Monday, June 26, 2017

Kakastrophe 2

I knew it was only a matter of time before I would have to face creative fecal expression from my progeny.  

My two and half year old toddler has been toilet trained for nearly a year now, but last week he got the runs and we endured kakastrophe… which kakastrophe continued until a few days ago. I’m not sure what it what was that unsettled his stomach so, but if he wasn’t near a toilet within the minute, kakastrophe ensued. Last Saturday, he was banging on his door clamoring for our aid to the potty and before we could get there, he had managed to write what appeared a frenzied SOS message on his wall and door using the very material of his pernicious predicament. 

Apart from our frazzled fecal misadventures, we’ve faced a mutiny over sleeping arrangements which has resulted in an insomniac version of musical chairs in which my husband and I have recursively moved from our bed (colonized by M), to the couch, to L’s bed with nary two winks of sleep. We’ve analyzed L’s regression as his realization that he was getting the short end of the stick, noting that M refused to inhabit his crib for some time and that we've pandered to his every cry. L, offended at this unequal treatment, with arms outstretched and booming voice, stood on his bed and proclaimed his right to the fraternal share of parental cuddling as if a sans-culotte in a Delacroix painting. Our regime crumbled against his rebellion, resulting in less sleep for all concerned with L waking up in the middle of the night to ensure that one parent was on sentry in his bed, awaiting cuddle duty. 

Yesterday we decided it was time to employ counter-revolutionary methods of donning headphones, re-establishing a line of sight in his room and refusing to abandon our posts in the living room. As L protested at the door, we implored each other not to give in. In the end, he fell asleep alone and didn’t wake up during the night. Mission accomplished. 

However, we still have the infant intifada in full bloom. His crib remains empty and he continues to hold dominion over our bed and demand regular nursing sessions. We’ve come to the realization that le petit caporal will not stop his imperial stampede. Our Waterloo will not come until we (and while I use the collective form, it is admittedly really me who has been weak and succumbed to the cry that has decapitated my resolve and pierced me with guilt with the mechanical accuracy of the guillotine) resist his repeated rebellions and leave him to his tears. It’s a step by step process of coming in ever so often and assuring him of our presence and concomitantly, of our resolve (which means that The Milk must remove itself and the Paternal Praetorian Guard must deal with the incessant incursions). 

It’s nearly a year since M entered this world in a frenzy that is suitable to his forceful and somewhat tempestuous character. I have resolved that before he reaches one (in just a couple of weeks), he begins to sleep through the night. I’ve also resolved that I will discontinue being milkmaid to our toddler who can contend with the bovine variety. Oh, to regain dominion over my bed and body once more! It shall be glorious. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Last week I had to return to New York, decided not to pump during the night and had my first six hour session of uninterrupted sleep. It was glorious. Pumping every 4 hours during the day between meetings (and in the bathroom of a new Chelsea restaurant) was not as glorious but also not as difficult as I was fearing it would have been, albeit I left the shields at home one day and had to trudge back. I had planned for the electric pump not working (or forgetting a pertinent part) and had brought a hand pump as a contingency, but had not planned for failing to remember to bring even one shield, a vital component of the hand pump also. I was left with merely the ability to hand express which got me nowhere.

JFK's Terminal 4 has only one nursing station and it's recent at that (I think it came after the pet relief area to give you an idea of how down the rung nursing mothers' comforts are). It was clean but looked very much like a bathroom and it was probably converted from one. No posters of Care Bears and loungy chairs and a dire smell of chlorine. I shared the station with a harried mother who was on break and rushing to return to work. I started to inform her that she had the right to request nursing breaks, apart from the rest breaks provided to her, but she was in too much of a hurry to engage in any instruction of her rights and it unfortunately appeared that she was being pressured at work to stop nursing her infant son. It is a shame that our society is not more accommodating nor understanding of nursing mothers' needs when they perform a vital social role (the many benefits of breastfeeding being dispositively proven). I suspect that the statistics of nursing are low in this country because women are rushed back into work and to work environments that are not conducive to their repeated needs to pump throughout the day, even though protected by law.

On my return trip, I was concerned that I would have to argue with the TSA officials to keep my milk, but they simply checked it without even opening a single packet and sent me on my merry way. I immediately went to the nursing station for a pumping session before the flight, which was about to board, and discovered to my dismay that it was occupied by another mother that did not want to share it nor reveal how long she intended to solely occupy the one nursing station in the whole terminal. There was nothing much to do there, so I left and asked to be the first to board so I could pump in the bathroom - I was allowed to do so and all went well. I was hoping not to have to pump in the bathroom during the flight as the bathroom gets progressively dirtier and I would occupy much needed real estate, but unfortunately I was not provided any other place. I had to occupy one of the two stalls in the sardine class for 20 minutes, which was in the end reduced to about 15 as incensed sardines began to aggressively knock and hurry me out. I retorted that I was pumping milk and would only be a few more minutes but the knocking resolutely continued. Some people lack understanding. As my friend said the other day, instead of wasting your own energy by getting annoyed, just think, "they must have violent diarrhea" (this works if someone cuts you off etc - it's brilliant, really).

Never before had I found it so hard to leave and get on a plane. I was nauseated and began to cry. When the flight took off, I feared dying, albeit I fly regularly and have not worried about it before. My husband related the same sentiment when he left a few months ago for a trip east. Travelling without your kids is heart wrenchingly difficult, as if tearing yourself away from a limb, and there is a new frightening, aspect to your mortality - that you will be unable to rear and protect your children.

It was surprisingly harder to leave my toddler than my infant son, whom I had never left before. This was because my toddler understood that I was leaving and it was more of an emotional toll for him. My infant son would struggle not being able to nurse at night, but at just shy of eleven months, my absence at night we figured would be good for him as we're trying to wean night feedings.

I wrote three letters to my toddler, one for each day I was gone and my husband told me that our son kept my letter the first day in his shirt pocket and then reminded my husband when he was being undressed before his bath to keep my letter in a safe place. I also resorted to toys and diverted our Face Time sessions from him asking me to come home ("I love you mama, come home") to a display of the toy treasure chest which awaited him on my return (this was a cheap trick and not the best from a pedagogical point of view, but hey, sometimes you need to do what works at the time).

 I was worried that he would feel abandoned and I had explained to him that I needed to go before I left, but while he was upset when I was gone, he didn't harbour any separation anxiety or contempt when I came back (I feared both). Instead, he hugged me and said he was happy now that I was back and that I was his best friend! This resulted in my heart doing a spree of summersaults.

I was also worried that the little one may forget how to nurse when I got back, but that surely didn't happen! He went on a nursing rampage....and unfortunately I have yet to wean him of night feedings.

In other news, we've had some fecal catastrophes the past few days (if you don't have any kids and are pregnant or trying, know that you're going to be lanced into a loop of perpetual poop no matter how you slice it). In fact, while we use the term kaka in our family, I would say, we've undergone some kakastrofa or kakastrophe this week. One perfect exemplum is my toddler getting the runs as we were running up and down Lyon Steps. In front of tourists capturing our bay vistas with their keen cameras, I undressed him, wiped him and re-dressed him (I always carry a full wardrobe change, just in case). Thankfully, my son was calm and compliant during the whole process and my little one was out in the stroller. My nanny was off this week and I now suspect she may have particular prescience...

I started to teach my two and a half year old to read this week by telling him we were going to learn to read by doing puzzles. I thought he was ready because he has tried reading himself for a couple of months. He would "read" me books by memorizing what they say and he has a stellar memory. So it was time. I made cards with three letter words car, bus, dog, cat, cow, pig, sun and hat and cards where I drew the object. Then the game was to match the words with the pictures and make a pair. Thus far we have dog, cat and hat down pat. I realized it was too much when I pressed for the rest, so we're going to take it a step slower - but the sight reading is definitely working and it's exciting to be a part of it!

I'm continually amazed at my son's growing comprehension, both in logic and in empathy. When I was putting up his blinds today, which involves me standing on a stool and for this morning's arrangement some acrobatic work, he ran up to the chair and held it tightly, quietly cautioning me. "Mama, you are not Dusty, you can't fly, don't go out the window." I assured him I had no intention of doing that. Again, my heart spurted into a spree of summersaults.

Meanwhile my younger son's personality is developing like wildfire. He is talking continuously in his own language and he sounds exactly like Donald Duck. For the first time, he and his brother have started to play together - they often hug and start a drumming jam in the double stroller. It's beautiful to witness. While it's difficult having them so close together, I already see the advantages, particularly for their future fraternal relationship.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rocket Push!

My ten month old is a little rocket. A few weeks ago he took his first steps and now he is scooting about the house with his wheelbarrow walker and woe if you get in his way. It is amazing to see how he is exponentially developing these days. He loves to play with cars and imitates their sounds and is engrossed in puzzles. He also loves to make sounds with his finger by flapping his lower lip. His drive is in part forced by the enigmatic personality of his elder brother and M's competition to slice some of this attention unto himself.

His elder brother meanwhile, has discovered the joys of toilet humour and laughs about poop with his best bud, who is also potty trained and two and a half, for a solid part of the day. The consequence of this newfound humour has been an inordinate amount of toy defecation and I've had numerous stuffed animals and toy cars poop over me to their unbridled amusement.

For me, however, poop is no laughing matter. Particularly since I usually have to deal with a deluge of defecation from one of my sons before I've even had my morning coffee. The other day I changed infant M on our living room carpet after a poop and possibly offended by this slight he decided to show our carpet some untoward affection and I was anxiously googling "cleaning poop from carpet" in the next moment.

Do rockets poop out fire? Hmmmm....

The other day, I was pushing L on the swing and he asked for his usual "rocket push" where I launch him to the moon (he is either not desirous of going farther or believes the moon is farther than any other celestial object as my calls to launch him to other planets and even galaxies have been met with a disparaging eyebrow raise and a virulent shake of the head) and he cried out in glee, "I have fire out my butt!" which attracted the attention of our fellow play-grounders.

Oh, the things children say. The other day, as I was about to sip my afternoon iced coffee during a day trip out of the city on a pit stop in our car, I looked back and saw one weary toddler who had refused his nap staring dejectedly at the wheel of our car as his little brother snored away. "You look tired, L" I commented, to which he responded, "I am mama, I need a coffee."

I of course must say that same phrase pretty much every day after lunch and he's obviously parroting it. I've really had to clean up my potty mouth since having kids. I'm also a much better speller since my husband and I, not being proficient in a language together that our kids don't speak, have resorted to this thus far foolproof conversationalist code. You can't control what your child will pick up from what you say or do, but you can control what you say or do around them (you may be engrossed in the new Twin Peaks, but you're not going to watch it with or even around your kids).

L's parroting nearly got me in trouble earlier. When L was younger and couldn't even string sentences together but would love to babble out words in succession "money, doggies and cars" being one baller phrase he would repeat as we would stroll up and our city's unforgiving hills to the arched eyebrows of flummoxed passersby. I was relieved at that time that he would still say most things in Serbian, so that when he repeated his drink mantra of "kafa, vino" which in Serbian means "coffee, wine" when we would line up for my morning latte at cafes, I didn't have calls for Child Services directed at my parenting skills. Children are astute and know your habits well - L knew his parents have coffee with breakfast and wine with dinner and he was proud of knowing that fact.

If you want the truth, go ask a child or go to a bar and pick an evidently inebriated soul who is still decipherable. Children have no filter and no tact and sometimes, they keep their parents in line. If I forget part our routine, my toddler reminds me with an admonishing aspect. Thus, while he complains about his routine, he nevertheless subscribes to it and woe to the parent who shirks it. If you want to know how you look, go ask your children. There have been a number of times when my husband and I have received critical looks from L and a request for a wardrobe change. He apparently likes to travel in style and he's not about to have his courtiers cramp that.

L loves to sing The Wheels on the Bus on the bus at deafening decibels. The usual reception to his surprising serenade has been quiet bemusement, but I've had a few stern looks shot at me by people who are frustrated by the incursion of L's decibels into their commute. My reaction is to simply smile back with a vengeance and sometimes expose my daggers to boot. I have no intention of telling my son to stop singing and crush his usually infectious vivacity. If I'm ever upset about this silent altercation, I remember to have compassion for people that are upset by a child happily singing for they must be having a really difficult day.

 The adults that appreciate a kid happily singing would probably cringe at an adult doing it for some things are only socially acceptable for children to do. While I would agree with much of the regular custom, the need to compress our feelings in public and not, for instance, sing out our souls when we feel like it, may be at a great common loss. Maybe we would all be happier if on the bus, we eroded our day's stresses by singing about being on the bus.

As we age, some of us lose the ability to be present , we are never in the now, our thoughts marauding between yesterday's misses and tomorrow's tasks and that is extremely unfortunate because all we ever have is the present moment, a moment so precious that the moment you're present in it, it's gone. While on the one hand children's lives are constructed by their parents, and in particular toddlers, are directed where to go, what to wear and what to do, they seem to have more of a control of their own existence than most adults and be more in touch with their environs. Our children learn from us every day, they adjust to cultural norms and clip their childhood contours to more sqaure shapes, but this may not necessarily be a good thing in every instance. If only adults regained their childish imagination, presence and vivacity! As parents teach children, children can teach parents and remind them at times of what they've lost. For some, this may result in parents reigniting some of their childhood abilities and in nurturing these in their children so that they do not lose these invaluable skills and their mindful mindset as they grow.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Manipulation in Masquerade

My elder son is a master puppeteer. He has recently revolted against his younger brother's increasing encroachment upon his parental attention by resorting to a mastery of manipulation. "Mama, I love you" he implores, with an emphatic elongation of the word he's understood pummels persuasion, "please don't pick M up." He solidifies his performance by skewing his head and battering his eyelashes in solemn supplication, "I love you so much, mama. Can you not do that? Can you?"

This certainly coils me into a conundrum. I have to explain that I'm M's mama too, an explanation which evidently does not satisfy L. "Why?" he asks matter of factly. "Can you not?" he asks as if he were merely requesting a change of wardrobe.

Recently M may have had an increasing share of attention. His first few steps occurred a few weeks ago in his ninth month and we were stoked. L looked on circumspect. He pointed out that he can also walk and his upturned lip and curt tone implied that he thought the absence of parental cheer attached to his every step was an egregious injustice.

L's tried to inveigle us into accepting the laxer standards of his brother when it comes to bed time. Since we took the protector from his door so that he can come out in the morning when he wakes up and use the potty if he so needed (or come cuddle and read in bed, our favourite morning pastime), he's used it to leave the room at bed time and run up to us in the living room, refusing to go to bed. Between repeated statements of "it's playtime" he tells us he loves us as if he were vacillating between whether hypnotization or persuasion were the most effective policy and endeavouring to cover both for good measure.

Meanwhile, our little tyrant, is still not sleeping through the night, demands multiple feedings and continues to hold dominion over our bed. He's obstreperous to an offense. After all, he's the kid
that Navy Sealed his way across a room to get a toy car when he didn't have the muscles to effect a proper crawl a few months ago. However after ten months of nursing continually through the night, the tapestry of my sanity is in tatters and the time has come to grit through the gallows of sleep training. My excuse at first was that he was hungry and then I feared that he would wake up our elder son, but now neither are holding up. To prevent his guillotine of guilt which usually slices me to submission, we're going to start the rigid sleep training the three nights I'm back in NYC.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Brotherly Brawls

For the first and unfortunately, indubitably not the last time, we had to separate our boys who were embroiled in a beastly brawl. Our toddler had been increasingly exasperated with his infant brother whose idea of engaging his big brother in play continues to be dismantling his train track, destroying his lego structures, crashing his block towers, ripping up his books and wresting his toys away from his hands, all with a gargantuan grin of naiveté that unfortunately does not appeal to his frustrated fratello. L tells M clearly "no, M, no!" and tries to hold onto his toys, take away his books and instructs his brother of the errors of his actions. He informs him that we are meant to read books and not rip them up and then he looks to me for assurance and confirmation. I try to acknowledge his frustration and affirm that M behaved in an unacceptable fashion, for I don't want L to go around and wrest toys away from other kids and concomitantly attempt to explain why M is not at fault for his actions for he does not have the capacity yet to act otherwise. 

Unfortunately, L continues to be frustrated that the same rules dot not apply to his brother and has sometimes attempted to mimic his brother so that he would get the same attention. If M cries and receives attention, should he not he? I explain that M is a baby, that he doesn't know better, to which L retorts that nor does he. The attention M gets is unfortunately hard for L to accept.  The other day he wailed and asked me why I had to be M's mother too. It's a challenge to navigate.

Yesterday, the train track destruction had percolated to a scene worthy of inclusion in a Planet Earth episode. L roared aggressively in M's face after M had successfully wrested away a carriage. M digested this attack for a second and then lunged at his elder brother. L responded in kind and we in turn had to lunge to intervene, separate and impose discipline. It's a long road ahead...

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

He Is Not a Lion

There comes a time when you realize your children are sharper than you. I figured it wouldn't come at two and half, but the other day, my toddler directed me to the book I thought we'd misplaced, remembering that it had fallen off the table after I unceremoniously finished reading it and set it precariously at the edge, while I had completely forgotten about it during bath and bed time escapades. Yesterday, before we set off for our weekly excursion to the library and I packed up all the books to return, L studied my set, opined that I was missing "Big Rig" - and then proceeded to pick the missing book from the floor and placed it with its compatriots in my bag. His memory is now sharper than mine (although to be fair, he gets about three times more sleep than I do).

Both my sons seem different every week and it's amazing how exponentially kids develop. My elder son is constantly planning fantastical as well as conceivable adventures. He will have lunch on the moon and get there by a literary staircase, but he also has plans to get to Lego Land. How will get to Lego Land? His dad will drive him down to San Diego. He knows the latter plan is not only achievable but that success is palpable and in this war of attrition, he will conquer, soon running around formidable Lego formations (albeit I wonder whether they are rather hollow structures with merely a Lego surface) and so he persists. Oh, the tenacity of toddlers!

The kids are so different from each other. One I'm told looks exactly like my husband and while he looks a lot like my husband, he has features from my father and I see my father a lot in him. It irritates me to no end when I'm told he is a little clone of my husband. Likewise, when people say my younger son is a clone of my dad (who in truth does look a lot like my dad), my temper bubbles to a boil, for I see a lot of my husband in my younger son also. I can't explain why this irritates me, but it does.

Apart from their shared eye shape and covetable eyelashes, along with their wacky cackle, the two boys are pretty different in physique and in temperament. Our elder son, we believe, is going to be a dramatist or a politician, or both. He commands the attention of a crowd and can charm the hardness off a rock. He has an insatiable imagination, already concocting stories and forming characters with his toys. He is also an ardent negotiator. M, on the other hand, in part possibly due to the constrain of contingency of having L's engulfing personality as his elder brother, is more introspective and contained. He is only nine months, but he has displayed a voracious appetite for music and approaches the instruments around the house with great interest. He doesn't thump, but strums a guitar and he does a better job than I do (admittedly, this is a talent that I lack). We are a little stupefied at his musical explorations, for they are musical. M is also very inquisitive and will study how things work for what appears an interminable time (but then I am more of L's temperament). We joke that L takes after me and M takes after hubby. Of course, as parents, we have grand views of our children. No parent looks at their infant babbling away and thinks, yeah, he'll be in and out of prison and maybe if he's lucky, a janitor. Nor should we - but then not all people are of this opinion. Eastern European mothers, for instance, are known for an earnest effort at attempting to dissuade any goals of their children in order to stampede over their dreams before the world does it for them (while a chip off this block, I am of a different opinion).

The kids had their first bath time together the other day. In order to coax L to have a bath with his younger brother, we bought a bunch of new bath toys, which we said would make their bath time debut when the boys bathed together. L immediately asked that this be an established routine and even agreed to share the toys with his brother. Once in the bath, however, L took as many toys as he could hold in both his arms. It was quite a feat with only one wily walrus having escaped his claws. We made it clear that he was to give M at least one toy. L quickly agreed and offered up the dejected walrus that was floating away from all plastic company. M meanwhile was chomping down on a boat, which was an old toy and therefore taken to be passé by L, perfectly copacetic.

Apart from sharpening his negotiation skills, L has also promenaded into prevarication. The first time L lied, he was probably around ten months and I was stupefied. While I abhor mendacity, I was conflicted, for I was also quite pleased that he had developed the capacity to understand that he could manipulate his reality by manipulating the retelling of events, including to serve his interests. Did you throw the food on the floor? No, it was M! Then M looks at us aghast at this false accusation before erupting in a shriek.

L's first ability to manipulate his reality was to realize he could say no. His second development was to realize that truth could be in masquerade. Several times we've had to ask him, "are you lying?" to which he's responded, crying, for he also viscerally seems to know that it is wrong to lie (which we reinforce), "I am not a lion!" - where did lions get such a bad reputation?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Rubber Ducky Tragedy

I have to admit I'm still failing at sleep training with the younger one, possibly because I had such confidence in to my ability to do so after all - I've done it all before. The universe loves to slap the hubris from me. I've been trying to get him to sleep through the night and not nurse continually by not being in the room so there I was, relegated to the couch, with my toddler asleep in his room
on a queen side bed and my baby in our bedroom in our queen side bed. I related the absurdity of our
spatial hierarchy to my husband who was back on the east coast and we decided to redouble efforts at sleep training, which I fairly remember is something we've said before.... it's been an arduous road. Oh, to sleep the night through!

Sharing your bedroom with a baby, invariably, for us, involves sharing our bed. In order to keep him in his crib, we've had to devise intricate plans how to crawl into bed without M waking up in his crib, which have all proved fallible. We had numerous considerations for a perfect prowl - we timed it with traffic, we walked a sinuous path to avoid creaky floorboards, we opened the door in deliberately in a slow manner, we - well, admittedly my husband - had figured out by trial and error the best method of uncovering the sheets - everything was planned out to a t- and just when we smelt the aroma of victory, Ernie infiltrated our mission and compromised it by deciding to singing in damning decibels about his rubber duckies. We froze in frigid fear and locked stares of dismay. How could we be so sloppy as to have left a toy in our bed? And why was a singing toy not turned off? Before we could assess the cause of our catastrophe, we heard a murmur and held our breath for a Plinian eruption from our awakened progeny. Instead we merely heard a murmur as M simply shifted his position. After a few seconds, as an incipient smile sliced the shadows on my husband's face, I laughed. I should confess that I possess a thunderous laugh (and that is somewhat euphemistically termed)
and that our victory was short-lived, to say the least. Soon our bed housed three. One babe sprawling as he mimicked a starfish (it is quite astounding how much space a baby can colonize) and two adults frightened into foetal positions, two defeated lumps limping their way to a fractured sleep on the edges of the bed.

The other night, we went out to see some live music, which we haven't done in a while. We barely made it out the door in time, but we did it. I had no time to get ready and albeit I was never really one for glamming it up (nor admittedly, if this had ever been my taste, would I have known what to do in this regard - I only own one eyeshadow, one eyeliner and one mascara and as for hair styling accessories - ha! ) but I did clean up my aspect by for instance, putting on clean clothes and brushing my hair. Those days of civility are gone. My husband and I invariably leave the home with clothes stained by our sons' dinner and sometimes, I've discovered holdouts in my hair. My boys also like to play with my clothes and invariably have torn buttons and unwound thread so that now whenever I have a chance to shop, I look for armour, picking clothes not based on style but on durability - well, this looks like a sack, but I bet vomit really cleans up well. 

Thus, not having had time to change my clothes nor brush my hair, I left the house with an aspect that looked keenly designed to frighten even the most unfrazzled onlookers. There were suspicious stains on my jeans and as for my cephalic circumstance, my visage was populated by the labyrinth of lines that arrive with the sleep deprivation and worry of motherhood coupled with a capillary catastrophe that was whipped into a target for avian house hunters with the coup de grâce of my aspect, being the red scratches across my neck and chest as a consequence of M's rather unchivalrous nursing habits (which my husband, in what must have indubitably been a frisson of romance described as appearing as if I had an infectious disease). I slumped a tad when as I saw my impression in a mirror that seemed ashamed of its incorrigible honesty and then I regained my resolve and figured, since it's all about perception, that we would get more space on the dance floor. And we had a ball.