Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Toddler Empathy

E definitely has a little selfish streak...she constantly lets you know that she has "owies" that need kissing, she steals toys from other children, and she is never shy in expressing her wants and desires. She often refers to herself as "self", giving us a clue that she is really finding her place in the universe. But she also cares very much about what's happening to the people and creatures around her. Before you get a hello, you're likely to be greeted with the question, "You okay?" The concern in her voice escalates if she senses that something is amiss, like if you seem upset in any way. She will keep questioning you until you give the right answer.

Last week, when Baby M was crying and I was trying to eat dinner with E, she asked, "Mommy, you okay?" I answered, "Well, no. I'm not okay right now. Mommy's a little frustrated." Her eyes widened and she asked again....and again I answered no. The third time, she was on the verge of tears, so I answered, "Yes, E. Mommy's okay." She immediately relaxed and went back to pushing food around her plate.

Then a few days ago, while watching a new episode of The Wonder Pets, E got a little scared by an animated crocodile. The little duck-heroine, Ming-Ming, was talking to the croc about dentistry (his teeth were dirty), and E was getting visibly upset. I was about to reassure her when she ran up to the screen and yelled, "No, crocodile! No eat Ming-Ming!" Oh, my...she amazes me every single day. Seeing this side of her is touching, really...and it gives me hope that we might be okay at this parenting thing after all.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Do

Tip-up-Town is always a sort of surreal experience for me. But this year, I need a new word to describe this ice-fishing/snowmobiling festival in Northern Michigan. First, I don't ice-fish or ride a snowmobile. So when we drive up to "go to" the festival, it really means to just be in town, and maybe visit the carnival. My favorite part last year was a big garage sale over at the youth center.

I was pretty excited to bring E this year, thinking that we would have some fun watching her play some games or run around in the snow. It was about 20 degrees, so we layered the heck out of her, and stuffed Baby M into a heavy snow suit, and headed down to the lake with cousins and grandma. Walking with E is slow, and her snow boots slow her down even I tried to carry her just to the gate, but she would have none of that. She wanted to walk, trip, slide, and crawl her way to the "party". As we expected, the first thing to really catch her eye was the ice slide. She took her daddy's hand and said, "Come on. E's turn." (She refers to herself in the third person.)

After a few slides down the too-fast-for-mommy slide, M brought her into the Fun House, which it turns out was not so fun. Slippery floors and tight corners made it quite a workout! Then I coaxed her into the Glass House, which turned out to be the worst decision of the day. I had forgotten what it was like...barely enough room to maneuver one adult body, nevermind an adult holding a squirming toddler. The walls are mirrored, and as you turn each corner you cannot tell which way is open and which way is just your reflection. I hyperventilated at least once, and almost cried when I bumped into someone and realized that we were walking in circles. Close to the exit, there was a ramp that was glazed with ice, and the people in front of me were having a hard time navigating it. I stood at the top, wondering how to get down without dropping E or slamming into the wall at the bottom. M was yelling from the outside, "Just keep your feet together and slide down!" So I took a deep breath and did just that...we made it safely outside, where I breathed deeply made a note to never, ever, do that again. Thankfully, E didn't seem any worse for wear, but I wouldn't be surprised if that Glass House showed up in a nightmare some year down the road.

The tiny motorcycle ride was more successful. M and his brother B took E and her cousin on the slow moving baby ride, and I just loved how they looked perched on those itsy-bitsy bikes. They attracted a fair bit of attention, along with some "Awww"s from the crowd. But my hands-down favorite part of Tip-up-Town took place in a little tent labeled "Wedding Chapel". In that tent, M and I renewed our wedding was an informal, 3 minute ceremony at a makeshift altar, but it really was touching. We both teared up a little as the minister talked about life's changes and growth in our relationship. M was holding E, and she listened intently and drank from her sippy cup. We said "I do" and kissed, and got a certificate to remember the event. I love you, M, and I think that sort-of-silly experience was a nice reminder of what we mean to eachother, and what our children mean to us.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Baby Got Heart

It is always a mystery as to what will make a toddler happy. When E's older cousin S came to visit, the single most popular activity was jumping on the air mattress we had set up for S to sleep on. We have a house FULL of toys and know, the typical toddler paradise. But running in circles and jumping head first into the comforter and pillow was apparently the best of the best. It was just wonderful to have S in the house for a few days. Another person, especially one as easygoing and baby-loving as my niece, helps change up the energy and improve the atmosphere. And S didn't seem to mind having her bed used as a fact I think she liked it.

One afternoon, S and I took E to the local children's museum. I figured E was old enough to enjoy at least some of the displays, and we might get lucky and drain some of that boundless energy she possesses. Well, we did drain some energy...but not E's. We spent a good hour and a half chasing her around from room to room, where she would climb on, poke, or grab at some gadget and then run away screaming with happiness. She did show some momentary interest in digging for dinosaur bones, and she spent about 5 minutes splashing in the water table. At a craft station, she patiently handed about 10 colored beads to S, who strung them into a dinosaur tooth necklace. Besides that, running was the activity of choice. The only place she stopped voluntarily was inside the model of a human heart. She went in through the swinging doors of a heart valve, and sat herself down happily in the left ventricle. Two or three times, in our running laps around the other exhibits, she would enter the heart and sit down in the same place. Why did that spot make her happy? Your guess is as good as mine. But I can say that the toy industry is off their E's life, a cardboard box, some magic markers, and a tennis ball are all the toys we really need. That and a left ventricle.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Yesterday, we baked. In the post-Christmas scramble, M called me from the store to let me know that holiday items were 80% off...did we need anything? Considering that we have more than twice the amount of decorations that we need for this house, No Thank You. But after thinking about it, I said, "Sure, if you can find anything crafty." So M came home with a Christmas Tree Cake Mix, complete with little pans and decorating paints.

I didn't know if "almost two" is too young to help in the kitchen, but I decided to give it a shot...after all, we didn't want to place the cake mix in the pantry for a whole year. So I set up the ingredients on the kitchen table, and gave E a spoon. I explained everything as I did is an egg, this is a cup, now stir. She did get the hang of it, but the bowl was a little unsteady...and guess what. She didn't want help.

We got the cakes in the oven, and E went for her nap. I made the frosting (confectioner's sugar and water) as per the directions, and in the afternoon we painted the colors on. It was a cool idea, though meant for an older child I'm sure. They had these little palettes of edible dye to which you add drops of water...then you used these little paint brushes to paint on top of the white frosting, presumably to look like a Christmas tree. What we found, however, was that it was much more fun to stab the cake with the brushes, and then lick the cake and frosting off the bristles.

After dinner, we ate little pieces of Christmas tree cake, which was dry BUT the correct flavor (chocolate). Shoving the entire piece of cake in her mouth, using one hand to keep the crumbs from spraying all over the table, E used her other hand to do the sign for more. I have to give her credit...she is all about effective communication. She will get her point across to you, even if she has to guide you there step by step. And when it comes to chocolate, the message is always the same..."More."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Drama Queen

Quite unintentionally, we are raising an actress. When E was just a few months old, I suspected that some of her little baby coughs were "fake". They were just a bit higher pitched than they should be, and they were accompanied by an exaggerated turn of the head. Now that she's almost two, she is so good at pretending, that we often wonder whether she is for real.

The other day, she was playing a game with M. She would cover his head with a blanket, then turn to me and ask, quite sincerely, "Where Daddy go?" She looked so concerned about his well being, I was amazed at her acting ability. I'd respond, "I don't know. Where did he go?", and she would turn around and take the blanket off his head. "There he is!" And she would laugh and cover him back up. She also pretends to serve coffee from her little tea set, drinking it with satisfaction, and bringing refills when customers (Grandma, aunts, friends) call her over. How can she be so good at this? I'm afraid we're just weeks away from her lying about who she's hanging out with at daycare, or how that stolen cho-lo-co-late candy got into her pocket. "Dora gave it to me, Mommy. Really, I swear!"

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Not Laughing Yet

Overall, the holidays were baby, healthy family, E's first understandable Christmas morning. But we had one glitch that goes in the file under the heading, "We'll Laugh About This Someday." On December 23rd, in the middle of a SMALL windstorm, we lost power...and we didn't get it back for almost 24 hours. Okay, it doesn't sound like a major crisis, but a two week old baby and no heat, the day before Christmas Eve (read: LOTS of holiday crap left to do) is at the least quite annoying.

When the lights went out, we were cleaning the house to get ready for a family visit...Christmas movies and pizza. But when it became apparent that the electricity wouldn't be back in time for that, we moved the party over to Grandma's house. Comfortable and warm at Grandma's, watching Polar Express and Elf, a call to the electric company confirmed our would be the next day before our power was restored. Thankfully, M's very kind brother and sister-in-law volunteered to put us up, so we went back to our rapidly cooling house to feed the cats and pack for the night.

It was sort of surreal, actually...being mildly sleep deprived, immersed in the holiday whirlwind, cold, and temporarily homeless. If not for Baby M, I think we would have just built a fire in the fireplace and camped out in the living room. We've camped in much colder weather than 52 degrees (the temperature that the house bottomed out at). That might have been fun, and we might have been laughing by now. Instead, our night was one of the most miserable in memory. The bed was comfy, the house was warm, but E was "out of sorts", so to speak. After just a couple of hours of sound sleep, she woke up screaming and thrashing, inconsolable even with pacifiers and milk. M had to resort to bringing her on a midnight drive, just so the rest of the household could get to sleep. When they returned, E was calm and slept for another few hours...then a repeat performance. Sprinkle a few of Baby M's feedings in there, and it adds up to this...we got no sleep. I mean zero.

So Christmas Eve remains pretty hazy in my mind. I know at some point I took a shower in my freezing cold house, I had to transport a couple of chilly goldfish to a warmer climate, and sometime later in the day I ate ham and sweet potatoes. Somebody might have given me a present. Other than that, I don't recall much. Our power came back on and the house warmed up, and Christmas happened, as it always does.

With babies, kittens, and goldfish all without a scratch, I suppose I should be laughing after hee-hee. Sincerely.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr