Monthly Archives: June 2011

Just a’swinging

Just some photos of the boys swinging on a beautiful day.

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Simon holds on for dear life

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Now he's got it, no worries.

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I was skeptical about letting Declan push...

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My favorite moments are ones like this.

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Simon enjoyed being pushed by Declan, probably because unlike when I did it, he actually moved.

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You can kinda tell that Simon is LOVING this!

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My sweet boys. I'm pretty sure there is bird poop somewhere on that swing, though.

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Window watching

As I muddle through all this parenting nonsense, every once in a while, I gain some clarity that usually shocks the hell out of me. Not that I have any clue what I’m doing, but sometimes I at least catch a glimpse of the road I’m on. Which is better than nothing, I suppose.

Tonight it dawned on me that parenting is just one window of opportunity after another. Or at least one window-watching opportunity after another. There is always some milestone on the horizon, some new skill to be learned and practiced. But how do you know when it’s time to introduce something? How do you know when to push and when to hold back? You don’t, that’s the hard part. You just have to watch for the chance to try.

I do think as they get older, the clues become more obvious, because the milestones become more obvious. Things like potty training. You know around 2-3, it’s time to introduce the toilet. But then you have to watch for clues. At least at 2, 2 and a 1/2, they can talk and walk and, well, hold their pee, so you can kinda gauge when to pull the diapers and switch to undies.

But then there are more subtle things, like ditching the paci or the bottle. A child isn’t going to say “Hey, mom, I think I’m done with this bink now, thanks.” Well, they might if you wait til they are 10, but as toddlers, that conversation isn’t likely to happen. So you look for signs — these windows of opportunity — that your kid is ready to move on past the paci/bottle stage. If you open the window at the right time, the transition will be a smooth one. If you miss the window or try to force it, things will be much tougher on everyone. We were lucky when Declan ditched his paci and bottle in that I think we caught the window both times. With the bottle, he was about 15 months, and we switched from bottle to soft-spout sippy, then switched up the nighttime routine so that having his milk wasn’t the last thing he did before bed, and that was it. No tears, no screaming, just done.

The paci we actually ditched twice. Once, I felt he was just of the age to try and ditch them, so we tested the water. Declan was just over 2, and only needed his binkies at bed time (and yes, he had about 6 in bed). But I had a suspicion that he actually didn’t need them any more and that they were just one more thing in his bed to keep him occupied. So we told him about the “Binky Fairy” and how little babies needed his pacifiers, etc. He bought it, we took them, and that was that. No tears, no disruptions. Until a month later. Declan had back-to-back illnesses that completely disrupted his sleep and for about a month, he would NOT go to bed without an absolute SCREAMFEST. It was horrible, actually. Paul and I were at a loss. One night during the midst of his troubles, I found a paci under a chair, and I immediately gave it to him, hoping it would help. It didn’t, but the paci love came back in full force. I wanted to kick myself.

A few months later, I noticed that at bed time he wasn’t paying that much attention to his pacis, so I suggested to Paul that we discreetly phase them out. Not make a big deal about it, but just kinda keep them on the back burner. And lo and behold, a few weeks later, we were paci-free and Declan never even noticed. Jackpot, again.

So now I’m facing some of these windows again with Simon. And I’m still making mistakes, with both of them. Sometimes I really beat myself up for missing the windows of opportunity, because I feel like I should recognize them by now. Or I may recognize the window but push too hard before Simon is ready. I have to remember to take a step back and look at him and where he is in his development and his needs. I hate making mistakes with my boys so much, but like everything else in life, that’s how I learn. I have to keep an eye out for these windows and jump when the time is right.

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Powering off

Like this photo, too much tv is going to become a thing of the past!


Like everyone else in Knoxville, we fell victim to the Power Outage of 2011 (thus far), and more importantly, the Cable and Internet Black Out of 2011 (thus far). It sucked, but not as bad as it could, since we were only without power for 24 hours. Five days later, several thousand people still don’t have power in town, and they may not for a few more days. Suckage.

Once we got our power back, we were dismayed to realize that our cable and internet were still off. No one was more frustrated than Declan, who didn’t understand why he could watch a DVD, but not Dino Dan. And we have a pretty limited DVD collection, so no favorite movie was going to take the place of the hundreds of channels and OnDemand shows he has available at his fingertips. I was sweating it.

By Saturday, however, I wasn’t missing cable at all. And most importantly, neither was Declan.

Over the course of the 4 days we were off the grid, I know we interacted and played more as a family than we have in a long time. It kinda shamed me, actually. I used to be pretty diligent about how much and what TV Declan could watch. Then I got pregnant (read: lazy) and then I gave birth to a little boy who nurses tons and TV became way more present in our house. What started with turning it on while I went and put Simon down turned into leaving it on after Simon was down so I could put dishes away or straighten up or eat or sit for a minute. I first started feeling REALLY bad when Declan would start telling stories about Max and Ruby or Diego like they were real people. This was not part of my parenting plan.

So while I am glad that the cable and internet are back on, I am recommitting myself to limiting Declan’s TV time. He is a smart, social and totally creative little boy, and left to his own devices, he has a great time. So while I don’t love summer time without a/c or being totally cut off from the outside world, this mom is using the storm as motivation to stay unplugged a lot more.

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I could have told you that.

Well, color me surprised. A new study out this month proves that a kid’s whine is actually the most annoying sound in the world.

No shit.

Seriously, I hope this study didn’t cost money, because to me, this is the biggest no-brainer on the planet. And while you don’t have to be a parent to agree that whining is absolutely vile, I have to say that since becoming a mom (and especially a mom of a toddler/preschooler), it has become Public Enemy No. 1.

Crying and tantrums don’t phase me. If I hear another child crying in the store, for example, I immediately feel my nurturing instincts kick in. If I see another child having a tantrum over something, I basically just give the mom a look that says “Been there! Kids suck!” and carry on my way. Same with my own kids. If Declan is truly angry at something and throwing a fit (like he did at the store Sunday in the entryway in front of everyone, thanks honey), I just ignore him til he’s done. It is very easy for me to keep my cool when he’s acting like a lunatic. Mainly because I know that when he’s in the middle of a meltdown, I could offer him a pony covered in ice cream, and he wouldn’t give in. So I just let go and let it happen. But whining? No. No, no, no. I cannot tolerate it for one second.

Whining to me is just plain old greed. It’s the International Language of Spoiled Brat. Because no one whines for something they truly need, like water when you are really thirsty. You whine when someone brings you water but you wanted a coke/a beer/a sippy cup of apple juice. You whine when you are given an inch but want the mile. You whine when 2 episodes of Dora aren’t enough (it’s enough. It’s always enough). Whining makes me angry. Whining makes me want to scream profanities at my child, or take him to a homeless shelter or Holocaust Musuem to say “YOU THINK YOU’VE GOT IT BAD??? YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW!” But that would be an overreaction to a 3 year old’s wish for chips instead of carrots.

So yes, had I been a participant in this study, which should be under review by the Geneva Convention because they had to listen to whining, buzz saws and baby talk WHILE DOING MATH, I would have lost my mind. I may have even done some whining.

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Sleep Battles

So this week, Paul and I bit the bullet and “sleep trained” Simon, one of my least favorite parts of parenting. But for our family, gently guiding Simon into a more independent sleep routine was becoming a top priority and fast.

Simon is an unbelievably easy baby. Very little seems to phase him, and I do not want to rock that boat for my own convenience. But we also learned from our mistakes with Declan, and now know that most kids need some sort of help (or training or torture depending on how you look at it) to get enough sleep in a healthy way. I stupidly got in the habit of rocking Declan to sleep as a baby, and while that worked ok when he was a newborn, the older he got, the more difficult that became. We would rock him to sleep and lay him down only to have him pop right up, ready to play. This would go on for hours a night, with Paul and I taking turns “putting him down” until I would finally go get in bed with him or fall asleep in the recliner. We didn’t want to have a family bed or even co-sleep, but I also was extremely hesitant to do any kind of sleep training. Paul would have done it much sooner than I was willing to, but I wouldn’t budge, so I shouldered the majority of the sleepless nights in return. By the time he was 11 months old, we had moved into a new house, and his room was too small to have his crib and a bed, so any co-sleeping was done in a recliner. After a few weeks of that, I was literally too exhausted to drive safely. Our marriage was suffering immensely and our whole family was unhappy. We decided to take action.

I read several books, but the book Sleeping Through the Night by Jody Mindell really resonated with me, especially after my friend Colleen recommended it. After reading it together, we implemented our plan. Declan was going to have to CIO. We spent the first two nights going in at increasing intervals to “reassure” him that we were still here, but after 2+ hours of crying a night, I realized that we were only making him angrier by going in but not rocking him. So we stopped going in. It was agonizing, I won’t lie. But after 45 minutes, he was out. The next night, we laid him down and didn’t go back in. I feared the worst. Eight minutes later, silence. The next night, we laid him down and that was it. He began sleeping 12+ hours a night, napping wonderfully and, most importantly, he had rested parents who could give even more to him than ever before.

I was fully on the sleep training bandwagon.

So with No. 2, I VOWED to not make the same mistakes. I wouldn’t have time to lay around holding a baby all day and night, I’d have another kid (plus the little boy I babysat) to watch over. So from the get-go, Simon napped in the swing and slept with me at night. For the first 3 months, it was pretty great. Sure, he woke to eat often during the night, but it was eat and back to sleep, no prob.

Around 3 months, things got hairy. There is a major growth spurt at 3 months, and it hit Simon with a vengeance. Combine that with his long naps in the swing during the day, and our nights were spiraling out of control. He was nursing every 90 minutes, obviously for comfort, and was fussy and over tired. I couldn’t determine if he was sick or gassy or miserable for any other reason (Reason No. 1 to sleep train: Sleep habits are a GREAT indicator of baby’s well-being), so I didn’t know what to do other than nurse him. I was slowly becoming more and more exhausted, frustrated and an overall frazzled mom. My attitude with Declan was suffering, I had no energy left to even talk with Paul at the end of the day and I felt like I was drowning in anxiety. I knew something would have to change.

While I fully planned on sleep training Simon, I also wanted to wait til he was 4 months old, per Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, the child sleep bible. We made some gentle changes leading up to his 4 month birthday that easily got him sleeping in his crib and waking around twice a night to feed. We ditched the swing and attempted to get him napping in his crib during the day. We saw major improvements, but he was still taking 2-3 hours to go down at night and napping was spotty. So while I was at least now sleeping back in our room and getting some rest, I was still fried at the end of the day after battling naps and bedtime.

Four months couldn’t come fast enough.

So after his well-check this week, it was time to act. I hated the thought of my little angel crying without me, but with him being so overtired and frustrated, a lot of crying was already going on all day long. Our nursing relationship was suffering, as well, as I could never judge if he had eaten well since he was nursing so frequently but falling asleep during every session. It was time.

The first night, we never let him cry more than 10 minutes. We checked on him and soothed him every time we felt he was getting too upset, but our goal was to get him to fall asleep on his own in his crib. It took 90 minutes, which I hated. I don’t go outside or turn the monitor off. I sit there and listen to every cry. If he’s crying, I’m crying right there with him. I guess it’s my own version of self-flagellation.

The next day, he napped like a champ. Three great naps, zero tears. The next night, he did even better, and after some crying, I determined he was still hungry, so after feeding him again, he went down happily with zero fussing. He nursed during the night twice and after a 6 a.m. wake up, he went back down til 9:30!! Victory!

I can already see massive changes in things. One, I am a new woman. Having 3-4 hours kid-free at the end of the day is crucial to me. Not every mom needs this, I’m sure, but I definitely do. I need that time to myself and I need that time with Paul. A healthy marriage has to be prioritized. Two, Simon is napping fabulously, which means I have more time to spend with just Declan during the day. Three, Simon is learning healthy sleep habits that I believe are crucial. I think healthy sleep is as important as good nutrition, and if some tears are involved in the short term to set things on the right path for the long term, I’m ok with that. I know I never abandoned my child (a popular complaint against any training involving crying) and I know that there were way fewer tears shed in three days of training than in 11 months of bad sleep.

So like so many other parenting decisions, I had to do something that made my child (temporarily) unhappy in order to make my whole family happy. I don’t enjoy it while it’s happening but I have seen the results in both my boys, and know I did right by them and myself. That, to me, is what parenting is all about.

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Brotherhood vs Motherhood

So the past couple of days have worn on me. I’m trying really hard to get Simon on a decent sleep schedule without doing any tough sleep training. We’ve gotten into a decent system, but bedtime sometimes takes upwards of 90 minutes of nursing and getting him to fall asleep on his own with minimal crying. Luckily he will usually sleep for at least 4-5 hours after that, but I don’t go to bed at that exact minute, so I am sometimes only getting sleep in 2 hour increments through the night. Other times he does great. He definitely is affected by what I eat, or at least I think he is. I love him so much that I’ve cut out cheese, and that is saying A LOT. Cheese is totally in my top 10 things I love the most. It’s sad, but it’s true.

Anyway, I have kinda snuck in some cheese over the weekend (I’m weak!) and he has been mega gassy and not sleeping as great. Plus his naps are everywhere, and I’m not really sure what to do at this point about that. Basically, I’m just winging it right now, which is stupid, because I’m tired.

So after a couple of long days and nights, with him fighting sleep all day and into the night and me feeling burnt out, I got to take him for his 4 month well check today. Which means vaccines. Those always help, right? Blah.

So the good news is that he is super healthy and perfect, according to our pediatrician. 16 lbs, 14oz (88%) and 25.5″ (65%). I hope he’s not short like me. Anyway, 3 shots and one oral vaccine later, I have one miserable little baby. He started the day pretty pissed since he did not go to sleep until 10 p.m. last night because he was gassy (I stupidly tried rice cereal, so I don’t know if that did it or what) and was up twice and then up in the morning at 6:45.

Our afternoon turned into a shit storm of Simon crying and screaming, not sleeping, not wanting to nurse and an upset tummy. Oh yea, don’t forget about Declan in all of this. That poor child had to hang out at the doctor’s office and other than a trip to the library afterward, sit around and not be entertained by me for the rest of the day. I tried to play with him and do things, but Simon was MISERABLE. So Mom of the Year here let her 3 year old watch 3 hours of TV in a row. Yea, nice. I kept hoping Simon would just fall asleep and stay asleep in his bed and we could go outside or do something, but every few minutes he was up screaming until he finally fell asleep on me in the living room. Poor Declan just wanted to play with us so bad. But he never complained, not once.

It did get better. All afternoon, the only time Simon was happy was when Declan was with him. He would be in full-on scream mode and Declan would do one of his signature moves, and Simon would just giggle away. He cheered him up all day. Declan was sincerely worried about Simon, too. Before his appointment, Declan warned Simon that his shots would hurt “but then you get a lollipop!” All day, he doted on his brother, and it truly made Simon happier.

At the end of the day, I thanked Declan for being so patient and understanding with me while Simon didn’t feel well. He said “that’s ok, he feels better now!” and went on about his business. Declan is a better mom than I am, and I’m totally ok with it. I guess sometimes a boy just needs his brother.

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Two things I’ll never do

This.

Or this.

Because our house is OURS, not Declan’s or Simon’s. They get a swing set and even that is pushing it.

And if I’m going to Europe, it’s not going to be with SpongeBob. Or my kids, for that matter.

I see these commercials all the time and I think “Either I’m a crappy parent or this is what’s wrong with kids today. Or both.”

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