Monday, December 15, 2014

One Fish, Two Fish!

Andy's been asking for a pet, and we all know how Chris and I feel about dogs.  Cats are even worse, because you basically spend a whole bunch of money on an animal whose feelings about you straddle the line between disdain and outright loathing.  I did at one time contemplate adopting a kitten, but then I saw this cat food commercial where an uppity-looking white cat ate a blend of brown rice, salmon, and spring vegetables off of a gleaming white porcelain plate.  "Forget this whole cat thing!" I howled aloud to no one as a little mustard from my hot dog dripped onto my sweater.  "Ain't no snotty cat eating better than I am!"

No dogs, no cats, and certainly nothing that resembles a mouse (i.e., actual mouse, gerbil, or the like). I'd get the kid a pony if only we had a stable.  Snakes are super creepy, turtles are ridiculous looking and require no further comment.  But when Andy asked if he could have a goldfish....

"Yes!"  I proclaimed, smiling beatifically down at my eager-faced four year old.  "Yes, I see nothing wrong with a fish!  A fish sounds like a perfect pet!"

I told Chris to go out and get the boys a fish while I was at work.  "Okay, if you're sure about this," Chris replied doubtfully.  At this point, I should have read the tone in my husband's voice a little better, or at least clarified that we were on the same page as to what getting a goldfish meant.

Here's what I had pictured.  A little bowl fulled with tap water containing a single orange fish that would hopefully die in about a month or so.  Total cost:  $7. 

Eight hours later, here's what I came home to.  Two goldfish swimming around in a mansion of a fish tank, an entire fish tank system, complete with those little colored rocks and some expensive looking fake foliage and a jar of fish food that contained BROWN RICE, SALMON, AND SPRING VEGETABLES!  It was the cat situation all over again.  Except we'd actually gone through with it, and now Chris' wallet was $65 lighter and I'd basically worked all day not to add to our savings or pay a pitiful portion of our ridiculous cable bill but to get fish.

"Look at our new fish!"  Andy squealed when I got home as he and Alex clambered up onto the chair that is now permanently pushed in front of the fish tank.  "I named my fish Goldie and Alex named his iPad!"

"iPad the fish?"  I repeated.

"Alex named it after the thing he loves most in the world," Chris helpfully explained.  "And just so you know, goldfish can live up to thirty years and this gigantic fish tank is actually a little too small so we'll have to invest in a bigger one soon."

"I was picturing a little glass bowl," I said slowly, a small nugget of anger and regret starting to form in my chest as I had a vision of myself still buying fish food for these creatures when I'm in my sixties. "And the kind of fish that we'd just flush down the toilet in a couple weeks or so, after the boys got sick of it.  Can I look at that receipt again?  You spent how much on rocks???"

So that was a couple weeks ago.  Andy and Alex are excited to feed Goldie and iPad every morning and evening, oftentimes spilling fish flakes all over the carpet, and Andy has a fishy way of saying hello to them, his own lips puckered up fish style.  Alex is proud of his pet, too, and they know which fish belongs to who.  Since getting the fish, despite how desperately boring they are, Andy and Alex have spent time watching them and have ceased asking for a puppy or any other much more interesting animal.  You may ask, was this alone worth the start up costs of $65?  I really don't think so.  But now we have fish and every once in a while when I peek in on them in their tank, I get the impression that the one called iPad is giving me the stink eye.

You think you're better than me, fish?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Where Babies Come From!

My mom and my aunt were giggling like maniacs, and my mother waved me over.  "You have to hear what Andy just told us," my aunt said through a guffaw.  "Nancy, you tell her."

My mother related the story.  They were asking Andy about how he was going to get a new baby, and apparently Andy had replied, matter-of-factly, "Yep.  There's a baby in my mommy's tummy.  My daddy put it in there with his special tool."

Special tool?  Hilarious!  Of course, Andy was just repeating what he had been told by Chris, who should know better than to refer to his wedding tackle as a "special tool."  Obviously, this was going to be repeated.  And some people, like my mother and aunt, were going to be greatly amused by this. Yet other people, like my father for instance, were going to wince and just walk away.

Andy's been asking a lot of questions about the mechanics of conceiving and delivering a child.  I have told him the basics without actually lying or providing any sort of detail.  The daddy gives the mommy a seed that grows in her tummy.  The doctor takes the baby out at the hospital.  If you want to know more about the latter, don't ask me because I'm not a doctor. Andy has somehow guessed through which part of the human body the baby actually enters the world, but he is very foggy on how mommies get the seed in the first place, and his questions are nonstop and pretty direct.

"How does the daddy give the mommy the seed?"  he's asked.

"I'm not sure," I've replied.  "It just happens."

"When does it happen?"

"Um, when we're sleeping."

"Okay, I have a plan.  You pretend like you're sleeping and I'll watch how Daddy gives you the seed."

"Not the best plan, Andy.  Terrible idea.  Who wants a milk shake?"


And then, dissatisfied with my answers, he's badgered Chris.  "How do you give Mommy the seed?" he's asked.  "How does the seed get into her tummy?"  This four year old of mine will one day make an excellent attorney as his cross-examining skills are virtually unmatched.  As long as none of the jury members smell like they've recently had chocolate, he'll be unstoppable.

"I have a tool," Chris replied after coming up empty.  Clearly, here in the present tense, this wasn't the best of answers.  I can only imagine the announcements Andy is making at preschool about his father's tool. "Who wants cake?"

Andy getting ready to high-five.  But Alex will
kiss you if you get close enough.
Both Andy and Alex are very clear that there's a baby coming eventually, and now that I'm showing a little, they've accepted this phantom member of the family as one of their own.  "Love baby so much!"  Alex cries out randomly.  Alex, though, is the more loving of the two brothers, at least when it comes to people outside our immediate family.  I don't think any child could demonstrate as much love for a mother as Andy does, but as far as being generous with love and loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, it's Alex's little heart that overflows with emotion.  He is not stingy with his hugs and kisses like Andy, who reserves them only for me and sometimes Daddy as if there's a finite quality and someone's keeping track.  Andy is adamant on not loving anyone besides the three of us (and the tummy baby only slightly), and while Alex will walk around at a party and give mouth kisses to all the adults, Andy bursts into tears if I senselessly tell him to give his uncle a hug.  "I only give high fives," he'll wail.  "I don't give hugs or kisses.  I don't love these people!  Let's go home. Did I miss quiet time?"

"Love everyone so much," Alex will intone in response.  "Love grandma so much.  Love uncle so much.  Love that lady over there so much."

This whole experience will be pretty interesting.  Andy's reaction to Alex being born was almost non-existent.  Acceptance mixed with two parts mild curiosity, a pinch of affection, and only a dash of disdain.  But that was twenty three month old Andy.  How will five year old Andy react to a new baby?  With the same love that gushes strong for Mommy, Daddy, and Alex?  Or will he be high-fiving the newborn like some great-aunt he sees three times a year?

And Alex, at three years old?  This should be good.  Alex, the baby, very aware of getting bumped out of position by a newer model. I truly think all of this could go either way.

We'll find out late May.  And that's, like, eons away, right?

Sunday, November 30, 2014


This Thanksgiving, we had one more little thing to be thankful for.

"Was this an accident?" my blunt little sister asked me ten minutes after I had taken the pregnancy test and called her on the phone.  I called her first because we had just been talking; she had been asking me about stage two and stage three foods for her little peanut while I had been staring at the tests in the drugstore and contemplating just skipping the whole thing in favor of going to the dollar store the next day and buying one there.  Eight dollars for a pregnancy test?  Fifteen dollars for two?  Why would I pay this much when I can already feel the results in the pit of my stomach and the side of my boob?  Sure, the dollar store tests are a little more labor intensive- you have to find a cup to pee in and a little pipette to dispense the urine onto the test strip portion of the flimsy device- but the extra work is definitely worth the seven dollar savings.  Ah, screw it.  I'll just buy the eight dollar test and not eat lunch today.  And I just need one.

"Not exactly an accident," I answered honestly.  "Not exactly on purpose."

My sister was blown away by this news, and when she pressed her husband to guess who was pregnant, my name didn't even come up on his list.  When she finally told him it was me, he would later liken his reaction to finding out George on Seinfeld was getting married.

Jerry: All right. But then I can't tell you the BIG news.
Elaine: News? What news?
Jerry: Sorry!
Elaine: What? What?
Jerry: All right, Elaine but this is beyond news. This is like Pearl Harbor. Or the Kennedy assassination. It's like not even news. It's total shock.
Elaine: Oh, come on, Jerry:. Please, please, please, please, please!
Jerry: George Costanza...
Elaine: Yeah?
Jerry: Is getting married!
Elaine: Get out!

Really?  Is it that unlikely that Chris and I would have a third child?  Are the two we have THAT horrible that people would find it inconceivable that we'd go for another?  Or is it that I'm just so very old, so very tired, so worn down and jaded by motherhood that a new baby just doesn't add up?  Or did it really seem to others like our family was perfectly complete even though I've had this strange little aching feeling that it was mostly complete... but maybe not just quite.

Oh, and the minor detail of Chris' reaction?  "That's interesting," he said on the phone (I'm still in the bathroom at work, still staring at my eight dollar positive, still thinking about that dollar store test and how now I could REALLY USE THAT EXTRA SEVEN DOLLARS SINCE I'M HAVING ANOTHER BABY AND WILL BE BROKE FOREVER.  "Can we talk about this later?  I'm at Home Depot with my dad."

"Will do! Chat later!"

When I told Andy the news six weeks later, he was so excited that he got up in his chair and did a little dance.  "I want twins!" he exclaimed.  "A boy and a girl!"  (Alex's reaction was less jubilant and the phrase "no baby" came out of his mouth about a dozen times until last week or so when he finally started professing love for it.)

"It's probably not twins," I told Andy, thinking of the difficult decisions involved with having twins. Which one do you keep?  Which one do you give half of a medallion to and send on his or her way? I continued, "It's probably just one.  So, are you going to be a big helper?  Feed the baby bottles and help hold it?"

"Yeah," Andy replied, looking me dead in the eyes.  "I'll hold the baby.  I'll hold BOTH OF THEM."

We're, of course, excited for the baby, the one baby I have growing.  Sure, I've had moments of sheer panic, such as in the morning when I'm really struggling to get only TWO children dressed, fed, and out the door.  Getting Andy and Alex ready for preschool is a freaking nightmare.  Nobody listens to me, and Andy treats brushing his teeth and using the potty like it's a once in a lifetime event to be cherished.  And Alex. Watching Alex slowly eat his breakfast is the most infuriating spectacle I've ever born witness to.  I've never seen any single person eat as slowly as this kid does.  I've spent mornings just glaring at the poor kid while my blood pressure's inched slowly up into the danger zone, my eyes burning holes into his oblivious little face while he leisurely lifts the bagel to his mouth and takes just the tiniest, daintiest little nibble before slowly setting the bagel back down and chewing while seemingly counting to a hundred before lazily swallowing and starting the whole process all over again.  I've never wanted to cram bread into someone's face like I have with Alex.  There.  I said it.

But yesterday.  Yesterday, Chris and the boys took me to urgent care as I had a little bleeding. It was a Saturday, and my doctor's office was closed, and I was in a bit of a panic.  In my heart of hearts, I think I knew the baby was okay, but I went to what was likely a six hundred dollar post-insurance ER visit just to make sure, and that whole ride there I found myself realizing just how much I wanted this baby.  Even more than I already knew I did, and that's quite a bit.

Everything was fine, baby was great.  Apparently, there was a small tear in my uterus which is supposedly totally fine. I mean, that SOUNDS totally fine, right? I had an ultrasound, and the baby lifted his or her little hand up while I watched, spreading his/her tiny, perfect fingers and giving me a virtual high five.  What's up, Mom? Got a little rip in here.  Sorry about that, my bad.  See you at the end of May.  High five.

Is it really that incredible that I'd have another baby?  That unbelievable?  Well, it is pretty incredible. So far, the experience is surreal, and he/she isn't even here yet.  Just seeing that baby at my first ultrasound past ten weeks was, yes, quite unbelievable.  I didn't think I'd ever see a third child on an ultrasound screen.  When pregnant with Alex, I thought for sure that this was it- done after two.  But here we all are.

And I'm oh so thankful.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Excessive Drool!

This morning, I had parent teacher conferences at ye olde preschool.  Alex was first, and a couple of words immediately caught my eye when I sat down and glanced at her written summary.  "Excessive drool?"  I thought quizzically.  "Is that really a standard measurement of preschool intelligence?"

This is an excessively wet, sloppy kiss.
The excessive drooling (I suppose all the slobber CAN be a bit much at times) is apparently indicative of his still maturing mouth and tongue muscles.  The teacher thinks that Alex may need to be evaluated for his speech, although I have to say I disagree with this assessment.  The kid has come a long way in these past four months, and his constant running commentary has exceeded adorable and gone straight to uncharted levels of annoyance.  He points out everything he sees, brings up topics from days and weeks past, and has started introducing his questions with "Can I ask you a question?" He is ridiculously friendly with strangers when we're out and about, approaching whoever is closest in the supermarket to brag about how he's getting donuts.  He has the same personality as Andy had at his age.  Outgoing.  Friendly.  Absolutely no sense of stranger danger.  He's a regular people person.  I still find this attitude in my children so strangely bizarre as I'm one to go out of my way to avoid talking to most people if I can help it.  I don't want anyone to know that I'm buying donuts in Walmart.  I don't need to say hello and good-bye to everyone I meet.  I have enough going on these days without all of that taxing small talk.

So there's the excessive drool (admittedly pretty gross) and the teacher's perception of his possibility of a speech delay, but this little guy of mine is still a young two.  He's not even two and a half yet! And so I will push off any thoughts of having him evaluated until after he's two and a half or until the slobber becomes completely unbearable and starts collecting in sloppy puddles around his feet, whichever comes first.  Otherwise, Alex is doing just fine and has basically met all of his other "goals" on the checklist.  He's just a wonderful child with a sweet little spirit.  He loves going to preschool and is a happy guy.

On to Andy's conference next, of which there was thankfully no mention of any drool.  Andy had a stellar review, and I felt myself getting a little teary with pride as I looked through his binder of work. I find it amazing the things these kids accomplish in preschool.  Writing, patterns, graphing, science experiments, the whole shebang.  And the teacher said, "He likes doing EVERYTHING."  Every task or project she gives him, he does wholeheartedly.  I got the feeling the teacher wanted to admit to me, "Andy's definitely one of my favorites," but as she's a professional, I think she was able to hold it back.  Just barely.

She did bring up something else mildly amusing after the conference when we were standing around talking with another mom (also a friend).  Andy had apparently gone up to the assistant teacher one day and either asked her if he was adopted or told her that he was adopted or asked him if she knew he was adopted or something like that about him being adopted.  The teacher said that she didn't think he was adopted but that it was an interesting subject for him to bring up and she'd mention it to me.  I know exactly why Andy's talking about being adopted.  Caillou (you know Caillou, right?) has an adopted friend, and Andy had a lot of questions about what being adopted was after we watched that episode.  When I explained what that meant, Andy wanted to know if we knew anybody, other than Caillou's friend (who we really only know very marginally), who was adopted.

"Well, actually, your friend Joey is adopted," I told him.  "He grew in another mommy's tummy but right after the doctor took him out, he went to his forever mommy and daddy."

"Joey?"  Andy said, thinking.  "You mean my friend Joey with the tractor?"

Ah, the big motorized toy tractor.  Little Joey's claim to fame.

"Yep, Joey with the tractor."

"So... if you're adopted... that means... YOU GET TO HAVE A TRACTOR???!!"

Ever since then, Andy's been asking for me to get someone to adopt him so he can have a tractor.  I think that if the assistant teacher would have let Andy go on with his adoption spiel, she would have realized that he was asking for her to adopt him and also buy him the requisite tractor.  Ah.  Kids.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Stop It!

If Alex were a pull toy and had a catch phrase, it would definitely be "Stop it."  The kid is always telling me to "Stop it," sometimes when I do something so simple as just to look over at him and smile.  There are a couple things he especially hates, though, number one being when we call him "Big Round Blond Head."  I can barely remember how that one started, although I vaguely recall some early morning in which Andy had climbed into my bed and then Alex had also come in and started bobbing around the room.  There was something perfectly cartoonish about his tow-headed skull bouncing in the early morning sunlight, and I said to Andy, "Look at that big, round blond head go."  Andy thought it was hilarious and started calling Alex Big Round Blond Head pretty much nonstop.  As did I, since the novelty of being directly related to someone with such light hair still hasn't worn off.

And so we call Alex "Big Round Blond Head" occasionally, and he gets supremely offended and yells "Stop it!"  This makes Andy laugh even harder, as Andy really gets a kick out of making fun of both Alex and his daddy.  We're a little meaner with Daddy.  I will preface this with saying Chris has a perfectly fine, normal butt.  Yet for some reason, Andy and I were sitting around talking smack one day and I came up with a string of words to describe Daddy's doopa.  Now, Andy will randomly ask:

"Mommy, can you tell me about Daddy's butt?"

"Well.  It's poopy.  It's droopy.  It's lumpy, it's bumpy.  It's jiggly, it's wiggly.  It's smelly, it's jelly."

And then we just laugh and laugh.

Sure, good-natured Chris doesn't mind being called stinky, but Alex absolutely hates it.  Flash back to this conversation last week.

Chris, to Alex:  Hi, Stinky!
Alex, enraged:  STOP IT!
Chris, innocently:  Stop what?
Alex, explanatory:  Stop it 'Hi Stinky.'

Which is a perfectly phrased command, if you ask me.

Alex just wants to be heard and respected.  He's taken all of our shit for long enough, and now he's asserting himself.  He demands the same level of attention that Andy receives and expects to be treated as a four year old, not a two year old. I can relate. Sometimes, when Chris gets things only meant for 36 year olds, I'll pipe up and demand my fair share even though I'm two years younger.

Sometimes, when I think Alex is not listening, he'll surprise me by jumping in.  Like a couple weeks ago, when the four of us were sitting a table in the hot dog place and Andy was having a lovely conversation with the little boy next to us.  Andy recommended the chicken tenders to the kid, saying they were like chicken nuggets but not really. Alex, who had been concentrating on filling up on ketchup, had yet to even look up when out of nowhere, he casually called out, "Grilled cheese."  Ain't nobody talking to Andy without weighing in with Alex.

But oh, while the equality is all fine and good, and everybody deserves a seat on the gosh darned bus, there's nothing more ridiculous than two children who each insist on pressing the button to close the garage door, two children who want to wear one single shirt, two children who want to be first into the bathtub, two children who want sole use of one iPad, and so forth.  The hardest is two children who want to help cook.  Talk about hazardous and annoying.  Making one pot of spaghetti is suddenly an hour long process.  Each child has to salt the water.  Each child needs to stir something. With many of my meals, there are not enough steps to equally divide up.  I'm not making Thanksgiving dinner here, I'm just trying to carbo-load for the big race tomorrow (i.e., the ten minute drive to preschool).  There's not really anything for you two demanding lunatics to do.  JUST GO GET SOME SCREEN TIME, OKAY?

Oh, but you know I love it.  All of it, from the up and down and up and down of the garage door, to my husband's wiggly, jiggly butt, to Andy's maniacal laughter, to the tip of my baby's Big Round Blond Head.  Stop it?  No thanks, Alex.  I certainly will not.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bathroom Business!

Andy's preschool teacher sent a letter home with all of the parents today stating that his class has a real problem with bathroom breaks- as in every child needs to use the bathroom constantly to the point where it's disruptive.  I know Andy is one of the offenders on this issue because I've had to wait for him at pick-up while he's dawdled in his classroom's bathroom.  At home, Andy spends a lot of time in the bathroom.  One time earlier this summer, Andy was in the bathroom for a very long time. Finally, when he emerged, he announced, "I need some help washing my hands.  I was touching my penis A LOT."


At home, the problem is not so much the going to the bathroom as it is the substantially prolonged period of hand-washing that follows.  Andy can spend twenty minutes just soaping up his hands, making bubbles, talking to himself, and running over fifteen gallons out of the faucet and down the drain.  He completely loses track of time while hand washing.  I guess his mind just wanders, perhaps playing out feature-film length Dora episodes in his head while he soaps and unsoaps, soaps and unsoaps.  I finally had to tell him that hand washing should take no longer than the amount of time it takes to sing the ABC song.  I'm slightly amused every time I hear the bars of ABCDEFG come floating through the bathroom door.  And I'm slightly irritated because, to me, that's STILL too long. We have a schedule to keep around here.  Soap, water, dry, go.  Why must everything be a production?

I do feel like I may be a little to blame for Andy's prolific bathroom use at school.  It hasn't happened in a week or two, but Andy has recently had a string of unfortunate accidents around the house. Sometimes it's pee, sometimes it's poo, but, either way, the guy is four and should really have a handle on all this by now.  I don't know about you and YOUR four year old, but I certainly feel like we have ALL failed on days when I have to scrape a man-sized poo out of Spiderman underwear from a child who's memorized facts about the planets and is interested in learning how pistons work in engines.  How can a youngster so bright and aware not feel such a very large poo coming on?  We are supposed to be beyond crapping ourselves.  I don't care that you couldn't figure out how to pause the television in time.  No show is worth this!

After a couple of accidents and some disgusting laundry, I put it all on the line for young Andrew. You have to pay attention to your body because if you poo or pee yourself outside of the house around other kids, they will shame you until we have no choice as a family but to move to a ranch in Montana with limited cell phone service.  Don't have an accident.  It's embarrassing.

And so it should come as no surprise that Andy is one of the kids in his preschool who likely goes all the time as to avoid packing his toys up in a U-Haul headed out West.

I have been trying to potty train Alex.  He's been using the potty for over six months now, but we're finally at a point where I feel confident in taking him out of the house in underwear.  This is a huge transition for not only young Alex but for me as well, as now, when I take the kids out, there are three of us with urgent bathroom needs.  I truly need to factor in about an extra forty-five minutes worth of time in bathroom breaks as not to run our schedule too tight.  Potty training is good and necessary and I'm happy at the prospect of weening off expensive pull-ups, but man is it a pain in the ass.  No one quite appreciates a child in a diaper like a mom with a newly training kid.  Especially one who has to pretty much completely undress in order to go while you kneel on the bathroom floor and try to pretend like it's not the most disgusting surface your pants will ever touch.

Of course, Alex is doing great with number one, but mastering number two is definitely going to take a while.  So let me tell you how Alex handles that one.  I put him in a pull-up for his nap.  He takes all his stuff out of his toddler bed and insists on sleeping in big brother Andy's bed.  Then, whilst in there, he releases the obnoxious amount of poo he's been holding all morning.  And so it seems that Alex has two toilets.  One, the real toilet.  Two, his brother's bed.

Which is fine with me.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Less Than, Greater Than, Equal To!

We were watching "Team Umizoomi" today while eating dinner.  I'd read somewhere that watching TV while eating dinner was bad for children because it led to mindless eating; thus, since my children don't eat, it stands to reason that TV watching during dinner might actually be a good thing.  Plus the pediatrician's office has a big poster in it that says "Two Hours of Screen Time A Day!"  Since we're overachievers, we try to keep it in the five to six range.

If you don't know what "Team Umizoomi" is, it's a cartoon featuring two miniature, sibling superheroes (Milli and Geo) and their epileptic robot that gets the "crazy shakes" at the end of each episode.  They just love math, and they cruise around Umi City looking for ways to show off their math skills.  I heard Umi City has a pretty big teenage runaway and drug problem, but those social issues are never quite addressed during the allotted twenty-two minutes airtime.

Today the gang was trying to unlock a door by putting numbers in order on the lock, and the robot held up the number "3" asking what number it was and where it would fit.  I glanced at Andy who was mindlessly eating (mission accomplished!) to see if he would jump in with the obviously easy answer.  When, lo and behold, Alex (not mindlessly eating, goddammit), spoke up.  "Three!"  Alex cried.  "Three!"  And I turned, surprised, to look at him, as I'd almost forgotten he'd existed for a moment.

"That's very good, Alex!" I gushed.  "That IS a three!"  Could Andy identify numbers at twenty-eight months?  Heck, can MOST kids identify numbers at twenty-eight months and this is something Alex should have been doing earlier this year?  Or am I right to be proud of Alex- Alex, whom I hardly ever, ever address questions to?

His piping up with the correct answer reminded me of something yet again.  I forget to ask Alex as many questions as I ask Andy.  When we're reading books, I ask Andy questions along the way to see if he's understanding the story.  When we're out and about, I ask Andy questions about what we're doing or seeing.  And when it comes to making decisions about where to go, what to eat, what to play, I ask Andy.  Not Alex.  Because Alex is a silly baby who doesn't know any better.

But he does know better.  And he's not a baby.  When Andy was Alex's age, I had mentally promoted him to an older phase in his little life simply because there was a new baby, someone smaller around.  When Andy was Alex's age, we did activities and had conversations suited to him and his growing brain.  But now Alex, at that same age, doesn't get quite the consideration that I gave to his older brother.  Even though he can identify numbers and would probably enjoy answering a question here and there and perhaps making a choice or two.

It'll never be even.  I have to forgive myself for that and be reminded that it goes both ways, though. I've had so much more alone time with Alex than I ever had with Andy, especially since I worked full time the first two years of his life.  I take Alex to do fun things that he might never get to do because I might see it as a waste to do with just him.  Like the gymnastics gym we went to a lot last year.  I probably wouldn't have bothered to take just Alex, because what's a not even two year old going to do there?  But I went because I had an almost four year old who was going to love it, and, wouldn't you know, Alex was basically pommel horsing by himself after the first week or two.  He got more out of it than I would ever expect a toddler to- even though he fell UNDER the trampoline that first week and I had to slither myself beneath a bunch of equipment to pull him out- all whilst basically being smirked at by the staff.  Man, that could have really killed it for all of us then.  It's a good thing I have so little dignity to start with.

So there you have it.  A reminder that Alex exists and has a brain that needs to be nurtured, too.  A reminder to try and be fairer with my attention.  But also the acceptance that each aspect of their lives will never be totally equal.  Besides, there's no way Milli and Geo were treated totally equal by their parents (who I can only believe perished in some crazy mathematical accident), and they both turned out mostly fine.  Joint ownership of a personal robot is a big sign of having made it in Umi City.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Boys In The Hood!

Andy, Alex, and I went on a walk after dinner tonight.  This is what our walks look like.  Andy rides ahead on his bike while I call out his name, repeatedly, to use his brakes and stop at corners. The whole neighborhood knows his name.  I keep up a peppy stroll behind him while dragging the wagon, inside which sits a super-chillaxed Alex, all lounging and enjoying the ride.  Alex wears his helmet out of choice, looking a bit odd. It's like he's got cranial issues, which I suppose he does, since he is constantly falling and hitting his cranium. Just today, he got super excited when he saw that I had one of those cheese and breadstick snack packs (the kind where the ratio of golden cheese type product is way off in terms of stale little breadsticks).  He ran wailing towards me to get a taste of breadstick and cheese, went to grab the snack pack, missed completely, stumbled, and then slammed his head into the refrigerator.  What a klutz.  At least it distracted him from wanting my snack.

Remember this awful boy from "A Christmas Story?"
  He haunts my dreams.
So we're on our walk, and we pass a couple of older boys playing by some trees.  I would guess the boys were about eight or so.  Andy immediately yelled out a cheerful hello to the young lads, informing them that his bike was Hot Wheels and had an "engine."  The boys barely glanced up, as they were in the middle of sawing one of the trees down.  Now, from my vantage point, it was kind of hard to see if they were using a REAL saw or not, but it sure looked like it.  And my first thought was:  What a couple of little assholes.  There you have some typical boys, using their free time to kill nature.  Would eight year old girls ever try to saw down a tree?  No, of course not.  Girls aren't idiots.

To be fair, I've seen these boys before, and last year they were throwing snowballs at passing cars, which also deeply irritated me.  So, when I saw these boys sawing down the tree, it just added to my list of reasons why I did not like them.  There you have it.  Two pretty decent reasons.

Potentially, this is a problem, as I have two young boys. I am constantly looking at boys in the 8 to 12 range and just thinking pretty hateful thoughts.  I see them bullying at the park.  I hear their awful dares and stupid ideas.  Their looks of mischief do not delight me but instead inflame me.  I look at 8 to 12 year old girls, however, and think, "What lovely children."  Because it seems that whenever I see young ladies, they're doing something nice, such as reading or in some way assisting the elderly.

How will I handle my own boys once they become assholes throwing snowballs at passing cars and chopping down trees with what I can only assume is a stolen saw?  Of course I will love them, but how much will I like them?  Fortunately, a couple things give me solace.

One.  TEENAGE boys don't irritate me as much as TEENAGE girls.  A group of teenage girls is far more annoying and distasteful than a group of teenage boys.  I think it's the clothing and all of those insipid hearts over their i's. So, if anything, those annoying years will just be a hump of sorts.

Two.  I clearly remember being around a friend's toddler when Andy was just an infant thinking THIS KID IS AWFUL, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHEN ANDY IS THAT AGE AND I START TO LOATHE HIM?  Obviously, my love (and like) only grew, even during the toddler years.  So hopefully it's the same for the grade school years.  Fingers crossed!

Three.  My boys aren't going to throw snowballs at cars or hack down trees.  They're not going to be as deeply annoying as other kids in that age group because I'm an excellent mother who's going to somehow find a way to raise them in a bubble and suppress all their natural boyish urges. That sounds healthy, right?

Four.  Other people's children are just more annoying than one's own children.  This is a fact I know to be true and almost any mother will agree with that statement, except for a couple women I know who have TRULY annoying children.

Five.  That's still some time away. I still have time with my little boys as they are now: sweet, thoughtful, loving, kind.  Sometimes a little awful, but really only just sometimes.

It's true, these are the years I would like to bottle up.  Andy who proudly gives me a beaded necklace he made for me at school and makes me promise to always wear it.  Alex who comes barreling out of his preschool class into my arms (knocking his cranium against me) in pure delight just to see me. I see these older boys, and I cringe, because they don't match up with the little guys I have at home, in my house, sitting next to me on the couch, cuddling up to Mommy to the tenth degree.

But of course they do match up.  I just haven't made the connection because I'm not there yet.

Regardless, please let my two boys be less deeply annoying than other boys I see.  Let my gender bias be proven wrong somehow.  Truly, let it be that ALL grade school kids, boys or girls, are just equally awful.  But, for real, let teenage boys be easier to be around than teenage girls.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bible Banging!

The boys are enrolled in a preschool at a church, which is quite funny if you remember how I struggled with sending Andy to one specific Christian preschool when he was two.  That one I had a couple of issues with, though, mainly the fact that it operated out of somebody's house and just felt... wrong.  I went with my gut on that one, and after two years of being preschooled at the park district, we switched to a very lovely Lutheran school that we are all quite happy with.  I'm mostly impressed at the level of CONTROL the teachers seem to have over the children.  At the park district, you could always hear a lot of ruckus and yelling coming from the preschool room.  At the church preschool, the children file in politely, know where to find their seat, and begin to quietly work.  I have to imagine that the children are better behaved in part because of the teaching style employed and in part because they all are now living with the absolute fear of God.

Of course, Alex doesn't report too much home to me aside from naming the snack that he was given and occasionally name-dropping one of his friends.  But Andy is providing me with a lot of information, often volunteering, out of nowhere, "Miss Laura has a book called the Bible and everything in it's THE TRUTH."  When he says this, Alex will pipe up, "Bible!  Bible!"  I guess he is trying to communicate that on Monday he not only got cheese crackers but also a dose of Bible!

And before I continue any further, let me just say that I am in agreement with all the Christian tenements and basically think it's a good thing that the boys are getting a religious education.  But man oh man.  I think religion may be a bigger focus than learning to read or count.

These are the things that Andy wants to know:

Does Jesus love ME, too?

Am I going to go to Heaven one day?

Why did God make all the creatures?

Do I know Adam and Eve?

How many eyes does God have?  Because Andy thinks he has a HUNDRED so he can see EVERYTHING.

Do I remember when it rained a lot and all of the animals had to get in the boat?

Why didn't I kiss my dead Grandpa to bring him back to life?

Oh, wait, that last question was after watching "Snow White."  To which I didn't have a good answer other than it's only true love's kiss that brings one back to life, and that's only in cartoons anyway. Now who wants a doughnut?

Andy is extremely interested in Bible stories, and there is no more effective way to quell his occasional naughtiness than to remind him of the hundred eyes of God.  Which is the obvious response, I'd imagine.  I do fully expect him to start acting a little more righteous in the house and perhaps begin pointing out my occasional sinning, mostly taking the name of the Lord in vain and forgetting to keep the Sabbath day holy.  What, that's every third Monday, right?

But, really, upon review of the ten commandments, how is MURDERING SOMEONE on par with coveting a neighbor's ox?  I myself have a lot of questions about religion but will keep them to myself lest Andy decides to school me.

I am interested to see how Andy's (and Alex's) beliefs start to form and get uniquely molded. This is an important point in their religious journey, Miss Laura's Bible and the tales of Adam, Eve, Noah, and Snow White.

It's important that my children have some sense of wonder and faith.  It goes beyond religion, like when Andy bemoans that none of his wishes come true. Chris and I have opposite responses to Andy's sadness over unfulfilled wishes.

Chris:  Most wishes don't come true, Andy.  Go to sleep.

Me:  Wishes do come true, Andy.  Just sometimes not right away and how you would expect.  Go to sleep.

I know most of my wishes have come true.  Two of them are at preschool as we speak, amazed how so little fish and bread could feed an enormous crowd while six garlic knots at dinner last night only fed two of us. Sorry, Chris and Alex.  Andy and I ate all the garlic knots.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Alex, Talking!

Well, it took long enough, but Alex has burst onto the scene with his vocabulary, combining words and making short sentences as if he were Billy Collins, the Poet Laureate with the best poem titles including "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House," about a neighbor's barking dog, and my all time favorite poem title, "Picnic, Lightning," which really appeals to my particular brand of paranoid neuroses.

This poet would kill your dog if only he had a gun.

Oh, right.  Alex.  Also, the above paragraph is probably the single longest sentence I've ever written, or at least top five.

But I digress, because we're talking about how Alex is suddenly answering questions and making statements like the official poet of the whole goddamn nation.  My worries have been quashed by his sudden linguistics.  His first full sentence came out a couple weeks ago, and it was perfectly poetic.  "Andy popped balloon," he bemoaned, to which an exasperated Andy cried out, "Alex, will you stop talking about that already??!"  Here it was, Alex's first subject-predicate, and Andy was already irritated.

Now Alex is explaining that he wants grilled cheese in his mouth for lunch and that teacher Nina gave him a snack banana.  There are other non-food related items, such as waking up in soaked pajamas and needing two mints, one of which will be for Andy.  I'm going to pretend the mint request is non-food otherwise I'm forced to admit that half of Alex's caloric intake these days come from Altoids.

And so I'm not terribly worried about Alex anymore, at least not in terms of his ability to communicate.  There are other issues on my mind though, such as the fact that he seems to be done with napping, his clumsiness is bound to send him AGAIN to the emergency room sometime soon, and when I kiss and cuddle him and ask him who he loves, his answer is not me, Mommy.  It's Andy. Alex loves Andy best despite the fact that Mommy supplies all of his basic necessities for living and Daddy lets him stay up late.  The little goofball chooses Andy- the one who popped his balloon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Captain Andy!

Today, Andy found his Perfect Friend.  We were at the park, and I would have gotten Perfect Friend's contact info if not for the fact that her male caregiver seemed kind of skeevy and slightly sex-offenderish.  In fact, when I first saw him sitting on the bench, I immediately assumed he was a pervert and made a mental note to make sure my kids didn't run by him. Mental note:  Pervert on the bench.  Also, get more goat cheese from Aldi.

Captain Andy, sliding into the ocean.
This girl was either his daughter or granddaughter, hard to say.  But she approached Andy with a smile and a just-happy-to-be-here attitude, accepting Andy's matter-of-fact statement.  "I'm the captain of this boat," he told her, gesturing to the playground structure that was acting as his ship.

"Oh, captain!"  the little girl replied.  "Okay!"  She then proceeded to follow Andy around his boat, asking of various playground features, "Captain, what does THIS do?"

"Oh, that's the slide into the ocean," Andy would remark.  Or, "That's the monkey bars across the ocean.  That's the slide into the OTHER SIDE of the ocean."

"Captain, what does this do?"  his friend would ask again and again.

Andy was just tickled pink to explain all of the parts and pieces of his imaginary boat.  While he did this, I couldn't help but notice another, younger girl across the playground.  As I had dressed Andy and Alex in matching Spiderman T-shirts this morning, her pervert-looking male caregiver had also dressed she and her younger sister in matching peach T-shirts, denim shorts, and white socks with black gym shoes.  I had to inwardly applaud him on the black gym shoes.  I hardly ever notice preschool girls in just plain black Chuck Taylor-like sneakers and it seems like a crime against fashion.

The younger peach T-shirt girl started trailing behind her big sister and Captain Andy just as Alex began to join in on the fun.  I followed after them after being invited into the highest part of the ship, which also featured a bench.  Then, as if the planets had suddenly aligned, all four children sat down.  There was the younger peach T-shirted girl (a blonde like Alex), the older peach T-shirt girl (a brunette like Andy), Andy in his Spiderman shirt, and then Alex in his Spiderman shirt.  It was a perfect visage, the kind of photo that you might one day see in a wedding slideshow.  Abruptly, it was as if Andy could read my mind.

"Mommy," he said,  "Don't you want to take a picture of us?"

YES, Andy, I totally wanted to take a picture.  It was picture perfect, you two boys and your perfect girl counterparts.  But of course, I couldn't, as it's the number one cardinal rule of cell phone photography.  Do not take snapshots of other's people's children.  Or grandchildren.  Or whatever relation they are.

The boys and their perfect girl friends played happily for a while longer until I had to break apart the foursome.  We did, after all, have goat cheese to buy at Aldi.


One other thing happened at the park today.  I asked a woman when she was due with her baby.  It turned out she was not pregnant.  I was mortified.  I am still flushing bright red just thinking about this moment.  If there's some sort of womanly, motherly code, I totally broke it.  Even the pervert on the bench was shaking his head at me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Preschool? Mmm hmm!

Yesterday was the boys' first day of school.  Andy, as a four year old, is now entering his third year of preschool, which begs the question of, honestly, how many ding dong years of preschool do we actually need before REAL school?  I mean, this is longer than Chris attended college!  Well, the answer was staring me in the face as I sent Alex off to his first day of two year old preschool.  Three years of preschool.  They start at age two and they just go forever, from preschool to kindergarten to grade school and then eventually the exact right two year program at the local college.  Which brings me back to my original point.  X-ray technician? Two years.  Preschool?  THREE years.

Sure, we could just skip two year old preschool (and probably three year old preschool, let's be honest), but then where would we be?  As a family, we'd be at least $140 richer per month, sure. We could probably trade paying for preschool into paying for cable television which requires no commute AND allows the children to wear open toe sandals. But preschool, all THREE ridiculous years of it, does offer so much.  For instance:

Socialization skills.

Basic counting and alphabet skills.

Finger painting in a building that has smocks.

An adult who teaches all the verses to "The Wheels on The Bus" and doesn't improvise with that made up ones about the alcoholics on the bus going barf, barf, barf.

Anyway, I was okay dropping both of the kids off at school yesterday, even my baby Alex.  He ran right into his classroom and barely glanced back at me as I called out good-bye.  Alex has been longingly watching Andy get shuttled into preschool and story time and park district classes for the last two years. He's been waiting for his turn, and here it was.

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in either class, but especially Alex's.  I've never dropped this kid off anywhere, and his actual listening skills are pretty terrible.  So how did Alex's first actual day go, you might ask?  I don't know.  When the teacher opened the door at the end of class, Alex flew out and I didn't even make eye contact with the teacher, much less talk to her.  I get the distinct impression she's avoiding me.


So the boys are in preschool and I'm in the thick of things at work, right in week three or four or whatever week this is of my part time job.  It's going well so far, and the two nights a week plus one weekend day are admittedly ideal and rather easy.  Almost enjoyable.  It's good for all of us that Chris gets that long weekend day with just him and the boys.  I've always been a huge proponent for male bonding.  We have a baby-sitter for during the week as there's about an hour between when I have to leave and when Chris gets home.  It seems to be working out well except for the fact that this young girl is incredibly shy and doesn't actually speak to me or Chris.  She has not said a word to either of us except for an agreeable "Mmm hmm."

"How were the kids?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Okay.... So I owe you eight dollars?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Okay.... So, see you Monday?"

"Mmm hmm."

We've decided that next week, we're both going to ask only open-ended questions.

I myself was a very shy twelve year old, and I'm sure that Chris and I are mildly terrifying to this young girl, especially Chris with his unruly goatee and me with my strict rules such as "Don't bother changing Alex's diaper if he poops; he can just sit in it and wait for his father."  The boys are very happy with her, though, and I'm sure she's doing a great job and at least a little more talking when we're not around, and that's all that matters to me.  She'll come out of her shell one day.  Perhaps, like myself, when she finally enters college and discovers mixed drinks.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What's In A Name?!

There seems to be a bit of confusion as to Alexander's name.  Lately, we've been having the same serious conversation with this kid over and over again, and, without fail, it goes like this.

"What's your name?"
"No, your name is Alex.  What's your name?"
"No, that's not right.  What's your name, Alex?"
"NO!  Is your name Alex?"
"Yeah... Andy!"

Like most things, I'd probably just ignore this incorrectly answered question and move on to asking other, more pertinent ones ("Where is the remote control?"  "Why does your FACE smell like PEE?"  "Do you have any blurred vision after falling on your head for the eighth time this week?"  "Did your or did you not lick that ice cube and then put it BACK in my drink?").  But the thing is, Alex is starting two year old preschool in a week, and I fear that his struggles with identifying himself may lead to one of four scenarios:

1. The teacher never being quite clear on who he is.

2. My suffering of parental shame when every other kid in his class is capable of announcing their own name.

3. The director pulling me aside and asking me to carefully recount all of Alex's head injuries for the past week.

4. My payment somehow getting misapplied.

And so I must try my best to drill the name ALEX into little Alex's adorable blond head.  Perhaps a rhyme might do the trick:

A is for Alex, that's super duper YOU!
L is for Lies, like saying you're Andrew!
E is for Empathy, you think this is a game-
X is X-tra candy- if you can say your NAME!


And yet, I wonder how the mix-up occurred in the first place.  Why does Alex think his name is Andy?  I can't quite shake the feeling that Alex believes that Andy is the name of the species to which he belongs.  Surely, Alex might be thinking, every little boy with stinky feet and a penchant for accepting bribes in exchange for barely decent behavior must be an Andy Sapien (which sounds a million times better than what I typed originally, ie., Homo Andy).  Alex doesn't think Andy is a name.  He thinks it's a being.  A creature.  A way of life.  And so, Alex is an Andy, naturally.

Or, Alex is hilariously and intelligently challenging how we perceive and react to the world and our roles within it.  Perhaps he has the soul of a modern day Shakespeare, doth protesting.  "What's in a name?  That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as... Andy."

Of course, "Andy" is the word that Alex happens to say the most.  This is because he is a thoughtful, loving younger sibling.  If I offer Alex anything, he immediately asks for another one for Andy.  If Andy walks out of the room, Alex calls after him, begging to join.  If Alex wakes up and doesn't initially see his big brother, he inquires for him.  If Alex stumbles across an object that belongs to Andy (such as Little Teddy or Daddy's wallet), he identifies Andy as the owner and quickly moves to give him the item in question.  All day long, it's Andy, Andy, Andy.  It is true that Andy is always on the top of Alex's mind.  It's likely true that Alex wants to be Andy.  So when we ask the question, "What is your name?",  maybe it does make a bit of sense that the first name that comes to mind is-


I could psychoanalyze Alex and his Andy-fixation all day.  But the fact remains that we have one week to preschool, and I may likely be resorting to Plan B- having Alex wear a T-shirt onto which I adorn the following phrase in Sharpie.

Hello!  My name is ALEX, and tell your billing department that ALEX'S account is current and up to date!

Now, seriously, Alex.  Did you or did you not lick the ice cube in my drink?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Movie Night!

The other night, when Chris had plans, I decided to let Andy and Alex stay up late.  I called it a "sleepover" and really hyped up the opportunity that I was presenting to them: a chance to come downstairs after bath time and watch a movie with Mommy instead of going to sleep.  They would be up past sundown for the first time since daylight savings began!  And yet they would probably still end up in their beds by the time other kids normally went down, as I know that my strict bedtime of seven-fifteen is probably, especially for Andy, a little ridiculous. But who are you to judge until you've spent all day with these hyper little monsters. I would, however, totally let Andy stay up later every night if not for the fact that Alex won't go to sleep without him.  And so, as history does dictate, the little, more annoying sibling ruins it once again for the older one.  Sorry, Andy.  I can't have that cannonball of a toddler bouncing around the house past seven fifteen.  I do have my sanity to maintain.

I gave Andy the choice of three movies I had found on Netflix streaming.

One:  "The Nut Job."  Animated.  Some squirrel steals nuts or something.  Eh.

Two:  "Free Birds."  Animated.  Time traveling turkeys.  As time traveling is my number one favorite fictional device, this seemed promising, except for the fact it looked incredibly lame.

Three:  "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids."  Please pick this one, Andy.  Non-animated, some CGI.  Haven't seen this one in over twenty years.  Come on, come on, come on, come on....

"Honey, I Bunk The Kids!"  Andy proclaimed after reviewing the three choices.

I was a little worried that "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids" would prove a difficult storyline to follow, but I guess I wasn't giving Andy enough credit and was perhaps giving Walt Disney, Rick Moranis, and friends too much credit.  Andy totally understood what was happening, shrieking out after Rick Moranis swept the shrunken kids into the trash bag and hauled them out TO THE VERY END OF THE YARD.  "How are they going to get back?" Andy demanded.  "Did you see this before when you were a little girl?  Tell me, WHAT HAPPENS?"

Andy remained very concerned the whole movie, his eyes glued to the screen while expressing serious concern over:

When would they get big again!?

Whether or not the kids would be sucked into the lawn mower and chopped to itty bitty pieces during that pivotal lawn mowing screen.

Which kid would get to eat the gigantic marshmallow creme cookie found in the yard.

When would they get big again!?

Could Andy and Alex one day sleep in a giant Lego?

Whether or not that ginormous ant is going to hurt them.

But seriously, when would these kids get big again!?

At the very end, Andy seriously proclaimed to me, "I don't EVER want Daddy to become an inventor."  As if Chris would invent a shrinking machine.  Chris is still working on his "Quesadillas By Mail" idea; this is clearly not the mind of someone who wants to shrink children.

I made popcorn for the kids for our sleepover, and we brought their blankets downstairs to the couch to create a "sleepover" like atmosphere.  Andy and I cuddled and Alex, after shoveling in as much popcorn as possible, decided to walk around throwing his ball, which was mostly fine.  By eight thirty, the movie was over, and the kids looked out the window and into the darkness, shocked by how late it was.  Meanwhile, I'm sure just about all of their friends were still probably awake.  But that's how other families roll.  Around here, we have rules.  Serious rules.  And a lot of wine that can't be responsibly consumed around wide awake children.

I tucked my boys in, and they were out in a matter of moments.  I marveled on how much I had truly enjoyed our evening.  It was something fun for the kids, but I had a great time, too. We will definitely do "sleepover" movie night again.  I vaguely remember a sequel to "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids."  Either that, or we can do my first favorite Rick Moranis movie of all time, "My Blue Heaven."  Andy is ready.  The kid has good taste in flicks.

He did, after all, pass over "Free Birds" and "The Nut Job" without a moment's hesitation.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Airplane Took My Freedom!

As Andy was to buses at this young age, Alex is to airplanes.  He's obsessed with them, calling out "Airplane!" gleefully during car rides when one is spotted.  He commands that I perform Google image searches of "airplane," and one of his first two word linked phrases was a stunned "yellow airplane?" when he spied one on page 15 of said Google image search.  He brings me a pen and paper to draw him pictures of airplanes, and when he saw the Caillou episode when they take their first airplane ride together, he crapped his pants.  The poop may or may not have already been in his pants before the episode started, but that's beside the point.

His fixation on airplanes has lately taken an interesting turn.  Now, when things go missing, he blames airplanes.  Hat Teddy's hat has disappeared, and when I ask Alex where the hat is, he shrugs, points upward, and then says, "Airplane."

"Oh, the airplane took Hat Teddy's hat?"

"Yeah.  Airplane."

"Okay.  Where did the airplane take the hat?"


Various toys have been taken by airplanes as of late, kidnapped into the great blue sky, and these fuzzy, unlikely scenarios have started to bother Andy.  Andy half -listens to Alex's airplane ramblings in the same fashion that Chris half listens to about half of what I say (which means 25% of my words are basically gone into the nether, the classic logic riddle of a tree falling and some husband on a computer not currently located in the woods).  One day, though, after Alex innocently blamed an airplane on a missing pair of socks, Andy burst out:

"Really, Alex?  You really think an airplane flew INTO THE HOUSE and took your SOCKS?  I don't think so!"

Andy then went on to detail all of the flaws in this half-cocked notion.  How did the airplane get in the house? Wouldn't we have heard it?  And for the love of Pete, what would an airplane want with some stinky socks anyway?

To which Alex replied, after Andy had completely exhausted his breath:  "Airplane.  Sky. Gone."


It seems that I have returned to the work force.  It is only a couple days a week, about fourteen hours a week, and this new little job holds the promise of paying a couple bills and allowing us to save up a little cash.  Although, I feel funny calling it a new job.  A long time ago, I worked for this company, which I will call Glen's.  Glen's was the job I took when I started college, and I worked there for a couple years after college as well.  It was a six year stint that ended ten years ago, and now I'm back, a decade older, a decade wiser, a decade older, a decade later, a decade older.  Did I mention a decade older?

Glen's was a fun job.  I mean, the industry itself isn't very fun, but I made a lot of great friends there back in the day, and when I think of my years there, I think of working until nine and then going out afterwards.  I think of all the ridiculous antics I had there and with the people from there, and now it seems strange and yet somehow fitting to return ten years later.  Now I'm the part time mom working there, observing all the young ones who were once me.  It's a juxtaposition that both bothers and delights me, although I honestly can't give you the percentages on those feelings.

I think I'm going to be happy working there.  I'm going to miss one weekend day and two bedtimes with my boys, but I know I am still oh so lucky to be able to spend most of my time with them.  And now when the store closes at eight (my current location has much better hours than my former one), I will be rushing home to peek in on my sons as opposed to rushing out to hang with my co-workers.  Although there may be some of that, too, who knows.  I remembered the moms who worked with us at Glen's back in the day (my day). And most of them were pretty cool.  Just like I'm pretty cool and not at all some old fogey who is astonished by all of the new technology.  Note to self.  Stop acting so astonished by the new technology.  And use the word "amazeballs," young people love that word.  Never mind, forget the amazeballs thing, you're old, not retarded.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions!

Andy and Alex know that I existed before they did.  They (or at least Andy) is clear on that much.  I have told them the stories of how they were born.  Mommy had a baby in her belly, and one day she went to the hospital, and the doctor took the baby out.  The baby cried and cried until Mommy got to hold the baby. Then the baby stopped crying, and Mommy looked down and said, "I love this baby soo much! I'm going to name this baby Andy/Alex."  A couple times, Andy has asked, "But how did the doctor get the baby out?"  To which I smartly replied, "I don't know, Andy.  You'll have to ask a doctor."

I anticipate more questions about my pre-parenthood life as the kids grow up. Just for fun, here are some answers that I've decided to pre-record.

How did you and Daddy meet?

Well, Andy and Alex, when a girl reaches the ripe old age of 22 and starts to get worried about her declining youth and fertility, she finds herself turning to the solace of the internet to find a mate.  First she buys a lamp on eBay, then she looks for a man.  She can keep the eBay window minimized while she surfs potential husbands.  Daddy and I met online.  I was looking at profiles, and I immediately liked Daddy's.  We had the same favorite movie, The Big Lebowski, and, if I'm being honest, that was a huge deciding factor.  We exchanged emails and eventually met for sushi.  I knew right away that we would fall in love.  Daddy had an excellent sense of humor.  Always date and marry people who can make you laugh.  Also, it helps if they're rich.  Daddy wasn't, but hopefully he's making excellent choices with his 401K.

What was your first job?

Oh my God, it was the worst first job.  I worked at the McDonald's Playplace as a Playplace Ranger.  That title doesn't even exist anymore because it was a stupid, pointless job.  That's 1996 for you, though- what a thriving economy.  They were giving the money away!  I supervised kids in the Playplace section of the McDonalds.  I occasionally cleaned up a little.  One time, something terrible happened in one of the tunnels, and I had to clean up pee, poop, AND vomit.  It was awful.  I eventually switched over to the McDonald's counter where I did a lot more work for the same pay but didn't have to deal with AS MANY bodily fluids.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer.  I always wanted to be a writer.  Not a blog writer, but a novelist.  I wanted to be a writer so bad it made my fingers twitch when I wasn't typing away on the cheap little word processor I had in my bedroom.  I used to write down names and places and ideas and potential titles.  Yes, I still want to be a writer, but I haven't written anything besides blog entries in over a decade.  It might be too late for me.  Oh, also, I thought forensics sounded cool.  And by the time I graduated college, I decided that a two year training program in something like X-Ray Technology probably would have been the smartest career path of all. Stupid, useless liberal arts degree.

Did you ever get an F in school?

I spectacularly failed Calculus.  I don't know why I just didn't drop the class, but I kept going and all I did was sleep and doodle in my notebook while trying to fake a "thoughtful" look.  I hated math.  They kept putting me in the advanced math classes, and I never felt like I had proper footing.  Finally, by the time I was a senior in high school, I gave up all pretenses.  So, yes, I did get an F.  But just that one.

This 17 year old girl is about to fail Calculus.

Did you always know you wanted kids?

Eh.  Not really.  I never really baby-sat as a teenager, and the couple times I did, I had to restrain myself from beating those little brats.  So, no, I did not have this overwhelming urge to procreate until very abruptly when I was twenty-nine.  My friend Gail recently put it best.  "Jackie is very good with her boys," she told her mother-in-law,  "Which I find surprising, because I never thought she'd have the patience for motherhood."  I LOVE being a mother.  It is the best, most wonderful thing I have done with my life.  But, yes, the unequivocal amount of joy it has given me has been slightly surprising.

What kind of extracurricular activities did you participate in as a child?

None.  Zero.  Zip.  I was in a play once because my friend Dan took pity on me and gave me a small part when he was student director.  I went to one yearbook meeting.  Not interested.  I wrote one article for the school paper.  Not so much interested in that, either.  I didn't like sports.  I never learned to play an instrument.  I think I did literary magazine in junior high, but that was more of an opportunity for me and my friend Chrissy to goof around and delay going home after school.  Oh, but I did take Driver's Ed.  That counts, right?  And, yes, as the IL DMV can attest, I am a superb driver! (Class D restrictions, 20/40 vision).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lying About Our Age!

And so we have reached that magical, mystical time in my life as a parent in which I am actively, constantly lying about the ages of my children.  Perhaps you've heard this story before, but I cannot remember a time in my life in which I was more horrified than when my parents lied about my age to get in somewhere and said I was ELEVEN when I was actually FOURTEEN.  Obviously, there were plenty of more horrifying moments in my life, but that one really stuck with me.  Why don't you all just rub it in that I don't have any boobies? That I am not some super hot teenage girl and instead look like I should be playing with dolls?  Why don't we just knock down my self esteem another half dozen or so notches just to save two dollars on general admission?  I'm in high school and I look ELEVEN?  Really?  Why must you people ALWAYS DO THIS TO ME?

Of course, now here I am (almost thirty-four and ironically praying that I don't look a day over twenty-seven), and I'm obviously doing the same thing to my kids.  Of course, they are four and two, so I'm really only lying down to three and one, which is nary a difference at all.  But I am extremely underemployed.  I mean, I'm extremely OVERemployed, being a stay at home mom to these two little lunatics, but I am EXTREMELY UNDERPAID.  We are a one income family, and, hot dog, if I can save $3 by knocking my children down a year or two, then we all know what has to be done.

The problem is Andy, honest Andy, as honest as the day is long.  Honest Andy who's always sticking his nose in the business I try to conduct with other adults, Honest Andy who would call out my "he's three" lie in a hot second if given the chance, thus exposing me for the cheapskate liar I actually am.  And so, the other day, on the way to the pool, I decided my best bet was just to explain to Andy what I was about to do.

"Andy, when we get to the pool, I'm going to say you're three, even though you're four.  It's just because three years olds are FREE and four year olds cost money.  So when I say you're three, don't say anything. Okay?"

Andy mulled this over for a second before asking, "Why?  Are we running out of money?"

Yes, Andy, we are.  But aloud I said, "No, of course not.  But, if I SAVE some money by saying you're three, then maybe I can spend it on something else like ICE CREAM instead."

Andy thought about it for a little.  "Okay.  So we will pretend I'm three.  How old are you going to be?"


I was a little nervous about how admission was going to play out for me, and I could tell Andy was, too.  He whispered to me as we stood in line, "I'm not going to say I'm four!"  and acted a little jittery as he appeared to give himself a mental pep talk.  By trying to save three bucks, I'd actually probably cost myself three hundred in future counseling.  But, alas.  Every once in a while, you just have to roll the dice.

Andy did as instructed and didn't interrupt me as I lowered his age when it was time to pay.  And later, I stressed the importance of always being honest EXCEPT WHEN MOMMY SAYS IT'S OKAY BECAUSE THREE DOLLARS ARE ON THE LINE.

And so I await the day when Andy or Alex is overcome with shame because they've passed for a younger age when they really oh-so-badly want to be BIG.  I will always try to make my kids feel less shame as opposed to more.  Unless it's a really big amount of money we're talking about saving, such as ten bucks or so.

But also, Andy and Alex, just remember.  The teenager taking our money doesn't give a crap how old you are or look or how much I'm about to pay.  They're just ringing up on the register and counting down the moments until they can go home and eat ice cream.  Which reminds me. I think I owe you an ice cream. McDonalds is doing the forty-nine cent cones again.  And good news- the discounted price is for all ages! Even twenty-seven year olds.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

No More Crib!

Alex has been threatening to climb out of his crib for a while now.  Not so much in sentence format, but the threat has existed.  It was there when I watched him expertly climb up the rock wall on the big kids section of the park.  It was there when he started insisting on scrambling into his car seat on his own.  It hovered in the air as he started climbing up on the stools at our breakfast bar.  This kid can climb, I heard someone (God or perhaps a commercial) whisper into my ear.  You're on borrowed time with the crib.

It finally happened on Monday.  The boys went to bed, and then Chris heard Andy calling for him just a few minutes later.  "Daddy, something's happening in here!"  Andy yelled.  From my spot on the couch downstairs (as it was past seven and officially Wine & Vampire-Related-Movie-or-TV-Show time), I then heard Chris calling for me.  "Jackie, you're going to want to see this."

And I did want to see it, but I also didn't, as I was pretty sure what had happened.  Alex had, of course, launched himself out of the crib.  But then he had gone into the closet and dragged out his Crayola suit case. As Chris and I watched on from the doorway, he proceeded to walk purposefully around his room and toss in every last one of his toys.  The kid had escaped the clutches of the crib and was ready to move out and start a life on his own.  Perhaps his plan was to barter his McDonald Happy Meal toys for actual Happy Meals as to nourish himself out in the big, bad world.

We put him back in the crib and closed the door.  From the hallway, I could hear the groans of crib bars being scaled and then the eventual thud of a two year old hitting the carpet.  We opened the door, and there was Alex, just walking around.  Not even proudly.  Just... inevitably.  As if he owned the place.  And we all know he doesn't own anything, as everything around here truly belongs to me, Daddy, or Andy.  The second baby just tends to borrow, not own.

Last night, before bed time, Chris tackled the task of converting the crib into a toddler bed.  The crib converts from crib to toddler bed to twin bed to studio apartment.  You really get your money's worth on these things!  This was no easy job as the various components to the crib/toddler bed/ studio apartment were scattered in various sections of our house.  Chris asked a couple times, seemingly just to annoy me, "Where are the instructions to this thing?"  There are no instructions, Chris.  I threw them out.  Who keeps instructions?  Everything's online.  Just finish converting this damn thing so we can continue on with our sure to be painfully frustrating evening.  

The crib got converted, eventually, and then it was bed time. Andy got tucked in on his side of the room in his own bed, and we optimistically stuck Alex into his "new" toddler bed and covered him up.  "Night night," we told him.  "Don't get out of bed!"

I can't even begin to count how many times Alex got out of bed or calculate the level of noise that came out of their shared room last night.  How many times did we go into the bedroom to cajole/ reason/ punish that kid back into his bed?  Even Andy was irritated, poor kid.  The boys sharing a room has never really been a problem- in many ways, it's been a nice thing having them together- until last night when Alex was free to roam.  Finally, so frustrated and exhausted, Andy shook his head and proclaimed, "I don't think Alex is ready for a big boy bed.  Please put the crib back together."

Eventually, after Chris gave him a "time out" for being too damn rowdy, Alex settled down in his bed and fell asleep.  Around two o'clock in the morning, he fell out of the one little spot that didn't have a rail, landing directly on his head.  I scooped him up, stuck him back in the bed, and promised to return with a cup of milk to make him feel better.  Obviously, that was a lie, and I did not get him any milk and instead went back to sleep. In the morning, I was greeted with not one boy traipsing into my bedroom but TWO boys.  Two boys just out and about and perfectly capable of wandering around the house at whatever early morning time they deem okay.

It's a whole new ball game over here.  

And so, tonight will be Night Two.  Today's nap tactic in the new bed is (wait for it), NO NAP at all! Wow!  Yay!  I'm hoping Alex will be so tired by bed time that he won't feel the urge to get up, walk around, pack a suitcase, or jump on Andy's face.  I'm hoping tomorrow we can attempt a normal nap.  By normal, I of course mean horrible.  One day at a time.  One night at a time.  And then one more day at a time until we reach the next milestone, which I hope involves the boys doing some chores or something.

New Chicago Parent Post!

Chicago Mom Explains Benefit of Napping

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Andy's Four in Four Days!

Four years ago today, I was thinking, "Tomorrow is my due date, I am so unbelievably ready for this kid to come out."  Four years ago tomorrow, I had my last day of work before maternity leave and went home with slight contractions, thinking, "Okay, this is it.  He'll be here by tonight!"  I called the doctor, went in for a stress test, and it was nothing.  Chris and I went home, watched "Avatar," and I went to bed hoping that I'd wake up in the ever so gentle throes of labor.  Four years ago two days from now, we went to the library and out for breakfast as if it were any normal day.  I blinked back tears when the librarian said something about my books being "due," as I was starting to feel a little sensitive about that word.  Four years and three days from now, I took a long walk around the neighborhood feeling like maybe I could exercise the baby out.  Four years and four days from now, I finally went in for my induction and had my baby after what can only be described as the most excruciatingly awful experience of my life.  Excruciatingly awful, that is, until they finally gave me that little (8 lb, 5 oz) baby to hold.  That baby that immediately stopped crying in my arms and just gazed up at me with contentment.

And now that boy is turning four.  Four days from now.

Is anybody still with me, or did I lose you with all the numbers?  I know my head is spinning.

See that kid on the diving board?
And so Andrew Jacob is turning four on Saturday.  Today I watched him during his second day of swim lessons, or at least tried to while I alternated between cajoling Alex out of the men's locker room and hauling his wriggly little body away from the pool area that we were not supposed to be in.  I'm sorry, Alex, swim lessons are for when you get a little older.  Unless you keep bothering me, in which case I will skip the swim lessons in favor for something less exciting, such as tuba or knitting or knitting while playing the tuba.  No offense if you really enjoy playing the tuba or knitting; I tried the knitting briefly when I went through my scarf phase and I quickly realized that, for 2% of the effort, I could just go buy an already knit scarf that wasn't all lopsided and unraveled and didn't smell like red wine and swearing.  I never tried the tuba- too heavy.

Where was I?

Andy jumped off the diving board today, completely fearless and trusting in his ability to make it out alive one way or another- due to either his own swimming prowess or the competence of his teachers.  To me, this is a huge deal, and I was so proud of his bravery.  He did it a couple times, and as I watched the little boy who was once my little baby go splashing off the board into the deep end, my heart swelled with pride.

Lately, I've been so proud of Andy, in a more significant way than I was proud of him as a baby or toddler. I am watching him become a great kid.  Aside from being brave, he is smart and funny.  I mean, this kid is really smart and really funny.  He has a mind like a steel trap, and he uses logic and reasoning to come up with excellent questions and explanations.  And he cracks me up, and not on accident.  He knows how to be funny and very accurately points out things that ARE funny, deeply funny.  I think one day Andy will have a blog to end all blogs.  He will be the successful blogger in the family, in addition to all of the other extremely successful things he will likely do, such as climb a really big mountain and learn how to pause and play his own TV shows.

Smart, funny, handsome.  Kind, gentle, sympathetic.  Brave, independent, loves croutons. A good big brother and a good friend.  A little set in his routine, becoming upset if we skip Quiet Time for the day or stay out of the house too long.  But I can get on board with that.  I love the kind of kid that's content with playing cars alone or watching a semi-appropriate amount of TV while Alex naps and Mommy "works." Which is what I call it when I'm on the computer, but is clearly a lie since being online only tends to cost me money, not make any.  Damn you Ebates.

Andy, as you like to say, I love you as much as a crocodile in outer space.  That's what you say to me, and I think the comparison is meant to evoke feelings of BIGNESS.  Sometimes it's a rocket in outer space.  Or a forest in outer space.  I get it, though.  I love you as much as various animals/ objects in outer space too. Probably a little more.

Happy fourth birthday, big kid.  In four days.