Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Zoe vs. the USDA Food Pyramid

Zoe fights a well-balanced meal at times. Breakfast time, lunchtime, and dinnertime. 
It wasn't always like this. It's true that I experienced the "latching on" problem and had to alternate breast milk and formula, but she had no difficulty switching between the two, and she guzzled like a champ. Raised no objections to whatever bottle we used. When it came time for regular milk, no problem. Solids? Sure, why not. Vegetables first since there were suggestions that this would make her more amenable to them in the future than if I started with the sweet stuff. This went smoothly albeit messily. Finally came real food, and though she liked to play with it, throw it on the floor or at the cat, some of it also got in her mouth, where it was gummed and swallowed. 
Until somehow it all fell apart. I think it was when she discovered she had a will of her own. Which meant she didn't have to eat the icky stuff and could wait me out till I eventually capitulated and doled out the cheese and carbs. She couldn't count, yet somehow she had my number. 
Dinnertime remains the biggest problem because that's the one we're always responsible for. Zoe goes to day care, so lunchtime is taken care of except on weekends. Breakfast is also served at day care, but Zoe gets up so early we usually try to get something in her or we're courting a bad mood, or, I should say, a badder mood, since she doesn't wake up at all well. You'd think she'd just sleep longer but that's another subject (see here). In any case, if she won't eat breakfast, we can always strap her into the stroller and hand her a bag of cheerios on the way out the door.
Which brings us back to dinner, aka, the main event, boxing reference intended, where Mommy's on the ropes. 
Acceptable meals: pasta, grilled cheese with fries, chicken nuggets (sometimes), ketchup (always). Perhaps a piece of bread used as a conduit for butter. 
Occasionally I've been able to fool her into having a bite of a vegetable if I act like it's my own dinner. Because then she just has to have it for two reasons: 1. It's not hers. 2. It's mine. 
Just whine no.
Zoe does not officially recognize the food pyramid developed by the USDA. Her pyramid looks a bit different. It's basically a large pile of bagels, crackers, cheerios, goldfish, and cookies, and at the top sit two chicken nuggets with one bite taken out of each one, and a mummified piece of cheddar cheese.
The other night I tried making my own chicken nuggets instead of the processed ones. Same thing, right? Only made with love? Zoe's past throwing her meals, which was more about "fun" than rejection anyway, so instead she handed me back her plate without even attempting to take a bite, whining, "No waaaant it." It was hard not to be insulted. I mean, this is a person I've seen eat her own snot.
And even though I didn't have time to make another meal---as former governor of Minnesota Jesse "The Body" Ventura said in Predator: "Ain't got time to bleed"---that's what I ended up doing. You see, since Zoe's birth, I've started to view time differently. I've decided sometimes it's easier to give in and take the time now instead of fighting and cajoling and begging, since that takes years off my life that I can enjoy later, at the end, when I'm in my wheelchair, wrapped in blankets, breathing apparatus attached, blissfully catching up on sleep and looking forward to being finicky about whatever meal they serve me in the home just to make those whippersnappers jump.
Ain't got time to make more
chicken nuggets.
But for now back to the present, where I apparently consult the Internet just to get myself aggravated. For example, recently I read that if your toddler refuses to eat the dinner you made and then gets hungry when they're going to bed, which is Zoe all over, you're supposed to keep presenting the same healthy meal they refused until they eat it. The problem with this strategy is I already ate her dinner. Yes, I know, but I spend so much time making hers, and then fighting her on eating it, I don't have time to make my own dinner. And yes, I also know, I'm not supposed to be making her special meals; she's supposed to be eating the same thing as the rest of the family, but you need to read the other entries in this blog. If you do, you'll see why eating dinner as a family is not a mountain I'm prepared to climb. Or pyramid. And you better bring extra ketchup.
Zoe: 10; Universe: 0

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Zoe vs. the Gentlemen's Agreement

It’s probably not so much that she’s against it as she doesn’t know what it means. In fact, Zoe is unfamiliar with all three words contained in the phrase, including the definite article, but most especially "agreement." And I’m talking about the original meaning of the phrase, not the one it came to mean, where the gentiles exchange knowing looks as they pass each other on the street on Yom Kippur and which was dramatized by Gregory Peck in the eponymous movie about anti-Semitism.

It's not what it looks like, I swear.

Basically, the takeaway is, you can’t expect a toddler to act in good faith. There’s no honor among the playground set.
First, some backstory. Every night on the way home from the day care we pass a school which has extensive grounds. It's not only a school but also a monastery or nunnery or retreat center. The gate is always open (probably due to their religion-y all-our-welcome mandate, belied by a sign that says no trespassing, but perhaps they mean this in a forgive-us-our-trespasses kind of way but by all means, walk on the grass). And many evenings we’d see a father and daughter playing catch, or some kid running with his dog, i.e., some idyllic vision of childhood set against the twilight. And I'd thought, with an unearned innocence, one of these days I'll bring Zoe by so she can also run on the grass in some idyllic vision of childhood.
Let’s skip ahead now to a housebound Zoe recovering from another bout of pink eye. I didn’t want to take her to her usual park since she’d be touching everything, which is probably how she got the pink eye in the first place, and I got the brain wave (I’ve had these a lot since Zoe was born and they are things that end badly but always start with the euphoric optimism that is the hallmark of sleep deprivation) to take her to the grounds of this school, the all-girls’ institution she might someday attend if we strike it rich and if I manage to repress the negative associations of my Catholic school upbringing so that the positive ones rise to the surface, whatever these might be (with apologies to my Catholic grammar school, high school, and college---it was a trifecta).
We pull into the gate and I let Zoe out of her stroller right next to the grass, i.e., God’s carpet, which is dappled in sunshine, i.e., God’s warm hug, and Zoe veers away from God’s, i.e., my plan, and makes a beeline for the steep, concrete stairway to the main doors of the school and proceeds to go up, then down, then up, then down.
Et en Arcadia ego.
Which roughly translates as, Look at this idiot running in the grass
as if we're not all going to die someday.

If you have a toddler then you are familiar with the stair attraction; the call to climb must be heeded. It is like a black hole in that it is both a gravity well (for a toddler) and a place where time slows down (for a parent).
Finally she tires of this I wrest her hands away from the railing, and I try to steer drag her towards the grass, but she pulls free and runs to the side of the school to the retreat center/monastery/nunnery, where the true treasures are to be found. For, behold, here are even steeper (and metal!) stairs to conquer, and, lo, a door to be banged at and pulled on, and, hearken, broken glass to be picked up and marveled over, and a dirty traffic cone to pat and lick. And didn't I have egg on my face for thinking we’d be on the same page about the running on the grass in idyllic childhood spendour (British spelling required for the type of idyll I'm thinking of).
Zoe does not do idylls. No pastorals either. No sentimental reenactments of bygone times. It's just not her bag. Her bag is ripped and sticky and filled with rocks.
Looking back I’m not sure where my misplaced optimism came from considering the following facts:
The countless other stairways she's met and conquered or fallen down
The many “favorite” books I’ve had to re-purchase because Zoe "loved" them too much
She really really likes to run away from me (and her dad)
She really really doesn't like to listen to me (or her dad)
And everything else I know about her from her behavior up until this time
They took away our rulers;
that was their first mistake.

As she continued to run from one questionable treasure to another, ignoring my pleas and threats, I became nostalgic for my own particular childhood experience with Catholic school, where exactly when you were enjoying yourself doing something you shouldn't, a nun would be sure to appear to bring an end to your nonsense.
But that day I looked around in vain for assistance from someone with actual authority. Clearly, I had none; after all, I was just a mom.
Zoe: 9; Universe/Mommy: 0

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Zoe vs. the Laws of Physics

I don't remember much Physics from high school. The one word that echoes discordantly in that particular, mostly empty, chamber of my memory is "torque." And all I remember about it is that I never understood what it was. 
Clearly some research was in order.
A quick review of Newtonian Physics: Newton (apple-falling-on-head Newton, not fig-cookie Newton) basically said: Things have mass (size, weight), and they move, and sometimes accelerate, or sometimes don't (inertia). But, also, things like pushing and pulling.
And don't forget what happens when we drop something.
It falls.
As Marshall Mathers told us, "Snap back to reality. Oh, there goes gravity." But really you don't need a degree in science to know his song "Lose Yourself" is about the dangers of personal and professional inertia. See, Eminem gets it.

What up, G?
(where G = the gravitational constant)

Zoe does not. In her three years of robust exploration of the planet Zoe's had her share of run-ins with Newtonian physics, and judging by the bruises on her arms and legs, with doors and walls as well as the ground. I get the feeling it's not just that she doesn't understand how physical laws work, I think she objects to them. Strongly and with extreme prejudice. If she wants to ride on the top of our exercise ball without it torquing (just go with it) out from under her, she should be able to. But she can't, and she falls and then she cries and as soon as she's done crying, it's right back to climbing up on that ball. Or on the coffee table, or up the stairs of each house on our route home. Zoe always has the same look on her face right before she falls: fierce determination. She will find a way to defeat gravity.
Second only to gravity, the law she grapples with most is the Pauli Exclusion Principle. This principle states that no two electrons may occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. See Fig 1.

Fig. 1. See?!

Basically the problem is that if you stuff the inside of the Eeyore Pull Along Shape Sorter with a whole bunch of stuff until you can't fit any other stuff inside the toy, then you really can't fit any other stuff inside it no matter how much you try to force that stuff, even if you follow it up with crying and screaming.
The Eeyore Pull Along Shape Sorter has corresponding entry points for different shapes with different colors so that Zoe can learn about different shapes and different colors, but Zoe prefers to shove inside this toy everything from Little People to matchbox cars to crayons to rocks to fake food, anything but the shapes that actually go with the toy, until nothing else can possibly fit at which point she screams, "Go in!" and then when it doesn't she throws the toy down, throws herself down (this is of her own accord and has nothing to do with gravity, let it be known), and has a good tantrum over the whole thing.
I usually allow this to go on for a while, because you're supposed to let them "deal with their feelings," then maybe I'll say something like, "Hey, Z, are you frustrated?" This is called "naming the emotion" which is apparently validating and educational. Helping her to develop emotionally. I am a good parent.
Though I have to admit that before she was verbal and she got frustrated and cried, to let off my own emotional steam I'd sometimes make fun of her tears. Like: Mmm, your tears are so tasty, give me some more. And singing a song I made up which sounded soothing except the name of the song was "I Don't Care That You're Crying (Because I Love You)," which is the natural heir to the previous generation's "If You Don't Stop Crying, I'll Give You Something to Cry About." Because you have to let the little ones learn. And how can they learn that gravity hurts if you're always catching them, or about the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which I didn't learn about till today, if you're always rearranging the toys inside other toys for them so that they can fit the maximum number of toys without violating the Principle. They need to learn about these things.
And if sometimes you have to ignore their tears or make fun of them to their faces, it's for the greater good. I believe it was Aristotle who said, "Mockery is the highest form of love." I may be paraphrasing. I may be making that up. Still, my general point rings true, which is that torque (T) = r x F where r is the vector. So ends this week's lesson. As an esteemed man of science once said, "Peace out."
Zoe: 8; Universe: 0

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Zoe vs. Zzzzz's

This is a topic I've been reluctant to bring up because I fear my impotent rage might break the Internet.
Zoe does not sleep. Not as much as she should. Certainly not as much as we'd like her too. Which equals at least two hours more than we need to unwind and then go to sleep ourselves and still be able to function. And a little more on weekends.
You know those Chuck Norris "facts" that sometimes make the Internet rounds? The one I'm thinking of right now is: Chuck Norris doesn't sleep, he waits. Well, Zoe doesn't sleep, she delays. Zoe doesn't nap, she refuses. Zoe does not lie down in her bed, she prefers to turn the rocking chair's ottoman upside down, step inside of it, and then rock back and forth until she falls over still inside it and cries.
The initial sleep training took a long time. I studied both sides of The Debate: the No-Cry Sleep Solution vs. the Cry-It-Out Method. Incrementally reducing the time spent in the room until Dear One goes to sleep as soon as her head hits the pillow. The Routine. The Cry-It-Out was the most horrendous. I pride myself on my hard-heartedness but listening to your own child cry for an hour straight really takes a toll. I tried all these things and more, so you can imagine my reaction when I stumbled on a site whose main advice was: Consistency Is Key.  Well, you know where they can shove that key.
What gets me is she's so obviously exhausted. The signs she displays have flashing lights. Whiny, easily frustrated, increasingly clumsy.
"Time for a nap," I say.
"No," she responds, furiously rubbing her eyes.
"You're obviously sleepy," I counter.
"No sleepy," she refutes.
"If you go to sleep, then you can wake up refreshed and play."
" . . . " (pause while she yawns.) "No refresh."
I brought the sleep diary to the doctor, fretting over this lack of sleep. From what I'd read, it seemed Zoe was sleeping at least three hours less than the amount needed. The doctor said she was fine, that it was just an approximation, as long as her mood was okay. What about my mood? He laughed. He thought I was kidding.
Towards the end of her first year, she finally slept through the night, if you consider four in the morning to actually be morning. Which I do not. Now, approaching three years of age, Zoe's made it clear that this is just how she is. A good night has her entering our bedroom at 5:45 A.M. cheerily shouting, "Wake up, Mommy!" and thoughtfully handing me my glasses from the nightstand. A bad night has her scream-running through the apartment at 3 A.M. yelling, "Juice!" Anything after 6 earns a place in the win column.
When she became a toddler we entered a new phase of charm and manipulation at bedtime known as the delaying tactic. Here are her excuses for why she can't go to bed presented with translations.
"THIS book!" (I must read just one more book.)
"Outside!" (This toy belongs outside the bedroom.)
"Weebie-wobble!" (I need that other toy which is lost somewhere in the apartment, hidden within another toy perhaps, so that you will have to struggle to find it, a situation I did not in any way plan, and then I can go to bed.)
"Window!" (I have to look out the window.)
"Rock!" (This could be: I need that rock I found in the park today, but is more likely: I need to rock some more in the rocking chair.)
"Let's see Daddy." (Self-explanatory.)  
And on and on it goes. I've experienced the full spectrum of emotions regarding this from laughing at Samuel Jackson's rendition of  Go the F*ck to Sleep to crying at it to laugh-crying.

I've had it with these @#*$
sleepless toddlers in this @#*$ crib.

Lately I find myself engaging in a lot of the behavior they tell you not to engage in since you'll be setting such a poor example. From Negotiating/Bribing (the carrot and not the whip, though that better be a chocolate carrot in your hand): "One more sleep and we'll have an adventure." To Threats: "Go to sleep or you won't watch Dora tomorrow." To Manipulation and Flat-out Lying: "Dora and Boots are sleeping."
Lying's my favorite. Just last night I told her: Mommy's tired and is going to sleep too.
Mommy's certainly not planning to watch TV with her feet up while drinking a chocolate ice cream float spiked with tequila. You might not think that would taste very good. And you'd be right. But I don't have time for right. I've got about five minutes before she's slowly turning the knob on her door again and peering out of her room to sweetly request another glass of water. 
Zoe: 7; Universe: 0