Fridge Art

Parker likes to color, typically for brief periods of time, often in defiance of doing other requested activities (such as eating) and most often accompanied by an adult drawer.  “Draw me a house?” is her most frequent question with crayons out and ready.  And with a house comes the demand for a door, then a car, a driver, a dog and other details which come to mind in the moment.

One afternoon as dinner was being prepared, Parker occupied herself with scribbling on a pad of paper.  She presented her scribbling to Daddy, who promptly praised her for the work of art and announced it would be her first picture to hang on the refrigerator.  PJ watched in amazement, as if the gift of magnetic power finally identified it’s purpose – to display her creations.

Parker raced back to her pad of paper and turned out new colorful pages every few minutes, charging to and from the refrigerator to add to her display.  By the time dinner was ready there was barely a fridge to see beneath the art.  Image

Cooperation At Two

I often write about my daughter.  About how funny, how brilliant, how inspirational and how fantastic it is to be her mom.  Even though all these things are true, our days aren’t always filled with cotton candy, rainbows and sunshine, lovey-dovey happiness.  Oh no, far from it.  Parker is a product of my husband and I and shows for it with all the independent stubbornness capable of being supported in her two and a half-year old frame.

Today was one of those days where every direction, limitation and plea for cooperation was met with equal or greater opposition.  If I said here, she went there.  If I said up, she went down.  And when I said no, she took it as a yes with a running head start.  Battle after battle, talking it out followed by Parker’s apologies and eventual follow-through with requests.  It seems on days like today I have to work twice as hard to maintain my patience and consistency to prove I’m not going to give in, hoping it will curb tomorrow’s behavior.

By the end of the day I was exhausted counting down the minutes until bed-time and still prepared for Parker’s next challenge.  She had dumped out a large bag of foam blocks to play with and after a short while abandoned the blocks for crayons and paper.  “Parker, you need to put the blocks away before coloring,” I instructed her.heycrazylady

She looked up at me with a Crazy Lady Leave Me Alone glare and said, “Mommy you not cooperating!”

Yes, exactly what I have been telling her all day.

Big Girl Bed, Again.

sillinessA few months back the baby crib came down and was replaced with a toddler bed for my growing tiny tot.  Then a few weeks afterwards the realization set in, too many growing up changes happening too soon and Parker was not accepting them all.  A pack and play was assembled next to the toddler bed for sleeping and temporary reassurance.  The pack and play remained up for both naps and bedtime, while the fancy new toddler bed sat lonely, only getting an occasional hop, pretending to put Mommy down for a nap or movie time cuddles.

Despite the obvious lack of space in the confining pack and play, Parker chose to sleep there and didn’t try to climb out until this week.  She casually walked out of her room following a nap one afternoon, so I promptly set her back into the pack and play to demonstrate how she escaped.  Swinging her leg over the rail and onto her toddler bed as a step down, she proudly showed how she braved her long limbs into her escape plan.

Now, I have to say I have been ambiguous about the use of the pack and play.  In a sense it’s nice to restrict her movement when it’s time to slow down and fall asleep.  Although the structure became an obstacle in her room to manuever around and it was intended to be temporary in the transition.  I have been ready whenever she was and her climbing out seemed to be the obvious sign it was no longer necessary.

As much of an explanation can be comprehended by a two-year old, she heard it while I disassembled the pack and play.  “It’s time to use your big girl bed now,”  I told her.

“Why not?”  She asks, as this is the standard response for questioning even when the ‘not’ part doesn’t fit in.  She appeared bothered, as if the folding boards thinly covered in foam and synthetic material was the most comfortable sleeping arrangement possible.  After some convincing Parker was more excited about the impending night back in her new bed.

Bedtime loomed closer, I felt my nerves rising.  Would she stay in her bed, would she fall asleep and would she stay asleep through the night.  No matter how often I try to prepare, it’s impossible to predict the behavior to expect from a toddler.  Our nighttime routine stayed exactly the same and when it was time I laid her down just as smoothly as I had the previous night in the pack and play.  Momentary success as I closed the door and wished Parker sweet dreams.

I continued my evening downstairs until nearly an hour later I could hear her footsteps, then the door knob and then her chattering.  Back upstairs I went, preparing to set a strict tone of needing to stay in bed.

“I not sleepy Mommy,” she pleaded to me with her big brown eyes as I escorted her back to her door.  “I stinky Mommy,” she said with more urgency.  “I need to go potty, need to go potty,” she said rapidly as a final distraction before I silently steered her back into her room.  Climbing into bed she reiterated “I stinky Mommy.”  I knew she was using any tactic possible to delay going to bed, and I also figured while I was there I should check her claims to be sure.  Against my wishes I switched on her lamp and asked her to stand up to peek in the back of her pull-up.  Sure enough, she needed to be changed.

Parker was delighted to have a captive audience now, she released her delirious inner comedian while I laid her down to wipe her clean.  She sang The Wheels on the Bus using different tunes, voices and tempos with each line.  I did my best to contain laughter, knowing it would only encourage her more.  I couldn’t keep from smiling at her ridiculous state and was relieved to have my face in the shadow of the light so she couldn’t see my response.  Parker went back to bed easily and sang herself to sleep.

All this week we have been redirecting her back to bed, though each night seems less and less.  We also have been getting up several times during the night to bring her back to bed when she comes into our room after we have gone to sleep.  The second night in her big girl bed I woke up early in the morning to find her laying between us, oblivious to when shesleeping arrived or how she climbed up, although from her mummified sleep I knew she had been there a while.  Since I was exhausted from the frequent wake-ups the night before, I fell back asleep before having a conscious thought about needing to move her back.

The next few nights were more of the same.  Redirections to go back to her own bed, and carrying her back to her room after we had gone to sleep.  One early morning my husband awoke when he heard her door knob and from his position in bed he had a clear view of her charge from her room to my side of the bed.  My recollection of the event was a terrifying jolt from my peaceful slumber by an excited tot, exercising her new-found freedom from the confinement of a pack and play.           

Napping or Not Napping

socksSome days she just won’t nap, not matter how tired, she just won’t close her eyes. Since I am insistent on a minimum of some quiet time to ourselves, she entertains herself with a book or sings songs. There are days when this gives way to three hours of shut eye, and there are days when her stubborn streak wins out. Then there are days like today when she is near slumber only to be disrupted by my anxiety dog barking at the sight of movement down the block.

During the nap times when it ends up being an hour of vocal practice she usually is content in her room by herself contained to her pack and play we still have yet to escape (click here for the explanation.)  One afternoon, following a sleepless nap, I entered her room to find she had emptied her sock drawer just within her reach, taken off her pants and pull-up, and pulled on some leg warmers.

Knowing she was caught, she immediately switched up her song and began singing “I’m so, I’m so sorry.”

Hits & Misses

Spending all day with my sweet little girl it’s impossible to give her undivided attention all the time.  It would be lovely to just get to play nanny and focus only on her, unfortunately I have to play housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, and house manager cohesively.  This conflict of roles lends it’s self to many hits and misses as far as connections we get to have as mother and daughter thoughout the day.

We both have times when we deny each other’s affections, when the opposite is fulfilled by a task.  Like this morning while she ate her breakfast I began preparing a crafting collage until she finished eating and promptly decided she needed to be sitting in my lap.  I held her off with distractions in her own chair as long as I could and somehow she ended up crawling her way back into my lap, blinding my efforts with scissors and paper with her curly brown locks.  Eventually I gave in and assumed the project would have to wait.  We pulled down the Play-Doh for her to roll and press shapes, this time it was her brushing mommy’s affection.  It’s just so hard for me to resist her enthusiastic smile and positive energy, I want to swoop in to her kissable cheeks and savor the moment.  And as if she suddenly incarnates a “too cool for parents” teenaged attitude her shoulder comes up to block her cheek – too busy for a kiss right now.

Those moments of craving attention are frequently coorelated with times of being tired or hungry, and when this is the case there is lot of whining involved.  My response to the whining is encouragement for her to use her words, and when that doesn’t seem to make an impact I tell her I think she might be tired and needing a nap.  This technique usually works since naps are the enemy and she would never volunteer herself for one.  Except since this has been my response to her whining, she has begun beating me to the punch.  She informs me: “I’m going to take a nap,” when I have repeatidly told her I can’t hold her while I am cooking.  She doesn’t actually take a nap though, she just leaves for a minute and usually brings back a toy from her room.

I have to learn to not be hard on myself about the misses.  I can’t entertain, hold, clean and fix everything for her and I have to be okay with her being upset about that sometimes.  It makes it easier to accept the rough parts of the days when there are so many hits of the days to look back on and appreciate.

The mornings we stay extra long in bed pulling the covers over our heads to play with a flashlight.  Dancing in our living room for hours on end stomping, twirling and shaking with laughter and songs.  And closing each day with reading books, snuggles and kisses.  There are so many moments when it’s just me and Parker, when I am completely present with her.  In those moments she heals me from the chaos of life, problems in the world and the grown up worries which consume my mind most other waking hours of the day.  For now though, I had better go finish my collage while she takes her nap.

Under The Covers

Under The Covers

Like Mother, Like Daughter and Daughter

“You have to slow down and watch what you are doing,” the words escaped my mouth echoing from my own childhood.  My mom would calmly and assertively interfere in careless actions or growing frustration with this statement.  Now decades later with my own child it seems an automatic response, my mom’s words filtering through my mouth.  When I first noticed this and other comments I have relayed to Parker, I couldn’t help to stop and think I am turning into my mom.

I know this thought evokes a comedic horror for many, the idea of resembling parents.  For me, the thought of turning into my mom carried a chuckle in a different sense, there is no way I can live up to who my mom is.  It would be a blessing if I could maintain a portion of her patience, an ounce of her generosity, or a sliver of her organization.  I envy her diligence and work ethic while I have mastered procrastination – efficiency under pressure.  She is the most dependable person you will encounter, and since she is a horrible liar you know you can trust exactly what she says she will do.  There are so many incredible characteristics my mom emulates, it wouldn’t be a burden to be more like her.  So I guess if I mimic some of her phrases, that’s just fine with me.

Nana & Parker

Nana & Parker

If I do my job right, decades from now, Parker won’t mind repeating my words either.  These days she is constantly cracking me up with the things I tell her for encouragement or warning which get reflected back to me.  Parker congratulates me with “Good job Mommy,” when I use the toilet.  She cautions me to “Be careful Mommy,” when I am mopping and the floor it wet.

I so appreciate the statements from both my mom and my daughter.  It’s a small reminder of the beautiful generations of women in my family, strong influences who have shaped who we are and how we think.

Not Quite Ready To Grow Up

My Bye Bye Bye Baby post (here) may have been a little too premature to celebrate. I boosted about Parker’s progress in potty training, going without a pacifier and abandoning her crib all in one week. Turns out she is not exactly ready to shed her baby skin completely. Maybe it was too much too soon and once the thrill of it all was gone she decided growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… At least I feel that way sometimes.

PJ did well in her toddler bed for several nights, maybe even a full week, with no problems. And amazingly she still called in the morning, from her room, to let me know she was up instead of charging through the door. Taking naps in the new bed became a challenge, as predicted, she petifully looked at me with her head tilted to the side reporting “I’m not tired mommy, I don’t want to take a nap.” Then as I told her she could just lay down for some quiet time then (hoping a change in the name might change her attitude), this frequently ignited a brief crockadile teared tantrum clearly insinuating the need for a nap. For days Parker was able to escape taking naps just for the simple fact of not being able to keep her horizontal long enough to doze off.

Eventually Parker began leaving her room in the morning too, discovering she could hop right into mommy and daddy’s bed when she wakes up. It was fun at first, a little bit of snuggle time before breakfast. Then morning after morning she came in earlier and earlier until our usually late sleeper was now rousing each morning at 6AM. Too tired to even calculate how we were going to curb this new behavior and determine who was going to have to adjust – her or us – then the night of doom happened.

The day was normal, the nighttime routine was normal, by all accounts she appeared healthy and content when I put her down to bed. Then two hours after she had been sound asleep she woke up crying. Daddy addressed her crying and she went back to sleep, two hours later the same thing only this time we had gone to bed and she met me at my bedside. The rest of the night was more up and down, screaming at my bedside and exhausting any idea of what could be wrong. It felt like I was back to having a newborn to care for again except this newborn sprung from bed and hopped into my face to let me know she wasn’t sleeping. We took her temperature, rocked, changed pull-ups, drank milk, laid in her bed, and tried for about an hour of the night to see if she would sleep in my bed. The night was a blur of activities, screaming, scattered sleep and no clear idea of why it was all happening.

sleepThe next day when she continued to plead for no nap she was not tired, I knew she had to be exhausted. Again, she was not cooperating with the need to stay in bed so I offered her the option of sleeping in her big girl bed or a pack and play. I offer her choices a lot of times to try to employ her to make the positive choice, she often chooses the other option to see if I will carry through with the consequence. So, out the pack and play came since the crib has been disassembled and stored away. The afternoon after the night of doom she slept a good nap in her pack and play. And since then the pack and play has remained set up in her room, next to her toddler bed and she continues to choose to sleep there for night time and naps.

Maybe it’s more comfortable to be enclosed? I don’t know why it’s her preference for now, as long as we don’t end up shipping the pack and play away to college later on I suppose we are okay.

Dollhouse Foreshadowing

My sister and I spent endless hours playing with dollhouses when we were little, I’m talking NASA astronaut training hours.  Our first dollhouse was constructed by my mom from a wooden craft kit.  The four room house was decorated and redecorated by painting the interior, gluing felt for carpeting and paper on the walls.  We bought furniture and accessories down to potted plants, tiny picture frames, dishes and tea cups.  Later we planned to add to our dollhouse neighborhood and each bought our own craft kits for additional houses.  My house, like many of my master-minded projects, never got completed.  I lost the directions and the beginnings of a large three-story house remained untouched in my parent’s basement for nearly 20 years.  Call it divine intervention interrupting either mom’s hoarding reservation in throwing things out or my inability to follow-through with projects; the remaining contents in the doll house kit got wet in a minor leak in their basement and the house was finally set out on the curb.

The clean up effort lead my mom and I to rediscovering the remaining dollhouses last week.  I assumed at some point I would introduce my daughter to the houses, thinking maybe when she is a little older.  Two years old is too young for the fragile old wood, it doesn’t light up or make sounds like other plastic houses she’s seen, and all of the itsy-bitsy accessories to keep track of is enough to cause me an aneurism.  In a few years I figured she would love the houses.  Then as quickly as the dollhouses were at table level and within reach, a childhood wave of sentiment rushed over me and I couldn’t wait for her to wake up from her nap to come and play.

My mom and I sorted through the miniature time capsule of our youth, cleaning up, dusting off and discarding what was broken or not worth keeping.  My sister was mighty pleased, back in the day, to use some creative skill in making her own dollhouse furniture.  Foam haphazardly covered in fabric as the bed would have been fit for a dollhouse equivalent to a crack house.  There were a few surprises in the excavation of the houses which ironically seemed accurate in our lives today.  My sister’s house was filled with pets, including two tigers.  This spring she will be completing her vet tech degree and the journey to get her there was inspired by her time working with the tigers at Endangered Animal Rescue in Citra, Florida.  (Click HERE for more on that story.)  My sister plans to work with a zoo veterinary department and continue her passion with big cats.

The other foreshadowing shock from our childhood houses, we found a black family.  In our suburban caucasian home I can’t remember or imagine why we had purchased a black family.  Perhaps my sister and I needed a way to distinguish who’s dolls belonged to each other?  Were we impatient with a store who ran out of white families?  Could it be my sister and I wisely saw a value in increasing the diversity in our dollhouse community?  Whatever the reasoning was back then it has long since been forgotten and I’m sure my twelve-year-old self would have never been able to know she would one day fall in love and marry a black man.

dollWith the components freshly sanitized, small accessories stored away and rooms reconfigured the houses were ready.  I barely withheld my desire to wake my daughter up to come and play…  Finally she arose and joined us downstairs to get her first glimpse of the hand crafted childhood treasure.  Parker jumped right into investigating the pieces of furniture, opening the refrigerator, rearranging the living room, and pointing out the bird-cage.  She opened the toilet seat and promptly put the little girl on it, holding the “mommy doll” near by to applaud her when she finished.  Dollhouses may predict the future and when a two-year old plays it replicates her present life with plenty of potty practice.

If you are interested in having your own fun with this creative and playful hobby you can find doll house kits online or at craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Jo Ann ETC.  In the Kansas City area you can check out Mini Temptations at 3633 West 95th in Overland Park, KS for a greater variety of houses, decorations, furniture and accessories you can see first hand.

Two words, out of the blue.

danceBehavior is lawful, I learned this phrase when I became an instructor for Positive Behavior Support.  It has been a long time since I have taught the class, however this phrase always stays with me.  In short it means no behavior is ‘out of the blue,’ as we sometimes describe actions of others.  Any action an individual takes is a response to something whether we are aware of it or not, the trigger could be anything in the environment noticed by our senses, a reaction to another person’s behavior or behavior can stem from a thought.

There have been many occurrences, since by daughter began speaking regularly, where I would have been caught off guard by her simple communication.  Sometimes it’s while I am driving the car with her behind me in the car seat sitting peacefully observing the scenes passing outside her window when I hear the two words in her sweet high-pitched voice, “Thank you,” she says.  She is very polite expressing thanks to family, friends and strangers on a regular basis; it’s the times when there is no apparent prompt for the comment I am boggled by.  The comment appears to come out of the blue, except I know behavior is lawful and it must have a purpose.  thankyou

I’m so curious at the thoughts in her two-year-old mind which evoked this comment.  She didn’t get anything, no compliment received or favor helped.  Is she thanking me for the ride, praising me for being a safe driver?  Is she as appreciative to get out of the house as I am?  Was she just trying to start a conversation to break the silence and these are the words others respond to?  And then my mind takes me to wondering if it’s simply a thank you for being, kids are present in a way we lose as life gets more complicated.  They are not congested with the volume of thoughts, opinions, data and stresses we have in our adult minds.

Without having the words to provide an explanation, I am left to imagine.  Her enduring two-word expression, when the environment is otherwise silent, has developed meaning for me even when I don’t know what it means from her.  It’s a reminder to focus on the present, no moment is ordinary, I need to appreciate it all.

Bye Bye Bye Baby

Some weeks I look back and wonder, how did that happen? I had one of those weeks recently where in a mindless one activity to the next, I looked back and distraughtly noticed three major milestones conquered in days for my two-year old.

First, the adventures in potty training, I have written about them before just waiting for the momentum to really pick up and for her to grasp onto the concept. Finally it was me who committed hard-core, she wore big girl panties and a t-shirt at home most of the week. Strongly motivated by candies after successful tolieting and a rigorously timed routine of going to try about every 30 minutes she had very few wet accidents. She even stayed dry during an overnight in Nana’s bed, which after hearing about it made me panic since I had not warned Nana we were not there yet at home and she still wears diapers at night.

In the same week I assembled and painted her new big girl bed. With no plan or intention of making the transition, I just happened to have the time to work on the project. However, some days I end up being like the Mouse and the Cookie, with one step leading right into another. Before I really realized what I was doing her crib was disassembled in the basement and she was jumping up and down on her new big girl bed.

babaThe last major milestone was a completely happy accident. I don’t feel strongly about an age where pacifiers are unnecessary for other people’s children. For my child, I felt she was old enough and still she was hanging on to them. Despite chewing off the tips of the nipples and looking completely unappetizing, she would still cry for her “baba” to go to sleep or to ride in the car. She had been warned these would be the last baba’s she would have and when they were gone, they were gone for good. I frequently asked her if her baba was broken and if she wanted to throw it away, she did throw some away and as she realized she was down to her last one she lingered over the trash can a few times before deciding it wasn’t broken enough.

One evening before bed we searched the house together upstairs and downstairs, in the kitchen, in the bedrooms, in the bathrooms and through every nook and cranny to find her last baba, it went missing. I honestly did search hard, I was nervous about her big changes and adapting to life without her baba AND being in a new bed. At the same time I was silently cheering, the unnecessarily dependent relationship with this wrecked piece of plastic was finally going to be over.

After a good long search we had a talk about the baba being gone. My two-year old melted onto the floor for a few brief seconds and then went back to being excited about her new big girl bed. She asked for a baba a few times since and calmly settled herself when we talked about how it was gone.

A few days after the baba disappeared, it reappeared under the couch where I hadn’t been able to spot it before. I hurried to it before she noticed to keep it gone for good this time.