Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Trouble with Nolie

I could use some group wisdom, my friends.  Because, while Nolie has had a good, exciting month, it has also been a really difficult month for all of us, and for Nolie.  Here's what I mean:

  • She's still waking up once a night, terrified by something indeterminate.  We can usually get her back to sleep, but it's disruptive for everyone, and is sometimes followed by additional wakings.
  • She's afraid to go anywhere in the house by herself, even to go upstairs to get her slippers, say.
  • She has text anxiety.
  • When she doesn't get what she wants, she screams and yells and has frightful tantrums.
  • She will not leave our side, even in cases when she needs to (like, we're working with hot pans in the kitchen) and we are firm with her.
  • She has trouble finding things to keep herself busy.  We are pretty hands-on parents, I think, playing with our kids a lot and involving them in most of what we do.  But sometimes your kid needs to go work on a puzzle for ten minutes so you can, I don't know, go to the bathroom.
  • She complains of frequent tummy aches, and has diarrhea a lot.
  • She engages in a lot of negative talk when she's very upset, stuff like "I'm a bad kid" and "I don't want to be a part of this world."  We try not to over-react, but this one in particular freaks us out.
What does this look and sound like to you, from the outside?  She's anxious and fearful, obviously, but how to respond?  Is this just a phase, and it's best to indulge her (get her slippers for her, let her hang close, verbalize her fears) until she grows out of it?  Or is it more serious?  Does she need counseling?  

And how do we survive this without losing our minds?

I feel so sad and confused.  She's such a loving, bubbly kid most of the time.  What is happening?

Edit:  Writing myself into my thoughts here; thank you for being patient with me.

First thought:  It's possible Nolie is experiencing separation anxiety.  She's always tended toward this somewhat, even as a baby, and maybe it's exacerbated right now.  She's said a few times lately, "I don't like you and Daddy doing all this business travel!  I only feel safe when my whole family is around me."  Okay, duh.  So that's probably part of it.  E. just got home from Switzerland and I'm headed to Boston, this week, so I could work on some ways to help her talk through her fears and also develop some tools to help her manage them.  For example, maybe I can make her a calendar that shows how many days I'll be gone, and then that she gets to spend a week with mommy and daddy over Thanksgiving break, and even longer over Christmas break.  She could cross off the days I'm gone and look forward to our vacation.  And we can remind her there are no more trips for a while.

Second thought:  Nolie's not "misbehaving," she truly is scared, so my first tendency, which is to be firm--with the idea that I'm helping her become "independent"--is not really working.  Instead, come at it with respect for her experiences, and respond with love.  If she needs someone with her to get her slippers, go get her slippers with her.  Help her back into bed gently at night, with love.  Invite her to do stuff with us, rather than trying to get her to go be on her own.  Try not to throttle her when she's up in your grill every freaking second of the day.

Okay, so I don't know what to do when I lose my cool yet.  Will have to figure that out.

Also, I'm going to make an appointment with the doc about her tummy, just to rule out anything medical that might be making her feel extra-punk.

I guess if this stuff doesn't work, we'll take her to our therapist, who specializes in kid and family therapy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

apples for teacher

I have never had a student bring me an apple.  Probably because I scare them (students, not apples) all too bad.  I did have a Saudi student bring me a gown once (note to Colorado state officials:  this was before the "no accepting gifts worth more than $50" rule was passed) and I think I've received some chocolate now and then.  Many nice notes and emails, but mostly, no gifts. And that's good.  I think it would make me feel a little weird, like boundaries were crossed somehow.

But then a few weeks ago a student brought me this:

An entire box of apples.  From her folks' organic apple orchard.

Let me tell you, this has been an awesome gift.  We eat apples in this house like you wouldn't believe, and the luxury of having a whole box of them, for snacking, for apple sauce, for pie...well.  It's been tremendous.

It has made me feel tremendously rich and satisfied, and grateful.  Thank you, dear student, for the apples.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dad's Out of Town

I've had a hard time dealing with all of E's work travel the last few months.  But then I decided that the problem wasn't so much that he was gone, but that I was having a really bad attitude about him being gone.

So instead of focusing on the hardship of his absence, I decided that this week, while he's in Switzerland, the girls and I would have fun.  I realize now, looking back, that most of the "fun" revolves around us eating massive quantities of junk food.  So that's probably something to adjust for the next time.  But I liked the experience, and this week was a lot more fun than the other weeks E's been gone.

I love to have a big Sunday dinner every week, and since E. left on a Sunday afternoon, I figured we'd still have our big Sunday dinner, except it would be breakfast for dinner, or what Nolie decided to call "Brinner."  Or "Dinfast."  We couldn't decide.

The trick to making this fun, for me anyway, was on going totally over the top.  Nolie's favorite breakfast is crepes, Addie loves homemade waffles, and I like both of those and eggs and fake bacon.  Plus, you have to have juice and coffee.

So I just made all of those things.

I loved making it, and I loved having a little bit of everything (I'm the kind of person who gets menu envy in restaurants, so I loved getting to have some eggs and waffles and crepes).  We even broke out the nutella.  And nothing went to waste--we just froze the leftovers.  Addie loved having homemade waffles all week (we just popped them in the toaster).

Of course, we felt like this afterward:

Brinner Zombies

Again, adjustments need to be made.

Then we had a homemade spa treatment:

Later in the week was Banana Splits and a view of Enchanted, one of my favorite princess movies (though, thankfully, we are growing out of that phase altogether).

Last night was party food and Puss in Boots.

Little things.  Food.  Sweets. T.V.

Also, I almost bought:  a puppy, a kitten, and an iPad.  Maybe it is that E's gone.  E-shaped-hole in life=wanting a puppy.  Or shiny electronics

But I didn't buy those things.  I just ate a lot of waffles and ice cream.

And E. comes home today.

Big Month for Nolie

It was a big month for Nolie.  She loves the first grade, and loves her teacher.  First, she was chosen to be the Beary Special Person, which means she got to bring home Beary the Bear for the weekend and keep a special journal about their time together:

Then, last week, we found out she was Student of the Month!

Which meant a special ceremony at school with doughnuts and chocolate milk.

Nolie's principal gave out the awards.

Nolie was shy about going up to receive her award...

But proud.

Me too.

Halloween 2012

I'm not sure October happened.  It went by so fast.  And yet there is evidence of it on my cell phone, particularly in the form of pictures of Halloween costumes.

Addie decided months ago that she wanted a "scary" costume this year, rather than cute or princess-y, so she wanted to be a vampire.  She did drawings of how she wanted her costume to look and left them on my desk.  In particular, she wanted a full-length dress in black with a red skirt overlay.

But it's difficult to make costumes for her because of her intolerance of anything itchy.  If the fabric isn't just right, or a seam pokes her in one tiny place, all bets are off, and she most likely won't wear what you just spent six hours sewing on.  Plus, the ideas in her mind are almost never realizable.  This is because she reads and watches t.v. so much and imagines that I have a small flock of woodland animals who will help me to make these things out of angel wings and gossamer thread.

So I modified her design by purchasing an oversize black t-shirt and leggings from Target (which she could also wear later just as a regular skirt).  Not gossamer, but practical and wearable.  They were soft jersey, which passed the itch test.  Then we sewed a long skirt out of remnants from my stash, and she wore Eric's vampire cape from last year.  We added some spooky makeup, and that was that.

She added the white shoes.  So like her father.

We aren't winning any Martha Stewart awards, but my motto this semester is "good enough."  This brings me great joy and contentment and has greatly reduced the conflict in our house.

Also, it respects the notion that my children are actually people in their own right, with their own likes and dislikes.  As if they would let me forget.

And Nolie?  Background:  after a few very unpleasant trips to the store with Nolie begging me to "Buy me something!  Buy me anything!" we've been working with the girls on money awareness.  The difficulty of teaching this particular concept when I have not mastered it myself is palpable, but we've adopted the policy of giving the girls their allowance on Sundays, 50% of which they can put in the wallets for spending however they like, 40% going into savings, and 10% set aside to accumulate to make a larger family donation to a charity or cause at a later date (we are slowly working toward these goals our selves).  Then, if one of them accompanies us to the store, they bring their wallet and can spend their money however they like.

The first few trips to the store with Nolie were fascinating as she learned how much things cost, and how to correlate that to the money in her wallet.  They were also a relief, as we weren't responsible for telling her no anymore--the amount in her wallet could tell her no.  She saved her money for almost a month and only spent it last week on a stuffed animal that was on her Christmas list.

The only other thing Nolie purchased was a pair of kitty ears from the $1 bin at Target (yes, clearly we find ourselves at Target a fair amount).  This gave her the idea of being a kitty for Halloween.

In keeping with the comfy, hybrid-homemade-storebought costume theme, this seemed like a good idea.  Knowing that Nolie cares about comfort (though not as much as Addie) but equally cares about cuteness, I bought the little flouncy skirt at--you guessed it--Target.  Similar benefit:  can be worn at a later date.  She already had the black tights and a black hand-me-down t-shirt with an American Girl logo on it. I still have some odds-and-ends from Ruby's fur collection, so I pinned one to her shirt, ruff-style, and made a long tail that I sewed to the skirt.

Add kitty whiskers and a nose with some eyeliner, and voila.  Kitty cat.  She was very happy with it.

The girls costumes were all ready, a week or two before Halloween itself, which made me feel like SuperMom.  I love feeling like SuperMom.  Control!  Power!  Success!

But then, tragedy struck.  The morning of the Halloween parade at school, Nolie's $1 kitty ears from Target went missing.

This really, really annoyed SuperMom.  Because she was feeling very good about herself to have had the costumes all ready to go, and had even mandated that the costumes be kept in her home office so the individual pieces didn't get lost before Halloween in order to avoid this very situation.  SuperMom may even have yelled and made her daughter cry a little on that very special morning because she had no time to go the mall today, the morning of Halloween itself, and try to track down some more kitty ears.  Someone has a job and has to leave early to get to the parties on time and now I would have to get kitty ears at the mall.  On Halloween.

And then I realized:  what the hell, SuperSelf.  This is exactly this sort of situation that you are always preparing for.  This is exactly why you have 1) a glue gun 2) back-up glue sticks 3) extra headbands and 4) disgusting little fur remnants that you've been keeping for God knows what reason and 5) a spool of bendable rebar wire.

Ohhhh yeah.  Craftgasm.

SuperMom calmed down and fashioned some homemade kitty ears, lickety-split.

And all was well.

But, note to self:  hot-gluing actual fur pieces to metal and plastic is disgusting.  And smelly.  And potentially unnatural and ethical.  Retch.