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.