Category Archives: Milestone Madness

Holy Hell. What is happening to my sweet baby boy?

I called my sister and Mother last night in hysterics. One has raised five children, the other is raising six, and both are educators with masters degrees in child development and early education. Naturally, I felt that they should be the first to hear the news that I feel that my son needs a psychiatrist and may be headed toward a future as a psychopath.

OK. So that statement is ludicrous and far from any realm of possibility, but I do feel that we are at a pivotal stage in which our proper handlings of his recent behaviors are monumental in his understanding of what it means to make a loving and positive impact on society as a human being.

Zachary is pushing three and a half and spends one half of the day completely out of control. He seems to have two personas. The one that wakes up in the morning, happy, calm and perfectly lovely – “Mommy, I love you.” “Can I help you with that? I would really like to help today, Mommy” “Isabelle, would you like me to hold your hand?” This child walks with a steady gait and exhibits manners that would earn us a “Parents of the Year” certificate.

Then there is the other, who rips through his clothing and transforms our perfect child into the Incredible Hulk. This horrifying transformation is somewhat predictable, and while we do see glimpses of his green eyes throughout the day, he mostly lies dormant until around 4 pm. He tears through the house singing like a 70-year-old chain smoker in a way that causes polyps to grow on my vocal chords just by listening, tackles his sister to the ground in the name of “play”, grabs toys, barrels into us with a force that has knocked the wind out of us on several occasions, (or, has left my poor husband doubled over in the kitchen for at least ten minutes trying to ease the excruciating pain with happy thoughts that perhaps he is now infertile), and throws us all into a black hole while trying to get out the door to run errands. Dressing him is like trying to shimmy a unitard onto a baby donkey, and reasoning with him is like begging an intoxicated person to stop slurring his speech and bumping into walls.

During these bouts of complete and utterly painful chaos, there is absolutely nothing that works but waiting it out. We have tried time-outs, taking toys away, going into a dark room, away from stimuli and holding him, and deep breathing (the last one is for us). I have even gone as far as to lock Isabelle and I in her room as a way of removing ourselves from this behavior (because I can’t in good conscience lock him in his own room). While that does seem to be the only consequence that actually seems to bother him, it still doesn’t exorcise the demon. He falls asleep exhausted at 8:30, after umpteen “Zachary, you are too smart and wonderful, and have too much to offer the world for us to allow this behavior” talks (all of which go right over his head, of course. He’s three for heaven’s sake), and wakes up in the morning, fresh and lovely again as if his alter ego didn’t have his mother up all night crying the evening prior.

The obvious issue here seems to be that there is a food allergy of sorts. But anyone who has tried to pinpoint a food allergy causing something short of anaphylaxis, knows that this can be a wild goose chase of frustration and confusion. But, we will continue to look into this theory. The other is that he is extremely over-tired. Try as I may to get him to nap, he refuses. If we are in the car at 4:30 or 5:00, he is out within 30 seconds. But, napping this late and going to bed at 10:00 p.m. is not an option. We are strict about bedtimes and covet the post-8:30 hours that are OURS. We are not forfeiting those.

So, while I do encourage thoughts from all of you on this, I also encourage you to read this article that my blessed sister sent to my inbox at 1:00 a.m. This is comfort to anyone in the midst of the “half-years”, or anyone experiencing PTSD from living through them years ago.

http://planningwithkids.com/2009/11/17/characteristics-of-three-and-a-half-year-old-behavior/

This article describes my son to a tee, and gave me much comfort this morning as I read it and thought perhaps he is not going to become a mass murderer after all.

How many months until age four?

*Fact Check- All statements are true and correct….Unfortunately

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Who Put the Bop in the Bop Shoo Bop Shoo Trash?

Even with all of our plans before the births of our children – (attachment parenting, on-demand breast-feeding, baby wearing, etc) they both became “Bop Babies”. For all those of you unfamiliar with Motherfog lingo, “Bops” are pacifiers. We don’t know where this name came from, but it’s become such a household name, that we are always confused when people have no idea what we’re talking about.

While we did follow through with all of the aforementioned parenting techniques, bops were thrown into the night-time mix to help pacify in between every two and three-hour breast-feedings.

But, when Zachary was around six months old, we made a steadfast rule that no bops would be allowed outside of the crib (or car if napping). This rule followed suit with baby number two and has been high on the short list of “brilliant parenting decisions” made by the Motherfog child-raisers. We have often praised ourselves for this family law, as so many benefits came from it. Not only were we free from chasing after pacifiers all around town, and being stuck with photos full of plastic-faced cherubs, but its practice encouraged a desire for “crib quiet time”. Both kids welcomed a couple of ten or twenty-minute stretches of daytime solitude in their own beds to steal some precious moments with their bops and a book or two.

However, we recently realized a fatal flaw in our plan. When the pacifier is only allowed in the privacy of the child’s bed, the courage and ambition to go through the agony of taking it away slowly wanes. It sort of becomes a little secret, free from judgmental glances from public onlookers. Unless you find yourself entertaining a playdate in your son’s room and the pacifier is spotted. In which case I have not been above quickly covering up with,

“Isabelle! What are your bops doing in Zachary’s room? Silly girl!”

But, before you know it, you’re looking at your three-year old, all dressed for bed, and he suddenly looks like a college kid dressed up for Halloween in a “Baby” costume with a pacifier hanging out of his mouth.

I happened to google the issue this morning, and was stung by the harsh critics on the web – critics, of course, being other mothers who I am certain are the images of maternal perfection themselves – once you agree to look past the glaring grammatical and spelling errors in their scathing comments.

But, lets move past my hurt feelings from judgments of those whom I have never met. Of course, they only ruffled me because it’s true. I am absolutely certain that Zachary is the only kid in his class that still uses a pacifier at night, but the decision to take it away has never aligned with what feels like the right time and place.

When he turned one, I was five months pregnant, alone with him in Utah, working long hours, and attempting to star in a show. Not the best time…for me.

At 16 months, we brought a new baby sister home. Certainly not the best time.

At two, we were about to move across the country. Definitely not.

Last summer, just before he turned three, we planned to tackle the issue.

He broke his femur.

Need I say more?

So, while at the moment, we seem to be finding ourselves in some modicum of status quo (pardon me while I go ram my head into a two-by-four), it’s time to Seize the Day.

But, if we’re going to do this, why not go hog-wild and make it a bat-shit, bop-breaking bash, and take it from the 22 month old too?

This morning went like this:

Me “Hey, honey? How would you feel about getting no sleep for the next week?”

Husband “Why?”

Me “I think it’s time to ditch the bops”

Husband “Um. OK”

Three minutes later…

“Hey guys! Daddy and I have talked for a long time about this. We’ve decided it’s time to say good-bye to the Bops. You are big enough to sleep without them now and they are going away. It will be hard for a few days and we are here to give lots of hugs and snuggles, but we know you can do it!”

Let the Games Begin!

Blogger’s Note:

A friend has a story she likes to tell about her first encounter with me. Apparently, I was amusing a group of people at a party with a story, got carried away with my own exaggerations, and cut myself off with,

“That’s not true!”

She has never forgotten it. It is true. I do exaggerate. It’s a family trait. But, as I have stated before on this blog, I will always fess up, and usually within the same conversation (or post). So, I’ve decided to add a “FACT CHECK” at the end of posts.

*FACT CHECK

1.)The bops are not in the trash. That would be mean and heart-breaking. For me more than them, I think. They are in a drawer and will perhaps be bronzed like a pair of first baby shoes

2.)That was an exaggeration I will most likely not have them bronzed. That would be very strange, even for me.

Have a click!

Stress, Stress and more Needless Stress

Nearly three years ago, in Los Angeles, I joined a Mom’s group to hack through the thick weeds of isolation that often grow out of first-time Motherhood.

I remember sitting there in a circle with eight or nine other shell-shocked women as we stared at our newborns laying on a brightly colored parachute, listened to the instructor sing “Wheels On The Bus” and drifted off, daydreaming of sleep that spanned longer than two hours, a peace with the bittersweet end of our old lives, and a clear understanding of the roles in our new ones.

Once our infants hit the ripe old age of  ten or eleven weeks, the syllabus contained the topic of preschool selection.

“Oh, for the love of God!” I thought.

“Can I at least wait for my ovaries to settle back into their previous positions before sending my kid to school?” (Which they did, by the way…about a year sooner than anticipated)

From that day forward, I stressed about preschools, almost daily.  Once we moved across the country, I learned that many of our surrounding schools had waiting lists dozens of names long.

Dizzying stress.

We found the perfect place.  Deposits were in and forms were filled out before it occurred to us that Zachary had not yet been left anywhere.

Ever.

As a last-minute effort to acclimate him to such experiences, we tried the church nursery.

Screaming and wailing ensued, along with a possible escape attempt.

Ulcer-provoking stress.

I warned the teacher.  I warned the parents. I warned myself.

But, as I always say…

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

OK.  I didn’t say that.  Mark Twain did, but we really are so similar, Mark and I.

This A.M. – A brief synopsis –

“Zachary, we’re leaving now.”

“Bye!” he answered, his back already turned and scooting off to show his teacher his “All About Me” poster.

We walked down the hall away from his classroom, at a loss for how to fill the endless span of two whole hours with only one child, as I pondered these burning questions…

1.)When on earth did my baby become this little boy?

And perhaps more importantly,

2.) What other nonsense do I heap onto our everyday lives that will just work itself out?

That roly poly fellow in the red shirt…that’s my baby

Apparently, we like red

P.S.

This afternoon he told us,

“I was a little but scared and I missed Mommy, Daddy and Isabelle, but I kept my tears in my eyes and my cries in mouth”
I must assure you that we told him repeatedly that it was ok to be scared, nervous and sad, and it was even ok to cry. So, please believe me when I say his choice to man up and stifle his emotions stems from deep within his own DNA and from nothing taught by either of us.

have a click!

Attack of the Empty Threats

We are in a crack-down zone here in the Motherfog house.  With the “half-year” theory (equilibrium-disequilibrium) proving its validity with a vengeance, we are tightening the reins and nailing down boundaries. We are committed to regaining our status as The Parents.  AKA, the ones in control.  Sadly, the roles have recently reversed and those under three feet tall have staged a hostile take-over.

I could give 75 examples, all from before 10 am today, but I’ll pick one from the top five and keep it short. We have been struggling with following through. Just as an example:

“Zachary, if you continue to throw water on your sister’s head, we are going inside”. Followed immediately by Isabelle waddling toward me, drenched and screaming. Great. Now I have to go inside on a beautiful day and figure out how to entertain two toddlers who have been stuck inside for three days due to inclement weather and fevers.  Inevitably, I retract my threat, chipping away at what little authority I still have.  Clearly, mommy doesn’t mean business.

We’re done. We’re not doing them any favors by letting them create their own “routines” or their own rules. This applies to EVERYTHING. Meals, bedtimes, grocery store behavior, and respectful sibling play-time interaction.

Day one of crack-down:

I have a standing Mommy-Zachary Saturday morning date with my two and a half year old. Nothing is more exciting than our weekly trip to the Recycling Depot. The employees look forward to seeing him and fellow town recyclers watch with adoration as my little cherub divides the plastics from the cardboard and tosses them in to their respective bins.

This morning, as we were in the midst of the black hole that appears while attempting to dress two toddlers, Zachary found much merriment in an adorable new game.

Spitting.

Spitting on Daddy. Spitting on Mommy. Spitting on Baby sis.  He was calmly but sternly asked multiple times to stop this gross and unacceptable behavior and each time responded with maniacal giggles.

Finally, I got him to make eye contact and with deliberate weight and seriousness informed him that if he did it again, he would NOT be joining me at the Depot.

One millisecond later, I was wiping saliva from my knee. I picked up Isabelle, left his room and headed downstairs for the front door.  He ran after me crying, “I will stop, Mommy! I will! I will”. I turned to him and said,

“It’s too late, Zachary. You can go next week”, and closed the door behind me.

Windows open, I could hear him screaming in hysterics all the way down the street. “It’s not too late, Mommy!  It’s not to late!  I wanna go with youuuuuuuuuuuuu!”

It was a somber trip to the recycling yard.  I missed my little helper. Not that I don’t adore my daughter, but rusty cans and sour cartons just aren’t her thing.

Why do I share this?  Because I feel you all will benefit from my reiterating a basic concept of Parenting 101?  No. Hundreds of experts have and will continue to explain it better.

The punchline is what makes this story blog material.

As I emptied my blue bins, our friendly Public Works employee asked “Where’s the little guy?”

As I explained this morning’s salivary problem and subsequent unfortunate consequence, a ball of spit escaped from my mouth and hit him on the head.

I chose to ignore it rather than point out the irony,  but I giggled all the way home.

Blogger’s note:
Zachary’s listening skills dramatically improved throughout the rest of the day. I think we’re on to something!

Let’s get ready for Crack-Down Day Two

Would you Be so Kind as to help me out by clicking? Thanks!

The Voice of a Child

There was a lot of singing in our household throughout my upbringing. Perhaps more singing than cookies or candy.  My sisters and I joined in harmony at every holiday gathering, church event, ceremony, meal, and car ride.

Often, our voices would evoke tears from my parents. More from my Dad, than my Mom. She was always proud, but an honest perfectionist. The absence or presence of her tears was always the true litmus test, as only the most exquisite performance would bring them to her eyes.

To Dad, we were always angelic songbirds, never out of tune or without the glow of stardom.  Whether we were humming a tune while washing dishes or starring on-stage at 45th and Broadway, it was all the same to him.

But, if Mom cried….we knew whatever we did, it must have been good!  A perfect balance between the two of them.

In all honesty, I never quite understood the  reaction from either of them. Even with their explanation about tears of joy, I didn’t quite get it.

Today, as we ran errands, the familiar tunes of my hand-selected nursery playlist created during Zachary’s 34th week in utero played through the car speakers.  My own little songbird softly joined Ingrid Michaelson in her chorus of “Everybody“.

I found his reflection in the rearview mirror as he sweetly sang the words while watching the passing scenery outside the window. He wasn’t watching me with a grin, waiting for my reaction as he often does.  He wasn’t singing for my benefit, or for his sister’s, for that matter.

He was just singing. Quietly. Simply.

I cried.

My original intention for the end of this entry was a cliché button. Something along the lines of “And now I understand”.

But, I don’t. I don’t understand what lives in the voice of a child or how it works its magic, but I do know it’s art at its most raw.   Music at its purest.  Before we muck it up with our labels, contests, idols and awards.

The voices of ALL children.

And the voice of  YOUR child….

No words.

Maybe that’s why we cry.

Journeying East – Day 9 – The Final Countdown!

We had a reprieve last night from the generic feel of a  hotel room, as we were welcomed with open arms into one of my dearest friend’s family home in St. Louis. It was by pure, blessed coincidence that she herself happened to be in town visiting from Seattle.  The house was all a buzz with twinkling lights, ornate trees and animated Santa Clauses, as we came on the heels of their own delayed family Christmas gathering.  The kids were in their glory to be able to finally be in the warmth of a home, and being that our Christmas was sparse and lack luster with our impending move, my heart smiled at the sight of them crawling amidst the holiday cheer.

They were babysitting their beautiful grandchild of 5 months, making it a Babyland Fun Zone!  Seeing Isabelle next to him somehow transformed her from my baby into a small child.  So strange how that happens. Once the kids were sleeping soundly, I got the rare chance to sit and have some girl time with my old friend over a bottle of wine. Definitely the highlight of our trip and a peaceful pause from the insanity!

I will say however, that we blew in like a tornado, and did not leave things as we found them, a task that is very hard when accompanied by a two-year-old, one-year-old, and a poorly trained pair of dogs. A family heirloom is broken in pieces, and a relatively new carpet is stained.  I was scolded by my husband for apologizing five too many times, and told briskly to drop it. Of course they said not to worry, but I do wish I had more control over octopus arms and leg lifting lap-dogs. What can you do?  We’re almost home. Plenty of things to ruin in our own house.

As guilty as I feel, I am so thankful for our time in St. Louis, and for our friends’ warm Welcome. Off to Columbus…back to hotel living. But if all goes as planned, it will be our last night away from the coziness of our own sheets!

Almost there!!!!  Keep the home fires burning!!!

Go! Go! Go!….Um….Wait……

We’ve been cheering her on for weeks now. Even her brother joins in. “Go Ellie! You can do it, baby sister!” She is ready to break out of her stationary cocoon and explore the vast world of sloppy dog dishes and power cords! She needs that toy train, just out of reach with such determination, it consumes her tiny voice with a frustrated screech!
We’ve been on the sidelines of this infantile sport and are eagerly waiting for her to reign victoriously!  We’re here to offer a nudge or a tuck of the knees to assist in her endeavors, but this achievement is just for her. The first of many.
Today we step away for only seconds, and return to find her in a completely different location than where she was left. Our little Houdini.  She must have done it! We wait with eager anticipation for her to perform her previously private skill, until at last she graciously allows an audience. With a feisty glimmer of a grin and a concentrated furrow of her brow, she is off!  Under the crib before we can regale her with a standing O!
As I flick a proud tear from my eye and an inappropriately tiny object from her mouth, my euphoria sobers to panic.  A hard pit swelling my stomach.
Oh crap. They’re both mobile.