Tuesday, March 27, 2007

If only I could bottle it...

That baby smell. I swear I really WANT AB to sleep through the night without waking up, but when she wakes up and just needs to eat or snuggle, I have to admit I secretly love it. That snuggly, sweaty baby smell is almost more than I can handle. I get the overwhelming rush of love for her, combined with the fear of how fast she's growing up and what I'm missing in her "second baby chaos," mixed with the irresistible desire to stay in there and snuggle her forever.

She has this new habit of nursing until she's full, then laying her head on my shoulder, but lifting up, rearing her head back and flashing me a grin before flopping back down and closing her eyes. If I nuzzle her to breathe in that magical smell, she smiles as she's falling asleep. It's this kind of thing I want to remember when she's 15, dressed like a Goth queen, and hating me.

And on the days when I'm at work and she's with my mom or father in law, she often doesn't drink much milk, so tends to wake up once or twice in the evening. It's mostly just to eat more and go back to sleep, but it seems like she just didn't get enough Mama or Daddy time, so needs one more snuggle. Who can resist that offer?

I might have to use that silly Dreft detergent forever - that baby powder smell is powerful. Or powderful, I guess.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


I have diagnosed Lance with post-traumatic non-swimming disorder. Either that or he has multiple personalities. It's hard to watch Lance come unglued. It seems to happen fairly easily, which worries me a bit. I know he's 4 and wild emotions come and go, but I worry that he has my temper and Pat's temper all rolled into one.

Our latest turmoil has been swim lessons, more specifically SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS for swim lessons. But after my last post about substitute teachers for gym and swim lessons, I vowed that I would act more like a kind, compassionate person (i.e. a MOTHER!!!) in situations like these.

So Friday 3/23, I was prepared with all the Zen I could muster. We had talked about it in advance, he still said no swimming for a sub. Since we only had 2 lessons left, I gave in and called the pool to see if the teacher was there. They couldn't confirm, hadn't seen her since the day before. We got all ready, hopeful that she'd be there. No luck, but at least he didn't shower. I handled it better this time - much calmer and focused on him, determined to be empathetic and more neutral. We had already discussed the fact that he didn't have to go in if there was a sub, but I asked if he wanted to think about it before going back to get dressed. He did, we sat for a few minutes, and then left. But it was on good terms, no arguing, and everyone seemed happy. (cue foreshadowy music). We made a trip to Target and had a good afternoon.

I convinced Lance to take a bath before Pat got home. (mistake #1) but it was fine until the end. Audrey was playing in the hall, happily throwing washcloths in and out of her inflatable bathtub. Lance purposely tried to get out before soap and shampoo, then got mad when I wouldn't put Audrey back in the tub in the hallway so he could play with her. (From Audrey's side, she was already done - she had been patient, gotten kicked out of the bathroom when Lance didn't want her throwing toys into his tub, played by herself, and was ready to go downstairs with Daddy).

So he got soaped and shampooed by an impatient Mommy--clueless Mommy who obviously didn't see the wave building. He asks to watch a movie and I said no, but maybe if he made helping choices until bedtime.


Here's a sample of the 10 minute screaming tirade he unleashed on me. "Bad stinky Mommy! Go be someone else's Mommy! You are the worst Mommy - I don't like you! I AM going to watch a movie" I went downstairs for most of this, so he was screaming after me. And then when he came down to yell directly at me and Pat followed him, "Daddy. STOP. Stay there -do NOT follow me!"
He was still yelling at me, but he let me stop him, doing this weird "sit in my lap and half hit me, half snuggle" thing. He calmed down, we talked about feeling mad vs. yelling and hitting, and then the storm passed and he was fine for the rest of the evening. He was hungry too - ate a ton before bed. Again, what is my deal? I know I get grouchy if I don't eat, and he's the same way. I should have seen that coming.

I think it's all fallout from swimming, so we're done - we're skipping the last lesson and not signing up for more. Lance and I discussed this and he agreed. But what happens when he wants to play soccer?

As we were lying in his bed, we talked quietly. I told him that we love him no matter what, but that it's not ok to yell at me like that. I said we need to work on strategies for dealing with the mad feelings, like counting, breathing, punching a pillow, etc. I said, "What if you get mad at school? You can't yell at someone like that."
Lance said, "I don't get that mad at school."
Me: "Why not?
Lance: "Because they do everything that I like."

There you have it. Distilled down to its 4 year old logical essence: My way or the highway, and hold your ears...

Friday, March 16, 2007


I'd never win in Vegas, even if I had the guts to gamble. I just have a crappy poker face.
And it's also proving to be difficult in parenting.

I think Lance's behavior might be a lot better if I had a better poker face. He seems so connected to my emotions, and when I'm really upset with him, he just falls apart. Combine this with his resistance to change and slow adaptability and poof! One big mess.

Turns out he has an issue with substitute teachers. (I can just see it now in elementary school - yikes.) On Monday, his gymnastics teacher was sick on the LAST day of the session. He froze when he saw the sub and refused to go in. Since it was the last class, parents were allowed to watch, so I dragged him into the room, but he refused to participate. Even watching the other kids show all their skills and having fun wasn't enough to get him to join.

And today his swimming teacher was sick. He's only had her 3 times, so it's not like they have this deep relationship, but he refused to get in the water for his lesson. We sat on the bleachers, watching the class, Lance shivering in his swimsuit and me not even being nice enough to offer him his towel. I was trying to semi-ignore him so that it wasn't some sort of reward, but I just ended up being snarky to him.

What bothers me the most about these kinds of incidents is how I behave.

I am really honestly upset at him. I'm not surprised that he resists a change in routine--I know exactly where he gets that one, since I cried hysterically the first day of kindergarten and 1st grade, sniffled into 3rd grade, and hated the first week of every new year/quarter all through college. But the fact that he's so stubborn and refuses to participate, even when I'm right there and he can see the other kids having fun--I just don't get it. I have this weird mix of irritation, that I'm sitting there with Audrey while he's not doing anything. And I'm mad that we're wasting the money on the class. And I'm embarrassed that the teacher and other parents don't seem to know how to react. And I'm sad that I'm not getting to watch him swim or do gym, etc. He's not screaming and throwing a fit - just silently, stubbornly protesting.

I should be--and in the future, I will be--more kind about it. I am conflicted about whether I should just leave (does that reward him) or make him sit through the class (does that punish him). Each time, I kept thinking "he's going to join in any second," but he never did. But I catch myself being so visibly irritated, and making mean little comments like "Wow, that looks fun - you're missing out." And then after we leave I am SO short with him.

Because after we get home from the non-class, I have to put a tired baby to bed, deal with her crying if she has also intuitively sensed Mama's agitation, decide whether Lance can watch a movie, clean up lunch dishes and other miscellaneous morning messes, and deal with Lance. And when he knows I'm irritated, he is EXTRA clingy and whiny or disobedient or uncooperative. He cannot stand when I'm mad at him. Then we have a tense afternoon, sometimes he recovers, but then falls apart when Pat gets home. It's like that "Just wait until your father gets home," except I never say that. He just knows Pat will find out. So there's inevitably a dinner argument, cleanup argument, or bedtime tantrum. And God help us all if Audrey doesn't go to bed easily.

But tonight, after Swimmergate, I think I set a new record for thick-headed Mommy. He was ok in the afternoon, helped Pat wash the car but was whiny and agitated, made it through dinner and a movie. Audrey went to bed early, I watched the end of Cinderella with Lance, and decided I needed to be off duty, and said Daddy was putting him to bed because I had to do some work. Somehow he wakes Audrey up while brushing his teeth and then has a fit and starts kicking Pat. We end up trying to get him to go to bed without any more stories or anyone lying down with him.

NOTE TO SELF: Don't take away this part of bedtime. This is like "Never go to bed mad."
So of course he won't go to sleep--says he's not tired, scared of monsters, has to pee, etc. And sternly telling him to stay in his room just doesn't work. You know what works? Lying down with him for a 5-10 minute snuggle, telling him I love him no matter what ("Even if you're mad at me?" "Yes, even when I'm mad at you."), and rubbing his back. WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME? The kid needs his normal bedtime routine, especially after a day like today.
Why do I not see this ahead of time?

He's only 4 years old. He cannot deal with the complex emotions he feels when he's scared and then worried about letting me down or making me mad. He's a creature of his routines and does not do well when they are disrupted. He will be like this always, but will hopefully learn to deal with it internally, or we're going to spend a lot of time in the principal's office or conferencing with his kindergarten teacher.

I'm just mad that I can't hide my feelings better. For Lance's sake, it would make things much easier. Let's not even start worrying about what Audrey 1) Already senses and 2) Will react to when she's older...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Power of a Princess

Lance is currently obsessed with the Disney Princesses. He only recently watched Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Aladdin. At first he was into the villains, but I think he honestly likes the princesses.

His little girl friend (and according to her, future wife) A. has been princess-crazy for the last couple of years, and he's always happily played along, but now he knows all the names and stories.

At his school bookfair tonight he only had eyes for the princess books. We bought "Polite as a Princess," which talks all about good manners. I'm not complaining - we could use some better manners around here. But the last lines say "Princesses are polite young ladies. Don't you want to be just like a Princess?" I almost barfed.

I've already had trouble with the "met and fell in love while dancing but didn't know her name" line, or why the Prince loves her (because she's beautiful). Lance asks 10,000 questions about any new movies or story, so we're getting our fill of Beast questions, Jafar, and wicked stepmother. And I have plenty of objections to the beautiful faces, perfect bodies, and overmarketed evil empire of the Princesses.

But part of me just sighs with relief, because for the most part, the Princesses are so much less VIOLENT than his Darth Vader/Batman/Spiderman/Incredibles play. And when he plays with his friends-who-are-girls, he is happy to play with the microscopic shoes and changeable hair of the little Princess figures.

I've read plenty of "down with Princesses" or "my dilemma with my Princess-obsessed daughter" articles, and I'm sure I'll be right there worrying about Audrey. But with Lance, I'm watching it with more curiosity than anything. One part of me is delighted that he's not shunning all things "girl," because he is such a stereotypical active boy in many ways. But the other part is worried, because I have the flip side of the worry about a girls' self image - will Lance feel like he has to be a handsome prince, with all the responsibility that goes along with that, or else a horrible beast?

Angels Among Us

My kids are angels. I'm sure I'm jinxing myself for tomorrow, but today, I have to say - they were rock stars.
It was a solo Mommy Day, since Pat had evening plans right after work, AND Lance's preschool had an open house from 6-8 pm. I was dreading having to drag Audrey out past her bedtime while dealing with Lance at school in the evening. But I got my "Tough Mama" on, and was ready to tackle the day.

Like a crazy lady, I decided we needed an afternoon outing between Audrey's naps, so Lance chose the mall. Lovely. We're trying not to spend money, so we go to Spending Paradise. And of course I decide Audrey needs a bath, then Lance wants a bath, and we had to eat lunch. This left us about an hour before Naptime #2 rolled around. We could only do a trip to the Disney store, with pre-trip discussions about how we're not buying anything. He was amazing. He loves to look at everything, and is currently obsessed with Disney Princesses (see next post), but wasn't whiny or grumpy about not buying or about leaving.

Audrey threw the first obstacle by refusing to take an afternoon nap. I honestly let her try to cry it out, but after 30-40 minutes, I had to go back in. I was panicking, thinking the Open House would be a disaster with overtired crabby girl. But thanks to the miracles of breastfeeding, at 3:15, she surrendered, and then proceeded to sleep until 5 pm! Hallelujah!
Lance and I played outside, read stories, and I was able to get ready for the evening festivities.

The Open House was a success, in spite of being a mine field for Lance. Take Mr. Schedule, send him to school in the evening, put a million extra people there, and have a bookfair to top it off.--recipe for a meltdown. I was worried, especially since I had Audrey to deal with as well. But he was great - kind of distracted and discombobulated, but he didn't fuss or whine or yell at me. We ate, looked at the bookfair, visited his classrooms, and went home. It was a little strange - they had this theme of "secret doorways" to the imagination, where each class had a theme (space, pirates, fairies, whatever the kids voted on). But it seemed kind of over Lance's head. He was excited for the secret doors, but I think he thought it was going to be actual doorways he could go through. They had small wooden painted doors in each room, but he seemed to be looking for something else.

And speaking of rock stars, Miss Audrey stayed in her stroller, smiled at everyone, and was a complete angel. Of course she was totally tired and overstimulated, but as long as she was happy and quiet, it was good for everyone.

I'm worn out from the Kid-A-Thon - at least tomorrow is a school day for Lance!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Countdown has begun...

To Halloween... Aren't you excited too?

Every day, Lance tells me at least two or three new things that he's going to be for Halloween. This is usually followed by him telling me what Audrey, his cousins, and his friends are going to be. Funny, they probably think they have some choice in the matter. Or maybe they're actually thinking about SPRING or EASTER CANDY or something less than 7 months away..

I decided to keep a list of all the things he's going to be for Halloween. Past choices have included a knight (again), a mummy, Darth Vader, Dash, Mr. Incredible, The Incredible Hulk, a scary beast, a Power Ranger. Here's this week so far:
Monday 3/12: Spiderman, an alien
Tuesday 3/13: Batman, Syndrome (from the Incredibles), Dash
Wed 3/14: This is a new one - the Once-ler from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. All you see of the guy is green arms, but that's enough for Lance..
Fri 3/16: Sleazo (A Space Grizzlies bad guy from the Berenstain Bears book "The Bad Dream")
As of Tues 3/27: A mummy, an astronaut, several random space creatures, a firefighter, a pirate, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. (He said, "You'll have to buy me gray gloves, a triangle hat, and a big shiny suit!")

I seriously think he spends about an hour a day talking about his Halloween plans... The time you have when you don't have to worry about mortgage payments or global warming or losing those last few pounds of baby weight...