Crazed In the Kitchen: April 2012   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Entourage: The Preschool Years

You know how sometimes your kids do things that are cute? And sometimes they do things that drive you crazy? And—once in a great while—they do something that is both cute AND drives you crazy? Well, this is about one of those things. One of those Cute-Crazy things.

My four-year-old son travels with an entourage. No, he doesn’t have an assistant or stylist or bodyguard. I’m not even talking about myself and his little brother, though he is forced to spend a good portion of his waking moments with us. Rather, Matthew has collected a motley crew of stuffed lovies that must accompany him around the house at all times. One day I made a tiny little joke about his (insert silent swear word here) entourage, and the label stuck.

Here’s how a typical conversation goes around here:

Me: Matthew! Do you want to do a puzzle with me in the playroom?

Matthew: YES! Wait! Let me get my entourage! (Aww…isn’t that cute? He wants his stuffed animals to join us!)

(He begins scurrying around the house, gathering his entourage.)

Me (from the playroom, where the puzzle is almost done): Matthew, what’s going on out there? What’s taking so long?

Matthew (super-whine time): I can’t find my whole entouraaaaage!!! (Holy hell, this kid is going to drive me crazy!)

Like I said. Cute-Crazy.

The problem is not so much that Matthew wants to bring his lovies wherever he goes, it’s that the entourage has gotten so BIG lately. Our house is not big, and only has one floor, but the finding, gathering, and transporting of his entourage still manages to take up a good bit of his day.

Since Matthew recently asked me to photograph his entourage (why? They are with him ALL THE TIME! If he wants to know what they look like couldn’t he just, I don’t know, look down?), I figured I might as well share.

So, here it is—an introduction to my four-year-old’s entourage.

The founding member is a stuffed doggie with whom Matthew fell in love early on. Not being very creative with stuffed animal names, my husband and I called the doggie “Doggie,” and Matthew followed suit.

The earliest known picture of Matthew (20 months) and Doggie

Doggie has a companion Blankie, which at one point Matthew liked me to drape over his face before he fell asleep.

Who in their right mind takes a photo--with FLASH--of a sleeping child?
But then things changed. One day not long after his second birthday, Matthew made an announcement. Doggie’s name had changed. She would now be known as “Baby Missy.” If my husband or I slipped up and said “Doggie,” Matthew gently reminded us by saying, “I’m sorry, BABY MISSY.” This drove my husband completely batty as “Missy” just happens to be the nickname of my horribly bitchy cat who hisses at him if he so much as looks at her from across the room. He is not fond of this cat. He pretty much hates this cat. And now his son’s most precious possession—his best friend, even—had been named after this cat.

We resisted, figuring that Matthew—being only two years old at the time, after all—would forget this folly and go back to using the much more sensible moniker “Doggie” for his BFF. But Matthew beat us into submission and within a few months we stopped calling the doggie “Doggie-I-mean-BABY-MISSY” and started calling her simply “Baby Missy.”

Here is what happened when I tried to photograph Baby Missy and Blankie.

Matthew, get out of the picture.


There it is.

For over a year, Matthew was very reasonable about Baby Missy and Blankie. They went with him everywhere IN the house, but they never LEFT the house (please, like I wanted to go through the horror of accidently leaving one of them at the McDonald’s play place, er, I mean, the library). The other stuffed animals in the house were mostly ignored, and he never even noticed when 95% of them happened to disappear when we moved.

So I don’t know what happened around the time he turned 3 ½. We went to the zoo, where we were given a (free) tiny, stuffed elephant. I handed it to Matthew, thinking he would hold onto it for a while before it made its way to Goodwill with its predecessor reject stuffies. But something had changed. This elephant was special. This elephant needed to be with him (and Baby Missy and Blankie) at all times. And this elephant needed a name.

I give you…


Yes, he named the elephant “Baby.” And from that moment on, when he got out of bed in the morning and until he went to sleep at night, Blankie, Baby Missy and now Baby went with him everywhere (in the house. I’m still not crazy enough to let them go anywhere else).

A few weeks later, Matthew was invited to a friend’s birthday party. After 2 hours of hardcore jumping, climbing, and sliding at an indoor play place, he guzzled two juice boxes and barfed all over the lunchroom floor. As we were hurriedly ushered out of the place, his friend’s mom flung a goody bag at us before going off to try to clean her shoes (oops). What was in the bag? A teeny, tiny, stuffed bear:

Hmmm...I wonder what he named it?

After thinking about it for a nanosecond, Matthew declared, “I will call her Baby Bear!” And a new member of the entourage was born.

[Quick entourage recap: We now have Blankie, Baby Missy, Baby, and Baby Bear. And they all must go everywhere around the house with Matthew. All the time.]

So what exactly was I thinking just a few weeks later, during a trip to the local Aquarium, when I let Matthew pick one reasonably priced toy to bring home? I guess I was thinking that he would buy his usual—fish tattoos or a little ball with dolphins all over it, something practical that he could use to taunt or bonk his little brother. What did he choose?

I believe it's a tiger shark.

It took him 25 long minutes to settle on this shark, but it took him again about a nanosecond to name her…Shark Baby. And the entourage grew yet again.

[Entourage Roll Call!! Now we have Blankie, Baby Missy, Baby, Baby Bear, and Shark Baby. Try saying THAT 10 times fast.]

So then what exactly was SANTA thinking just a bit later at Christmas when he gave Matthew these six lovely orange towels that just so happen to look exactly like the freebies they give out at a certain Southern California pro hockey team’s games?

Orange, so they're easy to find.

Well, he was thinking that Matthew would like to have a hand towel of his very own and that having such a hand towel would encourage him to WASH HIS HANDS after using the bathroom—something Matthew did not seem to see as important. (And, given the volume of pee I find on the floor next to the toilet, it seems that maybe he’s right—his hands don’t seem to be involved in whatever aiming method he’s using.) And, because Santa is a smart guy who knows about kids, he figured Matthew would go through about a towel a day—so having six would mean less pressure on Mommy to get laundry done daily.

(Or maybe Santa just knows how ridiculous it is to expect Mommy to do laundry daily. That would seriously cut into her facebook time, after all.)

Anyway, it is safe to say that NO ONE quite expected Matthew to get as attached to those dumb towels as he did. While he didn’t give them each a name (Baby Towel? Towel Baby?), they joined his entourage and now go with him wherever he goes. (IN THE HOUSE. I seriously do a pat down at the front door whenever we leave.)

So, if you are one of those “lucky” people who happens to know me in real life and wonders why I can’t ever, EVER get to our play dates on time, now you know one of the reasons. We’re looking for Matthew’s entourage.

And my sanity.

The gang's all here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Out of the Rat Race and Into the Poop Race

Two years ago I took a leave of absence from my full-time job teaching 3rd grade. No more papers to grade, administrators to impress, lessons to plan. I could—and often did—spend all day in my jammies (and by “jammies” I mean “crappy old flannel pants and spit-up-covered t-shirt because SOMEONE around here forgot to do laundry again. Oh wait, that was me.”) My commute went from 18 miles each way to a slow crawl to the coffee pot each morning. In a lot of ways, life became less hectic. But it took me just a few weeks at home with a newborn and an almost-two-year-old to realize I had left the Rat Race—and entered the Poop Race.

Ryan Gosling pix make it ok to blog about poop.

I knew that being a stay-at-home mom would mean that I would end up taking on most of the poop duty (heh heh, I said doody). At first I embraced my role as Head Diaperer. I spent hours and hours researching cloth diapers, and I organized all our diapering supplies in cute little baskets. I had two boys in diapers at that time—and, as it turned out, would for almost another whole year—so keeping track of diapers both clean and dirty took up a decent amount of my waking hours.

(Probably no one needs to know that I have, on occasion, dreamed about those cloth diapers at night—right?)

Anyway, fast forward two years and, yes, my kids are older, but I’m still in the thick of the Poop Race. In fact, I realized not long ago that I am the Primary Butt-Wiper for FOUR out of the six living creatures in our house (4 human, 2 feline). Do the math and you may get worried—do my hubby and I have one of THOSE relationships? No. No no no no no no no no no no. And no. But me and one of my cats apparently do, because she is either too fat or too lazy to take care of business herself and so I have been instructed by my possibly-crazy vet to go after her tushie with a baby wipe once a day.

(Um, that has actually happened maybe three times in the three months that have passed since he suggested it. It just almost never makes it to the top of my priority list, for some reason. Things I would rather do than wipe my cat’s ass: as many loads of laundry as I can possibly find in the house, scrub the kitchen sink with bleach and a toothbrush, read Goodnight Moon 3985239854798 more times—you get the picture.)

One more...
And the thing about poop in our house is that it always seems to happen in a when-it-rains-
it-pours kind of way—one enormous, awful Poop Storm. Here’s how a typical day goes: At some point, my 2-year-old informs me that he has a poopy diaper. This sets off some sort of physiological trigger in my 4-year-old, who then races for the bathroom. Before I can even finish changing William’s diaper, Matthew is yelling from the bathroom, “Mooooooommmmmyyyy!! I poooooooooped!” Translation: “I will sit here screaming about it until the neighbors call the cops or you come wipe me!” I finish up with William, and head for Matthew. As I’m finishing up with him, one of my cats saunters into the bathroom and heads for the litter box—he might as well have a freakin’ newspaper tucked under his arm! That means that within minutes I’ll be scooping HIS poop too if I don’t want all of us to live in a foul cloud of stink.

So. Much. Poop.

The good news is that we have avoided many of the more awful-sounding poop problems that parents of young kids often face. Neither of my children has so much as dabbled in the poop-as-art-on-the-wall movement, and no one poops in the tub anymore. We have so far avoided the stomach flu altogether in our house (though I probably just jinxed it, right?), and…
Special bonus George/Ryan double treat. You're welcome.


Crap. I can’t think of another example. I’m too caught up in worrying that writing about how we’ve never had the stomach flu means we’re now all going to get the stomach flu. And what that will mean for me in terms of cleaning and laundry and my beloved cloth diapers.

Better go. Time to stock up on Clorox wipes and Pedialyte!