Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

If I hear one more person call out, "See you next year!" and chuckle like it's the most original thing they've said in weeks, someone's getting punched in the face. But not by me, my fists are small and weak, like the paws of a handicapped kitten.

That might be the kind of thing little Andy will find funny in a couple years (kids have such unsophisticated senses of humor), but it's wearing on me a little thin.

With the calendar flipping to 2012 in about 36 hours, I thought this would be a good time to discuss some of Andy's resolutions for the new year. I could write out my own resolutions, but who's really interested in hearing me talk about my fiber needs or the intimate details of my checking account? Everyone, that's who. But this blog isn't supposed to necessarily be about me. I'm just a supporting character here, the teller of tales revolving around a toddler who would gladly drink from the toilet if only we would just allow him his happiness. And around a fetus who about a week ago formed the ability to pee. Someone is peeing inside me. Probably taking a whiz now. Go ahead, think about THAT for a few minutes.

Anyway, Andy has a lot of resolutions for the upcoming year. Here are a few.

Potty train. Seriously, this kid has to be house-broken, er, potty-trained, before this new baby gets here. This is number one priority. I hardly know any people with kids (especially boys) who have managed to potty train before the age of 3, but that's not going to stop me from trying my hardest. I know it's doable, it's just going to be difficult. But I'm totally willing to have the weekend from hell, with poo stains on the floor and whatnot (probably won't have have any guests that week), if it means that Andy can go on the toilet and that I'm only buying one set of diapers after the new baby arrives.

Be a good big brother. I am hoping that Andy takes a sort of proud ownership of his new sibling and sees little sis or bro as "his" to love and help watch over. I'm a little wary of pending sibling rivalry, but hopefully spending time in day care with the other babies will at least have helped prepare Andy for a baby of his own. When I think of introducing the baby to Andy, though, the first thing I picture is him shoving a handful of raisins into the newborn's mouth. This image of course alarms me... but I guess it's also kind of nice that, in this scenario, Andy is at least interested in satisfying the baby's hunger with an iron-rich dried fruit.

Be okay with tooth brushing. Jeez. Trying to brush this kid's teeth is an exercise in futility. All I ever manage to get is his tongue. His baby teeth are going to rot out of his mouth before he's two, and then what? Baby dentures until the other ones come in? Andy removing his dentures every night and keeping them in a glass by his crib? Okay, this is sounding pretty hilarious. But maybe a little costly. How much do you think baby dentures go for these days?

Play with toys. Andy, toys are awesome. They are seriously the best. So start playing with them already. All this kid wants to do is pull things out of the pantry, eat napkins, do a little light cleaning, and drag around empty boxes. Come on. Let's get playing already.

Get in a dancing competition. Have you seen Andy dance? He's got the moves, and his sweet back and forth head bob and hip sway would probably get him pretty far in a contest (televised, of course). Plus, who wouldn't cast their vote for a toddler? You'd have to be a monster not to give Andy your vote.

Learn the following sentences. "I love you, Mommy." "Here, let me help you with that." "Oh, are you looking for something that I hid? Let me tell you where it is." "I could really go for a three hour nap right about now." "Football's on TV? Eh, let's go the library instead." "You could really use a break, Mom. I'll go scream in Daddy's face for a while."

Happy new year, everyone. See you next... time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Reason For The Season!

And so Christmas is over.

After this past week or so of non-stop celebrating, I've come to the conclusion that having this new baby in 2012 is the best possible thing I can do for Andy's ego, which, by now, has basically inflated to the size of a volleyball. (Note: I've decided that standard ego size is approximately tennis ball sized, with more modest people hovering more in the golf ball range.) If Andy receives one more iota of love and affection or one more wrapped gift, I can only assume that his head will burst, creating the kind of tragic mess that will require five jugs of Resolve and ten years of therapy before things are even a little better. This holiday was truly all about Andy. Which is fine- it would kind of lame if we spent all weekend lavishing gifts and praise on, let's just say, me (although, I'll admit that might have been kind of nice), but, at this point, enough is enough. Andy, we all love you- nobody more than me- but at the tender age of 17 months, I fear you may become a spoiled rotten brat.

I don't know if this pending new sibling will be enough to stave off the pending spoilage, though. He may also need cousins. Somebody give this kid some cousins.

I exaggerate, but not really. I don't really think Andy is in danger of becoming spoiled, but it's pretty evident that he has a lot of people in his life who think the world of him, and when I mentioned the "reason for the season" on Christmas Day, my dad responded with "Andy?" No, Dad. Andy is not the reason for the season. I was talking about Jesus, son of God. Not Andy, son of morons.

I shouldn't have just called Chris and myself morons. But it just felt right.

Andy received tons of gifts this year, and if he could say "thank you" for each and every one of them, I'm sure he would. However, his vocabulary is still somewhat limited, so instead of verbally thanking everyone, he has shown his gratitude by taking apart all of his new toys and scattering the pieces around the house. I think the next five years of my life are going to be consumed with hunting down parts and reconstructing toys. Lots of bending in my future. Tons of bending.

He seems to enjoy the work bench we got him, although I suppose that should have been a given, considering it encourages hammer banging.

He also likes the bowling pin set my parents gave him- another given, since the goal is to toss a ball and knock shit down. Here's one more instance of the rampant bending that I predicted is in my future, though. Mommy- kisser of ouchies, provider of meals, wiper of doopas, and, of course, setter of pins.

He loves Rock Me Elmo, which sings and plays music. I was pretty impressed with Andy yesterday when he found other ways to play with Rock Me Elmo, including squeezing the Mr. Potatohead glasses on him and trying to cram plastic work bench pieces down his mouth.

Actually, there hasn't been a toy yet that Andy hasn't shown an interest in, which is nice. He's even played with some of the clothes. By throwing them. All over.

To me, this felt like Andy's first real Christmas. Last year, I'm not even sure if he could sit up yet. He had zero interest in what was going on and certainly couldn't partake in sharing Christmas dinner. He had a Christmas bottle and had to be wedged into his baby bumbo while I opened up his gifts. He had a lot less hair, too.

This year, his brown curls flopping like an ill-fitting wig, he ran around double-dipping his pita chips, tearing open his gifts, dancing with my mother's singing Halloween skeleton (she brought it because she knows Andy loves it but then was the first to demand that someone take it away from him), and babbling with words, half-words, and non-words. He laughed in delight, throwing only minor tantrums when overwhelmed and tired.

Oh, and I almost forgot about one of the best parts this year. The day after Christmas, Andy slept until almost eight a.m. THAT NEVER HAPPENS. It was a Christmas miracle. And I needed it, since I was recovering from a Christmas cold and in desperate need of sleeping in.

And, yes, to you non-parents, eight a.m. is sleeping in. And it's glorious. That toy, food, excitement, and attention hangover- that may have been the best gift I personally got this year. So, okay, a little spoiling of Andy is okay since it results in an overload that manifests into thirteen straight hours of sleep. But we must remember not to make it a habit, or to continue to put Andy on a level above Jesus. The reason for the season, indeed.

Andy, I love you.
Andy did make Mommy a Christmas gift at day care.  Here it is.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One Down, Two to Go!

I am done with my first trimester and charging full speed ahead into my second. That's it- a third of this pregnancy is already over. According to the "What Kind Of Food Is Your Fetus If Your Fetus Were A Food?" website, the baby is the size of a peach. A juicy, farm stand fresh Georgia peach. This peach of mine is in the process of forming teeth and vocal cords. I find it incredible that all this magical forming and growing and whatnot is going on somewhere not too deep inside me while I sit here and do something as inane as pick at my cuticles or daydream about Bradley Cooper.

Wait, did you say something? Sorry, I was thinking about... cuticles.

Due Date
This first trimester has been so much different than my first trimester with Andy. The experience of previously giving birth to a textbook perfect, diaper-box adorable little boy has given me a more laid-back perspective this time around. Hey, I did it once, I can totally do it again. When I was pregnant with Andy, I was a mess. I am a worrier by nature, but my anxiety was through the roof. I stayed up at night replaying every thing I ate, touched, and breathed, calculating out the odds of whether or not my tomato soup may have caused a birth defect so profound that my child would be featured on the cover of "Weird Babies Monthly." Every twinge, ache, and flutter of movement had me running to the internet to double check that things were normal.

This time around? Half the time I forget I even am pregnant, and the other half I'm enjoying a cup of coffee with artificial creamer. My concern over whether or not I am able to produce a healthy baby is basically zero. Hopefully, this won't be some kind of ironic problem after I deliver a baby with no toes and thirteen fingers, because then I would probably go insane and need to be committed. However, the ultrasounds, blood tests, everything has been fine, and that has satisfied the usual level of worry.

This isn't to say that I am completely worry-free. My nervousness is more about what's going to happen AFTER the baby gets here- how Andy will adapt, if I can go back to getting zero sleep for a couple months, the financial aspect of it all, how I'm going to comb a baby's hair into pigtails if it happens to be a girl, et cetera, et cetera. But my worries about the actual pregnancy? Eh.

I've been more nauseous this time around. The nausea is gone by this point, but I was definitely more pukey this time than last time. Also, I am so much more fricking tired. It's unbelievable how tired I am. I work all day, come home and entertain a one year old, do my household chores, sleep for a bit, and then am awakened by Andy well before my alarm goes off. I am so very tired. There's no time for napping with Baby #2. In fact, I don't think I will ever be well-rested again. My tombstone will say: Here lies dearest Mommy Jackie./ She never slept and thus went wacky./ People thought that she smoked cracky.

I think I'm showing sooner this time, too, but that was to be expected. All of those gloriously tight stomach muscles that I took for granted in my youth have been all stretched out and wrecked. So much for washing my Cobalt while wearing a string bikini. Another dream, dead on arrival.

To think, I only have about six months left. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was peeing on a stick in the office bathroom. Oh, October.

Last Friday, I went for a standard, twelve week ultrasound. I remember seeing Andy at twelve weeks, and it totally freaked me out. At twelve weeks, it's most definitely a baby, with wiggling arms and legs and a freakishly cute little head. This time, I was not as freaked out, because I knew to expect something that was not so much a blob but actually a recognizable human. And, this time, I thought to myself, "Wow, this is incredible" instead of "Wow, this is incredible- and I'm totally going to throw up and pass out, but maybe not in that order."

You really do become kind of a pro at being pregnant, I suppose. Now excuse me while I unbutton my pants and let my belly hang out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Andy Goes For A Swim!

Let me preface this blog entry by stating that if you are the parent of a toddler, you need to always know where they are, keep the bathroom door closed at all times, or, if for some reason you can't manage to do these first two items, at the very least, always put the toilet lid down.

Some of you may see where I'm going. That's called foreshadowing. Good writers use foreshadowing. However, great writers use misdirection, so perhaps you DON'T know where I'm going with this.

Nah. I'm a good writer, not a great writer.

Andy loves the toilet. He likes to stick his fist in the toilet water and splash happily around. Many days, he's walking around the house with a wet, drippy sleeve of toilet water. The toilet makes him happy, and he'll do whatever he can to get his hand in there- even if I'm already sitting on it, making good use of it. He's recently discovered throwing toilet paper in there, which is a deed I am cautiously encouraging. Yes, Andrew, toilet paper goes in the toilet. But ONLY toilet paper. And, you know, feces.

We have two bathrooms upstairs. One is Andy's bathroom, which is a hot mess of tub toys, non-tub toys, toiletries, clothes, used towels, and make-up (mine, not Andy's, although he's certainly mesmerized by it. Chris thinks the fact that he carries around powder brushes means he might be a painter. I don't have the heart to point out the obvious, that it might mean a future of garish face paint and wild cross-dressing.). Then there's also our bathroom, in our bedroom, which is also a disaster zone, only it's not quite as easy to blame Andy for. But we try.

I was using the toilet in Andy's bathroom on Saturday, or at least trying to, while Andy was attempting to shove his hand behind my butt and stick his fingers in the water. God, I hope I'm not the only mother with this problem. Chris had just woken up, and, having had enough, I yelled out for him to come get Andy. Which he did (I'm still on the toilet at this point, a further unnecessary glimpse into our home life). They left the bathroom, door closed behind them, and I relished being able to finish peeing. It was very relaxing, doing this alone. I only wished we also kept magazines in the mess of the bathroom.

When I exited the bathroom a few minutes later, it was very quiet. This, I may not have to tell you, is NEVER a good sign. Andy is only very quiet when he's sleeping, doing something hugely horrible, or passed out on the floor because he hit his head too hard against the wall. I knew I wasn't lucky enough to have a sleeping toddler on my heads at this time in the morning, so I headed into Chris' office hoping to find them both there. Only Chris was there, on his computer, completely in his own computing world, with no toddler in sight. Oh, God.

"Where's Andy?" I asked.

"I don't know," replied Chris, as if this was the first time he had considered such a question. I turned on my heels and headed into our bedroom. Nope, not there either. I made a sharp left into the master bath- and gasped.

Andy, sweet, quiet Andy with the blankest of stares on his cherubic little face, was sitting IN the toilet. He had managed to climb in and was just sitting there, the toilet seat a touch below chest level, with one of his arms resting atop the seat itself.

Believe it or not, my first instinct was not to laugh or take a picture. The first thing I did was imagine how this could have gone horribly wrong, how Andy could have splashed in head first instead of butt first. See, that's what happens when you become a mom- you perceive things that are HILARIOUS as things that are extremely dangerous. A little bit of your comedic intuition also comes out when you deliver that child.

I yelled for Chris, who came running in. We stared at Andy for a minute, who stared back at us, strangely content to be sitting in a toilet, in cool toilet water. Then, Chris hefted him out carefully, and I looked at what Andy had been sitting in besides just water. Because first he had thrown in some toilet paper. And a banana peel. And his blanket.

Andy got a bath, lost a blanket (that went directly into the trash), and a long lecture on how he's too big to be flush himself, so he might as well never try again. Chris got a lecture of sorts, too, and now has to deal with me yelling at him every morning, "Is the bathroom door closed? Is the toilet seat down?"

As if I don't already have plenty to yell about.

Oh, Andy. We should have taken a picture. But, please, I'm okay just living with the memories. No need to recreate that just so I can get a shot.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Andy's Going To Be A Big Brother!

Andy's going to be a big brother. He's a little boy, practically still a baby, and he's going to be somebody's big brother. He will be just shy of 2 years old when this new baby is born, which raises the question, what the hell was I thinking???? And considering Andy's two greatest interests are biting and hair pulling, I'm pretty sure he's going to be a shitty big brother. Maybe I'm wrong.

"We" (as if Chris gets to deal with the weight gain, hormones, sacrifice of wine, birthing process, and then the three solid weeks of wearing a maxi pad the size of a phone book) got pregnant on purpose, but at times it still feels like an accident. Here I am at just over 11 weeks, excited and happy to be pregnant, but also feeling pretty intense pangs of fear at times. I know I'm a pretty rock solid, awesome mother of one, but I feel like the transition of parenting one child to parenting two children is going to be trying. I am worried that I will not be able to meet the needs of my children as fully, since my time will be more divided. I am worried about whether or not I can potty train Andy before the new baby comes. I am afraid that Andy will not adjust well to sharing attention, and I can't help asking myself who's going to pay for the stuff the new baby is going to need? And where is he/she going to sleep? Is it wrong that I'm hoping for another boy baby so that they can share a room (did someone say bunk beds??!?!!) and I can re-use all of Andy's super cute monkey clothes?

And... end nervous, worried rant.

I don't want to send the wrong message here- I am seriously thrilled to be pregnant again. I just can't help but worry. It's like that old saying goes, "Don't happy, be worry." That being said, this was the plan from the beginning. I always wanted a family of four (two kids, two parents, zero pets) and to be done with child-bearing well before I reach 35. At this point, I'll be done before I hit 32, so once again, I am ahead of schedule. That's me in a nutshell, always early for things.

And, as far as the age difference, every time I panic about the kids being too close in age, I tell myself to stop. I know so many families that have kids even closer together, and somehow they all manage(d) swimmingly. And, a two year age difference is probably pretty ideal, when you get right down to it. They will be close enough in age where they will hopefully be buddies and interested in similar things, but still far enough apart where it's a healthy amount of time between pregnancies. And, I hope, Andy will be fairly independent at that point. We'll see, though. Kid loves to be held, snuggled, adored, etc. I'm fairly certain, though, that I can adore two children at once, unless they are taking turns flushing my jewelry down the toilet, in which case there's no adoring for anyone.

So that's it, that's my announcement along with a little neuroses just for fun. More entertaining blog posts to come.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Bye-bye baba.
The pediatrician warned that I had to get Andy completely off bottles by 18 months, otherwise he would grow up to be a lunatic with funky teeth. The pediatrician is very good at making blanket demands without any advice on how to get from point A to point B. When Andy, as a baby, refused to eat his cereals and purees (he basically didn't eat any solids until he was 9 months old), the doctor's wise advice was "Keep trying." As a new parent, this is not what I was looking to hear. Alas, Andy did eventually get the hang of eating, but I wish the doctor had said something like, "Have you tried cheese? This kid looks like he's going to love cheese. Take two tablespoons of Cheez Whiz and call us in the morning." Now that, that would have been some solid doctoring.

The doctor made the bottle proclamation at Andy's fifteen month appointment, when I admitted that he still had two bottles, one in the morning and one before bed time. Perhaps selfishly, I have delayed getting rid of these bottles because I love giving them to Andy, who loves his bottles equally as much. The morning bottle is amazing, because it buys us some cuddle time in which I can doze off for a few minutes. This is how the morning goes:

Andy screams in crib.
I wonder for a moment who's making all that noise.
Oh, right, I have a kid.
Get out of bed, go downstairs.
Pour milk into a bottle.
Screams are increasing in intensity.
Go upstairs, get Andy out of crib.
Screams stop.
Climb back into bed, where Andy settles against me and drinks bottle.
Cuddle with Andy and fall asleep for the best five minutes of the morning.
Get woken back up when Andy hits me in the face with empty bottle.

You can see how this has become a much-loved morning ritual. The day goes on, and there's much activity, cheese consumption, sock removal, et cetera, and then we end up in Andy's bedroom after a long day. He curls up in my lap, his head nestled against my chest, and drinks his bottle while I stare down adoringly at him. This is the quietest, sweetest part of the evening. And this is going to be the most difficult bottle to remove- for both of us.

Today, on a Monday, I took away Andy's morning bottle. It was awful, and I wanted to cry. I woke up before Andy and crept to the kitchen where I optimistically poured his morning milk into a sippy cup and unhooked a banana from a bunch, hoping that the site of his favorite herbaceous plant would make the experience less traumatic. Andy was stirring when I reached the second level, and I went into his bedroom and dialed my demeanor to "cheery." This may have been Andy's first clue that something was wrong.

I lifted Andy out of his crib for a cuddle. The poor bastard started looking around expectantly, and this is when I ceremoniously presented him with his milk cup. "Here's your milk!" I said brightly, as if this lame ass cup was exactly what Andy was looking for. Andy shook his head vehemently, and when I moved the cup closer to him, he shook his head even harder, pushed the cup away, and then looked up at me. Betrayal sparked in his dark eyes, and that's when I showed him the banana. "Look, Andy!" I exclaimed. "Should we have a banana? Isn't this your favorite herbaceous plant?"

Andy was not interested in the banana. I tried again to offer him some milk, and he shoved the cup away again. He looked up at me, imploringly, and inquired, "Baba?"

Shit. This was already going poorly.

"No baba today!" I announced happily. By this point, I was at maximum enthusiasm and feeling very unlike my normal, "glass half empty and filled with motor oil" self. My cheeks ached from the smiling, and I feared that I was permanently altering the shape of my head. "Today we're having the cup. You know the cup! You love the cup!"

Andy replied, "Baba."

"Okay, let's just change our diaper and get dressed!" I said joyously. I don't know why, but I refer to Andy's diaper as "our" diaper, as if I have equal stake in what he creates in there. We accomplished that task, just barely, and then I tried to hand Andy the cup again. "The cup is so freaking awesome!"

This is when the crying started.

For the next twenty minutes, Andy cried and screamed and clawed at me and repeated "baba" in a pained voice while I did my best to finish getting ready and make sure he understood that the cup and banana were still available for his enjoyment. He clung to my legs, demanded to be held, sobbed, and cried his sad cry, the cry that makes my very cells weep individually for my baby boy. I had tears forming in my eyes, too, and part of me was thinking, "Oh, God, just give him a bottle. What's the harm?" But, I suppose, part of being an okay parent is sticking to your guns, and so at long last, we got to the point in the morning where it was time for Andy to go to day care, and we got his coat and shoes on without the poor boy having had even one small sip of milk.

I am telling myself that he was probably fine the second he got to day care. And that tomorrow will be rough, too, but that by the end of this week, Andy may hopefully feel resigned to drinking his morning milk out of a cup, even if this resignation comes with the lingering sense that he's been wronged, and betrayed, by the person he thought he could depend on most in the world. Me.

Perhaps tomorrow I will try a different tactic. Maybe I'll turn down the happy demeanor a tad and act more like my regular, morning "life is worth living, but just barely" self. Maybe I'll offer Andy the cup while snuggling in my bed. There's a reason I didn't do that this morning- I don't want my bed smelling like sour milk after Andy refuses the cup and instead, vindictively, dumps it out onto my comforter. But, perhaps another part of being an okay parent is letting your bed smell like sour milk during the occasional transition week. We make so many sacrifices as parents. And, sometimes, we ask our children to sacrifice as well.

This is for your own good, Andy. I think.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mind the Gap!

The gap between the words Andy understands and the words he can say is widening on a daily basis. It's alarming how much of what we say to him he actually seems to get, while, in return, he can only nod, shake his head, and say the following:

Duh (dog)
'Nack (snack)
Baba (bottle)
Wawa (water)
Muh (milk)
Nana (banana)

So, that's about fifteen words that my little linguist can say. I just wish there were some verbs in there. I wish he could say "Daddy purchases banana" or "Baby destroys dinosaur." Although, I suppose that "milk" can be a verb. It's possible that Andy's first full sentence could be "Mama milks dogs." But I don't milk dogs, so hopefully Andy won't go around telling his day care peeps that I do. Embarrassing!

It's amazing that Andy can only say these fifteen words while he truly understands so many more. I'm starting to realize how much he actually comprehends, and it's staggering. I ask him to fetch various items (shoes, toy cars, books, Advil), and he complies. I ask for basic help with small tasks, and he assists as directed. I tell him that lunch will be ready or it's time for his bath or maybe he'd be interested in watching ten minutes of Brainy Baby so I can try to sneak off to the toilet, and he stands by his highchair, runs to the bathtub, or watches exactly ten seconds of Brainy Baby and then bangs on the bathroom door, crying, while I try and fail, to have two minutes of urinary peace.

He understands hugs, kisses, dancing, everyday objects, and the concept of being home and going out. He understands when I'm telling him not to do something naughty, because that's when he gets that devilish, spiteful look on his face and continues to do it, only harder. He understands being naughty and nice, and he nods or shakes his head appropriately at questions such as "Does Andy want cheese?" (nod) or "Does Andy want to practice trigonometry?" (shake).

As wonderful as it is that Andy understands so much more than he's capable of vocalizing, I got to thinking last night that maybe I'm not giving him enough credit, and that he's understanding not only much of what I'm directing at him ("Andy, bring Mommy book.") but also much of what I'm NOT directing at him.

I didn't think we'd reach this point so early in his young life, but I'm going to have to start watching the things I mutter. For real. This includes the obvious- swear words and gossip- because the last thing I need is for Andy to one day say "Didn't you say that bitch was a gold-digger, mama?" or to hear the words bitch and gold-digger and immediately say "Anita." Or whomever it was that I was referring to at the time.

Not that I'm big on swearing or gossiping (blatant lie, I thrive on doing both) but that's just an example.

Another example is Christmas stuff, which we've been talking about in front of Andy as if he doesn't exist. If I'm not careful- and if it's not too late- there's a good chance that Santa will be ruined forever and that, spoiler alert, Andy will already know to expect the toy work bench on Christmas morning that Mommy- and again not Santa- found for $30 at Aldi. You know Aldi, that place where shopping is an adventure in renting carts, bringing your own bags, and going through all sorts of personal hells in order to save about ten bucks on your groceries? Well, they sell more than food. They have this strangely wonderful miscellaneous aisle filled with random things from patio furniture to computer keyboards to motor oil to toy work benches. Just something you may want to know.

Also, Chris and I talk freely about the future around Andy- about plans to completely eradicate his bottles from his daily schedule (he still gets two) or other developmental items in his future, and maybe Andy is understanding these talks and is thinking, "So that's your big plan for taking away my babas? You losers, now that you've let the cat out of the bag, now I know exactly what to expect and how to counter attack. Idiots."

Oh, the things he could say if he could.
Such as, "Get me out of this basket, weirdo."
And you never want to burden your children with the things you worry about. Andy should be blissfully unaware that there are mortgages or bosses or asymmetrically shaped moles. Andy shouldn't have to lay away at night wondering what Mommy meant when she talked about the Mayans and the year 2012. That end of days stuff, it's way too much to burden a small child with.

It's a bittersweet feeling to come to the conclusion that your child may be- either now or soon in the future- at an age where they are understanding so much more than they're capable of communicating back. It's not the gap itself that makes me feel so weird- it's the fact that my son is growing up, learning so quickly, and reacts so well to words. That he can take part in a dialogue, even if the things that come out of his mouth make him still sound like a baby only interested in "more" and "balls." Those fifteen words, they're deceiving, and, in many ways, he's not a baby, not anymore. He's smart, and, more importantly, he's listening. He gets it.

So if you come over and want to gossip, email me a list of substitution words beforehand. Bitch, for instant, can be "nice lady." That Anita, she sure is one nice lady.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Andy and Rustino!

Andy's Thanksgiving meal.
Thanksgiving would be a wonderful holiday if not for all the football. I spend much of Thanksgiving wishing that the three F's were food, family, and "Frasier." Or "Friends," or any other television show that starts with the letter "F." I can't stand football. I hate it. In a universe filled with boring sports, football is the worst of the worst. When I realized, a couple years ago, that sometimes time went BACK ON THE CLOCK during football games, I almost slit my wrists right then and there.

We spent Thanksgiving at my parents' house yesterday, where there were four F's: food, family, football, and flea bags. They have two dogs. Sandy is the more pleasant of the two, and Rusty (which I found out yesterday is short for "Rustino") is the troublemaker. Rusty has a loud, grating bark that tears through your very soul, and he is quick to jump on you, nip at you, and scratch at your legs. As much as you may beg and plead, Rusty refuses to simply leave you alone and insists on getting up in your business while you perform any basic activity, such as breathing. Rusty is, frankly, kind of an asshole. So, naturally, when Andy assessed the two dogs upon walking into my parents' living room, he took one look at Sandy, the sweet one, and Rusty, the jackass, and immediately took a liking to Rusty.

Sometimes I wonder what we all did before Andy came along. How did we pass the commercial breaks and times between snacking and dinner and dessert without Andy to entertain us? What activity kept us busy when we didn't have Andy to chase after? It's only been sixteen months, but I can't recall what those B.A. (Before Andy) years were like. They must have been very peaceful, boring, kind of sleepy.

Here are the activities that Andy engaged in with Rusty yesterday during the Thanksgiving holiday. For every action Andy took, there was an equal reaction by the adults.

- Action: Tackling Rusty. Reaction: Tackling Andy, prying him off Rusty.

- Action: Being pushed down by Rusty. Reaction: Tackling Rusty, prying him off Andy.

- Action: Sticking his face in Rusty's butt. Reaction: Informing Andy that that's where Rusty goes poo, and warning Andy that Rusty might accidentally poo in Andy's mouth if he's not careful.

- Action: Biting Rusty's tail. Reaction: Soothing an angry Rusty, admonishing a puzzled Andy, making some lame joke.

- Action: Pulling Rusty's ears. Reaction: See above.

- Action: Walking Rusty around using his leash. Reaction: Attempting to take lots of pictures (unfortunately, Andy's a blur in most of them) and yelling, "You gotta come see this! Andy's walking the dog!" Then instructing Andy, in a scream, to let go of the leash when Rusty took off down the hallway at a full gallop, dragging Andy behind him.

- Action: Feeding Rusty cheese. Reaction: Getting more cheese out of the refrigerator.

- Action: Petting Rusty. Reaction: Hovering above Andy because at any moment a kindly pat on the back could turn into a torturous yanking of fur.

- Action: Trying to ride Rusty like a pony. Reaction: My mother yelling at me, "Andy's riding the dog like a horse!" Yelling back, "What? I'm in the bathroom!"

And so on. After a while (the first ten minutes into what would turn into a solid six hours of Andy messing with that damn dog), I got pretty sick of dealing with the admittedly adorable shenanigans of Andy and Rusty, and I asked if Rusty could be put in his cage. Apparently that was a cold-hearted request to make, because my parents acted like I'd suggested we feed the dog a jar of Tylenol PM and then put him in a car and roll the car into a lake. So, the dog stayed out, but I wasn't thinking as creatively as I should have been. Had I been on my game, I would have showed Andy the dog cage (I guess it's called a crate, not a cage) right away. Instead, Andy didn't discover the cage/ crate himself until around dessert time, when he did the most helpful task of the evening, and put himself into the cage. Finally, Rusty had a reprieve from the toddler, and the adults had a reprieve from the both of them.

Why, I keep asking myself, didn't I think to cage up Andy sooner?

Just so you know, Andy wasn't at any point locked in the cage, and he was free to crawl in and out of it using his own free will. But it was just the distraction he needed from the dog, and it was at that point that I added another item to the still growing list of things that I'm thankful for this year: cages that are roomy enough for rambunctious little boys who happen to think that cages are super fun.

All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving- especially since we were all too busy with Andy and Rustino to actually sit and watch any football. I guess you could say it all worked out.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Andy's Greatest Accomplishment!

"Oh my God," Chris whispered, staring at our son. "This is the greatest thing he's ever done."

And there it was, Andy's finest accomplishment to date. We were in a casual restaurant during that depressing hour between lunch and dinner when only the very old and those with babies eat their late meal for the day. I'm not even sure it was five o'clock yet, and the group of senior citizens right behind us were so ancient that they were reminiscing, loudly, about being middle-aged during World War I. Eating out so early on a Saturday evening- technically, let's face it, still afternoon- was one of the many lame habits that we'd picked up since becoming parents, but by this point, we were barely fazed. We wore our lameness with a sort of delusional pride, much like the hunched over lady to our right boasted a lone pink sponge curler on the top of her head.

"Wow," I breathed, awed by the actions of my sixteen month old. By this time, we'd been at the restaurant for close to an hour, and our table and surrounding area, especially the floor underneath our table, had been legally declared a disaster zone by FEMA. President Obama was on a flight en route to our table, ready to give a prepared speech on the far reaching impact of our tragic table. He would deliver this speech while the three of us continued eating in the background, our actions and messes serving to illustrate how dire the situation was. The table top in front of Andy was sticky and gummy and crusty and slimy all at once. I was managing a big plastic bag full of Andy's food and food remains, and the contents of Andy's overstuffed diaper bag were half spilled all over the floor, on top of the unmanageable pile of crumbs and smushy sandwich bits that Andy had created almost instantly after being seated in his highchair. There were baby wipes, milk spills, ketchup stains, stray noodles, chewed up pieces of crayon, crumpled menu pages, hunks of soggy bread, and balled up bits of wet napkin littered across our table. Something in the corner near the salt packets was on fire and smoldering ever so gently, but we were too wrapped up in Andy to try to solve that particular mystery.

Going out to dinner with Andy isn't exactly a relaxing way to spend an hour on a Saturday, but even super moms like myself need a night out of the kitchen and a meal consisting of something other than pizza or chicken nuggets. As a cook, I have refused to make two different meals- a baby meal plus an adult meal- and so, instead of Andy eating the food that Chris and I would like to eat, it quickly became apparent that Chris and I were stuck eating the food that Andy wanted. That lovable bastard has already affirmed himself as the boss of our household, and the worst part of it is that our new boss only knows about eight words, is an incredible slob, and can't keep his hands out of his poop while we change his diaper.

So, it's nice to get out of the house for a proper meal, even if it's a Meal Event that requires packing Andy's bag with a balanced dinner for him and enough baby supplies to hold us over should we get lost on our way home and need to camp out in the wilderness for a couple days. Yes, it's nice to have Andy create a mess somewhere other than our dining room, one that I can still be embarrassed about but not feel necessarily obligated to clean, and it's nice to eat the food I want to eat and be served by someone who's not me and have the dishes washed afterwards by someone else who's also, importantly, not me. Even if it's still kind of a pain to take an antsy toddler out for a meal that requires he be trapped in a high chair about twenty minutes longer than he'd like to be, it's a wonderful experience to eat my shrimp scampi in relative- relative truly being relative here- peace.

But I digress, as I tend to do these days, now that I'm a mother and a multi-tasker beyond most multi-tasker's wildest dreams. Andy had just done something amazing. And, Chris was right. It may have been the greatest thing he'd ever done.

I'd handed Andy a yogurt container and a spoon. This was obviously not the brightest move on my part, but the kid loves yogurt, and I can usually handle the mess. Andy's at the point in his young eating career where he wants to feed himself, so even though I'd started out trying to spoon him his yogurt, he'd become irritated at being babied and snatched the spoon out of my hands, stubbornly set on doing it himself. Andy's not the greatest with the spoon. He's getting there, but he misses his mouth frequently, smacking himself in the nose, cheeks, forehead, and eyeball with whatever item he's trying to enjoy. In this case, the yogurt was dotted all around his face making him look like he was suffering from some strange skin disease that resulted in creamy, delicious pustules on the face. Except for the big smile on his face, you'd think that he was really ill, or at least in serious need of some ointment.

Andy, ultimate maker of messes, little king of slobs, did something incredible, though, instead of continuing to slather on the yogurt dollops. He put down his spoon, reached for a napkin, and WIPED SOME OF THE YOGURT OFF OF HIS FACE.

This kid is disgusting.
If you're a parent, you can understand how proud we were in that brief shining moment of Andy's self-cleaning. Chris' heart swelled with love and joy, and my vision blurred with tears of pride. It was a milestone for Andy, like walking or saying "mama." Andy had WIPED HIS OWN FACE. After getting over the initial shock, Chris and I burst into a round of applause, which temporarily halted the conversations of our fellow, elderly diners, who for a moment had forgotten where they were and how they'd gotten there.

Which, aside from eating dinner at 4:30 on a Saturday, is another way that we are lame- all that damn clapping we do. That evening, after we got home and relaxed for a bit in the family room, I found myself getting in to bed at about 9:00, exhausted from the day's events. I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face, playing the moment over and over again in my mind. Andy had wiped off his own face. I can only imagine that Andy fell asleep the same way I did, with the same pride and the same five seconds replaying over and over in his own head. Either that, or he had already totally forgotten and was instead imagining all of the horrific messes- on his face and elsewhere- that the next glorious day would bring. Or perhaps he was thinking about balloons.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Formula To Andy's Success!

If you buy your baby formula, make
sure it comes in some sort of
Andy had formula as an infant. There, I've admitted it. Cast your stones as you feel necessary. Just try not to aim for my face; I am nothing without my looks.

I tried to breast feed, I really did. I think I lasted about four weeks and even that was with heavy formula supplementation. Anyway, when I finally gave up and went strictly to formula, it was both the best and worst feeling in the world. Best, because I was relieved to just be done with what for me, had been an awful and horrifying experience. Worst, because I felt like I had failed my child and that DCFS was going to burst through my front door at any moment, declare me unfit to raise a child, throw Andy into a pillowcase, and hustle him out into their waiting van.

After Andy was born, and after the birthing room and I had both been sufficiently hosed down, the nurses wheeled me into a recovery room where they neglected to ask if I wanted a sandwich (I so did) and but did remember to ask if I wanted to try nursing right away. My first thought was, "Now? Really? Shouldn't you be giving me a list of the deli meats and cheeses you have available?" I could barely see straight from the pain meds and was still shaken from having survived the most painful and surreal fourteen hours of my life, but instead of communicating these thoughts to the nurse, I simply nodded and held out my arms for my son. Even despite my sorry state, holding Andy definitely ranked as the most wonderful feeling in the world. I would be content to hold him for the rest of my life, through all of his growth spurts and all of my sandwiches, well into the years when my bones began to disintegrate from advanced osteoporosis and my head was outfitted with comically enormous glaucoma glasses and freakishly white dentures.

As great as it was to cradle my newborn, neither of us seemed very interested in the task at hand. He just wasn't craving what I had to offer. He did not latch on, even after the nurse's suggestion of basically taking Andy's skull and shoving it where it needed to go, and he seemed a little upset that we couldn't just cuddle. Eventually, the nurse said that we could try again in a couple hours, and Andy and I fell asleep for a little bit, skin to skin. Chris had his own little cot off to the side. Just for the record, nobody offered him a sandwich, either.

By early morning, I was revved up and ready to get the breast feeding show on the road. I had the nurses come in and show me all the different positions (football, cross-cradle, downward dog). They maneuvered Andy's head as if playing with a ragdoll and pushed his face onto my boob. They gave me pointers, tips, and encouragement. They distracted my deep concentration with silly rhymes: "Your little baby, he's a newbie. / Don't worry, soon he'll like your boobie!" They assured me that baby's lack of latching was normal. And then they sent in the lactation expert.

By this time, no less than fifteen people had seen my bare bosom in the last twenty-four hours. I'm pretty sure at least twelve of them actually worked at the hospital.

The lactation expert (or "breast coach" as Chris non-ironically referred to her) had definitely been captain of the cheerleading team back in high school. She was upbeat and peppy, and I immediately disliked her the second that she walked into the room. She gave me the talk on why breast was best, went through all the positions again, rearranged Andy, rearranged me, and then came up with the bright idea to dribble a little sugar water on my nipples to get Andy interested.

Yes, the breast coach dribbled sugar water on my nipples. At some point, I had to draw the line on where my dignity was being compromised, and this was it. I felt like I was on the strangest first date of my life, and all I wanted to do was put my shirt back on and ask her to please drive me home.

It didn't even help. Andy wasn't going for the sugary nips, and at some point, the nurse offered us a tiny bottle of formula, which Andy drank with no problem.

We kept trying with the nursing, throughout the rest of the day and into the night. Finally, the next morning, we were on our way home, but only after the breast coach gave me an awkward hug, a hospital-grade pump, a dozen booklets on the pros of breastfeeding, and the advice that breastfeeding is not for everyone, and, at the end of the day, the choice of giving my child prime boobie nutrition or abusing him with manufactured formula that would most likely make him sick, dumb, and unlucky in love was totally up to me. I could make the choice- and also live with it.

At home, I promptly fell asleep for three hours while Chris spent alone time with Andy, holding him, taking pictures of him, and wondering if he was ever going to wake up from his formula induced slumber, as we'd given him another tiny little bottle before getting in the car. Baby was out like he'd just had Thanksgiving dinner and wine.

After resting, I tried to nurse Andy. Wasn't interested. Tried again after a couple hours, and it was more of the same. It wasn't until two days later that Andy suddenly got the hang of it, and for a whole weekend, I felt like the world's greatest lactator. The only problem was, Andy would or could only drink a little at a time before falling asleep. And then he'd want more forty-five minutes later. I suddenly felt like a machine on demand, but the worst part was the machine's production wasn't keeping up very well. Andy never seemed satisfied, not like he did after Chris would give him a bottle of formula.

There were other obstacles aside from the low production, the being on call, and Andy's lack of satisfaction. There were clogs and bleeding and soreness and pain. I was uncomfortable all day long, and my chest just plain hurt. There were times when I would pump only to see blood-tinged milk filling up in the collection jar, as my junk was raw and no amount of ointment or other remedy seemed to repair the area. More frequent or less frequent nursing didn't seem to help with the clogs, either. After a couple weeks, I still didn't feel like it was coming naturally to me, and I was stressed out beyond belief, cringing with discomfort every time Andy would try to drink. I'll finally say it here. I hated breast feeding. I hated it so much. I did not feel any special bond with my son when he was nursing, and, for me, it was a physical punishment. And, I swear, Andy didn't like it either. I could see it in his face. "Stop dicking around, Ma, and just give me the f-ing bottle."

After four weeks, I gave up. Physically, I felt the best I had since Andy had been born. My boobs healed, and I was able to get more sleep since I wasn't on call and Andy was getting rib-sticking, heavy formula to keep him happy. Emotionally, though, I wasn't doing super great. I worried that maybe I'd given up too soon, that maybe I was putting Andy at a disadvantage from not getting all of the touted benefits of breast milk. I felt guilty over the whole thing. The only thing that helped ease that guilt was the fantastic amount of sleep I was getting, the lack of blood stains in my bra, and the sweet, content temperament of my child.

But, although the guilt was eased, it lingered there until Andy's first birthday, when I threw out that last container of formula and bought his first gallon of whole milk. There. My baby was off formula now. I didn't have to be afraid of the peppy breast coach or the boob police showing up and arresting me as I mixed a bottle of Enfamil.

Now that it's all said and done, I look at Andy's health and development and can't see that he's worse off for having the formula. At sixteen months, he has never had an ear infection or any other illness other than minor colds. He's never had to be on antibiotics, and the only time he's even had to have baby aspirin was once after a vaccine. He's healthy and hearty. Developmentally, he's always been on or ahead of the curve. He's smart; Chris and I like to call him the problem solver because that's what he does- he solves problems. Also, as I've stated, he's pretty damn cute.

Is there a part of me that wonders if Andy had had more breast milk, could he have been even healthier, smarter, and (somehow) cuter? Well, maybe a small part. But then Andy would have been a Super Baby, and if he would have been that much more amazing, then he might have made all of the other babies at day care feel really down about themselves. Either way, it's all worked out, and I've mostly stopped feeling bad about the whole thing.

Will I try to breast feed again at some point in the future? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. I think I will give it another try, just to see if things go differently. But only if I have another baby. Otherwise, that would just be weird.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gift Ideas For Andy!

With the holidays right around the corner, I've decided to put together a gift guide if you're so inclined to buy Andy a present this Christmas. Why should you have to wander aimlessly around the Dollar General trying to find little Man-drew the perfect gift without some sort of direction?

Your discarded junk mail. Planning on throwing that flyer from Bed, Bath, and Beyond in the trash? Well, stop right there- that piece of paper is baby gift gold. A piece of mail is very entertaining to Andy, and he's found a dozen uses for a single sheet of advertisement. He can look at it, rip it, crumple it, put it in his mouth, and hand it to me... and then wait for me to hand it back. We spend entire afternoons sometimes just handling the mail.

A balloon. Andy fell in love with balloons sometime around his first birthday, and that love has blossomed into a sort of psychotic obsession. Andy sees a balloon as a trusted, weeklong companion, one that he can drag around the house, babble to incoherently, and- truly this is the most adorable thing- bombard with hugs and kisses. If you get Andy a balloon, he will insist on the balloon floating next to his high chair while he dines and above him while I change his diaper. Sometimes, Andy will just lay on the ground, quietly staring up at his friend the balloon, completely content in the simple, helium-filled pleasures of everyday moments.

A banana. This perishable gift is one that Andy will treasure fully until the very last bite of actual banana and the first five or so bites of peel. Andy wakes up asking for bananas, goes to sleep wondering where the bananas are, and spends most of his waking hours wandering around in a state of potassium-ized hope mumbling, "'Nana? 'Nana?" Andy will give you an open-mouthed kiss in exchange for one banana.

A remote control that remotely controls something. We've tried to fool our smart young lad with remote controls that don't do anything and- even more insulting to his intelligence- pretend remote controls covered with stickers of Sesame Street characters. He's not interested. He only wants to use a remote that works, and, believe me, he can tell the difference. So, perhaps a good gift idea would be a functional remote control to, and I'm just spitballing here, a new 60 inch television.

Along these same lines, Andy would also like a cell phone that actually makes call. He throws our old, non-functional cell phones back in our faces.

A cup of water. Andy can enjoy a cup of water in ways you wouldn't believe. Firstly, he really enjoys drinking out of real cups, moreso than he enjoys drinking out of his sippy cups. There's something just terribly quenching about a barage of water flooding your mouth. Secondly, he likes to walk around carrying the water. I think he enjoys the inherent element of danger- the fact that he could spill the water at any second. Thirdly, he likes to put the cup on the floor, bend over it, reach inside it, and just splash his little fist around. It's like a swimming pool for his hand! Fourthly, just when he's about done enjoying his cup, he'll spill out the water and then immediately begin lapping it up like a dog. Which brings me to my next gift idea.

A dog. If you get him a dog, I will make damn sure that you never see Andy again. So don't f-ing buy him a dog.

Bathroom items. Oh, man. If you're shopping the bathroom department at Wal-mart, you're in Andy gift-giving central. It's impossible to go wrong with practically anything in the bathroom aisles. Toilet paper, for instance, is excellent for unspooling. And Andy really could use his own personal toilet brush and toilet plunger, as oftentimes I'll find him sitting in the loft gently carressing our (used) toilet brush and (also used) toilet plunger. A little gross, yes, but at least Andy has found something that makes him happy, which is more than most of us can say. Sometimes Andy will fetch two toilet plungers and walk around the house using the plungers in a cross-country skiing sort of fashion. Andy also likes combs and Q-tips, washcloths and tooth brushes. And, his new favorite thing is to hand me the lotion bottle and hold out his hands. I'll squirt a little lotion onto his palm, making some comment about how dreadfully dry his skin is, and he'll rub his two hands together in satisfaction, really working that lotion in. Then- he'll hold his hands out for more. By the time Andy's done receiving all the lotion he wants, his two hands are incredibly well-lubricated, to the point where if he balanced himself on his palms, he could slide his way all the way down the street. And back.

Baking sheets. Andy has graduated from Tupperware (that's so last summer) to aluminum baking sheets. He relishes the awful noises that they make when he smacks them mightily against the floor. He also likes to stand on them and do an amateurish tap dance routine. In addition, he likes to see if they will fit in the toilet (thankfully, they don't).

Boxes. It's true- a box to a child is like a foosball table to an adult; it's limitless fun. Boxes have two uses: putting other things in them, such as teddy bears, and putting yourself in them. Andy prefers the latter, and he likes to sit in all sorts of medium sized boxes, his knees pressed up to his chin, and just relax in the uncomfortable enclosure. Bonus: if, while Andy's in his box, you manage to pick him and the box up and stick both into another, larger box, you get to delight in knowing that you just blew his mind.

A CD of latin music. One day, I accidentally put on the Comcast latin music station, and Andy began dancing like he'd never danced before. I swear he was doing the salsa. So, forget "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Old McDonald;" Andy just wants to feel the heat.

A trash bag of trash. Whoa, whoa, whoa. That trash bag of trash is valuable stuff. Let Andy dig around in it, and you just bought his parents about three hours of free time. I just ask that you sort your trash beforehand and remove anything that Andy could use to choke on, get poisoned by, or wipe out your bank account with a single call.

Andy looks forward to receiving your gift. However, if money's tight this year (or you're out of trash, junk mail, and water), don't worry too much about it. Andy's not really expecting too much this Christmas and will be happy just to be able to see you, sit on your lap, and give your hair a good, merry yank.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hair Pulling Fun!

Andy pulls hair. He pulls hair hard, and he doesn't let go. He pulls hair like it's his goal to somehow yank your brain out through your skull, closely examine it, proclaim it a "ball," and then hand it sweetly back to you for a game of catch. He has a surprisingly strong grip for someone with hands the size of kitten paws. He is also adept at getting individual hair strands wrapped around his fingers so that disentanglement rapidly becomes a horrible puzzle that you must solve behind your head while enduring the kind of pain that makes you regret every life decision you've ever made up until that very moment.

I have to assume that Andy's not trying to be mean, and that there's a good-natured intention behind the barbaric and, let's face it, shitty act. Perhaps Andy somehow got the impression that savagely pulling a curl of hair was a non-verbal way of communicating, "Let's eat pizza together this Friday." It is true that Andy never seems to be in a mean mood when the pulling takes place. He is usually playful during hair-pulling bouts, squealing in delight as my eyes tear up and my head snaps back. He is usually acting like he's been considering a Friday pizza party.

He pulls my hair, of course, and there have been times when I've victoriously removed his hand from my hair only to find several of my hair strands still wrapped around his stubby little fingers. I fear that I am slowly undergoing a toddler-induced bout of female baldness and that eventually my sparsely covered head, littered with uneven bald patches, will start to affect my social life. "I was going to invite Jackie to the party," an old friend might whisper during some amazingly fun event involving little tacos and butter pecan ice cream. "But have you seen her lately? There's something going on in her hair, and it's making her look crazy. Not good crazy, either, but bad crazy, like she's dressing animals in clothes and discussing odd medical conditions with strangers at the bank."

"I heard that her hair problem is related to her son, Andy," some other old friend might say in my defense, biting into a deliciously cheesy little taco.

"That doesn't explain why she now has a cat that wears sweaters," the first friend will reply. "Have you tried the butter pecan ice cream? There's, like, extra pecans in it! So good!"

Aside from my hair, I've witnessed Andy pulling on the pigtails of the neighborhood girls and on random other sets of hair when we've been out and about at playgrounds. The pigtails especially seem to intrigue Andy, and I imagine that part of him must expect the girls to erupt in some awesome noise or wondrous display of lights after the pigtail is yanked. After all, many of Andy's toys encourage him to push and pull protrusions, rewarding him with a silly buzz or a flash of color. It's possible Andy sees the pigtails as joy buzzers of sort. In a way, they sort of are: Andy pulls, the girl shrieks. Cause and effect in a real life toy. I'm sure Andy would prefer they sing the first few lines of "Pop Goes The Weasel" instead of crying, but little boys can't be too picky about the noisy reactions of inanimate objects, neighbors, and other such items of amusement.

I've also been told that Andy pulls the hair of his day care friends. "Andy had a good day," his teacher starts out every day when I pick him up. I think she classifies "good day" as "didn't get accidentally locked in a storage closet." "But," she sometimes continues, "he was pulling hair again." There's a slight pause in which I murmur some vague acknowledgement coupled with a promise to "take care of it." Then, everyone's all smiles, and we head out the door to go home for an evening of stacking blocks, taking our socks off, and, you got it, pulling hair.

The thing is, I don't know how to take care of this problem. I've tried firmly telling Andy "NO" during a hair pulling spell. I've tried taking his hand in mine, squeezing it gently, looking into his eye, and repeating "No. Hair. Pulling." I've removed his hand from the hair in question and said "Ouchy! That's ouchy! It hurts!" I've lightly slapped his hand after particularly bad hair pulling. I'm basically out of ideas. The only other thing I can think of doing is pulling his hair back, but I'm not sure I want to go down the eye-for-an-eye route this early in my parenting career.

I did try something new on Saturday evening, after Andy pulled my hair so hard that when my head jerked back, I swear I time traveled exactly three seconds into the future. There was a definite shift in the time continuum. "Andy," I cried, plucking my hair out of his fist. He had a big, happy grin on his face, and he reached back over to pull another hank. "That's it," I stated, swooping him into my arms and carrying him into the darkened living room. "You're getting a time out."

Who's this guy?
To be honest, the concept of a time out for child this young seems a tad bit ludicrous to me, but I'm not the world's foremost expert on child discipline and everyone knows I've been wrong before, so I thought I'd give it a try. I sat Andy down on the couch, bent before him, and held him in place so that he couldn't move. I looked him in the eyes, kept my face serious, and started counting. I wasn't sure how high I was going to go, but the numbers started coming out.

My first mistake was looking him in the eyes. He gave me a sweet smile, and my heart melted a little more than it should have.

My second mistake was our positioning. I had placed my head in perfect position so that my hair was accessible to his grabby hands. His claws started hovering over my head, and I winced as I realized my mistake (skipping from 12 straight to 17), but then something miraculous happened. Andy chose not to pull my hair.

Instead, as if struck with inspiration, he changed course and stuck his stinky little feet- both of them- directly under my nose and howled with laughter as he made me smell them. He laughed like he was the world's funniest boy and had just done the world's funniest thing. He stuck his toes practically in my nostrils and belly laughed so hard that I couldn't help but join in, laughing along with him as he waved his feet right under my nose.

Needless to say, I lost count completely, and the time out was a bust.

We went back to the family room, sat down on the floor, and I retied my hair into a tighter bun so no loose pieces would fall out as temptation. For now, I have resigned myself to waiting for Andy to grow out of this phase and into another one, such as biting or credit fraud. Until then, I'll keep saying "no" and just hope that Andy is not successful in actually pulling out someone's brain- mine or anybody else's.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Naming Andy!

Naming another human being is a task that should not be taken lightly. Whatever you name your child is the name that they are stuck with through all of their formative years. In my opinion, the more unique you try to go, the more likely you are to be leaving work early in seven years to go pick up your son who was punched repeatedly on the playground during lunch because someone (you) thought it was a good idea to name him "Gaylord." It wasn't. You screwed up. And that shiner on your kid's eye, that's on you.

It seems that girls get a lot more leeway with the unique names than boys do. You can name your daughter "Honeysuckle," and maybe she'll make it out of junior high with only a minor case of anorexia. It'll help if she's super pretty and well liked because of the shininess of her hair and eyes. Kids can be so shallow. But your son Pigeon Nugget is not going to be so lucky. Pigeon Nugget's going to get it pretty good, and he's going to be so pissed off at you not only for naming him Pigeon Nugget (Really, Mom???!!) but for also sending him to school with what he's pretty sure is not a backpack but a diaper bag.

I took the task of naming Andy (Andrew) pretty seriously. However, that being said, it has not escaped me that many television doofuses are called "Andy." Even with this discovery of similarly named TV morons, I've noticed that all of the doofy Andy's are also extremely lovable. For instance, who doesn't like Andy Bernard from "The Office?" He's a goofball (loves frisbee golf, frolf), but is also one of the show's most endearing characters. There's also "Parks and Recreation's" Andy Dwyer. Totally dim-witted, but hilarious, has his own band, and there's something about him that you just can't help but like. And, let's not forget Andy Botwin from "Weeds." Andy is a bit of a slacker but has some of the best lines on the show. Plus, he's kind of hot, in his own funny, unemployable way.

In spite of, or because of, the television Andy's, I thought Andy was a pretty great nickname because it was cute. When I was pregnant and imagined a little boy named Andy, he was a happy-go-lucky rascal with a winning smile and a penchant for sharing his graham crackers. While Andy is still working on sharing, he does have one of the world's best smiles, as judged by me, his mother.

Andrew, his actual name, could go far in the professional world. Andrew is a decent name for a president (Andrew Jackson, anyone?), a novelist (Andrew's chapter on the young character, Pigeon Nugget, and his battle with being punched daily, was pure poetry), or even a motivational speaker (I'm Andrew, and I'm here today to talk about unleashing your inner man-diva.). Andrew is a solid name. No one's ever going to hit him because of his name. He might get hit because he hit someone first or because he tried to climb onto someone's lap while they were on the toilet (I hope he grows out of that soon), but he certainly won't get hit for being Andrew.

Chris and I both agreed on the name Andrew, too, but only in the week before Andy was born. I was pretty set on the name as soon as I found out I was having a boy, but Chris fought me on it and instead offered up a slew of stinky names as rebuttal. The worst name (and I apologize in advance if this is YOUR name) was "Linus." Linus, like the thumb-sucking kid with the blankie from Peanuts. Linus, which is a name that rhymes with sinus. And- not sure if this is a real word- vaginus.

Chris didn't like the name because he was afraid that Andrew would be called "Drew," a nickname he didn't like probably because of some fat-headed football player from his high school days. "We don't have to call him Drew," I stressed to Chris over and over again, pushing out my big fat belly as to seem more pitiable. "He'll be Andrew and Andy. Unless .... he chooses to be a Drew."

Because I'm the mom and because I always get my way, Chris finally agreed on the name, and seven days and ten stitches later, we had our Andrew. Little, wrinkley, squinty-eyed Andrew. Even Chris had to admit that the name was perfect. Mostly because the baby was perfect.

His middle name is Jacob, which I am constantly forgetting. We gave little to no thought to Andy's middle name.

The best part of having an Andrew is all of the wordplay. I didn't even consider all the fun things I could do with the name Andy / Andrew until after he was born and I started talking to him. Here's a sample of what I'm talking about.

"Who's my favorite little Man-drew??"

"What's the plan-drew, Andrew?"

"Look! You're standing! You're Stand-rew!"

"After his bath, Andrew is like Brandnew!"

And, the limerick,

"There once was a baby named Andy
Who thought things were fine and dandy.
He went to the zoo
Said, 'How do you do!?'
And decided to go pet a pandy."

A pandy is a panda, in this instance.

All in all, I have to say I'm pretty pleased with Andy's name. I think it fits him- he's lovable but serious, and the options of rhyming with his name are pretty limitless. (This last statement is not true- there's definitely a limit.) But, I took a serious, thoughtful approach to naming my child, and I've never once regretted it. Hopefully, once Andy starts getting out in the world and using his name- "Hi, I'm Andy, and I like bananas. Do you like bananas, too?"- he'll agree that I did a decent job. If not, he can just change it after he turns eighteen.

It would be somewhat of a slap in the face, though, if he were to choose "Linus."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Clean Sweep Andy!

Look out single ladies of the year 2040- if Andy is still available, let me tell you, he will be quite the catch. I'm predicting it now- my sweet little boy is going to be one phenomenal husband.

There are many reasons I'm sure this statement is true. First of all, Andy is very loving. He gives the kind of hugs that drive the Kohl's cashiers wild. Second of all, Andy is destined to be a high earner. Even though his main career interest right now seems to reside in plumbing as opposed to doctoring or lawyering, I hear being a union member can be very lucrative (Christmas present idea: his very own brand new toilet plunger. The brand new part is important here.). Thirdly, Andy is very handsome. He will be even more handsome after I stop haphazardly cutting his hair myself and he grows in the rest of his teeth.

But the main reason Andy will be an excellent husband is because of his interest in cleaning. It is fair to admit at this point that, yes, Andy creates way more mess than he actually assists in cleaning. However, when Andy is in a mood to clean, there's no stopping him. He is a whirlwind of activity, and if you don't move aside, you will get hit in the face with the broom handle as he toddles by.

Andy enjoys wiping. I hand him a washcloth, and he'll stoop to the floor and wipe the tile back and forth. I can hear his tiny voice in my head murmuring, "Ah, pretend grape juice. This is never going to come out." When I open the pantry, Andy dives for not only the broom, but the Swiffer sweeper and the dust pan. Juggling all three of them, Andy will pace back and forth through the dining room and kitchen as if contemplating where to start. Then he'll drop the broom and the dust pan and- holding the Swiffer correctly, with the Swiffer pad part flush to the floor- he'll start mopping back and forth, forth and back. He'll cover a lot of ground this way, and then finish up with the broom. Sometimes he'll stop to wipe his forehead with the back of his hand as the invisible beads of sweat begin to accumulate.

Lately, Andy has transitioned from hindering to helping when I unload the dishwasher. Before late, he would just get in the way, climbing on top of the dishwasher door and attempting to pull himself up onto the top rack, which I've tried to explain to him is dangerous because that top shelf could break, and then I'd have to buy a new one. Now, he'll hand me dishes one by one as I put them away, smiling beatifically whenever I praise him with an over-the-top "Thank you!" His smile responds, "No problem, Ma. You work hard. This is the least I can do. Shall I mix you a martini after we're done here?"

Andy still needs a little help when folding laundry, but he clearly enjoys sorting through the clean clothes and organizing them by what he's interested in putting on his head and what he's not.

An admittedly less clean moment.
Last night, as I relaxed on the couch after dinner, Andy approached me holding the dustbuster. He pointed at the on switch, making his usual urgent noises. "Eh. Eh. EH." I turned on the dustbuster as he'd requested, handed it back to him, and Andy got on his hands and knees and began vacuuming in earnest. Like a man who'd been dustbusting for years, his motions were neat and even, his technique flawless. This is too adorable, I thought to myself, smiling at my perfect, chore-loving son.

Then, things took a turn. Andy stood up, a little wobbly under the weight of the ten pound dustbuster, and waddled over to where his pack and play was set up next to the wall for napping (he never naps there). The pack and play hasn't been moved in almost a year, and the carpet beneath it certainly hasn't been vacuumed. Who has the time and energy to be moving things- even portable things- when they vacuum? I certainly don't. May I remind you that I have a full time job, for crying out loud?

Andy bent down with the dustbuster and, peering under his pack and play, began to vacuum beneath it. He pushed the dustbuster as far back as it would go in an effort to suck up all the dust and dirt. As he did this, he turned to look at me, and I swear the look in his eyes was accusatory. It seemed to say, "You know, this really is YOUR job. I'm only doing it because it has to be done. Do you have any idea how dang dusty it is under here? Ridiculous. If I want something done right... I guess I have to do it myself."

My emotions had immediately flipped from adoring my hard-working son to resenting him and his spiteful actions. Another moment passed, and as Andy scooted over to the other end of the pack and play to continue his carpet cleaning, my emotions flipped once again. This isn't a matter of hurt pride, I told myself, attempting to lower my blood pressure. This is a matter of a job well done. For my job well done, for raising a boy who will do the housework, even if he sometimes performs his chores with a small amount of bitterness.

Andy finished his vacuuming, handed the dustbuster back to me with an "Eh. EH!" and I powered it off. He climbed into my lap, cuddled up against me, and I kissed the top of his head. Into his hair, I whispered, "Andy, I love you. And tomorrow, we're doing the windows."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Biological Clock!

There's a lot to be said for the biological clock. It does exist, and it does start ticking. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, its alarm starts going off somewhere between the uterus and the heart, and no matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to find the snooze button. The alarm is annoying. It starts out as a low hum that murmurs, "Maybe you should consider have a baby" and builds to a deafening crescendo that screams so hard at you, it makes you break out into a sweat. "GET PREGNANT NOW," it roars, dispensing with the pleasantries. "YOUR EGGS ARE GOING ROTTEN DOWN HERE."

My biological clock seemed non-existent for most of my twenties. I thought that maybe instead of having a clock, I'd been born with a biological blow dryer and one day I'd wake up, look in the mirror at my hair, and say, "THAT'S IT. I'VE HAD IT WITH THIS MESS." In fact, I'm still kind of hoping that I do have a biological blow dryer, because, really, at some point I should probably start caring what my hair looks like.

Sure enough, though, the biological clock started ticking when I turned 28. One day I would have listed having a baby as so low on my to-do list that it fell somewhere after "watch Jeopardy in a hotel room in Eugene, Oregon." Then, the next day, I decided that I wanted to have a baby. Like, for real. In between these two days, I should admit, was a conversation with one of my good friends, who reminded me that a baby takes almost a full year to make and that's assuming you get pregnant right away. So, if you want to have a baby by the time you're 30, you really need to get on that before you turn 29. And if you want more than one, you need to figure that your body should probably rest a little between pregnancies, so that's, at a minimum, almost two years or so between babies, and, hey, how old are you by that point?

Math. Foiled again by math.

But aside from the logical crunching of numbers, something in me did suddenly and abruptly, like appendicitis or a ruptured spleen, start to ache for a baby. They're just so cute! Why wouldn't I want something in my life that was just so cute!?

I had to make a plan, though. That's how I do things, with plans that span entire months, years, and decades. It took me five years after my 1998 Chevy Cavalier started breaking down and literally disintegrating to actually bite the bullet and get another car. I mulled over getting a DVR as part of our cable package for something like eighteen months. When I'm in the mood for baked ziti for dinner, I plan it out a week in advance. I don't usually do things on the spur of the moment. Certainly not things like having a baby. So, I talked to Chris, told him I wanted a baby, and that I wanted to start trying in about eight months, during the summer of 2009, which was the most arbitrary go date I could think of. Chris, agreeable as always, said, "Okay." And then the subject shifted to who sells the best string cheese (the answer is Target).

It was a long eight months. Most of those eight months were spent trying to muffle out the sound of my angry biological clock with bottles of wine and the lengthy list of things I could do now without children. Of course, most of those things involved sleeping, drinking loads of wine while sitting on my sofa, and eating cheese fries for dinner, so I guess the list wasn't THAT lengthy. That being said, I did my best to enjoy my childless nights spent drunk on the couch with cheese stains all over the front of my robe. Those were some great evenings.

And then the summer rolled around, and it was time to start the baby engines. I was ready for the baby. And, by this time, I truly couldn't bear to eat another cheese fry.

Month one. Not pregnant.

Month two. Not pregnant.

Month three. Not pregnant.

Oh crap. This was taking kind of a long time. Even though my trusted friend, the internet, said it could take healthy couples up to a year to conceive, I was starting to panic, big time. What if something was wrong? What if I didn't actually have any eggs? What if I was a robot? What if Chris' little swimmers were all lazy and stupid and couldn't figure out what the heck they were doing? What if HE was a robot? What if I never got pregnant? What if something was seriously wrong with me?

Month four. Not pregnant.

I was reaching my breaking point. I was seeing babies everywhere, one of my best friends had just gotten pregnant on her first try, and my biological clock had grown arms and was bashing cymbals together. I wanted a baby so badly. I wanted a baby more than I ever wanted anything in my life, ever. Ten times more than I had wanted one during the first month of trying. A hundred times more than when I had said casually to Chris, "Let's try to get pregnant next summer." A thousand times more than when I put "watch Jeopardy in a hotel room in Eugene, Oregon" on my to-do list. I wanted a baby so bad that it hurt.

Month five.


No freaking way.


I immediately panicked and thought, "Oh God, what have I done?"

Followed by, "HOORAY!!!!"

Followed by, "Hey. That didn't take so long! Only five months! Wow. I'm pretty lucky."

Because, I was pretty lucky. It can take a year to conceive. It can take longer if there's an actual problem. It can be expensive. It can be physically draining. It can take forever. Or, it might never happen at all.

Me, I've never stopped thanking God that he blessed me with my baby. I am not a religious person, but when it comes to Andy, I totally am. I look at him and I am so grateful that I get tears in my eyes and a pain in my heart.

Then he does something like poop in the bath tub or wake me up every hour during teething spells, and I'm like, "Really, God? You expect me to deal with this? Forget it, I'm making cheese fries."

The biological clock, it does exist. And for my friends trying to have a baby, and struggling, let me just say as lucky as I am, I totally get it. But if you're thinking of having a baby, just remember- they take close to a year to make, and that's only after the seed's been planted.

Get going.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Andy Thinks That Andy's Great!

When your baby starts to do things that any other normal person would expect to do without fanfare- such as putting a spoon down on a table instead of throwing it in someone's face- you, as an encouraging and loving parent, find yourself doing something which never would have come naturally during the pre-baby years. You applaud. You clap and say "Yay!" and act like your baby has just completed his or her valedictorian speech, the one in which the statement "couldn't have done this without my parents, who are not at all expected to pay for my college" is peppered liberally throughout.

Before baby comes along, applauding for the simple act of not intentionally breaking something, making a mess, or being generally jerky would have been unheard of. If your coworker managed to keep her yogurt in her mouth instead of spitting it all out in an explosion of milky strawberry bits and saliva, it wouldn't even cross your mind that this was something deserving of a kudos. "Hey, way to eat!" you'd never say to your coworker. And you certainly wouldn't follow it up with rhyming the words yummy and tummy and happily clapping your hands like a baby seal. However, if this is something that has happened at your workplace, then maybe you have the world's most interesting coworkers. (This is one of those times when "interesting" is not a positive description.)

Parents applaud their babies, though. Even the coolest, hippest adult in the world- the one on the poetry slam circuit with the ironic wardrobe and clove cigarettes- turns into a clapping fool once baby manages to muscle down a mouthful of carrot puree. It's the only way we know how to express our delight in our blank slate of a child learning the most basic of tasks and etiquette.

With Andy, we've clapped for everything. From elementary, barely acceptable table manners to when he removes his dirty little fist from our mouths after reaching in there to feel our teeth (he's clearly in awe of the quantity of our teeth versus his), every action that retreats even slightly from brattiness deserves a round of applause and a YAY!

It is therein that lies the problem. As Andy's grown from baby to toddler, he's grown to rely on the applause, to expect it, require it, and feel like he's entitled to it. During dinner, Andy will take a sip from his cup, look us straight in the eye, and deliberately place the cup in its correct spot on his highchair tray. If we don't immediately reward this behavior with applause, Andy will start the clapping himself, stare at us expectantly, and wait, somewhat impatiently and with one little eyebrow cocked, for us to join in. Then the whole thing will repeat- one tiny sip, cup in right spot, Andy starts the slow clap for himself- over and over until a full hour's gone by and all of our tater tots have gone cold.

This happens all the time. Andy will perform an action that he feels is correct and polite, and he'll immediately start clapping for himself, giving us a pointed look that says, "Hey. I chose not to scratch this other child in the eye. That makes me pretty amazing. You're supposed to clap for me. I'm showing you how right now, in case you forgot. Just put your hands together- okay, there you go. Finally. Sheesh."

See, Andy thinks that Andy's great, but he wants to make sure his parents remember how great he is, too.

I wonder how long this sort of thing can go on. Will Andy come home one night during his senior year of high school, stumble drunkenly up the stairs, barge into our bedroom and say, "Hey. I had two six packs of beers but was smart enough not to drive myself home." He'll follow this with a round of applause laced with a sort of understood threat, and his father and I, groggy from sleep, will join in quickly. "Yay!" I'll say. "Yay," Chris will echo flatly, so very tired from seventeen years of non-stop clapping.

"That's right, bitches," Andy will say. "I deserve that. I'm great." And then he'll go to his room, stick his pacifier in his mouth, and pass out until the morning.

What's a parent to do? At some point, do we cut Andy off from the clapping and refuse to join in? Or just assume that the clapping after every action is a phase, and that Andy will grow out of it on his own soon enough, finding other ways to make sure his parents agree how wonderful he is? Or, even worse, will Andy not only grow out of it, but also stop caring about whether or not his parents think he's great? Will he stop seeking our approval, with claps or otherwise?

Oh, my. I sincerely hope that Andy never stops clapping.