Almost-three.

Oh my lady. If almost-three is any indication of what three is going to be like (and I have a sinking feeling that it is) we are in for a wild ride.

It goes something like this:
“I want cocoa!” (This is every morning, as soon as his pretty blue eyes open. “Cocoa” is actually 2/3 white milk and 1/3 chocolate milk, nuked for 45 seconds and shaken in a sippy cup. Ideally, it is enjoyed on the couch, while watching ‘a show’, but it will really be acceptable at any time of the day.)

“Let me help!” (There’s some back and forth about how we ask for things politely and then a very well-practiced routine of him pretending to help pour the multiple milks, him putting the valve in the sippy, him opening the microwave, him pretending to help push the buttons, him insisting that I count backwards from 45 until the microwave beeps, him opening the door, and him screwing the lid of the sippy on. Are you still wondering why we have to wake up a minimum of a full hour before we need to leave to be anywhere?)

Then we watch the show (usually Dora and, while we’re talking about Dora, why is everything Dora-related manufactured as a “girl” thing? Pink Dora nightgown, pink Dora underwear, pink Dora makeup set — makeup set? It’s annoying. I briefly contemplated buying Dora underwear for The Who today — see what I did there? Briefly? Underwear? Anyway. — but decided against it. They had Diego underwear for boys, but The Who isn’t into Diego. Ugh. Annoying.) So, yeah. Then we watch the show and that is usually fine. At some point during the watching, I say, “After the show, we have to get dressed for school.” And he brightly replies, “Ok, Mama!” Masquerading as the cooperative child he used to be.

Show ends. Me: “Time to get dressed!” Him: T. A. N. T. R. U. M. And this is when he pulls out all the tricks, including but not limited to: “I want another Dora! More cocoa! I’m hungry! I don’t wanna get dressed! One minute! Set the timer!” I do usually manage to get some clothes on him, but I can never manage to get him to go potty. “I don’t have to pee!” While doing the pee-dance. WhatEVER.

I will give him this: once the clothes are on and the cocoa is consumed, as long as I follow the carefully practiced script, it goes pretty smoothly. I need to remember to let him unlock and open the door. And I need to let him take his sweet time making his way to the car. And I need to let him pick up one, two, sometimes three rocks from the driveway and bring them in the car with him. (I also need to let him bring a toy from home to school; usually it’s just one, so that’s easy.) We also need to listen to “kid music” on the way to school and we have to stay in the car until he says it’s time to go in (which is usually only until the current song is over.) I have to let him climb out of the carseat himself and run up to the front door of school and ring the bell and “sign his name” on the sign-in sheet. But then we’re good. And that’s just the morning.

That’s just the morning. One hour. Good thing (for you) it’s a school day because I’ll stop with the excruciating detail now. But rest assured that it picks right up where I left off at school pick-up, right through ’til bedtime. And if it’s not a school day? You guessed it. All day long.

And this, friends, is why I am dreading three.

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Halloweenie.

Halloween is around the corner and we’re getting ready. Putting together a costume for The Who (a construction worker) and painting pumpkins. But the truth is that I don’t really care about Halloween all that much. I mean, it was really fun last year. Just like a scene out of a movie, in fact. And, ok, free candy. But, I don’t know. It’s just a good time like going to a playground is a good time. Like apple picking was a good time. Not like This Is My Favorite Day Of The Year!!!!! good time, which is how some of my friends think of Halloween.

Every year, I look forward to handing out candy to all the little trick-or-treaters, but then every year when the doorbell rings for the first time, I’m already over it. Last year, we left a bowl on the porch and locked the door and I was fine with that. There’s only so much feigning interest in stupid, generic Disney princesses one person can manage.

There is one part of Halloween I dig, though, and that’s watching The Who start to get excited about dressing up and being imaginative. I don’t think he really remembers trick-or-treating, nor do I think he has any real idea what will happen on that night, but the dressing up part? He totally gets that. And I love it.

We tried on some glasses in the costume section of a local store today. Creepy.

Non-creepy masks that still kinda creep me out.

Stay tuned for actual Halloween pictures of his actual Halloween costume at some point after actual Halloween, which I’m sure will be fun. Unless it rains.

Screamy Whining.

Y’know what blows? Constant defiance. Despite having one of the most compliant toddlers in the world (I mean, he’s still 2.5 — don’t get me wrong — but, from what I’ve seen and heard, he’s pretty laid back) he’s still quite comfortable with the “no.”

Actually, on second thought, it’s not so much the no-saying as it is the constant argument after every limit. The tears. The screamy whine. And, increasingly now, the “pleeeeeeeeaaaaaasssse, Mama?”

I try everything, too. I try giving him fair warning: “After breakfast, we need to get dressed,” and I am naively encouraged (every damn time) when he cheerfully agrees (until the time comes when he has to follow through.) I try giving a 5-minute warning and when I announce that five minutes is up, I always get, “But it’s not five minutes yet!” And how do you prove that to someone who can’t tell time? I try setting the timer on the phone, which actually worked for a while, but lately he’s been lobbying for more time, more playing, one more drink, etc. And it’s all accompanied by Real Tears. And I’m stuck in this Catch-22 situation. I want to honor his feelings of disappointment at having to stop what he’s doing and do something else or his feelings of frustration at being ruled by grown-ups all the time, but I also don’t want to be manipulated. And more than all of that: I’m sick of that effing screamy whine.

I was pretty sure that we had a breakthrough today, actually. He gave me more of that crappy, suckish junk and I finally put on my stern voice and told him that I was not going to have an argument every time a limit was set. I knew I was sort of using language that was above him and asking him to listen and respond to reason, but I was fed up. And lo — he stopped the tears immediately! He just said, “OK.” He stopped whining about wanting to watch more Peppa Pig, walked over to his fire trucks and started playing. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles.

But it was short-lived and we had battles of wills when I asked him to go potty, go up for nap, and at bath time. This ends eventually, right? Right? (It doesn’t really, does it?)

Ganks for the Lemmalade, Mama.

He says really adorable things lately. Like today, while he was poking around in my wallet, he asked me to take out my “mama card” for him. I had to explain that it was my driver’s license and it was important and I couldn’t let him play with it, but really, I just wanted to kiss up his cute cheeks. Mama card. The toddler/preschooler mind is a fantastic thing.

One of the things I love about his teacher this year is that she loves their minds as much as I do and she often asks them questions and records their answers, word for word. When I pick him up at the end of the day, I am often treated to an impossibly precious quote of his up on the whiteboard outside his classroom. Like that time he said “I have no brothers and no sisters. I have my Mama and my Mommy.” Ok, all together now: awwwwww.

Mispronunciations are cute and I keep a little log of them in my phone because I know someday when he’s a grown man with a strong, deep voice and stellar grammar and diction, I will want to remember that he said “ftink” instead of “think” and that he’s asking for a drink when he tells me he’s “firfsty.” But the real gems are the long strings of thoughts that come pouring out of him when he’s sitting and processing things. It’s something I can’t really accurately articulate because I can never remember it exactly the way I heard it, which is what makes it worth repeating.

Sometimes I can get it down right after he says it and text it to m* because I know she will think it is just as amazing as I do. Sometimes I get it on Facebook because I hope that someone will think it’s as amazing as I do. But then sometimes I just listen to it and love it and smile to myself and move on.

These are some really trying and annoying and frustrating years, these first few. But they are also crazy cute. And I’m eating it up.

Never mind.

I have the best boy in the world.

This is the dream, kids. This is the fairy tale. This is what it looks like when, as a young person with no responsibilities, you envision what life will be like when you’re a grown-up with kids. The fantasy is a little kid who looks like you (check) in cozy flannel jammies (check) and soft, freshly washed hair (check), burrowing into your neck (check) as you comfort him back to sleep (check.) What’s not to love?

Never mind that I lost my cool with him after the bath because he tossed his socks over the edge of the bed (twice) when I wanted to put them on him. Never mind that he wanted to hang off the door jamb to the car like Bob the Builder does when I had to pee and had my arms full of stuff. Never mind that he stood crying in the middle of the farmer’s market, clutching his sample piece of artisan bread, refusing to follow me to the car while most of my small town watched.

Never mind all of that. Because right now, in the middle of a Thursday night, my little boy smells like orange shampoo and the tops of his ears are warm and pink and his mouth hangs open in the tiniest little perfect pout and he is safe and he is soft and he is sleeping with his knees drawn up and his fists tucked under his chin. So, never mind all the rest of it because it’s this moment that I’m marking tonight.