Posted in family life, sqt

{sqt} – solo parenting, friends, and broken AC in the summer

It’s been a different sort of week over here! For the Seven Quick Takes link-up with Kelly, here are some of the highlights:

  1. Limerick has been¬†so tired, every day. We went to the zoo on Monday at his request, and he was so tired that he asked to go home every 30 minutes. He napped on Sunday and Monday (which he never does), and has been so tired in the evenings that he struggles to get through swim lessons despite loving and enjoying them. I don’t know if he just isn’t sleeping well at night, or if he has some sort of vitamin/mineral deficiency (thinking about iron specifically). He also hasn’t been eating much, but that isn’t a new thing; compared to the other two he has never been a big eater. His four-year well check is in just two months so for now my plan is to try to get him in bed earlier and facilitate naps when possible.
  2. Paul went up to Prescott for his first business-related trip this week! He even got to deliver a short presentation at the conference! Aubade is definitely missing him though, and while it sometimes seems like the boys don’t care whether he is here or not, Rondel has told me several times that he wishes Daddy were back. There’s something special about getting to share everything with him at the end of the day when he comes from work.
  3. Corollary to take 3, I’ve been doing bedtime for all three kids instead of splitting the responsibility with Paul; the first night Aubade got to fall asleep on her own while I put the boys down, and the second night the boys got to fall asleep on their own while I put Aubade down. I can’t recall any previous night where I have left their bedroom and they have fallen asleep without tears or trying to follow me out, but this time they were out in less than fifteen minutes without any complaints. It was amazing (and so needed, as Aubade was having a really hard time).
  4. We had a playdate with a new family I met online through an unschooling group! It was really neat to watch Rondel running around with a kid around his same age, both of them being monsters and hand-flapping and trying to climb crazy rope ladders and getting scared and not really talking to each other but definitely playing together. A couple weeks ago a younger girl we know from church made a comment about Rondel chewing on his shirt (it’s one of his stims, and a pretty innocuous one honestly) and that being kind of weird or gross; this new friend didn’t see a problem with it at all (and in fact I noticed her experiment with chewing on the collar of her shirt as well). So that was also really encouraging to me, as I’m trying to find friends among whom Rondel can fit in while being himself.
  5. Random thought of the week – why do so many people make such a big deal out of autistic kids lining up their toys? I mean, is it really so strange? I think some behaviorists see it as “abnormal” play, or play reflecting a lack of imagination, but I don’t know how accurate that is. I know when Rondel lines up his toys, it is usually because they are on some sort of migration. I also know that my mom used to line up toy cars and drive them on parade as a child, and that my daughter likes to line her toys to display them – and they are both neurotypical. There is just something so nice about a line, especially as opposed to a pile…
    IMG_0624
    image is of a blond toddler sitting on a curb against a wall, head turned towards a line of toy Triceratops also on the curb. She was very particular about only selecting the Triceratops from the dinosaur box…

     

  6. Both boys mastered the “l” sound and the “tw” sound this week! When they are counting, eleven and twelve come out far clearer than before. I am so proud of the effort they’ve put into it, and they are so pleased with their newfound ability ūüôā Rondel still has moments where he doesn’t want to try to say sounds the correct way, because it’s hard and he thinks he can’t do it, but he tries often enough that he’s improving. Limerick tries no matter what, and he’s improving in leaps and bounds. Hopefully soon they’ll have their pronouns completely straightened out as well – it really confuses strangers and other children when they use “you” to refer to themselves.
  7. We had one random day of rainy cool weather this week – the high was in the mid-80s instead of around 100 where it has been hovering – and very conveniently our AC decided to break that evening after everything was cooled down already. It was rather dramatic: I was out back playing with the boys after sunset, when we heard a loud pop and saw sparks on the roof. I tried to turn on the AC to test it (and to bring the temperature down from 83 to 80 for bed), and nothing happened. It turns out a poor-quality wire had been rubbing on a piece of metal long enough that the insulation wore away and the humidity in the air enabled an arc to form between the two, shorting the wire and blowing a fuse. Fortunately, since the highs are going back up to 100, it was a quick and easy fix and we had AC by the time the external temperatures reached 90. But, as the AC repairman warned us, it is an old unit that has had some shoddy repair work done in the past, so we’ll most likely need to replace it in the next 2-3 years. Ah home ownership ūüôā

I hope you all had a great week, whether it fell into the swing of your normal routines or stretched them a bit out of shape! And I hope that you are finding friends – or keeping friends – who love you and accept you just the way you are. Those types of friends can be hard to find, and they really are as precious as silver and gold.

Posted in family life

night time fears

Limerick has been having significant difficulties falling asleep, at nap time and at bed time, even when he is obviously exhausted (bags under his eyes, defiant and emotionally-driven behavior, constant yawns, lack of appetite and a desire for milk, etc.). I’ve been having trouble identifying exactly what is causing it; Limerick doesn’t seem able to express the problem when I ask him what’s wrong or what would help.

Tonight, knowing that a general source of fear among the under four set in the family has been monsters lurking in various places, I asked him if he was scared. Instantly his body got calm and he buried his face in his hands. (In the dialogue that follows, note that Limerick refers to himself as “you”).

“You’re afraid of a monster.”

“Monsters aren’t real, sweetie. They are just pretend, just part of a story, from someone’s imagination.”

“But you still¬†think there’s a monster.”

“Well, can we pray and ask God to keep you safe from any monsters and help you not be scared?”

“That won’t help.”

“What if we ask God to send an angel to fight away any scary or bad things while you’re asleep?”

“That won’t help. You will still¬†think there’s a monster.”

Oh baby. The power of our thoughts is so great. I’ve been in a similar place, where I had a belief that I cognitively knew was unfounded but couldn’t let go (mine was linked to my depression), and I know how hard it is to change one’s thoughts – especially when tired, and probably even more so when one is only two years old. Honestly, I’m impressed he was able to articulate his thoughts so clearly, and I’m not surprised he is struggling to overcome his fears with reason.

I asked him if he had ever seen a monster, and he said he had seen one in a movie. Now, he knows the¬†Monsters Inc. monsters aren’t real, and he seemed to have overcome that fear, so I was a bit confused until he said, “You saw one in the snowman movie.” Ah! “Marshmallow isn’t real either, sweetheart. He is just a pretend story.” The relief in his body was palpable, and at last he was able to relax and fall asleep.

Sometimes it is so hard to get to the root of a behavior with a young child, because it can be difficult for them to understand it themselves, much less explain it to an adult. But it is so much better – for him and for our relationship – when I can take the time to discover the fears and thoughts that are going on underneath, instead of simply trying to address his refusal to lie down and go to sleep by controlling his actions.

 

Posted in family life

silly kisses

We moved about two weeks ago (hence the silence on the blog – packing, unpacking, and dealing with leaks at the new house has kept me pretty busy!), and while the kids have settled in fairly well, bedtime is – as always – the time of day when their feelings of anxiety and discomfort seem to rise to the surface.

So we have the music and night light just like we did at the old house, but I’ve started lying in the room with the boys until they fall asleep, either with Aubade on the floor or with Limerick in his bed, which he much prefers. Limerick saw part of¬†Monsters, Inc and, while he plays silly games about monsters with Rondel all day long and has a great time doing so, is now concerned that monsters will come out of his closet in the night. I’ve been shutting his closet doors and stacking toy boxes in front of them and that seems to help.

Another thing I added to the bedtime routine, to try to lighten everyone’s mood and end the day with laughter and snuggles, was “silly kisses” – essentially, the goodnight routine from Sandra Boynton’s book¬†Night-Night, Little Pookie.

nightnightpookie

I use her words almost verbatim, but I replace the little pig’s name, Pookie, with whichever child’s name I’m tucking in at the moment.

“Good night, Rondel ears,” I say, for instance, as I kiss his ears.

“Good night, Rondel nose,” I say, as I kiss his nose.

“Good night, Rondel eyes that are ready to close,” I say, as I (attempt to) kiss his eyes. At this point there is inevitably much giggling.

“There are gentle winds blowing, and stars all above you. Night-night, little Rondel, I love you and love you, and love you and love you, and love you and love you,” I say, as I give him final hugs and snuggles.

Tonight, after I tucked them both in, Rondel said he wanted to give me silly kisses good night also, so I stood up and leaned in next to his bunk bed as he went through the whole ritual:

“Good night, Mommy ears. Good night, Mommy eyes that are ready to close. Good night, Mommy nose.” He kissed my glasses instead of my eyes since they were in the way, but made sure that he got both ears.

“There’s a gentle wind blowing and stars all above you – night-night, little Mommy, I love you and love you.”

I tucked him back in under his blankets and whispered in his ear how much I loved him, and as he snuggled down in his pillows he murmured, “I love you, Mommy.” And he was asleep in fifteen minutes, tired, cozy, and secure in his mommy’s presence and love.

The house may be different, but the family that surrounds him is the same, and that constancy gives him peace in the midst of transition. What a privilege it is to be able to provide that foundation and assurance to people who are still so small and vulnerable! I really don’t mind sleeping on the floor at all, if it is a tangible gift of my love to my children that meets them where they need me to be.

Posted in family life, musings

a bedtime routine

Lights turn off for bedtime. The small flashlight flickers on but it’s not enough to play by, not enough to hide the scary shadows of a child’s imagination. I don’t stop to argue, don’t invite the protests, tonight. The baby is fed and warm in her daddy’s arms so I linger with the big boys, so tough and independent in the bright daytime light, all full of fears and doubts and unnamed dreads in the dark. I lie down on the bottom bunk and feel the lithe warm body of a little¬†boy press against my back, strong and wiry and small and vulnerable in the drowsiness of just-before-sleep.

Softly, in the dark, I hear the gentle murmur of a snore, and I peek over my shoulder to see him lying there asleep, empty sippy cup tucked in against his elbow, Grandma’s handmade quilt pulled up over his belly, legs poking out the side with the knees up and the feet tucked under my hip. I sneak out of the room. I am eager to have some time with my own thoughts, to create, to be, without any demands or expectations on my time.

But there is still the food from dinner to be put away; the dishes are done but the food, too hot before, was waiting until after the bedtime rush, and as I scoop the leftovers into Tupperware, mindlessly, inefficiently, trying to read a book at the same time, I hear the baby crying, waking up for a last feed before settling into the deep sleep of nighttime.

I pick her up, lay her next to me on the bed, and she curls into me, little hands reaching for me, little feet tucking themselves into the curve of my belly, little mouth open and eager, little tear-stained eyes sleep-heavy and drooping closed. Her frantic energy lessens, breathing calmed, until at last I roll her back over to her crib. For a moment her whole body drapes across mine and¬†I feel that soft cheek pressed up against me, the total trust and relentless love of an infant for their mother, and I’m the mother, and it hardly seems real, scarcely seems believable, like the whole crazy world is just too beautiful to be possible.

Most nights I stay here, worn out myself, caught up in the sweet beauty of the love a mother receives from sleepy children in need of snuggles and presence, unable to stop watching a baby or a toddler or a preschooler still and peaceful at long last, barely daring to breathe lest it all fall apart, amazed that such a life could be mine. But tonight I pull myself up. There are words to write, pictures to curate, cookies and milk to be eaten, and thoughts to be wrung out from ethereal unformed space to concrete actuality on the screen of my computer.

Posted in family life

fighting the terrible Jiboo

“And what would you do
If you met a Jiboo?”

I’m reading Dr. Seuss’s¬†Oh the¬†Thinks You Can¬†Think for our bedtime story, at Rondel’s request, and because the baby’s already sleeping instead of tiredly fussing in my lap, I’m letting the boys’ comments and questions slow the story down. I pause here to let them answer the question posed by the book, a dark shadowy creature standing on a moonlit street on the pages before us.

“I would knock it over!” Rondel proclaims.

“What if it is friendly?” I ask. “Do you think Jiboos are friendly or scary?”

Rondel looks at me uncertainly, pondering.

“Maybe if they are friendly they like playing games, so you can knock them over in a fun way,” I suggest.

“No, they don’t like games. They don’t like anything.” Rondel declares.

“What do they do?” I ask. “Do they chase people and gobble them up?”

He nods, solemnly (this isn’t our first time through the book… he’s decided Jiboos are man-eaters long before now).

“That’s scary!” I say. “I would run away and hide, then, if I saw a Jiboo.”

“I would take its head off so it couldn’t eat anyone!”

“Wow, you are so brave! You would be the hero, then – you would rescue everyone from being eaten by the Jiboo!”

“I¬†am brave!” His shoulders lift a little – I can see the idea of being the brave hero, the defender of the weak, taking root in his mind; he is thinking about the goodness of force when used for justice and protection, though of course not in so many words.

I used to be uneasy discussing violence and physical force with the boys. Well, to be honest, I still am uncomfortable with it. I don’t want them to rely on violence to solve their problems or settle their disputes, and I definitely don’t want them glorifying brute force. But I do want them to grow up into men who intervene when a woman is harassed or objectified, who protect the weak, who stand up for the oppressed, who would be willing to lay down their lives for the innocent. So when they express courage in the service of others, even if it’s in very physical ways or just in their hypothetical imaginary worlds, I want to encourage that. We can dive into the nuances of non-violence as they get older and see that power comes in many forms. For now, they can fight the Jiboos to protect those who can’t fight for themselves.

Posted in family life, Uncategorized

sensory bedtimes

After a grueling bedtime battle a couple nights ago, I decided our bedtime routine needed¬†some adjustments, for Rondel’s sleep and my sanity.

Rondel has a history of sleep troubles. As a baby, he became overstimulated extremely easily and had difficulty calming his mind and body back down, even when he was very tired. We would mostly just have to pace back and forth holding him to help him slowly ease down into sleep; I could recite poetry to him but singing almost always made him cry. We could snuggle together lying down if he was in just the right mood: otherwise it was either not enough stimulation (and more pacing was needed) or it was too much stimulation (and the end of the world was at hand until exhaustion won out, since he panicked if he was left lying alone on the bed). Despite my personal fondness for co-sleeping, Rondel transitioned to his own bed early on, because any movement or noise during the night would wake him up, which would make him want to nurse, which would make him pee, which would wake him up again in a vicious cycle.

As he got a little older, we had countless tear-filled nights where we tried to separate the bottle from his sleep associations, hoping that it would help him self-settle after a midnight half-waking, and also reduce the peeing problem noted above. It did help – he doesn’t wake at all anymore to pee, and has only had two or three nighttime accidents since he learned to use the potty – but it was a long and painful process. We installed blackout curtains in his room to try to help him stay asleep longer and fall asleep more easily; we have either the ceiling fan or the humidifier on every night to create enough white noise that the sounds of the house or the nearby roads don’t wake him up. I even tried various essential oils,¬†though I didn’t notice¬†that they had any impact.

Lately, he’s been sleeping fairly well, and I had been happy with how things were going. We’d finally established a consistent routine that worked for both boys together without being overly lengthy or complicated, and while Limerick had been waking up with bad dreams or wet diapers, Rondel had mostly been sleeping through the night (a good 10 hours every night at that!). But that bedtime a couple nights ago was an entirely different beast – yelling, roaring, tears, and a very sleepless Rondel until about 3 hours past his typical bedtime. I knew none¬†of us could handle that happening on a regular or even semi-regular basis, so I spent my down time at work the next day researching sensory/Aspergers/ADHD bedtime tips (not that he fits under any of those labels overall, but his sleep issues have some overlap). We already had the basics covered, with the blackout curtains and white noise, but one idea that I found intriguing was using some sort of a nightlight, particularly a non-constant one like a lava lamp, to give the mind something to keep it occupied in a monotonous way until it can wind down into sleep.

Tonight, by somewhat of an accident, we ended up with a flickering electric candle in a cut glass box, up on a shelf where Rondel could see it lying down, and he fell asleep with fewer¬†random sounds/questions/comments/dinosaur roars than he has in weeks. He seriously just lay in bed, watched the candle flicker, and fell asleep in less than 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I’m going to try it again just in case!

Posted in family life

Nighttime stories

Bedtime with the boys has become one of my favorite parts of the day, a routine just as reassuring to me as it is for them, wrapping up our day together. I love the moments snuggled up together reading our bedtime stories, and then getting to tuck them each in bed in their own special way. And then after lights out comes one of my favorite parts, an unexpected perk of moving the boys into the same room: as they babble themselves to sleep, they echo and copy each other, winding themselves down in a duet of sounds and stories. It brings back memories of the countless nights my sister and I would invent stories together in the dark until we fell asleep in the middle of them – and I feel so lucky to get to hear a second generation getting started on the same kind of thing.