8/28/08

Those Quirky Kids

PopcornI don’t judge others. I say if you feel good with what you’re doing, let your freak flag fly.
– Sarah Jessica Parker

No one takes SJP’s wise words to heart more than kids. Kids are quirky. My kid in particular, as of late. The other day, for no reason at all that I could tell, he started eating his popcorn with his toes. Yesterday he ran around with a pack of new friends at the playground, shrieking, “Get the baby!” What does that mean? What baby? Were they play-acting a kidnapping attempt? I have no idea. But they were happy.

Sometimes Miles will insist on putting on his pajamas in the middle of the day. Sometimes he will repeat a nonsensical word over and over and over. Some days he fingerpaints with his yogurt on the kitchen table. OK, that’s not so much quirky as gross.

But the point is, I never know what this kid will do from one day to the next. What goes through his mind when he decides to break off pieces of the wicker laundry basket and poke them through the holes of his sandals? Or when he stops, in midwalk, to roll around on some random person’s lawn? Or decides to wrap my sports bra around his neck while I’m folding laundry?

Some kids are quirkier than others. There was this one little boy at the pool one time who kept sidling up to me with this creepy grin and rubbing my legs. The little perv. Then this older boy went around shaking every single kid’s hand at the pool, saying, “Hey, buddy,” like he was running for office.

And then there’s the quirky dressers. I’ve seen little girls at the grocery store in full princess garb over their jeans and rain boots. I’ve seen other wacky outfits on plenty of kids. A pajama top and corduroys in August? Why not! A Batman cape over church clothes? Sure! My own brother used to insist on wearing his beloved OJ Simpson jersey 24/7 for weeks straight, barely even allowing it to be washed. Poor kid had no idea what the future held for his idol.

Ah, those quirky kids. They keep life interesting, don’t they? Now I have to go disassemble an intricate structure on my dining room floor consisting of toy trains, carpet scraps, a plastic baseball, and some circus animals, all carefully arranged just so.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: If you’re bloggers, you already do this: Write down and/or capture on film the crazy stuff your kid does. I carry around a small notebook just for this purpose. I know you think you’ll remember, but you won’t. Trust me on this!!

8/25/08

Stain Removal’s Not for Sissies

It’s no secret that motherhood is messy business. But there’s a whole other level of stains beyond spit-ups, diaper leaks, and spilled juice. Some moms (ahem, Kate Gosselin of “Jon & Kate Plus 8”) won’t let their kids near a frosted cupcake or felt-tip marker for fear of a day spent scrubbing out stains in the laundry room. Please. Frosting and markers are child’s play. How about some of these stains?

The Hot Seat. “How did the back of his shorts get all red?” C. asked one day, changing Miles into his PJs. Well, that’s what happens when a child takes red sidewalk chalk, scribbles all over the seat of his ride-on motorcycle, and then proceeds to ride it around the yard in his blue-and-white striped shorts. Duh.

Minty-Fresh Carpet. My friend T. was busy getting ready for work one morning when she noticed her 2-year-old son was being suspiciously quiet in the next room. With good reason – he was busy grinding toothpaste into the rug with the computer mouse.

Poo Slider. My SIL took her daughter to the park one morning, dressed in their Sunday best. After a tandem trip down the slide, my SIL noticed a funky odor coming off both of them. To her horror, she realized the slide was streaked with dog poo, probably from some kid’s shoe. Ewwww….

Coal Miner’s Son. Speaking of gross stuff at the park, I was attempting to finish the abs and stretching portion of Stroller Strides one day while distracting my son from the playground. “We’ll go AFTER Mommy’s done exercising, OK?” He agreed too readily; he’d just discovered an ashy pile of black crud beneath some charcoal grills. I’m STILL digging it out from under his nails.

The Glitterati. I suspect my (other) SIL is getting back at all those people who gave her kids inappropriate and/or messy gifts over the years. How else to explain why another mom would give your child a multicolored, glitter play sand kit? Every crevice of Miles’ body, shoes, and several toys were instantly encrusted with purple and orange glittery sand. “It’s non-toxic,” my SIL told me, as if THAT was my main concern!

I’m sure that’s only the beginning. We had a couple near-misses with a lipstick, and our new couch is just begging for a vat of cranberry juice to fall on it. Fortunately, diaper wipes have gotten out 90% of our stains to date. As for toothpaste in the carpet, I’m afraid you’re on your own.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: I love, love, LOVE my Magic Eraser. This thing is genius, I’m telling you. It gets smudges off walls and doors, crayon off refrigerators, and much, much more.

8/19/08

Good Day or Bad Day?

I often wake up and wonder, will today be a good day or a bad day? It could go either way…

Good Day: Miles wakes up at 7 a.m. and spends the next 30 min. happily talking to himself and playing in his crib.

Bad Day: Miles wakes up crying at 5:30 a.m. when the door closes behind Dad, leaving for work. Attempts to get him to go back to sleep or snuggle with Mom are rudely spurned.

*******

Good Day: I walk into Miles’ room in the morning and find that his dad picked up all the toys, put the books back on the shelves, and put the dirty clothes in the hamper the night before.

Bad Day: I walk into Miles’ room in the morning and find that he has had a diaper blowout, covering himself, his bedding, and all his blankies and stuffed animals with poo.

*******

Good Day: Miles gobbles down an egg and spinach omelet, with a side of whole wheat toast and strawberries.

Bad Day: Miles rejects every healthy food item he’s offered all day, even things I’ve spent a half-hour preparing, letting only cheese popcorn and lemonade pass his lips.

*******

Good Day: Miles actually follows directions in his toddler gym class, amuses himself at home playing with his trains, is extra-snuggly at naptime, and in the afternoon, a neighbor calls to invite us over for an impromptu playdate and a glass of wine.

Bad Day: Story time’s canceled, it’s too hot for the playground, no one’s around, and Dad’s working late.

*******

Good Day: Miles cooperates when it’s time to get dressed, helps find his shoes, and skips out the door.

Bad Day: He argues about what shirt to wear, cries when we can’t find his Crocs, whines that he wants to stay home instead of going out, and throws a fit if I don’t let him open the door by himself.

*******

Good Day: I am able to effortlessly balance taking care of my son, working from home, and attending to family and household responsibilities, even squeezing in a workout, taking the dog for a walk, and being genuinely happy to spend time with my husband at the end of the day.

Bad Day: The kid’s being a brat, I’m tired, nothing gets done, there’s dog hair everywhere, the smell from the fridge could kill a horse, I’m so annoyed by the time my husband gets home that I can barely look at him, and I wonder how the hell I ever thought I could do this wife and mother thing.

And then, of course, there are the in-between days. Like today. My house is a mess. My kid won’t eat. My husband has left a different pair of boat-sized shoes in every room of the house. I haven’t filled out the school forms that are due in a few days. But I did manage to shower, do some work, and had fun playing blocks with Miles. And some days that’s enough for this mom.

READ O’ THE WEEK (MOMS): Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson, is a true story about a British blogger and mother of a toddler in Paris. I just started it, but I’ve gotten to the part where she begins a torrid affair with one of her readers. C: don’t worry. Somehow, I don’t think any tall, handsome English guys are reading my blog. Then again, who knows…?

READ O’ THE WEEK (KIDS): My mom has a book at her house that my 2-year-old son, 18-month-old niece, and a kindergartener she tutored were all equally enthralled with: No, David! by David Shannon. Tells you something that kids relate to a book in which the primary word is “no,” huh?

8/15/08

The Adventures of Ting-Ting

You know how I mentioned before that my 2-year-old had christened one of his rubber duckies “Ting-Ting”? Well, Ting-Ting has morphed into a full-fledged imaginary friend. He even came with us on vacation, much to the delight of our families. All the aunts and uncles got into the game, pretending to catch Ting-Ting, lose him (or her?), find him under their plates, etc.

Since Ting-Ting is invisible, we don’t know much about him. But based on how Miles pretends to carry him around in his palm, he’s quite small, yet rather heavy, since Miles sometimes requires help lifting him. Ting-Ting’s quick, too, prone to go flying out car windows in the blink of an eye. He always comes back, though.

Frankly, I find Ting-Ting a bit of a nuisance. He’s always underfoot or on the chair I’m about to sit on — “Ting-Ting sit dere, Mommy!!” Sor-REE.

It’s pretty interesting, not to mention amusing, to watch a kid develop an imagination, though. It started with Miles shushing me when his stuffed animal was taking a nap. “Shhh! Doggie’s sleeping,” he’d whisper, covering his pooch with a blanket. Most of the time, I play along. Unless it gets annoying. Ting-Ting is getting annoying.

The whole vacation, people kept bringing him up, even when Miles had forgotten about him for an hour or two. “Where’s Ting-Ting?” they’d ask, smirking. Then we’d have to launch into a 20-minute pantomime about how Ting-Ting was crawling under someone’s shirt or taking a nap on the hammock. Enough, already, damn Ting-Ting!!

At least he doesn’t inflict bodily harm, though. I remember my friend E.M.’s son had an imaginary friend, Henry. “Henry’s allowed to kick his Mom,” Isaac would tell his own Mom. Apparently, Henry was also allowed to run amuck throughout the house, creating messes and staying up way past bedtime. Not exactly the kind of role model you want for your kid. Except how do you oust an imaginary friend?

TintinAnd where did Miles come up with the name Ting-Ting, anyway? Is he a distant relation of Tintin, the French comic book character? (Which, incidentally, is largely how I learned French.) Did he derive from the British pop group, The Ting Tings? (Who are not half-bad, BTW, but not anyone I’d heard of before I started Googling “ting ting.”)

I guess we’ll never know just what lurks in the depths of a child’s budding imagination. If he’s going to stick around for a while, I wonder if I could convince Ting-Ting to do the dishes and fold the laundry?

SHOUT-OUT: A belated congrats to new moms L.V.C. and B.R., and their beautiful baby girls Sadie and Sarah!

8/10/08

Yay, Michael Phelps’ Mom!

AP photo

Baltimore’s very own Michael Phelps set a world record on Saturday in his first swimming event at the Beijing Olympics. And afterwards, he was focused on finding his mom in the stands. Awww…

I saw an interview with Debbie Phelps where she talked about how swimming was a great outlet for her very high-energy boy, who never stopped talking or asking questions. Hmmm, I know a kid like that… Think if we squeezed Miles into a tiny Speedo over his swim diaper and signed him up for swimming he could be in the 2020 Olympics?

I have to say, as someone who doesn’t normally get excited about televised sports, I have been riveted to the Olympics so far. Partly, it’s exciting that Phelps is from my own town. In fact, he’s practically my neighbor. He grew up several blocks up from us; C. has seen him at the neighborhood pizza place. Our dog may even have peed on his lawn before.

But really, I admire any world-class athlete. I felt a surge of patriotic pride watching the women beach volleyball players spike ball after ball into their opponents’ faces, even as I wondered whether their wedgies distracted them and had they ever considered wearing shorts. I watched wide-eyed as the male gymnasts with the tree-trunk biceps performed stunning physical feats, as I lay on the couch wondering if I should go for that second ice cream sandwich. (I did.)

And who knew so many of the athletes were mothers? Check out this cute photo gallery of Olympic moms with their babies. Like Dara Torres, the 41-year-old swimmer and mother of a 2-year-old. Where on earth does she find the energy to train? And does her husband count that as her “alone time”? Or weight lifter Melanie Roach, the 33-year-old mother of 3, including an autistic son. Somehow, though, weight lifting doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for most moms.

I used to wish my parents had pushed me harder at sports. Then instead of being mediocre at a handful of sports, maybe I, too, could have been an Olympic contender. Oh, who am I kidding? I never had the build to be a serious gymnast. And I can barely swim half a lap. I might have had a shot at tennis, but who wants to practice 6 hours a day when there are boys and parties and the beach, thought my teenage self. Besides, being an Olympian has got to put a lot of pressure on a kid.

Even so, I can just picture Miles beaming with pride up on the podium one day, telling reporters that he owes his gold medal to the most supportive, most loving, most important person in his life, who made him the man he is today — his Mommy. Hey, a mom can dream!

LINK O’ THE WEEK: More cute pics of baby’s first Olympics.

ADDICTION O’ THE WEEK: Utz salt & pepper potato chips. No, they’re not getting me any closer to my Olympic dreams, but I can’t put them down!!

8/5/08

Month 27: Fear of the Family Vacation

Gone FishingVacationing with a small child is a risky undertaking. You might rue the day you ever booked your flight, or you may be pleasantly surprised at just how fun and relaxing your trip turns out to be. The kicker is, you never know which way it’ll go until you’re already too far from home to bail out.

Things did not look good for us the day before departure. The lady who takes care of our dog called to say she’d broken her leg and had to cancel. We called every kennel in the metropolitan area to find that they were a) booked solid or b) charged quadruple our regular rate. No way were we taking our carsick-prone pooch with us. Thank goodness for our fabulous friends T. & T. who agreed to dog sit. We owe them a lifetime supply of adult beverages.

Then, our neighbor stole our car. Wait, that’s not entirely accurate. Because C. and I are too nice and/or total morons, we agreed to loan one of our 2 cars to a neighbor in need. However, there was a miscommunication. We thought she was borrowing the car for a 24-hour period beginning when we handed her the keys. However, she understood that to mean any 24-hour period she felt like within a week.

By the third day, we were panicked. We had last-minute errands to run and we were about to leave the state for a week. And did I mention we had no way of contacting our neighbor? She finally called the night after we thought she was returning the car to say she was just around the corner. Super. Because we’re in Delaware. Lesson learned…

So anyway, we made the 6-hour drive to my parents’ house in decent time. Since we have never, ever pulled off “the transfer” (e.g., from carseat to crib), Miles woke up when we got there, realized it was dark and he was in a strange place, and promptly freaked out. I ended up sleeping on the twin bed next to him for half the night, then going back & forth between our room and his for the rest of the night. Lucky for me, his grandmother was happy to take the morning shift.

The thing is, when my mom volunteered to take Miles when he woke up, I don’t think she realized the full ramifications of her offer. For instance, that means 6 a.m., not 7:30. And this boy doesn’t wake up slowly, quietly perusing the paper while you brush your teeth and make the coffee. No, he hits the floor at full speed and top volume, demanding milk, toys, and TV, and don’t you DARE make a bathroom stop first! Poor Gram didn’t know what hit her.

The rest of the week passed in a happy blur of beach, barbecues, croquet, mini golf, ice cream, and more ice cream. The other set of grandparents and various aunts, uncles, and cousins took over the majority of childcare duties, leaving C. and I free to nap, read, and go for bike rides. It was fabulous. Why did we ever move so far away from our families? Oh, right, the job thing.

The only glitch in the program was that Miles was having such a good time with his cousins that he couldn’t bear to tear himself away for naps and bedtime. He would sob forlornly every time, crying “Where da girls go?” as his beloved playmates bid him good night. It was heartbreaking.

And yet, we were all happy to come home to our own house at the end of the week. Miles missed his toys, I missed my bed. But I sure didn’t miss the 6 a.m. wake-up call: “Mommeeee!! I want MILK!”

READ O’ THE WEEK: I’ve got 2 this week, both fiction. My first pick is “The Zygote Chronicles,” by Suzanne Finnamore. It’s an easy-to-read, entertaining, and truthful account of a 30-something’s first pregnancy.

I also adored “Love Walked In,” by Marisa de los Santos. So many novelists seem to subscribe to the philosophy that the more serious and depressing the topic, the better the book. Happily, that’s not the case with these enjoyable reads.

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