The Stove Pipe by Susie Lubell

One of my son's favorite books is a story, based on the three little pigs, called The Three Little Javelinas. It's a terrific book. I would know since I've read it about 900 times. My husband's brother and his family live on a Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona and bought this for my son since it kind of has a southwestern/multicultural twist. Plus the illustrations are awesome. Anyway he loves this book.

Toward the end, the coyote (not the big bad wolf in this telling) can't blow down the adobe house that the sister javelina built (as a third child and only girl I closely identify with her ingenuity and forward thinking) so he climbs up on the roof, makes himself really skinny and tries to slide down the stove pipe. And so beings my cognitive journey into the mind of a three year old...

On this particular page of the book, the coyote is standing on one foot in a prowl posture with a big sinister and toothy grin. I noticed that every time we would read this book my son would roll onto his stomach and look away. Then one day my son ask to wear his "skinny" red shirt.

Me: What?
Him: With the skinny!
Me: With the what?
Him (pulling down the shirt): With the skinny alligator.

He shows me his red shirt with an alligator on it and the alligator is showing all of his teeth so my son says Mommy, he's doing the skinny! with kind of a nervous, yet enthusiastic giggle. And now I get it. Sort of.

For weeks he continued to ask for this book but then roll away when the skinny coyote page appeared. Then he started asking me to turn the page back so he didn't have to see the "skinny". Okay. Then we went on a hike near our house and he saw a water drainage pipe and he pointed and shouted It's the stove pipe! And then he showed all his teeth and said he was the skinny which sent him into hysterics.

And since then every time we pass by something that's tall and cylindrical or even just cylindrical, he points out the stove pipe. In the airport on the way to Israel we saw about 57 stove pipes - lots of exposed architecture in airports. Yes, sweety, there's another stove pipe. Imagine that.

Then it gets even more interesting. We get to my in laws and there's a picture of his aunt Jenny (my mother-in-law's sister) in the office and she's got this big toothy grin and my son asked if we could turn the picture around because aunt Jenny was acting like a skinny coyote. What I wouldn't give to spend some time in his little brain...

But our journey came to a climax later that week when something blew up at the potash factory where my father-in-law used to be a project manager. They asked him to come down and figure out what to do so he went with my husband and my son for some generational male bonding time. This place is literally a gazillion stove pipes all welded together. I only heard the story second hand but apparently my son was in total shock when he went in there and saw these giant furnaces and pipes and lord knows what else is in that factory.

Me: Where did you go?
Him: To Saba's work.
Me: Where does Saba work?
Him: In a stove pipe!
Me: You went to Saba's factory?
Him: No, his stove pipe where he burns the skinny coyote.

So I give a big smile and he says, you're being skinny mommy. And I say, thank you. Who doesn't like to be called skinny? Even if, in his world, it means sly and toothy.

Meaning to Wean by Susie Lubell

We're still in Israel and thankfully everyone has adjusted to the ten hour time zone difference. We're having a terrific time. Grandparents are doing plenty of babysitting and my husband and I have been taking full advantage.

But this isn't a travel log so I won't bore you. With the travel details anyway. I'll bore you with other details. My daughter's been slowly weaning herself over the last few months, basically since I went back to work when she was six months old. I pumped twice a day at work for nearly three months after going back but it was getting to be too annoying to spend twenty minutes on the pump only to get one ounce of milk. Plus there wasn't exactly a designated place to pump so I'd end up hiding in the corner of an empty office with no window blinds hoping that no one would barge in. It wasn't super conducive to milk flow. So of course my supply dropped. And my daughter was eating a lot more food by then so that was fine. But I wasn't ready for her to give up the boob altogether. I actually really like nursing. So I continued to nurse her in the evenings and the mornings and once at night.

But then she sort of wanted a bottle more than a boob before bed and then sometimes I'd leave for work in the morning right after she woke up so I didn't have the chance to feed her...and little by little those feedings went the way of the pump. But I continued to indulge her night feeding(s) because I didn't want her to give up on nursing altogether. And that's where we are right now. She cries at 4 or 5am and we nurse together. I think once we're home after the trip she'll have to give up her early morning beverage just because I need my 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. So I'm trying to savor these last few pre-dawn sessions and all of my daughter's funny nursing idiosyncrasies. For example...

Sometimes she spends the whole time twirling her hair. So adorable. Or she'll have one arm wrapped around my back and be whapping me on the chest with her free arm. Less adorable. But by far my favorite move is when she takes out her pincer and tries to pull the freckles off my chest. Or the flowers off my pajamas. One by one she goes in with her little claw trying to remove whatever markings, blemishes, or loose threads are in her field of vision. All the while making her snarfle noises. Sometimes she catches my eye and gives me a smile which I always appreciate. But then it's right back to work de-pilling my sweater.

Out of the Office by Susie Lubell

So we're in Israel right now and I'm not really finding the time to write. Not for lack of good material. Let's see...the 17 hour flight...jet lag with a three year old and a baby...the duck that chased my son at the petting zoo...my daughter sucking down three falafel balls, a whole banana and a bowl of cauliflower...I'm sure that will look lovely on the other end...

Anyway, I'll recount the stories at another time, when I'm a little more lucid.

laila tov...and to all a good night...

Joy ride by Susie Lubell

Some days you have a near miss and for that reason only you can laugh about it.

I took the kids to Michael's the other day to buy some glue. It's a new Michael's and the parking lot behind the store is newly paved and on a very very slight slope. I parked on the side and grabbed a cart. Put the baby in the seat, buckled her in, and then angled the cart in toward the car while I reached in the front seat to grab a piece of Hanukkah gelt for my son since his teacher wouldn't pass it out to the class. I forgot about the no candy rule. But gelt's not candy...it's traditional food for the festival of lights symbolizing the richness of life and Jewish fondness for chocolate...We get into a discussion about which piece he wants. The gold one. No, the silver one with the gold in the middle. No, the other one! when I hear a distant rattling. I look up and my daughter is about ten meters away rolling through the parking lot, clapping and saying weeeeee...

Him: Baby's flying away!

So I'm running after her and I'm laughing because she looks so cute waving her arms and smiling. It was only much later that I felt that tightness in my chest and that little wave of dread playing the "what if she'd tipped" scenarios in my head.

Mind your keys and shoes by Susie Lubell

I've found that every now and then we manage to channel my son's non-clinical obsessiveness into worthwhile habits. For instance, I finally decided that we should take our shoes off at the door before entering the house. With the baby slithering around all the time and the two of them sick for weeks on end, I decided I'd had enough of dirt and bacteria. Plus several month ago, when I made this decision, the carpeting in my kids' room had reached near saturation with urine. It was time for a deep clean.

So I had the carpets professionally washed and from that day told my son that we had to take our shoes off before we went inside. And he obeyed, which was completely unexpected since he's also obsessed with shoes. But not just any shoes. My shoes. Platforms. Peep toes. Strappy. Cowgirl shit-kickers. Knee high zip-ups. Loafers. Maryjanes. Crocs. You name it. So he would come home from school and parade around in shoes for the rest of the evening. And he's surprisingly well-balanced in heels. But I was getting tired of him wearing my shoes all the time. So the new rule not only prevented tracking in dirt from outside, it also meant he could no longer wear my shoes in the house. Brilliant!

So now, shoes off is his thing. The minute we get in the house he shouts SHOES OFF! If I walk into the kitchen to hang up my keys or put down the mail I get a lecture about wearing shoes in the house. Sometimes I can't get my shoes off one-handed and the baby needs to be changed so we go straight to their room and then he lets me have it for wearing shoes on the carpet. And fine, he's right. But does he have to be so obnoxious about it?

And keys too. If I don't hang up my keys on the chicken hook in the kitchen, I get berated in a sort of "what did I just tell you?" sing-songy kind of tone. Probably the same tone I give him fifty times a day. But the truth is, if I forget to put the keys on the chicken then I end up leaving them somewhere and searching for them the next morning while I'm rushing to work. So it's good that he reminds me.

But he has so many rituals these days that I can't keep them straight and if I mess one up it could launch an hour long tantrum. I'll never forget the time I accidentally flushed the toilet for him. He used to go in a little potty on the floor and then I'd dump it and clean the potty and he would pull up his pants, flush the toilet and wash his hands. That was the routine. One time I dumped the poop and then just flushed out of habit. I don't know, you see poop in a toilet and you automatically feel compelled to flush. Well now we know where the term "losing your shit" comes from. He cried for an hour that he wanted his poo poo back.

I know that toddlers need routine and it helps them organize all of the new things they experience on a constant basis, but there are some very murky waters between creating a reasonable framework in which your child feels safe and indulgence in behavior that, should it continue into later life, would most certainly be considered neurotic.

In the long term, who knows. But at least in the short term I no longer have to share my shoes with my three year old. If only I could figure out how to curb his obsession with cell phones.

Scarred by Susie Lubell

We spent the night on Saturday at my husband's aunt's house in Santa Cruz. It was great actually because my son LOVES Aunt Jenny so we dropped him off with his sister and then went to my sister-in-law's 40th birthday party. They also live in Santa Cruz. Can't beat free babysitting from a favorite auntie.

And if Aunt Jenny were a blogger she would write her own account of the evening but from this end of the wine bottle, it was a really fun evening.

The next morning was less fun namely because while I was in the other room putting on my clothes (I swear, the minute I turn my back...) my son tripped over himself and whacked his face on the brick fireplace. OUCH! So I heard the ominous thud, then the eerie silence, then the wailing. And there was lots of blood but I couldn't really tell where it was coming from because for the ten minutes before the accident he was putting Aunt Jenny's rouge all over his nose and forehead.

Did he break his nose? Crack open his forehead? In fact I think he bit through his lip. Hard to say. But it was bloody and scrapey. So I held him and pressed a washcloth against his mouth and rocked him and sang songs until he caught his breath. And once the bleeding stopped I washed off all the make-up to get a sense for the real damage which thankfully was limited to the right side of his mouth. He looked like he'd been in a playground brawl.

This morning he commented that his boo boo is brown now and not red.

Me: That means it's getting better honey and it's going away.
Him: Ya, it's going away by himself. To Aunt Jenny's.
Me: Your boo boo's going back to Aunt Jenny's?
Him: Ya, to the fire where I got it. It's going back there.

So THAT'S where the boo boo's go when they're all gone. I learn new things from this kid every day.

Swim Lessions Part III by Susie Lubell

We had a break from swim lessons last Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday but we were back at it today. I just figured we'd go and if all he wanted to do was sit in his swim trunks and watch the other kids, that would be fine. What do I care right? Sunk cost. He's only three after all and he doesn't have to be Ian Thorpe. His dad's only 5'9" so the likelihood of his being an Olympic swimmer is slim. And he's THREE. I have to just remind myself - not that he acts any other age; he's very much a three-year-old. But this race to expose our kids early to every which pastime and skill just sort of makes me want to round up the troops and move off the grid for a while.

So I told him we'll just go and see Miss Beth and do some kicking or not. Totally up to him. And he explained to me that he would do kicking but no floats and he planned to tell Miss Beth just that. And I said, you are the master of your own fate, buddy. Thumbs up.

Well we get there and he's looking around for Miss Beth. Finally he sees who he thinks is Miss Beth but is actually another teacher in a speedo. He runs to her, realizes it's someone else and then notices that the real Miss Beth is in the water right in front of him. She puts her arms out to him and he (I swear to God) jumps into her arms into the pool. I thought, well that was highly unexpected. What else could be coming down the pike...? I could never have imagined.

She's twirling him around and he's laughing and I'm thinking who is this kid? Then they line up on their bellies for kicking and then they're blowing bubbles and he's got his face submerged doing, get this, WHAT HE'S BEEN ASKED TO DO. Weird, I know.

Then it was time for floats and I'm bracing myself for a major come-apart and it never materialized. He just let Beth hold him out flat, first on his back and then on his belly and then he was on a kick board and THEN, with the lord and the other boys' grandfather as my witnesses, he did a total head submerge with Beth and came up laughing.

Unfortunately while another kid was on a float my son slipped in the very shallow water of the steps and gulped a bit of water which freaked him out with five minutes left of class. I scooped him up while he was coughing and snorting and suddenly he wanted to go home. But the last five minutes are play time so I encouraged him to grab a toy and go play with Miss Beth. I didn't want him to leave scared of going back in the water. He wasn't interested. So I said, in my infinite wisdom, just go back in and give Miss Beth a high-five and tell her thank you. So he did and she whisked him up in a big twirly hug and he was happy.

And we came home and had graham crackers. Hallelujah.

The Snarfle by Susie Lubell

Finally a post dedicated to my delicious nine-month old baby girl. She's taken to eating in a big way and pretty much spends most of her free-time inhaling food. Even when I just leave her on the kitchen floor while I'm making dinner, she finds her way to the dining room and then swims around the floor looking for fallen cheerios, dinner chunks, orange peel bits, what have you. And then she eats them. It's kind of like having a dog. Clearly she is a second child. I did recently switch to Method brand floor cleaner (all-natural) so she wouldn't be ingesting toxic cleaning fluid residue while eating off the floor. And all of the sockets are covered. Beyond that I pretty much throw caution to the wind.

And we also know she's a second child because she has a permanent cold/runny nose. The thing is a faucet. I can remember maybe three days in the last six months when she didn't have a slimy pool in the cleft above her lip. Nasty.

Which brings me to one of my favorite things. Where is she going with this? Well, she makes this amazing noise when she eats - the combination of newly acquired chewing skills and post nasal drip. She kind of hums while she gums up her food and you can hear the gunk in her nose rattling around as she tries to breathe all the while. It's music. Equal parts of phlegm, saliva (did I mention she's teething), food (beets are her favorite these days) and joy. I call it the SNARFLE and hearing it makes me seriously happy.

And don't even get me started on her pincer grab. Such precision! Such focus! Such resolve! There's not a cheerio within a ten foot radius that's safe from the girl I affectionately refer to as "the claw".

It's like toast by Susie Lubell

We had a lovely Thanksgiving at my brother's house yesterday and my sister-in-law made the most kickass sweet potato and carrot pudding (equal parts vegetable, butter and creme fraiche. Yikes). The whole meal was outstanding and for the first time ever all of the kids actually sat at the table without having a total come-apart. In fact it's usually my kid having the meltdown. But this year he and his older cousin (one year older) sat at the kid's table. The two year old cousin sat in her high chair and baby sister was in the portable high chair and the six "adults" were seated around the table passing dishes, feeding babies, cutting meat into small pieces and explaining the food to picky preschoolers. So now you have the setting. Here is the cast:

My nephew
My brother

Here is the dialog:

N - What's that daddy?
B - It's stuffing.
N - I don't like stuffing.
B - Yes, you do. It's like toast.
N - It doesn't look like toast.
B - It's little baby toasts.
N - What's that?
B - Cranberry sauce.
N - What's a cranberry.
B - It's like a strawberry.
N - It looks funny.
B - It's sweet like jelly. It's like strawberry jelly. But sour. And sweet (?)
N - What's that?
B - It's bean casserole.
N - I don't like it.
B - Try it. It's like salty soup with beans.
N - I don't like soup.
B - But it's kind of like a cake. Like bean cake. With salty sauce.
N - perplexed
B - Have some turkey.
N - I don't like turkey.
B - It's like chicken.

And by this time the rest of us are hysterical. Every thing my nephew asked about had a parallel food on the menu he usually eats from. And I was laughing because clearly my brother and I are cut from the same cloth. The other day I made fish sticks but he wanted chicken nuggets so I called them long fish nuggets and he ate them. And then I realized that, actually, everything can be categorized into three groups:

Chicken
Bread
Known fruit or vegetable.

So basically, all meat is like chicken. All starchy food is like bread. And then cherry tomatoes are like grapes, cauliflower is like white broccoli, persimmons are like apples, leek is like celery, cucumber is also like celery, sweet potatoes are like carrots which are called crunchy sticks, beans are like corn which is like popcorn.

So while last night's dinner seemed like a traditional Thanksgiving feast to the untrained eye, it was actually just chicken with baby bread, mashed potatoes and brown sauce, mashed crunchy sticks, salty popcorn cake and jelly. Y-U-M.

Me and Julio down by the schoolyard by Susie Lubell

My son sleeps with a cat he calls kitty. He got it as a present when he was born and when I decided to sleep train him at four months we did the whole nighttime ritual thing and then put him in his crib with this cat. Nursing Nina in fact. That's the name on her tag. She has three little kittens that came with her and have magnets in their little noses that correspond to the little magnets on Nina's belly. So you can stick the mini-kitties on the mama and have a nice little lesson about nursing. We figured we could also use it if we had another kid. See sweety. Kitty is nursing her baby too. When our daughter was born I tried that for about a minute but our son was more interested in lifting his own shirt to nurse the cat himself.

Anyway, it turns out Kitty is made by the Manhattan Toy Company and while it is (was) a lovely stuffed animal, it's not something you can just pick up in case you, say, misplace the original. It happened once that my husband took the kid for a stroll and returned sans cat. He did the same neighborhood loop twelve times looking for that damn cat and couldn't find it. Whatever...he'll sleep with something else. He's only had that thing for a month. He's not even attached to it. Right...

So that night we offered our son the fuzzy bee. Don't insult me. The piggy. No dice. The rabbit. Here's where you can stick your rabbit. He finally sobbed himself to sleep.

The next day I finally located a place 50 MILES AWAY that carried Nursing Nina so without hesitation we drove there, threw down $28, and that was that. We've since managed to keep Kitty in the family but when my daughter was born I vowed not to make the same mistake. So when she was about five months old we gave her Julio.

Julio is a very soft and plump rat that I got at IKEA for $4. He is named Julio because rat, in Hebrew, is julda (the "j" in this case pronounced like the Spanish jota). In fact there was a whole bin of Julios at IKEA so I bought four. Now we have Car Julio, Crib Julio, Daycare Julio and Spare Julio. It's an infestation. There are stuffed rats all over the place. And my daughter doesn't make a move without a Julio. Well, in fact, she does a lot of moving without her rat, but the minute she's grumpy or cranky or disorganized and she needs to go to her happy place, she takes Julio in her left hand, sucks on its whiskers for a moment and then puts her right thumb in her mouth. Same motion every time. And the bonus is that I can tie it's tail to her stroller and mitigate the risk of another "misplacement". We've gotten a few stares. Not everyone thinks a rat is a good friend for a baby girl. But if my son can prance around naked in my high heels and Mardi Gras beads then my daughter can chew on the snout of a stuffed rat.

Swim Lessions Part II by Susie Lubell

I really thought that we'd go back to the pool and he'd be more comfortable having bonded last week with Miss Beth. Alas, I was fooled. He was a little more willing to lay on his belly and kick, but only if I called out the commands. But then when the other kids started taking turns doing assisted "floats" when Miss Beth basically just holds each kid under his back and legs to float on the water, my son was having none of it. He started to retreat again up the stairs.

In the end, once again, he did a float with Miss Beth after everyone else had left because he wanted graham crackers and I'm thinking, not only will he now have an irrational fear of water, but he'll also seek out food for comfort and reward. And it's my fault. I single-handedly created a hydrophobic over-eater. Super. I knew I should have just taken him home but I thought maybe if he just watched the other kids having what seemed like TONS OF FUN in the pool, he might want to join. I was mistaken.

At least he was marginally satisfied with his success in the pool having completed the assisted float. So do we go back next week? Do I just forget about the remaining lessons and hope he wants to learn to swim when he'd older? Don't kids get more afraid the older they are? I think my mom told me that my brother cried at his swim lessons and he ended up on the varsity swim team in high school.

This is a downer of an entry. Sorry, more peppy tomorrow.

Sense of humor by Susie Lubell

I have to just write down a few little goodies that don't really unfold into any sort of important lessons but I want to have some record of the funny light-hearted stuff to balance the pain and suffering.

We were in his room the other day getting ready for bed and he said, "Mommy, look what I'm doing!" And he was basically sitting so I just smiled and said,"Yes, sweetie, you're sitting really well," feeling a little ridiculous and thinking must I compliment every stupid thing he does? BFD, he's sitting on the carpet. In the world outside of preschool no one gives a rats ass if you can sit nicely on the carpet. Okay, I wasn't really thinking about all that, although sometimes I do hear myself complimenting inane things like his ability to take a dump (good job making the poo poo!) and I wonder if I'm doing him a disservice. Maybe he'll be crushed if his teachers in middle school aren't as enthusiastic about his prowess on the toilet. I read an article about that somewhere I think. Probably in someone else's silly blog. Anyway, back to my story...

So he says, "no Mommy, I'm sitting on the couch," at which point he pulls the couch from the doll house I bought him for his third birthday out from under his bottom! And I thought that's actually pretty funny bud. Good one.

And then this evening we got into another vagina discussion only he prefaced it by singing his new vagina song which sort of follows the "Farmer in the Dell" tune:

Mommy has a vagina.
Grandma has a vagina.
Hi ho the derio,
Mommy has a vagina.

Then he started asking again who has what and proclaimed that he has a vagina too. In fact, in his words, "I have a vagina AND a pee pee." And then he laughed, pleased with his funny statement. And I laughed too, grateful he didn't ONLY inherit my obsessive compulsive tendencies or my stubborn streak. He may have also gotten my sense of humor. Although he laughs at his own farts too, so he might actually have his father's sense of humor.

Thanksgiving by Susie Lubell

I had breakfast this morning with my two favorite moms from my son's preschool. We used to have coffee while I was still on maternity leave and Rebeca was finishing her dissertation. And Veronica teaches high school Spanish on a part-time schedule so she was usually available for coffee and chatter after morning drop-off. But now, I'm back at work and Rebeca filed her dissertation and commutes to her post-doc post and Veronica is swamped with parent conferences and grading so she gets her coffee to go. And I basically only see them for the two minutes when we either drop off or pick-up.

But today we met for breakfast and I have to say I love these girls. We laugh our heads off about our crazy little boys. Rebecca asked if I had seen the "I am thankful" list that the kids made for Thanksgiving, which I had not because my son has been out with Pink Eye and we missed the Thanksgiving potluck on Wednesday. I didn't even know what she was talking about. And then she started to giggle. Oh Jesus, what the hell did my son say he's most grateful for? Mommy's cell phone? No.

My black car.

That's what he said. He's actually talking about my black station wagon. And I thought, okay, that sort of makes sense since I come pick him up everyday in the black car and he's happy to see me so he's associating me with the black car. Fair enough. I was fine with that response until Rebecca told me what Antonio was thankful for. His mama, papa and abuelita.

Great. My kid is thankful for a car and Rebeca's son is thankful for the people who love and care for him on an ongoing basis. The little shit. Rebeca, being the good friend that she is and sensing my despair at having been dismissed as merely the chauffer of the black car, noted that one of the other kids declared he was most thankful for quesadillas.

The sad part is that, in fact, it DID make me feel better.

Tickled Pink by Susie Lubell

My boy has pink eye.

I picked him up from preschool yesterday and his teacher said he wasn't as chatty as usual. We got home and I noticed he had some gunk in his eye. A lot of gunk actually at which point I knew instinctively that he had pink eye. His temperature was 101.2 but he was otherwise in pretty good spirits. In fact, great spirits. The whole afternoon he had been completely delightful. He played with his sister (unknowingly spreading his eye gunk all over her and her toys) while I made dinner. My husband had to work late and while I ordinarily would have been bummed to have to do the whole dinner and bedtime ritual solo, it was totally fine. And I'm thinking, I LOVE PINK EYE!

Is that sick? I'm less enthusiastic about having to figure out his childcare for the next seven days since I can't bring him back to school. But from the eye goop has emerged a charming, cooperative, under-reactive cutie pie. Maybe the infection has actually triggered a chemical change in his brain officially marking his departure from the terrible twos. Or maybe it's a blip and he'll be back on the dark side before the end of the week. Either way, his take on the whole thing has me laughing.

Me: Stop touching your eyes honey.
Him: I'm getting my eye boogers.
Me: Now we have to wash your hands so you don't spread the yucky from your eyes.
Him: So the baby doesn't get the eye boogers?
Me: Bingo.

Mommy, where's your pee pee? by Susie Lubell

Scene: Mom gets in the shower for ten minutes of much needed "alone time". Toddler is watching closeby focused mainly at what is at eye level...

Him: Mommy, where's your pee pee?
Me: Honey, mommy doesn't have a pee pee. Mommy has a vagina.
Him: And I have a vagina too?
Me: No, you have a pee pee like Aba.
HIm: And baby too?
Me: No, baby girl has a vagina like mommy.
Him: And grandma?
Me: Yes, Gandma has a vagina because she's a girl like mommy and baby sister.
Him: And Savta?
Me: Yes, Savta has a vagina. Good. He's getting it
Him: And Saba? Maybe not.
Me; No, Saba has a pee pee like Aba. He's a boy like you.
Him: Ya, and I have a pee pee.
Me: That's right.
Him: And mommy has a vagina. And baby sister and Grandma and Savta and Aba and Ami and Aunt Marcia and ME!
Me: No, mommy and savta and grandma and baby sister and Ami and Aunt Marcia all have vaginas.
Him: And I have a pee pee?
Me: Yes.
Him: And Ami has a pee pee?
Me: No, Ami is a girl like mommy. She has a vagina.
Him: Oh.

Him: And do you make poo poo from your vagina?
Me: No, just pee pee.
Him: But not a pee pee.
Me: Yes, mommy makes pee pee from her vagina but she doesn't have a pee pee. Which is actually a penis.
Him: Do I have a penis?
Me: Can you hand me the duckie towel?

Swim Lessons by Susie Lubell

I signed my son up for swim lessons because at some point in the last year he became afraid of the water. He used to love to go swimming but this past summer he wasn't that excited about it and preferred to watch my husband wave encouraging gestures from the pool and throw rubber toys at him from the side of the pool rather than actually go into the pool. I don't blame him - I mean they keep that pool at like 98 degrees so it's like swimming in minestone - chunky minestrone, if you're not careful of all the toys. So instead of letting him grow into the idea of swimming in a pool and maybe try again next summer, we decided to force him into it because we're mean sadistic parents.

And it went pretty much as we'd predicted. My son agreed to take his clothes off and be in his swim trunks. But then when the two other kids went in the water with Miss Beth, he refused to go in. He refused to look at Miss Beth. He wouldn't put his feet in the water. And here I am thinking, what the hell am I doing here. Why did I just waste $100 on five sessions for my son to stand next to a pool. So I told him I would put my feet in if he put his feet in. So he did. And we slowly walked down a few shallow steps. But then he retreated. Meanwhile little Bobby and Cindy Perfect are practicing their kicking and blowing bubbles and generally enjoying their time in the water. My son has now found a rubber fish, a small alligator bean bag and a giant duckie that he is playing with next to the pool. So I tell him he can't play with the toys unless he is sitting in the water. So he sat in the water. All the while Miss Beth has made several attempts to befriend my son, and has felt the sting of toddler rejection repeatedly. She even asked if she could just pick him up and bring him in the water, so I said knock yourself out, knowing well that this too would end badly. He obliged for about thirty seconds and then scrambled back up the stairs and out of harm's way.

Then he started acting squirrly in the pool and entering on the side underneath the hand rail which, of course, is a no no. So I told him as much and he wasn't happy about that and so I had to make him stand in the corner next to the locker room. Brilliant. (Don't you hate when you're "parenting" and you've gone down a really bad route but then there's no way to go back and suddenly you have your son in a time out at the public pool?) He told me to go away and when I did he hollered. It was ugly. Then I pulled out the only ammo I had left.

Me: If you get in the pool and listen to Miss Beth you can have as many graham crackers as you want when we get home.
Him: No.

By now class is over and the other kids are leaving. My son is moping at his missed graham cracker opportunity. And I'm wishing I could take Bobby Perfect home with me instead of my kid.

Him: Mommy, I want to listen to Miss Beth and get graham crackers.
Me: And do kicking in the water?
Him: And graham crackers

So I called to Miss Beth and asked if she wouldn't mind doing a few kicks with the boy. She got on her belly on the steps and my son moved closer to her. Then she started kicking and splashing him which he LOVED. And the heavens parted and God's maginificent glory shined a ray of light down on the pool. My son laughed. And looked directly at Miss Beth. And then the two of them were on their bellies kicking and I was calling out red light green light and then Miss Beth gave him a high five and for a brief moment the world was a happier place.

Tune in next week for part two of Swim Lessons.

Baby Couture by Susie Lubell

So my baby is nearly nine months which is ridiculous. I mean she was just born and now she's lurching around the house on her belly like a Gila monster and shoveling food in her mouth and chatting her head off (funny how you never get sick of ba-ba-ba-ba-ba, but why-why-why-why from my preschooler makes me want to put a pen in my eye). But I digress...

So she's going through sets of clothes super fast because she's having growth spurts quicker than i can rotate to the next size up. Some stuff she barely even wears once or twice before it's cutting off circulation in her ham hock legs. A few things she received as gifts and we basically missed the boat because I waited til she was the approximate age that the label suggested and by then it was too late! And I'm not talking about the carter's stuff that I get her from Costco. Those are cut generously for a rolly poly. And my daughter's not even that chub by some standards. She's just a regular Buddha - not like a giant jolly Buddha. It's, in fact, the baby couture.

I have a few cousins and a few friends of the family who bought my daughter adorable and overpriced fancy baby clothes - my favorite was a tiered dress in baby blue, pink, yellow and chocolate - yum. It was so cute. It said six months so I put her in there at four months and it was already skimpy! It's one thing for designer crap to be teeny tiny for adults. I'm over the humiliation. I'll buy the size up, what do I care? But sizing for babies should be standard! What kind of message are we sending our daughters when size 6-9 months is too tight by 4 months! Maybe they should diet! Maybe we should take them off the boob before they get to the fatty hind milk. Maybe replace one feeding with a slimfast so they can better shimmy into their onesies! Sure,organics are all the rage now but what about that unexplored "dietetic baby food" market! Diet Gerber. Baby Lean Cuisine. South Beach Baby Diet. When once they gloated about their kids being in the 85th percentile, now moms will brag about how baby Madison is, at 9 months, still slim enough for size 3-6 months.

wink wink

I want your printing press!!! by Susie Lubell

A few hundred years ago did kids follow their parents around begging to use their gadgets?

I want your revolver!
I want your phonograph!
Gimme your cotton gin!
I want to wear your corset!
I want to wear your powdered wig!
Can I touch your loom?

I don't even know what a cotton gin is but you get my point. Were kids always this obsessed even when the gadgets they're obsessed with didn't exist? My kid just cannot seem to get over his obsession with cell phones. He points out when people have them. His face lights up when mine rings. He wants to bring it to me. He wants to put it on the table. In my purse. On the counter. He wants to charge it. He wants to call Aba. He wants to call grandma. He wants to call grandma's hairstylist Carlos. Any excuse he can think of to get his hands on that phone. He knows he's not supposed to touch it so he will just stand next to my purse and spy on it. And then tell me, I see your phone. I have almost reached my breaking point on this one. I get that we have been completely inconsistent about phone usage but what am I supposed to do when he wants to talk to Grandma. I want him to talk to Grandma and he's actually becoming quite the conversationalist. But then I tell him he's not allowed to touch it otherwise and that appears to confuse him. Never mind the exposure to harmful cancer causing radio signals, it's just annoying for him to be this fixated on a personal object. He's also fixated, though slightly less so, on car keys, wallets, purses and shoes.

Why? I want to know why? My brother uses his phone as much as I do and his kids don't care about phones. They are obsessed with other things, like dolls and Thomas the Tank Engine, but that seems perfectly acceptable to me considering they are CHILDREN. How did we fail our son? What did we do to encourage his total fixation on our personal items? Why can't he just be obsessed with trucks like a normal kid.

Which leads me to other musings, like, were kids this annoying back in the day? I mean, I'm pretty sure that, say, Mozart, was a pretty annoying three year old, all obsessed with writing his concertos and what not, but what about the average toddler? Is there no record of just how annoying 18th or 19th century toddlers were? I'm just curious. Everyone was so hung up on being proper back then, I just can't imagine a woman in a corset dragging her three year old through the marketplace by his armpit because he peed in his tights.

The Soup Fascist by Susie Lubell

That is me. I am now the self-titled soup fascist. It's a nutritional ideology rather than a political ideology, but all the same, it's how the current regime operates in our home and I am ruler.

My boss at my day job has two kids, ages seven and five, so she has a wealth of knowledge about child rearing and thankfully we agree on most policies. Although her kids slept in her bed until just last year. And while I understand the family bed works for some and is a culturally acceptable paradigm for many around the globe, I'm the girl who, if I could afford a giant house, would have a "bedroom" and then my own private "sleeping" room. But I digress...

My boss, noticing that her girls were only eating meat and starch, began a vegetarian only policy for during the week to which, after only a few days of protest her kids resigned. We're not there yet, mostly because I just don't know enough good vegetable recipes. Maybe one day. But the part that I have implemented is a first course SOUP. Every evening we have some pureed vegetable soup. And it takes me all of about 15 minutes to make and I can do it one-handed while holding my baby. Get ready to copy and paste:

2-3 cups of water and appropriate amount of chicken or vegetable powder/bouillon cube
Large bag of one vegetable (spinach, broccoli, squash, zucchini, mushrooms, cauliflower, sweet potato, leek etc.)
1 cup milk (whole or less)
2 triangles of Laughing Cow Light cheese (green packaging)

Directions:
Boil vegetable in stock
Puree
Add milk
Puree again
Add cheese
Final puree

I have one of those blender wands which I really feel is the best invention of the twentieth century, followed closely by maxi pads with wings. If you have to transfer everything back and forth between a blender and a pot then it's almost not worth it because you need both hands and invariably you splash everything everywhere making a bigger mess for yourself. Who needs it. Spend $50 and get the blender wand.

Now the first night I instituted my policy it was met with mild grievances in the form of whining. But I persisted and prevailed. The key was the "doobie" bowl. Doobie means teddy bear in Hebrew and we have a little bowl with Eric Carle animals all around it and a big bear at the bottom of the bowl. So I set up the challenge. Let's see if you can eat enough soup to see the doobie at the bottom. And it worked. He was so excited about the prospect of uncovering the bear that he wolfed down a whole bowl of broccoli soup. It was fantastic. The next night we had spinach. Then mushroom. Then zucchini. And so on. No fail. The kid ingests vegetables. Before if you put something green in front of him he would proclaim, I don't eat leaves. Now he eats leaves, vegetables, tree bark, you name it. If I can puree it and add some laughing cow cheese, he'll eat it.

I know I am not the first mom to think of pureeing vegetables for "selective" toddlers. Obviously, since I got the idea from my boss. And apparently Jessica Seinfeld, wife to Jerry and mother to his three kids, has come out with a best-selling book about pureeing to fool your kids into eating veggies. Good for her. Like they don't have enough money from syndication royalties. But I still feel like this was a major conquest so I'll bask for a minute in a little nutrient-packed, fortified, leafy green glory.

Keeping up with Dr. Jones by Susie Lubell

Today I brought my son for the first time to see the dentist. He turned 3 on Saturday and I figured it was time. We brush his teeth twice a day but who knows if we're actually making a difference with those little toddler toothbrushes that completely splay at even the slightest bit of pressure. That, combined with the fact that our son basically chews on the thing and sucks off all of the toothpaste when it's his turn to brush, makes me question if we're making a lick of difference in his overall dental hygiene.

But it turns out that the brushing (and the related tantrums) were not for naught. No cavaties and kudos from Dr. Jones for a fine set of choppers. Thank god. The last thing I needed was the guilt of having not adequately brushed. Just getting him to brush in the first place was a struggle. I consulted the Berkeley Parents Network (they usually show up when I do a search, though the advice tends to be a little too earth mother for me) and everyone talked about making it a good experience and using dolls and singing songs yadda yadda yadda. An excerpt:

"Try the Raffi song, Brush Your Teeth, and have her brush as you sing along with Raffi. My 14-month old daughter loves it. We start singing, ''When you wake up in the morning, it's quarter to 1, you want to have a little fun, you brush your teeth,ch-ch-ch- chchchcchc...'' and my little daughter grins and looks for her toothbrush. She'll even ask to brush her teeth at random times of the day by putting her finger to her mouth and going ''ch-ch- ch-ch...''. Not sure if this will work with your baby if they already hate toothbrushing but it's worth a try. G'luck. Mom of 14-month old who loves to brush"

Spare me, "Mom of 14-month old who loves to brush". My kid sees right through your little schtick. They were all like that. Use puppets. Sing a song about teeth. Let him do it himself until he's comfortable. Read books about brushing teeth. We tried everything and it always ended in a lot of screaming and very little brushing. Then I saw this one. This guy had a kid like mine. His post was anonymous, fearing the wrath of social services and the crazed Berkeley parents still nursing their four year olds.

"This is how you can brush the teeth of a non-cooperating toddler: Wet the brush and stick it and the tube of paste into your shirt pocket. (You're going to need both hands for a few seconds.) Lay the toddler on the floor (preferably carpeted). Sit on the floor above their head, placing your knees over the toddlers shoulders/ upper arms. Your feet should be along side the child's body. This effectively pins their arms and prevents them from undesired interference. Now imobilize their head between your thighs by gently squeezing. Now you have both hands free to load the paste onto the brush, and one hand available to open lips (which will be sqeezed tightly closed by the child). I found it effective to slide my finger into the corner of the mouth and follow that with the brush. Brush as gently as possible considering the lip resistance. Let them up to rinse.

During all of this maintain a calm manner and in a gentle voice let them know over and over that brushing is not optional- tomorrow we can do it the easy way, or the hard way - the choice is theirs.
-from a dad wishing to remain relatively annonymous"


Now THAT'S the way to do it. It's the pin and pry method. It worked for us. None of this good ship lollipop crap. Now my son's a great brusher. And we really only had to pin once or twice.

But back to the dentist. I was feeling all proud of my son for opening his mouth and saying ah and ee and having his teeth polished and proud of me for brushing at least enough to keep his teeth healthy. Then Dr. Jones asks if we floss. Are you KIDDING me? I barely remember to floss my own teeth and now you want me to floss my three-year-olds teeth? I mean there is a limit to the extra layers of complexity that I'm willing to build into my morning and evening rituals. Soon my daughter will have teeth. Will I have to floss hers too? Sure, when she only has two teeth it will just be the one swipe between, but before long she'll have all twenty teeth and then we'll all have to wake up at 6am in order to floss everybody in time to leave the house by 8:30. Just once I wish someone would give me some advice that might save me some time. Oh you shouldn't read to your kid at night. It's bad for them. Think of all the extra time you could put toward flossing if you didn't have to read "Goodnight Moon" 400 times every night.