Thursday, May 21, 2015

A poop is not a lion

Terza is three, which is the age at which, I've noticed, children tend to develop a short-lived phobia of feces. Don't ask me why this happens. I know it has something to do with what they call "body integrity" which is also why, at about this age, they also develop a blood phobia. All of which is to say, I will definitely not be showing the kid any birth videos any time soon. Could you imagine what the implications of that would be on someone concerned about body integrity?

Because it's not my first time at the rodeo, I was prepared for the poop problem. When Terza has to go, I hang out with her in the bathroom and just chat with her and tell her stories so she does not have a full-on nervous breakdown about her imminent BM. While doing that a few days ago, I was reminding her of the fact that there's nothing to worry about. And she, in a moment of clarity and reason, agreed.

Then she expounded on the subject:

"A poop is not a lion or a tiger," she observed. "A poop can't eat you. So you don't have to be scared."

Exactly, my child. Exactly.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mourning Dove

Seconda's learning about birds in school and had a homework assignment in which she had to write about the morning dove.

She did it. But she spelled it "mourning dove."

"I'm concerned about Seconda," I told David, "Why would she automatically opt for mourning instead of morning? That seems so bleak and macabre."

"Are you sure that's not how it's spelled?" he asked me.

"I mean, I doubt it. Birds sing in the morning. They wake you with their cheerful chirps. Birds are optimistic."

And then I googled it and Seconda was totally right.

Mourning dove.

What kind of a doom-and-gloomer named that animal?

I was relieved, though, for several reasons. A: My daughter's paying a decent amount of attention during Bird Study. B. One less piece of evidence that she is bleak and macabre. And C: I think I may be a genuine optimistic myself, to have assumed the dove would have a cheerful, hopeful name. Of course, I'm the most neurotic genuine optimistic that ever lived. But still . . .

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Deferring Housework; or why it took five days for me to vacuum birdseed in the middle of my living room

Terza spilled birdseed all over the living room floor on a recent Sunday afternoon. I swept it up as best as I could (of course I'm visually impaired so, you know, my best in the sweeping-up-birdseed department isn't great). We were half out the door when she spilled it. I knew there was birdseed scattered on the rug, but I didn't have time to deal with unearthing the vacuum and plugging it in and sucking up all the birdseed in order to restore the filthy carpet to just normal levels of filth. 

"I'll do it later," I decided.

We didn't get back home until late that evening. We rushed to feed the kids and ourselves dinner. We clean up the rice Terza spilled, and the milk that Seconda spilled and a half dozen other minor messes I can't even recall because they are so routine I'm no longer even aware of dealing with them; I just go on auto-clean mode. 

David put Terza to bed, at which point I remembered the birdseed. I managed to pull the vacuum out of my bedroom and wheel it into the living room before I was called away by another child to take care of another crisis. Later that night, after the kids had gone to sleep, I saw the vacuum and remembered the birdseed again, but there was no way in hell I was going to risk waking the kids by running the vacuum. Did I say that emphatically enough? No. Fucking. Way. I'd rather sleep on the spilled birdseed than risk waking the kids. I'd rather eat it. So, I left the vacuum out, figuring I'd do it the next day. 

Days passed. Work, school trips, allergist appointments, emergency tooth extraction appointments, work, meetings, sibling smackdowns, work, fevers, overdue bills, overdue library books, first holy sacraments, preschool show and tell, work, domestic civil wars, strep tests. Every night, once the kids had gone to sleep, and I'd done the dishes (or nagged David to), emptied the lunch boxes, prepped for the next day, returned pressing emails, and showered, I'd walk into the living room and see the vacuum still there. Waiting for its chance to shine. 

"Well, I"m not going to run the vacuum now," I thought,"not when my sanity hinges on all three kids staying asleep for a few hours."

So for five days, the vacuum remained in the living room and the birdseed got more and more embedded in the rug. On Friday, the kids and I got home at 5:30, leaving a few hours before bedtime, no homework, no pressing emails to return. 

"It's go-time," I said to the vacuum. 

I plugged that baby in and I sucked that birdseed up, feeling buoyant with a dizzying sense of achievement.

"I did it!!!" I thought. "I've met my goal! And, most importantly, I CAN CROSS THIS SHIT OFF FMY TO-DO LIST!!!!"

It's a sad state of affairs when it takes you five days to vacuum up birdseed -- and even then, you're amazed that you actually did it. Even then, it feels like a minor miracle that you were able to squeezz that five minute activity into your schedule. 

Let's hope no one ever spills a gallon of milk on the floor. We might still be wading in it two weeks later. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Goblin, the game

My daughters have devised a new game of pretend. It is called, simply, "Goblin."

The game is simple. Terza, age 3, is a baby named Goblin. She is not, as I initially thought, a goblin baby. That would be absurd. Instead she is a human baby that has distinctly goblin-like characteristics, including growling, crawling on all fours and a generally aggressive disposition.

Seconda is her owner. Which is to say, her master.

You can see where this game is going. Seconda orders Terza around. Terza obeys. Terza is delighted. Second is delighted. I am mildly disturbed but they are amusing themselves so I say nothing. Seconda is a benevolent master, more maternal than anything else. She has a gentle scolding tone to her voice, but never issues a harsh rebuke.

It's all, "Oh no no no, Goblin! You know better than to bite the table!"

and, "Goblin, it's feeding time! What do you have to do if you want your bottle? That's right! Sit down."

and, to me, "You'll have to excuse my baby Goblin. She likes to bite people."

Goblin has no voice. The metaphor is not lost on me. Though I can't say Terza minds. Quite the opposite.

The other day, Seconda gave herself a character upgrade. She put on her communion veil and her communion glove and shiny, brand-new silver party shoes ("are these designer?" she asked  baffled me). Goblin also got an upgrade, though not as lavish. She hasn't received first holy communion, after all, so pickings are slim. Seconda pranced around the apartment, with Terza trailing right behind her, on all fours, barking and growling and looking positively elated.

I find it's best not to think too deeply about the fucked-up power dynamics one sees played out in pretend play. After all, isn't that what pretend play is for? And isn't that was big sisterhood is all about? I remember my sister singing back-up for me in our two-girl band for our entire childhood. Did it traumatize her for life, and give her an inferiority complex? Well, probably. But, on the plus side. it also gave her grit galore.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Seven Indictments for Seven Brothers

All five of us love Family Movie Night. The only trouble we tend to run into is choosing a Family Movie. Primo likes movies that are either too scary or too esoteric for the little kids. Seconda loves tween Disney flicks which Primo (and I) abhor. Terza's up for anything but loses interest after 10 minutes if it's not quite right for her, and by "loses interest" I mean she climbs on the furniture and yells menically or smacks her siblings in the head or throws Goldfish in the air like confetti.

So imagine my delight when I thought of the perfect Family Movie: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Had I ever seen this movie? No, I had not. But I distinctly remember it being my little cousin's favorite movie when she was a kid and also, it was old, so how inappropriate could it be? There was sure to be no sex and no cursing. And once, I googled it and a Youtube clip popped up featuring the coolest gymnastics/ dance number ever. Perfect, I figured.

And it was, for about the first hour. I mean, yes, it was dated, and the main character, Adam, treats his wife like a servant, and not like a human being, but that's something she takes issue with so it was a good talking point. But then, halfway through the movie, Adan started singing a strange song, about the rape of the Sabine women.

"This is really weird," I commented to David. "Why is he singing this song about the Sabine women?"

"Because that's basically the whole plot of the movie," he said.

"What movie?" I asked. "This movie?"

"Yeah," he answered. "Haven't you ever seen this movie before?"

"No," I confessed. "Are you kidding me? These seven brothers are all about to kidnap their brides?"

And - spoiler alert -- that is exactly what they do.


It is a modern day Rape of the Sabines. That's what the WHOLE movie is about. And guess what? It works out GREAT for the guys. Their captives get Stockholm Syndrome and never want to leave. So they all get married in one big group ceremony, and the only reason the girls' dads agree to that is the girls convince the dads they've gotten knocked up and are, thus, ruined. Thankfully that plot point is packed into the last two minutes and is glossed over so we didn't have to explain the whole concept of a shotgun wedding to our eight-year-old daughter.

"Why didn't you warn me that's what this whole movie is about?" I asked David,

"Oh, it's fine," he said/ "The men suffer the consequences of their actions/"

"Not really," I protested. "I mean, they sleep in the barn for, like, a month. And then the girls totally fall for them and they all get married. Whereas, really, they should all be incarcerated."

Promo overhead me. He was laughing his ass off about how ridiculous the plot was.

"They should call is Seven Trials for Seven Brothers," he laughed.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Everyone's a parenting expert . . .

I have an information addiction. I self-medicate with research. I guess it's better than a lot of other addictions, and it comes in handy sometimes, but at other times, it's bothersome and problematic. The biggest problem I run into, especially insofar as parenting is concerned, is that always doing research before making decisions creates the illusion that there is one right answer that can be found if only you devote enough time and energy to unearthing it under piles of reading and statistics. This, of course, is total and complete bullshit. 

Apparently, though, I'm not alone in my dependence. This fantastic Motherlode piece, Information-Hungry Millenial Parents, Making It Hard on Themselves, totally hits the nail on the head. Here's one of my favorite parts:
In the 1980s, when my mother raised me, it was perfectly acceptable to take your children to their annual pediatrician visit and defer to your doctor (or the older mothers in your neighborhood) about parenting dilemmas. Doctors had gone to medical school, after all, and other parents had experience. They were the experts. But I get the feeling that has changed.
Of the 10.8 million households with millennial parents at the helm, nearly all of them are frequent Internet users. Liberal, socially conscious, interconnected and peer-reliant, my segment of the millennial generation (wealthy in education and confidence, if not in our paychecks) has unprecedented access to what was once privileged information, as well as the opinions of their peers. We’ve become the experts, and as a result, we’re hyper-aware, constantly questioning, defensive. Baby boomer helicopter parents have nothing on us.

Is it lost on me that in discussing my information addiction on parenting issues, I just directed you to read an article about the issue? No, it is not lost on me. I just consider this Motherlode reading a kind of Methodone.

Monday, April 20, 2015

When I grow up . . .

Terza is three. This, I have found, is the age at which girls who have big brothers try to pee standing up.

The other day, I took her to use her potty and instead of sitting on it, she stood next to it, looking ambitious.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I want to pee like Primo," she explained.

Poor Primo. We took all the locks off the doors when we moved in, because the kids were little and we'd already lived through the "Seconda Locks Herself in the Laundry Room in Tennessee" incident. Now, of course, Primo's old enough to deserve some privacy, especially from his little sister who's prone to barging into bathrooms without so much as a how-do-you-do. Of course, because of Terza, we still prefer to have doors that can't lock. After all, we've already lived through the "Terza Locks Herself in the Bathroom at Brunch at Our Friend's House" incident and that was really no fun. So, as usual, a Sophie's choice.

When Terza told me she had big plans to start peeing standing up, I told her, as I told Seconda at the same age, that girls pee sitting down because girls' bodies are different from boys' bodies and it just works better to sit down.

So she sat. And she peed. And she mused.

"When I grow up, I want to pee like a boy," she reflected.

I was just beginning to worry about whether this was an indication that she might need gender reassignment surgery one day and if so, if that was covered by health insurance, and if not, was it smart to maybe start saving now, when she spoke again.

"When I grow up, I want to be a tiger," she said.

"Me too," I said.

And then I stopped worrying, and started enjoying my kid instead.