June 2009

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Test Run

Our friend Jackson spent this past weekend with us.  He’s the (now 7-year-old) boy who helped inspire us to have a child ourselves.  This time he’s helping us understand what it will be like with two children in the house. 

We’ve never had another kid in the house for so long, and especially without his parents around.  So this was our very first experience “parenting” two at once.  It was awesome!  Not only did we get to put our skills to work on a much older child who could understand so much more, but we got to try our hand at some sibling skills like teaching problem solving

We did a lot of, “If you want Sam to do X, then you might try asking her,” and “Sam, when you want something Jackson is holding, you can ask him for it and he can say yes or no.”  We never got comfortable enough to say things like, “That sounds like something you need to work out yourselves.”  I think if the two of them had a whole week together we might have gotten there.  But Jackson obviously already has some problem solving skills.  I had made a rule that each kid could only have one balloon at a time because I knew that otherwise the bag of balloons would be gone by the end of the day.  Jackson wanted his tied up, and Sam wanted hers untied so that I could blow it up over and over and she could make it squeak or send it flying for the cat to chase.  Jackson saw how much fun Sam was having and tried to grab Sam’s balloon.  She whined, NOOOOO, and turned around, protecting her property.  I suggested to Jackson that he ask her if he could use it.  He didn’t right away, but about a minute later, he said to Sam, “Here, you can play with mine while I play with yours.”  Sam agreed, they traded, and they played nicely together for quite some time.

With Jackson alone, I really enjoyed using some of the skills I’ve been working on with Sam, like acknowledging his emotions.  It was hard because I don’t know Jackson as well as I know my own daughter so I couldn’t always tell when he was truly upset, when he was being dramatic, and when he was just goofing around.  The best example happened when we had a little party on Sunday.  A couple with three daughters came over for a barbecue.  (Holy cow, five kids at once!)  All the kids were playing on their own and the adults were talking in the kitchen.  At one point, Jackson came in and said, “I want to play with the girls but all they want to do is sleep.”  Apparently, the two older girls were pretending to sleep on Jackson’s air mattress in the basement.  I asked him if it bothered him that they were using his bed but he said no, that he just wanted them to play and they wouldn’t.  We told him that he couldn’t make them play and neither could we, but that he could suggest a different game or play by himself.  He went off and I thought it was over, but about five minutes later I noticed the girls had come upstairs and I thought I heard, over the din, a wailing coming from the basement.  I ran down and Jackson was by himself, crying.  He said the same thing, that he was upset that the girls didn’t want to play with him.  I almost went into problem-solving mode again, but then I realized that this was more than frustration.  I went over and hugged him and said, “We’ll talk about what to do in a minute, but for now let’s just have a hug.”  He leaned right into it and it obviously comforted him.  We took some deep breaths.  When he was feeling better, I asked him a couple of questions about how he felt (it was mostly disappointment) and then I repeated some of the suggestions for what he could do next.  This time, he went upstairs and everything was fine.  It might have helped that the girls were done “sleeping” but I also know that, besides suggestions for actions, Jackson needed someone to acknowledge his hurt.  Wow, that felt good. 

Another skill I used, straight out of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, was acknowledging Jackson’s feelings by fantasy wish-granting.  We have this snake, a stuffed animal we got at the zoo.  We named it Severus, for reasons obvious to any Harry Potter fan.  Jackson loved Severus, and at one point he said, “I wish I could take Severus home with me.”  I think I said something like, “Oh, that’s too bad.”  Jackson didn’t complain, but afterwards I realized that I could have done better.  Later, I was given a second chance when Jackson was packing up his things to leave while carrying Severus around on his shoulders.  I said, “I wish I could wave a wand like Harry Potter and make a duplicate Severus for you to take home.”  Jackson looked at me and I swear, I saw him pause to digest what I had said and then he gave me the best, most appreciative smile I’ve ever seen.  All he said was, “Thanks,” with delighted surprise in his voice.  It’s hard to convey in words what I saw in the smile and heard in that voice.  All I can say is, “It works!”

Another thing that really struck me was how much Jackson really listened.  The first morning, he woke up early and stomped around the house and eventually woke up Samantha.  Adam explained to him that he needed to be extra quiet in the morning so as not to wake her up, and left it at that.  The next morning, I awoke to the sound of my name, opened my eyes, and saw a sweet face in front of me.  Jackson whispered, “Can I watch TV?”  I said “Sure, I’ll help you get set up,” and got up.  We were halfway downstairs when I realized that Jackson was walking quietly and whispering.  I said, “Thank you for being so quiet, Jackson.”  Later in the day, I made sure to tell Adam, with Jackson within earshot, how quiet Jackson had been that morning.  It was actually quite difficult not to overdo the praise.  I didn’t want him to think that we were surprised that he was so good, but, in fact, I was a bit surprised.  I’m still rooting out that bad premise that kids are little heathens who will be naughty by default.

Some other random observations:

  • All the kids got along very well together with very little supervision.  I know that having a baby will be very different, but ages seven and (almost) three for one weekend was pretty easy.  If things go as I hope they will, Sam will be the seven-year-old in a pair in about four years.
  • I didn’t like the chaos of five kids in the house, but really, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
  • Boys are messy bathroom-goers.  If I ever have one, I’m keeping a mop in the bathroom.
  • I don’t know if it’s a boy thing or an age thing or a Jackson thing, but Jackson is totally ballistic compared to Samantha.  He can tear through a room and pull out dozens of toys in one minute flat.  Thankfully, he was very willing to clean up when he was done.  He doesn’t seem to be careless, but he still breaks things easily.  He always apologized and even told me that he tried to fix things.  I think he’s still learning his own strength.  I had to work hard to let go and just let whatever happened, happen.  Luckily, no major damage was done.
  • Jackson sleeps so soundly I had to check his breathing.  It took me about ten minutes to get him up for a bathroom run in the middle of the night.  Toby barked right next to his ear and he didn’t even stir.  I sure hope that is a typical kid thing and not just Jackson.  As of now, Sam wakes up when Toby barks on the far side of the house.
  • The noise level goes up exponentially with the number of children in the house.
  • The mess level goes up exponentially with the number of children in the house.
  • Five kids can go through a bottle of apple juice in a matter of hours.
  • There’s no such thing as a kid who laughs too loud.

It’s that after-sick time now in our house.  Samantha is much better today, but I’m losing my mind because she has become a whining, annoying, uncooperative baby.  I hate to say that about my own child (and I wouldn’t say it to her face), but it’s true.  Of course, we made her that way by spoiling her for the past 5 days.  And it’s hard to get out of the habit.  We’ve been sleeping in her room, spoon feeding her, letting her drink juice all day, and basically giving her anything she wants.  While she is sick, she doesn’t abuse her power, but the better she feels, the more she reverts to screaming at any little thing that doesn’t go her way. 

I think this is what people mean when they say that being a parent requires patience.  A few days of proper parenting is the cure for this ill.

Samantha rolled a pair of dice for the first time tonight.  She got double sixes!

Referee

Sung to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin”:

Jinx and Sammy
Jinx and Sammy
Don’t you fight
Don’t you fight
I don’t want to referee
I don’t want to referee
It makes me uptight
It makes me uptight

Lately, I’ve been enamored of simple recipes with very few ingredients.  I made up this salmon recipe based on a suggestion from a friend to use heavy cream for sauces, instead of making a roux with flour.  I’ve made this a few times now and it’s one of those “no fail” recipes – always good and always easy.  I like to serve it with roasted asparagus.

  • Season 2 or 3 salmon fillets in Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (or some tasty seasoning of your choice)
  • Heat 1 Tablespoon butter in a large frying pan on medium-high heat
  • Swish the butter around and when it starts to bubble a bit, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Once it’s hot, add the salmon
  • Fry for about 3 minutes per side (Tip: cut off and remove the thinner parts before they get overcooked – it doesn’t look as nice, but it tastes better)
  • Remove the salmon to a plate, turn the heat to low and then let the pan cool off a bit
  • Add about 1/2 cup of heavy cream (I never measure), some lemon juice, and a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • Stir, heat it through and reduce it if you like
  • Season to taste (if you use Chachere’s, you won’t need any more seasoning) and pour over salmon to serve

Forgive me, Internet, for I have sinned.  It has been 143 days since my last confession.

Michael Jackson was my first crush.

I have some mixed feelings today, but mostly I feel sad.  I don’t know whether the allegations of molestation were true.  If they weren’t, he suffered a massive injustice.  If they were, he was evil.  Either way, though, his life was obviously a mess.  What a sad ending for that adorable little boy who sang like an angel and taught the world a new way to dance.

Tonight, Adam taught Samantha how to say, “Give me a shot, barkeep.  And make it a double!”  He also taught her how to say, “One more for the road.”  Why does that make him a good dad?  Because Sam is sick and needs her fluids, and that little game is what got her to drink a whole glass of juice, one little medicine cup at a time.

In case anyone wonders why I read dooce, here’s the answer.

Check out this week’s Objectivist Round Up at The Rule of Reason.

Croup

It looks like Samantha has her first case of croup.  Around 11pm last night, a sound came from her bedroom that made me sit up in bed, and made Adam run into our bedroom to ask me if I had made that noise.  It sounded like a barking seal and it was loud. 

A bit later, Sam woke up crying and we could tell she was not going back to sleep so we went in to give her Tylenol and some love.  When it was time for her to get back in bed, she asked to keep her bedroom door open which we’ve never done before.  I did want to be able to hear her and I thought it was a good time to test out this new freedom.  Even though she can open doors now, she hasn’t bothered to come out of her room at night yet.  That is just typical Samantha.  But I know someday she will open that door and I thought leaving it open this time might help to comfort her and give her some practice at the same time.

I had to return her to her bed 3-4 times, and Adam did it once.  We used the Supernanny technique.  The first time, I said, “It’s time for bed, sweetie.”  The second time, “Bedtime.”  All other times, no words, just a gentle and calm touch when picking her up.  She cried for about a half hour, which is probably what she would have done with the door closed anyway.  Then she stayed in her room for the rest of the night.  She woke up coughing a few times, but she stayed in bed.

I hope this bodes well for the future of bedtime.

I Googled “croup” this morning and it appears that she has a mild case that won’t require a trip to the doctor, but she might miss her second day of day care this week if the fever doesn’t pass quickly.  I really hate that.  We’re also having our friends’ son (the one we went to the Bahamas with) stay with us this weekend, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she gets better quickly.

For anybody considering becoming a parent, I’d like to recommend this excellent book:  A Baby? Maybe:  A Guide to Making the Most Fateful Decision of Your Life by Elizabeth M. Whelan. 

When Adam and I got married we were both undecided about having children, and I think we both leaned towards the negative.  The first thing that started steering us in the other direction was a vacation we took with our close friends and their 18 month old son.  We spent a week in the Bahamas with them and saw firsthand how they were able to integrate their child into their lives and continue to do fun, adventurous things, even if it did mean lugging around a lot more stuff.  We thought to ourselves, “We could do that.”

Then, a friend of Adam’s recommended this book to us.  He picked up a copy and we read it together (back in the days when we had time for him to read out loud to me ;) ).  I don’t remember it too clearly, but the book was mostly a series of interviews the author conducted, asking people about which choice they made, why, and whether they had any regrets.  Adam and I came away with three new and life-changing ideas about this decision:

1)  The decision to become a parent is unique – unlike any other you will make in your life – and so it must be approached slightly differently.  There are two things that make it unique.  First, you are creating a new human being with free will, so you have much less control over the outcome than with other choices.  You never have perfect information, but in this case, you will always have doubts and confusion because you have no ultimate control over what your child will be.  You can’t make a pro-and-con list.  You will never feel like you’ve analyzed the options and know what to expect.  You cannot really know what to expect.

2)  The second thing that makes this decision unique is that it is irrevocable.  Most choices you make in life can be reversed.  Sometimes there is a lot of pain involved, but you can say, “I made a mistake.  I’m going to go back and fix it.”  When you have a child, you can never change the fact that you are a parent.  Even in the worst cases where you might give the child up for adoption, the fact that you created a human being is going to alter your life forever.  But, more likely, you will spend the rest of your life as an active parent and there is nothing you can do to change that.

3)  The regret principle applies.  In the interviews in the book, the people with the most regrets were the ones who defaulted into a choice, whether it was to have children or not to have children.  That included people who had kids because it was “the thing to do” after they got married, and people who never had kids because they just never got around to it or couldn’t make up their minds.  This taught us that we needed to make a conscious decision one way or another.

Once we recognized these three principles, we both knew we wanted to have a child.  It was strange how it became so obvious after these revelations.  I think we both had been in the “wait and see” mode, figuring that we’d know if and when the time was right.  The third point really woke us up.

The book is out of print, but you can find used copies at Amazon.  The thing that prompted me to write about it is that I recently heard Leonard Peikoff recommend the very same book on his podcast.  (Unfortunately, I didn’t write down which podcast it was.)  The person who told us about the book was not an Objectivist, so I was quite shocked and pleased to hear that Dr. Peikoff also recommended it.

A Baby? Maybe is not a book that will convince you to have children.  It is a guide to how to approach the whole issue.  It gives you a framework for your thinking.  And it uses an inductive approach by starting with real people and their decisions, and using those facts to come up with some general principles.

Vacations

Early this year, Adam and I agreed not to take a vacation this year for financial reasons.  We were really struggling, and a vacation is a budget-buster that is easy to cut out of the equation.

Now we have three trips planned.

Our financial situation improved a bit, so we thought, well, maybe we’ll take a quick trip somewhere.  But we also decided that we wouldn’t go visit any friends or family, but just get out of town on our own, just the three of us.

Two of the three trips are family visits.

It’s just irresistible.  My parents are staying in a campground just 4 hours away for the next month, so we’re going to drive there with the dog for the Fourth of July weekend.  Cheap and fun!  Then, Adam’s parents told us they’d chip in if we flew down to Florida to visit, and that they’d watch Sam for a couple of days while the two of us took a side trip.  How could we say no to that? 

Then, Adam has a business trip to New York just after Christmas, so Sam and I will tag along.  Going along on Adam’s business trips is an easy and cheap way to travel, but, again, it’s not something we really chose on our own. (But I have been dying to get back to New York lately anyway.)

Most of our vacations are like this – things that fall in our laps.  Mostly, they are a lot of fun, and we don’t end up doing the same thing year after year, which I prefer not to do.

But someday…someday…we’ll make it to Italy for our long-delayed honeymoon.  Maybe I should start planning now if I want to do it in the next decade.

Fear

Michelle at Scribbit has the best moose story ever!  Here’s a teaser:

You see, apparently the good folks at the Anchorage School District figure that children today don’t have enough to worry about. Global warming, nuclear holocaust, terrorism, AIDS, swine flu, drugs and domestic violence are all fine and dandy but our children today really need to be warned about the dangers of moose. Yes moose.

The schools are trying to make kids afraid of man, but, of course, we’re supposed to be afraid of nature too.  I applaud Michelle’s intent, even if it didn’t work out as planned.

Rested

That was a crazy post I wrote last night but I’m finally rested!  The cat meowed and I woke up about 4 times, but it was still the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.  Ambien rocks!  Sam slept better too, only waking up a half hour early this morning.  Whew!  You never know, those hallucinations might just have been from sleep deprivation.

One thing I get to be happy about after finding out that there is another month of uncertainty ahead of us as we continue on this baby-making journey is that I get to take my sleeping pills for a couple of weeks, while I’m sure I’m not pregnant.

Prior to chucking the birth control pills, I’d been taking Ambien (or the generic, Zolpiderm) for about 6 months pretty much daily.  It was wonderful.  It was so wonderful, in fact, that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop taking it when the time came.  I was sure that I was addicted, even though it is supposedly non-habit-forming.  But I did stop, that first month, and although I had some trouble sleeping, it was nothing worse than the same insomnia that drove me to take the pills in the first place.  Maybe it was even less severe than that. 

I get the lowest dosage of this drug that you can get, and I cut the pills in half, and they knock me out like a … like a … like a two ton heavy thing.  (Anyone? Anyone?) And before I fall asleep, I get a sense of well being, along with minor hallucinations that amuse me.  That’s pretty good shit, doc!

Tonight I took a full pill and now the words are swimming on the screen in front of my eyes, and several rows of type are highlighted in orange (oh, no, it’s blue now).  My keyboard appears to be covered in snow. I wouldn’t be surprised if I started smelling the fishy scent of the Pacific Ocean any time now.  You couldn’t pay me to get in a car and drive right now. 

I took the full dose tonight because I am actually more tired than usual.  Sam has been keeping me up at night.  Well, in the morning.  She is waking up an hour or two earlier than usual, and not napping well either.  It’s wreaking havoc on my sleep schedule, because I’m one of those night people.  I just can’t get my butt to bed early.  As soon as it gets dark, I’m awake.  And this has been going on for a couple of weeks now, and even after sleeping in until 11am this morning (thanks, hon), I am still a walking zombie.

So every night I’ve been saying, “I have to get to bed earlier,” but now I have my miracle pill that will make it happen.  Still, I took the pill and, instead of getting right in bed, I came downstairs to write this post in an altered state.  Anything, anything to stay awake longer.  It’s a curse, I tell you!

And now I must go get a snack and watch a little HGTV, because, of course, I’m all wound up and need to chill a bit before actual sleep arrives.  But at least I know that I’ll be asleep the minute I turn off my light, and nothing will wake me.  Not that damn bird that tweets outside my window at 4am, not those crazy sounds I heard last night that sounded like a combination of something breaking the sound barrier, followed by a gunshot, twice, at 3:45am, not my dog puking under the bed, not my daughter waking up at 6, and then after she quiets, the cat meowing at her door to wake her (and therefore, all of us) back up.  And not that strange lady peering at me from inside the closet, oh, but she disappears when I look in her direction. (Serious hallucinations, I tell you!)

Yeah, I’ll sleep tonight.  Thanks again Modern Medicine.

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