Saturday, January 30, 2010


I had an epiphany yesterday:  I am one lazy mom.

Lately Rollie has been really into pretending that an alligator is coming to get him.  What started out as an excuse for him to run shrieking around the house and diving onto the couch has become an elaborate game where I remove the couch cushions and arrange them on the floor to create the water where the alligator lurks, and the naked couch is our boat.  And then I have to sit on the 'boat' with him, where I have to rock back and forth to simulate waves, and at the perfect moment, Rollie lunges from the 'boat' and into the 'water' and flails around until I grab one of his legs and rescue him from the alligator's jaws.  Oh yeah, and while I'm doing this, I have to make alligator noises.  Only I don't really know what kind of noises and alligator makes.  I know what they sound like when they're mating, but bellowing like a horny gator doesn't seem like a good idea.  Right now Rollie thinks an alligator says 'snap, snap, snap.'

The game has somewhat degenerated since its inception.  The first time we played it went something like this:

Rollie: Momma, the alligator's coming. (This is my cue that it's time for me to drop everything I was just doing, even if I was in the middle of diffusing a bomb, and run to the couch)
Me: I see it! (I throw some cushions on the floor and jump on the couch)  Hurry and get on the boat!
Rollie: Is he swimming closer?
Me: I think so!  And the boat is super-rocky, too! (I move back and forth for emphasis)
Rollie: Why is the boat super-rocky?
Me: Because it's windy and wavy out here!  Watch out Rollie!  Don't fall in!
Rollie (lunging from the couch and onto the cushions): Mommaaaa!  Save meeeee!
Me: Ah! (snap snap snap) Rollie! (snap snap snap)  Hang on, I'm coming! (I grab one of his ankles and pull him back onto the couch)
Rollie: That was close!  Thank you, Momma.
Me: You're welcome, Love.

But of course, a two-year-old's desire for repetition is insatiable.  If Rollie enjoyed playing a game one afternoon, why wouldn't he enjoy playing that same game--exactly as it was played the day before--fifteen afternoons in a row?

Unfortunately for Rollie, I don't have the attention-span, energy, or interest in playing the alligator game for very long.  Three minutes is pretty much my limit.  For some reason, pretending we are the prey of some imaginary reptile is more draining than running a mini-marathon.  

Yesterday the alligator game went something like this:

Rollie:  Momma, the alligator's coming!
Me: Oh, Rollie, do you really want to play that now?
Rollie:  Come on, Momma!  Hurry!
Me: Rollie, I'm in the middle of something here (emailing, writing, folding laundry, tweezing a stray and alarmingly long facial-hair).
Rollie (grabbing my hand): The alligator's gonna eat us, Momma!  Come on!
Me: Oh, all right, hang on a minute.
Rollie: Momma, hurry!  He's coming!
Me: Stop pulling on me.  I said hang on a minute.
Rollie: Turn off your computer and come on!
Me (sighing, like my son is totally putting me out by making me get off Hotmail and pay attention to him): I'm coming, I'm coming.  (I trudge to the couch and lie down on it) Oh no, the alligator's coming.
Rollie: No, Momma, put the pillows on the floor.
Me: Why don't we pretend they're on the floor?
Rollie: Get off, Momma.  Put the pillows on the floor.
Me (sighing again): All right, all right.  There.  Happy?
Rollie: Get on the boat, Momma.
Me (groaning as I stretch out across the cushionless couch):  These springs are pokey.
Rollie: No, not like that Momma, like this.  (He rocks back and forth)
Me: Momma's tired, Rollie.  I think I'll just lie here and keep a look out for the alligator.
Rollie:  No Momma, sit up.
Me:  You're so bossy, you know that?
Rollie: Aaaah!  I'm falling in the water!
Me: Uh-oh.  Hurry. Swim.  Pull yourself out.
Rollie: No, you have to save me, Momma!
Me: Momma can't save you.  She broke her leg.
Rollie: Grab my foot, Momma!  Pull me out!
Me: Oh, all right. (I lug myself into a sitting position and lean over to grab him)  Ugh.  Mommy needs some caffeine.
Rollie: Say 'snap snap,' Momma.
Me: Snap snap snap.  There, I saved you. (I lie back down on the couch).
Rollie: Thanks, Momma.  Where'd the alligator go?
Me: I think he swam away to go take a nap.
Rollie: I think I see him!
Me: No, that's just a shadow.
Rollie:  ...Is Dadda home yet?

I don't mean to be a total drag, a lame playmate with no imagination whatsoever.  Sometimes I get into it, sometimes I can almost see the yellow eyes of a stalking predetor, feel the hot breath of a bear or the sharp claws of a lion.  But usually I find the energy completely leaving my body as soon as Rollie mentions the word alligator.  I find myself trying to come up with games I can play with him that don't require much movement on my part.  If I could come up with a fun mother-son activity I can do while I take a nap, that would be ideal.  Right now I've found indoor baseball to be a pretty good game.  I sit on my ass and lob squishy balls at him, he hits them and runs around the house, and then I make him fetch the balls and bring them back to me.  That may make me lazy, but at least we're spending some Quality Time together.  Maybe I can figure out how to squeeze in a power nap every time he rounds the bases....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eat Your Heart Out, Judith Martin

I did it.  I finally figured out how to get Elsa to eat her dinner.

If you read the last entry, you learned that lately Elsa can give Linda Blair a run for her money.  Especially during dinnertime, when I strap her in her high chair and set a beautifully arranged, four-food-group-representative meal in front of her, and she immediately proceeds to fling it, piece by homemade piece, onto the floor.  And any attempts of mine to stop her are met with shrieks, tears, flailing limbs and bulging neck veins.  Sometimes, when her mouth is open mid-scream, I can cram a few peas or a macaroni noodle into her pie-hole, but she only swallows these bites half the time, and it's always unintentional.

I've tried several methods to get her to stop throwing her food and start eating it.  I've pretended to eat the food know that ol' 'turning your head to the side and making it look like your swallowing the whole fork' routine?  I've mastered it to the point where I could start performing my own magic act on stage.  But still Elsa won't eat.  I've pretended the fork was an airplane, a train, a boat coming in to port, a horse galloping toward her face.  Still nothing.  I've sung songs, made faces, opened my own mouth so wide the corners of my lips cracked and bled.  But still the dog is eating more of her dinner than she is.  I've put the dog outside during dinner, (despite him barking so earnestly to come back in that he's disturbing the peace in neighboring counties) thus removing any entertainment he was providing for Elsa.  Still she drops her food and searches around for Ollie to come get it.  Even when I take her tray away and feed her from a baby spoon, she reaches in her mouth, takes out gobs of food and sends them sailing to the floor.  And when I tell her no, she looks at me with those eyes and screams so dramatically I don't know whether to kill her or give her an Oscar.

So last night I got smart. After watching her send chunks of potatoes, carrots and stew meat to the tile floor as soon as I set it on her tray, I decided I'd had enough.  I grabbed her from her high chair and set her on the ground so fast she didn't even have time to study me for a reaction to her food flinging shenanigans.

"Sorry," I said.  "Guess you're not eating if you're going to throw your food everywhere."

She looked up at me for a minute, like she was preparing for a meltdown.  And so I turned around in my chair and smiled at Rollie, who has suddenly become the Golden Child, the Good, Sweet, Obedient Child who usually eats a few bites of what's in front of him before telling me his tummy is full and asking if he can watch Deigo.

"What's Baby Elsa doing?" he asked.

"She's being naughty."

"Is she in time out?"

"No, she's just not going to eat her dinner."

"Is Ollie going to eat it?"

"I guess so."

I glanced back at Elsa and saw that look on her face that means she's got something in her mouth that shouldn't be there.

"What are you eating?" I asked, crouching down to investigate.

She reached inside and pulled out a carrot.  The very piece of carrot she'd just thrown on the ground.

"Oh, so now you want to eat?  Now that you dropped it and it has germs and dog hair all over it, it tastes better to you?"

She put the carrot back in her mouth and searched the ground for more food.  And there was plenty of it.

Whatever.  At least she's finally eating.  I guess as long as I keep the floor around her high chair relatively clean before each meal, it's as good as eating off a plate.  She'll grow out of this phase eventually, right?  I can just imagine her on a first date, the guy taking her to a nice restaurant, where she orders the pasta special with a side salad, dumps it all on the floor and starts crawling around under the table to eat it.  Nothing like bad manners to ensure she'll have a sparse social calendar for the next thirty years.  At least Jeff can stop saving up for that shotgun.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Miss Personality

Elsa has developed quite an interesting streak in her personality.  A few adjectives come to mind to describe it.  Feisty.  Spirited.  Fiery.  Spunky.  Strong-Willed.

Which all basically mean the same thing: Little Beyyatch.

I'm not sure where she inherited this from.  I'm certainly none of those things (shut-up, Jeff...I see you smirking).  My mother, in her eternal Pollyanna, Rose-Colored-Glasses perspective, loves to tell me what a good baby I was, how easy and laid-back and sweet, and how I could hang out in a play-pen entertaining myself for hours...and hours....

Looking back, I can see that I probably had no choice.  Maybe it's not that I was an easy baby, but came to learn at a very young age that I couldn't compete with my (at the time) four siblings, so I'd better figure out a way to entertain myself.  To this day I still try to find patterns in carpeting when I'm in a waiting room or standing in line somewhere.

Anyway, the other day I introduced Elsa to her new toothbrush.  I figured I better start taking care of her teeth, since she's using them so much, and for so many different purposes (see post Beware of Baby).  I sat her up on the bathroom counter and she watched with great interest as Rollie applied toothpaste to his own brush, stuck his brush in his mouth and wiggled it around for a few minutes, spitting every other second (since I've put the fear of God in him about the hazards of swallowing his toothpaste....I'm not even sure exactly what it does, but as far as he's concerned, swallowing his toothpaste will most likely awaken the hungry lion currently residing in his bedroom closet).

I squirted some training toothpaste onto Elsa's pink toothbrush and held in in front of her mouth, which she eagerly opened for me.  But as soon as I tried to brush her little fangs, she reached for the brush, ready to take over.

"No, no, Baby Els," I said.  "Let Mommy do it first."

Still she grabbed for the toothbrush, bobbing around as she tried to wrestle it from my grip.

"Elsa," I warned, "you need to let me do it."

She started kicking her legs in protest, sending the soap dispenser and hand towels into the sink, where Rollie's foamy spit was still collecting in the drain.

"What's Baby Elsa doing?" Rollie asked.

"She's being naughty," I told him as I tried to force the toothbrush into her mouth.  "Let me brush your teeth, Elsa."

"Are you going to put her in time out?" he asked.

"Not yet."

I tried to hold her head still in the crook of my arm, and that's when she really got mad.  Side Note: Only wedge your child's head in the crook of your arm as a last resort, when all other measures of attempted force-obedience have failed, and only when you're prepared to handle a full-blown, appendage-flailing temper tantrum.  

She started screaming, kicking, flapping her arms and biting the toothbrush so hard she yanked it out of my hand with her mouth.  Even Rollie, who up until this point had held the title as the Tantrum King, hopped from his stool and fled the bathroom.

"Elsa, stop it," I said.  "If you don't let me do it, your teeth are going to rot out of your head."  Why I was trying to reason with a one-year-old in the throes of a hissy fit, I couldn't tell you.  Sometimes I forget that my children's capacity for logic rivals that of a sea cucumber.

She looked up at me with angry blue eyes and screamed.

"Just walk away from her," Jeff's voice floated down the hall like some omniscient Supernanny.  And even though I was mentally rolling my eyes at his calm, unflappable demeanor, I did as he suggested.  I set Elsa down on the floor of the hallway and walked around the corner, her screaming at me all the way.

A few days later, I caught her dropping food from her high chair tray onto the floor.  Our dog, who has been hanging out beneath the high chair since Rollie was a baby, was gorging himself on pieces of banana, Cheerios, and goldfish crackers.

"No throwing food, Elsa," I said.

She looked up at me, hung her arm over the side of her chair, and opened her chubby fingers, dropping another piece of banana on the ground.

"Elsa," I walked over to her chair and looked her in the eye.  "No. Throwing. Food."

Not breaking my gaze, Elsa picked up a goldfish cracker between her fingers and brought it to the edge of her tray.

"Don't you drop that," I said.

Still watching me, she let go of the goldfish, where it landed in my dog's greedy mouth.

"That's it," I grabbed the tray and removed it from the high chair seat.  "No more food for you."

Once she realized what I was doing, Elsa screamed and grabbed for the tray, giving it a yank and sending more food to the ground.

"You little sh-" I almost, almost said it.  This close to calling my 13-month-old daughter a little shit.  Fabulous.

She screamed again.

"What's Baby Elsa doing?" Rollie asked from the couch.

"Being naughty."

"Are you going to put her in time out?"  He sounded hopeful this time, like he was excited at the prospect that he wasn't the one in trouble for a change.

I looked at her, her face encrusted with crumbs and banana goo, her hair sticking up everywhere, her mouth open in what I could swear was an attempt to challenge me, to say Go ahead, Mom--put me in time out.  I dare you.

"Yes, I am."  I picked her up and put her in the Time Out corner, a toyless, windowless void in the dining room, where she could scream and kick to her heart's delight.  Which she did.  With impressive ferocity.

Well, at least she inherited my wavy hair....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Doctor Is In...Finally...

Isn't it amazing how something as mundane as going to a doctor's appointment can turn into one of the biggest pains-in-the-ass when kids are involved?

I thought I was prepared to entertain my two children as we waited to see the doctor for the second time in two weeks (Elsa had a double-ear infection, and I could have sworn she was still pulling on her left ear, and that it seemed to be emanating a strange odor....but we'll get to that later).  Rollie had his Rescue Pack and a box full of plastic bugs, I brought a diaper bag full of snacks, drinks, books, pacifiers, wipes, extra changes of clothes...everything I could possibly need while being stuck in a 10X12, putty-colored room for twenty minutes.  Right?

Rollie brought his bugs with the intent that I hide them throughout the exam room, and then he 'rescue' them, a la Diego (his new hero).  I did the best I could, but there aren't many places for fake bugs to hide without me getting really grossed out that they've contracted some serious germs.  The same goes double for Elsa.  She isn't walking, so I couldn't put her down on the floor (despite her strenuous struggles to free herself from my arms).  I wheeled her around on the doctor's stool for a while, but Rollie was trying to crash into us with a regular chair and we were causing quite a ruckus.

So then I put her on the exam table, and the crinkling paper was a big hit.  She was having so much fun tearing it to shreds that Rollie got jealous and climbed up to get in on the action.  Soon they were both crawling around on the table, ripping paper, eating crackers, reading books and having a giggle/screaming contest.  Then Elsa found my wallet and proceeded to remove every card, coin, receipt and appointment reminder from inside and scatter them around the table.  Rollie hopped down from the table, I thought to get away from Elsa's wallet-pillaging rampage, but then I saw that familiar look cross his face and I realized he was getting ready to poop.

It was around this time that the doctor decided to come in.  He's a very nice man, but I'm sure he took one look at the office--the neon-colored bugs hidden on the window sills and countertops, the confetti from the exam table all over the floor, cracker crumbs and debit cards and books strewn everywhere, and  the shrieks from two unruly children echoing off the walls--and was ready to change professions to something more monkeys, perhaps.

 Oddly enough, I didn't feel that embarrassed.  I think I've gotten really good at rationalizing the behavior and appearance of my children.  I found myself thinking, well what does he expect?  I'm trapped in this tiny room with two kids, one of whom is sick, the other of whom hasn't pooped in three days, and all we have for entertainment is exam table tissue paper and my overstuffed, George Costanza wallet.  Maybe if he'd seen us right away, instead of having us wait for 20 minutes, Exam Room 3 wouldn't look like the aftermath of a prison riot.  Not that 20 minutes is even that long of a wait, but maybe the doctor should look into installing a jungle gym in each exam room, or perhaps a Thomas table and a bounce house.  Or maybe he should consider adding a clown that specializes in balloon animals to his staff.  Oh wait, I hate clowns.

It turns out that Elsa's ears were totally fine.   Apparently she has an obsessive-compulsive ear-tugging habit.  And her ears naturally smell funky.  But he did write a prescription for her eczema.  So I guess the visit wasn't a total waste....

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Apparently we have a hungry lion prowling our house late at night.

Last week it was monsters.  The other night Rollie came out of his bedroom after we'd tucked him in, whimpering slightly, his little elephant lovey clutched to his chest.  I intercepted him before he could wander into the family room and catch a glimpse of the fight scene from Pineapple Express that Jeff and I had been laughing our heads off at a few seconds before.

Me: What's the matter, Rollie?
Rollie: I'm scared.
Me: What are you scared of?
Rollie: I'm scared of things coming to get me.
Me: What things, Honey?
Rollie: Monsters.
Me: What kind of monsters?
Rollie: Scary monsters.
Me: Scary monsters?  Really? What did the monsters look like?
Rollie: They looked like they were going to eat me.

I'm pretty sure the monsters actually looked like the drawings from Where The Wild Things Are--Jeff recently dug up a bunch of his old books and Rollie fell in love with that particular story.  Probably because he could relate to Max.  Personally I always thought Max was a bit of a jerk, what with all that mischief-making and back-talking and chasing the family dog around with a fork.  But who am I to squelch my son's love for the classics?

So I went into this whole speech about how there are no such thing as monsters, and when he got scared, he could just think happy thoughts and that Mommy and Daddy were always home with him at night and God was watching over him and all that stuff.  This seemed to help, except now instead of him being afraid of some nebulous, fictitious monster, he came out of his room last night claiming to be afraid of a lion.  A big, furry, hungry lion.

I wasn't sure how to field this one.  I couldn't exactly tell him that lions don't exist, that they aren't hungry and wouldn't go after him like a bunch of chubbies vying for fried okra at The Golden Corral.  But I figured I should try to allay his fears.  The following conversation is evidence that I completely suck at putting kids at ease.  Which is why I don't write children's books:

Rollie: There's a lion coming to eat me.
Me: Why do you think a lion is coming to eat you?
Rollie: Because he's hungry.
Me: Rollie, no lion would ever, ever eat you.
Rollie: Why?
Me: Well, because they don't live anywhere around here.
Rollie: Where do lions live?
Me: They live far far away, in jungles and places like that.
Rollie: Jungles like where Diego lives?
Me: I don't know, does Diego live in a jungle?
Rollie: Yeah.
Me: Well then, I guess so.
Rollie: Will lions eat Diego?
Me: I don't think so.
Rollie: Why will they not eat Diego?
Me: Because they don't really eat children.  They eat other things.
Rollie: What do they eat?
Me: I don't know, like zebras and giraffes and things like that.

Rollie looks at me with very wide, concerned eyes.

Crap, I think.  Back peddle, back peddle back peddle....

Me: Well, not really zebras and giraffes.  More like, berries and nuts and stuff.
Rollie: Why not zebras and giraffes?
Me: I don't really know what lions eat, Rol-Rol
Rollie: Will they eat me?
Me: Nope.  They can't catch you.  You're too fast.
Rollie: Oh....Will they eat Baby Els?
Me: Elsa doesn't taste good.
Rollie: Why doesn't she taste good?
Me: She just doesn't.
Rollie (as if sensing a hole in my logic): What does she taste like?
Me: I don't know, what do you think she tastes like?
Rollie: Oranges.  (His "tastes like chicken" answer.)
Me: Hmm...maybe.
Rollie: And French Fried Boogers (His other "tastes like chicken" answer.)

We went around like this a few times, me assuring Rollie that lions couldn't possible eat him even if they wanted to, Rollie trying to navigate through every loophole in my argument, trying to convince me that a lion could eat pretty much whatever it wanted, French Fried Booger flavor or not.  In the end I finally sent him back to bed with some milk, which I think is what he wanted all along.  But already I can see this snowballing, turning into him being afraid of lightning, the dark, his closet, his creepy Elmo doll with the bulging, lidless eyes.

I suppose as long as he can run faster than Elsa, he doesn't have too much to be afraid of.  Of course, once Elsa is old enough to develop her own fears, I'm in trouble.  I know all about big brothers exploiting the fears of their younger, defenseless siblings.  I've seen Jaws with my brother Matt one too many times.  You know that part when the shark bites Quint in half and blood starts spurting from his mouth?  Still give me nightmares.  That's what watching it in slow motion fifty times with your older brother snickering in the background will do to you....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Road Rage

Yesterday I threatened to throw Rollie out the window of our moving car.

It all started with these stupid ski goggles.  We were going to walk the dog (for the second time in ten days) and because it's been so freaking cold here all week, my husband broke out this bag of winter gear that we literally haven't touched since our 2001 ski trip. Hats, mittens, scarves, masks,  jackets with disintegrating lift tickets still attached to them...when we were finished getting ready we looked like the Donner party crossing the continental divide.  And trust me, by the end of the day I was about ready to eat my young.

Anyway, Rollie found a pair of old goggles and decided they were just about the coolest things he'd ever seen in his short little life.  Jeff obligingly adjusted them to fit him, and for the rest of the morning, Rollie walked around in them, giggling and running into walls...I guess because the lenses were a little dingy.  I humored him, telling him how cool he looked, even though he really looked like one of those special kids who needs to wear a helmet and earmuffs everywhere he goes.

My compliments must have been pretty convincing, because Rollie wanted to wear them in public so the whole world could see just how awesome he looked. The only problem with this was that even though Jeff adjusted the goggles, they still didn't fit Rollie quite right.  They kept slipping down his face and squishing his nose.  As we rode in the car, I kept hearing little whimpers and whines, and I'd turn around to see Rollie all sour-faced, struggling to keep the goggles in place.

Me: Rollie, what's the matter?
Rollie: My goggles won't work.
Me: What, you mean they don't fit?
Rollie: They're hurting my nose.
Me: Here, let me help you.
Rollie: No, you can't touch them.
Me: Rollie, I don't think you can put them on yourself.
Rollie: Yeah I CAN do it all by myself.
Me: All right, fine, do it yourself.

Still he struggled, grunted and inadvertently kicked the back of my seat as he tried to get the goggles to stay in place.  Every time I offered to help, his refusals became more vehement, (as did my offers), until our exchanges escalated to this:

Me: Rollie, for God's sake just let me help you!
Rollie: Noooo!
Me (now turned completely around in my seat as we go down the freeway at 70 mph...a seat belt cautionary tale in the making): Give me the stupid goggles!
Rollie (holding them over his head) No!  Go away, Momma!
Me: Stop kicking my seat!  You're driving me crazy!
Me: This is ridiculous!  Give me the goggles!
Rollie: I don't need your help!
Me: Rollie, you can't do it yourself!  Wait until we get out of the car!
Rollie (kicking my seat and shaking his head): Uh-Uh!
Me (lunging over the back of my seat and snatching the goggles): No more goggles!
Rollie (bursting into tears): My Goggles!!!
Me (flopping down in my seat and throwing the f-ing goggles on the floor): You can't have them any more!
Rollie (still kicking my seat): Give me my goggles!
Me: Stop it!  You're overtired!
Rollie (kick kick kick): I'm NOT tired!
Me (mumbling so that he probably can't hear me, although I'm sort of hoping he can): Oh my God, I'm going to kill myself.
Me: Rollie, if you don't stop whining and kicking my seat RIGHT NOW I'm going to throw you out the window!

Even as I said it, I thought, Ah has come to this.  Me having a yelling match with my two-year-old.  I guess we were both mentally in the same place, both ready to do each other in out of pure frustration.  It's time like this when I stop and think, wow...I guess deep down we are all two years old.  We can all be pushed to the brink of madness, yelling and whining and mentally stomping our feet and holding our breath.  I can have a temper tantrum just like my son.  But because my vocabulary is more extensive than his, instead of kicking a seat and crying, I threaten suicide and turning my son into a human projectile.  Sheesh.

Two minutes after I'd taken Rollie's goggles away, he fell asleep.  At least I knew his behavior had stemmed primarily from exhaustion.  I'm still trying to think of an excuse for mine.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Heeeeere's Mommy!

How do people up north do it?

This week it hasn't gotten above 48 degrees.  Don't get me wrong...I love it.  I'm from New Jersey, grew up with snow and naked trees and gray skies and I was a happy little eskimo four months out of the year.  But that was back before I had kids.  And, as with most things in life, kids puts an entirely different spin on frigid weather.

The other day, after feeling especially stir-crazy because not only was it forty degrees outside, but both children had noses runnier than hot Jell-o and I couldn't drag them to any playdates, I dragged them to Target instead.  Which meant that Rollie was going to inevitably take a dump in the toy aisle, since he won't go on the toilet, and every time we're at Target I have to put a diaper on him or play Russian Roulette with his Buzz Lightyear underpants.  Aren't you glad you know that?

SO ANYWAY, we're leaving Target so I can change Rollie in the back of my car, both children dressed to the teeth in winter wear (even though Elsa could probably crawl around in a onesie and be well-insulated with all that chub), and Rollie starts complaining that he's cold.  We were only outside for a few minutes, but I could tell his complaints were genuine--his cheeks were red and crusty with snot, his eyes watery, his teeth chattering.  But his diaper was nice a warm, and hence needed to be changed.

Despite his protests, I hauled him into the back of the car and proceeded to change him.  And as his legs broke out in goosebumps and he rolled around whining about being cold, I wondered, what do people up north do in situations like this?  How do they make it all those months without going Shining on their family?  I guess I take for granted the fact that here in Florida we can go outside pretty much all year round.  I mean, we suffer through July and August and have to take special precautions to make sure our children don't burst into flames, but we can still go swimming, or at least drag a wading pool into the shade and drink cold beer while our kids splash around in the water.  Plus, every place down here has AC, so one can always seek refuge during the hottest days, always knowing that the nights bring some relief.

There is no relief for you poor Yankees.  And when your kids are sick, cold weather makes everything a million times worse.  Right now Elsa is recovering from a double ear infection, and both kids have coughs;  in the mornings my house sounds like a TB ward.  I've wiped their noses so many times I could teach a seminar on the right technique to make it quick, painless, yet effective at the same time.  I don't think I could do this for much longer, and still not go outside.  This morning I finally decided to be brave and take them on a walk with the poor, neglected dog, and the preparation alone took half an hour.  Jackets, hats, scarves, mittens, blankets, provisions, flares, whiskey...I felt like Sisyphus pushing that stroller down the street.  Five minutes into the walk it started raining.

Tonight it might snow.  And Rollie just blew a bubble out of his nose.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Beware Of Baby

Apparently Elsa is half-baby, half-wolverine.

I used to think her biting phase was the result of a long and uncomfortable bout of teething.  She managed to sprout something like ten teeth in five hours, and for a while there would lunge like a ravenous crocodile after anything dangled before her.

The other day, however, Rollie snatched a puzzle piece from her sticky hands, and instead of letting out a shriek like she usually does (and thus alerting me to intervene), she went after Rollie like he was made out of ham.  The mark on his back looked like a tiny moray eel had gotten ahold of him--four little holes on top and four little holes down below.  Rollie howled and cowered under the coffee table, trembling in fear.  Elsa calmly picked up the puzzle piece Rollie had dropped in his retreat and continued gnawing on it, a triumphant little gleam in her eyes.

I guess in a way it's good that she fights back.  She's got some feistiness in her.  She's a little spit-fire.   When she's an adult she'll stand her ground, stick to her guns, and if someone tries to mess with her, she'll just rear back and bite them.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.  I hope.

But this new streak in her personality also means that if I'm not around to intervene, most of Rollie and Elsa's scuffles will end in outright disaster.  Several times lately I've listened to Rollie say something like, That's mine, Baby Els, and I've rounded the corner just in time to see her open her sweet little mouth and lean in to clamp down on whatever bit of exposed flesh she can sink her baby teeth into.

"No, Elsa!" I'll shout, hurrying over to stop her from having Rollie as an appetizer.  And she'll stop and look up at me with this expression like, What do you expect me to do?  He's a big bully and all I have are these teeth.

"What's she doing?" Rollie will ask, oblivious to the fact that he almost landed a role in Jaws V--This Time, It's Really Really Irritating.

"She was about to bite you."


"I guess because you took something from her."

"Why did I take something from her?"

"I don't know, you tell me."

"Because I don't want her to have it." "It" could be anything from a Matchbox car to a book to the TV remote to a pair of undies.  Whatever it is that Elsa finds, Rollie will take and act as if he's protecting the Holy Grail itself from her thieving little hands.

"Listen," I'll say.  "You need to be nice and share with her."

"Why do I need to be nice and share?"

"Because she'll bite you if you don't."

And for once, Rollie seems to accept this answer without question.  He knows what happens what Elsa bites.  He's got the scars to remind him.

The only good thing about this is that at least he doesn't sit on her anymore.  Now that she can plan a brutal counter-attack, I don't have to yell at him nearly as often.

Now I get to yell at both of them.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Things I Leaned In 2009

Potty training is a marathon.  A messy, unpredictable, stinky, two-year marathon.  Don't give up, and make sure to drink along the way.

When throwing a birthday party for a 2-year-old, you can never go wrong with a big pinata.  Just make sure your male guests are standing far, far back from any disoriented preschoolers wielding giant clubs.

When using a breast pump on an airplane, make sure to sit in a window seat.  That creepy guy in 24D is dying to catch a glimpse of what's going on beneath that coverup.

Frozen bagels make wonderful teethers.  So do washcloths, pizza crusts, wallets, coffee table edges, pieces of dog food and two-year-old brothers.

Don't fill Easter eggs with anything that can spoil.  You may forget where you hid one until July, when your dog finds in in the couch, tears it apart and rolls around in it, thinking he's found a rotten bone he buried long ago.

When taking a cartrip that's longer than 20 minutes, bring an endless supply of Dumdums.  Dumdums are the crack-cocaine of the preschool world.

Make your kids listen to music you like.  They don't care, as long as it's something they can hear over and over.  Just make sure you're prepared to listen to your old They Might Be Giants CD three hundred million times in a row.

The best Halloween costumes are ones you make yourself (see Holy Sheet It's Halloween for clarification).

When your one-year-old daughter starts throwing food on the floor, thrashing around in her high chair, rubbing bananas in her hair and screaming with such force that her neck veins come dangerously close to rupturing, she's finished with her dinner.

Children under three won't care if their Christmas stockings are filled with leftover goody bag treats from their own birthday parties, half-packs of gum from your purse, and Halloween candy you hid on top of the fridge and forgot about for two months.  As long as they're stockings are empty Christmas Eve and full Christmas morning, they're happier than pigs in you-know-what.

Don't feel bad if you can't stay up until midnight on New Years Eve.  Someday you'll be human again, but for the next 50 years or so, you're gonna need your beauty rest.