Sometimes, it’s better with him.

Sometimes, it’s better with him.

Picture this: you’ve been terrorized by a miniature version of yourself all morning (in other words, a normal Friday). The typical pattern is toddler asks for something (Waffle! Bite! Milk!), and when given said item, vehemently denies ever wanting it and punishes you for your insolence with assorted fussy behaviors. This pattern continues until toddler finally, blessedly, falls asleep.

 

Jack sleep
only someone with real cojones takes a flash picture of a sleeping toddler.

Picture this: house is silent. Toddler is crashed out in the bed. You slip out and quietly fist pump over the specter of Free Time. You never know how long this toddler-free time will last, so you intend to use it wisely (HA). It’s time to recharge the batteries, bring the patience meter up from negative 47, restore calm. You browse Facebook, check your email, and revel in the fact that there aren’t any sticky little fingers trying to turn the laptop off. You decide it’s time to dust off the old blog and start writing again.

Yes. It is definitely You Time.

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Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/JltOMwYmioVrO

Until…

A subtle change occurs in the atmosphere. You glance down the hall and see a little face quietly peering at you around the corner. The toddler has woken up and silently come to find you. He creeps over with a look of complete joy, like he’s just been given carte blanche to write on all the walls and climb on all the tables.

Jack table

So much for You Time.

But instead of getting frustrated, you welcome him. He crawls into your lap and asks to nurse. You oblige. He nurses for a few minutes before drifting off to sleep.

Jack nurse

You could get up and take him back to bed. You might be able to scrape out a little more You Time, maybe even craft that blog post that’s suddenly percolating.

But instead, you let him sleep in your arms. You smile at his little baby snores and memorize his sleeping face. He must have known you both needed this. The two of you sit silently on the couch, his little body sprawled out over your arm and lap, while you type your thoughts on your phone instead of the laptop.

Sometimes You Time is better with him. Sometimes what you – I – need isn’t time without him; its peaceful time with him. I need the reminder that it won’t always be like this – the good and the bad. He may always drive me nuts in one way or another, but he won’t always be able to snuggle into my lap for a midafternoon nurse ‘n nap. So for today, I welcome him into my You Time.

REVIEW: SumahoMAMA Touch and Sing Along Picture Book

REVIEW: SumahoMAMA Touch and Sing Along Picture Book

*Full disclosure:  I was asked to do this review and the company provided me some dolla bills to purchase in-app features. All opinions and pictures are my own and not influenced by the cheddar I received. All screenshots were taken by me during actual gameplay.

I feel like a “big-timer.” I was approached by SumahoMAMA to review their Touch and Sing Along Picture Book, which is available as a free app. Woot! My son loves playing on my iPad and I like giving my opinion on stuff, so WIN.

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The app is free to download (see links at end) and comes with a few songs. I purchased one of the Super Value Packs, which netted me 6 additional songs for $4.99 (a savings of $0.95, as the individual songs are $0.99 apiece). Each song plays in the background, while an accompanying game provides several ways for the child to engage by touch or sound. These are the songs I tested out with my one-week-shy-of-3 son:

Hokey Pokey (free)
I wish I had something nice to say about this one, but the avatars used to do the Hokey Pokey all creeped me out. It randomly tells you to shake it, but when you shake the iPad, nothing appears to happen with the avatar. Plus, it’s kind of confusing because the avatar faces you, so it’s left is the child’s right; so the avatar will put its right hand forward and say it’s the left hand. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but doesn’t seem helpful to me.

SumahoMAMAHokeyPokey
I wouldn’t want to do the Hokey Pokey with these characters

Alphabet Song (free)
Really cute game. A balloon is held up with a letter and the child is asked to find the same letter out of 6 other balloons. Once he picks the right letter, he gets to see an interactive picture of something that starts with that letter (for example, he could strum the guitar for G). It’s also split up into sections (A-F, G-L, etc.) and toggles between uppercase and lowercase letters. Once my son realized the purpose was NOT to pop every balloon, he really enjoyed finding the letters and getting the “special surprise.”

TheAlphabetSongSumahoMAMA
Bigfoot dances!

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (free)
This one teaches kids the names of the planets. The planets are all sort of swirling around the screen, and are named as they are touched. My son particularly loved the rocket that occasionally flies by. My beef with this one was the weird characters that popped up on the planets as they were named. Some of them looked like they died after being named! Venus’ worm lost its head, Jupiter’s frog spun in circles, Mercury’s fish died, the astronaut popped the moon and looked terrified as it sped off in space, and Uranus’ ice cream splattered all over the inside of its spaceman helmet. WEIRD.

Unnecessary death in a children's song
Unnecessary death in a children’s song

Old MacDonald Had a Farm (part of $4.99 pack; $0.99 for individual song)
While the song plays, your child can make sheep jump over a fence, touch various animals to hear their name and voice (Mooooo! Cow!) or mess with the farmer. It engaged my son for awhile, but the song is on a loop (and the activities don’t change) so became very repetitive. It also seemed a little disorganized, as the activities didn’t correlate at all to the song (it’d be singing about ducks while my son was counting a sheep, then making the donkey bray after hitting the cowbell).

OldMacDonaldHadAFarmSumahoMAMA
Just way too much going on in this one

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad (part of $4.99 pack; $0.99 for individual song)
The song plays on a loop while a train passes through a countryside. Lots of things to touch and hear the name, and quite possibly the world’s most annoying whistle. My son loved touching that whistle button so much, I had to take it away for fear my head would explode. The child gives it two thumbs up, the mother gives it two thumbs in the ear. So if screeching whistles give you a headache, my advice would be to encourage listening to other songs or pop headphones on the kiddo while he plays.

Decent little game, minus the whistle
Decent little game, minus the whistle

Parade of Wooden Soldiers (part of $4.99 pack; $0.99 for individual song)
As the song plays, you get to touch the toys and make them move. If you touch the door that says, Do Not Open, a little boy peeks out and the toys freeze. Pretty cute. My son loved touching the airplane and making it fly away, with the fire-breathing dragon a close second. He even made up a little “story” – that the dragon was cleaning the airplane when it breathed the fire on it. The musical instruments that a child can “play” are a cymbal and a piano – much less annoying to me than the whistle!

It's a toy party, until you wake the kid up
It’s a toy party, until you wake the kid up

Bingo (part of $4.99 pack; $0.99 for individual song)
This one came with 5 rounds of a “Find Bingo” game – the child is presented with a picture of Bingo the dog and asked to pick him out among several different dogs. My not-quite-3yo son finished the 5 rounds in about 60 seconds. He enjoyed replaying it, but I don’t think it was worth $0.99.

Good concept for game; not enough content
Good concept for game; not enough content

The Farmer in the Dell (part of $4.99 pack; $0.99 for individual song)
While the song plays, the child is presented with a pattern and asked to choose which one will come next (example: child, wife, child, wife, ?). This one was a bit of a challenge for my son, as we’re still learning patterns. However, it only came with 3 rounds. Not worth $0.99 to me.

Not enough content for $0.99
Not enough content for $0.99

London Bridge (part of $4.99 pack; $0.99 for individual song)
I’m not even sure what the point of this game was. A character starts to walk across a bridge, the bridge falls apart and the character falls to the water. Luckily, the character is saved before he hits the water – either by a ship, a mechanical fish, a friendly mermaid, a grumpy octopus or a dragon. There are different characters to drop into the water – a soldier, a punk rocker, and so on – but that seems to be the extent of the game. The bridge pieces change each time it resets, but there doesn’t seem to be much, if any, interactive play. As far as I know, the character never makes it to the other side. Definitely not worth $0.99.

It's fun, if you just like watching people fall off a bridge
It’s fun, if you just like watching people fall off a bridge

There are other songs available as well, such as The Muffin Man, The Wheels on the Bus and a few others. In addition, there are several traditional Japanese children’s songs sung in English. All are $0.99, unless you buy them as part of a Super Value Pack. Then you save $0.95.

The app also allows you to record your own versions of the songs, which is kind of fun. Then you get to hear just how off-key you actually sing! But as a military parent, I see an added bonus to this feature. When Mom or Dad has to deploy, he/she can record the songs before leaving – allowing a child to hear Mom or Dad’s voice anytime.

Bottom line
It’s a great free app in that it is colorful and keeps a toddler entertained. I would have paid money for one of the free songs (The Alphabet Song), but didn’t think some of the others were worth their $0.99 price tag (Bingo, Farmer in the Dell). Others were fun, but kind of weird. And I’m pretty sure the creepy clown and hairy chest guy from the Hokey Pokey will be included in my next nightmare. If you asked me to say yea or nay, I’d have to say meh.

SumahoMAMA has some videos on YouTube, where you can preview the songs: http://www.youtube.com/user/sumahomama. Or if you’re ready to try it out, find your version here:

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id655370145
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.co.xing.picturebook&hl=en
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E95A4JE

Girly should not be an insult

Girly should not be an insult

The Stir recently published an article talking about the abuse being heaped on Rachel Zoe for keeping her toddler’s hair long. Their question was whether his hair was too girly. My question is, why the hell does this matter?

My almost 3 year old son has long hair. He is often mistaken for a girl, which actually amuses me more than it annoys me. He wears jeans, t-shirts and Vans everyday; the only thing that people would think is “girly” are his gorgeous blonde locks. His hair is silky, hangs a little past his ears and shows a bit of my curl when it’s humid. Combine this with his big blue eyes, dimpled smile and sunny nature, and he’s pretty much irresistible.

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I dare you to resist this mug

People ask me when I’m going to get his hair cut. My dad teases me about giving him a buzz like Pop. I am in no hurry to cut it. For one thing, if you ask him if he wants it cut, he’ll give you an emphatic “No!” and run away. For another, his hair provides him comfort. He is a hair-twirler, just like his Daddy. He always played with my hair while nursing and a sure sign that he’s tired is when he starts twirling his own hair. We even have an ultrasound picture that looks like he’s twirling his hair. If I sheared his hair off, I’d deprive him of something important to him. Why the hell would I want to do that?

Plus, I don’t feel like I need to buy into society’s definition of boy or girl. On his own, he gravitates toward motorcycles, helicopters and construction stuff – stereotypical boy fare. But, he loves cooking and playing with toy kitchens and Mulan is one of his favorite movies – things more likely to be associated with little girls. I would be happy whether he played with all “boy” stuff or all “girl” stuff. You know why? Because he’s a toddler and he’s just starting to explore the world. I don’t want to limit his experiences to only what society thinks he is “supposed” to do because he is male. I want to expose him to as much as possible so he can figure out what his passion is, not hat someone else thinks it should be.

The article in The Stir wonders why we have such attachment to so-called boys’ haircuts for boys and girls’ haircuts for girls. Great, they’re supportive of what they call “gender-bending” haircuts. But then it goes and ends with the question, “What do you think about little boys with ‘girly’ haircuts?” WTF. Don’t sit there and wonder why we feel the need to label haircuts for little kids and then go and do some labeling yourself!! Long hair is not girly. Repeat. Long hair is not girly. It is simply LONG. Just like we shouldn’t call little girls with short hair “boyish,” we shouldn’t call little boys with long hair “girly.” Call them what they are – beautiful children.

Or at least stop trying to make it into an insult. That’s the heart of it. Our society has decided that men should feel insulted when they are told they are like the opposite sex. Girly man, throw like a girl, and pussy are all insults piled on men that are actually more denigrating to women. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being like a girl; maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me when people mistake my son for a girl.

girly not an insult

My husband is in the Air Force and is required to keep his hair short. I’m sure there will come a time when Colt wants hair like Daddy’s. When that day comes, I will make it happen for him. Until then, I get to enjoy his beautiful, long, some-consider-girly-but-that’s-ok-with-me hair.

Seeing the good in the bad

Seeing the good in the bad

Yesterday was not a good day. All of my character defects came out to play and they meant business.

Starting our adventure off the right way.
Starting our adventure off right!

I know something is up with me. All my telltale signs of a depression flare are there: heavy ache in chest, extreme irritability, zero patience, short temper. Since it isn’t hormones and I’ve been keeping up with my medication, it probably means I have some work to do. But since one of my character defects is procrastination, I’ve been trying to find other ways to fix these feelings. I tried exercise – worked temporarily. I tried vegging out – no help. Yesterday, I tried extreme distraction. Colt woke me up way too early (0500 is not my friend) and I knew bad feelings + overtired mama = no bueno. I decided a day out of the room was what we needed, so I packed us up and headed off to Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. Colt could run around and have fun and I could just follow him around – double win for letting off toddler energy and reducing mama stress.

Boonshoft is one of those museums where kids can run around and touch, play, experiment, explore – perfect for my little scientist.

Already trying to ditch me
Already trying to ditch me

The morning went pretty well – he had fun and I started to feel my symptoms fade away. I love watching him interact with the world, and letting him do something fun makes me happy. He was way into one of those swirly coin things:

Not seen: the dinosaur toy he later used to attack the rolling coins
Not seen: the dinosaur toy he later used to attack the rolling coins

Of course, a big hit was the water table. This boy loves playing with water, but isn’t too stoked when it gets on him. As my husband says, he’s more of a hindsight kind of guy.

Pictured: toddler angst at getting wet after playing with water toy
Pictured: toddler angst at getting wet after playing with water toy

My budding paleontologist put his considerable Dinosaur Train experience to work in the excavation pit.

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Things started to fall apart at lunch time. He threw a giant fit when I had to go to the bathroom (“You not wanna go to the baffroom Mama!” Uh, yes I do kid because thanks to you, Mama doesn’t have a very strong pelvic floor!). We had to physically leave the museum to go get lunch and the world about ended (one thing he inherited from me is that his coping skills are directly proportionate to his blood sugar levels). This is when I realized the good feelings from before were a sham – I still had no patience and the heavy chest ache came racing back. Still, the thought of being trapped in a hotel room with a cranky toddler made me shudder, so I determined to soldier on.

We made it to lunch, he ate a little and I let him play in the toddler funhouse. I felt a little calmer with food and water in my tummy…then he threw the requisite fit when it was time to change his diaper and go. Ok, I thought. Maybe he’ll fall asleep on the way back to the museum. He did, so I sat in the parking lot while he napped. It only lasted about 25 minutes, but a power nap is better than nothing. Back to the fun.

We tried to spot birds in the treehouse:

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We spent way. too. long. in the recycling room. He loved that “garbage truck” because he got to drive it, put things in the slots, make them fall out the back and make a ton of noise. I had to almost pry him off of it!

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He pretended to be an astronaut, climbing in and out of the rocket and tinkering with the controls (which I was NOT allowed to touch):

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I ended the day with a movie in the planetarium-type theater. It was a Big Bird movie about space – perfect. He was into it for about 15 minutes, then kept demanding to go. When we got outside and he realized that go meant actually go home, he was pissed. So, our day at the museum ended with him conking me on the head with his dinosaur toy, losing said dinosaur toy and crying all the way out to the car. Pretty fitting.

This day could have been considered a disaster. In some ways, it was. I took my problems out on my toddler in that I didn’t give him the patience he deserved. So many times I was short with him and yelled (which isn’t something I want to do as a parent). I broke down and sobbed to my husband that night because I started to feel like a total failure. I couldn’t get a handle on my depression, which scared and frustrated me. I HATED being a jerk to my son, because he shouldn’t bear the brunt of my issues. This could have easily started a stew spiral.

Instead, after my tears subsided, I saw the good in the day. Even though his partner wasn’t in top form, Colt had fun at the museum. Although I am avoiding dealing with the underlying issues causing the depression, I’m using healthy distractions rather than the self-destructive habits I used to have. Baby steps. I asked my husband for help, I wrote my sponsor, I “attended” my online 12 Step meeting. Progress, not perfection. Colt cuddled up to me on the couch after bath and snuggled with me before bed as he always does. Love. I’ll work on what’s causing this pain, but for now I’m going to just bask in the love of my family.

 

 

5 Minute Friday: Comfort

The 5 Minute Friday prompt over at Lisa Jo Baker is Comfort. Well, here goes 5 minutes of unedited writing on comfort!

Comfort

Of all the mama super powers, I think the power of comfort is my favorite. When my son is hurting and comes running to me, I feel so blessed that I’m able to give him comfort. My kisses make owies go away, my hugs quiet sobs, my fingers make tears disappear. To be someone’s main source of comfort is an amazing feeling. He doesn’t know it, but he is my biggest source of comfort. When I’m sad or upset, I can bury my  nose in his hair and breathe in his wonderful, toddler smell and feel my heart lighten. His soft little arms around my neck and his little kisses on my face make me realize the world isn’t such a bad place. When he calls out, Mama!, it’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. I’m his favorite lovie (insists on snuggling mama at bedtime) and he is my favorite cuddle-buddy.

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Best hug in the world

Stop.

Colt vs. Dirt

I love taking my son to the park. If one or both of us is having a bad day, off to the park we go. We always have a silly good time, even in the rain.

This kid was born in England...he owns the rain
This kid was born in England…he owns the rain

He has a blasty, driving the “California train” (play structure), going down the fireman pole, chasing Mama around the plastic rock climbing wall, swinging, kicking his soccer ball in the field…until he gets dirty. This child hates to be dirty. It makes bath time a no-brainer (Colt, we need to get the sugar off your teeth. It’s icky! Promptly opens mouth…score one for Mom) but makes playtime hilarious and slightly confusing.

Thus, I give you this:

I only hope he’s this eager to be clean when he’s a teenager.

Dinosaur Train…for adults

My son has recently become obsessed with Dinosaur Train, a cartoon on PBS. I’m cool with it, because 1) I don’t really obsess over his screen time and 2) it feels like a “win” because it’s an educational cartoon. As far as kid shows go, it’s really not that bad, but after watching 32 half-hour episodes in the last 6 days (thank you, Netflix), the adult mind starts to wander and entertain itself. So I give you the 10 ways you know you’ve watched too much Dinosaur Train:

  1. You start to question Mrs. Pteranodon’s morals. I want to know exactly how that flying dinosaur came to lay a Tyrannosaurus Rex egg.
  2. You quietly dub the dialogue with your own snarky comments [if I had any kind of video editing skills, I’d totally dub whole episodes. Just checked and there’s nothing on YouTube. Someone get on that, stat].
    Buddy: I have a hypothesis!
    Tiny: Oh big effing surprise, Buddy has another hypothesis [eye roll].
  3. You realize Mr. Pteranodon has a major man-crush on Hank Ankylosaurus and perhaps wants to take it further
  4. After figuring out #1 and #3, you conclude that pteranodons were superfreaks, superfreaks, they’re super freaky, yeah!
  5. You breathlessly wait for the day that the eternally cheerful Mr. Conductor will snap and eat one of the kiddo dinosaurs with his sharp troodon teeth.
  6. You find yourself complaining about the fact that the carnivores eat meat of undetermined origin. All the show says is they eat meat, and every carnivore seems to always have a pile of fresh meat, but NO ONE EVER SAYS WHERE THAT MEAT COMES FROM. It comes from your family, Buddy. You are supposed to eat your pteranodon family and all the dinosaurs you meet on the Dinosaur Train.
  7. This show has created its own, special species of dinosaur called Predator and this annoys you. These vaguely T. rex-like dinosaurs have no names and no talents other than trying to eat anything that moves and being really dumb. I mean, really? The tiny Eugene Euoplocephalus swings his little club tail twice and the huge dinosaur with lots of ginsu-knife teeth screams like a ninny and runs off? Riiiiigggghhhhhtttt.
  8. You find yourself wishing Tank Triceratops would sit on Tiny whenever she starts bitching about som eone being tinier than her. Shut your tiny mouth and just be grateful your T. rex brother hasn’t eaten you yet.
  9. When the Pteranodon children dress up as other dinosaurs and their parents chuckle, you imagine they’re all just being assholes and making fun of all the other dinosaurs. Then you start making fun of Don Pteranodon for having an underbite.
  10. You realize you’ve just written a blog post about Dinosaur Train when your child is asleep and you could be doing literally anything else.

Maybe next time I’ll write about the 7 reasons your child shouldn’t watch/read Curious George (here’s a preview: CG creates the mess, then gets rewarded for “fixing” it. What the hell??? That’s not what I want to teach my kid).