Monday, June 30, 2008

Lessons Learned

• If you teach your child the word “fart” it will come back to haunt you
• It is possible for a two year old to eat a chocolate chip cookie in the bathtub without getting it wet
• Splashing around in an inflatable baby pool is a lot of fun, even if it is a little trailer parkish

Friday, June 27, 2008

Why I Start Friday Mornings with Caffeine

Last night was Andy's golf leauge night. Michael decided that we would have McDonald's for Dinner. I must confess, he doesn't have to demand "French fries and a Milkshake" more than once to convince me that I really don't want to cook. It wasn't hard to convince him to veg in front of the TV to watch Curious Geoge either.

On a normal Thursday night, we normally head out after dinner to play with M, whose daddy is also off playing golf. But, they have just sprayed our lawn with chemicals to kill something or other, and we aren't supposed to let the kids run around on it yet. Being a chemicalphobe, I'm taking that very seriously.

I would have taken him to the play ground, but the little stinker didn't take a nap during the day and the last thing I wanted was for him to fall asleep in the car and screw up bedtime. I enjoy being home alone with Michael, but trust me, bedtime is very important when I don't have anyone to play tag-team with.

So, I was stuck inside with a slap-happy, teething, two year old for several hours by myself. We played blocks, which involves Michael ordering me to build "castels" so that he can kick them over. Next, we turned the loveseat and several blankets into a fort. Michael had a blast scaling me to get on the "roof" of the fort. To add to the fun, Michael would try and take the occasional bite out of my shoulder, to sooth the pain of those last two teeth that are coming in.

By 6:00 I decided I didn't care THAT much about the chemcials, and we headed outside to see if we could find M to play with. We walked outside, spotted M, and M's mom imediately informed me that she quits. I just laughed considering I felt the very same way. She was so frustrated because every time she tried to leave the room, M would climb up on the coffee table. Before I could get control of myself, that evil voice in me blurted out the last thing she wanted to hear...IT GETS WORSE! Oh, if coffee table climbing was the hardest part of my day I would be thrilled.

I was greatful for the peace and quite when Michael's bedtime rolled around. I hoped on the exercise bike, turned on my iPod and picked up a book for some me time. It was wonderful.

Andy came home an hour later, and was wound up from winning his game. He gave me a shot by shot replay of his match that lasted until 20 minutes after we had climbed in bed to go to sleep.

Now you know why I start Friday mornings with caffeine.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

He has Green Jackets in his eyes. Huh?

I’m having a difficult time trying to decide if Michael is completely irrational, or if I’m the one that is irrational. At a glance, it seems like Michael, but sometimes I wonder.

Michael keeps telling me that he has green jackets in his eyes. Clearly, this makes no sense whatsoever. First thing, what are green jackets? Second thing, how did they get into his eyes?

Actually, I can explain. When Michael first learned the concept of “kiss it better” he would ask me to kiss his eyes better when he cried. That makes sense, I know when I cry, my eyes sting a little bit at first. So, we started doing eye kisses. Then one day he got something in his eye. It was something small, and I guess he thought it was a bug. After that, instead of asking us to give him eye kisses, he would tell us that he had a bug in his eye. Andy and I started to pretend to pick a bug out of his eye to make it better.

This weekend we encountered a yellow jacket that wanted to play in the same spot that Mcihael did. I know it seems obvious that I should have just moved Michael, but I have a lot of experience with both yellow jackets and Michael and I was confident that the bug wasn't going to sting and that Michael would have a tantrum if I tried to move him. I decided to take my risks and used the opportunity to teach Michael about yellow jackets. As a result, Michael is now calling bugs yellow jackets.

In addition to bugs, Michael has been having a lot of fun with colors recently. We play with colored sidewalk chalk, we talk about the different colors of his trains, and he is learning about traffic lights…which turn from red to green to yellow. If lights can turn red, green, and yellow, why can’t a bug?

So, that’s how Michael got green jackets in his eyes. In a strange, round about way, it makes perfect sense.

What do I do about the green jackets in his eyes? I pluck them out and pretend to gobble them down, or hide them in his belly button. Isn’t that what any perfectly rational mother would do?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Not always reluctant

I did a bad thing last night. I should know better by now, but I really didn’t think he would eat it.

Let me explain. I believe that spending time together as a family is important, so even when I know that Michael won’t eat, he is expected to join us at the dinner table. I offered him some rice and peas, which he actually eats sometimes. Last night was not one of those nights. I was just happy that he sat with us, and didn’t get too much rice on the floor.

Part way through dinner he started pointing and asking for grapes. We didn’t have grapes sitting on the counter, so I popped into the kitchen to see what he was really asking for. It turns out that my mega bottle of fiber tablets has pictures of fruit and veggies all over it, and that’s what Michael wanted. In my attempt to keep him at the table through the rest of dinner, I handed him the bottle.

I know that I should know better by now, but I really thought that tightening the cap would prevent him from getting the bottle open. Of course, I was wrong. When he got one of the tablets out, I really didn’t think he would put it in his mouth. Ever since the antibiotic wars that resulted from the boo boo finger, he hasn’t let anything even remotely resembling medicine near him. Of course, I was wrong. Now, what are the chances that he would actually eat the fiber tablet? He has hardly eaten anything for me for days. Why on earth would he eat this?

I’ll tell you why, because I didn’t want him too. I’ve tried to act like I don’t want to eat something in the past to see if I could trick him into eating, but he can always tell I’m faking. But it wouldn’t hurt to try. So I tried to fake that I wanted him to eat the stupid fiber tablet. What did he do? He chewed the whole thing up, swallowed it, and asked for more. He’s two, how is he always one step ahead of me?

So, this morning when I dropped Michael off at my mom’s for the day the first thing I did was apologized to her. It’s really not fair that she get’s stuck with the product of my stupidity, although to be honest it is preferred. She called me a little while ago and told me the outcome of the fiber situation. I think maybe a tip might be appropriate this week. She ended the conversation with, “Is that chocolate? Oh. I have to go change my shirt.”

All things considered, I think it was probably a good thing that Michael refused to eat the edamame I offered him last night.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Boy, do I love this little boy

...even when he's bouncing and pouncing, pulling and pushing, and crashing right before dinner.

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Yes! Yes! Yes!

We have finally had a breakthrough with Michael's communication skills. He's quite the talker and is perfectly capable of verbalizing almost anything. Well, anything except "yes." He picked up "no" early on, and has been using things like no, nope, uh-uh, and a vigorous headshake to disagree with just about everything for the past year. It's almost as charming as when he learned how to say that my cooking is, "Icky, yucky, bleck." But, despite the fact that he is speaking in sentences and bossing me around, he has never said yes, yeah, or even bothered to nod his head. It can get pretty frustrating when all you ever hear from your toddler is a "no" or silence.

I've actually gotten pretty good at interpreting when he means yes. He makes his very subtle little "hmm" sound. This is how a conversation goes.

Me: Would you like to read Bear Snored On?
Michael: No
Me: How about We're Going on a Bear Hunt?
Michael: Nope
Me: Guess How Much I Love you?
Michael: Uh-uh
Me: Sigh. How about Thomas and the School Trip again?
Michael: Hmmm...

After a while, I think he started messing with me. Every few months he would throw out a random "yes" just to show me he knows what it means. But, then he would go back to "hmm"ing again. I'll be honest, I even tried bribing him a few times. "Michael, if you say yes, I'll give you a cookie." "Hmmmm."

I'm not sure if it finally clicked, or if he is done playing mind games with me, but this weekend he finally started saying yes. He's also nodding his head, saying okay, and saying sure. So now I can ask him if he wants to go out and instead of running to the door and grabbing the door handle he says, "sure!" I even got a yes from him when I asked him if he wanted some Veggie Booty, which I wouldn't have even said yes to.

So, am I happy that Michael is saying "yes?"

Hmm...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lessons Learned

I’d like to say that I have a very organized, well planned out approach to parenting, but I’ll confess, most of the time I’m just winging it. At times, this leads to some wonderful, insightful parenting revelations, but most of the time…not so much.

Lessons Learned this weekend:

  • Michael has been showing some interest in potty training, so I put his potty in the bathroom and explained how it’s just like the big potty that mommy and daddy use. He seemed interested, so I pulled down his pants, removed his diaper, and asked him if he wanted to go potty. Sure enough, he did! Next time, I’ll remember to actually seat him on the potty before I say it. Hey, at least there was toilet paper handy to clean things up.
  • Between the fact that Michael is a reluctant eater and that we keep him on a consistent schedule, I rarely have to deal with a hungry, cranky toddler. I didn’t think about the fact that he napped through lunch and then only had a few ounces of milk for dinner when we took him to the mall on Friday night. After fighting with a screaming toddler for five minutes and hurting my shoulder, I realized what the problem was. We were no where near the food court, so Michael ended up with a huge, expensive Starbuck’s chocolate chip cookie. I think I’ll include that with my mother of the year application. Does anyone have any tips on good snacks that can survive a small purse?
  • I took Michael to my mom’s pool on Friday. I have never seen him so excited. After an hour, he was so cold that his lips were turning blue, but he still cried when I made him get out of the water. This kid loves the water. I probably should have tried the pool out BEFORE writing my snarky post about my coworker hounding me about swim lessons. The 45 minute drive each way seems like a reasonable price to get Michael much needed swim lessons. I'll be inquiring about them today.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Reluctant Eater

It’s impossible for me to describe how much I love Michael. I love his cute little toes, that sassy smile he gives me before he ignores me, the smell of his hair, those beautiful long eyelashes. Every time I look at him, it melts my heart. But, there is one thing about him that drives me absolutely bonkers. He is a reluctant eater.

Michael was a big baby, born at 9 lb 14oz. He nursed like a fiend. At about five and a half months, he watched us eat with fascination while imitating our chewing motions. So, with much excitement, we started solids. And, it’s been down hill ever since.

Please understand that I love food. I’m talking anything from a filet with bĂ©arnaise sauce to a Quarter Pounder with cheese. I love the way food smells, I enjoy trying new recipes, and mostly I enjoy eating it. So, how did I end up with a reluctant eater? Christy, have you been coaching him in your ways?

This past week has been worse than most because his last two molars are working their way in. I’ll ask him if he wants something to eat and he responds, “HOT BOTTLE!” After refusing all of the yummy options I suggest, he ends up with a hot bottle. One night, I managed to get him to agree to a bowl of cereal. You know what the little stinker did? He picked up the bowl, drank all of the milk out of it, then demanded “MORE MILK!” Then, to add insult to injury, he picked up a handful of soggy cereal and dropped it on his lap. I hate being outsmarted by a two year old.

So, if anyone has any wonderful ideas for getting a stubborn, fussy two year old to eat something other than pasta, oatmeal, yogurt, and chocolate I’m all ears.
Andy and I fell in love with our house the moment that we walked through the door. It’s a small townhome tucked away from the surrounding chaos by a farm and a creek. While we don’t have much of a yard, the community property is well maintained and provides ample room for toddlers to run around like the little balls of energy that they are.

When we moved in it was a mostly child free neighborhood, but the past few years we have seen a baby boom. There are now a good number of toddlers running around, and Michael has become good friends with two of them. J, a boy the same age as Michael is one of the sweetest little boys I’ve ever met. He has big eyes, soft hair, and a smile that lights up his whole face. M, a girl that is a few months younger than the boys, is the queen of the neighborhood. She has beautiful blue eyes and dark curly hair and keeps the boys in their place like a pro.

I really love living in this neighborhood. I love hanging out on our lawns chatting with J and M’s parents while we watch the little terrors run around and play. It’s interesting to see how similar, yet different each child is. One thing they all have in common is a love of sidewalk chalk.

Each child started off with a nice, neat box of side walk chalk, but it didn’t take long before it started to migrate. Some of the chalk made it to the other toddlers’ houses, and some of it has ended up under cars, in the storm drains, under the neighbor’s shrubs. It’s truly become community chalk. Walk outside, look around, and you are bound to find at least one piece of chalk.

Not only have they sprinkled the neighborhood with chalk, they have also marked up the sidewalks, driveways, a few houses, a couple of trees, and maybe some other things that I shouldn’t mention. (I don’t take responsibility for what happens when the dads are in charge.) They are like a little gang of sidewalk chalk graffiti artists that tag the neighborhood with pastel scribbles and the occasional “H”. I’m not sure how our neighbors feel about all of these scribbles, but it never fails to make me smile when I come home after work and am greeted by a rainbow of squiggly lines. And, every rain storm wipes the slate clean and the process begins all over again.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Navel Gazing

I'm really not getting the feel for blogging yet. It's a very big change for me. Up until Michael was born, I was an avid journal writer. My journal is the place where I record my thoughts and feelings about myself and my life. It’s always served as a sort of clearing house for my restless mind, and as a safe place for me to be as honest as I’m willing to be with myself. After more than 20 years of journaling, I’ve gotten very comfortable with the format and the process of writing for it.

But, once Michael was born I discovered I had a very difficult time writing in my journal. I found that I ended up writing about Michael’s antics and achievements. There is nothing wrong with that, but it overshadowed the fact that my journal was supposed to be about me.

I think this was a natural and normal progression of a new mother. When Michael was first born, he was part of me. He fed from me, he slept on me, he relied on me, and his identity became part of me. It makes sense that he would become part of my journal as well. However, as he’s grown older, he has started to separate from me. He feds himself, he entertains himself, and he has developed opinions of his own. He has become his own person. All the while, I have also been slowly separating from him as well.

I know this separation is a slow process that will take place over several decades, but each step of it requires that both Michael and I redefine ourselves. How Michael redefines himself is his own business, and I will only ever see as much of it as he allows me to see. But how I witness my own progress through this process is very much up to me. Do I return to my pen and paper and tuck my entries away in a drawer each night? Do I open myself up to whoever wants to read about it here in the blogsphere? And if so, then how do I post about myself and Michael without making one overshadow the other?

I don’t really know the answers yet, it’s going to take a while to figure out what works for me. But, in the mean time, I will tell you one thing that scares the crap out of me about blogging. Honesty. I love and respect honesty, and if I’m going to put something out here for others to read, I want it to be honest. I have no problem being honest when giving other’s my opinions, but I must confess that I’m not always honest with myself. I’m afraid that if I start getting too up close and personal, that I’m going to have too be more honest with myself than I’m used to. I don't know, maybe that’s a good thing. But, it sure does make me feel vulnerable.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Time is No Longer Money

I’m a full time working mom, and like every full time working mom I have the challenge of trying to juggle my work life with my family life. I’ve always looked at the value of money vs. time. I would look at a necklace I wanted and figure out how many hours I had to work to pay for it. Is that necklace really worth an entire day’s worth of work? It made spending decisions much easier.

But then Michael was born and I quickly discovered that my time is worth a lot more than what I’m being paid for it. That’s fine with me, I like to work, and I receive a great deal of satisfaction from the work I do. I can’t put a dollar value on that. But, it goes the other way too. There are other things in my life that are important to me, and no amount of money could ever make up for those. Adding time into my decision making tool makes every decision that much more complex.

Everyday, I have about five thousand things that I want to do, and another ten thousand that I need to do. I have to go through my mental list each morning and prioritize and rank everything, and then figure out which ones I can actually get done. It goes something like this.

Okay, lets’ see. I have to go to work. I have to feed Michael. I have to exercise. I have to, I have to, I have to. Okay, I want to spend some time reading and I want to do some needle work. Can I do them while doing some of the stuff that I have to do? If I ride the bike can I read, if I make stew for dinner, I can sit down and play with Michael longer? If I, if I, if I. By the end of the day, I’ve done some of what I have to do, and often I’ve done some of what I want to do. The next morning, my list is just as long, and the decisions are just as hard. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s what I have to work with.

What drives me crazy are people that try to impose themselves into this mix with no consideration for what it means to my life. I’m not talking about the childless friend that keeps asking me to go shopping with her. I’m talking about the people who should know better, but do it anyway, and don’t back off when you tell them to.

The daughter of one of my coworker’s has offered to teach Michael to swim. This is a very generous offer and I really appreciate it. I’ve said so about 30-40 times now. See, the problem is that they live 45 minutes from us. I work full time, she works the opposite schedule that I do. It’s just not going to work.

However, said coworker will not let it drop. He has started telling me horrible stories about toddlers that drown and insists that I MUST let his daughter teach Michael to swim. He insists that his daughter is more qualified than I am to teach him how to swim, even though she has no professional training. Next, he started telling me that I should make my mother, the one who watches Michael for 10 hours five days a week, drive the 45 minutes down, drop him off after work, and then turn around and drive 45 minutes home. Or, that Andy should do it after work. Or, that I should do it!

That’s it! You have gone too far. Do not for one moment think you know how I should spend my time better than I do. I had been giving him less than subtle hints, like “I don’t have enough time,“ and “this is not going to work out.” But after he started dictating my schedule to me I had to set him straight. Dude, I am so overbooked right now that your plan will not work. At this point, the only thing I have to give up is sleep, and I’m not giving up one second of those magical six and a half hours. I’ll either teach my own kid to swim, or I’ll pay someone to teach him how to SURVIVE in water. The hour and a half travel involved in this deal is just is not worth it. Back off!

Ahh…that feels better.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Terrible Twos

Now that Michael is two, I’m discovering that the Terrible Twos is another one of those myths of parenthood that has a hint of the truth to it, but really doesn’t let you know just what you are in for. The first one of these I encountered was morning sickness, which I had 24 hours a day for ten weeks straight. The next one was that having a child will change your life, which is one of the biggest understatements I ever heard. And now, I’m faced with the reality that the terrible twos is much worse than anything I ever imagined.

I expected the terrible twos to be something like living with a constantly enraged, tantruming beast. But, it turns out that it is a much more subtle form of torture than that. Yes, Michael does have some tantrums, but that’s cake compared to the mind games he’s playing with Andy and I.

See, the problem is that he’s trying to wear us down slowly. He starts with this cute little smile to warm my heart, and then does something horrendously obnoxious. For example, He'll look all sleepy and peacefull until he throws his binky on the floor, watches it roll half way across the room, and then cries and complains that he’s “lost” it. Or, he will go to give me a hug and after I let my guard down, he’ll sink his little fangs into my cheek. Next, he’ll ask for some milk with a pathetic hungry look on his face, only to dump it upside down on the sofa the moment I give it to him. I think I could handle a little of this, but it’s all day every day. It’s this constant roller coaster of being charmed; only to be taken advantage of the moment I let my guard down. You would think by now I would see it coming, but I always fall victim to these tiny battles.

The other night, after Michael was sleeping peacefully, Andy and I spent a little time venting our frustrations over this new stage of parenting. He actually said, “I know how frustrating this is for you, but at least Michael glances at you before he ignores you. He doesn’t even look at me.” How bad must it be that Andy is jealous of the manner in which Michael is ignoring me? Personally, I find the little devious grins that Michael gives me to be more insulting than being completely ignored. At least with Andy, he can pretend that Michael doesn’t hear him. In my case, it’s clear he hears me, and that sweet smile is just telling me to go jump in a lake.

So, I think from now on, I will be calling it the Torturous Twos. It still doesn’t catch the true essence of the this phase of Michael’s life, but it sure is a lot closer to the truth.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Sand and Water Table

Like many little boys, Michael loves to play in dirt. We live in a town home, and the dirt that Michael plays in is really the mulch spread through the landscaping. It’s one thing when Michael plays in our mulch, but he seems to find everyone else’s mulch to be much more interesting than ours. I end up chasing a filthy toddler from yard to yard. Not my idea of a fun evening.

We decided to buy him a sand and water table for his second birthday. My goal was to keep him out of our neighbor’s landscaping and allow me to actually sit down for a few minutes while he plays.

We bought the table at Toys ‘R Us and shoved the massive thing into the trunk of my Accord. It was much larger than I expected. At home, I examined the picture on the front of the box. It shows two neat, dry children playing with the table. The sand was nice and dry, and the water was nice and clean. Both children seemed to be completely absorbed in playing with the little boats that come with the table. I was picturing a relaxing scene in my head that included Michael playing contently by himself while I sipped a Diet Coke and read.

That dream lasted for about 2 seconds after we set the table up. There is no clean water and dry sand. There is sandy water and wet sand. I was not relaxing with a book and a drink. I was dodging splashes and building mini sandcastles. After reevaluating the situation, I’ve lowered my expectations. Now, I only have two rules. The sand and water must stay on the table and Michael must stay off the table. That’s all I ask…and I don’t always get that.

While I’ve learned that a sand and water table is messy and requires more monitoring than I was hoping for, I must confess that it’s a wonderful activity for Michael. He will play with it for hours. And, in the end, it did achieve our goals. It keeps Michael out of the neighbor’s mulch, and I do get to sit down while we are playing in it. That’s good enough for me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Michael's Boo Boo Finger

Two weeks ago Michael walked up behind my mom when she was closing her sliding door and managed to get his left index finger caught in her sliding door. By the time he got home that evening, the tip of his finger was swollen and the nail was black. I considered taking him to the pediatrician, but he seemed to be in decent spirits. However, by Thursday evening the nail was very swollen and I was starting to get concerned about an infection, so I took him in.

The pediatrician prescribed antibiotics and ordered x-rays. X-Rays? It never even crossed my mind that his finger might be broken. The doctor strongly recommended that we have the x-rays done at the local Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) satellite or to go to Bryn Mar.

I was just sick at the thought that my little baby’s perfect little finger might be broken. As a parent, you know that your child will get scrapes and bruises, and after your child starts walking and running you even get used to them. But, a broken finger, a deep cut, or heave forbid, something worse, is just the most heart breaking, hepless feeling in the world. Every time Michael would hold his finger up and say, “kiss it better,” I just wanted to cry. He’s too young to learn that mommy can’t always kiss it better.

On Friday I spent an hour on the phone trying to actually speak with someone at CHOP to schedule an x-ray. After breaking down in tears I finally got someone to explain that they don’t do walk in service and they are booked solid for weeks. I wanted to scream, “Don’t you people now how important this is? My child’s finger might be broken!” To be fair, the receptionist at the doctor’s did try to warn me that CHOP wasn’t the right place to go. But the doctor insisted that we needed to see a pediatric radiologist. Note to self, if the receptionist is questioning the doctor, I probably should too.

Fortunately, when I called Bryn Mar, they told me to come right in. My mom and I drove right down for the x-rays. What a wonderful hospital. I’ve never been treated with so much respect and speed in a medical office before. They actually treated me like a valued customer. I was impressed with their care, and saddened by what this says about most of the medical service I encounter.

The doctor ordered x-rays for both hands so they could compare growth plates. Have you ever tried to get six x-rays of a two-year-old’s hands? It’s almost impossible. Three of them required both me and the tech to hold his hands still. He screamed the entire time. I tried to explain that this was for his own good, but he’s too young to understand. For him it was just a torturous 10 minutes.

As it turned out, his finger is broken. It’s a clean break, the bone is aligned, and no growth plates are effected. The pediatrician directed me to wrap his finger with medical tape for 3-5 weeks. I’m not entirely sure that the doctor really understands two-year-olds very well. I tried wrapping it in three different kinds of medical tape, and finally gave up after Michael removed the tape in under a minute. What are you going to do?

It’s two weeks later, and Michael seems to have bounced back fine. He did lose his nail, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. I really hope that the nail grows back, but there’s not much I can do to help it. At this point, it’s clear that both my mom and I are more upset about the whole ordeal than Michael is.

This past weekend, I had some electrical tape out to fix one of Michael’s toys. He walked up to me and insisted that I tape his finger with it. After all of my battles to tape his finger with medical tape, I was actually annoyed that he wanted me to wrap his finger with plastic tape. I considered it until I realized it was the wrong finger. Little stinker.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When you have children, I hope...

While I was growing up, my mom used to always say, "When you have children, I hope they talk just as much as you do." I guess I talked the poor woman's ear off. It must have been particularly trying when I was home with her all day while she was trying to complete her undergraduate degree. Sorry mom.

Well, I'm grown up now, and I have a child. He's a little over two years old, and guess what? He's a talker. My mom got just what she asked for. However, she didn't foresee one thing. Guess who does daycare for my chatty little man? Yep. My mom. Be careful what you wish for.