The Passion for the Pacifier

I spoke too soon. I knew saying it would bite me in the butt. Remember when I gloated over two parental wins – Rose quitting her pacifier and Christian crying himself to sleep? Well, it turns out we weren’t quite as successful as we thought.

It seems we can still maintain one victory – Christian crying himself to sleep – but Rose quitting the pacifier? I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.

Since the first week, when we thought we’d licked the pacifier habit (and I wrote a whole post about it), Rose decided that she did not want to give it up. First she decided she couldn’t sleep without it.

“Iiiiiii waaant a paaaaciiii,” she’d moan as we tucked her in.

“If you sleep without it you’ll get a surprise in the morning,” I’d say.

“What is it?”

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

“Ohhh kaaay,” she frowned, lowering her head to the pillow.

“That’s my big girl!” I’d say, walking away smiling.

Eight minutes later, “Mooommyyy!!”

“What is it, Baby?”

“Iiiiii waaaant a paaacciii,” she’d moan.

“But what about your surprise? You can’t have it if you have your paci.”

“I want my paaacciiii!”

“Just try to go to sleep. Try for five minutes and see, okay?”

“Okay,” she sniffed.

“Just lie down and close your eyes and you won’t even notice,” I’d say, walking away.

Two minutes later, “Moooommmmyyyy!”

“I waaant myyy paaaaciii. Please Mommy!”

Sigh, “Okay. I’ll get it.” We’ll quit tomorrow. It’s the only way we’re gonna get any sleep tonight.

But we didn’t quit tomorrow. We tried, but she just would not stop crying or fall asleep and we couldn’t take anymore.

For a while, she was ok with the pacifiers I’d cut off at the tips, but then her brother’s pacis started disappearing. When we put Rose to bed — nap or nighttime — she’d lie down with one arm under her pillow. The first time I reached under, I found one of Christian’s pacis, with her hair wrapped around the base. She likes to do that with her hair. Yes, it’s gross, but we can’t stop her. It started once we cut her hair too short for her to chew on. She reaches up, plucks out a few hairs, puts them in her mouth and wraps them around her pacifier. Since her hair was already on it and she was just getting to bed, she must have used it already – at nap time or last night. Great. I confiscated the offending Binky.

“Nooooo! I waaant it. I waaant it,” she sobbed.

“Baby, this is your brother’s. You have your own paci.”

“I want one with no hole in it,” she sobbed.

“Rose, you’ve got to give up your paci. You can use these for now but you can’t use your brother’s.”

“But he can use it,” she said.

“That’s because he’s a baby. Pacis are for babies.”

“I waaaanna be a baaaaby!”

“Oh, Honey, you’re a grown-up girl. You can do so many things babies can’t do. If you were a baby, you couldn’t go to preschool, or swing so high, or watch Dora.”

“I just waaaant a paaaci,” she sobbed.

“You have one. Use the one you have.”

“I want one of Christian’s!”

“I’m sorry, Baby, this is what you get,” I said.

And that happened every nap and every night, until she was able to steal another paci. I noticed she was unusually happy at nap time, with her arm under her pillow, so I reached under and grabbed another paci, making her cry.

“I WAAANT IT!” she screamed.

“Baby, no. You have your own paci,” I walked away.

“NOOOOOOO!!!”

She’s still using her pacis to go to sleep. Both have the tips cut off, and she’d rather have them intact, but she settles for them because they’re all she’s got. Today I cut them down a little more. She didn’t seem to notice. I’m hoping that the smaller they get, the less she’ll need them but realistically, the smaller they get, the harder she’ll work to steal her brother’s pacifiers. She can’t use them forever, but I’m not sure how hard I should push, either. Right now, he brother wakes up early. Matt gets up with him and then goes back to sleep when I get up, but neither of us are getting enough sleep. It’s not easy for us to motivate to stay up late with Rose, too.

The other thing is that Rose is doing really well on her potty training. She averages one accident a day, which is ok for now, but she has to get better by August, when she goes to a new camp. The camp requires children to have “independent toileting skills” as I read in the camp manifesto when I signed her up. I’m afraid that if she has an accident or two, they’ll kick her out, and I need the childcare. So we need to focus on potty training. That said, last year we put off potty training until after her brother was born because I wanted her to deal with one thing at a time, plus she’s the type of kid to regress. She would totally have gone back to diapers when Christian was born.

We never intended to put off paci quitting. There was just never a time when we thought, Hey, this is the perfect time to lose sleep for a few weeks. Let’s do it! Her dentist told me last year that three is the magic number when it comes to pacifiers. They’ve got to give them up by their third birthday. Rose is three-and-a-half and instead of forcing her to give up her paci, I put off getting her dental checkup. She has an overbite that either comes from my genes or my inability to clamp down and take away the paci. The dentist warned me that her overbite would only get worse, and every day it gnaws at me that it’s my fault the kids will call her “Rabbit Face” or “Chipmunk,” and that she’ll hate her braces because our insurance won’t pay for the clear kind.

This is not my proudest parenting moment, but when I think of all that pacifier did for me – all the sleep it facilitated, all the crying it curtailed, all the boo-boos it bandaged – I can see why I’m having such a hard time letting it go. That paci was the Robin to my Batman, my trusty sidearm, my ace-in-the-hole. Considering how difficult it’s been for Rose to quit, we did consider opting out of the paci habit entirely with Christian, but we decided against it. We decided that we need our pacifier. Once it’s gone, as we’ve seen, nothing can take its place. I just hope we survive the withdrawal.


Better Business Bitching

Ok, this has nothing to do with families or relationships, but I need to sound off. That’s what blogging is all about, right? Please bear with the tangent. Family relationships will be back next week.

This morning I went to the Verizon store to purchase a gift card for Fathers’ Day. I walked in and a host told me there was a wait. “Do you mind waiting?” I told him I just wanted a gift card and he offered to put my name on a list.

I said, “I’ll come back” and went to Home Depot next door.

I came back about 10 minutes later and a different host said, “Oh, they can help you in just a few minutes. You can look around the store.” At what? Different colored gift cards? I’m not buying a phone, Bozo. So I waited. And I waited. And I waited. I watched as a transaction appeared done, but the clerk and the customer chatted and chatted, the way Washingtonians will do. They won’t tell you anything real, but they’ll chat for hours about nothing. But that’s another story.

Anyway I got fed up and left in a huff. I was still mad when I got home, so I called Verizon customer service to complain about the store. The customer service person was very nice and took my complaint. I told her that this was not the first time they’d had an unacceptable wait time and asked why the hosts were not qualified to sell a freakin’ gift card, for crying out loud. After I hung up, I felt better. (By the way, if you’re happy with your wireless carrier and your coverage is comparable to Verizon’s, please let me know.)

My husband, Matt, had a similar experience last week. Well, several. He set out to spend his $100 birthday gift on his lunch hour. He walked into Men’s Wearhouse, where they’re usually very solicitous. No one even acknowledged him. He walked into the Nike store, carried a $100 golf shoe around the store, wanting to try it on. No one came. He walked into Victoria’s Secret (because a gift for me is a gift for him), saw four young shop girls chatting on their work-issued headsets. No one approached him. Frustrated and disappointed, he went back to work empty-handed.

He complained to me that night about the shop employees, “We’re never going to get out of the recession if people don’t work anymore. These kids grew up coddled and spoiled and they don’t know how to work for a living.”

“It’s all that not scoring their soccer games. They’re just not competitive,” I agreed.

“They just don’t give a shit is more like it,” he said.

“I bet there are plenty of people who’d like to have their jobs, too,” I said.

Ultimately we agreed that apathy in business is the lynchpin of the recession and if no one’s going to sell anything, no one’s going to buy anything. I’ll go a step further and say that innovation and good marketing is what will get our economy going again. I’m not an economist, not by a long shot, but I’m pretty good with common sense. We must get people to spend money and they will only spend if we meet their needs. And we have to stop ripping people off. Safeway responded to the Edy’s/Dreyer’s shrinking package/same price move by pointing out that its Private Selection brand was still the same size. Guess which one I bought. That’s the kind of marketing we need.

We need a serious attitude adjustment, too. All those kids with their crappy retail jobs don’t realize that their job performance will follow them to their next job, and the next, and the next. I’ll hazard a guess that the Victoria’s Secret manager was Generation Y too, or the girls wouldn’t have gotten away with their behavior. But somewhere up the chain there’s a good businessperson who’ll notice their performance, can them and hire people who will do a good job.

We need innovators. And though I can think of a few things I’d like to see on the market – like a body-pillow case that zips up one side so it’s easier to use – innovation does not require inventions. Rather, it requires inventiveness. In the Outer Banks, North Carolina, there’s a chain of drive-through convenience stores called Brew Thru. People love them and they do tons of business. Why? Because people love the convenience. Before I became a mom, I didn’t have much of an opinion about drive-throughs, but now that I’ve got two kids I’ve got to unbuckle, assemble, control and then rebuckle just to get one thing at a store, I wish everything was available at the drive-through. Brew Thru isn’t the only drive-through convenience store chain, but it is a mom and pop success story.

Matt had another remedy for the recession (which, in economic terms, is over) – tax incentives for employers to hire and retain employees. Right now, American companies are working their few remaining employees to death to maintain their market share. Although I doubt Matt’s idea would fly with the current Congress, his financially-savvy boss pointed out that lowering taxes improves the economy. Historically, he said, every time we lower taxes – business and individual — we see an economic boost. “It’s the Wal-Mart effect,” Matt said, “They have more money so they spend more.”

So there you have it. My recession rant. Again, I am not an economist, just a haggard consumer, but I stand by my conviction that innovation, marketing and a vested interest in our jobs, whatever they may be, are the keys to building our economy. And since Matt mentioned it, tax incentives based on jobs aren’t a bad idea, either. Thanks for letting me sound off. I feel much better.


Banishing Bad Baby Behaviors

Well, we did it. We quit the pacifier with one kid and “cried it out” with the other. When I wrote “Who Needs Sleep?” I said we’d combine these ordeals into one short period of pure hell. I got a lot of “Yeah, good luck with that,” from other parents. And I really can’t believe it myself, but it worked.

When I discussed the pacifier issue on the blog last year, a friend told me to try this method: Give the pacifier anytime she wants, just cut it smaller every day. Well, we had already restricted the pacifier to bed time, but I cut off the top, making a big hole in it, and Rose said she didn’t like it anymore. The first day!! She kept telling me to throw it out and I kept giving it back, because this was too good to be true. As I left her room, I thought for certain she’d be calling me back, whining “I waaant a paaaaci…please?” But no such request was forthcoming.

The next day, I figured she’d look for the paci as soon as she awoke, but she just sat on the couch and asked for breakfast. At nap time, I brought the rejected paci to her bed. Again she told me to throw it out. Then she refused to take a nap. It made sense that there would be consequences to quitting the paci cold turkey. She stayed in her room during nap time and I sucked it up.

That was Monday. She’s missed one more nap since, but I think it was more about not having burned her energy than not having the pacifier.

On Tuesday, I was holding Christian as he fought sleep. Whining, wriggling, watching and wheedling, he was beginning to get on my nerves. I’d made the commitment to let him cry it out, so I tried it. I heard him cry for less than five minutes and then silence. It was so quick I had to check to make sure he was still breathing. When I did, there was my baby boy, peacefully sleeping in his crib.

This is too easy, I thought. Rose cried for at least an hour when we did this with her, how could Christian be so quick? I couldn’t wait for his next nap to try it again. Next nap, same thing. Less than five minutes. Still breathing. How was this possible?

Ok, so now that I’ve met two major parenting goals, I figure I can blow off any parental ambition for at least a few months. But this whole process has taught me something. I could have done this months ago and reduced my stress, not to mention Rose’s need for braces. I treated the whole thing like vacuuming. I will put off vacuuming for weeks. My carpet will fill with popcorn, raisins, Play-doh, and still, I cannot motivate to vacuum. If by some miracle, I do get the motivation, vacuuming’s done in five minutes. So I’ve spent so much time putting off something I could have done in five minutes. I do the same thing with sewing. Rose’s Hawaiian dress lost a strap months ago and it’s still sitting in my sewing pile. I even bought that glue that’s supposed to replace stitches. How long could it possibly take to glue fabric together? Still, it languishes in the pile.

So I guess I’ve learned that I expend more energy avoiding things than I would if I actually did them. I’m going to check out my sewing as soon as I’m done writing. But I doubt I’ll vacuum anytime soon.


It Just Jumped Out at Me!

I’m a terrible driver. Most people won’t admit that, but I have to. I crash a car about every three years, just enough to keep my insurance rates high. Not only do I hit things — things hit me. In 1995 I got hit by a tree.

It was the day before my 27th birthday. I was driving along in gorgeous summer weather, listening to the Eagles, coming home from work in my old silver Nissan, borrowed from my parents that day. I heard a big bang and when I opened my eyes, I was covered in glass and blood. Slivers of my shattered windshield blanketed my lap.

A man tried to pull my door open but he couldn’t. He went around to the other side and got another guy to help. My jacket was in the backseat. Thank God I had my jacket because I had to cover the pile of glass on the passenger seat. I climbed out on my tights-clad knees. I stood up and saw spots. Things spun, I saw points of color and it started to get dark again. Fortunately there was this big tree behind my car and when the light came back, I was sitting on it.

“What happened?” “What happened?” people asked me.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I really don’t know.”

“I know what happened,” a woman said as she crossed the road. There were a bunch of people there and I heard sirens.

Then the cops were there. “What happened?” they asked.

“I don’t know.”

“I know what happened,” the woman said. “I was right behind her.” She walked away as the cop pulled out his notebook.

The ambulance guys were there. They put a collar on me laid me flat on their stretcher. I couldn’t lift my head to spit out the pieces of teeth that rolled around my mouth. They were going to take me to Port Chester hospital but I asked for St. Agnes. I remember thinking it would be easier for people to get there. I don’t remember the ambulance at all.

They cut my skirt at the hospital. My beautiful rayon flowered skirt from Express – blue with white and yellow flowers on it. That pissed me off. Shards of glass peppered my skin. They took out the big pieces but when I asked them if they could hose me down to get off all the tiny shards and the dust, they laughed. I was serious. I had glass embedded in my skin. How could they just leave it in there? They were nice enough to call my fiancée while they examined me.

The cop came. “A tree limb fell on your car, he said, “a big limb, more than a foot thick.” It was on Texaco Corporate headquarters property, on a state road. Remember that. Texaco property and state road.”

I repeated “Texaco property and a state road. Ok.” He wanted me to sue. I’m sitting in the emergency room and the cop at the scene of my accident wants me to sue.

My fiancée and his parents got to the hospital at the same time. They were just about to give me stitches. They shot painkillers into each site – the insides of my knees, my thigh, and the knuckle on my thumb – so I wouldn’t feel the stitches. It was weird watching them stitch up my legs. I didn’t watch them stitch my knuckle.

My fiancée persuaded me to call my parents. “But they’ll come!” I complained. My parents lived 45 minutes away from the hospital. The way my dad drove, it would take them 90 minutes to get there. My dad answered.

“I got in a car accident,” I said. “I’m in the hospital.”

“How’s the car?” he said.

“I don’t know, Dad. The windshield was all over me.”

“What about the other car?” he asked.

“There was no other car,” I said.

“What?”

“A tree fell on me,” I said. “That’s what the cop said.”

“Are you ok?”

“I’m ok. They stitched me up and my head hurts,” I said.

“What hospital?”

I told him. “We’ll be there in an hour,” he said.

So my future in-laws and my fiancée hung out in the exam room. We didn’t know what else they were going to do but they said they’d found some blood in my sample and they needed to have the doctor check it. So we waited. I told them how badly it hurt and they tried to give me a shot for the pain but I refused. “No more needles,” I said. I asked for pills and they gave me Tylenol. I could have gotten that from my purse.

My parents arrived and my mom looked especially worried. “What happened?” she asked.

“A tree hit my car,” I said, “Well, your car.”

“Where’s the car?” my dad asked.

“I don’t know. I guess they towed it. Oh the cop left something.” I pointed to a piece of paper.

“What did they say about you?” he asked.

“I got some stitches,” I pointed them out. “And I hit my head. And they found some blood in my sample so they’re calling the doctor.”

“So you’re gonna be ok?” he said.

“I guess so.”

“Did you give the hospital your insurance card?”

“I think so.”

“Make sure you give it to them,” he said. “Or we’re going to have to pay for this.”

The nurse came in to tell us the doctor hadn’t called yet. She told us that I may have had a concussion so if I went home that night, someone had to rouse me every two hours.

After she left, I looked at my fiancée. “You can do that at home tonight, Honey, right?”

“I have to work tomorrow. We need the money.”

“Well, who’s gonna do it?” I asked, now hoping they found something with the blood so I could stay at the hospital.

“Why don’t you go home with your parents?” he said.

“We can take you,” my mom offered.

“Well, we’ll see what they say,” I said. “I may have to stay here. If the doctor ever calls.”

The doctor never did call, but at about 11 p.m., they sent me home. To my parents’ house. We stopped at a diner on the way to get me some takeout and I slept in my childhood bedroom that night. No one ever did wake me up during the night so I could just as easily have gone to my own apartment.

My parents did drive me back there the next day, after my mom offered to take care of me. I told her I’d be fine – I could walk and if I needed anything, my fiancée could help me when he got home. Besides the stitches and the headache, I had purple bruises the size of my head on my thighs and belly. I stayed home for three days and the weekend. When I went back to work, this woman at the bus stop just stared at me. I realized she was looking at the bruises on my thighs. She probably thought I was a battered wife. I didn’t bother to explain. The bus came and I went to work.

After the accident, I saw a neurologist, who said the head injury caused some brain damage. It’s permanent. I have no short-short-term memory; I have trouble recalling words at times and I can’t take oral directions. I’ve learned to work around those things – touching my keys to make sure they’re in my purse, getting out of the car to make sure I locked the front door, writing “WHAT” in the middle of a sentence so I can write the word when I remember it. It’s made me a bit obsessive-compulsive – I don’t trust my memory to tell me I’ve locked the door, for example – but I continue to live with it.

Unfortunately I did marry my fiancée, even though he refused to take care of me when I needed him most. That marriage lasted a year and when we divorced, I realized that the car accident should have convinced me not to marry him. I wondered how I could have been that stupid. I mean, if anyone needed to be hit over the head with something, that was it and the tree gave me my big bonk.

But even though I missed that message from God, I got the other message. My fiancée and I had been fighting that week and I was so distraught I just wanted to take some pills and go to sleep for a few days – not die necessarily, but it felt suicidal enough. I knew that I just wanted to escape life for a while. And when I came to in the car, I felt like I was fighting for my life. So it made me see just how valuable my life was to me, even though I wasn’t happy with it right then. I could have done without the brain damage, but I am thankful for that unsubtle reminder that life was worth living.


Resource Utilization: Maximizing Mom Time

I work; I’ve got two small children and I’m writing a book. I don’t get a lot of down time. My husband works all the time, so I don’t ask him to babysit much. My moments of “Mommy Time” are precious, but until now, my resource utilization was sub-par.

I live for nap time. Rose naps every afternoon, and, lucky for me, Christian’s afternoon nap usually overlaps hers by an hour. Right after I had Christian, I would use that time for my own nap. I must admit, between recovering from the pregnancy, midnight feedings and early a.m. wakeups, it was months before I could go without that mid-day nap. Even now I still nap if I’m tired enough. Sleeping is one of my favorite things, and I always feel better when I’m rested; so I never feel I’ve wasted my time. But I still had that nagging feeling that I was missing something.

So on the days when I was awake, I’d spend my time watching “All in the Family” on TV. I love the show, but I still had a niggling feeling that my mom time could be better spent. Then I discovered reading an actual grownup book. Before that, reading books was my treat at the gym. But a quiet naptime was the perfect time to read a book. And sometimes I’d just close the book and revel in the quiet.

But I didn’t discover the best use of my time until now. Last week, while both kids were asleep, I realized I still needed a shower, but I wanted to lie in bed and meditate, watching the trees dance in the wind out the window. It was the only chance I’d have for a shower, so I opted for a long, hot, luxurious shower, then I put on my soft terry robe and laid down on the bed to watch the woods. Ahhh, now this is what it’s all about, I thought. I feel like I’m at a spa.

A couple of days later, I’d already showered by naptime and didn’t want to get wet again, so I thought, What would be luxurious enough to feel like spa time? I decided to crawl into bed, read my book and eat Lindt chocolates. And it was good.

Over the weekend, my husband and I had one naptime free, and we went down to the man cave so the kids couldn’t hear us. We cuddled on the couch a while, then we played darts. We had so much fun that it felt like a real date. We almost cracked open a beer, but Christian woke up and it was over. But in the absence of a babysitter, we discovered a new way to use our alone time.

I have a close friend who’s been caring for ailing parents for almost a year, and dealing with a lot of stress. Before she started to crack, I tried to convince her to take time for herself. She was spending all of her time working or running errands for her parents or taking them to doctors, so she argued that she didn’t have time. Once she did crack, she listened to me. She used the spa gift card I’d sent her; she made plans with her friends and now she’s planning a vacation. But even when she “didn’t have time” for herself, we discussed things she could do. All she needed was 20 minutes for a bath, 40 minutes to make cookies, or 45 to sit outside and read a book. Even 10 minutes spent with a coloring book would have relieved a lot of stress.

One thing I discovered from all of this is that everyone has time to take care of themselves. The other thing I learned is that with some creativity, I can make better use of my down time. I will continue to “play spa.” My friend will keep taking time for herself and my husband and I will think of mini-dates when we’ve got a few minutes. No excuses. And I hope that sharing our discoveries will inspire more people to take better care of themselves. If you get creative with your down time, please share your experience. I, and everyone else, I bet, would love to hear all about it and steal a few ideas.