Friday, November 28, 2008

Picking Your Brain

On My Mind: When do kids get old enough to be expected to perform "chores"? And when are they old enough to reliably take their dishes to the sink, pick up their own toys, throw dirty clothes in the hamper, rub my feet on command, etc?

What's that, you say? Around the age of thirty five? I thought so.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In No Particular Order...

We had an early Christmas in Michigan on Sunday, which is roughly three hours each way. So is it at all shocking to say that by the time we reached home, we had acquired FOUR Madagascar Happy Meal toys? Toys which emit such charming little one-liners as, "I know I'm every hippo's dream!" and "Holler at'cher boy!" If that's not annoying enough, these are motion activated toys, but they don't work all that well, so rather than just shake them you have to actually bang them on a hard surface before they'll release their garbled, mechanical quips. And um, did I mention FOUR of them?

Eli is throwing major, albeit short lived, tantrums these days. He throws his head back wildly, usually into his crib or the corner of his arch nemesis, the changing table, and then screams even louder in coupled fury and pain. Or he crumples miserably to the floor, after hurling his toy or book or milk cup across the room, and wails piteously for about ten seconds. Then he's done, and on to the next thing. Head bumps and spilled milk aside, these little fits are actually more amusing than frustrating. (Unlike those occasions of hour-long bedtime screaming, which feel like a kind of relay race: "Okay, your turn to try to settle him while I sit here at the computer and gather my strength for the next passing of the baton.")

What do you guys usually do for stocking stuffers? Do you DO stockings? And what's a reasonable price limit for stocking gifts? Because it seems to me that small does not necessarily equal inexpensive, even for kids' stuff.

What is your take on Christmas decorations? Do you feel they should be bright and fun and clash-y, and that in fact therein lies half the fun, or do you prefer your decorations to at least BLEND with the rest of your all-year-round decor? And who can guess how I feel about the subject?

Jim and I have been watching season two of Rome the last few nights, and holy crap! Has anyone else (who is familiar with the show, obv.) noticed that there is WAY more nekkedness and sex than in the first season? And not even fun sex, but kind of disturbing, this-is-the-opposite-of-a-turn-on kind of sex? Still, it is addicting, that show. Also, unfortunately, not conducive at all to getting sleepy.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Normal Is As Normal Does

I always wonder whether certain things are normal, and having kids has only heightened this curiosity. Is it normal, for instance, that Addy sometimes has tantrums because I don't pour her juice into the right cup- or even because I am not pouring it at the desired end of the kitchen counter? Is it normal that Eli will resort to biting his own hands, kind of hard, after having remote controls, DVD cases, and other people's hands removed from his jaws? Is it normal that I am sometimes loathe to let anybody change clothes one more time until I have the laundry all put away, just so that for one glorious minute all the hampers are empty?

Normal is such a relative term, I realize. In some cultures, for instance, what I would consider to be borderline child abuse or neglect is just part of how they raise their kids. While it may not be ideal, I imagine that those kids are probably not as traumatized by such treatment as kids in our society would be simply because they see it as normative. Another example would be that in many cultures, the expectation that romance, falling in love, and sexual passion will lead up to and be present in marriage simply does not exist. Marriages are like business partnerships, formed for financial security and to create a stable environment in which to raise children. And frankly, there are days when our marriage feels slightly like this: both of us handling one crisis or another, brushing teeth and mopping spills and pasting on diaper cream, then finally collapsing in the living room and completing the obligatory performance review to see how we might improve the system the next day.

But I guess it's the littler, less significant aspects of my life that I wonder about the most. Is it normal that Jim and I rarely go to bed at the same time because once in bed, no matter how tired we previously were, one or the other of us will inevitably not be able to shut up? Is it normal that Addy wants to wear her Tinkerbell costume over her regular clothes every single day- and is it okay that I allow this? Is it weird that I have such frequent dreams about being in high school? Does this happen to other people? Is it bad that when grocery shopping, I often choose kids' snacks based solely on whether or not they look like they'll be messy?

And lastly, and most importantly, is it abnormal that I really do not like Thanksgiving food very much? Especially the yams with marshmallows... And the JELLO SALADS! So... Many... Jello salads!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Humble Pie

I am not by nature a quick tempered or confrontational person. Like, even when I've had a glass or three of red wine, the most that happens is that I'll tell you loudly and with a great deal of animation how much I love you and how gorgeous your hair looks tonight! I really don't get a thrill from telling people off, or from any kind of DRAMA.

But last night, as Jim and I pulled in the driveway from a night of Christmas shopping for the kids, our neighbor stood waiting at the edge of our lawn to inquire primly if that "was your dog running around without a leash the other day." And man, I got immediately defensive and angry. This is the woman whose dog attacked ours the first time I attempted to take both the kids and Fonzie on a walk, just a few weeks after Eli was born. I was wearing Eli in a sling, and Addy had been strapped in the stroller, screaming in terror as I tried to drag the dog off Fonzie's neck while still protecting my newborn son. I yelled for help, but it took a few minutes before our neighbor, the woman's husband, sauntered out of his house to call his dog off. He seemed barely apologetic, just saying, "Huh, guess we need to keep these two apart, huh?" At the time, I was too shaken up to say much, but I was absolutely furious. His dog had run at mine- mine was leashed- and latched onto his neck, just inches from my two year old daughter. I have rarely felt so frightened and vulnerable. And unable to coherently express myself.

But boy, I found my words last night, and I quickly turned what should have been a short reminder to keep my dog in my yard into a tongue lashing about how this lady had some nerve, lecturing me about my dog escaping our yard when hers had been just lounging around in their front yard, unattended, when he obviously wasn't able to handle being around other dogs. She got very huffy, informed me that SHE never allowed such a thing and that perhaps her husband had forgotten to chain their dog, and then stormed down the driveway, yelling that there was no need to have gotten nasty.

I went inside, shaking and with a huge case of the nervous tummy. While I felt that I had a legitimate point, it was also true that a, our dog undeniably had been running around the neighborhood that morning, having escaped my eye, and b, the incident in question happened over a year ago, and it was an incident that this woman had had no personal part in. I felt terrible that I had ended the situation is such a way- I just can't stand to have people upset with me unless it's absolutely unavoidable.

I almost went back to her house, which is about four doors down, and tried to make amends. But I decided she might still be upset and not in a making peace frame of mind. So I wrote a note, not overly apologetic, but admitting that I was in the wrong for letting my dog get out and for bringing up such an old situation, and one that didn't directly involve her. I left it in her mailbox this morning, hoping for the best.

Well, I got a call from her this evening, and this lady was just pleased as PUNCH about the note. No kidding. She went on and on about how sincere and heartfelt it was, and how miserable she had been about our exchange until she found the note in her mailbox. She said, and I quote, "I really hope things can be just friendly and... And peachy between us from now on."

So, there you go, kids. Go forth and make peace. Even when it's a bitter pill to choke down. That phone call felt good.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Season's Greetings

It is snowing for the first time here. I mean, heavy, pelting, sticking to the ground snow. I am so! excited! It looks like a holiday card out there. We are celebrating by eating doughnuts and watching Clark Griswold and family making merry. Nothing like the classics.

Also, I went Christmas shopping this morning for the first time this season. I needed to buy gifts for a holiday get together that is happening NEXT SUNDAY. And now I need to buy WRAPPING PAPER. Is it, like, Christmas time already? What is going ON? Next thing you know I'll be dragging out the tree, and wondering where on earth I'm going to put all the gorgeous Christmas decorations I just had to have from last year's after Christmas sale at Target.

Anyways, it's been awhile since I took a poll, hasn't it? I sense your impatience for another one, my dears, so here we go: When do YOU put up holiday decorations? And what is your family's favorite holiday movie? (My answers, for the record, would be: the day after Thanksgiving, and A Christmas Story. Also, I'm not sure if this counts as a holiday movie, per se, but I always watch Love Actually at Christmastime too.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Breaking My Rules By Making Some Rules

I am not, as a general rule, a big fan of strict schedules for kids. Or for myself, come to that. What I have had to admit in recent weeks, though, is that while schedule may not be a necessity for little ones, having a routine is enormously helpful. In terms of sleep, the last few weeks have been shockingly different to the previous months and years, thanks mainly to our reluctant instituting of a bedtime schedule. Which means both the kids are in bed by eight thirty, or very close to. Which means I can get a few hours of peace and still be in bed by eleven, as opposed to twelve or one, like before. Which means we all wake up around seven, when we're supposed to. And also that I wake up feeling reasonably okay, and not like I want to sob with exhaustion.

A month ago, bedtime was killing me, and not so softly, either. I would stagger into the den at ten or eleven, having finally succeeded in settling one or the other of the kids down for the final time, and fall onto the couch thinking, "Another baby would kill me dead. We simply have no more room for chaos- full capacity has been reached." After one particularly bad night when I was in tears of exhaustion and frustration, we decided we had to do something differently, so we put together a much more detailed bedtime routine than had previously been in place.

Before, the only set events which took place were brushing Addy's teeth, saying prayers and singing her a song. But it happened kind of whenever she seemed sleepy, which was usually not until nine or even ten. Eli was the same- we'd respond to his sleepy cues, rather than just arbitrarily saying it was bedtime. I still think this is, generally speaking, not a wholly stupid plan, and that it works for some kids. It worked for Adelay when she was a baby just fine. And really, it's still kind of what we're doing- we just had to force them to start getting sleepy earlier, and around the same time each day. It wasn't working for them to stay up so late, because we inevitably ended up staying awake later ourselves to try to get in a few hours of grown up time. This made Jim exhausted (and late for work) and me sluggish and miserable until about noon the next day.

So, we drew up battle plans, essentially, deciding that around seven o' clock, the bedtime routine would commence. We assigned ourselves battle stations (feeding Eli his nightly oatmeal, brushing Addy's teeth, getting out pajamas, etc.) that we should be manning simultaneously so that each child was ready to be tucked in by eight pm. We've been following the plan for about two weeks now, and while we are sometimes off by up to a half hour, in general we are adhering pretty faithfully to the rules. And it... It works. The kids are getting reliably sleepy, exhibiting their cues of glazed over eyes, yawning and thumb sucking, by about seven forty five each night. They are going to bed and staying there, without Eli's usual ruckus and protests and jumping and screaming and having to be settled down multiple times.

I suppose it's probably too early to call it, and one must also factor in the fact that they've been kind of sick-ish and run down lately with colds/allergies, and so may just be more sleepy and compliant in general, but... I think I may just be in love with our new schedule. Who knew?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Increasing My Carbon Footprint One Diaper At A Time

I am making another halfhearted go at pushing the potty training thing. As I type, (having been up for two hours already on a SUNDAY, what the heck) Adelay is dancing around bare bottomed to her Angelina Ballerina movie, her potty chair abandoned behind her. At the moment, her brother seems more interested in it than she does, though his designs for the potty have more to do with licking and less with peeing. Lord, but parenting is disgusting.

Ah, and now she's just gone to her room to fetch a clean diaper, informing me that she is done sitting on the potty. "Have you gone pee?" I ask hopefully, jumping up like a fireman to a bell. But no. As always. Two sticker charts, bags of pink M and M's, and multiple packs of Disney Princess and My Little Pony panties later, our successes on the potty could still be counted on two hands.

And... Eli is hunched over the potty chair, up to his elbows in the actual POT part now. He looks like a small, portly plumber. His little sleeper sleeves are rolled up, even. Off I go again to put a stop to it.

And I'm back. I must remember to corner and hiss at whoever suggested dragging that stupid potty all over the house with us.

Someone tell me about the worst potty training stories you can think of. Children going to sleep-away camp with Pull Ups in their duffels, that sort of thing. Cheer me up.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


So I kept hearing about all the LINES and the WAITING for voting this year, and I was determined to go, but equally determined not to take the kids with me. They are not old enough to appreciate the process, only old enough to whine incessantly and be miserable when forced to stand in line for more than two minutes. So. I convinced Jim to work from home today, got up a little early, got the kids all dressed and fed and changed and played with, and had Eli down for a morning nap by NINE AM. Nice. Then I got Addy busy with her paints, grabbed my purse, double checked my stance on a few issues, and dashed out the door.

Our precinct's voting center is the high school that is literally about two blocks away from us. But I was still feeling anxious, thinking LINES. Instead, when I got there, I had to wait behind literally one person, and was then immediately ushered through the speedy process of having about six rather old people find my name in their books, squint at my driver's license, copy down my first name as KAREN instead of Sarah (how?..wha?) and then discuss how they went to high school with a kid who had my very same last name and do I know good old Joseph so and so?

But that aside, whoa, the voting process was speedy quick and painless for me. I'm proud that I planned for any and all disaster, but yeah... I probably could have saved those plan-ahead skills for times like, say, when Eli had a poo blowout at the Y the other day and I realized my diaper bag was fresh out of wipes.

How about you? Everyone out voting with kids in tow, or did you have a contingency plan?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Here's To Autumn Sunshine

Good morning, my lovies. I had fun playing in the leaves with you today.