The Stove Is Too Clean To Cook On

This morning my mom was reluctant to put the tea kettle on because the stovetop was too clean.

Go ahead. Take that in.

The stovetop is a constant source of consternation for me. It’s one of the flat-topped ones and the glass seems to acquire charred spots if you so much as breathe near a burner. Do you have this stove?  Am I the only one this happens to? Suffice to say that I spend a lot of time cleaning it so that it doesn’t look like a troop of slovenly spillers pass the time cooking spaghetti sauce and starting grease fires all day. Debra’s therapist remarked that feeling uncomfortable around a clean stove is the sort of thing that might making moving into their house more appealing.

RR’s behavior of late is another thing that would encourage them to take us up on our offer to loan them a bed. School vacation started two weeks ago and she promptly stopped napping and started spending her days shrieking, jumping, and racing around. This also coincided with a break in both gymnastics and music classes (and that’s another post entirely) and no amount of walking or cleaning has worn her out. We made her wash rocks she found on a hike, peel carrots, sweep the floor, and make the soup. She is a banshee. My quiet parents are likely to run for the hills the second they are able!

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Please Tell Me It’s Just Three

If I could have put sound effects up there instead of a title you would have heard a series of door slamming, wailing, I wanna do its!

Please tell me this is just three. Please tell me that the obsessive counting (ten more times mama!) and persistent repetition to keep to the routine (NONOTLIKETHAT let me do it again!) is just a stage. Please tell me that lining up perfume bottles, opening and re-closing doors, and demanding we return the sheet she never uses just because it’s supposed to be there is not going to turn into something we have to manage. Please tell me that I won’t be repeating things like BEEK A BEEK A BEE in exactly the right octave and pace forever. And that I won’t have remind my wife to do it also because HAVEN’T YOU HEARD HER SAYING MAMA DO IT DO IT BEEK A BEEK A BEE for the last five minutes?

That she won’t always have to line up her plate and cup and bowl on the precise edge of the table and don’t you dare touch it because I will cut you.

That she won’t continue to make me leave a room if I haven’t come into it just the way she asked.

That she won’t repeat actions ad infinitum until it happens just the right way.

As someone with her fair share of hurdles in life courtesy of my particular genetic lottery “winnings,” I truly hope this really is just three. I find myself going out of my way not to inadvertently create new routines for her. No, of course I don’t mind a shirt then pants then shoes routine. Or a brush teeth wash hands pajama routine. But the let me shut the door holding the handle this particular way and god help you if you so much as look at me funny routine isn’t working for me. And neither are the rituals she’s accumulating in order to be able to undertake any activity. Bedtime not only includes songs and stories but also climbing up a balance ball like a mountaineer! and jumping up and down ten times not in trouble (she says because I told her 20 was too many. Once. Months ago.)

I assume routines are comforting. After all, she’s a teeny tiny cog in a really big wheel and it must be nice to control something. I just don’t like the colossal tantrums that result from being moved past a ritual into actual progress. Please tell me it’s just three.

I’m Gonna Pop Some Tags

I’ve been torn lately. My daughter isn’t a mimic (yet?) and so doesn’t run around repeating any of the terrible things we say. I like to think it’s because we don’t call each other (or any one else) names except of the occasional douchecanoe reserved for the days when the world is against us. Fortunately we’re in this together because I can’t imagine taking kindly to being called a douchecanoe myself.

She must not hear (or care about) words at school that we’d rather she not bring home. There seems to be a surprising lack of name calling. On the other hand, RR’s penchant for playing alone, on a hill, with a piece of grass, for an hour might contribute to her lack of verbal venom. She does mimic all sort of things we had no idea were were saying, like “that’s deyiteful, mama!” As background noise, we must be pretty pleasant folks.

Enter her love for music. I’m a good DJ, you all. I am not spinning NWA (are they still a thing?). She hears plenty of Singing in the Rain, folk music, and instrumental band pieces. She also hears her fair share of clean-mouthed pop. In fact, it never occurred to me to actually listen to the lyrics because they just seem to wash over her. But you can’t help but hear the lyrics in Macklemore’s Thrift Shop. Which is her favorite song. Surely you are wondering how it got that way in the first place and that story is neither here nor there. The fact is, she began asking for it by name after only one viewing. And frankly, since I didn’t think she could differentiate the lyrics, I was unconcerned.

But then she mimicked. Not the words, but the dancing. She watches Macklemore with an intensity that would scare off Norman Bates. She tries to copy his every move (albeit a few beats late). She lights up with joy. But if she’s copying his dancing, what ELSE will she be copying? I’m pretty sure no one is going to be okay with her saying “I’m gonna rock that mothafucker” in reference to her stained ladybug shirt. No, make that VERY sure.

Back to Singing in the Rain, kid.

Well, Now That’s Out of the Way

RR has been sleeping less well at night. We’ve become accustomed to plenty of peaceful nights. Nights that began early in the evening and extended well into the 7 o’clock hour. Oh, we were so refreshed. We woke up feeling like new souls every day. Life was shiny in the way that it can only be when you are not peering through the veil of sleep deprivation.

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Lest you think it has always been this way, let me assure you that in child-time, two weeks is practically forever. Hell, in sleep-time, three nights is enough to make me forget that I was ever tired to begin with. But we’ve had our share of sleep trials. Apparently, now is also one of those times.

Suddenly a nighttime wake-up has morphed into a bedtime reset complete with requests for rocking, singing, and story time. RR is dissatisfied with any attempt to wrap it up and howls if you try to put her back in the crib. Repeat. At least twice. By now you know me well enough to know that my tolerance lasted one night before I morphed into stumbling, bleary, antihero who approached nighttime wake-ups with an attitude that would shame the most cantankerous of honey badgers. That, I assure you, soothed RR back to sleep immediately.

And then my wife and I reached that point. The one we’ve never reached in three years of parenting. It’s possible the words have never been uttered in the many years we’ve known each other. Implied, probably. I’m no saint. But there it is.

“This is all your fault.”

I don’t suppose those were the exact words. I was half asleep at the time. But sure enough. In my daze, I informed my wife that the reason we were going to sit here and listen to RR scream was because she had indulged our daughter in an increasingly long series of demands to be rocked and held and cuddled in the middle of the night. Whenever she felt like it. And while that child was accustomed to me refusing to pick her up (I am, after all, the bottom tier mother in a series of layers that also includes dracula ants and Norman Bates’ mother), her reluctance to simmer down had swiftly snuck me down the path of rocking and cuddling.

When I realized I had been duped by a two-year-old (not the first time, I assure you) I resolved to stick to in-the-crib soothing. On the spectrum of cry-it-out and god-no-anything-but-that we are closer to the latter. As she has gotten older, we’ve been able successfully substitute verbal soothing for physical consolation. Surely, she would understand.

“It’s okay baby. What’s wrong? Here are your things, let me tuck you in.”
“Rock me, mama.”
“It’s nighttime, it’s time to sleep not rock.”

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And that left me and my wife in the bedroom with blame drifting down around us. Maybe it’s because my long-suffering wife is used to my my inability to be rational at night. Or maybe it’s because she has the patience of a saint. Whatever it is, she let it pass with only a mention the next day. Thanks, she said, for getting that out of the way. You guys, we are not divorced. Which is the best possible outcome. Also, RR is mostly sleeping through the night again.

Rest assured, I am under no delusion that this is the result of some success on our parts so much as it is the result of her having wrapped up whatever developmental stage she was in. That said, the stage was not potty training. More on that catastrophe another time.

 

It’s Like Prison – Only Louder

I am so tired.  You’d think RR was an infant, I am so tired.  In fact, I think she might think she’s an infant for all the time she’s spending being a pain in the ass all. night. long.

 

Sorry.  I fell asleep just then at the sound of my own pitiful whining.  Also, because I am exhausted.

But! I am not here to (entirely) complain about sometimes four-times-a-night wake up calls (that’s putting it delicately) because we all have colds (thanks, RR) and it has been unreasonably cold in our house.  It’s a brick box.  It takes awhile to get hot or cold but when it does, hoo boy, prepare for endless shivering/sweating.  Yes, we have a thermostat.  Yes, it works beautifully in seasonable weather, which both it and I consider to be between 50-80 degrees all year long.  20s – I object to you.

So, our room is freezing and RR’s room is chilly so we’ve stepped up our parenting game and dressed her in warmer clothes.  We have humidified her cold.  We have anticipated her every need.  We have followed the parenting strategy that got us this far: we do go in, we do find whatever is missing, and we do give her a hug if she wants it.  She doesn’t take advantage and she’s not going to be small forever.  I’ll take cuddling where I can get it.  We lessened the number of things in her bed.  We stopped humidifying, applying what we know of temperature and science.  Still, we wonder, is her bed somehow made of icy spikes?  And is her voice so much louder at night?  It’s like the howling of a dozen…well, howlers.  I’m too tired for metaphors.

The point!  You knew it was coming!  When do people (you, obviously, because no one else has time for blah blah blah it’ssocold) give kids a pillow, sheet, and/or blanket?  Have we been cruelly making our child do penance with her old square swaddle for a blanket and nothing else?  Why do we even use pillows anyway?  Does every child you know have a cozy bed by two and a half?  Do they use normal-sized pillows?  Does she have to be out of the crib to get bedding?  How have I missed this important parenting lesson?  So tell me, worst parents ever?

 

 

 

Opinion: I Think the Elf on the Shelf is Creepy

I realize this is an unpopular opinion, but that Elf on a Shelf is creepy.

I know this is heresy because any time I mention my feelings about it (and believe me, I do so with caution after the first time someone looked at me like I had four heads and small children locked in a basement), I get big eyes followed by a snarly face and a j’accuse tone.  It’s as if I’d slunk up and slammed their religious beliefs.  Me, a person whom they had previously thought was good-natured, balanced, and sane.  I know.  What comes next is usually a firm, no-compromise explanation about why the Elf is the second coming accompanied by an unspoken (usually) accusation about my validity as a person.  I am reduced to dust.

I’m not that person who believes in telling it like it is at all costs.  I mean, I’m honest about how I feel but I’m also diplomatic and I know when it would benefit me to keep my mouth shut.  This has served me well as December wears on: it is impolite to be overly vocal about one’s skepticism over Elf on a Shelf.  It is wise to couch any unfavorable opinion is a gentle veneer of I’m just one person and I’m sure your child loves him.  You know what else I’ve learned I shouldn’t say?  That my mother once mentioned putting a hair over doll’s legs so you could be sure they weren’t getting up at night.  She was kidding, right?  Right?

As you can imagine, last week’s holiday party brought with it a troop of elf-lovers.  I felt like a traitor in their midst.  However, I’m a strong traitor and I discovered a few allies none of whom had the balls to vocally support the cause.  I’ve learned that the Elf reports back to Santa each night on the doings of the household and sometimes the particular naughtiness or niceness of the children.  I’ve learned that the Elf is a wonderful hider, giving the children something to look forward to every day.  I’ve learned that he does funny things that make the children laugh.  I’ve learned that he is the embodiment of joy and Christmas spirit.  I’ve learned that he sometimes (though not often) stands in a for an advent calendar.  I’ve learned that he’s capable of holding a sweet direction for the day.  “Decorate the tree!” or “Bake cookies!” or “Let mama take a nap!”  But you guys, does he have to have such a creepy face?

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Just so you know that I’m not alone in a) feeling this way or b) being afraid of persecution, here are some other folks saying it better than I am:

(spoiler alert: if you are an Elf fan, you may want to stone me and these people so, to save you the quarry fees, here are some quotes from these articles just for you.  We’re all afraid of you.)  

—“An object that disappears and reappears is wonderfully fun” – The Atlantic
—“So innocent! So whimsical!…my kids thought it was hilarious…Why does everyone have to take everything so darn seriously?” – The Stir
“The Elf is a handy little thing to have.” – Jen from People I want to Punch in the Throat
—“You just like the fun of moving the little guy around, and having the kids gleefully search for him each day. It’s not so different from other holiday rituals, after all, like lighting candles or opening up the windows in an advent calendar.” – Salon

On to the links:

Morality, narcs, and the fear factor.
Parental pressure and feelings of inadequacy.
Some people need two elves, mess making, and parental comparisons.
Commercialism, privacy, and Facebook (also the endearment “crumpet” which, awesome).

Spirited?

In the last post, I alluded to the fact that we weren’t all hugs and rainbows at our house.  Sure, most of the time everything is beyond great but the spectacular blow-ups that punctuate those times are mind-numbingly awful.  On Sunday, I found myself scraping masticated string cheese out of my hair watching my child scream while army-crawling over the Target carpet.

When she blows up, she does it with such passion that I’m rendered speechless.  I can’t figure out whether to try to pick her up, leave her alone, soothe her, or let her soothe herself.  I default to a bottom line of checking for danger and, if there is none, promptly freezing in place.  At home, she usually tears off into her bedroom where she rages until either distracted or exhausted.  Efforts to intervene are met with red-faced, high-volume, beligerence.  Google defines this as “war-like behavior” and I’m not above admitting that sometimes I’m worried she’s armed with that yardstick she squirreled away into her room.

The reasoning for the tantrums isn’t always clear but can occasionally be attributed to:

The absence of blueberries
The admonition not to elbow-check her playmates
The suggestion not to run wildly down the street

The trend here is clearly the removal of things: the fruit that fuels her very survival, a face with which to target practice, the joy of a traffic-filled swath of freedom.

On a recent walk around the neighborhood, she decided not to ride in her stroller but that she would walk.  And by walk she meant blindly pushing the stroller into each available ravine, guardrail, and path of tour de france bicyclists.  We are her parents and thus know a) that we should have remembered that this is why we never use the stroller and b) therefore we should remove it as an option while walking.  The anger, it burned like a thousand angry suns.  And so she screamed.  All the way through the rest of the neighborhood and almost all the way home.  We had to remove her, beet red and flailing, from the middle of the street where she was laying on her back bellowing in fury.  Multiple times.  You think I’m exaggerating.  I am not.

I felt/feel pretty overwhelmed by this and am trying to continue to look at it with an eye toward development and independence.  I also admit to taking solace in this post from Jason Good 365 called “Tantrum in the Woods”  The penultimate and final paragraphs of that post reassure me that somewhere else in the world someone else is suffering these same fits.

MAMADEE

Here I am, talking about someone else’s business again.  This is, in part, D’s story to tell.  I’ve got a point of view though, so here’s mine.  You can bug her about her side here or on twitter.

For the full 803 days we have lived with RR, she has called us both Mama.  Well, sometimes she calls me ARRGGGHHHHMAMANOFANKYOU! But mostly, mama does just fine.  Before she was born, I was certain the most common question we’d field would be “Who’s the mom?” but either we live in an enlightened community or RR looks enough like one of us to make the question a moot point.  In our case, the “she looks SO much like you!” comments vary depending on who is holding her.  Apparently, our efforts to genetically engineer a baby who looked like both of us were successful.  The actual question we field most frequently is, “What does she call you?”

Mama, we say.  Repeatedly, sometimes more than once to the same people.  Mama.  No, really, both mama.  No, we haven’t differentiated.  No, she hasn’t found it confusing.  No, we aren’t planning to change.  Yes, we realize you are shocked, disturbed, horrified and concerned that we are un-American at best and inhuman at worst.  Yes, we will still be your friends.  No, we’re still going to let her call us both mama.

Yes, really.

But somehow, somewhere our child picked up a new phrase.  MAMA D she shouts.  When queried directly, she correctly names everything in the house, including herself, the dog, and both of us: mama and mama.  But, on her own, she has started to gleefully holler MAMA D and she is looking pointedly at D when she does it.

I have mixed emotions about this.  Firstly, I’m not sure I want to be married to a butch biker unless I get the hot sex to go with it.  I’m also not sure I wouldn’t prefer mommy or mom.  I like mama.  I also suspect one of her teachers differentiated for her since I don’t call my wife by her name often enough for RR to pick it up.  I know she can read familiar names and at school our names were posted by our pictures but I don’t think she’s savvy enough to make the leap on her own.

Surprisingly (at least to myself), I have unreasonable anger about this.  I don’t want her to differentiate with a letter or a name.  I don’t want her to differentiate with an uncommon word for mother.  This is cultural for me and personal.  We are different enough without standing out further.  Certainly you disagree with me.  Certainly your children call you things other than mama and mommy.  I own my irritation with regard to our family names and I didn’t say it was rational.  I just wish mama were good enough.

Oh yes, I did just see the billboard over there that said, “Surprise!  Your daughter is an autonomous human being who is learning to be independent and you should be happy about it so shut your piehole.”  Thanks for putting it up.

I have tried to console myself by softening it in my head.  Mamadee, I think.  That’s better.  But between you, me and that billboard, I don’t think it’s going to stick.

 

Talking About Kids

I saw this article today with a clever but clearly shock-value laden headline about how we talk about our kids.  It offers tips on when to (and when not to) complain about your kids and, if you must, how to do it gracefully.

I often think about how I speak and how my friends speak about our children.  I see tons of cute baby pictures from my friends, both in Facebook which – dude, have seen that political hot mess lately? – and in my email inbox.  On the phone, I hear about the broken arms, the first days of school, the falling out of bed.  I also see incredibly beautiful pictures, sentiments and stories from you about your own lives and the lives of your kids/soon to be kids/or dreamed about kids.  Sometimes I cry.  I know.  I’m a complete sap.

Because we all need a space to vent, I get to hear about how my kid is not the most sensitive, the most nuts, the most bossy (or the fastest, cutest, smartest) and thank goodness, because I live with her and I get to experience all those ups and downs firsthand.  I’m delighted when I get to see someone else’s ups and downs.  Maybe I’ve said it before, but I certainly will now, I deeply appreciate it when folks share the not-so-great moments.  The parenting mishaps.  The holy-shit-what-do-I-do-now situations.  I realize that you do not have those moments often (because you are extraordinary and, might I add, looking very nice today) but I never ever mind a complaint or a laugh-inducing anecdote.

That said, when I find myself and chatting with friends, I’m likely to focus less on RR’s adorable antics but on the parenting challenges we face with her.  And, since I’m well aware of the whole “why did you even have kids?!” argument, I tend to package it up in a humorous oh-that-little-devil box and make it sound like she’s more like a wolverine (which you and I both know is sort of true*) and less like a child genius (also sort of true – you guys, she counted to 22 this morning).  I’m much more comfortable finding humility in parenting instead of making the greatness circuit.  After all, everyone knows parenting is great and kids are SO cute, right?  Still, it’s clearly a challenge I need to take up.  RR really is brilliant and funny and gorgeous.  Not JUST a wolverine.

*Though I included that one link, wolverines have been mentioned in relation to my daughter no less than seven times on this blog.  I’m thinking of changing the title to Counting Wolverines.

Wee-Wee

Oh, Once Upon a Potty.

I’m afraid this might be RR’s favorite book.  Which is good, right?  Because, hurrah for the potty!  But also, have you seen this book?

A pee-pee for making Wee-Wee”
A bottom for sitting and in it a little hole for making Poo-Poo”

RR loves the bright red, yellow and blue pages.  She also clearly loves Prudence, the little girl.  In fact, she loves everything about this book and asks ever so sweetly to read it again and again.  But you guys, the words.

I liberally edit as I read the book, substituting our own words for body parts and bathroom business.  Everyone uses something different, right?  It’s also very much a cultural thing, where you grew up and how.  So there’s definitely no consensus on when to start saying urethra and anus or, the even more fun, labia.  So we have our words and we sub them in but it doesn’t mean I don’t sigh a little in relief that my daughter cannot read the words to know that’s I’ve just skipped pee-pee and wee-wee*.

I hope I am hovering around somewhere that it is not such a leap to transition to adult appropriate words eventually.  After all, when she’s a badass dominatrix, I’d like her to skip the whole bit about wee-wee.  Unless that’s what brings in the dough.

Oh, come on.  Aren’t all two-year-olds potential dominatrixes?

 

*As an aside, my wife grew up in a different part of the country than I and she calls my daughter’s toes “pitties” while I call them “piggies” or, you know, toes.