Dinner with Rain Man (aka “Why we eat dinner at home.”)

Is that title offensive?  I don’t think so; it’s not intended to be, and I trust my bleeding-ACLU-loving heart to send up a signal when something is offensive.  But if you’re the parent of a toddler, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Let me set the stage…

It’s Sunday evening, 6pm.  The time we eat dinner most days.  Plates are awaiting my family’s arrival to the table.  We’re having spaghetti and homemade meatballs, because toddlers love all things noodle and/or meatball related.  I made a salad, but that’s for the adults, even though Miles will believe it’s for him as well.

Me: “Time to wash up for dinner!”

:::football related noises from living room:::

Me: “Guys!  It’s dinnertime!”

:::football related noises plus “wheeee!” from living room:::

Me: “I MADE MEATBALLS.”

Miles: “Meatballs!  Meatballs!  Meatballs!”

The kid immediately runs to the table.  I remind him we need to wash our hands first.  My request has fallen on deaf ears as he attempts to climb into his booster seat without assistance.  Evan carries the kid football-style to the sink, where we begin the process of hand washing, also known as “let’s see how many times I can stick my head under the running faucet.”  We towel off and head to the table.  It is now 6:07pm.

My family begins the joyous process of consuming dinner.  Like I said, toddlers love meatballs and noodles, and guess what?  So do adults.  Some dinner conversation relating to the news and politics is interjected with comments like, “Use your fork” and “Would you like a napkin?”

6:12pm.  With two meatballs and a handful of noodles done, the show begins.  My son begins picking the diced tomatoes out of his sauce, and hands them to me in rapid succession.  If I am unable to “hold” said tomatoes quickly enough, he will throw them in my lap.  He reminds me of his newly formed dislike of tomatoes.

Miles: “Mama, no tomato.  Mama, no tomato.  Mama, NO TOMATOOOOO!” Flings tomatoes to floor.

Me: “Miles, if you do not want to eat them you may leave them on your plate.” Hindsight: Why would I suggest such a thing?

Miles: “NONONONONONONO TOMATO.”  More tomato flinging.

You should know that my son has inherited some of my OCD tendencies.  If a food is on his plate that he doesn’t wish to eat, he must remove all traces from his plate before he will continue dinner.  He also got upset when a noodle became stuck to his arm after he swung it around his head like a lasso.  He got even more upset when I laughed about it.

Me: “Miles, you may place your tomatoes on this napkin if you do not want to eat them.”

Miles: “Okay, mama.”  I win, for now.

6:17pm.  Miles attempts to turn his plate upside down, but this is thwarted my his mom’s super ninja dinner table skills.  He pushes his plate away, and I remind him that mom and dad are still eating, so he can continue sitting at the table with us for a few more minutes.

Miles: (pointing to Evan’s dinner plate) “Mine!”

Me: “Miles, that is daddy’s dinner.  What on the plate belongs to you?”

Miles: “Yellow plate.”

Of course the entire plate belongs to him.  I remind him that he has the same dinner on his own plate.  I hand him a meatball, which he happily eats.  It’s now 6:22pm.

Miles: “Yellow bowl!  Mine.  My yellow bowl.”

Me: “Your dad’s salad bowl?”

Realizing that dinner is soon over, I slide the empty bowl over to Miles, thinking this will buy me ten more minutes to finish my own salad.  Miles promptly takes the bowl and places it in on his head.

Miles: “Hat!  Mama, see my hat!”

Me: “You smell like a Caesar salad.”

Miles: “I have a hat.  Yellow hat.”

We play Bowl Hat for a few more minutes, then I unbuckle Miles from his booster seat.  He asks to sit in the chair next to me, which I always allow, because we’re working on our “big boy” skills.

Miles: “Up.  Up.  Up.” He is attempting to climb on top of the dinner table.

Me: “Miles, on your tush.  Chairs are for sitting.  We cannot climb on top of the table, you could get a big owie.”

Now, one would think that reasoning in toddler terms would help them to better understand.  And the people who think those things are either naive (raises hand) or have never spent much time around toddlers.

Miles: “Uuuuuhhhhhhuuuuuppppp!” There were 17 syllables in this “up.”

Me: “Miles, the rule is sitting on our tush in the chair at the table.  If you are all done, you may be excused.”

Miles: “Up, mama! Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. On table. On table. On table. Up. Up. Up.”

I explain that everyone is all done now, and we can go play.  I rub his head, only to question its slimy feeling, which reminds me about the Caesar salad bowl hat.  Extra shampoo tonight.

Miles: “Okay, mama. Love you. Pirates?”

Me: “Yes, we will read Pirates. I love you, too.” And that’s why Bowl Hats are totally fine.

Most nights, dinner is a circus.  If propping his feet up on the table is what makes Miles comfortable enough to eat his lima beans, then so be it.  He’s only a toddler once.  You pick and choose your battles, knowing that the trivial things just don’t matter (i.e. bowl hats) and the things that could have long-term effects are what we should focus on (i.e. why we don’t climb on tables).  Eating with adults is a learning process, and I’m the first to admit that my own table manners could probably use some work.

This is also why we choose to eat dinner at home.  If we go out as a family, it’s usually breakfast or lunch.  If we’re feeling really adventurous/lacking good judgment, we’ll do dinner, but always somewhere loud and family friendly.  On the very rare occasion that Evan and I go out for a nice dinner, it’s always just the two of us.  It’s awesome to have some adult time that includes things like conversation, wine and appetizers, and excludes things like sippy cups, food in nugget form and saying “please” 127 times.

#toddlerlife

#toddlerlife

"You look ridiculous."

“You look ridiculous. Also, no tomatoes. No tomatoes. No tomatoes. No tomatoes.”

It’s not to say that Miles is poorly behaved, because he definitely isn’t.  We just look at this from his perspective.  If the average dinner at home lasts about 27 minutes, I’m not going to have him sit in a high chair or booth with me for an hour.  That’s not fun; he can learn the same dining skills at home, and I don’t have to worry about him eating the crayons (at dinner, that is).  The day will come, sooner than we realize, where we will go out for dinner as a family and no one will try to put a bowl of spaghetti on their head.  But for now, we’re happy to enjoy those moments at home, in all their loud and messy glory.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to scrape the tomatoes off the ceiling.

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Expectation v. Reality: Watching TV

It’s important to know that I have a long-standing love affair with my DVR.  Before becoming a mom, an enormous bulk of my free time was probably spent doing one of my top four favorite things: baking, reading, cryptogram puzzles (if you’re laughing about that one, then QMX FXJP CMU’P KAP WP) and watching TV…specifically, things I had DVRd.

My DVR brought me all of the programming that came on at weird hours or conflicted with the air time of other shows.  It also brought me all the shows I could ever hope to binge watch.

I would spend hours watching The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, I Love Lucy and Mary Tyler Moore.  I also discovered things like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Toddlers & Tiaras, and everything related to pawn shops that has ever aired on A&E, The History Channel or TLC.  I could also watch The Help fifteen times in a row if I wanted.  Oh yes, my DVR was my best friend on many a solo Saturday afternoon.

Now we’re parents, which has brought an entirely new perspective to what we choose to watch.  For example, we no longer watch Toddlers & Tiaras or Tosh.0.  It’s partly because I do forget to DVR them, but also because there’s a nagging voice in the back of your mind that makes itself incredibly known once you have children.  That voice is reminding me “garbage in, garbage out.”  That voice can only be quieted by better programming choices, and wine.  Mostly wine.

Our list of shows has dwindled.  Not only has our taste in what we choose to watch changed, but we also don’t have the free time to watch TV that we did in our early 20s.  Oh sure, we have free time, but we’ve found it’s better suited for doing important things like connecting with each other, finishing household chores, eating ice cream and writing.  Also, playing Candy Crush (I will pay you in cookies to beat level 165 for me).

One of our current fave shows is American Ninja Warrior.

We’ve actually been watching this one for a while, but this is our first season watching it as parents of a toddler.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed my expectation in watching this show is far different from its reality…

Expectation: Show airs at 9pm on Sunday nights, and it’s 120 minutes long.  We will probably watch this show on Wednesday night.  Miles goes to bed at 7:30p; we will sit down at 8:30p, finish the show by 10p, and I will go to bed, still getting almost eight hours of sleep.

Reality:

  • Wednesday, 9pm: Finally sit down to watch the show.
  • Wednesday, 9:15pm: Realize I need more wine.
  • Wednesday, 9:27pm: Realize I need ice cream.
  • Wednesday, 9:58pm: Realize I have fallen asleep.  Go to bed.  Show is unfinished.
  • Thursday, 8:37pm: Okay, earlier start!  We can do this.  Only 77 minutes of show to watch.
  • Thursday, 8:43pm: Cry uncontrollably after watching the first female contestant to ever successfully complete the course.  Pause the show to discuss the importance of this moment with Evan.
  • Thursday, 8:56pm: Cry uncontrollably after watching the contestant with the insulin pump fall off the cargo net and land in the water.  Pause the show to get ice cream.  Feel overwhelming guilt at the realization that the insulin pump reminded me of how much I love ice cream.
  • Thursday, 9:18pm: Fall asleep.  Get up.  Go to bed.  Show is still unfinished.
  • Friday: Watch Hollywood Game Night instead because we need a good laugh.
  • Saturday: Watch Last Comic Standing instead because we still need a good laugh.
  • Sunday: Watch True Blood because HELLO, Jason Stackhouse.
  • Monday: Watch The Leftovers.
  • Tuesday: Watch Food Network Star.  Also watch Alaskan Bush People, and shows related to storage units and shipping things cross country.  Realize I have stayed up too late just to watch someone roll a giant peanut off of a flatbed truck.
  • Wednesday: Remember we still haven’t finished the previous week’s episode of American Ninja Warrior.  Finally finish watching it.  Feeling pretty amped from watching people with far greater physical ability than I could ever hope to have complete the courses.  Decide – at 9:15p – that we will go ahead and watch this week’s episode.  All two hours of it.
  • Wednesday, 10:15pm: Holy shit, I’m still awake!  We’re going to finish a show!
  • Wednesday, 10:54pm: Holy shit, I’m still awake.  I’m only going to get 6 hours of sleep now.
  • Wednesday, 11:07pm: Oh shit.
  • Wednesday, 11:23pm: Go to bed.  Play Candy Crush to “unwind.”  Say “oh shit” a few more times before giving up and accepting the five hours of sleep I have allotted myself, just to watch people climb cargo nets.
  • Thursday, 5:32am: COFFEECOFFEECOFFEECOFFEECOFFEE.

This is how parents of toddlers binge watch, folks.  Also, people in my office, refrain from eye contact until at least 8:30am.  Thank you.

Next American Ninja Napper,

K

The Thoughts

Dear Person in Charge of Thoughts:

I would like to report a thought overage.  I would imagine there is some sort of thought quota; if such a thing exists, I have exceeded it.  I would like to discuss some of these thoughts.

You see, my thoughts tend to run away with themselves when they really get going.  And what previously constituted a sound, calm and peaceful mind has grown into a derailed train, barreling toward a mountainside with one of those faux tunnels painted on it, like Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote.

Accurate depiction of my thoughts on thoughts.

Accurate depiction of my thoughts on thoughts.

These thoughts have a way of taking control, don’t they?

Sometimes they cower in the dark corners of your mind, hiding in the shadows and only hinting at their presence.  Other times, they do the Charleston across the stage, with jazz hands and sequins, begging your attention.  And, if your mind works like my mind, they often plant themselves firmly in the center of the room, directly in front of the television, during the season premiere of The Walking Dead.  You cannot ignore them, and you cannot escape them.

These thoughts, they come from near and far.  Some have followed me home from the office, scampering behind me like a lost dog, reminding me of X, Y and Z that needs to be accomplished ASAP; they are nagging, persistent, yipping thoughts.  Others spring forth unexpectedly after seeing a familiar sight, smelling a certain smell, or hearing a melody you can’t quite place, but love; they are happy, pleasant, nostalgic thoughts.  And there are some thoughts that have traveled a long way, from many, many years ago, to remind me of the things I had packed away so neatly, and stored on the top shelf of my mental closet, boxes that were tightly sealed and never to be opened.  They are distressing, alarming, punch-to-the-gut thoughts.

Much like an old 8mm reel playing on a projection screen, these thoughts swirl without sound; they need no audio, their images are enough.

I supremely enjoy when the happy thoughts take over my mind.  I am endlessly appreciative when the thankful thoughts show up, reminding me of the innumerable blessings in my life.  But I am unnerved by the scary thoughts.

Once you become a parent, you become hyperaware of your thoughts; in many ways, those thoughts, especially the scary thoughts, apply in an even greater extent to your new chapter in life.

Those thoughts, they bring to light the complete importance of the person you have become…the one who loves, laughs, cherishes, teaches, nurtures, feeds, grows, encourages, celebrates and, most importantly, protects this tiny person.

Dear Tiny Person whom I love more than can be fathomed into words, my promise to you is this: I will fiercely love and protect you, always.  Especially from The Thoughts.

Sunday Mom Confessions

It’s that time again…time for me to avoid putting any serious effort into writing, and give you the list of things I’ve done recently that wouldn’t make the cover of Parenting Magazine.  Enjoy.

This week, I have…

  1. Worn maternity pants to the office. I feel like this ends up on the confession list every month, but it’s true.  I also don’t believe any of my coworkers notice when I do this.
  2. Realized it’s been three weeks since I’ve done my own laundry.  Don’t worry, everyone else has clean clothes, and I have yet to turn a pair of underwear inside out for myself.  This stems from the burned out light bulb in my closet, which has in turn provided enough material for an entire blog post.  I know you’re looking forward to that.
  3. Forgotten that Miles is on Mixed Veggie Protest.  Instead, he has opted to eat only peas, corn and carrots, but not mixed together.  At dinner this evening, I proceeded to separate all mixed veggies.  That, my friends, is love.  It is also understanding that he has most likely inherited his mother’s whack OCD.
  4. Eaten three grilled cheese sandwiches and two fried turkey bologna sandwiches for lunch.  Yesterday, I ate half a head of broccoli with some dip, so I believe that balances out the grilled cheese.  I’m tired and lazy.
  5. Prayed to the gods of the twelve month molars to let the teeth come in already, so the kid will stop chewing on my car keys every chance he gets.
  6. Attempted to bake a butterscotch brownie using a recipe I’m completely unfamiliar with, off the bag of butterscotch chips no less.  It turned out to be an 8×8 butterscotch chocolate chip cookie disaster, that couldn’t even be cut.  Instead of throwing it away, I stuck a spoon in it, and continued eating large chunks every single day while cooking dinner.  It was hate-eating at its finest.
  7. Cried during American Ninja Warrior.  This has also given me enough material for an entire post.
  8. Did zero household chores during Saturday’s naptime.  Instead, I opted to lay on the couch watching reruns of Sex and the City, and work on level 164 of Candy Crush.  People still play that, right?  I’m a little out of the loop…
  9. So far out of the loop, that I had never heard the songs “Happy” or “Fancy” until this week.  But I know all the words to “Down by the Bay” (where the watermelons grooow…Raffi 4 Lyfe)
  10. Let Miles fingerpaint with his yogurt, out of sheer appreciation for the joy on his face while doing so.  A dining room table can be replaced, but memories of coconut yogurt sunshines are irreplaceable.

Before I had Miles, I took melatonin religiously at bedtime.  After I got knocked up, I realized the label said “not for use during pregnancy”, so I quit.  I remember worrying about how well I would sleep without melatonin (surprise: pregnancy takes care of that), and that I was looking forward to the day I could take it again.  Then we had Miles, and I realized that children are melatonin for parents.  Their strength increases with age.  This isn’t a confession; merely an observation.  You don’t want to sleep like a baby; you want to sleep like the parents of the baby.

Miles will be 15 months old tomorrow, which to me feels like he’s getting his learner’s permit.  I’ll never make fun of anyone who says “boy, does time fly…” ever again.

Zzzz,

K