Sunday, November 22, 2009

I <3 4-year-olds

For the first few months after we came home from China, I held my beautiful, healthy, and sweet nine-month-old and thought, "I can't wait until she's four." I felt terrible about having such a thought; I had asked for a baby "as young as possible," and not only was Sergeant young, she was gorgeous, healthy, good-natured, smart, and attaching beautifully. Even so, it was hard to go back to bottles and diapers and cooking with a baby on my hip. And it was really hard to go back to frequent night wakings. With time, I stopped wishing for time to pass and got used to my "new" life with a baby, and then a toddler. Time marched on, as it always does. The terrible two's kinda sucked, and the attachment difficulties this fall really sucked.

Sergeant will be four next month, the most magical age. We've (mostly) moved past the attachment issues of the past month and she is turning into the sweetest, funniest, smartest little creature. Every morning when she wakes up, she asks to "snuggle" in bed. She cracks nonsensical jokes and feels likes the world's funniest comedian because you can't help laughing at her. She knows all the lyrics to all the High School Musical songs and sings them - in tune. She makes a trip to the grocery store an adventure - insisting on pushing the cart, even though she's not tall enough to see where she's going. She's circled everything in the toy catalog and yells, "I want that" at most of the toy commercials. Unless, God forbid, it's a "boy toy." She thinks the Christmas lights I put up (I know, prematurely) are the most beautiful she's ever seen. While I tried hard to enjoy each of her ages and stages (and did), I was right to daydream wistfully about this time. Four-year-olds rock!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Schools are evil cesspools

My kids have been in school for six weeks...and we're on our second round of pukey flu (not to be confused with H1N1). I've bleached everything I can bleach, but I've reached the conclusion that the only solution is to quit my job, go on welfare, and home school. I'm only half-kidding. Anyone pregnant or with a weak stomach is warned that the following contains much TMI. Our timeline over the past few days looks like this (keep in mind, this is the second go-around in six weeks):

Thursday - Sergeant wakes me up at 12:30 because her tummy hurts and then vomits in the bed. I clean it up, go back to sleep, and it happens again at 3:30 - but this time, I'm prepared.
Friday - Sergeant runs a fever and has the most horrendous gas. Seriously, she stunk up the whole house - who knew such a small body was capable of producing such a stench.
Friday night - Sergeant wakes in the middle of the night to go "poopy." We go back to bed, and ten minutes later, she tells me she's peed in her pull-up. I rip it off her, toss it into the hall, stick another pull-up on her and go back to sleep.
Saturday morning - Sergeant tiptoes out of my bed (we co-sleep) to go watch TV, so I can sleep in. 10 seconds later she's back with poopy on her toe. Turns out she hadn't peed in her pull-up, she pooped in her pull-up and when I carelessly flung it into the hallway in the middle of the night, said poopy splattered throughout the hallway. Thank God for hardwood floors.
Saturday afternoon - Sergeant informs me that she's gone poopy in the toilet, but her poopy "melted." "Melted" poopy continues throughout the day.
Sunday - still some "melty" poopy, but almost back to normal.
Monday - a normal day, no foul excretions
Tuesday evening - Smartie starts vomiting at 7:00 PM and continues every 20 minutes until approximately 3:30 AM.

Poor sweeties. Sunny is almost certainly next....but I sure hope I get a night "off" tonight, cuz, dang, I'm tired.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I am clearly terrible at updating my blog, because my last post was about Sergeant's attachment therapist, and she's already graduated from said therapist! Once we identified what the issue was and had a plan to tackle it, things got better fast. There is still no doubt in my mind that insecure attachment was behind the issues. She is no longer having "fits," and has accepted that Mommy is in charge and therefore, she doesn't need to be. Her blog name, Sergeant, doesn't really even suit her anymore...maybe I'll have to come up with something else!

Aside from Sergeant's issues, the transition back-to-school has been pretty rocky. Over the summer, when I wasn't working and Sunny and Smartie were not in school, I thought the whole single mom thing was a cinch. Now that I'm working nearly full-time and we have homework and activities, it is brutal at times. At least a couple times a week, I feel like I'm just not meeting everyone's needs. Sunny is in fourth grade and has much, much, much more homework and studying than she's ever had before. And with her ADHD, she needs someone to sit with her and keep her on-task during homework. The other night, I decided to let her do her math on her own because I was busy with the other girls. She sat at a table in my bedroom where it was quiet and relatively free of distractions. Pretty soon I heard her singing loudly. I went in to check on her and she was sprawled on my bed with her homework. I thought, "Oh well," and let her be. She finally finished the assignment after 40 minutes or so. When she got the assignment back, she had nineteen wrong (out of maybe thirty problems). And she's and A/B math student. Luckily, her teacher made her correct it - in school, thank God.

Smartie doesn't have as much homework, but she has to read aloud to me nearly every night. She's required to read for ten minutes, but she prefers to read for much longer. We're reading a chapter book together and she loves the story and the quiet time with me. There just isn't enough time in the evening to fit it all in. The times that Sergeant has been a real stinker have been the nights that I've been busy helping with homework from after dinner until bedtime. She finds a way to get some negative attention when that happens!

Anyway, we're starting to get into the swing of things and figure it all out...but single parenthood is just as difficult as it's been made out to be.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Houston, we have an attachment therapist

Well, Sergeant officially has an attachment therapist. Happily, the therapist thinks things are going to improve rapidly. She showed me how to do "holding time" - in fact, we did it in her office. I still have a lot of questions, but luckily, we're going to visit on the phone on Wednesday. Sergeant's reaction during the holding time was sooooo much like her typical "tantrum" or, as she likes to call it, her "fits." While Sergeant was screaming and yelling her head off in the therapists office, Sunny and Smartie were mere feet away in the waiting room. I had warned them that Sergeant might get upset, but I was really worried that they were out there flippin' out - at one point, I think they were right outside the door. But, when we were finally finished, they were much more concerned with how bored they were in the waiting room and how we'd been there, like, five hours, and they were ready to go swimming. So, typical kids - torture my sister, if you must, but please do it quickly and don't let it interfere with my day. Then, in the van on the way across the city, they did ask exactly what I was doing to Sergeant in there. I told them I was just holding her. One of them said, "I hope you don't ever hold me like that! How were you holding her?" And Sergeant piped up, "Like a baby!" I told Sunny and Smartie that they would like it if I held them that way and offered to show them how I held Sergeant when we got to the hotel. As "big kids" who don't get much baby cuddling anymore, they did like it! Anyway, I tried holding time later yesterday evening when Sergeant tried to insist that I was sleeping on the side of the bed without the lamp and started melting down when I didn't comply with her instructions. It went okay, although I kept expecting a knock on the door from a social worker or the police, asking what I was doing to the poor child. She did eventually calm down and we snuggled and she slept on the right side of the bed. I slept great! This is completely off-topic, but I love the Hilton Garden Inn - the beds are so comfy and it's so blessedly quiet. But the holding time wasn't the most exciting part of our trip. This morning, I took the girls to swim in the hotel pool. I was dressed for the day, with hair and make-up done, so I put Sergeant life jacket on her and let her swim with the big girls. She's done this quite a bit and I'm always right there watching (you know where this is going, right?) After an hour or so, Sergeant decided she was done and took off her life jacket and was bopping around on the pool deck. I told Smartie and Sunny they could swim for 15 more minutes and we would leave. So, Sunny decided she would do an IM before we left (that's a race where you do each stroke, successively). So, I'm watching her and thinking how awesome her breast stroke is, when I realized that Smartie, who was also out of the pool, was yelling, "Sunny - get her! Sunny - get her!" And I realize that Sergeant is in the pool, head submerged, little hands flapping. I yelled, "Sunny, get her!" But she couldn't hear me. So, I jumped in the pool and scooped her up. She was fine - I don't think she was under the water for more than about 8 seconds, but it seemed like forever. I have to qualify that the hotel pool is tiny - it took Sunny on two butterfly strokes to make it across. And I was sitting right there and I didn't notice that she had jumped in. Smartie said she jumped in on purpose because she thought she still had her life jacket on. Thank God Smartie was watching her. I'm sure I eventually would have noticed, but Sergeant was so, so silent. Which is what I've always heard about drowning. Kids make very little noise. There was a guy sitting eight feet away in the hot tub and he didn't notice either, until Smartie started yelling. Anyway, Sergeant was fine and I tried to make light of it so she wouldn't be forever afraid of the water. I joked about how I'd jumped in the water with all my clothes on, but then emphasized several times how Mommy had saved her and how she needed Mommy to jump in and help her. She really was not upset about it - she just said she couldn't get to the ladder to get out. It happened so fast that I didn't have a chance to get scared. I saw her struggling in the water and then I was in the water and she was clearly fine. But, I had brought only one change of clothes and was wearing the only bra I had. So, I dried my undies with a blow-dryer, ironed my dirty dress from Friday, and went bra-less until I picked up another one at the mall. So, now we're home. The girls went to have dinner with their dad, and I'm having a dark beer. I'll go pick up Sergeant in a little while - we'll see how bedtime goes tonight.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two in a row...

We've had two tantrum-free days in a row! Woo Hoo! We came close to a tantrum last night. Sergeant hit her sister with a toy. I calmly took it from her, put it on top of the fridge, and told her she is not allowed to hurt people and she would have another chance to use the toy correctly tomorrow. (I have to say, it was really really hard for me to do that, because it was 8:30 PM and I didn't want to trigger a tantrum, but I did it anyway - yay me!) Anyway, she started to "wind up" and I said, "Sweetie, you have a choice. You can have a fit, or, we can go lie down on my bed and read some books and snuggle. It's up to you." She thought about having the fit, but chose to go read books instead. She did tell me tonight, via her stuffed dog, that I'm a "bad mommy." I played along, and told the dog that I'm a good mommy and listed some of the things I do as a good mommy. Then I asked the dog to tell Sergeant what a good mommy I am.

We have an appointment with an attachment therapist on Friday. The closest attachment therapist is a 4.5 hour drive away, but the girls and I are making it into a fun, overnight trip. When I told Sergeant about the upcoming trip and all the fun things we could do, the first thing she said was, "I won't have a fit." Interestingly, she's never had a fit in public (so far) and she's never had a fit with anyone but me. In the past, she's done great on overnight trips, so hopefully that will be the case this time. I'm so looking forward to getting some professional input.

Monday, August 31, 2009

And not enough beer in the world, either...

Just kidding - I've never been one to use alcohol to cope with stress. Although the ice-cold dark beer I had about 6:00 this evening following Sergeant's 50-minute meltdown sure did hit the spot. She is continuing to have one huge, drag-out, knock-down fit each day. But she hasn't had one at night since Saturday. I decided she needed to sleep in my bed until we get back on track and it seems to be making a difference with the nighttime tantrums. Our older daughters co-slept until they were four-ish, so this is not a new thing for us. I'm perfectly happy to have her sleep with me for the next year, if that's what she needs to do. It is just so, so much easier to cope with the meltdowns when they happen during the day. Unfortunately, she seems to try harder to hurt me when she tantrums during the day - more energy, I guess! But, we've been working through the tantrums and when she's not having one, she's been pretty awesome. She's getting cuddlier by the day. We are working on compliance and on her understanding that she's not the boss, I am. And that I am a good mommy who takes good care of her. She doesn't get to order me around and tell me what to do. I find it incredibly ironic that her blog name is Sergeant and her Sergeant-like tendencies are actually a sign of attachment issues. Even with all the preparation I did and the reading I've continued to do since we arrived home, this kind of blind-sided me. She did so well for the first 2.5 years, that I never expected attachment issues to crop up now. I'm so glad I recognized them before they got any worse. I've seen improvements already in just a few days, so I think we're on the right track. I'm doing a lot of little things to promote a feeling of security. She has a little book she takes to daycare that has a picture of me at work, so she can look and see where I am. There is also a spot to put a picture of whomever will pick her up and a picture of her back at home. The last picture is she and I together and the caption is "Mommy always comes back." She seems to enjoy the book. For the past several days, I've also put the same yummy-smelling lotion on the two of us and told her she can smell her arm at daycare if she misses me. I've been talking a lot, in an off-hand way, about what a good mommy I am and how I'll always take care of her. When she tries to boss me around, I reiterate that I'm a good mommy and that little kids don't have to be in charge. I've also been making more time to snuggle with her and have tried to change my attitude to be more upbeat and playful. When she has a meltdown, I tell myself that it will only last 30-45 minutes and then we'll get on with our day. I know we're just starting this journey, but I believe we are on the right path.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Not enough caffeine in the world

So, basically, my first week back at work SUCKED. Work stuff was fine, but Sergeant is not doing well with it. She will have been home for three years in October, and I really thought we were past the point where any significant attachment issues would appear, but clearly, I was wrong. She had another "fit" last night at 3:00 AM, and another one mid-morning. These tantrums are pretty obviously attachment-related, from the reading I've been doing. She's angry with me, but she wants me. She tries to hurt me and then she cries for me to pick her up. But when I do pick her up, she tries to hurt me again. She often complains that I've hurt her when I try to comfort her during these episodes. She has a comfort blanket that has never failed to bring her comfort, but during these episodes, not even the blanket helps. In fact, sometimes when I hand it to her, she won't even take it. That. has. never. happened. before. She's a thumb sucker and she doesn't suck her thumb during these episodes, either. I've decided I need to let everything go but work and kids until things get better. Cutting back my hours is not an option, but I am going to cut out my twice a week workouts and come straight home after work every day. Luckily I'm done at 4:00, so that gives me a pretty big chunk of time with the girls in the evenings. I'm also considering hiring someone to do some cleaning a couple times a month, at least until things calm down. And I've decided not to start Sergeant in preschool next week as I had planned. I think adding another transition/change to her life at this point would be very ill-advised. I'm hoping to find an attachment therapist who is willing to do some phone consultation. We live in a very rural area, so there is no one locally. Trying to do this alone sucks and I would like to know if I'm on the right track.