Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Big Question...

“I think I muffed it,” I said to Neil on the phone.  Fortunately, he was too polite to agree. 
It wasn’t like I didn’t know this day was coming.  It’s the day that haunts parents’ dreams.  It’s the question that you always secretly hope they’ll ask the other parent.  I suppose it’s inevitable. And I even had a good warning, since she’d danced around the edges of the question with her grandma a few weeks previously.  And of course, with several new babies in the extended family this year, it was bound to be on her mind.  I’d thought about what I would say.  I actually felt pretty good about my preparedness.  I’d discussed it with other parents who have faced the issue themselves.  But with all this, I must say, I wasn’t completely prepared for the question at 7a.m. this morning. 
“Mama,” said my daughter out of the blue, “How does a baby get out of the mommy’s tummy without breaking it?” 
<Ah, yes,> I thought.  <Here it is.  Deep breath, Bethi, you’re up to this challenge, even if you’ve only had one cup of coffee this morning.>
“Well, sweetie,” I said with what I hoped was relative calm in my voice, “God designed mommies with a special place that opens when it is time for the baby to come out.” 
“Oh…” said Juli.  She sounded a bit disappointed.  “Is that how I was born?”
“Well, no,” I said truthfully, “You were in a funny position and the doctor didn’t think you should come out like that, so he decided to take you out of my stomach through a little opening he made under my bellybutton.” 
My daughter’s eyes lit up.  “You mean he CUT your tummy open?!?  With a KNIFE?!?”  She leaned forward expectantly, “With a BIG knife?!?” 
“Um, well, no, honey,” I said a little hesitantly.  This conversation was taking a turn I hadn’t quite anticipated!  “He just made a little incision with a special little knife.  And out you came, just as cute…”
“You mean a SPECIAL knife that didn’t hurt?” Juli interrupted, “And he made a hole in your tummy?” 
“Well, no,” I explained, “He gave me a shot before he cut so that it wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Oooh!” said my bright-eyed daughter, “A SHOT!  A shot right in your TUMMY?!?”
“Um, well, actually, the shot was in my back.” I continued, trying to figure out how I got into this in the first place. 
“Ohhh…” said Juli, “A shot into your BACK… where? And did it HURT?  And it made you go to sleep?” 
“No, I didn’t go to sleep.” I said, “It just made my tummy and legs sort of fall asleep so they didn’t feel any pain when the doctor got you out.” 
“Oh, you mean when he cut you open with the special knife?  Did it BLEED?  Where did he cut you?  Can I see?” 
Right about this point, I’m thinking my daughter is a bloodthirsty little ghoul.  This conversation didn’t go at ALL like I had planned.  And I’m totally wishing I’d told her to ask Daddy, although he said he would probably just tell her the stork brought the baby.  Although if he had, she probably would have wanted to know if the stork had cut the baby out with a knife. 
I just can’t wait to hear her report this to Nana on the phone.  However she tells it, I just know the part about the knife will be told with relish and gusto.  Maybe we’re not looking at a lawyer after all.  She sure does seem interested in cutting things open.  Doctor?  Surgeon?  Or maybe a butcher.   
Can’t WAIT for the next question and answer session. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ah, the potty dance...

“No, Mama,” said Juli, dancing around with her legs crossed, “I don’t have to go to the bathroom.” 
“Juli…” I said, freezing her with a look, “Don’t lie to me – go potty right now.” 
“Okay…” she said with a longing look toward her toys.  “But, Mama, how did you know I was lying?” 
Well, let’s see now, Juli.  Maybe it was the way you didn’t quite meet my eyes when you said that.  Maybe it was the little dance you were doing.  Maybe it was the inflection in your voice when you protested?  Okay, so that’s a pretty easy lie to spot, I bet all moms of toddlers would get that one.  But I vividly remember teaching a young child years ago and NOT spotting the telltale signs of the potty dance before she sat on my lap.  Ah, experience. 
It’s funny, but this ability to spot these things is not confined to your own children, or even children you see on a regular basis.  I spotted a little girl in Target the other day with a strained look and the whole crossed legs, fidgety thing going on.  Her mother was chatting with someone and happily oblivious, but I guarantee you, I wasn’t the only one in the store noticing it.  I’m betting the security guards watching the monitors were already gearing up to get someone over there with a mop just in case the mom didn’t notice in time. 
Somehow, somewhere along the way, I figured out a way to tell if my daughter has to go to the bathroom without strip searching her and probing her stomach to see if her bladder is full.  And I can tell if she’s lying or hiding something with pretty good accuracy.  Most kids get better at hiding things as they get older – but most involved parents get better at predicting.  I know my parents always seemed to know when something was amiss.  Sheesh, even my husband can spot any prevarication on my part a mile away. 
“Honey, did you rest today?” 
“Um, well, uh, MOSTLY…” 
There are other lies out there that aren’t as easy to spot, but we figure them out pretty quickly. 
Juli!  Did you just hit your brother??” 
“Uh…. No?” 
“Juli… did you take a cookie without asking?” 
“Um… well, I think Alex did that.” 
“Juli, is your room clean?” 
“Um… well… are you going to go check it?” 
And then are the times when they flash you that guilty look and you know they’re up to SOMETHING – you just don’t know what.  It just takes a few questions to get to the bottom of it. 
So what does this have to do with anything?  Well, Neil and I were discussing TSA the other day – and whether we would go through the body scanner or have a physical search – and while we didn’t agree on what we would personally do if faced with the TSA choice at the airport, we did agree on one thing – there HAS to be a better way to do security.  Let’s see, a naked picture or some extended groping.  What a fun thought.  Welcome to America.  For now, the two of us are determined to avoid recreational flying.    
Talk about an inefficient way to spot a liar or a terrorist!  Let’s just randomly select a bunch of preschoolers and feel their tummies to see if they have to go to the bathroom!  I don’t profile my students (although I must say, the youngest ones do seem the most susceptible to accidents, sorry if I just offended anyone…), but I do ask some of them from time to time if they have to go to the bathroom.  I don’t randomly select them… I read the signs.  (And I haven’t had an accident in my living room for a long time.) 
I read an article about how the Israelis government screens for terrorism in their airports – they train their agents to spot people who are nervous or lying.  What an excellent idea!  But does it work?  Well, they haven’t had a breach in security since 2002.  That’s a pretty good track record, I’d say.  (Check out if you want to read an article on it) 
Maybe the government needs to spend some time on training their people to spot liars, smugglers, and terrorists.  If they can’t get the Israelis to come train us, I bet they could hire some moms…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Accidents and whatnot

Juli was bonking her brother on the head with blocks.  As a result, we decided she was not going to be able to play with the blocks for the rest of the night – a consequence she was NOT happy about, seeing as Mama and Daddy were building towers for the kids to knock over.  (A favorite before-bed game)  Until the block bonking started, she had really been enjoying it.  So she was very disappointed that she had to just watch Alex knock over the blocks.  Alex, of course, was having a blast knocking over every tower with squeals of delight.  But she decided to make the best of it…
“Go ahead, Alex,” Juli encouraged, “Knock it down!!”  In her excitement, she jumped and twirled, completely losing her balance and colliding with the tower, sending blocks scattering everywhere.  From the floor, she looked at us with wide and slightly guilty eyes, knowing that she had just knocked over the blocks when we had forbidden her to play with them. 
“It’s okay, Juli,” I said, “I know that was an accident.” 
Juli brightened up.  Neil and I picked up the blocks again and made another tower for Alex, who was disappointed that he hadn’t had the chance to knock it over.  Our daughter sidled up to her Daddy. 
“Uh, Daddy?” she said, “I am going to accidently dance around and brush against this tower again and I will knock it over and it will fall down, but it will be an accident!” 
<Sigh>  Missing the point, there, kid…

Monday, November 22, 2010

Give them an inch...

Have you ever noticed that you never really need to “teach” your child to negotiate?  And those little preschool papers where kids are supposed to circle the “bigger” piece of cake or pie… do kids EVER get those wrong?  I think my 18 month old could probably answer that correctly, if he could stop drawing on the walls long enough to figure out how to circle the bigger one.  But OH, he definitely knows which one is bigger.  And both kids already know they want it.  Give my kids ACTUAL pieces of cake, and they’ll identify (and squabble over) the biggest piece every time. 
So on to the art of negotiation.  I never taught that either, but somehow here we are…
“Mama, can I have a bite of your yogurt?” 
“Sure, Juli, here you are.” 
“Mmm… this is good, can I have another bite?” 
“Umm… okay.” 
“Mmm… well, Mama, how about I eat your yogurt, and I’ll share a bite with YOU???” 
“Mama, I want that broom Alex is playing with!” 
“No, Juli, he’s playing with it right now.” 
“Well, how about when he’s done?” 
“Sure, you can have it when he’s done.” 
“Well, I think he’s done.” 
“No, he’s not, he’s still playing with it.” 
“What about if he puts it down?” 
“If he puts it down, you can play with it.” 
<Juli darts in, tries to take the broom>
“What, Mama?  It touched the ground!  You SAID I could have it if he put it down, and I SAW the broom touch the ground!” 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Frogs in clogs on logs...

Juli and I are writing a "book" together.  No, not a book that anyone besides the two of us would want to read... except possibly her grandparents – got to love grandparents!  They’re always interested in what we are doing!  But this is a book that Juli can read and, well, was GOING to be illustrated by me, although I’m a terrible artist.  I’ve been fired as an illustrator, though.  Evidently, my talents lie elsewhere.  So my ORIGINAL idea was that I would write a few lines each school day and Juli would read them to me… and I would draw what Juli read.  
Not too complicated – today’s page had four sentences: “The cat sat on the mat.  The rat sat on the cat.  The bat sat on the rat.  The dog sat on the log.  The frog sat on the dog.”  Not great literature, to be sure, but since the main attraction for Juli is that she can read it and sound it out by herself, I didn’t dare get too fancy.  (And I wanted something that wasn’t too hard to draw, either.)  So as Juli read me the words, I drew the story.  We had fun with it.  But then we got to the frog.  Frogs are hard to draw!  And I, showing a remarkable lack of foresight, was drawing these little doodles in ink! 
“What do you think, Juli,” I asked, “Does that look like a frog to you?” 
Juli looked at it critically, “Not so much, Mama,” said my honest little girl.  “It doesn’t look so good.  But I’m sure you did your best.” 
<Sigh>  So we’ve decided that I will write the story and do my best to draw it as she reads, but she will read it again to Daddy tonight so he can make the actual picture to go in our "book."  I’d be insulted… but I’m really not.  Or, as Juli says, "Not so much." 
And tomorrow, perhaps I’ll write something about the frog we found living in my clog (which really did happen – now my clogs have been appropriated by Juli and put in the garden to make winter frog clog homes).  And maybe… that frog will go for a jog… in a bog!  (I think I’ll have more fun NOT having to illustrate this!)  Have fun drawing frogs in clogs, Neil!  :-) 

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Optimism of Children...

Neil was being cruel to Juli.  :-) 
"Look, Juli," he said, "That box that just came has a present for you in it, but you can't see it until Christmas!" 

Juli was suitably curious and really, REALLY wanted to open it right then.  I opened the box while they were out of the room, and noticed it came in a white box -- no distinguishing marks at all -- so I told them they could come back in. 

"Oh, Juli," said Neil, "Looks like it wasn't a present after all -- just a plain old box.  No present." 

Juli looked sad for a minute and then brightened up.  "Look, Daddy!" she said, "It's NOT just a box, there's BUBBLE WRAP to pop!!!" 

And now they're popping it.  :-)  So cute. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Unopened drawers and unanswered prayers

Our bathroom has quite a few drawers (definitely a selling point of the house for me!).  Alex likes to get into all of them that don’t have childproof locks on them (which is making us desire to put a few more locks on some – especially after he got into some makeup the other day!).  Sometimes I let him get into the drawers, sometimes I say no.  But today, he got it into his head that he was going to open the “drawer” under our sink – which actually isn’t a drawer at all, it’s just a solid wood panel that looks like a drawer.  He pulled and pulled at it, turning red in the face and getting quite frustrated.  He started banging on it and crying.  He kept looking at me and screeching, trying to get me to open it for him. 
“It doesn’t open, Alex,” I said.  “It’s just for show, it doesn’t open, sorry.  I can’t help you.”  Alex’s face puckered (and I could tell he didn’t really believe me), and he started to throw a little mini-tantrum.  Finally, sobbing, he banged on it a couple more times and sank down to the floor in abject misery.  
Eventually, when he had calmed down a bit, we looked in some other drawers and found some fun “toys” for him to play with.  He kept looking mournfully at the other “drawer” as if he just knew it held the most wonderful, magical things ever.  I opened the cupboard to show him it was just pipes behind there, but he really didn’t understand. 
So I was standing there watching my son bang on a door that literally went nowhere – and I thought, I wonder if this is how God feels sometimes, watching us bang our heads against a door we want Him to open that GOES NOWHERE.  “It’s not meant to open,” He tells us… but we don’t believe Him.  Frustrated, we wonder why He’s not answering our prayers, but the door we want opened doesn’t lead anywhere and the magical things we think are behind it simply don’t exist. 
Gives one a little food for thought at least.   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

“Vocabulary Is Everything” or “The Rise of Semantics”

What a thrill it is when your child says his or her first word (especially when it’s “Mama,” like Alex eventually said.  Juli’s first word, of course, was NOT “Mama,” but was instead “Tiki” for kitty – not quite as thrilling…).  But it's incredibly cool when your kid starts talking.  No longer must they cry for everything they want.  For the next few years, you work at expanding your child’s vocabulary, refining and helping them communicate verbally.  Then comes the day that you realize exactly what you’ve done – you’ve created a little vocabulary monster who can argue her point with any one of a multitude of synonyms.  But by then it is too late.  Your child can now appreciate the subtlety of distinct words and knows how to wield these tools against your best efforts to correct her. 
Me: “Juli, why did you soak your brother with the hose?”  Juli: “I didn’t SOAK him, I just dampened him a bit.” 
Me:  “I thought I asked you two not to play in the mud today??”  Juli:  “Oh, we’re not playing, we’re WORKING with it.” 
Me: “Juli, stop pulling the cat’s tail!”  Juli: “I’m not PULLING it, I’m just keeping her here.” 
Me:  “Juli, please don’t hit your brother.”  Juli:  “I’m NOT hitting him, I’m just patting him firmly.” 
Me:  “Juli, watch out!  Don’t lift your brother off the bed, please!”  Juli:  “I’m not LIFTING him, I’m hugging him on the way down!” 
Me: “Oh, Juli, please don’t pour the sand out onto the ground.”  Juli:  “I’m not pouring it, I’m just SPRINKLING it a bit.” 
Me:  “Juli!  Why are you eating Alex’s cracker??”  Juli: “I’m not eating it!  I’m just TASTING it until it’s all gone!”  Me:  “Well, stop tasting it, then!”  Juli:  “Can I just sample it a bit?”             
Me: “Juli, are you bugging your brother?”  Juli: “No, I’m just loving on him and kissing him.” 
Me: “Juli, are you hogging the blocks?”  Juli: “No, no, I’m not hogging -- I'm just collecting them.” 

On the bright side, things are looking up for her to have a brilliant career in politics. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Call of the Forbidden...

Alex is my good eater.  Well, Juli is too.  But she's a little less of a good eater than Alex.  I think mostly because she's four, and she is obligated by the code of four year olds to say she doesn't like it.  Nasty until proven tasty.  But Alex, well, he will pretty much eat anything.  Even if it’s spicy, it’s all good, Alex will eat it.  The only two constant dislikes in his life have been broccoli and cheerios.  Broccoli, well, now, you can kind of understand that one.  I learned to like it a little later in life.  (Juli started liking it after her Mum told her to pretend she was a giant eating a big tree.)  But cheerios?  Those are the staples of life for moms.  Dinner not ready?  Kid starving?  Give him some cheerios to tide him over.  But not Alex.  He does NOT like cheerios.  He didn’t like them when I offered them to him in the car.  Didn’t like them at church.  Didn’t like them in the chair… (if I was going Dr. Seuss on you, I’d say he didn’t like them ANYwhere.)  Other people offered cheerios to Alex with the same result.  A turning of the head, a curling of the lip… and a spit covered cheerio deposited in your hand.  Now he won't even try them. 
So today, Alex disappeared into the office – which scared me, since he gets into a lot of trouble in there – and was very quiet.  “What is that boy up to?” I wondered, so I peeked in.  There he was sitting in the corner, very quietly holding Juli’s bowl of dry cheerios and stuffing them by handfuls into his mouth!  He looked up a bit guiltily when I entered, but polished them off anyway.  The subsequent row Juli kicked up when she discovered the empty bowl was all he could have wished for – he looked quite pleased with himself. 
“So,”  I thought, “The boy has finally learned to like cheerios!  How nice.”  So I gave him a few while I made his lunch.  He looked at me as if I was nuts, and proceeded to dump them all on the floor.  Evidently, he still does not like cheerios.  But one should never underestimate the call of the forbidden. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My first Facebook status update EVER...

Once upon a time, there was a woman whose father joined facebook.  "What???" she thought, "How can this be???  How can my dad be trendier than me?"  So she sat down at the computer and joined.  And the first funny status update that she posted was about her daughter, Juli, who had just turned two.  And thus was born the first "Juli-ism." 

And here it is... blast from the past, more than two years ago.  How far we have come...

Oct 8, 2008 - I am still laughing at a conversation on football between my kid and my husband on Sunday when they were in the living room together, reading, while Neil tried to keep one eye on the Dolphins game.....
Juli: "I don't know what those BOYS are doing!"
Neil: "Hmm..."

Juli: "I don't know WHAT those boys are doing."
Neil: (laughs)

Juli: "I don't know what those boys are DOING!"
Neil: "They're playing football..."

Juli: "Oh... (onscreen tackle) Those boys are falling DOWN!"
(Neil and I are both laughing now)

Juli: "I don't know WHY those boys are falling down!"
:-) Me neither, Juli, me neither....

A blogging we will go...

A casual observer would think, "Wow, Bethi has finally gotten with the times!  Starting a blog, what an incredibly trendy, hip thing to do!  Next thing you know, she'll start answering her phone when it rings!"  But this casual observer would be wrong.  I doubt I will ever start answering my phone. 

But yes, this is me, starting a blog.  Why?  Not sure.  Partly because I can.  Partly because my wordiness surpasses the capacity of Twitter and even Facebook status updates (what do you MEAN, I can only use 240 characters???  Who can update their status in only 240 characters???  )  And I suppose because part of me is wondering if I had a blog if anyone would read it.  I have been writing for myself all my life and have never felt compelled to share.  Guess that's because I never went to kindergarten. 

So here's to blogging!  (Although a student of mine has just informed me that it's really no longer "in."  Go figure...)