Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Promising news

I know I haven't finished my Regnum Christi story yet, but there are updates.  About a month ago, I got added to a Facebook group that was planning a reunion at my old school.  My main thought was "Go back there?  They'd have to drag me back dead!"  But I read on and found out that the school itself is closing.  Enrollment is way down.  The remaining girls are being sent elsewhere, to board at a "normal" school.

The upshot is that a lot of the girls finally got in touch with each other and we have a group to talk about our experiences.  Mine are by no means the worst I've seen.  They've started a blog to talk about them.  My own story got picked up by Life After RC, which is really exciting to me because it's a "big" blog compared to mine.  (If you've come over from there, click the "Regnum Christi" tag on the sidebar to get the whole story -- it starts at the bottom with part 1.)

Anyway, if you'd like to hear more stories like mine, you can go to the blog and read up.  I'm afraid it will make you want to go down and DO something about it -- but that seems to be done for us.  The school is closing and hopefully no one will ever have to suffer like we did again.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My past, part VIII

Previous post here.

I woke up the next morning a different person.  I had left home as bubbly, happy, irrepressible, irresponsible 14-year-old.  I came back a much older, sadder, more serious, and shyer 16-year-old.  I was coming back to a different family, too -- I now had a younger brother.  Everything seemed weird and different -- like it wasn't at all the family I had left, but a new family I was going to have to adjust to.

I kept up all my prayer commitments and did more than required.  I also continued wearing only skirts and never pants.  I didn't even realize how weird other people must have thought I looked.  But the only goal in my mind was to change whatever about me had been lacking so I could go back to the precandidacy next year.

Step one was to face the "rough edges" of the people in my family.  I had always been intimidated by the way my parents would sometimes yell at me, so I was waiting for an explosion so that I could try, like I had tried at the precandidacy, to face up to criticism without crying or arguing.  I was going to be saintly about criticism.  I was going to be like Christ before Pilate.

But that never happened.  Sure, my parents occasionally -- very occasionally, because I gave little cause for complaint -- criticized me or lost their temper with me.  But it was no big deal at all.  I could clearly see that their anger was more about what was going on in their own lives than it was about  me.  They weren't saying calculated things to "test" me.  They were just doing their thing, and sometimes they weren't as gentle as they could have been.  It no longer bothered me.  I realized that I had had a lot more "harshness" from my formators than I had ever had from my family.  Besides, I had changed overnight from the girl who dissolved into tears over everything.  I felt like I had no feelings at all.  I felt annoyed when people looked for an emotional connection with me, trying to share feelings or hug me.  I didn't want to be touched anymore.  And my feelings were a shameful thing I didn't want to share.

I had been pretty outgoing, if kind of clueless in social situations.  Now I was painfully shy.  I couldn't bear to talk to strangers.  I developed a severe stutter when talking to anyone but my mom or my little brother.  Even with my dad or my older brother, I found my tongue hesitating when I tried to say anything.  It wasn't physical -- I just found myself so unsure of what to say, afraid to speak.  I was homeschooled that year, so I didn't have to deal with many other people, but I took voice lessons.  It amused me to be seen as "the shy one."  I didn't think of myself as shy.  I just didn't want to talk.

Pretty soon even I was able to recognize that I was deeply depressed.  The only emotion I felt was a deep misery and loneliness.  I called up the one former classmate whose number I had.  She was very understanding.  "When does it get better?" I asked.  "I'll let you know," she said.  She told me of others who had turned to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain after going home.  I was shocked.  None of us would do that!

I called my old friend from junior high.  When I told her what had happened, she said, "Uh-huh.  I'm really busy.  I gotta go."  I was very hurt, but in retrospect, I hadn't written her in two years.  I'm sure it seemed to her that I had ditched her, and then was calling her back because I'd decided I needed her after all.  It's just that I hadn't been allowed to write except for recruitment purposes, and she hadn't seemed like she'd be interested in being recruited.

I threw myself into the local Regnum Christi group.  At least, I tried to.  It took me months to even get in contact with anyone.  At the retreats, everyone else was an adult.  They heard my little pitch about having just come home from boarding school, nodded, and walked away.  No one was "looking up to me" like I'd been told I would.  I had been told I would have spiritual direction when the traveling consecrated came through, but that took months as well.  When I finally did meet with my new spiritual director, she just told me to get involved in apostolate.  She assigned me to run a girls' club, which I happily did along with the ONE another girl my age in RC in the area.  This was a blessing in so many ways.  I was able to interact with people in a framework I was accustomed to, and so there wasn't so much shyness here.  And in time, I became very close friends with my co-leader.  She was very introverted, and I was deep in a shell, so we mostly talked by email, but it was the beginning of a great friendship that continues to this day.  I credit her as one of the people who saved me from the despair I was in.

The other person was my little brother.  It was so different to have someone who needed me.  No longer was I "forming myself" just for the sake of forming myself.  I had to smile even if I felt sad, not because it was the right thing to do, but because Joseph needed a smile from me.  I had to leap up and help, not because I had been assigned to help, but because he needed help right then and couldn't wait.  He was generous with smiles, appreciation, and hugs.  I didn't feel comfortable hugging anyone but him, but he reintroduced me to the world of touch and it was so comforting.  I used to hold him, at about a year old, and tell him all my problems.  He would nod wisely and ask for more cheerios.  It was a good relationship.

I spent my free time writing the world's worst novel.  I wanted to find some way to talk about the precandidacy without having to explain something that "no one would understand," so I came up with this fantasy idea of a swordfighting academy.  It was pretty horrible.  I believe I've rewritten it twice, but maybe it's time to accept that it really isn't salvageable.

In May, at the end of that school year, the depression finally began to lift.  I looked around me and finally began to see the things that I had used to love -- sunshine, blue skies, flowers all seemed to appear out of nowhere now that I was looking.  I had a plan for my life, so it didn't matter that I'd had this brief setback.

In the summer I went to an RC convention in Chicago.  I'd raised all the money myself by babysitting and selling baked goods door-to-door.  (Oh, that was SO awful.  I am a decent salesman, but I hate it.)  I had a great time.  The other girls both had that "RC vibe" that was so familiar to me, and were a lot more worldly than I was, so they helped me to adjust to the "real world."  Even the consecrated helped me to fit in better.  They encouraged me to borrow a pair of jeans and admired the way I looked in them.  Basically, they were trying to tell me, "You're in the world now.  You don't have to keep trying to be a precandidate."

At this convention, I was able to speak for a few minutes with my old director, Caroline.  I was sure I would be able to convince her I was ready to come back.  I really had solved all the problems she'd spoken of.  But she shut me down instantly.  "Not this year.  Maybe come back for the candidacy when you're done with high school."  I was flabbergasted, and also rather angry.  How could she tell in ten minutes that I wasn't good enough?  What was she looking for?  Or had she lied to me that coming back was even an option?

I went to community college my senior year of high school, by my dad's insistence.  I hadn't wanted to go, but it was actually pretty fun.  I didn't fit in at ALL, but I made one friend, and I joined the Christian club on campus.  We'd get together over lunch once a week and sing praise and worship songs.  I even volunteered to speak to the group, and spoke on faith and works.  They didn't know at the time that I was Catholic!  I felt like a stealth missionary.

I brought up to my spiritual director the idea of going to the candidacy.  She immediately squashed it.  "Go to college, meet a nice boy," she told me.  I was sad, but I decided that if my vocation was marriage, by golly, I'd get on that.  I didn't know what to do to prepare, so I started embroidering pillow cases for a hope chest and applied to the most Catholic college I'd heard of.

To be continued ...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How I weaned Marko with no tears

I was so excited to hear about the upcoming Carnival of Weaning, where I would be able to write a post about our weaning experience.  Only the deadline was in May, which made me worry I wouldn't have time to write a post with all this baby stuff.  Definitely should have written it in April!  By the time I had my head up and began to look around me, the deadline had passed.  But I decided to write my post anyway.  You can find the other posts linked here.

A lot of natural mamas let their children self-wean at their own pace.  Some even try to encourage a longer span of nursing.  But that doesn't mean there is no gentle way to wean, or that there is anything wrong with recognizing that we've had enough.  The goal is to respect everyone's needs -- our own included.

It is true that the "natural age of weaning," if we draw a parallel between ourselves and other animals, is between two and seven.  But it's also true that not all animals allow their young to self-wean.  Some will start kicking their young away when they attempt to nurse, either at a certain age or when they become pregnant again.  It seems to me that when mothers feel pain or extreme aversions when nursing, that might be nature's way of saying, "You've nursed long enough.  Your body is ready to be done."  You don't have to quit when you feel these feelings -- but you can.

At the same time, you have to respect your nursling's needs.  If he's relied on nursing from birth both for nutrition and comfort, it would be very hard for him to give it up all at once.  He needs to be taught new ways to meet his needs.  And depending on his age and readiness, he may need a gentle nudge away from nursing or a long, difficult scaling-back.

Marko was pretty much ready.  He was never that into nursing for comfort, and ate lots of solid food.  When I got pregnant, he was 16 months old and nursing several times a day.  He nursed before nap and a few other fairly predictable times during the day, as well as whenever he got hurt.  He didn't nurse before bed -- we would take a stroller walk and he'd fall asleep that way.

As soon as I got pregnant, nursing started to hurt A LOT.  Marko never had a great latch, but it didn't usually hurt.  But the hormones of pregnancy made nursing extremely painful.  I would grit my teeth through the whole thing.  And it got worse week by week.  At the same time, I wasn't gaining any weight, which might or might not have been due to nursing.  My general feeling is that the pain was my body's way of telling me I couldn't handle nursing while pregnant.

I had several different tactics to distract him from nursing.  Nursing fulfills many needs, so I tried to guess what he might need, and fill that need with an alternative.  His main needs he was using nursing to cure were nutrition, comfort, attention, and sleep.  So for each of these, I had a different alternative.

If he seemed to be hungry or thirsty, I would give a snack or a sippy cup of milk.  Usually I tried this option first if I wasn't sure.

If he seemed upset or if he'd gotten hurt, I picked him up with his head on my shoulder and rocked him while he played with my hair.  Most babies have some kind of fidget that goes along with nursing, and that was ours.  Even now, he seems to associate my hair with the same sort of comfort and closeness he got from nursing.  I find it kind of annoying when he messes with it, but I decided that it was an alternative that I could live with.  Now, at two, he only does it when he's upset or tired, and he knows not to pull.

If he seemed bored and craving attention, I would suggest a book or going outside.  Marko LOVES both of these, so he often would give up the idea of nursing and rush to the couch or the front door.  A few really busy days in a row did a lot to break the routine of asking to nurse when he was bored.

For sleep, we had to construct a whole new routine.  We already put him to bed with a stroller walk much of the time, but the trouble with that is that it's dependent on the weather.  Our backup, which was John pacing the floor with him and singing, was exhausting for John and impossible for me when John was out (because of my back problems).  I needed something new.  I decided on rocking and singing in the rocking chair.  So every night, I would rock and sing for awhile, and when he inevitably asked to nurse, I would.  I rocked first and then nursed in the rocking chair for maybe five minutes.  If he wasn't asleep after that, I went back to rocking and then another nursing session at the end.  It helped to keep a very careful eye on the clock so I didn't take him into the bedroom before he was really tired.  Later on I added a bedtime story to the mix, which we read on the couch before going into the bedroom.  That helped get him very close to sleep before we went into the bedroom.

This was the longest stage of weaning.  I would put him off nursing at any other time -- first offering distractions, then only nursing in the rocking chair, and eventually telling him, "We only nurse at naptime and bedtime."  I never said no outright.  If he was insistent on nursing, I would take him into the bedroom and begin our nap routine.  If he wasn't really tired, he usually got antsy by the time I'd finished his diaper change, and would get up and run back out of the bedroom.  Occasionally he'd stick around just to get his nursing.  And sometimes we just had a really early nap or bedtime!

For awhile there I thought he'd never figure out how to go to sleep without nursing.  He'd stay awake through the song every time.  I weaned him off the left breast almost as soon as I got pregnant, because it was the more painful side, so I would hold him in a nursing position on the left while he fidgeted with my hair.  It was almost like nursing.  But eventually he would wriggle around to get on the right and nurse to sleep -- sometimes for only two minutes.  I've always unlatched him as soon as he began to drift off, so it seemed to me it should be easy to skip those two minutes, but it wasn't.  In the middle of the night, somehow, I found it easier.  I phased out night nursing probably a month before daytime nursing.

Many nights John did the bedtime routine, and he would do exactly what I did, but without the nursing.  Usually, however, he had to get up and walk around to "seal the deal."  He just wouldn't nod off without vigorous movement or nursing.  Then one day, when John was gone, he fell asleep with no nursing at naptime.  The next day he nursed at naptime, but not at bedtime.  And the day after that, he didn't nurse at either one.  We nursed one more time a week later, when I was desperate to get him to nap, and not again.  He was weaned!

Sadly, I couldn't consistently get him to nap after that, though.  He would hold out for another few hours, by which point it was too close to bedtime.  But he added that sleep into his nighttime sleep, and it ended up being for the best -- he'd been staying up till 10 pm before that.

Now, about nine months later, I have no regrets about how it went.  Marko adjusted very well, and didn't have any major crisis about being weaned.  I'm not sure he noticed!  I think one time he asked for "neenee" out of the blue after that last time, and I just laughed and said, "Oh, you don't neenee anymore!" and suggested some other activity.  He didn't bat an eye, and he didn't ask again afterward.  I do have to say that there were times, especially during that scary 18-24 month stage which was so full of tantrums, that I thought, "This would sure be easier to deal with if I could just nurse him!"  But we were able to find other ways to calm him down, meet his needs, and keep him close.  Weaning did not remove any needs: he still wakes at night, for instance.  (Some people nightwean in the hopes of getting a full night's sleep, and I always warn them that it may just take away the easy way of getting the child back to sleep!)  So it's been more difficult for me in many ways, finding new ways to meet his needs -- ways which generally involve getting off my butt and off the computer, sigh.  But because I was so desperate to be done, I didn't mind the extra work.  I'd been feeling very frustrated and resentful every time we nursed because of the pain, and also afraid of nursing two, which I wasn't at all eager to do.  So it was a pretty much unmitigated relief when he stopped nursing for good.  An added bonus was that he started snuggling with me, just for the snuggling, which meant a lot to me.

If you're interested in reading more about weaning -- how others have done it, how some decided to do it, and why others decided not to do it yet -- check out the carnival links at the bottom of this post.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Solo parenting

We got a nice new-baby break from John's trips, but inevitably he was going to have to travel again eventually.  My first 24 hours without him were an adventure, to put it optimistically.

It started with driving him to the airport.  That added an extra layer of difficulty onto the whole thing, because we live just over an hour from the airport.  Marko had slept on the way to church, but did that stop him from sleeping on the way to the airport?  Not a bit of it.  That kid will sleep in the car given the slightest opportunity.  Michael slept too.  So it was a nice, peaceful drive to the airport.  When we got there, Marko was a little bit awake, so John said goodbye to him, so that it wouldn't be a shock for him to wake up and find no Daddy around.  That, however, started the screaming.

My plan had been to go by the park near the airport on the way home to nurse Michael and let Marko run around, but since Michael was asleep and it seemed that Marko was going to go back to sleep, I just kept driving.  They both slept the whole way home.  I was shaking myself and sipping cold water the whole time just to stay awake.  Something about sleeping babies just makes you want to join them.

But since I had promised we'd go to the park, I stopped at a park near our house, one we'd never gone to before.  It was really nice, tons of play equipment, and I imagined peacefully nursing Michael in the shade while Marko played on the jungle gym.  However, it was also crowded, so Marko hung back near me at first, while I sat on a bench in the hot sun, trying to change a very messy diaper with what seemed like too few hands, and not enough wipes.  Once I started nursing Michael, Marko did get into playing -- which meant I had to trail behind him with a baby latched on and my whole flabby belly showing ... because of course I had forgotten my nice receiving blanket.  I'm not terribly picky about covering up, but I don't like leaving my whole belly hanging out.  I had a baby four weeks ago -- I do not exactly have washboard abs.

After awhile, though, things looked up.  I caught sight of a group of girls, my age or a bit younger, wearing long skirts and carrying babies.  My guess was "church group," and I was right.  They sat down with some older women, some kids of various ages, and a guy with a guitar, and began singing praise and worship songs.  Have I mentioned Marko's guitar obsession?  Well, he immediately picked up a stick and started strumming it, while drifting closer and closer to the guy with the guitar.  I kind of meandered in that direction myself, because they looked like such nice people.  Eventually Marko butted right on in, and they introduced themselves and invited me to join them.  Probably they wanted me to join their church.  But in any event they were super nice.  One of the girls, who looked younger than me and had three kids already (!) ended up talking about cloth diapers with me.  One of the older women, on hearing Michael doesn't like to be put down, suggested a sling.  I definitely fit right in as I sat down and nursed my baby yet again.  When I left, one of the women helped me to the car ... which I definitely needed, because Marko didn't want to leave and I was already carrying Michael and the diaper bag.

The real disaster appeared when we got home.  Marko hadn't eaten the snack I'd packed for him, and so was starving.  (It was six p.m.)  I was starving and also thirsty and developing a migraine because I hadn't drunk enough water.  (I bring water whenever I go out, and either it isn't enough or I forget to drink it.)  But Michael was the hungriest of us all, despite having nursed about eight minutes before.  (But only on one side, when usually he likes to nurse on both sides, often twice on each side with burps in between.  It can be kind of a marathon.)  Also, both boys needed fresh diapers AND I had to go to the bathroom.  How to triage all those needs?!

An hour and much screaming (out of all three of us) later, I had managed to feed us some leftover soup and everyone was in dry pants.  I'd nursed Michael for pretty much the whole hour, but every time I tried to set him down even for a second, he started shrieking again.  The number one thing that kills my patience is this setup: I can't change Marko's diaper with one hand, so I set the baby down "just for a second."  Shrieking ensues, that terrible desperate newborn cry that says "I have no conception of any time outside of this moment, so I believe I will be abandoned and starving forever," and which no one with any soul can endure for more than a few minutes.  So I try to race through the diaper change, whereupon Marko decides to make the whole thing into a game, rolling off the couch, kicking his legs, opening the velcro while I struggle with his pants.  Or sometimes, after he's begged me to take his diaper off, I find it's dry.  So I know it means he needs to go potty ... only he refuses to sit on it.  So the entire diaper change is just me taking off a dry diaper and putting it back on.  While Marko wrestles with me.  I have some techniques that distract Marko from doing this, but when the shrieking is going on I regress into a brainless mother bear that only wants to GET BACK TO THAT BABY and PICK HIM UP NOW!  And then FEED HIM!

Then when I was feeding him, Marko wanted to "take care of Michael," by which he seemed to mean "squeeze his head and try to make it turn."  I was already having trouble getting the baby to settle down and eat, so I was very annoyed.  When I stopped him from doing that, Marko leaned over and play-bit me.  It didn't even hurt, but I snapped and sent myself to my room.  That is to say, I got up, baby in arm, and yelled, "I can't take you biting me!  Goodbye!" and walked away, shutting the door behind me.  This is the worst possible punishment for Marko -- I am quite sure he'd much rather be slapped.  But it wasn't for him, it was for me.  I needed a moment to get the baby eating and get myself calmed down.  When I opened the door again, Marko flung himself at me crying, and I told him, "I'm not mad, I just need to feed the baby," and he cheered up pretty quickly.  It's so hard to deal with those "Mama's losing it" moments, and I feel that running away isn't the best solution, but whatever the best solution is, I can't come up with it while I feel like my head's about to explode.  Anyway, I figure Marko will at least learn one lesson from this -- that I respect myself enough to take what I need to keep from going crazy, and not to let him ride roughshod over me with no limits.  If the worst he grows up to do when he's angry is leave the room for five minutes, I think that's pretty good.

Anyway, around seven -- Marko's usual bedtime -- we all went outside.  Marko wasn't in the least tired, and no wonder -- he'd gotten almost two hours of total naptime, maybe even more because he slept on the way to church, too.  He has this new lawnmower he wanted to play with, and I figured I could finish the front yard with the real mower.  (It's unpowered and quite safe around kids, don't worry.  I knew if I had a power mower that was dangerous, I'd never have a chance to mow.)  And it would be perfect, because Michael could have some time in the Moby wrap, which I was sure was what he needed.

Only it wasn't.  He screamed at the very idea and kept trying to struggle out of it.  I have a memory of standing in the middle of the front yard, yelling "I need a new baby, this one's defective!"  Not exactly a proud moment.  Turned out that what he needed was one more nursing.  Then I put him in the wrap and he fell asleep in two minutes.  We finished the mowing, and I also did the dishes.  My migraine got serious.  Around eight-thirty it started to get dark and I decided to get on with bedtime.

Marko has a new bedtime routine which he does with Daddy, which involves sitting on his lap while they watch videos on YouTube of barbershop quartets.  (At least that's the current fad.  This guy is really good.)  Then when he starts to get sleepy and snuggly, he carries him into the bedroom and rocks him to sleep.  Sadly, this routine is very arms-intensive.  I've tried to get him back onto falling asleep in his bed, but without much success.  So I just had to stick to it the best I could with my clingy, clingy newborn in tow -- who, by now, was awake and STARVING again.  I brought my laptop over in front of the couch (which required hooking it up to the extension cord) and put the bouncy chair next to it.  I nursed Michael while Marko watched some Roadrunner.  (Yes, he has been watching a lot of TV lately.  I don't like it, but whatcha gonna do?)  Then I set down Michael (who screamed like a banshee) while I got Marko into his pj's.  Then I nursed Michael with my arm around Marko while we watched barbershop quartets.  He still wasn't too sleepy, and often got up from the couch to mess around until I coaxed him back.

Once he started to get a tiny bit sleepy, I could see I was waking him -- and often Michael too, who was dozing off -- whenever I reached around him to click on a new video, so I set it to a looooong playlist and sat back.  Eventually he got kind of yawny.  A little after that, I FINALLY was able to set Michael down and have him stay asleep.  So I took Marko into the bedroom and rocked him to sleep.  It was 10:10 when I left the bedroom.  We'd been "doing bedtime" for an hour and forty minutes.  A personal record, I think.

Amazingly Michael stayed asleep through my whole bedtime routine -- even including feeding the dog and cat, which I think I'm going to start doing before Marko's bedtime because they're kind of noisy.  I laid down in bed with the baby and we both passed out.  I know he nursed a few times at night, but that was no biggie ... I never even note the time anymore, and I know for sure I've nursed him without remembering it sometimes.

And then, at 5:45 a.m., there was Marko again.  Screaming.  Tired.  Desperately needing more sleep.  I brought him into bed with Michael and me in the hopes that he might drift back off, but he didn't.  With a great deal of struggle, I eventually got him to take an early nap and let him sleep himself out.  I had some quality time with Michael and called my mom.  Later in the day, Michael actually let me put him down for a few hours, so I got some quality time with Marko and cleaned the house.  (Time with Michael means physical care for him, and intellectual activities for me.  Time with Marko means intellectual attention for him, and physical activities for me.  Either one feels like such a vacation because there's something for me included in there!  And I feel like a good mother because I can fulfill all their needs without making them wait.)  So it wasn't all bad, despite the rough start.

Where am I going with this?  I guess I'm just trying to keep it real.  Having two kids DOES mean that I have less for each of them sometimes.  It DOES mean sometimes that they both scream in chorus while I yell ridiculous things like "I wish I was dead because at least there would be nobody TOUCHING me!"  But it isn't, thank goodness, usually like that.

Also, can I just say I love my husband?  He's handled bedtime for Marko most nights, and on the other nights he's held Michael so I can put Marko to bed.  I can see now that this has made all the difference in my sanity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Marko, the big brother

People keep asking me how Marko is adjusting to being a big brother.  And I am terrified of jinxing myself by saying anything.  But I have to admit -- he's actually doing great.  As in, better than before.

Don't get me wrong, there was a bit of adjustment.  He shrieked a lot the first week I was on my own with both of them, when I wouldn't leap up and get what he wanted right away.  But then, I wasn't on my feet yet, so there were a couple different things he was dealing with.  He didn't seem to take it personally as being about the baby; he was just mad he wasn't getting what he wanted right away.

But by the next week, he had adjusted to that, and has been pretty good about waiting.  And I think it's done him good not to be the center of attention.  He's entertaining himself better, and he likes having the "Michael diaper change show" to watch many (MANY) times a day.  He sometimes walks over and talks about the baby: "He's having a little nurse.  He wants some mama milk" or "You're holding Michael.  You're holding Mickey.  You're holding Michaleen.  You're holding the baby."  We point at all Michael's different body parts and notice that Marko has the same ones.

I guess I've been playing with him less, but maybe talking to him more, because I'm so often stuck on the couch nursing.  And he seems to be adjusting very well to that.

Sometimes he throws mega fits, and I'm not always able to do much about them.  But I seem to have stumbled accidentally on the perfect approach.  If I just stand there and say, "Gee, I'm sorry you feel that way" and then go on with what I was doing before ... he almost always quickly recovers.  I have had to start isolating him sometimes for misbehavior, which I don't like on principle.  I don't do it as punishment per se.  I just say, "We don't want to deal with that, so you may do it in your room or not at all."  So if he doesn't stop (particularly, screeching or spitting, his two favorite annoying behaviors) I say, "Time to go screech in your room!"  And I encourage him to screech as much as he wants in there, while I leave and shut the door.  He sometimes gets upset about this, but not always.  Sometimes he just stands in there screeching.  When I don't hear any screeching, I let him out.  It's not a huge deal, but it does deter him from being gratuitously annoying.  [Edited to add: this backfired in a big way with the spitting.  He loved the game of being taken back to his room a million times.  The more I lost my temper, the more he laughed.  So I am back to trying, unsuccessfully, to ignore it.]

One major advantage of having two kids, though, is in me rather than him.  I take his meltdowns so much less personally.  I noticed this the other day, when he'd had a cranky day.  Instead of telling John, "I had a horrible day," I said, "Marko had a horrible day."  I realized that I hadn't.  I'd gotten stuff done as usual ... Marko just spent a lot of the day crying.  He hadn't wanted much comfort from me, so I didn't waste my time, as I usually do, trying to argue him out of his bad mood or offer him a million distractions.  He certainly wasn't any grouchier than he is when I do all those things.  He may have been less grouchy for being left to his own devices a bit more.  And I didn't feel like a failure as a mother, because after all, I kept one kid happy!

For the present, I've given up on potty-training.  Yes, after a full year of being out of diapers at least part-time.  I was willing to keep at it as long as I had patience for it -- and guess what, I no longer do.  He was peeing on everything, just for kicks or attention or something.  So I put him back in diapers.  That's its own nuisance, because I don't always have a free hand to change him, and changing someone with one hand who doesn't want to be changed is not exactly easy.  But there have been surprising benefits.  One, I don't have to hover over him worrying what he might pee on.  And two, he doesn't like going in a diaper.  Sometimes -- perhaps most of the time -- he does anyway.  But sometimes he asks for a change before going, and then will sit on the potty for a bit.  One day, he had only one wet diaper all day!  Another day he came up to me and said urgently, "Take off your [my] diaper, Mama!  You don't want to poop in your pants!"  And he went in the potty -- where we had had great trouble getting him to poop before.

Other days, like today, haven't been so smooth.  He will demand a diaper change when the diaper is dry, then refuse to sit on the potty OR hold still to get a new diaper on.  He's hoping he can run around naked and pee on the floor.  So it requires some creative distracting and restraining to get that new diaper on.  Need it be said pull-ups are not an option here?  Anything he can get on and off by himself, he will take off.  He's mainly been living in a pair of overalls that snaps at the bottom so I can unsnap, change, and resnap without taking his pants all the way off.

Ironically, Marko is wearing a diaper right now, and Michael is not.  I've started some efforts toward elimination communication and finding it WAY easier than potty training a toddler.  WAY.  Of course, I have gotten peed on some in this approach as well.  But I hardly even care these days.

At the moment, Marko is napping, which I hope doesn't ruin bedtime completely (though it probably will).  He's been doing it more lately, for some reason.  And he's waking at night every night.  I could do without that.  But otherwise, I am actually finding having two kids might possibly be easier than having one.

I only hope it stays that way.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thanks for nothing, TIME magazine

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of TIME magazine's controversial cover and issue on attachment parenting.  As far as I can see, as a Mother's Day gift to all moms everywhere, they decided to try to start a mommy war.  Since mothers were respecting each others' different beliefs and parenting styles, the only way they could do this was by misrepresenting everyone.  The only real moms I could find in there were in the pictures -- and they don't get to speak for themselves.

TIME's attachment parents: Are you mom enough to be as good as me?  I am the absolute perfect parent, and you are ruining your kids because you don't do everything just like me.  If you didn't want to make a martyr out of yourself, you should have just gotten a puppy,  you selfish mom you.

TIME's mainstream parents: Attachment parenting isn't scientific and it was just made up to keep women down / to make parents feel better about their own messed-up childhoods / to raise kids "like blue-chip stocks" just to give educated mothers something to do.

Real parents on both "sides" feel judged and (TIME hopes) lash out defensively against the other "side."  Magazines fly off the rack as everyone wants to hear what's being said about them.

Let's not give them the satisfaction.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Back on my feet

I hereby declare myself officially completely recovered from pushing a 7-lb. human out of my body!

Ha, ha, ha.

I know I won't be completely "bounced back" for awhile.  But now, at just over two weeks postpartum, I'm feeling myself again.  I'm not exhausted by pottering around the house doing a few chores.  I can handle waking up every two hours with a baby and occasionally with a toddler.  I can pull a few weeds without feeling awful afterward.  My pelvis has finally firmed up and doesn't feel all sore and floppy if I try to carry the baby around the house.  Nursing, by the way, no longer hurts, at least 90% of the time.

And I'm taking advantage of all that not-in-pain-ness to finally take back over a lot of my job.  I intended to be taking it easier than this, but on the one hand, I have to admit John is rather overwhelmed by having to do so many of the chores after a full day's work, and on the other, I have been antsing to do it.  I don't really know when I got so attached to doing housework, but it just feels like MY job, that I ought to be doing.  Especially since no one else does it MY way.

The other obstacle to my doing anything, though, is this baby who insists on being held 24-7.  But that's getting better too.  On the one hand, I can now stick him in the Moby wrap and do some chores while he sleeps for a good hour or two at a time.  And on the other, he now has a few "awake and happy" times during the day -- say for a half hour or so -- when he doesn't mind being put down to kick around or sit in his bouncy chair while I get a few things done.  Last night he had one of those right around my bedtime, and it was lovely -- I got the last of the dishes washed, myself in pajamas and with teeth brushed, and my "nighttime supplies" (diapers, water bottle, wipes, spare blanket, etc.) all gathered together while he sat contentedly and watched me.  Then I was able to sit down on the couch with Middlemarch and nurse him to sleep before rolling into bed myself, actually feeling "unwound" for once.  I could totally make a routine of this.

Right now I am doing: dinner prep (which takes all day, because 5-6 p.m. is just NOT a good time), basic tidying, daily laundry (oh, and it is definitely needing to be done daily now), all care for both kids during the day, a teeny bit of yard/garden work (trying to take it easier here because it's my "hobby" and not strictly necessary), and most of what crops up and needs doing.  I'm very proud of myself.

Unfortunately Marko has decided to stop using the potty.  I don't think it's just because of the new baby, because he was fine the first week.  But with no one available to keep track of when he might need to go, physically lead him over to the potty, and sit down and read to him until he goes ... he's just not into it.  If I just call from the couch "please sit on the potty!" it does not work at all.  And he just doesn't seem to know when to go on his own.  After the time when he peed on a stack of library books, and the time when he begged to be on my lap and peed on that, and the time when he sat in the baby's carseat and peed in that, I finally decided I was done with this, for now.  I don't mind cleaning puddles off the floor -- it's a heck of a lot easier than changing a diaper -- but they don't always end up on the floor, but the couch, the clean laundry, his toys .... you can imagine, I'm sure.  So I put him back in diapers.

Unfortunately it turns out to be very difficult to change a toddler with one hand, especially if said toddler doesn't want to be changed and would much rather escape halfway through and run around naked.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.  Sometimes I feel like I do nothing but feed the ravenous mouths and then deal with the inevitable consequences afterward.

Anyway, I'm back in action, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job.  It's not perfect, and there are stressful moments (i.e. when they both want or need me at the same time), but so far it's easier than I feared.  Take heart, anyone who's reading this while expecting a second child ... it is really not so bad as all that.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Playing pretend

Marko "playin' bitar."

Marko's ability to pretend has taken a big jump lately.  A few examples:

The other day, he wanted very badly to "go somewhere."  When I said no, he just picked up my diaper bag, zipped it up, and walked off through the house calling "See you later!"

He got a hold of my breast pump the other day and tried pretending it was: a trumpet, a fire hose, and a flashlight.  Not, surprisingly, a gun.  But then I don't think he's ever seen a gun.

Today he "went shopping" by roaming through the house putting random objects in his "cart" (a box).  Two lids kept getting taken out and made into a peanut butter sandwich.

Last night he sat in the middle of the sidewalk with a long stick, dangling it into the grass.  He said he was "fishing for Doubt-Trout in Roover River" (name that reference!).

Just a few minutes ago, he found a toy stop sign.  He pointed out that we stop at the stop sign, and then insisted we get in the car so we could stop at the stop sign.  I staved off a meltdown by suggesting he sit in the baby's carseat (which he loves to do) and pretend to drive.  He spent several minutes in there, saying he was stopping at the stop sign, driving again, and that he got lost.  Then he got out to "put gas in the car" and went back to shopping.

And his favorite thing for me to do lately is to make his stuffed animals talk to each other, kiss each other, hug each other, or dance.  He is WAY into that.

Let me tell you, it's nice when my hands are full to be able to participate in what he's doing just by talking with him, rather than getting down on the floor or letting him up on my lap!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Settling in

I have been badly wanting to record a bit of what's been going on here, because I'm afraid I'll forget.  Meanwhile, I am way too busy living my life to write down much of it!  I've kept up on reading blogs, because you can do that one-handed, but not on writing.

Michael is continuing to need pretty much constant holding, though he is slowly getting used to being put down for half an hour or 45 minutes at a time, a couple of times a day, for a nap.  Or maybe ten minutes in his bouncer while I hastily scramble up some eggs so the rest of us can eat.  All the rest of the time, he is in physical contact with somebody.  Usually that somebody is me.  And usually he is latched on.

I'll be honest, it's exhausting.  Marko was never this needy.  I love that he is actually doing what's good for him and eating a lot -- he has gained almost a pound THIS WEEK -- but I was crying to John last night, "All I want is for nobody to be touching me for ONE HOUR!"  I can handle one baby in arms pretty well, but when it's one baby latched on and one toddler climbing up my back and pulling my hair ... well, I'm discovering my love of physical touch has limits. 

I've lost patience with Marko for things that never would have bothered me before, just because I feel overwhelmed.  I've yelled at him for peeing on the floor and said in exasperation, "I do not WANT to play the indecisive game, I want you to decide whether or not you want the turkey and then just EAT IT OR NOT!"  I feel bad about this.  On the other hand, he hasn't really seemed too fazed.

The first week, John took off work (unpaid, which means this will be a very tight month) and pretty much did my job for a week.  He took care of Marko almost exclusively, and all the cooking and housework, while I napped with the baby.  That was awesome.  I felt relaxed and happy about having two kids.  Marko, also, wasn't the least bit shook up about the new baby, because he wasn't affected.  He still had one parent's full attention.  (In fact, sometimes I wondered if he noticed.  He really wasn't interested in Michael at first, and seemed intimidated when we offered to let him hold his baby brother.  Lately he at least likes to watch me change diapers and tentatively pat the baby's head.  But that's it.)  John was the only one who didn't have an easy time that week.  He was so happy to get back to work where "at least I know what I'm doing!"  I don't think he will ever underestimate what I do again (not that he's been in the habit of doing so before, but I suspect he didn't really know quite how difficult it was).

By the end of the week, I was chomping at the bit anyway.  I felt so much better that I couldn't stand to sit around anymore, and I also missed Marko.  I wanted to be more involved with him.  But I was terrified of handling two kids at once.

The first day actually was a pleasant surprise.  I found a lot of games I can play with Marko while nursing, and he didn't really care that my lap was occupied so long as he had my attention.  There were moments when I had to tell him to wait for a sandwich and he screamed bloody murder, but I stayed calm (mostly) and he got over it.  The only hard part was making do without a nap.  I seriously could have used one, because nighttimes with Michael are still exhausting.

We're on day 3 of solo parenting two kids, and really, it's not so bad.  I'm still not cooking dinner.  I washed a few dishes today, but in the main I'm not doing chores either.  I'm hoping to get back into that slowly, as Michael gets better about being put down or riding in the sling.  (The sling has definitely been useful, but since he always wants to be nursing and I can't nurse easily in a sling, it isn't as useful as I had hoped -- yet anyway.)  I'm trying to find a bedtime method for Marko that I can do while holding a baby, because John has a trip out of town in a few weeks and I'm going to need that.  For now, John holds the baby (who sucks his finger like crazy and gets very impatient for me) while I put Marko to bed.  And then comes the rough time for me ... at least emotionally.  I am used to relaxing and unwinding a bit after Marko's in bed. I  blog.  I eat ice cream.  I get any last things done that I wasn't able to do during the day.  And then I have a relaxing bedtime routine for myself.  All that has gone by the wayside, because Michael canNOT be put down between 8 pm and bedtime.  He wants to go to bed WITH me, when I go.  So I've had to cut out all of my "me time" and just nurse and nurse and nurse nonstop until I give up on anything else happening for the rest of the evening, and I settle into bed with Michael.  Perhaps I should make that my "book reading time" or something.  And I'm learning to get completely ready for bed as soon as dinner is over, or I won't get a chance.

At the moment, Michael is down (hallelujah!) and Marko is playing independently as happy as a clam (more hallelujahs!) and I am finally blogging, which makes me oh so happy.  I even pulled some weeds today, with the baby in a sling.  I know it will take time to find a new normal, but we're getting there.

So far, let me just tell you: having two kids is not so bad.  I like it.
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