Friday, May 31, 2013

Alex On The Go!

Alex outgrew his baby carrier about six weeks ago, and I tossed it straight into the trash like a dirty diaper.  You'd think I'd have been more sentimental about the baby carrier that transported both of my infant sons home from the hospital, but nope.  I couldn't even stand to look at the contraption any longer, with its falsely claimed ergonomic, zig-zag handle that wrenched my wrists and its vaguely hideous safari print fabric.  I hated this car seat carrier so much that you might be surprised to know that I registered for this very item, chose it out of dozens, nay hundreds, of other, far superior baby carriers, approximately three years ago.  I was obviously not in my right mind during that trip to Babies R Us, so completely deranged by all the pregnancy hormones and the bags upon bags of pistachios that I so craved during Andy's gestation.  Plus, registering for a baby is like way difficult.  Do you get the crib mattress with the ten year warranty or the fifteen year warranty?  And after you pick out the mattress, you have to choose a mattress pad, a set of sheets, and then a slim, rectangular sheet saver for *over* the sheet.  And then you have to decide whether or not the saver goes under the baby's ass or mouth.  Which will be the bigger concern?  Puke or pee?

Note to expectant mothers:  I don't know why anybody bothers with the baby mobiles.  Babies don't appreciate them until they're able to stand up and yank the damn thing down, at which point you just have to stick it in the closet anyway and occasionally yell at your other child for using it as a funny hat.

Anyway, these past six weeks without Alex in a carrier have been- difficult.  It's not just the fact that he's no longer easily transported from car to house and house to car, an act that could often be performed without jarring the poor guy awake, although this in itself has been a huge problem.  Now if Alex falls asleep in the car, we're all screwed.  Moving him without the carrier wakens him, and opting to just let him sleep unsupervised in the car while I go inside or run Andy into preschool seems to open a small bag of DCFS problems.  Aside from this maternal conundrum, though, the removal of the baby carrier has seemed to signify to Alex that he is no longer a baby, and he has thus surpassed Andy on the annoyance scale, a feat that I could not imagine happening until the day it did.  And it blew my mind.

Alex wants to be a big boy, and he wants his freedom.  At the library, I place him on the ground to crawl, and while assisting Andy with a kerfuffle involving another young child and a vigorous slap fight, Alex zooms straight off to the elevator, pulling down a whole section of books (the 800s in the Dewey Decimal system) and yanking a series of computer headphones out of their jacks whilst on his way.  At the park, Alex fights to be let down, and when I set him down, he makes it his mission to ingest as many wood chips, pebbles, cigarette butts, beer bottle shards, and eviction notices as he can (perhaps I need a new park).  If I try to hold him or keep him trapped in the stroller, he battles me, twisting and turning to be let loose like his brother.  He howls as if to notify other adults that I'm keeping him against his will and kicks his legs as if the motion itself would propel him outwards.

He is harder to watch than Andy, who can be a mostly obedient young man who at least has a working sense of boundaries- when it suits him.  I forgot what this late infant/early toddler stage entailed.  The other day, I noticed Alex was chewing on something, and I reached into his mouth to inspect.  I pulled out something white, a small rubber nub that I still have not identified.  As I moved closer to the light of the window to inspect, I heard him padding off, and when I turned around, he was standing at the toilet, bent over and splashing merrily around.  I pulled him out of the toilet, set him in the hall, closed the toilet, stepped back into the hall, and there was Alex, halfway up the stairs.  That kid is fast.  And maybe sometimes it would be best just to leave him unsupervised in the car, because at least then he's strapped in and unable to outwit my shoddy baby proofing.

Alex creates large messes with a single wave of his arm.  He is loud and demanding if he sees me preparing food and he can't yet eat any.  Alex is perhaps a future dentist in the making, as his favorite thing to do is jab his little hand straight into your mouth and harshly poke around your tongue and teeth.  Like most dentists I've met, his bedside manner needs a little work.  If the dentistry gig doesn't work out, he may also try for hair stylist, as he also really enjoys grabbing as little hair as he can and yanking.  Grabbing just a few strands of hair and yanking is, as he's discovered, much more painful and thereby more enjoyable than grabbing a huge handful and tugging.  That Alex, he's masterful.

I thought this summer would be so much easier with a toddler and a three year old, that having a two year old and a baby was the hardest stage and it could only get better.  Maybe I was right, and this summer will be more manageable than last year.  However, maybe I was oh so wrong.  Maybe now that Alex needs two proper crib naps as opposed to a couple of half assed baby carrier naps, maybe that's going to make my scheduling slightly more complicated.  And, yes, maybe it is way more difficult to watch a three year old and a one year old catapult off in different directions instead of just dumping the baby carrier somewhere while I keep my eye on the older one.

But, then again- with all of the pains in the ass presented by this stage of life that Alex has found himself in comes all of the many joys.  The two brothers playing together in albeit rare, but present, moments.  The funny personality of Alex that sharpens each day as he exercises his independence and experiments with his surroundings.  The new adventures that the two boys can now go on together, as a unit, even if each half of the unit requires one full unit of mommy attention.  The beginning word formations of my sweet little boy as he heads toward the baby exit into toddlerhood- I swear I'm hearing "mommy" and "daddy" these days, even if it's not super consistent.  And that remarkable love that grows with the baby- you fall head over heels for that newborn baby, but then it's around this time that your love magically triples by the day.  How is it possible?  I don't know.  But it's a good thing that the love grows so exponentially because at this stage, when they're all over the place and immune to any kind of reason or discipline- it's needed.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hi! My Name is Andy! What's Your Name?!

I have been teaching Andy that, when he meets a new child, he should say, "Hi.  My name is Andy.  What's your name?"  If he says this phrase, then it is certain that he will make a new friend.

What's heartbreaking is that he has listened to me and now approaches kids and says, "Hi.  My name is Andy.  What's your name?"  I did not count on the lack of social skills in other children, who mostly dumbly stare at him and do not reply, thus making poor Andy repeat himself a couple times.  "Hi.  My name is Andy.  What's your name?"  I also did not count on him yelling to children down the street, expecting them to hear, understand, and yell back.  "HI.  MY NAME IS ANDY.  WHAT'S YOUR NAME??"   Of course, no one ever yells back BECAUSE THEY'RE DOWN THE BLOCK, and Andy turns to me sadly and says, "They don't say hi back.  They don't say their name."

And here's one of the first lessons of life, my dear sweet son.  Despite your best efforts, you can't always make a new friend, and the only thing you can ever count on from other people is that they will likely disappoint you.

Of course, I'm the last one who should be teaching Andy how to make friends.  I mean, I'm probably the first one who should teach him, since I am after all his mother, but, socially, I'm just as lacking as many of these asshole children.  I only use the phrase "asshole children" in the hopes that this blog will be the number one web site listed on Google when some distraught parent one day searches for "asshole children."  Welcome to my blog, sir or madam.  Teach your child how to say hello.

I say I'm the last one because I always struggled to make friends in my youth.  I always had friends, but they were few in number and generally the kind of other kid who also ached to be part of a certain group.  Also, I clearly remember my mother asking me one day, "Don't you have any other friends beside Samantha?"  No, Mom.  I don't.  Maybe you should have taught me how to properly introduce myself.  Also, these clothes from K-Mart and the mullet from the hair cutting "academy" sure aren't helping matters.  I could only hope that one day I would embrace my awkwardness and have it be a quirky part of my adult persona that other, cooler people would find strangely pleasant. Or at least not wholly unpleasant.

Andy tries very hard to make new friends, and his friends are important to him.  Children who are not as interested in conversing with him are a source of major agony for him, though.  He doesn't understand why or how someone would not want to be his friend, and he becomes distraught when an older child tells him to go away, which happens far more than we'd all like to acknowledge.  He is also interested in becoming friends with adults, which generally works out a little better for him, although at some point I will have to sit him down and tell him that any adult who is not a trusted family member or some other already thoroughly vetted citizen who is interested in being his friend is likely someone that I don't want him being friends with.  I tell you, this parenting stuff is complicated.

I am also trying to reinforce- daily, dozens of times per day- that he already has a friendship that he needs to work on nourishing.  Alex, man!  Be friends with Alex!  Play with Alex, who so yearns to be your BFF.  Hand Alex a single building block to hold, even if it's just out of a begrudging source of pity.  Don't be so quick to try to push Alex down the stairs.  Alex is amazing.  He's everything you could want in a buddy.  He has an undying adoration for Andy that cannot be matched by some asshole child (just in case the aforementioned Googling parent decides to go for the singular).

And just a few other reasons why Alex would be an amazing friend:

He's going to grow up to be a hot young man.  I can already tell.  Is it wrong for a mother to refer to her son as hot?  Hmm.

He loves to eat.  I have built many a friendship around a shared love for Smash Burger or the giant, 5,000 calorie potato at Jason's Deli.  It's the tie that binds.

He giggles and claps at practically anything.  Everybody needs a good audience!

He waves at you- sometimes with BOTH hands!  Look, another kid who likes to say hello!

Andy, on a successful day of
friend making.
He sleeps in your room.  You don't have to go far to find him.  He is your brother, and he will always be there for you.

He tolerates your bad moods.  This is very important.  If you treated anybody else the way you've been treating Alex, you'd definitely be down a friend.  But Alex just turns the other cheek and offers you a smile and a sticky hand.  Because, like I said, he's amazing.

Anyway, I am not really about to quash Andy's efforts to make new friends, and I keep encouraging him to use his introductory phrase.  Sometimes, he'll say his piece and then turn to me and demand, "Say hi, too, Mommy."  I feel like this is his way of calling me out on my own hypocrisy.  Sure, I can tell HIM how to make friends, but I myself am rarely interested in doing the same.  Whatever, Andy.  I'm not a little boy, I'm a mommy.  And unless I know for sure that someone else likes Smash Burger, I'm not going to bother.

But if you're reading this, and you have a young child- please teach him how to say hello back to my eager little boy.  For real.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Andy's Favorite Books!

I read a lot of books.  In the course of one day, I read no less than ten children's books, plus whatever current adult novel I have on my nightstand for that last hour before bed.  Andy gets three stories before his nap, Alex gets about three baby books before he goes to bed, and then it's another four for Andy right before his bed time.  Andy insists on sitting in for Alex's baby books and will break into sorrowful tears if I dare try to read Alex his books separately while Andy is finishing his bath.  So, Andy gets ten books a day PLUS stories at his preschool PLUS his nightly lion story that I recite from memory right before he goes to sleep.  Andy has got to be the most read to child in the tri-county area.  However, he's also the most infuriating, so you can draw your own conclusions on whether or not that many stories is healthy for a child.

It may be getting out of control.  A couple weeks ago, I realized that I had over forty books checked out from the library.  For a moment I felt like that may have been too many books until I dug out my tax bill and saw how much money went to the library each year.  Then I promptly drove back and checked out forty more.

But if you're reading as many books as we are, you have to have a big supply on hand.  However, as many books as we read, Andy still gravitates towards his favorites, which I now submit to you.  This is part one of a sixteen part series.  Stay tuned!

"Have You Seen My Cat?"- Eric Carle

One young boy's exasperated, worldwide journey to find his cat ends with a man who looks strangely like a younger version of Andy's Papa Aldo pointing out that his cat (which is not a puma, bobcat, lion, cheetah, tiger, or leopard) is right there and has had a shitload of kittens.  Oh crap, that's a lot of cats!  Andy loves this book has memorized all the different kinds of cats and thinks it's hilarious when I yell,  "HAVE YOU SEEN MY CAT???" as if I myself am at the end of my rope and in need of a stiff drink.

"Llama Llama Misses Mama"- Anna Dewdney

The Mama Llama drops a very anxious little llama off at preschool, but the whole point of the story is that she alsocomes back after preschool.  Lesson being:  if mommy goes away for a bit, never fear!  Her ass is definitely coming back.  Andy had me read him this book every night when he started his two year old preschool program, and now, whenever I am out for the evening and Chris gets stuck doing story time, Andy goes and digs this one of out of the pile and makes him read it.  Mama Llama, you came back!  And Jackie Berger's coming back, too.  Probably.

"Maisy Takes A Bath"- Lucy Cousins

Actually, Andy likes ALL of the Maisy books, but this one is my personal favorite since Maisy's weirdo bird friend keeps knocking on the door while Maisy's trying to prepare for her bath and then eventually decides to just get into the bath with her.  And when I say "my personal favorite," I mean the book that has caused me the most grief since now Andy wants all of his friends to come over and bathe with him.  How can I explain that it's alright for Maisy to get naked with her friends in the tub- but not so much for Andy?  Ah, well.  It's cute.

"We're Going On A Lion Hunt"- Margery Cuyler

And, this is the worst book ever.  I have to hide this book from Andy because I hate it so much, but he always manages to find it.  I know that repetition is good for kids, but man, this one just wears down the soul.  If only all of these children would just get eaten by the lion.  Now that would be a good book.

"The Three Little Pigs" - Any version

Andy loves "The Three Little Pigs" but identifies strongly with the wolf, and always sympathizes that things just didn't go his way.

"Goodnight Moon"- Margaret Wise Brown

I love this book, too.  It's the perfect going to sleep book, and I think even if I didn't have children, I still might read it to myself at night.  Goodnight stars, goodnight air.  Goodnight noises everywhere.  This has to be the most comforting bed time story of all time.  Somebody brew me a mug of sleepy time tea already.

"My Car"- Byron Barton

This book has a surprise ending, which I'm about to ruin.  The main character drives his car to his job- and what's his job?  He's the fricking BUS driver!!  Andy just about had a heart attack the first time we read this.  This books works on so many levels.  Or, two levels.  There's a car.  And a BUS!

"Froggy Goes To The Doctor"- Jonathan London

Andy really loves these Froggy books, and they've grown on me as well.  I've noticed that several of the books revolve around Froggy forgetting to put on his pants, and that's always entertaining.  Andy will ask for a Froggy book, and if I don't immediately understand him, he will ribbit at me as if I'm an idiot.