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Monday, 17 March 2014 15:48

It Turned Out to be an Ear Infection

We've had another rough weekend, with our strange-illness prone daughter taking center stage yet again. 

It began on Friday night at bedtime when Clara became suddenly stressed about the idea of going to bed. She typically stalls and tries to get out of having to go to bed, but on Friday she was crying excessively about it. After awhile she fell asleep, but only for about an hour or two when she suddenly woke up, crying, clearly uncomfortable and unable to settle herself back down.

We gave her some tylenol, which worked temporarily, but at about 1:30am - no more than 2 hours later - she was up and crying again. Since our girls share a room, the first thing we have to do when she's inconsolable is remove her from her bedroom, and so she was standing in the kitchen with me while I asked her what was wrong when I noticed she was shaking. I have struggled with low blood sugar occasionally in the past, and so it crossed my mind that maybe this was her issue.  In our medicine box, we keep a small bag of coloured mini-chocolate chips - long story - and so I grabbed a few of those and decided to try giving them to her. She perked up almost immediately and was happy and talkative (annoyingly so, in the middle of the night) for about an hour. We had her in our room during this time, and finally she asked if she could go back to her own bed and so we tucked her back into bed. 

This went well for a little while, but somewhere between half an hour to a full hour later, she started her unsettled crying and moaning again.  I can't remember how we got her through that night - more tylenol, possibly some advil as well - but I know I didn't give her any more chocolate despite suspecting the sugar had worked. At 6:30am when she woke again, I crawled into bed with her in an attempt to keep her calm, since we had no other idea about what was wrong nor how to fix it.  She sleeps in a toddler bed, so we were pretty crowded and I didn't sleep well if I did at all. By about 9am, she started whimpering again, and since I was exhausted still and not ready to wake up, I carried her to the living room couch where we curled up again and snoozed for about half an hour. 

Concerned that her issue might be blood sugar, when Brian woke up, we decided to ask his Dad (who has Type 2 diabetes) if we could borrow his blood glucose meter to check her blood sugar. I called a girl I know who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child, and asked her if Clara's symptoms could indicate blood sugar issues - or if I was crazy - and asked what the normal range for blood sugar was for kids. She told me (what I already suspected) that the normal range was 4 to 7.

Clara hadn't eaten by the time we got to Brian's parents house, and her blood sugar was tested at 3.8. She was then given a granola bar, which she proceeded to eat about 2 tiny bites of, and then asked if she could go have a nap. Not eating and being lethargic enough to ASK for a nap is sooo out of character for Clara that I was significantly concerned by this behaviour. I called the health line, and after hearing the blood glucose level of 3.8, the nurse on the line told me to bring her in right away. After about half an hour, or so, she started seeming happier and although she was still somewhat lethargic by the time we got to the hospital, she would have seemed more or less ok to someone who didn't know her. 

The doctor in the Pediatric Emergency room looked at us almost condescendingly when we said her blood glucose level was at 3.8, and informed us that 3.8 was nothing to be concerned about. He went on to say that levels as low as 2.6 can be perfectly normal for children, especially first thing in the morning when they haven't yet eaten. The doctor checked her heart, lungs, eyes and ears, as well as testing her blood glucose level again (4.4) and told us that everything was fine and she was free to go. He gave no alternative explanation for why she wasn't sleeping or eating, except to say her throat looked a bit sore and maybe it just hurt to swallow.

Saturday night was no better. She cried and moaned, and wouldn't settle. We alternated between Advil and Tylenol every 2 hours or so, because both seemed to help her for about 90 minutes before she would wake up crying again. At least we were able to get some pieces of sleep... 

Sunday she perked up momentarily in the morning, but continued to refuse food, and became mostly moody and lethargic all day. We indulged her by letting her watch movies most of the day while we tried to take it as easy as possible to get some rest which we were desperately lacking. 

Sunday night was the same, and so Monday morning I called the clinic where our family doctor works and asked to see her as soon as possible. At first, the receptionist said we wouldn't be able to get in for more than a month and I began my sob story - she suddenly had a cancellation show up for that afternoon.  The doctor was quite concerned that our poor Clara had been in the hospital yet again, but quickly discovered that the problem was an ear infection. She informed me that moving her jaw enough to chew was probably miserably painful, which explains why she wasn't eating or sleeping. Neither of our girls had ever had an ear infection before, so this was entirely new to me. I had been told to look for discharge from the ear - a clear sign of an ear infection - but there was no obvious discharge that I could see. It took the doctor's little ear-scope thing to see the puss and discharge.

So, we left the doctor with a prescription for antibiotics and a stronger pain killer for night. We had to wait at the drug store for the prescription, and Clara couldn't keep her eyes open. 

Poor baby.

I talked to the pharmacist about buying some kind of meal-replacement drink for her to make sure she was getting some nutrients and she just recommended giving Clara 'what she wants', and whatever she could eat. So, I bought frozen and regular yogurt, as well as some chocolate meal replacement shakes just in case. 

She is now just over a day into her 10 days of antibiotics, and she is nearly back to her usual self.  It took her a little while to fall asleep last night, and she had to be given some tylenol in the night as well as once or twice during the day today. Tonight I gave her a slightly stronger dose of the pain medication (within the range that the doctor recommended for us - no overdose accusations, please!) that we were given for her, and she fell asleep almost instantly. 

I'm so glad it turned out to be just an ear infection - and so relieved to finally have an answer for why she wasn't eating or sleeping all weekend long. I'm irritated by how unhelpful the ER doctor was, but thankful that our family doctor showed such obvious concern - and made Clara a follow up appointment for this upcoming Friday. 

Thank you to everyone who knew what we were going through and prayed - we love you all! 

Published in Blog
Monday, 20 January 2014 07:00

Do We Believe in Magic?

Tonight we had some friends over for supper - something we've been doing a lot lately, since we have a big open space to do it now! We had a great time, and although our friends kids were considerably older than Clara, they all played really well together and we were really impressed. It's good to see examples of Clara being a well-behaved 'big kid' in certain contexts. Poor Audrey still had to stay near the adults while the older kids went downstairs - because the older kids are still too young to have a gate up blocking the stairs, but Audrey can't be downstairs without a gate up.  Looking forward to next year, when she can do stairs, for her sake! 

Last Week, I wrote about our behavior issues with Clara. She's 3. I have a friend who uses the term 'threenager' and I have to agree - the amount of attitude she has is shocking.  Like I mentioned earlier, she does have her really good times - times when she's really well behaved, and plays well with other kids, and is polite and calm and even sometimes patient.  Usually her nights are not so good, though, especially lately.

Wednesday of last week, we started using the methods outlined in 1-2-3 Magic, by Thomas W. Phelan.  If you know me by now, I'm a big fan of using books and the internet as resources for anything, including raising kids.  Some people say you should just do what feels 'right' or 'natural', but what feels 'natural' to me is not guaranteed to be right - because I'm not perfect. I also like learning about alternate methods of parenting, whether I agree or not, just so I can be sure I know why I would choose something different.  In this particular case, I felt so completely lost and useless as a parent and - knowing that my own choices were not working - I was willing to try anything that was different from what we were already doing. 

So far, I'm about 80 pages into the book 1-2-3 Magic, and the basic 'rules' of this method involve two simple principles that the author feels many parents need. The first is to separate emotions from parenting.  Phelan discusses how reacting emotionally to a child's misbehavior can begin with negotiating, pleading, and arguing and then lead up to yelling and hitting (spanking).  Typically, I'm not opposed to spanking although when spanking comes from an emotional parent response, I absolutely agree that this is very wrong.  To refuse to get emotional is tricky, but Phelan argues that it is necessary because often your emotional response is exactly what the child is looking for, and to respond in that way only ultimately makes them feel powerful. 

The second rule is 'no talking', in the context of when your child is looking for an argument or when you are tempted to give a grand explanation of their misbehaviour. Phelan says that because young children can't be reasoned with - and are inherently selfish - it only complicates things when we try to 'make them understand why' we want their behaviour to stop.  I might have wanted to disagree with this one - I want to believe that my daughter has the potential to understand, if only I give her the chance - but I had to admit that my personal experience says otherwise.  Whether or not she understands or not, as a toddler, she is too selfish to care. She wants what she wants and it doesn't matter how many 'good reasons' I have otherwise.  Not to say it hasn't worked occasionally to get her to stop doing something, but as a general rule she doesn't react at all to 'good reasons' - in fact, they often aggravate her further.  Also, I have seen parents spend hours discussing with their child the wrongs of their behaviour, outlining the problem from many different angles, only to have the child leave their presence and immediately repeat the bad behaviour.  And, at this point, I appreciated an approach that was immediate and simple. 

So, to stop bad behaviour, we say 'That's 1' and then give Clara 5 seconds.  Then, if the behaviour hasn't stopped, we say 'That's 2' and give her an additional 5 seconds. At this point, she is out of chances and at '3' she is given an immediate time out. We will sit her in her room (during the day) or in the bathroom (at night) for 3 minutes, saying nothing the whole time, and then letting her out calmly with no discussion at the end of the time period. 

I used to disagree with an in-room time out, because it made sense to me that you wouldn't want your child to view their bedroom as a 'punishment area', but as I said earlier, clearly our parenting tactics from before weren't working so I was willing to suspend that particular issue on the basis that maybe I was wrong about that - at least for Clara. I guess we'll see how that goes. 

We had one really great night, and then a couple of nights where Clara received a few time-outs over the span of about an hour and then fell asleep. Then, we had another good night where she fell asleep quickly, and tonight again was pretty awful. She had 4 or 5 time-outs and during the last two she screamed bloody murder all the way through. We changed the location of her time outs after the first few, though, so there was a bit of inconsistency, so I'm not ready to give up yet. I want to give this at least a few weeks before making any decision about its effectiveness. Wish us luck.

Audrey gets a bit stressed when she hears Clara tantruming nearby, but there's not much we can do about that. Poor girl. 

Another thing we have been doing, because the girls share a room, is separating the girls after 20-30 minutes of excitement. For most of the past week we have had to move Audrey into a playpen in our bedroom until Clara fell asleep, and then we moved Audrey back. We were worried about this, because Audrey is a light sleeper, but so far it's worked pretty well. Once or twice Audrey woke during the move back to her bed, but Clara slept through her jabbering until Audrey finally fell asleep also.  

I'm still reading, because I know 1-2-3 Magic contains a chapter on bedtime, but this is where we're at so far. 

Published in Blog

It's not every day that Cinderella walks through our front door, but here she is, stopping by to pick up the soother for Snow White's baby... I should maybe back up a little...

Months ago, when we had lessened Clara's soother usage to only while she was in bed - and when we wanted her to sleep in the car - we informed her that when she turned 3 years old, she would no longer get to have her soother at all.  This was in the far distant future, and since she no longer had her soother in her mouth when she was out in public or even most of the time at home, we didn't think it really mattered to let her keep it under her pillow for awhile longer.

Now, typically, I'm a fan of getting rid of 'baby habits' (things that you don't want your kids doing when they start school like being in diapers, drinking from a bottle, using a soother, etc.) as soon as possible because the longer a child has these habits, the more difficult they can be to 'wean' from.  I also typically have the mentality that 'if you have to do it eventually - you might as well get it over with'.  So, I would not probably have allowed Clara to use a soother up until her 3rd Birthday if she hadn't become a big sister at under 2 years old, which meant she was moved to a toddler bed at about 19 months and was toilet trained at 22 months. Since so much changed for her in such a small time, and she was so dependent on her 'gummy', I allowed her the small indulgence of keeping it for awhile longer.

Shortly after the agreement to remove the soother at 3 years was made, she experienced a few things that made us a bit lazy about the whole thing. She became quite sick at one point, and since she was almost always nearly sleeping - we let her keep her 'gummy' while she was sick. Then, it became a means of comfort for her if anything in our life was amiss - such as a huge renovation - and over summer we went on a couple of trips with at least nap-length drives and so she seemed to be using her soother more and more. As she had it more and more, she began to try to keep it in her mouth more and more - even when we had no 'good' excuse for her to have it.  For a week, I tried to stay strong about the 'only in bed' rule, but Clara's determination won over when she decided to then spend every waking moment in bed. I suddenly had a toddler who would spend more than half of her day in bed - lacking energy or joy - because she didn't want to be without her gummy.  Since I had already made the promise to take it away when she was 3, I didn't feel like it would be fair to take it away sooner. 

So, I gave up. I let her have it all the time. Her 3rd Birthday was only a couple of months away, and I decided it would be easier to end her dependence cold turkey. 

As her Birthday neared, we continued to remind her of this promise.  She knew the story, and when we asked what would happen when she turned 3 she would recite "I won't get my gummy ANY MORE!".  But this statement didn't bother her at all until a few days ago, when we began counting sleeps. She started to avoid the subject, and when we were down to two days, she started seeming visibly stressed.  I knew we couldn't back down, so I tried to think of ways to make the transition somehow easier for her.

I recalled hearing about something that Disney would do in a circumstance like this - where you could write a letter to your favourite princess, and she would write a letter back.  I heard about this being used somehow in the context of a child 'growing out of' something, but I couldn't quite figure out what the letter would accomplish. Would it be simply congratulatory? Would it be a deal made between princess and child? Also, I was skeptical that it would work - a letter in the mail? How real could that seem to a 3 year old?

Anyway, her birthday snuck up on me anyway and in the end I wouldn't have had time to contact Disney.

This brings me to the morning of December 10 (the day before her birthday) when I decided to tell her this story to go along with the gummy-taking event. I wanted to give her some reason to WANT to go along with it:

       Clara, when you are 3, you can finally be a REAL princess. But princesses can't have gummy's, so you can't have your gummy any more.

She seemed happy enough with this story, and then I overheard her repeating it. "When I'm 3, I'm not going to have my gummy any more - and a REAL PRINCESS is going to come!!"

I quickly jumped in to explain that a princess wasn't going to come, but that she would BE a real princess - but as I was explaining this, I realized that I could probably make a real princess come after all...

A nearby business in our city, called Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo that hosts birthday parties - complete with Disney princesses - or you can hire a princess to come to your home if you are having an at-home birthday.  When Clara was watching her afternoon quiet-time TV, I called them up and asked for what may have been an unorthodox favour - would they be willing to send a princess (Cinderella) to our house to talk to Clara in person and to take away her soother? I was extremely flexible on the time, so we were able to work out some time in the afternoon. 

Clara knew nothing of this plan until the next morning when I told her that Cinderella would be coming to take the soother for another baby somewhere who needs it. Clara was animatedly playing with her small plastic princess figurines, and she suddenly seemed very stressed about this situation. 

"No! Cinderella can't take the gummy! Snow White needs it!"

So I asked Clara if Snow White had had a baby, and when Clara nodded, I explained that Cinderella was going to come and get the soother for Snow White's baby. We continued to play with the figurines, and I suspect she didn't actually think Cinderella was going to come...

But she did! At 12:30pm, Cinderella walked through the door.  Clara reacted with a bit of awe, confusion and excitement.  She ran from Cinderella to Brian and back a few times over, exclaiming randomly that 'That's Cinderella!!'.  

Cinderella gave Clara a gift that the mice had made for her...

Her very own Cinderella ball gown! (That we had purchased at Target a few days earlier, and I had set it in the closet and told the woman at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo where 'Cinderella' could find it)

Cinderella then told Clara that she could stay for a little while, and so Clara got out her Disney story book and immediately had Cinderella read Cinderella to Cinderella.  As she read, Clara would point to the pages at the cartoon Cinderella and say 'That's ME!!! And You!!! We're BOTH Cinderellas!!!'

I informed Clara that she could take Cinderella downstairs to play with all of her toys, but I don't think she was a little bit afraid that if she dared move that Cinderella might disappear.  She said 'No! I want to stay right here!'  I felt bad for the older Cinderella, since 'right here' was basically at the front door where she walked in, but no one complained.

After reading Cinderella at least once, and I also heard Alice and Wonderland being read, the Cinderella's began to play in other spaces of our (new) main room. They played with the princess figurines on the living room floor, and then the 'real' Cinderella painted Clara's nails. I think Clara was in heaven. 

Of course I made them pose...

And they each had one of Clara's birthday cupcakes. Cinderella stayed longer than I paid her for, taking time from school to be with Clara. I am so unbelievably grateful that this worked out, and for this teenage girl who took time out of her day to spend time with a 3-year-old. I can't imagine how magical it must have seemed to Clara to see her hero in person, and be able to spend one-on-one playtime with her! 

It was a fairy tale dream come true! 

I was going to post about how her first gummy-free day had gone, but I'm already at 1500 words and I'm sure we don't have any idea how Clara's first few gummy-free days will be, and after a few days I'm sure I will have more to tell. So, for another post... 

Published in Blog
Monday, 21 October 2013 15:21

Clara is Getting Closer to Three...

It wasn't my intention to become a once-weekly blogger, but it has seemed in the past few months as though I just get to feeling like my head is finally above water, and something else happens to pull me under and keep me behind again.  We have been sick in our house for the past two and a half weeks, and although I know that a cold/flu has been going around in our area - the cough medicines are nearly sold out everywhere we go - I can't help but wonder what we might be doing to bring this on to ourselves. 

Anyway, that was just to explain my absence lately...

Audrey's first birthday is this week, and as my youngest is rapidly getting older I keep glancing at my always-changing toddler in near disbelief at how much she is changing as well. There was a moment in her life when I felt as though the time had flown by, but I also felt overwhelmingly that she had always been with us, and I couldn't recall a time before her existence.  Now, all I feel is how quickly the last three years have gone. Clara has been my daughter for almost three entire years, and I feel like I've somehow missed it.

Dear Clara,

In the last six months, you have changed from being completely 'toddler' in my eyes, to being more of a 'preschooler' in many respects. I went looking for age-appropriate crafts for you on Pinterest the other day by searching 'toddler crafts'. I was frustrated by what I found, complaining loudly that these were all 'baby activities!', but then I realized that maybe my search was actually the problem, and after searching again for 'preschool crafts' I was much more successful. 

The last few weeks have again been difficult for us - your Great Grandpa Letkeman has been very sick and in the hospital, we have been planning a big renovation in our house, your Daddy just lost his job and has been spending a lot of time searching for a new one, and for almost the entirety of the past two weeks - you, Audrey and I have been sick with a cold or flu of some kind, which means we spend a lot of time in front of the TV. 

This is hard for me, because I felt a few months back as though I was just starting to 'get' how to be a good Mom to you, and then life became less easy and predictable and I've again lost my footing. 

You are intelligent and stubborn. In the past little while we have softened in our resolve to only allow you to have your gummy (soother/pacifier) for sleeptimes. This happened gradually as you grew out of napping, because we've been encouraging a 'quiet time' and have allowed the gummy during this time. Now that we've all been sick, 'quiet time' looks a lot like many times during the day, when we just spend the afternoon lounging in the living room. We have no informed you that when you turn 3, you will no longer be able to have your gummy - at all. I expect a few horrific days for all of us, but at this point I think cold-turkey will be the best way to go. I'm so sick of fighting with you about it. 

Your latest passion has been to sing - as much as possible. Your favourite song is 'Part of Your World' from The Little Mermaid, and you now know almost all of the lyrics for memory. You also love dressing up in your 'princess dresses', as you call all of your dress-up dresses, and I've even caught you dancing around in the living room. 

You've gotten pickier about food, and in the last few months our supper-time battle has become almost routine. You have less than two bites of supper, decide you don't want what we're serving and tell us you're 'done' and ask if you can go.  We try to make you eat more, but you stone-wall, and even if we can get more food into your mouth, you won't swallow it, so we seem to have no choice.  I'm not too worried about how little you eat, since you seem healthy enough, although I do wish I knew how to get you to eat more of the 'healthier' options at the table - like vegetables, which you almost always reject.

In the last few days, you and Audrey have started to really play together - and in part, I think this is because of your willingness to revert to her level.  You have started baby-babbling, occasionally, as well as repeating the same sound or motion over and over if it will make your sister laugh.  You have also started to become jealous of Audrey and you are frequently taking toys away from her. I want the two of you to learn how to play together, but so far I always tell you to give toys back to Audrey if I catch you taking toys from her. 

There is so much I want to teach you, so much I want to do with you, so many experiences I want to share with you - and I already feel like I'm falling so far behind. I hope this week we will all be healthy enough to continue taking you to your gymnastics class, and our lives can continue from there. In the meantime, please forgive me for my failings.... 

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 10 September 2013 22:21

When Toddlers Stop Napping

Just as Audrey is growing into a semi-regular routine when it comes to naptime, Clara is growing out of hers. I'm having a hard time with this... 

Clara's pattern was confusing at first, and I'm still not going to say with absolute certainty that all of her issues are sleep or nap related, but here is basically what has been happening:

About a month or two ago, I started noticing periods of time where Clara was excessively lethargic - more than I thought a 2-year-old should be.  But not all the time, just certain times of day.  She would also be considerably fussy and difficult but not with enough regularity that I could really pinpoint one specific cause. 

Without being extreme with our diet at home, I started paying attention to - and trying to limit - the amount of sugar and processed foods we all ate. This is a little bit difficult to do with a toddler who's favourite foods are bread and breakfast cereal, but we try. 

I had recently learned about how gluten sensitivity can affect energy levels, and I personally deal with a slight bit of anemia on a regular basis, so I tried to pay attention to these things as well. Nothing so far has really had a big enough - and consistent enough - effect on her behaviour, although I'll admit my research methods are lacking. 

Then we went a few days without giving Clara the opportunity to have an afternoon nap...

Suddenly, she was falling asleep at bedtime instead of staying up for 2 hours jabbering to herself and keeping Audrey awake. (Go figure) She also seemed to have more energy, not less - although this could also be because these days of naplessness were caused by full days of excitement where there just wasn't time for naps! 

Lately, I also discovered that the 'morning cartoon' concept is a really bad one for Clara. For a few mornings in a row, I was feeling quite exhausted and so instead of getting up and making Clara and myself breakfast, I pulled her into bed with me and put some cartoons on my laptop for her to watch in my room. Then, I fell back asleep while she watched cartoons for an hour.  I liked getting a bit of extra sleep, and I certainly wouldn't complain about the cuddle time with my least-cuddly daughter, but it affected both of us negatively.  It usually takes me about 6 hours to really 'wake up' each day (I wish I were joking), and in getting up at 9 instead of 7, I was delaying my 'wake up' time to past 3pm.

(By 'wake up', I mean beyond walking and talking and coffee-making. It typically takes me until early afternoon to be able to move quickly enough to actually get some house cleaning, etc. done between baby & toddler demands - that's when the coffee 'kicks in', methinks.)

Clara was similarly affected, and even worse. I suspected TV was at least partly to blame, so I tried a day with no TV in the morning. She was a completely different person - she whined for about 30 seconds about her lack of 'Dora' time, and then became distracted by her toys and happily played for most of the morning. 

Sigh. And so - there you have it - all of Mommy's 'quiet time' opportunities are gone. No morning TV watching, and no more naps. 

And to cement the theory, today Clara napped. It kind of happened accidentally - she spent some time lounging on the couch downstairs (not watching TV, because we had a fight - but that's another story...). And tonight, it took her a full two hours to settle down after going to bed, which was really miserable since it also kept Audrey from sleeping. 

I'm still not entirely sure how to keep Clara occupied and not let her get bored enough to fall asleep (like this afternoon) without being by her side all day long - I want her to learn to play independantly, and I also need some time to get things done during the day.  My thought right now is to have a 'quiet time' where Clara is allowed to watch TV downstairs between about 1 and 2:30pm when Audrey is napping, and then have both girls get up and play afterward. This worked for a couple of days, and starting tomorrow I want to try again. 

Wish me luck! How I want that nap back... 

Published in Blog
Monday, 12 August 2013 14:29

32 Months and Counting

I found this list of milestones on Babycenter.ca, and thought it would be interesting to go through the charts from 18 months to 36 months to see what Clara is or is not yet able to do. I've found that sometimes I miss documenting things, because it didn't occur to me that she was doing something at all noteworthy, so lists like this are handy sometimes when writing down what she can do...

At 32 months, Clara can:

  • Use a spoon and fork - she has been eating with utensils since about 18-20 months, and is actually a really neat eater. I didn't realize this until I was babysitting another 18-20 month old girl who got food in her ears, in her hair and all over the kitchen floor.  A friend of mine confirmed that for a toddler - Clara is really good at keeping her face and clothes clean while she eats. Which is good, because I'm afraid of all things sticky...
  • Speak mostly intelligibly, and can carry on long conversations with multiple sentences.
  • Wash and dry her hands by herself, provided she can reach the sink, soap and towel.  I was taught years ago that children shouldn't brush their own teeth until they are quite a bit older than Clara, so we don't let her brush her own teeth, but she can brush and rinse her teeth by herself after we have made sure they have all been scrubbed. 
  • Give us enough notice when she needs to pee that we hardly ever have accidents anymore. About once or twice a week, she has a dollar-sized spot in her panties, but it has been months since she has had any more of an accident than that. 
  • Dress and undress herself - most of the time. Shirts can be tricky, and anything with buttons she can't do up herself - but that's because they're typically on the back. We get things backwards and inside out frequently, but she'll get there.
  • Walk up and down stairs - this one wouldn't be worth noting, except that she was pretty late doing this, so it's still a new skill. She still avoids stairs, or has to hang on to the railing. 
  • Do her Nemo 24-piece jigsaw puzzle

Some of the other things I'll have to test her on over the next few weeks, because I don't know how many blocks she can stack or how many body parts she can name. 

Dearest Clara,

After re-reading last month's letter to you, I'm happy to say that things are going much better for you and I.  We are still struggling with some behavior issues that we're not entirely sure how to handle, but we're impressed with you much more often than we are confused or disappointed.

We went to the lake a couple of weeks ago, and stayed in Grandma's cabin.  Even though your schedule was thrown off, you handled the transition beautifully. You slept wonderfully in the cabin, and although you didn't use the outhouse, you were happy to use your old portable potty.  You were so happy, and had so much fun playing with some of my cousins. 

You have become more affectionate in the last few weeks, and I'm loving that so much. You will come up and hug me, or cuddle on my lap, for no particular reason and although sometimes I have to deter you because I'm dealing with Audrey or cooking supper, I try to take advantage of it as much as I can.  You haven't been a very touchy person for most of your life, so I cherish every voluntary hug from you!

I think you are starting to outgrow your naps, which is hard for me because I love that bit of quiet time in the afternoon. Some days you will sing to yourself in your room and I will eventually decide that naptime can be over. Sometimes that backfires on me, and you're inconsolably difficult by supper time, but most of the time you are ok until just about bedtime. 

Our biggest challenge with you right now is at bedtime. After you have been tucked in and we have closed your bedroom door, you will yell that you need to go potty. Then, when we take you to the potty, you will sit there and chatter to us, completely forgetting about your need to pee. It's extremely irritating, because when we try to take you off the toilet, you cry that you need to pee - but then you never do. We don't want to assume that you're lying the first time you call out from your bedroom (even though I think you usually are), but we don't want to indulge this clever method you have concocted to stay up later at night.  Also, now that Audrey is sleeping in the crib every night, we hate when you yell and keep her up, but we don't really want to go back to having you in separate rooms... 

One day a couple of weeks ago, I made you playdough in 6 different colours. Then, I set aside my OCD and just let you play with it. I wanted to try to stop you from mixing the colours, but I didn't. I was very proud of myself that day...  

I'm still not very good at actively keeping you entertained, but you're getting a lot better at playing with toys by yourself.  You even play 'with' Audrey, by talking to her while you're playing and giving her toys to involve her in your play.  Every so often your toys use Audrey as a trampoline, but for the most part you're really gentle with her. 

You're finally getting old enough to bribe! :)

I mean... if we're going out somewhere - to the mall, or to your Grandparents' houses - it is starting to become effective to tell you that the consequence of bad behavior is to go home. We never make that threat unless we are willing to follow through, but so far we haven't had to. We also don't make that threat if going home might be exactly what you would like to do.  On more than one occasion, we have been happily surprised by how well you behaved during an all-day outing. 

I'll probably say this in anything I ever write to you - but you're growing up so unbelievably fast, I can hardly keep up.  You talk more like a child than like a toddler these days, and you say the most hilarious things.  I grow increasingly fascinated by the little person you are becoming, and I'm excited to get to know you better each day that goes by. 

I love you to bits, my big girl! 

Published in Blog
Thursday, 11 July 2013 07:00

On the Road to 3 Years Old

It occured to me today that Clara is now closer to her 3rd Birthday than she is to her 2nd. She is now OVER the Two-and-a-half mark, and if I stop to think about it, I am absolutely amazed at how much has changed in the past 7 months. Last month I reflected on her life up until now in this '30 Months Old!' post, and although her changes since then have been small, she is undoubtedly becoming more and more a 'little girl', and very little 'toddler' remains.

It's rare to get an honest smile out of Clara on camera, but this day she was so happy to have gotten this beautiful new playhouse from her Grandparents, she was all smiles. I love this picture, because I don't think I have another one like it where she's showing such an honest smile. 

We had her big 2 1/2 Birthday bash last month, and it was a pretty big deal.  We filled our house with about 30 people for each party - friends in the morning and family in the evening, and luckily for us, Clara napped in between!

Ok, here it is... 

I'm actually struggling to write this post, and have been pondering it for days, because after re-reading my post for her last month, it was so positive and warm that I wanted to write the same thing for her again. I also wanted to start writing her monthly posts as a letter to her, as I have been with Audrey. 

But lately, my feelings toward Clara have not been overly positive or warm. So I guess I'll go with being honest... 

 

Dear Clara,

You probably won't ever want to hear this, but you are so much like me.  You are stubborn, and independent, yet timid and the way you treat your sister makes it clear to me that you have a kind and loving streak in there also.  You even look like me, with a little bit of your 'other' Grandpa thrown in. The one who died. 

Lately, I have been fighting with you a lot, and I honestly feel at a loss.  I don't find that parenting a toddler comes naturally to me, and I'm not naturally patient. Some days I will actively plan some great activity for you, and you will turn up your nose at it, and instead want to 'go back to bed', or when I try to engage you in running around at the playground, all you want to do is stay in the swing. 

I love how much you love your 'Bo', but some days every little thing causes you to cry out for your 'Bo and gummy', and I wish there was something I could do to stop the tears like they do. I wish that when I offered to cuddle with you and read a book that you would take me up on the offer instead of running away from me to your room. You're not even three years old, and I thought some of these things wouldn't happen until you were a teenager!

We eat too much sugar in our house, and we're trying to change that - largely for you. I am having to learn what 'healthy habits' look like as an adult, and as diet-related illnesses like Type 2 Diabetes and Celiac disease become more prevalent, I want you to have healthy habits from the start so that when you move out on your own someday, cooking well balanced meals for yourself will be simply what is natural. 

I also want to somehow demonstrate an active lifestyle for you, but right now I don't have any clue what that would look like. I have never been a very active person, and I want to be - both for myself and for you. I want to find ways to get us both moving - and ways to get you away from the baby swing at least some of the time when we go to the playground.  Is it acceptable to get a toddler to play fetch?

Just kidding...

Sort of.

I know that God has given you to me to take care of. That means that despite how inadequate I feel as a parent, God knows what great things can come from you and that I am either capable of helping you, or at least incapable of stopping you from accomplishing those great things.  I also know that there are no guarantees, and that either you or I could be called home by God today and that the last moment we have together is the one we just shared. That may sound morbid, but I need to remember these things to keep me focused. I can't afford to be a lazy parent for a week. I can't afford an hour where my love for you isn't obvious. 

You are mine right now, but I can't take that for granted for a second. 

I am prone to laziness, and I hope that you will forgive me for all of my parenting (and personal) failings someday.  I hope that most of them you won't even remember and that our good moments outweigh the bad. 

I hope that you know - not because I have to tell you, but I hope you've also heard it said - that I think you are brilliant, and beautiful, and strong. Some days I wish you would just follow what your friends are doing, but I know that your insistance on doing 'your own thing' means that you will likely never be a follower, and that you will probably always stand behind what you believe.  Remind me to tell you about the time all of my friends stopped talking to me when I was in Grade 7 because I told them all they were going to hell...  

I hope you know that although your stubborness drives me crazy - I don't actually think it's a bad thing.  It is my stubborness that has allowed me to look back at my life and realize that ultimately, I have gotten whatever I have wanted in life - and you will be that way too. 

As much as I want you to need me sometimes when you're hurting, I'm really glad you don't - because I know that you will never let me hold you back. 

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 11 June 2013 22:22

30 Months Old!

I walked into my daughters' room tonight, for what felt like the hundredth time, to reswaddle Audrey. Both girls had been struggling to fall asleep, each challenging thein their own way. Tired and frustrated, I hear my toddler sweetly say "Do you want a hamburger?". 

I laughed. and kissed her on the forehead. "Yes, my dear... I would love a hamburger."

Today Clara 'turned' 30 months old. Or - in normal-people-speak - 2 'and a half' officially. It seemed as though the day she turned 2, her vocabulary started increasing exponentially. She has changed so rapidly in the past six months, and when I think about how much she has changed since the day she was born - only 30 months ago - it nearly blows my mind... 

She started here...

Then only six months later... (I promise this is actually a picture of Clara - I had to double take, because it looks so much like Audrey does now...)

And by her first birthday she still didn't have any hair. 

She didn't walk until she was nearly 18 months old.

And by her second birthday she was already a big sister! 

Lately it seems as though I can't keep up. How quickly she catches on to things, how cleverly she sidesteps almost everything we tell her to do - often without us even noticing - and how much she remembers, is absolutely incredible to me.  The greatest evidence of her growth lies in her conversation skills. I have people every day asking "How old is she...? Only 2?"

Today we brought Audrey in to her immunization appointment and Clara walked squarely up to the counter. The woman at the counter addressed her directly and asked her if she had brought 'her baby' to be immunized. 

"I did" Clara said confidently. The woman then asked what her baby's name was. "Audrey". She replied and then asked. "Are you the lady?" I had informed her that a lady would be giving Audrey a needle. She then started rambling on to me about how she had been sick, and went to the hospital and got a needle. This all happened months ago, and she still seems to clearly remember it. 

She is goofy and has an unbelievable amount of energy. She makes me laugh daily, and challenges me constantly as a parent. She routinely says the strangest things - most of which I forget only hours after she's said them, despite how insistent I am that I WILL remember this one... 

She loves going on the swings at the park, but is still too scared to go down the slide. 

She bosses everyone she knows around, but still takes a lot of time to get comfortable in large groups. Until she gets to know everyone - then she's suddenly the boss!

She still loves, loves, LOVES her sister, and despite all of our warnings: "Be careful Clara, be gentle Clara, don't pull on Audrey's arms Clara..." she still gets excited every time she sees her. She wants to be around her constantly, and is always telling us what Audrey does and does not want.

"Her doesn't want to go to bed!"

"Her DOES want more food!"

"Audrey needs her gummy! Audrey needs her toy! Audrey needs a blanket!"

I'm slowly getting better at this 'Mom' thing, I think, and in the process I'm loving this crazy 2-year-old stage more and more.  She drives me insane and I still sometimes want to shake her, but more and more she makes me love her so much it brings tears to my eyes - that emotional kind of love that doesn't necessarily go along with the practical kind of Mom-love that I have had for her since before she was born. 

This is our Pickle. She is 30 months old today. 

Published in Blog
Monday, 10 June 2013 07:00

Planning a Toddler Party

Last December, on Clara's second birthday I wrote this post on how I wanted to throw her a 1/2 Birthday party in June.  Now it's June, and we have the party set for next Saturday, June 15th.  I'm kind of freaking out, while I try to organize all of my thoughts on this! 

Some of what I need to do has already been done (like sending out the invitations - phew!), but I need to plan out my steps for the week anyway, so I thought I'd jot down all of my thoughts on planning a toddler birthday party from start to finish!

So, here is a collection of tips and steps for planning a toddler's Birthday party:

  • Choose your location, and make sure you have enough space for what you want to do!  We are planning the party at our own house, and hopefully the weather will be nice, because we want to be outside! We have a swing set in the yard and some other good toys for kids to play with. We do have a pretty good set-up downstairs for kids if we have to, but there isn't a lot of room for anyone else so the 'grown-ups' would mostly have to be upstairs and our house isn't very big... that was actually a big part of the reason we wanted to do a 1/2 Birthday party in June rather than a big party on her actual birthday in December.  Really hoping for nice weather! 
  • Choose your time, because we are planning a party around a group of people who probably need to go home and nap by about 1pm, so we chose a time in the late morning so it could be all over well before 1pm.  Late afternoon would work for this same group of kids, and if you know that none of your invitees are still napping you have much more flexibility!
  • Decide who to Invite. This year Clara actually has quite a few friends in the 2-4 year old range, so we had a lot of kids to invite! We have 6 kiddos on our list this year, which is quite a bit considering their age! Two year olds can get a bit overwhelmed at times, so fewer is probably better for this age.  Also, because 2 and 3 year olds might want their parents to stay with them (and you might too!) keep the families in mind when you are inviting. Our 6-person guest list actually means we need to find space for 20 people not including ourselves. 
  • Purchase or make invitations. There are so many possibilities here, from store-bought dollarstore or fancy custom cards for mailing, to online invites via email or facebook, to homemade cards. I almost always look ideas for this kind of thing up on Pinterest, but in this case, Clara and I made invitations to hand out to her friends. I had a pack of blank cards & envelopes from a $1.50 bin at Michael's, and we just used crayons, markers and stickers to decorate the fronts.

  • Send the invitations! This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many cards I've found around my house that were intended to be sent at some point, but never were... 
  • Plan the food! Because we are having a late morning party, we will be serving a quick lunch for the kids and families (Kraft Dinner - Clara's favourite). If you had a party mid-afternoon you wouldn't need to serve any kind of meal, but you probably want some kinds of snacks and desserts. And birthday parties just aren't birthday parties without some kind of cake!
  • Plan the drinks! Another thing that should be a no-brainer, but I did most of this post before realizing I was missing drinks!  
  • Plan the activities. Pinterest is full of great activities for toddler parties - here are just a few good resources:
  • Have a way to play music. Because we'll be partying outdoors (hopefully), we will have to set up a player and speakers in the garage so we can listen outdoors. We might skip this entirely out of simplicity, or to avoid creating extra noise, but it might be a cool thing to include. You will, however, need this if you plan to play a game like hot potato or musical chairs. 
  • Party Bags. The general consensus here seems to be that no one really appreciates these bags (except the kids, of course!), and I have seen atrocious amounts of money spent on trying to create bags that kids will really appreciate. My plan is to stick to things that are useful and consumable - like playdough, crayons and colouring books, bubbles, and possibly some candy or homemade treats. Including small toys can be a good idea, but I would stick to things that are cheap in cost but still of a decent to high quality so the parent isn't just trying to find the first opportunity to chuck it. 

Did I miss anything?


Overall, keep it simple. A 2 or 3-year-old will be perfectly happy playing with their friends in an unstructured environment, and planning too much will only serve to make your day more stressful. Decorations are also something that are unneccessary as far as the child is concerned - they really won't care if you forget to hang the big 'Happy Birthday' banner, so don't stress too much about that kind of thing. 

A General Timeline:

1 Month Ahead: Decide on the location, time and attendees - more time would probably be better for your sake and to make sure your attendees keep the day free.  If you need to book a location, you need to plan early enough for this venue to be available - this could be up to 6 months or more depending on the type of venue you're looking at. 

2-3 Weeks Ahead: Purchase/Make and send out invitations. 

1 Week (or more) Ahead: Plan out your food and activities in detail, jotting down how far ahead (or close to the date) certain things need to be purchased. You may want to buy certain things at one location a week ahead, but still require produce that should be purchased the day before or day of - keep track of these things! 

Also, if you're hosting the party at home, you may want to start thinking about cleaning up the space you will be using to make it company ready!

Day Before: Purchase activity supplies, prepare any food that must be made ahead or frozen. Make as much as you can ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until party time. Finish cleaning the party space. Put up decorations if you'll be indoors and if you can. 

Day of the Party! Put up decorations, set up activities and dress up the party girl/boy! As the toddlers are arriving, give them some free play while you set out any food and drinks from the fridge.

Take lots of pictures! 

Hopefully I didn't miss anything, because I'm at 1 week ahead (less, actually, so I'm already behind!) and I'll be detailing all of this stuff this week! Wish me luck! 

Published in Blog
Saturday, 08 June 2013 07:00

Epic Toddler Tantrum

I love this photo because it hardly looks like my Clara, and makes her look a little bit insane, which is just so perfect. I also love it, because it was sent to me via text when I was away for two days a few weeks ago, and Brian asked Clara to 'Smile for Mommy'.  It's precious.

This precious little girl showed me a side of herself yesterday that I had not yet seen before in the shape of a colossal temper tantrum.

She was sitting at her seat at the table - as she is in this photo - eating a snack after her afternoon nap. It began simply enough - she yelled "I'm done!" at me, expecting to me immediately released from her chair so she could go and play.

I have to confess that too often, we have responded to this sort of demand unknowingly - or only half-ways knowingly - and therefore strengthened her belief that demanding will get her what she wants. Sometimes it would happen that she would almost politely request something, and we would be in the process of filling her request when the demands came - which we would ignore, because we were already at work - and again it would be proved that demanding is a successful way to get her way in life.

Oops.

We didn't even realize this was happening, but yesterday, as I looked across the table at her and she began insistently yelling "I'm done, I'm done, I'm done!!!".  I realized that she had been doing this for too long.  This was behavior I did not want to see in her in another year's time, and so I must stop indulging it now. 

We had been trying to teach her some level of manners by insisting on the word 'Please' when she requests something, and when we began to instruct her to 'ask nicely', we would get an insistent and somewhat whiney 'PLEEEEAAAASE!' which actually sounds more like 'Cheese' when she says it, but anyway... It was also time to correct her belief that 'asking nicely' simply means saying the word 'please'. 

So I looked her in the eye and said "Clara, I know that you want to get down, but you need to talk nicely to Mommy. When you yell 'I'm done' at Mommy, that is very rude behavior and you need to tell Mommy you're sorry for yelling. Then you need to say 'Mommy, can I please be excused?'". 

Some people might say that this is a bit much to expect from a two year old. Those people do not know my daughter. She always - always - knows more than even I give her credit for, and is constantly surprising me. I will not undercut her intelligence or perception because she is absolutely capable of being held responsible for her behavior. 

She said. "No! I don't want to be nice to Mommy!"

And I said "Ok, then, you can stay there until you're ready to be nice."

She started screaming again. "No! I need to get DOWN!!!'

For awhile I tried to reason with her, explaining again and again what she needed to do. 1: Say sorry, 2: Ask 'nicely' - which now requires a full sentence as well as the word 'please'.  Again and again she refused, and became more and more difficult. She worked herself up full tilt and full on screamed in my face. 

She screamed. Loudest noise I have ever heard her make. I pulled out my deep and serious Mom voice and said "Clara, that is not appropriate behavior. It is not ok to scream like that." 

She looked me in the eye and continued to scream. Every so often she would break to demand to get off the chair again, at which I would try again to explain to her what she needed to do. Then she would tell me again that she didn't want to be nice to me and continue to scream.

After about five minutes I realized that this was one of those times when ignoring her might be the best option. I chose to ignore her, because I didn't want her to think that tantrums were a way to get attention, and I ignored her because I didn't want her to in any way be 'calling the shots' at that moment. I stayed close to her because she was flailing herself wildly on the chair, and I wanted to make sure that she wouldn't tip her chair over and hurt herself, but I stayed behind her so that it wouldn't appear to hear as though I was concerned with her situation. I did some dishes.

Occasionally I would walk to the living room and - still in view of Clara - I would talk to and praise Audrey for being such a happy girl, and tell her that I liked to spend time with girls who were so nice to Mommy. I don't know what child psychology would say about this - but my intent was to show Clara that I was MORE likely to pay attention to her if she acted calm and was nice, than if she was tantruming. 

The screaming continued, although Clara did stop for a moment to listen to what I said to Audrey.  It was a warm day, and all of our windows and doors were open. I was a little bit afraid that someone would think I was torturing my child and call the police... seriously, her screams were that awful.

After about 20 minutes of ignoring her (yup - it was at least a 25 minute screaming tantrum), I finally sat down in front of her again and reiterated what I had told her before. She must have worn herself down enough that she was willing to concede defeat and said, through her tears, "I'm sorry, Mommy."

Then, after a few more sniffles, she said "Can I be excused... please?"

I said yes. I gave her a hug. And she was all smiles and giggles and happy playtime for at least an hour. 

Looking back, I have to say that battling with her like this could have made me tired of mommyhood right then, but it seemed to have exactly the opposite effect. It was work. It was challenging. And it was invigorating. I had put some sweat and tears into raising my daughter - and I suddenly felt even more connected to her. She is my job right now - my purpose in a lot of ways - and putting some real exertion into the task and seeing small, but positive, results has refocused me for the time being. Like a small voice in my ear is saying "See, that wasn't THAT hard... and it was worth it!"

And it will be worth it. 

Have any of you ever dealt with massive and dramatic tantrums that changed your life or thought process as a parent? How did you handle them? 

Published in Blog
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