Puppies are Way Easier than Babies

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Adorable puppy. And that foreground pattern is my new gym pants. Also adorable.

Big news in our family this week: we got a dog. Not even a dog, really, but a little, little puppy. And it has been so much poop-filled fun. She’ll appear here in the blog in her true name–Maisie–just like our fish Toothless before her (which reminds me to mention: Toothless died. I gave him a proper burial in the backyard under the Japanese maple tree. MI attended and we both said a few words. The girls didn’t notice for a week.)

Maisie is adorable and small and energetic and tired and hungry and mouthy and definitely not housebroken. And I completely love it! Having small boundless energy and curiosity and enthusiasm over the smallest things is something I needed around again, I think. Sure helps transition from the end of summer. She seems to blend in to our crew right away: she grabbed a piece of bacon her first morning in the house, loves (chewing) legos and My Little Ponies, and is always ready to snuggle (especially if she thinks she is displacing an attention competitor. Poor D2.)

We’re only a week in, so I cannot give an official puppy review yet, but I have been pleasantly surprised so far. Probably because lots of people told me that having a puppy was just like having another baby. Up at night, cleaning all the time, can’t go anywhere. So much work, they said.

She sleeps on one of the nice beach towels. I am a softie.
She sleeps on one of the nice beach towels. I am a softie.

Well, I have decided that either those people have never actually had babies, or they are way more involved dog parents than I am. Both, I think.

Here are the reasons I think having a puppy is SOOOO much easier than having a baby:

  1. She can already walk. There is no crying that she wishes she could roll over, that she could get that toy, that she was near where I am. She can walk–run and hop off of the back two porch steps, even–and so she just does all of those things. So much less movement frustration, so much less crying.
  2. She eats one kind of food, only three times a day, and I don’t have to make it in any way (let alone from scratch using my own body). She eats it in like 3 minutes and then gets herself a drink of water. She never spits it out, she never smears it through her hair, she never throws the bowl violently to the floor. In fact, in her puppy way, she says, “This is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Man, I am grateful to you.” every time. I give her half of a dog biscuit occasionally, which purportedly tastes like peanut butter and beef hide and is a whopping 2.5 calories, and she is on the moon.
  3. She doesn’t have to come with me. When I want to go to the grocery store and go fast or do my stock up trip, she doesn’t
    IMG_20151009_210920103
    Completely exhausted from a walk around the courtyard.

    come. Then I don’t have to deliberate slowly about fruit snacks, or admire all five types of available character band-aids, or teach the experiential lesson of how you should remove the apple from the top of the pile. She doesn’t need to play all of the musical birthday cards that cost $6 (who buys $6 birthday cards!?) or ask if she can have a mylar balloon shaped like R2D2. Because she doesn’t come–I leave her at home.

  4. I put her in her crate and go downstairs and watch TV. If she’s storming around theIMG_20151007_155514672 house, trying to eat other people’s legos or chewing on the bottom of the wall (yes, this happens. Baffled…) I can just put her in her exercise crate. Boom, I am back to making dinner or talking on the phone or sneaking downstairs to read important stories on Buzzfeed. She doesn’t always love it–she sometimes whines at first–but she has a bed and a bone and toys and it is completely legal. I give her a chew toy, pat her head, and head on down without feeling any terrible guilt. She’s usually asleep within two minutes. Plus, her yips are MUCH quieter than a child meltdown. I can easily block that decimal level out by now, sister.
  5. She loves me already. Maisie clearly recognizes how important I am and that I do everything in her life that she needs done. In as much as she can say thank you and “I love you” with tail wags and licks and lap cuddles, she does it all the time. Baby care was waaaay harder and for six months, I got a whole lotta nothing back about it. Rude.

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    Pet me? Pet me? Pet me?
  6. She will love me in ten years. With the dog, I am not bracing myself for the moment she needs me to drop her off a block away and depart with a firm handshake, like we’ve just completed a professional chauffeur interaction. After all, she licks herself in strange places and enjoys eating plastic, so she is unlikely to ever be embarrassed of me. Unless perhaps she is–but I won’t even have to know so because she can’t say anything about it. Insulted from rejection, loved forever. (I recently got some of the first “worst mom ever”s lately. Can you tell?)IMG_20151006_072329930

I am not trading my kids in to become a puppy lady (in part because I don’t think trade-ins are a thing in parenting) but I just wanted to go on the record as saying ‘Once you have (crazy) kids and learn how to laugh through everything and have fun and soak up only the love,’ a puppy seems to blend right in. Plus, did I mention she is ADORABLE?  And so fun.

Also, does anyone know how to make her pee outside?

–Lauren

Frosting, Raisins, Rabbits and Other Reasons My Kids Totally Lost It

My kids are in an emotionally volatile place.

Right now, because it is afternoon, but they don’t really nap anymore.

Later this afternoon, because they won’t have had dinner yet.

In the late evening because they ARE NOT TIRED.

Tomorrow, because it will be a school day.

And, just generally, because they are children.

I haven’t decided if all of the sobbing is because they are deranged, emotional messes who cannot yet control themselves, or because they are still in touch with the true meaning of life and capable of feeling deeply and so expressing without shame.

Either way, they are exhausting, but often hilarious at the same time.

Reasons, of late, my kids have completely lost it:

  1. I put golden raisins in the Amazeballs.Amazeballs
  2. She remembered–after waking up in the dead of the night–that the piece of cake she was given at her classmate’s birthday party last week fell over on its side and she couldn’t see the frosting.

    The horror
    The horror
  3. I unzipped her dress when it was stuck over her head. (She could have done that herself.)
  4. I did not come immediately to help when it turned out she could NOT do it by herself.
  5. I said that we would never get a pet rabbit.
  6. I explained *why* we would never get a pet rabbit–they like to hop freely in the green grass with their families–and she cried that other people could be so cruel as to keep pet rabbits.pet rabbits
  7. I told her that her shoes were on the wrong feet.
  8. I threw away her broken Easter basket in July.
  9. Her sister sprayed her with the hose when they were outside, naked, playing with the hose.
  10. I said she could not have pasta for breakfast.
  11. I played the Kidz Bop version of “Shake It Off,” instead of the real version by Taylor Swift.
  12. I took the HOV lane, when she wanted to follow the red car in the slow lane.
  13. Today is Tuesday. She hates Tuesday.
  14. Her sister forgot to refer to her by her pretend name of “Disney Toy Collector.”
  15. I would not drink the fairy pond water in the pink plastic teacup that was “just for me.”
  16. D2: The cupcakes should be purple.IMG_20150315_115608242
    Ella: The cupcakes should be pink.
    D2: The cupcakes HAVE TO BE PURPLE.
    Ella: Purple gives me a headache!
    D2: No it doesn’t–and grandma already told me they could be purple.
    Ella: If they are purple, I will not eat them. Not. at. all.
    D2: Fine, I will eat them all myself because purple is my favorite.
    Ella: Mooooooom, its not fair! She said she was going to eat ALLL the cupcakes.
  17. She begged to go to gymnastics camp, so I signed her up for gymnastics camp, and then made her go to gymnastics camp.
  18. Her mermaid doll can not stand up by itself on the tip of its tail.
  19. Her book does not stand upright in the carseat cupholder.
  20. I threw away the pink pig she made yesterday out of a paper dinner plate. (Apparently it was a special pig that we were supposed to keep forever.)
  21. She asked me if we could move to Florida, and I said, “Not today.”
  22. I decided to wear slacks to work instead of a dress.

Guest Post! Master Class to Admiring Any Baby

(regardless of what the baby actually looks like)

Let’s be honest, a lot of babies look vaguely creepy. There are many exceptions, but unfortunately most proud parents are (rightfully) oblivious to the fact that their newborn primarily bears resemblance to an alien. Since perfectly attractive people can have very odd-looking babies, you need to be prepared with a socially acceptable way to respond to any baby photo that is independent of the photo subject.

Step 1: tone of voice.

Your voice should always be positive, upbeat, and admiring when looking at baby photos.

Step 2: filler words.

The first time I ever look at someone’s child I start with an “awwww” while I think of something more specific to praise. It’s non-committal and generally accepted as an outward expression of how cute the photo is, even if inside you are thinking “awwww, that poor kid is going to have a tough time in middle school” or “awwww, shit, how am I going to say something nice about this kid?”

I’ve also found an effusive “oh my goodness” to be an acceptable alternative. “Wow” fills the same role but gives you less time to think. Find a word or phrase you’re comfortable with that will buy time.

See step 1 about tone. All of these responses are tonally dependent.

step 3: avoiding gender.

Most of the time the baby’s gender will be obvious (by name, by the parent’s pronoun use, by all the sonogram pictures that were posted to Facebook for seven months…), but there are some circumstances in which gender is unclear and for whatever reason you think it is uncomfortable to ask. Unless you know for sure whether it’s a boy or a girl, try to avoid receiving the awkward “actually, it’s (s)he” correction from a defensive parent. A safe way to do this is to pick a feature to compliment, and then try to wait for the parent to state the gender. Instead of “he’s got stunning eyes” go for “look at those eyes!”

step 4: be specific.

I’m a big believer in the feature-based compliment route because I am a terrible liar. I really am not great at selling the “she’s beautiful” line when it’s a goblin baby. Instead, I pick something in the picture that I can admire without guile.

My go to features:

  • Cheeks
  • Eyes/eyelashes
  • Lips
  • Fingers/toes (particularly the little nails)

A bit more detail:

Cheeks are safe bets. Cheeks are almost always my first choice of baby compliments, regardless of whether it’s a model baby or a Golum baby. This is especially effective when paired with “oh look at those …” as an opener because then you don’t have to specific what you like about them. (Combing steps 1-4: “Awww! Look at those cheeks!” is a golden first response to a baby photo. It works for every baby. No one can fault you. No one can correct you. You said nothing that can possibly be misconstrued, even for particularly jowly babies. You did a great job!)

Eyes are also winners. Eyes can be expressive, striking, alert, etc. Find a few adjectives that work for you. You can also always throw it a comment about how the eyes are indicative of the baby’s intelligence. Parents like that shit.

If you’re not going for a face-based compliment, stick with the baby’s hands/feet. It is a particularly safe bet to comment on the smallness/delicacy/amazingness of the baby’s fingers and toes.

Step 5: look for kid-specific things to discuss.

You made it through the first 5-10 seconds with your canned baby responses. Now you have to carry on the conversation for at least 30 more seconds until you can get away from whatever mobile device is being waved in front of your face.

Safe topics:

  • The littleness of the baby (don’t go overboard here if it’s a premie) and admiring various small features
  • Comments about how the baby looks “snuggly”
  • Inquiring about the health of child/mother (try to keep it vague. don’t ask about the birth unless hearing about episiotomies is your thing…)
  • Asking about how everyone is sleeping

Things to Avoid:

  • Commenting on chubby babies, fat rolls, use of the word “chunky,” etc. Yes, it is good/normal/healthy for babies to have baby fat. However, quick admiration will go better if you pick universally safe topics that don’t potentially carry societal baggage. Comment only if the parent brings it up first, and even then use qualifiers like “sweet.”
  • Speculating on which parent the baby looks like more. This is a can of worms. Stay away.
  • Commenting on headbands/hats made with gigantic plastic flowers. Admittedly this is my personal preference, mostly because I don’t think such monstrosities should be encouraged.

Step 6: extraction.

After one or two pictures, apologize for cutting things short and excuse yourself to go back to work/run to the restroom/grab a drink of water. Tell the parent congratulations. Say how glad you are they stopped by to share the photos with you. Throw yourself a small party for successfully admiring someone’s (ugly) baby.

baby bearded dragon

This post was written by Lauren’s incredibly hilarious sister, who is so gifted at writing that she began doing the family Christmas letter when she was 8 years old and continued until after college. Lauren begged for her to write for Parentheticalasides.com, so leave lots of grateful comments so that we can all enjoy it again.

Online shopping and a “Night Out”: not for me

It is time to update my wardrobe. Every so often, I realize that I have so many things that I do not love and I want to purge it all and start over. (Then I realize that is too much work and so I  just donate a few things and buy tee shirts at Target and more workout pants.)

I am trying to switch to a model that I am calling “European” (it’s fancy, not lazy) where I have fewer things that I completely love. To accomplish this model, I have to be much more thoughtful about my shopping: not just things that are kind-of cute or on big sale. Things that fit a particular hole in my wardrobe, that pair with other things already in my wardrobe, that make me feel amazing.

I started browsing online. Lately I have been feeling pretty cool towards online shopping because there are 2,397,000 “tops” in the world and I need them to be better curated. How do you even find stores that sell things you like online? How long are you other online clothing shoppers spending at this? I think I could spend an hour a day just finding stores that might sell things I like; then I have to carve out more time to actually look at those things. And in the end, the checkout process takes longer than I think it will and I give up and go read a magazine. Am I alone in thinking that successful online shopping sounds like black magic? No wonder I subsist on $12 “Favorite” tees I get when I’m actually shopping for toilet paper and cheaper-than-at-the-grocery-store juice boxes. Plus, if your kid gets a runny nose when you’re out of the house and you don’t have a tissue handy. . . well, you know, favorite tee to the rescue.

 But, I am ready to class it up. (Low bar, right?) So I have been shopping at Nordstrom. A great start, to be sure, and I am obsessed with their return policy–which might be the most important part of shopping–but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

Take, for example, the Night Out tops selection for women, sampled online on May 5, 2015. I am looking for things that I can still wear to work but are perfect for date night. Nordstrom is a classy place, so I figured they’d catch my ‘married-with-kids, trying-to-stay-awake-past-10’ date night vibe. I guess not. As I scrolled through pages of options, I felt like a stranger to this planet.

Who wears that? Never, in my entire life, have I seen someone wear something like that. And I thought I had been to lots of places.

Where do you go such that you feel like that is a good idea? Are the other people sequined racerback tankwearing things like this as well? I grant that a lot of it is probably “clubbing” attire (do they still call it that?  Last time I went I wore a work blouse and stood in the back complained about how loud it was.) But clubs are dirty and the people don’t care what you’re wearing because its dark and everyone kind of smells. So, who is buying the $1,400 sequined racerback tank for those events? And what do they do if the “Night Out” occurs on a cold evening?

Are old people–like, over the age of 24–allowed to “Go out”? I mean, I thought that is what I was doing all of these years on Saturday nights with MI, but it seems like I DO NOT have any of the clothes I need for it. So, I guess I have been doing something else.  What have I been doing?night out sheer tunic

Clearly, I am out of my league here. I have given up online shopping (just like I did in a fit of anger in 2012) and set up a consultation with a personal stylist.

She asked me to send ideas of what I liked; I found some things. But a large part of my email was dedicated to “Things I Don’t Like,” in which I mostly felt like I was describing . . . clothes these days.

I am quite curious to see what she comes up with.

If all else fails, I can fall back on wearing gym clothes all day. My happy place.

 

Accidental Decapitation and Other Profound Toddler Insights

It was nearly time to leave. Five more minutes, and I was trying to sneak in a few more dishes, clear a few breakfast plates, and speed blow dry my hair for work. Five minutes.

I asked D2 to put on her shoes. I asked her to pick up the toys on the living room floor. I asked her to finish her breakfast. I asked her to brush her hair.

She could not. She was unavailable because the only thing she could do was find Christmas ornament Princess Anna, so that it could accompany small, plastic Queen Elsa, who needed someone similarly sized with whom to play.

I knew where Anna was. I’d seen her in a toy bin earlier that week. We needed to GO. I spent two of the five minutes explaining why we did not have time because WE ONLY HAD FIVE MINUTES, then finally caved when I realized she cared more about finding Anna than I did about my plans at work. I found Anna. Just because toddlers are small and have different values doesn’t mean they are ridiculous, right?

Wrong. They are ridiculous.


I started to go upstairs for the speed hair styling–nope. Called back down to remove a tag that was stuck to Princess Anna, obviously making her impossible to play with. Maybe even impossible to touch, given the freak-out crying that was going on. [Why are we playing with a Christmas ornament in April? Why did it still have the tag on it? Why does Disney even make clay Christmas ornaments in characters that are only going to appeal to small children? What diabolical person first invented glitter?!  I do not know.] But nothing could go on until there was no tag.

As I removed the tag, I took the chance to remind D2 about how this was *not* a plastic Anna.

Magiclip dolls are the perfect solution to toddler dexterity. Sadly, this is not their story.
Magiclip dolls are the perfect solution to toddler dexterity. Sadly, this is not their story.

This was no magiclip. This was BREAKABLE ANNA, and she COULD NOT drop it because it would break. She had to be sooooooo careful. (I knew this was true. Because Anna used to be one of a set; may Christmas ornament Elsa rest in peace.]

As I handed Anna over, tag-free, I asked

“Can you please be so careful? And make sure not to drop her?”

” I will be sooooooooo sooooooo careful.  I will not–” [drops Anna.] “Oh! It is ok, she is okay!  She did not break.”

“Ok. She did not break, but you dropped her right on the rug. If you drop her on the hard floor, she will break.”

Whatever. We both knew. I knew it was Anna’s last day. Anna knew it was her last day. Nothing could stop fate.

What D2 knew, though, was something else entirely: her mom was over-dramatic and clearly dropping the figurine was NBD. Parents.

Moments–seriously MOMENTS later–D2 quietly approached me in the bathroom where I was blow drying my hair any way, even though we were late. Clenched in her right hand, Anna’s body,decapitated anna coated lightly in glitter. In her left, Anna’s severed head, still primed with a white string to hang from the Christmas tree. Decapitated within 2 minutes.

As D2 told me that she was sooooooooo sorry (which is the same as being sooooooo careful, I’ve found, in terms of shaping children’s future behavior), I thought about how children were so hard sometimes because no matter how many times you said something or how seemingly simple the task–‘hold this one small thing that you wanted in your closed hand until we get to the car’–it never worked.  And there was breaking and crying and lateness.

I left decapitated Anna on the bathroom counter–Toddlers, ye be warned!–and we left for school with only plastic Elsa, sad and alone once more.


Throughout the day, though, I realized that as rough as parenting toddlers can be, I am pretty flake-y myself. My follow-through, pretty toddler-like, in fact. The work project that I hadn’t sent out specifics for on which other people were waiting. The appointments I needed to call and set up, the chores I needed to do, the errands I needed to run, the more chores I needed to do. The puppy I decided I wanted yesterday, only to realize that . . we can’t have a puppy, so I had to back out and disappoint people, including myself. Today, even, the hour I should have spent prepping dinner and straightening the living room that I instead spent watching Disney Toy Collector and sneaking chocolate chips out of the pantry. Flakey.


I guess the world is too big and the tasks too many, and we are only really able to focus on the handful of certain things that really matter. And the trick is figuring out what those are and doing them well, rather than scrambling to hold all of them.

When I picked D2 up from school, she was running through the playground with a pack of friends. When she saw me, she ran straight over and, with a huge hug, presented me with “the longest piece of grass ever!” She had found it herself almost an hour ago and had been clutching it for me the whole time so that it wouldn’t get lost.

I added the precious grass to my nature jar, which is full of sticks and pine cones, grass and dry flowers that my girls have given more over the years. There was once a period spanning almost two-months when toddler-aged Ella saved me a handful of grass every day (similarly clutched for hours) so that I could share the best part of her day.

We don’t have a whole Christmas ornament Anna anymore. And I did a pretty mediocre job cleaning and planning my work project. But I have the longest blade of grass ever in my nature jar, which seems like evidence of us holding on to the right things.

My beloved nature jar, with its new blade of grass.
My beloved nature jar, with its new blade of grass.

Venn diagram, kitchen table, accidental fire.

Marriage is a Venn diagram: your preferences, the other person’s preferences, and the all important area of overlap in the middle that defines the way you can peacefully live your lives.

In fact, marriage is an almost infinite series of Venn diagrams. What music can we both tolerate in the car (MUSIC. Who is mature enough for NPR?)? What vegetables will we both eat (besides french fries, the ‘gimme’ I assume is included in all American Venn diagrams.)? Will the couch and/or bed have throw pillows pileofpillows(I did not, until 10 years ago, realize that this could be a topic for debate with some people. Who dislikes throw pillows?)?

When it comes to the Venn diagram of furniture, MI and I have a rather small overlap. MI seeks the beautiful, the artisan, the statement, the unique. I tend towards the easily and quickly acquired. The I-won’t-completely-lose-it-when-someone-colors-on-this-with-Sharpie. Mostly the “from Target.” 

So our house has all elements. The custom cherry wood bed frame that MI coveted for four years before I finally caved. (I hit my hip on the waterfall footboard almost every night for the first year of D2’s life as I stumbled toward her crying at 2am like a zombie. I think I still have an indent.) There are big box store bookshelves with wood-grain cardboard backing nailed on and shelves that bow like old camels. And who doesn’t have the Ikea Lack table?lack table

Despite the evidence of compromise over more than a decade of joint furnishing, there have been clashes. I vetoed the authentic oriental rug. He vetoed the end tables made of plastic storage tubs covered in extra fabric. I vetoed the amazing, custom hard wood (one bazillion dollar) loft/nook/trundle bunk bed. He vetoed the bedroom decor inspired by 10 things available RIGHT NOW at Home Goods (strike hard when that line is short, I say!)

And so I set up for you, dear reader, the saga of:

The Kitchen Table

MI had one picked out. It was the bed frame’s long lost brother, and for a handsome fee, we could bring them back together under one roof. Or, if we wanted to ‘cut back,’ we could get the same wood from a different place–not quite as artisan, not quite as beautiful, but less expensive and still quite nice.

I had one picked out. I mean, I could quickly have one picked out, once we lowered the back seat in the car and went to Target.

Neither wanted to budge. But we agreed that it was time for the old table to go. Craigslist buyers came much more quickly than I was expecting and all of a sudden, there was nothing in our dining room. Ella and D2 cried–for real–when they came down in the morning; I think they thought “When the Grinch Stole Christmas” was happening to us (and as it turns out, we don’t just keep singing.).

We called it our “Asian dining experiment.” We will love–LOVE–sitting cozily all together on the floor. We bought cute seat cushions. I laid out table cloths. We convinced the children life was now one long picnic. But we were fooling only ourselves. Children would accidentally step on my plate–a new problem when I thought

Me, in the time of no table.
Me, in the time of no table.

I had already faced all of the ways children could ruin a meal. People with joint pain were out of luck about getting back up from dinner. We had to assess whether potential dinner invitees were sufficiently open-minded to dine with us. And the sweeping. Oh, the sweeping.

FOR THREE MONTHS.

One day, I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t even make it to Target. I found an awesome-looking table online for $300 from a company I’d never heard of that they would ship for–who cares?–and was supposed to be easy to assemble. “Place order.” I didn’t tell MI until the world’s largest box was sitting on our porch the following week after work. The kids thought the Grinch had finally returned Christmas, but I could tell that not everyone was full of glee.

But MI, with his heart of gold, assembled my internet mystery table. And admitted that it looked “actually pretty nice.” I thought it was the best piece of furniture in the history of time and we had a full-on feast to celebrate. . . having a table. #classy

I felt a twinge of guilt, though, every time we passed MI’s favorite wood artisan store. And I could see the sadness in his eyes when friends (who came flooding back when we rejoined the modern world) asked where it was from and I couldn’t remember. “Online.” “Probably China.” Sigh.

The Fire

But regret over my pragmatic and cost-effective dining solution, graciously, was not to last long. One evening, less than three weeks after the table’s celebratory welcome feast, there was an accident. I will omit some details here, mostly because they are self incriminating, so I think I am allowed to do that, but choices were made and somehow, inexplicably, there was a fire on the table caused by a beautiful centerpiece tea candle and a reusable grocery bag (I was setting the mood and saving the environment, friends. Remember that.)

Turns out, melted plastic vinyl (or whatever they make those bags out of) is really hard to get off of fake internet wood. Annnnnd, also turns out, that a dinner knife is not as safe for scraping off burnt polyester as you’d think. (Even if you can’t see the scratches, your husband can.)

So, as an unfortunate byproduct of creating a beautiful home and preserving our children’s futures, I mildly, permanently disfigured the very center of the new kitchen table.

Thank goodness for whoever made this table at the low, low cost of $300 plus shipping. Thank goodness for not MI’s beloved fancy table. That fire would have been so much more emotional–perhaps impossible to recover from. I mean, think of the trauma to the bed frame had I killed his brother. It’d seem like motive after the nighttime hip-foot board incidents and I probably would be suspected of retaliatory arson.

So we have my table.Thank goodness for centerpieces, right? (But mind the candles.) And I also have new comfort for the future: I had promised MI that we could look into getting a super fancy table when we could feel more confident that our family wouldn’t destroy it. Turns out, the kids are not the only risk, so I might have bought myself extra time.

Relatedly, I turned the old, no-table floor cushions into throw pillows.  Mwahaha.couch with throw pillows

Getting Your Kids to Listen: Pro Tips from an Expert

If I got a dollar for every time I said:

“Thank you for politely listening right away!”

I’d start saying it all the time.

Not because it was true, but because it would be nice to be a salaried parent. And I’d be saying something that–when true–probably makes you feel like a really amazing mom.

Professional parenting. Boom.

baby listening

Big reveal:

I am actually a professional at asking my kids six times, using the tonal pattern:

1. so nice, so polite / 2. nice, polite / 3. pretty nice, drop polite / 4. edgy, but sane / 5. threatening loss of privileges with moderate loss of perspective / 6. yelling in that voice I promised I would never use.

That last one is the one that usually works, but I never jump straight to step 6; I am a true professional, and I stick to the system.

Ella currently is in a one-week camp at an MMA studio (which was my idea, you might have guessed; I was hoping it was ‘make you listen and be somewhat coordinated’ boot camp for small people). She described one of her teachers as “less chance-y” than me. Apparently, whereas I give lots and lots of chances to listen before I dole out punishment, Ms. Sarah asks once and then you’re sitting on your knees facing the wall.

Props, Ms. Sarah. Come over anytime–I’ve got a kids’ chore list and a dollar with your name on it.

The Things They Handed Me

Small children value, trust, and appreciate parents.

I can tell. Why else would they think we should get to hold their weird treasures and see and touch their disgusting trash without fear that we are judging them?

Well, sometimes I am judging them. And kids over the years have handed me some ridiculous things.

  • So, so many apple cores. Apple cores in the car. Apple cores at the mall. Apple cores on walks. Apple cores while apple picking. Apple cores while in the grocery store buying apples. And I never get to play ‘Apple core, Baltimore.’
  • Food. Not new food. Not delicious or fresh or clean food. Mostly food that they tried eating (because I made them or they didn’t inspect closely beforehand) and disliked so intensely they couldn’t bring themselves to swallow. So they eject the masticated food into the obvious receptacle: my palm. Some restaurants are just not for toddlers.
  • Toddler underwear. Usually underwear that has had a really terrible day. The  hand-off of the unfortunate underwear usually happens when company is over and is inevitably followed with an overly blunt summary of the potty misfortune and a promise to NEVEREVERDOTHATAGAIN. They never ever follow through on the nevereveragain promise. Potty training has won so many battles. Probably I will win the war. It is a long war.
  • Personal items. Things that adults–if left to their own senses–would never want to touch at all. Where they would use latex gloves or hire professionals or squeal and then compulsively wash their hands.  But, once you have kids, that stuff becomes stuff you stuff directly into your jeans pocket until you can fish it out and discard/display at an appropriate time. At last week’s playdate, for example:

    Friend’s child: “[Ella]’s mom! here, look at this!”
    Me: “Is this. . .”
    Friend’s child: “Yeah! My tooth just came out! Will you save it for my mom?”

  • Vomit. You know sometimes when you are driving your car with a passenger in shotgun and you have to break really hard and you instinctively put your arm out to the side even though the passenger is an adult and you don’t need to do that and your arm would not prevent disaster anyway? And you think, why do I have that useless instinct? But in the moment of car crisis, you just do it? That is what happens when my kids are right, right next to me in a public, non-bathroom space and then they suddenly throw up. I instinctively catch it. Does it make sense? No. Can I stop it? Not yet. I have a great airplane story. Ask me some time you want to appreciate business travel.
  • Goo. I don’t know how toddlers always have this. But they do. And when they’re done with it, they give it back to the universe. And by universe, I mean mostly  just me.

    I broke my egg. The white gooshed out, but here is the yellow.

  • My own things, in less pristine condition. The dreaded “I borrowed…was an accident… really sorry.” Like ‘I borrowed your beautiful ring and then we were playing buried treasure and I buried it and now we can’t find it, but here is your spoon that we used to dig for it and it got bent. I am really sorry.’ Or ‘I took your necklace. And then, I am sorry to say, it got itself broken. Outside. Most of the beads are still in the bush, but I got a few back for you! Can you get the rest?’
  • Mysteries, waiting for answers. These are always gross mysteries that I would not choose tosoapy seashell study if I was ever given proper warning. Do you think this is animal poop or melted chocolate? I cannot tell and I *never* want to hold it if we’re not sure. You figure it out. Just don’t taste it, come back inside, or touch  me again.
  • Thoughtful toddler presents. Like how D2 had a two-month phase where she would bring me seashells filled with hand soap. And Ella collected “nature” that I still display in a vase on the bookshelf; except an omitted piece of bubble gum. Because while it was in nature, we decided it wasn’t actually nature. From my hand, straight to the trash.

 

 

That Girl’s Got it Figured Out

Me: Ella, please come in to help set the table for dinner.

Ella: I am not [Ella]. I am Queen Chila.

Me: Queen Chila?

Ella: Yes. I am a ruler of a far-away land.

Me: I see. And what brings you to my kitchen?

Ella: I am on vacation here. Vacation from all my problems.

Me: Wow, vacation from all your problems sounds excellent. I need to go on a vacation like that!

Ella: Yes, you would like it, I bet.