Wednesday, November 30, 2011

O Christmas Tree

Every year, my husband anticipates the arrival of Christmas decorating with the eagerness of my anticipation for bedtime.  He enjoys it so much, I think he likes Thanksgiving just because he can get the Christmas decorations out after dinner.  It's great, and the kids love it, too.  One tradition he really wants to carry from his own childhood is decorating the tree together.  "Jingle Bells" plays in the background, while I pour glasses of egg nog for everyone, and the girls watch with delight as their father unrolls four thousand strings of lights across the living room floor.  We ooh and ah and reminisce about each ornament as the children take turns hanging them gently on the tree, careful not to drop them.  The tree is enormous, but the thousands of lights we have manage to drape every branch, and, what's that?  I think I just saw a snowflake fall!  No?  Sounds too Hallmark to be true?  Well, you're right.  It starts out picturesque, but the egg nog was the first mistake - the lids are inevitably taken off, spilling puddles of nog throughout the house.  And yes, there are thousands of lights, and the children are mesmerized - so much so that they want to plug them all in...themselves.  The ornaments last a second or two before three are broken (glass, of course), one has been repurposed as jewelry, and the rest are confiscated back to the box.  The dog has found some candy canes, and is generously sharing with the baby, while the blonde re-unpacks the ornaments to set up her own ornament shop, which the brunette knows she must sabotage.  I am freaking out, prying sticky years old candy canes away, vacuuming up broken ornament glass, and desperately trying to get egg nog out of the couch cushions (that is not a smell I want to come across two weeks from now).  To me, decorating time is a bust.  The girls are clearly not old enough to be handling ornaments, helping string lights, or drinking egg nog (too far?).  That's it!  Shut it down!  I look to my husband, hoping to get the mutual "abort mission" look that we so often share, but he is not at all in the same state I am in.  He is smiling, singing, drinking his egg nog cheerfully, calling the girls over to hang up ornaments and showing them the lights, which really do drape every branch so nicely.  The girls offer placement suggestions, he tenderly lifts them up to hang it themselves, and kisses them on the way down.  They are all beaming and cheery and thoroughly enjoying decorating together.  My husband turns of the music, gets the star for the top of the tree, and sings "O Christmas Tree" as the girls, and I now, sit in wonder, not so much at the tree, but at my husband.  While I was busy trying to manage the task, he was able to just enjoy the moment.  All that was important to him was doing this small tradition as a family - it didn't matter that there was egg nog spilled (at this point, everything in our house has some kind of smell anyways), or that only the top half of the tree had ornaments on it (have to keep them out of reach, you know).  He was just glad to be decorating, and to have the girls there helping.  Hallmark worthy?  Maybe not, but it sure brought a sentimental tear to my eye.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The diaper cycle.

Babies wear diapers.  In case you hadn't noticed.  And in the beginning, they wear a lot of diapers, on account of all the pooping.  When your first baby comes along, you buy very nice cushy diapers for your sweet little angel's delicate hind quarters, but soon enough, you discover that these sweet little biscuits can do some serious damage, and frequently.  So, since diapers are pricey and you have realized you are changing baby's diapers far more often than you had thought (like a dozen a day!), you switch to the cheaper brand to compensate for the rate of usage.  Besides, the baby poops in it and you throw it away - why spend more than you have to?  Gradually, because baby is now eating some solid foods, the pooping slows to a comfortable four to five diapers a day.  Much more manageable, both in the finance department and in in the amount of time spend wiping up body fluids side of things.  This is great!  You can anticipate that baby will need a change in the morning, poop before lunch, change after nap, poop before dinner (because babies always poop before a meal to make room, right?), and a change before bed.  An excellent diaper routine, and you can pretty accurately predict how many diapers you need and how often you need to stock up.  It's wonderful.  Predictability is hard to come by in child rearing, but for a few, all too short months, the diaper situation is nice and easy.  And then one day, baby asks to go potty.  Well, some kids might.  My oldest had to be begged to use the toilet, but we'll run with baby wants to potty, since it helps my story, and in truth, this is how my littlest started her "toilet journey".  Anyways, baby wants to go potty.  Ok!  Here it is, the next milestone, potty training!  And baby is so eager!  Yes, baby, let's go potty!  The tiny toilet comes out, baby's diaper comes off, she sits, she giggles, she chatters with you about sitting on the potty, she is generally cute, especially because she is just tiny and sitting on the toilet.  Precious.  Baby most likely does not actually make use of the toilet, but that's ok!  She sat there!  She liked it!  Of course, the diaper she had been wearing is a little wet, so it gets tossed and baby gets a fresh diaper.  You cheer, you dance, it was a good toilet experience.  Then, an hour later, baby wants to use the toilet again.  Yes!  Potty time!  Diaper off, baby sits, baby giggles, no actual pottying is done, baby wants down.  The diaper is slightly wet, ever so slightly wet, but you can't put a wet diaper back onto baby, so you get a new one.  Over the next few days, as baby proves to be eager enough to want to go potty several times throughout the day, you come to realize that the diaper rotation has been radically thrown off course.  You are going through dozens of diapers!  It's newborn diaper usage all over again, only this time around, the diapers are barely soiled!  Of course you know it is wasteful to throw away a diaper that has mere drops of baby tinkle on it, but when you try to put it back on baby's darling behind, you feel the universe staring at you, judging you, "did you REALLY just put a dirty diaper back on your baby?".  You can't do it.  And you can't deny baby a trip to the toilet, either.  She asks for the third time in an hour, and you really want to say no, because you can tell her diaper might be a little wet.  You don't want to have to throw away a diaper with at least one more hour left of good wear time, and you are pretty sure she won't really go on the toilet anyways, but you have to take her or she'll fear the toilet and will never be potty trained!  Plus, she cries when you suggest she wait a little while!  She knows you are denying her a basic right to toilet!  It's irrational!  It's annoying!  You can't stand yourself!  And forget training pants - those cost twice as much as diapers.  Underwear?  Maybe, but then you'd be doing a lot of floor scrubbing, and sorry, but my whole house is carpeted - it is not time for underwear.  And so here you are, stuck in the last and most frustrating turn of the diaper cycle, where the diapers are not being used fully, but are certainly being used up.  All you can say is, at least we buy the cheap diapers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The vandals.

It seems like anytime there is an illustration of children being naughty, four out of five times it will depict said naughty child drawing on the wall.  The child has maliciously scribbled all over the hallways, thus prompting the mother to deliver a stern spanking and a bucket of sudsy water for the child to erase his or her terrible offense.  Whether or not this is true of most households, I don't know, but it is true of ours.  Of course they know that drawing on the walls is not permitted, and yet, I find myself filling up the proverbial sudsy bucket more frequently than I would like to.  You see, the blonde has an affinity for writing and illustrating.  She draws wonderful pictures of herself and her sisters going down curly slides, picking flowers from a meadow, and often she'll add a few "words" to describe the scene at hand.  It is glorious.  Especially because I was the same way.  I loved to draw and write little stories, so naturally, I see her interest and both relate to and appreciate and encourage it.  However, she also has an affinity for secrecy.  And vandalism.  Recently, as I was preparing a fabulous meal for my family, I went to open the pantry door and noticed a peculiar marking on the door.  Upon closer inspection, I found it to be a tiny, pencil drawn heart and the letter "A".  Seeing as the blonde is the only child in our house who knows how to maneuver a pencil delicately enough to draw a microscopic picture, I approached her about it.  "Did you write a little 'A' and a heart on the pantry door?"  She contemplates, perhaps trying to remember, "Yes."  I make the disappointed mother face, but not so much to emotionally wound her and gently remind "Well, do you know that we are not supposed to write on anything except for coloring paper?"  She appears remorseful, and replies "Yes, I'm sorry."  This is going well.  I tell the blonde that since she has done something naughty, she must take responsibility and clean it up, and so she scrubs without complaint, and the tiny scribble is erased.  I feel a bit of satisfaction over the success of this disciplinary interaction.  Well done!  As I continue cooking and going about the house, I notice another tiny mark.  And another, and another.  Only these are in pink marker, and slightly more elaborate than the "A" and heart on the pantry door.  There are actual tiny people, and names, and other shapes on every door in the house.  Granted, they are small drawings, but tiny things have a tendency to get bigger when left unaddressed.  I call the blonde, and coyly ask if she had happened to draw any other little pictures similar to the one on the pantry door.  She silently shakes her head yes, and proceeds to point them out to me, including a few I had missed along baseboards and under counter tops (when was all of this happening?).  Slightly agitated at the prolific nature of her secret taggings, I again remind the blonde that drawing and writing must only be done on appropriate surfaces, such as paper and only paper.  She again scrubs without a fight, and the house is restored to original graffiti-free splendor.  Over the next few weeks, I periodically come across a fresh offense, and reprimand the blonde accordingly, this time elaborating that the rules are the same as they had been the first time she got in trouble for drawing on the walls.  As irritating as it is, I am glad that it is only tiny marks and scribbles, and that it cleans fairly easily.  But of course, it is never that easy.  The blonde asks me today, "Is it ok to draw a smiley face on the lamp shade?"  Um, what?  "No it's not ok.  Did you already do it?"  She smiles, and stands awkwardly with her hand "resting" on the lamp shade.  Out comes the sudsy bucket.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Catch phrase

As a parent, one of the best perks of being the primary language teacher in your child's formative years is that you can make them say really funny things.  Even funnier, is that they usually don't even know what they are saying, but you are laughing, so they continue to say it.  Soon, they say it on their own, knowing it will elicit rounds of laughter from all the world.  Now, I'm not talking about making your baby shout profanities (although, when discovered accidentally on their own, can be amusing, but one must use vast amounts of self control to not laugh and encourage swearing as a habit); I'm thinking more along the lines of "shake and bake, baby" or "oh Phillip, I think I farted".  For instance, when the blonde was a baby and started talking, my husband and I went crazy with the funny baby catchphrase routine.  We'd think of something hilarious, make the blonde say it in her tiny baby voice, it would be even more hilarious than we had ever hoped for, and we'd inevitably call our friends and make them listen to her saying it on the phone.  "Did you hear?  She said 'how you doin'!"  Maybe only slightly amusing for them, but for us, our baby was a comic natural.  Soon enough, she caught on and became choosy with her act, and settled on one phrase - "I want my baby back baby back baby back ribs."  Admittedly, it's not the most hilarious thing a baby could say, but the blonde thought it was funny, and who can argue with a baby cracking herself up?  As her language developed, so did her sense of humor, and soon the blonde started throwing out variations of the catch phrase to maintain a fresh act.  By the time the brunette was learning to talk, it had morphed into "I want my bigga baby back," which was both weird and a little funny.  Both girls would shout it back and forth, falling into hysterical laughter over how comically genius they were, and as a duo, even better.  We, too, thought they were pretty funny, but then again we also brought them forth into this world, so obviously everything they do is amazing.  The phrase would show up quite frequently, and would continue to change, eventually becoming "I wanna bigga back baby."  Um, yes, weird.  Recently, a lip-popping "poo" has somehow been tacked onto the end, so now all the girls, even the baby, sit in the back of the car chanting "I wanna bigga back baby *poo*", followed by rolling laughter and red faces.  And of course, their dad and I think it's hilarious and make them say it whenever we see anyone who may or may not be up for some homespun comedy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lovey dovey

Many children have a special little toy or blanket that they are particularly attached to, and while all of my girls were pacifier kids, none of the older two were very attached to any one of their millions of soft fluffy comforting things.  The baby, however, has the lovey.  The lovey is a small, square, brown blanket with a plush owl's head.  It is not one of the little blankets with the satin edges; it is just brown and soft, and big enough to cover the baby's face when she's getting sleepy.  While these features may be enough to snuggle any other child into a dreaming stupor, they were useless to the baby without the tag. There is a small tag in one corner, just like a t-shirt tag, and this was what made the lovey special, magical, even.  In her itty bitty days, I noticed the baby held onto my shirt when she slept, and as it impossible (as much as I'd have loved for it to be otherwise) to accomplish much of anything while holding a sleeping baby, I thought I'd give her something else to hold onto - enter the lovey.  It had been a gift to one of the other girls in their baby days, and as it was clean and within reach, this was what I gave the baby to hold onto.  Gradually, she began to look for and expect the lovey come sleepy time, and as it made laying her down for naps SOOOO much easier, I didn't fight it.  Lots of babies have special blankets, and now so did mine.  Over time, the baby began to explore the lovey - looking at it's head, rubbing it on her cheeks, putting it in her mouth -and it was on one of these occasions that the baby found the tag.  She rubbed it between her fingers, sucked on it a little, and then... jabbed it in her eye.  And liked it.  At first I thought it was kind of funny, like she was doing it on accident and couldn't get it to do what she really wanted, but I soon came to realize that being stuffed in her eyeball (eyelids open, people!) was exactly what she wanted the lovey's tag to be doing.  It was weird, but by now, she loved the lovey and it came everywhere, and was washed often.  Anytime the baby started getting tired, she'd search out the lovey, plop down somewhere, and rub the tag all over her eye, humming softly on her pacifier (they became a unit, team pacer-lovey).  I got used to it, as creepy as it was to see an infant intentionally impaling herself in the eye with a slobbery blanket tag (it frequently pulled double duty as eye jabber and substitute pacifier), but what parent can deny their child their most treasured possession?  As she got a bit older and started saying a few little words, she even began to generously offer the lovey tag for you to poke your own eye with by smashing it on your face saying "eye, eye, eye?".  Very sweet, but I'll pass.  Now, the baby is 18 months old, and I have to say, I have done an excellent job caring for the lovey.  It is washed regularly, has never been left at anyone's house, and is always nearby come bedtime.  The baby brings it everywhere, and it has never been lost.  Until last week.  Upon returning from a quick trip for toilet paper, I realize the lovey is not accounted for.  I check the car seats, check the sidewalk, check under the car, check in the car door, storage cubbies, trunk, glove compartment, stroller (which wasn't even used), and find no lovey.  A bit of panic wells up, as nap time is in the very near future, and I have made the mistake of putting the lovey in the washing machine too close to naptime and it does not go well.  No lovey generally means no nap.  The store is just across the street, so I call first to see if anyone has turned in a nasty brown rag that is very special to my daughter, and have no luck, so I decide to just go back and look myself.  I cruise the parking lot scanning the spaces for a brown lump under one of the cars, no doubt looking like some scary stalker lady to the shoppers who are oblivious to my real distress.  No lovey.  Park the car, go inside, up and down every aisle, behind registers, in the bathroom, customer service, no dice.  Go home, double check every place that has already been torn apart in search of the lovey and come up both empty handed, and now super panicked as I remember that we leave in two days to fly back to Denver.  This is not looking good.  How will I survive a plane ride (by myself with the kids) without the lovey to comfort and quiet the baby?  A new sense of urgency wells up and I turn the whole house and car upside down looking for that stupid dirty owl thing!  Call the store!  No lovey!  Call a few other places I may or may not have been to in the last few days!  No lovey!  Panic!  Go to the store and buy a sort of similar but not really NEW lovey!  This will have to do.  We leave in two days.  I try my best to make the new lovey seem as exciting and soft and wonderful as I can, and the baby buys it - until she is tired, and then it is just another thing that is not the real lovey.  She even calls for the lovey and looks for it (my heart is cracking and little chips are falling out here).  She cries, and I do too, a little, but eventually, she falls asleep.  For the next two days before we leave I am on a continuous hunt for the lovey, and before I know it, travel day has arrived, and I have to give up on finding the lovey in time.  Of course, the baby screams on the plane and sleeps terribly while we are away, but then, finally, a little respite comes on the flight home when she actually snuggles the new lovey and falls asleep.  I sigh to myself, happy that she is ok with the new lovey, but also a little sad inside that the real lovey, a piece of her little babyhood, is gone.  She carried it everywhere - to bed, to church, across the country when we moved - and I lose it on a trip to buy toilet paper at the store across the street.  A tiny part of me is actually mourning over the loss of the lovey.  After our trip, we do the routine unpacking and laundry, and as we are out of all food except for saltines and pickles, I head across the street for some grocery shopping.  As we are about to leave the store, we pass customer service and I think to myself that I might as well ask if a little brown owl blanket has been turned in.  It has been a week and a half by now, but I figure this will be my last effort, and then I'll forget about the lovey.  The lady at the counter sad frowns, as I am sure she has her own children with smelly objects of affection, and disappears into the back.  I sigh, thinking "oh, well, I guess that's it", when she emerges with a soft, brown, owl blanket.  The baby recognizes the lovey and reaches for it right away, and I swear tiny hearts were coming out of her eyes.  She snuggles in, finds the tag, and ever so lovingly, jabs it right in her eye.