Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Changes Afoot

Bear with me here - this one's kind of long. I fully expect even my own mother to only skim it. I had to write it out though - for my own self, if no one else.

It's been a week of big doin's around here, and for good reason. In addition to weaning Miss V from her swaddle and teaching her to soothe herself to sleep some, I've been working on some things with my sweet J-bird.

Everyone warned me about age 3 - telling me how awful it was, how terrible my child would be and how much he'd push me. I didn't want to believe it, and I didn't want to approach an entire year of the J-bird's life with fear and trepidation. The truth is though, that there have been some difficult times and some significant struggles with him. My sweet, compliant little boy found his will and has fought to exercise it. It's been interesting, worrisome and exhausting at times. I've gone from feeling like a good mother to feeling like (sometimes) a complete, clueless failure, but there have been some victories, and, after the changes of the last week or so, I see the light of my "good boy" shining through again. As we close in on age 4, I know I will not look back on 3 quite so bleakly as I might have

First of all, and this wasn't a struggle so much as a process, he completed night-time potty training. He's been trained during the day since just after he turned two, but the night time thing came a little slower, and I saw no pressing need to force it. About a month and a half ago though, his daddy forgot to put a diaper on him at bedtime, and he stayed dry for the first time ever. Figuring that maybe the diaper was a signal to his body that it was okay to...let go, so to speak, I started putting him in underpants at bedtime and then waking him twice in the night to go to the bathroom. He had a few accidents, so I broke down and bought some Pull-Ups, something I hadn't planned on doing. Of course, because I thought they were an expensive gimmick, they worked like magic. Over the course of a month, I decreased the waking from twice to once to not waking him at all. Then, when his Pull-Up stayed dry for several nights, we switched back to underpants, and voila! Totally done! He's quite proud of himself, and I'm SO proud of him as well.

The second issue I was dealing with was his nap. The J-bird has always needed an afternoon nap. If he doesn't at least spend some time in his bed in the afternoon, evenings with him are a drag. He started fighting it though - doing everything he could think of in his bed to stay awake, and I had to get on him for things like jumping on the bed, kicking the wall, messing with the blinds on the window, yelling really loudly, etc... He never gets out of his bed without permission, but I was going back into his room multiple times during his "nap" to tell him (more firmly each time) to hush, and this was getting very frustrating.

So...I eliminated the issue. I told him that he did NOT have to sleep, but that he DID have to have a "quiet time". His feet were to stay under the covers, and he could talk in whispers. If he would do that, he could have some books and his MagnaDoodle toy.

Magic, I tell you.

Now, he plays quietly in his bed, and 4 out of 5 times, he falls asleep.

Then, on to something more difficult: the HUGE fight over food.

When the J-bird was a baby, just starting with food, I did everything "right". I made all his baby food, gave him healthy veggies and fruit, didn't give him any sugar or processed food for the first year, all in addition to nursing him for 22 months. And none of that prevented him being a picky eater. Even as an infant, peas and green beans and...really any green vegetable made him gag and/or throw up. And yes, I know it "can take up to fifteen tries for a child to accept certain foods", but his opinion was the same on try #30 as it had been on try #1. I fretted and worried and Googled and consulted the pediatrician, and everything I read and heard said NOT to force it. That I should continue to offer him a variety of foods and that he would eventually eat them on his own.

He. NEVER. Did.

And I found myself fighting this kid ALL DAY LONG.

Breakfast was a battle. Lunch was a battle. Supper was a battle. Add this to the nap battle, and by the time James got home, I was angry, frustrated, exasperated, guilt-ridden and feeling like a failure. I adore my son, but there have been evenings over the last several months when I very gladly sent him upstairs to play with his dad and was happy to see him go away from me for an hour or so. More guilt.

Anyway, I looked at the food situation, spent a lot of time evaluating my child and his habits, seeing the things I've been doing wrong, and I decided to change it completely.

I no longer make the J-bird a meal other than what we are eating. I do not stand there, begging, cajoling, threatening time-outs and getting angry. I give him small, reasonable portions of whatever I have made, including a few small bites of vegetables, meat, and/or fruit. If he eats at a reasonable pace as we all sit together at the table, he gets a pat on the back and, usually, a small dessert. If he decides not to eat, he sits at the table until he does, while we all go on with our evening. If bedtime rolls around before he finishes, he'll have that food for breakfast (that only had to happen once).

It may seem mean, but what I figured out is this: while it started out being about the food, it had become an issue of obedience, and I needed to deal with it from that angle. It has taken about a week of re-setting, and we still have the occasional "stow the bananas in my cheek and hope Mama doesn't notice that they're still in there a hour from now" situation, but for the most part, he has started to eat what I put in front of him. Don't get me wrong - I don't expect him to clean his plate. I DO expect him to eat the few bites of vegetables and/or fruit and to try at least a bite of something new, if that's what's in the meal. Now that he's adjusted, he can just relax and eat, and he feels good about it, and I feel good about it. He's decided that he really likes corn and carrots and apple slices. He willingly eats broccoli and mushrooms and bananas. He still does not care for peaches or applesauce, but I don't expect him to like everything. That's okay. The point is that he and I do not spend the entire day butting heads, and we are able to go back to enjoying our mother-son relationship as we did before this became such a consuming thing.

With the fights over food and nap removed from the equation, our days have become sweet again, in a way I had feared was lost with the J-bird's toddlerhood. I've learned some very valuable lessons about parenting and about myself, which I'm grateful for, even if they were hard-won and required some long, hard looks at my very glaring faults. I see my wonderful, stubborn, precious little boy and want to hug him and kiss him again, instead of longing for bedtime with a heavy, guilty heart. It is so good.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Swadding Clothes

I have swaddle babies. Neither of them had any interest in leaving the womb, but once they were "out", both preferred to be wrapped up tightly to sleep.

Here's the J-bird, unswaddled in the hospital.

And a few minutes later, swaddled and fast asleep. He so adamantly liked to be wrapped, that I did a version of a swaddle clear up until he was 18 months old, when I finally night weaned and therefore "sleep trained" him.

I realize that 18 months is elderly to be swaddled, but it was the only way he'd sleep longer than 5-10 minutes. He was what they call "high needs" as a baby. Not that I'd trade it. I wouldn't. He was my precious miracle, and it was my privilege to be the one who got to get up with him. However, as much trash as I took for wrapping him, I was SO glad to have that one tool that helped a little, so I was only up 5-6 times, as opposed to 8 or 9.

Anyway, because everyone had told me that he only liked the swaddle because I made him like it, I didn't figure on swaddling Miss V for very long.


Here she is in the hospital, swaddled and sleeping like an angel. Though she's always been a great sleeper (not a "through the night by 6 weeks" sleeper, she still doesn't sleep all the way through the night, but having a baby who is up once or twice is a breeze after 18 months of getting up as much as was needed with her brother), she has always required wrapping in order to sleep soundly.

And by "required", I mean "screamed bloody murder if I put her down with her arms free". She's not a baby that cries much, let alone screams, so if she's that upset about something, to her, it's a big deal.

It's just what she liked.

Once in a great while, I'd get this - but only for about 10-15 minutes. And then...

Back to this. Swaddling is kind of a pain with a bigger baby, but I developed a technique that was working pretty well. I would periodically try putting her down unswaddled, but it was always a disaster, so I just went with it. Every time I carried her off to bed, I'd wrap her up first. She'd sleep soundly, and then, when she'd wake, she'd Houdini her way out of her wrapper and smile triumphantly at me when I came to get her. It was working out fine. Then, we all got super sick, and she started rolling onto her side in her sleep...and then onto her tummy, because that was more comfortable for her with everything all stopped up. The J-bird never did that in 18 months of swaddled sleep, and the first time I went in and found her that way, I fuh-reaked. She can lift and turn her head, and she was breathing fine, but I was leaping out of bed every twenty minutes to check, and after a few nights of that, I decided it was time to stop wrapping her up.

It took a couple of days and, though I am NOT a proponent of "cry it out" in general, a wee bit of fussing, but by George, she's got it!
She is now an unswaddled, tummy sleeper and seems pretty comfy. Her sleep pattern is returning to normal, and I'm able to rest better, knowing she's unencumbered and free to move. I can lie her down partly awake, and she almost always drifts off on her own without my having to go back in, and when she wakes, she plays happily in her bed and isn't consumed with her Houdini act.

This is not something I anticipated having to deal with before I had children, and it probably seems so silly to some. I'm learning as I go though, that each little one is different. They show up with their own needs and preferences and ways of dealing, and part of my job is to recognize those and accommodate or shape as needed. Some transitions are easy as they grow, and some are hard, but when we're sitting on the other side of something we've accomplished together, it feel pretty great, even if it is just a little sad to leave another baby thing behind.

And I still keep checking her...but that's just 'cause I love to watch her beautiful face as she sleeps so peacefully. I mean, look at her. Can you blame me?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Harleypig Dos

My dad rides a Harley (often with my mom on the back as his Harley Babe), so when the J-bird was (more) wee, my parents gave him a Harley piggy bank.
As you can see...

He loves his Harleypig. Whenever my folks come out to visit, my dad always gives Jimmy some $1 coins to feed the pig. I'm not sure how many $1 coins are in there now, but I'm guessing it's got to be a good start on the J-bird's college tuition by now.

Oh, who'm I kidding? By the time the J-bird gets to college, James and I will probably have to draw straws to see who has to sell a kidney to pay for it. But the Harleypig money should keep him in beer...or pocket protectors (depending on how he turns out)...for a little while at least.


Yesterday, we got a big package in the mail with a wonderful book for the kids that my folks had recorded their voices reading, and a piggy bank for Miss V! They couldn't find a big, pink Harley one they liked, so they put some Harley stickers on a cool pink metallic piggy and made their own.

She likes it.

A lot! Thanks, Granny and Papa! Now I can start my own (root)beer fund! Or maybe I'll just save up for some hair extensions...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Madeleine Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Now that we're feeling SO much better, we're making up for lost time around here. My friend, Traci gave me an awesome cupcake cook book for Christmas, so the kids and I broke it out today and made Madeleine Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting.

At our church's benefit auction last year, I bid on and won a dozen free range eggs each month for six months. Aren't they pretty? I almost hate to use them. Almost.

Helper #1

Helper #2

Dude. These are awesome. Seriously? AWESOME. Here's the recipe (as I made it - I had to substitute for some things I didn't have), from 125 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson

Madeleine Cupcakes

*2 & 1/4 C powdered sugar, sifted
*1 C unsalted butter
*4 eggs
*1 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
*1/2 tsp vanilla
*1/2 tsp almond extract (I didn't have any, so I used some orange juice)
*1 & 2/3 C all purpose flour
*1/4 tsp salt

1. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter until well combined (might take a few minutes, and makes a big mess, so cover the bowl with a towel before you turn the mixer on). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add orange zest, vanilla and almond extract. Add flour and salt, beating until smooth.

2. Scoop batter into greased or lined muffin tins. Bake in 350 oven for 20-25 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for at least 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

I iced them with this, which is also outstanding:

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

*1&1/2 Cups powdered sugar
*3/4 C cocoa powder
*1/2 C unsalted butter at room temp
*1 Tblsp. milk or cold coffee
*2 Tbsp. chocolate cream liqueur (which I didn't have, plus the J-bird will have one, so...)
*pinch of salt

Throw it all in a food processor with metal blade and process until smooth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So Happy Together

Explaining the finer points of tricycle streamer maintenance.

Now that we've accomplished that, how about a snack?

One for you

and one for me!

Love you, little sister.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

This is pretty much all I've got today. We've all been sick for 2 weeks now (no longer contagious - hence the out in public to replenish the depleted groceries), and I'm on antibiotics and not enough sleep. Me do more better couple days.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Me And My Boy

9 Months

She is 9 months old. NINE. MONTHS. OLD. Wow. She weighs 18 and-a-half pounds and is 27 and-a-half inches tall. She sits and rolls and scoots and is trying hard to crawl. She has no interest in pulling up or drinking from a sippy cup (we keep trying)She still sleeps well and eats well, and, in spite of having the same monstrous cold we all have, is cheerful and lovey and joyful all the way down to her toes.

and I love her.

so much.

How could I not?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

This one

utterly adores

this one.


And the feeling is most definitely mutual.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Different Perspective

For Christmas, my mom gave the J-bird a digital camera for small children that is WAY cool. He completely loves it with all his heart. It takes pretty good photos (when he holds still while shooting), plus it has some little games he can play on it, along with some other neat features. I loaded his first batch of photos onto my computer and thought I'd share some of them.

I call this one: "The View From Time Out"

The front of his PJs

Elmo placemat

Silly Band. Why are these cool? I don't get it.

In other news, this dandy little girl just got her second tooth. And her second cold. Guess which one is more awesome?