It Has Come to This

So over the past four years but especially the past couple of weeks, I've been learning the hard way that a little praise and encouragement and positive reinforcement goes a lot farther with Calvin than lectures, pictures, growling, time-outs, or even a spank.

A "thank you" for some little good or helpful behavior will light up his face and correct some forms of mischief quite efficiently. This is a valuable thing to learn and practice, though more often easier said than done, especially when the first thing that comes to mind at certain times is, well, let's just say it's not as patient and kind as all that "catch your child doing something right" stuff.

And then when I combine this little tool of positive reinforcement with Cal's own wonderful but sometimes messy independence and a brilliant but sometimes troublesome inclination to just do things himself without asking for help, I get moments when things come out of my mouth that make me want to both laugh and cry hysterically.

"Cal, thanks so much for letting me wipe your bum for you."

I did. I said that. In sincere appreciation.

And he smiled and nodded - his way of letting me know that he'll let me do it again sometime, since it pleased me so.


A Refreshing Evening at the Mosh Pit

Sometimes, Family Home Evening around here kinda gets waylaid and we opt for a visit to the "playweah" (that's how Henry says "play area") at the mall. On a twenty degree day, those large motor skills and everyone's cabin fever just need an outlet. So we went.

It sometimes causes me an undue level of anxiety because my boys are...um...rough and tumble, and there are moms who don't really...um, "get" that (either in the sense that their children don't give it to them, or they just don't understand...yet. They still think it's the parent being pathetically inept, not the kid being a kid). So I feel a little extra on edge in front of the other parents. Sometimes the parent peer pressure is trickier for me to handle than the junior high/high school variety ever was.

I think my angst really goes back to the day I was there and Henry, Calvin and several other boys in the 1 to 2-year-old range were using the slanted surface of one of the rubberized truck thing as a ramp - i.e., to climb/crawl up. A mom scooped up her eighteen month old and said loud enough for the negligent mothers of young boys to hear, "Come on, Emma, I guess we just need to go somewhere else, because these boys don't follow the rules. We go up the stairs and down the slide." Keep in mind here that the "slide" has about a .05% grade...

And then there was the time that a dad not even related to any of the children involved in a totally accidental and literal little run-in was arbitrating a peace treaty between us and another set of parents. After giving us a play-by-play - "They're over there, trying to help their little boy stop crying" - He actually told us that we, the parents, should probably go apologize. Funny thing was that the mom of the crying boy was actually trying to get him to apologize to Calvin.

Yeah, so other parents can be a real stressor...

But tonight it was awesome. David and I conversed easily and more or less continuously, the boys caused few if any altercations, and Calvin even made a little friend with whom he worked out a complex game of good guys/badguys/freeze tagging/wrestling. At one point, Cal wrestled the little boy down and we had to pull him off, but the little boy told us, "My dad said if he gets me too hard, I should just one-two him." Perfect! No crying, whining, tattling, fake apologies. That's what it's all about! I wanted to arrange a playdate. Cal needs someone to wrestle with - and get a good ol' one-two from - besides me sometimes.

Then later, another boy created a little fracas with Cal and they got a little heated about it, but the other boy's mom just looked at me and shook her head, smiled, and said, "Boys." My thought? Exactly, and thank you for being cool.

Maybe Monday nights are when the realistic parents come out. Don't get me wrong - I don't condone violence or bullying or even certain innappropriate ways of introducing oneself. I spend a great deal of every day trying to engender empathy and order and manners. However, there are just some things that go with the territory - wrestling, tumbling, chasing, the occasional punch or push are part of the game of growing up. They're a little bit fun, even. And they help a boy sleep well at night.

Never knew I could feel so validated from visiting the mosh pit that is the playweah.


The Guilt Just Sneaks in Sometimes

Astuteness in a 4-year-old is one of those treasures of parenthood. Sometimes thrilling that a little mind can work like that and figure things out that you don't remember contemplating before. And sometimes a little heart-breaking that a little mind can figure things out that you never vocalize but are nonetheless a leeeetle bit true...

Calvin has hit a rough phase since about Christmas time and I've been a little at a loss and too tired to do much except bemoan my fate as a mother of a 2-year-old who wants and um, well, a budding reprobate, even though I know the answer is just to give him a little time and a bit more focused TLC.

The climax was last Friday when I had to call Auntie S to come take him away for the afternoon because the only other things I could think of doing were bawling like a baby (while my kids did a victory dance on my listless body) and/or a series of experiments in putting a 4-year-old into orbit. (Again, please don't call the Parenting Police. I called Auntie S, remember?)

Anyway, yesterday I went to an open house for a little preschool that Lily goes to that I am considering enrolling the boys in this fall. (Can you believe I have to start thinking about this in January?!) This morning, Cal said to me while I was dressing him for the co-op preschool: "Mom, do you want me to go to preschool so that the house is quiet while you snuggle with Henry?"

And now I must remove the little knife from my heart and really be a nice mom when he gets home today. And I suppose military boarding school is not something I could really go through with after all.

Although the house is remarkably quiet...



Henry calls a museum a "me-zoom." I frankly think it's cool that he knows what a museum is.

He blinks his eyes when he's asking for something (like, "Will you sing me dus one song?"). I think it's an attempt to be flirty or beguiling, but it just looks like he has a twitch. An adorable twitch, but a twitch nonetheless.

Calvin made another list the other day. (Remember the lists? I can't get the fabulous new Blogger to make the link - anyone want to educate me on how to link to really old posts? - but he was really into them last year...)

You have to read each item with a tone of exasperation and dismay, kinda hold out the syllables and roll your eyes a bit as you tick them off your fingers, and you'll have the full import of this list. He came in from "helping" David the other day and said, "Dad looked and looked and he can't figure out what's wrong, and there's...

Three Things That Don't Work on Dad's Car

1. The wipers.
2. The door locks.
3. The lights inside.

(Side note: This was when it was just the electrical system that was out, before the car blew a gasket. Now I think Calvin could make a much longer list...or maybe shorter. Like, "The engine.")

And one of the best Calvin thoughts I've heard lately:

Cal: (seeing a large Snow White balloon in a store window) I hate Snow White!
Dad: Why?!
Cal: Because she's a girl.
Dad: But you don't hate all girls, do you?
Cal: Yes!
Dad: But you don't hate Mommy...and you don't hate Lily (best friend cousin)...and you don't hate Clarissa (a girl a year older than him at church who he thinks hung the moon)...
Cal: OK. I don't hate all girls. (pause) I just hate magic girls.


In Our Own Backyard

I am always forgetting that the Potomac River is less than ten miles away from us, and I have passed the sign to Great Falls Park I don't know how many times...

On Monday morning we went to Kidwell Farm, where Henry received an actual cow-lick from a soft, big-brown-eyed little calf. And the real highlight of that little outing was our boys wearing rubber "chore boots" so they were allowed to stomp in any darn puddle they wanted to. Which made all the other children want to play in the mud, too. Which made their anti-mud parents give us looks for daring their children to get a little dirty. (Some of these children were actually wearing muddable boots but were, under no circumstances, to get them muddy. At a working farm.)

Of course, later when Calvin and Henry no longer had their boots on, it was difficult to keep them out of the mud. But really, what does it hurt? I ask you.

Then we decided that because it was 68 degrees out that we would take our lunch and a look at the falls.

It is truly a beautiful, accessible wonder...Pictures can't really capture the scale of the falls - it's an 80 foot drop - and there were so many rocks. The boys were in heaven and I could almost imagine being far from civilization, or touring "the Lakes." I really enjoyed the historical canal walls that are still standing and the big trees and paths through the park and the perfect weather.

Of course my reduced brain capacity couldn't decide which pictures to post, so here are a whole slew of them from our day. I think this is a place we will go back to often.

Did I mention that along with his other charms, Henry has NO fear? Cal is intense, but cautious. But there is no stopping Henry...


The Mid-break Blog Slog

We went to a beautiful park today and had such a nice time. I took lots of photos and couldn't wait to blog about it all, then remembered that I am on a blog break and I always break my own breaks. But then I started thinking of all kinds of things I wanted to tell about, and here are a few things I just have to get out...

hungry - Constantly, ravenously. I eat a good meal, feel great and twenty minutes later I feel like I am in the middle of a serious famine. It's ridiculous and compounded by the fact that NOTHING sounds remotely delicious. I have no sweet tooth. I have no cravings. I am just STARVING, people.

gagging - (still, even well into trimester 2) There are things like my toothbrush that just send me heaving (just thinking about it!), and there other things like this recipe - I think the cookies are hilarious to match up spam recipes with my spam e-mail folder, but I was so hungry that I checked this one out. Big mistake. *gag (just reading it!)*

tired - bone weary. At bedtime, in the morning after sleeping pretty well all night long. And when I can catch a nap (which has actually happened a lot during the holidays because David is home to cover the kids while I snooze), I wake up feeling like a truck hit me.

grouchy - because I am starving and sleepy! So leave me alone!

blowing a gasket - took on a whole new meaning when the second car (which we got as a blessing for $1 and have come to totally rely upon) did it this week. The tow truck home from the mechanic was better than Christmas for the boys, though. But now we have to talk every night about who needs the car more the next day. Adds to the tired, grouchy.

smokin' in the bathroom - One of the joys of townhouse living. The airvents are somehow connected between our bathroom and the neighbor's. And he smokes. And it reeks. And I am going to start blaming my three-week cough on it. And the grouchy.

ultrasounds - I have had more this pregnancy than my other two combined. One more this Friday. On the one hand, they are fun and miraculous and fascinating. But they seem to be slowing this whole gestation thing down somehow...kinda like the watch-pot boiling thing.

Henry - he's killing me. Both from being completely exasperating and from being completely hilarious...The next few items are all him...

"I want/I don't want/ I didn't get" - His new tactic of making me feel crazy (as if the "I just ate but I'm starving" and "I just slept but I'm exhausted" things weren't enough). It works like this:

H: I want my duck-duck.
ME: Here you go...
H: No! Me hate my duck-duck! (scream-kick-throw the duck-duck)
ME: OK, well, I thought you wanted it. We'll just leave it right there on the floor, then, so it won't bother you. (walk out of the room)
H: (super sad, despairing cries as I walk away) I didn't get my duck-duck! I didn't get my duck-duck!

Note: Duck-duck can be substituted for anything he wants/doesn't want/didn't get, including the chance to climb up into the car all by himself, or a sandwich, etc. And we can sometimes have the whole conversation without the duck-duck ever leaving his hands - he has it all along, but is mad that he has it or swears that he didn't get it. He sometimes makes it even more fun, like when he asks asks asks asks for orange juice the whole time I'm pouring it and I no sooner get the lid on the cup than he wants apple juice. This is all done with an excess of whining, repetition, and general tantrumming and happens at least once every hour of the day. It's driving me mad.

"He hurt my face." This is what Henry says when he means that someone hurt his feelings. Don't know how the mix-up happened, but it finally occurred to me what he meant after I got after Calvin a couple times for hitting or throwing something at Henry's face, when all he had really done was tell Henry to not touch something or to go away (still not nice, but not physically violent, after all).

And finally, my favorite Henry quote, after the opened up body: I was sitting in the backseat with the boys, keeping them sitting flat in seatbelts while David drove home one fine day (Henry had barfed and Calvin had sympathy barfed and their carseats were unusable until we could just get home and hose them down). Our seating arrangement is significant because it is what caused Calvin to suddenly notice my bigger than usual belly.

He started poking it and asking what it was. I told him it was his baby brother and then we got into a conversation (based on my latest ultrasound) about how the baby was positioned in there. I was saying, "His head is about here, and this is probably where his bum is, and maybe his feet are about here..." as I pointed to different parts of my belly. Calvin was fascinated, then Henry piped up, poked my breast (youch!) and said, "Is dat hees elbow?"

All I have to say, is if this baby's elbow is that big, we have more problems than grouchy, tired and hungry.

Oh, and the fact that Calvin now thinks Buford is the greatest name ever for a brother baby.

P.S. I promise that I am not normally a belly-aching pregnant lady. Usually I actually really secretly love that whole expecting thing, and usually I feel rather fantastic during the middle seven months. And I NEVER take it for granted that I get to BE pregnant or resent that I am - it is always a miracle to me. I also know that the heaving and discomforts I am experiencing now are nothing compared to what a lot of other women go through. I've just never felt this run down before. And if I can't tell you all about it, who can I tell? Thanks for slogging through it with me...


New Year Hiatus

I'm taking January off from the Code Yellow blog.

We've got some big home projects to work on, my creative juices have been congested for some time now, and I need to get my time management and home organization under control. Plus, I think I'd like to play the "I'm gestating" card here, because it just hasn't been as effortless this time around as it has been before.

So in the spirit of being totally honest about how my time has been disproportionately allocated in recent memory, the blog has to give for a little while. I do plan on coming back, and I do plan on visiting my fellow bloggers and - hold onto your hats! - commenting a bit more, so if you write it, I will roll by in my dump truck and say something about it.

In the meantime, if you missed the holiday jingle from our house, check it out. And feel free to peruse my archives or the quintessential posts (sidebar) if you really miss me. Comment love is felt deeply and may thrill me into early unretirement.

(And who knows - maybe by the time I come back, the "new" "improved" Blo99er will actually be new and improved!)

Hope your new year is off to a fabulous start. Happy January!