Lessons I’ve Learned

Just a few things I’ve learned, or re-learned, in the last few months.

  • I cannot read in moderation. There’s no point in trying. No matter what promises I make to myself, no matter how I try to ration my reading time, I get absorbed and forget to do small tasks like, you know, take care of my kid. Self, stop trying to read during the day. Maybe you shouldn’t even do it after the kid is asleep unless you’re absolutely so physically exhausted that your body is simply not capable of staying awake all night to read “one more chapter.” Possibly some deep nonfiction could be slowly digested, but fiction and fantasy? They’re the donuts of my reading universe—don’t even try one, because you know you won’t be able to stop until you’ve finished the box. Or book. Or series. Whatever.
  • Worms are the most resilient pets on the planet. Mine have been living outside during this winter, and every time the weather warms up after a frost, I go outside to feed them, expecting them all to be dead, and they’re thriving. Seriously, the first thing I saw when I lifted the lid was about 4 worms getting ready to lay eggs. These worms are doing better than my indoor plants.
  • Getting kids involved in chores makes chore time playtime. To Kara, mashing up bananas for granola bars is just as much fun as painting. It makes everything take longer, but who cares? You’re spending quality time with the kid AND keeping the house from falling into chaos. Well, maybe keeping one small step ahead of complete chaos. If you’re very fortunate, you may even happen upon a task that the kid loves doing so much that you can let her keep at it while you do things you’d rather not have her “help” with. Kara, for example, LOVES mopping. And vacuuming.
  • Exercise makes it easier to get moving doing anything else. I know this. My brain has learned this lesson quite well. But when I’m cold and wearing 3 layers of clothing and all I want to do is stay under a blanket and, you know, maybe read or something ( 😉 ), or sleep for a couple days, the last thing I want to do is change into workout clothes. Sure, I may warm up right quick once I start a workout, but that first step is hard. And yet, once I do that, it’s so much easier to do all those other things I have to do, like make dinner and do dishes and bake bread and, yes, play with my kid. And yet I keep skipping out on my workout. I’ll let you know when I figure out how that makes sense.

Things Kara Says

Kara: “There’s no nothing in something.”

Me: “Kara, you’re so sweet!”
Kara: “But I’m not for eating!”
Me: “No? But I’m gonna gobble you up!”
Kara: “But I’m too big to go in your mouth.”

Kara, pointing to a picture in a book: “What do this does?” (“does” pronounced “dews,” as in, “do” with an “s” added)

Whenever we watch a movie or read a story and someone doesn’t look happy, “What do he don’t like?” She asked that a LOT in Finding Nemo (or Catching Nemo, as she calls it).

Speaking of Finding Nemo, she spent most of the time in her bath last night singing, “Just keep swimming.”

Kara Climbed a Tree

You may or may not remember, but one of Kara’s goals in life has been to climb a tree. About once a day, during random times like car trips, or bed time, or meal times, Kara would tell me, “I climb a tree someday.” Or, “I climb a tree when I get bigger.”

Well, yesterday evening, we were spending lots of time outside. The weather is cool and most of the bugs and spiders are gone. So I decided it was the day to make her dream come true.

DSCF1460She did so well! I put her up on the first branch and helped her get her legs up to the second, and then she was ready to go! As I climbed behind her to make sure nothing too terrible happened, she told me, “It’s not too scary,” as I watched her legs tremble. But my brave girl did it and wanted to do it again and again.

She looked confidently at me when we were going inside after the excitement and said, “I ride in airplane now!” (That’s her other life goal.)

A Kara Update

So, here’s a few things that will enrich your life if you’ve been at all curious about what’s happening with this little one. First, some pronunciations:

1) If a word ends in a hard consonant, she likes to add “a” to the end, like an Italian, especially if that word is “look,” which results in the adorable turn of phrase that, for example, “Daddy look-a like a ‘rangatang.” Too many levels of cute? I know, right?

2) When she wants to do something by herself or is bragging that she does something by herself, her phrase to describe it is, “All my by herself.” For example, the other day she put on her too-big shoes and her sunglasses and told me, “Want to go to a walk in the woods all my by herself.” Then she walked toward the front door and attempted to open it “all my by herself,” and I was thankful for the foresight that had me lock the deadbolt.

3) She still likes to substitute “L” for “R” in words that have an “R” immediately following a consonant. So “bread” is “bled” and “cry” is “cly.” And “Grandma” is “Glandma.”

4) To make words plural, she adds a syllable. So “leaves,” for example, becomes “leaf-es.” And gloves are “glove-es.”

Kara has two goals in life right now. She often tells me, “I climb a tree someday.” Also, “I want to ride in a airplane.” (I wish that text could capture her cadence as she says “airplane.” She always says it the same way and it’s adorable.) Usually she doesn’t mention one without mentioning the other, so somehow these two life goals are inextricably bound together.

Kara’s favorite movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas, or “The Skeleton Movie.” She wants to watch it pretty much every day. Her runner-up is probably Labyrinth, or “Toby,” which rhymes with Dobby. Sometimes after watching Labyrinth, she’ll run around the house looking for Tobby in such likely places as the dirty clothes hamper and the linen closet.

She’s gotten really big into this imagination/pretend thing, and her favorite thing to pretend is food. She’ll sit in her car seat offering me strawberry and chocolate cookies, suckers, donuts, and ice cream. She also likes to pretend she’s playing with her cousin Ava. I think Ava has become her imaginary friend, actually.

Well, I guess that’s enough cuteness overload for one day. Happy Friday Eve!

The Times That Make It Worth It

As you are no doubt aware, we’ve had some rough times recently. Of the Kara’s-not-sleeping-so-nobody’s-sleeping variety. And now Steve and I have finally succumbed to whatever strain of cold Kara’s been suffering from. But days like today… let me tell you, days like today make any number of sleepless nights worth it.

Today, Kara woke up singing. Literally. I couldn’t make out what she was singing, but after I opened her door, she sat up and told me, “I sing song.” “That’s right, I heard. What were you singing?” “I sing ABCs.” And she demonstrated for me.

After a remarkably un-dramatic breakfast, she wanted to take a walk. We went into the woods, and of course she asked me to carry her most of the time. It was as perfect a fall day as you could ask for, with blue skies, a smattering of white clouds, and a lovely breeze. And as I carried her, Kara put her arms around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. After a couple minutes in repose, she sighed, “I love you.” She came to visit me at work this evening, and she screamed with laughter as she raced toward me to give me a hug. She was so excited to tell me about her day that she was literally hopping as she told me about the books she’d read with Dada at the library.

And tonight, twice, as I read her a bedtime story, she put her head on my knee and said, “I love you.”

Let me assure you, even as I type this at 1:00 in the morning, unable to fall asleep after her most recent scream-fest over an hour ago… days like today make it seem like no sacrifice at all.

I Want Worms

A couple weeks ago at work, one of my coworkers started emptying the coffee grounds and some eggshells into a container to take home. It’s not uncommon for people to take compost from us, but I happen to know this particular guy lives in a studio apartment, so I asked him where he was taking the compost. Why, home to his worm bin, he told me.

This probably isn’t as big of news to the rest of the world as it was to me, but as he told me about the system he had set up at home, I got really excited. Because I’ve been very interested in composting, but I thought that was something I would have to wait for until I had a yard. I doubt many landlords would take kindly to a compost heap in the back of the duplex; even if the landlord was forgiving, I doubt the neighbors would be.

But now, enter the world of vermicomposting. With a drill, a rubbermaid-type tote, some shredded paper, and some purchased redworms, I can start composting in my home. I’m pretty sure that a very large percentage of the trash we’ve been throwing in the dumpster is actually compostable, and I feel pretty bad about throwing perfectly degradable things into a landfill. But with a system like this, I won’t have to. All you do is drill some small holes in the container to ensure a good air flow, shred up some paper/cardboard/etc. and get it nice and wet (but not too wet), and add some worms. Then you bury your food scraps under the paper and let the worms turn it into compost. The only reason I waited this long to get started is because I was hoping to find a place I could buy worms locally. Today, I finally decided to just dive in and order some worms online.

I’m inordinately excited about this whole thing, and I hope it works out for me. Kara’s getting excited about feeding the worms “trash,” too. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how this journey works out for us.

Two Coping Strategies

I have the smartest, most beautiful two-year-old ever to have graced the planet. Unfortunately, even the smartest, most beautiful two-year-old is still, well, a two-year-old. She can go from brilliant to monosyllabic obstinate in less time than it takes for me to compliment her on being such a good, big girl.

When she spends over an hour crying, screaming, and refusing to let herself be consoled, well, my level of parenting often takes a similar downward trend. After I found myself yelling, “CALM DOWN!” and realized how utterly ridiculous that was, I decided I needed a new coping strategy. I’ve found two that work for me. Perfectly? Of course not. I’m human. Sometimes I have to lock myself into my room and scream into a pillow. Or sit in the middle of the room, sipping my coffee, and trying to find my happy place. But for the main part, I can continue to act like an adult when she’s in temper-tantrum mode by:

  1. “The Seesaw Effect,” as described in this article. Basically, it says in words what we kind of intuitively grasp anyway, but it helped me to read it. The more frantic your child gets, the calmer you should get. I don’t know if it actually shortens the duration of Kara’s tantrums, but I like to think that it teaches her how to model calm behavior. More importantly at the time, however, it keeps me from throwing an adult-sized tantrum alongside my angel’s two-year-old one.
  2. Mind Your Manners. Why do we so often think that we can choose to ignore the rules of basic civility when it comes to those we love? When you most want to throw any rules of polite society out the window is probably when you need them the most. While it is possible to overuse this principle and punish those closest to you while wearing a mask of frosty formality, I think you’re probably better off, in the heat of the moment, erring on the side of being polite. This usually results in scenarios in which I replace a retaliatory action with a polite one. As an added bonus, I’ve noticed Kara saying “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me” regularly.

What do you do to keep sane during the insane times?