Tuesday, December 20, 2011


We like to celebrate the achievement of goals.  Some in our culture might call that being pro-victory.  Regardless of your political views, being pro-victory in the Bushlack household means celebrating accomplishments.  Some major ones for the adults are Tom completing his PhD and my last day of work on August 1, 2011.  Some major ones for the kids are Audrey rolling over (to which we respond with clapping and shouting "hooray, Audrey!") and Sean beginning to show more signs of wanting to potty train.  In September I thought Sean was ready to start potty training after we hosted a string of visitors who had 3-year-olds who were potty training (thank you, Victoria and Mia, for shining a "light' in the bathroom, a 'light' on the training potty).  He showed some minimal interest then and I jumped all over it: I bought Disney's Cars stickers from Target, Sean and Tom drew a 11X14 picture of a road, and we encouraged Sean that any time he tried sitting on the potty he could get a Cars sticker to put on the road.  He got three of them.  That was back in September. 

Just the other day Sean complained that he does not like changing his diaper.  He says the wipes are too cold.  Call me old fashioned, but I have not invested in a wipe-warmer, and now I'm glad that we have not.  I told him that if he didn't want to use the cold wipes anymore, he could start sitting on the potty and we could use toilet paper.  Something clicked in his brain (or perhaps his cold, cold butt cheeks revolted) because he agreed to sit on the potty.  Now the 11X14 piece of paper is filled with cars.  Up and down that road, they are two by two, and sometimes piled on top of each other.  It makes my heart happy.  He's not yet potty trained, per se, but the possibility of him becoming potty trained is there.  The potential ability of him to be more in tuned with his body exists and we are working on it.  Hooray, Seancito!

This morning, Sean found his own way to celebrate.  He is the definition of pro-victory.  I asked him if he wanted to use the potty this morning, and he responded, "yes!" and jumped up and ran, pants-less, to the bathroom.  At the door, he turned to look at me and said, "Mom, I need some priwacy."  read: privacy.  (other convoluted yet charming Seancito words include "patterkillers" for caterpillars, "chicken" for the kitchen, "member" for remember, and "tending" for pretending, just to name a few.)  I allowed him this space.  I thought this yet another pro-victory moment! Not only is he learning to use the potty, but he's learning that he needs privacy to do it.  I applauded this request in my brain.  After a couple minutes in the bathroom, he came storming out, as he has done a number of times this week, shouting, "I peed in the potty!"

I was so excited, I celebrated with him, told him how proud I was of him and then headed in to inspect the potty myself.  When I looked into the small training potty, I didn't see any gathering of urine.  I questioned Sean about the lack of pee.

me: Hey, buddy, where's the pee?

Seancito: Huh?

(We've heard "huh" a lot recently from him.  As a mother of a tantrum-proned toddler, I relayed to Tom that we should not indulge the repeating of ourselves over and over again.  I indicated that this "huh" business was just Sean's way of drawing out moments, stall tactics.  It was only last week when we had his hearing checked and ear-tubes inspected that we learned he has minor hearing loss in the left ear due to one tube falling out and fluid behind the ear drum.  Nothing too serious, nothing that a replacement tube can't fix, but the woman testing his hearing told us that until he has a new tube put in we should, "try to speak into his right ear so that he gets clear speech samples."  Brilliant.  Best Mother of the Year award right here.  Thank you very much - I've been angry that he says "huh" so much and he has minimal hearing loss in one ear.  Pro-victory.)

me: where's the pee, Seancito?  You said you peed in the potty?

Seancito:  Yeah!  I peed in the potty!

me:  yes! but where?

Seancito: Huh? oh yeah.  I peed standing up.

I glanced at the outside rim of the potty, speckles of urine in every corner, dotted every which way except for in the basin of the toilet.  He was so thrilled with his new-found  ability to pee on the potty, he decided to celebrate with a little standing-up-peeing.  He's pro-victory.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Curiosity Killed It

Curiosity has been anecdotal-y blamed for killing many a feline.  I might suggest, however, that much more than cats get killed when curiosity takes over.  For example, this morning, in a flurry of gathering items to get ready to leave the house (two kids, coats, hats, gloves, carseat, blanket, toys, snacks, water bottles, box to ship at UPS, laundry tag to pick up coat, items to return to our neighbor, grocery list, directions to grocery store, keys, wallet, cell phone, diaper bag, diapers, wipes, powder, etc.) I completely forgot one crucial item for my day:  deodorant.  As Sean would say, "Oh Man!"  Or as I said to myself a mile from home, thinking of the stench that could emit from my armpits later that day, "Son of a..!"  One might argue that this forgetful moment was not brought to you by curiosity but rather by distraction, and that could be correct.  But the following are examples of when curiosity really stonewalled a situation.

So as to not leave Audrey out of these posts, this first story is about her.  She has been an easier child on us all the way around.  She seems to be mild-mannered, easy going, even-keeled, and any other lackadaisical term you can conjure.  My only point of frustration with her has been in the past two months.  Plagued by ear infections, her sleep has been disrupted.  From the age of 8 weeks, this girl slept through the night, but with ear infections, she has been up every 2, 3 or 4 hours, and this bought me a one-way ticket to crazy town.  Sleeplessness will make me delirious, slap happy, and irritable (hence the posts about me nearly killing a 2 year old I know).  Yet, despite her sleeplessness, Audrey maintains a pleasant attitude.  Even when awake at 3am, she is often smiling, singing, and talking to me.  And even when I think she and I might be nodding off to sleep, her curiosity takes over.  If I could verbalize Audrey's mind, it would go something like this:

Audrey: ahhh, almost to sleep, almost to sleep, eyes fluttering shut, about to snooze.... what is this fabric my hand feels?  Is this a leather chair?  My goodness, this feels funny; I'd like to scratch it: scratching, scratching, scratching.  And here are my fingers, scratching, scratching, scratching.  Well this is interesting!  I didn't know leather feels this way!

I re-position her so that she can't touch the chair.

Audrey: aaaahhh, head on mom's shoulder, relaxing, closing eyes, drifting off to sleep.... what is that shadow I see?  It seems like the faint outline of a flower.  Is that an orchid?  There are many petals on there!  Those are strange flowers!  I like flowers.  Maybe I can talk about that.  Maybe I can think of a song.  Let me try exercising my vocal chords!

I position her away from the orchid, trying to find a dark corner where she can not see anything.

Audrey: aaaaannnnd ready to sleep, a little yawn here, rubbing my eyes there, just snuggling in, it feels great to relax... 

Sean wakes up in the other room screaming - yelling for Tom, wanting someone to help with his blanket.

Audrey: WHAT IS THAT I HEAR?  Is that my brother? Where is he? Can I see him?  Does he see me?  Can we play together? Can I talk to him?  I will try talking to him.  I will waive my arms and try to talk to him.  I will use my vocal chords!  I will find out what he needs!

Just last night, Sean and I get into a disagreement about his supper.  He eats his chicken, but he does not want to eat his rice because it has "green stuff" in it (olives).  Fair, that's fair, I don't even know if I really like olives as an adult, so I understand that he doesn't want to eat them.  Fine.  We tell him that he doesn't have to, he can set them aside.  Which he does.  Slowly.  Meticulously.  This process goes so slowly that Sean eventually leaves his uneaten rice to go play with his bus and plane.  However, when he later asks for a cookie and chocolate milk, the response is "no" because he's not finished his dinner.  He goes back and forth from the table to the toys, and while contemplating the rice, the issue grows larger than just the "green stuff."

Sean: Mama, I don't like the yellow things.

me: What yellow things?

Sean: Mama, you take the yellow things out.

me: Sean I don't know what you're talking about: show me the yellow things.

He points at the sauteed onions mixed in with the rice, chopped fine so as to not be too big.

Sean: I fink (read: think) those yellow things.  They are yucky.

me: Sean, I can't remove those, they're onions, and they're mixed in with the rice.  You can either eat them or leave them, but you only get a cookie and chocolate milk if you eat your rice.


He's bouncing up and down in his chair, angry, livid.  This goes on for 30 minutes.  Back and forth between trying to extract the green stuff and yellow things.  Strangely when he tries to remove these things, there's nothing left for him to eat.  This tantrum is escalated when I take the plate from him (of course with ample warning, with the counting to 3, with letting him know that he has one last chance to eat it) because he's not eating anything and it's time to brush teeth.  The tantrum takes a brief hiatus while we read his favorite story (Robert Munsch's Pigs) and say prayers.  I even tell him goodnight and walk out of the room with no tears from him, but 3 minutes later, he is yelling for me.

Sean:  MAAAAAAAAAAmmmmmaaaaaaa!

I hear him stumble out of his bed and make his way to the door, the sound of his yelling getting ever closer.  He slowly makes his way down the hall towards the living room.

Sean:  Maaaaamaaaa!  I have a runny nose!!

me: Well then go get a kleenex and take care of it.

Sean: Maaaaammmmaaaa!  I need you to do it!!

me: No you don't.  Go get it yourself and then throw it away.

He makes his way back to his room, obtains said kleenex and wipes his nose, still crying, still reviling the presence of green stuff and yellow things in his life, ruining all of his fun.  Those things and ME, of course, ruining all of his fun.

Sean:  Maaaaaammmmaaaa!  What do I do with this???!!!

me: Throw it away, Sean.

At this point, Sean completely stops crying.  Utter silence from his bedroom.  I can't see him, but I know in this moment that he is lightly flicking his upper lip, the extra skin from his cleft lip surgery his perfect "thinking spot" for as long as he could maneuver his fingers.

Sean: (curiously and quiety) Where can I throw it away, Mama?

The question is so calm and sane that it's unnerving.

me: Throw it in the trash can.

Sean: Where is the trash can, Mama?

Now this question is cruel, because I have no doubt that's STARING at the trashcan in his room.  I realize that this is only his latest stall tactic for not wanting to get back in bed.

me: It's right there, Sean.

Sean: Right here, Mama?

me: Yes, right there.

Sean: Which one, Mama?  This one right here?

me: Yes, Sean, the trash can right by Audrey's dresser.

We are rooms away, but his quiet voice floats to me like nails on a chalkboard, and I am ever so slightly twitching.  On the inside.

Sean: This trashcan, Mama?

I can hear his lid of the trashcan hitting the wall, a sure sign his foot is on the footpedal, opening and closing the lid.

me: YES! Just throw it away!  In the trashcan!

Sean: Oh. Okay.

Curiosity killed the tantrum.  And it damn near killed me.

Being the Christmas season, we have a nativity set under our tree.  Tom starts the season by telling Sean that he can't play with the set.  That lasted for about an hour and then Sean took all the pieces and has been playing with them ever since.  We've talked about the Christmas story, and we've explained who all the characters are.  Simply put, Sean's curiosity has endangered the lives of every single character in the nativity, except for the baby Jesus.  Thank goodness he's not been born yet, otherwise he, too, might be decimated.  Last night I find Sean hanging one of the wise men by the neck through the back window of the stable - I'm sure in his mind, the wise man was just looking in the window, but from my perspective, it was cruel and unusual punishment for that king. Then after getting in trouble for taking Audrey's toy away from her, I tell Sean he could go find another toy to play with. I tell him that he could go play with his truck or his plane, but that he can not take Audrey's toys away from her.  I return to making supper in the kitchen until I hear Sean yelling something from the living room.  As I round the corner, I see Sean mowing down each of the nativity characters, one by one, with his plane.  Though the characters are as tall as the plane itself, they all meet the same fate.  Curiosity killed it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Merry Christmas

I was at the YMCA with the kids on Monday changing Audrey's diaper on a bench in the middle of the lobby.  This bench sits just outside the studio area where a group of (mainly) middle-aged women were taking a dance class.  At that precise moment, they were dancing to Jeff Buckley's version of Hallejuia, and a woman stopped in the middle of her dancing to come out to the lobby to see me.  She very kindly walked over to our bench and said:

woman: I just had to stop and tell you that there is light coming from you.

me: oh! well, thank you!

woman: it's just, such a lovely light, it's almost like...

and here she touches my face (I'm not kidding) and has tears in her eyes

woman: Mary and child.  it's clear you have so much love for these kids.

me: well, what a nice thing to say, thank you!

Merry Christmas, lady, seriously, that was the sweetest thing someone could have said.  However, this lady did not see me but two hours later dragging a kicking and screaming Seancito from the Babies R Us sidewalk to the car.  This lady did not see him wrestle himself free of my arms long enough to manuever one arm out of his winter coat while one arm stayed in.  She also did not, then, see me when I grabbed Sean around the waist while he twisted and screamed in the parking lot, flinging his body upside down, kicking his feet around my head and nearly passing out because of his lack of oxygen to the brain.  I've had to ask him recently to breathe during these tantrums for fear of him holding his breath too long.  But Merry Christmas all the same.  This woman was sweet as can be, and she highlighted for me a quiet moment where I was appreciating my time with my kids.  For this I am truly grateful.

However, in the same spirit of strangers approaching strangers: it does seem like the holidays encourage more talking amongst those who do not know each other.  I for one would talk to strangers any day of the week, 365 days a year, but this is not the norm, I realize.  Especially here in Minnesota, I'm learning that many strangers do not like to be spoken to out of the blue, so I try to tone down my extrovertedness in public places.  It's a cross I bear.  Today, though, waiting in line at a store, two women behind me decided to strike up conversation.  Again, they must be filled with the holiday spirit and therefore want to reach out to their neighbor - goodwill to all, right?  This conversation, unsolicited by me, I might add, went something like this:

woman #1: you have a lovely baby (referring to a sleeping Audrey in her carseat on the floor.  When walking down the aisles, I would set Audrey down when I wanted to look at something, then pick up the heavy carseat/baby load when I was ready to move again.  Seancito watched this pattern and decided to mimic me.... using his animal crackers box.  I set Audrey down, he sets animal crackers down.  I sway back and forth, he sways back and forth.  I pick Audrey up, he picks animal crackers up.  and so on...)

me: thank you.

Please note, I did not encourage the conversation beyond this point.  I had to call upon my introvertedness, which does not exist, but rather it's a mask I sometimes wear.  I'm not very good at it.

woman #1: (after a brief pause) my baby is 44 years old.

me: Oh, they say it goes by so fast.

In this instance, the "they" to which I refer is every single human being who's ever commented on the passage of time to me regarding children.  This comes from people who have kids as well as people who don't have kids.  I think this is an easy comment to fall back on.   It's right up there with complaining about the weather - when you have nothing else to say, complain about the weather.  When you have nothing else to say, tell young parents that it goes by so fast.

woman #1: it does.  it does.

woman #2: (smiling at me) my baby is 23.

woman #1: boy or girl? (as if we're referring to children!? - let's check ourselves, we're talking about adults)

woman #2: well, the baby is a girl, but we also have a boy.

woman #1: mmm hmmm... and I bet one is more agreeable than the other?

woman #2: well...

woman #1: let me guess, the girl is more agreeable?

woman #2: well...

woman #1: because I tell you what, I can't get my boy to do anything for me.  He won't even come over and cut my grass.

woman #2: actually they are both pretty good...

woman #1: and I put him through private school, too!

Woman #2 is awkwardly trying to avoid eye contact with woman #1.  I HAVE STILL SAID NOTHING.

[long silence]

woman #1: (talking to me again, referring to Sean, his animal crackers, and Audrey, sleeping) well these two are well mannered enough, aren't they?

me: yes, they are good kids.  really sweet kids.

[another long silence]

woman #1: did you hear about the woman on the news who put those two boys in a...what was it?...

woman #2: oh yes, I did, she put them in a...

woman #1: a CAGE.  That's horrible.  As punishment.  That's horrible.

Thankfully at this precise moment I am called up to the cash register.  I pick up the carseat, and Sean picks up his animal crackers.  As we are exiting the store a couple minutes later, woman #1 catches my eye and says,

woman #1: now you have a good day.

me: thanks, you too.

woman #1: Merry Christmas.

me: and to you.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  This is spreading good cheer?  MERRY CHRISTMAS??  The things I have gained from this interaction are as follows:

1. spread Christmas cheer by striking up conversations with people in line at the store.  Regardless of the content of the conversation - and regardless of the reciprocity - this is somehow creating goodwill towards your neighbor.

2. within said conversation where content does not matter make sure to bring up something awful - like abusing children - right in front of young children.  this is sure to be a hit with young mothers everywhere.

3. expect that your girl children will be more agreeable than your boy children.

4. do not send your children to private school because they will never appreciate it.  They are ungrateful creatures anyway.

5. expect that your boy children will cut your grass for you and if they don't, complain about it to people in public.  Somehow, that karma will get back at your ungrateful boy children.

What I leave you with is this: if you're going to wish someone a Merry Christmas in the next couple weeks - or even just a simple Happy Holidays - I recommend going with the YMCA-dancing-class-lady.  Perhaps it was the way the light was streaming through the windows at that moment, or maybe it was all the dancing she was doing that went to her head.  Even if I didn't feel like the Blessed Virgin Mary (in that moment or any other - certainly not two hours later at Babies R Us), it was a human interaction that left me feeling serene, grateful, and peaceful.  That's what we're going for here, people. Then we have example #2.  Don't do that.  Don't ramble on complaining about your ungrateful boy children to strangers.  If nothing else, just say Merry Christmas.