Saturday, April 26, 2008
It was an uncharacteristically playground filled Sunday. After playing in the Wash Square sandbox all morning while E worked, we met Seth and his skateboard in Central Park. We rock climbed and scooted and then rode the carousel. I don't know what it is about a carousel that makes me so damn emotional, but it gets me every time. Maybe its the extreme motion sickness, but I get all choked up about how lovely our life is and what a fortunate life P leads, yadi yadi. And what, with the whirring around at the speed of slow-light, with blooming lilac bushes and skyscrapers as the streaming background to your kid's face, really, the effect is nothing short of magic.
I don't know if P feels the magic, but I do know he can't pass a carousel without riding it :) So after some spinning, we scooted/skateboarded to the park's huge playground and Seth, E and P rock climbed and played some more. P's adoration for his Uncle is unbelievable and this made his month. There's a fabulous hill-dip combo with sproingy-soft flooring to ride, skate, scoot and roll on there. P made fast friends with an older roller-blader who even asked to push P on the swings. He was a really sweet kid and it was the second time that day that P made buddies on the playground. Back at Wash Square an 8-9 year old named Austin became enormously enamoured with Phoenix and Baby Brother. He saw P burying and kicking BB while I did the squeeling/complaining that is Baby Brother's mainstay and thought we were a virtual Laurel and Hardy. He happily helped bury BB, looking around like we were doing something illegal. Then he really got into it. He started chucking the poor doll everywhere, stomping on him, sticking him in buckets and sitting on him, instructing me to make him scream. His pear shaped body put a lot more strain on our pink pal than P's little butt , but the image of our closeted back-up BB helped me stay calm. P, meanwhile, was totally chill. I don't know if it was the kid's size/age or the fact that he seemed as happy to beat BB up as P does, but P was fine sharing something that he generally tackles anyone for touching.
On the way home from Central Park we passed a Huge hill that ended sharply and curved back up. P wanted the larger riders to tackle the slope, setting a safe example. He thought about it, but I think he realized this was even steeper than the one that tossed him, so he declined a descent. Seth went down for one more go and, without the ease of brakes like on our scooters, he did a number on his elbow. P yelped and ran down to him :) It was pretty cute to see him so concerned for someone. After we bandaged his arm, Seth mentioned he thought the fall had gotten his ass too. P clucked his concern and told Seth to let him have a look, walking behind him to pull down his pants :) Ahhh, the social innocence of a three year old.
What a lovely week! The weather was Perfect. Sans nap (necessitating a mid-day trip home) and sans cold (necessitating, well, a different climate) P is perfectly content to play inside for the morning and then outside all afternoon. I felt like we finally reached homeostasis. The right amount of "out" has led to a more peaceful "in" and an easier time of it getting out. He's also been fairly willing to meet up with friends in the afternoon. The success of these meetings has greatly varied :) and he often reminds me that he'd rather play "with just you, mama, and papa." I've Got to read Neufeld's "Hold on to your kids" to iron out any lasting wrinkles about peer imperatives lurking in my psyche...
So I am aiming for 50/50 peer play vs mama and P time. We went to Dumbo for one of our days. We started with some sand play with trucks, followed by castle building. P had brought Snow White and Peter Pan with us and the castle belonged to the Evil Witch (amazingly missing from our ridiculously inclusive toy collection) played by a bearded dwarf. Then he climbed the rocks and tossed baby brother in a hole. It started as torture and turned to home building, followed by demolition and excavation. Followed, of course, by sand burial of P and, later, BB.
The playground is just around the bend, but P still has No Interest in playgrounds, so we stayed at the beach all afternoon. Then we scooted to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for some homemade vanilla. As we sat in the shade P grinned at me and said "Ahhh. This is lovely mama. Sitting and chilling with ice cream. What a nice day." I hate to laugh when he's being sincere, but I can't help it :)
E walked the bridge from work and joined us at Rice for dinner. Their vegetarian options are pretty extensive so lots of new flavors pass P's palate - which he prefers. I mean, he loves his old favorites (huuuullo pizza!) but he really adores new foods, devouring their edamame hummus and corn cakes. Bed should have followed the chocolate cupcake, but P really wanted to return to the water in search of a driftwood balance beam he played on last year. The board was gone, but some rock tossing while watching the sun set over the city balanced out his disappointment and finished the day perfectly.
And thank gawd for no naps. Good sleep and a little growth and he's found his groove in so many ways, making him, dare I say it? Agreeable? Accommodating? Well, enjoyable at the very least :) He's gone from one of the strongest willed, intently autonomous toddlers I've ever met to a problem solving preschooler in the last 6 months and spending time with him is, well, fun. It could be fun-ny before, but was simultaneously trying, tiring and tantrum filled. By bedtime I usually felt like I'd been run over by a mack truck hauling a huge load of demands. Now my little mack truck understands "I'd love to do x for you, but my hands are busy with wet dishes. Can you wait?" If he doesn't respond "awwight mom" he might say "mama, I weally NEED x, Now. Please help." These are words he had 6 months ago, but his Phoenix-centered brain made it impossible for him to string them together. No more! Now he can be busy playing with E in one room and hear me quietly growl after I drop his peeled pear in the next room (my general ammo with frustration) and yell in "What mama? You ok?"
And its amazing what a little patience, understanding and empathy (from the kid) will do for parents. Its kinda like when your baby starts smiling. It takes the relationship up a notch in enjoyability. We've always thought he was fabulous :) but were too often too frustrated to fully appreciate said specialness. Absent of the popular parenting trump cards (because I said so, or, you have to the count of three, or, I said No!) constant demands and the ensuing deal making was difficult with our pre-logical, self-centered offspring :) The idea that respect and generosity can't be taught (trained, yes, but truly understood, no) occasionally seemed a pie in the sky notion that deserved the eye rolling it generated from elderly onlookers on the subway. But every time we thumbed through Naomi Aldort, we knew what she wrote was true. And we are seeing signs of that now. Without lectures, shaming, time-outs or yelling/spanking, P is... kind. He's still three, of course, and playdates seem to fit outside of this newfound friendliness, but with E and I its getting golden. This isn't to say he's grown compliant. The last thing I yearn for is a world of automatons. But a world full of kind problem solvers I will take!
I write this celebratory post for the inevitably less envious stage that will hit in, say, 4, 6, 12? months. Then we can look back and say, well, there was that one golden week .... and we really Don't want compliant, we want kind. We don't want compliant? we don't want compliant, we don't want compliant..... :)
Monday, April 21, 2008
Last week was Unbelievably gorgeous so we played with friends in the sunshine most days - a great change from this winter! After scooting and biking and monster hunting and digger digging and snack eating with Malek, the boys decided to "fish." Some grass and sticks later they both had poles and we headed to the waterfall pond to fish. We actually located some fish in the water, but apparently the grass rope wasn't sufficiently enticing. Or the noise might have been a bit much :) When Malek headed home P just wasn't ready to give up the day and requested we scoot to the Botanical Gardens. The spring blooms were delightful and the children's garden smelled amazing. P must have stopped to smell 100 flowers that day, finishing each sniff with a dramatic "mmm,mmm, mmmm!"
Friday, April 18, 2008
P Loves the idea of castles. I don't think he really "gets" what a castle is all about, but we call the building in his playroom a castle. And, of course, Cinderella goes to the castle :) There is also the much loved sand castle, and the entire idea of a dragon filled moat.
Anyway, when we mentioned going to Belvedere Castle last weekend he was pretty stoked. Who was Belvedere? Why did he build a castle? Was there a dragon filled moat? The interior was closed due to the late hour, but P happily hopped amongst the rocks asking castle questions. And this got me wondering, once again, are we just stupid parents? Or do you just not realize how little your folks know when you are three because you know even less? I wonder this because it seemed like my parents always knew the answers, and E's dad Certainly always knows some amazing answers. Meanwhile, E and I seem to say "ummm, let's google that" an awful lot...
But I digress, again. P loved the castle. And then he banged his head on the hill as we headed home.
We had such a blast last Sunday that at the end of the day we felt like we'd been on vacation. We went to AMNH and the Children's Museum of Manhattan (yay for memberships!!) roamed Central Park and ate out all day. Any one of these usually defines our weekend, so all of it in one day was a real treat. But we were on a roll (actually a scoot, but...)
Once again, the changes in P were so obvious at the museums. He focused on exhibits even longer and asked more in depth questions. When we were in the Dinosaur wing there was a toddler going up and down and up and down a set of stairs. I remembered P at the museum shortly after we moved to NY - that was all he wanted to do that day - those stairs. This time he stood on the same set and asked pointed questions about the duck billed dinosaurs. A Siberian diorama captured him for 20 question filled minutes. It featured hunters bringing home a beluga whale to their village. We chatted about the lack of agriculture in that climate and the need to eat meat. P was in hearty disagreement. There was a sprig of grass towards the back of the window and he pointed to it as proof that produce was possible. Sun requirements for tomato plants didn't really register for him, so we had to just nod along with his description of the diorama: the beluga whale was beached and the men were doctors, bringing it back to the village to heal it. Yes. Same kid who routinely tortures Baby Brother.
His change at the Children's Museum was even more marked. When we went last month with Malek he clung to my side and required constant interaction. Within 15 minutes of arriving on Sunday he was off like lightning. He happily bounced from one fun activity to another (I promise a lengthy video for the grandparents in the next couple of days), experimenting with all the different activities. He swirled the turning windows for an eternity, seeing shapes float, how liquid moves, how colors blend. He poured, dumped and funneled enough sand to make a beach. True to turning three, costumes are finally fun, so he dug into the costume bin and played jaguar for a bit. He almost squeaked when he found the porcupine puppet that he fell in love with during our last visit. The place was Chaos Filled but he didn't seem overwhelmed this time. In fact, we didn't leave until they announced the museum was closing.
Its now Friday night (yes, this blog is my exciting Friday night date) and I'm hoping this weekend is half as nice as the last :)
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Scooters are really popular for kids in Brooklyn. Expecting those short legs to walk everywhere (and at a decent clip) is a lot to ask, unless you're comfortable carrying those short legs a good portion of each errand. So kids scoot. P was hot to scoot and knew exactly what he wanted. A pink 3 wheel scooter.
The Micro Mini rocks. Its steered by leaning and is super stable. We live uphill from the scooter store, so P really worked his first ride. He then devoted the rest of the spring afternoon to focused practice in our park. The next morning he was on his scooter with Ethan before I was even dressed. They went down hill for 4 avenues and P mastered his steering. He was soooo pleased with himself :)
We all left the house at 9 am and spent the day in the city at museums and scooting around the Upper West Side. At 7 that evening P still wasn't quite ready to head home so we decided to do some scooting in Central Park. The last hill (its always the last hill isn't it?) on the way to the subway was excessively steep, but P'd had nary a bruise the entire weekend and understood how to use his brake. He rounded the bend, hit a bump and flipped, helmetless head over scooter, and skidded on his face. It looked horrendous. Granted, the goose egg that immediately formed looked formidable, but he really walked away pretty unscathed for as huge of a fall as it was. A gory black eye and a scratched elbow, both of which are healing very nicely, were his only battle wounds. While he has been much more alert going down hills, he apparently wasn't too traumatized because he asks for the thing first thing each a.m...
But when P and I joined E in the city to file our taxes Tuesday I realized P's speed was finally a cause for concern. With 3 days of practice he was now at the end of the block before I'd even locked our front door. He sweetly waited every other tree after I discussed my concern with him, but it was obvious this constant stopping ruined his fun. After all, the whole goal appears to be going fast enough to dramatically pick up the kicking heel and sway the handlebars side to side while coasting and saying "neeeee-ahhhhhm." All fun and games in the park but infinitely more dicey around NYC traffic. Ugh, now what? Take the thing away or keep up with him?
So E and I had to get scooters :) And there we were, in rush hour foot traffic heading from packed Union Square to Wash Square Park, following our three year old on his scooter while he shouted "neeeeee-aaahhhhm!!!" and weaved between surprised pedestrians. It was fabulously fun, and pretty funny too, but the amount of trust it required was pretty taxing. And there, in a nutshell, is the big parenting kicker for us lately. Trusting him and his abilities while making sure his inexperience (and occasional lack of reasoning : I'll cut that car with my magic sword!!!) doesn't get him killed. I had no idea parenting could be so exhilarating and scary all at the same time, or summed up by buying a scooter.
So Uncle Seth came to play on Saturday. He arrived via skateboard... making him The World's Coolest Uncle. He and E pushed P around inside and then later the kid had a ride on the sidewalk. P was so proud of himself he kept checking in with Baby Brother for commentary, sometimes more interested in Baby Brother's astonishment than his actual ride:) His excessive skateboard excitement finally tipped the toy scale and after Seth left we purchased P the pink Mini Micro he's been yearning for. Oy.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The park is steps from our front door, so we usually head there for a dirt pile or monster hunt. But every once in a while our time is too limited or our energy too exhausted - yet the spring sun begs us to stay out. Then we hang on the stoop. Neighbors stop by to chat. P calls out questions to walkers. And the stairs turn into a racetrack filled with bubbles! Warm and fuzzy Brooklyn moments :)
Equally fabulous is the stoop freebie. Its freecycle without the hassle. We have gotten and given books, furniture and toys in this manner and P is becoming quite the stoop hound. He scored one of the ever popular baby strollers last week and joyfully pushed Baby Brother everywhere. Of course BB is scared of speed, so P had to go as fast as possible...
P painted a thank you note for my parents for his Florida vacation. My mom enjoys birds and P included her fave titmouse (or was it the nuthatch? Mom?) alongside his lovely drip paintings. The paint is so thick on these it takes a full week for them to dry. And of course the originally colorful but oh so cheap washable paint dries to one big brown blob (which killllls me). I've seriously considered nice acrylics and large plastic sheets and then I remember the direction bean and flour experiments inevitably go. Anyway, I'm posting it here so that when my mom gets a painting that looks like smooshed shit she'll know it was originally quite lovely...
P, E and I played in the park two weekends ago. Sticks rule P's universe lately and the day featured sword fighting, strange stick configurations and finally a lean to for Baby Brother. It was amazing to see him So Very Busy and not needing attention every two seconds. He loves Dr. Seuss's "The Lorax" and colleced pine tree branches as "grickle grass."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
My little problem solver. What started as crying and pointing progressed to grabbing and then growling and now finally to little zen statements. And they crack me up. My mom's most quoted favorite is from when P was a year and a half and she was carrying him while she cooked. It came time to open a jar and she told P that she needed the arm he was in to open said jar. He'd have to get down. "No, switch hands" he told her.
There's (sometimes) more analytic ability to his pronouncements these days. We played with Yoav a week ago and the two became a bit fruity as the afternoon passed. Yoav was teasing P, telling him his name was this or that. How he intuited that this was The Hotspot for P I do not know, but there is nary a better tease out there to get P's fur fluffed. He started out correcting Yoav. "My name is NOT shoaeiwthoaefh, its Phoenix Hudson Schulton." Within a few minutes this entire sentence was screamed rather than stated. I explained to him that Yoav was just teasing him, maybe he'd like to make a game of it? This worked, for about a minute, and then P's internal definition of P was just toooo insulted and he was pissed again :) He asked Yoav to stop, saying he didn't like it. Yoav thought it was all very hilarious and didn't understand why P would want to stop such a funny game, so he continued. P didn't find it funny at all and couldn't fathom why Yoav wouldn't stop such silliness. This sort of frustration usually spirals into physical pushing on P's part. This time, he went into another room. A few minutes passed and I peaked in hoping he wasn't peeing all over Yoav's toys or something equally creative and found him quietly playing the xylophone. He looked up and said "I was mad at Yoav so I came in to make some music and take deep breaths. I feel better now."
Wow. I wish I had that kind of clarity when I get mad :) But once P resurfaced Yoav reintroduced his game and then accidentally tossed P's stuffed dragon. Oops. Bad combo - you Don't toss P's toys :) I prepared myself for fistcuffs and a chat about safe expression when P grabbed his dragon and roared. It then breathed fire everywhere, burning Yoav's house down. Whenever Yoav uttered a new name or blinked, the dragon roared and burned more toys. We ushered the boys to the playground as quickly as possible where the energy shifted to happy swinging games and I sent up praise (again) that Spring has sprung.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
We went monster hunting with Malek and his mama again yesterday. We've come up empty handed so many times now that the boys spent a bit more time on "truck breaks" than "mumble grumble" jaunts. It had rained the night before and the earthworms were thriving in the spring dirt. When P unearthed one with his truck, the boys' curiosity came alive and they tinkered with the idea of smushing it. P wanted to know what would happen if he killed the worm. Well, I said, it will die. His (fear-filled) obsession with cops and jail has helped him nail the fact that he isn't the right age to be locked up. So, he pondered, if I can't go to jail, what really happens if I kill this tiny worm? Its so funny to watch someone who can't always get their boots on the right foot struggle with big, ethical questions. I could practically see the motto of our 'Horton hears a Who' book swirling through his head "A persons a person no matter how small." Yet, mama grabbed that moth in the kitchen the other day (whoops) and Grams and Aunt D seem passionate about fly killing....
Malek solved P's problem by diving at the little bug with a "let's kill it." "Noooooo!!! shrieked P. "You Can't Kill It!" From then on he was the worm's savior. If he felt Malek had a worm out of the dirt for too long he would lunge for it, saying it was dehydrated. Ahhh, lucky little worm. If only the next bug would be so lucky.... I can already see him wondering "what happens if I kill this ant...."
P is reeeeally enjoying Baby Brother's new family (thanks Grams!). Bat Mak (has wings and an accent) plays a great silly villain. Beek Mok is the go-to guy for any missing character. Need a kangaroo? Beek Mok. Medusa? Beek Mok. Uncle Seth? Beek Mok. Horroray is a Beek Mok back up, the secondary go-to guy when Beek Mok is busy. And Baby Brother is still, well, Baby Brother.
So after playing coop (despite the fact that we don't belong to the neighborhood food coop, most of P's friends do and he therefore pretends to shop at said coop) he wanted to take his food back to the castle for a dinner party. He served us sardines (yes folks - that's pretend meat he's playing with now!) and chocolate fondue with strawberries, cherries and pound cake.
The playgroop twins brought their bunnies back from upstate last month and P was anxious to meet the new additions. Leslie had chopped kale prepared for the kids to get in touch with their nurturing side and Phoenix thought this was sooooo neat. He often likes us to feed him, too often likes to feed us, regularly and maliciously feeds Baby Brother (pretend poop and other pleasantries) and too rarely gets to feed others :) So this was perfect. The rabbits were an unbelievably soft and sweet surprise for a bunch of city kids.
P still seems nervous around the largish group of kids (any more than One being largish for him) and hung right by me (On me, actually) a lot of the time but did venture off some. But he seemed much more settled this time. There are a couple of other kids that stick by their moms, so I'm not concerned, just chuckling, since the other kids Have to be more fun than me. I joined a few moms at the food table and P just sat on my lap listening and playing with a fascinating magnetic dress toy. Some of the moms chatted with him about his Florida trip - winning his heart. Then when I came up short on his cable car questions (Dez and Nini have a couple of cool cable car toys), their mom, Leslie, not only answered his questions, she read him a book about cable cars. As usual, the child is enamored with all of the Adults in his life, blowing the moms extra bye kisses at the end of playgroop.
On a warm day last weekend we came home to a very busy stoop with multiple neighbors out gabbing and kids playing ball. P wanted to run up and get his ball and "come back down to chat." As he ran back down the stoop stairs I expected him to veer to the boys playing ball. Nope. He dropped his ball and marched right up to the group of dad and stood there, listening and nodding and watching. They stopped talking and looked down at their knee level ... but he wasn't sure what to chat about and marched back to me. Doh. I can't blame the kid. Half the time he sees the neighbor boy, the kid is so grumpy he won't return P's "hello!" But the two neighbor dads, forgettaboutit. They chat him up like an old drinking buddy. I'm sure they feel grumpy half the time too :) we adults just hide it better.
So it wasn't completely surprising when he told me that he is a "grown-up now." I can lead the kid to other children, but if Ol' Stewball only wants wine, that wet river ain't gonna do him any good...