Thursday, January 31, 2008

Smack down Wednesday

Every once in a while we have to have a "smack down" day. A day when I don't just issue threats, I actually follow through with them. These days usually begin with a great deal of whining, complaining and sass. However, shortly after the smack down has begun, we learn tears, screams and fits get us no where.

I'm a threat maker. As much as I hate to admit it, I am.

"Don't let me find these slippers on the floor again, or I'll have to get rid of them," I'll rant as I nearly trip on the black Hello Kitty numbers for the eighteenth time in two days.

"If you can't stop fighting, you won't be able to go to the store with me," I warn as the bickering continues into its fourth hour.

Every decent parenting book would suggest if you make a threat, you should then follow through with it. I follow through, the problem is, that it takes a smack down day before I make good on my threats. A day when we've reached that point of teetering on chaos and a total loss of any sanity that remains.

A parent should clearly state the outcome or result of a given action, and then follow through with that result. It's really very simple, straightforward and effective. That is, if you do it.

For all my talk, though, I'm really very soft-hearted with our kids. I'll trip over the Hello Kitty slippers for the nineteenth time, and again ask that they be picked up. Finally, after tripping over them for the twentieth time, I end up picking them up myself.

And after weeks and weeks of this idle threat making, their idle selective hearing and my growing frustration, a smack down day gets under way. I say it, I do it. I'm not mean, I don't yell, I simply do as I say I'm going to do.

"If you throw another toy, I'll have to turn off your music," I tell Alena.

Since I'm not blind, I did see that toy stethoscope fly through the air three seconds after my warning. Now, the little CD player gets turned off and we'll not get to hear Taylor Swift's new song for the one hundred and eleventh time today. Yes, I'm sorry. Yes, I know you don't like me right now. But, I warned you.

"Please don't yell again or you won't be able to read books before nap time," I clearly explain to Alivia after lunch. "Do you understand what I'm saying?," I then follow-up, just to be sure.

Okay, I, along with any neighbor who is home today, heard that shrieking. And despite your fits of protest, I'll now have to carry you up to your room for nap time, sans story reading, and tell you in my most calm, patient voice that I'm very sorry you won't get to hear "Priscilla and the Pink Planet" (which you could recite to me by heart), but I asked you not to yell.

A few encounters like this and order is restored. Okay, not necessarily complete order, but as much order as you could expect in our house. On smack down day they get that I mean business and it's best to take my word at face value. And by day's end I feel better, they feel better and tomorrow will be better for having just a little more discipline about us all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Taking a step forward

Wobbling, teetering and shaky, Trace is walking. He's like a little toy soldier with legs kept straight and moving side to side. One foot in front of the other, each one steadier than the last. He's walking and I'm so proud of him. He's so proud of himself.

Alivia's his biggest cheerleader. "Good job, Traceman," she squeals as he walks another stretch. She sees how hard he works and the progress he has made.

Yesterday he made it halfway across the living room, and when the floor is clear of toys or the bodies of his sisters, he can strut the whole thing. Each day he picks up speed, distance and confidence. My little walker.

He loves the freedom. You can see it in his eyes, sparkling with all the potential walking brings. He's proud of this new skill he's mastered, a little chest full and held high.

As he closes in on you, his smile widens and his steps quicken. Just as he reaches you, he leans forward, falling in for a hug to celebrate his big boy accomplishment. I didn't miss a step little guy, mom loves you.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Weekend excitement

Who knew a clogged kitchen sink could be this exciting? Everyone except mom and dad was thrilled about the mess, tools and adventure.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Damn sock monkey pajamas

Today I was one of "those" moms.

One of "those" moms that I kind of slyly raise my eyebrows upon seeing, wondering, "just how hard is it to put clothes on your kid?"

One of "those" moms that I self-righteously feel superior to, as I've managed to get all four of my little monsters lovies dressed, combed and coated (and arrive five minutes early to boot).

One of "those" moms that takes her kid out of the house still dressed in his or her PJ's.

Yep, today that was me.

Alivia, my dear, spirited pixie, is a force to be reckoned with. When she's locked and loaded, that pixie doesn't budge. You can't sweet talk her, you can't bribe her, you can't threaten her. She's. Not. Giving.

You'd think I'd learn.

So as she sat at the breakfast table for 30 minutes this morning not eating ANYTHING, I started trying to coerce her.

"Please Livy, will you eat your breakfast? You can't go to school if you don't eat," I said.

Still no eating.

"Livy, if you don't eat your eggs, I'll have to leave you here in your chair while the rest of us go drop Alena off," I warned a few minutes later.

Fork playing ... feet kicking under the table ... still no eating.

"That's it Liv, you'll have to stay home," I threatened.

As the clock ticked, I finished getting everyone else dressed, thinking she'd buy into my "leaving her at home" bluff and eat something. Anything.

Yelling. No eating.

Dammit. By this point I'd played my bluff too long. It was either leave her sitting strapped to the kitchen chair in the house all alone and wait for social services to come knocking later or cave, fold on my threat and take her along.

Okay, as much as I wanted her out of my sight at the minute, I didn't want social workers hauling her away, so I went for the "cave" option.

Although, having waited her out to the very end, convinced I might win this one, I then had to decide which was worse: being one of "those" moms or being one of "those other" moms who is signing their three-year-old into preschool late.

Yeah, I was one of "those" moms today. Flannel sock monkey pajamas and all.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Our regularly scheduled nap

Nap. Good nap. Alysse. Trace. Please?

Will the two of you please return to your regularly scheduled napping routine?

It's been days since my sweet-faced duo have indulged themselves (and their selfish mother) in a good, two-hour afternoon nap.

While the outcome of this abbreviated slumber means my afternoon to-do list remains undone, the source of greater disruption is that those sweet faces turn into prune-like squawkers by dinner time.

What gives guys?

I know there are teeth coming. I know the house has been full of colds which you've caught. I know I'd love to curl up on these 30-degree afternoons and waste a couple hours with a bunny under my arm and a warm blanket snuggled around me.

As much as your rosy-cheeked faces peeking up from your cribs after nap time makes my heart smile, do you think you could make me wait an extra 45 minutes or so to see them? Let's try.

She's way cooler than mom

Monday's holiday brought with it a visit from my dear friend and Alena's very best friend, Gina. We don't get many visitors of the non-relative variety, so the announcement she was coming brought about excitement, and her ringing of the doorbell sent Alena and Alivia yelling, "It's Gina. It's Gina."

The last time we saw Gina was shortly after Trace and Alysse were born, and while we talk or email from time to time, I do miss seeing her more than we do. At the same time, I'm sure one visit a year to our child-filled house is quite enough for my free-spirited, child-less friend.

It should be noted that Alena clearly remembers Gina's last visit and still hangs on to a photo captured during their inaugural best friend convention. There have also been several Gina spottings since that time in Circuit City advertisement fliers and television commercials.

Within a half hour of Monday's arrival Alena and Alivia would have traded me for her in a minute. She was the coolest kid in school and Santa all wrapped into one, and the way she made over their Playdough creations didn't hurt her case either. They sang songs, did a little dressing up, showed off some stunts and barraged her with toys.

She came bearing gifts of an old dance costume she'd swear she never wore (wink, wink). But, as the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure, and I was cajoled into altering a black velvet skirt that was part of the ensemble which Alena found particularly striking before dinner that night.

The little black ditty now comes out each day for dancing and gets stashed each night before bed in the little step stool next to her bed. That she doesn't let it get very far from her even while sleeping speaks to its treasured status.

I'm quite sure Gina was never so glad to see a visit come to an end ... their little chitter chatter didn't stop her entire stay. Yet, I was thrilled to see her and she deserves a heartfelt thank you for making the day of two little girls.

Monday, January 21, 2008

They're earning their money

Pomegranates, blueberries, black beans and chicken. These tasty little items all add up to the very worst smelling diapers you can possibly imagine. Not coming from one little smooth, round, plump bottom, but from two.

One company I can never complain about overcharging for their services is Rumpke. Those poor men who visit our curb every Wednesday morning must wonder what goes on inside our house. We've got to have the most ripe-smelling garbage in the city. They earn every cent we pay them.

And one side effect of a diet rich in superfoods ... little bodies that readily fill their diapers. Sometimes it seems just as you've got one butt clean, there's another dirty one headed your way.

In terms of speeding up the process of getting Trace and Alysse's gifts from butt to dump, well, we've taken to using heavy duty equipment for disposal purposes. Just count yourself lucky it's not your job to empty our trash in July.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Oh, so close

We are so close to having a couple of walkers on our hands, that I'm hoping we could count our wait in days. Trace can manage three or four steps on his own before hitting his little tush on the floor and Alysse has braved a step or two on her own.

They are oh, so very close, that's now it's just a waiting game to see who will do it first. I can't wait until they walk. Crazy? Yes. Curious? You better believe it.

Now aware of the unexpected realm duo crawlers opened my eyes to, curiosity has gotten the best of me, and I'm wondering what adventures two walkers will bring. A glutton for punishment, perhaps, I just can't help myself.

Toddlers are actually quite dangerous to a mother's heart when they are first taking off. You never know what they will stumble or tumble into. It also makes them that much harder to keep up with, since they can typically escape your grasp quicker toddling than crawling.

On the other hand, walking gives them a whole new perspective of their world. A new means by which to interact with everything around them. A bit of independence in an otherwise, dependent world.

"When do you consider them walking?," I pondered out loud the other day.

"I guess when they can walk across the room," I then answered my own question before anyone else weighed in.

We've taken those first baby steps, now I'm just waiting for that walk across the room.

Monday, January 14, 2008

We're on a first name basis

So, shortly before Christmas we had a conference with Alena's preschool teacher, Ms. Kerry. She discussed with us how Alena had performed on some "tests" she had conducted with her; how Alena was doing socially in the preschool setting; and outlined what they would be tackling in the second half of the school year.

As a whole, Alena got much praise. She knew all the shapes she had been asked to identify except for the rectangle; she knew all the colors that she was asked to find, including gray; she can name each and every letter of the alphabet (which impressed her teacher); and, in terms of gross motor development, she's right on target.

Her one area for improvement was learning how to write her name. To be honest, I wasn't sure if she was capable of such controlled motion with a writing device. Apparently, it's a feasible task. As a result, we've been moving in that direction, and she's recently mastered the letter "A".

Ms. Kerry told us that in this last part of the year they'd work on writing skills, continue focusing on a letter of the alphabet each week and learn their parents' names and home addresses.

Since she knows everyone who lives in our house shares her last name, that just left us to teach her our first names and our address. I figured names would be easiest, so we started there. Needless to say, a mention or two of "Jason" and "Yvette," and they've stuck.

Alena sings her name song she's learned at preschool. It allows each child to say their name and their friends to repeat it in the chorus of the song.

Should she ever find herself lost and needing help to find her mom and dad, she knows it's "Jason and Beyette" she's looking for. However, she also feels the need to test the waters in using our names.

"Beyette, do you need a napkin?," she'll ask me at the dinner table; more concerned with my response, I think, than my actual need for a napkin.

"Yes, thank you," I respond.

She's feeling me out, I know. Seeing how I'll respond. Will I hesitate? Will I correct her? Really, I'm more amused than anything.

Her pronunciation of my name is enough to make me laugh to myself. Her random, out-of-nowhere choices as to when to call me by name make me smile as if she's trying to catch me off guard. Once she determines I've not skipped a beat, we're back to "mom" business as usual. Typically we have one or two of these "Beyette" episodes a day.

I suppose some might find her using my first name disrespectful or out of the norm. I know, though, she means no disrespect by it, and is testing it out, just like she tests out any new skill, concept or boundary she's happened upon. Two's have tantrums, three's test.

And at the end of the day, after she's asked, "Beyette, is tomorrow a school day?," it doesn't matter what she's called me, she knows I'm her mom.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mars and Venus since birth

I'm convinced John Gray was on to something when titling his work Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. While, according to Wikipedia, his book offers "many suggestions for improving husband-wife relationships by understanding the communication style and emotional needs of the opposite gender, I'm here to tell you these differences are innate from birth.

In just shy of 11 months, I can attest to the fact that the male species and the female species come into this world with their own distinct characteristics, and I'm not just talking "down there." How the two genders' minds work is dissimilar from the get go. So it goes without saying that by the time adults find themselves in relationships, they need to understand the differences between themselves.

These little drama queens we've got have all gone through pretty much the same type of play progression. On the whole, they've played with similar toys; graduated from one type of play to the next; and like to play together (SOME TIMES) all in the same fashion. While each, at one time or another, has taken her own interest in a unique toy or game (ie, the Pixie and her puzzles), I've watched the similarities between their play and interests, and am sure it isn't just coincidence.

The little cowboy, on the other hand, is quite different. And let me make it perfectly clear, I'm not advocating that one type of play is better, more productive or superior over the other. But, he simply has different interests and methods of interacting with objects and the world around him.

Balls are an excellent example. All three of the girls have been exposed to rolling, bouncing and playing with a ball. Each of them would take an interest in a ball for a few minutes and then, as if shrugging their shoulders and giving it a "eh," leave it behind as they made off toward something else. Trace on the other hand LOVES them. He'll bang them together; roll one and crawl after it only to roll it again; and is in seventh heaven if you roll a ball on the top of the coffee table with him. He'll stay engaged in most any type of ball play for a much longer period of time.

Trucks, trains and tractors are another instance when I clearly see their differences. Alena, Alivia and Alysse, might have a fleeting interest in a truck or tractor (most of that time spent seeing if it's big enough to carry a stuffed bunny or frog), but Trace actually brings them to life. He revels in pushing the John Deere around, and Jason has even heard him making engine sounds. Yeah, in three years, I've yet to hear Alena imitate a motor sound of any sort.

He also looks at toys in a completely different light than what each of the others see through their "girl" eyes. It's as though he's trying to figure out the "why it works the way it does," rather than the "let's see what this can do" approach the girls take.

These variations can't be explained away with suggestions that the girls didn't have "boy" toys to play with, because they did. We had a Hot Wheels track and the tire carrying case to store the cars in before Trace came on the scene. And the very John Deere tractor Trace enjoys the most was a birthday gift for Alivia on her first birthday.

I'm convinced there are just innate differences between us. So the next time you wonder why your husband would enjoy going to play a softball game at 10 o'clock on a Thursday night when it's 39 degrees, just remember he can't help himself, he's most likely been that way from the start.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Don't try this at home

We have a new source of entertainment in our house. How safe it really is, well, is still up for debate. However, it's produced squeals, giggles and laughter. We've dubbed it carpet sledding.

It all started with a Christmas gift innocently called Bilibo.This award-winning toy leaves everything to the imagination, which is probably the reason it's an award-winning toy. The toy's web site says, "Instead of imposing a specific play pattern, Bilibo is open for a wide range of interpretations and encourages the children to invent their own games, to play and have fun in an active and creative way."
Well, the site was right. These brightly colored, plastic shells, for lack of a better description, have definitely allowed Alena and Alivia to invent their own games in an active way.

They have stood on them, sat in them, worn them as hats, provided rides for their stuffed animals in them, performed circus tricks off of them, used them as turtle shells, acted like little crabs crawling in them, but the favorite so far is carpet sledding.

It goes something like this: Position yourself in the Bilibo, beg someone for a push and then squeal as you slide across the living room floor. Once you've come to a stop, retrieve your Bilibo and repeat. Play continues in this fashion until your pusher's arms are tired and/or you've gone through every adult in the room willing to provide two dozen shoves.

We must disclose that there have been a few minor incidents, such as tipping backwards; a finger pinched between the rim of the Bilibo and the floor; and one airborne trip as the shell ramped off another toy laying in its path, so don't try this at home. However, nothing has been so disturbing or hurtful that we don't immediately ask to "do it again."

Editor's note: Our children do, in fact, own clothes (actually, enough for about 12 children); however, they rarely stay on past 7:15 p.m.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A hand to hold on to

There's something to be said for sticking it out. Hanging in there through everything that life sends your way. Plodding along when the easier thing to do, and sometimes even the more logical thing to do, would be to make a break for it. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do you part.

For all the memories I'll have of this Christmas past - Alena and her Taylor Swift guitar wishes, Alivia's taking her pick of EVERYONE'S gifts, Trace being the life of a Christmas party and Alysse spending most of her first Christmas feeling under the weather - one that I'll treasure most doesn't include any of the four.

Sitting amidst a Christmas Eve get together with the hustle and bustle of the season surrounding them, there they were. Overwhelmed with the holiday chaos, tired just having put in the day and trying to keep up with it all. Old, wise and standing the test of time (and life). Holding hands. My grandma and grandpa.

Bob and Mary Lou Moran holding their second great grandchild, Alena Grace Scott, September 20, 2004.

Married in 1948 and holding hands some 59 years later. Their union, while decades past, has created for them five children; 15 grandchildren; and nine great grandchildren (to date). Together they have survived weddings, births and deaths of loved ones. Together they have attended birthday parties, ball games and graduations. Together they have struggled, loved and lived.

While they've never lived extravagantly and have worked hard to provide for and give what they can to those they love, they managed to raise five children who have a keen sense of family and a deep faith.

As they sat side-by-side holding hands surrounded by the chaos that comes with five children, 15 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren, I had to laugh to myself wondering if they sat thinking "what did we do?" Knowing better, though, I'm sure their thoughts were instead "what did we do to deserve this?"

My hope is that our children will grow to have many memories of the couple we fondly refer to as "old grandma and grandpa." However, should fate rob them of this blessing, I'll hold on to my treasured memory of the two holding hands on Christmas Eve; do my best to teach our children that a small house filled with love beats a big one lacking it; and always encourage each of them to stick it out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Cheers to naked noisemaker blowing

While the rest of the world was celebrating the end of 2007 and the start of a new year with fancy dinners and exciting parties, the six of us had a not-so-fancy dinner at home (regardless of what is served, it can't be a fancy dinner with two-year-old tooting and a double chocolate animal cracker annihilation at the table) and only one of us actually making it to midnight awake.

While there were no champagne corks popping or dancing to anything other than "Old McDonald," we did manage to have our own special brand of entertainment.

Alena and Alivia shared in the celebrating with their own special wine (that would be sparkling grape juice) served in small wine glasses. Having already explained toasting to them on an earlier occasion, they needed no help in raising their glasses, clinking them together and shouting "cheers." They toasted the new year about two dozen times before the bartender cut them off.

Our box of party hats and noisemakers was also a hit with them, as they stripped down naked for bathtime, ran around the living room wearing only "Happy New Year" hats and blowing for all they were worth. As much fun as noisemakers are, they must be even more so when you're naked. Before heading upstairs for bed, we counted down to the end of 2007 and gave new year's kisses.

Apparently all the excitement was too much for Trace and Alysse, as they were pooped out even before the 8 o'clock ringing in of the new year. While Alysse tolerated the party hat for a second or two before removing it from her head, Trace spent his first new year's eve crying for his bed and a fast-forward to 2008.

"Cheers" little midgets, here's hoping we have a blast in 2008!