Monday, September 26, 2011

noah chronicles. 3

Looking back, I often wonder how I got through that next year. Most nights, I would fall into bed completely drained. If I did have any energy left, I usually spent it crying. Noah's voyage into the waters of independence was a tumultuous one, to say the least.

It seemed that e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. became a battle. I came to expect at least 3 tantrums a day. And for each tantrum to last at least an hour. And I came to know that I usually would have no idea what would provoke each new tantrum. More often than not, it would be in response to a "no". Often, the reason would be fathomless.

My motto in those days became: Not everything is worth fighting over. But, when I do pick a fight--I must win. There is no option. Ah, and this was said to Noah countless times a day: You will never get anything good from a tantrum.

And so it was that I found myself time and time again struggling to control an out-of-control child around my ever-expanding belly. Noah has always been big for his age, and that made this battle for control even more exhausting.

I can't even tell you how many of our walks to the park were turned around halfway because of a tantrum--me struggling to carry this lanky child back up the hill to our apartment, holding his arms and legs as still as possible, cars slowing to watch the spectacle. Then, huffing up the flights of stairs to the 3rd floor where we lived so I could put him in his room for a time out. Me calming myself so I could deal with the issue in as clear a mind as possible, me willing myself to really forgive Noah--even though I could be pretty sure this scenario would repeat itself in another hour or so.

When Noah would go into his tantrums, I often say it was like he would go out of his body. Threatening didn't work. Punishing didn't work. Cajoling didn't work. It seemed that every couple of months, "what would work" might be something a little different--but usually I would just have to put him in his room and let him "do his thing" until he could come out and apologize. Then, I would glue on a big clown smile and a "I really believe you" expression and we'd go back to doing "happy things".

One afternoon, Rey, Noah and I were out on our patio enjoying the afternoon. I don't remember what inspired it--but Noah went into a tantrum after I asked him to say "sorry" for something. He began screaming and hitting me, hitting his head against the wall. I sat in front of him, restraining him as best as I could and just waited. When he'd quiet down, I'd repeat the request for an apology and he'd go back into his raging fit. This went on for probably 30 minutes, until he said he was sorry. We began playing together with a ball, and then he began getting angry again. I reminded him that I would not play with him when he acted this way--and we had another 30 minute session. When that one was over, we went back to playing with the ball. The same thing happened again. Another 30 minute session. Finally, I said to Rey that maybe he was in some way enjoying the attention, so maybe we should try just completely ignoring him if he began acting badly again. Sure enough, in about 5 minutes, Noah was screaming again. Rey and I walked away from him and sat with our backs to him. This precious 18-month-old laid, face-down, on that cement patio and screamed, and kicked and slobbered all over the ground for over 30 minutes. Until, actually, he fell completely asleep.

Noah continued to exhibit highly anti-social behavior, and it in fact seemed to somewhat intensify. Even if we were out on a walk and Noah would see someone coming towards us from a distance of 100-some feet, he would hide behind me and refuse to move until that person had passed us. In the store, he would hide his face if someone looked our direction. He decided that church was a place he did not want to go. So, when we'd turn on to the street the church was located on, he'd begin screaming and banging his head. "No, no, nooo!" We'd get him out of the car, and he'd throw himself down onto the sidewalk, "Nooooo!" I'd drag him screaming inside and down to the bathrooms until I could convince him we were staying and that was that. He'd then refuse to be anywhere but held by Rey or myself.

Another afternoon, when I was 9 months pregnant, we were walking into the wedding ceremony of some of our best friends there in Fresnillo. On the way from the car to the building, Noah spotted a dog on the other side of the road that he decided he wanted. Now, if you've seen dogs in Mexico, you know you don't really go touching the ones wandering in the street. Also, we were teaching Noah that he couldn't have whatever he wanted. So, we said "no". It probably took us over a half-hour to advance the remaining 30 feet to the front door. Noah would begin kicking and screaming and hitting, and I would sit him down on the sidewalk, back against the wall, and tell him we would not move until he stopped screaming. We'd advance two more steps and do the same thing over again. Needless to say, we were all exhausted by the time we walked into the wedding ceremony.

In the midst of tantrums, I'd often talk to Noah in the lowest, calmest voice I could, saying: "Noah, right now this strong will of your is horrible. But, we are going to keep working with you, and one day, God is going to take this strong will and use it for His glory!" It helped to give me perspective and hope. Which, most days--I needed more than anything.

The idea of going anywhere with Noah was terrifying. I would lay awake nights, balancing out in my head if it was feasible and what my exit options might be. How could I make the outing work? I would try to coordinate the moon and stars--and inevitably end up at whichever outing with a convulsing, screaming child and an apologetic look on my face. Oh, yes. And about 5 people asking me why he was doing that? And then, usually, telling me how if I'd only ____, he'd stop.

That was, perhaps, the most difficult part of being Noah's mom in Mexico. The "helpful" parenting tips. Oh, he's screaming? Here's a sucker. Why don't you want him to have a sucker? Oh, you are so harsh. What? He doesn't like people? Ah, that's your fault for not socializing him more. You should put him in daycare.

When I was in labor with Aleni, Noah was so enfuriated with me that I was not carrying him around that he followed me around the house screaming and kicking my shins.

Of course, with Aleni's birth--things got more interesting. Now, an outing--to, let's say, the store-- would end this way: Noah screaming out of control for some reason. Me saying, "That's it, you're out" while strapping his screaming, kicking self into the carseat. And then Aleni. And, then driving home with both of them screaming. Pulling up to our gated apartment, getting out, opening the gate, driving in, shutting the gate, parking, running Aleni up to the 3rd floor. Running back down to the car to get the by-now-covered-in-snot-spit-and-sweat Noah, carting his out-of-control self up to his room. Going through the whole discipline routine, shutting him in his room (still screaming), nursing Aleni, putting her down for a nap. Running back to the car, hoping the groceries weren't spoiled. Coming back up to find Noah kicking on Aleni's door and waking her with his screams. Do another discipline cycle. And then maybe put the groceries away.

Ahh. If only I would have socialized him more!

Presenting the handsomest 18-month-old I've ever seen:

His typical response to being held by almost anyone (He actually was doing
pretty good, and I said to Rey, "Hey, let me get this on camera!" By the
time to camera came out, he was doing this):

His obsession of the time: Rocks, rocks, and rocks.

Heart-stopping cuteness:

Just hanging out:

Part 4 here:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

the noah chronicles. 2

I have often wondered what things would have been like if Noah weren't the firstborn. If Aleni or some other baby had come first. A baby that slept easily, laughed constantly and eagerly interacted with new people. A baby that trusted and enjoyed life. Spontaneity.

As it was, my gift was Noah. And along with that gift came a long string of reproachful glances, mothers who knew better, and an overall dissaproval of how I was doing things.

Before Noah, I had thought that babies were born into families as blank slates--and they became whatever their parents molded them into be. I hadn't known that kids are who they are from the minute they emerge into the world. That for all the correct molding, parenting in the world--some kids just won't be the kind that are happy, gentle and well-behaved. At least not without a fight.

Going anywhere with Noah became a terrifying prospect to me. Noah was happier when he was barefoot, and living in the furnace we were living, that was easy to oblige. But, I'd arrive to church with a wailing babe in my arms--and a big-bosomed woman would click her tongue and say, "Poor thing! Put socks on him! He is freezing!" Heart pounding, I'd pull socks on him and continue my way to my seat. Minutes later, a different mother of mothers would come by my still-wailing infant and say, "Oh, poor baby. Can't you see he's hot? He'll be so much more comfortable without his socks!"

I'd go to visit the neighbor and we'd chat over Noah's sounds of anguish. She'd shake her head and ask me how much I was socializing him. "This is because you don't take him out enough" she'd say.

I was nursing him, and people would say that sugar water was better, he obviously was still hungry.

We'd go hang out at Rey's family's place on the weekends, and I'd hear whispering about how Noah was crying alot. And why wouldn't Liz just leave him here?

Combining the culture's habit of being very open with criticism with my sensitivity to criticism and with this being my first go at mothering... it was a pretty awful concoction. Through in there a heaping dose of sleep-deprivation and what was pretty much total isolation 5 days a week--I really question at times how I kept my head above water.

And that's what it was, really. Just paddling along in this ocean of unknowns, crushed dreams, criticism, and dissapointment. Keep breathing, keep moving. It's gotta get better one of these days. It's gotta. I really just felt numb for the longest time. Just surviving and pasting on a wobbly smile. Trying to care if someone snagged a nail, while I felt like I was in a pit with and couldn't see a ladder to pull us out.

I remember at 6 months, it felt like Noah turned a corner. At that time, he refused to nurse and he began drinking formula. He still didn't enjoy being in social contexts, but at least he wasn't wailing every waking minute. He began to appreciate little jokes and have actual times he was happy. He especially appreciated physical humor such as "peek-a-boo" or "gotcha!". I remember around this time thinking, "Ok! Maybe this could be fun..."

He also was happier the more mobile he became. I remember just looking at him in his earlier months and saying that he looked like an older baby trapped in an uncooperative body. He just seemed desperate to move. He fell in love with his baby walker and would scoot around in that.

When winter came around, I swapped out the cotton sheets he had in his crib for flannel sheets. He refused to sleep on them. Once I switched the sheets back to cotton, he fell right asleep.

He had a funny habit. Our front door stepped right out into a sunny patio. E.v.e.r.y. single time we stepped out the door into the sunlight with Noah, he would sneeze. It made us laugh that we could see, "And 1,2,3--" and on 3 he'd sneeze. Every time.

From the beginning, making any kinds of plans that involved leaving the house was hard with Noah. Really, trying to figure out "what worked" with him and what didn't was a frustration--because one day he'd love something and the next day it would send him into a frenzy.

He continued to be an extremely observant boy. For example, if I'd lay him down for a nap and then perhaps change the placement of some pictures on the livingroom wall--he'd zone in on that the moment I'd bring him back into that room. The keen attention to detail also made it difficult to do things outside of the house. It made it so I couldn't lay him down in someone else's crib, or that it wouldn't work for someone else to hold him even if they held him while facing him away from them so he wouldn't see them. He'd know and he wouldn't tolerate it.

My days of playing the violin at home halted with Noah's arrival too. He'd scream piercingly until I'd put the instrument away.

When Noah was 8 months old, we took him on the super long trip back to visit my family in central Illinois. Thankfully, by this time he was able to tolerate being in a car, but he still had issues with being strapped in a carseat. And he also virtually never would fall asleep in the car. So, it was an extremely long trip.

A month later, we drove back to Mexico and set up our home 9 hours away from where we had been. The cramped little house we'd been in was now replaced by a spacious 4 bedroom apartment with plenty of space for Noah to zip around in his walker. He loved this.

We actually really enjoyed those months at our new place. We now had English-speaking relatives living nearby us (he always seemed to feel more comfortable in an English-speaking environment) who doted on him. There was a park nearby where we would walk most afternoons. And, oh! The climate. Dry. Cool. Noah always would sweat prolifically where we lived before, so I think just being comfortable and sans mosquito bites did a lot for his disposition.

Oh, granted. He still had "his days", as we'd come to call them. It seemed if he woke up in a certain mood, that's how it was going to be for the rest of the day. He still didn't like to be poked, prodded or carried around by people he didn't know. He still liked to do things at his own pace and his own process.

The day we celebrated Noah's first birthday, we found out that Aleni was on the way!

Noah didn't get his walk on until about 15 months. And about a month after that is when the tantrums really got into full swing.

His happiest way to be...

He loves to make people laugh

Excited to be going out with daddy... and, yeah. This picture was just
because the hat stayed on for about a whole minute.

"What?! You don't take reading material along with you on
your daily stroll to the park? Lowly mortals..."

Hammin' it up.
Bathtime still a favorite.

...Along with reading with daddy.

Part 3 here:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

the noah chronicles. 1

"Remember Your children
Remember Your promise...

Your grace is enough for me."
-Chris Tomlin

As I crouched at Noah's feet this evening, swiping off the goopy mess on his behind and legs I thought, "This isn't fun anymore." And, in the exact same moment, heard myself and grimaced inwardly. When has this been fun?

The kids and I were at a small group at someone's home. Noah had come in from playing outside, and immediately I could smell what he'd done. I asked for some plastic bags from the hostess, corraled him and Aleni into the bathroom and comenced scrubbing. In the process, Noah's shirt also became soiled, so that had to come off, too.

Frustrations rose to a boiling as I processed how my boy should be completely potty trained by now. How he was completely potty trained about a month ago. And how he has been getting progressively more messy as the days go on. Why does he seem to learn something, and then unlearn something?

It's a pattern. I'm used to it. Which it's why it's hard for me to really get excited at one day's good behavior or seeming competancy. Because I've had a lot of "tomorrows" that find those skills completely missing.

Even in the womb, Noah showed his objection to noise and the vibration of a car ride. Car rides would leave me completly nausiated from his spastic moving. Loud church services, shouting preachers (and we were living in Mexico, so believe me--this was happening) would cause Noah to react so much that I felt my skin would be torn open.

The first days after birth, Noah was not a horrible screamer, but it seems like about from one week on--he decided he wasn't too thrilled about the world in general. My sister spent about 2 weeks with us right after Noah was born and offered to watch him so Rey and I could squeak out of the house for an hour or so. She reported that he cried nearly the entire time. He was already forming what would be his demand: mom only.

Noah was born at the end of May. At the time, we were living in the hottest, most humid place I have ever lived. It was scorching (like 105) during the day, and at night mosquitoes swarmed. I didn't have a car, so most of my days were spent jiggling Noah up and down as I walked in un-ending circles in the living room of our tiny 2-bedroom home.

Nearly any time I'd lay Noah down, he scream to the heavens. If I went to visit the neighbors, he'd scream pretty much the entire time. Heaven forbid that they should want to hold him. Rey's family would come over to visit, and Noah would not be thrilled by the attention.

Rey would arrive home from work and I'd thrust Noah into his arms. Why would anyone have more than one baby? I would moan as I rubbed my aching shoulder muscles.

I would try to take Noah on walks in the stroller on milder days. He would scream. From the time we left our front door, to the time we return. Didn't like the vibrating, I guess. The neighbors would freeze where they were--sweeping their porches, sharing the latest goessip--and stare.

Noah hated how the car sounded when it started up, screamed when it would pull away from the curb. From the first car ride, I would have to ride in the back seat with Noah. Talking, humming to him and trying to hold his car seat as steady as possible.

Church was overwhelming. It was the typical Mexican church in that it did not have air conditioning or heat. It did have ceiling fans on during the summer, though. Noah would cough and writhe when the air from the fans hit his face. So, I would try to position the cover of his seat in a way that would block the wind. Put a blanket over it. Of course, everyone would want to hold him. Of course, I wanted everyone to hold him. But, he would have none of it. When the music would start, Noah would go balistic. I spent church services out in the parking lot. Walking in circles and bouncing my baby.

He hated to be rocked. He hated his swing. He only wanted to be bounced up and down. He hated singing. He only quieted when I'd hum a rather singular, bouncing note. Over and over. And over. Until, magically. After an hour of this perhaps. His body would slacken, and he'd slip off to dream land.

Chances are, as I laid him down in his crib--he'd jerk awake. And the cycle would begin again. I'd be such a zombie in the middle of the night that I'd fall asleep nursing him. And then startle awake to find myself asleep in my bed. I'd panic. Had I just let Noah fall to the floor? What happened? I'd look and see Noah asleep in his crib. And have no recollection of putting him there.

He hated being swaddled. He hated shoes. He screamed uncosolably for 30 minutes once after I sneezed.

One rare day, I had a car while Rey was at work. I was so excited at the possibility of getting out of the house. I got Noah all ready to go. I gritted my teeth and endured the shrieks from the backseat as we drove to the biggest grocery store in town. At least he'll love walking around the store and looking at everything, I thought.

Wrong-o. I lifted his carseat into the shopping cart and started to push him around the store, slowly and with the carseat cover pulled back. When he began to scream, I pulled the cover up and pushed slower. In the end, I had to hold him against my shoulder, with a blanket over his face and head, as I pushed the cart out with my stomach. Didn't ever do that again.

He kept his fists so tightly balled in those first months, that blisters formed. Cutting his fingernails was nearly impossible, and his nails would often cut open the blisters, causing them to get infected.

When I'd make silly faces for Noah, he'd generally just raise an eyebrow, "Seriously, woman. And you think that's funny?"

One morning, I decided it was time to get my post-partum self back into exercising. Since taking walks with Noah wasn't happening, I pulled out an exercise video. I sat Noah in his carseat so he could watch me. The video began and I followed along with the warm-up stretches. As I reached my hands up to the ceiling, I turned to Noah with a big smile, "Hey, baby. Does momma look funny?" His face was the picture of utter terror. He opened his mouth and screamed as if the Hulk was after him.

From then on, I only exercised during his naptimes. Or (cough) not at all.

Ah, sleep. I can't even count the nights that Rey and I would sit out in the livingroom waiting for Noah to stop crying so we could go to sleep. It would be after we'd tried everything. The longest he cried was for nearly 2 hours straight.

If I put Noah on a blanket to play with toys, he never would. He'd usually work furiously at something in the blanket, and then proudly lift his objective: a single hair. He would focus so long on a beam of light on the ceiling that the smallest noise would startle him into a screaming frenzy.

One thing he liked: Lukewarm baths. And we normally did 2 a day. My way of staying sane. Another "sanity-saver" for me was deleting "unhappy pictures" of Noah. Pretty much all of my pictures I have are happy or to-die-for cute pictures from those days. On really bad days, I'd flip through those pictures to remind myself it wasn't always this bad.

And, gosh. He was so.stinkin.adorable.

A blessed moment of peace...

Beauty just days old...

We laughed ourselves silly at how surly a 3 month old could look...

Just hangin' out

Not lovin' the wedding scene, but putting up with it

Mommy-baby snuggles

Noah, red-eyed, after becoming hysterical during his baby dedication.

The typical look of extreme terror when a non-parent would hold him

Part 2 here: