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Happy Whatever Day

11 Jul

I was talking with a friend one recent Monday who has 18-month-old twins. She told me that she and her husband had taken these twins over the weekend to a  relative’s home for a belated Father’s Day celebration. “Oh, how fun!” I said, and then I came to my senses. “I mean, geez, I’m sorry. You must be exhausted!”

When my starter child Benjamin was an infant, holiday get-togethers were still something to look forward to. Sure, sure, there was the inevitable crying from being passed around too much, and the seemingly constant need to excuse myself to go somewhere private to feed him. (In fact, I did miss an entire Thanksgiving dinner, start to finish, when he was going through a growth spurt at 5 months old.) But none of that prepared me for the horror of following a curious toddler around our relatives’ homes at holiday functions.

THE SEVEN HORRORS OF TODDLER HOLIDAYS

1)     Naptime. Every holiday function begins right in the middle of naptime. If it doesn’t, then the rule is that the food is served right when naptime would normally begin. Every parent knows that a naptime missed is the opening chapter of an epic tragedy. The novelty of the situation will briefly put the inevitable on hold—but eventually fatigue will win, and the child will stage a dramatic meltdown, the likes of which will leave an indelible impression upon all who bear witness. You’ll feel like people are judging you, and it’s true…they are.

2)     The food. Your child won’t eat any of the food served at the holiday, because none of the dishes are on the list of the four or maybe even six foods the toddler deems permissible. You’ll make a plate for the child anyway, secretly hoping that maybe this time will be different. You’ll present the plate to the child with enthusiasm. “Look what I brought you! Mmmmm!” The child will grimace, maybe poke at a scalloped potato, and then exclaim something along the lines of  “YUCKY! YUCKY YUCKY NO NO NO!”   The older relatives will look down their noses at you for raising such a picky eater. Someone might sigh and cluck their tongue and say, “My kids always ate their dinner…children these days are given too much freedom,” or “My Jenny was always such a good eater that I could take her anywhere and leave feeling proud.” It’ll sting, but keep in mind that their memories have been rewritten by time and vodka.

3)     Knickknacks and/or holiday decorations. Your sweet munchkin will hurl themselves at fragile, precious family heirlooms as they stumble unsteadily through the unfamiliar house. And who can blame them? It’s fun. You’ll lurch anxiously along behind them, crouched down in an approximation of their height and lunging radius, the unnatural posture causing debilitating and lingering back pain for at least a week. The other guests can’t help because they’re busy drinking and eating and judging you.

4)     Diaper changes. There will be a ton, far more than in a similar time period at home. So, let’s say that you normally change 3 diapers between 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm at home? Bring at least 6 diapers for the same time period at a holiday function. The other ironclad rule is that somehow, some way, you’re going to end up getting poop on something important that belongs to someone else, like a white guest towel or a silk throw pillow or maybe even Aunt Betty’s vintage mink coat. You could change that diaper out in your CAR, and I still guarantee someone else’s valuable item will be contaminated.

5)     Which brings me to potty training. Someone is going to see you changing one of those diapers, and they’re going to start grilling you on potty training. No matter what stage you’re at, you won’t be far enough along for them and everyone they know. They’ll recount at least 3 of their friends or family members who did it faster, better, and much, much earlier than you are doing it. You lazy, lazy, incompetent slacker.

6)     And if anyone asks about your child’s sleep habits, I’m begging you to LIE, even though it goes against your truthful nature. Unless the child goes to sleep promptly and independently at 7:00 pm, never wakes up in the night, never gets in bed with you, never gets up at 4:00 am for the day for no good reason, never demands water or another book or more snuggles. If you have one of those (fictional?) children who goes to bed, sleeps all night, and wakes up at 7:00 am rested, cheerful and refreshed, then go ahead and answer truthfully.

7)     But then be prepared for them to say you’re abusive for not co-sleeping. My advice is to excuse yourself from the conversation to go and clean up all that poop.

The good news is that all of those people will forget about how obnoxious your kid was (or they never really noticed or cared in the first place…a lot of those feelings of judgment come from the inside rather than the outside). Or they’ll have toddlers of their own someday, and you can be the kind and generous one who tells them how great they’re doing as their child hurls Great-Great-Grandma Daphne’s one-of-a-kind Austrian crystal vase to the floor, the one that she smuggled out of the old country cleverly baked into a loaf of simple peasant bread.

The Daddy and I are now past this phase, and it is AWESOME. Our kids, now 4 and 7, arrive at holiday gatherings and disappear with friends or cousins, not to be seen again until dinner time. I’m not gonna lie—it is fun to again be able to participate in holidays again.

There is a part I miss, though. It’s the part where I carried a tiny, warm, sleeping babychild into the house after the car ride home, carefully taking off their little shoes and ridiculously teensy-weensy socks before tucking them into bed. Awwwwww.

So cherish that part. All the rest of it is for the birds.

toddler

The Great Spider Massacre of 2012

9 Mar

I was playing with Ellie upstairs when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a small spider on the guest room door. We ran over to assess the situation.

“Ewwww!” she said. She grabbed the bottom of my shirt with one hand and pointed at the eight-legged beast with the other. Hopping up and down nervously, she clearly instructed me to “GET IT, MAMA!”

So I DID. I got a Kleenex out of the kids’ bathroom and squished the spider; then I flushed it as she watched me. “Oooooh! Bye bye, ‘pider!” We waved as the spider was whirled away in the watery cyclone.

Benjamin came over and wanted to know what was going on. “Mama flushed a ‘pider!” Ellie explained.

“MAMA? You flushed a spider down the TOILET?”

I smiled at him as Ellie hugged me. “Yep!” (I am the triumphant spider killer, valiant defender of my family!)

“Why did you do that?”

“Well, we don’t want spiders in the house, right?” (Logic is on my side, boy!)

“Sure we do! I love everything in nature, and spiders are part of nature.”

“That’s true, yes.” (You are correct, son, but I am still way more righter.)

“Did you smush him first, or was he alive when you flushed him?”

“I smushed him first.” (This is the right answer, I just know it.)

“Oh, Mama! That’s so mean. Then he couldn’t breathe!”

“Well, no, but I was thinking that then he wouldn’t drown slowly in the water. This was much quicker and kinder.” (Er…right?)

His little shoulders slumped and he shook his head, suffering incredulous disbelief over my obvious stupidity.

“Mama, that spider probably had a family! Now they’re going to miss him so much.”

“Well, I guess that’s true…” (Smugness…waning…)

“You broke my heart by killing that spider, Mama. You really broke my heart.”

“I’m sorry, Ben.” (Man, I STINK.)

Tears welled up in his eyes.

“My heart is broken. You shouldn’t have killed him.”

“But then he would’ve crawled around in our house and crawled on us while we were sleeping. What would you think about that?” (One point for me!)

“I would like that! It would tickle.”

“But what if he bit you?” (What about that, hmmmm?)

“I wouldn’t care!”

“Really.” (I don’t believe you, but I do admire your resolve.)

“Nope! Would it hurt, though? Well, maybe I wish you’d just taken him outside, then, instead of killing him.”

“My gramma used to do that. She’d scoop up the spider in her hand and take it right outside and let it go in the grass.” (Let’s talk about something else, like how cool my Gramma was!)

“Yeah, that’s what you should do. And then you could just say, ‘Have a nice day, spider!’ instead of making it lose its whole life.”

“That’s a really good point, Ben.” (Good, and also exhausting.)

“Yeah. It was really, really mean, what you did.”

“I’m so sorry, buddy. I’ll ask for your help next time, okay? And we can figure out the best solution together.” (And the solution will be that YOU can pick up the spider! See how brave you are then, Nature Boy!)

“Okay, Mama.”

“I love you, Ben.”

“Love you too, Mama.”

***

I wondered, afterwards, what will happen when if we get a mouse in the house, or when it hits him that he regularly eats a variety of animal products. I sat there and imagined the moment he figures it out. He’ll likely demand that we change our dietary structure immediately, that we all become vegetarians, or maybe even vegans. I’ll heartily agree that it’s a better, healthier way to eat, and come up with vegetarian meal options for the family. (I already did this once, a few years ago, when I got on yet another vegetarian kick after watching Food, Inc.)

The whole thing will probably only last until the nearest Saturday, when he learns that he can’t have…*gasp*…BACON with his favorite weekend breakfast. Because this, folks, is how that child feels about bacon:

Regardless of my premature daydreams of possible bacon deprivation, I’m feeling really happy that the boy feels strongly about all of the world’s creatures. It shows that he’s developing a compassionate and loving heart – and in my humble opinion, there is absolutely nothing that will serve him better in life than that.

Say what? Booty butt.

17 Nov

It all started with Benjamin, sometime last winter. One day, he brought home a fun new word from preschool: BOOTY.

Until that fateful day, booty had not been a standard word in our house. In fact, the rump isn’t something we discuss overly much. “Move your buns,” someone might say. Or “Sit on your bum! It’s dangerous to stand in the tub.”

This is how it all started: Benjamin, a born dancer, goes through phases where he loves to get his groove on. During other periods, you can’t get him to dance AT ALL, not so much as a stray head bob,  or even a finger snap. But recently, he was dancing all the time to the Fresh Beat Band (a kids’ TV show, for those of you not subjected to such things). It’s a little irritating, sure, but it allowed me to make dinner in peace. I’d put it on and he and Ellie would dance and dance, and that part was fun to watch, indeed, in large part because Ellie’s dancing is reminiscent of an injured Clydesdale on heavy narcotics.

So one day they’re dancing, and Benjamin says, “Mama, look at my booty! I’m doin’ the booty dance!” Ellie starts mimicking him, saying, “Booty, Mama, booty! Shakin’ booty! BOOTY BUTT!” Benjamin starts laughing at her, repeating, “Booty butt! Booty butt! I’m shakin’ my boooooty butt!” Soon they’re laughing so hard that they’ve collapsed on the floor, swept away by the kind of hysterics in which you can’t catch your breath, and your stomach muscles get all prickly and weak forcing you to roll on the floor and flail your limbs. (We should all do that more often, no?)

And then, because it was such a funny little scene, I made a big mistake: I laughed too.

Ellie loves nothing more than to make someone laugh. If you laugh at her for something she does or says, you can be sure that she will repeat it ad nauseam. Even at 2 1/2, she  understands that if she’s going to  continue to make someone laugh over the same thing, she needs to add a new twist every so often to make it novel.

The first thing she did was to start saying, “Oh no! I hurt my booty butt!” when she fell down.

When the laughs stopped coming for that, she changed it up. “Mama! I hurt my booty butt! And my booty knee. And look! My booty toe.”

Then: “I ate my booty dinner.”

“Read me this booty book?”

“Good night, Booty Mama!”

*sigh* All I could do was hope that particular nickname didn’t catch on.

Eventually, when the use of the word moved from occasional and funny to constant and irritating, we banned the use of it altogether. Anyone who said booty got an instant time out. It worked for a few days, maybe even a week. We were booty-free for some reasonable time period…and then suddenly it was back. And because it was unexpected when she finally did say it, I LAUGHED again. Because I am essentially immature and lacking in self-control.

In the end, we just gave in and now we all say it. It’s become something of a family joke, and as usually happens when you take the stigma away from something, it’s slowly fading away. “Do you want some booty soup?” I might ask, and she’ll reply, “Mama, it not booty soup. It just SOUP.”

Music to my booty ears.

I’m quite sure it’s not entirely over, though, especially when she finds a new audience. School, for example. I can just hear the conversation at our first teacher conference. “Elise is very bright and awfully funny, but…I have some concerns.”

And I’ll just nod sympathetically and say,  “I already know what you’re going to say, but try not to worry about it, Mrs. Booty Butt. It’s just a booty phase.  Any other relevant concerns, Booty Mama?”

Doodle Oodle Oodle

18 May

As I mentioned, Benjamin had a hard time after all of the Trouble with Rex and his subsequent return to the animal shelter.  The Daddy and I decided that perhaps a puppy (a girl puppy) was a better idea, one that we could train from the start, with the goal of avoiding any Rexist repeats.

So we started deliberating over what kind of puppy to get. I took a cursory look around in the paper and online, but didn’t see anything that struck me. Bulldog? Too snorty. King Charles Spaniel? Cute, but too fussy. Boston terriers? Too Boston terrier-y. Golden retrievers? I love them, but they all seemed to be ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Then my dad sent me an email that said something along the lines of, “I have a friend who has a Labradoodle, and it seems to be a good dog and it doesn’t shed much.”

This whiz-banged my memory back to an article I’d read a few years ago on the trend towards the designer dog breeds called “doodles,” meaning one breed mixed with a Poodle. Breeders are frequently mixing Labrador Retrievers with Poodles (Labradoodles) or Golden Retrievers with Poodles (Goldendoodles).  There are several benefits to these mixes, including dogs that don’t shed much, are low allergen producers, and have temperaments appropriate for family life or human assistance (therapy dogs or guide dogs). I seem to remember that the original Labradoodle was bred to be a guide dog for a woman whose husband was terribly allergic to dogs.

A quick Google search yielded a breeder with Labradoodle puppies ready for homes in a town 2 hours away. Better yet, she had a girl puppy. Even better still, the pups had already been exposed to the abuses charms of 2-year-old children, as she herself had a 2-year-old boy who loved to play with the puppies.

After some more research, we decided the Labradoodle was for us and scheduled to pick up the girl puppy that Saturday. We didn’t tell the kids; we simply told them we were going on a surprise adventure. Benjamin was confused when, after exhaustive questioning, I confirmed that the adventure wouldn’t include a museum, science center, or dinosaurs. I’m sure in his mind, he was thinking, “What other kind of freakin’ adventure is there?”

So now…drum roll…I’m pleased to present….Maya!

I'M REALLY REALLY CUTE, SEE?

After the brief honeymoon period in which it seemed like she was the most perfect puppy ever, we entered a more typical and sobering phase of nipping, chewing, jumping, and general naughtiness. For example, when a frightened 2-year-old runs away screaming from a nippy puppy, the puppy doesn’t think, “Uh-oh…I shouldn’t continue on this path. The child is scared.” 

Nope. Here’s what the puppy thinks:

“Yay! The small pink human-shaped thing wants to play with me! First, I’ll jump on top of her play-growling, and she’ll enjoy that so much that she’ll fall on me and smack me with her oddly shaped paws, and then we’ll nibble on each other for a while! It’ll be so great! And then I’ll tug on her hair and she’ll chew my ears! And everyone will be proud of me and I’ll get treats treats treats treats TREATS!!!!”

Despite the obvious communication difficulties, it’s clear that she’s sweet and very trainable, or perhaps we are, and I predict that she’s going to be a really great dog.

And if you made it all the way to the end of this post, here’s a video that made me laugh of a Labradoodle named Figaro who sings (attempts to drown out?) his owner’s horn playing.  Whoever made this video shot it at a weird angle, but I DO  appreciate seeing that his carpet is obviously free of dog hair, probably thanks to his non-shedding Doodle.
 

Blades of Glory

18 Apr

The Daddy and I have been discussing when we should get Benjamin into some kind of martial arts class. I like the idea of disciplining and expanding his mind as early as possible. If  I drew you a map of his brain today, I would simply label one hemisphere “DINOSAURS” and the other “TRANSFORMERS.”  The end. Nothing else enters his mind, and nothing else exits.

Then we discussed Ellie and what she might want to do in the future, and I was reminded of my own childhood physical endeavor: figure skating.

I started figure skating at around age 5 or 6. My final hurrah came when I was around 13.  That year, my coach said I could go to the annual competition in Marquette. It was an international competition, which sounds really impressive, no? But all it really meant was there would be at least one skater from Canada.

I would be participating  in two events: ice dancing and the short compulsory program. So exciting! Issue number one (of course) was OMG WHAT WILL I WEAR? Issue number two was preparing the actual dance. To my distress, the dance I would be performing was the Canasta Tango.

At this point, I will fully disclose that I barely practiced that miserable tango. I had learned the Canasta years earlier and had no interest in revisiting it.  I halfheartedly lurched around the rink when the music came on. I rolled my eyes and sighed and said I was tired. Puh-leeze. I spent a fair amount of time just leaning against the boards, observing my fellow skaters as they prepared their dances. I watched jealously as the club’s celebrated superstar practiced her Rocker Foxtrot. The Rocker Foxtrot just oozed coolness and intrigue, while the Canasta had all the coolness and intrigue of a geriatric shuffleboard match.

I was uninspired, to say the very least.

On competition day, I skated purposefully out to the starting point on the ice and waited for the music to start. I was unafraid. My dress was gorgeous – black, with filmy handkerchief-cut sleeves and a matching skirt. I smiled winningly and looked for my mother in the stands. The music started…

And I just stood there.

It was as though someone had picked up an eraser and wiped my mind clean of any memory I had of the Canasta Tango. It was completely gone. Whoosh.

Any sane person would’ve just skated off the ice. Instead, I thought I’d give it a whirl. I skated aimlessly around, smiling like a deranged maniac, throwing in some out-of-sequence steps here and there.

Up in the stands, my mother was blissfully unaware until one of my fellow skaters said, “Oh, wow…she really blew it.”

After it was over, I met my mother in the locker room and cried. The most pressing issue at hand was that I still had another event to compete in, and I was too embarrassed to even think about going back out there. How could I face the panel of judges again? And my peers?

My mother looked at her pathetic, tear-stained daughter and said, “Well, it’ll be fine. You’ll be wearing a different dress. They won’t even know it’s you.”

At the time, I accepted this advice as being inarguably logical. Of course they wouldn’t know it was me! I’d be taking off my elegant black dress and changing into a jazzy purple dress with a vibrant Hawaiian sunset scene around the neckline.  I’d be completely unrecognizable!

And so, buoyed by this change your clothes/change into a different person idea, I went out there and skated my compulsory routine and won 3rd place. I even got to stand on risers with the medal around my neck and have my picture taken. Just like the Olympics!

As I consider my children entering the world of individual and team sports, I wonder how we’ll handle the highs and lows, the wins and losses, the triumphs and the embarrassments. I do think martial arts will be great for Benjamin. But I’m pretty sure there’s only one outfit choice in martial arts, so there’ll be no saving him from abject humiliation by simply changing his clothes.

Poor kid.

MICHELLE KWAN NEVER FORGOT THE CANASTA

Image via Wikipedia 

 

The Forbidden Keychain of Mystery

15 Apr

Scene: Yesterday morning. I’m driving the car, the children are strapped in their car seats.

Background: Benjamin, 4, is holding a Transformer and a combination keychain/flashlight/photo frame that contains a picture of himself with The Daddy and Thomas the Tank Engine. Ellie, 2, is holding her doll and a pink metal princess purse. They are poster children for gender stereotypes.

(Yes, I did say metal princess purse – you read that right. Someone decided it would be a great idea to make metal purses with pretty beaded handles. The cacophony created by 5 crayons and a block in a metal purse really makes your brains curdle. Way to go, Disney Princess purse designers.)

Crisis: Ellie, suddenly realizing that Benjamin is holding the Forbidden Keychain of Mystery, decides she wants it RIGHTTHISINSTANT.

“Benjamin, I can hold the keythain?”

“No, Ellie! It’s MINE!”

“Pweeze?”

“No!”

“Mama, Benjamin not share wiff me!”

*repeat* *repeat* *repeat*

I’ve been trying to let them fight their own battles more often, watching from the sidelines like a frustrated referee. I drove along silently for some time, but as usual, the whining eventually got to me. I’m not proud to say that I tried a little guilt on Benjamin to see if he would let her look at it, however briefly.

“Ellie, I guess it’s as good a time as any to realize that sometimes people just won’t share things with their little sister, even when it’s the nicest, kindest thing to do.”

Benjamin replied, “Yeah, mama, that’s right - people like ME!”

Lessons Learned:

Benjamin: I feel validated. Mama really understands me and is okay with my possessive behavior.

Ellie: Benjamin is selfish, and Mama is ineffective. I should just pout some more.

Me: The four-year-old has outsmarted me once again. Passive aggressive discipline doesn’t work, at least on the boy. Do I have time to stop for coffee?

LOVE ALWAYS WINS

Hot Buttered Butterflies

12 Apr

The Daddy’s Conversation with 2-Year-Old Ellie:

“Ellie, we’re going to a movie today!”

“Yay! A moodee!”

“It’s a movie called Hop.”

“Hop! Hop! Hop! Wike a bunny!”

“That’s right. What do you think we should eat at the movie?”

“Buttafwies!”

“All right! One bucket of hot buttered butterflies for Ellie!”

The rest of us simply ate popcorn.

DELICIOUS

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