Monday, September 30, 2013

Today My Son Ate a Pancake Out of the Trashcan (and other parenting fails)

Sometimes there are a few leftover pancakes from the batch. It's hard to make the right amount, isn't it? I used to put them in a ziplock bag on the counter for the next day. Nobody wanted to eat them the next day. I tried freezing them. They gathered frostbite and took up valuable space in our smallish freezer for a few months. Until I would discover them one day in a rare moment of deep cleaning and decide it was time for them to go.

I mean really, what can you do about leftover pancakes? They're sort of like the problem of overdue library books. You secretly hope they'll go away on their own, but the problem just becomes bigger.
(Okay, I totally know that overdue library books don't go away on their own... but one can wish, right?)

I don't like to waste food. But this time I decided to just throw them away and be done.

Well, my youngest, Drew, is in the middle of the Loving-to-Throw-Away-Trash stage, a milestone I neglected to mention in my post on stages they don't tell you about last week. While throwing away some random speck of something he found on the floor in some random part of the house, he discovered a pancake. I know what he was thinking: "Hurray! A pancake snack! How serendipitous!"

Monday, September 23, 2013

Conversations with Batman: On Brotherly Love

Whenever I post about the boys on Facebook, people always tell me, "You should put these stories in a book!" Fortunately, my wonderful little brother has done that for me the last 2 years (here's hoping for a third!), so it's fun to look back at all the funny, cute, and silly things that happen between the boys. Here are a few "mini stories" about brotherly love...

February 27, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 2 months old
At the store tonight, Drew was riding in his car seat in the cart. He was crying, so I was rocking the car seat to calm him down. Jacob wanted a turn rocking the car seat, so after I got Drew to stop crying, I said, "Okay Jacob, it's your turn now." Jacob looks at Drew and says, "But he's not crying anymore," and then bursts into tears. And the kids win again!

June 3, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 5 months old
Jacob to Drew this morning: "Drew, I'm not going to tickle you if you're whining and crying. Here's what has to happen. First I need to eat breakfast, then I can tickle you, and then when you get crabby, you can take a nap and I can watch a movie."

June 11, 2013
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 5 months old
Jacob: Mommy, I want you to make Drew say, "I wish I could have fruit loops for breakfast."
Me: Okay, Drew says, "I wish I could have fruit loops for breakfast."
Jacob: No, Drew. You're a baby. You only eat milk. Mommy, now make Drew say, "But I really want fruit loops."
Me: Okay Drew says, "Bu I really want fruit loops."
Jacob: (sighs dramatically) "You talk to him, Mommy."

June 16, 2013
Jacob 3 years old; Drew 5 months old
Me: Look, Jacob, Drew found the fish on his play mat.
Jacob: Can Drew get a sticker?
Me: Drew doesn't have a sticker chart.
Jacob: I will share my sticker chart.

Nice try, bud.

June 28, 2013
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 6 months old
Jacob: Why didn't your tummy broke when Drew came out?
Me: Because that's how mommies are made. Their tummies don't break when babies come out.
Jacob: Is there another baby in your tummy?
Me: No.
Jacob: I really like two babies. Then you could have one to feed, and I could have one to feed.
Me: You'd like that?
Jacob: Mm hmm. I could feed Drew and you could feed the new baby. I really love Drew.

July 8, 2013
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 6 months old
Jacob: Drew, you can't watch the dinosaur movie. You have to take a nap.
Me: Maybe Drew can just dream about dinosaurs.
Jacob: Drew, dinosaurs are really scary.
Me: Okay, maybe Drew can dream about puppies.
Jacob: Puppies might bark at you Drew.
Me: Maybe he can dream about chickens.
Jacob: Chickens might poop on you, Drew.
Me: Then Drew can dream about fish.
Jacob: Fish might make you all yucky. And you would say, eww! Gross!
Me: Okay, Drew can dream about horses.
Jacob: Okay. Horses are good.

August 9, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 7 months old
This just about sums up today:

"No, it's my turn to cry, Drew!" - Jacob

August 16, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 7 months old
Today Jacob said to Drew, "Stop crying, Drew. Your crying makes my ears hurt. It makes my ears want to die."

The writer in me is sort of proud of his understanding of hyperbole. The mom in me is slightly disturbed.

September 8, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 8 months old
Jacob to Drew this morning: "You have oatmeal all over your face, Drew. I bet I could eat you after I finish my scrambled eggs."

September 8, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 8 months old
I guess Jacob has it out for Drew this morning: "It's time for you to go back in mommy's tummy!"

September 10, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 8 months old
Jacob is at preschool, which means Drew has free reign over all the toys in the living room. I think it may be the best morning of his life.

September 18, 2012
Jacob 3 years old; Drew, 8 months old
While riding his red plastic motorcycle...

Jacob: Now I'm going to run over you, Drew!
Me: No you're not.
Jacob: Okay, then I'm going to shoot fire out of the back of my motorcycle at you, Drew!
Me: Okay, that's fine.

September 21, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 8 months old
Jacob is feeding Drew while I work in the kitchen. I am a genius.

October 4, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 9 months old
Jacob: Drew, you are weird. Definitely weird.
Me: Why is Drew weird?
Jacob: Because he just grabs trash. He thinks he's a garbage truck.

October 18, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 9 months old
"Isn't she a beauty, Drew?" - Jacob, about the race car carts at Hy-Vee

October 21, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 9 months old
During dinner, Drew threw his cup on the floor off of his high chair. Jacob picked it up for him and said, "We're not playing right now, Drew. I'm trying to eat my dinner." When Drew immediately threw the cup on the floor again, Jacob scowled and said, "That's it. I'm not getting your cup anymore."... Two words: poetic justice.

October 29, 2012
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 10 months old
Me: Look, Jacob! Drew is standing all by himself.
Jacob: Drew! You're standing all by yourself! I'm so proud of you! You really are changing into a big boy!

January 10, 2013
Jacob, 3 years old; Drew, 1 year old
Jacob: I wish I could be a daddy so I could do whatever I want.
Me: Did you know that once when you were 2 you asked me why I was tired, and I said it was hard work being a Mama? Then I asked if you if it was hard work being a kid, and you told me it's good to be a kid.
Jacob: I know, but it's hard work being a brother.
Me: Why is it hard to be a brother?
Jacob: It's hard not to do naughty things to your baby brother.

True enough.

February 27, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew, 13 months old
Me: Daddy doesn't want to have any more kids in our family.
Jacob: Aww man, why?
Me: He thinks two is enough. How many do you think is enough?
Jacob: I think one is enough.

March 7, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew, 14 months old
"If you get in the dishwasher, you'll get super super messy, and your outfit will get messy, and our whole baby will be ruined and won't be the cutest baby anymore. So that's why you can't get in the dishwasher, Drew." - Jacob

May 1, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew, 16 months old
Drew slipped in the tub and split his chin open. He may have bit his tongue too -- I'm not really sure, but there was a lot of blood until we got it under control. Jacob's commentary during this event:

"I don't ever want my mouth to bleed like that." 

"Make that water go away. I want new bathwater. Drew ruined that water with blood. Sorry, Drew, but you didn't make a very good bath for me." 

Clearly the sympathetic older brother!

May 10, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew, 16 months old
Jacob and Drew were playing so nicely down at the end of the hallway that for awhile I "hid" in the kitchen and sun room so I wouldn't distract them. When I finally decided to check on them to see what they were doing, I found them playing with a handful of sharp toothpicks, a few wooden skewers and 2 cork screws.

May 26, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew 17 months old
Recently Jacob figured out how to defeat the child proofing on our cabinets. Now Drew can do it too. Coincidence or conspiracy?

August 24, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew, 20 months old
"Drew's diaper is really stinky. It's wafting over here." - Jacob
Wafting? Where did he pick that up?

August 28, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew, 20 months old
Yep, the boys actually had this fight this morning...

Jacob: Drew, I took away your super powers!
(Drew starts crying)
Me: Jacob, that's not nice. Give him his super powers back.
(Drew stops crying)
Jacob: But his super powers are bad!
Me: Drew, are you going to use your super powers to do good things?
(Drew shakes his head no)
Me: Are you going to use your super powers to do bad things?
Drew: Uh huh.
Me: Well, then I'm sorry, Drew. You can't have them back.
Jacob: Here, I'll go throw his super powers in the trash.
Me: No, we'll save them for later for when he's ready to use them for good.
Jacob: Okay.

September 15, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew, 20 months old
Apparently Jacob is ready to potty train Drew. He took him in the bathroom with him today and I overheard this...

"Now you sit on the little potty and I'll use the big potty. You're not ready for the big potty yet. Sit down now... yep... now push..... Did anything come out?...... Nope.... I wish we were experts at knowing when you needed to go potty."

September 19, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew, 20 months old
Jacob, Drew, and the talking lawn mower playing this morning...

Lawn Mower: It's time to fill up the gas! Where is the gas?
Jacob: No, Drew, that's the oil!
Lawn Mower: We need the gas!
Jacob: Not that one, Drew!
Lawn Mower: We need the gas!
Jacob: It's this one, Drew!
Lawn Mower: Great job!
Jacob: Bad job, Drew.

September 28, 2013
Jacob, 4 years old; Drew, 21 months old
While I was cleaning the kitchen, Jacob took Drew into the bathroom. When I went to check on them, I discovered that Jacob had taken Drew's pants and diaper off, Drew had used the potty chair and was working on getting his pants back on. He had managed one leg. We haven't started potty training Drew, but apparently Jacob has.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What The Ant Farm Makers Don't Want You To Know

Here's the thing about an ant farm. When your 4-year-old son expresses an interest in having one, it seems like a great educational opportunity. It seems like a chance to learn about insects and see them in action while providing hours of entertainment. Plus, as far as caged pets go, it seems easier than fish, less scary than a snake, less gross than a bird, and less emotionally traumatizing when they die than a hamster. So as you're standing there in Hobby Lobby looking at the ant farms, you think there really isn't a downside to this scenario, right?

Well, you would be wrong.

Here is what the box said:

But, let's be honest... while there is some truth in the claim, "FUN for the whole FAMILY!", it's far from comprehensive. In case anyone out there is thinking about buying an ant farm for your 4-year-old son, here is what should have been on the box:

Bring Stinging Ants Into Your Home!

So apparently, the kind of ants that work best in ant farms are called harvester ants. They're big, fat juicy ants that dig really great tunnels in the sand. Oh, and they also sting.

Since the ants don't come in the box with the farm, you submit an order form and then patiently wait for your tube of thirty, giant stinging ants to arrive. Happy mailbox opening.

Teach and Learn New Torture Techniques!

Once you get your mail order ants, there's the challenge of getting them in the ant farm. The slot you're supposed to dump them in is pretty tiny. So here you have a tube of thirty giant stinging ants (who will be hungry from their travels through the mail, the pamphlet informs me), and a clearly insufficient slot to transport them through.

Fortunately, however, the ant farm instructions have this problem covered. Just put your tube of famished, stinging ants into the fridge for ten minutes or so. Chill them to the point that they stop moving but haven't died yet. Then slide the little buggers in. Moral of the story for your 4-year-old: when you're having trouble getting someone to do what you want them to do, just chill them in the fridge until they relent. Problem solved.

Watch Them Bury Their Dead!

Ants apparently bury their dead. Which is just awesome when you have an ant farm because not only do you get to see a cross-section of an ant habitat... you also get a cross-section of an ant graveyard. A two-for-one!

Here's the thing about the dead ants, though. To us non-ants, it's pretty much impossible to tell the difference between a dead ant and a sleeping ant. When they sleep, they curl up in a ball and lie very still somewhere along one of the tunnels--sometimes on their backs with their legs up in the air. So, sometimes you think half your ants are dead, only to find out later that they were just sleeping. Which turns out to be pretty disappointing.

Dream About Eating Them!

After you've made it through the ominous mailbox-checking stage, the refrigerator torture techniques, and the undead ants phenomena, the creepy factor really starts to set in. You've been living with these ants for a while now and had a number of strange experiences with them. That's when you start having dreams about them. Dreams like... baking the ants into cookies, for example. Because when you've got a clear container full of sand, a bunch of ants inside (many of which are not moving) it can look a bit like, well, a twisted version of chocolate chip cookie dough. Just try enjoying a chocolate chip cookie after that.

Frighten Small Children!

If you have an intelligent, logical 4-year-old, he has realized at some point during this process that you, in fact, are crazy. He is smarter than you because he decides he does not want to bring the stinging ants into his room. He's not even sure he's comfortable having them in the house at all. Would the garage not be a better place for them?

And you're thinking, there is no good place for them. The house is not a good place, but then neither is the yard where they might crawl around and feast on bare feet. You briefly consider the toilet as a viable option, but what if they can swim back up stream? So you're stuck with a wait-out-the-clock situation.

Now don't get me wrong, the tunnels are admittedly cool, the ants' work ethic is impressive, and watching the ants is mildly entertaining. But, when you're imagining ants escaping and hiding under furniture and dreaming about baking them into cookies, the 90-day lifespan seems too long. To be precise, it seems about... oh... 85 days too long. And that's what the ant farm people really don't want you to know.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Toddler Milestones They Don't Tell You About

Eating solid food, walking, talking—everyone knows about these milestones. But there are critical stages in toddler development that the books don’t talk about. Fortunately, for any parents-to-be about there, I have outlined these missing stages below that my youngest son Drew is going through. You can thank me later.

Begging at the Grocery Store

This is one of those milestones that can be confusing for parents. I’ve heard parents of newborns say that their children exhibit this ability because their children cry vigorously while shopping, earning some impressive stares from other shoppers. Labeling this behavior as “begging at the grocery store,” however, is like calling “chewing on toys” the same thing as “eating solids.”

True begging at the grocery store is specific, and I’m happy to say that Drew has been exhibiting this ability for a few months now. A brightly packaged item is spotted, an immediate desire is formed, and a full-fledged physical effort to obtain the desired item ensues. This behavior can include, but is not limited to, reaching from the cart, unbuckling the seatbelt and standing up, whining, begging, and knocking other items off the shelves. If your child is doing these things, you can sigh with gratitude that your child is developing normally.

Elmo Infatuation

There’s something about those big, round eyes, that silly orange nose, and that friendly red face that submits subliminal messages to your child once he reaches a certain age. Those messages activate the Elmo receptors in the brain, causing a child who had no interest in this strange creature the day before to develop an instant, irrevocable infatuation.

My son Drew has reached the Elmo-infatuation stage of development—a full two months ahead of his average peers. It goes without saying that we are pleased beyond belief and have posted his exceptionality on Facebook. Most days, he maintains a death grip on Elmo for 15-20 minutes. His advancement in the death grip area balances out our concern about the fact that he makes monkey noises when he sees Elmo. We can understand his species confusion here, because really, what is Elmo anyway?

Collapsing on the Floor in a Fit of Despair

This is a milestone that is shockingly overlooked in printed books and on the web. I’ve seen toddlers as old as two years old still resorting to simple crying when they don’t get their way. I’m often tempted to point it out to the parents—have they talked to their pediatrician? Have they considered seeing a collapsing-on-the-floor-in-a-fit-of-despair (COTFIAFOD) therapist? But, I don’t want to make them feel bad because of my own child’s giftedness.

Drew has recently mastered COTFIAFOD. For those of you wondering if your child is doing it yet or not—those first few times can often be ambiguous—keep in mind that rolling on the floor alone is not sufficient. It’s important that he begins in a standing position and then allows all muscles to give way at once in proper wet-noodle form, thus achieving a true collapse.


Nose-picking is an underrated skill in modern, civilized society. Especially since some scientists think it’s an instinct that evolved to boost your immune system. Fortunately, our little ones seemed to be hard-wired to achieve this developmental milestone. It usually comes shortly after the COTFIAFOD milestone, or sometimes in tandem. Experienced parents will tell you that it is the combination of these two milestones that signals the end of babyhood. We’re up to 3-4 boogers per day consumed, almost making it Drew’s favorite food (second only to milk, of course). Not that we’re bragging.

Pointless Fighting with Your Sibling

Early “fighting with your sibling” may begin as young as eight to nine months old. These fights, however, often arise out of some real—or at least perceived as real—conflict. What differentiates this toddler milestone from earlier examples is the pointlessness.

Your brother happens to be standing next to you, so you pop him on the head. He’s asleep on the couch, so you climb on top of him. You find yourself with a foam sword in your hand, so you give him a good whack. Not for any reason. Not out of anger. Just because you can. Whenever I see Drew give Jake a good pop on the head, I admit I get a little teary-eyed. He’s growing up so fast.

Did I miss any critical milestones neglected in the parenting handbooks? Feel free to add them below.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Superman: The Tragedy

Superman: The Movie
Recently, in a moment of parenting genius, I decided to let Jacob watch "Superman: The Movie." Since he's four years old and I remembered it being a pretty tame movie (rated PG in the 70s), I thought it would be fine. Well, clearly my memory wasn't that great... and fine it was not.

You maybe haven't seen this movie in a while, so let me refresh your memory about what happens. First of all, we spend an awfully long time at the beginning on the planet of Krypton, which is about to blow up. Superman is a baby at this point getting ready to be shipped off to earth. Jacob's commentary:

"I’m afraid about the baby."

The planet blows up (which is quite concerning to Jacob, since Superman's parents are on the planet), and Superman flies away to earth. On earth, Superman gets adopted and becomes Clark Kent. Things seem to be going okay now... for about five minutes. Then Superman's adopted dad kicks the bucket too (heart attack).  Jacob's commentary:

"I’m afraid about Superman’s parents."

Eventually Superman goes up north and takes the green rock with him (the codex that came with him in his space ship). He chucks it across the frozen land, and the fortress of solitude emerges. Jacob's commentary:

"I'm sad that he didn't like the green thing. I'm sad that he littered his dad's gift."

Superman's dad appears in the fortress of solitude in a kind of icy vision. Hurray! But... when he's done talking to Superman, this icy hologram breaks up into a bunch of pieces in a 1970s special effect. Jacob's commentary:

"Man, this is a pretty sad movie. First the red planet exploded. Then Superman’s dad broke into ice. I just want Superman to be a baby again when everyone loved him."

The rest of the movie was not so bad after that, but after the first hour being, well, "pretty sad," it hardly redeems itself.

So, note to self: next time check for recommended viewing age before showing "Superman: The Tragedy" to 4-year-old son.
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