24 May 2010

People Skillz

Well, Eamon may be a bit slow on the talking front, but he's off the charts in another area: his social skills.

Eamon stays with my mother and father each day. This has caused some concern among friends and family: should he be in daycare in order to become more socialized? That being said, he goes to the park almost every day with my parents, where he interacts with other children of stay-at-home parents or grandparents, and they also take him to a place called My Gym twice a week, once for a class and once for free play. During his class, he and a bunch of other toddlers learn new phyiscal activities (somersaults! and other things!) and during free play he interacts with kids both younger and older than he is (anywhere from 7 months to 4 years, I think). Meanwhile, Eamon has never been shy. He takes after Aaron in this respect, in that Eamon has never really met a stranger.
But his true people skills were showcased this weekend at a birthday party. The party was for a two year old that we know through Aaron's work. Eamon and I went and Aaron (who had to work) joined us after we had been there about an hour.

There were lots of kids there. Most of them were about two, and most of them were boys. They were running around and screaming, tumbling and wrestling, as boys are wont to do. At first, Eamon just sort of stared, keeping off to the sidelines with the parents. Adults, he knew how to handle. Adults are EASY for Eamon. All he has to do is flash that charming smile, and he wins hearts left and right (on a side note, all the adults thought he was at least 2 years old since he's so darn tall, and he was indeed as tall as or taller than many of the two year olds)

After about 20 minutes, he was ready to tackle the Kids (but not literally). He carefully waded into the fray and started playing with some of the toys (and by play, I mean sticking them in his mouth). He's still not really old enough to play "with" others, but engaged in plenty of parallel play.

The problem started, however, when he saw the Elmo Phone.

He wanted that Elmo Phone.

He coveted that Elmo Phone.

Every fiber of his being craved that Elmo Phone.

And someone else was playing with the Elmo Phone.

What to do? What to do?

At first, Eamon went for the straight-forward approach. He wanted the Elmo Phone, so he reached out to take it from the two year old who was playing with it. I was right there, of course, and told Eamon, "No, baby, he's playing with that toy right now. You can't have it."

This perplexed Eamon. At his house and his grandmother's house, he is the only child and has no concept of someone else wanting to play with the toys (we try to emphasize that they are not "his" toys, just "toys"). He didn't really understand, so he reached out again, and got the same response from me. "No, Eamon, that little boy is playing with the Elmo Phone. You have to pick another toy."

Eamon tried a couple more time to take the phone, and was consistently told the same thing. His biggest reaction was a simple sigh of frustration. Finally, he walked off and grabbed another toy. "Good," I thought, "he's figured it out."

Oh, Eamon had figured it out all right. He took his new toy up to the boy with the Elmo Phone, and waved the new toy in front of the kid. Being a kid, the little boy immediately grabbed it. Eamon then grabbed the Elmo Phone.

Well, this left everyone a bit befuddled. The other boy was trying to figure out how he had lost the phone, and whether he should even be angry, since here he had a new toy in his hands. The boy's mother and I were both trying to figure out whether we should intervene, since Eamon had taken the phone--but without the other child being upset, we couldn't see why we should say anything. Eamon was the only one who wasn't a bit confused. He had done exactly as I said--if each person can only play with one toy, and each toy can only be played with by one person, then he simply had to replace the other child's toy in order to get what he wanted.

Eventually, Eamon was distracted (I think by the lure of the chicken fingers) and dropped the Elmo Phone and wandered away. Two more times, another child picked up the phone and started playing with it. As soon as Eamon noticed, he proceeded to do the exact same thing--run over, pick up a comparable toy, hand it to the other child, and then reclaim his phone. At no point did any of the other children get angry with him, and yet he got exactly what he wanted each time.

Once again, we resolve to make sure to teach Eamon how to use his skills for good. Otherwise, we're really going to be in for it.

22 May 2010

Long Time No See (It Seems, Anyway)

This is a strangely flat hippo creature that Aaron has named "Flat-o-pottamus." Aaron apparently put it on his own head, and then Eamon thought that was hysterical and walked around with it on his own head for about 20 minutes afterwards. Don't say our child doesn't have a sophisticated sense of humor.

This week, I saw Eamon for maybe a total of 2 hours. MAYBE. I really only saw him in the mornings, because every night I had class until 8PM, and Eamon goes to bed at 7:00. Moreover, Aaron had to work late twice this week, which meant that Monday and Wednesday night Eamon stayed overnight at my parents' house, and I didn't even see him the next morning.
It was just a week. Not that big a deal, right?
Except that it is. It was.
You might not think that anyone changes that much in week, but he did. When I finally had some time to spend with him on Friday evening (class got done early, so I had about 20 minutes), he was different. He was definitely taller, for one thing--even my mom said that this week he could suddenly reach things on countertops that he'd never been able to reach before.
And he suddenly looked...well, a lot like a little boy. Not so much like a baby. Not at all like a baby, really.
And there was something else different in his eyes. That recognition of understanding. I suddenly realized that I really couldn't just say anything in front of him anymore, because he really does understand about 95% of what I say. Last week, it was maybe 75%.
With his Oma's help, Eamon even took his first picture. Hi, Daddy!
And what else changed?
He decided to start talking. Not sentences yet, but he's saying more words now. For awhile, he only said "Mama" and "Eamon" and "Uh oh." Then he stopped saying even those, and then he stopped even making syllables. He still understood a lot that we said to him, and his sign language vocabularly included about 30 words, but still. No speech. Or even an attempt. After a month of this regression, I finally insisted that we take him to the doctor.
Our pediatrician was unconcerned. From his brief visit with Eamon, he concluded that Eamon was just that type of guy who has to be in control, and he wouldn't do "baby talk" because it wasn't quite right. He would talk when he was ready.
I wasn't convinced. But you know what happened, don't you?
Not a day after we took him to the doctor, Eamon started making all those sounds again. And then he started using words. When you show him a picture of himself, he used to say some version of his own name ("Eh-ma"). This week, he would proudly declare, "ME!" When I called my mom, I could hear him in the background shouting, "MY MAMA!" Then yesterday, he was watching Sesame Street and said clearly, "Grover!" Today, he and Aaron were watching the Grover video "Monster in the Mirror" on YouTube, and Eamon announced, "Wubba! Wubba!"
I was really only around to witness the last one.
And you know what? The pediatrician was right. None of these words are coming out like baby talk. They all sound like perfectly formed words, as if he's been saying them his whole life.
I hate missing these moments. I mean, I miss a lot anyway because I work full time, but going to class every night is really difficult. I know that it's only three weeks, and that I'll be done with all my coursework soon, but it's still very difficult. A week shouldn't be that long, but in Toddler Time, it can be a lifetime.

16 May 2010

Random Thoughts on Eamon Wolfe

1) Kids like to say “no” even when they don’t mean it. The other day we took Eamon to the doctor’s office to have his frenulum looked at and prodded (you know, that bit of skin that attaches your tongue to the bottom of your mouth). The nurse kept trying to get Eamon to stick out his tongue, and he started shaking his head back and forth—the first time he has ever learned to say “no.” Now he’s doing it all the time, whether he means it or not. In fact, any statement that starts with “Do you…” earns a furious headshake. I even asked him this morning, “Do you know your name is Eamon?” and he shook his head no, no, no. Whatever, kiddo. I guess this means the Terrible Twos are officially starting, though.

For the record, Eamon said "no" to every piece of food on his plate this day, but once I put them on there, ate most of it anyway.

2) Eamon might just be the world’s answer to pollution. When you take him to a park, he’s far more concerned with picking up and disposing of trash than he is playing. He instinctively seems to know what is trash and what is not, though I don’t think we’ve ever officially taught him. It’s not just at the park, either. This morning, I accidentally left a stack of paper napkins on the table, which Eamon managed to reach. He threw them in the air in a rain of paper towels over and over, squealing excitedly the whole time. I ran to get the camera, but by the time I came back, fun-time was apparently over and he was seriously picking up each individual napkin and putting it in the trash because it was some sort of toddler self-induced clean-up time. Again I ask you, internet: where on Earth did this child come from?

Sometimes I think he makes the messes just so that he can enjoy the fun of cleaning them up afterwards.

Someone had the audacity to leave a plastic bottle at the park (yes, we sanitize his hands afterwards).

3) I am not actually Super Mom, after all. At some point, I got it into my head that it wouldn’t be THAT difficult to get my doctorate while working full time and having a child running around the house. And it’s not even the exhaustion, the lack of sleep, the high stress levels, or the total absence of “Me Time” that really bother me: it’s those days when I HAVE to do work, and I don’t get to see Eamon much. Aaron is great and wonderful and supportive and takes Eamon out all these wonderful places so that I can do work, but the thing that really gets me? It’s thinking, “Wow. Eamon had a fantastic day and learned new things and experienced life, and I wasn’t there.” And then I start to think about how he only gets one childhood and I’m missing it and I start to get really miserable but then I remember that I have another paper to read and there really isn’t time to be self-indulgently miserable, and anyway, it’s just one.more.year (two if you count my dissertation). Okay, moving on from this topic…

At some point, Aaron got Eamon to actually play at the park, and not just clean up others' trash...

4) JUST KIDDING! On the SAME topic: the blog might not have much written for the next three weeks, unless Aaron decides to write something after all. I’m starting a three week class that meets every Monday-Thursday from 4:30-8:00, and then taking another class that meets Friday afternoons. It sounds miserable, and I fully expect that it will be, but at least it’s an entire course finished in 3 weeks, and by June 5 the worst of the summer classes will be over. And Eamon, well, will hopefully remember his mother after that.

See you June 5, Eamon! I love you!

13 May 2010

The Genetic Code

Interesting news: Eamon Wolfe has a mini-farmer’s tan. Why is this interesting? It means that he certainly doesn’t take after the Wolfe or Meredith sides of the family (Aaron’s), and really not even the McCormack (my father).

Aaron and I, on the other hand, cannot tan without work. Aaron is different than his parents and sister in that his skin will darken, but he has to put some effort into it (such as being a lifeguard and sitting under the sun all day, like he did when he was a teenager). I also have to work to tan, and will burn if I’m not careful (which is why I never bother). We both, however, are pretty naturally fair-skinned otherwise. As children, Aaron and I both had blonde hair (he was actually a tow-head), and Aaron had the bright blue eyes to go with it. We’re good examples of our English/Irish (and in Aaron’s case, Danish) roots.

Eamon? He’s different. His hair (and oh my gosh, he has so much hair) just isn’t turning blonde like we all expected. It’s brown. It’s always been brown. It’s gotten lighter since the black hair of his birth, and is showing some slightly blondish streaks now that he’s out in the sun at the park, but it’s still brown. Firmly brown.

And his eyes? They’re brown, too. They started bluish, like Aaron’s, but get darker all the time. They’re almost as dark as mine, now.

He’s different in the way that he grows, too. I was always tall as a child, usually around the 90th percentile…but my weight was always up in the 90th percentile, too (okay, I’ll be honest—it was actually around the 95th percentile). Aaron was usually right around the 50th percentile for height, though he was always pretty slim as a child.

Eamon, on the other hand, is at about the 90th percentile for height…and about the 35th percentile for weight. Every day, he looks more and more like a long noodle of a toddler. He eats a ton of food, but he’s very active, and well, slender. That’s just Eamon.

So here we have this little 16 month old with dark hair, dark eyes, the start of a tan despite being constantly slathered in sunblock, who is taller than most 2 year olds. He looks nothing like his red-headed cousins or his Irish name, and doesn’t have the growth patterns of either his mother or his father.

So, where did Eamon come from?

Well, we have a few theories.

Theory 1: Eamon's great-grandmother, Aaron's Grandma Meredith, had dark hair when younger. So that's a possibility.
Theory 2: Eamon's other great-grandmother, my Grandma McCormack, also had very dark hair when she was young.

But get a load of Theory 3: My mother was adopted. For years, we were unsure of the identity of her father, but recently unearthed pictures suggest that he was a tall, slender man who was ¼ American Indian—with dark hair, dark eyes, and suntanned skin.

Well, whichever theory is correct, all we know is that Eamon Wolfe has managed to choose characteristics that come from awhile back down the genetic code, and the way that he has put them all together is uniquely him.

03 May 2010

Tips from a Toddler #47: How to Scare Your Parents

Hey, would you like to see if I can eat this acorn without getting it stuck in my airway? Would that be something exciting to do?

Every now and then, Eamon likes to give us a good scare. It started when he was still just a wee fetus, with the placenta previa, which can be a difficult condition leading to months of bedrest, early labor, and difficulties during delivery. So we worried and we fretted, and a month or two later the placenta moved into the right place and everything was fine, crisis avoided.

Then suddenly, there was the question of gestational diabetes. Eamon was a huge fetus, and I was having trouble with sugar. I failed my first glucose test, so then I had to sit through the three hour version, which I almost failed, too, except at the last minute my body decided to metabolize the sugar after all. More ultrasounds also revealed that Eamon wasn't growing quite as fast, so the doctors just told me to watch my sugar intake and godspeed.

Fast forward to Eamon’s birth. During the contractions, the heartbeat always slows, but Eamon’s kept taking forever to get back up to speed. We didn’t quite end up in emergency c-section territory, but it was close. The neonatologist was called in, and everyone was once again worried, but Eamon pulled through just fine, had healthy Apgars, and was great.

Until the jaundice set in, of course. The hematomas on his head (from being vacuumed out at birth) combined with the circumcision, made him so sleepy that he wouldn’t eat, and because he wouldn’t eat, he couldn’t get rid of the billyrubin in his system, so he turned all yellow. The pediatrician told us to watch him, but the day after we were released (which was of course New Years Day, so nothing was open but the ER), he was even yellower so we took him to get his blood drawn. His levels were high, they said, but not quite ER levels, so we gave him some formula to get him awake enough to eat, and then my milk came in, and then we were fine again…

And then last summer, Eamon got a terrible virus that just sort of laid him out for days. We took him to the doctor and he just acted so listless that even the doctor was worried, and we ran all these tests, but he was fine after a few days (and the antibiotics only made him sicker).

So, really, Eamon just likes to scare us. I’m glad, of course, that nothing serious has even happened, but even so, the kid likes to get our blood pressure up some. But I don’t think anything prepared us for the latest round of Freak-the-Folks.
Mmm. Fake mustard.

A couple of weeks ago, we put Eamon to sleep around 6:30 PM. He had been teething and therefore napped only fitfully during the day. He had skipped his afternoon nap altogether, and was exhausted, so he went to bed a half hour earlier than normal. Eamon went down without a fight, happy to finally be able to get some rest.

I also went to bed early at about 8:00. At 8:25, I heard Aaron rushing upstairs, and then I heard what had brought him up: the shrieking. The blood-curdling shrieking from our baby.

I have never heard that scream before. I’ve heard angry, I’ve heard sad, I’ve heard annoyed, but never that scream. It sounded like he was being tortured. Aaron picked him up, and Eamon didn’t even seem to know his father. He just kept shrieking and shrieking.

Was he hot? He was certainly sweating enough. We unzipped his sleeper. It made no difference.

We searched him for hairs that might have been caught around his toes or other, ah, delicate areas. There was nothing. We took his temperature: 97.2. Perfectly fine, but his heart was beating like the wings of a hummingbird. He was still screaming.

Worse, his eyes wouldn’t focus. We tried to put his pacifier in his mouth, and he just screamed more and just let it fall from his lips. Our baby NEVER willingly gives up his pacifier. He held himself rigid and kept having spasms. Nothing would comfort him, and he just kept shrieking.

I finally broke down and called my mother. She used to be a pediatric nurse practitioner, and I knew she would tell me if we needed to go to the ER. My dad answered the phone and said she was sleeping. I told him to wake her up. I tried to explain what was happening, but I couldn’t explain it very well over the phone. I told her that he was breathing fine, but he wouldn’t stop screaming. She said she would come over (they live about 10 minutes away).

Meanwhile, we took Eamon downstairs. His screams were starting, finally, to mellow to just pathetic mews. His eyes still wouldn’t focus, but he would take the pacifier. We turned on Sesame Street and I held him on my lap as he whimpered. At one point, he tried to get off my lap and walk, and promptly fell over. He had no sense of balance and was running into things. The pacifier kept falling from his mouth. He seemed to be over his screaming but would still screw up his face occasionally and start to cry for a couple of seconds. We tried to keep him on our laps so that he wouldn’t fall and hurt himself.

I admit: I was starting to lose it. He must have done something, hit his head, or maybe something just snapped in his brain. I was starting to panic, that this was it—the smart, funny, wonderful Eamon that I knew was gone, because of course it was all too good to be true, to have such a fantastic baby who hardly ever gets sick, but of course we would still love him no matter what, and…

My mom and dad finally showed up (I know they rushed, but 15 minutes can seem like forever when you’re scared that your child has had some sort of weird brain injury in his sleep). It’s possible that I might have panicked enough to call our health insurance and see if we could take him to the ER, and by the time I got off the phone with them and went back into the den, Eamon was giggling and smiling at my parents. He was still a bit wobbly, but had somehow managed to turn on a sign language video and was happily sitting on my father’s lap to watch it. He wanted to play with his toys, and he wanted his pacifier, and well, he was fine.

Outside! Dog! I love life!

“Night terrors,” my mom said after she checked in his ears to make sure they weren’t the culprits behind the strange balance. “You used to get them sometimes. He’s fine. The reason he didn’t recognize you or Aaron when you first picked him up was because he was still asleep. That’s why he wouldn’t take his pacifier. And that’s why he had no balance. It’s kind of like sleepwalking. His eyes were open, but no one was home. He’s fine now, and there’s no lasting effect.”

Okay, so it took awhile to convince me that he was fine. But he was. Taking him to the ER would have been silly because they just would have kept him up later and run tests that probably would have revealed nothing…and then the doctors would have told us that he just had night terrors.

I sit in this chair because I am a big boy. So there.

Sure enough, I looked up night terrors later. They’re different than nightmares, which occur during REM sleep, and which the child remembers and can wake up from. They usually happen 90-120 minutes after the child goes to sleep, when the brain is moving from deep non-REM sleep to REM sleep. Something sort of goes wrong in the transition, and the child has intense “terrors” that often involve screaming, confusion, sweating, rapid heart rate, and inability to fully awake. The eyes often open, but the kid is still sound-asleep. You actually shouldn’t try to comfort or awaken the child, because it can frighten them more. You’re just supposed to watch them and make sure they don’t hurt themselves in their terror.

The terror usually goes away after 20-30 minutes, and if left in the bed or crib, the child never fully awakens and just passes into REM sleep. The child never remembers the incident in the morning, because he was never fully awake. Most kids outgrow them between the ages of between the ages of 5 and 7. Night terrors usually happen when a child is overtired or normal sleep patterns have been disrupted. Even so, only a few kids get them (boys more frequently), and usually not until about 18 months of age (Hooray! He’s unique! And advanced! Sigh.)

A cart! I can push it! And put things in it! And take things out of it! Could there BE a more perfect toy?

So yeah, that’s what happened. It was almost textbook. Unfortunately, once a child has one episode of night terrors, they’re likely to get them more frequently. Therefore, it’s important that we try to keep Eamon on his schedule to the very best of our abilities. Our sleep schedule was always pretty strict, but now it has to be almost sacred.

Because even though a couple of weeks later, Eamon is absolutely fine, hasn’t had any more incidents, and has no memory of the event (other than that he got to get up and watch Elmo), those night terrors—they’re pretty terrifying for the parents.
What will I think of next? Hee hee...