Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Ever since Raina has been sentient regarding Halloween, she has picked her costume.  She was a pink snake, she was a princess, and this year she was a butterfly.  She's an advance planner (like her mother, thank goodness!) so she lets her parents know weeks in advance what she'll need for her costume.  In early October, Raina settled on her butterfly idea.  She and I hashed out what that would look like, and she decided that she needed wings and antenna and that she'd wear a solid colored shirt as the butterfly abdomen.  I grabbed thick poster board, sketched out the outline of wings and then set her loose.  She chose the pattern for the wings (hearts on one side, circles on the other), the color arrangement (blue and purple accents on a yellow background), and then spent an entire afternoon coloring her costume with markers.  We grabbed some pipe cleaners, some beads, and a headband and made her antenna too. 

A week or so later she decided her wings needed jewels.  Off we traveled to Michael's, in the pursuit of stick-on sparklies and some strong ribbon to hold the wings in place.  $5 later, Raina was in stick-on-jewel heaven and she finalized her costume. 

The Whompton girls celebrated Halloween twice this week.  Raina (and Krystal and Samantha) all dressed up in costume on Friday; Raina participated in a Halloween parade and sang a wonderfully adorable song.  When we arrived at school, Raina noticed that very few people had made their own costumes; instead, most people had purchased their costumes.  She then noticed how much positive attention she received; many of her friends wanted the process explained and Raina thrilled in saying "I made my costume all by myself!"  The same thing happened tonight on our block.  Raina exhibited pride at every turn as each set of adults marveled at the effort she (not we) put into her costume.  I'm glad she's seeing that effort and creativity are rewarded.

Little Lola was more reticient about costumes.  Since Raina was dressing up as a butterfly, Lola felt she should be a butterfly too, and there really was little budging her.  She absolutely refused to wear the original costume we picked out, so we audibled to being a Titans fan.  (We had purchased a Lola-sized Titans sweatsuit the year before, and we certainly had plenty of extra Titans gear around the house.)  She grabbed her little pumpkin bucket and was off!

For the first time in Raina's five years, Raina walked up to each house by herself, rang the doorbell by herself, and needed no coaxing to go to the next house.  Lola, in her first true outing, needed one house as an introduction (They're giving me candy?  Okay, I'll just keep it in this hand and hold my bucket in the other hand.  They're giving me more candy?  What am I supposed to do with that?!?) and then she was a trick-or-treat professional.  She ran up each driveway, waited patiently for Raina to ring the doorbell, grabbed massive handfuls of candy, put them in her bucket, occasionally said thank you, and always said bye-bye when we left.  She "wow!"ed appropriately at the cool decorations and pumpkin carvings and was saddened when the night came to close. 

Raina's real wish was to give out candy to trick-or-treaters herself, and I promised her that she could do that until it was bedtime.  Our neighborhood doesn't get much traffic and it was 30 minutes past her bedtime when our first set of trick-or-treaters arrived.  Beyond excited, she grabbed the candy bucket, politely offered each person his choice of two pieces of candy, and (with a little prompting) remembered to compliment their costumes.  She literally was jumping with joy as they left, and she gave me the biggest celebratory hug. 

All in all, we had a rather wonderful Halloween.  Now on to this week's other holidays:  Day of the Dead and Diwali!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yoga

Raina came home last week just thrilled that she had yoga class.  She pulled out our yoga mat and demonstrated each position she knew.  And then Lola joined in the fun.



Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gratitude Journal

Raising children into good people is difficult work.  It requires a lot of intentional thought and planning, for parents to be proactive rather than reactive, and for everyone to seize upon a teachable moment if it arrives. 

I want my children to spend their lives being grateful for what they have, rather than being upset and disappointed by what they lack.  Eric and I occasionally have conversations about gratitude, but those conversations are after the kids go to bed and / or are out of earshot.  For our kids to learn gratitude, we need to model it for them.  So, today, the Whomptons started a Gratitude Journal.  Each person gets a page in it and will add to his/her "I'm grateful for ..." list each day.

When I explained gratitude to Raina, she changed the concept to be "things that are important to me" and once she got started with her list she didn't want to stop.  We continued our conversation about gratitude in bed (instead of a bedtime story!) and she ended the conversation with "I'm very lucky."  She's exactly right.

Here are the kids' entries.
Raina:  Momma cow, my family, learning, my comforter, love, milk and water, meals, clean rivers, and clean water that comes out of the sink that we can drink
Lola:  Daddy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Philosopher Queen

Trapping Raina in the car results in 1) immediate sleep or 2) deep ponderings about her world.  The most recent questions:

- What does the Tooth Fairy do with all those teeth?
We brainstormed:  eat them, trade them, sell them to get cash to give to kids, make art, make Haunted Houses, make lawn decorations.  Her favorite (and her suggestion) was that the Tooth Fairy made clunky necklaces.  I liked the thought of their being one tooth fair per city or state so that the work was divided evenly, and they had to trade in their teeth for a living wage.

- Some people in India speak English.  How did that happen?
We talked about what happens when people move, what people do to stay comfortable, what information gets passed along to children, and how/why some people learn another language that their family may not speak.  The migratory patterns of humans tell an interesting story if you leave out all the death and carnage.

- How come I only see the moon in the morning and at nighttime? Where does it go during the day?

We had a great conversation about rotations, solar systems, sunrise/sunset, other stars, size of the sun, galaxies, and then spent a lot of time looking at the Hubble Telescope pictures. She was fascinated to hear different stories of how people explained the sunrise/sunset.  Her favorite was praying to the Sun God that the sun would come back each day and then celebrating when it did!  I was so proud of her for using the word "evidence" in our conversation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Premonitions of the Teenage Years

Raina attended a birthday party last Friday and it was a totally traumatic experience for her.  The reason?  The first seven people at the party were in super hero costumes and Raina was not.  Even though she knew this would be the situation going into the party, the reality of being so visibly different from the other kids just undid her.  She immediately clutched a parent, refused to interact with the other kids, physically removed herself to the outskirts of the party, and cried.  In the end, there were plenty of kids who were costume-less at the party, and later on one of the kids volunteered her costume so Raina could wear it ... nothing helped.  Raina stayed on the edges of the party space and literally moved even farther away when the "costumed" kids approached.

We really didn't know what to do in this situation.  We tried rationalizing with her, bargaining with her, bribing her ... nothing worked.  She just shut down because she looked different than the others.  She said that since she didn't have a costume, she didn't belong at a superhero party.  This line from my daughter's mouth terrified me:  "I don't belong."

It was crushing and emotionally draining for all of us, and really pushed to the forefront all sorts of things for me.  As a kid, I never minded being different and I was never bothered by other kids because of it (or if they tried to bother me I never noticed it).  Raina clearly is cut from another cloth so we have to make a decision.  In our house, we celebrate differences because they are interesting and make everyone special.  Do we keep pushing the statement that "difference is good" while making her identical to everyone else (therefore she won't feel different as often) or do we endure possibly dozens more experiences like this one until Raina realizes that everyone is different and that's just how life is?

Because, admittedly, the Whompton household has a few attributes that make us different than the kids she'll be schooling with at MICDS.  While our income is comfortably upper middle class, we're also financial aid recipients.  We cannot compete with many of the monied families at school, which will matter to her very soon when she clues in to more aspects of clothes than their colors and that all her friends have the latest gadget when she doesn't have any.  We're also environmentally conscious (which means 90% of her clothing is second-hand among other things), we're not avid consumers of anything except local food and books which makes us quite frugal, we're raising our children in a secular humanist way, and we have an in-house auntie.  Our family is different -- in ways that may or may not matter to Raina or her classmates -- and I wonder if our internal loving community will be enough support for her as she navigates these tough roads ahead.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thank You, Sleep Gods!

Back in July, we Whomptons made a journey to Nashville, TN, and our sleep schedules have been a wreck since then.  Add in other fun elements (Lola climbs out of the crib!  Lola climbs over the baby gate!  Lola has hysterical night terrors!  Lola refuses to sleep past 4 a.m.!) and the result is a grumpy, sleep deprived set of parents.  We survived a week of Lola and the crib mattress on the floor, but it was an unmitigated disaster because she didn't understand that the new physical set-up meant the same rules apply:  baby in bed, stay in bed, go to sleep!

I did a fair amount of online research and turned to two tried-and-true books:  The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers and Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child.  The second book, while better known, provided far fewer useful tips in regard to getting our kid to sleep.  The author advocated 1) earlier bed time and 2) crying it out for as long as needed.  That's not our style -- an earlier bedtime would mean no dinner, and we've tried crying it out without limit and Lola pushed well past 2 hours.  So those strategies were a no-go for us.  The No Cry Sleep Solution reminded us of the importance of routine, previewing the next few actions, light and other stimulation, and sleep.  Neither book had strategies for the 4 a.m. early wake-up call, except to say that maybe that was the best time for Lola due to circadian rhythms and we should put her to bed even earlier!  Yeah right.

So the Whomptons took drastic measures.  We purchased a crib tent.  Amazon was our marketplace and we happily paid the $50 for it.  It arrived nine days ago, and we immediately reconstructed the crib and installed the crib tent.  Lola enthusiastically returned to her crib and went right to sleep that night.  Bless her.

We also contacted the St. Luke's Sleep Clinic and made an appointment with the pediatric sleep guru, Nancy Birkenmeier.  We kept a sleep log for over a week and then met with Nancy for 2.5 hours as she made an action plan to eliminate Lola's nighttime wakings and to cease her early morning wakings as well.  The disclaimer is hilarious:  "DO NOT attempt to carry out this program without the planning and committment necessary.  This is a difficult program and when instructions are not followed it can fail miserably."  Awesome.

But Nancy Birkenmeier really is the sleep guru.  She had a thoughtful response to every question and an action for every possible thing Lola might do.  Krystal was appointed "bad news parent" and Eric was appointed "yay, it's time to get up!" parent and we've fulfilled our duties admirably.  Krystal's job came with more responsibilities -- the time of night (either before or after 3:40 a.m.) dictates different responsibilities and those are, admittedly, hard to remember when I'm waking up at 3:40 in the morning but we're doing okay.  

I'm here to claim partial success, even though that may tempt the fates.  Lola no longer needs parental help to go back to sleep in the middle of the night AND she has only gotten up at 4 a.m. once in the past week!  I cannot explain why Eric and I are still SO TIRED all the time, unless it's to account for the months of no-sleep we've experienced.

Lola is supposed to get somewhere between 12.75 and 14 hours of sleep each day.  She was averaging 10.5-11 hours before this week, which certainly explains some biting behavior, but that was the only sign of insufficient sleep that she exhibited.  Raina, on the other hand, demonstrates six of the seven "insufficient sleep" characteristics on a daily basis, so we've now started putting her to bed earlier as well.

The afternoon routine works like this:  come home, dinner on table at 4:45 p.m., bath for Lola, bath for Raina, bedtime for both at 6:30, and then lots of quiet productivity for the adults.  We're not really certain what to do with the free time we've returned to ourselves, but I'm sure we'll manage to think something up.  Maybe we'll sleep!!!