Tag Archives: Doodlebug

Therapy, Spring Cleaning, and An Update

23 Apr

Doodlebug

Almost 2 months ago, I wrote about taking my eldest daughter to counseling.  It’s a hard thing to start, counseling – at least it was for me 5 years ago when I began treatment for my postpartum depression.  All I knew of therapy was what I had seen on television and in pop culture, and neither was particularly flattering.

I believed that seeking therapy showed weakness.  Deficiency.  Now I know it shows strength.  It takes courage to admit that things are not as they should be as you want them to be.  What surprised me was the amount of bravery required to see the process through.

For me, it was kind of like cleaning out a long-neglected closet.  First, you take everything out.  You dig to the bottom of boxes and bins.  You spread the clutter throughout the room and it feels like you’re going backward – making more of a mess instead of cleaning up.  It’s at that precise moment you consider just scooping up armfuls of momentos, lost buttons, and dirty socks and  closing them back in the boxes they emerged from.  Maybe you can pretend you never saw them.  But instead, you take a deep breath and make a conscious choice to move forward.  As each item crosses you hands, you make a decision.  You process what it means to you and you decide how to let it further affect your life.  This goes in the garbage.  That gets put away on a shelf.  And maybe this other thing was something you had been desperately searching for.

It’s laborious.  Tedious.  Emotional.  And some days, I left therapy feeling worse than when I went in.  And then?  One day things started to feel less overwhelming.  It was like that moment when you place the last organized bin in the neglected closet and the doors shut for the first time in years, and you think maybe, just maybe, you can tackle another room.

So.  I was prepared for a process when my daughter began working with her counselor.  I was prepared for things to get worse before they got better, and I was ready for it to take a while.  As it turns out, she’s made incredible progress in the last 8 weeks.  Her outbursts are fewer and less intense.  She can identify her emotions and use her words to share about them.  And most importantly, she’s learned to ask for help.

It’s honestly been an amazing transformation, and I can’t rationally give all the credit to 6 therapy appointments, no matter how much I like and respect her therapist.  At the recommendation of several friends and family, despite my intense skepticism, we substituted almond milk for cow’s milk in our house.  Some of you suggested that a food allergy or intolerance could manifest as behavioral problems.  Doodlebug suffered from MSPI as a baby, and I assumed she outgrew it as the physical symptoms disappeared after about 18 months.  Because of her history with milk intolerance and her sister’s current inability to drink milk, I thought it was worth a try. She’s well-nourished, so what could it hurt?

Now, maybe the counseling gave her a sense of connectedness and belonging that she was missing.  Or maybe, like many things, her behavioral changes were just part of a phase.  Perhaps she matured neurologically in the last 8 weeks and everything I’ve done to help her only appears to have worked because of coincidence.  This is not hard science, and I’m not prepared to test my theories by handing her a giant glass of milk and waiting for the fireworks to begin.  I’m happy to just be glad things are better and to be mindful of what may have helped.

We’re taking a break from therapy for a while - she and I both know it’s there if we need it.  And my daughter knows it’s nothing to be ashamed of or to fear.

What a gift I’ve given her, normalizing something that was so traumatic and stigmatizing for me.

I’m kind of proud of myself.

Now if I could only find time to work on those closets.

 

Click here to donate to my Climb Out of the Darkness Hike!

Click here to donate to my Climb Out of the Darkness Hike!

Thought Vomit Thursday

13 Mar

I get in these ruts where I read everyone’s amazing words and see everyone’s amazing art and feel like a fraud.  As I type this, my husband sits next to me, his fingers clicking out a more sophisticated rhythm than mine.  Clickity-clack go our dueling keyboards, as he writes a doctoral academic paper and I?  I navel-gaze.

I should probably go wake the toddler.  This late nap will cost me dearly come dark.  Sometimes I’m a real asshole to future me.

Today was my daughter’s second visit to therapy.  She likes it.  I don’t think it’s enough to undo the years of damage I’ve done (I’m kidding, folks…kind of), but I do get the sense that she’s comfortable there and is trusting the therapy process.  I keep telling myself that at the very least, she’s learning at a young age that there are places to turn when you need help with your emotional life.

We’ve done two things in the last week that have really helped and make me feel like some kind of parenting expert.  But the truth is, that I muddled and then failed first.  In fact, I crashed face first at times, right into a wall of fear and shame and anxiety.  I guess that’s what parenting is, right? Huh.  The things they don’t tell you in birthing class.

Anyway.  Doodlebug has a marble jar and has for a while.  We first tried a jar of popsicle sticks – one stick for each good choice and negative one stick for poor choices.  When, after a week, she was indebted to the jar by -37 popsicles sticks, I started to wonder whether it was my child or the system that was really failing.  Now, we do marbles, and she earns them for kindness, for chores, for helping, and doesn’t lose them for her poor choices – consequences doled out (or earned, really) for poor choices are hopefully more logical.  And as a result, the jar really is a way to celebrate her growth.  I have been hesitant to offer marbles for ordinary expectations.  Do I really have to celebrate the grand achievement of wearing pants? Nobody throws me a confetti-powered parade when I don clothing below the waist, and believe me, some days it’s quite the accomplishment.

Turns, out, I do.  Wearing pants is hard for her.  We’ve ruled out legitimate sensory issues, and I really think it’s an exercise in control for her, which makes it even more annoying (truth bomb, folks)… but for whatever reason, it IS hard for her, so celebrating her ability to work through the hard is more than just legitimate.  And it’s working.  5 marbles in the jar each morning that she puts on her outfit (chosen the night before), with no alterations and with no meltdowns.

Perhaps this new strategy will only last a few weeks (or days), but I’ll take it.  And in any case, since beginning weekly therapy sessions, the entirety of our house feels just a little less volatile.

I feel like I should write something about the toddler – about how she’s finally growing a smidge taller and how she’s cutting several molars.  About how each day, she bursts out a new word, almost as if it was hiding inside her all along, just waiting for the right moment to scream “two mommies!” or “elbow!”  But I look through my photos and see nothing but her.

She’s cuter than her older sister.  At least for now.  Her toes are still kissable.  At what age do the toes become unkissable, or is that just me?  She stays still for photos, too, which I’m sure will pass in its own time.

I keep scrolling back up to see if this is publishable.  If it’s cohesive.  If it has worth.

I’m going to post it anyway.  Just to get it out of my head.

Breathe.

Click.

 

Help and Hope

5 Mar

Tomorrow, I’m taking my eldest child to therapy.  She’s five.  And it feels like failure.

Now, I’m the first person to tell you that therapy is a wonderful gift to give yourself.  It’s one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done – it broke me and healed me simultaneously and gave me the gifts of introspection and self-acceptance.  I’m eternally grateful to the tailspin that was PPD for forcing me into a shrink’s office. (Side note:  Anybody else remember that cartoon, Talespin?  I loved that show as a kid!)

So why do I feel fractured?  Why was the phone call to the counseling center about my child almost as hard as when I called about my own issues so many years ago?  Introspection to the rescue.

…………………………..

“Her fears of children’s television shows and the wind, her anxieties about crowds and friendships, and her rage-filled temper tantrums – how are these not my fault?  How can a child spend the first two years of her life with an depression-consumed mother and not have the yelling and the emotional barriers affect her personality?”

My inner-monologue screams at me as I write the appointment time and date on my calendar, adding it to my phone and my weekly to-do list.  And to add insult to injury, I find I’ve written the appointment on the incorrect date and must write it again, the hurtful rhetoric echoing with every letter and number.

I break down in tears and sob while both daughters smack their mouths on gooey peanut butter sandwiches.

……………………………..

I’ve written about my experiences as a new mother with postpartum depression and anxiety before.  I’ve made a practice of not hiding how devastating that time was – of not allowing shame to dominate my life now.  I thought I was over it.  But the guilt monster, it seems, has a thirst that can never be quenched.  She sneaks back in and reminds me of all the time I missed and of all the damage I must have caused.  When will I be able revisit those days without anguish and without all the sights and sounds torturing my memory?

Facing that my little girl needs some help with what we call her “big feelings”  is forcing me to reflect on my own struggles with mental health.  It’s making me step out of the present and reside temporarily in her past… my past.  And in looking back, I remember that I’m angry for what the PPD took from me and for what it gave to my child.

………………………………

“What a gift you are giving her.  The chance to learn to be introspective and to ask for help.  I wish it had been alright to not be okay when I was a kid.”

My friends talk me down from a shame spiral, the depths of which only a peer would  know.  They tell me I am a good mom for allowing myself to go back to the pain and recognize that it gives me the power to help my baby.  They speak of courage.  And I try not to feel like a fraud.

…………………………….

The truth is that even though I know that I did not cause my child’s dramatic and spirited personality – even though I recognize that I am doing everything I can to help her grow into who she is and to care for her needs with respect and love – I don’t feel worthy of her.

And there it is.  This therapy appointment feels like evidence that she deserved better.

And yet I’m exactly the momma she needs.

………………………….

We stand in front of the white door and she notices the meditation medallion hanging from the door knocker.  Nervously, she reaches out for my hand.  Together, we take a deep breath and step, through our fears and hesitations, into help and hope.

This Moment

17 Jan

As I stepped gently up the stairs to tell my rambunctious, challenging five year old she could come down while her baby sister continued to nap, I wondered to myself why she was so quiet.  I prepared myself for battle: the daily argument over picking up her room, and the barrage of requests that would accompany her back down to the living room.  And then I was greeted by this.  I sat down on the edge of her empty mattress and stared at her.

Impromptu Nap

She had fallen asleep on her floor, decorating a tinsel Christmas tree with hair barrettes during her “rest time.”  Her ever-faithful “Light-Up Turtle” companion by her head and her soulmate “Cuddle Monkey” tucked under an arm, she snored beneath a pile of blankets.  And in an instant, the stern-mommy-of-a-preschooler in me melted into the mom I remember being to her.

You see, though I love her fiercely, she and I are like oil and water – if oil and water were practically identical, that is.  Everything is an exercise in diplomacy with her, and most days I can no longer see the baby she used to be – I see the child she is and the young lady she is becoming: headstrong, opinionated, analytical, difficult.  And though I know the armor I unwittingly don puts space between us, I struggle with letting my guard down, burned by so many other bad moments, bad days, bad weeks.  The softness that I gave to her as a baby and toddler, the same softness that comes so easily with her younger sister, is buried under my frustrations and my anxieties and my fears.

I miss the toddler she used to be.  At times it’s as if this new, older daughter has replaced her, calling muffins by their correct name instead of “mondays,” and asking for privacy with a roll of her eyes instead of revolving her entire world around me.  Even her body has lost its toddlerness, the chub and rolls stretching out into a lean childhood figure.  She seems so big now, especially since her sister joined us two years ago, and I know I look at her and forget how big the world must seem to her, how many things she still has yet to understand, and how much wonder surrounds her.  I forget she is that same little baby that made me a mother.  How can you miss someone who is standing right in front of you?

It’s bittersweet, this process of letting go that we call motherhood… falling in love with a tiny being only to have them leave you day after day, metamorphosing into a new version of themselves.  I know the practical answer is to enjoy her for who she is at each stage of her childhood – to soak in this five-year-old Emily so that I may miss her when she too has gone, but I struggle with my sadness at what has been lost and with finding a balance between being better for her and allowing myself grace.

The words of Kahlil Gibran* have never rung so true:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of to-morrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

And so, I let her sleep, conscious of the fact that I will have to eventually wake her and break the spell, holding this moment in my heart, determined not to forget its warmth and softness once it has passed.

*Poem excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, 1923

Sibling Rivalry

9 Aug

Mom, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the time I knocked two of  my little brother’s teeth out with the back of my skull even though he had my arms pinned behind my back and wouldn’t let me go.

And remember when he flushed my favorite washcloth down the toilet and I screamed and cried for days?  Even thought it was just a washcloth? Yeah.  Sorry.

For all the times I waited for him to do something bad just so I could tattle to you and get him in trouble.

And for the multitude of moments when you just wanted us to play nicely together so you could drink your tea in peace but that were inevitably punctuated by screaming.

I wish I could say it was all his fault, but I know better now.  And I’m so, so sorry.

This sibling rivalry nonsense?  Totally sucks from my new perspective.

I hear it’s normal and that I’m not doing anything wrong as a parent, but my god do these girls ever drive each other and me to tears.  They are almost 5 and 2, certainly more than the 4 and 1 their birth years would suggest.

Now, I know they adore each another.  The first person that Doodlebug wants to see in the morning is her baby sister.  She looks forward to the moment when Bean’s face will light up and they both grin silly smiles reserved just for sister.  Doodlebug’s mere presence in an unfamiliar environment is enough to fill Bean with sufficient courage and confidence to tear herself away from my arms to explore.  And noone has more adorable nicknames for the baby than her big sister.  They crack each other up and inspire a creativity that I couldn’t begin to understand.

So why are they constantly at each other’s throats?  Toy grabbing.  Screaming matches.  Shutting doors on little sisters.  Throwing toys at big sisters. Crying about toys “I was thinking about playing with but then she played with it and she’s never going to be done playing with it and IT’S NOT FAAAAAIR.”

It’s a passive agressive war for family dominance and I’m the one caught in the crossfire.

And though it’s truly exasperating, I’m trying to reframe it in a positive light.  Our home and family is the one place where both girls feel safe enough to experiment socially.  The can try things out, knowing the safety net of family love will catch them. And like lion cubs, they are testing their strength on one another.

So. Their sibling rivalry is important to their social development.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Sisters

Banana Pops

27 Jun

I can’t be the first person to do this and I haven’t checked but I’m pretty sure I’ll not be the first to blog about it either.  But these are just too good (and easy!) not to share.

My youngest (18 months) is teething.  Has been teething.  Okay, is constantly teething.  She is currently working on seven (yes, you read that right) teeth: 3 molars and 4 canine teeth.  It takes, on average, a month for a single tooth to completely erupt, so you can imagine how much fun it’s been around here lately.  Those parenting books that claim “some kids aren’t really bothered by teething,” are full of crap.  I have yet to meet a parent whose toddler didn’t morph into the devil while working on a new tooth.  And rightly so.  A piece of popcorn stuck in between my teeth leaves me gumming nothing but applesauce and popsicles until it is dislodged and I swear never to eat popcorn ever again.  It makes me grateful I don’t remember getting that first set of chompers.

Anyway.  Some days, Bean doesn’t want to eat much of anything.  Cold washcloths, and teething rings get dropped immediately after being handed to her.  And I can only give her so many sugar-filled popsicles in one day without feeling guilty.  Enter the banana.  Perfectly soft and mushy for breakfast, and as it turns out, perfectly cold and chewy when frozen.  Except she didn’t want to pick up the cold banana chunks.

So? I stuck a craft stick in the middle of a leftover piece of banana one morning and popped it in the freezer for later.

You need these in your life.  Truly.  Who doesn’t love how sweet bananas get when frozen?  Like bananas, only better.

banana pops

It’s a no-brainer.  But Doodlebug and I took some snapshots of the process for you anyway:

You'll need: ziploc baggies, bananas cut into chunks, popsicle sticks, one chubby baby knee

You’ll need: ziploc baggies, bananas cut into chunks, popsicle sticks, one chubby baby knee.

When pushing the popsicle stick into the unfrozen bananas, hold the banana firmly and press the stick in slowly.  Doodlebug was able to do this with no trouble at 4 years old.

When pushing the popsicle stick into the unfrozen bananas, hold the banana firmly and press the stick in slowly. Doodlebug was able to do this with no trouble at 4 years old.

Place each banana pop in its own baggie, zipping the bag closed around the top of the stick.  Place in freezer.  It takes about 3-4 hours for the pops to freeze, depending on how big your banana chunks are.

Place each banana pop in its own baggie, zipping the bag closed around the top of the stick. Place in freezer. It takes about 3-4 hours for the pops to freeze, depending on how big your banana chunks are.

Healthy, fun, and because of the stick, my girls think it’s dessert.  I’ve considered rolling them in melted chocolate or sprinkles before freezing, but part of the beauty of these is that they create no mess and have nothing artificial at all.  It’s going to be a summer mainstay here.

Enjoy!

Talking Climb Out and PPD With My Oldest Daughter

20 Jun

If you’d like to donate to our hike, head on over to Crowdrise!

Doodle Bug’s Big-Girl Room

19 Oct

Yes, that is toddler butt in the picture. You're welcome.

The timing was just perfect – Doodle Bug turned three in October and we needed a crib for the new baby coming in January.  What better time to give her a new room with a twin bed and to make her the focus?  She looked forward to her new room for months.  She picked out the theme, the color, and even helped shop for the bed.  “Sea turtles,” she said.  So I went with something neutral with turtle accessories.  Because we all know that in three months, she’s going to love flowers…or dinosaurs.

As we worked on the room over a few weekends, she kept walking past and peeking in, saying, “look, Mommy.  Isn’t it so pretty?”  And now that it’s finished, we all love it even more.  Not because it’s adorable (which it is), but because it’s just so Doodle Bug.

Canvas print from Groupon of DoodleBug and her best friend at a nearby farm.

Lovies snuggling on the pillow, paper lanterns, and a turtle mobile made from leftover birthday party decorations.

She loves her new bed. And I love the foam Magic Bumpers that keep her safely tucked in.

Sea Turtle and Friends: Paintings by Mommy

Twin Bed: Catalina Bed from Pottery Barn Kids, $399.  Y’all, I tried so hard to find a bed with a headboard and foot board for less than I knew I would have to pay at PBK.  But this bed?  Won me over.  It’s solid wood, gorgeous, has two adjustable height settings, and works so well with only the mattress.  It will be perfect to grow with her for the next 14 years.

Bedside Table: Walmart $39 (moved over from her nursery room)

Dresser: $30 garage sale find from before we had kids.  It was hideous originally, but is one of my favorite pieces of furniture, now.

Paper Lanterns: Michael’s for $2 each.  The big one is wired for light and was on clearance for $3 at Target.

Bedding: PBK Quilt, Sham, and Turtle Pillowcase.  On clearance last spring:  $100 total.  White sheets from Target for $24.

Curtains:  Shower curtains from Kohls, split and then hemmed to remove the button holes on top.  $30 (moved over from her nursery room)

Magic Bumpers:  A traditional bed rail didn’t work with this bed, so I ordered these from Amazon.com.  They are basically two foam bolsters that fit under the mattress cover and I made the bed over them.  They work perfectly.  Love them!

The Time I Inadvertently Brought Up Death With My Toddler

25 Aug

Sex, drugs, death.  Conversations I’d honestly prefer to “paper, rock, scissors” with the hubby to avoid.  Not because I’m embarrassed, but because I’m worried I’ll say the wrong thing.  Topics I want to handle just right, and topics I feel could have been handled better by my parents.

Mom, I love you.  You know I love you and think you did an amazing job raising us.  But every child has things they want to do differently than their parents, if for no other reason than because I am a different parent than you are, parenting in a different generation and with a different child.  We cool?  Cool. 

So when I casually reminisced at the breakfast table about something my grandfather used to say, I was caught off-guard when my two-year-0ld asked me, “Mommy, where is your grandpa?”

My husband and I believe in telling DoodleBug the truth.  When we ask her to eat three more bites, we hold to three, even though I may want to sneak an extra on the plate when she’s not looking.  We don’t dodge questions, and we follow through on consequences.  She knows when Mommy or Daddy say something, we mean it; I like to think our consistency and honesty help her to trust us now and will foster open communication as she gets older.

And of course I would be the first parent to have to take this parenting value for a test-drive.  Here’s how the conversation went:

DB: Mommy, where is your grandpa?

Me: Um…Well… (Looks around in desperation for help.  Or a distraction.  Nothing?  Crap.)

         Well, my grandpa isn’t around anymore.  He lived a long life and was a daddy and a grandpa and when he got very, very old, his time was all done.  He is all done.  I miss him, but it’s okay that he’s all done, because even though people can’t be around forever, new babies are born and new grandmas and grandpas love those babies.

DB: (Stares at me.  Silence.  And then.) Mommy?  Your grandpa’s all done?  It’s okay.  You can share my grandpa.

Me: (Speechless)

I want DB to feel differently about death than I did as a kid, and still do as an adult.  I want her to understand that as hard as it is to close one chapter and open up the next, that’s the way life is; that without death, life wouldn’t be precious.  I want her to know it’s okay to grieve loss, but to take solace in how life continues on.  I don’t want to hide the truth from her to protect her, and yet I don’t want to scare her, either.

I spent the whole day replaying the conversation in my head, wondering if I had said the right thing.  Then.  That afternoon we were out on the back deck and she pointed to the flower pot.

DB: Mommy?  Why are those flowers squished?

Me: Well, they are wilting because they are all done being flowers.

DB: All done like your grandpa?

Me: Yes, it’s kind of the same.

DB:  Look, Mommy.  There are new flowers that are going to come out soon, just like the new babies and grandmas and grandpas.

I *think* I may have knocked this one out of the park.

I’ll be back…

17 May

Really, I will.  When I’m not sneezing all over my also-sick two year old.  When I’m not overwhelmed with lesson reschedules and meals I don’t have time to cook.  After weeks of doctors appointments are all done.

In the meanwhile, enjoy this little blast from the past…

DB Infant

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