Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Status report: Chloë, Month 32, and Maia, Month 11

Well, let's get the big thing out of the way. Chloë is not potty-trained. Things didn't go as planned with Boot Camp, and we took it down. For now. The potty is in the closet, the underwear and Pull-Ups (actually Easy-Ups) and sticker chart are put away, and Chloë is free to pee wherever she pleases. Though she seems uneasy doing anything other than our old routine, sitting on the potty with the diaper on. I actually took the potty out of storage this evening for her to sit on. I put it away again, but we can't decide whether we should let her stick to that routine and maybe move on when she feels like it, or effectively say "You're not big enough to have the potty yet" and keep it in storage. Anybody have an opinion?

Other than the potty issue, Chloë continues to impress us with her bigness and awesomeness and whininess. She seems to have grasped the concept of counting--where before she'd be faced with five ladybugs and count up until she couldn't count anymore, now she knows to stop when she runs out of ladybugs. We count toes and birds and flies on the window at her instigation. She can sing her ABCs, and most of Twinkle Star, and a lot of "Dowah do ha day," a.k.a. "Polly Wolly Doodle," her favorite bedtime song. She's got a few of her books mostly memorized, and will pull out random quotes from them to keep us on our toes. She loves the park and the zoo, and talks with interest about our upcoming "bacation," asking, "What will be at bacation?" and when I tell her, "What else?" She says things like "You should be more cartul (careful) next time. In the future," and "My toe hurts. Will a bandaid help?" and "Dora and Boots are in the car with us," and, when I inquire whether they're wearing seatbelts, "They are. They will come into the grocery store with us, too."

She's pretty good at please and thank-you, and sometimes astonishes me with her generosity ("Would you like a bite?" she said today, offering me part of the half-cupcake she had been asking for half the night; when eating her beloved string cheese she'll say "Can Maia have some of my string cheese?" and break off tiny portions for her).  She exclaims, "What happened?" when something unexpected has occurred. She asks how my day was, and how I'm doing. When I ask her in return she says, "A little bit bad, but not much." I ask why it was bad, and she says, "Because Daddy told me no we couldn't go to the zoo today because it was raining." I love having actual conversations with her like this.

She's been helping me plant my garden this spring. First she helped with seed-starting; then watering the seedlings; then transplanting, as well as direct-sowing seeds outdoors. She's good at putting beans and peas into premade holes in the ground. Sprinkling carrot seed evenly across a row, not so much. Her favorite part of gardening so far is thinning, as she gets to eat the rejected seedlings. How do you get a two-year-old to eat raw kale and Swiss chard and choy sum? This is how.

She also repeats requests, a lot, even after we've acknowledged and agreed to them, if we don't snap to and get her what she wants instantly. "Mommy," she inevitably calls after bedtime in a droning monotone that drives me right up the wall. "Mommy." Then she wants her door closed, or the moon on again, or says "I'm uncomterble" and needs to be adjusted back to comfortableness. She's saying a lot of "I want X...I don't want X," notably with naps, driving Eric right up the wall. She's been much more reluctant to lay down for sleep (except for one notable night she asked to go to bed at 7!) and so may have switched to afternoon naps, but this past week she's been falling asleep in front of the TV when Maia goes for her afternoon nap, so that's obviously too late. A balance is still undiscovered. She's also saying "I don't like X" a lot, meaning "I don't want X right now."

She has been saying for the past few weeks that she doesn't like baths, and has backed it up by major reluctance and tantrums when we make her bathe anyway. But today, the first day after we packed up Boot Camp, she decided she liked baths again. I'll probably unpack this more in a separate post about how I'm going to have raised the first girl to go out for seventh-grade volleyball in Pull-Ups.

Maia is also a water baby (despite screaming whenever I tried to get her feet wet at the water park), and delights in standing at the tub, tossing in toys. She helps me undress her by stepping out of her pants, and seems to be learning "arms up!" a bit. She crawls around in the tub, chewing on toys, sucking on the peri bottle, and not protesting when I wash her head and face, unlike another little girl I know.  Maia bathtimes are great. Before the "I don't like baths" business, we got Maia and Chloë in the bath together, and they loved it. Well, Chloë loved it. Maia may not have cared one way or another, as long as Chloë let her crawl on by to get to a particular toy, which Chloë did.

She's very big on "putting things in," and has...maybe?...responded to us a few times when we asked her to do it with a specific thing while cleaning up the living room. (I've started weeding out toys from the living room and the girls' rooms. They haven't noticed. I guess I've only removed one box's worth so far.) She loved playing with the potty when it was out, mostly putting things in it; one day we decided to see if a little big-sister shame would help and put her on it. It didn't ("See? Maia likes the potty," said Eric to Chloë. "Well I don't," said Chloë to Eric) but she was delighted by the novelty.

Chloë has started speaking for Maia...sort saying things like "Maia wants that toy," or "She wants to go first," when talking about bath order. She seems to be making assumptions about what Maia wants based on Maia's actions at the time (which may or may not have anything to do with the question at hand), which I could do myself, but it's still pretty cute. However, Maia's showing her own independent spirit. Admittedly, a lot of that spirit is wanting to be held, or to chew her toy in peace rather than having it taken away and used to make a rocketship.

Maia's solidly eating solids now, pancakes and pieces of orange (with the thin skin off) and tiny bits of hamburger. We had Middle Eastern food yesterday and she loved my lentils and rice, and the tomatoes. Good lord the two of them with the tomatoes. She's officially okay to start cow's milk, not that she hasn't already had it in thieving plenty. We're still nursing, but mostly it's fairly perfunctorily. Then she pushes herself up and points at the bookshelf so we can read a Sandra Boynton book or B is for Bear or Llama  Llama Nighty-Night. When I get home she reaches eagerly for me (and I for her) and gets screamingly unhappy about being put down until we've nursed, but I'm not sure whether that's hunger or habit. I know we're heading down the weaning road, but I'm not sure how fast she's going to take us there. I'm okay with letting her take the lead. She bit me once, but she got passed off to her daddy immediately afterward and she really didn't like that, and seems to have learned her lesson. (At least until  I hit "Publish.")

She's making more purposeful noises now. Mostly "dah," with "na" and "muh" and "ba" thrown in for variety, and occasionally her usual birdlike screech or a noise like a car engine. She hates it when somebody nearby has food and isn't giving her some. At the table if there's something she wants, she points and babbles urgently, and if I say "more?" she'll assent...I can't actually say how she does, but I can tell. Trust me.

Still no walking, but much longer periods of standing. She loves to be flipped upside down--I have this shtick where I toss her over my shoulder (holding onto her legs) and say "Now where did I put that baby?" If Chloë is nearby she'll point and squeal, "There!" and I feel up her leg to her back and then flip her back down and say "There you are!" while she laughs. She's still a wigglepuss at the changing table, though the tube of Desitin can occupy her sometimes. I suspect the baby pictured on it helps. She's more interested in baby faces than she used to be. She's a funny baby face herself sometimes.

The neighbors whose backyard abuts ours let their brown standard poodles have a litter, and Maia is fascinated by them. They run around in the backyard most days, all seven puppies and their parents, and Maia stands at the office window, or stares out the kitchen window from our arms, and squeals and squeaks and exclaims. Sometimes Chloë joins her. We also put birdfood in the feeder out back, and they both love to watch the birds come around. They get along fine, and I love watching them watch the world together.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Potty boot camp, day 1

(Yes, I know I've got a monthly report to write. I've got to get this out of the way first. Also, it is long.)

Chloë had been making great progress on the "incremental progress reward chart" plan. She filled up her row of "go in the bathroom with pants off," then "go in the bathroom with pants off while sitting on the potty." But when it came to "go in the bathroom with pants and diaper off while sitting on the potty"...we came to a standstill. She didn't want to use the potty. We tried putting underwear on her, and for a while she was pleased to wear underwear and then change into a diaper when she needed to go...but she wouldn't sit on the potty without the diaper. I offered to buy her a goldfish, which had her excited, but it didn't get any potty attempts out of her. And then she started rejecting the underwear, preferring to stay in a diaper all day.

So today, after a couple of days of warning her, we went for broke and told her no more diapers (except for sleep times). We got her in underwear, despite her information that she doesn't like underwear, and the first hour or two after waking was fine. Then she needed to pee. I told her then she needed to sit on the potty. "I want a diaper," she said.

"No more diapers," I said. "You need to be a big girl and go in the potty."

"But I like diapers!" And it went on from there. We had a full-pitched battle of sorts, me insisting that there would be no diapers, and she insisting that she needed them. She was screaming, begging for a diaper, saying, "I like diapers because diapers are nice! I don't like the potty!" or "Don't say no more diapers! Don't say that!" between halting sobs. I kept saying calmly, "You need to use the potty," holding her when she came to me for comfort, though I was the one making her unhappy, and felt horrible.

(I also wanted to laugh when she leveled a finger at me and commanded, "Never put underwear on me ever again!")

I offered to let her hold a diaper, if that would help, which was a mistake; she said yes, but then what she wanted was to hold it while it was on her. When I said no and set it down, she took it from me and spread it out on the floor and sat on it and said, hopefully, still crying, "I spread out the diaper for you to put on me!" It was so pathetic and sad.

At length Eric took over, and with him she settled down and declared she didn't need to pee. Neither of us believed this, but we let it go. Maia went down for her nap (Chloë has started taking her nap in the afternoon rather than the morning) and Chloë and I colored for a while, then decided to make cookies. In the middle of it, Chloë  said, "I need to pee."

"Let's go upstairs then," I said, dreading the screaming that would inevitably wake up Maia.

"I already peed," Chloë said, looking down.

"Now? --At least get on the floor," I said, whisking her down from the chair she was standing on. It was too late, but I wasn't attached to that chair anyway. Chloë finished releasing a veritable pond of pee. I peeled off her skirt and underwear, wiped her up, and cleaned up the floor.

There was another tantrum later when she wanted to poop, and I worried (as I'd already worried) about constipation, but that was solved when she woke up from her nap, in a diaper, and told me she was going to poop. Later in the afternoon, we went outside, me to transplant garlic, she to play with a football-with-a-tail that some neighbor had accidentally thrown in our yard. "I need to pee," she said, so we went inside. That standoff ended when she couldn't hold it anymore and peed on the bathroom floor. She'd removed her pants and underwear for that one, so the casualties were her socks, my socks, and a bathroom mat. Then, at bedtime, she was eager to get ready for bed because she knew she'd get a diaper. Eric insisted she needed to pee first. I was changing Maia when Chloë came to inform me she needed to pee. "The pee will be on the floor very soon," she said.

"Then at least go into the bathroom," I said, in a defeatist sort of way, and Chloë obediently went to the bathroom and peed onto the floor again.

She got into bed, without her usual bedtime story because I didn't have the temper for it, and after Maia was in bed as well Eric and I tried to figure out whether we're doing this okay or setting her up for major failure later. There's a ton of advice on potty-training, but almost all of it assumes that your child is at least willing to try and is merely trying to learn the necessary skills. Chloë has all the skills she needs to be potty-trained; she simply doesn't want to. She said so, in fact. We're trying to sort out why she doesn't want to sit on the potty--the Internet has some interesting suggestions--and decide whether the various ideas that come to mind are good ideas or are our frustrations in disguise. For example: taking away shows? Not letting her go on walks unless she pees in the potty first? Are those acceptable incentives, feeble shows of will that are merely going to increase her resistance, or secretly punitive measures because we're both so frustrated that she won't just sit down and use the potty already?

This is tough. My parents suggest we start potty-training Maia now. Maybe that will avoid this sort of issue with her.

(We're also considering using her as a peer pressure sort of thing, which the Internet also suggests but she doesn't have a peer group to provide. Maia loves playing with the potty anyway; maybe we'll try putting her on it. Maybe that will do nothing and we'll still be washing a load of urine-soaked towels every night by the time her birthday comes. If we all live that long.)

So, at the end of day one, it's Chloë 4, parents 0. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Maia stretched her face into the widest grins this morning and last night. I hated to leave her. She hated me to leave her, too. Her baby love is so simple and easy. She's nursing less and less, but she still loves to be held, and played with, and have her face gently blown at or tickled with my hair, and--like her sister before her--to have tiny droplets of water flicked on her head after I wash my hands (and adequately warn her, of course).

Then there's Chloë, who has taken to telling me, "You are being a bad mommy today!" whenever I raise my voice (which is often) and crawls over my knees when I've got my feet up on the glider's ottoman and protests when I ask her to get down. She took most of my attention yesterday after work; we went to Babies R Us to look at a new potty (she was enthusiastic about a ducky one, but when I asked her conceded she wouldn't actually use it, so we didn't bring it home) and she wanted to sit on the gliders, and have a snack, and have another snack, and have another snack, and to stop and play with toys. (In fairness, it was a pretty cool toy, one of those car tracks with hills and multiple levels and such.) On the way home, she wanted to go to the zoo. Then to the park. Then to the zoo. Then to have a picnic. Then to the park. At home, she wanted pizza for dinner. Then corn casserole. Then tacos. Then not tacos. Then not pizza. Then nothing but tomatoes.

By that time, it was bathtime. Chloë had refused her bath yesterday, on the grounds "I don't like baths," and I told her that she'd have to bathe with Maia the next day, but when it came to it I didn't want Maia's bathtime to suffer, so I bathed Maia alone. She was thrilled when I turned the water on and pulled off her onesie--she's started helping--and she enjoyed her bath very much. So did I.

Then Eric took her away for play and pajamas, and I turned my attention back to Chloë, who didn’t want a bath. Then she needed to pee. Then she didn't know how to pee. Then she didn't want a bath and she needed to pee. Then she got upset when I told her she was going in the bath now and we discovered she'd already peed. I got her calmed down by talking about the water park, but she was still miserable about taking her diaper off and getting into the water--until she was there, when she had fun except for washing her hair, which has always been a trial.

At length she was out and wanted Daddy to comb her hair and put on her diaper, and I was glad to switch kids. I'd been wanting to spend more time with Maia all night, and couldn't. I'd envied Eric being able to play with the happy clean baby while I tried to pretend to be patient with the wildly willful toddler.

At any rate, I put Maia to bed, enjoying her baby simplicity, even through her shrill agitation about being put into pajamas rather than fed milk right away. She finished awfully quickly, but she finished just as quickly a couple of nights ago and I decided to offer her a bottle of formula, and she only had a little before deciding she was done. And she was reaching for her shelf of books. I selected Llama Llama Nighty-Night and got her approval. Before, I've shown her a book and she's shaken her head, and I've put it away and gotten another one...I'm not sure she actually knows what shaking her head means (other than "let's play the 'nonononono...yesyesyesyesyes' game"), but I've treated her as if she does, and she seems satisfied. So we read the book, snuggled up together, and after the last page she closed it for me, and then we brushed her two little teeth, said good-night to Daddy and Big Sis, and put her down. I got in a quick kiss on her head as she was struggling to be put down so she could see her aquarium.

After Eric and Chloë finished their book, I was called to brush teeth and tell a story. Chloë wanted a "picnic in the park" story, she said. I said, "One day, Chloë and Maia decided to have a picnic in the park. So--"

She interrupted, "But Maia can't walk."

"Fine," I said. "One day, Dora, Boots, and Chloë decided to have a picnic in the park." She was satisfied. As Eric said, a talking blue monkey is more believable than her sister walking? But then, she's seen a talking blue monkey tons of times but has never seen Maia walk on her own.

At any rate, I told the story, sang "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," which I usually shorten to Twinkle Star and she further shortened to Twinkle, with her accompaniment, and told her goodnight. Not long after she called me back so she could have socks on. The fuzzy ones, she said, because the slippery ones would make her slip. I put her socks on and tucked her back in, and went away to be slothful and quiet elsewhere.

I love both my girls, but Maia is easier to deal with these days. She's getting to be a tiny person, which is fun and interesting, but she doesn't have near the complexity that Chloë does. And Chloë's complexity is all kinds of awesome, don't get me wrong, but she does take a lot more energy to keep up with than she used to. I felt bad that I'd longed to be with Maia most of the night while I was with Chloë. Not only is she easier, but I feel that Chloë's actively demanding a greater share of my attention, and that's not fair. But then, Maia will probably have her turn. And she did have her daddy, at least later in the evening (he was working yesterday). But I feel that tug-of-war...I wonder if I always will.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guess where we told her we're going?

Chloë said,"My feet are cold."

"Then we should get you some socks," I replied.

"I think the waterpark would be better," she said. "Because it's warm at the waterpark."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Negotiating the park

Yesterday, Eric's teaching day, was gorgeous--high 70s and sunny--so after work, I fed Maia, changed everyone's diapers, packed up a picnic dinner (peanut butter crackers, Wheat Thins, three kinds of cheese, grapes, an orange, a banana, and some cookies), and we headed to the park.

On the way Chloë said, "My stomach hurts," and pulled up her shirt to clutch at it. She'd had nearly a cup of black beans as a snack before we left, and I suspected that was the problem. We were also proceeding extremely slowly, as Chloë has lately seemed constitutionally incapable of walking more than two paces together without stopping to look at a crack or duck behind a tree or point out a fire hydrant or a plane. So I said, "I tell you what. Since your stomach hurts and we're going very slowly, I don't think the park is a good idea. Let's turn around. We'll have a picnic in our yard."

Chloë hesitated. She pulled at her shirt again and said, "My stomach only hurts a little." I looked at her, and she looked up at me, her whole face trembling, and said, "I really want to go to the park." It was clear she was about to cry, but she wasn't doing it yet; she was holding herself in.

So I relented, and she started running so I couldn't complain about her slowness. We got there in good time and started looking around for somewhere to sit and eat. The place was packed (and sadly, the garbage cans weren't out for the season yet, so it was littered too), so this wasn't easy. It was even less easy when Chloë ran off to climb up the small climbing wall, though she was stymied by the one-year-old boy who sat at the top eagerly watching her. "This is going to be a while," I told Maia, and pulled her out of the stroller.

Chloë got off the other side of the play structure and headed toward the place where she and that other girl had played "naptime" last time. I went the long way around with the stroller in one hand and Maia in the other. By the time I'd navigated the other kids, the other parents, and the structure itself, Chloë had lost interest in naptime and was looking around for me. "Chloë!" I called. She came running and said, "Let's find a place to sit down and eat our picnic!"

We eventually found a stone bench close to the river. I settled Maia on my lap and opened up our containers, and put bits of cracker and cheese and fruit into my hand for Maia to nibble on. She was more interested in feeding me than herself, but she did get food in her. Chloë enjoyed the repast, but was more occupied in watching the kids on the baby swings and the dog-walkers going past and the water. "Where are the boatses?" she said. We did see one motorboat, and also a floatplane taking off, and a little boy on a tricycle. "Will you get me one of those someday?" she asked. I laughed and said no, she had an even better one at home, and next time we went outside she should try it.

After we finished the meal with a cookie (well, two for me--but they were small), we packed up and headed over to the other play structure, where we witnessed a girl going across the monkey bars properly, which Chloë may never have seen before. Maia pointed at the flag above us, snapping in the wind. "Look!" said Chloë, pointing to the flag pole. "A tall rocketship!"

"It's getting late," I said. "You can go down another slide, and then we have to go." She jaunted onto the structure to get to her slide of choice. "Time to go home," I said.

"I want to go down two slides," she said.

"I said one."

"I really want to go down two."

"If you do, then we go home right away afterward with no whining, crying, or screaming," I said. She agreed, so I gave in and she ran back up the ramp. She picked a short slide, which surprised me; but when she came off I said, "Okay, let's go," and she immediately started walking with me toward the street, no argument.

"Thank you for going to the park!" she said.

"How's your stomach?" I asked.

She reached under her shirt to pat it. "It feels all better!" she said, sounding surprised. Then she had to point out a girl with sparkly streamers on her bike and asked "What did we have for our picnic?", and we talked the whole slow way home.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Conversations with Chloë

[At the park]
Me: It's time to go home.
Chloë: I want to play just a couple more minutes.
Me: No. It's time to go. I told you a couple of minutes ago that we'd be leaving soon.
Chloë: I want to plaaaaaaaay!
[Screaming and sobbing ensue. I yell. She wails. We start walking out of the park.]
Me [noticing her rub her eyes]: Do you want me to carry you?
Chloë: Yes. [Brightly, as if there are no tears on her cheeks:] Thank you for going to the park!

[At bedtime]
Chloë: I want the space story.
Me: Okay, I will tell you the space story. Then I'm going to go, and you're not going to whine about it. Okay?
Chloë: Okay.
Me: [Tells the space story, in which Dora, Boots, and Isa help Chloe get to Pluto's moon to retrieve her spare engine to fix her spaceship. Chloë, as always, giggles when Boots says "But where's the sun?" and Dora says "It's right there, Boots. It's the brightest thing in the sky" and Boots says "Oh yeah. Silly me" and finishes the story with "and they live happily ever after" when I forget.] Good night, sweetheart.
Chloë: But, but I want...
Me: We agreed you weren't going to whine. Remember?
Chloë: But I like to whine.

[In the garden]
Me: I'm going to take this plastic off the dirt.
Chloë: What is dirt for?
Me: ...It's for growing things. This is where we're going to plant our vegetables when it's warmer.
Chloë: Can I help?
Me: Sure. Can you move these sticks to that pile over there?
Chloë: Okay!
Me: Hey, look! A worm! [Picks it up, shows her.]
Chloë: Wow! [I put the worm back. A few minutes later:] Where is the worm?
Me: It's in the dirt.
Chloë: Okay. [Later:] Thank you for working in the garden!

[After reading a book]
Me: We're going to the bookstore tomorrow. We can get you a new book. What book would you want?
Chloë: I don't know. Another llama* book for Maia. And maybe Where Are Baby's Eggs?** for me.
Me: ...I will put those on the list.

*We have Llama Llama Nighty Night. Both girls adore it.
**A Karen Katz book advertised on the back of one of her other Karen Katz books.

Monday, March 5, 2012

More than you ever wanted to know about Dora the Explorer: Journey to the Purple Planet

"I want to watch Dora," Chloë decided Saturday morning after breakfast. I asked which one, and she said, "Purple Planet!" So I put it on and went to the kitchen to clean up after breakfast. I got the bowls and things into the kitchen and was rinsing when I heard Chloë come running toward me.

"The space creatures' rocketship is broken!" she reported.

"Luckily, Isa has one," I responded. Satisfied, she ran back.

I put a couple of bowls into the dishwasher. Chloë came running back. "They see constellations!"

"Very cool," I said. She ran back to the living room.

I started washing the dishes in the sink. Chloë came running. "They have to connect the dots!"

"I'm sure they will," I said. She ran back.

I washed a pot. She came back. "The constellation is a teddy bear!"

"Do you like teddy bears?" I asked, for something to say.

"Yes!" She ran back. I put the pot in the rack and listened to the running feet. "Now there are space rocks!" I said something nondescript and listened to her run to the living room and then, without pause, come back to me. "They made it through the space rocks!"

"I'm going to finish cleaning this bowl, and then I'll come join you in the living room," I said.

"Okay," she said and went back to the living room, where I heard her sit on her chair. I washed the bowl, picked up Maia, and joined her. I suppose she was getting plenty of exercise, but it seemed a pity for her to miss half the show to report the other half to me.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Baby-led weaning

Eric comes in shortly after Maia and I have settled down for Maia's bedtime feeding. She immediately squirms onto her back to grin up at Eric and reach one stubby arm toward him. "Hi, baby. Now pay attention to mama," he tells her. She turns toward me, and then immediately back to him, so he says, "Okay, okay, I'm going," and leaves.

We nurse for a few minutes on that side, the right, but she gets restless, so we switch to the left. After a couple of minutes, she starts squirming again. She pushes herself up on her hands and knees. She sees the bottle from her last afternoon feeding, still holding a couple of ounces, on the table beside us. She reaches and grabs it. She twists around until she's sitting, then topples backward onto my right arm. She puts the bottle to her mouth and starts to drink, snuggled happily against me.

I call for Eric. When he appears in the doorway, she smiles and raises the bottle in her fist in a triumphant salute.