Compelling parenting question of the day: Cartoon characters

When Lucas showed an early preference for the Muppet Show, I was delighted. I could have hours of the Muppet Show on in the background and not only is it not annoying, but I’d actually enjoy watching it with him.

Sadly, his tastes have taken a turn for the worse. He now loves, unfathomably, Max and Ruby. And Caillou. I don’t think there is a more annoying character in television landscape than Caillou. (Although, I used to hate Wonderpets, too, and that one has grown on me lately.)

Time for a parenting poll: what is the most annoying kids’ TV character? Pedantic Dora? Whinging Caillou? Psychedelic In the Night Garden?

What say ye, oh parents of the boob-tube addicted preschool set?

Poo by any other name…

We seem to have a lot of nicknames going on in our family. I suppose I started the whole trend of renaming things which already had perfectly good names with the whole “Beloved” thing, way back when I started the blog in early 2005. Then sometime last year, for reasons that were never clear,Tristan started calling his father Hacko-tato, and Simon picked right up on it. Now, likely as not, when they’re trying to get his attention, they don’t say “Daddy” or even “Dad” but Hacko. I think Beloved has even grown to like it.

Tristan seems to have the most nicknames. Tristy, T-bird, Tee-Tee — he answers to all of them. Simon, I think, is the most dissatisfied with his own name. Tristan calls him Simo, which seems to irritate Simon just enough to guarantee that Tristan will take every opportunity to call him that for the rest of their lives.

It’s Lucas who got the short end of the stick in the nickname game. I swear, I did not see this one coming. It started with the innocuous derivative Lukey, which I figured would mature into Luke for our English friends and Luc for our French friends. However, Lukey was just a consonant’s jump from Pookey, which is kind of cute for a baby, but really unfortunate for a baby with reflux issues. For most of his first year, I fought hard against the tide to make sure Pookey was not called Pukey.

Once the battle with reflux was won, I figured he was safe from the stigma of a nickname inspired by a biological process. I was wrong.

You know what Tristan, Simon and Beloved call my darling third son, likely as not? Drop the last syllable from Pookey. Yes, it is sad but true. They call him Poo.

Beloved insists it’s not “Poo” but “Pooh” as in Pooh Bear. I’m not sure the “h” is going to matter when he hits school-age with a moniker like that. I tell ya, it’s a good thing that boy is going to be 6’6″ and 200 lbs by the time he hits high school. He’s going to need it.

484b:1000 Lucas loves daisies

Does this look like Poo to you?

On crib recalls and baby sleep

Did you see these news items from yesterday? Over one million cribs recalled, and a world-wide ban on drop-sided cribs. Wowza!

We don’t have a Stork Craft crib, but we do have a drop-side one that has served us well through three boys. It was made by a little mom and pop outfit in Quebec, as I recall from one desperate scramble to find a missing part after we moved in 2003. I won’t be scrambling to get a replacement crib, nor will I be moving Lucas to a bed any sooner than I’m he is ready. I figure we got about another year, if we’re lucky.

In fact, just this morning I had to explain to Tristan that though I greatly appreciated his fraternal assistance, could he please *not* lift the baby out of the crib by himself in the future? I see a lot more risk in the 60 lbs not-quite-eight-year-old hauling the 35 lbs not-quite-two-year-old over the raised side of the crib than I do any inherent risk in the construction of the crib itself! I might find a way to weld or otherwise permanently attach the drop side, though. We don’t use it and haven’t really used it at all for Lucas. In fact, I’m not even sure we raised the mattress from the lower level when he was born — I think we just left it the way Simon had it when he made his way to a big-boy bed in 2006. (Oh my, I really have been blogging for a long time — and I really do love that I can poke back into the archives and find these gems that might have been otherwise lost!)

Ahem, anyway, all this prattling on about cribs has given me the opportunity to brazenly brag about mention the fact that after almost a year of hand-wringing and angst about sleep training, it’s been about a month since the day that Lucas sleep-trained himself completely without any intervention from me. Huh. Didn’t see that one coming!

As you might remember if you’re as long in the tooth around here as me, I am not opposed to letting a baby cry himself to sleep, within reason. The parameters of reason including being close to one year old or older, knowing your baby’s temperament well enough to know he can handle it, knowing you and your spouse and other family members can handle it, and never letting a baby cry longer than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Those were my personal yardsticks. Sleep training Tristan took about a week; Simon a little longer. Both were between 10 months and a year old.

Lucas’s first birthday came and went, and he was still falling asleep the way he had since birth — in my arms, usually while I sat in the living room far from the going-to-bed chaos of the big boys upstairs. It would take between 20 and 45 minutes for him to drift off, considerably less at nap time. And no matter how much I favoured the idea of sleep training in principle, no matter how much I yearned for the freedom of simply being able to put the baby in the crib and kiss his fuzzy head and walk away — I just couldn’t do it with Lucas.

And then one day last month, I thought he was asleep when I ported him upstairs but I realized as I lay him into his crib that he was watching me. So I did exactly that — kissed his fuzzy head, said goodnight, closed the door and walked away. I went in to kiss the big boys goodnight, gave them a little cuddle and paused outside Lucas’s door. Silence. Hmmm, how curious. So I shrugged my shoulders and walked downstairs, waiting for him to bellow.


About half an hour later, I couldn’t resist any longer, so I went upstairs and peeked into his room. He was, to my everlasting astonishment, sleeping. Imagine that! So the next night, just like I have done every other night (because I know from reading every baby sleep book ever written the importance of routine) I told him the story of his day, gave him a little cuddle with his precious “blanky and soo”, and when he was calm but still awake I brought him upstairs and put him in his crib. By the time I had said goodnight to the big boys, he was standing in his crib hollering for me — I tell you, I was almost relieved! — and so I walked back in, tucked him back under the covers, told him I loved him and it was time to go to sleep and walked out again. And — he did!

Giddy with success, three days later we started putting him in his crib awake at nap time too — and do you know what? That worked too. Right from the start. I swear, nobody was more shocked than me.

Now, one of my favourite parts of the day is bedtime, when I put Lucas in his crib, tuck his blankets around him, and sing a couple of verses of my perennial bedtime favourite, You are My Sunshine. I can’t quite keep from laughing as he calls out the last word in every line to “sing” along with me: sunshine, happy, grey, dear, you. Really, it’s way too cute.

Anyway, that’s how we sleep trained Lucas. Or he sleep trained us. I have a suspicion he’s wanted us to just put him in his crib and leave him in peace for months, but he just didn’t have the words to tell us! One of these days he’s going to tell me how he really feels about my singing, but that’s a post for another day.

Lucas speaks

Yesterday, Lucas said his first sentence, complete with subject, verb, object and preposition: “I play with Lego!” (Yes, the exclamation point was obviously in there.) Funny, he is exactly the same age – not quite 21 months – that Tristan was when Tristan said his first full sentence: “I bump head.” Sadly, Simon’s first sentence has been lost to the sands of time.

It’s a relief to finally be able to interact with Lucas on a verbal level. He clearly understands almost everything we say, and mimics us with startling clarity. With words come reason; I can begin to explain cause-and-effect and temporal relationships, making my life so incredibly much easier. And Lucas is obviously delighted to be finally able to express himself, his desires, his concerns. “I draw!” he often says, as Tristan does his homework. “Juice!” he demands, pointing at the cupboard where the cups are kept. “3-2-1-beep!” he calls, pointing at the microwave that warms his bottle.

His favourite expression, and ours, is an enthusiastic and undeniably Buckwheat-like “O-TAY!!” of agreement. While trick-or-treating with his brothers last weekend, I couldn’t quite convince him to say “trick or treat” as he shyly gazed at the strangers smiling down at him. I’d say “Can you say ‘trick or treat’?” and he’s reply with a loud and bright “O-TAY!!” that seemed to charm the candy-givers even more than a shy “trick or treat” might have. We left many smiles in our wake as we roamed the neighbourhood.

This morning, he utterly delighted me by peering around the edge of the newspaper I was reading and saying, “Hi baby!”

Some day, he’s going to get a lot of traction from that line…

We called him Lucas Sawyer, but his real name is Chaos

The word chaos keeps creeping into my life lately.

A friend recently asked me if the jump from two kids to three was really that much of a change. After I finished snickering, I replied, “You know how with two kids, life can have these intensely chaotic peaks, with streches of peace and calm in the middle? Yeah. Three is just all chaos, all the time. No peaceful stretches. Just. Chaos.”

And then my dad has taken up a new pet phrase. He says, “I don’t do chaos.” Interestingly, he seems to have adopted this pet phrase after spending a good portion of his summer with a house full of grandchildren. Coincidence?

Life with three kids is busy, true, but the chaos comes almost exclusively thanks to Lucas, my just-turned-18-months-old perpertual chaos machine.

I love the toddler phase, I really do. No parenting phase is so peppered with daily hourly delight, with instant gratification, with a deep and overwhelming exasperation. My jaw drops open in wonder regularly, and I am in awe of his capacity for learning, for comprehension, for love, for anger, for curiousity, for stubbornness. He is a living ball of excesses, and leaves in his wake a path of chaos and destruction that has very nearly broken our parenting spirit.

83:365 Mischief in the pantry

My boy finds mischief the way hogs find truffles — he’s biologically drawn to it. He has a radar that senses unlatched gates and cupboards, and a magnetic attraction to everything that’s inappropriate for a toddler to have. The latter includes choking hazards like Lego and peanuts and grommets, inedible consumables like shampoo and Wii remotes, and garden-variety trouble like pets’ water bowls, potting soil and permanent markers…. and that only covers the michief he found before breakfast the other day.


I imagine he keeps a daily tally sheet in his head. “Okay, so far today I’m up seven exasperating actions to five adorable ones. I better step up the cuteness, or they’re going to leave me at the curb with the trash. Hmmm, what have I got in the arsenal for today? Oh, I know, I’ll run up and throw my arms around her knees while yelling a gleeful ‘Mummmmeeeeeeeee!’ That’ll buy me at least three more transgressions before dinner.”

Living with a toddler is all about extremes. Or maybe it’s just this toddler. I’m so tired and wired and sheerly wiped out that I can’t remember last Tuesday, let alone going through this twice before. Or maybe the toddler phase is like childbirth: we’re biologically and psychologically hardwired to forget the trauma almost as soon as it passes, to ensure the continuing perpetuation of the species?

I can handle the relentless mischief, and I can handle the constant repetition. (“Lucas, no. Ah ah ah. Mommy said no. Lucas, NO. Lucas! I! Said! NOOOOO!” Lather rinse and repeat about 16 times every hour.) I can handle the tantrums, both his and mine. I can handle the need to anticipate, to intervene, to redirect, to substitute, to divert, and to mollify on a near-constant basis. I can even handle his new favourite game, “Let’s drop stuff like cheerios and Bob the Builder and things I found between the couch cushions into Mommy’s coffee and see if she notices!”

(Although that last one takes a Herculean amount of adorable-ness to counteract, I must admit. Lucky for him, he’s up to the task.)

What I can’t handle? The screech. He’s entered that whining, screeching phase that makes me want to stick knitting needles in my ears. He screeches when he’s vexed. He screeches when he wants something. He screeches because it’s been forty or even fifty seconds since the last time he screeched.

I can handle the chaos. Truth be told, there’s a twisted part of me that might actually like the chaos. The screeching? May well be the thing that finally separates me from my tenous hold on my sanity.

It’s just a phase, right?

Talk to me about sleep training

First, I loved your comments on my last post, where I asked you your thoughts about letting my five- and seven-year-old boys walk around the block together alone. For now, we’ve decided to hold off, and I swear it’s not because my mother called me up the night I posted it and more or less told me I was free to support the idea of free range kids but I was not free to subject her grandsons to the philosophy. Well, not entirely because of that, anyway… (*waves to mom*)

So today, let’s talk about what psychological damage I can wreak on her youngest grandson instead. Yep, I want to talk about sleep training. Ah, the controversy never gets old around here.

Lucas is fifteen months old, and for pretty much each night of those fifteen months, he’s been cuddled to sleep. I think it’s time he learned to start falling asleep on his own in his crib. Can someone please flip a magic switch so I can get him to do it immediately, without any stress to him or extraneous effort on my part? No? I didn’t think so.

I’m not opposed to letting him cry it out, if I must. It worked with both Tristan and Simon, although they were each a little less than a year old when we tried it. It took about five nights of fussing with Tristan (you can read my CIO diaries in the archives) and about twice that long with Simon, but in the end, it was soooooo worth it to just be able to put the baby in his crib, kiss him goodnight and walk away.

It’s not that I begrudge Lucas his nightly cuddle, either. I’d still cuddle him before hand, but I still believe that it’s important that they learn to sooth themselves to sleep. He’s not a bad night-time sleeper overall, but he’s been waking in the night a lot lately, and I think he’d be less fussy when he wakes up if he’d put himself to sleep in the first place. A couple of times in the past week, instead of dropping right back to sleep when I re-insert his soother, he’s been wide awake in the crib. He’ll stay in the crib and eventually drift off again, but only if I’m standing there. While I’m pleased with this development, I’m not overly fond of standing stock-still in his room for fifteen minutes at a time in the middle of the night, pining for my bed the whole time. I’m thinking I can somehow parlay this into sleep training, but not quite sure how to do it or if I want to start down that road.

This is, after all, my last baby and I’m coddling him for all he’s worth. As much as I’m a fan of Ferber’s ideas and I totally agree with the theory — I just don’t want to put either of us through it all and in my experience thus far, there’s been no middle ground. It’s either CIO or cuddle to sleep, and I’m not sure either extreme is where I want to go next.

This is where you come in. I don’t particularly want to debate the merits of CIO, and you should know up front that I am deeply offended by Elizabeth Pantley so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t drag her into the conversation, but other than that — what have you found works or doesn’t work in sleep training? How did you get your kids to start falling asleep on their own? How old were they? As with all things mothering, I know I won’t still be rocking him to sleep when he’s on his honeymoon, but even on the third go-round, I’m still not sure how I want to navigate this one. And you know I get all my best mothering material from the bloggy peeps, right?