Monday, October 26, 2009


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: teething sucks. Big time. I hear from friends that some babies aren't bothered by teething, most are only bothered by the first few teeth, and even more are only bothered for a day or two. LL is not one of those children. When he's sprouting a tooth, he is a screaming no-sleep mess for weeks. (He's still charming during the day, for the most part, though the never-ending sleep disturbances all night long for weeks at a time do take a toll on even the most cheerful toddler.) I'm not sure if it helps us or hurts us, but LL also tends to get his teeth in waves. He got the last six of his eight incisors all during two tumultuous months. After a brief break, he is now working on molars and canines. In the last month alone, he has sprouted four of them, and two more are threatening to break the surface any day now. One the one hand, that is an awful lot of pain for a little guy to handle all at once. On the other hand, I suppose it will be nice to get it all out of the way.

As a total aside: on the advice of my dentist (who was shocked when I told him that LL is 13 months old and already has 12 teeth) we bought LL a normal toddler-sized toothbrush, instead of using the fingertip infant brush that seemed to just give LL a reason to bite us every day. He loves it, and is getting very good at brushing his own teeth.

LL is still waking up every single night. We dose him with Motrin before he goes to bed, and like clockwork, he wakes up six hours later when the medicine wears off. The Motrin seems to dull the pain enough for him to sort of fall asleep, but it clearly leaves enough pain that he's sleeping very lightly. He's normally a deep sleeper, but lately, he wakes to every noise and then wants company while he tosses and turns and chews on his hand and moans slightly as he tries to go back to sleep. Though we had never really done it before, we've started co-sleeping after he wakes in the middle of the night. I figure, if he's going to want one of us to keep him company until dawn, we might as well all be horizontal. This strategy is leading to an increased quantity of sleep for everybody, though a decreased quality of sleep for me and S. But I'm so horribly sleep-deprived at the moment that I'm willing to take quantity over quality, at least for a while. Maybe just until the last four canines and molars come in.

In happier news, LL increased his vocabulary this weekend. His repertoire had included: all done, mama (or rather, "Mom-Mom", which I find charming), dada, dai (Russian for "gimme", approximately), dah (Russian for "yes"), no no ("nah nah!"), and when he's feeling particularly communicative: again. (Sadly, it's sometimes hard to distinguish "all done" and "again," leading to a very frustrated LL.) Many children say "dog" early on, but instead, whenever LL sees or hears a dog, he barks. It's a very obvious "arf! arf!" sound. He also does a fairly convincing "ee! ee! ooh! ooh!" sound when he sees a monkey. Either we've been spending too much time making animal sounds and not enough time actually identifying the animals by name, or LL is just a born performer. Either way, in a move towards providing names for the animal kingdom, LL has now added the word "bear." Between wall paper, pictures, books, clothing, and stuffed animals, our house has approximately 8 billion bears in it, so LL is getting lots of opportunity to show off his new word.

LL has also suddenly developed a taste for exploration. For a long time after he learned to crawl, he refused to do it outside. If we put him on a blanket in the grass, he stayed on the blanket. Which was kind of handy, actually. Now, he has discovered that sidewalks are fun. If I set him in the front yard, he takes off for the sidewalk, then proceeds to visit all the neighbors. If I can just teach him to stop trying to take headers off the curb, he'll be ready for his own paper route or something.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Perfect Storm

We have a lot going on right now. I'm almost done with a huge experiment at school, hopefully the last big one that I'll need to do for my dissertation, and I'm almost ready to start analyzing data and writing up results. I'm half-heartedly looking for a post-graduation job, which I should really be doing whole-heartedly but, um, I'm not. S just had a project canceled at work, followed by a big reorganization, so his work life is in chaos. And in less than six weeks, S's entire extended family (~20 people) are descending on our house from out-of-state for an entire week of Thanksgiving merriment. Thanksgiving is a HUGE deal in S's family, and hosting the festivities is such a big job that they rotate it around from year to year. We've only hosted once before, and it's our turn again. Hosting Thanksgiving involves planning all meals and entertainment (including several prepared games, shows, and craft projects) for every day of the week. And the meals are all elaborate productions involving many traditional American, Hawaiian, and Japanese dishes. Last time we hosted, I started all the planning and prep work in early October, but this year I've done nada, nothing, zip so far. Which has me a little bit panicky.

Normally, finishing a dissertation and looking for a job and planning a week-long holiday celebration for twenty in-laws would be plenty to both fill my time and stress me out. But instead, they're all taking a back seat to LL and this I am Toddler, hear me roar! clingy temperamental sleep-is-for-babies-who-haven't-yet-turned-one "thing" he's going through.

We seem to be facing a perfect storm of circumstances for LL over the past month. There have been a lot of disruptions and new things for him to deal with all at once, starting with the daycare change. You may remember that a month ago, Natasha's mother was in a bad car accident, and Natasha flew home to be with her. Sadly, her mother never awoke from her persistent coma, and has passed away. Natasha has had a devastating several months, after losing her father back in February. She is now back, she reopened her daycare this week, and she seems relieved to be back with her children. LL is definitely thrilled to be back with her and all his daycare friends after more than a month of a rotation of new care providers.

In addition to all of the daycare changes, LL also reacted poorly to his 12-month shots. And his growing brain has clearly made a bunch of new connections all of a sudden, as he has suddenly figured out how to climb, how to better manipulate small objects, and how to participate in conversations. (He only knows a few comprehensible words, but that doesn't stop him from babbling nonstop. I ask him a question, and he responds with entire paragraphs before pausing and looking expectantly at me, waiting for my response before continuing the conversation. He totally gets the give-and-take of verbal interactions. All he's missing is the speak-an-understandable-language part.) He's also gone through an amazing growth spurt -- tables that he could stand underneath just a week ago are now a source of frustration, since he stands up and smacks his head on the underside. He's also mid-transition between two naps and one. (Good lord, nap transitions are a pain in the butt!) And he sprouted at least three more teeth this week (two incisors and a molar on the bottom, possibly more on the top but he won't let me check).

Any one of these factors (daycare changes, brain development, growth, teeth, vaccines, dropping naps) would individually be enough to disrupt him a bit, but all at the same time? He's a clingy, sleepless mess. He seems to want to be independent yet simultaneously attached to me, and we haven't quite figured out how to achieve that. He crawls to me and begs to be picked up, but doesn't actually want to be in my arms. When I return him to the ground, he throws a temper tantrum. If I sit on the floor with him, he does not want to be in my lap, yet he claws at my shirt as if he wants to be held. When he's in this mood, the only thing that works is for me to lie down in the middle of his play area and let him crawl back and forth over me, which he finds endlessly amusing. (He also loves being tickled and he loves being chased and he loves chasing me, but he has to already be happy before engaging in any of those activities.)

He's waking up at least once almost every night. Usually he wants to be held for a little while (and to have a middle-of-the-night chat -- like I said: nonstop babbling) but two nights so far, it's been night terrors, which are horrible to deal with. (For the uninitiated: night terrors are when children start screaming and thrashing around in the middle of the night. They're not awake, but it looks like they are. They don't react to your presence and usually cannot be calmed down no matter what you do. And apparently, children are totally unaware that it's happening.) Some night terrors are just random, but apparently all those disruptions mentioned above can trigger them in toddlers. We're hoping that they'll go away soon, as things start to settle down. And we absolutely need to get him sleeping through the night again, because S and I are walking around like zombies these days. (We were both sick last week, too. Sleep deprivation probably made us easy targets.) S is lobbying for some cry-it-out experimentation, but I'm hesitant to do it while LL is in a separation anxiety phase.

So, um, that's what's going on in our house right now. Both the dissertation stuff and the job stuff probably deserve their own posts. There's also starting to be this lingering second-child question, which seems like a ridiculous thing to even bring up in light of everything else, but it's there nonetheless.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Separation Anxiety

I'm an idiot. Seriously -- a complete moron. Why do I ever write things like "LL never went through a clingy phase"? What was I thinking when I wrote that in my last post? Haven't I learned by now that putting statements like that in writing is the surest possible way to guarantee that they stop being true?!?

LL is now completely 100% no-holds-barred in a clingy separation anxiety phase. He climbs all over me as soon as I pick him up in the morning. He cries and clings to fistfuls of my clothing (or hair) when I try to drop him off at daycare, or to hand him to someone else. The clinging is accompanied by a look of pure terror and pitiful wails. (In true toddler fashion, he stops crying and goes happily about his day 30 seconds after I leave, which is great for the daycare but sucks for me, because I hear his whimpering and sniffling in my head for the rest of the day.) It's slightly better if I try to hand him to someone he knows very well, but even then, as soon as he's comfortably settled in that person's arms, he turns and reaches for me to take him back again. (If I don't take him back immediately, he proceeds to the pitiful wails.)

When I pick him up from daycare at the end of the day, he insists on being attached to me for the rest of the day. If I try to put him down, even if it's just to play with him on the floor at home, he screams and grabs at me until I take him back into my arms. He doesn't want to go down for naps. He doesn't want to go to sleep at night. And for the past two weeks, he's been waking up around 11pm and screaming and sobbing until we go in to get him, and then he stays up for hours at a time. (We discovered a few nights ago that he goes back to sleep better if S goes to him instead of me, but he's still up for at least an hour.)

It's clear that LL is exhausted -- he has little bags under his eyes, and when he's awake in the middle of the night, he puts his head down and whimpers. I'm certain that he wants to be asleep. But he seems so full of anxiety that he can't fall back asleep. Baby insomnia. And none of our regular tricks are working -- milk, fresh air, rocking, singing, walking around the house, patting his back.... He just can't calm down enough to go back to sleep.

My friends tell me that these phases usually only last a month or so before they fade (and then reappear, and fade, and reappear, ...). I hope so, because it's both mentally and physically exhausting. I also think that it has been made worse by all of the daycare changes, and I think that it's also being compounded by teething (yep, fairly certain those molars are on their way). I can't take much more. I have a new baby carrier (a lovely mei tai that LL seems to really enjoy riding in) and it's the only thing keeping me sane in the afternoons. As soon as we get home, he goes into the mei tai and stays there until dinner, because otherwise my arms would fall off from carrying him. But even with the best carrier in the world, 22+ pounds is a lot of active toddler to be carrying around for hours every afternoon.

I know that almost all babies go through a separation anxiety phase at some point (or multiple points) during the first two years. But the "oh my goodness, my mommy is abandoning me, I can't believe I'm about to be left all alone in the world, if I can't see her and touch her I will surely perish!" thing is bringing on a horrible bout of mommy guilt. All of which is made worse by the fact that I'm hating school right now, and I'm hating the process of looking for a job after I graduate, and I feel like there's absolutely nothing that I want to do professionally right now, so why in the hell am I abandoning my child if I'm not even enjoying what I'm abandoning him for? But that's probably the renewed sleep deprivation talking. Right?