Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Also, new words she learned to say well enough that at least one person can understand her part of the time: duck, dog, grandma, beach, baaaa(blanket), flower, baby, weeeee(swing/park/slide). Notice anything missing? That's right, the kid is 17 months old, and still hasn't called me anything other than whaaaaaaaa!
Let me back up a bit to put this in perspective. Liza has a blanket that she sleeps with, and until recently that was all she did - sleep with it. It never left her crib, unless we were swapping it with the identical one we bought so we could wash it. But several weeks ago Liza decided that the blanket was coming with her to breakfast, where we had to physically wrestle it away from her so that she could eat without mashing yogurt into the blanket. Have you ever tried to get a blanket away from a toddler? I think they somehow grow extra hands with super strength, because it's much more of a battle than you'd think, and just when you think you've got it, the toddler digs in again. It's like wrestling an octopus, only less wet.
Right before we went to Cape May, Liza decided that it was necessary to bring the blankie downstairs after naps, too, and she started dragging it around the house. Actually, she started awkwardly carrying it, holding as much of it as she could in both hands, usually in front of her face, so that if she didn't trip or slip on the parts dragging on the floor, she invariably ran into something because she couldn't see where she was going.
This got worse at the beach, where Liza pretty much had to have the blanket in sight at all times when we were at the house, and we had to wrestle it away from her when we went to the beach. I have no problem with her being that attached to her blankie - heck, I'm not the one to throw the first stone there, as my blankie went with me to college, and didn't get fully retired from service until I got married, for god's sake. But her method of carrying the blanket was problematic, and it seemed like an easy problem to fix.
So Monday morning before her preschool class started, I cut blankie in half and hemmed the raw edges. Voila! Two identical mini-blankies, henceforth known as Blankie 2.0. Off we went to preschool, Blankie 2.0 in tow, and Liza didn't seem to notice the difference. No problems at naptime or bedtime the first day, and Liza barely tripped on the now-manageably-sized blanket. In retrospect, this probably wasn't the best time to do the Blankie 2.0 upgrade - she's been sick, and she's had a lot of stress the last few days, and she hasn't fully adjusted to being home yet. But her blankie was good and fragrant after a week at the beach, and I figured if I cut it now, she'd be less likely to reject it because it smelled right. Stupid Mommy.
Yesterday I think she finally caught on that something strange was going on with Blankie 2.0. When I put her down for her nap, she was exhausted and ready to sleep. I heard her talking to her animals for a while, whine for a while, and then she started giggling. That usually indicates that she is throwing all the stuffed animals out of her crib, which indeed she was.
Then the shrieking started. And went on ... and on ... and on. Not crying, not whining, not even "I just hurt myself come quick" screaming, but shrieking that I swear melted some of the finish off of her crib. I went to check on her to make sure the four horsemen of the apocalypse weren't camped out in her bedroom or anything, and I found that she had thrown Blankie 2.0 out of the crib and couldn't reach it. Oh, the horror! I got Blankie 2.0 and tried to rock Liza back to sleep. She spent five minutes crying with her eyes closed, flailing away at Blankie 2.0, then grabbing it and trying to snuggle with it, then flailing away again. I thought she might be having a night terror, even though she's a little young for that, and after a few minutes she settled down and went to sleep.
When Jason tried to put her to bed last night, all hell broke loose. She repeated the "Blankie 2.0 throwing and shrieking" routine several times, while Jason kept trying to settle her down again. She would cuddle up to it, just about drift off, and then startle awake, stand up and throw Blankie 2.0 out of the crib, then stand there crying hysterically and trying to reach it. After a while, I took over, rocking Liza for more than an hour while she almost dropped off, then struggled back to consciousness long enough to pitch Blankie 2.0 off my lap, then shrieked until I handed it back to her. I tried putting her in her crib and settling her there, which just ended up with her getting up to stagger around the crib like a drunkard in order to pitch Blankie 2.0 over the side. I swear, one time she got up, staggered in a few directions, pushed the button to turn her mobile back on, and collapsed face-first onto the mattress, apparently unconscious for about five seconds, at which point she tried to stuff Blankie 2.0 through the bars of the crib. I checked her diaper, checked her for fever, and changed her into different pajamas. No luck.
By 9 pm she wasn't sleepy anymore, so I brought her downstairs and she played while Jason and I watched some tv. She started acting sleepy again, so Jason took her upstairs around 10 to try again.
This time she upped the ante, refusing to sit on Jason's lap, bucking and writhing like someone having a fit if Blankie 2.0 touched her, or wasn't touching her. We ended up putting her in the middle of the carpet in her room and letting her flail for 10 minutes, hoping she'd exhaust herself or get over the tantrum on her own. We tried hugging her tightly and talking to her the way that Dr. Karp suggests in The Happiest Toddler on the Block, which I think might have worked if we had tried it sooner, but she was too far gone for that. We even broke down and tried giving her the uncut spare blankie, thinking that if she had what she wanted she'd be happy and fall asleep - she wouldn't even touch it. She had obviously gotten so caught up in the tantrum that she couldn't even remember what she was so outraged about.
I finally got her to calm down by holding her in my arms and jumping up and down so that we bounced really hard ... I don't know if it was the bouncing, or if the tantrum had just run its course, but she quieted down right away, and as long as I kept bouncing, she was happy to cuddle Blankie 2.0. I took her for a walk around the block while Jason got ready for bed and slept in the guest room, the only place in the house where you can't really hear Liza when she screams. I snuggled with her downstairs and we watched the most boring Baby Einstein video I could find in our collection, and she was asleep by the end of it. It was 11:45 by the time I got her into her crib.
I know what you're thinking. "When you figured out that Blankie 2.0 was the problem, why on earth didn't you just give her the uncut blanket and declare this a failed experiment?" Lots of reasons, some good, some bad.
She really seemed like she was going to give in, at least for the first hour or so. Jason actually got her to sleep a couple times, but never deeply enough to make the transfer to the crib without waking her. After the first hour, I think it stopped being about Blankie 2.0, and started to be her just being mad for some reason she had forgotten, and I'm not sure the original blanket would have fixed that. The original blanket wasn't really a good option, anyway, since it just meant we'd be back to the tripping during the daytime, and we'd only have the one blanket so washing would be an issue. I haven't been a hard ass about many things with Liza, but on this one I was prepared to draw a line that I will not cross.
Things seem to be better today - she woke up at her normal time, and she's taking a nap right now. Putting her down for the nap was no problem - she snuggled right up to Blankie 2.0 with no questions asked. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Otherwise, it could be a long couple of nights until she adjusts to the new blanket.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
If you have any stuffed toys that you'd like to get rid of (things that you tried to sell or donate but nobody wanted them), there's a woman stationed in Iraq who is coordinating an effort to distribute them to needy children over there. You can read about it on Parenthacks.com, a blog I highly recommend as daily reading for anybody with kids or grandkids. Here's the link to the post with her details and address:
Hope some of you pitch in and help with this ... I know the animals will get more use out of the kids in Iraq than they will sitting in a garbage bag in the attic (ahem ... MOM).
Sunday, September 24, 2006
What's the only logical reaction to this? To finish your shower as quickly as possible, run inside, grab your camera, and take pictures, of course!
I told my parents, who thought this was hilarious, that they're lucky I stopped to grab a towel on my way inside. Oh, and at least I don't wear this hat when I'm taking pictures:
Oops, gotta go - Jason tells me my daughter just peed in the potty for the first time, and I missed it. Crap!
We've been looking forward to this vacation all summer, watching with poorly disguised envy as all of our friends made their beach trips during the traditional summer months. The last two weeks before the trip were especially hard, as I started losing sleep while mentally packing the suitcase and the car, and Jason became incrementally more excited until he was practically giddy the night before we left. Liza, meanwhile, picked up on the change in the air, and starting clinging to me like a limpet. Have you ever tried to pack for a trip with 25 pounds of kid velcroed to both of your legs? I wouldn't recommend it.
As with all long-awaited events, our vacation exceeded some expectations and fell short on others. Liza and I both came down with colds the day before we left, so we spent the better part of the week draining fluids from various orifices, and I spent most of one day on the couch. However, weeks at the beach are supposed to involve lots of laying around getting nothing done, so I managed to read two books while I convalesced, and Jason and my parents took up the slack on dealing with my snot-nosed child. We were able to meet up with more relatives than I expected, and Liza absolutely adored the beach, to the point where she kept saying "Beeeeee??" on the way home yesterday, hoping we were just taking the 12-hour long way to get to the beach down the street from our cottage. No, sweetie, you'll have to wait until next year to see the beach again.
The beach we visited - Cape May Point, New Jersey - is the same place we used to vacation when I was a child, and we actually rented the same cottage that we used to rent back then. Here's what I looked like the first time we went to Cape May Point:
That handsome devil to my left is my cousin Doug, with whose family we shared the cottage. This has absolutely nothing to do with our recent trip - I just wanted to post a picture of me at the beach actually looking good in a two-piece bathing suit :)
Things in Cape May Point haven't changed much in the past 25 years ... but they've also changed a whole lot. The house itself still has the claw-foot bathtub, the outdoor shower, the cactus hiding in the front lawn. Heck, the house still smells exactly the same way I remember it - a little musty, a little mildewed, a little salty, a little like suntan lotion and Solarcaine. You can still walk to the beach, bike to the lighthouse, and drive to Cape May to see the Victorian houses. But the real estate boom has definitely hit the area, with lots of the rustic old cottages being knocked down and replaced by ultra-slick new beach houses. I don't begrudge anyone these nicer places - heck, if we could afford to, we'd love to rent one. But it's weird that houses in the place where I spent part of my childhood now sell for $600,000, only to be knocked down and rebuilt. Places that are up to today's standards sell for $1 million or more. Even with a rental income of more than $30,000 from the house (as advertised in one of the sale fliers), you'd barely be able to pay for the mortgage on a place like that, never mind the insurance costs on a place a block from the Atlantic Ocean, and the upkeep in tax-happy New Jersey.
We shared the cottage with my parents, but unlike previous vacations, it was a little easier to avoid falling into some of the same routines that used to annoy all of us when I was younger. I don't think my mother and I ended up sniping at each other even once, whereas during previous vacations the tensions could last for days. I'd like to think this was possible because we've both mellowed somewhat, thanks in no small part to pharmaceutical assistance, and we were moth more concerned with keeping Liza happy than with getting our own ways.
Well, I've got a ton more stuff to talk about, but the mountain of laundry is calling me, so I'll have to drag this out over several days. For now, I'll leave you with a family portrait:
And the fact that when we were leaving the beach, the gas price in New Jersey was $1.98 a gallon. In Delaware, it was $2.58. Guess there are some benefits to living in the Garden State!
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
True, over the past few days I have been shit on, peed on, and vomited on; had to pull numerous pieces of half-chewed glop out of Liza's throat; and had to deal with a kid who wants nothing more than to take a walk around the neighborhood, and has figured out the trick of sitting down and becoming an immovable 400-pound lump when she doesn't want to walk the way we're telling her to walk; but I can handle that. What I can't handle is any sign that Liza isn't keeping up with her peers, and there have been an abundance of those recently.
Last week Liza's occupational therapist evaluated her progress using the official standardized tests, which are rated numerically and tell us what level of development she has reached in various skills. I was all excited to do the evaluation, since I thought that was a sign that the OT thought Liza was ready to discharge from treatment. But Liza was fighting the Great Diaper Rash Battle that day and had been up since 5:30, and she was not in the most cooperative mood when it came time to do the testing. I know that she could have done some of the tests if she wanted to, but she was not interested in trying most of them. I could tell that she was wondering where all the normal OT stuff was - the swing and the shape sorter and all the other toys she plays with every week - and why we wanted her to play with this boring stuff instead. I came away from the therapy session very frustrated, both in Liza for not participating as much as she could have, and in myself for not pushing Liza harder at home on some of the therapy we're supposed to be doing.
It didn't come as much of a surprise when the OT called today with the ratings of Liza's progress - surprise, surprise, she's still delayed. She scored equivalent to an average 14-month-old in several of the categories, and I think there was a 12-month-old rating in one category, but what really floored me was that she scored as an 11-month-old in one area. To me, this is horrifying. We started her therapy in May, when she was about 13 months old, and in this one area she hasn't even caught up to where she was supposed to be THEN? I feel like my parenting skills are only one step better than those Russian orphanages where the kids just lay in their cribs all day staring at the ceiling and crying. Maybe it would be better for her if I stuck her in daycare and went back to work.
Speaking of crying, let me tell you about Liza's first day of "school," aka a mother's day out program that meets one morning a week. Liza had already been in to meet the teacher and see the room, and she handled herself pretty well then, unvelcroing herself from my leg and sitting at the table to do the craft project Miss Stephanie had set up. And when we went to the signup meeting for the Mothers of Preschoolers group, Liza was fine playing by herself among the other kids while I was on the other side of the room. I was hoping that this was a sign that she'd do just fine in the mother's day out program, even though it would be the first time she's been on her own in a strange place without her mother or father.
Yeah, right. Today got off to a bad start, with one of the other kids accidentally knocking Liza off her feet literally 30 seconds after we got to the classroom, provoking much crying and anxiety. I got her calmed down, then Liza got her foot stuck in her dress when she was climbing on one of the toys, which required another intervention to keep her from melting down. As the other kids started arriving, Liza was busy playing and the teacher suggested I go ahead and leave so Liza wouldn't notice. I waited out in the lobby, working on some writing and keeping an ear cocked for the screaming to begin. All of the other mothers dropped their kids off and were out the door seconds later, barely bothering to look back.
Fifteen minutes later Liza apparently noticed I was gone, because I could hear her screaming 60 feet away through two closed doors. The room assistant walked her around for 10 minutes or so to try to calm her down, while I hid in the lobby and tried not to run in and rescue her. I'm not usually a "jump up at the first noise and try to figure out what's wrong" kind of mother, but it's really hard for me to listen to Liza scream when I know how to fix what she's upset about. When it became apparent that she was just getting more and more worked up, I decided to go in and see if I could get her calmed down.
She calmed down, alright, as long as she was draped over my lap or velcroed to my knees or clinging to my neck. I spent the next two hours with my daughter acting like there were bungee cords connecting us ... very, very short bungee cords. Snivel in my lap ... go play with blocks for 30 seconds ... attempt to re-enter my womb ... crawl through tunnel ... burrow head into my kneecaps ... fling cheerios on the floor ... wipe face all over my shirt ... etc. She wasn't out of physical contact with me for more than about a minute and a half for most of the morning.
Meanwhile, the teachers had their hands full with the other kids, two of whom were every bit as whiny and clingy as Liza, only they were whining and clinging to the teachers instead of their mothers. In some ways I was glad to see that Liza wasn't the only one suffering from some anxiety about the situation, but I was jealous that the other kids would accept the teacher's comfort and mine wouldn't. Through it all the teacher and her assistant were unfailingly cheerful and upbeat, singing songs to jolly along the grouchy ones and encouraging the more comfortable ones to include everyone else in their games. I really have to hand it to them - it's hard enough to do that for your own kid, much less for six other kids you've only met once before. Then again, they knew that at 12:00 the parents were coming to take the kids home, so I guess I might be able to be jolly for that long if there was an end in sight. No, actually I'd probably kill myself or end up an alcoholic after only a few weeks ... I'm just not cut out for small-child care.
At any rate, Liza was finally comfortable enough by the end of the class that she spent the last 20 or 30 minutes playing several feet away from me, only stopping by occasionally to show me things or get a quick snuggle. I guess that means there's hope that Liza may adjust to the situation in a few weeks, but I know it's going to wear me out until she does. When we're at home she entertains herself for long periods of time, but I had to constantly work with her at the class to keep her entertained ... and being "on" for that long exhausts me both mentally and physically. Not really a good time to be thinking of cutting back the dosage on my anti-depressant, I guess.
As I was sitting there with Liza dripping off of me for two hours straight, I kept having to remind myself that I hadn't enrolled Liza in the mother's day out program just so that I could have some time to myself. Sure, that's one reason, especially since I have some writing projects that need more of my concentration that just one naptime a day. But why I really wanted Liza to do this program was to help get her more socialized, help get her more comfortable being in strange situations with people other than me and Jason. I guess I was hoping that we wouldn't have to teach her how to do that, that she would take to it like a duck to water and this would just be an opportunity to practice. That doesn't seem to be the way it's working out, though.
So if I have to sit there with her for a few weeks, coaxing her into participating without touching me in some way, so be it. And if it turns out that she can't hack it in the class and we can't get her to stay without screaming her head off the whole time I'm gone, then I guess we'll just have to explore other options. Maybe we can just have more playdates with our existing friends, or find classes like Gymboree or soccer or swimming to help get her out in new situations. But we're going to get over this somehow, just like we're going to get her physical development caught up to where she's supposed to be. It may take a while, it may tax my patience to the utmost, and it may require additional pharmaceuticals for me, but I WILL give her every chance to succeed. That's my job.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
I'll be adding more patterns over the coming weeks for quilted projects, as well as some other sewing or needlework stuff. I want to make sure each project is tested by a second person before I sell the directions, so if you'd like to be part of the testing crew, let me know in the comments section. I do need a relatively short turn-around time on the testing (about a week or so), so if you're a procrastinator please don't volunteer :)
But Jason is happy enough with his job that we won't move unless he finds the "perfect" spot in the right location, so for now we're both content to stay in Richmond a while longer. I'm not exactly heartbroken about the situation, no matter how difficult the commute to our parents' houses is during the holidays. Like I said, there are lots of benefits to living in a small town, and I'm trying to take advantage of as many of them as I can.
This comes to mind because this weekend was the town's "Great American Pottery Festival," which was held at a park within walking distance of our house. In addition to the usual pottery and craft booths, there was a concession area where one of Jason's coworkers manned his "wienie wagon," a big red van he takes to festivals to cook tenderloin sandwiches and funnel cakes. Saturday and Sunday the park was also host to Kids' Fest, a couple of acres of activities and amusements for kids of practically any age. There were games of skill (where the operators would cheat to let every kid win), clowns, puppet shows, inflatable slides and bouncers, a climbing wall, a bungee trampoline, a petting zoo, crafts, and even a tent for toddlers with a sand table and crafts for teeny hands to make.
We've been to the park three times since Friday, and every time Jason eats at the wienie wagon, I eat at the pulled pork barbecue joint and look longingly at the cotton candy vendor, and Liza wants to do nothing but go on the same swings that are at the park every week. We took her down the two-story inflatable slide ... and she wandered right back to the swings. We took her to the sand table ... and she threw the sand on the floor and toddled back to the swings. She sat through five minutes of a puppet show (but only because she was strapped into her stroller and had a mouth full of banana so she couldn't whine), then ... well, you get the picture. Not that we minded - one of us could push her on the swings while the other one went to buy food or shop. It was probably easier than it will be next year when she (hopefully) will want to do everything and look at everything.
Our town has 30,000 residents, even more when you include people in the surrounding county, but at events like this we always run into people we know. That's the sort of thing I would miss if we moved, because it's unlikely that we would be able to afford a nice house in Baltimore or Cleveland that would be in a similar situation where we could walk to a park, see people we know, and eat cheesecake-onna-stick, all in one afternoon. I would miss being on a first-name basis with the children's librarian, and being a "regular" at the coffee shop and the Thai restaurant. I would miss having to leave extra time when I run errands with my daughter so that all the grandmas at Wal-Mart can come tell me how beautiful she is.
There are, of course, many things I wouldn't miss about the area, too, such as not being able to discuss anything private or work-related in public because there's a good chance that whoever we're talking about is somehow related to the person sitting behind us in the restaurant. Oh, and I wouldn't miss having to spend 45 minutes bent over the drain in our driveway, scraping out leaves and bug carcasses and gravel while it hails so hard that it bounces off of my umbrella and ends up down my pants (which is what I was doing in between when I wrote the last paragraph and this one).
I can use the potential to move as an excuse to fix up some things around the house (like the car-sized pile of brush I cut out of the "Heart of Darkness" corner of our backyard this afternoon before the rain started), but Jason can use it as an excuse to not spend too much money on the house (like putting on a $12,000 screened porch). I don't have to be too worried about the school systems here in town because it's unlikely that we'll be here long enough for Liza to get to use them ... but I'm still putting her on the waiting lists for the private schools, anyway.
This is the point where I should say something deep and pithy and wrap this entry up, but I'm out of ideas. I guess you could say that while I want to get out of here, I'm not in any hurry to do it tomorrow. In fact, we wouldn't have to move at all, if we could just convince all of our family and friends to move to Kentucky ...
Thursday, September 07, 2006
If the embedded video doesn't work, here's a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZYfgA3jThk
Alexander and William proved that Bella is the most tolerant cat in the world:
The kids were nice enough to bring along one of their old booster chairs that their grandfather made for them so that Liza could use it for a few years. She's very excited to use her big girl chair, and hasn't once tried to slide out of it despite its current lack of waistbelt. She has, however, figured out how easily she can feed the cat chicken nuggets ... sigh.
Liza has also figured out that she can hold more than one thing in each hand, and she insists on demonstrating this at every opportunity. First it was her foam jigsaw animals - she spent a week carrying all four of them around the house, bundled up in her arms so that whenever she fell she'd lead with her head instead of her arms. Now it's markers and crayons - I've seen her carry five in one hand.
She has no idea what to do with them other than chew on them and/or carry them around all in one hand, but at least she isn't ignoring them anymore. I figure I'll send her to drawing boot camp with my mother when we go to the beach later this month. Now, if I could just find the motivation to go scrape the crayon marks off the tile floor from where she repeatedly dropped her handfuls, I'd be fine.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Now, however, I find that I can utter phrases such as "We don't need to change her shirt - she only peed on it a little bit," with a straight face and mean them. This has come in especially handy because in the past two days Liza's had a diaper rash that was sufficiently virulent that we've been letting her run around pants-less for as much of the time as possible, with predictable results.
Her score so far is: hardwood floors=3, wool rug in her room=1, bathtub after she'd finished her bath=1, crib=at least 5, but who's counting at 4 am? Plus she gets bonus points for one episode where she peed on the floor, then managed to step in cat puke and track it all over the upstairs while I was cleaning up the puddle. She also gets points for artistic merit for the time she peed on the floor just after she had taken her bath, then slipped in the puddle and ended up rolling around in it, necessitating another bath.
And lest you think that I'm the only one who treats a little pee as nothing to worry about, check out my daughter, who pees in her sleep on the towel on top of her mattress. Rolling over into the cold spot wakes her up, so she starts crying and trying to get back to sleep. By the time we manage to grab a fresh towel and get to her room, 99% of the time she is snuggled up to the towel, face down with her naked ass in the air and her face pressed into the puddle as if it has some magic sleep-inducing properties. We literally have to wrestle the soggy towel out of her half-asleep grasp in order to get the bed changed and get her back to bed.
Personally, if she'd drift back to sleep on her own, I'd be willing to let Liza snuggle with her own bodily waste for a few hours ... but I imagine it would be hard to treat a case of diaper rash on a kid's face without someone noticing and calling the cops, right?
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
So Jason and I were driving around town last weekend when we saw two people on those motorized scooter/wheelchair thingees that disabled people use to get around. We've seen these two before, usually together with a third guy, tooling around town at 4 mph like some sort of slow-motion parade. While I honestly try not to laugh at the misfortunes of others, the sight of them heading down the sidewalk with a case of beer in each of their laps gives me a case of the giggles.
J: "Aren't those the folks who came to our yard sale this spring?"
J: (imitating the Kentucky accent the scooter guy had when he came to the sale) "'Y'all got any guns ... or knives ... or fishing stuff?' It's like they're a gang or something. You know what they should call themselves? The Crips."
See? That still makes me laugh so hard I just woke my daughter up.