Dance Dilemma, Part Deux- Advice, PLEASE!

Parenting just got REAL, y’all.

We are experiencing a bit of a dilemma regarding our dance class. After class last week, it became apparent that Hula Girl was getting sick, and if you know my daughter, you know she doesn’t do “sick” well. I was hoping that was responsible for last week’s issues, and that things would be resolved this week, but I was wrong. When we went to dance on Thursday, several things happened.

First, Hula Girl woke up on Thursday morning and exclaimed, “I know what day it is! It’s dance class day!” She.was.thrilled. I was so relieved to see her so excited about it- I thought our day would go smoothly as it has in the past.

Second, when we got in the car, Hula Girl noticed “Tinkerbell” on the ceiling of the car and began talking to her. (“Tinkerbell” visits us frequently- she is the sun’s reflection off of phones, dishes, anything shiny. We feed her pancakes in the morning- Hula Girl is always AMAZED that there are tiny “bites” missing from the pancakes, teehee- and we tell her all about our day whenever she’s around. She really likes our family because she usually flies around at least once daily.) Hula Girl told me Tinkerbell was nervous about dance class. I asked Hula Girl what she thought we might say to encourage Tink to feel more comfortable about attending. She said we could remind her that Miss S. is a very nice teacher and that all her friends will be there. So I told those things to Tinkerbell. Then I asked Hula Girl how she is feeling and she said she was a bit nervous as well. I repeated our comforting messages to her, and she seemed to be fine.

Third, when we arrived at the dance studio, there was another little ballerina waiting to join the class. Uh-oh. Any change in routine is bad news for Hula Girl. She immediately got her very serious face on, the one where she stares at the floor in front of her and bites the left corner of her bottom lip. I brightly welcomed the new dancer and introduced Hula Girl to her. The little girl was absolutely adorable and I told Hula Girl that I hoped they could be good friends after dancing together for a while. Hula Girl blinked.

Fourth, when Miss S. showed up for dance, Hula Girl asked me to pick her up and then laid her head on my shoulder. Double uh-oh. She began to cry and said she wanted to go home.

Fifth, I sat Hula Girl down in the car and told her that I wanted her to think very carefully about what it is that is worrying her about dance. She told me she wanted me to stay in the room with them. I explained to her that mommies and daddies aren’t allowed in the studio with the dancers because the teacher needs ballerinas to pay attention. I reminded her that we’ve seen how the camera works and asked her if she was 100% confident that I would stay right in the chairs with the other mommies. She nodded, but said, “I want you to come in with me.”

Sixth, I laid it out on the line for her: “[Hula Girl], you need to think very hard before you answer. You have a choice to make now. You can quit dance and not come back to class again at all, or you can be very brave and go inside with your friends and do dance class today. Remember, being brave means doing something you are nervous about. What do you want to do?” She chose to go inside.

When we got inside I asked the owner of the studio if we could leave the door open just until Hula Girl gets comfortable in class again. She said that’s fine. Hula Girl would not go into the room with the other girls. I made her stand just inside the door (I stood in the waiting room right outside the door) and I told her that if we are here she needs to be doing the steps just like the other girls. She did a beautiful job.

You guys, she loves to dance. And I love that she loves it so much. And she’s great at it. It broke my heart to hear her say she didn’t want to do dance anymore. BUT.

I really don’t want to push her. I remember times in my life when I felt like people pushed me to do things (not my parents, by the way) that I wasn’t comfortable doing. I was such a people-pleaser that I caved. And hated it. (Example: when I was little, my parents had a convention in Florida and I went but was with a group of older kids who took me to an amusement park. I did not want to go on some ride, but they pushed me to do it. I did it, and was terrified. I still remember it and hate it.) BUT.

She needs to learn to struggle and she needs to learn to socialize a bit. I kind of think it’s appropriate for her, at 3.5 years old, to step outside her boundaries sometimes and get uncomfortable, as long as she knows I’m always there for emotional support. I feel like she’s leaning on me too much but I don’t know how to encourage her without her feeling like I’m forcing her into something (and I especially don’t want to spoil dance for her- I can’t emphasize enough how much she truly loves dance).

Janet Lansbury just linked this post on Facebook this morning. It’s about a mom who fears she’s ruined her child by providing a lot of love and attention. Her child is very uncomfortable in social settings and she’s asking for advice about how to help him out. Janet has some thought-provoking ideas and challenges, including: Stop fearing struggles, Let play be his, Gain a healthier perspective about feelings, and Set boundaries with confidence. I feel like we’re good on the last two, but I know Hula Girl struggles with the first two. She tells me every day, “I don’t want to do room time.” And when I take her outside and tell her to “just play” while I do work, she has a hard time figuring out what to do. She often climbs up on her play structure and calls out, “Look at me,” several times a minute.

So I wrote a comment to Janet on that post which reads,

Janet,

I have a 3.5-year-old daughter who is also very introverted and like the sweet mom in your post I have been very careful to make sure she feels emotionally supported her entire life. We have set very firm boundaries, and she is 100% positive that Mommy and Daddy are in charge. She knows we can handle things. She is very advanced in her language skills and has really never had emotional issues because we’ve worked hard to support her and create a safe place for her to express herself.

However, she gets SO very overwhelmed in social situations. For example, she has been attending ballet class once a week for six months. This and weekly story time at the library are her only consistent peer-interaction situations. She is okay with story time because the moms stay with their children. But in dance, she struggles to stay in the studio with the teacher and the other little girls when I’m not in the room. It’s against the studio’s policy to have parents in the room, and quite frankly, I want to be out of the room so she can focus and learn to dance- she has BEAUTIFUL technique and quite a bit of natural talent.

Recently she began saying she didn’t want to go to dance, and I am trying hard to figure out if this is a situation in which I should encourage her to struggle a bit-she LOVES dance and would be absolutely devastated if I told her we are not going anymore- or be respectful of her stated desires and let her decide to quit. I have strong feelings about these things because I quit everything I ever attempted when I was a child and I don’t want her to give up as easily as I did. I never learned to struggle.

Being mindful of this, I also don’t want to be one of those parents who pushes her to do something she really doesn’t feel comfortable doing. Is a weekly dance class an age-appropriate place to learn to struggle? Or should I assume that she’s able to comprehend enough to allow her the option of quitting?

Full disclosure: my heart broke in ways I didn’t know it could when she told me she wanted to quit. I want to examine my own motives deeply before I make a decision about all this. Any input would be very welcome and very appreciated. Thanks!

I am really hoping Janet responds to me or opens the question up as a discussion question on her Facebook page. I am just at a loss right now and I am really torn about what to do here. This is not for the faint of heart!

What do all of you think?

 

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Minor Homeschooling Freakout

I’m starting to second-guess our decision to homeschool.

This morning I took Hula Girl to the library for storytime (Gelato stayed home with our amazing friend Joy who babysits the kids and they LOVE her, who was homeschooled by the way). We’ve been going to the same storytime at the same library for two years now. There are several families whose kids are around Hula Girl’s age and now they have littler ones who are around Gelato’s age.

We went to storytime in August just before our vacation, but we hadn’t been back for three weeks. And a lot changes in three weeks. First of all, there is a new storytime teacher. Miss Kirsten is no longer there, which makes us sad. But hopefully we’ll get used to someone new (with her newfangled ways of singing the ABC song and all!). Aside from that, the demographics today were just way different than ever before.

All the kids Hula Girl’s age were absent- gone to preschool. Their moms were chilling calmly with their younger kids and really enjoying the 1-on-1 time with their younger offspring. I asked several of the moms how the eldest kids were liking it, and how the family was adjusting, etc. One hundred percent of the moms said it was going really well and that their child loved it. One hundred percent of them also said it was hard getting used to having their child away, even if only a couple times each week.

This started two divergent lines of thinking in my head:

1. I am a terrible mother for not giving Hula Girl the opportunity to go away to school. I am depriving her of meaningful and fun experiences and she will miss out on all the “normal” things that her peers will reminisce about in college.

2. I feel bad for those kids who have to be sent away from their families to go to school, especially the ones whose moms aren’t working and just staying at home hangin’ out with their sibs.

The predominant thought was the first idea- that Hula Girl and Gelato are going to be deprived of something great by having to stay home with me all the time. And so now I’ve got myself worked up into a tizzy.

Because, let’s face it, it would be GLORIOUS to send my little chickadee off to 3 hours of supervised-but-not-by-me activities twice weekly.  She would have fun and learn, I’d get a break; win, win. And then as she gets older and goes into real school and Gelato gets into preschool, I’d get even more breaks. Win, win, win! And when they both get into school school, I’d get to go back and teach again! Win, win, win, win!

But is that really worth it to me? I want to be the #1 influence in their lives. I want to be the one making decisions about what they will learn and how. I want to be the one who knows their work styles and play styles best. I want to know what they’ve done all day. I want to know which friends they have been hanging out with. I want to know if anything has happened to make them feel uncomfortable or sad (or EXCITED or GLEEFUL, for that matter).

And I want them to learn from me and my mistakes. I guarantee Hula Girl will be a better cook than me- she has already started learning. And Gelato will definitely have a better ear for music than I do because I insist on his hearing it during a lot of his day.

Anyway, I am just feeling all wrinkly and prickly and disheveled and not-sorted-out right now about our schooling situation here. I think I’m also feeling a lot of hubris and trepidation and not-good-enough and can’t-even-handle-her-at-three-how-am-I-gonna-teach-her-until-she-graduates?!?!?!

And one more thing. This has NOTHING to do with this post, but I just have to say it. What’s worse than completing your entire P90X workout? Lifting your son out of his crib later. P90X Chest and Back=OW.

 

Reining her In… Advice Welcome!

Hula Girl has been engaging in some age-appropriate-but-exaggerated-beacause-of-a-lot-of-changes naughty behavior lately. I have been trying to figure out what is the best way to give her the support she needs to feel safe and secure but to downplay a lot of the defiance. Jonathan and I have brainstormed, searched our parenting books, read through the archives on several blogs and groups I’m part of, asked our moms, and prayed for wisdom. We feel like we’ve got a plan now.

First of all, I want to make it clear that Jonathan and I are extremely cautious about any and all discipline tactics we use. He is a therapist, after all! 😉 We do not use spanking, and time out in our house is a very untraditional sort of thing. I generally use a lot of gentle physical touch and tons of empathy when talking Hula Girl through her rough spots. But when the entire day is rough, my tolerance for her childishness just gets lower and lower to the point where Jonathan has to take over completely for a few minutes when he gets home just so I can regain my composure.

I also want to point out that Hula Girl is a very compliant child by nature. Her wildest temper tantrums have been due to overtiredness or low blood sugar, without exception. She is generally happy, eager to please, and very very smart! She does not have to be told more than once not to engage in any particular behavior. Her age, however, puts us in the prime time frame for battles of the will, if I should choose to engage in such things (I don’t).

The last clarification I want to make is this: because she is only three years old (and a young three), Jonathan and I try very hard to balance age-appropriate expectations for her with her actual abilities. For example, she can remember things freakishly well. She remembers people she has met once, a year ago, by name. Sometimes she will ask me about a random person and she will have to explain when and where we were when we met that person before I have even a clue what she’s talking about. And yet, she remembers exactly what color their eyes were and what kind of shoes they had on their feet. This makes me and Jonathan believe that she will remember a rule we set in place for a long period of time. So our constant question becomes, “How much of this behavior is childishness (age-related), and how much of this is foolishness (choosing to do the wrong thing even when she knows the right thing to do)?”

I took the kids swimming at the YMCA on Thursday. They had closed the pirate pool, so my only option was to hold Gelato while Hula Girl floated and splashed around in a life jacket within an arm’s reach in the big pool. It actually worked out quite well, especially when another 3-year-old little girl came over with a pool noodle for Hula Girl to play with. The two of them kicked, paddled, and dunked around for a while, and all was well. I gave Hula Girl the typical warning that we needed to leave soon and asked her to choose whether she wanted to leave in two minutes or five minutes (this is a Love and Logic tactic). She, of course, chose five minutes. I gave her a 2-minute warning. Then when our time was up, I said, “Do you want to swim to the steps or have me pull you on your noodle to the steps?” She chose for me to pull her. But then she wouldn’t get out.

I reminded her that she had chosen to stay five more minutes, and that five minutes was up. I even offered her two choices on how she wanted to get out of the water (like a horse or like a dragon). She refused again. I looked into her eyes and said, “I can see you’re having a hard time leaving right now. It’s hard to leave when you’re having so much fun.” She agreed. I continued, “We are leaving now because it’s time to go home for dinner.” She grudgingly took my hand and we walked over to our towels.

I had to fumble around with our towels and swim bag for a few seconds, and before I knew it, Hula Girl was walking back toward the pool. I was shocked. She has never tried to leave my side before. Ever. I called her, and squatted down to her level. She said, “Yes, Mommy?” I told her to come back. She said no, turned around, and walked to the edge of the pool. I freaked out. Yes, she had her life jacket on. But she has not had swim lessons. This was a huge safety issue on top of her blatantly defying me.

Instead of panicking on the outside, I calmly walked over to where she was and took her by the hand. I got down to her level and told her, “You do not have the freedom to disobey me. It is unsafe for you to play near the pool alone. You will come with me now because we are leaving.” She came back with me, to my absolute relief. I asked her to stand with her back against the wall while I got out our towels and wrapped Gelato and her snugly. We changed our clothes and headed to the car.

While we were changing, I told her that it was not okay for her to disobey the way she had done. I restated the fact that it is unsafe for her to play near a pool without an adult nearby. I told her that because she had disobeyed, she would be getting a consequence. I told her that I would need to discuss her consequence with Daddy because I wanted to make sure it was appropriate. Then I told her not to worry about it (another L&L tactic).

We decided her consequence was that she could not take toys into her bath for a week. She loves water play, and since she disobeyed at the pool, we figured the closest meaningful consequence was to un-fun her bath. (Jonathan actually suggested taking the whole family swimming this weekend and not letting her participate, but I nixed that idea because I don’t like the thought of one of us having to sit out WITH her! Why make the consequence for me, too?!)

After the pool incident we had a busy day on Friday- filled with a 3-hour drive to a wedding, then the drive home that night. We arrived home at midnight. Needless to say our whole family was tired on Saturday.

And then Sunday happened.

Before church on Sunday, Hula Girl peeled and ate paint off her wall; licked fingernail polish; colored on Gelato, the wall, a chair, a door, and some furniture; and cut her hair. And it’s not like she’s not supervised. She was just using whatever tactics she could use to tell us she was feeling wildly out of control. She needed us to just take control back so she felt safe and secure. She was out of her routine, out of her sleep schedule, and just wonky all over. Plus her behavior has been deteriorating for some time now, so it was just the right time for a huge change in her life.

So now, here’s where we are:

  • We removed all toys and books from her room  in an effort to encourage her to stay in bed rather than getting out of bed to wander and play. We hope this will yield about 30 more minutes of sleep per day.
  • Hula Girl is under a strict “3-step rule.” She is not allowed to go more than 3 steps away from me or Jonathan at any time, unless we give express permission. This keeps her away from Gelato (she had started being more physical with him than I would like- not kicking or hitting, but rough hugs and some gentle pushing- enough to make me nervous) and it keeps her within my eyesight/arm’s reach at all times.

Of course, I am still doing plenty of superfun things with her and allowing her LOTS of freedom when we go outside. I don’t maintain her “3-step rule” outside at all. I am still interacting normally with her. It’s not like she’s being emotionally punished. I think the closer proximity is actually better for both of us as it encourages a lot more interaction and eye contact throughout our day.

While we have reined in her freedoms, we have also upped our talk of trust. We told her that trust means we believe she will do what we ask her to do, even if we’re not there to watch. We told her that she needs to earn our trust by doing what we ask her to do while we’re watching her. We will be stepping down our interventions incrementally over the next few weeks.

Do you have any other suggestions or thoughts about this particular age and how to handle some of these behaviors? Is there some fantastic article or book you’d like to recommend? We’re open to exploring lots of options!

 

He Walks!

Well, last Thursdayish, Gelato took his official first steps. Four of them. Right to me. Atta boy.

He’s been working on it ever since, never taking more than one or two steps before gently folding his knees and reaching for the ground. His grace is quite amazing. I am glad we followed Janet Lansbury’s advice in regard to his physical development. (This links to an index; all the articles are amazing. Anyone having a baby should read them and follow the advice. Just sayin’.)

Yesterday he taught himself how to climb down the stairs. I knew he’d do it soon since he has been able to climb up the stairs for about a month. It was only a matter of time. So I moved the gate up to the 5th step so he can practice coming up and down without being in danger. (Here’s why I didn’t teach him to do it on his own, and why I trust him to be safe now that he can.)

Today I was sitting at the bottom of the steps and he was crawling around near me, practicing petting Riley, examining the screws holding the heat register to the wall, and standing up and down over and over with a goofy grin on his face. Finally he used my knee to push himself up to standing, turned around, and walked four steps over to the stairs like it was no big deal. He’s a walker now.

Adding a New Family Member

Well, we’re six months into our life with Gelato, and I have learned a lot of stuff. A lot a lot. While I was growing up, I always admired women in their 50s and beyond because I recognized the amount of wisdom they possessed. I had no clue exactly what path they had to take in order to arrive at this place of wisdom… I just figured it came with the grays. However, now that I’m a mommy again, I feel like I have probably aged about 10 years in six months and I am starting to realize exactly what kinds of things those women have gone through in order to be deemed wise.

I belong to an online group of moms who use the Babywise series to help inform and guide their parenting strategies. Several of the moms had newborns right around the time Gelato was born. It is fun to have a group of babies around the same age! However, now there is a new wave of newborns flooding the group, and it’s fun to go back and address some of the crazy stuff we’ve just been through- I feel like I have at least some understanding and some ideas about how to make it work!

One of my friends in the group has a son about six months younger than Hula Girl, and she just had another son about six months after Gelato was born! In fact, the spacing between both sets of our kids is 26 months. She posted a question recently asking how on earth she could handle her older son’s behavior now that she’s so tied down with the newborn. She also explained that she was feeling so very overwhelmed with the whole thing- a toddler and a newborn are hard to handle!

I decided I wanted to share my response to her here on my blog so that one day when it gets made into a blog book and my very own daughter (or daughter-in-law) goes through the same thing, she will have some of my own personal wisdom… as well as some understanding that she, too, made her Mama’s life difficult for a time. 🙂

Part of my friend’s issues with her older toddler were just crazy two-year-old behavior. The example she gave was that he took all the flowers out of a vase and drank the water. EEW! My kid’s never done anything always doing stuff like that (remember the time when she emptied a container of hand soap into her shoe?… or this morning, when I came down from putting Gelato down for his nap to find a kitchen full of frozen peas and corn!!! ) For anonymity’s sake, I’ve abbreviated her kids’ names- G is the older son, J is the newborn.

Before I address your more pressing question of how to deal with G, here are the things that I have been (slowly, painfully) learning in the last 6 months. In order. 🙂 It really truly helps to have a good perspective before deciding how you are going to handle the situation. (And before we all start thinking I’m awesome or anything… lol… I FAILED MISERABLY on at least 3 occasions that I can remember as clearly as if they just happened a second ago, along with at least 1000 other occasions that all blend together in one mommy’s-done-lost-her-mind fog. So, take my advice/ideas with a few grains of salt!)
1. Very short-term thinking- I adopted this phrase as my mantra in the very early newborn days when both kids were crying at the same time and I couldn’t leave Hula Girl alone for more than 3 minutes but couldn’t just ignore Gelato, either: “Everything will be different 20 minutes from now.” I really did have to take my days and break them down into 20-minute segments and allow myself to feel hope that whatever stressful situation I was currently in would be over 20 minutes from then. Sometimes, it was an even more stressful situation! But it was different.
2. Courage- I realized I was operating in fear 99% of my day- always nervous that “something” might happen: Gelato might wake early (he did most of the time from 9-24 weeks); Hula Girl might throw a tantrum (rare, but sometimes); our dinner might not be ready on time (who am I kidding… dinner is NEVER ready on time); I might not get any sleep ever again for the rest of my life (I have resigned myself to this one); life might always be this hard (I expect it likely gets harder); etc. But my daily readings brought me across 1 Peter and I was reminded that we are facing all kinds of things to develop perseverance. So for the next few months, my new mantra was “I am not afraid.” I needed to let go of that huge knot of terror and tension that I held buried in my lower chest/upper stomach region and just relax and know that God was not going to let me drown. It may be flipping uncomfortable, but there is no need to FEAR what “might” happen. I think this is hard because we’ve got such ideals in our heads. But I realized that what I feared was failure… as if a small baby’s short naps somehow indicated that I was substandard or that somehow I would never measure up to full mommy potential. I was afraid that I would NEVER be the mom I was supposed to be. But that is simply untrue. I am the mom I’m supposed to be. Already. My children are not supposed to have any other mother but me, and God has made it that way, and I trust him, and that’s it! I AM the mother they’re supposed to have. And you are the mother G and J (and Africa baby!) are supposed to have. That’s just how it is! So what is there to be afraid of?!
3. Perseverance- Ironically, 1 Peter played itself out pretty quickly in my life. All those trials during those months truly DID develop perseverance in me. My new mantra, one that I am repeating to moms all over the world right now, is “We can do hard things.” I can do hard things. Being a mom is HARD. But oh, well. I got this. I can do hard things. Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and doing it. Like, tonight, I cleaned my house while Jonathan made dinner. That was HARD. We have a sick toddler and a baby who was just plain off schedule all day. On a Friday. Of the longest week ever. Did I feel like cleaning!? Heck, no. But I can do hard things. So I did it. That’s a stupid example. But that’s where I am right now. Yeah, it’s hard. But I can do hard things. It was really difficult not to BEG my husband to stay home from work today so I didn’t have to face the day alone. But he had a lot of clients scheduled and I can do hard things. So I sent him off to work with a kiss and a smile, put on my game face, and made today work. I did hard things.
So there you have it. Short-term thinking, courage, and perseverance. That’s where I am now.
As far as actually handling G’s behavior. Well.
If I can recall correctly, G is pretty cheerful and obedient. That’s GREATLY to your advantage. You know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this side of him is NOT normal and that he is using his behavior to express something that his little newly-two brain can’t seem to express verbally. Think of his behaviors as a new language… and that will get you somewhere. At least you’ll have more patience when trying to interpret what’s really going on.
I have found that a physically intense type of discipline is very important right now. I don’t mean spanking or yanking or grabbing or pulling… I mean VERY gentle hands redirecting, sometimes even without words, ALL THE TIME. I know it’s literally impossible to be hands-on with G right now for a lot of the time because you’re tied down nursing J. But while J is napping, be over-the-top hands-on with G. I find myself withdrawing from physical touch during the newborn days because SO much of my touch need is filled just through nursing, rocking, etc., with the baby. Jonathan has commented on it and I have to work SO hard to reach out to him… imagine what it’s like for our little 2-year-olds who used to be the sole recipient of that touch all day, every day… and now it’s withdrawn and redirected toward some strange little blob who cries, eats, and poops. Yeah.
So when I say physical discipline, I don’t mean just corrective stuff. I mean guiding, teaching, shaping, correcting, and training. Like, I will make up excuses to touch Hula Girl throughout the day in a positive way so that we have less behaviors to deal with. We started doing a daily massage/singing time. She’s old enough now to enjoy a short backrub while I sing her one song. Then she’s up and out of my lap before I can even think of another song to sing… but that’s okay! 🙂 I do hand-over-hand when teaching her to use a knife. I touch her knees while we’re sitting in the doctor’s office waiting to be called. We play patty-cake. I stroke her hair about 100 million times a day. I give her giant bear hugs when I come to get her in the morning and after her nap. Sometimes while she’s eating her dinner, I’ll reach over and poke her pinky finger with mine. Touch, touch, touch, touch, touch!!!
Another idea is to challenge him. If you see him drinking the water (or doing something that’s not exactly a HUGE deal), you might say something like, “Oh, I see you’re thirsty. I wonder if you could drink TWO cups of water!?!” Then fill a couple of cups about halfway to see if he can do it. (Of course he can.) Praise his efforts to meet your challenge. Laugh with him when you challenge him to do something kind of silly. It’s a subtle redirection of whatever behavior is on display. It shows him that you are paying attention to him and thinking of him, too.
When the behavior is really egregious and NEEDS to be addressed, I have found that using a combination of touch and whispers really helps downplay the emotions of the moment. I take her gently by the hand, bring her onto my lap and whisper to her about how it is sad that she chose to perform that behavior and what I would like to have seen instead. Then we practice the correct behavior. I DO NOT USE TIME OUT at all because so much of her behavior is driven by wanting my attention and feeling like she can’t have it… I feel like time out would only reinforce that thought and make her try harder.
When you’re locked in an all-out battle of wills, I suggest being the bigger person and demonstrating to him how to bow out gracefully. And by that I mean, how to break the tension. Pull a funny face, do a silly dance, even stop and take a picture of the two of you together. Throw him for a loop.

Finally, and this is CRITICAL- let G be HANDS-ON with J. Yep, he’ll be rough. Yep, you’ll find yourself saying “gentle!” over and over and over and over and over. I have found Gelato squished under Hula Girl several times. Meh. He’s tough. He can take it. As long as G isn’t doing anything that is harmful, allow him space to “meet” his brother. He craves a relationship with J, too. After all, he is very curious about who this little person is… and you MUST get out of the way so he can get acquainted. But any time G asks to hold him, LET HIM! (I love the relationship I see between my children already. Today, Gelato babbled something in the car and Hula Girl said, “He’s talking to me. He’s telling me how much he loves me. And I love him, too.”) I am a FIRM believer in just letting them be together on their own terms- supervised by me as an observer only as much as possible. It is important to reaffirm that they have equal standing and have every right to have a relationship that does not always involve MY intervention.

 

Still Here!

Yes, it’s a quiet time in the life of my blog. But that doesn’t mean life outside the blog is quiet… no, no…

Gelato is 2 weeks old today, and we’ve got a pretty good little routine down. Everything is going really well with him except for a couple things. First is that I’m not really adept at getting out his burps. Second is that I’m really struggling to find his optimal waketime (which can be elusive in a baby this age, so I’m not beating myself up about it too much).

The burping thing is a big issue because he really gets quite gassy and he ends up screaming out in pain fifteen minutes into his nap, or getting major hiccups prior to me laying him down, which causes him to cry and cry. And there is, like, NOTHING I can do to console him while the hiccups last. So sad. He gets especially bothered by hiccups/trapped gas at his 8:00 pm feeding, so he is occasionally up from 8-10 pm, just fussing and crying off and on. Not good. I got him some gas drops yesterday, but as we were driving home, I read the ingredients and realized I got the kind with dye in them… instead of the dye-free ones that were RIGHT NEXT TO THEM on the shelf. Gah. So he has to go another day until I get to the store. I am considering just getting gripe water instead of gas drops anyway. People swear by either one, and I just don’t know what to do! Both are somewhat expensive (because parents with babies are DESPERATE for calm!) so I don’t really want to get both unless I need to.

The waketime issue is another big area of concern because if I miss his “window” and his cues (not sure what they are still- so frustrating!), he really fights his naps. I end up having to shush/pat him for an extra 20 minutes, and I won’t have time for that once my help leaves (ie, Thursday). I will have to find a way to get him down and resting quietly/napping so that I can focus my attention on Hula Girl. The problem is that I think he gets overstimulated quite easily, too. So if I have him anywhere near Hula Girl, and she’s got her little arms wrapped around his head (very common, unfortunately) while she’s talking in her oh-so-loud toddler voice, he’s almost guaranteed to get overstimulated and therefore won’t nap well. Boo. Fortunately, with the schedule worked out the way I have it set, I will only have to deal with overstimulated baby once each day! Here’s what I’m thinking might work for us:

7:00 get up, get showered, make Hula Girl’s breakfast

7:45 get Hula Girl up, dressed, milk

8:00 get Gelato up, take kids downstairs so Gelato can nurse while Hula Girl has breakfast

8:45 put Gelato down for nap 1, take Hula Girl outside, do learning activities and SSR

10:45 put Hula Girl in her room for roomtime

11:00 get Gelato up, nurse

11:45 put Gelato down for nap 2, get Hula Girl from her room, make lunch together

1:00 put Hula Girl down for her nap, take a nap myself!

2:00 get Gelato up, nurse

2:45 put Gelato down for nap 3, clean part of the house, make dinner

4:00 get Hula Girl up from her nap, snack, play outside

4:45 put Hula Girl in her room for roomtime

5:00 get Gelato up, nurse

5:30 DADDY gets Hula Girl from roomtime

5:45 put Gelato down for nap 4

6:00 dinner with Jonathan and Hula Girl, family time

7:00 start Hula Girl’s bedtime routine

7:30 Hula Girl in bed

8:00 get Gelato up, nurse, bedtime routine

8:45 Gelato in bed, I go to bed

10:00, and then twice in the night, nurse Gelato

See? All under control. Assuming all goes well. Also, now you see why the gas drops/gripe water and waketime issues are HUGE. But I just have to have faith that God’s grace will cover the areas I can’t. My one goal is to parent with grace, respect, and calmness. At the end of the day, I want both children to feel like I’ve met their basic needs (and even some of their wants) and for Jonathan to come home to a peaceful, relatively clean and organized household (most days- I know there will be some days when I want to tear my hair out by noon).

OKAY, time for a pep talk- what is your best advice for me?

38 Weeks and GBS+

This morning’s appointment was much better than the ones we’ve been having lately! It was scheduled for 8:50, so I got Hula Girl out of bed and dressed, then read to her while she drank her milk, and then we were out of the house. I packed a nice breakfast for her to eat in the car and in the doctor’s office, so that was fun for her. Something different.

When we got there, I was informed that my OB was doing a delivery this morning so she’d be about ten minutes late. Of course, we were seen about 20 minutes late, but 20 minutes is a lot less than an hour and 20 minutes! Hula Girl finished up her graham crackers and then played with a group of four kids who were in the waiting room. There was a twelve-year-old girl who was really sweet and she knew how to talk to two-year-olds. She and Hula Girl formed a “mutual admiration society” and Hula Girl was devastated when the girl’s mom was called back and the girl had to leave. We compensated by munching on some berries and reading a book.

My physical stats were good. I actually gained a pound back in the past week, which really shows the effort I’ve been putting in. Gaining a pound on rice, vegetables, quinoa, beans, and potatoes is really an accomplishment. So, high-five me when you see me next. My blood pressure was back to “normal” at 102/58. Last week it was higher, but that’s because I had to do a mad dash in the waiting room to help Hula Girl clean up the toys when we got called back (plus I was anxious/annoyed that we had had to wait so very long). The nurse refused to check it again once I had calmed down a bit. Oh well. One blip on my records isn’t going to kill me.

Gelato’s heart rate and growth rate were solid. My OB doesn’t tell me specific numbers, but she says, “Looks good,” or, “Everything’s looking wonderful!” So I will trust her.

The only question I really had for my OB this week was about the antibiotics that are administered for GBS (group B strep). Since I tested positive there is a lot to consider.  Jonathan and I have been researching and looking at statistics and alternatives and personal stories and such for a week now, and we still have not reached a decision about what we’re going to do. We were leaning away from antibiotics in hope that things will work out (I would not even have been tested a few years ago, so we wouldn’t have known and I wouldn’t have gotten antibiotics, anyway!). Then I started feeling nervous that something might happen to Gelato, and I’d be kicking myself for the rest of my life because I could have prevented it. But the antibiotics are not guaranteed to work, and the chances of him getting GBS disease are super slim regardless. So I asked my doctor for direction, thinking she’d be 100 percent set on administering the antibiotics, and she’d have some awesome reason that would help me make up my mind. Here are some of the things she said in the discussion that followed:

“Well, everything we do is dictated by you and your preferences. If you decide to decline the antibiotics, that’s fine.”

“A few years back, we wouldn’t even have tested you, so we wouldn’t have given you antibiotics anyway.”

“If he does end up getting infected, it’s a big deal. But his chances of infection are very slim.”

“All the literature recommends doing the antibiotics just to be safe.”

“Yes, thrush is a very legitimate concern. That’s what makes this decision so hard. There are potential positives and negatives on both sides of the issue.”

“You’ll just have to go with your gut and do what you feel is the right thing to do.”

And finally, when I told her that my actual labor (once begun) with Hula Girl lasted maybe 9-10 hours, and my mom delivered me in 7 hours, start to finish, she said, “Well, there might not even be time for you to have the antibiotics, anyway! It sounds like you’ll probably go really fast!”*

So, in the end, her opinion wasn’t very strong at all, and now I am just hoping that I don’t have to make that decision at all. I am hoping that I either get a fever during labor (which indicates high risk for GBS transfer to baby) and therefore must receive the antibiotics, or that I have such a short labor that I don’t have time to receive the antibiotics. What I am not hoping for is a slowly-progressing labor that has me waiting in the delivery room for hours, wondering what to do.

I have asked several different groups of folks to chime in on this issue, but if I haven’t asked you and/or you haven’t shared, please email me or facebook me or comment or call me or something and give me your opinion! And, please, keep Jonathan and me in your prayers as we make (what is turning out to be) the toughest decision yet!

*I hope I am not jinxing myself when I type out my OB’s statement. I would LOVE to have a super speedy labor and delivery process. But writing it out?! Is this a bad idea? We’ll see… 🙂

Garden Update! Finally!

I have high hopes for this year’s garden!

Jonathan built five 8’x8′ garden beds this year, each of which is fenced, and two of which are completely covered in netting as well (tomatoes and berries go in the netted ones- we have a lot of pesky birds… and by “pesky,” I mean, awesome… so we feed them- we just don’t want to feed them our fruit). Then we got a huge load of topsoil delivered (for free- our landlord really likes gardening, so he paid for all materials except the seeds and plants themselves). Then Jonathan completed the grueling task of wheelbarrowing (hey, Rachel, if “blow dry” is the verb, so is “wheelbarrow”) load after load of dirt to fill up our garden beds.

Once that task was complete, Jonathan spent several hours planning, drawing, and configuring our garden beds to make sure the plants that need the most water will receive it, and that the plants that need space will have it, and that the plants that need to climb surfaces will be near them. He did a fabulous job! Then he planted. And he planted. And he planted. Hula Girl and I were gone for 3 days, and that’s pretty much all Jonathan did- he planted.

And now… we’re starting to see sprouts! Yahoo! We have over thirty pea plants shooting up out of the soil. We’ve also got lettuce, kale, and something else. (I haven’t seen the diagrams, and I can’t get down low enough to the ground to read the sticks, and the “something else” is something I just noticed this afternoon during the midday watering session, so who knows what it is?!) We’re beyond excited to see little tiny green babies popping out of the ground here, there, and everywhere! Really, we take a lot of pride in our garden.

I can’t say that I did anything to help, though, which is sad for me. Jonathan will get all the glory this year… that’s okay, though. He needs a little glamour in his life once and a while, you know? 😉 Fortunately I will benefit most, as we planted several fruits, vegetables, and herbs he doesn’t even like, just so that I could have them! And no, I am NOT willing to share my tomatoes. So back off.

I think this weekend will be the “install the soaker hoses and timing device” weekend. My dad is supposed to give us a call to tell us how the “experts” would do it. I am excited to get these things in place, so we can mulch. It’s 90 degrees here today (not nearly as hot as it will be later in the summer), and by the time I watered midday, the ground was dry and cracked even though Jonathan watered this morning before work. Eep. We definitely need that mulch down. We really need to conserve that water! For the good of the veggies… and the landlord’s water bill!

Yeah, this isn’t the most exciting post I have ever written. How could I spice it up a bit?

OH! GNOMES!

Jonathan gave me two delightful garden gnomes for Mother’s Day. You all know that I love, love, love… absolutely love garden gnomes, right?!

One is your typical lil’ guy, green pants, blue shirt, red cap, white beard. He is about 10″ tall and he’s wearing an expression of curiosity and glee. The other is about 4″ long, but he is lounging on a large toadstool, which puts him about 8″ off the ground. He looks more relaxed and happy than anything.

I have been working on names. I’m thinking “Fumwallikin” for the tall one, and “Elmwinkle” for the small one. Any other suggestions?

Sleep Challenges

Things have been crazy lately.

Hula Girl is 23 months old tomorrow, and her sleep wackiness has rarely been so frustrating.There are a few notable times in her life when her sleep has been just so downright icky that it’s brought me to tears and nervous breakdowns.

When she was just a teeny newborn, she developed the dreaded 45-minute naps, which we did not conquer until she was 21 weeks old… that’s a LONG time. They were not vanquished without many tears (ours), tantrums (mine), and desperate attempts at… well, anything that was recommended to me by experienced moms from all over the parenting spectrum. Nothing, I mean nothing, worked: CIO, rocking, swing, stroller rides, car rides, pacifier, bouncing, singing, patting, PU/PD, wake-to-sleep, etc. Nothing. We just had to wait it out.

Then when she turned 15.5 months old, her sleep went berserk. She started takinghours to fall asleep for her afternoon naps, or sometimes she just wouldn’t fall asleep at that time, period. I stuck to my schedule, though, because I could tell by her cranky crabby ways that she just plain needed more sleep. We lived on early bedtimes for a month. Then her sleep improved, and she was back to normal for a month.

Cue 17.5 months, when she got a major cold; we hit daylight savings time; we had an impromptu weekend trip including flying, hotels, and weird hours; and then we had family visiting for Christmas. Lo and behold, kid wouldn’t nap in the afternoon again. So we dropped the pm nap, and went to one nap per day. It took a goodtwo months for the 2-1 nap transition to shake out, but once it did and we hit our groove in February, things were great.

And then we hit 22 months old. The last two weeks have been even more torturous on my heart than any of the other times of sleep disturbances. One reason: she can talk. Now, when she’s crying herself to sleep, it’s not just cries. It’s, “Mommy, Daddy, [Hula Girl] wants you!” It’s, “One more kiss, Mommy? Please?” It’s, “Mommy come in [Hula Girl]’s room? Now? Please?”

It started innocently enough- she started taking shorter and shorter naps. She was taking 3+ hour naps every day, and I was loving the extra time during which I got to nap. Napping is wonderful on a pregnant body. But then the naps dropped down to 2 hours, 45 minutes. And then 2.5 hours. And then 2 hours. During this time, I handled the shorter naps by providing earlier bedtimes so that she could make up lost sleep. But then she started waking earlier in the mornings…

I stuck to our schedule as best as I could, but nothing seemed to help. I moved naptime and bedtime earlier by 15-30 minutes, but that only resulted in earlier waketimes. So, it sounds like she just needs less sleep now, right?Wrong.

Have you met my kid when she is sleeping, well, on schedule? Happiest child on earth. Have you met my kid when she is sleeping, well,not on schedule? Whiny drama queen girl. This, my friends, is how I know she is not getting enough sleep. (Also, if you do the math, she was sleeping 15+ hours daily whereas now she’s getting about 12-13 hours total, which is a huge drop. Toddlersdo start needing less sleep, but not that much less, that quickly.)

Monday of last week, she surprised me with sleeping in and taking a 3.5 hour nap. But that was because she had been up crying in the night on Sunday night/Monday morning for an hour or so (see my previous post to read about that ordeal). Then all sleep went berserk.

She has not taken a nap longer than 1.5 hours in a week. She has not woken from a nap without screaming in that entire time. She has taken no less than 40 minutes to fall asleep each night. Last night she cried and screamed for an hour before she finally fell asleep. She has woken no less than 45 minutes early each morning. And most mornings she has cried off an on until it’s time to start the day.

Jonathan and I have been wracking our brains trying to think of anything we could try to tweak or modify in order to help her sleep better (and more). Our best option right now looks like we’ll have to stick with earlier bedtimes (and possibly shifting her schedule 30 minutes early to deal with the sun rising earlier), and just let her cry it out at sleep times.

See, we’re pretty sure that (even though she’s developed a slight cold), she’s learning to exert her independence and she’s trying to gain control over us in this area of her life. We’ve seen it in several other areas throughout the day, so we’re chalking it up to full-blast boundary testing behavior.

Some of the other things she’s doing to test boundaries:

  • She has learned to unbuckle her booster seat buckle. She has been wanting to decide when she gets to come down from her chair, thereby ending her meal. We have been firmly enforcing the rule that she is not allowed to leave the table until she is excused. However, it has takenwork and not just one reminder per meal.
  • Related to the above, she has been trying to stand up in her seat. The established consequence for this behavior is that the meal is over. We have to think of a new consequence: if she tries to leave her chair (she wants the meal to be over) and we say no, she stands up, which means the meal is over. She wins. Sigh. (I am considering setting up the pack’n’play downstairs so that I have a convenient place to put her for time out; carrying a toddler up and down the stairs while in my third trimester is not the best idea for us.)
  • Choosing her own clothes- no big deal on this one. She can wear whatever the heck she wants to wear (within reason). “Sure, you can wear your pajamas all day long. We’re not going anywhere, anyway! And Mommy has set that example all your life! You learned from the best!”
  • Potty. We started having some battles around the potty a few weeks ago. I just backed waayyy off and let that girl do her thing (or not). It resulted in a few accidents, but she didn’t like those. Plus she realized she wasn’t getting a rise out of me, so she’s back to perfect potty behavior (with the exception of begging to get out of her crib at sleep times to use the potty- another power ploy).

See, she’s a boundary-pushing toddler right now. I read a great article the other day discussing toddlers and their behaviors, and how we as their parents can reinforce and support appropriately. It’s basic stuff, but it was a great reminder.

Anyway, here’s our game plan for sleep issues:

  1. Hula Girl helped me make three “sleep rules” butterflies to hang on her wall yesterday afternoon. They are 1) Lie down, 2) Close eyes, and 3) Go to sleep. Very simple. We chose pictures of babies and kids from a few different parenting magazines exemplifying each of these rules, and Hula Girl had a blast gluing the pictures onto the butterflies. Then we hung them up in her room and now we point to them and discuss them before each sleep period.
  2. We will let her “cry it out” at bedtime as long as we’re 100% positive that all her needs are met. We put her down clean, dry, watered, medicine-d, and loved. There is nothing different now than there was three months ago, except that now she can talk and is trying to win a power struggle. We choose not to engage.
  3. We will remind her at the beginning of naps that Mommy (or Daddy) is still here, and we will be back for her when naptime is over. No sooner. If she chooses to wake up, she can wait until naptime is over. No amount of crying will bring a parent back into the room until that very special time. (Don’t get me wrong- we’re not keeping her locked in her crib in the dark for a ridiculously long period of time. 2.5 hours minimum. That is perfectly reasonable for an almost-two-year-old.)

Now, for number three to be perfectly effective, I would like to get a little tool- a Gro-Clock. There are several models of toddler clocks out there similar to this one, but many many many of the moms I moderate our board with have this specific one (only available in the UK, Australia, and Canada), and love it the most. You can see why- it’s so simple, right!?! We need one ASAP.

Any other suggestions? I know there are plenty of you out there who’ve BTDT with this time in a toddler’s life. Maybe you could send some encouragement my way, at the very least…

 

Nice Days and 2012’s Summer Garden!

I skipped posting yesterday because my mom came to visit us for the day. Hula Girl couldn’t have been happier to have her Grammy here. We went to the park in the morning (it was 65 degrees and beautiful outside!) then we came home for lunch, and Hula Girl took her nap. After she woke from her nap, she and Grammy played “golf” with Hula Girl’s toy broom and some small balls we have around the house. Oh yes, that was a screaming-laughter kind of good time. 🙂

Today is another gorgeous day, but it’s so windy! Faithful readers (all three of you, haha!) know that it’s pretty much always windy here. I am getting concerned that it will be super windy this summer. That will mean less fun out in the backyard. I mean, Hula Girl won’t be able to play happily in her sandbox if the wind keeps blowing sand in her eyes. It will also be bad for our lawn and garden- we’ll definitely have to install a drip-system for our garden so the water doesn’t evaporate as soon as it leaves the hose.

Jonathan raked/shoveled away about 400 square feet of rock in our backyard this weekend to clear the patch for our lawn, and he’ll also have to rake/shovel another 400ish square feet of rock so our garden can have a place to grow. Our landlord agreed to pay for sod so that Hula Girl can play in grass this summer. It will be nice for her, because we’ll have a lot available outside. We’ll have the baby pool, sand box, grassy area, basketball hoop, picnic table, slide, lawn mower, wheelbarrow, hula hoops, balls, chalk, and wagon in the backyard. I am even planning on giving her a tiny patch of space in the garden and letting her grow something there (with a lot of help from me). I am excited that she’ll have a grassy area to roll around in, and that we can set out blankets to have a picnic. It will be nice when the backyard is not just a rocky expanse. I totally understand the point of it where we live- I mean, cacti grow here really well, so I’m betting grass will consume a lot of water and fertilizer. But it will be totally worth it when we can go barefoot in the grass and run through the sprinkler!

And yes, we’ve decided to have a garden again this year. We’re going to be scaling back as far as size, but we’re really doing a lot of research about our soil and all the additives we’ll need to use. We’re planning to rent/borrow a rototiller to get that extra compost/fertilizer down deep before we plant, and we’re going to install a drip-system so we can water better. We’re also going to be using mulch to cover the ground and there will be two sections of garden that we’ll cover with a trellis or netting so they’ll be partially shaded. I think last year’s garden would have had much more success for us if we had provided a bit more shade, a bit more compost, and a LOT better watering. It just gets too hot here to rely on the twice-a-day sprinkler-style watering. Things sure sizzle around here; the mulch should really help provide some insulation.I also think the mulch will come in handy when we have our monster thunderstorms. Less erosion=happier garden.

We have not sat down and decided exactly what things we’ll be planting this year, but I’m sure of a couple of items: strawberries, tomatoes, basil, sweet peas, green beans, zucchini and summer squash. Provided that we have space and that Jonathan agrees, I’d also like to do some lettuce, broccoli, kale, green onions, watermelon, cantaloupe, and pumpkins. I’m thinking we could even do the large squash and melon plants out in the front yard. Maybe we’ll put in a few raised beds out there. We have a lot of bare ground in front of our house, and it gets sun all day long. Great place for squashes and melons!

I’m also considering putting some native plants in the front of the house. I looked up a few grasses and flowers that are suitable for this environment (aside from cactus varieties), and there are quite a few options. I have started calling garden centers in the area, but no one has any good leads so far. You’d think that in this harsh environment, where it’s ridiculous to think of growing pretty much anything, native plants would be wanted. But apparently everyone loves those pansies. And petunias. Silly.

Oh, and I’m also going to do a vertical herb garden with a cheap over-the-door shoe holder. We have a nice spot that gets lots of morning sun and afternoon shade, and relatively little wind on the balcony outside our bedroom. I’ll be doing simple herbs there like mint, catnip (for Riley), wheat grass (also for Riley), basil, oregano, etc. The nice thing about it is that cats and other animals can’t get to it, and it will be fun to look at some fresh greenery every morning when I go outside to do my Bible study before I get Hula Girl. Maybe I’ll even throw in a few flowers, just to pretty it up a bit! 🙂

I will be doing a lot more garden research in the next week, and we plan to start some seedlings next weekend. I am beyond excited for that! Any gardening tips and/or plans of your own? Share, share!

 

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