Thursday, June 25, 2009

Look ma, no wings

On our summer vacation, which oddly enough ended the day before the first actual day of summer, our 2-year-old son learned how to swim. This was a very important skill for him to learn. Jim and I both love being in any body of water - ocean, lake, pool, mountain stream, bathtub, jacuzzi, whatever - and we want him to be comfortable, competent and safe in the water.

We had been using a bathing suit with floats inside to help buoy him in the water. This year, we ditched the suit. He blows bubbles in the water and even learned to hold his breath under water sometime last year. We decided, too, that there would be no water wings. It was literally going to be sink or swim for him, which brings me to this: We're finding more and more with Danny that the sink or swim style of learning is best for him.

Whenever I try to teach him something that he wasn't interested in to begin with, he shoots a look of bemused indifference before walking away. (at least he's polite about it!) Exposure to a lot of different activities and sincere interest in them by his parents seem to be all he really needs to grasp a concept. I've never been a big fan of products that claim to assist the learning process, like water wings. More often, these swimming aids seem to keep the child from feeling what his body really does in the water without flotation devices. Chances are he'll learn to swim quicker without these so-called aides.

Luckily, Danny has been exposed to water play from a very early age. (Fiona was exposed even earlier - she was born in the water! She actually did kick her feet in the water last week.) He'd had lessons when he was six months old and 18 months old. I really had no illusions about whether he'd learn to swim from these goofy, non-swim lessons offered at the local rec center. It was just a fun activity for Danny and I to do together. Looking back, he didn't enjoy following along with the class. He would scoot off the side before the rest of the class capped off "I'm a little teapot" by jumping into the pool (Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds). We go to the lake once a week as soon as it's warm enough (even if it's in March). Late last year, Danny and I went to the rec center during free swim time (until I could no longer get my very pregnant self out of the water unassisted). Until last week, he wouldn't try to move his arms and legs in the water mostly because he'd never been in water over his head.

Last week, he was in the pool (and ocean) each of the six days we were in Daytona. I had a feeling that daily exposure would improve his swimming skills. On the first day, I let him jump in the pool in water over his head only after I had counted to three. For the rest of the week, he knew that was the routine and happily jumped off into our arms. By the second or third day, he was jumping off, going under and swimming his way back up. By week's end, he would swim to the side of the pool on his own. He does have trouble keeping his head above water and sometimes chokes on the water, but he'll get over that in time. Meanwhile, enjoy this video of Danny jumping into the pool and swimming. Also in this video is a very annoying little girl who kept getting in his way ... really, I wanted to yell at her!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Daytona dispatch #3

Danny makes his first joke

We went for a walk on the boardwalk which is about five feet or so above the beach. Danny got a little too close to the edge. Jim told him to back up. He did and then kept walking backward, grinning the whole time and saying "Back it up, beep, beep, beep."

Fiona gets ahead of herself

Two years ago when we did this trip with Danny, he was six months old and sitting up. He also got his first two teeth on the trip. Fiona is four and a half months. She's sitting up as well, if not better than Danny did. And she has two teeth breaking through. She's not been fussy, but she has been sleepless and wanting to nurse a lot. Neither Jim nor I slept AT ALL last night. I'm convinced that my two kids are trying to kill us off for the insurance money. My mom finally gave her some orajel and she conked off to sleep for two hours this afternoon.

Here are some photos from the past few days:
Daytona 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Daytona dispatch #2

When we got pregnant with Danny, we broke the news to my parents by telling them that our vacation that summer would be our last one without children. How right we were to savor that last vacation. It was Assateague Island with Jim's family and in my mind it's one of the best vacations I've taken as an adult. Vacations with small children, as we're finding out, are quite challenging. But at least I get to type this missive with a gorgeous view of the ocean. The sun is sparkling on the waves and people are just starting to populate the beach. The proximity of the beach and pool do make it easy to set up and break down our spot. As much as I'm enjoying the sun, sand, surf and pool, though, it's still just as much work as home, if not more. The baby won't sleep and the toddler won't eat, hence I'm not sleeping and I'm making food that just gets wasted.

But on the bright side, Danny is really enjoying himself. He has absolutely no fear of the ocean. He goes right in, gets knocked over by the waves and loves it. He also is holding his breath when he goes under water. It took only one mouthful of saltwater to convince him to keep his mouth closed. He loves to run down the beach. He's thrilled by the open space. In the pool, he jumps off the side, goes under and swims his way up. Once he even swam to the side. That said, there are things you just can't really do with a toddler on the beach. I miss being able to swim out to the sandbar and float back or set up my beach chair at the water's edge (incidentally, it's ironic that these two activities consist of my "happy place" and I can't literally indulge in them like I used to).

We're on the 15th floor and there's a beautiful deck. Until last night, we've kept Danny off of it ... especially since he told us "Go outside. Jump down." Um, no way kid. He did go out there last night with Nana. He banged on the table, called it a drum and requested "Back inside." Once back inside, made a beeline for his blocks, picked out two long cylindrical pieces and requested a return to the deck. Nana said no. He looked up at her, showed her the blocks and said "Drums." It's always interesting to see how he thinks.

I've gotten a lot of good photos. I'll post some later if I get a chance.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daytona dispatch #1

I'm sitting at a table with a view of the Atlantic Ocean from the 15th floor of a condo in Daytona Beach. Just how I got here with my sanity intact is a miracle. Two years ago when we made this trip, Danny was six months old. What I remember about that trip was how long it seemed and how little we thought to plan ahead for the fussy child contigency. Two years and one more child into parenthood, we've wised up quite a bit.

Instead of trying to squeeze 9 hours worth of driving into one day with two kids, we broke the trip up into two days, driving from noon to dinnertime one day and breakfast to lunch the next. One dinner out, free hotel breakfast and lunch at our destination was the plan. It worked. We were on schedule both days. (You know how much I LOVE schedules!!)

The trip was not without its glitches, though. Fitting the trip around Fiona's need to nurse (which still seems nearly constant) was going to be tricky. We got on the road Saturday around 1 p.m. after tying up loose ends, cleaning the house up and eating lunch at home. I guessed that Fiona wouldn't need to nurse again until at least two hours into the trip. I was wrong. She was crying incessently right out of the gate. My plan was to use a power inverter to power the pump and give her a bottle. The inverter blew a couple fuses in the van, including the fuse that powers the outlet for the inverter, the cigarette lighter (where we plug the phone charger in) and the clock. We'd been in the car only 45 minutes and I thought, "Boy we're off to a great start." We had to stop often and at most stops it was as struggle to get a distracted baby to eat. We finally rolled up to a hotel at the halfway point at around 6 p.m., checked in, ate dinner and went to the pool. Both kids slept great and we rolled out again at 7:00 a.m. after breakfast. Despite being quite well fed, Fiona started crying shortly after we left. I went back there and contorted myself into a safe, semi-comfortable position and nursed her. It worked. We had to stop only twice, once for gas and once for OJ at the Florida border. (I just love that they still give away a cup of free OJ at the border. This is one of those things I remember from childhood. The woman said they'd been doing it for 60 years.)

Through all this, Danny was fantastic. I'm so proud of that boy. We set him up on the back bench with a toy box filled with books, his drink, blanky and monkey and a little compartment full of his favorite cars. He spent most of the time driving his cars, looking out the window and eating food that I literally threw back there at him (he was delighted with the flying grapes, pretzel sticks and cheese, let me tell you!). I went back a few times to read to him. I set up the DVD player for an hour, but he didn't seem interested.

Right now, PopPop, Jim and the kids are napping and I'm watching sailboats in the sound and the ocean whilst drinking my new favorite drink: iced coffee with a scoop of ice cream. I think I'll call it a coffee float.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sleep math

Math, as practiced in this house, is a mix of addition, subtraction and playing the odds. Since every clock in the house is off from the other by about 10 minutes, I do a ridiculous amount of adding and subtracting in my travels through the house. When Danny goes to sleep at 1:30 in his room, it's 1:20 in the baby's bedroom, 1:40 in our bedroom and 2:00 downstairs. Consequently, my estimate of the duration of the kids' naps could be off by as much as a half hour.

And since I've yet to find a method to my children's sleep madness, I do a good bit of mathematical fortune telling. To predict the number of hours I can expect to sleep in a 24 hour period, I subtract how long the kids have been up and exerting themselves from the total number of hours they slept in the past 24 hours, add five (the longest stretch my daughter has slept lately) and divide by a number from one to five representing my desperation level. Fortunately, that number hasn't ever reached zero ... yet.

Of course, despite the mental gymnastics, reality often deals me something altogether different. The equation differs from day to day, but it usually goes something like this:

If the baby goes to sleep at 8 and sleeps three to four hours, how long can mommy sleep before the baby wakes up? (My answer: Three hours. Real answer: about two minutes. The baby will wake up as soon as mommy finally drifts off to sleep after tossing and turning for an hour and tending to the toddler's night screaming.)

If the baby sleeps for two three-hour stretches and a one-hour stretch and cries on and off for two hours, how many hours after "waking up" should one expect the baby to sleep? And for how long? (My answer: Two hours after waking up for at least an hour. Real answer: Two hours after waking up for 10 minutes on the way to PMO.)

If the toddler plays all morning at church, how long do I have to get him home and fed before he conks out? (My answer: about an hour. Real answer: Factoring mommy's desperation level into the equation, there will likely be NO nap.)

How many years will it take mommy to catch up on all the sleep she's lost in the past two and a half years? (My answer: Five years, conservatively, of a Rip Van Winkle-type sleep. Real answer: I'll probably learn to live without sleep and die early. Have you read the news lately about the optimum amount of sleep? Too few or too many hours and you'll die sooner. I wonder if they factored mothers of young children into these studies??)

Since putting Fiona to sleep in her crib instead of her car seat, the longest she's slept is maybe five hours. She used to sleep up to eight hours. Most nights this week, a week during which Jim and I have both been sick, I've slept three good hours and then snatched a half hour to an hour here and there in the early morning hours while my kids sent mind waves between their bedrooms deciding which one will scream next. And we're going on vacation starting Saturday, which always screws with their sleep schedules. I fear that it's just going to be more work only with a better view.

At least I have dinner to look forward to ... I met a new dish the other day with a new-to-me variety of pasta, guessed the ingredients (and I was right!! I found the recipe on the Internet.) and will make it for dinner tonight with fresh spinach from the garden. It's orcchiette with sausage, spinach and grape tomatoes. Can't wait. Hopefully, I can eat it without getting up 10 times or having to eat left handed with a baby on my lap. Determining the likelihood of that happening is a whole other equation.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Now hear this

Imagine you make an unsolicited offer to help someone. They decline your offer. What's your response?

Do you try to convince them of the need for your assistance? Do you follow up later and ask them why they didn't avail themselves of your services? When they politely decline again, do you ask them to sign a waiver stating that you refused assistance and that any hardship you face down the road is your responsibility?

Most people would walk away, kindly offering to be available if they need your help. Not our government. No sir. Their inflated sense of self-importance knows no boundaries, especially where a citizen's privacy and own educated decisions are concerned.

We got a phone call last week from some government agency vaguely asking if there was any "follow up" on the hearing test for our four month old daughter. Recognizing the phrase "follow up" as govermentese, I asked her to explain what she meant. She then asked if we had gotten our daughter's hearing tested yet. Gee, why didn't you just come right out and ask? Is it because you feel like it's an invasion of privacy to ask for what you really want to know?

I didn't want to give her any information that would lead her to breathe a sigh of relief that my husband and I weren't backwater hillbillies who feed our children roadkill. However, I did tell her that Fiona is now four months old and neither we nor her pediatrician are concerned about her hearing. I regret revealing to this busybody do-gooder that we even have a pediatrician.

We'll soon receive a waiver to sign stating that we refused a hearing test and will hold the state harmless in any further matters regarding our child's hearing. That's fine. We'll sign it and send it back. But it illustrates our government's mindset that every person in the country is potentially a drain on the system of safety-net services. That belief is used to justify all sorts of meddling into the private lives of citizens.

In North Carolina, the state requires newborns to have a number of screening tests. We declined to have the newborn hearing screen. We don't have any specific objection to the test; we simply didn't want to pay for a test when we have no reason to suspect her hearing is impaired. The PKU test was a different story. It too is required and it screens for 20 errors of metabolism, Phenylketonuria, which is a preventable form of mental retardation, and other diseases. We felt that test was important enough to get done.

The issue here is educated choices made by the parents. No matter what the state and those terrible stories in the news media lead you to believe, most parents have their children's best interests at heart. Refusal to have a test done should not be seen as neglect or ignorance. In fact, those who object on moral, ethical or other personal grounds are usually more educated and conscientious than those who simply accept without question every test and vaccine mandated by the government.

On a related note, we can tell Fiona's birth certificate has been finally been filed. We got a letter from a local research university asking us to participate in data collection for studies and Enfamil checks in the mail today. So much for privacy.

Busy week

It's been a busy week or so. We're getting ready for a road trip to Daytona Beach with the kids. This should be interesting with two kids. Pray for us, please!

We have been plugging along with Fiona's bedtime routine. That is, we're trying (and succeeding so far) in getting her to sleep in her crib instead of her car seat. She's been taking naps in her crib for the past few days and slept most of last night in her crib. I rearranged her bedroom. The rocking chair is now in there and we nurse in her room. Hopefully she's getting the idea that her room is a relaxing place to be.

Danny's doing well. He had a fever late last week, but nothing came of it. We're assuming it's just teeth coming in. It seems every few weeks I look at him and realize he's changed a lot without me even noticing from day to day. Hard to put into words right now since I'm sick and exhausted, but I'll try. For one thing, he's really into reading books with Jim and I. I do the nap time reading. Jim is the bedtime story reader. Also, he can drink out of lidless cups, jump with both feet off the ground, pick the ripe peas of the vine without help and just a few days ago was found in the garden passing a lady bug from hand to hand. By the way, the kid loves to eat beet greens and spinach straight from the garden. He had beets for the first time last night and loved them!

Here are some videos of the kids.
Fiona sitting up!!

Danny and his book

Monday, June 01, 2009

Take me out to the ball game

I suspect that my kids take turns being evil. Right now, they're on an every other week schedule. Weekends around here have been like the changing of the guard with a 12 hour or so overlap of evilness.

This week it's Danny's turn. His new favorite activity is to bury his face in the sofa, put his bum in the air and utter a muffled "Nope" to mommy's requests. He's quickly learning that saying no whilst his bum is in the air is not such a good idea.

Last week, Fiona hit a growth spurt and was generally fussy and sleepless. Last night, she finally got back to her usual eight hours. It really sucked that today she got two shots, but she's been asleep for at least the past few hours and I'm hoping she stays that way. She's now four months old, weighs 14 pounds (75th percentile) and is 26 1/2 inches tall/long (97th percentile). Oh, and the doctor and nurse were just tickled to see her little head raising maneuver. Apparently, this is not common for babies her age, nor is grabbing the doctor's nose and stethoscope.

Given this post's title, you might think going out to the ballgame is my new euphemism for going nuts. We actually did go to a baseball game today. I took the kids to the ball park downtown. I was reluctant to say yes when a friend asked us to go, but figured what the heck. It'll kill several hours and Danny might just enjoy himself and not be too evil. Right on all three counts, I was (don't know why I'm talking like Yoda tonight). I packed our lunch and snacks, plopped Danny in the stroller and Fiona in the sling (ask me how my back feels tonight), and walked about a block to the park where we met up with our friends. Danny screamed his head off when we got in the elevator, but I expected that and he was fine once the doors opened. However, two weeks from now we're staying at a resort in Daytona on the 22nd floor. Should be loads of fun! I think the kid, like me, has a complex about being confined. He also was a little uneasy about the seating arrangements and kept trying to get out and walk around. Once he got away from me and up a few rows before I could maneuver myself and Fiona up to get him. Finally, I just relented and took him on a walk around the stands so he could see everything. That seemed to be just what he needed. He even held my hand while we were walking, which is very unusual for him.

Fiona was just plain overstimulated by the whole affair and slept in the sling, on my shoulder and on my lap almost the whole time. She didn't even wake up when I repositioned her. All in all, a pretty positive and fun experience. Danny even got to scream to his heart's content with the rest of the crowd.