Halloween

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Tristan in his dragon, last year.

Last year Halloween was pretty chill. We’d just moved the week before, so we were too busy unpacking to even thick about decorations. My friend Shelley had bought Tristan an awesome dragon “jogging suit”, which he loved, so he wore that. We went to the mall for “trick or treating”, then in the evening Nathan took him just to the immediate neighbours to introduce ourselves. I ate all the candy, and that was that.

P1100222This year was quite different. We’d been talking about Halloween for a while, and he’d done lots of Halloween crafts and activities in preschool. He knew all about candy, pumpkins, and costumes, and was keen to try trick-or-treating. Luckily for me, he insisted on wearing the dragon again.

Loooong line at Galey Farms

Loooong line at Galey Farms

Probably the most exciting thing about Halloween for him was all the train rides. The Saanich Historical Society, the Forestry Museum in Duncan, and Galey Farms all had special Halloween rides – it was a bit of a scheduling challenge to fit them all in. Tristan loved all of them, despite the crowds, long lines, and mayhem. Probably the highlight for him was the one in Saanich, because it had lots of ghosties and three singing pumpkins.

20131020_125005Tristan was also super keen to carve a pumpkin this year. We picked through the very mouldy crop at Galey, and came up with a few that we thought would hold out until Halloween. I didn’t get any pics of our pumpkin, alas, and we smashed it up today, but it was a lovely smiley face that Tristan chose, and he helped scoop out all the guts.

P1100211We invited Aunty Melissa over for trick-or-treating, and it was a good thing we did. Turns out wrangling a costumed kid, a pumpkin treat bag, and a flashlight is a two-woman operation. Nathan stayed home with Cora, our little superbaby.

Tristan was braver for trick-or-treating than I expected. He boldly went up to every house and gave a very firm double-pound on the door. His usually didn’t need to be prompted to say trick or treat, though he did so in a very small voice. He also almost always said thank you, though that usually did need some reminding. He was very keen on any house that had pumpkins or ghosties, and very hesitant about any decoration that looked like it might sing or laugh.

P1100208Alas, no pics or video of trick-or-treating; even with Melissa’s help there weren’t enough hands. But a good time was had by all. He’s been sad to see all the ghosties in the neighbourhood go, but is glad that the next big holiday is Christmas. Because, as he told us the other day, he will be happy at Christmas.

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First month of preschool

Well, this was originally going to be the first day of preschool post, but suddenly it’s October. Not sure how that happened …

Several months ago I attended a mothering workshop (more on this in another post) which was really amazing. At one point, I was complaining talking about how much harder it is to meet other moms now that I have Cora. With Tristan, it was easy – we’d go to baby group, baby yoga, whatever. I was meeting moms all over the place. But now that I have a baby and a toddler, it’s not so easy. Most baby groups don’t allow older siblings, or they fall during his meal/nap times.

The host of the workshop (the wonderful, knowledgable, caring and helpful Joss) asked me if I’d considered co-op preschools. I admitted that I’d never heard of them. She explained that they were preschools that were run by the parents, and as such the parents all had a job within the preschool, and took turns doing duty days there. There was still a licensed ECE running the program, but everybody else was a parent. Her little one went to one, and she said it was a great way to network and meet other like-minded parents.

Sounded perfect! So I looked into the Vancouver Island Cooperative Preschool Association (VICPA), and discovered that Strawberry Vale Preschool is not too far from where we live. They had room, it sounded good, and suddenly Tristan was all signed up.

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I don’t know about Tristan, but I LOVE preschool! I got talked into taking the role of secretary on the executive board, and it’s been great. I’m meeting some amazing moms, and I get to be “in the know”, and already after only a month I feel like I’m actually starting to be part of a community here.

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Sorry, I don’t have great pics of preschool because most of the photos have other kids in them, and I don’t want to post them without permission.

Tristan, on the other hand, is having a bit of a rough go of it. He loves the idea of preschool, and he looks forward to going, but once we’re there he has some separation anxiety. Which is to be expected, poor little guy. But it’s already improving, and he knows the names of his friends there, and he likes Teacher Gail a lot. It helps that I have duty days, where I can be in there with him, but I think it’s also a little confusing at first. Sometimes mommy comes in, and sometimes she doesn’t. But I have faith that he’ll get it sorted out in short order.

And coming up this month we have crazy hair day, pyjama day, and a field trip to look forward to. So let’s hear three cheers for preschool!

The Terrible Twos?

OR: A LOVE SONG FOR MY TODDLER

When people find out I have a two-year-old, they often shudder and say, “Oh, the terrible twos.” Then they deluge me with horror stories about children they either raised or knew, and the demonic lengths they went to in order to ensure the gradual erosion of their parents’ sanity.

For example, the two year old who threw a screaming tantrum in the middle of the grocery store every single time they went shopping, unless they bought her a treat. (That one is almost cliche, and even became a pro-condom ad.) 

Or the two year old who, when sent for a time out, took a can of Pledge with him and emptied it into the wall, permanently staining the paint and drywall beneath. The oil kept leaching out, no matter how often they repainted.

Or the two year old who announced that she had put her jam crackers into one of mommy’s books, but forgot which one. (Variations of that scenario still gives Nathan heart palpitations.)

Or the two year old who started refusing to pee when she didn’t get her way, and by the age of five was in kidney failure and on the list for a transplant.

When Tristan turned two, I was terrified. I kept waiting for my sweet little boy to be swapped for a screaming, manipulative, conniving monster –  one that I would be hard-pressed to love until his third birthday and he turned back into a person.

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Tristan keeping Cora and I company at the park.

But so far that hasn’t happened. Tristan continues to be a delight. He is kind to his sister, generous with his toys, patient when I’m too busy to play, and hilarious every single day. I can count the number of real tantrums he’s had on one hand. He has his moments and meltdowns, certainly, but he can usually be jollied out of them pretty easily. Even this last week, when he’s been dealing with soother withdrawal and a head cold, he’s been a champ.

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I know, it’s a post about Tristan, but look how cute she is eating grass!

He’s especially cute with his sister. If Cora is left alone in the playroom and starts to cry, Tristan runs back in where she can see him and says, “Don’t worry, Baby Cora. You’re not abandoned.” If he’s having a snack and she starts to fuss, he asks me to bring her some puffies. And whenever we go in the car, he grabs a toy for himself and two for his sister. I have yet to see him get angry at her or be violent in any way.

Siblings having a tent party. I wasn't invited.

Siblings having a tent party. I wasn’t invited.

And as proof of hilarity, here’s a recent exchange during diaper change…
Tristan: “I have don’t have to peepee right now.”
Me: “Good, I don’t want to get peepeed on.”
Tristan: “Peepee comes out of my penis. My mighty penis.”
Me, stifling laughter: “Did you say your mighty penis?!”
Tristan: “Yep!”
Me: “Who told you that?”
Tristan: “I did!”

With only two more months until Tristan’s birthday, I feel pretty confidant that we’ve  bypassed the terrible twos. And I’m going to pretend I never read the recent article in Today’s Parent that talked about how the Terrible Twos are a myth, and in reality it’s the Terrible Threes.

But you might be reading a completely different blog post a year from now.

Goodbye guest room

Long ago, when I used to fantasize about my perfect family, I thought I would be a co-sleeping parent. I longed to snuggle up to that warm, squishy infant and listen to them breathe.

Life, it turns out, had other plans. Tristan and I just didn’t sleep well together, right from day one. Subsequent backup plans failed, one after the other: the cradle (which my parents took apart and lovingly scraped, sanded, stained and reassembled for their first grandchild) only lasted a few weeks before my 11 lb 4 oz newborn outgrew it. Having his crib in our room only worked for a few more months before he became too engrossed in our every move to be able to sleep in the same room as us. Tristan was kicked to his own room at 5 months, and has been sleeping great ever since. 

Four day old Tristan is already busting through the bars.

Four day old Tristan is already busting through the bars.

Fastforward 2 years. Here was my chance to try again. For a glorious week Cora and I slept together. It made nursing easier, and it was so lovely to cuddle. Then, it stopped working. Just like that. Like her brother, she just didn’t want to sleep with me.

On to the cradle. That worked better, as she was a more reasonable size (only 8 lb 15 at birth, a real lightweight). We managed to get two months out of the cradle this time. Then, again, on to the crib in the room.

This worked better, for a while. Until, again, suddenly it didn’t. We went from being able to talk in bed without fear of disturbing her, to suddenly having to undress in the hallway, tiptoe in holding our breaths, and slide into the sheets, praying she wouldn’t wake up.

The last two weeks, as Tristan has been adjusting to life with no soother, I’ve moved into the guest room. When he wakes up screaming, if I have to run past the crib to get to him then I have two screaming kids on my hands (which happens every few nights anyway – our walls and doors are thin and my kids are LOUD). At least sleeping in a different room than Cora gives me a chance that she’ll stay asleep.

Things finally came to a head a few nights ago. The guest room had a guest in it, and I was up and down with both kids at the same time twice in the same night. Turns out it’s just not possible to comfort a toddler who’s having a panic attack while nursing a baby at the same time.

Time to admit that Cora and I just can’t sleep in the same room any more. If somebody is going to be in the guest room, it might as well be her. So I texted mom and dad , begging for help, and being the good sports (read, angels) that they are, they came right over. A little bit of sweat later and some creative maneuvering, and we now have a nursery. I hated giving the guest room up, but sanity trumps hospitality.

Now, I know the question you’re burning to ask is this – has it improved the sleep situation? Too early to say – Cora is still adjusting to the new digs. She naps better, and goes to sleep well, but has been up crying a lot in the night. Which is why I’m finishing a blog post at 2:20am instead of happily sawing logs. If I have to listen to her cry, I might as well do something useful.

So, if you were planning to come for a visit – too bad! Just kidding, we still have 3 couches and two of them are comfy. It just means you’ll be in the living room listening to my kids cry instead of behind a closed door listening to them cry. Appealing, non?

Okay, it’s quiet now. I’m going to bed. Wish me luck!

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If only she looked like that all the time she was in bed!

Soother free since September three

So, after having to abort our first attempt at giving the soother to the soother fairy, it finally had to happen for good. Tristan spent a long sleepover at his Omi’s house, and when he came back his last remaining soother had holes in it. It was either commit to buying new soothers every week, risk a tragic soother-induced choking incident, or get rid of it once and for all.

Leaving it out for the soother fairy hadn’t worked, mainly, I think, because it was too hard for him to fall asleep knowing it was out there, in the next room, just sitting there. I decided to follow a friend’s advice and just take it while he slept, and leave the puzzle out for him. However, that plan backfired because every time I checked on him in the night, the thing was practically cemented to his face. So I did the next best thing – stole it just before his nap, and left the puzzle and letter from the fairy in it’s place.

The puzzle was a big hit, but napping without the soother wasn’t. There were lots of tears, and even laying down with him didn’t work. Eventually we gave up all together. I was very worried about that first night, and even more so as I had a preschool meeting to go to, so my mom would be putting him to bed. My fears were in vain, though. When I got home he was asleep, and mom reported that after lots of stories and songs and backrubbing, she eventually left him alone and he just dropped right off.

I’d been worried about the middle of the night, but it wasn’t too bad. A few times he woke up crying, and it took lots of laying down with him, songs and backrubs to get him back to sleep. But there was less freaking out than I’d feared.

Since then, naps have been non-existant. As soon as I leave the room he cries, but it’s a very fake, attention-getting cry that I have little sympathy for. However, as this is a major transition for him, I don’t want to come down too hard. So after some more stories and songs, I’ve been caving and letting him up. Right now, during nap 5, I can hear him goofing around in there, but at least he isn’t whining.

Bedtimes haven’t been too bad – he seems to be adjusting and falling asleep pretty easily. Part of that is exhaustion, I’m sure. This no nap thing is really starting to wear on him – he’s normally a 2.5 hour napper, so he’s down more than 10 hours of sleep this week. But, at least it helps him fall asleep at bedtime. He’s still up 1-2 times a night, and so far I’ve run into his room each time; maybe it will soon be time to just let him cry for a few minutes and see if he puts himself back to sleep.

At least I don’t have to worry about him choking to death on a detached soother in the night. But I’ll sure be happy when I can get more than 2-3 hours of uninterrupted sleep again.

So exhausted from missing naps that he actually fell asleep in the shopping cart! Did not look at all comfy, but he slept for almost 15 minutes that way.

So exhausted from missing naps that he actually fell asleep in the shopping cart! Did not look at all comfy, but he slept for almost 15 minutes that way.

Friday Fives: How Cora is different from Tristan

  1. She sucks her toes. I was promised that all babies went through a toe sucking stage, but Tristan never did. But Cora does enough cute toe-sucking to make up for his lack. See video evidence here.
  2. She’s less mobile. By this stage Tristan was already crawling (see refresher video evidence here), but Cora isn’t even rolling over yet. But she’s sitting like a pro!
  3. 20130822_075302She’s more smiley. Tristan was, and is, more serious, more of an observer. But Cora will smile at anything and anyone. I constantly get comments when I’m out with her because she’s such a flirt.
  4. She’s a worse sleeper. It seems to me that Tristan was only getting up once a night to feed, and he was napping like a pro by this age. Cora is still up and down with going to sleep. She’s up 1-3 times a night, and often doesn’t nap at all, but will just scream for a half hour until I get her up. But it’s possible that I’m just not remembering…that happens.
  5. She’s more chatty. Cora has lots of consonant sounds – she makes mumumum and bababa type babbling. Tristan didn’t start with most consonant sounds until after he was 1. At this age he was still just cooing and making little bird noises. It will be interesting to see if she talks sooner than he did.

But one thing that’s the same – they’re both the cutest babies in all the land!

Give me a break

In the last several weeks, a recurring theme has emerged in conversations I’ve been having with my other mommy friends. A few examples…

1.  My sister recently visited for 10 days from Halifax. Somebody said to me, “It’s so great your sister is staying with you, it must be giving you a real break.”

2. The other day my friend’s sister put her two toddlers to bed while she ran out and got some groceries. Her mother-in-law said to her, “That was so nice of your sister – it must have been a nice break from the kids.”

3. When another friend complained about being burned out and wanting some time away from the kids, her husband said, “What are you talking about? Your mom was just here for the long weekend, and now you need another break?”

I’m sure you noticed the word that all these scenarios  have in common. It’s funny how often people throw that word around  moms with small children. As if any slight change in routine or extra pair of hands on deck is automatically a break.

Don’t get me wrong, all of the above examples were  helpful. It’s absolutely helpful to get the grocery shopping done without having to haul Cora around in the sling and have Tristan trying to play hide-and-seek in the freezer section. But is it a break? No. It’s awesome to have company help with the kids, to entertain them, to bathe them, to read them stories. It’s helpful, but it’s not a break. Going to my mom’s for dinner so I don’t have to cook or clean? Wonderful! A break? Nope.

The thing is, parenting, especially part-time single-parenting, isn’t just taking care of the kids. It’s the kids, the groceries, the laundry (by gods, the laundry), the cooking, and the cleaning. Oh, the cleaning. It’s keeping the floors and carpets in some semblance of cleanliness because little hands and feet and faces are all over them. It’s keeping the tub reasonably clean because there are two baths a day in it and they drink the bathwater, even if they’ve just peed in it – especially if they’ve just peed in it. It’s having to clean the toilet every damn day because Tristan needs to empty his potty into it himself, and his hands are all over the seat and the bowl, and try catching him for a handwash before he runs to the fridge to get his reward of a yogurt raisin. It’s not having 5 minutes for a morning shower without playing peek-a-boo around the shower curtain. It’s the crazy hours from 5-8 when I have to bath Cora, nurse her, put her to bed, get Tristan’s dinner ready, eat with him, bath him, put him to bed, read stories, sing a song and kiss him goodnight. It’s the dozen little jobs that have been on my mind for six months, and I think maybe I’ll be able to check one of them off tonight but by the time I close his door, all I have the energy for is a half hour of something brainless and an early night. Because I’ll be up 2-3 times with Cora, plus 1-3 times with Tristan to fetch his soother, and 5:30 is going to come around awfully damn early. 

So if somebody is around and helps me with one or two of those things, that’s great, it’s helpful, and I’m thankful, I really am. But unless I’m either a) out of the house, sans children, not doing chores; b) in the bath with a glass of wine and a book; or c) asleep, then it’s not a break. And by that criteria, I can count the number of breaks I’ve had since Cora was born on one hand. And still have a finger or two left over.

Okay, I’ve cleared the air and the pity party is now over. But while I think of it, does anybody want to babysit this weekend? I could really use a break.