Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to get your baby to sleep

I have no answers. Neither does anyone else, actually, especially the people who write books about this stuff.

Every so-called solution calls for a level of effort and, let's face it, manipulation that I just can't reconcile with my nurturing side (yes, I do have one) or deal with in my comatose state . One book actually suggests that I decrease the length of nursing by four minutes a night and delay the time of night feedings by a half hour each night. Um, yeah, I can't even remember to brush my teeth and put on deodorant every day, but I'll be sure to put that information in an Excel spreadsheet. That should solve ALL my problems. As for crying it out, I'm just not that mom. Not only that, the books are inconsistent or at least it seems that way to my addled brain. According to one book, my daughter should be sleeping 13 hours total at her age, going to bed around 7 p.m. and waking up around 7 a.m. That leaves one hour for two daytime naps that the "books" say should each last between one and two hours. Huh? (Yeah, it took me a while to write that last paragraph because I can't even think straight anymore!!!)

So I've decided to write my own book. It's called "Babies Don't Sleep ... No Matter What You've Heard." It should be a short one. Here's what I've learned so far:

Chapter 1: Babies like to eat, especially at night. Yours may actually need the extra calories no matter what the doctor or your girlfriends say. Only you know.
Chapter 2: Babies don't really like schedules as much as you do. As soon as they seem to settle on one, they like to change up.
Chapter 3: Babies have a lot to learn in their first year. And there are only so many waking hours in a day. You do the math.
Chapter 4: Babies will eventually sleep through the night if you respect their wishes for companionship, comfort and food and don't make them go to bed when they're clearly not sleepy. In other words, give them what they need and they will outgrow that need quicker.

Both times I've been through this, it has come to this: My kid won't sleep through the night, I'm angry, exhausted and desperate, I consult books and girlfriends and quickly become frustrated that there is no magic elixir (this one is unfazed by Benadryl), no silver bullet that will be put my child to sleep for eight hours or more. I wind up resenting my poor kids for not conforming to the expectations of someone they don't know and, more importantly, doesn't even know them like Jim and I do. Makes a hell of a lot of sense, right?

These past two weeks, Fiona has at least been sleeping longer ... from 8:30 to 2:30 or 3:30. (I used to get her up before I went to bed around 11, just like the books tell me to, but then she'd still get up in the wee hours. It clearly wasn't accomplishing the goal of helping stretch her through the night. She just happily took it as an extra feeding.) Nowadays, she gets up at 5:30 and then 6:30 and I just have no desire WHATSOEVER to start my day at 6:30. It just ain't going to happen. EVER. Danny sleeps until 9 these days (he's a growing boy) and I've been putting Fiona back to bed after a short 6:30 a.m. nursing and letting her sleep until 9:00 -- and by that I mean, shutting the door and putting earplugs in my ears. Don't worry, I'm not leaving her to cry. She just falls back asleep and actually wakes up pretty happy. Then there's no morning nap, only a short catnap around noon and a two hour mid afternoon nap. Clearly, I'm doing everything wrong here.

Of course, last week I got so frustrated with her morning nap schedule that I decided to bow out of Danny's morning playgroup for a few weeks just to get her back on track. Now that she seems to have settled on a later wake-up and a shorter, later morning nap, I feel like I made that decision too hastily.

After having two babies whose sleep patterns look nothing like what's described in books, I've come to understand that my children don't have sleep issues, they have conformity issues. And I'm awfully proud of them for that, actually, even if it means I don't get much sleep right now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Potty training by the numbers

Potty training is plugging along here. Danny still has accidents, but he's doing really well. It seems we have a good week with very few accidents followed by a bad week with an accident almost every day. The accidents are exasperating.

One day this week, I just asked him point blank why he peed his pants. I didn't think he'd actually answer me.

But he did, with wide-eyes and a straight-face, "Eight."

"Eight?" I repeated.

"Uh uh," he said, nodding.

You know, that may just be the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. Thanks for clearing that up, kid.

On a somewhat unrelated note, Danny knows a lot of his numbers. Oddly enough, he never says them in the generally accepted order. He has his own order that often sounds like this "2, 3, 8, 7, 6, 11, 14, 18." He sounds like a quarterback calling plays. Other numbers get a lot of play, too, but he has a strange aversion to the numbers 4 and 5. He never says them. When I ask him about 4 and 5, he shakes his head vigorously and says, "Uh uh." He is, however, in love with the concept of 3 dollars. He'll look at me every once in a while, nod his head in approval and say "3 dollars."

"What's 3 dollars, Danny?" I ask.

Answers I've gotten include light bulbs, cups, Nana's house, lunch, crackers and french fries.

Back to potty training ... Lately, he's wanted us to close the door when he goes potty. I figured he was either developing a sense of modesty or wanted a little privacy to perform heinous bathroom crimes such as splashing in the toilet or unraveling the toilet paper or pulling up the vent cover. Turns out, he may have just been trying to learn something without being watched (a good lesson for me ... sometimes small children need a parent who trusts them and a little privacy to learn new things). Until tonight, he hadn't peed standing up. Jim has showed him maybe twice, once while he was outside.

Jim found the bathroom door closed and checked on him. What he found was Danny, standing on his little stool (made by Uncle Tom!), peeing in the potty while softly singing this song: "Penis in the hand. Penis in the hand."

That kid is so twisted.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A toddler, already?

Fiona is consistently tracking two to three months ahead of schedule developmentally - physically and mentally. I don't say this to brag, but more to elicit a little sympathy. It's been said that the will begins to rear it's head woolly head as early as 9 months old. In fact, toddlerhood is said to begin by 9 months.

And boy has the will ever reared it's head around here. She howls when she's tired and doesn't want to sleep. When I take contraband from her, she gets a wounded, indignant look on her face before crying and dramatically touching her forehead to the floor. (I'm so mean, too; I won't let her play with plastic bags or eat raisins off the floor. What's up with that?) I offer my hands to pull up on, once a favorite activity of hers; she will have none of that. A chair or sofa is more to her liking. Don't even think about helping her out of her car seat. She's had that one down since she was four months old.

"And don't you know, mom, that I want that bottle of water sitting on the table, like, RIGHT NOW and I'm going to howl and glare at you until you figure it out."

(We're working on some baby sign language. The signs for water and more are the most critical at this point.)

Every two months, I get a bulletin in the mail from a parenting support group with helpful tips and articles about what my child should be able to do by her age. For some reason they think our daughter is two months older than she is (maybe they're spying on us?). This month's bulletin was all about our nine and ten month old. The milestones section made me laugh.

Between 9 and 10 months, they tell me, my baby may work to get a toy that's out of reach. She crawls over her brother to get a toy and often lies flat on her belly to get at something UNDER a chair (usually a Cheerios). She may pull to a standing position, they say. Oh, that is so last month. She may even object if I try to take a toy away, they claim. Object is really too mild a term for her reaction. Apparently, she may also need help getting down from a standing position. "Um, no way, mom, I'll do it myself." She's very graceful, I might add -- OK, so I am bragging a little. I do think we have a dancer or a gymnast on our hands or possibly a heavyweight boxing champ ... she tried to bite her brother's ear tonight when they were wrestling. (No Mike Tyson jokes. I mean it.)

At this rate, she'll be ready to move out by the time she's 10. (MAYBE WE'LL ALL FINALLY GET SOME SLEEP THEN!!)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sept. 11

It's been eight years since a woman I worked with ran into my office, screaming hysterically, telling me to turn on the television. It was just before 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. She was the last person I spoke to before the world as I knew it and saw it changed forever.

More people rushed into my office. We screamed in unison as the second plane hit the World Trade Center live on television. I remember saying, slowly, out loud, "There must be 25,000 people in there." I started to vomit, but managed to keep my breakfast down.

I later watched in horror as a plane hit the Pentagon less than 2 miles from where I sat. It occurred to me that I had just witnessed the last moments of countless lives in real time - on television and out my office window. In the streets below, I saw people filing out of buildings, pouring over bridges, trying to get out of the city. There were DoD offices in our building. We were evacuated around 10:30.

There are thoughts and feelings, articles I read and photos and images I saw, that are burned in my memory. I will forever remember the people I was with that day - Janet, my boss, who quickly left to go pick up her kids; Tina, who ran into my office that day; Randy, whose birthday it was, running down the hall to get a better view of the plane that rammed into the Pentagon; Len, an older gentleman and lifelong Washingtonian, who stood in his office stunned at the site of Pentagon burning; Sarah, who ferried me out of the city that day, inching along MacArthur Boulevard to College Park where Jim picked me up.

Jim and I lived in a condo in Crofton, MD, right in the flight path of BWI airport. In the days after Sept. 11, the absence of the familiar sound of air traffic was eerie.

That fall in DC was tense, uncertain, full of anger and fear for me, and unspeakable sadness. When I was afraid, a dear friend, an older woman who had become a mentor to me, reminded me that when the victims called their families that day, they didn't tell them how afraid they were. They talked about love.

A few weeks after the attacks, a pencil drawing showed up on the bulletin board at work of the towers burning, smoke billowing out and up into the arms of Jesus. I needed to see that every day as I left work and stepped into the DC Metro. Every time the train stopped short of a station, huddled inside the tunnel, lights flickering, instead of the usual grumbling about Metro, there was nervous silence until the train moved again. I needed the image of Jesus, arms outstretched around me and my fellow passengers in order to step on that train day after day.

As personal stories unfolded in news articles and on television, I found myself overwhelmed by the tragedy but unable to look away. An article in the Washington Post profiled a woman who was badly burned in the Pentagon attack; she had lost both of her hands. Her husband said he missed holding his wife's hands. Another story of a young woman on a business trip who got stuck in the WTC was particularly poignant for me. She called her husband of only a year and left a message on the machine telling him she loved him. Then she called her dad. He calmly talked to her, trying to help her find a way out. She didn't make it. Her name was Melissa Harrington Hughes.

That morning, around 9:30, as it was beginning to dawn on all of us what was going on, my father and I began chatting online. I saved the chat. Here are some excerpts:

joseed629 (9:51:03 AM): please call mom and tell her i am okay. all circuits busy
PJDaoust (9:51:14 AM): already did
joseed629 (9:51:30 AM): i'm terrified.
joseed629 (9:51:38 AM): i'm watching it all out of my window
joseed629 (9:52:07 AM): i called jim and he may come get me.
PJDaoust (9:52:09 AM): can you see the pentagon from your office ?
joseed629 (9:52:29 AM): i can see smoke
PJDaoust (9:52:32 AM): don't panic
joseed629 (9:52:33 AM): lots of smoke
joseed629 (9:52:36 AM): trying not to

joseed629 (10:23:27 AM): someone is going to drive me to New CArrolton metro
joseed629 (10:23:47 AM): it's pandemonium. i tried to hithc a ride with someone and they already had 6 people in their car.
joseed629 (10:24:02 AM): traffic is picking up and i'm afraid i won't get out of the city tonight.
PJDaoust (10:24:12 AM): k
joseed629 (10:24:19 AM): the pentagon hit was a commercial American Airlines plane
joseed629 (10:24:25 AM): i think i am going to be sick
PJDaoust (10:24:42 AM): maybe you should stay put for now
PJDaoust (10:24:58 AM): you may be safer where you are
joseed629 (10:27:41 AM): they just closed the metro down
joseed629 (10:27:51 AM): my boss may drive me to the metro station./
PJDaoust (10:27:56 AM): well then , stay put
joseed629 (10:28:19 AM): for now
joseed629 (10:28:40 AM): the oiffice is closing. i have to go now

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Desperately seeking sanity ... at a Starbuck's

I escaped this evening. My husband was cleaning the kitchen after dinner and he suggested that he take the kids to Lowe's while I get out of the house. (I know, doesn't it just make you sick how nice my husband is?)

I spent about a half hour at the thrift shop perusing books, shoes and other cast offs. I left with a James Dobsons' classic, "The Strong Willed Child," which apparently was a must-read in the household in which I grew up and was recently suggested to me by none other than my own mother. (What's that they say about apples and trees?) I then headed to Starbuck's for a hot cup of decaf and a pumpkin cream cheese muffin (I LOVE fall). My plan for total coffee and creamy pumpkin bliss fell apart as I was informed that Starbuck's, at least not the one I wandered into, no longer serves decaf after 11 a.m. They just weren't selling enough decaf after that time, they told me.

Huh? Who are these people drinking decaf in the morning and regular coffee at night? Is that why people drive like idiots? They're uncaffeinated in the morning and overcaffeinated at night? I don't need to be up all night, thank you very much (although my 7-month-old daughter will argue that point with you).

Today was just going too well. A beautiful, cool morning in the park with some of my mommy friends and their cute kiddos, no pee pee accidents, a pleasant baby, early and synchronized naps. I even got a nap this afternoon.

I just knew it had to end. The post-nap was not so serene.

The toddler insisted that I read "There's a wocket in my pocket" again and again and again. And then there was "Clifford and the big ice cream mess" over and over and over.

The baby crawled after me in the kitchen as I prepared dinner crying, "Mamamamamamamamama." She hasn't' figured out that my name has two, not ten, syllables.

The toddler kept throwing his pajamas at me and refused to stop. (Yes, there were at least two days worth of pajamas in the playroom today.)

The toddler was found splashing in the toilet bowl (with a fresh poop in it) twice. The first time he was stuffing toilet paper into the bowl and grabbing big hunks of it -- working on a paper mache project, perhaps? At least the second time he was using the scrub brush (you know, it's about time that thing was used by someone other than my mother). Oh, and my husband figured out how to chase Danny from the bathroom ... just turn the fan on. He hates it.

The toddler later tried to shut the door while his sister was crawling through it. Maybe he was trying to close it so she wouldn't go through it? Hopefully?

Meanwhile, the baby whined and cried whenever the warm flesh of another body, any body, was not pressed next to hers.

Back to Starbuck's ... The clerk acknowledged that their policy made no sense and that they've tried to get corporate to change it. She then offered me a free sample size of a cafe americano.

So I just needed something in my life to make sense at 7 p.m. when, with shot nerves, I considered running away from home or at least to a hotel or even a park bench for a good night's sleep and needed a little cup of decaffeinated love to go with my muffin. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK STARBUCK'S?? I think not.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Outwitted by wee velociraptors

Some days I look at our kids and feel all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings. I am in awe that just a month ago our son was still in diapers and our daughter couldn't feed herself or climb stairs yet. Just a month and a half ago Danny was barely talking and I could put Fiona in one place and count on her to be there when I got back. I feel like weeping as the tune to "Sunrise, Sunset" gently ripples through my addled, sleep-deprived brain. (Well, okay, I'm not really THAT sentimental ... I just don't want you to think I'm totally heartless.)

Other days, well, most days, I feel stuck in that scene from Jurassic Park where the velociraptors have just figured out how to open doors with their wee little dinosaur hands. My kids get smarter with every passing day (except for this morning when my daughter tried to get a hold of her bottle, laying horizontal on the floor, using her mouth instead of her hands and that time last week when my son tried to grab at his cup through the screen on the porch. D'oh.). Every time Danny or Fiona learns a new seemingly inconsequential trick, I panic. One day, I fear they will be smarter than me, able to outwit me at every turn just as my reflexes begin to slow with age. (Is that what "at wit's end" really means?) Of course, I want my children to learn new things, but can it please be on a day when I've had more than 4 hours of sleep and my husband is home to help with the fallout?

Danny's success in potty training comes with a whole raft of rules that would never have occurred to me to express ... such as the potty is not a car wash, a clothes washing machine or a place to wash your hands (especially not after you've pooped in the potty and NOT YET flushed it) or don't flush the toilet before AND after you go, after is good enough or just because the toilet paper dispenser rolls so easily doesn't mean you need to unravel half the roll every time (I think he's really disappointed that he gets to use TP only once a day.)

Danny is increasingly verbal. Unfortunately, that means a lot more back talk. This morning, ME: (only after several sweeter requests) Get your butt up here. DANNY: NO, butt downstairs.

And I don't have enough baby gates to contain my daughter who climbs stairs and constantly tries to eat the dog food.

Defiance ain't just a town in Ohio

Our Friday evening could have been lovelier. The weather was fantastic. We had been playing in the yard, moseying from the playground to the side yard to the garden patio. But that last half hour before Nana and PopPop arrived to ferry our children away from us for the night became what I detest - an all out battle of wills with our 2 year old who is alternately defiant, distracted or just plain deaf.

An example, Friday morning I ask him to go fetch his green cup from the table as I'm strapping in Fiona. He proudly hands me a green ball.

"Danny go get your cup, please."

"Green ball, mommy." Arrrghhhhh.

Often I am talking two inches from his face and he doesn't even flinch. Back to Friday ...

As I loaded the van for my little angels' trip to Nana and PopPop's house, Danny muscled his way in, plopped in his seat and refused to get out. I'd had enough. I decided to just stoop to his level and said, "Fine. Stay in there. I'm closing the door now. Bye." And I did. After a few seconds, he balked. I reopened the door and again asked him to get out.

"No. No. Noooooooooooo," he growled through gritted teeth. I plopped the baby in the grass and went in after him. He tried to climb over the back seat.

It was funny ... later. But that act of defiance resulted in the third timeout in that half hour before Nana and PopPop rode to the rescue. I grabbed a kicking, screaming Danny under the arms and carried him to the timeout chair and had to walk away lest I began acting like a screaming, defiant and angry 2-year-old myself. Meanwhile, Jim and I can both hear our neighbor's sweet little 2 year old having a pleasant conversation with his parents in their back yard. It's a wonder someone hasn't called social services on us for the amount of screaming our children do.

Something about that last half-hour with a defiant, pant-wetting 2-year-old makes us both just plain crazy. The full moon this weekend sure didn't help either.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

It's been a while, I know

Yes, yes, I know, it's been over a week since I've updated the blog. It's been a long week or so, one in which I can't really recall what happened between the blur of wet Elmo undies (which Danny sometimes throws in the trash ... why??) and the sleepless nights with a teething baby (at least that's what we're blaming her night wakings on this week).

I'm beginning to think that the baby who sleeps through night is much like Big Foot or the Loch Ness monster - lots of people talk about it, but there's no credible evidence that such a baby really exists. Fiona stopped sleeping her normal six to eight hours when she was 4.5 months old. Since then, I've tried everything I can to get her to sleep through - feeding more solids, earlier bedtimes, later bedtimes, soothing lavender baths, lavender sprays on her blanket and stuffed pig, letting her cry for a few minutes to see if she goes back to sleep and I've even given her Benadryl (don't judge me or I'll hunt you down and make you spend a night with her). Nothing works. Her nighttime sleep schedule is consistently in stretches of 2 hours, 4 to 5 hours and 3 hours. Some nights she wakes more often. It sucks, it really does. I keep trying to remember what Danny did. It didn't seem this bad with him because I would come home from work around midnight or 1 a.m., feed him and he'd be asleep until 6 a.m. at the latest and then again until 8 a.m. This time, I'm up until 11 p.m. to feed her before I go to bed and just pray like hell she doesn't wake up again until 4 a.m.

Potty training is going well, despite the every-other-day accidents. At this point, I'm just grateful he's not pooping in his underwear and that he's used the potty at church and in other public places. It may be time to pull out rewards for staying dry all day long. Have I mentioned that I really hate using rewards? I never know when to pull the reward out of the mix and just expect the behavior we're shooting for.

Danny has been rather funny lately when he's not peeing his pants and trying to hit me for suggesting that he try to go potty. Just this evening Jim shared this story: Last night, another car cut across the parking lot, encroaching on Jim as he was pulling into a parking space. The other driver saw him, stopped and let Jim proceed. All the while Danny was observing. Jim and Danny went into the store, talking on the way about how our van used to belong to Aunt Jackie and Uncle Tim.

When they returned to the van, the man who nearly cut them off in the parking lot was returning to his vehicle. Danny saw him and said (out loud) "Aunt Jackie's van. Honk horn. Son of a Bitch."

This is stunning for a few reasons. He put a conversation with Jim about the van once belonging to Aunt Jackie together with an event he observed - the other car in the parking lot encroaching on our van - and concluded that the response should have been a horn honking and a curse word (which I'm pretty sure my saintly husband did not do). Yes, I know that I should not be proud when I tell this story. Content aside, the thinking skills he's displaying these days amaze me.

Now if he could just transfer those skills to potty training, I'd be even more impressed.