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Bedtime Story

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Heading up the stairs, the Boo issues a proclamation: “I don’t like my bed.”

Actually what he says is, “You don’t like your bed,” because he’s making good progress on fixing his pronoun usage, but I don’t correct him when he’s overly tired and/or cranky.

I make a light remark about how nice his bed is, with the stripey sheets and the fuzzy green blanket and Tigey and Tigger. He does not reply, and we continue up our climb.

We go through the bedtime routine of books and cuddling on the glider, with a detour for adding batteries to the noise machine. These days he prefers to walk from the glider to the crib, and last night he had a question when he got there.

“What is this?”

“It’s your crib.”

“What is THIS!”

I notice that he’s hanging onto a couple of slats.

“Those are bars.”

“I don’t like bars.”

Ah. Crap. And here I’d had such lovely visions of him staying in his crib until his third birthday.

“Would you like us to take the bars away?”

A huge smile, a beam of little boy light in the dim room.

“YES!”

And now you know what we’ll be doing this weekend: cursing over poorly written directions while wielding an Allen wrench, all in the name of helping our little boy grow up.

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You know to take your kid’s favorite snacks and some cool new toys. Here’s the rest of what I found useful during our 36-hour journey to India with our toddler. And even if you’re kid-free, the tips for adults may come in handy.

For the kid:

Buy That Book Up There Or another Richard Scarry paperback to whip out when the going gets rough. So much to look at and talk about, my kid still wants to look at it a month after seeing it for the first time.

Entertain Me Bring an iPad and kiddie headphones (so the kid can hear Mickey, and to limit decibels) and have the kid practice with them before you go. Even if you’re flying an airline that has personal entertainment screens, there will be times (like layovers) when it will come in handy. Load it with whatever videos and apps the kid likes. Then suspend all judgement about how much screen time is too much.

Pack Smart Pack a backpack, not a diaper bag, using gallon Ziplock bags to separate diaper stuff, extra clothes, books, etc. It’s a lot easier to find things that are already categorized and separated into bags that just slide out. Bring extra bags for, um, soiled items.

Clean Up Bring antibacterial wipes to swab everything your kid can reach from their seat as soon as you sit down: tray table, armrests, buttons, air vent, everything.

Mobility If your kid is under 5, bring the umbrella stroller. They will nap in it, you can hang your backpack on it, you can gate-check it. I never want to travel without one again.

Diaper Hack If your kid is still in diapers, prep for changes by putting each diaper in a plastic grocery bag. That way you just add a couple of wipes and the diaper cream to a bag, and you’re good to go. Might sound like overkill, but that way you don’t have to take the entire diaper bag with you into the microscopic airplane bathroom.

Wipe Hack Put a chunk of diaper wipes in a quart-size Ziplock bag. Much cheaper than a travel pack, and you can use them to wipe faces and hands, too.

Sweet Sleep After they clear the dinner trays, go through your kid’s bedtime routine, but include Benadryl. Don’t judge. Some sleep, even drugged sleep, is much, much better than no sleep. Just do a trial dose at home to make sure your kid isn’t one who reacts to that drug by getting hyper.

Hydrate Bring a leakproof sippy cup or sport bottle to fill with water or juice once you clear security. We ended up using a very small water bottle with a straw stuck down inside it, because I did not figure this one out ahead of time.

Under Pressure Lollipops and gummi bears are handy for equalizing ear pressure during takeoff and landing. So is a thumb, if your kid is so inclined.

Get Cozy A small, light blanket is good as an emergency changing pad as well as a pillow, or, duh, a blanket.

Good Grooming Bring the baby nail clippers if your trip is longer than a week. Those suckers grow fast, and do you really want to hunt down a new pair in Dhaka?

Security! Practice going through security by having your kid walk from one parent to the other, and if you think seeing Teddy going into the X-ray machine will disturb the kid, put it into your backpack as you prep for security. Also, empty any pockets on the umbrella stroller and get very, very good at collapsing it quickly.

Let’s Play! Stick a deflated beach ball and a few hunks of sidewalk chalk in your checked bag for simple fun at your destination. Our shy boy would roll the ball to visitors, and they would delightedly roll it back.

Wakey Wakey! To beat jet lag quickly, suck it up and keep naps to a normal length and get the kid outside as much as possible. This should shorten the adjustment. From a week to three or four days. At least that’s what happened for us.

For you:

Repeat After Me Here is your new motto: Whatever makes the kid happy. Here’s your other new motto: Chill, it’s an adventure. Toddlers are mood mirrors. Give them something fun to reflect.

Stretch Out Get bulkhead seats. Your carry-ons will have to go in the overhead bins for takeoff and landing, but then you’ll have tons of legroom because your kid’s carry-on can go under his stubby legs.

Feet First If your feet swell on long flights, get some compression socks, avoid alcohol, minimize caffeine intake, and chug water. I did all that, and this was the first time my feet did not turn into footballs. Which hurts, by the way.

Get Comfy You are going to sleep in your clothes. You want elastic waist pants. Preferably with pockets. And a long sleeved top or a pashmina, even in summer. Planes get cold.

Block It Out You will need earplugs and a decent sleep mask. Planes are noisy and bright and sometimes the people on them are noisy drunken jerks all night because of something called the World Cup. Pfft.

Double Duty Diaper wipes work nicely as makeup removal wipes (our kid uses the sensitive ones). And they don’t count as a liquid. If this grosses you out, put a few in a small ziplock bag and keep it with your toiletries.

Dr. Feelgood Bring an assortment of basic meds (Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Tums, Imodium, Benadryl for the kiddo, etc.) in an old prescription bottle and keep it in an easily accessible place. When you get the runs at 30,000 feet or your body aches from not sleeping, you’ll thank me.

Entertain Me! Carry an iPad, Kindle, or other reading device for yourself since the kid will probably be using yours. I loaded books from the library onto my phone. Not my favorite reading mode, but the carry-on was plenty heavy without a book in it.

Sleep? Ha! Don’t take a sleep aid, e.g. Benadryl. You’re not going to sleep much anyway because you’ll be waking up every time your kid flips over on the seat next to you. You don’t want to be groggy on top of being jet lagged. Sleep when you get there.

Get Greasy If you get a pat of butter with your meal, save it. You’ll want to slather it on your face to keep it from peeling in the dry cabin air. Kidding! But do wash your face and smear a bunch of good moisturizer on it before you attempt to sleep. If nothing else it’s nice to have one part of your body feel clean. And plane air truly is dry as hell.

Bon voyage!

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We recently took the Boo to India to meet and stay with the hubs’ mother (“Avva”). Yes, we might be slightly crazy, though honestly, it all went a lot better than we thought it would where the Boo was concerned. Herewith, a list of the highlights.

You asked, “Where’s Avva?” immediately after arriving at the airport for the first of four flights that would take us to India over the next 36 hours. Your next question was about going home.

You were happy to receive a lollipop for takeoff, then displeased when it became sharp after you bit into it.

You were so enthralled with your personal in-flight entertainment screen that you would watch a cartoon you’d never seen, without sound.

You hugged a total stranger at the playground in the Frankfurt airport. He happened to be a brown-skinned man. We all laughed and called him your new daddy.

You slept on the long-haul flights and never went into the kind of frenzy we had feared you would. You did get a little wiggy during the last layover on the way there, but that was an eight-hour ordeal after more than 24 hours of travel that had all three of us strung out.

You cried when you met Avva, whom you had only experienced over Skype from the time you were six months old. We concluded that you thought she lived in the iPad.

You gave your Avva a hug within 24 hours of meeting her.

You delighted in discovering all the switches and fans in Avva’s house, and particularly loved the switch for the pump that delivers water to the tanks on the roof. Fortunately, all of these switches are about five feet off the ground.

You loved watering the plants in Avva’s front and back yards despite your distress over getting mired in thick mud.

You did not get sick (not counting the rash you developed).

You became enamored of a stick that is often used to drive away street dogs.

You did not care for the noise of steam escaping from the pressure cooker and would clamp your hands to your ears when it was hissing, even with the kitchen door closed.

You experienced several firsts during our stay: your first Slinky (instant love); your first time blowing a whistle (instant joy); and your first encounter with a gaggle of adoring, but loud, Indian Aunties (instant tears and vehemently closed eyes).

You climbed onto the lap of a visitor, a total stranger. Even after you realized he wasn’t your daddy, you stayed in his lap.

You met two of your cousins, and enjoyed playing with their carrom board, tricycle, and scooter.

You woke up the first six nights we were in India, sometimes tossing and turning for four hours before you were able to sleep again and often crying from the frustration of trying and failing to sleep. Sometimes Mama singing to you would help, sometimes it wouldn’t.

You shared a bed with Mama during our stay — a first for you and a big change from your crib. At first you would sit up and call for her if you woke up, but then you realized you could just roll over and cuddle with her. In the mornings, you would lean against her and announce that you were awake.

You asked to sleep with Mama when you woke up in the middle of the night back at home. She explained that the crib was too small but said she could take a nap with you in the big bed.

You thought Daddy’s nightly ritual of killing mosquitoes before you went to bed was hilarious. You also loved the mosquito net that cocooned our bed, though you would be in such a hurry to get in or out that you would often slam into it before Mama had a chance to raise it for you.

You tried a tiny bite of mango. You seemed to like it, but refused additional bites.

You refused to try any of the three delicious varieties of Indian bananas your Avva had gotten for you.

You devoured the sev (fried chickpea flour sticks) Avva made for you, but otherwise stuck to eating the food we brought for you.

You announced, “This is not home. This is India. This is our India home.” This happened about a week into our stay.

You went to India with Mama and Daddy, and we were nothing but impressed with how well you handled the trip.

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A few weeks ago, on a whim, I began to sing the Alphabet Song and stopped to see if the Boo would pick up where I left off. I sang “A B C D” and he chimed in, though not singing, “E F G.” I sang a few more letters, he spoke the ones that came next. We went through the song a few more times, and no matter where I left off, he picked right up and never got the sequence wrong.

Yesterday I started the same way, singing “A B C” and then stopping. He said, “NOT D.” And giggled. I giggled, and we continued this way through the whole song, singing, speaking and giggling, right down to “now I know my” “NOT ABCs.”

Such a mystery, the mind of the toddler. So much information packed in there, and such creativity in how it comes back out.

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20140701-170106-61266583.jpgOver the past week, the Boo has been issuing declarations, usually after a period of what I can only describe as intense quiet. Herewith, a list.

During an episode of Thomas and Friends:
– When the steam stops, the train stops.

After we made a couple of mini books, bound with safety pins:
– If we take out the pins, no more book.

At the kitchen sink:
– Some water is good, some water is yucky.

Also at the kitchen sink:
– Fast is good. Slow is bad.

Always thinking, this one.

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Hanging out in bed, the three of us, the Boo in the middle. There might have been an iPad involved — hard to recall now.

The hubs sneezed. Well, not really. Rather, a sound with a thousand pointy edges exploded from his face. Twice, I think.

Rarely have I seen the Boo scramble so quickly.

He didn’t quite cling to me, but he wanted to be very very near me, and not his Daddy. (A rare occurance when both of us are around.) Keep in mind that his pronouns are still mostly reversed as I tell you what he said over and over: “You don’t like that sound.”

Neither do I, Boo. Neither do I.

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You can recognize certain words, most notably “yo,” which was in a recent library book as well as on Mama’s T-shirt:

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You have discovered how to slide down the stairs on your belly, feet first.

“Say Hello” by Rachel Isadora was your surprise favorite from our last library run.

You remain obsessed by AC units, which you call fans. You ask to “walk the neighborhood” so you can look at your favorites over and over, requesting to be lifted up to see if they’re spinning.

You love running across open spaces in parks just as much as you enjoy conquering ladders and slides in playgrounds.

You like to throw the afghans and couch pillows onto the living room floor.

You are adept at unscrewing the top of your toothpaste tube. And Grammie’s lotion tube. And anything else with a screw-on lid. This would be a downside of you having a building set.

You recently had your first professional haircut, from a friend of Mama’s who came to the house. You were unsure about her at first, but eventually showed her your favorite cat video and munched chocolate chips while she snipped away. You did not, however, enjoy the sensation of tiny bits of hair on your skin. At all.

You have developed an affinity for Caillou that borders on obsession.

You regularly declare your love for Daddy. You have declared your love for Mama exactly once, during a diaper change.

You know what pill bugs are and like to look for them during walks.

You have begun to (sometimes) announce when you need a diaper change.

You like to see how much taller than you the sunflower plants are.

You do not care for babies grabbing you, but you do allow them to grab you.

You almost never opt to sit in your high chair anymore.

You sometimes hit Mama with your bedtime buddy (or, on one occasion, a toy screwdriver). Usually this happens when you are tired, excited, or craving attention.

You have a pair of scissors, and occasionally like to use them to slice stuff up.

You are learning how to ask kids to share toys at summer camp — in particular, fire trucks and dinosaurs. You have also learned about sand in your shoes. You’re not a fan.

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Chapter One

A week ago I took part in a performance, part of a really cool project that turns poems into songs. Rehearsals had gone reasonably well, I had practiced quite a bit the week before the show, and I knew my keyboard and vocal parts well enough that I wasn’t nervous.

Then I had a massive brain fart in the middle of a song I’d had down cold for weeks. Started singing it in a different register. Lost my place. Stopped singing. Somehow found my place again and trudged on.

I had a strong desire to flee.

But we were less than halfway through the show. The song I’d written was coming up. And I was sitting as far from the steps as I could be. To leave the stage, I would have had to either hop off the front of the stage, or thread my way through cords and people and instruments.

So I stayed. I made a decision not to cry, to focus on not screwing up the rest of the songs. And that’s what happened. The rest of the set was fine, and the last song, where I had the most prominent keyboard role, was great.

Chapter Two

A few days ago during a bath, the Boo piped up. “What’s that?”

I turned around to see what no parent wants to see in a tub.

I had a strong desire to flee.

Instead, I mustered every scrap of Zen I had in me. Calmly, like it was no big deal, I said, “Oh, that’s your poop.”

I scrubbed my little boy, again, several times. I dried and dressed him, chatting all the while about the basic points of potty training. Then I attacked the tub with bleach.

So that’s the metaphor for the week, I thought as I scrubbed. Fighting the urge to flee, sticking around to deal with shit.

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Flowers aside, I don’t go in for Mother’s Day all that much (though I am looking forward to weeping over whatever my kid makes for me at school). I do, however, like to use the day to navel-gaze about what I’ve learned in the last 2.25 years. Herewith, my list for your amusement.

1. I loathe washing bottles. And yes I’m still washing bottles because…

2. I get off on being able to give my kid what he needs, whether it’s a new pair of flip-flops or another month of bottles because he’s just not ready to give them up.

3. My mistakes will not permanently harm my kid. I once made him cry because I yelled at him as he was about to grab a cup of scalding coffee. And I’d do it again tomorrow.

4. Having less free time makes me better at spending it well. Sometimes it’s chopping veggies that floats my boat, sometimes I just collapse back into bed, but when my kid goes down for a nap, I make the minutes count.

5. Staying home with the kiddo has turned me into a person who likes chatting with the neighbors despite being introverted.

6. That thing about getting dressed in non-stretchy clothes every morning even if you’re not leaving the house? Just doesn’t work for me.

7. I firmly believe that the garbage man should not be allowed to see me without makeup. You’d understand if you could see how fabulous he is as he waves to us every Monday morning whilst executing a flawless three-point turn in a behemoth of a truck.

8. All parents should be given as much kindness as possible because you can’t always tell when they’ve had a rough day with their kid. Compassion goes a long way on days like that, believe me.

9. I need my mom friends, to whine with, to laugh with, to shake my head with.

10. I’m so much better than I thought I was. More patient, inventive and fun. Able to claw my way through a day on very little sleep. Willing to let someone puke on me for hours because I know they need me to hold them. I can change a diaper like a goddamn ninja. If this sounds like bragging, that’s because it is — and more moms should do it.

And because this blog goes up to 11…

Nothing has ever made me as angry as celebrity anti-vaxxers, and nothing will give me as much satisfaction as seeing them go down in flames.

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You can climb onto this all by yourself:
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You have begun eating open-faced peanut butter sandwiches, a definite step up from peanut butter off a spoon with a side of bread bits.

You picked out your own outfit the day we went to Mama’s office: jeans, a white polo shirt, and one of daddy’s ties. The tie cleared the ground by about 4 inches. You charmed the pants off everyone you met.

You are fond of saying, “Mama forgot.” We are fond of hearing you say it because of the way you draw out the second syllable of “forgot.”

You have developed a fondness for gargling whatever you’re drinking.

You still refuse to take even a sip of juice, even after asking for it to be poured into your most favorite cup.

You like to give your baby doll baths, then have Mama give you a pretend bath. Both of you use the same “tub,” a toy bin that’s the perfect size — for the doll.

You’ve checked out your first library books, which you like to have read to you one after the other (there are only three of them, phew!).

You tried to use Mama’s library card to get a digital jukebox to play.

You’ve had your first trip to Blueberry Hill. You enjoyed eating your usual carb smorgasbord there (graham-and-PB sandwiches and Cheerios followed by a dessert of chocolate chips). Our dining companion was flummoxed by your refusal of mac-n-cheese.

You delight in watering the plants on the deck and in the front yard, and you want to count the sunflower sprouts every time we water them. More precisely, you like Mama to make your hand point at each sprout as she counts them with you.

You delight in watering the plants in the front yard, and strongly desire full control of the hose at all times.

You like to take to take rides in the wagon at the end of the day, but at a certain point you want to pull it yourself, and will swat our hands away if we attempt to help you.

You like to look at and play with your potty seat, but you have no interest in using it for its intended purpose, preferring instead to make a mad dash to the next room to do your business.

You were told you had to hold someone’s hand when crossing the street, and so you grabbed your own finger and said, “you can hold your own hand!” (your pronouns are still charmingly reversed).

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