No School Campaign

Elly started a no school campaign earlier this year shortly after I informed her that she would go to preschool next year. Like most things, I assumed it was a phase and she would grow to love the idea of going to school and hanging out with other kids. Instead Elly has taken to pointing out at every opportunity, like when I mention how smart she is or what a great memory she has, that she knows everything already and thus does need to go to school.

Elly is 3.5 years old!

I expect a know-it-all attitude from a teenager, not from a toddler. What is going on?

Just yesterday, when we were playing with her magnetic map

(Thank you, Aunt Michelle and Uncle George. Awesome gift!)

and Elly pointed out Russia, China and the USA, she proceeded to tell me how bored she would be at school because she knew so much.

It doesn’t help that Dan mentioned that he too was bored in school. Although it does allow me to blame him. Truly, this is all his fault.

My Child who Hated Sleep

Shortly after Elly born, friends and family came round to see her and gush over her. Almost everyone asked how she slept and when I explained that she didn’t sleep well at all, they all bestowed me with a piece of advice and then assured me that she would sleep soundly in a few months.

I remember clearly wishing she would hurry up and turn 3 months old so she would magically sleep through the night like all the books I read promised.

If I knew then that the first time she would sleep through the night would be a few days after she turned 3 1/2, I might have curled up into a ball and refused to come out.

I was going to write that I would have cried, but I remember all too well crying. I cried because she wouldn’t sleep and surely that was my fault. I cried because she wouldn’t stay asleep at naps and I desperately needed sleep too. I cried because she woke up constantly throughout the night and I was exhausted.

Everybody told me that what I needed to do was leave her in her crib and let her cry it out. I just couldn’t. It made no sense to me. How could a child who couldn’t go an hour without nursing in the day magically sleep for 5 hours or more at night? Of course the real answer of why I couldn’t let her cry it out is because I couldn’t bear to hear her cry. No power on this earth could make me stand outside her bedroom door and listen to her cry. All I wanted to do was pick her up and hold her when she cried.

Instead I searched for an answer on how to get Elly to sleep better at night and at naps without crying. I bought a stack of books, namely the No-Cry series, but none helped. I pulled out the sound machine a friend had gotten us, I darkened the windows and I hummed nursery rhymes until I thought I was going to lose my mind. It all helped a little, but Elly still woke up 13 times in the night. Finally, I gave up trying to get Elly to sleep in her crib and I brought her to our bed. Angels sang me to sleep the night I did. Elly slept only a little bit better, but I felt like a million dollars because I had gotten more sleep in one night than I had in the past week. She slept in our bed until she turned 3. I have no regrets. Scratch that. I have but one regret; I regret that I didn’t bring her to our bed sooner.

After her 3rd birthday, I decided it was time to transition her to her room. Still unable to listen to her cry, I laid in bed with her each night until she fell asleep. There were nights she begged me to put her to bed in my room, but thankfully they were few. She eventually became used to the new routine. Now she loves her room and runs to jump into her bed. I still lay down with her each night, but it is a small price to pay for being able to sprawl out on my side of the bed when I turn in for the night.

Now, the light at the end of the tunnel is visible. Elly slept through the night in her bed for the first time ever. It likely won’t happen again tonight or even tomorrow night, but perhaps by Elly’s 4th birthday, she will stay in her bed and I will get to enjoy a full night’s sleep.

Sunday Snapshots (of Elly working out)

Just in case you are as nuts about Christmas as I am and are already starting your shopping list, you can add an elliptical machine to Elly’s Christmas list.

We recently visited dear friends to their new house and they had an elliptical machine. Naturally, Elly wanted to climb onto it because she likes to climb on everything these days.

It didn’t take her long to figure out how to move the pedals. She went forwards and backwards.

She would get off for a minute or two to eat or to play a game and then she was right back on it.

Excuses for No Preschool

Elly turned 3 in February.

In September, most children her age will head off to preschool for at least 2 days a week. Elly will not.

I could come up with a few excuses to justify my decision, but the main reason is because I want her home with me for 1 more year. This is my time with her. Starting at age 4, she will be going to school for the next 13 years. If we count the college years, then she will go to school for 17-21 years depending on how much education she needs for her career. One year less won’t stunt her growth and it would mean the world to me.

But back to those excuses. You do want to hear them, don’t you? Of course you do.

Like most parents, I think my child is wicked smart. Either that or I am losing brain cells by the fist fulls because I have already lost arguments to Elly.

Thanks to the Moms Club, socialization is not an issue. Almost on a daily basis, Elly meets and hangs out with kids her age. She even has 2 best friends and none of them are family. The only best friend I had at her age was my older sister.

Elly has been exposed to every craft supply I can get my hands on. During the winter months when it is too cold to go outside, we make a lot of crafts. Other moms that have watched me buy supplies at Target and AC Moore have expressed amazement because they don’t have the patience for such messes. Thankfully, Elly’s favorite crafts are not overly messy: sculpting and painting. Though I just introduced her to pottery. It truly looked like a bomb had gone off when we were finished. Thus, I have deemed it an outdoor only craft.

We don’t sit at home. Yes, Elly is her father’s daughter and loves to play video games, but I do not.

When she is with me, very few video games are played. Instead, I keep her busy. We go to the zoo, the library, the local playgrounds, and anything else I can find. Idleness is the devil’s playground. It is also a fast ticket to madness for any mom.

They are pretty good excuses, no? Still that is exactly what they are: excuses. I just want one more year to spend every day with my little girl. She is growing up too fast as it is.

Just today, she told me that she wanted to go to school. I explained that she would indeed go to school in another year. Then, she asked if moms could go too. I said no. “I would miss you”, said Elly. Me too.

An Advocate I am Not

I should be the perfect advocate for breastfeeding. Although I have always supported breastfeeding in theory, I agreed with the society standard that it should end at 1 year of age. Nursing beyond 2 years was just unnecessary, weird and perhaps even damaging to the child. Naturally, during my pregnancy, I decided that I would breastfeed Elly for the first year, but once she could drink cow’s milk, it was over. She would no longer need to nurse.

So, why on earth am I still nursing Elly when we are weeks away from her 3rd birthday?

The best answer is because it still works. It still knocks her out in five minutes or less at bedtime. It still eases all her fears, especially her fears over poop. It still nurses her back to health when she is sick.

Another answer is because my soft and gentle approach to weaning does not work on my headstrong daughter. For 2 years now, I have used the don’t offer; don’t refuse method with little headway. It is true that she nurses much less than she did when she was a baby, but that is mostly due to her growing up than it is to my encouragement and gentle nudging.

Every year that has passed, I have set a new weaning milestone only to reach that milestone and still be nursing. As I notice how little she nurses these days, I feel that it will naturally be put away with all her other baby things that have already made their way to the attic. It will just take longer than I thought.

Of course, there are fringe benefits, such as decreased chance of cancer for me and increased immunity for Elly among others. Though it is different for each woman, the lack of a period is also a lovely fringe benefit that I have benefited from. It was almost 4 years of a reprieve for me (that math includes the 9 months of pregnancy for those of you trying to do figure the numbers out).

But as stated above, I am not a good advocate for breastfeeding. If anyone were to ask me about it, I would tell them that it was amazing to nurse Elly from infant to toddler.

It is still amazing. Yet, every child is different. What worked well with Elly may not work well for another child. What worked well for my family may be all wrong for your family. I remember how the clouds parted and the angels sang the night I brought Elly to bed with me, but not everyone has that same reaction to sharing their bed.

Plus, nursing a toddler takes a certain amount of bravado or perhaps just a thick elephant hide. It’s likely that you’ll run into someone who feels like I used to. I’m actually embarrassed that I used to be horrified by women nursing their babies or older children. There is nothing unnatural about it. There is nothing sexual about it. It is loving and comforting and beautiful.

No More Withholding

For the past month, Dan and I have talked about and worried about Elly’s bowel movements. She went from a child who excused herself from playtime to go poop in her diaper while rummaging through our bookcases to a child who was scared to go poop and would try with all her might to withhold it.

Her normal pattern was interrupted by a bout of constipation and annals fissures. It was painful. She cried. I cried.

Physically, she was fine in less than 48 hours.

It took a lot longer for Elly to heal emotionally. She was terrified to go poop. She started to withhold her bowel movements. When she could no longer hold it in, she cried.

We tried everything.

Our pediatrician advised us to increase the fiber in her diet. Thankfully, popcorn is high in fiber and is also one of Elly’s favorite snacks. However, getting Elly to eat fruit has always been difficult, since most fruit is squishy. Elly won’t eat squishy food. She just plays with it. So, I increased the amount of smoothies we drank and even added ground flax seed to it. This worked a bit too well. It had me popping Pepto Bismo pills one night.

We also tried talking to Elly. We explained that she should go when she had to go. We promised her that she would feel better if she did go. We told her that everybody had to go, even Santa Claus. This had the biggest impact on her. She seemed to understand this concept and would often tell us that certain people pooped. But, it didn’t translate into her wanting to go poop.

We even had my best friend, who just happens to be a doctor, talk to Elly and draw her a picture of her tummy and her maze (colon).

We also tried reward bags filled with candy, cards and crayons. Though Elly was happy to eat the candy, pigs were going to fly before she was going to go poop just for a few pieces of candy. Despite loving chocolate more, Elly saw no reason to perform for a piece of chocolate either especially when all she had to do was ask Rene, our beloved next door neighbor, for a Hershey kiss. Rene loves to give Elly chocolate.

So what did work?

1. Removal of the iron drops she had been taking because of slightly low iron levels.
2. Minor diet changes.
3. Swimming.  (odd, yes. Elly would withhold for days. I would take her swimming for 2 hours and without fail she would have to go poop.)
4. Patience.
5. Constant reassurance.
6. Breastfeeding. (It sure is nice to still have this trump card in my pocket. It will go away soon as some days she only nurses a handful of times, but until it does it gets used to cure what ails her).

Of course, we still have to tackle the small issue of where Elly goes poop, but right now I’m just so happy that she is going poop.

Envious of Toys No More

I’ve been cured. May I never be envious of another child’s toy.

Remember the water table I fell in love with at a friend’s house? And how I bought one for Elly only a few days after seeing it.

The toy is headed to an early retirement after only being in service for about a month.

Elly has become a climber.

She’s quite good. She can even reach places we thought were only reachable by adults.

Perhaps we encourage her, but it’s hard not to laugh.

Elly’s 1st Apron

Elly loves to help me in the kitchen now. A step stool sits in front of the island so Elly can reach the countertop. Stirring is still difficult for her but she keeps trying.

Jake cleans up most of her spills. When she’s not stirring, she’s tasting. Often she ends up covering her face along with whatever she’s wearing in flour. Rather than change her clothes repeatedly and in turn have to do more laundry, I whipped her up an apron.

Full details about the pattern and fabric can be found on my Elly-Made blog.

Earning Her Keep

Elly may only be 17 months old, but already she helps out with several household chores. She can put dirty clothes in the hamper, put wet clothes in the dryer, and turn the washer on. Hands down, her favorite task to do is helping her Daddy make coffee.