Friday, September 30, 2011

I'm Going to Dizzyland!

Nope, that's not a typo.  I know how to spell Disneyland.  But I'm talking about a whole other world and it's ruled by my little, blond daughter.

Elizabeth's nickname (her brother gave it to her pretty early and it has stuck) is Dizzy.  Sometimes, it really fits.  She loves to dance in circles, spin in circles, twirl, run in circles... but mostly, she like to keep me running in circles, or so it seems.

Elizabeth is now 2 1/2 and she truly lives HER way in her own little world... Dizzyland, I shall call it.  This is a land where dressing up means changing your costume every 2 minutes, mom should always know exactly what she wants when she wants it, her family and friends should ALWAYS know which Star Wars character she has chosen to be for the day (and ONLY address her thus) and where manipulation is always done in a sweet, yet patronizing way.

1st stop in Dizzyland - Pottyland.  A world where all the familiar tactics, hopes, dreams, bribes, rewards, etc. should be thrown out the window and parents should just hang on to their hats & glasses, 'cuz it's a wild ride kids.  A week or so ago, Dizzy randomly asks to go to the potty prior to her nap.  This is a common stalling technique for her and I have TOTALLY given up on potty training her right now, but I still have to put away some lunch dishes and get William into bed so I think, "what the heck?".  I stick her on the potty, hand her some books and walk away.  When I come back downstairs from putting William down I walk into a rather "smelly" bathroom.  SHE HAS POOPED AND PEED ON THE POTTY!  Now I'm doing a victory dance akin to scoring the last-second-winning-touchdown-after-trailing-the-whole-time-in-the-Super-Bowl and she's nonchalantly staring at me like this is something she does daily.  She continues to use the potty and does the very same the next day.  "WOOOO HOOOO!!" I think, "She's finally ready!".  No dice kids, she stops the next day and wails like I'M the one who started this when I even mention the potty.  So I give up again.  Then 3 days ago she randomly walks into the house from the backyard and announces she would like to use the potty.  Whatever.  I'm trying not to get my hopes up these days.  I stick her on the potty and leave her alone again when I hear Mike go in there and say, "hey hon, you may want to check on her, it stinks in there."  She has done it AGAIN!!!  More victory dancing ensues.  High fives come out.  William gives her a hug and a kiss.  We celebrate.  It continues for a day and stops again.  What the hell?  I give up.  Time for mommy to travel to a new land, because this one is making ME Dizzy.

2nd stop in Dizzyland - Imaginationland.  Forget rabbit holes and wicked queens, kids.  Fantasyland ain't got nothin' on Miss Dizzy and her world.  Now, I had (well, still have) a CRAZY imagination as a child.  I played dress-up non stop.  And I didn't just use costumes or clothes that I had lying around.  Oh no, kids, I DESIGNED the crap I wore.  I pieced together all my mom's old scarves and things and created strange, flowy, colorful garments and then traipsed all over the house in them, inventing stories as I went along.  Apparently, my daughter is like me.  When she imagines, she REALLY gets into it.  She was a princess the other day, as she informed me immediately upon entering the playroom, and  she proceeded to point out and describe the dragon who was apparently besieging our castle.  Not only is her imagination wild, but she HAS to be the director as she is intent upon assigning the parts we all play as well as blocking out where our action is to take place.  When she was the princess and I asked if I was the queen, she informed me (rather indignantly), "you are NOT the queen and Daddy is NOT the king" (geez, Daddy was innocently working downstairs at this time, but apparently she didn't want us laboring under false pretenses).  I was then told  to "stand here" and fight the dragon.  Only apparently I wasn't doing it right because she broke into my play-acting with a barely-masked exasperation and said, "No, no mommy, not like that."  And then she decided my play just didn't measure up at all and switched the game.

And when this girl picks out a character, she doesn't just pick it out for play time.  No, no.  She's that person for the WHOLE day.  Earlier this week she informed William and me that she was "Manakin" (that's Anakin as in Anakin Skywalker and if you don't know who that is, you are not a huge Star Wars geek like me).  The WHOLE DAY, if you dared call her anything else, she would stop dead in her tracks and say "No! I Manakin!"  I'm not kidding.  We were at Tiny Tots (our indoor playground) and had to leave and I'm frustrated with her usual slow and distracted meandering path to our car, so I yell, "DIZ.  Come on!!  I said NOW."  She looks at me deadpan and goes, "Mom, I Manakin!".  So I say, "FINE.  COME. ON. ANAKIN!"  She looks pleased and says, "Okay, Manakin coming."  Then during lunch I tell her "Dizzy, stop playing with your food, just eat."  She raises the fork to her mouth, backs the fork back out and says, "I'm Manakin" and then takes her bite.  "WHATEVER, AN-A-KIN," I spit, "just eat!".  "OOOOOKAAAAAY" she says in her best impression of a surly 13-year-old, "Manakin EEEEEEatingbathtime.  She and William are playing this game where he asks her for a cup of water and she fills his cup only so that he will throw the water back at her and she can laugh hysterically.  They are both laughing hysterically as this cycle repeats itself, but I'm cracking up because each time William asks for the water he's laughing and gasping, "Diz, Diz, can I have more water?" and she's cracking up too and starting to fill his cup, but then stopping and saying, "No, I Manakin!" And will not pour the water.  So then poor William gets frustrated that she's holding up the game and says, "Fine! ANAKIN, can I have more water?" and then she continues to fill his cup like nothing happened.  It KILLED me.

And finally, in her Imaginationland, she must always be in costume.  Now William loves dressing up too, but he only wears one costume.  He's consistent like that.  Picks one, sticks with it.  FOREVER.  Not Dizzy.  She'll ask to be Tinkerbell, decide something is wrong and switch to Cinderella only to melt down and insist that she CAN'T be Cinderella, she HAS to be a Clone Trooper and then rip off that costume and accusingly throw her purple cheerleader outfit at me and then huff that she's "Rapunzel, NOT a cheer-eater" (that's how she pronounces cheerleader and I love it) when I ask if she's decided to be a cheerleader.  Tired, I will tell her to pick a last costume because it's time to prepare lunch or something and we've done two hours of costume changes and she will FREAK out and cry about wanting to return to the Tinkerbell costume we started with.  I swear, this child is just staying up at night plotting ways to rush me to the funny farm.

3rd stop in Dizzyland - Manipulationland.  A subtle world of pretty smiles, batted eyelashes, and clever words meant to turn parents around until they are hopelessly lost.  Now, William not a subtle manipulator. He's that kid who THINKS he is, but isn't.  You know the type to actually say, "wink, wink" when they are trying to trick you.  Not Dizzy.  Nope, this one will smile sweetly and pat you the way you would a crazy relative who you're trying to keep from tipping into sanatorium-grade levels.  My favorite is her current way of getting out of eating something she doesn't like.  Now most children will scream no or fling food or make faces or turn their heads.  Not so my little Dizzy.  When you hold up the offending item, she will very gently place your hand back down, give it a little pat and say, "let's just put this down."  You know, in that condescending way nurses use "let's" when they say things like "let's just try using a LITTLE less morphine today okay?  i think perhaps our pain tolerance isn't so good."  I died the first time she did it.  I was asking her to try some mashed potato and she pushed my hand down twice and when I asked, "What's up Diz?  Do you not like the potatoes, or are you full?"  she looked over at me in that sorry way like she wanted to say "poor mommy, you're just not too bright are you?" and patted my hand.  Then she sort of sighed out a quiet, "let's just put this down."  I think my water came out my nose.   I tried again with another item on her plate, stuffing I think, and she just gently shook her head again pitying her mother's lack of intelligence and said, "let's just put this down."  And the thing is, I was so busy laughing and marvelling at what a strange little creature she is, that I forgot about asking her to eat anymore.  She knows what she's doing, that one, she really does.

Final stop in Dizzyland - Mainstreet Meltdown.  As you are leaving Dizzyland, do not get sucked into Mainstreet for just like Disneyland's Mainstreet where you get sucked into buying something just to escape the labyrinth that is that park,  you will find yourself scrambling to stop a meltdown with heretofore methods you swore you would never use.  Elizabeth has suddenly become the master of turn-on-a-dime-I'm possibly-bipolar-or-practicing- to-become-a-stereotypical-woman-who-always-changes-her-mind FREAK.  It's like living in Tornado Alley and never knowing when that damn twister is going to change course and level your little farmhouse.  Seriously.  It's nuts.  The other day I go to get her when I hear her wake up from naps and she's all smiles and "hi mommy, can I go play?" cuteness.  Yet somehow, in the 10 steps it takes to get to her bedroom to the top of the stairs she FREAKS out.  I cannot understand a word through the bubbling tear/drool/snot fest that her face has become and I finally have to ask her to go to the bathroom or some other place and calm down and return only when she can speak.  She calms down and comes out and when I ask, "are you ready to be nice?  Can you tell mommy what it is you need?" she melts into "I WANT MIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLKKKKK!" and falls to the floor shouting, "Milk! I need milk! I want milk" as though I had refused to give it to her.  And no amount of reassurances that I am indeed completely willing to pour her a glass nor the sight of me preparing the glass will console her.  I completely forget that she has not asked politely and said please as I demand in our house and am lost in the storm that is Dizzy.   Finally, I get relief as she's gone back to some safe spot to finish her tantrum because she now knows that mommy is done tolerating her tantrums.  She may throw them... just not anywhere near me.  And this is nearly a daily experience now.  She's all fine and dandy and then apparently the world turns upside down and right is wrong.  I don't know.  She was LOVING Mike's uncle Rich when he came to visit not too long ago.  She was showing him her costumes, dancing, etc.  And then we're eating lunch together and she looks at him across the table and apparently decides he has been replaced by BEELZEBUB, because she begins her tear/drool/snot fest again and reaches for me in panic.  5 minutes later, when she's done eating, she hops down, runs over and pretends to sprinkle him with "pixie dust" and ask him to fly with her.  He shoots me a quizzical look and all I can do is shrug.  Man, this kid is as much of a mystery to me, dude.  Can't help ya, I'm just trying to find a way out myself.

All this craziness makes me wonder what's around the corner with her.  Congraulations mommy, you've navigated the waters of a crazy 2 1/2 year old.  Where are you going?

I'm going to Dizzyland!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When it's YOUR kid

There are times in parenthood when you observe the behavior of another child and you are thrilled that they are not YOUR child.  As a child melts down in the middle of a store, or goes wild in a restaurant or hits their parents in public, etc.  you are thrilled that it's not YOUR child attracting all this attention.  There's even a little self congratulatory devil sitting on your shoulder bemoaning the obvious parental shortcomings of the other parent and/or mentally disciplining the poor out-of-control child.  The angel on your other shoulder (the one who knows of Karma, cosmic justice and God's wonderful sense of humor) warns you that on another day, that will be you.  To exhibit forgiveness and not judgement, patience and not exasperation, and for-God's-sake to control your facial expressions!

Now there are also times in parenthood when you hear or see something with another child and you WISH that were YOUR child.  You know, when you hear Competitive Mommy Extraordinaire exclaim, "Little Timmy started reading when he was 3" or "Little Mary potty trained at 18 months" and that devil on your shoulder says, "you should be jealous!  what can YOUR kid do?"  Meanwhile, the angel is tsk-tsking and reminding you that all kids do their own special things and grow on their own timeline.

Recently, I had the mind-blowing experience of having my kid be THAT kid on the same day.  Now perhaps I'm tired, worn-out, slightly crazy or all of the above... but I found my mental capacity completely lacking in how to handle both.

Last Friday, as I was dropping William off at school, his teacher pulled me aside.  Uh-oh, I thought, what's this?  But she said, "This is my 8th year of teaching and I have to tell you that in my 7 years of teaching so far, I have NEVER had a kid who reads like William.  He pulled a book off the shelf and read it today and it's a book most 2nd graders can't read!"  She then proceeded to praise his behavior, patience, maturity, etc. and tell me what an absolute pleasure he is to have in class.  I was glowing, walking on air, thrilled beyond belief.  Here was my little boy, a star in school already and not only that, but socially pleasant as well. "Well!" I told myself, "I must be doing something right!"  My child was THAT child today.  The one who could stand out in a good way.  Insert Fate shaking her head here and proceed to our play date a mere 3 hours later.

We're trying to meet some friends at a park exceedingly close to our house (so as not to be too late) but I find myself in the endless leaving-the-house struggle... and it's NOT with Elizabeth.  William is in super-whine mode and is loudly complaining that he didn't get to play with his Legos and wants to be dressed up in his Snake Eyes (from GI Joe) costume.  I point out he woke up so dang early that he got to play with his Legos for a WHOLE HOUR before school, that the Snake Eyes costume wasn't going anywhere and the HE was the one who asked for a play date with his friend Gavin (which is awesome because his little sister Dannika is Elizabeth's age, so this particular family is always fun for play dates).  We finally manage to make it to the park (we freakin' DRIVE because, although it is totally within walking distance, we are now running late).  Luckily, our friend is running later, so I'm calmed down when she arrives.

When our friends arrive and I ask about enjoying our picnic, both of my kids insist they are not hungry (even though they are usually  FAMISHED by this time) and run off to play.  Not long into the play I see William and Gavin at the top of the slide.  Gavin begins to go down first and I see William bodily STOP this larger boy and try to push his way down the slide first.  William is currently (along with most 5 year olds I know) in an I-have-to-go-first phase that is making me CRAZY.  So I call him down, tell him to apologize to his friend and tell him he has to go last now because of his rude behavior.  They play nicely for a while, but hungry grumpies start to set it and William is bitching endlessly that his friend doesn't want to play with him (in truth it's that Gavin doesn't want to play exactly what William is playing, which is apparently a criminal offense in my son's book).  I'm hoping this lunch break is what we need for a smoother play date, so we sit and eat.  Not long after eating and the return to playing I see William and Gavin with arms entangled and the kind of red, rage-filled faces that precede hitting.  So I pull them apart and ask what's up.  Gavin says, "he has my shoe!" and I see that William is, in fact, holding Gavin's shoe and not returning it.  I turn on my son now and seeing my face he launches into, "I was just playing a game!  I wasn't being mean! It's not my fault..." and I hold up THE HAND OF SILENCE.

"Dude," I say.  "I am NOT refereeing all day, do you hear me?!  EVERY TIME you guys play, you argue (Which is, unfortunately for our girls who get along great, true) What have I said about games?  It is not a game if you don't agree to it!  I don't think taking your friend's shoe is a good game and he obviously does not think so either! You return it IMMEDIATELY and apologize!"

"He grabbed me!!!" William shouts and I can see parents' heads turning.

They play for not much longer and I think they are at peace on this rope pyramid thingy when Gavin comes over and says to his mom, "William is spitting at me.  And then he hit me."  Now, I know William didn't hit him because I haven't taken my eyes off of them, but the spitting part gets me. 

"Let's go see what's up," I hear Gavin's mom say, but I'm already on my way.

"William!  Did you spit at Gavin and hit him?"  I ask.

"No!  He's lying!"  William shouts.

"Well, now I've got his word against yours, what do I do?"

He looks at me and says, "I didn't hit him mom, I promise" and I notice he says nothing about the spitting.

"Did you spit?  Why would he say you did?"

"Uummmmm....  I was doing it to myself" (I HATE this answer.  He gives this one a lot when he's caught teasing his sister)

"EXCUSE me?  I don't think so," I fume, "we DON'T SPIT PERIOD.  And there's no such thing as spitting at yourself."

"Well, I was spitting, but he asked me to stop and I did."

"No he didn't!" Gavin interjects... and I'm done.  I'm done for the day.  After such a wonderful morning, to be dealing  with constant refereeing (and the fact that William and Gavin ALWAYS fight when they are together), I. AM. DONE.

"Okay." I breathe, "I'm DONE.  We're leaving."

The kids eyes widen as I walk toward our bags and my friend and all the children realize I'm dead serious.  Screaming ensues.  William is trailing behind me crying-screaming that we can't leave, he's so sorry, he didn't know, this isn't fair, he'll be better, he didn't mean to be so bad today, this is the worst day ever, he was SO good this morning that he's just tired and on, and on, and on.  He is attracting a lot of attention at this point. 

I'm just trying to fight either tears or the urge to hurt my child in public... I'm not sure which.  I'm just impressed that for once I'm not yelling.  I am so angry and embarrassed that I'm actually talking in a voice so low and deep, I hardly recognize it as mine.  I gather my stuff and instruct William to put on his shoes as I get Elizabeth ready to go.  I tell my friend apologetically that I think it's just time for us to leave.  I hate to cut the play date short, but I cannot referee today.  I just can't.  She totally understands and says she agrees it's for the best.  William is sobbing so loudly against this tree that people are looking.  Gavin is now saying that it's okay if William stays and he knows William is sorry and he wants William to keep playing.  I'm torn for a second and then I remember that I TOLD William we would leave.  I have to stick to my word.  I have to show him I'm serious.  And it hurts.

We head home and William is sniffling the whole time.  I send him upstairs and get his sister ready for naps and then I go into his room.  He's totally apologetic and shame-faced and tear-stained and pulling at my heart strings.  I'm remembering my therapists words "remember, he's only 5."  But on the way home I had told him that there would be no stories before naps, we just needed to have a chat.  He starts quietly crying and apologizing and asking can he "please just have one short story."  I know he's truly sorry.  I know it was rough and embarrassing for him and I want to fold.  But I don't.  I give him a hug and a kiss and tell him I love him, but there will be no story.  I remind him that today was HIS turn for forgiveness.  For recently, when a friend had lost a play date, he got cocky and said his friend was "bad" and I told him, "no, he's having a bad day.  We all have good and bad days and we must be loving and forgiving, because sometimes it will be our turn for a bad day and we'll want our friends to forgive us."

"Oh.  Yeah." He remembers the conversation.  He lies down and thoughtfully looks up at his ceiling and as I'm closing his door says, "well, I hope Gavin forgives me my bad day." 

Ouch.  Today was my day.  Today it was MY kid... the good, the bad, AND the ugly.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

When They Sleep...

So I go up to check on the kids and shut their doors (they both now ask for it to be left open a "crack" at bedtime) and I also check that their "special lights" are off.  They each have this night light that doesn't plug in, rather, like the Staples "Easy Button" on their commercials, it's a large, push button light that they can just push down on to turn on and off.  It gives them control, makes them feel secure, it's portable... yada yada.  Anyway, they are battery operated, so I always make sure to turn them off if they are still on because both kids now are in the habit of asking for new batteries the minute the light is no longer blind-you-completely bright.

I start with William's room and it's off.  I could hear him on his monitor (we still use the baby monitors since they sleep upstairs and we sleep down) reading to himself for a good hour after we put him in bed.  But he managed to turn out his light and set aside his book before falling asleep.  Whew!  One down, one to go.

I step into Dizzy's room and all looks clear.  She's face down on her pillow, Mickey Mouse on one side, Minnie on the other, snoring with the book she was looking at set aside on the little bench next to her bed.  I'm trying not to wake her as I lift up Mickey, Minnie, her blanket and her comforter to make sure she hasn't just shoved the light under something.  I'm about to leave when I see an eerie light from under her bed skirt.  Crap, it's under the bed.  Now I'm hoping it's close to my side.  I peer under the bed skirt and there it is CLEAR ON THE OTHER SIDE, smooshed up against the wall and no other way to reach it except crawl under.  Dammit!  Still trying to be quiet, I lay down on my stomach and do my best soldier-crawling-carefully-under-barbed-wire crawl to get as much of me under this dang bed as possible.  Pieces of her pack & play are under there and I don't want to move them since the pieces involve metal poles that will invariably clang together when I want to be quiet.  I'm also imagining large spiders and other loathsome creepy crawlies under there (it's mostly dog hair though as Yukon still tries to SQUEEZE under there) and steeling myself not to scream should I find one.  I get my head and shoulders under and am reaching as faaaaaaar as I can with my short little arms.  My middle fingertip catches it and I'm doing a kind of "tapping" number with it in an effort to flip it toward me because I don't want to scooch under there any further since I'm sure I'll get stuck and wake the household with desperate calls for help.  I finally grab it and army crawl backward trying not to bang my head or other various body parts on the bed or surrounding furniture.  Fighting a sneeze I sit up and look at Elizabeth... still snoring, hasn't moved an inch.

As I'm leaving her room I'm thinking, "hmmm, it's kind of scary that they sleep so soundly now... what if something happened and they didn't wake up?"  Then I stifle a giggle and thank my lucky stars for their deep sleep.  For I suddenly realize that for much of the past 5 years, since we brought our first little bundle home, I have done many a CRAZY thing as I've checked on them, all in the effort to either not wake them, to put them back to sleep, or to avoid being seen when I did wake them because babies are rather light sleepers.

I remember being so DESPERATE for sleep with little baby William that I finally braved letting him sleep on his tummy (A HUGE NO-NO according to Pediatricians nowadays who want kids on their backs in an effort to curb crib death).  Only, I was so paranoid about crib death that my mother (who was visiting) and I slept on the world's loudest, crappiest air-mattress on the floor of his room so I could check to make sure he was breathing every 5 minutes.  This mattress was so bad that, when inflated to proper support levels, you couldn't move without "popping" the other person up into the air and off the mattress.  It also made a loud sound resembling flatulence whenever you moved.  And I kept moving all night so I could SLOWLY peer over his crib bumpers to see if he was still breathing and yet pray he wouldn't see me and begin screaming.  Needless to say, I never got the sleep this whole elaborate plan was supposed to give me.

I remember checking on William when he was old enough to roll over and sit up on his own and the floorboards creaking under my feet.  He began to shift in his crib and, not thinking clearly, I "hit the dirt" right there on his carpet as though someone had just yelled "grenade!"  Of course, now I was lying flat in his room, breathing heavily and trying to figure out how to stay low enough to exit so that his crib bumpers would block me from his view.  I ended up slithering out on my belly and then closing the door as quietly as possible (still lying down with my fingers hooked under the door until it was closed enough that I could stand and finish).

I remember walking into Elizabeth's room to check on her and dying from the fumes because she had pooped and with her rashes, I HAD to change her.  So there I am lifting her out of her crib as though she's a bomb I can't shake and placing her oh-so-slowly on the changing table.  Then I'm cursing the damned 18-Million button, head-to-toe snap pajamas I've got her in because I have to unsnap all of them in order not to have to wrestle any limbs out.  She manages to stay asleep through the unsnapping, unwrapping, wiping, re-wrapping AND re-snapping and I think I'm home free.  I carry her gently to the crib, lower her VERY slowly in and juuuuuuust as I'm laying her head down carefully her eyes snap open.  I think I spent another hour walking her around the room and making up words to a lullaby that went something like, "Go to sleep, Go to sleep, or your mommy will cry now.  Please sleep now, please sleep now or your mommy will go nuts." After an hour, I believe some swear words might have snuck their way into the lyrics, but in my sleep-deprived haze, I cannot be sure.

A little over a year ago, I remember falling asleep in William's bed with him at 8:30 (go figure, I'm a tired mommy) and then trying to extricate myself from the bed when I woke again after midnight.  He was lying on my hair, his arm was across my belly and I was underneath his comforter and another blanket.  So I lift his arm carefully, holding it like a bug I'd rather touch as little of as possible, and set it gently down.  Then I have to wrestle my hair out from underneath his head and try not to scream as I have to leave a few hairs behind.  I very slowly lift the blankets off of me, and begin trying to sit up and not make the bed creak.  This takes such an effort, that I'm finding myself in weird, half-sit up positions and getting the kind of abdominal workout I've been wanting for months.  I've managed to get my body off the bed (leaving my arm pressing down on the mattress so it doesn't pop up and "groan" at me) and SLOWLY lift my arm off.  Just as I take a step toward the door, I knock over a pile of  books and he shoots up and says, "mom... can't you lie down with me for just a little longer".  Hmmmm.  Then... a stroke of genius.  Counting on his being so tired that he won't remember the conversation in the morning, I say "sure, just let me go to the bathroom first.  I'll be right back."  I sneak out and never return.  He doesn't remember a thing in the morning.

The worst, though, and Mike can attest to this... is putting a child down in their crib while they are still experiencing what doctors call the "startle" reflex.  This is a very important reflex for all young babies and the bane of all new parents' existence.  The startle reflex causes a baby, when put down on their backs, to FLING their arms out wide and kick their legs out.  As you might imagine, putting a baby down in their crib during this period SUCKS.  Even if you have a drop-side crib (as we did), you still have to do some awkward leaning over the rail (or at least when you're my height you do) while setting the baby down.  I can't tell you how many nights Mike and I spent rocking, singing, feeding, etc. both William and Elizabeth to sleep, cradling them in our arms, lowering them SOOOOOO slowly into their cribs that the muscles in our backs were burning, getting about 90% of their bodies laid softly down on their mattress, only to be stuck holding their heads and trying to remove our hands without the "startle" reflex kicking in.  Invariably it would take multiple attempts, much swearing, a couple of "tag outs" to the other partner, and a lot of sweat before the baby was successfully put down on their mattress without their arms SLAPPING out to the side and the whole process starting over.

So as I sit here, in a quiet house, able to check on my children without waking them and write this blog... I will be thankful for the deeper sleep age brings.  I can put behind me the days of sleeping only 4-5 hours (and that in 1/2 hour to hour long increments), trying not to creak floorboards, trying to stay hidden from sight, making up stupid lullabies, slithering on floors and under beds, crawling, creeping, tip-toeing, and breath-holding and be thankful that, short of knocking over objects or sneezing loudly, it's likely that I can check on my kids without waking them.

And they are so sweet when they are sleeping... because then they don't talk! :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Be Patient... it's a learning experience

When you are an exhausted, exasperated, punch-drunk, teetering-on-the-brink-of-insanity parent (ie. all parents), well-meaning and often childless folks will say to you with that condescending smile, "be patient, it's a learning experience".  They are talking about your child learning.  Well, they are right and wrong folks and here's why - it IS a learning experience. FOR YOU.  Not for the child.  FOR YOU.  I am truly beginning to believe that my kids know EXACTLY what they are doing, and they keep doing it until I catch on.  And sometimes, my learning curve is a tad longer than I wish it was.

Case in Point: Dizzy (Elizabeth) vs. Mommy on "skills" timing.  I now know that William was an easy child.  How do I know this?  Because now I have Dizzy who stands in stark contrast to her brother.  He drank from a cup at 13 months, ate perfectly with utensils at 16 months, potty trained in 4 days at 2 1/2, only started protesting the idea of naps after he turned 4 (but still takes them now) and, in general, listened when I told him to come to me to either talk to him, dress him, etc.  Elizabeth apparently wrote the book on how to be THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE of her brother.  She is the child who makes me feel like not just a novice at parenting, but actually a red-faced, yelling, drooling, seriously-considering-padded-walls, IDIOT at parenting.  Each day I think, "I suck at this, I really do."  As I still change diapers, still have to employ some pseudo-wrestling take down and hold just to dress her, ply her with food and strap her into her booster just to do her hair, still chop her food into ridiculously small pieces just so she won't attempt to shove an entire half sandwich into her mouth (not kidding, wish I was), still deal with temper-tantrum induced vomit... I can't help but think, "I suck at this."

My therapist keeps warning me that my type-A, perfectionist, control-freak approach to life is REALLY going to have to take a back seat now that I'm a parent and I believe Elizabeth is God's way of backing her up on this.  She may have an incredible vocabulary, mastered her alphabet at 18 months and show an amazing memory and imagination for a girl her age... but as far as the skills that would make mommy's life a bit easier... yeah f#@! those.  She's doing it her way.  Seriously. 

For example, I have been freaking out for, oh probably the better part of a year, about the fact that Elizabeth flips her spoon over when she eats, thus dumping all the food out of the spoon before it hits her mouth.  This is normal when a child first begins using a spoon.  Noooot so normal at 2 1/2 years.  At first I was patient.  Then I started to get annoyed.  Then I got worried that I lacked the skills to teach her properly.  Then I worried that she's slow/underdeveloped/challenged (insert insane worried parent word here) and needed some kind of help.  Then I started to freak and search for loop-handled spoons to teach proper grip (stop laughing... you will freak out about stupid shit as a parent... it's a given).  Then I started to help her hold her spoon.  Then I started yelling and having to leave the table.  Then I began complimenting her when she did it right, only to have her purposely begin flipping it again. Then I went batshit crazy.  Then I gave up.  Just plain gave up.  I said, "screw it, she'll eat like that for the rest of her life and never date."  (Stop laughing, I'm serious.  I dated a guy briefly who did it and I can't tell you how it grated on my nerves to watch a 21 year old eat like a toddler.  I couldn't take it).

So the other day, we're eating oatmeal (Elizabeth's properly thickened in the hopes that some of it will make it to her mouth) when I see that she's not flipping her spoon.  I froze.  I almost said something, but then feared her tendency to do stuff JUST to spite me. I must have watched her eat the whole bowl before I breathed again.  Holy crap!  She's doing it!  She's not flipping her spoon.  And then the words of my therapist came floating back to me, "she'll do it when she's ready."  Jesus, I hate it when she's right.  All my fussing, worrying, cajoling, bribing, yelling, etc. was not helping her learn.  She already learned... she was just waiting for me to catch up.

A light bulb went on at that moment.  I'm going to have to let go of the potty thing.  Really and truly let it go.  She knows what she's doing (and what she's not doing right now).  The more I freak, the more she'll resist.  I need to fight that ridiculous, perfectionist, competitive, worried-parent in me who thinks all girls should be potty-trained by 2 1/2 and move on.  I'm going to have to let go of the combing hair, small-bites, dressing her quickly, expecting her to be ANYTHING like her brother, and ANY of my old tricks working on her.  It's a learning experience... and I'm learning slowly.

Speaking of learning slowly... here's another important lesson, this one learned thanks to my lovely son.  The aforementioned son who is so EASY compared to his sister.  The lesson: with each proud moment, comes an equally exasperating one.  You may think me unnecessarily negative, unless you are a parent, and then you know what I'm talking about.

Agh!  "Thanks, William," I mutter and he, totally baffled just says, "what mom?  I was reading."

Another example, mature social skills.  In an earlier blog, I lamented William having trouble at school and my fear that he, like me, would have trouble socially and be bullied and thus hate school.  Well, it turned out that with some guidance from myself and his teacher and with just some good, old-fashioned "time", William did just fine at making friends and handling himself socially.  By the time the parent-teacher conferences came, William's teacher assured me that academically as well as socially, William was more than ready for Kindergarten.  She felt he was well-spoken, had great coping skills, great cooperating skills and that the only frustration she saw for him socially was that he might be frustrated with children his own age as most would be lagging behind him verbally and socially.  Boy did I feel proud.  Then came the down side of social maturity... watching a 5 year old flirt and have crushes on MUCH older girls.  You think I'm kidding?  When Mike and I returned from our day at the Comic-Con to our hotel suite where my folks had spent the day with the kids, my step-dad informed me that William managed to flirt his way into a free smoothie from the pool girl (who must have been 18 or so).  Then the other day as he and Mike are enjoying an ice cream outside of Ben & Jerry's, Mike notices William suddenly entranced with a reflection in the window.  When he asked William, "what are you looking at?"  William kind of muttered and then said, "oh... that car, I've never seen a car like that."  Mike, noticing there was nothing remarkable about the late 90's Toyota except the teenager sitting in it asked, "it doesn't have anything to do with the cute girl behind the wheel of that car does it?" William merely responded with a laugh.  Seriously, who is this child?

Finally, math.  So, having conquered reading, I've started working on math with William.  He's often been doing some simple arithmetic at the table, using his fingers, M&M's, whatever he can find.  So I asked him if he wanted to start learning some math and he replied, "Yeah!" with his usual enthusiasm.  So I set out finding some good pre-K books on basic addition and math skills.  We started on the book a few weeks ago and at first he was enjoying it, but then he realized that a lot of it was memorization (this happened with reading at first too) and told me he was bored.  So, I figure, no worries... why push it?  I'm learning right?  If I push, they'll resist.  So I start packing up the crayons, pencils, etc. and begin to close the book when apparently he catches a glimpse of something and goes, "wait! wait! Mom!!  What was that page?"  He starts flipping madly through the book and stops on a page.  So I look over his shoulder and it's all about counting money.  "Money."  I laugh.  "So math was boring until you realized we could count money?!"  He looks perplexed by my laughing and says, "what?  I'm earning money for chores now... wouldn't it be nice if I could count it?"  I see a future in sales, or stock trading, or maybe gambling (?) for him.  Uh huh.  I see.  Just like his sister... he'll learn what he wants to learn, when he wants to learn it, and for his reasons.  Not mine.  He's just waiting for me to catch up...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How to be whole, when you feel broken

I write when I'm lost, when I need to vent, when I want to remember, when I'm upset, when I need comfort, when I want to laugh and when I don't know what else to do.

Tonight is not my usual blog about my own foibles as a mother or about the adventures of my kids.  Tonight I write because my Opa (my grandfather) passed and I don't know what else to do to stop the tears, to sort out my loss and to figure out how to not be a puddle tomorrow for my kids.  I already lost my Oma (grandmother) about 6 months ago and the first couple days I was useless as a mother.  I had to do my best to explain why, although it was good that she was with God and it was good her suffering was over, I was so very sad.  Now I have to do it again.  I don't want to be useless mush for them again.  I don't want to have to resort to more TV than I'd like because I don't have energy... but here it is.  He was 93, he lived a full life, he has an AMAZING story, he wanted to be with the love of his life whom he lost in December.  I want to let go and be happy for him.  But for now, I'm a sad little girl missing her Opa.  I loved Oma, there is no doubt about it, but there was something about my Opa.  He's HUGE to me.  Larger than life.  Present in so many of my memories.  This loss makes my chest feel caved in.

I've talked a lot about him lately because he taught me so much.  Not all of it on purpose granted (I can say some amazingly bad things in Dutch thanks to him!), but still a lot.  I was just thinking about him yesterday as I watched William write his name because one of my earliest memories is of sitting down with him in his house in Buena Park, CA as he taught my sister and I to write our names before we went to Kindergarten.  I was jealous that "Lori" was much easier to write than "Mariska."  I was just telling William about how he taught me to swim "frog leg" (as he called it... it's technically the Breast Stroke) when I was just a little girl and William asked if Opa could still teach him.  I smiled and said, "well, he's too old now... but perhaps I can teach you the way he taught me."  I was just telling a friend two weeks ago (as we talked about how parents in public often don't pay attention to their kids) how Opa saved a boy from drowning when I was a little girl visiting him in Hawaii because the boy's stupid mother was too busy reading a book to hear her own child screaming and then barely mumbled a thanks when my Opa brought her to him, his own foot bleeding profusely from cutting it on lava rock as he rushed to save the boy.  I was angry that she didn't care, but Opa just shook it off and said, "eh, the boy is safe."  I was just thinking of him the other day as William got excited to help me with dishes, because I remember being SO excited to be tall enough (with the help of a kitchen stool) to help my Opa wash the dinner dishes.  It didn't matter that I was young... he taught me that if I was to help, I would do it right.  Clean them thoroughly, dry them thoroughly, or face Oma's wrath.

When I was a kid, my Opa seemed like part super-hero, part magician and part fairy tale.  He swam so fast under water that he could cross a pool 3,4, 5 times before coming up to breathe.  His laugh sounded like Ernie's from Sesame Street, kind of like a scratchy "sssshhhh sssshhhh".  He could make things disappear and re-appear, usually from behind my ear.  He saved a dog from a whole bunch of kids who were trying to drown it in the park and took her home.  And like every other dog he encountered, he had her well trained almost immediately.  And not just your usual sit, shake stuff.  Dogs that misbehaved could suddenly walk at "heel" without a leash when they were with Opa.  The would leave food alone until he motioned it was okay, even if he balanced it on their noses.  It was like magic.  He was the original Dog Whisperer to me.

While he loved us all with a huge heart, he was INCREDIBLY blunt with us.  When I gained 40 pounds shortly after graduating college he informed me that I "looked like a wrestler."  When my cousin Tara began, in her teen years, to wear a TON of make-up, he called her "Greta Garbo" and told her she "shouldn't wear all that shit" on her face. He either had no idea how loud he could be, or just didn't care.  I remember him calling a very large Hawaiian girl who was chasing my cousin Danny around a swimming pool in Hawaii a "battleship" and I'm pretty sure she could hear him.  He used to pull his hat down over his face in church so he could try to sleep through the service, but he always said a prayer before his meal.  He had a strong faith in God, but was never "evangelical" about it.  He prayed quietly, without telling anyone... you'd never know unless you noticed him crossing himself very quickly before diving in to food.  Yet he and Oma taught me my prayers in a quiet, matter-of-fact way that was not pushy or demanding, it's just part of who he was.

Opa also had a very mischievous side... he used to play jokes on my mom with this fake cat poop that he had and he got her every time.  He would always try to feed me some strange, often icky tasting, weird Indonesian something-or-other that he'd pick up.  I remember something horrible wrapped in a banana leaf, in particular.  He just cracked up when I spat it out. 

He handled life's challenges with humor.  When Oma told stories of prison camp, you could feel her pain... she told of being loaded naked, like cattle on to trucks, of starving, of the guards' cruelty.  Opa told funny stories of jumping into a latrine pit full of shit in the middle of the night to escape a tiger, only to discover it was a German Shepherd belonging to a guard.  He told of finding a way to make fish and cats and whatever else he could find look sick because the guards would feed them anything sick or rotten, laughing at how easy it was to fool them.  He told of offering to guard the women's camp so he could look at the pretty ladies... and that's where he saw my Oma for the first time.  The only two scary stories he told me came with an important lesson.  He told me once that it was important to keep the mind active and always seek to learn, because those who stop using their minds die.  He said he knew who would die next in the camps because they stopped trying.  The other story involved a sketch he showed me once of a naked, bound prisoner kneeling beside a huge pit and a Japanese guard with a huge sword raised up.  I asked what it was and Opa said, "they often picked someone to die and took off their heads."  When I asked him if he drew it from memory, he said, "no I was watching it when I drew it."  He then told me that he was proud that I wrote because it is important to tell our stories... he said his art was his way of telling his stories.

Opa was an AMAZING artist.  He could paint, animate, sketch, sculpt, etc. with just about any medium you can think of.  I used to love to stand in his little studio in the house in Buena Park and smell the paints and pastels and watch how the picture would develop on the canvas.  I remember him showing me how, starting with just a huge blob of blue on his canvas, to create an ocean with sweeps of green and dots of white to create the colors of the water and the white caps of waves going across.  Of course, his talent came in handy too and became a big family joke, because Opa could manage to "alter" any picture to "erase" any boyfriend our girlfriend we wanted to forget.  In fact, my cousin's wife Deanna purposely stood right in the middle of our family pictures because she said she knew our family's "trick" of making "newbies" stand on the outside to make it possible to paint them out.  We all cracked up as she shouted, "Yeah, paint me out of this one Opa!".  Opa loved it.  His talent also resulted in my sister probably having the most realistic, three-dimensional landscape to her science fair Volcano as opa sculpted contours into the mountain and rocks, bushes and trees all around.  He even made my mom a painting of a lighthouse and using I believe just Styrofoam and paint, made 3-dimensional cliffs that rise out of the painting.  Guests to her home always marvel at that painting.

I'm finding it hard not to have regrets.  I want so much to focus on what I'm thankful for.  I regret not knowing enough Dutch to record his story from his birth in Indonesia, to his time in prison camp, his move to Holland, his move to here, etc... but instead I want to be thankful that I at least heard the stories from him.  I regret not having the patience to learn more about art from him... but instead I want to be thankful that his art leaves us with a permanent piece of him.  I must be thankful. I must remember to be thankful.

Thank you Opa for teaching me to swim.  Thank you Opa for piggy back rides, magic tricks and teaching me to write my name.  Thank you Opa for making us laugh with your practical jokes as well as with your harsh honesty.  Thank you Opa for teaching me how important it is to use my mind every day, to always try to learn.  Thank you Opa for your boundless curiosity... you knew more about Hawaii than some Hawaiians after only a year of living there because you always sought to know as much as you could about your surroundings.  Thank you Opa for your art, your weird food cravings (seriously... butter on Corn Flakes or Sambal on bananas?!), your broken English, your humor and your big heart.  Say hi to Oma for us.  Give Oom Art a hug.  Enjoy being back with all your brothers and sisters and friends who went before you.  You hung in to be the last.  Now go enjoy the party.  I love you.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Really? This is what I do now?

This is a phrase I find myself saying a lot lately as a mother.  I find myself doing wondeful things, insane things, gross things, etc. and saying under my breath.... "really, this is what I do now?"  You see, I was that girl... you know... straight-A student, tons of activities, honor roll in college, working extra hours, etc.  I thought I'd be an astronaut, a famous chemist, a professor, a top-notch journalist reporting from war-torn areas, a CEO.  Something like that.  Not because I'm smarter or better, but because I'm a perfectionist.  I'm harder on myself than anyone else and I used believe that if I worked hard enough I could be perfect; if I planned well enough I could always be prepared; if I educated myself I could handle anything life threw at me.  Then God, in His infinite wisdom threw me children.  Now instead of striving to be perfect, I strive to learn something new every day.  Instead of trying to prepare for everything, I'm trying to learn how to roll with the punches.  Instead of educating myself in an effort to control life, I'm trying to learn how to just enjoy the ride.  And all along I say to myself, "really?  this is what I do now?"

Case in point -  Poop.  This topic will become paramount when you have become a parent.  Are they pooping enough?  Too much?  In the potty?  Is it a control issue? Does it look right?  Etc., etc.  I'm not kidding.  Poop will become a major thing.  Nevermind that I have two dogs to add to the issue, the children are enough.  Last weekend was a perfect example.  Mike has been travelling a lot and is about to travel again, so I'm trying to make our last family day together perfect.  Ah, there's that perfect again.  Mistake.  Big Mistake.  I'm trying to cook a yummy breakfast, Mike is just up from getting to sleep in and I'm trying to keep our two children (who have entered the age where they play together... but FIGHT together too) quiet because he jumps on a work call.  Elizabeth steals upstairs for a bit as I'm trying to perfectly cook Mike's breakfast, so William checks on her for me and I hear,
"Mom!! Dizzy pooooooped!!!"
"Okay," I say, "I can't burn Daddy's breakfast, so I'll be up to change her in a minute."
"No, Mom!" William panics, "she pooped on her chair, on her leg, on my toy, on...." I'm running up the stairs now.  I'm praying Mike's breakfast doesn't burn, but I don't want to interrupt what sounds like a work call not going particularly well right before he has to fly to Vegas for work.  I take one look at Elizabeth and realize her vaccinations are NOT sitting well with her belly and I've got some MAJOR cleaning up to do.  William is nervous-dancing up and down the stairs chattering,
"Stinky!!! Should I get Dad?  We need help.  This is bad! Mooooo-ooooom!"  and I decide I cannot handle this.
"Mike I need HEEEEEEELP!" I shout.  He hops off his call runs up the stairs and stares bug-eyed,
"Oh boy, what do you need me to do?"
"You handle breakfast, I'll handle this!" I say as I'm stripping Elizabeth and putting her in the tub, "your breakfast is in the pan and is going to burn any minute.  And William, get downstairs with your father."
"I want to help," he begins to whine.
"Dude seriously," I'm trying not to freak because now Elizabeth is wailing in the tub, "GO!"
So I get her bathed, send her downstairs and realize that it will be hard to find all the lovely poop that has dripped from her diaper and has been flung all over our LIGHT BROWN carpet while she walked around.
"I need the Nature's Miracle and some towels!!!!" I shout downstairs.  Mike throws them up the stairs and I begin (no joke) to crawl around on my hands and knees with a bottle of Nature's Miracle and my "bodily fluid" towels cleaning up the play room.  I actually begin laughing at this point (insanity has set in) as I realize that I had NEVER in all my 37 years, imagined I would be crawling around on my hands and knees looking for poop drops from my 2 year old one fine Sunday morning.  I sigh to myself,
"Really, this is what I do now?!"

Ladybug hunting.  It's an sunny Spring day and since they've been few and far between our heavy Oregon Spring rains, I take Dizzy (as we call Elizabeth) for a walk while William is in preschool.  We're walking down a street that isn't fully developed yet and full of wild fields when Diz begins running toward one shouting "I see laleelub (lady bug), I see laleelub!".  She begins whacking her way through weeds nearly as tall as she is searching for ladybugs.  I spend the next hour with her alternately loving how gently she handles the few ladybugs I can find for her and saying things like, "don't eat the stick" "don't put the dandilion in your nose" "give Mr. Spider his space please" "what did you just put in your mouth?" (answer... a flower) and the like.  But mostly, I'm feeling blessed that this is what my job is today... walking in sunshine with my daughter, finding ladybugs, blowing the fluff off of dandilions, picking little purple flowers and tossing pebbles into a puddle.  And just as I'm about to say "really, this is what I do now" in happiness rather than exasperation I watch Dizzy lift a used, discarded straw toward her mouth and instead yell, "AAAAAGGGGHHHH!  No!!  Yucky!!!".  This time, thank God, I stop her in time.  Note I said... this time.

Parks with no potties.  It's another a rare sunny Spring Day and after school I decide to accompany my good friend Heidi (her son Logan is William's "best buddy" as he says) and her kids to a park by their school so we can all play and picnic together before heading home for naps.  Before we leave the preschool I warn William,
"the park has no potty... go NOW!"
He does and I think we'll be in clear because William is a peeing camel who can hold it forever.  However, it quickly becomes clear to me that this is instead the day that makes me begin to wonder if 4 year olds can have prostate problems.  We are only at the park for about 2 hours and William ends up having to pee 4, count 'em, FOUR times.  Now, I'm lucky he's a boy and he can just stand behind a bush or a tree somehwere, but this park does not have a plethora of large-standing vegetation to offer privacy.  The one tree he can hide behind would have his little buns facing directly toward the lovely people enjoying their time at the dog park, or the people driving by the park.  GREAT.  On top of it... apparently a large portion of Heidi's church congregation has decided to use the same park today and is full of lovely, sweet, MODEST women who mostly have girls and whom I've never met before.  Then, half of William's preschool shows up as well as apparently every other mother has decided to enjoy the same park Heidi and I have chosen.  The first time William goes, I'm standing behind him, my hoodie stretched out to hide as much of him as possible and trying to rush him along.  The second time, I'm trying to do the same when I catch Elizabeth dashing headlong for the little creek that divides the play park from the dog park.  Really?  Who thought a body of water with no fence around it was a good idea at a park for small children?  William's buns are left in full view as I catch my daughter.  Ooops.  Sorry everyone.  The third time, I see half of the boys from preschool following in curiosity and have to shoo them all away, but William is half done and pants down before I get them all to understand the meaning of the word privacy.  Finally, the fourth time, I get him away by himself, Heidi is keeping an eye on Elizabeth for me and I'm feeling better when out of the corner of my eye, some little girl starts coming around my hoodie shield wondering what it is I'm hiding.  That's it.  We're leaving.  As we climb in the car, William declares he has to go again and I freak. 
"Really?  Dude, what did you drink at snack today?"  When his only reply is,
"Can I go at Logan's house" I realize this is merely a stalling technique and tell him he'll have to pee his pants.  He sees I've caught on and whines the rest of the way home.  And the whole time, I'm muttering under my breath,
"Really?!  This is what I do now?"

Baseball and pinecone bird feeders.  Yesterday, while Mike runs around town and Elizabeth is napping, I decide William can skip naps for some arts and crafts time.  We head out to our covered porch armed with pine cones, peanut butter, a homemade bird feeding mixture I just blended and proceed to get sticky and messy making lovely pine cone bird feeders for our local birdies (who have yet to touch them, so I've either failed miserably as a bird chef, or I need to change their location).  William, being 4, tires after two feeders and asks if we can play sports.  We do some batting practice, pitching practice, fielding practice, throw the frisbee, and practice running really fast.  We hear Elizabeth crying on the monitor and go grab her and come downstairs, curl up on our new reclining couch and grab some of our new library books.  I'm through my third story when I realize my beautiful, tired (and thus silent) children each have their head leaning on my arms.  I needed this moment in a week when I have lost my temper way too much, have taken a ton of time-outs so I can burst into tears in privacy, have told my son that I may be able to grant his wish that he never turns 5, and have told my friends that Mike needs to purchase a striped shirt and a whistle for my Mother's Day gift because all I do is referee now.  I look down and think about how I used to head out of the house every day into the yucky, thankless world of mortgage banking and ask myself happily,
"Really?  This is what I do now?"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Of language barriers and 4 year olds

I had a playdate today with a friend I hadn't seen in about 10-11 years who has two kids roughly the same age as my two and I noticed (which made me feel better) that children definitely go through distinct phases at different ages and our job as a parent is to just get through them and enjoy some solidarity with fellow parents who are in the same spot we are in.

With kids Elizabeth's age we parents seem to be struggling with emerging tantrums, the beginning of limit testing, hitting in frustration and a "language barrier".  As I listened to my friend explain to her 4 year old daughter and my 4 year old son that they had to be "patient" with the little ones because they do not yet get the ideas of sharing, hurting another and that sometimes they just don't understand what we're asking of them, I felt better because I'm often asking William to be patient with his sister.  The one amusing thing I observed, though, is the language barrier with toddlers.  Besides them not always understanding what we ask of them, they too, get frustrated with our inability to understand THEIR language.  They are just learning how to string more than 2 words together and they don't yet grasp the proper use of pronouns, nor can they pronounce everything they want to say.  The result is that I'm often giving Elizabeth a bewildered look and saying, "I'm sorry honey, I just don't understand what you're saying."  As I was doing this (and wishing for a toddler translator) today, I realized that I needed to blog about some of her more interesting pronunciations before I forget them and before they turn into properly said words, because some of them (once I finally figured them out) are awfully cute.  To date here are some of her current "Elizabethisms" spelled phonetically so I can remember how she says them.

1. Keh-eeee U = carry me, only she tries to say "carry you" because I'm always asking, "do you want me to carry you?"
2. Budee-yu = "W" (as in the letter).  I often ask her which letter makes the "wuh" sound just to make her say "budee-yu"
3. Tuhtuh Maya = Princess Leah, no idea how she gets this, but this is how she pronounces it.
4. Chichin = chicken
5. Bar Dadar = Darth Vader (can you tell we like Star Wars in our house?)
6. Moo Moo Meer, Moo Moo Mare = Moo Moo here and a Moo Moo There (singing Old Mc Donald)
7. Dee Too Dee Too = R2D2, her favorite Star Wars character
8. Mankin = Anakin (as in Anakin Skywalker from, you guessed it, Star Wars).  She often points to herself and says, "mommy, I mankin"
9. Yoh-dyert = Gilbert (the name of a cat on the cartoon Caillou)
10. Baw-deddy = Strawberry. 
11. Uhmorning = good morning
12. I gowhen = I'm gonna win (which she says to me whenever we climb the stairs together)
13. Alligator = elevator (William said it the exact same way)
14. Poh-pawk = polka dot

Today, of course, she had a new one that I could not decipher, but as soon as I do I'll have to blog about it.

The other thing I notice today during the playdate?  4 years olds are funny creatures.  They alternate between moments of bossy-ness, generosity, cooperation, conflict, aloofness and solidarity .  As I watched William and his new friend Finn (a lovely young lady he was so excited to meet), I got to see all phases and it cracked me up.  Bossyness began the playdate with each trying to convince the other that THEY had the better play idea.  Finn wanted to play horses, William was hoping to convince her to play Star Wars.  Cooperation came up faster than I expected as they just agreed not to play anything and instead made pizzas together.  They stood on stools side-by-side, comparing sauce spreading technique and cheese volume and pepperoni placement.  They shared ingredients with nary and argument and then went off to our playroom while the pizzas baked.  After a bit of peaceful playing... conflict invariably arose.  Mike was first up the stairs and said he found them locked in conflict over a "drill press" that is part of a toy workbench we have.  Apparently they each had their two hands on it and were pulling in opposite directions yelling "NO!" at each other.  Mike told them neither of them got it and off they trotted into aloof play, each playing their own thing.  The miffed, aloof attitudes continued at the lunch table for a bit as they sat next to eachother but would not talk to each other.  However, it was quickly forgotten amid giggles, pizza and their common frustration with their younger siblings.

We retired upstairs after lunch, Cathleen (Finn and Jeremiah's mom/my friend) and I armed with coffee and deep breathing to watch all 4 of our kids play.  What looked to be another round of conflict since William had costumed himself to be a Storm Trooper and Finn costumed herself to be a princess, quickly turned into one of the most endearing displays of cooperation as it was agreed she would be Princess Leah and he would be Luke Skywalker so he could rescue the princess.  And while they were often frustrated with the younger two (Elizabeth and Jeremiah), they had those wonderful moments of generosity where you feel like you're doing something right.  Finn split our two pompons with Elizabeth so that they could each have one, William made sure Jeremiah could come in his room and play with his cars.  They both kindly offered to take toys upstairs that the younger ones had deposited and/or thrown downstairs.  William offered to share his costumes with Finn and Finn let Elizabeth play with the dolls she had brought with her.  And the 2nd best moment (after the cooperation resulting in Luke & Leah) was their moment of solidarity.  About 15 minutes before it was time for Cathleen and her kiddos to take off toward home, I brought up drinks for all the kids.  William and Finn decided that as the "older kids" they had had enough of "babies" and asked if they could have "dude and girls time" with their drinks in William's room without the babies and mommies.  I walked in to give them their juice and there they were, sitting on William's bed together, discussing a book they had open.  I about died as they, in unison, pointed to Jeremiah who was attempting to enter the sacred "big kids" spot and said, "No!  We wanted to be just the big kids!!".  I ushered Jeremiah back into the playroom and Cathleen and I enjoyed a few more minutes of chat while the babies drank quietly and the "big kids" remained safely holed up in William's room.

Cathleen and I had a great time discussing the joys and perils of parenting a 4 year old and a not-quite-two-year-old and making each other feel that, at the very least, someone else was experiencing how parenting can be the hardest thing you've ever done, the closest one can get to crazy without the padded walls and the most incredible, amazing, rewarding thing in the world.  Yes, we agreed, we needed to have "me time" so we didn't totally lose our marbles, yes naps are a necessity just so MOMS can have quiet time, but YES, we wouldn't give up being home with our kids for anything in the world.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Everything I learned I learned from my...

You've seen those cute little bumper stickers that say things like, "Everything I learned, I learned from my dog"?  Well, I'm not ashamed to say (boy do I owe my parents a huge apology on this one), but everything I learned (although it kills me to admit it) I learned from my parents. 

You see, like all smug kids, teens and young adults... I often giggled at what I considered my parent's idiosyncrasies and wondered why they did the things they did, said the things they said, etc.  Now I KNOW... they are parents.  It comes with the territory.  Try as you might, you WILL do and say those things you used to laugh at folks.  You just will.

I used to sigh when my mom fell asleep before even the opening credits to a movie or TV show were finished, wondering why the poor woman couldn't even stay awake long enough to watch a movie with us.  I rolled my eyes when she used phrases like, "what am I talking to?! A brick wall?!"  I was truly puzzled when my dad would begin a sentence, "Girls... I'm not going to tell you AGAIN..."  I was confused as to why my mother chose to vacuum at 10:30 at night.  I wondered why my father got up at THE CRACK OF DAWN even on vacations.  I wondered at my parent's impatience when I needed to ask one measily question while they were on the phone.  Now, I know... boy do I know.

Parenting, I'm discovering, is a crazy juggling act. And by crazy, I mean it's making me nuts. It's about balance and organization and timing and some luck.  I have two children now (and that is ALL I plan on having, thank you) nearly 2 and 4 1/2.  So I've got one in the time-to-potty-train, starting-to-say-"no"-to-everything, running-naked-from-mommy-when-we're-already-late-is-funny, I'd-rather-finger-paint-with-my-food stage.  And my lovely son is in the I'm-going-to-get-my-own-way, I-don't-want-to-share, everything-in-life-is-worthy-of-an-Oscar-caliber-meltdown, why-why-why-why, I'm-old-enough-to-do-this, playing-is-more-interesting-than-listening/eating/sleeping stage. 

Why did my mother fall asleep at 9:00pm?  Because she was EXHAUSTED people.  It is very tiring to get up with the sun if you want ANY chance of having enough time to yourself to shower, get ready enough to feel human and maybe even enjoy a cup of coffee and then go ALL day and into the night trying to keep up a house and kids (and in her case work too, as I did until Elizabeth was born).  I cannot stop moving during the day unless I want to fall asleep.  Putting William down for a nap has now become dangerous for me because if I lie down to read him a story, I'm likely to put myself to sleep first! I often drift off in his bed only to be told "wake up, you're snoring!" and I'm THANKFUL because then I can get on with my housework. You see, being the type-A freak that I am, I have a very structured plan of how to keep my kids busy AND my house clean AND have some time as a family on the weekend... so I can't nap while they're napping, I clean!  So now here I am at night asking my husband if he wants to watch TV with me and I'm greeted often with a skeptical look and I can tell Mike is calculating just how long I might actually last.  Can I make it through an hour show?  A half hour?  Is a movie even WORTH attempting?  Should he just play on the computer because I won't make it past the opening credits?  Yup, I am my mother.  Of course, sometimes I'm not even asking Mike this question until 10:00 because even though the kids' bedtime is 8:30, I have fallen asleep in William's bed for a "nap" for a while.  THEN he knows I can make it through at least one show.

Oh, and the brick wall comment?  Now, I get it.  This morning I believe my talking with William went something like this:
"Put on your clothes and come downstairs, it's a school day"
I turn to Elizabeth only to notice a couple minutes later he's playing with trains.
"WILLIAM.  Put on your clothes and head downstairs, it's a school day"
I've finished dressing Elizabeth.  He now has Star Wars action figures in his hand and is at least holding his shirt.
"WILLIAM!!!!! PUT ON YOUR CLOTHES, it's a school day!"
I brush Elizabeth's teeth, grab her socks and William is standing in a shirt & undies apparently contemplating the universe because he's frozen in the playroom.
He turns, "what? what are you talking about mommy?  why are you yelling?"
I'm now taking several deep breaths.
"Dude!  I'm yelling because apparently you didn't hear me the first few times.  I have ASKED you to put on your clothes so we can head downstairs, it's a school day.  Do you want to miss your Valentines Party?"
He looks totally confused, grabs the rest of his clothes and starts down the stairs, shrugging "I'll just get dressed down here mom, come on."
Oh my god, kill me now.

My dad used to get up with the sun even on vacation.  I thought this was a holdover from his Air Force days or that perhaps my father was nuts.  No, no, kids, no, no.  He's a dad and he learned quickly that preparation is a parent's only weapon.  If YOU are at least prepared before preparing your children, your chances of leaving SOMEWHERE CLOSE to the time you intended have improved greatly.  Why is this?  Well kids, children are TIME SUCKERS.  I'm not kidding.  Time will be sucked away from you in HUGE increments and you will swear only five minutes has passed.  When you're single or even married-but-childless, you have getting ready and leaving on time down to an art.  You know, for example, that at the very least, you could wake up 15 minutes before leaving and still be presentable.  Yeah, kiss that one goodbye when you have kids.  I remember I used to try to wake William up 30 minutes before leaving to go somewhere.  Then it became an hour.  Add Elizabeth-I-like-to-run-away-and-throw-drooling-tantrums in the mix and it has become an hour and a half.  If you are asking yourself "why" as you read this, then you are not a parent.  If your are laughing in relief that someone else is living in your hell... you clearly ARE a parent.

A friend during a playdate mentioned that she and her childless sister got into a fight the last visit because her sister asked her why she needed to make plans in advance, why couldn't she just "go with it".  I think my coffee nearly came out my nose.  Go with it?  Really?  People, when you need sanitorium-grade restraints just to get a child still enough to clothe, when you have a four year old with the attention span of a gnat and more easily distracted than a puppy, when you would like to have the kind of day that doesn't require 5 shots of whiskey to cure... you have to be prepared.  And with children the age of mine this requires "packing" for even the smallest outing.  This requires extra clothes, toys, "entertainment", juice cups, milk cups, snacks, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, jackets, etc.  I mean, if you would like to be the parent in the restaurant with the melting down child because they're starving and you didn't anticipate having to wait for a table... by all means "go with it."  If you want to be the parent forced to get up from the table and play "let's count the cars outside" because you didn't think to bring along table-friendly toys/entertainment, go for it.  And that's just the stuff you CAN anticipate.  Preparation still cannot top the last minute poop emergencies, spit ups, lost items that you had just two seconds ago before your toddler ran off with them, bodily fluid "surprises" that require a change of their AND YOUR clothes, etc.  Preparation is your weapon.  Use it.

"I'm not going to say this AGAIN" and "DUDE I'm on the PHONE!!!" are two things I think I must say daily now.  Seriously.  Daily.  Children will forget what you have told them in seconds.  It's amazing. I can tell William and Elizabeth no wrestling 1000 times a day.  Won't matter.  They'll still do it and one of them will end up hurt.  Every day. And yet, I still try, beginning my sentence with (yes, Mom and Dad I get it now), "I swear to God, I'm not going to say this AGAIN."  Although truly, I'm lying.  Because I will have to say it.  Again and again and again.  And OH MY GOD, the phone.  What the hell?  My children will be quiet, playing nicely and neatly UNTIL I GET ON THE PHONE.  Then it's time for 100 questions or it's time to dump all the legos, rip off Spider Man's legs, roll all the toilet paper off the roll, rip all the books off the shelf, try to kill each other and take out every dress-up/costume item they own.  And that's just during a 5 minute conversation.  I had to call the doctor's office the other day and I seriously prepared by closing the doors to their bedrooms, bathroom and putting up a baby gate in order to quarantine them to the playroom and THEN told them I was making a quick phone call and please be quiet.  Yeah... that worked.  (sarcasm)

It's a crazy life people.  A good life, but a crazy one.  You WILL be doing something insane like vacuuming or making tomorrow's breakfast at 10:30 at night because that's the only time you'll have.  You WILL be forced to give a simple direction at least 10 times before it's done.  You will find yourself saying things you never thought you would like, "Elizabeth, don't put your straw up your nose" or "William, your sister is not a tackling dummy" or "Now we have to sanitize that since you dropped it in the toilet".  You will find yourself out in public only to discover yogurt on your pants or a Cheerio stuck to your shirt.  And you WILL be tired constantly.  You won't get a moment to yourself unless it's early in the morning or when you're exhausted at night.  You will have to adjust your idea of normal every few months as phases begin and end.  It's parenthood.  And now, Mom and Dad, enjoy this...

"I AM SORRY"  and finally,

Great.. now I'll just have to wait 34 years and perhaps my kids will say the same.  Until then...laughter and preparation folks, laughter and preparation.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Childhood Ghosts and Adventures in Dizzyland

So recently I've discovered a not so fun part of parenthood - when the ghosts of childhood past revisit in the form of your children.  I'm discovering it is SO hard not to make my childhood issues an issue for mychildren, particularly when they stumble upon a problem that I had.

Case in Point: Last week William came home from preschool both days very sad because, in his words, "No one would play with me."  I always ask him every day on the ride home "What did you learn? Did you have fun? Who did you play with?  Were you good?" etc.  Well last week he said very tearfully when I asked who he played with - "no one."  I'm used to him listing a bunch of names when I ask, so I said, "what do you mean?"  And he replied, "No one would play with me after snack.  It really hurt my feelings.  I don't know what I did wrong."  My heart sunk.

You see kids, until 8th grade I HATED school.  I was painfully shy, very sensitive, small, socially awkward and horribly bullied.  I don't know what it was about me, but I was the constant target of bullies and the one ALWAYS left out when my "friends" suddenly decided they needed to thin their circle.  I have feared this pain for my own kids and I have to fight myself to just let them develop into who they are without letting my fears play on their choices.  So when William came home saying that, I just wanted to cry.  Here I am 37 years old and just devastated.  He was able to let it go and be totally chipper within an hour.  Me?  I couldn't sleep for two days.  Overreact much? you're saying.  Yes, I do.

So I gave him the best advice I could.  I tried to remember how painful it was and all the things I WISHED I had the courage to say and do.  I told him if someone picks on him, turn his back without a word and walk away.  I told him not to chase them or beg them because kids want to find someone to pick on or someone to leave out, so just don't even give them the chance.  Pick new friends or find his own thing to play and if they come around, then HE can choose if he wants to play with them.  I told him if they don't let him alone and they get in his face to knock down his stuff or take his toys, etc, to use his "angry voice" (I said, you know that loud voice mommy or daddy uses when we're done with your bad behavior?) and tell them strongly that they cannot treat him that way and he won't let them.  I said if it is just teasing or them saying, "Go away, we don't like you" to respond with "Whatever dude.  I don't need to play with someone so grumpy."

And then I prayed.  I prayed he would have a better week this week.  I prayed he would not have to go to school sad, miserable, scared and with knots in his stomach like I did.  Because I had to remember that HE IS NOT ME.  While he is facing a similar circumstance, he is NOT shy and he is not socially awkward.  He is small and sensitive like I was, but that doesn't mean he's me.  I had to realize that I can only help him so much and then he has to pave his own way, make his own friends and find out what works for him.

He must have figured something out.  Today he came out of school happy and said, "I followed your advice mom.  I won't let the mean kids be mean to me.  I'm so glad I went to school today."  I breathed a sigh of relief and had fun with him and some other moms and kids at the park.  And I'm working hard to stop thinking of the next time.  If I worry over every "what if" I'm just going to model being a worrier too.  One step at a time... one step at a time.  Ugh, sometimes I hate this.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Ah yes, Dizzy (Elizabeth) continues to be a whole new adventure in parenting.  Lately, it's been those kind of moments you want to remember as a parent.  Those funny, silly, surprising moments that I just have to write down because I don't want to forget how amazing it is to watch a child grow.

I have forgotten just how funny pretending can be in a small child, but then there's Dizzy.  Lately, she is super-big on pretending.  The other day she said, "Mommy, I Iron Man!" and then made her version of the sound of him taking off in his rocket boots.  Then she shouted "I flying!!"  I about died.  A little later she's attempting to hop with both feet (she can't manage this yet, so she just looks like she's doing squats) and when I ask, "are you dancing?" she replies, "no. I frog!  ribbit ribbit".  This was even funnier because her word for frog sounds like a certain 4-letter swear word and I had to pause for a minute.  It wasn't until "ribbit ribbit" that I sighed with relief that my daughter wasn't already swearing at the age of 22 months.

Speaking of swearing... we are at that age with Elizabeth where there are certain words/phrases you just really hope she doesn't utter in public.  Not because she's saying anything bad... but because it SOUNDS like she is.  One of those is definitely "frog."  Thank god it's a rare moment that she sees anything resembling a frog in public... but boy do I wish I could say the same thing about a fork!  As you can imagine, the word "fork" also comes out sounding pretty foul right now.  The trouble is, whenever she drops her fork while eating she says "Oh! Fork".  Need I say more?  I keep trying to order things in public that can only be eaten with a spoon. 

The word "truck" also comes out sounding like either a 4-letter "F" word or, even better, a crude euphamism for a piece of the male anatomy (also a word for a rooster if you don't know which euphamism I'm speaking of).  Now, trucks are basically impossible to avoid in public.  They are EVERYWHERE.  Even better, it always seems that the age where they cannot pronounce the word is precisely the age where they are obsessed with them.  Elizabeth is obsessed with Fire Trucks, Garbage Trucks, Construction Trucks, you name it... and so does she!  Today at the park she could be heard shouting "c!@#, c!@3" with each passing vehicle.  Loudly and to many giggles.  At least most people understand and just laugh.  It's better when she at least puts the word "Fire" in front of it... NOOOOT so good when she just precedes it with the word, "big"... you get the idea.  I cannot wait until she can pronounce truck.

The other current Dizzy adventure I just don't want to forget is a little game I play now when stepping into my boots called "what will I find there?"  You would think I would learned my lesson, kids.  You would think that perhaps I would be smart enough to rememeber to turn my boots upside down before stepping into them.  No, I'm afraid not.  Always tired and always in a hurry (I'm a mom, give me a break), I'm  always stepping into them and then stifling a swear word.  It's always the very tender part of my arch that finds whatever item Dizzy has decided to place in there.  She thinks my boots are her own personal storage vessels and delights in dropping whatever is currently in her hands into them.  And not just one pair.  Always the fair one, she makes sure each boot gets its own little present.  To date I have found a Thor action figure, a Super-Why doll, numerous Star Wars blasters, a measuring spoon, one of my hair clips, one of her hair clips, a curler, Spider Man action figure, Night Crawler action figure, a Dinosaur Train action figure, a teething toy, a squishy ball (small moment of panic there as I feared a bodily fluid placed in my boot), a play fork, rubber bands, her socks, her brother's gloves and an Oregon Ducks noismaker in my boots.  In fact, I bet if I get up and go look in one right now, I'll find something.  It's like every day is a twisted little version of X-mas and I have a surprise in my stocking.  At least it's not food, right?  Or a present from the dog...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Meaning of "Uh-Oh" and "I need a little help here..."

My children never cease to amaze me.  Mostly in their ability to be as different as possible so that I can continue to feel like an absolute clueless novice about parenting.  Currently, Elizabeth is the master of understatement, while William is having to learn the "keep your reaction appropriate to the situation" lesson.

Let's start with little Miss Elizabeth.  I have realized over the past few days that she has chosen "uh oh" as her catch-all phrase for everything and that I now dread those words as I often find them an understatement for the situation that prompted it.

Case in Point: gross situations that would, for me, necessitate a squeal, a cry, an "eeeeww yuck!" or something with a little more oomph than her very nonchalant "uh oh".  These past few weeks uh-oh has signaled a teething ring dropped into the toilet that she had already proudly gone potty in (REALLY?!), peeing on the carpet (potty training is going great, can you tell?), her intention to vomit and getting her Kermit doll's foot in poop. Jeez!  Is this seriously my life now?!

And worse, since she also applies that phrase to non-panic-inducing situations, I find my heart leaping with the mere utterance of the words because I just never know what situation I'm about to walk in on.  While uh-oh can signal a poop accident or her teetering precariously on the edge of something so high I can't fathom how she got there in the first place, it can also signal her dropping the Thor action figure just out of her reach, "accidentally" (riiiiiight) throwing her blanket from her crib, smooshing Playdough into the carpet, christening one of the dogs with yogurt, ripping a book or playing the "wrong" song on her CD player. She doesn't even change her inflection for crying out loud.  The "uh oh" I get when she can't get her baby doll in the stroller is the exact same "uh oh" I get before she goes depositing foreign objects in the toilet (which to date has included a piece of her training potty, a page of a book and a brush in addition to the aforementioned teething ring).  Seriously!  Can't she at least have a calm uh-oh and an urgent one so I don't go running like the crazed mother that I am in the direction of her voice fearing the worst of bodily functions gone wrong?

And then there's William.  I think he'd better start brushing up on his Oscar speeches right now or plan to play soccer, because BOY can this kid act!  We keep having to coach him on keeping his reactions appropriate because he screams like he's having an amputation sans anesthesia when he's merely bumped his leg on the table.  He folds like a soccer player taking a dive in front of a ref, rolling around like it will earn him something, while we look on in a combination of frustration and amusement.  Today he hurt his leg and the scream he emitted, I'm pretty sure, was worse than when he cut his chin open.  "Did your leg fall off?" I found myself asking.  "Do we need to take you to the hospital?"  He laughed and said, "No!".  So Mike and I said, "Then calm down and keep your reactions appropriate dude!  Don't go screaming like you've lost a limb when you've had a minor bump!"

The best is that he, like his sister, has a go-to phrase.  His favorite is "Um... Need some help here!"  Only, unlike his sister, it is not said calmly nor in anything resembling a nonchalant manner.  It is often shouted with the urgency of one who has just been bitten by a poisonous snake and is calling quickly for the only available antidote.  So I find myself RUSHING to his aid only to be asked to put his Star Wars figure back on the speeder bike or supply him with a clean napkin because his current one contains a miniscule swipe of yogurt.  I find myself constantly saying "Dude, SERIOUSLY?!  Calm down."  Applying too much cinnamon to one's applesauce or dropping a ball down the stairs just does not require the same urgency as, oh say, your little sister courting death with one of her antics.

Why then, do you ask, do I continue to run to his aid?  Why haven't I learned my lesson?  Because, dear readers, EVERY once in a great while, he actually applies it to a real problem.  Like his sister locking herself in the bathroom or nearly choking on something.  So now he has me JUUUUST insecure enough that the phrase "um... need some help here!" gets me running because I'm afraid that this will be the one-in-ten times that something is on fire rather than merely being a case of his inability to put together a satisfactory Lincoln Logs cabin.

I find myself asking every day, "seriously?  where do these kids come from?"  I know , I know, from me.  If you asked my folks I'm sure they would tell you that I too was a drama queen or lacked the ability to adequately convey a TRUE need for help.  I think their favorite go-to phrase is becoming, "Yeeeeeaaah, I don't know ANYONE who was like that."

I think that's why I'm keeping this blog.  Someday when William complains about his melodramatic child or Elizabeth frets over her kid's lack of appropriate disgust, I will show them this entry and say, "yeeeeaah, I don't know ANYONE who was like that."  However, my future joy as a grandparent is little comfort to me right now as I navigate these parental waters constantly feeling like I'm up the proverbial creek without a paddle. 

Anyone got a paddle?  An instruction manual?  Whiskey?  Anyone... anyone...?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Of Bodily Fluids and Sexual Politics

Now I know that a certain amount of bodily fluids accompany the choice to parent two children while owning two dogs... I know this.  I'm not stupid kids.  I consider myself a relatively intelligent lady.  I expected the poop scooping (dogs) and the poop wiping (kids).  I expected the occasional stray whiz by my little boy that would strike walls, floors, me and the occasional innocent passerby should a diaper not be closed quickly enough or (after potty training) when my son lost focus and turned while still having penis in hand.  I expected a nervous piddle or two from an excited young dog or a scared old one on the Fourth of July.  What I was NOT prepared for was for God, in His infinite wisdom, to make me the f@#!ing Job of bodily functions, particularly my nemesis, Vomit.  Ugh. 

God has seen fit to do most of the work in what I shall call my bodily-fluid-immersion-therapy through my darling little daughter Elizabeth.  She's deceptively cute, kids.  She has long blonde curls and ridiculously long eyelashes and the kind of cheeks that make strangers call her a "little angel" and make me roll my eyes in response.  This "ANGEL" must be dressed at all times because, if she is not, she will promptly strip off her diaper and alert us to her current bodily function with a loudly-spoken "uh oh."  To save her from sweating to death in her crib at nap time, I have tried twice to let her sleep in a diaper.  No more, folks.  Not unless I'm prepared to bathe her and wash all her bedding when she wakes because she will strip off her diaper and soak her mattress as though she had a gallon of water prior to the nap.  She is the queen of the "stealth poop," stealing away to a corner and playing with some toy until the stench wafts in my direction (or William of the much better nose yells, "mommy she stinks!"), doing her best to frustrate my current efforts to begin potty training.  I'm trying to learn the tricks of the stealth poop, but this wily creature will change the time of day, location and manner of the stealth poop as frequently as paranoid people change their passwords so that I cannot catch on.  I have now begun putting her on the toilet immediately upon waking, eating, etc. and leaving her there for an EXTENDED period of time with many books and have finally found some success in getting her to poop in the potty.  I know she has to poop when I hand her the books and she looks up at me and says "go away."

The worst of the bodily functions, for me however, is vomit.  I am a sympathetic vomiter and, worse, when I vomit I become a child again.  I cry, slobber, want my mother, etc.  It's not pretty.  I know lots of calm vomiters and they just piss me off, quite frankly. 

Here's the problem - of all the bodily functions, this one seems to be a particular problem with Elizabeth.  It's like the girl is constantly ingesting Ipecac or something.  And it's not just a little folks.  OH NO.  It's projectile and seems to consist of everything ingested in the last 48 hours.  We're talking exorcist baby here.  We even took her to eating therapy because vomiting has now ensued for the following reasons with our little angel: eating too much, not liking a texture, having too much liquid, crying too much, coughing too hard, being too anxious, taking too large a bite and (I'm not making this up), sticking her own fingers down her throat.  I mean, shit, what is this?  Can Bulemia start at 18 months?!  Argh!!!

Last night was the kicker.  Elizabeth is going through some weird sleep thing where she is no longer easy to put to bed.  Her bedtime routine used to be one quick story, put in crib, turn on lullabyes and walk away.  I'm not kidding.  It took maybe 5 minutes to put this kid to bed.  Last night, however, she panicked and did not want me to put her down.  This is the 3rd night of this so I figure, I've been through this with William, let her cry it out.  She'll stop.  Well, absolute SCREAMING ensued, but I held strong. MISTAKE.  This morning I opened her door and was nearly blown back by a familiar, gut-turning, stench.  "Oh God," I thought (calculating how much time it would take to clean her and the room when it's a school morning for William) and turned on the light.  I had to hold my nose and get her out of the crib while she cried accusingly at me.  The only blessing in this... this strange child managed to ONLY hit her sheets.  Somehow in this torrent she missed the two stuffed animals in her crib, her pajamas and (get this), herself!!!  She even left one corner clean and slept RIGHT in that corner.  (such a girl)  I washed her off just in case and got all the linens in the laundry while yelling "wake up" at William since I no longer had time to wake him nicely.  I'm now wondering how on earth I'm going to get past this "I don't want you to leave me in my crib" phase with Elizabeth without having to worry about her showering herself or her room in vomit every night.  Really?  Is this fair?

Now, to make matters worse, God (again I believe he's enrolled me in bodily-fluid-immersion-therapy) makes sure that I don't get to handle just one thing at a time.  Inevitably in our house, when the children begin having issues, the dogs (not to be outdone) begin having their own issues.  Late last week, before Elizabeth's current vomit-mania began (she also puked on Mike two days ago) I walked past our staircase late at night right before bed and caught a HORRIBLE scent.  Shit. Literally.  I walked up to the playroom to discover that Yukon (he of the most nervous dog belly ever) had pooped right by Elizbeth's play kitchen.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  It's 1:00 in the morning and there I am with towels, Oxi-Clean and my heaving stomach, swearing as quietly as possible because the playroom is bordered on each side by the kids' rooms.  Of course.  Why not.  Now this whole week, while managing stealth poops, potty training and vomit, I find myself jumping whenever I hear the familiar dog-tag-jingle of Yukon climbing the stairs because I'm paranoid that he's up there making more deposits.  Laugh if you will, but that freakin' dog has done so many stealth-pees (he's particularly fond of christening Elizabeth's room) and now the nervous poop that I'm putting up baby gates not to keep Elizabeth from the stairs, but to keep that damn dog from the playroom!  Argh!!!!  I sure hope Elizabeth (and the dogs) outgrow this soon before I run out of "bodily fluid" towels, patience and sanity.

Unlike his sister, William is presenting a new challenge for me that is, thankfully, bodily fluid free, BUT it is a harbinger of great conversations (read sarcasm) to come.  The other week I noticed that whenever William talks about school, particularly the coveted "sharing bag" (each child gets to take it home and put something to share in it for the next class day), he is all cute and fun until he mentions "Serena."  There is a certain vitriol with which he spits her name.  As in, "I hope SER-EEENA doesn't get the sharing bag," or "it was nice when the other kids helped me clean up the blocks but I wish SER-EEENA wouldn't help me." 

Amused, I asked, "what is it with you and Serena?  Do you not like her?"
"Huh, NO!" he fairly snorts and rolls his eyes as if this should be obvious to me.
"Why not?" I stupidly ask.  He looks at me incredulously as if I've suddenly sprouted tentacles.
"Be-CAAAAUSE," he sighs exasperatedly, "she's a GIRL."
"Okay, " I reason, "but you never talk about any of the other girls, just Serena.  Does she particularly bother you?  Do you guys fight?"  He looks ready to give up on his mother's obvious lack of knowledge.
"No, MO-OM," he explains patiently, "I hate ALL the girls.  Girls are NOT cool.  The boys are cooler than the girls."
"Really," I'm stifling a giggle, "ALL girls, eh?"
"I'm a girl," I point out.
"You don't count, you're my mom."
"Holly (babysitter he is IN LOVE with) is a girl."
"MO-OM.  She's a grown up."
"Aha!" I say, pointing out his cognitive disonance, "so not ALL girls are bad!"
"All the ones in my CLASS are Mom," he says as though I should know this.
"Why?" I ask.
"The boys are cooler than they are, that's why."  I'm skeptical of his reasoning.
"Why are the boys cooler?"
"We wear cooler clothes, mom.  The girls wear dumb clothes."

So there we have it kids.  It begins at 4 years old.  I thought it would be more like 6 or 7 years old.  But here it is.  Sexual politics begins in preschool.  Next it will cooties, teasing, girls being sissies, girls crying too much, girls playing with stupid dolls, girls talking about dumb stuff like hair and clothes, girls being know-it-alls and, much later, girls being a mystery and breaking his heart.  I'm not ready for this.  I'm not.  I don't want to have conversations about how dumb girls are (even if I often agree... I had mostly male friends for a reason!) and I certainly don't want to have to point out that someday, he won't think girls are so bad.  I'd rather talk super heroes, comic books, Star Wars, football, baseball, lady bug and snake hunting and ANYTHING, but the burgeoning sexual politics that forced co-ed socialization leads to. But here we are.

I was so thankful today when I asked William about school and he said, "it was a good day mom.  James and I didn't fight.  We played nicely together.  We got to play with the rice table.  We learned about the letter P."  Phew, I thought, we can converse about how to get along nicely (he & James fight sometimes).  Then came the little voice...

"Oh, and SER-REEEENA and Mitchell got the sharing bags.  I hate Serena..."  Of course.