Saturday, October 29, 2011

Terrible Twos

The other day, my wife and I were talking about the general trends of Little Bear's behavior. He's been seriously picking fights with his brother lately, to the point of escalating things beyond simple brotherly squabbles. In addition, he's been kind of difficult in regards to the whole potty thing at home. Nothing serious, but annoying beyond what we'd expect from such an intelligent, motivated young boy.

Grandma wound up with the best response on why we've had such a hard time: we've never had a two year old before, and Little Bear is very, very two. The Boy was chronologically two, true, but he was never really a "real" two year old. The first eight months of his "two-ness" was spent in treatment and surgery, which meant he was rarely the energetic, independent toddler that Little Bear is.

It's kind of a weird thing, realizing that a part of his childhood was so different from his brother's. I know that every single person has their own life and their own experiences, and The Boy will turn out to be his own self regardless of cancer treatments and things like that. I know that each of the three boys will have their own memories and interpolations of what happens, and - most likely - they'll be just as neurotic and screwed up and normal as the rest of us.

It is also a little humbling as a parent, to be reminded of exactly how little we know. I think that, as far as parents of an under-five family, we are pretty far ahead of the curve in terms of our abilities to deal with crisis. We know how to drop everything and deal with a Big Deal. What we don't necessarily know how to rectify are normal life, every day situations like an overly passionate 2-year old.

We will get there. Little Bear is a nice boy, even if he throws lots of fits and pulls his brother's hair and wakes up at 5:45 every morning and won't go back to sleep. This, too, shall pass, and in years to come, we will look back at his infancy and toddlerhood with nostalgia and affection.

Even if we do occasionally want to duct tape him to the couch cushions.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Technology Fail

I love the new iOS that Apple has released, but I'm not loving some of the comparability issues that have risen up and interfered with some aspects of my life, such as my blogging. Neither my Blogpress app nor google's blogger interface are playing nicely with the new Safari right now, and that's meant that I have lost about two hours worth of writing to the ether. Kind of frustrating, really. Not that I have that much to say, certainly not of any real importance, but it's been a nice couple of weeks.

Aside from the colds, that is. Both older children have been sick for most of the week. They haven't been stay at home sick, but they've been a little out of sorts and drippy. I've had it for most of the week, and few things are better for a cold than a job that requires you to talk all day. It's a lot better than trying to expand your voice to fill an entire classroom, but it's still not very easy. I'm proud to say that my vocal studies have gotten me through the week unscathed, more or less.

The Baby has gotten through the week without a hitch. He's finding his left thumb on a regular basis. Few things are cuter than a little baby with his thumb. Only thing I've found is mirror image little boys with thumbs: The Baby with his left, The Boy with his right. The Baby has been really smiley and happy all week, fortunately. Pictures will follow, as soon as the blogging app is repaired.

No real progress on The Boy's anger issues. He's been really challenging with which to deal on momentum-changing (leaving the house, stopping to come home, etc.), but fairly agreeable in between major fits. He hasn't been starting fights with his brother, which is a relief, although Little Bear has started the unfortunate habit of pulling his brother's hair, in response to needing The Boy's attention. This has the effect of making The Boy run away crying, until he gets mad enough that he knocks Little Bear to the floor and jumps on him, swinging away.

I'm not I'm favor of violence, but if Little Bear is going to pull his bigger brother's hair just to make him mad, then he deserves to get his butt kicked a little bit.

Ironically enough, despite the constant squabbling between the two of them, and despite the frequent fits and resistance, both boys are model citizens at school: attentive, great at participating, nice to their friends, great at sharing. I guess that it's good that they're sharing their good halves at school and the rest at home, but, still.

Here's to hoping that the technology fixes itself.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Birthday Parties

Today, we had dueling birthday parties for the first time. It was really kind of cool: I went with The Boy to the birthday party of one of his friends at noon, and The Wife went to a birthday party with Little Bear for one of his school friends. I'm pleased to say that both parties went extremely well, and it was pretty neat to see that both sets of parents had the right ideas about throwing a party. The Boy's party was held at the temple, based in their classroom. That's where the cake and arts and crafts were held. Out in the hallway, a small basketball net was set up, and some balls and cones and balloons were set up. There were some games and some different activities for the group, and there was lots of laughing. The snacks were tasteful: some veggies, cheese, goldfish crackers, chips, and Doritos. The Doritos were the killer; I could pass up cake, but not those chips. We've been pretty lucky about the whole preschool friends thing, really. We haven't shown up to any parties to find the most outrageous thing ever; just nice, simple, fun outings with the focus more on kids playing games and having fun rather than ostentatious displays of wealth. Granted, those types of people tend not to want to associate with people like us, but still. I hope that I'm intelligent and considerate enough to never want to try the keep-up-with-them game. I'm pleased to report that The Boy behaved beautifully at the party. He was gentle and generous with the other kids, and he shared quite well. He played with most of the kids there. They had a piñata at the party, which is not a favorite of mine. While I'm not a big believer in dignity, watching a group of children scrabbling on the ground for candy bits is not a favorite of mine. When the piñata burst, he was well behaved, taking only what he was planning on eating and not just shoveling stuff into his goodie bag. The rest of the day went pretty smoothly. We played outside and did some piggy back sorts of things, and both boys were in bed early tonight. We spent the rest of the night folding laundry and catching up on Doctor Who. Tomorrow, we've got a nice school day and a late work night for me. Should be lots of fun.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More Cool Stuff

The Baby is now able to find his thumb at will, which is really nice. As a matter of fact, he has soothed himself to sleep on several occasions, and his napping time is starting to even out. The whole "settling" process is going along quite well, and even his sleep is starting to even out and become somewhat more predictable. We even set up the crib over the weekend, and he's sleeping in it on occasion.

The birdies in the mobile are the same ones from The Boy's crib. We love the birdies. Both boys are adjusting to the baby quite well, and they both are paying attention to him and playing with him. Even Little Bear is playing with the baby!

Little Bear actually took himself to the potty to make poo today! He's had a couple of potty-poops in the last few days, which is great progress towards goal. We are still in training pants at school, but... well, he's making steady progress.

The Boy is doing some nice things, also. This morning, Little Bear hitting him while at breakfast. He played a smacking game with Little Bear, then brought him into the den and said, "No, Little Bear, we hit pillows, now people!" It was excellently handled, and I was really impressed with him this morning.

We are reading "Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin," and he plays the part of Duck while I play Goose. We read the lines with excessively silly voices, and it's loads of fun. The Boy asks for it about six times in a night!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, October 10, 2011

Some Cool Stuff

The Baby has decided that he really, really likes his left thumb. He's able to find it more-or-less at will, which is nice. He soothed himself to sleep a couple of times today. That's what we like, and one reason why we haven't been into the pacifier thing - can't loose your thumb white as easily as a pacifier. Sure, I know that there might be tooth issues later, but it might save our sanity now.

The Boy did a nice job riding his three wheeler down to the school playground and back. I helped him get over some of the rougher spots on the sidewalk and cross the street, but he did most of the work. I'm very proud of him. He's also doing a nice job with his letters at school, as you would expect. He still has that thing about needing to go first, but he's line leader this week, which makes him extremely happy. Ad, it motivates him to get moving - "Daddy's first, The Boy." "No! The Boy's first! Daddy has to wait!"

He's also discovering Daddy and Mum's first names and how to spell and write them. Kind of cool.

Little Bear knows the names of so many songs! He's asked for some old barbershop songs by name that we didn't know he knew. It's really cool to hear that, and it keeps us on our toes. That child has ears like a bat - he hears everything that happens, and he is a near-perfect parrot. Makes me watch my language more than I otherwise would. He went on a bike ride on the back of Mom's bicycle this afternoon, which was a lot of fun!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Scripted Reality

What's interesting about watching Little Bear develop is how tends to learn the "scripts" for the way life is supposed to go. This request gets this response, which triggers this response, and so forth. Classic behaviorist theory of stimulus - response, lived out as a real person.

Most of the time, the scripts are fairly benign. We walk into the restaurant, and he asks to go to the potty. He sees me at his door in the morning, and he starts the good morning talk: hi, Daddy, how are you doing? I slept well and had nice dreams. That sort of thing.

We're still dealing with the hitting issue, which is an obviously scripted response to a few different subjects: lack of attention, lack of stimulation, more unstructured time than he knows how to fill. The throwing thing is related - when Little Bear wants to play with something and he can't, if you make the mistake of suggesting something else, he will walk over, throw it, then say, "Daddy! The iPhone! I throwed it!" It's extremely predictable and consistent.

Basically, it comes down to attention. If we aren't giving him the attention that he requires, then he's going to find a way to get it. One of my friends, as a response to my last exploration of the hitting thing, suggest that a definite consequence to action was needed. The only problem with that is that it doesn't really match the "crime," if you will. Even though a two year old occasionally behaves like they should be put through the wall head first, that doesn't mean that the situation would improve by doing so.

When you look as severely misbehaving and criminal children, one thing becomes quite clear: the only attention they receive, and the only attention with which they can deal, is negative attention. That's what they get at home, that's what they get at school, and that's how they view themselves. Armchair psychological analysis of my own family members shows the same thing: when you're told that you're the least intelligent of your siblings, then that's how you're going to behave when they're around, even if that "fact" is nowhere close to being true.

I haven't been a believer in action-Immediate, defined consequence thing in quite a few years. To my viewpoint, each action needs to be examined in its own circumstances and appropriate response needs to be considered and discussed before implementation. Every situation is different. For instance, I was finishing up my lunch today when Little Bear came up, bored and looking for attention, and whacked me on my shoulder.

This was clearly a plea for attention and playing. It wasn't the right way to go about it, but for Little Bear, this action was the easiest to get the desired outcome: attention, regardless of the type. The script that he's learned said that he hits, and I pick him up, remove him from the situation, lecture him about hitting (as you could possibly do to a 2-year old), and try to redirect his energy somewhere else. As my wife puts it, when repeated attempts haven't gotten him over the hump, change the script.

I laughed at him and tapped him on the shoulder. He wasn't sure how to respond, so he did it again, and I repeated my action. He tried a third time, to which I tapped on the top of his head, then offered the top of my head for an easy whack. We did that to each other three or four times, he laugh Ed a lot, then he went inside and played quietly with a toy. Incidentally, he didn't hit as hard as he is capable of - it was a play fight sort of thing, an obvious bid for attention from me. Having provided the little bit of attention and interaction he required, he moved on to something fun and creative in the living room.

Is this a long term response? No, it isn't. I don't want him thinking that it's okay to come up to me for any reason and hit. However, it worked, there was no negative reinforcement or overresponse, and his needs were momentarily met.

On the cute side of things, he's started asking, "Daddy, what's your favorite color?" He believes that my favorite color is green, which is as good a choice as any. He will respond for The Boy's favorite color (orange), Mom's favorite (purple, the royal color for my Queen), Grandma's favorite (blue), and he's decided that The Baby's favorite is yellow. His favorite, incidentally, is blue. At least, for the moment...

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Simple Moments

Today, we took the boys to the park in the morning. We went to Blue Slide Park, which is our favorite place to go. When we go to the park, it never ceases to amaze me at how much fun our kids have. It is one of the wonderful things about having young children: simple things and simple pleasures. Like I said yesterday, little boys, little problems, simple pleasures.

There is nothing more beautiful than watching my son run, just for the sake of running. He wants me to chase him or to be chased by him; there is no real rules or order to the game, just a daddy and his boy running together in the park. Watching him running and laughing with delight...

A little while later, we sat in the dirt and drew words in the sand with sticks. That was lots of fun. Best part? We played "plants," which meant using those same sticks to dig little holes, put in a "seed" (usually a small leaf or rock), and cover the hole. "Don't forget to water the plants!" (he said after each time.) A couple other kids wandered over and played with us and it was pretty cool.

Little Bear is not so much into the chasing games and the digging games. He enjoys running as much as his brother, but he's still in the independent playing stage. He loves the swings, although he will go from one swing to the next to the next. It's cute, even if you'd rather be walking around and enjoying the park. He is a little afraid of the public toilets in the park, though, which can be a tad frustrating. The Wife tried to get him to pee behind some bushes, but he wound up peeing on his pants. Right process, wrong results. Sigh.

The boys can be so much fun, and they seem to enjoy wonderful, fun, simple things. Today was a good day for that.

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Friday, October 7, 2011


By all measures, I should be asleep by now. Allergies have been absolutely killing me all week, and my general schedule - work, chase children, put them to bed, accomplish all the chorus/singing stuff, spend time with my wife, take a little necessary me-time, then to bed for five or six hours of sleep - has been taking its toll on me. I'm not as young as I used to be, and there's been a lot of mileage on Musical Daddy in the last several years.

However, everybody else in the house is asleep. That means, I can watch tv, or listen to music, and read a book, or a comic book, or whatever I feel like doing, for a little while. That kind of time, you know, is worth its wait in gold. When it was only The Boy in the house, I used to treasure those Sunday mornings, before he and The Wife awoke. I'd take the time to make a pot of coffee, and I'd just sit in my chair and read the newspaper and enjoy the silence and temporary, utter lack of momentum for a little while.

I understand that this craziness is somewhat temporary and definitely transitory. The babies will grow into boys and into teenagers and into young men, and I will look back with fondness at the times when they wanted nothing more than to wrestle with Daddy and snuggle up and read a story together. Little boys have little problems: fighting over an iPad, potty problems, and negotiating over an extra song or story at night. Big boys have big problems, and I am definitely not looking forward to those.

Don't get me wrong; I get It. I understand the general point involved: it's not the destination, it's the journey. It's not the man at the end, but the thousands of bum wipes and nose wipes and stories and songs and fights and arguments and "spoiling" with treats and sleepless nights and 3am snuggles and late night fevers and noodles for breakfast and pancakes for dinner that happen along the way. Every time I see my children is a treat, and I do my best, on a daily basis, to make sure that I've given each of my sons (and my wife) and overabundance of hugs, kisses, and "I Love You"s.

Eleven years (and three days) ago, I went on a date with a girl that I knew from college - we had worked together at a summer program, and I was intrigued. We met at a jazz club later on, and we spent the night talking, then made a date. Who knew that that date, three and a half years later, would end in marriage and a lifetime? Or, more precisely, three new lifetimes?

Three years ago, The Wife noticed a bump on a sleeping baby's belly. Who knew that that "tip of the iceberg" tumor would result in a new residence, a new career for me, two more children, and a relocation to Pittsburgh?

Wow, that got morbid in a hurry. I think that might be the allergy medicine kicking in. I certainly didn't mean for this to be quite so melancholy. I was intending on writing a small dissertation on how Little Bear follows certain scripts of behavior, which tends to confirm quite a bit about behaviorist psychology. I guess that will wait.

The bottom line seems to be that I'm not as young as I used to be, and I'm not happy about that. I'm not surprised; one can only function for 18 hour days with six hours of sleep for so long before your body starts to revolt. Sitting at a desk in a cubicle is not exactly the best way to keep one's self in peak condition; it wears on you, in a different manner than physical labor and teaching do. I know I'll adjust; it's just going to take time. Until then, it'll be a bit challenging.

And, while we are all adjusting to the new paradigm, I will take advantage of this wonderful, momentary, beautiful moment of stillness.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mirror Images?

It's amazing how much the boys look like each other at their respective ages. I mean, they are individuals, but... wow.

The Baby:

The Boy:

Uncanny, no? You'd think that they had the same genetic pool or something.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Two Forward, One Back

So, we got a letter today, from Little Bear's preschool, wanting some kind of action on his escalating number of potty accidents during the school day. Today, for instance, he had three accidents. This is frustrating for all, because he's not giving any indications that he has to go, and he's just standing there and playing with soiled pants, without a care in the world.

Sound familiar? I remember how frustrated we were about The Boy at a similar stage of potty training, albeit a chronological year later in his life. The toughest pill to swallow wasn't the inability of The Boy to control his potty impulses. It was the fact that he just didn't seem to care. While he is on the other side of that, he will still hold his pee until the front of his jockey shorts are damp before he'll run to the bathroom.

Little Bear hasn't reached that period yet. Granted, it's early. He's still very young, and only one other kid in his school class actually uses the potty on a regular basis. It seems like he has no impulse to be a pioneer in this particular skill! The frustrating thing for his teachers is, like his brother, his seeming indifference.

I guess we aren't surprised. We expected and have been seeking the reversion that inevitably happens when a major life change happens to a child - and a new baby brother, new work hours for Daddy, and new school schedule certainly fit that bill. The potty is the least of the issues. It's joust the smelliest.

I, for one, will be happier when our sons' first recourse is to NOT hit. It is frustrating to get smacked by a two year old who doesn't want to put a toy away or stay at the dinner table one minute longer than he feels he should. I've been successful, recently, at turning it into a game that gets the kids doing what we want: dodging, saying "You missed!" and laughing about it has seemed to be successful and funny for all involved. The hitting and anger turns into reasonable and jolly compliance, albeit temporarily.

I know this is just a stage that we are traveling. I know it'll be better. Hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, though.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Tricky Bit

The tricky bit with newborns is realizing that, even if you are doing everything correctly, even if all of their needs seem to be met, and even if there is no reason in the world, they are still going to cry.

It's what they do.

And, they'll occasionally cry more, just because they love you and are comforted by you. Just because.

Yesterday, some friends came by for lunch, and they had a baby who was around six months old. I took the baby so that her mom could get her jacket off, and the baby snuggled right into my chest and relaxed. Babies, in general, love me. It's nice to be reminded of that.

And, it is so important to remember that babies cry, and that that is okay.

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Some Observations

Little Bear, over the last several days, has decided to backtrack his potty training. He's been having between three and five pee accidents every day, which is really odd. He probably would go two to four days between pee accidents before, mostly because he enjoyed going to the potty and getting a chance to flush the toilet and play with the water while he washed his hands. We're pretty sure that it's an attention thing, because it was the same way when The Boy was younger.
Granted, The Boy's potty issues were more frustrating, for two reasons. First, he was older than Little Bear when we did the potty thing with him, which means that he was a little more aware than his younger brother. Second, because of the radiation on his stomach, he had liquid poo several times per day. At least Little Bear only poops once or twice a day, and it's normal poo, at that. The potty problems seem more frustrating at the moment because we don't really remember The Boy's issues so clearly. Our children might have some issues with authority. In that, they take after their parents. Lord help them. In other ways, they've been relatively normal this week. The Wife is finding herself in the role as "husband gone for ten hours to work" wife. She's really, really good at handling the three children by herself. Personally, I've only had to handle the three kids for a period of a couple of hours, and I'm usually in a cold sweat by the end of it. I don't know how she does it like she does. I know it'll get easier, in some ways, when they're a little older and The Baby is a little more settled. It's just really, really hard right now. The Boy had a "Back to School" cough this week, which kept him home from school for a day. They've both had the typical-for-this-time-of-year runny noses, Little Bear moreso than The Boy. I've made one minor change over the past couple of nights, when putting The Boy to bed: no more iPad. We had settled into the routine with one or two stories, then we'd watch "In the Night Kitchen" or "Where the Wild Things Are" movies from Scholastic Video. It's really cute and well done, particularly considering they both had Maurice Sendak himself narrating. We've slowly evolved that routine into watching stuff without reading books, and that makes me uncomfortable. So, no more iPad. The iPad itself has become, at times, more trouble than it's worth. It is guaranteed to start fights between the older boys; no matter how many iDevices are floating around the house, they will fight over whichever iPad is around. We could be having Family Laptop Time, with each boy on an iPad, and they'll get in a fight over each other's machine. It's kind of frustrating. The only entertaining thing about it is that The Boy has been in love with an Elmo Alphabet game, which is far, far below his skill level. Weird. I'm looking forward to a nice, boring week and a nice, boring weekend next weekend, Yom Kippur excepted. It looks like I have no meetings, singing jobs, extra rehearsals, or obligations this week. Just work, home, work, home, work, and home. I kind of like that.