One-hundred Twenty-three Ways to Pee

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This past summer as parents we had a pretty significant breakthrough in our world of raising children. Just as we began attaching the velcro flaps of some size one diapers (and wondering how many times we would need to refinance our house to afford them), we were able to ditch the size fives. We somehow, with minimal resistance were able to get our two-year old potty trained before he hit two and a half. We felt great about it. We celebrated as a family this monumental moment. Sure…It took about 350 stickers entered into a “potty-book”, and there were days/weeks where we were sure that it was never going to happen; but all in all the time, energy and tricks we needed to use were a lot less substantial then anticipated.

With this new skill came a new phenomenon. Madden began to show such curiosity and creativity towards peeing that I was convinced he was training for some yet to be invented Olympic event that involved urinating. There had always been some boring, long lasting, classic maneuvers he used. Peeing in the tub had became a fan favorite. But all of a sudden, we were ready to explore the full range of possibilities that involved our stream.

First came the intrigue with location. You’re out running an errand or at a restaurant and right on cue you hear “Daddy, I got to pee.” Every public restroom absolutely had to be looked-over by the newly self-appointed health inspector. Hannafords, Wal-Mart, Porta-potties…We visited the bathroom of a diner in Rochester no less then eight times in one meal on the way back from the ocean. It’s hard to tell your newly potty-trained two-year old that seven times is enough; the last thing you want to have to do is strip him down from his pee-soaked clothes in the 5 x 5 stench filled cell of a bathroom, when you deny him number eight. He’d pee’d in the woods, pee’d in a hole on the beach, pee’d on the fence at the park, pee’d in a pond. But as annoying as this process had become, I had at least heard of such an interest.

What I hadn’t caught wind of is the variety of ways that a two-year old will attempt to sit or stand to go. We needed our pants off, then our pants at our ankles, then one ankle. We had to be sitting on his training potty, but then we had to be standing at his training potty. But then we wanted to be sitting again; this time on mommy and daddy’s potty, both facing out-then facing in…and then we even needed to be kneeling on the potty, which was just weird (but this one seems to be sticking, literally). We had to be held up to the potty, but then we wanted mommy and daddy to leave when we potty. We would need a stool to stand on to go potty, but then we would need to be sitting down when we flushed the potty. It was an extremely experimental phase, and I’m not convinced we are done. But I’m waiting for the day he asks to sit on the water tank of the toilet (I have my limit).

Like all boys, he prefers to pee outside. And to be honest, I hope that lasts. He has pretty bad aim.

We Promise, We Feed Our Son

Our boys are healthy eaters, in both senses of the phrase. Our two-year old has been raised on a well-rounded assortment of fresh foods. When he was first introduced to solids, his mother would put in unfathomable hours of puree sessions; concocting delicious, nutrition filled containers of mush that would be frozen for the week ahead. And he would eat them, a lot. His primary focus from about six to eighteen months was food consumption. He went through that phase where he had about five rolls on each arm and leg. But as he grew older and more mobile, he balanced out his healthy feedings with a healthier amount of active play time. He still to this day clears every plate of every meal, but there have been more and more instances of him skipping “snack” times, which was never his normal M.O. His baby brother appears to be following closely in his footsteps. So trust me, these boys are not starving.

Which has their mother and I even more baffled about our latest parenting conundrum. The case of the two-year old food-klepto.

Over the past two-weeks there have been a spike in food related thefts in the presence of our toddler. They’ve also become increasingly embarrassing for the parents of the hardened criminal. It all started a couple weeks back when a PB & J sandwich went missing from the dining room table of a beach house we rented as part of a family reunion for my wife’s extended family. Now, we were on vacation, and the amount and quality of our food consumption had deteriorated due to our circumstances. Snacks on the beach and ice creams were aplenty, and we chalked up his first offense to the fact that food was so readily available to him. Plus, it was in the presence of family. So we all got a good chuckle, and didn’t really think much of it.

However, later in the trip while attempting to put on a circus act locate a spot on the beach (another story for another day), the famished tot stumbled across a helpless one and a half year old snacking on some graham crackers. He accosted the boy half his size and attempted to get away with a small container filled with Nabisco Honey Maid gold. Luckily, the perpetrator’s mother was able to interject before the bandit was able to make-off with the goods, and she had him return them to the rightful owner and offer his deepest apologies. No harm was done, so no foul.

Fast forward to this past Saturday. While leaving a strenuous workout at toddler tumbling time, the suspect had worked up such an appetite that he attempted to use deceit and disguise to burglarize yet another child’s snack. He falsely pretended to be interested in saying “hi” to a baby sitting in a stroller, munching on apple spears. As the victim outstretched his innocent little apple-filled hand in curiosity, the accused quickly leaned in and put said apple spear directly into his mouth. Luckily, I was able to intervene rapidly enough, that no apple or child’s hand was consumed in the incident. The mother of the baby gave a nervous, polite giggle, and we apologized and bolted for the door.

But it all came to a head last night, as the brazen criminal pulled off his greatest heist yet. Let’s set the scene. The crime was committed at Hannaford Supermarket and I’m fairly sure there is still crime scene tape set up surrounding check-out line six. As our family of four ventured out on our first grocery shopping trip from hell experience, chaos ensued when it was time to pay. Innocently enough, blueberries began to somehow spew from the bottom of the cart as dad began to unload our groceries. Mom, with newborn strapped to her front, headed back to produce for a replacement. Madden (who was sitting down in a “car” cart) happened to be at ground level and realized he had the perfect opportunity to snatch something he never ever ever gets. One guard (mom) had left their post, and the other (dad) was distracted in attempting to get the rest of the groceries on the conveyor, while trying not to squish the countless blueberries at his feet.

Enter bagging clerk:

“Wow, he’s really digging into that…wrapper and all!” She says to me.

I am baffled as to what she is referring to, but I see her glancing in the direction of the getaway “car” cart. I step forward and glance down to get a better look and I about lose my mind.

There in the driver seat, is the same thief that had committed several larcenies over the course of two-weeks. He has a package of Rolo candies clenched in his fist, that he has somehow managed to mow through the tinfoil and consume about three of the candies. Mom was just returning with our new blueberries and we went into full police mode. I wrestled away the candies as mom provided backup. The junky went into a full chocolate withdrawal meltdown. All he had to say for himself is “I want my candy”. I’m sorry, did you say your candy? Not on your life. We paid for the groceries (including the half eaten package of Rolos), had the cashier throw away the damaged goods, and I threw the boy into custody over my shoulder and dragged him kicking and screaming out of Hannaford’s. We threw him into the back of the cruiser and headed for the station, flustered, embarrassed and contemplating what punishment would fit the crime.

Don’t worry, he will receive three healthy meals a day while incarcerated.

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The Second Time Around

As you’ve probably figured out, I feel that parenting a two-year old is an all-encompassing, all-consuming endeavor. Those of you who are currently checked into the game, or have raised one and lived to share the tales, would probably agree. I find that a solid 95% of my day’s thought goes into something Madden related. My wife (feeling such sorrow for our newborn) has playfully made digs following the reading of each of my posts. They usually sound a little something like this: “Poor Quinn.”, “You know you do have another son!”, “Are you ever going to write a post about Quinn?” And after reviewing my recent posts, I concur. He almost sounds like the forgotten son. But I promise that my newborn is not growing up in a single-parent home. And this dad definitely doesn’t neglect the newest addition. It’s just Madden is a steady flow of ammunition. Every move he makes and every line he shouts feels like it is hand-crafted to be the framework for my next post. But I feel like I do owe Quinn an homage.

Maybe it’s because the first five weeks spent with Quinn have been such a smooth transition, that it feels as though I never really had only one son. He came into the house and immediately he had a niche. Instantaneously we all were bonded. Madden sang to him the most odd medley of mixed up verses from nursery rhymes and songs that you’ve ever heard. Norman used him as the next subject of his everlasting attempt to reach a human-being’s brain through it’s nostrils with his tongue. Gertrude danced around the couch with a fear in her eyes that would make you think an unidentified flying object had just landed in our living room. And Marti reinserted herself into the role of the best mom-to-a-newborn this side of the Mississippi (she is unbelievably skilled at caring for and loving her baby boys).

Maybe it is that this is my second time, or maybe I just didn’t have time to dwell on it like I did the first; but just as Quinn was reminding me of how inadequate trying to care for a newborn made me feel, I was blessed to have the fatherly moment where it clicked. I felt the bond that I knew would eventually come, but had seemed to be difficult to attain when I experienced the life-altering first few months of raising Madden.

Although it has only been just over a month, life without Quinn seems to be hard to recollect. But at the same time it has brought back some vivid memories of going through the same experiences with Madden. This go at it has actually been a stark contrast to how that month went the first time. Mom and dad haven’t been so cuckoo, and Quinn should be thankful for that.

I’m fairly certain that Marti and I owned a book titled something like, “How to Keep your Baby Alive”, and referenced it hourly the first time around. It should have been titled “How to Make Parents Feel Extra-Stressed and Inferior”. I had created a spreadsheet to document every poop, every pee, every breastfeeding, every bottle-feeding, every sneeze, every detail of every eye-gunk that formed and every eerily inconsistent breathing pattern that expelled from his body. I’d spend many a sleepless night with my hand on Madden’s chest, to be sure that he was still breathing. It was nightmarish. It made parenting my newborn a chore (more than it already sometimes can feel like) and as hard as we were trying I was certain something would go wrong and we’d fail.

This time around, it feels natural and right. When Quinn had goop in his eye, we wiped it out with a warm washcloth (genius!). Last time we had ourselves convinced Madden would end up blind. When Quinn’s appendages were a purple hue in the days after coming home from the hospital, we knew it was perfectly normal and didn’t require a call to the doc. But the same thing happened two years ago and we were certain that Madden was going to go through life a paraplegic. We were constantly afraid that if we weren’t right at Madden’s side on the changing station he’d end up cliff-diving off a three-foot tall bureau. Number two gets to leisurely lay in the boppy on the couch, while mom and dad try to get done one more thing on the laundry list of tasks we have to do. And I know solid food hasn’t been introduced yet, but I’m sure when it does we will not be checking Quinn’s airway after he eats each blueberry.

There is no denying that raising a child is absolutely a different experience the second go around. We’re both more relaxed, the whole family is already in a groove and our boys seem happily content and satisfied. Quinn has had the best start that any baby could ask for; and we all are in for experiences that none of us will ever forget. Here’s to Quinn!

Poker for Dummies

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Any poker players in the crowd? No? Oh…my bad, that was a hobby we as parents may have had time for pre-kids. As a devoted father and connoisseur of whiskey, I’ve come to accept and understand that many of the enjoyable hobbies I once partook in on numerous occasions are now reserved for that scarce “night out”. This major life adjustment didn’t come easy and as most fathers eventually will do, I spent the summer of 2012 mourning the loss of my weekly golf outings. Going from a set of Taylor-Made irons to blue and red Fisher-Price clubs does not do much for the golf game. My wife and I had set intentions of bi-weekly date nights that we vowed we’d maintain following the birth of our first son; but we found ourselves settling for Thai take-out last night as we celebrated our smooth sailing right through the “seven-year slump”. All of the parents I know wouldn’t have it any other way; and Marti and I are definitely no exception and share the feeling. But I couldn’t help myself a couple of Saturdays ago as I felt this pang of longing for an early morning fishing trip with my brother-in-laws in place of chasing Madden through his 8:45 tumbling class for toddlers. From there I had to make sure he avoided a horseshoe to the head as I tried to get in a quick game with my dad. And within these stories is the truth of the matter…my sons are my ultimate hobby now; my good times are keeping them happy, healthy and safe. End of post…….well not exactly.

Since I’ve been spending nearly 24 hours a day with the most handsome little Tasmanian devil you can imagine; we did decide to ship the two-year old off to his grandmother’s the other night. The wife and I felt we could handle bringing Quinn to a family poker night. It was one of those magical rare events, where Quinn dozed contentedly at the appropriate times, and we adults played, and actually enjoyed the company of other living, breathing adults. We weren’t surrounded by Winnie the Pooh playmats or baskets of unfolded laundry. I recall one hand from late in the night where I made an exceptional bluff. I pushed all of my chips in with a severely weak hand and stared down a grown-man to feign strength. He had no choice but to believe I held the winner and he threw his cards into the muck. I “took down” a good pot of chips and it gave me a rush that I’d missed. I bring this entry back to the poker reference from the start and the idea of a “bluff” (an event where you are trying to intimidate with a false sense of confidence), because tonight I came to a horrifying, eye-opening realization. As well as I executed that hand the other night, I simply cannot bluff my two-year old.

Don’t try it…take my word for it. He/she will call it. And you need to be prepared that if you do try it, you will have to follow through with what you said. Because if you don’t….well that is just bad parenting. But as this became apparent to me tonight, a flood of several other failed bluffs that my son just put the brakes on filled my mind. When it happens it kind of makes you just sit there with a deer in the headlights look on your face.

uhhhhhhhhhh, hmmmmmmm…” I may say in an attempt to recompose myself.

Tonight, my perfect little angel of a son, morphed into a lieutenant of Lucifer. He picked up a box of diaper wipes belonging to his cousin and right there in front of us all, hucked it from one end of the living room into the kitchen. As uncle “Zee-zee” and “aunto Mandi” tried to hold back the giggles, I had to put on my tough-guy daddy face and I pulled out what I felt was the ultimate no-nonsense threat.

“um, Madden, what was that? Go pick that up, give it back and say sorry, or you’ll have to go to bed right now and you won’t be able to stay up and visit”

“I want to go to bed right now!”, Madden fires back so rapidly that it is as though he had predicted that this exact threat was coming.

(uhhhhhhhhh, hmmmmmmmm…is running through my head at this moment)

And in this very moment, I realize I’ve been outplayed. He bolts around the ottoman with a huge $#*!-eating grin on his face. He glances in my direction in an almost mocking fashion to demonstrate that he is holding an ace high flush. He’s waiting to see if I’m going to re-raise his bet or meekly fold my hand and walk away with my tail between my legs. I quickly scoop him up, we hand back the wipes, and I prompt his goodnights to our visitors. But I had to ask myself at the time, was I following through on a consequence? or was I giving him his way? The little bastard struck doubt right into my very serious ultimatum. That is the nature of parenting, we often don’t have an “answer”, or know for sure if we are making the correct call. We can only go with our gut, and use what we see in our child to guide us through the hands we are dealt.

Beers, Bibs and Diapers: Declarations of Necessity

Needs: of necessity

Wants: to have a strong desire for

This fundamental difference is covered during a unit of learning that I do with my students in second grade. As we start to discuss the topic, most of the boys think that they “need” the newest Call of Duty game on the market (yes…you read that right, I did say second grade). And most of the girls feel that they “need” to only have one friend at a time (I have yet to figure this out). So at least I know that this isn’t something that children just instinctually catch on to, and Madden missed the boat. However, hearing him repeatedly state that he “needs his orange shirt” or “needs a cookie” has made me feel I need to expedite his understanding of this concept. I am strongly considering having the little guy sit in on a few of these lessons come the fall. But then again, I don’t need him learning any other “life lessons” from the little seven-year olds. Here are some of the declarations of necessity that Madden has made recently.

“I need a bib!”

Listen, buddy. I see the spaghetti spilling from your cheeks. I know you’re wearing a crisp, white polo t-shirt that mom just bought yesterday. But something tells me you aren’t really too worried about it. You’ve got two fistfuls of noodles oozing from between your fingers, so your desire for cleanliness cannot be that overwhelming. Here’s what I need. I need you to lose the bib…get better at operating that fork…and make sure you hit your mouth.

“I need my sunglasses!”

Listen, buddy. I’m the first to tell you that you look like a stud in your sunglasses and I know we’re about to hit up a hopping toddler book club today at the library. You’re practicing excellent sun-safety here and I don’t want to squelch that, but we unfortunately left your sunglasses back at the house. So I am going to need you to look out the opposite window for the five-minute car ride and suck it up.

“I need a shower!”

Listen, buddy. You took a bath last night. All you’ve done between then and now is read a handful of books and sleep in a crib. You have bed head, but what toddler doesn’t each morning when they walk out of the house. You’re skin is pristine and you’ve got the next 11 hours to cover it in dirt, sweat and tears. We’ve already penciled you in for your 6:30 tub appointment this evening. Dad is going to need this 8 minutes of alone time to muster up the strength and energy to withstand the firestorm you’ll throw his way today.

“I need a fork!”

Listen, buddy. Look at your plate. There is fork right there skewering a piece of kielbasa. You say you need another one for your risotto? I didn’t know we were sitting down to a four course meal with a fork for each entrée. Not to mention, you’ll abandon all utensils in about five minutes anyways. What mom and dad need to do is give some of these appliances a rest. The next round of dirty dishes is sitting in the sink and the clean ones in the dishwasher have been ready to come out for the last 24 hours; and don’t even get me started on the washer and dryer.

“I need a new diaper!”

Oh…really…bub. You’re diaper is actually dry, you’ve been ready to wear underwear for a month now, but you seem to be on a bi-weekly schedule of being potty trained and this is an off week for you. You didn’t pee, you didn’t poop, and each of these diapers are apparently filled with ultra-absorbent gold flakes at the price they run at. So what I need is for you to get in those big boy undies and I need you to drop your next deuce into that strange-looking toilet that is shaped like a frog over there.

The perception of what a two-year old needs is comical. The perception of what a father needs might be even funnier. What we need to have and what we want to have seem to always get muddled, even as we gain an understanding of the reality of our situation. I always try to rephrase my son’s request using the word want if it is applicable. So in that spirit; I need a beer.

One of Those Days

Today was one of THOSE days.

Today was one of those days!

Today…was one of those…days…

Every day is one of those days. As parents, we experience, the good, the bad, and the spit-up. We reach the proverbial top, only to get kicked in the teeth by a little foot. We look at the clock wondering if it’s bedtime, only to see that there are still three hours left of what seems to be our own episode of The Twilight Zone. We step into a revolving door, and when we decide to make an exit we have no idea what will be waiting for us on the other side.

Personally, one of the things I’ve had the hardest time adjusting to over my first couple of years is the emotional swings of parenthood. Some people may be able to embrace the unknown of the next curve ball their child will throw aimed right at their heads. However, I’m one of those who have always thrived on predictability and consistency. I had my life planned out before I even started high school. Now you want me to keep up with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde over here. And while all along the way I’ve had to deviate from my prescribed life at times, nothing has thrown “planning” out the window like parenting.

Sure, you can plan an enjoyable little family trip down to the local ice cream shop . But you can’t predict that on the way back to your car that your two year old will have explosive diarrhea to the point where it is bubbling out of his diaper like a damn geyser. There was absolutely no part of you that woke up that morning thinking that you would be making a half-a-mile walk of shame through the center of town drenched in his feces. (TMI?)

You can plan to take him with you when you go to register every register-able item you own, but you can’t predict that he’ll develop an aversion to wearing shoes the minute he walks through the door of town hall. Or that he’ll also develop an insatiable desire to hold each of the pink porcelain pigs on the shelf behind the town clerk.

You can plan to let him continue to bond with his newborn baby brother on a rainy, dreary day. But you can’t see it coming when he wakes up looking like he’s been run over by a train; with a 102 degree fever, and can’t even get himself off the couch. You can’t predict that the doctor will insist that you keep them separated for the rest of the week. And you definitely are shocked when he wakes up the very next morning after that healthy as an ox and ready to roll.

But you also can’t have the foresight to see when you will have one of those days; a perfect day that gives you the notion that you are doing at least something right as a parent.

One of those days when you spend the day observing your son develop a love of a place that brings back such nostalgic memories of your own childhood.

One of those days when you pop your head out of the water to see the biggest toothy grin staring back at you.

One of those days when you dig “mud pits” and build sand castles.

One of those days when your son insists that you take him to an island (the other shoreline) and as you bring him deeper into the water and closer to his destination, he starts to belly laugh.

One of those days when you look back at the shoreline and see your beautiful wife holding your content three-week old to her chest in the shade.

One of those days when you picnic on the beach in the sun and your two year old says “thank you daddy” unprompted as you hand him each piece of his lunch.

One of those days, when as parents you decide to skip the usual nap time in favor of a snooze in the car. And it actually works.

One of those days that you end by laying with your son wrapped in your arms on his floor; telling the stories of all the fun that you were able to squeeze into a truly one of a kind day.

It was one of those days.

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The Art of Nap-time

Every parent dreads that day when nap diminishes to the point where it is gone forever. I listen to the parents of three year old’s tell of “quiet time” in the child’s bedroom, or that have quit cold turkey and have absolutely no nap at all. It strikes fear into the deepest core of my being. I can’t give up that lone moment of peace, freedom, solitude to just get something done for myself. And I find myself currently in a unique situation. At two-years, four-months old I am watching Madden’s need for a nap slowly wane. I know soon enough he’ll be that three year old refusing to take a siesta. Fortunately, he is such a routine oriented little dude that he continues to go with the flow everyday around 1:00. We will see when he gets wise to us and realizes we’ve preyed on his rigid, by the book personality. On the other end of the spectrum, infant/alien Quinn just sleeps here, there, anywhere all day long. He’ll slowly transition into that blissful stage consisting of 2-3 naps a day, each one lasting about two hours. Unfortunately, for us this will most likely occur just as Madden has pushed us over the threshold of no nap hell. But here is where preserving that beautiful period of time that we call “the nap” turns into art.

I call it art, because like art, it is unique in many ways. This one child-free point in your day is your muse and you need to “create” an environment in which your child can stay asleep for AS. LONG. AS. POSSIBLE. Each household presents it’s own exclusive challenges that will be getting in the way of reaching this goal. Some questions that may help one determine their own challenges are: How many levels are in your home? Do you have pets? Does your child have siblings? Do you have any particularly loud chores to get done? Do you have an incredibly loud/high-pitched/annoying voice? Do you live within a mile of a nuclear power plant or airport runway? etc., etc., etc. Consider this your canvas. You have this slate in front of you and it is up to you to realize the full potential of it.

Just as an artist has inks, paints, chalks and oils, you then have your mediums as a parent. These are the maneuvers and lengths that you will go, to be sure that this house remains as silent as you can get it. I know that I have crafted a pretty involved and detailed plan to fend off sound from entering my house between 1:00-3:00 each day. I vow here and now to disown any animal, friend or family member that disturbs the silence.

I will say that most of my craft revolves around those mistakes dogs I keep referencing. At approximately 12:45 each day, every shade of the first floor is drawn. This is to prevent any possible visual contact Norman and Gert will have with squirrels. This is a crucial aspect, as their incessant shrill barking is sure to wake up not just Madden, but the children that live in the houses behind us as well.

I then walk Madden through our normal nap/bedtime routine. By now, he is out of his morning terror-mode and we are sailing on calm seas of love and happiness. Putting him down for the nap is never the problem. My second artistic “brushstroke” is the art of shutting the door. For some reason, I’ve always felt like the click of the door latching is going to send him into some panicked fight to escape his crib. I twist the door knob completely, slowly inch the door to a resting position against the jam, and then release the knob at a three degree turn per second until it is latched. All of this takes place with a near zero decibel level of sound. I’ve already left the dad-proof gate at the top of the stairs ajar, so I will not need to mess with that. I then float on a pillow of air down the stairs so quietly that Madden probably still thinks I’m right outside of his door each day.

I like to refer to my last technique as the “call-ahead”. If you plan to come to my house midday, you better expect to hear from me prior to your arrival. I use this call to inform you of something that is of the utmost importance. My son is sleeping. You best not wake him up with your visit. This is especially important in my circumstances, because I will gauge how close you are to my house. If you are within two miles, I most likely will take the dogs out and leave them there until you have pulled into my driveway. If you cause a disturbance in his slumber, you will be hanging out with a cranky two-year old and two incredibly annoying rat terriers while I drink a beer out in the Adirondack chair out front. You’ve been warned.

And like every artist, you have those pieces/days that you feel like you’ve produced a worthless piece of junk. There are those days when the boy just won’t nap.

And you might be saying, but if he is sleeping, just think of all the hours you’ll miss out on getting to enjoy your beautiful baby boy. I get it, I want to cherish every moment I have with him. I really do. But if you are saying this, then you clearly have not ever experienced Madden from 4:00 until bed; on those days he didn’t nap.

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