Friday, January 30, 2009
I've said before that parents are a child's most important teacher. No, I'm not accusing you of being a nudist or encouraging your children to be nudists. Rather, all good teachers learn from their "students." If we look at this behavior a little more closely, I think there's an important lesson here.
(Ableit in a slightly twisted sort of way,) the fact that children like to run around the house naked teaches us that we should be more comfortable with who we are as individuals. I'd bet that if you surveyed 100 adults for reasons why they don't cruise around naked, "I don't like the way I look" would be in the top 5, if not the top 3. Even more generally speaking, if you surveyed the same 100 people about what they don't like about themselves, "my appearance" would be a contender for the top spot.
Feeling self-conscious about our appearance is a learned behavior. Young children aren't preoccupied and burdened with the way they look--if they were, they wouldn't run around naked, they'd comb their hair before going outside, and we'd see advertising for children's makeup, skincare products, etc. In fact, (most) children must like the way they look--that's why babies smile and coo at themselves in the mirror.
The issue of appearance transcends the individual, and has important implications on cultural, racial, and gender issues. Young children are proof that racism (or sexism or whatever -ism you can think of), just like feeling self-conscious, is also a learned behavior. My boys love to play and interact with other children, whether they are boys or girls, tall or short, white or black, orange or purple. I've never heard a young child say, "I'm not going to play with Johnny because his skin is striped, he has a funny-looking birth mark, and he wears glasses." Any child who makes such comments has heard it from SOMEWHERE (their parents, tv, etc). Kids don't perceive other children as being any "different" from them. Kids are kids, and that's the only common bond they need.
And so, I challenge you to be more "comfy in your own skin." We all have "flaws" and things we don't like about ourselves, whether that be physical features or personality traits. Be yourself (so long as that's legal and moral), and strive to enact positive change for the habits that could make you a better, healthier person. Anyone who would judge you for who you are isn't a true friend. Just please don't run around the house naked, or if you do, don't tell us about it.
Have a good weekend,
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I’ve long contended that an advanced degree in engineering is required to successfully assemble (and sometimes even take out of the box) many children’s toys. Some of the things I’ve encountered border on ridiculous. To name a few:
1. A play kitchen that had pieces “A” through “AT” (going from “Z” to “AA”), had over 100 screws, and took about 2.5 hours (locking myself in Big Brother's room) to assemble. (And Mom-E had to distract the boys with a movie because they really wanted to "help", aka tear up the styrofoam packaging).
2. A remote-controlled bulldozer that was held in place in the packaging by 15 SCREWS. "Dad-E, I want to play with it NOW! What's taking you so long?" (Don't teach the boys any new words, don't teach them any new words...)
3. Any toy that is held into place in the package with those darn twist ties. They are always wrapped around the wheels 97 times in 8 different directions, and you need a map to untwist them.
That said, I love my boys, and I’m willing to put in the time, effort, and frustration (though I’ve been able to restrain myself from teaching them any choice words) to make them happy.
And so, Fellow Dad-E’s and Mom-E’s, it’s time to stand up and be recognized for our efforts! I present to you an Honorary Engineering “Degree” from Busy-Dad-E Universit-E. Just print out the attached certificate above (suitable for framing) and fill in the name and date of the awardee. All that is required is that you successfully assemble a child’s toy that does not fall apart (and without swearing). There are even spaces where you can affix (up to 10) stars to recognize yourself for additional achievements in the field of child toy assembly.
Please share with your friends. Enjoy!
Monday, January 26, 2009
For better or worse, Busy-Mom-E and I take the boys with us most everywhere. After all, the store is a great place to learn about different foods, numbers, and money. Thus, I present to you Busy-Dad-E's handy-dandy formula for calcuating the time needed to complete a shopping trip with small children:
Time needed = Time it usually takes Mom-E &/or Dad-E alone +
(30 minutes x # children under age 5) +
15 minutes (if only one parent goes)
And so, if it usually takes you 1 hour by yourself, then with 2 kids under 5, it'd take you 2 hours if both parents go, and 2.25 hours if only one parent goes. Let me explain how I "scientifically" arrived at this formula (aka, I'll describe our trip yesterday, which was par for the course.)
We get to the store (see http://busy-dad-e.blogspot.com/2009/01/getting-ready-for-church.html to calculate the time it will take you to get ready to go to the store).
Big brother decides he wants to ride in one of the shopping carts that has a built-in car for kids to "drive." These are initially great, except that 1. it makes the actual cart so small that it only holds about 3 items, and 2. the novelty wears off in about 5 minutes. We get both boys situated in the cart, and head inside, reminding Big Brother no less than 5 times not to put appendages (i.e., head) outside of the "vehicle". We go towards the produce aisle first, and immediately Big Brother has to go potty (THE FIRST TIME).
We go potty (of course we have to pretend we're cars racing to and from the bathroom) and come back (without crashing into anyone). By this time, Little brother is already tired of riding in the cart, and so Mom-E is carrying him in one arm, while trying to push a cart that is about 15 feet long with the other arm (which pretty much leaves her with one leg to pick out items and put them in the cart). Big brother has now decided that driving the cart has lost it's appeal (see 2. above). Instead, it's more fun to grab onto the side of the cart, and pretend to "stop the train" (there's a scene in the movie 'The Polar Express' where the boy pulls an emergency cord to stop the train for another passenger.) At home, Big brother will "stop the train" ad nauseum, but we put a stop to this in the store, given the safety of trying to ride the cart like a surf board.
We get through about 4 aisles, and Big brother has to go potty again (THE SECOND TIME--this time it's #2). Ten minutes later, Busy-Mom-E has trudged through another aisle or two. By now, little brother is getting tired of being carried, and so we put him down and let him walk a little. After a few steps, he engages in his favorite in-store hobby: trying to knock over items on the bottom-most shelf. In a role reversal, Big Brother thinks this is a fun behavior to emulate. Again, we quickly put a stop to the destruction, and pick up whatever has been knocked over. We continue to trudge along. Meanwhile, we see friends who came to the store 15 minutes after us, and are already in the check-out line.
Fortunately, the last few aisles bring a few favorite food selections (yogurt, toaster waffles, and tater tots), which "speed things along" (in the relative sense). Amazingly, we manage to avoid some distractions, namely all of the "junk" toys that are scattered throughout each aisle, placed right at eye level of a child riding in a cart (boy, if I met the person who pattented that idea in a dark alley, I'd...I'd...probably have to buy something they were selling).
The highlight of the trip is the frozen food aisle. No, I'm not talking about ice cream. I mean the big bin of plush, oversized stuffed animals (the ones that are bigger than Big Brother and cost about $1000 apiece). Little brother LOVES stuffed animals--he calls them "babies." "Baby! Baby! Baby!" he shrieks with excitment. And so, just for fun, we actually put Little brother into the bin for about 30 seconds. He is in heaven. He smiles ear-to-ear, tries to kiss and hug a big white dog, and then begins to sink deeper into the bin.
We "rescue" Little Brother from the quicksand of bears and puppies, and head to check out. We no sooner get into a line and start to unload, and Big Brother has to go potty again (THE THIRD TIME). We make the last trek to the bathroom, finish unloading the cart, remember to give the cashier the coupons, pay, and head out (sneaking past the movie rental machine). It was an overcast afternoon when we came in to the store, and now, 2 hours later, it is dusk. We load up the car and head home.
As we're pulling out, I ask Busy-Mom-E "did we remember to buy stamps when we checked out?" Ah, man, shoot! Well, I guess you know what we'll be doing for another 2 hours tomorrow.
Friday, January 23, 2009
What do you call a Mom-E who does the exact same thing? A mom.
The difference is subtle, but significant. It's a stereotype. As a society, we "expect" Mom-E's to do these kinds of things. If a Dad-E is that involved, too, then it's a "bonus." That's not fair to Mom-E's, and, in a way, it should bother Dad-E's, too. A few times I've had complete strangers (usually at church), who have observed me interacting with the boys, say "oh, you're such a great dad." Why? Because I hold my kids, pay attention and talk to them, and love them, even in public? Why didn't you say that to Mom-E, too? She does all of the above, not to mention she carried them around in utero for 9 months. Should I get into her abilities to simultaneously cook dinner, hold a baby, read to a preschooler, let the dog out with her foot, and answer the phone? I'm a guy, if I try to multitask my brain has and will explode.
And yet much of society continues to think in those terms. What makes it worse is the additional stereotype that if a Mom-E works outside of the home, then she's somehow less of a Mom-E. A number of friends have insinuated to my wife that she was a "bad" Mom-E because we have the kids in day care, even if it's part-time. On the flip-side, another family member was criticized for taking 12 instead of 6 weeks of maternity leave. "Why are you taking off for so long, you're not having twins?" My blog is not about giving advice, but when it comes to balancing work and family, I think parents should do what they believe is best for themselves and their children. It's a private, individual decision. Everything in life has risks and benefits, and the decisions are hard.
So why is this business about what it means to be a Dad-E important? I think it boils down to this: my children observe, process, and emulate EVERYTHING I say and do (that's a scary thought, sometimes). My mother told me long ago that the most important thing I could do as a father was to love the mother of my children. There's truth in that observation. What I say and do today, spoken and unspoken, will influence what kind of a spouse and father my boys will be in the future. They see how I support Mom-E working outside of the home. They see how we work together as a team when it comes to taking care of the housework (sure, I mow the grass and she does the ironing--she has "outdoor" allergies and I don't want to burn holes in everyone's clothes--but my kids see us both cook, clean, do laundry, change diapers, etc.) Their attitudes about women, gender roles, and relationships are already forming.
Remember, you are your child's most important teacher.
The Request: Did you challenge yourself to help break the stereotype about what it means to be a Dad-E (dedicated implied)? You can.
The Dedication: Did you thank your Mom-E today? You should.
Have a good weekend,
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
And so, recently Busy-Mom-E and I came up with the idea of scheduling a periodic “Date Night” with Big Brother. This has been a big hit, with lots of memorable fun for everyone. About once a month, either Mom-E or I take Big Brother out on a “date.” This usually involves lunch or a special snack at Subway or Sonic, followed by a trip to the playground or movie theater. In turn, the other parent gets a “date” with Little Brother to play, go to the park, or catch up on housework/sleep if he naps. The undivided attention that Big Brother gets on his date goes a long way. Not to mention, he talks about the upcoming event for days in advance, his face lights up with excitement while on the date, and then he talks about it in gory detail Ω for days ç. We’ve found that it reinforces positive behavior (he’s an angel on the date), is great time to bond with and really talk to him, and is a nice way for one of us to get out of the house for a few hours doing something other than running errands, etc.
As always, I’d love to hear about fun/creative activities and traditions enjoyed by your family, especially ways to give special attention to individual children.
Will post again on Friday,
Monday, January 19, 2009
I will preface this post by saying that I believe the bonds of love and attachment between parents and their children gives us a glimpse of the love God has for us.
While my children are occasionally able to sit fairly quietly and still at church for about 45 minutes, what follows below is more typical of how things usually play out. It is during these trying moments that I think "when they mail you your child's birth certificate, they should also include a note that excuses you from attending church for a period of no less than 4 years. This note can be renewed for an another 4 years beginning with the birth of the next child." But fortunately those moments do (eventually) pass.
When we last left Busy-Dad-E and his entourage, we were walking into church 1 minute late. I neglected to mention that it started raining as we pulled into the church parking lot, which casts a spell that immediately makes all umbrellas in the car invisible and/or disappear (or "up-in-here" as Big Brother sometimes says).
As we enter the congregation, a little wet, with slightly soggy toaster waffles in hand (why is it that kids won't eat at home, but when they get to church it's like a buffet?), we manage to squeeze into some seats in the back. As I trample across a few people to get to our seats, carrying a baby and diaper bag, I can't help but think "you're soon going to wish that you had just scooted in and given us the aisle seats."
We finally sit down, now probably 5 minutes after church is scheduled to start, except that we've forgotten that in "church time," this means that the service is about one-third over (seriously, did they start 15 minutes early?). Right on cue, Big Brother has to go potty. YES, WE MADE HIM GO POTTY BEFORE WE LEFT THE HOUSE. IT DOESN'T MATTER. THE SAME SPELL THAT MAKES THE UMBRELLAS DISAPPEAR MAKES HIS KIDNEY FUNCTION HYPERACTIVE, METHINKS. We trample back over the toes of the people sitting at the end of our row, and make it to the potty in good time.
Big brother proceeds to ask, very loudly, what the person in the stall next to ours is doing. "He's going potty." I say. "What's he going potty for?" replies Big Brother. "Because he has to go potty, too, just like you." "Is he going pee-pee, or poo-poo?" Big Brother queries, without taking a breath. "Shh" I say quietly, feeling my face turn beat-red. "Dad-E, do big boys stand up to go pee-pee, and sit down to go poo-poo?" "That's right, buddy," I affirm. You get the idea. It takes a few more minutes, but we manage to finish, flush, and even wash our hands. The questions have not stopped.
We walk out of the bathroom, only to be greeted by Busy-Mom-E and little brother. "What happened?" I ask. Busy-Mom-E replies, "Little brother started screaming for you the moment you walked out." Somehow, I'm not surprised. By now, we're getting close to the half-way point of the service. Fortunately, they are just getting ready to send the 3 to 5 year-olds out for their Children's Liturgy, so we sneak back in. We're excited that Big Brother now looks forward to going to "Special Church."
Big Brother wants Dad-E to walk him to "Special Church" today. The only problem is that he does not want Dad-E to leave him there. Rather than deal with a melt-down (because I want him to attend the liturgy), I "cave" and stay with him. Fortunately, we're at a point where he participates with the other children, and I can sit and "hide" in the corner. (Soon, instead of hiding, I might actually "up-in-here" and see what happens.) The down side of attending the Children's Liturgy is that I miss the readings and homily. The up-side is that I get affirmation that my children are "normal." Much of the children's liturgy is taken up by the teacher addressing "distractions"--the child who has to go potty, the child who needs a tissue, the child who is physically unable to sit, the child who wants to tell everyone she's going to the movies after church, and the child who wants to stick their finger in the candle. I can't help but chuckle when the story about the prophet Samuel's mother, Hannah, almost turns into a discussion about Hannah Montana.
Special Church is now over. We rejoin Mom-E and Little Brother in our seats, except that we're in the aisle now. Apparently, we stepped over those people enough times that they got the hint and moved elsewhere. At this point, church is about two-thirds over. We sit quietly for a period not exceeding five minutes, and then something happens. It's happened so many times, I completely forget what it was. Usual suspects are either Big Brother has to go potty again or Little Brother gets restless and starts screaming.
And so we head out into the vestibule. Invariably, the "other parent and child" who were still in church also go to the vestibule because the separation anxiety is too great. You see, our church is in a transitory phase, and services are currently held in what will eventually be the Parish Life Center (i.e., there is no "Cry room.") I think they should have stadium seating in the vestibule, with reserved spots for Busy-Dad-E and family, because we often spend more time in the vestibule than we do with the actual congregation.
But instead of seats, there's only wide-open space, and tables where they're already setting up the juice and doughnuts for after the service. This officially constitutes a playground for children. Before I can say "stop," Big Brother has already turned the vestibule into a running track. Little Brother takes off after him. Mom-E and Dad-E, now amateur rodeo cowboys, manage to use our lassos to "hog-tie" the boys. We ignore Big Brother's pleas for juice and a doughnut (yeah, let's give him some MORE sugar, good idea), and head back in for communion.
Today is a "good day" (relatively-speaking), in that we can return to our seats after communion, rather than making a return-visit to the vestibule. A few minutes later, the recession begins, and we're gathering up our stuff. Only a few more obstacles to overcome. For some unknown reason, our church thinks it's fun to put the rack to return the hymnals as far away as possible from the doors to the congregation, and in a location that is "up stream" from the direction of foot traffic leaving the church. Once this is done, we must navigate our way around the tribe of people who thought it would be a splendid idea to stand and chat just outside the entrance doors, pretty much blocking anyone else from leaving.
A little tired, we head for the car. I open up the weekly bulletin, hoping that someone has randomly inserted one of those "4-year Church Excuse Notes." I mean, my heart was in the right place, but you can see how much time I had to sit uninterrupted and focus on the service. You might be thinking, "don't they have child care at your church? Why not leave the boys there?" Maybe Busy-Mom-E and I like to make it more difficult for ourselves, maybe we're afraid to leave them with a relative stranger, or maybe we figure that our children will never learn how to sit quietly and pay attention unless we give them opportunities to do so.
Oh well, we'll try again next week.
As always, I'd love to hear from you--your thoughts, stories, and good fatherhood blogs! If you like what you read, let me know, and let you friends know, too! Be sure to "tune in" on Wednesday, for a new post, "Date Night".
Friday, January 16, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I should preface by saying that the scenario below isn't the rule at our house, but it's not uncommon either.
This post is a tribute to ANYONE who has EVER tried to get ready to go ANYWHERE with children, which can bring out the (not-so) best in us. I hope you can relate, because I pray that this occurs in other households, too.
7:30 am (2 hours before church starts): Busy-Dad-E and -Mom-E have enjoyed "sleeping in." (Remember when you'd laugh hysterically and call someone names for suggesting that 7:30 am was sleeping-in?)
7:31 am: Busy-Dad-E ponders getting out of bed and having a few uninterrupted minutes to check email, and maybe even read the comics page in relative silence.
7:32 am: Busy-Dad-E's dreams of a few quiet moments are shattered by little brother, who is now screaming.
7:33 am: Both Busy-Dad-E and -Mom-E close eyes tightly under the delusion that this was an isolated scream, and quiet moments are still possible.
7:33 am: Little brother continues to scream. Busy-Dad-E and -Mom-E trudge out of bed to little brother's room.
7:34 am: Little brother's poopy diaper changed, and he is smiling and happy now. (You'd scream, too, if you had a poopy diaper). Little brother starts making milk sign.
7:35 am: Busy-Mom-E takes little brother out to the kitchen to get breakfast started, while -Dad-E goes to wake up big brother.
7:36 am: "No," screams big brother, who is now a ball of covers. "I don't want to get up." Here we go.
7:37 am: Busy-Dad-E heads outside first to get the paper. The paper will now live on the counter until we get back from church.
7:38 am: Busy-Mom-E and -Dad-E finish making breakfast.
7:39 am: "Big brother, I've got your chocolate juice. Your toaster waffle's getting cold."
7:40 am: Everyone, including big brother (who is now smiling), makes it to the table. We sit down together.
7:41 am: Big brother gets up from the table the moment his bottom hits the chair. "I've got to go potty." Off he goes. A split-second later, the dog scratches on the back door, requesting to go outside. Busy-Dad-E lets him out.
7:42 am: The whole family sits down again.
7:43 am: The dog already wants back inside. This time, it's Busy-Mom-E's turn to go get him.
7:44 - 8:00 am: Enjoyable breakfast conversation and the usual morning silliness. Life is good.
8:00 am (90 minutes before church starts): Both Busy-Dad-E and -Mom-E realize the time. We draw straws. Busy-Mom-E goes to shower and get dressed (ladies first). Busy-Dad-E will start to get the boys dressed.
8:01 am: "I don't want to go to church. Church is MEAN!" exclaims big brother when I tell him we need to get dressed (anything big brother doesn't like is either "mean" or a "bad word." Calmly, I repeat (for the umpteeth time) that it's important to go to church, give thanks and praise to God... "But you like to go to special (children's) church." I say. "No I don't," he says. "Special church is a BAD WORD." (Big brother really does get excited about going to special church.) You get the idea.
8:02 - 8:45 am: The three-ring circus starts to kick up into gear. Little brother gets dressed relatively easily, though his shoes fall off a few times. The dog has to go outside at least two more times. Busy-Dad-E is able to restock the diaper bag, get some snacks together, and even locate the offering envelope. After much protest (and running around the house naked), big brother is finally dressed.
8:45 am (45 minutes until church): Busy-Mom-E is showered and dressed, with only hair and make-up left to do. Time for Busy-Dad-E to run through the shower.
8:46 am: Big brother decides he's dirty and wants to shower, too. In 20 seconds, he undoes 45 minutes worth of effort, and is now naked again. He yells and protests when Busy-Mom-E tires to keep him from getting into the shower.
8:47 am: Busy-Mom-E and -Dad-E make a concession and let big brother watch a Sprout TV program in our room, which quells the screams and keeps him out of the shower. Busy-Mom-E does hair and make-up with one eye, while the other eye makes sure the brothers' big and little are not getting into anything that could cause bleeding or require a head CT. Big brother distracted enough by TV that he can be reclothed.
9:10 am (20 minutes until church): Busy-Dad-E is now showered and dressed. Time to start moving towards the car. "But I want to finish my show," protests big brother.
9:11 am: "Did you brush either of their teeth?" Busy-Mom-E and -Dad-E ask each other, knowing the answer. "No." All hopes of leaving on time are dashed.
9:12 - 9:15 am: A few more screams and flailing limbs while trying to brush big brother's teeth. It doesn't matter which parent assists with brushing, big brother wants the other one of us.
9:16 am: Big brother refuses to wear his brown shoes to church. "I want to wear my Lightning McQueen sandals." "No way," we reply.
9:17 - 9:22 am: The boys are strapped into their carseats amidst a variable amount of screams, protests, and shoes that have fallen off.
9:23 am: Car engine turns over. "Did you pick up the offering envelope on the counter?" Busy-Mom-E gives a harsh sigh and goes back inside.
9:25 am (5 minutes until church starts): The car backs out of the driveway. Yay we're (finally)off. Thank you, God, that church isn't that far away.
9:26 am (4 minutes until church): We're less than 2 miles from church, but are stuck behind a truck doing 42 in a 55. Busy-Dad-E is quietly reminding himself that we're going to church, though he'd like to beep the horn and beat the steering wheel out of frustration.
9:29 am (1 minute until church): We pull into the parking lot after what seems like an eternity. We start the process of getting the boys out of their car seats, putting on shoes again, etc.
9:31 am (1 minute AFTER church has started): We're walking in the front door. Late again.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Monday, January 12, 2009
I love this picture of little brother, which cracks me up every time I look at it. This is the only cabinet in the kitchen that isn't child-proofed, and the boys love to empty out all of the plastic containers. Please note that little brother was assisted out of the cabinet the very moment after this photo was taken.
Before you say "Little brother clearly appears to be thinking inside the box (aka cabinet) here, Busy-Dad-E", or any other one-liner that comes to mind (my favorite is "the butt stops here"), let's not forget that children are smarter than we give them credit for.
I know, what's smart about crawling into a cabinet and getting stuck? Well, it's more the fact that he was willing to crawl in there, rather than the outcome. That is, I always marvel at how children's thinking/speech/curiosity is not kept grounded by many of the "rules" that plague us as adults. There is a lot that we can learn from them in this regard. Let me explain.
Children are not afraid to try something new. Little brother plowed in to the cabinet head first, without fear, to explore what was in there. How often are we as adults afraid to step outside of our comfort zones and try something new, whether it be eating at a new restaurant, starting up a conversation with a relative stranger at a party, or trying out a new hobby? Sometimes we get "stuck", but sometimes we discover something great. Nothing ventured, nothing great.
Speaking of discovery, children's curiosity is contagious. So frequently as adults we lose that innate sense of wonder about how things work, our natural world, a geographic location, a period of history, etc. We're make excuses--too tired, too busy, it's too expensive. The reality is, if something is a priority, we'll make time for it. We would do well to imitate our children's passion to learn more about things. We can start by helping them with their own interests. Big brother was really interested in Egyptian pyramids, for example, so let's get some books to read from the library, watch some videos on the internet, build a pyramid out of legos, draw a picture, etc.
I'm also impressed at how children aren't afraid to fail. In fact, they don't know to be afraid of trying. I love watching (and helping as needed) as the boys work on a new task--the just delve in. I say, let them try to stick the square peg in the round hole, so-to-speak. They may try ten different things that are incorrect, but they do so with the fierce determination that it's going to work each time. In fact, children need to learn about what doesn't work as much as what does. The point is, they're learning. As adults, we get caught up in "there's only one way to do something." Whether it's a research question, negotiating a conflict, or other routine aspects of our daily lives, we should always be searching for new approaches. That's how progress and innovation happen, and usually that takes a lot of brute force trial and error.
Lastly, I love how children don't always bind themselves to the rules of english grammar. I laugh when my parents told me how I used to say "I amn't going to do that." Not long ago, we were talking about something and I said "Hope not!", to which big brother (being required by age to be oppositional) replied "Hope yeah!" This is yet another example of how our children are always thinking outside of the box. And so, little brother, keep it up--never cease to explore, be curious, and try new things (so long as their legal, moral, and not bungee jumping)--Busy-Dad-E and Busy-Mom-E will help if you get stuck.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Busy-Dad-E's Guide to Toddler-Speak.
Beyond the classic bisketti = spaghetti, anyone with kids has heard children 1. call things by some pretty funny names as their vocabulary expands, 2. tried to repeat something dad-e or mom-e said, and didn't get it quite right. As little brother is talking more everyday, we were reminiscing a little last night about some of the funny words big brother has created (and still occasionally uses). In fact, my wife and I liked some of them so much, that we continue to use them, too.
So, I propose that we start a "dictionary" of sorts for these funny words/phrases. I'll kick things off with a few of my favorites. Please, please, reply share some of yours, too. I'd love to hear them, and I hope it gives everyone something to laugh about while we wait for the weekend to arrive.
Bita barn (Granola bar)
Blubberdub (Blood work done)
Chocka-juice (Chocolate milk)
Pepper and patties (Peppermint patties)
Polar Press (Polar Express)
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
My wife and I have used Baby Sign Language with both of our boys, and the results have been most impressive. SHAMELESS PLUG FOR WHICH I WILL RECEIVE NO ROYALTIES: IF YOU WANT TO REDUCE FRUSTRATION LEVELS IN YOUR HOUSE, TEACH YOUR BABY TO SIGN! We bought one of the instructional DVDs to get started, and from there we were off to the races (though this is a marathon and not a sprint). Baby sign language is essentially a modified version of American sign language. The premise is simple: babies can learn to sign (and make multiple signs) MUCH faster/earlier than they acquire spoken language. Through signing, your baby can communicate his/her needs more easily = less frustration for baby = happier Busy Dad-E and/or Busy Mom-E.
"So when do I start?" The generic answer is "when your baby is ready." We started with our boys at about 6 months, but anywhere between 6-12 months is typical, usually when the child can make some good and (briefly) sustained eye contact. You first introduce to your baby (up to) 3 signs: milk, eat, and more. At first, teaching a baby to sign is like a bad relationship: it's very one-sided. You will make the milk sign HUNDREDS of times, and your baby will either ignore you or think "what the heck is Dad-E doing?" You'll get nothing in return, and you'll begin to wonder if Busy-Dad-E was playing a big joke on you. But remember, babies are pretty darn smart. THE SECRET OF SUCCESS IS CONSTANCY OF PURPOSE. BE PERSISTENT!
Then, one day (for us it was at about age 12 months), almost out of the blue, you'll make the milk sign (not even realizing your still doing it), and your munchkin will make the sign back. PLEASE ALLOW ME TO CLOSE YOUR JAW. The two of you will share in that moment, and you'll be blown away, at least I was. THERE REALLY IS A HAMPSTER RUNNING THE WHEEL INSIDE THE HEAD OF THAT SWEET LITTLE CRY/POOP MACHINE, AND HE/SHE CAN TALK TO ME. WOW!
From there, the learning curve is exponential. Babies start picking up signs like they've always known them. Teach her the sign for puppy once, and never again will she look at the dog without making the sign, to let you know "HEY DAD-E, THAT'S A PUPPY!" Within two months of his first sign (milk), my boys added signs like eat, puppy, more, apple, shoes, diaper change, tree, etc.
And it's not just about object recognition. The two-way street is now OPEN. Your baby will use their signs to really communicate with you. Imagine the following scenario: Your baby is sitting in his high chair eating and he starts to cry. Without Baby Signs, you give him milk (he throws it on the floor, it spills, the dog tries to lick it up, and you slip getting up to shoo away the dog), you give him food (and now you're cleaning the walls), you give him a toy (which also ends up on the floor), etc. With Baby Signs, he makes the "diaper change" sign to tell you "HEY I DON'T WANT TO EAT BECAUSE I'M SITTING HERE IN MY OWN POOP!" and two minutes later he's smiling and eating again, and everyone's happy.
"But won't that delay my child's speech." All of the research we found indicates that this is false. Signing with your baby. In fact, many children will use signs and speech simultaneously up to about age 3.
Your baby is immensely curious and observant about the world around them. Baby Signs give them an amazing tool to communicate and share that with you. It's helped me see the world through my boys' eyes, gain insight into their personality and likes, and bond with my children.
1. Babies are pretty darn smart.
2. Your child, even little babies, are always watching (and imitating) you and their environment.
3. Give Baby Signs a shot. I hope you'll be amazed.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
To set the stage, little brother is strapped to my belly facing forward in the Baby Bjorn, while big brother is free to run amok.
As soon as we start to play, big brother says "I've got to go potty." Guess what? There's NOT A SINGLE POTTY at the whole park (obviously it was NOT designed by someone with children). Since the place is crawling with people, I have to walk with big brother to a fairly "remote" area. Although, we find a suitable tree to water that is obscured from view, I'm still expecting a police officer to walk up on us (given the location of the park) to see me squatted down with a baby strapped to my front and a half-naked toddler now guilty of public urination. Not a pretty sight.
Okay, mission accomplished, let's go slide!
Ten seconds later as we're walking back to the playground, big brother says "I just went poo-poo in my underwear." WHAT? You've been potty trained and haven't pooped your pants in months, why now? Big brother says "that's okay. I'll just go play." OH NO YOU WON'T! Of course, although I have a diaper bag in the car, big brother has just soiled his last pair of skivvies. Fortunately, big brother's shorts are swim trunks with a built-in underwear liner, and I decide that'll just have to do. So, back we trek to the car. Meanwhile little brother is entertaining himself with the wrapper from the spoon from the Wendy's Frosty I'd bought big brother, who was too busy soiling himself, I mean playing, to eat it (thankfully little brother is a Type B, easy to please child). We get to the car, big brother strips from the waist down, and we get him cleaned up. Again, I'm waiting for a police officer to come by and see me sitting on the pavement with a baby in my lap wiping the butt of a half-naked toddler, with an ever-growing pile of dirty wipes and turds next to us.
Okay, mission accomplished! Toddler has eliminated solid and liquid waste, solid waste now disposed of, and baby brother is STILL content to play with the plastic spoon wrapper. CAN WE PLEASE SLIDE NOW?
We slide! And we slide! Everyone slides! We slide together, big brother on one side, little brother on my lap on the other. We laugh, we pretend, we climb, we cross the suspension bridge. Everyone is having fun. We slide for an hour. Big brother has a tiny fall trying to climb up the slide, bumps his left eyebrow, but keeps on playing like nothing happened. We repeat the mantra, "WE ONLY GO DOWN THE SLIDE, NOT UP" until it soaks in.
One last slide. "Daddy I want you to slide with me," says big brother. OKAY WE'RE COMING! As we start to come up the steps, Big brother spins around, starts to come back to us, loses his balance, falls forward, and BAM! His forehead sails into the hard plastic frame around one of the slides. He cries. In the second it takes me to get him, half of his face is covered in blood. OH NO, NOT ANOTHER HEAD INJURY! PLEASE NOT ANOTHER ER TRIP FOR A HEAD CT! We get down off the playground. Some nice lady sends her husband to get their first aid kit. I use little brother's burp towel to apply pressure to the wound. My pant leg, little brother, and the burp towel are slightly covered in blood. The right side of big brother's forehead swells to the size of a golf ball, but it stops bleeding quickly. The laceration is about 1 cm long, but superficial. Doesn't look like it'll need stitches. The nice lady gives big brother a sugary drink, which he downs. We wash off the worst of the blood from big brother and little brother. Five minutes later, big brother says, "I want to play some more." NO WE DON'T! Daddy makes an executive decision that we're going home.
We drive home. Thank goodness little brother is content to eat a biter biscuit on the way home, and big brother acknowledges the need for a bath.
We get home. Suddenly, now I have to go potty (BAD!), the dog wants out of his kennel to pee, little brother is ready for his bottle and bedtime, and big brother wants to watch Ice Age on DVD. WHAT DO WE DO FIRST? Everyone (except the dog), comes to the bathroom to "help" me go potty. Except that before I can go potty, big brother has to go pee-pee again. Now we have two boys naked from the waist-down (at least now we're in private), a baby screaming on the floor, and a dog in his kennel who still has to pee. We both take care of elimination. Big brother is now roaming the house pantless. While the water for little brother's bottle is heating up, I get big brother's DVD starting (I'D PROBABLY LET HIM WATCH A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G RIGHT NOW). AT LEAST HE'S SITTING ON A TOWEL ON THE COUCH!
I'm ready to heat up the milk in the water bath. I open the fridge. WHERE IS THE MILK! I quickly scan all of the shelves to no avail. HONEY YOU FORGOT TO DRAW ME A TREASURE MAP TO FIND THE MILK! PLEASE, I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO CALL MY WIFE TO ASK HER WHERE THE MILK IS, BECAUSE SHE'LL HEAR LITTLE BROTHER SCREAMING IN THE BACKGROUND AND SHE'LL KNOW FROM THE TONE OF MY VOICE THAT EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY. Okay, there it is behind the feta. Finally, little brother's bottle is ready. In the meantime, I've prepared an icepack for big brother's head. We all sit down on the couch together. Little brother's on my lap. I feed him a bottle with my left hand while I apply an ICE AGE pack to big brother's forehead with my right hand. We finish the milk. Little brother screams because he's still hungry. Big brother assumes responsibility for his ice pack. We get little brother some more baby food (at least I hope it was baby food that I gave him). Manny, Sid, and Diego have successfully returned the baby to his daddy. It looks like we will live happily ever after too.
With minimal resistance, big brother agrees to a bath. I get both boys in the tub. Fortunately for me, I realize this requires some advanced planning, namely having towls and pj's for both boys ready. Big brother gets in the tub. I take little brother's diaper off to put him in the tub. One big glob of poop drops to the floor, and another hangs delicately from his backside. I clean him up as best as I can, and get him into the tub. Blood and poop are successfully removed from both children. NOTE TO DISINFECT TUB PRIOR TO NEXT USE! I get both children in towels on the bed and ready to get into pj's. Little brother is rolling over and over, making him a difficult moving target to dress. Big brother, who by the way napped a grand total of ten minutes today (in the car), is exhausted and finds this behavior hysterical. I get little brother dressed and put him in the center of the bed, which will give him more room to roll while I dress big brother. I start to dress big brother, only to realize I didn't rinse the shampoo from his hair. BACK TO THE TUB WE GO! Big brother voluntarily sticks his head under the faucet (the swimming instructor, would be so proud) and rinses off. We get him dressed. I get neosporin and another bandaid for his head. As I cut the bandaid in half, Big brother looks at me terrified, saying "Please don't cut my hair. I don't want you to cut me up." I reassure him. His head is bandaged.
The mood is finally calm. Oh no, we forgot to let the dog out! OKAY, YOU CAN GO OUTSIDE AND PEE NOW! Big brother wants to watch Ice Age again. FINE! I start to rock little brother to sleep, and my wife calls me on the cell phone to let me know they're coming home from dinner.
"How was your evening?" she says. I proceed to explain.
Morals of the story:
1. PARENTHOOD IS NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED
2. PLAY WITH DAD-E AT OWN RISK!