Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rob's Garden 2011

Rob is on his second garden this year and I must say it looks DELICIOUS! This is a project he does with Ava and she loves to garden with him. I just wish I had pictures of the two them out there together. Rob does this with her usually on Tuesday when I am working and he isn't one to ever grab the camera. Ava loves wearing her muddies in the garden and getting her hands dirty working the earth. She also loves playing on her swing-set while Rob is out there weeding and tending to the plants. I am so happy this is a love she shares with her dad. They are making so many great memories together and maybe one day Ava will have a garden of her own.

I have taken pictures of Rob on my camera phone but apparently not on my digital camera. I am so bummed and will have to work at getting some of them out there before the summer is over. Here are a few pictures of this years progress. We haven't had a lot of heat yet this summer so the plants are coming along slowly but surely. We also had a big storm last week that laid Rob's corn flat but with a little TLC all the ears are standing straight up again. He really has a green thumb and I love reaping all the benefits. 

Ava enjoying some swing time in her muddies by the garden.

May 30, 2011: The Early Days...

Jun 28, 2011... Look at the CORN!!!

Beans, Carrots, Radishes, Cabbage, Sweet Potatoes, Peppers, Strawberries, & MORE!

Clever Rob used some of our left over bark in the garden to keep some of his plants warm.

One Good Looking Garden!

I know my Dad would have loved to see this in person. He would love the fact Rob has Ava out there getting filthy dirty and enjoying Mother Nature. I found a great book for Ava at the library this summer about a girl and her grandpa and their garden. It's really a humorous book and a great summer read about garden fruits and veggies. Check it out if you have time. It really reminds me of my Dad and a little of the relationship he and Ava would have shared. I miss you Dad!

The illustrations and story-line are delightful!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Back to Bed, Ava!

Ava Elise Kolkman... You are the best tired I have ever known but enough is enough!

"How do you solve a problem like Maria" is the song I have been humming along to for well over a year as I have pondered all of Ava's sleep drama. You know how the song goes... I am here to tell you that this song also applies to Ava if you just insert her name instead of Maria!

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the-wisp! A clown!

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her
Many a thing you know she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

When I am with her I'm confused
Out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather
She's as flighty as the feather
She's a darling! She's a demon! She's a lamb!

She'd out pester any pest
Drive a hornet from it's nest
She could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl
She is gentle! She is wild!
She's a riddle! She's a child!
She's a headache! She's a angel!
She's a girl!

She is lucky she is wonderful in all other ways because that's her saving grace in the sleep issues department. I will give you a brief history of her sleep pattern so you can understand our darling girl's bed time dilemma and why sleep has been such a battle from the very start.

I am going to refer you to an older post where I talked about Ava and her sleep pattern from birth until seventeen months. It's under my September 2010 entries and is called "Sleeping WOOS to Sleeping WOWS." Feel free to brush up on our past sleep issues so I don't have to start from the very beginning. I will say, it's funny to me to think that I thought we really had her sleep figured out because clearly, we did NOT!

At eighteen months of age Ava began to climb out of her crib. It was a huge shock that she could climb out of her crib because she was still so young. We would put her to sleep and then a few minutes later she was giggling, out of bed, on the run, and ruling the roost! This took a bit of re-directing and eventually she would tire of climbing out of her crib and she would find sleep. It was more of a night time challenge than anything. There is nothing worse than trying to get your child into bed for the night when you have reached the end of your rope. Despite our best efforts we continued to meet resistance with her at bedtime. We did our best every night battling this sleep hurdle while assuring each other this was just a phase that she would eventually outgrow.

Unfortunately, getting out of bed and being re-directed back to bed became a game. She was staying up later and later every night. Rob and I tried everything under the sun from moving her nap time up to decreasing the amount of time she could sleep at nap time. I tried to rock her a little more thinking she needed more attention and positive attention should stop the need for negative attention. I tried the "One Two Three Magic" concept but Rob wasn't one hundred percent on board with counting her bad behavior. We tried moving her bedtime up at night. We tried time out after time out. We tried to encourage good bedtime behavior with special treats or getting to do special things. Bribing her with anything led to threatening her with everything. No matter what we tried it just wasn't working. Then to put the icing on the cake, Ava seemed to require very little sleep to function and be in good spirits... A Kolkman Gene!

On a particularly rough evening while I was at work, Ava was having a meltdown and was begging for momma. I was not due home and Rob had reached the end of his patients. He told Ava she could sleep on my pillow thinking it would calm her down and she would finally sleep. He figured I could move her when I got home at midnight. She is a light sleeper which poses a dilemma for moving her. Moving her didn't always work and waking her up during mid-sleep was a problem too. The nights moving her did work she would wake up around two or three in the morning and wake us up to get back into our bed. I guess parenting exhaustion, work exhaustion, and life in general exhaustion led to Rob and I becoming a soft couple of slackers. We allowed for this chaos to occur in order to sleep a little ourselves. We assured each other again that this was just a phase and it wouldn't last.

I know you are all familiar with the phrase, "Give an inch take a foot!" Well it's exactly how this mess all began. One sleep request became another and so on and so forth. She went from going to bed in our bed at night time to pitching a fit to sleep in there for her naps. That led to wanting all of her night routine done in our bed and before long we were reading side by side together in bed. That led to wanting us to snuggle her in bed for long periods of time. That led to wanting us to just go to sleep at the same time as her. Then to top it off she would still get up in the night and want to eat! SERIOUSLY CHILD the kitchen is closed and I should be off the clock!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.....

Two weeks ago we saw 11pm a few times with Ava. Yes, our toddler was still awake and fighting us on going to bed, despite the fact that we had given in to her entire bedtime charade. I reached my limit and decided to take the bedtime power back. Two years and two months without ever sleeping through a night (minus the one sleepover with Grandma) is insanity. It isn't good for anyone in this household. Selfishly, I need a little time to myself at night to recharge my battery. So the line in the sand was drawn and I was nothing but pure determination.

June 2, 2011 marked the night of the change I so desperately needed in this house. It was the night I placed a little plastic gadget on the doorknob in Ava's room to prevent her from "getting out." I armed myself with a two glasses of wine, Ambien, and earplugs. Rob and I knew we were going to be in for a few rough nights and we prepared for the worse. The night began with me reading a book from the library called, "Back to bed, Ed!" by Sebastien Braun. It's a cute story about a mouse in the same situation as Ava with his parents. Ava totally relates to this character and it has been very helpful in talking with her about being a big kid and what that means for her.

If you haven't read this book and need a good bed time read you should check it out!

Night one was terrible. I put Ava in her crib after our night routine of three books, three songs, a prayer, and lots of rocking in the nursery's glider. She went into panic mode and was bolting out of bed before I could even click the door shut. She screamed bloody murder and pounded on her door for 45 minutes before getting back into bed. I know this because Rob and I were spying on her with our video monitor. She cried for another 15 minutes in her bed before she finally crashed. We waited two hours before opening the door to check her before we went to bed for the night. She had cried so hard she vomited and had spaghetti and curdled milk on her pillow, sheets, and the floor by her bed. So, I cleaned it up to the best of my ability without waking her and we shut the door again gearing up for a full nights sleep!

In the morning I opened her door at 7:30a when I heard her stirring. She was so happy to see me. She told me her door would not open and Ava was sad and crying. It was really pitiful to listen to since I knew exactly why her door was broken. I rocked her while she told me about her night and the door and how she needed her mommy and daddy and we didn't come. I brought up Ed and we talked about being big and staying in our own beds. I asked her if she wanted to have a big surprise for being a big girl and she did. I led her to the living-room for her surprise that Rob and I planned. A new trycicle! Boy was she thrilled then to be a big kid!

Ava and her new bike.

For a week we enforced this routine and she seemed to be getting the hang of it with some protest and thirty minutes or less of crying. Some sleep times were better than others. She did get up in the middle of the night a few times and had a couple crying spells but all in all we were headed in the right direction. I felt terrible doing the door locking thing because she started to get very anxious about bedtime. She started stressing during her bath. She would tell me, "Ava's awake." Then during her rock-a-bye time she would beg me not to shut the door on her because it was broken.

Then as if she couldn't make me feel any more worse or guilty she started talking about a big scary truck in her room. So last night Rob told her if she was a big girl, didn't cry, and stayed in bed he would leave her door open. Just like that she was at ease and went straight to bed. I tried the same promise to her at nap time and bedtime today and it worked like a charm. She still desires to be rocked forever and tries to manipulate me into her crib. (Which I have done in the past and that's tight snuggling!) However, when it's time to kiss-kiss, hug-hug, night-night, sleep tight, and I'll see you in the morning... she has done very well considering where we started just two weeks ago. She also has not gotten out of bed in the night for anything with her door now open and she seems less anxious. Halleluiah, Praise the Lord!

It may be too early to celebrate... BUT... I think we have won! WHOOT-WHOOT!!! I am ever so thankful to be back on tract. NO more, "Back to Bed, Ava!" The challenge of, "How do you solve a problem like Maria," has been solved. Until the next battle, I will be enjoying my evening and sleeping soundly! 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When life gives you lemons...

This picture sums it up in a nut shell! Every time I see it I get a chuckle because I have felt this way so many times over this last winter... If you want more of the nut shell keep reading.

It's been so long I don't even know where to begin. I guess I have to back up to February when I fell off the face of the blogging world. I developed a funk. A bad funk to be exact that started in December 2010 and it rendered me back in therapy. After a handful of appointments, Nancy Kingma, (She's the same therapist I saw for 19 months after Elise past away.) recommended that I start taking an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety (PRN), and sleep aide while I started sorting through the things getting me all out of sorts. After some thought and feeling completely desperate and overwhelmed with life, I agreed to her suggestion. BUT only for the short term while I put some of my emotional chaos back in order. Quite frankly, I was running myself thin during the winter months and I just wanted to turn my thoughts off and sleep which was something that was increasingly becoming a challenge. Lack of sleep is a recipe for disaster under the best of circumstances and mine were not the best.

The Christmas season is suppose to be such a joyful time filled with family, love, cooking, baking, crafting, decorating, shopping, and gift giving. For myself it was also a stressful time. I was very focused on my father's absence and the ache in my heart this past season and found it overwhelming and emotionally daunting. I survived the holidays by a thread. If it were not for Rob and Ava, Lord only knows where I would be! I am so thankful to have the two of them in my life pulling me along when all I want to do is stick my heels in the sand.

Speaking of Rob and Ava... Rob's work was in a big lull this winter and I was working as many hours as I possibly could along with taking call shifts to keep our household a float. For those of you who know how stressful that can be on families you will surly understand that part of the funk. So many stressors for both the one working and the one not working to deal with during a season when gift giving is at an all time high. The winter doldrums with no extra fun money is truly no fun. But summer is here and we survived. Rob is working lots of hours and I am down to working four days a week with some call shifts. He has had a handful of job interviews but is still looking for a good fit which is easier said than done due to the economy. With lots of prayers I know something is bound to turn up for him. Anyone would be lucky to have him as a part of their team.

Ava Elise... now there is another story. Shall I say strong-willed? Can you use the word delightful and exhausting in the same sentence? She is truly a wonderful child and is the bounce in my step most minutes out of my days. She is also sometimes a challenge beyond challenge. I frequently wonder if I might be failing her as a mom or that Rob and I need Nanny 911 to show up and set us straight on the days we are way off track. Someday, I hope and pray I will figure her out and I will get it right or mostly right. I am currently waiting for a book to arrive called, "Making Children Mind without Loosing  Yours" by Kevin Leman. Parenting truly feels like animal training at times and I don't do pets well!

Our biggest issues are SLEEP, her dinner eating habits, and weaning her from her pacifier. If someone would have told me prior to having children... that a tired kid would not sleep and a hungry kid would not eat I would have never believed them. BUT having a child... I can assure you nothing could be more true or more frustrating.

Ava needs very little sleep to be happy. She never has right from the start. I am guessing at two years of age she might never sleep through the night. This lovely trait comes from her father's side of the family. As a result, she may grow up as an only child! Seriously, I have read a handful of parenting books and this child is not your average cookie cutter kid. She has not gotten the memo that she does not live in a democracy. She should do as we say, right? Somewhere along the way things in the sleep department really went off coarse and I am linking it partially to her eating habits, my putting her to bed since birth, and her personality in general. She is a picky, picky, picky eater and refuses to try new foods. I know Rob and I are not asking the world of her with what we put on her plate. But I am here to tell you a child who doesn't eat dinner no matter how much ranch dressing you coat it in is a challenge. There are two things that come from not eating dinner. One being the delayed bedtime routine of begging for food at 9pm. Or two being, waking up in the night pleading for milk and crackers. Both result in a tired, crabby, and frustrated momma.

Then there is her pacifier a.k.a. her NUK. She loves it and is in no way shape or form ready to give it up on her own accord. It drives Rob and I crazy. One would think this is an easy solution. STOP giving it to her. I will just say on the strong-willed child this is easier said than done. Rob and I have worked it to bedtime only but that has been no easy feet. Her begging for it this week has improved during the daytime but it is an ongoing battle. She wakes up looking for it in the night and has always fallen asleep with it. This means it's major drama if it's not within arms reach during the night. Since her sleep routine is a mess I am being lenient on her for the time being as long as it is only in her bed and the whining about it is minimal. I am so thankful this soothing method is not her thumb and I can (and WILL) take it away shortly in the months to come. I am learning the hard way with her that sometimes despite my exhaustion, the path of least resistance... results in the most resistance!

Another funk contributor over the winter has been the news of my brother and sister-in-law's parting. I am not going into any more detail beyond saying their divorce will be final shortly and it has been difficult seeing them go through it. I love them dearly and I am slowly learning to adjust to this huge change within my immediate family. I have truly experienced enough loss in my life to last a lifetime! Thankfully, I am blessed with a strong connection to my brother and sister-in-LOVE (which I now call her...) and I am not and will not ever loose either of them in the literal sense, or so I pray.

Last but not least, work continues to be unpleasant. The organization has been hard at work weeding out all of our direct upper management. In the last two weeks we have lost three leaders (on top of ten staff members who have left in the last six months). Two of these individuals worked directly with us on a daily basis. We have management from Butterworth trying to help our department run the ship while no one is running the ship. Work politics are very dirty right now and no one is playing fair. We desperately need leadership in our department. Any would be nice but we hoping for GOOD! I can only be optimistic that while we are under stress and a lot of change at Blodgett some of the change will be good. In the mean time I just need to go and work, collect my paycheck, and try to tune out all the negativity.

Are you wondering what I'm doing beyond therapy and medication to be "ZEN" with all of this funk? Well, I am now feeling much better compared to say December and I am nearly medication free again! Whoot-Whoot... Thanks Nancy for all of your direction in therapy and for always having healthy food for thought and ways to cope with change to challenge me with. I just graduated to only needing appointments with her once every two months and in August if all is well she will close my file once again.

The biggest things I have been working on is filling my cup so to speak and doing things to try and re-charge my spirit. I started to read again at night after taking my Ambien as a way to relax and escape my daily ugliness. I have read a handful of books since December. Some of my favorites have been, Overcoming Life's Disappointments by Harold Kushner, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, and Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo. I think The Help has been moved to my favorite book of all times! If you haven't read it you need to because it's delightfully entertaining. I am currently reading The Devil in The White City by Eric Larson and I am not a fan. I have struggled through the last 200 pages and now I am reading it out of spite. Minus my current read I have really enjoyed getting lost in books again and my goal is to read two a month which is very do-able.

I also have been running again. It helps my mood tremendously and it is something I just need to be doing for good heart health. I ran a 10K in May at the Fifth Third Riverbank Run. It was not my personal best time for a 10K but I ran it start to finish and I was happy just getting out there and running it in the rain with a friend. I am trying to exercise four times a week which seems reasonable. However, some weeks especially with a toddler who doesn't go to bed well, it's tough to do but I set the goals anyway. I figure any exercise is better than no exercise. I am tempted to sign myself up for a half marathon in September but I am not committed just yet.

Other good filling my cup medicine is spending time with my family and friends. Without all of your love and support I would really be a mess. I'm truly so thankful for the special people in my life. I wish I had so much more time to spend with you each and every day. I'd name names but I know you know who you are! xoxoxoxoxo... Like the song playing by Dave Barnes, "God Gave Me You..." Thanks for sticking with me through the ups and downs.

It feels like so much has happened in such a short time frame. I am behind a full three months worth of posts to Home Sweet Kolkman. That only snowballs what I was behind on before I dropped off the face of the earth. I know you will understand my need to cocoon inward and focus on feeling better and getting a handle on life in general. All of the above has really soaked up my free time. Then since Rob and I share our laptop and my child doesn't sleep my free time for blogging is less than minimal. Not to mention my new love of Pinterest, thanks to my sister-in-law, Ann! I will do my best to fill you in on Easter, Mother's Day, Ava's Birthday, My Dad's Memorial, Ava's Potty Training, Rob's Garden 2011, Home Improvements, My Cooking Adventures, and Take 3 of Ava's sleep training to name a few topics I'd love to share. I just thought you needed to know what I've been up to first. I will be working hard to fill you in when I can in the scheme of my crazy life. Please be patient I'm busy making lemonade.