Wednesday, June 25, 2008

OCD? You decide.

I'm sitting on the living room floor at the end of a long day. River and mommy are both getting a special treat, relaxing in front of the tube, watching Bee Movie. He's mellow. I'm mellow. We're having a good time.

He wanders into the kitchen and pulls something out from a low drawer. With a proud smile on his face he plops into my lap and hands me a bag of Spicy Thai Cashews. Great, I think, too spicy and he can't have nuts anyway.

Instead of taking the treasured bag from him and eliciting a wail of protest, I walk back into the kitchen, explaining, "I'm sorry honey, those are too hot. Let me get you something else." I return with a bag of raisins, and the little scavenger looks pleased.

Instead of plopping back into my lap, he gets up with his bag of nuts, walks over to the drawer he got them out of, returns them, and comes back to me.

In no time we have big fistfuls of raisins, big smiles, and one awestruck mommy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

bedtime routine

If I was a River, I would...
  • Stomp around the bathtub like Godzilla, crush my toys with monster feet, spread water far and wide, all while growling in Gremlin-speak.
  • Jump around naked on mommy and daddy's bed--running and giggling as they attempt to latch a diaper to my wet butt.
  • Make sure I wrap up the night with hugs and kisses from both of them, then talk to my critters (HaHaLouie and Bear) in a sweet, lilting voice as I pass out.

Monday, June 16, 2008

bring protection

The natural inclination is to view my cats with the same loving affection I afford my son--to see their little quirks and imperfections as unique elements of their personalities, not good or bad but simply them. This rose-colored view has become more difficult in the process of selling our house. Now we have to be concerned with the needs and sensitives of strangers, and that forces us to look at our cats' charming proclivities as, er, problems.

The cats are their own souls, completely singular. Edgar is a sweet, fat, lazy boy whose difficulty finding the litter box and anxious bowels create messy, unpleasant situations when you're asking people to come into your house, relax, and imagine it as their own.

Poe, on the other hand, loves NO ONE save mommy and daddy, and openly shows her displeasure at those who invade her space (i.e. any part of our house). She has been known to corner guests on top of their beds, to chase cleaning people and sitters around the kitchen island, hissing, baring claws, and generally scaring the wits out of them.

So imagine coming to our open house: you walk in, notice the lovely floor plan, the beautiful windows, the great kitchen, and just as you are saying to yourself, "I could live here," you are greeted by an angry black cat ready to slice off your Achilles. You run frantically around the room, tour forgotten, trying to find a means of escape--a hissing, angry mass at your heels--and there at the door where salvation lies, you step into a wet puddle--or worse.

Good first impression, no?

So we decided to corral the kitties while we showed our home; first at the open house, then whenever needed as new appointments arose. This experiment did not go fantastically. We brought them over to our in-laws place just around the corner and thought they would find the familiar smells comforting. Not so much. They did fine while they were there (in spite of Poe's attempt to crawl into every small, dark space and Edgar's multiple attempts to mark his territory), but when we returned home they were both emotional wrecks. They hissed at each other, fought with us, and seemed to feel generally betrayed.

We have since had to evacuate them two more times (a private showing just before we sold and the inspection this weekend). The effect of these banishments have made them even more uneasy and off-kilter.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to simultaneously sell our house and keep the kitties happy, but I am so thankful that the process is nearly over with. Can you imagine if we hadn't sold in record time, if I was carting the cats away every day or two so buyers could look at a welcoming, pee-free house?

I can only say thank you thank you to the gods of cats and real estate.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

fairy wings and unicorns

One of the most brilliant and funny things I've read in a long time. Jim Griffioen guest blogs on Dooce:

Rite of Passage

File Under: Daily, Poop

[The last guest post of the week is by Jim Griffioen, one half of the blog Sweet Juniper. I fell in love with his writing a few years ago, and when he and his family moved from San Francisco to Detroit they spent an afternoon at our house in Salt Lake City (where Leta introduced their daughter, Juniper, to childhood obesity). The legal advice he and his wife gave to us in those couple of hours helped us save our house, so I pretty much owe these guys both of my kidneys.]

Rarely am I more ashamed to be a man than when I step into a public restroom. I would rather stand before a class of sophomore women's studies majors berating me for everything men have ever done wrong than take a dump next to a stranger. Seriously guys, I can almost forgive the clammy aroma of unflushed turds or the wet farts or the polychromatic pubes on all the urinal lips. Those things, I suppose, are to be expected. But what I cannot forgive is the heavy breathing while you strain: all your cloistered grunting and satisfied exhalations. A performance like that is one thing on your private throne, but another entirely when you know I'm in there with you (I even coughed a little, for a heads up). And then there's the sound of newspaper pages turning inside your stall. Who gets comfortable enough in a public restroom to follow that story to 11C? Don't think you can get away with reading your iPhone, either. I hear you tapping.

There was a time when I didn't know it could be any other way. But then one night in June 1994, when I was sixteen, the manager of the diner where I bussed tables handed me a mop and told me to clean the women's restroom. After knocking several times I opened the door to a softly-lit Rococo antechamber filled with fresh flowers and upholstered armchairs and a countertop display of lavender-scented hand lotions and glass spraybottles of eau de toilette. The stalls weren't littered with excrement or crude drawings of hairy genitals or phone numbers for that "bitch named Tonya" who "sucks it for free." True, it did smell sort of like someone had farted into a bowl of potpourri, and those metal boxes full of used "sanitary napkins" made me gag, but compared to the men's room I thought I'd stumbled into a recently-evacuated harem of Kublai Khan's pleasure dome.

The conditions in most men's rooms make me sad that closeted homophobic senators from Idaho have to cruise them for handjobs (and I don't just mean the dearth of free lotion). I had a friend in San Francisco who would cruise the disgusting public men's room on the ground floor of the building where he worked. Not once, but twice, he had his wallet stolen by whatever gutterpunk had pulled his pants down to his ankles. "Dude, you need to get a wallet chain," someone suggested. Dude, I thought: You need stop accepting blowjobs from guys who'll get down on their knees in a public men's room.

And then, hardly a year later, I found myself down on my knees in public men's rooms all the time.

It's one of the hardest parts about being a father to a little girl: you have no choice but to drag your precious, uncorrupted little daisy into some of the foulest palaces of filth and putrefaction known to man, while women bring their daughters with them into perfumed Xanadus. My daughter gave up diapers about a year ago, and as a stay-at-home dad who tries to stay at home as little as possible, I became one of the only parents on earth who has actively discouraged pottytraining. "Are you sure you don't want to just pee in your diaper?" I'd ask. Using public facilities usually involved mummifying her in toilet paper and positioning her against the stall door while I scrupulously wiped down the seat crescent and that little divot of porcelain where pubes and piss love to linger. Only then would I lift her up on the seat and let her do her thing. Honestly, though, it's gotten past the point where I worry too much about the filth or her confusion over urinal pucks and hastily-carved glory holes. Lately I've started worrying about the long-term effect of exposing her to the bathroom behavior of my fellow American males. With a grunter in the next stall, she once screamed, "Is that the WARTHOG from the zoo? Not the WARTHOG!"

(She's terrified of that damn warthog)

But even worse, now it seems like she's getting used to it all. She just giggles at the guy with the ass trumpet emptying his bladder at the urinal. One of her recent Crayola scribblings was a little too phallic for my comfort, and I'm pretty sure it had hairy balls. She's started telling off-color limericks while slicking her hair back in front of the mirror. When we can't find a men's room, she even offers to pee in the bushes like a drunk Japanese salaryman.

Our sorties into public restrooms have been further complicated by the presence of my infant son---usually strapped to me in one of those Swedish chest saddles---so I can no longer comfortably get down on my knees and plead with my daughter to PLEASE GO PEE PEE BEFORE THAT RASH CRAWLING ACROSS THE TOILET SEAT GETS TOO BIG TO KILL WITH MY SPRAY BOTTLE OF CLOROX. She's now old enough to climb up on the toilet, get her own paper and even flush. She's also going through a "girly" phase that's somewhat inconsistent with her expressed desire to pee standing up. Her daily uniform has more restrictions than that of a Singapore Girl: no pants, only dresses or skirts, and everything must be pink. All possible steps must be taken to avoid appearing "boy-ee." One day last week she noticed that the pictogram on the men's room at the museum was dressed in pants, whereas the one on the other door was wearing a lovely skirt. Then several troops of Cub Scouts converged on the men's room, lining up to pee all over the toilet seats and floor.

She refused to line up behind the scouts. Everything had come to a head.

No one had gone in or out of the women's lavatory for quite some time. "See that door?" I said softly. "When you go inside, you're not going to realize it's a bathroom, but it is: I promise you. I need you to go inside, find a toilet, and close the door. Then I want you to go potty like a big girl. And wash your hands, okay?"

"Okay, Pops," she replied.

"I love you," I said, holding the door for her, watching as she disappeared beyond the gilded vanities into a fog of myrrh, lost to me now in a land of rainbows and sparkling porcelain where flatulence is as delicate as the fluttering of fairy wings and only the faint sound of a unicorn braying hints that someone inside might be struggling to empty her colon.

A few minutes later she emerged intact. "Smell my finger," she said with one outstretched. I did so tentatively, concerned still that the men's room had corrupted her completely. To my relief, it smelled like lavender. "Girly," she said smugly, and I kept a tight grip on that tiny finger while we walked away.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

River News: Month Fourteen

Dear River,

It's nearly two weeks past your 14 month birthday, and I am only now getting to this post. I'm sorry it's so late, but I know you'll forgive the tardiness because, hey, you won't be able to read this for another four or five years. This has just been a monster of a month for us, and in spite of all the chaos you have handled yourself beautifully. Let me give you an idea of what we've done during the past few weeks: searched for a new home, bought a new home, had endless meetings regarding the new home, packed up half of our possessions to clear the clutter, moved them out to storage, redecorated two bathrooms, prepared for an open house, traveled to Denver and back, lived through first your illness then mine, and finally--amazingly--sold our house after one day on the market. You maybe won't understand how much work that has been until you are yourself an adult trying to do these things all while caring for a one year old kid.

Your sitter, Anabel, who you spend three hours a day with, will be taking a two week vacation soon. When I first heard of this I was terrified. How am I going to handle the long long days without a break? I was sure I would be a crazy woman by the time your dad got home in the evening, exhausted, frustrated, and not pleasant to be around. But I gave it some real thought and I came up with this: you are such a pleasure to be around these days I don't think we'll have a problem at all. Looking back on this past month you have grown into such a great little boy--so patient, sweet, and helpful--and I think this time together, just you and mommy, will be really good for us. It's an opportunity to spend long days together, to go on outings to the museums, spend time in the kiddie pool, laugh and play together, and just enjoy each other's company.

This month you have shown me what a joy toddlerhood can be--how exciting it is for you to have new skills and independence, how much more understanding you are of mommy and daddy's limitations, and how fun it is to teach you the skills you will need as you grow into a little boy. Here are some of the highlights from Month Fourteen:

You have discovered dancing! Your little friend Jackson introduced you to the concept, bouncing and bobbing his head whenever music came on, and now when you hear a tune you like you flap your arms, shake your hips, and do a little stepstepstep to the beat. Your momma spent many years as a dancer, training three times a week in ballet from the time she was ten until sixteen, so to see you take joy in moving your body is such a thrill for me. As you get older you will discover favorite songs and figure out your own unique way of moving, and I am so excited to see those days ahead of us.

Your dad and I talk about what activities we think you'll be interested in--will it be dance classes like mommy, soccer like dad, karate like your uncle, or something completely different? Based on what we've seen since the day you were born, I think it will be swimming. You are such a natural in the water, and you love every moment you have splashing around in the bath or playing with a sink full of water. This weekend you played in the neighbor's kiddie pool and you could not have been more happy. You jumped in and out of the pool with no fear, played with the water toys, and lounged on your back. You couldn't be more of a water baby unless you had fins and gills.

Some other things you've shown an interest in recently are throwing balls and dressing up. You get better at the former every day--throwing further and further every time you try. My favorite moment this month, however, was inspired by the latter. I was folding laundry one afternoon, and you jumped in as you sometimes do, trying to help me sort and organize. You landed on a pile of my underwear and were instantly intrigued. What is this? What could I do with this? Before I knew it, you had taken pair after pair and strung them around your neck! "Look mommy, pretty necklaces!" you seemed to say. I couldn't stop laughing and even took some video which I will play at your high school graduation or wedding reception.

You have an ever growing interest in big trucks and buses. Every time we pass one on the street you crane your neck to get a better look. You point and clap and show such joy at seeing these massive lumps of metal rumbling down the street. While we were in Denver at my cousin's house, we took a couple naps in a room that had been decorated for a child. The walls were decked out with a mural of cars driving down a long winding road and tracks carrying big trains. You'd barely be able to lay down, so excited to see the pretty artwork and let your imagination flow. And as soon as you woke, you jumped up instantly, so happy to discover that they were still there. It makes me think your next bedroom may have to have a similar mural on the wall. Who knows, maybe you'll be into dinosaurs next, but these days it's all about trucks.

This month you have come closer to saying some real words. By all accounts you have said them, but they were solitary performances, rarely to be repeated. In the correct context you have used these words so far: hi, here, woof, mooo (sounding like bvooo), dis, dat, mamama, and dadada. You are (and have always been) much more interested in improving your physical skills than your verbal ones, so it's exciting to see these little steps toward talking.

As I mentioned before, we spent a long weekend in Denver visiting family. My aunt Candy had a birthday (Happy Birthday Candy!), my folks and some other aunts, uncles, and cousins came out to her daughter's home to celebrate. Since everyone is so spread out across the country, none of the extended family had met you yet, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to introduce you.

You were such a hit! You latched onto the girls in an instant, charming them with your smiles and waves, bringing them presents like rocks and tupperware, and climbing in their laps for snuggles. You see pretty girls and are just compelled to flirt. I am so afraid of your teenage years.

The boys in the family did not get as much attention, but overall you handled yourself amazingly well in strange new circumstances. You slept in your own (travel) bed, took great naps, played independently and with others, ate well, and generally let nothing phase you. The family was amused to discover that your favorite food (aside from any kind of berry) is guacamole. Your grandpa made a huge batch and you gobbled it down with vigor.

I was really glad to see that your cousin Sydney took a new interest in you. I think she's very happy to have a new playmate, rather than a squishy blob that steals all the attention, as you were most of the first year of your life.

We took a long hike in the foothills (much longer than anticipated due to some poor planning) and you slept in the backpack carrier most of the way. We went to downtown Boulder and shopped, stopped to get you a balloon mouse, and let you play in the outdoor sprinklers. (A little anecdote: after a much older boy kept kicking water in your face, I took a perverse delight in seeing him get sprayed right in the kisser later on. There is nothing like a mother's protective instinct.) Overall it was a fantastic trip, bookended by two flights in which you slept almost all the way home.

These have been wonderful, if busy days, and I am just so excited to see you growing and thriving. You laugh so easily and seem to find joy in the smallest things. You're such a sociable little boy, waving at everyone you see, making connections with old friends and strangers alike. You are just an amazing and wonderful YOU.

I love you my sweet boy,

Monday, June 02, 2008

River News: Month Aaaaggghhh!!!

This post is really just to say how late the real post is going to be. We spent the weekend in Denver celebrating my aunt's birthday and introducing River to my mom's side of the family. Fantastic time. Imagine your favorite non-threatening '80s TV program (perhaps Our House or Family Ties) and you'll have a pretty accurate view of how we roll--sugary sweet, lots of hugs, and a valuable life lesson learned every so often.

We returned home this morning (5:30am, whoo hoo red-eyes!!) and were promptly slammed in the face with all the demands of buying a new home/selling an old one. We had two meetings at the new house today to decide some issues on wiring/drainage (can you hear the excitement in my voice?). I also booked some movers to come and haul away all of the random junk that won't be appealing to the potential buyers traipsing through our house THIS WEEKEND.

That's right, in addition to booking multiple contractors to do major work in the new house as soon as possible, we have less than a week to prepare for an open house.

River, I'm sorry this letter is going to be so late. Hopefully, over the next few days, I can carve out some time between packing up our crap and catching up on lost sleep to write all about the amazing changes you've experienced this month.

In the mean time, here's this to tide you over: