Monday, September 30, 2013

Mommy Mondays: How To Train Your Preschooler

It seems a bit risky to even mention this, like I'm tempting fate or jinxing myself, but here goes: I *think* we may have turned a corner in Jack's behavior. Four is only a few months away, and it appears - although this could of course be just a momentary lull or the calm before an unforeseen storm - that Jack is getting easier.

Don't get me wrong. Three has been tough. Maybe not as bad as Two (Two was pretty hellacious), but it hasn't been an easy year. Between potty training (nope, still not ready to talk about that), the true mastery of the art of whining, and a lot of adjustments on all our parts, we haven't exactly been a house full of happy campers this year. But lately, for maybe the last month or two, Jack has become a slightly more docile, reasonable, and obedient pet. Er, child.

For one thing, the kid is really getting great at traveling. He knows the whole drill, from climbing in and out of his car-seat/stroller at escalators and security checkpoints to raising his little arms above his head in the scanner thing at the airport (which, I have since learned, is not actually allowed for kids; Thanks, Russia, for repeatedly irradiating our child this past year). He knows that the Frankfurt airport means free pretzels in the Lufthansa lounge and, if he plays his cards right, a toy in duty free. Of course, it helps that John and I have learned from all our past mistakes and now pay the money and miles for upgrades and make sure to have a fully-charged iPad on hand. But honestly, Jack has been a trooper. It's made life a lot easier, considering how much traveling we do.

Jack, relaxing in style on our flight home to the US.

He also seems happier in general, and I'm not really sure what to chalk that up to. He's been extremely affectionate lately, voluntarily planting kisses on my cheeks out of the blue and insisting on extra snuggle time on the couch (we went through a dark period where he barely tolerated my kisses and then wiped them away with the back of his hand), and he's constantly singing and dancing, which can't be a bad thing. He's gotten very good at expressing himself, and he often remembers please and thank you all on his own. As in, "Mommy, get me out of this chair RIGHT NOW! Pweeeaaaaase."

I'm not saying it's all roses out here. Getting Jack ready for bed is an exercise in anger management - I swear it would be easier to put lotion on a 40-pound eel than it is to moisturize this child. He has learned, somehow, to play John and I against each other, blatantly ignoring my refusal of whatever he wants (generally more television) and turning directly to his father and asking as sweetly as possible. And he often makes unreasonable (and sometimes horrifying) demands. Here was a fun conversation the other day, while we were looking at ultrasound pictures in his baby book:
Jack: "Mommy, I want to go back into your belly through your belly button."
Me: "Sorry, buddy, that's not really how it works."
Jack: "It will be okay after I cut a hole in your belly and go back in."

So, yeah, occasionally it's like living with a tiny sociopath, but he's a very sweet, pleasant, and oftentimes polite sociopath. And really, what more can a parent ask for?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mommy Mondays: A Quick Trip Home

Some of you may have noticed on Facebook that I was home in the US last week for a short trip. I didn't announce it for two reasons. 1) I really wanted to surprise one of my best friends by randomly showing up at lunch (because how often do you get to really surprise someone?) and 2) I knew we'd have very little free time for visiting with friends. John needed some dental work and Jack and I decided to tag along, and I'm so glad we did (even though the jet lag is killing me).

That was my first time in the US since January, and it was glorious! Perfect fall weather, loads of time with my sister, delicious food, and that surprise I planned went off without a hitch. And of course we'll be back again in November (for three weeks instead of the initially planned one) so I'll get to see everyone else then. I did randomly run into one friend at the zoo, which was awesome. Here's how that conversation went.

Jack, standing by the otters: "They didn't go poo poo yesterday!"
Another little boy standing nearby: "Poo poo!"
Me: "Okay Jack, that's enough thanks."
Woman standing behind me: "Hi Jack, hi Mara."

And then I turned and saw that my friend Jill was there! So that was mildly embarrassing but also a nice surprise.  For those who have been living under a rock (or in Siberia), there's a new carousel at the National Zoo which, guess what, has an octopus!! (It also has a baby buffalo, a cuttlefish, and a large newt, if octopuses aren't your thing.)

Sha Sha and Jackie on the carousel.
Jack and I kept busy during the day by walking around and taking a lot of naps, and by visiting the "fishquarium," which is really the saddest (and possibly most expensive) of the DC attractions. It redeemed itself by having an octopus. John got in some good running and worked for a couple of days (boo), but we had some nice family time too. Mostly, there was a lot of this:

John, Jack, Sha Sha, and Minky, of course.

And frankly, there hasn't been nearly enough of that in my life lately. I can't believe I get to go back in a month! Weehoo!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mommy Mondays: Mommy is a Big Fat Hypocrite

Despite the fact that I have the mouth of a petite and beardless truck driver, I have been lucky in one thing: Jack rarely picks up on my swearing. There have been plenty of opportunities, believe me, especially with the swear words I tell myself are relatively harmless, like "crap" and "dammit." Perhaps he hears these words so frequently that they are no longer novel. Maybe he files them away with the other innocuous and banal words he has no use for, like "however" and "eventually."

Whatever the case, we've been lucky, and I'm grateful for it. But the other day, Jack did something unthinkable. He called Daddy "stupid."

John and I both froze. "We NEVER use that word," I told Jack firmly (I have a pretty scary pissed-off-mommy voice). "You apologize to Daddy right now." Jack's lower lip started to tremble and his eyes began to well with tears. He knew he was in trouble, but I'm not sure he knew why he was in trouble. Stupid is a tough concept for a three-year-old to grasp, I would guess, and I don't think he meant it literally. Still, I figured we'd better nip that one in the bud. Jack apologized to Daddy and promised to never say the word stupid again. He then proceeded to use it repeatedly, as in, "We don't say the word stupid." Le sigh.

After Jack had moved on to something else, John and I looked at each other. "Where did he learn that word?" John asked. "I have no idea," I answered, but I had my theories. "Probably from one of the many age-inappropriate movies we let him watch, like Lilo and Stitch or Cars." Yes, we told ourselves. It was our over liberal use of the television that was the problem. Blame Disney!

Yesterday, John took Jack to the dermatologist for what I suspect is a staph infection next to his mouth. I've seen these twice before and have a pretty good idea of what they look like, and I'd been treating it with the anti-bacterial cream we used on the last one. While it wasn't getting worse, it wasn't getting better, so we figured we'd better let a doctor look at it. John called me from the doctor's office to tell me that the dermatologist had declared it food-related allergies and to put him on a hypo-allergenic diet (which shouldn't include things like grapes, or coffee, because, you know, we were totally giving our three-year-old coffee).

When John got home I was livid. This was supposed to be the very best private clinic in town, and they diagnosed a localized rash on our kid's face as food allergies, then proceeded to recommend a specialized diet without doing allergy testing. Lo and behold, when I stopped using the anti-bacterial cream, the rash spread, so I'm pretty sure it IS a staph infection and the Russian cream isn't doing the trick. In my ranting to John, I uttered one very foolish sentence: "Seriously, are these people stupid?"

Jack's ears, which must have been tuned to the "stupid" channel, perked up instantly. "Mommy, you don't say the word stupid. You have to apologize to me and go on time out."

Oh boy.

After apologizing profusely, putting myself on a time out, and offering a silent mea culpa to Disney, Jack forgave me and allowed me to return to the kitchen. Where he then proceeded to talk about how Mommy had said the word stupid, which is a very bad word indeed.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Foreign Service Fridays: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

I've had to say a lot of goodbyes lately out here in Russia. It makes me sad :( Hopefully I'll have more hellos in my future. Read about it here, if you please. And have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Things I Love Thursdays: YOU!

Guys, this is my 400th post on Scribble Babble! Thanks to all of you who read, follow, comment, and encourage me to keep this blog going. It's a lot of work and sometimes I'm not sure it's worth it (I mean really, I started this thing for the same reason most aspiring authors do - to have a "platform" - and I'm pretty sure no agent or editor has ever glanced at it), but the occasional message or comment telling me I made you laugh or smile or think is more motivating than you know.

So here's to all of you for giving me a reason to write something other than the weird stories I make up in my head. They may have been what inspired me to start this blog, but YOU are the inspiration for every post since then.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Writing Wednesdays: Name That Genre!

I'm hoping some of my writing friends will be able to help me out today. I can't figure out what genre to call my novel, and it's driving me slightly insane.

Right now, I'm calling it upper YA fantasy, since the MC is 18 and it doesn't quite fall under New Adult (she hasn't gone off to college yet, and this whole NA subgenre thing is still a little shaky, right?). An agent called it urban fantasy despite the fact that I labeled it plain ol' fantasy. Why? I suppose because it starts out in the "real world," which is where urban fantasies take place, in - duh - an urban setting.

But, the MC is only in the real world for the first chapter. Then she goes to a parallel world (or "secondworld," which is apparently a thing I'd never heard of until recently). It's definitely not high fantasy (fantasy wherein the world of the novel is THE world from what I can tell), and I'm not sure if it's contemporary fantasy (a genre whose definition I find very difficult to pin down, but seems to be fantasy set in the modern world; mine isn't). Is it dark fantasy? I mean, it's pretty dark, but it's definitely not horror. As you can see, it's a pickle.

Honestly, I didn't think it mattered that much (an agent should be able to figure out what it is from the query letter, right?). But following all the Pitch Madness tweets, many of which call out mislabeled pitches, has made me paranoid. Does it matter? Is the sub-genre really that important?

I honestly have no idea anymore.