Friday, February 11, 2011

Don't Be Alarmed

We haven't fallen into a snow drift or stopped paying our com*cast bill...

I've been really sick the past couple weeks and things have been a bit crazy, but I'm feeling better now and hopefully soon will return to my regular blogging/emailing/FBing self.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to check in and/or send search parties to our house.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Poor Buster

Buster is going to be 3 years old next week. In the last few months, we've seen huge changes in him. Among other things, he's potty trained, sleeps in a toddler bed, dresses & undresses himself & plays independently for much longer stretches of time. He's definitely completed the transition from "baby/toddler" to "kid". We're really proud of him.

However, it's also brought up a whole new set of issues we're not quite sure how to handle.

Buster is able to do lots of things now that Buddy can't and we suddenly find ourselves struggling with two different sets of rules and expectations for the boys. That's not the easiest thing to do when your kids are 15 months apart and you expect more of your youngest than you do of your oldest.

I want Buster to know that it's a good thing that we trust him to be more independent and self-sufficient. I want him to feel proud when he gets dressed by himself in the morning and falls asleep in his own bed at night. I know he does feel that way when he accomplishes something new, but inevitably that moment comes when taking off his shoes and putting them away becomes less of a thrill and more of a chore. That's when things get tricky because he doesn't understand why I expect him to do something that I'm willing to help Buddy do.

I truly believe that we'd be doing Buster a huge disservice if we lower our expectations and didn't encourage him to live up to his full potential, but I also know he's way too young to understand that. I've tried explaining to Buster a few times that sometimes it takes Buddy longer to learn something than it takes him and that's why I have to help Buddy with things he can do by himself, but Buster just doesn't get it. All he sees, for example, is Buddy getting to sleep in our bed while he's alone in his room. Even though I know we can't hold Buster back just because Buddy's skills are delayed, it still breaks my heart when Buster begs to sleep with me like Buddy does or stomps his feet in frustration because I don't always give him the same amount of hands-on help his brother gets.

I don't want Buster to grow up feeling that we treated him unfairly, pushed him too hard or loved him any less than his brother. I make sure to celebrate his accomplishments, praise his good behavior and smother him with kisses & "I love yous". I know though, in Buster's almost 3 year old mind, our words don't outweigh our actions right now. I know he's felt slighted, frustrated and confused and I hate that. Unfortunately, I just don't think there's any way around it right now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Odds & Ends

I'm not sure if there hasn't been much going on or if I'm just too tired for writing, but all I've manged to do this week is scrape together a post with a few random little stories:

  • Last winter, Buster had pneumonia in November and then was sick every other week until July. This year, Buddy seems to be on the every other week sickness plan. Since Thanksgiving he's had the stomach flu, a high fever virus & an inner ear infection. The current infliction of the week is a nasty cold & cough. Buddy's limited understanding of germs and illness has led him to believe that in order to get rid of germs, he needs to give them to someone else. He keeps blowing air at me and asking if now I'm the sick one. At least I think that's why he's doing it...or it could just be his way of getting revenge because I refuse to answer him when he speaks in a baby voice.
  • As many children do, my boys love to be freed from the constrictive restraints of their clothing. Potty training has made me less inclined to put pants on them, so most days they spend running around the house in various states of undress. Other than worrying that one of them will decide to take their pants off in the middle of school, it doesn't really bother me. This is the only time in their lives they'll feel comfortable running around shirtless without thinking about what their stomachs look like, so why not make the most of it?
  • Buster just went through a big "Why?" phase. "Why is this a cat?", "Why do we need clocks?", "Why is rain wet?", why, why, why, why, why....Recently, the whys have tapered off. Just as I was about to let out a big sigh of relief, he moved onto a different phase. Now everything is "How do we make chairs?", "How do we make tvs?", "How do we make chickens?"...
  • I started something new this week - the afternoon bath. That post-nap, pre-dinner time of day is always our worst, especially in the winter when there's not many places to go. The bath is the perfect solution. It allows non-napper Buddy to sit quietly with a bucket and champion sleeper Buster to rambunctiously swim back and forth like the little energizer bunny he is. Yesterday they stayed in there for an hour and ten minutes and today they lasted nearly an hour. And here's the best part, I get to sit on the edge of the tub with my Nook. I spent the afternoon reading today!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On My Soapbox

I love reading. From the moment my mom handed me her first edition Nancy Drew books, I was hooked. I love that reading a good story offers me the chance to escape into someone else's life, to see the world through their eyes. It doesn't matter if it's dark and unsettling or light and funny, a good story always teaches me something about the world and myself.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a good story (and yes, I've actually read the book, not just the Cliff Notes).

If you haven't heard, a publisher recently decided to print an updated version of the book with the racist and offensive language removed. I realize the n word is used a lot in that book - 219 times according to one of the articles I read. I know some parents and educators hear that number and are so disgusted by it or so afraid of it that their knee-jerk reaction is to decide its not a book that they want anywhere near kids. According to the publisher, they hoped that by removing the n word, more schools would put the book back on their recommended reading lists.
I'm sure some people think this is a great compromise that will give more kids access to a classic piece of literature. Personally, I don't think the book should have been taken off those reading lists in the first place and this new, more PC version bothers me for many reasons.

Number one, does sheltering kids from the language in this book actually accomplish anything? Does anyone believe that if they don't read it in a book or see it on tv, children are never going to hear derogatory terms or witness racism? Mark Twain did not create those words. Those words are in the book because they were part of his society...and are still part of ours. Removing them from the story and replacing them with kinder, gentler ones isn't going to change that.

Number two, how does presenting a watered-down version of events benefit anyone? How can we expect kids to make sense of the past if we don't give them all the facts? Even when that past is harsh - actually, especially when it's harsh - don't we owe kids the chance to understand history so they don't make the same mistakes? The world wasn't perfect then and its not perfect now. I don't understand how hiding or minimizing old injustices does anything to help solve current ones.

Number three, does anyone really believe that kids will assume offensive language is okay because they read it in a book? My preschoolers already know that just because someone else does something doesn't mean they should. Why do people believe that middle and high school aged kids aren't capable of understanding that characters in a story, even likable ones, say things they shouldn't? I think we need to have a little more faith in kids' intelligence.

I understand the instinct to protect our children's innocence and also our desire to raise them to be the kind of people to whom race doesn't matter. But the reality is racism is part of our past and still part of our present. Sugarcoating history isn't going to change that. The only way to change it is to face the truth head on. We shouldn't ban this book or edit its content. Instead, I think we should embrace it in its original form and use it as a starting point for some very honest, real discussions.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Decade Gone By

Over the last ten years, Chris & I have had some big moments. Each year seemed to bring with it a new, life-changing event:

2001 - The year we graduated from college

2002 - The year we got married

2003 - The year we bought our first house & started trying to have a baby

2004 - The year we spent doing fertility treatments

2005 - The year I had a miscarriage

2006 - The year we decided to adopt

2007 - The year we adopted Buddy & became parents

2008 - The year we adopted Buster & became a family of four

2009 - The year we bought our second house

2010 wasn't really "the year" of anything. For the first time in a decade, there wasn't one life altering event, either good or bad, that consumed me and defined the year.

We've spent the last ten years working toward the life and the family we have now. Its wonderful, after a decade of change and turmoil, to realize we're finally where we want to be.

For us, the last ten years have been defined by the big moments. I hope the next ten are defined by the small ones, the birthdays and vacations and other typical milestones of family life we've worked so hard to enjoy.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Holiday

I really want to sit down and write a post or posts about all our Christmas activities and celebrations, but right now the fun and excitement of the last few weeks are just a blur. I'll admit I'm still exhausted from said fun and excitement and feeling a little twitchy over the tornado of toys that has gone through our house. So perhaps when I've had a chance to recover and organize, I will have more to say about the magic and craziness that was this holiday season.

Mostly what I hope I remember is that this is the Christmas where the boys both really "got it". The past few years, when they were babies and toddlers, I had fun dressing them up in Christmas pajamas and buying them gifts. I dragged them to see Santa and suffered through the consequences of keeping them up too late at too many holiday parties. I tried my best to engage them in decorating the tree, making cookies and unwrapping their presents, but always ended up doing 95% of it myself.

This year, for the first time, both kids really understood and enjoyed the entire season. They were thrilled to wake up every morning and find out what sort of silliness our elf, Jingle, had gotten himself into while we were sleeping and to whisper secrets for Santa to him at night before bed. They loved all the special ways we celebrated throughout the month with friends and family. They made it through two visits with Santa that didn't involve any tears. They had fun decorating our gingerbread house, baking cookies and watching Frosty and The Grinch. They learned the words to "Jingle Bells", "Rudolph", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Frosty the Snowman". They spent the drive home on Christmas Eve scanning the sky for Santa's sleigh and leaped out of bed at 5:30 am to see if he really came. They shrieked with delight and lit up with joy over surprises big and small.

It was a Christmas where our house was filled with the magic of the season.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Every day's an Adventure

I just held my first "In Case of Emergency, Dial 911" session with the boys.

Every day, I start the morning by running car errands and every day, when we return home, I let Buddy out of the car first. Then I open the garage door for him and bring in my purse, coffee and any other items we purchased while we were out. After that, I go back to get Buster and Buddy stands in the hallway taking off his shoes and coat.

Today, Buster asked me if he could go in first. In the last month or so, he has become much more cautious and self-sufficient, so we have been allowing him to have a bit more independence. He's very diligent about taking off his shoes and coat on the mat as soon as we get inside, so I didn't see any harm in letting him do that while I got Buddy out of his car seat. To be extra safe, I made sure to leave the door open, so I could see him from the garage during the 20 seconds or so it would take me to unbuckle Buddy and help him climb out of the car.

Of course the first thing Buster did when I returned to the garage was to shut the door and lock the deadbolt. At first, I was just annoyed he hadn't listened when I told him to leave the door open. I finished getting Buddy unbuckled and then walked back to the door and told him to open it. He pulled on the door handle and said "I no know how to do it."

Hmmmm. Now what?

I still wasn't too concerned. I assumed he just needed a little reminder of how to undo what he had done seconds earlier. I told him he needed to unlock the deadbolt to which he replied "What is a deadbolt?". The next few minutes went something like this:

Me: See the door handle?

Buster: What door handle?

Me: The thing you pull to open the door.

Buster: This door?

Me: Yes, this door. See the handle?

Buster: Oh, yes.

(Buddy: I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold...)

Me: The deadbolt is the big lock above the door handle.

Buster: What big lock?

Me: The metal pole you can flip back and forth. The pole you just flipped when you closed the door.

(Buddy: I'm, cold, I'm cold, I'm cold...)

Buster: Oh, okay.

Me: Okay, good. Can you turn the pole back?

Buster: What pole?

Me: The deadbolt pole, above the door handle.

Buster: Oh okay. (pause) Mama, I can't reach it no more.

(Buddy: I'm cold, I"m cold, I'm cold...)

Me: Go into the bathroom and get your step stool, okay?

Buster: Okay! (feet running and then stool being dragged to the door) I getted my stool!

Me: GREAT! Now stand on the stool and unlock the deadbolt.

Buster: What deadbolt?

****repeat entire above conversation****

After several minutes, it became clear that Buster couldn't figure out how to unlock the door. At this point, I started to panic a bit as I realized that with my purse sitting on the counter, I had no keys AND no phone, so in order to call my mom or Chris to bring over a set a keys, I would need to leave Buster inside the house alone for the several minutes it would take me to run down to the neighbor's house and use the phone. The more I thought about the sorts of problems Buster can get himself into when he's alone for several minutes, the more I realized I didn't feel comfortable w/that option.

So I'm standing in the garage, playing the part of the calm "this is nothing to worry about" mom, while frantically evaluating which items in our garage would be best for breaking a window and deciding that the best thing to do is to break a panel next to the front door and the reach through and unlock it. And because I am such a spaz, I started picturing myself slicing open my arm on a jagged piece of glass, collapsing in the snow and freezing to death while my helpless children sob over my body

I decided before I risked an early death I would make one last attempt to have Buster let us in the house. I told him to take his stool over to the front door and that I would meet him over there. Once we were all in place, I explained again how to unlock the deadbolt, which was much easier now that I could see Buster through the window and give him more precise instructions. Finally on the third attempt, he was able to unlock the door and we got in the house.

After my heart stopped racing, I decided it was time to move the house phones to locations where the kids can reach them and go over how to call for help. Knowing Buddy shares my tendency to imagine terrifying scenarios and Buster dreams of riding in an ambulance, I tried to keep my explanation as matter-of-fact as possible. We spent about 20 minutes pretending we needed help and each boy took several turns picking up the phone, turning it on and pretending to dial "9-1-1". I'm sure we'll need to go over it a few more times, since Buddy was too focused on all the potential disasters that could leave me unable to help them and all Buster could talk about was how exciting it would be for the police to come to see him. In the mean time, I think I will keep an extra house key in the garage and continue to exercise caution when carrying laundry down the stairs or using the carving knife.