Us on Christmas morning
And there's a certain sense in which I feel I've passed through that stage of motherhood where you can't think of or do anything non-kid-related. (I expect this stage recurs with each new baby.) I find myself more and more wanting to branch out, try new things -- even completely non-baby-related things. And I'm happy about that. The kids are content, I don't feel I'm failing in my duty, and it's healthy for me to have lots of interests. I hope that's a comfort to anyone looking down the deep hole that is motherhood, wondering if they will EVER be able to do anything they like again. The answer is yes. It just takes time. How much time depends on you and on your kids, but it's not like you have to wait for them to be in college before you're allowed to write poetry, plant a garden, participate in politics, or read Greek. You can fit that stuff in, provided you can be realistic about how much you will accomplish on the side of your real job.
Anyway. The kids.
Marko is two years ten months, Michael ten months. Their birthdays are coming up in April!
Marko is such a joy. I love two, love love love it. Every day our conversations get more and more like conversations and less a simple matter of communicating needs. A year ago, he could say "You want blue shirt." Now he can say, "What is that man doing, Mama? Maybe he's working." Or, "That's a triceratops. I can tell because he has three horns." Or, "Is Daddy coming home at dinnertime today?" He can tell me a story he remembers from a book, and include all the important details. And yes, he is almost always using pronouns correctly! He's gone from parroting the things we say to actually communicating his own thoughts.
Is it just me or does he look like a rock star?
He does parrot a bit when he's trying to learn something new. I've found he has an easier time in social situations if I give him the words to say: "You can wave at that man and say hello if you want to." I used to think prompting kids to say the polite thing was pushy, but for Marko, it's something that makes him a lot more comfortable, so that he's not put on the spot wondering what to say. Teaching him to shake hands was also really helpful for overcoming shyness when meeting new people. I never force him to do it, but we practiced it at home and now I suggest that he might like to shake someone's hand. He's always eager to do it (though he uses his wrong hand half the time).
Being polite to him has paid off in him being very polite himself. For instance, today he cleaned up a pile of rags that he had dumped out. I said, "Thank you for cleaning up those rags, Marko!" Not ten minutes later he came into the kitchen where I was finishing up sweeping and said, "Thank you for sweeping up all those crumbs, Mama!" It might seem like a small thing, but I had tears in my eyes. I've been sweeping up his crumbs for almost three years now, and it never occurred to me he would one day start thanking me.
At home he is always busy, always full of life and energy and ideas. Outside the home, as always, he becomes a lot quieter. I think he is too busy taking things in to do much. For awhile he had a very anxious phase that worried me a little. He would cry if strangers talked to him, and at home he would keep obsessing over strange fears. He kept repeating "You don't want Mama to fall off the toilet" -- my guess is this is something he dreamed, because it never happened and no one ever said anything to that effect -- for WEEKS. He was so incredibly literal that he would freak out at every idiom we used. I happened to say in his presence one evening, "I would fall apart if someone said that," and for the rest of the night he kept bursting into tears, saying he didn't WANT Mama to fall apart. Words like "kill," "hit," "fall," "break," or "die," no matter how casually said in his presence, made him cry. Bad things couldn't happen in books ... I learned to skip the page in Hop on Pop that says "Dad is sad. He had a bad day" because he would howl so frantically he couldn't breathe.
This phase worried me a lot -- to say nothing of how much work it was trying to explain to him that "diet" doesn't have anything to do with dying and that no actual looking glasses were harmed in "Hush Little Baby." It started around when we went to visit family for Christmas, so maybe the stress of the trip was coming out in that way. In any event, it's mostly passed, though he's still kind of particular and I do still skip the scary parts of The Best Nest.
Have I mentioned that he is completely potty-trained now? I think I haven't because I didn't want to jinx it. But yes, since Christmas he hasn't worn diapers except at night. Sadly, he is still too short to use the big toilet by himself, so I do still have to go in with him and help him out. But it sure beats changing diapers. He isn't quite perfect. If he's really absorbed in playing he sometimes gets caught short. That's when he gives me an alarmed look and says, "I need to go potty!" while hobbling in that direction in wet pants. Ah well.
He sleeps through the night more often than not. I wish it were always. Generally he sleeps through the night UNLESS he's worried about something or the day was super stressful or it's too cold at night or I forget to put his nighttime lotion on him. (More on this lotion in another post; it is MAGIC I tell you.) He finally does go to sleep in his own bed. We just have to stay in there until he's asleep, or else he follows us out of the room. I don't mind spending ten minutes listening to him yawn and drift off, so it's not a big deal.
He is remarkably well-behaved for a kid who isn't spanked... well-behaved enough to put the lie to the idea that spanking is necessary, I think. I think a lot of it is his personality, though; he's very eager to please and very upset if we are unhappy with him, so punishing doesn't even seem necessary most of the time. It's funny, because originally we stopped punishing because it did no good, and now it is not needed at all. However, there are some things he just can't or won't do: be quiet in the car, be quiet while Michael is napping, and NOT touch everything in sight. If he's specifically told "don't touch that," it's one thing, but if he's let loose in a random room, he'll touch everything. He's getting very interested in helping do grown-up things like cooking and cutting. (I give him a butter knife and some bread or cheese and let him have at it -- though I have to repeat almost daily that no, he is still not old enough to touch Mama's sharp knives.)
He loves Michael. Sometimes you wouldn't know it, because he freaks out if Michael touches something he was playing with or grabs at his food. I've had to teach him to say "Please come get Michael" instead of just shoving. He does okay at this, but there is still some pushing sometimes. Considering Michael tries to climb up his pants, grab his toys, break his buildings, and bite his face, I can hardly blame Marko for getting a bit frustrated. So I sometimes try to separate them, or encourage Marko to be quiet with the notion that maybe we will get Michael down for a nap and have some special time just for us -- but that always backfires because Marko doesn't want to spend a minute of his life without Michael. Sure, he wants the lap all to himself, but Michael should at least be in the room. I console him with "special reading time" during naps, but it's exhausting trying to keep him entertained during naps. It's only when the nap is over and they get back to playing together that I can get anything done.
To those who wonder "how I do it all" -- it's amazing how much time opens up when you redefine "clean"
Michael is growing so fast. No sooner does he master one milestone than he's on to the next. He can walk now, though he still crawls for actual locomotion. Walking is for fun, not to get anywhere in a hurry. He just teeters around like a drunk. He never falls, because long before he took his first step, he learned to lower himself carefully to the ground and to stand up again. That's quite different from Marko, who had to climb the couch to get to a stand and could only get down by face-planting. Michael is also the earlier walker, at about nine and a half months rather than eleven. I think the lack of diapers has made moving around easier for him.
He likes to eat -- like Marko, he likes meat best. I've introduced pretty much every food but gluten. He'll happily eat sardines or cranberries or smoked oysters; he's a pretty adventurous eater. But since he still spits up a LOT, I tend to avoid giving him sardines anymore. I still haven't gotten the smell out of my favorite sweater.
He is FINALLY beginning to take real, hour-plus naps. I think the secret is burps. He's always been pretty impossible to burp, and since I have an oversupply he's always pretty gassy. I think that he sleeps for half an hour or so, and then the burp wakes him up. So the trick for naps is to nurse him, have him NOT fall asleep (Marko is great for this), and then, once he's been playing for a bit longer and had a chance to work out those burps, nurse him again on the same side so he doesn't take in enough to get gassy. If he gets one really good hour-and-a-half or two-hour nap, he doesn't need another one. If Marko wakes him up halfway through ... you get a day like today, where he's tired and crabby and decides to take a second nap at four or five p.m. Not fun.
He uses the potty pretty well. I have started just keeping him in pants with no diaper underneath. He does have accidents, but keeping pants on him helps him remember that he doesn't want to go on himself and get wet. We were doing really well a week or two ago, when he was going about every hour and rarely missing, but then we took a trip last weekend and he seems to have forgotten all about it. Maybe in a few days we'll be back on track.
This was where we were on our trip. All of John's family in one place for the first time since our wedding!
I love watching them play together. Of course they're twice the trouble. Together, they get into trouble neither of them could do on their own. For instance, Marko can open the toothpaste, but knows not to eat it. Michael can't open it, but would love to eat it if given the chance. Once I found them in the bathroom closet, Marko cheerily feeding Michael a container of cocoa butter. Marko often leaves the toilet open after going potty, and Michael loves to splash.
Michael had it first
But as long as they're together, neither of them is ever bored. My role has switched from entertainer to referee, and I like it. In the morning when Michael wakes up before Marko, or in the afternoon when Michael's napping, I realize how much more work one child is than two. All the demands! All the clinginess! All the need for you to be everything for them! (Of course it was different when Marko was used to being an only child.) But together, they're content.
I can't believe they're about to be one and three. Time flies when you're having fun, and my boys and I are having SO. MUCH. FUN.