Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Obnoxious Ones!

Books are not for reading.
They are for destroying.
At just a few days shy of eighteen months, Alex is officially at "that" age.  It's the terrible twos six months early.  The obnoxious ones.  I remember when Andy was this age, I was three months pregnant with Alex.  Good thing I was ALREADY with child, because had we waited a few months, I may have put the whole thing off indefinitely.  It's a rough time to be a mother.

Alex is testing me in new and novel ways.  He has learned to climb over the gate at the bottom of the stairs and can get up the stairs, but has zero idea how to get down.  You can almost hear him thinking, "Time to get down.... I'll just ahead and tumble forward and trust that someone's going to be there."  So now I have an ineffective gate, a clueless child, and the new shiny promise of severe head trauma.  Alex's other trick is to squeeze himself out from under his high chair tray, stand up, and literally dangle one foot off the edge while I rush over yelling, "No!  No! NO!"  Again, you can hear his thoughts:  "I'm done eating this slop.  Just going to stand up, step right out, and assume that something's going to break my fall.  Oh, and I'd like a cookie."

Alex's interest in being told no has dropped to new lows as well.  If I tell him no, he bares his teeth and goes in for the bite.  And if I chastise him for biting, he bites harder.  And if I try to give him a time out, he simply get up, climbs up on top of the sofa, and attempts to yank down my collage of family photos.  Which is anchored to the wall with literally a single thumbtack, so it's another head trauma just waiting to happen.

Alex turns the TV off while Andy is watching it.  Alex has figured out how to climb onto the toilet in my bathroom and launch himself up on top of the vanity and into the sink, where he will immediately turn the water on himself.  Alex gets into the pantry and shoves raw farfalle noodles into his mouth.  Alex jumps on the bed.  He fights me when I change his diaper or try to put him in his car seat, and his moves are vicious and unpredictable.  Sometimes, he will, with shocking precision, grab my nipple through my shirt and bra and twist it.  I wish I were exaggerating or joking.

And the worst part.  He won't sit still for bed time stories anymore.

I could take everything else if he would just give me those peaceful few minutes at the end of the night.  But he no longer wants to be read to, and he has, as of late, refused to go to bed before Andy.  If I stick him in his crib before Andy gets into bed, Alex screams as if he's being held hostage by the Iranians or whoever it is holding us hostage these days. It's unbearable, and I can't just leave him in there.  So, now he runs around like a lunatic in the loft while I attempt to read Andy his stories, and the disruption he provides is unreal.  I have to stop every other page to pull him off of my desk or fetch him from behind the television set or stop him while he throws various pieces of small furniture and picture frames at the wall or down the stairs.  What we have here is just bad news all around.  No stories for the baby because he won't sit still for them and a half-assed, anger-filled story session for the three year old who actually really LOVES his stories because his shitty little brother won't sit still for three goddamn minutes.

Alex, I'm sorry I called you shitty.  But story time is Mommy's favorite part of the day, and you're killing it for me.

Now, Andy at eighteen months loved to read, as documented in this blog entry here:  Hooray for Fish!   So while I hope that Alex's lack of interest in books is temporary, I also fear that they are indeed two different kids who will have two different levels of enjoyment when it comes to books.  This is not okay.  We are a family of readers.  I check out forty books a week at the library.  As an adult, I finish one to two novels every week.  Chris does not read as much as he used to, but he was a big old bookworm back in the day and recently finished some epic novel that sounds so terrible and overly verbose that only a true reader could really get into it.  Andy could happily sit through a dozen picture books.  But Alex takes one look at his board books and squirms so hard to get out of my lap that it's impossible to keep him contained, much less continue reading.  And, yes, sometimes he'll reach back and nipple pinch me for good measure.

I know the "obnoxious one" phase is fleeting, like everything else with these little guys.  So I will try to be patient as I guard the gate at the bottom of the stairs and stoically chase after him in public.  But I swear, if we don't get through this nighttime reading debacle... Mommy's really going to break down and cry a little. But just a little, because I'm all cried out from being bitten in the shoulder and having a choo choo train thrown at my face.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesdays with Alex!

And Thursdays with Alex.  And Mondays with Alex.

Last year, I would drop Andy off at preschool, haul Alex home in his baby carrier, and deposit him in the living room. He would be fast asleep, and I would take this me time to indulge in such activities as:  Cleaning the bathroom. Playing Bejeweled.  Watching an hour of daytime television.  Facebook stalking old friends. Making eggs, because damn I love a good egg.

Things were different last year when it was just me and Al Pal.  I might as well have been alone!  He'd nap in the carrier and I'd either take him home or stick his carrier on a shopping cart at Target and basically go about my business.  I knew the days of having adorable luggage were fleeting, though, and now this school year, after I drop Andy off at preschool Tuesdays and Thursdays (and currently Mondays for his session of a class aptly and honestly named "Mom's Time Out" as opposed to some other title that might suggest actual childhood enrichment), I am still on the clock in my self-given role of Camp Counselor.  The Camp is Camp Berger, and the two campers involved sometimes act like they're a few logs short of a fire, if you know what I mean.  And the counselor has just the tiniest bit of a white wine hangover.

Anyway, these days, I kiss my eldest good-bye (my eldest who is still only three, I sometimes have to remind myself), and then I turn my attention to entertaining my littlest lunatic.  Having just Alex is in some ways more trying than having both of them.  If it's the three of us, I can pick any number of activities for a curious preschooler and just have Alex toddle along after us.  But if it's just me and Alex, suddenly the list of things that we can reasonably do is dwindled down to a few little things, and there's only so much Target shopping the two of us can take.

On Mondays, I drop Andy off at "Mom's Time Out" and carry an envious Alex back out to the car.  We drive across the street (I could probably walk this distance in the stroller, but screw it, at least I recycle) and spend ninety minutes at the library.  Ninety minutes at the library!  This is a long time to spend at the library with a seventeen month old, but we do it every week.  Some weeks, I meet a new friend and her son there. This new friend, I would see her all the time at various places but never actually KNEW her.  She was one of those moms that did the same things I did and yet I had to remind myself, constantly, that she was still basically a stranger to me.  Until one day we ran into each other at a fair and she said, "You know, we should exchange numbers.  Oh, and names."  And so we did, end story.  Anyway, I will go to the library and avoid the watchful eyes of the librarian who stares at me chasing Alex from the children's section to the elevator and then back to the water fountain.  The librarians will smile politely as I dart behind their little librarian counter (security breach!) to retrieve my little wanderer.  I will drag Alex off of the quiet study table that he has climbed atop.  I will retrieve slick checkers from his mouth from the library checker set.  I will unwrap other children's hair from his fist.  I will clumsily reshelve all of the DVDs and books he has pulled down from the shelves.  And then we will have our library snack, and if anybody ever asks if I knew that there was a strict no food policy in the library, I will totally play dumb and shrug politely.

We check out our books (which is seriously no less than thirty books per week, as we are voracious readers who take full advantage), get back in the car, and pick up Andy from his Mom's Time Out class, and instantly I feel like I need a Time Out.  A real one.

On Tuesdays, we drop Andy off at preschool, maybe run an errand or two, and then Alex and I hit the little kid's museum located conveniently in the same park district building as Andy's preschool.  I splurged for the membership this year, and that may have been one of the smartest purchases I've made aside from that tube of Pronamel toothpaste, which really seems to be making a difference!  Alex and I have literally gone to the museum every week since September- sometimes TWICE a week!  Oh, yeah, fools, I know how to squeeze my worth out of that membership card.  Many days, our new friend and her son will be there too, which is nice.  Alex will drive the little cars, grocery shop for peanut butter in the grocery store (the pretend grocery store has no less than six different fake jars of peanut butter, and yet I've only ever found one single lone slice of fake bread- how are these young kids ever going to understand basic sandwich principles?), and, lately, make a break for the gym, which is connected to the museum.  He will push open the heavy door and run out into the gym shouting "Ball!  Ball! Ball!" and I will swoop him up, scold him, carry him back into the museum, and then repeat for a bit.

The reason Alex runs into the gym is because he KNOWS the gym.  On Thursdays, sometimes, I will take him to the parent-tot gym class they have there.  Alex loves gym time.  I mean, it is truly his favorite thing in the world.  He loves the balls, the toys, the gym mats, the toddler slide and tunnels, and he loves the other kids (including our new friend and her son!  I told you we are always at the same places.).  He loves the bleachers.  He loves the soccer net.  He loves kicking and running and throwing.  Which is unfortunate, because I'm really not interested in any of that kind of stuff.  But if Alex likes sports?  Well, crap.  So shall Mommy.

Two weeks ago, Alex and I were having a blast in the gym when in strolled a familiar looking teacher followed by a bunch of familiar looking three year olds.  It was Andy's class!  Oh shit!  Afraid Andy would see me and Alex basically having the time of our lives amidst all of those balls and toys and other kids and mommies, I hit the ground as if there were bombs falling from airplanes.  I did not want Andy to see me. Alex, oblivious to my intentions, starting babbling, "Anda!  Anda!" but thankfully Andy, while gazing intently over in our general direction, did not seem to notice his weirdo little brother and even goofier mother, who had her face buried in a kinda stinky gym mat.  Later, when Andy's class traipsed back through the gym to get back to their class, I was more prepared, cowering in the bleachers while Andy walked out, rhythmically shaking his little butt to the "Wheels on the Bus" song that blared from the gym teacher's CD player.

After Alex and I are done with the museum (Tuesdays) or the gym (Thursdays), we pick up Andy, who has at times expressed a distrustful interest in what Alex and I have done without him.  A couple of Mondays ago, he spied the bloated library bag in the front seat and suspiciously howled,  "Did you go to the library without me??"  I replied,  "Of course not, Andy!"  and then offered him a poo poo M&M.  Although, since he hadn't gone poo poo, I suppose it was just a regular M&M.  A bribery, let's-think-about-something-else M&M.

And so, I do not have a break when Andy is gone, as Alex is now old enough to warrant activities with or without his brother.  And sometimes, it's rough and kind of exhausting and I find myself missing the days when he could stay in his carrier for two hours.  But, other times, it's- well, I'll admit it.  It's totally awesome.

But don't tell Andy.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oh God!

I got a baby book from the library about Thanksgiving.  If it's a board book, we call it a baby book, and it is meant for Alex's enjoyment with a peripheral listen by big brother Andy.  If Andy is at the library and sees a child his age looking at the board books, he is quick to say, "But where is your baby?"  And if there is no good explanation, then Andy will ask me, "Why is that big boy taking that baby book?"

The book was all about being grateful on Thanksgiving and thanking God for all of the good things in our life. I normally avoid overtly religious books/shows/music/events out of no good reason other than a general wariness of overly religious people.  I can't explain this wariness, and this is probably not the best forum to try.  I am also wary of people who have pets or use more than their fair share of coupons, so it's not like my wariness is reserved just for religion or is at all remotely reasonable.

That being said, I absolutely and totally believe in God and most main tenets of Catholicism except for the whole lent fiasco with fish on Fridays and arbitrarily having to give up something ridiculous like chocolate, coffee, or beer for forty days.  (Sidenote:  My brother-in-law gave up beer one lent and so it was forty days of hard alcohol only.  This is my favorite What-I-Gave-Up-For-Lent story ever.)  I still say nightly prayers and believe that most things written in the bible probably did happen in one form or another.  So it's not faith in God that I'm wary of, just organized religion.  Maybe it's the tithing that gets me, as I am pretty cheap.

But I digress.  I read the baby book about thanking God and, of course, the first question out of Andy's mouth:  "Who is God?"

Oh how to answer a question that has plagued philosophers, religious leaders, and wayward alter boys since the beginning of time?  I closed the baby book and said, "God is... like an angel in the sky.  Wait, that's not right.  God is like everybody's father in the sky.  He made all of the people and He watches over us every day."  Satisfied, I moved on to the next baby book.  "Now who wants to read about Truck Mice?"

We finished our board book, I tucked Alex in, and then Andy and I started his final bed time routine of brushing teeth, using the bathroom, and getting a couple big boy non-board books.  In the bathroom, Andy looked up at me and asked again,  "Who is God?"

Of all the questions my kids might ask me, this one may be one of the toughest, right up there with puberty-related ones and an explanation of why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to people we don't like.  I tried again.  "God made us," I said, slowly, trying to work it out appropriately for my precocious three year old.  "God made all of the people on Earth and He made the trees and the animals and He watches over us."

"But where is he?"

Come on, Andy, help me out here.  "He's way up in the sky," I answered.  "He's in Heaven."  And then, I heard myself saying, "If you want to talk to Him, we can say a prayer to him.  That's how people talk to God."

"I want to say a prayer."

Of course he did.  I led my son into the loft, and we got down on our knees in front of the couch.  Andy watched me very carefully and took my lead in steepling his hands.  He was instantly like a Precious Moments statue in Batman pajamas.  I said to Andy, "You can repeat after me."  And then I composed a sort of letter for him.  "Dear God.  Thank you for all the good things in my life, like my family and house and food.  Please protect and watch over me, my daddy, my mommy, my brother, and the rest of my family. Please help me be a good person and help me always try and do the right thing. Love, Andy."

We stood up, and Andy asked, "Can I watch Caillou now?"

This is probably accurate.
That happened about a week ago.  Andy has brought up God nearly every day since then.  If we are in the car, Andy asks,  "Did God make that truck/farm/cloud?"  At home, Andy will sometimes just bust out "Who is God?"  all over again, and he has suggested a couple times now that we pray.  It's possible that I have a real Jesus freak blossoming in my midst, a bible banger to rival even the top bible bangers- the bangiest of the bangers.

I must say, I like Andy's interest in this God guy.  I like that he has questions and has instant faith.  However, I'm nervous that I am his sole teacher on the subject.  I don't know what the crap I'm talking about.  I don't know the right way to answer hard questions.  And to this day, I'm still not one hundred percent on the right way to do the sign of the cross.  Is this something that I'm going to have to get down pat?

Or do we just send the boys off to CCD when it's time?  I've been kind of assuming that their baptisms would kind of just be the end of it, but maybe little Andy's questions are a way of telling me that children really do need some sort of guidance into questions about faith and God.  Guidance from someone that has access to workbooks and the correct order for the sign of the cross.  Glasses, testicles, wallet, watch? Argh, I don't have any of those things.

I guess I still have a couple years to decide all that.  In the mean time, I will pray with my little boys and tell them that, yeah, in a way God DID make ice cream, I suppose.

* * * *

Sometimes I feel like Alex gets ignored in this blog, because he's still so young and doesn't ask adorable questions like "Who is God?" or "Why can't I drive the car?"  Classic second child syndrome, right?  But my little pumpkin is seventeen months old now and is asserting himself in new ways.  He is loud and bossy, even though his bossiness comes out only in the forms of "EH" and wet-noodling himself when I try to carry him away from something attractive, such as the knob to the oven.

Alex's favorite book is "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear" in which the title character turns around, touches the ground, etc.  It is one of the few books he will bring to me, climb into my lap for, and totally pay attention to, from start to end.

His favorite song is "Row Row Row Your Boat," which he sings along to by monotoning "Bow!  Bow!"

His favorite animal is anything that neighs, which means mostly horses, but sometimes cows.  We are still working on our animal recognition.

Alex is now super interested in trains and will push them along while calling out, "Chooooo!"

He is obsessed with pop cans and asks for pop all the time.  "Pop.  Pop.  Pop."  I'm pretty close to caving. No judgement if you see my one and a half year old downing a Dr. Pepper sometime soon.  Kidding.  Kind of.

He really likes going to the two gyms we go to at the two nearby park districts.  He loves playing ball and often asks to be picked up so he can slam dunk a ball into the kiddie sized basketball net.  Future baller, perhaps?  Maybe one son will be a priest, and the other will be a Chicago Bull.

If we are in a crowd of children, Alex stays by Andy.  And Andy stays by Alex.  When it matters, they know that the other one is their anchor.

Alex really loves putting things on his head.  Bowls, buckets, and hats.  His favorite, though, is a hooded monkey blanket.  He will bring me the blanket, instruct me to put it on him (Eh!  EH!) and then just walk around the house like Super Monkey.  He will be the only Chicago Bull to wear a helmet, I am sure.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Blame Game!

Sometimes Alex is the instigator, pushing or biting Andy and acting as the start button to their noisy squabbles.  Even during these times, I find myself yelling at Andy and telling him to knock it off.  "But Alex was biting me!" Andy might protest, to which I will inevitably dismiss Alex's actions with a "But he's just a baby" or "He didn't mean it" or "It's okay, he's super cute" or "I'm sure on some level you definitely deserved it."

I heard my voice echoing against the walls the other day after a raucous began by Alex destroying a block tower Andy had been quietly constructing.  Alex destroyed the tower, Andy got upset, Alex threw a block at Andy, and then Andy pushed Alex down and Alex bumped his head..  They were both crying, and I yelled at Andy after inspecting Alex's head.  "Andy," I yelled, "I don't care who started it, if Alex ever gets hurt EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT IN THE SAME ROOM AS HIM, I'm blaming YOU.  You're the big brother, you have to be nicer.  Now go take a time out."

Sobbing, Andy headed off while I comforted my youngest and suddenly I felt like kind of an ass.

At some point, I have to start holding Alex accountable for his actions and stop treating Andy like he's the big boy who should know better.  I can't help thinking back to my own childhood, though.  As an older sister, it was true:  If M. ever got hurt, it actually usually was my fault.  My brilliant idea to hook our bikes up together with a jump rope and then rapidly pedal us down the block while she got dragged behind me entangled in what amounted to a heap of bicycle and a noose.  My very similar yet also brilliant idea to tie a different jump rope around my bike and pull her down the block while she wore roller skates.  So many days of our childhood revolved around me trying to bandage up her skinned knees while simultaneously trying to console and threaten her.  Don't tell Mom, I'd hiss in a panic,  Stop crying already!   A couple months ago, I remarked to M. about how much Andy and Alex fought.  "Did we ever fight like that?" I mused aloud while experiencing a convenient bout of memory loss.  M. replied, "Um, YEAH.  Jackie, you were MEAN to me."

"Oh.  Sorry about that."
It's all his fault.

So, if it's true that the older sibling is naturally to blame for the little one getting hurt, then am I not correct to just immediately scold and punish Andy whenever I hear Alex's wails?

Actually, in this case, I think I may be incorrect.  I know, even a working clock can be wrong twice a day. Wait, is that not how the saying goes?

Yesterday, I heard a tremendous crash and Alex's cries.  "Andy!"  I yelled, barely looking up.  "Stop that!"

"I'm not doing anything,"  Andy replied, sounding confused.  I did actually look up then, tearing my eyes away from the Jewel ad that I had been closely inspecting.  Sure, it sounds good that it's Buy One Get One on pork, but why not tell me how much the pork actually costs per pound?

Andy was playing nicely by himself and Alex was standing in the middle of a huge mess he had created. Alex looked up at me at that same moment and, flashing me a devious little smile, picked up a toy truck and threw it right at the wall.

This is interesting, I thought to myself.  "Sorry, Andy, " I murmured aloud.  And then I walked over to Alex, pried his wet little fists from a second truck he was getting ready to toss, and started to clean up Alex's mess while Alex wandered over and casually bit Andy on the arm.

Perhaps it's time for me to start being a little harder on the baby.  Especially because when Andy was Alex's age, we were already doing time-outs and I had mentally graduated Andy to Big Boy as I was at that point pregnant with the person who would replace Andy as the baby.  I think, in many ways, I pushed Andy out of babyhood a little faster than Alex is getting pushed out.  I needed Andy to grow up faster.  But I want Alex to stay little forever.  I either have to accept that Alex is a toddler capable of being responsible for actions and/or keep having babies so that my children can be pushed into the next cycle of their lives.  And I'm pretty sure Chris is not on board with the Endless Baby Factory method of parenting.  I mean, neither am I. I suppose.

So, Andy, if you are reading this as an adult, I'm sorry for blaming you all the time during this period of your life.  Alex, if you are reading this as an adult, let me just say how thrilled I am that you turned out literate, because I'm pretty sure I'm not reading to you as much as I should be.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Batman's Always Serious!

This year, Halloween was a cinch.  While Chris labored three nights in a row last year to handcraft Andy's epic bus costume, Andy's disguise this year was purchased for $8.97 after spending four minutes perusing the Halloween aisle at Wal-Mart.  And Alex's costume was free, thanks to generous donations by viewers like you.  By which I mean our good friend D, who was kind enough to give me a hand-me-down dragon costume.  I felt mildly bad for not picking out a personal costume to reflect one of Alex's many varied interests (pumpkins, pop cans, the trash can, that one corner of the family room that is rife with electrical cords and spiderwebs), but I also felt mildly awesome for saving another $8.97.  If I keep finding savings in things like hand-me-down costumes or backyard haircuts, I might NEVER have to go back to work!

Andy was Batman.  He's been into superheros lately; I have read him every Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, and Green Lantern picture book from the library, although I think I'm about done with that since all of the books from the library are totally trashed- pages missing or, even worse, pages torn out and then taped back inside the binding in the wrong order.  I'm a stickler for continuity, and when Spiderman morphed into the lizard guy two pages before even drinking the potion, I threw my hands up in disgust and told Andy that story time was over.

Andy made a pretty good Batman, even if the costume was just a cheap mask and a slightly too big chest and cape ensemble.  Andy has clearly been paying attention to the mixed up, torn out adventures of Batman and has noticed that Batman is somewhat lacking in the humor department. "Batman is always serious," I heard him mutter to himself whenever we put the costume on or posed for a picture.  Batman does not smile.

The kids got to wear their costumes a good deal.  Andy's friend C had a Halloween costume party on Saturday, and then we took the kids to the town's "Trick or Treat on Main Street" event the next day.  Alex the dragon was tapped as a finalist in the "Best Costume" contest, which obviously had nothing to do with his costume but with just how darn cute he is.  Totally unfair to the other, less beautiful children, I know.  The boys got to trick or treat at all the different stores.  After a while, I just started sending Andy in for his candy by himself while I waited outside for him.  This was almost a disaster when I peered in the window of the one gift shop and noticed him precariously weaving through shelves and tables filled with glass snow globes and other super fragile trinkets.  But Batman is always serious.  And careful.

There was a bus that the kids could climb on, trick or treat for candy, and then exit.  I sent Andy in by himself and watched as other kids filed in and then immediately out.  Andy seemed to be taking a while, and finally the adult aboard the bus poked her head out the door.  "Are Batman's parents here?"  she called out.  I stepped forward, and she said,  "He just took a seat and is sitting there."  I got on the bus and saw that, sure enough, Andy had just plopped down in a seat, apparently just soaking in the bus awesomeness.  Some things never change, or at least they don't change within a year or two.

Then, on Halloween itself, Andy wore his costume to preschool, and I put Alex in the dragon get-up as well when I returned early for the preschool ice cream party.  Alex was thrilled to spend some time in Andy's school, and little dragon boy immediately pulled up a chair for himself at one of the kiddie tables.  After Andy and his classmates sang their pumpkin song for the parents, Andy climbed into the chair next to Alex's and slid it as close to Alex's as possible so that the two chairs were touching.  He then proceeded to try and spoon feed Alex some of his own ice cream, which is probably the nicest thing I've ever seen him do, even if his drippy cold jabs smacked Alex's face everywhere but in the mouth.

And, then, at long last, they went trick or treating.  Andy's fourth Halloween and Alex's second was marked with a steady rain, but neither boy barely noticed and had a great time anyway.  Oh to be young and not let the weather dampen your spirits.  Oh to be a child and come home with that big bucket of Halloween candy, feeling the happiest you've ever felt all just because of a costume, getting to be out while the sun went down, and the collection of a sugary treasure.

On that note, I let Andy and Alex each have one small piece of candy, and then I promptly hid the rest of it after they went to bed.  Seriously, hasn't anyone heard of childhood obesity?  I think it's an epidemic.

Anyway, another great Halloween is in the books.  The costumes are back in the closet, although I think Batman may make an appearance at Thanksgiving this year.  I have to get my $8.97 worth, don't you agree?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quiet Time!

Andy has given up his afternoon nap.  I had it good there for a stretch of time.  Both boys napped simultaneously for two hours while I engaged in my own personal pursuits, including but not limited to loading the dishwasher, watching "The Chew," and throwing back a couple of cold ones.  I kid about that last part.  I have yet to day drink while being home with my children.  Perhaps it's just so I can reassure my working mother counterparts, "It's not like staying home is a drunken dance party."  It's not like it's all fun, games, and wine.  It's mostly sweeping.  Have breakfast, sweep. Give the kids a snack, sweep.  Lunching leads to sweeping.  More snacking, more sweeping.  And dinner.  Sweeping.

For that good stretch of time where both boys napped at the same time, I would close the door behind me as I left Andy in his room and literally perform a fist pump.  YESSS!  Time free of noise and children and whining and fighting commencing NOW!  Alex would be passed out in the pack and play in the master bedroom for at least two hours.  And Andy, in his own bed, would give me just about the same, maybe ten or fifteen minutes less.  I would joyously cartwheel my way down the stairs and then happily load the dishwasher in the peace.  I would cuddle up on the sofa with my lemonade and watch television.  I would read a book, stare out at the neighbors, maybe fire off a blog entry or scroll through my Facebook feed or play a little Mahjong.  In these two hours, being a stay at home mother became my biggest scam.  I would think to myself, giggling madly, "I can't believe I'm getting away with this!"

Of course, then the kids would wake up and I'd be right back to multi-tasking- juggling, yelling, scolding, cooking, crafting, wiping, cleaning, sweeping, fixing, playing, reassuring, busying.  Biggest scam, over.  Or at least tucked away until tomorrow.

In the span of about two weeks, Andy gave up his afternoon nap.  I would stick Alex in his pack and play- Alex, who adorably, beautifully starts begging for his nap around twelve by pleading, "Night night!"- and then start the process of putting Andy down for his nap.  This is a considerably longer process than just plopping Alex down and closing the door behind me.  Andy needs his drink before nap.  He likes to hold his own cup while I pour.  The cup color had to match the lid color.  He needs to go pee pee.  He needs a pull-up.  He needs a story.  He needs hugs and kisses.  And then, for that last week or two, he needed to yell out to me for forty-five minutes from behind his bedroom door.

"Is it morning time yet?"
"I'm not tired!"
"Can I come out?"
"Mommy!  I broke this!"  (This usually being a library book which he'd viciously ripped seemingly just so he could watch me tape it back together again and tell me whether or not my patching was to his satisfaction.)

For that last week or so, he didn't fall asleep at all.  No more nap.  And so I began giving him the choice between quiet time or a nap.  Quiet time is defined as this:  You can stay awake but I don't want to hear the sound of your voice AT ALL.  Seriously, Andy, don't even LOOK at me.

Let me tell you- quiet time is a wonderful thing.

Andy sits on the couch for his quiet time, which is about the length of Alex's nap, and he doesn't bother me at all.  He watches a movie or uses the iPad, which is my only tiny concern about quiet time- his screen time now is through the roof.  But, hey.  First world problems, right?  At least he's only watching preschool type cartoons and not, say, Family Guy or Maury, whose whole show these days is based on the question "Is this scumbag the father of my child?  For some reason, I hope so!"  Andy watches TV and leaves me alone so that I can still have my regenerative time to myself before Alex wakes up and we're back at the kitchen table gluing pieces of paper to other pieces of paper or wandering around the neighborhood so that Alex can have a fit about all of the pumpkins he's not allowed to touch.

And since it's just quiet time, there's none of that time-consuming prep time.  No pull-up, no story, no naptime drink ritual, no yelling for me to come into his room due to a destroyed library book. Also, now that he's not getting that daytime snooze, Andy is falling asleep literally two minutes after going to bed at night, no later than seven-fifteen.  Win.  Win.  Win.

And here's the best part.  Yes, there's more.  Andy loves quiet time.  Literally begs for it.  Tells me to put Alex to bed (Alex, who now gets to nap in his own crib in their own room as opposed to the pack and play) so that his quiet time can start.  Andy lives for quiet time.  Andy has discovered chillaxing, and there's no going back.

Yep.  That's my kid.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


The other day, I cracked open a few of the windows in the house.  "Why are you doing that, Mommy?"  Andy asked.

I replied, "To let in some fresh air."

Andy's face immediately fell.  Panicked, he exclaimed, "Oh no!  ARE WE RUNNING OUT OF FRESH AIR?"

The other other day, we went to the big aquarium in the sporting goods store, the one with the big glass walls and the open top.  Chris was holding Alex and lifted him up ever so slightly to let him dip his fingers into the aquarium water.  (Inadvisable, I thought to myself.)  A moment later, Andy noticed and started screaming.  "NO DADDY!  A FISH IS GOING TO BITE ALEX!  STOP!!!"

And then, the other other other day, we went to the pumpkin farm, where Chris wheeled Alex's stroller right up to the rickety cage walls of the goats in the petting zoo zone.  (Inadvisable yet again, I thought to myself, noting the bevy of graham crackers and raisins on Alex's stroller tray and the hungry, trample-ready glimmer in the goats' eyes.)  Andy immediately noticed that Daddy was being careless and said, "No, Daddy, move Alex back!"

"But I want Alex to be able to see," Chris replied, chomping on his own handful of popcorn and somewhat oblivious to the devilish, lip-smacking glare of one of the goats.

Andy pushed Alex's stroller back a foot or two.  "No.  He can see from back here."

And that same day, an hour earlier, we went to view the pumpkin-eating dinosaur.  The pumpkin-eating dinosaur is an amazing, gigantic mechanical dinosaur that chomps and crushes pumpkins to the delight of the pumpkin farm guests, snorting out a menacing plume of smoke after devouring each and every pumpkin available.  This may have been the most amazing attraction of the day. My parents came with us to the farm, and my dad remarked, "I think I've taken more pictures of this pumpkin eating dinosaur than my grandchildren!" and "This pumpkin-eating dinosaur is worth the cost of admission alone!"

But I suppose I can see how the pumpkin-eating dinosaur might be scary to a three year old, and when my dad lifted one year old Alex up on his shoulders, and when the pumpkin-eating-dinosaur had his head lowered to allow adorable Alex the chance to pet his snout, Andy screamed in terror while he watched, certain that the dinosaur was going to gobble his sweet little brother right up.

I have to admit, Andy- I was holding my breath on that one as well.

The other other other other day, I had my credit card declined at the pump while trying to get gas, so I ran into the station to try to have them scan it there, where it was also declined.  Turns out, my number had been compromised and Visa had shut it down to prevent further fraud.  (Sidenote: kind of socially mortifying when the Visa representative calls you to verify your authorized transactions and it sounds like this:  McDonalds, Friday, $13.  Wal-Mart, Saturday, $56.  McDonalds, again, Sunday, $9.  Back to Wal-Mart, Monday, $39.  Dunkin Donuts for lunch, Monday, $15.  I really wanted to explain to the guy that I'm not that kind of person that feeds my kids McDonalds, buys them sweatshop clothes from Wal-Mart, and then stuffs my own face with donuts, but the evidence was not in favor.  It was a rough weekend, okay?)  Anyway, Andy had a lot of questions when I ran back to the pump a second later, including, but not limited to:

Where did you go?
Why does your card not work?
Are we going to run out of gas?
What happened to your money?
Is our car still going to run?
Can I help you put gas in the car?
Where did you go?
Is everything okay?
Can I have a better explanation regarding why you left us here?
Do you want to buy me a Happy Meal?


It's interesting when I see myself in my children, in the moments of irrational panic exhibited by Andy that are so clearly Young Jackie.  When Andy asked about running out of fresh air, I immediately thought back to when I was a kid and read that there was a finite amount of energy in the universe.  Yes, we were running out of energy.  In order to help the energy crisis, I sat very still for moments at a time, trying my hardest not to move or breathe or twitch or think.  Andy has not quite reached that level of paranoid craziness quite yet, but he is only three, and there is time.  I only pray that there is hope for Alex, who bravely pets the head of a pumpkin eating dinosaur as if not quite thinking the whole thing through.  Keep smiling, beautiful baby.  Keep smiling until you get it.

Friday, October 4, 2013


Alex has his first official obsession.  Even as I'm typing this, I think that might be a lie.  Surely, there's been an obsession before this one?  Does his undying devotion to string cheese count as an obsession?  His reflexive habit of emptying buckets and containers so that he can put them on his head like a helmet?  His pushy interest in fisting soggy bits of food and trying to shove them into MY mouth as if commanding, "Here.  If it's so good, then YOU eat it."  No, those aren't quite obsessions.  Not like this one.  Not like his absolute, undeniable fixation with:

Pumpkins.  My pumpkin LOVES pumpkins.

"Pumpkin" (pronounced bpumbum) may even be Alex's first real word after Mama, Dada, Anda, and More.  These are all the words that Alex has, spoken only very sparingly, and I am becoming mildly worried about the whole thing.  "How many words can Alex say?"  the nurse asked at his one year appointment back in June, when I wasn't terribly concerned.  I almost snapped, "None.  BECAUSE HE'S A BABY."  I've become a real know-it-all this second time around. Instead, I replied, politely, "None.  But isn't he cute!"  Fast forward to his fifteen month appointment last week when the same nurse asked,  "How many words can Alex string together?"

What? Excuse me?  We're still working on the question from the twelve month appointment, the one that infers that Alex should know a small handful of words that are most certainly never said together.  See, Alex doesn't talk. And he certainly doesn't STRING WORDS TOGETHER like some kind of college student majoring in linguistics.  Perhaps now I should be concerned?

I asked the doctor when he came in for the actual exam.  "Should I be concerned, perhaps?  My baby, he not so good with the chit chat."

I have a great deal of respect for Alex's doctor, but he's big on the baby talk and a lot of his answers to what I feel are serious questions often come out in a mish mash of babble and cooing. "Aww, little baby boy's kind of quiet, just soaking it in, loving the big brother with his vroom vroom trucks and all the gigglin' and jumpin' and playin' and sometimes the little guys let the big guys do all the talking for them and no, no, no, we don't get worried until eighteen months or so and where's that big smile, look at all those toofers, coming in super duper nice and pointy!  Who's the itty bitty man getting the big ouchie shot today?  You are!  You are!  Peekaboo."

To which I could only reply, "Thank you for your honest medical feedback, doctor."

So, the doctor's not worried that Alex doesn't talk.  The thing is, Alex does try to communicate, but it all comes out in Eh's.  You can tell what Alex is attempting to say by the inflection of his Ehs. Eh Eh Eh EH EH, for instance, means: I want that RIGHT NOW.  Spend enough time accidentally giving this kid pancakes when he prefers Not Pancakes and you start to understand what he's asking for.

Other than not stringing any words together, Alex is developing quite nicely.  He's in the 95th percentile for weight and height which I can only interpret as a good thing otherwise I start worrying that he's eating too many Not Pancakes and heading straight down a path to childhood obesity.  He walks, climbs, stacks blocks, feeds himself with a spoon (wrong end, usually, but let's not get technical), and he loves books and understands jokes.  Or at least understands when he's supposed to laugh, which is basically the same thing.  He is a master at sorting.  We have the sorting bucket with lid that has the different cut-outs for the different shaped blocks to fit through. Andy, back when he was Alex's age, showed zero interest in sorting and would solve the sorting bucket by tearing off the lid and just throwing the blocks in, shapes and differences be damned. Alex, on the other hand, sits quietly and works on it, carefully fitting the blocks into their correct holes.  This to me demonstrates two kinds of intelligence.  Andy, with the brain that gets quickly to the solution and isn't afraid to take a short cut and Alex, with the brain that understands that things are to be done a certain way and I WILL STAY HERE ALL NIGHT IF I HAVE TO AND TAKING THE LID OFF WOULD JUST BE THE EASY WAY OUT AND THAT'S NOT HOW WE DO THINGS AROUND HERE.

Sorry to break it to you, Alex, but that's totally how we do things around here.  Especially me, I half ass everything. Ever seen me wrap a gift?  It's a travesty.

Alex really enjoys sorting.  He always puts like with like.  He's already good at puzzles and when there's two of something (such as in a pair of socks), he will always be sure to find both components of the pair.  It really is intriguing to watch since Andy was never interested in any of that.

And while Andy had dogs and buses and balloons at this young age, Alex's first obsession is turning out to be pumpkins.  I think this is an adorable obsession.  Alex goes nuts when he sees pumpkins. He wants to hold them, hug them, lick them.  He points excitedly at pumpkins that are halfway down the block, demonstrating not only the extent of his obsession but also high levels of vision.  If the CIA is looking for a baby who can focus on a pumpkin recouping project, Alex is their guy.  He will find those bpumbums quickly and expertly and without the aid of binoculars.  Although, when he reports back to his boss about the project, his narratives will be a little unclear.  Eh eh eh EH EH eh eh EH eh Eh bpumbums. EH.

At some point, I'm sure he will string together two actual words.  Until then, I assume my little pumpkin is just working up to it.

Monday, September 23, 2013


The victims.
Andy and Alex got into their first car accident this afternoon.  I'm pleased to inform you that everyone is okay and that it was not my fault.  I am quick to point out that the accident is not my fault because I myself caused an accident,with damage to not one but TWO other cars, over three years ago when I was pregnant with Andy.  Playing the pregnancy card did not get me out of the ticket, FYI.  Just once, I'd love to play some sort of card to my advantage.

But, today, we were on our way home from a pleasant morning at the park when I was rear-ended at an intersection.  There was a tremendous crash and bump, and Alex immediately issued a blood-curdling scream.  This scream was not unlike the blood-curdling scream I myself gave two days ago when a tree frog jumped on my back while I was sitting on the ground outside.  Alex screamed and cried, Andy asked what that bump was, and I went into mild panic mode, pulling off to the side, and grabbing my phone, which was handy, because I had been texting while driving only a short while ago.*

Andy and Alex won't remember this car accident, which, so very fortunately, boils down to an irritating inconvenience.  I remember my first accident, though.  I was five or six at the time, and we were in my mother's Monte Carlo, which my parents still talk about even today.  "That was a great car," my dad likes to say, as if fondly remembering an uncle.  He wasn't in the car at the time- it was just my mother, me, and my sister.  Just like it was only me, Andy, and Alex today. The similarities end there, though.  The total destruction of the Monte Carlo was a family tragedy, and the three of us were lucky to walk away.  My mother hit the trailer end of a truck on a four lane highway, and the Monte Carlo went spinning off into the opposite lanes until we were facing the opposite direction.  I remember my mother screaming and my little sister crying.  And I remember Marcia and I were both cut up on our faces a little, Marcia around the eyes, and that my mother's knee ballooned out into a huge purple bruise.  The Monte Carlo's front gaped like an unhinged, crumpled monster.  And it felt like we were there forever at the scene of the accident, my mother using the land line at the nearby laundry mat for hours on end, calling and recalling my father, as this was the era where we didn't need to use the distinction of "land line."  There were no cell phones.  Dad wasn't home, and he didn't know what was going on until he drove past us, on the way home, and saw the wrecked, former beauty of the Monte Carlo.

The accident shook me to my core at the time, and when I couldn't sleep that night, I remember the flickering glare of my mother's bedroom TV when I went to seek her out.  I'm quite positive that she told me that we were lucky to be alive, which was a terrify notion to me at the time.  What did she mean, lucky to be alive???  Was the concept of mortality and close calls something that I was supposed to have a rational handle during the kindergarten year?  I must have gotten over it, though, because it wasn't until today that the memory came back to me, in stunning colors.  The purple of her bruised knee.  The taupe of the laundry mat phone.  The blue flicker of the television. The brown beard of the truck driver.  The gray of the very lax car seat laws of 1985.

Today, my children were fine.  Alex calmed down after I pulled over, opened his car door, and stroked his face.  Andy was totally fine and thrilled to see a real live police officer and the friendly face of his classmate's awesomely kind mother, who just happened to be driving by and decided to check to see if we were okay.  We waited patiently for the police report to be written up, and then I got back into my smooshed up car and drove us home, where Alex promptly slept the whole thing off and Andy skipped lunch in favor of using the iPad and having a PediaSure.  Like any other normal day!

I am very grateful that our accident was minor and that my children are okay.  I don't ever want to hear Alex's scared scream again, though.  And I want to always have the strength I need to take care of business during difficult events, and to stay calm and not make things unnecessarily frightening for my kids.  I don't know for sure if I have all of that in me, but I think I do, and I'll try my hardest.

Now on to the fun adventure of driving a rental car!  The backseat of which is about to get so sticky and trashed, it will be considered downright unbelievable.

*Kidding!  I don't text while driving, although it's quite possible the girl that hit me today was doing just that.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I'm Sorry!

Andy's been apologizing entirely too much lately.  In the grand spectrum of preschooler problems, having a child who is TOO sorry is probably way preferable than having one who shows little to no remorse at all.  And yet, I am starting to grow weary of hearing Andy say, "I'm sorry, Mommy" and "I'm really very sorry, Mommy."  The thing is, it's not that I doubt the sincerity of his apologies.  Andy is very sincere.  The problem is that he is too sincere, too sorry, too apologetic, too remorseful over what amounts to trivial or nonexistent issues.  The problem is that he cares too much.  Someone needs to tell this kid to man up already.

Here is a short list of what Andy has apologized for in the past two days.

- Dropping a macaroni on the floor.
- Walking too slow.
- Walking too fast.
- Wanting dessert.
- Pushing Alex out of the wagon so that the baby tumbled out head first (Note: This was the one warranted apology, and possibly the least sincere.)
- Talking during story time.
- Asking me to pick him up when my hands were full.
- Wanting to wear a different shirt.
- Having dirty hands.
- Putting his shoes on incorrectly.
- Peeing in his pull-up while asleep.
- Mispronouncing "caterpillar" as "helicopter."  The Very Hunger Helicopter, indeed!

I have tried to explain that Andy need not be sorry for certain things, but when I tell Andy he doesn't need to be sorry for, say, sliding down the slide too fast, he is quick to frown and apologize for apologizing.  In many ways, I feel like something has snapped in Andy and he has switched bodies with myself as an insecure seventeen year old.  And in an alternate universe, sixteen years ago, a teenaged Jackie is suddenly obsessed with watching men unload trucks, excavators dig dirt, and saying hello to every single person in the grocery store.

I wonder if I did this to Andy, if I made him feel like he needs to constantly be sorry.  A couple of weeks ago, we had one of those trying days in which I did a lot of yelling and put him into numerous time outs.  Granted, if my memory serves me correctly, the time outs were mostly deserved and my yelling wasn't entirely unjustified, but it was the kind of aggravating day that all stay at home mothers have every once in a while (I assume) where I felt like I was losing my mind and all I wanted was fifteen seconds of silence in which to pour myself a glass of water.  When I did not get those fifteen seconds and instead had to deal with Andy screaming about Alex and Alex screaming about wanting to drink Drano, I did my own fair amount of screaming, and next thing I knew, Andy was apologizing for everything.  And he's been apologizing ever since, despite a lack of screamy, crazy-go-nuts sort of days and instead a lull of quiet, mostly pleasant ones.  And it is only now I ask myself- which came first, the apologizing chicken or the mild-manner egg of days?

I want this period of extreme contrition to pass, as I obviously don't want to raise children who constantly feel at fault.  And yet, I don't want ALL of this contrition to pass.  Boys, it is good to feel sorry when you have truly done something wrong and hurtful.  And it is good to say it aloud and admit that you were wrong.  This is a good lesson for every grown man I have ever met, and it is grown men that I will eventually have raised.  But, Andy, you must not cross that fine line from secure, occasionally regretful boy to insecure, despairing wimp.  I guess maybe this is a conversation we can revisit when you are a teenager and no longer my little, eager to please three year old.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Alex's First Haircut!

Alex had his first haircut with a complete and utter lack of fanfare.  This haircut, seeing as it was free, saved us between $6.00 (SuperCuts with a coupon) and $20.00 (Kid Clips without a coupon). What do I intend to do with this savings?  Well, I'll pass it on to Alex, of course.  In the form of crackers.

Actually, Andy and Alex both got free haircuts yesterday, so the total savings is somewhere in the neighborhood of $12.00 to $40.00, and that's not including tip.  The thing about children is that they are expensive.  For the most part, the expenses are minimal- a $3.00 t-shirt from Wal-Mart here, a $1.50 cake pop from Starbucks there- but they add up, and fast.  So if you can find the savings in the form of DIY haircuts or by having your first born son sleep in what is clearly a girl's twin bed (that his aunt used for about twenty years before it was handed down), then you have no choice but to go for it.  But don't bother making the homemade laundry detergent- you might as well just commit yourself to a lifetime of oddly smelling sweaters.

Alex's surfer boy blond hair was long and unruly, flapping up over his ears like the wings of some ridiculous, yet beautiful, bird.  He had a peculiar, long cowlick that somehow gave him the impression of looking both drunken and homeless.  Like a wino, I would say.  And while his lengthy, cornsilk hair has become one of his defining features, it was definitely time to clean him up.

And what better way to accomplish this than outside, with the buzz clippers?  For free?

"Time for baldy sours!"  Chris exclaimed joyously, using a term that is clearly from the era of silent films.  He took off his socks in order to get ready to do the hair cuts- because the buzzes were to be performed outside, apparently in Alabama.  Either that, or Chris knows that you cannot go outside in socks, so taking off the socks is somewhat easier than putting on some shoes.  Andy was quick to rip off his own stinky socks, too, but I held Alex on my lap and strapped on his little shoes and buried my face in his beautiful hair one last, sweet time before heading out to the yard.

You may remember Andy's first hair cut.  Alex's was much different.  Alex basically sat in the lawn chair while Chris efficiently buzzed it.  There were no tears, no big adventure to the mall, and really only a tiny amount of squirming.  And it was not until Alex's first golden lock fell to the lawn that I freaked out and realized what we were doing, scrambling quickly to catch the hair clumps like they were dollar bills inside of one of those wacky, windy money booths.

In a matter of moments, Alex's hair was off of his head and in fistfuls in my hands.  First haircut, done.  Chris called Andy over for his turn, and I was left to contemplate the new shaved look of my youngest son.  My baby.

I was relieved to note that Alex somehow looked even cuter without his distinctive blond locks.  His eyes looked even bigger and browner and softer, and the perfect roundness of his cue ball head was more evident than ever.  All in all, the first hair cut was a success.

It's strange what is left over as my kids hit their milestones.  I've had infant carriers and baby swings that I've thrown straight into the trash.  I've gifted crumpled up newborn onesies to a friend with a younger son.  I had Chris drive over a used diaper genie to his sister's house (I sprayed it with Lysol first, don't worry).  There's a drawer in my house full of unidentifiable "art" projects from day care that are basically blank construction paper pages with a few miscellaneous marker or paint smears on them. I have a trash bag stuffed in a kitchen cabinet full of Andy's old bottles and pacifiers. I don't know why I have this bag.  I keep forgetting about it, and then I keep discovering it behind all the pots and asking myself, "What am I saving this for again?"  And then, yesterday, I found myself holding freshly shorn hair from my baby- finally, a true treasure worth the save.  And ever so gently, I carefully tied it up with a little blue ribbon and put it in my nightstand to keep forever.  Along with the cash I might have spent at the mall.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The World's Most Annoying Boy!

There are days that Andy wakes up with his dial already set to eleven.  We call these days "everyday."  He will burst into my room, start jumping on the bed, pull the string to the blinds to helpfully illustrate that it's morning time, and immediately start demanding his milk and very specific episodes of TV shows.  He will roll his toy train into my room and stand on it in order to either climb into my bed for the sole purpose of jumping directly on my kidney, turn on the light, or execute a complicated half cartwheel into the unforgiving air.  He may start assembling or disassembling various shelving and storage units. Sometimes he wakes up with a song in his heart, which will erupt from his mouth so that I hear "Baa Baa Black Sheep" on endless loop for my first five minutes of the day.  Which is slightly better than his version of "Blurred Lines."

Alex isn't much better these days.  He will snuggle with me for the duration of his morning milk, and then it's go time.  Alex will either hand me his completed bottle or very deliberately set it down on my nightstand (which I find adorable even in my early morning cranky state), and then try his damndest to catapult himself off the side of the bed in search of adventure, which generally entails digesting half a box of Q-tips or throwing all of my socks into the trash can.

This morning was no different, of course, except for the fact that Andy was somehow even louder and more demanding than usual.  Finally, we left for the park, where Andy disdainfully noted the lack of children.  We played half-heartedly together for a bit until a minivan pulled up, its driver struggling to maneuver into the parking spot next to mine, which I was half parked in.  (I am really bad at parking.  I am an excellent driver, but a terrible parker.  It must be the thrill of finally arriving at a destination that clouds my good judgement when it comes to staying between two widely spaced lines and not being an inconsiderate jackass.)

"That's my friend!" Andy yelled when he saw the minivan.  We, of course, did not know these people, but that did not stop Andy from running to greet them, showing them his three pennies, and then suggesting a race with the little girl, who was already looking warily at him.

I watched as Andy basically harassed the mother and child, telling the girl's mother that he liked monster trucks and fruit snacks and big, long carrots but sometimes the little carrots, too.  He suggested different games for the little girl to join him in (sliding together, swinging together, sitting on the rocking bumblebee together, pretending to be planes, etc).  The little girl grew increasingly disinterested in Andy's advances.  Luckily, she got a small reprieve from him when the groundskeeper rolled up in his golf cart to collect the trash, as Andy was quick to greet him and ask him four million questions involving the golf cart, the garbage, why did the groundskeeper have a golf cart, where was his real car, why did he take the garbage, where did he take the garbage, and how did he feel about the growing situation over in Syria?

"Come on, Andy," I urged, trying to get him away from the man at several different points, even though Andy had already declared the man to be his friend.  Of course, as I was doing this, Alex had toddled up to the mother of the little girl and was in turns demanding that she pick him up and rooting through her purse that she'd placed on the bench.

"My children have a distinct lack of boundaries," I explained, handing her her cell phone after finally wrestling it out of Alex's sticky hands.

The groundskeeper left and Andy was back on the little girl, chasing her around the swings.  "Mommy," the girl finally moaned, having had enough.  "I don't want to play with this boy!  Go away, little boy!"

This is certainly not the first time I've heard these words directed to my kid.  Go away, little boy.

Andy wasn't about to be deterred, though, and even started following them off to the porta john a minute later.  I had to grab his arm and physically hold him back while he cried out, "I want to go with my friend!  Where are they going?  What are they doing?  I hope she doesn't drop her pants in the potty like me!"  Then when they finally came out and headed over the merry go round, Andy yelled, "Wait for me!" and then ran after them and hopped onto the spinning merry go round, full speed.  It should be noted that it was at this precise time that the little girl declared she wanted to get OFF the merry go round, and away from the little boy.

And at this point, I just wanted to scream to Andy, "WILL YOU LEAVE THEM THE HELL ALONE ALREADY????"

It was time to go home.  I managed to get both kids in the car, where Andy started demanding answers and treats.  He did not accept my explanation that sometimes other kids want to play alone.  He did not accept my statement that it wasn't always a good idea to follow a strange man around a park.  He did not accept that we could not stop for Happy Meals on the way home.  He had questions about the little girl, the mother, the man, the park, the garbage, the pine cones from the trees, why I didn't have any fruit snacks in the car, and where an airplane in the sky was headed.
Andy, getting arrested for being

And I had to bite back, really swallow, my urge to yell, "OH MY GOD WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP!?"

Here's where the struggle comes in.  What do you do with a well-meaning, very social little boy with an active mind?  Do you suppress his urge to be friends with everyone and ask an infinite number of questions?  Or do you allow him to pester other children and parents and strangers to the point where little girls come to loathe him and even a friendly mother becomes irritated?  And is it okay that sometimes I want to scream at him to just STOP and TAKE A BREAK?  That sometimes it's all just too much, and the whole universe is craving just sixty seconds of quiet time from him?  Do I nurture his loud, friendly, inquisitive, and inherently annoying nature or do I sit him down and say, "Andy.  Listen.  Enough is enough."

I've made it clear I love both my kids more than life itself.  But man oh man.  At least we still have nap time.  It's T minus one hour until they wake up, simultaneously, ready to run like animals, hound well-behaved children, and extract a series of answers from strangers. Serenity, now!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

This Blog Post Is Not Funny!

Being a mother to Andy and Alex means that- at least for now- I have two people who love me unconditionally, no matter what, regardless of any of my many character flaws and simply because I am their mommy.  My husband, I suppose we love each other *almost* unconditionally, unless I have left food to rot in the sink (his major complaint) or he has kept me up all night with bearish snoring (the whole tri-county's complaint).

These two boys really do think I hung the moon.  I have to think that's one of the major reasons we end up having kids- to experience the pure, unadulterated love that passes back and forth for no other reason than the fact that we exist.  To be a mother is to love so hard that your very soul feels like it's going to crack wide open and spill out into the universe.  And my children love me back perhaps not as intensely but with a need that is still raw and unfiltered.  I feel their love in the way they climb so deep into my lap and lay their heads against my chest, in the way they burrow their faces in my shoulder and rope their skinny little arms around my neck.  I feel it when Alex toddles up behind me and throws his whole body into the back of legs, sticking his soft little face full on into the backs of my thighs.  I feel it when he climbs on me like a jungle gym, those joyous giggles erupting from his sweet, kitten-like mouth as we play, the way his eyes shine with happiness when we laugh together.  I feel it during his morning bottle, when he nuzzles against me under the blanket and keeps his hands rested near my heart.

My boys.
Andy, he tells me loves me.  He gives me kisses the way I give him kisses- randomly and without announcement.  He tucks his hand inside mine and trusts me fully as we cross the street or head off on a new adventure.  His actions are for my benefit- jokes to make me chuckle, good behavior done in plain view with a glance my way to make sure I noticed his sharing or other kind act, a completed puzzle to earn my praise.  He picks me flowers on walks, draws pictures for me, and wants me to witness his every action.  He wants to sit on the counter while I cook, wants to stand next to me while I brush my teeth, and wails with despair on evenings when I leave him behind for a night out with my friends.  He is my constant, loving shadow, and I could be the biggest jackass in the world, the most annoying and unlikable person alive, but as far as Andy is concerned, I am the best thing ever.  And it is still amazing to me, after over three years of being a mom, that nothing else about me matters to this kid except that I am his mom.  Mistakes I've made, my own self-doubts, however awkward or stupid I've felt, if I leave the house with especially bad hair and an unflattering outfit, moments of being snarky or rude, poorly timed comments- none of it matters to Andy.  He still gives me the widest smile every morning and has an opinion of me that would be a perfect 10.

How long does this last, I wonder?  Do I have a mere couple years left before Andy starts feeling like I'm too much?  When does he start getting embarrassed of me?  I do remember the years of loving my own mother without that fog of irritation hanging over us, but those are memories from when I was too young, too little.  I fear for when my boys start to judge me or don't so freely show their love and affection.  I feel lost and alone just imagining it.

Which is why I try to soak it in while I have it, why I try to remind myself that these are the days and that I need to stop and pause and bathe in it without getting frustrated over sticky hands or slow poke mornings or screaming over behavior that, while not entirely naughty, is just too overwhelming at times when it happens in consecutive bumps.  But that's easier said than done. Because sometimes these kids make me want to pull out my own hair or scream into a towel or throw something so hard it shatters.  Sometimes it's more than sticky hands- it's a disaster.  Sometimes it's more than a slow poke morning- it's downright disobedience complete with hitting, biting, pushing.  And sometimes it's behavior that's beyond naughty- it's the kind of horrid behavior that is truly, utterly deserving of corporeal punishment.

None of those bad moments make any kind of dent in how I feel about my children, though.  I think it's just all part of the package.  There are the outwardly lovey dovey moments of being a mother and then there are the moments when you have to search a little deeper to find it because everyone at that time just happens to be crying over a fight involving two boys, one choo choo, and a head injury involving a small dump truck.  But it's there.  Andy and Alex, I love you so much, all day and all of the time.  And please love me forever, too, just as you do in these fleeting moments.  This is my pathetic plea to that ticking clock.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Private Parts!

I never thought I would use the words "brother" and "penis" together in as many sentences as I do.  Mainly:  Do not touch your brother's penis.  And, today:  Hey!  Do not put your penis on your brother's face.

There's no way this was good.
Andy's become preoccupied with his little Andy.  I try to be matter of fact about his business, and I have explained that his private parts are just that.  Private.  I've also used the word "special," on occasion.  And I have tried to hammer this into his head:  We do not show people our private, special areas.  We do not talk about them in casual conversation with strangers on the street.  We do not fiddle with them too much when our mother is looking at us.  And, sure, we may take a bath with our brother, but that does not mean that it's a free for all regarding our private, special areas.  And for God's sake, stop drinking the bath water, can't you count how many asses and genitalia are floating in this lukewarm pee water?  Too many.

Honestly, I don't know what I'm doing.  I didn't think I'd have to start having some of these conversations for another couple years, but the questions keep coming.  The odd statements pop up out of nowhere.  A couple weeks ago, he asked to see his best friend's penis.  His best friend is a girl.  I said, "Andy, J does not have a penis.  She's a girl, and her special parts are different.  And you cannot see it, because it is private, just like your penis is private."  Andy pondered this for hours.  I thought that, at least for the day, we had moved past the topic entirely.  Then, halfway through dinner, he dropped his fork onto his plate and exclaimed, "Oh no!  If J doesn't have a penis, how does she go pee pee???"  He was sincerely, horrifically worried.  I tried to reassure him that the girl parts still make pee pee, but at this point, I'm sure he thought I was just placating him, and the glare he gave me was downright untrustworthy.

He is listening to me at least a little, though.  In public bathrooms now, he has started to loudly proclaim, "I don't want anyone to see my penis!"  when I help him into the stall.  "Don't worry, Andy," I tell him, dropping a handful of cheese goldfish onto Alex's stroller tray.  I know, feeding a fourteen month in a public bathroom is probably ill-advised from a hygiene standpoint, but if you have a better way to keep Alex from screaming, I'd like to hear it.  "No one will see your penis," I assure him.  And I smile back at the other mothers who kindly smile over at me and then inconspicuously try to cover their two year old's daughters' ears.

While it's true that it may be time to get Alex out of Andy's bath in the interest of keeping up the "private parts" story, I know for a fact that Andy would not react well to that change.  I have happily noticed that the boys have really bonded, and I truly think that they understand that they are meant to function together, as a team.  As two loud, sloppy cogs in a single machine.  They know they are supposed to do things together.  Andy gets upset if we go somewhere on a Saturday morning without Alex, when Chris is home to watch over the baby's nap.  And Alex is stuck on Andy, keeping within a foot of his big brother and often closer when we are just hanging out.  Alex hugs and tackles and giggles at his big brother in an adoring, wonderful way.  And Andy is quick to introduce Alex as his brother.  "This is my brother," he tells strangers, giving Alex a rough hug and aiming him at said stranger.  "This is Alex."

Plus, maybe it's the lazy mother in me, but really?  TWO baths?  Next thing you know, you'll be telling me that they shouldn't be drinking from the same water dish and should be getting two different bottles of eye drops when they come down with pink eye.  Not that Alex has ever had pink eye.  No, that junk magically disappears from life once you stop sending a kid to day care.  Although, wow.  Considering how many times I walked into day care to find all of the kids, boys and girls, in the bathroom together (with the door wide open), maybe Andy would have a final, lasting understanding of private parts by now.  Minus, of course, the "private" part.

But I digress.  As usual.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bed Time!

Andy's official bed time is 7:15, and Alex's bedtime is 7:00.  I've never understood parents who keep their kids up super late, the only exception possibly being parents who don't get home until later in the evening. But even when I worked, I'd pick Andy up from day care at 5:00, we'd eat dinner, and then baby Andy would be off to bed before 7:00 each night. For me, especially these days, I have just about had it by 6:00 and am extremely eager to start the bedtime routine.  My personal goal is to be laying down on my sofa with wine in hand no later than 7:20, and if I'm even five minutes off on this timing, then something has gone horribly wrong and somebody has some major explaining to do.

Can't you just go to sleep nicely like this
blue bear on the god-damn moon?
That being said, while Alex goes down at 7:00 and Andy at 7:15, they don't actually fall asleep in there for quite some time.  Chris and I close their door and it's like a disco ball immediately drops from the ceiling.  It's a real dance party, with Alex standing up in the crib and bobbing around and Andy doing God only knows, as the amount of jumping and crashing that we hear is borderline alarming.  I don't always go in there to check on them as often as I should, evidence being the one afternoon before nap time when I discovered that Andy had clearly knocked over his lamp the night before and tried his best to clean up and organize the broken glass shards from the CFL light bulb. The CFL light bulb which is filled with mercury and hazardous to handle and obviously some demonstration of my negligence as a parent.  Thankfully, nobody came down with mercury poisoning that day, and the lady on the phone at poison control was nice to reassure me,  "Well, the damage is done, just air the room out, the kids should be fine."  Then I thought I heard her pen scratch as she wrote down my phone number from her caller ID to place on the "Flagged" list.

Sometimes, if I'm lucky, Alex falls asleep before I stick Andy in there fifteen minutes later.  This can work out to my advantage, as Andy loses his dance partner if Alex is already passed out. However, what is happening more often these days is that Andy just takes it upon himself to wake Alex up.  One night, I put Andy in bed, closed the door, and went downstairs to pour my wine.  A moment later, I heard Alex sobbing. I went back up and opened their door only to hear Andy's instant confession from his spot right outside Alex's crib.  "I poked Alex in the eye.  Both eyes. And then I pushed him.  I want Alex to wake up."

Then there's the bathroom breaks, which are seriously out of control.  Some days, I believe Andy saves it all up until after bed time just so he can make two separate, consecutive poops followed by three trips for urine.  I will close Andy in the room, and then he will make his way back to the door, lay down on the floor, press his mouth to the crack between the door and the rug and start calling for me or Chris.  "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy.  Have to go poo poo.  Mommy?  Daddy?  Have to go poo poo.  Open the door.  Have to go poo poo real bad!  Mommy?????"

When we let Andy out to use the bathroom, Alex becomes immediately distraught, as if to ask, "Well, why the hell is HE leaving?  I'm the one who just got poked in the eye!"  So, if I'm feeling like a softy, I will let Andy use the bathroom while I hold Alex so that he can watch and feel part of things.  That way we're all in the bathroom and everybody's happy.  Well, almost everybody.

Andy also enjoys talking to the neighbors from his window.  I can only imagine what the people who walk by my house must think about the little boy in the second floor window who yells out hi and tells them his full name followed by a quick list of favorite shows.

Lately, Andy has been stockpiling money.  He's obsessed with his money and likes to keep coins in his pocket and tucked away in different nooks in his room.  When we are driving, I can usually bribe Andy to be quiet by passing him back a nickel or penny to hold.  Change- it's the fruit snacks of the summer.  Often, Andy will lay in bed and play with his money after bed time.  Although, there have been a couple times now that he's dropped his change right down the heating vent.  Last night, Chris heard uncontrollable sobbing coming from the bedroom, and when he opened the door, Andy was crouched over the gaping ventilation hole, holding the metallic vent in his hand, and crying about the coins he had dropped down there.  Between the amount of food Alex drops in the vent under his highchair and the coins Andy drops down in the one in his room, the ducts in this house are simply filled with treasure.  If you count a half pound of Teddy Grahams and fifteen cents as treasure.

All in all, we usually end up having to go back into the boys' room no less than four times after official bed time.  Yeah, I supposed I could just keep Andy and Alex up a little later, but the FEW times that I have done that (not on purpose, mind you), they still stay up the same amount of time. So, I ask you, what's the difference?  Might as well just put them down at 7:00 and at least get that much more, albeit interrupted, Mommy TV and wine time.

My sister and brother in law watched the kids the other night while Chris and I were at a wedding.  When I was going over the bedtime routine with Marcia, she said, "So, after I put Andy down, that's it?"  To which I laughed and laughed.  I would receive a text later that night detailing Andy's post bedtime bowel movements, Alex's wakefulness, and the whole general mess of things.  But Marcia and Mark did well.  You can't count an unsuccessful bedtime as a failure if you're dealing with lunatics.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A True Friend!

The definition of a true friend:  One who will let you wear his/her pants when you're in a jam.

The other day, Andy, Alex, and I made a plan to stop at the bank and then head back to the park where we would meet up with our friends, H and J. Andy and Alex actually had little to do with devising this plan, although the second I had mentioned the word bank, Andy declared rather bossily that he wanted a sucker.  To Andy, the bank is a magical place where women fawn over how adorable he is and then reward this cuteness with his choice of sucker.  To me, the bank is the place that charged me ten dollars for going under an arbitrarily assigned dollar amount in my money market.  Also, it's the place where I used to spend forty hours a week accomplishing the following tasks:  sitting at my computer, poking around other people's leftovers in the refrigerator, and asking if those cupcakes on the table are for everyone.

We were going to the bank because my mortgage lender mailed me a check for over a cool grand. Escrow overage, said the memo line on the check.  Can you believe it?  Finally, things are starting to go my way.  Oh the things that I will spend this money on.  Including but not limited to giving it back to the lender once they see how much my homeowner's insurance has jumped.  But, alas, we all have our happy moments.

After we left the bank, Andy declared that he had to use the bathroom.  What I should have done was walk him back into the bank and ask if we could use theirs. This would have allowed me to glimpse into the breakroom and possibly see if anybody had put a baked good on the table. Instead, I told Andy to hold it and that he could use the porta john at the park.

Already, the planets were aligning in a not so great way.

The whole way there, Andy whined that he had to pee.  By the time we pulled up at the park, he was so ready to go that he jumped out of his car seat after being unbuckled and ran off to the porta john all by himself.  Yes, I should have stopped him.  But, hey.  He had to go.  Badly.  And it takes me forever to get Alex and our diaper bag and our two sippy cups of water and my one mug of coffee and Alex's two shoes that he's expertly kicked off all out of the car.  So I let Andy go by himself, praying that he wouldn't touch too much of the interior of the actual porta john.  I juggled Alex and our bag and cups and shoes and whatnot over to the park area, where I set Alex down on the astroturf (best park feature ever!) and looked over to the porta john area, which seemed quiet and peaceful and not at all the scene of anything horrific.

Then.  Screaming.  Sobbing.  Something had just happened in the porta john, and my worst fears played through my mind.  Andy had fallen into the toilet.  There had been a strange man waiting for him in the porta john.  Andy was locked in and it would be days before we could get to him.  He would have to subsist on one ply toilet paper and his own urine.

But, no.  Not those things.  I ran over to the porta john, leaving Alex all by himself under the curious eye of another mother (sometimes you just assume that other moms have your back even when they likely don't).  As I was running up, the door flew open and Andy burst out, naked from the waist down, little penis exposed to the world and flapping in the wind.  Tears streamed down his face.  He sobbed, "I dropped my pants and underwear into the potty!"  And when I got closer and looked down into the toilet- sure enough, there were his $3 Garanimal shorts and his Spiderman underwear floating in a sea of.... stuff.

Lucky for Andy, I was in a buoyant mood from getting that money from my mortgage lender.  So, instead of getting angry or upset, I burst out laughing and walked back over to our diaper bag.  Andy trailed behind me, butt cheeks facing due west, eyeballs leaking big fat tears as he struggled to catch his breath.  The other mom looked on at us with more interest as she helpfully blocked Alex from climbing up a park ladder and cracking his skull open.  But, alas, in the diaper bag, I had no spare shorts or underwear.  Just a spare T-shirt.  As if the T-shirt is the article of clothing that you need to have a back up for.

So, Andy still crying and half naked, I got out my cell phone to tell H not to bother to come to the park, since we clearly had to go home.  There was no way Andy could play pantslessly at the park (right?).  On the phone, H listened to our saga and then kindly offered, "I'm already on my way there, but I have some of J's pants Andy can wear.  If he doesn't mind purple girl shorts."

Half a second pause on my end.  Then, "Sure, those will work."

I hung up the phone, rummaged into the diaper bag for a diaper, which I put on Andy so that his junk wouldn't have direct contact with his friend's shorts.  A few minutes later, we saw H and J's car pull up into the lot.  Andy ran over to them in his diaper.  "I dropped my shorts and underwear into the potty!"  he exclaimed to them.  He had stopped crying and was starting to feel a rush from the whole experience.  H helped him put on her daughter's purple girl shorts, which Andy looked down at with a mixture of confusion and reluctance, and then both kids were off and running, having a super time.

And, yes, that is the definition of a true friend.  One who lets you wear their pants.

Thank you, guys!  And if you are ever at the Grant Township park and see some homeless looking kid emerge from the porta john wearing stained, poopy Garanimal shorts and Spiderman underwear- you just tell that kid that Andy says he's welcome.