Sunday, April 13, 2014

Toddler tantrums have me wanting to lose it


As a rule of thumb, I do not negotiate with terrorist.
It usually just leads to more trouble and they are not trustworthy enough to hold up their end of the bargain.
But then I had a kid and now that he’s been formally introduced to his independent streak, negotiations have become a major component to my day.
Back in 2008 B.C. (before children), I used to daydream about what parenthood would be. I would quit my job and home school them — because any children that I had were bound to be the next Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs — and their education could not be left to chance.
I would feed them only whole grains, organic greens and lean meats to ensure the best nutrition.
And I would never even think about spanking and would use my elevated reasoning and verbal skills to educate my young on the lessons of life.
Then I had a son and all that flew out the window.
Now I hear him say words that I really wish he didn’t know (thank, hubby), French fries are his favorite food and I do more convincing and enticing than a vice cop.
This is all because of the toddler tantrum, which can strike at any moment in any setting.
There are many shades of the tantrum: among them there’s the “I can’t get what I want” wail, there’s the “why did mom leave the room” rant and, my personal favorite, the “the sudden shriek for no reason.”
Usually I’m blessed with a decent “cool down” period, where the tantrums are spaced out a few hours, but then one recent morning, there were three in 45 minutes.
It started when I had the audacity to hand him his sippy cup rather than let him grab it (in my defense, he did not let me know his wishes pre-tantrum). And that was all it took for a five-minute screaming fit.
Ten minutes later, I was attempting to brush his teeth and he wouldn’t open his mouth. I tried motivating him with a treat, I tried asking very nicely, I tried the stern warning to comply — nothing worked. He hollered when I tried to overrule his stubbornness and kicked me as I tried to hold his chin still.
Then came time to get into the car, which I liken to trying to wrestle a piglet into a mud pen (complete with blood-curdling screams).
The only thing that prevents me from wanting to kill him is 10 minutes after the meltdown, he will do something that I’m convinced is the most adorable thing a child has ever done.
Yes, cuteness definitely is this child’s weapon of choice, and I think he’s winning the war.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at (616) 546-4278 or sarah.leach@hollandsentinel.com.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Everywhere I went, the lamb was sure to go


When I was a little girl, I had a little lamb and her fleece was as white as snow.
Her name was Lamby, and she lived at my grandma’s house. Whenever I visited, everywhere I went, Lamby was sure to go. She went to sleep with me and was my friend through countless adventures.
She was washed hundreds of times, and it wasn’t long before Lamby’s wool was more of a dingy yellow. She became matted and worn, but I didn’t care. Even when I was a teenager, grandma left Lamby on the bed all the grandchildren used and I found an amazing childlike comfort in having that familiar friend’s company one more time.
Grandma was pretty intuitive like that, sensing that a simple gesture such as preserving my favorite childhood toy, would bring me joy. It was that intuition that also led her to buy another lamb for my little one. Now, I appreciate every gift my friends and family gave for our baby shower — but this lamb was special.
I teared up at the sight of the bright white, soft fur. I looked at my grandma, who sat contently across the room. I went over to hug and kiss her, hoping that she knew how much this gesture had touched me. She wasn’t one to make too much of a fuss — where I like to fawn over and gush, grandma preferred a knowing look.
I knew the tradition of Lamby would go on.
But then something happened that I wasn’t counting on. My son didn’t have an interest. The lamb has been in his crib since he came home from the hospital — he’s now 2 — and still nothing. I occasionally would remind him that the lamb was there and offer it to him, but no nibbles. He’s more of a blanket guy.
It saddened me, but it’s something that you can’t force to happen.
Then one day last week, things changed.
I walked into his bedroom to get him up for the day and there he was, sucking on his blanket, holding the lamb tightly in his arms.
“Lamby,” he said, and my heart exploded with joy.
Lamby had to go to the changing table with him. Then she needed to be buckled with him in his car seat. He insisted on taking her into daycare and refused to let me take her out. He hasn’t even done that with his beloved blanket, named “Bob.”
It was a fantastic feeling, knowing that “Lamby” will live on. May her fur matt with memories and may she gracefully age into a dingy state of loveliness.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at (616) 546-4278 or sarah.leach@hollandsentinel.com.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A mighty voice is developing


I was getting my son ready for daycare the other day when I made a shocking discovery.
I rooted around in the shirt drawer of his dresser and pulled out one of my favorites.
“No,” came a little voice from the changing table.
I looked at him quizzically.
“No what, baby?” I asked.
“No blue shirt,” he replied.
I looked down at the garment in my hand. It was light blue with three raccoons on it and said “Little Rascal Gang.” It was just the cutest, but I guess this day it didn’t make the cut.
“OK, then,” I said. “What about the dinosaur shirt?”
“Dinonaurs,” he said.
I took a step toward him.
“No dinonaurs!” he wailed.
“Oh, OK,” I said. “What about trucks?”
“Trucks,” he said.
I was fairly certain we had a winner.
“No trucks!” he cried.
“You just picked this one!” I said, growing frustrated. “Why did you tell me you wanted this one when you didn’t want it?”
Then I realized I just asked a 14-word question of a 2-year-old. I might as well have asked him to solve a Rubik’s cube.
I opted to go back to my original choice. If he was going to fuss, he should look cute doing it.
Yes, my toddler recently discovered his independence, but he still doesn’t know what to do with it.
If I try to give him a bite off my plate, he cries because he didn’t get to lift the fork. When he throws the dog’s toy and our shepherd gives chase, he cries because now it’s “my ball.” When I bring up the laundry, no fewer than three crying fits occur — one when I abandon him to go to the basement, one when I bring up the basket and don’t allow him to dump the clothes everywhere and one when I want to put the clothes away and he doesn’t get to do it.
Then there’s the negotiation to get into the car in the morning, to come inside and not shovel the clean driveway when we get home and to get in — and then out of — the bathtub.
Yes, every day I have to put on my parenting helmet and weather the Terrible Two storms. At the same time, however, it’s amazing to see his personality develop, and I’m sure he’ll be an amazing, confident man — who will pick his own shirts like a boss.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at (616) 546-4278 or sarah.leach@hollandsentinel.com.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another month, another year, but hope springs eternal


It’s pretty much a universal human flaw that we don’t appreciate what we have. We always want more, and I’m no different.
This week, I turn 36 years old and it’s not a day I’m excited about.
I know what you’re thinking. Thirty-six isn’t that old, quit my whining, right?
And you’re right: I’ve got a great husband who loves me, despite my numerous flaws. I have a son that lights up my life every moment of every day. I have a loving, loyal dog, who — despite a freakish ability to escape every kennel we construct for him — I love dearly, and two cats that are practically my four-legged children.
But it’s just not enough.
Another month has passed, and we are still no closer to expanding our family. I worry so much about the statistics of “a woman my age.” It’s a phrase I have heard frequently in the doctor’s office (by three different doctors, in fact). Sure, most women after the age of 35 go on to have healthy, full-term pregnancies, but the risks go up after that magical age deadline. I can’t help but obsess over terms like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, Down syndrome and miscarriage.
Now, just to be clear, if my next child has health problems, I will love him or her with all my heart either way. But no parent would hope for that scenario. We are dedicated to creating a life for our children where they are better off than we ever were.
I’m trying to stay positive, but with each passing month that seems more and more difficult. I have one more month the natural way, then I go back onto fertility medication. Then there’s only three to four monthlong rounds of that before I graduate to more advanced procedures — if we choose to pursue them.
My body is rebounding from surgery quite well, and I’ve been struck by the notion that a woman’s body, at the end of her lifetime, has quite a story to tell. There are pregnancy stretch marks, a caesarian-section scar and now four incision marks — all within 8 inches of one another — on my torso. Each mark tells the story of the most significant moments of my life, and I hope as hard as I can that there are more marks to come.
It is so easy to get drawn into the self-pitying spiral, and there are days that I don’t win that fight, but I have to keep hoping. In our darkest hours, when life’s circumstances are beyond our control, isn’t hope all we have?
Yes, I yearn for more, because I have so much more love to give. In the meantime, I hope. I hope the wish for my future is granted; I hope to cherish my present as much as I can, and I hope to not dwell on the failures of my past.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at (616) 546-4278 or sarah.leach@hollandsentinel.com.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Heavy thoughts now at the top of my mind


I have a weight hanging on my shoulders.
Actually, it’s hanging around my gut. … And my thighs. … And the region that was once known as my butt, but has recently been reclassified as a planet.
It’s safe to say I need to lose some weight.
To be fair, I have never been a slim gal. I’ve always carried at least an extra 20 pounds, but I was pretty content with keeping within that range.
I was one of the lucky ones, I’m told, when I gained 35 pounds with my son, and I actually saw a quick pound-shedding after he was born. But the number on the scale started to creep up after my son turned 1 — and up and up it went.
Now my son is 2, I’m about 40 pounds overweight, and it’s time to do something about it.
My friends keep trying to reassure me: “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; you just had a baby after all.”
I’m curious as to how long society is willing for me to ride on the coattails of that fact. Do you think I could get away with it until my son graduates from high school? Then maybe I can gain the sympathy freshman 15 when he goes off to college? Perhaps I could then be firmly in the grandma classification and just give up?
I have been getting in my own way, really. I work too much, at a desk job, no less. And I was born with an affinity for food. Seriously, there are very few things I don’t like (I’m looking at you, butter pecan ice cream). So inactivity + food love affair = lifelong weight struggles.
When I finally realized I was getting too heavy again — let’s face it, I’ve been in this position a few times — I convinced myself that I shouldn’t bother because I was trying to have another child. It was sound reasoning, I told myself: “Why lose a bunch of weight, only to gain a bunch of weight, only to lose a bunch of weight again?”
But we have not been blessed with another baby yet, and I’m running out of excuses.
It might mean getting up an hour earlier for exercise in the morning, but keeping myself healthy keeps me around longer — for all the babies I hope to have. I’m going to start right away. … OK, maybe tomorrow.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at (616) 546-4278 or sarah.leach@hollandsentinel.com.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A new journey unfolds to expand our family

The word “benign” has many definitions: gracious, mild, gentle, harmless.


But to me, it means so much more. It means I don’t have cancer and that I still have a chance at achieving my dreams.


A few weeks ago, the doctor found a cyst on my ovary and I needed to have laparoscopic surgery. It was discovered in the course of me being treated for infertility problems. And the moment the doctor told me about the growth, I was faced with two greatest fears: Do I have cancer? and Will I be able to have more children?


Now, people might think that because I share a lot about my life through a regular column in the newspaper that I would have no trouble sharing these recent concerns, but they would be wrong. Something I ran into was the intensely private nature of infertility and the reticence of others to talk about it.


So I had to make a choice: put myself out there and try to get people comfortable with talking about it, or keep it private. When I started this column, I was newly pregnant and just embarking on the journey of motherhood. Now I am on the journey of trying to be a mother again and it is hard.


We have been trying for over a year with no success. I have seen three different doctors, went on fertility medication, then underwent the surgical removal of half of my ovary. It actually was a good outcome, as when they wheeled me into the operating room the doctor prepared me for the possibility of losing the entire ovary, therefore halving my chances of being pregnant again.


The reactions I have gotten are mixed, from completely empathetic to downright uncomfortable. I mean, let’s face it, no one wants to talk about someone else’s reproductive issues. But what surprised me were comments like, “Well at least you have your son.”


Just because I want another baby does not mean I am not grateful every single moment for my son. In fact, it’s my love for him that is fueling my effort to give him a sibling.


Another comment was, “Well you can always adopt.” My husband and I are very open to the idea of adoption, but it’s not as easy as that. When you have a baby and suddenly have infertility problems, it is painful and confusing. I want answers as to why my body suddenly stopped working properly, but the doctors can only speculate. I want to know what the options and probabilities are of getting pregnant, but the doctors don’t have a crystal ball. And when you mix all the hope and anxieties together, you don’t really know when to stop pursuing having biological children.


I don’t know what will happen next, but today I am healing from surgery and the growth was benign. Today I celebrate my good health and hope is renewed for now. And hopefully I will be brave enough to share the successes and setbacks that this new journey will bring.


-- Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at (616) 546-4278 or at sarah.leach@hollandsentinel.com.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weathering the storm of parenthood ups and downs


“If you don’t like the weather now, just wait a few minutes,” or so the saying goes.
The same could be said of motherhood.
There are moments when I am so overwhelmed by the stresses of life, and then my son does something so naively amazing, and I am struck with the incredible blessings of life.
Conversely, when I allow myself to slip into the safe security of a family routine, it is easily shattered unexpectedly.
Heading into the holidays, I was entrenched in planning mode. It was my first time hosting Christmas dinner and, just 10 days later, was my son’s second birthday party.
Now, some people might not get too jazzed about a 2-year-old’s birthday, but in most cases with the attendees, this is one of the few times my husband and I get to connect with our friends and their children altogether.
Even though I enjoy these experiences, however, I am filled with relief once they’re over, and I look forward to life returning to normal. And this year was no exception, but this year, life had other plans. My toddler suddenly spiked a fever more than a week ago. He was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a highly contagious malady that can lead to more serious illnesses in children.
I’ve been down this road before with my son, as he had RSV last year. But he just didn’t seem to be responding to the prescribed medications by our pediatrician. By Thursday, we were in the emergency room and he had a temperature of 104 degrees.
Three hours later, his condition was stabilized and we had a diagnosis of pneumonia. Did I mention the pink eye in between?
Yes, motherhood, like the weather, has amazing highs and gut-wrenching lows, and I’m beginning to understand that it’s pretty common for these extremes to occur within the same week.
But each time the pendulum swings the other way, it certainly puts things in perspective and when enough time passes, you look back and literally feel yourself growing as a human being through the parenting process.
And that makes every five minutes worth living.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at (616) 546-4278 or sarah.leach@hollandsentinel.com.