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We have reached the stage of life where I am constantly searching for books that have some sort of teaching component.

Carla loves to read. And I find that reading a book about a topic and then discussing that topic and whatever lessons are inside it really help secure them in her brain.

But I am picky about the books.

The Berenstain Bears series is okay.

We have Too Much TV and The Truth and both are all right. Not perfect – Papa Bear is (as many cartoon/children’s book fathers seem to be) kind of a dolt, who seems to have as much to work on as the cubs do. And that annoys me, for some reason. Not that parents in kids’ books shouldn’t be real and vulnerable and have their own struggles, but… I don’t know. There’s just something mildly irritating to me about how the Bear Family parents come across. They are SUPER CHEAP though, so that’s nice.

I love the Frances books.

We have A Birthday for Frances and Bread and Jam for Frances and we have checked out Bedtime for Frances from the library many, many times. They are not perfect either; I seem to recall that the father threatens to spank Frances in the bedtime story, and I am not a fan of that. But otherwise, I very much admire her parents’ calm, unflappable way of dealing with Frances’s antics. My biggest complaint about the Frances books, perhaps, is that there aren’t enough of them.

Last fall, we were getting some… feedback from Carla’s teachers that she may benefit from a refresher on listening and following directions. So I researched a bunch of books on the topic, looked them up at my  local library (NOT IN THE SYSTEM AT ALL), and ordered a few highly-rated books from Amazon.

We read them each once.

(In case it’s not clear, I did not like ANY of them. I Just Want to Do It My Way would have been better titled “Staying on Task” or “Asking for Help” or something. And, in that book and in That Rule Doesn’t Apply to Me, I found the inconsistent rhyming and use of different fonts very irritating. Plus, they seemed to be geared toward a kid a bit older than Carla is. Which I guess isn’t the BOOK’S fault so much as mine. They are destined to be donated, I think. [To be fair, Why Should I Listen was okay. It showed multiple examples of a child not listening, and the consequences. And it also showed a few examples of how bad the child felt when others didn’t listen to him.])

Now, I am looking for books about talking to strangers and being polite and keeping your hands to yourself. I have a bunch in my Amazon cart, and I just need to order them. But what I keep wishing for is these books that I had as a kid.

At first, I couldn’t remember anything about them except that they covered a wide range of topics. But then I found them on Amazon! They belonged to a series by Joy Wilt Berry, and when I was a kid, the series was called “Let’s Talk About…” Looks like the originals came out in the early-to-mid 1980s. Of course, they are long out of print. (It seems like they got revised and republished a few times, as recently as 2000. But even those aren’t sold directly by Amazon.) (I haven’t looked for them anywhere else. YET.)

It makes me laugh to scroll through all the titles. If you take a look at the ones that I remember CLEARLY from my childhood, you may get a sense of what a delightful child I must have been.

I like to think I really absorbed the lessons of the books and have transformed into a polite, honest, non-greedy, hardworking, non-bossy person. But let’s be honest, I’m still not the neatest.

It’s comforting to think of my mother seeking out books in the same way I am now seeking books for my own daughter.

I suppose I can order used copies of some of them. I wonder if they hold up to my memory of them?

Anyway, I am wondering if YOU have any books of an instructive nature – about anything, really, from using good judgment to table manners to making friends to using an indoor voice and everything beyond – that you loved, as a child or as a parent.

In the meantime, I am going to go order some books from the Cheri J. Meiners Learning to Get Along series.

And maybe a couple of other random books for good measure. (At around $3-$6 a book, why not?) (I may have a book buying problem.)

Note: All of the photos above came from Amazon.com. I think you can see that if you scroll over the photos themselves, but… who knows.

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Ocean.JPG

The only ship on that entire vast sea is barely a white fleck on the horizon.

Well, after all that gift discussion (after which I begrudgingly admit that even though my husband has The Exact Opposite Feelings on the topic to me, he is not the only one and maybe I should give him a break), my family visited my in-laws for spring break and I brought lots of wearable gifts my mother-in-law has bought us over the years, and she noticed and commented on ALL of it, in an affirming I’m-so-happy-you-actually-wear-that! sort of way. And I was glad.

We had SUCH a nice time over spring break, and I think the nicest part of all was that Carla was SO EASY.

She is a happy, affectionate, inquisitive child who tends toward the super-high-energy end of the energetic spectrum. Which, in the hands of her introvert, prefers-to-lie-on-the-couch-quietly-and-read-a-book-by-herself mother, can translate into exhausting. We have kept past vacations to an X-day limit because she gets bored and then the energy cranks up to 7,000 and she begins bouncing off the walls and furniture. But this year, mainly because of an incompatibility between airline ticket prices and reasonable flight times (I am NOT boarding a plane for home with my gets-more-energized-the-more-tired-she-gets toddler at eight p.m. thank you very much), we ended up staying a full week. And it was GREAT. Everything was great.

Carla was a peach of a traveler, both ways. She happily walked around the airport (with us, obviously) before our flight, looking at all the glorious toys in the many gift shops and newsstands, asking us to add a variety of items to her birthday list. She was excited about everything: the airplanes lined up outside the airport, going through security, people traveling with dogs, wearing her little penguin backpack, getting on the plane, having her own seat, plane snacks, seeing the clouds, seeing the ocean from the windows, watching Sofia appisodes over and over (she has an Amazon Fire tablet for kids that keeps her busy and happy for hours), landing, waving at friendly strangers, running full-steam to hug her grandmother when we left the concourse.

While we were in Florida, she was GREAT. She ate well, she was happy and charming. She was enthusiastic about every one of the seven million projects her grandmother had set up for her. She was happy vegging in front of the TV whenever the grown ups needed a minute. She loved the pool, the beach, the boat we took to a little island, the ocean, shells, lizards, local dogs, collecting rocks, watering the plants, pretending to drive her grandfather’s car, going to restaurants, eating ice cream. All of it. She went to bed late pretty much every night we were there, and napped maybe twice, and yet she was good natured and happy to play by herself or happy to play with a grown up, just happy in general.

Great. She was great.

So of course all of this has me thinking – maybe more concretely than usual – about babies, and how great they are, and how yes they are challenging sometimes but look! it all turns out so GREAT!

Listen: DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP. I’m just musing here. I’m just thinking idly, happily, about a topic (babies) that interests me to no end. It doesn’t mean anything.

My husband and I are 95% certain that Carla is IT. There are many many wonderful, valid, reasonable reasons to have more than one child; there are – despite those who may disagree – an equal number of wonderful, valid, reasonable reasons to have just the one. (Or none! If that’s your choice!) So we are very comfortable with that near-decision.

But it is a near-decision, not a final one. We haven’t taken any measures. We haven’t donated the large pile of baby stuff in our basement. We haven’t stopped talking about it.

It’s just that the conversations always turn to, We love having just Carla. We feel complete. We feel happy.

But…

I still think about Another Baby, every day. Carla was such a great baby, and watching her grow and learn and develop her personality has been such a complete wondrous delight; part of me feels so sad that I won’t get to experience that with another baby.

Following nearly two weeks of Carla At Her Best, it’s easy to imagine that another baby might be doable. I’m not saying I WANT another baby. I’m just saying that, before, I couldn’t picture at ALL how a tiny, needy infant would work into our family. Because Carla is a hands-on, all-hands-on-deck kid. Now, I have this glimpse of what a more mature Carla might be like: (slightly) more serene, more independent, more able to channel that immense energy into activities that don’t put her in immediate danger and leave me whirling.

Anyway, it has me thinking, five years wouldn’t be such a bad distance between two siblings.

Let us forget the fact that we were on vacation and so we were removed from our normal pattern of life… and that we were much more relaxed and less time pressured than on a normal day… and that Carla had not her normal one-most-of-the-time, sometimes-two adults but four to attend to her every whim… and that prior to spring break, I had a week-long stomach bug, which was horrendous, and Carla was just off, complaining of a tummy ache and not eating anything much at all, so by comparison OF COURSE everything is easier… and FOUR ADULTS. Let’s not take ANY of those factors into consideration when we look at how easy it has become to parent my nearly-four-year-old. Instead, let us jump headlong into LET’S THINK ABOUT MORE BABIES.

Clearly, I have become infected with some sort of tropical brain-altering disease. So let’s turn this discussion away from ME (and, as much as it may hurt to clamp your hand over your mouth, away from Why We Need Another Baby) and toward YOU and the infinitely interesting topic of baby spacing.

What, for you, is the ideal spacing between siblings? Has your opinion changed – perhaps after you experienced the spacing in real time? What is your own experience with any siblings you have – are you a good distance apart? What are the plusses and minuses?

My brother and I are six years apart. That’s a big gap in many ways; when I went off to college he was still in middle school. Six years represents a huge difference in interests and pursuits and abilities. I wouldn’t say we’ve ever been close, although we certainly love (and like) each other. As adults, we don’t talk particularly often, but we have a good time when we’re together. For (possibly false) reference, I read or heard somewhere that a six-year age difference is like having two only children, which has plusses and minuses.

A former colleague of mine has two boys five years apart. She maintains that five years is the PERFECT distance. The older child is old enough to be helpful and self-entertaining when the baby is born. You’re far enough out of the nursing/no-sleeping infant stage that it doesn’t seem as daunting anymore. The older child is in school part of the day. There won’t be two children in college at the same time. Other reasons that I didn’t pay close enough attention to at the time, because I was DONE. Am done.

Someone my husband works with said that four years is the perfect distance. That happens to be the same spacing between my husband and his sister, who have a slightly-closer-but-not-by-much relationship than I do with my brother. I don’t particularly want to ask their mother what the plusses and minuses of that spacing are(, considering her opinion is that we are HARMING Carla by not giving her a sibling; if that is your opinion as well, I kindly ask that you refrain from sharing it here). I would guess that many of the same reasons as the five-year spacing apply.

In any event, the four-year-spacing ship has sailed for us.

A woman from my long-defunct book club had three boys, one right after another. I’m sure they weren’t exactly a year apart, but it seemed that way. And she swore by that method: you get the baby stage over with all at once. It’s not super while you’re in it, but then it’s OVER. The same goes for all the rest of life’s experiences, I suppose. And all your kids are close-knit, or at least have a good chance of it.

Most of my friends are in the eighteen-months-apart to three-years-apart club. Again, for me, all that’s left of that particular ship is a tired crest of wake finally breaking against the shore.

I think, for my particular personality, and my own brand of I Am Not Cut Out to Be a Mother at All, Let Alone to Two Children, a bigger space would be better. This may be obvious, considering that I have a nearly-four-year-old and am just now getting around to moving the dial from 95% sure we are done to 93% sure. But the idea of breathing space between the stages seems attractive. (Ignoring, of course, that all kids are in stages all the time, so there would really be NO breathing room.) It’s really too bad I didn’t start much younger; an eighteen-year-old and a newborn has its appeal.

See? I must have some sort of Only In Florida parasite munching away at the reasoning centers of my brain.

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Last night I woke up at 4:00 and then couldn’t fall asleep, my mind was jumping around from fret to fret so vigorously.

Then, of course, once I managed to finally still the thoughts enough that I could sink back into sleep, I had a terrible nightmare that involved someone from my past (that sounds more mysterious than it is; it was a boyfriend from high school) called me under the pretense of asking me to walk his dog (how did he get my number? why was he in my city? why am I thinking about this person I haven’t seen in TWENTY YEARS?) and then told me he’d seen me at a museum recently and couldn’t stop thinking about me (doubtful, on both counts), and then I hung up, all creeped out… but when I went to the grocery store, he was there and tried to shoot me. SO. Not the most restful night.

The thing I am fretting about most energetically is that parents are expected to attend a welcome meeting of some sort during Carla’s first week at the new school. It is a 30-minute meeting. And it is for parents ONLY. Which means that we have to find childcare for that 30-minute window. It sounds like the school is offering childcare during two days of the week. However, my husband is only available on the one day at the one particular time. He had to arrange months ago to clear his schedule for this day. (The only reason he did so was because it was Carla’s first day of school, and we both wanted to take her. We only just yesterday discovered that there was this additional welcome meeting, so he and his assistant scrambled to reschedule the patient that was scheduled for the slot during the meeting time. Which makes him – and me – feel guilty. Why should schooling trump a patient’s health needs? ARRRRGH.)

There is exactly one (1) person I know whose child is attending this school, so I suggested we coordinate times so we could watch each other’s kids. But she is unable to do that. One of my friends kindly offered to do it… but she lives 30 minutes away in either direction and has never met Carla, let alone sat for her. I don’t know ANYONE who babysits during the day. Our two regular sitters and our backup sitter ALL have day jobs. My last resort may be asking our next door neighbor if she’d be willing to come over and sit in our house while Carla watches television for an hour. But THAT makes me feel like I’m imposing or overreaching our very casual neighborly relationship. So I guess really I may have to impose on the friend who offered, which stresses me out for OTHER reasons. (Too much time in the car, logistics issues with Carla’s school day and then getting her to my friend’s house and also finding time to give her lunch in that window and then getting back to the meeting on time. ACK.)

In addition to feeling stressed out by not knowing what to do with Carla, I am feeling really bad about myself. Carla is THREE. Why do I not have a network of friends I can turn to? I don’t even know how to set up a play date because I have never done it before. Why have I not been friendlier with our neighbors, so that I would feel more comfortable turning to them? This is a MAJOR DISADVANTAGE to being my style of introvert (i.e. the style who is a loner). Despite loving our city and having very good reasons to be here, I am having wailing/sob-filled thoughts about why did I ever agree to live so far away from family?!?!

This all makes me feel very cranky and grouchy – which I am directing at the school, which is dumb. It is dumb to expect that two weeks’ notice isn’t perfectly adequate for most people to make or change plans. It is dumb to expect that the school provide childcare beyond the very reasonable accommodations they have made. It is dumb to keep saying, outragedly, to anyone who will listen, “What if I were still working full-time? What would I have done THEN?” because I am NOT and because certainly other parents ARE and yet are no doubt figuring out how to deal with this without being babies about it. It is dumb to expect that my particular situation (self-inflicted, nonetheless!) should be addressed by a school that cannot possibly address the specific, individual needs of each student and parent. And yet, I STILL feel cranky and grouchy and complain and resentful, and in fact if you were here with me now I would complain about it until you felt deeply regretful that you’d come over in the first place.

Let’s recap: I am feeling frustrated at the school for not providing childcare OR allowing kids to join the meeting OR giving us more than two weeks’ notice so that we could have arranged my husband’s schedule differently… and I am feeling anxious and self-pitying about not having developed a network of people to turn to in these types of situations… and I am feeling annoyed at myself for being so completely THROWN by this stuff – surely, surely many of the other parents are feeling the same way and/or are DEALING WITH IT without so much hand wringing… and I am feeling fretful that this bodes poorly for our future with this school – am I going to go through YEARS of feeling resentful and frustrated?… and I am feeling MAD at myself for reacting like a Special Snowflake/whiny, pouty baby who should be catered to individually rather than just Finding A Solution. ARRRRGHHHHH.

And of course on top of this I am waiting for the ex-boyfriend of twenty years ago to contact me out of the blue and/or gun me down at the grocery store. YAY.

This is normal, right? Everyone feels grouchy and resentful about school stuff, yes? We will SURVIVE it all, right? RIGHT?

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Lately, I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls reruns while I exercise (side note: watching Gilmore Girls from the Lorelai perspective rather than the Rory perspective is a WHOLE different experience) and the other day was the episode where Rory goes away to college. Which is how I ended up sobbing on the treadmill.

Because Carla’s impending entrance into pre-school is so similar to GOING AWAY TO COLLEGE.

Yes, my tiny baby begins pre-school later this month. And I am a mess A MESS about it. I know – I know – a big source of my anticipatory dread is that I have a ton of My Baby Is Growing Up FEELINGS. It’s happening so fast, you know? Before I know it, she’s going to be waving at me from her dorm room and then shutting the door.

Okay, I am tearing up again.

So let’s rapidly scoot past those and get to the more practical aspects of my fretting, which can be broken out into three categories:

I Hate Change

We have enrolled Carla in the same private school her father went to for his whole life. This is a good thing. But it means that she will be switching out of the daycare she’s been in since last November. And I am not good with change.

Last fall, when we moved her from the daycare she’d been in since she was three months old to the one she’s in now – and which turned out to be Far Better, So Much So That I Feel Regret About Not Sending Her Here From the Get Go – it was so hard. I think I flubbed it, to be honest. I didn’t really think about what a tremendous change it would be, and so I did a piss poor job of preparing Carla. And so the transition was really rough on her. AS IT WOULD BE.

So this time, my husband and I are trying to find the perfect balance between preparing Carla for this shift and freaking her out about it. But it’s going to be stressful – there’s just no way around it. No matter how old you are, new situations are stressful. Well, at least they are stressful for ME. And Carla is only three and I’m not sure exactly how much she really understands what’s going to happen.

I am having Empathy Fret for Carla about suddenly being wrenched from her teachers… and a familiar routine and surroundings… and her friends.

Plus, I love her daycare. I love her teachers. (Although Carla would, if she stayed at this daycare, switch to new teachers almost immediately, so that aspect of change is inevitable.) I like the staff a lot. I am familiar with MY part of the routine. And she is so confident and happy at this daycare. I hate that we are going to completely eliminate that source of confidence and happiness and comfort from her life.

(Side Note: One of her core teachers left at the end of July, and I almost starting crying saying goodbye to her. And then she left Carla the SWEETEST note about how even if she didn’t see Carla until she – the teacher – is an old woman, she will recognize Carla for her spirit. OMG I was sobbing as I read it.)

This Is Going to Be a Whole New Schedule – for Both of Us

Pre-school goes from 8:30 to 11:30. Then we have the option to add-on lunch and some enrichment time and some aftercare if we need to. I think there’s also a morning-care option too, if necessary. So what we’re doing – now that I am working for myself, from home – is adding lunch and enrichment. On Fridays, Carla will be done at 11:30.

This will be a Big Difference from our current schedule, which is daycare from 9:00 to 5:00.

So I am pre-emptively fretting about that.

Will she get enough stimulation/intellectual challenge/exercise between 8:30 and 2:30?

I’m super excited about having more time, just the two of us. But… what are we going to DO? Will she be tired from school, and need a nap? I don’t think there’s a nap time at school, and she’s used to napping at about 1:30, so I’m anticipating that she’ll be super tired. And if she does nap, now at around 3:00, what will that do to the rest of the day?

What if she finds me super boring? What if we like each other LESS once we spend more time together?

On the other, more selfish, hand, will I be able to get enough work done between 8:30 and 2:30? Will I resent my time with Carla? These are the things I’m most afraid of, I think. That the new schedule will open some sort of rift between us.

I Don’t Know What to Expect

I went to public school all the way until college. In a small town allllll the way across the country from where we live. I don’t know anything about private school in general, or THIS private school, specifically. For instance, I bought a cute shirt on sale at Carter’s for Carla to wear to her new school… and my husband shook his head and said that it wouldn’t meet the school’s dress code. Dress code? Oh right, I remember vaguely that when I met my husband he didn’t own a pair of jeans. Because denim is not on the dress code at his school. (Where I come from, you can wear jeans to CHURCH.)

So, okay, dress code. That’s one thing I’m going to have to figure out. No denim. No logos. No words. My husband insists no pictures, either – like, you can’t have a shirt with a butterfly on it. That’s making it a LITTLE difficult to shop.

And I don’t know about drop-off and pick-up – I’m sure we’ll learn about that, but since I don’t have a clue, I’m anxious about it. Will I have to arrive super early? Will I be spending hours each week in a long car line? Will I just… open the door and let Carla out? She’s my BABY, how can I trust she’ll get where she needs to go without me?

And I don’t know what the teachers are going to want/expect in terms of parental involvement. Like, will they expect me to ask questions and talk to them every day? Which I’m fine with! Or will they expect that I will only talk to them when they have an issue to bring up? Which I am less fine with.

And what about parental involvement beyond my own child? Will they expect me to join the PTA? I have never been part of the PTA! I am open to it. And I do like the idea of a sort of forced-interaction with other parents, which might result in some new friendships. But: ACK NEW EXPERIENCE ACK.

You must know that I WANT to send Carla to this school! I feel GRATEFUL that we are able to send her to this school! It is a FANTASTIC school! When I first visited, I was blown away by the campus and the class options and I listened with dreamy delight as my husband told me about his teachers and the courses he took. And HE went there, and HE turned out great! The school has a values system that they take seriously and it infuses their entire curriculum, and I think my husband embodies those values. He is honest and straightforward and hardworking and believes in being a contributor to his community. I think his school had a lot to do with why he’s such a great guy. And he still, to this day, has friends from school. Friends that have become MY friends, and whose kids have become friends with my kid. And those friends are all pretty great people too. AND! It provides a top-notch academic education! And it has great activities! And it’s just a super all-around school. I am SO GLAD that Carla was accepted (yes, of course there was an intensive application process) and I am DELIGHTED that she will be attending this school.

But everything about it is so foreign. Ev. Ree. Thing.

Those are the main Sources of Anticipatory Dread, but thousands of others keep flitting through my head: What if she’s too rambunctious or enthusiastic? What if the transition is super stressful? What if the school turns out NOT to be a good fit? What if she won’t eat the food there? What if she hates her teachers? What if she doesn’t make friends? What if her teachers don’t like her? What if her teachers don’t like ME?

I know that some of this is just going to take time. And I just have to try to shut off my brain until the school year begins. But I really REALLY wish there was some sort of Handbook for the Over-Anxious Parent that spelled out exactly what Carla and I do and when and how and why.

And of course I wish that she would just SLOW DOWN and stop growing so quickly. Although that would just give me more time to pre-fret, so maybe it’s okay that things are as they are.

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Apps:

Our trip to visit my parents is coming up, and with it four very long flights on an airplane. Carla has a tablet for just this kind of occasion (also for going out to restaurants when her parents cannot stand the thought of cooking/washing dishes), and so I am on the lookout for some new apps. Is it apps? Suddenly that’s making me think of appetizers. Or aps? It’s not apse, I know that. (Although I still couldn’t tell you which is the apse and which is the transept or how they are related except by “church.”)

Carla’s favorite apps include:

Toca Pet Doctor (My husband and I recently got into a nearly-heated discussion about why it’s “pet doctor” instead of “vet.” My husband’s explanation is that the “healing” has nothing whatsoever to do with veterinary medicine. My retort is that nor does it have anything to do with any sort of “doctoring.”)

Toca Pet Doctor.jpg

(Image from Tocaboca.com)

 

Toca Hair Salon

Toca Hair Salon

(Image from appsplayground.com)

 

Sago mini Ocean Swimmer

Sago Ocean Swimmer

(Image from googleplay.com)

 

Sago mini Road Trip

Sago Road Trip

(Image from itunes.com)

 

Dr. Panda Restaurant

DrPanda Restaurant

(Image from smartappsforkids.com)

 

Dr. Panda Airport – I love this one because it requires simple counting and number/letter recognition, as well as understanding of matching concepts. Plus it’s fun.

DrPanda Airport

(Image from topbestappsforkids.com)

 

Sago mini Toolbox

Sago Toolbox

(Image from gabdar.com)

We also have Sago mini Monsters, but I don’t know if she’s ever played it. It seems a little simplistic. And we have Toca Boo, which Carla likes in concept (scaring people while dressed as a ghost), but is a little advanced for her, so she gets bored quickly.And there was a Sago mini Friends app we had on our ancient second-gen iPad, which Carla loved as well.

We are always on the lookout for fun apps for Carla. Especially if they are free or very low-cost. Any apps that your toddler loves?

 

Brushing Teeth

Speaking of apps, I was thinking that it would be SO GREAT if there were an app that was connected digitally to a child’s toothbrush. The image on the screen would be of a mouth with lots of gunk on the teeth. And the child would be able to remove the gunk by brushing his/her own teeth. AND the gunk would come off only after two minutes of brushing. HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE?

Because brushing teeth is becoming a HUGE power play around here. My husband and I have exhausted our collective creativity on the subject. For a while, Carla liked being A Big Girl and brushing her teeth. For a short while, she liked me or her father to brush her teeth for her. For a short while, she would “compete” with one of us to see who could brush their teeth most quickly. For a shorter while, she accepted the dentist’s recommendation that we be the ones to brush her teeth. There were a few days when she would enthusiastically “teach” her baby doll or one of her stuffed animals to brush their teeth by watching her. Of course, my husband or I had to narrate the entire time. There were a few days when she thought it was hilarious for me to brush her teeth while she had her thumb in her mouth. Then two thumbs. Once in a while, she will brush her teeth to a toothbrushing song or video on YouTube. Lately, I have been allowing her to watch Elmo videos while I brush her teeth.

Every day, it’s something new. You never know whether she’ll be game for whatever stupid game you’ve dreamed up or you’ll end up feeling like a teakettle about to boil over.

It’s a NIGHTMARISH ORDEAL, is what I’m saying.

HOW in the WIDE WIDE WORLD do you get a stubborn, control-enthusiast toddler to brush her teeth?

 

Eating (again)

Last night for dinner, Carla had two tablespoons of peanut butter and 12 slices of pepperoni.

I mean.

She can’t SURVIVE like this, right? How is she surviving?

As usual, I served her a meal that had a variety of things. AND, the variety was things that she LIKES and has eaten with gusto in the past. (Read: no guarantee she will ever eat again.) I gave her fish sticks (with plenty of ketchup), cheesy noodles, and cheesy broccoli. But no. She put a tiny bite of fish stick into her mouth and then spat it out. “I don’t LIKE it,” she said, beseechingly. SIGH.

She asked for rice off of my plate, then didn’t eat it.

We THREATENED. She has presents to open from the party this weekend, and we said she MUST eat three fish sticks in order to open them. Nope. Nothing more than the teeny little taste that came right back out.

So. Peanut butter and pepperoni it is.

She used to be GREAT about yogurt. And I felt fine with giving her a (whole milk, full fat) yogurt anytime, anywhere. But now she is finicky and not interested. Oh! That DOES remind me that she and I made some yogurt “popsicles” that I should try and get her to eat.

Breakfast used to be a fair guarantee that she’d eat: a pancake or two, a French toast stick or two, plus some fruit, plus an applesauce pouch, plus a yogurt pouch. Lately? She’ll eat a handful of berries, a bite of a starch… and some Cheez Its.

This morning she had twelve Frosted Mini Wheats (she’s very into counting things; there were 20 to begin with, and it took about 890 minutes to eat the twelve and then we were late) and about a half cup of blackberries and raspberries. And an applesauce pouch in the car.

And that’s the other thing. Meals drag. On. For. Ever. I wake her up at 7:00, and we’re “eating” by 7:15… but it takes until 8:30 to be done. And even then, it’s only by setting timers and urging her to KEEP EATING FTLOG and then we have to be finished even if she’s not done. Dinner time is a series of ups and downs and “I need water” and “I need a spoon” “no a different spoon” “no a BIG GIRL spoon” and “I have to go potty” until we strap her into her booster seat. And then it’s eating nothing and trying small bites and arguing and wheedling and negotiating until finally I set the timer for bath time. And then she wants something else! That she doesn’t eat! And something else! And something else! Until I am ready to throw in the towel and all the bedsheets and a canopy besides.

I know – I know – that EATING is one of the few ways she can exert control over her universe. But it is driving me mad. MAD.

And also nervous. Because how is she surviving? She eats less than a bird.

Do I just… continue along this path – offering good food, then when she refuses it, give her an alternate option? (And please keep in mind that I asked her what she wanted for dinner – between two options – and she chose fish sticks so it’s not like I haven’t tried THAT tack.) I cannot put her to bed hungry. I know it’s an option, and it’s one that we’ve tried. But it just doesn’t work for us.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE?

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We have been having Some Issues with drop off recently, where Carla gets very upset as I try to leave. It breaks my heart and sets the day off on a horrible You Monster, Why Do You Put Your Kid in Daycare start, so we have been testing some strategies to see if we can nip this in the bud.

Today was Day 2 of Strategy: Lovey, wherein Carla brings a small stuffed animal to school that she can hug when she misses me. Day 1 went very well, so I have high hopes.

This morning, one of Carla’s classmates was ALSO having a rough morning. She was crying already when I entered the classroom, and as I was trying to put things in Carla’s cubby (extra shoes, lunchbox, water bottle) while simultaneously saying soothing and cheerful things to Carla, the little girl came up to me, wailing, and held her arms out for a hug.

I mean, who am I to deny a child a hug? I really, really hope that’s not out of bounds. But I think if my daughter was having a rough time and just needed a hug, I would be grateful to another mom for giving her that comfort.

Poor kiddo – a hug did not cut it. And of course, here’s Carla, saying, “That’s MY mommy.” I tried to say calmly to her, “Your friend is having a rough moment, and it’s okay for her to give me a hug” while hugging this poor child. The little girl is now trying to climb on me, she wants to be picked up, but I don’t want to cross any weird parental boundaries, and also Carla is climbing on my other side, so I say gently, “Sweetie, I can’t pick you up, I’m sorry you’re having a rough day, it’s going to be okay.”

This is totally my response to Sad Feelings, by the way, because it is the way I want to be treated when I’m sad. I soothe, I acknowledge, I offer calm reassurances. But I am not good at distracting a child from her feelings. I mean, I have LEARNED how to do that, with Carla. But it didn’t even occur to me in this situation.

Of course, my own anxiety is ramping up at the same time. I’m just trying to get Carla situated so I can leave without her dissolving into tears. Now, in the calm and quiet of my house, I feel like I should have just sat down on the floor, talked with the little girl – at the very least, asked her or Carla what her name was! – and overall been more patient with the situation. Instead, I got more and more frantic, trying to peel the crying child off of me so I can hug my daughter, who is beginning to look more and more upset.

That’s when another mom swooped in. “This isn’t your child?” she asked, and I shook my head. And she took the little girl’s hand (the child was STILL wailing, tears and snot sloshing down her face – this is my NIGHTMARE, that when I leave, Carla cries and cries and cries, rather than stopping as soon as I’m out of sight.) and said brightly, “Have you washed your hands yet? Let’s go do that and then we’ll play with your friends!”

Oh how I want to be that mom. Not only is she a fantastic dresser (today she had on this long floral dress that was breezy and summery and elegant all at once) and not only does she have a super cool haircut, but she was kind and confident and knew exactly what to do.

I barely feel confident with MY OWN child. Let’s be honest: most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing, and even when my stabs in the dark seem to work, I feel like I’m about to tumble over the edge into incompetence at any moment. And when it comes to someone else’s child? Absolutely no idea.

Babies. I can handle babies. Let me hold your baby, feed her, change her diaper. I am good at that. Big kids? Not so much.

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  • I recently had an epiphany: While I really enjoy being active – walking, even on a treadmill – I really dislike exercising. I’m fine if the exercise is inherent in the activity, but I don’t like to purposefully encourage sweating and ragged breathing. Eh. Know thyself, right?
  • Carla is starting to lose the last remaining baby vernacular. She can now say “computer” correctly, rather than calling it a “com-POO-tuh” like a tiny Austrian. I am holding on very tightly to “lellow” instead of “yellow” and “collection” instead of “reflection.”
  • My in-laws donated a Crate and Barrel outdoor loveseat to us. It’s teak and sturdy and fits neatly on our back porch. But there’s no cushion and I cannot for the life of me find a cushion for it. The sizing is weird – leave it to Crate and Barrel to have custom sizes, right? – so none of the standard bench or loveseat cushions at Home Depot or Target or Bed Bath & Beyond will fit. Then I looked at Crate and Barrel for a replacement – they were having a sale – and the appropriate cushion would cost $500. On sale. I know we all have different categories of things we are willing to spend serious money on, and it turns out that an outdoor loveseat cushion is not one of mine.
  • I have made a career change, and I am LOVING it. I feel like I should acknowledge it here, but I don’t want to go into detail right now. So. That’s all.
  • My niece’s first birthday is next month, and I have no idea what to get her. Her parents always get Carla fun educational toys, so I suspect they might enjoy getting one of those… but they also live in a tiny apartment and I don’t want to send them anything that requires too much space. Clothes are out: not only does my niece get ALL of Carla’s hand-me-downs, but she also has the same grandmother that Carla does, which means she gets her own beautiful collection of clothing.
  • I just finished the third (and so far final) Cormoran Strike book by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). I found all of them thoroughly enjoyable, but now I’m looking for the Next Great Mystery Series to start. I like Sue Grafton and Tana French and Kate Atkinson and Sophie Hannah. But I haven’t really found any other series that have the kind of writing and characters and types of crimes that I like.
  • So in the meantime, I have finally begun A Little Life, because I’ve heard it’s a life-changing work of fiction. But I’m very apprehensive about it, because I’ve heard that it’s devastating.
  • We have lived in this house for nearly five years, and we are FINALLY getting to finish the office. We’ve re-organized the furniture and gotten rid of a bunch of junk and now just need to clean out the closet (old computers and cellphones dating back to COLLEGE and assorted other tangentially-office-related detritus) and put up artwork. We’re keeping an eye out for coupons at Michael’s, so we can finally frame my husband’s degrees, and we’ll hang those as well (my mom framed my college degree; I don’t think I ever got a physical diploma from my grad school, seeing as I absconded to Europe instead of attending my graduation ceremony).
  • Speaking of junk: we had inherited three mattresses and two bedframes from my in-laws that we finally got rid of. Alongside a massive, defunct television set, a DVD player, and some other piece of stereo equipment that is no longer compatible with modern TVs. I felt TERRIBLE sending these things off to the junk guy, but our local Goodwill had no interest and I am not holding a garage sale.
  • Carla and I planted a bunch of seeds last week. We used one of those big seed starter kits and I let her pick out a bunch of vegetable seeds. We had fun poking holes in the seed starter stuff and dropping in a seed at a time. (I was stunned when I asked her what she wanted to plant next and she said “cilantro” because I don’t recall teaching her what cilantro is.) Most of the veggies are already sprouting (which seems a little creepy to me – it’s been A WEEK) and Carla is So Excited. The first sprouts that appeared were the green beans we planted, and so she is CONVINCED that we are growing a beanstalk to rival Jack’s. I keep trying to manage her expectations but…
  • This seems worth remarking on: I had been saving, on my DVR, the final episode of House since it aired in 2012. I never watched it, because I don’t like things ending. (We still have the Parks & Rec finale, unwatched, on the DVR as well.) But we were running out of space on the DVR (wonder why?) so I finally deleted it. If I haven’t watched it in four years, it is unlikely I ever will.

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