Tag Archives: siblings

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.

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:

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.

(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…













How ‘Bout Them Bapples? and Other Assorted Toddler Rebellions

It’s been interesting to check out the kind of advertising they’ve been running on my site lately. Expecting something more along the lines of Legos or diaper deals, I’ve been shocked by all the ads for MBA degrees and thousand-dollar Polyvore skirts.

(Was this because I made fun of Gwyneth Paltrow a while back? I’ll just assume their

Says the woman with a pizza-stove in her backyard

algorithm can’t detect sarcasm.)

Or maybe it has more to do with my audience; in which case, you guys are classy folks.

In other news, Bridget, my 3-year-old, has been eating one bite of every apple we own.

Or strawberries, or bananas, or chips, or what-have-you: any grouping of like food substances in a bowl has been vulnerable. It’s the toddler equivalent of grownups who take a small chunk out of every chocolate in the box until they finally find a filling they deem acceptable.

Except in this case, they’re all the same. So why, toddlers, why? Are you trying to find the best one? Are you claiming all the apples for later use? Is it just because you’re not supposed to do it?

She loves to beg for “bapples” then scream “DONE!” after taking one taste. Or burritos, or tacos, or whatever else she catches anyone eating and therefore wants. It’s baffling.

But this toddler phenomenon is hardly news to other parents. A more compelling development has been her 5-year-old sister Brontë becoming the house’s new Apple Sheriff.

After observing the drama enough times, she decided to climb onboard my ongoing Bridget projects by coaching her on everything from potty-training to putting dirty clothes in the hamper to not finishing apples. What’s more, I just figured out that she’s been taping these coaching sessions on the iPad her grandparents bought her, which is hilarious:


Of course, Brontë never accounted for how much more fun eating one bite of an apple would become after Bridget realized how much it would torture her big sister. It’s like Brontë just handed her a big, red, sister-freakout button and then begged her not press it.

I do appreciate Brontë’s efforts, though 🙂

My Kids Advance to Higher Level Tantrums

Generally speaking, Brontë and Bridget are much easier to manage now that they’re five and three. Gone are the days of three-hour fits and grocery store tantrums. Consistent refusal to reward bad behavior slowly winnowed them out.

Or of Brontë’s poop-mural experiments, which went on for months. Making her clean them up, by the way, was what finally did the trick.

Or of Bridget ruthlessly tackling the cat. We let the cat sort that one out himself.

We’ve finally moved on to more advanced kid skills, like not constantly interrupting people and getting through meals like civilized people. Occasionally, they’ll try snotty attitudes on for size, experimenting with the social ramifications, or check to see how much leverage they’ll get from being tragic.

Like the other day, when Bridget fell into some gravel and scraped her knee.  Viking that she is, she handled it by punching everything around her, including the air, which made her fall over and over again, growing ever angrier.

I raced over to help her with her bloody leg and she responded by boxing my legs like a violent leprechaun. This didn’t go over very well, because mommy is not a punching-bag. Even if you’re sick or injured.

Which pretty much set off a cascade of bad behavior for the next few hours, during which time her sister Brontë was the perfect, model child: holding mommy’s hand, cheerfully doing everything she was supposed to, and giving heart-melting monologues about how much she loves her family.

Because I don’t know if this is typical, but my kids like to take turns acting out. I think that one of them acting like a hooligan gives the other the perfect opportunity to look angelic by comparison, and they relish the opportunity to rub their good behavior and all of its associated privileges in their sister’s face.

This smiling cherub would NEVER act like that. 

But, growing bored with their good cop/bad cop routine, they changed places yesterday. While Bridget was snuggling mommy and bringing her flowers, Brontë was accidentally spilling huge glasses of chocolate milk and then later wouldn’t shut up about the “giant turd she’d been wrestling” during lunch because Brontë has picked up that mommy’s weakness is finding your bad behavior hilarious.

Yesterday was the day when Brontë forgot how to put on shoes, after years of doing it correctly, and suddenly found the request outrageous. She wouldn’t quit pushing around her sister either, grabbing toys out of her hands on account of her possessing such a “stinky butt,” which probably made sense to her wound-up toddler brain.

At any rate, it all culminated in last night’s dinner episode. Bridget was quietly eating her taco while Brontë somehow hovered in a blur about the air pockets around her seat as my husband and I desperately tried to have a conversation:

John: So then I went to the manager meeting, and


John: I went to the managers’ meeting where they were talking about…


Me: Stop interrupting, Brontë. Wait until your dad finishes what he’s saying.

Brontë keeps jabbering on for the next few minutes while John and I try ignoring her until it stops. Bridget keeps eating her taco, watching the whole thing play out. Finally, John looks over…

John: Okay, Brontë. What were you saying?


John: Not tonight, because you’re going to bed on time. Maybe this weekend we can go swimming when it’s dark outside.

Brontë (stomping away): I’m EXCUSED!

John: Come BACK here and sit down. We didn’t excuse you.

Brontë (making a face): HMPH!

John: Go to your room.

Brontë screams down the hallway before slamming the door. The room gets quiet. Bridget takes another bite of taco, her tiny legs swinging under her chair.

Bridget: Psh… Brontë childish.






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.

taco cat backwards.jpg
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:

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.

The Monkeys Put Toyotas in Our Pasta

I used to be astounded by how parents could always make sense of the incomprehensible word garbage coming out of their toddlers’ mouths. Some kid would scream “PTHWAAAAAAAACK,” his mom would hand him a glass of water and my mind would be blown by her translating superpowers. How did she DO that!?

Bananas white background

But now that I’m a parent, I understand that: 1)  When your kid screams “MAN-UH!” in the vicinity of bananas enough times, you eventually put two and two together, and 2) you DON’T always understand what your kid is saying.

And not understanding can be extremely frustrating for both parties. Kind of like when you try saying something in a foreign language and think you’ve said it correctly but the person listening to you has this baffled look on their face as well as the pained look of trying to understand you, which is just embarrassing.


Except kids have a really low tolerance for frustration in general, so when you don’t get it, they tend to scream the exact same thing louder several times before having a complete meltdown. Sometimes I like to pretend we live in a world where adults had meltdowns too (Safeway doesn’t carry rice crackers!? NOOO!!! Rolling on the floor, kicking the shelves...) but mostly, I’m just embarrassed by my kids screaming in public.

My husband and I can usually understand our four-year-old now, but there are still  moments of confusion. Like the other day in the car, when she was telling us all about needing a “bell door.”

Brontë: I need a bell door. Grandma and poppa have a bell door at their house.

Me: A what? A “bell door”?

Brontë: YES.

Me: A doorbell? We have a door bell.


John: Calm down! What’s a bell door?

Brontë (flailing her arms): A BELL DOE! BELL DOE!

Me: Describe a “bell doe.” Tell me about bell doe’s.

Brontë: Has a yellow dress and a crown.


Me: A… Belle doll? Like in Beauty and the Beast?



Whew, alright. Brontë’s English is pretty good these days, but her two-year-old sister Bridget is still deep in the heart of baby mumble-speak. She was throwing fits all over town yesterday while we were running errands, angry about stuff I just couldn’t grasp.

When we went to the gym, we had to leave because Bidgie wouldn’t quit screaming, and as I was piling everyone into the car, she grabbed my leg, thrust one baby-finger skyward, and looked me square in the eyes as she made her demands:

Bridget: MAN… KEY!

Me (having just about had it): What!?

Bridget (jumping up and down): MAN-KEY!

Me: Blankie?


Brontë: Why is she mad?

Me (sighing): I don’t know. Apparently, she’s ticked off about monkeys.

Brontë laughs while I strap her screaming sister into a carseat. Bridget keeps on yelling “MAN KEY!”

Me: See? She’s angry about all the monkeys.

Brontë (giggling hysterically): There’s MONKEYS all over the car, you see them? NO… monkeys come to our house while we’re gone. They watch our Belle and the Beast movie and eat all the chocolate pudding.

Me (giggling): Bad monkeys! No wonder she’s mad.

Brontë: Bridge-jit! You can’t have pudding anyway until you eat your dinner! And for dinner, we’re having pasta with cars in it.

Bridget looks perplexed.

Me: Toy cars or big cars?

Brontë (slapping her thigh): BIG cars. Wait, no… we are having rice with FEET in it. Little feet with little shoes and socks on them.

evilmonkey.pngBridget starts giggling.

Brontë: And if you want chocolate pudding, you’ve got to EAT YOUR FEET!

Bridget (laughing herself silly): FEET! FEET! FEET!

Sometimes, when your kid is babbling something incomprehensible at you, it’s helpful to ask them to “show me.” Many a crisis has been averted by my kids walking up and pointing to whatever they were talking about.

And at other times, lightening the mood could be your best option. Toddlers are innately silly, so it can defuse tension pretty well.

Or maybe someone has an even better idea? I don’t know. I’m just trying to ride out the explosive world of bell doors and mankeys the best I can.




Biking Adventures With Extra Diablo Sauce

I’m gonna go out on a crazy limb by saying time management can be tough with children.

Everything you do suddenly involves additional complications, like kids who constantly lose their shoes and move REALLY SLOW.

kids.jpgKids are also unbelievably messy. What used to be, say, quick Chinese take-out now involves long periods of post-meal rice grain patrol. Because toddlers are tiny bombs exploding your house 30+ times a day.

And it probably gets even harder once after-school activities and school projects enter the picture. I don’t want to even think about that yet, though. My husband and I are still scrambling to master the whole toddlering deal.

Like lately, ever since we started biking every evening. It’s been awesome for everyone, but throwing our schedule for a loop. Last week, for example, we ran out of  food and had to choose between getting to the grocery store and going for a ride.

We chose the ride and stopped at Taco Bell on the way home. I felt awful about it, because feeding my kids properly is an ongoing goal. They deserve a home-cooked meal at a proper family table, not some dollar burritos at some fast-food joint. The kids, on the other hand…


My four-year-old talked about it all the way home.

But that wasn’t all.

The next night, after an hour-long ride, we were returning home when we passed by Taco Bell. My two-year-old, Bridget, who was riding in her seat between my handlebars, suddenly got excited and started waving her arms in mad baby panic, screaming:


What, you thought I was just a cat?

I was taken aback, because Bridget is the kid who never talks. So this taco-eating thing was clearly important to her.

Actually, when your kids finally start talking, it’s a little startling. Other people are USED to the idea that people talk, but parents…

Well, you’ve been taking care of this little being who’s only been grunting or crying for well over a year, so when they start using words out of nowhere… it’s a little like your cat walking up to you one day and giving you a bunch of opinions.

I told Bidgie we were going home to eat dinner, but she seemed so disappointed that I promised we’d eat at Taco Bell the very next day. We didn’t have proper dinner plans anyway, flying, as we were, by the seat of our pants in this newfound cycling madness.

And the next evening, when we passed by Taco Bell, Bidgie asked me “Tacos?” and was thrilled when I gave her the nod. We went inside to order and the kids ran up to the same table we ate at days earlier. It was OUR table now.

That’s when John noticed the Diablo sauce.

Maybe it’s a testament to our lack of Taco Bell familiarity, but we’d thought Fire sauce was the hottest you could get. Maybe they’ve had these options for years, but John’s been grabbing Fire sauce for me when picking up Taco Bell for ages.

This Diablo sauce was a revelation. He grabbed a handful of packets for me to try.

At this point, it’s worth noting that I’ve already devoted an entire post to Bridget’s spice tolerance.

It’s epic.

What evil sorcery is THIS?

I, too, love hot food. But at HER age, I couldn’t even handle cinnamon-flavored gum. So I don’t know where this kid gets it, but she once ate an entire packet of red peppers from a pizza takeout joint out of nothing but sheer sisterly spite.


We were all eating our food. I was enjoying a Mexican pizza doused in ample Diablo sauce when Bidgie started getting curious. She pointed to the sauce and began insisting, “Too! Too!”

I squirted out some Diablo sauce next to her food. I didn’t want it ON her food, in case she hated it and we ended having to throw everything away.

She dipped her spork tines into Diablo sauce and tasted it. Then she made this face:

“I’ve just seen the face of God”

I initially interpreted that face as “Wtf have I done?”

But I was wrong, because after a moment, she dipped her spork tines in again then tasted it.

And again.

And she started dipping quicker, almost with compulsion. She dipped faster and faster as we stared in amazement, occasionally grabbing a napkin to wipe her flooding nose.

She just kept sporking that Diablo sauce, nearly blurring into a frenzy while abandoning her food like yesterday’s news. Given Bidgie’s amazing appetite, this was an impressive turn of events.

Finally, she cut through the middleman by tearing open Diablo packets and drinking them straight. She finished whatever packets were left on the table before taking a huge swig of apple juice and letting out an enormous sigh.

Then we got back on the bikes and from between the handlebars, she baby-farted in my face the entire ride home. But she suffered no apparent ill effects other than that.

I have no idea what to make of this. I’ve never heard of two-year-olds liking spice so much. I was always under the impression that kids have more sensitive tastebuds, that they like blander foods because they taste them so hard…

Well, not MY kid. She takes a hit of hot sauce then stares blankly into space before hitting it again. I assume she’s talking to her Spirit Wolf during the intervals.

I’m thinking maybe Bridget’s a natural thrill seeker. Maybe normal food just isn’t enough anymore. If she’s pounding hot sauce at age 2, maybe she’ll be climbing mountains and snorting moon rocks by 18.

In the meantime, I’m not sure whether to discourage these spicy experiments or see where they’ll finally top out. I’m tempted to cover something in Sriracha sauce and see if she likes it.

The funny thing is, big sister Brontë completely FREAKS at the faintest hint of spice. It just goes to show how every kid is different, even when they grow up in the same house.

Does anyone else know of a kid liking spice this much? I may have the next pepper-eating champion on my hands.






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?


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.

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.

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?”


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


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.

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.


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.

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.


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.

Another Reason I’m Not a Real Grownup

She’s two, but believes glasses help her look more mature

Bridget just turned two a few days ago. Yay!

My kids made it past infancy, which I consider a big win given how much they want to jump from great heights and jam forks into light sockets.

This long, unbroken procreation line from the first evolving amoebas to our present-day offspring remains intact. Score two more points for our DNA.

As Bridget’s birthday approached, my husband and I remembered that Brontë was two years old when Bridget was born (their birthdays are a couple of weeks apart. June is a fun month in this house). Back then, Brontë was still sleeping in our room.

We knew we’d be needing her crib soon and didn’t want her sleeping in the same place as a screaming-all-night newborn. We decided to move her into her own room, with a “big girl” bed, two months before her sister’s arrival. Being moved out right as her sister arrived might make Brontë feel replaced, we thought,  which could lead to resentment.

Since Brontë’s Big Girl Bed was a roaring success at age two, John and I decided it was time to maneuver Bidgie’s convertible crib into toddler formation, where one of its side-walls is replaced with a “half-wall.”

So last night, after the kids’ teeth were brushed and nightgowns donned, we walked them into their room to find Bridget’s brand new Big Girl bed, in honor of her passage into full Toddlerhood.

Brontë was impressed and Bridget was ecstatic, running back and forth giggling with her arms in the air: FREEDOM! GLORIOUS FREEDOM! Plopping into her new bed with a contented sigh, she laid there for a moment before a smirk spread across her chubby face…

Then she wriggled out of her bed, stomped over to the light switch and flipped it off, setting the ceiling star stickers aglow.

You rang?

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Brontë shrieked. She’s a fearless kid in many ways, but still terrified of the dark. She figures if you’re gonna sleep with the light off, you may as well leave flowers and cookies for the monsters too.

Brontë got out of bed, stomped over to the light switch, and flipped it back on, returning to her bed in a huff.

“BLEAAAAAAAAHHHHH!” Bidgie screamed. She’d been putting up with this sleep-with-the-lights-on nonsense for months now and finally had the opportunity to take action. She crawled out of bed, stomped back over to the light switch, and slapped it off again.

This was followed by inevitable screaming.

Uh oh… John and I hadn’t considered this turn of events.

The kids took turns stomping back and forth and shouting as the Great Light Switch Power Struggle raged on. Eventually, Bridget collapsed in defeat. She just couldn’t compete with a kid two years older.

As Bidgie struggled to pull blankets over her eyes, John and I looked at each other sideways, scratching our heads.

“Umm… Maybe we could drape a blanket over Bridget’s bed,” I suggested. “Now that she has a side exit?”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” John said as he wandered off.

Returning with a brown blanket and zip ties, John started arranging a makeshift tent over Bridget’s crib as I moved in to help him. After finishing, we further decided that since the kids’ beds were roughly the same length, we should push them together to leave more useable space in their room.

Backing away to survey our creation, it suddenly hit us: we had made our kids a fort. We were two grown adults who had just spent the evening building a giant bed fort in our daughters’ room.

Fort Minnie Mouse of Rocklin

And our kids decided it was the coolest thing they’d ever seen.

They scrambled onto the beds, climbing in and out of the bed linen fortress together and cried themselves giggling about making various stuffed animals poke their heads out the door. Toddler jokes.

They were still in hysterics for about half an hour after we kissed them good night and closed the door. Finally, the noise died down as they passed out in their respective beds.

They stayed quiet and John and I got to watch The Walking Dead in peace.

Bed forts: another underrated parenting technique.






Sibling Torture Tactics


My husband John and I were both only children, so by having two kids, we knew we were setting forth into a brave new world.

Both of us, like many only children, always dreamed about having a sibling we could pal around with. Of course, these were imaginary siblings, the pinky-swearing, truce-keeping pretend siblings who were so much better than the teddy bears we dressed up and had conversations with.

Actual siblings, if our friends’ siblings were anything to go by, tend to take your stuff and tell on you, whenever they aren’t busy punching you in the stomach. We witnessed plenty of that too, while growing up.

So when we had two kids of our own, we did our best to encourage a good relationship between them. We took pains to give our older daughter Brontë plenty of attention after baby Bridget was born, hand out toys and snuggles in even doses, and reward them for treating each other nicely.

One thing we’re quickly discovering, however, is that siblings fight, no matter how hard you try to prevent it. Now that Bridget is walking and talking, we’ve had to lay down a couple of rules: no hitting and no calling each other bad names.

Aaaaaaand… it has been fascinating to see our kids come up with workarounds.

  • Bridget Tactic #1: Holds something big and whacks her sister in the head with it, then immediately gives her an “I’m sorry” hug, before whacking her again.

Poor Brontë keeps falling for it. It sounds a lot like this: “Aww, her being nice now… OW!”

  • Bridget Tactic #2: Flails her arms around wildly while walking closer and closer to Brontë until Brontë *happens* to run into her arms.
  • Bridget Tactic #3: She has figured out that Brontë is so afraid of the dark, she’ll flip out if you switch the lights off during daytime. So, game over…. all Bridget has to do is run around flipping switches and her sister is a quivering mass of panic.

But Big Sister is developing her own strategies.

  • Brontë Tactic #1: “Not” calling Bridget names. It sounds like this: “SISTER! You are NOT a poo-poo head and you are NOT a stupid-head!”
  • Brontë Tactic #2: Rolling into a sobbing ball whenever Bridget bumps into her while yelling, “OW, I’M HURT! SISTER HURT ME!” Sometimes she has to purposefully walk into Bridget’s path to get bumped.
  • Brontë Tactic #3: Shoving her little sister into the bathroom, shutting the lights off, and closing the door. This one is very effective, as Bridget will immediately scream bloody murder.

Clearly, these kids are motivated to fight, and sometimes it’s hard to not laugh at their creativity.

But just as I was wringing my hands in parental despair, I witnessed an incident that reassured me that deep down, the girls actually do love each other:

We were recently all at the Children’s Museum in Sacramento, a fun place for kids with lots of toys. Bridget was playing with a big train set while Brontë was across the room, playing with blocks. There was a little boy building a giant wall out of cushioned blocks, a wall as tall as he was. Brontë decided it looked fun and tried to get in on his game.

Brontë walked over to him and smiled, saying, “HI! I’m Brontë!” The little boy scowled.

Brontë picked up a cushioned block and put it on his wall.

The little boy grabbed her block and chucked it as far as he could, saying “GO AWAY!”

Brontë looked hurt, but decided to give it another shot. She walked up to the boy, smiling, and asked, “Friends?”

This baby is about to rain down vengeance

The boy put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her to the ground, barking “GO AWAY!” I jumped up to intervene, but before I could, I caught sight of Bridget stomping across the room.

Bridget was livid. Fixing the boy with a cold, hard stare, she kicked a hole in his wall with her tiny foot. Then, like a Baby Godzilla, she kept kicking his masterpiece into rubble.

The boy thrashed and screamed, but what could he do? It was a baby.

When every last cushioned block was scattered to the floor, Bridget swirled around and smiled at Brontë before walking back to the train set.

Brontë watched her for a moment. Then, looking at me, said, “Her a good baby.”

Ah, siblings… it’s a complicated relationship, yes?