Monday, June 15, 2015

Gimme A Break!

        School is out and Kiley and Mackey are gone for the summer. I miss them already. It's sort of like the same feeling I had when my kids went off to college. Between now and when school starts back up I will take them for one day a week just to soothe my aching heart. Even so, I can't tell you how incredible it feels to be without responsibilities for the whole summer. That part is great! I feel like I did when I was a kid and school had just let out for the year. In fact I feel so free and summer lazy that I think I am going to take full advantage of the situation and throttle back on the blog writing until the girls come back to me at the end of the summer. I have written a little essay on babysitting every week for the past sixty-seven weeks and, sometimes, it was a chore to come up with a subject. Trying to come up with something to write about now when my charges aren't here to provide me with inspiration is difficult to say the least. Maybe I'll work on my novel – psych! I may throw in an offering or two if the girls do something noteworthy on the one day a week that I have them, which I am sure is more than probable. Otherwise, see you in September.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Big Girl Too

        Like I said last post, Kiley is a "big girl", as she is so fond of reminding me. That "big girl" status has become very important to her and is a big part of her self-image. Mackey, on the other hand, is a little girl. If you doubt that just ask Kiley. But what is the difference between a "big girl" and a little girl? What makes a girl "big" as opposed to little? Well, I guess those questions can be answered by comparing Kiley, a bonafide and self-proclaimed "big girl", and Mackey, a little girl.

Kiley is a year and a half older than Mackey, so of course she has greater abilities. She has greater physical and mental abilities, greater verbal skills and emotional control. She is potty trained, which earns her the honor of wearing "big girl pants". She sleeps in a "big girl bed". When we go to the grocery store Kiley will often walk the aisles rather than ride in the cart. To cut it short, Kiley does a myriad number of things that set her apart from little girls and that she believes earns her the coveted status of "big girl" that she is so proud of.

Mackey, being a year and a half younger, is much less accomplished. Her physical and mental abilities lag far behind her sister's. Her verbal skills are rudimentary though increasing rapidly and I must say that her talking abilities are quite advanced for a twenty-two-month-old and, in fact, are noticeably greater than Kiley's were at that age. She is not potty trained as yet though she gives it a try now and then. She sleeps in a crib. In the grocery store Mackey rides in the cart (this is a must if we are to finish shopping in any reasonable amount of time). Her emotional control is practically nonexistent; she cries at the drop of a hat and flies off the handle at the slightest provocation, often merely for affect. In the final analysis, however, none of these abilities, or lack there of, a "big girl" make. Being a "big girl" is not defined by a set of accomplishments or skills. It is not a certain stage of development. Being a "big girl" is merely a state of mind, one that Kiley has adopted and Mackey, as yet, has not.

Exhibit A in the Big girl/little girl debate: Notice the ice cream eating styles of a big girl vs. a little girl. The big girl confidently eats her cone with a little mess, while the little girl worries for the safety of her cone and has ice cream up her nose...

You see, maturity, "big girlhood", is a relative thing that is constantly expanding in each individual. It is not a goal to be obtained or an aspiration to be achieved. This fact is a secret that we adults keep from little girls. In fact we teach them the exact opposite. We create in their minds the alluring concept of the "big girl". A state of being that is profoundly to be desired. We then use the longing we have created for this mythical state, to both elicit desired behavior in little girls, and to coax them into striving toward desired milestones of development. "'Big girls' don't wear diapers." "'Big girls' don't use binkys." "'Big girls' don't cry when they don't get their way." Deceitful though it may be, using the mythical concept of the "big girl" is a convenient and very effective tool in shepherding our little girls toward greater self-reliance.

Kiley has embraced this fabricated concept and is, therefore, a "big girl". Mackey has not. In fact, at this point, Mackey is not yet aware of the wondrous possibility of becoming a "big girl". That marvelous prospect has not yet even entered her mind. Mackey, therefore, dwells blissfully in a condition of sublime ignorance, happily inhabiting the carefree and breezy world of the little girl. For becoming a "big girl" is not easy. That process, based on a myth though it may be, is a stressful one filled with difficult transitions and seemingly insurmountable expectations. ("I have to do what?!") But eventually Mackey too will be introduced to the concept of the "big girl", and rather soon I'm afraid. She already aspires to be like her big sister so the transition to full "big girlhood" should be relatively easy. Just a few subtle suggestions planted in her pliant mind will ignite in her the innate human desire to be greater than what we are, and compel her to strive to be abler, better, "bigger". The first order of business will be to convince her to stay on the potty until she is completely done. Hopping off in mid pee-pee and spraying my newly mopped floors as she runs down the hallway is unacceptable behavior. "Big girls" don't do that.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

The no post post.

        I am sorry to say I had no time to write a post this week. My youngest daughter's wedding was this weekend and it was such a hectic week that I had no time for anything but Kiley, Mackey, and wedding preparations. The wedding was great! I drank too much, danced too much and everyone had a great time. See you next week.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Big Girl

These are the kind of fashion decisions 'Big' little girls are apt to make...

        Kiley is a “big girl”, as she reminds me at least a thousand times a day. She wears big girl pants (not diapers), sleeps in a big girl bed, and rides a big girl bike. She even uses the big girl potty (not the potty-chair), though I must admit she is barely big enough to accomplish this and is perched quite precariously on the edge of the seat when she does. (There have even been a couple of incidents where she slipped off of the big girl potty in mid-process, resulting in an unpleasant situation, and recriminations from me about her being more careful and from her about me being more watchful. One of the many hazards of being a big girl I’m afraid.)  Because she is a big girl, she can’t understand why she is not allowed to do certain other things that big girls do. Things like ride in the front seat of the car, use a metal knife and fork, or go out front by herself. At three years old, this longing to do what she is not yet mature enough to do will be a perpetual condition that she will struggle with for at least the next eighteen years and even beyond. “Stop treating me like a child” is the universal demand of all those who are still children.

Being a big girl is like being married; it’s not a destination it’s a journey. Big girlhood is a relative condition that slowly evolves over many years and even decades. That is hard for a three year old, sixteen year old, and sometimes even a sixty year old to understand. So I suppose it can be quite frustrating for the big girl in question when she has achieved big girl standing and yet does not fully partake in big girl privileges. This can be exhibited by minor or major divergences between big girl status and big girl abilities.

For a three-year-old, the minor divergences between desires and abilities are legion and are the kind that makes a caregiver give pause and contemplate whether the big girl in question is ready for that particular step. (Managing a big girl, of any age, is an art. It’s kind of like fishing. If you give them too much slack they spit the hook out and are gone from you. If you don’t give them enough slack they break the line and are gone from you.) Sometimes, however, what your big girl believes is within her power and abilities is so far out of the realm of possibility that it’s ludicrous, (like the sixteen-year-old who thinks she should be able to go to Cancun with her friends for spring break.)

Just the other day we were out on the deck when I suggested that it was lunchtime. Mackey, my “little girl”, immediately chimed in with: “Nuggets and fries!” Inspired by this suggestion, Kiley added, “Yeah, let’s go to McDonald’s!”  I was in a good mood and both girls had been angelic all day, so I acquiesced to their demands and we all piled into the car. On our way to McDonald’s the “big girl” in the back proposed: “Just drop me off at Friendly’s. I’m going to get some ice cream.” This from someone who is firmly strapped into a car seat, by the way. I briefly entertained the idea of dropping a three-year-old off at Friendly’s with a five-dollar bill in her hand but decided that was probably not in her best interest. “No, we’re going to McDonlad's”, I replied. This instigated a discussion reminiscent of many debates I’ve had in the course of raising three teenage girls and ended in similar fashion: with me laying down the law and her feeling that she was the victim of unjust oppression.

Such is the condition of the “big girl”. It has always been thus and always will be. We, none of us, are ever as big as we think we are. From the toddler learning to walk, to the teenager learning to drive, to the mother of grown children learning to “let go”, one hallmark of maturity reached only leads to another milestone yet to be conquered. That is only as it should be. For in the final analysis, Kiley becoming a “big girl” is nothing more than her growing beyond what she already is. And if any of us stop doing that then it’s time to pack it in.


Monday, May 18, 2015

The Outback

        Spring is finally here and it’s about time. It was another long and brutal winter where I live. April was disappointingly cold and it seemed like fair weather would never come back. But it has. I have been absolutely pining for spring. Not just for myself but also for the girls who have generally been cooped up in the house for the cold months and desperately needed a change of routine and scenery.Now, with the weather warm and sunny, we can all spend time in the fresh air. These past couple of weeks, having been blessed with especially pleasant weather (sunny, with temperatures in the seventies and sometimes eighties), we have spent the majority of our days outside enjoying it. And when I say “outside” I mean that sublime suburban oasis, that Eden of middle class life, that perfect combination of nature and artifice known the nation over as “the backyard”. “Come on girls. Let’s go out back.”

The girls cannot get enough of “out back”. They want to spend all day every day out there in the sun. The minute they walk into the house they want to know when we are going out back. This being May, the mornings are still a little damp and chilly so I have to fend off their desire for out back until mid-morning when the dew is mostly gone from the grass and the air has lost its crispness. Then I can finally acquiesce to their demands, open the backdoor (they always insist on helping with the back door), and usher them into paradise.

Our backyard is a typical suburban retreat. Most of our modest, quarter acre, lot is in the back surrounded by a six foot privacy fence. There is a deck that my husband built when we first moved in twenty-five years ago. It runs the length of the house and is adorned with a pergola at one end, the grill, and the usual deck furniture. There is a paved walkway that leads from the deck to a patio in the south side of the yard, under a maple tree. My husband and I built the patio and walkway several years ago and my muscles still ache (stone work is hard). Past the patio, in the south corner of the yard, is the “Secret Garden” that we made for the girls last year. The “Secret Garden” is entered through a little gate in a vine-covered arbor that we hope will be covered with blooms this summer. Inside there are a multitude of flowers (Mackey would pick them all if you let her), garden sculptures, and a little bench just big enough for the two of them. The rest of the yard is grass and flowers and bushes and trees.

Out we go into this quiet retreat and the girls head right for the swings. There are two swings hanging from the pergola, one for each girl. Up until last week there was only one swing but that had become such an object of dispute between the girls that a second swing became a necessity. Both girls love to swing, but especially Mackey. She is a swing addict, and will swing, literally, for hours. That, of course, requires me to push her on the swing for said hours, since her less than two year old legs have not yet acquired the ability to pump. I push and she swings, back and forth, and gradually enters into what seems to be a transcendental state, her eyes glazing over and her body becoming so relaxed that she’ll sometimes fall asleep to the soft rush of air and rhythmic squeak of the swing.

Kiley likes to swing too but it holds her attention for a shorter amount of time than it does for Mackey, then she’s off to some other endeavor. Kiley is a true summer girl. She wants to feel the wind on her face and the grass between her toes, and she roams the backyard like a woodland sprite, her feet bare and her long, curly hair wild and unbrushed. She moves from one activity to another – swinging, hitting the T-Ball, kicking the kick ball around the yard, watching the ants on the patio, riding the big wheel on the deck, blowing bubbles, or relaxing in the secret garden. When Uncle Tom comes out she always wants him to help her climb the maple tree by the patio (when Mackey sees this she wants a turn too.) Uncle Tom had recently made the mistake of climbing into the maple tree himself to show off for the girls. They had been so impressed that climbing the Maple tree became one of their most desired diversions. They also like to watch Uncle Tom cut the grass, or split wood, or rake leaves. Anything Uncle Tom does seems heroic to them.

There are several types of wildlife that frequent the backyard. There are the birds, of course, which we feed, and the squirrels, which we also feed and who have become so accustomed to us that they are willing to share the back yard with us, as long as we don’t get too close. There are rabbits that live under the deck and a ground hog who lives in the yard next door and makes an occasional appearance through a hole he has dug under the fence. One day last week we were treated to the spectacle of a small flock of sparrows noisily ganging up on a large hawk that had invaded their territory. Butterflies abound (Kiley is afraid of them for some reason, in fact, she doesn’t like bugs in general.) There are also a number of carpenter bees which have bored a nest into the deck. They are big, the same size as bumble bees, and are strange creatures that hover buzzingly in front of your face, but appear to be merely curious rather than aggressive. They seem willing to share the deck with us without any real friction. Google says the males have no stingers but the females do, though they rarely use them and must be extremely provoked before they’ll sting. Uncle Tom is fond of the carpenter bees (he admires their curiosity and willingness to live in harmony with humans) but the girls don’t trust them and “raise the alarm” whenever they spot one. I, myself, am not fond of any bee that big, friendly or not, and since they upset the girls (and are probably doing irreparable damage to our deck and possibly house) I have begun a campaign of systematic extermination (don’t tell Uncle Tom.)

For now the back yard is a pleasant place to relax and play but, like all things, it will eventually become ho-hum to the girls who constantly need new kinds of stimulation to keep them interested. Of course, by then it will be time to break out the baby pool, sprinkler, squirt guns, and water balloons.  Summer!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Just A Wee Nibble!

        All creatures, both great and small, have natural defensive mechanisms by which they fend off aggression and prolong their survival. The skunk has its spray, the porcupine its quills, and the turtle its shell. For many creatures this entails, not a specialized body part, but, rather, an instinctive behavior. Fish school together, ground hogs burrow, cats arch their backs to make themselves look larger and more threatening. Sometimes these same defensive mechanisms are used for offensive purposes; instead of fending off aggression they are used to commit aggression. This type of behavior might entail scratching, or kicking, or stinging, depending on the particular creature in question. Apparently, when that creature is a small child, say twenty-one months old or so, with blond curly hair, chubby cheeks, and a rowdy attitude, the mechanism most natural and instinctive for both defensive and offensive purposes is that most primal of actions, that oldest, fiercest and most bestial of aggressions. That's right, you guessed it. Mackey bites.

         I first became aware of this development a couple of weeks back. Actually, at the time, it was more of a suspicion than anything else. Mackey and I were playing around and she was climbing up into my lap when her mouth came in contact with my bare knee (I was wearing shorts at the time). When this happened she paused for a moment and I felt a small bite, actually more like a small amount of pressure from her teeth, on my knee. I stopped her and gave her the standard warning about "no biting". Then we went on about our day and I didn't think anything more about it.

          Then a week ago Sunday, Uncle Tom and I dropped in at their house to pay a visit. Kiley and Mackey have recently moved into a new house that they are very proud of, and they had been eager to show Uncle Tom their new domicile, especially their new bedroom, where Kiley's "big girl bed" and Mackey's crib are quaintly situated with their names artistically rendered on the wall above each. During the grand tour their mother pointed out a small red mark on Kiley's face. It appears that during a recent altercation, Mackey bit Kiley on the cheek. Uh oh! This served as confirmation of what I had previously only suspected. Twice can't really be called a pattern, but it was pointing in that direction.

         Then this past week, Kiley and Mackey were watching the squirrels through the kitchen window and, as is their nature, were pushing and jostling for the most advantageous position, when Mackey, in frustration, grabbed Kiley and attempted to bite her on the arm. I stopped her by yelling and again warned her about biting. (Kiley overreacted and went into hysterics about how Mackey had bitten her when she actually had merely attempted to bite her. This was understandable, however, in view of the fact that she had recently been bitten on the face and was probably a little "bite shy"). I calmed them both down and gave Mackey a harsh reprimand that she took grudgingly. Then later in the week, while I was in the house and the girls were out back with Uncle Tom, an altercation over the use of the swings arose and, in the tussle, Mackey once again attempted to bite Kiley on the cheek.

        There can now be no doubt that Mackey has an inclination to use her teeth for both offensive and defensive purposes, which is somewhat alarming. When it comes to babies, a propensity to bite, once established, is hard to break. That's because biting, for those wee ones who indulge in it, is really an instinctive behavior that doesn't seem to have any real thought behind it. It's more of a reflexive action than a deliberate strategy so it doesn't lend itself to reason, or logic, (not that twenty-one-month-olds are all that responsive to reason or logic to begin with). On top of this, the teeth are very powerful weapons for those who are willing to use them. A good bite is a painful thing that can turn the tide of battle even when one's opponent is bigger and stronger as is the case with Kiley and Mackey. It can be hard to convince the otherwise defenseless to forgo their one effective weapon when doing so dooms them to perpetual defeat, especially in the thick of the fight when tempers are high and desperation sets in.

        I have faced this problem before. My youngest daughter, Sarah, was a biter. (Her favorite target was the soft spot on the shoulder right below the neck.) So maybe biting runs in our family. There might be a "biting gene" floating around out there that, though recessive, expresses itself every generation or so. So what do you do with a biter? In the past the rule of thumb was that biting could be cured by simply giving the offender a taste of her own medicine. In other words, by biting the biter. I was certainly given that advice a generation ago and even tried it once, but I found it to be an unsatisfactory means of curbing behavior. It is hard, for the unpracticed, to gauge the proper biting pressure to administer. With a bite there is no such thing as a little too much. Too much is always way too much. Besides, I immediately found the psychological effects of biting my little girl to be far greater on me than they apparently were on her. Once was too much.

        Like Mackey, Sarah also has a sister who was older, bigger, and stronger than she was when they were little. So maybe the biting habit isn't genetically hard wired into the offenders after all. Maybe it is merely the weapon of last resort employed by the weak when faced with otherwise unbeatable foes. Kiley and Mackey adore each other but, as sisters, they inevitably come into conflict with one another. Kiley has always had the upper hand in those conflicts until Mackey began using her teeth to level the playing field. The only way to stop that empowering behavior is to be watchful and vigilant, and discourage it whenever it occurs. She will eventually grow out of it.

        In the long run it is in Mackey's best interest that she stops using her teeth as a weapon. Not only because it's not a civilized thing to do but also because what goes around often comes around, and if Kiley ever decides to bite back she will undoubtedly, as the older sister, be far better at it than poor Mackey. Besides, dogs bite, sharks bite, even mosquitoes bite, but little girls don't bite, at least not each other. "People aren't food, don't bite!"


Monday, May 4, 2015


       "Careful!" "Be careful!" "Careful, now!" I don't know how many times I say one of these phrases in a day but it must be somewhere around two to three thousand. At present, I have the worst of both worlds. I have an almost-two-year-old and a three-year-old to look after, both of which are of a prime age for hurting themselves in a myriad number of ways. "Careful", "be careful", and "careful now", along with their more specific companions, "slow down" and "watch your fingers", are such frequent utterances in my house that I've seriously contemplated recording them and playing them over a loud speaker on a continuous loop throughout the day as a constant reminder of caution to those who are, by nature, cautionless. This would probably work rather well since there is never more than a minute or two throughout the day when at least one of these warnings, if not several, are appropriate. At the very least it would save the strain on my vocal chords.

        My-almost-two-year-old (Mackey) can get around pretty good. As an almost-two-year-old she is walking, running, climbing on things, and generally doing whatever a real person can do as far as locomotion is concerned, but in an unskilled, uncoordinated, clumsy, falling down a thousand times a day sort of way. She slips on the kitchen tiles. She takes turns too quickly and falls.  She trips over things. She runs into things head on. She misjudges distances and heights. She careens around the house like a drunken uncle and generally falls off of, out of, into, onto, and over everything you can possibly imagine including, in fact especially, her own two feet. Trying to prevent Mackey from falling down and hurting herself takes up approximately 45% of my day. "Careful!"

        My three-year-old (Kiley) is generally past the overly clumsy stage. As she so often reminds me, she is now a "big girl". As a "big girl" she now has a "big girl's" abilities and coordination. She is steady on her feet, nimble and agile, and though she is not immune to slipping and tripping, she is far less likely to do so than Mackey. Added to this, she also has a "big girl's" reflexes.  Mackey trips and falls right on her face, whereas Kiley instinctively puts out her hands to catch herself and, thereby, prevent injury.  Unfortunately, as a "big girl" she has the one great vulnerability of all "big girls" - overconfidence.

       Ability without experience can be a recipe for disaster. Having the ability to jump, for instance, is not the same as knowing when to jump. Not all jumps are equal, and having experienced landing from a one-foot jump does not prepare you for landing from a two-foot jump. Similarly, running on grass is relatively hazard free for a three-year-old, but running on concrete is another story. Kiley will gain the experience and the accompanying restraint she lacks in these regards, as we all do, with some pain. It is to be hoped that it will be the pain of skinned hands and knees and not the pain of chipped teeth and stitched lips. "Be careful!"

        As you can see, both girls have their own individual shortcomings, their own "style", when it comes to a propensity for potential injury. That's bad enough.  But when you put the two together, that potential, and the resulting strain on my poor nerves, is magnified exponentially. It's like the Richter Scale. An earthquake with a Magnitude of 5.0 is not just a little stronger than one with a magnitude of 4.0. It is ten times stronger. A 4.1 is twice as strong as a 4.0. So too, the injury potential, as measured on the Nanny Scale, of a "Mackey Accident" is only one tenth the potential of a "Kiley/Mackey Accident". We could delve into the science behind this phenomenon but I don't want you to get lost in the math. Suffice it to say, when you combine Mackey's lack of coordination with Kiley's lack of restraint, the resulting mayhem can go off the Nanny Scale chart. Mackey running is hazardous on it's own, but Mackey running with Kiley running behind her is a sure fire recipe for at least a Mackey booboo and quite possibly a Kiley booboo as well. Having a three-year-old and an almost-two-year-old in the house, running and jumping and careening about, is like living on the San Andreas Fault. You have to constantly worry about what's going on in the "subduction zone".

       All of this, of course, will run its course in due course. They won't be small and accident-prone forever. In fact, they won't be small for long. Isn't that what we always say? That "they grow so fast"? Time will turn things around the way it always does and, eventually, our roles will be reversed. They will grow up and I will grow old, and then it will be they who are worried about "poor old Nan" hurting herself again with her brittle old bones. The old are like the young in one respect. They are often clumsy and don't know their limits. Having experienced landing from a two-foot jump at fifty does not prepare you for landing from a two-foot jump at eighty. I can hear their worried voices now. "Slow down, Nan". "Watch your hip!" I probably won't listen any more than they do, thinking that they worry too much.  What is true at three is true at ninety-three: we all have to learn by experience and hope that the lessons aren't too painful. Careful, now!


Monday, April 27, 2015


        Our day has begun in the usual way. Their mother has dropped off Kiley and Mackey at 6am sharp. The battle over which I will carry from their mother's car first is over (Kiley won because it is her turn despite what Mackey claims) and both royal princesses are safely entrenched in my comfortable kitchen. Kiley is very pleased with herself for having been carried into the house first, and Mackey is slightly sulky for having lost that battle, one small tear still clinging to the corner of her eye. The day has begun, the first battle is over, and it is now breakfast time.

        Mackey loves breakfast time. Mackey loves to eat. Kiley hates breakfast and, generally speaking, doesn't like to eat. She will chow down when she is hungry but doesn't seem to get hungry very often. She can go a long way on a little bit and only needs to refuel once in a great while. Most kids are hungry in the morning, but not Kiley. Getting her to eat a decent meal in the morning is an everyday battle. A battle I sometimes win and sometimes lose.

        The battle begins when I ask Mackey what she wants to eat. Then, because she is only nineteen months old, I have to offer suggestions, and regardless of what I suggest, she agrees to it. "Do you want some cereal, Mackey?" I ask. "Yeah!" comes the reply as she tries to climb into one of the kitchen chairs. I snatch her up and strap her into her booster seat, which she doesn't like but will tolerate with a minimum of fuss if food is being offered. I plop a bowl of cereal in front of her and hand her a plastic spoon. She goes to town.

        "Do you want some cereal?" I ask Kiley. "No!" she says. "I want cinnamon rolls." (She always wants cinnamon rolls, which is a treat I sometimes allow them at breakfast. She likes to make them too and surprise Uncle Tom with them when he comes down stairs. She is proud of her cinnamon roll making abilities.) I inform her that we are not having cinnamon rolls today and, after some heated discussion, I plop a bowl of cereal down in front of her. She pointedly doesn't look at it and I pointedly don't draw attention to it, but just carry on with our normal morning conversation. After a while she becomes distracted by what we are talking about, forgets that we are engaged in a battle of wills, and absently puts a spoonful of cereal into her mouth. Around this time Mackey has emptied her bowl and is picking bits of cereal off of her cheeks and chin and consuming them.

Here's Kiley showing off her baking skills at her Mother's house.

        I ask Mackey, "Do you want some toast?" "Yeah!" she replies. "How about you, Kiley?" "No" comes the answer. I make four pieces of toast, put two down in front of Mackey and two down in front of Kiley. Mackey begins devouring her toast and Kiley, if I'm lucky, nibbles on another spoonful of cereal.

        While all of this is going on, Mister Pickles is standing at the top of the stairs and whining. Despite repeated pleas from the girls to bring him downstairs (they love everything about Mister Pickles) I leave him where he is. Mister Pickles loves breakfast time, especially when the girls are here, because the pickings are plentiful when they are around. Kiley loves to feed Mister Pickles and will give him her entire breakfast if allowed to do so, and as far as Mackey is concerned feeding Mister Pickles is almost as much fun as feeding herself. For this reason Mister Pickles, who is far too cowardly to attempt anything as terrifying as navigating the stairs by himself and must be carried down, remains at the top of the stairs crying until after breakfast.

         Mackey has finished her toast but Kiley has only eaten a small amount of cereal and taken a single bite of toast. I can see where this is going so I pull out the big guns. "Does anyone want a sausage biscuit" I ask. They both reply in the affirmative. Both of the girls love sausage biscuits which are little bite sized sausage patties between two halves of a little biscuit. They are tiny, microwaveable, breakfast sandwiches. I heat a couple up and give one to each girl. They both remove the sausages from the biscuits and begin eating the sausages, sans biscuits. Mackey will often eat the biscuit as well but separately from the sausage. Kiley will not eat the biscuit. Usually, Mister Pickles ends up getting all of Kiley's biscuit and at least some of Mackey's. Strangely enough, even though they are not all that fond of the biscuit part of the sausage biscuits, they will not accept a sausage by itself. They want sausage biscuits not sausages despite the fact that they usually discard the biscuits themselves.

        While they are eating their so-called sausage biscuits, I put some blueberries into a bowl and give it to them to share. They both love blueberries and scarf them down in no time at all. Sometimes I will give them little blueberry muffins, which are bite-sized, ready to eat breakfast treats, which they also love. Occasionally, Uncle Tom will bake real blueberry muffins for their breakfast and his. They are not as wild about that kind, but they enjoy the baking process.

        So at this point breakfast is just about over. Mackey has eaten a bowl of cereal, two pieces of toast, a sausage biscuit (sometimes two), and some blueberries. Kiley has eaten a couple of spoonfuls of cereal, a couple of bites of toast, a sausage biscuit, and some blueberries. They both retire to the family room with a sippy cup of milk.

        Lunch is basically the same story. Kiley doesn't like lunch any more than she does breakfast unless it is something she loves, like pizza. Dinner I am not involved in. Kiley seems to eat for pleasure but not to satisfy hunger. She will eat the few things she likes but if there is nothing she likes available, she won't eat at all and never complain about being hungry. So I try to keep the nutritious things she likes available. She likes fruit, especially blueberries, strawberries, and grapes. Bananas are merely okay as far as she is concerned, oranges too, but apples not so much. (Uncle Tom gave them both a taste of grapefruit once. They were repelled by the bitterness. Mackey's reaction was so strong she almost fell out of her chair). Kiley likes spaghetti, pizza, and stromboli. She likes colorful things. For instance, she won't eat Rice Crispies but if you sprinkle a few colorful pieces of Fruity Pebbles on top to make it festive, she will. She loves milk and drinks it all day long (Mackey too). Her favorite thing is mint chocolate ice cream. She's wild about it. In fact, she likes anything that tastes like mint.

        You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. So too, you can sit a child down at the table but you can't make her eat, at least not without breaking her spirit. Children will eat as much as they need as long as you make food available to them. Mackey is a good eater and Kiley is not, but when Kiley was Mackey's age she was a good eater too. Somewhere around two years old, Kiley's eating habits changed. Kids go through these kinds of stages. Lately, Kiley has been more interested in eating (I think she is beginning a growth spurt), while Mackey is beginning to get a little finicky about food. Perhaps a year from now their eating roles will be reversed. If that is the case breakfast will be probably a little easier for me to manage. Kiley is much more stubborn than her sister.


Monday, April 20, 2015


        Thank God I’m not alone in this babysitting thing. It’s true that most of the time I am actually on my own and have to fly solo with my two little passengers, but a good deal of the time my husband is home when the girls are here. That is because he works shift work and is often at home during the day. That’s good. Having him around has advantages and disadvantages but, on the whole, it’s great to have a little help now and then. Not that he is really all that much help when it comes right down to it. There are a lot of baby associated things that he just won’t do. He won't change diapers, give them a bath, pick the crust off a nose, or help Kiley use the potty, anything remotely gross is beyond his purview. So what good is he, you ask? Well, every now and then, when the stars are right, he keeps them occupied just long enough for me to get a break. And that alone is worth his weight in gold.

         In spite of his utility as a babysitter’s helper, or lack thereof, both of the girls absolutely adore Uncle Tom. They don’t call him “Uncle Tom”, actually. I call him Uncle Tom when I am speaking to them about him, but they don’t. They just call him Tom, or “Pom” to be precise. Kiley started calling him “Pom” because she couldn’t pronounce “T’s” when she was learning to talk and it just sort of stuck. She still calls him “Pom” even though she is now capable of pronouncing the “T” sound and will occasionally call him “Tom”, though not often. Mackey calls him “Pom” as well, and I am not sure if that is because she can’t pronounce “T’s” or if she just picked it up from Kiley.

         Regardless of what they call him, however, they totally idolize him. He has them fooled all right. To them, he is an absolute celebrity. When they arrive in the morning they immediately want to know where he is and the answer is always either “sleeping” or “at work”. If they know he is upstairs sleeping they are unnaturally attuned to every little creak of a board or tiny sound that might indicate that he has arisen. Any sound from upstairs brings everything to a halt and the single-word-query of “Pom?” from both of them. When he does haul himself out of bed he invariably tries to sneak downstairs so that he can surprise them and is often successful since they are usually quite loud and rambunctious in the morning.

         If he is at work when they arrive in the morning they can’t wait for his arrival home, which occurs around 7:30 AM. When they hear the garage door open they run and hide and wait quietly for him to come in (with Mackey “hiding” usually entails merely covering her eyes with her hands). He of course has to play along and ask where they are and I play along by stating that they didn’t come that day. He then acts disappointed whereupon they leap out and surprise him, amid laughs and hugs and kisses all around.

         Both of the girls love “Pom” but especially Kiley. She can’t get enough of him. She sits on his lap on the sofa. She wants to sit on his lap at breakfast but he usually doesn’t let her. She wants him to carry her around all day. Whenever she needs help with anything like putting her shoes on or her coat on she wants him to do it. She wants him to carry her out to the car when they are going home. She wants “Pom” to be close by at all times and when he isn’t she starts calling for him. That can get to be a pain because when he sneaks away to get some peace and quiet, (he can only take about twenty or thirty minutes of adulation at any one stretch) I have to deal with the constant calling and fretting about where “Pom” is.

         All of this “Pom” adoration can be annoying, but it is actually my fault. I have always talked him up to both of the girls and made them think that he is special. Now they actually believe it. Well, most of is my fault, anyway. Some of it is him. Men are so different from little girls that the “strangeness” can be fascinating. “Pom” does things that I wouldn’t dream of doing like holding them upside down by their ankles, or throwing them up in the air. He climbs trees and helps them do it too, he pretends to be a gorilla and scares the crap out of them, and he belches as loud as he can when they're around, you know, that kind of stuff. All of these outlandish things somehow endear him to them. The upside of this is that they have someone special to break up the monotony of their daily routine. When “Pom” is there life is more interesting and all is right with the world as far as they are concerned. The downside is that he isn’t always there and even when he is he’s not always as attentive as they would like and that can make things actually harder for me as I try to placate and console them for their lack of “Pom”. Oh well, I guess in the final analysis, “Pom’s” presence is more of a positive than a negative when it comes to helping me with the girls, but not by much.


Monday, April 13, 2015


        The world must be a confusing place for a three-year-old. Before that age children take the world at face value. Mackey does. To her, the world is the way it is and things are the way they are simply because that's just the way it is and there is no need for any further explanation. She can't imagine anything other than what she has experienced so she doesn't question beyond what she knows. She doesn't even think to question it. She dwells in the age of innocence, the Garden of Eden. Somewhere around three, however, children  come to the stage in their development where they no longer simply accept the world as it is without questioning. They have somehow figured out, on a very basic level, that there are such forces at work as action and reaction, cause and effect, growth and change, and that some things are connected or related to each other. In other words, a three-year-old is beginning to realize that things happen and are the way they are for a reason. Unfortunately, because of their limited experience and knowledge, someone so young may realize that there are underlying causes to just about everything but, for the most part, have no idea what those causes are.

        Kiley is three. As a three-year-old she is becoming full of questions. The "who", "what", "when", "where", and "how" of just about everything have suddenly become very important to her. She is now constantly asking questions and I am constantly answering them as best I can. "Who", "what", "when", and "where" are usually easy queries to satisfy. "How" is sometimes a little tougher. And then, of course, there is the most fundamental of questions. The one that usually strikes at the heart of things and is therefore the most frequently asked, especially by a three-year-old who is trying to figure out how the world works. The one that is, more often than not, the hardest to answer and, as fate would have it, the one that Kiley and most three-year-olds are most fond of. My days are now plagued by what, at three years and three months old, has suddenly become Kiley's favorite word – "why?"

        Who invented the word "why"? I want his name. Such a criminal act should not go unpunished. I thought it was bad enough when Kiley's favorite word was "no!" but "why?" is a much more vexing word. "No" can be dealt with fairly easily. An appropriate response to "no" requires only persistence and calm resolve, things that fifty-nine years of living have endowed me with in abundance. An appropriate response to "why", on the other hand, often requires knowledge, a much harder commodity to come by. And when I say it requires knowledge I don't mean simply the knowledge required on my part to correctly answer any given "why?" That's hard enough. No one knows everything. I certainly don't. So there are many questions that Kiley may come up with on a daily basis that I simply have no answer for, and, in such cases, must revert to the perennial default position - "Because that's just the way it is". This of course, is unsatisfying to the questioner, and I try to avoid such an easy out whenever possible. (The Internet helps with that. The answer to any particular question is only a Google away.)  But my own lack of knowledge is only half the problem in satisfying her curiosity. In fact, it is less than half the problem. More often than not it isn't my lack of knowledge that stands in the way, it's her's.

        The real difficulty in satisfying a three-year-old's never ending questions is her ability to understand the answers. That is primarily because they have a small foundation of knowledge to draw upon. We adults have a relatively large foundation of knowledge. There is plenty of technical knowledge on any given subject that only a rather small subset of individuals possess, but generally speaking there is a basic foundation of knowledge that all adults share. So when a simple question is asked, and a simple answer is given an adult is satisfied and no further explanation is required. The answers to any further questions that might arise from the original answer are already available in the adult's foundation of knowledge. At least to a certain point. With a three-year-old, however, there are no simple answers. Because of their limited foundation of knowledge any answer given merely raises another question as they try to drill down to the ultimate answer of "why?".

        Here is a conversation I had with Kiley last week:
             "Is Mommy going to the mall with us?"
             "No. Mommy is at work."
             "Because she had to go to work."
             "Because she has to make money."
             "Because you need money to buy things."
             "Because nothing is free. You have to pay for them."
             "Because that's just the way it is."

        Here the questioning stops; because Kiley has learned that "Because that's just the way it is" is the ultimate answer, and that any further questioning beyond that yields no deeper understanding. What she does not know at this point is that there are answers beyond that, and that there is a deeper understanding to be had, an understanding that she will not be able to comprehend until she learns much more about the world. By continually asking "why" she is expanding her foundation of knowledge and, therefore, her ability to comprehend the answers to the "whys" of the world. As a human being she does this instinctively.

         In a very real sense we are all in the same boat as Kiley. Our understanding of any given subject is limited by the number of "whys" we have answers for. Regardless of how much knowledge we amass as individuals or as a species, no matter how deeply we drill down, no matter how many "whys" we ask, eventually we reach a question that, as yet, can only be answered with: "Because that's just the way it is." We are all merely children in the grand scheme of things, God's children, and like Kiley we will forever be asking "why" because the sum of all knowledge is beyond mortal comprehension. Only the Mackeys of the world have it truly figured out. Only they, in their innocence, don't even think to ask "why", perhaps because they instinctively know that for beings such as us, with a finite capacity for understanding, all questions ultimately have the same answer. Why? "Because that's just the way it is."


Monday, April 6, 2015

Pick Up Me

        Breakfast is over and the girls are playing in the family room when I walk in. Kiley spots me, stands up, raises her arms towards me and says, “Pick up me”. Twenty minutes later while I am in the kitchen, Kiley walks in, comes over to me, raises her arms towards me and says, “Pick up me”. An hour after that as I am letting Mister Pickles outside, Kiley raises her arms towards me and says, “Pick up me”. In each of these instances I put her off and did not pick her up. Each time she persisted until it became apparent to her that I was not going to pick her up, then let it drop. It’s not that I don’t like picking her up or holding her. It’s just that on these three particular instances I did not bow to her wishes, whereas on the two-thousand–seven-hundred-eighty-nine other times that day when she raised her arms towards me and said, “Pick up me”, I did.

        Kiley loves to be picked up and carried around. Mackey does too but not as much as Kiley. Kiley likes to be held. Whether you are standing or sitting doesn’t matter, she likes it when you hold her. She likes a lot of physical contact in general. She is always grabbing onto me or climbing on me, Uncle Tom too, in fact especially Uncle Tom. When she is here he gets no rest. She will spend hours of her day sitting in his lap watching TV or sitting curled up close to him with his arm around her. She always wants him to be close by and by "close by" I mean in the same room. No matter what she is doing at the time, if he leaves the room she wants to go with him. If he wants to do something that requires him to leave her presence, he often waits until she becomes occupied with something else then sneaks out of the room. It's just easier. When she notices he has sneaked off and is not in the same room with her, she starts looking and calling for him. She does the same thing with me. She wants us to be available to her at all times. If she had her way, either Uncle Tom or I would carry her around the house most of the day and be available to carry her around the house the remainder of the time as well. To her, we are like horses or mules, beasts of burden.

I don't think this will make it any easier to carry you at the same time, ladies.

        Of course, once you pick up Kiley, Mackey wants the same treatment and it becomes a battle between two insistent tyrants each vying for your "pick up me" abilities. When that happens nobody gets picked up, which usually results in Mackey crying, at least briefly. (Nineteen-month-olds are like today's progressive college students  – they have a simplistic view of the world, are easily offended, insist things be their own way, and require instant gratification. With toddlers, however, it's understandable that they would think the whole world should bow to their infantile opinions while simultaneously needing someone more responsible to wipe their butts.)

       Be that as it may, in the end you can't be carrying around a three-year-old all day long, at least not at my age, and all children need to learn that other people have desires and priorities that have to be balanced against their own. We are not beasts of burden. Still, I like picking Kiley up, Mackey too. The opportunity to be that physically close to another person, especially ones as sweet and affectionate as those two, is a rare joy in this world. Is it not? That opportunity will not last forever. Kiley grows with every passing day and as her body and mind become bigger her desire to have someone "pick up me" will become smaller. And so I often bow to her wishes and pick her up whenever it is practical, knowing that, as with all children, there will come a day when I pick her up, then put her down, and never pick her up again - ever. On that day we will both lose something precious.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Bunny Trail

       Oh, my God it's Easter already! Well, it's just a short week away, anyway. Can you believe it? Easter is a great holiday. Like Christmas it has both religious and secular traditions. The religious aspects of the holiday are complex and philosophical, as religious concepts tend to be, and the secular aspects are whimsical and fun. But when you stop to think of it, the secular aspects of Easter, and Christmas for that matter, are actually based on religious concepts from an earlier time, concepts of an older, pagan religion that our ancestors practiced. (The word Easter is derived from Eastre, the pagan goddess of spring and fertility, of rebirth and renewal after the darkness and hardship of winter. The rabbit was her favored animal because of its reproductive abilities.)  So in some ways the religious and secular aspects of Easter are complimentary, both aspects reflecting a belief in renewal and eternal life.

Of course, when it comes to Kiley and Mackey I am basically stressing the secular aspects of the coming holiday. It goes without saying that for preschoolers the concepts of the Easter Bunny, Easter eggs, and a basket full of candy are a lot easier to grasp than the concepts of the trinity and the resurrection. Try explaining original sin to a three-year-old. I'll leave their religious instruction to their parents where it belongs.

And so I have been talking up the Easter Bunny for the past week or so, getting my two charges primed for a trip to the mall and personal acquaintance with good old Peter Cottontail. It started off small with an offhand remark about maybe going to see the Easter Bunny next week. They didn't object to the idea though I'm not sure they fully understood what I was alluding to. "The Easter Bunny? Okay." Kiley was only two last Easter so I doubt she remembers a whole lot of detail about that event. Mackey was no more than eight months old and, therefore, remembers none of it.

Over the following week I kept the idea alive and growing in their pliant minds by repeatedly bringing up the subject and elaborating on what might possibly be done in the presence of the Easter Bunny – sitting on his lap, pictures, maybe a free giveaway or two. I used excited tones and expressions when talking about the Easter Bunny and that soon rubbed of on the little ones. It wasn't long before they were absolutely thrilled with the idea of going to see the Easter Bunny. They couldn't wait. It got to the point where I was using the promised trip down the "bunny trail" to elicit good behavior – "You'd better finish all of your lunch if you want to go see the Easter Bunny." – "Do you want to see the Easter Bunny? Then you'd better pick those toys up like I asked you to!"

Over the next few days leading up to the promised nirvana, it was all they could talk about. "When are we going to see the Easter Bunny?" Is it time to go see the Easter Bunny yet?" By the time the appointed day arrived, last Thursday, they were in an absolute Easter Bunny frenzy. Breakfast that morning was a fiasco. They were too excited to eat very much and, since it was I who had created the situation, I didn't push the issue. In late morning Uncle Time and I got them ready to go the mall amid their shouts of "Easter Bunny!" Mackey's exclamation was more along the lines of " 'unny!" but no less excited. It was supposed to be a warm day, which is why we picked it for our sojourn, but as we were stowing them into the car it began to pour rain. Oh, well. There was no turning back now. That would have resulted in an ugly mutiny, so off into the storm we went.

Luckily the downpour was short lived and by the time we pulled into the mall parking lot the rain had stopped and it was a warm and pleasant day. We piled them out of the car and into the double stroller, Kiley in the front and Mackey in the rear, amid expressions of excited impatience. Being a Thursday morning the mall was pretty empty, inhabited mostly by elderly people in jogging attire using the mall as a safe and pleasant place to take their morning constitutional. We headed straight for the Easter Bunny who had set up shop in the usual place, the open area in front Penny's. As we rolled down the aisle toward the Promised Land they could barely contain themselves, hooting and hollering with fists held high amid triumphant shouts of "Easter Bunny!" and " 'unny!" eliciting warm smiles from the elderly folks in jogging attire.

At last we reached our destination and it was sublime. They had gone all out and the display was adorable. A little, white-picket-fence surrounded the entire thing with pretty shrubs and tulips everywhere, and colored eggs scattered throughout. In the middle of it all, on a throne of great opulence, sat the object of our girls' longing, the Easter Bunny himself. I have seen many an Easter Bunny in my time but I must say that this was by far the best. No huge, plastic, painted, and lifeless rabbit head topping some flimsy and garish outfit here. No, this was done right. This Easter Bunny was dressed in an elegant coat with long tails, under which he wore a vest and a large, though tasteful, bow tie. In the pocket of the vest was apparently a watch (shades of Alice In Wonderland) for you could see the watch chain. His lower half was donned in appropriate, though colorful, pants and he wore a small top hat on his head. And it was his head that was the piece de resistance. No huge, plastic thing, for us, this rabbit head was perfectly proportional to the body and was covered with actual, brownish fur! The ears were long and furry with one cocked to the side as if he were listening to something. He wore a pair of wire rimmed glasses that sat comfortably on his little pink nose which twitched periodically in a very lifelike way. His paws, sticking out from the sleeves of his coat, were furry as well. If there was an actual, living, breathing Easter Bunny, this was what it would look like. He was spectacularly well done and absolutely adorable. At least I thought so.

As we wheeled around to the front of the display and the Easter Bunny, in all his glory, came into the view of the two stroller-bound celebrants, all shouts, cheers, and exclamations of excitement ceased. Silence descended like a storm cloud and reigned supreme. Kileys mouth popped open, and her eyes bugged out of her head as her face went as white as a bride, her expression turning from one of joy to one of blank horror. Mackey sat stunned into silence, a rare condition for her, and froze in a reflexive state of immobility, triggered by an instinctive need for self-preservation. I don't know what they had been expecting, but this wasn't it.

Being a Thursday morning, there were no other children in the vicinity, so all eyes were on my two as I tried to coax them into the full Easter Bunny experience. "Do you want to see the Easter Bunny?" Do you want to go sit on his lap?" There was no reply, just shocked stares. The Easter Bunny's assistant swung open the gate in the little, white-picket-fence as a gesture of welcome, and the Easter Bunny himself began waving and blowing kisses at the girls! Kiley stiffened. Then, to top it all off, the Easter Bunny raised one hairy paw and began beckoning to the frozen pair. At this, Kiley's mouth opened even wider, her eyes bulged even further, and "her face, at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale."

It was pretty apparent that there was going to be no Easter Bunny lap sitting today, but the assistant, hopeful to the end, tried one more time. "Come on girls, want to see the Easter Bunny?" Kiley began swinging her head back and forth in a silent and continuous negative, never taking her eyes off of the horror on the Bunny Throne. Mackey didn't speak or move a muscle, but the expression on her face left no doubt that were she able to break her paralysis and utter a reply it would be something along the lines of –"Easter Bunny? No, now's not really a good time for me. I'm awfully busy this morning. Besides, I'm probably going to be pooping here in minute or two and that might be awkward. Can I have a rain check? Maybe tomorrow."

"Okay", I said relieving their anxiety, "let's go to the Disney Store." The Easter Bunny's assistant handed me two pair of paper bunny ears as a consolation, but when I tried to put them on their heads they would have none of it. They didn't even want to look at them. As we rolled away from the scene, Kiley kept looking back, still unable to accept what her eyes were conveying to her brain. Mackey just stared ahead, quietly trying to come to grips with what she had just experienced.

A half hour in the Disney Store and a couple of small purchases of their choosing did wonders to restore their equilibrium, and some fries at the food court returned them to near normal. We then packed it in and went home. That was four days ago. The intervening weekend returned them to me with calmed nerves and a fresh perspective. Today they were wearing their bunny ears and bragging about how they had gone to see the Easter Bunny. I assured them that you don't have sit on his lap for the Easter Bunny to visit your house and leave candy. That seemed to please them. It will be another whole week before the Easter Bunny comes to their house and spreads his joy. They can barely wait.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Tummy Ache

        Ooooh, my tummy.  Kiley came in bright and early Monday morning with a stomach virus. Because she was sick, her mother had tried to make it easier on me by having her own mother watch Kiley that day while I looked after Mackey, but I knew that “Mom-mom” had work to do so I went over and took Kiley off her hands. She looked so pathetic! She had been throwing up the night before and felt miserable. A stomach virus is the worst. I personally would rather be sick in any other way and I am sure Kiley was feeling the same way. She just lay on the sofa, crying every now and then, and looking wrung out and listless. She couldn’t get comfortable.

Food, of course, was out of the question but liquids are always a must and therein lies the problem. Preschoolers can be fragile things when it comes to dehydration. Believe me I have had some bad experiences with that. You have to keep them hydrated, but with a stomach virus everything that goes in wants to come out. So there I am trying to get her to take small sips of water, flat soda, juice, tea, anything liquid and hoping that her stomach will be able to handle small doses. For the most part it did. She was miserable all day but she wasn’t throwing up.

“Uncle Tom” was home, which helped. She went from lying on the sofa and looking miserable to sitting on his lap and looking not quite as miserable, so that was an improvement. He looked a little miserable himself, knowing that stomach viruses are “catchy”, but she needed him so he was willing to take the risk. He did a lot of hand washing that day.

Kiley was not having a good time, obviously, but with her being sidelined Mackey was in her glory. She was running wild and in a real good mood. I kept looking for signs of sickness in her but she seemed fine. There were a few close calls when I caught Mackey trying to sneak a drink from Kiley’s cup but other than that she was great and spent most of the day entertaining herself.

By mid-afternoon Kiley perked up and seemed a lot better. Her stomach wasn’t hurting and she had more energy. She had been begging for milk all day because that is her favorite drink but I had been holding her off from that fearing it would not sit well with a bad tummy. The amount of other liquids she had consumed was miniscule and I was worrying about dehydration so, since she was feeling better, I figured I’d let her try a little milk just to get some liquid into her. Mistake!!!  About a half hour later her stomach ache came back with a vengeance. I was carrying her around the kitchen and trying to console her when I saw from her expression that the worst was about to happen. We made it to the sink just in time and she let go of most of the liquid I had so painstakingly gotten her to consume throughout the day. On top of that the violence of the eruption caused her to pee as well, all down the front of me and onto the floor. Well, at least I knew she wasn’t dehydrated yet. After I got everything cleaned up, she fell into a deep sleep on the sofa for a few hours. That was good for all of us.

She was sick for the next three days, though the first day was the worst day. She never ran more than a slight fever and though her painful stomach kept her liquid intake down she never became dehydrated. Freeze-Pops worked really good in that regard. She likes them. By Thursday she was her normal self and everything seemed to be getting back to normal until Thursday night.  After dinner on Thursday I started having the experience of feeling not all that well. Within a couple of hours I was full blown sick and stayed that way for the next three days. Kiley and Mackey had to be watched by their grandmother on Friday because I was totally out of commission. It wasn’t really until Sunday that I recovered and even then I felt weak and “off my feed”. I still feel a little out of it now as I am writing this.

Mackey and Uncle Tom dodged the bullet and never did get sick, at least not yet, and since a week has passed since Kiley came down with it they are probably out of the woods. Kiley’s mom and dad never got sick either, nor did her grandmother, just me. Maybe this particular virus is transmitted through urine and since I am the only one who was bathed with said pee, I was the only one infected. It’s a theory anyway. Looking on the bright side I lost five pounds this weekend, the hard way to be sure, but I’ll take it.  My youngest is getting married at the end of May and I have to squeeeeeeze into a tight dress for the occasion. In fact a couple of more days with my head in the toilet might not be so bad if I can shed another five. Dang, why didn’t I save some of that virus transmitting pee I mopped up off the kitchen floor?  Oh well, hindsight is always twenty- twenty.


Monday, March 16, 2015


There were never such devoted sisters.

        Do you remember that song from the movie "White Christmas"? It was written by Irving Berlin, and it expresses, in a very light hearted but effective way, the dichotomous clash between devotion and competition that is at the heart of the relationship between sisters. Kiley and Mackey are sisters. One is three and the other is eighteen months old, and, being preschoolers, they are together all day every day. They are a team. They play together, watch TV together, eat their meals together, and sleep in the same room. With that much contact it is remarkable how well they get along together. They adore one another. They rarely get angry with each other. They share everything without conflict or complaint. Each is always looking out for the best interests of the other without any thought of, or concern for, themselves. They epitomize the concept of loving devotion. They are kind and generous to one another, calm and reasonable whenever the rare disagreement does occur.  Selfless and self-sacrificing, caring and considerate, faithful and thoughtful, they fill the house with warmth and tranquility and make every day a paradise of joy and serenity. Yeah, as if!

        The other day Mackey was playing happily without a care in the world when she picked up a small toy. It was nothing special, merely one toy figurine from the mountain of toys that have sprouted up in my family room and occupied every nook and cranny of my once neat and orderly house. Unfortunately, as unimportant and inconsequential as this particular bauble was, in Kiley's mind it fell within the wide category of objects that she defines as "hers". Upon noticing the transgression, Kiley's face changed from an expression of calm normalcy to one of cold outrage. She pounced on her beloved sister, and grabbing her by the wrist was intent on wresting the desired object from her possession, but Mackey, realizing what was happening, was too quick for her. She broke free and ran. This, however, was merely a temporary reprieve from the inevitable. At eighteen months Mackey is rough and tumble, stout and strong, she is brave and doesn't back down, but she is no match for Kiley, who is larger and has a three-year-old's speed, agility, and coordination. "Kiley!" I said in a raised voice and warning tone, but this had no effect as the curly haired hound from hell closed in on her fleeing prey. She was "in the zone" and words alone were not going to deter her. She quickly caught up with Mackey and, forcing her to the floor, held her down as she began to pry the disputed treasure from her chubby little grip, all the while ignoring her sister's kicks and screams of protest, a look of intense determination on her face. I intervened, returned the item to it's original possessor, and put Kiley in "Time Out" with a lecture about sharing and the rights of possession which I'm sure went in one ear, mixed with her tears, and went right out the other. It will take many such battles for a three-year-old to learn true generosity. Ah, the tranquility!

        The older Mackey becomes the more they compete. Our day always begins with the same routine. The car pulls up in the driveway with the girls in their car seats in the back, Kiley facing forward and Mackey facing to the rear. They always seem excited to see me, which I love. Originally, I would get Kiley out of the car and carry her into the house while their mother would take care of Mackey.  Me carrying Kiley into the house each morning is a routine that was established before Mackey was born. A few weeks ago, however, Mackey started wanting me to carry her into the house as well and each day became more and more adamant that I do so (Mackey wants to emulate her big sister in many things). It soon became an issue that I thought to solve by carrying them both into the house one at a time. This solution was only partially successful in that they soon began to battle over who would be first to benefit from my carrying services each morning. I now try to alternate days, carrying Kiley first one day and Mackey first the next, which placates them only to the degree that a three-year-old and an eighteen-month-old can keep such a pattern straight in their heads from day to day. "Calm down Mackey, you went first yesterday."

        Kiley and Uncle Tom have always had a coffee making ritual that they share. They have a number of rituals which they share, actually: an Uncle Tom coming home from work ritual, an Uncle Tom going to bed after working the night shift ritual, an Uncle Tom carrying Kiley out to the car ritual, etc. They were all created before Mackey was born. The coffee making ritual is, by far, the most elaborate one.

        In the coffee making ritual, Uncle Tom turns the coffee maker on then picks up Kiley and holds her in his left arm so she can help him make the coffee. First he opens the cabinet and she takes his coffee cup out and puts it on the counter. Then he looks at her and she says, "spoon". He gets a spoon from the drawer and hands it to her. Then he looks at her and she says, "sugar". She hands him the spoon and he doles out the desired amount of sugar and puts it into the cup. Then he looks at her and she says, "blue", which means a blue packet of Equal, the artificial sweetener. (Yes, Uncle Tom takes sugar and Equal. He has very particular tastes.) He hands her a packet of Equal, which she shakes to get the contents to gravitate to the bottom of the packet, tears open the top, and pours it into the cup. He walks her over the trashcan and leans down so she can open the trashcan and throw away the empty packet. Next he pours coffee into the cup. He looks at her and says, "hot", and she nods. He stirs the coffee. He looks at her again and she says, "milk". He opens the fridge, takes out the jug of milk, and hands it to her. She says, "it's heavy", regardless of how much milk is actually in the jug and unscrews the cap. She hands him back the jug and he pours the appropriate amount of milk into the cup. He holds the jug while she screws the cap back on then hands her the jug. She says, "it's heavy". He opens the fridge, she hands him the jug, he puts it in the fridge and she closes the door. He says, "thank you". She says, "you're welcome". Then they go sit on the sofa with Kiley in his lap and he drinks his coffee while they argue over what to watch on TV. This is all very strange, I know, but it's also sweet to watch. It is one of the ways they express affection for each other.

        Mackey is now old enough that she has begun to join in on some of the rituals, especially the Uncle Tom going to bed after working the night shift ritual, which involves three kisses and three hugs (one of each for each of us), three blown kisses, and three "ni-nights". Kiley encourages her to join in and originally coached Mackey in what to do. That is all very heart warming and sweet, but some things are special and not everything can be shared. Now that Mackey is older, Uncle Tom will eventually create rituals that are specific to her and that only they will share because, well, that's just what he does. He had better do it soon.  Last Friday when Uncle Tom came down to greet them in the morning, Mackey seemed unusually overjoyed to see him. When he picked her up she pointed to the coffee maker. I smell trouble brewing.

        In spite of the sarcastic nature of the first paragraph above, Kiley and Mackey truly are devoted to each other. Their days together really are punctuated with many expressions of affection toward each other (and fighting), sharing (and fighting), cooperation (and fighting), mutual fun (and fighting), and enjoyment of each other. In other words they are typical sisters. Who would want it any other way?


Monday, March 9, 2015



         Close to nineteen months ago, on a hot August day, Kiley underwent a profound metamorphosis. She had spent the first nineteen months of her life as an only child, a unique object of affection and, you could even say, adoration. That's not to say that she was spoiled or pampered in any way. Adoration aside, her mother is a very down to earth no nonsense type who doesn't allow her motherly devotion to interfere with her motherly duties. Raising children is a delicate balance between the overwhelming love we feel for our offspring and the overwhelming sense of responsibility we feel for their proper upbringing. Some people, understandably, have difficulty balancing the two, and depending on which way the scale tips can either over or under indulge their children, resulting in either spoiling them on the one hand or impeding their ability to form a healthy sense of self esteem on the other. Kiley's mother has no such difficulty. The ability to strike that delicate balance seems to come naturally to her and is a testament to her own upbringing (in which I played a small part.) But getting back to the point, at nineteen months of age, Kiley stopped being an only child and transformed into that most extraordinary and mysterious of earthly creatures, the "sister". In other words, in August of 2013, through the benevolent efforts of her parents, McKinley Renae was born, otherwise known as "Mackey".

As my husband is fond of saying, Mackey is a "funny little squib". At nineteen months of age she is exhibiting her individual personality, and I think everyone who knows her would agree she's a regular pistol. She is showing a real sense of humor, which is unusual for someone who is just learning to talk. She actually makes jokes from time to time. It's unbelievable. Granted, they are primitive attempts at humor, being fashioned by someone with about a twenty-word vocabulary and a limited understanding of the world, and they primarily consist of unusual or ridiculous responses to questions or statements, but they are obviously intended to elicit laughter from her "audience". Saying, "yes" instead of an appropriate "no", for instance, is apparently the height of humor to her and though we don't always get the point, she does and thinks it's hilarious. She is always laughing.

She has a way of looking at people out of the corner of her eye with a sly kind of expression that my husband finds adorable. "What are you looking at?" he'll say, and she'll reply with a knowing smile. She's kind of "rough and tumble" and has a swagger in her walk. She's presents a tough exterior to the world but underneath she's a drama queen. When she gets a little boo-boo it's like the end of the world- oh, the wailing! - the tears! - the burying of her face in your neck! Calming her down takes forever and usually requires some kind of distraction.

She is an accomplished dancer, especially when dancing to the "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Song" which we have on a disc. Unfortunately, she only wants to dance to the first three stanzas. Once they sing "Forever let us hold our banners high, high, high, high" and she has raised her right fist and shouted "high" along with them, she insists that we start it over at the beginning. After starting it over for the thousandth time, that gets old. "Just let it play, Mackey!" But she is like that. She likes certain things and certain specific parts of things. Her favorite movie is "Lilo And Stitch" which she has to watch every morning on a portable DVD player while she eats her breakfast. But once more, she wants to watch her favorite part of the movie over and over and over again, the part in the very beginning where the little girls are dancing while the credits roll.  Unfortunately, she can't operate the machine herself and I am busy at breakfast time so her stubborn insistence can cause a situation. "Just let it play, Mackey!"  Kiley can operate the machine, however, so she is a big help in these situations. Having a tech savvy three-year-old in the house can be a Godsend.

Toddlers go through "phases" where they latch onto new experiences and stick with those new behaviors and activities for a time before moving on to something else. Mackey's latest idiosyncrasy is "whispering". She will come up and whisper to you in a confidential way as if imparting some kind of deep secret. There are no actual words involved, just a whispering sound and a secretive air. You are required to whisper back, of course, and she always let's you know that she understands what has been exchanged by giving a quick nod or whispered " 'kay" before moving on to some other activity. She has also become fond of pushing her baby doll around in a play stroller, endlessly. Through the family room, through the kitchen, all around the house Mackey and her baby are going for a walk. And the doll looks like her - a Cabbage Patch with a chubby face and short, curly, blonde hair. Mackey is a good mother.

Mackey is a good baby too. She loves to eat and loves to laugh. She likes Daisy Duck. She likes dancing, hiding, and playing with flashlights. She loves Mister Pickles and building forts. She burps as loud as she can whenever possible. She is smart, sweet, funny, and affectionate. She is tough and teary, a cut-up and a cuddler, half little sweetie and half linebacker. She is both a worthy opponent and loving little sister to Kiley, and a tender little treasure and brutish little bandit to me. Having her with us for the past year and a half has lit up our lives, melted our hearts, and filled our home with warmth and laughter. She is a cherished and beloved addition to our daily lives. How were we ever happy without her?


Monday, March 2, 2015

Kiley At Three

        Three years old! I can't believe it. Kiley is three years old. How can that be? It seems like it was just last week that she was only one year old. Okay, bad joke, but seriously, time really does fly. When we were first thrown together three years ago Kiley was just a tiny little larva with eyes too big for her face and abilities that were limited to eating, sleeping, crying and pooping. Now she is a walking, talking, climbing, jumping, affectionate, loving, obstinate, tantrum throwing, fashion conscious, potty-trained, fully formed little person.

At three, Kiley now has her own opinions, at least on subjects she is knowledgeable about such as "Barbie" (a cartoon you would not believe!), cinnamon rolls, and whether or not her sister has an inalienable right to certain objects and behaviors. She also has her own way of looking at things. In other words she has her own personality, and like all three-year-olds, and all people for that matter, she is one part angel and one part devil.

The angel part of her nature is most likely to express itself in the morning when she first arrives at "Nan's" house (bright and early at 6:30am). When I go out to the car to greet her in the morning she is usually overjoyed to see me. She loves Nan and loves coming to Nan's house. That said, the first word out of her mouth when I open the car door every morning is " Tom?" meaning "Is Uncle Tom home?" When the answer is "yes" it is an extra special day for her. She is usually very pleasant in the morning (whether Uncle Tom is home or not). She arrives still in her "jamas" and is generally loath to change them for regular clothes. I don't know if that is because she prefers "jamas" to regular clothes or whether she just doesn't want to go through all the effort of changing. I suspect it is the latter.

        Breakfast can sometimes be a struggle because Kiley is not a big eater. She doesn't seem to really like to eat, unless it is cinnamon rolls, and I generally have to coax and coerce her into devouring the proper nutrients in the morning. I am not always successful in this regard and have the same problem at lunchtime. She often seems to be able to run all day without eating and without getting hungry. Where does she get the energy? Her metabolic processes must be unnaturally efficient. Or maybe she's cold blooded, you know, part reptile. Snakes and the like can go for weeks or more on a single rat, and Kiley can go all day on a single bowl of Rice Krispies if you let her (you can't give her Lucky Charms because she just picks out the marshmallows and eats just them). She likes fruit, especially bananas, and her favorite vegetable is green beans. She loves anything that tastes like mint. She drinks milk and fruit juice all day and she still prefers a sippy cup to a big-girl-cup, which is fine with me and with my carpets.

        Her tastes in TV programming have evolved over time with her favorite show progressing from the initial "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" (insipid Disney) to "Doc McStuffins" (cute and clever Disney) to "Tickety Toc" (bizarre alternate reality) to "Barbie" (campy parody on the perennial glamour doll) and finally to her present favorite 'Bo On The Go" (a children's animated exercise program). Added to regular programming are her favorite animated movies: "Lilo And Stitch" (destructive alien bonds with destructive little girl),  "The Croods" (caveman family evolves), "Brave" (red-haired Celtic princess learns lessons), and, of course "Fozen" (Disney's version of  "The Snow Queen"). And, not surprisingly, there are various less favored favorites of both categories too numerous to mention. That said, Kiley uses the TV primarily for just background noise the way I do. She is usually far to busy with other things to really pay attention to what is on the tube.

        The angel part of her nature dominates until approximately mid-afternoon. Mid-afternoon is the time when she normally begins to get tired. And that is where the devil part of her nature hides, in tiredness. As is normally the case with small children, tired equals cranky, and cranky equals impatience, obstinence, temper, selfishness, and rebellion.

        The cure for all of this, as every mother knows, is naptime. Unfortunately, because the devil part of her nature with its obstinate rebelliousness dominates at naptime, it is often very hard to get Kiley to actually take a nap. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink, and you can make a little girl lie down but you can't make her sleep, not when she doesn't want to. And she never wants to. Sleep is boring. Sleep takes her away from the things she wants to do in spite of her crankiness. Sleep is unfair and unjust. Sleep is her enemy.

        And so I have to circumvent her natural objection to naptime, and there are various strategies I have developed to accomplish the impossible. "Lie down and close your eyes" accomplishes nothing, one must be more subtle, more clever, more devious. It is deviousness that separates man from the beasts of the field, and fifty-nine years of living have honed my inherent deviousness to a sharp point. The crux of any sleep inducing strategy must be misdirection. Don't say the word "nap", don't say the word "sleep", don't say the phrase "lie down". In lieu of all of these, simply use the phrase "let's watch a movie". Then off handedly suggest that the best vantage point from which to watch said movie might be the sofa. Next, simply inquire: "where's "Snuggy"?"  Once "Snuggy" has been obtained, "Frozen" put on, and the sofa occupied, just lie down yourself. Don't suggest that she lie down as well. That will create suspicion. Simply lie down on the sofa and a three-year-old's natural inclination to cuddle will do the rest. Once she is cuddled, just slowly begin to rub her softly on the back, just barely touching her skin with the tips of your fingers and before you know it, "voila", sleep happens. There are many variations of this same strategy, and they should be employed randomly in order to avoid any detection of a pattern. Once she falls asleep, Kiley is out for a couple of hours.  Ah, blessed is quiet and gentle sleep, especially for the one not sleeping. Small children need sleep in the afternoon. You just have to coax them into it.

        By the time Kiley awakens, it is only a short time before her mother comes to pick her up and another day is done. Off she goes to the car to be buckled in amid a plethora of hugs and kisses and promises of tomorrow, a process that takes at least fifteen minutes. More kisses are blown as the car pulls away then it's time to make dinner. She'll be back again in the morning, bright and early, and another day of adventure will begin. And such is our daily life together, interspersed with trips, activities, and surprises to keep things interesting for both Kiley and me - and her little sister Mackey, of course. I'll tell you all about her next week.