"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mr. not-so-Independent....

We're getting used to the no-napping thing around here....sort of. Call me selfish, but I had become pretty accustomed to my 1.5-2 hours of Independent Mommy Time. Sometimes I used that time to get stuff done, but more often than not, I'd use those precious quiet minutes to do....well, nothing. And you know what? I didn't feel bad about that. Every other minute of my day is spent entertaining my two little buddies. Max, at only 9-months old, isn't at the Independent Play stage. In fact, now that he's mastered honest-to-goodness crawling, I can't turn my back for a second. I tried to once and he ended up across the kitchen, in the pantry, sucking on the cardboard Dr. Pepper box. Coulda been worse.....

Evan, at only 3 years old, is also Not in the Independent Play stage. I think it's more personality than ability. Evan has a lot of strengths--he's really good at directing others in pretend play scenarios....he's got a very engaging personality....he's a pro at following me around the house saying, "Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy"--but Entertaining Himself is not one of them. Because he's not a play-in-the-playroom-while-I-check-email kind of kid, I am constantly on the look-out for activities that take little time/effort/materials to set up/clean up, yet keep him occupied long enough for me to read the latest newsfeed on my facebook page. Is that so wrong?

Moon Sand was our go-to activity for awhile. It was a bit messy, but it would keep him sitting and playing for 20 minutes at a time! He'll happily sit and look at books for 15-20 minutes at a stretch, but I like to save that for when I'm putting Max down for a nap. It keeps him in one, quiet place and there's little that can go wrong with just a pile of books out. Painting is a good one, but even that takes longer to set-up and clean-up than he'll spend splattering paint on a page. Forget coloring, stickers, or other "boring" art projects. (His word, not mine. And who taught him "boring?" Isn't that the kind of thing they learn on the school bus?)

I was at a loss....and relying way too much on movies to achieve my daily afternoon Mommy Time. And then....Aunt Katie to the rescue! My sister is the kind of person who, when you say, "Man, I'm in a rut with dinner ideas," will suggest 10 different new dinners she's tried over the last few weeks and you just happen to have the ingredients for three of them in your pantry. She also, conveniently for me, has three kids around the ages of my two, is a stay-at-home mom who lives around the corner from us, and is also navigating a new world of No Naps. So, quiet, independent activity ideas? Yup, she has a few.

Here's one we tried yesterday, that kept Evan happily busy for 35, yes: THIRTY-FIVE, minutes yesterday! 35 minutes that I spent having Mommy and Baby Time with Max for the first time in....well, ever? It was wonderful.

Activity:
Mixing Colors!

Materials:
water
food coloring
containers (I used glasses, tupperware containers would work well, too)
spoons, measuring cups, etc.
towels (to catch drips. I used an old beach towel, not sure if it would stain or not.)

Directions:
I filled four glasses with water and added food coloring to each (red, yellow, green, and blue). Evan used the spoons and measuring cups to mix the colors in empty glasses.

After 35 minutes, all the glasses were filled with brown water, Evan held one up to me and happily announced that "Dessert is served!" and Max was ready for some other-than-mommy entertainment (I just can't compete with his hilarious big brother). A total success.

Lesson Learned:
Tomorrow, shaving cream?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Top Ten

We spent the last two weeks at the beach with my family. Channelling David Letterman, here is my Best Things about Our Beach Vacation Top Ten List:

#10: Potty Training, CHECK. This kid was amazing. We cold-turkeyed the potty chair (didn't want to pack THAT thing) and had an unbelievable ONE accident during our two weeks out of town. It helped that he had a brand new audience to impress, "Pop! Wanna watch me go pee pee?" and that we spent roughly 80% of our time outdoors. This kid has now peed on trees, in grass, in sand, on the dunes, in the ocean, on the fence, and on the pool deck (but not IN the pool). It was also great timing to end the Potty For Rewards program going on. No more peepee chocolate chips or poopy presents, and he's not asking for them, either. Total success.

#9: Schedule, Schmedule. Remember the No Naps prescription from my pediatrician? We decided that that didn't apply to vacations. We played hard all morning and rested well in the afternoon:Nights weren't perfect, but we didn't have the obvious No Sleep=Nasty Tantrums correlation, so we did okay. I think the change in scenery, the distraction from Mom Mom, Pop and the aunts and uncles, and shaking things up with our schedule were just what Evan and I needed. We had two happy, pleasant weeks, and I'm recharged to face whatever battles lay ahead.

#8: The eats and drinks. Is there a world, outside of vacation, where it is acceptable to drink a Corona during naptime and eat S'mores every night? If there is, I want in.

#7: Free, active entertainment. Give this kid a bucket, a shovel, a truck, and endless sand and he's all set, all day. #6: Learning new things! Max mastered the one-finger point this week, as opposed to the full-hand gesturing he had been doing. He spent most of the two weeks pointing at pelicans.

Evan flew a kite!

And played paddleball (aka Pro Kadima around these parts) with the big boys.

And, perhaps most exciting, Max made the move from Army Crawling to full-fledged CRAWLING. (Because who wants to drag their belly across the sand?!)


#5: Seeing new things! We stayed at a part of the beach that is in close proximity to a natural horse preserve. We saw wild horses from our deck! In the dunes behind our house we also saw deer, a five-foot long snake, and a family of foxes that came out every morning and every evening. We also saw this:

And countless sand crabs, which, if you think about it, are just like giant, disgusting spiders that dig holes right next to where you're sitting, and for some reason, because you're at the beach, you're okay with it.

#4: Optimism. Bad news: Your baby wakes up at 5:15 am Each Morning of Vacation. Good news: Watching the sunrise over the ocean Each Morning of Vacation.

#3: Daddy Time. Better news: Your husband watches the sunrise over the ocean more times than you do. Thanks for letting me "sleep in" until Evan woke up, babe!

#2: The photo ops. It's a good thing I'm watching my beautiful boys grow up during a time of digital photography. I take a lot of pictures. A LOT, a lot. I order a bunch of prints and email/facebook/blog some pictures, too, but the number of pictures that I take and which don't make the final, excruciating cut, and are ultimately deleted, is obscene. And even with the number of pictures I delete, I still have issues. I'll take dozens of pictures of the exact same pose and whittle it down to a mere 10 of the exact same pose, none of which I can delete because they are all exactly, equally adorable. Can you imagine if I had to pay for each time my finger hit the button? And there's something about the beach...is it the lighting? the scenery? the fact that you're on vacation?....that always makes me take Even More Pictures than typical. After Much Deliberation, here is my #1 All Time Favorite Picture of the trip.
And the #1 Best Thing about Our Beach Vacation:
We're not perfect. We may not always agree. We may be separated by age, distance, and circumstance. But I can honestly say, with zero exaggeration, that I have learned something, Many things!, from each one of them. I admire, and hope to emulate, their strengths, which are varied and numerous. And I will support them, without question, in their times of weakness. They are my family. It's a rag-tag bunch of hooligans, but when we clean up, we clean up right nicely. And I couldn't imagine a more motley crew with whom I'd rather be associated.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

ch-ch-ch-changes

Things have been nutty around here:

Evan, my never-has-been-a-good-sleeper, has been up all night every night. By all night, I mean that if, IF, he's asleep by 10 pm, he's up for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night. Just UP. Sometimes sad, sometimes lonely, sometimes needing something, ANYthing, sometimes throwing a tantrum, but no matter what--up.

Max has been on a major nursing strike. He's eating three solid meals a day and LOVES them, but is trying to cut nursing sessions out and I'M NOT READY for that. He SHOULDN'T be ready for that. He's STILL A BABY. I'm stressing that he's not getting enough breastmilk. Isn't that a first-time mommy worry? Shouldn't I just follow my baby's cues and relax by now?

He's also teething. His two bottom teeth are completely in and his two fangs are in on top. But the two front top teeth are trying to break through. As it is, he looks like a 6-year old who's lost his two front teeth. It's a little odd. But I hear it's pretty common. (?!) A little part of me is afraid that the ones in ARE his front teeth and he just has a comedically large gap.

And Evan continues to hone his skills in Throwing the Ultimate Tantrum. Practice makes perfect!

And...AND....we're potty training!

Things were so nutty, in fact, that after zero sleep and one epic tantrum, I called the pediatrician. The receptionist scheduling the appointment asked what we were coming in for. "I don't really know," I said with desperation in my voice, "there is something wrong with my 3-year old."

"What are his symptoms?" she asked.

"Oh, no, it's not like that.....it's his behavior," I stammer, "he's throwing these tantrums and he gets this crazy look in his eye! He gets out of control!"

"I see. You want to see the pediatrician because your 3-year old is throwing tantrums?"

"No, these aren't your run of the mill tantrums. I mean it's not like I can't handle tantrums, I TAUGHT KINDERGARTEN. I can HANDLE tantrums," I'm getting defensive, and I don't know why, "but something must be WRONG with him. He's NOT SLEEPING. And did I mention the crazy look in his eye?!"

"Okay, let's see what Dr. C's first available is...." I was That Mom. The one who, when the receptionist hung up the phone, she looked at the receptionist next to her and said something like, "Well, that crazy lady's having a bad day." Or something less sympathetic.

So we went to the pediatrician. I explained everything. Have I mentioned how much I love Evan's pediatrician? She listened, really listened. And while she listened and I fought back tears, she nodded and smiled a gentle, understanding smile. And then she said this:

"I have three grown children. I have loved and cherished each of my children each and every moment of their lives. I wouldn't trade a second of their lives for anything......HOWEVER: If I were forced to give up each of my kids for six months of their lives, for each kid it would be between the ages of three and three and a half. Those months were hard. REALLY hard."

She went on to describe these little beasts like this: Around the age of three, kids have become less egocentric to realize that there is a whole world around them. A whole world of people and things and rules and routines and circumstances. And these less-egocentric little beings now get that these other people and situations are there, but don't yet understand why they don't get to be The Boss Of Everything. This is, apparently, very difficult for them to wrap their little tyrannical brains around. So....they take this frustration out on us, their mommies and daddies. On the people who will love them to pieces EVEN AFTER they yell and scream and shriek and stomp and flail and throw their bodies to the ground. And, they try to create order in this newly discovered chaos in their own demanding little ways, and this is what drives parents absolutely crazy.

Dr. C told the story of her youngest daughter who, at age 3 began insisting on each of the five members of the family going downstairs in a certain order every morning. The order was arbitrary (not by age or gender, etc.) but it was crucial that the family members obey the prescribed order. At first, the family thought it was cute and funny. Until the day when the boss's daddy tried to go downstairs out of order and all hell broke loose.

I can so see this scene unfolding in my own house. And this is why I love this pediatrician.

So she reassured me that my child is, indeed, normal. And that this, too, will pass. In fact, she said it was the brightest, most sensitive children (in her experience and in anecdotal evidence from her practice) that experience the most difficulty during this time in their development. Sure, she probably says that to all the hysterical mommies, but I'll take it.

As for the sleep issues? Per doctor's orders, we are to....[GULP]....86 the naps. She said that it's more crucial for him to get the uninterrupted, restorative, nighttime sleep than to sleep for more hours during the day. So. Yeah. I have a kid that does not sleep at night and now I'm going to take away the two hours I can guarantee that he'll get some sleep. This is going to be fun.

Lesson Learned:
The bad news: Six months (from 3-3.5) is a long time. The good news: Evan will be three and a half in October. At that point, he'll have figured out his place in the world and discovered how to control his little corner of it in a productive and fulfilling way. Right? [gulp.]