Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dear Gwen Month Eighteen

Dear Gwen,

Today, you are eighteen months old. It’s a big milestone – you are now on that delightful downhill slide towards your second birthday. Also, as your dad pointed out the other day, you are halfway to being three years old. THREE! When you’re three, you’ll be going to preschool and learning how to use the potty. INCONCEIVABLE.

You have already taken quite a few steps away from babyhood. For example, we discovered back in August, shortly before our trip up the lake, that you would quite happily drink milk from one of your Rubbermaid drink boxes. We were all too happy to leave all the hard-to-clean bottles and their assorted pieces at home and break you of the bottle habit once and for all. You never put up a fuss. Shortly after that, we decided to stop giving you a drink of any kind right before bed. After all, we grownups (if we have healthy habits) don't have a big drink or meal right before bed. Why should you? Now you drink milk with your dinner, then brush your teeth and go to bed. Like some kind of KID.

And what kind of kid are you, exactly? Most parenting experts out there, and all the advice they give, seems to be based on applying some sort of label. I’ve always resisted this, not least because I don’t usually like the label that seems to fit you, my beloved daughter. But your dad has a different perspective. He thinks you are an easy child. He’s got a point: in general, you sleep well (and have been sleeping through the night for nearly a year), you are not a picky eater, you are very social and adaptable rather than getting shy in new situations or around new people, you respond well to occasional changes in your nap or bedtime schedule, and so on. But on the other hand, how can my go-go-go-Gwen be characterized as an “easy child”? There’s so much more to you than that: the determination to explore everything, even when told “No” a dozen times, the constant level of talking and activity, the intensity with which you approach pretty much everything. Maybe that’s the key: you are an intense child, which means that your joys are infectious and your laugh irresistible, but when you’re ready for dinner, WATCH OUT!
Your vocabulary continues to expand. This month, the additions include some articles of clothing (socks, pants, shirt, jacket, boots) and related instructions (on, off). You also make the weirdest noise when asked what a frog says. Apparently, in your world, frogs don't "ribbit", they make some kind of light-saber noise. It makes me so sad that I will never get an explanation for this.

Your beloved friend Isabelle (I’belle) just turned two this week, and I had the opportunity to witness one of those famed Two-Year-Old Tantrums. Oh, Lordy. You are a spirited child, Gwen, and have never had any difficulty in expressing your displeasure swiftly and obnoxiously – but watching Isabelle confirmed that the worst is yet to come. Isabelle has been an amazing influence on you: she is an extremely affectionate little girl, and I credit her for teaching you how to give hugs and kisses, something which we all enjoy and for which your dad and I are very grateful. On the other hand – well, you clearly look up to Isabelle, and like to emulate her. And Isabelle has now entered a new stage of development, with certain behaviours with which certain phrases are associated, and I think you see where I’m going here. It’s going to be a stormy winter, is what I’m saying. We’ve seen it already, with the advent of what we call the Frowny Face. This face was first seen on October 16th, and at first it didn’t seem to have any connection to your actual mood. That, combined with the fact that it’s kind of adorable, prompted us to just giggle at it for the first day or two that it appeared. However, both the meaning of the frowny face and our response to it has now changed. One does not LAUGH at the FROWNY FACE. Not if one wants to live to tell the tale.
Knowing that your second birthday is approaching, your dad and I have decided to try learning some actual parenting tools, and specifically discipline techniques. It was high time. Up until now, we’ve kept everything you’re not allowed to touch (which, let’s face it, is about 93% of our home’s contents) on a shelf out of your reach. But you’re getting really tall, and we’re running out of shelves, and neither your dad nor I are willing to just give away all our possessions and fill our house with soft, unbreakable items that don’t cause a choking hazard. We’re a little materialistic that way. So, we are trying to establish some rules in our house, rules like “even that huge and tempting volume knob is right at eye level, please leave it alone.” So far it’s not going that well. I’m already having nightmare flash-forwards about the holiday season: you, a decorated tree, and several brightly wrapped packages in the same room. This won’t end well, I’m sure of it.
Well, I guess that's all for this month, Gwen. I sure am proud of you - you amaze me every single day with your intelligence, your strength, and your humour. I love you so much and am so happy that you're my daughter.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Stuffing Her Face - Then and Now

Six months old - first solids

Eighteen months old - first uncut apple
Some things just don't seem to change, after all.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ten Quick Takes

#1: We finally managed to find not one but TWO reliable and reasonably-priced teenage girls who are willing to come watch Gwen on Monday evenings. And by "watch Gwen" I mean "watch our house to make sure it doesn't catch on fire" because actually, we put Gwen to bed before they get there and in fact we are paying them to watch movies on our big-screen TV. (I have NO PROBLEM with this, in fact I am quite pleased with them both.)

#2 A couple of weeks ago one of them was "watching Gwen" while Chris was at class and I was at a meeting, and I came home to the sounds of Gwen crying. She'd been in bed for over an hour, so that was worrisome. I wasn't really able to get a clear answer from the babysitter on how long Gwen had been crying. I went upstairs to give her a dose of Motrin and then all hell broke loose. See, it was Monday, which is the day that I work all day and then go to yoga and then go to a meeting, and if I am lucky I see Gwen for about 15 minutes over dinner in between these commitments. And now she was screaming and clinging to me for dear life and begging with her body if not her voice, "Please don't leave me, Mama!" and I COULD NOT stand to have our only interaction that day be me walking away from her and leaving her to cry. I tried absolutely everything I could think of to get her to sleep, with no success, and finally decided she may as well come downstairs and be awake.

#3 She was up until 10:30pm. I may have stress-eaten half a chocolate cake that was in the freezer that night. Those things might be related.

#4 It wasn't the babysitter's fault. We had given her absolutely no guidance or instruction on what to do if Gwen cried. Despite this, at the moment she told me she didn't know how long Gwen had been crying, I wanted to scratch her eyes out. Motherhood is a powerful thing.

#5 Giving up dairy for a month seemed to improve Gwen's rash. Three weeks in, I decided to put her back in cloth diapers for a couple of days (she's been exclusively in disposables since the rash started, which is going on SIX MONTHS). The rash came back, the very next day. Back to disposables. Goodbye, hundreds of dollars spent on cloth diapers and all the good intentions I had about trying to preserve the planet for my daughter. Last night, I stripped all Gwen's diapers and am going to give them one last try. If the rash appears again, well, at least the diapers will be pre-stripped for sale to some other parent.

#6 To confirm that dairy was the culprit, we decided to give her some dairy last weekend, because in our bizarre mouthbreathing interpretation of the scientific method this makes perfect sense. Her rash has not recurred. Now I'm TOTALLY confused.

#7 Though her rash is (knockonwood) absent, there are other bothersome issues for Gwen currently. She has a vicious cough that makes her very restless at night. She is often irritable, especially in the afternoons, and we're not sure if this is due to teething pain or what. And bedtimes are sometimes a screamfest, due to what we think is just plain old separation anxiety. Poor kid.

#8 There are bright spots, too. Last Sunday my parents came for a brief visit and we went out to Boston Pizza for dinner. The waitress was so taken with Gwen that she came and tied a balloon to her chair. I don't think Gwen had ever seen a helium balloon before, and believe me, that balloon was The Best Thing Ever. She absolutely adored it. Later, at home, she was playing with her balloon when I said to Chris, "Why don't we let her play for a few minutes, then I'll take her upstairs and put her to bed." She marched purposefully over to the gate at the bottom of the stairs, demonstrating her willingness to go to bed and her sheer brilliance in interpreting our speech. And she held the balloon firmly in her hand, with all her heart believing that it was going to accompany her to bed. Disabusing her of that notion was a little difficult.

#9 Another bright spot is her swimming lessons. They are two evenings a week, 5:30-6pm, and all three of us have been going together. It's a bit of a logistical challenge, not only in the sense of "how to shower, dry, and dress three people, one of whom is a slippery unco-operative octopus, in a room the size of a closet," but also the sense that we usually eat dinner at 6pm, and now we are leaving the swimming pool at that time, then embarking on the shower-dry-dress* challenge, and then driving home and getting dinner together, which doesn't exactly keep us on target for the 7pm bedtime. We've taken to prepping dinner beforehand, or planning some microwavable leftovers for those nights, because we want Gwen to be eating approximately two minutes after she walks in the door. We also change her into jammies after the swim to cut one more step out of the process between pool and bed. All these logistical tricks are TOTALLY WORTH IT, because the swimming lessons are SO MUCH FUN. Gwen adores the water, loves kicking and splashing and clapping and singing and jumping in (she can't really jump yet, she just kind of leans over until she falls in) and trying to blow bubbles and everything else. The only thing she doesn't like is the back float, and you know, *I* don't really like it either, so I can forgive that.

*Seriously, think it through. Naturally you deal with the cold and shivery toddler first, so you rinse her off in the shower, then dry her with the towel and get her all dressed in warm and cozy clothes, usually on a handy surface like a high change table area. Then ... what? You can't pick her up to put her on the floor (or in her stroller), because you are standing there in your bathing suit, dripping wet, and she is all warm and dry. HOW DO PEOPLE DO THIS?

#10 Tomorrow (Friday) is the very last day that I can say my daughter is closer to one year old than two years old. On Saturday, she will be EIGHTEEN MONTHS OLD. I have been giddily anticipating this milestone since, oh, her birthday, I guess? It's pretty exciting. Just think: she's been eating solid food for AN ENTIRE YEAR. Stay tuned for more random pontificating on the subject when I publish her eighteen-month newsletter.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccine

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate .... now, in general, as I've said before, I'm a straight-arrow vaccinator. Gwen has even had the chicken pox shot, which is one that many parents who are otherwise pro-vax turn down. But the fuss these days about the H1N1 shot ... I don't know. I just ... don't know.

I usually get the flu shot every year, because I work for the Health Authority. Previously, I worked at a building with a nurse, and didn't even have to leave my office to get the shot. I don't work with the public very often, but I do often work with those who do, and I do often attend meetings at public sites. So I'm exposed to the flu virus, and as such I get the shot. I haven't had the flu in years. Last year, all three of us - Gwen, Chris, and I - got the shot. And we were all 100% fine.

When I went into the local health unit to ask when this year's flu shot was going to be available, I learned that the seasonal flu shot was not even going to be offered until the new year. Instead, they recommended that we get the H1N1 shot.

You know, the H1N1 shot that's been on the market for like, a day and a half now. The shot that hasn't been through the clinical trials. The shot that may or may not give you Gulf War syndrome. That one! Yeah. Sign me up. Me and my 18-month-old daughter, please!

I think what concerns me about this vaccine is that, by default, we have no idea whatsoever about long-term effects. What if, in thirty years, Gwen is infertile? Do I want to look back at the winter of 2009 and wonder if this vaccine caused that? "Gee, I'm sorry, darling, that you will never know the joy of bearing your own child. But hey! Remember when you were two, and you didn't get the flu? YOU'RE WELCOME!"

So, on the other hand, what if we turn down the vaccine and she gets the flu? Well ... it's the flu. People don't usually die from the flu, right? And by all accounts (by which I mean, according to Amber, who saw it on the news ... I am nothing if not a rigourous researcher) H1N1, like chickenpox, seems to hit harder in adulthood than childhood. Meaning, the kids who are getting it are just FINE.

At this point I'm leaning pretty solidly towards not vaccinating. What are you all planning? (Here are some links to help you decide ... not that they've helped me all that much.)

In this video from Fox News (of all places), a doctor admits the vaccine is more dangerous than the flu and that he will NOT be getting it for his kids. (If you only follow one link, make it this one ... it's interesting to watch, because the interview goes in a direction unexpected by either party.)

A fact sheet that is pretty much, well, factual, as opposed to agenda-driven.

A pro-vax Q&A from

Anti-vax article casts doubts about whether the H1N1 vaccine has been adequately tested.

In this news video, health workers in Albany rally against enforced H1N1 vaccinations; the Chair of Preventative Medicine responds.

This article details the intense hunt for side effects that will be taking place after the vaccination is rolled out across North America.


Related Posts with Thumbnails