Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Land of confusion

Welcome to a world where a recalcitrant 3 year old is put back in diapers and an obstinate 9 month old sleeps until 9:30 a.m. after being up three times the night before and thus begins skipping morning naps well before any "baby expert" says they should. (Actually, we all slept until 9:30 a.m. two days in a row. And, no, it doesn't make me any less exhausted.) I am lost in the land of confusion without a map or a compass or even a sherpa.

Almost every night I skim through a favorite parenting guide, "Your Baby and Child" by Penelope Leach, searching for clues, something that I perhaps missed that may be the key to why one won't train and the other won't sleep.

The worst part of going back to diapers, besides the searing sting of parental failure, is that Danny knows how to remove his own clothes and will attempt to remove his diaper AFTER he has pooped in it. He's confused. Danny asks for a pull up in the morning. I oblige but tell him that he can't poop in it. Two hours later, he does. I put him back in a diaper. He later tries to pull it down and makes an unholy, poopy mess. He sits on the potty, squeezes out a tiny tinkle and says "I all done." He knows on some level that he should use the bathroom instead of his diapers, yet his exasperated mother put him back in diapers. The laundry and the utter despair every time he soiled himself was just too much to bear. We thought about just putting rubber pants over his underwear but I am in no mood to clean up poopy underwear. Period.

I'm confused. It is beyond baffling as to why he progressed so far on his own and now barely cares about the potty. He had been using it on his own without reminders, pulling his own pants down and back up, and even taught himself to pee standing up.

As for the infant, I've probably screwed up her sleep habits for life. When Danny was 9 months old, he was self-soothing (he would suck his fingers) and sleeping through most nights (6 to 8 hours). I like to think that we took some steps to get him there because, really, we had no one else to focus on. With number two, it's different. My attention is split, my motives are different. I could once tolerate a few rough nights and keep the long-range goal in sight. Now my goal is to get her back to sleep as quickly and quietly as possible - future implications be damned - so I can get some rest and so she doesn't wake the rest of the household (though that's really not likely - the rest of the household is comprised of two men who "suffer" from nocturnal deafness). As a result, I break several so-called rules - I nurse her to sleep, I put her down KO'd instead of drowsy, I don't let her cry for very long, I feed her each time she wakes. I feel like I am delaying her grasp of a vital skill - how to self-soothe. She doesn't suck her fingers, she doesn't like pacifiers. She likes human contact which is why co-sleeping with her is a disaster. Fiona literally sits straight up in the bed upon waking and claps her hands and shouts at me at 4 in the morning. Not cool, baby, not cool.

Sir Topham Hat may appear at any moment to sternly scold me about causing confusion and delay (at which point I will hurl that fat, little *@$&*@#&$ into the nearest wood chipper). Confusion and delay -- just some of the many parental services I provide.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bad mommy?

Last night, as we embarked on our van ride home from Nana and PopPop's in the dark, Danny whined about turning the lights on, as he does every time we ride in the dark. I told him no and gave him my standard explanation, with a twist.

"Danny, Daddy can't see to drive when the lights are on." And here's where we veer off into wicked, exasperated mommy behavior ... "If he can't see, Daddy will crash into a tree and we'll all die. Okay?," I said sweetly.

"Get a boo boo," Danny says, solemnly nodding his head. (Apparently, that's his concept of death right now and that's okay with me.)

We heard one more murmur about the lights. My husband pulled the car over and barked confidently "I want a quiet ride home, Dan."

Enough said.

And for good measure, here's a list of things I have NOT done in the past 24 hours. Really.
  • I did not echo my mother's words by telling my 3 yo to stop crying or I'd give him something to cry about. (And I didn't even have a plan.)
  • I did not wave the white flag and put my almost 3 yo son back in diapers after a month of him routinely peeing in and now also pooping in his pants ... because that would send a mixed message to my son. (actually, he's getting very few of the messages we send right now, so I'm not sure he really gets the implications of going back to diapers.)
  • I did not bribe my son with M&M's in the grocery store ... because that would make me a pushover. (does it make it any better that it was DARK chocolate M&M's? or is that canceled out by the fact that we were there to buy diapers?)
  • I did not nurse my daughter for 20 minutes this morning, let her cry for 45 minutes and then go in and nurse her again ... because that would have taught her that crying for 45 minutes works AND reinforced her nurse-to-sleep habit.
  • I did not eat half a bag of Cheetos (no, not the snack size bag, the 8 oz bag) ... because that would be a really bad example for the son I'm trying to teach to subsist on more than fruit snacks and gum.
  • I did not let my daughter eat goldfish crackers off of a sheet pan on the floor (and neither did my husband) ... because that would just be too, too sad and possibly negligent. I didn't let my kids eat goldfish crackers off the actual floor either. (well, yes, I did ... as you can see from the photo.)
On a semi-positive note:

I've found one discipline trick that works with him. I count. I rarely get past the number two. If I get to three, he sits for two minutes. Boy does he hate that. Last night I used it when he was whining about having a piece of gum.

"You have three seconds to stop whining about gum. One."

"Piece of gum," he cried.

"That's two."

"Piece of gum," he cried, louder, and now hanging off the kitchen table.

I held up a third finger and raised my eyebrows ominously. He turned on his heels and walked out of the kitchen without a sound.

(Whew, that was close ... a rare near-three.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At least my kitchen cooperates with me ...

Last night, I made dinner from a recipe on, a favorite site of mine when I'm bored with my usual cookbooks. It was a tofu stir-fry with orange-chili sauce much like the orange beef dish served at many Chinese restaurants. I wanted so much to share the link on Facebook, attaching it to my status update. But alas, Facebook was and still is being very uncooperative.

The last thing I need in my life right now is ONE MORE PERSON OR THING that is uncooperative. Geesh.

Batteries that die while I'm using the mouse, two-year-olds who once used the potty independently and with ease but now simply will not, 9 month olds who still get up twice a night to nurse AND cry when I put them down, and, now, stupid social networking site that simply will not do my bidding ... all on my poop list right now.

The only place lately where the universe seems to cooperate with me is in my kitchen. When my husband comes home from work around 4, I retreat there and cook a meal that I have planned in advance and actually thought about with excitement at least once during the day. Believe it or not, unless I've gotten a shower that day, too, that is the one thing I do for myself each day.

When I put rice in a pot, cover it with water and simmer, I can be reasonably assured that 45 minutes later there will be a steaming hot pile of rice. A lightly-oiled wok will nicely stir fry some veggies and tofu. Just the right amounts of orange juice, ground chili paste, soy sauce, sugar and corn starch will make my dinner taste like it came from the Chinese restaurant down the street without having to drag my Chinese food-craving self, hubby and two small children down there. (The egg rolls are a different story ... I am still learning the "art" of deep frying. We had to open windows last night after I burned the first batch. My apologies to the neighbors ... )

Some people (and you know who you are) think I cook because I'm a control freak who wants to make sure her family eats well at all times. Not so ... I let my son eat fruit snacks with red dye in them and bribe him with candy corn on a regular basis. Hell, he's even eaten that awful Cheez Whiz. Decent, somewhat healthy meals are just a fringe benefit of my little hobby ... and my chef husband is such a gracious guinea pig. I can't tell you how many of my bombed experiments that man has eaten over the years. And he has never once criticized my cooking or given me unsolicited advice. (In fact, one of our "fights" early in our marriage was over just how long to cook the bacon in the oven. He wouldn't even give solicited advice ... and I still haven't gotten a straight answer on that one.)

So, where were we? Oh, the recipe. Here's a link. It's called Orange-Beef Style Tofu Stir Fry. It was so yummy that I just had to share it. Even my 2yo son lapped it up. That's right ... the 2yo who loves his Curious George snacks and is addicted to cheese sticks and grapes happily ate tofu. You can even use the stir-fry sauce with beef, chicken or pork. It was also so very yummy that I will probably make it five more times because that's just what hungry pregnant ladies do.

Monday, October 19, 2009

No caffeine for you

This morning, Danny asked me for some of my tea ... again. This is an every morning occurrence. He's fascinated with my tea. Today he put his cereal spoon in his cup of milk and called it tea. The conversation usually goes like this:

"Tea is for mommies, Danny. It has caffeine in it."

He stares and nods.

"Caffeine will make you crazy," I say, waving my arms.

He laughs.

Today, I switched up a bit by asking what caffeine does.

"Rile mommy up," he said, grinning and waving his arms.

That's right, kid!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Grasping at straws

I've been a bit preoccupied lately but I have been trying to keep track of the sweet things my son does or even the times he actually listens and obeys instead of displaying the most stunning case of mother deafness that I have ever witnessed. It's been a little harder than I expected - maybe because he really is that difficult or perhaps because I'm pregnant, exhausted and dealing with an infant who has a severe sleep allergy. But here goes:
  1. Fiona was crying on a recent van ride. Danny told her "Shh. Look out the window, baby Ona. Look at the cars." He was trying to comfort her just like I try to comfort him when he's upset in the car. Well, actually, he was yelling at her but his heart was in the right place.
  2. Fiona was crying in the playroom. I came in to find Danny cleaning up the playroom, including the toys that she was playing with. He was cleaning up so he could get his train tracks out. We always tell him to put some toys away before getting out his train tracks. Something finally sank in ... maybe I don't need to get his hearing checked.
  3. And here's something you don't normally hear from a 2-year-old: "More Lima beans." He spied some beans in the Brunswick stew that Jim and I were eating. (I didn't give him any; I figured he wouldn't be interested what with the grapes and freshly grilled cheese on his plate.) We told him they were Lima beans and gave him one. I spent the next five minutes picking Lima beans out of my own soup for my ravenous little bean boy. (He's not big on meat, but he can put away some rice and beans.)
  4. This morning, I tried to verbally tear him away from the electric blanket controls on our bed. Breakfast was waiting and we had to get to church. "Lights," he said, mesmerized. "Danny." Pause. "Danny." Louder. "You have three seconds. One ... " He turned and came immediately. He usually comes on two.
Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel isn't an oncoming train after all.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Yes, he can be charming

Surprise, surprise, our 2yo son can be charming and fun. I've decided to start writing down, publicly here or privately, those things my son does that are funny, charming, surprising in their atypicalness ... you get idea. It's not that these things go unnoticed on a daily basis. They're the things that are recalled in conversation with my husband in the quiet times when babies are sleeping. They're just not recalled readily in the fog of daily mommy-hood. So here's today's list:
  1. Danny sat on the back porch with me for almost an HOUR this morning gluing cars that I cut from magazines onto a piece of paper. It's the longest he's ever sat down for a craft that wasn't play dough.
  2. We told him tonight that his full name is Danny Meehan. He thought it over and shouted "Danny Meehan" while pumping his open hand at us. Get it? Me hand.
  3. Danny and I talked about Aunt Jackie coming on an airplane Monday night. He informed me that she was going to "land off." Get it? That's what a plane does when it leaves the land ... Land off!
So there you have it. A brief reprieve, a bright spot, a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you, God!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Anything but that ... please?

Among my favorite reading materials is a passage about acceptance that always challenges me - and most of the time really ticks me off. Read it and you'll understand why:
"And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. ... I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes."

My challenge these days is reconciling this serenity-inducing notion of acceptance with the responsibility I have as a parent to ensure that my son does not remain the wickedly self-centered, demanding, pants-wetting 2 year old that he is today. As if I don't have enough on my mind already, thank you very much.

I often come away from this passage feeling as if I'm being too hard on my son for expecting him to use the potty, mind his manners at the table, not hit or take toys from his sister or his friends, and on and on and on. Of course, this is not the passage's intent in the least, but that doesn't stop me from taking it to this (il)logical extreme.

How am I suppose to transcend his banshee-like screams in response to simple requests and somehow end up with acceptance and serenity? How do I accept his behavior as being exactly as it should be at this moment and, at the same time, want it to change (or not have occurred in the first place)?

This really seems impossible, especially when I want anything but acceptance to be the answer to all my problems. See, I have my own ideas ... a child who doesn't talk back, misbehave 90 percent of the time and wet his pants once a day would be real nice. That's the answers to my problems, God. Can you just work on that, please?

As you can tell, I have more questions than answers at this point. Pray for me, if you will.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The magic library

I look forward to Mondays. It's library day, and the day we follow the trash trucks all along our route to the library and sometimes around our block upon returning. It's been our routine for months. Our tiny little library has a cute children's section with lots of puzzles, tables and chairs and this bead thingy that attracts children as if it were coated with cotton candy.

Until recently, we went early, long before story time actually started at 10:30 because Danny just wasn't a story time kid and Fiona needed her morning nap (that's a whole other story right there). Every month or so, we'd visit the room as the kids began pouring in. I'd ask, "What do you think, Dan? Wanna stay to sing and dance with the kids?" He'd survey the room thoughtfully, and then turn around and tell me "Uh uh" or, more recently, "No, not like it." And then we'd check out our books and leave to go stalk the trash man. When he was younger and much less verbal, he'd just scream and bolt from the room as soon as the music started, leading me to wonder whether he'd gotten the claustrophobia gene or, worse yet, the extreme anti-conformity gene from yours truly.

Three weeks ago something changed. Danny walked into the story time room all on his own, got himself a little mat, plopped down on the floor and eagerly, rather patiently (for a 2 year old) waited for the music to start. He asked me to turn the music on and to do the bubbles, but miraculously understood that he needed to wait. Then something even more amazing happened ... he began following along with the rhymes and motions and sat down for each of the stories.

Did the librarian put a spell on my child? Was there some magic conformity pixie dust falling from the vents there? Maybe it's in those bubbles she blows during story time. Did I just witness my defiant, selectively deaf and hopelessly distracted maniac of a 2 year old SIT DOWN at the musical suggestion of this library sorcerer?

I have only two questions ... can she be our new nanny? And can I have some of that magic conformity dust?