Thursday, December 27, 2007

She of a Hundred Fathers

We are having an odd little problem with the kid. One thing we have learned about two-year-olds is that they often misinterpret or misunderstand stuff. I mean, she is learning about the world around her at lightning pace so you have to cut her a little slack, right? We can live with the fact that she calls potatoes "botatoes" and volcanoes "bolcanoes." (Don't ask me why she has the constant need to talk about bolcanoes, but she does.) But what we are having a harder time handling is the fact that she calls strangers "Mommy" and "Daddy." Somewhere along the way she seems to have decided that all adults can be called by these general titles. Women "of a certain age" get called Grandma.

She just seems to have weird ideas in her head. If you are wearing a dress or skirt, you are a princess. If you have something on your head, it's your birthday. If you are an adult male, you are Daddy. Convincing A otherwise is proving to be quite a challenge. Now, she knows that all these strangers are not her parents. She calls us Mama and Dada. But the strangers don't know that. The other day at Toys R Us we were exchanging a DVD. She handed the new DVD to the store manager who was handling our exchange. "Here you go, Daddy!" she said cheerfully. This type of exchange (which is becoming painfully common in our daily lives) is typically followed by some nervous smiles/laughter/confusion. Sometimes I try to explain and other times I just pretend I didn't hear her.

Explaining familial relationships is another challenge. When we visited my parents last month, I tried to explain to A that her Granddaddy is my Dad. She got mad and insisted that no, he's HER father. Obviously she is far too young to understand how creepy and disturbing that particular scenario would be.

For now I guess she will continue to call strangers by awkwardly intimate titles and her actual parents will just pray that this phase is mercifully short. Of course, there are days when her toddler behavior is such that for just a moment, I am tempted to hand her over to the next person she dubs Daddy and offer to send child support.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Chaos

It's all over but the shouting. This was A's third Christmas and she definitely got into it this year, even if she didn't exactly understand everything that went on (she kept asking Santa for goofy stuff like candy canes, not realizing she could ask for something more elaborate and have a good chance at getting it). As usual my mom went way overboard and sent a gazillion gifts (including a princess flashlight, which was a huge hit). The kid was on overload all day on Christmas. As usual she refused to nap and by late afternoon she was so tired that she was delirious (I think she may have been hallucinating and speaking in tongues at that point).

We had four days of family togetherness (including one snowstorm that prevented us from leaving the house altogether). At some point A started singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" which is great except that she always misses a line. After "and they shouted out with glee" she goes back to "then one foggy Christmas Eve . . ." This essentially means that she was caught in an infinite loop. The song went on for several days.

The kid also participated in her first stage production on Sunday - a Christmas play at church. She played an elf (an elf who wanders around aimlessly, apparently). I don't think she full understood that she was IN the play, as she kept wandering off the stage and shouting "Hi, Mama!" periodically. Nonetheless, I have to say that she was an excessively cute elf.

We are still struggling to find room in A's bedroom for all of her new stuff. Santa, who doesn't have a lot of foresight sometimes, bought her a Go, Diego, Go rescue center. (P set aside some of his tips from his bartending job and went shopping all by himself like a big boy!) Anything with a lot of pieces and/or Play-Doh went straight to the top of her closet. (Yes, I will let her play with them, but only under close supervision.)

I have another four-day weekend coming up for New Year's, which means more togetherness (and more attempts at housebreaking our child). I need to de-Christmasify the house, too. I just have no tolerance for Christmas stuff once the day itself has passed. I also need to move out all the sweets and stuff. I need to weigh in at Weight Watchers on Saturday and I have a feeling that it ain't gonna be pretty.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Housebreaking, Day 1

We gave up on telling her that Mrs. Potato Head's glasses are only for Mrs. Potato Head.

I can't say that Day 1 was exactly a rousing success. I did manage to drag myself to a Weight Watchers meeting yesterday morning, so that's one noteworthy accomplishment for the day. There were only about 10 people there. I predict that after New Year's the joint will be standing room only.

After Weight Watchers I took A to a local book store for story time. She lasted through about two or three stories and then wandered off to poop her pants (this always happens - I don't know if it's that her body is well regulated or if there is something about the bookstore that gets her bowels moving). I decided to buy her a potty book. I chose one that shows human kids (as opposed to ducks and other animals that were sitting on the potty in some of the books) in case that might somehow inspire her.

On the way home she was "reading" the book in the backseat. I stopped at a light and out of the corner of my eye I saw the book hit the floor. I had the distinct impression that she had pitched it. I said, "Pie, did you just throw that book or did you accidentally drop it?" She looked at me very solemnly and replied, "I accidentally threw it." I didn't really have a response for that one.

After dinner we took off her diaper and followed her around the house with her toilet. We asked her about 4,789 times if she needed to go potty. She held her output until 8 p.m., at which time we needed to go ahead and get her in her pajamas and put her to bed. The only thing we really accomplished is that this little exercise taught us that the kid is technically capable of controlling her bodily functions.

We'll keep plugging away at it, but I think we have a rough road ahead of us. At the end of the day I'm usually left with this vague feeling that I've lost the battle AND the war.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Le Chuck de La Cheese

Yesterday I did another one of those "things I said I'd never do." I took the kid to Chuck E. Cheese. A's daycare closed early yesterday so I took a 1/2 day off. First we hit the food court at the mall for lunch. She made me sit at one of those miniature tables meant for kids (because, well, she is one). She sat in one chair, Teddy Bear sat in another chair, and I was instructed to sit in the remaining chair. We had a nice little lunch. I had it in the back of my head that I would take her to Chuck E. Cheese if she exhibited good behavior, but decided not to tell her about it until I had witnessed a sufficient amount of said behavior.

Near the food court some kids from a local school were collecting for the Salvation Army. The school specializes in educating kids who have developmental disabilities (I apologize if that is not the correct terminology). I gave A a couple dollars to give them and one of the girls gave her a sucker and wished her a Merry Christmas. You know what I think is so cool about little kids? They don't yet notice that other people are different. I don't know when that sort of thing expires, but it definitely does. I wish it didn't.

We then stopped at Gymboree and picked up a Christmas dress off the clearance rack (she already has a Christmas dress at home, but then I realized that she has more holiday events coming up than one dress can possibly accommodate). Finally we made a quick stop at Yankee Candle, where the flamboyant male manager praised me on my choice of the "red apple wreath" scent and then tried to sell me everything from a car freshener to kindling. The thing is, if I wanted any of those things, I would have brought them to the counter. That's kinda how it works.

When we got to the car, I asked the kid, "Guess where we're going?" She said, "The store." So I said, "No . . . CHUCK E. CHEESE!" Well, she screamed as joyfully as if I'd just said we were boarding a flight to Disney World right that second.

As it turns out, 2:00 p.m. on a weekday is probably the best time to hit the joint. There was no one there. In fact, when we got there the manager was playing a game and it took several minutes to get his attention (we couldn't just wander in - we had to get our hands stamped in case someone would try to abduct me and separate me from my daughter while we were there).

So, $10.00 and 127 hard-earned tickets later I had a happy kid who in turn had: a sugar buzz, a monstrous pink plastic ring, four Tootsie Rolls, and a "fun dip" candy.

All in all, it was a good afternoon. Our "mother-daughter-togetherness" glow started to dissipate shortly after our return home, however. Her refusal to take a nap + too many sweets + too much stimulation = complete and utter breakdown. I told her I needed to change her diaper, so she ran from me and fell, slamming her head into the metal aquarium stand. The rest of the evening proceeded in the same vein, until she demanded her 457th viewing of Shrek 2. I would rather gnaw off my own arm than watch Shrek 2 again, what are you gonna do?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Being a kid - it's all good

Yesterday I took the kid to a local museum to see a Christmas exhibit currently on display. Apparently a local department store (which closed long before we moved here) was known for having amazing window displays during the holiday season. The museum has custody of all the old stuff and trots it out every year. There are all sorts of animatronic dolls and animals. I figured the kid would dig it, so we stopped by.

When we got there the no-nonsense lady at the front desk told me that it would be $4.00 for me and that the short one is a "free child." I said, "Oh yeah, she's a free child alright," and the lady just looked at me like I was a jackass.

So anyway, we climbed the stairs to the second floor where the Christmas displays live. I hadn't told A that Santa Claus would be there. I thought he was supposed to be there from 12-3 but I hadn't talked it up just in case I'd gotten the time wrong or something. A saw the window displays right away and was pointing at stuff and demanding that I follow her.

And then she saw him. It was one of those priceless moments of childhood that you wish you had on video. She stopped in her tracks, wide-eyed, and jumped up and down, practically vibrating with excitement. "SAAAAANTAAAAAA!" As luck would have it, this was a pretty good Santa (real beard and all). She sat in his lap for a few moments and then he gave her a candy cane pencil (which I eventually confiscated - I don't really want her putting her eye out this close to Christmas).

Santa asked her what she wanted and she couldn't come up with anything. Does this mean my kid is spoiled? What kind of kid can't come up with a single toy she wants? Preferably one that comes with 150 pieces and decals, is made in China, has a moderate amount of lead, and takes a month of Sundays for her parents to put together?

Oh, I almost forgot Bruce the Spruce. This was another featured exhibit at the museum. Bruce the Spruce is a large artificial tree that talks. Don't tell anyone, but I figured out the secret. There is a person inside the tree. I immediately noticed that the person voicing Bruce yesterday has, in all likelihood, a vagina. It was kinda creepy to hear a chick's voice coming out of a Spruce named Bruce. So we didn't linger too long there. The kid didn't really get the whole concept anyway.

Friday, December 14, 2007

No, I'm pretty sure I smell it . . .

An add-on to yesterday's blog entry . . .

I'd like to describe last evening for you. P was working, so it was just me and the kid (plus the dogs and everyone else who lives here). I have a food day at work today, so we made brownies together. At some point A decided that she'd like to have a go at the potty. She stripped down and sat on the potty for a little while, shredding toilet paper and just generally making a mockery of the whole process. Because I am a lunatic, I decided to put some Dora "big girl" panties on her in lieu of a diaper. I repeatedly reminded her that her bodily waste goes in her potty and not on Dora.

Then she decided that she'd like to play with some Play-Doh. This particular activity keeps her occupied longer than just about anything else, so I decided that it wasn't the worst idea I'd ever heard. I'd do some cleaning, and she'd grind Play-doh into the carpeting in her room. A win-win!

I recently learned, however, that my Boxer, Gideon, eats Play-Doh. Not wanting to separate A from her potty, I put it in her room and put a baby gate across the door to keep Giddy out. For a short while, it appeared that my plan was working like a charm. She has a CD player in her room so I even popped in a Christmas CD for her.

After a few minutes I checked on her. She was sculpting pizza with her Play-Doh. Then I noticed that she had drawn her legs up under her body and was sitting on her feet, which I found a bit odd. Something was wrong, oh so . . . wrong.

"Did you pee in your Dora underwear?"

And then I smelled it. Oh, no. Oh, yes. I lifted her up and saw half a dozen little turdlets on her blue plastic chair. The rest were still in her panties.

I mean, technically, she was correct. She had indeed NOT peed. But somehow this seemed so much worse.

I put her in a diaper and proceeded to clean up the mess. I scrubbed out her underwear as Harry Connick crooned "When My Heart Finds Christmas." I mean, holiday moments don't get any more special than that.

Right at that moment, Karl started carrying on at the back door. Karl is my big, black, fluffy dog. He loves wintertime and often stays outside for a little while. I opened the sliding glass door to find that he was tangled in some garden fencing and had dragged the entire fence to the door with him.

So yeah, that was my evening. I hope you can contain your envy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"You do not smell poop"

Last night I was buzzing around the house, putting away laundry and whatnot. We were getting ready to take the kid to the mall to see Santa. I was laying out A's Christmas dress as she was playing with some of her Dora toys. All of a sudden she looked at me and randomly said, in a very authoritative voice, "Mama, you do NOT smell poop."

Technically, she was correct. I had not yet picked up the aroma. But what's with the Jedi mind trick? Apparently I was supposed to reply (in a robotic monotone, of course), "I do not smell poop," and go on my merry way. Nope, nobody here has crapped their pants. No sireeeee!

Little does she know, I am planning to work on potty-training her over Christmas and New Year's (I have two four-day weekends in a row so I'm hoping to have some spare time for once). I bought a potty-training book, which I am reading at a feverish pace. I bought her a book about poop (Everyone Poops), which she studies nightly. We have the potty itself. We have reward stickers. We have everything we need except for a truthful kid. ("Did you poop?" "No.") Wish me luck.

By the way, the Santa visit went off without a hitch! A wore her pretty Christmas dress. She hopped in Santa's lap, gave him a high-five, chatted with him, and accepted two large candy canes from the guy in red. We paid $40 for a couple of photos, the kid guarded the candy canes with her life, and we were on our way within minutes. This event was in stark contrast to last year's Santa visit, where our screaming toddler (then only 1 1/2) screamed as though St. Nick had tried to saw off her legs with a rusty blade. Falalalalalala!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It's Cute When It's Sleeping

Look at that face, will ya? All day long she drives us to the very edge of our sanity and then when she is sleeping we think, "Well, how cute is she?" Is this one of those "what prevents us from eating our young" deals? Yesterday she slammed doors, harassed the dogs, pitched 18 tantrums, made us watch Shrek 2 over and over, dumped out her toys everywhere and yet . . . we let her live another day.

Celebrating another day of wreaking havoc

On an unrelated note . . . last night I dreamt that I got trapped in a men's restroom. I was in a building somewhere and needed to use the facilities. Somehow I turned into the men's room instead of the ladies' room. It turned out that the men's room was this huge labyrinth of unending passageways. I kept asking for help and random men would point the way out, but it would only lead me to another row of stalls. At one point I turned a corner and found a group of men huddled together performing some sort of ritual. I guess my unconscious mind doesn't know what goes on in men's rooms, so it made stuff up. (Well, there was that one time I peed in a men's room in a gay bar in DC, but that's a story for another day.) In the dream I never did make it out of the men's room. What does it all mean????

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pocket Full of Posies . . . I Mean, Hard Liquor

Boy, sometimes the material just writes itself. My middle sister works in social services for the county in which she lives. Her exact job title is Human Service Worker II, which does leave itself open to interpretation. She either gives bee-jays or she helps people in need obtain government benefits - I always forget which. Anyway, for a staff meeting this week she was asked to report on a new product called Pocket Shots. She asked me if I had heard of them, and alas, I had not. I asked my fellow cubicle dwellers at work, and they were not familiar with them either. Our cluelessness could have something to do with the fact that we are all 30+, married, have young children, are boring, etc. Apparently the teenagers in my state know allllll about the Pocket Shots, however, hence the need for a report from the trenches. My sister and her fellow human service workers need to know what they're dealing with here.

If you check out the website for "Flask on the Fly" you'll notice some impressive marketing tactics there. My favorite quote is this one from the developer of this fine product: “We’re not just selling alcohol, we’re providing a fun and functional way to break out of the bottle that fits with an active and on-the-go lifestyle,” states Bachmann.

So, let's recap, shall we? What do busy people and sports enthusiasts need in their day? Hard liquor. Booze. Hooch. And they don't have time to stop for it either. They need convenient packaging and they need it now! Another page on the site gives you a list of activities during which you might need a Pocket Shot. My favorite entry is: swimming. I see that all the time at my local Y: people stop between laps, down a shot of rum, and keep on backstroking. The name of the product (Pocket Shots) seems to indicate that you keep said product in your, um, pocket. I started to think about where a swimmer might store a shot and my head nearly exploded.

I like to keep my liquor on the up-and-up, thankyouverymuch. None of this surreptitious crap for me. Hiding liquor makes you . . . an alcoholic, doesn't it? It's not even a step up from drinking cheap booze out of a paper bag. C'mon, have a little pride.

Monday, December 3, 2007

This Thing We Call Christmas

I'm feeling a little weird about Christmas this year. And yet, I'm excited because the season of giving and good cheer is upon us, and it's very cool to watch a two-year-old seeing it all anew (she doesn't remember last year, I'm sure).

To back up a bit . . . just over a year ago we left our old church. We attended a Congregational Church. The pastor was charismatic and the people there were nice. And yet . . .

There were three (or more) incidents along the way that caused me to flee.

1. One Sunday I was driving to church and noticed that the driver in front of me was trying to pass the car in front of him. This was a two-lane road and you're definitely not supposed to pass on it. I watched this guy fly through a stop sign and finally careen around the car in front of him (on a double-yellow line, no less). I kept thinking, "Wow, what a dick." And then I thought, "Oh geez, I'll bet he is headed to my church." Sure enough, he pulled into the parking lot just ahead of me (because terrorizing that other driver had earned him about five seconds extra). I didn't know this man but I did note that he was older and it occurred to me that he had probably been reading the Bible for many decades . . . and had learned a whole lot of nothing from it, apparently.

2. On another Sunday the sermon was given by a member of the choir (the pastor was out of town). He wasn't much of a speaker, but I did take note of one thing he said: "You can't pick and choose which parts of the Bible you believe." Ooops. Don't get me wrong - I think the Bible is an amazing document. The parables therein are full of important lessons. But, I rejected a literal interpretation of the Bible when I was a kid. Otherwise, I'd be taking up serpents and drinking poison. ("They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them." Mark 16:17-18). I love the story of Noah but at the same time it does require a willing suspension of disbelief, you know? (seriously, two of EVERY species fit on that boat????)

3. Finally, there was yet another Sunday when I found myself disturbed by the goings-on. Some of the kids from the congregation did a little skit about "sharing the good news of salvation." Towards the end, one of the girls dragged a non-believer off to Hell. The non-believer was yelling, "Why didn't you tell me? I could've been saved!" My beef with the skit was that if everyone who doesn't accept Jesus as their savior is going to Hell, what about the Buddhists, the Hindus, etc? I don't want my kid to think that those people are going to burn for all eternity. I'm not even sure I believe there is a Heaven and a Hell. I'm not even sure why I am capitalizing them!

Shortly after leaving that church, A and I started attending our local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Immediately I felt like I was in the right place. P does not go to church with us. I told him that he is welcome to attend a church of his choosing and that we can take turns bringing the kid. He doesn't seem interested. I don't bug him about coming to church with us - I want him to go because he wants to and not because I say, "Get up, we're going to church."

So, why am I feeling weird? One reason is that I can't look my daughter in the eye and say, "This I know is true." Because I don't know. All I can really do for her is take her to a place where she will have an opportunity to learn about many faith traditions (in her Sunday school class she gets to learn about everything from Judaism to Hinduism . . . but mostly she just colors and plays). If she grows up and wants to attend a strictly Christian church, I'm all for it. Why? Because I just want her to believe in something greater than herself (like God and working for social justice and banding together to help those who need help). The only thing I would have a problem with is if she turned out to be one of those nutjobs waving "God hates fags" posters at public events. I think I would probably disown her for something like that (cut her off from her massive inheritance, don't ya know). But, I am trying to raise her to be a free thinker and I can't really see her heading down such a narrow path.

The other reason is simply that I feel a bit hypocritical celebrating a holiday that doesn't have the same meaning for me anymore. I believe that Jesus was a great teacher and that following his example would make us all better human beings (and that his life is definitely worth celebrating). It's the savior part that I've left behind, and that's why I'm so confused about Christmas now. However, in talking with other UU members I started to realize that it's okay to celebrate in any way you choose. Many focus on a "winter solstice" type celebration. Others celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, AND Kwanzaa. The cool thing about being a UU is that you are welcome there no matter what your faith tradition is - some UU's identify themselves as Christian, some are agnostic, and many fall somewhere in between.

I'm kind of new to this stuff so I'm doing a lot of reading and feeling my way through. Before leaving my old church I always felt out of place. I felt like I was the only one who drinks a glass of wine (or two) on a Saturday night, or enjoys offbeat comedy, or who actually says bad words sometimes. I always think of comedian Jim Gaffigan's recent "Beyond the Pale" special. He describes being in church and attempting to immerse himself in prayer. He concentrates as hard as he can but all he can think of is: "Did I eat at Wendy's TWICE yesterday?"

I may take up this topic again in later blog posts because I feel like I have a lot of thinking to do. This is as far as I've gotten at the moment. :-)