Friday, March 29, 2013

Kids and Pets.... BFFs With (Learning) Benefits

These are my two favorite girls.  If you ask Allie who Sadie is, she will tell you, " friend whole world!"  Sadie, I imagine, does not share the same views, but she's a dog so there's no knowing for sure.  If I were to guess, I would say that Sadie's response would be, "Allie....small human who scares the crap out of me but the big humans praise me big time for tolerating her so I do."

Sadie is our large border collie that Justin and I adopted 4 months after we started dating.  We traveled to North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, NY during rush hour on a friday to find her because my beloved dog, Shiminute, who had passed away sent a message to me to go there to find my next dog.  I know, I all sounds a little kooky, but it's a true story.  Shim gave me Sadie.

Sadie was 6 months old, had been returned to a shelter three times, and was at risk of losing her life if she didn't find her forever home.  She wasn't even "on display".  (Note: if you can ever go to the main location, GO!  Its an amazing experience and so impressive how they help you find the pet that's right for you, while making sure that YOU are right for the pet.)  After spending time with a number of great dogs, I got this feeling that what I was looking for was hidden.  I asked one of the girls if they had "a long haired, bigger dog" somewhere.  They did.  She had been spayed earlier that day and was in recovery.  I asked to see her and when they brought her out, I just cried while I petted her as she leaned against me.  FOUND HER!

They wanted us to come back to get her another day and I told them there was no chance I was making that trek back there and I wasn't leaving without her.  They gave us literature to read about why some people SHOULDN'T own a border collie.  Then they called references at 8pm to make sure we were worthy.  It was a big to-do, I tell ya.  But we survived and left with Sprinkles a/k/a Sadie.    Our first girl.  She had pneumonia and she was fearful, but she was perfect.  Everyone sees how special she is.  Especially Allie!

Here's my thing.  Im an animal person.  I have 2 dogs, a cat, a parrot and a rabbit.  I work with animals all day.  I've been fortunate enough to know people who have shared valuable information with me in regards to behavior and animal care.  And I know that no animal should be trusted 100% with a child.  NONE.

If you think you have the exception to this rule in your life, I ask that you just pretend like you dont.  Animals are unpredictable.  They have adjusted to our world and we so rarely take the time to learn about theirs.  Poking fingers, close little faces, tail pulling and high pitched screams scare animals.  They want to flee from this.  If they don't, they are tolerating it for some other reason.  It's not bcause they love it.  I have a number of reasons why I say that they are tolerating it instead of running from it, but rather than ramble on about that in this posting, if you ask me I will happily share.

Sadie issues a low growl when Allie is getting to be too much.  I tell Justin all of the time how lucky we are that she warns us.  A lot of dogs would just react.  We teach Allie that if a dog growls, it's warning you to back off or there will be repercussions.  We teach her that a lot of dogs wont growl so there is certain behavior that is not permissible around animals.  She pushes  her limits sometimes, so we know that we need to be completely aware and focused when she's around dogs.

Notice that I say "we" followed by action words.  It's OUR  responsibility to know our children and how they will behave around animals.  It's OUR responsibility to be on red alert when there are animals near our children.  Unless you or your child is attacked by an animal without interacting with it first, the outcome is all on us as parents.  (Notice I didn't use the word provoked.... what you consider provoking is what YOU think it is) Your child is too young to be held accountable but not too young to learn.  The animal is an instinctual being and will react accordingly.  If we can remember these things, I think it will be helpful in creating a great bond between children and our pets.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

RUDE-y Tootie FRESH & Cutie

At two years old, Allie was already being annoyed by our "fuddy duddy" behavior.  Wait until we are REALLY old....we will be trying her patience big time!  This photo was taken one late summer afternoon in 2012.  We decided we were going to the pool and apparently we weren't moving fast enough for her liking.  I remember searching for our bathing suits and Justin was in the bathroom and Allie wanted to be at the pool, like, yesterday.  

Let me first mention that one of her first ten words was "ning-a-ning-a-ning", which had multiple definitions.  It referred to swimming, the pool itself and her bikini.  Now, I know its not a REAL word, but if you spoke Allienese you knew what it meant.  She has a much broader vocabulary now, but we still refer to the pool as The "Ning-a-ning-a-ning".  I'm sure that's wrong in the world of vocabulary development, but....we don't care.

Back to my story.....I was walking past the living room and caught a glimpse of Miss Atta Tudey sitting in her Elmo chair, tapping her fingers, wearing the only piece of her swim ensemble that she could find (the floatation device), and oozing annoyance.  Im sure grabbing my phone and taking a photo of her didn't help her attitude but I couldn't help it.

This is about the time that our sweet baby developed a fresh attitude.  Up until then, we were her wonderful, perfect parents who she just wanted to tag along with.  Suddenly, she was hitting, spitting, throwing things, getting frustrated with our behavior, and pushing us away saying "no touch!" when we went for the random hug for no reason.  Fortunately she never started biting.  While I was reading everything I could on this new undesirable behavior I found so many horror stories about biting and kept telling myself that we were lucky she never resorted to that.  I feel for the parents who have a biter at this stage.

It's a confusing time as a parent not just because of what she is doing, but also because we are constantly trying to figure out what the appropriate reaction to this behavior is.  Her actions are telling us she's frustrated or unhappy about something.  Her vocabulary isn't yet fabulous so words aren't the best way to communicate how she feels when she feels something strongly.  She has a right to say that she doesn't want to be touched, even if it's just her parents who want to give her a hug or kiss because we adore her.  I don't want her to ever feel like she ISN'T in control of what happens to her body.  No means no, starting now.  But I don't want to raise a bratty child who thinks she can act out either.  

The first time I saw her hit my mother I thought I was going to lose my mind.  UNACCEPTABLE.  No assaulting the grandparents....ever!  No pummeling anyone else either.....unless they are pummeling you first, but we can wait on that lesson until she gets a little older.  Do we wait until she's older and speaking better to really enforce the other fresh behaviors?  Are we stifling her from venting the only way she knows how?  Is throwing a toy across the room at nothing okay now?  Or are we starting a bad habit?  

It's kind of like the whole crying thing.  When babies are born, they tell you that you should never let them cry.  Apparently it has a huge impact on their self confidence later in life if they cry and no one comes right away or at all.  At some point this changes.  I'm not sure when, but eventually "crying it out" becomes helpful (not in my world, but that's just me).  No one can define when it goes from detrimental to acceptable.  So, at what time does throwing a tantrum of sorts go from being acceptable to damaging?  I hope I don't miss that checkpoint.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

OCD - Obsessive Creative Disorder

Since Allie was born, I've recognized this weird creativity issue that I have.  I've always been interested in crafty things like cross stitch, photo projects, knitting, etc.  However I was never really aware of how freaky I get about them. 

Allie's First birthday cake was all natural.  She hadn't had processed sugar at all up until then and she ate only organic food (that's an issue for a whole other post).  So, I did research and found this gluten free, pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting that every reviewer claimed their kid "just absolutely loved!" Not mine.  She hated it.  I have photos of the one bite she took and they all scream "what is this crap you're feeding me???"

So, birthday number two rolls around and I'm determined to NOT make that mistake again.  By this point, she's had cake and a little bit of sugar so I figure I'll go for the gusto and make her a REAL cake.  Two weeks before her birthday, I did research again and found cake pans, cake recipes, frosting recipes, food coloring products (because anyone who had a cake with red frosting as a kid KNOWS that red frosting SUCKS!), methods of cake decorating, etc.  The internet and AC Moore Craft Store were my best friends.

Supplies at hand, a week before her bday, I decide a cake test run.  Lets just say that those boxed cake mixes are popular for a reason.  Is really freakin hard to make a fabulous tasting yellow cake.  Do I use butter or oil?   What kind of oil is best?  It goes on and on.  I learned that i can bake an edible cake, that I'm not really good at it, and it takes a lot of time in "the world of having a two year old".  Fail.  Boxed cake it is.

Now I'm in a panic.  The homemade cake part was supposed to be easy!  I start making frosting (which was yummy, thank God) and then the scientific chemistry process of creating the right Elmo red, orange and black began.  I had my Wilton color gels (they make red with no taste now!), five bowls of frosting, and the mixing began.  The color changes when it sits so I had to mix, wait and adjust the color accordingly.  It was maddening!

I spend the next few days watching tutorials on cake decorating since I have never done it and the bags, eight metal decorating tips, special spreaders, etc were freaking me out.  They were playing mind games with me and winning.

The morning of Allie's birthday I took a xanax, baked the cake, made frosting, prayed, created the colors, practiced different design techniques, prayed some more and decorated the damn thing.  When i was done, I sat back and admired my work.  'Holy crap..I f$@&#?g did it.'  I was exhausted, but proud of myself.  I tried to ignore the errors I made and felt good about my accomplishment.  When I felt nervous about whether it was going to taste good or not, I took another xanax.  Enough!

Allie loved it!  It was worth every second of the two weeks of self induced anxiety and stress.  She was excited when she saw it, she ate some and enjoyed it, and everyone except for one person ate it all and commented on what a great job I did.  Yippee!

And then I agreed to do it again four days later for a larger party. (IKnow...I Know) I'm a glutton for punishment, clearly.  I bought a base cake pan and winged that part of it.  Elmo was a bit of a breeze the second time around. 

I learned two things.  First, that there's a reason why cakes cost so much at bakeries and trust me when I say it looks WAY easier than it is.  I humbly bow down to bakers everywhere.  Second, I need to start working on her Third birthday cake much earlier.  (I told you I was a glutton.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It's My Potty and I'll Try When I Want To

Potty Training is probably the only time in our lives when people cheer because we "made a peepee in the potty!"  You might see it again later in life after some strange medical procedure, but toddlerhood is pretty much it.  You go, there's a fuss, everyone is excited, and maybe a reward is involved.  It's the best!

I bought Allie a potty in August 2012.  We took it out of the box, she dropped trou, picked up reading material and sat down on the potty right in the middle of the living room.  It was hilarious.  She was already like a 40 year old man with her bathroom habits.  "How did this happen", I asked Justin?  

Well, it was soon made clear.  When you're home alone with a toddler, you tend to bring them with you when you go to the bathroom if its not going to be a lightening quick visit.  Justin was always bringing Allie with him because she is definitely not to be trusted in any room by herself for more than 30 seconds.  So, the little demo in the livingroom came courtesy of observing her father in the "little wrangler's room" for months.  He was going to be who she modeled so he had to be verrrrrry careful with this particular part of parenting.

We decided we weren't going to push potty training.  If she wanted to use it, the potty was there.  She loved the book 'My Big Girl Potty' by Joanna Cole, so that was encouraging.  The main character, Ashley, was her favorite ever in any book and we used that to our advantage a LOT; i.e. "Ashley always finishes her dinner", "I bet Ashley goes to bed before 10pm", etc.

About a week after the potty was delivered, the following photo was sent to me in a text from my husband:

There was a message that said, "I don't think she gets it."  What can I say......the child is a nutcase like her mother and will do anything for a laugh like her father.  No one in my family was surprised when I forwarded this to them.

Flash forward seven months.....

Allie pooped on the potty a week ago.  We were so shocked that I just stared at it for about a minute.  'There's a huge pile of poop in there!  She said she had to go and THIS time she meant it.  Holy shit.'  I texted everyone.  I was so proud.  She didnt start with the easy work.  She went right for the pooper.  On St. Patrick's Day last week, she peed for the first time in the potty.  There should've been a gun shot because at that moment, I realized ITS ON!  Let the games begin!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Creature Comforts

Now why is it that she can find THIS setup comfortable, but her comfy mumfy mattress with super soft blankets and a vast array of stuffed somethings is not nearly as alluring?

The crib has been converted to a toddler bed, the safety railing is up, and the littlest human is spending up to 4 hours in it every night.  UP TO.   Those two words are key here.  Of course, this is after I crawl in bed with her and tell her the same version of Goldielocks that she's heard every night for about a month now.  I have to admit, I totally rock the story.  That and the pigs.  She's got a thing for threes because I get the same requests all of the time.  "Th-eee Bay-ahs" or "Th-eee Pigs".  Those are my greatest hits apparently.

I'm grateful for the four hours because I now know what my husband looks like on the other side of the bed with an unobstructed view.  I also have four assault-free hours.  No throat punches from tiny failing arms, no kicks in the stomach and I no head butts from her trying to share my pillow.  (We have seven on our bed and she needs to share mine?)  After 4 full months of her sleeping in our bed every night, those few hours are progress, people!

Worst case scenario, if she doesnt spend more time sleeping in her own bed,  I'm thinking about throwing the laundry basket in there next.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sleeping Beauty vs. Beauty Sleep

Every time I look at my daughter sleeping, Im amazed by her innocence, sweetness and perfection. I've felt this way since her first sleep and ,if anything, Im even MORE awestruck by it all than I was 29 months ago. She can sleep anywhere, whenever she's ready to do so. She seems to be more beautiful and precious than ever.

And Im freakin exhausted! I wake up with dark circles under my eyes, splotchy skin and a whole mess o' crankiness to amplify my not-so-fabulousness. I used to sleep like a rock and wake up feeling wonderful, but that is apparently over. I cant remember the last time i slept the entire night without Allie coming into bed at some point. I wake up at least twice during the night due to a foot in my ribs or getting throat punched by a little flailing arm or the ready cry for "Binky?!" that she tossed aside in her sleep.

This week we decided to take the front off of her crib in her room and try to entice her with the lure of "the big girl bed". Everything was going so well and we were playing all of the appropriate mind games in order to make sleeping in her own room sound good; i.e. reverse psychology "so, Allie, tonight you're going to have to sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed, okay?" She was determined to sleep in her own bed and I could almost feel the benefits of a proper night's sleep at my doorstep.

Then my neurotic worrying was triggered. The bed rail that we bought to keep Miss Thrashalot in her bed while she is sleeping did NOT fit. Justin came downstairs and said, "Would you believe in that short period of time I took it out of the box, assembled it, unassembled it, and put it back in the box?". It was too big. I felt defeated. Another night of abuse at the hands, legs, head, feet, arms of a toddler. She would sleep with us.

Justin was surprised by my decision. "Why can't she sleep in there anyway?? It's just one night!" Someone else was anticipating getting our bed back to being just OUR bed again too. "She will fall out. She rolls all over the place. What if she hurts herself? Or if she falls out and gets scared and then doesn't want to go back in there again? This has to be a thoroughly positive experience. We cant risk it!" You would think we were planning some sort of military operation. Operation Sleep Alone.

My Babies R Us coupon is ready to go. The drive to Middletown is planned. We are not coming home without the bedrail. Right now, Allie is sleeping sprawled out in the center of our bed...sleeping soundly and becoming more lovely by the minute. Im off to find some eye cream. I foresee puffiness and dark circles in my very near future.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Drive-by Dreams and Holding Hands

Well, that was a short lived dream.  For a week I felt as though I was going to have to look for a new blog name.  I almost believed I was going to Side A.  Ahhhhh.....that was not going to come to fruition.  

As much disappointment as Justin felt about not landing the job, I felt twice as much about not having the chance to be a full time mom and bond more with my little girl.  I rarely let myself get my hopes up, but toward the end of the week, I started imagining what this new life was going to be like.  Not good.  

I was sad.  I spent a whopping 30 minutes crying over the loss of opportunity, angry at myself for allowing myself to imagine, pissed at him for presenting this potential change and then taking it away (that was more of my own bullshit, not his).  After the thirty minutes, I told myself that I didnt lose anything because I never had it to begin with and decided to focus on helping Justin through his sadness.  That's how I chose to cope.  Time to move on.

I have so many versions of this photo.  This is the most recent, but I have ones from her first month of life, holding onto my fingers with her beautiful, perfect little hand.  She's always sleeping on my lap and we are snuggled under a blanket. Im not sure why I feel the need to capture these particular moments, but I think that I feel connected to her mentally, physically and spiritually at the time.  She needs to touch me and I need to feel needed.  Oodles is accomplished here on both of our parts.  I wonder how many more years of these moments I get before they sort of fade out. 

I can't remember the last time I held my mom's hand.  Maybe at some point in the past year when I was at her house, crying about some situation that had me upset in a big way, she reached over and held my hand to comfort me.  Since Allie was born Ive had more of those moments in the past 2.5 years than in the decade before.  So perhaps there's a point in time when you go back to needing to hold your mother's hand?  I hope Im still around when Allie comes back for round two later in life so she can see both sides of this mother and daughter at the same time.