Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Silver dress from Value Village: $12.99
Makeup and fake blood from Save on Foods: $5.00
Liquid Latex from Patty's Party Palace: $5.99
Talcum powder for that just-exited-the-grave look: free at your baby shower
Registration fee for charity: $25

Thrilling the World - completely freakin' priceless. Can't wait till next year!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Night Five

1. I've invented a new term to describe a certain type of workday: "cracklin'". It's a cracklin' day if nothing in particular goes wrong, but you are busy-busy-busy, fielding requests from all corners of the office and from other team members via phone and email, with hardly a chance to catch your breath, and it kind of feels like surfing (I imagine?) as you pull together your mental and physical energies to stay on top of the wave instead of crashing underneath it. That's the kind of day I had today and yesterday and it tends to leave me somewhat exhilirated but also somewhat discombobulated, as I don't have enough time to adequately process all the goings-on. It can be a crazy-fast pace and I guess I'm still not used to it - though I do enjoy it, and wouldn't change a thing.

I have no coherent reason for choosing the term cracklin'. It just feels right.

2. Last weekend, I bought a box of 94 snack-size chocolate bars for Halloween. Not for the trick-or-treaters, mind you, but for me and Chris to share while watching scary silly movies on Sunday night. I now have no idea where the damn thing is. Let me be clear: I am not voicing the familiar refrain, "Oh my heavens, where DID that Halloween candy go!?" as a euphemism for "I ate it all," or even "My bratty family ate it all." No, that box wasn't even opened. I did not open it; Chris would not open it; and Gwen could not open it. I am not describing a lack of will-power, I'm describing a complete lack of brain-power to remind myself of the safe place I must have hid the thing. 35: it's the new 70.

3. Gwen visited our naturopath today for an in-depth allergy test. After two solid years of second-guessing, we now know she is NOT allergic (nor sensitive, nor intolerant) to dairy. Dr. Karen performed tests on many substances and Gwen had no reactions whatsoever - "not even borderline," was how Karen described it. That is not to say that allergies or sensitivities will not crop up later, but for now, she is free and clear. That is a relief for me. The main reason I wanted this test is that we are heading into cold and flu season. Gwen spent the October through March season last year with one infection after another, and I'd really like to avoid that this year: I'd been told there can be a link between lactose intolerance and a weakened immune system, so I thought I'd eliminate that possibility right off the bat. The absence of allergies is, of course, great news: however, we still need to figure out how to keep her well this winter.

4. Gwen's sleep is still sucking. We've put a 15watt bulb in her overhead light and allow her to leave this on all night for comfort. This is a perfect compromise as it ensures that the lighting in her room is never quite what it ought to be. It's never dark enough for her to get a good, deep sleep, so she wakes up hours earlier than she should. And it's never light enough for me to comfortably see to put away her laundry, change her diaper, or read her a story. I crave bright lights so I really find it dismal in there. We are also using aromatherapy (lavender pillow and spritz for her bed), glow sticks, and lying: "I have to go tuck Dada in now, but I'll be back to check on you soon." It's a rickety system and it's not long-term: I'm just not sure how to make any positive changes.

5. It's October 29th and I still have no idea what Gwen is going to be for Halloween. Here's why: every time I ask her, she has a different answer. These have included pirate, doctor, ballerina, pig, ghost, kitty-cat, and more. I finally gave up trying to get a straight answer and my plan is to lay out two or three of her costumes and ask her to choose. (We have a pretty decent dress-up box, so I can get away with this.) I'm secretly hoping she chooses the giraffe costume, because it would be ADORABLE and also? Her great-aunt started this scrapbook for her about things that begin with G, and now I have to finish the scrapbook* and a page about Gwen being dressed as a giraffe would be perfect. Ghost would also be good, but that costume I'm pretty sure will still fit next year.

*Seriously, what kind of gift is that? GAHHH THE PRESSURE.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Gwen: Month Thirty

Dear Gwen,

My, my, how time flies. You are officially thirty months old today - that's two and a half years. It's a big milestone, in toddler terms: thirty months is the age at which children "graduate" from one type of childcare to another. This means nothing to our arrangements right now, in practical terms, but it does remind us that you're now considered old enough to be doing many things by yourself.

We are still mired deep in the unhappy land of sleep disturbances, unfortunately, so there is no forward progress being made in the areas of potty-training, dressing and undressing, and so on. I hate to let [lack of ] sleep be such an all-encompassing topic, but it's just completely impossible to ignore, so hopefully if I cover it straight off the bat I'll be able to discuss other topics throughout the rest of this letter. The past week or so has shown some improvement, mainly because your dad replaced the light bulb in your room with the lowest wattage bulb we could find, and we started letting you leave the light on all night. This means that you don't get as deep a sleep as you really need, and this is definitely affecting your mood and behaviour. On the other hand, insisting that you turn the light off means that you fight bedtime for a good three hours, and even if we do get you to sleep (through pure exhaustion on your part), you wake in the night screaming because you are terrified and disoriented. So, at the moment, a longer and less satisfying sleep is the solution. We're going to keep trying to improve everyone's sleep, but we're not yet sure which direction to take.

As I said, the sleep debt is affecting your mood and behaviour. You are simply not the cheerful girl I'm used to, these days. You are angry and demanding and volatile, with flailing tantrums on a hair-trigger. I love you anyway, dammit, and I work very hard to remain patient with you, but you are just kind of exhausting to be around at this stage. I very much recognize that it's not entirely your fault, that you are tired and out of sorts and don't even understand why. And I want to do whatever I can to resolve that for you, to change the circumstances before your behaviour becomes a habit. I promise you, I'm working on it. I really hope my cheerful girl will be back before long.

On to more positive things. This past month, we started your first formal music class, Music for Young Children. All three of us have been going to the Saturday morning classes together, which is a great activity to start our weekends. I really enjoy the classes, and I can tell that you do too. You are singing a lot these days, including songs that are not really in my repertoire (such as "Open Them, Shut Them"), which shows me that you are really interested in, and adept at, picking up songs and lyrics from a lot of different sources. Your favourite song is still "Twinkle, Twinkle" but you also like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "The Wheels on the Bus". Oh, and you really like what I call "The Opposite Song". One thing that's interesting about the music class is that parents are requested not to give directions to the students during class - that is the teacher's job. This is a good example of how the world will start to view you differently, now that you're a great big two-and-a-half-year-old. Up until now, if we took a class with you the teacher would instruct us and then we would filter those instructions down to you. Now, the teacher wants us to stay present to ensure you are safe and not wandering out of the classroom, but we are to stay quiet so you can get used to receiving instructions directly from her.

Your dad, incidentally, has a lot of difficulty with this rule. He and I have talked about this numerous times, because generally if I give you an instruction he will repeat it immediately after the words come out of my mouth. In my opinion, this is a really good way to teach you not to listen unless instructions are repeated. He's working really hard to quit this. We both laugh often when he catches himself doing it, and quote a movie that we'll probably make you watch someday: "I have one job on this lousy ship..."

You are becoming more creative and imaginative in your play, which is pretty fun to watch. You are quite enamoured with your costume collection and love to dress up and pretend. Your dad recently bought you a little doctor's kit, and you are quite happy to give check-ups to all your stuffed animals (and family members) several times a day. This purchase was prompted by you finding a pair of his headphones and trying to use them as a stethoscope, which I think shows remarkable resourcefulness. It's fascinating to get this glimpse into your psyche. I'm happy about the doctor's kit because we are getting into cold and flu season, so I'm sure there will be several trips to the doctor coming up in the next few months. Hopefully we can use your new gear to do some role-playing and help you feel more comfortable in the doctor's office, so we can avoid tearful scenarios.

We had a strange tearful scenario last weekend, in fact. I bought you this DVD while I was away in Las Vegas, thinking you would enjoy the music. When we put it on last weekend, you did seem to be enjoying it, until about five minutes in, when Snuffleupagus sings and acts out "On Top of Spaghetti". His giant, tasty-looking meatball did in fact roll away, get stuck under a bush, and turn into mush, at which point you burst into inconsolable tears of sympathy. You were so, so sad! I tried to comfort you, and fortunately the video soon moved on to more cheerful songs, but honestly I'd never seen a reaction like that from you. It was quite heartbreaking, but also just a teensy bit funny.

Though I was worried about being away from you for so long, the flip side of us being apart is that I can look at you with new eyes when I get back home. I swear, you got bigger and taller and stronger and of course smarter while I was gone. Your sentence structure is becoming more complex, and you are starting to express more abstract concepts. For example, adjectives are starting to become more and more common in your speech, especially opposite words: big, small, quiet, loud, bright, dark, hot, cold, and so on. You use them in your very own special way, though. If you say, "It's too bright," that means it's too dark. If you say "It's too hot," that means it's too cold. You have decided "fit" is an adjective too, as in "that shirt is too fit," which I guess means it fits just right. Sometimes you manage to put your words together perfectly. As we drove home from the ferry terminal where you and your dad met me after my trip, I asked if you were happy Mama was home. "Yes, Mama, because I love you very very much," you told me. I can't even express how my heart swelled to hear those words!

Another interesting milestone this month was your first shiner, visible in the picture below. You were running into the kitchen and were not paying attention to where you were going (which is common) and ran smack into the corner of our large hutch, which, by the way, has been in the exact same place for your entire life, so it's not like you didn't know where it was. I turned around just in time to see you bounce off the hutch and fly backwards onto the floor. There was an eternal pause while you sucked in a universe worth of oxygen in order to let out the loudest scream of pain and rage possible, and I quickly gathered you into my arms and tried to comfort you and assess the damage at the same time. Thank God you're as tall as you are, or that corner might have taken your eye out: as it was, you were miserably bruised for a couple of weeks, but you recovered pretty quickly. Well, that's your newsletter for this month, my girl. I'm so happy to be the Mama of the strongest, smartest, most amazing two-and-a-half-year-old in the world. I love you so much and can't wait to see what's next!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It Seems Like I'm Rambling, But There is a Point, I Promise

First of all, thanks to everyone who emailed or commented on my last post. Every single comment was helpful and encouraging and had at least one (and often many) very useful nuggets of advice. So my gratitude and appreciation to all of you for taking the time to drop me a line.

My intention was that Chris and I would spend last weekend looking at all the emails and deciding which method(s) we felt comfortable implementing. However, this never happened. Instead of being deep in the trenches of potty training, we are in fact back in the bad old days of sleep training.

You never pay attention to the first time something goes wrong, really. You don't mark it on the calendar in some kind of prescient knowledge that "I'm going to want to know when it all started to go sideways." No, you just think it's a one-off. And then it happens a couple more times and you think, hmm, this is an odd little phase we're going through. And then it happens a few more times and a few more times and slowly you begin to realize that hey, this has been going on more or less constantly for ... let's see ... three or four weeks? And if "this" happens to be the house-wide sleep-deprivation thanks to a child who will not stay in her bed past 6am, you can be forgiven for the braindeath that means it takes you even longer to realize this is no longer an isolated incident or even a phase, it's your new Way of Life.

So yes. Gwen now gets out of bed anytime between 4:45am and 6am. For the record, our alarm is set to go off at 7:15am, so even on a good day we are being cheated out of a solid hour of sleep. Even worse, because Gwen doesn't always nap on weekends, she is being cheated out of 2-4 hours of sleep herself. Make no mistake: this is not an adjustment due to her being old enough to give up her nap, nor is it a matter of her waking up early and quietly entertaining herself in her room. She is miserable and demanding throughout the day as the missed sleep takes her toll: a friend even commented that Gwen had bags under her eyes and looked exhausted. And she often wakes up crying in a near-hysteria, whimpering in a panicky voice "Turn on the light! I'm awake! Turn on the light!" which doesn't leave her in a state that lends itself to being soothed back to sleep. I've asked her whether she's having bad dreams or if she's scared, but she tells me no - I can only guess that she just doesn't have the emotional vocabulary to articulate what's going on for her.

Chris and I, meanwhile, are zombies. At any moment through the day when we are not directly dealing with a grumpy Gwen - those moments when we should be cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the myriad details of life, not to mention doing things we enjoy or spending quality time together - we are COMPLETELY drained. We have no energy to do anything but sit on the couch and stare into space. We've become incapable of even the most mundane conversation.

So, not a lot of progress on deciding how or when to proceed with potty training.

I may have mentioned here in the past that Gwen's newborn phase was less than blissful. The way I remember it is that Gwen was either screaming, nursing, or sleeping for every single minute of her first five months of life. Somehow, we all survived and Chris and I stayed married. (Miracles DO happen!) One of the ways we dealt with the exhaustion and frustration of this time - I can't even remember how it started - was to talk about going to Vegas. Not in the sense that we spent time daydreaming about a fantasy vacation: no, neither of us actually had any real interest in going there. No, it was in the context of: "I've been nursing her for two solid hours and she won't stop screaming. It's your turn, I'm going to Vegas." Or, "Holy crap, I did not get any sleep at all last night. You need to deal with Gwen, I'm going to Vegas." It was constant. Like I said, I don't remember how it started or where it came from (I would theorize it was a timely viewing of Ocean's Eleven, but really, I doubt we had any attention span for movies at that point.)

But here's the payoff to this long rambling post. This weekend - in fact, TODAY - I am going to Vegas. For realz. With my mom and sister. And Chris is staying home with a daughter who will not sleep and now has the ability to get out of bed and bang on the door at 5am to demand that he get up and entertain her. If my husband stays married to me after this, it really will be a miracle.


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