Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Princess Diaries

I cannot play with the Little People Princesses anymore. I can't do it. Please, don't make me do it. We are close to wrapping up my fourth week at home with Paige and I'd say 90 percent of our time has been spent playing with her set of Little People Princesses, accompanying castle and pirate ship she received for Christmas.

I thought kids were supposed to get stuff for Christmas, play with it for a week, then toss it aside. Not Paige with these princesses. And, keep in mind, these are the Disney princesses, so Paige decides who I am going "to be" then hands me Snow White, Ariel (she has two - "mermaid Ariel" and "human Ariel"), Tiana, Cinderella, Aurora or Rapunzel (her favorite). If I'm lucky, she'll toss Prince Eric my way or maybe a random Oscar the Grouch character figurine (even Paige has figured out after four weeks, my mood has shifted from upbeat to depressed).

It all starts at 6:02 every morning (give or take a minute). Paige pops out of her toddler bed, the door to her room flies open and the little feet come racing down the hall to my bedroom. She's already bouncing and jumping - excited to start the day and has princesses on the mind. In a sleep-induced haze, I navigate the stairs and as I turn on the lights she races to the castle and immediately says, "Daddy, will you pway with me?" Yes, all her L's sound like W's or Y's right now depending on their position within a word, which makes me smile every time she says "Yucy" for her sister's name.

She doesn't take "no" for an answer. And, the game starts the same way. I have to say "Hi!" in an extremely loud and obnoxious tone to Paige's princesses, then we set off on some sort of adventure involving the princesses moving around the castle or screaming in horror when a random toy dinosaur enters the fray. It's the same thing every time. And, god forbid if I'm not using a variety of voices or have my hand on the princess as I pretend to talk for her.

And, I'm not gunning for the, "oh, how cute, he plays princesses with her," sympathy. Any dad worth a damn plays princesses, dress-up, tea party, etc. with their daughters. It's what you do. But, I don't know how much more of this I can take before the Little People Princesses accidentally end up in a dumpster fire or the castle just so happens to be left directly behind the back wheels of our Mazda5.

Today I even brought out the big guns to distract her - the Play Doh, which typically buys me a good 45 minutes of peace and quiet before I have to spend 45 minutes cleaning up the multi-colored disaster smeared into the kitchen table, floor and chairs. It didn't work today. She messed around for 10 minutes, then hopped down from her chair and went straight back to the castle. "Daddy, will you pway with me?"

Someday, she's not going to want to play princesses with me anymore, I understand that. All Lucy wants to do these days is sit in her room and read, or eat Goldfish crackers, or both. But as I sit on the couch typing this while she has just finished her second hour of her nap, I shudder to think of what happens soon when she wakes up. The only force powerful enough to sway her from the princesses is the TV. Yeah, that's it. I'll offer her the opportunity to watch her favorite TV show - Bubble Guppies. Ah crap, I don't want that god-awful theme song in my head ("Bu-bu-bu-bubble bubble guppies").

Princesses it is - time to work on my voices - "Hi!" Has anyone seen the Oscar the Grouch figurine?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lucy Needs Attention Too

When you're a self-sufficient, first-born six-year-old, you tend to lose out on attention at times. You can't blame me. Lucy's method of showing her anger is to go to her room, sulk and pout, then read books quietly for an hour. Paige's method involves violently throwing herself on the ground, rolling, screaming and something that appears to involve the fiery pits of hell. It's no contest. Paige must get the attention before someone gets hurt.

Lucy also has been struggling with our change in family dynamic more lately, which surprises me. The kid loves kindergarten, is upset when it's the weekend because she can't go to kindergarten and discusses kindergarten most hours of the day. Yet, she still thinks there is some sort of party going on at home without her.

Most of the time, there isn't a party but two of the last three Fridays, Paige and I have gone to the children's museum. Lucy most likely would have no idea but Paige loves spending time in the do-it-yourself face painting, always falls asleep on the ride home, then wakes up from her nap as Lucy gets home from school. So, yeah, Paige's face is covered in paint and you can't hide it, which led to this exchange yesterday:

Lucy: "Well, it looks like you two went to the children's museum" (all said with an eye roll).
Me: "What are you talking about?"
Lucy: "You didn't follow mommy's rule of not painting our faces. And, if we do paint faces, we're not supposed to use black and red, because those colors are the hardest to wash off. Why are you not following mommy's rule, Paige?"
Paige: "Me no use black and red" (thanks for trying to cover for us Paige but all you need is a silk jacket with "Bulls" on the back and you'd fit right in at the United Center considering the hues adorning your face right now
Lucy: "Ugh!" (more eye rolling)

But last night was a night for daddy and Lucy - it was the Daddy/Daughter 2013 ball! We got dressed up and a babysitter came to watch Paige (Allison is still in Hawaii and I say it's 50/50 she ever returns - I wouldn't even blame her). Unfortunately, it also meant trying to be ready to leave the house before six. Lucy's special night actually started at 4:40 when we first attempted to get her dressed but became interrupted by Paige yelling from the bath tub, "Poop is coming out!" For all those smart, childless people out there, you never want to hear this.

Amazingly, poop wasn't coming out - false alarm. I had to set Lucy aside and wash Paige immediately for fear of another poop situation. So, Lucy waited. I bathed Paige, dressed her (always fun when a wet, naked Paige is running through the hallway screaming, "Me no get dressed!") and had to move immediately into dinner making - yes, I considering mac-n-cheese "dinner making."

Finally, mercifully, we had things just about under control. The girls' favorite babysitter arrived. I made the five-minute change into a suit and off we went. I was hoping for two hours of dancing with my little girl, but she was more interested in the endless supply of brownie bites, cupcakes and goldfish crackers readily available. She colored with her friends from school, ate some more, hit the dance floor a bit and was exhausted by 8 pm when it ended. Would I have liked to dance more with her? Sure. But, it was two hours of uninterrupted Lucy-daddy time, and that's something we haven't had in three weeks - I'll take it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hell Week

Yes, I know Hell Week is a week of Navy SEAL training in which I'd never last more than 45 seconds. I'll apologize now to all the SEALs reading this blog, I'm about to use the term to describe spending extra time with my kids.

We are now almost 24 hours into Hell Week. Everyone still is alive and accounted for. But, this is just the first phase. Allison left for a work trip to Seattle yesterday. Despite explaining to Paige and Lucy we were driving mommy to her co-worker's house for them to carpool, once the moment of truth came, Paige reacted as if Allison was about to embark on a four-week trip to the depths of the Amazon. Screaming, crying and wailing, "MY MOMMY!" as we attempted to pull out of the co-worker's driveway was not the reaction I hoped for or expected. I guess you develop a realistic sense of time somewhere between age two and six, because Lucy barely could be bothered by the change in our family dynamic. I guess it's hard for her to care as she rolls her eyes at everything.

I decided last night would be a good movie night because the kids love eating dinner with their little trays in front of the TV once in awhile and I like having 90 minutes to not answer a barrage of questions starting with, "Can I..." I tossed Peter Pan into the DVD player (by the way, I noticed Disney didn't utilize the blatantly racist scenes from the movie to promote its DVD re-release - I was caught way off guard for that one), eventually fought bedtime and the first day was in the books.

Of course, Paige being Paige, she stirred 11 different times last night, including an epic screaming fit for her "Twinkle Twinkle" pacifier despite having 15 other pacifiers in her toddler bed. Yes, 15, as instructed by our sleep specialist many months ago (of course she has a sleep specialist). Our day started at 5:20 a.m., I convinced her to go back to sleep just long enough for me to drift off and wake up 30 minutes later to screaming. After turning on her light and mumbling, "Play toys. Read books. Quiet," I stumbled back to bed only to snap back into action when the words, "Daddy, I'm pooping!" came from down the hallway. And there was my little girl, half her body in the hallway and half in her room, butt in the air and a grimace on her face.

Now, we await the remainder of Hell Week. Allison jets off to Hawaii next. Yeah, freaking Hawaii for work (two days ago she was looking at the weather on her phone and had the gall to say, "Oh, look, 80 and sunny for my entire trip."). Leaves at the ass-crack of dawn on Wednesday and returns after bedtime on Saturday. That means no one to do Paige's hair in the morning. That means no one to send Lucy back into her room to change her clothes when she picks out a shirt/skirt combo that only matches in Punky Brewster's world. That means no one to relieve me of parenting duties at 5 p.m. when I'm seconds away from snapping. That means no one to help cover the overnight shift if I happen to drink one too many IPAs.

But, right now, at this very moment, Paige is napping and Lucy is reading, so life is good. Hold on, I shit you not, Lucy just walked into the room holding the game, "Pretty Pretty Princess." She's setting it up now as I type. Please excuse me as I attempt to earn my two ear rings, bracelet, necklace, ring and crown before Lucy does. Hell Week is full of surprises.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thanks, Sarah

Sarah McLachlan did something today for Paige I've never accomplished in her 34 months of existence - pull her out of a tantrum spiral.

We spent our morning at the Mazda dealership getting some routine maintenance done on the car. Because dealerships work at the pace of an editor off deadline on a Friday afternoon, we had to kill 90 minutes in the play area, which butted up against the back of the workspace for the front desk receptionist. After a solid 15 minutes of getting herself situated, finding a magazine to read and consuming a morning snack, the receptionist clicked on her radio and the mindless drivel of Rush Limbaugh spewed out of her speakers. I'd like to sarcastically thank her for not putting on headphones.

Mercifully, after Paige and I played with Strawberry Shortcakes, Tinkerbell and "naked baby" (don't ask) for an hour and a half, our car was returned to us as Paige decided this was the appropriate time to melt down. I coerced her into the car, battled her on buckling into her seat and off we went. Then, for the 20-minute ride home, I was bombarded with:


And my all-time favorite, "I DON'T LIKE DADDY! I WANT MOMMY! NO LIKE DADDY!" Thanks for nothing, kid. I was up with you at 5:30 a.m. today, fed you breakfast, picked out your favorite princess sweatshirt to wear and you "no like daddy"?

As I weaved my way through traffic on 217S and onto 5S, I frantically searched for something on the radio to play for her. With a new phone, I haven't sold my soul to add all the Yo Gabba Gabba songs onto it for such a situation, so we were at the mercy of Portland radio. I kept pressing buttons while hearing, "No song! No like!" when the docile tones of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" came through the factory-installed speakers. The screaming stopped. Dead. Cold. Stopped. Our Mazda5 effortlessly made its way off the highway in pure, unadulterated silence minus Sarah singing, "You're in the arms of an angel..."

Paige meekly muttered, "Me like this song, daddy," then fell silent again. For the record, in my head I kept thinking, "Ugh, daddy no like this song." But it didn't matter. Paige was quiet. Nothing was "hurting" on her anymore. And, at least it wasn't Rush Limbaugh.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Pooping Problem

I don't remember the last time I wiped Lucy's butt. I imagine it was a long time ago considering she's six years old. But, seriously, we should have the date on a calendar. It's one of those last steps in the emancipation of a baby into childhood. I wish we knew the date so we could celebrate it every year. For a child, being born must be relatively easy. It's the mom doing all the work (why doesn't the mom get a party every year on the birthday instead of the kid?). You just make your way into the world when ready. But, wiping your butt. That's huge.

Paige doesn't wipe her own butt right now. My unfortunate unemployment situation has come in the middle of potty training. She was going to the potty every 30 minutes at daycare. They had her pee trained. This kid knows when she has to pee, asks to pee and screams at you if you want to take her pee when it's not necessary in her eyes. She's a master pee-er (yup, new word). But, the poop, oh the poop.

Here is how it goes. Paige wake up from her nap around 2-2:30 most days. She wears a diaper when sleeping, so when she gets up she knows to go potty to earn back her Rapunzel underwear (nothing else has the fortune of gracing her backside). Then, the process begins. She says her "bottom" hurts and she sits on the potty. Nothing. She plays for three minutes, starts whining, agrees to go back to the bathroom, sits and nothing. This happens two to three more times in a half-hour stretch. Every time ending with her proclaiming she "can't poop on the potty." I offer candy, money, my sanity - nothing works.

She eventually asks to be put in a pull-up diaper (which is just a diaper attached on the sides and costs twice as much), then scurries off to the bowels of our house (I've been waiting to use that pun) and poops with no one else around. Paige announces she has done the deed, which doesn't need any fanfare considering the house now smells like a barn. And that's it. We go back to our lives. And by "back to our lives" I mean I immediately rush outside to the trash barrel with my arm extended as far away from my nose as possible.

My singular goal of this unexpected time we have together is to get Paige to poop on the potty. And, yes, I'm a 36-year-old publishing professional with almost 15 years of experience who is still paying the tail end of student loans and all I want in this world at this immediate moment is for a person who lives in my house to poop where the rest of us do.

What will come first - my new job or Paige pooping on the potty? The excitement is building ... what has become of me?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Fallen Angel

I should have just let her smear Play-Doh into the kitchen table all morning. Paige kept creating red pancakes and green pellets, which she called "green beans," then served them on a plate to me. After 45 minutes of job searching with her saying, "Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Do you want this food? Daddy, they are green beans. Daddy. Daddy," I thought we needed to get out of the house. In all my genius, I decide Costco was the answer.

I hate Costco. I hate it on the weekends. I hate always having my cart driven into by someone in XXXL sweat pants making a bee line for the 72 slices of cheese. I hate it more when I have the kids with me, because, honestly, every store is worse when the kids are with you. But, for some reason, I thought Wednesday morning at Costco wouldn't suck as much.

After heaving a 24-pack of paper towels, a 30-pack of toilet paper (Paige is now using the potty and rolling off more toilet paper than an 85-year-old incontinent woman) and five pounds of chicken nuggets into the cart, I should have just quit while we were ahead. Considering it took us 27 minutes to brush her teeth ("No toothpaste! No!"), wash her face (apparently I was using the special Brillo Pad facecloth I save for just the right occasion) and put on her shoes (the freaking shoes!), coming home with three items should have been enough. But, then the way-too-large bag of cheese ravioli caught my attention. Paige's diet recently has consisted of pasta, green yogurt and Goldfish crackers, so the ravioli seemed like a winner.

As I reached to open the freezer door to get a closer look, I heard the sound. It was a shattering sound. Not a Costco-sized 128-ounce jar of pickles smashing but something much smaller. I knew immediately just as Paige violently thrashed her head backward in the cart and screamed, "MY ANGEL!" Yup, her 25-cent ceramic, hand-sized angel she carries around with her. Amazingly, by the grace of someone's god, this thing has survived since being rescued from a yard-sale table during the summer despite Paige's insistence upon destroying most anything within three days.

The funny part is you can count on Muno's hand how many times Paige has been in a church in her life. Yet, she had some deep connection to this tiny statue, which should have met its maker any number of the times when she's been mad and whipped it across the room. Today, however, it couldn't withstand a fall from a cart to the industrial cement flooring inside the Wilsonville Costco.

I picked up the pieces and knew, "We aren't recovering from this." The screaming intensified. The stares from the shoppers became longer. We weaved to the front of the store through aisles featuring double loaves of bread, three-packs of ketchup and six-packs of deodorant only to see two people working at the check-out stands and exponentially more people waiting to spend their money.

I could have left our cart but we had come so far. Paige wanted out of the cart and I stupidly obliged. I mean, if you had a pissed-off bear inside a cage, would you let it out? By the time I paid, picked her up and carried her under my arm parallel to the floor, the store was at a standstill. Of course, god forbid you leave that hellhole without showing someone your receipt at the front door.

We made it to the car and after an eventful 4 1/2 minutes she was buckled in her seat with tears streaming down her face and "My angel!" blaring from her lungs. Upon entering the house, she rolled on the floor as if she were trying to put out a fire on her pink puffy coat. I did the only thing I could do ... I tore open the bag of nuggets, heated some up and we ate lunch like 2-year-olds do ... before 11 a.m.

Tomorrow, I'm thinking it's a pajamas-and-Play-Doh day. It's too bad we won't have seven pounds of ravioli for lunch.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The First Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives

Four days later as the clock inched toward 10:15 a.m. today at the Tualatin city library, it hit me. As the 18 moms, two grandpas, one other dad and 23 kids all sang and pantomimed their arm movements to resemble swimming during the playing of Laurie Berkner's "Let's Go Swimming," it finally hit me ... I don't have a job.

It didn't hit me Friday afternoon - I was too stunned. It didn't hit me this weekend because the weekends always are chaotic. It didn't hit me yesterday because we are attempting to ween Paige off daycare as she's going to miss her teachers and friends terribly, so we treated the day like any other Monday and sent her off to "school." Surprisingly, it didn't hit me at 7:49 a.m. as Paige chose her pink boots, then said, "No pink boots!" as I attempted to get her ready so we could walk Lucy to the bus stop. After pulling out and attempting to pry her brown boots on her thrashing feet to no avail, Lucy informed us in her best patronizing tone that the bus just went up the hill, which means we have about three minutes to get where we need to be. It's not surprising it didn't hit me at this point, Paige always does this with her shoes. You'd think she was inserting her feet into tiny vessels filled with shards of glass. Finally...mercifully...the original pink boots went on as she extended her hand and said, "Come on, let's go daddy," as if this all were my fault.

But in that enclosed room in the library, that's where it happened. The kids were dancing. The parents were clapping and all I could think was, "Has anyone over the age of 3 ever spontaneously started sobbing in this room?" I stayed strong if only because I didn't want to show weakness to the 1-year-old kid using my leg as a balance before she stammered backward and cascaded down on her covered diaper.

Paige never really seemed comfortable during story time. She didn't interact with the kids. She was the outsider as everyone else seemed to know each other. She sat quietly, which she hasn't done After 35 minutes, it was over. Paige raced over and said, "I want to go home." For the first time in ages, we agreed on something. Within seconds we were back to reality - she was screaming at me in the car for "green yogurt" as if the congealed dairy product magically would fall from the dome light and provide her a reason for living.

I have no idea if Paige and I will have a couple of weeks at home together, or a couple of months, or longer. But I can tell you this - we will be back at that library next Tuesday morning and with a week of uninterrupted togetherness under our belts and a better understanding of our roles, we may even start swimming when instructed by the insanely catchy music of Laurie Berkner.