Monday, December 11, 2017

Experiments in Parenting

I have long considered parenting a giant experiment, and just because you have one kid and eventually think you have it pretty much figured out, that doesn't mean whatever you did is going to be appropriate for the next kid. Or the next. (And, no, there will be no "next" over here; just furthering a point). A friend of mine said something similar, adding, "You just have to see how they turn out to know whether it worked or not." But I don't think that's how it works. I know people who have had amazing parents and great childhoods, and were just messes. And there are people you think should be in dire straits because of the terrible start they had, and they're content, balanced, peaceful people.

I think the only way to determine "success" is to figure out what your priorities are, and then parent in light of those. And while it's natural to have an outcome-based mindset ("I want her to grow up to be a well-adjusted philanthropist"), I don't think that's particularly healthy. If you're always thinking to some nebulous future, it's difficult to parent in the moment, but instead to extrapolate out in unhealthy ways ("If I don't make him clean his room now, he'll never develop discipline and he'll shoot up an abandoned gas pump and blow up a bunch of cows when he's 19.")

Short version of how to parent: Do the best you know how, and when you know better, do better.

When D was little, I was much more of an authoritarian than I am now. I think this had a lot to do with the religious environment in which I was entrenched, which has the basic attitude that unless you reign in the little dickens early, the whole world will pay for it. Even when some things I did would hurt me for myself and on my kids' behalf, I wasn't aware that there were more relationship-strengthening ways to approach things.

Basically, in addition to having a totally different dad than D, Mal basically has a different mom. Insert lots of regret and guilt about D, even while knowing that, for the most part, my older kid had an amazing childhood. I wish I could do it over again; I truly do. Plus, after Mal, parenting that easy one again would seem ridiculously effortless.

But I digress.

My point here was to tell some anecdotes. I'm always aware, however, that when I speak of my parenting style, it might be taken to mean that I think I'm the greatest at this and that I think everyone should emulate me. I don't. I just think this whole beautiful mess is interesting, and I like to share. And remember.

So, we don't limit Mal's "screen time." And it's amazing to me how, at age 3, he will be watching something, have a better idea, and just turn his tablet off.

We never say "no" when he asks to watch something or play a game (unless we're about to leave), but we also never (or rarely, like if we want to watch something as a family) suggest it. And there are whole days when my very "high-input-required" child won't think of his electronic device at all, and my soul is pleading with him telepathically, "You want to see the Tusken Raider attack Luke!"

Usually, he'll watch a few minutes pretty early in the morning, then play a lot, and maybe watch something else around dinner time. We don't take the tablet to restaurants, but we do let him watch at the table at home, because it's often the only way James and I can have conversations. I'll get that to a minute.

There are days when Mal will go back to the computer several times throughout the day, and that's usually after he's had a busy few days. Those days are, honestly, a relief to me. That's when I get stuff done.

But I don't think Mal watches much more of anything than other kids his age. When D was little, I think we had a limit of 30 minutes a day. I know that was something looked forward to and considered a treat. With Mal, it's just no big deal. He can take it or leave it. But D never would have skipped a day and have missed out on the precious minutes we meted out.

Also, we don't have battles over this, and that's the most important part. It's added peace to our household. And we've given up nothing. He is an imaginative, high-energy kid. This doesn't hamper that at all.

We also don't restrict what Mal eats, in terms of which foods or at what times he eats. This often means making macaroni and cheese at 9:45 PM or a bowl of cereal at 3:30 AM. In fact, the other day, he woke up asking for a Lofthouse cookie at about that time, and then ate that and drank some soda, and went right back to sleep. I could have talked him into eating something different or not at all, but that would have probably messed up the "right back to sleep" part of that whole thing.

Being the master of his own fate, Mal probably does eat more sweets than other kids whose food is more carefully controlled, but then he also does stuff like this:

Yesterday, Mal fell asleep on the way home from a busy church/mall/McD's/grocery run. It was about 3:30 and he slept 45 minutes or so (but it pushed his bedtime back 2 hours!), waking up asking for an Oreo. I got him one, which he ate, and he asked for another. I gave him a second Oreo, and he asked for a third, which I got for him. He took one bite of it and asked, "Do we have any plain broccoli?" So then he ate a big bowl of broccoli. (And by "plain," he means not mixed in with pasta or anything fancy, but he does like it nuked for about 45 seconds so it's not raw.)

Since Mal is well and thriving, I just don't worry about the fact that he eventually had 3 Oreos, because there's something to be said for the joy of eating garbage in a lifestyle of health.

Once again, this stance means that we don't have food battles common to the "you *will* eat X, or you can eat nothing" or incentivizing certain foods (which studies have shown makes people hate the "you have to eat this first" food more than they would if they were simply forced to eat the first food without the promise of whatever treat might follow). So, more peace. That's the blessing.

It is not to say that we don't have food-related drama. No. On the contrary, we have a three-year-old.

Two examples: The other day, I cooked three-cheese ravioli. I made a garlic mushroom sauce for the rest of us, but, knowing Mal wouldn't be too keen on it, fished out his ravioli and set it aside first. He had been very interested in it before I cooked it, asking to eat a raw pillow. However, when I set the bowl in front of him, he started crying.

"No! I don't like this. It's yucky." I asked if he could just taste it to make sure. He put a ravioli on his fork and stuck his tongue out to it. Then he started screaming, "NO! I don't like this! It's too sour! I don't want to eat it!" I asked him if he'd rather have plain noodles. He said yes. I said, "Okay. I'm going to eat a few bites of this while it's still warm, then I'll cook you some noodles."

Less than a minute passed, and Mal took a bite of the ravioli. He then finished that one, and promptly ate all 4 that I'd given him. Why are kids so weird?! And, no, I didn't have to make noodles. He was happy.

Then yesterday, Mal had wanted to buy M&Ms at the store until he saw Oreos. Then he wanted those. I told him we could get one, and he could decide. He elected to get Oreos. At this point, I used my parental influence to sell him on the limited-edition Cookie Butter (INSANITY!) version, instead of "the black ones."


I had told him he could have one when we got in the car, so as soon as I strapped him in, I gave him one. Same story: He touched his tongue to it and started yelling, "No! I don't like this one!" "Do you want me to take it back?" Wailing, "YES!!!!" So I took it from him. I sat it in the console and started to leave the parking lot. We hadn't made it to the street before Mal said, "Okay. I'll try." I handed it to him and he ate it. Happily. Then, later, you know... asked for three more.

Oh, and speaking of drama, Mal has decided that we're not tending to his needs quite enough. He's on a kick where, if James and I are trying to have a conversation, he'll say, "Mommy! Can you talk to ME?" I'm like, "You're here, and you can be part of this conversation, but so is Daddy. Please don't interrupt me in the middle of a sentence." And so on. Then the other day, I was going to the bathroom and he ran up to me and asked, "Can you please give me some attention, Mamma?" IT'S PRACTICALLY ALL I EVER DO, CHILD!

I guess he just wants to show us that maybe he wasn't *that* high-needs before. Now he will show us what true high needs are? Aw, man, it's good he's so cute.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fast Times and Slow Days

First, a news item: For only the second time in his life, and the first time in almost three years ,Mal fell asleep in the wee hours of this morning without nursing or being in a car or stroller. I can't repeat it every day, nor do I think it would be reliable if I did, but it happened so it needs to be noted!

At about 4:30, Mal woke wide up and said, "I need a cookie. With icing. And sprinkles." Fortunately for him, we happened to have two leftover Icehouse sugar cookies that I'd purchased last week. I told him to stay still and I'd go get it, but he insisted on walking with me. So first, he accompanied me to the restroom, and then to the kitchen for his cookie. He ate the whole thing, then requested, "Now soda." I thought I had outsmarted him by putting a Sprite in his room, along with the necessary straw. Unfortunately, the pop top didn't work and I wasn't in the mood to scrounge around for a replacement caffeine-free beverage, so I brought him a replacement soda, he drank a few swallows, and the he lay back again. I was waiting for the requisite, "Deedees," but... he started breathing the deep, rhythmic breaths of a sleeper almost immediately. IT'S A PRE-CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!

As an aside: Please note that he consumed an entire frosted cookie, practically all sugar, carbs, and some fat; and caffeine. And went straight back to sleep. Definitely my kid.

We've stayed home the past two days, and it's been glorious. Yesterday was hot and kind of slow. We went outside a couple of times, and I took advantage of the full sun in the afternoon to "disinfect" Mal's mattress from the previous night's digestive misfire. He asked about going to the store several times, but in the end, seemed fine with not leaving to go anywhere.

Today, he didn't ask to go to the store for toys at all. He's been driving us somewhat batty recently,
"needing" every toy he can think of. He will cry and insist and beg and has the saddest "pwetty pwease" you've ever heard. I wonder where he picked that up, incidentally. I blame YouTube.

Today was a bit of a challenge because James had three phone interactions. He's staying very busy, and we'd be rolling in it if he were getting paid for all of the job-seeking action he's getting.

Anyway, today I got my chore done quite early and spent the majority of the day playing with Mal. He loves pretending and really needs a very compliant and easy-going child companion, because he's bossy about what the other characters should do and say, and is particularly unforgiving if he's trying to act out a movie scene he's watched countless times and the other person gets the line wrong.

Here's a random aside: Mal has started calling me "Mom-mah" and I lurves it. It's so cute! Not sure where that came from, either, but dang. Sweet pickle.

Now here are a couple of random pictures of our festive holiday decorations.

Utilizing solar energy since 2017!
O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree! Bonk-a-chick-a, bonk-a-chick-a... 


Okie doke, so back to our day. The last two or three hours Mal was awake today were exhausting. His right nostril decided to run constantly, and he was both tired and hyper. This meant he kept falling off of stuff and knocking things over and getting hurt. Although I started the trend by spilling a full soda earlier, he spilled his soda THREE TIMES, even after I repeatedly moved it so it would not be in the way of his craziness.

He kept jumping around in the kitchen, on and off of his step stool, off of which he pulled the anti-skid tabs a few months ago. One time, he fell "into" the dishwasher, and thank God we didn't have any of the silverware with the business sides up, or he might have lost a finger. Then once, he backed into James. It's a galley kitchen, so there's really not room for more than one person, and when we're cooking, Mal bouncing off of the walls is really a disaster waiting to happen.

Thankfully, the last thing he wanted to do was to take a bath, and that wound him down a little. He did stand up at the end and fling some water around, telling me he was "Water Man" and that he had powers.

Oh, also, in the past few days, he's brought up toys he had as a baby and that I got rid of more than a year ago, as we prepared to move. He's very upset that I got rid of the wooden "chicken car" and that one Supergirl he got in a Happy Meal. I guess I'm a pretty bad mom. Also, it looks like he's going to have his dad's cradle memory. He remembers things I cannot believe. He'll tell me "Grandma made me that" about stuff he's had since he was an infant and I don't remember talking to him about where it came from.

Sadly, our day ended with some tears as Mal wanted his toothpaste to eat while he was in the bath. I told him no, and he got over that disappointment by asking to paint his bath toys with tempra paint. I told him I'd order him some bath paint, and actually did order it right that minute from Amazon. I told him it would be here in two days, then he asked, "Is it here yet?" "No. It will be two days." "No, it will be here NOW."

Fortunately, the sadness was short-lived as Mal was definitely ready for bed after that bath.

Today, as I do very often at the end of the day, I think about what all I've done -- the running, the rough-housing, the back-and-forth through the house to clean, pick up, fetch things, check on food in the kitchen, walk to the lake, carry a heavy boy, do intense cleaning, laundry, yard work, etc. -- and I wonder why I'm not skinny. Then I remember that I ordered pizza for lunch, and then I made salted caramel chocolate chip cookies for dinner, and I'm like, "Oh, yeah. That's why."

Oooh, and one final thing! I had the *worst* dream as I was waking up yesterday! I dreamed that we were on vacation, and when James and I were messing with each other, I said, "Ugh, well that's it. I can't live like that; I'm leaving." James looked so relieved and said, "Oh, good. When did you realize it?" I said, "Um, never. I'm being facetious, idiot." (I am super nice, the way I talk.) But he said, "Oh. I'm not. I don't love you anymore." And while THAT was awful, he started acting really resentful and kind of scary, so much that I posted a live video on Facebook, telling everyone what James didn't love me anymore and was leaving me... I guess so if he killed me or something, the cops would know where to look? But I remember thinking, "This sucks SO much. I don't know how I'm going to handle it. But I hope he just goes home so I can have a nice vacation with the kids."

Nutty, I know. This is what I get for my "whatever the opposite of nap is" two-hour waking period during what should have been a rather full night's sleep that evening. Maybe some day I'll realize how important good sleep is, and I'll commit better to it. (I fondly fantasize over that time, folks.)

Enjoy this cold front!

Monday, December 4, 2017

On Watch

It's 4:50 AM and I've been awake for about an hour. Mal woke up sick, and fortunately didn't seem to feel too terrible. I cleaned the bed and him up while he drank some soda, then he took a bit to go back to sleep, but now I'm awake. I have the window cracked open, and it's so beautiful outside. I know it's cold other places, but it's still getting up to 80 during the day here, so even the mid-60s feels nice.

Mal and I get up Saturday morning and went up to Belton for "Christmas on the Farm," which reminded me a lot of the stuff we used to do at the school fairs where I went to elementary school. It was a fundraiser for Aware Central Texas, but even so was quite inexpensive. They had a country Santa sitting out in overalls in front of a sort of reasonable facsimile of Mater from Mal's favorite movie, Cars (2, actually), but Mal's not into visiting St. Nick just yet. He did like the tractor "race," though!


After that, we went to Nana and Pappy's house. My sister's family except for the D-aged kids came up, too, so we had an impromptu celebration of Sarah's birthday.

Mal doesn't have toilet accidents at home anymore, but, like D, is hesitant -- no, that's too passive a term. He's adamant about not using other toilets. For that reason, he peed in my parents' back yard three times throughout the day.

We took our time coming home because I mistakenly thought that Mal might go to sleep in the car, and it was too early for that. Consequently, he peed in his pants at the park near my parent's house, then he pooped in his pants literally two minutes after we'd been inside the family stall at a safety stop on the way home. Oh well. We got to see something pretty cool while we were there, anyway.


There were two tandem skydivers, apparently landing on top of construction cranes? That's what it looked like from the rest stop playground, anyway.

I was so beat by the time we got home that I was preparing to stay home all day Sunday, but Mal was ready for church, so we went. There's a new little boy Mal's age who has come the past two weeks, and the family with three boys (I really should know their names after a year) was there, too.

After church, we met James for lunch at Santa Catarina which, of course, has a playground. I had an awesome shrimp and grilled cactus salad, and James had their vegetarian tacos. Mal played tag with some kids, and threw some coins in the fountain, and ate James's beans but refused to eat his home fries because they were cube-shaped and not fry-shaped (he didn't say this, but I get him).



Yesterday afternoon, I was so exhausted, I thought I couldn't live without a nap. Or a full night's sleep. It was one of those "something's gotta give" days, and miraculously, Mal let me lie down for 10 minutes while he watched a bit of Cars 2, and before he decided that he needed me to get up to play with him.

We spent some of the afternoon outside, then Mal wanted to go down to the lake. Once again, we saw something cool... and not just the increasing Christmas display!  There was a guy flying a remote-control seaplane! It was flying when we got there, then he splashed it down into the water, and then it maneuvered like a boat.




There's always something to see! Mal requested that we stay until dark, so we did. There was a group of about three families there, and the kids let Mal play with them. At one point, the oldest girl was pretending to be an animal keeper, and had the kids each pick an animal to be. Mal was a zebra. But the "drew" squares in the dirt to be their homes, and while some kids compliantly went to their spots and sat, I could have told her she was sasting her time drawing a pad for my kid. He ran around and "yipped" a lot.


We came home and I fixed pizza hot dogs for dinner because eMeals told me to. And, yes, at this point if eMeals told me to jump off a bridge, I'd totally do it because I trust them. Incidentally, Mal is the only one in the family who did *not* eat a pizza hot dog, in case you're trying to link that with the puking. So there.

So now for the suspense: Do I go back to sleep? Do I just call it a morning and get started? Who knows. But Mal seems to be sleeping comfortably, and that's a relief.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Lying Low and Being Weird

Yesterday was kind of... different.

It's starting to feel normal that James isn't working. He is constantly busy, between phone screens, job-specific "homework," and live interviews; and the class he's taking through Christmas. Incidentally, he's been told by a recruiter that the class is super on-point right now, that everyone wants people with this experience.

And without James's "office job" to tell us what day it is, everything sort of bleeds together. It's a strange "new normal" monotony. James and I take turns keeping Mal occupied, but with our both being here, he actually seems *more* needy than usual. If I'm busy, he just goes to find his dad. I try, then, to keep him doing stuff while James is working on stuff, and often, we get out and about just to be able to spread out a bit.

Thursday, James actually drove into town for an interview, and Mal didn't feel like going to storytime at the library. His buddy Alexei came over for about half an hour after storytime was finished, and when they left, Mal was ready to go somewhere.

We decided on Walmart because Mal wanted to look at toys and I needed to get the oil changed. When I dropped off the car, the man in the auto area told me "that door's closed, so you can either go wait in our waiting area, or if you want to go into the store, go around front."

That rang a little bell with me, because when I tried to put in a grocery pickup order earlier this week, it wasn't available here. I made it with the next closest store, then promptly forgot out of habit, and the lady had to tell me I was at the wrong store as their grocery pickup was closed "because of the burning." I was curious but didn't think too much about it.

As Mal and I walked around to the garden center, the associate in there told me, "You can't come in here." So we went to the front door and about 3/4 of the store is cordoned off with floor-to-ceiling tarp. The pharmacy, baby products, and grocery is open and that's it.

Why? Because apparently someone set two fires in the store early in the morning the day before Thanksgiving.

It made the part of the parking lot that was closed off make more sense, too. I had thought maybe it was for the portable storage they often have leading up to the holiday sales (and, gosh, this must really be hurting that they can't sell toys right now!), but that didn't explain the row of porta-potties. Disaster clean-up does.




That's a big clean-up team!

So we couldn't look at toys while they changed our oil, which had been the original plan. Instead, we walked around gawking at the store, and then visited an area about which I've always been curious.


There's this seemingly-random bank of picnic tables slightly below street level in what might be a drainage area. So we hung out there for a few minutes, decided to walk over to McDonald's to kill time, realized the road was too busy to cross without going up to the light, and blehh. So we went back and our car was already ready. I guess that's one benefit of the store being mostly closed. Thanks, arsonist!

(That was a joke. When we got home, Mal told his dad that someone set a fire and "they are a jerk!")

Mal wanted to go to somewhere with a swing, so we went to an area of Brushy Creek Lake I'd never visited before. Mal got to swing, and it was really pretty!


Then he wanted McDonald's, so we went by there on the way home. Whenever there's a BOGO Happy Meal coupon on the app, I get one meal with nuggets, apple juice, and yogurt (with a "boy" toy) and one with either more nuggets or (if I'm eating) a cheeseburger minus pickle and the chocolate milk (for D) and apple slices. So we spend around $3 and have a little something for most of us.

And then today was also kind of discombobulating-feeling. Mal has been unwell, coughing and having even more trouble sleeping than usual. He's also been needier and fussier than usual, and if you know us, you realize that's saying A LOT.

For instance, if James and I are chatting, he'll interrupt and demand, "Daddy, talk to me!" And every day he wants to go somewhere.

In the midst of all of this, I'm super over nursing and, frankly, losing faith in the idea that one day, Mal will simply wean himself, and most especially at night does this seem an impossibility. I've been talking with him about stopping, about how big he is, and about how we have to find other ways for him to fall asleep. One thing I assured him is that I can always hold him "like a baby." On Wednesday, he took me up on that offer almost all day, asking me to chauffer him around for hours.


Anyway, last night James didn't get a whole lot of sleep as he was up much of the night chatting with D. So he was pretty much as exhausted today as I was, and much less accustomed to it. Mal was being demanding and restless, asking to leave for our 4 o'clock movie at 11 o'clock this morning.

Finally, at about noon, I decided to get him out and about to kill time and because I felt like James was getting stressed out. We went to the Texas Museum of Science and Technology, which we have passed numerous times when it wasn't appropriate to stop. But at the Christmas parade a few weeks ago, a lady was handing out $2 off coupons, so we used that today (Mal is free).

At first, Mal was overwhelmed by the size. It's a big open building that looks like it used to be a soccer practice arena. However, we went to play in the kids' toy area first, and he got used to the size. The one exhibit we spent the most time on was Da Vinci's machines.

They've recreated many (maybe 2 dozen?) of Da Vinci's designs using material that would have been available 500 years ago. And you're encouraged to use them! Carefully, of course, because cogs and fingers and such. But I kept finding myself saying, "Brilliant!" Then, "Well, duh, of course; he was a genius!"

Mal patently refused to pose in front of the wall with Da Vinci's famous drawing of man, but he did enjoy turning things and being able to interact with the displays.




They also had some replicas of dinosaur fossil, with which Mal was simultaneously enthralled and of which he was leery.


I asked him if he'd stand in front of me so I could get his picture with this one, and he said, "No! He's going to eat me!" I mean, if he did, retrieval looks simple enough, right??

There is also a little planetarium, bur Mal was ready to go before the first show started. I'll time our next visit to start with that. There's also an exhibit about drugs and our culture, but we were warned that it might be too mature for Mal, so we didn't even go back there.

Next, Mal wanted to go to Chick-fil-A, where I needed to get, anyway, because I had a free order of fries waiting on my app. (I have a lot of apps, yeah, but free food is worth it!)

There were a couple of kids there he could play with, but after a while, I just went into the slide area and we played hide and seek for a while. That kid barely grasps the concept of hiding, man. But he likes the game!

Next, we walked over to the Dollar Tree. Apparently, Mal was pretty convinced that we were going to get a car here. Here's the thing: I'd spent money today, so another dollar wasn't going to break our budget.  But I need to get him out of the idea that EVERY trip out gets a toy, because he's asking CONSTANTLY and he has about 4.3 million toys, already.

He found one he wanted and I told him we weren't getting a toy today. He found a nicer-looking older lady and told her, "My mom says I'm not getting a toy today." She thought it was precious. Still, he carried the toy up to the front and was cutting in front of people to give it to the cashier. I reminded him we weren't buying anything, and he lost it. I carried him back so we could put the toy away, and he just wailed.

He said, "I want to go home!" I reminded him about the movie at 4, and he said, "I don't want to see the movie! I want to go home!"

Over the 10 minutes it took us to walk to the car, strap in, and drive across the shopping center to the theater, I asked him about 8 times, "Are you SURE you don't want to go see the movie?" By that point, he'd calmed down and he happily assured me that he did NOT want to go to the movie. I said I'd get refunds for our tickets (which I had to do at the theater, because on the app, it just cancels the whole purchase, and D and James were still going) and we'd take the other two tickets home to the rest of the fam.

Yes. Okay. This is a good plan, he agrees.

We got home, and Mal came in, happily asking his dad if he'd gotten a toy today. I guess maybe he thought the only way I would not get him a toy was if his dad already got him one? So we hashed that out while James ate a bite of lunch/dinner and he and D got ready to leave. Mal said he wanted to watch Cars 2 (he watches at least some of it every day), so I turned his Kindle on.

Then James and D started walking out the door, and suddenly Mal DID want to go to the movies. He wanted to go very much. I had to lie him on our bed and hug him tight and reassure him and all that stuff just to make sure he didn't follow them out the door. He had already gotten his shoes and was heading that way.

Finally, after much nursing (aye yi yi) and cooing, I got him calmed down. He spoke once again of watching Cars 2.

Then he said, "I want to go to church! Let's go!"

Sigh.

Facepalm.

Flerp.

I told him it wasn't open, and we weren't going anywhere, anyway, and it started over.

Fortunately, it didn't last as long this time. He ended up watching a video in his room, and after about half an hour said, "I want to get those cars." He has about 80% of the Cars from Cars 2 already, but apparently thinks he needs ALL of them. He turned off the computer and was ready to go. More reminding him that we weren't going anywhere tonight, more crying, then more "deedees"... and he fell asleep. At 4:30. So almost 2 hours ago.

We're either going to have a late night when he wakes up from this nap, or an early morning when he wakes up from this REALLY early bedtime.

But here's a picture I took of him earlier today to remind us all why we do this stuff even when we're pretty much already dead.



Now, a couple of other things:

I think one contributing factor to my feeling "off," besides James's not working, is that I haven't slept more than 3-4 hours a stretch in more than three years. James watched a video recently about cementing new neural pathways and it talked about how important sleep is and how unhealthy poor sleep is. So dang.

Also, we've been sleeping on this futon mattress in Mal's room for almost a year. When I tried to take the cover off to wash it once, I realized that the cover is all that's holding the fluff inside together. And that stuff is just getting more and more broken down every day, so that's likely not helping.

As soon as James starts working again, I think I'm going to get 2 twin mattresses for us to stack during the day. And a bit later, we'll get a daybed with a trundle. But that part isn't my priority right now. My priority is saving for a vacation. We haven't traveled in just over a year, and it's going to be some time before we can swing it again, but I want to be ready!

Additionally, Mal has been ill, coughing, falling asleep at weird times, waking up more often than usual, etc. So, poor baby, he can't really heal, either, if he's not getting rest. Again, I know they're allegedly supposed to start sleeping better eventually, but I just can't see any light at the end of that tunnel, either.

Finally, yesterday morning, I really got my feelings hurt by an interaction on Facebook and that hung over me much of the day. In the end, I deleted the app and will be taking a break, at least through the end of the year. I need to use what energy I have on being present for my family. So if you need to get in touch with me, comment here or send me a FB message because I *do* still have Messenger. Anything you see posted by me on FB will be automatic cross-posting, and I won't see any comments over there until 2018 or so.

Facebook apparently discontinued their Groups app in August, so I have no way to access the groups I'm in, but maybe that's a good thing, too. I find myself getting tired of the same questions, the same kind of posts, etc.

However, as mildly off-kilter as things feel right now, we're actually having a good time. James is trying to enjoy any free time he has right now, and is definitely taking up a bunch of slack, ushering me out or taking Mal places when he can tell I'm getting overwhelmed.

And if you look at our November photo album, you can see that things are pretty amazing, weirdness and all!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Observation From Mal

Mal drove Laura a little nuts today, with constant demands for new toys from the dollar store. She told him that we simply cannot buy him something new every day. So I wound up taking him out to a gym that isn't terribly far away. We played there for an hour or two.

They have various rules posted near each play area. One room is specifically for quiet time. It has a black light that makes the white balls in the pit glow, and a thing that's basically marbles in front of a giant cool Lite-Brite, and a big color-shifting bubble column. A little girl joined us and told Mal to "shush."

He looked at me and told me to "shush." I told him I was pretty sure she was talking to him. Then she moved over to the door and pointed at the part of the sign that includes the "be quiet" rule. And recited it (based on size, I'm betting she's 4). I looked at her mom in amusement.

Her mom acted embarrassed. "This is this first time in her life that she's cared about the rules," she confided.

Later, I sent Laura a short video of Mal shimmying up and sliding down the "column of bubbles." She answered "At least he isn't being noisy."

She got a kick out of the full story.

On the way home, he requested supper at Chick-Fil-A. While I was eating (he really only wanted soda, though he'll probably eat the kid's meal I got for him eventually), he told me that he still wanted to the dollar store. I checked Google maps, and remembered her story about how much easier it is to walk than drive.

They're in the same parking lot. It's just that navigation software is bad at coping with that scenario.

So we walked that direction. Mal was skeptical, because "It's really far away."

About halfway there, he spotted the logo and admitted "I made a mistake."

This is the second time he's visited. (And, yes, I spent the dollar on the toy after Laura told him we wouldn't. The kid's relentless).

We were walking back to the car when he pointed out the beautiful moon.

"It's like a pizza," he informed me solemnly.

I didn't want to disagree, so I thought about it, then allowed that "It is shaped a bit like a slice of pizza."

Under no such constraints, he informed me that I was mistaken: "No, it's half."

I'm pretty sure he's picked this up from Starfall. Wherever it came from, I'm almost positive it isn't anything we've taught him.

The mathematical concept is one thing here, and I'm skeptical that he's doing more than parroting that. But I'm ready to be impressed that he can even repeat a simile.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Couple of Recent Mal Developments

He woke up the other day complaining about having a bad dream. It seemed to have something to do with an elevator. Laura said he couldn't describe it to her at all...just that it made him feel awful.

He did try to describe it to me. But mostly he was just talking about her comforting him.

I haven't heard him display any awareness about dreams before.

Then he spent a lot of time over the past day or so trying to find his elevator. It's something you put your toy cars on, and it goes up and down. But he didn't know the words to describe it. And that made him really upset.

Actually, we ran into this a few times yesterday. Probably because I'm just not as good at guessing what he means as Laura.

His frustration about his awareness of his limited vocabulary (and he has a pretty amazing one...we don't hit these limits all that often) is also something new.

He finally found his "elevator" by the way. It's a reciprocating pump handle for sucking the air out of wine bottles. He fell asleep last night with it cradled in his arms.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Fall Weekend Craziness

For the next few weeks, our calendar is a mess of activities and celebrations here and there, sometimes overlapping. This weekend was a super busy one, but lots of fun.

James still has a lot of appointments for phone screens, is doing homework for potential employers, etc. But a nice break on Thursday was the annual Jonestown community Thanksgiving meal. Mal and I smelled the turkeys grilling on our walk to the library for storytime. Lunch was, conveniently, right after storytime. James was off of a call in time to meet us. It was quite the spread, and we got to enjoy it with a couple of our kiddo friends, too.

He was pretty jazzed about the... icing.

Held at the fire station. We didn't linger because our seats were needed by others! Lots of neighbors.
Later that day, I received a big box set of music I'd ordered and paid for in January. Bonus: Mal is loving it, too! That makes two out of two of my kids who appreciate Weird Al.

Friday, we had a mostly quiet day, but ended it at the lake with a spectacular sunset, and got to see a pair of heron and a pair of geese in flight. It was amazing.






Saturday, Mal and I got up and drove into Austin for the annual Chuy's Christmas parade. It was one of those days with some missteps, but overall a great time. It started by Waze not remembering that there were road closures until it'd had me overshoot an exit, so I had to drive around for more than 15 minutes, even when I was within a mile of the garage where I was supposed to park. THEN I realized that the street where the entrance was located was closed several blocks in both directions, and I'd already paid for parking.

As I parked in a street lot where I usually park for the Driskell cookie exchange, I was able to call the company to get my money back. But then it turned out that one of the two pay machines was broken, and so we had to wait about 20 minutes in line to pay at the kiosk.

Since I'm a chronically early person, we got over to the parade route about 5 minutes before it started, and since this is Austin, there weren't a lot of people waiting. At first, Mal was intimidated by the noise, but later he got REALLY excited. Especially when the 501st Legion showed up.











After the parade, we walked over to the Four Seasons, to check out the gingerbread village, as usual. Only I forgot that the Christmas parade was a couple of weekends earlier than usual this year, so the cookies weren't out yet. However, we did have a serendipitous moment when we rounded the block to get there, in that all of the superheroes from the parade had gathered for a photo op.


Then we walked over (by the way, when I say "we walked" I mean I pushed Mal in a stroller; we covered over 3 street miles, and it's much easier that way!) to the new Central Library to check it out and to see the Brownies.





It's cool and beautiful and huge and all of that. I'm kind of glad we had Faulk a little smaller and a little closer by when we lived there. It was more accessible for daily use, in terms of being easily navigable and riding my bike down pretty quickly.

Next, we walked to Turf & Surf Po' Boy for lunch. It was SO loud, attached to a street bar where people were watching the UT/maybe West Virginia game. UT was winning, so there was much rejoicing. But that Hipster vegetable sandwich was banging. I had to use a new napkin with every bite.

SPORT YELLING!


After that, Mal and I went to Toy Joy (the Brownies had already been) and to Yummi Joy for some sweets. Then we walked back to the car and headed back home.

A few of thoughts from visiting downtown: 1) It was so much easier getting around down there when we could walk or ride bikes. Parking during a special event is a pain in the rear.

2) The Taco Cabana that was right beside our house is closed. So is the McDonald's across the street. That leaves Tiff's Treats, Cane's, Chick-fil-A, and Domino's right there within a few hundred feet, but I wonder what happened to those other two places. Would have been a bummer to live behind a vacant restaurant. Maybe. The process of whatever they make it into next might have been cool. Or it might have been awful.

3) There is a new Target store in the Dobie residential building on campus. We could see it from our window, though it is about a two- to three-block walk. That might have been dangerous to our budget.

4) I forget about homeless people sometimes, living out here. The first one I saw was walking around the parking lot, barefooted, asking for money. While we were waiting in line to pay, the guy in line in front of me asked him what size shoe he wore. He told him, and the guy said, "I have small feet, but I have an extra pair of work boots in my truck, if you want them." The homeless man said, "Oh, I have shoes." He pulled them out of his backpack. "I just broke my toe, and my foot won't fit in the shoes. I probably couldn't get them into boots at all. But it's getting better. I should be able to wear my shoes again soon." Oh, his toe did not look better. I don't have insurance, but at least if I break my toe, I have options. I can't imagine walking around town like that. I was glad it's getting cooler so the sidewalks won't be like stovetops. Plus, being barefoot in public is such a giveaway that something is amiss. And what a generous offer, and a good example for me to see.

Then as we were driving out of town, I saw a guy walking north toward 6th street on San Jacinto. He was waving around like he was swatting at flies or trying to hit someone, and he was yelling. It reminded me of the man who frequented the alley behind the Nuthaus. I considered calling the police because it seemed like this guy was in distress and, like many of the homeless people down there, he'd clearly been in a few fights. But half a block away, I saw a motorcycle officer and hoped he'd notice the dude and maybe he could get some help. It's so overwhelming.

5) Austin is weird, and it's pretty great. D and I once saw a guy at Chick-fil-A (which was only a drive-through and outdoor dining area) waiting for food with a tiny striped kitten on a lead sitting on his shoulder like a bird or lizard. Saturday, I saw this guy. They made me smile.


Okay, there were THOUSANDS of people lining Congress. My cats might have stayed on my shoulder for security, but there would have been claw injuries involved. This cat was just super chill. And so pretty. And look at that beautiful tail.

I'd thought that I might mow when we got home, but after all of the activity in the strong wind, I was done. It was great, though, because the morning started off hot, and you could tell that the gusts were getting cooler and then colder. So it was totally worth the sand in the eyes and the hurricane hair.

Sunday morning, Mal and I went to church, as usual. He had been super excited all week about the teacher's promise that she'd let him pick whether they played inside or outside, so opted to go into childcare the whole time, rather than staying with me in the sanctuary until after the children's message. So I got to sit with the congregation, like a real person, instead of at a table in the back, where Mal can eat his doughnut and run around like the crazy person he is.

After church, we quickly headed home because I had a big date!

Last year, we learned about the first annual Mac and Cheese festival too late. Tickets had sold out! So this time, I snatched a pair the hour they went on sale. Dad and Mom came down to stay with Mal, and were already home when I got here.

So, here's the deal: That junk was off the chain. That said, I don't want macaroni and cheese again until maybe next year. I told D about it, and so we might have a third wheel in 2019. Because there are so many pictures, I'm keeping them small. You can click if you really need the food porn.
















I had to stop after the 13th booth, and I only ate a bite of the last two or three because I was stuffed. James stopped after 15, having eaten a couple of mine. We did actually bring that last ball and the lobster mac home because we were dying. We didn't hit probably 8 more booths! It was crazy. In fact, we didn't taste the one that ended up winning guests' choice at all!

When we got home from that, I was stuffed and all hopped up on carbs and PMS hormones, and it was 7 degrees cooler than the same time the day before, so it was the PERFECT opportunity to mow. Not the whole yard, but we had some persistent weeds. Hopefully, now I get a break of a couple of months.

However, I got a lot more done yesterday and this morning, as I tend to manically nest this time of the month. After I mowed, I swept the porch (700 square feet) and hosed it all down, as Mal has been playing with the fireplace ash. Then I hosed down the cars because they were embarrassingly dusty.

I came in and vacuumed the chairs and couch, oh, and I found a t-shirt wedged in between the couch back and bottom, which apparently James's brother left 7-ish years ago or more. Yeah, at that point, I'd put on gloves because I was scared of what I would find. I also found a little pillow Mal's grandma made him when he was a baby.

Today, I did my Monday chores (bathrooms and kitchen), plus my Tuesday vacuuming chore, plus a few bonus things like taking all of the magnets off of the fridge and wiping it down, tightening the toilet seats, picking up groceries... oh. And we got the limited-time Reuben from Subway. It tastes like a sub. The "rye" is so mild, you'd be hard-pressed to know it was rye bread. The corned beef... tastes like roast beef mostly. Even the sauerkraut doesn't have a vinegary bite. It's just... fine. But not a good Reuben at all. Now we want a deli Reuben. Where can we get that in this area? CAN we get that in this area?

So that was is. Mal is watching Cars 2 for the last time before our rental expires at 8. and that reminds me that I need to renew the movies he checked out from the library, because our rental period for DVDs is THREE DAYS. Nuts.

Done.

Finally, yesterday, I Googled, "Three meals to make Thanksgiving week," and the first return was this. So we're having pasta tonight, and I'm going to get started on that sauce now. Have a great week!