Keepin’ It Real: The 18 Month Questionnaire

So it’s time for another trip to the Pediatrician.  Mac’s coming up on his 18-month well baby check.

We have another questionnaire to complete.  It arrived in the mail yesterday.

I gave it a once-over this morning.  It’s about six pages long and contains a bunch of questions regarding different developmental skills the kid should presumably possess by this point.  You’re supposed to make a “game” of this questionnaire, perform the skills and mark whether the kid does the skill consistently YES, inconsistently SOMETIMES, or NOT YET.

The cover letter reminds us to “have fun.”

Rolls eyes.

This questionnaire doesn’t have nearly the space necessary for me to actually have fun.  If they really wanted me to have fun with this thing, they would have allowed a LOT more space for commentary. . .

Here are a few examples:

“1.  When your child wants something, does she tell you by pointing to it?”  As far as I’m concerned, a much more interesting question would be, “Explain what happens when your child wants something, points to it 15 times, and you ignore him because you’re Tweeting about cat vomit?”

“5.  Without your showing him, does your child point to the correct picture when you say ‘Show me the kitty’.”  Yes.  My little genius can accurately identify a cat but only if you refer to it as “that asshole cat.”  He can also pick out the liquor store owner from a photo line up.

“6.  Does your child say two or three words that represent different ideas together, such as ‘see dog.’?”  Um NO!  We don’t want him telling the whole world, “Mommy’s drunk again” do we?

There’s a section on motor skills.  It’s 12 questions long.  Why don’t we cut the crap and leave him unattended in the exam room for 3 minutes?  I promise you there were be little question about his motor skills after you witness the carnage.

And look at question 6!  “Does your child get a spoon into her mouth right side up so that the food usually doesn’t spill?”  I can’t even answer that one.  Our kid will ONLY use a fork –  a metal, adult sized fork.  It’s been this way for months.  Note to self:  Ask doctor about eye protection.

I was encouraged to learn Mac is an excellent problem solver!  “2.  After you have shown your child how, does she try to get a small toy that is slightly out of reach by using a spoon, stick, or similar tool?”  I’ll be damned, just the other day I caught this kid using a soup ladle to fish pet-hair covered Cheerios and dog kibble out from under the radiator cover!  YEEEESSSSSS!  Now, does he lose points for subsequently eating that stuff?

I got a little confused at questions 4 and 5 as they dealt with scribbling:  “4.  Without showing her how, does your child scribble back and forth when you give her a crayon?”  Um, I’m a little unclear on this one, should the child start scribbling immediately or is it ok if he eats half the crayon first and then starts scribbling?

There were also 6 questions regarding personal and social development.  “1.  While looking at herself in the mirror, does your child offer a toy to her own image?”  Hmmmm. . .ever since Mac learned how to throw wood blocks (see also Q1 regarding fine motor skills) at that gigantic, floor to ceiling mirror in our living room, we don’t let him anywhere near a fucking mirror.  Are you nuts?  (Or does the throwing count as “offering a toy to his own image?)  So confusing.

“4.  Does your child come to you when he needs help, such as winding a toy or unscrewing a lid from a jar?”  Why yes, as a matter of fact, yesterday he brought me no fewer than 4 tubes of toothpaste, a bottle of Pepto Bismol, and an unused pregnancy test which he presumably required assistance with.

The final two pages do have “fill in the blank” type questions.  Most of them addressing potential problems (i.e., do you think your child hears well?  If no, explain).  Number 4 “Do you think your child, walks, runs, and climbs like other toddlers her age?”  Do all toddlers scale the stove and run as fast as they can towards a busy street?

I was disappointed to see no question regarding smart phones and tablets.  I feel like this day and age, the questionnaire should be updated for an app section.  In its current state, the questionnaire focuses on blocks and crumbs and empty bottles.  Jesus.  Get with the times!  For example:  I heard Mac counting the other day along with a Fisher Price counting app.  The kid is learning to count!  I sure as shit didn’t teach him that.  I mean if I weren’t so damned lazy and used the iPhone as a baby sitter, he’d never have learned how to count.  I feel like it should be noted.

And I’ll leave you with good old Questions 8 & 9:   “Do you have any concerns about your child’s behavior?  Does anything about your child worry you?”

And they only left HALF A PAGE?!  I guess I’ll just pencil in the URL of this Blog?

I Think I Bore My Kid. . .And is That OK?

The past two weeks Mac has taken a bunch of major steps on the road to toddler-hood.  He’s sitting up all by himself.  He’s really into play time.  He’s nearly ready to crawl.  He feeds himself much more competently.  He feeds the dog much more competently.  Mass quantities of slimy avocado last evening at dinner. . .which was beyond disgusting I might add.

The disturbing thing about all this “progress” is I wonder if I’m boring the hell out of him.  He doesn’t have a ton of toys – which I still think is fine.  He happily plays with whatever is in front of him nasty sneakers, onion skin, and a used sock most recently.  He loves reading and I do everything I can to encourage that while simultaneously discouraging his apparent love of eating paper.  We have been spending a lot of time outdoors walking around checking things out since the weather has been wonderful. . .

But am I doing the right stuff?  Is he getting an appropriate amount of stimulation to ensure his continued development?  Swear I’m not just asking this because I caught him eating a piece of dog kibble off the floor this morning while I was unloading the dish washer.  In his defense, the dog food does resemble Cheerios.  

I’m curious how much play and activity is too much and what’s too little?  Not just for a 9 month old. . .even for a 9-year-old?  I think children should have quiet time.  But I also remember saying “I’m bored” about 800 times a day when I was a kid.  Granted, probably 60% of the time what I should have been saying was “I’m too lazy to think up something to do that doesn’t involve getting sent to my damned room for time out.”

I don’t think my parents were overly concerned about this sort of thing.  My Mother did very cool things like teach us how to use acrylic paint and watercolors, and sew doll clothes and took us swimming all the time.  Yet, riding a tricycle and beating one another with sticks for 5 hours was still an acceptable play date.

I get the sense there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on parents these days to provide structure and learning and crazy assed play dates where toddlers are served sandwiches styled to look like some kinda’ gawdamned palm tree or something.  Don’t even get me started on the preschool admissions process in our area.  Preschool!!  

Do we really need to be gluing pom poms and popsicle sticks to the kitchen counter every waking minute?  Is it acceptable to just sit by the water and watch the ducks without the pressure of mastering the pincher grip or multiplication?

How do I make sure my child finds balance without being bored as hell?  How do you especially with summer coming?

I’m Feeling Supremely Smug

At least for a few minutes. . .

You might recall in a previous post I was discussing our Pediatrician’s advice.  She sternly admonished me that by changing or feeding Mac during the night I was creating poor sleep habits.

She. Was. Dead. Wrong.

Of late, he’s been sleeping through the night.  In fact last night he slept from 9:30 until 8:30!

She also advised that in lieu of snuggling him or wearing him to sleep, we should put him in his crib and let him cry until he’s asleep, otherwise he would never learn to fall asleep on his own.

Imagine how victorious I felt when he was playing in his pack and play the other day and fell asleep on his own, without a peep.  Drama free.

Oh I know this feeling isn’t going to last.  Hell, it probably won’t last through dinner.  But I am feeling pretty smug right now.

In a world where parents are continually bombarded with “expert” parenting advice, judgmental glances, and unsolicited opinions, it feels good to have a just a little validation that a parent ultimately knows what’s best for their own children.

I’m not going to get a swelled head or anything.  I’m no parent of the year.  But I am going to try to be confident enough that from now on when someone offers parenting advice that I do not believe is appropriate for our child, I’m able to oh so sweetly tell them to JAM IT.

The Pediatrician

I really do like our Pediatrician.  She’s clearly on top of her medical training.  She has a booming practice and still manages to stay timely with her appointments.  Her staff is friendly and knowledgeable.  And perhaps most importantly she takes time at every one of our wellness appointments to talk with us.

This leaves me feeling semi-clueless and perhaps just a tad like a bad parent.  

We had a wellness appointment on Friday.  About a week prior to the appointment, we received a “baby skills assessment form for ages 0-7 months and 30 days.”  The form contained a variety of skills you were to practice with your baby and mark whether he could perform the skills “Yes, Sometimes, or Not Yet.”

I was pretty proud of Mac.  He doesn’t really seem highly motivated to sit up unassisted and he certainly doesn’t pull himself up to a standing position yet.  But who the hell is in any hurry to have that happen?   We all know when kids become mobile they make an immediate beeline for the toilet, trash, and cat litter.

She looks at our skills assessment.  Then just to make sure I didn’t exaggerate anything the little Einstein was up to, she gave him a sorta’ pop quiz.  He performed ok considering he was stripped down to a diaper, just had a thermometer stuck in a rather uncomfortable place, and was half crying due to the over-all unpleasantness of the circumstances.

Satisfied she settled at her desk to perform what I call “The Interrogation Phase” of the wellness visit.  It always starts out the same.  “What is he eating these days,” she asks.

I offer the brand of formula, the assorted fruits and veggies, the oatmeal. . .”Any table food,” she asks eyeing me suspiciously.

“Well a few Cheerios and some fruit but we mostly eat beans and salads and fish,” I say starting to sweat slightly.

“Which he can’t have yet,” she quips.  “Meatballs.  He can have meatballs or meatloaf.”

I don’t bother reminding her we don’t eat meat.  Although I can practically feel my Husband silently willing the Doctor to demand I start making meatloaf and meatballs for his own selfish purposes.

Moving on the next loaded question:  “How’s he sleeping?”

“Fine” I say, shifting my eyes down and to the left.  This isn’t actually a lie.  He does sleep fine.  I just know she’s not going to like the manner in which I’m getting him to sleep for 8, 10, 12 hours a night.  Move on, move on. . .

But the Doctor has a good tactic when she senses bullshit.  She keeps silent. This practically forces the other party to offer up something more just to avoid the awkward pause in conversation.

Silence. . .Silence. . .Sweating. . .

My Husband cracks first.  “Well, he goes to bed about 9 or 10 and then he gets up about 4:30, needs a diaper and a bottle and then sleeps until about 7 or 8 or even 9.”

Wrong answer.  

The Doctor pounces.  “What do you mean he’s feeding in the middle of the night?!  He’s too big to be feeding at night.  He’s too big to be needing a diaper change.  Children half his age are sleeping through the night wet.  You are creating poor sleep habits.”  BAM.

I pause and inhale.  I’m trying to choose my words carefully.  I don’t want to enter into a parenting debate with her.  She’s trained to find an ear infection.  She’s not a sleep expert.  

“Well, how do you get him to sleep,” she demands.  I give him a bottle and either walk with him or snuggle him until he’s asleep.  Bad parent.  Bad parent.

“Oh, we read some stories and have a bottle and sometimes I walk with him in the baby wrap or we jostle him on our knee until he’s asleep.” I say it casually, but my face is red.

“He’s not still sleeping all bundled up is he,” she asks in an exasperated tone, clearly having miss heard or misunderstood my comment about the baby wrap.

“Of course not” I say.

The questions come faster now.

“Well how much does he eat during the day?”

“It depends,” I mutter.

“Well, who takes care of him all day,” she demands.

“Deni does,” my Husband interjects.  I can’t tell if he’s saying this because he’s proud or because he’s attempting to shift all of her wrath to me.

“You do,” she exclaims with raised eyebrows.

Yes.  I do.  And he can’t stand yet. And he eats at night and I don’t really know how many ounces of formula he eats a day.  Maybe he should be in day care?  I’m clearly screwing this up.

“You need to put him in his crib so he can fall asleep there,” she says.

“Well he’s going to cry.  A lot. . .maybe to the point of puking,” I tell her.

“Then you need to clean it up and put him back in the crib,” she says.

This is going exactly where I didn’t want it to go.

Poor Chris tries to be helpful again.  “It’s just that we read some books and we liked the attachment method of parenting for us.”  Even he sounds unsure at this point.

She exercises tremendous restraint but I can tell she wants to laugh us out of the office.  “Well, at least you aren’t trying to tell me your baby is thirsty at 4 AM,” she practically snorts.

I want to argue with her.  I want to tell her it’s really none of her business what we do at 4AM so long as the baby is healthy and happy and not in physical or emotional danger.  Instead, I sit there silently looking at my flip-flops.

“I have four of my own children,” she says.  “He’s working you.  Put him in the crib and let him cry.”

I agree to try it.  But I haven’t yet.  

And probably won’t.

And so help me God, if my Husband can’t keep his mouth shut, he’s not coming to the next appointment.

Holiday FREAKING Cheer and a Give Away!

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately.  It’s just that I’ve been so busy!  Apparently the holidays are kinda a big deal when you have a little one.  I’ve been sewing and painting and decorating.    Plus drinking like a sailor on shore leave, reading magazines, and watching NCIS marathons. 

Additionally, I have very little comedic bitching to do.  Since I’ve basically been in my house slurping egg nog and making the house look like Santa vomited all over it for the past 10 days, I haven’t exactly encountered any great material lately.

And there’s this:  My Husband has suddenly become some kinda’ household chore fairy.  Every morning before he leaves for work he starts the laundry, feeds the dogs and cats, starts or unloads the dishwasher.  I don’t even know what to make of this.  How am I supposed to bitch about his ineptness when he’s being so terrific?  He’s going to make me get a job isn’t he?  Or at least stop drinking egg nog for breakfast?

Mac is awesome.  Seeing a lot more personality lately.  He’s going to be seven months old on 12/24.  To celebrate, I thought I’d give away a fleece hat.  I’ll make a fleece hat for you or a friend or family member.  (I have various colored fleece so you can pick from several color options in addition to size).  The Give Away begins today and ends 12/24.  I’ll randomly select a winner.  Here’s how to enter:

1.  Enter a comment on this post or any other post between now and 12/24 – one entry per comment per day.  Extra entry if your comment makes me laugh or includes a topic you’d like to hear me spew on and on and on about. . .

2.  Subscribe to the blog – one entry

3.  Follow me on Twitter @homeeckwreck – one entry (You’ll need to tweet, email or comment so I know you are following).

4.  Link to a post from your blog or mention The Diary of A Reluctant Mother on your blog – one entry.  (Please tweet, email or comment so I know you did so).

If I don’t screw this one up, I’m looking forward to giving away more goodies in the new year.  I’m also going to try to post more regularly.  I SWEAR!  Just as soon as I freshen up this egg nog. . .

The Night of Candy-Fueled Insanity

Last night was Mac’s first trick or treating experience.  We made it down one side of our block before he started to melt-down.  That wasn’t such a bad thing, considering he can’t eat candy yet and neither my husband nor I wanted a bunch of it in the house.

Chris took Mac inside to de-chicken costume him and attempt to troubleshoot this most recent case of crankies.  That left me to sit on the stoop distributing candy to the trick or treating masses that converge on our block every year.

And every year I am taken aback by these masses.

It’s not the kids.

It’s the parents!!!!!

I had one mother REACH INTO MY CANDY larder, grab a fist-full and state “Some for Mommy.”

I can assure you Mommy did not look that hungry.  

Since when is it acceptable for the parents to ask for (or take by near force) candy?!  What is it with these assholes?  What kind of adult becomes rude and candy-crazed over a handful of Tootsie rolls?  And what are they doing raising children?

You Can Accomplish This Before Your Head Effing Explodes – Pot Sticker Dinner

Yeah.  I’m a fucking calamity most of the time, but when it really counts I can typically patch it together.  From time to time, I’ll share my favorite simple solutions with you in a recurring feature called “You Can Accomplish This Before Your Head Effing Explodes.”

Other feature titles I considered?  Shit You Can Do Half Sober and Tips Designed to Allow You to Waste More Time on Pinterest.

One thing that I sometimes struggle with is getting a decent dinner on the table with minimal time, effort, and ingredients.  I have a few “go to” dishes that I know I can make in a flash with little preparation and clean up.  Here’s our fav Pot Sticker Dinner.  It’s based on a recipe from Real Simple.

Grab a bag of frozen pot stickers.  I like the Giant Nature’s Promise Brand Vegetable version.  Heat some olive or sesame oil in a deep skillet  Dump in Pot stickers and brown them.

While the pot stickers are cooking, you can swill wine, wipe down your perpetually marked up stainless appliances and dump a pre-packaged bag of cabbage based coleslaw mix into a bowl with some sugar, rice vinegar, and soy sauce to taste.  Refrigerate.  Stir periodically to allow the dressing become incorporated. (I often buy a couple heads of various cabbages to use in other dishes and slice it myself.  Chris says this way is his preferred cabbage).

Add some water to the pot stickers and cover to steam for a few minutes.  More wine  at this point is strictly optional.

Coarsely chop scallions, some cocktail peanuts, and cilantro if you have some.

Once pot stickers are cooked, place the cabbage salad in individual bowls, top with pot stickers, peanuts, cilantro, scallions.  Serve with soy sauce, lime, and hot chile sauce.

Typically one bag of pot stickers serves 2 plus enough for my Husband’s lunch the next day (about 5 pot stickers per serving).  If you are watching calories, you could just steam the pot stickers and skip the browning in oil.  You could likewise skip the peanuts.  It’s a pretty healthful, fast dish over-all.  Sometimes, if I have produce that is getting slightly past prime (mushrooms, various bell peppers, onions, broccoli) I add them to the skillet with the pot stickers. Clean up is a snap involving one bowl, a cutting board and one skillet.

Another beautiful thing about this dish is that we typically always have soy sauce, hot sauce, peanuts and limes in the house.  The pot stickers are easy to stock in the freezer and the cabbage mix or a head of cabbage will keep nicely in the fridge for a while so it’s a good dish to keep in your hip pocket when you are running low on fresh produce and shit is coming at you from all directions.

Pot stickers also go really well with cocktails as a fun happy hour snack.  Or they could be good microwaved as a healthful after school snack alternative to all that pizza roll and mozzarella stick shit that’s on the market.