Friday, December 21, 2012

Play With Me!

I can't wait until Alex is old enough to actually play with Andy.  My eldest son needs a constant playmate.  It's not enough that he has preschool and his park district time and a couple play dates a week with our best friends, Jovie and Heather (I still haven't decided who Andy likes more- his buddy Jovie, or Jovie's mommy.  I think it's a draw, since Jovie's mommy feeds him.).  Oh no, Andy is incapable of playing alone for longer than five minutes at a time, and the new sentence that I am hearing all day, over and over, is, "Mommy, play with me."

If only Andy would just play
in this box all day.
Much of the time, I'm happy enough to oblige Andy, showing him how to put his Elmo and Cookie dolls down for a nap ("Night, night, Elmo!") or have the Mega Blocks man go to the potty on a crudely fashioned Mega Blocks toilet.  See, I'm trying to put Andy's toys in situations that I'd like him to relate to:  taking regular, lengthy naps and making in the potty.  I spend at least an hour a day mindlessly choo-chooing one of Andy's trains around a track, and then, of course, there's Andy's favorite game, in which he bolts up and out of the room shouting, "Can't catch me!"  When I say, "You're right, Andy, I can't catch you," and plop down on the sofa with the remote (or dare to give Alex a shred of attention), Andy is unsatisfied and yells back, "CAN'T CATCH ME!  MOMMYYYY, PLAY WITH ME!"  And so I chase him for a few minutes, and then try to settle him down with markers and paper.  Andy will color with his markers for a few minutes, but only a few minutes, before requesting that I sit down next to him and draw him one of his five favorite things:

1. Bus.

2. No, big bus.

3. Choo-choo.

4.  No, big choo-choo.

5.  Big, LONG choo-choo.

So, we make art together, and then Andy will demand "uppies," at which point I carry him around the kitchen for a bit while he asks for a cookie.  Sometimes, this is the best way to get a few minutes of me time.  I will send Andy to the front room to his cookie chair (he knows which chair I'm talking about), rifle through the pantry for a treat, and then bring it out to him, where he will sit very still and slowly, quietly, sweetly nibble on his cookie.  This is a nice reprieve for me, until I hear him call out, "Mommy, can't catch me!" and see him race through the kitchen out of the corner of my eye.

Don't get me wrong- I love playing with Andy.  He's good at playing.  His reconstructions of Mr. Potatohead are a real knee slapper.  He's good at lining up his cars and then viciously plowing a train through them.  He likes to put his dolls in the bus and then send the bus on a trip off the edge of the coffee table while appropriately yelling, "Oh no!"  Playing with a two year old can be a lot of fun.  But, sometimes, dare I say, enough is enough.

I try to encourage Andy to play with Alex, and he does, to a point.  Then the playing quickly becomes a series of lectures from Andy to Alex, Andy telling Alex that he is being "not nice," and "don't eat that," and "no, Alex, stop that" when Alex reaches up to pull on Andy's shirt.  Alex is Andy's biggest pain in the ass, right up there with green vegetables and the nail clipper.  So, they don't play together for very long, which is to mostly be expected.

I do notice great moments between the two brothers though, when I have managed to shake Andy for a little bit and he approaches Alex, who is always thrilled to gaze upon his big brother- all wet, gloppy smiles and twinkling eyes.  Andy will randomly kiss and hug the baby.  He will pet him like a puppy and occasionally hand him a toy, and the two boys will giggle at each other as if they have a secret understanding.  Andy likes to take care of Alex, too.  He really enjoys feeding Alex baby food, which I have let Andy do despite my own better judgment.  Andy is surprisingly good at it, though- when he jabs the spoon into Alex's mouth, it's with an element of gentleness.  Andy is also quick to run and check in on Alex if he hears crying, while muttering to himself, "Get Alex" or "See Alex."  My sister-in-law caught Andy holding Alex's hand early one morning when Alex had awoken and was crying out for us in the crib.  Was he soothing his little brother?  Saying, "Hey, at the very least, you got me?"  Or, was he trying to pull his baby brother right through the slats of the crib?  I guess we'll never know.

This time last year, I fretted and sweat over if having my kids within two years of each other was the right decision.  Now, with Alex at six months and Andy growing up each and every day, I know that, yes, it was perfect.  Andy and Alex will play great together, and it will be sooner, rather than later.  And Andy is a better boy for having a baby brother around the house, even if he feels the baby brother needs to be reprimanded constantly.  And my sweet little Alex is the luckiest kid ever to have such a fun-loving big sibling.  It won't be too long before I hear, "Alex, play with me!" echoed right back by "Andy, play with me, tooo!"

Hopefully, there will still be room for Mommy to play.  But, hey, not all day, because, seriously kids, I've got stuff to get done.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Andy's been sliding open the back door, and no amount of time-outs has kept him away from it.   I know I need to get a stick thing to keep it wedged shut, and it's on my growing list of things I have to buy from Home Depot, which I believe I began in February of 2011.  If anyone's making a Home Depot run, let me know, because I just can't seem to get there myself.  Anyway, finally today, I decided to explain to him the consequences of opening the back door, other than "You'd be able to walk out of the house and play all by yourself in the back yard and probably have the best time of your life."  I said, "Andy, if you keep opening the back door, you might let an animal in, and the animal might not be nice, and it'll be a huge problem."  I don't know why I said this, but it was the story that came to mind, and I went with it.  I stuck Andy in a time out after explaining the animal thing and relocking the sliding door.  After the time out, I asked Andy if he remembered why he's not allowed to open the door by himself.

Andy, in Andy fashion, which is to nod thoughtfully as he spits out his carefully crafted sentences, said, "Animal come in.  Cow come in.  Cow bite me.  Hurt!"

That's right.  I have Andy now believing that if he screws around with the back door, a cow's going to charge its way in and bite him.  I think I may have messed with his mind by introducing the whole idea of wild animals- now poor Andy's living in fear of the traveling, biting cows of Volo.  But, hey, if that keeps him from the back door, then that's the story we're going with it.  Yet another example of excellent parenting!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Snow Monster!

So, apparently the tale of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a little more complex than I initially thought.  I knew about the red nose part, the other reindeer not letting Rudy join in on their games (like Monopoly!), and then the whole saving Christmas situation by flying Santa's sleigh.  I didn't realize there was more to the story, because, really, does a story that good really need anything more?  It's got action, adventure, taunting from peers, and a situation that brings a sweet, slightly disfigured reindeer right to the brink of alcoholism.  What other components could add to such an already complete and complex tale?

There's a snow monster.  I learned this while reading the story to Andy, and now his favorite Christmas character is the terrifying snow monster who sets out to eat (I assume) Rudolph and his abusive parents, who originally tried to hide Rudy's red nose as opposed to teaching self-acceptance.  Andy loves this snow monster and has been talking about him for days.  When I tried to distract Andy from the snow monster by singing the "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" song to him, he insisted that I sing about the Snow Monster, too.  So, like any good parent and lyricist would do, I improvised a few lines about the Snow Monster into the Rudolph song, explaining that Snow Monster gave Rudy a fright, but still they had a party that night.  And while that Snow Monster used to be nasty, he's since undergone some rhinoplasty.  Hey, I was on the spot, and rhyming's not always easy.

Now the problem is that Andy will perhaps never learn the real words to the Rudolph song and nothing will sway him from obsessing over how awesome the snow monster is.

This is the problem with Andy.  He loves villains.  In "The Little Engine That Could" movie, which we've watched no less than seventy-three times, Andy asks, repeatedly, for the mean choo-choo.  When the villainous, scary choo-choo finally makes his appearance, Andy squeals, "There's the mean choo-choo!"  When the mean choo-choo gets defeated, Andy moans, "More mean choo-choo!"

This is the same Andy whose favorite part of every book is and always has been the moment when someone falls down, gets hurt, or cries.  Sure, Andy shows empathy for these characters, crying out, "Oh no!" when he sees the main character in the throes of a sticky situation, but he's obsessed with the images nonetheless and will not let you turn the page until he's soaked in as much of the bad part of the story as he can. I think it fuels him.

I have to believe that he likes the villains and the bad parts of stories because they provide interest beyond the mundane goodness that is so rampant in toddler fiction and film.  I certainly hope this is the case, anyway, and this love for naughtiness is not instead foreshadowing for actions Andy will later commit in life, such as hijacking a choo-choo train and/or being mean to a helpless reindeer with little to no self esteem.

It seems Andy's pleasure in the Snow Monster has derailed our journey into Christmas via stories.  We can't move past it.  Santa and the elves?  Candy canes and Christmas trees?  Baby Jesus asleep in the hay?  Forget about it.  Andy just wants to rehash the Snow Monster.  He also wants to sing the "dreidel" song.  So now there's two things I'm boning up on this year: Snow Monster lore and Hanukkah.   And thus, we begin some new traditions around here.  The dreidel is used for gambling, right?

That Andy, he keeps things interesting.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Table For Four!

And then there's Alex, suddenly and abruptly asserting that, at five months old, he's his own little person and HE WON'T BE IGNORED.  Used to be I could just stick him in the swing while the three of us- me, Daddy, Andy- scarfed down our chicken nuggets and corn for dinner.  He'd sit in the swing (which no longer swings thanks to Andy's heavy assed flops into the swing seat) and either nod off or just stare down at whatever doll or baby toy I'd tossed into his lap.  It worked, and it was fine.  But now, oh now Alex is not even remotely okay being dumped into the swing while the three of us eat.  He stares mournfully at us from across the room, moaning and reaching out and making sad eyes at me while I wipe ranch dressing from Andy's face.  He's calling out for me, and he seems to be saying, "How come you're not wiping anything off of MY face?"

It's time to bring Alex to the table.  He's not sitting up super great yet, though, and I am anxious about letting him have the high chair and doing the one hundred percent transition from high chair to just regular chair for Andy.  Will Alex be okay wedged into the high chair, his little body bent to one side as he struggles to remain up?  And will I be able to keep myself from all out slapping Andy, who manages to provoke me the absolute worst during meal times when he's not in the high chair, proclaiming "All done" and dismissing himself from the regular chair (even with booster) after just half a bite of food and a fifteen second mess resulting in hands so sticky that I almost believe I should call the patent office, since he's clearly perfected a sort of glue that could rival Elmer's?

I can't go on leaving out little Alex, though.  He's clearly upset about his exclusion, and it yanks at my heart strings.  It's all so very pathetic, his super excitement when I finally go fetch him after my own relaxing six minutes of shoveling food into my face.  He grins and flails his arms, kicks his legs and leans forward for me, ready and eager to be lifted out of his broken swing and back into the world.  It's all so endearing, even when he decides to thank me for picking him up by immediately pooping through his diaper and outfit directly onto my arms.  And, hey, who remembers a time when being pooped on was kind of gross?  Not me.  The longer I have children, the more bodily waste becomes just another mess, like juice on the coffee table or a set of perfectly stamped hand prints on the wall near the kitchen table by a little boy who had just proclaimed "All done.  Bye bye, Mommy."

It's not just Alex who is upset about Alex not being included in everything, though.  It's Andy, too, who is also quick to notice when Alex is not a part of things.  Today I took just Andy to the library, leaving Alex at home with Chris.  The whole car ride to the library, Andy asked, "Where Alex go?" and demanded "Alex library, too!"  I tried to tell Andy, "Alex is with Daddy at home.  Just Mommy and Andy are going to the library."  This was not satisfactory to Andy, who replied, "No home with Daddy.  Alex library.  Mommy back.  Get Alex."  This went on for the whole ride, and then even at the library, Andy would ask, "Where Alex?" at random times when, I assume, it hit him that it was just me standing there, me minus stroller.  Of course, this is all very good, that Andy misses his brother and wants him with us at all times.  And yet, as anyone who has ever met Andy knows, it's also deeply annoying, since Andy is incapable of letting a topic go.  Ever drive past a McDonalds with this kid?

Happy meal.  Happy meal.  Playplace.  Playplace.  Happy meal.  Happy meal.  Playplace.  Apple juice.  Happy meal.  Playplace.  Playplace.  Happy meal.  Happy meal.  Playyyyyplace.

Or, if Andy sees a TV:

Caillou.  Caillou.  Caillou on?  Caillou.  Caillou's mommy.  Caillou's daddy.  Caillou.  Caillou's papa.  Caillou.  Caillou.  Where Caillou go?  More Caillou.  Caillou on TV.  Caillou's mommy?  Caillou.  Caillou?  Caillou.  Andy watch Caillou.  Caillou.  Caillou.  Alex watch Caillou, too?  Caillou on?  More Caillou.  Mommy Caillou please?  Caillou.  Caillou?  Caillou.

Gee, I wish I had better examples other than fast food and television, but I guess that's just the kind of lives we lead.  But, hey, at least I take him to the library, too.

So, Alex is ready to be promoted during meal times, and Andy is going to be one thousand percent okay with it, because he loves his brother.  Yes, I know, these are fundamentally good developments around here.  Hey, maybe the four of us at the table together will give Andy more of a reason to stay seated with us while we eat since he'll have his little buddy there.  Or maybe, in about two years, both little bastards will be running around like animals during dinner, thus increasing my meal time rage to a solid eleven.  Mommy needs to eat.  She needs to sit for at least ten minutes and have at least three sips of water and let's say seven bites of food.  So let's just keep it classy for that short amount of time, and then everyone can poop on me and I won't even blink.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Andy's Wedding!

There are some moments in life that feel like memories even before you're done actually living through them.  They get crystallized and stored away into the folds of your brain while they're happening.  It's almost like you get robbed of the actual experience, because it's already over and done with while it's occurring, and you can clearly hear an older version of yourself talking about it somewhere down the road.  In this instance, I am an old lady in the home (not MY home, but THE home), and my grandson Andy Junior is sitting before me trying to mask his boredom while I drone on and on about how his father was such a cute ring bearer at Andy Junior's Great-Aunt Beth's wedding.  "And he was just so darling in his tuxedo," I'm telling Andy Junior.  "Even if he did spill soup all over it during dinner."

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Andy's full journey down the aisle, because I was tucked into my row at the church and there were too many people blocking my view.  Aside from that, Andy is two, and short.  But, when I did finally get a glimpse of my little boy, he was holding the hand of his stoic co-ring bearer and basically pulling him forward.  And the look on his face- pure Andy.  Excited, semi-alarmed, looking for Mommy, thinking about pancakes.

And, despite what you may have heard, Andy did a good job at church and at the reception.  Rambunctious?  Sure.  Outside voice indoors?  Yeah, maybe.  Not able to sit still?  Well, he's two.  Running around like a crazy person until 10:30 at night and partying like it was 1999?  Well, they do say two thousand zero zero, party over, oops, out of time.  So, there you have it.

I know it was not MY child getting married, so who am I to feel this way, but I'm all too cognizant of how quickly time is starting to go by.  I know Andy's only two and Alex is still an infant, but there are some days when the moments feel so fleeting and I feel like I'm losing them before I even really have them.  Andy is already such a little man.  I watch him navigate the world around him and interact with other children, and my heart breaks a little as I see the tiniest slivers of innocence get peeled away.  No, Andy, not every kid will want to be your friend.  No, Andy, not every piece of candy is for you.  And, no, Andy, other families do not want you in their pictures.  So, if you see a camera, don't just automatically jump in the shot and say "Cheeeeese."

And, Alex, most likely my last baby- can I please just keep you at this snuggly,  cooing, gummy smile age forever?

Anyway, now I'm just getting melancholy for no good reason when I should be rejoicing in the wonderfulness of the here and now.  That's always been a problem for me, just being and enjoying the present.  I hope that's not a trait my kids will inherit from me.  Because if you're running around the wedding reception giggling like a lunatic and just having the time of your life- then, Andy, own it and enjoy it.  But please do have a little more soup, because your mother fears that your blood sugar may be dropping.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Grocery Shopping!

Very few things in life are as difficult as grocery shopping with a two year old and a baby.

The looks I get at the grocery store match up neatly with the life spectrum.  If you are looking at me and are older and/or a parent, you smile at me with pity and comradeship.  If you are younger and are carrying a basket (a basket!) full of cheeses and wine while talking on your cell phone, you raise your eyebrows at me in disapproval.  You twenty-something yuppies in your pre-24 American cheese product slices stage just simply can't relate to the likes of me.  Perhaps you fear becoming me.  Well, keep drinking that wine on date night, accept that proposal, and before you know it- YOU WILL BE ME.  Only not as skinny.

Even though it's a disaster every single time, I still insist on doing my grocery shopping during the week with both kids.  Sure, I could eat up my free time on the weekends with getting the nuggets or go at ten at night like some lunatic, but no.  If I'm a stay at home mom, then I'm doing this during the "work week," as it were, and I'm hoping EVERY SINGLE TIME that somehow, this week will turn out better.  And yet, I know in advance, before even pulling into the store parking lot, how it will go.

- Andy will insist on getting the cart with the car attached to the front, and I will cave in.

- The baby carrier doesn't fit as well on those carts for some reason since clearly the car carts were designed by a childless sadist, and so Alex will be at an uncomfortable angle literally ready to slide out of his seat the entire time.

- Andy will ride happily in the car part for about three minutes, cheerfully calling out "Beep Beep!" in such a contented manner that he will FOOL ME into thinking that maybe THIS TIME will be different.

- Three minutes and one second in, and Andy's declaring, "Andy WALK!" while jumping out of the moving cart.

- Three minutes and two seconds in, and I'm pulling out my not so secret weapon, a packet of fruit snacks, to bribe him into staying put for another thirty seconds.  My secret weapon is, of course, filled with sugar, so like any good secret weapon in literature or film, totally backfires on me, as he enters hyper-child stage at precisely four minutes into our trip, when I have only managed to fill the cart with three bananas and one bag of lettuce.  Man cannot sustain himself on bananas and lettuce only.  We power on.

- After the fruit snacks have been devoured, Andy is out and walking, which means I am left to push the gigantic car cart without even having the benefit of Andy riding in it.  Have you ever pushed one of those car carts?  They handle like you would think they would.  Again, designed by sadists.

- Alex starts fussing, since he's just about ready to fall out onto the floor.  I make adjustments, stick his binky in his mouth, and whisper a hasty apology as I notice Andy taking a bite out of a pear.

-  Andy gets his first time out of the shopping trip.  This kid is not fazed by time outs in the store.  He sits on the floor amongst the Jello boxes and instant rice just like he would at home while I pretend to ignore him in true time out fashion, looking over at him only when I hear him call out "Hello!" to a passing stranger, just to make sure that passing stranger doesn't look like a pedophile.

- This is about the time Alex takes a crap, and I tell myself that he's just going to have to wait until we're home for a change.  I'm. So. Sorry. Alex.

- Andy's out of his first time out, and then he's off and running towards the juice aisle yelling, "Bye Bye Mommy!"

- I track down Andy and give him a stern talking to.  He seems to understand.

- Then we're getting down to serious shopping.  Andy's tossing various items into the shopping cart and I'm trying my best to toss the items right back out.  Organic, gluten free, all-natural $4.99 Apple Crisps?  No, Andy.  We're a Pringles family.  Generic Pringles.  Safeway-ingles.

- I give Andy another time out due to touching all the food too much.  I try to tell myself that the smell wafting out of Alex's diaper could be a lot worse.

- After the second time out, Andy's no longer interested in shopping and will spend a few minutes on the floor of the yogurt aisle sobbing that he wants to go home.  After I manage to console him, he stands up, looks at me with his sad dark eyes and proclaims, "Uppies."  "Andy," I say, "You can either walk or sit in the cart, but I cannot carry you."

- Fast forward two minutes later when I am one-handedly pushing the shopping cart with the car attached with the infant carrier precariously balanced over the seat section while holding my two year old who has started also demanding more fruit snacks. Which he'd prefer to eat while being held.

- After about forty minutes, we are shoving our way through the check out lane, where Andy proudly hands over his Matchbox car to the cashier WHICH I AM BUYING HIM FOR "BEING GOOD."

- After getting both kids and all the food in the car, I spend the ten minute ride home lecturing Andy on everything that went wrong while he gives vague replies, which I only semi-hear over the sound of Alex wailing for a little attention and a clean diaper.

Today was particularly bad.  I was sweating right through all my clothes while Andy created scene after scene and I did my best to try and discipline/ calm him down while also getting my shopping done as quickly as possible.  A slightly older woman stopped me in the frozen foods aisle, where Andy had collapsed next to the ice cream and started throwing a tantrum.  "He's cute," she told me.  "I know he's being naughty- but he's such a cute little boy."

I smiled tightly at her in response, mumbled something to the tune of "I know," and went to retrieve my kid, who I had to carry for the rest of the outing.

So, shopping is not always great.  Oh, it's hellish.  But tonight, after both boys are asleep and it's easy to imagine that I'm doing a great job at this parenting thing, I wonder if maybe that older woman had grown kids or teenagers and saw something wistful in Andy's tantrum.  Like maybe she actually missed these days I'm in, with these two little guys, who can be so very naughty and difficult but also are ever so cute- and maybe she was trying to tell me something.

Or maybe she just wanted me to move my damn kid so she could get into the freezer case without stepping on him.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Alex Loves Andy!

And Andy's okay with Alex, too.

Andy's demonstrations of love towards Alex are more of the give-the-baby-something-inappropriate variety, such as when I caught Andy cramming a goldfish cracker into Alex's open, grinning mouth. "Noooo!" I shouted, heroically leaping over the couch and tucking and rolling until I could reach the offending cracker and pluck it out of my four month old's slobbery little mouth. "Do NOT give the baby food," I scolded Andy. "Do you remember why Alex can't eat food?"

Andy nodded solemnly and replied, "Teeth." I have tried to ingrain the fact that Alex can't eat because he has no teeth into Andy's head. I know that Andy gets this, but I guess he just wanted to see what would happen. On a side note, Andy thinks the reason that Alex cannot do many other things also has to do with Alex's lack of dental parts.

"Can Alex go to preschool today?"

"No. Teeth!"

"Can Alex play with one of your cars?"

"No. Teeth."

Andy is, however, starting to offer Alex various toys to play with. Today, Andy gave Alex the beak part of a chicken costume we have, saying "Here Alex!" while Alex looked down, puzzled, at the plastic beak. Andy also explains TV shows to Alex. "Alex, Caillou," he says, as if making introductions.

Also, if Alex is not in the immediate vicinity, Andy will ask where Alex is. "Mommy, Alex?" Andy asked, cocking his head to show concern. I had left a sleeping Alex in his car seat in the kitchen yesterday after returning home from the library. To have a little fun with Andy, I mimed being shocked and upset and said, "Oh no! Did we leave Alex at the library?" Andy instantly became frazzled and went to hunt out his little brother, finding him near the refrigerator and shouting out, "Mommy, Alex HERE!" Which of course woke up the baby, so there's yet another lesson I've learned. Don't make finding Alex into a game.

Alex obviously adores his big brother. Alex has taken to giggling at his big brother rather joyously. It's clear that Alex finds big headed, schmoopy Andy just as funny as the rest of us do. Even when Andy is doing something decidedly unfunny, such as emptying a full glass of water directly into Alex's pack and play.

Alex even smiles at Andy when Andy brushes Alex's hair. If you've ever survived the pleasure of having Andy roughly and repeatedly bash a hairbrush into your skull, you understand that this is not an event that might make an average, sane person smile. But Alex digs it, soaking up the big brother love whenever and however he can get it.

So, it's beginning- a beautiful, somewhat harmful love between the two brothers. When Alex sprouts a tooth, though- watch out. Andy's going to assume little Allie can do EVERYTHING.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Andy BUS!

Andy was a bus for Halloween. We (Chris) transformed a diaper box, some yellow wrapping paper, and a handful of craft supplies into what was arguably the best costume, two year old division, this side of Lake County. By "this side," I mean the wrong side, the side that ISN'T near Lake Michigan. It would be nice if this small tidbit were noted by our tax assessor next spring.

Originally, Andy was going to be Cookie Monster for Halloween, since he does an admirable impression of the crazed blue dude. Then I looked up Cookie Monster costumes online. Forty dollars for some blue fabric with a couple of eyes glued onto a hood? Seriously, what kind of schmucks do the Halloween costume people think we are? I flat out refuse to spend forty dollars on a costume for a two year old, and this is not just because I'm cheap- it's the PRINCIPLE, dammit. Also, I can think of a million better ways to spend forty dollars, including the following:

- Forty boxes of graham crackers from the dollar store, each box containing three individually wrapped, stay-fresh sleeves. Damn, that's a lot of graham crackers!

- Five months of DVD only Netflix service, five months of streaming only Netflix service, or two and a half months of both!

- Approximately nine million paper clips.

- Enough gasoline to get from THIS side of Lake County to the OTHER side of Lake County, have a modest lunch, buy some socks, and then drive home. That's way more excitement than a single Cookie Monster costume can provide. I assume.

Anyway, after I decided that the Cookie Monster costume was not happening, and that I would much rather spend my forty dollars on a combination of crackers, movies, and office supplies, I decided to just ask Andy what he wanted to be for Halloween.

"Andy, what do you want to be for Halloween?"

After a brief moment of thought: "Princess!"

Oh, Christ. I asked him again, "Okay, what's your second choice?"

Andy paused, then yelled, "BUS!"

OF COURSE. Of course Andy should be a bus for Halloween! Immediately, the gears started turning. Diaper box, art supplies, a couple hours of time- done. I was very excited to tell Chris when he got home: Andy was going to be the fricking BUS for Halloween!

I said to Chris, "Guess what! I'm making Andy a bus costume!"

To which Chris replied, "No, you're not."

Chris and I have been together almost ten years. He knows me pretty well. And he knows that I lack attention to detail. Like, in a major way. I am big picture, get it done, let's get this over with. I slap things together, gloss over details, hurry through projects, and flat out tell lies in order to get through questions involving shitty tasks I've worked on.

Chris, to me, about five months ago: "This is a dumb question, but did you paint my office?"

Me, quickly: "No."

Chris: "Because it looks like there are patches of glossy paint over the matte paint, and it looks like someone tried to touch up the wall using the wrong finish."

Me: "I don't know what you're talking about."

Chris: "Am I going crazy? I could swear it wasn't like this yesterday."

Me: "I'm nine months pregnant, why would I paint a wall?"

Chris: "Okay, maybe I'm losing my mind. I'm sorry to accuse you."

Me, after a pause: "Alright, I painted your wall."

Anyway, so Chris immediately took control of the bus project, which is what I was hoping would happen. If I would have made Andy's bus, it might have looked... okay... but it wouldn't have looked... good. Or great, as Chris' bus ended up looking. Chris has incredible attention to detail. This can be an annoying trait since it takes him SOOOO LONG to get things done, but if you're looking for an awesome homemade costume in about ten days, then Chris is clearly your man. By the time Chris was done with Andy's bus, it really looked like a bus. A good bus. A fast bus. The kind of bus you'd actually want to take a ride in, if the driver wasn't two years old and prone to pooping himself.

Andy loved his costume. He loved that the bus had tap lights for headlights and that his costume lit up. He loved that the bus had wheels, that he fit perfect inside of it, and that he felt like he was actually driving it. And it was a hit when Andy went out trick or treating- all three times!

Andy, trick or treating, was adorable. He called out, "Knock knock!" when we approached houses, sometimes remembered to say "Trick or treat," and usually remembered the "thank you." But what was even cuter was later in the evening, when we were at home, and Andy got to hand the candy out to the other kids. He ate his dinner (grilled cheese, followed with a chaser of candy) next to the front door so that he could be ready for the kids. When we opened the door for trick or treaters, Andy was very careful about handing out the candy and dropping two pieces each into the kids' bags, saying, "Here you go!" to each and every person. In fact, he may have liked handing out the candy just as much as wearing the bus and trick and treating. But it's hard to tell with him, that kid's an enigma.

Alex got to be the hot dog, wearing the hot dog costume that Andy wore two years ago for his first Halloween. The hot dog, unfortunately, was not homemade. But it's cute and funny and gave me a better excuse than usual to refer to Alex as a wiener. In two years, when Alex has some strange obsession with conversion vans or rickshaws or whatever mode of transportation he enjoys- then we'll get down to business. For this year, though, the hot dog costume (a reasonable five dollars at Target two years ago), definitely got the job done.

And the job was "precious little wiener."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Four Months!

Alex is four months old.  Four months is not that long.  It's shorter than a single basketball season, which I specifically looked up because I am the mother of sons, with penises, who will likely, unfortunately, be interested in sports one day.  So now I can act like I know what I'm talking about should one of them bring up basketball at the dinner table in ten years.  I can say, "Oh, hey, did you know the season runs from early November through... Smarch?"  And they can say, "Mom, you are so lame, but I like the fact that you doubled the cheese in this recipe.  Love ya!"

So, Alex has been here four months, not even half a year, and yet it's hard to remember life before him.  Hasn't Andy always been a big brother?  Haven't I always had two kids?  And was there EVER a time all those size one jeans in my dresser fit just right?  Doubtful.  It's amazing how quickly the new has become the new normal.  I am a stay at home mom with two boys.  My eldest son Andrew is a bossy young chap who retorts, "No, Mommy do!" when I tell him to pick up his toys and often demands cake for no reason.  He shares a room with his little brother Alex, who is quickly becoming the target of his well-meaning jerkiness.  Just this morning, I caught Andy using the toilet plunger on Alex's belly.  A week ago, it was ice cubes on the face, and this evening, Andy somehow mistook Alex's face for his blanket and tried to grab his little brother's head while declaring, "Blankey!"  That was a very confusing two seconds for all of us.

Alex, since he can't talk, walk, or otherwise sass or annoy me, is who I mentally refer to as "the sweet one."  This kid really loves me and clearly prefers me above all others.  He gives me amazing smiles and squeals of joy for no other reason than just because he sees me, and he cuddles against me in a way that says, "I'm yours!" When he's crabby and crying, he wants me as opposed to Chris, whom I can only assume he mentally refers to as "oh...the other one."   When I bathe him, he stares at my reflection in the mirror instead of his own.  He might be borderline obsessed with me, but as someone who's never been terribly popular, it's nice to have a fan club.  Sure, Andy's the president, but that's only because he can sit upright and hold a mallet (for adjourning meetings).  To Alex, I'm a goddess.  Andy, of course he loves and adores me because I'm his mommy- but he understands that the world is big and wide and while Mommy's great- she's no Daddy.  Or Papa.  Or random guy at the library that was deemed worthy of Andy grabbing his hand and saying, "Come on!" while he tried to pull him in the direction of the puzzles.  Oh, no, Mommy's okay, but that random guy- now that was a guy that could REALLY put together a puzzle.

Having both Andy and Alex, after four months, is something that imperceptibly went from weird and exhausting and a little scary to just the good and regular day-to-day.  Not going to work has also become less of a novelty and is now just something that I do (or don't do, I suppose).  And I'm at a point where I've stopped looking at the clock and thinking, "Oh, this is about the time I'd be working on loan renewals... or going out for lunch and getting Smashburger... or putting on my coat and logging off my computer and pretending I didn't just hear my phone ring."  Sure, I still think about Smashburger an awful lot, but I am only human.  Now I have a different schedule that doesn't revolve around high (okay, high-low to medium) finance, and somewhere along the line I've stopped comparing the two.  Instead of saying aloud, "Wow, it's eight in the morning and I'm still in a robe when I should be pulling my insurance report!" I say instead, "Wow, it's eight in the morning and I'm pretty sure Andy just ate a nickel!  Also, I'm in a robe!"

Of course, there's more to my day than just wearing a robe.  Actually, I wear my robe surprisingly little since we're so- wait for it- busy.  Between all of our activities, our daily outings, and then grocery shopping, chores, and the like, our days are pretty full.  Now, is staying at home with two kids harder than working full time and having one kid?  The answer is no.  Working and having a baby is very hard.  And I had it tougher before than I do now, for sure.  I am happy to admit that.

Happy four months to my little Alex- and to our lives together here as a family of four.  It hasn't been that long- but it feels like it's the way it was always supposed to be.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Happy Meal!

What happened to these???
Andy probably gets a Happy Meal about once every three weeks or so.  Happy Meals are ridiculous these days, including only about six French fries (freedom fries?), juice or milk, and a bag of apple slices.  It's the apple slices that really get me.  I remember getting Happy Meals when I was a kid- back when you could SMOKE in a McDonalds.  I'd be eating my Happy Meal, inhaling second hand smoke, eating a big ass bag of fries and pretending the extra long ones were Virginia Slims, and if anybody had tried to offer me a damn apple slice, I probably would have thrown a supersized tantrum.  And even still, with all those fries, fake smoking, and very real second hand smoking, I managed to turn out okay.  Which is one of those arguments that mean nothing because everybody has some horrible tale in which extreme irresponsibility turns out "okay."  My uncle used to run blindfolded and barefooted across I-90, and he turned out okay.  My grandfather was singlehandedly responsible for starting the Korean War, and that turned out okay.  Or so I've been told.

Anyway, I'm off track.  Andy has his Happy Meals about 1.3 times per month.  He is constantly asking for one though- if there's even a glimpse of the golden arches off into the distance, he's begging for a Happy Meal.  I do accept that this makes me a failure on several levels.  When I was pregnant, I wouldn't even look at a canned item for fear of BPA leaching from the can's lining, into my digestive system, right through the baby's placenta, and directly into his brain where it would rapidly retard him or at least make him unable to one day understand sarcasm.  Now I've got a kid who loves junky fast food and recognizes the McDonalds logo at a time when he's still not even certain what a basic circle is, and I, as a parent, use McDonalds sometimes to reward him, thus further building up the Happy Meal as some ultimate, awesome trophy to obtain "if you're good."  Somewhere along the lines, things went wrong.

Sidenote: I will say, when pregnant with Alex, I was much more laid back about the canned food thing. So far, like the Korean War, things have turned out okay. For a baby, he has a decent grasp of simple sarcasm principles.

Last week, after preschool, I took the boys over to the park.  By the time we were done playing, I was starving.  I think Andy was fine because he'd been munching on fruit snacks, a lollipop, and some miscellaneous playground dirt, but I definitely had to eat.  I got the kids into the car and decided to stop at the McDonalds near our house.  I pulled into the drive-thru, rolled down the window, and was greeted by the friendly voice asking what I'd like to order.

Before I could say anything, Andy yelled from the backseat, presumably into the intercom, "HAPPY MEAL!"  Twenty-seven months old, and Andy's already placing orders at a drive-thru.

Amused, I repeated his order, specifying chicken nuggets.  The intercom voice asked what I would like to drink with the Happy Meal.  To which Andy yelled from the backseat, "APPLE JUICE!"

You would honestly assume that Andy went through the drive-thru EVERY GODDAMN DAY, he was that comfortable yelling out his order.  But, no, I assure you it's only 1.3 times per month.  I completed my own order while Andy suggested "Mommy Happy Meal, too!", rolled the car forward to pay at the first window, and when we got to the second window to receive our food, Andy yelled from the backseat:  "Thank you!"

So, at least he's polite.

At home, Andy was eager to dive into his Happy Meal, sucking away at his apple juice, chowing down on his fries and nuggets, and even chomping away at the apple slices.  It's completely normal for Andy to get apple slices in a Happy Meal.  His generation will never know the difference.  Whereas back in the eighties- fruit with our fast food would have been a travesty. Those were also the years that small children were told to be seen and not heard.  My Andy, though, in 2012?  Screaming at the McDonalds intercom, he is heard, but not seen.

And he loves his Happy Meals.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Putting the "F" in FMLA!

I noticed that one of Andy's school mates was absent last Thursday, and on Tuesday I asked her mom, "Oh, was Mia sick last week?"

"Yeah, she was just a little under the weather, so I kept her home," her mom replied. "She had a sniffle and was a little mopier than usual."

This is one of the differences, I've noticed, between the two realms occupied by (a) the stay at home moms and (b) the working moms.  As a former working mom, Andy would have to be more than "just a little under the weather" in order for me to keep him home.  A sniffle?  Mopier than usual?  Forget it.  Andy would have to be bleeding profusely from at least two separate wounds and/or running a fever of equal to or greater than 102 accompanied by occasional, but measurable spells of losing consciousness before I would consider keeping him home.  That's the general litmus test I used to use back when Andy was in day care, and I'm pretty sure it's going to hold true to preschool.  Every class works out to be, what, twenty bucks?  So for me to lose twenty bucks and my two hours of free time (having only Alex for those two hours TOTALLY counts as free time), you're going to have to be pretty f-ing sick.  And willing to exchange preschool time for nap time.  Just to be clear, I mean EXTRA nap time, in addition to normal nap time.

Anyway, sending a sick kid to day care is something every working mother has done.  Do we feel guilty about it?  Oh, sure.  Do we feel bad about possibly infecting the other children? Oh, yes, the poor children.  Do we avoid eye contact with the day care teachers when dropping off our "under the weather" child in the morning?  Absolutely.  In order to make the whole thing work, the working mom in question has to be very good at playing dumb.  Which, I might add, is also very helpful in the corporate world.  What?  You needed that report done last Monday?  I'm not allowed to put white-out on legal documents??  Oh, that red light means I have a voicemail???  Well, shit!

So, we cheerfully drop off our sick kids at day care because we have to get to work, whispering into our toddler's ear, "Try not to rub your eye too much and act too 'pink eye-ish,' okay?"

Plus, it's so much easier to leave work after day care calls to ask how you had no idea your son had a fever, diarrhea, AND a wicked case of hives than to call in that morning lamely excusing yourself because your kid is sick.  Having day care call and demand you come pick up your damn kid is such a more legitimate excuse than to say you're not coming in at all, with no official day care type person to back up the claim.  It makes the whole sick kid scenario so much more real to the bosses.  Plus, if day care doesn't realize your kid is sick for, like, two hours or so, you might get away with only taking a half day at work.  In a society with such limited sick leave, it's best to divide that leave up into neat little segments as best you can.  Can I take a quarter day?  A one third day?  Can I make up my missing time by shortening my lunch hours by five minutes for the next forty-three days?

Of course, because every mom is sending their sick kid to day care, every kid at day care is always sick.  Andy had one single cold that lasted eleven months straight when he was a baby.  Then, he got over that cold, and one week later came down with a new cold that lasted five months.  By abiding by Mia's mom's "keep your under the weather kid home" mentality, I would have had to call Andy out for SIXTEEN MONTHS STRAIGHT.  Which, in retrospect, would have been pretty awesome.  How long can you get that FMLA for anyway?

But the studies say that the day care babies have the better immune systems by the time they're five and off to kindergarten.  Yes, actual studies, like with numbers and people with initials after their names.  It will be interesting to see how Alex's immune system fares against Andy's.  Actually, I look forward to discovering all the differences between Andy and Alex, since Alex's first two years will be so different than Andy's first two years.  Day care versus mommy.  Only child versus older sibling.  First time mommy who changes baby's diaper every two hours on the nose versus second time mommy who changes baby's diaper... oh, man, how long has it been dark out?  Did we even eat lunch today?  Ah, well.

But of course, although I look forward to discovering the differences between the two boys, I have vowed to never actively compare them.  At least not aloud.  No, I certainly won't ever say, out loud, which kid is the overall better one.  That would just be poor parenting.

Now everybody wipe your noses nice and good- it's time for preschool.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Don't Dance While You're Eating Nuts!

If Andy is struggling while I try to change his diaper, I have a secret special tactic that I employ which will instantly change his demeanor.  I smell his feet.  I grab his feet, wrinkle my nose, take an exaggerated whiff, and then react as if I've smelled raw, hot sewage bubbling up from the city grates.  "Oh my God, Andy," I gasp, crossing my eyes and gagging.  "You have the stinkiest feet in all the world!"  Andy rewards me with a full on belly laugh and then will often ask, "More!"  Or, lately, "Two!" which is his request for me to smell both feet at once and act TWICE as sick to my stomach.  "UGH," I'll dry heave.  "Ugh!  Oh man, I had my mouth open that time.  Gross!"  And as Andy laughs harder, I change his diaper quickly, and we are off to enjoy another two hours of playing "Elmo takes a nap" with his Sesame Street play set.  See Andy?  Even Elmo likes to nap!  Good job, Elmo!

I chalk this up to just one of those things that parents do.  We smell our kids' feet (or pretend to) and this act that would have been inconceivable to us in those magical, ten-hours-of-sleep per night years before having kids now seems perfectly normal.  There are a lot of things I never imagined myself doing before Andy came along.  Eating partially chewed food that Andy hands me during dinner as his way of sharing is one of those things.  "Aww, Andy, you want Mommy to try some of what used to be a muffin?  No, that's okay, you eat it.  Oh, you insist?  No, really, I already had my own... What?  Oh, okay.  Mmmm.  Thank you, that was... soggy."

Chris and I construct all kinds of goofy sentences that would never have made any sense in our former, childless life. Chris is particularly good at this, proclaiming, quite seriously, "Don't dance while you're eating nuts" when Andy had almonds for the first time a few weeks ago (which, now that I think about it, I basically partially chewed for him, biting the almonds just enough to break them up before giving them to Andy.  Gee, now this is all coming together for me.) 

I am reaching a point where I think we need to be a little more careful about the things we do and say, though.  Back to the feet smelling.  It's all fine and good when Andy and I have a moment where I sniff his toes and fake passing out.  But then, when we're with other people, and suddenly Andy is bent down on the floor smelling somebody else's socked foot and calling out, "Stinky feet!", well- then I need to remind myself that Andy is two and that the things we do at home are not just the things we do at home.  They are the things that Andy will also do outside the home.  And, surprisingly, not everyone wants to be told their feet smell. 

I've already had that moment- just once- where I've dropped something and instinctively muttered "Shit," only to hear Andy repeating "Shit!" just off to my left.  How do you come back from a moment like that, you ask?  Only by offering, by way of distraction, "Hey, do you want me to smell your feet?  Your TWO feet??"

I also think that I need to stop letting Andy follow me into the bathroom.  During the day, it's impossible to shake that kid, and he is my constant shadow, calling out, "Where are you Mommy?" the very millisecond I exit his line of vision.  If I try to go to the bathroom and shut the door behind me, he is sorrowfully banging on it almost instantaneously, sobbing, "Mommmmmmy!  Andy potty TOOO!"  He doesn't want to USE the potty, though.  He just wants to be with me while I use it.  And so I let him in, and he mills around while I finish up.  Lately, he hands me toilet paper and does my flushing for me.  This alone seems like it's crossing a line and should be reason enough for me to put my foot down once and for all and kick that damn kid out.  But the other day, when he took a peek and muttered "Mommy owwie" and went to fetch sanitary supplies for me from under the sink- well then I realized, OKAY, THINGS HAVE DEFINITELY GONE TOO FAR.  Only, aloud, I just said, quietly, "Thank you, Andy."

So here's what I have- a mission to stop smelling his feet, to most definitely watch my language, and to find some way to go to the potty alone.  Otherwise, I risk raising a weirdo- an even bigger weirdo- who thinks all of these private family things are perfectly normal.  Andy, when you are at preschool, I only hope that you are not sniffing your teachers' feet and following them into the bathroom to assist.  But, oh, yeah, your father's right- don't dance while you're eating nuts.  For real.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sharing a room!

There are three other parents at Andy's preschool who have babies aside from their toddlers.  These are the three people that I've aligned myself with during drop off and pick off times.  We're the Sleepless Four (as I refer to ourselves silently) and today I learned that all of us are having our kids share a room.  I'm one of those people who need to know that other people are just like me in order to feel secure.  This goes back to my childhood, when I was the only girl in kindergarten who wore pants on the first day of school and felt so very alone.  If only my mother had put me in a damn dress.  Or if only, if only, one of those other girls had had the kind of mother who thought jeans, a stained t-shirt, and uncombed hair was an appropriate first day of school outfit for a budding young outcast.  Me and that mystery girl, we would have been best friends forever.  Or until we moved to Tinley.  Where, I might add, I also had to share a bedroom.  What kind of family has a house in which their two girls share a room in Midlothian and then go ahead and buy ANOTHER house in a nicer suburb in which their two girls have to share a room AGAIN?  My family, that's who.  But I digress.

Anyway, the other three parents, they all say that so far, the room sharing has gone just fine.  And, I must admit, so far here at the Berger Barn (as I silently refer to our home), the room sharing between Andy and Alex is also going- just fine.  It's been almost two weeks, and Alex has yet to wake up Andy up with his come-hither whimpers.  Alex is a phenomenal sleeper, though, which helps.  He's been fast asleep for full eight hour stretches, which is a length of time that I personally have not had since July 12, 2010.  I'll let you guess what happened on that particular day.

Andy goes to sleep first.  There are stories, milk, the tuck in, the kisses.  Andy insists that I lay down with him for a few minutes, grabbing my shirt in a tight little fist while he mutters "Wait, mommy," every time I move to get up.  I usually give him about five minutes while he gets increasingly drowsy as we quietly rehash his day.  These are the toys we broke today.  These are the kids we made cry today with our rough but well meaning "tickling."  These are the sugary snacks we had today in increasing order of junkiness.  These are the new words we learned today:  Sticky bun.  Dingleberry.  Toe jam.  Bi-otch.

I leave Andy, grab Alex from Chris, and two hours later, after Alex's last bottle of the evening, I sneak Alex into the crib and then head off to my own bed where I sleep with one ear open until five or six when Alex cries out, "Yo, mommy, my diaper weighs like fifteen pounds!"  Or at least that's what I assume he's trying to say.  Alex spends the last hour or two of the morning in bed with me, Andy wakes up at six or so and plays quietly on the stairs until Chris goes and gets him (the stairs are a safe place for a two year old to play, right?), and then the day gets going.  Breakfast, yelling, a time out or two, then off to preschool, the library, or Aldi where Andy hands me the quarter to rent the cart and is very excited to buy some off-brand cookies.  Or, "Kookies," as they're legally required to call them.

So, the room sharing is going good.  But soon enough, I will be trying to sync their bedtimes and get the two boys down at the same time.  I want to start moving up Alex's bedtime until he's ready for that last bottle around seven, Andy's bedtime.  I fear reading both of them their bedtime stories at the same time, though.  It's very difficult to hold a baby, a two year old, and also turn pages at the same time.  I might even go as far as to say that it just can't be done.  But I'll let you know when we get to that point.  And I'll let you know if Alex enjoys the "Twilight" series as much as Andy seems to.  He's on Team Bella.

As much as I feared the room sharing, it really is just something that families have to do.  And there's four of us at preschool who are managing it just fine.  Sleepless Four unite!  I'll have to ask the other parents how their toddlers and babies do with sharing the cart at Aldi.  At least it's a pretty big cart- plenty of room for a two year old, a baby, and lots and lots of kookies.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thirteen Weeks!

Alex is thirteen weeks old!  If I were returning to work, my maternity leave would have ended last week, and I'd be there right now, staring at my computer and blinking back tears as I wondered if my baby was missing me. Returning to work after Andy was born was beyond heartwrenching, and I'd break into sobs whenever anybody asked me about him.  Granted, this time around, it would probably have been a little easier since I'd gone through it once before, but I know it still would have been rough, and I'm glad that I don't have to do it.

Staying at home is not all smiles and giggles, either.  Not being at work means that I miss out on a lot of "me" time that I don't otherwise get.  Even a brutal commute can be a relaxing venture when you have coffee, Pandora, and a backseat that is empty of screaming children.  There's no leisurely bathroom breaks or lunch hours filled with joyously greasy fast food.  My lunch hour now is standing over the sink stuffing a piece of toast in my mouth while Andy demands a popsicle in lieu of a sandwich.  And I miss my work friends most of all.  I miss the gossip, the laughter, the Seinfeldian conversations about nothing.

But do I miss work itself?  Of course not.  And would I rather be at work than at home?  Hell no.  If my two choices are working mom and at home mom, so far I'm glad that I am currently at home mom.  I love being with my babies and having slow mornings that find me sitting on the sofa around eight thirty, cuddling Alex in my arms while watching Andy choo chooing it up with his trains.  I love that I feel like I am getting to know Andy more and that I'm fully in charge of him now.  I love nap time maybe more than I should, in which Andy naps upstairs in his big boy bed (finally, after way too many weeks of me allowing him to nap on the couch) while Alex dozes in my arms and we watch an episode or two of "Wife Swap" on Lifetime.  Remember "Wife Swap?"  Well, it's back.  In rerun form.

Things are going pretty good.  I'll admit, the first couple weeks after Chris went back to work and it was just me and the boys, I thought that I was going to lose my mind and/or succumb to some minor child abuse.  These children, they really know how to suck the fun out of a day.  But, not even that slowly, we got into a groove, my post-pregnancy hormones adjusted back to normal, and now I might dare to say that I'm loving it.  I also think that Andy is much better behaved now that he's not in day care.  This may be a coincidence aligned with his overall development, and it may also be that I've become stronger with my discipline in the last weeks.  I don't let him get away with the things that he got away with before, and his behavior and my sanity is better for it.  Or, it may be that he really is better off at home than in day care.  Even though now that he's started preschool twice a week, he basically can't wait to leave the house on those special school days.

But I think I'm doing good.  He goes to preschool Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have a mommy and me class on Fridays, Wednesdays we go to the library, and Mondays are our free day for the park or other things that come up.  Every morning we go do something, then we come home, nap and eat, and spend the afternoon doing whatever.  We finally have a rhythm, and it's great.

And, Andy and Alex are now officially sharing a room.  How is that going, you ask, wondering why we don't just put the house for sale and get a bigger one or why Chris doesn't just give up his office and stick his computer in, say, the garage?  Well, it's going just fine so far.  Andy sleeps through Alex waking up. And there's something very sweet about the two of them sleeping together in the same room.

So that's my thirteen week update.  Alex is an amazing baby.  He smiles so much more than I remember Andy smiling, even though I always considered Andy to be a happy baby, too.  Alex is superb at snuggling and incredibly kissable, huggable, and lovable.  Of course now he's screaming for a bottle, so- blog entry, done.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Yesterday, Alex pooped himself to the tenth degree.  I forgot about the kind of poops that ooze both down the legs and up the back.  I must have been visibly frazzled as I cleaned him up because Andy approached me, cocked his head, and asked, "You okay?"

"I'm okay, Andy," I replied, smiling at his concern.

Andy cocked his head further, furrowed his brow, and asked, "Poo poo?"

"Yes, Andy, Alex made a lot of poo poo," I replied.

Andy nodded in sympathy.  Here it was, yet another one of our conversations initiated by Andy and demonstrative of his understanding of the world around him.

You okay?

Poo poo?

I get the feeling Andy will be repeating those two inquiries quite a bit in the coming months.


Andy was the mayor of Target yesterday, walking alongside the cart and saying "Hello!" to every person we happened upon during our journey down the aisles.  "Hello!  Hi!  Hello!"  He waved at everyone, and it was the first time ever I have been greeted with nothing but a sea of smiling strangers during a shopping trip.  When Andy's around, everyone's day gets just a little bit brighter.  Unless he's tired, hungry, or has recently been told "no."  Then, forget it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Free Preschool!

I take the boys to the park at least two mornings per week.  There are two parks in my neighborhood, but there are never any kids at either one.  I can't take Andy to a park without children; then I get roped into actually having to interact him as opposed to just sitting on a bench with the baby, which is the vision I'd constructed for myself when I first dreamed up the life of Stay At Home Mom. The vision of Stay At Home Mom involved me doing lots of sitting, and I have to say I'm disappointed in the actual amount of sitting I get to do, because the numbers aren't exactly adding up in my favor.  So, if there are no kids around, I have to go down the slide, crawl through the tunnels, and assist in batting away all the bees.  I can tell you, I'm not interested in doing any of this.  Plus, I really am no fun, and Andy grows tired of me after a short time.  He squints off into the sun and asks forlornly, "Friends?"

To solve this problem, I found two parks that usually have kids at them.  Both require a ten minute drive, which is fine, since that's ten extra minutes of sitting I can count on.  The first is Park District A.  This park's pretty good.  There's usually a handful of other kids there, and it's not nearly as bee infested as the ones in our neighborhood.  These are two good qualities in a park.  The other park, Park District B, is the park I really hit the jackpot with, though.  This park is shaded, fenced in, right near the Metra line, and across the street from a school or bus depot or something that always has a parking lot filled with yellow school buses.  The passing choo-choos and yellow buses would be enough to make this Park Of The Year in Andy's book- but it gets even better.  This park is always jam packed with kids because the park district has day care and preschool classes that come outside to play in it.  It's kid heaven.

I feel like a sucker for actually paying for Andy's upcoming preschool experience since he's basically been getting free preschool at Park District B.  I caught onto the schedule pretty quick and have seamlessly helped insert Andy into the two year old class that comes out every day at 9:30 to play.  We get there around 9:20 and play idly for about ten minutes, trying to act as casual as possible, as if our presence at that particular time is just mere coincidence.  The two year old day care group rolls out at 9:30.  There are about fifteen kids and three teachers.  At least the original group is fifteen kids- after Andy joins their line, there's sixteen.

Andy runs and plays with all the two year olds and has become such a part of their class that the teachers all know his name.  "Look, friends!" the teacher might say without a detectable trace of sarcasm, "It's our new friend, Andy!"  Andy will edge closer to the teacher, look up, and reply, "Yellow bus.  Big yellow bus.  Up and down.  Beep beep!"  Up and down refers to what the people on the bus do.  You know, they go up and down, up and down.

He has his favorite friends there- a cute little peanut of a boy named Quincy that Andy enjoys hugging and kissing, even if Quincy's body language reveals that he's not as interested in all this PDA as Andy is.  There's another kid, Colton, who does not speak but only growls.  I kind of like that Colton kid- his growls are very expressive.  And then there's Madison, whom Andy seems to think is cute, but is more attracted to baby Alex.  The first of many girls who will prefer the brother who doesn't prefer her, I'm sure.  Madison stands very close to me when I am holding Alex.  So close that I have knocked her over on accident a few times while backing up or stepping forward, unaware that she was lurking in my shadow.  The teachers at the preschool have rolled with this.  Park District B really hired some flexible, nice young ladies- teachers who are very accepting of a rambunctious boy who joins their class, uninvited and unpaid, for half hour a day and that rambunctious boy's mother who offers a smile that is only marginally apologetic when she knocks over one of the paying kids.

The last time we were having Free Preschool Time, though, Andy may have gone a little too far.  The teachers brought out Kleenex and juice for the kids.  I lost track of Andy for a few minutes only to discover him sitting on the bench, drinking their juice and wiping his face with about six Kleenexes.  "Andy!" I hissed, running over and pushing little Madison down in my haste. "That's not your juice!  Or your Kleenex!  Stop that!"  Andy's response was a look of confusion.  I could almost hear him ask, "Well, gee Mom, am I part of this preschool or not??"

The answer is no, Andy.  We are merely squatters during play time.  We have no right to the juice or Kleenex.

Soon it will no longer be park weather, though,and I will have to find another group of kids for Andy to horn in on when the preschool deems it too cold to come out and play.  The library works pretty good for that, although at the library, Andy tends to butt his way into families, which seems slightly more unacceptable than an organized group of unrelated children.  He becomes a family's third child before they're even aware of what's going on, and is quick to grab puzzle pieces from one of their kids while simultaneously referring to the father as "Daddy."

Oh well.  We probably have at least another six weeks or so of park weather, anyway.  I will bring my own juice and Kleenex for the next class.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ten About Alex!

Alex has a megawatt smile.  I looked up "megawatt" to make sure it was a real thing, and, yes, it's a million watts.  Think about the brightest lamp in your house, multiply it by a thousand or so, and that's Alex's smile.  He's been smiling brightly since shortly after birth.  He must be noticing how Andy always gets his way and is anxious to cash in on the "What the hell, just give him a popsicle" mentality around here.

In the first three days of Alex's life, his cry sounded like a tea kettle going off.  At first, we didn't know if Alex needed assistance or if someone was making Earl Grey in our hospital room.  

Alex's head seemed really small to me when he was born.  "Nope, it's fiftieth percentile," the doctor told me when I expressed my concerns.  "Although sometimes small heads run in the family."  She then seemed to size up my own head, which I have always thought it kind of on the small size.  The rest of the day, I felt freakish and devoted to googling such queries is "Is my head too small?" "Should this hat be tighter?" and "Correct ratio of head to body."  Now I think that Alex's head might be on the big size and am wondering if he will be wearing adult sized hats when he's a toddler, like that other weird kid of mine, Andrew.

Alex has his eyes open, like, all the time during the day.  I think he wants to nap, but he can't, because it's always so damn loud.  I am trying my best to get Andy to whisper, but he thinks it's a game and likes to shout "WHISPER WHISPER WHISPER!"  I am so very sorry, Alex.  I know you must be totally exhausted.

Alex has the most kissable cheeks and the most cuddly, warm little body ever.  He is the perfect, sweetest baby, and sometimes when he's fussy in the early morning hours, I bring him into bed with me where he turns his face to me, presses his soft cheek against mine, and then instantly falls into a pleasant, dreamy slumber.  And this is my idea of heaven.

Nicknames for Alex:  Al Pal (Like Gal Pal), My Funny Al-lentine (a little wordy), Allie (that's what Andy calls him), Alligator (naturally), Squeaky (he's so damn squeaky), Andy (I'm getting better about this).

Alex has brown hair and brown eyes, but his features are much more delicate and lighter than Andy's.  I think that Alex will be the fairer of the two, and that maybe he will burn while Andy tans.  He will be the Chris while Andy gets to be the Jackie.

Everyone seems to think that Alex looks just like Andy.  Wrong.  Or maybe I'm the one who's wrong, since everyone tells me otherwise.  But since I'm the mother who birthed these two kids and spends every day gazing upon their every last skin cell, eyelash, toenail, etc, then let's just agree that I'm the one who's right.

At times, Alex prefers laying alone on the floor than having Chris hold him.  It's the strangest thing.  Chris holds Alex, Alex gets totally upset.  Chris puts Alex on the carpet and walks away, Alex is suddenly having a ball.  If Chris is holding Alex and he starts to get fussy, Chris immediately plops him on the ground, walks off, and gets a string cheese.

Alex has reached out and grabbed the hem of Andy's pants on a couple of occasions while Andy has stood near him.  This has made Andy laugh.  Either (a) Alex is trying to bond with his big bro the only way he knows how or (b) he's trying so very hard to remind Andy that he's laying there on the floor and, dude, try not to step on me, okay?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Preschool Issues!

Andy is set to begin preschool at the Christian farmhouse in a week.  I just received the welcome packet in the mail, which details a list of items Andy is supposed to bring the first day.  This list includes a ream of printer paper, a check for $5 (to assist with printing needs), a large container of juice, a box of tissues, one box of gallon sized Ziploc bags, one refill of liquid soap, two packs of glue sticks, one pack of colored card stock, and a roll of paper towels.  I find this list of items unacceptable.  Seriously- what's with all the printer paper?  Is Andy going to bring home 500 pages worth of activities / correspondence?  And the five dollar check for printing needs?  Tuition is $160 per month, there's a $75 registration fee, and now you're going to nickel and dime me for miscellaneous "printing" needs?  Not to mention all the juice and glue sticks and what not.  Forget the whole thing.  Andy can't carry that much juice, and the dollar store doesn't sell "Ziploc" bags.  So the farmhouse preschool can shove it.

Seriously, though, Andy got into our first choice preschool, the park district, which is why the farmhouse preschool is going to shove it.  I mean, the supply list doesn't help, but if the park district hadn't called, I'd probably be out right now bitterly selecting the cheapest thing of card stock I could find.  The wait list at the park district worked out- kind of.  We wanted the park district for several reasons:

- $58 per month as opposed to $160, with no registration fee (or $5 "printing" fee.  I hope the parents request receipts on this.).
- Not in a farmhouse. 
- Not affiliated with any religion.  I still can't put it into words, but I'm still wary of the idea of a Christian preschool.  Even though I'm Catholic and have accepted Jesus as my lord and savior et cetera, I'd just rather keep Jesus out of the whole early education thing.  Doesn't Jesus already have enough on his plate?  Plus the request for all the printer paper coupled with the Christian thing has me once again thinking there's going to be leaflets involved.  Leaflets of the "Have You Found Christ?" variety.
- Park district just seems more... official.  Or something.

Here's the problem, though.  The park district class we got into is two days a week from one o'clock to two thirty. Nap time! So, while I've gone ahead and signed him up for the class, I can't help wonder if I've made another mistake. Will Andy nap before class?  After class?  Not at all?  What have I done to my already dysfunctional little sleeper?   Have I royally screwed him?

Andy's not a good sleeper.  We recently went through a period where he was waking up every morning super early (three o'clock, four o'clock, five o'clock) wide eyed and ready to begin the day.  This period coincided with two things- Alex being born and Andy getting his big boy bed.  So, at least there's an explanation- too many changes lead to getting up early and making our lives a living hell.  We mostly solved that problem, though, by putting him to bed earlier in the evening (sleep begets sleep!) and doing something else that I'm super proud of.  I taped a handwritten "6" next to the first digit of Andy's digital clock and told him that the numbers have to match before he can get out of bed in the morning.  It took a couple mornings for Andy to get the hang of it- BUT IT'S WORKED.  And now in the morning, Andy bursts out of his room exclaiming "Six!  Six!  Six!"  So, yes, there's a very good chance Andy's up at three in the morning just waiting for six- but at least he's in his room, letting us sleep.  And it's not always at 6:00- sometimes, it's 6:30, 6:47, and so forth.  And, yes, at some point, that handwritten six is going to become a seven.  Or I'm just going to reset his clock incrementally until "six" on his clock is like ten in the morning for real.  There's a couple of devious ways I could go about this.  Oh, the options.

Anyway, so that's the night time deal.  The day time naps, though- man.  It's a struggle to get Andy to nap at all, and now that he'll be at preschool during prime nap time- it ties my stomach in knots.  An overtired Andy is NOT a pleasant Andy.  Andy needs his naps even if he fights them.  And it's usually about one o'clock or so by the time I win the "time to nap" battle.  Super.  How do I get him to nap earlier on the days he has school?  How much benadryl is it safe to slip him?

I think the only thing I can do is send him to the preschool and if it's really screwing with his sleep- just pull him from the program and call it a day.  At this point, my main reason for wanting Andy to go to school is no longer as valid.  I was afraid that Andy would miss day care and the kids and absolutely NEED a preschool program.  But, as usual, I didn't give him, or me, enough credit.  He's adjusted to not having day care.  I've found plenty to keep us busy.  He gets socialization through friends, the park, the library, and other programs.  So... if the preschool works out, awesome.  If not- I guess we can try again next year when he's three.  Which is really a more legitimate preschool age anyway, let's face it.

On a side note, I am going to sign me and Andy (and Alex) up for a mommy and me class in September- "Barnyard Dance," which meets Monday mornings for six weeks and is all about animals and, no, does not actually meet IN a barnyard.  I'm so excited.  This is why I wanted to be a stay at home mom- silly opportunities like this animal program.  I hope Andy enjoys it as much as I think he will, and I think it will be something really fun for us to do together.  Alex is allowed to come as well, as long as he's "not a disruption" per the park district clerk's rules.  She had to raise her voice to tell me that it was okay Alex join as long as he wouldn't be a disruption- mostly because Alex was screaming and being QUITE the disruption while I asked if he could join.  Yep, this definitely bodes well!

So, I have to call the farmhouse preschool people on Monday and inform them that Andy (and his liquid soap and box of tissues) will not be in attendance for school.  I've been putting off this call because I'd rather just not deal with it.  I tried to find an email address for the place but couldn't.  Yet another reason I don't want Andy going there.  Why would I want to talk to another human being when I could just send an email?  Isn't that why we have technology- so the socially awkward can avoid confrontation?

I hope the afternoon preschool works out.  I hope this is yet another situation of not giving us enough credit- maybe it'll work out just fine with early/late naps.  And maybe Andy will end up being class valedictorian!  And earn a scholarship for next year's preschool!  And look just so darling in his mortarboard and tassel.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Andy's Friends!

Andy is a social butterfly.  I'm not sure where he gets it from, as Chris and I were initially drawn to each other out of a shared dislike for others.  "People?  They're the worst," we've been known to mutter to each other, snapping shut our living room curtains.  Sometimes we watch "House Hunters," where prospective home buyers talk about needing a home with a good space for "entertaining."  Chris and I, our main goal in purchasing a home was to find a home without ANY entertaining space, a house with an uncomfortably small dining area and a dark, tiny family room that could fit precisely one sofa and a large television at which to aim it.

Anyway, Andy loves people.  He gets ridiculously excited around other children and is very quick to inject himself into the activities of other kids.  He will insert himself into the organized lines of day cares, preschools, and church groups of which we have no affiliation.  If two siblings at the library are quietly reading together on the floor, Andy will plop himself down between them and start tickling them.  At the playground, Andy plays with the other kids whether they like it or not, giving them no choice but to include him as he initiates a game of chase.  Every child is Andy's friend, and they don't have a say in the matter.

Andy waves and calls out hello to every child he sees, even if they are but a distant dot way down the block.  I've noticed, as well, that he's started to introduce himself to other children and make small talk in his own little way.  We were at the neighborhood park last week, and at first we were the only ones there.  This is often the case- seriously, where are the goddamn children?  I know there are kids in the neighborhood- how come no one's ever at the park?  Children of Volo, we need you.  Come play!

On this particular day, Andy was trying his best to entertain himself and failing miserably.  I was sitting on the bench trying to shade Alex from the bright sun (sorry, little dude), when two kids and their mothers started heading down the block toward us.  Andy spotted these children and ran up to the fence, pressing his face against the bars and hopefully calling out hello while giving his pathetic come-love-me wave.  When the children got closer and made it clear that they were actually coming TO the park as opposed to just walking PAST it on their way to some party that Andy couldn't weasel his way into, Andy just about threw a parade.  He started squealing with delight, jumping up and down and shouting something that sounded vaguely like "Hooray!"  And then he screamed out, "Andy!  Andy!  Andy... Andy daddy, big choo-choo!"  He was telling the kids his name and then, desperately, telling them something about himself- that his father had driven him to the airport earlier that week where Andy had taken a ride on the train from the remote parking lot to the international terminal. And back!  That was truly THE best day of Andy's life.  It's been a week, and Andy is still talking about the airplanes and the choo-choo.  Best two dollars Chris ever spent on Andy.  Unless you cost the price of gas from our house to O'Hare and back- then it's more like, best twenty bucks.  Still worth it.

The kids were a little older and didn't acknowledge Andy's introduction or his attempt at starting a conversation involving fathers and trains.  No matter, this didn't slow Andy down.  The two kids started playing by themselves at one end of the park, and Andy ran right up to them, observing for a moment what they were doing.  They were throwing wood chips, of course.  On the rare occasion other kids are at the park, they're either throwing wood chips or smoking cigarettes.  What has happened to the youth of America?  Anyway, Andy got the hang of the game after a few seconds (pick up wood chips, throw them on the slide, repeat), and he joined in, giggling with merriment and having instant fun.  There was Andy, making and playing with new "friends" despite the kids' relative lack of interest of him.  Meanwhile, I remained on my bench with Alex, doing my best to avoid eye contact with the other mothers who had showed up.  That's the last thing I need, to be talking to a bunch of mothers.  Ugh.

Andy talks about his friends all the time.  He asks constantly for Jovie.  If he sees Lily's house from the front window, he starts moaning for Lily.  He still asks for Bobby from day care, and he babbles incessantly about the friends from the park.  My sister-in-law had Andy sleep over with her other nephew Payton, and I had to hear Andy asking for Payton for three straight days afterwards.  Andy's had his friend Aiden over to play a couple times, and every time Aiden leaves, Andy acts like it's the last time he will ever see another human being ever again.  The tears.  The tantrums.  THE HUMANITY.

Andy knows that when people come over, they come through the front door, and that if he looks out the front window, he can see people approaching our house.  He has taken to randomly looking out at that front window and forlornly asking, "Where are they?"  The "they" in this question is not anybody in particular.  The "they" simply refers to any generic friend who may enter our home and either shower Andy with love, affection, and gifts (adult friends) or smack him in the face with his own toys (child friends).  Getting smacked in the face still counts as having fun with friends, by the way.  Oh, to be Andy.

It's a good thing that Andy is so social and loves having friends.  I think it would be wonderful if Andy were to grow up surrounded by huge circles of friends and have a full social calendar along with the kind of house suited for "entertaining."  If that's the kind of person Andy grows up to be, I will be very happy for him.  After all, there's still hope for Alex.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


It's fascinating to observe a two year old learning to use language.  Andy is adding new words daily and has started asking "What's this?" about objects of which he does not know the name for.  I love this inquisitive spirit, although I am admittedly failing Andy during the times when he asks what something is... and I don't know what it's called either.

"What's this?"

"It's... the thingy... where the gas goes in the car.  The gas-hole."


"That's right, Andy.  Gas-hole."

Through his language, I'm able to see how Andy understands his little universe.  For instance, nothing is ever Andy's fault.  When he's not paying attention and walks into the table, he bursts out crying, "Not nice, table!"  If he runs and trips over his truck, he shakes his finger and shouts, "Not nice, Andy truck!"  He makes sure to add the ownership label of "Andy" before the word truck lest Alex accidentally think that he may one day be able to play with said truck- because he won't.  Ever.  Andy's sharing skills have seemed to backslide as his language skills have increased, and often he asks what something is called just so he can tell me that the item in question is his.

"What's this?"

"It's a puzzle."


And don't you forget it. 

It's always hilarious the first time Andy says something on his own without being prompted.  Hilarious-slash-adorable.  At the park the other day, he came running up to me with a slightly older boy in tow.  "Mommy, FRIEND!" he cried out, pointing at the other boy.  "Wow, Andy, you found a friend?"  I asked, my heart melting a little at Andy's first, sweet and proud use of the word "friend."  "Yes, Andy friend!" Andy affirmed. Later, Andy's "friend" would proceed to throw handfuls of wood chips in my face, confirming my suspicion that one day, all of Andy's friends will be real shitheads.

For some reason, Andy really loves that Carley Rae Jepsen song, "Call Me Maybe."  I put the video on my smart phone for him to watch and enjoy, and when the song was over, Andy begged, "More lady!"  More lady?  That's hilarious.  And that little slut is hardly a lady... but I let Andy watch the video over and over again, basically so I could hear him use the word lady semi-correctly.  To date, we have watched that video 537 times, which is only one time less than I've had to sit through "Shrek," during which Andy declares "Pretty princess," "Donkey OUTSIDE," and "Hot soup" when Shrek and the donkey are walking over the red, swirling lava which resembles one of five lunch options Andy likes to enjoy- tomato soup.  HOT tomato soup.

Andy has also showed that he understands who Alex belongs to.  "Mommy baby," he says, calming my fears that Andy wouldn't understand I'm Alex's mother in addition to being Andy's mother.  He also knows that Alex has "small feet," Andy has "big feet," and that the term "P.U!" is applicable when he sniffs his own feet.  P.U. indeed, Andy.  Who's in charge of washing those bad boys?

Andy uses his words to boss me around, too.  "Mommy, sit," he tells me, patting the area next to him when he's ready for some cuddle time.  On the other hand, lately, Andy has been very quick to kick me out of the room when he wants to do something bad. Yesterday, I chastised him for standing on an ottoman and switching the front room lights on and off.  After considering his options for a minute, Andy started yelling, "Mommy upstairs, Mommy upstairs!" in an effort to get me as far away as he was comfortable with so that he could continue flicking the lights on... and off... and on... and off... and on... and off...

So I did what any reasonable mother would do.  I shrugged, picked up Alex, and hauled my ass upstairs while Andy enjoyed his little light switch rave.

Andy and I spend most of our days talking to each other.  Now that I'm a stay at home mom with a baby and a two year old, Andy is often the closest thing I have to another adult. And so I chat with him, teaching him new phrases (such as "dwindling savings account") and making the huge mistake of telling him our plans for the day ("We'll go to the park after lunch."  "Park?  Andy park!  Andy park!  Andy PARK!  ANDY PARK!  ANDY PAAAAARRRRKKKK!").

I'm learning.  Maybe not as quickly as Andy- but I'm definitely learning.