Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Prince and the P(illow)

Several months ago, Husband and I attended a "parent education night" at Ethan's preschool entitled "Help! They Are Out of Control!" We went because we hoped the childhood development expert would at once reassure us that Ethan's erratic bouts of devil-spawn behavior was not some sort of irrefutable evidence that we had broken or spoiled him beyond repair, and give us real tried & true magic tricks to get him behaving like a recent graduate of Miss Grace's Finishing School for Devil Spawn and Other Possessed Beings.

Fortunately, her nifty old-timey visual aid (a giant pad of paper clipped to a big easel) assured us that the peaks and valleys of Ethan's behavior are totally normal at his age and not at all an indication of demonic possession or horribly horrible parenting. Preschoolers just, for a number of valid and not-at-all-your-fault reasons, are...challenging. So that was a HUGE relief. However, her methods of coping with said out-0f-control preschooler pretty much revolved around counting to 3 a lot. Which? Isn't bad, I guess, given that my kid has yet to test me past "1...2....". I fully admit I have no idea what happens when I get to "3." But I imagine its got something to do with our world being sucked into the much-feared black hole of Tantrum.

Husband and I walked out of the event feeling that, if nothing else, we were relieved that our child's Sybil-esque behavior was at least normal and that we were not dealing with the only child who could be snuggles and smiles one minute and screaming, and door-slamming the next. It was nice to know there were other parents wandering aimlessly through the same trenches. And we happened to fall into a nice routine of pleasant behavior from Ethan somewhere around that point, which encouraged my brain to put the whole thing behind me and settle into an extended period of "My child is the sweetest little boy ever & aren't we such wonderful parents?" (note: the hubris perhaps only slightly exaggerated).

And then.

My parents came to town, excited to see their cherubic grandson. Their legacy in the flesh. And at first, things went great. In a burst of uncontainable joy, Ethan ran through the baggage claim area into the waiting arms of my parents, both beaming with pride and love and all that other fabulous stuff. When we got home, Ethan showed Grammy & Grampy all of his prized possessions and probably sang 2-3 lines of the entire Beatles catalogue for their listening pleasure. After dinner, Ethan and my father sang Passover songs together, my father singing the part of Moses' "Let My People Go" (which, I'm sorry, but I can't ever hear anything but Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off when I hear that song..."Let My Cameron Go..."), after which Ethan declared, "Grampy, you have a really good God voice," and my heart melted into a gooey blob of mushy love for both of them.

Apparently, though, the biological clock of preschooler behavior was tick-tocking in Ethan's body and approximately 30 minutes later, some sort of primordial alarm went off inside him and his sweet little Dr Jekyll turned into cranky-ass, irrationally screaming Mr. Hyde right around bedtime.

The problem? His pillows. Pillows.

I guess, somehow, the pillows that were just fine the night before (and for every night for the past 2 years) were suddenly atrociously and offensively unacceptable. As if they'd magically turned into fields of flaming poop or something while we weren't looking. Crimes against humanity. So visceral was his reaction and refusal to tolerate the presence of the pillows that before Husband and I knew it, Ethan had thrown his pillows from his bed, the tears had started falling and the wailing "I don't like my pillllllllllooooooowwwwws" had commenced, at approximately the volume of a jumbo jet buzzing the roof of our house. So it was a really good time.

We tried the "enough dawdling, Ethan, go to bed," routine. We tried the "look, Mommy's using the pillow--its okay! Nice pillow!" routine. We tried the "are you kidding me?!!! This is ridiculous!!! There is NOTHING wrong with your pillows!!!" routine. We tried the "do you want to sleep on one of mommy's pillows? Daddy's pillows? A pillow from the living room?" routine. We tried the "do your ears hurt? Does something hurt when you lay down?" routine? Each routine garnered the same out-of-control irrational refusals and wailing. Eventually I had to do the stern, "mommy will be right back" and then go out in the hallway and laugh until my sides hurt routine because the whole scene was just SO ridiculous. Poor kid.

Finally, grammy saved the day by coming in with her plush, C-shaped travel pillow. "Would you like to sleep with Grammy's pillow?" she asked, and the angry wrinkled face on my child relaxed into a exhausted, glassy-eyed contemplation of the oddly-shaped pillow. He reached out and took it from her, put it down on the bed and spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out how exactly to use it. He put it around the top of his head, over his eyes, around the back of his neck, laid his cheek on the side of it and then in the hole in the middle of it. It was clearly NOT at all comfortable for him, but he was relentless in his attempt to find a way to use this pillow, his other pillows still discarded, strewn across the floor.

There were hugs and kisses at this point, and we left Ethan and his travel pillow to their business of falling asleep. Finally. On my way out of the room, I picked up his regular pillows, detestable things that they apparently were, and put them at the foot of his bed so that he wouldn't trip on them in the middle of the night if he got up.

Before I went to bed a few hours later, I went in to check on him. The travel pillow lay on the floor by his bed. He was sound asleep. On his regular pillow.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Oh, Hai!

I can haz blog?

My apologies, interwebs, but the past month has brought a lot of sinus infections, ear infections, fever, chills, colds and whatnot all through the Sarahndipity household and there are only so many ways to describe things like fleghmy coughs and snot before you lose your readers because of the ick-factor, you know?

But we're all recovered now (until the next time one of us touches a doorknob or walks past a person harboring a solitary germ...), so it's possible I might have something to talk about besides post-nasal drip and the mortifying realization that its time to go bra shopping after a trip to the doctor's office, during which, while listening to my lungs with her stethoscope my doctor pointed out, "you know you've got a hole back here in your bra strap, right?" So awesome.

Aside from consuming a small forest of trees worth of tissues (right now we have the carbon footprint of a giant Yeti--I'm going to have to start composting just to make up for the past month's tissue consumption), we've gone through all kinds of fun little family growth, development and bonding.

Ethan started swim lessons and lo & behold, the child put his face in the water and the world did not come to a screeching halt. This is the child who has screamed when having his hair washed since the day he emerged from the womb. The child who lives in dire dread of getting water in his eyes and who I thought would be wearing arm-swimmies until college. But what do you know? When he's in the presence of the speedo and swim cap clad teenager, he's all about slapping on the goggles, blowing bubbles and floating on his back. Who knew?!

Oh, the cute!!!! And that pink tutu in the lower right? His wife. You know, the one he married a few months ago. Yeah, they are still very much in the honeymoon phase--swim lessons together and everything.

Ethan's also developed an oh-so-charming habit of faking me out with his independent play. Yes, he'll play independently in his room, or the backyard and I will have a few blissful moments of relative quiet to...wash the dishes. or fold the laundry. So, you know. yay.

BUT, when he feels he's kept to himself long enough and is noticing that I am not adoringly absorbing his every swing of the plastic light saber or swooning with motherly pride over every crash of the matchbox Lambourghinis, wherever I am in the house or yard I hear "oooooooouuuuu" followed by the fakest fake crying one has ever heard. Ethan definitely has a future in the performing arts, but acting won't be his thing, I assure you. No Academy Awards in Ethan's future. But of course, being the responsible mother I am (most of the time), I go to see what tree has fallen on him or what pteradactyl-sized bee has stung him. And when I ask him, "honey, what's wrong?" he generally stops crying (well, stops making fake crying sounds), thinks for a few minutes and then says, "I have a boo boo," pointing to a week-old, scabbed over quasi-cut that he never even realize he had gotten in the first place, such was its initial painlessness. But now? While I am up to my eyeballs in half folded laundry or a sink full of soapy dishes? That "boo boo" takes on epic significance and its limb-threatening pain must be dealt with immediately.

Honestly, I'm finding myself "rushing" to his aide at a much slower clip these days, my little boy who "cried wolf." Someday I am going to saunter out into the backyard and find him impaled on his light saber or being attacked by a pack of rabid mourning doves and then I'll feel bad. But seriously, kid.

We also took a little trip to Monterey to get our fix of fabulous fresh air and outdoorsy goodness. I tend towards the Clark Griswold when it comes to expectations of family vacations or holidays, so I had our 3-day itinerary packed to the gills with coastal exploration, aquarium visits and other seaside town fun like surrey bike riding and watching otters frolic like they do. In the back of mind, as I always try to, I reminded myself that it *might* not be as Norman Rockwellian as I always want things to be--there might be meltdowns or things we couldn't do and I might end up pouty and disappointed. And I took a few deep breaths.

And yeah, so Highway 1 was closed before Big Sur due to the fact that the road had literally washed away. Bye-bye, road!

And we didn't get to the children's discovery museum. Bye-bye, extra giant sized petri dish o' preschooler germs!

And the Tor House in Carmel was closed. Bye-bye, house built of stone by some poet, by his own two hands, as a sort of sea-side Taj Mahal testament of ever-lasting adoration to his beloved. We did drive by it for a peek and I was afforded the opportunity to chide Husband for never building me a seaside cottage out of rock and stone with his own two hands as proof of his undying love to me. He informed me that if I waited for him to construct some sort of symbolic gesture of love like the Tor House, I *might* be waiting for all of eternity. Fair enough.

And our hotel had no air conditioning. Hello, sweaty king-sized bed crammed with kicky preschooler, snoring Husband and me. For two nights.

And Ethan decided 15 minutes after leaving a restaurant with a fully functioning restroom that he had to pee, so we had to run around Carmel looking for a public restroom while he whined that he was going to "peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" through the hoity-toity streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Hello, stares from fancy-pants Carmelians & tourists. Goodbye, dignity and extra time to poke around in pretty little shops until the parking meter runs out.

BUT in spite of all of that stuff, the trip was perfection. If you are ever in the Bay Area, you absolutely have to go to Monterey/Carmel. That's an order.

look! They have playgrounds EVERYwhere!

Then we went to Lovah's Point....where we saw no lovahs (thankfully), but weird little pointing statues, seagulls and lots of rocks...

For dinner, we went to Benihana where Ethan wore a paper chef hat, tried shrimp for the first time (hated it) and was generally a blur of activity while the guy in front of us salted everything he cooked to the point where I think he may have been trying to kill us from a sodium overdose.

The next day there were a multitude of not-so-shabby views like these as we drove down the coast until we came upon the "Route 1 is closed due to it being gone" sign (not actually what it said, but that's the gist....)

Ethan worked on poses for his future modeling career as we hiked through Point Lobos...

And then we watched a couple of harbor seals trying to get out of the water and up onto the rocks by repeatedly riding tiny waves up onto the rocks and trying to hold on for dear life as the wave washed back out. Those fat little suckers work hard for their couple of hours in the sun. There are some serious evolutionary flaws at work there, I think. But so cute. Like marine cabbage patch kids.

There was a lot of hiking and plenty of breath-taking views at Point Lobos--even excursion-averse Ethan enjoyed himself....

In Carmel, rich people dine with pink dogs in their laps. And there are places that serve chocolate chip cannoli and gelato. What a magical place...

There are countless other pictures we took of 17-mile drive, the aquarium, the sunset, yadda yadda yadda, BUT the highlight of Ethan's trip was, without a doubt, the bicycle surrey (with the fringe on top, natch). Ethan was our official bell-ringer as we pedaled down the bike path, steering the ancient behemoth of a bike through pedestrians and real cyclists, and across streets.

I don't know why I look like I'm trying to smile through unspeakable fear in this picture, or why Husband resembles someone who *might* receive extra scrutiny from the TSA, but Ethan is totally blissed out....

and in this one...

But now we are back to reality, a reality complete with epic battles over who is cleaning up the legos and in exactly what time frame, how much of one's plate has to be cleared at dinner to merit an ice cream sandwich for dessert and how many hours of The Beatles one family needs to listen to before they are officially "Beatled out."

It's all good.