Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Muppet Dictator

So much of my day at home is filled with Bucky testing my limits.

Just today I was writing an email when he slowly approached from behind and proceeded to see just how close he could get to my ear whilst creating a cacophony of sucking on his sippy-cup.  One could argue he didn't know I have a very sensitive bubble when working on the computer. Maybe he also didn't know that the sound of chewing, or mouth sounds in general, are perhaps my biggest pet peeve.  Or perhaps maybe he did know and decided to see what would happen when he put both of them together.  Well played Bucky. . . Well played.

There is also the foremost example of his boundary crossing expertise that happened the day Bucky approached me with his big wily smile and proceeded to start by gently patting my knee once and with each successive tap it grew harder and harder and harder. Each time the love tap was followed by "I'm hitting?" "I'm hitting?" and the shmarmy smile growing bigger and bigger. I'm on to you Bucky McBuckerson.

Of course, this is completely normal behavior for any 2yo.  They must discover the laws of the land and figure out what makes a hit, a hit.  But to say that I am easily able to dismiss this constant prodding, on the basis that it is simply human nature, would be completely inaccurate. I quickly go through the list of choices in my head of how best to manifest the mounting frustration.  There is the stink-eye, the timeout, the "Do you want me to decapitate your beloved stuffed animal giraffe Jimmy-John?". (The last of course is to cruel to ever use or even threaten with, but I can dream can't I?)  Although, the most naturally occurring reaction, in my equal opportunity home, is to return the favor to Bucky. I shall test his limits.

Another one of Bucky's common 2yo traits is wanting consistency and normalcy and things to be the same each and every time he encounters them.  Very often he'll walk into a room where we've just moved a stationary item and with the greatest look of concern he will inquire, "What happened here?"

Just moments ago, Mamma was reading Bucky his bedtime book.  Each night he chooses two books and has recently got in the habit of telling us around 12 times in rapid sucession that "This one be normal and this one be normal. Normal. Normal."  This is to make certain that no silly voices or word substitutions are used.  With Bucky's prologue finished, Mamma proceeded to read a book about sounds.  "Zoe's bell goes 'Ring! Ring!' Oscar's hammer goes 'Bam! Bam! Bam!' Telly's stopwatch goes 'Bplbhpphb! Bplbhbpp!'" "No!" Bucky exclaims, "Not like that!" Mamma laughs, but Bucky is all too serious and commands that she start again.  Mamma must have a hard time reading, because she messes up over and over again. Meanwhile, Bucky's reality is being tampered with and he is being pressed towards his limit.

Finding that fine line is the key. Go over it and you've created a tantrum and possibly some broken toddler synapses that can never be repaired.  It may be prudent to never even get close to that line to avoid such scenarios, but please remember, we're talking about revenge equality here.

So one day, after one of my above said manifestations was eagerly waiting to spill forth on to Bucky, we sat side by side on the couch watching a children's show that is very near and dear to him. Wonder Pets.

If you understand Bucky's need for universal harmony from above, you will understand why he loves this show.  It is consistent and unchanging.  The plot is ALWAYS the same. It goes like this.

The kids leave school. The Wonder Pets get a call on their tin-can phone. There's a baby animal in trouble. (I have to be careful writing this as I might burst out in song.) There's a problem with the fly-boat. They fix it with teamwork. They get to the baby animal. Just so happens the solution they found to fix the fly-boat is the same thing they need to save the baby animal! OH HAPPY DAY! Let's celebrate by enjoying a piece of celery!!

Yep. Each and every time. However, there was that one time where a stuffed animal giraffe ended up getting beheaded. Oh wait. That was my dream again.

Back to the couch. I seized my opportunity. "Hey Bucky, did they fix the shny-foat?" "The fly-boat," he responds with an agitated giggle. "Ohhh," I say. A moment later. "Is that the naby shnorcufline?" Without removing his gaze from the screen, "Baby Porcupine!" "Oh right. Baby Porcupine," I say. This correction on my behalf is much to his satisfaction and in turn allows me a few more rounds. "They're really good at cream turk!" "Team work!" This awards me a dirty look, and checkmate is insight. I go for the kill. "Hey Bucky. What's the name of this show?" "Wonder Pets." "Blunder Pets?" "Wonder Pets!" "Schnunder Getz?" "WONDER PETS!" "Grundy Underpants?"  And with the miraculous muppet unhinging of his jaw and all the fury of the F├╝hrer he slams his hand on the arm rest with each syllable, "WON. DER. PETS!!!" 

I have tested and reached the limit. I bask briefly in this victory, again for equality's sake, and then make sure he still loves me by announcing very articulately, "Wonder Pets."  He looks at me, laughs, and nods approvingly. Peace and unity have been restored to the universe. I too, of course, am having a good laugh and thinking all the while, "This is all very particular from a boy who also has affections for another TV show he calls, 'Bulb Day Burbur.'"

Stay-at-Home Dad, stay at home dad, SAHD

Monday, August 22, 2011

Play-Doh Play-Date / SO YOU GET EXCITED!!

I have the privilege for the next three weeks of having an interim stay-at-home dad right next door. Lucky me. Garrett and his wife have just welcomed their secondborn and Garrett's enjoying his first week of paternity leave.  He has the privilege of not only watching their newborn and their 4yo daughter, Clare, but also another 3yo girl from their building, Angela. Lucky him.

With the agreement to always having coffee available to us, we decided it may be beneficial to our sanity if we would try to have our kids play together in the hope that one of our babies would be calm at a given moment allowing that baby's parent to apply some supervision and interaction with the toddlers.  That's the hope anyway.

We've been over to their place several times as an entire family and left our own disaster path.  I felt it was only fair to allow their kids to ruin my stuff now.  Within a few minutes of their morning visit, Clare and Angela found Bucky's new 20 color Play-Doh set.

Banana used to show actual size.
One of Bucky's characteristics is that he is very meticulous in keeping his things organized and notices when the smallest things are out of place.  We recently moved a few bags out of our room that had been there for several weeks.  For five subsequents trips through our room, Bucky has asked "What happened here?"  Books go with books. Blocks go with blocks. Trains go with trains. Mommy goes with Daddy.  When it comes to Play-Doh, colors are certainly separated if possible.  It's not a tragedy if we end up with some mixed, but it's never the goal.

As Clare descended upon the Play-Doh, her first agenda was to very thoughtfully share 4 of the colors and keep only 16 to herself.  After some hard bargaining I managed to emphasize the negatives of a monopoly in our hard economic times and earned my clients 1 extra color. So with her dwindling number of 14, Clare's next agenda was to make rainbow cake.  In fact this was indeed Clare's brilliant argument as to why she needed so many colors -- to make a big enough cake to then share with everyone.  With great speed and vigor that only a 4yo is capable of, the great baker layered and stacked her 14 colors and proceeded to make her great (pan)cake an inch thick.  Perhaps she meant biscuits, though as any good baker knows, to make a flaky biscuit you must fold the dough several times.  Indeed, Clare was making biscuits. When the folding had finished, the division of the dough was completed with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. We gratefully received our, not rainbow, but brown hearts. To Clare's credit, most baked goods are brown.

 As a side: Play-Doh is quite easy and inexpensive to make, and had Bucky shown aversion to this process I certainly would have stepped in. However, to my amazement he was quite happy with his 3 colors, and I'm a sucker for baked goods.

Crafted with love.

After Bucky's quiet time, I invited them over again to spend some time in the backyard.  While in the process of inviting them, I committed a cardinal sin of setting up a play-date and announced the planned activity to the group before first getting clearance from the other parent. "Who wants to run through the sprinkler?!" A joyous sound was raised by our younger members. And Garrett responded with raised eyebrows.  My oversight was that Angela did not have a swimsuit or a change of clothes.

I quickly came up with several other activities to try and get their minds off the sprinkler.  Distance makes the heart grow fonder.  The next hour was filled with playing in the sandbox, creating boundaries in the backyard, creating special water cups with their names on it, re-establishing boundaries, outlining their bodies with chalk and then coloring them in, and being demanded my philosophy on why the patio umbrella was only to be used as a patio umbrella and should be used as nothing else. We did everything except run through the sprinkler.  However, the sprinkler began as and remained the main topic of conversation.

After 45 minutes of first reasoning, then dodging, then distracting, then avoiding the question, "When are we going in the sprinkler?", I finally made my last stand and outright said, "We are not going to play in the sprinkler today, but we can on Wednesday when Angela can ask her parents to pack her a swimsuit."  That should work. How clever of me. "When are we going to run through the sprinkler?"  "If we do everything today there won't be anything left to do on Wednesday, and this way you can get EXCITED about it!"  This seems to satisfy Bucky and he quietly returns to his chalk outline. I don't think much of it other than that he is now bored of listening to me and wants to check out. I only receive paused puzzled faces from the girls. "Can we do the sprinkler now?" "No. On Wednesday." "Why Wednesday?" "It's something to look forward to."

Bucky did all his coloring on the right. He doesn't wear shirts . . . Just sleeves.

Thus far I've been nearest to the girls and therefore the responsibility of answering questions has fallen on me, but here Garrett interjects and says, "Are you guys listening to Marshall?" "Yes." "What did he say?" "We don't know." Oh they know.  And it's about here that I catch Bucky walking back towards the broken-record girls with a crumpled brow on his face.

The girls give it one last go. "Why do we have to wait until Wednesday?!?" Me. "I already told you." Garrett. "You two aren't LISTENING!"  And Bucky with the greatest 2.5yo voice and courage he can muster towards the older girls, "SO YOU GET EXCITED!!" . . . Argument ended.

Bucky was listening. I am so proud of him.

Stay-at-Home Dad, stay at home dad, SAHD

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rest Stop(per)

Closing up the cabin this past weekend, I began feeling much more bluesy than I usually do when departing for home. I locked the cabin doors, made sure the boat was secure, bade farewell to the water and the open sky, and made my way to the driver's seat of our laden Corolla.

Things started out just fine on our four-hour car ride home. After we stopped for gas, Bucky was fast asleep within a few miles.  Even Jack, who we've found does not like to sleep in the car, was quiet and calm having just been fed with the strategically placed nursing session.  I even managed to find a decent route out of the Northwoods without getting lost. We made it a whole two hours without a stop.

An hour and a half into the trip, our second stop came after ten minutes of contorting our arms around the back of the front passenger seat to pacify Jack.  We first tried giving him his nookie, and although one of Jack's only duties in his young life is to keep his nookie in, he wasn't up to the challenge.  Next, we tried holding the nookie in while simultaneously covering his eyes.  Sometimes this helps. Nope. Finally, we resorted to trying to deceive him with the ol' suck-on-the-pinky trick to see if that would help. Again, no.

With wide-open arms, the Augusta Area Senior Citizen Center welcomed us to its deserted parking lot.  Bucky got a juice box and we found out that Jack really hadn't been hungry—he just wanted some face time. We topped him off anyway.  (Thank you, patient wife.)  In the meantime, Bucky and I helped ourselves to some of the recreational facilities.  Apparently there are some very spritely seniors from the Augusta area as we visited the swings, the merry-go-round, the 10-ft slide, the wooden jungle gym, and the full basketball court. We didn't happen across any seniors yelling "Bonzai!" as they went down the slide, but given the nature of these very able-bodies seniors they were probably out water-skiing or windsurfing on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. After Bucky climbed up and down to the fifth rung of the slide several times and after he enjoyed watching me meet his demands of going down the slide several times myself, we got back in the car to drive the remaining two and a half hours.

Thinking Jack may fall asleep with a topped-off belly, we made him a little blanket-tent over his car seat to provide a dark place, hoping it would aid his journey off to sleep. He allowed this hobbit hole for about forty minutes and then started complaining that he didn't like viewing the stripes of the blanket vertically and preferred that we make them horizontal.  So again we tried nookie, eye covering, pinky. No again.

Welcome to the Black River Falls Rest Stop.  We've long frequented this rest stop on our way to and from the cabin as it's provided the half way point and a good place to switch drivers.  We made the most of this stop and brought out some left over goodies from the cooler to enjoy at a picnic table.  With some heavy rocking of the car seat and some furious munching of pretzels with peanut butter, we started to see Jack close his eyes.

"Pee in the grass!" A trick Bucky learned from his cousin. I'm fond of this trick too, just not at a rest stop. "Do you need to poop or pee?" "Both." "Okay. You can just use your diaper this time." "Use the potty." Finally, we're getting somewhere with potty training! "Okay, let's go to the potty."  I grabbed the potty seat and off we went to use the fine establishment of the men's rest stop toilet with my toddler.

I swung back the door of the first stall and to my amazement it looked fairly clean, meaning there weren't any left-overs.  Shoes off. Pants off. No feet touching the floor. Diaper off. Place potty. Sit on potty.  So far so good.  As things got going someone initiated the launch sequence of the Xcelerator Hand Dryer. Coupled with the all-brick interior it sounded near enough to standing by a small plane engine. Bucky's hands flew to his ears. I quickly thought to make this a fun thing.  I covered my ears too and laughed and smiled.  This distraction worked once.

We actually got some good bonding time together and had the whole place to ourselves for a short moment. As we were seeing a man about a horse, Bucky reached down to brace himself by grabbing the sides of the toilet bowl. "No no no no no! Put your hands on your knees." He followed my orders like a champ, but as he leaned forward to grab his knees the toilet's motion sensor went off and the toilet flushed violently beneath him, threatening to suck him in. "What's happening?!" as he lurched up and wrapped his fingers under the seat. "No, on your knees. Don't touch the toilet." Two seconds later "Here?" And there were his hands touching the most foul spot of all; the rim right between the cut out of the seat. "NO! ON YOUR KNEES!" Cue the Xcelerator! Cue the toilet! Cue Bucky's germ-ridden hands cupping his ears and face as hard as he could!  "I no like it anymore! All done!"

We then washed our hands for two rounds of singing "ABC's". We did not use the Xcelerator.  As we passed by the over-confident woman that looked at me as though I was in the wrong bathroom, I thought "Hey lady! Don't look at me. Look at those urinals to your left." I also thought what kind of torture that must have been for a 2.5yo.  He was promptly rewarded with another juice box and a diaper wipe to his face.  With Jack fast asleep (or so we thought) we now only had an hour and a half left. We can do this!

Twenty minutes later, Jack's screams let us know that Exit 85 would be a perfect get-away.  We secretly knew that he wanted a peek at the gentlemen's club, Cruisin Chubby's. (Really?) Although we briefly contemplated stopping there to nurse Jack, we opted for a back entrance at a family campground across the street.  Here again, Bucky and I made the most of our new domain and made up a splendid game of run and touch.  Here are the rules if you want to play yourself. Run to that object. Touch it. Run back. That tree had never experienced so much love.

Back in the car, but only for 35 minutes. Good thing, too. I was getting cooped up.  With a shortage of places to pull off, we opted for a field road.  I will say that being forced to stop and see new places can be a good thing.  There are so many views that we will miss and never be able to see, and the view from this small Wisconsin country road was amazing.  A beautiful mix of hill and valley.  The clouds were sharply outlined by the brilliant hazeless blue sky.  The intermittent breeze played the grass meadow around us. Even the solitary oak that stood alone before us had a great majesty to it.

"Pee in the grass!" This time Bucky actually got to try it out. Although I'm not sure if it was successful or not. While Christy attended to nature boy, I was trying to get Jack to sleep by emulating the viking ship at the amusement park. Starting with some very high centripetal force and slowly working down to carousel excitement, I got him to sleep.  I gave Christy the thumbs up, Bucky got his pants back on, and the last 30 minutes were within reach.

Our little thrill seeker missed his carnival rides immediately, but this close to home we were not stopping. Down went our windows and up went the music.  Bucky was in a dancing mood so we turned on some hip-hop. The one rule Dancing Bucky enforces is that you must dance too, and you must dance as he requests.  "Faster Mommy and Daddy!"  Oh how I could have wished to be another driver passing by. To look out and see a young family of four, the toddler looking amazingly cute, the mother getting her stunningly good driving moves on, a baby bellering at the top of his lungs, and the father mashed up against the dash because of the car seat behind him, flailing his limbs like he may have lost voluntary control of them.  Amazingly enough, Lil' Wayne's "Lollipop" seemed to calm Jack down a bit.  Perhaps a substitution for not being able to visit Crusin' Chubby's.

Five stops and six hours later, our trip was complete.  We had made it home.  All the blues that I felt just so recently were gone and washed away, along with the much needed rest we had received. The cabin had felt forever ago and in a very distant place.

Within fifteen minutes of being home, Jack was also in a very distant place.  He fell asleep and stayed asleep for six hours.

Stay-at-Home Dad, stay at home dad, SAHD