Sunday, February 28, 2010

Free Association

Grammy: (Sees that Nugget has milk on his chin and makes a suggestion, pointing). Napkin?
Nugget: (also pointing) Table!
Seeing that Grammy and Mommy are both laughing, the Nugget goes on,
N: Napkin? Table! Napkin? Table!
G: Let's do free association. I say fork, you say...
N: Napkin? Table! Chair! Wall! Ceiling! Spoon! Placemat!
Nugget: Grammy, play ring-around-rosie, please!
G: No thank you. Grammy will just watch you. Grammy could break an ankle. (the snow was really crusty)
The Nugget gave her the most perplexed look, but accepted her very scientific explanation.
The Nugget noticed I was eating leftover enchiladas for breakfast and exclaimed,
"Mommy eatin' chihuahuas!"
The Nugget likes to discuss Doggie's markings,
"Doggie black and white! Doggie have a stripe on it. Doggie have polka dots on nose, leg."
The Nugget is smitten with a guinea pig. Clearly, this is a boy after my own heart. (I once had 12 pigs under my roof.) He meet Piggie Walter at his preschool open house yesterday. It took about 20 minute before he spotted it, but then his face was glued to the window. I can always tell when he is smiling from behind, because I can see his little cheeks lift up towards his brown eyes.
"Whoooooaaa! Hi guinea pig. Hi guinea pig. Whoooooaaa! Guinea pig go fast through tube!"
The Nugget has recently decided that a purple octopus in one of his books is "Mommy Octopus". Not sure why, because it does not have a baby pictured with it. Does this mean he thinks it looks like me?
More Nugget Pronunciations:
Doos = Does
Toomingos = Flamingos
Anmals = Animals

Friday, February 26, 2010

Useful Books

Of course, all books are useful in their own way. But here are some books that we have used to help brainwash subtly convince the Nugget to do what we want him to do. Book characters are just way more convincing than parental units. Put them in your arsenal, and please suggest your own!

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey - The Nugget will pretty much gobble up any fruit when we are reading about Little Sal picking and eating berries. Thanks, Uncle T!

Chugga Chugga Poo Poo - The Potty Train by David Hochman - Helps get the Nugget to the potty when he would rather be playing with his toys.

Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton - A great bedtime wind down story. PJs, toothbrushing, and tuck-in are all presented as fun activities for your balking toddler.

Baby Gund Bathtime by Roger Priddy - Smiling babies help entice the Nugget to his own bathtub.

No Hitting! by Karen Katz - Provides non-violent ideas like drumming, squishing clay, and scribbling on paper. Lift-the-flap features and Karen Katz's amazing illustrations keep this one high on the Nugget's most-requested list.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Return of the Nap

Glory be, the nap has returned! Children sure force you to exercise the creative muscles.

Turns out, we just needed to whip out his sleeping bag. He has been very happily napping in it all week. When he's done, he lets himself out for some quiet playtime until I come to get him. I'm thinking this will be an excellent option for vacation sleep too, since he has outgrown the Pack-n-Play, and probably a good transition to the naptime cot he'll use at preschool. The crib is still working at bedtime, so I'm not going to mess with the big boy bed switch until later.

You know what would be handy, inventors? A set of turkey pop-up timers for children. One that pops when they are ready to lose the bottle. Another when they are ready to switch to a bed. A third for when they are ready to potty train. And in the Nugget's case, one that says, "Mommy, I'm not ready to give up my nap, but I just don't want to take it in my crib anymore. What I need is a sleeping bag on the floor." Could someone please get on that?


I've written about this before, but here's a great article about parenting a taller-than-average-child.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Our first tubing adventure

Our local alumni club sponsored a family snow tubing event one evening this week. We decided to take the Nugget for his first sledding experience. I discovered, that like my brother, parenthood has activated some sort of worry/cautious/protective gene (I felt so nervous for those half-pipe snowboarders' parents - their hearts must just stop while their precious children twist and flip so high above the icy ground), so I made the Nugget wear his bike helmet, despite some eye rolling from Hubby. Well, I'm glad I did, because that hill looked really steep!

The safety instructor taught Daddy and Nugget how to get seated, not with kid on lap as we would have guessed, but in separate tubes, with Daddy in front. Daddy hooked his arm around the Nugget's leg and tube, so they came down together. They came whooshing down the hill, and when they came to a stop, I held my breath, waiting for either gasping tears or laughter.

"Sled go so fast! Whee! Again please!"

So my fearless boys climbed the hill again and again, until the light faded from the sky and the hot cocoa beckoned.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Edward Cullen's got nothing on the Nugget

Going along with the Twilight craze that's sweeping the nation, the Nugget is experimenting with vampirism. His victims of choice? Wet washcloths. He gets them really wet, then sucks the living daylights out of them. He would probably drink a pint of water this way if we let him.

I read that Twilight is significantly affecting baby naming trends, with Bella/Isabella, Alice, and Edward reaching new all-time highs. Glad that these names were not on our list for Lil Sib! Although not sure I can gloat too much, since the Nugget owes his namesake to a quarterback and a TV show character.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Enough and Only

While we currently have no intention of giving up on our dream of Lil Sib, we have been discussing and contemplating what might we do if we have another disruption. Or if we wait x number of years without being chosen.

I feel such a strong desire to give the Nugget siblings. I would cross a mountain or fast for a month if it would bring another child into this family. My siblings mean so much to me, it's hard for me to imagine what the Nugget's childhood, nay, his entire life would be like as an only. Sometimes he asks me if he can have a baby sister, and it makes my heart crack a little. I fear very much that I will become the stereotypical "only" mother, who is too hawk-like and rigid and that he will become the stereotypical "only child" who is overindulged and self-obsessed.

We are, however, coming to terms with the fact that the making and building of our family is entirely out of our hands. We have done all we can, and there may come a point when we will have to cry, "Uncle."

We realize that we are incredibly blessed to have the Nugget in our lives, that God and his Tummy Mummy and Poppy gave us the gift of parenthood. I certainly do not believe that we are "entitled" to any more children - children are not earned or deserved, they are gifts. The Nugget is fun, loving, challenging, intelligent, entirely his own person. We love him, and he is very much "enough".

I have many friends who were only children, and despite reports of childhood loneliness and stress in caring for aging parents on their own, I also realize that they are achievers. They are perceptive. They are wise. I realize that just giving children the opportunity to be siblings does not mean that they'll be best friends. I realize that if we aren't able to adopt again, we would be able to put that time, effort, and money we would have put into our second child into the Nugget, so he'd get to experience more, have more, do more. I realize that we do not live in an isolated area, and so far, the Nugget has had no shortage of playdates and social experiences.

I long to look around our dining room table and feel that our family is complete. Will that peace arrive with another child? Or just a change of heart?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day 2010

February 14th is so much more fun with kids! The Nugget has been wishing us a Happy Valentine's Day for about a week now. Here he is at one of his Valentines' parties. He has 2 mailboxes stuffed with valentines from his friends. He carries them around the house proudly and shows us his, "Look! Special cards!" He tells us that, "I go party with friends! Playing with friends so fun!"

On Valentine's morning, the Nugget discovered a new book from us, purchased with our university bookstore staff discount.

Today when we picked up some groceries, a kind cashier gifted the Nugget with a leftover mylar heart balloon. It is just as shiny and floaty as it was 2 days ago, and the Nugget was very pleased.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Spooky Adventure

The Nugget is obsessed with Dinosaur Train, and there's this one episode where the characters go on a night train and learn about nocturnal animals. Or as the Nugget calls it, "A spooky 'venture!"

One night after dinner, the Nugget was bouncing off the walls and coming completely unglued. There was fresh blanket of snow, but it was already dark. I rounded up a couple flashlights and told the Nugget and Hubby that we were going to have our own spooky adventure.

While putting on his snowpants and boots, we kept his usual bundling-related tears at bay by chanting, "spooky adventure snowpants! spooky adventure boots!" We layered up and went out into the snow together. The Nugget ordered Daddy to hide behind a tree, the way the conductor does in the episode, and jump out to say, "Boo!" We made spooky tracks, we explored his spooky playhouse, we kicked the spooky purple ball, we wiggled our spooky flashlights on the snow and up in the trees. The Nugget searched for a Palaeobatrachus (Do you know more than a 2.5 year old? When it comes to prehistoric animals, I no longer do). We tromped inside when he had soaked through his mittens and had hot cocoa.

His funk was totally gone, and he slept like a rock. We had probably each used the work "spooky" about 4 dozen times. The way a toddler says spooky is just the cutest thing ever. Sorry, none of the pictures came out (my camera does not like the night), but here's an obligatory shot of the Nugget in his snowpants.

It was goofy (spooky!) fun, and it made such an impression on him. Isn't it amazing that we parents feel like we need to sign up our kids for all the latest and greatest classes and activities, but what they enjoy and want the most is just our simple attention? He was still talking about it a month later, so last week we had another one. It will definitely be a family tradition!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Lazy Housekeeper - Family Room Edition

Growing up with 3 siblings, our childhood home was full of "stuff". We had a whole unfinished basement as a playroom, made comfy with carpet remnants on the floor, posters, pennants, and my mom's very-70's handiwork (macrame and hooked rugs in various shades of burnt umber and orange) taped to the pale blue cement block walls. Down there we played church with Nilla wafers and grape juice, He-Man and She-Ra with cardboard swords, held puppet shows behind a flip n' fold, performed dance offs with a brown Fisher-Price cassette player blasting the Oliver and Company soundtrack. Bristle blocks, Legos, Little People, plastic cupcakes, and a playpen overflowing with stuffed animals were among the bounty of toys who took up permanent residence there. Every so often, my parents would ask us to clean it up, but for the most part, when we were done playing, my mom just shut the door - our chaos out of sight, out of mind. I give Mom kudos for reining in her neat freak tendencies while we were children. I know it must have been hard for her, because her home is immaculate now.

Anyway, I'm waxing poetic about our basement utopia because although we have a basement, it needs to be reworked significantly (water-proofed, laundry space barricaded from the tiny button-seeking fingers, and tearing down the previous owners' attempts at a room featuring water-damaged rickety paneling and exposed wires) before it would be safe for Nugget and Lil' Sib. So for now, his playspace is in the family room.

I'm not really a neat freak, but I do get anxious seeing "stuff" everywhere. Our family room would definitely never qualify for Better Homes and Gardens but it's comfy and liveable, and every item has a home. Here's my solution.

1. IKEA Expedit Bookshelf. We turned it horizontally. The top surface houses a lamp, puzzles, and IKEA bins. The bins hold smaller toys like tools, lacing beads, and flashcards. The top cubbies house board books. The lower cubbies are outfitted with Target fabric bins. One for plush. One for vehicles. One for mini books. One for random stuff like a top, jack-in-the-box, stacking rings, etc. Every night, we ask the Nugget to help put his toys to bed. Some nights we are more vigilant than others. Yes, there is some overflow, but when he receives more toys than will fit, we rotate some out (they live in our basement in a jumbo plastic tote) and give some away. There are no finger-pinching hazards and the Nugget can access his own toys without adult help.

2. We are lucky enough to have a mantle, upon which I keep one fabric/leather bin full of cds. I have another shoebox full of the Nugget's favorite dvds and VHS tapes. It's one of the very few spots left safe from the Nugget's reach (a challenge with having a very tall toddler).

3. We make good use of our tote bags. I store them in our entry way on a little side table. The largest tote stands open and holds the other empty totes. I keep a library tote and store the books in there, so they are always ready to go back. We read them and put them right back. I keep another tote full of the Nugget's musical instruments (maracas, a drum, bells) so we can grab and go to our monthly music class. Another tote holds a foam peg board, with tiny pieces that would otherwise get lost in the daily fray.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tidbits of Life

The Nugget has discovered the joy of pretending to be various animals. Here he is, being a rare species of Pretzel Walrus. They eat their own tusks, you know.

When the Nugget puts on jackets, coats, or hoodies, he gets one sleeve on, then spins around trying to catch the other sleeve, the way a dog tries to catch its own tail.

When the Nugget gets dizzy (which is often, because the boy just loves to spin), he will announce, "Wook! The ceiling moving!"

The Nugget no longer likes to be carried. It is a bittersweet development. Bitter because carrying my boy on my hip and feeling tiny hands in my hair has been such a constant. Sweet because he is getting really heavy - 35 pounds when nekkie, so closer to 40 dressed and in his snow gear. The one exception is that he does always want to be held when we stand at Mass, but Daddy bears the brunt of that - the Nugget knows that Daddy is taller and stronger, so he gets a better view and for longer.

Lately, when the Nugget wakes up, he says that his footsies are sad. This has gone on for about a week now. He has also added that his toes are sad too, because they had a bad dream. His shoes, however, always seem to be happy.

I'd like everyone to observe a moment of silence for the passing of the Nugget's naptime. In typical Nugget fashion, he suddenly decided that naps are passe, and has been bouncing/talking/generally doing everything but sleeping. We are still giving him enforced "quiet time" in his crib for about an hour, because I need the break and there's always the outside chance he will nod off or at least rest for a few blessed minutes. Still, it's just not the same, and this change makes me feel so exhausted. I was way too spoiled by that 2-3 hour break. Now I need to compress my lunch, computer time, housework, and dinner prep into an hour, and I rarely get the chance to relax myself. Of course, he has impeccable timing, because Hubby is going out of town for two business trips this month! Send caffeine and patient thoughts.

The Nugget enjoys an occasional icicle snack. When we go play in the backyard, the first thing he does is check his little playhouse for the icy goodness. Yesterday, upon polishing off 2 small icicles, he requested that I pick him up so he could grab "a big one" off the roof. I declined.

The Nugget is a great poop finder. He knows not to touch it, but he'll find dog poop in the backyard and yell for me to come pick it up. This is both helpful and annoying.

The Nugget also likes to make sure I am hydrated. He will tell me several times a day to, "Mommy drink some water". I usually comply.

The Nugget dislikes having lotion rubbed in, but his eczema-prone skin demands constant moisture. We got around this by letting him put it on himself. He delights in squeezing the tube and rubbing it in, usually a molecule at a time. However, this does not solve the problem of getting his back and sides, which he can't reach. One day, I came up with a compromise - Nugget lets Mommy put lotion on his back, then Nugget can put lotion on Mommy's back! His eyes lit up, and now my lower back gets a morning and evening dose of freezing cold Nugget fingers (he has always had cold hands - that means warm heart, right?!). He instructs me to say, "Notion so cold. Brrr!" True dat.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Lazy Housekeeper - Bathroom Edition

1. Method Shower Spray - instruct your spouse to just spray down the shower curtain liner and tub after each shower. It really does cut down on the amount of scrubbing you need to do. Economical refills are available.

2. Baking soda - I buy a big box and keep it in the cleaning closet, so the one I use on the tub doesn't get dipped into for cookies. When you do have some serious scrubbing to do, wet a rag and shake a some baking soda directly on the wet spot. When you scrub with just a little pressure, it forms a paste that shines your sink or tub. It's non-toxic, gets rids of bad odors, and rinses away easily. Best of all, I can just use a rag - no scrub brush or scrubby sponge to trap hairs. Eww. I hate hairs that aren't on my head!

3. Method Lil Bowl Blu Toilet Cleaner - I finally found the toilet solution of my dreams! The baking soda alone is NOT EFFECTIVE in keeping a toilet bowl clean and odor-free. It just dissolves too fast. The other eco-friendly ones like Mrs. Meyer's are nice but cost too much for something I'm flushing down the toilet, at least in my opinion. The old standby cleaners give me the heeby-jeebies, probably because I can still remember my mom's instructions to my younger self, "Don't touch it with your hands. Scrub really slowly with the brush! Don't splash it! Don't get your face too close. Don't let it splash in your eyes! Don't let it get on your skin!"

4. I dilute white vinegar with water. A 1:5 dilution is a disinfectant. I don't measure, I just eyeball it and put it in an empty rinsed spray bottle. It's my main surface spray. I keep one bottle in the bathroom, one in the kitchen because I'm OCD like that. The vinegar scent takes some getting used to, but it really doesn't linger long. Works great on porcelain, glass, and our finished Ikea furniture.

5. Every bathroom needs some good air mist. My favorite brand is Good Home Co. sheet spray. It won't stain if it gets on your towels or curtains, and it will scent the air for the limited time it takes for the vinegar to pass. I have the Pure Grass scent right now, but the Italian Citrus and the Beach Days are also lovely. The glass bottle is pretty (on a high shelf out of toddler paws!) and doesn't need to be hidden. Not cheap, but I've had the same bottle for over 3 years and it's still 3/4 full, so I think it is a better value than 5 bottles of Renuzit or Glad (that have the vague chemical aftertaste) that I would have polished off by now.

6. My Aunt C gave me a big stack of basic cotton terry rags that the women and girls in my family hand-decorated with fabric markers during my bridal shower. These rags have saved me so much money over paper towels. I keep the laundry bag right there to decrease the ick factor, I just wipe and toss.

Pajama Time

Here are some overdue photos of the Nugget in his Thinking Chair. Every night, he shimmies out of his clothes, puts on his own lotion, helps me fasten on his nighttime diaper, and pulls on his pjs. (After our horrific 3 week quarantine in the house, imprisoned by the Nugget's determination to dress and undress completely unassisted, he has emerged as a quite the accomplished dresser. The whole routine was taking upwards of an hour, and now he can do all that in 5-10 minutes. I can hear angels singing an Alleluia chorus when that final zipper zoops its way up to his collar!)

Then he plops down in his Thinking Chair and sings the Thinking Chair song a few times. Lastly, he pulls out a very worn copy of Pajama Time (the cover has been repaired with packing tape not once, but 3 times), and he reads it out loud.

He knows the words by heart, but always replaces a few. The funniest change out is supposed to read, "Some are pink and some are green. Some are the ugliest you've ever seen." The Nugget favors his own version, "Some are pink and some are green. Funny jammas!" (Perhaps that's only entertaining to us.)

At the end, when the animals turn out the light, he whispers them all goodnight. "Goodnight piggie, chicken, sheep, hippo, cat." Then he deposits it back into the pocket of his Thinking Chair, and Daddy hefts the big boy into his crib.

While there are definitely still challenges, I think we've made peace with this phase. Hearing the Nugget read out loud is ample reward for my lost housebound month. Thank you, Sandra Boynton!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Watching him bloom

The Nugget's creativity continues to blossom. Watching it unfold has been one of the biggest pleasures of parenting so far. Here are some recent examples.

Yesterday, the Nugget made up another song in the car. It went like this:
"Purple plane, a different plane. We ride plane 'gether. Plane go fast, different plane. Uncle J, on a plane. Oooo, a different plane."

The Nugget is growing more and more interested in craft projects. He loves seeing colors swirl on the paper. His art box so far includes: finger paints, tempera paints with brushes, stamps, stickers, crayons, markers (so far I have only been brave enough to do the Color Wonder ones and yellow highlighters), pencils, sidewalk chalk, children's scissors, glue sticks, and Play-Doh. Here he is pictured with a new Play-Doh gadget, a special gift from Nucas and Dawa's mom (those are Nugget-given nicknames, my friend did not really name her kids Nucas and Dawa - though you never know, it is 2010). I love seeing his concentration and pride in his finished projects. And I have to admit, finally seeing him sit (relatively) still for 10+ minutes at a time is highly gratifying.

I encourage the Nugget to look for different objects and ask him questions while we are reading books together. It interrupts the storyline, but it is always an interesting window into his mind. I get feedback on how much of the story he is understanding, he astounds me with new words I didn't know he knew, and he often makes up his own tangents to go along with the story. Today we were reading, "How are you Peeling?" and he told me that the apples were going to play soccer, and the peppers were going to play football.

This morning, the Nugget said, "Footsie is sad. Other footsie is sad." He grabbed his ankles, one at a time, and gently pressed the soles of his feet up to his cheeks for a snuggle. He closed his eyes and sighed peacefully, like a yoga guru. Then he looked at me seriously and said, "Footsies all better now." Then he grabbed the lotion tube out of the diaper caddy and spun it around, pronouncing, "Lotion is dancing!"

The Nugget's friend S came over for playdate this week. S is 5 months younger than the Nugget. He is mostly babbling, with lots of signs and a few understandable words. The more I've witnessed the Nugget interacting with other children, the more I am convinced that the verbal kids really can and do understand the preverbal ones. I saw it from the other side, when the Nugget was babbling and other children would ask him questions and listen thoughtfully to his indecipherable coos. This time, I got to hear S sweetly grunting and the Nugget responding in plain English, their little feet making tracks in the snow as they went out on an adventure together. What appeared a language barrier to us adults was nothing to them. They understood each other. "Look, they're like little cavemen!", S's mom exclaimed. I wish I'd had either camera with me, but the dash into the house surely would have killed the moment. I felt immeasurably blessed to have eavesdropped on their conversation, as fleeting as the tracks they left in the snow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Child Labor

Nugget here. I've determined that Mommy's housekeeping skills shall I put it kindly? Somewhat lacking. Here I am, picking up the slack. My favorite job is washing my nogurt cups with the pink brush. I will be demanding cupcakes as payment.

Friday, February 5, 2010

SWAK - not really because it's flu season

Our Valentine's Day prep is in full swing. I know it's a Hallmark-invented holiday, but it is a welcome distraction from the cold and permacloud.

Project 1: I made tissue pom poms and hung them from our chandelier! Here's the link for instructions - you know you want to make some too!

Project 2: The Nugget and I made placemats! I carved a couple of potato stamps, set out red and purple tempera paints, and we decorated 3 sheets of pink construction paper. After they dried, I laminated them. My laminator was a V-Day gift from Hubby several years ago - he knows me well!

Project 3: I baked Peanut Butter Kiss cookies for Hubby's co-workers and packaged them in tiny old-school paper treat sacks. I like to make their treats early, because offices are always deluged with treats right on the holiday, so many go stale or are turned down because everyone has already indulged too much. Early treats are a tasty surprise!

Project 4: The Nugget is attending his first 2 V-Day parties this year. I found individual organic cracker packs on sale at Babies-R-Us! I figure there will be plenty of candy, so I'm bringing the salty carbs! The Nugget decorated some pre-cut construction paper hearts with stickers and the aforementioned potato stamps. Each kid will get a pack of crackers and a homemade valentine, in a cello bag with a ribbon bow. I like to use fabric ribbons so the little girls in the group can reuse them for their ponytails!

I am also hoping to celebrate Chinese New Year this year - it's the Year of the Tiger - grrr! What are you doing for Feb 14th?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Not Shy

The Nugget is often declared, "shy" by strangers, but he's not. He's cautious. He's careful. He's observant. He takes awhile to warm up. He has occasional bouts of separation anxiety. He immediately goes into a smiley game of peek-a-boo with lovely ladies. But he's not shy. In fact, being a semi-cautious child myself, "shy" is one of my least favorite words. It's a label, one with a negative connotation. Yes, you can FEEL shy for a moment, but to claim that someone IS shy is something else entirely. It ignores all the other facets of an individual and reduces them to timidity. And that's not fair to anyone.

In familiar places, with familiar faces, he'll plunge laughing into the activity. He's not the least bit hesitant when he sees costumed walkabout characters. In fact, last summer, he leapt from a picnic table at the fair and chased down a very freaky looking walking brain, desperate to hug it. Animals are met with cackles of glee. When there's a pack of children running, you can bet the Nugget will join the fray with stomping, giddy feet. Pictured is the Nugget with his beloved Grandpa, mere minutes after Grammy-Grandpa's arrival. He nestled himself right on Grandpa's lap without a moment's hesitation.

But when the scenery is new and the people unfamiliar, the Nugget prefers to observe from the safe place just behind my leg or high up in his Daddy's arms. He'll peek and hide, checking to make sure it's safe. When he's assessed the situation and found it satisfactory, he'll start giving high fives like there's no tomorrow.

I like to think that this personality trait will serve him well. He won't miss out on exciting opportunities, but he'll "check himself before he wrecks himself."

Don't let others tell you who you are, Nugget. Not even Mommy.