Category Archives: updates

SuperDash

I’m sure it’s uncool to admit this, but I’m sort of totally besotted with my seven-year-old just now. Maybe it’s because I picked up a couple of new things for him at Target yesterday and he’s finally now wearing trousers that come past his ankles, along with a groovy navy hoodie, but he looks like a whole new – big – kid to me. A handsome, smart (in the good way), sensible (mostly), listening (sometimes), cool quirky individual with a personality all of his own.

He hums to himself and sings choruses of his own composing, he pitches and catches and bike-rides at high speeds, he reads and writes (albeit reluctantly), he loves math homework. I gave him a joke book for his birthday, as I had a hunch that if anything could get him reading it would be a bunch of cheesy, predictable, corny jokes – and indeed, he labours through each one, sometimes needs the punchline explained, and then appreciates the heck out of each and every old chestnut.

Have new coat, will wear

He won’t be kissed any more, and any goodnight kiss I might happen to land on him is quickly swiped off and sent back to me. But if I have to wake him up for school – I never thought the day would come, for my 5am two-year-old, but it has – I plant a good few smackers on his warm sleepy cheek and he grins through his dreams and can’t muster the energy to push me off. Hugs are still okay, even awake, and he’ll still surprisingly hold a hand.

He can’t see me with a camera without hamming it up to the nth degree, which is why I have a lot of photos of superhero poses and cheesy grins and not many of his bright handsome face looking the way it should. He’s lost and gained two bottom teeth, and the gap where he knocked out one top tooth in babyhood finally looks right, though the replacement isn’t poking through just yet. He looks like his father, like my mother’s brothers when they were young; not like me that I can see, but others can, they say. His eyes are blue, his shins are bruised, and he always seems to need a haircut.

He’s miraculous, hilarious, and totally irritating. He’s irrational, loud, stubborn, infuriating, and a pain in the neck, but his heart, I think, is in the right place. He plays gently with the younger kids, until he forgets and shows off. He adores and tolerates his rambunctious little sister and puts up with her nonsense and her imperious demands for the one corner of the sofa that everyone wants, and he knows exactly how to push her buttons until she screams and stomps off in high dudgeon.

He was an obsessive three-year-old, deeply devoted to Spider-Man and constantly wanting to make machines and have us build things for him out of cardboard. His obsessions have levelled off as his interests have expanded and his abilities have caught up with his imaginings, but he still devotes a lot of thought to inventions he’s planning and characters he’s inhabiting. He just has other outlets now, his own internal life and friends at school and things I’m not involved in, just as it should be. That’s what we’ve been preparing him for, after all.

I’m not saying he’s Done or anything, but he seems to be coming along quite nicely. And I like him a lot where he is right now.

Backsliding

There has been some backsliding on the night-weaning issue.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, becuase it was going so well. She hadn’t had a boob in the middle of the night for so long that I was sure she’d forgotten it was even a possibility. But hey, I was wrong. How ’bout that?

When we were in Chicago, Dash was just getting over his almost-croup, and I was convinced Mabel was about to come down with it. One night she seemed warm, to the kiss test, and I suspected she was running a low-grade fever. She definitely had a cold. She woke up in the night, and I decided to hell with my principles (such as they were, the no-boob principle is always fighting against the why-shouldn’t-I principle) and gave her the boob. It sent her back to sleep quickly, it gave her antibodies, it kept her hydrated, it was just the ticket. In the morning her fever was gone and she only coughed a few times.

So I said, “It’s only because we’re away, and you’re sick.” “Once we go home, there will be no booboo at night, you know?” I said. “Only in Chicago,” I said.

Yeah, right. She’d broken the streak, and she knew it. Also, she’s still sick with a very runny nose and a crackly cough that doesn’t worry me because it sounds productive, as the pharmacist would say. I have not had a lot of luck denying the midnight boob since we’ve been back. And I can’t tell whether it’s because she’s found my weakness (you know, liking sleep) or because she really does need it because she’s sick. But I’m teetering on the edge of sick myself, with a runny nose and an incipient sore throat that never gets quite bad enough to bother about, and telling the long version of Cinderella at 3am is really not something that appeals to me when I know there’s another option.

I do try, though. Last night. Ugh. Last night she woke at some horrible hour and I recounted all of Cinderella (slightly abridged, with breaks whenever I dropped out of consciousness). Then she wailed at me for 20 minutes until I gave her one boob. Repeat for other side, even though she’d promised she’d go to sleep after just the one. (She’s like an alcoholic. I wonder has she an addictive personality, perhaps.) Then the other side, or a Mabel story, or I don’t remember what. Finally, two hours later, she said she was hungry.

One waffle and one more bloody Mabel story later, she was asleep. For, I dunno, an hour, until it was morning.

I’m a bit tired today. I’ll night-wean her again when I have the energy. Don’t hassle me, man.

You are here

Don’t think I’m not writing. I am writing. You’re just not seeing it. I have no fewer than four posts at the draft stage that just aren’t coming out of it, because they’re not working for one reason or another. Too boring, too uninteresting, too irrelevant, too not-quite-saying-what-I’m-trying-to-say.

I know Mabel is tired today because she’s spent an indordinate amount of time rolling round on the floor and chewing on non-food objects. Also because it’s only 1.20 and it feels like it should be much later. As early as 9.30 this morning she had installed herself on the sofa with all the cusions, numerous blankets, a bath towel and a dragon doorstop (from IKEA; you probably have one too) and asked me to turn on the TV because she was tiiiiiired.

She’s tired because I went to a meeting last night and even though she was well ready to fall asleep at 7pm, because I wasn’t there with the magic boobies, she was still wide awake at 8.45 when I got home. She’d had the books, she’d had the stories, she’d been lain down with, she’d been left alone … she has no idea how to go to sleep without the magic boobies. Not yesterday, anyway, even though she’s done it before, and she goes back to sleep in the middle of the night very well these days. (I DIDN’T SAY THAT STOP LOOKING AT ME FATE HERE’S A CHICKEN I SACRIFICED EARLIER.)

It’s lovely having Dash back at school now that we’re used to it and the homework gets started straight away. I’ve even cleaned a couple of things and baked a couple of things, so it looks like I’m getting out of my doldrums and back to normal.

It will be even more lovely next week when Mabel is back at school too, at least until the existential angst starts to get me. In between, we have the local Labor Day Festival (that’s “festible” to my children) to get through/enjoy, with duties to be discharged for both the nursery school and the elementary school as well as many rides to be ridden on and oh look it’s going to be 90 degrees on Saturday. Lovely.

So that’s where we are. Where are you?

Don’t even read this out loud in your head

I’m really tempting all kinds of fate even just writing this down, so I’ll have to say it in code, but Abelmay is eepingslay etterbay. I’m sorry if your pig Latin isn’t up to snuff, but that’s as far as I’m prepared to go. I said it out loud for real – in a whisper – to a friend the other day, and that very night the child woke up four times.

To recap, briefly, for anyone who’s new: Mabel will be four in November, and she has been sleeping like a four-month-old for her entire life. By which I mean that she would wake every two or three hours to be nursed back to sleep. So if she went to bed at 8 she’d wake at 10, 12, 2 or 3, and 5 or so, and finally get up around 7. If she skipped her nap and went to bed at 7, she’d wake at 9, and so on. Every now and then, just so I didn’t think I could even do something between 8 and 10, she’d wake up after just one hour. So, rather than lose my sanity completely, I was mostly sleeping in Mabel’s bed from 2am onwards every night.

It was okay, but it was getting old. She was getting old, and something had to change. Finally, this February, I got to the point where I was ready to try again, and so for the first waking we sent in Daddy. She didn’t like it much the first time, (think heaving, gulping, sobs) and I stepped in, but after a few nights she started to accept him and fall asleep with just a story.

In March I started trying to do that with her pre-3am wakings as well. She was still waking up, but often would go back to sleep with just a story from either me or her father. By 3am I would be too exhausted to hold out any longer, and she’d get what she wanted.

Last month, after babysittergate, I decided it was time to stand firm. She’d shown me she was able to put herself back to sleep, so I could finally deny her without guilt. The first night, she was awake for three hours in the middle of the night, trying to figure out how to do it. But in the next few nights things improved. Nowadays, she often wakes once, some time between 11 and 1, and that’s it until daylight. Daylight is when I have decreed she can have boobie, but not before.

So we finally really are nursing just twice in 24 hours: once at bedtime and once in the morning. And in between, Mabel mostly sleeps, in her own bed, and I sleep in mine. It’s taken a long time to get here – longer than I’d ever have let you tell me I’d wait, really – but it’s a good place to be.

Now I have to go and sacrifice some rubber chickens to the pig-Latin gods so that Fate doesn’t read what I just said.

BunBun II: The fluffening

The rest of the story is a bit of an anticlimax, but there are cute pictures, so stick around.

Nobody has claimed the bunny. Nobody has called the local shelter or the police to report a missing fluffy wabbit. Nobody has read the neighbourhood mailing list to thrill at the retrieval of their beloved pet. Nobody has posted “Wanted: Woolly lap-warmer” signs on nearby lampposts. Maybe BunBun escaped from indentured servitude or a mitten factory, or a house with no phones and no internet.

First thing this morning, we rang the local shelter and ascertained that they would take the bunny later in the day. It’s a no-kill shelter, lest anyone accuse us of heartlessness, and will keep him until he’s claimed, or adopted if nobody claims him within a reasonable time. Once that was done, I felt it was safe to let the children know there was an animal on the premises.

They were excited to hear there was a surprise – that we would not be keeping – in the basement, but once they saw it they were understandably puzzled.
“It’s a dog!”
“It’s a cat!”
“Here, BunBun!” I said, trying to coax the fluffball out of its cage so we could change his newspaper.
“It’s a … bunny?”

We took BunBun upstairs for a look around.

Mabel was more interested in sorting out the family of wrenches she’d found in the basement.

Dash wanted me to take a photo of his newly decorated new pencil box.

I think B was the one most taken with the rabbit.
“You love him!” I accused.
“He’s just so fluffy,” replied my very macho husband, cradling him like a baby.

Actually, I think I was trying to keep my distance so I wouldn’t start loving him myself. When you see him from this angle, he’s pretty darn adorable. And very, very fluffy.

So this afternoon, BunBun (Bunster, says Dash) went to the shelter. We might visit him in a few days’ time, but we’re not planning to adopt him when and if he comes on the market. I really hope he finds his family. For one thing, I want to know what his name is.

It’s probably Arthur. 

Denouement

But the water bottle, you ask. What happened with the water bottle?

Funny story, actually.

That afternoon as we waited for our little darlings to exit, be-stickered and suitably exercised, from their dance class, one of the other mothers asked me “So, was the bottle there?”

First I had to recover from the shock of having someone from My Life Version A (real life, that is) reveal that they are also privy to My Life Version B (the blog) – not that it was a terrible surprise, since I have told a carefully selected group of my friends and acquaintances – the ones who have kids, whom I think might conceivably enjoy reading such things, and whom I can count on to probably not judge me too harshly in person – about the blog. Every few months I get crazy and publish a Facebook update to just those people, telling them about it and also how clicking the Facebook Like button here (have you noticed it?) will make fluffy bunnies hop all over their screens in an endearing manner or some such enticing nonsense. (It’s true. Just try it and see.) It’s called marketing, I believe, or shameless self-promotion, and like many other secret/semi-secret bloggers, I’m never quite sure how I feel about it.

Anyway, my friend had, in one fell swoop, payed me the compliment of letting me know that she read the blog that day and that she was engaged enough in the story to want to know how it turned out. So I told her that the bottle had still been in the playground when we went by a little earlier.

Our third friend wanted to know what on earth we were talking about, so I had to explain. The condensed version, for people who aren’t waiting for me to fill a whole page with little black words:

“I found a water bottle at the playground, and I took it home because I thought I knew who it belonged to, but I was wrong so then I had to put it back, and it’s still there.” As I said it, a thought ocurred to me, but very slowly, like molasses, or perhaps a glacier.

“Like yours. You know, the expensive one your sister gave you.”

At this point, you would think that I would have put two and two together. Not a hope.

We discussed further how fancy those bottles are and how my friend felt her life as a SAHM of two always-grubby little boys did not merit one. She lives across the road from me. Her son is in Mabel’s class. I probably talk to her every day, as we watch our kids zoom around on each other’s bikes or I return a purloined plastic frog to her playroom, that sort of thing.

Later that evening, I had a text from her:

“You know that water bottle you found – was it white? Because the last time I remember having mine was at the playground on Monday evening…”

You would think I might have mentioned at dance class that it was white – not just like, but exactly like the one her sister gave her. Apparently I hadn’t. And she hadn’t realised it was missing at that point – she assumed it was in one of those places things usually are, like the stroller basket or the car or being buried in the sandbox by some stray tyke.

So there you have it. She got it back. The blog saves the day.

Tiny increments of betterment

Is it time for an update on the sleep situation? I suppose it is.

Let’s start with the good news. Mabel is definitely toilet trained. Pull-ups are strictly for night time, not even for naps. (I put a waterproof crib mattress pad under her at naptime just in case, but mostly she doesn’t need it.) My diaper-totin’ days are over. I am in no way tempting fate by saying this.

Okay, okay, that’s not sleep.

Last time I took you down this fascinating road of good intentions, I was trying to night-wean the three-year-old; something many people do when their babies are six months old, or maybe twelve, or perhaps two years. But I’m a slow starter, and I dislike confrontation.

The first few days went startlingly well: Mabel would go back to sleep without nursing at her first wake (10pm or so) and skip her second wake (midnight-ish) entirely. By the time the formerly third wake happened (3am) I was so impressed, and she so frantic, that I would happily give her what she wanted, and we’d all go back to sleep.

But then she started not eating dinner. Which made her wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Which was not conducive to staying asleep or being content with an inane story about Dora and some butterflies instead of the much-desired boobie.

(She has started to say “boobie” instead of “mumeet”. I am not happy about this development. When I’m on the phone to my mother and Mabel starts to shout “Give me your boobies!”, there’s little I can do to dissemble about what’s going on.)

So we had some frustrating evenings while B was away, and we’re just getting back into the swing of things now, remembering to send him in when she wakes the first time, even though she’s not yet back to ever going back to sleep without me. But still, some times, more often than not – almost always, I’d say optimistically – she will go back to sleep without nursing at the first wake. The night before last she went back to sleep the first two wakes without nursing. Even. But she’s still waking – that is, enough to start calling for me and escalate if ignored – as much as ever.

Still. I’ll take what I can get, for now. It’s a start.

Dora’s Long Night

You’ve got fourteen minutes. Go!

Oh, wait. I‘ve got fourteen minutes. If it takes you fourteen minutes to read this, well, I suppose I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you had to take some time out in the middle to make dinner or advise a presidential candidate or paint your toenails or something.

I know you’re clamouring to find out how it went last night. Did I fall at the first fence? Did Mabel submit to the will of her father? Did terror reign?

Actually, I’ll tempt fate right now by saying it went pretty well. Better than I could have imagined, though not magically well or anything. There was a moment when she’d slept a microsecond longer than usual after going to bed, when I thought maybe she’d decided it wouldn’t be worth waking up at all, and she’d just sleep through to 8am instead – but then she realised that if she did that, I’d be up every hour checking her pulse and holding a mirror and a tiny flashlight in front of her nose to see if she was breathing, so she decided to spare me that. Thoughtful child.

So Mabel went to sleep, as is fairly usual for a day she has napped, at 8.30 last night. I nursed her to sleep, though there were also two batches of stories and one ritual-sending-away-of-Daddy before she was actually out. She slept until 10.30, maybe even 10.45, and woke, as usual. B went in to her. We’ve been doing this for a while now with the first waking, so it wasn’t a surprise, and sometimes she falls back asleep while waiting for me to come after he’s persuaded her to lie back down, because that’s all he’s good for as far as she’s concerned. (She doesn’t know about the paying-bills part yet.) But last night, probably because we’d talked about how the mumeet would be not forthcoming during the night, she wasn’t falling back asleep. B passed the metaphorical baton to me and I squared my shoulders against the coming onslaught as I entered her room, who knew when or in what condition to ever leave again.

But! Miracle! She asked for mumeet, was told there would be none, and after some fairly rudimentary protests, lay down and said I should tell her a story instead. I got two-thirds of the way through Goldilocks, adding some long pauses for dramatic effect, and lo! she was mostly asleep again. I had to wait quite a while before she was asleep enough for me to actually leave, but it was much, much easier than I had been expecting.

The same thing happened at 1am or whenever it was she woke next. I didn’t bother sending B in, because (a) he was fast asleep, and (b) what was the point? If she knows I’m in the house, she’s going to want me to be the one with her, even if I deny her what she wants most. She has to hear it from the source, I suppose. This time, again we had the formal protest, but half of The Three Billy Goats Gruff was enough to get her back to sleep. (I don’t actually know what the biggest billy goat said to the troll, or what the troll said to him, because I didn’t get to that page of the book when I read it to her at school yesterday, so it was good that she fell asleep before my ignorance was exposed.)

The third time – and to be honest I can’t even remember if I went back to my own bed before this one or just stayed where I was – she was more insistent, more upset, and louder. She was still awake after two long and involved Dora and Diego stories (and I have to say that even half asleep in the middle of the night, I can compose a more logical and interesting Dora story than the ones we’ve had from the library), so I made an executive decision to call it a night and give her what she wanted. “Five seconds,” I said, but that never works with her the way it used to with her brother, so it was a very long five seconds on one side, and an actual five seconds on the other, and she went back to sleep.

The next time she woke it was probably 7.30, I could see daylight at the side of the curtain, and I let her have her way with abandon.

Tonight, we’ll see what happens. I was proud of us both – but mostly of Mabel, to be fair – for getting as far as we got last night, and I don’t regret giving in when I did. If I don’t nurse her between bedtime and 3am, that’s still a huge step forward from where we were, and we’ll get to where we’re going in the end.

Progress, maybe

We’re travelling tomorrow, but before I go and ruin everyone’s (read, Mabel’s) new good habits by dragging her across the ocean to a continent five hours ahead, I thought I should document them. For posterity, and because by the time we get back I’ll no doubt have more things to say.

Two Fridays ago, there I was moaning to a friend about the terrible night Mabel – and therefore I – had had, when I realised that I was now undeniably one of those annoying people who complains about a situation but never makes a move to change it. Which is fine if it’s on my blog – right? Right. – but not fair to people standing in front of me who are too polite to just throttle me for not getting on with it.

Later that morning, Mabel and I had a little conversation.
“Oh, Mabel, when are you ever going to stop having mumeet?” I sighed, and she replied, “When I’m four.” She may have said this before, and I never took her up on it because it sounded so far in the future that I was hoping for something a little better, but now suddenly, it sounded like an acheivable goal.
“Okay then,” I told her, “we’ll stop when you’re four. But we’ll have to start having a bit less, so that we don’t just stop all at once. So from now on, we’ll only have mumeet in the morning and at naptime if you take a nap, and at bedtime.” And all night, which was implied and understood, if not actually said.

“So now you’re just nursing her three times a day and all night, and that’s good?” you ask, shaking your head to get the buzzing sound out.

Yes, because she’s finally learning that there are other ways to be happy without just grabbing a boob at the merest hint of personal grumpiness. Even though there have been days when she’s gone a long time without – from before school all the way to naptime, or even beyond if she didn’t nap and we were busy – those were probably the exceptions, and she was pretty used to having a little sumpin’ sumpin’ before lunch, or after nap, or around 5pm, or just to keep her going till bedtime.

But I made some wonderful discoveries:

  • I can say no, and if I keep saying it she will eventually go away and do something else.
  • She will accept a cuddle instead of nursing, if I stand firm.
  • She’s quite willing to take a chocolate chip and a mini marshmallow as a post-nap treat instead of nursing (this is a short-term thing that will be phased out, honest).

Of course, once she figured things out, she realised that it was to her advantage to nap, or at least try to nap, because then she gets a hit in the middle of the day. I’m happy to do this, so long as she naps reasonably early, and to take the resultant fallout of later, more long-drawn-out bedtimes for a while, as it’s all in a good cause, and really, who’s to look a gift-nap in the mouth? But if she tells me at 3pm that she wants a nap, it’s no way Jose and she has to make do with a cuddle on the sofa. And she does.

So. It doesn’t solve my night-time problem, and the wearing of the underwear has once again receded into the dim and distant, most of the time, but I think it’s a good step forward. When she’s used to it, and when we’re back from our trip, I’ll make some other change, like moving bedtime mumeet to the sofa and letting Daddy do bedtime, on days when she’s really tired because she hasn’t napped.

The other thing we’ve been doing lately is having B go into her the first time she wakes, the time that’s a paltry two hours or less since she went to bed in the first place. It’s usually around 10pm. The first night we did this, despite having been warned in advance, she cried hysterically, with the heaving and the gulping and the pushing him away and then taking an hour to calm down once I did go in. But we’ve done it most nights since and now she just grouses at him until he goes away, cries for me, and nurses to sleep pretty quickly. Once, just once*, she fell back to sleep without any further intervention, and I did a happy Snoopy dance. But even without that, since she’s accepting his presence more readily, I see progress, even if I’m not sure what exactly the progress is moving towards.

Eventually, it will all fall into place. Won’t it? 

*Update: Well, stop the presses, she just did it again! Or he did. I don’t care, so long as they can do it without me.

Goings-on ongoing

Once again, this morning, I didn’t go for a run.

One way or another, the fates have conspired against me for the past week, and between weather, and days off school, and weather, and my period, I haven’t had a chance to go out for ages. I hate this – not because I’m a runner, all champing at the bit for activity and pacing up and down like a caged tiger; but because it makes me afraid that I’ll never get back out there and my tiny bit of motivation will desert me and I’ll be back to being a blob who wasted money on good shoes for nothing.

On the other hand, it’s novel, if irritating, for me to actually want to exercise and be prevented by outside influences. I’m almost completely certain I’m not just using them as excuses. And B has been very good about not bugging me, because he knows that the one thing certain to make me not go is someone telling me that I should. (Mabel? My daughter? What? I see no correlation here.)

I have gone to the not-aerobics class for the past two Saturdays, even last week when there was fresh snow on the ground (all of half an inch) and only the die-hards were there (and me), so all isn’t entirely lost. I can do a sexy march with the best of them. (No. No, I can’t. But I’m learning.)

****

The wearing of the underwear was going really well until I bragged about it to a friend, whereupon Mabel immediately went through two pairs of trousers, peed on the aforementioned ice, and is now wearing a pullup. I suppose we’ll get back on the horse soon, but I’m not talking about it. If you see me start to talk about it, put your fingers in your ears and sing la la laaa at the top of your voice.

****

Yesterday, in a fit of something or other, I bought a bag of mini croissants. (This is what happens when I go to a different supermarket. All sorts of odd things seem perfectly reasonable purchases.) Dash was excited but wished they were chocolate croissants, and I said we could probably do something about that. So when we got home I cunningly sliced along the top of one, put in a few chocolate chips, and heated it for five seconds in the microwave. He was quite pleased.

Today, somehow, there are two…one…oh, look at that, the mini croissants are all gone. Mabel just asked for the last one, let me put three chocolate chips carefully in it, and said she didn’t need it heated up. Then she fished the chips out again, sucked each one into happy oblivion, and told me I could eat the croissant.

****

Dash came home today with a big picture of a penguin captioned in his writing with “My penguin and I like to fly.” His teacher had stuck on a post-it in response to my e-mail of this morning, saying that the children had used their IMAGINATIONS to think of something they would like to do with their penguins. (Hmm. That sounds dodgy. She didn’t put it quite like that.) Dash has recanted his earlier statement about there definitely being a flying species of penguin and now says the movie they watched was a cartoon. I’m still a bit confused, but I think we can be confident that his teacher was not using BBC April fools jokes as source material, and that you can’t always take what a five-year-old says at face value.

No news there, then.