Thursday, January 31, 2013

Snakes and Snails and Little Boy Tales

The man-cub - that's how I like to think of him now because his half-nakedness, jungle hair, and enthusiastic boyness remind me of Mogely from The Jungle Book - seems to have fully transitioned from baby to little boy.

He plays like a boy. I guess he might play like a girl, too, but he plays very differently than his sister. They both have vivid imaginations, orchestrating entire worlds of play around themselves, but he becomes the characters and acts out the world. He is Mickey Mouse flying the Toon Plane to rescue Santa from Mistletoe Mountain. He is the circus magician making bunnies disappear all over the house. He is a dog playing fetch in the aisles of Target (literally, on hands and knees, picking up the toys with his mouth). He's a football/basketball/soccer player. He's a gymnast. He's a doctor and a bear and a shark and a snake handler.

Man-cub has talked about snakes so much lately that I dreamed the other night that someone gave him TWO for his birthday. One of them was venomous and I was trying to get it away from him before it could bite him, but I was afraid to kill it because my snake-loving sister-in-law was there and I thought she would be mad at me. I really, really don't like snakes at all. I can keep my head about it if there is one in the yard, but I do not like them. Some of my most horrible nightmares are about snakes - bone-chilling, sweat-popping nightmares that tell me I need to get a handle on my stress level ASAP. That my sweet little boy child seems to be so fascinated with them right now makes me very uncomfortable. If he asks me for a snake one day, the answer will have to be, "Not while you live in my house."

On top of being a ball of frenetic energy, he is disarmingly honest and cheeky. It sometimes makes discipline difficult. I can see him being a kid who approaches punishment matter-of-factly so he can get on with his business. Case in point: This morning, he was walking around on the bed and I asked him, "Do you know what happens when you stand on the bed?" He said, "Uh-huh." I said, "What?" He said, "Time out."

I was thinking more along the lines of, "You'll fall and break your head," but I guess he wanted to be spared the lecture. He didn't have a time out. He did prove that sometimes there is more than one right answer.

Friday, January 25, 2013

On 34 Year Olds and Body Image

Yesterday, Luke decided he likes to be shirtless. He was shirtless when I got to Grandmother's after work, and he refused to wear a shirt to bed (he did put one on at the table because that's one of the rules). Dave and I were standing in the kitchen last night at bedtime, discussing this new quirk and trying to decide why he is suddenly a shirtless little boy child. Dave doesn't go shirtless often, usually only in the dead of summer while we are sitting around the back porch pool.

He used to sleep shirtless, and I asked him why he started wearing a tshirt to bed. He flippantly commented something about covering his "fat belly". Ella happened to have joined us in the kitchen by this point, so she chimed right in with this little nugget of wisdom.

Ella: (very matter-of-factly)Daddy, how old are you?
Dave: 34
Ella: (reassuringly) Oh, yeah, because 34s are fat.

At which point I commenced uncontrollably giggling. Then she went on to elaborate that 55s have bigger bellies. The good news is, she hasn't yet attached any arbitrary value to fat vs. thin, and the way she said it was very positive, even a bit encouraging.

Helping them develop a healthy body image is something that is important to me and Dave, and given her postive perspective of "fat," I think we are doing okay with that. However, I also think this proved that we need to be more conscious of the way we think and talk about our bodies, because she is paying attention. I've never heard her use the word "fat" to describe a person before last night. We are careful about the words we use when we talk to them about their bodies, and about healthy eating habits, choosing healthy foods, getting exercise, and wearing clothes that fit appropriately. We generally model healthy eating and an active lifestyle, but I think we also need to model a healthy body image- even if we have to fake it sometimes.

Right now, at 4 and 2, they are very comfortable with their bodies. I hope they will always be.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Good Riddance, Teething Fairy

Our Teething Fairy has finally left on her long awaited sabbatical. I hope she's resting peacefully on a tropical island somewhere. She best not show her face in our house for at least a year, and she's only welcome back if she's accompanied by her sweet sister, the Tooth Fairy.

Luke's last molar broke the skin over the weekend so he finally has his full set of teeth. He was still grinding them when he woke up this morning, because the molars are still pushing their way in, but he did turn down my offer of Motrin, so I know the hard work is done. He has also slept much better for the last two nights. Thank all the good things for that.

Look at all those pearly white teeth.
My aching neck and back and hip are glad to be back in their own bed. It will probably take a while for my fuzzy brain to recover from the past month's worth of molar-growing work, but that's okay, because it is finished. I feel like I should throw a party for these teeth. I think this set hit me the hardest since Ella grew her very first two. Is it because I'm older? Maybe. I'm sure it's because Luke had already started sleeping through the night during the fall, so these Teething Fairy wake ups just felt harder.

I'll say it again: I'm so glad I don't remember growing teeth. It's a harrowing experience to watch; he's been pitiful. Now that it's done, I'm hoping his stuffy nose and the stye on his eyelid will clear up. He busted his lip over the weekend, so between that and the stye, he's been walking around looking like he just got out of a cage fight.

So long Teething Fairy - I won't miss you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Potty Training Blues

Luke has decided to learn how to use the potty. Actually, he started this venture last Labor Day, and he's sort of piddled with it (pun intended) since then. It picked up steam again over Christmas, then fizzled when we went back to our normal schedule, only to flare up again Sunday morning as we were getting ready for church. I'm starting to think he's serious now.

Perhaps you can tell I'm less than enthusiastic? I am.. less than enthusiastic. I can't wait until I don't have to buy diapers anymore, but I don't love potty training. It's a lot of work and I'm pretty bad at it.

He's driving this project, which is just fine with me.

My philosophy is: The more he can do for himself, the smoother it will go, so I'll just follow his lead.

My failure is: Once he becomes interested, I forget the philosophy and try to control all the things in an effort to avoid mess and force his success.

It goes something like this past Sunday.

Luke: I wanna wear choo-choo underpants.
Me: We are about to leave for church, so you can wear a Diego pull-up. We'll tell Mrs. Kim, and you can try to use the potty during Sunday school.

After church, I breathed a sigh of relief that he had momentarily forgotten about the choo-choo underpants and put a diaper on him for nap.

After nap...
Luke: I need to potty. I wanna wear choo-choo underpants.
Me. (assembling the potty because the bottom half is also our step stool) Ok. You sit on the potty, I'll get the underpants.
Luke: (sits for approximately 15 seconds) I all done.
Me: No, you aren't. You didn't do anything. If you are going to wear underpants, you have to tee-tee in the potty.
Luke: I all done.

Continue that conversation for another 7 minutes until I give up and put the underpants on him. Unfortunately, I can't control his bodily functions, nor can I magically make him able to control them.

TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, as he climbed into his chair at the table to practice cutting with scissors, he forgot he was wearing underpants (and so did I) and peed in them.

Cue Crazy Mommy swooping in with a swiftness to contain the mess and get him undressed and on the potty in hopes that he'll finish there and make a connection. Because he still cannot make himself pee on command - not his own command, and certainly not mine. He did not.

Enter the second pair of underpants. He wanted to watch football, so I brought the potty to the living room.

Then, 20 minutes later without my prompting, he jumped out of his chair, exclaiming, "I need to tee-tee!" and ran to the potty, pulled down his own pants, and sat on it. Yes, breakthrough! No... he forgot to point his penis downward so he peed on the carpet instead of the potty. The carpet part is fine - whatever, it will clean, that's why they made Resolve - but he was so upset about peeing on the carpet that he couldn't finish on the potty.

Enter the third pair of underpants, because the second pair got caught in the crossfire. Several more times he sat on the potty and did nothing, but he told me he did. Then he picked up the little bowl and told me it spilled. Cue Crazy Mommy rushing to clean up the mess. There wasn't a mess. There were some forcefully spoken sentences about potties and germs and not wearing them on our heads. Then he actually did pee just a little, and three drops got on his underpants.

Enter the fourth pair of underpants. He ended up in Ella's room, sitting on her rug to play, and he relaxed enough to pee enough that I needed to wash the rug. And the underpants.

Enter his second Diego pull up, because I only have seven pairs of underpants and he had already created a load of laundry by himself in a matter of hours.

Standing at the table to eat supper, he peed again. He always pees at the table. I guess food is distraction enough that he forgets to hold it? Because the good Lord knows he won't stop long enough to empty his bladder any other time and he can hold it longer than a kid that age should be able. Since it was a pull up, I tried to make him wait until after supper to change him (because sometimes I just want to eat my food without getting up over and over again), but he couldn't handle it. This time, he chose a diaper. And he promptly emptied his bladder. Finally.

He hadn't said anything else about underpants until this morning, when he insisted on wearing them to Grandmother's house. He doesn't have school today, and he wouldn't be convinced otherwise, so I took him and his underpants and five more changes of clothes to Grandmother's house. When I told Dave about it, he said, "Your mom is going to kill you," to which I responded, "Yeah." Or, maybe some magic will happen today. We'll see.

I was kind of hoping he'd wait a couple more months before trying again because he just doesn't seem to be physically ready to use the potty yet. He doesn't want to stop long enough to sit long enough to potty. He won't empty his bladder when he does sit on the potty, then he has an accident. That freaks him out, so he holds it again, and we enter into a vicious cycle. And he can hold it a really long time. His teacher just sent a note home yesterday to tell me that he is always dry all day at school, but he won't use the potty. I know this. He stays dry overnight, at school, and most of the day when we are at home. I do think he's on the brink, but he hasn't had the big breakthrough yet. Maybe this means that once it clicks, it'll just be done?

I hope so, because he really wants to wear choo-choo underpants. I just need to try to control myself and let him do it, and then I'll spend $20 on carpet cleaner instead of diapers and that will be that.

P.S. Nothing desensitizes you to the use of the word "penis" like potty training a little boy. Penis, penis, penis, penis.

Monday, January 14, 2013

We Tied the Furniture to the Walls


This blog post popped up on my Facebook newsfeed a couple of weeks ago when a friend shared it: Be with me. Just for today.  It's long and heartbreakingly sad, so be warned.

It disturbed me like reading about the loss or injury of a child always does. This is exactly the kind of thing that gets stuck in my head and makes me hurt for other people. But it also gave me a swift kick in the pants, which is what the mom who wrote it intended.

I meant to anchor Luke's furniture to the walls when he became mobile. But I didn't. He started climbing almost as soon as he started walking, but I still didn't. Then he got older and more resourceful, dragging a chair or a stool to reach things he wanted, and I still didn't. I regularly remind myself not to put toys on top of his dresser so he doesn't have motivation to climb it, but I still had not strapped the dresser to the wall.

Ella has a bookcase in her room that scares me, but it wasn't anchored. I've seen her bump into it and things fall off the top, and but I still didn't anchor it. I figured she's old enough now that it's not a big deal anymore.

I thought most of their furniture was low enough that it wouldn't fall over, so we probably didn't need to bother with anchoring it. Even over the summer when we put a new, taller dresser in Luke's room and I thought, "We need to tie that to the wall," I didn't.

I don't know why. I just never got around to it.

Then I read that blog post. The little girl was three - exactly between Luke's and Ella's ages. The dresser that fell on her was tiny, much smaller than Luke's dresser and Ella's bookcase. They are often unattended in their bedrooms, as they should be. They don't need me hovering over them while they play, but I did feel like I needed to make their furniture safer.

Immediately I sent Dave a Crazy Mom text message: "Are you leaving early today? If you are, will you please stop at Lowe's or Target and get those straps that anchor kids' furniture to walls?" He called, of course, since I seemed to be randomly losing my mind and he didn't know what straps I was talking about.

As it turns out, I searched online and couldn't find any local stores that had furniture straps in stock so I had to order them. I picked these because they got good reviews on Amazon, including one where the parent came back to update the review after the kid tipped the dresser and the strap held it.


I had to wait a few days for shipping, but Dave installed them over the weekend. It didn't take him long, so I think it was pretty straightforward.

Now, my mind is more peaceful about their furniture. I know that accidents happen and you can't protect kids from everything. I know that. But I've also been told all my life that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I didn't want to walk over those particular good intentions through that particular hell, so we tied the furniture to the walls.

Monday, January 07, 2013

How does a dog play golf?

Like this.
Chocolate Lab Ball Return
I believe Georgia is waspishly jealous of the built-in ball return on Dave's putting green. She tried to act nonchalant about the whole deal, just lying there, watching the ball roll by, but after three or four puts, she couldn't handle it anymore. It is her sworn job in our house to retrieve all the balls and she wasn't about to let a little strip of plastic displace her. She inserted herself into the game, catching the ball and tossing it back to the beginning of the green for him.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Nine Things I Learned in 2012

I learned some things last year - some new things and some old lessons reiterated. It's another awkward list of nine things. Maybe I'll just make lists of nine a regular thing.

Nine Things I Learned in 2012

1. God is my Counselor, my Comforter, my Prince of Peace. True, the Bible says it and I already knew it, but I experienced it anew. If cancer taught me nothing else, it taught me to turn to God first in times of trouble. No earthly advisor got it right; no one had the words I needed, but I found them in prayer and in God's Word.

2. My family is precious to me. This also wasn't new news, but I do feel like I learned to be more present with them, to block out distractions and really focus on enjoying them.

3. I need help. Much to the chagrin of my fiercely independent spirit, I just cannot do all the things that need doing all by myself all the time. Learning to accept help more willingly, to ask for it even, was an uncomfortable lesson but one that was also liberating.

4. The world doesn't stop for cancer - nor should it. Though at times it felt like time was frozen, life went on. I worked, Dave worked, the kids went to school, soccer, and gymnastics. People got married, had babies and birthdays, and even funerals. Sometimes I felt too numb to live it, but staying busy living life was better than wallowing.

5. Cancer doesn't always mean death. Sometimes it does and it's heartbreaking, but sometimes it's just part of the journey. Standing in the face of the surgeon last March, I was completely distraught while trying to rectify my previous experiences of cancer=death with the news that my 33 year old husband had cancer. I will be forever grateful for the firsthand experience that cancer does not always end in death.

6. Cancer doesn't end with remission. Technically, yes, it does, but the after effects of treatment continue on indefinitely. It's a price willingly paid for remission, but it's very frustrating and sometimes disconcerting - especially when the after effects are similar to the original symptoms.

7. Forgiving people isn't easy, but it is right. It's right for the person you need to forgive because they are human just like you - acting and reacting in the world from their own unique experience and not necessarily with cruel intentions. It's right for you, the person doing the forgiving, because it frees your heart from bitterness. Sometimes it takes practice. I think that was the biggest lesson I learned about forgiveness, that it requires practice.

8. Increased use of social media requires increased personal responsiblity. Not just from the perspective of what you share (and I've struggled with that aspect this year), but also from the perspective of what you allow to steal your joy. I love having the world at my fingertips, but I am guilty of letting Facebook drama or unending commentary of politics and tragic events put me in a funk. It's just not worth it, and I'm the only one who can control my reaction.

9. Life really is too short to sweat the small stuff. Really.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Happy 2013!

We closed out 2012 with a picnic in the park. It was cold and windy, but at least it wasn't raining. The kids played until Dave and I were frozen, then we went home and thawed out with a long winter's nap.

Ella had a playdate with a friend who was visiting from Florida that afternoon, and then we rang in the new year with Grandmother and Papa around the kitchen table with a bowl of homemade chex mix and a game of Rook.
New Year's Day  was rainy again, so we spent it indoors watching the Rose parade and football (and a little bit of Handy Manny). We had lunch at Grandma and Pop the Pop's house and played at home all afternoon. I strategically skipped the afternoon naps, even though I desperately needed one, so that I could put the monkeys to bed early. I knew they would need the extra sleep to prepare for the harsh reality of January 2nd greeting them at 6:15 a.m.

We had a great time soaking each other up this Christmas. There was very little bickering, tantruming, or whining and lots of playing, reading, and cuddling. Vacation definitely agrees with us.