Monday, June 30, 2008

The Balance

Doing dishes tonight, I found myself excited about tomorrow's breakfast.  I was thinking about fruit, and how good it would taste with yogurt and granola.  I was looking forward to the time alone, time to cut the fruit without anyone whining for a bigger piece, time to eat and read the paper before heading out the door to a place where my efforts are generally appreciated and no one yells at me or screams with displeasure.

My little moment of fruit-joy was clearly really about feeling happy that I would be going to work instead of staying home tomorrow. I love my daughter, but as I have expressed recently, 3 is starting out rough. For every tantrum there are arms thrown around my neck, sweaty little cheeks pressed to mine.  But there are still the tantrums.

Mother-Woman has written some about the logic (and myths) of why she could or could not be a stay-at-home mom, both in light of thinking she had no choice and then again after getting a job offer. She tackles the idea of patience and the extent to which one must be child-centered to stay home with children. To her growing list of thoughts I add that I often wonder if I am too easily annoyed to be a parent.  Not just a stay-at-home one, but a parent at all. Children must be affected by their parents' response to them, how can they not? Ada must feel my irritation, my desire to growl back at her, to storm off in a huff.

Leaving aside the issue of whether my aggravation is causing her irreparable damage, I note that I am trying to use my response as a parenting "technique." Lately, though I am not growling or storming, I do reflect back at her the insanity of her behavior. After telling her again and again that I can not understand what she is saying when she screams instead of speaks, I tell her what I hear.  In a loud but friendly voice, I say: "I don't know what you want when you say 'aaaahggrrhhh'." Invariably this pulls Ada out of her fit enough to make her laugh.  She thinks it is hilarious when I act like this. In the short term it is helping a bit, though I do worry that she'll think it is so funny that she'll want to continue her nonsense just to hear it reflected in my voice.

I often love parenting, but I also love doing something else for a while. This is especially true after a weekend of tantrums and meltdowns. For me, there is some solace in balance. In working some days and staying home others. In talking to adults about health reform and children about cookie monster. In walking in heels and crawling on my knees. I am so lucky to have this balance, so few people get this chance to earn money doing something they care about while also getting significant time to be with someone they care about. But still I get annoyed, both at work and home.  I don't think it will ever be another way, but maybe once in a while I can temper my annoyance with joy. At least in the moments when those little arms are thrown about my neck in passionate abandon.

fairy dress at the windowduring a tantrum-free moment over the weekend

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

zoo train

Mean Girls, Gossip Girls, Girls Gone Wild, Girl Power, You go girl! What's a girl to do?

A. O. Scott
A Girl's Life

Friday, June 27, 2008

On her third birthday

. . . Ada finally mastered simultaneous tricycle steering and pedaling.

. . . spent a nice long time playing independently with a good friend at a local wading pool.

. . . fell off the play structure, landing flat on her back but unharmed.

. . . fell while running and then clung to me and called mama in a way that was surprisingly charming.

. . . tried to talk me into bringing every one of her favorite toys into her bed at nap time.

. . . asked more "why" questions than I even thought was possible in one day.

. . . pitched a screaming fit when her friend accidentally splashed water on her.

. . . pitched a longer and louder fit when Chris would not agree with her demand that he force me upstairs to help with bath.

Oh, and she really enjoyed her special burrito and cupcake birthday dinner.

birthday cupcake
birthday cupcake 2
birthday cupcake 3
I have this feeling that this year is going to be a doozy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

This Ten Minutes of Hysterical Laughter

. . . brought to you by Ikea's chicken costume and my MacBook's built in camera.

fuzzy chicken

chicken girl

She kept saying "It doesn't look like me! It doesn't look like me!"

Monday, June 23, 2008

no business like business travel

I woke at 4:45 am Thursday to fly to Boston for a meeting. I arrived at 3 pm, checked into my hotel and walked downtown. I love to walk in Boston. When we lived an hour away, Chris and I always parked the car as soon as possible and explored on foot.

At one time I travelled a lot for work; now I rarely do. I forget how much I enjoy it. This is not something I would expect to write. Sometimes I find vacation travel stressful. I worry that I am not seeing or doing the best, most fun, most important things. That I am missing out. I get cranky and annoyed: by the price of dinner in Taos, by the rudeness of a waitress in Madrid, by my timidness-induced failure to explore Cuernavaca.

On business, I feel freed from my self-imposed vacation fears. I talk to people, ask for help, seek entertainment or joy in the moments between my responsibilities. I talked to the bus driver (he has four kids, including thirteen year old twins - the girl is grounded for lying and partying the night shool ended.) I hooted and slapped hands with drunken southie teens high on cheap beer and Celtic pride. One of them got my attention by cat-calling "hey sexy girl!", making me realize (a) I was wearing a bright green top the day of the nba championship celebration parade and (b) I guess those jeans still flatter me. I sat in the hotel bar with a friend from a past life, talking about health reform, the unpredictable joys and frustrations of family, and the time it takes to heal from loss. I watched the sun set and stayed up late watching a bad movie while snuggled in an outrageously comfortable bed. (Oh, how nice a really good hotel is.) I whispered with a state insurance commissioner and felt smart and funny and knowledgeable. I smiled when told that one of the presenters had sung my praises at dinner the night before. I packed light, wore new shoes and linen pants, took good notes. I traded my seat so a family could be together, and got a vodka tonic in return. Then I got home, slept in my own bed in an empty house, and woke up late the next morning.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

sunflower mosaic

I just looked like a chick in a bed sheet failing to carry off a fake pregnancy.

The Bloggess

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Thing I Have Learned

I already knew that if you offer Ada a food that she swears she does not like, she will not be willing to try even a bite of it.

Today I learned that if you offer it to her at the end of a pair of chopsticks, she'll eat hers and half of yours.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The sun finally came out

I have been feeling uncharacteristically unchatty recently (blogwise, at least), but I was inspired by the (finally) fantastic weather to take some pictures of my weekend:

Friday I took Ada and Monkey Boy berry picking with Debbie and her son.

Ada with berries
Notice that with a tub of strawberries behind her,
my child chooses to snack on dried cranberries.

Monkey Boy eyeing raspberries
Monkey Boy eyes the flowering blackberries

berry face j
Redhead, Red Chin

chicken and berries
Answering that long standing question,
the chicken crossed the road to get to the berry-filled wagon

pig smile
I think I love pigs because they appear to smile

On Saturday Chris, Ada and I went for a walk at Smith and Bybee Lakes, which has paths that are about the perfect distance for toddler attention spans.

poking at the edges of the lake

shoulder ride

smith & bybee lakes
Can you believe a week ago people were referring to this as Junuary?

treasure leaf
Ada's treasure

seed pod 4seed pod 3
They have these cool sculptures that giant replicas of seed pods.
seed pod 2

Later we ate hamburgers on the back patio, after Chris and Ada read a few books on her porch.

On Sunday we celebrated Father's Day with Ellen and Jiro. Two of my favorite dads, grilled food and rum drinks - who could ask for more?

Chris porch sittingjiro porch siting

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

Xu's teeth were beautiful. He had the fashionably angular eyeglasses and ingratiating eagerness of an untenured literature professor, and he was charming and frank on every imaginable subject--our driver's lack of basic road skills, the long and eventful history of homosexuality in China, the uncanny suddenness with which old neighborhoods in Ningbo were razed and replaced.

Jonathan Franzen
The Way of the Puffin: Travels in the Chinese Century

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Photo Faves, SF Edition

Groom's arm

At a friend's wedding: the groom, with a Chicago friend

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sit On It (Or Don't)

Okay, I promise this is it for the potty updates for a while.  I appreciate all the supportive comments, even as I know that our misbegotten attempts to get the girl out of diapers are not only failing but hardening her pro-diaper stance.  I realized this weekend that a lot of my fervor for this effort stems from my lack of control over fertility issues.  My control-freak brain tells me I must control something, so I took this on.  Bad idea.  In any case, this is the last of it for a while, as I will be sitting back, licking my wounds and waiting for the girl to dictate the next move.  

On the third morning of project bribery, Ada initiates so many "I'll sit on the potty then get a treat" moments that by 9 am Chris and I tell her that she can only get a candy for sitting on the potty with no pants.  This turns out not to be a problem, because when we tell her she has been running around without pants for 20 minutes and already sat on the potty at least twice during that period.  

Ada eats so many chocolates over the next couple of hours that I start desperately trying to get her to leave the house to burn off some of the sugar before lunch.  Ada is crazy for the m&ms, and bouncing off the walls with sugar-fueled, candy coated joy.  She is very particular, however, and only eats the blue ones.  

blue tongue
What it looks like when you eat a ton of blue m&ms, 
not including the blue streaks on her hands and legs

I ask her what she'll do when she's eaten all the blue ones.  What color will you pick then?Considering the candy-filled glass container, Ada points to a red one.  Great, good to plan ahead.  

The sugar-fest continues until nap time.  After nap I notice a trend - Ada is adamant that she wants her diaper back on after (repeatedly) taking it off to sit on the potty.  I am not initially concerned, and figure we will give her a couple more days of "treat for sitting" before telling her the treat comes only when she sits on the potty for the time it takes to read a book.  (Olivia, not War and Peace)

By Wednesday I notice a change.  Ada initiates many fewer sit-for-treat encounters, and declares a desire for a diaper in a way she was not doing previously.  This takes a little while to become clear, as I am away at work most of the day.  By Friday it is crystal, however.  She has stopped asking to sit, and even when we ask if she wants to she says "no" more than not.  

The bribery only works with a willing bribe-ee, which we apparently no longer have.  Having failed to force her to use the potty or to bribe her into wanting to use it, we are left without much leverage.  At this point I am resigned to waiting her out, or at least waiting for a better plan.  What else can I do?  As far as I can tell, pretty much nothing, so I sit and wait, patting myself on the back for not eating her stash of m&ms and wishing I'd changed the blog's tag line when I had the chance. 

Life in a poopy fog, indeed. 

Friday, June 06, 2008

Stool Pigeon

Day three of the "there are no more diapers here" attempt at potty training Ada, and the start of project bribery:

By Day 3, Ada has dug in. No amount of chocolate bribery will get her to sit on the potty again, much less pee in it. Plus, she is a tantrum-throwing fool over the weekend. She is clearly stressed, and taking it out on us in a way that feels very unpleasant for all of us. Oh, and I am really starting to wonder how long she can go without a bowel movement before we have a problem.

Our morning centers on a child who clearly needed to pee yet refused to get near the potty, followed by a big puddle of pee. Mid-morning, we get a visit from a friend who happens to be a pediatrician. I ask for her advice, and she tells Ada and me the following story:
A long time ago I visited Buchart Gardens. Buchart Gardens has pigeons that ride bicycles. Pigeons on bicycles! Most pigeons do not like to ride bicycles. It is much easier for them to walk around saying "coo, coo". But these pigeons do ride bicycles. I was so amazed I asked the trainer how they got pigeons to ride bicycles. The trainer said that pigeons love corn nuts.
The pigeons get corn nuts when they get close to the bicycles. After a while, they want to be near the bicycles in order to get corn nuts. At this point, the trainer starts to give them corn nuts only when they actually touch a bicycle. When they master that, they only get corn nuts for putting a foot on the bicycle. Then they get rewarded when both feet are on the bicycle.
Once a pigeon has both feet on the bicycle, he might move his foot, causing the bike to move a bit. When this happens, the pigeon gets a corn nut. After this, the pigeon only gets corn nuts when he actually moves the bike around on purpose. And voila! The pigeons ride bicycles! They love riding bicycles, and they love getting corn nuts.
The doctor friend also talked to us about how many kids don't like to use the potty, because it is a lot easier to pee and poop in a diaper. But using the potty is what big kids do, and once kids start doing it they realize it is a lot better than using a diaper. So much less messy, and they can be so grown up by doing things themselves.

Ada listened to the whole talk, squirming a bit at times in a way that I made me wonder how much she understand the story. Was she making any connection between the pigeon and herself? Would she go for this? After our doctor friend left, Chris and I decided to try it out. Why not, right? Our "there are no pants" attempt wasn't getting anywhere except tantrum-land.

We tell Ada that we have found some diapers and she can wear one if she'd like. She's thrilled, and I feel like a jerk for lying about the diapers being gone, but that is part of the fun of parenting, right? We also tell her that she can get a chocolate if she sits her bottom on the potty, even if she has pants or a diaper on. She is intruiged, if skeptical.

Several times that afternoon, we remind her that she can get a chocolate if she sits (however briefly) on the potty. By the evening she understands the trade. We keep up the bribery all the following day. When I get home from work, Ada is more than willing to sit, repeatedly asking if she can sit and get chocolate. Eventually we go upstairs for bath time, and after she gets undressed Ada asks if she can run downstairs to sit on the potty and get a chocolate. Sure! Down we go. Same thing after the bath, when our bare-bottomed girl bounces downstairs to sit and be rewarded.

I put Ada to bed, thinking maybe, just maybe this strategy will work for her. And for us.

The following day Ada is very enthusiastic about the sit for chocolate plan. So enthusiastic that after an hour of chocolate eating no-pants time, we tell her that now she'll only get a chocolate if she sits her bare bottom on the potty. This is fine with her, and even after she puts pants on, Ada readily undresses to sit and be rewarded. She does it so much that I finally decide we need to leave the house before my sugar-fueled child runs paces holes in the floor.

Things are going so well that I am planning how many days we'll stay at this stage. I figure we'll stay 3 more days at this, then transition to giving chocolate only when that shes sit long enough to read a book. Except that by the following day, she's cooled to the process. She is not running over to get rewarded all the time. And by the day after, she barely notices the jar of chocolates on the dining room table.

A few more days of this are in order, I think. As is a recognition that it might not work after all. Even if it does not, doing this has been beneficial. It gave me a way to back off of my previous plan when it was not working and I was dug in. Now I can step back a bit and let things happen. If nothing happens for a while, I can handle that. (for a while, at least) I know she needs to do things on her own schedule, and the more I push the more she wants to resist. A friend recently suggested a parent's role is guide rather than leader, and I will try to take that to heart.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Current Favorites

Two pictures I can't stop looking at:

Ada and Bunka
Ada and Bunka

One of my new most favorite pictures
Monkey Boy and Ada

Pee, Pee, Pee, You Belong To Me, Me, Me

7 am
I get up with Ada and immediately take off her diaper. It is DRY, despite the fact that we woke Ada up at 10pm the previous night to take her home from Susie's house.

I suggest potty time, Ada declines.

7:45 - 8:30 am
Ada bounces, dances and generally acts like she has to pee, but refuses to admit it or sit on the potty. She starts to pee while sitting on the couch, so I carry her to the potty in the dining room. While I am getting fabric cleaner for the cushion, Ada floods the dining room (and basement). Chris and I clean it up, while letting Ada know that (a) we are not upset, and (b) the potty would be a better target than the floor.

This is pretty much how our day went. Each attempt to get Ada to sit on the potty are met with: (a) refusals; (b) screaming; (c) tantrums; or (d) a - c, all at once.

1:30 pm
At nap time, Chris tells me that if Ada doesn't start peeing on the potty by Sunday, we should abandon this effort and try again in a couple of months. This surprises me, as I was counting on his support over the next week. I argue that if we go back to diapers we stand to lose a lot. Ada will know that stonewalling and tantrums will get her whatever she wants. Plus, if she is afraid of the potty now, won't more time just make it loom larger?

1:45 pm
I head off to do errands and call Ellen and then Karen from Target. Both support my position, which kind of doesn't help, because after talking to them I am dug in and pissed off at Chris.

3:30 pm
Ada wakes up with dry underpants.

3:30-5:30 pm
Ada roams the neighborhood with Chris. She wears no underwear (or pants, for that matter) but has no accidents. I am starting to worry about her bladder, even as I marvel at its capacity.

Not at our house, apparently

5:30 pm
The three of us head inside for dinner, which sends Ada into a tantrum. (Something about a new friend and watermelon) After a time out, Ada says she does not want dinner. After a bath, a revived Ada agrees to eat.

6:45 pm
In a a hail mary play, I tell Ada she can have chocolate for sitting on the potty while I read her a book. No actual pee needs to come out. She demures. Even more desperate, Chris says he will give her a chocolate before she sits on the potty, plus another after she sits down. Ada takes the first candy, sits for 2 seconds a rolls off into my lap. I glare at Chris for his inability to see that coming. (Yes, I am a jerk. Sue me.)

7:30 pm
After Ada is in bed, I exercise, yet fail to release any of my annoyance at Chris. Childish, but who am I going to be mad at, Ada? I half decide not to talk to him, even though I know this is futile. Chris could win a silence contest with a mute, and giving the silent treatment to someone who does not even notice is bound to be self-destructive. Hungry, I head downstairs to drown my sorrows in take out pad see ew.

This is probably the low point. Things get better, at least a little, tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week


Several months earlier, Terry had given me the book "Into the Wild" for Valentine's Day (because nothing says "I love you" like the story of a young man starving to death in the Alaska wilderness).

Lee Conell
My Dropout Boyfriend Kept Dropping In

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

To Pee Or Not To Pee

Highlights from day one of my "there are no diapers here" attempt at potty training Ada:

8 am
Remove overnight diaper and tell Ada "There are no more diapers. You can pee in the potty, but the diapers are gone." Ada says she does not have to pee. I tell her to let me know when she needs to go. I also mention that we are going to the store to get chocolates, and she'll get chocolate as a reward when she pees in the potty.

Ada: Let's sit on the potty!

She sits, we read books and no one pees. (Still, a good start, and I am heartened.)

8 am - 10 am
Ada acts like she wants to pee, but declares she does not need to pee. We discuss whether Thomas belongs in the front or the back of her underwear.

Three notes on the Thomas the Train underwear:
  1. Ada requested this underwear. Although Ada doesn't watch Thomas, Monkey Boy has this underwear (reason enough for her to want it).
  2. If you click on the link you see that I am totally in the right, the train goes on the back.
  3. This begs the question of why you would put the image on the butt, rather than in the front where the child might be able to see it and the parent could avoid arguing that the child was wearing her underwear backwards.
  4. Does anyone (child or adult) really use that little flap? As a woman I don't have the option, but I have always thought the flap did not look to functional.
10 am
We walk the two blocks to our local grocery store to get chocolate. Once in the store I remember my friend Heidi's story that her mom potty trained her with potato chips, water and chocolate. Heidi's mom parked her in the bathroom and fed her chips until Heidi asked for water. Lots of water. Her mom waited a bit and then got her to pee. Voila - potty trained in two days.

I head to the chips aisle. I grab chips and seconds later Ada declares "I need to pee!" I drop the chips and rush to the front of the store to get the bathroom key. Ada refuses to pee in the store bathroom (rational, I think), so I pee instead and we head back to the chocolate aisle. Chips and chocolate in hand, we head home.

10:30 am
Ada finally agrees she needs to pee, and after considering the small potty seat on the big toilet, decides to use the potty chair upstairs. I follow with books, ready for another false start, but Ada pees almost immediately upon sitting. She turns to me, horrified and starts to cry. I reassure her and praise her profusely. I also reconsider my strategy, worried that I am scarring Ada in some subtle yet irreversible way. Ada hugging my leg, we head downstairs and I let Ada pick the colors of m&ms she wants. The chocolate works on her, and Ada relaxes considerably.
11:30 am
Risking a trip out of the house, we visit Monkey Boy. I know he's got a potty seat, so I feel pretty safe at his house. Ellen praises Ada for using the potty, and then Monkey Boy and Ada play outside for over an hour. At some point Monkey Boy declares he has to poop, so we all troop inside for a potty run. Ada says she wants to use the potty too, but by the time we get to the bathroom she's changed her mind. She does watch Monkey Boy's toilet technique closely, however.

1 - 1:45 pm
We head home, have lunch and head upstairs for nap. Fully committed to the lie that we have no diapers, at 1:40 I put Ada to bed with underwear on.

3:15 pm
Ada wakes up and I rush upstairs to examine the damage. Pants, underwear and sheets are dry. I take the opportunity to praise Ada for this, despite the fact that I don't think it shows strength of character. I certainly would not have criticized her if she'd been wet. But whatever, I take the victory as it comes.

4:00 - 5:30 pm
I pack up some wipes and an extra pair of underwear and pants, and we head to the park. I risk going to the park because: (1) it is incredibly gorgeous out and will probably be pouring tomorrow, knowing Portland; and (2) Ada wants to go and I am feeling so good about her peeing that I decide to risk it. All goes well until about 5:15, when Ada runs over to tell me she's peed. No problem, I have wipes, etc. We make a quick change and she's off again. Ten minutes later she's peed again (I wish I had video of her bow-legged wet-pants walk). We head home, which I'd wanted to do anyway.

6:15 - bedtime
Ada plays at Susie and Mike's house, with no accidents but no willingness to pee on the potty either. At this point I am hoping she's peed in the tub, because otherwise I might worry about her urinary tract. I start to wonder how many days a child can hold her feces without suffering ill effects. I hope we don't have to find that out from experience.
(Despite this decent start, things went downhill from here. More later)