Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Naked Truth

I'm having a hard time trying to figure out Rollie's latest phase.

We were at a friend's house the other day, and I was in the living room with Elsa, chatting and stuffing my face with donuts and enjoying being in the company of other women who get equally little sleep as I do, when I heard one of my friends say from somewhere around the corner, Whose clothes are these?

Silly me didn't think twice about it.  There was no warning bell, no inclination to go inspect the scene.  I just sat there, laughing with the other moms, thinking, ha ha, isn't that funny?  Someone's kid is taking off his--uh-oh....

Just then, Rollie streaked past me, clad in a polka-dotted diaper, making revving engine noises as he blew by.

"Rollie!" I called.  But he rounded another corner and disappeared.

The other moms chuckled politely, no doubt relieved it wasn't their kid who was auditioning for a nudist colony.  At least he'd kept his diaper on.

I really should have seen this coming.  Every day, pretty much around noon, Rollie decides that he doesn't want to wear his clothes anymore.  It's like an internal rooster crows in his head, telling him it's time to get naked.  He could be in the middle of playing with toys, watching TV, or feeding the dog a puzzle piece, and suddenly he decides to drop everything he's doing and perform a little strip-tease, like Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls, only without the terrible acting.

When we're at home, it seems his motivation for doing this is a fuzzy throw blanket my mother-in-law got us for Christmas.  And I'll admit, it's nice and soft and feels like the top of a puppy-dog's head.  After a long morning of playing or running errands, Rollie likes to unwind by stripping down to his undies and rolling himself up in that blanket like a bratty little burrito.  So I can see the appeal in that.  Sure.  If you're on ecstacy....

My mother had warned me about one of the quirks little boys have:  They like being naked.  You could live in Antarctica, in an igloo with the AC on full-blast, and your darling little boy would still insist on running around in just his undies (if you're lucky....because apparently some poor souls out there can't even get their sons to keep that last precious layer on.  And now that I think about it...this phase doesn't really go away.  I think as men grow up, they just learn to be a little more discreet about their nudity.  You usually won't see a grown man disrobing in the middle of a party.  Well, let me clarify usually won't see a grown man disrobing in the middle of a party unless he's either a.) drunk and about to jump into a neighbors' freezing cold jacuzzi while they're out of town or b.) drunk and has just lost a bet because his ping-pong ball failed to land in the last plastic cup of beer.).

Anyway, on the occasion that I can actually convince Rollie to wear clothes, he is also on this kick lately where he insists on choosing the outfit, and also on dressing himself.  But his criteria for clothing is:  Will it make me go super-fast?  

Unfortunately for me, I started this little trend. For a few weeks I had a hard time getting him dress voluntarily. And one morning when I was in a hurry and frankly just pissed off and tired of his antics, I told him that if he wore a certain shirt, he would be able to run really fast. So now, every morning he pulls out one of the three magical t-shirts that grants him super-sonic speed, and proceeds to put it on upside-down, inside out, and backwards. So if you see pictures of him lately in either a faded Star Wars t-shirt, a faded t-shirt with a dude playing guitar on it, or a faded t-shirt that says 2 Cool on it, those are his super-fast t-shirts (see below). When he's actually wearing a shirt, that is. Thank God we live in Florida....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Most Horrifying Place On Earth

This week we celebrated Rollie's birthday the way any pair of doting parents would: We whisked him off for thirty-six hours of pure, unadulterated, nightmare-inducing terror.

We took him to Disney World.

Because he's turning three and we're cheap, we wanted to squeeze his first trip to Magic Kingdom before he actually turned three and we'd have to fork over the sixty-four dollars to buy him a ticket.  So we piled him and Baby Elsa in to the car (along with about half of our household belongings, since going anywhere overnight with children is like getting ready to survive in a cave during a Nuclear Winter), and drove two hours to the All-Star Movie Resort in beautiful Orlando Florida.  We arrived in the afternoon and decided to have dinner at the coolest restaurant in Downtown Disney--Rainforest Cafe.

Rollie, you're gonna love it, Jeff and I told him as we approached the hostess station.  They've got animals that move and make noise, just like a real rain forest where Diego lives.

He seemed pretty into the idea of dining among anamotronic wildlife.  He gazed wide-eyed around the gift shop as we waited for our table, seeming only mildly concerned that a giant python dangling from a fake tree was writhing just above the head of an unsuspecting shopper.  Then the lights dimmed and loud claps of thunder rumbled across the room.

I want to go home, he said, and buried his face in Jeff's shoulder.

We were seated right in front of what I guess was the gorilla habitat.  And under normal circumstances Rollie likes monkeys.  But not when the monkeys come to life every seven minutes and begin a creepy, raucous mating call across an already loud, busy and over-stimulating restaurant.  Rollie and I sat with our backs to the randy gorillas, but whenever they started grunting, Rollie whipped around, his face painted several different shades of scared, and stuck his fingers in his ears.  I spent twenty minutes trying to explain to him that they were pretend, they were funny, they were cute, they were just talking to each other, and as soon as I thought maybe he was starting to get used to their scheduled jungle cries, another thunder storm rolled around.  Rollie leaped onto Jeff's lap and rolled up in a ball like a frightened armadillo, eyes squeezed shut and fingers jammed so far in his ear canals I was worried he'd need  surgery to remove them.

You'd think we would have learned our lesson at the Rainforest Cafe.  You'd think we would have stuck with the cutesy, kiddy rides once we got to Magic Kingdom.  And we did at first....we did Dumbo and the carousel and It's A Small World....Rollie's eyes lit up like the sunrise the first time he saw the castle.  It was like a classic kid's fairy tale came true.

And then we decided to take him on the Peter Pan ride.  I had honestly forgotten how dark it is in there.  And loud.  And kind of...trippy and disorienting, like dropping acid with people you don't know all that well.  After only a few seconds on the ride, Rollie started mumbling something I couldn't quite make out over the noise and story narration and Captian Hook swearing to take his revenge.

What, Honey? I asked, leaning in closer to him in the dark.

I want to get out, he said.

The ride's almost over, I told him.

He replied by sticking his fingers in his ears.

After that we decided to go on the Pirates of the Carribean.  Yeah, I know.  What were we thinking?  The kid's obviously terrified of anything anamatronic, loud, dark and unexpected.  Why not take him on a ride that offers all of that, plus lots and lots of skeletons?

The worse part of that ride was the battle scene, cannons firing, squibbs going off right next to our boat, pirates and scoundrals shouting threats at each other over our heads.  I'm pretty sure that was when Rollie started crying.

I want to go home, he pleaded.  I want to go home.

It's okay, Rollie.  The ride's almost over.

I want to get out.  He stood up.

Rollie, sit still.  You can't get out until the ride is over.  The pirates aren't real, they're silly.

Why are they silly?

Because they're just pretend.  They can't hurt you.  They're like big giant puppets.  They're like toys with batteries.  I'm giving him this speech as our little boat sails through a room depicting a city on fire.  And I wonder how many more childhood nightmares Disney can cram onto one ride.  Maybe they can have children navigate through quicksand as they wait in line.  Or create a ride that simulates kids wetting their pants in front of a classroom full of bullies.  Walt Disney's Scarred For Life.  Self-Esteem must be this low to ride this ride. 

In all fairness to Disney, Rollie obviously wasn't ready for the more intense attractions.  I think sometimes Jeff and I overestimate his threshold of intimidation.  We see him riding a bike with training wheels, hitting baseballs and shooting hoops and writing letters (okay, so just the letter O so far, but still....), and we forget that he's still just a little kid.  He still wears diapers at night.  He drinks from a sippy cup.  He sleeps with an elephant blankie. Maybe we should have just ridden It's A Small World twenty times like he wanted to and saved the Big Kid rides until next time.  Sure we would have been ready to jump in front of the monorail by the end of the day, but at least Rollie wouldn't have woken up six times that night with visions grinning skulls and hungry crocodiles fresh in his head.

For the record, his favorite ride was shuttle bus that took us from our hotel to the park itself.  So next time we'll save ourselves the $200 admission and take a family trip to the nearest Grayhound station.  Maybe for his fourth birthday.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rollie's Greatest Hits

Rollie turns three next weekend.

It's kind of surreal to think that the chubby little baby who used to scratch the hell out of his head and babble non-stop and try to climb out of his crib has turned into a lanky little boy who scratches the hell out of his head and talks non-stop and climbs out of bed four times a night.

Lately I've been hearing the phrase 'Terrible Threes' being tossed around, and I'm starting to get a little nervous.  Terrible Threes?  I thought it was the Twos that were supposed to be terrible.  Here I was thinking I was finally emerging from the dark, foreboding woods of awful behavior, of sister-biting and senseless disobedience and hunger strikes, and now you're telling me that was the calm before the storm?  What's next, arson?  Am I gonna be visiting him in juvie on his fourth birthday?  Singing Happy Birthday to him through a mesh window?  Ay-yay-yay....

In all honesty, Rollie's Two's really weren't that bad.  Although after rereading some of my previous entries, I know there were definitely some days I'd rather not repeat.  Like the time he had me convinced it was Opposite Day because everything I asked him to do was met with him doing the total opposite (splashing in puddles, sitting on Elsa, peeing on the floor).  Or the time I screamed at him so loudly, I started crying at my own loss of self-control (and my throat stung for the rest of the day).  Or the time he was being super-whiny and I just thought he was being naughty and sat down beside him to tell him so and he threw-up watermelon all over my shirt.  Some days are best remembered as learning experiences, moments not to be repeated.  Like, ever.  Especially the watermelon throw-up moment.  But on the whole, Rollie has been a pretty good kid.  So far.

And while I'm sure this entry is going to play out like one of those Hundredth Episode, Let's Look Back On How Much Fun We've Had sitcom specials, I can't help but reflect on some of Rollie's more endearing moments as a two-year-old.

Like just the other day when we were walking around the Town Center and we passed a large German Shepherd-looking dog.  Rollie said, "I want to take off all my clothes and ride that dog."
"Why would you have to take off all your clothes to ride him?" I asked.
"So I could feel his fur."

Or when we were taking a walk and he tripped over his own feet and went sprawling across the sidewalk.  After I picked him up and dusted him off he said, "Thank you, Momma.  If you fell I would pick you up, too."

Or when Baby Elsa bonked her head on the coffee table and started crying, and before I could make it over to her and comfort her, Rollie was bringing her his beloved elephant blankie and saying, "Don't cry, Baby Els.  It's just a little bump."

Or the time when he asked me if I could with him in the bathroom.
Or the time when he decided to start wiping his runny nose on Elsa's head.
Or the time when I found him waddling around his bedroom with both legs shoved through one pant-leg because he was determined to put his jeans on all by himself.
Or the time he noticed the Elsa didn't have a penis (She has a bottom, he concluded).
Or the time he was supposedly taking a nap and I walked in his bedroom to discover him missing both pants and diaper, sitting on the floor arranging his plastic animal figurines in a meticulous row, like a miniature parade was marching across his carpet.

Sigh.  It's all gone by in a flash.  And it's been so much fun.  Happy Birthday, kid.  I love you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Toy Fairy Cometh

Yesterday I introduced Rollie to The Toy Fairy.

Just in case you aren't familiar with this convenient little sprite, The Toy Fairy is a gossamer-winged invention who slips into your child's room while he is sleeping and quietly collects all the toys that weren't put away properly, places them in a sack and hauls them away to give to another child who will be far more grateful and responsible.

I had always sworn to myself that I would never resort to this.  I would never have to lie to my children to pick up their toys.  Why would I have to make up some stupid fairy to get my kids to listen?  I thought...before I actually had any kids, of course.  I'll just tell them to pick up their toys and they'll pick up their toys.  Isn't that hilarious?  Did I really have that little of a clue as to what having kids is like?  Had I no idea that mothers probably spend ninety percent of their time and energy giving directions to children who won't listen until it's screamed across the house for the seventh time?

So this was how The Toy Fairy conversation came about last night.

Me (after surveying what looked like a grenade went off in Rollie's toy-box):  Rollie, what happened in here?
Rollie: I was trying to make Baby Elsa happy.
Me: By what, burying her in Matchbox cars?
Rollie: Uh-huh.
Me: Well, since you made the mess, you need to clean it up.
Rollie:  That's okay.  You can do it.
Me: Um, I don't think so.  I will help you do it, but you need to do it, too.
Rollie: Um, no thanks.
Me: Um, yes please let's do this.  Come on--I'll put away all these balls, and you put away the cars.
Rollie: Okay.

Wow, I thought.  That was easy.  Except when I turned my back to fulfill my end of the bargain, I heard Rollie giggling and something plastic creaking and groaning and obviously being misused.  I spun around to see him standing on top of the toy semi-truck that is supposed to hold all his stupid Matchbox cars.

Me:  Rollie!  Why aren't you doing what I just asked you to do?
Rollie: I don't know.
Me:  You need to put your toys away, my darling son.
Rollie: Why do I need to put my toys away?
Me:  Because I asked you to and you need to do what I say.
Rollie (still not lifting a finger to pick anything up):  Why do I need to do what you say?
Me (cleaning up toys as I lecture...reeeeaaal nice...way to lay down the law): Because I'm your mommy, that's why.
Rollie: Why are you my mommy?

Finally, I decided it was time.  Time to tell my son a big, humungous lie.  Time to eat every thought I'd ever had against coercing my children to do my bidding by making a bunch of shit up.  Time for The Toy Fairy to make her appearance.

Me (changing my tone  from Mommy's-about-to-scream-at-you-and-flee-to-the-kitchen-for-a-beer to Mommy's-about-to-let-you-in-on-a-really-cool-secret): Listen, Rollie.  If you don't put your toys back where they belong, you know what? The Toy Fairy is going to come into your room and take them away.

Sound of a needly abruptly scratching across a record as Rollie's head snaps up.

Rollie: What's The Toy Fairy?

And so I go into a ten-minute oration about how she will steal through his window while he is sleeping and take every bless-ed toy that is on his floor instead of in his toy-box or other designated area and whisk them away to someone more deserving and tidy.

Unfortunately, Rollie is actually really excited about the prospect of this happening.

Rollie: Maybe we should leave a toy out for her.
Me: ...Well, if we do that, she'll never bring the toy back and we'll lose it forever.
Rollie:  That would be really awesome.
Me: Don't you think it would be sad?  If you never saw your toy again?
Rollie: Yeah.
Me: Well, then we should probably put all your toys away.
Rollie (pawing through his toy-box and pulling out a truck): Let's leave her this!
Me: Rollie, your kind of missing the point here....
Rollie: Why am I kind of missing the point?
Me: We don't want her to take any toys.  That's what motivates us to put them away.
Rollie: Maybe she'll like this toy.  (He places it in the middle of the floor.)
Me:, that's can't just leave her toys.  She comes and takes toys away.
Rollie:  Why?
Me (sigh):  Because whatever toys you leave out and don't take care of, you shouldn't be allowed to keep.
Rollie (looking back down at his truck):  She can have this toy.  I don't want it anymore.
Me: So you want to set a trap?  To see if our house is on her route?
Rollie: That's a good idea, Momma.

And so as Rollie was prancing around the house in his froggy slippers and expending the last of his over-tired energy, I grabbed his stupid neon orange toy truck and stuck it on the top shelf of our linen closet.  The next time Rollie galloped past me I let out a theatrical gasp.

Me: Rollie, listen!
Rollie: What?
Me: I think...I think I hear The Toy Fairy!
Rollie (also gasping): Where?
Me: I think she just went in your room.

Rollie hurried past me and into his room.  The look on his face was fabulous.  You wanna see some genuine incredulity, make something disappear practically right in front of your preschooler.  And have a camera to capture his face.

Then Rollie said:  Maybe we should leave her something else.

So I wouldn't say that The Toy Fairy concept has backfired yet.  Although I do have a feeling that an entry about Rollie trying to trap the Toy Fairy with a cardboard box, a string, a stick and some plastic, Made-In-China bait is forthcoming....

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sick Day

I'm pretty sure I had food poisoning this weekend, and I'm pretty sure the Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco from Taco Bell was the culprit.

Saturday night I heard Rollie come around to Jeff's side of the bed, and Jeff, who for some reason transforms into a giant softy when he's awakened from a dead sleep, lugged Rollie between us on the bed.  I rolled out of bed, fully intending to usher Rollie back to his room, when suddenly my guts started churning and my mouth flooded with saliva.  And because I'm a mom and didn't want to alarm anyone, I hurried across the house and genuflected at the foot of the porcelain throne in the kids' bathroom, where I could vomit in peace.

I spent the next, oh, twelve hours or so curled up in a fetal position on my bed, drifting in and out of consciousness, occasionally awakened by one of my children pulling on my face as Jeff hovered somewhere above, asking if I needed anything.  And at some point that afternoon I made it to the couch and wrapped myself in a blanket cocoon, grunting when addressed, and emerging from the covers every hour or so to sip some ginger ale.  

As I languished in delirious self-pity, I couldn't help but eavesdrop on the activity around me.  And what I heard was familiar, and pretty darn funny....

Jeff:  Rollie, get off the coffee table.
Rollie: Why?
Jeff: Because I said so.  Get. Down.
Rollie: But Dadda, I'm trying to reach my motorcycle.
Jeff: No, no, Baby Elsa, don't chew on that remote.
Rollie:  What's Baby Elsa doing?
Jeff: Rollie, I said get down.
Rollie:  Dadda, there's an alligator coming!
Jeff:  I can't play alligator right now--I'm trying to start dinner.
Rollie:  Dadda, come on!  He's coming!
Jeff:  Baby Elsa, what are you chewing on now?
Rollie:  She's got Ollie's food in her mouth.
Ollie:  Roof!  Roof!
Jeff:  Just a minute, Ollie!
Rollie:  Ollie wants to go potty, Dadda.
Jeff:  He'll have to wait a second.  Come here, Elsa.
Rollie:  Dadda, the alligator!
Ollie: Bark!  Bark!  Bark!
Jeff:  Elsa, get that out of your mouth!  Rollie, stop pulling on me, please.
Rollie:  Ollie really wants to go potty, Dadda.
Jeff:  Too bad.  

Then I hear the sound of a pot boiling over and Ollie scratching at the door.  And Jeff swearing under his breath.  And while I really do feel like I'm about to die, a part of me can't but feel a tiny bit smug that Jeff, Mr. Calm, Cool,  Eternally Composed himself, is having a little trouble keeping up with the chaos that is pretty standard in my afternoons.  Maybe it was time for Mr. Yardstick to make an appearance.  

I managed to sit upright at the table and feed Elsa about two macaroni noodles before she began her food-flinging antics.  Since the sound of wet noodles hitting tile wasn't exactly making me feel less nauseated, I retreated back to the couch while Jeff cleaned the kitchen and herded the kids into the bathroom.  And while I heard giggles and splashing and warnings echo from down the hall, I pulled the blankets more tightly around me, watched the Superbowl pregame show and thought, Wow.  I got to sleep in, laze around all day, didn't have to lift a finger, and now I can spend the next three hours watching football and drinking non-diet soda.

Food poisoning really isn't that bad.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fishing For Bunnies

I am a genius.

Well, let me preface this by saying that after some of my loyal fans read this, they might not want to come over to my house again.  At least, not without a HazMat suit.  Just trying to mentally prepare some of you for what my stroke of absolute ingenuity entails.....

Tonight I was trying to make dinner and the kids were doing what kids do best at 4:30 on a rainy afternoon:  Being totally obnoxious.  Elsa was pillaging through the tupperware cabinet, pulling out containers and lids in shapes, sizes and colors I didn't even know we had.  And Rollie was demonstrating his newfound ability to open the refrigerator.  He kept telling me he wanted juice, and then he'd open the fridge and attempt to climb up the shelves to reach the motherload of Capri Suns stashed on the 2nd shelf from the top.  So between tripping over Gladware and yelling at Rollie to stop hoisting himself up by the deli meat drawer, I was ready to shove both of them inside the oven and preheat it (just a little, of course...up to 250, max).

So then Rollie gives up scoring some juice and starts pulling magnets off the door and kicking them beneath the fridge.

"Rollie!" I holler.  "Knock it off!"
"Look, Momma," Rollie says, as if sending magnets into the nether regions of the Refrigerator Underworld is a really cool trick.  He kicks another one.
"Stop, Rollie, you're never going to get those magnets out of there."
"I know," he says.  "I'll go get Mr. Yardstick!"

Mr. Yardstick is a long wooden ruler we keep stashed in the linen closet, not for measuring things, but for retrieving long lost toys, books, and other objects when they somehow end up beneath appliances and furniture, just out of reach of even Jeff's wingspan.  Rollie dashes out of the kitchen and returns with dependable Mr. Yardstick (who also happens to have a couple of shoelaces tied around him--when he isn't fighting crime, he doubles as Rollie's fishing pole).

Anyway, I instruct Rollie to get on the floor and start corralling the magnets he sent skittering under the fridge.  And I go back to preparing dinner.  Until Rollie says, "What's that, Momma?"

I turn and see that Mr. Yardstick has pulled a large clump of fur from beneath the fridge.  Rather large.  Like, it could be mistaken for a Guinea pig.  A fat Guinea pig.

"Um...that is a dust bunny," I say.

"A bunny?" Rollie squats down and peers at the furry thing with great interest.  Even Elsa has stopped tearing through the cabinet and has crawled over to investigate.  Meaning she reaches for the gob of hair, and the next stop is her mouth.

"No, Elsa," I say.

"Is it a bunny rabbit?" Rollie asks.

"Not exactly," I say, already envisioning him wanting to keep it as a pet, in his room, perhaps.  Where he can feed it carrots and name it George.  And then, it hit me.

"Rollie, why don't you slide Mr. Yardstick under there again and see if this bunny has a friend?"

Rollie's face lights up.  "Okay, that's a good idea," he exclaims, and diligently does as I suggested.

As I continue making dinner, every so often I hear Rollie giggle with excitement, and I glance over my shoulder to see another ball of dog hair tangled with God knows what else, has joined the original dust bunny.  Soon big blonde tumble weeds are rolling across the tile floor.  And while I am pretty grossed out by all that hair, I silently pat myself on the back for being so innovative.  Not only am I getting dinner ready, but my children are happily cleaning my kitchen!  This is great!  I should have them clean out beneath the oven next, but I decide to wait until next time I need to make dinner in peace.