Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gift Bags

Steve and I went to pick Jack up from school this evening, and quickly got hints that it was going to be a wild ride. For starters, Renee, one of the directors told us, "Your son is a Smurf." Why? Because today was Nicholas's birthday, and he brought cupcakes with royal blue, Smurf-hued icing. And Jack proceeded to spread said icing all over his face and hands. That icing tinted his skin.

"He had fun," Renee continued, "And he has a gift bag that he can't wait to get his hands on."

Gift bag? Oh, no.

Every once in a while, a kid in Jack's class has a birthday. They bring cupcakes, which is cool, but they also bring these crappy little plastic gift bags. In the gift bags are crappy little items that Jack becomes hideously obsessed with. It's about 75 cents worth of junk that makes me want to drink about $20 worth of wine. As soon as he gets his hands on one, I am plotting when I can divert his attention and throw the damned thing away.

This particular gift bag contained a lollypop, a small notepad (which apparently Jack needs to jot down ideas for the story he's writing for the school paper?), a Thomas the Tank Engine noisemaker, and a superball.

Jack ate the lollypop on the way home, making his hands sticky, in addition to being blue. He then spent a tremendous amount of time taking the stuff in and out of his gift bag. If only his success matched his determination, because he repeatedly couldn't get it to work, prompting him to whine and cry. He then likes to rip the plastic bag into little shreds, getting pissed when static electricity makes them stick to his hands. Usually the noisemaker gets all slobbery, rendering it a useless pile of cardboard pulp.

Today's superball rendered the gift bag even more of a problem than usual. I hate to be the kind of person who complains about this stuff, but a superball is a freaking choking hazard. Jack popped it into his mouth, and I confiscated it, causing a huge screaming tantrum fit. I was about ready to join him, though as Jack wailed, "Baaaalll!" I was going to wail, "Damn you, Nicholas's mommy!"

The good news is that I got the bag away and threw it in the trash before Jack became best friends forever with it. Roary also enjoyed the icing.

And Jack's dinner of tomato soup combined with his blue flesh to make a very interesting hue.

Are You My Mother?

It seems that Jack's discovery of the Secret Hidden Backup Roaries had more of an impact than we initially thought. Luckily, he is not demanding more Roaries. But Roary has suddenly become very interested in mommies and daddies. Roary sees his mommy and daddy all over the place.

Every night when we read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, Roary gets very excited when we come to the page with the purple cat, declaring, "Mommy Daddy!" He did the same thing when he saw pictures of both tabby cats and tigers in Jack's animal picture book. And when Steve was home with Jack, Roary told him that Jack's Fisher Price lion was his daddy.

I don't think that Jack is traumatized by the appearance and disappearance of "Ro Daddy." I prefer to think that Jack really loves his mommy and daddy and wants his best buddy to have the same thing.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 6

That's right, babies: I read stuff other than novels. Most recently, I read the sixth hardcover volume of Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagely.

I absolutely love reading comics in this format. The book is larger than a comic, so the art really pops. The paper is nice, and the quality is great. And since Bendis writes in story arcs, rather than individual issues, this is an appealing way to read his stories.

This book was kind of a mixed bag. The first story was about Carnage, a Spidey villian made up of Peter Parker's spider-altered DNA. The most notable part of this story is that it features the death of Gwen Stacy. Gwen Stacy's death in the normal Marvel Universe was a watershed moment, a kind of end of innocence. The same was the case, I thought, for this story. I really wasn't expecting Gwen to die, at least not like this, and the result was horrifying.

Disappointingly, though, Bendis skipped out on the aftermath of Gwen's death and its affect on Peter Parker. The next issue skips several months in the future, so We never really see how Peter reacts to Gwen's death. What should be a pivotal moment in his life is seriously glossed over.

In fact, the remaining issues in the book are really a lot of fun, focusing on guest appearances from Wolverine, The Ultimates, Dr. Strange, and the Human Torch. They are enjoyable (with a sad misfire of an ending to the otherwise fun Wolverine story), but I really felt like Bendis should have shown us Peter's mourning to a greater extent. He had the meat-- Gwen's death -- and skipped right to the dessert.

Still, this was an enjoyable read. I have the next volume on my bookshelf and will undoubtedly dive into it soon.

The Great Food Crackdown of 2007

Jack is a typical toddler in his eating habits. That is to say, they are random and very limited. Jack might pound down chicken and rice as fast as he can one day, then refuse to eat it the next. And unless you count frozen waffles as a vegetable, Jack really doesn't eat vegetables.

We have had enough.

Steve and I recently initiated The Great Food Crackdown of 2007. We cleaned out the pantry of junk like crackers and yogos. Now if Jack wants a snack, he can pretty much either have fruit or a cereal bar -- that's about as junky as it gets. We are now making an effort for all of us to have the same thing for dinner. Because I don't want to eat nothing but yogurt and because Jack doesn't want to leap into the magical world of roasted red peppers and the like, I'm trying my best to find some middle ground.

Here are our new policies:
1. Goldfish and Yogos are "all gone." Until Jack learns to eat a little more normally, they are not an option.
2. All snacks are healthy.
3. The three of us will all eat the same thing at meals, or at least close to it. For example, if we were having pork chops and baked potatoes, Jack would get the potato and chicken nuggets.
4. Jack will have something new offered to him, but with old standbys as backup. The other night, I made a FABULOUS butternut squash risotto with a side of broccoli. Jack got that, along with a yogurt. I bet you can guess what he ate, but hey -- I'm going to keep trying.

The good news is, we've already found some new foods for him. Jack loves tomato soup, chicken soup (particularly if the noodles are shaped like letters or Dora), grapes, dried tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, and papaya), Craisins, rice, and quesadillas. Here's hoping we get something green on the list soon.

In other, more adorable news, Jack has learned how to say (drumroll) COFFEE! The other morning, Steve was getting him dressed. Jack started talking about his day, saying, "Jack eat waffles. Jack milk. Mommy coffee. Coffee hot."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Self Help

Self help books have never really been my thing, but here I am, having just finished two of them. The books are The Speed Trap and Slowing Down to the Speed of Life. I didn't go out and buy them myself -- they were a Christmas gift from my boss, which is actually a fine example of how supportive she can be. The books promise ways to help you simplify and slow down a fast-paced and stressful life. I actually found several things in them that I think will ultimately help me.

The books are based on a philosophy called Psychology of Mind, which sounds totally Tom Cruise crazy to me, so I'm going to gloss over that part and focus on their main messages, which are:

• To recognize negativity and stress as just thoughts
• To learn to think not just analytically, but also in "free flowing mode."
• To live in the moment

Let's look at these one by one. Everybody experiences stressful situations and feelings. But how stressful things are and how much they affect you can really depend on your point of view. I am making an effort now if, for example, I'm stuck in traffic, not to focus on how it sucks and I'm going to be late. I accept that there's nothing I can do about it, find some soothing music to listen to, and focus on enjoying that, rather than freaking out about the craziness around me. It really works, new age-y as it sounds. Similarly, I recently had a conflict with someone who was being really unreasonable. At one point in our argument, that person stormed off, refusing to talk to me, and saying, "Don't worry about it. Just whatever." I thought, "You know what? I won't worry about it." The thing that person was upset about had nothing to do with me. I don't want to let someone else's bad mood bring me down, so I decided really and truly to take her sarcastic comment to heart and not worry about it. It was a weight off my shoulders, to be honest. I'm now trying, when I start to experience stress (or what the books call "a low mood" to change the course of my thinking and help myself get out of it. I've been a lot less short-tempered since I started doing this.

"Free flowing mode" is something that I think will really help me at work. Ever notice how you can sit and stew over a problem, come up with nothing, only to have something pop into your head while you're in the shower? That's because when you put that problem on the back burner, your brain will work away at it, and you'll come up with a creative solution. Taking an analytical approach will be less successful. I've already started incorporating that philosophy into our brainstorming sessions at work, and it's really going well for us. On Friday, we spent a few minutes talking about a project we're going to do. We agreed on the analytical facts -- budget, timeline, audience, etc -- and then just let it go. Yesterday, we reconvened, and had not one, but two great and workable ideas to use. You have to trust in your own talents and creativity and be confident that you'll work things out. It seems that it actually works.

Finally, living in the moment really makes life more enjoyable. The night before last, Jack woke up at 10:00 absolutely freaking out. He was sobbing and would not go back to sleep, then conned us into letting him go downstairs, where he sat with me while I wrote my Apprentice recap, then scored a bonus episode of Elmo. We put him to bed again, and he kept crying and did not want to go to sleep.

I started to get really stressed out. Was Jack sick? Did he have an ear infection? Because if he did, he'd either not get antibiotics and have to tough it out, or he'd get them and have his horrible babboon butt diaper rash. And I'd have to stay home with him the next day, because Steve had a full schedule of meetings. That meant I'd be up with him all night, which meant I'd be home with a sick kid and cranky myself because of lack of sleep, and I was out a day and a half from work last week, and...

Then I realized those were all negative thoughts. Just thoughts, not reality. None of that stuff had happened, and if it did, I'd deal with it. Instead of focusing on all the crazy mind races, I decided to focus just on that moment. I pulled Jack onto my lap, helped him get comfortable, and rocked him. If I started to think about how long it would take him to fall asleep, and when I could quit rocking him, I made myself stoop and just enjoy cuddling with my sweet little guy. In that moment, if I didn't think about the next day or any possible consequences, snuggling with Jack and kissing his little head was wonderful. I didn't feel stressed out; I felt happy and peaceful. Jack relaxed too and fell fast asleep, and when I crawled into bed, I did the same thing. And you know what? He slept just fine the rest of the night and was in a great and healthy mood the next day. All of those things I'd been worried about were just thoughts.

This has turned into a long entry, but I have to say, I'm happy I read these two books. I intend to learn from them, and I think it'll be really good for me.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Big crisis at Stately Wasser Manor yesterday. As my faithful readers know, Jack absolutely adores Roary, his stuffed tiger/security object/BFF. I secretly have four Roaries, so when one needs to be washed, one of his bretheren is ready to fill in. Jack doesn't know that there are more tigers... or at least he didn't. Imagine my surprise when I went downstairs and found this:

Me: Uh-oh.
Steve: I know.
Me: What happened?
Steve: He followed me into the laundry room and spotted the second one. I had to give it to him; I had no choice.
Me: I understand. What did he do?
Steve: He was delighted, and the two tigers immediately started talking to each other. I don't know about what, but one of them seems to be Daddy.

Jack proceeded to carry the two tigers around, happy as could be. I tried to sneak one out of the crib during his nap, but Jack woke up and caught me as I was coming in the room. I was able to remove a tiger when he was distracted. Of course, he later noticed its absence. Jack asked, "Where Ro Daddy?" I deliberately misunderstood and told him where both Roary and Daddy were. He seems to have accepted that Roary's daddy was just visiting.

In other news, it finally snowed! One benefit of the weather being so warm for so long was that I was able to get tremendous bargains on snow gear. I got Jack a pair of boots and a pair of snow bibs for a mere $13 at Target. Jack was so excited about the prospect of playing outside that he was actually willing to put on all this stuff without wailing and fighting me. That's always a plus. I spent a lot of time talking about his new boots as he got ready, so as we were about to step outside, Jack smiled at me and said, "Mommy Dora." I immediately got what he was talking about and asked, "Mommy is Dora and you're Boots?" Jack was so pleased that I understood him. He gave me a cheerful "Yep" and danced like a monkey all the way outside. He spent a lot of time running around saying, "Snow!" Then he joined Ryan, our three-year-old neighbor, in a toddler snowball fight. That is, they'd each scoop up a handfull of snow (which was totally powdery and would't pack if they knew how) and yell, "Snowball" and fling it in each other's general direction. This was good fun for quite a while. Then Jack made the mistake of removing his mittens and picking up a handful of snow. The cold upset him, and we'd been out for a while, so it was time to go inside.

Once inside, Jack learned something that every kid should know. That is, after you play outside in the snow, your mommy will make you hot chocolate. He loved it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons

I probably can’t be fair to this book right now. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons is an entertaining bit of fluff. It’s beach reading, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, since I’d just read The Time Traveler’s Wife, it’s fluff felt a little too fluffy for me. It was like eating filet mignon and having cotton candy for dessert.

The book follows the decades long friendship of Slip, Faith, Audrey, Merit, and Kari, who are the members of a book club called Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons (AHEB for short). The characters, though likeable enough, lack depth. There’s the spunky one, the one with the secret past, the sexy one, the beautiful one, and the maternal one, and not a whole lot of nuance beyond that shorthand.

The women have problems and challenges to overcome, but those problems get solved in an awfully tidy way. Kari confesses to her adopted daughter Julia that her birth mother is Kari’s niece, Mary Jo. Julia is upset by the deception and doesn’t talk to her mother for months, filling her with anguish. That anguish, though mostly happens off camera, and the two of them work it out with little fanfare. More egregiously, Merit is abused by her husband, but having her friends witness one time what she’s put up with for years is all it takes to make her decide to get out of her marriage. It’s all a little too simple.

This book read like countless other books I’ve read about women with long friendships and offered nothing new. In a month, I’ll have forgotten all about it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mess? Yes!

Mary P. recently wrote about "Mrs. Immaculate," who threw a fit any time her son completed a day of daycare looking anything less than picture perfect. I think that's absolutely ridiculous. If you want your kid to have a chance to explore, to be curious, to LEARN, not to mention to have fun, they're going to get messy in the process.

Last night, Steve looked at Jack's sneakers, and they painted a picture of exactly what he'd been up to that day. The bottoms were coated in a sticky mix of Play-Doh and rice. We laughed about it and agreed that it looked like Jack had a great day. This morning, I shared that story with Ms. Marzia, one of Jack's new teachers. She said that they have the kids help make Play-Doh, and that they get even messier on that day. I think that's so cool.

Jack doesn't own a single article of clothing that can't be thrown in the washing machine, and that includes even his dressiest outfits. I remember back before I had the Cublet, I was shopping with my mom. She held up a tiny white dress, embroidered with blue flowers. It was beautiful, but, I said, any child of mine would immediately get chocolate ice cream right on that pretty little dress.

In other news, now that I've been at this Mommying gig for two years, I feel a lot more confident and competent than I did before. Sure, Jack will throw me for a loop every now and then, but my 2006 New Year's Resolution that I am in charge and know what I'm doing is proving true. This morning, I woke Jack up and found his face and sheets smeared in blood. He'd had a bloody nose in the night.

I think in the first year or so, this would have really worried me. I'd have called his doctor, looked up nosebleeds in at least two books, done a Google search, and posted a missive to the Mommy group. But this time, I shrugged, figured it was because he's got a cold and the air is dry, and washed his face. If he keeps getting nosebleeds, then I'll worry about it, but I don't think this is any big deal. It's nice to feel competent.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Getting Dressed

Me: Okay, Jack. Time to put on your shirt.
Jack: Noo!
Me: Come on, Cub. Put on your shirt and we'll go bye bye.
Jack: Noooo!
Roary: I'll wear the shirt. It looks nice.
Me: Roary, you can't wear Jack's shirt!
Jack (laughing): Ro!
Roary: It's going to look good.
(Roary puts on Jack's shirt)
Me: Oh, Roary. Oh, no.
Roary: What? It's nice?
Me: Jack, come look at this.
Jack: Too big, Ro.
Me: Jack, do you want to put on the shirt?
Jack: Yep.

I can then repeat this little scene over and over again for each and every article of clothing. It sure would be easier if that little nutball would just let me get him dressed, but at least "too big, Ro" works.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife

I'm in two book clubs right now. That's a lot of reading, which is fine because I read fast and read a lot. It also means that I wind up reading books that I might not have picked up otherwise. Sometimes, that's not a good thing. In my brief membership in what I called the Everybody's Mormon But Me book club, I read two books and hated both of them. But usually, I read books that I absolutely love and might not have grabbed off the shelves otherwise.

I might well have read The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and I'm glad that my Bad Genious Book Club picked it so I would. It was an absolutely beautiful story that I can't stop thinking about.

Henry is the time traveler of the title, and Claire is the wife. Henry has a genetic disorder (explained in adequate, but not boring detail) that causes him to travel back and forth in time, usually during times of stress. He can't control when he time travels or where he goes, but he tends to go to places or to meet people who are important to him. As a result, he travels frequently to meet Claire, his future wife.

The first time Claire meets Henry, she is six and he is in his forties. They have clandestine meetings throughout Claire's childhood and adolescence, and Claire falls in love with him. Henry, however, doesn't meet Claire until he's 28 and Claire is 20. It is fascinating to see how time folds in on itself. In the earlier meetings, Henry knows much about their future; in later meetings, Claire does.

The book made me think a lot about free will. Henry has discovered that you cannot change your past. His mother dies horribly in a car accident, and Henry time travels repeatedly to that scene, but finds himself powerless to change it. But does Claire have free will? If she hadn't known from an early age that she'd end up marrying Henry, would she have asked him out when she meets him at 20? If she hadn't known that one of the most trying periods of their life would turn out well, would she have handled it differently? If Henry hadn't told her that as an adult, she loves coffee with cream and sugar, would she have?

There are, of course, elements of science fiction to the book, but first and foremost, it is a love story. Claire is a Penelope, waiting for her traveller to return to her, and Henry is Odysseus, trying desperately to get to her. How they make their unusual lives work is a real testament to their love.

I can't wait for book club discussion to begin. In the meantime, Steve is reading the book and I am loving talking about it with him. This was a great start to 2007's reading.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hey, Mickey!

Steve and I made the bold move today of taking Jack to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time. Would it be a morning of family fun? Or would it be a hell of tantrums that we paid a small fortune for? We were brave enough to find out.

When we pulled up to the restaurant, Jack spotted the picture of Mr. Charles E. Cheese and delightedly shouted, "Mickey!" The kid is obviously going to be a blast when we go to Disney World this fall. Inside, we headed to the small toddler-geared section in the back. Toddler World was made up mainly of the kind of rides that I remember going on in the mall for 10 cents. You know - sit on the horsey, be gently rocked back and forth. Jack was a big fan of that, in particular the one featuring a purple dinosaur who shall not be named (at least it wasn't the Teletubbies one).

He then checked out a toddler version of Wack-A-Mole, several other little kid games, and had a great time watching the other kids play. He especially enjoyed trying to put his tickets (oh yeah, we were big winners, and if we do as well next time, we can redeem our tickets for a pack of Smarties) into all of the machines. He loved the merry go round best of all, riding it about seven times.

The place truly is like a kid Vegas, with risk of sensory overload everywhere. At one point, we were thisclose to a tantrum. Jack handed me his tickets, and like a fool, I took them. He then proceeded to say, "MINE!" and was about to cry. I got down to his level and said, "It's okay, Jack," and I could see in his face that he was about to lose it but really, really didn't want to. I picked him up and asked if he needed a break, and he nodded and said, "Yep."

In a stroke of luck, that's exactly when our pizza was ready. We had a table in a relatively quiet corner, and amazingly enough, Jack ate incredibly well. He had a ton of pizza, as well as several chunks of melon. I remember when he was a baby, I didn't ever feed him in a room with a ceiling fan, because who can eat with that kind of excitment around? We have come a long way.

After we finished eating, Chuck E. Cheese himself came out to make the rounds. Jack cried, "Mickey!" and we went to say hi to him. Jack gave the mouse a high five and probably baffled the guy by saying, "Hi, Mickey." With that, it was time to go. Amazingly, Jack did not have a tantrum, as we repeatedly told him that Mickey went bye bye.

In the car, Jack was still thrilled about this amazing experience he'd just had. He kept saying, "Mickey! Pizza! Neigh! Mickey bye bye!" Then, he made every cent we spent worth it by saying (unprompted), "Tank oo, Mama. Tank oo, Daddy."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

So Long, Sippies...

One of the advantages to being a bad mommy and sending my kid to daycare is that I don't have to spearhead every single transition Jack makes. As I mentioned earlier this week, Jack is currently making the transition to the big exciting world of Group 3. He's been spending a little more time there every day, and it seems to be going really well. When I ask him if he likes it, he says, "Yep," and "More Amy," since I told him that he'll be seeing his friend Amy more often. (I think that Jack likes Amy because of her resemblance to Dora the Explorer.) The teachers say that he is happy there, even comforting another kid who was crying. And this morning, a squeaky voiced Roary said that he likes it too. All good news.

I was a little worried, though, that things would be done differently over there. They have real tables and chairs, not the chairs attached to tables thing that his current room has. That's no big deal, since Jack shunned the high chair a few months ago. My biggest concern was about naps. I got the good news this morning that Group 3 also takes naps at noon, "long naps," according to the teacher. The only change besides the tables, she told me, is that they don't use sippy cups any more. They can hang onto them for a few weeks, but then it's time for a regular cup.

Jack can drink out of a regular cup. He's been able to for quite a while, actually. The problem is that Jack enjoys taking a few swigs out of the cup, then pouring the rest on the floor. I cannot tell you how delighted I am that someone else can help me break him of this habit.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Defending Angelina

Angelina Jolie, bless her heart (which my friend Jon correctly figured out is a disclaimer that allows you to say anything bad about someone, such as “She doesn’t have the sense God gave a rock, bless her heart) needs to be careful what she says. Recently, she told UK Elle this:

"I think I feel so much more for Madd and Zee because they're survivors, they came through so much. Shiloh seemed so privileged from the moment she was born. I have less inclination to feel for her...I met my other kids when they were 6 months old, they came with a personality. A newborn really is this...Yes, a blob! But now she's starting to have a personality...I'm conscious that I have to make sure I don't ignore her needs, just because I think the others are more vulnerable."

As you can probably imagine, people have a lot to say about it, most of it pretty negative. Lotta from Mom-O-Matic (who is awesome and funny and I have nothing but respect for) says this:

“Mostly, I don't like that her children are being assigned status within the family. Love is love, is love, is love.”

I get where she’s coming from, and I can understand why people are up in arms about this statement. But the thing is this:

Angelina Jolie, I get you.

Angelina Jolie has three kids. One of them is gorgeous, white, and American and was born to ridiculously wealthy parents. The other two she saved from orphanages in third world countries. When your own tiny baby is born, it’s obvious that said tiny baby really needs you. But you might feel even more need when you see a baby in Africa or Cambodia who needs you. Maddox and Zahara needed her in totally different ways than Shiloh does.

It’s not like she doesn’t love Shiloh, it’s just that she loves her differently from her other kids. I think the same would be the case if you had two kids, one who had a disability and the other who didn’t. Obviously, you’d love them both. But you’d feel like the kid with the disability needed you more, or at least in different, clearer ways. You would have to make an effort to give the kid without a disability as much love and attention, since his needs would seem less immediate.

And the other thing? A newborn baby kind of is a blob. For the first several months, you’re not getting much out of that kid other than dirty diapers and crying. No smiles, no laughing, to say nothing of the joy that is a Flying Tackle hug while yelling, “Mama!” You do spend lots of time marveling over the tiny fingers and toes, and just staring at this amazing creature who is now yours. That’s wonderful. But there really is something special about the time when they’re able to give something back to you.

I’m sure it will come as a great comfort to Angelina Jolie that I am on her side. Give me a call, Ange, and we’ll go out and be sexy together while Brad and Steve stay home with the kids.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Definitely My Kid

When Jack was first born, he looked nothing like me at all. He was a tiny, miniature Steve, and frankly, I did not appreciate it one bit. I don't recall Steve retching for several months, having pain in his siatic nerve, or developing giant purple stripes on his butt. Nor do I recall him experiencing several days of labor pains or having this child sliced out of his body. But whatever; I happen to think Steve is a pretty good looking guy, so having two of them around is not such a bad thing.

But as Jack's gotten older, he is starting to look more like a mix between us. His eyes are blue like Steve's, but the shape is the same as mine. He also has my nose, and sometimes when I look at him the right way, he reminds me of my brother, who of course resembles me.

But even more importantly, there are things he does that make it very clear that he's not just a Mini Steve, but that he's got lots of his mom in him. There is his tendency to sweat like a male member of the Green family (sorry about that Jack, but at least you escaped the eyebrows). His love for all things created by Jim Henson (Sesame Street, Muppets, Fraggles, etc) is definitely from his mommy.

But even better, he has recently developed a habit -- no, a skill -- that is all me. And that is... making his stuffed animals talk. When I was a kid, each and every one of my stuffed animals had a name (and not some punk name like "Teddy" or "Kitty") and its own distinct voice. Jack is moving in the same direction. Frog Rattle has a deep grown. Big Bird (pronounced "Bi-dah") moves his beak to say hi to Jack. And Roary has more to say than any of the others. Sometimes Roary just nods his approval, but now he also talks, in a voice even higher than Jack's. This morning, Roary was apparently very interested in the story we were reading, pointing to pictures on the page and saying, "That's a cow" and "Baby Deer."

This is definitely my kid

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's a Boy

I'm trying to get better about writing up books that I've read. Steve asked me how many books I read in 2006, and I had no idea. He, of course, has a tidy little list, and that's part of what I intended this to be. So, without further ado...

I recently finished It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons. As you can guess from the title it is essays written by women who are, um, raising sons. There have been many times when I've watched Jack run around the house like a maniac yelling, "RAAARRR!" when I have wondered if things might be different around here if we had a girl. It's not like I encouraged him to run around roaring rather than sitting quietly. Well, the women who contributed to this book tend to be liberal women like me who don't want any gender stereotypes anywhere near our kids. If our boys want to play with dolls or wear pink feather boas in dress up, that's fine and we'll support them. But despite these open-minded attitudes, many of the women found that their boys were... boys. Instead of being accepting of their sons' desire to play with dolls, they had to accept their desire to not play with dolls.

Makes you wonder if the differences between boys and girls aren't all gender typing by society, but if there are some inherent differences. Sure, the fact that it is nearly impossible to buy an outfit for a baby boy that is not blue and does not have trucks, sports equipment, or tools on it contributes in part to this, but I think if we raised these kids in the wild, away from the influence of Carter's, there would still be behavior on the spectrum that we expect.

The essays were funny, sad, heartbreaking, and just plain interesting. I'd recommend this to all of my fellow Mothers of Boys.

Jack Wasser, Boy Genius

I’m going to ignore some brat-tastic behavior that Jack engaged in over the weekend and focus on the really good stuff. The boy does tend to occasionally act… like a two-year-old… but you know what? I still really like the guy.

On Friday, we got the news from daycare that Jack is, as we put it, Going To The Show. That is, he’s moving up to the big exciting world of Group 3, where they sit at little chairs that are not attached to the table, speak in sentences, and sometimes even do fancy things like use toilets. I think he’s ready for the change (well, not the toilet part, but the rest is good), and I’m happy to hear that his friend Hannah is probably going to make the move with him. It’ll be good for Jack to have a buddy.

Now that Jack is on his fantastic kick of using more and more words, I have been amazed at some of the stuff he’s been able to say. Recently, he picked up his copy of My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs and started “reading” it. That is, he’d point to the picture and say the last word on the page: Happy! Sad! Good! Bad! If he couldn’t actually say the word, he’d at least use the exact inflections that I do when I read it. The kid has apparently been listening to me all this time (mental note: must be careful about the swearing). Even more amazingly, he can count to ten. I have to get him started, but if I count two of the ducks or sheep on the page, he’ll fill in the rest of the numbers. So cool!

Yesterday, he and I started a class called Giggles and Wiggles that’s offered at a local rec center. It’s a lot like Gymboree or My Gym, but because it’s offered by the county, it’s $7 a class as opposed to $20. Jack was the youngest kid in the class, but he was also the least shy and most confident. The other kids either clung to their parents or hid in a corner crying, while Jack happily hopped like a frog, sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” or enthusiastically fluttered theh parachute. Now, I know that my kid isn’t going to be the valedictorian of Giggles and Wiggles or anything, but I can’t help but be proud of how self-assured he is, how willing he is to play with new people and try new things.

I am really thrilled about the improved talking. I can now kind of have a conversation with him, at least more than I used to. Last night we were at the gas station, and he kept pointing and saying “Choo choo.” I finally figured out that he was pointing to a big silver truck that was full of gas. I said, “That does look like a choo choo train, but it is a truck. It’s delivering gas to the gas station.” Jack shook his head and said, “Is no a choo choo, Mama. Is truck.” Can’t argue with that.

Friday, January 05, 2007

In Which Betsy Reluctantly Enters the Mommy Wars

So, last week I was hanging out with the Wondercub at playgroup, having a rare and delightful Friday off of work. One mom was talking to another, and I wasn’t really paying attention until I heard her raise her voice slightly to give a sort of disclaimer.

She said that everybody does things differently for their families, and that’s fine. That maybe, for example, cosleeping is okay for you, but I don’t want to do it. And that for her, not staying home with your kids was totally not okay. Not that she was judging.

Except that she absolutely was.

She went on to say that it seems totally unreasonable to her to leave her kids in daycare when they’re too young to express themselves. After all, a baby can’t tell you if someone is hurting her, so by putting your child in daycare, you are potentially putting an innocent in harm’s way. Why would you work when you’ve got these precious children at home? To her, that’s unimaginable… not that there was anything wrong with that for other people.

I realized that her “I’m not judging” disclaimer was directed at me, since at the time, I was the only woman in the room who works outside the home. I was there to have a good time, so I ignored it, but inside, I was seething.

I worked very hard to find a supportive, loving, and nurturing environment for Jack to go to every day. And don’t just hand Jack off and race off in the morning. I’m a presence there. I spend a few minutes chatting with the directors and his teachers. I know all of the teachers in his classroom, as well as most of the kids. I play with Jack at school for a few minutes before I leave. Steve does the same thing in the evening. And we drop by unexpectedly, just to spy on him through the windows. If anything untoward were happening, I would know.

I also think there are tremendous advantages to having Jack in daycare. Although he doesn’t have an siblings, he has a host of other kids to play with and to be forced to share toys with. One of his teachers speaks Spanish to him all day, so he can say several words in a foreign language. Even more importantly, I think it’s wonderful that Jack knows that there are more than two people (Mommy and Daddy) who can take care of him. He’s a lot more independent as a result.

And why do I work when I have this precious child? I don’t have a high powered career, nor do I make piles and piles of money. I do love my job and find it fulfilling, but that’s not the primary reason I get up early and drive to work every day. It’s so that I can afford little luxuries like a house, diapers, and groceries. It must be lovely to have the choice to stay home with your kids, but it’s unfair to assume that everyone has that same choice. It would be great if all children had a parent who could devote themselves to their full-time care, but if only people who could afford that had kids, that would leave out a lot of very good parents.

I’m sure the other mom didn’t mean to be as critical of my choices, but she was. I hate the concept of “The Mommy Wars.” Parenting is a tough job, and working moms and stay at home moms have more alike than they’re different. As women, we need to support our sisters, not tear down their choices to rationalize our own.

Catching Up, Part 2: Christmas

I was loving and sympathetic about Jack’s stomach problems on Christmas Eve, but even more so when I found myself experiencing the very same problem. Nooo! The last thing I wanted was to feel sick on Christmas, especially with a house full of family coming. Steve surveyed his pitiful sick family and promised that as an extra gift to me, he’d take care of everything that needed to be taken care of. That of course, is a pretty big gift, especially since we needed to make dinner still. Check us out, looking like hell:

But more importantly, I didn’t want to miss anything. Jack was feeling fine, and I didn’t want to be pathetically stationed in bed or on the couch while he gleefully ripped through all of the presents from Santa. I decided to do my best to get my strength up. I sipped a cup of very weak coffee, then while everyone else dined on chocolate chip pancakes and bacon, I took tiny bites of one of Jack’s Dora The Explorer yogurts. Amazingly, it worked, and I felt okay again.

Jack was thrilled at the piles of presents downstairs, shouting, “Santa!” He’d open a gift, then upon seeing, say, Fisher Price animals, beg, “Abra! Abra!” Then, as I attempted to rip out the freaking vacuum sealed, multiwired creatures from their package, Jack would move on to the next gift, which he also needed someone to abrir.

Big hits from Christmas included the aforementioned little plastic animals, Elmo DVDs, a Sesame Street CD (“Bye bye? Ernie? Duck?”), and, amazingly, a set of flash cards. The flash cards have pictures on them and the corresponding letters of the alphabet. Jack is fascinated by them. We talk about the letters some, but since he’s really working on trying to learn the words for absolutely everything around him, he loves talking about what the pictures are. Thanks to the flash cards, Jack can now say words such as mitten, mouse, yo yo, and zebra. Pretty cool. He also loves shoving the cards into his shape sorter, between the cushions of the couch, and onto his airplane.

The massive amount of presents were a bit intimidating to the Cub, so we took a break midway through so he and Steve could go for a brief walk outside. We also saved some gifts for the next day. No sense in having Christmas magic include a tantrum.

Christmas gets more fun with the kid every year. The first year, Jack’s Christmas included such fun things as his first ever bath, lots of sleeping, and having his dad stumble through diaper changes. Hey, he was only one day old! The next year was a blur of presents and craziness. But this year, I got to hear Jack say, “Santa!” in reverent tones, request Christmas books, and even sing carols (if you count yelling “Hey” during “Jingle Bells” which I obviously do).

Monday, January 01, 2007

Catching up, part 1: Christmas Eve

Inexplicably, my tiny baby boy is now two years old. It is amazing to think of all of the ways he's grown and changed over the past year. A year ago, he'd only been walking for a month and was working out the finer details of not falling on his face. Now he can walk, run, walk using silly steps, jump, climb, and moonwalk. When he was one, he communicated by crying and grunting. Now he's busting out all kinds of words, in English and Spanish, two and three word phrases, and even showing us simple sentences. ("No more nigh-nigh, Daddy. Daddy up.") He developed a fierce loyalty to his stuffed tiger Roary, saw the ocean for the first time, and got to give Elmo a hug at Sesame Place. He can scribble with crayons, sing to himself, dance like a loon, climb into a chair, and eat an astonishing amount of pizza. He can climb up the stairs to the big slide at the playground, then rush down face first. He can indentify most of the things in pictures in his books, and he can even fill in words in books that he reads often. If you ask, "How old is Jack," he gives an enthusiastic, "Two!" Oh, and did I mention that he can fall asleep by himself and sleep all night? Because believe me, that's a big one!

Our celebration of Jack's second birthday didn't go exactly as planned. The poor little man was sick the day before (in spectacular technicolor in front of the entire family) so we decided to take it easy. We spent the day doing Jack's favorite things around the house -- watching Sesame Street, playing, and going to the park. Then he opened his presents. His big present from us was a kitchen, and he absolutely loves it. Jack has since spent many the hours making us fries in his oven, then cutting me off with a "No more fries, Mama."

Although he seemed okay all day, Steve and I decided to play it safe and not go out for pizza for dinner or to Build-A-Bear. I did, however, make Elmo cupcakes for him. Jack absolutely loved his cupcake... right until he threw it up, again in front of everybody.

You've got to admire his tenacity, though: As I grabbed him so we could go upstairs to clean up, Jack said, "More cake?" He's going to be great in college.

Happy birthday, big guy. I love you and am proud of you.