Friday, July 31, 2009

Momma Don't Got Your Back, Son

It's your typical afternoon in the Scott household. I'm taking a stab at preparing something edible in the kitchen, Elsa is writhing around on the floor, somewhere between semi-irritable and completely miserable, and Rollie is busily arranging our throw pillows so that they rest between the couch and the coffee table, forming a tunnel he can crawl through.

Soon I tire of Elsa's pathetic whines for food, sleep and attention, and so I sit her in her little activity tri-pod and ask Rollie to entertain her. Then I retreat to the kitchen, my back now to my children. I hear Elsa whine a few more times, but then her mood suddenly brightens, and she begins to chuckle.

"Thank you, Rollie," I call. "You're a good big brother."

His reply is a loud, "UGH!" and I hear the pitter-patter of feet on wood. Except we don't have a wooden floor.

I'm almost afraid to look.

When I do, I see Rollie, clad in just a diaper, standing atop our coffee table, Elsa looking on in total delight. Then he leaps over the tunnel he built and lands on his back, feet in the air, and yells, "Tah-DAH!" Elsa laughs and squeals, egging him on.

"Wow," I say. "That's quite a trick, Rol." I don't scold. I don't yell. How can I, really? I'm the big idiot who told a two-year-old to entertain his little sister. I didn't specify no acrobatics on the furniture, no flying leaps in your diaper, no attempts to defy gravity in the house. In fact, I pull out the video camera, because this is one of those moments that's even funnier in retrospect.

Then my husband comes home. Cue the lighting crash.

We're back in the kitchen, my husband and me, and in the middle of telling me about his day, my husband suddenly shouts, "Rollie, get down from there Right Now."

I don't have to look this time. I know damn well Rollie is doing the ol' jump-from-the-coffee-table-and-onto-the-couch trick.

Apparently, Rollie made it known that he wasn't about to get down from anywhere Right Now. Because my husband springs into action, striding across the kitchen and into the family room. Dadda means business.

"Rollie," my husband says, "we don't stand on the coffee table and we don't jump on the furniture. That's naughty. I know Momma doesn't let you do that, right?"

Rollie doesn't respond. I don't know if he's trying to protect me, or if he really doesn't know if jumping on the furniture falls under my umbrella of restricted behavior. And I hate to admit it--I really do--but I'm not about to turn myself in. All I do is stand in the kitchen and try like hell to not meet my son's questioning, confused eyes. And I make a mental note to delete the footage I took earlier, the proof that not only do I indeed allow Rollie to jump on the furniture, I encourage it.

Much to my relief, my husband drops the subject and starts horsing around with Rollie on the floor, and all is forgotten. By them, anyway. I'm left wondering just what is worse--letting Rollie hurl himself from various elevated surfaces in the house for my daughter's amusement, or not coming clean about it. Does that make me a bad mom, or a liar? I guess it makes me both. Well, at least I learned my lesson....Next time I tell Rollie to cheer up his sister, I'll add the clause: No Furniture Jumping--Dadda's almost home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food Fight

I’m a pretty laid-back mom.  My son doesn’t do a whole lot that really gets under my skin.  Even when he unrolled and entire tube of toilet paper or pulled every conceivable hygiene product from beneath my bathroom sink or even when he started helping himself to kibble from our dog’s bowl—none of those things made me want to tear out chunks of my own hair. 

But sit my kid down at the dinner table with me, and after about ten minutes I’m ready to grab that fish stick (or chicken nugget, or spoonful of mac & cheese or whatever other food he’s toying with instead of eating) and cram it into that angelic, condiment-covered face.

I don’t know when it happened, but sometime between my son’s first and second birthdays, he’s become quite the dinner-time challenge.  We’ve tried all sorts of creative tactics to get him to willingly eat.  For a while we tried to distract him with a TV show while we’d smuggle food into his gaping mouth and remind him to make like a train and chew-chew-chew.  When that stopped working, we’d attempt to make him laugh, practically pulling muscles as we contorted our faces into whatever theatrical expressions would elicit a chuckle from our son, during which the one who wasn’t the designated jester would quickly stuff a morsel in his mouth.  But that too lost its charm—the routine became exhausting for us, and as our son grew older, the stunts we needed to pull to achieve the same effect became more complex.  At that rate, we’d have to be shooting ourselves out of a cannon by the time our son turned five. 

And so for a time, every bite of dinner was the result of a long, calculated bargain.


Me: Have some broccoli, Rollie.

Rollie:  Juice.

Me:  Take a bite first.

Rollie:  Juice please.

Me (broccoli-laden fork poised in front of his face):  First take a bite.

Rollie: I want juice.

Me:  You aren’t getting any juice until you take a bite of this yummy broccoli.

Rollie opens his mouth, then shuts it again as the offending broccoli approaches.

Me:  Rollie, please just take this one bite and then you can have your juice.

Rollie:  It’s too big.

Me:  No it’s not, you can do it, just this one bite.

Rollie:  No, it’s too big.

Me (after pruning the broccoli down to the size of a raisin):  Here, that’s not too big.  Now eat it.

Rollie opens his mouth and leans in for the bite.  My shoulders relax as a smug sense of accomplishment washes over me.  Then he shuts his mouth again.

Rollie:  It’s too hot.

Me:  There’s no way it’s too hot, Rol.  It’s been sitting out for ten minutes.  It’s probably cold now. 

Rollie:  It’s too cold.

Me:  Well, I’m not heating it up—you should have eaten it ten minutes ago.  Now take a bite.

Rollie:  It’s yucky.

Me (sighing so heavily the force of it blows his napkin to the floor): Rollie, you ate broccoli just the other day and you loved it.  You ate every bite of it and asked for more.  You smiled and made yummy noises and laughed because you liked it so much.  Now you are going to eat this bite of broccoli and you’re going to eat it NOW.

Rollie:  Juice.


This will go one for several more rounds until finally, I’ll either threaten him with never giving him another drop of juice so long as we both shall live, or my husband will sense that I’m about to have a seriously meltdown, and he’ll intervene, all fresh-faced and different-approachied, making airplane noises with Rolllie’s fork, leaving me to retreat to the fridge for a much-needed adult beverage.

What I don’t understand is why my son’s resistance to ingest anything that isn’t in the shape of a goldfish or a hue not found in nature bothers me so much.  He’s big for a two-year-old, energetic and fast.  He never complains that he’s hungry, he’s hardly ever sick.  He’s obviously getting his nutrients from somewhere.  I don’t get it.  Does he wait until everyone is sleeping, then raid the fridge, dining on heaps of vegetables and fruit, grains and lean meats, covering the entire food pyramid each night so he can subsist on grapes and air during the day?  Or is he more like a camel, storing vitamins and minerals somewhere on his person, feeding off of them slowly through a self-induced famine?

All day long I go through a mental checklist of everything that’s passed my son’s lips, tallying up the calories, fats, proteins, vitamins, trying to determine if he needs to have applesauce for dessert (to round out his servings of fruits), of if he should have frozen yogurt instead (for calcium and protein).  I expend more energy obsessing over his menu than I do actually preparing him anything. 

Perhaps my son’s lack of appetite is my fault.  Maybe I’m too accommodating.  If he turns up his little button nose at spaghetti, I dig around for something I think he’ll accept.  He seems to know this—he has no fear that he’ll starve if he refuses the first thing set before him.  Maybe he should.  Maybe the next time he looks from his plate of food to me like he’s about to call child protective services on me for serving such slop, I should simply remove his plate and tell him he’s not getting anything.  That’ll teach him.  Until he learns how to dial the phone and HRS comes knocking.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Quick And The...Not-So-Quick...

Our fish died recently.  

I didn't think Rollie would notice, but the day after I flushed Mr. Shark down the toilet and thus into the big fishbowl in the sky, Rollie paused in front of our tank.

After studying it for a few seconds, he asked, "Where'd the shark go?"

I froze.  Do I tell him the truth, that Mr. Shark was likely attacked by our bully of an Orange Molly, picked at and prodded until he turned pale and I found him floating vertically among the water plants, his dorsal fin shredded like cole slaw?  Or do I wimp out and come up with some sugar-coated, cotton-candy spun tale about him swimming away to be with his friends in a beautiful blue lake, his life now full of rainbows and sunshine?

"Uh, he's probably hiding," I said.  Like a giant, lying wus.

Rollie stood on his tip toes, his chubby hands pressed against the glass as he scanned the tank, trying to catch a glimpse of the suddenly timid Bala Shark.

"I can't see him," he said.

"Oh," I said, feeling my scalp prickle as my mind raced.  "Well, maybe he's sleeping."  

Rollie nodded, accepting this as perfectly reasonable.  "Night, night, Shark."

I felt terrible about lying, but really, what could I have said?  How do you explain death to a two-year-old?  I mean, I've mentioned death in passing plenty of reference to batteries, or worms that have been baked in the sun, curled and black as overdone french fries.  But when faced with a question regarding a pet (albeit a lame, neutral pet that Rollie couldn't care less about), I turn into an overprotective, fretful mother hen, paranoid that any mention of the D word will instantly turn my son into a sobbing mound of jelly. 

Which is completely retarded of me.  Of course he won't have a breakdown as soon as I say the word Dead.  He might even ask for--and understand--an explanation.  I don't need to include the gory details of the shark's demise.  I don't need to say anything like, The Bala Shark was attacked in his sleep by a bigger, meaner fish, and probably suffered a slow, painful death all alone in the darkest, coldest part of the tank.  Something simple like, the Bala Shark died and Mommy took him out of the tank, but we can remember him as a nice fish who enjoyed swimming, would probably be fine, right?

But still I balk at the notion of telling my son that something, or someone, has died.  I guess I feel like someone still in diapers doesn't need to wonder about death.  He should occupy his little mind with the wonders of life.  And if I'm lucky, the wonders of the potty.  And a desire to use it.  Perhaps if I tell him it's where the shark went.....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Things I Wouldn't Have If I Didn't Have Kids

1. Stretch Marks
2. A computer in my bedroom (because I no longer have an office....because my office is now Rollie's room)
3. An assortment of plastic cups and straws from every restaurant within a twenty-mile radius
4. Enough goldfish in my pantry to feed a third grade class for an entire school year
5. An armada of strollers--every make, model, color and purpose--in my garage
6. A right arm that is decidedly bulkier than my left 
7. Applesauce encrusted on my floor moulding
8. A hallway lined with enough night lights to rival a landing strip
9. 10 episodes of Jack's Big Music Show on my TiVo
10. Back issues of Parents magazine collecting dust on an end table
11. The desire for my parents to live closer
12. The propensity to burst into tears when I hear a story about a child being separated from his parents (any story...the news...a Disney movie...a long-distance commercial....)
13. A new fear of germs, and a stockpile of those little bottles of hand sanitizer
14. A caffeine addiction
15. Saggy boobs (okay, maybe they wouldn't be as saggy)
16. An understanding as to why my mother is certifiably insane
17. An understanding as to why my father always yelled at me that my shorts were way too short
18. A love of Target
19. A love of wading pools
20. The ability to function on five non-consecutive hours of crappy, restless sleep

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One in Hole

So we all know that children like to stick body parts into holes.  Recently I also discovered that children like to stick things into their own bodily orifices. 

I bought Rollie a marble maze the other day.  It’s a neat toy, really, with different plastic parts you piece together to make a sort of obstacle run for marbles.  I sat with him on his floor and poured over the instructions, painstakingly building a glorious tower of loops, curves, funnels and slaloms for his colored marbles to navigate.  He sat beside me, seemingly fascinated with the toy, asking me where the different pieces went, handing me each section as I needed it.  I followed the directions step by step, completely engrossed with what I was doing, determined to make the maze look exactly like it did on the box.

I was so engrossed, in fact, that I failed to notice Rollie had stopped handing me pieces and had grown unusually quiet.  I glanced away from the instructions and saw him holding a bright red marble between his chubby little fingers, holding it dangerously close to his left nostril.


He looked up at me with a perfectly innocent expression, hand still poised by his nose.

“What are you doing?” I almost laughed, but I knew that laughing would be just about the worst thing I could do. 

He didn’t have an answer for me.  Probably because no answer was needed.  I knew darn well what he was doing, and so did he.

“Rollie, we don’t stick marbles in our noses.  Or anything else, for that matter.”

He still didn’t reply, but he reluctantly took his hand away from his nose and rolled the marble between his fingers as if contemplating where else he might be able to stick it.

“You should never, ever stick anything up your nose,” I said.  “It could get stuck and I might not be able to get it out.”   There.  That seemed effective enough.  Honest, to the point, with just enough uncertainty to discourage him from trying it again.

Only a few days later he was sitting at the table with some play-dough while I fixed dinner, I heard the telltale sound of him pulling on one of his diaper’s tabs (for some reason, after Rollie eats lunch he decides he’s more comfortable without any pants on). 

“Rollie, keep your diaper on please,” I said, although I foolishly didn’t bother investigating.

A few minutes later, I wandered over to the table to check on him.  He still had all his little play-dough tools out, but the play-dough itself looked suspiciously scarce.

“What happened to all your play-dough?” I asked.  “You didn’t drop it, did you?” 

He shook his head.

“Well where is it, then?”

He looked up at me and said, “It’s poopy.”

“It’s poopy?” I asked.  Then I noticed his diaper was still open on once side.

Ah yes, the panic of a mom who already knows the answer to a very dreaded question: “What do you mean, it’s poopy?”

He leaned to one side so I could see for myself.  Balled up inside his diaper like alien excrement were several large chunks of blue play-dough.

“Rollie,” I started.  But alas, what could I say?  We don’t stick play-dough up our butts somehow didn’t seem like the right speech, even though that’s pretty much how I felt.

After removing a rainbow of play-dough balls from my son’s diaper, I realized that it could have been worse.  I’ve successfully thwarted my sons attempts to introduce foreign objects into two orifices with minimal damage (although I did have to dispose of most of his blue play-dough, and the next time he pooped it was a suspicious shade of neon green).  At least he hasn’t swallowed anything or jabbed a hole in his eardrum.  I think the best thing for now is to make sure his toys are too big to fit in any hole they aren’t supposed to.  Until he’s moved onto another phase, like flushing things down the toilet.  Stay tuned for that chapter….

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Size Matters

So the other day I'm giving Elsa a bath while my husband Jeff is about to take a shower with Rollie.  I hear them in the water closet, where Jeff is coaxing Rollie into using the potty before getting into the shower.  (We've recently gotten anatomically correct with Rollie, ditching the word wiener for the far more sophisticated penis--a word that still makes me blush for reasons I can't explain...probably the only word I really hate saying aloud.   Well, that and the word coupon.)

Anyway, I hear Jeff cheering for Rollie, indicating that he's finally peeing, when I hear Rollie say, "Dadda, you have a big penis."

"Thank you," Jeff replies.  An automatic response, I'm sure.  What guy wouldn't want to hear someone telling him his penis is big?  Even if it is coming from his own two-year-old son.

Then Rollie says, "My penis is small."

"That's because you're small," Jeff assures him.  "You have small hands, and small feet, too.  Someday it will be big."

"Big like Dadda's."


They emerge from the water closet, my husband with a big grin on his face.  No doubt basking in my son's observation.  I just shake my head, grateful that Jeff is the one to field Rollie's first discovery of other people's genitalia.  

To be honest, for some reason I feel like a weirdo discussing my son's penis (*giggle*) with him.  Why is that?  I'm a grown women, for crying out loud.  It's not like I haven't seen a penis before.  I've gotten to know one in particular fairly well. We're on a first name basis, we've had some good times.  We send each other Christmas cards.

The thing is, I feel like an impostor when my son asks me about that specific region of his body. I feel like I'm a salesman explaining a product and its function when I've never owned one, used one or even seen one before. I guess it's because I don't have one myself.  All my knowledge is second-hand, so to speak.

Which is ridiculous, really.  I do know how it works, what it's for, its likes and dislikes....Am I dreading the day when my son stops asking questions about it?  When he's got everything figured out just fine, thank you, and I'll be left wondering what exactly he's using it for?

That's when I have to stop myself and realize that he's just two.  There is plenty of time for all kinds of discussions that are embarrassing on both ends.  For now I'll just sit back and try not to laugh when my son notices that his father has a big penis.  Soon the day will come when Elsa tells me I have big boobs.  And all I'll be able to do is beam and say, "Thank you!"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hole in One

Why do kids like to stick body parts into holes?

I read something once about toddlers not yet grasping spatial relationships, which explains why my son often attempted to fit his body inside of something the size of a coffee can.  But as they grow older, I think kids damn well know where they can and can't fit their bodies, and just like to get things stuck places purely for the thrill of freaking out their parents.

Like today, for example.  I take my kids to a friend's house for a playdate with a few other moms.  Things are going well, my son Rollie is getting along perfectly fine with the other kids, and my daughter Elsa is being her usual, smily, easy-going self.  No one is screaming, hurting anyone or getting into anything they shouldn't be.  

That is until my son emerges from another room holding a toy.  He quietly weaves his way through the other kids and stands beside me, still holding the toy.  Only upon closer inspection I realize that he isn't holding the toy; his arm is stuck inside of it.  

The toy is one of those plastic jobbies with an internal fan that blows colorful balls into the air.  The balls land inside a little funnel that sends them through a tube and down to the bottom, where they are blown through another tube and out the top.  Rollie doesn't have one himself and is enamored with them...he's pretty much enamored with anything having to do with balls and tubes (let's let Freud dissect that little fixation another time).

So anyway, part of the plastic on the toy is see-through, and sure enough, his little hand is shoved way down in the tube, all squished against the plastic like a biology class experiment.  The toy is on him almost up to his armpit, and he can't get it off.

"Momma, help me," is his plea.

All of our maternal instincts kick on in an instant.  One of my friends rushes to the kitchen for liquid soap, another dashes off for a screwdriver to disassemble the toy, yet another tries to comfort both my son, who has realized the pickle he's gotten himself into and is starting to panic, and her twin girls, who are in love with Rollie and are vocally commiserating with his plight.  I myself am trying not to laugh--my son looks like an amputee who's got a prosthetic arm in the shape of a brightly colored ball-shooter.

We usher Rollie into the kitchen and proceed to lube up his arm with soap and water, while holding our breath for my screw-driver-wielding friend to free the trapped limb.  It doesn't take long--maybe five minutes--during which I imagine having to call the fire department and five strapping, handsome firemen burst into the house and cut Rollie loose with the Jaws of Life.

Thankfully, the soap, water and screwdriver work, and Rollie's arm escapes with barely a scratch.  And when I ask him what he's learned from this, he replies, as only a two-year-old would, "I want some goldfish."

And so, I've had my first experience with my child sticking something where he shouldn't with minimal damage.  But he's only two.  I'm sure it'll only get worse.  Which is why I will make sure to always have liquid soap and a screwdriver on hand.  Or at least know how to contact the nearest fire department.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Microwave Worship

God bless the inventor of the microwave.  And the inventor’s family, children, grandchildren, friends, pets, employers, neighbors, milkmen, etc.  Seriously.  If I could write a book solely about the invention of the microwave, if I could dedicate the amount of time equivalent to the hours and hours using this fabulous device has saved me into some sort of tribute, an homage to the microwave and its inventor, I would.  Unfortunately, writing a book about a microwave probably wouldn’t be much of a read.  It would basically consist of pages and pages of me engaged in various forms of microwave worship.  My son must think that is where food comes from.  This magical cube that hovers above our stovetop, lighting up and humming and beeping and giving forth steaming plates of rice, pasta, oatmeal, anything we could want to eat (which, if you’re my son, is nothing).

What the hell did people do before the microwave?  Cook?  For their toddlers?  Were kids less picky then, or were parents stricter when it came to meals?  I vaguely remember being fed what everyone else was eating when I was young, but also remember depositing much of that food onto a little ledge beneath the table when no one was looking—green beans, peas, noodles, pieces of pork chop.  The food sat there until the places were cleared and my family scattered like roaches, then my dog would come along and scarf up whatever I’d left in the secret hiding spot.  We had a system, the dog and I.  She never gave me away, and I always made sure to keep her supplied with morsels that, to me, were only slightly more appetizing than Alpo.

I would write more, but my microwave is beeping, indicating to me that lunch is ready.  Bon Appetit.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Magic Mom

My son must think I'm magical.  

It's really the only explanation for my clairvoyance, my super-human strength, my omnipotence, and the pair of eyes residing on the back of my head. 
I utter something like, "I should probably put the vacuum cleaner away or you'll start climbing on it," and he'll stare at me as if to say, How did you know that's exactly what I intended to do the second you left the room?  Or we'll be in the car, I'll look in my rearview mirror and see him about to stick his foot in his baby sister's face and I'll bark, "Rollie, put your foot down."  He looks up, startled and bewildered, thinking, How the hell did she know that?  She didn't even turn around!

I announce that he's tired and he shakes his head, even though he's rubbing his eyes and staggering like a battered boxer, and deep down he's telling himself that he's exhausted but must not under any circumstances let me know I'm right.  He runs into his room and shuts the door and I knock, telling him to sit on the potty.  He's a deer in headlights, always flabbergasted that I am more in tune with his excretory system that he is.  Yes, my son can't even think about taking a crap without me right there with him, telling him he'd better use the bathroom so I don't have to change yet another diaper.

I can find any toy, open any door, reach things and cook things and read anything I see.  I am faster, bigger and stronger that he is, and I can answer any question he throws my way.  It's no wonder he seeks me out when he's hurt, or frightened, or just needs a hug.  And also no wonder he hides from me when he's done something wrong--I must already know the crime and am busy preparing a punishment.

I wish I were indeed magical, that I could clean up his booster seat with a wriggle of my nose instead of fifty scrubs with a damp paper towel.  Or I could keep him in his bed with a simple spell instead of two night lights, a white noise machine and a baby gate. I wish I could protect him with pixie dust, I wish I could keep him innocent and healthy and happy with enchantment charms and magic wands and special potions.  But mostly I wish I could keep up the appearance that I am indeed magic.  I wish he would always see me as all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing.  I wish he would always see me through the eyes of a wondering child and not the eyes of a jaded adult.  I wish.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Payback's a Dirty Swiffer.

My parents just left my house after a five-day visit.  It's like I just hosted Motley Crue for a week. The bathroom is trashed, there is an insane amount of laundry festering in the hamper, and all my remotes are missing.   The kitchen floor is coated in an odd, sticky film, the couch cushions are dotted with mystery stains and I was able to my parents' movements throughout my house by following the trail of brownie crumbs they'd left behind.
I don't get it.  Are they doing it on purpose?  Do they mean to leave lights on all over the house? Don't they notice the coffee rings on the counter?  When brushing their teeth, did they aim for the bathroom mirror?  Did they not see the sink?
Or maybe there's something far more calculating, far more sinister going on.  Maybe this is payback for all the times my mother squawked at my to clean my room and I ignored her.  Or when my father howled about leaving lights on in empty bedrooms, claiming he owed PSE&G his firstborn son. 
Being a parent as made me see how important it is to teach kids to clean up after themselves. And it has made me realize why my mother uttered phrases like "I'm not your maid," and "the kitchen is closed," almost daily.  As I type this blog with dishpan hands and fingers weak from scrubbing the floor across which my parents managed to track assorted grime, I can't help but feel bested.  My parents-one, me-zero.
And as I watch my son proceed to throw his toys around the room in search of a cookie he started eating yesterday, I know that my time will come.   Soon he'll be chasing me around with a Swiffer, instead of the other way around.