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Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Hat Crisis

An 18 year old cat lives at our house. His name is Frederick, and he and I have a very long history together. He became a fixture in my life before I was old enough to drive a motor vehicle and has remained a fixture through countless moves, including cross-country ones. Ironically, after putting a whole lot of miles on the furry feline, we have ultimately settled down within a half hour's drive of his original adoption site (the local Humane Society). Suffice it to say that Frederick has staked his claim in my heart over the years and therefore has numerous rights and fringe benefits in my home, not to mention that I put up with some of his quirks that have come with his age. I figure he deserves at least that much grace as he also tolerates little Zoe amazingly well. She loves the "nice kitty" and never misses an opportunity to poke at his nose or examine his paws or tickle her face with his tail. He gets lots of kisses and pats from wee little hands and never acts cross towards her. Zoe endearingly calls him "Freggit" (which does sound quite a bit like a NOT politically correct reference to two members of the male sex enjoying each other for more than just friendship).

One of the quirks I tolerate from the old man (by which I am refering to Frederick, not my husband--at least in this case) is his tendency to occaisionally, sometimes frequently, barf in interesting places around the house. I figure he's been around a long time and in cat years he is actually about 86 years old. When I am 86 years old I will probably have a few more quirks than an occaisional barf. While I tolerate this, it is a major pain to deal with cleaning up a cat barf pile with a curious toddler at your heals.

Saturdays are errand days for us. Somewhere between breakfast and gathering up the piles of gear necessary in order to go anywhere with a young toddler, I discovered a small barf spot on the carpet. I quickly cleaned it up and returned to the duties of piling up more toddler gear--including the singing chicken or dancing duck or whatever it is that Great Uncle Ron and Great Aunt Pat sent Zoe for Easter. As I was rummaging upstairs for gear, Brian was hauling the piles out to the family-mobile. Then I heard his voice calling up the stairs, "I found the rest of the cat barf, and this could be a problem." Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to toddler issues or geriatric cats, so while I was curious, I remained un-fazed. Then the voice calling up the stairs commented something about the barf involving Zoe's hat. Hmmmm...this could be a crisis. A year ago Great Uncle Ron and Great Aunt Pat gave Zoe a big floppy striped sun bonnet with a pink flower on it. From the day that hat came into her life, Zoe has had to wear it everywhere. Rain or shine, church, shopping, park, none of it matters except that when we hit the door, that hat better be on her head. Yes, this could be a problem.

I descended the stairs, already problem solving in my head as to how we could convince the wee one that she did not need to wear the big floppy sun bonnet today. Then I stooped over the hat, which had found its resting spot on the floor just inside the door the night before, and I surveyed the damage. The wee one was at my heels and squatted down beside me in like fashion to see what I was studying. There, on the striped sun bonnet, was an interesting specimen of cat barf. Now, forgive the brief graphic nature of this description, but I must include it in order to make my point. This particular cat barf was a hairball. For those who do not have cats in their homes and have never seen a gagged up hairball, it looks rather like...well...a dry, hairy cat turd.

As I hunched over the mess in silence, pondering the best way to handle the whole thing, the wee one exclaimed, "Poop! Hat! Poop!" Uh-oh. Here we go. I remained silent, except to stifle a giggle I couldn't resist. Next the wee one exclaims, "Oh Shoot!" This time I laughed out loud, but didn't bother to correct her about the poop factor. I figured it mattered little to her whether it was poop or barf, though I was relieved it was indeed barf and thus lacking the sharp odor that would accompany it otherwise. As I scooped it up, I calmly said, "Mommy will wash it and it will all be okay." The wee one toddled along behind me all the way to the laundry room exclaiming "Poopy hat! Poopy hat!" I wondered how many strangers we would meet on our excursions that day who would hear about the "poopy hat." Fortunately we were able to convince the wee one to don a different bonnet, and we didn't hear anything else about the "poopy hat."

I will wrap up this tale by assuring you that the hat was later tossed in the washing machine and now looks good as new. "Freggit" has long since resumed his usual lounging posture on the couch, clueless and un-concerned with such matters as to what are the consequences of his barfing. Business around our home is back to usual, which means you never know what interesting thing may happen next. Living with a toddler and a geriatric cat assures us of that.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

My New Bug!

Zoe got another new bug from Great Uncle Ron and Great Aunt Pat. She thinks it's pretty neat and likes to carry it around by its antennae. She has just learned how to say "Thank you!" which Great Uncle Ron heard over the phone a couple days ago (that was the first time I'd ever heard her say it, too).

Incidentally, we have been working on manners. Last week I entered a store with her right after she had been sucking down milk in the car. We no sooner got inside the door of this store and were greeted by a salesperson when Zoe horked out a big ol' belch sounding much like a grown man who had just downed a few Budweisers. She then proudly and matter-of-factly stated "Burp!" I cringed inside, wondering who she was learning this stuff from. Then I told her whenever she burps, she needs to say "Excuse Me!" What follwed was a long and repetitious string of babbling with a few discernable words here and there such as "...burp...scu'me...burp...scu'me...." Sure enough, later that evening after she burped she followed it proudly with, "Scu'me."

Now she's also grasped "Thank you!" and frequently follows it by telling herself "You're welcome!"

A couple months ago I had had my fill of the frustrated toddler whining whenever Zoe had trouble doing something by herself. I began teaching her not to whine and just say "Help, Please." Now she almost always says this instead of whinig or throwing a little fit. What really gets me is when she wants something like her milk or juice out of the fridge and I don't respond quickly enough. She pauses and looks right at me before sweetly saying "Please!" Who can refuse that?

Our current delimma is how to deal with Zoe's habit of proudly stating "Toot!" whenever she passes gas. I'm afraid that her daddy and I have unintentionally influenced this habit. When she was a newborn and we were the typical giddy new parents, thinking everything she did was so totally cute and precious (including filling her pants and passing gas) we would say "toot!" to her when she passed gas. It always made her grin or giggle. I never understood this strange phenomenon among new parents who thought that these bodily functions of their babies were just so precious. Yet, there I was, a new parent annoying the heck out of our childless counterparts who didn't share our sentiments about our daughter's poopy diapers. Granted, the habit of poudly announcing the passing of gas is a practice that many grown men in our culture continue throughout their lives, never feeling the need to change. However, even if my daughter were granted the same social "overlooking" as is too often granted to certain beer swirling, belly scratching grown men, I definitey do not want my daughter learning to belch and fart like the best of them.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Diversionary tactics

Zoe loves to cuddle and "snuggle" and be held. She's always been that way. From the day she was born, I had to hold her almost non-stop. Even now, as a 19 month old, she loves to be held close, especially when watching one of her "shows" or at nap time or bedtime. Yes, we still rock her and cuddle her until she falls asleep for bedtime, and most of the time for naptime as well. You can scold us and wag your finger at us if you like, rattling off all the baby rearing literature that says this is a no-no lest you condition your child to have to "forever" be held and rocked to sleep. However, I am not personally aware of any teenagers or adults (or even pre-teens, for that matter) who have never outgrown this and are still requiring to be held and rocked to sleep. I want to hold my child close as long as I can and squeeze and cuddle her as much as she wants. I know all too soon she will decide she is too old for that.

That being said, I cannot hold her everyday through her entire nap, or I would never get a much needed break or a little time for myself. Lately, I've had to get tougher on "Little Miss Love to Snuggle." She has become an expert at coming up with reasons why she just cannot go to sleep yet. She's got to have all her favorite cuddling items: BOTH her taggie books (one was a "back up" we purchased after Zoe got the flu once and we realized she could barf all over it and we'd be in trouble). She discovered the "back up" one day and knew it was a different one because the care tag on it is not worn out and frayed like her orignal beloved. She prefers the old one, and is not tricked into accepting the new one in its place. Lately, she has to have them both before agreeing to go to sleep. She also has to have her "blankie" which is a baby quilt Grandma H made her.

After getting all the props in place and settling in the rocking chair with the lights out, she decides that it's time to go "poopy" (which, by the way, she never lets me know unless it is time to go to sleep--and whenever I honor her request to use the potty chair at these strategic moments, she produces nothing). Other reasons are "cup" or "wa wa." For this, I've recently resorted to keeping a cup of water hidden by the rocking chair. The other night (before I decided to begin hiding this cup by the chair) she insisted on "cup" and I tried to ignore her. Her little innocent face kept poking into mine with a pure look of sincerity as she repeated "cup" like a broken record. Finally, I gave in, taking her with me to get her a cup of water. She squealed with delight, and I thought to myself, "Boy, has she got me wrapped around her figner!" So I said to her, rather sternly, "Okay, we will get your cup. But after you have a drink, it's time to go night night!" So here's what the precious one did next: she snuggled up against me in the rocking chair with her taggie books in one hand and her little arms wrapped tightly around her cup, sipping away in the dark until she decided she'd had enough. Then she handed me her cup, looked into my eyes, and matter-of-factly said, "Night night" as if she was intent on keeping her side of the bargain, and sure enough...went right to sleep.

It's times like that that take the edge off my frustrations and prompt me not to get too angry or overly irritated with my little daughter. It's also times like that when I ask God whatever in the world could I have done to be blessed with such a little angel.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Tinky Winky Comes to Play ("Uh Oh!")

I'm afraid Brian is never going to forgive me for introducing Zoe to the realm of Tinky Winky and his teletubby buddies. While I am quite tolerant of most children's television, even enjoying some of the shows, Brian is much less tolerant. Especially when it comes to chubby purple male cherubs toting red purses.

Zoe is now obsessed with the whole Teletubbies deal. She has been asking for them everyday. Today she must have understood when I told her they were not on until after lunch. She finally quit asking until halfway through lunch. Then, perched in her highchair with a mouthful of hamburger, came a sudden insistence of "Tubbies! Down! Tubbies!" as if she just remembered my promise. I managed to convince her that it still wasn't time for the "Tubbies" and she had time to finish her lunch. Unfortunately (for Zoe at least), the "Tubbies" only play Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday it's the BooBaah's. Now...let me take a brief tangeant here.... I once thought the Teletubbies was the weirdest children's tv show ever. However, I must now emphatically insist that the BooBaah's completely "out-weird" the Teletubbies. I still cannot figure out what a BooBaah is (though I cannot figure out what a teletubby is either) current speculation is that a BooBaah is the seed of a milkweed. At the beginning of the show it appears that each BooBaah "hatches" out of some wild, colorful, alien form of a milkweed pod. At any rate, Zoe seemed appeased today with the BooBaah's--at least temporarily.

Zoe's favorite part of the "Tubbies" is when the great "baby sun god" rises in the sky and squeals and laughs, prompting Zoe to squeal and laugh in like fashion. When the "Tubbies" dance, Zoe must copy their dance moves, twirling and bouncing like the roundish imps that mysteriously broadcast television through their tummies. She also loves it when the tubbies take turns saying "Uh oh!" over and over again. In light of such shows as Teletubbies and BooBaah's, I am convinced that I too could write a children's program and be at least as successful (and a lot richer than I am currently).

Though Zoe appeared to settle for the BooBaah's today, she never did entirely forget the "Tubbies." I had to wake her up from her nap to drop her off at Brian's office on my way to work. Upon awakening, eyes still puffy and completely groggy in a sleep-like stupor, the first word out of Dear Daughter's mouth was, "Tubbies!" Lord help me...I fear my husband may strangle me for allowing this new toddler interest to emerge. In an attempt to redeem myself, I've had to remind him that it COULD be worse: at least Dear Daughter isn't infatuated with the big purple dinosaur (Or Fred Rogers--God rest his soul--as Uncle Ron and Aunt Pat will never let me forget!)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Swimming Pool in the Living Room

Being the parent of a toddler is great fun. You get to be silly nearly all of the time, and you can blame it on your 1 1/2 year old. You can do silly things like jump on the bed (thanks to Grandpa and Grandma H for staring that tradition), run, stomp, and dance around the house while squealing and making cat noises, make funny animal noises, sing silly songs with made up lyrics, watch silly children's tv shows (I've learned some good Spanish by watching Sesame Street in the past several months), put on any music with a beat and dance yourself silly, take the clean underpants out of the clothes dryer and wear them on your head (Zoe started this one when she was helping me do laundry one day), and set up the inflatable toddler size swimming pool in your living room.

It all started when Zoe was in the garage with me one day and spied her pool. We had not managed to deflate it for storage, so there it was, leaning on one side against the wall in its full glory and size. Zoe squealed when she spotted it, and began shrieking "Wa wa! Wa wa!" I tend to let Zoe do whatever her little heart desires at this stage as long as she is not hurting herself or anyone else. So, with that in mind, I pulled the pool down to the floor and helped my bursting daughter climb into it. What ensued was a crazy stomping dance mixed with shrieks of "Wa wa! Nap! Wa wa! Nap! Nuggle! Nap! Nuggle!" and then a rolling around, lying on her stomach and wiggling and squirming sort of manuever. This went on for several minutes. It really was not at all warm in the garage, and that explains why we've had the inflatable swimming pool in the middle of the living room for the past several days.

For some reason, Zoe likes to lie down in it and act like she's napping in between shrieks of "Nap!" and "Nuggle!" Other times she just likes to drag her toys into it and play, and still other times she demands "Down!" which I've figured out means to turn it upside down over a pile of oversized pillows to create a simulated "toddler mountain" which she loves to climb up and then squirm back down.

Life has become quite silly and unpredictable around our house. As long as we keep our sense of humor, it's usually a good time.