The Night Chica Did My Work For Me

I believe I’ve hit a new high in the adventures of parenthood.  I’m camped out in the hallway, drinking a glass of wine, eating ice cream, and listening to someone else put Bubba to bed:

It’s Chica.

Yep.  She’s been asking for a few days to try to put him to bed one night.  Each evening I have had some reason why it was a bad idea (he’s too grumpy, it’s too late, Mommy’s too grumpy, etc.), but tonight I could think of none.  So I gave her a few basic instructions: get him in bed, read him 3 or 4 books, say a prayer, turn the light out, and sit next to him until he’s asleep.  Then creep out of the room, and you’re done!  Oh, and when if it doesn’t work, don’t get upset, just come get me.  Half of the time it doesn’t even work for Mommy.

The first five minutes was brutal as he wailed over and over, asking for me.  I was sure she hadn’t bargained for the screaming and that she was going to throw in the towel after a minute or two.  But much to my surprise, she stuck it out.  And gradually I could hear less of his protests and more of her reading.

The sound of her working her way slowly through familiar books and the image I had of him sitting on the bed, waiting patiently for her to figure out the tough parts was just too perfect.  So though the dishes need to be done and the laundry needs to be folded, here I sit, listening and waiting:

Ok, Bubba.  Time to get in bed.  Here, I’ll help you.

Hand, hand, fingers, thumb.  Dum ditty, dum ditty, dum, dum, dum.

Are you having fun, Bubba?  Ok, I’ll keep reading to you.

Boom boom boom, Mr. Brown is a wonder.  Boom boom boom, Mr. Brown makes thunder.

Lay down, Bubba.

Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?

Don’t worry, Bubba.  I’m just going over here to get some more books.

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At roughly the 30 minute mark, she crept out of the room with the most surprised look on her face.  “I did it!  He’s asleep!”  I celebrated with her, and then sent her downstairs to tell Daddy.  She hadn’t made it past the first three steps before the wailing kicked back in.  But this time he was calling her name.  Be still, little heart.

So, as we often do, she went in for round two, rereading each of the books, this time with more confidence.  Soon she was out again, and this time he was really down for the count.  “It was like magic!” she exclaimed.  Yes, Chica, you are magic.

After we had read her two stories and said our own prayers (“God, thank you for letting me get Bubba to sleep so good.”), she asked me an interesting question.  She asked me if I was more proud of her brave jump off the diving board today or of her putting Bubba to sleep.  It was a tough call, but I went with bedtime.  I told her that I thought she was very determined and that I could tell that she really loved Bubba.

And finally (because I have no other ideas for ending this post??), I leave you with a limerick:

There was a young girl who read
Three books to get Brother to bed
She turned out the light
And called it a night
“You’re hired forever!” Mom said.

Smack-Ya-Mama (And Not Your Four Year Old) Black Beans

The black beans tonight at dinner were smack-ya-mamma good.

Too bad Chica didn’t figure that out until she was almost the one getting the smackin’.

We’re in a bit of a dinner time rut.  We bought ¼ of a cow recently, so every meal includes some kind of beef.  We stopped trying to be creative, and we’re stuck on a predictable cycle of pasta, hamburgers, hamburger steak, and calzones.  Seeing as how Chica doesn’t do beef in any form (by her own choosing), feeding her is quite a challenge these days.

In theory I really like the idea of making both kids’ plates with exactly what we are eating and just saying, “too bad, so sad,” if they don’t find something they like that night.  We’ve tried that, and some nights when I’m feeling particularly strong, we give it another whirl.  But most nights we just feed them what we know they will eat because, well, we’re tired.  And we’d rather enjoy a conversation about our day then endure a battle over the plate.  So it’s macaroni and cheese or pasta or grilled cheese or hotdog….over and over and over again.

Beside the usual sides of carrots and craisins, I usually serve her one more thing from our plate, hoping that one day she’ll magically morph into a kid whose menu includes more than just ten items.  So tonight it was the black beans.  And the rule was one bite.  One lousy spoonful.  Our standards have reached a new low.

What follows is a brief survey of some of the tactics used over the 30 minutes of dinner in efforts to get her to down that one spoonful:

“MMM…..maaaaan, these beans are good.”

“Ohhh, Bubba likes these beans.  They must be good.”

“They taste like bacon and salt….two things you like.”

“I’m going to have ice cream.  Don’t you want some too?”

“You don’t know that you don’t like them because you haven’t tried them.”

“No, you can’t get up until you’ve had that one spoonful.”

“You can have some more pasta when you’ve eaten your beans.”

Meanwhile, the offer-it-and-maybe-they’ll-like-it strategy has worked for Bubba.  He’s downing them like they’re going out of style.

beans

When he finishes his two servings and helps to finish mine, I finally ask Jay to take out Chica’s one required spoonful and give Bubba the rest of her serving.

So while he’s literally licking the bowl, we’re still fighting her.  Finally we busted out the, “Enough.  Eat them now or we will start yelling and there will be a consequence,” line, and it worked.

“Hey.  They didn’t taste like anything!  They were good.  Can I have some more?”

And so it goes.

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Smack-Ya-Mama (And Not Your Four Year Old) Black Beans

Ingredients:

1 can of Walmart brand black beans (drained but not rinsed)
1 cup of chicken broth
¼ cup bacon bits (the good kind…not the crunchy ones)

Directions:

Combine in a small pot, and cook on medium heat until the rest of your dinner is ready.  Serve hot, but don’t expect anybody to eat them until they’re cold.  They’ll still be good.  Promise.

That’s YOUR Kid

At least once a day Jay and I exclaim to each other, “That’s YOUR kid!”  Maybe all families do this, but it’s our way of saying, “Whatever that kid is doing right now, they definitely got that trait from YOU, not me!”

One of the most memorable of these moments lately was during Chica’s Christmas dance concert.  When they started the music for her dance, she recognized right away that it was the wrong song…and she didn’t hesitate let everyone know.  You can see her moment of glory around 23 seconds.

When her dance was over, Jay’s mom leaned over, pointed squarely at Jay, and said, “That’s YOUR daughter.”  I didn’t know him when he was that young, but I have no trouble imagining that as a kid, he would have been the one also quickly correcting adults when they made a mistake….especially related to music.  Without a doubt, Chica has inherited this need to get things right along with a keen ear for music from her daddy.

So in the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to gather a few more, “YOUR kid!” moments to share with you.  This isn’t an exhaustive list, but they’re the ones we could collectively remember to jot down last night on our ride home from Richmond.

That’s Jay’s Kid

  • Chica certainly gets her tenderheartedness from him.  Yesterday at Grandma’s house, we somehow got on the topic of Jazz, the dog we gave away to a new family over a year ago.  Chica commented how much she missed playing with Jazz then cried a few real tears for her.  “I just can’t make my tears go away,” she said oh-so-sincerely.  That’s her daddy’s girl, for sure.
  • Whenever I see either kid’s cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk from a bite of food that is three times too big for them, I make fun of Jay.  He eats in one bite what it would take me five or six to finish.
  • These days Bubba will do anything for a laugh, much like his daddy.  It’s so fun to watch his little sense of humor blossom.  His latest tactic is to stick his tongue out, wave his hands around, and make an, “Ahhh!!” wild-man noise.  Whatdayaknow, it works.  We laugh every time.

That’s My Kid

  • I’m happy to say that both of my kids can’t resist dancing when they hear music.  It usually ain’t pretty, but it’s from the heart….just like me.  : )
  • Chica’s a little bit obsessed these days with Spanish.  (She’s actually created her own language she calls “Kid Spanish,” but that’s a post for another day.)  I was that kid in high school that wound up taking three different languages at once.  Maybe she won’t go to those lengths, but I’m hoping her love for language doesn’t fade.
  • Jay says Chica gets her selective determination and focus from me.  Selective being the key word.  Chica was helping Nana make some peanut butter cookies before Christmas, and she was given the task of unwrapping all of the Hershey kisses.  Nana was doubtful that Chica would stick with it long enough to get the huge pile unwrapped, but Chica refused Nana’s offer to help.  Much to Nana’s surprise, she opened every last one of them.  The interesting thing, however, is that this focus fades for simple tasks like getting shoes on or finding a coat to wear.  I’m the same way.  I can stay focused for hours on a project that interests me, but other things, not so much.  Say cleaning, for example.
  • Speaking of cleaning, Jay also says both kids get their tidiness from me.  Don’t miss the sarcasm there, folks.   (Sarcasm…thankfully a trait neither has developed yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.)

There are a few gifts that they’ve inherited from both of us (like Chica’s ability to sleep through anything), but there are also a few characteristics that seem to be passed from further up the family tree.  Bubba has a sudden and intense fascination for animals like his papa.  Like her nana, Chica sees every stranger as just a friend that she hasn’t met yet. Chica has started multiple, eclectic collections of treasures like her grandpa, and she sees no problem in telling strangers her whole life story like Grandma.

So, what about your family?  I’d love to hear the latest “YOUR Kid” moment in your house.  Share it here!

Somewhere To Be Peaceful

“Are you going somewhere to be peaceful?”

These were Chica’s words as she hugged me goodbye for the third time yesterday.  “Well, yes, I am,” but I hadn’t really thought of it that way.  Turns out she knows what she’s talking about.

Yesterday was time for the biennial Tracy and Taylor’s Excellent Adventures.  Installment one of this sibling fun was Memorial Day two years ago when we climbed Mt. Rogers, Virginia’s highest peak.  That adventure included getting lost in the predawn hours, spotting a just-born wild foal and its mother, and two bear sightings, all before lunch time.  I was pretty sure that this year’s trip wouldn’t leave us with such good storytelling material, but I couldn’t wait, nonetheless.

Based on a friend’s recommendation, we headed to the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.  We started our morning off with a raft ride through Class II, III, and IV rapids in their manmade river.  This was one of those times where I tried to force myself to see the bigger picture.  “Open your eyes, soak it all in,” I told myself.  Instead I spent most of the time focused on the paddle in front of me and my feet tucked firmly under the seat.  I really didn’t want to have an “out of boat experience.”

Since we were already soaked, we decided to try out the stand-up paddle boarding next.  Taylor and I were both surprised at just how difficult it was.  If you want to get anywhere fast, paddle boarding is not the sport for you.  If you try to paddle quickly, you’re going to either tip over or veer too far left or right. So unlike rafting, we took in the big picture, stopped twice for a swim, made jokes about feeling like we were floating the Amazon, and just enjoyed each other’s company.  Yes, Chica, we were able to be peaceful here.

After lunch we attempted their 40 foot climbing wall.  Feeling quite confident and cocky, I stepped right up to tackle climb number two, a climb the guide described as medium difficulty.  I was struck right away with just how small the handholds were.  Since we were using an auto belay, there was no stopping to take a break like you can do if a person is belaying you.  If you let go, you’re coming down, pride and all.

Right there on the wall I thought of Chica.  I get frustrated when she chooses a puzzle, game, or book too easy for her abilities.  I always try to push her to the next challenge.  This medium wall was definitely the next challenge for me, and I was crumbling under those feelings of “it’s too hard.”  I’ll try to have a little more grace next time when she wants to sit comfortably with what she knows she can do.

Our final two adventures were the Mega Zip and Mega Jump.  Possibly the most exciting part of this was watching the rafting from up above while we waited in line.  We saw at least four rafts tip over, giving everyone on board a chance to practice what they had learned about the out of boat experience.  “Lay back, point your feet downstream, and absolutely do not try to stand up.”  Watching it happen so many times in a row actually made a tiny part of me wish it had happened to us.  Spilling out of a raft in a Class IV rapid might possibly be more exciting than a bear sighting??

Though physically tiring, this day was oh-so-peaceful.  I had one mouth to be responsible for instead of three.  The questions I got were easy ones like, “Where are you from?” and, “Have you done this before?”  There was no one to fight over naptime.  Being a mom is awesome, but sometimes you need some time away to remember just how awesome it is.  Spending that time away with great company makes it even better.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Want to hear the joke about pizza that our raft guide told us?

Ahhhh….nevermind….it’s too cheesy.

Dear Bubba

Dear Bubba,

Today as I dipped your chubby little toes down into the cold Otter Creek, I wondered if you will always enjoy being outside as much as you do now.

Before lunch I watched Sister snatch a toy from your hands.  I got more upset about it than you did.  I wondered if you will always be friends like you are today.

In the car I noticed your sweaty head and fair skin, both inherited from your daddy.  I wondered in what other ways you will be like him.  I hope you get his sense of humor and helpful spirit.

This afternoon when Chica yelled, “We’re home,” and you promptly woke up, I wondered if you will always be a light sleeper.  Apparently you didn’t get the sleep-through-anything gene from me like your sister did.

After a nap I watched you giggle and squeal in the Johnny Jump Up.  I wondered if your obsession with jumping and standing are a hint of your athleticism.

Before dinner when I handed you a huge cooking spoon to keep you happy, I wondered about your recent fascination with kitchen utensils.  Maybe you’ll teach your future wife to cook and love new foods just like your daddy did for me.

While I was cleaning up dinner, I sang you some funny little song.  You flapped your arms with delight like you were preparing for takeoff.  I wondered if music would one day become a love of yours.

Tonight as I let you crawl around and eat the Cheerios off the kitchen floor, I wondered…well, I guess I didn’t really wonder anything.  I just congratulated myself for having a clean floor for the first time in months and felt a twinge of pride in the strong immune system I am helping you develop.

I love you,

Mommy

The Baby Slide…and other things I said I’d never do

My mother-in-law routinely liked to tease me that, “Your first baby is not preparing you well for the second one.”  I laughed it off and just credited this as a compliment.  Chica was a nearly perfect baby.  She fell fast asleep minutes after her head hit the mattress.  She ate all kinds of foods willingly including avocado, asparagus, and tofu.  She rarely fussed and was content in the company of strangers.  Delightful.

Bubba…not so much.  He seems to be allergic to taking naps in his bed.  He all but refuses to eat anything….I mean anything…. mashed up on a spoon.  He’s just starting to show signs of clingyness for mommy.  MIL was right.

Instead of reading more baby books and trying to break him of these habits, I’ve just given in.  Some days it just comes down to survival.  Still breathing?  Check.  Not bleeding?  Check.  Still have ten fingers and ten toes?  Check.  Did you eat something that was in fact intended to be food?  Check.  Well….then we passed.  Keep it up Mamma.

Here’s my top three list of things I said I’d never do…

1.  The Baby Slide–You know, nurse the baby to sleep while lying down in my own bed then slide out ever so carefully, praying the whole time that he won’t wake.  With Chica I was all about never nursing her to sleep.  We stuck strictly to the nurse-play-sleep routine.  With Bubba it’s more like a nurse-play-nurse-nurse-nurse-sleep routine.

2.  Nothing But the Best Foods–Chica got all fresh foods pureed and frozen.  She had quite an impressive palate as a one year old, but today she would still prefer to eat mac and cheese for all 21 meals of a week.  Still waiting for all that work to pay off.  This week I fed Bubba french fries while I dined on a humongous sandwich at Johnny Rocket’s.  Yeah, I’m not sure Chica had those before three.

3.  TV Babysitter–Sometimes a girl’s just gotta take a shower.  Enough said.

I know there are plenty more, but I have to go take advantage of nap time while I’ve got it.  The Baby Slide worked this time….but I’m sure not for long.