, perhaps days. Other realizations? I haven't used the bathroom in five hours, I've eaten very little and had even less water, I've forgotten to take my vitamins (again) and I've had a 12-pound infant on my body most of the day even through meal preparation, chores and one of the few potty breaks I got.

And I honestly don't know where I got the energy or patience to deal with this. Today I mustered enough brain power to tally how often Fiona nurses in a 24-hour period. Right now, she's eating every two to three hours. She eats even more in the evening between around 4:30 and 8:30 when the end-of-day activities are in motion - dinner, cookies, outside time if it's nice, wrestling and drumming with daddy if it's dark, cold or rainy, baths, pajamas, smoothy, Curious George, bed for Danny. We don't have a bedtime routine for her yet and probably won't for months to come.

I often go back and read blog posts from Danny's first six weeks to two months to get an idea of what I'm in for. But the most instructive posts are those labeled "sleep." Those remind me of how Danny became a 2-year-old who readily goes to bed 99 percent of the time. He sleeps when he's tired and likely does so because we allowed him to stay up until he was tired during his first year. In short, we let him experience what tired felt like instead of insisting on a sleep schedule tailored to our needs. We now have a little boy who is confident and flexible enough to adapt to new situations, like having sleepovers at Nana and PopPop's house or going to sleep in different places or moving from a crib to a bed. He's not been trained into one bedtime routine. We have a toddler who actually heads for the stairs on his own when Curious George is over most nights and sleeps alone despite having coslept with us for much of his first year.

That said, we are moving into new territory with him - he may be trying to give up his nap, but I know he still needs it. I've been flexible about when nap time starts, but not about having a rest. I don't normally call it nap time, either. Each day, when I leave his room, I say "Mommy loves you, it's time for resting." Everybody in this house rests in the afternoon, even Jim does when he's home. (Siestas are genius. I don't know why every culture doesn't adopt them.)

As I write this, Danny is in his bed talking to himself and has been for the past hour. This afternoon we went to the lake. At the playground there, Danny had a conversation with two older boys. Jim said the boys began talking about a table - part of the jungle gym - and he began to chime in, talking about the table. He was just delighted when he realized that, for the first time ever, he was having a conversation with other kids. Apparently, he's practicing his conversing skills and who am I to interfere with that?

So, the energy and the patience are likely coming from the very source that seems to be draining me - my ever progressing toddler.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The zoo

No, I'm not talking about our home. Jim and I took Danny and Fiona to the zoo today in Asheboro. We had a good time, although it was exhausting for us all. I had all 12 pounds of Fiona strapped to my body and was pushing an empty stroller with a diaper bag in the basket for much of the two and a half hours we were there. When Danny wasn't in the stroller, poor Jim was directing and chasing him down. And somehow every trail in the park went uphill. Seems like that would be a physical impossibility, but some genius managed to pull it off. We think Danny enjoyed the outing, but it's hard to tell.

Here are some photos from our day. Enjoy!
From The zoo

Monday, March 02, 2009

It's just fact ...

  • No matter how slowly you walk, your toddler will always be dawdling ten steps behind you.
  • Your children will begin crying the minute you put your head on the pillow.
  • Your children will poop in their diapers as soon as you're all ready to leave the house.
  • Even if your baby just took a bottle, she will want to nurse the minute you walk in the door just make sure the milk is still there.
  • Even if your baby is sound asleep, she will wake up the minute you put a bite of food in your mouth.
That is all.

Danny's perspective

Danny's conversations with us are finally moving beyond discussions about water. For a long time, his most effusive conversations were about water coming down or going round and round or going down the drain.

Today he explained to Jim how my breast pump works.

"Booby. Booby horns," Danny said while putting his hands on the pump and then on his own chest. "Breast pump. Milk come out for Ona."

And now when she cries, he says, "Baby Ona crying. Hold it." Obviously, we need to work on pronouns!