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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mellow Yellow

I think I've mentioned that Mari's behavior as of late has been nothing short of atrocious. You can read more about it here if you want; the Spirited Child book has helped immensely - more in gauging my reactions and temperaments than in assessing Mari...I pretty much had her figured out, just needed to figure myself out to get the two of us on the same page.

One thing I noticed was that there was a very definite change in Mari's behavior starting around the time we went to KY. She was beginning to be a little naughty before we went but a lot of that seemed to be very reactionary to the whole "school changing" and we were working through that. I couldn't put my finger on what had made her "snap." I researched everything from sensory issues to attachment regression; I talked to her, role-played, imaginary played; I spoke with her teachers at school....tried anything to pinpoint WHAT changed her behavior so radically and quickly. I was at the end of my rope.

Last week was somewhat of a better week. We implemented a new reward system...she earns gold coins to put in her treasure chest and then she can buy things with the gold coins (haven't quite figured out the redeeming aspect of this...she's just thrilled to be earning coins). That seemed to help with motivation. We purchased an alarm clock that she can turn off herself and that turns green when it's "okay" for her to get out of bed. We pick out her clothes the night before and put them in a special basket so when it's time to get dressed, she just grabs the basket. It has helped somewhat.

So as a reward for all the progress we made last week, I decided to take Mari out to dinner and buy her a present. She had asked if she could get a baseball bat and ball. Sounded like a worthwhile prize to me. So we went to Ruby Tuesday's for dinner and then on to Wal-Mart. We found the bats quickly and Mari immediately picked up a cheap, thin, spongy, yucky, BLUE bat and said that was the one she wanted. I wanted her to get a bigger (preschool friendly) bat and asked her to come look at the other not-so-blue ones (I never said she couldn't have the one she picked, just asked her to look at the others).

She snapped. Snapped. Bad snapped. OMG snapped. She started screaming and kicking and thrashing around. I knew she needed to be removed from the situation but I was hoping to get her settled down. So I picked her up and carried her to the garden department where it was a little quieter. She continued screaming and kicking and scratching and hitting...she was screaming so hard that she couldn't swallow her spit and started foaming at the mouth. So I carried her out to the car pretty much upside down. She was screaming so hard she threw up in the parking lot (or maybe that was because I carried her out upside down). It took me a full 5 minutes to get her buckled in the carseat. She was absolutely hysterical. I wasn't even upset at this point. I knew she had no control over whatever was going on. She calmed down about 5 minutes into the ride home and went straight to the tub and to bed...she was asleep by 6:45.

So............

Here's what I think happened (and thanks to my Cousin/BFF Juli for putting the clues together for me). When we went to Ruby Tuesday, Mari ordered lemonade. They have awesome lemonade - homemade, fresh-squeezed. Mari had downed about 1/2 cup and then knocked hers over....when I set it back up, I noticed it was fizzy. So I called the waiter over and asked him why her drink was fizzy (I was worried they had given her Mountain Dew). He explained that they were out of regular lemonade and substituted (without asking) a mixture of lemon syrup and club soda. I didn't think much about it. Mari drank 2 cups. Then flipped out in Wal-Mart.

So while I was recounting the evening with Juli (I was concerned maybe there was alcohol in the syrup - I couldn't smell any but....), she suggested maybe it was a food coloring thing. And then I got to thinking that we have been drinking LOTS of lemonade lately. We had some in KY (but it was pink lemonade) and then when we came home, we started drinking it pretty much exclusively. Country Time Lemonade - a gallon every two days. With Yellow 5 Lake added. And the week of good behavior leading up to the "incident" - we had mostly been drinking Minute Maid Fruit Falls (flavor water in pouches) - no food coloring.

Yellow 5 Lake - also known as tartrazine. Banned in most countries. Regulated by the FDA - it must be labelled when added to products (in other words, "artificial colors" does not cut it - it has to be specified). May cause hyperactivity in children. Also exacerbates asthma. Among lots of other lovely things.

We've now been without Yellow 5 Lake for 4 (almost 5) full days. The last tantrum was over 3 days ago. We have had a pleasant week. Not perfect but much more typical 3-yr-old-ness. Mari is still distractable, headstrong, spirited. But she is focused, directable, and most importantly, IN CONTROL of her emotions and impulses.

So we are going to be mellow without yellow in this house. I'm not going to become the "yellow police" - I don't want her to miss out on treats at school or parties because of this. But we will attempt to avoid it in as many situations as possible. Eliminating it will not give us perfect behavior but it will remove one obstacle that we can control.

Anyone else out there have any experience with food dye and behavior issues?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Week 24 of 52

Another week down...what a killer week it was. Hoping this next one will go a little better as we head into the weekend.

2010: 06/17
Nothing better than licking cookie batter off the mixer...
2010: 06/16
Trying on a flower girl dress for a wedding in October. If she doesn't grow another inch or so, might have to shorten that sash!

2010: 06/15
You know, if the lines had been this thick when I was a kid, I might have been able to color in the lines too!

2010: 06/14

Monster robot dinosaur face. 2010: 06/13

We emptied the pool to clean it and Mari was in charge of refilling it....I think she did a little more playing than was necessary but she had fun. 2010: 06/12

Not the cutest picture of the day but it's rare to have a picture of the two of us together, so here you go. We went to the library for the big summer reading program kickoff. A visit from the Norfolk Aquarium fish truck, crafts, face painting. Very hot and humid on asphalt....we were wilted by the time we were done.
2010: 06/11
BIG hair!
I would like to thank Blogger for being absolutely IMPOSSIBLE with formatting tonight. ARGH!!

Stories from the Carseat

On the way to school this morning:

"Once upon a time, two cows stepped in a muddy mud puddle but they didn’t get all muddy. So they decided to go for a walk. Then they met the Big Bad Wolf. They was scared of the Big Bad Wolf so they called the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs came over and said “RAAAAHR!” but the Big Bad Wolf didn’t scare ‘way. So the dinosaurs called the lions and they said “RAAAAHR!” to the Wolf. The Big Bad Wolf went away. The cows was happy. The dinosaurs and the lions played together, they not scary to each other. Nope, they’re not."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Breaking Point - okay, not quite yet.

I mentioned in my last post that the behavior around our house has been less than admirable. It has been blatant defiance, horrible temper tantrums (not like her usual ones, these have been crazy bad), resisting as everything I say to the point of peeing her pants in front of me rather than listen to me and go potty (she's been fully potty-trained for over a year). It's been a nightmare and as a single mom, I've been on the edge of collapse for a couple weeks. It's been really hard to handle.

But, it's a two-way street. I’m not at all happy with the way my child is behaving but it’s hard to fault her when she is feeding off of and into my reactions. Mari is extremely smart and intuitive…she knows which buttons to push and just how far to push. Unfortunately, the realization of the fact that I’m “being played” by my child does nothing to ease my frustration or impatience. Part of the frustration is the fact that, because of Mari’s intelligence, I often set the bar too high for her…yes, I expect her to do the things I know she is capable of but I forget sometimes that a 3-yr-old gets so distracted and that Mari, in particular, is extremely sensitive to situations that are sensory overwhelming. Just because she could completely dress herself yesterday, does not mean she has the focus or energy to do it today. We are working together to find a happy understanding of each other.

I’m reading Raising the Spirited Child (AMAZING!!) and, while I could spend an entire post on what I’ve gotten out of this book, there is one profound thing that I’ve learned. This is the definition of introverts and extroverts. I’m very much an introvert - introverts are not necessarily shy, but we are people that need to regroup and refuel our energy by having downtime and alone time. Extroverts are people that need stimulation and people to refuel them - perfect definition of Mari. One of the hardest things to read was that an introverted parent of an extroverted child will have an extremely hard time meeting their child’s energy needs. That hurts. But it’s true. I’d rather spend my evenings and weekends just hanging out at home doing whatever and Mari, while not able to handle a large number of activities, cannot stand to be one-on-one with Mommy for that length of time. It is somewhat of a relief to realize that this is not a slam to me, it is the simple fact that Mari needs interactions and other people to help her refuel. This is why sometimes just calling Grandma to say Hi can put her in a better mood instantly.

So we are learning. Another thing I’ve learned is that, while you try to give kids choices, there are some thing that they do not have a choice about. And it’s okay to tell them to do it. And you don’t have to say please. Huh? Yup. For an intuitive kid, adding “please” to the end of a command is the same as adding a question mark. And it’s true….anytime I say please, she tells me no. So I’ve stopped. Or tried to. I say it a lot! (Lest you think I’m teaching my child to be rude, I’m not. We still say please and thank you for everything else except those things that she does not get a choice about). Try it once...say "Come to the table, please." vs "Come to the table." It's so much easier to wallow out of the first one.

Another thing is the positive reinforcement. It goes a LONG way. Duh! No brainer. But I was struggling because it seemed like every time I praised Mari, she’d turn right around and act up. It drove me crazy. I’ve now learned that because of her level of distractibility, even something as simple as “I like the way you are doing that” can distract her enough that she gets off track and can’t get herself back together. So praise is abundant but my timing is better.

So after our bad week last week, I've made a promise to myself that I would change myself to accomodate Mari. Hopefully just changing my expectations and reactions will help her settle back down to a secure place.

We got to put it to practice tonight - with one fight (big decrease and it was short!).

As I was fixing supper, Mari was playing with her toys…I gave her a 3 minute warning for supper, a 2 minute warning for supper, then a 1 minute warning for supper. Obviously, at this age, time is subjective but she needs the count down. Each time I warned her, she happily said OK. When it was time for supper, she started for the table and immediately yelled “But I want JUICE.” I calmly replied “It’s suppertime, you drink milk with supper.” So she changed her tune “I want a RED cup.” (Nevermind the milk was in her favorite blue cup.) I looked her in the eye and said “Mari, it is suppertime, come to the table.”

Next, she threw herself on the floor screaming, kicking, thrashing, wailing “No, I won’t. I want a red cup. I don’t want supper. I want a red cup.” I sat down and started eating, totally ignoring her. Unfortunately, ignoring doesn’t work too well when she’s screaming that loud. When she stopped for a breath, I told her she had a choice of coming to the table or going to her room while I ate and that she had to the count of 3 to make the decision. If she didn’t choose, then I would get to choose and I would choose to have her come to the table. So I counted to 3 and asked her for her decision. She turned her back on me and humpfed. I picked her up and carried her to the table explaining that since she didn’t choose, then I chose for her to come to the table. Of course, this led to screaming, hitting, not sitting down, trying to knock her food off the table, etc. So I carried her to her room and attempted to leave her there. She, of course, tried to run out the door but I was able to make it out and shut the door. She screamed bloody murder and I went back to my dinner, trying to keep myself together. She screamed for about 2 minutes and then the door comes flying open and I can see out of my peripheral vision that she is watching me eat. So I talk to the cat about how yummy my food is. Then she comes out of her room, grumping, attempting to knock over her mailbox. I look her in the eye and say “if you are coming out of your room, you will come to the table.” Hesitation. Evil eye. Shoulder shrug. “Okay, Mommy.”

In seat at table. “I want a RED cup.” “Well, Mari. Tonight you are drinking out of a blue cup. If you want a red cup, you may have one tomorrow for supper but you must sit in your seat at the table and ask nicely or Mommy will not be able to hear you.”

And we had a very pleasant evening. 10 minute fight. Mommy seething inside but never showing it. Mari acting like a terror but making the choice herself to cooperate.

Can we keep this up? I hope I have the energy.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Week 23 of 52

Yet another week down. I think this one has been, by far, the worst one we've ever had behavior-wise. Mari has not been a fun person to be around and my patience has been short - not a good combination. She has tested me in every way possible and pushed me to my limit...but we've come out the other side with our heads above water. There are a lot of things around the house that have been left undone, yard is a mess, projects unfinished....but these things will keep. The latter part of the week has been better and I think things will be back to normal soon (well, as normal as we get around here!).

2010: 06/10
Mari is finally adept enough with the mouse to play her LeapFrog games semi-solo.
Here she is concentrating on kicking pies with the Backyardigans.
2010: 06/09
Yet another letter set done!! We only have 5 letters left to go (QVWXZ) - and those are the letters they been working on most lately since it's the end of the school year!
2010: 06/08
Practicing tracing lines.
I bought some tracing books in KY at a teacher supply store - Mari loves them and it is helping her with writing her letters better.
(Is it me or does she look really old in this picture?)
2010: 06/07
Mari helped me cook dinner - I gave her an ear of corn to shuck but didn't tell her what it was...just told her to unwrap it.
She was pretty excited when she finally got through the layers.
"Mommy, there's a corn in here!!"
2010: 06/06
Mari just being Mari.
2010: 06/05
My niece Madi turned 3 and all the cousins had a blast celebrating with her. I love how all three girls play together so well.
2010: 06/04
We got our little pool filled up and ready for summer....Mari got in even before the hose had finished filling it. It was FREEZING! That didn't stop her from trying to get Mommy all wet!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Week 22 of 52

Another week done. It's been a busy, exhausting one for us. We travelled to KY to visit relatives on Friday and returned on Monday. It was a weekend of shortened naps, late bedtimes, fun fun fun, heat heat heat, and long car rides. Luckily, Mari is a super-duper awesome traveller.
(Again, these are in backwards order, most recent to the oldest)

2010: 06/03
Mari wanted to do "projects" with me. Here she is making Donald Duck a keychain.
2010: 06/02
Mari got a little hot. Can't imagine it would have anything to do with the sheet, microfleece blanket, the heavy fleece Sesame blanket, the microfleece Mickey blanket, or the double-layered fleece "baby" blanket that she insists on sleeping with.
2010: 06/01
Mari's first "big girl" taco. We usually do soft ones, rolled and sliced. The look on her face is not from the taste....it's from the difficulty eating it. After a few tries, she decided it would taste better if she broke it all up and used a fork.....created her own taco salad with no prompting from the Mommy corner!
2010: 05/31
Mari concentrating very hard on tracing her letters.
I'm not really sure why she likes ripping her shirt off all the time but whatev....
2010: 05/30
My awesome grandparents and their kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.
2010: 05/29
You can't really tell this is our cousin Brendan but it's an awesome picture. The kids had a blast playing in the water slide on a very hot day.
2010: 05/28
Mari with her grandma and great-grandma.

So that's our week. Have several other posts in the works to get up but been feeling yucky the last few days, so I've been slacking on my "projects" - hopefully soon, I'll get back on track.