Sunday, November 11, 2012

Always remember....

My grandfather, who passed away quite a few years ago now, was very special to me. We had a special bond. He fought in the war, however we never heard stories about it. He didn't want to share. So I know nothing of his time in the war.

A few years ago my brother came upon why he received the Croix de Guerre online:

BELLIVEAU, Joseph Gerald Bernes, Able Seaman (V-50977) - Mention in
 Despatches - RCNVR - 
 Awarded as per Canada Gazette of 20 January 1945 and London Gazette of 26
 December 1944. Home: Campbellton, New Brunswick. BELLIVEAU. Joseph Gerald
 Bernes, V-50977, AB, RCNVR MID~[20.1.45] Croix de Guerre avec Palmes en
 Bronze(France)~[30.3.46] "For gallantry, skill, determination and
 undaunted devotion to duty during the landing of Allied Forces on the
 coast of Normandy." 
 BELLIVEAU, Joseph Gerald Bernes, Able Seaman (V-50977) - Croix de Guerre
 avec Palme en Bronze (France) - RCNVR - 
 Awarded as per Canada Gazette of 30 March 1946. NOTE: No London Gazette of
 18 December 1944 which some sources show as his London Gazette date. "On
 the night of the 4th and the 5th July, 1944, during five separate
 engagements with the enemy, this rating coolly exposed himself to a very
 heavy fire to clear a stoppage of his 2 Pound Gun." 

July 4, 1944
Action off Trouville. 
The night of the 4th and early morning of the 5th brought a prolonged
engagement with E-boats. Boats 459, 462, and 464 were on their usual
protective patrol about the assault anchorage. Shortly after midnight, radar
indicated the approach of enemy craft from Le Havre. A few minutes of
stalking followed; then 'starshell' revealed a line of nine E-boats two
thousand yards away, making for the anchorage. As the Canadians opened fire,
the German craft broke off into the dark, one of them trailing after the
other, heavily hit and ablaze. The rest were overtaken in about half an
hour, and the boats of the 29th ripped in through a smoke screen to damage a
second craft. Pursuit was complicated by the appearance of a German dive
bomber, whose efforts inconvenienced the Canadians, but failed to encourage
the disorganized E-boats to make a stand. When the chase was finally
abandoned at the entrance to Le Havre, one E-boat, lost in smoke, was
considered sunk, and two others had been badly damaged. This was the
longest-fought coastal forces action in history. It appeared that another
unit of E-boats had come down from Fecamp, and run straight into the E-boats
with which the 29th had just disengaged. A terrific all-German battle
ensued, and the air was filled with massive quantities of green and yellow
tracer going back and forth. The E-boats were fighting each other! 
Of the some 17 German E-boats in the area, three were sunk, with a possible
total of four in all. 
After these actions, the 462 starboard engine broke down. While limping away
to the control frigate they were dive-bombed by a Heinkel. The two remaining
boats, 459 and 464, sighted two German minesweepers escorted by two R-boats.
As the M.T.B.'s turned in for a torpedo attack, they were seen, and the
enemy opened up with 'starshells' and 88 mm shells. The shore batteries
opened up as well. Their shells came crashing angrily about the boats,
making a most uncomfortable barrage. The German Convoy turned back toward Le
The crews of 459,462, and 464 were absolutely exhausted, both physically and
mentally. The three wounded boats limped back to Portsmouth for repairs. 

This year I will remember and miss my grandfather, whom I loved dearly. And remember my grandmother, who also served her time to the war. I love them both

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Running a race

Running and I have always been closely entwined: In highschool I was a sprinter (100m and 80m hurdles), through my university days (1997-2008)I ran to stay in shape and after I had Layla I ran with the purpose of completing a 5K race (which I did - in 28:47min). Since I come from a sprinting background, nothing longer than 5K interests me - that is long enough!

Since the start of 2012, I started noticing that I couldn't run. I would go on the treadmill and be able to run for maybe 45 seconds. I tried running my 5k loop outside, and I had even less success. I couldn't believe I was that out of shape. I went to my doctor and tried to see if it was asthma, thyroid, anything that would explain this. Nothing came up....until July when I found out about the tumour that had been inside of me for who-knows-how-long.

So I thought I would write about my road to recovery and running since a lot of people seem to be shocked at how long it is taking me to recover. I keep hearing "You are young and healthy...why are you having such a hard time?" or "Maybe your pain threshold is lower" (I'm had back labour with Noah and my epidural didn't work so believe me I can handle the pain). The nurses in the hospital said typically the old and young actually seem to have an easier time recovering than adults.

So on July 13th I had open heart surgery. I was home by July 18th. In the hospital they wanted you to get up and walk once you were out of the ICU (actually they had me stand in the ICU but I hardly remember this). It took me nearly 4 days before I agreed to this. Between the drugs, needing a blood transfusion and the pain I was too dizzy and loopy. I couldn't even walk to the bathroom unassisted. By July 17th they made me walk to the nursing station and I honestly thought I'd never make it. They told me it will take me 6 weeks to be able to walk 30 min's (which by the way, feels like a very long time when you are just waiting to feel better). At home I had the horrible sensation that I couldn't breathe for days. It turned out to be because i was in atrial fibrillation with a heart rate of over 170. So after getting a pacemaker on July 25th and being cardioverted a bunch of times, my last episode of fibrillation was August 6th - nearly one month after my stroke.

So the cardiac information booklet they give you says you could return to work after 6 weeks but I was nowhere NEAR able to go back to work yet.

On September 14th (2 months after surgery) I had a stress test with my cardiac rehab. I couldn't do much as I was largely inactive. They use the stress test to set a pace for you and design workouts. After the stress test they make you do one mile with the pace they set for you. I had to do one mile in 15 min's (which was the fastest pace they set for people). I can honestly say that at the end of that mile I was nearly dead. After that they had me walk 2 miles in 32 mins 5-6 x/week. It was very hard at first and my heart rate went very high (150). I had to be careful because my pacemaker has a maximum heart rate set on it (130) and I have to stay below that. I am not used to paying such close attention to my rate. I ended up returning to clinic to have it set higher (160).

My 2 mile walk is so easy now that I text and bbm during the walk but they won't increase my mileage yet. First I had to walk it faster (so now I'm at 29 min's). Do I feel like I could run? You bet. Can I do it and keep my heart rate below 160? Doubtful.

So for now, I am not allowed to run until I do another stress test. I hope to run a race next summer....

In addition to cardiac rehab I'm still in stroke rehab. He has me doing so many squats and lifting so much weight I'd better become the 5'3" version of a Victorias Secret model.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Learning the art of

When this whole cardiac journey is over, I will have been off for four months. Those who know me well, know I don't know how to relax. I can't sit through a movie. I must at all times have some project going on in the house to do when the kids are asleep and sitting with the kids at the park is a painful act of patience. So being off for four months is sheer torture to me. I like working and miss my job right now.

To be fair, the first month was spent in hospital, the second month was filled with narcotic hazes and memory loss, now I am into month three and I'm getting bored. I don't have the energy yet to do much walking and I'm on drugs that make me susceptible to harsh burns if I'm outdoors. So I spend 90% of my time indoors and it is rough.

How do I spend my time?
I have weekly:
-blood work
-stroke rehab
-cardiac rehab (in addition to working out 3x/week with their program at home)
-social work
-massage therapy (for the chest contractions post-op and the subsequent knots in my back)

And every six weeks I spend half a day at:
-pacemaker clinic
-cardiac clinic

In addition I can do drop in appointments to pacemaker clinic to have adjustments made to my rate. I've been trying to decrease it and make it less sensitive to movement.

So that makes up a large portion of my time.

However, I usually only have one appointment a day so how do I spend the rest of my time? Lately, I have no attention (lets be honest, it has never been that great). It may be the stroke or it may be boredom. My social worker suggested I have a bunch of easy activities and rotate through them that I can do indoors.
My list is like looking at an elderly person's list. Seriously, what can a young person do indoors?
-cross-stitching (great for stroke rehab)
-read (I have no attention span for reading now which makes me sad because I always have my nose in a book)
-publishing my article from my Masters degree
-working on my two children's books
-playing the flute
-watch tv

Thank God I have wonderful friends. A few are on mat leave, some are shift workers, others take a day off and visit me. They make my days way more enjoyable.

I don't have the energy to clean for long periods of time or walking - so sitting around the house is isolating and excruciating. I'm currently getting our money's worth from Netflix (we don't have cable so I am not able to catch up with DOOL). Shopping for clothes is out because I can't quite move my pacemaker arm yet to try on shirts. I have a gift card I'm dying to use for a new wardrobe but maybe in a month I'll be able to endure a long trip to the mall.

So there you have it: I am absolutely dreadful at staying at home. I don't know how to relax, and I currently have elderly hobbies.

I drive Keith nuts when he comes home, insisting he sit and talk to me all night long. To distract me he sits me in front of a puzzle and I spend the rest of the night fighting Jade off the pieces. Not very relaxing...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pacing my way through life

Since getting the pacemaker one week ago, I have been through a lot. The experience itself was particularly traumatizing and still makes me cringe. Getting the pacemaker checked at the clinic was also horrifying and I had to barter my way to a later appointment in 8 weeks because I can't face going back there any time soon. I spent a large portion of this week spontaneously breaking into tears and getting very upset at the pacemaker.

Going through all this I have had many people ask my why I'm so upset - without the pacemaker I would be in a non-life sustaining rhythm. This is true. However, consider how this happened:

I went to emergency in atrial fibrillation which came on out of the blue. They left me with my heart beating at 170bpm for 24 hours (which, I have to say doesn't feel good). Then they took me to the CCU, sedated me to perform cardioversion. Upon waking I saw it didn't work. So, they put me on an amiodarone drip for 24 hours, which burned my veins. Then, they told me after 24 hours on this, cardioversion may work better so we would try again tomorrow. The next day I'm told I'm getting a pacemaker at 8am. WHAT?!?! No time to adjust to the idea. No discussion. People started coming to do consent, discuss what the pacemaker looks like, restrictions on my daily living. Then before I know it I'm being wheeled into a procedure room and while I'm wide awake they implant the device while I sob on the table. After returning to my room I couldn't stop crying.

I wasn't kidding...this really traumatized me! And I'm angry. Very angry. I can deal with the cardiac tumour - it happened and it is over.  However, this rhythm issue was unexpected and made me a cardiac patient for life. I'm really having a hard time adjusting to this thought. In addition, being on coumadin, I was told I can't get pregnant again, unless it is planned carefully with my cardiologist. I would have to give myself 2x daily injections of enoxaparin for the whole conception/pregnancy period (which btw, hurts like hell). Having conceived Noah in a less than romantic state with the assistance of a fertility clinic, I don't want to go through that again. Not to mention the worry about being pregnant on blood thinners and the stress on my heart. So, just like that, my dream of 3 children is shot.

This week, Keith suggested I go see a social worker to deal with some of the anger and to work out this trauma. She is a wonderful woman at the hospital and she made me feel quite a lot better in just one session: It is normal to feel as I do - I went through a lot in 3 weeks! My life was drastically altered in the span of 24 hours getting this pacemaker. So she is mostly there for me to vent to and teach me how to accept what has happened.

In the process, she discussed mindfulness with me. For those that don't know, mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and not letting your mind wander. If your mind does wander, you bring it back to the present in a non-judgmental manner. It is a very difficult, but useful skill and is the latest and greatest tool to use in primary care. During my first session, she taught me a new way to practice mindfulness that makes it easier to focus and quiet your mind (she thinks I have to much time to think and worry while I sit at home).

It is called Zen tangle or Zen doodling. I have ZERO artistic ability. The fact that my baby sister is a talented artist makes me wonder if we come from the same family. However, I find this quite soothing and quite frankly, it gives me something to do all day long (don't forget I can't move my left arm for 4 weeks until the pacemaker leads are "set" in my body, I can't lift anything heavier than a bag of milk because of my sternal incision, I can't walk farther than 5 minutes without getting breathless and I had a stroke that limits the functioning of my right hand....Life is a bit boring right now!).

So I will share my doodles with you....they are my therapy that keeps me from wondering if I will be paced forever, if I will live long enough to see my kids get married, if I will ever be off of blood thinners, and most importantly: if my body tries to die one day, will my pacemaker keep ticking thereby making me immortal?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

And then there were two of us...

4 years
3 open heart surgeries
2 people
1 family

Does this seem ridiculous to anyone else?

It is currently 5:45 am and my pain medication has worn off. As I wait for it to kick in it occurred to me that I need to blog my last two weeks. I spent it in hospital - four days trying to figure out what was wrong, then 36 hours later being operated on with a 5 day recovery in hospital and now three months of rehabilitation at home.

It all started Sunday - my day to wake with the children. Noah wanted cookies for breakfast and me, being the shining example of a mother, was giving them to him. Suddenly, my right arm went totally weak and I felt lightheaded. I sat on the floor and felt the room spin. I lay down and my sweet Noah asked me if I was ok. I lay down and yell "KEITH! HELP!" until I heard him stir and come down to find me in the kitchen. I told him my arm wasn't moving and he proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions: "Do you know where you are? Whats your name? Where do we live? What are the kids names?" I got the answers wrong and kept bursting into tears because I was very aware that I was not answering correctly but couldn't find the right answer. After 20 min's Keith got an ambulance to come and they decided by blood sugar was low (this has always been an issue of mine) and proceeded to feed me disgusting sugar-in-a-tube. After I was able to sit, they had keith feed me toast and honey. I held the plate in my left hand and they all watched as three times in a row, my right hand fell into the toast without my noticing. Somehow they convinced me to go the emergency room just to have the hand checked out. Especially once I told them that about a month back the left arm went suddenly numb at work but after an hour the feeling came back. So I felt very sheepish and silly as I walked to the ambulance in my driveway, dressed in my PJ's.

Very quickly the emerg doc had decided I had just had a migraine and gave me some meds and oxygen to relieve the pain (didn't work and I still couldn't move my arm). I don't know if he believed me so I had him hand me a cup of water, which I ended up spilling all over myself as I tried to hold the cup. He said he could do a CT scan but didn't recommend it: I was young, may want more children, and he was sure my arm function would come back and a CT scan was like a years worth of x-rays. Feeling a bit silly, I agreed to go home.

That night I attempted to eat dinner with my right hand and couldn't even hold the cutlery. My left hand helped a bit but I have never realized how much we rely on both hands to function. I couldn't even wash my hair and forget putting on makeup!

In the morning, there was no improvement. If it was paralyzed from a migraine it should have been better by morning, surely? So Keith convinced me to take the kids to school and go to emerg again for the CT scan. To save writing about many boring hours logged in the ER here is the summary:

CT scan showed I had a stroke (Left side...that is why my right hand was useless). I wasn't allowed to go home until they found out why a 33 year old woman had a stroke out of the blue.

A doctor, who to this day I'm not sure of his specialty, followed my case right through to discharge. He was a bit awkward to talk to and was shy and a bit of an odd ball, but he checked on me daily pre- and post-op so I liked him. He ordered an MRI, echocardiogram and a transesophageal echo. I was told they were looking for reasons for the stroke such as autoimmune diseases, Musculosclerosis or heart issues. I was moved from the ER to the MACU, which is a holding unit at the hospital for those who need procedures/tests and who will be having a 3'ish day stay.

The following day no tests were done...which made me very bored. Mom and Keith came and kept me company and helped me exercise my right hand.

The next day they moved me out to the neuro floor and planned the MRI and echo. The MRI never happened because I couldn't tell them with certainty that I wasn't pregnant. So in the meantime, they ordered bloodwork to check if I was pregnant and they sent me for my echo. The echo was quick but by the time I got the neuro floor after,  I saw the doctor coming to see me. "This can't be good".....

He sits me down and tells me the echo shows a massive benign atrial myxoma: A cardiac tumour. It is so large that as the heart beats, it plops down into the ventricle and then back up. A piece of the tumour had broken off and caused my stroke (and very likely caused my numb arm a month ago). So they were sending me to the CCU that night. "So I'm not going home?"

They needed to do the trans esophageal echo (TEE) to get a better look. I will just say that this was quite traumatic and I bit the doctor shoving the camera going down my throat.

In the CCU I met with the head of cardiac surgery at the hospital. He contemplated operating the following morning but my right hand was getting better daily and he wanted to give it one more day to heal because it would regress a bit with the surgery. I asked him how many of these surgeries he has done. He tells me "2 a year". So, as politely as I could, I asked if I would be better to go to a larger hospital where they have more experience. He was very kind and told me I was more than welcome to, but even large centers won't see these much - and if they do, each individual surgeon will only have done a handful a year as well. No matter how I looked at it, this was a rare surgery and I had to make a choice. Keith and  I both felt good about this surgeon. He explained how it is removed and we had 36 hours to wait....

Those 36 hours flew by. Friends and family came to see me. I got special permission to have my kids come and see me in the CCU and I passed the day away as best I could. At night they did a lot of OR prep and Keith, being such a lovely husband, washed my hair in the sink because I couldn't do it for myself. At bedtime they gave me ativan and I slept well. In the morning, they gave me valium: as a result the next morning is nothing more than hints of memories: Me bartering with the surgeon to not use staples on my chest and to use 2 chest tubes instead of 4; saying bye to mom and Keith; dry heaving on the OR table.....and then waking up in excruciating pain.

I have to say that cardiac surgery is by far, the most painful thing I have ever experienced (And I'm including my back labour with non-functioning epidural). I have such respect and appreciation for Noah and his experiences now. There were days where I just wanted to die and would tell anyone who would listen. Even now, 8 days post-op, I can't begin to describe the excruciating rehabilitation that is involved.

I don't have clearly formed memories from the 5 days post-op in the hospital. Keith and Mom fill me in. Apparently when I woke up (after they extubated me) I informed my mom I was going to work on Monday. A while later I asked her if I was still pretty. I also apparently was clearly informed of my care: I told keith I was in Junctional rhythm and that my chest tube was only draining 65cc (I don't remember any of this). I do remember Keith feeding me ice chips, getting loaded up with pain meds and my mom and Nik coming to see me. Nik blowing up and popping a rubber glove which I swore stopped my heart.

It is hard knowing what it coming in your post-operative course, and having worked in cardiology I knew what was coming and I was dreading the removal of the chest tubes. They came out on day 1 post-op: oddly they felt good coming out because I couldn't breathe with them in.  Pacing wires stayed in till the day I went home: I had a junctional rhythm so they liked keeping them in. Apparently the junctional rhythm is a result of inflammation from the surgery. The pacing wires hurt more than I expected them to. I had an arterial line, central line and IV in as well. I'm quite battered from those!

Keith was a constant figure at my side. He had taken the kids to school daily but he would come for visiting hours and stay as long as he could, even though I would doze or cry or go for tests.  He would leave to pick the kids up and then come back after he put them to bed. He would make me tea, set out water for me at bedtime, he came and gave me my first shower post-op. He had mom's help at home but I know he shouldered a lot during this time. He lost his vacation time to be with me. This man really understands what it means to love "in sickness and in health".

On the day I was supposed to go home, I woke up vomiting. As a results my discharge got a bit delayed. Not sure why I was sick, but i was not thrilled given the last time I threw-up it was 1993. Yeah.....19 years ago. What a streak I had going!

Rehabilitation is long for cardiac surgery. I can't drive for 6 weeks, so I have to have someone here with me to take me to have my twice weekly blood work and my physio for my hand. The stroke complicates things and as such, I am very reliant on my family. The first day home I couldn't go up the stairs without feeling like I was short-of-breath, but a few days later I can do the stairs better. I am sleeping in a chair at night because to sleep on my back feels like being 9 months pregnant and sleeping on your back. Last night was the first time I showered alone. It is exhausting and took me forever, but loosing your independence is humbling and I was happy for some control back.  I notice I can do more and more every day. I can't walk far yet but I am getting better for sure. Being healthy before surgery you don't really believe your body will take so long to heal, but it does and its frustrating!

Today I went to emerg because one of my chest tube sites is getting infected. Knowing the issues that can come from that, I decided it was best to just deal with it early. So now, I am on too many drugs to count (I actually got a pill box!): keflex for infection, coumadin and baby aspirin for clotting, iron for low hemoglobin, percocet and tylenol for pain, gravol for the queasies, enoxaparin injections....

I have no appetite, except for lasagna for some reason. It is the only thing I can stomach. Thank goodness we had some in the house.

So now, I have a long sternal incision from my throat to the base of my xyphoid process and two gaping chest tube holes underneath. I know these will fade but I have NO clothes that don't show the scar. I wish I was someone who could wear it proudly but I'm vain I suppose. I hate it. I look forward to when it fades away but will always wish it wasn't there.

I feel this experience should make me grateful for life and for being saved, because quite frankly, if not for the stroke I very well would have died one day soon. The tumour ended up being 7cm x 4cm. The heart isn't much bigger than that. However, I am mostly resentful. I know that sounds bad but look at the top of this blog: in the past 4 years we have had 3 open heart surgeries. We were finally planning a family vacation in August. We were feeling like our lives were turning around. Keith and I have been dealt a poor hand in health it seems and as much as I wish I could be an optimist or a positive person I will not lie. This sucked, I'm angry it happened. I am sad my husband has to take care of me and the kids because I can't. I am furious that someone feels we need to be punished in this way. I will say, however, that I am thankful to the nurses and doctors at the hospital. I am blessed that I had the brains to return to the OR to look into the stroke. I am very happy that the surgeon gave me my life back. Because when all is said and done I didn't want to die young and now hopefully I won't.

I went back to emerg: I was in atrial fibrillation and my heart rate was 178. It felt horrible - like my heart was beating out of my chest. They left me in emerg overnight outside the very loud nursing station. I fell asleep somewhere around 5am. At 7am I was woken by a doctor. Eventually they moved me back to the CCU telling me they would cardiovert me. I was in tears and had a big-time panic attack. I was not thrilled with the prospect of being shocked into normal rhythm. The nurses were kind and explained that I would be sedated. At 2pm they sedated me and tried but my baseline rhythm was an unstable junctional rhythm and I went back to atrial flutter. After that, they decided to load me up on amiodarone and try again in 24 hours. They gave me 2 boluses IV and oral. During the second bolus, my mom was kissing me to leave and my heart stopped for 5 seconds. I can't even begin to describe how awful that felt. Then it happened again. That, along with the unstable junctional rhythm meant I had to get a pacemaker. I was booked for 8am the next day.

Getting the pacemaker was a very traumatic and stressful ordeal. They draped my face with a cloth and put an O2 mask on. I am really claustrophobic so I had to ask them to take them off my face as much as they could. Then I could feel everything. They had to numb me 5 times. I also kept panicking and so they very heavily sedated me but it was never enough. I lay on the table sobbing, begging to sit up, and eventually asked Dave, the nurse I could see, to hold my hand. I was so scared. I didn't want a pacemaker and I was upset. I cried all the way back to my room and then for hours afterwards.

They decided to try cardioversion the next morning again and the doctor was positive it would work. When I woke I looked at the monitor: HR 60. Oh my goodness it worked!!! I cried and was so happy. They were even letting me go home that day! However, I couldnt sit up without being dizzy and my BP was very low (70/40). I started vomiting and asked them to set my pacemaker to 80. I have always had a fast heart rate and they agreed after and echo. That night, when my BP was up again (95/60) they let me go home. I should have stayed because I felt nervous being home but I have a pacemaker apptm in the morning tomorrow.

So that is the experience - it sucked. I wish it never happened. I will come to terms with it eventually. Just not now...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Do you have to parent children differently?

My children could not be more different in personality if they tried. Noah is ever patient, abnormally reasonable for his age and he is eager to please. It sounds like a dream but he comes with his own challenges in parenting, largely that he is so eager to please that if Layla is acting up he will start to get clingy and insist on being held or show me how good he is being (at the exact moment Layla is having a meltdown). Layla is a fireball of emotion: she is kind hearted and loving with a temper that would stop you in your tracks.

Raising Noah, we never had to discipline him (I am talking authoritative parenting). If you did happen to tell him to go to the corner, he would obey (he is eager to please, remember) and wouldn't leave until you told him to. This would NEVER work for Layla. You would put her in the corner, she would leave, you would put her back, she would leave. Over and over and over until ultimately, you would give up because she is very strong willed. She will win this argument. I have only tried once and I won't again. Besides, this authoritative parenting is not in line with our preferred Adlerian principles of parenting.

When we made the conscious decision to parent Noah via Adlerian parenting, we thought Alyson Schafer's book was heaven-sent and preached it to everyone who would listen. I honestly couldn't understand why parents were punishing their children! It isn't necessary....

....then Layla came into our lives. Her temper and sheer determination to succeed in everything she does has been evident from the moment she came out of the womb and refused to breast feed on my clock. She has her own agenda and she will be damned if she is going to do what others want of her. As she is approaching two, she is a very challenging person to raise. Do not get me wrong, she is not a mean child. She rarely hits people - but when she does swing her fist, it is at a wall out of sheer frustration. It has become a challenge and we have resorted to trying it all - even discipline (hence why I tried putting her in the corner).

I suggested to Keith a few weeks ago that perhaps we need to parent her differently. I was very upset because I have looked through a lot of parenting books and inevitably they come down to the principle of discipline ("you do what I say because I am the parent"). Which to me, is completely ridiculous! A child needs to know why they can/can't do something and they need set rules, (i.e. bedtime is always 7pm....therefore we never fight over going to bed).

When you break it down, Layla needs Adlerian parenting, as she is independent and wants to do everything Noah can do. She is 22 months and fully dresses herself, she is partially potty trained, and she gets in and out of her carseat on her own (easier in mommy's car, than daddy's). So for her to do something, she needs to know why we are doing it and she needs consistency. I have noticed, however, that choice overwhelms her - so for now, she doesn't get much choice in matters (ex. which shirt do you want to wear?)

A few days ago I was frustrated because she wants to do things on her own and has a nasty tantrum if she can't do them on her own. For example, she wants to get into her car seat in daddy's car but she is just too small to do so. But Keith couldn't get her into her car seat without using some force, as she would have a tantrum. She also wants to climb into the bathtub on her own, and lets face it - it just isn't safe. But if you do it for her, she cries and freaks out and won't cheer up for a lonnnngggg time.

In desperation I sent a tweet to Alyson Schafer this issue and she tweet back (I was beyond excited)! She suggested we act as a spotter, letting her do what she needs to do (the idea is that if a child is fighting a task, they are ready to take more responsibility with that task and it is our job as parents to facilitate that learning). however, she did suggest we let her fail (in a controlled scenario) as well so she learns the natural consequence of her actions.

This has saved a lot of fights. Keith got a little stool for his car to assist her and I spot her as she climbs into the tub. We also changed her crib into a toddler bed and we have had a great deal of success.

Some other things that have worked for us:

-"When/Then" statements: these are key with Layla. They provide structure in activities. For example, "When you have cleaned up your toy, then I will know you are ready to watch tv". She responds SO well to this. She doesn't freak out, she actually acts as though she finds this a totally acceptable statement and will carry on. This has been my personal lifesaver for diaper battles ("when you have your diaper on, then I will know you are ready to put your own pajamas on").

-Not demanding action: "Who wants to get in the car?!?!" rather than "We are going in the car now". This was Keith's suggestion and really helps get us out of the house in the morning.

-Offering help but not doing the job for her until she is ready: She likes to dress herself but lets face it, socks are a challenge! So I let her try and offer help (she will refuse) and wait till she comes to me for help. I don't have time for this one in the mornings, as we have only 20 min's to get out the door, so in that case, I dress her when she is just waking up and too tired to complain!

So Layla is tough at times, but I really believe this personality of hers will serve her well in all her endeavours in life, so I want to foster it, not squash it!