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.