Category Archives: books

Book Review/Discussion: Raising Your Spirited Child

First of all, let me just lay it out there and say I love this book. If I had the skills to write an ode to this book, I would. Cover or Raising your spirited childFor one thing, when things went a little nuts with Boopsie, this book was the first I read (out of several) that made me feel like what we were dealing with was manageable. Secondly, it provided an new lens for considering why the whole situation was getting my goat so much. When I look at my copy of the book now, I see at least 30 pages that I have dog eared for future reference. (Interesting aside: I’ve stopped buying parenting and most other nonfiction books on my Kindle because I want to be able to mark them up and clicking to highlight just isn’t the same as marking with a pen and folding over pages.)

Some of the details about Raising Your Spirited Child:

  • It was written by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
  • The subtitle is “A guide for parents whose child if more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic.”
  • The paperback edition I have (revised edition) is 468 pages long
  • The book is organized into five parts: Understanding Spirit, Working with Spirit, Living with Spirit, Socializing with Spirit and Enjoying Spirit

Kurcinka’s definition of a spirited child is, “The word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is more. They are normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive and uncomfortable with change than other children.”

She explores temperament, facets of “spiritedness” and even includes a little quiz to help you gauge your child’s level of spirit on the different facets: Intensity, Persistence, Sensitivity, Perceptiveness, Adaptability, Regularity, Energy, First Reaction and Mood. Once you’ve done that, she also encourages the reader to look at his/her own spiritedness in terms of these traits. I found these exercises particularly helpful because they helped me put words to Boopsie’s personality (and positive words at that!) and showed me where my own “spunkiness” might be contributing to our challenges.

In subsequent parts of the book, Kurcinka walks through the various traits and how to deal with each of them. In addition, she spends chapters on tantrums, planning for success, bedtime, meal times, dressing and topics like socializing, vacation and school.

I’ve read this book through twice and I will probably continue to refer to it regularly. I recommend this to anyone struggling with a “spirited” kid!

Now that I’ve waxed poetic… have you read this book? Any thoughts? What parenting books have you found most helpful?

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Bedtime Redemption?

(Notice the question mark… after the past three months, I’m unlikely to be declarative about most things…)

As noted, the Pacifier Fairy (and some other things that are still being sorted out) had some unintended consequences in our house. Namely, Boopsie’s ability to fall and stay asleep disappeared. Gone.

At first, we tried to soldier on as we had… two books, potty and brush teeth, one book, go to sleep with some books in bed to look at. And it didn’t work. We tried putting her back in bed without talking to her (one night we did that 32 times). We tried doing bed checks (she would scream bloody murder and kick her closed door). In desperation, we began laying on her floor while she fell asleep, which could regularly take 75 minutes or more.

Reacting how I normally do when faced with a parenting dilemma, I reached for my old standby — books. I re-read pertinent sections in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Family, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, and The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. I also hired a parenting coach, who suggested that Boopsie may have some sensory integration dysfunction.

In the interim, Daddy-o and I were having to stay in Boopsie’s room until she fell asleep and then we were often  called back in there in the middle of the night to sleep on the floor (in the middle of the winter, in the northland, as an alternative to having her end up in our bed). It. Was. Hell. This was all additionally complicated by travel and tantrums and being generally shell-shocked by the changes in our kid.

So we tried the “sleep shuffle” from The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. And it took about three weeks. And it worked. Sort of.  But our kid still wouldn’t really nap and was waking still in the night. Oh, and she wasn’t actually falling asleep (usually) until close to 10 p.m. (Side note: Sleep deprived preschoolers and having one parent “booked up” with a kid until 10 p.m. every night are not great marital aids.)

Man and child outside Build A Bear Workshop

Daddy-o and Boopsie with the bunny.

We got a new night light. We got a new clock for her room. We tried letting her color in bed. We started playing music in her bedroom.We tried a reward chart. It took her 42 days to earn 15 stars. She earned a trip to Build A Bear workshop and was so overwhelmed by the crowds that she didn’t want to build a bear. So she picked a bunny she was thrilled about.

Then she got sick (and then we got sick).  And she needed more help falling asleep and we were back to sitting in the rocker in her room, trying to get her to stay quietly in bed, often threatening to leave and do checks (and sometimes leaving and doing checks). I felt like a hostage.

Finally, last week, with help from the parenting coach, I re-made bedtime again. The first two nights were tough, with tears and me having to prove to Boopsie that I would not come back to her until 9 minutes was up (she was gated in her room), no matter what she said. But then I made a little tweak and bedtime has gotten much better. In fact, one night my kid fell asleep on her own before 9 p.m. And she’s consistently falling asleep on her own (okay, is six days enough to say “consistently”?). Without tears. I won’t bore you with the details of her new bedtime routine because what works for one kid has no guarantee of working for another kid. I will say this: I cherish the time and mental energy I’ve gotten back. Getting 1-2 hours back into our evening has made Daddy-o and I much happier people. We can do little things around the house. We can have uninterrupted conversations. We can watch a TV show. We can work if we need to. We can just freaking be.

You may be wondering why we didn’t have her “cry it out.” I was actually very close to doing this in December. I queried other parents via Facebook and got a lot of support and tips. Here’s the thing: One thing that has been reinforced for us over the past three months is that Boopsie is an incredibly intense kid. And with the question of sensory issues still on the table, along with her the length and strength of her tantrums, we truly did not have any confidence that it would work. If anything, we figured she’d cry for hours until she passed out. And that wasn’t going to help her re-learn to relax and fall asleep. I don’t begrudge anyone who tries the “CIO” approach, but for our kid, it was a no-go.

So here I am… enjoying a whole hour of time I didn’t have this night a week ago, feeling like maybe, just maybe, we have found the bedtime promised land again. (As a superstitious person of Irish descent, I’m almost certain that by talking about this it’s all going to hell in a handbasket. Let’s hope not.)

Sweet dreams to you and yours…

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Filed under books, creativity, drudgery, lessons, relationships, sleep

168 Hours – Book Review/Discussion

Today was my first day back to work after a nice long holiday weekend.  After a tough night of a croupy tot and work-stress dreams (and the added wrinkle of an unexpected week-long day care shut-down), I stumbled into the office. By 11:00 a.m. I was so stressed out and cross-eyed from work I felt like I needed to crawl under my desk and hide. I was thinking about how out of control my work “to do” list is and that quickly bled over into how out of control my “home” and “life” lists are. I started panicking about how I would ever get it all done. Or at least most of it.

Several weeks ago I read a book by Laura Vanderkam called 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. It’s a 168hourstreatise on time –every single one of us has 168 hours in a week– and how we approach using it. I found it to be very thought-provoking, and my feelings today make me want to revisit it.

In her book, Vanderkam spends some time talking about “The Myth of The Time Crunch.” She lays out the argument that every person, no matter how “successful” they are or how innovative or how obligated, has 168 hours in every week. By defining time in this way, rather than by a single day or a full month or year, we have enough flexibility to “find” time for ourselves and enough limitations to not lose our priorities to “someday.” It comes down to attention, and intention, Vanderkam says:

While we underestimate exceptions, we overestimate other things — for instance, time devoted to small, repetitive tasks.If you pulled out your Blackberry ten times over the weekend, you might give yourself credit for several hours of work, even though each incidence took five minutes. In other words, this totaled less than one hour, even though 10 Blackberry checks will make you feel like you’re in work mode 24/7.

One of Vanderkam’s other tools, borrowed from another author and coach is the “List of 100 Dreams.” These are dreams, big and small, that she says you should use to organize your time and priorities. When I read the book I started a list of 100 dreams. Some of them are:

  • Publish a book
  • Have nice fingernails
  • Travel for 4+ weeks with Boopsie and Daddy-o… a National Parks tour
  • Go on a photo safari in Africa
  • Teach Boopsie to ride a bike
  • Learn to do a good sun salutation
  • Have an emergency fund that can cover a whole year of expenses
  • Dress up (fancy) one time per year
  • Be conversational (not necessarily fully fluent) in a foreign language

This list can evolve and change — the idea is to actively seek out and make progress toward what you want, even if what you want changes. This list, Vanderkam argues, can help you organize your time so that it feels more valuable and you get more out of it. (Because, despite how I spent the last couple of days “Be caught up on Nashville” is NOT on my list of 100 dreams. Oops.)

Vanderkam also encourages readers to figure out their core competencies — what it is they do better than anyone else —  and then ruthlessly focus on those. Cut out the things other people can do better and/or that you hate to focus on your core competencies so you can make progress with those. Refuse or shorten meetings, outsource household tasks that aren’t in your core competencies and focus effort on where you want to (and can) do your best. The discussion around core competencies made me think a lot about the “house wife” trap I’ve put myself in. I do a majority of the day-in, day-out work in our home — meal planning, groceries and prep, majority of the laundry, general life management, etc. I’m having a hard time parsing out the difference between “core competency” and “habitual control freak,” especially when it comes to food preparation and meals. It’s definitely a thought-starter. I also started to think about trying to better define my core competencies at work. I’m pretty successful there, but where should I focus?

In 168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam also talked about intention and parenting, and I appreciated the approach. “The point is to treat your children as privileged clients,” she writes. “You have to think through the time you’re going to spend together because it is valuable.” She warns that if you don’t you can fall into a couple of different traps. The trap I saw we’ve really adopted is becoming a “slave” to the weeknight pattern of dinner, bath and bed.

I have to admit — as nice and comforting as routines can be, sometimes I want to poke my eyes out when I’m trying to come up with a fast, feasible dinner for the three of us. And as much as I LOVE snuggling with Boopsie, the thought of reading Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever one more time makes me want to scream. Vanderkam’s suggestion is to consciously shake things up sometimes, arguing that the occasional fast-food meal won’t kill anyone, and that the adventures, activity and good memories that can result from doing different things are overwhelmingly positive.

Bowl of cereal with berries

Cereal. It’s what’s for dinner.

This is one concept I have tried to really grab onto. Tonight, about to explode from stress and overwhelm, I threw Boopsie in the stroller and we went on a “family walk” with Daddy-o after dinner. Sure, it messed with her bed time a little, but she got to pet a dog (her favorite), see some bunnies, and we all got some fresh air and exercise. More importantly, we did something with 30 minutes between dinner and bath besides sort the mail and pick up toys. Dee-light-ful. Another time, when Daddy-o was out of town, I grabbed Boopsie from day care and made a mad dash to the Minnesota Children’s Museum, saving myself (by virtue of time) from the age-old question about what to make for dinner. That night we had cereal and fruit.

I recommend 168 Hours for anyone trying to find more time in their lives, or even those just trying to organize their thoughts around what they want. It’s non-threatening and accessible. I’ve been pushing Daddy-o to think about what’s on his “List of 100 Dreams” so we see where there’s alignment and get after shared dreams, or at least help each other start reaching some individual ones, big or small.

What do you think? What are your biggest time-management challenges? What routines are sucking you dry these days? What’s on your list of 100 dreams? (Don’t worry, I won’t hold you to anything and it’s fun to think about!)

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Filed under books, drudgery, First-World Problems

Someone get me a muzzle

Not for Boopsie. For me. And make it a muzzle for my brain.

In recent days she has been really interested in letters. She’ll point at letters on the covers of books and look at me, asking me to tell her what each one is. I’ll tell her the letter , the sound it makes and use it in a word. Then she’ll point to another.

Here’s the thing…. this THRILLS me. I can’t even explain how excited I get. And it’s everything I can do to not get waaaaay too into some sick daydream about getting her to read early. The not-so-healthy part of me wants to buy flashcards and make storyboards and start working to help her read. And then the more sane part of me kicks in and says “Stop this right now. Stop.” And (but for the grace of god or the universe or whatever) I do. I remember that she’s 18 months old, and I’m just happy she loves books. I can tell I’m going to have to work to keep my craziness reined in. Now and later.

We will read as many books as she wants. We will look at letters when she wants to. I will step away from the idea of the flashcards and stop obsessing about early literacy. She’ll be literate… in her own time.

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But I doubt I will laugh about this…

It was another wild day on the home front. Daddy-o and I had to split the day at home because Boopsie was rocking a big head cold and her daycare provider didn’t want her back until another day had passed without barfing. Oh well, just one more day for her to sleep in a crib rather than an armchair, right?

I was on a conference call when Boopsie woke up from her nap (after only 45 minutes) and she was seriously fussy. I held her and

Boopsie in a Box

Empty Cardboard Box or Awesome Reading Nook? You decide. Boopsie has already cast her vote.

shushed her through the rest of the call and then tried to get her to lay down with me in our guest room.  She would have none of that and went to get off the bed… and fell. She hit the back of her head on the hardwood floor so hard I swear my heart stopped.

I called th clinic, and they said because of her age and the height of the fall I should take her to the ER. I called my dad, who I knew was home and about 15 minutes away and said, “How fast can you get here?” I may or may not have been crying. He got to our house really fast.

We took her to an urgent care with a pediatric clinic. She was already perked up in the waiting room… pointing at fish and waving at people. They checked her out and she’s going to be ok. She has a bump and a bruise on the back of her head, which is apparently a good thing (rather than bruising on the inside, gulp.). It looks like we made it through this one… by the skin of our teeth.

The thing that kills me, is as she was climbing off the end of the bed I thought, I wonder if she can do this on her own. I bet she can. I was so wrong. And me being wrong meant she bashed her head. (I mean why didn’t I just give her a spot?). I have obviously lost my “mother of the year” nomination. And it’s only January 23.

Speaking of January, just to review:

  • Boopsie has been sick since January 6, when she got a head cold.
  • We were in Urgent Care for a double ear infection (with a 104 degree fever) last Sunday.
  • She had the stomach flu on Saturday.
  • She woke up with a huge new head cold on Sunday.
  • She’s still taking amoxicillin and hating it.
  • Today she smashed her head on a hardwood floor and we went to Urgent Care for the second time in eight days.

Poor baby.

On the upside, did you know that the box Amazon brings the diapers and wipes in makes a wicked cool reading nook?

 

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Filed under books, medical, mom guilt

Someday I will be able to laugh about this…

Oh what a weekend!

Friday I picked Boopsie up from daycare and learned that she naps in an armchair. And frequently falls asleep in a Johnny-Jump-Up. WTF? How tacky is that? Since when is it okay first for a tot to get so tired that she falls asleep in a bouncing toy? (JESUS that sounds bad!) And since when is it cool for a 17-month-old to sleep in an armchair?

Oh goody! So begins another daycare hunt! (Except that we might move… and we don’t know where… so how do we pick a day care?)

Saturday I was spending time with some friends when I got an SOS from Daddy-o. Boopsie puked. Everywhere. She had the stomach flu. Luckily, she seems to be on the mend. And luckily for me (sorry Daddy-o) I missed the big first barf. Have I mentioned lately that my husband is a trooper?

Today Boopsie woke up… with a head cold. She is sneezing and snotting all over the place. Poor kid. I hope the antibiotics she’s still on for the ear infection help keep her from getting another one. Crikey!

On the upside:

  • I grocery shopped, made dinner tonight and am making this for Tuesday night. (Because I am planning ahead! FTW!)
  • Boopsie signed “more please” today. I nearly peed my pants.
  • She got the stomach flu in the daytime, rather than in the middle of the night.
  • Today we went to the coolest book store ever.

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Filed under adventures, books, day care, problems middle class parents have, problems white parents have

Who needs a life?

Apparently, I do. Outside of work. This type of stuff is taking a LOT of my attention. Daddy-o came to wake me from a nap yesterday and found me covered in a pile of books. These books:

Books on Bed

I need a life. Stat.

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Filed under books, feeding, sleep