Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Like Cats And Dogs

I don't know why I was in such a big fat hurry for Elsa to start crawling.  Because now that she can, she's getting all up in Rollie's business.  And Rollie is none too pleased with this.

I can't tell you how many times I've intervened before tragedy has struck.  Tragedy here would be Elsa barreling over Rollie's trainset like a pink, chubby Godzilla, and Rollie getting so pissed at her that he brandishes a caboose and brains her with it.  Many a time I've leapt across the room like a ballerina to stay Rollie's hand.  When Elsa looks up at me with a smile of delight, she has no idea the beating she has narrowly escaped.

Unfortunately I don't always make it in time.  I think it's because most of our house is carpeted, and when Elsa crawls away across carpeting, I can't hear her.  I don't here the cute little sound of doughy hands slapping across tile.  I'll be sitting at the counter or cleaning up the kitchen, and off she'll slip, stealthy as a panther, silently making her way in to Rollie's room, where he's been diligently assembling a Lego tower or floor puzzle and singing the Cars theme song.  And then I hear....

"No, Baby Els!"

This is followed by either a clattering as Rollie throws a toy that misses its target and crashes against his wall.  Or Elsa screaming, because Rollie's aim is usually pretty good.

And so I'll run into his room to find Elsa, all red-faced and hitchy-breathed, and Rollie about to throw something else at her...usually something bigger and capable of producing more damage, since the first attempt to send her fleeing didn't work.

"Rollie," I'll say (sharply...or shout....or scream....), "you may not hit baby Elsa."

"Momma, she's a monster."

"She's not a monster, Rollie.  She's your baby sister and you need to be nice to her."

"No, she's a monster."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because she's eating my toys."

Rollie will be on his feet by now, pointing to a drool-covered matchbox car or puzzle piece.  Then he'll look up at me, imploring me to not only believe him, but to also take his side.  To nod and say, you're right, Rollie, she is a monster, and perhaps wield my own weapon to bonk her with.  I can understand this.  All Rollie's doing is defending his territory the best way a two-year-old knows how.

And younger siblings can be pesky, regardless of their age.  I can certainly remember a time or two (or several hundred) when I wished my little brother would stay out of my room, stop messing with my stuff, stop drinking all my alcohol.  And on occasion I opted for physical retaliation (though I wouldn't try that brother is 25 and can probably bench-press twice his own weight.  Seriously.  This kid spends entire workout sessions to specific muscle groups.  I don't know about you, but the idea of working out just my lats for forty-five minutes makes me sore all over).
I've tried to get Rollie to talk out his difference with other people, or to come find me when he feels the need to say, bite someone on the face.  But, as you can imagine, he doesn't always exercise discretion when choosing his battles.  Sometimes, he probably reasons, people just deserve to get whacked in the head.

I would prefer he wait until Elsa's soft spots are closed before he starts hammering away at her.  And maybe by then, she'll be able to fight back.  Oh how I can't wait for that stage.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Slaves to Fashion

I have this recurring, vivid memory of one particular day in kindergarten that sometimes makes me break out in a cold sweat.

It was the day my mother forced me to wear a green and white checkered pantsuit to school.

I sat huddled on a piece of wooden playground equipment, sighing forlornly as I watched the other girls prance around in their Oshkosh jumpers and pretty blouses and matching socks and sneakers with glittery laces and friendship pins.  And then I looked into my lap, into the sea of kelly green and white, the pattern making my eyes sting and my head spin, and I made myself a promise.  I vowed to never make my kids wear horribly outdated, scratchy, hand-me-down, ill-fitting clothes for one single second of their privileged little lives.

So far I've managed to hold myself to that promise.  Which has turned me into a bit of a clothing snob.  Not a snob about my own clothes (I have a hard time buying myself a shirt that costs over twenty bucks, and don't even get me started about shoe-shopping...if I could wear the same pair of flip-flops for the rest of my life, I would die a happy person) but a snob about my children's.  When my kids actually wear clothes  (usually when we're outside of the house, although sometimes even then it doesn't always happen), I strive to ensure that they look pretty hip.  Usually hipper than me.  Which, sadly, isn't hard to do.

Before I had Elsa, I always pictured having a daughter who ran around in frilly little dresses and adorable shoes and kept to a palette of pinks and purples.  I'm not sure why my vision of her took on this incredibly girly flavor.  I sure didn't dress like that.  I had jeans with zippers on the ankles and stirrup pants and skorts and lots and lots of neon.  I wore pantsuits, for God's sake.  Why didn't my mother pin a sign to my lapel that read, "Self-Confidence Issues In The Making"?

I don't dress Elsa in pantsuits, but I also don't stuff her into pink dresses and lacy socks.  Don't get me wrong--I think little girly clothes are really cute.  But for some reason Elsa just doesn't look right in that stuff.  Is it her lack of hair?  Her chubby pale legs?  The fact that if she wears a dress, her knees step on the hem when she crawls around, and she gets stuck and cries?  Or is it because I myself don't wear dresses, never really did, and I've been shaping my children in my image, because they really are a couple of Mini-Me's, and until they start picking out their own clothes, I can dress them however I please?

That's another thing that makes me nervous--wondering how my kids are going to dress when they're older.  I'm afraid that Clothing Karma will come after me.  How I remember my father barking at me to go change because my shorts were too short.  And back in the early 90's, anything above the knee was considered 'too short' to my dad.  But have you seen some of the shorts out there now?  I have underwear with longer hemlines than some of the shorts out there.  And shorts with words written directly on the butt?  Forget it--that's like giving people a reason to stare at my daughter's ass.

And so it is my desperate hope that by the time Elsa is in high school, Grunge has made a tremendous comeback.  Give me baggy jeans and flannel shirts and big ol' boots.  Let's make it as difficult as possible to size up adolescent breasts, let's make our daughter's butt's invisible beneath layers of sweatshirts tied around their waists.  I figure the '80's are in right now, so in about 10 years, Grunge will have already settled in across malls and departments stores, and Elsa will have no choice but to don oversized t-shirts and pants that don't display any crack.  I'll even take the gothy, teen-angst that accompanies such fashions.  I don't care how much Elsa hates me, as long as her shorts aren't too short, I can handle anything.

And I'm sorry, Dad, for all those years my clothing put you through coronary distress.  If I could take back all those eye-rolls and door-slams, I would.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Before And After

Okay, so this is the entry I really wanted to post but couldn't finish because someone decided he didn't feel like taking a nap, and someone else decide that she didn't want to finish taking her nap after the dog barked his f-ing head off at a cat and woke her up.

So I had to come up with something while listening to a soothing medley of Elsa whining every five seconds to be picked up and Rollie yelling at Elsa to stop whining because he couldn't hear his cheesy Geotrax DVD we got for free in the mail.  Hence the lame-ass list of things Elsa put in her mouth.  Sorry.

And so, this is what was really on my mind....Do I want more kids?

Jeff's stand on the issue is pretty straight-forward and simple: Hell No.  He grew up in a two-kid, one boy, one girl household.  He tends to view his childhood as wonderful, idyllic, happy and relatively squabble-free.  Why would we want to offset the perfect balance we currently have with our darling son and daughter?  The kids we have are the perfect genetic cocktail of Jeff and me, inheriting only the best of both of us (right?).  Do we really want to risk having one that might take after certain members of either family?

Side note: Not that we don't love every family member dearly, and not that we don't believe that all of our siblings are lovely people....but honestly, if I had to actually raise a certain sister of mine, I would have smothered her with her own knock-off Cabbage Patch Kid long ago.

I, however, have found myself vacillating between really wanting anther one and wanting to get my tubes tied like, immediately.

(I wrote the following paragraph while I thought Rollie was sleeping but was in fact emptying his toy box and assembling a sort of still-life of figurines and Matchbox airplanes on his Lego table, and then coming to tell me he'd just pooped in his diaper.)

Today I really do think I want one more.  Because here I sit, eating lunch, working on the computer, both children sleeping peacefully in their darkened rooms, the house only minimally destroyed, the windows wide open, and somewhere beyond them windchimes blowing in the cool autumn air.  And I'm having some kind of zen moment right now, thinking that I want another kid...must be the windchimes.

(Isn't that hilarious?  Because now it's 7:25, both kids are passed out because they were up all afternoon running me absolutely ragged, I've cleaned up their dinner, two rounds of 'Let's-Pee-Anywhere-But-The-Potty,' I bathed them, I haven't eaten my dinner yet, and Jeff's still not home, and the thought of having another kid is right up there with going to WalMart on Black Friday.)

 Seriously though, I still think I want another one, but I'm not exactly in a hurry to get knocked up again.  Maybe I should just enjoy the two I've got and worry about adding another one somewhere down the road.  Although, that was the plan early last year, until Jeff and I went to the Keys, had one too many Rum Runners and ended up with Elsa nine months later....DOH!

Open Mouth, Insert Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Things Elsa has put into her mouth today:

Rollie's flip-flop
A fuzzy from Jeff's dress sock
A fistful of dog fur
A leaf
A pacifier
A pacifier coated in sand
The cord to the vacuum cleaner
A Matchbox car
A Matchbox airplane
A piece of train track
A Halloween sticker
A kernel of corn she found beneath the seat cover of her high chair (and I can't for the life of me remember the last time I fed her corn)
Her toes
Rollie's toes
The dog's toes (almost....)
Toilet paper
A puzzle piece
Her carseat buckle
My cell phone
The TV remote
One of my bras
The bathmat
A make-up brush
A magazine
A coupon that fell out of a magazine
A book
A bookmark
A piece of my hair
A bathtoy
A babywipe
And finally, a bottle.  So that' out of 33 in terms of what actually belongs in her mouth.  Not bad....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Putting the Pee in Developmental Milestones

So my kids have made it past two major developmental milestones:  Rollie is peeing standing up, and Elsa is crawling.

Now, taken seperately, these two things are celebratory.  Finally, I don't have to hear Elsa scream in frustration, trapped in her figure-four leg-lock, unable to travel the thirty inches to reach the toy she desperately wants.  She can just get up on her hands and knees and go.  And Rollie, my darling son, has discovered the unadulterated joy of aiming his stream of pee to obliterate a square of TP in the toilet.  The next step is actually letting me know he has to go without me asking every five seconds.  Oh happy day that will be.

But when these two accomplishments are melded together, it spells complete and utter disaster.

The scenario this morning was: Rollie tearing through the house, hollering that he wants a diaper--my cue to usher him into the bathroom.

Me: Come on, Rollie, let's go pee-pee.
Rollie: No, I want a Diaper!
Me: You just need to use the potty.
Rollie: No.
Me (employing the brilliant method of offering up two choices to trick a kid into thinking he gets any kind of say in his life...usually works well except that oftentimes Rollie will still opt for Door Number Three: His Way): Do you want to sit or stand to go pee-pee?
Rollie (who thankfully realizes this is not a drill): I want to stand.

Yay.  He's not going to pee on the floor this round.  I strategically position his plastic potty chair in front of the toilet so he can stand on it, help him with his shorts and Thomas undies, toss a crumpled tissue into the bowl, and hold him in place, his belly protruding forward so that he himself cannot see his wiener, only the stream of pee emitting from it and splashing below.

(Side note: Yes, I realize that I still call a Penis a Wiener.  I don't know when I will finally behave like the 31-year-old woman I actually am and start using the anatomically correct terminology.  I think I will also have a problem saying Vulva, but I'll worry about that later.  Much, much later).

So just as I'm feeling all smug and triumphant, like maybe, just maybe, I've bought Rollie his last box of size 6 diapers, I hear the little smack smack smacking of baby hands on ceramic tile.

I turn and see Elsa, chubby-faced and smiling, making a bee-line for us.

"No, no, Elsa," I say.  Because I already know where she's headed.

She pauses only long enough to smile even wider before continuing onward.

"Don't come over here, Elsa," I say.

Smack smack smack.

"Elsa.  Stop, Honey."

Smack smack smack.  Man, she's quick.

"What's Baby Elsa doing?" Rollie asks, though he's still engrossed with peeing on the tissue.

"She's not listening to Mommy," I say.  "Elsa, no, no."

By now Elsa has crawled behind me and is now on her hands and knees, looking up at the toilet looming above her.  She contemplates it for a moment, then lifts one doughy hand up and grasps the rim.

Keep in mind that I'm still holding onto Rollie, who for some reason doesn't stand under his own power when he pees.  It's like helping someone who's heavily intoxicated.  If I let him go, he'll pee all over the place.

Elsa seems to know my dilemma, because she now reaches up with her other hand and pulls herself onto her knees, watching with great interest as Rollie continues to go.  The pee stream is inches away from her curious little face.  One move on his part and she'll get a golden shower.  Maybe that'll teach her.

"Elsaaaaa," I lower my voice to mimic Jeff's--one discouraging word from him and Elsa is usually reduced to a quivering pile of baby-fat.

But instead of bursting into tears, Elsa leans forward and sticks her hand right into the toilet.

"Aaah!" I shriek, releasing Rollie and diving for Elsa.

"Momma!" Rollie teeters on the potty seat for a second before standing up straight, pee running down his leg and onto the potty seat.

I lug a squirming Elsa to the sink.  At least I'm able to wash her hands before she decides to put them in her mouth.  Sometimes you've gotta rejoice in the little victories.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pity Party of Three

Nothing brings out the merciful benevolence of total strangers quite like a woman like flying alone with her young children.

For a brief moment of insanity, I decided to fly to Atlanta alone with Rollie and Elsa.  How bad could it be? I reasoned.  I'd flown alone with Rollie from here to Portland...six hours...pregnant...without buying him his own ticket.  And while that is something I'd rather not do again, I--in all my smug, naive arrogance--figured that taking a 45-minute flight with two kids would be a piece of cake.

First we had to check in.  I was only checking one bag, to simplify the security screening more than anything.  The idea of wrangling two children out of shoes and stuffing diaper bags and carseats through the conveyor on top of assuring the TSA worker that the ominous-looking tub of Noxema was not explosive in nature simply did not appeal to me.  It was worth the 20 bucks to send my saline solution and shampoo on to Atlanta without me.

Attempting to coax Rollie through the metal detector, however, was a bit of a challenge.  I guess I should be glad that he won't instantly warm up to strangers.  Or do what they ask.  Or do what I ask while they stand smiling on the other side of a scary-looking, door-shaped rectangle that beeps and lights up like a giant, terrifying baby toy.

The security people were pretty understanding though.  They made me feel somewhat less inept than usual as I struggled to remove my own belt and shoes, manhandled Elsa from her stroller and pleaded with Rollie to hurry up and take off his shoes because the line was starting to build up behind us like dorky ticket-holders for the opening night re-release of Star Wars.  They held out hands for Rollie to high-five, they cooed at Elsa, they tested the carseat for bomb-making residue with the utmost courtesy.  Only twenty dirty looks from other passengers later, we were through the screening and on our merry way to Gate A1.

Rollie was pretty excited about riding on an airplane.  He pointed out each one he saw, asking if that was the one we would be taking, asking why it wasn't the one we would be taking, asking where was the one we would be taking, and wanting to know when we could get on the one we would be taking.  Oh it was great fun answering every version of every question he could think up while trying to navigate my loaded-down sit-and-stand through the airport, trying to keep the carseat that balanced precariously atop our eighty pieces of carry-on from toppling onto Elsa perched in the front seat, angrily kicking at the socks she never wears and getting frustrated that they wouldn't come off.

Needless to say, as soon as we boarded, I was ready to administer the Benadryl and order myself a ten-dollar mini-bottle of wine.

At least the airline employees came through once again.  I'd been fretting all morning about the logistics of loading Rollie, Elsa, our bags and the carseat onto a quickly filling airplane, but as soon as I made it down the jet-way, a flight attendant appeared and happily hauled the twenty-pound toddler seat down the aisle, cheerily barging into other passengers as she pushed forward to our seat.  I followed her like I was following a linebacker through a throng of football players, Elsa clutched to me like a precious pigskin.

Once I had my fellow travelers settled, a woman appeared in the aisle, studying her ticket.

"I think I'm right here," she said, dropping her purse into the seat beside me.

Poor thing, I thought.  This was going to be the longest 45 minutes of her life.

You can always tell who on an airplane has children.  They're the ones who don't shoot deathrays at the parents of screaming toddlers.  They ask nicely to have you keep your kid from kicking their seat.  They don't look suicidal when they realize they're stuck in the same row as you and your colicky infant.  They offer to help.  They offer to change seats.  They offer carry your bags.  They've been there.  They know how bad it sucks.

Take the woman beside me.  I was trying to set up Rollie's DVD player (which I highly recommend for those of you crazy enough to fly with your kids...or ride in the car with them for any length of time), and she offered to hold Elsa for me.  Then she started playing Peek-a-boo with her.  She had Elsa chuckling for a full ten minutes, even after I had loaded Cars for Rollie and he was already staring slack-jawed at the screen.  When I opened up a sippy cup at thirty-thousand feet and apple juice went spraying all over her, the woman only smiled and said, "that's happened to me before!"  She was practically ready to breastfeed Elsa for me.  It was great.

And at the end of the flight, after I waited for everyone to deplane, some strapping young lad offered to carry the carseat back up the aisle for me.  I felt special, half-celebrity, half-paraplegic, someone everyone feels sorry for and wants to help and commiserates with and smiles at.  I can't imagine traveling with two kids, being pregnant and having some other super-power, like really big knockers.  People would be falling all over themselves to help me tie my shoes.  They would offer the shirt off their back, their bottom dollar, their left arm, just to open a door for me.  Sure it would be out of pity (and because my boobs would be bigger then some small countries).  I'd take it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pack-Rat Trap

So we were going through our old entertainment center the other day, and inside one of the cabinets was a stockpile of cassette tapes.  Yeah, cassettes.  Singles, entire albums, mix tapes, weird, concert tapes of my dad's to which I had applied little pieces of scotch tape so I could record over them.  It was hilarious.

Except that it was Jeff's intention to throw all of these tapes away.  There I was, chuckling with sentimental glee over Janet Jackson, Dee-Lite, and a mix tape Mat Solomon made me in tenth grade, when Jeff pulls our garbage can up to the table and begins depositing armloads of tapes into the trash with a sickening clatter of plastic.  I watch, speechless for a few seconds, until he reaches for the pile in front of me.

"Stop!" I cry, leaning over to shield my mountain of bad music from his hungry, trash-happy hands.

"What?" he looks at me.  "You're not keeping these, are you?"

"Of course I am," I clutch Rhythm Nation to my chest.

"When's the last time you listened to any of these?"

"Last week."

"Come on, honey," he shakes the trash can as if attempting to entice me to toss Shamrocks and Shenannigans inside.

"No," I start placing my tapes inside a faded Case Logic holder.  "You can throw yours away, but I'm keeping these."


"I don't know...maybe Rollie and Elsa will want to hear them someday."

"Baby, that's what itunes is for."

I shake my head and zip up the tape case for emphasis.  There.  No one's going to throw away my tapes now.  It's a shame my best ones are gone...The Bangles, Richard Marx. My sister sold them to the Princeton Record Exchange for cigarette money.  I'd like to think that somewhere, playing in the tape deck of a maroon, T-top Trans Am, some dude still rockin' a mullet and some Zooba pants is jamming to my copy of Ice Ice Baby.

I've always been something of a pack-rat.  My collection of stuff used to be much larger, but being married to a man who throws away birthday cards while they're still warm, I've been forced to whittle the stuff down to the essentials.  Gone are the ticket stubs I kept from movies I saw with high school crushes (and I'm using the term 'saw' loosely here), the old corsages, the valentines and love letters and wallet-sized photos with corny epithets written on the back.  I have yearbooks, notes from my girl friends, a few cards and a stack of old diaries, and that's about it.  In a way it's good that I didn't keep some things (I didn't really need a copy of my 5th grade Alice In Wonderland script), but I'd come to view my stash as artifacts, tangible evidence that I had a past and it was something I'd like to remember (most of it anyway).

I also kept some things with the intention that someday my own kids would want to see it.  Although now, I'm starting to wonder....I mean, my mom kept some of her old stuff, and I was never exactly salivating to sift through it. The letters are disappointingly innocuous, the diaries about as juicy as an overcooked turkey. Seriously, either my mother was a total square or an alien.  Neither option would surprise me.

I'm not sure what I expect Elsa's reaction to be when I pull out my wedding dress from 1999 (and has yet to be dry-cleaned, let alone preserved) and show it to her.  If she's anything like me, she'll raise one eyebrow and say something cheeky like, Wow, Mom, so empire waists were really big back then, huh?  Nice sequins.  And forget about letting her read my high school diaries.  Especially not when she's still in high school.   The last thing I want is for her to think that making out with a boy is okay just because I did it.  I want her to think Boys are Yucky until she's in her mid-twenties.

So maybe the time has come for me to shed some of this stuff.  Maybe I should clear out the old shoeboxes full of friendship bracelets and games of MASH and gum wrappers I kept because it was from a piece of gum Marc Eldridge gave me in seventh grade and I tried to work some voodoo spell on it so he would finally find me attractive (note: it didn't work).  I need to make room for diaramas and hand-made Mother's Day cards and fingerpaintings and macaroni art from my own kids.  I need to start building up an arsenal of their stuff, to cultivate the Pack Rat gene I'm certain I passed onto them.

I still refuse to throw away my Girl I'm Gonna Miss You single.  At least not until Milli Vanilla shows up on itunes....