Thursday, December 20, 2007

Too Much Little Bear!

At the risk of sounding like I have some sort of obsession with Little Bear, I need to report that I am again having an issue with this show. First, however, I should say that I need to correct one of my points from my earlier Little Bear post: Mitzi the monkey does indeed talk, so my concerns may be a little less exaggerated than I orginally thought.

Yesterday, a no nap day, O. was watching a new episode of Little Bear while I was trying to get done some of the things I would have done during the non-existent nap. As I was unloading the twelfth sippy cup and its parts from the dishwasher (still soaking wet-- even though I use the "ungreen" heat cycle and the clean dishes had been in the dishwasher for more than a day -- I HATE having to either dry off my plasticware or sit it around on the counter until it air dries. What is up with this?), O. appeared and hid behind my knee with a stricken look on his face. When I asked him what the matter was, he muttered something about a monster and looked frightfully towards our family room. I knew he was watching Little Bear, taped on Noggin, so there should not have been any Spiderman commercials to cause concern. I looked out into the living room to see if there were shadows of some sort causing a disturbing shape, but no. I wondered if the falling Christmas tree incident (another postworthy moment) was causing a postraumatic flashback.

Then I glanced at the TV screen to see a very scary looking monster bear indeed. It seems the episode I had recently taped about "grumpy father bear" involved Father Bear turning into a monster in Little Bear's imagination. While everything works out in the end, and Father Bear morphs back into the loving parent he normally is, I think the subtle fantasy/reality nuances were a bit beyond my two and a half year old. I had to go sit beside him, rewind it, and talk him through it, using words like "pretending," "being silly," "tricking" and "not real." I did not get this episode erased off the DVR immediately, and Daddy played it again unknowingly this morning. He reported that O. watched it from behind the baby swing, so I'm not sure how effective my fear remedies were.

All this after I was starting to think we were making progress on the "scary" front. We've had months of trauma related to a kindergartner in my mom's group waving a Spiderman villain around in O.'s presence, and then later appearing in a Phantom of the Opera mask. O. flees the room in sheer terror anytime this child makes an entrance, even sans mask and action figure.

I know he has a vivid imagination, as we are always discussing invisible animals that have appeared in the room, like "fumas" and "mean wolves" (actually pumas and maned wolves). One of his favorite pastimes is to pretend he has fallen into the "holes" in the carpet made by the legs of furniture, and needs a rope to be thrown to him to get out. So, I've been worried that the nightmares and a runaway fantasy life were only going to get worse.

I should say that I grew up with a younger brother who was terrified of many things -- clowns, Halloween masks, scary movies, picture taking, teenage girls (they all looked like babysitters to him) in his toddler/preschool years. We had to plot our movements carefully in malls adn public places so as to avoid meltdowns. You'd be surprised how often clowns make an appearance in everyday life -- the Ground Round was forever off limits after a balloon sculpture moment, and I mourned the loss of a place where you could go and throw your peanut shells right on the ground, for goodness sakes. I know my brother hates for me to tell these stories, but I have really been bracing myself for a life that involves scoping out the placement of a Spencer store in the mall around Halloween time, and I have not been too happy about it.

But yesterday, we had a good visit with Santa Claus, something I initially wasn't even going to attempt this year. He kept his head bowed down and wouldn't really smile for the camera, but he did manage to let Santa know that he wanted "a top and a ball" before fleeing for the post-lap basket of suckers. So, I thought, maybe we're getting a handle on this and he's starting to gain some interior self-confidence.

Leave it to Little Bear to set us back a few paces.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ant-y E.M.

We were on our way to the museum over the weekend to see what else, the trains. The plan was to meet Grandma and Grandpa, as well as Uncle A. and E.M. We went despite the meteorologists' dire predictions of possible mayhem due to the first real winter storm of the season. This storm ended up consisting of two or three inches of snow and then heavy rain. While the roads WERE dicey for about an hour, we made it there just fine. And got to look at trains in relative solitude. This was good, for chancing a prime weekend time for visiting a highly popular Christmas experience is also chancing a grumpy Daddy, who doesn't really like crowds (or other people's children). Disappointingly, the permanent exhibit of trains/Cincinnati scene was closed for repairs, causing O. to despair that the "one where you push the button" was off limits. Do you think they should still be able to charge full price when half of a museum is closed?
Anyway, on the way there, we were telling O. who was going to be there: Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle A. and Aunt E.M. will be there too. You can start calling her Aunt E. if you want, because she's going to be your aunt! O. crinkled his nose at this idea. "No, she is NOT going to be a bug!"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What'll we do while we wait?

The advent season has gotten me thinking about waiting, and has caused the above line to run through my mind more often than is pleasurable. Back before O. was a fan of television (was there ever such a time?), his dad and I would try desperately to get a half hour or so more of sleep in the 6:00 hour on weekend mornings by turning on the TV in our room. I'm afraid Blues Clues sunk more into our subconscious than our son's, as I still catch myself singing the music from the "waiting/patience" episode. "We gotta wait, wait, wait. What'll we do while we wait?"

It's been a year of waiting for us. Mostly, waiting for N. to arrive. I found out I was pregnant soon after New Year's, then had to wait through the winter, spring and summer months for her to arrive. We made it through record breaking heat and pounds (mine), and almost a month of being dilated enough to qualify for an epidural. Thankfully, her actual delivery into the world lasted a mere three hours -- we had spend so much time waiting, we were hardly prepared for her arrival, and didn't decide her name until nearly an hour after her birth.

We also embarked on a remodeling project of our lower level at the start of 2007 -- our contractor acted literally offended when we said we needed it done by O's birthday at the end of April. "How slow do you think I am?" he sputtered. He was painting the door frames the same day I was carving mini loaf pans of cake into a birthday train. We got so used to waiting for the basement to be done that O. still acts surprised when he's allowed to go down there to play.

For O., it's been a year of waiting for trains. Not at the station, though we did make an illfated trip to the local railroad when Thomas came to visit. Riding on the inside of a square passenger car looking at cornfields just really wasn't the thrill we had envisioned. More like riding in a car without a car seat. A bonus, to be sure, but not an up close and personal moment with Thomas. No, the waiting for my toddler boy has been for it to be "Christmastime" -- not for Santa, not for presents, but so that he can get his "big train" out to put around the Christmas tree. The "big train" is a real live model train, like the ones on the displays in downtowns and museums -- more a dad or grandpa toy than one suitable for a two year old. J. got a little carried away at the train store last year, and because I grew up with a train platform at Christmas, and the Lionels from my own parents' childhoods, I went with it. O. LOVED it from the moment we unpacked each car from its own box. He knows we have a steam engine (Grandpa's is a diesel), a flat car, two boxcars and a caboose, he has learned how to run it all by himself, and is amazingly careful with it. "You can't run it too fast, or it will jump the tracks, and you have a problem."

We did get it out for a time during the summer, and run it in a ring on the basement floor (this was a moment when the waiting for N. was getting a little unbearable for everyone). But the fake smoke smell is a bit too much for August, it really does take up most of a room, and because it is prone to damage, it has to be guarded carefully around children more used to Thomas and GeoTrax, so playgroups in the Small World are a no no when it's up. So, it's been in its box in the basement, a real torment anytime we have to venture into the storage area for something else. "There's my big train, Mom. Is it Christmastime yet?"

We made it through Halloween, Grandpa's birthday, the arrival of visiting cousins, N's baptism, and Thanksgiving. (This listing of important dates started in early October and was rehearsed at least once a day). So, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the waiting had gone on long enough. O, noting me carrying a load of turkey napkins and plates to the basement said, "Mommy, Thanksgiving is over? Is it Christmas now?" And the big train was brought up from the basement and took over the living room and O's life. He wakes up in the morning and after naps asking to play with the train. We monitor smoke levels, test the horn and bell, and now that the tree is up in the center of the track, make sure no ornaments are in our steam engine's path.

Best of all, Grandpa has also put up his "big trains" at his house, so the railroading doesn't have to end when we go on the road. And come Christmas evening, we'll be heading to "Grandma Choo-Choo"'s house in Cleveland, where an entire train table of Thomas and friends awaits.

So what do we wait for now? Well, ever since the introduction of the advent calendar, the arrival of Santa Claus. "And Santa will bring the presents for under our tree tonight!" "No, bud, not for twelve more days" -- and we count the remaining pockets again, and again later that afternoon, and later that evening, etc. etc.

We're also still waiting for N. to sleep through the night, if you're wondering. And to take a bottle. And for O. to go on the potty. Happy 2008!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Kiss for Little Bear

Speaking of playing in the snow, we have recently discovered my own childhood Little Bear books, illustrated (and written?) by Maurice Sendak. This is due to O.'s great current fascination with the animated series, which I'll admit is less grating, and more gentle, than many of the other offerings on our DVR rotation. I was reminded today of Little Bear making his mother give him more and more articles of clothing to go outside and play in the snow, until he remembers he is, after all, a bear, and ends up happily sitting outside in his bear suit. A great happy image.

However, I'm finding myself questioning the world of Little Bear. The line between his fantasy and real life are pleasingly blurred in the animated show, with him happily living out his imagination by say, meeting a mermaid in his bathwater. But, in what is clearly his real existence, it is strange who can communicate and who cannot. Talking cats, ducks, hens, snakes, owls, yes. But Tutu the dog and Mitzi the monkey? Only yipping and hooting. And when Little Bear found a baby deer in the woods, his experience returning her to the wild was as much an encounter with the alien as mine would be. Mother and Father Deer just looked back over their shoulder at the Bear family when they recovered their lost fawn -- no chatting about where she'd been. To add to the confusion, when Little Bear finds a robin egg in the woods, Mother Robin is as chatty as they come. I know, I know -- talking animals require the suspension of disbelief to begin with. But am I wrong to require some consistency of the rules here? I'm only partially kidding about this -- it really kind of bothers me. Help! I've resorted to analyzing children's programming in lieu of true texts.

Mom says we needed powdered donuts

This is really a post for Uncle A.

Today was our first first snow, and while I can no longer hope for snow days, (something I was able to do well into adulthood, thanks to my job teaching high school English -- the rituals surrounding the hope of a snow day among teachers is a definite postworthy topic) I can go outside to play in the snow. O. ran to the window this morning and proclaimed that the snow was "EVERYWHERE!" So, soon after breakfast, we started the process of getting all the clothes on necessary to play in our Cincinnati snow -- blades of grass still poking through the whiteness. It was a scene out of "Christmas Story" trying to get both kids into their snowsuits/hats/mittens/boots, and involved at least three trips up and down stairs to get all the requisite items. Fortunately, O. had an attention span for the snow play, so we weren't right back in two minutes later. He enjoyed filling his bucket with snow and making "sand castles" and making tracks in the snow with his bubble mower. We also chased Scout around with "snowbulbs" (they really DIDN'T look like balls, I guess). We have not yet mastered the snow angel. Finally, when cheeks were very red and noses were very runny, we headed inside to peel off the wet clothes in the laundry room, and I got to make O. his first post-snow hot chocolate, complete with a small side cup of mini marshmallows, and a twisty straw to drink it from. O. reported "I like hot chocolate. I like to bubble it. See the tower of bubbles?"

Monday, December 3, 2007

Is that a good idea?

Or, more happenings in the world of O-speak:

In the car, Daddy is singing one of his favorite Kindermusik songs, after the track has ended. ("Go Round the Mountain tony-diddle tony-diddle tony-diddle eye day", for those of you in the know and interested) O. says quite emphatically -- "Daddy, that song is over. Don't sing it."

I'm singing to N. on the couch, first Patty Cake which draws no notice from O. playing with his dump truck. Then I start in on Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the dump truck stops in its tracks. "Hey, that's MY song."

After finding his toy pliers, the latest necessary "in the bed while he goes to sleep" object, after they have been missing for several naps and nighttimes. "Okay, put my pwiers on the bed for in the morning time."

Finding a book that has "mysteriously" been "lost" for a while under his bed, O. says, "Now here's the deal. You find the shapes, and then you draw them. That's how you do this one. Vamiose!* We go down on the couch and do this. That's the deal."

On the phone to Great-Grandma, hours after a shopping expedition to Kohls wherein we looked for new slippers as a Christmas gift. "Great Grandma, we bought you something!"

At Ruby Tuesday, to the waitress as we are trying to get our check to leave before N. wakes up. (Yes, I now have one of those babies that stays under the blanket in the car seat during meals in restaurants, like an extra piece of luggage, rather than a squalling extra appendage to my body. Who'd have thought it?)
"I am still working!" He then gives her the very evil eye, complete with raised eyebrow, and looks protectively at his plate of chicken and fries, from which he has only eaten ketchup for the half hour we've been there.

"I am going to put toys in my dump truck and drive them. Is that a good idea?" Sure, and thanks for asking. Except I didn't realize this meant dumping the entire contents of a toy basket into the dump truck, with anything that wouldn't fit spilling out into a pile around it.

Regarding his blanket (which really deserves its own post) --

  • Finding it in the basket of clean clothes I am folding: "My blanket is clean? I am so happy, oh I am so happy!" A happy dance and an extended period of rubbing of his face into the satiny side ensues.
  • Wrapping it about his shoulders: "I am the king!"
  • Wrapping it about his waist: "I am all dressed, now."
  • Putting it on his head, so that one point protrudes from his forehead. "I have a snout. A tooth. Grrrrrrr..." He then proceeds to poke said snout/tooth into his sister's forehead.

*AKA: "vamonos", courtesy of Dora -- have I mentioned we watch a little too much TV around here?