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.