Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Open Letter

An Open Letter to Teacher Donna or Any Other Seasoned Moms in Blogland:

I need some good advice and I don't know where else to turn.

I'm having trouble with limit-setting. I know that it's vitally important for Katie's self-esteem and general emotional growth, but I am really struggling. I'm not talking about small limits, like "no, you can't have a cookie before dinner." We handle those just fine, and if she cries and screams, we either distract her or just let her vent her feelings, or sometimes a combination of both.

I'm talking about some normal daily activities that have recently turned into an enormous power struggle: diaper changes, nap time, and bedtime.

Katie has recently decided that she would rather not have a diaper on; at least, not when I'd like to put one on her. She has no problem wearing diapers, as long as it's her idea. Sometimes she even comes up to me with a clean diaper and cheerfully says, "New one!" Other times (much more often) she will kick, thrash, and scream like a crazy person if I try to put a diaper on her. She is very energetic and very strong, and if I do succeed in wrestling the diaper onto her, she will jump up like a ninja and rip it right off, screaming all the while. I'd like to follow her lead on this, and I often do, but the fact is that sometimes we need to put on diapers in order to get dressed and leave the house.

How can I put diapers on Katie without the power struggle? I feel that if I let her be in charge, I'm failing as a parent. I want to set limits. I am very comfortable with the "kind but firm" school of thought.  It seems to me that letting Katie decide when to put her diapers on is not nearly firm enough, and that not being firm is an unkindness to her. So either way, I lose - I either wrestle her to the ground and put her diaper on against her will while she screams like a banshee (very unkind) or I let her decide whether she wants a diaper on (permissive and therefore not healthy for her emotional development.)
Side note: I've also tried introducing "big girl" undies, but she doesn't want any part of them at any time, even if she's being cooperative about diapers at the moment. 

Nap times and bedtime are another power struggle. For nearly a year, we've had a rock-solid routine, recommended to us by a sleep trainer/child psychologist. In essence, it's bath, pajamas, bottle, books, lights out, lullaby and put her down. We were so amazed by how well this routine was working. She went from having to be rocked and fed to sleep (before sleep training) to cheerfully falling asleep on her own every single night.

For the past few weeks, she's been finding ways to stall. First she won't let me put on her diaper (as discussed above.) If I try to put the diaper on, she screams "POTTY!" So we go to the potty and she sits there, usually not going. Maybe 10% of the time she pees a little. Then she says "all done" and we get down and try the diaper again. Again, "POTTY!" I've given up saying, "But you just went!" because that does no good. We go again and do this over and over until she's bored of it. Sometimes I'm able to break the cycle by telling her about the books we're going to read, and other times we break the cycle by giving her a bottle. Then, while she's occupied with drinking it, I quickly diaper and dress her. Usually this works, but not always. Sometimes she screams "POTTY!" again and drinks her entire bottle while sitting on the potty. Eventually she lets us diaper her. Then we begin the second act of the drama: sleep sack. Katie likes the pink one, the one she uses for naps during the day. It's thin cotton and not warm enough for overnight. So sometimes she starts to scream about that too. By this time it's usually past her bedtime and we've had enough. If we've already given her the bottle in order to diaper her, then we're pretty much out of options. I try to distract her with books, but the past couple of nights Anthony's had to go refill her bottle so we can get the sleep sack on. Onto Act 3: books. We used to read two, the same two every night. Now Katie wants "extra book!" but she doesn't understand the meaning of "Just ONE extra book!" or "You already had your extra book, it's time for bed." She keeps getting extra books and more extra books until we've either read them all or she's tired enough not to wiggle off my lap and run for the bookshelf when I start reading the original two. Once those two have been read, she's almost always compliant with the rest of the routine. Occasionally she will spot a toy on the floor and insist on putting it away. (I worried briefly that she has OCD, but she's totally fine leaving things out of place during the day. It's just another stalling tactic.) 

So, what used to be a 10 or 15 minute routine is now stretching 45 minutes to an hour. We're exhausted and exasperated, plus we are frustrated because we want to be more firm with Katie. The only thing I can think of to do is read her the original two books (NO extras, because she can't count yet) and put her in the crib screaming. I nearly did that today for her nap, but it just seems heavy-handed. Katie is a strong willed child; she would very likely scream for an hour, fall asleep for half an hour, and then resume screaming. Half an hour isn't enough sleep for her during the day. Plus, she's also been known to throw up if screaming doesn't get results. Not that it's the end of the world, but it certainly isn't pleasant and we would prefer to avoid it.

Any suggestions?

(I have to note that I love Katie's strong will. I wouldn't want her to be any other way. I just wish there was a way to solve these power struggles so we can all have some peace.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Where did my weekend go?

Seriously, how is it Monday already? When I woke up this morning (at 5:30, for no good reason, with the beginning of a migraine) I couldn't believe it. What happened to that nice, relaxing weekend I'd been longing for?

I guess it's a testament to how difficult last week was. I guess my reservoir of patience and energy was so depleted, that two weekend days weren't enough to fill it back up.

I really, really wanted to blog about something lighthearted and funny, but right now I haven't got much of that. I'm working on it, I promise! :)

Last week was filled to the brim with tantrums. I really don't know what's going on with Katie, aside from the fact that she is 2. She doesn't seem to be teething. I keep blaming it on that, and then catching glimpses inside her mouth and finding that there are no new teeth in there. Hmm.

Tuesday's Trader Joe's fiasco was the pinnacle. I didn't have much to buy, so I finished shopping pretty quickly, but before I was finished Katie had had enough of riding in the cart. She managed to stand straight up on the seat and refused to sit back down, making me wonder why I'd bothered putting that little cart seat belt on her. So I took her out of the cart and let her push it along with me. She did OK as long as she was actively pushing the cart. If I stopped to look at something, she started pulling things off the shelves. I decided to quit shopping and head for the checkout line. On our way there, Katie managed to knock over some fragile-looking gift boxes of cookies from an end cap. That was the end of my tolerance for Katie on the loose. I picked her up, and she started to thrash and scream as if I were torturing her. People in line turned to stare. So did the cashiers. Thank goodness there weren't many people there on a Tuesday morning, but there certainly were enough to make me feel really embarrassed. I abandoned my cart and walked Katie up and down the wine section for a minute, then realized that she was warming up into a full-scale screamfest and that no amount of walking was going to calm her down.

She continued to scream as we made our way back to the cart. Seriously, there has to be a stronger, more descriptive word than "scream" - it just doesn't illustrate what I was dealing with. The checkout guy, who looked too young to have kids but was sympathetic anyway, checked and bagged our groceries with lightening speed, then helped us out to our car. Once I got Katie into the car, still screaming loudly enough to make my ears bleed, I thought I had things under control. I offered her a bottle, which usually works like nothing else to calm her down. Not this time! She wanted to get out and see the choo-choo train that runs near Trader Joe's. So I opened the door and let her out, but she refused to let me hold her hand in the parking lot. By this point I'd really had enough. I scooped her up and tried to get her into the car seat. My little girl weighs less than 25 pounds but has the strength of a bucking bronco! It took several tries before I was able to get her buckled in, and of course now she was screaming more than ever, plus kicking and thrashing. I quickly got into the driver's seat, shaking, and started home.

About 2 miles later, I looked in the rearview and noticed that Katie was STANDING UP in her car seat! She had wiggled her arms out of the straps and then stood up, just like in the cart at TJ's! Needless to say, I freaked out and started screaming "SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN RIGHT NOW!" as I searched for a place to pull over. (So much for all that positive parenting crap.) I found a red zone (labeled "No parking, stopping or standing at any time" - perfect) and stopped. I got out and got into the back seat, and tried to wrestle her back into her seat. Bucking bronco again. So I sat there for several minutes, saying nothing, hoping she would just calm down now that we were away from TJ's and the choo-choo. I tried to stay calm, but I was really starting to lose it. I kept thinking, what if I can't get her back in the car seat? After about 10 minutes, I did manage to get her back in. She hadn't stopped her tantrum for even a minute. I drove home as fast as I could, while keeping an anxious eye on her. She wiggled her arms out again, but stayed seated with the lap part of the seatbelt fastened, so I decided to keep driving instead of pulling over again.

About a half mile from our house, she quieted down. It actually looked like she was starting to fall asleep, which never happens in the car. We made it home, and when I went to get her out of the carseat, it was as if the meltdown had never happened. I burst into tears and told her I was so sorry I'd yelled, that I was so scared that she would get hurt by being out of her car seat. I don't know if she understood, but I think on some level she did. We went inside and life went on. Except that I'm now a lot grayer!

I've been replaying this scene over and over in my head, and I honestly don't know what I could have done differently. I really feel like I failed this particular test. I mean, I got both of us home in one piece, but I totally lost my head in the process. I don't yell and scream often - in fact, I can't even remember the last time I yelled that loudly - and I didn't like the way it sounded to my own ears. I also have to note that it had absolutely ZERO impact on Katie's behavior. It didn't change anything, except to help me let off steam. It certainly didn't make her sit down. It didn't make her stop crying. (Duh!) My only consolation is that it didn't seem to make things worse, either, but it certainly could have. I am so lucky that Katie has forgotten all about it!

The rest of last week wasn't as bad, in comparison, but it wasn't great either. The weekend was OK, and so far today has been fine, so maybe we're over the hump? I sure hope so! I love my little Katie so much, and I really would like more harmony in our lives. I try so hard to be a good parent - to be kind and attentive and loving as well as firm when necessary. I hate feeling like I'm doing a bad job. :( More on this later - I hear her waking up from her nap!

And I promise to try to find something funny to blog about next time! Crazier Grandma is coming to town; that should be all kinds of amusing. Happy Holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Help! Christmas Crunch!

It's December 12 and I'm starting to get desperate. I have no ideas for Anthony for Christmas, aside from the squeegee I thought of a while back. Clearly I need something else, but I'm running up against some steep odds here. Here's what I'm dealing with:

He doesn't wear ties. So no ties, no tie tacks, no tie bars, no battery operated revolving tie racks.

He doesn't wear shirts with French cuffs. So no cufflinks, even ones shaped like lightsabers or the Tardis.

He rarely wears a watch, so no handsome leather watch cases. And no watches, even ones shaped like the Tardis.

He's not super into beer, so no beer-of-the-month club, no beer cozies, no beer holsters, no DIY brewing kits.

He's not into wine, so no wine openers, no wine aerators, no instant wine chillers, or anything made of wine corks.

He hates golf, so no personalized golf balls, no golf club links, no portable coolers, no personalized tees

He is into gadgets, but he already has every Apple gizmo known to man, even if work owns them. He also has cases, chargers and speakers for said gizmos.

Can't get him slippers, even though I'd like to, because the ones he has used to belong to his dad, who passed away several years ago.

He is into bourbon, sorta. Neither of us drink much, which is why our liquor cabinet is overflowing. Anthony keeps getting gifts of bottles of assorted bourbons. He tastes each one and then sticks it in the cupboard and forgets about it. I thought about getting him those "whiskey stones", which chill your drink without diluting it, but it turns out he likes the ice to melt a little in his bourbon! So that's out. He already has a couple of hip flasks that he got as groomsmen's gifts. I really can't think of anything else to give him that's related to bourbon.

He is into the Giants, but as previously discussed, I feel nauseated at the thought of buying him anything Giants-related. Besides, he's gotten Giants stuff for every gift-giving event for the past 3 years, so his closet is bursting with orange and black. YUCK!

He is into the 49ers, but again, he has 3 sweatshirts, multiple shirts, and assorted beanies, hats, can cozies, etc. I will browse the 49ers store again, but I doubt I'm going to find anything he'd actually use.

A sad thing that's happened to us since Katie was born is that we've both given up a lot of our hobbies. I used to bake, knit, read and go swing dancing every Tuesday. Anthony used to play guitar and build airplane models in the garage, and we both used to play video games. Now we lie on the couch and watch TV, because we're too tired to do anything else. Our lives revolve around Katie and sleep. I don't like this and neither does Anthony, but that's where we are right now out of desperation. Oh, by the way, I've also given Anthony several sleep-related gifts: earplugs, a special eye mask, a white noise machine, and even a strange device that keeps your pillow cool at night. (He uses it on his feet instead; there are never enough cold spots in the bed!) Sleep is the gift he truly wants, and if I could find a way to give it to him, I would.

I broke down and asked him what he wants, and he said "I dunno. Um, clothes?" So I am definitely going to throw down some cash at Banana Republic. But wow, for a guy who could care less what he's wearing as long as it's clean, BORING!

What do you say, folks? Any fun ideas to share?

Friday, December 7, 2012

More crunchiness

It's official, folks: I've crossed over to the Dark Side of crunchiness. And not by choice, either. In fact, I'm fairly disgusted by what I've had to resort to doing lately. Any guesses?

I'm giving my kid almond milk.

Every crunchy hippie in the free world will bore you silly with unsubstantiated claims about how bad cow's milk is for you, and I just don't believe any of it. As long as you're not lactose intolerant (which we are not), I think milk is perfectly fine. And as we've discussed before, Katie can't get enough milk. She loves the stuff.

But, ever since our bout with the stomach flu, things have been, er, not quite right in Katie's tummy. I don't want to gross you out with details, so let's just say I called the advice nurse to see what we could do about, um, firming things up a bit. The first thing she suggested was bananas. No dice, Katie has zero interest in bananas. Pasta, we've been doing. Ditto rice. Then the nurse asked about how much dairy Katie is having daily. OMG. Stop, she said! I told her I can't, I've been trying to get her to give it up for a while now but she's really attached to it. So the nurse suggested rice, soy or almond milk.

Despite my general loathing of these ersatz milks, you could probably hear my tires screeching as I made a U-turn and headed back toward Trader Joe's. I'll try anything to get these tummy woes to stop! But I had very little hope that Katie would accept anything less than her lovely organic whole cow's milk. I bought a box of "Rice Drink" (ew!), a carton of almond milk, and, as a backup, a small carton of nonfat milk in case the other two failed. The nurse said it's probably the fat in the milk that makes the diarrhea worse, so nonfat might be slightly better than whole.

And, unbelievably, Katie slurped down the first un-milk I tried: almond! She didn't say a single peep of complaint. She didn't even seem to notice the difference. (But she must have noticed; it's vanilla flavored!) She drank some on the drive home from TJ's, more that night before bed, more this morning when she woke up, and even more to and from our trip to Target. I keep waiting for her to declare it "Yucky!" like she does when we try to sneak Tylenol into her normal milk. Usually there's no fooling this little girl!

So we're coming up on 24 hours without cow's milk, and I sincerely hope it makes a difference. Enough with the tummy woes!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Football commentary

Despite my vow not to bore you anymore with tales of the gazillion viruses we're picking up from school and Gymboree, I've got a doozie for you this time, folks! Something I haven't had in years: stomach flu!! <crowd cheering> I'll spare you the details and just say that it wasn't pretty. Katie had a slow-building version that lasted three days, but I managed to pack all of my fun into about 18 hours, with most of the intensity between 12am and 7am. Fun Stuff.

So yesterday, I was pretty much useless around the house. And my amazingly awesome trouper of a husband stepped neatly in and picked up the slack. He is truly my hero. He not only entertained Katie, but loaded, ran and unloaded the dishwasher, made me tons of powdered Gatorade, cooked and fed Katie dinner, and - get this - even sterilized Katie's bottles! Which, being the lazy busy mom that I am, I  probably haven't done in 6 months or more. Wow!

After the nausea subsided around noon, I was able to lie on the couch for a little bit. Anthony and I had previously agreed that now that Katie is 2, we're OK with letting her watch TV once in a while if the need arises. And boy, that need arose spectacularly yesterday! So the three of us spent a crazy lot of time on the couch yesterday, just vegging out and watching TV. It was a total sloth day, and you know what? It was fantastic!

We found out that Katie is an amazing color commentator. She's not quite ready to do play-by-play yet, but she chimes in with the cutest things at the funniest moments! When someone is running up the field with the ball, she says "Go go go!" When there's a sack or a big tackle, she exclaims "Hugs!!" She says "Frow" when the quarterback throws the ball, and "Kick" when the kicker kicks. Sometimes she says "Owie!" if it looks like someone fell down. She says "Hat off!" when someone's helmet goes flying. She says "Tap tap!" when players hit each others' helmets in the end zone. Oh, and my favorite: For some reason Katie kept saying "Turkey gobble gobble!" It took me a while, but I finally figured out that a huge NBC peacock logo kept flashing across the screen after replays. LOL!

In short, it was the most fun I've had watching football in a long time. Katie was sprawled out between us on the couch with her snack catcher on her lap, just munching away and watching football, like everyone else in America, I imagine. Good times! (Except for the 49ers losing in overtime. GAH!)