Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!

Photo taken by Jill Shadden

Halloween is an ancient holiday with a rich historical background. Originating in the Celtic culture, this celebration was meant to ward off ghosts that roamed on All Saints’ Day, October 31. Throughout the years Halloween has evolved into a secular, community celebration with kid-friendly activities. People still dress up in costumes, but for fun rather than to hide their personal identity from roaming ghosts.

Halloween is meant to be a frightful and fun holiday. It is a time when people embrace all things scary. Many people indulge in horror movies meant to give you nightmares for weeks and visit “haunted” houses for the thrill and adrenaline rush that accompanies fearing for your life. When I think of Halloween the imagery that comes to mind includes ghosts, black cats, grimacing jack-o-lanterns, werewolves, vampires, witches, goblins, demons, homicidal maniacs, and zombies. Basically, nothing that gets me excited. I don’t like to be scared- I hate scary movies, have never been to a haunted house, and don’t enjoy having nightmares for days.

When I was a child Halloween was my second favorite holiday of the year (next to Christmas). It was an opportunity to dress up with my friends and accumulate enough candy to live on for weeks. Another perk was the Halloween party at school, which took away from class time (the best part). The whole party/dressing up/getting candy scenario was enough to keep Halloween high on my list of favorite holidays when I was a child- until I got to middle school. Once I hit the age where it was no longer “cool” to go trick-or-treating all the fun was gone and I despised the holiday. As punishment once in high school my mother forced me to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters….it was the most annoying night ever. As an adult I have never (not once) handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. I have a problem with anyone coming to my door unannounced. It makes me very uncomfortable (probably more than it should). Plus, there’s the whole issue of having to watch for trick-or-treaters all night and force a fake smile and make nice comments all night about costumes. Sure, there are some adorable kids out there trick-or-treating and they are mostly sweet children enjoying the holiday like I used to. I know I am weird, but I just can’t get into the thrills of Halloween. Until I had a child it had sunk to the bottom of my favorite holiday list.

Now that I have Macie I am starting to mildly enjoy Halloween again- this year more than last. Last year Macie was only three months old and had no idea what was going on. Plus, there are a very limited number of cute Halloween costumes for children under one. After searching for the “perfect” costume, I settled with a pink ballerina. Macie looked adorable, but we really didn’t do anything to commemorate the holiday. This year has been much more fun- mostly because we are celebrating with Macie. I really enjoyed picking out her Minnie Mouse costume and putting it all together. Macie looks so sweet in her costume and really enjoys twirling around in her dress. This year we got more involved in Halloween festivities. A few weeks ago we got pumpkins to decorate the house. Last week we decorated a paper pumpkin. We even took Macie to one of our favorite photographers (Jill Shadden- In The Moment Photography) and did a mini-Halloween session to visually commemorate the holiday. Over the weekend we went to a toddler friendly Halloween party and had a lot of fun watching Macie play with, or watch, the other children. Today, Halloween, Macie wore her costume to Stay and Play (a weekly playgroup for Webster Groves infants and toddlers) and had another opportunity to play with children her age all dressed up.

Although I am personally not a huge fan of Halloween, I am beginning to appreciate it as a parent. I want Macie to enjoy Halloween as much as I did as a child. Therefore, I have to provide her with opportunities for celebrating this holiday. In the process of engaging in Halloween activities and observing Macie’s entertainment, I enjoyed the holiday slightly more this year than in the past. No, I am not passing out candy this year (I have a graduate class tonight, how convenient)…or next year. But in the future I am not opposed to passing out candy at Macie’s request. Basically, I will continue to embrace Halloween not for myself, but for my daughter. Hopefully in the process I will regain my original enthusiasm for Halloween.

So, Happy Halloween! Hopefully next year I will actually mean it. Bah Humbug J

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall Festivities: Pumpkin Patch (minus the Pumpkins)

Well, it’s officially Fall (although you wouldn’t know it with the temperature in the 80s until the middle of October). The leaves are turning beautiful shades of brown, red, green, yellow, and orange and have started falling from the trees- some in heaping piles, others scattered here and there. The weather has finally started cooling and people are wearing coats, jackets, and boots (yay!). The air is crisp, the wind has a slight chill, and daylight hours are steadily decreasing. Personally, I find autumn to be a refreshing reprieve from the hot, humid summers that we endure in Missouri. I LOVE sweaters, jackets, leggings, and boots and the fact that I can spend time outside comfortably (without sweating or shivering too much).

With the onset of Fall comes a slew of seasonal events and festivities that many families cherish each year. As a young adult I always enjoyed bonfires and autumnal gatherings with friends- Oktoberfest, Halloween, and house parties. When you have children the activities change from drunken celebrations with friends to family friendly, child oriented fun. My single, childless friends probably consider these events lame, but those late night drink-fests no longer appeal to me. I still have to get up and take care of a busy, demanding toddler at 6:00 a.m. regardless of how late I stay out and how much I drink the night before. Then there’s the enormous hurdle of finding (and paying) a babysitter. Nowadays I have the occasional wild night out (like once or twice a year), but most of my time is spent engaged in Macie friendly activities.
One of the most traditional autumn family events is a trip to the Pumpkin Patch. This is one of those middle-class, Norman Rockwell-esque events that you look forward to as part of the “American experience”- at least in the Mid-West. Friends and family always talk about how much fun kids have at the pumpkin patch. Some of my favorite pictures of my twin and me as babies are from the pumpkin patch. As a parent, I felt obligated to provide my daughter with this experience. Yes, I jumped on that bandwagon. We tried to take Macie to the pumpkin patch last year unsuccessfully. I had a Groupon for the Eckerts in Milstadt, IL and was looking forward to a fun-filled day. Unfortunately, this area of Illinois is seriously lacking road signs and we got terribly lost. After a tense hour in the car we just decided to call it a day and went home without making it to Eckerts.
After our failed attempt at pumpkin picking last year, we were a bit apprehensive about this year’s trip. Obviously we did not try to go back to Eckerts in Milstadt- NEVER again. Instead, we went to a place in Eureka (another Groupon purchase) claiming to have livestock, a corn maize, and a pumpkin patch. Although the weather was hotter than I would have liked (in the 80s), Macie and her cousin Logan had much more fun than we expected. The first thing we did when we arrived was take Macie and Logan on a horseback ride- Macie’s first. I grew up riding horses with my grandfather, so many of my fondest memories are on horseback. Although Macie has been around horses and enjoys petting them, she has never actually ridden one. I was excited to see her reaction and hoped that she would enjoy the experience as much as I do. Macie didn’t let me down- she had a blast. As we went around the ring Macie was on the saddle, and I was walking beside the horse holding onto her. She was grinning from ear to ear (with her endearing gapped teeth) and clapping her hands in delight. Logan had a great time as well- he looked so proud of himself up there on the big horse.

After the horseback ride Macie and Logan wandered around the livestock area, going back and forth from the adorable black and white spotted calf, mini horse, black goat, and huge grey horse. With parental encouragement they would occasionally pet the animals, but were mostly content to stand there watching them and soaking up the atmosphere. After parading Macie and Logan through the livestock area I decided to take Macie on a barrel ride. Basically, this was a four-wheeler pulling a line of white plastic barrels with space cut out for passengers. The barrels were painted with black spots to look like cows to make the ride even more irresistible to children- who doesn’t want to ride a cow (ME!). Although Macie was thrilled with the ride as I held her in my lap, I was trying to hold on for dear life as the teenager driving the four-wheeler decided to drive off-road and faster than I would consider safe for a kiddie ride. After this uncomfortable experience Macie and Logan were about at the end of their threshold so we snapped a few hay bale pics and took off.

The only downside to this delightful day is that we didn’t actually see a “patch” of pumpkins at the farm. So our trip to the pumpkin patch was actually more like a trip to Grant’s Farm. Macie obviously didn’t notice, having no conceived notion of pumpkin picking, so I consider this trip a success. We still ended up with pumpkins to decorate the outside of the house, but we got them from the local Methodist Church not the “pumpkin patch”. Overall, this was a great way to enjoy all the best things about autumn with Macie. We spent time outside getting dirty and petting animals- three of Macie’s favorite things. Next year we will probably go to a more traditional pumpkin patch and let Macie pick out her pumpkin from the actual field (not the Methodist Church). Any suggestions for a good pumpkin patch that also includes other fall activities?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Floor Fits and other Foolery

Talking on the "phone"
First, let me say that fourteen months is a rollercoaster. Most of the time Macie is a delightfully entertaining child (no bias, right?). She constantly charms me with her earnest grin, sparkling blue eyes, and tremendous energy and enthusiasm. I swear she understands everything I say and responds appropriately. When I grab my purse and say, “let’s go” she walks to the door. When I ask if she wants to go to sleep she walks to her room. When I ask if she wants something she says, “ya, ya” and nods her head. In addition to her improved receptive skills, her verbal language skills have improved as well. Most of her communication is a constant stream of baby talk, but her English words have increased to “momma”, “dada”, “daddy”, “dog” (her favorite), “duck”, “ya”, “moo”, “ooh ooh, aah aah” (monkey sounds), etc. Even though I can’t understand most of what she says, we still have very interesting conversations. Macie nods her head, fluctuates her voice and language flow, widens her eyes, and moves her hands in emphasis. Talking on the “phone” is one of her favorite things to do. Although a cell phone is preferred, she will use anything (paper, the remote, her hand, etc.) as a phone. It is hilarious to hear her have imaginary conversations on the “phone”, especially when she starts yelling and shrieking at people. Her physical development has greatly progressed as well. Macie has quickly learned how to run (mostly away from me) and dances up a storm. She keeps us entertained with her antics, increased affection and responsiveness, and energy. In short, Macie is an incredibly enjoyable little person- most of the time J.

Raiding the Refrigerator
Despite all the good times, there is one new development that I am not happy with- the floor fit. Most people don’t expect to see their child throw themselves on the floor in a tantrum until age two. Dr. Maxine Bauermeister, a professor of Early Childhood education at Webster University, told me that fourteen months is fairly early for floor tantrums and that Macie is ahead of the curve. This means that Macie is going through an independent stage and asserting herself both verbally and physically. Every parent wants their child to be intelligent and developmentally on track (maybe even advanced), but no one wants their child to be advanced when it comes to displaying attitude and challenging behavior. I have no idea where her sass comes from….

Floor Fits in Action

We have witnessed a lot of floor fits in this house lately. Today, for example, Macie has thrown herself to the ground at least six times. They start with Macie shrieking in anger/annoyance when you take something away or do something she doesn’t like. Then she looks at you with raised eyebrows and wide eyes as if to say, “are you going to make me throw a fit?”. The most minor offenses result in a verbal challenge. Lately it is in response to me barring her entry to the food cabinets. If you ignore Macie’s warning/challenge and continue with the offensive behavior (i.e. don’t give into her) then Macie throws herself to the ground in anguish, howling like a banshee, and convulsing like a fish out of water.

These fits of rage usually last between 30 seconds to 3 minutes. When Macie is finished expressing her exasperation she gets up and carries on with her day like nothing ever happened. The first time Macie threw herself on the floor I laughed and gawked at her behavior in amusement. Now I just ignore the tantrums and/or walk away. I’m not quite sure what Macie hopes to accomplish with these sudden outbursts of fury, but she certainly doesn’t get a reaction from me. Hopefully Macie will realize that this is an ineffective method of getting her way (not to mention a total waste of energy) and these foolish floor fits will cease. Wishful thinking, perhaps?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Molar Misery

Teething Tantrum

Not to sound like a broken record, but teething is torture. In a previous blog I described teething as the devil’s punishment for procreating. Back then Macie was cutting her first four front teeth, which is typified by a low grade fever, drooling, and more frequent stage-two or three meltdowns. For the past few weeks Macie has been cutting her first four molars, which is a completely different experience. First, the molars are larger than the front teeth…which makes me think that they may hurt worse than the first four. Second, they are all coming in at the same time.  Third, Macie’s fuse seems to be much shorter this time around, which results in more frequent tantrums.

Macie’s teething symptoms 
(they usually start a few days before the teeth start to show)

- Chews on everything- the couch, books, shoes, hands, etc.
- Sleepier- she rubs her eyes a lot and takes longer naps.
- Puts her fingers in her mouth to touch the sore area(s).
- Tries to bite things when she is upset or told “no”- door handles, cabinet knobs, hands, you, the couch, books, etc.
- Drinks a lot of fluids and drools more.
- Shorter fuse- much more irritable and increased frequency and severity of tantrums.

Living with a teething toddler is like living with a bipolar tyrant prone to tantrums (imagine Napoleon Bonaparte). The slightest raised eyebrow, “no”, denial of request, or lack of proper response to an unintelligible command results in a stage three meltdown. At this point Macie has perfected the art of the tantrum. First comes the crunched up, pouty face followed immediately by an indignant/enraged high-pitched scream. Then, Macie sinks to the floor in anguish and continues to wail tragically. If you try to pick her up she summersaults backwards - you have to be careful not to get head butted or drop her (it’s like holding onto a bucking bronco). Dr. Suess’s book about the joys of teeth fails to mention how painful it is to actually get them. The writing and illustrations make teeth out to be the best thing in the world. Sometimes I want to say to hell with the teeth- we were doing just fine without them.

Macie has teething tantrums when….

- I take something away from her.
- She doesn’t get more food or water fast enough.
- I don’t respond appropriately to her baby talk commands.
- I raise my eyebrow at her or say “no”.
- Daddy says anything in a low or serious voice.
- I leave the house without her- even just to go to the car.
- I close her in the living room and leave the room for a second.
- I put her toys away.
- Gunner (our dog) licks her.
- I try to put her in the stroller at the mall.
- We pass by the playground and don’t stop to play.
- I try to change her diaper while she is in the middle of playing.

And the list goes on and on. There are too many to list, but the actions above are demonstrative that EVERYTHING sets Macie off when she is teething.

Have I mentioned that teething has a physical affect on me as well? 
When Macie goes through the teething process I actually seem to physically age from the stress, including: 

- Increased headaches.
- Forehead wrinkles from furrowing my brow in concern, annoyance, and empathy.
- Every time Macie teethes another piece of my hair turns gray. (FYI- When I was pregnant I only had one gray hair. Since I have been a mom I have added at least three more- no joke. )
- Blood shot eyes and dark under-eye circles.

Maybe Macie’s reaction to cutting these molars is not any worse than her previous teething stage. I have a horrible short-term memory, so it is possible that I may have blocked out the severity of previous teething tantrums. Even so, teething at any stage is like soothing someone who has a fork (or something sharper) pressing down on their gums all day long. Ultimately, I know that the headaches, forehead wrinkles, gray hair, and blood shot eyes resulting from Macie’s teething troubles are a necessary evil to endure. The end result is an adorable set of teeth, which further proves that Macie is progressing from the baby stage to the toddler stage. They grow up way too fast L.

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