Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teddy Ruxpin Redux

Olive has these two stuffed animals that talk to you. And sing. And ask you to hug them.

In the olden days we had Teddy Ruxpin – basically a tape player surrounded by a frightening animatronic bear. What kid didn’t want to have one…and then get nightmares about one!

Well, these two bears (and she has two of them because we got them as gifts) are WAAAY more advanced than Teddy Ruxpin. On one of them, you press the feet and it says “Foot”. Convenient. You press its ear and, you guessed it, it says “Ear”. Both of them play songs and giggle and have some sort of interactive feature. One bear can actually be hooked up to your computer to allow you to choose your child’s name, favorite animal, food, color, etc. So I was able to program the bear to say “Hi, Olive! I looove Pumas. Do you? I can’t wait till we get to eat some black-eyed peas!”

So, with all of these wonderful features. With all of this technology that was unavailable to me when I was growing up. To Olive, the most fascinating thing about these bears is that they have a battery pack stuffed into their back. She will play with the bears appropriately for a little while then she will inevitably turn them over, rip open the Velcro running down the spine, and start exploring the innards of the bear. Eventually, they get left on the floor like two victims of a black market kidney theft. Some day, I’m going to find them in a tub of ice with a note attached to them telling the bears to call 911.

I would have never done that to you, Teddy Ruxpin.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gentle Touches

Olive is a hitter. It is just how she greets other children, and sometimes, their face. We have tried to get her to stop, but whenever you give her a firm “No!” she tends to laugh in your face. When you put her in timeout she greets you with giggles and kisses after the minute “punishment” is up. We try to teach her about “gentle touches” and “playing nice” and “being soft” and “babies are fragile” but she still thinks this is all a game. “Fragile” is apparently baby talk for “begging to be slapped in the back of the head.”

You can tell that she is a happy kid, so very rarely do these hits come from malice. She just thinks this is a game and, to her, the slaps and hits have no consequence. But make no mistake, they connect pretty good. Like a good boxer, sometimes the punches come when you least expect them. Just yesterday she was hanging out with her cousin Lucy. When Lucy came in the door Olive poured on the cuteness, you know, to lull her into a sense of calmness. Then she reached for Lucy with both hands, immediately springing me into action. I can’t let Olive get off on the wrong foot and smash her 10-month-old cousin in the face (and a cute face it is) two minutes after she gets in the door. But Olive faked me out. She wasn’t going to hit Lucy. She reached out with both hands. Gently grabbed her face, and gave her a kiss. A minute passed and Olive was going after her again. This time I was sure a left cross was coming. Nope. This time she grabbed Lucy, pulled her in, and gave her a big hug.

Not bad. Maybe we have turned a corner. Maybe this gentle touch shit was really working.

Then Olive, with huge smile on her face, poked Lucy in the eye, stuck her hand in her mouth and started grabbing the inside of her cheek, like she wanted to rip the lips off her face. Great.

How do I tell my 14 month old to try and remove other children’s tonsil’s gently?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Defense! Defense!

The last two nights we brought Olive to a big playground about a mile away from us. We have a small playground right across the street from us, so why do we drive to a different one? First, the playground across the street is usually patronized by the two five-year-old creepy twin girls who like to try and kidnap Olive, bring her down slides, and use her as their personal cabbage patch doll. I am terrified of them. They remind me a little bit of Middle Eastern versions of the twins from The Shining. And Olive is pretty scared at this point too. If they come within two feet of her she turns and runs for mommy and daddy, hands straight up in the air, screaming like a banshee. I may consider allowing her to carry mace. Or maybe one of those whistles they give to girls their first day of college.

Also, the point of bringing Olive to the playground at all is to get her to run around, climb up some stuff, and tire her self out so she’ll go to sleep as soon as we get home. The playground across the street is a little small and, more importantly, covered in woodchips. Olive likes to eat woodchips. She runs around for about five minutes and then plops down on the ground to start her meal. Not achieving our mission.

If she manages to avoid the attraction of delicious shredded cedar, Olive gets distracted by the tennis court next to the playground. If people are playing on it, she points, says some form of the word “ball” and makes a bee line for the court. Only she doesn’t want to watch. She wants to play. Active tennis courts aren’t the safest place for a child Olive’s age. The woodchip and tennis court scenario always usually end up with us picking up a crying Olive and heading back across the street.

So every once and a while we pile in the car and take Olive to this huge playground where there are fewer distractions. No creepy twins. No tennis balls being batted around. And the entire thing is covered in the squishy rubber stuff they make running tracks out of – no woodchips.

On Monday, Leanne and I both brought Olive. Tuesday, I flew solo. This is when I started to realize the difference parent to child ratio plays in the playground experience. First, this place is massive. Lots of open space to run around. Lots of steps and slides and ramps to run around. It is a great playground for a kid Olive’s age because it doesn’t try to emulate a Navy SEALS obstacle course. So she takes advantage of it. She roams all over the place and has to touch EVERYTHING. With the parent to child ratio at 2:1, Leanne and I were able to play zone defense. I watched this opening in the ramp and she watched the monkey bars. I was at the bottom of the slide and she was at the top. Sure, there was one small breakdown in communication where I almost let Olive take a fall from a three foot high platform, but we were positioned well enough that we could close in pretty quick.

When I took Olive there alone, I had to play straight man-to-man. I spent the entire time no more than two feet from Olive’s person. I had to follow her up to the top of the slide, send her down, and make a quick dash for the bottom. If she went up one side of a ramp, I couldn’t walk around and wait on the other side, I had to stay on my man. When she zigged, I had to zag.

Monday was a much more enjoyable experience. Probably for me and for Olive. Really, as Olive becomes more independent, the day I look forward to the most is when we can take her to the playground and I am comfortable enough to sit on a bench, read the paper, and keep an ear out for the occasional thud and scream.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Reading the Signs

So when you first become a parent, one of the tougher things to deal with is that babies are non-vocal. They can’t tell you what they want or what is bothering them or what hurts. They just cry and it is your job to figure out why.

This detective work does get a little easier as they get older. First, you start to figure out what their cries mean. One cry means they are tried, another hungry, another means they are in pain. Then they start pointing or shaking their head at things. Then they start saying things like “no” or “ball” or “juice.” It was a blessed day when Olive started saying no to things. I know, it seems contrarian, but it is a huge help when your child is crying and you can eliminate a toy or a drink or something else as a possible solution by having them shake their head no.

If you are ambitious you can teach your child sign language. I hear it works great and allows you to communicate with your child long before they become vocal. We tried teaching Olive for a couple weeks, but then the library book we took out came due and, well, Leanne and I are kinda lazy a didn’t really keep on top of it.

Also, if you wait long enough, kids make up their own signs, their own ways of letting you know what they want. For example, I’m pretty sure this meant that Olive wanted her milk.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup Edition

This summer is Olive’s first experience with the World Cup. Although she has watched about forty five seconds of soccer, with thirty of those seconds spent trying to figure out if Elmo was somewhere on the TV (I think he plays for Brazil), I can still try to get her in the spirit. I’m trying to teach her some chants, plan on buying her one of those plastic horns (so I can burn it) and am trying to use some time at the playground to teach her proper hooliganism. “Ok, Olive. No kick that scrawny kid, elbow him in the throat and yell ‘OY!’”

So this weekend we made it a soccer weekend. We started the day of the long-awaited England vs USA match by visiting Minuteman National Park. We walked the battle road, visited the site of Paul Revere’s capture and saw plenty of plaques honoring unnamed fallen British soldiers. You know, never too early to teach Olive about how we as Americans can kick some colonialist behind.

Later we broke out the soccer ball. She hasn’t quite figured out the kicking thing yet. Really, she just wants to pick up the ball, take a few steps, lick it, and then throw it. Maybe she just wants to be a keeper?

Ole, ole, ole, ole!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good Morning!

When you are about to become a parent you really don’t think about the 6-week-old pooping and eating machine that doesn’t acknowledge your existence.

You think about what happened this morning as I left for work. Olive following me to the front door, waving goodbye and then pressing her hands and face against the glass of the storm door as I walked to the car. I could still hear her saying “Dada! Dada!” from across the street. Not a bad way to start my day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


So we all know things have changed since we were kids. I promise, this is not going ot be a “Those were the good old days” posting where I say things like “When I was your age we used to watch REAL cartoons like Mighty Mouse and Tom and Jerry!”

It isn't hard to notice that Olive is growing up in a world that has undergone some major changes in the last 30 years. Technology, media, globalization, the Red Sox no longer being loveable losers, etc. Sometimes, though, it is the seemingly minor shifts, the ones that occurred while we weren’t looking, that are more interesting.

The one that hit me the other day is the telephone. I don’t think Olive has ever seen someone talk on an actual telephone. We don’t have a land line in our house. We use our cell phones for everything. And I know we aren't the only parent where that is the case. If we want her to play with a phone, we need to get a little fake cell phone or else it will be like someone having given me a telegraph to play with when I was a kid. Millions of toy telephones that were stuck into attics for when the grandkids were born are now useless.

What we do with our phones has changed too. Olive loves playing with my Blackberry (who doesn’t), but she imitated me typing on it months before she started holding it up to her ear. Now she will grab the phone from you and walk around smiling, texting away. She also really doesn't know what an actual ringing phone sounds like. Even though mine immitates an "old-fashioned" phone, Leanne's ringtone is some version of a hip-hop song. Every other ringtone in the world is a song or a combination of various beeps, tones, and melodies. No standard telephone ring.

For some reason, I’m also just figuring out the massive shift in playground building materials that occurred sometime in the last 15 years. Yeah, we all know that pressure treated wood was found to emit arsenic, but when did this huge playground building boom happen!? I missed the cranes going up in suburbs around the country to replace my wooden playground with one with climbing walls and twisty slides, and obstacle courses fit for Navy Seal training. You can’t find a wooden playground or a metal slide or wildly dangerous rocking animal on a rusty metal spring ANYWHERE these days. How is Olive supposed to go through the ritual rite of tearing her thigh open on a stray bolt while crawling through a splintered, arsenic-leaching fun house? Everywhere now is plastic, which I assume we will discover gives us cancer in 15 years.

What kind of small changes have you noticed since you were a kid?