Thursday, April 28, 2011

Messing with Your Kid, Part 2

Is it *wrong* that I convinced the toddler that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are BFF's who help each other out, since each of their busiest season is the other one's "off" season?

Hmm. Nooooooope.


Not.


At.


ALL!!


<cue maniacal laughter>

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Head-Scratcher

Sometimes I just have to surrender and admit I am outsmarted by someone who is 36 inches tall and can't wipe her own bottom.

Her sense of comedic timing is UNREAL. I am actually in awe-- and I don't say that about many things.

The other day, I asked Monkey to tell me her full name (something they will work on on preschool, but we're practicing now).


Her response, with all sincerity:

"Wal-Mart."


I did the Chester Cheetah head shake-- I mean, we hardly ever even GO there; "Target" would be much more common.  So, I asked again.


"Ladybug."


With an impish grin, she got it right on the third try.


...We are, of course, now referring to her as Wal-Mart.

Love,
Mommy

Friday, April 15, 2011

Purell Me, Please

I'm noticing a lot of my funnier conversations with my daughter seem to take place in the car. Not sure why... maybe because that is uninterrupted, enclosed time we spend together.

I usually let her begin the conversation, to see what's on her goofy little mind. Yesterday, it was a running checklist of, "Do we eat _____?" Things like trees, cars, and shoes were debated. (Broccoli got a yes.)

In a lull, I asked her if she knew her full name, since we've been working on that. She fired right back with Monkey Doodle Rockstar. <insert real name here; you get the point>

I gave her a big YAYYY and a high five, which is hard to do from the driver's seat but made possible by the fact that we were at a red light.


One-point-three seconds after the high five, I hear:

"Um, Mommy? Do we eat boogers?"

me: NO! Eww. Gross.


Monk: Ummm... do we PLAY with boogers?

me: NO!

Monk: No? Hmmm...


me: Wait?!-- was there-- did you just put a BOOGER on my hand?


Monk: Um... no??? <evil giggles>


me: Oh, FOR THE LOVE OF GAWD!! AAAAGGGH! <searches frantically for the hand sanitzer>

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Busy Little Kid

We've been working with Monkey to establish goals and give her some kind of time-frame reference. Anyone who has a toddler can understand that when you say "in a little while" to a toddler, he/she is going to ask you in exactly 42 seconds whether that means NOW. I don't like to drink during the day, so I had to figure out another option.

She's inquisitive, and of course wants to do EV.ER.Y.Thing we do. Like, now. Not wanting to stifle her sense of adventure and potential to learn for herself, as long as it's not likely to end in a trip to the ER, I will generally let her try whatever she's asking.

Alas, some things DO have to wait. Like when she said she can drive Mommy's car.

I tried to explain she's too little, so it's not safe (leaving out the part that my heart does jacknife triple-twists at the thought of her behind the wheel, even when she does get old enough). Plus, she has a battery-powered Mustang car (courtesy of her awesome godparents) that she does kind of drive... if you call changing radio stations while flooring the gas pedal, and NOT STEERING, driving. Come to think of it she's probably ready for Chicago highways...

But anyway, we've established that there are some things she just can't do, because she's too little now.

Turned out to be a gold mine. She took that to mean she better start growing if she wants my car keys. THAT translates to doing the things we've taught her will help her grow: eating good food and getting good sleep.

I am so proud of myself for creating that loop of logic. It is *SO* paying off. Woo hoo, ME.


Thus, heading home from the sitter's the other day, Monkey asked if she could drive. Um, no. I want to GET home, thanks!

So we strap her in and get rolling. She chatted about random things for a few minutes. Then came this:


Monkey: Ok, so I need to start gwowing and gwowing so I can drive da big people car.

me: Yep, that's true.


Monkey: Hmm. Wight. Annd, annd, and, I wanna pwactice my wetters. I can do numbers too.

me: Yes, you'll need some practice. We can work on that.


Monkey: Annnnd...if I gwow, I will get bigger dan X? (her 5yo friend, who is little for his age but makes up for it with serious swagger)

me: Quite possibly. (They weigh almost the same now.)


Monkey: Will I get bigger dan Mommy?

me: Possibly. (I'm really short.)


Her little face all scrunched up in concentration, she pondered these answers for a minute. Then:


Monkey: OK.  <sigh> I gotta do my wetters, and pwactice numbers. Gotta get bigger than X. Bigger dan Mommy. I need to do wots of gwowing.

<big pause>


M: Uh, Mommy? I got *WOTS* of stuff to do. <very, very serious>



M: Mommy? Why are you waughing??

<3

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Love and Loss

So, here it is. THE Day.

Two years ago today, my brother had what looked like a typical day. He probably slept in a bit, after a late night at his best friend's house for a non-Easter-ish Easter. He spent some time on his computer, interacting with online friends. He talked to a few of them on the phone, ate dinner, and sat down to watch TV.

Sometime after 11:30 PM he fell asleep on the couch. Without the CPAP he used for sleep apnea; it was in the bedroom.

He never woke up.

The chain of events from April 11th through April 23rd are etched forever in my heart. Time is supposed to heal these wounds, but so far I don't see that happening.

It's now been two years since the world lost an amazing man. He often described himself as an asshole, but I think it was a smoke screen. Behind the gruff exterior and bitingly sarcastic wit, there was a man whose tenderness scared him just as it endeared him to those lucky enough to see it.

I am blessed to have had his love, support, trust, and protection for the first 34 years of my life.

Monkey--the miracle child who doctors told me would probably never be here-- was the light of his universe. His spitting image, complete with the sense of humor and impish grin, even at only seven months of age. She adored him, as most kids did. He was so beyond love for her. She changed everything.

Her mere existence created the relationship with my brother I'd always hoped to have. We'd spent so many years apart, just doing our own things. She gave us a new level of connection, a new sense of family, and an easy way to bond. We talked because we WANTED to, not because it's-your-birthday-so-I'm-calling-you.

Today, now two years after her uncle left this world, Monkey is a vibrant and amazing toddler. She has already shown a knack for storytelling, just like her uncle. She has an unbelievable sense of comedic timing and enjoys making funny sounds and "impressions" (such as singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" as Cookie Monster, which sounds remarkably like thrash metal).

There is so much of him in her, in her spirit and spunk and FEROCIOUS sense of independence.

I will miss him all the days of my life, just as I will love my amazing little girl. It is impossible not to draw parallels.

In the strangest demonstration of irony, the loss of my only brother has filled my life with people I would never have met--or certainly, not have become so close to-- who now form the safety net of love and support that has been keeping me from completely collapsing into the void in my life from losing him.

Friends of the family I'd lost contact with came to the memorial service. We reconnected, and they are now a seamless extension of my primary family. Monkey spends her days with them while her dad and I are at work, and I am eternally grateful for that.

My brother's extremely close group of friends--together since kindergarten--have accepted me as their surrogate little sister. Monkey *IS* their niece. She is surrounded by their love and support and immersed in their shared history and love for my brother.

Counselors advise that to move on from a devastating loss, you must find the positive and cling to that. I am trying, SO very hard, to do just that. Some days are better than others.


Today is hard.


So...if you are lucky enough to wake up tomorrow morning, be grateful for that gift.

* Share your time and thoughts and feelings and talents--both with the people you love, and absolute strangers.

* Take nothing for granted, because life is short, and people leave us far too soon, far too often.

* LIVE each day. LOVE each day. Tell the important people in your life what they mean to you.

* Eat dessert.

* Hug your kids. Call your parents.

* Kiss your honey goodnight. AND good morning.

* Remember what matters. Let go of what doesn't.

* Know that no one is ever REALLY gone, if those left behind keep him/her in their hearts.

...Likewise, no one is ever really HERE, if you don't allow yourself to fully feel, and live, and love... and lose.

<3

Friday, April 8, 2011

Countdowns

Usually, counting down implies something big is coming: the start of a brand new year, the launch of a rocket, the implosion of an old building via carefully placed incendiary devices.

Countdowns signal the end of something, and if you are optimistic, the start of something else.

I've always been overly focused on dates. I recall the dates of a lot of events, major and minor. It's just a quirk. I'm really good with buying birthday cards on time.

Though a significant date often comes up in retrospect (Hey, yesterday was the 24th-- that's the day I saw my first concert)...sometimes they loom large in expectation. Each tear-off calendar page brings me closer to that landmark date.

Right now I am in countdown to The Day Everything Changed.

The day I found out my only brother was dead.

It will be two years on 4/16 that I got the phone call from my parents I never saw coming. There was no countdown then.

There was no clear warning that these would be the days of "the lasts"... the last time I saw him, the last time we talked on the phone, the last time we would know, for certain, that he was alive.

He died sometime between 11 PM on Monday, 4/13/2009 and early Tuesday morning, 4/14. For days, we didn't even know... and that's the hardest part of all. He died alone, and we found out days afterward, in a manner much more fitting to an episode of CSI than what you actually think is even possible in real life.

My brother was a fairly solitary person who interacted with the family on his own terms. Often, that meant several days would go by without email or phone contact. He lived alone in his apartment. At the time of his death, he was not employed. He'd been offered a teaching position which was to start in January, but had some health issues and had to postpone starting until the following quarter. He never saw the start of that quarter.

I am trying to move past my fixation on the calendar days right now, and stop ticking off the "lasts" that happened now two years ago. Because, the biggest one is coming, and it still hurts just as much in 2011 as it did in 2009.

My brother is a big part of the reason I started writing again. An accomplished writer with a Master's in Creative Writing, he taught college-level creative writing and composition. He had a true passion for, and taught, SciFi; he forbade his students to call it "science fiction" because "SciFi" sounds better. You have to say it with the attitude, too.

In his absence, his writings are what we have left. That is how we can share him with his only niece, who was only seven months old when he died. How ridiculous that she changed his entire world, and they only got seven freaking months together. What a kick in the teeth.

My hope is that through the things he wrote, Monkey can get some sense of who her uncle was. His humor, wit, intelligence, and fierce loyalty to those he loved shines through his writing.

We have also built strong ties with the friends who were his extended family, and together as a family united in grief, we keep him alive in our hearts. We show Monkey, day in and day out, that he was HERE, and he was like no one else on earth, and how he loved her like no one else in *his* world, and that her tiny little infant self and wry smirk-- so eerily like his-- brought him more joy in seven months than he'd had in the thirty-seven years before she arrived.

(He'd be really irritated with the length of that last sentence, by the way.)

But still... none of what we can do now can change the fact that he's NOT here with us.

Two years ago this Monday, 4/11, will mark the last time I spoke with my only brother. I am eternally grateful that our conversation ended with hope for the future, as I had just finalized my divorce and was in a horrible job situation... but changes were coming and I was hopeful.

He listened, like he always did. We *celebrated* on that day, because I had just received my Social Security card officially signalling the change back to my maiden name. I was on my way back to being *ME* again, not the stranger I'd become to try to fit in with my ex-husband's society-snob family. I was me, again.

He was the first person I called when I opened that envelope to revel in my new card with the old name. He was so happy for me; I was so glad to have his support. We ended that conversation with, "I love you," and, "I love you, too."

I am eternally grateful those were the last things we told each other.

I am, however, still heartbroken that it was nearly two years ago.

I miss him... Every single day.

The countdown continues, to the day that changed all of us forever.

...To the start of this "new normal," which is ever so empty without the one person who would have most enjoyed the ride.

...To the realization that his friends are all now in their forties and he will forever be 38...not even 42, which would have seemed so much more appropriate.

The calendar looms at me as these days count down...

Fun with Nature

Our path home from the babysitter's house goes past some nature preserves. Monkey's appreciation for nature is, like most things, unique and endlessly entertaining.

There's a patch of forest that's the start of the nature preserve. Courtesy of a song my mom made up to sing to her as an infant, Monkey always looks for the "monkeys in the trees." Because, well, there are TREES. So, obviously, there should also be monkeys. Duh.

This has morphed into somehow looking for *Daddy* in the trees. Not sure if she's calling Daddy a monkey or just having fun with it, but every day we pass those trees and she asks me if Daddy's in the trees... then she giggles like a lunatic.

The latest addition to this routine involves a stoplight near a clearing in the forest. (Chicago suburbs are good for that kind of juxtaposition.) It's spring, and the robins and other feathered critters swarm that field every day. It seems to be a very social dinner time for the birdies. Monkey is always excited when we catch a red light there so she can watch them.

Yesterday's interaction:

Monkey: Ooh, dere's a lotta birdies dere. What are they doing?

me: Well, it's dinnertime for them too. They're eating.

Monkey: But, what do they eat? Broccowwi?

me: Uh, not likely. Birds eat worms and seeds and berries.

M: EEW *worms*?!! But, not *those* worms.

me: Is there something special about those worms?

M: YESSS!! Dey're TALKING worms!!

me: Ooh, talking worms-- cool. What do talking worms say?


<big pause>

M: "We're WORMS!"

...ask a stupid question... LOL

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Messing with Your Kid

This whole Mommy title carries an air of grown-uppish-ness (ha ha) that sometimes I have to admit, I absolutely LACK. I can be a complete failure of a grown-up, probably more often than not.

I laugh when someone farts. Nearly every time.

I also laugh when people fall down, as long as they aren't really hurt. Let's face it: with my complete lack of natural grace, *I* am usually the faller. And, I bounce, so it's all cool.

So of course if the toddler lobs one up...99% of the time, I *AM* going to spike it. I have to. It's just who I am.

I have recently noticed that this mirth-seeking, Tiggeriffic trait seems to be rubbing off on my significant other.

*He* normally tends to be much more of a grown-up. He buys stamps, and thinks of things like getting the car tuned up and whether those leftovers are sprouting deadly mold colonies and lots of important, mature stuff like that. So when he does let loose with a little immature fun, I am the first in line to give him the rah-rah, GO YOU! cheer. It's rare and beautiful and thus makes me feel like less of a tool.

Case in point:

Monkey has loved phones since day one. The first toy she ever grabbed for and held on her own was a phone-shaped rattle (with which she had a peculiar love/hate relationship). Ev.er.y.THING becomes a phone: shoes, goldfish cracker cases, remote controls, whatever. If she's without a prop, she will just hold her hand to her ear and start having animated, one-sided conversations, complete with the hand gestures.

So a week or so ago, we're rolling off to church on Sunday morning. Monk's in her car seat, Daddy's driving and I'm riding shotgun as usual. He and I were chatting to each other, and she's chatting to herself, when I tune into what Monkey's actually saying: she is on on another pretend phone call, apparently to The Princesses, figuring out who will and will not be in the nursery for playtime today. She's going on about how very busy she is, and every other phrase is, "Oh, YEAH! I know-- wait, hold on."

There's the lob... Imagine my glee when *Daddy* spiked it, by inserting the unmistakeable BEEP tone of call waiting.

Here's what followed.

Monkey: Uh, Daddy?! Stop doing that.
Daddy (smirking): Stop what? ...I'm not doing anything.

M: That... that... BEEPING! Stop dat.
D: Not me, honey. I think it's your phone. <pause>.... BEEEEEP

M: UGhhggggghh!!! STOP DAT.
D: What? I think you have another call.

M: Ok. I am reawwy mad at you right now.

D: BEEEEEEEP

(At this point, I am convulsing with quiet laughter, though trying to hide it.)

M: Mommy!!!... Why are you bouncing wike dat?

(Didn't say I was *good* at hiding it.)

D: BEEEEEEEEP
M: UUGUGGGGGHHH!! STOP! DAT! BEEPING!!!

Mommy: Hey, uh...maybe you should answer your other line?

<A large pause. An even larger sigh.>

M: ...Dat... is NOT.  FUNNY. OK? <crosses arms and grunts angrily>

(No further conversation, as Daddy and Mommy could no longer breathe from laughter.)

I freely confess: I am an immature dillweed who is still laughing at this.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mommy Guilt

I apparently suck at blogging. Not enough time, too much to do, yadda yadda. Nod along if you get the drift.

Lately I have been crushed by fears that I'm not doing things right... not getting enough quality fun time with my child, or my partner, or myself, or really much of anything good.

I've always been what you'd call "driven." The A student who was in every club/show/musical group (though only one sport, since I am barely able to walk and talk simultaneously). The college leader. The friend people go to when they are in a mess and need the voice of reason.

So... why can't I get my child to understand that I am *NOT* able to zip (or unzip) her coat while she is strapped in her carseat in the back, and I am driving in the front seat? <sigh>

It could be that Monkey has finally succumbed to the pitfalls of being a "normal" two-year-old. But she's not really been "normal" so far. We got two full years of her always been so easygoing and easily soothed, that this new era of meltdowns and outbursts is a total sucker punch from like, the Tooth Fairy. You HEAR of it existing but you never directly see it.

Until, suddenly... you *do.* And she's on the floor flat-out LOSING HER DAMN MIND, and I'm just blown away by the WTF factor.

I know the choices I make as a mother are helping to teach Monkey that you can't, in fact, always get what you want. And, I KNOW these little battles are for the greater good of encouraging her to become a person who does not demand things from others. I know that she at least is hearing *some* of what I say...sometimes.

That does not make it any easier when she's purple-faced and screaming and one breath short of puking from snot and the crying and the anger she doesn't yet know how to handle. I fear I'm not handling it well, either.

Then she looks at me like I have all the answers in the world.

Oh, I wish that were true.

Monkey Quote of the Day (Week?)

We have recently discovered that Monkey is what I have termed a "stuffer"... she has discovered that there is sometimes a pocket area created by her diaper. So, why not put things in it?

Maybe she is preparing for a future career as a magnificent plumber. I'm really not sure.

What I DO know is that we've had several incidents of actually having to tell her, "Don't put things in your bottom!"

Not a phrase I ever imagined uttering, and I have said it more than once. In the past week.

Her babysitter/daycare provider/gift of God has told me she's been stumped by this behavior. Having her own 5 year old son, and also caring for her 5 year old nephew and 2 year old niece, this stuff is kinda old hat for her. However, Monkey is officially the first child in her care to explore such uncharted territory. It's certainly uhh... different.

I was helping Monkey in the potty the other day (at pick-up time) when the sitter relayed yet another stuffing incident that had happened.

Exasperated, I just shook my head at Monkey.

Who ever-so-sweetly, and in ALL sincerity, asked me:
"Mommy, why do I put toys in my butt?"

I gave the only reply I could muster: "Honey, for the life of me, I Do. NOT. Know."

Meanwhile, the babysitter had to go to another room to stifle the howls of laughter.

...and the Parenting Train to Insanity rolls on...chugga chugga CHOO CHOO!!

Awesomeness,
Mommy