Monthly Archives: November 2012

She Says… Putting Him Through The Ringer

Benjamin has been traveling a lot lately. Thankfully travel for my job is relatively infrequent (once every two months or so, usually), and planned far in advance. So 99% of the time, I’m the one at home, holding down the fort with Owen.

I think he’s gotten used to it. I think we’ve both gotten lazy with trying to balance who does what, even when Benjamin is home. Owen and I have our groove, so even when Benjamin is home, I tend to take the lion’s share of the Owen responsibilities. Even though it’s not 50/50, it works for us. And Benjamin does 100% of the dishes and dinner clean-up, so I’m pretty sure I’m getting the better end of the deal.

However, I left Wednesday afternoon for a 4 day trip to Chicago. And it’s the first time that Owen has really put Benjamin through the ringer. He’s always been a Mama’s Boy, but usually when I’m actually gone and out of the house, he falls right in line with Benjamin and they totally love having some one-on-one time.

But this time? This time he’s not happy that I left. And he’s taking it out on Daddy.

The first night I was gone, Benjamin had a job that ran late, so Owen’s Grammy and Grampy picked him up from school and did our evening routine. We had prepped Owen about it for days, so he was totally prepared and even excited for them to pick him up, and apparently he was a total angel. The next morning went ok too (which I was a little worried about, since I always wake Owen up and he can be a little ornery to anyone other than me when he’s waking up). But last night at pickup, well, let’s just say it didn’t go so well.

Benjamin was late. Really late. His work is not nearly as predictable as mine, so while I always pick up by 5pm on the dot, Benjamin was stuck in traffic until 6pm (the latest we can pick him up from daycare). So Owen was tired. And hungry. And I bet he was expecting to see me. So he cried and yelled that he didn’t want to go home. And “I don’t like Daddy”ed so much that Benjamin felt like he was kidnapping him to take him home from school. I imagine the night continued to snowball as Benjamin reported he had a terrible time flossing, brushing, and bedtime-ing in general.

Poor guy.

I think we’re squarely in the stage where leaving is not as easy as it used to be. This too shall pass, right? I sure hope so, because the next few weeks our calendar is so ridiculously full that I feel like we are having a babysitter more than we have all year, combined. I’m hoping Owen can change his attitude, or at least get over the fact that it won’t always be ME putting him down at night and getting him up in the morning.

She Says… I Have Boogers

The ironic thing about this post is that, aside from the neverending run-of-the-mill daycare boogers, Owen really doesn’t have any extra boogers to speak of right now. Yet still, I hear this sentence at least 50 times a day.

I’m not sure what the obsession is, really. Most kids HATE having their nose wiped. In fact, Owen still resists it a little bit, even after proclaiming “I have boogers” and asking me to wipe them. Sigh.

I think it started a week or two ago, when he really DID have an excess of boogers, and I would say things like, “You will feel better if you just let me wipe your boogers” or “Let me just get two good wipes, then we can read a book”.

He has started spitting my own words back at me in the funniest ways. Case in point: last week he pooped while we were out at the dog park and I didn’t have a diaper with me. I told him we would head home in a few minutes and I would change him. He said, “But Mommy. I might getta rash if da poop is on my butt too long.” Umm, guess where he heard that one?! Now he’s all, “I have boogers. Need you to wipe me to feel better.” Touche, kid.

Last week when his cousin was here, both kids had noses running like faucets, so there was a lot of nose wiping going on. I actually think Owen’s frequent nose wiping requests are more related to the attention of having an adult stop what they are going, go get a tissue, come back and wipe you, ask you if it’s better, let you throw away the tissue, etc. It’s a predictable routine that all comes from that one little sentence, “I have boogers.”. Kids dig that sort of thing.

Then yesterday on the drive home from school, Owen said, “You don’t have to wipe my nose anymore. I can do it on myself. You don’t have to help.”. Aha! His teachers had figured out how to curb the nose wiping requests! They taught him to do it ALL himself. Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?

So last night I put the box of tissues on his little table and chairs, at his height. Whenever he asked for a nose wipe, I reminded him that he could get it himself, wipe his own nose, then throw it away in the trash. Yes, we’re wasting tissues like crazy (I’m trying to teach him to use them multiple times, since there are almost no boogers on them at all. Benjamin even showed him how to stuff the tissue in his pocket last night so he could keep using the same one), but I think it’s just a fad.

Maybe all Santa really needs to bring Owen is a few boxes of tissues…

She Says… Dear Santa

Last Christmas, Owen didn’t know what hit him. He caught on pretty quickly that inside all of those beautifully wrapped boxes was a present, but I really don’t think he had any sense of Santa or sleigh bells or why we had a tree in the freaking living room. I’m still not totally sure he’ll “get it” this year, but we’ll see.

He has started asking to read The Polar Express almost every night before bed. (I only read a few sentences on each page — that’s long for a 2 year old!). He actually identifies Santa in a red suit, but still doesn’t really know who that is. Still, he chatters on and on about trains and hot chocolate and elves and Santa.

On Sunday we went to our town’s tree lighting ceremony and kids were getting their pictures taken with Santa. When Owen caught a glimpse of him, he said (with no particular emotion), “What’s Santa doin’ up there? Why dose men standing up there too?”. I had to simultaneously act like it was no big deal (because we had walked there without my wallet, so no pictures with Santa for Owen this year!), while also trying to build up some of the Santa illusion. Not sure if Owen really understood it was supposed to be the same Santa as in The Polar Express or not, but I do know he was pissed he couldn’t get up in the gazebo and play like he usually does in our town center.

Thankfully he DID get to meet accost two other characters that he was totally enamored with. After the tree lighting he told everyone we met that he saw “A snowman, a bear, and Santa!” and all seemed equally exciting. He also got to slap some glue on a foam shape and cover it in glitter to hang on the town Christmas tree. He was SO PROUD to see his snowman hanging there when he was finished (and I was grateful for the diversion, aside from the fact that my stroller, which was parked downwind of this craft, is now covered in glitter).

Phew. Crisis averted.

How old was your kid when they first “got” the magic of Christmas (or another holiday you celebrate)? What did/do you do to plant the seed?

She Says… A Delicious Thanksgiving, With or Without Gluten

Given that Benjamin’s celiac diagnosis came right before Thanksgiving, I had to quickly come up with a gluten-free Plan B for almost every dish I usually make for the big day. We hosted 11 adults and 3 kids, and only 3 out of the 14 were gluten free. But still,  it was really important to me that everyone was able to eat [almost!] everything, and no one got unintentionally glutened in the process. Not the easiest task, but certainly easier to do at MY house than at someone else’s.

We have gone back and forth spending Thanksgiving with Benjamin’s family or with my family. This year, we got a little of both (though not all of either — too many families, too little time!).

My brother and sister-in-law, their two kids (Tori, almost 2, and James, 4 months), and their dog Charlie drove up from Philly to spend a few days with us. I was so happy to see them and to have some of my family represented at the Thanksgiving table! As I said in my last post, we had a blast while they were here, showing them our favorite playgrounds and pulling all of Owen’s toys out of the cabinets.

On Thursday afternoon, some of Benjamin’s family joined us for Turkey Day. I supplied the turkey, stuffing, rolls and cranberry sauce, and others brought vegetable side dishes. This worked out so well for the gluten issue — they didn’t have to adjust their dishes since things like mashed potatoes, butternut squash and peas don’t have gluten anyway. We even made gravy from the turkey drippings with gluten free flour and no one noticed the difference!

The pie baker in the family was even up for trying a gluten free pie crust so the non-gluten eaters even had their very own pumpkin pie. I don’t know how she did it, but man, it was delicious!

Turkey: I was surprised to see that several of the turkeys available at my grocery store were pre-brined or flavored with things like “artificial flavoring” (even the organic ones!!!), which often is wheat-based. Thankfully I found one brand that had a big “gluten free” icon on it and was able to find a perfect 20 pounder to take home. We prepared it according to our recent family tradition (started last year — side note: Owen looks like such a baby in the pics from last year!) of wrapping it in bacon. It doesn’t get much more delicious than that.

Stuffing: I vaguely followed this recipe for Apple & Onion Stuffin’ Muffins for both my gluten and gluten-free stuffing. I sauteed a ton of onions, celery, apples and spices. Then I kept my two bowls of bread separate, split the sauteed veggies and apples between them, and then added gluten-free chicken broth until they were the right texture to bake. For gluten stuffing I just used a bag of good ol’ Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, and for the gluten free stuffing I made a batch of homemade French bread and dried it out. Both were delicious, if I do say so myself.

Rolls: Easy peasy bake ‘n serve rolls for the gluten-eaters, and from-a-box gluten-free cornbread muffins for the gluten-free. Hey, gotta cut corners when you’ve got so much going on in the kitchen!

Cranberry sauce: I like a tart chutney rather than a jellied cylinder, so I make my own by throwing a bag of cranberries, a washed but unpeeled orange (sliced into quarters) and a little bit of sugar to taste in the food processor. I could eat it with a spoon it’s so delicious. And believe me, I did.

We had so many leftovers I’m STILL eating turkey with all the fixins for almost every meal. Tomorrow is my cut-off, though. Whatever’s left goes in the trash and I have to return from my turkey-infused haze back to the real world!

She Says… Thanksgiving Black Hole

Happy belated Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving will always, always, always remind me of this day. And how that day trumped almost everything I had ever been thankful for before.

This year, our list of what we are thankful for is growing by the minute. For the wonderful people in our lives, family and friends, those near and far and everywhere in between. For you, our readers and supporters and through-the-computer friends. For delicious food and a comfortable home and the ability to spend our days doing mostly what we want. For having lives so full they are bursting at the seams with laughter and passion.

For the ability to take a few days and hide away inside our house playing Mr. Sweet Potato Head (as Owen calls him) and doing puzzles and reading every book in our bookshelf and cooking the most delicious bacon-wrapped turkey you ever did see (and outstanding gluten free side dishes, if I do say so myself!). And for knowing that the world will go on turning around us even if emails go unanswered and computers remain turned off and blog posts remain unwritten.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as chock full of family, food and fun as mine was, friends. I’ll be back to blogging next week!

 

She Says… Continuing the Discussion

You guys are amazing. Thank each and every one of you for your incredibly thoughtful comments on yesterday’s post about using lovey as a discipline tool. I still haven’t figured out threaded comments in the WordPress template I use (that, along with about a zillion other things, is on my “when I have a free 15 minutes” list), and replying to all of you in one big comment wasn’t going to be complicated and disorganize. Not to mention that so many people wrote their comments anonymously, so you wouldn’t know who I was talking to. So I decided to write out my response/thanks here, in a separate post.

On others disciplining your children…
A lot of your comments said something like “I understand where you’re coming from, but what the teacher did was totally ok. It’s just hard to see your kid disciplined by someone else”. You are so, so right. It is clear to me, after thinking it over for a few days and reading your very helpful comments that seeing this situation through the Mom lens tacked on a lot of emotion and baggage when really, what happened was totally ok. I still plan to have a quick chat with the teacher and ask a few more questions about what happened (since I only got a quick version of the story at pickup). If I really don’t want her to use withholding lovey as a technique unless it’s absolutely necessary, or would like her to try other techniques first when possible, I will say something then.

One of the many anonymous commenters reminded me, “It takes a village”! That really hit home for me. Even though it’s not the approach I would have taken in that moment, I appreciate that it’s really important for Owen to follow other people’s directions and behave well for them. Just as Benjamin and I do things differently at home, it’s crucial for Owen (and I!) to be flexible with others’ discipline techniques as well. We’re working on it :)

I trust his school and his teachers, and have always, always respected their approach. Even though this situation caught me by surprise, I can see the philosophy behind it and I know that it was done with love.

On time outs…
I said yesterday that neither school nor I have instituted time outs so far. That doesn’t mean we never will! In fact, I can see we are getting there. It’s just that, until now, we haven’t really needed to, as we have employed different techniques. I’m certainly not against them; in fact I think they are very effective when used properly! Just as Owen is testing his boundaries and pushing my limits, I am testing out which techniques work for me and my family. It’s all a learning experience and I’m constantly refining my approach for my specific child in this specific stage of his life.

To those who were offended by my words “abuse of power”…
Perhaps those weren’t the best words (since “abuse” and “teacher” shouldn’t be used in the same sentence!). I didn’t mean to say that it WAS an abuse of power; I was asking readers if THEY thought it was. In fact, I hope it was pretty clear from my language that I was more questioning if withholding lovey was an appropriate tool for leverage, considering Owen’s emotional ties to it, and the fact that, as a 2 year old, Owen still needs some help soothing himself when he is overtired or upset.

This morning at drop-off I reminded Owen, in front of his teacher, that when his teacher says it’s time to change his diaper, that it’s time to change his diaper, and he needs to listen. I didn’t add anything about the consequence or discuss screeching, but showed my support for “the teacher is in charge when you’re at school” and left it at that. I’m happy to put this one behind us and move on, hopefully without any more screeching.

Now to fit in a full day of work and get my entire house sparkling clean before family arrives for Thanksgiving! Ready… set… GO.

She Says… Abuse of Power or Good Idea?

Friends, I need your help/wisdom. I’m having a bit of a dilemma.

Before I tell you the situation I have to say up front that we ADORE Owen’s school. Everyone from the administrators to the teachers to the assistants to the parents have been wonderful. This dilemma is NOT a criticism of the school or intended as finger-pointing. In fact, the school has been incredibly helpful in understanding and dealing with tons of other regular old toddler issues that could be problematic (aka BITING). I love their philosophy and I appreciate their tendency toward positive reinforcement rather than negative punishments, and letting kids explore the world around them as much as possible without limiting them.

So. Here’s what happened.

Over the last few weeks Owen has started a new (highly annoying but very normal) behavior. Screeching. Oh, screeching such that only dogs should be able to hear. Except people can, too, and it’s excruciating. I actually think this is a healthy development, because it seems to be taking the place of hitting/punching/pushing/biting when Owen is frustrated or not feeling heard. So I’m pumped he is beginning to figure out how to regulate his body and let his emotions out through his voice. However, not surprisingly, this screeching gets a rise out of people VERY quickly (I, for one, absolutely cannot stand it and despite my best intentions to ignore, redirect, discuss, etc., it just snaps me), so he learned really quickly that it is an effective technique. At least to get attention, if not exactly what you want. (Not from me, mind you. I may yell over his screaming, which is not my finest moment, but I never cave to screaming. Ever.).

At home, he usually does one really loud screech, gets a serious look from me, and he quiets immediately. Then we talk. It hasn’t been a huge issue at home. He gets that it’s not ok, and I only hear it VERY rarely. But apparently at school, screeching is, like many bad behaviors, contagious. So he screeches and someone else screeches and before the teachers can do a damn thing about it, they’ve got 10 little toddlers screeching their heads off. I get why this is a problem. Believe me. I do.

So apparently last Friday, Owen needed a diaper change. His teacher called his name and he didn’t listen. She called him again and he didn’t listen. She called him a third time and when he didn’t listen, she went and got him. (Exactly what I would have done, too, by the way). But then, either on the changing table or after he was done, he started screeching to express his discontent (with diaper changing, or being carried to the changing table, or whatever). Usually diapers are not really an issue for him, either, so I’m thinking there were other issues at play (more to come on this later). Anyway, then it was naptime, but apparently Owen didn’t stop screeching. The teacher said, and here’s the thing causing my dilemma: “You cannot have your lovey until you put your scream away.”

That, of course, made him angrier/more upset, so he screeched some more (likely because he could tell it was making her frustrated and because he knew she couldn’t actually stop him). Eventually he stopped, got his lovey, and fell fast asleep.

When the teacher told me the story at the end of the day, I almost cried right there in front of her. I don’t know why it felt so personal to me, but the thought of withholding Owen’s lovey… the one thing we have taught him to use as a tool for self-soothing and self-calming, seemed like an abuse of power to me. It hurt my heart to think of him crying for his lovey and screeching because he couldn’t find the words to tell her what he needed. (Side note: Lovey stays in Owen’s crib or nap bag at school all the time — he’s never used as a soother when it’s not naptime or bedtime, but I have never, not since the first time Owen slept with him, taken him away or threatened to do so).

I know she didn’t mean it like that. I know she was likely grasping at straws and trying to think of a bargaining technique that would make him stop screeching so everyone could nap. But I also know that it was minutes before naptime, on a Friday, after a long week of school. He was exhausted and probably teetering on the edge of that overtired cliff that has always been the root cause of the few and far between tantrums I have ever seen from my little guy, who is usually cool as a cucumber.

So as she told me the story I just nodded and thanked her for letting me know, and talked with Owen about how screeching inside is not ok. And that he needs to listen to his teachers. End of story.

After thinking about this all weekend (literally, it has kept me up at night), I’m certain that I need to have a discussion with the teacher tomorrow to let her know that I would rather she not use lovey as leverage. However, I feel that I need to offer her another suggestion of how to deal with this screeching or when Owen isn’t listening. I can’t just say “don’t do this, but I don’t have a solution”.

Neither school nor I have instituted time-outs so far. He’s two. I try to “honor the impulse” and understand that almost everything he’s doing is exploring and testing. It’s exactly what he should be doing, and, in my opinion, ruling with an iron fist will only add a lot of stress to both of our lives at this point. That said, I have started to direct him to “go in the other room and calm your body” and “let me know when you’re ready to try again without screeching”.

So, what would you do? Do you think using lovey was an ok way to show Owen that screeching is NOT ok? Am I overreacting? Can you think of a way that his teacher could positively reinforce NOT screeching rather than punishing screeching? Or do you think it’s worth disciplining now so that it doesn’t become a bigger issue?

She Says… Celiac Update

I’m not sure how many of you are actually interested in the nitty gritty of Benjamin’s celiac diagnosis (and Owen’s likely diagnosis, though we haven’t done the blood test yet to be sure), but I wanted to keep some notes here for others dealing with this disease and other food allergies. I also want to spread awareness — there is a lot of bad information out there about the hows and whys of being gluten free, and now that my family is in that boat I realize just how vital it is that everyone understand what the diagnosis means and what we can do to treat it.

First things first, there is a difference between a wheat allergy, a gluten sensitivity, and celiac disease.

Celiac Disease: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body reacts to gluten by attacking itself and causing damage to the small intestine. This inflammation of the lining of the small intestine leads to malnutrition (due to the inability to absorb vitamins) and puts celiacs at a much higher risk for many issues like other autoimmune disorders, cancers, and even pneumonia. In addition, many celiacs have violent physical reactions to coming into contact with gluten, even the tiniest amount.

Gluten Sensitivity: An individual has undesirable symptoms when he/she eats gluten (fatigue, indigestion, constipation/diarrhea, gas, etc.), but does not have celiac disease. Although bothersome, there is no inflammation or damage to the intestine. Some people with gluten sensitivity can have very extreme physical responses to the tiniest amount of gluten, while some responses are quite minor.

Wheat Allergy: The body launches an exaggerated response to wheat proteins (which may show up as a rash/hives, wheezing, swelling, etc.) but the damage to the small intestine is mild.

Benjamin’s blood tests confirmed the celiac diagnosis and an endoscopy (where he swallowed a camera so they could see the inside of his intestines) was done to see the extent of the damage to his intestinal villi. This procedure and the biopsies they took indicated that Benjamin has extremely damaged villi — they were worn down completely, whereas healthy villi stick up like little tiny fingers. That means we have to take immediate and extreme action to eliminate all gluten from his diet.

At first I thought, “Oh, that won’t be that hard, since Owen already eats gluten free. There are gluten free versions of everything. You’ll be fine.”. But what I didn’t realize is that it’s not just about the obvious sources of gluten like flour, cereal and bread. It’s not even about hidden sources of gluten like in marinades and soy sauce and some flavored yogurts. It’s not even just about reading labels like “produced in a facility that also processes wheat”. We have to be extremely aware of cross-contamination too. That means getting rid of every sponge, plastic utensil and tupperware in our kitchen because they likely have gluten proteins on them. It means getting rid of every nonstick pan because the nonstick coating is porous and may be harboring gluten proteins. It means new baking sheets and even a new toaster. It means reading every label in our pantry and getting rid of, well, almost everything. It means questioning and Googling every brand and every ingredient before taking it off the grocery store shelf. It even means changing chapsticks and shampoos and hand lotions.

Phew. It’s a lot.

We did a major kitchen cleanout and got all new nonstick pans, kitchen tools and baking sheets over the weekend. We reorganized our cabinets and removed all products with even the smallest trace of gluten in them (except for a few boxes of cereal and some granola bars for me — those I can keep relatively contained and I fear that I can’t live without them!).

The great news is that while celiac disease can’t be cured, you can literally regenerate the intestinal villi and essentially reverse ALL of the symptoms and increased likelihood of developing future issues by sticking to a strict gluten free lifestyle. Unfortunately, unlike those with gluten sensitivity, Benjamin will never be able to “cheat” once in awhile or risk being glutened. If he’s not sure about a particular food at a restaurant, he can’t eat it. Bottom line.

Benjamin and I are both struggling with his diagnosis. He is mourning food he’ll never eat and the crazy things he’ll need to do before he can eat out in public again. I am mourning having to write a 10 page email when someone invites us over for dinner, and not being able to bake homemade bread (yes, yes, I know there are gluten free flour blends and mixes, but they are NOT THE SAME). But we’ll get through it, and then it will just be… life.

 

So… anyone want to invite us over for dinner?

She Says… Pajama Party

It’s been ages since I had Owen in those adorable one-piece, footed pajamas. Oh how I loved to dress him in them when he was tiny, but as his active body grew, they became less and less convenient to put on a squirmy kid. Not to mention the fact that the rambunctious rolling around in his crib (between his pajamas, fleece blanket and supersoft minky sheet) created enough electricity to shock him, and me, constantly.

So around 18 months I switched to cotton, long-sleeved, two-piece pajamas and haven’t looked back. I’ve actually found that since we keep our house at a relatively steady temperature, the long sleeved, long pants pj’s with socks pulled up to his knees works year round with just a small blanket (fleece in cold weather, cotton in warm).

Recently, though, Owen was going through his drawers and found these fleece footies. With guitars on them. As soon as he spotted them, he asked to put them on. “Can you put ‘dese on me? Please? ‘Dey have daguitars on them.” “Can I wear my daguitars to school?”. We have another pair with monsters on them. “What’s his name? ‘Dat monster?” “‘Dere are blue ones and green ones and white ones!” “I like monsters”.

I was ready to pack them up and put them in the “too small” box in the attic, but Owen has other plans, I think.

Now my only problem is getting him OUT of them and into regular clothes.

She Says… Museum Mania

Even if museums for kids are super duper fun, the whole “waiting in line”, “buying expensive tickets for an hour of fun” and “have to get home before naptime” things put such a damper on the experience for me that we haven’t really tried it much with Owen (aside from a little “exploration museum” a few towns away and going to Storyland in New Hampshire). I know, I know. I’m such a party pooper. But I know we will have plenty of time when he’s older (and can actually remember/fully experience) places like aquariums and children’s museums and theme parks, so I don’t feel pressure to go right now. Plus, the kid is equally, if not more, happy on a playground, which is free, close by our house and lets him get his energy out. That wins every time in my book.

However, Owen is so interactive and thirsty for new information these days that I figured he was at a perfect age to try it out. And, bonus, the Boston Children’s Museum is conveniently located between my house and my friend Mary Kate‘s. She has a daughter 2 months younger than Owen and we knew they’d have a blast.

If you’ve ever been to a Children’s museum (in any city, I’m going to guess), they probably have one of these gigantic, multi-story climbers. Benjamin, who grew up around Boston, said it was the only thing from the museum that he remembered from going as a kid.

It’s 3 stories tall and only has entrances/exits on the bottom level. At first I thought, “Genuis! Nobody gets lost!”.

That is, until my daredevil child climbed up past the 2nd floor, lost one shoe (which Benjamin eventually convinced him to drop through the wire wall so we could catch it, since he can’t put it back on himself and we couldn’t climb up to get it for him) and bonked his head so hard he cried. He wailed, “I NEED A HUUUUUUG” while I almost used my super-mommy strength to rip that stupid climber open and get him out. When I realized that wouldn’t work, I quickly became “that mom” who was shouting instructions at the top of my lungs to guide Owen down to the 1st floor. Oy.

Nothing like a little panic to start the day off right!

After we convinced him that there were fun things to do other than get stuck in a 40 foot climber, he had a ball running around and exploring the various rooms.

We even caught a live performance that involved singing and playing with shakers, drums and puppets. Despite the glazed look in Owen’s eyes due to a very active morning, he was in heaven.

We made it home only a little late for naptime and Owen has been buzzing ever since about the things he saw (most notably, the “big milk bottle” that is right outside the building).

Minus the climber fiasco, super fun for everyone.