Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Boo- yeah!

I love Halloween for so many different reasons, one of which is that it makes having kids totally worth it.  Especially when one is old enough to choose his own costume and the other is young enough to enjoy (or not notice) whatever cute little thing I decide to put on him.  It's really the best of both worlds.



But on the flip side of that, my own creative efforts have suffered over the last 3 years.  Being the utterly selfless mom that I am, every ounce of my energy has gone toward making these guys and the house look as festive as possible.  I haven't even attempted to throw together a costume for myself since I was pregnant with Niall.

But this year, I was suddenly awakened out of my slump when a friend told me that her 6 month old would be a shark and that she and her husband would wear blood-splattered shirts to pose as his victims.  Now that's the spirit!, I thought.  Blood and gore and offending people-- that's what Halloween is all about.  Why shouldn't I get in on the action?

So this year, things are different.  I came to the important realization that walking my kids around from house to house, taking pictures of them looking all cute and cuddly, helping them collect their pieces of candy and teaching them how to shout "Trick or Treat!" (and hopefully say thank-you)-- those are all admirable things, sure.  But that's not me being the best mom I can be.

This is...


Dressing up as Snooki and explaining to Niall that I'm being a girl who likes to spend too much time at the beach without sunscreen and wears clothes that are too tight-- that's being an involved parent. Just putting my best foot forward and doin' it for the kids. (Minus my laziness of only covering my face and neck with bronzer because I didn't feel like doing my arms-- other than that, I really went for it, and may have actually scared both my kids.)


Speaking of being selfless, I sacrificed my puking pumpkin this year for the sake of a father/son moment that couldn't have happened any other way.  Before I even had the chance to even weigh in on what our pumpkin's face would look like this year, Matt and Niall were anxiously flipping through the pumpkin carving kit book for the perfect stencil and went right on ahead without me.


It looks pretty good, I have to hand it to the team-- this was definitely a collaborative effort.



And maybe next year, Matt will put the butcher knife and other sharp utensils off to the side before inviting Niall over to help out...  But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. 


 Happy Halloween!



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Friday, October 26, 2012

Quick Sleep Update

I don't think I'll get any ever again.  The End.

Ok, I guess I can go into a little more detail...

Things had gotten really crazy by the end of last week, to the point where I would have to take Niall back to his room maybe 30 or 40 times for every nap and then again at bedtime (all while listening to earth shattering screaming).  Why not use a gate?, you must be asking yourself.  And the answer is that Niall, with all of his fierce determination, will promptly knock it over with the strength of an angry rhinoceros.

Anyway, on Sunday, I spent 2 hours forcing him to stay in his room for nap, and then when nap time was over and I went to let him out, he had just then finally fallen asleep (3:30).  So I had to wake him up to prevent another disaster at bedtime.

I decided to take Niall to the doctor on Monday because things have been so out of control.  I think it was around the time that I bought myself a pack of cigarettes on Saturday (I don't smoke) that I decided it was time to get some professional help.

Keep in mind, I know the name of every sleep method and every little trick and/or glitch that can contribute to a child's sleep.  But surely the doctor might be able to tell me something I don't already know.

And he did.  2 key things.

The first is pretty obvious, looking back.  Stop potty training immediately.  It's obviously causing some kind of power struggle and anxiety because this all kind of started around the same time, and Niall has been pretty defiant about it lately.  When I told him that Niall would be 3 next month, he quickly replied: "So?"  And I continued: "So what age should he be potty trained by?"  To which he replied "I don't know... 5?"  He was joking, but the point was that Niall is not going to go to kindergarten in diapers and he will probably do it on his own if I just back off.

So I was really excited to find out that the last 4 months of work were completely pointless, but hopefully he will pick it back up a lot easier when we start again in a few months.

The second thing was pretty shocking.  Guess what time he said I should be putting Niall to bed?  Niall, the almost 3 year old, should be going down at....

6:30 PM!!!!!

I couldn't believe it.  I had been putting him down around 7:30/7:45 thinking that was pretty early, but I didn't realize that he needed to be asleep by then.  The ideal window is really for them to fall asleep between 7-8 in order to go into the deepest sleep and not wake up in the middle of the night.

Supposedly everyone has 3-5 wakeful periods during their sleep each night; brief unconscious check-ins of one's surroundings-- adults are pretty conditioned to just sleep right through them, but babies and small children will come fully out of their sleep if they are already overtired or if something about their surroundings has changed (which is why you should always put a baby to sleep awake).

So this explained why he was waking up so much in the night, even though he was exhausted.

The first night was not so great.  Despite going down at 6:45, he didn't stop screaming and coming out of his room until 9, so I think he probably fell asleep around 9:15/9:30.  He then woke up at 3:30 and didn't go back to sleep until 5:30.... and then woke up at 7 like it never happened.

BUT.... the second night, he went down at 6:30, fell asleep at 7:15 and slept right on through the night until 6:30am!!!!  I couldn't believe it.  I wanted to kiss his little feet.  It was the best night of my life (in recent history).

So now we're going through another little rough patch because we've decided to get rid of the nap.  He has been pretty defiant about it and seems like he can make it through the day up to bed time now that we've pushed it earlier.  I know it will probably take a week or so to get adjusted, but I'm really hoping that a week from now things will be normal again.  Fingers crossed!


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Friday, October 19, 2012

Losing my mind

It's happening.  The 6 months of monsters and bad guys and dinosaurs in Niall's room are finally going to get the best of me, and honestly, I'm pretty proud of myself for keeping it together this long.  I just don't think I'm realistically going to be able to take this much longer without slamming my head through the drywall (or the concrete wall in the basement might be better).

I'd say every few weeks or so the routine changes a little, but it's all pretty much the same--

Month 1- he will take a nap but won't sleep at night (unless it's in our bed)
Month 2- he won't take a nap, will go to sleep at bedtime with some reassurance, but wakes up in the middle of the night and screams until we let him into bed with us
Month 3- he will take a nap and will go to sleep at night (with A LOT of reassurance)... only to find that he had taken it upon himself to sneak into our bed and sleep there instead, which ultimately leads to him waking up scared and confused when he's back in his bed in the middle of the night.  Commence screaming...
Month 4- he will take a nap but cries at the gate for an hour at bedtime each night
Month 5- sometimes will take a nap, sometimes won't, but consistently knocks the gate over in a fit of rage each night at bedtime.  Bye bye gate, hello freedom to take the screaming into all other rooms of the house.
Month 6- won't take a nap, won't sleep at night and screams bloody murder through both, although the night time scream fest lasts a little longer than the naptime one (8-10:30pm)

--and, in all cases, he proceeds to wake up between 6 and 6:30am like none of it ever happened.  Chipper chicken.

Well, guess what?  Nice, understanding, sympathetic mom over here has taken a turn.  I don't feel sorry for him anymore.  I only feel sorry for me now (and Matt).  I have tried everything.  No, I actually mean that I have tried EVERYTHING.  I think I've gotten up to page 8 or 9 on Google results for "toddler afraid of monsters."

I'm done renting movies and books that reassure kids when they have scary feelings, getting into bidding wars over Monsters, Inc. on ebay because it apparently only exists on the black market now, buying all kinds of stuffed animals and toys, tot clocks, sticker charts, hugs and back rubs, drawing pictures of nice monsters, drawing pictures of mean monsters with big red "X"s and "KEEP OUT" signs all over them, investing in about $100 worth of different kinds of nightlights, magic rubbing stones, monster spray, talking about our happy thoughts, taking beds off frames so that there's no "under the bed."  I'M DONE.

I think I realized that things were really taking a turn for the worst a few nights ago when Matt and I were trying to watch the presidential debate and couldn't hear anything over Niall's blood-curdling screaming.  He said screamed something really cute and heart-wrenching that I can't quite remember-- something like "MOMMMMMAAYYYYYY, I'M FEELING SO SAD WITE NOW.  CAN I HAVE A HUG?  MOMMMMAAAYYYYY, MY FEELINGS ARE HUWT!!!"  I started bursting into hysterical laughter which then turned into hysterical sobbing and ultimately ended with Matt going upstairs to sleep so Niall would finally put a cork in it. 

I really thought we had a breakthrough yesterday, but I was once again mistaken.  We bought the movie "Where the Wild Things Are" because he likes that book a lot and it's definitely a good one for changing a kid's perception of monsters.  He LOVED it-- said the main monster (I think his name is Carol, which is pretty awesome) was his best friend.  We've watched it twice in the less than 24 hours since then.  All he has talked about is how nice Carol the monster is.

So when I tucked him in for his nap today, he immediately started crying before I had even left the room.  When I gently told him that there was nothing to be afraid of because now we know that monsters are nice, he changed his story and said that it's not monsters he's afraid of now, it's just "bad guys."

So now I'm starting to think that I'm taking the bait.  Is this a little bit of cute toddler manipulation going on here?  There's some kind of excuse for every reassurance I give him, and now I'm turning to threats.  "If you don't sit quietly in your room until the clock turns yellow, I'm taking all of your trains away!"

I highly doubt that punishment is a good tactic in persuading a child to sleep but in some sick little way, it kind of makes me feel better.  I guess it makes me feel a little bit like I, the adult and parent, might actually be the one in charge here.  In the meantime, I'm repeating the phrase "Embrace the chaos" over and over again inside of my head in the hopes that my blood will stop boiling and I won't spontaneously combust.  It's a nice thought, though.  Sure, embrace the chaos.  I will certainly try.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

To Puke... or Not to Puke

You really can't have too much of a good thing when it comes to Halloween decorating.  It's the one time of the year that you can put as much stuff as you want all over your door, front porch and entire yard and not be considered trashy.  In fact, the more stuff you put up, the cooler and more worthy community member you obviously are.

And the only thing better than putting up the decorations themselves is picking out the prized pumpkins to showcase on those front steps.


I didn't quite get my act together to do the whole hayride and picking pumpkins off the vine thing this year, but I did have a much more enthusiastic pumpkin picker than last year, so that was fun.




 Make that two...





The pumpkin carving gig has always been a big deal to me.  I always pencil on a sketch first and make sure it's perfect, then carve it out with different size & shape utensils (except for that one crazy year where I was feeling brave/ lazy and used a massive butcher knife for the whole thing).  It's just one of those things I look forward to all year.

...Until the dream in my head of all my kids sitting patiently around the pumpkin, cheering me on and helping me carefully scoop the pumpkin goo into a bowl... is met with the reality that a) my kids' idea of carefully scooping pumpkin goop into the bowl is flinging it across the room and rubbing it all over their bodies, and b) the sharp carving utensils make excellent instruments for gauging their own eyes out, or maybe even mine.

Anyhoo....

So the question is:  when you have a good thing going, do you change it up just for the sake of doing something different?

The puking pumpkin has become a household tradition around here and I just don't think I can bear to see it go.


Especially when Niall does such a creative and entertaining rendition of what a puking pumpkin would look like in human form (imagine a machine gun noise mixed with gagging):


I know that doing the same exact pumpkin face 3 years in a row is boring, but wouldn't it be just as boring not to have a puking pumpkin?

There's painting the pumpkin instead of carving and there are all kinds of detailed scenes instead of faces, but I'm just not sure that anything will quite replace the original McCullough pumpkin.

I'll think about it.  Any suggestions are welcome!

In the meantime, I'm counting down the 10 years or so until the boys will be old enough to help me in creating the ultimate neighborhood haunted house.  This has been a dream of mine forever and it IS GOING TO HAPPEN.  Someday, it will happen.  Some day, the trick-or-treaters who come to our door will have to walk through a yard full of screams and run away from a leaf blower-turned-chainsaw in order to get their candy, and one of my most important and rewarding life accomplishments can be checked off.  (No, that is not saying anything about the substance of my life accomplishments.)  I can't wait.


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Friday, October 12, 2012

The not-so-perfect night's sleep

It's a strange feeling when you've been dreaming of something for such a long time and then, when you finally get it, you realize that you may not even want it.  Is it possible that I could be one of these people who are meant to function off of no sleep?

For 7 months, although completely smitten with our newest addition, I longed for the day when there would be a sliver of sunlight coming through the window when I was waking up.  And about 2 months ago, my dreams came true.

I couldn't ask for a better sleeper than Brendan.  7:30-7.  Every night. No fussing, no interruptions, no middle of the night disturbances.  Couldn't ask for more...

So why am I sitting here on my couch at 2:30 pm watching the housewives of Miami (I swear I never do this), staring at 2 bags of clothes that need to be sorted, a sink full of dishes, a trail of dirt that Niall tracked all over my rug.... and can't seem to put one foot in front of the other because I'm so exhausted!

After 2 months of recovery sleep, I'm realizing that I was operating at my very best when Brendan was about 6 months old, back when I was getting 6 hours of sleep each night.  I would pop up at 4:30 or 5am and play with Brendan, cut up some fruit and make smoothies for me and Niall, get my act together and go about my day without ever dragging.

Now, I hit my snooze button 7 or 8 times each morning-- yes, I set an alarm in the hopes that I will go back to waking up early and have a whole hour to myself before the kids wake up.  After I sleep through my alarm, I've probably gotten more than 9 hours of sleep, and still can't seem to pull myself out of bed. 

Maybe I'm just a 6 or 7 hour kind of girl... I just don't think I am ready to accept that.

I have always heard that you wait your whole adult life to sleep in again after having kids, and then when the nest is empty, your body is too used to waking up early all those years.  I'm guessing that will probably happen to me, but I was hoping that I could at least wait another 30 years or so to feel the urge to try waking up 3 hours before I actually need to. 

I'm learning that nothing is constant with kids, except for constant change.  Any time I get used to something or think that things are in a stable place, a change is sure to come in my future.  Any time I am happy or comfortable with the way things are, I find some reason to go and change it up.

I think that with kids, we have to accept and embrace that we are going to constantly be adjusting, constantly adapting and there is always going to be some surprise (good or bad) around the corner.  But that's part of the fun, so I say bring it on.


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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One Lucky Dog

I think you could say that last weekend was a pretty good one for Niall.  I mean, I don't think there will be another time in his life when he will be able to say that he saw the world's biggest snake, ate the world's biggest pancake, and watched a real live pirate ship sail in to shore all on the same day.



When I say the world's biggest snake, I really mean that I have no idea if there are bigger ones out there, but I'm going to pretend (and hope) that there aren't.  And when I say the world's biggest pancake, I really mean "don't challenge me because I worked really hard to make that pancake so big!"

It was pretty epic for a 3 year old to see a reptile show like this one.


And for a 52 year old, too...


I couldn't help but wonder, as Niall stood as close to the stage as he possibly could, if he might resemble one of those pigs or goats that the reptile man was saying these snakes like to prey on.  Don't worry, we adults are really too big for them to try to eat-- they don't mean us any harm as long as we leave them alone... they just like to eat small animals in the 20-40 pound range...

You mean, like...this range?


How reassuring... sounds like my little guy might be the perfect snack for this big mama who chowed down on a 49 pound goat the other day-- horns, hoofs and all.  Lovely.

But that didn't stop us from staying around to see the rest of what the reptile man had to show us.

A pre-historic species of snapping turtle


A beaded lizard


and Niall's favorite... (after seeing the snakes, this was probably the least interesting of all the displays, but Niall always surprises me with his top picks); even after everything else he had seen that day, he still chose the baby alligator for the first place slot.


Then, as if the day could get any better, Niall had his first school bus ride to get back to the parking lot... A true step toward big-boy-ness; no doubt about it. 


After such an amazing & adventurous day, surely I'm off the hook now-- no temper tantrums, sleep defiance, or whining-- for at least a few days.  That's how that works, right?

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Friday, October 5, 2012

How to Be a Kid

I think I've finally got this whole mom of a toddler thing down when it comes to fun daily activities.  A trip to the zoo here and there-- check.  Rainy days at the kid's library-- yep.  Frequent playdates with our little buddies-- you betcha.  Mornings out in the park-- quadruple bajillion checks, yes.

But when it comes to a regular old day in, I'm totally clueless.

Some days, you just don't have plans and it's one of those lay low, hang-around-the-house kind of days.  And those ones-- the ones that are supposed to be relaxed and easy-- are surprisingly the worst for me!  I might as well have taken the effort to drive an hour into DC rather than trying to fill that endless 4 hours until lunch and nap.

What happened to the child inside of me?  Where is my creativity for goodness sake?!

I very vividly remember being 6 or 7 and playing "hotel" in my basement.... BY MYSELF, mind you (I'm an only child); just talking and talking TO NOBODY for hours.  It went a little something like this--

Me:  picking up the non-existent phone "Hello?  Yes, this is the KMO Bed & Breakfast.  Umm, let me check my book.  Nope, sorry we're completely full that weekend.  What about the next Saturday?"

Non-existent person on the non-existent phone: "Sure, that would be fine!"

Me: "Ok, let me pencil you in..." (I proceed to actually pencil that person into my journal and make a careful note of whether they would like a smoking or non-smoking room)...

It was really fun-- a little too much fun for someone who is not even playing with an actual person, but that's besides the point.  The point is that I am capable of coming up with fun pretend play and all kinds of other entertaining ways to fill the time.  I just need to jog my memory a bit.

So I started researching some stuff to do with toddlers online.  Most of the stuff was obvious-- indoor obstacle course, bowling with plastic cups, color hunt/ treasure hunt around the house, act out different animals and guess what you are, etc.  I was looking for a little bit more of the imaginary kind of stuff, but no luck.

But apparently, if you are a cool dad, you will just think of things like this without even trying, and keep a kid entertained for hours--


Curse you, couch fort!  Ok, one point for Matt.  I totally should have thought of this.  Even the little secret toy corner...  Touche`, Matt, touche`.



But I am getting better day by day.  I think my mohawk series might have him beat...




So I'm working on it.  A lot of the girly stuff I come up with can be slightly altered to become boy-worthy.  Like, for instance, how about a dinosaur tea party?  Or playing house with lego towers?  Just as fun, right?

It will all come back to me eventually, this fun kids' stuff.  Slowly but surely :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This Kid Kills Me...

Brendan's expressions are almost too much for me to handle these days.  He just cracks me up with his big, bugged out eyes and his giant, gummy, toothless smile.  I hate to say it, but he might be even cuter than Niall was at this age-- which is saying A LOT because we didn't think it could get any cuter than the Niallator.

Niall had the very sweet, subtle charm; the tame hair with the gentle eyes and soft smile.  He stayed still so that I could have pictures that weren't blurry and could be hung on the walls...


Brendan pretty much looks the same as Niall-- except that he is a complete lunatic, a total ham, has a slew of crazy faces that he makes all the time, never stays still, and-- depending on the day-- he usually has this hilarious tuft of hair that pops up off the top of his head to match the personality...


 

 


And because of the 8,000 different faces he likes to make, I can never take just 1 picture of him.  I always find myself going through the insane batch of photos (all of the same thing) to pick my favorite 15.  I can usually narrow it down to about 20.







The only thing better than pictures of Brendan being crazy--
pictures of Brendan and Niall being crazy together...



 

 

One day, I am determined, and I will get the perfect, non-blurry shot of these two that can be hung up on the wall for all to see.  But hey, for now, I kinda like these crazy pictures better than the perfect ones anyway.  It shows their true personality, right ;)

Can't get enough of these goofballs.

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