Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Aussie word of the day: toddler edition

People ask me all the time what kind of accent Zeke has, as in, is he picking up any of Jason's Australian accent. And most of the time it's hard to discern any real accent because he's still learning pronunciation. I don't doubt that eventually he'll sound American, but be able to put the Aussie accent later in life when he's trying to pick up chicks.*

So far, I haven't noticed much of an accent, except for early on in his pronunciation of "water" (he used to say "woh-tah," like Jason does, but now has flattened out the "a" and sounds American). I have noticed that when we read Go, Dog. Go! -- sometimes I'll have him "read" the first couple of pages ("Dog." "Big dog. Little dog." "Big dogs and little dogs. Black and white dogs.") -- he says "dog" almost like there's a second "o" in there ("doog"), which is kind of how Jason pronounces it.

Then last night, we were reading Leonardo the Terrible Monster for the 70 millionth time. And we got to the part about how Leonardo doesn't have the benefit, scariness-wise, of being just plain weird, like Hector.

Zeke was doing his "what's this?" "what's that?" thing where he points to different pictures or images in the book and asks rapid-fire questions about them (even though he knows the answers). He pointed to Hector, a very silly-looking monster with 3 eyes and a huge goofy top hat and a tail-thingy that also kind of looks like an arm, and said, "what's that?"

"That's Hector," I said.

"He's weeeeeeeeed," Zeke exclaimed.

I had a minute of panic.

Did he just say Hector has weed? I mean, I don't doubt it, but how the fuck does he know what weed is? WHO'S TEACHING MY KID ABOUT DRUGS??

Then I thought about it and realized that he was using Jason's hyper-Aussie-fied pronunciation of the word "weird."

Big exhale.
*American girls dig the Aussie accent, for reasons I will never understand. I think it sounds all nasal-y and kind of grating, but I can't even tell you how often women have practically flung their panties at Jason when he started to talk, that's how much it happens. Now, give me a good Scots accent, and my toes definitely start to curl. But I digress.

Friday, February 19, 2010

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.

I come from a family of analyzers. We're all very think-y and into picking apart arguments.

When I was little, about 3 or 4, and we were living in Venezuela, I spoke both English and Spanish. And was apparently in the habit of switching back and forth between languages, depending upon the exigencies of a particular situation.

I had a little Peter Rabbit china bowl that was part of a set. And one day I accidentally dropped it and it broke. When asked about it, I instinctively responded in Spanish rather than in English, because that allowed me to say "se me cayĆ³" -- "it fell from me" -- rather than, "I dropped it," which implied a greater degree of culpability on my part.

No wonder I became a lawyer.

My brother, Sam, is very much a Deep Thinker (check out his blog for proof). He has always been this way, and was particularly hilarious as a kid. Always coming up with bizarre analogies and looking into the details of any given situation far more than you would have expected from such a little monkey.

When he was in kindergarten or first grade (I forget which), we were living in Israel. My brothers and I went to the American school there.

Sam and his fellow classmates were in their room and were instructed not to go out the door while their teacher stepped out for a second to do something. Sam, being Sam, took the instruction quite literally. So he didn't exit via the door. He exited via the window (which was low to the ground and caused no injury).

And was quite righteously indignant when he got in trouble. After all, no one had told him he couldn't climb out the window.

His teachers humored him by preparing a list, just for Sam, of all of the things that he was and was not allowed to do, but which most children wouldn't require to be spelled out.

I'm seeing these tendencies in Zeke.

One of his typically two-year-old behaviors that we're trying to eliminate is hitting. He generally doesn't hit out of anger, but out of frustration. I know that as he matures, he'll learn to control his impulses, and the behavior will probably work itself out on it's own.

But it's still unacceptable. So we have house rules that he knows and that he is reminded of when he misbehaves.

The other day I popped downstairs to retrieve something from my bedroom. Josie was in her bouncy seat on the kitchen table, and Zeke was coloring or something. I came back up the stairs, rounded the corner to the kitchen, and saw that Zeke had climbed up on a chair and was bopping Josie on top of her head. Not particularly hard, but in a way that indicated he wasn't trying to give her an affectionate pat.

I picked him up from the chair, put him on the floor, and said, "Zeke, you cannot hit the baby. That is not acceptable. What's the rule?"

He thought about it for a second and said, "No hitting Mama."

That's true, but the rule is not limited to not hitting me, and he knows it.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010


It bums me out that I'm no longer excited about my birthday. It was obviously a big deal as a kid. And as a teen. I remember being super-psyched about turning 16, and 17 and 18.

21 was fun because my sorority sisters and I went up to DC from Charlottesville and we all went out in Old Town Alexandria and they made me wear a big sign around my neck that said "Kiss Me I'm 21" or some such nonsense.

At 25 my roomies in Atlanta threw me a big surprise party. I was surprised and touched and we went out dancing until the wee hours at some club in Buckhead.

At 30 I threw myself a big party in my new house. I was playing a lot of bluegrass music then, so I had all my friends and bluegrass buddies and we hung out and played music and drank bourbon. I got kind of shitty drunk but two guys I was good friends with closed up the house, blew out the candles, and took my boots off of my feet before tucking me into bed.

34 was a good one. I was in Costa Rica visiting Jason, and he surprised me with a cake that he had made by some local lady in Tamarindo. He had to bicycle down this big hill holding the cake and trying not to bust ass all over the road.

Then I turned 40 this past Monday. And I seriously could not have been less interested.

It's not an "oh, woe is me, I'm so old" kind of feeling. Just a complete and utter indifference.

Which makes me sad.

I know it's a product of how crazy and exhausting life is right now. I got a Wii for my birthday -- including the balance board and fitness stuff -- which is so cool. But except for trying it out for about 15 minutes the night I opened the package, I haven't had time to use it. The house is a disaster. The baby has been sick. Jason has been working overtime, so he hasn't been home.

Wah wah.

A couple of weeks ago I checked into a local hotel on a Saturday night. By myself. I did nothing but lie on the bed and read magazines and watch trashy TV (including my first exposure to Jersey Shore -- oy vey). I had the bed to myself, and nobody was touching me or crawling on me or spitting up on me or crying or asking me to find their toy or make them food.

The next morning, I felt incredibly refreshed. I went home happy and smiling, and was delighted to see my children. I even took Zeke with me to the grocery store, which I ordinarily wouldn't do in a million years.

That feeling lasted about a day. Now I'm thinking that I'm going to need a night like that every week, just to feel human.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The insane, on occasion, are not without their charms.

I read somewhere that in terms of intensity and magnitude, the brain development that goes on in children between the ages of 2 and 5 is rivaled only by the changes people go through at puberty. They're developing language at a colossal pace, something like an average of 10 new words a day, they're learning to exert their independence at the same time that they're being required to start controlling their impulses -- everything everything everything is changing enormously.

Which is to say that living like a 2-year-old is sort of like running an asylum for a very short mental patient with a bipolar diagnosis. Or a 14-year-old girl.

One minute everything is happiness and sweetness. Chattering and singing songs and dancing and being so fucking adorable I can hardly stand it.

Then suddenly, and often without warning, his face will cloud over and he'll pitch himself onto the floor for a tantrum.

And I'm all, "what just happened? I thought we were having fun?"

I never know which it's going to be. Driving from work to pick up my children involves steeling myself for a potentially difficult night, with much oppositional behavior and fussing, only to find that Zeke is in a stellar mood and we have an evening of playing and laughing and an easy bedtime.*

Or, like last Tuesday night, Zeke will have a great swimming lesson, but then be pissed off that he has to get out of the pool, so he'll proceed to wail in the middle of the Montclair Rec Center and run out into the court of an ongoing youth basketball game, so that I have to put the baby down in her carseat in the middle of the hallway, chase after Zeke, and carry him screaming out of the building. The whistle of the basketball game scares the shit out of Josie and startles her awake and she starts to cry, so I'm carrying both crying children (plus the diaper bag and my purse) through the parking lot while people stop and stare and wonder whether there's an iPod app containing all the numbers of Child and Family Services offices nationwide so that they can make an quick call.

But progress is being made.

Zeke has been interested in the toilet and in talking about pee and poop for awhile. Whereas when we went to the zoo, we used to talk about and list the animals we saw, now we talk about the kind of poop we see. "See elephant poo-poo." "See rhino poo-poo." "See hippo poo-poo." I'd probably be annoyed by it if I didn't find it so goddamned funny.

We bought him a little potty and have been encouraging him to use it, but so far he hasn't wanted to. We haven't pushed it, because we figure he'll do it when he's ready, and I wasn't even going to start worrying about formal potty training until he was 3.

And then all of a sudden, this past Saturday, he said he wanted to use the potty. I took him in there and sat him down and kept him company for awhile, but nothing was happening. So I said, "well, let me know if you need help," and I went into the kitchen.

A couple of minutes later, he came to me and said, "I went pee-pee in the potty."

"Really?" I asked.


"Let me see!"

He took me by the hand and took me into the bathroom and sure enough, there was pee in the potty. I was so excited and effusive in my praise that I think it scared him a little.

Now we've started a prize chart for him, so he can work on sitting on the potty and using "nice hands" (not hitting or pinching), and every time he does, he gets a sticker on his chart and after 3 stickers per behavior, he gets to pick out a prize (ice cream, a new book, McDonald's french fries, whatever). Slowly but surely, the prize chart is filling up with stickers. And he's starting to internalize the relationship between positive behaviors and positive rewards. It's fantastic.

So while he definitely has rough nights, sometimes involving numerous time-outs for hitting or acting out, more and more, there are nights like last night, when he peed in the potty twice and we spent an hour before bedtime reading books, wrestling and giggling, until he snuggled up against me and said "I love you, Mama," and planted a big kiss on my cheek.

It makes the craziness pretty easy to stomach.

*Josie plays no role in the difficulty, as she remains the easiest baby I've ever encountered. Never fusses, smiles and coos, and goes to bed on schedule and sleeps like a champ. God, I love that girl.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Wordle

We have monthly staff meetings at my office, and everyone rotates the hosting duties. A couple of weeks ago, the guy that was hosting this month's meeting sent out an email asking everyone to come up with three positive words to describe everyone else in the office. He then compiled everyone's responses, fed them into an online program (www.wordle.net), and framed the resulting "word cloud"* so that everyone had a reminder of how much they are valued in the office. In these tough times, when every day contains more bad news about how shitty the budget forecast is for school districts (and school district-supported associations, as we are), it was lovely and thoughtful gift.

Some of the words people used to describe me are so flattering. I'm glad my coworkers think that I'm smart and funny.

But some of the words left me scratching my head. "Business-oriented"? Nothing could be further from the truth. "Researcher"? Um, thanks, I guess.

"Willing"? Someone has been talking to my husband.

"Frank." "Competitive." "Boisterous."

My guess is that thesaurus.com was getting a bunch of hits from folks trying to come up with nice ways of saying "mouthy, obnoxious asshole."

*The bigger the word, the more people came up with it. So I guess I'm wicked smaht, according to my coworkers.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

We may be married, but do we have to share *everything*??

Jason's pneumonia is better. He's back at work. But in keeping with the dark cloud/evil spirits that have apparently taken up residence in our house, he started getting congested on Friday or Saturday.

So he blew his nose.

And somehow, whatever he blew ended up shooting up his ear canal rather than out his nostril, building up an enormous amount of pressure and causing him terrible pain. Piercing, horrible pain that kept intensifying, and pressure in his ear that wouldn't ease up.

He went to the urgent care place, and they diagnosed him with an ear infection and put him on penicillin and gave him ear drops for the pain.

In the meantime, I've had a cold as well, mainly manifesting itself as an incessantly runny nose.

Sunday morning, we took the kids swimming at the local rec center. Everyone had fun, and then when we were leaving, I felt like I had some water in my ear, so pinched my nose and cleared my ears (like you on on a plane), heard a crackling sound like bubbles in my left ear, and then felt a huge buildup of pressure that wouldn't release.

As the day wore on, the pain in my ear kept building and building, to the point that I felt like the left side of my head was going to explode.

So I went to the urgent care place, and they diagnosed me with an ear/sinus infection and put me on penicillin (same kind and dosage as Jason) and gave me ear drops for the pain.

I told them I didn't need the ear drops because I could just borrow my husband's.

Since, apparently, neither of us is capable of blowing our nose without inflicting severe damage.