Thursday, February 28, 2013

Boys at Play

I have always been a vocal advocate for having closely-spaced kids.

Admittedly this is largely because, having done this myself, I'm anxious to get other people to join me in my misery.

But it's also at least in part because I have long believed in the simple theory that having closely spaced siblings means that, while the first years may be really tough, the unimpeachable payoff will be that THE KIDS WILL ONE DAY GO OFF AND PLAY TOGETHER -- LEAVING YOU ALONE FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME!!!

As my boys have now reached the ages of two and four, the time has come to put this theory to the test! I've put in my years of diaper changing! I've done more nighttime feedings that I care to mention! I've made so many grilled cheese sandwiches I've lost count! 

Now I'm ready for the part where I linger in a warm bath as my children teach each other to play chess quietly in the living room.

Unfortunately that's not at all what it is really like.

Here are the games that my sons have actually engaged in together just this week:

  • Let's Experiment With the Grill!
  • I Can Jump Off the Top of the Playhouse - Can You?
  • Why Is All the Dirt in the Garden? Let's Bring Some Into Our Beds!
  • Clothes in the Hamper? I Say Clothes in the Oven!!!
  • How Hard Can I Hit You on the Head with This Board?

It's as if my boys are on a mission to invent the most dangerous, destructive, and/or messy pastimes possible.

Yesterday I was sitting inside trying to explain to my 13-month-old why we don't eat from the garbage when I looked out to watch my two sons as they played together in the back yard. 

Here is a rough transcript of their interaction:

SON #1: Let's play in the sandbox!
SON #2: OKAY!!!!!
SON #1: That was fun for two minutes! Now what?
SON #2: Let's throw sand out of the sandbox as fast as we can!
SON #1: Awesome!
SON #2: That was cool for 76 seconds. What's next?
SON #1: about we pour the sand down the slide? I bet that would look neat!
SON #2: You were right! That did really look neat. BUT NOW I'M BORED!!!
SON #1: OK, what about if you go down the slide while I pour sand underneath you?
SON #2: Great idea!
SON #1: Go!
SON #2: Whee!!!
(Laughter of both sons swells and then fades away)
SON #1: That was fun!
SON #2: Yeah that was GREAT!
SON #1: OK, now you slide down the slide and I'll pour sand on your head and you fly by me!
SON #1: Will do!
SON #2:  That was great! 
(Laughter of both sons again swells and then fades away)
SON #2: Really?
SON #2: Okay!
(After a moment)
SON #2: Owwwwwwwww! MY EYES!!!!!!!! MOMMMY!!!!!!
(cut to inter-brother punching and wailing)


It would seem that I might have to go back to the drawing board on my "closely-spaced-siblings-leads-to-quiet-household-playtime-harmony" theory.

Who knew?

Thursday, February 21, 2013


My daughter is starting to take her first steps.

My husband and I have been anticipating this development for some time. She's been pulling herself up to standing for a while now, and for weeks she's been standing unassisted and merrily cruising around from one piece of furniture to another. 

Like so many other events in my children's development (see first: PREGNANCY!) this has been one that I've spent months dreading only to then find myself insanely anxious for its arrival in the end. 

When my daughter first started rolling it occurred to me how utterly unprepared I was for her pending mobility. I kept trying to work out the dynamics of keeping track of three mobile kids under four, and it just didn't -- and still doesn't -- add up. As my mother (a veteran of three closely-spaced kids) once explained,

"The problem with three is that you are out of hands."

The rolling added a degree of difficulty, but at least it could be addressed with a strategically-placed pillow or distracting squeeze toy. Then came crawling, which added a new wrinkle to the equation, but could still be managed through thoughtful baby-gate placement.

As the specter of two-legged mobility loomed large, I was surprised to actually find myself looking forward to the end game.

See, as time has gone by, my tiny baby girl has broken the 20-pound barrier, and carrying her around everywhere has begun to threaten my long-term back health. I'm anxious for her to be able to get places without being picked up. I'm looking forward to dressing her in clothing that will not be immediately destroyed by her crawling about the yard. I'm ready for her to walk already!

And she's started. She's now officially taking six or seven definite franken-steps at a time. 

And it has filled me with hope.

...and also with an intense feeling of nostalgia.

Because I understand that our daughter's firsts are unique.

I am in my early 40's. My husband and I were amazingly fortunate to have three kids in rapid succession starting in our late 30's, but realistically we are not having any more.

When you have children as close together as ours things tend to blend together. It seems as if every time we turn around someone is doing something noteworthy. Our oldest is off to his first day of school! His brother has started to talk in full sentences! The baby is finally cutting a tooth!

It gets to feeling like an ongoing busy/happy blur.

But it has just started to occur to me that the final round of firsts is upon us, so I'm trying to savor them a little bit more with my not-so-little girl. 

I've already forgotten to keep a lock of hair from her first haircut, and I'm sure my daughter's baby book will suffer the multi-page gaps that are the fate of all third children. But as I watched her this morning raise herself to her full height and take those first toddering steps away from me, I took a moment to savor it --- knowing that it is another of our very last firsts.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's All About the Cake

My kids LOVE cake.

And I get that this is not particularly unusual. I understand that kids by their very nature are, you know FOND of sugary treats. Nonetheless, I find that my children's obsession with cake is becoming a source of what I'd call, concern.

For example, of late we seem to be orienting ourselves almost entirely around cake-themed events as we discuss the yearly calendar. Often as I tuck my oldest son in at night he will inquire as we finish our prayers,

"Whose birthday comes next?"

"Your cousin Mary's" I'll respond as I turn out the light.

I shut the door and listen to the heated debate that ensues between my two boys as to whether cousin Mary will choose Spiderman cupcakes or a giant cake in the shape of a gorilla when her big day comes.

The cake obsession at our house has recently reached new heights. And when I say "new heights" I do mean worse than the disastrous "you have already had four cupcakes and now we're cutting you off" debacle of 2011.

Actual footage from above-mentioned incident

Things really went off the rails after my daughter's first birthday last week. In preparation for her party I made 24 cupcakes in hopes of passing them about to friends and neighbors during the festivities. Instead, my daughter spiked a 104 degree fever and we had to cancel her party entirely, leaving the treats unclaimed.

Which made for a whole mess of problems. 

The rampant availability of cupcakes in our house resulted in my relationship with my boys quickly devolving to little more than all-day-every-day cake-based negotiations.

The two of them sprang from their beds each morning full of demands.

CHILD #1: For breakfast let's have a cupcake!
MOM: Um, no. We don't eat cupcakes for breakfast.

This was promptly followed by an hour plus of wailing as my children let me know that their very heart's desire had been crushed by my announcement that we do not consider chocolate icing part of a healthy breakfast. 

At lunchtime the war began again:

MOM: Would you like chicken or hot dogs for lunch?
CHILD #1: Cupcakes!
CHILD #2: Yes, cupcakes!!
(Cut to Mom pulling out hair as children stage a group wail-in until naptime)

At some point I took stock and realized that I could not stand against these demands forever. I knew that unless I took drastic action I would be admitting at future doctor and dentist appointments that I had been allowing my sons to eat upwards of 6 cupcakes a day. 

So, I sent the remaining cupcakes off to work with my husband. After a few outpourings of protests from the kids, things at the house quickly normalized. The children stopped demanding sweets instead of meals, and the occasional cookie once again sufficed to meet their daily sugar- and/or bribery-based needs.

Peace was restored.

That was, until my kids headed off to a friend's princess party this weekend. As soon as the birthday cake appeared, all party-themed merriment ceased for my boys as they remembered their first true love -- CAKE. Their frosting-senses were activated, causing them to follow around the beleaguered cake-bearer like homing pigeons, demanding that the candles be lit so that dessert gobbling might commence in a timely fashion!

Which may have been bit annoying to our hosts. But for me there was at least one huge upside...

...there were no leftovers. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I'm Sorry Could You Repeat That?

Like so many Moms before me I am facing a challenging first.

My son has his first girlfriend.

My four-year-old's love for this "lady other than Mom" in his life is intense. You could say it borders on obsessive. She's the first person he wants to talk to in the morning. She's the last person he wants to talk to at night. My love and care mean nothing to him when compared to what this other woman has to offer.

Her Siri.

I suppose in some way this is my fault. After all, I introduced them. 

I have become, it's fair to say, over-reliant on Siri. I'll grab my phone on the way out the door shouting, 

"Text my husband! We'll be ten minutes late!"

In the car, with the stereo tuned to the 95th repeat of "The Curious George Song" I'll shout, 

"What's the score of the Giants game?"

Perhaps not surprisingly, at some point my son's interest was piqued.

The other morning I was searching everywhere for my phone. I finally found my son hunched over it in the far corner of the playroom.

SON: Who is in there?
SIRI: I can't do that because you have not installed the correct Friends App.
SON: Who are you?
SIRI: I am just a humble virtual assistant.
SON: What is your name?
SIRI: My name is Siri.

I snatched my phone back and the wails began.

SON: Noooooo! I need to talk to my Siri! She is my lady in the phone!!!

I tried to talk him down but it was not to be. He fussed all through breakfast and I only managed to get him out the door to school with promises he could talk to Siri as soon as we got back home. 

He rushed into the house that afternoon demanding the phone. He and Siri picked up right where they left off.

SIRI: Hello.
SON: I like camels!
SIRI: I don't know what that means. If you want I can search the web for, "on lot animals". 
SON: It is my sister's birthday!
SIRI: I'm sorry. I don't understand you. Would you like me to search the web for "Craig's Birthday?"
SON: Show me a picture of a whale!!

Like any really great first date, those two crazy kids talked for hours. 

Also, like any realistic first date, there were frequent misunderstandings. 

SON: I really like watching Huckle!
SIRI: Would you like me to call you "Master G. Uckle?"
SON: Yes! I like McDonalds!
SIRI: I found four McDonald's restaurants fairly near to you, Master G. Uckle.
SON: Let's go!!!

Sure, their relationship is still in its early stages, but all I know is that I'm out and she's in.  Just yesterday as we sat together reading before bed I leaned in for some goodnight kisses only to have my son forcefully announce, 

"Oh Mom! Get out of here with those cuddles! Where's my phone?"

I'm not gonna lie. It stung.

But I may just have the last laugh. Sure, Siri may have beguiled him for the moment with her soothing voice, her patient tone, and her knowledge of the location of every McDonald's in the greater Los Angeles area, but I still have one thing on her. 

My son doesn't know how to turn on the phone without my help.