Quotable, Maybe Not Share-able

Hello Friends,

Wife recently brought home this little gem of a book and I thought I would share, both the book and my concern with using it. At face value, My Quotable Kid, appears as advertised: “A parent’s journal of unforgettable quotes.” Published by Chronicle Books, this hand-sized journal seems like a perfect tool to capture the funny things that kids say. The pages are printed with a series of empty, lined thought bubbles and text boxes, ready for filling. One issue that I have with this medium is similar to my concern with blogging in general – how much should I share?

Sweetie is now 6 and her comments are funny and insightful – definitely share-worthy. The Cricket is 3 (almost 4), and while she is sometimes profound and definitely funny, her comments can be surprising.

For the first example, let’s take a look at the naming of our Nissan Versa. So many people name their cars, our family is no different. The other day Cricket decided our car needed a name and that needed to happen…right now. Her suggestion: “Daddy, let’s call our car ‘Blackie’.” Sheesh. Looking at the car, which is black with dark-tinted windows, the name is obvious. Without that image, however, the comment from this child, with her pale “White-Hispanic” complexion, is a bit cringy.

Moving on, let’s talk food. Kids get their words wrong all the time. Everyone knows that, right? It caused me pause, however, when Cricket ordered lunch the other day by asking for “a big tit of pizza.” Yep, just like that. Again, funny, but it stops you when you hear (or read) that request without context. Okay, not sure what context I can give that one, though.

The last example stems from Cricket’s bathroom use. We had a bad run at the end of the school year where Cricket seemed to forget all of her training. One part of the recovery had Wife encouraging Cricket to hold her pee and walk herself to the bathroom. The other day when I commented that I had to use the toilet, Cricket, ever the helpful child, recommended, “remember Daddy, squeeze your vagina.” Ummm…yeah.

Out of the mouths of babes, eh? Kids say the darndest things, no? My Quotable Kid sits accessibly in our kitchen, just waiting to archive funny sayings like these. While I can’t buffer every quote with some sort of preface, they would spark some fun storytelling with the readers. Got any good quotes to share (Ha! – I know you do!)? Leave them in the comments below!

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Laid Bare

Does your child do this? Strip crayons of their wrapper; exposing the somewhat fragile, somewhat sticky inside, leaving piles of wax paper shrapnel in their wake? This is the Cricket’s latest thing.

Barin' it all

Barin’ it all

I would like to think a naked crayon has a better “feel” and allows her to better express her creativity. Yeah, I am sure her Picasso-esque piece is on its way. Or maybe she is developing her fine motor skills. Chime in Developmental Psychologists. Unfortunately, there is no room for naked crayons in our bag. Oh no, those buff colors are put in their own place for some soon-to-be-discovered awesome recycling project. Suggestions?

Un-wrapper Undercover

Un-wrapper Undercover

Staying Engaged

A while back a longtime friend was telling me about his work-life balance. He explained how he appreciated coming home to his children, entering his home genuinely engaged and mindful of their shared time. He was thinking out loud that his appreciation of family time would be different if he was a stay-at-home Dad, if he was around his kids all day long. Well that got me thinking on my experience.

Of course at-home parents have a different appreciation for the time with their kids. On one hand you get to see more of the subtle changes in your children; you witness more of the small things that make the big differences. And on the other hand, you have to fill eight to eleven hours with activities for people who have an attention span of twenty seconds. This usually means repetition, like re-reading the same stories, playing the same games. And this can get tough as you fight with boredom and try not to disconnect. In the work world this is referred to as “burnout”. Sometimes it can be remedied with a change in work duties, sometimes with a well-deserved vacation. Sometimes, though, it is the sign that it is time for a change. Well these solutions don’t fit so well for the parent/family dynamic though. Even if your spouse takes the kids on an afternoon adventure, it’s not the same thing cause there’s probably laundry to do, somewhere, and toys lying around, everywhere.

Dad gets bored with bathtime

Dad gets bored with bath time

So what to do? I admit that I like routine, but you have to change it up. Sometimes this means breaking routine, going out and doing something at a time of day when you would normally be at home. Sometimes this means imposing your will on your children. For example, I can listen to the Trolls movie soundtrack twice in one day. Any more and I get irritable. So despite protests and tears and gnashing of teeth, it gets shut off. I learned this the hard way when Sweetie fixated on the same four songs off of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. Four of fourteen. So impose away, that’s parenting – hey, I didn’t get to play my music in the car until junior high.

Another great thing to tap into is your creativity (okay, this option is a bit more feel-good too). I like creative activities. When the girls don’t want to play on their own while I change bed sheets, we build a big fort for them. When coloring gets boring we decorate cards for friends and family. It’s essentially the same activity, but the different medium makes it new and fresh. Because here’s the kicker; kids disconnect too. And nothing is more dangerous than a bored child.

Oh yeah, that's B

Oh yeah, that’s butt paste

I have found that if I don’t give the girls something to do, they will find something to do. This usually involves non-toys around the house that I don’t want them to play with (see above). Note to would-be parents: kids are active and require stimulation. Their little hands and brains need to “be doing” constantly. If your kids are like mine, then boredom is the cause for most problems. Again, there a way to prevent things from getting stale and stay engaged. Our experience is activity: we have enrolled the girls in a variety of activities to keep them active and to keep our shared experience fresh. From music-play classes to art at the park district, zoo camps to piano lessons, we have sought out a bunch of activities outside the house.

In reality, boredom is part of everyone’s lives. It happens. I don’t have a D3 guide to staying engaged while at-home with your children all the time. In fact, if any of you have suggestions for activities, please share in the comments section. The best way that I have found for staying engaged is to stay active with varied, creative activities, inside and outside the house. And while it wears me out, it is the most fun way to roll this at-home adventure.

My Heart on a Platter

This post is a bit random, just noting something that occurred at our home. I shared how the girls and I enjoyed Wife’s amended holiday work schedule and having her home more often during the holiday weeks. We weren’t ready for her to go back to her regular schedule, the girls being particularly resistant. Even with school starting back up, Sweetie stuck close to Wife when she was home. So the other day after school I saw her walking a stack of something up to the bench near our front door. This was her something:

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Technically, it’s not a heart, nor a platter. No, that’s a wood cookie tray holding a wood tomato that’s stacked on a plastic slice of bread, flanked by wood carrot halves, all resting on a bed of bean-bag egg yolks. Sweetie told me, “I want to leave this here for Mommy, for when she gets home.” Like an offering. Or a sculpture to profess her adoration.

This became one of those balancing moments as I gently suggested she return the tray to the play kitchen, located on the opposite end of the apartment. Practically speaking, I didn’t want toys stacked all around the narrow entrance way. But I didn’t want to brush off her totem and hurt her little feelings. And this is life with a four year-old child. They are old enough to show emotional development and express it creatively, but they are limited by the narrow scope of their life experiences and the resources that they have to work with. I mean, you can only say so much with Play-Doh. Or in this case, play food. So it becomes a balance of fostering their development while guiding their actions, the whole time trying not to crush their budding aspirations. Wow, that looks like a summary of parenting in general.

Our resolution was to put the tray on Wife’s pillow. There, win-win. Sweetie put her creation in a place of honor for Wife, and I kept my walkway clear of clutter. She felt loved and supported, and I chalked up another note of parenting wisdom. Wood tomatoes for everyone.

Take your kids to McDonald’s, or else…

This is what I get for not taking my girls out to McDonald’s for lunch:

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Yeah, book-case emptied, stuffed animals flung, toys and their respective parts strewn about. All because I didn’t take my girls to McDonald’s.

Well, that might not be entirely correct…

This whirlwind struck while I was making lunch. That would be a home-cooked soup and handmade egg salad sandwich lunch. So technically, this is what I get for making my girls lunch. If we had gone to McDonald’s, someone else would’ve worked on the food. I would’ve monitored their behavior and the storm would’ve never touched down here.

Now this isn’t some rant post about the destructive nature of a toddler (times 2). This is more of a notice to new Dads and potential Dads-to-be. The point of this post is to send home this message: sometimes you need to be away, you need to leave your kids “on their own”.

That’s right, sometimes you need to go downstairs to change over the laundry. Sometimes you need to hole up in a room to clean. Sometimes you need to go to the bathroom…without an audience. Sometimes you need to prepare a meal. So figure out how to do it wisely. Make sure rooms are as safe as they can be (like using outlet covers). Make sure you know the sounds of “normal” kid activity, and stay aware of silence (the telltale sign that something is going on). Try organizing an activity before stepping away. Try making a game where you can pop in and out of the room so you can keep tabs, but still accomplish a task in another area. And for goodness sake, try to keep your absence to an absolute minimum.

The seasoned parents out there will recognize that this room mess was not that bad. In fact, three minutes later, with the help of a few choice big-boy curse words and we had this:

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So again, to the new Dad or soon-to-be Dad, some parting wisdom: keep the messes in perspective, they come with the territory. So much of parenting is a juggling act, just keep trying and learn from the day’s adventures. And sometimes take the kids out for lunch.

It’s the principle

“Ain’t the size [of the scratch] that’s in question here, it’s the principle.”

I was reminded of this quote when Sweetie made some bad decisions at a recent play date. She decided to bring a toy home from her friend’s house, but didn’t bother asking. That’s right – THIEF!

Obviously “life lessons” take all shapes and come from all places. We all know it’s cliché, but yes, even Hollywood can capture a lesson on the big screen. The above quote is from Pharaoh Joe, a character from George Lucas’ movie American Graffiti. American Graffiti is one of George Lucas’ earlier, sometimes overlooked, films. Set in 1962, it is Lucas’ ode to the 60’s, when he was a teenager living in California. The movie draws on his experience and tells a coming of age story involving girls and growing up, cruising and cars.

Cover

One of my favorite scenes shows a heavyhearted Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) brooding in front of an appliance store. He’s sitting on a car fender staring at the window display televisions and listening to the Wolfman Jack radio program.

CurtCruise

Curt is ruminating about a mysterious woman in a white 1956 Thunderbird (Suzanne Somers). They shared a moment when their cars were cruising side-by-side and she looked over at him and smiled.

Who's that lady?

Who’s that blonde?

He’s so caught up in his infatuation (and singing along with the show) that he doesn’t notice three guys walk up on him until they join him at the car.

What are you doin', creep?

What are you doin’, creep?

There is some intimidating banter made by one of the guys, who is Joe (Bo Hopkins) the leader of the Pharaohs car club. He explains that Curt is sitting on a car owned by a friend of the Pharaohs. Curt tries to casually slide off the fender and walk away, but he’s stopped so Joe can show him a scratch across the hood. Curt tries to clean it off with his finger and some spit (very technical repair) and plays the scratch off as being not so big. And then the quote: An obviously frustrated Joe looks at the scratch and declares, “Ain’t the size that’s in question here, it’s the principle”.

Let’s get back to our crime. Sweetie’s friend, code name “Kevin” (he likes Minions) invited us over to play on a vacation day. We had originally met Kevin and his mother, Momstar, over a year ago, but it wasn’t until Sweetie started school that we re-connected with them and learned that they a few blocks away. The day went fine, with the kids making a mess and a racket and generally playing like kids. It wasn’t until we were loaded in the car (“we” also includes the Cricket) that Sweetie pulled a traffic cone out of her pocket. Given that Kevin’s has his train table near the door, I knew she had sticky fingers. Note that the cone is maybe one inch tall, and she has a Duplo cone just like it. So it’s not the size of the stolen toy in question here, it’s the principle.

You stole THIS?!?

You stole THIS?!?

I took the cone away from her and told her that she would be returning it to Kevin the following day after school. I figured this gave her a full day to stew in her guilt. And she immediately started peppering me with questions about the incident. When we got home I sent a “Thank you” text to Momstar, and informed her of the stolen toy. She laughed it off, but she backed my plan for a public return and apology. The next day at pick-up we stepped off to the side and Sweetie returned the toy with no hesitation. Kevin accepted his toy without any drama, and in a matter-of-fact tone told Sweetie, “Next time just don’t take any of my toys home with you.”

Despite feeling infuriated by Sweetie’s theft, I stayed cool throughout the entire incident. When I discovered the toy, I explained that you don’t steal from your friends. I told her that was a sign of disrespect and was not nice. Momstar supported how I chose to address the situation, and again, all was calm. I am well aware that children take things, and getting caught is often the best way they learn not to steal. All In all, I think I made good use of this teachable moment. In American Graffiti, Curt takes a ride with the Pharaohs, and through their misadventures they become friends. While my approach was not as cool as cruising around town in a chop-top ’51 Merc, I think Sweetie got the point. And I know it’s better to collect friends like Kevin who share their toys versus ones that steal quarters from pinball machines for gas money.

PharoahJoe

Random Thought for Thursday: Ca-Ca, Ma-Ma, Da-Da

I am a firm believer that a child’s early lexicon is a direct representation of their environment. An unfiltered reflection of what they are living. We are reaching a point where Cricket’s babbling is starting to shape up into words. As you can guess by the title, Cricket’s three favorite words are Ca-Ca, Ma-Ma, and Da-Da. Oh yes, in that order.

I figure she is gaining an awareness of her body and what is happening to her. And her words are reflecting this experience. Poop is gross and uncomfortable, so she is learning to advise us when she is soiled. That’s the ideal. Of course right now just about everything is “Ca-Ca” (which is very easy to mistake for “gracias”, her number 4 favorite word). Everything except Wife, who of course is “Ma-Ma”. Now Mother is the Source, right? She is the fount of life from conception until she is not. So there’s no surprise that Ma-Ma is a favorite. And me? Well I’m always around. I’m happy with a top three finish.

Micompadre could chime in here to explain these beginning sounds and early speech development. He knows all about the different language sounds and where we make them and such. But I didn’t feel like interviewing him on the topic. We’ll just keep working with Cricket and see what forms next. We didn’t push Sweetie, and we won’t push Cricket. I don’t want her to tell me, “Da-Da, Ca-Ca.”