brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Jason Good has a blog post about reasons his 3 year old is flipping out, and it’s pretty funny. It digs right into just how irrational little kids are, how confusing and overwhelming the world can be for them and how confusing and overwhelming they can be for their parents/caregivers. I like his blog. He’s obviously an involved and loving parent who knows his kids well and is able to put a humorous yet understanding spin on daily life. So when I first saw links to a tumblr about why a kid is crying I assumed it was a link to his site. It wasn’t. Instead, it’s a collection of photos of a crying 2 or 3 year old with a caption as to why he’s crying. The kid cries a lot, apparently. And the kid’s parent takes time to photograph the kid while crying and note down why he’s crying (milk’s in the wrong color cup, a piece of cheese is the wrong shape, etc). There’s a lot of people who think it’s really funny.

I don’t.

It’s really, really hard being a kid– especially a young kid. A really little kid flips out when his cheese is the wrong shape or her milk’s in the wrong cup because 1) that means it’s just plain WRONG and/or 2) that’s one thing in a huge world they have control over and now they’ve lost that control. Good’s blog post feels empathic. It reads as a guy who understands that it’s hard to be a little kid, and that it can be frustrating to be the parent of a little kid, but if you step back you can see the humor in the situation. The tumblr feels… I don’t know. My mind lights on words like “cruel” and “predatory” but I don’t think that’s quite it. Friends of mine suggest it’s something that was designed to go viral and sure enough, the creator and his family were on TV concerning it. But what’s the difference between Good’s blog post and the tumblr?

I think the biggest thing is that Good put in effort after the fact to list reasons his kid was flipping out and the sheer number, and ridiculousness of them, builds and is funny. And a lot of stuff he talks about were things he was doing with his kid, interacting with his kid. The tumblr is quick snapshots of a kid that already looks stressed out accompanied by one-sentence descriptions. It feels like the tumblr author prioritizes taking a photo of his kid in crises to helping his kid in crises solve the problem. Good talks about his kid, the tumblr author complains about his kid.

And, you know, sometimes parents and caregivers need to vent. Kids can be frustrating, challenging, hard work. And when parents and caregivers complain they’re frequently abused for doing so, especially if they’re women. (In fact, one friend of mine asked if the tumblr would be as popular if it were a mom writing it; dads get way more leeway to be less than saints. I think it’d fly as long as she was white, affluent, and joked about how much wine she drinks. Several “mommybloggers” fitting that description landed book deals based on their HILARZ discussions of alcoholic parenting, then checked into rehab. That really wouldn’t have worked for them if they weren’t a certain type.) So I’m all for finding and creating safe spaces to vent, to unload, to ask for help. But that really doesn’t feel like it’s what’s happening.

In my experience, which is fairly limited to my own relatively laid back 4 year old and some babysitting (age ranges from 1 1/2-7 years old) most freak outs can be nipped in the bud by remembering HALT. Is the kid Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? If your kid (or adult) starts getting on edge and acting brittle, look at the circumstances. When did they last eat? Do they need to calm down and sleep? Do they need attention? Are they angry/frustrated and need to express that and then calm down before proceeding? For really little kids, also check to see if they need to use the bathroom or are generally over whelmed. Being mindful of your kid’s needs can go a long way toward creating a smoother life for everyone involved. This isn’t some magic bullet that will solve all your problems, obviously.

It’s also important to remember that little kids don’t have adult brains. If they ask for a piece of cheese and you give them the “wrong” shape of cheese? That is not what they asked for. Until they make certain synaptic connections, they cannot translate that. It’s not possible. Their brains are growing, and they aren’t just increasing in size they’re increasing connections and the ability to make deductions. They have very little control over their lives, so cling to what they CAN control: what color cup they use, what shirt they wear. They are just learning new skills and get frustrated easily because what they WANT to do is so much harder than it should be because they are still learning how to do it. When little kids flip out, it’s because they can’t cope with the world at the moment. Part of maturing is learning to cope with it, even when frustrating… and part of parenting is teaching kids how to cope with a frustrating world.

Or you could take photos of your sobbing child and post it to tumblr, I guess.

Edited to add:
I was talking about this with a couple other people and more than one person compared it (negatively) to The Honest Toddler. Good and THT both discuss parenting and specific child-centered situations, and tend to poke fun at adults, parents, and specific styles of parenting (generally affluent, privileged parenting) while the tumblr pokes fun at a kid… a kid who’s defenseless at the moment. Instead of holding the powerful up to scrutiny, it holds the defenseless up. It’s a bit exploitative. And it bothers me that there’s just this constant string of negative photos of a little kid having problems.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

We have a mantel.

Don’t get all excited. We have a non-functioning fireplace and the mantel is a catch-all for junk. Like a junk drawer, but all out in the open where anyone can see it. Also there’s some photo albums, a porcelain “Rose Of Tralee” statue from the Franklin Mint, only slightly chipped, and a massive pile of guitar song books. And dust.

There’s also two houseplants.

I was cleaning off the mantel today in preparation for INCOMING CHRISTMAS and I moved one of the two small watering cans into the kitchen. This, as it turned out, was a mistake.

When Niko dragged his little stepstool over to the mantel, watering can in hand, and informed me that he was going to water the plants I chuckled indulgently and assumed it was all just pretend.




No. He’d put water in the little plastic watering can. And, while trying to water plants that were above his head, he poured all the water onto the floor behind him.

The hardwood floor. Which is about 100 years old.

OH!, I said as the water pattered musically onto the floor.

Then we cleaned it up together.

This poor floor.

IN MORE DISGUSTING NEWS, my child has really bad gas and also has figured out how to blame other people for it. He’s got a whole list of individuals to blame, which includes his stuffed animals. His current favorite fallguy is a red dog known as Red Dog. “But it’s ok, Red Dog doesn’t have to poop. That was just a just because toot. He keeps them in his butt. His butt is attached to his leg. Sometimes he poops on his leg like a cow all over the floor.” He’s still obsessed with cows and their torrential craps.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

The other day, we were in a big hurry to get Niko ready and go out the door to meet some fine folks AT A RESTAURANT. Luckily, this was NOT the sort of place where your entire party had to be present to be seated, because we were HALF A DAMN HOUR LATE because SOMEBODY refused to put pants or shoes on and wanted to stay home and watch tv and FOR ONCE this person was NOT ME. It was Niko. Just FYI.

It was actually pretty awful, and a great example of what people mean when they talk about how shitty 3 1/2 year olds are, and it’s honestly pretty unusual in our house. Niko’s a pretty laid back dude, very cooperative, and I try to prepare him for transitions and new things which I think helps a lot in him feeling secure and relaxed. But that night was just AWFUL. There was kicking and screaming and hitting and running and hiding and I almost gave in and sent Nesko off by himself while I stayed at home with King Buttbutt but Nesko STOOD FIRM and said we were doing this as a FAMILY or NOTHING.

I ended up confiscating and putting in time out all of Niko’s stuffed animals, with the understanding that he could start redeeming them with good behavior. He won 2 back by putting on his pants and shoes and jacket, and I brought another small one with us that he could redeem at the restaurant. He got another one or two, I forget how many, back for going down to bed easily that night. The rest are in a big bin in our bedroom.

Yes, are.

They are still there.

He’s continued to redeem them, but he has a LOT of stuffed animals, and now he’s just… I don’t know. I invited him to take ALL OF THEM out of our room and he refused. “No, mama, I want to be good and get one back every day because I’m good!”

I just want them out of our room.

We live in a vintage apartment building. It’s about 100 years old. We have a queen sized bed which BARELY fits. This bin of stuffed animals is taking up a LOT of space, to the point where I can’t open most of the drawers of my dresser and nobody can get in on one side of the bed.

It’s inconvenient.

And our bedroom is also holding a bunch of stuff that USED to be in our office, which is now a bedroom for a friend who’s staying with us for a while. So we have 3 guitar cases, 2 guitar stands, a bunch of wrapping paper, and some boxes in our bedroom and basically I am about to go more insane than ever and why can’t I just have nice things? Oh right, because my bedroom is full of stuffed animals.

Which Niko won’t take back.

Because reasons.

I think he’s punishing me.

“Oh, you’re going to take away my special friends? Well you go right ahead and see how much you like that idea when it’s YOU who has to trip over them MAMA.”

I’m pretty sure he practices an evil laugh at night, after I’ve tucked him.

The evilest of laughs.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I’ve mentioned a few times that Niko has some textural issues. This is especially noticeable when he’s not EXPECTING a certain texture. So, for instance, he had a caramel-filled Hershey Kiss the other day. He bit into it and was Shocked! Appalled! Outraged! There was A STICKINESS!!!!!! That was not what he signed up for. I told him it was caramel and it was sweet and he should try it and he looked at me like I was The Great Betrayer and was trying to trick him into something. But then he touched the verrrrrry tip of his tongue within the general area of the caramel, eventually made contact, and realized it was sweet and tasted good. And then he ate the whole thing. So he’s willing to give New Things and Disgusting Textures a chance, at least some times, which is totally awesome. And I try to prepare him for unexpected textures, because then everything goes more smoothly.

So when we had eggnog in the house, I poured a very small amount in a pink Hello Kitty (“Pretty Kitty” as he calls her) cup and told him it was a little bit like milk but sweeter and a little thicker. And he tried a little sip and liked it and had an adorable milk mustache. And he tried another sip and liked it. And then he took a huge glug into his mouth and didn’t know what to do with it, his cheeks all bulged out. He headed toward the bathroom to spit it out but I intercepted him and tried to get him to swallow. He looked around frantically and I made a mistake. I made a big mistake.

I laughed.

It wasn’t a real laugh, it was a sort of chuckle-snort that I tried to suppress. But I didn’t do a very good job of it.

And then Niko laughed. Eggnog sprayed out, a mouthful of thick sweet white, all over himself, the wall, the floor.

I’m really glad it wasn’t pea soup he’d been eating.

And then he started crying because his clothing was all wet with eggnog and Nesko calmed him down, cleaned everything up, and gave him a bath. After which Niko came out and took a few more sips of eggnog and asked to drink MY eggnog which HA! HAAAA! NO! because it was impregnated with Kraken rum.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I tell people my kid is weird and they either look at me funny and TOTALLY JUDGE ME or they laugh and mentally high five me. Really, pretty much ALL three year olds are weird, but mine is gloriously so. And I enjoy it! I enjoy weirdos and am one myself so, whatever.

One of Niko’s tetkas (aunts) traveled to Canada a while ago and brought him back a little stuffed moose with a red knit sweater that says “Canada” on it. Niko, cleverboots that he is, named the moose Canada. Canada the moose. Canadians, if it makes you feel any better, every single elephant he has is named Carl. ANYWAY, he recently discovered that Canada’s sweater is removable and it’s sized to fit beanie babies.

So his beanie babies (kissy bear, baba bear, tata kitty, mama otter, and EW SKUNK EW GROSSSSSSSSSS; CJ the dog, C the dog, J the dog, and Delilah the dog (he’s named them after dogs he knows, CJ and Delilah); Falcon Bernouli the goat and Edward Thomas the groundhog; they all get into fights over who is going to wear the sweater and who is going to be naked.

It’s like someone ate the forbidden fruit and now they know nakedness. And sin. And there is only one sweater to go around and cover their shame! So he sets them up and he has these little voices for them, and they argue over who is going to wear the sweater (only he calls it a shirt and he can’t say “sh” well so it’s a sirt) and why. They have VOCAL TICS, for crying out loud (albeit not very subtle ones: Canada brackets his statements with a sing-songy “I’m a moose, I’m a moose, I’m a moose, I’m a moose!”) At one point, Canada was saying “Kissy Bear you have my sirt and my pants! Oh no wait nobody has pants. You have my sirt! I am naked without my sirt. I’m a moose I’m a moose I’m a moose I’m a moose!” You have to admire his commitment. Canada breaks into identity-related song and dance constantly.

His stuffed animals tell jokes and they have specialty jokes. He sets them up and has them tell jokes. And laugh. And they fall over laughing.

I just… ok.

He’s three, right? And three year olds can be huge assholes. I think we’re all in agreement there. But they can also be FUCKING HILARIOUS and oh my GOD this is such a great age. And if I didn’t have carpal tunnel and arthritis and a complete inability to follow directions I would knit a bunch of tiny beanie baby sized sweaters so everyone could be clothed and the falsetto plush bickering could stop.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I grew up in a kitchen with a parent who was a professional cook for many years, which means that a lot of very basic knife (and general kitchen) safety was burned into my brain from a young age. Never put knives in the sink. Never run with a knife. Always pass a knife to someone handle first. Never touch a knife blade. Dull knives are more dangerous than sharp knives. Don’t use a too-small knife. I even know how to hone a knife on a whetstone. As I’ve said earlier, some of my earliest memories are helping my mom in the kitchen and I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t actively helping.

Our current kitchen isn’t very usable, for a number of reasons, so I’ve been doing the bulk of my cooking solo. Even though Niko is at that magical age where he wants to help and is capable of helping in some ways, I’ve been curtailing that because it’s just so inconvenient for me. And that’s a wrong headed attitude to have, frankly. So lately I’ve been asking him to help me load and unload the dishwasher, put his dishes in the sink, measure coffee into the coffee maker… and cut red peppers.

Yes, I’ve given my baby a knife.

"A toddler stands on the Learning Tower, image taking from the Learning Tower website"

A toddler stands on a wooden scaffolding called “The Learning Tower,” which raises her height to be safely able to work at a kitchen counter. Image taken from the Learning Tower website.

Several people have mentioned using things like the “Learning Tower,” which is a wooden scaffolding that costs quite a bit of money. If we had the money and the space for it I’d totally consider it, but as it is, Niko is very happy on his 2-step stepladder. We pull it right up to the counter and we practice handing a knife back and forth handle first, and then I give him strips of red pepper to slice in half.

We work on paying attention to what he’s doing, to the cutting board and the peppers. We work on how to hold the knife in his hand. We work on remembering that the blade is sharp. We work on how to hold the food steady. We work on not going too fast. And then he hands the knife carefully back to me and we put the peppers in a bowl, and he eats them all because red peppers are basically the bomb.

I know there are dull knives that people use for toddlers. There’s some plastic lettuce specialty knife that a lot of people laud for its dull blade and inability to puncture skin. I considered getting one of those, but in the end decided that with close supervision using a real knife was the better choice. Knives are sharp. I want my child very aware of that, at all times. I want him to know knife safety, and I want him to develop cooking skills that will last him through his life. If you have young children in your life you may very well make a different choice, and I’d love to hear what you have chosen or will chose. But Niko’s enjoying cutting up his own peppers, and he’s enjoying helping me, and he’s learning a lot while doing so.

How old were you when you started using a sharp knife?

Would you let a 3 year old use a knife?

What would you do?

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

One of the things I like about our little family is the traditions we’re developing like going to Day Out With Thomas (2 years in a row) or to Wagner Farm every year for the Rotary Club fund raising (3 years in a row) or… uh. I guess that’s it, so far.

Anyway, we made the trek up to The Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois for the 2012 Day Out With Thomas. It was great. It was fun last year, but it was rainy, and Niko was younger and cranky and nap disruptions made everything terrible (everything!). And even though he’s been a jerk about sleeping and napping lately, he’s old enough that he was able to hold his shit together allowing us to explore and do more things.

"Niko Posing With Thomas"

Nikola turns around long enough for a photo.

As they do, they had platforms set up for photo ops with Thomas. There were three platforms and of course the one in the middle was the most popular. There were professional photographers and you had the option to view and purchase a pro photo (perhaps in a fancy commemorative frame?) but we did not go that route because we are cheap assholes with our own (shitty) camera. How shitty? Let me just say that if you have an iPhone 4 your phone has a batter camera than my straight up camera. I discarded literally over half the photos I took because they were crap not because of anything I did but because it’s just a crap camera. Enough complaining! Niko was far more interested in checking out Thomas than turning around for his photo op, but he was very kind and patient with us and eventually turned around and consented to have his photo taken. Bless. We only backed the line up a LITTLE bit.

"Nikola checks out a hand car"

Nikola checks out a hand car.

There are many, many sheds with trains on display– engines, coaches, freight cars, CTA cars, cabooses, and more. Most of them have signs and are genteely roped off but apparently it’s ok to climb on this one. At least I hope it’s ok. Other people were doing so and there were no ropes or signs saying not to. Here’s Niko on a yellow hand car.

"Nikola sees a huge steam engine"

Nikola is stunned by the sheer immensity of a black steam engine.

And here he is checking out a huge black steam engine which, he was quick to tell us, looked just like Gordon. Well of course.

"Nikola and Nesko in front of a steam enginge"

Nikola and Nesko stand in front of a big steam engine.

I took, no exaggeration, about 50 photos of the awesome trains inside the sheds including the Nebraska Zephyr and some simply IMMENSE engines. None of them turned out. My camera, a point and shoot, has issues with its flash I guess. The photos in strong natural light, like this one, turned out much better. Steam engines are incredibly huge! And loud! And huge! I kind of have a thing for taking photos of people in front of GIANT TIRES and have done so both here and at Wagner Farm in front of a tractor’s giant tires.

"Niko on a caboose"

Niko also got to check out a caboose.

He also got to clamber around a caboose/brake van. It’s a cheerful red, as cabooses should be.

We went on a short street car ride but skipped the longer 19 mile ride because Niko was fading fast and while Nesko thought it’d be a chance for us all to relax including Niko, I was afraid Niko would get cranky and disrupt things. We checked out the Zephyr, which Niko’s been talking about for months, and also checked out the CTA train they’ve been restoring. We were also able to check out the museum’s gift shop and we bought a beautiful print for $5 of a pencil drawing of street car passing the Chicago theater.

This was a super great time and if we lived closer than an hour away we’d seriously consider buying a membership. A family membership costs $65, which is pretty cheap, and they have lots of events and it’d be super fun to just be able to look at the trains and ride them whenever we had a weekend to do so. We miiiiight look into hotels in the area and do a 3 day vacation out there, exploring the railway museum and also the Wild West Town and KOA campground and one room school house in the are. I AM A SUCKER FOR HISTORICAL REENACTMENTS, you have no idea.

Maybe you’re curious as to how accessible the museum is. There are designated handicap parking spaces on asphalt, but most of the parking is on grass, which may not be as much of an issue on NON Day Out With Thomas days. There are wide paved walkways throughout the grounds of the museum, but many of the sheds have a step to get in and some of them are not super well lit. They have paved walkways in the sheds. Some of the doorways are not very wide. I don’t think any of the trains are accessible. They are historic trains with narrow, steep, widely spaced steps. We all had problems boarding and disembarking. The museum has golf cart “courtesy shuttles” for Day Out With Thomas, but I don’t know if they have them at other times. The museum gift shop has a ramp leading up to it, but it’s narrow inside. I saw people at Day Out With Thomas using wheel chairs, motorized chairs, walkers, crutches, braces, and assistance dogs. So obviously some persons with disabilities are able to navigate the museum. There were also a lot of people using strollers and wagons along the pathways and over the grassy areas, although those weren’t allowed on the trains or in the gift store or in the museum’s diner. There were many portapotties, some of which were accessible, but I don’t know if those are a constant fixture or brought in specially for Day Out With Thomas. The diner has a big bathroom and the lady’s room had a handicapped stall but I don’t remember if the doorways were wide enough for a wheel chair user. It’s a newer building, though.

To sum up, “Day Out With Thomas” was a great time. I don’t think it’s possible for a more perfect day to have happened. We had a really good time and just as Niko talked about last year’s event all year I’m sure he’ll be talking about this year’s event for a long time as well. If you have the chance to attend “Day Out With Thomas,” or the Illinois Railway Museum, and you or someone you love is All About Trains, check it out. It’s well worth the money and the drive.

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Mack the Knife

Thursday, 16 August 2012 09:52
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I mentioned previously that I was going to work with Niko on “knife skills.”

I remember cooking on the stove top when I was young enough and small enough that I had to stand on a chair to be able to see into the pot. I don’t know how OLD I was, but I was pretty young. My mom kept me in the kitchen with her and I picked up a lot of safety lessons just by watching and listening to her. Keep pot handles toward the back of the stove, not hanging over. Don’t put knives in the sink. Don’t wear dangling sleeves. Keep your hair tied back. Wash your hands. That sort of stuff. And, of course, how to hand a knife to someone.

Now, in theory, Niko knew the first rule of knife safety which, as Suzanne pointed out, is OMG DON’T TOUCH THAT. Yet he tried to cut an apple with a bread knife and cut several of his fingers. Oh, toddlers 3 year olds children human beings, always got to touch the thing you were told not to touch. Here, have this key. It unlocks a secret room. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. ha haaaaaa, you opened it! Don’t touch this knife. ha haaaaaaa, you touched it. Great.

So we talked about the parts of the knife. This is the handle. This is the blade. The blade is sharp. Don’t touch the blade. Always hold a knife by the handle. Don’t touch a knife unless mama or tata is there and says it’s ok.

And then we talked about how you hand a knife to someone. You pick it up by the handle and then you hand it, handle first, to the person. We practiced this, asking for a knife and handing it to each other.

And then we talked about how you walk with a knife. You hold it low, and pointing away from you. You don’t point it at anyone, ever. You walk carefully.

Niko asked me today if he could “walks around the kitchen with a knife” which sounds like a weird question to ask until you realize that’s a specific skill I was teaching him, not that he’s a budding knife-wielding serial killer. So I gave him a butter knife, reminded him of the parts of the knife, and he walked around carefully holding it down and away from him. And then I asked for him to hand it to me and we practised that a bit more.

It went well.

After a few more safety lessons like this we might move on to cutting.

Or maybe spreading. Yes. He can use a knife to spread things first.


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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Nesko and I were sitting in the living room while Niko kept running into other rooms and making messes then running back to let us know about his messes. He was in a rare mood today. A rare and clumsy mood. At one point he scampered out of the room and Nesko told him to come back because duh every time he left the room he just made some new problem.

This time he came back and said “Uh, mama, I have an owie owie” in a very calm, nonchalant voice. I looked over and HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA BLOOD. All over his hands, his wrists, his snooze-a-saurus pyjama shirt. He didn’t seem too upset or in pain so I calmly herded him into the bathroom and cleaned him up. It was actually difficult to locate the wound, because although it bled a lot it was a small cut on his thumb. He’d just spread the blood around a lot.

What had he done to injure himself so badly?

Why, tried to cut up an apple with a serrated bread knife, of course! WHY NOT.

So we had a talk about Not Touching Knives, and I gave him a boring bandage instead of a cute! fun! Elmo! bandage because I don’t want to reward playing with knives, you know? And now I’m considering teaching him proper knife using. On the one hand, he needs to know which part of the knife is the sharp part and how to respect it. On the other hand, he’s 3 and he’s clumsy and a knife skills lessons could easily turn into some kind of murder-suicide ordeal. On the OTHER other hand (pretend I have three hands, ok?), how sweet would it be if I had a tiny sous chef in my kitchen? Pretty fucking sweet, I tell you.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko’s full name is Nikola, and this is for a number of reasons. It’s a straight up traditional name in Nesko’s culture, it’s a family name, their Slava is St Nikolaus, and of course there’s Nikola Tesla. It’s also apparently A REALLY FUCKING COMMON NAME and when we go to, say, Nesko’s cousin’s Slava and their friends and cousins are there, there’s always other kids named Nikola/Niko. I haven’t encountered any called Nikatz or Nano, both of which are nicknames we use more frequently, though. but I’m sure we will. So I’ve started expecting Nikolas/Nikos at family gatherings, but I’m still surprised when I encounter a Nikola/Niko in the wild.

We ran into one at Wagner Farm last weekend.

Let me back up.

Historic Wagner Farm is a little slice of history in Glenview, IL. Nesko’s bosses are Rotary Club members, and for the past 3 years they’ve had fund raisers at Wagner Farm that includes a hayride, ice cream, and this year face painting. This is the third year we’ve gone, and it’s a lot of fun. Niko enjoys running around, he likes watching the cows and horses and talking about their poop, he likes looking for the barn cats, and he thinks the chickens are super cute and he wants to take them home. And of course he likes eating the ice cream. Who doesn’t? (me, I don’t. ooooh, lactose intolerance. i want to love you again, ice cream, I do. you’re just… not worth it.) There’s a building with bathrooms and a gift shop and some edutainment museum-ish displays and the ice cream parlor. One of the interactive displays is supposed to be about chicken eggs and collecting and sorting them and candling them, but every time we’ve been it’s just a frenzy of kids grabbing eggs and dumping them down the chute and grabbing more eggs and EGGS EGGS EGGS OH GOD THERE’S EGGS AND BASKETS AAHHHHHHHHHH BEST THING EVERRRRRRRRRR! While Niko was taking part in the eggs and basket frenzy, I heard another woman reminding Niko to play nice and share and not grab. Basically, I’d open my mouth to remind Niko to not be a dick, and then this other woman would say exactly what I was going to say! DUN DUN DUNNNNNN! As it turns out, she has a 3 year old named Nikola also.

I guess it’s just a popular name.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko is pretty imaginative, as 3 year olds usually are. In addition to his imaginary friends January, Cup Custard, and Howdy Cat, our house also teams with Mon Mons. I know what you’re thinking, and no, he isn’t talking about Pokemon (although he may have heard the name in that context and picked it up).

Mon Mons do not swim but they live in the water. They do not have fur or scales, they have skin, and sometimes hair. They like to come out of the water and live in the sand. THEY ARE NOT OTTERS. They live in the sand and they eat the sand. They can be any color. They can be red, blue, brown, orange, white. They walk like this *walks sideways, crouched down.* They have two big hands and they use their big hands to TICKLE YOU and pinch you and scratch you. And you say OH MON MON THANK YOU FOR THE TICKLES AND PINCHES AND SCRATCHES. They only scratch you if you’re itchy and want them to scratch you, and they pinch you gently like this *pinches gently.*

We were out running errands the other day and stopped to get something to eat. The waitress gave us crayons and a paper placemat and Niko and I draw on the back of it. I drew a crab and he got very excited because apparently Mon Mons are just crabs. I said “Oh, Mon Mons are crabs?” and he said “YES I TOLD YOU THEY WERE CRABS. Geeze. Mon Mons are crabs. EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT, MAMA.” Then he clicked his fingers together like crab claws and reached over and pinched me (gently). Which is how Mon Mons, aka crabs, say hello.

So now you know what Mon Mons are, and a little bit more about crabs.

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Monday, 6 August 2012 23:55
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I was cutting up some cherries today and Niko objected. He could just eat them whole! The way he eats grapes! And carrots! No no, I said. They have pits, I said.

He looked at me like I was full of shit.

He actually gives me this look a lot, because I say all kinds of crazy shit like “you can’t eat a box of granola bars for breakfast” and “don’t paint the rug” and “your fingers don’t belong up your butt.”

“MAMA,” he said, “a pit is something YOU FALL IN. It is IN THE GROUND. It is a BIG HOLE that you fall in and get lost in.”

So we had a conversation about cherry pits (and peach pits), and pits that are holes in the ground, and arm pits.

Later on I tucked him into bed for a nap and then took a shower. As I was drying off I heard a big thump and then sad noises. He made his way into the bathroom, sniveling.

“Oh, Niko, did you fall out of bed?”

“No. I tumbled.”

Well there you go.

He also had a freak out when I wouldn’t let him eat an entire bag of dried cherries. When I wouldn’t open the bag, he reassured me that it was ok, he’d open it himself. I put it on a shelf. He flipped his shit. Among the insults he slung at me? “YOU ARE NOT A PERSON!” I… do not know where that came from.

He is, in general, in a “I’ll do it MY! SELF!” mood where everything but pulling up his own pants is concerned. He’s pretty much toilet trained except for sometimes he pees on his bed when he wants a bath (RAGE METER FILLED. WHY WOULD YOU DOOOOOOO THAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT) and he’s wet the bed twice overnight possibly because he’s had a nightmare. So we’re back to pullups while sleeping, even though he’s totally dry 99% of the time. He also likes to get himself “a nice cool fresh glass of water.” AWWW ADORBS. I FORGIVE YOUR URINE ANTICS.

IN OTHER NEWS, I was all on top of things and ahead of the game, and took Niko in for his dental exam and check up/physical and got his school forms filled out so I’d be all ready to enroll him… and I’ve lost those forms. CRI CRI. No idea where they are. I guess I put them someplace safe? So safe they’re safe EVEN FROM ME. Good job, me. Good job.

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Thursday, 24 May 2012 09:00
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko came into the kitchen this morning claiming he was hungry and requesting my “meal.” Meal? What meal? I’d just eaten cereal. Did he want cereal? No, he wanted “my meal,” and he wanted me to heat it up for him. He wanted… dinner? Chicken? No! My meal! It was behind that door (in the cabinet). After some pointing and questioning it turned out he wanted… instant oatmeal with dinosaurs in it. I was dubious. OF course! What 3 year old loves oatmeal? We only have it in the house because I bought it for a friend of mine and then Niko tore into the packaging… a year ago. Can’t send a torn up package. I put the kettle on and made him oatmeal.

My picky gags and pukes on textures child sat down and ate several spoonfulls of oatmeal. Sure, he was more intent on digging out and consuming the candy dinosaurs, but he still made a dent in the stuff. And by “stuff” I mean piping hot oatmeal. On a day projected to reach into the 90s. Because why not.

Then he threatened to “sell me to a bear.”

What I’m trying to say is, my kid is weird.

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3 year Check Up

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 21:15
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko had his 3 year check up today, where we discussed:

      His asthma (pretty much unchanged)
      His mental acuity (recognition of colors, shapes, numbers, letters, etc)
      How much we LOOOOOOVE poking him with sharp objects.

Poor dude had another blood draw to check for lead and anemia this time around. Unlike last time, he noticed the needle. Perhaps if I’d surprised him with another All! New! Experience!– perhaps a kitten?– it would have gone as well as last year’s blood draw. But alas, a shiny sticker and a sucker were not enough to distract him from someone jabbing him with a needle and stealing his precious life essence. I explained to him what was going to happen, then what WAS happening, and I think that helped. When the nurse put the rubber tie around his arm he said “Oh, this gives me an owie owie” and made a sad face, then bit into his lollypop. When she stuck the needle in, he said “Oh!” and tried to slap her away, but stayed pretty calm and still as we talked to him and held him. He got a Sesame Street bandage, which helped.

He doesn’t need any more vaccines until he is 5 years old, and our doctor decided to forgo the TB test until it’s required for kindergarten because he’s low risk for TB. He also FREAKED OUT when she tried to look in his mouth because he “didn’t want her to get it dirty” and cried when we laid him down so she could palpate his stomach/check his genitals. His lament? “I don’t want you to see me CRRRRYYYYYYY.” So we hid his face and he calmed down some.

The problem with making doctor appointments is that Nesko doesn’t get vacation days, which means if he takes a day off he doesn’t get paid for it, so we try to schedule appointments for when he goes in late to work, and that tends to coincide almost exactly with the danger zone of lunch time and nap time. So Niko is often a super cranky pants by the time it’s belly-checkin’ time. But he’s in general a laid back dude so frankly, it’s not THAT bad, and the staff are all super great at being patient and managing the situation, working with him, etc.

He is, if I remember correctly, 36 pounds and also he is 38 1/2 inches, which means that in two more feet he’ll be taller than I am. He’s about in the 85th percentile for weight, if I remembered his weight correctly, and 65th percentile for height.

I think I was going to write more about this, but Niko woke up from his nap halfway through the very first sentence, so whatever I had intended to write vanished into the ether. Ah well.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Suzanne’s Post reminded me that I needed to post this.

We took Niko to the dentist last week for his first ever dental check up.

I was in a state of higher than usual anxiety about this for a number of reasons ranging from guilt that we hadn’t done it earlier (ADA recommends starting at 12 months) and fear that he had cavities (my poor baby!) to near-crippling emotional fallout from simply terrible, traumatic dental experiences that I’ve had throughout my life. FOR INSTANCE, and if you’re the kind of person who is scared of dentists, look away now, FOR INSTANCE, I remember my very first dental appointment! I was five or so. My dad took me. The dentist took me into his office (like, this desk-and-paperwork office) while my dad waited outside, and he sat behind his desk and I sat in a hard wooden chair, and he had a long lecture-y talk with me about What He Would Do To Me if I misbehaved in the exam chair. This included a threat to handcuff me to the chair. Ha haaaaa! FUN, right? And totally appropriate! I’m sure it comes as no surprise what so ever that after this experience I got the screaming fits when confronted with him and had to go to a special pricey pediatric dentist afterward. Yay. That dude was good. The dude after him? DID NOT KNOW HOW TO ADMINISTER NOVOCAINE to the point where I’d just get fillings with no Novocaine because why bother shit don’t work. HAAAAAAAAAAAH.

So anyway!

I don’t have a dentist currently. A quick googling showed a pediatric dentist literally 3 blocks from our home, easily walkable, who takes our insurance. I put off calling and put off calling and put off calling, and then finally called, trying not to hyperventilate. Making the appointment was easy! I even managed to sleep the night before! Nesko and I walked Niko over there. I tried to prep him by telling him what-to-expect stories involving various characters and imaginary friends going to the dentist. Once there, I filled out paperwork while Nesko took Niko into the play room with a climbing structure, slide, and tunnels. WHAT. WHAT.

After a very short wait, we were called back. The dental assistant counted Niko’s teeth, showed him the various tools, brushed his teeth, and took X-Rays. I had a nasty moment where it looked on the X-Ray like he had an immense crack through one of his teeth, but the dentist came in and looked everything over and said he looked fine so it must have just been a shadow or something OH THANK GOOD. There was no flossing, no tooth scraping, just a listerine-and-water rinse and a fluoride application. I asked about sealing his teeth and will bring it up when he gets his adult teeth in. The assistant and dentist were both really cool, laid back, patient, and kind.

Niko was totally unbothered by the events. They had TVs on the wall, so he watched Elmo, and at the end he got two big stickers and a sugar-free sucker. Little dude would shiv me IN A HEART BEAT for a sucker, so this was basically bliss for him. We walked back home and had a chill day.

I’m really glad that his first dental experience, like all of his medical experiences so far, has been so… non-dramatic. I wish we’d taken him to the dentist earlier, but there doesn’t seem to have been any harm done in waiting. We’ll take him again in six months, as recommended by the ADA.

And now that he’s been, I’ve got the first piece of paperwork finished that I need… to enroll him in school this fall. DUN… DUN… DUNNNNNNN.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2012 15:10
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko pretty much only watches 3 shows: “Word World,” “Sid The Science Kid,” and “Adventure Time.” Yes, yes, I know. One of these things is not like the other. He also watches “Dinosaur Train” when I need to take a shower or something, because it’s on Netflix. (“Adventure Time” is On Demand but some episodes require him to sit in my lap and ask if the Snow Golem is going to fall into the water and where is that Fire Wolf’s mama and tata?) He’s picked up a lot from the shows he watches, including the phrase “Sweet Babies!” when he’s excited or angry about something. As cusses go, that is a GREAT ONE and I approve and it’s way better than him picking up on my hissed “JESUS FUCK”s and “DAMMIT”s when he headbutts me in the eye, blacking it and bending my glasses, or when he tumbles off me and lands square on the edge of my foot, grinding the bones into the ground while also clawing his toenails along my soft foot skin. I… I may need to take out a restraining order on this guy.

Anyway, “Word World” is an educational show that works on letter recognition, phonics, and simple spelling. We watch it together and I help prompt him to make letter sounds/say what letters make sounds and after an episode we’ll go over letter shapes and sounds and maybe practice spelling some words. Personally, I’m terrible with phonics. I’m slightly deaf in one ear, which may be part of it, but a friend of mine who is a teacher casually mentioned once that it sounds like I have an auditory processing disorder as well, which frankly, I find easy to believe. I have a really difficult time discerning, say, the difference between “ch,” “sh,” and “dg/j” which is a pretty big problem with my attempts to learn my husband’s language which has TWO “ch”s, “sh”s, and “dg/j”s. I SAY the sounds right, but when I hear a word I’ve never seen spelled, I have a hard time figuring out if it’s got a ch, sh, or dg/j in it. I have a really hard time sounding words out to spell them.

But! I try to rise above that, and since phonics works for teaching most kids (and adults!) to read and write, I’m using it as best I can with Niko. We look at letters and make their sounds and talk about digraphs and stuff and we sound out words when we’re reading. Niko’s gotten to the OH MY GAWD ADORABLE phase where he “spells out” words totally the wrong way, just with random letters. It just about makes my heart explode with cute. Like, if I were an anime character, my eyes would be huge and shiny and have little hearts and stars floating in them.

This morning, he asked me to spell the word “Jet.” I sat down with a crayon and piece of paper and we said the word slowly together and then broke it down into pieces. Juh! Eh! Tuh! JET! He was able to break it down to sounds, and then figure out what letters made the sounds. I wrote the letters down and TADA! Jet! He spelled it himself, with encouragement/support from me.

I’ve grappled my entire life with poor spelling. Spellcheck is basically my best friend and we’ve had several torrid affairs. I learned to read when I was 3, but remember struggling incredibly hard with spelling in first grade. I failed test after test after test.I think the highest grade for spelling I’ve ever gotten has been a C+, and that was with much studying and writing the words out many times, etc. It’s so frustrating to work that hard and still fail! So I’m really surprised and delighted that phonics seems to be working for Niko, that he understands it, it clicks, and he can link letters with sounds and smash them all together to make words. Nobody mentioned the term “learning disability” to me until I was in high school, and even then it wasn’t an official diagnosis. I really nope Niko doesn’t have to deal with the same fucked up brain crap I’ve had to cope with my entire life, but if he does? I’m totally looking out for it– and for him. And today? He spelled “jet” and that’s just awesome.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko’s bedroom has a closet that’s double deep, something not uncommon in older buildings. I believe that once upon a time, the back space was used to store out of season clothing/coats, or possibly there’d be a dresser in there or shelves or something. But there’s literally enough depth to run 2 parallel bars and hang clothing from both bars. We took off the bar in the back, and had the back half of his closet stuffed with boxes of his old baby clothing and bed linens. I had Nesko haul all that out the other day with the goal of trimming his baby paraphernalia in half.  Nesko got all verklempt at the idea, Niko kept reminding me that he wore those clothes “when he was a little itty bitty baby” and that they were “special to [him].” I didn’t make my goal of half, but I sent 1/3 of the outgrown clothing on their way out the door, to a neighborhood clothing bank/fund raiser.

We haven’t put the remaining boxes of clothing back yet, and Niko has been having a really great time running into his closet and hiding behind the clothing/hanging closet organizer. “Mama mama mama! This is the best closet! I am hiding in this closet!” he says.

The other day he grabbed me and pulled me into the closet so we could “hide from tata!” Since Nesko was due to arrive home any minute, I agreed. We both ducked into the closet and Niko told me all about how we were hiding from tata and we were going to jump out and say SURPRISE! and tata would be SO SURPRISED etc. I heard Nesko’s key in the door and shushed Niko, who quieted down for a few seconds. But as soon as he heard Nesko entering, he started jumping in a circle and screaming while banging on the wall.

Oh, sweet child, that is not how you hide!

That is the worst hiding!


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I help you?

Monday, 13 February 2012 17:03
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I decided, today, that I’d let the clean clothing linger in laundry baskets long enough, and it was time to fold it and put it away. To be honest, the impetus has something to do with the amount of dirty laundry that needs to be turned into clean laundry, and I need the laundry baskets (which were filled with clean clothing) to make that transition possible. It’s a pain in the butt folding laundry when Niko is around/awake because you know how little kids like to knock over block towers? He likes to knock over– or wallow on!– towers of folded clothing. It’s basically the opposite of helpful.

I managed to get everything folded with a minimum of falling/scolding (dear child: no, me folding laundry while sitting on the bed is NOT an open invitation to JUMP on the bed, why do you keep doing that, you know jumping is not allowed) and then I took some pyjamas and socks into Niko’s room to put in his dresser. I came back to get his pants and shirts and found Niko walking toward me, several pair of pants held in the mouth of his butterfly hand puppet.

“I help you!” he said. “Butterfly help you, mama.”

I thanked him and asked if I could carry the pants, and went back into our bedroom to get the rest of his clothing. He and butterfly then kind of… herded me… down the hall toward his room, butterfly’s open mouth clamped on me. I was puzzled for a bit, and frustrated because dude, get out of the way, why are you walking so close, when I realized they were helping me carry the laundry.

Well then.

I shoved his pants in his drawer and handed him shirts, two at a time, and he plopped those in the drawer as well, butterfly holding them in its mouth. It’s not the tidiest drawer in existence, but what do you expect from a toddler and a butterfly?


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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Life has been kind of kicking my ass lately. Fun! I’ve been job hunting, there’s been car trouble, Nesko’s still working full time plus some over time plus working with his dad plus trying to fix his car. It turns out that you can’t jam extra hours into the day or extra days into the week, and staying up two hours later than you should just so you have a chance to sit next to and talk with your spouse is a bad idea for both of you because talking doesn’t replace sleep even if said spouse IS really cute.

In more fun news, Niko and I made cookies the other day. It worked out pretty well. We don’t have a table in the kitchen, and we don’t really have counter space, and I can’t really move my enormous heavy stand mixer, so we wound up doing that thing where he stands on a step ladder and I hand him a measuring cup of dry ingredient and he dumps it into he mixer bowl and I remind him not to touch the beater because I like him with both hands thank you very much. And then I turn the mixer on and do all the rest of the work myself and don’t give him the beater to lick because oh god raw egg god no. Then he piles all his toys in front of the oven because that’s the most helpful thing to do when I’m baking. Then we eat all the cookies. ALL OF THEM. I want to do it again, but we’re out of eggs, and the car wouldn’t start Sunday so… grocery trip postponed. (lack of eggs forced me– FORCED I SAY– to eat cold pizza for breakfast. Oh no!)

Niko’s been resisting naps lately, which is a foolish move on his part, because he needs a nap or he… uh. Does not cope well. After several days of nap refusal, he spent most of this morning draped over me on the couch, and is now sleeping in his bed cuddled up with a butterfly hand puppet.

I… should probably tell you about the butterfly hand puppet.

There’s this hand puppet. It’s a butterfly, with a big lipsticked mouth. It’s kind of creepy. Niko is enamored of it, possibly because it looks vaguely like a muppet? There are times when he will not listen to me or respond to me unless I’m talking in a silly voice through the butterfly hand puppet.

“Talk like a butterfly mama! Mama! TALK LIKE A BUTTERFLY! No, mama, no! No singing. Only butterfly can sing. Talk like a butterfly!”

Sometimes he calls me butterfly mama.

I sing the Reading Rainbow theme song in a goofy voice and he sings along.

All this butterfly talking makes my throat hurt. I mean, it literally causes me pain.

But I can’t stop because it’s so adorable and hilarious. Niko brings Butterfly things to eat… rocks and trains, but also flowers he makes out of round tinker toy pieces stuck onto straight tinker toy pieces. He says “I love you butterfly!” and gives the hand puppet a hug and a kiss and I try to eat his face and he laughs and says “naughty butterfly! Oh, I’m not mad at you!” Then he sings a song about butterflies while jumping in a circle.

Is this the best age, or what? Toddlers, man. Toddlers.

Anyway, nap time today, Butterfly coaxed Niko into bed (I only had to scoot him across the floor with my foot A LITTLE BIT) and then read 2 stories to him. I asked Niko if he wanted to sleep with Butterfly. His eyes got big and he laughed nervously. “SURE. YES. SURE.” Butterfly wished him good night and lay down on his pillow and I pulled my hand out. I wished Niko good night and told him to sleep tight. “WE WILL” he promised. Daww. And then he fell asleep in like 30 seconds because holy Christ is he running on empty lately.

DID YOU KNOW: if you read books too often they get broken? It’s true. The words just get worn out. At least that’s what Niko claims. We couldn’t read “Time To Pee” or “I Am A Bunny” because “we read those too much, mama, they’re broken. We broke them. The words are broken. We can’t read those too much.”

We’ve started doing some incredibly lazy and half assed potty training. Nesko released Niko into the wild yesterday wearing a shirt and socks and no pants at all. Nothing. Just his business flapping in the breeze. I set a timer and every 20 minutes Niko sat on the toilet and produced a minute amount of urine and then received a chocolate chip. It was a pretty sweet deal. Eventually it was nap time so I diapered him and put him down and then a friend came over… and it turned out he was faking the nap the entire time and he wanted to party, and since it was his favorite person in the whole entire world I said fuck it and let him. He did the foulest poop known to man, resulting in an emergency load of laundry and bath and the living room smelled really bad for like 20 minutes even though no poop got on the floor or anything, it just funked up the air. He was rashy from it (HE IS A DELICATE FLOWER and terrorpoops give him a bright but passing rash) so I put him in underpants. HE WAS THRILLED. Thrilled I say!  Dude, I have been trying to get him into underpants for months now. Literally months! And he would respond each time as though I were offering to mangle a limb! He was good as gold all evening until I put his bed time diaper and jammies on him. And, I mean, he was still good as gold then, he just wasn’t being manhandled into the bathroom every 20 minutes.

Lulled into a false sense of cocky over confidence, we did the underwear thing again today and after two pee pants in 45 minutes (and this was WITH two toilet visits!)  and a shy request for a diaper, I put a diaper and pants on him. Is he too tired to hold it? Was he only trying to impress our friend? I don’t know. We’ll try again this afternoon, maybe. MAYBE.

Another exciting result of potty training? Niko learned the word “penis” which he pronounces “Pee-Nuss.” It may sound odd that he never used that word before, but we usually use the Serbian word for his penis, which I don’t know how to spell. I think “Pee-Nuss” is hilarious, though. We’ve also hit the milestone that butts are funny, which I don’t know, I guess asses are just inherently funny? Because we don’t have verboten body parts or body labels in our house, and we talk about bottoms and butts and rectums and body parts and nakedness is no big deal. But the other day I told Niko to pull his sagging britches up over his bottom and he said “You mean my… GUZA?!?” (guza is the Serbian word for butt) and then he literally fell over laughing the way that toddlers do. WHATEVER, MAN. Just please wipe your Pee-Nuss after you pee, we don’t need dribbles all over the place.


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The Sleeping Thing

Wednesday, 4 January 2012 23:55
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I was all set to write a little congratulatory “btw,  Niko’s sleeping in his own little bad, KAZAM!” post but then last night he joined us in our bed around tiny-o:clock because “monsters” had “eaten his rug” and “turned Carl (his stuffed elephant) into a bear and Carl was sad.” We had a talk about monsters and how to get rid of them and everything seemed ok, and then he spent the day with my in-laws and came home and apparently his room is infested with monsters and dinosaurs.

Which, ok, my friend Kate thinks that is ridiculous because duh monsters are afraid of dinosaurs and dinosaurs are extinct, and I totally agree with her, but try explaining that to a two year old, right? They don’t logic well.

So I managed to get him settled in bed, reading him “I Am A Bunny” and “The Thomas And Friends Year Book” (which is a freaking catalog of Thomas And Friends toys only with no prices ha ha surprise suckers! That thing your kid totally wants is US$600!) and then the freak outs began, fueled in part by being over tired and possibly by running a low fever.

Because I am the meanest person ever, I sternly forbade Niko from sleeping in the big bed, and I turned out the light and left him to sniffle and tremble in fear.

Half an hour later he tucked himself neatly and calmly into our big bed while I faffed about online.

I let him fall asleep and then scooped him up in the most hilariously clumsy way and dragged him back to his room. He woke up half way there and resisted as much as a half-asleep toddler can resist, but frankly, he was having difficulty sitting up let alone pulling another escape attempt. So he soon crashed and I haven’t heard anything else from him.

We rearranged some furniture in his room, and that may have triggered this, or it might just be a completely random totally awesome toddler brain thing. I have no idea. It’s also possible that he is just a super lucky kid who inherited my completely rad night terrors. Yay!

Later on I’m gonna talk about Cingular and our decision to take Niko off of it. It’s pretty boring, but mostly I want to record it for myself. STAY TUNNED FOR MORE GRIPPING TALES OF TODDLER MEDICATION.

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