29 November 2012

24 Hours at Our House

Ever wonder what someone else's days really look like? I decided to keep track of what goes on at our house for one whole day and share it as a blog. I specifically picked a day in advance and stuck with it, because otherwise I knew I would end up either (a) waiting until a "good-to-write-about" day or (b) trying to artificially create a better-sounding hybrid day by piecing bits of different days together.

This account is from 10:00 p.m. Monday night until 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night.

And yes; I kept cryptic notes all day to be able to compose this post. My children ate my memory skills.

10:00 p.m. 
Agent A (age 2) has been asleep for nearly two hours, and Agents E (age 6) and J (age 4) are ready for bed. After brushing teeth and a last-minute bathroom breaks they climb into bed surrounded by a menagerie of stuffed animals. They claim to be too tired for stories, so I turn on their "stars" (a light projected on the ceiling) and cuddle between them for a few minutes. I tell them I will go check on their brother and be back in five minutes. I actually stay ten minutes, come back and E is out but J is still awake. I cover her up again, snuggle a bit, and tell her again that I'll be back in five minutes.

10:15 p.m.
I bump the heat because I'm freezing. I feed the cat because her incessant banging on the cabinet trying to get to where we keep her food is loud enough to wake the neighborhood. Trying to figure out what to do once I confirm all three kids are sleeping. Get online? Write? Watch TV? Go to sleep? A solves that for me: He wakes up coughing. He wants to cuddle and nurse again, but this time sitting up. We move to the rocker where he nurses briefly, then proceeds to cough so much he makes himself puke (a classic J move). I change my shirt and clean us both up, and together we check on J, who is now asleep. Then we go back to rocking.

11:30 p.m.
A is finally gives out and goes back to (relatively) peaceful sleep. I lay him down in his bed and decide that my laptop and the television will both have to wait until tomorrow. Of course, then I can't sleep, because I keep thinking what if the whole throwing up incident wasn't just a fluke related to coughing, and he's really getting sick and has some nasty stomach virus and that means the girls have it and OMG then I will get it and Hubby is gone and how will I take care of everyone and . . . breathing, breathing, breathing. 

12:00 a.m.
A is up again to nurse. This time he's content to lay down and that's fine by me because I'm exhausted. I'm sure I'll fall asleep next to him, but I manage to make it back to my own bed. I toss and turn some more and last remember looking at the clock at 1:00-ish.

5:00 a.m.
E comes into the room. I'm back in A's bed, but I have no recollection of moving down there. E tells me she's not tired. (Yes; my six-year-old gets 7 hours of sleep and feels refreshed. What the what?) I tell her to climb into my bed, I grab the TV remote and join her. She half watches Jungle Cubs while I doze in and out beside her. Soon she decides she'd rather be out in the living room. The next hour or so is a blur; I think I fell back to sleep, but maybe not.

7:00 a.m.
A is awake! And happy and squirmy and literally bouncing on the bed. I guess he's feeling better. Good morning snuggles all around. Yeah! I make coffee while he and E color. I'm not moving very fast this morning. Lots of cuddly time on the couch. A tells me, "mum mum, coffee, hot." He knows me well.

8:30 a.m.
E and A decide to wake up J so she can watch Charlie and Lola with them. I finish my coffee, putter online a bit, and then hang out on the couch with them again. I cut up fruit for us to share for breakfast and afterward we all get dressed. I am especially careful brushing A's teeth this morning.

9:30 a.m.
I get everyone in the car and we're off to A's dentist appointment. I discovered last week that A has two top teeth with brown spots on the underside . . . I literally had to have him upside down to see them. It's about a 30-minute drive and I mistakenly rely on the GPS to navigate us; I could have gotten us there easier following my own sense of direction. On the way we talk about what will likely happen while we're there. E and J offer to help distract or soothe A with singing.

10:00 a.m.
At the dentist office, the kids admire the waiting room fish tank, books, and toys (including a giant stuffed caterpillar) while I check in. I already have most of the paperwork done, as I printed it at home and brought it with me. Anything to avoid having to complete medical questionnaires while simultaneously keeping three monkeys from destroying an office waiting room. We chat about the fish and flip through a few books. Mostly A wants to be held. He knows.

10:15 a.m.
We head back, and the girls plop into the dentist chair, fascinated by the TV on the ceiling. I hold A in my lap facing me and flip his head onto the hygienist's lap for his cleaning. She is really sweet and patient with him as she brushes his teeth with strawberry toothpaste while he screams his head off. All the while I hold his hands and talk gently to him. It doesn't do a whole lot of good. The cleaning is done and he grabs onto me tight. I grab back and kiss him and stroke his hair and try to calm him while we wait. 

10:30 a.m.
The dentist comes in and takes a look at his teeth (through more screaming) and confirms my suspicions: two cavities on his top teeth, plus the beginning of one on one of his molars. With A still on my lap whimpering a bit but mostly relaxing now, the dentist and I discuss options. Clearly we need to do something, because while A's not experiencing pain right now, we don't want them to get worse and/or to affect his permanent teeth. We also talk about possible sealants for the remaining molars. Then the obvious: A would need to be sedated for this dental work. Yikes. I mean, intellectually I know the risks are minimal, and I don't want to take chances with his future oral health, but still. The thought of my two-year-old with IV sedation is unsettling. I hug him a little tighter.

10:45 a.m.
Dentist is back after stepping out briefly and we continue to discuss treatment options and preventing future decay. Breastfeeding comes up. While he acknowledges that night nursing might have partly contributed to A's issues, he by no mean "blames" it and is more understanding (neutral?) than expected. He does ask if I've considered when I might wean him. I say that I intend to wean him gently, but fully expect it to be within the next few months. (Which is mostly true, even though I am still a bit torn.) We kind of drop the subject and he tells me a bit more about the pediatric anesthesiologist they work with. 

11:30 a.m.
After making a follow-up appointment for A (a recheck in a few weeks just to confirm it's not getting worse too quickly) and scheduling his dental work (fairly far out at this point, hence the intermediate appointment) we get ready to leave the office. Before we go, E cleans up all the toys they had out, unprompted. She even recruits J and A to help her with specific tasks. (She takes her oldest sibling role seriously.) This time we ignore the GPS lady and take our own way home. Mostly, we talk about what we're going to have for lunch and what fun we will have this afternoon. Not surprising, my 5:00 a.m. wake up call dozes off in the car for a bit.

12:05 p.m. 
Home sweet home. I fix everyone a quick snack and they run off to play. I take this opportunity to publish a blog post (already drafted the day before) and check Facebook. I send off an e-mail to Hubby explaining our morning. Then I clean up the kitchen a bit while periodically checking on the kids playing in the girls' room.

1:00 p.m.
Time for a book party! They all pile into my bed and I drop a giant stack of library books down. E settles into her latest Cam Jansen mystery. J and A mostly use the books like building blocks, but eventually request a read. I climb in between them and we flip through 3 or 4 books together. Then they are back to wanting to just "arrange" them. Which is fine; I use this opportunity to make tea. I think I'm getting A's cold/sore throat.

1:45 p.m.
Time for another snack. (How is it we managed to miss lunch?) I start Roomba and we decide to go outside. Except there is a lizard on the inside of our sliding glass door (the screen is torn on one side) and he's right by the handle. Which means the second we open the door he's going to scoot inside. And I don't want to be chasing him around the playroom (which of course is a mess; thousands of places for him to hide). So we wait.

2:00 p.m.
It's just as well, because now A needs changed and wants to nurse again. Then all three go back to their usual reading, coloring, stuffed animal adventures. Before long I hear J screaming from the other room, "A pooped on the floor!" Given that I had just changed him, and he was wearing a diaper and pants, I kind of doubted her assessment. E stepped in and informed me that it was just an old craisin. Whew. A litany of poop comments follow. Why are little kids so fascinated with bodily functions? I make another meager effort to clean up a bit while they play, every once in a while popping in to join their pretend world.

3:00 p.m. 
I see the lizard jump off the screen and scurry away. All three kids head outside while I decide I should probably fold the laundry that's been in the dryer since the night before.

3:05 p.m.
I determine it would be way more exciting to do a Google search of "risks of IV sedation for toddler dental work." (I know, I know.) Luckily, most of what I find is positive and encouraging. I continue to check on the Agents every few minutes. (I check more often if it's just J and A out there, but when E is with them, she is my eyes and ears.)

3:30 p.m.
The doorbell nearly scares the life out of me. Two Amazon boxes delivered; one is a Christmas present for the girls from my MIL and the other is my new Kindle. (Ack!) I put the girls' box up in my closet and open the Kindle so I can charge it. Then I check on everyone in the back yard (again) and stay out with them for a short while before coming inside to actually fold and put away laundry for real. A comes inside about half a dozen times, each time wanting me to remove his jacket and then put it right back on. 

4:30 p.m.
They are still playing outside, so I take out the trash and get the mail . . . avoiding lizards again. (Our mailbox doesn't always close all the way and sometimes they crawl inside. I learned not to just stick my arm in and grab a big stack of mail unless I want to be completely freaked out.) Hubby calls and we chat about A's dentist appointment. A comes back inside again, this time to stay. Of course he needs to talk on the phone, too. "I talk dada!"

5:00 p.m
Everyone is back inside now and they all pile into the bathroom to wash hands. I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cut it into pieces to share, and we have a "picnic" on the living room floor. We watch some Octonauts.

5:30 p.m.
It's our usual dinner time, but I'm not sure how hungry anyone is since we just snacked. I heat up leftovers anyway, and they all eat three servings. I guess they were still hungry. Which is no great surprise; most of the time they are pretty much like ravenous wolves. Sometimes J will go through a carrots-only phase, when that's all she wants for dinner. However, her siblings love them, too, so we tend to have carrots almost every day.

6:00 p.m.
After dinner they go off to "clean" their room . . . this is when they are supposed to be getting their room ready for bedtime (i.e., making a path to the bed) and instead end up playing with everything they find. While they do that I clean up from dinner and start the dishwasher. Soon things start to spiral downward; a little pre-bath insanity ensues. There is some pinching, pushing, poking. J hurts herself (again) and needs some love. We decide maybe we should just roll into bath time early.

7:05 p.m.
We actually end up starting bath time five minutes late. But finally they are all in the tub and giggling and clean. (Outside time with no shoes = little mud monsters.) We talk about our day. We count down the days until Daddy comes home. We chat about what we'll do the next day.

7:30 p.m.
Everyone is in pajamas and A is clearly ready for bed. We turn off all but one lamp and I sit on the couch and nurse him while E reads J a story. I continue to snuggle with A long after he falls asleep, but eventually I move him to his bed, get the girls a bedtime snack, and send off another e-mail to Hubby with something I forgot to tell him earlier.

8:10 p.m.
I'm off to take my shower. I'm in the bathroom for exactly five minutes total, during which J interrupts me three times. When I come out the girls are watching Gaspard and Lisa and clamoring for another snack, this time grapes and strawberries. While I'm in the kitchen I compose a quick grocery list for tomorrow. I realize I haven't been to the commissary in almost two weeks, because Hubby was here recently and he went for us. Although, shopping is not really my nemesis. It's usually manageable to get all three to the grocery store; they actually enjoy going.

8:30 p.m.
A is awake. He wants to nurse for a few minutes, then settles back to sleep. E and J want me to read to them from their children's Bible. The three of us snuggle on the couch and they each choose a few stories. We read about four, and then they go back to rearranging their stuffed animals. And more coloring. Oh, the coloring that goes on in our house!

10:00 p.m.
Bathroom breaks and teeth brushing, but no one is tired, so we head back out to the living room. Hopefully they'll be ready for bed soon.

We didn't do much "intentional" school today. That happens sometimes, but I don't stress about it. We always cover reading and P.E. at the very least. :-) And all that coloring ends up being educational, too. Tomorrow is another day. Which will probably be very similar to this one, minus the dental extravaganza, plus a little more school work.

25 November 2012

Torn


I feel like I should be whispering this, but sometimes I'm kind of over breastfeeding my toddler.

I know all the reasons to nurse into toddlerhood. I'm all about the child taking a role in the timing and treating his wishes respectfully. But there are always two people in the breastfeeding equation.

Of course, in general I love breastfeeding and always assumed that his weaning would be a gentle, mutually desired process. (I've written about his older sisters' weanings here.)

Agent A at six weeks, right about the time we really
got the hang of things with nursing
The thing is, though, he has been really, really demanding about nursing lately and sometimes I wish he would just start to lose interest already.

Also, unlike his sisters, he is complete twiddler. He seems to reserve this habit for when he's laying down, in the middle of the night. When nursing should be easy, quick, and peaceful. And we should both be able to drift right back to sleep. Instead I end up squirming and wide awake while he takes for.ev.er. to finish. Makes me crazy!

I know some of you are thinking, well, if you don't want to, then just stop. But it's not that easy. (If it were, I wouldn't be having mixed feelings about it, now would I?) I will not make this traumatic for him. I will not simply take this away from him without warning.

Plus most of the time I still enjoy breastfeeding. That sweet affection they reserve just for you. The way they drift into sleepiness in your arms when they finish. The way they equate Momma = Milk = Love. Sigh.

These feelings are all very new for me, as by the time weaning became an issue with both Senior Agents they were down to once or twice a day and pretty much "ready" so all I had to do was provide a mild nudge of distraction. This is my first experience with considering taking specific action to help end the nursing relationship because I'm wanting to. And A is clearly not; at just over two he still nurses at least four times a day, often more. And he wakes up way more at night than the girls ever did.

Honestly, I don't even understand why I feel this way. I should be dreading the day he stops. I will never, ever get to do this again. This has been my life for over 6.5 years. Why am I not feeling more attached to it? 

Plus I keep thinking he is my last baby and he likely will wean on his own in the next six months to a year anyway, so why push it. The practical side of me thinks should at least get through this cold and flu season first, and maybe by spring he'll naturally slow down anyhow.

The most recent nursing picture I have.
This is in the airport, the day we flew back to the U.S.
Agent A is 19 months here.
To complicate matters, he has what I believe is a cavity, possibly two (don't get me started . . . another post) and we're seeing a pediatric dentist this week. Which means we may be looking at anesthesia, and dental work, and . . . why am I even considering taking his favorite source of comfort away?

As far as specifics, I know all the suggestions for how to wean a toddler (and I've shared them with others). I know all about "don't offer, don't refuse." I attempt to distract or encourage a drink of water or milk from a cup. I tell him the milk goes to sleep, too. He's not buying it.

I know, I know . . . I hear you. The reason he's not buying it is because he's not ready.

And maybe I'm not either. Truthfully, I never imagined myself here. I know there are other Mommas of nursing toddlers who can relate, and understand that it's not a matter of fear, guilt, taking charge, dependence, or any of the many other things I've heard associated with weaning an older child.

19 November 2012

Perspective

I believe the most condescending words one parent can say to another are oh, you just wait

Usually this is the response of a parent of older children or teenagers if you bring up any concern about littles. When they're teenagers, all hormonal and crazy and defiant, you'll be longing for the no sleep, potty training, won't-hold-your-hand-in-the-parking-lot days. This part's a breeze. How I wish my kids were blah blah blah.

Really? This is helpful and supportive? Um . . . thanks?

Because even assuming it's true, that someday I too will wish for these days, what good is it doing to point it out to me? Why not instead show empathy and understanding? Were you not once right where I am now?

What our days look like now
And I wonder . . . will I do that? Will I completely forget what it is like to be lost in the crazy throes of young children and toddlers? Will I be convinced that my new day-to-day, whatever stage that happens to be, is more challenging than ever before? Will I someday have the same slightly mocking reaction to meeting a mother whose daily life is where I am today?

Or worse . . . do I do that now? When I learn a particular family does something outside the mainstream, is my first reaction one of judgment? Do I look at new mothers, struggling with one infant or toddler and think, lady, you don't know how easy you have it. Have I completely forgotten that having one child is hard work? Have I, just 6.5 years into motherhood, already lost perspective?

I hope instead that no matter where I am on my journey I will listen and respond with compassion and not diminish any mother's experience, no matter where she is on her journey.

01 November 2012

A Happy Birthday Letter

Today my youngest child turns two. He is our last baby. I will never again experience the joy (and the crazy) of guiding a brand new person from sleepy, milk-drunk freshness to walking, talking, adventuring toddler.

I intended to write birthday letters to each of the kids each year to give to them later on. I succeeded for the first four years of motherhood. (So, Agent E is six, but she only has four letters. Agent J is four, but she only has two letters.)

I did write one for Agent A last year on his first birthday, but honestly it's way shorter than his sisters' first birthday letters. (I blame that first whirlwind year of having three kids under five. How exactly did I survive that again?)



As I attempt to compose a note to my precious little boy on the second anniversary of his birth, what do I tell him?

Some things I'll likely include would be the following:

. . . a few tidbits he might find interesting later on, such as his height and weight (35 inches, 27 pounds), his favorite food (hmm, that one might be hard to narrow down), and how he likes to "swim" in the bathtub.

. . . that he is "still" nursing and calls it Momma Milk (unlike his sisters, who had made up words for it at that age).

. . . the words he uses for his sisters—Va Va (Eva) and Ju Ju (Julia)—and how I wonder if those will stick as they grow. (My sister, whose real name is Rosemarie, has been "Mimi" for nearly 50 years courtesy of our oldest brother.)

. . . that we moved back to the states this year (he was born in Italy) on June 1st when he was exactly 19 months old, and what our traveling journey was like. Because you'd think you could never forget a full day of international travel with a toddler (plus two siblings) yet someday we'll be scratching our heads thinking, "how old was he? what month (year!) was it again?"

. . . my admission that well before his second birthday arrived I passed on my guilty food pleasure of cheddar sourdough pretzels.

. . . a bit about his vocabulary, quite extensive compared to his sisters' at the same age. Likely because he hears them talking nonstop every waking moment. And they like to ask him to say new words.

. . . that his very first sentence was "I want mum mum" (but his current favorite thing to say is "Daddy—home—airplane").

. . . a story about his experience with trick or treating last night, where he became an instant "pro" at the knocking-holding-out-the-bag-smiling-and-waving-thanks bit by watching his partners in crime.

One thing I have not yet determined is when I will share these letters. When they turn 16? 18? 21? When they head off to college? leave home? get married? (Heck, Agent E would get a kick out of them now, at six.)