Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dare To Compare

Now that Elsa is 15 months old, I can officially start comparing her to Rollie. 15 months is about how far back my memory goes with him before things start getting hazy due to a.) lack of sleep, b.) passage of time, c.) my pregnancy hormones started to kick in and I realized that I was a dumb-ass for getting knocked up again so soon and that I'd better start paying attention to Rollie's development so I'd know what to expect the next time around.

So I know that I shouldn't really be comparing them at all, and that every kid develops at his or her own rate and trying to compare them could damage their little psyches and permanently scar them (more than I already have), and blah blah blah.  That's nice.  Still, whenever I watch my children, I compare them to each other worse than a middle school girl in a gym locker room compares her own jiggly thighs those of her classmates (and speaking from experience, I can honestly say that this is an all-consuming, perspective-skewed, day-ruining activity, especially when you shared an aisle with Devon Rielly, who had like, the most insanely perfect body of any seventh grader I ever saw.  Wow...that sounds pretty creepy of me to say....Sorry, Devon, wherever you are.)

ANYWAY, after studying my children for some time, I'd like to divulge my findings with you.  Please feel free take notes.

Rollie:  Still wakes up at least twice a night, often asking for milk, but also lately insisting that there is something scary in his room (lion, monkey, Keanu Reeves in a rubber Richard Nixon mask....).

Elsa:  Has been officially sleeping through the night for 5 months (except for a nasty bought of bronchilitis, and on a few nights when we slept in hotel rooms and Rollie's whining about something scary woke her up, too).

Rollie: Has finally learned to poop on the potty....the day he turned 3.

Elsa: No lie, last night this girl crawled, crawled buck-naked into the bathroom, lifted the lid of Rollie's plastic potty, sat down on it and pinched a serious loaf.  I know...whaaaat?  Can't walk yet and already she's dropping a deuce all by herself on the potty.   Awesome.

Cuddle Factor
Rollie: Only cuddles when he wants something, usually chocolate milk or candy, and even then he only cuddles for about 5 seconds before he's discovered that it's much more fun to stick his hands up my shirt and speak in high-pitched, one-word sentences and just be a complete weirdo.

Elsa: Started giving us big bear-hugs at about 7 months old, and lays her head on our shoulders and sighs sweetly and finally this action is no longer accompanied by a giant bite on our arms.  Yay.

Motor Skills
Rollie:  All thumbs until 18 months.  I'm still not sure if he's a righty or a lefty.  And I still feed him sometimes....I know...so lame.... He was kicking a soccer ball around the house at 11 months, though.

Elsa: Has the manual dexterity of a heart surgeon (or, for my dad, a clarinetist).  Has been turning book pages and using utensils since birth.  I'm pretty sure she was playing Cat's Cradle with her umbilical cord in the womb.  She can't walk yet though, and if confronted with a soccer ball, instead of kicking it she tries to eat it.

Rollie: Okay, so this is where he has her beat, hands-down.  He's just so darn chatty.  Always has been.

Elsa:  Well, right now pretty much the only thing she says is 'this,' always in reference to something she wants.  She stretches out her chubby arm toward whatever object she desires--blanket, toy, Keanu Reeves in a rubber Richard Nixon mask--and says 'this? this?' over and over and OVER again until I finally either give her whatever it is she wants or tell her 'no,' in which case she starts to whine and lunges after me with her teeth bared.  Oh yeah, and she also says Dadda, thank you, and juice.  And she can imitate up to fifteen different farm animals.  Unfortunately they all say 'oink.'

Sense of Humor
I believe they are evenly matched here.  They are both silly-hearted and fun, they both find passing gas to be especially hilarious (like their Uncle Matt), and they love making each other laugh.  Which to me is more important than Elsa being an early walker or Rollie making it through the night without appearing at my bedside in tears, mumbling something about Johnny Utah....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Naughty by Nature

Tell me if this qualifies as defiance.....

So lately, whenever I ask Rollie to do something (clean up your multitude of plastic animal figurines, throw your used tissue in the garbage can, get over here so I can fix the underpants you've successfully put on backwards, inside-out, upside-down and sideways), he does so, but he does it on his terms, usually with a drawn-out, emphatic explanation as to why he's chosen to take the path of most-resistance.

It's gotten pretty maddening, exhasting, and sometimes my head spins as I witness him blur the line between insolence and independence.  Like, should I spank him or award him with a degree in adult psychology?

Yesterday, I was in his room, scrambling to get it in a semi-neat state before Dadda came home, and I was trying to employ his help:

Me: Rollie, help me clean up these airplanes.
Rollie: That's okay, you can do it, Momma.
Me: Uh, you were the one who dumped them all out, so really I'm doing you a favor by helping you clean them up.
Rollie: I'll help you in a couple minutes.
Me: No, you'll help me right now.  Dadda's on his way home and I don't want it to look like a bomb went off in here.
Rollie: Okay Momma, just a second.
Me (sighing): Rollie, just get over here and help me or I'm taking all of these away.
Rollie: Oh!  Okay!  Thanks, Momma! (When he can tell I'm not kidding around he suddenly develops this theatrical tone like, I'm as cute as an Oscar Mayer commercial!  Don't put me in time out!)

But instead of quickly gathering the airplanes up and placing them in their basket like a normal person would do, he selected one and made it fly (accompanied by his own personal jet-engine noises) up and down, side-to-side, before it comes in for an elaborate crash-landing into the basket.  One by one he picked up the planes (of which there are about fifteen), and flew them slowly into the basket I was holding.

By the fifth one I was ready to scream Just put them all in the basket already! but I stopped myself.  I mean,  was he really being naughty?  He was doing what I asked, right?  Sure it was taking him twenty times longer to do it his way, but still, he was cleaning up his airplanes.  If I yelled at him or gave in to my aching desire to just scoop them all up and put them away myself, wouldn't he just figure that he can get me to do his bidding by doing my bidding his way?

See?  Madding, I tell you!  Who needs a drink?

He does this all the freaking time now.  I ask him to come sit so I can help him put on his socks, and he'll do a lap around the entire house before diving across the coffee table and into my lap, sticking his feet in my face.  Technically not naughty, but annoying as hell.  Or lately when he has to go pee, he wants to do it on his plastic potty seat, even though for months he's been either standing up on a stool or sitting directly on the regular toilet.  When he sits on the little potty, I have to empty it and clean it out each time--usually while I'm trying to keep Elsa from sticking her hands in it or unrolling the toilet paper or something else destructive and/or just plain gross.

And somehow I almost think Rollie knows all of this, which is why he insists on doing things the way that will require the absolute most amount of effort on my part.  Even when we're just talking, he's doing it his own, weird, somewhat-imaginative-but-also-so-irritating-I almost-want-to-laugh way:

Me: Hey Rollie, do you want to go to the park today?
Rollie: Blluullulop!
Me: Um....so....park?  You want to go?
Rollie:  Bllullooulop!  That means yes.
Me: Oh...okay....so yes.
Rollie:  Bllulluuuloop!
Me: Alright....so let's get your shoes then.  Go get your socks, please.
Rollie:  Brruuuooop!
Me:  Yes....socks...good...
Rollie: Brruuuoooop!  That means no.
Me: What?  That sounds just like 'yes.'
Rollie: Brrruuuooop!  That means no.  Crocs.
Me: Oh...you don't want your socks because you want to wear your crocs?
Rollie: Blluulluuuoop!
Me: ......(sigh)

I'm pretty sure this is the closest he'll ever come to having a diabolical, criminal mind.  It's a good thing I'm still bigger, stronger and faster than he is....because sometimes, when I'm just drained and ready for their bedtimes to hurry up and get here, I swear that he has leveled the intellectual playing field.

Don't major in English, kids.  You will end up with the mental agility of a precocious three-year-old.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Did I wake up this morning knowing that today I'd be running around my front yard in a bra?

It all started yesterday when I sat in Rollie's room, windows open, watching him throw his toys out of his toybox in search of his new plastic, dragon-slaying sword.  I was telling him to stop emptying his toy box, that his stupid sword probably wasn't even in there, but instead of heeding my instructions, he was going on and on, explaining to me why he thought his sword was indeed inside, hidden beneath the yellow diggers and Little People accessories.  

I should be disciplining him, I thought.  I should get after him about not listening to me.   And when he still refuses to stop tossing his toybox like he's searching for contraband, I should physically force him to do so, lead him by the arm and direct him to stoop and pick up every blessed toy that's gone flying across the room.

Instead I just sat there, listless and detached, thinking about how comfortable his bed looked, and how nice it would be if I could just curl up on it for a few hours and sleep among the stuffed animals and balled-up socks he peels off in the middle of the night.

At first I blamed pollen for my lethargy; a yellow coating of dust covers everything outside now, invading my husband's sinuses and making Rollie's eyes so bloodshot he looks like a mini-stoner.  Surely it could be the cause of my depleted energy.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am a lazy-ass--the most exercise I get is wiping spilled Ovaltine from the carpet and manhandling Elsa into her carseat (which she is apparently convinced is the electric chair, because she arches her back and screams whenever I try to buckle her in).
Today the weather was gorgeous and the kids were in relatively agreeable moods....we didn't have anywhere to be or anything to do, and I had run out of excuses.  So I broke out the double-jogger that's been serving as a junk-drawer/spider condo in the garage, laced up my shoes, threw some drinks and Dum-Dums into the stroller basket, and we were off.

Things were going fine.  That is to say, I was running with only minimal discomfort.  My knees only slightly ached.  The stitch in my gut was only on the left side.  My lungs burned, but it was a good burn...the kind of burn you get when you know that as soon as you're done exercising, you'll be SO glad you did it (and SO glad it's over).  I was even able to answer Rollie's constant barrage of questions, breathy as Marilyn Monroe, but still, at least I could still speak.

As I entered the home stretch, I noticed a big truck parked in the grass, and some men wandering nearby, armed with long pruning shears.  I slowed so Rollie could check out the activity, using this as an excuse not only to teach him something about the world, but also to slow down before I collapsed and died right there on the sidewalk.

One of the tree-trimming men waved.  Instinctively I said, "Wave, Rollie."  Why I encourage him to say hello to every freaking person on the planet I'll never know.  He's going to grow up to the be the world's Most Eager To Greet You adult.

The man came closer and said, "We cut down a bird nest."

"Oh," I said, unsure why he felt the need to share this information with me.  Until I realized he was clutching something in his hand.  Two things, actually.  Two baby birds.

"Their mother's not gonna come back for them," the man said.  Another man standing nearby nodded solemnly.

"Oh," I said again.

"Can you take them home?" he asked.

"Um...." my mind raced as I thought of a million different reasons why I couldn't possibly take these tiny little disease carriers home.

"I think they're doves," he said.  "They won't hurt anything."

"They'll die out here if we just leave 'em," the other man said, eyeing the little basket beneath my stroller.

Dude, circle of life, I felt like saying.  What were these guys, trying to appeal to my maternal instinct by pleading for me to take on their stupid problem?  They're the ones who cut these poor things out of their nest.  And now they want to transfer their baby-bird guilt onto me, an innocent jogger, trying to get her post-child ass back in shape and regain the energy of her twenties, out here minding her own business?

"Promise they won't hurt anything," the first man said again.  "You can just call animal services and they'll come pick them up."

Then you call them, I felt like saying.  But before I could really do anything, he was already depositing the tiny little birds into the basket and thanking me for being such a big help.

Great.  I started running again, faster this time, trying to hurry home before the scrappy birdies tried to jump out of the basket and I stepped on them or something.  Elsa had fallen asleep in the stroller, and Rollie had grown uncharacteristically quiet.  He probably felt like he'd just won the lottery.  I hope he didn't think we were going to keep the birds.  Maybe he was already imagining feeding them worms and bugs and naming them.  He was planning out life with two pet doves named Lightning McQueen and Wall-E.

As soon as we get home I let Rollie out of the stroller, instructed him to stand guard, and ran inside for a shoebox, which I lined with paper Easter grass and poked big holes in the lid.  Then I ran back out to see Rollie vigilantly staring into the basket, his face full of wonder.

"What are they doing?" he asked.

"They're just sitting there."  I looked at the birds, huddled together beneath the stroller.  How the hell was I gonna get these things into the shoebox?  The man had just been holding them with his bare hands, but as I studied the birds I realized these things weren't the helpless little fuzzy things I'd first thought.  These birds had like, adult feathers.  And pointy little beaks.  And probably parasites.  Nice.

Before I could wimp out, I took a deep breath and reached in for one of the birds.  But instead of being nice and docile and accepting my grab, it sprung to life, leapt from the basket and started scuttling across our driveway, flapping it's little wings in vain.

"Where's it going?" Rollie asked.

"I don't know," I said, hurrying after the bird.  It scurried into our flower bed and crouched at the base of a bush, its beak open and poised for attack.

"Come here, birdie," I said, reaching for it again.  But every time I got close enough to grab it, I freaked out at the last second, afraid I was gonna be pecked or scratched or somehow contract a raging case of Avian flu.

The first bird took off again, heading across my flower bed and into the yard, ignoring my pleas with it to come back.  Rollie offered words of confused encouragement, but I could see this situation quickly getting out of hand.  The last thing I wanted was to be chasing this stupid thing around my front yard all day long.  Elsa was asleep, for crying out loud.  This was supposed to be my golden time to get some work done.  Thanks a lot, stupid tree trimmers!

Screw it, I finally thought, and pulled my sweaty shirt off over my head.  I threw it on top of the bird before it could get away, then scooped it up and placed it inside the shoebox.

"What are you doing, Momma?" Rollie asked.

"I'm catching some birds," I said, turning to the stroller for the other one.  It also hopped out of the basket before I could grab it, and ran for the flower bed on the other side of the driveway.  I chased it around a bit, narrowly missing it with my shirt a few times before I finally got a direct hit and bundled that bird into the shoebox as well.

"You got it, Momma," Rollie cried.

"Yep!" I triumphantly closed the shoebox lid and taped it shut.  Take that, you elusive little ingrates!

I looked around the neighborhood and saw a lady walking her dog a few houses down, headed away from us.  I wondered if she'd seen me running around like a lunatic in my sports bra, throwing my t-shirt around and pawing through the bushes and yelling.  I wondered if she thought motherhood had finally gotten to me, that this was my cry for help, like Britney Spears shaving her head.  But then I figured, if she's a mom, she'd understand.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Last week my dear Aunt Bun passed away after 83 wonderful, full years on this earth.  She was my dad's last surviving sibling, a woman he often said reminded him of me (so naturally she was an awesome lady...total bad-ass).   So when he asked me to come to her funeral, of course I said yes.

In preparation for the trip, my dad purchased a new car, as he was unsure if his 1993 powder blue Grand Marquis would make it all the way from Florida to Kentucky.  And while I can't imagine being on a road trip with my parents without the undercurrent of fear that we are going to break down on the side of some back-road, possibly during a rain storm, a trail of sopping wet clothes in our wake because one of the clothing-filled garbage bags affixed to the roof-rack blew off somewhere between Philly and Dover, I definitely appreciated that that fear was not going to be a factor this trip.

My parents pulled up in a 2003 white Grand Marquis (side note: instead of people avoiding my father because of the Old-Man-Behind-The-Wheel factor, they would be avoiding my father because of the Is-It-Or-Isn't-It-A-Cop-Car factor).  We loaded up the nine-thousand pieces of luggage and accessories necessary of any trip with two young children in tow, and we were off.

There I was, crammed in the back seat of my dad's behemoth of a car, trying to ignore the whining and bickering going on around me as my dad abandoned the familiar and predictable interstate system for a series of back roads through one-stoplight towns with names like Huzlehurst and Jesup, and suddenly I was fourteen again.

It wasn't a bad feeling, really.  I remembered a simpler time when I could just look out the window, stick on a pair of headphones, and escape to the eclectic soundtrack of Enya, Zeppelin, and Simon and Garfunkle.  I remembered often being forced to sit in the middle, over the 'hump' because my legs were the shortest, or being exiled to the waaaay back seat of the old station wagons (when they faced backwards and you had to stare at the cars behind you and make faces at the people inside until they got so annoyed they gunned their engines and blew past you, sometimes offering a one-fingered salute in retaliation).  I remembered being young and free, with hours and hours....and hours...to devout to thinking deep, adolescent thoughts, the majority of which revolved around whether or not Michael Haren from my 8th period PE class liked me (side note: he didn't).

Instead I spent the majority of the trip trying to keep both children from having a total nuclear meltdown.  How did I do it, you ask?  Dum Dums.  Lots and lots of Dum Dums.  God bless the Spangler Candy Company.  I cannot tell you how many times I was certain one or both of my children was This Close to just compleeetly losing their minds, and I reached into my purse and produced a hard little nugget of deliciousness on a stick, and all was right with the world.

Milkshakes also helped.  A few times there, Rollie's sanity was hanging by the thread of hope that somewhere on the horizon was a McDonald's, the beautiful golden arches rising in the distance like a beautiful, butt-shaped beacon.  The small, strawberry milkshakes had happiness and harmony reining supreme for hours in the car.  Sure the kids were sticky, disgusting messes by the time we actually got to Atlanta (our overnight waypoint), sure Elsa's pants were ruined, Rollie was constipated for a few days, and the sickening smell of over-sweet strawberries permeated everything within a ten-foot radius of the car.....neither kid shed a tear while sucking down Ronald's creamy delights.

And it was kind of nice, sitting with my parents, hearing my dad's stories of when he used to tour New Jersey with his wedding band, singing songs from The Music Man in three-part harmony, and updating my facebook status with snippets of our progress (and getting some funny comments from friends who weren't stuck in a car for eight hours and could only imagine how much Fun I was having).  It was nice to know that I was capable of both enjoying my parents and entertaining my children in a confined space for hours and hours on end...sort of like I had accomplished something huge...scaling Everest doesn't seem nearly as impossible after traveling 1/3 of the way across the country with my children and parents with only a handful of empty milkshake cups and a dozen gummy Dum-Dum sticks to show for it.

Oh yeah, and that picture is of my dad getting a kick out of some creative vandals at a Georgia gas station.  Yes, Dad...you are Pimp #1!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Appetite For Destruction

Rollie has a new favorite game.

It's called Smash 'Em, and it is played as follows:

Step 1.  Roll the big plastic semi truck that currently holds forty Matchbox cars from your bedroom and down the hall.
Step 2.  Park the semi in the middle of the kitchen floor, preferably when Momma is in the middle of fixing a meal...preferably dinner--this is when Baby Els is screaming because she wants to play in the recycle bin and empty the dregs from crushed beer cans all over her pants and Momma won't let her.
Step 3.  Attempt to open one side of the semi to release twenty of the cars.
Step 4.  Say, "Momma, can you help me open this, please?"
Step 5.  Repeat step 4.
Step 6.  Repeat step 5, ten decibels more loudly.
Step 7.  Repeat step 6, now standing up and tugging on Momma's shirt.
Step 8.  When Momma says, "Oh Rollie, do you have to do that right this second?  Can you go play Smash 'Em in the foyer?" say, "No, I can't.  I want to share with Baby Els," even though your definition of sharing with Baby Els is yanking from her sticky hands each car she picks up and replacing it with a fistful of dog fur you find in the corner of the kitchen.
Step 9.  Giggle with glee when Momma finally obliges your request as she mumbles something about wishing Dadda would hurry up and get home.
Step 10. Attempt to open the other side of the semi to release the other twenty cars.
Step 11. Repeat steps 4 through 9, except now when Momma opens the other side of the semi, she mumbles something about needing a drink.
Step 12. Select your favorite super-fast race car and hold it between your thumb and index finger.
Step 13. Ram your super-fast race car into the closest car to it, sending that car skittering across the floor and underneath the oven.
Step 14. Repeat step 13, only when you smash the next car, shout "SMASH!" at the top of your lungs.
Step 15. Crawl over to Baby Els and snatch away the car she is playing with.
Step 16. Apologize to Baby Els when she starts to cry, and search frantically for a tumbleweed of dog fur before Momma realizes what's going on and sends you to your room.
Step 17. Repeat step 14.
Step 18. Look up, startled, when Momma suddenly lets out a yell.  Realize she's just stepped on your red, 1965 Shelby Mustang.
Step 19. Apologize to Momma for having your cars all over the kitchen.
Step 20. Repeat step 17.
Step 21. Repeat step 20.
Step 22. Run to the linen closet when Momma orders you to get Mr. Yardstick to retrieve all seventeen cars that you have sent sliding under the oven.
Step 23. Manage to retrieve five cars, a tupperware lid, a crazy straw, two dust bunnies, and a refrigerator magnet.
Step 24. Abandon Smash 'Em, leaving roughly 22 cars strewn around the kitchen, because you just heard the theme song to Wonder Pets playing on the TV in the next room.
Step 25. Run back into the kitchen because Momma is yelling at you to not even think about leaving your cars everywhere.
Step 26. Hastily throw a few cars back into the semi, stealthily stick a few more back under the oven to see what happens, and kick the rest of them across the kitchen on your way back to the TV room for more Wonder Pets.
Step 27. Return to the kitchen after Momma threatens to call upon the Toy Fairy to confiscate any and all cars that are not put away properly.
Step 28. Snatch another car away from Baby Els.
Step 29. Scream because Baby Els has bitten your forearm in retaliation.
Step 30. Scramble to sit at the table to eat your dinner, because apparently Momma has been telling you five times already to do so and is now threatening to feed your dinner to the dog (which you plan on doing anyway).

That's the game!  Doesn't it sound fun?  I can definitely see why he loves it so much.  It has to be the loudest, least constructive game on the planet.  Which is probably why he wants to play it All The Time. That's how it is with little boys....the louder and more destructive the game, the better.  If he could somehow incorporate alligators and baseball into this game, and if I could keep him in a soundproof booth while he played it, we would both be blissfully, eternally happy.....

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Coming Of Age, Round One

Recently I've discovered something that apparently has been flying over the heads of lead scientists and child psychologists for years:

Children actually start hitting puberty right around three years old.

Not in the physiological sense.  Don't worry.  Rollie's voice is still high (ultrasonic when he's whining, which lately is ALL THE TIME), his is skin still flawless...no Adam's apple bobbing around in his neck.  And he's not obsessed with girls or Dungeons and Dragons quite yet.

He has, however, developed this charming little habit of talking back to me.  Or talking over me when I'm trying to tell him something.  And this morning when I told him to go to his room because I caught him throwing a shoe at Elsa's head, he stormed off, yelling the whole way, then slammed his door and locked it.  Locked it.  When I heard the little latch turn on the other side of his door, I was like, oh helllllll no.  No.  It brought back memories of my sister Carrie, who as a teenager used to do the exact thing to show her displeasure (which was often).  She'd go off on a little tirade, stomp down the hallway--her combat boots making as much noise as she could manage--then slam her door so forcefully it rattled china cabinets in the next county.  It was really something to behold, and pretty intimidating to me, her little sister and the main source of her anger.  I imagine she was picturing my head stuck through her doorway, and one slam would be enough to pop it right off my body.

Anyway, I'm pretty floored by this latest phase.  What is going on with my little boy?  Is it a growth spurt?  Hormones?  Or has he been Quantum Leaped by a greasy-haired teenager?  Should I be tossing his room for a stash of playboys and bottles of Boones Farm?  That would at least be more palatable than the idea that what I'm witnessing is in fact another facet of my sons increasingly complex personality.  Terrible Threes is definitely a misnomer.  Three-year-olds aren't terrible.  Oh no.  They're manipulative, sassy, destructive, and pretty much pure evil.

Okay, okay, so I know I'm being over-dramatic.  He's not this way all the time.  He still has his nanoseconds of sweetness.  He and Elsa can actually play together for more than five minutes at a time before someone (usually Elsa) starts crying (usually because Rollie has squished her finger between two toy cars like a chubby little pedestrian caught in a bad traffic accident).  And if Elsa's whining and I'm in the middle of something, I can usually recruit Rollie to entertain her or get her a toy or read her story.  He eagerly accepts my assignments, and reports back to me when the mission is accomplished ("Momma, I gave Baby Els a pair of my undies to play with and she's happy now!").  He is much more independent (opening the fridge and helping himself of the whipped cream), and finally, finally potty trained ("Momma," he'll call across the house, "I just went poop a lot!" And when I come to help him out, he'll jump up from the potty and say, "Ta-dah!" like he's just performed a mind-blowing magic trick).

So I guess it's just the times when I realize he's no longer a a somewhat pliable toddler who will do my bidding with minimal, unintelligible complaints, that I'm slapped into the reality of a moody, expressive, door-slamming three-year-old.  I guess I shouldn't be too worried.  This first round of puberty is merely preparing me for the day when Rollie's voice starts cracking like Peter Brady's, and a crop of acne erupts on his delicate little face.  If I can deal with his new, irritating attitude when he's three, I might have a fighting chance to handle him when he's fourteen, hairy, and beating girls off with a stick.

Either that, or I'll just remove his door from its hinges so he can never slam it or lock me out again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Yin and Yang

I've always heard it said that a husband and wife often compliment each other.  That when one is a social butterfly, the other is a wallflower.  When one is creative, the other is more practical.  When one is horny, the other has a headache.

And when they eventually have children, this ying an yang carry over into parenthood.  There's the Good Cop/Bad Cop, one gives the baths while the other cleans up dinner, one comforts the sick while the other washes puke from the bedsheets.

And in our house, one builds forts and one cannot for the life of her get just one cushion to stand on end without it toppling over and squishing Baby Els.

Why can't I build a fort?  Seriously, I'm an intelligent, able-bodied person.  I've watched enough HGTV to understand the concept of Load Bearing Walls and Structural Integrity.  But every time I try to construct something that even remotely resembles a dwelling out of cushions and blankets, it turns out looking like a one-room crack-house on the brink of collapse.  Any of you notice the pictures in the previous entry?  Look more closely at the one picture of Rollie and the gingerbread train and you'll get an idea of how badly I suck at building anything, even on a small, edible scale.

My confidence in my skills as an architect isn't at all boosted by the fact that I married a man who as a child used to disassemble lawn mower engines just for fun.  On the weekends when it's my day to sleep in, I emerge from the bedroom to find that our entire fleet of couches has been transformed into a nine-room palace of pillows and quilts, with secret passageways, walk-in closets and a working elevator.  It's quite impressive, and, I'll admit it, a tad annoying.  I mean, come on.  How am I supposed to duplicate such architectural splendor when I can't even build a Lego house without the possibility of the housing authority condemning it?

Another thing I've discovered that I am the polar opposite of Jeff when it comes to parenting is cooking our children dinner.  This is simply because most of what I cook for them ends up either on the floor and thus into our dog's stomach, or left on the plate because it's either a.) too hot, b.) too cold, c.) yucky, or d.) not a marshmallow.  The hell if I'm gonna waste my time and patience preparing something that will sit congealing on their plates until I get so irritated with them that I give up and give them both ice cream cones so at least they'll sit quietly for a few minutes so I can scrape the remnants of their food down the garbage disposal.  I can't tell you how many pounds of mac&cheese, spaghetti, chicken nuggets and french fries (...wow...I really feed my children absolute crap, don't I?) have all had a final date with The InSinkerator

Jeff, on the other, more determined hand, will whip up all sorts of creative dishes literally from scratch.  He seasons their food, for crying out loud.  He arranges them on a plate so attractively even they are impressed.  From him have come such treats as The Applesauce Man (with whipped cream hair and M&M eyes), Chocolate Cream of Wheat (the kind you have to stand at the stovetop and stir, for God's sake),  chicken and rice, steamed vegetables...he'll grill them meat and potatoes, and he even got Rollie to eat salad on a few occasions.  Sheesh, if I even mention the word Salad to Rollie he'll wrinkle his nose and say something like, "That's what rabbits eat, Momma."

But I guess it's a good thing that we have different strengths when it comes to caring for our kids.  I have my moments of patience when the kids are whining so much Jeff starts spelling out things to me like "He's being a total B-R-A-T....I wish she'd S-H-U-T-U-P....I'm about to S-K-E-W-E-R him on the R-O-T-I-S-S-E-R-I-E."

And when he comes home from work and the kids eyes light up and they start squealing like pigs being slaughtered (but in a good way) and he dances around with them in the family room while I retreat to my happy place for a few minutes, glad to be free at last, I know that as parents we have struck a good balance with our children.  So what if I can't build a decent fort?  Or cook a decent meal?  Or explain photosynthesis to them?  I'm the one who lets them watch ungodly amounts of TV...I'm the one who gives them lollipops just to shut them up...I'm the one they throw-up on and whose hair they pull and boobies they pinch....

Um...maybe it's time I learned how to build a freaking fort after all.....