Home Décor With a Small Boy – Or, How to Live With Chaos

Back before SB (small boy) came into the picture, our house looked fairly nice for two people who were born without the decorating gene.  We had tchotchkes from the places we’d traveled, some interesting photos and paintings on the walls, and overall things matched fairly well.  I don’t think Architectural Digest would have beaten down our door, but our house looked presentable.
Now our house looks like Walmart after a Midnight Madness sale – trashed, stuff everywhere, chaos, and two stunned people who can’t understand what the hell just happened.  The worst part is that everything breakable or dangerous is at least four feet off the ground in order to keep SB alive.  I suppose this decorating scheme will be handy if there’s ever a flood.
As I sit here writing this, I’m looking around our living room and here’s what I see: three ears and a mouth for Mr. Potato Head; about 10,000 Hot Wheels festively strewn across the floor; assorted dog squeaky toys (she’s in on this too, I know it); and for some reason only two year old boys know, there’s an ambulance and a dump truck on the couch. 
In a desperate attempt to have one measly area in our house look presentable, we painted a wall a color called Juicy Cantaloupe, and hung our photos and candle sconces back up.  It looks really pretty…until…you look down.  Then you see a Thomas the Train table piled high with tracks, trains, helicopters and assorted boy stuff.  And that’s right next to a giant red Lightening McQueen chair.  FAIL.
As a result of all of this, I’m starting to think that the trick is to not look down.  Sort of like my “if you’re feeling fat, only look at your head when you pass a full length mirror” theory.  So from now on we’re only going to have tall friends over, and then simply force them to look up while they’re here. 
Denial wins again.

A Boy and his Toys

Our house is filled with toys – some good, and some that make me want to rip out my hair.  Boy toys: cars, trucks, trains, and an entire fleet of emergency response vehicles.  Most of the time our house looks like a FEMA command center, or a toy store that was hit by an earthquake right before the hurricane tore it apart.  In other words, messy.
The good toys are the quiet ones that don’t break in the first five minutes SB (small boy) tears into them, and they encourage creativity, imagination, blah blah blah. 
Oh, but the bad toys…I’m convinced that somewhere, in a little room with no windows, some evil person who hates parents is chuckling maniacally and designing very annoying toys. 
For instance – I once bought this little cat piano toy that looked pretty cool.  And it was, until we actually turned it on.  I think the employees at the company that made this must have had a contest to create the most annoying sounds in the world, and the winning noise was installed inside this damned cat piano.  And naturally SB LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. 
Then there was the needy, neurotic stuffed talking puppy.  This one actually gave me the creeps – it was like a weird obsessive stalker toy.  It kept saying, “hug me” and “I love you SO MUCH”.  I was convinced that it was just a matter of time before it crept up the stairs at night and smothered us with puppy love while we were sleeping.  
And the worst part of all?  The packaging.  What the HELL are they thinking?  I’ve learned never to promise SB that I’ll give him his new toy outside of Target or wherever we are, since I rarely carry around a welding torch and dynamite.  Are the toy makers worried that a gang of rogue gorillas is going to trample the boxes?  Do they really need 6,000 wires, tape, and staples to secure one stupid $2.99 dump truck in a box?  I just don’t get it.
Does anyone want to start new business with me?  Non-annoying toys that – get this – you can actually remove from the box within five minutes.  Let me know.  And feel free to share your toy horror stories, there has to be a lot of them out there!

The Big World Out There

Warning – this may not be that funny.  I was going to write a wildly insightful and witty post about the difference between moms and dads, but I’m going to save it for when my sense of humor comes back.   Because after what happened in Colorado over the weekend, I’m not feeling very jokey.
I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days – we live in a world that’s wonderful and amazing 90% of the time, but that other 10% where the demons get in – my God.  I try my best to keep SB (small boy) safe – slathering on the sunscreen; buckling him into a car seats that looks like it belongs on the space shuttle; baby proofing our house so no one can ever open a door or a cabinet again without an engineering degree; flame resistant pajamas; organic food, and the list goes on and on.
But, and this is a big one – how do you keep them safe from delusional madmen who shoot up movie theaters, or schools, or whatever the insane voices in their heads are telling them?  And how do you teach them to not talk to strangers without turning them into fearful, paranoid people?  How do you tell them that the world is a wonderful place, full of fantastic things to explore, great people to meet, interesting places to go, but that there’s a small percentage of people out there that are hell bent on hurting other people?
My heart shattered for the victims in Colorado, and their families – but also for the parents of the crazy guy who opened fire.  Can you imagine?  The debate about gun control will rage on forever, and I’m not going there, but how, HOW, was that guy able to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the internet?  It’s mind-boggling.  I’m not good at feeling helpless, but how do you keep your kids and loved ones safe in a world where crazy people can buy whatever they want online?  It makes the sunscreen and car seats seem so feeble and pathetic in comparison. 
If anyone has any answers, I’d love to hear them.  In the meantime, I’ll keep the faith and maybe squeeze SB a little tighter.  And give someone you love a hug.  It can’t hurt.

Fun With Food

So here’s how it goes at our house.  I buy food.  SB (small boy) either shovels it in his mouth with great enthusiasm, or he acts like I’m serving him a plate full of poison. 
The trick, I’ve figured out, is in the sales pitch.  I can’t call string cheese by its name because he’s decided, at the ripe old age of two, that he hates cheese.  So I call it “silly string” and he’ll eat it.  Those fruity/vegetable bars are called “raisin candy” and he eats those too.  Sucker.
Before I was a real parent, I couldn’t understand what the big deal was.  You cook something, they eat it, end of story.  So as you can imagine, reality has been quite a kick in the _____. 
Mealtime can go one of two ways:
A Good Meal (shoveling scenario):
I cook food, and if it’s something that the dictator in diapers approves of, two handed shoveling begins.  If I’ve really done a bang up job, MORE is requested at an urgent pitch to ensure he doesn’t starve to death and keel over at the table.  
A Bad Meal (poison scenario):
Our dog gets covered in rice/spaghetti/corn, etc.  Then the rest of my evening involves picking food out of a very furry dog.  Hilarity ensues.
Loud, anguished yelling begins.  If he’s really feeling feisty, the plate of terrible awful revolting poison gets shoved across the table, leaving us to intercept it before it hits the floor – a fun family game of table hockey!  Oh boy! 
Sometimes I have him help pick out what he wants (I know…) – we always have a big time at Costco or Trader Joes since they give away samples.  And this is where I get fooled EVERY time.  He loves the samples, so like a dummy I buy whatever it is if it’s reasonably healthy.  Then we scurry home, my heart leaping with joy and excitement over the concept that he might actually EAT SOMETHING NEW, and then at dinner he looks at me like I’m trying to kill him and we start another lively game of table hockey.  I’m now convinced that he likes the little cups the samples come in, not the food.

It’d be harder for him to play table hockey with little cups, so maybe I’m on to something.  Or we could just eat all our meals at Costco

Looking Back

Now that SB and I are sailing through the terrible twos in a very leaky boat,  I’m taking a fond look back at the easy baby days when he couldn’t move around a lot or say the word “NO” every three minutes.

I wish someone had told me the following things when he was little – it would have saved me a lot of time and angst:

1.         Germs and dog drool won’t kill him.  I sterilized everything until SB was a year old – We live in San Diego, not Bangladesh.  What was I worried about?  Ebola? 
2.         You’ll never get your pre-baby body back unless you’re J Lo. Just forget about it.  Do your best and if you’re not happy, only look at your head when you pass by mirrors.
3.         Pinch all those little rolls of fat as much as you can because they do eventually go away (we’re talking about the baby’s rolls now, not mama). 
4.         Don’t make spreadsheets showing when he eats/poops/sleeps – no one cares and it’s not that interesting. 
5.         Breast pumps were created by the devil and everyone hates them.  If someone tells you’re they’re not that bad, they’re a liar and should be slapped immediately.
6.         Travel before your kids become mobile.  Once they start rolling/crawling/walking, it’s not a vacation, it’s simply a change of scenery.  And think about it – do you really want to buy everyone on the plane drinks for five hours because of YOUR kid?
7.                 Laugh.  It’s funny.  Did you ever think you’d shrug off being peed on? Or go to work with baby food in your hair, milk on your shoulders, and Cheerios stuck to you back and not really care?
8.        You’ll never get a full night’s sleep again for the rest of your life.  Get used to it.
But then again – nothing’s that funny when you’re exhausted.  So maybe I’m wrong about all of this.

Bedtime is Hell

Was it General Patton who said war is hell?  Clearly he didn’t have a small boy (SB) because then he’d have known what hell is REALLY like.
Here’s what our eleven step nighttime routine looks like these days.  I actually lied to SB’s doctor when he asked how bedtime was going.  Pathetic.
Step One:  Bath time.  Lots of happy splashing and playing with boats.  So far so good unless it’s a dreaded hair washing night, then there’s lots of yelling and angry splashing (by SB, not us). 
Step Two:  Get into pajamas – Sharks? Dinosaurs? Skeletons? A five-minute debate ensues over bedtime fashion.  Of course during the day he doesn’t care what he looks like, but at night our house turns into Project Runway. 
Step Three:  Milk and a TV show in our room. Easy.
Step Four:  Book time.  Fairly easy.
Step Five:  Lights out.  Now the fun really begins.
*Note – this is the part where our pediatrician says we should be done.  And he says it with a straight face.
Step Six:  Cram myself into SB’s toddler bed and fight for pillow space with 300 stuffed animals.
Step Seven:  The command is given for me to SING.  Do you remember those movies where the king would order the jester to sing or he’d be killed?  That’s how it is around here.  Apparently my horrifically off-key version of Thunder Road is crucial for the King to fall asleep.  God knows why.  
Step Eight:  SING MORE! (by this time my back has cramped up and I’ve lost the will to live…)
Step Nine:  Excuse time.  Some of my favorites:  SB needs to kiss the dog.  The bed is hurting him.  He pooped (liar!) 
Step Ten:  The Jester (me) must sing one more “little song”.
Step Eleven:  Try to sneak out and get caught by his highness.
Repeat steps 6 – 11 until the King falls asleep.
Well played, King Small Boy.  I bow to you.  As a good Jester should.

The Joys of Traveling With a Small Boy

We just got back from a three and a half day family visit to Los Angeles.  Now bear in mind that we weren’t traveling to a remote island outpost, 17 hours from civilization with no infrastructure, we were simply going to the largest city in California.  And also remember that LA happens to have a Trader Joes and/or an organic grocery store on almost every corner, lots of 24 hour pharmacies, and from what I’ve been led to believe, a fairly civilized way of life. 
So here’s what I packed for the SB:
One stroller
One booster seat
Four pool noodles
A hat
Assorted plates/bowls/cups
Four stuffed animals
A garbage bag crammed full of toys
Two blankets (one standard, one just in case SB had a fit because he missed it)
Two pillows
Three different kinds of diapers
An entire pharmacy devoted to keeping SB safe and happy
            Organic cheddar bunnies
            Organic chocolate bunnes
            Granola bars
            Yogurt pretzels
            Raisin bars
            Organic pop-tart type things
Pool Floaties/toys
Clothes for almost every occasion (because you never know)
Bath stuff – toys, soap/shampoo
Three pairs of shoes
One lunchbox
Here’s what I packed for me:
A swimsuit
A few tops
Here’s what my husband packed:
Nothing.  Duh. There was no room.

Fantasy vs. Reality

Here are a few things I said before I had SB (small boy) – the good, bad, and the astonishingly clueless:
Smug pre-SB Fantasy:  I’d NEVER let my kids watch TV.
Reality:  TV?  God Bless PBS Kids!  Now I can do laundry/feed the dog/cats/fish/clean the house/go to the bathroom/do some more laundry/take a shower/eat/eat some more/hey, more laundry!/get the mail/brush my hair/teeth/cook dinner/laundry…/water the plants/write my blog.  I didn’t just eat my words, I feasted at the Sunday buffet on this one. 
Fantasy:  Look how dirty that little boy/girl is!  I’d never let my kids out of the house looking like that.
Reality: Dirt?  Whatever.  If I don’t need a chisel to get stuff off of his face, then we’re good to go – and if it were ok to take SB out back and hose him off during the day between baths, I’d do it in a second.  Short of duct taping the rips in his pants, I’ve really lowered my standards on this one. 
Fantasy: How can people just let their kids scream like that at the store/shopping center/beach/park/airport/winery(just kidding)? 
Reality:  Screaming?  I’m convinced that when kids are born, parents develop a “tune out” gland that enables them to not hear the racket small people are capable of (although the gland does have a finely tuned sensor for authentic crying/screaming).  This nifty gland also causes deafness to the word “mama” being repeated 500 times, and fake crying – the kind caused by the dog eating SB’s goldfish, the tragic loss of Mr. Potato Head’s eyes, or Buzz and Woody getting stuck under the couch for the zillionth time.
Fantasy:  Jeez, do people go brain dead after they have kids?  Look at that poor mom, she looks frazzled!
Reality: Since SB came on the scene,  I consider it a major victory if my teeth are brushed and I’ve managed to get pants on that don’t have boogers or clumps of pasta stuck to them.  I find myself wearing work out pants quite often, regardless of the fact that I rarely exercise these days – I’m great at chasing a two year old down the street (I consider it a wind sprint) and that’s about as good as it gets.  And I don’t remember ever going to work without milk on my shoulder or something stuck to my back – goldfish, happy face stickers, etc. Mascara on BOTH eyes?  Victory is mine!
Fantasy:  I don’t understand why parents are so exhausted, babies sleep all the time – what’s the deal?
Reality:  Sleep?  What’s that?  The amazing thing about having SB is that my insomnia is a thing of the past, and it appears narcolepsy has taken its place. 
Now when I see a frazzled mom with a screaming kid at the store/airport/winery/etc.,  I just smile sympathetically at her  – while checking to see if she needs to borrow my chisel.