30 November 2014

Oh, Sleep.

Thank you for listening to me vent about housing. I felt a release in writing about it, getting it out of my head via my finger tips. And when I read back over it a few days later, it gave me the reminder/insight that I've return to that dark place I often retreat where I spend too much time obsessing and planning for the future and not enough time living in the moment. This is my life now, these are my girls now, this is my marriage now - and it is good. I'm hoping that therapy can transfer to the other giant problem in my life: Eleanor's relationship with sleep.


We are reaching critical mass over here - the maximum amount of pain I can tolerate before I explode. Around 6 months of age, Abigail would regularly sleep through the night and had a predictable nap schedule. Not that life was perfect, but it was usually stable enough. I kept pulling myself through the difficult days with Eleanor by telling myself, "Around six months, this will all mellow out." Well we're six months now, and it's not mellowing.

I could go on (and on and on and on) about the frustrating absurdities of her demands, but I'll just sum them up (without exaggeration) here:

1. Eleanor will not nap by herself during the day. She must be in my arms or a carrier or being pushed in a stroller. If I put her down or get home and wheel the stroller into the bedroom, she'll wake up within minutes.

2. Eleanor spends a majority of the night nursing. A majority. Comfort sucking. I wake up every morning in a decent amount of back pain from staying in a side-lying nursing position.

3. About half of the time, I can nurse Eleanor down around 7pm and she'll stay there until we go to bed around 10pm.

Because of her absurd specificity, Eleanor usually only gets about three 30 minute naps per day. She falls asleep for the night around 7pm and wakes up around 5:30-6am. She's constantly tired, cranky, and always very clingy. Those pictures you see of her smiling? Those are usually taken shortly after her nap and of course, I'm also right there. I've read the Dr. Sears Baby Sleep Book about a dozen times since Eleanor's birth and I've tried everything several times. And I took her to her doctor and she emerged with a clean bill of health and no allergies. I'm loosing it.

If Eleanor was an only child, it would be easier - I could just hold her throughout her naps, take as long as she needed nursing her down for a nap on the bed, but I can't - I also have a toddler who can't be left alone. And I can't wear Eleanor for all her naps. On the rare occasion that Eleanor takes a good, hour-long nap, the change in her personality is very noticeably improved.

Allow me to finish setting the scene before I get to the juicy confession part. Eleanor crying:

1. Pick her up? Tears done. Put her down? Screaming hysterics. Up? Silent. Down? Screaming. As comical as a commercial if it wasn't so deafening.

2. The screaming? About 75% off the time, Eleanor goes from 0 to 60 almost instantly. Imagine how loud your baby would scream if she totally smoked her head on the sharp edge of a table. Blood-curdling, ear-piercing, makes you want to run in the other direction shear screaming. That's Eleanor's I'm not getting my way cry. No joke.



What did I do? I set her down in her crib (which is in the master bedroom), turned on the music and lights, switched the laundry, got the camera, and took her picture. I was gone for all of 180 seconds. One time we were riding in the car with my mom when Eleanor started crying. It freaked her out so bad she pulled the car over and insisted that I check to make sure Eleanor hadn't some how pinched herself in the carseat or something.

So my confession? Sometimes I let her cry it out.

I have to whisper it because I'm totally ashamed of it. I'm part of team Attachment Parenting. We're like the crunchy granola hippies of parenting. Tenets of my parenting religion include nursing (or bottle feeding in the case of Abigail) on demand, co-sleeping, positive discipline, and baby wearing. We think the cry it out method is lazy parenting that results in cruelty to the baby.

And I do think it's cruel! I think I'm cruel! I think I'm a terrible parent and I feel incredible guilt and that's why I'm telling the whole world! *Sigh* Let me start from the beginning.

As even the most ridiculous among us can conclude: I can't possibly wear or hold Eleanor at all times. There are times every single day when I have to take care of Abigail. So one day, Abigail is particularly sick and I just have to give her some one-on-one attention. So I put Eleanor in her crib, closed the bedroom door, and attended to Abigail: A fresh diaper, a nose wipe, a face wash, some medicine, a hair brushing. Nothing excessive. And Eleanor screamed. Boy did she yell. For a whopping 4 minutes. Then silence. She fell asleep. I couldn't believe it! And I spent the luxurious hour-long nap reading books with my attention-deprived eldest.

Over the next few days, I stopped jumping the second Eleanor started crying and I realized that sometimes she just lets out one sole wail and goes back to what she's doing. Like she was about to psych up and then got distracted. And a few times, I repeated the crib + closed door experiment while I got Abigail on or off the school bus and I returned to a silent apartment. Not all the time, not even half the time, but sometimes. And sometimes felt great.

So I think to myself, This is great! It isn't really the cry it out method and she's actually sleeping alone! Maybe we can build on this! Maybe by next month, she'll totally be sleeping independently! 

And somehow from there, I ended up on this slippery slope where Eleanor is frustrating me with her refusal to sleep, so I end up plopping her in her crib and walking away. At the time I'm furious, fed up, feeling like I'm at my limit. But when I calm down, I always feel guilty. Like I said, it doesn't always work - more than half the time, I finish up with Abigail or listen to 10-15 minutes of screaming and then retrieve a sobbing Eleanor. I feel guilty when I soothe her red face and wipe her dripping eyelashes. I felt guilty when it does work - tonight, for example, I was fed up and left her to cry in her crib. Within 5 minutes, it was intermittent scream - silence - cry- silence - fuss - silence - cry. In 9 minutes, she was completely out. And once she was out, I had calmed back down and the guilt had crept in.

So why do I personally find the cry it out method so cruel? I have empathy for Eleanor: if I was sobbing in the other room and Matt ignored me so that I could "learn to self-soothe," our marriage would be in a bad way. That's not healthy! If you were watching a movie where one character overheard another sobbing and ignored it, you'd think to yourself, "That relationship is doomed," so on what planet does it make sense to let my infant sob alone in a dark room?! Babies aren't born with self-soothing skills that could flourish if only us smothering mothers would learn to give baby a little space. And my response to the argument that "my baby stopped crying and fell right asleep when I did the cry it out method" would be the Dr. Sears line:

"Baby loses trust in the signal value of his cry – and perhaps baby also loses trust in the responsiveness of his caregivers. Not only does something vital go 'out' of baby, an important ingredient in the parent-child relationship goes 'out' of parents: sensitivity."

After much, much thinking and discussing it over with Matt, he pointed out that there are such things as boundaries, even with babies. And I realized he was right. No one can be everywhere all the time. If I was sobbing in the bedroom while Matt was taking care of the girls, or, heck, even taking care of the cat if she was sick, that would be totally understandable! If you were watching a movie in which one character overheard another sobbing but was tied up and couldn't help at that moment, you'd think to yourself, "That's a sucky situation; man, I really feel for both characters." The difference? Boundaries. So while I think it's totally in keeping with my parenting beliefs that it's okay if Eleanor falls asleep crying in the few minutes it takes me to take care of Abigail, I still feel totally guilty and ashamed of the times she cries herself to sleep while I'm sitting in the living room.

And so I go back and forth - I do need to take a few minutes to cool down and I shouldn't feel guilty about that. But on the other hand, my children are constantly going to frustrate and annoy me and I can't just leave them whenever they do! But on the other hand, I'm not really leaving them, they are safe in their cribs! But I am emotionally leaving them! But I'm returning to help them sort out their feelings! But not if they do fall asleep - now we're going to bed angry!

How can I even be having this debate with myself?! How can I even have let her cry herself to sleep tonight?! I find the cry it out method to be lazy parenting, cruel to babies, and I feel it's my responsibility as a parent to teach my children how to handle their emotions! But, damn, Eleanor being constantly sleep deprived is cruel to babies and it's my responsibility as a parent to keep my child as healthy as I can! And nothing I do is working!

I know parenting is hard and I know babies are clingy. And I'm totally okay with co-sleeping and with Eleanor not sleeping through the night yet. I really am. I have two problems I'm struggling to resolve.

1. I need to get Eleanor taking longer naps.

2. I need to figure out when it's a healthy boundary to let her cry and when it's cruel.

If you are not yet sick of my constant pleadings for advice in my continued failures as a parent, I would again ask you for some. Amelia, Cammie, TB, Mrs. S? You guys are so wise and I always appreciate your advice as I can hear in it your experience and love for your children. Katherine - you had some great advice on my Littlest Bully post. Sleep has got to be the hardest issue when it comes to parenting and babies. And this coming from someone who saw an infant through open-heart surgery...

25 November 2014

I Wanna Buy a House

There is something about trying to raise two young kids in a tiny apartment that makes you want to rush out and buy a house, like, that weekend. There is no storage to put outgrown clothes, no garage to stash a chest freezer, and carpet in the dining room. Seriously, who puts carpet in a dining room?! I don't mind a tiny space, but if it's gonna be tiny, it's gotta be efficient. I am allllll about an efficient use of tiny space and an apartment is anything but. And I can't even do anything to make it more efficient! And Matt is probably sick to death of me talking non-stop about the issue, hence the blog post.

So why can't we buy a house? Because Matt's job can only last until August 2016 at the absolute most and there is no telling in which city the next job will be. So we don't want to own real estate in Lansing and have him get a job in Detroit (a 1.5-2 hour drive). So why don't we rent a house, then? Because I don't want to pay for boxes, packing tape, a uHaul, a new security deposit, and all the other random expenses of moving now and then again in August of 2016 when we either buy a house or move to the city of Matt's new job.

We've already had 7 different addresses and we've only been married 6.5 years - and we've only ever moved for school or a job. That's thousands of dollars in moving-related expenses.

And then there's the last bit, and I'm not sure if this makes it easier or harder to bear. There isn't even anything available right now that I want to buy. What we want in a house isn't for sale in the areas we want to live. If we did buy a house this weekend, we'd either have to downgrade our features or change our location.

Okay, since this is a gripe post, I'm going to vent just a bit more. This time about Chicago. Almost every single time Chicago comes up - even if it is someone else asking me if I want to go back someday - the conversation ends with the other person disdainfully looking down at me and making a rude comment, "I love to visit Chicago, but I can't ever imagine living there." Well, Other Person, excellent, because Chicago doesn't want you living in it either.

I d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e-l-y want to go back to Chicago. A few weeks ago, I came to a four-way stop about a mile from my apartment and there was a barn on one corner and cornfields on the other three. My gut reaction? A wave of depression. Thinking of that empty landscape as my home for the rest of my life is depressing. But Chicago? Ahhh, I think about my old routine in my dream land often. Our old 1920s apartment building had a wonderfully efficient use of space - ample built-in shelves and every unit was designed to have views in three directions. We didn't have a backyard, but there were five parks within a half mile of our front door. It didn't matter that we were a one-car family because there was enough public transportation that we only filled up the gas tank in the car - not joking - once a month. And the noise? It's loud, but it's constant, so you get used to it. There is always someone singing outside or clomping up the stairs, so it's not a jarring noise that wakes up the kids - it's just a steady stream of noise that becomes as soothing as white noise.

If we could buy a condo or townhouse in Chicago, I think I could make it practically perfect - redesign the bathroom a bit to allow for a stacking washer and dryer, switch up the cabinet situation in the kitchen to maximize storage, customize the closets with shelving systems to get the best use out of them (our closets in Chicago were huge, but awkward). What couldn't I fix? The school system. Abigail would definitely have to be a in a private, religious preschool. No doubt about that.

A return to Chicago hasn't been ruled out, Matt's next job could be located anywhere - so deep down, a part of me hates the idea of buying a house because I hate the idea of settling into rural country life. Sometimes I feel that same frustration I did as a kid: moving again, trying to find a new best friend again. A lifetime of instability that still keeps me from investing myself in any sort of community is not something I want for my children. More than anything else in this post of grip-y vent-y wants, I want to get the housing thing figured out before my girls are old enough to remember the turbulence.


I miss you, Chicago; and I wanna buy a house in you.

23 November 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Totally Worth It

If anyone is still out there reading my incredibly sporadic updates, I want to say "thank you." It hasn't been a case of intentional blog abuse, but rather, blog neglect. Maybe Matt and I have been talking shop too much lately? Both girls have been sick, sick, sick with a particularly bad common cold. I thought we were out of the woods until Saturday morning when both girls woke up with snot encrusted...everywhere. The cold keeps them up at night, wakes them up at 5am, and screws with the nap schedule, which keeps us up at night, wakes us up at 5am, and prevents me from sneaking a nap in during the afternoon.

Plus Matt's been under pressure at work to hit looming deadlines on reports that need about twice the amount of time he's given. The result? He's had to bring work home almost every evening. Busy days, busy evenings. And random car trouble.

You know how some people dress up their dog, put him on their Christmas cards, and call him their "baby"? That's how I feel about my car. I love my car. We have a serious thing going. And it's a 2011 model year, so it definitely is way too young to be dying at gas stations on Wednesday nights. Thankfully it happened 10 minutes from our apartment, so Matt could easily walk home, but we live in a tiny little rural town, so no shop was open at 5:37pm when Matt called around. Also thankfully, it turned out to just be a battery issue, but Matt had to take Thursday off, call a tow, work from the waiting room of a car-repair shop while the mechanic ran around town looking for the right part.

BUT it hasn't been all bad. Recent successes include: getting Eleanor to sleep around 7 or 8pm ALONE in HER crib (which is still in our room), granting me 2-3 hours to myself in the evenings. (She usually wakes between 11pm and 1am and migrates back to our bed.) But with those few hours, for the first time EVER in my life, I finished making all the homemade Christmas presents before Thanksgiving! I'm not one of those people who strives to finish all the holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, but I'm sick of the stress, late nights, and panic of scrambling to finish the crafted gifts.

More successes include the reading of a couple of good books (I've been shutting off the electronics 30-60 minutes before bed and doing some reading to help with the insomnia that still haunts me despite my sleep deprivation), and a kick-ass husband who took bedtime duty on Friday so I could go to a girls' night, both girls on Saturday so I could nap, and stayed home with the sickies again this morning so I could go to Mass. I'm very blessed that he's such an involved father and thoughtful husband.

Okay, now on to cute baby pictures.



She can army crawl, get into a proper crawling position, and plank. Yes, a planking six-month-old.


I also have a series of recommendations, based on the recent ups and downs of my week.

-The Lego Movie is hilarious and totally kid appropriate
-Gone Girl is a spectacular book
-Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan is hilarious book I'd totally recommend to parents of young-ish kids. Everytime I pick it up, I end up laughing until I have tears in my eyes.
-Jim Gaffigan's stand up is totally worth renting on Amazon or Netflix or whatever. Again, you'll laugh until you have tears and he's totally a clean comic (Catholic, even, with 5 kids, but he's hilarious even if you're not religious)

Here's to a good week. Thankfully, it's a short one.

19 November 2014

Coping without Resorting

My goodness, this has been a brutal week. Both girls are pretty sick. And by pretty I mean ugly. A river of snot running from each nostril, pooling on the upper lip; long nights where even a blanket under one side of the mattress can't help the congestion; medicine dolled out at the earliest possible opportunity; regular trips to the bathroom with a warm wash cloth to clean off dried snot; a bottle of spray-on hand sanitizer in my pocket for quick spritzes in between wiping this girl's nose and that girl's nose and grabbing a quick bite of a sandwich I made an hour ago, but still haven't eaten.

Even though I'm six months into this "two against one" thing, I still have times when it's tough to juggle; like when both girls are sick. The desire to let a movie run on repeat on the laptop and get pizza for dinner is overwhelming. I'm trying to build up the self control and learn to get through life without resorting to "hell is breaking loose" mode just because the day is hard. I used to want to beg Matt to stay home from work on days when both girls are sick, but I've fought through that temptation enough and now I know I can handle it. Progress, you know. Anyway. There are going to be 1,000 more days in my life when both girls are sick and I barely slept a wink and yet somehow I have to manage to keep the house together.

I'm not saying there aren't times when pizza and movies won't be the order of the day, but I don't want them to be the order of my day when we're just batting an intense common cold. Eight days ago I realized that we've been eating out way too much lately (always under the guise of "I'm so tired - what a tough day!") so I vowed that we wouldn't eat out no matter what until this weekend. It has meant eggs or pancakes for dinner and sometimes I don't even start them until Matt gets home, but it's better than wasting money and calories on take out. Plus making a goal and sticking to it does wonders for the self esteem.

One of the unforeseen benefits of sticking to my guns on movies and fast food during cold season is that success begets success. Somehow I've managed to keep the dishes and the laundry in check. Once the movie and take out temptations begin to fade, my next goal will be to reign in the chocolate face-stuffing that occurs when I get stressed.

But all bets are off when I get sick. Oh goodness, not much progress has been made in that department. One step at a time, I guess.


I'm not saying that things shouldn't slip a little when the girls are sick - I certainly lower my standards of household cleanliness, spend the entire day in pajamas, watch an embarrassingly large pile of trash-to-be-taken-out grow in the laundry room. And I'm not saying that I'm going to have these standards forever - maybe we will watch movies all day if/when we have four or five sick kids, and if I had twins? Oh goodness, I can't even imagine trying to cope with two sick infants on top of a sick toddler.

But I am saying that I personally feel like shit when I let Abigail spend the day on electronic devices and get take out twice a week when the girls have colds. And I don't like feeling like shit when I'm not even sick myself. So I'm doing what I can to spend less time stewing in regret and guilt.


I'm also saying that I'm about ready to pay my children to leave their socks on. Especially when they're sick. And then there's Cat. Poor Cat.


12 November 2014

Randomness

I've been blogging a lot lately. Sometimes I think of this blog as my best friend - an open forum where I can talk without interruption, have adult conversations, and my lovely readers never chastise my decision to send Abigail to public school or tell me my birth story isn't important (yup, that was a fun conversation to have 8.5 months pregnant). It's a lovely little support group at a time in my life when doing anything outside the house on a regular basis is impossible.

My children have not yet acclimated to the time change, but only in so far as when they wake up. The girls wake up at 5:30am. They go to bed and take naps at the new time, but they wake up at the old time. They are then cranky and clingy and Abigail likes to find ways to misbehave for attention all day long. Like how she just bit Eleanor hard on the hand while I was typing the first paragraph. And I tend to have fussy, clingy children in general, so...that's kind of saying a lot.


Abigail is developing at a pace so fast I can barely keep up. I think we've hit the point where I can't really call her "non-verbal" anymore. She's got all kinds of complete sentences, can say "Love you" (she has yet to initiate the sentence, she only says it in response to us), and can quote practically all the lines from Frozen along with the characters. The downside of a verbal toddler is the "toddler" part - she tells us to "Go 'way!", chastises Eleanor for just about everything, and is bossy as hell (" 'mer, Daddy; sit down!"). They always would ask me in therapy to "describe Abigail in three words" and I would still use some of the words I've been using since she was a baby: Abigail is sassy, flirty, and independent. Now that she's older, I'd add that she's an introvert and she tends to keep her feelings inside.


Eleanor is harder to describe because she's still so young, but she's definitely clingy, needy, and observant. She is six months old now, has her two bottom teeth, and is strong. She ought to be though, as she's about as big as the average 9-month-old. She's been rolling for a few months now and can scoot and turn around on her belly. And she can plank. Really, she can hold a true and proper plank for about two seconds. On her hands even, not her elbows.


She loves toys in a way Abigail never did. I don't have much entertainment for babies her age since Abigail was never really interested in stuff when she was a baby, so Matt and I bought her a Little People toy for her six-month birthday (not something we typically celebrate, just an excuse to get her something to play with). It's so crazy how much she lunges for toys, enjoys batting things out of her range to try to get them, wants to practice tummy time, and how often she checks in with me when playing. The two girls are way different.

I feel like I'm not allowed to say that. The official Ds promotion line is: "More alike than different!" and my girls are in that they are both human. But the way they interpret and interact with the world is way different.

Matt had the day off work yesterday and it was wonderful. Life is nicer when the husband is home. I even managed to do the dishes, some laundry, and make bread. Usually I never get stuff done on days when he's home.

I had scheduled Eleanor's 6-month wellness visit for yesterday and Matt and I lugged the girls up there at 9am only to learn that they didn't have us on the schedule. No apology, just a "we'll call you if we have any cancelations." Which is wildly inconvenient for me because we're a one-car family. I've actually been forgotten in that office two previous times. Once when Eleanor was a few days old, they wanted us to come in to discuss her jaundice levels. We were assigned a room, a nurse visited us, then we just waited. Finally after an hour, I couldn't wait any longer and went to let the receptionist know we'd have to reschedule. It was then that she discovered the oops. I'm so hesitant to leave the office despite the bad attitude of the office staff and the number of times we've been forgotten because two of the doctors there are amazing, they are the only gig in town (it's nice to have a close pediatrician), and the lady in charge of referrals is super on top of her game (our insurance requires referrals and Abigail sees a lot of specialists) - never once has a missing referral ever been the pediatrician's fault.

*Sigh,* well, I think I'm out of time for today. It was a good meeting, friends, I enjoyed blabbing about randomness, it helped clear out some of the scramble that is my brain on small children.

10 November 2014

Enjoying Monotony

I long for the stability and monotony of homeownership, but no matter how much I search Zillow, find the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood at the perfect price and beg God to make it happen, He keeps saying, "No." Matt's job is not a forever job, and no matter how much I keep chasing perfect homes, they keep disappearing in a plume of smoke and I am left knowing that I am called to be right here right now, no matter how much I don't want it. Wait, wait, wait, until Matt has a job without a guaranteed end date.

And so I have to content myself with the monotony that comes with a husband not being in law school despite the lack of stability. Laundry and dishes while Eleanor naps in the Ergo, helping Abigail learn to count;


Rescuing the kitty who's life is threatened by a toddler when she refuses to pose nicely for a picture;


Getting the oldest off to preschool while the youngest and I enjoy the peace of a quiet house;


Whipping up some Christmas presents and pausing to crochet Abigail a thick autumn shall and Eleanor a pink jumper;



Welcoming the return of the dramatic toddler, for whom three is a difficult age;


And instead of taking a gorgeous palm tree-lined street to a white sandy beach or an exciting L train ride to the Shedd Aquarium, we try to find the good in rural Michigan in November with night walks under the moon at 6pm, thick cream-colored sweaters, and snuggles and good books on the couch with the hubby and a mug of homemade chai tea after the kids are in bed.




One day it'll all happen in a house. That we own. And we'll get a dog too, a gray brindle pitbull whom I'll name Teeko.

07 November 2014

The Great Dresser Reveal

Thank you all for the advice on my last post - I very much appreciate it. As promised, here is the great dresser reveal.

So the girls' old dresser was literally falling apart. And the top was so bowed and the remaining door so jammed that you had to open the door in order to open and close the drawers. And you had to pull up on the top of the dresser in order to close the door. It was a mess. The dresser was a vacant hand-me-down from my parents that we took possession of when we moved back to Michigan between Florida and Chicago (when Matt was studying for and taking the bar exam). It was one of those pressed wood deals that you put together yourself. We estimate that it was about 11 or 12 years old.


It had had a good life. And I thought long and hard about what I wanted to replace it with. Because we live in a small space, furniture that minimizes floor space and maximize height are ideal. I need more space in the girls' room. And places to put things such that toddlers can't reach them. And of course, budget is king.


Craigslist, here we come. Oh, it was beautiful, my friends. Sitting in a barn all summer, covered in dirt and dust. It was that medium-shade of wood that dated itself to the 80s. And it was cheap.


We hauled it to my parents' house, where there is space and advice on redoing furniture. This was my first re-do. Mineral oil, sand, prime, paint. Proper kitty supervision.


 
And...are you ready for this? No, seriously, are you sure you can handle the awesome girly-ness that is about to appear?


I LOVE the way it came out. It holds more clothes, Abigail can't reach the top, and it takes up less floor space. And it's age-proof - adorable for a little girl's room, but this is totally something that would look natural in a teenager's room.

 

It turns out that I absolutely love redoing furniture and I have a ton of pink paint left, so I definitely envision a matching headboard when Abigail gets a toddler bed...





04 November 2014

The Littlest Bully

Speaking of the littlest bully, I need to get vulnerable and spend a moment talking about some heavier-hitting Down syndrome stuff. I promise I'll finish the week out with a light n' fluffy dresser reveal to balance us out.

I don't know how to start this out gracefully, so I'm just going to jump right in. My sister-in-law came out for a playdate yesterday with her five children ages 1-9, and Abigail and her cousins did not jive very well. Abigail gets home from preschool, tired (and therefore more likely to misbehave) and finds a house full of cousins all playing with her toys. After she spends a few minutes warming up, she jumps right in to play, but finds herself completely shut out. The older kids are circled up around Abigail's toys with their backs to her. On one hand, it really hurts to see my baby completely shut out, ignored, rejected. But on the other hand, I totally get where her cousins are coming from: Abigail is not an easy playmate. She rampages their carefully designed forests and horse pens, grabs prized baby pigs, usually throws foxes and owls. Abigail barely imaginative plays and doesn't have much interest in many toys. She wants their attention and their attention is on the forest friends playset, so she ends the forest friends playset.

But when she gets shut out of the circle of fun, she doesn't give up trying to get their attention. When her attempts to read Curious George books with them failed, she turned toward patting, hitting, and bopping on the head with books (Abigail escalates things quickly - an impulse control thing we're working on). At first the kids think it's funny - which encourages Abigail to do it more - but once it turns to hair pulling, they get angry and dramatically burst into sobs. It becomes a vicious cycle: the more they ignore and try to get away from Abigail, the more dramatic she becomes in trying to get their attention.

I'm so torn. It hurts to see Abigail so obviously rejected. But she's acting in a way to encourage rejection. It's so frustrating to demonstrate to Abigail time and time again proper interactions and see her fail to act them out. But it's also maddening to see her cousins flip out when Abigail - who is only two inches taller than their one-year-old brother - swats them or see them edge up closer to Abigail when I just finished separating them. Arg! Aside from screaming at everyone to knock it off and grow the $*%& up, (which I obviously didn't do), I don't know how to handle the situation.

My sister-in-law handled her kids marvelously, encouraging them to incorporate Abigail, pat her gently when she pulls their hair to break the cycle, be creative in how they play so that she will feel included and stop the hitting. I mean seriously, she's referencing saints and talking about maturity in a way kids can totally access. But at the end of the day, they're 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, and want attention when they are unjustly bopped on the head with a book.

I have no idea how much of this is normal toddler behavior (three-year-olds will be three-year-olds) and Abigail is usually at her worst after preschool (we had to cut out her nap in order to go to the afternoon session) and how much is because in certain ways, she really is different. It hurts when the misunderstood bully is your own child. And it hurts when you know this is only the beginning of the pain. I wish my girls were closer in age - a sister would be a spectacular ambassador, understanding of what Abigail's motivations are and able to demonstrate to the group how to handle her maladaptive ways of expressing herself.

Bleh. If you have advice for me, I'd totally love to hear it. Or, if you could just say a prayer for us for wisdom that we can help Abigail navigate the world, and maybe that her cousins show some forgiveness toward her. Maybe I need to create some sort of team-building exercise where, in order to win, her cousins have to work with Abigail. Oh geeze.

03 November 2014

The Ballerina

If we could have gone as anything for Halloween, I would have us go as the Avengers. I don't know anything about them except what is portrayed in the recent glut of movies, but I do like that version of the super heros. Abigail would go as Iron Man because of her heart, Eleanor as the Hulk because that would be hilarious, and, if everything was going my way, I'd be Captain America and Matt would be Thor, but Matt hates dressing up, so I'd compromise that he could be Captain America since he likes him in the movie best, and I'd go as Black Widow because we're both female. But we didn't want to spend a lot of money on costumes, I wasn't going to go to that much trouble to craft something, and what with surgery and the girls being so young, we actually decided not to do anything for Halloween this year. But the day before surgery, I got a note in Abigail's backpack that her class was having a costume party and was even going to parade around the school.

After a sufficient freakout, I settled on Abigail going as a ballerina, which would only require a minimal number of items that needed purchasing. As the days filled up and ticked by, I ran out of time to buy the items and my neighborhood Meijer offered nothing in which I was interested in having my toddler wear around. But instead of freaking out, I buckled down and managed to put together a costume with stuff we already had in the apartment.


I found Abigail's old tutus from her first Easter and her first birthday party and combined them to make a bigger one (that took maybe one hour and I didn't need any new supplies). I don't have any plain pink onesies in her current size, but I dug through the outgrown clothes and found a onesie in the perfect shade of peachy pink. Size 12 months. But it still fit. I put it over some black leggings, added some pink leg warmers, tied the hair up in a bun and wrapped it with some extra tulle from the skirt, and voila - ballerina.


She loved the tutu and proceeded to dance around the apartment staring at it the whole time.



For Eleanor, I pulled out some old crocheted cat ears from one of Abigail's past Halloween costumes and paired it with the leopard print sleeper she'd just worn the night before.


We were pretty successful at the class party. See if you can find Abigail - she's a bit difficult to spot.


The Amazing Ms. N is the one in the spider get up in the middle. She was more than happy to regale me with tales of how great Abigail was doing in class. And how her tinniest student is the one who keeps getting in trouble for pushing the other kids. We think she's doing it to initiate play and she's so small that she never actually hurts the other students, but still. I asked Ms. N how she deals with it, and it turns out that how Abigail corrects Eleanor for touching a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g is how Ms. N. corrects Abigail when she shoves another kid.


Well, at least we know she's internalizing the lesson.

Cute, tiny, little ballerina in a huge, pink, poufy skirt. Who would have thought she'd be the bully?


Oh geeze. We still didn't go out trick-or-treating though. It snowed on Halloween, my friends, it rained, then snowed, and was cold and nasty.

Well, my friends, I finished the dresser remodel - it looks incredible and I will host the great reveal later this week. In the meantime, Happy post-Halloween, Cat.