Saturday, January 10, 2009


It turns out that two-year-olds are excessively concerned about possession. Not of the demonic type, though I do sometimes wonder as he throws himself into a thrashing heap of screaming, writhing tantrum.

No, Monkey is mostly worried about ownership--specifically, what is, “MINE.” Sometimes he just wanders about the house, listing off his belongings.

“My car. My table. My froggie. My crayons.” He peacefully pats each item as he walks past.

“My monster truck.”

“NO! That’s MY MONSTER TRUCK!” Jabber pushes, shoves, body slams. There is wailing; there are tears. This scene is replayed many times throughout the day, as the toddler and preschooler negotiate ownership of all of the toys and such a million times. It turns out five-year-olds are just as concerned about these things.

Along with this is Monkey’s demand to “SHARE!” which is just a variation on, “GIVE IT TO ME! IT’S MINE!”

Which brings me to the topic of my breasts.

What? You didn’t catch the segue?

So I find myself nursing a two-year-old. All right. I support this. I have been saying since Monkey was born that I’d like to nurse him until he was two, which is a few months longer than his big brother nursed. Jabber gave it up cold turkey at 20 months, after I had something going on for three nights in a row and missed his bedtime session, which was basically all he was interested in at the time. On the third day, he solemnly patted my breasts and said, “Nummies gone bye-bye,” and after that, he wasn’t interested.

Not so with the Monk. Even after I went to Florida for five days, he is still going strong. He’s pretty flexible about nursing if I am not around; he stays overnight with the grandparents without a problem and never asks for it once. However, if I’m around, if I’m sitting down, he wants to nurse. About half the time he crawls up in my lap, showers me with kisses, and then just tips over on my lap and smiles at me sweetly, patting my shirt lightly and asking, “I have nummies pleeeeeeease?” He’s adorable and irresistible, and I have no problem nursing him.

Sometimes he’s downright heart-melting in his nursing bliss, such as several nights ago when David and I were going to bed, and he woke up halfway and made this seriously happy sighing sound. “Ahhh, nummies,” he whispered, followed by a couple of happy sleepy little chuckles. There was nothing to feel but love as I crawled into bed beside him and snuggled.

Other times, it’s not so cute, to be perfectly honest. Back to possession, demonic and otherwise, the two of us have yet to come to agreement about who owns the nummies. My reaction to his terrorist demands of “MINE NUMMIES NOW!” accompanied by shirt-tugging and tantrumming is to shut off supply indefinitely. My heart is hard. I do not negotiate.

“You are being a bully,” I say. “The nummies are closed.”

His reaction to the sudden cut-off is pretty consistent to that of any addict: he cries, he shakes, he begs, he bargains. He tries to sneak a quick slurp as I wash my hair over the tub. He promises to change.

“I be nice nummies,” he says, crawling up into my lap.

“These are Mama’s nummies,” I say.

“No. Mine.” His jaw is set in stubborn baby persistence.

“These are Mama’s nummies. But I may be persuaded to let you share them from time to time, if you are very polite and respectful of them, and if you agree to let go and leave me be the first time I ask. Also, I require you to keep your feet out of my mouth. And no pinching.”

He listens carefully to my conditions, lying across my lap with his hand just barely touching the hem of my shirt. “Okay,” he says, nodding solemnly. “I share.”

“All right then.” We begin to nurse, both of us on our best behavior, gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes. It is wonderful nursing a toddler!

Monkey detaches, just a little, just enough to speak. “Mine nummies,” he says softly, and then closes his eyes and gets back to business.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

In the Kitchen with Elissa

So last night I was standing in the kitchen, and I had a sort of introspective moment. Ordinarily, those moments are not so great because they involve me making a realization about myself, like that I’m essentially lazy, or self-centered, or that quite possibly that last time I lost my temper with Jabber was the time that will mess him up irrevocably.

But this realization was about cooking.

I always say that I can’t cook. It’s true, I don’t cook. I don't usually tell people that when David is going to be gone from the home during a mealtime, he sometimes leaves a meal ready for me to heat up. That sometimes means always. That he also gives me detailed instructions about the heating.

(To be fair, David likes giving detailed instructions. He’s very helpful like that.)

It’s also true that cooking meat is difficult for me. For one thing, I won’t eat or let the kids eat ground meat (ground beef primarily, but I really can’t eat too much of any kind of ground meat), so there goes the primary source of meat from my childhood. Hamburger in everything, you know? But I just can’t eat it, not thinking about how it’s all ground up and who knows what is in it. I cooked a pound of ground beef once, it must be ten years ago now, and I looked at it, cooking in the pan, and just knew I wasn’t going to eat that ever again. I dumped it out in the garbage, and I don’t think I’ve eaten it since, at least, not on purpose. I won’t get into the e.coli chapter in Fast Food Nation that made me vow to keep the kids away from it until they are older and more…I don’t know, durable.

But still, when we lived in Oregon, I often cooked. I had a vegetarian cookbook, and I made soups, side dishes, full meals. I often substituted ingredients because we were poor and only had a few staples in our kitchen most of the time, but I cooked a lot.

Then we had Jabber, and I went back to work, and there it began. I didn’t get home from work until 5:30, and before I could even get my coat off, the baby would be reaching for me hungrily, with his little baby bird mouth opened wide. We’d settle into our perch on the couch, and there we would stay…both of us exhausted and hungry and a bit cranky.

So David had to cook.

And essentially that’s the reason he continues to cook: I work late, and the kids are hungry much sooner.

But last night I realized what my real problem is. It’s not that I’m a bad cook; it’s that I’m a bad meal planner. I look at the cupboards, and I truly can’t figure out what to make out of it all. I can sometimes think of one part of the meal, but then I’m at a loss as to what to do for the rest of it, or how any of it would go together.

Like a couple nights ago, when I went grocery shopping, the store bakery had these enormous loaves of garlic bread on sale, so I bought a loaf and set it on the counter. While David was asking me what I we should have for dinner, all I could think was, “Well, we should eat the garlic bread because it was probably not fresh to begin with, so…garlic bread. Goes with spaghetti. But we only have alfredo sauce made. And Jabber won’t eat that. Because it’s cheese. And he’ll only eat orange cheese, that’s not melted. Unless it’s on pizza, when white cheese, melted is okay. And Monkey won’t eat noodles at all. What kind of a kid won’t eat noodles, for crying out loud. Why the hell do my kids have to eat the complete opposite, anyway?”

And at this point, I think I wandered out of the kitchen. It was just too much for me.

David, on the other hand, turned on the oven and stuck the garlic bread in, a plan forming around in the back of his mind. He threw some chicken into a pan, melted some cheese, steamed some broccoli, tossed some chickpeas, and made us grilled chicken sandwiches on garlic toast with two side dishes.

I’m not completely helpless, though. I mean, sooner or later I would have poured us each a bowl of cereal.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Where's that Instruction Manual Again?

A big topic lately in my interactions with Jabber has been about being proud of himself or happy with himself without having to compare himself to someone else. For example, it’s okay to really think you have a cool toy race car. It is not okay to point out, with an air of irritating superiority, all of the things that are cooler about your race car than your brother’s race car.

It is okay to express how much you love Daddy and be so happy about that. It is not necessary to discuss how your love for Daddy is so much more than your love for Mama.

Obviously this is a life-long lesson--how many of us can ever truly master the idea? We had a little talk (very little) about how sometimes people are tempted to make themselves feel better or more important by making someone else feel lower or less important. Jabber and his little Cute Girl friend at Daycare are so mean to each other like this, and then it trickles down to the Monkey as well. I just hear that snotty little tone of voice, that, “Oh yeah? Well I have even more than you because I got some from my Grandma, and my Grandma is even better than yours…” It goes on and on. And I hate hearing it.

“So can you try it, next time you feel happy or proud of yourself, then? Can you try to just think about how you feel, instead of trying to make someone else feel worse?”

Jabber nods, seriously, and says, “I bet I can do it better than Cute Girl can!”

Uh-huh. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong to even want to get rid of this tendency. Is this just…competitive spirit or something? Is it necessary to compare yourself to others in order to be your best? To really achieve something? I don’t work like that, maybe, but I do remember David talking about how, when he ran track in high school, how he wished that there had been someone to really challenge him, someone who would run nearly as fast as him or faster than him so that he would have pushed himself to beat that person. Maybe if I had had a sibling closer in age, I’d have learned to compete more?

Oh, and my other lovely parenting issue of the day: how do you get a TWO-YEAR-OLD to stop biting his nails? I mean, gross. Monkey came up to me today, proudly showing me how he can bite off his nails and spit them on the carpet. Nobody does that in my house, and I find it really gross. I really cannot handle him having this habit. I just cut all of his fingernails as short as I could, but he looked so damn proud of himself with his sharp little teeth.

He’s always been a biter…maybe I need to get him some chew toys or something.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I went to save a new document for this blog entry, and I realized that I had the date wrong--I had written January 1, 2008. It always takes a while to adjust, to move on from the old year.

New Year’s Eve has never been a hugely important celebration in my family history; I sort of remember a couple of times during my childhood where my parents got together with my aunt and uncle and played cards or something. My cousin and I, and maybe some other kids? would be left in the basement to watch movies or play. I don’t remember what we watched, though I have some vague memories of something having to do with Marky Mark???

I don’t really know if we stayed up until midnight or not. It just wasn’t that big of a deal.

I do remember the New Year’s that I spent in Saltillo, Mexico, my last year of college, during the semester I was student teaching. My friend Al and I got involved in this bus trip to Mexico with a church youth group. Al’s friends’ dad was the pastor for this church, and her friends went on the trip, too. We were the translators, we read these passages from a Bible in Spanish while the youth group put on a play, and I designed the sets for this traveling play.

The entire trip was about the craziest experience of my life, and I’m sure much of the events will make their way in one way or another into my fiction at some point; it was such a bizarre journey.

But part of our experience involved a New Year’s Eve church service in this beautiful little church where we were staying (which equals sleeping on cement floors with temps in the low thirties at night and a shower the next day from an unheated cistern on the roof). We presented our play and the locals presented us with these amazing musical performances and dancing and just this wondrous service that made us wonder what, in truth, we could possibly bring to the amazing community they had.

On our walk back around the compound just moments after the New Year began (and Al, A. and I went on a little longer walk around the block-type area), the night was just one constant explosion as the neighbors threw fireworks into the street and shot their guns into the air (one hopes). It was certainly exciting, if a little unnerving, and I wrapped myself in my warm, new serape and thought about how different my life could potentially be.