Thursday, March 31, 2011

Funny thing she said . . .

Toodles and I sat down for a tea party. After dumping out the tea set, she began 'pouring' the tea. Then she picked up one of the plastic pieces of cake. I asked for a bite, so she held it to my mouth. Then I smiled and said how yummy it was. She looked at me, smiled, and said, "I made it for you, Daddy."

Melts my heart.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Goals for the week ending 3/25

1) clean up & plan dinner (including prep that can be done ahead of time) @ night after kids are in bed
2) plan academic / play activities for Toodles while JD is @ preschool
3) same for JD after school when Toodles is napping
4) decide between donating toys &  clothes or have a garage sale
5) contact landscaper & painter to plan spring improvements
6) win hockey semifinal
7) blog at least every other day

Thank goodness for the Android blog app!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


She's a horrible little girl. She's wonderfully smart. She's got big blue eyes and fine, golden hair. She screams. When I call for her to come to me, she stares at me like I'm a moron. When I ask her to stand, she sits down.

She's 22 months old.

She's my Toodles.

Yes, willful and wonderful. Bright and stubborn. Humorous and serious. Bipolar?

I guess the question is, should I battle her to ensure that she is the disciplined child that I seek to raise, or do I conserve my energy and give in to her little protests and demands. She dumps her plate to the floor every day. She knocks her milk or water to the floor every day. Getting dressed is a nightmare. Changing diapers is war. Getting out of the house requires an extra three to five minutes depending on how many times she runs away or decides to take a dump after I've put on her shoes and jacket and go to working on my own or JD's. In her car seat she bucks and straightens.

When is she easy? She is easy when it's 1-on-1 time and we're playing. Oh, at a park? A pleasure. Reading? Awesome. Puzzles, play-do, you name it.

But seriously, do I give in or do I stick to my guns? I get so fired up because I can be nice or I can yell and she doesn't care. My patience is wearing thin . . .

Monday, March 7, 2011

Self-Cleaning Service

I had an epiphany. Why pay people to clean my house?

We started with our cleaning service when we were both working, before we had kids. At that time, it was nice to have somebody else take care of the dusting, clean out the fridge, and of course, the bathrooms.

Then we moved into a house. More dusting, one more bathroom. So on and so forth.

I am spoiled enough to get a sitter during the day for 4 hours every 2 weeks. That costs $10/hr. I figured that, as unattractive as cleaning the house sounds, I could do it as well as the service in about the same amount of time, maybe a bit more. With a sitter every week we would still save $80 per month. Win, win!

The service did a good job of cleaning. I mean, they're a cleaning service. It's not rocket science. Inevitably, though, I would spend a good twenty to thirty minutes fixing things they misplaced, like pots and pans, toys, or pictures on shelves.

So I did it - cancelled the service and set out to do it myself. What happened the first time I had a sitter and was all set to go to town on the house? My sis-in-law got sick, so I spent 90 minutes shopping for and dropping off sick supplies. You know what happened - the house did not get cleaned. I got a couple of bathrooms done, but nothing what I'd envisioned.

Then I realized that I didn't necessarily have to clean the whole house in one shot. I created a schedule where Monday I did the basement, Wednesday the second floor, and Fridays the main floor, including the kitchen. I did that for a week, but the amount of time was uneven. Doing the main floor included the kitchen, the most time consuming place in the house. So then I decided that I would do the bathrooms one day, the vacuuming one day and the kitchen one day. That has worked out the best.

The pluses: unexpectedly, the house is staying cleaner on a regular basis. Perhaps it is the knowledge of what it takes to get it done, but I think it's the knowledge that nobody else is coming to do it. Also, I am throwing more things away, reducing clutter.

The minuses: I have to clean my house. It sucks. I've never been a neat and consistently organized person. My said that I used to leave a trail of toys all over the house, never cleaning up as I went. Doing this has challenged my ability to change who I am as a person. I have to schedule the time and make it happen.

And that's where I am right now. I'm learning to be something different. It has brought added stress and an added sense of accomplishment. It's probably good for the kids, too. Heaven knows they'll be taking on these chores as soon as possible! That's a few years down the road, when I've got the system perfected.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Consequences of the Gifted

Since I write so infrequently, you may not know that JD was long ago diagnosed with a speech delay. He continues to struggle with certain speech elements.

Toodles, however, is the opposite. At this point, she is clearly verbally gifted. At 22 months, she not only has a fully functioning vocabulary (I couldn't possibly count the number of words she uses) and uses her words in complete sentences. It is a pleasure hearing her sing various lullabies, play with dolls and action figures, talk with JD, and respond to questions. She knows all 26 letters of the alphabet, recognizes numbers 0 - 9, and can count to 22. I have begun to teach her to read, though that hasn't materialized, but I would not be surprised if she is reading by 3 years old.

And it's nothing that I push on her. She asks to do puzzles and points out letters. The most I do is raise the bar, speak Spanish, count higher, spell out words and try to write letters. She is enthusiastic about learning.

There's always a "but" though, isn't there?

While speech delayed, JD's gross motor skills are at the top of the charts. He was able to throw a ball on target at six months old. When he was 18 months, he picked up a hockey stick and by two-and-a-half, could place his shots. At four years, he can wind up and throw a pitch for a strike and hit a pitched baseball.

All of that power invited consequence. Playing with kids his age was impossible. While other kids would pick up a ball and run with it, fearful that they would not get the ball back, JD understood the reciprocal concept of a game of catch. He threw the ball so much harder than kids his age, they would get hurt; he was too small to catch balls thrown with the same power. We put him into soccer and floor hockey with older kids, which exposed his social weaknesses. So while I love to play sports with my son, we are confined to that capacity for the next 6 months to a year, when, at 5, either other kids will have caught up or JD will be able to compete with kids slightly older. (He is 90% for height, 75% for weight.)

Toodles's vocabulary comes with a lack of maturity. I was handling raw chicken and she asked for a cup of milk. I told her, "Just a minute, please." That wasn't good enough, though. While she understood what I was saying, she had no concept of time, so again she asked. Again I answered. Again she asked, but with greater urgency. As this call-and-response continued, our collective patience ran thin and I found myself, on this less-than-my-best day, yelling at a 22-month-old girl with big blue eyes and curly blond hair.

Today, on our 40-minute-drive from the burbs to the city, Toodles didn't want to sit in the car. How do you explain to a 22-month-old that we have to go home; to get home we have to ride in a car; riding in the car means being buckled into a car seat? After 30 minutes, she fell asleep. Until then, there was screaming, whining, and pleading to get out of the car. To our credit, neither Wife nor I yelled back. We ignored her least rational communications and gently tried to overcome her intelligible objections.

While we don't expect our children to be perfect at any point in our lives, we do hold false hope. I say false hope because, as we have experienced with JD, with every problem overcome, another is around the corner. To the optimist point-of-view, with every milestone passed, another achievement is around the corner. Those are the ones that keep parents happy.

Those first steps, first words, first game of catch, first day of school, first competitive sporting event, first performance and all of the other goals we look forward to are out there. With all of the opportunity children (and adults) are afforded, come consequences. It is the ineffective parent who can only see the troubles ahead, the problems to come, the difficulties to overcome.

I actually look forward to helping my kids through heartbreak as much as to sharing their successes. Why is that? Because it's easy to help them with the things that don't require motivation, that come with smiles. It doesn't take much effort to feed them cookies, but a lot to get them to eat vegetables. It's easy to play catch or sing ABCs, but it's hard to be patient, to urge them to improve in areas that don't come naturally. In my limited experience, though, the successes borne from those drills bring the greatest pride.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To Those Who Put Themselves in Harm's Way

 I don't think there is a better music video depicting the harsh reality of war.

Neither warmonger nor pacifist nor isolationist nor imperialist, I believe there is a time for war. Violence should never be an emotional reaction, but out of necessity. War is to defend an invasion and to help a friend. While the words "defend" and "friend" carry subjective definitions in this case, I hope we can all agree that we hope that an alternative is always first sought.

We must always remember the price that is paid by the individuals that serve as the families that support those individuals and the communities that support those families.

Tim McGraw, "If You're Reading This" youtube video.