Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Whiny McCriesalot

I feel like I go through the day, moment to moment, trying to find ways to get the kiddo to stop whining and crying.

I think he's going through a phase. My husband claims he's not having the same problem, but when the boys are out together, they're always DOING something. I am not always DOING something. I spend awhile each day expecting Cloud to entertain himself while I wash dishes or dig dandelions or fold laundry.

But even when I am doing something with him, the kid manages to find some reason to treat life as one grand tragedy. Often about food.

What complicates things is that he's started to say "no" when he might actually want to say "yes." He might be preemptively bracing himself for disappointment in these cases; but while he's doing that, I'm trying to get a straight answer out of him as to whether or not he would like to do X.

It's a good thing he's only three years old, because most of the time I can just force his shoes on and march him into the car and take him to X, where he'll enjoy himself because he actually really likes X.

(X could be the playground, Trader Joe's, the library, the beach... the list goes on. It could be the bank. He likes the bank. The bank has lollipops, and lots of doting female bank tellers to hand him the lollipops even when Mama tells him that 8:30 AM is too early for a lollipop.)

Today we did manage to go to the library. Then we crossed the street to visit the horses. Well, Cloud wanted to visit the horses. I knew that if we walked just past the horses, we'd find ourselves on the grounds of the old abandoned elementary school. (It's only been abandoned for a year and a half, so mostly the grounds and the playgrounds were quite nice, if a bit litter-strewn.)

At age 3, Cloud is firmly in that awkward stage of independence where he can't do much of anything by himself, but he wants to. Well, it's healthy for him to want to. Sometimes I fully expect him to want to do things himself, but instead he plunks down next to me and bawls until I do it for him. He can bawl for quite awhile.

And I'm in that awkward stage where I don't know how much I should interfere. Should I stand back and let him discover the new playground all by himself? Or should I get in with him and teach him how to play? If all he wants to do is kneel at the foot of each slide and ask me to take his picture, should I just snap pictures over and over or should I encourage him to climb on something else?

Ultimately, I tried a mix of both approaches. I went down the widest slide, which was made of metal but still somehow not the least bit slippery. But there wasn't much else on the playground for a person of my size and skill set. So I spent some time sitting on the bench, watching, and then I used the wooden perimeter of the playground as a giant balance beam, an act which intrigued Cloud but was too difficult for him to emulate.

And then we saw the horses again on our way back to the car.

And then he asked for yogurt, and when I told him there would be a whole big lunch when we got home, he cried.

However, once I put the bowl of elbow macaroni and sauce in front of him, he devoured it, happily saying, "Elbows," over and over again, and asking for seconds.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Today's notable moments - boogers and bunnies

Woohoo! I'm back into blogging, it seems. Blog entries several days in a row.

This morning at breakfast, AwesomeCloud said, "Here." And then he handed me a booger.

"A booger," I said. "Hmm. Uh. Thanks." Then I did the "Ew ewwy eww" fuss and dance all the way to the kitchen sink and washed it off.

After breakfast I took him to the "BIG playground." That's the playground that was designed and built for disabled children, with all the latest bells and whistles and playground technology, that Lenore Skenazy would probably mock because of its numerous safety features, but AwesomeCloud loves it. It's just so BIG. Also, it's right next to a baseball field, so parents can let their kids roam free if we want to.

(On the other side of the baseball field is a rusty old fire engine thing, and a real, authentic, vintage metal slide, just like the kind I grew up with, and it is probably almost as old as I am. I hope nobody comes along and removes it, because I want to show it off to AwesomeCloud in a couple of years, when he's old enough to appreciate the phrase, "When Mama and Dad were little...")

It was only 8:00 AM when we arrived at the playground, and we were essentially alone except for two siblings whose parents also thought it would be cool to bring them to a playground at 8:00 AM. It was a bit of nature out there. We graaaked like the grackles, whistled with the cardinals, and then...

...we saw rabbits.

Four of them.

I let Cloud try to sneak up on them. He was awesome. He moved slowly and quietly and he got pretty close to one rabbit before it bolted.

Then he forgot himself and shouted back at me, something about how wonderful it was to be close to wild rabbits, I'm sure, although it sounded more like, "Dee daum!"

"Yes, I know!" I replied in a stage whisper. "Rabbits are pretty cool!"

Then he turned in time to see the last of the rabbits disappear into the tangled underbrush.

Then we ran the bases on the baseball field.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter and the 5th birthday party

We just got back from my family's house, where we'd eaten Easter dinner for 5 and a half hours straight.

Not to boast or anything, but Italian-Americans know how to throw a holiday feast. I cannot imagine belonging to a better family. Or eating better food (even though I didn't get any of the ham or the eggplant parm - I meant to grab some, but there was just too much other stuff). Or raising my kid with a better bunch of relatives.

Here's AwesomeCloud receiving his 5th 3rd birthday party - a month after his actual birthday, but hey, the family was together and they brought gifts. And they gave him chocolate and other snacks, which was nice because Rick and I didn't buy any Easter candy this year. No chocolate eggs to hide; no basket full of goodies to wake up to. I don't know why we didn't make the effort, and I guess we could've, but maybe it seemed kinda pointless to patch together some Easter Bunny surprises when we had the Family Feast to look forward to.

Cloud also got a toothbrush. Many thanks to my sister! He loves it, incidentally. He digs toothbrushes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The very bad day

Everybody has bad days. Today is becoming a fairly typical bad day for AwesomeCloud and me.

First he cried about his oatmeal for breakfast. So I put the uneaten oatmeal in the fridge, and he asked for yogurt. He cried over his yogurt. I put the uneaten yogurt in the fridge, and he asked for some of my leftover sausage and penne. "No," I told him. "Go play," I told him. So he cried over that.

Then we went outside, after crying over jacket and shoes, and he wanted to rake. So we raked. I'm glad AwesomeCloud likes to rake, even if his idea of raking is to actually watch ME rake. Then I was tired, so I sat on the front stoop with a book and told him to play. More crying.

At this point, it was only 9:00 AM and I'd had enough. So I decided to not become emotionally involved. I went all Zen-like and meditated on the idea that being outside was good for the kiddo's health. I got him to sit next to me and crumple up some dry oak leaves. We made a nice pile of oak leaf bits on the front walk.

Then I got him to eat his oatmeal by pretending I wanted to eat it myself, which wasn't much of a stretch, because it was Trader Joe's Blueberry Oatmeal, which happens to be really good.

Then Cloud wanted to take a walk, in the stroller, which didn't thrill me because I was more tired than he was so why should I have to do all the walking and pushing while he just sits there? Our walk was very, very short, and perhaps a little disappointing to the passenger inside the stroller. When we got home, I flopped on the couch, while AwesomeCloud... cried. Of course.

Then I changed the bedsheets and let him jump in the pile of dirty sheets. He pulled out some Legos and played with them for about 90 seconds, and then when he wanted to go out and I told him to pick the Legos up first, he cried.

His drama over picking things up frustrates me. He enjoys perfectly well the act of putting the toys in the box, but he acts as if it's going to be torture. Typical, I suppose.

So. More crying, then we get it all done, then we go outside.

Where he bursts into tears because I won't find his rake for him. I had sat down to weed around the hostas, and as soon as I stood up, I saw the rake. "It's right there," I said. "On the ground. It's red. Look for something red."

This was followed by a crying jag at least ten minutes long, probably longer, as I told him, "It's right there. No, get your own rake. Go back over there. You're practically standing on it. No, don't turn around. Look down. Look down on the ground. Down, like this. No, it's over there. Go back over there. Look for something red."

FINALLY he found it, and then he sat down beside me and watched me pick weeds.

Then he got an early nap (slightly) but I let him take his book into the crib, so it should be all right. Now I only have to get through this afternoon and evening. (My husband is at Anime Boston with a vendor table, all by himself.)

If I had a huge heaping bowl of ice cream... alas, there are no decadent snacks in the house. I've been making an effort not to buy them. There are Cheezits, but those are not decadent. I have already had a Cheezit and it did nothing for me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dong bu dong? D@mmit! (or, baby's first cussword)

The inevitable has happened. I'm sure most parents have an equivalent story. It's the story of baby's first cussword.

Daddy was very frustrated about something and shouted, "Dammit!"

"Dammit!" Cloud happily repeated.

"Oh no," said Daddy, realizing what he'd done. "Hey Cloud, don't say that. Can you say 'censorship'?"

"Dammit!" Cloud crowed. "Dammit!"

"Censorship," said Daddy. "Censorship!"


"Cloud," I tried, "Say, 'Don't say that, Daddy.'"

"Dammit!" said Cloud.

Fortunately, he wound down and hasn't said it since. Seriously, though, who made that word up? It is way too toddler-friendly.


In the meantime, something else inevitable has begun: I have started giving Cloud Mandarin lessons.

You may be wondering whether I speak Mandarin. No, I don't. We're learning together as a family.

I'm starting very slowly, because he's so delayed in English that I don't want to set his speech back by introducing too much Mandarin all at once. (Ha ha, like that would ever happen.) So far, all I've done is count to ten, which requires a bit of effort on my part as I struggle to remember the order of the numbers. I always get stuck on lìu, which is six.

I have also begun to shrug my shoulders and say, "Bu dòng," which means "I don't understand." I've started saying that a lot, because while Cloud's vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds, his pronunciation hasn't improved much at all. I'm having trouble keeping up with all this new Toddlerese. So I say to him, "What? What? Shen me? Bu dong."

He finds this endlessly entertaining, and gives up on whatever he was trying to tell me to say, "Bu dong! Bu dong!"

It's a start. A slow start, but a start.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cats by name

AwesomeCloud has started to refer to the cats by their names. Previously, he'd been calling them all "cat" and only tried to say their names when he was imitating daddy or me. Now he makes a point of properly identifying each cat on his own.

Riley is "Aye-ee" or sometimes "Rye-ee." Melody is the hardest to understand: "Eh-dee" or even sometimes "Eh-ee." He loves to say Ban Lu's name; sometimes he even yodels it: "Bah-OOoooh!"

Ban Lu hates it when his name is yodeled. When he hears it, he flees, because he knows that sound is always accompanied by an exuberant toddler.


Yesterday we got free loam from the local transfer station. Every year the transfer station puts out a gigantic pile of loam and a gigantic pile of wood chips for the people in town to take for ourselves. It gets snatched up pretty quickly - all the landscapers and construction workers fill their flatbed trucks and trailers. We just use storage bins in the back of our Prius, so we have to work harder to get less.

Cloud woke up from his nap (what little nap he managed to take) to discover that I was too busy spreading loam to pay attention to him. I gave him water, but no snack, and then I dumped the howling child on Daddy while I went out to finish the job. When Daddy took him outside, though, things changed. He stomped in the loam. He tried to rake it flat. When I stuck my rake in his pile to help him flatten it, he cried, "No! Mine!"

"Mine" is his new favorite word, although he confuses it with "Yours" sometimes. He also mixes up "me" and "you" somewhat arbitrarily.

Today we will get more loam, and then I don't know what we'll do for the rest of the day.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Milestones I'm missing

Kiddo has been growing like a weed, with new words and achievements every day. I'm not blogging about them; they come too fast. When Cloud does something particularly interesting, it occurs to me momentarily that I might want to blog about it, but then I don't.

I haven't really felt like typing.

I've felt like gardening, and I cannot wait for the weather to improve so Cloud and I can spend significant amounts of time in the garden. Right now, our outdoor thing is raking. Our yard is full of oak trees, and oak trees require a lot of raking in the springtime.

Raking can be fun with hardly any effort. After all, piles of leaves have been a childhood playtime staple ever since children have lived in areas where trees lose their leaves.

Good times, good times.


Cloud loves to try out new phrases, and some of the phrases he chooses are arbitrary and hilarious. "High priority." "Black beans. " He spent two whole days practicing "Mike Tullman." No sign of complete sentences yet, but the verb-noun combinations have started. "Eat muffin?" "Eat mac cheese?" "Eat snack?" Okay, so most of his verb-nouns are about food. That's okay. It's a start.

Last Friday, one of the mallwalkers took an interest in us and prodded us into walking alongside her. Normally, she is too fast for us; Cloud likes to dawdle and drag his feet while all the old ladies whoosh past us. But on Friday, he grabbed this lady's hand and kept pace with her for almost two whole laps around the mall. (One lap equals approximately one mile, or so I've heard.) He was huffing and puffing by the end, but he refused to give up.

Afterwards we went to the library, where he encountered a slightly older boy. I sat in a nearby seat with a copy of The New Yorker and watched them from a distance. The other boy's mother was more inclined to hover. But they started playing so nicely, with so much laughter, that eventually she backed off too.

"I have to look for a book for your brother," she told him impatiently.

He ignored her and did something with a plastic elephant that made Cloud dissolve into hysterical laughter.

So off she went... okay, by that I meant that she went over to a shelf that was as far away from the boys as I was, and still within view.

And the boys continued to play. Apparently, if you're speech delayed, laughing hysterically will make you a popular playmate in spite of the communication gap. Kids have trouble with peers who do not talk as well as they do. Several times, children have judged, "He's a baby!" Others just seem at a loss when he fails to respond to their question or doesn't follow their demands. But he's such a sociable little guy that he's bound to find some way to join in.


Kung fu is going well, too. Cloud has been attending for three weeks now, out of the eight we signed up for. (The course goes in eight-week cycles, and we can sign him up for as many cycles as we want, but we're just getting through one cycle before we make any decisions about the next.) Again, his speech delays interfere with his performance a bit. He giggles too much - kung fu artists are NOT supposed to giggle! And they shouldn't shriek when they get in place! And he's the youngest student, developmentally and perhaps literally. But he's actually much better than many of the other kids at following directions.

There are some directions he really struggles to follow, like when he is told to run in place. He just doesn't have the coordination to run in place. He knows the phrase "listening position" but he gets listening positions 1, 2 and 3 mixed up and follows the other kids' examples. But the other kids have more of a tendency to twirl in place, or to drift off and stare at the decorations on the walls, or to chat with each other. Cloud just has a better attention span.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Segregated school lunch, or Children Hate Change

Jackson, Missouri Middle School, which segregated lunchtime by gender this year, has been getting a lot of attention. It seems that some people on the internet are critical of the policy. Some people have worried that gender segregation will harm the children's development of social skills. The principal claims that the children's behavior has improved since the change.

What do you all think?

I think I'm a little skeptical about the level of cause-and-effect here. I believe it's possible that having girls eat lunch with girls and boys eat lunch with boys is not inherently behavior-changing. Rather, it's change for change's sake that causes the kids to behave better.

Kids hate drastic change. If you tell the kids that the change is their fault, they often take it to heart. If you tell them that you're controlling who they eat lunch with because their behavior has been poor, and you hope that the new structure will inspire them to behave better, they just might. Especially in middle school, where they're just starting to learn how to grow up and are afraid of getting it wrong.

The kids didn't realize that they had so much influence on their world, and now that the routine has been changed so dramatically, they want to stop and take stock before they inadvertently change the world again.

The effect may be reduced by the fact that only the sixth grade eats lunch under the gender separation policy, so they're new to the school already. And the policy was implemented at the beginning of the year, so the kids weren't forcibly ripped from their pre-established social circles in the middle of the year. Therefore, my hypothesis only works if merely telling the kids about the change is enough to get them thinking self-consciously.

Here's something interesting: the students want to keep the gender-segregated lunches. That kind of supports my hypothesis. Kids hate change, want to avoid it, vote against it.

I'm really skeptical of the idea that not socializing with kids of the opposite sex for an hour a day for one year will set kids behind socially. The kids who are at high risk of falling behind in their opposite-gender social skills are going to fall behind with or without opportunity.

(Take ALL opportunity away, and then you've got a problem.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happiest time

I think this is the happiest time in my life.

My son is thriving. He's learning, moving around, talking (sort of), interacting with other people, and excited about life in general. The parenting thing has stopped being hard - I'm no longer tired at the end of the day just on account of being a parent. I'm past the point of worrying about developmental delays - he's overcome most of them already. I don't have the whole medical issues thing hanging over me anymore, either. The kid is as healthy as a horse. A healthy horse.

My husband is wonderful, we own our own house, my job may be dead-end but it's stable for now, I feel optimistic about my art, I have one eye on the future, it's springtime, no cats are currently on their deathbeds, the world hasn't exploded yet, and I've been making some very tasty meals in the crockpot.

I'm not saying everything is perfect - if someone asked me what I would like right now, I'd be able to rattle off a list. (Sorry, nothing on my list would make a good birthday present.) But I am saying it seems pretty darn good. It IS pretty darn good. I'm not used to things being pretty darn good, but I think they are. I could get used to this.

Greater social investment in sustainable energies... that would be nice.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dumb adoption question

I almost forgot to post this. Last week sometime, somebody asked me, "Are you going to tell your son he's adopted?"

I only thought of it just now because of this amusing post about dumb questions people ask adoptive parents.

I replied, "Uh... um... he's Chinese."

The person failed to take a hint, and seemed dead set on having me take her question seriously.

"Well, we know a bunch of other adoptive families. We're in the adoption community," I explained.

"Ah," she said, finally satisfied.

Here are some of my other witty comebacks:

"He doesn't look Chinese!"
"Yes, he does."

"I thought you could only adopt girls from China. How did you get a boy?"
"Things change. They're changing faster than you know. Your information is old."

"Was it hard, adopting from China? Did you have to wait long?"
"Every adoption is hard."

"He's from China? Ugh, I have real problems with China. They should free Tibet."
"I agree. And we should free Hawaii."

"Where's he from?"
"Marstons Mills. Where are you from?"

Yesterday in the supermarket, I saw a white woman in her 50's pushing a grocery cart with an adorable brown baby in it. I smiled at her. She scowled and looked away. I smiled at her again. She finally managed to smile back. She probably didn't see my own nonwhite baby until after the whole exchange was over, because he was a few steps behind me, clutching his kitty in one hand and using the other hand to touch each grocery item exactly once as he walked down the aisle.

And now I must go. Family calls.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Toy in the trash - a growing-up milestone

Today, Cloud found a toy in the trash. It was an orange zebra eraser-thing, the tiniest piece of junk that you ever did see, and its legs were removable. The only thing Cloud has ever done to it was remove its legs and strew the bits all over the kitchen.

I found the body and one leg under some mail this morning and threw them away.

Later, when I was cooking lunch, Cloud looked up at me and asked, "Trash?" He was holding the zebra and his foot was on the trashcan pedal, holding it open.

"I threw it in the trash," I explained. "It's broken. It has no feet. The feet are gone."

He looked up at me mournfully.

"It's broken," I explained again, emphatically, not bothering to add that he was the one who broke it. "Put it back in the trash."

He did so, heaved a heavy sigh, and went off to look for something else to play with.

A difficult lesson to learn, but he survived it.