Friday, December 24, 2010

That's What Christmas is All About, Shorty.

I took out my old nativity set which consisted of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the Baby Jesus, a donkey and a cow. I told Shorty we should make a little stable for them, which she thought was a great idea. She said so. My mother gave me a pack of popsicle sticks and so we glued and stacked until the whole lot was gone. We set up the scene with the new house of sticks, under our beautifully decorated (but very plastic) tree and sat there admiring our masterpiece.
Last year my daughter was too young to know the Christmas story, but this year I thought it should be easy. There's a mom, a dad and a baby. She'll love that. She already knew their names. Hmm. How to begin. I dove in head first.
"You know why we celebrate Christmas?" I started. See, I didn't want it to be primarily about gifts so I told her it was Jesus' birthday. Shorty smiled. She likes birthdays. Then, I asked "You know why we give presents? Because it's all about sharing."
I told her that Mary and Joseph got married. Then, an angel told Mary that she was going to have a baby and that she should name him Jesus. Shorty will find out later that they weren't married yet, when Mary got pregnant, but I'll leave that for Catholic school to explain. They're against pre-marital pregnancy; they can explain the Joseph part while they're at it. He wasn't really 'Daddy.'
"Then they left on a donkey because Mary was too pregnant to walk and went to Bethlehem." "Why?" Shorty asked her first question. In my head I answered 'For tax purposes,' but didn't want to be asked 'What's tax?' because I don't understand that either. Instead, I went with, "There was a mean king who wanted to steal babies." As soon as I said that, I knew instantly I had let St. Theresa's College (my old Catholic school for girls) down. Confusing Day of the Innocents with the Nativity Story should give me an overdue F on my report card. "Anyway," I continued, glossing over the humongous error in the story, "Baby Jesus was so special that three very smart kings went to see him and brought gold, frankincense and myrrh as birthday gifts." She asked me what those were. I told her coins for Baby Jesus' piggy bank and 2 kinds of perfume (weird combo but she didn't seem to be bothered by it.) I told her we celebrate Jesus' birthday because he was God's gift to us. "What's that?" "What's what?" "God," Shorty said flatly. I was appalled. We pray before meals, we pray at bedtime and go to church. She even dips her fingers in the holy font before she makes the sign of the cross but I never thought of what her impressions were of Him or Her. She never asked me until now.
How embarrassing that my daughter knows all about Santa Claus, and where he (supposedly) lives, and will jump through hoops for him. I heard my voice in my head "Santa's watching, better eat your peas," and she'll do it. I've been bribing my kid with the promise of a strange and very large man dressed in a terrible red suit to bring her presents.
Do I dare answer this question? How in the world did my mother answer mine? I know that the Catholic school I attended was run by liberal nuns who encouraged us to question, but prayer and the Holy Trinity was talked about and taught everyday; I don't think we ever stopped to really question anything. Who IS God? How do I explain something so abstract to a two year old when it's still a mystery to me?
I looked at her and decided that I'll tell her how I know God. "God is everything good. God is everywhere: the sky, the earth, the ocean, and," I said, "in here." I patted her chest where her heart is. I desperately wanted to add, "And God may not be a blue-eyed, white-bearded man either," but I bit my tongue.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Out of the Mouth of Babes

A few days ago, I was feeling quite fulfilled as a full-time mom. My two-year-old was singing her ABCs, counting 1 through 10, all while diaper-free (and pacifier-free, I might add, but that's for another post.) Sigh. 'My perfect child,' I thought.
Nearing lunch time (aka crabby time,) I fought the urge to take a shortcut. To hell with Easy Mac. I am Supermom, I am Wondermom. I taught my child the alphabet, to count, and I potty-trained her in a week, thank you very much. I will make her lunch from scratch.

So, there I was busying myself in the kitchen and Shorty was playing by herself in the living room. She would interrupt every now and then with a request so politely asked like "Apple juice, please," followed by an un-coached "Thank you." 'Oh I am so good at this,' I thought. I was so proud of myself for teaching my daughter to be a very courteous toddler, when I heard a crash followed by what sounded like, "Damn it!"
"What did you say?" I asked, non-threateningly. Just asking, really.
"I just playing with my blocks, Mom," she answered sweetly.
I let it go.
A few seconds later, another crash. Definitely followed by "Damn it, damn it, damn it." I was in denial. That doesn't sound like me, does it? I called her over with the intention of correcting the offending word while it was still fresh out of the horse's mouth. No answer. I called again. Nothing. The third time I called her name, I heard her shuffling to the kitchen saying "Okay, okay, I'm coming. Jesus!"
I was petrified. My two-year-old just said the Lord's name in vain and it was only noon. I left the mild blasphemy for another lesson, another day, but I bent down to her eye level and told her that 'Damn it,' was not a very nice thing to say.
She answered "Really Mommy? 'Bout shoot?"
I had to make a deal. Okay, I said.

In the days that followed, she seemed to use a wide range of expletives from 'oh my doodness' to 'oh my dosh,' and 'shoot,' but none of them offensive. Again, I felt a surge of parenting success until we were cruising along at the market and I steered that semi of a grocery cart (the one with the toy truck attached to the front end) into the toy aisle. Clear as a bell, Shorty exclaimed at the array of toys "Holy crap!" for all the world to hear, after which I caught myself saying under my breath, "Jesus!"

Crap, and I thought I was doing a good job.

Postscript: Shorty runs breathless from the office and tells me "I play Pacman on the pyooter, ghost eats pacman (she beeps like the computer in imitation of the sound when pacman gets devoured) then," she continues, "Daddy says 'Damn it!" slapping her forehead.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Idle Hands

After a year and a half of sending out resumes and exhausting the first two tiers of unemployment it's understandable why I've been feeling quite useless. I cried during a Toyota commercial once because some bubbly lady said "My Toyota is just like me. I'm dependable and a hard worker." Open ye floodgates. 'I want to be dependable again. Sob, sob.' I can hear my loving friends' and family's (high-pitched) voices of encouragement, "But you're taking care of your daughter. Now that's a full-time job." I smile, sincerely appreciating the support. Sigh. It is, I have to agree, but lately I just don't think that doing laundry and figuring out a new menu to keep Shorty interested in dinner is really intellectually stimulating.

Currently, I'm jealous of a friend's project: her newly-acquired old house, a diamond in the rough begging for her to polish it back to its charming glory. I hang on to her every word and picture every improvement she describes. This charming bungalow is at least 60 years old and in the diverse, culturally-interesting part of town. Having been let go from an 11-year stint in architecture, I launched into a barrage of unsolicited ideas. I'll definitely do pro bono now. God, I hope I didn't scare her off. Needless to say, I was craving to do something creative. I offered to find a reupholsterer, planned a trip to the fabric store with her, and started to decorate a virtual cottage in my head.

In my quest for information for her I stumbled into Here, in a Julie-and-Julia-inspired moment the author, after being laid off and watching the flick, decided she would create a once-a-day challenge. In her case, instead of cooking through Julia Child's classic cooking tome, she creates a dress for a buck a day for 365 days. It was so good that by the time I saw all the dresses I just felt dejected that I didn't think of it first. Never mind that I didn't know how to sew either. (Digging deeper into the depression hole.) So I stumble into where people post their failed craft projects. Now, that was more my speed. It was hilarious and it was company for the craft-miserable indeed. However, it did not satiate my hankering for a creative outlet so I kept decorating the 'cottage in my head,' which will not come to fruition in the near (or far) future with the real estate market as it is.

Desperate, I took to looking for a dollhouse to paint and decorate and furnish. 'Shorty would love it,' I tried to convince myself. Then I shot my own idea down. Too big; the square footage it will take up in my little house will just annoy the hell out of me. So, I started looking for birdhouses.

Somebody give me a house, any house, to paint and decorate. Otherwise, keep those scissors away from me or I'll start altering the drapes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Anatomy 101

Last week we piled into a rental that had enough buttons to keep three kids busy on a 6 hour trip to San Diego. In the van (which my daughter insists on calling "the bang") were my husband and I, his parents, our two year old daughter, a nine-year old niece, and a five-year old nephew. The van was also packed to the hilt with enough sugary snacks to keep everyone wired throughout the whole trip and drinks that guaranteed more stops than we wanted. This was my daughter's first trip to a theme park, but more importantly, the first road trip, and with cousins. She was ecstatic to say the least.

Although their ages ranged greatly, body parts and bodily functions were somehow very, very funny. Everyone took turns passing gas to shock, to entertain, to gross out. The kids took to pretending they cut one and claimed every single one with pride, even my two-year old calling, "Ooops, I farted."

We spilled out of the van into a small room with two double beds so privacy was limited to the one bathroom. My underwear spilled out onto the bed eventually when packing a day bag for the beach, for Sea World and wherever we were going. In the commotion, I noticed that Shorty was unusually quiet. She had run away to a corner and was putting on my bra quite expertly. I asked her "What do you have on?" "A bra!" she exploded happily. Days prior she had watched me put them on and asked me what they were. "I want one," she said. I told her you don't have boobies yet, to which she replied with delight, "I-want-boobeeeees!"

So goes the interest for body parts. The lessons kept coming as her five-year old cousin B was kicked out of the one bathroom as the grown-ups (needing more privacy) had to use the toilet. In the process, his towel fell to the floor and he streaked the room with a grin stretched ear to ear. Shorty squealed and focused on his midsection. You couldn't tear her away with the jaws of life if you tried. No matter what direction B turned, there she was, pointing, jumping and squealing. "Oooh, look," she said giggling at her cousin. She then ran to me and pulled me by my hand. "Mom, wanna see? Wanna see? B's got a horn."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Metamorphosis for Pre-schoolers

We started a garden in the late spring so my daughter could experience the cyclical nature of things. Earth, seedling, sun, water, air, fruit, food. It's lovely isn't it? Except I started getting attached to the 'runt' of the garden. A tiny seedling of a crookneck squash, barely getting by. After months, the tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, bell peppers, and strawberries shot up, but this little guy although perky, didn't seem to grow at all. Finally, I noticed a bud; then, a little bump at the base of the now withering flower; and then, some semblance of a tiny, yellow gourd, a miniature version of its adult counterpart. Mmmm, I could taste it's creamy crispness in olive oil and garlic or in a salad. So, I tended to that garden which, surprisingly enough, was thriving in the Arizona heat and under the care of my very, very non-green thumb.

One morning, my daughter and I checked on the garden (I was really checking on my little squash. I could care less about the rest. They seemed just fine.)
I had my back turned away, picking dry leaves off the tomatoes when I heard Shorty say, "Look mommy. Whassat?" I turned and saw her holding up the one baby squash. I was so upset that I, a thirty-five year old mother, asked my two-year-old, "What'dyou do that for? It was a baby, now it will never grow," I said taking the guilt route. Yes, I went there. She smiled as if saying 'Big deal,' which made me start to fume a little. I dialed my husband at work (I know, I know,) and didn't bother to say hello when he picked up. "She picked the squash off the vine and now that baby squash won't grow. Here, tell Daddy what you did," She took the phone and said, "I picked it. Now won't grow," she reported and they both had a good laugh at my expense.

The plant died after that. Perhaps because, discouraged, I didn't care for it anymore, or all its energy went into that one casualty of a squash. So, I turned my attention on the tomatoes which were strangely losing leaves. My husband found fat green worms feasting on the plant and fruit. They had peculiar horns at their ends. "I see caterpillars," my daughter said, ecstatic. We just started reading Eric Carle's classic. Meanwhile, I just thought, 'Wow, these are the size of my husband's fingers; if they turn into butterflies, those suckers are going to be huge.'

I googled it; turns out they were Tomato Hornworms, parasites evolved to feed on tomatoes and occasionally, peppers (uh-oh.) They do turn into winged creatures, the Hawkmoth. They are the size of hummingbirds. I got rid of the rest of them and stuck two in a jar and Shorty's been feeding her 'caterpillars' lettuce or 'salad' as she calls it, everyday. Guess who's laughing now?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's Her Party

Last Thursday my daughter cried. And cried. And cried. She's been crying ever since, in bouts that come in waves every couple of hours. When she's not crying she'll find a reason to cry: her shirt is hiked up at the back, or that a pair of old shoes don't fit anymore or, my personal favorite, the pug stinks. (I can't argue with that one; my 14 year old dog has chronic bad breath that can make a grown man cry. This, in spite of a dental plan. Yes, he has a dental plan because the only teeth I'm brushing are mine and my daughter's)

I'm starting to think my daughter's mission in life is to make me miserable. By God if she's going to be cranky, so is mom. I think the dreaded "terrible twos" is well underway and it's taking a lot for me not to fly off the handle. In the throes of these tantrums, I won't lie, I ask myself, 'What in the &#@* have I gotten myself into?' All the while, Shorty shakes a finger at me and calls me "Bad boy, Mommy." What makes me bad (and a boy) in her eyes, I have yet to figure out.
She wants something but I can't figure out what it is with her crying. I get mad, she gets madder, I whine, she whines louder, I yell, she kicks and finds herself in the corner where she continues to holler and scream. I find a corner of my own. To get my attention from her time-out corner she calls out "Mommy," in several different intonations and volumes. I steel myself and look at the clock waiting for two minutes to run out. Then she sends out her best ammo for last, "I sorry Mommy," she says softly trying to choke back sobs.

Guilt-ridden, I pick her up and rub her back which makes her cry again. It escalates until I finally figure out what she wants: "Wipe my tears," she's been saying, pointing to her cheeks but dare not wipe the tears off herself. So, I give in, wipe her tears, and shush her gently like a mother is supposed to do with a baby. When she finally calms down, she flashes a grin and says, "I happy." (Cue evil baby laughter and voice: I will rule the world.)

Oh Lord, give me strength.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

I am now curious what my mother wanted everytime the second Sunday of May came around. Did she really wish for flowers and chocolates? Something more elaborate? (Alright, maybe chocolates. The woman is addicted to it and can, and will, live off it if given the choice.) I'm sure she appreciated our sincere offers of hugs and kisses, foot massages and breakfasts in bed but did she secretly wish to trade those gifts for something else?
Well, if you ask me, I'd like a day off, thank you very much. But how in the world do you ask for that on Mother's Day of all days? That's the mother of all Hallmark occasions. I should be spending it with the people I mother. That's what I should want, but I'm so mentally tired at the end of the day that my husband's actually caught me sitting on the couch, feet up on the coffee table, TV off. Now, that might have sent off a warning. I'm sure with the way I looked he thought 'She's gone to the dark side.' Well, I might have looked like I wanted a ticket to Prozac city, but on the contrary. It was pure bliss. Silence and idleness. He sounded nervous ,"What the hell are you doing?" to which I answered, "Absolutely nothing."
That's what I want, but I'm a sucker for my daughter's hugs and kisses too, and maybe breakfast, or dinner. Okay, and chocolates. Just like my mother (who's getting chocolates from me this year - again.)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Potty-training 101

We are a diaper-free household. I'm very proud of that. My daughter's got the peeing in her potty chair down like a pro. This Monday, she called from the bathroom where I find her sitting there pointing to something in the chair other than pee; I was beyond elated. That was Monday. That was a fluke.
Without diapers, this only means a lot of laundry. The really dirty kind. The kind I wouldn't air to spare the public.
It is an understatement to say that my daughter is terrified of her own poop. I think we have succeeded in confusing her where to put it. We tell her it's stinky and dirty and we need to throw it away. So, she doesn't want to put it in her big-girl undies nor in her beloved potty chair. Crap, I think, appropriately it seems. So what does she do? She holds it for three days. The result is the crankiest two-year old you've ever seen. Cranky baby = cranky mommy. Her pulling me to the bathroom every half-hour only to be gripped by fear again was driving me up the wall. I've been a ball of nerves, wound up so tight this past week that I couldn't shit either. Estrogen was dripping off the walls and my husband was neck deep in it. So, he decided to launch a fiber intensive. While my daughter napped, I took off to the market so quickly my husband didn't even know his debit card was missing.
Did I take my sweet time. I live for these times alone, which are few and far between, so I drove 35 in a 45 mile per hour zone and turned on the radio.I've been listening to Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car on repeat for so long, Celine Dion was starting to sound good. Not that there's anything wrong with Celine. I was gone for 2-1/2 hours.
When I walked through the door, girl was still sleeping. I put the fiber-packed groceries away and as soon as my butt hit the seat of my favorite chair to write this post, she shrieks and sleepily ambles over behind the couch. I knew exactly what was going on and I was about to break all the potty-training rules. I let her be; what's one more tiny mess to add to the laundry? She left a rabbit trail from behind the couch to her potty and I could care less. She screamed and I rubbed her back and let her stand instead of sit on her potty chair while my husband picked up our tracks. After it was all over, I rewarded her with a small toy and we cheered and sang and danced. I was so relieved that she finally let go, I felt like I myself just took a nice, big -