Thursday, 28 August 2014

bummin' around

Well, I've been wanting to write an update for awhile and I know what you all really want to hear about and that is, of course, the kids. Kateri is now nine months old and has recently become mobile. Instead of crawling, like a conventional baby, she's worked out a method of scooting her way across the floor while sitting down. We call this "scooching" (which is, I guess, a word I made up?) or "bumming". She's still somewhat slow, but getting faster everyday, and every day realising the possibilities of where her scooching can take her. Today she followed Isaac around while he yelled "Don't!" and protectively hugged his toys. She also found a power cord, tried to get into the bathroom, and, of course, found a few (or maybe more than a few) tasty morsels on the floor to try and eat. Looks like it's time to start baby-proofing again, and time to really try and keep these floors a little cleaner.

Isaac is approaching his third birthday way too quickly. He is growing into a little boy with quite the imagination. Quite often when I go to look for Isaac I find he is gone and in his place is a little dog named Bernie. Bernie likes to help clean up by picking up toys in his mouth and putting them away. Occasionally, Bernie talks, usually asking for a treat, but quite often when I ask him a question all he'll say is "woof." Bernie was cute at first but sometimes I miss Isaac, the human child who can talk to me and who eats with cutlery.

Here's our sweet little Bernie.

Isaac is in one of his favourite doggy hangouts, and Kateri, not to be left behind, bummed her way after him.
 I've talked before about really enjoying having two kids, and it still holds true. The sibling love just keeps growing. Now that Kateri is mobile I know that I'll be playing referee more and, yes, Isaac does yell at her when she comes after his toys, but most of the time watching them together is just plain cute. Isaac still thinks it's funny when Kateri pulls his hair. Kateri still thinks it's awesome when Isaac tries to wrestle her. Isaac runs to get Kateri whenever he hears that she's woken up from a nap. Kateri laughs at Isaac's antics more than at anything else. And now watching her trying to go wherever he goes really reminds me of me being the younger sister tagging along after my older brother.


Bath buddies
Life has felt very peaceful lately. I don't know if Isaac's tantrums have mellowed out or if I've just learned to let them roll off me a little better. Finding time to pray everyday helps immensely. I've also been feeling pretty energetic and like I could handle taking on something else (what? who knows?). I've thought about a few different things I could do but I think for now I'll just keep trying to perfect what I've already got going. After all, it's not like the whole house is spotless and organized as it is. There's plenty for me to do around here, I just don't always feel like doing the mundane tasks that make up my daily lot.

Anyway, life is good, God is better, and we are, as always, very blessed.

Friday, 11 July 2014

a tantrum-free day

This weekend we're heading off to Pembroke to see a dear friend's ordination to the priesthood. While we wouldn't want to miss this event it also means preparing for another road trip with two little ones in this summer that has already been crazy busy. Just thinking about it makes me tired. 

Tiring? Yes. But cute? Double yes.
When my mother-in-law told me that they were going up to the same area a day earlier than us and offered to take Isaac with them and meet us there my first reaction was discomfort. Isaac has never been away from us, with the exception of the night after Kateri was born. He's certainly never been on a road trip without us. Then I began to see the idea in sort of a rose-coloured shimmery haze. I could pack for the trip without Isaac there flinging clothes around and trying to put on our deodorant. We would have a relatively peaceful car ride, with only Kateri who's guaranteed to sleep for at least a couple of hours of the trip. It would only be one night away with his beloved Nana and Papa, and Isaac is no clingy child. With lots of people around and lots to do he'd hardly miss us. I could have a tantrum-free day.

You see, lately Isaac's toddlerishness has really been getting to me. I always knew that toddlers had tantrums, the "terrible twos" and all that, but I think I had some vague idea that if you were a good parent and dealt with tantrums properly the phase wouldn't last all that long. 

Classic "cheese" face.
If anyone reading this hasn't had much contact with toddlers, my vague idea was wrong. Isaac has been a tantrum-thrower for about a year and a half now, and it seems that there's no end in sight. I'm pretty sure this is actually just normal. We don't reward his tantrums, give in to him, or bribe him (except when we're really desperate..hey, we're not perfect!) but the simple fact remains that he is not yet able to control his emotions. Sometimes his tantrums are him putting on a show trying to get what he wants, but most of the time he just genuinely loses it. For a long time I thought that this was just the age he was at, and it is, but part of it is that we've just got a very passionate little fellow on our hands. He screams when he's excited, he screams when he's upset, and he gets upset and excited often. "Exuberant" my mom calls him, and I would have to agree.

He is getting better at obeying, and better at self-control, but I find that as he learns more I expect more from him. He used to rarely obey me, he just didn't have the impulse control. It was frustrating sometimes, but understandable. Now when he doesn't obey me or follow rules but I know that he can it can really bother me. I don't like dealing with tantrums. I'm a non-confrontational person so a battle of wills with my toddler is just exhausting. The sheer noise grates on me on a physical level.

I wrote awhile ago about it not being personal with toddlers. I think lately I've started taking it personally again. And, really, it's all about pride: "No child of mine is going to be rough with his cousins. No child of mine is going to whine to watch more tv. No child of mine is going to refuse to eat his vegetables. No child of mine is going to continually snatch toys from his sister." Why not? Am I so much better than the parents who have gone before me and struggled with these same issues? And even if I were a perfect parent does it follow that my child is going to be calm and self-controlled at the age of two? No, no and no. Of course, these behaviors are problems and we are working on them, but they will take time. And in the meantime, if I stop taking it personally and worrying about my pride I can deal with them much more calmly and consistently. 

Anyway, you can see how the prospect of a tantrum-free day was appealing. Even so, last night and this morning I was all in a flutter packing Isaac's bag and wondering if my baby was going to be okay without me. Sean and I did not find it easy letting him go. We have more separation anxiety than he does. We even talked about cancelling last night, but couldn't think of any good reasons. Isaac was excited to go with Papa to see Eowyn (the dog) the chickens at Sarah and Jason's house and wasn't the least upset leaving today. We know he's in very good hands and will have lots to keep him occupied. 

So Isaac is off on his adventure with Nana and Papa. The house is strangely silent without him. I miss him, but am also enjoying a little break. A little break, a little perspective, a chance to miss that little man and remember how much light he brings to our lives. And a chance for some quality time with Kateri. Our little miss is growing! Now that she's 7 months it seems like her first birthday is just around the corner and soon she'll be walking and talking and tagging along after her older brother just like I used to do. She's sitting up by herself (only falling occasionally) and grabbing everything within reach and sticking it in her mouth. She loves food, but has lately been insisting on feeding herself. She grabs the spoon as it's heading towards her mouth and sticks it in. I'm not sure how much she actually eats since most of her food seems to end up on her face, hands and clothes. She's our happy girl. I look at her and say, "You'll never have tantrums, right?" And then I laugh...and cry...
Little Miss Bright Eyes!
(Photo cred in this post goes to Sarah and Jason Gould

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day to all women: those who are mothers, those who will become mothers and those whose motherhood is spiritual.

This Mother's Day I'm trying to think of it as a day to be grateful for my motherhood. I'm so blessed that God has entrusted me with this wonderful husband and these two miraculous little souls.

I don't need a day of the world revolving around me in order to feel loved. I don't need the slave labour of my family in order to feel blessed.

This Mother's Day I'm trying to remember that motherhood is a gift, that I have in no way earned. It is my life, and I love it. Yes, it is a challenging life of service, but so is the life of every Christian.

I'm trying to remember the sacrifices that my own mom made to raise me. I'm trying to remember all of the friends, aunts, and grandmothers who are helping me mother my own children. I have so much to learn from all these women in my life.

I'm trying to remember our Blessed Mother: the woman whose "yes" made the salvation of the world possible. The woman who is still teaching me to say "yes" to God everyday.

God has given so much, and I am so grateful.

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

the second time around

I've been pondering the differences between having one child to look after and now having two, and I have to say that I think I like having two better. Obviously, I love both my kids and the thought of life without either of them is unimaginable. What I mean, though, is that personally I like the way that my day is filled better with two kids than I did with one.

I'll admit that I was terrified at the thought of having to look after a newborn as well as my never-sit-still-for-more-than-a-few-minutes toddler. I thought of what it was like when Isaac was a newborn: hours of nursing, then hours of trying to get him to nap when he got a little older. It seemed impossible that I could do that while also looking after an active toddler, who I still didn't feel was safe to leave alone for ten minutes while I took a shower (I shower in the evenings...I do shower, I promise). I tried not to worry too much because I knew that lots of people do it and that I would find a way to make it work when the time came.

And those first couple of weeks alone with the kiddos were tough. The postpartum hormones were still raging, I was still physically recovering and sleep deprived. It took me awhile to find a new rhythm and figure out how I could meet both their needs, and to realize that I didn't have to feel guilty for dividing my attention between them.

brand new baby sister
But now...I love it! It's still tiring and chaotic, as I think any life with little ones tends to be, but I love that my days are a little more full. There are more tasks that need immediate attention. This may not sound like a perk, but one of the difficulties that I found with just one child is that you have time, but it's difficult to use that time productively. It's hard to start any task that you can't wrap up quickly or leave for a few minutes if some meltdown or other "emergency" calls you. It's also difficult to do anything unless your toddler can somehow "help", unless you enjoy working with a crying child attached to your leg. So what do you do in those unusable moments? Instead of doing something that you actually want to do, you settle for taking a "scroll" on facebook or looking up symptoms online because those minuscule red dots on baby's cheeks could be something serious. Anyway, I find that in this case having less time is actually better.

Isaac makes sure she has lots of toys to play with.
I also find that when Kateri is fussy, it's not as frustrating to deal with (note: I'm not talking about a screaming baby, which is difficult to deal with in any circumstances). When Isaac was a baby and he needed to be held and bounced or walked around it was frustrating because there was nothing else I could do. I just had to stare at my messy house, shift that heavy child from one arm to another and wait for Sean to get home. Now, when Kateri is fussy I can at least keep Isaac out of trouble. I can talk to him and take part in his pretending. I've even stood beside him and read to him while comforting Kateri.

One of my favourite things about having two has to be watching the sibling love grow. When I get Kateri up from a nap Isaac will greet her: "It's Teri! She's 'wake!" and come over to give her a hug and otherwise maul her. He loves to put his finger in her little fist for her to hold, and now that she's actually starting to grab at him, he thinks it's pretty funny. Kateri smiles when Isaac approaches her (not sure why; there's risk of injury every time) and she gets all excited watching him jumping or running around. They are entertainment for each other. When you only have one, you, the parent, are their only source of amusement. When Kateri gets older, I know that I'm going to have to do a lot of refereeing between them, but at least they won't be hanging off my ankles all day.

We recently put away the bassinet and got out the crib. Isaac thinks it's a great place to play.
I know also that this time around I'm more confident as a mother. I'm enjoying the experience more now that I'm used to the sacrifices involved and less worried over every little thing. Becoming a parent is an overwhelming experience. Suddenly there is a little person in your life who needs you every minute of every day. There is no time off and no vacations (yes, you can take a vacation from your kids, but you're still their parent the whole time). Before Isaac was born I didn't have much experience with kids and I spent a lot of time when he was a baby researching everything from milestones to proper diet. While the information I found was useful it was also often confusing and stressful.

This time I've hardly done any research. We are gradually figuring out what kind of parenting works for us and how we want to raise our family, and I'm finding that no amount of research can substitute for the real life experience. I've learned that:

Every baby is different. some sleep better than others, some are naturally more content. They are all beautiful and lovable, but some are easier than other. Kateri sleeps better than Isaac did and I haven't done anything differently. Having an unhappy baby does not make you a bad parent and having an angel baby (like Kateri) does not make you a particularly good parent.

I've learned that even the most content baby will have his fussy hours, days, weeks. It does not necessarily mean that something's wrong or that there's something you should be doing differently. With Isaac I felt like I had to have the answer to every little cry (because a mother is supposed to know exactly what her baby's crying for every time...ya right!). This time I'm trying to be a little more relaxed about it.

I've learned that trying to put a baby on a schedule stresses me out. I'm not saying that schedules are bad for babies, I'm just saying that they don't work for me. Babies are constantly changing, going through growth spurts, teething, etc. so trying to factor all that into a schedule is not worth it for me. Also, most babies fall into, if not a schedule, at least a pattern when they're a few months old. I prefer watching for this pattern than trying to create one of my own.

I've learned that I'd rather endure quite a bit of sleep deprivation than do "cry it out" sleep training. Again, I'm not trying to judge. I know we're all just doing the best we can for our families, and I don't believe that that has to be the same for every family. But for me, the guilt of listening to those cries is not worth the few extra hours of sleep.

I've learned that in a family love doesn't just go from parent to child it goes in all directions. Now that Kateri is here I do have less time for Isaac. But he has a whole new person in his life to love and be loved by. I think it's well worth it.

The point is that now I know. Before Isaac was born these were things that I had read about, now they're things that I've experienced, and I'm finding that that is making my Baby #2  experience much less anxiety-filled. It also helps that Kateri is such an easy-going baby. Sometimes when she's fussy it's because I'm holding her when she'd rather be stretching out on the floor. How's that for low-maintenance? I'm not trying to brag because I take no credit for her sweetness. If I'd had her first and then Isaac, it might have been a bit of a shock. I probably would have wondered about him "What's wrong with this baby who won't sleep and needs so much attention?" I say this because I know that having two kids is not going to be more enjoyable than having one for everyone. These are definitely the types of things that can vary greatly from situation to situation and that is perfectly okay. I'm just sharing my experience and saying how wonderful it can be to have two.

The fact that every child is different is part of what makes having kids so exciting. Who knows who that little person will be? When I get frustrated with my kids I try to remind myself that these particular souls were entrusted to me at this particular time by God for a reason. Whatever the reason may be, it was God's decision and I guess He knows what He's doing.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

toddler tales

A blog post has been brewing inside me for the last few weeks and I thought I'd use it to give you a glimpse into the exasperating, but often hilarious life with a toddler and a baby.

1. "What y'doing Mommy?"

Over the past few months Isaac has become quite the talker. He now uses almost full sentences and though he can still be hard to understand sometimes he's pretty good at getting his point across one way or another. A while ago I discovered that if he was in a different room I could ask him what he was doing and he would usually tell. So while changing Kateri's diaper or nursing her I'll call out, "What are you doing, Isaac?" and he'll respond with something like, "Isaac push buttons" (meaning he's banging on the computer keyboard--not allowed, by the way) or "Table--Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Angel" (meaning he was up on the kitchen table, where he's not supposed to be, looking at the nativity set). At least he's honest, right?

Unfortunately, this has gotten him into the habit of "yelling" around the house, from room to room. He'll call out, "Mommy, stop!" as I walk into another room or, "Wait!" The other day I was in Isaac's room trying to put Kateri down for a nap (she often sleeps in there during the day since it's so dark and quiet). He noticed that I was gone and started yelling, "Mommy! What y'doing Mommy?". I try telling him to whisper but that only lasts for about 3 seconds before he's saying loudly "Mommy! Teri sleeping, Mommy." Arrgghhh. I have to remind myself that he's only two years old and really doesn't know any better at this point. Luckily, Kateri is still pretty easy to get to sleep, and at this rate she's really going to get used to falling asleep in a noisy environment.

2. Religious instruction

We're very blessed to have lots of help instructing our kids in the faith. Their Nana and Papa and Grandma will all help them to know Jesus as they grow up. Isaac can now do the sign of the cross (more or less), say the Our Father and Hail Mary and sing Salve Regina and Immaculate Mary in his own garbled way. However, a couple weeks ago we had a reminder that the more abstract aspects of faith still go way over his head.

My Mom was over for a visit. She said to Isaac, "Is Jesus in your heart? Is Jesus there in your heart?" touching his chest. Isaac looked down at his shirt then up at his Grandma and said, "That's Spiderman."

We tried explaining that Jesus was under his Spiderman shirt, inside of him, but I don't think he's quite there yet.

3. Craft time

Lately Isaac has been a little more into colouring and we finally got him a pair of little craft scissors, though I'm still afraid he'll find some way to mortally wound himself with them. Isaac loves his scissors. He'll cut paper, but what he really loves is to cut the things that he sees Mommy and Daddy cutting: cutting open packages, and snipping off tags. He once saw us cutting the bottoms off of some flower stems so now he thinks that flowers are for cutting. One day we were in the living room when Isaac noticed that his pants had drawstrings and then wandered into the other room. I didn't think anything of it, but a minute later when I went to go see what he was doing, he had already snipped his drawstrings off with his little scissors. Seriously, how sharp are they making those craft scissors these days? Fortunately, those drawstrings were decorative and not integral to the functioning of the pants.

4. Discipline

If anyone knows how to discipline a willful two-year-old could you please let me know? Actually never mind. I would probably get more answers to that question than I actually want. After all, there are no kids easier to discipline than other people's.

Isaac is not very sensitive, so no stern tone, or even raised voice, has the least effect on him. If anything, he thinks it's funny or exciting that he's getting an unusual reaction. He also treats being sent to his room for a time out like a big joke. What do you do with a kid like that? Wait till he gets older I guess.

5. Mirror Mirror

I often think how little kids are like mirrors, reflecting back the kind of behavior to which they are exposed. I'm sure some of Isaac's wildness is due to our laid back, but also messy and disorganized life. A while ago when Isaac was pretending to fix things with his play tools I noticed he would concentrate very hard on the object he was fixing, furrow his brow and say, "C'mon this!" which reminded me a lot of a certain husband when whatever he's working on is not cooperating.

On the other hand, after putting so much love into your little one, it's nice to see some of it start coming back out. For example, when we play mini-sticks together Isaac will say, "Good shot, Mommy!" and, of course, nothing is more charming than hearing him say, "I-uv-oo".

As much as this toddler phase can be exhausting, and frustrating I also find it utterly fascinating watching him learn and grow. I love that playing with him allows me to be a kid again. I love that I get to teach him about the world, and in return I get to see the world through his fresh, two-year-old eyes.

I realise that this post has mostly been about Isaac, so some of you may be wondering: what about Kateri? Well, she is doing splendidly! Those sweet little cheeks have rounded out into an adorable chubbiness. She is big for her age, though not nearly as big as her brother was, for which my back thanks her. She can hold her head up pretty well by now, and is starting to bat at her toys. She has her fussy times, but mostly it's pretty easy to convince her to show us her beautiful smile. And she sleeps! I can hardly believe it, but most nights she'll do a 5-7 hour stretch of sleep, wake up to eat for 10 minutes and then go right back to sleep for another few hours. Isaac never slept this well at this age and even now, most nights he's still up at least once.

Shoveling with Daddy.

It's a lot harder to do selfies with the big camera but we managed!

That smile charms us every time

Our attempt to get a family picture. At least one of our children knows how to smile for the camera!
Note: if this post seems a little disjointed it's because it took me several weeks to write. Isaac is no longer napping which cuts back a lot on my blogging time. I finally decided that it would be better to just get it done than to spend anymore time fiddling with it. Anyway, here's hoping the next one doesn't take so long!