Tag Archives: AP

Pass the Coffee, Please.

We’re tired here.  We’ve actually been tired for a couple weeks now.

For some reason, we have yet to understand, Naya has been regularly waking up several times in the middle of the night.  And we, unsure of what’s going on, have been answering her calls.

We are not amused.

For the first week or so, we were pretty worried because we were woken up to her crying— and not that “pay attention to me” cry she’s perfected as of late, but the real, “Oh my GOD!  What is wrong with my poor baby?!” kind of cry.

But this week, we’ve graduated to 2 a.m. wake up calls of, “You O.K., Lion?  You O.K., Mama?  You O.K., Elmo?”  And, despite being reminded to go back to sleep, this conversation can maintain itself for a couple hours a night.

So, while this is a definite improvement, I promise you this reads as much more amusing than it actually is. Especially in my thinner-than-paper-walled house.

I should back up a little here.

When I was growing this baby, I had every intention to be the perfect model of attachment parenting.

Then, you know, I had my particular baby and realized that my particular situation didn’t completely allow for all that perfection.

So, when Naya was about 8 months old (I think that’s when– it’s all kind of hazy, really), still waking up every hour  to nurse, and dealing with a mama (and a daddy) who was beyond exhausted, beyond impatient, and always just a little bit sick, we decided enough was enough.

We did it.  We sleep trained our daughter.  I admit it.  We did it and we don’t regret it for a minute.

Does that mean it’s right for your family?  Only you can decide that.  Of course, it’s a beautiful thing to be responsive to your child’s individual needs 24/7.  Of course it is.  For us, however, it was also important that 1. Naya actually get the rest she needed, 2. I stop being an impatient, emotionalbasketcasezombiemother, and 3. my husband and I actually get to spend some time together that wasn’t the two hours every night we spent trying to rock Naya to sleep and keep her that way.

And for us, sleep training accomplished all of those things.

First, being a person who absolutely CANNOT HANDLE hearing my child cry (though, with the onset of this whole 2-year-old attitude, I have to admit I’m becoming far more comfortable with it than I imagined possible), I knew the traditional cry-it-out method was NOT for us.   I bought this book that guaranteed  a no-cry sleep solution.

I spent hours charting our sleeping patterns, coping mechanisms, food intake, etc.

Yea. THAT was a complete waste of time I could have spent sleeping.  (For me. You might find it’s the best thing ever.)

Then, a childhood friend and mother of three suggested The Sleep Lady’s method, promising me more sleep by the end of a week.

Oh you know I was looking into that.

My husband and I spent a good part of a week of vacation poring over the book, discussing it, deciding we would give it our best effort, and planning a start date.

Then, a week or so after our trip, when we had reestablished our normal routine, we did it.

It wasn’t easy.  My husband took the first, worst night of sitting next to Naya’s crib, holding my frustrated daughter’s hand until she fell asleep on her own.  I’ll admit I couldn’t have done that night.

But, by the second night, when it was my turn, things were better.  And, by the fourth night, we were almost rested (if not exactly well-rested).

Around this time, we started noticing Naya reaching developmental benchmarks more rapidly than ever (which, of course, could have been purely coincidental).  She also became (even) more agreeable during the day.

Naps, as The Sleep Lady is the first to point out, were the toughest part in our sleep training program (though, of course, we have yet to approach the “better” situation).  They were, however, conquered, and since then, Naya typically does down for hers after a quick snuggle and song.

Now, our bedtime routine (snack, teeth brushing, pajamas, books, bed) takes about 30 enjoyable (for all of us) minutes.   And, until this month, Naya has slept through the night pretty regularly.

Of course, there have been the occasional setbacks of travel, illness, and the like– and we (if not exactly happily) readily break our sleep routine to accommodate for our baby girl’s comfort.

But this latest one is baffling us.

Better get out the book.

– Jen



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I’m a doter. That much is unlikely to change any time soon.

But, since becoming a mother to actual humans (as opposed to — cough — cats), I’ve had to consciously curb my helicopter tendencies. The idea behind attachment parenting, after all, is to nurture a secure enough bond between parent and child that the child feels confident in forging his or her own path — understanding that setbacks, while an inevitable part of life, are neither mortal threats nor terminal failures. In other words, I want my kids to know that I will always be there to dress their wounds after a fall and help them to their feet again — but not to swoop in and catch them mid-air.

I think I’ve done a pretty good job of adhering to this principle.  Nonetheless, it seems like persistent medical whatnot always manages to gum up the works.

Rather than reel off the details, I’ll just say that both Stuart, four in December, and MaryAlice, who just turned two, experienced complications from medical issues (multiple food allergies and a congenital larynx malformation, respectively) that went undiagnosed for over a year. And, even then, we only received answers after a lot of … pestering.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not one for wholesale railing against the medical establishment  — or against our individual provider, for that matter. Pediatric general practitioners deserve a lot of respect for the educated guesswork that comprises the complex diagnostic process with pre-verbal patients. Even so, after many visits to the doctor’s office with complaints as amorphous as, “She makes this weird noise when she cries” and “His face looked kind of puffy yesterday. Like, swollen, I guess? Wait — here’s a photo I took with my phone …”, I started to  feel like I had hypochondria by proxy.

Formal diagnoses leading to successfully managed conditions didn’t make me feel all that vindicated, either. See, when I was already trying to sit on my hands and avoid excessive alarmism, being told that, in the end, my concern was not unfounded didn’t inspire me to remain very laissez-faire.

The latest “thing” is Stuart and his /s/s.

Stuart voices the /s/ sound completely through his nose. If he plugs his nose, he can’t say /s/ at all. (Would that we’d known this before we named him “Stuart”). He’s done it since he first began to talk; but it only started giving us pause last January. 

My husband, Cullen, and I were of two separate minds when it came to investigating this little quirk. My opinion was that it’s better to push for early intervention than to risk Stuart’s difficulties being compounded by the passage of time. Cullen, on the other hand, felt that it was just one more hassle that would require our attention — and, furthermore, not a “big deal.” He was confident that Stuart would outgrow the problem, learning proper enunciation at his own pace and with his own methods.

After several discussions, I was placated. We brought Stuart to a screening with our school district’s speech and language pathologist.

What’s going on with Stuart is this: phoneme-specific nasal emission, or PSNE. It’s an acquired misarticulation  and,  according to the article I linked to,  is often found in children who have a history of “phonological disorder, frequent middle ear infections and/or conductive hearing loss, or tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy.” (Check … check … check).

The SLP cautioned, however, that because “the s, sh, ch sounds are not expected to be correctly articulated until age 7-8 years,” Stuart would be ineligible for subsidized speech therapy until kindergarten.

That was okay with me. Because, again, I’d rather be chastened for my hyper-vigilance by being proven wrong, than to have my fears confirmed. Plus, at least we knew that there wasn’t anything structurally amiss (like my original suspicion: velopharyngeal insufficiency. Don’t you love how that just rolls off the tongue?) that would require surgery or oral appliances. Steering clear of surgery and oral appliances always represents a tick in the Win column.

I put the PSNE out of my mind.

Stuart was happy. I was happy.

“Does he have a cold?” asked my sister-in-law, visiting from Seattle. “He sounds really phlegmy.”

I shrugged. “Nah. That’s just the way he talks.”

“I can only understand about half of what Stuart says,” my mom confided after an exasperating phone conversation.

An early childhood educator for over thirty years, my mom has such a close relationship with Stuart that she’s been known to send her husband to the guest room so the Favored Grandson (only grandson, it’s worth noting) can fall asleep in her bed, watching Scooby-Doo.

Still: “They said he was fine. They can’t do anything until he’s in school.”


I started noticing Stuart, with greater frequency “practicing” saying, “Ssssss,” while holding his nose. 

And not being able to do it.

And getting frustrated.


“What noise does a snake make?” I encouraged him.

“Hisssssss!” responded MaryAlice, looking please with herself.

Stuart made the noise of an emphysematic snake. Snoring.


“My friend” — (one of the little girls at daycare; a “friend” by proximity only) — “says I talk like a baby.”

“How does that make you feel?”


I’ve kept Stuart alive for three-and-a-half years: cared for his growing body; sheltered him from salient threats to his wellbeing; fed his budding intellect and sense of morality. The first two tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are pretty well covered. Just when I thought I could coast for a while, Stuart dips a toe into the “Needs for Love, Affection, and Belongingness” waters.

This is why waiting it out no longer seems like the clear-cut solution. This is why there isn’t a clear-cut solution anymore. When it was a question of, say, intervening to ensure that Stuart didn’t go into anaphylactic shock … well, there was no question. My husband was right, on one hand; the PSNE wasn’t a “big deal” as speech disorders go, mainly because it doesn’t signal a more dire, underlying impairment.

But the distinction between physical safety and social “safety” is both vast and elegant, I’m discovering. I have to decide whether I want to make this a learning experience, for Stuart, on the importance of tenacity and self-assurance and finding strength in the face of one’s challenges. Or whether I am going to throw the safety net under him; whether I’m going to grant him bland, blissful normalcy for a while longer. Whatever the choice, though, I am the one making it for him. The resopnsibility for the outcome is on me.


He has an appointment for an evaluation with another speech and hearing clinic.

I’ll turn off the coddling faucet another day.

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My Little Piece of Luggage

MaryAlice, the younger of my two children was born 21 months after her brother, Stuart.  Because parenting, period, was still uncharted territory for me in a lot of ways, the idea of parenting a toddler and a newborn made for exponentially janglier nerves as I anticipated her arrival.

The way I opted to cope was to spend every waking hour that we were together with MaryAlice literally attached to my person, thereby freeing up at least one arm — two if I bothered with some kind of babywearing apparatus — to coddle Stuart into submission. (My proprietary technique involved equal parts Kiki’s Delivery Service and Dum Dum Pops). I affectionately thought of MaryAlice as my little piece of luggage. Not like some mildewy nylon gym tote. Maybe … a vintage, bubblegum pink train case. There. Suitably cute?

The take-away lesson from Round One of my experiment in parenting was this, written on Mother’s Day in 2007: “Being a mother to an infant is a little bit like caring for the world’s most exotic, demanding, and time-consuming pet. A pet you feed with your boobs.” I arrived at this conclusion in the otherwise-fruitless wake of my obsession with trying to articulate, in hard-and-fast terms, trying to apply meaning to, the miasma of emotions that overtakes one’s sense of reality when contending with a colicky baby whose interests are limited to emitting raptor-like shrieks and staring at ceiling fans (while his dislikes include kisses and … kisses).  “All you have to do is love him,” I remember a nurse telling me shortly after Stuart was born. I mean, I knew there was the implied addendum, “… and feed and clothe and bathe him.” Still, I was incredulous. That’s all? Like, all-all?

Without rehashing the bumps in my road to acceptance of this nurse’s guidance, I can say that, by the time MaryAlice arrived, I was a true believer. And, thusly, MaryAlice was transformed into the living, breathing equivalent of an overnight bag. Her demeanor definitely helped seal the deal. I can’t say whether she was so calm and tolerant and content to observe her surroundings because I treated her like an exceptionally precious appendage, or whether her general agreeableness just cemented my faith in this approach. Whatever the case, it was “no harm, no foul” as far as I was concerned. 

Same goes for Stuart and those suckers. He “passed” his first dental exam with flying colors!

(Okay. Maybe I do feel a little guilty about that one).

Except, even as MaryAlice was, by all appearances, blithely thriving, it was hard for me to let go of the equation of, say … highlighting meaningful lines in Wislawa Szymborska poems and poring over pediatric malady-of-the-day web sites … with Caring. With Love. It still is, sometimes.

For example, the other week, the discussion in an online forum for parents of toddlers born around the same time as MaryAlice turned to milestones.  Among the accomplishments one of the moms on this forum cited, with regard to her 22-month-old, were possessing a 200-word vocabulary, being able to count to ten, and knowing the alphabet.

MaryAlice … is not there. She doesn’t know the alphabet (this in spite of my mom’s claims that I could recite the alphabet at 15 months. I’m still incredulous). She can count to two. I have no idea about the size of her vocabulary, but I do know that her favorite words are “awesome,” “dude,” “poop,” and, uh, “damnit.”

So, yes. She’s not there.

A part of me worries that the reason she isn’t is that we don’t “do” milestones anymore. Sure, they’ve all happened so far, in spite of our non-effort: some probably slightly behind schedule, some probably slightly ahead of schedule. We just don’t pay much attention or give a lot of credence to the standard timeline.  (Whereas, again, if Stuart wasn’t tracking lateral motion at two months on the dot, my fingers were itching to dial the pediatric triage nurse line).

The informal measuring stick I try to use, with regard to milestones, assesses the whys rather than the whats. Look at it this way: being able to name colors isn’t really about being able to name colors — it’s a touchstone to indicate how the brain is processing visual information. If a child is able to demonstrate this ability in other, general ways, why let yourself get bogged down in the specifics? Does being “behind the curve” portend some kind of functional difficulty for the child, or does the child have all the skills they need to exist, happily and safely, within their environment? (And, piggybacking on the latter part of that question:  If not, is it the environment that needs changing instead of the child?).

When I apply these criteria, MaryAlice is doing just fine.

The temptation I need to avoid, then, is using my children’s milestones as benchmarks of my own success as a parent. I have some control freak-y tendencies (a fact that has been reinforced in this very post!). I have wished, at times, for a manual that dictated “Practice A” + “Practice B” = “You win at parenting!”

We’re dealing with the virtually limitless variables — “unknown unknowns,” to quote (gulp!) Donald Rumsfeld — that are kind of integral to … well, the beauty of the human experience. Paraphrasing a friend’s observation: “I can make parenting choices that I know to be healthier for her, based on empirical evidence. But there’s no guarantee that it will make her a smarter or more accomplished person.” (And, tangentially, “smarter” and “more accomplished” don’t mean “better,” either).

It’s hard work, this intellectualizing my way out of the fear that I’ve ruined my daughter.

Of course, in the time I spent hatching this argument, I could have been grilling her with vocabulary-building flashcards.

We’ll reach 200 words yet. Damnit.

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