Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This is only a test ...

... but feel free to read anyway.

My children are testing me. Both of them. At the same time.


This is one time I would prefer that they NOT share.

Let me explain.

Danny is almost three. The past week has been a melange of every stage he's been through the past year, alternating between the defiance and compliance, independence and helplessness, demanding and, well, there really is no alternative yet. It's like the two-year-old farewell tour without a good theme song. This weekend we instituted the rules. There are only two: Don't hurt each other and Listen. I even made a little picture chart for the fridge, as you can see. He understands it pretty well and often walks by the fridge and yells at the fighting boys, "Nooooo." Of course, the first night, poor Fiona took the brunt of his testing of the rules. Within 15 minutes of him discovering new poster on the fridge and us explaining the rules to him, he pushed his sister over and came to tell me about it and later threw a doll at her head right in front of me.

As for the baby, we've put her through sleep boot camp. Don't worry, it's not as cruel as it sounds and Fiona has adjusted quite well to no night feedings. She more than makes up for it during the day. We've had a minimum of extended real crying sessions and when those do occur someone (the one without the boobs) comforts her. Last night we had a bad night. She woke up two hours after I put her down and cried, no SCREAMED, for nearly an hour. She had been fed and snuggled and was not wet or poopy. Nothing could be done for her. She just wanted to be out of her crib. She woke again at 4:30 and whimpered on and off for two hours before I went in to get her up for the day. There was NO WAY IN HELL she was getting up for the day at 4:30 or even 5:30. Essentially she's had eight total hours of sleep.

And the day has only just begun ...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stick a fork in us

After three days of not asking, cajoling or otherwise begging our son to go to the bathroom, he did the absolutely unthinkable.

Jim found him in his room at nap time with no Pull Up on and a poop on the floor. Two days ago he put his own poop in the potty. He's completely devolved from a boy who once went to the bathroom independently to a child who poops on the floor.

Rewards do not work.

Punishment does not work.

Frequent, somewhat forced visits to the bathroom do not work.

Clear expectations do not work.

Positive encouragement does not work.

Putting the child back in diapers does not work. (He just tries to take them off after he poops and makes an unholy mess that makes mommy cry.)

Ignoring the issue does not work.

I'm not even sure that naked time would work anymore since pooping on the floor is apparently now an option for him.

We are officially out of ideas.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fiona's last stand

It's always dangerous to breathe a word about the sleep habits of a certain 10-month-old when she is actually sleeping well. It's been six nights, each one better than the last. I'm holding my breath less and less as we see clear progress. We're determined not to let her backslide here and learning not to be afraid of her protests. (People, this one is extremely indignant and it's best if we steel ourselves now against the furious willfulness that is Miss Fiona.)

Fiona had been waking up every two hours between midnight and 7 a.m. for weeks on end. And I, of course, would go in there and nurse her every time. It was the quickest route back to sleep for all of us, but was taking a disastrous toll on me. I couldn't even carry on a conversation with my husband. Seriously. I would unwittingly tell him the same exact thing twice in the span of two minutes.

Something had to be done.

Friday night, the kids both spent the night at Nana and PopPop's. Jim and I were well-rested and by Saturday night, we were finally ready for action. Well, actually, I was ready to do absolutely nothing. The goal was and still is to not feed her between midnight and 7 a.m.

Saturday night, I fed her around 11:30 p.m. She wouldn't go back to sleep and spent the next two hours wailing on and off, furiously pacing in her crib, and flailing her arms while my husband went in to comfort her. He reported that she just wanted someone in there with her. She laid down and was quiet when he was in there, but cried as soon as he left. She finally fell asleep at around 2:20 a.m. and slept until about 7 a.m.

Sunday and Monday nights, she had her pre-midnight feeding and then woke up at 1:30 and 4:30 a.m. and whimpered for 10 minutes before drifting back off. No one budged. And I don't think that's cruel. I suspect that she has been overtired and because we don't co-sleep with her, getting her in and out of her crib several times a night was not restful for her. She'd also been fighting us so hard on her morning nap that I just gave up for a few weeks. We're back to two naps a day and she's going to bed earlier.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights, she woke only at 4:30 and cried for 15 minutes before drifting back off. The 4:30 wake up may last longer since that feeding has been consistent since birth. (In fact, she was born around 4:30 in the morning.) But, then again, last night, she skipped the 4:30 wake up and woke crying at 6 a.m.

This is progress ... despite my EXTREME aversion to waking up before 7 a.m.

Since the 11:00 feeding has gotten shorter and shorter each night, I will begin cutting it out on Saturday. It is absolutely amazing how even a little extra sleep has helped me to follow through on this.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On strike, part 3

Still on strike here. I wondered what would happen if I just didn't say a word to my obstreperous little tot about the potty or food or getting dressed all morning.

Here's what:

He went through three Pull Ups before noon, one of which contained a poop that he casually dumped into the potty and flushed, announcing matter of factly, "I pooped."

I fixed only what he asked for. And he only asked for most things after he saw me fixing for myself - peanut butter and jelly sammie, a kiwi, some Pirate's Booty. So today I actually ate well instead of fixing food that he doesn't eat and starving myself and that new baby I'm growing.

He was still in his pajamas by nap time. Getting him up there proved less difficult than I thought, what with me being on strike and all. A few gentle warnings, a choice - you walk or I carry - and finally a count to three. I carried him up. He finally wanted to get out of his pajamas when he was in bed. Go figure.

It even works well with the baby. She's been doing her own thing all day, too. Right now, we're listening to my EmmyLou Harris channel on Pandora and she's tearing apart my office supply cabinet. Having a blast if you ask me! My husband has been telling me this for years ... ignore the kids, let them do their own thing, they're happier that way. I should listen to him more often.

Of course, when he comes home, he'll probably be tempted to cross the picket line. That's okay. I'll take scab labor any day.

On strike, part 2

So, he's up. He came downstairs half-naked and threw his Pull Up tangled in his pajama bottoms down the stairs and screamed "HELP." We got a new Pull Up on him and he ran off in just a pajama top and his Pull Up to go play.

He was delighted to find the police car that Daddy just fixed and repeatedly drove it off the mountain, a k a the arm of the sofa. (Yeah! Now I get to hear sirens all day long. Thanks, Jimmy!)

Wonder when or if he'll even eat?

He did drink some water and ate some cantaloupe and an oatmeal cookie that he found on the table.

A friend of mine told me recently that the best she could do some days when her kids were little was to keep them from hurting themselves and others. Right now, he's playing with train tracks punctuated by screams of frustration that I am NOT answering today unless it sounds desperate or like someone is going to get hurt. The baby is crawling around the baby-proofed play room. She'll go down for a nap soon.

Maybe ignoring them for a while will do us all some good.

On strike

Did you ever get up in the morning and just wonder: What if?

What if I didn't get the 3 year old, otherwise known as Dr. No, up out of bed and get him started for the day? How long would he stay in his bed "tickling" his monkey Dennis? Just when exactly would the pull up he's been wearing all night explode? Would he follow the routine that is surely ingrained in him by now? Go potty, take off jammies, pick out clothes and get dressed.

It's been said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is, well, just plain insanity. Actually, it sounds a lot like parenting to me. After days of every little thing being a fight with him, I'm exhausted.

"Let's get dressed Danny."


"Breakfast time."


"Potty time."


The only things he says more than "No" is "want ... " followed by whatever the dire need of the moment is and "my do it" followed by pitiful pleas for help and another "my do it." I'm ready for something different, whether out of curiosity or just sheer stubbornness (the latter is the most likely).

He's still up there. I just heard him scream. I told him to come down for breakfast when he's ready. It's been almost two hours. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A day for gratitude

Today could have been a real disaster. Rainy, cold day. Simmering resentment about H1N1 shot availability. A last minute, post-lunch decision to just bite the bullet and get my shot at the pharmacy and take the kids to the free and very crowded health department clinic.

My worst fear came to pass today as I trudged through wind and rain into the National Guard Armory with two small children to get a free flu shot that I'd actually rather pay to get in the comfort of my own doctor's office.

I arrived with no activities, no snacks, nothing bribe worthy in my purse - just me, two kids, a stroller and a wait of unknown, and possibly epic, proportions. All I had was my attitude and miraculously, today it was one of gratitude.

It was gratitude that overwhelmed me when, on this rainy Veteran's Day, we were greeted by service members in uniform helping to usher the crowd into the Armory. It was gratitude that allowed me to resent the situation, but not take it out on the people there to help us. It was gratitude that helped me get through 90 minutes of waiting with virtually no entertainment for the kids other than a little creativity and the sound of my voice. (The kids did great, by the way. And because Danny had such a rough day, with a shot and a blood draw that morning, I let him jump in mud puddles on the way out of the Armory.)

You're probably saying, "What's the big deal? Doesn't everyone handle these situations like an adult?" Not exactly. Ten years ago, I would have resented the situation AND taken it out on the very people who were helping us, that is, if I even chose to do the responsible thing and get myself and children vaccinated no matter the circumstances.

You see, ten years ago today, I was not a grateful person. I was full of fear, anxiety and booze and was four days away from walking into a room full of people who would help change my life forever. And for those people and that opportunity I will be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yep, she's still with us

Since I've written precious little about our daughter lately, you may get the impression we sold her to gypsies. Actually, I am a few sleepless nights away from taking just that drastic measure. Rest assured, though, she's still with us if only through the rest of this week.

Fiona had her 9 month check up last week and now weighs in at 18 pounds and is 30 inches tall. She eats like a horse, moves and climbs like a very fast monkey and sleeps like, well, whatever animal gets by on very little sleep. Is there such an animal? Seems like a pretty rotten existence to me ... a fact of which we're trying hard to convince her.

Fi is developing way faster than any baby I've ever known. The good news is that by the time the new baby arrives, she will likely be much more independent than Danny was at that age. She may even be ready for a bed a few months after No. 3 is born. She can already get herself down off of the sofa and go backward down the stairs. Unfortunately, she hasn't figured out how to turn herself around at the top of the stairs. We've had a few head-first attempts.

One hates to compare their children. Each child develops at his own pace. It is interesting, though, to see what she grasps at this age versus what Danny did. For example, Danny figured out how to tip a training cup and even his own bottle early on but took a while to figure out straws. Fi prefers straw cups and really doesn't like to tip her own drink. I'm starting to think that it's just too much effort for her highness. She climbs anything she can and hangs off the counter, the baby gate, the bookshelf or whatever else she's managed to pull herself up on. Danny still doesn't climb well - not tall enough, I think. Fi will "help" us get her dressed and undressed - that is once we catch and pin her down. She steps out of her pants. My son still doesn't always do this and he's almost three. She stands up in the middle of the floor. Danny didn't do this until after he walked. Speaking of walking, she has begun doing just that behind small chairs and has taken a step or two. I figure we're about two to three weeks from her starting to walk if she doesn't lean toward crawling just because it's faster.

Needless to say, she's into absolutely everything, except her toys. I think we're probably going to have to hang our Christmas tree from the ceiling this year. Anyone ever tried this?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The wide, wide highway

My parenting philosophy lies somewhere between child-led development and my way or the highway. I know that sounds pretty extreme so let me give you an example.

Potty training started out great for Danny. We were pretty hands off about it ... just let him run around naked this summer and put the little potty out where he could find it. He got it quickly, initiating potty visits, removing his own clothes, teaching himself to go standing up and even getting out of bed at night to go. And he never soiled himself. Ever. Then the accidents started about the same time Danny hit a wickedly defiant streak. I backed off, but was quite anxious (read: REALLY PISSED OFF) about the setback. It still seems like a pretty huge backslide to me. About a week ago, I suggested that Danny go try and poop. He said no, but I gently insisted since he was making, um, noises. He sat and declared "No poopy." We went back to cleaning the playroom. He then stood there and pooped in his Pull Up right in front of me.


It dawned on me then that he knew exactly what he was doing. It wasn't a matter of being distracted and forgetting. This was behavioral and it was time to set down some very clear and strict expectations. Everyone says punishment shouldn't be used for potty training and many of you will disagree with me on this. But we've started yanking privileges when he soils himself. The first time we explained this to him, he hung his head and solemnly and sadly repeated, "No George." We told him no TV, no Curious George because he soiled himself. An accident at the park this week meant we had to leave right away and, no, we would not be getting that free Harris Teeter balloon I had promised. We still reward and praise for dry days and quietly discourage wet accidents, though we've had very few in the past week. It would be different if he hadn't already shown us he could and would use the potty.

Once the kids reach certain milestones, it's often hard to tell whether we did something to cause the breakthrough or if it was just a confluence of the right time and tactic. It would be really nice to know so that I could conserve energy.