Friday, February 29, 2008

How to Know Whether or Not You Are Ready to Be a Parent Test

I just read this on an adoption web site and thought it was worth sharing:

How To Know Whether or Not You Are Ready to Be a Parent

Mess Test:

Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains.
Now rub your hands in the wet flowerbed and rub on the walls.
Cover the stains with crayons.
Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

Toy Test:

Obtain a 55-gallon box of Legos.
Have a friend spread them all over the house.
Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen.
Do not scream. (this could wake a child at night.)

Grocery Store Test:

Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop at the grocery store.
Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.

Dressing Test:

Obtain one live octopus.
Stuff into a small net bag making sure that all arms stay inside.

Feeding Test:

Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with water.
Suspend from the ceiling with a cord.
Start the jug swinging.
Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy cereal (such as Fruit Loops or Cheerios) into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane.
When finished, dump the contents of the jug on the floor.

Night Test:

Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it with 8 -12 pounds of sand.
Soak it thoroughly in water.
At 8:00 PM begin to waltz and hum with the bag until 9:00 PM.
Lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10:00 PM.
Get up, pick up your bag, and sing every song you have ever heard.
Make up about a dozen more and sing these too until 4:00 AM.
Set alarm for 6:00 AM. Get up and make breakfast.
Keep this up for a few years. Look cheerful.

Physical Test:

Go to the nearest store that sells diapers.
Set your wallet on the counter.
Ask the clerk to help himself.
Now proceed to the nearest grocery store.
Call your employer and arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to the store.
While you're there, purchase a newspaper. Go home and read it quietly for the last time.

Final Assignment:

Find a couple who already has a small child.
Give them many, many helpful suggestions about on how they can improve their discipline, patience, tolerance, toilet training, and child's table manners.
Emphasize to them that they should never allow their children to run riot.
Enjoy this experience. It will be the last time you will have all the answers.

And if after all this you realize there can be nothing better, then you're ready!
~ Author Unknown

Okay, the sleep part might be a little exaggerated, but the mess test is spot on.

And I have photographic proof. Here is what happens when one very stupid mama talks on the phone for fifteen minutes, around the corner and out of sight (although not earshot) from her toddler, who discovers the game cupboard.

Ta DA! (should be blown up for full experience)

I like this photo because if you look closely you can see a little Risk character in mid fling.

The best part was sliding on the cards.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My First Haircut

I got my hair cut yesterday! Three inches off, woo hoo!

But the "first" haircut to which I refer is the cut I gave Nicholas this afternoon. My first time cutting hair. Other than my own bangs, but I won't go into that traumatic story. Let me just urge you not to cut your own bangs a week before your child's baptism. Unless you like the look of 3/4 inch bangs.

I was just about ready to book Nicholas's third haircut at the adorable children's salon in our neck of the woods. Then I started thinking about how many children we might someday have (I want five, Penn wants three, so let's just say four) and calculated that 4 x $25 a pop kid haircuts + $$ (Penn's haircuts) + $$$$ (my haircuts) = a lot!

So I figured I'd better learn how to cut my own children's hair and why not start today?

Let me just say that my own stylist and my Mother-in-Law both encouraged me, telling me how easy it would be. I should have thought about that a little bit. Of course it's easy for my stylist to cut her son's hair. She went to beauty school! And my Mother-in-Law... You know how if you don't have anything nice to say you shouldn't say anything at all? I'm not going to say a single word about my dear husband's childhood hair, as captured in circa 1975 photos and you can read between the lines.

But I didn't think of that. At least not until it was too late.

I was going to research on the internet and find a how-to-cut-your-toddler's-hair-guide, because you know there is one somewhere on the world wide web. But then I just decided to go for it. I'm one of those people who learns best by doing.

So I did.

It looks... um... well... kind of like his mom cut it.

The front looks very Dumb and Dumber (Lloyd, not Harry), but since we brush it to the side, it works. The main thing that was irking me were the too long sideburns, which looked very "Fab Four." So those look better although I cut them a little too much. But they're fine.

But the back. Oh dear. The back. I thought I would just need to snip off the shaggy ends at the neckline. Let's just ignore the fact that it's all jagged because of a certain squirmer. Besides that, it's just wrong. Choppy and... wrong. I'm hoping that it will grow out to look nicer in a couple of weeks.

I wouldn't really care that much about how it looks, since he doesn't turn two until the end of May. We have plenty of time for it to grow out before his two year portrait, birthday party, etc. It's just hair, it will grow.

But, unfortunately, the experience semi-traumatized him. He hardly noticed the nice lady was cutting his hair when he got to sit in the tractor chair and play with strange new toys. Sitting in his booster chair in the living room watching Super Why just didn't cut it. It didn't distract him at all. The sight of mama with a squirt bottle and scissors was all it took to set him off. He started wailing before the first snip and by the time I was finished there were little golden hairs stuck all over his wet (with tears and snot) face.

So it just wasn't a good experience and I don't know if we'll attempt it again at some point, or not. Maybe when he's older.

Have you ever cut your child's hair?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Toddler Times

Nicholas is doing a few new things.

For starters, when I drop him off at the church nursery for my weekly Ladies Bible Study, and when Penn and I drop him off for church, he cries!

This is totally new for us. He never went through any "separation anxiety" that we could detect back when the baby books suggested he might. It was more like, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out, people!" I didn't know whether to feel slighted or relieved.

So all of a sudden, he cares when we say goodbye. I usually stay with him for five or ten minutes, getting him settled in and distracted. Then I sneak out, going so far as to crouch down and practically crawl away when the dutch door closes behind me. Okay, not practically. Literally.

I'm assuming this is a phase, and it isn't a big deal or anything. Just kind of out of character for our Mister Independent.

So now this week he has decided he loves! his! mama! Keep in mind he has hardly noticed me up to this point in his life. What I mean by that is that if there were four people in the room, he would never show much partiality to me at all. He liked mom. He just liked everyone else, too.

Last weekend the all-time-most-favorite-fascinating-and-fun-person, his Grandpa W came for a visit while my mother was out of state. And he brought with him their dog, Maddy. Nicholas drives her to distraction chasing her around and throwing balls at, I mean TO her. Then Gramsy came back and visited for a day, also.

When they left, I was expecting major water works, like usual. But instead he was incredibly clingy the rest of the day. And the day after that. And all week, in fact.

It's so strange! He just wants me all the time. If I sit somewhere, he pulls my hand to follow him. If I stand, he pulls my pant leg until I pick him up. Fifty times a day I hear "Mama!" (Music to my ears...) And I've even been on the receiving end of dozens of unsolicited kisses and hugs!

It really is a nice little phase.

But yesterday, by his bedtime I was exhausted! Frazzled! Worn out!

I shut myself in my bedroom and read most of the evening, while Penn watched TV in the living room.

I was telling my mother about this and she pointed out how tired mom's with clingy children must be all the time! I've always been a little (okay, more than a little) envious of those mother's blessed with a mama's boy or girl. And I still think it is wonderful. But now I see that it is also more demanding than an almost completely independent toddler.

So I'm adjusting my schedule so I can get things done before he wakes up and during his nap, so that I don't get frustrated when I don't get anything accomplished during his waking hours.

In other news, Nicholas went peeps in the potty for the first time the day before yesterday! Yay! I think we scared him with our celebratory exuberance and excitement.

We're going to be switching him to training pants (w/a waterproof liner for a while) once we run out of diapers. But we'll still keep him in his nighttime diapers at night. We're reading the book "Diaper Free Before Three" and I wish we had started when he turned one. (I'm filing this away in my mind for our next child.) It's a nice compromise between the ultra EC method of training and the wait-until-your-child-is-"ready" approach. I think it's interesting that in most other parts of the world (including most of Europe), children are potty trained much earlier than in the US. And even a couple of generations ago most children were potty trained around age two. I guess the increasingly absorbant properties of disposable diapers have contributed to the age of readiness getting pushed back farther and farther. It's kind of hard for a kid to decide the are ready if they have no incentive (like being uncomfortable or wet) to nudge them toward that readiness. I can't believe Nicholas is only 20 (and a half) months old and I already wish I'd done a whole bunch of things differently. Oh well.

Well, that's all that's new around here.

Oh, if you have a toddler and you don't already have bathtub crayons, I highly recommend them. The best $5 I've spent in a while. They are great for practicing letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and, of course, for scribbling. I purchased the kind that have a nice plastic shell around the crayon parts, so they don't break or get all melty and messy. They are wonderful!

Oh, and he's starting to say "Pees" and "Ay-Q", which just gets me -right there- every time. We've been terribly lax about his manners and it's like living with a monkey, much of the time. I'm so relieved that he's saying these words on his own. I had no idea how to go about teaching him this, since he doesn't listen to a word I say. I'm happy he's picked them up by osmosis. Actually, I guess this proves that he does listen to us, he just doesn't let on that he's listening. Now about those table manners...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Self Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The Artist

His Work

Self-Portrait... see the signature on the lower right?

The thing is, I don't know how he smuggled a crayon into his crib as I, myself tucked him in for his nap. And I can't even find the crayon!

I know I'm probably supposed to be cross about this, but my immediate reaction was delight. He was just so happy with his masterpieces, as you can see from the (albeit blurry) photos. The scribbles aren't hurting anything, and, besides... I think they're sweet. I have no plans to remove them.

I love being a parent because I get to make the rules (along with my husband, of course). He agrees. The scribbles stay!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Nicknack Stuff

This just in.

Nicknack now says "No!"

We've postponed the inevitable by trying to avoid the word. We shake our heads, say "Hmm mmm", or "Uuummm... I don't think you should be fill-in-the-blank," and save "NO!" for really big stuff.

But this afternoon he's said it about twenty-six times.

True confession? I love to hear it. I love the sound of his voice. And it's way better than a tantrum.

He's been growing by leaps and bounds, verbally. Let me be clear. He doesn't enunciate anything particularly well. You would come into my home and observe him and think he doesn't say a single actual word. You'd need Penn or me to translate for him. But as long as it's a sound used to consistently represent an object or concept, I count it as a word.

Nevermind that the words for truck and clock probably sound exactly the same to the objective listener. It's clear to me. Plus he's pointing at one or the other, so that helps. ;)

I'm Moh-Moh these days. Last week I heard him say, "Dah-yee [Daddy], where MO-MO?" It was the sweetest sentence of all time! I've said for a while that if he will just call me something, anything, I will answer to it. So MoMo it is. It's better than MooMoo.

Nicknack hasn't been particularly verbal and is his little girlfriend from the church nursery has run circles around him, developmentally. She's only six weeks older but did everything months before Nicknack followed suit. And she has a very advanced and well-articulated vocabulary. The only area in which he has eclipsed her (other than sheer speed) is in his love for the written word. The boy is a book fanatic! He "reads" them on and off all day long. He knows all of his capital letters, except G. He usually calls G a "C!" He shouts out letters and numbers wherever we go. (D! V! D! 6!) He is so enthusiastic.

He impressed the ladies at church when he ran up to the alphabet border on the wall and starting identifying all the letters. It is just his passion. So we went to the teacher supply store a few days ago and brought home letters and numbers and hung them up with little clothespins on our living room wall. It's official. We live in a preschool.

What else is he up to these days... He loves to "sing" and "dance." He sings a very muddled alphabet song and sings along with his favorites from Sesame Street. He only sings maybe one word out of ten and sings a lot of vowel sounds. His dancing looks like a Native American pow-wow with all the stomping and bouncing.

He's really becoming more and more kid-like right before our eyes. But in some ways he still seems blessedly baby-like.

Like, for example, he still lays down on his back to drink out of his sippy cup. All the other little people in the nursery room sit properly in their chairs at snack time and drink out of sippy cups or just plain cups. But our little weirdo grabs his cup (with gusto), flings himself onto the floor, and rolls onto his back to consume his beverage of choice.

This may have something to do with his swallowing issues, which is why we just shrug and call him a nut.

We switched Pediatricians and, lo and behold, the new Dr. thinks Nicknack! has! a problem! It's such a relief to share a serious concern with your child's Pediatrician and have them express interest! Ask follow up questions! Check things out! We will be taking Nicknack for a videoflouroscopic swallow study in early March. We should have switched months ago. This Pediatrician could hardly believe that the other guy wasn't concerned!

Well, that's all that's new in toddler-land.

Oh, except I do have one tidbit of parenting wisdom for you. Do not, under any circumstances, casually toss half a banana on your child's booster chair tray while he's sitting in said chair. How is it that he hasn't copied our method of drinking beverages, but picks up the concept of a food fight in a split second?

And if there is anything more gross to accidentally step on than a mushy banana, I do not want to know about it.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Reckless! Reckless! Reckless!

Last fall I had a bit of an altercation with my sister-in-law, Penn's older and only sister.

The whole family was assembled at Penn's parents' house. We were just about ready to depart for home when the brouhaha went down.

I was standing on one end of the kitchen, with Penn and Nicknack. SIL was on the other side of the kitchen. About ten family members were between us.

I was just thinking, "I wonder where I put my shoes..." when I realized my SIL had sort of launched into a little tirade. About me! It was basically a series of critical observations about how I tell Penn every little thing to do or say or think, and how he does it.

This all stemming from the fact that she brought him some "Mickey's" beer (because it was his favorite twenty years ago, when he was 18) and he oh-so graciously (or not) refused her kind gesture by misquoting me. "No thanks, Kitty says Mickey's is ghetto." What I said was that Mickey's was "tacky." And I said this in passing, about five years ago, in the beer aisle of the grocery store. I had no idea that comment would come back to haunt me these many years later.

Here are a few things you should know about me. I cry at the drop of a hat. I have a short temper. I have a very thin skin. It's not a good combination and it's never pretty when the stars align and I feel a) angry and b) hurt... at the same time.

So I instantly felt egregiously misunderstood and publicly attacked. At first, I tried to defend myself. For about four seconds. Then I felt the waterworks starting. Then I flew off the handle. Then I said some rather harsh things to Penn about said SIL, within earshot of everyone in the kitchen. Then I stormed out of the house. I hate for people to see me cry, don't you?

I was so upset as I stood by the Jeep waiting for Penn to collect our things (and child), join me, and most importantly UNLOCK the vehicle. I was fuming. I was injured. I was indignant. And I was relieved that the deluge of rain hid my tears. At least those driving by wouldn't know what was up. I still had some semblance of dignity. Then I looked down and realized I was standing in a muddy puddle in my stocking feet. In my dramatic and hasty exit I had failed to remember to put on shoes. My MIL had to mail them to me.

I railed against my SIL most of the way home, declaring that I never wanted to see that horrible person again. I felt quite supported when Penn and his brother (who was riding with us) both took my side and agreed with me that SIL had a big jerk.

About a month passed and Thanksgiving approached. Hurray! I had already made special plans with my mother (my family always eats together on Friday) for Thursday and was able to bow out of the annual Penn Family Thanksgiving experience.

By this time I had gotten over being angry. I even thought about writing a note to SIL. You know, not exactly an over-the-top apology, but something to smooth things over. But every time I thought about how I might word this little note it came out very Anne of Green Gables: "What I said about you was true, too, only I shouldn't have said it!" Even though I wished I'd reacted differently I still felt that she was 90% in the wrong. When I shared with my mother the general gist of the note I was considering she quietly noted, "I'm not sure I hear an apology anywhere in what you plan to say." I decided I just wasn't that sorry.

I opted instead to send a case of Mickeys (with a bow) along with Penn and Nicknack. I thought he would come walking in and she would have to laugh and that would break the ice.

But what really happened was that she took one look at it and said, "That's NOT funny." She spent the rest of the day ignoring him, going so far as to remove herself from whatever room he entered.

Well, when he told me that I got all fired up again. "I certainly am glad I did NOT send her that note!" I huffed, eyebrows raised. I decided I would avoid all of Penn's family gatherings from now until eternity. Penn and Nicknack would still go. Everyone would be happy.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about the incident again. All of a sudden I realized that I had overreacted! Duh! Up until that point I was really just so focused on what my SIL had said and how incorrect her assessment was and all the little things I didn't like about her. Even though I knew I hadn't reacted well, I felt like my response was normal and justified. How almost any ordinary person would react. So this feeling of remorse took me by surprise, as God reminded me that I wasn't supposed to behave like any old ordinary person. Especially when I represent "a Christian" to my SIL, a nonbeliever.

Since that realization it seems as if almost every topic that has come up in my Bible study group has reminded me of how badly I acted and how I should have behaved. Every book I've picked up seems to directly address the subject. And each time I've thought about it I've said to myself, "I guess I'm going to have to send that note after all." Cringe!

Well. I guess today was the day.

Here are just a few of the verses I came across in the course of my reading this afternoon in ONE chapter of a book I am currently reading:

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 1 Timothy 3:11

The heart of the righteous weighs its answer, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. Proverbs 15:28

For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:33-37

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18


That word "reckless" flashed up at me like a neon sign. Reckless! Reckless! Reckless! I was finally totally convicted and practically jumped up off the sofa to write my note that very instant.

As it so happens I wrote a few belated Christmas thank you notes just this morning, so my notecards, stamps, address book, and return address labels were still assembled on the table. Handy.

It took three attempts before I felt my note was contrite enough. As I proofread my final effort I was amazed to find that every word was sincere. It's probably a good thing I waited until I really felt sorry to say I was sorry. I think a half hearted attempt could have made things worse.

I have no idea if my SIL will accept my apology. And I still don't want to see her. Not because of pride. After all this, believe me, pride has left the building. But there is still a great deal of potential awkwardness. Now would be a great time for my husband to accept a job transfer to Zimbabwe.

I am going to drop the letter off at the post office when Penn gets home from work. I just want it to get there as soon as possible.

And from now on I'm going to clothe myself in gentleness before I leave the house so I don't have to suffer this humiliation ever again!