Sunday, October 02, 2011

Almost two...but not quite

Recently, Mudpuppy has decided that it's fun to climb into the play fort on his own...
even if he can't quite get down by himself yet.

It's time for a Mudpuppy update! Here's his typical day, now that the kids are in school:

Normally, he sleeps through the night -- although we just realized (about a week ago) that he has the same cyclic vomitting issue that Mouse developed at that age, so once in a while, he wakes up earlier because of nausea. When he wakes up, he sits up and looks around; sometimes he will come to the gate at the bedroom doorway and look out and shout, "Hi!" Eventually someone (usually Starling) comes in to change him. He's very enthusiastic about greeting everyone in the morning!

Then it's downstairs for breakfast -- typically a sliced-up apple with peanut butter, a banana, or maybe some cereal and milk. He can say "cereal," "banana," and "drink," but beyond that he typically just watches the other kids, occasionally supplying an interjection or exclamation to the conversation. This morning, he actually started pointing at the people sitting around the table and naming them. He does “Mama,” “Dada,” and the oldest kids’ names pretty well, but he hasn’t quite got the hang of Jaybird’s name yet. He sits there pointing at her and staring, like it’s going to come to him any minute now.

Breakfast ends when he starts saying "Down" or when he starts throwing his food, or dumping it out all over the place.

Then it's into the car to take the other kids to school. "Car!" he announces, over and over again. "Car! Car! Car!" He points to the back door and leads the charge.

In his car seat, he likes to read the morning paper (just kidding) or a book that one of the kids has left around. He’s actually very interested in books, probably because he sees all of the “big” people around the house reading them. He "talks" with the other kids, sometimes. If music has been playing and a song finishes, he will sometimes say, "Yay!" and clap his hands.
In fact, he will say “Yay!” for anything that he is excited about now. Announce a snack and he’ll clap his hands (or raise them in the air) and exclaim, “Yay!” with that trademark grin on his face.

As the kids leave the car, he may wave goodbye to them and say, “Bye-bye!” He does that a lot now, especially to store clerks. If he sees a bus drive away, he will say, “Bye-bye bus!”

Then it’s usually off to run errands. If we go to the store, he will tolerate sitting in the cart for only so long before pointing down and saying, “Down! Down!” I usually let him down, if possible, on the theory that the more stimulation and exercise he gets, the sooner he will go down for his nap. (My motives are pure, I tell you.) I am trying to teach him not to touch, but it’s hard when you’re dealing with a young toddler who has very little impulse control, in an environment that is constantly presenting new and interesting things, and on top of that, every single adult in the store is picking things up off the shelves. Toddlers really do want to do whatever the big people are doing; I think it’s a hard-wired survival instinct (“Learn as fast as you can!”). He walks through any store like he owns the place, bustling along, head down or swinging side to side. As he goes along, he says “Hi!” to absolutely everyone he meets, raising a hand in a casual greeting. He turns heads, as you can imagine.

He occasionally stops and tries to take things off the shelves; I tell him not to touch, and then eventually he ends up back in the cart, begging to get down again, which I may let him after a few minutes.

At the checkout, his job is to help me empty the cart, a task he performs with relish. A few items tend to sail overboard every time.

If we’re not shopping, we’re probably going to a class somewhere. These days I’m swimming at the YMCA on Mondays and Wednesdays to get in shape, so he stays at the Kids Corner childcare room for an hour or so while I do that. (I’m taking adult swim lessons in the early evening on Fridays.) He has not been liking that one bit, but he only fusses a little bit; then he’s fine, and he always seems happy when I come back. On Tuesdays we go to Parenting with the Spirit at church; for some reason, he seems to be better about staying in the childcare room there, maybe because he is so familiar with it by this point. On Thursday mornings, we go to Early Childhood Family Education classes. When it’s time to separate, he goes toddling off after the other kids into the Zoom Room with nary a backwards glance. I think he’s okay with it because I spent the last half of last year staying with him in the kids’ room for half the class; he knows the routine. (See the picture below of him painting at ECFE!)

If we end up staying home to do chores, he is my shadow, generally undoing whatever I am trying to do. Or making a new mess somewhere else. The other day I finally tackled cleaning out the refrigerator; with a chore like that, my choices are to either 1) strap him into a high chair for an hour, or 2) try to integrate him into the job and just minimize the damage as much as possible. In the case of the refrigerator, he had a blast pulling bottles and containers out and putting them on the floor, in cabinets, on the table, etc., and then putting them back into the refrigerator, haphazardly. He looks so proud of himself!

I need to stop here in order to head to bed, but I will try to post part two later this week.

(Part two follows below the pictures.)
He insisted on riding the saddle swings, just like his big sister.

Ah, yes...the venerable wooden toy train set, now being
enjoyed by a fourth generation of small hands.

One of his first paintings at ECFE.
Part 2

Lunchtime comes around 11, sometimes earlier. He adores apples, which he will eat whole or halved; potato chips (none of the other kids got potato chips at his age, but he sees his sibs with them, and they like to share!); and—ketchup! He really likes ketchup. If the refrigerator door is open, he will take it out, hold it up, and say, “Yum!” He likes ketchup with his French fries or with hot dogs. He will also eat grapes and bananas and pears and other fruit. When he’s full, or if he can’t swallow something (apple peels), he spits out whatever is in his mouth.

By 12:30, it’s time for “night night.” I have three strategies for trying to get him to sleep. One is to take him on a walk in the stroller; that works sometimes, but not usually. Still, the weather has been so beautiful in the last week or so (highs in the 80s every day!), we’ve been taking a lot of walks by the lake. He REALLY loves that. If we’re in the garage, he will pull out the stroller and beg to “walk, walk!” He likes looking at the passing scenery. We have our own park bench—a swinging one, near where our street runs into the park—and we sit there and watch the ducks and the passersby. He comments on every dog that passes: “Dog! Woof! Woof!” (He learned this from a Sandra Boynton book.)

A second strategy is to take him somewhere in the car and hope he falls asleep on the way home—tricky, because sometimes he falls asleep on the way to wherever you’re going. If he does fall asleep in the car, I can pick him up and move him to his bed without him waking up, which is a new experience for us.

A third strategy is to simply put him in his bed, read him a few stories, and lie down with him until he goes to sleep. I use this option when I need a little nap myself. He is possibly the only one of our kids who doesn’t resist taking a nap; he is enthusiastic about getting into bed. He likes flopping backward on the bed. He likes reading the stories (lots of simple board books). And he likes tickling. Lately, I have occasionally put him to bed, kissed him good night, and then closed the door and walked away. I know, this is not novel to you guys who have been doing the same thing since your kids were babies, but it’s breaking new ground in our house.

Once he is asleep, he’s down for at least an hour. During that time, I can talk, walk past his bedroom, vacuum, run heavy machinery, blast rock, etc. with no effect on his nap. After that initial period, I do try to be more quiet. He generally sleeps for a couple of hours, getting up at about 3.

At that point, Starling takes over. She changes him, feeds him a snack, and generally tries to keep him out of trouble while simultaneously preparing dinner and managing the other three kids, which I DEEPLY appreciate! (No, I do not feel the least bit guilty, since that has been—and will be—my job when she’s teaching. A year off from the afternoon grind every ten years or so is not too much to ask, is it?)

Sometimes in the late afternoons he will go outside with the other kids. He climbs up on the play equipment—which is pretty high for a kid his age, and probably not safe, so we try to spot him. He can climb up but he can’t get down by himself. He will slide down the slide (saying, “Whee!”) if someone spots him. He also likes swinging in his swing very much; he can do that for half an hour, if he has someone with that kind of patience to push him.

Another thing he does outside is play with a basin of water that we set out on the picnic table (which is on the deck). He likes using buckets and cups to pour water back and forth, and works very intently for a long time. Sometimes we will give him the hose, which we turn on just enough so that it drips. He ends up completely soaked most of the time, but when it’s warm out, who cares? It’s the one thing that keeps him occupied for any serious length of time.

Another thing he likes to do is to load and unload the dishwasher, which is one reason why we now let the dishes pile up until he’s not around. He also likes to drag out all the pots and pans, and the kitchen utensils, and pretend to cook. The funniest thing he does is to take the oven mitts out of the drawer, put them on, and stand by the oven door, pointing at it with his oversized hands. “Hot,” he says, very seriously. “Hot!” He knows not to touch it now.

Suppertime is generally a disaster. He’s usually not hungry, so he picks at his food, or throws it, or is constantly demanding things he can’t have. A little later in the evening, we have family prayer, which lasts about half an hour. He tears around the living room playing with the loudest toys possible, climbing on people’s laps, kicking them (accidentally), talking, singing, taking things out of the desk drawers, etc., until I pick him up and hold him on my lap, over his protests. On the up side, he REALLY enjoys singing, and will try to join in when we sing a song together. He also follows along with all the major prayers; he can’t say the words, of course, but he mumbles a decent approximation, and says “Amen!” loudly and enthusiastically at all the right places. At church, too, he seems more intent on what is happening up front than any of our other children at this age.

Bedtime is a long, drawn-out routine. Starling usually lies down with him. She reads him three or four books, sometimes more than once. Then she sings songs to him, which he enjoys greatly, smiling and saying, “Again!” And then he spends about half an hour tossing and turning before he falls asleep for good.

And that is a good thumbnail sketch of Matthew at age two!

When he's ready to go to bed, he says, "Nye, nye!" before embarking on an
elaborate bedtime routine that involves several stories, three songs, and an adult
(usually Starling) staying with him until he falls asleep.