Dear Loralai – 3 Years

Today is Loralai’s 3rd birthday!  She has been excited for her birthday ever since she finally realized Christmas was officially over.  Tonight, we’re celebrating by taking her out for a pancake dinner (her response to this was to throw her arms up in the air triumphantly and yell “yay pancakes!”…. my thoughts exactly, kiddo).  In keeping with my tradition, here is my annual letter to her.

 

Dear Loralai-

My favorite memory this year was taking you to the mountains on our first vacation “just the 3 of us” and it was such a perfect trip.  We had amazing weather and managed to strike a perfect balance between fun and relaxation. The highlight of the trip was our day at Tweetsie Amusement Park in Blowing Rock, NC.

You’d been excited to ride the train for weeks before the trip, so when we finally arrived and boarded the train, you were in heaven!  But, I was surprised to discover how much you loved the “big kid rides.” Once you had enjoyed the carousel and mini-airplanes, you started eyeing the tilt-a-whirl and ferris wheel.  You asked to ride them, and the mom in me hesitated. I was afraid you would get scared and it would ruin the day, but I wanted to let you try, and boy am I glad I did! I still remember you giggling on the ferris wheel and your gleeful yelling on the tilt-a-whirl.  I felt like a kid again, just seeing the joy on your face and hearing it in your voice. Mostly, I was proud of your fearlessness and admired the fact that you weren’t intimidated by anything. I certainly wouldn’t have done any of those things at your age!

To me, that trip really sums up this year. You are confident and assertive but joyful and effervescent. These are things I couldn’t have taught you- they’re just innately you. I’m proud of that, but also in awe of this little person I made, who came along with all these amazing qualities I didn’t have to teach her.

You are a little ray of sunshine and bring your dad and I so much joy. Waking up is easier when you gleefully announce “the sun is awake!” Errands are more fun when you’re excited for a ride in the “wagon” (shopping cart) or eager to help me by putting things on the belt at checkout. Daycare dropoff is a breeze because you’re always excited to go play with friends. You are cheerful and enthusiastic all the time.  We couldn’t have asked for a better kid.

So thanks.  Thanks for making the day-to-day fun, for bringing so much life and happiness to our little family, and for making our parenting journey so, so worth it.

Love you so much,

Mommy

 

 

 

Halloween and Life in the New Neighborhood

So, I’ve never been huge on Halloween, but it’s one of those events that has taken on new meaning since having a kiddo. Over the past few years, I’ve rediscovered the fun of dressing up and have had fun coordinating costumes with L. I’m trying to take advantage of it for as long as I can. I know there will be a time in the not so distant future where she’ll pick something I’ll have difficulty coordinating with… or worse, she won’t WANT me to coordinate with her. So, this year I took hers shopping and let her pick which costume she liked. She picked the bumble bee, so I naturally had to be the beekeeper. Fortunately for me, this was relatively easy (I like to coordinate, but I’m also lazy so I’m not the type to spend hours planning and crafting an outfit). I already had rain boots and a straw hat at home, so I ordered a painter’s suit and mosquito netting off Amazon (seriously, I have an Amazon problem… Prime has been worth every penny). Here is the end result:

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While this wasn’t L’s first Halloween, this was the first year we took her out Trick or Treating. We probably could have taken her last year, but she was just as content handing out candy, so we didn’t bother taking her around the neighborhood. Now that we’ve moved, there are a lot of families in our new neighborhood, including our neighbors who have 2 little boys around L’s age. So, we made plans with them and another one of our friends with 2 kids to go out together.

As suspected, L followed the lead of the other kids and picked up on the concept pretty quickly. She followed the others up the driveway and I watched as she politely held up her bag, then gleefully ran back down the driveway to show us her treat. “Mama, look!” she cried as she opened her bag so I could see, “I got candy!”

“That’s great, honey!” I replied, almost equally as thrilled. Her excitement = my excitement.

She ran to the next house, and the house after that, and the one after that. This trend continued for the next few blocks, until she had a half-full bag of candy, which is quite a bit for a kiddo her size.

We headed back to the house, and our neighbor set up his fire pit in the middle of the cul-de-sac and blocked off the street so the kids could run around safely. The adults enjoyed pumpkin beer while the kids had a blast goofing around with each other till L was so exhausted she asked to go to bed (parenting win!)

There’s something about this new neighborhood that makes me feel like our family found the place we are meant to be, live, grow… like we are finally, truly home. Without siblings of her own, nothing makes my heart more full than watching L play with the other kids in our neighborhood. As for JD and I, we’ve made some pretty good friends of our own. We had amazing neighbors at our old house (who we are trying to convince to follow us to our new neighborhood), but now we have a community of people we love.

Need Parenting Advice? Listen To Your Gut.

Warning: This post talks about potty training.  The word “potty” is used quite a bit.  Sorry non-parents, this is just the type of thing you can’t help but talk about once you have kids.

 

 

Parenting.

You can read all the parenting books or listen to advice from all the experts, but every child truly is different. No one knows how to care for your child and meet his or her needs quite like you. That gut, that instinct surpasses any expert.

I have tried to hold on to this and remember it whenever I doubt myself. I had a few baby books in the beginning but gave up on those early in favor of where my own instincts guided me. Still, sometimes it’s hard to drown out the exterior noise, and my belief in myself as a parent has really been challenged over the past few months.

It all started with a pacifier. As L neared 2, I knew it was time to break her of her beloved paci. She was one of the kids who has used it 24/7 pretty much from the day she was born, and even mastered the art of talking with it in her mouth. I originally told myself I would let her use it till she was done with teething, but then the move happened and I couldn’t imagine taking one of her comfort items away from her as her world got turned upside down. But after the move, we had several trips planned and I couldn’t imagine all that time on the road without the one thing that was sure to keep her calm. So 2 turned into 2 ½ and though she wouldn’t put up a fight when her teachers asked her to put it away at school, as soon as I picked her up at the end of the day, the first thing she asked for was “paci?” (or, as she likes to pronounce it, “haci”).

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Here is where the experts would lecture me. I am the parent, I should have/could have just taken it away, but I couldn’t decide where the line was between allowing her to be ready for the next stage and me forcing her to move on because it was in her best interest. My indecisiveness meant she got her way, and I eventually got a reprimand from her teacher.

“She doesn’t need it anymore. It’s bad for her teeth,” she told me one afternoon as I picked her up. “I know,” I sighed, but handed her the paci anyway as we walked out, still contemplating what my strategy would be for making this happen.

The next day, she pressed me on the issue again, a little more harshly. “It’s bad for her teeth,” she said in a scolding manner. “None of the other kids in the classroom use one.”

This is where she got me. When she compared L to the other kids in the class, it was hard not to take it as a personal attack on my parenting. I popped the paci out of L’s mouth and carried her out of the school, literally kicking and screaming. I felt angry and judged, and thought it was extremely unfair that she had compared L to the other kids. I was shaking as I dialed JD’s number, then immediately started to cry. He was pissed, and had some choice words for the teacher, stating it was “none of her business.” He wanted to call the school, but I wouldn’t let him. I actually really like this teacher (this incident aside), and I didn’t want to create any tension.

Maybe she did step over the line. Maybe I took it personally when I shouldn’t have. Maybe she could have presented it in a different way. Still, the thing I kept coming back to was this… Right or wrong, I think her intentions were in the right place. Though she was the one to push me in that direction, it was still my instinct telling me she was right (as much as my pride wanted her to be wrong).  So, this was a little bit of noise that I chose not to block out, and JD and I finally made a step forward. L still uses the paci at night and in the car (I just couldn’t imagine going cold turkey), but we’ve broken her of it during the day.

Just as we moved past this little bump, we were faced with a new beast- potty training. (Spoiler alert: It hasn’t been going well.) L has shown no interest, and similar to the paci, I didn’t even want to attempt this till we were back from our summer trips. I entered into this phase much more decisively than the paci-weaning, and when she didn’t respond to pull-ups, I stuck her in “big girl underwear” one weekend in an attempt to force the issue. I figured after a few accidents, she might be more motivated to pay attention to when she needed to go. Except that she wasn’t, and unlike a pacifier that you can take away, there’s no way to force a kid to use the potty.

Of course, she is the model of forward progress at school, and has no problem using the potty there, so it shouldn’t have surprised me when I went in for pickup one day and her teacher (yes, the same one) emphatically told me that they were reading “Diapers Aren’t Forever” when I came in. She also made a point to compare her (again) to the kids who were out of pull-ups and fully potty trained.

That was the moment I finally wanted to punch her.

So I took a deep breath and defended myself. My parental gut was telling me we were doing the best we could in this situation, and I wasn’t going to let her tell me how to raise my child. “I know she does great here,” I said, “and we’ve been trying at home. I even took her out of pull-ups one weekend but she kept having accidents.”

“It’s okay if she has accidents,” she interjected.

Another deep breath.

“I know that. We weren’t mad about the accidents, but she won’t tell us when she has to go like she does at school. And even when we proactively put her on the potty, she won’t go.”

She didn’t really have much to say after that, so I think I made my point.  L is L.  She’s very smart, but stubborn (a personality trait that snuck in from her father).  I know she knows when and how to use the potty, but she likes being able to control it and the fact that there’s not much we can do to make her use the potty at home (though bribing her with marshmallows has helped, this is a personality trait that snuck in from me).

I know these things because I’m her parent.  I observe her every day.  I know because my gut tells me.  No expert advice needed.

Dear Loralai- 2 Years

Happy Birthday, Loralai.  This time 2 years ago, I was sitting in the hospital room holding you.  I had gotten very little sleep and was completely exhausted, but the sun had risen and was shining through the blinds and I was so content to sit there and stare at your little face.  I had never seen something so amazing in my life.  So glad you found your way to us.  Here’s your 2 year letter.

 

Dear Loralai-

It’s hard to sum up this year concisely, since it was so full of changes.  You went from a quiet, happy baby, to an on-the-move, bubbly toddler.  This was the year you took off, literally.  Right around your 1st birthday something seemed to trigger inside you, and you quickly transitioned from an occasional step or two to a full-fledged walker.  It’s been exciting, fun, and exhausting all at the same time.  I must have spent the majority of the last year chasing you, but it’s been worth every hurried step.

I’ve loved watching you explore and learn.  Being with you reminds me to find joy in the little things in life- from a plane flying overhead to puppy kisses to a pile of leaves.  You remind me that some of the most mundane things in life can be exciting when you stop to take them in.  I love seeing the world through your eyes, because it gives me a fresh perspective on everything.  It’s all beautiful and new.  You know that house near grandma’s house with all the holiday lawn ornaments?  I used to hate it- I thought it was hideously tacky and created a traffic hazard.  This year?  I was glad every time we drove by it, because it delighted you so much.  Perspective.  You’ve given me perspective.

It’s funny, there were times where we were just a mama and toddler.  You whined about snacks and cried when you were tired and sometimes I got frustrated along with you.  All the while, I tried to keep you healthy and cheerful and start to build a foundation for the things I need to teach you, from nutrition to manners to how to brush your teeth.  But there were other times where we were transcended all that.  You were my little buddy, my weekend companion when daddy had to work and my snuggle buddy on lazy evenings.  This year, we laughed, played, danced, sang, and cuddled.  This year we bonded as mama and daughter, not just baby and parent.  That was this year’s greatest gift.

Can’t wait for another year of fun.

Lots of love,

Mommy

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My 2 Year Old, The Insomniac

So, Loralai stopped sleeping.

Okay, not really stopped, but these past few weeks have been a little rough (at times, a lot rough).  Previously, night after night, we’d been able to  put her to bed in her crib at 8pm and she’d fall asleep quietly without complaint.  Then one night, everything changed.  She threw a fit, crawled out of her crib, and it was game over.  Since that night, she’s practically refused to nap during the day (previously, we were still getting a good 3 hours out of her), and every night we wait for her to get sleepy, but she’s literally bouncing off the walls till 11.  JD and I have barely had a moment to ourselves in weeks, and I’m clinging to my last shred of sanity.

My biggest frustration with this is that it’s a problem seemingly without a resolution.  I’m not really sure what the cause of all of this is… 2 year molars/teething?  2 year sleep regression?  Separation anxiety?  Some hellish combination of those 3?  And without an explanation, I don’t know how to resolve it.  It’s killin’ me.

The weird thing is, she wasn’t cutting back on sleep before this happened.  She wasn’t showing signs that she needed shorter naps or less nighttime sleep, but since cutting back so drastically, she hasn’t been acting tired either.  She is full of energy and literally bouncing off the walls till 11pm, even if she skips her daytime nap altogether.  Plus, even after she goes to bed so late, she’s not really sleeping in a whole lot.

We did end up taking down her crib and moving the toddler bed into her room, because she continued to crawl out of her crib after that first time, but she doesn’t seem to be upset about the bed or having trouble with that transition.  She actually loves the bed;  she’ll sit in it and look at books during the day, and once she does fall asleep, she’ll sleep soundly in it throughout the night.

Most nights, the only way to get her to fall asleep is to let her lay in our bed with us.  She doesn’t want to be left in her own room by herself (we’re talking screaming her head off without any sign of relenting… “crying it out” isn’t an option with this kid).  It hasn’t really mattered what time we brought her to bed with us, she still won’t fall asleep till 11, but when she is finally sleepy, she’ll curl up next to me and ask me to hold her hand (in a lot of ways, this has been very sweet, but after a few weeks of this, also somewhat irritating).  After she was sound asleep, we could move her to her own room and she’d sleep fine in there, but her clingy-ness is what’s making me wonder if this is a separation anxiety thing.

Last night, at 11:30, I’d lost all patience and stuck her in her own bed.  She cried for a few minutes, then fell asleep.  Not sure if this is a small victory, or if she was just too exhausted to fight it anymore.

My office has been closed for the last week for a “winter break,” so we’re back to our normal routine starting Monday.  I’m hoping that getting back into our usual work/daycare routine will kind of force her back into her usual schedule.  She can’t be staying up till 11 if I have to wake her up at 6:30…. Or at least I hope she can’t continue staying up till 11.

Lord, help me.

Halloween Recap

Although this wasn’t L’s first Halloween, in some ways it felt like it.  Last year, she was only 9 months old, so Halloween equated “this bulky thing you put on me is weird and annoying, mom.”  She looked darn cute though!

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This was also the first year since JD started with the police department that I can actually remember him having the night off.  We debated taking advantage and actually taking L trick-or-treating (who knows what his schedule will look like next year), but decided she’s probably still a little too young.  Instead, we hung out on the porch and handed out candy.  As it turns out, L was probably just as happy doing that anyway.

I was a bit worried that all the kids in costumes would freak her out, or that she would catch on to the fact that she was giving away all of our precious candy (leaving none for her), but she actually took on the role of Official Candy Giver-Outer enthusiastically.  She spent most of the evening parading around with the candy bowl, and when she saw kids coming up, she would take a piece of candy out of the bowl and put it in their bag, then wave as they walked away and say “bye!”

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It’s funny how parenthood makes you see things from a fresh perspective, how something like Halloween, which I stopped appreciating several years ago, is new and exciting again.  Now I get to see things through L’s eyes, and there is so much joy in that.

Transition to Daycare

L has officially been at the new daycare for a week and a half and it’s been going relatively well. It’s still an adjustment for both of us, but I think we’re doing okay.

The weekend before she started, I was REALLY nervous about her first day. Obviously, I was happy and comfortable with the place I chose (otherwise I wouldn’t have picked it), but the transition was making me nervous. For a year, I was taking L to the same person (K) every morning; I was leaving her in someone’s home, an environment that felt intimate and nurturing. K and I had a mutual trust, and L’s smile when I dropped her off always assured me that she was safe and happy.

As much as I liked the new daycare, the teachers, and their philosophies when I toured, there was something intimidating and almost chaotic about the preschool classrooms to me. Her class is small- no more than 10 kids for her age group (and 2 teachers to corral them), but walking in there made me want to cry. Like I was going to be dumping her off, left behind to be just another being in a sea of children.

But beneath my insecurities and fears, I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing. L is a bright, curious, intelligent and social kid. Mom instincts told me she would thrive with the additional stimulation that a daycare center would provide. She is also easygoing and adaptable, so the change wouldn’t be too rough on her.

There have been some tears at drop-off, but that’s to be expected. Still, it’s hard to hand her off to the teacher when she’s crying, shaking her head no, and reaching for me (kids have a funny way of making you feel like the worst parent ever), but the teachers have assured me (repeatedly) that as soon as I’m out the door, she’s done crying (I have confirmed that it does get quiet once I’m out of sight), and that overall she’s transitioning better than average and is happy to play outside, read stories, and make new friends during the day.

I don’t think either of us are fully comfortable with our new routine yet, but we’re getting there. In the meantime, I just have to trust my instincts and know that I did what’s best for her.