March 15, 2017
The Age of Un-Reason
Leaps and bounds
JuggerBaby hit age 2 with a blast of temperamental mood swings and sudden skills developing. A week before zir birthday we were still prompting, “More, what?” “Mo’ milk.” “More milk, what?” “Chz.” “Say, ‘more milk, please'” “CHZ!!!”
The day after, ze strung it all together handily into nearly civilized dinner conversation if you ignored the rice and curry dribbling down the side of the table, and the curry in zir hair, splattered when ze gesticulated with an excess of emotion: “Mo mik, chz!” “Mo wice, chz.” “Tant you, mama.” “All done!”
More phrases: “No, mama eat!”
“Gigi (Seamus), nom!” (Seamus, come)
Ze is pretending ze can read more frequently, making noises that mimic reading as ze taps each page of the book “ah eh oooh ah ah oooh, eh eh eh.” Then ze looks at me expectantly. It’s still unclear if ze wants applause or follow-up reading. But here’s the sort of amazing overnight change: ze has a play alphabet set from my aunt and ze went from knowing where to place the “A” and the “Z” one day, to placing all the letters with confidence the next day. This is after months of playing with the letters, chewing and licking them, and getting the placement wrong 98% of the time.
I’m going to assume that the tantrums are associated with these leaps in skills and not what we can expect for the whole year.
Toddlers mimic everything you do. Some parental behaviors for infants, therefore, are completely inappropriate if your goal is to nurture a toddler who isn’t a giant bully. At a gathering with friends and their kids, ranging from six months to three years, I noticed the infants’ parents grabbing things out of their hands quickly without a second thought. That’s because infants lick and chew everything. But a toddler is watching what you do, so if you grab things out of their hands routinely, this reinforces their already uncivilized propensity to grab whatever they want out of other kids’ hands.
JuggerBaby still gets into everything but thankfully ze doesn’t immediately shove it in zir gob every single time so I can be more relaxed and strategic about my responses. When ze dug into my bag of chargers and cords, rather than scolding and snatching them away, ze was directed to clear the mess. Always happy to have a task, ze helped me organize the cords. This is a 180 degree difference from how ze “helped” me at nine months (and I have the pictures of the utter wreck of a room to prove it).
Bargaining. JuggerBaby used to exercise rudimentary bargaining skills, learning to offer trades to get what ze wanted, but ze sprang a new level on me the other day.
Normally our bedtime routine is strict: dinner, bath, books, bed. But I deviated by looking for a song from daycare on my phone and ze asked for a different song when our search came up empty. It was a treat but then ze tried to push zir luck for more. “No, that was one-time treat, we’re not watching more videos.”
“Please?” + the baby sign for please.
“Ears?” Gesturing at ears.
This is a restriction I often place on listening to music on my phone: “radio-only” or “ears-only” when we are playing and ze wants music. I don’t like zir to be glued to a screen all the time. It was a clever offer – it was a compromise I was tempted to accept. But no, I’d rather we didn’t get used to using the phone as a bedtime crutch. I had to congratulate zir for being clever enough to think of negotiating terms, though. It was much better than going straight to a tantrum.
Things we bought
I was not planning to spend more in 2017 than we did in 2016. We bought formula, childcare, diapers, and a minimum of clothing. Then surprise! We were given a list of Must Haves for zir transition to the next age group in daycare. It turns out you swap bottles and formula gear from infancy for active kid gear in toddlerdom. Initially I was annoyed but most of them make sense.
Of course, I didn’t buy everything right away. We had a few weeks to get it together so I made the most of my time: did some research, scoured sales, compared new to used prices, used gift cards when I could.
Daycare has tricycles in the play yard, it seems a shame not to let zir participate and, with any luck, gain some sense of coordination.
The problem is that zir head is still too small for standard kid sized helmets, so we had to spend more than I wanted to on a much smaller helmet.
My target budget was $20, the helmet we ended up with after some research on safety and fit was $27.50.
This makes sense, ze should be able to splash about even if it’s wet, and shouldn’t have to go around in wet shoes and socks all day.
We hadn’t gotten any rain boots because we live in drought-bound, foggy California, and it seems silly to get seasonal gear for a season that usually lasts 2 and a half days in three months. I talked to friends with kids first to see if they had any outgrown rain boots lying around, but no one did.
After seeking advice from a friend with twins, who confirmed that it was perfectly fine to buy the boots in sizes too large so they last more than a year, we visited REI to see if they had anything on clearance. Ze tried on a pair three sizes too big for a test clomp (size 9) and LOVED it. Ze was able to get around, but they were a little TOO awkwardly oversized, so that was helpful information. We don’t want to send zir into the rain to twist an ankle! REI wanted $90 for the boots that were rated for freezing and snow weather, which is much more severe weather than we’re likely to be in, so we passed on that pair.
We bought this pair in size 8, only 2 sizes too big, from Amazon for $13.76. I had a $2 promotional credit from this offer (buy a set of 3 gift cards for $3, add at least $10 to each card, get $2 back per card), plus a $2.55 credit from a promotional credit they’d screwed up on an earlier order, bringing the total down to $10.06 after tax. That’s less than what I was seeing boots listed for, used, so I’m satisfied with that price.
Update since buying them: Ze is in love with these boots, and we’ve had an unusual amount of rain this year, so the cost per wear is already down to dimes per wear! That makes me feel much better about buying them.
:: When did you learn to ride a bike / trike? Were you a reader, growing up? Do you remember being read to by adults?
February 20, 2017
Childcare was a scary thing for us well before having JuggerBaby. Culturally, I should have been able to “expect” my parents to be our live-in babysitters. Multigenerational living is what we’ve always done. But much like the rest of my life, when the time came, our reality was totally different from what I was told to expect. Mom was long buried, and Dad was utterly disinterested. While I regret what JuggerBaby loses as a result, a richer life with interesting and strange grandparents, there was no use dwelling on what “should” have been. It’s a good thing I’d gotten used to adversity by now!
We went through a long and fruitless search for a good nanny, and finally had to take advantage of my flexible work schedule to be a work from home mom.
I kind of miss my #BabyCoworker, but before age 1, ze was just too social and active for our old arrangements to work for us anymore. The daycares in this area range from the at-home care situations to very commercial operations, and the wait lists were miles long. Naturally, by this time last year, I was pretty stressed about what we were doing with JuggerBaby. We had a huge flash of luck when one of the daycares on our approved list had a few unexpected openings earlier than our requested start date, and we went for it.
It’s expensive, but they’re certified, they’re a big enough operation to really pay attention to all the rules and regulations and gives me confidence that they’re not as likely to have problems with abuse as smaller operations that perhaps have less oversight or employ family members. On the one hand, I love a family operation. On the other hand, if a family member of the daycare provider abuses a child, I simply have no faith that the welfare of the child is going to be put above the provider’s livelihood and natural urge to protect their family.
We expected a tough start but JuggerBaby was PSYCHED. Ze has exactly zero compunctions about diving into the new environment and immediately adored zir adoring caretakers. We only started part-time because of my worries, to ease into it, but that worry was allayed immediately. We continued part-time to save money.
Almost a year after that, we settled into a full time routine at daycare. Verdict: mostly good. The germs streaming home from that place had me more sick in 6 months than I’ve been in ten years, but ze has been largely unfazed. Which has been, as you might imagine, nothing but good for me.
Ze has been through three classrooms and we really miss the first one. There were 5 caretakers in the classroom, they were all loving and attentive and calm personalities, and they were very good at redirecting JuggerBaby when frustration with communication reared. The biting started there but it was only at times of great frustration. Ze was remarkably tolerant of all the small babies using zir as a jungle gym as they learned to stand and walk.
When ze was moved to the next classroom (they’re moved around by age group) the transition was downright horrible. It had me doubting our choice, constantly.
JuggerBaby was crying every day, saying “no-no no-no” and trying to go (RUN) back to zir old classroom. The main thing, and it was SUCH an easy fix, was that 2 of those 5 teachers were standoffish and not at all involved in the children’s care. The other 3 teachers were great but they couldn’t completely negate the negativity from the two bad teachers. We had been told so many times that transitions are always hard and that the kids are always upset that we gave it more time than we should have. I should have listened to my gut.
After observing the class one morning, we gave the teachers feedback – say hello to JuggerBaby when ze comes in! All they had to do was say good morning to zir, and acknowledge that ze was coming in. Ze just wanted to know that ze was wanted, and every cold morning drop-off was more frigid by the morning teachers who sucked. Lo and behold, within 36 hours of asking for this specific change, ze was happy again.
I know my child – ze is temperamentally inclined to getting on with people but ze is also very attuned to being unwelcomed, by adults at least. And zir unhappiness was wholly unnecessary.
We reported this experience to the directors of the daycare, who were mortified and also grateful that we’d brought it to their attention, and assured us that steps would be taken to ensure this didn’t happen again, and that this was not at all the daycare’s policy to be standoffish when transitioning children to new classrooms.
I later discovered that other parents had the same experience, and had also reported it. It’s a great reminder that we have to be our children’s first advocates, no matter how uncomfortable it might make us, or how we might doubt ourselves.
Ze had a second transition recently, and that one was much more smooth. Unfortunately, we don’t love the classroom set-up because they drop the caretaker to student ratio by 2 caretakers for this age group. Now there are only 3 caretakers for 12 rambunctious toddlers and there’s quite a lot more chaos. Mostly controlled chaos, or directed chaos, but I think it’s also difficult because toddlers are loving and jerks at the same time. It’s not that they’re jerk-jerks, they can’t communicate well with each other using words yet so they still revert to slapping, hitting, and biting. I know it’s developmentally normal but it’s frustrating nonetheless.
We’ll be in this class until the end of the year barring any problems, so this is who we have: JerkFace is back. He was in zir first classroom and left us with a bad impression that he’s just renewed. He bullied JB, hitting zir with his jackets, kicking zir, standing over zir so ze couldn’t get up to defend zirself. Any time you walk in, he’s hitting kids, climbing on things he’s been told repeatedly are dangerous, and generally just getting his kicks out of causing harm or dismay. So he sucks.
Zir bestie is there, now, and the two of them are bounding with joy together.
The money part
Partway through 2014, I realized the smart thing to do was to start saving for daycare, so we started salting away $2000 a month.
We spent $1500 on childcare as we tried nannies, sitters, quit for several months, then finally part-time daycare. We continued to save $2000 a month. Between gifts and saving, zir saving account reached a whopping $49,000.
We stopped saving the full $2000 a month because we couldn’t save that in addition to our 25% savings rate and cash flow the full monthly daycare bill. We spent $19,977 on part-time, then full-time, daycare. Zir savings remain untouched, moderately augmented, even: $66,000.
It’s really scary seeing those numbers. Really scary. At the same time, it helps to see that our savings haven’t been materially diminished, we haven’t lost anything significant in our lifestyle or any true stressors on our marriage, and we’ve been able to truly appreciate the immense joy that JuggerBaby adds to our lives. Even if it does cost many pretty pennies.
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and Super Saving Tips*
February 8, 2017
The Gracious Host
JuggerBaby has learned to serve zirself at the dining table, sloppily and with very little coordination, at daycare because they encourage the kids to serve their own snacks from the big bowl, and bus their table afterward. The latter skill leads to a lot of food waste, though, because toddlers are mini lemmings sometimes and so when one finishes eating and goes to scrape off their plate, all the others quickly follow suit even if they had only just served themselves. Mixed success, that. But something they don’t teach is serving others because they also have no sense of limits, so if you let them add food to each other’s plates, even more chaos!
Which is why I’m puzzled as to where zir latest habit has come from: “more, mama”, and “more, papa”. We misunderstood that to be zir asking for more for zirself, but zir exasperation and eventual pointing at our dishes cleared it up. When ze gets more, ze wants to make sure we both also have more. When we clink glasses, ze wants to be sure all glasses are refilled. If you haven’t reassured zir that really, you don’t need more, ze will take the initiative and add food to your plate. Either ze is mirroring us serving zir, or ze has inherited that compulsion every cook over the age of 50 in my family has: insisting that everyone have more more more!
Which isn’t to say ze is selfless or anything less than pragmatic. When it was just the two of us sitting down to dinner for a nice hot vegetable barley pasta chicken soup and ze was ready for seconds, ze helped zirself to all the soup in MY bowl while my back was turned. Food thief!
I’m thrilled that JuggerBaby enjoys listening to reading now, even if it means the same books ten thousand times.
Ze is now working on “writing”, which means squiggles and scribbles and colors. Ze got my old planner for Art Time which makes zir feel just like mama, and is convinced that the secret to my being able to form letters is the pen. After every word I write, ze forces me to trade pens because ze wants the Magic Pen That Contains Letters. It never seems to work, perhaps clicking it open and closed several more times would help? No?
Yight: light, right
Nom nom: please put that food on my plate / please put toothpaste on my toothbrush
Yees: let’s brush our teeth!
Holding the firm line. Our JuggerBaby is the most headstrong child and we have to consistently hold the line against zir temper, demands, and recklessness. It’s business as usual most days, but we seem to have entered A Whole New Zone of irrationality.
SWEET CHRISTMAS do I ever feel like a hostage to this toddler’s terribleness sometimes. Even just the slightest thing sets off the crying jag of the century, ever-so-slightly worse than the last one ten minutes ago, like asking zir to come say hi, or to leave daycare, or to go TO daycare, or go eat, which, what? YOU LOVE FOOD! YOU LOVE FOOD SO MUCH.
But we navigate it. Like the one morning when ze was circling PiC’s legs like a horrifically large cat when he was trying to cook and I set off a stopover at Meltdown City because we asked zir to come sit with me instead. Ze just fell to the ground sobbing, instant tears and snot, because how could we do such a thing??? Three rounds of tears later, I suggested that ze might want to look at pictures of “baby” (zir own baby pictures), and perhaps ze might want to do what baby is doing in the picture (eat)? Through many tears, ze forced out a YES. Ze even begrudgingly managed to dredge up the energy to shuffle over to the table, and then was immediately distracted by the crayons, and had to be convinced all over again to “show baby how to eat”. It’s possible that the current key is that ze likes to set an example.
Teaching manners. Ze went through a long phase of being a jerk to Seamus. Yelling “no!” at him, getting in his space, even putting zir hands on his side and trying to push him. As if ze could shift his 100 lb bulk. Nevertheless, it’s rude, it hurts his feelings, and it’s not ok. There have been consequences every time ze has been rude to him, and lo, miracle of miracles, it paid off! Ze accidentally kicked him in the face whilst flailing about one day, and turned and apologized to him without prompting! There was a lot of happy parental gasping in that moment. And some praise for the JuggerBaby.
Best moments …
I drew a shallow bath for us. One minute we were practicing lying on our backs in the water. The next we were embroiled in a splash war. This kid believes the best defense is staying on the offense and ze isn’t wrong.
Ze handed me a book but refused to lie down. Instead ze insistently pointed at zirself, garbling zir name over and over. “You want to read this?”
*shrug* Ok, you read to us.
Ze stared at the page for a while. Handed it back.
Too much snuggle
I lay down next to zir on the Boppy, elbow draped on zir leg.
Get elbowed off.
PiC lowered zir into the crib. Ze bounced back up. YIGHT! Ze had to turn them off, personally. Ok fine. Lights off.
Bye GiGi! (Seamus had fallen asleep early and forgotten to come over for bedtime.)
Back in the crib. Bounced back up, arms out. I leaned down expecting to thwart an “up!”
Instead, arms went around my neck for a big hug, and ze flopped back down into the crib, satisfied.
“Pick one book, then it’s naptime, JB.”
Ze tapped zir finger on zir nose. “Hmmm.”
Where did that come from??
JB pointed at zir shirt, then threw zir arms in the air: “RAWWWRR!”
*expectant look turns impatient*
Zir shirt had …. DANDELIONS!
Nursery Rhyme Comics
This was the gift that just kept giving. Ze gets to pick three books to read before bed, and ze always picks this one. We’ve read it no less than 6 times a day, every day, for weeks. WEEKS.
Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! by Todd Tarpley and John Rocco
You know JuggerBaby has robots on the mind when ze yells beep beep!
:: Does anyone else antagonize their kid/dog/cat/turtle just a little bit for laughs?
January 18, 2017
Words, words, words
JuggerBaby is a veritable treasure trove of gibberish. This month’s additions are mangled versions of “Thank you” (tant-too!), “cheers” (dis!), and “Seamus” (deee!). We can just about figure out what the heck ze wants between a combination of signing and listening to the 7th repetition of zir’s “word”.
There are also a lot of signs, like opening and closing a fist over zir head means sing Twinkle twinkle little star, or flapping arms in a certain way means to sing The Wheels on the Bus.
Disciplining a toddler
JuggerBaby isn’t, in any sense of the word, obedient. Not unless ze wants to cooperate which makes it cooperation and not compliance. Staring a not-2 year old down just does not work, not this one anyway. It’s worked on every other kid but of course not the one I’m legally responsible for. I had to find other ways to get zir to do what I wanted. Sometimes bargaining and bribery is useful – ze will do most things with the promise of giving Seamus a treat. Sometimes a more direct approach is necessary.
Ze loves being tickled so much it’s nearly an addiction. When ze is a recalcitrant toddler, it’s time to go on the offensive. Not only does it break the impasse, it puts zir in such a good mood that ze either forgets to be stubborn or chooses not to be anymore. It’s also become useful as a threat. When ze runs away and wants me to chase zir, I cock an eyebrow and ask “Are you coming back?” [NO!] “Ok, I’m gonna come GET you!” [NO!!! *giggles* *runs back*]
Me: Put on your socks.
Me: You sure? Put them on.
Me: Last warning.
Me: *tickles harder* DO YOU STILL HAVE THE COURAGE OF YOUR CONVICTIONS?
Me: *tickles harder* ARE YOU PUTTING ON YOUR SOCKS NOW?
JB: *cackles* YIISSSSS
Me: Ze is FINE. Ze is just learning who the boss is.
Seamus: *snort* *judging*
Parenting skills: not helping
We let JuggerBaby do a lot of things on zir own, and we were pleasantly surprised to see some of that pay off last week. Ze went from trying to put zir socks on through the toe side, to being able to get them on sole-side up, and then on entirely correctly. This happened in one 20 minute car ride, without help.
Then ze put on zir own pants! Then ze tried to put a shirt on zir legs and another pair of shoes on top of zir sneakers, reminding us that we are still quite far from There.
Surprising things about parenting
The dog is a DOG
JuggerBaby really does seem to be oblivious to the fact that Seamus is a dog. Ze has been insisting on offering him a pair of shoes every morning, after zir shoes are on, before his morning walk. I get the feeling that ze is judging us rather harshly for not providing him with his very own shoes, and ze is determined to make up the lack.
Ze is in turns more affectionate than ever, bestowing on him kisses and hugs as bribery for looking the other way when ze gets up to shenanigans. The jury’s out on whether this is acceptable currency because of the meanness, but he benefits nightly from zir insistence on giving him treats when ze gets home so probably he continues to look the other way anyway.
Just after the affection, though, there arose this complicated thing where ze acts territorial or jealous and runs over to push him away even though he’s not in zir space and isn’t doing anything to anything. It’s really frustrating to have zir yelling NO at him for no reason, being a big jerk to him when he’s just a big loving dog. We’ve scolded and disciplined, seemingly to no avail, but after weeks of this, we finally seem to have broken through a little. We have always insisted that ze be gentle with him, and so this is just a repetition of old instructions but it took several adjustments to our approach to get good results. For some things, consequences work just fine. In this case, they never did. So instead of scolding or punishing zir for being mean, I would insist that ze apologize for being rude, and say kinder things like “hi brother” and “how are you?” And when ze did act out, ze was instructed to apologize. We would remind zir that ze wouldn’t like it if he pushed or pinched zir, and that it was quite rude to do that to him.
We finally had a day when ze resisted the urge to pinch him, and he was patient enough to let zir make a mistake, correct it, and pet him gently without getting vindictive. Later that night, ze reached out to pet without trying to hit or pinch or push, and had a whole five minutes of petting him with kindness. *deep sigh of relief* I know we’re not there yet, but I really needed to see that progress was going to be made.
Things we are loving
Anything about space that includes a rocket blasting off. Currently we’re reading a children’s level biography about Mae Jemison, the Curious George book about space monkeying, and Roaring Rockets.
Dinosaurs. Ze particularly loves re-enacting this book.
Pulelehua and Mamaki: I have my suspicions that ze likes this one because it’s easy to say “mamaki.”
Favorite bath toys
Empty shampoo pump bottles! We’re learning about how water is heavier than air, and so when you submerge an empty bottle, it makes BUBBLES. Because that’s the air being pushed out of the bottle by the water, and the air floats. Something like that. I’m not sure that ze was following the lesson very well but we have time.
Things that are my fault
JuggerBaby refuses to wear costumes.
Things that are PiC’s fault
Ze eats 4 times as much as the normal toddler.
November 16, 2016
What’s yours is mine and mine is yours
We’ve entered a phase where JuggerBaby really wants us all to be doing similar things. If I’m not eating, ze doesn’t want to eat. If I AM eating, ze wants to eat too – but ze wants to eat the thing I was about to take a bite of. So we go halfsies on a lot of things. Except yogurt. Ze will eat all of my yogurt if I’m not paying attention.
Ze is really into family time, sitting on the floor mat, and pointing at a spot next to zir very emphatically: SIT HERE. Ze has us pretty well trained and is doing zir darnedest to get Seamus to cooperate. He’s no fool, though, he keeps a safe distance between them. Unless carrots are on offer. Then they’re buddies.
Imitation isn’t exactly flattery
You think the kid’s not paying attention to you until you’re woken up one morning at FinCon by a badge-wearing bundle of energy holding your cell phone to your ear yelling “Yeee-yooo?? YEEAAA-YOOO!!”
I don’t sound like that! How rude.
Self defense from the womb
I don’t know when it happened but JuggerBaby has a brilliant set of self defense skills. Ze is a complete klutz, like zir bemused and vaguely proud mama, but if you come in to pick zir up against zir will, or try to tickle attack, ze goes into a guard position that would make a quarterback and linebacker proud. You’d have to look twice to be sure ze didn’t have the pigskin tucked under the right elbow as ze fended you off with the left hand sweep.
And try, I dare you, TRY to grab zir belly when ze doesn’t want you to. Ze sweep-blocks your hand like ze is a wushu master and follows up with an elbow to the throat. I can almost hear the Mortal Kombat “FINISH HIM” in the background.
I had to train for years to get any kind of feel for this sort of self defense. Apparently I passed it all on through the umbilical cord?
Parenting skills: baby chores
Several months ago, I was pretty sure we had a budding fluff and folder here. Ze would help me take the washed clothes out to put in the dryer, piece by piece, usually licking it before handing it over. That’s apparently become boring, though, so we’ve upgraded zir jobs.
Ze helps PiC unload the dishwasher in the morning, only licking the occasional utensil, and only sometimes dumping all my silverware in a hidden spot. After work, ze is responsible for taking socks and other laundry to the laundry basket or the washing machine, and for throwing away any trash ze might find.
If ze is balky, I can always bribe zir with the offer of letting zir give Seamus treats. Works like a charm. We think it’s important that ze learns to contribute to the household!
Surprising things about parenting
Still licking everything!
Why are we still telling JuggerBaby not to eat the soap, lick the dog, the butter, the floor, our shoes….??
“Ze has licked worse” shouldn’t still be such a regular part of our daily conversation.
Things we are loving
Where the Wild Things are, Maurice Sendak
I’m at least a little wary that this is such a favorite right now. Especially when ze is stuck on the wild rumpus part and still wild rumpusing when we’re 3 pages past. But it’s amazing how many read throughs ze will sit for when you remember that usually you can’t even get through one page before ze chooses the next book. It’s a fun read, though.
Favorite bath toys
Empty Luxury Lane jars: toddler’s top recommendation. These are the best for catching water and dumping it on my head. Ze will occasionally dump it over zir own head too, then fling back zir head in squinty-eyed disgust at being splashed in the face.