Geekamama


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Mama’s little helper

It was a little surreal after dinner a couple of nights ago. I was the last one finishing up my meal (not unusual, since I’m often eating and kid-wrangling at the same time) and I needed a distraction for Kiddo. “Hey, do you want to go help Daddy pick up in the living room?” I suggested enthusiastically. “Yeah!” he said, and ran off to do… a chore I’d been putting off myself.

What parent hasn’t joked that the reason to have kids is to get free household help? It seems just a little ironic that he’s so eager to help now, with all his two-year-old klutziness, and once he gets the motor skills and attention span to be able to do a task well, he’ll find all kinds of things he’d rather do.

But we’re making the most of it while we still can. He’ll pick up his toys and books as long as one of us sits there directing Kiddo’s efforts. There’s a lot of, “OK, now please put away the red dump truck. The red one. That’s it, great! Now the yellow truck. The yellow–hey, we’re still working on the living room here, come back!” When we’re in a hurry or antsy to get on with the day it’s really tempting to just do it myself. But all that’s going to do is teach him how to get out of doing chores. That sure won’t forward my goal of being able to lounge on the couch eating bonbons while Kiddo vacuums around me.

His favorite “chore” these days is sweeping the floor. And if enthusiasm was all it took, our living room carpet would be as clean as the day it was installed. Kiddo likes to grab the old broom from next to the fridge–the one with straw bristles that break off pretty easily–so we can tell where he’s been sweeping by the trail he leaves behind.

He isn’t completely ineffective though. He’s gotten pretty good at picking up his clothes, if reminded, and he’ll help me sort laundry. First we sort it into shirts, and everything else. Then we sort the remaining pile into socks, and everything else. And so on. I’m confident that with practice, we’ll be able to reduce the number of passes through the basket.

A few months ago, I asked some of my toddler-mom friends what chores they recruited their children to help with. Some of their suggestions were things we were already doing, and others (like the laundry sorting) were easy to put into practice. But the one that surprised me was getting him involved with cooking. That seemed like asking for trouble! But I decided to give it a chance.

I was making a test batch of key lime fudge (you’ll see more on that project before long) and it seemed a simple enough and safe enough recipe to test out this mother-son cooking gig. Before we started cooking anything, I prepped everything. I opened the cans and containers, measured the other ingredients into little bowls, and lined up the equipment we’d need. I also recruited my husband to photo-document the whole thing.

Kiddo’s tasks were to break up some white chocolate baking bars in a Ziploc bag, and to pour ingredients into a cold saucepan. Once that was done, I melted everything together on the stove. I’d planned that he would pour the remaining ingredients into the pan once I took it off the heat, but we realized right away that this wasn’t a good idea and I took over. Fortunately, Kiddo’s nose wasn’t put out of joint at all by this, because he’s still got that typical two-year-old short attention span and he was ready to move on.

Breaking up the white chocolate

Scooping up the chocolate pieces and pouring them into the pan

Shaking up some condensed milk before we add it to the mix

We’ll probably try it again one of these days, when time and the recipe allows. I think it will take a couple tries before we get a good feel for what kind of recipes are best for him to help with–if anyone has suggestions, please let me know! We might as well leverage his desire to be just like mom and dad for as long as we can.


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So soon?

This past weekend, Kiddo had his first encounter (that I know about) with bullying. It was pretty minor in the scheme of things: Kiddo wanted to play on a piece of play equipment, the other child pushed Kiddo around a bit and then held onto Kiddo’s shirt when he tried to get away. I intervened–not without some angry words, I confess–and a few minutes later Kiddo was off playing somewhere else, happy again. Meanwhile, I simmered about it, and spend the next half hour trying to pinpoint the other child’s parents, although I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I’d figured them out.

I was pretty sure that it had affected me more than it had affected Kiddo, but apparently he was still thinking about it, because that night at bedtime he brought it up again. I’d settled him into his bed and turned off the light, when out of nowhere Kiddo said “That boy wasn’t very nice.”

It caught me off guard, and I had to wing it. I agreed that the other kid hadn’t been nice, and Kiddo and I talked about it some more. I reassured him that he’d done the right thing by asking a grown-up for help when someone was bothering him, then had to define “grown-up,” and then confirmed that yes, Dad and I and his teachers and his aunts and uncles and grandparents are all grown-ups. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Parenting so far has had a lot of “uh-oh, I didn’t realize we’d hit THAT milestone already” moments. Most of them have been net-positive; inconvenient for us, but overall a sign of growth and maturity, like when Kiddo first was able to grab things off the counter, or the first time he told us that he wanted to go to a restaurant for dinner instead of eating at home. But this weekend was the other side of the coin. I’ve always known that at some point in his life some other kid would be mean and push him around, but I didn’t expect that I’d see it at two and a half.

Kiddo hasn’t brought up incident since that one bedtime conversation, so maybe he’s over it. I’m the one still chewing on it. Most Mondays I’m telling my friends all about our weekend family adventures, but I’ve held back on talking about this one because I’m not sure what there is to say. “This happened. I’m bummed about it.” I thought that I’d be all full of spit and vinegar, but instead I’m just… sad, I guess.

Every parent wants to wrap their child up in love and bubble wrap to protect them from the unpleasantness of the world. And we just can’t. We have to let them get emotionally scuffed, because one day they’ll have to deal with it, without us to cushion it.


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Cupid says hi

We made valentines for Kiddo’s class last week. I did some whirlwind shopping on Monday evening, grabbed a few things I already had on hand, and with Kiddo’s help, constructed a dozen valentines for his friends. I was worried that I was going to be That Mom who goes nuts with the DIY crafting. But when we picked up Kiddo and his haul after daycare the next evening, it turned out we weren’t alone in this endeavor.

At any rate, it was a fun family activity for us to do together. We had a hard time keeping on track and needed to take a couple goldfish breaks, and we didn’t finish the insides until after dinner. But I think we all had a good time. I need to find things like this to do more often!

I glued big red hearts onto some blank cards that I had on hand, and then let Kiddo go to town with the heart stickers that I’d gotten on my way home.A couple ended up on his father’s card as well. Then I wrote a greeting on the inside and Kiddo “signed” the cards with a scribble or two.

He had a little trouble getting the stickers off the sheet, so his dad and I took turns helping out.

Peeling stickers off the sheet

We let Kiddo pick out which ones to use next.

Stickering is serious business.

Placing stickers on the cards

The finished product.

We hope your Valentine’s Day was a good one!

Love, Kiddo and family


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Snow day

Last week we had a record-breaking snowstorm in the Seattle area. There had been snow on and off for the previous several days, but on January 18 the official measured snowfall was 6.8 inches. That’s almost 2 inches more than the average annual snowfall around here.

It may bring traffic to a standstill and strain email servers as everyone works from home, but it’s also a lot of fun to play in. Kiddo didn’t get a snow-covered Montana trip this past holiday season, so it came to him.

He and his dad set out from the back porch (where we’d measured the snowfall) around to the front of the house.

Walking around the house in the snow

(Click the pictures to see larger versions.)

Once he got to the front, he tromped around by himself for a bit.

Tromping around in the snow

We brought a bucket and shovel out for Kiddo to play with. He loved it. He walked from one spot to another, scooping up a shovel of snow and dropping it into the bucket.  When asked, he told us he was grocery shopping.

Playing in the snow with bucket and shovel

Someone taught him how to throw snowballs. It only took him three tries to discover the true purpose of snowballs: throwing them at other people. His favorite target? Mom, of course.

Kiddo throws a snowball

When his grandparents were here a few days earlier, we’d made a snowman with the couple of inches that fell over the weekend. Today seemed like a good day to round out the family.

Building a snowman

He was clearly having a grand time playing outside…

Very cute picture of Kiddo

… but eventually decided he was done for the day, after one too many falls in the deep snow.

Down again in the snow

Just how deep? Here’s what we measured on the picnic table on the back porch. I think there was even more than that out front.

Snow measurement: just over 7 inches


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Imagine this

Sunday night, we rode home from the grocery store in a bulldozer. The piles of dark-colored blankets and pillows on the floor are water, perfect for swimming around in, as is the pile of wrapping paper in the living room left over from New Year’s Day. Those Duplo constructions parked on a Rubbermaid tub in the studio? Airplanes waiting at the airport.

You can, I hope, guess which member of our family is the creative mind behind those discoveries. Our young sir Kiddo has quite an imagination spinning in that head of his. It’s endearingly entertaining. It does at times make it more challenging to figure out what he’s so enthusiastically telling us. We can’t go off contextual clues when the context is all in his head.

The tough part for us lately is holding back from asking leading questions about what he’s dreaming up. If he’s decided that his Mega Bloks tower is the airport, I don’t want to squelch that line of imagination by asking whether it’s a house. I feel a little regretful when he changes his own idea to fall in with ours. But more and more lately, he’ll reply that NO, Mom, it’s the AIRPORT. Duh.

He’s picked up my habit of making up silly little songs too. The other night at bedtime he asked me to sing the Mommy Song. “Mommy Song?” I asked, buying time while I tried to remember it. He helped me out by singing it: “Mommy and Daddy and Kiddo, Mommy and Daddy and Kiddo…” All him, ladies and gentlemen. Call to inquire about bookings.

Eventually, I’m sure, he’ll realize that he can tell us things that aren’t true. He hasn’t quite gotten to the point of lying, which is actually a developmental milestone, according to a study from the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University published last summer. Sometimes he does deliberately answer No when he knows we’re expecting a Yes answer (“Did you open the microwave when we told you not to?”) but he hasn’t yet started making up full-blown lies intending to get him out of trouble. At the rate he’s going, that’s probably not too far away, and that will be a whole ‘nother can of worms.

But until that happens, we’ll just grin silly grins when he starts telling us about how Doggie and Cookie Monster are riding on a boat and a helicopter and a train.