(Very) Short Stories from the Life of Spencer

Chapter 5: June

Last night, I was rocking Spencer before putting him down to bed. He reached up to take his pacifier out of his mouth in order to insert his sippy cup. Right before he got the cup to his mouth, he reached up with one hand, grabbed my chin, turned it so I was facing him squarely, pulled it down to him, and gave me a big kiss right on the mouth! I was shocked. I'm beginning to understand how moms "fall in love" with their sons, one ridiculously precious kiss at a time. I'm going to risk sounding obnoxious and say that I'm not sure you can know how I felt unless you have your own son. And now, I'm going to take it all the way to ridiculously annoying and say that you can't truly know how I felt unless your son is as beautiful, charming, and sweet as Spencer. So, if I lost you amidst all the gushing, let's sum up and say it was such a sweet moment, and I know he'll be so embarrassed to read about it someday (but hopefully later, he'll outgrow that phase and fully own up to his shameless and whole-hearted love for his mother).

Spencer has discovered his Gigi and Papa's shower. He loves it, and I really can't blame him. It has 3 (or more?) different shower heads and nozzles, plus it's big, AND he gets to play with their shampoo bottles! Really good times were had this particular evening. Apparently by neglecting family shower time, we are really missing out.

In the "likes vs. dislikes" column, I will add that Spencer has always hated having the sun in his eyes, ever since he was an infant. I used to joke that it was because he was a December baby and didn't see the sun for many months after his entrance into the world. I bought him sunglasses last summer, thinking it would solve all of his car seat woes involving the sun shining in his eyes. The sun-canopy on his infant seat never stood a chance against his seek-and-destroy instincts. He ripped it off during every car ride starting around 4 or 5 months. I gave up re-attaching it around 6 or 7 months. I tried the sunglasses again this spring, and he still would have none of it. But now, he has finally come to his senses, and he has started to understand that if he will delay immediately ripping off the glasses when we put them on him, then they will keep the sun from obstructing his vision. Gap had an additional 40% off their clearance items in the store yesterday, so I got him a pair of sunglasses for his other car seat (are we THOSE Americans or what?). When I looked at my receipt after I'd checked out, I literally laughed out loud (in the mall by myself). It said "Kanye Sunglasses." So, hopefully pictures to follow. For right now, we just have the more caucasian Fisher Price version in digital form.

Spencer has really embraced the idea of "family time." When both Jonathan and I are at home, he strongly prefers we all be in the same room together as much as possible. If he's happily playing and one of us walks out, he will generally give it a minute or two to see if we are coming back, and if we don't he comes to retrieve us. He especially likes to coerce Jonathan and me to stand in Jonathan's very small closet with him, with the door closed. I'm not sure at what point this will get old to him. I have never stayed in there long enough to find out, and I'm usually a pretty good sport about those things. It reminds me of the eternal question "How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop." I just can't stand in the stuffy closet with all 3 of us past a few minutes. Life is too short. I'm sure he'll understand someday. As of today, he doesn't really understand.

Regarding his growth, I have no idea what he weighs or how tall he is, but it seems like he got an inch taller in a couple of days. His rompers seem to back me up. Multiple people have commented this week on how they look "almost" too small. That basically means, "Why did you squeeze your poor child into that automatic wedgie device?" Point taken.

Spencer has been LOVING to run away from us so that we have to chase him. It's not so much out of any strong desire to avoid what we want him to do. He just loves the "thrill of the chase." He holds his arms up in the air, but bends his elbows, and runs dramatically by pulling his knees up as high as he can with each step. And just giggles with sheer glee. He especially loves it when we get right up to whatever door he has put between himself and us, so he can close the door right in our face as we try to enter. He's not mad or really trying to keep us out. When we open the door he just laughs even more. Obviously we should play chase more often, although I feel like we play it constantly.

Spencer's G-Daddy is retiring at the end of the month, and we went to his retirement luncheon at the VA. It's always hospitals and nursing homes where your child is automatically obsessed with the floor-coverings. They also become inexplicably incapable of holding onto their paci or sippy cup. All that aside, it was so fun to go to G-Daddy's work. We are proud of his hard work, and we are excited for all the free time he's going to have to take Spencer fishing!

Today, a very nice salesman at Sears told Spencer "No" (out of fear) when he saw Spencer reach for an outlet box (that comes up from the floor) before I did. Just for the record I was standing inches from Spencer and had my hand on him approximately 3/10th of a second before he reached for it. Jonathan was standing right beside us as well. Spencer got his feelings or his pride hurt so profoundly that he paused, stuck out that bottom lip, made a horrible face and then cried LOUDLY for at least 3 or 4 minutes straight (which is a long time for your child to cry loudly in public with no reprise). Finally, Jonathan just had to walk him away from me and the salesman. I kept feeling the need to apologize to the salesman (is that co-dependent or what?), and I continued to assure him that I was very glad he said "No" when it involved an electrical outlet, and that I was so sorry. The salesman was sorry he had upset Spencer. Now that I've typed it out it definitely reads like a non-issue. It felt big at the time. Somehow it was all just a little much for me today, emotionally speaking--some days I just have more "reserve" than others.

Spencer' s cousin from Alabama is in town this week, and she came to our house today. I wish I could describe how excited he was to see and play with her. It was precious. He dragged her all around his house. Showed her his toys, and mostly just smiled, squealed, laughed, and marveled at her presence in our home, all the while reveling in any attention she bestowed upon him. She's been waiting years for this. Of course, after 3 hours of such intense happiness he had totally exhausted himself. He cried and screamed for little to no reason for what felt like a long time (but probably really wasn't) until we put him to bed at 6:30. Audrey kept asking when he was going to wake up from his nap. I kept explaining that it is actually night time (even though the sun looks like it's noon), and that he was going to sleep until tomorrow morning. To which she replied, "He's going to sleep all day today AND all night?" Clearly, my explanation of it being night even though it's still light outside during the summer left something to be desired.

When I was getting myself all ready for bed tonight, I realized that the receiver to Spencer's monitor is nowhere to be found. I looked everywhere I could for tonight, and I'll do a little more scouring tomorrow morning. It was definitely here this morning, and that's really all I can say for sure. We're hoping he didn't put it in the trash can, because Jonathan did take the trash out tonight. If you're curious, yes, we can hear him just fine if he's crying, but we use it if we go outside and also to hear if he's talking in his crib, which can mean he has a dirty diaper depending on how long he talks before falling asleep--you do NOT want to see his bottom when we've accidentally let him sleep in a dirty diaper.

That about wraps up a couple of days' worth of Spencer short stories. Here's hoping to discovering where he's hidden his monitor tomorrow!


Crazy Things I Did Today

In an effort to execute a "deep clean," I took apart the diaper champ. The top part ended up in four or five different pieces. This would not be that big of a deal to a normal, conscientious person with all their faculties, but that is in no way an accurate description of me at the present. I was thinking about a million other things at the time, wearing gloves (to keep the Clorox wipe juice off my hands), and shaking it to see if I had fixed the previously dumb thing I did a few days ago--trying to wash out the diaper champ with a hose outside. Yes, it does take on water. So, somewhere during all the shaking, wiping, and pulling I found myself surrounded by multiplying pieces of diaper champ. At this point, I started having thoughts of how much money I will have cost us if I failed to pull off this little stunt. But, reason won the day. I told myself this was certainly not rocket science, and I was not the least intelligent person on the earth. And with those two life-affirming truths, I wrestled it back together. The fact that every piece is now thoroughly disinfected is an added bonus.

Today, I also failed to cast a magic spell on Spencer that would have forced him to take a nap. I believe that this is the root cause of the rest of crazy things I did today. Read on.

While talking on the phone for about 5 minute to my husband, I was walked around the kitchen sort of acting like I was cleaning it up. Spencer ran in and out quite a few times, and I gave him some crackers. I had spend most of our napless afternoon cleaning out the "guest room," and I had little piles of recycling and trash that needed to be put into their proper home. And again the neurons began firing in any which way they pleased. Spencer ran back into the room asking for another cracker, and I COULD NOT find the box. My eyes scanned the kitchen at least 20 times. I opened cabinet doors; I even opened the refrigerator. I went into the living room, thinking maybe Spencer somehow got the box of crackers off of the counter and carried it in there. No crackers. Finally, I interrupted whatever sad semblance of a conversation I was carrying on with my husband to tell him that I'd lost the whole box of crackers, and I JUST had them. His reply was kind but bored and disinterested. Finally, I began to walk through the whole house. I found the box of crackers on the desk in the guest room.

After the riveting conversation which, no doubt, reminded my husband of all the reasons he fell in love with me to begin with, I realized that I had started cooking dinner for my child who ate his dinner after his failed nap attempt, my husband who wouldn't be home until late, and myself. I'd forgotten that Jonathan was coming home late tonight. I had called him to tell him his dinner would be ready in about ten minutes. Meanwhile, my mom called and said she had cooked dinner and my dad had to cancel a case so he'd be home in decent time. So, in my own crazy fashion, I took our dinner out of the oven while I dressed and shoe-d my child. I packed a bag (ALWAYS a process, no matter what I do), cleared a shelf in the fridge, put dinner on a trivet in the fridge, and drove Spencer out to my parents house.

If you have a toddler you know where this is going. No nap + driving at dinner = falling asleep in the car seat. And to say that falling asleep in the car seat is equivalent to a tumultuous evening is to understate the situation. There's really no excuse for me doing this. Someday I'm going to learn.

After the fits of screaming that occupied most of my time at my parents house, we finally arrived back home. Since most of the day seemed counterproductive, I needed to feel like I'd accomplished something useful and tangible. So, around 7:45 pm, I started a little project. Spencer has started reaching behind large pieces of heavy furniture to fish out electrical cords and power strips. He loves to unplug them, pull them as far as he can from whatever device they are connected to, etc. Every morning this week, he has come to get me after he's unplugged the television and the dvd player, asking for his movie to be turned back on.

Now, irregardless of how it sounds, we do not have wires flagrantly strewn about. When we moved in four years ago, I "designed" (if you can call it that) our furniture placement, etc. around what would or would not be practical for raising kids. That was my foremost thought and criteria. "Would that look good here? Oh, no, that'd be too easy for a kid to pull over." This was my constant thought process. So, careful planning from a fairly educated adult went into the arrangement. However, in an effort to live within our means, not everything was "perfect," and Spencer has capitalized upon this fatal flaw. So, this evening I rearranged furniture for the sole purpose of making it harder for Spencer to get into mischief.

Is it crazy to rearrange the living room at bed time? Yes. But at least we ended on a high note.


The Voices In My Head

Have you taken care of other peoples' children? Did you have them all figured out? Did you watch them manipulate their parents? Were you amazed at how the "oldest trick in the book" worked every time they pulled it? Did you think to yourself, "My kid will always nap for me. I will never ASK my kid if they want to do something when I actually mean that they WILL be doing it in the near future. Any screaming, warm body around me in a public eatery will be IMMEDIATELY escorted outside. Pacifiers will not be dragged all over town after 6 months of age. Any (large) crumb we leave on any floor at any place other than our home will immediately be picked up by me and disposed of in a proper receptacle."

There are some things that I learned in my years of providing childcare that have actually translated to my current state of raising my child. I knew better than to spend money on nice furniture for the living room. I expected to have everything dragged out of every cabinet and drawer from four feet down. I insisted my child learn to sleep in his room--not mine. I NEVER let him run into the street. But after that, everything else feels negotiable some days, you know? Some days they just wear you down.

It's easy to be consistent with a child who is not your own, when you're being paid to do it, and you're leaving in X hours. It's easy to watch a child who is not your own throw a fit. It's not pleasant, but it's not heart-wrenching. You quickly and accurately assess the situation: he / she is throwing a temper tantrum, attention will only increase the feedback system on which tantrum-throwing relies, they will learn that when they throw a tantrum it does not achieve their purposes, I will give them an age-appropriate amount of space, while ensuring he /she does not (badly) injure himself / herself, all the while maintaining a cool but loving exterior, they cannot hear words over their screaming, they are hungry / tired / insert stressful condition here and this is the end of his or her rope. You get the idea.

However, as a parent, (for me at least), it now seems to go something like this: "He is throwing a temper tantrum, Why did I let him get to this place? What tool have I not provided him with to communicate, be adequately mentally stimulated, eat, drink, rest, or sleep so that this would not have happened? Maybe if I speak calmly (and loudly) into his ear he will hear me explain my case and will magically comprehend on a 27 year old level. Maybe the sunscreen I applied 6 hours ago is all of a sudden horrifically burning his skin. Maybe if I pick him up he will feel better. Maybe he feels better now that he has hurled himself from my arms onto the ground. Maybe he didn't want me to hold him because his stomach hurts and it was making him even more uncomfortable. Maybe he has a stomach virus since I gave him his pacifier back without washing it when he dropped it on the ground at Target the other day. Maybe he's turning purple and signing "finished"* because he wants his nausea to go away. Maybe his diaper area that looked perfect a couple of hours ago is now covered in yeast or eczema. Maybe I'll put a movie in while he throws himself all over the sofa, smearing his snot everywhere--oh, nope, not this movie--maybe a different one. Ok, I'm going to leave the room (now the screaming goes from constant to intermittent). Maybe I'll peek back in--ok, SORRY! I take it back! I'm looking away...please go back to not screaming! Would you like to take a bath?"

And so it went.

And in the back of my mind, there is a tiny voice, the "Nanny Lauren" voice, telling me that he is not all of the sudden contorting his body out of excruciating pain. He is tired. He misses his Daddy. Put him to bed. I miss "Nanny Lauren." Somewhere along the way, "Crazy Mommy Lauren" kicked in. She gets on my nerves. And apparently she gets on Spencer's nerves too.*