Tag Archives: sleep

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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Pacifier Fairy, Part 2

Wow. I was supposed to write this post more than two months ago. In fact, I even drafted it. It was going to be about how we sent a couple of “prep notes” from the paci fairy, and how Boopsie helped pack up all the pacifiers into a plastic bag, and how she helped me set them in the yard. And how she cried some at that bedtime, but slept all night and went on to get over it really quickly.

But then something happened. On the day after I posted Pacifier Fairy Part One, all hell broke loose with our kid. What do I mean by all hell breaking loose? Well, let’s see:

  • She went on a sleep strike… bedtime became a multi-hour battle, naps were treacherous
  • She started having epic, violent tantrums including throwing things, hitting and kicking
  • Her personality changed into one I didn’t really recognize. Boopsie became much more anxious, whiny and angry.

I’m not sure how to convey the impact this had on our family, in part because we are still trying to find our way out. Our attempts to find our way out have included:

  • Scouring the interwebs
  • Hiring a parent coach
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Putting a lock on the outside of her door
  • Multiple trips to the pediatrician
  • Reading books… lots of books (more on those to come)

We’re still trying to figure out if we’re somewhere on the continuum of “normal” or if there’s something else going on with Boopsie that we need to address. But that’s what’s been happening in the silence — stress, fear, anger, exhaustion and worry. So much worry. Thankfully, there’s been joy, too, and fun. And I think (and hope and pray) that we’re getting back somewhere more familiar.

All that to say… hello, strangers. More soon.

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The Pacifier Fairy… Part I

Pacifiers

Our little junkie’s brand of choice. Oh, and despite what the label says, they can move kids’ teeth out of whack.Way back in July, we mentioned to our little paci-addict that the “Pacifier Fairy” would be coming to take her pacifiers and give them to little babies who needed them. In exchange, we explained, Boopsie would receive some fun surprises. This did not go over well.

Way back in July, after Boopsie’s first (disastrous) trip to the dentist, we started discussing a visit from the Pacifier Fairy. The Pacifier Fairy, I explained to Boo, would come and take all her pacifiers away and give them to little babies who need pacifiers. In exchange, the “Paci Fairy” would leave fun surprises behind.

My sister was visiting the first time this conversation came up. She put Boopsie to bed one night and they had a long conversation about the Paci Fairy. Boopsie was concerned about the PF coming in her room, and about having to give up her pacifiers… you name it. So we let it ride for a while.

We were prompted into all of this by Boopsie’s dentist, who noticed her teeth going out of alignment and recommended we ix-nay the pacifiers ASAP. We thought about it, but after her negative reaction in July, we basically wussed out and decided to let it ride for a while. I mean, the pacifiers were her COMFORT OBJECT(S). Boopsie liked to go to bed with one in her mouth and one in her hand. And when she was especially tired, she would rub the one in her hand along her cheek. She did not, however, use a pacifier at day care, so we knew we had this going for us. Unfortunately, her regular routine was that when we would pick her up at day care, Boopsie would dig through her bag until she found a pacifier and stuff it in her mouth. And when she’d do that, you could see the relief wash over her, like a smoker taking a long-overdue drag from a cigarette. Yes, we were in deep.

The months dragged on, and Boopsie transitioned to a big girl bed (well!) and started preschool (well!) and in October we realized we could literally see her front teeth starting to “buck” out a little. Ruh-roh. It was time to get serious. I over-thought the whole thing (as usual), plotting what “gifts” the Pacifier Fairy could bring and the deciding which weekends were possible targets for a visit. Finally, on the way back from a family trip to visit family and friends in Chicago, we asked Boopsie if she wanted the Pacifier Fairy to come and she said, “Yes.”

Yes? Really? Yes.

Gulp. We picked Friday, just a few days away and I upped my activity around frantic research on the interwebs. I looked up tips and tricks and things to say and e-mailed them to Daddy-o. We both committed to stay the course. I cleared our weekend schedule, shopped, and “discovered” a note from the Pacifier Fairy in the mail box Thursday morning that let Boopsie know she’d be coming the next night…cue the dread.

The dread was not Boopsie’s. It was mine. I couldn’t stop worrying. What if she wailed for hours straight? What if she started waking up at 5:30 a.m. again (that was a brief and crappy period this autumn)? What if she stopped sleeping through the night? Or napping? What if this was a huge mistake? My stress mounted.

To be continued…

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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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Winding down the weekend…

Daddy-o has been out of town (for work) since Thursday morning. Thursday evening I had to call in the cavalry as I got a migraine. Grampie came to the rescue and played with Boopsie while I went to bed with earplugs and a pillow over my face. Things went really well otherwise… until this morning.

This morning Boopsie drank a cup of milk and then coughed… and threw it up all over us. The rest of the day she kept saying she had to “cough” (aka barf), but didn’t. Interestingly enough, those moments seemed to happen as soon as I picked up the phone or said I needed to do something. Suspicious? I thought so.

Tonight at dinner she wouldn’t eat a thing, and talked the whole time about throwing up:

“I need da bucket.”

“Th yellow gonna come out.”

“I gonna cough again.”

I tried to play it very blase… and ended up just giving her a bath and putting her to bed, explaining (as usual) there wouldn’t be any food/milk until morning. Now she’s in there wailing for “milky.” Here’s a few recent pics to help me remember that I love being a mother. (I need the reminder right now.)

Toddler watering flowers

Watering plants in fuzzy polar bear footie pajamas, pink rain boots and her bike windbreaker.

toddler picking yellow dandelions

Picking dandelions…

Black goat with toddler running toward it

Chasing goats at the zoo… apparently Boopsie loves goats as much as I do.

There, I feel much better now. (And it helps that she’s fallen asleep.) Let’s face it, this could be worse: Daddy-o is currently stuck in an airport, where his flight is delayed three hours. Blech.

Now, say it with me… “Please don’t puke, please don’t puke, please don’t puke.”

 

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The Secret (Where the Doldrums Lose and Mama Wins)

I have discovered The Secret, at least for my tot and me. No, not that “secret” where you wish and intend for things to happen in your life and they do … I’m talking about the parental Ace card that is elusive and ever-changing. I’ll explain:

This past weekend, Daddy-o had a very serious work commitment, so it was me and Boopsie for the long-haul (with some respite at Grammie and Grampie’s). And all week last week I had a severe case of the doldrums. It was bad. I felt crushed by the routine and responsibility of everything in my life. I was feeling terribly bored — not with the people in my life, but by the day-in, day-out patterns. Get up earlier than I want to, fight my two-year-old to get ready to go, go to work, pick up two year old, make and eat dinner, fight to get two-year-old to bed and chill or try to do something productive. Go to bed later than I should. Repeat. (First-world problems all the way…) I was getting desperate trying to bust out of my dull downer mood. So these are some of the things I tried:

toddler windbreaker with bikes

Damn you, Target.

  • I bought an aromatherapeutic candle called “Be Amazing.” (Yes, really.)
  • I re-started listening to classical music.
  • I bought and read Dream Save Do by Betsy and Warren Talbot from Married With Luggage
  • I impulsively bought Boopsie a spring jacket because it has bikes on it. Thankfully, it was only $15.
  • I tried cooking new things like vegan chili (delicious, actually).
  • I went shopping for myself. Spent quite a bit more than $15.
  • I decided to clean my closet. I didn’t actually clean out my closet.

Basically, heading into a long weekend of single parenting (woe is me, I know), I was a little panicked about HOW TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT THINGS and MORE EXCITED ABOUT LIFE. Add to this a wily two-year-old bouncing off the walls and I was worried about not snapping. But then… magic happened. First, we received about four inches of fresh snow on Friday while Boopsie was at day care. Second, the weather was nice for February — mid- to high-20s. Finally, we were both healthy enough to play outside. The mythical winter trifecta was attained for only the second time this whole season (good snow + decent temperature + healthy). I picked up Boo and we went to a sledding hill I’d never been to before… It. Was. Awesome.

Toddler in snow

“I going to the li-blaly. We got to get more Llama books.”

If someone would have told me last week that the cure for winter doldrums was to play outside in the winter weather I may have punched them. But sledding down a too-big-for-me-and-my-tot hill and following Boopsie around while she marched through the park discussing how she was going to the “li-blaly” (library) to get more “llama books” shook me out of my stupor.

And the best part… the BEST part… is that she burned off so much energy that she went to bed like a dream and slept for TWELVE HOURS. The bells and whistles went off in my head and we’ve dragged her outside to play every day since. On Saturday we went on a walk looking for turkeys near my parents suburban home. On Sunday I took her to the park where she went down the slides at least 20 times. Today Daddy-o took her back to the park for more sliding, swinging and general exploration. Granted, her bedtime wasn’t as smooth tonight, but she ate chicken enchiladas like a champ at dinner. WINNING.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring… a chest cold? Biting wind? I hope to hell we can get outside after work and day care. And I don’t know if I’ve really beaten my doldrums or just beaten them back for a little bit. But I do know (at least for now), my secret to survival is getting outside with this kiddo. Look out, world!

 

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