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.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Andy's Going To The Dogs!

Love of animals is certainly not a genetic trait. My husband and I are not pet people, and Chris has gone on record saying that he doesn't get "the point" of dogs. When his friend's dog died a few years ago, Chris managed to muster a "Sorry to hear that. I know you really liked that dog." The unspoken part of that last sentence was "for some reason."

Don't be fooled by these dogs; not one of them
knows how to vacuum.
In fact, Chris thinks that everyone that wants a dog would be better off just taking in a drifter. His argument is that in the battle of dog versus homeless person, a homeless person wouldn't need to be housebroken, he probably wouldn't chew up your slippers, and he could make himself useful by helping out with chores and being the third player when you and your significant other have a hankering for a game of "Clue." So, next time you're considering adopting a puppy, why not just take in a wino?

I wouldn't go that far with my feelings about dogs. I'm just not interested in them. And big dogs make me nervous. Every time an owner of a big dog tries to convince me that the big dog is "friendly," I feel like they're trying to pull a fast one, and that it's a mere matter of seconds before their "friendly" beast sinks his fangs directly into my soul.

Andy, however, is not suspicious of dogs like his mother. And, unlike his father, he totally gets the point of dogs and, if he knew more than four words, would probably list at least thirty ways a dog is better than a homeless person.

He was born liking dogs; he has a natural affinity to dogs that was apparent to my father even when Andy was only a week or two old. "This boy is going to need a dog," he said wisely, staring down at his sleepy grandson. "You're going to end up getting him a dog."

At almost sixteen months old, we still haven't purchased Andy his dog, but the boy goes nuts whenever he sees one. His first word after mama and dada was dog. It sounds more like "duh," but we know what he's going for. Andy points to dogs on television and in books and when he sees one in person, his face lights up and it's all he can do to contain himself. He has a ball chasing his aunt's chihuahua, who I think is still trying to figure out what, exactly, Andy is (not an adult, not a puppy, not a chew toy). And when the neighbor's dog bounds over to Andy and sticks her tongue directly down Andy's throat, Andy doesn't flinch. He seems to really enjoy it, possibly because the dog's mouth likely tastes like dog food, which is another thing that Andy's really interested in.

Over the summer, a woman with two small white dogs was walking down the street. Andy and I were outside playing, and when he saw the two dogs heading our way, he immediately squealed, took off running towards the two dogs (he had just mastered walking the week before), and threw himself on top of one of the dogs before I had time to even process what was going on. In all of Andy's excitement to cuddle with the dogs, he managed to kick off his shoes, and his bare little feet were sticking up towards the sky as he violently, sweetly tackled the larger of the two dogs.

"I'm sorry," I told the woman, attempting a smile and a shrug. By this point, Andy had one fist around the dog's right ear, one fist around the dog's back leg, and his face buried deep into the dog's fur. His voice was muffled, but I could distinctly hear, "Duh! DUH!"

"It's okay," the lady said politely, gently tugging her dogs away. When she finally managed to disentangle her dogs from my son (which she did with almost zero help from me, because I felt the dogs looked a little too shifty to be messed with), she briskly continued her walk down the street while Andy cried out after them. I assume that the lady took her dogs for more walks that summer, but I can only assume since I never saw them again. She may have been avoiding us.

The only thing that Andy may love almost as much as dogs is balloons. If a dog were to walk through our front door with a big yellow balloon tied to its tail, Andy's heart would probably explode from the sheer joy of it all. So, if you love my son, don't ever ever ever get him a dog attached to a balloon. Or a balloon attached to a dog.

Now that Andy's actions prove my father's initial assessment of Andy being a dog-loving kid correct, he's been threatening to buy Andy a puppy. This enrages Chris, who has threatened him right back. "If you give us one puppy, we'll give you two," he states, jabbing his finger in the air angrily. To Chris, this is the ultimate punishment. More dogs.

I know that my father wouldn't actually give Andy a puppy without our permission, so I'm not terribly concerned about the pending puppy war between him and Chris. What I am concerned with is that my dad is right, and that Andy's going to "need" his own dog. And that we're going to wind up getting it for him. The thought of having a dog sends a shiver up my spine, but I guess I could find it in my heart to cope with it if it's something that will- way, way down the road- make my son happy.

When I discuss with Chris that dog ownership might be a real possibility, though, he just leaves the house for a while and takes a long car ride by himself. I can only imagine him driving down the seedier streets of the city, searching for the best and friendliest looking bum for his son.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

About "That's Not Food!"

"That's not food!" is a life lesson that I try to teach my fifteen month old son daily. "That's not food!" usually refers to the toilet brush, paper napkins, dirty socks, currency, and other items that look delicious but, as we've learned, are not food. Since this blog is to ultimately serve as a love letter and message to my son Andy (and any other future offspring that come tearing out,) I figured it was only appropriate to entitle the blog after one of my mother exclamations that he's currently hearing (ignoring). Along this vein, other possible blog titles could have very well been:
Get Out Of The Dryer!

There's Poop On Your Sock!

That's Not A Toy!

Don't Kiss With Your Tongue!

Get Your Hands Out Of Your Diaper!


Don't Throw Liquids! Or Solids For That Matter!
I meant to start this blog about fifteen months ago, right after little Andy was born, but it's just today that I finally decided on the title. That's the only thing that's been holding me up since last July- certainly not the draining but so-worth it task of loving and taking care of a demanding little boy while working forty hours and still finding time to heat up chicken nuggets and microwave peas (maybe I should have started a food blog?) while ALSO SOMEHOW MANAGING to keep up on my favorite TV shows (when IS Ted Moseby going to meet their mother already?). Seriously, it's been a crazy year and a quarter. The best year and a quarter of my life, but also the fastest, most tiring, least financially rewarding, and grossest. Because, seriously folks, babies are disgusting.

And that's it. My introduction. I will try to post very regularly, or as regularly as life and Andy allows. And in the words of my son, let me just leave you with, "Waaaaah!"