Sunday, November 29, 2009

Things I'm Thankful For

I know it's a little late, but as the rest of my family sleeps off a pumpkin-pie-induced food-coma, I wanted to stop and list a few things I am thankful for:

My house--it has a split floor-plan. Meaning Jeff and I are on the other side of the house and if I turn the monitor off at night, it's almost like we don't have children.

My car--it has a nifty rearview mirror, allowing me to see what's going on in the back and yell at Rollie just before he sticks his dirty socks into Elsa's waiting mouth.

My TV--it is the greatest babysitter I've ever had, and I don't have to worry about Jeff running off with it into the night...mainly because it's too heavy for him to carry.

My dog--his nightly ritual of cleaning up after my children's dinner saves me the hassle of doing it myself.  And it saves me a fortune in dog food.

My local grocery store--those two seater carts with built-in steering wheels have provided my children hours of entertainment as I shop.  Plus the extra crumbs Elsa finds lodged in the seat cracks saves me from having to feed her later.

My internet connection--for being fast and dependable and never, ever going out on me.  I'm almost curious to see how I'd fare if it ever DID go out...I suppose as long as there was plenty of beer in the fridge I'd be okay.

My microwave--I've said it before and I'll say it again: God Bless Its Inventor.  Were it not for my microwave, my children would eat their own fingers waiting for me to actually cook something the old fashioned way.  I'm also thankful for Steam Fresh vegetables.  They are often the only source of non-fruit, food-pyramid sustenance my children get all day.

My DVR--Not only does it unfailingly provide hours of entertainment in the way of recorded Wubzy and Wonder Pets episodes for my kids, it's also there for me when I desperately want to watch 30 Rock but am so exhausted I accidentally put both contact lenses in the same case and the next day end up with 20/10 vision in one eye and 20/2000 vision in the other.

And Finally, My Family--Despite everything I write that might imply the contrary, I adore my children.  I mean, if they were perfect angels all the time, what would I write about?  Who wants to read anything about a kid who never drew on the carpet with Magic Marker or stick his penis down the bathtub drain?  Who wants to know about a baby who always ignored the dog food bowl and never bit her big brother on the back? People LOVE rubber-necking over the misdeeds of other people's kids.  I know I do.  I used to mentally shake my head and judge other parents who yelled at their kids in public or promised them candy if they stopped having a tantrum in the middle of the mall.  Now I have to stop myself from walking up to the parents with my blog website scrawled on a napkin, like an AA sponsor handing out his number to a stumbling alcoholic, and telling them, "You are not alone."

Oh yeah, and I'm thankful for my husband.  He rocks.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Bad Egg

Sometimes I worry that I'm raising Rollie to be a brat.

I mean, every kid is bratty sometimes, right?  At one point in their little lives, kids talk back to their parents, have temper tantrums, hit their baby sisters with foam baseball bats and spit masticated microwave sausages onto the floor, right?

I guess I don't have a huge mode of comparison.  I know I wasn't really a brat when I was a kid.  I mean, I got in my fair share of trouble, and got spanked a few times (though probably not nearly enough).  I can still feel the hard pinch from my mother's angry fingers as she sat beside me in church and hissed at me to sing along in the hymnal.  And her favorite thing to accuse me of was being fresh.  But this is all I remember.  To me these things don't include me in the brat category.

So what does categorize a kid as being a brat?  Or do kids just behave like brats every once in a while, just to remind you that you really aren't the one in charge, that you really don't have control over them in any way, shape or form?  That once you can no longer manhandle them into their carseat as they kick and scream, you're pretty much screwed?  Is there some magic number of times a kid pulls a bratty stunt, say, refusing to come when you shout down the cereal aisle at Publix at him, or sticking his feet in his baby sister's face and then screaming when she bites him on the heel, before you can safely label that child a huge, gigantic BRAT?

I'm only asking because the other day as I fed Rollie and Elsa dinner and Jeff unloaded the dishwasher, the following exchange took place:

Rollie: Momma, I think my tummy is full.
Me (after examining his plate to discover he's already learned the ol' Push-The-Food-Around-The-Plate trick): Rollie you need to eat some more.
Rollie: Um, no thanks.  I think I'm good.
Me: Rollie, you hardly ate anything.  You need to eat more spaghetti.
Rollie (already starting to climb down from his chair): No, I want some ice cream.
Me: No way.  No ice cream until you eat more dinner.
Rollie: No, I want ice cream.
Me: Are you kidding me?  Get back in your seat and eat a few more bites.
Rollie (now running toward the couch in the adjoining room): Noooooooooo!
Me (still trying to feed Elsa her dinner, which she's suddenly decided she hates and is letting me know by screaming and smearing it around on her high chair tray): Rollie, sit down Right Now and Eat.
Rollie: Nooooo!  I DON'T. WANT. TO.
Jeff: Rollie, you are a brat.  Go sit and eat.

I don't remember how the rest of the conversation went, except that eventually Jeff got Rollie to sit in his chair and eat almost half his dinner.  Pretty impressive.

The reason I don't remember is after Jeff called Rollie a brat, I sort of retreated into a self-berating shame spiral.  Jeff was right.  Rollie was being a brat.  And it was my fault.  I was letting him get away with speaking to me like a pre-school Veruca Salt about to go down the Bad Egg chute.  There's no telling how long it's been going on, either.  Since he could talk?  Even longer?  Sheesh.

Before we had kids I remember making a pact with Jeff that we wouldn't have bratty kids.  We would teach them manners.  They would always say 'please' and 'thank-you'.  They would never have a meltdown in a grocery store.  They wouldn't hit, bite, kick or pull hair.  And they sure wouldn't talk back to us.  God, what were we thinking?

I mean, Rollie's not always a brat.  He has his charming moments.  He's really only a brat when he thinks he can get away with it.  Like when I'm holding Elsa and she's pooped through her clothes and I have to perform an Emergency Tub Dunking and I need Rollie to bring me a towel from the closet and not only does he not bring me a towel but he turns off the bathroom light and shuts the door on me, leaving me to feel my way to the switch with a squirming, stinky baby in my arms.  That, I believe, qualifies him as a brat.

And when I yell at him for being naughty and closing the door on me, he returns all innocent-eyed and says, "It was an accident, Momma."

That, I believe, qualifies him as a manipulative little shit.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let There Be Lightning McQueen

I hate to say it, but I've been feeling a little inferior lately.  To my husband, I mean.  He's just a lot better than I am at answering Rollie's questions.  I guess his Chemical Engineering degree is finally paying off.

But instead of wallowing in a pool of English degree self-pity, I'm trying to embrace Rollie's latest phase.  I'm trying to field the bombardment of 'why's' with enthusiasm and understanding.  I'm trying my best to answer his questions correctly, using words and phrases he should understand, and incorporating visual aides and demonstrations when possible.  And it's not going so well.

This morning I called him to the back door so he could see the sunrise.  The clouds were like county-fair cotton candy, steam rose from the lake where wading birds stood silent and still.  Everything was wet with dew.  Even our moldy porch furniture was beautiful in the muted morning light.

He stopped harrassing Elsa long enough to trot over to me and gaze out the backdoor at the splendorous dawn.

Me:  See how pretty the clouds look, Rol?
Rollie: Where's the sun, Momma?
Me: The sun's still sleeping.
Rollie: Why is the sun sleeping?
Me: Well, he's not really sleeping.  He's just sort of...hiding.
Rollie: Why is he hiding?
Me: It's just not time for him to be up yet.
Rollie: Where is he, Momma?
Me: Behind those trees.
Rollie: Why is he behind those trees?
Me (studying the treeline and realizing the sun is still well below the horizon: Well, he's not actually behind the trees.  He's kind of...below them.
Rollie: Why is he kind of below them?
Me: Well, because the earth is round and spinning, and it hasn't really turned enough for us to face the sun yet.  (Nice answer, Copernicus)
Rollie:  Why?

And then I had a bolt of inspiration.  My mind flashed to my brief stint as a tutor, and the phrase Teachable Moment illuminated in my brain in big, neon letters.

Me: Come on, Rollie. I want to show you something.

I bring him into his bedroom and select a soccer ball from his overflowing basket of balls of every size, shape and sport.

Me (holding the ball up for him to see): Now, let's pretend that this is earth.  Earth is where we live.  See how it's round?
Rollie: Why is it round?
Me: We'll get to that.  Now, (I grab a Lego chicken from Rollie's play table) let's pretend this is you.  (I hold the chicken on the ball). See?  You're standing on Earth.
Rollie (scratching his head): Why am I a chicken?
Me: I think you're missing the point, but that's okay.
Rollie: Why am I missing the point?
Me (determined to soldier on): Now, let's pretend your Lightning McQueen flashlight is the sun. (I flip on the switch and aim the beam at the soccer ball).  See how the light is only on one side the ball?  That's like daytime.  And see how the chicken isn't in the light?  That's because it's nighttime.  For the chicken. I mean, for you.
Rollie: Why is it...why is it nighttime for the chicken?
Me: Ah-ha, because the earth hasn't turned enough to get the chicken into the light.  But watch this. (I turn the ball so that the chicken is basking in the heat of the Lightning McQueen flashlight), now the chicken is in the sun.  See?  It's morning!  The ball...I mean...Earth has turned far enough so that the light is on the chicken.  See?  Like the sun coming up in the morning.  Get it?
Rollie: ....Can we do something else, Momma?

I sit there on the floor with the Lightning McQueen flashlight clutched in one hand, the soccer ball in the other and a Lego chicken between my fingers, and I instantly feel like a mad scientist or a crazy math teacher.  What the hell am I doing?  Why am I making it so f-ing complicated?  Now I get why the phrase, Because I said so, is truly the best tool a parent can use.  Right up there with coffee.

I think from now on I will stick to my comfort zone of answers:

a.) Ask Dad
b.) Because I said so
c.) Because God made it that way
d.) I don't know

And my new favorite, what-the-hell-did-our-parents-do-before-the-internet answer:

e.) Let's look it up on Wikipedia

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Ask Why Ask Why Ask Why

It's finally begun.

We've officially entered the 'Why' stage.

I guess we've been in it for a week or two...maybe longer...who knows really--all my days are blurring together in one thick, fuzzy fog of answering Rollie's questions every five freaking seconds.

I must say, being asked 'why' about absolutely everything is kind of eye-opening.  I mean, Rollie is asking some pretty heavy questions, the kind of questions you would expect to ponder if you were taking some serious psychotropic substances and sprawled on someone's front lawn, gazing up at the stars and just letting your mind go, man.

We were all walking the dog the other evening, and it started to rain.  Jeff pulled the canopy over Rollie's seat in the stroller, and Rollie, who had been zoning in the front seat, almost asleep, suddenly perked up.

Rollie: Why are you doing that, Dadda?
Jeff: Because it's starting to rain.
Rollie:  Why is it starting to rain, Dadda?
Jeff: Because the clouds are full of water and it's too heavy to hold any more.
Rollie: Why is the water too heavy?
Jeff: Because water molecules are starting to coalesce and condense into liquid - this makes them more dense than the air, and then the liquid water drops to the ground as rain. (I know...kind of an esoteric answer for a two-year-old to wrap his little head around, but I suppose it's better than just saying, be quiet and go to sleep, which is how I felt like answering.)

I'm pretty sure this is how the atom was discovered.  Newton  was hanging out with his two-year-old son, and the son kept asking why, breaking down every answer into a smaller question, until eventually Newton looked at his son and said, there are no more answers.  We have finally arrived at the last possibly way to break down this subject into its tiniest part.  Hence, the atom! (Oh wait...Jeff just told me that the components that make up the atom as smaller than the atom itself.  Quarks...Electrons...all that stuff that I've completely blocked out since eleventh grade Chemistry class...which would probably explain the disparity between Jeff's responses and mine to Rollie's aforementioned rain question....)

I'm having a different experience with the 'why's' Rollie is sending my way.

I was ushering him into the bathroom to go pee, bribing him with the promise that I had to go as well, since for some reason the prospect of peeing as a family entices him to use the toilet.  Like a little duckling, he followed me into the bathroom and pulled out his plastic potty, then asked if we could cross the streams, since that is how he pees with Jeff (my apologies if this is entirely too much information....).

Me: Oh, I can't cross streams, Honey.  Only Dadda can cross streams with you.
Rollie: Why can't you cross streams, Momma?
Me: Well, because that's not the way Mommy goes pee-pee.
Rollie: Why is that not the way you go pee-pee, Momma?
Me (thinking, oh we go): Because Mommy doesn't have a penis.
Rollie: Why doesn't you have a penis, Momma?
Me: Because I'm a girl.
Rollie (eyeing me somewhat suspiciously): Can I see your Not Penis, Momma?
Me: Well, there's really nothing to see, Baby.
Rollie: But why can't you cross streams, Momma?
Me: I think I just told you.
Rollie: But why?
Me: Well...girls go pee-pee differently from boys.  It's just how we're made.

And before he could ask one more why question, forcing me to delve into the anatomically correct terminology for our corresponding parts (which, as you know, I have a hard time doing...just writing the word 'penis' makes me blush),  I swiftly changed the subject to his new Thomas the Train underwear.

But his curiosity in my Not Penis was only temporarily squelched.  As I escorted him into Starbucks the other day to use the restroom, he asked me out of the blue: Do you not have a penis, Momma?

Me: That's right, I don't.
Rollie: And you can't cross the streams?
Me: Nope.
Rollie: But you can still go pee-pee?
Me: Sure can.
Rollie: Why can you still go pee-pee Momma?
Me: Because I had a lot to drink today.
Rollie: Why did you have a lot to drink today?
Me: Because I'm extra thirsty from answering all your questions.
Rollie: Why are you extra thirsty?
Me: I just told you, Love.
Rollie: Why did you just told me?
Me: ....I don't know.

I understand that he doesn't in fact want to know why to every single question;  he's pretty fascinated that he can dictate the course of an entire conversation, get some attention and hear his own voice all at the same time.  So I guess I'll have to keep supplying him with answers, feeding his burgeoning and insatiable curiosity, until I either get such cotton-mouth I can no longer move my lips, or we discover a new subatomic particle and make millions of dollars....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rollie Is His Name-O

Sometimes, when I'm yelling at Rollie from across the grocery store to stop right there and wait for me, or when I'm pleading with him to not crawl beneath the door of my dressing room and give the poor woman in the next stall a heart attack, I wonder if other people think his name is strange.
His name is actually Roland.  I know, right?  Roland?  It was the eighth most common name of 1914, so I think it’s due for a resurgence in popularity.  My husband picked it.  I think he waited until just the right moment to bring it up…I was big and pregnant and annoyed, which pretty much sums up the entire last trimester.  He approached me all nervous, like a schoolboy trying to slip a valentine into my paper bag before I turned around and caught him in the act.

Him: What do you think of Roland?
Me: Roland?
Him: Yeah, you know…like after my grandfather?
Me: Roland?  Really?  Don’t you think it’s kinda…old-fashioned?
Him: We wouldn’t call him Roland.
Me: Then why would we name him Roland?
Him: We’d call him Rollie. 
Me: Hm.
Him (sensing a break in the storm clouds of pregnancy hormones): Rollie’s got character.
Me: I guess.
Him: I don’t know any Rollie’s, do you?
Me: No.
Him: Rollie Scott’s a great name.
Me (feeling my belly grow hard with those annoying-as-hell Braxton Hicks contractions, eyeing his icy-cold beer in envy and swallowing against a raging case of heartburn): Whatever.

So Rollie it was.  Rollie rhymes with Ollie (our dog's name...I know,  I know, how f-ing goofy is that?  Why didn't we just name Elsa Molly or Holly while we were at it?).  At some point in his life, someone will mispronounce his name and call him Roll-ie.  As in Roly-Poly.  Which means we're going to be in biiiig trouble if Rollie ever gets fat.
I still can't believe my husband wanted to name our first born son something that rhymes with so many words that can and will be used against him.  Jolly Rollie.  Rollie-Ollie-Oxen-Free.  Rollie-Want-A-Cracker.   One of the names I wanted was Charlie, and my husband had pointed out that people might call him Charlie Brown.  Oh, the horrors!  Not Charlie Brown!  I guess it hadn't occurred to him that Rollie Tamale would be just as bad...especially if Rollie has really bad B.O.
Which brings us to Elsa.  Again, my husband's choice.  Again, broaching the subject while I was in my eighth month of pregnancy and as lethargic as a cat lying in the sunshine.

Jeff: How about Elsa for a girl's name?
Me: Elsa?
Jeff: Sure.  We could use your middle name, too.  Elsa Abigail.
Me (at this point unable to care less what we name our daughter--all I can do is wish I still had a belly button and that I could wear something besides the same pair of belly-panel maternity jeans): Whatever.

Elsa is less rhym-able, although it is an anagram for SEAL, SALE and her initials are EAS.  So let's hope that some jerk-off kid in school doesn't call her Easy Elsa or anything.  When I was a kid, the worst name I got called was Beaky Becky, and I think that was from one of those Garbage Pail Kids (man, I loved those things.... it was a picture of a vulture picking at a carcass in the desert, isn't that hilarious?).
Maybe that's why names have gotten so...different...over the last few years.  Maybe there are more and more people like Jeff out there, people who are paranoid that someone's going to tease their kid, call him Peter-Peter-Pumpkin-Eater, thus ruining Peter's life forever.  Maybe, upon naming their children, people think, There! I'd like to see somone come up with a way to make fun of Braeson Xavier!

The worst the kid'll get is other kids saying: Hey Braeson...your dad's a paranoid freak!

And they'd be right.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Week As A Single Mom

So I've been flying solo this week.  And you know what?  It hasn't been too bad....

Oh sure, we've had our moments.  Rollie biting Elsa on the heel.  Elsa getting her hand stuck in the oven.  Me being hungover after having only two beers and a cocktail.  The dog running away.  But on the whole, it's been a relatively uneventful week so far.  

I think it's all about attitude.  If I'd gone into this week expecting to get anything done, anything at all, I would be on my seventh or eight nervous breakdown right about now.  But I went into this week knowing that the house would look like hell, I would look like hell, and my children would behave like hellions.  I figured I may as well embrace my absolute lack of progress on anything, let the applesauce congeal on the baseboards, the dirty laundry fester in the hamper, the emails go unanswered and the blogs neglected.  My priority this week was to make through each day without wishing I could have an IV of wine tapped directly into my right arm.  

I think I've almost made it.  I mean, it's only Tuesday (at least, it was when I first started this it's Friday evening), my children are still alive, and I'm hovering somewhere around a 5 on my insane-o-meter. The only reason I have been able to write at all is my parents have arrived like a cavalry coming over a grassy, juice-stained, toy-strewn hill.  Dah-dah-dah-DAH! (That was supposed to be trumpets blaring in jubilation.)

Of course, now that my parents are here, my Swiffer is getting quite a work out (see July's entry, Payback's A Dirty Swiffer).  I bet they're secreting relishing in my current role as mother of two young, energetic, somewhat willful children.  There they sit on my couch, my beloved Mom and Dad, quietly chuckling to each other and eating leftover Halloween candy as I dash around wiping up crumbs, doling out snacks, keeping Rollie from biting/hitting/yelling at Elsa and vice versa.  "Someone's poopy," they'll announce from their comfortable perch, neither making a move to change the offending diaper.  When it comes to helping me out, they like to be passive.  "Elsa," they'll call, "Don't stick your hand in the pot of boiling water."  Even if they're like, holding said pot, they'd rather see me sprint across the house to stop her than do it themselves.  I think they get some sort of sick pleasure in watching me sweat, in making me work.  They see it as retribution for raising a litter of children.

I guess I can't blame them.  They've already played this game.  They're grandparents now, and there's a biiiiiiiig difference.  They're available for happy times only.  No diaper changing, no tantrum taming, no disciplining Rollie for drawing somewhere he's not supposed to with chalk.  That's my job.  (By the way, does anyone know how to remove chalk from a mesh window screen?)

All week I've been telling them how amazed I am that they managed to raise my siblings and to be relatively decent, law-abiding contributors to society (more or less).  And all week they've just nodded, unwrapped another Fun Size Snickers bar, and said, "Rollie, you might not want to poke at that fire-ant-hill."  

Jeff will be home in 45 minutes.  Dah-dah-dah-dah! (More trumpets blaring in jubilation.)

Side Note: The author would like to add that she really does appreciate all the help her parents have given her these past 24-hours, and if they want to baby-sit Rollie and Elsa tomorrow night, her parents can eat all the Snickers they want.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Holy Sheet, It's Halloween

In keeping with my childhood tradition, I assembled Rollie's Halloween costume at 5:30 Saturday night.

It took awhile to come up with a get-up that would top last year's costume (see right).  Every time one of our neighbors opened the door to dole out candy, they burst out laughing, and in some instances beckoned other family members to come see the little boy sporting leiderhosen like a toddler version of Augustus Gloop.

My husband and I went back and forth for several minutes and couldn't agree on what Rollie should wear as he trick-or-treated.

Me: How about a soccer player?
Jeff: That's kinda lame.
Me: But he likes soccer.
Jeff: Does he have a soccer shirt?
Me: He has a t-shirt with numbers on it.
Jeff: It needs to be a real soccer shirt or he'll look silly.
Me: But isn't that all a soccer shirt is?  A t-shirt with some numbers?
Jeff: It's not just a t-shirt.  It's usually polyester.  Plus, he doesn't have soccer shorts.
Me (trying not to roll my eyes, since my husband played soccer in high school and is really into it and I don't dare voice my opinion that Rollie's only two for crying out loud and I don't think him wearing a t-shirt with numbers on it would preclude him from scoring any candy): about Indiana Jones?
Jeff: Does he know who that is?
Me: No...but he has some khaki pants and a button-down shirt.  And I think he has some binoculars somewhere.
Jeff: Indiana Jones doesn't wear binoculars.
Me: Oh.
Jeff: Do you have a hat?
Me: No.
Jeff: How about a whip?
Me: Um....
Jeff: Or some sort of...rucksack?
Me: What the hell is a rucksack?
Jeff: You know, like a back-pack.
Me: No.  No rucksack.

I wasn't willing to admit defeat, but I was getting anxious and a tad desperate.  I was having flashbacks of Halloweens spent scrounging my parents' closet in the Eleventh Hour, finally pulling together something I thought resembled a hobo, but in reality just made me look like a dirty-faced eight-year-old in a Members Only jacket.  I would not let Rollie share this same, humiliating fate.  I was dangerously close to cutting a couple holes in a sheet and turning him loose.

He ended up in a toga made out of pillow cases, and on his head he wore laurels I pruned from my fake ivy planters that sit above my kitchen cabinets.  He was a Roman.  I think he got more laughs this year.