Thursday, July 29, 2010

Teaching

One thing that I wasn’t prepared for as a parent (along with the frequency of getting poop on my hands) is the amount of teaching you need to do. With an infant, teachable moments seem few and far between because there is so little give and take. Yes, you talk and read and point things out, but there is no interaction.

With a toddler, it is constant.

At around a year, you need to be an ever vigilant teacher. Olive is constantly pointing, picking things up, tasting things, and talking. Yes, I can just let her play with those blocks or paw at flower petals without telling her what color the blocks are or showing her how to smell flowers, but I have this constant fear that my daughter is going to go through life without absolutely vital skills, like knowing what sound a pig makes or that grass isn’t for eating.

It can be exhausting. If Olive picks up a ball and starts playing with it, you have to make a choice. Do I just let her play quietly by herself, without Daddy hovering over her -- or do I start teaching.

-Yes, that is a ball.
-Can you say ball? B-B-B-B-Ball?
-It is a green ball, isn’t it?
-Can you throw the ball?
-Throw the ball to daddy, Olive.

Then she throws the ball and you need to confirm with her that, yes, that was the action you requested.

-Good job, honey. You threw the green ball to daddy. Oh, now you want to play with the puzzle?

Sigh.

And this isn’t just during playtime. This is when she is eating (Are those good blueberries? What is that? Is that a fork?) When we are in the grocery store (Yes, that is a banana). During bathtime (I’m washing your hands now, Olive. Can you show me your hands?).When we are in the car (Do you see the school bus, Olive? The yellow school bus? Do you see the douche bag who just cut daddy off, honey? How many fingers is daddy holding up, Olive? One! That’s right!). See what I mean about it getting tiring.

And we teach our kids absolutely useless information. Children’s books are filled with references to animals that live on farms or entire other continents. Why does it matter if Olive knows that a sheep says “Baa.” I’m pretty sure that sheep are never going to play a major role in her life. And hate to break it to you, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, but no one cares what you hear. You are going to be extinct by the time Olive goes to high school anyway.

But these teachable moments do have a payoff. Olive is picking up new words slowly but surely. She is starting to be able to perform tricks like pointing to her nose and stomping her feet. One of her favorite activities is grabbing books from her bookshelf, walking over to the middle of the room, sitting down, and starting to “read.” When she flips open the book she babbles, I assume imitating mommy and daddy reading out loud to her.

She doesn’t exactly have the longest attention span though…so now I just need to teach her that books have more than one page.
video

Monday, July 26, 2010

Country Bumpkin

As mentioned in a of previous posts, we had a fantastic family vacation to the northern reaches of Maine over the fourth of July. Why let a little disfigured toe get in the way of a good time.

Olive was exposed to all things Northern Maine.

1) Camouflage overalls


2) Riding lawnmowers


3) And of course, fully operational mini-cannons (at least Olive got dressed up to go play with artillery)


My mother-in-law took most of these pictures and I kept asking her to send them along, to which she would reply: “Why, so you can make us all look like hicks up here!”

What do you mean? I would never do that! I just want to make my daughter look like a hick.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Boo Boo

Leanne and I never really went through a weekend of baby proofing our home. Our strategy was to wait for Olive to point out potential dangers to us and then we would fix them.

-Ooops, looks like we forgot to cover that electrical socket.
-I guess she can reach that drawer full of knives now. Should probably do something about that.
-Did you know that string on the blinds are a strangulation hazard?
-You know, now that she is walking we better get a gate or the top of the stairs, huh?

The result is that, over the last 15 months, our house has become relatively baby proof.

Unfortunately, you can’t baby proof the world.

Over fourth of July weekend, we took Olive on vacation to see her grandparents up in northern Maine. We had a fantastic time and Olive loves nothing more than seeing her Mimi and Grampy and running around their gardens and playing with her cousins. The second day we were there, though, Olive decided to put a little damper on the fun.

The nice thing about grandparents, especially ones that don’t get to see their granddaughter a lot, is that any time with Olive is time well spent. Change her diaper? Sure! Wake up early with her? No problem! Give her a bath? I’ll give her three!

The second morning there, Leanne and I were just waking up from a restful sleep at, gasp, 7:30 AM to hear the little pitter patter of Olive’s chubby feet running around the floor above us. Ahh, vacation. We get to sleep in and Mimi and Grampy can groggily entertain the early riser. Then we heard a horrible THUD and Olive crying. Uh-Oh. Leanne hopped out of bed like she heard a starting pistol and ran upstairs, probably covering five steps at a time.

Olive had been playing with her grandparents and apparently thought that a full-length mirror leaning against the bedroom wall was a door and decided to, well, close it. In an instant, before anyone could react, Olive pushed the mirror over, slamming it into the ground. I wasn’t there, but I can imagine the helplessness that my in-laws felt as they watched the mirror make its slow-motion journey to the floor.

Looking back, we are lucky. The end of the mirror landed on Mimi’s hand (she had been laying on the ground playing with Olive) and caused a nasty bruise and a lot of soreness, but no major damage. The other end of the mirror slid back and clipped Olive’s foot, opening nasty gash in her toe you can see below, but nothing else. No broken glass, no bonks on the head, no trips to the emergency room. But you never want your daughter’s foot to look like this:



We got Olive cleaned up. Well, Mimi, Grampy and I got Olive cleaned up as Leanne couldn’t look at her daughter’s bloody foot without almost fainting. I think the person who felt the worse, though, was my mother-in-law, who somehow felt she should have adopted the reflexes of a mongoose and speed of a jungle cat to pop up from her position on the floor and catch the mirror mid-fall. There was really nothing anyone could have done once Olive decided to push. We called the doctor to make sure we were doing everything right, and before we knew it we were laughing and Olive was walking around the house, bloody toe and all.

Two weeks later, Olive’s toe is healing well. She lost her toenail today (just in case you wanted a nasty mental picture to go with the actual one above) but she is really no worse for wear. Babies, I have learned, are accident magnets (and luckily, quick healers). They seek out the most dangerous item in a room and immediately see if they can a) knock it over, b) put it in their mouth, or c) stick their finger in it. Sometimes you can stop them before anything happens and sometimes you can’t. No matter how hard anyone tries, we will never baby proof the world.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Olive's Boy Toy

This past weekend I took Olive to a little public beach on a pond close to our house. On a Hot a humid day, a quick dip in the water seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, the hot and humid weather was also producing thunderstorms somewhere in the area and the lifeguards need to clear the water for a half hour every time they hear thunder. So due to a distant storm, instead of playing in the water, Olive played in the sand and in a sprinkler watering the grass of a playground next to the beach.

As little kids have a tendency to do, Olive attracted the attention of other kids and other parents. One mom decided to bring her little boy over to play in the sprinkler. We started chatting and the kids seemed to hit it off. So the mom decided to take the plunge and change her son into his swim diaper and have him cool off. So off comes the shirt. And then off come the shorts. And then off comes the diaper.

Olive froze.

Olive stared.

She turned and looked at me and you could tell she was thinking “Ummm, Dad. That little boy just dropped trow in front of me and, well, what’s all that junk down there?”

It was a little embarrassing to stand there talking to the mom while Olive stared at her son’s package, but I figured it was completely harmless, right. Plus, for the first time all afternoon, Olive was stunned into both silence and stillness.

So then on went the swim diaper and Olive broke out of her trance. She went up to go play with the boy. Except she didn’t want to play with the boy as much as I think she wanted to play with his boys. She went straight for the waistband of the diaper.

“No, honey,” I say, pulling her hand away as she tries to pull down his shorts. “You can’t just pull at his pants.”

Olive backs off. Then heads back in for another try. This time with both hands. Pulling at the waistband and obviously making an effort to peer down into the nether region. Olive’s curiosity was peeked and now she wanted to see where all that fun stuff went.

Eventually I was able to distract her with the sprinkler and all was good.

I just kept thinking to myself that all this stuff is cute now when she is 15-months-old. When she is 15-years-old…not so much. Ahh, the joys of having a daughter.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Screen Time

Since Leanne and I are dirty, crunchy, granola-eating, garden-growing, bike-riding, Patagonia-wearing, tea-drinking, Obama-voting, pinko hippies, we always thought that we would severely limit Olive’s TV watching. We would prance around as a na├»ve, childless couple going “TV is bad!” and “We’ll never just stick OUR child in front of the TV” and “I hope she never knows what a princess is!”

We would normally say these things while watching our fourth episode of The Hills or arguing whether or not we watch a recorded episode of Little People, Big World or America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Umm, do as we say, not as we do, honey.

When we had Olive we took one major step towards less TV by downgrading our cable from the regular 4,729 channels to about 50. Oh, and no more DVR. (On a side note, this seems to have punished ME more than anyone cause right now we get no ESPN, no NESN, no Food Network, no Discovery Channel. Therefore, no Sportscenter, no Red Sox, no food porn, and no Deadliest Catch or Cash Cab. But we somehow manage to get the Style Network, the WE Network, and some channel that constantly plays re-runs of What Not to Wear.) For the first year or so of Olive’s life it was pretty easy to keep her from TV. We usually fed her and then gave her bottles while watching the tube, but she was probably only in front of it for a total of about 30 minutes a day.

But things were simpler way back then six months ago. Before then, you could just set Olive down with some toys and she would be happy. No need for a TV cause she really didn’t show much interest in it. Plus, for almost the first full year of her life she was relatively immobile. If she wasn’t plopped in front of the TV, she wasn’t watching it.

Oh, the good old days. More and more I find myself flipping on the set as an emergency calm me down for a cranky Olive. More and more I find myself enjoying sitting on the couch with my arm around my daughter and watching Curious George. Before, we used to give her a morning bottle with Sesame Street on in the background and then get up and do something else after she was done. Now, Olive finishes her bottle and she re-positions herself onto the couch to keep watching. Hell, we even bought her a little easy chair and put it right next to the couch, facing the TV. The AAP recommends that kids under two years old watch NO television. That seems impossible if you have a television in the house.

I thinkt he trick is closely monitoring what and how much they watch, and the good news is we still limit pretty strictly what she watches. I’ve quickly figured out that the best shows really are on PBS. Sesame Street has changed a lot since we were kids, but, in my opinion, is still the best kids show on television. Though I cringe when I see Elmo on everything from juice boxes to crackers to toilets, I have kind of grown to like the little red guy. Curious George is a simple cartoon with a simple story. Peep and the Big Wide World is the same thing. They don’t need crazy animation or storylines that seemed like they were written while on an acid trip. Those are pretty much our standbys. We get four different PBS channels so chances are I can find one of those whenever I need it. (Of course, I think I watch these shows a little too much, cause things start to bother me. Things like: why doesn’t the Man in the Yellow Hat realize that leaving George alone is just a BAD idea? He KEEPS leaving him alone! It is clear your monkey needs supervision. It is only a matter of time before George rips someone’s face off.)

Olive still hasn’t really watched too much other TV. Sure, the news will be on in the morning, and Jeopardy is almost always on when she is getting ready for bed. We do get other kids channels, I think Nick Jr, but she really doesn’t watch. I can see the future, though. Olive watched her first movie a couple weeks ago when she was sick. She sat on the couch for over an hour and watched a cheap Elmo flick we took out from the library. She likes TV. WE like TV. As militant as we like to think we will be about “Screen time” the fact is that we are going to watch it and she is going to watch it. For better or worse, it will be our babysitter at times. Eventually she is going to discover the Disney channel and start watching whoever takes over for Miley Cyrus once Miley’s sex tape comes out. Then she’ll want to go to a Demi Lovato concert and a Justin Beiber poster. Then Olive is going to want all the Disney Princess videos and she is going to want to be Ariel for Halloween and before you know it I’m going to be dressing my four year old in a bra made out of shells.

Yes, it is a slippery slope this television, but I’ve never met a kid that doesn’t like to slide down slippery slopes.

So what you’re your views on kids and televison and screen time? Am I slowly poisoning Olive’s brain and sentencing her to a life of ADD and obesity. Or is TV and wonderful cure-all that gives us parents 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to actually make dinner or drink a bottle or two of wine? Choose!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy and Sad...

It has been a pretty steamy summer here in New England. We have had a few chances to bring Olive to the beach, pools, ponds, and in the backyard kiddie pool. It always takes her a while to warm up to the water, but if you stick it out, she usually loves it. Judging from these pictures though, I’m guessing she is more of a pool girl.