Tag Archives: toddler

Perfect weekend

Noah's Ark Houston

Quality Mummy-son time

2 1/2 years in, and I am definitely still adjusting to motherhood. 3 years in, and I am still adjusting to Houston. I have written before that I was unhappy for much of 2014, and 2015 was looking to possibly shape up in a similar way (albeit a little better). And honestly, partially because I don’t really recognize myself as unhappy (maybe a bit ‘flat’ or a bit ‘whiney’) until I get it right. Until I realize that I have made myself happy. That happened this weekend.

Saturday morning I took Sam to a kids’ swimming pool (Noah’s Ark) and we just had a blast. It was lovely to focus totally on him, and to be a big kid myself – yes, I climbed through all the water tunnels (so elegantly with my whopping bump), went down all the kiddos’ slides and picked Sam up and threw him in the water fountain (much to his delight). It was delightful, silly, exhausting fun.

I definitely did not look this cute on the slide

I definitely did not look this cute on the slide

Cue a stupidly large Mickey D’s, and then an unplanned nap on the sofa. Although I was woken by Sam waking from his nap (after only 2 hours! 3 hours at the pool is supposed to buy me more than 2 hours!)  he then played happily for several hours while I made a new card for my Etsy shop (<— still a work in progress) and updated my Stampin’ Up! blog. Pizza dinner, easy night down for the dwarf and then movie night with the Husband – we watched St. Vincent which was pretty good.

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Baby shower card

Today I played hard with the kiddo in the morning and then went and helped a friend set up her Stampin’ Up! website. She fed me lunch and I got a delicious frozen StarBucks on the way home. Sam woke the second I got home (again, after only 1.5 hours! What is up with this kiddo?) so we tidied the house together and then hit the garden.

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One of the best things Wes & I did was fence off a small area of our garden for Sam. We put in his sandbox, my hammock, and small IKEA table and chairs, a bench, a slide and a paddling pool. If Sam and I go out there I can get snatches of anywhere between 15 and 90 minutes to myself blogging, surfing the internet or reading. And when he does want to play, it’s easy for me to engage in water fights and sandcastles and chalk pictures on the wall. We usually have a blast and today was no exception.

Tea, Emma Bridgewater cup, biscuits for dunking, blogging and the boy playing happily - what more could I want?

Tea, Emma Bridgewater cup, biscuits for dunking, blogging and the boy playing happily – what more could I want?

 

We finished up with snuggles in the hammock – occasionally Sam will take his sippy cup and drink it like he would drink from a bottle as an infant, seeking out things to play with with his hands, his eyes going heavy and going into the ultimate snuggle mode – it’s BLISS.

Snuggles beats all else

Snuggles beats all else

Now the little one is in bed, I am finishing my blog post while eating delicious pecan toffee, and somewhere in there I even managed a face and a hair masque.

So – why was this such a blissful weekend? What made it feel perfect? It wasn’t tantrum free (you try telling a hungry 2-year old that is 1.5 hours past his nap time that he has to leave the swimming pool of awesomeness). I bought a new nail polish and don’t like it (damn you Essie). I didn’t get time to blow dry my hair and it looks a mess. I did, however, have time to really play with and engage with Sam – both at home and out and about. There was time for my hobbies, and some friend time. But what is most surprising, is that there was no work. Not a single email, nor a review. I didn’t open anything I am working on to poke at it, and yes, I let a few overdue things just sit in my inbox (I am certainly not luxuriating for time at work right now).

It’s odd. It’s uncomfortable if I think about it, and yet it seems like the most natural thing in the world. I realize that even 2.5 years in, I am definitely struggling to adapt to (working) motherhood. When I became a mum, I tried to carry on just like before – keeping work the same and fitting the kiddo in around that. When I couldn’t fit everything in, I dropped the ‘me’ things – make-up, skin care, crafting, blogging. I squeezed Sam in when I could (after a whopping great 3 weeks of maternity leave), and I did whatever it took to keep work going.

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My world

It’s not working for me anymore (sorry for the pun). Academia is hard – the way funding is (pretty nonexistent) it seems like a lot of input for not a lot of payback. At the end of the road, when I have focussed so much mental energy on work, and I have nothing to show for it it is hard to look at my beautiful son and think “I am glad I put you second” and “I’m glad I don’t know you as well as I could” and “Sure, I read you stories, and tuck you in, and I’m the one you run to when hurt – but I don’t mind having missed out on those little interactions that are your whole world right now”. It’s hard to look in the mirror at an uncared for reflection and say “I am glad I look a mess”. It’s hard to look around the house and say “I don’t mind that this doesn’t reflect my personality”.

I don’t have the answer. Academia seems to get harder and harder, and survival seems to depend on more and more publications and collaborations and grant submissions. And truly, I love what I do! When I can focus on my real work (not work I have foolishly agreed to do for others, so I am working on reducing that), I truly am fascinated by behavioral genetic questions and I love answering them and writing on them. But kiddos don’t wait, and papers don’t hold me at night. It feels like the wonder in Science is getting less and less, while the wonder in my son grows daily.

Yet, I still hugely look up to so many great Scientists. I cannot let the dream of being like them go. It’s clear that I need to reduce work. I also need to streamline what I do (focussing on behavior almost exclusively) and be much more efficient when I am working (less Facebook, more papers…). Yet, I am scared I cannot be successful like that. It’s hard to let go of the 24/7 work mindset. But I am also scared that I won’t be be successful continuing like I am, and I will have sacrificed everything anyway and be left with nothing. Perhaps these are the ramblings of the third trimester, but  I am scared of not having more papers than most people at my stage, of not having more grant submissions, of not having funding. I am terrified of saying no. Yet, I feel I have to take the plunge. I need to turn work off sometimes, and reprioritize when I am at work. I’ve never been like this! I have always been able to do anything and take on any task. I could work my way out of mediocrity. Perhaps this was the fearless I needed to be when I wrote back in January 2014. Anyway, I have to give it go. I have to make some changes.

Hammock snuggles are the best!! If not the most flattering angle ;-)

Hammock snuggles are the best!! If not the most flattering angle 😉

I have no idea if anyone else struggles like this – I see so many people having careers and personal lives seamlessly, but I am happy to go out on a limb for a minute and say: I am struggling. I am not getting it right. I am changing. I don’t recognize myself and I am worried that the ‘old me’ would have negatively judged the ‘new me’ (what a bloody awful confession).

I am optimistic, I am scared, I am excited, I am terrified. I have no idea how this will play out.

 

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End of the second trimester

28 weeks, 28 week bump, second trimester bump

28 weeks

Doctor’s orders – I have been relegated to bed. Well, doctor’s and Wesley’s and just for the afternoon. We had a scan last week (all looking good. Bubble at ~50th percentile, currently no polyhydramnios, movement as expected but still transverse) and I mentioned I was having ‘rather a lot of Braxton Hicks, but this is normal, right?’. The doctor said no, nothing too concerning, but it was soon. We talked about the importance of rest (the nurse said ‘Are you still working?’ – Girlfriend, this is the US. I’ll be working in labor and again soon after!) and carried on with the scan. While scanning the nurse noticed how strong and how frequent my Braxton Hicks were, and worried a little more. She asked if I was a ‘Type A’ person and when Wes responded to the affirmative (why do I ever think it will  be a good idea to take him with me??) a lengthy lecture ensued on how how Type A people are problems and how they don’t relax enough and how the house should just be left – I was to work, but then at the end of the work day I was to rest.

28 week scan; second trimester scan

Alien baby. AKA one of those pictures parents think is adorable and the rest of the world can’t make out / get scared by.

Hello? I have a toddler. And a large house with a garden. That has a toddler in it. And I’m nesting. With a toddler. Did I mention I had a toddler? They don’t tend to respond well to ‘hey, Mom is tired, why don’t you just open yourself a bag of crisps for dinner and sit quietly? Perhaps you could bath yourself and put yourself to bed before, say, 8?”, Apart from the crisps part. Sam would happily comply with that.

Why I don't rest. This is him taking his scooter up the stairs of the water slide.

Why I don’t rest. This is him taking his scooter up the stairs of the water slide.

Anyway, Wes came back from getting the car detailed to find me following up 3 hysterical texts with a babbling about how we were never going to get the house in order for the cleaner coming. He looked around at 2 previously horrendous and now immaculate rooms (including a throughly cleaned and organized larder) and glanced regretfully down at his new fish purchases, seeing his Sunday of leisure fly away before his eyes. “You’ve been working hard haven’t you?”. “Yes! Of course! It’s never going to get done!”. He sighed. “OK, here is the deal. We set a timer for an hour, you go to bed for an hour, and I clear up. At the end of the hour, if you still think the house won’t be ready you can get back after it”. Seemed fair enough, so here I am in bed.

The second half of the second trimester has been way better. My exhaustion has eased somewhat and I can do some work and run the house a little. I don’t feel like I have the ‘flu 24/7. My nausea is minimized. I have found changing my diet up a bit has helped – adding in more protein, reducing fat, and lots of lots of salads, although I still think I have too much caffeine. I have also been seeing a great chiropractor who has made a big difference to my back pain. The heat (100 degrees and counting) and humidity is a challenge, but hey, that’s what air conditioning and pools are for, right? I am even considering finding time to go back to the gym as I am quite disappointed by how inactive I have been this pregnancy.

37 weeks with Sam

37 weeks with Sam

27 week bump second baby

27 weeks with Bubble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have suddenly grown – however. I walked passed a mirror with no top on the other day was did a double take – I am pretty sure I look quite like I did at 37 weeks with Sam. I wouldn’t mid, but with 12 more to go I am worried about how far this is going to go (!). Cliche though it is someone *actually* asked me the other day “how many are in there”. Bloody cheek! For those that care, I have gained ~15 lbs which is not bad for 28 weeks, so I’m not worried about it. Just generally disconcerted and surprised by the number of spaces I can no longer squeeze through.

And, I am oscillating between tearful sadness that this will be my last child, and my last pregnancy (Wes decrees it is so) and my dream of 3 children is ending soon, and cold, soul gripping fear at how we will manage with 2. I really do go between the two. I sit here in bed and think about how I always wanted 3 children, how I pictured them (although I pictured 2 older boys, 2 years apart and then a little girl 4 years later… so it was never going to be anyway), how I always thought it would be that way… And then I think about the practicalities of how it can take 2 of us to manage him at a party, and how hectic the mornings can get, and I wonder how we are going to deal with 2 in these situations. Of course we will, and many do, and many do with twins, triplets and more. But, you know, there is still some trepidation.

sick toddler 2 year old

It’s not always like this you know

Plus, it is nice to think about clearing out all the crap you have to store (fits with my crazy nesting instinct). We can slowly starting giving away / donating the car seats, bouncers, pack n plays, endless clothes etc. I am starting to think about how it will be nice to have the time and motivation to get fit again (a looooong way down the line, I am sure, and I am OK with that). And how I am slowly regaining my sense of me 2.5 years into Sam’s life (loving make-up, trying to hair styles, making some vague nod to fashion, even wearing – gasp – perfume), but I know it will go in the haze of postpartum life in a body that doesn’t feel mine so it will be nice to eventually get that back (again, a  long way down the road, I am sure). It’s positive, it’s just not how I pictured it.

Roll on the third trimester! These next 12 (I hope 12!) weeks will fly by, and I pray I will have some time to savor them too.

EDIT: OH MY. Lest anyone doubt I am bigger this time around and want to say ‘it is all in your mind’; this is how I looked at 29 weeks with Sam:

29 weeks with Sam

29 weeks with Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Methinks the “secret” that I wasn’t very good about maintaining an active lifestyle between kiddos is out ;-). Oh well, I like to think I made better hair decisions this time around at least.

An open letter to my pediatrician pt 2

Let's take a minute to reflect on how well our day started (park trip)

Let’s take a minute to reflect on how well our day started (park trip)

A letter to my pediatrician after his explosive diagnosis:

Part 2: Getting the diagnosis

Dear Dr “I”;

Edit: If this tl;dr then know this: you effed up Dr. I, and I am not happy.

Dr I, Hopefully you read part 1, and so now you know that you walked into the room to face a very tired, over stimulated, cranky toddler (who was doing quite well for this) and his increasingly stressed, nervous mother. Strangely when you came in, you also looked quite distracted and worried, and not your usual ‘I have all the time in the world, your child is everything to me’ chilled self, although I appreciate that latter is a façade put on for the benefit of your patients.

With a distracted look, you turned your screen to me and started the usual litany of statistics: “Growth charts… Sam started here, and as you can see, he is still way off the chart. We’re looking at 6ft 4” still”.

I hate this part.

This is the part of the well-child check where you announce my child will be 6 ft 4 (AT LEAST!) when he grows up and wait for some reaction from me. Firstly: I don’t believe you, but time will tell. Secondly: what reaction do you want? Height is achieved, plainly through no skill of mine, my husband’s or my child’s. It’s not difficult as a middle class Ameri-Brit family to provide adequate nutrition to allow my kiddo to fulfil his genetic potential and so I really don’t feel I can take credit for this. Nor am I actually particularly over-joyed: I try not to focus on global beauty standards with my child because I would rather the world, as a whole, did not set general standards of beauty and hold people up to them: I’d much rather we more openly acknowledged that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and celebrated tall, short, fat, thin, middle, blonde, brunette, curly, straight… whatever. Sometimes, in response to my slightly panicked look you say “He’ll be a basketball player!” and while I appreciate that Sam is too young to be affected by these things now, I also am not into pushing him in any one life direction. So, while it is not particularly harmful, it doesn’t come easily to me to say ‘Yes! Because of his genetically determined height at 24 months old, I have decided exactly what will make him happy in his 20s”. Anyway… I am an over thinker and these are the things I think in the deafly awkward silence following exclamations about my son’s projected height.

He's a cutie

He’s a cutie

One day I’ll get it right. One day I’ll say something brilliant like “6ft 4? Fabulous, his life span will be shorter than if he were not tall”. Or maybe “That tall? Excellent, if medicine advances very quickly, and he is able to gestate his own children, he’ll be more likely to have twins“. And we’ll move on from this awkward conversation.

Sam's height 0-24 months

Sam’s height 0-24 months

But today, you barely paused at his 99th percentile + height. Or his weight (29.5 lbs), or how excellent his weight-for-height percentile is (70th). You looked haunted. You said “and that’s done”. And I said “No vaccines?” and you said “not this visit”, and when I saw ‘flu vaccine on your screen, you gave a long pause and said “maybe the ‘flu… if you want it…”.

And this is where we started to mentally part ways.

“Ummm… do I want it?” I aksed. Despite being militantly pro-vaccination, I was now alarmed by your hesitancy. “What do you recommend?”. You looked uncomfortable…

“It’s up to you”. Up to me? Aren’t doctors supposed to be full of the joys of vaccination? My damn OB would barely let me get out the door without a ‘flu fax (OB! What is obstetrical about that?!?). One of my performance criteria at work is having the ‘flu vaccination BEFORE Nov 1st (I work in a clinical environment – doctors everywhere). And here you were, hesitating…

Your hesitation threw me and I said “Ummm… I guess we won’t get it?”

“Good” you said and brusquely moved on.

I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT YOU, MR ANTI-FLU VACCINATIONS, WHO TREATS HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN A WEEK, ARE CURENTLY OFF WORK WITH THE ‘FLU. Think about that.

He's pretty interactive

He’s pretty interactive

Back to my topic. You turned to Sam. “Can I have a hug?”. Sam paused. He looked at you. He thought about it. “Hug Dr I…” I gamely said (although I also don’t especially support making children be affectionate to people they don’t want to [bodily autonomy and all that] or to strangers [far scarier reasons]). Sam, dutifully, blessedly, went in for a hug and as he did he saw a jar of sticks about your head. He looked at me and pointed, but you deposited him on the ground and shook your head.

He can love cuddles

He can love cuddles

You asked Sam how he was. You asked him what he had been up to. Actually, so that I could take a ‘phone call about how my MRI showed that my brain is inflamed (don’t even go there Dr. I) and my sinuses all screwed up, he had been watching an episode of Thomas Train. So, he told you about it “Thomas got stuck on the bridge!” he said (although it sounds more like ‘Tos stuck on the widge” – that’s what you might remember). You didn’t reply. I imagine this was perplexing to Sam, who repeated it. You didn’t reply. He said it again, and then Sam supplied the answer you are supposed to give “Oh dear!” he said ‘What happened?”. Your response?

“Sam, can I look in your eyes?”.

How is this even appropriate?? Acknowledge the damn Thomas story. Lawd knows I do it at least 100 times a day.

You seemed to want to put him on the bed, and I gestured that that was fine, but something was up, I don’t know what, and you took hm off the bed and plunked him on my lap. You shone your little light thing at him and looked in one ear, then said ‘Sam, look at me’ and when he didn’t, moved the light to his other ear.

And then you were done. And you were packing up and mumbling something about his language not being very good for his age. And secretly? I was almost a little pleased because I have been saying for over a year that Sam is not very good at langauage – he learns it, eventually, but way slower than other kids. He got his first word quite early, but then he never had the ‘explosion’ other kids go through. He knows his alphabet, the knows his numbers, he can communicate what he wants, but his language is not great. I have been pointing this out, for over 12 months, and everyone has been shushing me. And honestly, in that moment, all I could think was ‘HA! Now I can tell Wes that I was right and we need to work a little more at Sam’s speech’.

Daddy cuddles

Daddy cuddles

You left the room.

I started the laborious task of packing up 26 alphabet cards that Sam really wanted to call out both the letter and a word starting with that letter for each one. Sigh. Half way through this, you came back in the room.

“I don’t think I was clear with you”

“Ummm… OK?”

“Your child’s language is not as it should be”

“Yes, I know, I have been saying this for a while… I am wondering what we can do to help it come along” I said.

“No, you are not listening to me… your son has a problem…”

and while I remember nearly all of the visit up to this point with crystal clarity, everything became a blur from here. Here are the snatches of conversation I do remember. You saying “His speech is repetitive, and it is out of place” and ‘We call it echolalia”.

You said “I can’t get him to look me in the eye” and I remember saying that I was pretty sure he looked me in the eye and you – you who sees my son for 5 minutes every 6 months – had the audacity to shake your head.

And then you broke my heart a little bit when you said:

“The things you think are cute – are a problem”.

Not "a problem" - he is actually cute

Not “a problem” – he is actually cute

I remember you repeatedly saying to me, in this stupid grave voice “I need to be clear here”.  I remember you getting frustrated that I wasn’t doing – I don’t know what – throwing my hands up in the air and weeping? Because honestly I was thinking “OK, so Sam has some language delay, Sam has some social problems, that’s fine, we’re all different – I love my son! If he needs help, we’ll get it, and if this is just him, this is him, and we’ll love him! We are so blessed to have him”. This is what I was thinking as you started saying, in a voice I would personally reserve for a potentially fatal illness:

“I want to refer him to the autism clinic” and I was trying to get some calm here, and some perspective. And I told you that I was fully aware that Sam had some language delays and that this converstaion was not a huge shock to me, because I am a trained Developmental Psychologist, and I knew langauage delay was a sign of ASD and so I had looked out for this for months, and I really didn’t see it (ME! HIS MOTHER – yes, mothers can be wrong, but please give my feelings / intutition / experience some credibility, or some acknowledgment). And you said “No, he is on the spectrum. He is clearly high-functioning, but on the spectrum”. And I immediately thought ‘well… we are all on the spectrum – that’s why it is a damn spectrum, but OK, I don’t really believe you, but if this the case then fine, we love our kiddo and I see no reason to think that he won’t always be as great as he is now…”

He's an insanely happy kid - that's all that really matters to us

He’s an insanely happy kid – that’s all that really matters to us

And when I conveyed this to you, it clearly bothered you (or maybe you were grumpy because you had the ‘start of the flu) because you started to talk about ‘regressions’ and ‘not using language at all’ and his words ‘disappearing’ and then I got scared. I love my son as he is now – I am not prepared for him to change. I do remember clearly trying to back you up. I remember saying “hang on, he has a father who is a self-confessed loner and a mother with intense, almost pathological social anxiety – I am a behavior geneticist, he has not had a great start!”. And that is when you took all my suggestions, all my reasons, all my attempts to calm everything the F down and you looked me straight in the eye and you said:

“Let me be clear. Your son is atypical”.

And I was shocked. And upset. And confused. And disbelieving. And you said “I am not using the big A word yet, but he IS on the spectrum, and he will regress”.

Funnily enough, at this point Sam decided to run up and hug your leg and you looked at me and said “He is a really sweet boy though” and I was thinking ‘Though? THOUGH? He is a really sweet boy, end of’.  I said “OK, so what can we do?” and we mentally really parted ways when you said:

“Look for the regression and call me”.

And then you left. I went to the car. And I texted my friend Sheryl to see if I could go and see her, and I cried. And cried. And cried.

Let’s be clear – my son is pretty behind in his language development. We are getting him a formal assessment – and would be delighted to particiate in any prescribed intervention. Or just delighted to let Sam be Sam and focus more on his other strengths. BUT, given that he is 24 months old, that he has a more limited environment than most other toddlers, that you remarked on his broad vocabulary, and that he is very slowly starting to put words together [‘car is white’ or ‘ladybug on nose’], I suspect it is too early to know if this is truly a developmental delay, or if he is just the tail end of normal. However, even if my son was showing early signs of ASD (he was not) or not, this is what I really want to tell you.

Here are the ways you momumentally messed up (and let’s not even go into being hesitant to give my son a vaccine that could save his life):

(1) You never, once, asked if I was the primary caregiver, or how much time I spent with my child;

(2) You mistook a screener for a diagnostic tool;

(3) You didn’t administer the screener properly, in that you never checked I understood the questions (I didn’t);

(4) You made the classic error of forming an opinion before seeing the child, and going for confirmation, rather than taking an open view, and being as objective as possible; You would do well to read and understand Rosenhan’s classic 1973 article “On Being Sane in Insane Places” (or tl;dr? Here is the wiki link which explains the problem of assessing someone you have already labelled);

(5) You made no attempt to get to know the child and get him comfortable in his environment before performing an assessment of his normal behavior;

(6) You didn’t listen to his mother / father – the main informants with diagnoses at this age;

(7) You mistook ‘at increased risk’ for ‘definitely on the spectrum’;

(8) You were utterly reactive [‘just wait for the regression and call me’] and not proactive [hey – how about some language intervention? Social stimulation? Let’s see what we can do)]

(9) Most egregious of all (I think, it’s a toss-up with 8) you treated ASD like it was the worst thing in the world – I couldn’t understand why I was so upset in the car, I kept saying ‘pull youself together Lekki, it’s not like he has pediatric cancer ffs’ but it was your tone, your gravity, your attitude that it was all downhill from here. Your lack of reassurance, your “he is a sweet boy though”. I am not naive – as a class teacher in a special needs school I have worked with the full spectrum of ASD. Children with ASD are still children, they still have a lot of offer, they can still be a joy. When you said “what you think is cute, is a problem” is NOT the case. What I think is cute in Sam, is cute. He is a darn cute kid. It may also signal a developmental difference – but he is still cute.

family

Why am I making such a big deal of this? Soon, I will get around to writing part 3: the aftermath. But it has been a really a hard week. It is really hard to have someone tell you there is something wrong with your child. It is really hard to have someone imply blame, and to tell you that there is nothing that can be done. It is harder still to be told that things will change – that you will lose the child you love so much to a ‘regression’. My friend Craig put it best: “There are some things you can’t unhear”. Whatever I think of your (mis)diagnosis you have cast a shadow over the next year. We are constantly questioning ourselves, questioning Sam, wondering what will happen. I am questioning my whole parenting philosophy (probably best summed up as ‘unparenting with lots of cuddles’). Wes is questioning his ability to look after his son. We are both genuinely quite shocked that anyone thinks of Sam as anything less than wonderful. Different – sure. But different isn’t bad. I feel so protective over my son.

This could all have been so different. You could have said “Hey, there are some things I would like to keep an eye on. Let’s get someone out to check Sam is hitting all the targets we expect. He could be a little more sociable, and better at language at this stage, and I just want to make sure we are giving him the chance to fulfil his potential”. Or whatever. We can discuss what should have been done in part 3, when kind people actually did things properly.

Ugh. I am still so up and down about all this.