Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Holiday Under the Belt!

Halloween: Check!
Thanksgiving: Check!
Now for Christmas.  I always loved the rituals of holidays when I was growing up.  Then, when my family was scattered and when I lived in Seattle with no snow to set the mood, they just weren't the same.  Now I'm enjoying them again with Zane!  It's fun to explain the holidays, read books, buy/create new decorations, and do art projects.

The weather this year produced some really lovely fall leaves (as far as Seattle can do!).  I remember an art project my Mom did with sealing leaves in waxed paper with an iron.  I figured we wouldn't do this too often, so I threw in the shaved crayons, too, rather than make that a separate project.  Zane loved shaving the crayons, and was excited about the iron.  I made him wear his little cotton gloves just in case he touched the iron, but who needs pants?  :)  It was a fun project to put together, but interest quickly waned on ironing them enough to stick together.  I think Zane liked shaving crayons most of all.  His sheet came out OK and is in a window, but mine fell apart.  Maybe if I had done the project with my pants off I would have had better luck.

Early in the month we had our very first parent/teacher conference at Zane's Montessori school.  I made the day even more exciting by organizing a boy trade with two other families so we could all go to our conferences.  First, when I picked Zane up from school we brought Ryder home with us.  Then, Ryder and Zane went right across the street to the Cole's to be with Henry and Caz while Michael and I had our conference.  Next, all four boys came to our house!  Henry and Caz went home after about an hour and a half, and then Ryder stayed until 5p.  Zane and Ryder got to chill in one little chair while snacking and watching Dinosaur Train.  They even got into a slo-mo wrestling match which was incredibly cute.  Now, I am a gal who has always avoided babysitting like the plague, but I figured that now I am a parent I had better get a stiff upper lip and learn the trade.  It wasn't so bad!  The chaos was kind of fun. Zane did much better at sharing his stuff than he would have done just a half year ago.  I think it helped a lot that these boys were well known friends from school, and they already had a lot of experience sharing with each other.  And now I have earned some time for Zane to go to Ryder's house!  I think Michael and I will find a movie we want to see and take a weekend afternoon off some time soon.

The parent teacher conference was really interesting.  They had a whole worksheet filled out with Zane's progress in various Montessori environments: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math.  Since Zane is just three his work is mostly in Practical Life (sweeping, stringing beads, pouring tea ...), but he has done a little Sensorial (sorting graduated cylinders) and Math (counting stuff).  Language comes later.  Zane also had done an interview with the teachers where they asked him about things he hadn't had lessons on.  He thought letters and numbers looked like worms; now, I know he knows most letters, so I think he was being a little silly and truthful.  His counting is pretty good, and he knew lots of shapes, including an octagon!  The thing that impressed me the most was on the back of the interview sheet he was asked to draw a self-portrait.  We've never done any kind of people or animal drawing together, just scribbling.  And there was a little sausage-body with stick legs and oval shoes!  I was amazed.  One teacher said that many kids watched other kids do the interviews, and so he probably had an idea of what was going on and how others did the drawings.  We were also happy to hear that Zane's behavior is very good, especially since we have had trouble at home lately.  He goes to an adult for help when things go wrong with other kids, he doesn't generally cause trouble, and he is very polite.  Whew!  All good things to hear, and we are very proud of him.

That evening Obama was re-elected and I felt a great sense of relief.  I didn't realize how worried I had been until it was over and I cried just a little.

Zane's behavior issues from the last post have calmed down a bit, but most of them are still there.  I think we have learned to anticipate and avoid some, some have died down a bit after Zane finished experimenting with them, and some are still rolling along.  Napping seems to have come back, so I think that is helping quite a bit.  Life is definitely better.

One exciting development is that I think Zane read a word!  I've been sick so Zane and I have been watching more TV than usual together.  One day we watched a Sesame Street where the letter of the day was X.  I showed him how to make X with his fingers.  He knows most of the letters by sight, but not always.  He's more familiar with letters in our names, like M for Michael and J for Julia. Later we were watching an animated version of Where the Wild Things Are, and the story talked about Max.  As Max's boat floated by, Zane said, "Why is his name on the boat?"  I was floored!  Nobody had pointed that out, so he had to have read it!  It is a short simple word with very familiar letters.  Michael and I told him how proud we were, and he smiled.

We had our first small Thanksgiving together.  A larger family dinner didn't work out, so I bought a few small things and made a dinner sans turkey.  I enjoyed cleaning off the table, getting out the table cloth and nice dishes, and having a fancy meal.  Zane was super excited about the fancy dishes, and could hardly wait to try the apple cider "wine" we all shared.  We actually had to leave the house while the food was in the oven, as the anticipation was killing him.  We played with a friend down the street for a while, and then ate dinner together.

Next up -- Christmas!  I'm looking forward to this, as every year Zane can enjoy it and look forward to it more.  I bought an advent calendar.  I've got lots of things planned, like ice skating and seeing the mini train village at Seattle Center.  I'll try again for a carriage ride downtown.  Santa at the mall, shopping for Daddy and JoJo, wrapping presents, getting the tree, decorations, cookies ...  Our schedules can be tight, so I've got it all mapped out for the month to make sure I don't miss something by accident.

It should be fun!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hell Week

Just about exactly when Zane turned three, he started to have episodes of defiance and anger.  At first I thought it was just because he was going through a lot of changes.  Potty training, leaving daycare, starting school, going on a trip to Maine.  He also had begun to skip naps at school.  I was confident that this phase would pass soon after we got back from Maine and settled into a routine.

But no, it got worse!  Because he was skipping naps at school and only having to stay on his nap mat for 30 minutes, he decided he no longer needed to nap at home.  I didn't get it at first, and I just thought he was having an occasional bout of wakefulness, which had happened before.  We began having hysterical fights about staying in his room for nap time.  One day he was shrieking and screaming at me and crying.  He finally was sobbing and told me to say I was sorry!  I felt so bad.  What was going on?  Why did he feel like I was abusing him when we were doing what we always did?

He also began having blitzkrieg flashes of astounding anger.  We had never experienced this with Zane before!  What was going on?  He would be fine one moment, and then all of a sudden would snap and shriek and yell and try to run or struggle.  He would lash out and hit.  The trigger could be something like, "it's time to put on your shoes."  There was no reasoning with him.

Mid-October was just the worst.  It was Hell Week.  We did have some fun going to a how-to-fight-zombies book release party with Michael doing a martial arts demo with his horse chopper, then to Zane's first play The Cat In the Hat, and later in the week a trip to Remlinger Farms.  But at any moment he could have a full freak-out breakdown, even about things we thought he would like!  After the play, he got incredibly upset when Michael bought him a super cute puppet he had been admiring!  I began to have chest pains, and I was afraid to announce any changes to Zane, because I never knew when he would explode.  I still followed regular routines and rules, I didn't give in, but I was stressed about it.

So, I checked out some books.  I started reading about three year olds and positive discipline methods.  I'd read some of these things before, but I needed a refresher.  I reached out to other parents for advice.  Basically, the upshot was that Zane was being a completely normal three year old, testing his boundaries and his new-found independence.  One book (and a friend), said that they fight most against their primary caregiver, and don't be afraid to just get a sitter.  We found through talking to other parents at Zane's school that they were having similar issues.  School is wonderful for teaching independence, and we were seeing the blow-back at home.  The child thinks, "I can make almost all of my own choices at school, so I get to at home, too!"  Nooo-ho-ho-ho!

I gave in to the idea of Zane giving up his nap.  He does have to have a 30 minute rest period, just like at school.  I bought a special clock which shows in red how much time is left within the space of an hour.  He can see exactly how much longer his "imprisonment" in his room will go on.  If he asks for us to come in, time gets added to the clock.  I also use the clock at bedtime to help him see how much time is left before lights out.  It helps us to get him in his pjs with teeth brushed in time to read a book.  He can see if he is running out of time, and one night even said, "Mama, get me dressed quickly!  Time is running out!".  Hurrah!  The upside of having no naps is that he goes to bed earlier, so I have more time to myself at night, and sometimes in the morning, too, as he is doing all of his sleeping at night.

We are being stern about the surly turns of mood.  I make Zane restate complaints in a positive way.  If moods don't improve he starts to lose belongings.  I find I even lay out consequences ahead of time, even before his mood turns dark.  That helps to keep the surly turns at bay.  Every day is still a lot of work, but I think things are better in general.  I'm glad we're working through it, but I sure will be glad when this phase is over!