Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The great drop-nap experiment

Remember last week when I said we were trying to drop the nap? It was so glorious for the first few days. Olivia trudged through the last half of every day, sort of kind of somewhat compliant and mostly just too tired to fight me, and then she'd immediately drop off to sleep at an unheard-of 7:30 p.m. bedtime and sleep a solid twelve hours. Awesome, right?

Well, yes and no. On Sunday, she was so exhausted that she fell asleep on the way home from Church, and there was no waking the kid. She was OUT. So we let her nap for 90 minutes and woke her up. She was more mischievous toward the end of the day than she had been in her previous few nap-deprived days. And it took about 25 minutes for her to fall asleep that night. But she didn't fight bedtime as hard and she was asleep by 8:30 (as opposed to the more normal nap-day bedtime of 10:00). Then yesterday she melted down about a billion times and kept injuring herself, so she bought herself another nap. Yesterday afternoon was better, and bedtime was pretty much like Sunday.

Today we are back to no nap. The kids are all here, so that means no nap for the three older ones. It's been a long afternoon. A lot of defiance from Olivia. But manageable. So I don't know. All I know is I can count on an easy bedtime. And that's what gets me through, friends.

I'm thinking this is just another of those really awful transitions that you just have to live through with little kids. We haven't had one in so long that it seems more painful. I mean, the transition from two naps to one was hard. And that was more than half her life ago. So, we're a little out of practice with transitions here.

Next up...drop the pacifier. Yes. She still uses it for sleep. Get off my back. If YOU lived with this kid, you would be holding onto anything and everything that might possibly get her to calm down too. I decided a long time ago that surrendering the beloved paci would be darned near impossible until we dropped the nap and got her so exhausted that she'd fall asleep without the dang thing. So, yeah. It's on the agenda. I'm thinking after the Christmas craziness is over.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The home stretch

The kids are all napping today. ALL. The no-nap experiment has been going amazingly well, but it seems that Olivia does still occasionally need a nap. Today, she injured herself four times in an hour...running into a doorknob, sliding off of her chair, bumping her toe on a wall, and hitting her shoulder on a doorframe. All injuries led to tears and wailing. Such clumsiness and overreaction to mild injury can only mean exhaustion. So, she sleeps.

She needs to get her rest now, because this week is going to be brimming FULL of activity. I babysit today and tomorrow. Then Wednesday we are delivering cookies to Daddy's coworkers, and that evening she plays "sheep" in our parish's Christmas pageant. Thursday we go "to town" for a lovely lunch with friends and a few errands. And Friday starts the ten-days-of-holiday-fun-and-excitement. Family, food, gifts, a wedding, more food, more gifts, cousins, playing, eating...

It will be a nice, if exhausting, week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In which I establish my first resolution

Today is our second "snow" day of the week. I'm already sick of winter. No kids on Monday because of snow. Today it is ice. And my husband has been gone on business since Sunday. We are rattling around in this house, the kid and I. Thank God Joe finally gets home today.

We went out to "shovel" the ice off of the driveway, and both Olivia and I ended up on our backsides. Our driveway is not level...it is a gradual downward slope. The thin sheet of ice was just enough to require us to crawl back up the driveway on our knees. We could get no traction with our shoes.

So, we trekked out to the backyard (the grass was not slippery at all) with a bucket and chipped the ice off of the sandbox lid. We returned to the driveway with a full bucket of sand and two sand shovels. Olivia shoveled sand onto the driveway while I chipped away at the ice with an edging shovel (which worked infinitely better than the snow shovel). I think we may now have enough traction to make it out to go to the post office, but I haven't been back out to test it yet. We shall see...

Since last week, I have decided that the nap is, perhaps, to blame for many of our troubles. Too much energy = too much mischief. I have tested this theory only once, with today being the second try. On Tuesday, we went all day without a nap. By the end of the day, she was exhausted from her first day EVER without a nap. I was exhausted from entertaining the grumpy, whiny three-year-old all afternoon. But then came bedtime, which involved minimal fighting and a sleeping child in under ten minutes! Before 7:30 p.m.! And the angels did sing...

(Have I mentioned our recent sleep troubles? The fights at bedtime? The constant power struggle? Sitting with a not-so-tired child until she finally gives in to sleep at around 10:00 p.m.? No? Well, it has NOT been fun.)

Anyway, all this is to say that we've been avoiding nap today. And we are ice-bound. And alone. So we've been trying to find something crafty to do. We ended up with the scary angel,

and these wreaths. There was a lot of Mommy prep work to do on both, but Olivia enjoyed pressing bows and balls into the hot glue. And it killed an hour or so.
Oh, did I not mention the shiner? A product of Monday's snow day, I'm afraid. And it didn't even happen outside, on a slick surface. She was bouncing on her bed (a forbidden activity, as if it matters) and kneed herself in the eye. Yeah.

So, while I was searching my crafty boxes for something to do, I came across these almost-finished projects that have been collecting for years. YEARS. And I came up with a resolution. In 2011, I will finish or frame all of these. They include, in no particular order:

Irish blessing cross stitch. The pattern was a gift from my husband when he led a tour to Ireland a few weeks before we got married. We're not even Irish, so I'm not sure what to do with it. Frame it? Give it as a gift? Hang it somewhere?

I made this turtle cross stitch in high school. I am not even kidding. It has been languishing in my craft box for that long. Pillow? Frame?

Another gift from Joe, this time after a conference at this institution. I REALLY don't know what to do with this one. I'm not a fan. I love the campus, but kind of can't stand the school. And I'm not really a college sports fan. So...?

This is a sampler I did a couple of years back just because I was looking for something to do. It's too small to frame, really, except as a child's room accessory. It does have nice colors for a kid's room. Maybe I will frame it.

This one has been due for framing for about 13 years. I bought it while I was at Harlaxton College for a semester in college. It is in Lincolnshire county. So this is sort of a souvenir that I stitched myself. Never mind that I barely made it to any of these places outside of Grantham. We spent most of our weekends in London and points North. But still. The finished product is wrinkled and sized funny so will require professional framing, I'm afraid. But I spent so much time on it...I feel like it needs to hang somewhere in my house.

This is a pillow I made as a gift that I never ended up giving away because I didn't like the way the ruffle turned out. But Olivia and I stuffed it anyway (today) and I will stitch it together and let her throw it around in her room. At least it will get used.
I also have a box full of matching quilt blocks that do not amount to an actual quilt. Gotta do something about that this year too.

And I also resolve not to have any more snow days. Can I do that?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Seven winter shorts

1. The behavior...it's getting better. Or more manageable. The key is constant parental persistence in insisting on obedience, behavior, etc. And calm tones. It has been a challenge, friends. But then there are shining moments where Olivia voluntarily does (and explains that she has done) something she is supposed to do without being asked twice. Those are nice moments. Maybe she's just an overly active three-year-old. Maybe.

2. So, St. Nick brought us snow on Monday. A dusting, really, but it was enough to make Olivia want to go out and play. It lasted all of twenty minutes, until I was so cold I couldn't stand it anymore. But she did get to make this...
3. Olivia perfected her head stand in gymnastics this week, so she's been practicing it all week. This morning, she shouted from her room, "Come and see, Mommy." This is what I came and saw. Olivia and her barbies, all doing head stands. Silly girls.

4. Christmas shopping is 95% finished, and now I'm waiting on all of my deliveries. I have decided that I am in love with online shopping. So easy! Trying to shop with a three-year-old in tow is treacherous, at best, and trying to find time to shop FOR her, without her, is darn near impossible. This is a great alternative.

5. My husband has a job that requires a bit of travel at various times of the year. These two weeks of December are one of those times. Next week, he'll be gone for most of the week. This is hard. On the bright side, however...he just accepted a new job, starting in January. Same employer, different department, very little travel, working for a guy he really likes. And...AND he is asked to attend/facilitate an annual retreat which takes place on a cruise!! AND he gets to bring me along. FREE CRUISE. Salary-wise, it's a lateral move, but the fringe benefits are kind of awesome.

6. We've been sort of lax on the Advent crafts. I've been busy with a bunch of other things this week. I'm hoping to pick up some supplies, though, and ramp up the crafty activity next week. It will be our last full week with the babysitting kids, then two days the next week before Christmas break. Let's see what creative ideas we can find...

7. This is the time of year when soup sounds really, really good. Here's a recipe I came up with for Lentil soup that is pretty darn good.

Crockpot Lentil Soup

1 1/2 c lentils
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 c. onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb ground beef
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
4 c. beef broth

Boil 6 cups water, add lentils and simmer 1 hour. Drain. Add lentils to beef broth in crock pot.

In skillet, brown ground beef. Add to crock pot. Saute veggies and garlic in skillet. Add to crockpot. Add spices. Cook on high 5-6 hours.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I think we are the problem and the solution

I'm coming to terms with the fact that my child may suffer from ADHD. Yes, this is something I've diagnosed myself, and I could be totally wrong. Most doctors warn against trying to diagnose a child until age six or so because so many of the hallmark behaviors (restlessness, inattention, easily distracted, impulsive) apply to most preschoolers. But in a group, Olivia is always, without exception, the most active, least attentive, most distracting child. True, her groups have thus far been limited to Bible school, gymnastics and family gatherings. But still.

I don't know...maybe I'm jumping the gun on this. But recently? Life has just been hard. Part of it, I think, is the fact that it is winter and therefore too cold to work out those energies in some active sort of way. So it comes out in more destructive, aggressive ways. As a result, we are all yelling. A lot.

One place we don't yell is in Church, and that seems to be where Olivia's worst behavior manifests itself. I hate that we leave Mass every week frustrated and not at all spiritually nourished because we just spent the last 50 minutes wrestling with/negotiating with/ threatening our child who won't stop talking and using the back of the pew in front of us as a stand-in for the uneven bars. (She says she is practicing holding her arms stiff and pointing her toes, which she did learn to do in gymnastics, and nothing I say can convince her that this is not the right place or time to be practicing her gymnastic skills.) When she disobeys in Church, she KNOWS that we can't do anything about it right there, and she flashes that devious grin when she gets away with the misbehavior. She's impulsive and defiant, and some of her worst behavior shows up in Church.

At home, she bounces around. I don't know how else to describe it. She doesn't stay in one place much. She jumps on the couch and the bed even though she KNOWS that is not allowed. When I ask her to do something, she comes up with indecipherable excuses, and when I insist that she do it anyway, she wanders off and does everything she possibly can to avoid doing this one thing. If (when) things get so frustrating that the yelling begins, it just causes her misbehavior to escalate. IT. IS. MADDENING.

So. Most of what I've read recommends behavioral adjustments for small children and their parents. Rigid schedules. Constant parental attention. Positive reinforcement. Calm tones. I know this stuff works to an extent, because I've seen her behavior change when we are off schedule or when Olivia is fighting to get our attention or the difference in yelling versus calm and persistent requests. I get it. It's us. We need to step up and be the parents that Olivia needs us to be. And coming to that realization is hard because it means that we are going to have to change a lot of things around here and break a lot of bad parental habits. I'm sure it will be worth it. I just hope it will be enough to break the cycle of bad behavior.

But I still have my doubts about her ability to sit still in Church. Help!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent projects

The weather has finally decided to act it's season, which means we are cold and stuck inside. Time for activities! We've been doing a lot of coloring, cutting and pasting this week. You know, the standard preschool activities. But since we have a seasonal excuse, I've decided that we are going to start doing crafts. Our tree is going to be full of child creations by Christmas break. And aren't the parents of my babysitting charges going to LOVE me! (Or not. I've discovered that a house can fill up with child creations pretty fast.)

Today we made bead trees. It's pretty easy. You get some of those tiny fuzzy sticks (we used to call them pipe cleaners). You'll need three for each tree. And pony beads. That's all.

Fold one stick in half and twist a loop at the top. Twist the halves together the rest of the way down. This is the trunk. Then cut one stick in thirds and one in half. Wind the smaller ones at top of the trunk, near the loop, and then the larger ones at the bottom. Hand them over to the children with a cup of pony beads. The kids string the beads on in their own preferred order. Add a tree hook and hang. The end.

I'd say it turned out pretty well. It might look more "tree-like" if you use brown or green fuzzy sticks, but all I had was white. Fun, easy, cheap. Go forth and make your own bead trees.

New floor

So. We did manage to get the majority of the new floor laid over Thanksgiving. It took most of three days to do it, but it's in enough to have kids running around here again, and that's all I can ask from a volunteer (my Dad) in his spare time.
Above: Laminate, new vinyl (left), old vinyl (right)

A few transitions have been added since then. Some transitions are still simply a covering of painter's tape to keep the kids from tripping on the carpet (and to keep polly pocket accessories from ending up forever trapped in the gap). The trim is bought, but won't be added for awhile. Maybe at Christmas. Watch how I'm not stressing about it at all.
Olivia shows off the new laminate. And her new favorite toy..."I want the swiffer."

The new vinyl is that stick-together stuff from Home Depot called "Allure." It floats, like vinyl (doesn't stick to the floor) and has sticky strips to bind each piece to the next piece. It was incredibly easy to install and we put it right over our old, ugly vinyl. It has the illusion of tile with a fraction of the effort. I'm all about simplicity.

Look at me and my new floor!

And it looks so much nicer. The picture doesn't do it justice, especially with the funky, angled transition (necessary for the way the walls lined up). But trust me, it's better.

During the last few days, I've experienced the joy of seeing EVERYTHING that falls on the floor. It has been enlightening. All of that crap was previously ground into my carpet, because I promise that I didn't get the vacuum out every day. Now I can just sweep it up. I like that a lot.

It's a little echo-y in here, which is the one big downside...especially with loud kids chasing each other in my house five days a week. But we've added a few rugs and books...and it's getting better. I've also noticed that I can hear footsteps, which were silent with carpet-on-concrete. But that's something of a benefit...I can hear Olivia coming when she wakes up in the middle of the night instead of startling awake to find a little face right in front of me.

Overall assessment...New floors = YAY! Also, early Merry Christmas to us because our Christmas budget just took a swift kick to the gut.