Category Archives: Toys

The Princess and the Viking

As I’ve mentioned before, I walked into parenting thinking most gender norms were social constructs.

Not wanting to cram my daughter into a pink box from the get-go, I painted her room green, bought her gender-neutral toys, and avoided onesies that said crap like “I’m so pretty” like the plague.

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Like THIS crap

And… I still ended up with the girliest girl that ever walked the planet.

Since she was two years old, Brontë would beeline for the pinkest, fluffiest dress she could get her tiny hands on before sneaking my lipstick to smear all over her face so she’d look fetching enough to host the stuffed animal tea parties she was constantly throwing in her room.

I didn’t think she’d even heard about tea parties, yet there she was… constantly debating the relative merits of various Disney princesses with the giant bears and dinosaurs sipping imaginary flower tea and helping themselves to the pink hors d’oeuvres she’d pretended to lay out on plates.

It was a real head-scratcher.

After she shoved enough trucks aside in favor of dolls, or screamed in enough agony when asked to put on pants, I had to start wondering if… maybe… gender norms weren’t entirely a pack of lies.

And then, her sister Bridget came along.

Whereas Brontë would throw Hollywood-worthy scenes whenever she scraped her knee, Bridget would punch the trees and walls around her like a miniature Hulk.

While Brontë would run away sobbing whenever one of the playground girls were mean to her, Bridget would literally roll her eyes, fart at them and laugh.

The hilarious thing is, while Bridget absolutely loves her sister, sometimes Brontë’s super-dramatic, hyper-feminine antics get on her last nerve. Like the time Brontë was acting out some romantic fantasy car date between a prince and princess and the moment her back was turned, Bridget replaced the prince with a giant dinosaur then laughed herself stupid after Brontë shrieked in outrage:

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When Brontë returned to the table…

 

Or the way Bridget loves grossing out her sister. We had this dialogue the other day…

John: What should be eat for dinner?

Brontë: Pasta!

John: We’ve had pasta for the past three nights. What else would you like?

Bridget: Popcorn and salt!

John: That’s just a snack. What do you want for dinner?

Bridget: Fish cones and bone sauce!

John: What?

Bridget (miming swimming fish with her hands): FISH CONES and BONE SAUCE.

Brontë: That’s DISGUSTING.

Bridget: Fish cones, NOW!

Brontë: EWW, GROSS!

Bridget rolls on the floor laughing.

Or the other day, when the girls and I were walking home from the library when Brontë notices a dandelion in the grass…

Twirling, she says, “A candy-lion! My favorite! I want to make a wish!”

Holding her skirt with one hand, she bends over to pick it with the other. Like a Disney princess, she prances around with it for several minutes, striking poses and saying, “I wish I wish I wish in my deepest heart, the greatest wish that ever…”

And in the middle of her soliloquy, Bridget rolls her eyes, stomps over and blows all the dandelion petals away.

MY WISH!” she says, stomping away like Finally, we can go home in peace.

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(Reenactment of the Dandelion incident)

I’m not sure whether she was commandeering Brontë’s wish flower or if getting Brontë to stop prancing around was actually her wish, but it was pretty funny, either way.

But it just goes to show that this gender question isn’t quite that simple. Some girls roll out into a glittery cupcake universe from the start, while others are more… sarcastic.

And we don’t fall entirely into either camp. Brontë loves Legos, Outer Space and superheroes, for example. whereas Bridget also loves smelling perfume and having me paint her nails.

It shall be interesting to see how this develops…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How To Solve Your Toddler Problems With Timers

A chicken may have just solved 95 % of the Toddler Problems in our house.

Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.

You see, once we finally got past that stage where the kids were throwing hour-long tantrums about things like not wanting a glass of water then being enraged about not having one, most of our hassles involved three main issues:

Not Focusing on Any Activity for More than 30 Seconds

“Momma, I want to play with the crayons and coloring books!”

“Okay, but if I get them down, you need to play with them for a while.”

“Okay, I will!”

I heave the art boxes and crayons down from high shelves, open all the boxes, lay out coloring books, paper, and start separating crayons into piles for Brontë and Bridget.

And thirty seconds later, they both scream: “DONE!”

chimpNow, just picture that scenario happening again and again with Legos, scooters, blocks, tea sets or what-have-you, and you’ll get a rough picture of how I spend my day.  Since the children won’t entertain themselves for any length of time, it’s hard to do anything else without kids tripping over my feet throughout the process.

It’s draining, I worry about their lack of focus, and sometimes consider pushing them outside then locking the back door for an hour.

For their own good.

Leaving Toys All Over the House

To a non-parent, this probably doesn’t sound like a huge deal because toddlers are little.  How many toys could they have? How big of a mess could they possibly make?

Well, it’s staggering, folks.

People love to spoil kids on holiday and whenever the mood strikes them, so my kids are constantly getting toys from us and every grandparent, relative, friend and Happy Meal. They build up.

pikypieAnd, like miniature bag ladies, my girls are driven to carry as many toys as they can pack into their tiny fists every time they leave a room, or really, move in any direction for any reason, before dropping them to chase the next shiny object. Since they don’t sustain activities for more than a couple of minutes, toy bits quickly seep into nook and crevice of our house and yard.

I don’t know if it’s some secret toddler scheme to conquer every last inch of adult territory, but you’ll find yourself stepping on Legos everywhere you walk and crunching Barbie limbs anytime you sit.  Doll shoes and plastic animals fly out of my bedspread whenever I straighten it. As much as I try to weed them out, the toys just keep regenerating, like I’m using a sieve to dump water out of my capsizing rowboat.

But beyond the overwhelming mess, it’s also a waste of money. Toys keep getting lost, stepped on or eaten by the dog.

 

Not Cleaning Up After Themselves

Teaching kids to pick up after themselves would seem like the obvious solution, right?

Yeah, to me too. So, I’ve been working on that for the past two years and man, has it been a haul…

At first, they’d whine and shriek about needing me to help them, but would just goof off whenever I did.

So I stopped, making them do it themselves. This turned ten-minute jobs into two-hour grinds of them putting one Lego block in their mouth then slowly rolling across the floor to spit it into the box, whenever they weren’t angrily throwing it.

I would grit my teeth and sit through it, not wanting to reward them by relieving the pressure and hoping they’d eventually get bored of taking forever to pick things up because doing anything else would obviously be more fun.

lego.jpgAfter many months of this, we reached a point where they would actually pick things up, however slowly and begrudgingly. It took about 600 time-outs to get there, because rational explanations had no effect.

Then, when I was finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, our routine suddenly devolved into the Passive-Agressive Olympics.  Neither kid wanted to be the patsy who ended up doing most the work, so they’d both fold their arms and spout off long rants about refusing to pick up toys until the other one put in more effort.

At some point during the second year of this, I’d tried every angle I could think up that didn’t involve spanking the crap out of my kids (though I was beginning to understand why some parents do). I even tried the “I have cookie for the best cleaner!” method, which wasn’t nearly as effective (for me) as you would think.

Enter the Chicken

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“I say I say I say… pick up your CRAP”

So last week, when I was complaining about all this to my daycare-running neighbor, she casually mentioned that she sometimes sets a timer during activities.

Hmm. Worth a try, right? I figured it probably wouldn’t work, since nothing else had, but it couldn’t hurt.

So later that afternoon, when the kids started bugging me for crayons, I decided to give it a shot. We have a kitchen timer, shaped like a chicken, that the kids are really fond of.

I got the art supplies, slapped down the chicken, and told them:

“Okay, here are the rules:

  1. I’m setting this chicken timer for 30 minutes. You have to color for the entire time.
  2. You have to color at the art table, because that’s where we color. So, no getting up and leaving the table.
  3. When the chicken timer is up, you clean up the art supplies.”

And then I backed away to watch.

They…

SAT AT THE ART TABLE COLORING FOR THIRTY MINUTES.

They did NOT leave the table

When the timer went off, they started shouting, “CLEAN UP TIME!” and scrambled to pick up all their toys, without stopping once, then slapped the lids back on the boxes.

WHOA…

Was it a fluke? I tried again with Legos, this time for forty minutes, during which they couldn’t leave the Lego area (which happens to be the living room).

And it WORKED!

They played with Legos for a full FORTY minutes before scrambling to pick them all up without whining about it once.

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“I’m the most effective authority in this house”

I went on to use this method a few times a day for an entire week, and it worked every time.

I got so much done. I even had space to knock out lower-priority projects, like reorganizing cabinets (which doesn’t sound that exciting but nevertheless marks the moment when adult order returned to our house).

I’m still not sure why this particular combination was effective, since I’d tried every element of it before (apart from the chicken timer), but it was miraculous. Something about timer + play-area limits + cleaning up when the timer goes off = MAGIC.

And I had to share it, in case it helps other struggling parents.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Teach Your Child To Share?

Whether or not to teach your child to share is a matter of great controversy.

Some may find this surprising, because sharing is good, right? Doesn’t it teach kids not to be selfish?

Eh, not so fast. Like practically every other aspect of modern parenting, the issue is much more complicated than it seems…

For example, let’s say your coworker Todd likes your watch. Or your car. Or house. How would you feel if your boss made you hand them over, just because it’s so nice to share?

 

sharingWe’d find the idea outrageous, yet we expect our kids to comply without question. It’s admittedly a bit of a double standard, and one that rewards any kid who demands another kid’s stuff. We wouldn’t be happy if the adult world worked this way.

So, there’s a certain logic to the idea that making kids share is misguided, and NOT making kids share happened to be the policy of a preschool our daughter Brontë used to attend. It seemed to work well enough for kids who were around a bunch of kids who were roughly their own ages.

And probably also for only children, which my husband John and I both were.

But… once we had another daughter, it didn’t seem to work anymore. We were completely unprepared for the new dynamic.

You see, Brontë was two when her little sister Bridget was born. Brontë understandibly faced her changing reality with some ambivalence: on the one hand, her baby sister was cute and seemed to like her.

On the other, Bridget was a blatant usurper of mommy and daddy’s love. Brontë would “accidentally” trip and scream whenever Bridget needed attention.

And if that wasn’t enough, Bridget also felt entitled to grab any toy in the house. Brontë was used to ALL toys being HER toys, so she found Bridget’s behavior absolutely unacceptable.

To make matters worse, around the same age that Bridget began crawling and grabbing anything she could get her hands on, Brontë also reached that apex age of insisting the entire world belonged to her.

Other parents will know exactly what I mean by this. There’s a phase, around age two, where a toddler’s chief motivations involve negating suggestions and declaring universal ownership.

Well, our kids both reached the possessive and grabby stages, all at once. John and I would watch Bridget grab something Brontë was holding, then hear Brontë scream “NO!'” and “MINE!”  approximately six thousand times per day.

Bridget would then move onto some other object, which Brontë would also wrestle away from her while screaming “MINE!”

That was PURPLE BUNNY, for the love of all that’s holy…

This would go on and on until Bridget finally broke down in hysterical seizures.

sharingdog.jpgWhich makes sense, because Bridget could hardly speak a word of English at the time, let alone fathom concepts of ownership. And Brontë couldn’t accept that while she had heretofore held complete dominion over every object in her environment, she now had to hand them over to get chewed on. Even when it was purple bunny.

It wasn’t easy to reconcile, but they clearly had to learn to share.

Problem is, the concept of sharing is a tough one for toddlers to grasp.

Because what does sharing actually mean? When you share a cookie, you don’t get it back. When you share a toy, the other kid keeps it as long as they want, which could be forever.

If your kids are supposed to hand over toys whenever another kid wants it, then they will also feel entitled to grab any other kid’s toys. Even when that kid is some stranger at the park. I mean, they’ll just pick up some other kid’s Tonka truck and try to take it home, which is super awkward, because you just told them that maintaining the integrity of one’s personal property is unacceptable.

So… after much trial and error, this is what my husband and I figured out:

Kid’s thinking may not be especially nuanced, but they can usually grasp basic concepts of fairness.

Fairness includes the idea that if *you* get one, then *I* get one.

It also involves the idea that everyone should get the same thing, including a turn at playing with or participating in whatever desired object or activity is in question.

So, instead of telling them to “share,” which is really vague, it’s easier to tell kids to “wait their turn.”

It gives them clearer rules… You will wait patiently until the other kid is done with the object, then they will let you play with it without hassling you.

And in return, they won’t bug you for playing with it once they’re done, just as you won’t pitch a fit when they pick up something you’ve discarded.

purplebunnyThis approach has worked sooooo much better for us. The kids understand these rules better and seem to respect them. It appeals to their inherent sense of fairness. They get the idea of “you were done with it, so now she gets to play with it.”

And weirdly, now they’ll patiently wait for a toy (sometimes finding something else to do) as long as they know they’ll be the next one in line.

I’m guessing that as kids get older, they’ll have an easier time distinguishing the difference between personal property and community objects that should be shared.

But for now, telling our kids to “wait their turn” has made life a while lot easier.

So, what do other parents think about teaching your kids to share?

Do you believe it’s a good idea? Do you believe it’s better to let kids work it out on their own?

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Pink Boxes Made of Ticky-Tacky…

For today’s post, I was inspired to try something different: a freehand comic strip!

The only problem is… I don’t know anything about making panels or drawing on computers, which complicates things.

But was I gonna let my complete ignorance and total incompetence stop me? Hell no!

So here goes… and I swear I’m going to get much better at this.

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Sibling Torture Tactics: Psychological Warfare

My two-year-old daughter Bridget has been trying really hard to talk lately. She goes on long monologues at the dinner table, flinging her arms around and shaking her fist to emphasize her point.

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Maybe this was it

Frankly, I have no idea what she’s talking about. Whatever it is, she feels very passionate about it. Something about tacos and cats, which are apparently vital issues within the baby community.

I’m so glad she’s finally learning to talk, though, because she’s been at a major disadvantage when dealing with her big sister Brontë, who is four. Brontë literally talks nonstop from the crack of dawn until I’m tucking her into bed, which must be so intimidating.

Two years is a huge advantage in toddler time. Brontë is bigger and stronger and can reach more, say more, and knows more things. She constantly bosses Bridget around and muscles away her toys whenever my back is turned.

All Bridget can do in response is scream uncontrollably or hit Brontë in the head with a nearby object. And BOTH get her in trouble.

Brontë’s got the home field advantage. She’s even been convincing Bridget she can read. She grabs the bedtime story book when I’m finished and convincingly pretends to read every page to her sister, making up a story while pointing to words.

I didn’t fully grasp her motivations until last week, when Brontë grabbed my clock radio instructions, unfolded them, then walked over to Bridget.

“It says here,” Brontë began, while staring intently at the giant instruction square, “That the bedroom is Brontë’s and Bidgie is just allowed to sleep over.”

Bidgie blinked.

“And number 2,” Brontë pretended to read, “The toys are Brontë’s and Bidgie is not allowed to take them. Number 3 says Bidgie can’t close the door.”

“Psh,” said Bridget.

“I dunno, Bidgie. That’s what it says.”

But Bidgie’s not rolling over without a fight. What she lacks in verbiage, she more than makes up for in sheer bravada.

When Brontë dazzles everyone with adorable stories, for example, Bridget will stun the audience by picking up a bottle of hot sauce and drinking it.

Or, Bridget will aggravate her big sister by wreaking havoc on her pretend world. Like the other day, when Brontë took  Princess Pink Ballerina and the Handsome Prince out for a joyride in the  fantasy pink ballerina car.

The moment Brontë ran away, distracted by something or other, Bridget crept up to the car and replaced the prince with a giant green dinosaur:

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It’s hard to drive with super-short arms

And you’d be surprised by how much attitude Bridget can work into two- or three-word sentences. Yesterday, she had the following conversation with her sister:

Bidgie is sitting in the bathtub when Brontë wanders up…

Brontë: Hi, can I get some candy please?

Bridget (handing her pretend candy): Here!

Brontë: Thank you! This isn’t enough candy though. I come here all the time. Can I get more candy?

Bridget: Buh-bye

Brontë: Can I get some strawberry ice cream?

Bridget: Here.

Brontë: Thanks! Do you have any chocolate ice cream?

Bridget: NO.

Brontë: Can you make some?

Bridget (crossing arms): Buh-bye.

Honestly, I was a little relieved when this conversation ended. I thought it might take a turn down “around the corner fudge is made” street.

That’s such a likely scenario with my kids, I can only assume Bridget didn’t have the goods.

Where I Sick My Toddler on Our Obnoxious Dog

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Douglas pretends to be okay on a leash when we first meet

So we’ve had Douglas the chihuahua/terrier/something for about a week now and I have to tell you, he’s driving me nuts.

Don’t get me wrong. He IS sweet and adorable and will cuddle up to you at night and really, really means well, but I’m having a rough time with his berserker dog energies.

I’m beyond certain this has something to do with me being a cat person.

I’m used to calm, clean kitties who like your approval but don’t NEED it, whereas Douglas goes into approval-seeking seizures so violent they’ve actually drawn blood.  He wasn’t even trying to be mean… he just goes into such a licking, head-whipping frenzy that upon seeing me, he woodpeckers his face against my hands until his teeth accidentally break the skin.

And he has other problems, like:

  • He chews EVERYTHING. I have two kids under five, which means there’s a wave of toys constantly enveloping our house. I was hoping the threat of dog ingestion would help me train my kids to pick up after themselves, but so far, the dog keeps on crapping Legos and trying to wrestle Bridget’s blankies away.
  • He isn’t leash-trained. Approaching Douglas with a leash makes him instantly pee all over the floor. Then he stubbornly sits there while you pull at the leash until he’s choking and vomiting.
  • But if you remove the leash, he won’t respond to commands AT ALL. When I took Douglas and the girls out to get mail from the mailbox, the FIRST thing he did was run straight out into the street and into oncoming traffic. He not only didn’t flinch when we called his name, he bolted away from us for the next half hour while we tried to grab him.
  • When we let him inside, the first thing he does is find a sweet corner of the house to crap in. We tell him NO and put him back outside for a decent interval before bringing him back in. Then he instantly craps again, like he’d been holding it. He’s THE OPPOSITE of potty-trained. He WANTS to crap inside.

Despite all of his issues, there’s NO WAY we’re taking Douglas back to the shelter because that would break his little doggie heart. He truly loves us and was so happy to become part of our family that I just can’t do that to him.

But what to do…

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Brontë bosses her stuffed lemur around

The other night, it hit me: Brontë not only loves animals but, like many 4-year-old girls, she’s incredibly bossy. She bosses her little sister around all the time, tries to boss around John and me, and managed to train Frodo the Cat to stand up on command, just cause she was bored.

So, I turned to her while she was eating some graham crackers at the kitchen table. I told her in a very serious voice: “Brontë, I’m making you the Official Boss of the Dog.

She stood up, nodded, and said, “I’m also the Boss of the Minnie Mouse blanket.”

“Yes you are. You are the Boss of Minnie Mouse and also the Boss of the Dog.”

How did I not instantly see it? Brontë’s hyper control needs and an out-of-control little dog is a match made in heaven. She even has infinite time on her hands.

And she’s been taking her duties very seriously. Everywhere I go, I’m hearing Brontë whip Douglas into shape:

“No, DOUG-LAS! People are NOT for biting. We are NOT DOG TOYS. Kissing us is an okay thing to do. You can kiss but you CANNOT BITE!”

“Douglas, you are NOT ALLOWED TO PLAY WITH BARBIES. Here… you can play with your squeaky duck.”

“Douglas, STOP GIVING THE CATS MEAN LOOKS! Raj will smack you in the face and he will be RIGHT.”

“You do NOT poop in my room. Rooms are NOT for pooping! You can poop in the potty or outside because you are a dog but you do NOT poop in the living room or my room and you DO NOT poop next to Ariel because SHE IS A MERMAID.”

Okay, so maybe I set Brontë on the dog because I knew it would be funny and that would kind of help me deal with all the frustrations he’s caused, but I still think it’s a good plan. She seems to have the essential training idea down and I somehow think a four-year-old mind could maybe brain-hack a dog.

 

 

 

When Cat People Bring a Dog Home

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My typical sleeping arrangement

So you may have caught on from earlier posts that I’m generally a cat person. Cats just make sense to me: they’re calm, dignified and will cuddle you while you’re reading a book or watching a movie.

Dogs, on the other hand, can stress me out. They have all this jumpy energy and need constant validation.

But a crazy thing happened a few days ago when my husband and I went out to eat at one of our favorite Sacramento restaurants. We sat on the patio, right next to volunteers from the local animal shelter who were also eating lunch. They brought some dogs.

And when I turned around, one of those dogs was staring at me: A little yellow dog with a curly tail. One ear sticking up and the other down. We locked eyes…

I smiled. He wagged his tail, ran over, and started licking my hand.

And suddenly, I had a dog.

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Like I could say no

His name is “Douglas” and I’m still not sure how it happened. I can only assume Douglas pulled some kind of crazy dog sorcery because everything is a blur until the part where I’m filling out paperwork then driving home with a little yellow dog curled up on my lap, hoping he wasn’t about to attack our four cats.

Here’s what happened:

  • My husband and I walked into our house with Douglas trotting after us. The cats were all lounging about, lazily cleaning their ears until they suddenly noticed a dog in their wake. They froze, poofing up to 3X their original size.

 

  • Douglas wagged his tail then trotted up to Raj, our enormous stripey cat, who promptly punched Douglas across the face.

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  • Instead of fighting back, Douglas backed off. This was wise, because he was outnumbered. The cats didn’t bother him again.
  •  I went to sleep that night with Douglas curled up next to me when Violet, our shy black-and-white kitty-cat jumped into bed. She usually sleeps there.

Everything was fine until she realized she had a dog next to her, whereupon her tail blew up like a Christmas tree before she bounced across the room. She jumped onto the desk where she gave Douglas a cold, murderous, death stare FOR AN HOUR.

Frankly, I was a little creeped out.

  • Douglas is chewing EVERYTHING. Apparently, the squeaky duck and badger toys we got him just aren’t cutting it. I left the living room for two minutes and came back to find a cantelope-sized hole in the rug.

This is especially problematic because our kids still leave their crap all over the house. He’s been choking down Legos, left and right, and likes to eat princess dolls.

I’m trying to make the best of it by telling the kids they have to clean up their toys before they get eaten. This is a crash course in toy management.

  • Bridget is compulsively feeding the dog. She’s throwing lunch and dinner on the floor and shoving food in his mouth all day. Either the novelty will wear off soon, or Douglas is about to get really fat.

 

  • Brontë is revealing in the dog’s shenanigans because it gives her an excuse to boss him around. Four-year-old girls can be really bossy. All day, I’m hearing “DOUG-LAS! That is NOT your princess mermaid doll! YOU PLAY WITH YOUR DUCK!”

 

The transition hasn’t been entirely smooth. Still, John had to drop Douglas back off at the shelter to get neutered yesterday and the poor guy was shaking,  refusing to leave the car. He must’ve thought we were sending him back.

When we picked him up and brought him home again, he was sooooooo happy.

Don’t worry, little Douglas. We’ll make this work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Your Kids Accidentally Say Something Filthy

One time, when I was learning Arabic in the Army, I said something incredibly vulgar and insulting to my Egyptian professor.

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No dictionaries for you!

His name was Wasfy and we all really liked him. Short, round, and prone to making wild arm gestures, Wasfy reminded us of some Middle-Eastern prince’s distant cousin with a Napoleonic complex. Imagine Lewis Black with a deeper tan.

I hadn’t meant the obscenity, but he’d asked me a question in Arabic and I’d answered him with what would’ve clearly been throw-down words in Egypt, judging by the way his eyes bugged out and the cartoon-purple shade of his face. Frozen by his sudden ferocity, I stared back in utter shock, my heart pounding all the way to my ears.

The room went silent.

He glared at me for a few seconds before softening his eyes. His normal color returned as he took a deep breath. You could see his mind working through the situation: Okay, she didn’t say it on purpose… there’s NO WAY she could’ve known that…

Twenty arms in camouflage immediately darted toward their English-Arabic dictionaries as Wasfy quickly insisted “No no no no,” put his hand on my neighbor’s book and gently pressed it back down onto the desk. Wasfy paused for a moment before softly reconjugating my verbs then resuming the day’s lesson as if I hadn’t just said what I’d said.

Of course, the moment he left, we all scrambled to figure out exactly what I’d told him and I believe we did, though I’m not planning on repeating it here. It was pretty rude.

To this day, I’m surprised by our instructors’ reluctance to teach us anything vulgar in the Arabic language, considering I was an interrogator who was bound to hear it at some point.

And to this day, I’m reminded how easy it is to make a misstep in a foreign language. Languages are so complex. It takes years of experience to understand all the little nuances in all the different contexts of putting together words.

So now I try to be sympathetic when watching my kids stumble through the English language. It’s all new to them… so many words, so many shades of meaning. It’s just a matter of time before they stumble into something inappropriate.

And when they do, parents learn to not make a big deal out of it. Because the kids won’t think about it too much unless you start freaking out. Still, it’s tough sometimes to figure out how to act casual about something you really hope your kids won’t repeat.

Like the other day, when Brontë renamed her octopus.

IMG_3991At the moment, my four-year-old daughter is really into 1) naming stuffed animals, and 2) talking about whether someone is a boy or girl.

Her little sister Bridget got an orange stuffed-animal octopus from Disneyland. It’s Hank, from Finding Dory, who is, by the way, a pretty cool character. Well, Brontë was playing with Hank the other day when we had the following dialogue:

Me: You have Hank the Octopus!

Brontë: No, his name isn’t “Hank.”

Me: What is it?

Brontë: He has lots of legs with bumps on them.

Me: Yes, tentacles.

Brontë: Tinter-coles? They look like bumps and horns.

Me: They do!

Brontë: His name is “Horny.”

Me: Umm…

Brontë: He a boy, just like the movie. Horny is his name.”Horny the Boy.”

Me (trying hard to keep my face neutral): I really, really think his name is Hank.

Memorial Day Weekend Hilarity

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day and fun three-day weekend.

We sure did. My crazy, high-energy toddlers can be challenging (aren’t they all?), but they really crack me up. The entertainment value alone makes it all worth it, so I thought I’d share some of the highlight reel:

Dad Makes a Mockery of Purple Princess Clothes

IMG_3602John: Can I wear your dress today?

Brontë: YOU’RE TOO BIG, DADDY!

John: No, I look awesome.

Brontë: NO, you’re too big. That’s for GIRLS. MOMMA, DADDY’S TRYING TO WEAR MY PRINCESS DRESS!

Notice my daughter’s look of unbridled toddler outrage. Not only is her dad taking her dresses without asking, he’s  getting boy cooties all over them.

 

Battles for Violet the Lizard

We went to a cousin’s birthday party at John’s Incredible pizza. I told my husband he should demand free entrance because the sign says it’s his place, but no one else thought the idea was funny. And rightly so.

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Violet the lizard
Turns out my husband has mad skee ball powers that gave us a cheap toy return on our entrance fees. As if by magic, he dropped a ball straight into the 300 ticket slot. He claims it was pure luck, but I think he’s just being modest.

After playing a variety of arcade games and collecting tickets, we went with the kids to the ticket redemption center so they could pick out some stuff. They selected two miniature Army guys with tiny parachutes, two kazoos, and one plastic lizard.

Brontë named the lizard Violet (after my cat) and she quickly became the most sought-after toy in the house. Brontë and Bridget fight over turns with Violet, pretending to brush her hair, read her books, carrying her around in a plastic cat carrier, and wearing her on their shoulder while they eat dinner.

IMG_3604
Lizard castle
They even built her a lizard castle, which also functioned as a sister fort.

Finally one evening, I caught Brontë quietly staring at Violet. Brontë lightly poked her a couple of times then looked at me, concerned.

“Mom? I think there may be something wrong with this lizard.” Brontë told me as she kept poking her. “She isn’t moving. We may need to take her to a doctor.”

 

 

Profanity At The Zoo

IMG_3611We also had a terrific time at the zoo, checking out all the different animals and running around like mad.

I even learned something new. We were standing next to some zebras when one of them got worked up about something and started yelling. It sounded A LOT like a donkey.

I’ve never heard a zebra make noise before, but I didn’t expect to hear donkey calls. I thought zebras would sound more like warbling deer. Now I can’t help but see zebras as nothing but donkeys wearing elaborate striped outfits.

The kids were having so much fun, in fact, that we didn’t notice the time flying by. And right as an employee finally walked up to us to politely tell us the zoo was closing, Brontë stopped suddenly, looked at me with enormous eyes, and said, “MOM, I REALLY, REALLY NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.”

We immediately rushed over to the nearby restrooms because when a four-year-old tells you they need the bathroom, it’s urgent. John and I were negotiating who would look after which kid when the zoo employee told us to all just go in together since everyone else had left anyway.

So, we all walked into the bathroom together as Brontë beelined to a stall. She scrambled onto the toilet seat while dropping her drawers… and two baseball-sized turds rolled across the floor.

Brontë looked down, threw both her arms in the air, and shouted:

“Well SH*T, looks like I just crapped my pants!”

I pressed my lips together hard while my brain screamed dontlaughdontlaughdontlaugh, but I just COULDN’T HELP IT.

John, sensing I was about to break, heroically rushed over to help as I quietly left the bathroom to go into hysterics. You don’t want to encourage your children to have potty mouths by laughing when they swear, but it was just…

IMG_3610SO FUNNY. I don’t know how my husband held it together. Her enunciation was perfect. Her arms gestures added just the right emphasis and if crapping your pants isn’t the perfect situation for using the S-word, then I don’t know what is.

I walked back in after collecting myself and helped get everyone out of the zoo. John and I told Brontë she shouldn’t be using the S word but tried not to make a big deal out of it, because flipping out seemed like handing our kids detailed instructions on how to really get a rise out of adults.

My cousin related this little gem to our grandmother, who called the toddler use of the S word an “abomination.” That seemed like a strong word to me.

Fortunately, no one saw or heard any of this: neither the toddler S bomb, nor the rolling turds. I’m not entirely sure whether we just spared humanity from this scene or if everyone else was robbed of the joke.

But I hope everyone else had a fun weekend too. Happy Memorial Day!

 

 

 

 

Paper Tigers on the Playground

Picture a little girl, aged three or four, with long blonde hair and a pouting round face. Hayley’s forehead hair swoops to her right temple where it’s fixed with a tiny bow. The kind of bow you’d expect to find above poodle ears.

Hayley was already playing at the library’s Lego table when Brontë approached her. “Hi!” Brontë says. “My name is Brontë and I’m four. What’s your name? Do you wanna play?”

“NO, I HATE YOU. GO AWAY. THESE ARE MY TOYS.”

Brontë blinked at her before moving to the other end of the Lego table. She picked up a handful of rectangles.

“STOP IT. THOSE ARE MINE. GO AWAY!”

I waited for Hayley’s mom to intervene.

She didn’t.

I took Brontë’s hand as we walked toward her little sister, Bridget. Bridget is two years old and feeling every inch of it. I don’t need a Bridget/Hayley collision happening where we’re supposed to be quiet.

We cross to the outside playground, where the girls run away squealing. Brontë heads to the swings as Bridget tiptoes up to a pivoting blue seat.

IMG_3379
Toddler battleground
I notice the seat is much lower than it used to be, undoubtedly because too many children had been getting hurt. Kids sit on it then use their bodyweight to start whipping around. It gets going fast enough that flying off is inevitable.

Bidgie sits on it and starts leaning. It begins to move. She twirls in a light circle as I sit nearby, watching.

Hayley runs up. Apparently, she came outside too.

“GET OFF. I WANT TO PLAY WITH THAT!”

Bidgie stares at her in a slow revolve.

“GET OFF!” Hayley walks up to Bidgie, putting out both arms as she prepares to push the baby off her toy.

I jump up with a look that convinces Hayley to back away.

Bidgie turns fast and faster. My heart beats a little harder. She spins quicker and quicker until she’s nothing but a flesh-toned baby blur.

And she flies off the apparatus, smacking the ground with her head. Oh no…

I fight my instincts to rush to her aid. Kids are tougher than we think, but if they see you panic, they will panic.

No point in preemptive alarm. If they’re hurt, they’ll cry without being reminded.

Bidgie stands up without incident and walks to the neighboring ladybug car, scrambling inside. She grabs the handlebars and shakes as though she has spiders in her pants.

Seeing the open blue seat, Hayley wanders toward it.

Right as Hayley begins to sit, Bidgie shouts “NO!”

It’s an unrelated “no.” I think Bidgie’s just angry that the ladybug won’t take off, no matter how hard she shakes.

But it’s tough to say, because two-year-olds are fond of saying “no.” They like the power of refusal, the freedom of choice, the way the word rolls of their tongue. Maybe it’s just payback for having to hear it all the time.

It’s one of the quirks of being two.

Another quirk is believing that everyone is always talking to you. So when Bidgie screams “No,” Hayley freezes.

I notice it. Bidgie notices it.

IMG_3377
Mastering psychological warfare on the playground
Hayley approaches the blue seat again. As she begins to sit, Bidgie shouts “NO!”

Hayley stops and Bidgie smiles.

Bidgie waits for Hayley to try again. Hayley looks around her before touching the blue seat with her hand.

“NO!”

Hayley screams, “BUT I WANT TO!” before throwing both arms above her head and running away.

It worked. Bidgie  says “no” a couple more times, curious if anything else will happen.

Then she looks toward her sister and nods.