Monthly Archives: February 2017

The picking problem

In an ideal world, our children would eat three solid meals a day that are primarily comprised of colorful and fresh fruits and vegetables alongside a variety of proteins and carbs, all in moderation of course.

Yes and they would eat these meals with all of the gusto of a puppy devouring a bowl of kibble and then climbing into said bowl to curl up and fall asleep in it afterwards. Also, in this world, there would be a simple and abiding enthusiasm and love for water over any other type of liquid refreshment among a canon of refreshments including Apple Juice, Strawberry Milk and Oros.

But as the parent of two little humans, a position that basically makes me a zoo keeper, I am forced to accept that we do not live in an ideal world. No, the world in which we live is vastly different.

By way of example, the little guy can often be caught excavating a booger from his nostril and then proceeding to dispose of it by placing it in his mouth. Or to put it somewhat more bluntly, he eats snot. I will give him some credit here though; he only eats his own snot. I suppose we should be grateful for the little things.

But here’s the rub, this very same child will then, moments later, turn his freshly picked nose up at a home-made meatball because it somehow offends his discerning palate. This incenses me no end. I often find myself saying things like, ‘You have just picked and eaten snot. How can you possibly reject any other food?’ It profits me nothing though. The irony is lost completely on the child.

The big guy is no stranger to the pick and eat either, with one notable exception, he completely understands the irony and as such, is willing to try almost anything put in front of him. That is not to say that he will eat everything we give him, just that he will try it. For the most part though, this try before you buy policy has worked quite well and he’s quite easy to please gastronomically. He’s also a little more surreptitious in his picking which means he gets caught ‘snacking’ only occasionally. This does not make him any less culpable or gross though.

I’ve often wondered when or how we’re going to get past this phase in their development.

In my more exasperated moments I’ve wondered what would happen if our minions both accidentally broke their preferred nostril fingers and subsequently had their picking hampered with splints for a year or so until they’d outgrown the habit?

Yes, that might work.

But wait, I hear you shouting accusingly at this point, there are three glaringly obvious problems here. First, what are the chances that one or both of them will break their primary nose picking fingers? I’ll admit, the boys are both at a very clumsy age but let’s face it, the odds are pretty slim. And even if they do both have mishaps, they could just as easily switch fingers. Second, this broken finger scenario might easily draw the unwelcome attention of child services, which might then result in the relocation of the children to new homes and immediately make the entire thing moot, in that the nose picking would become someone else’s problem. Third, it’s a bit of a high price to pay for what is really just a personal grooming practice that’s gone a bit awry.

All very salient points.

What then about sabotage of the finger itself? What if somehow we made the fingers become agents for us, the parents? What if the fingers were laced with some sort of crushed chilie extract and then superficially washed just enough to mask the chilie odor but not enough to completely blunt the effects of the capsicum?

All that would be required then is to ‘forget’ to remind them to wash their hands. A task every parent normally has to do about fifty thousand times a day.

I imagine that very first pick of the day would be an eye wateringly expensive one. Undoubtedly there would be copious amounts of mucus and tears and potentially some emotional scarring. But it might just create an aversion for picking snot, it goes without saying this includes then eating said snot, that would last them a lifetime.

The problem here is, that’s in an ideal world.

In all probability, in the real world, we’d be left with coughing, spluttering, crying, hysterical and justifiably indignant children that will immediately begin to comfort themselves by picking and eating with their ring, in lieu of index, fingers.

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The super schoolers

So the new school year has begun and my offspring have both progressed a year with the little guy going into reception year or Grade R and the big guy donning a school uniform and starting Grade one.

For the big guy it was all about the uniform. The uniform represented a mental shift for him from little boy at preschool to a ‘big’ school kid. He must have tried on the uniform a dozen times over the holidays, just itching to wear it. Dropping him off in the morning, with that improbably large school bag draped over his valiant little shoulders, I swell with pride and sometimes actual human emotions threaten to spill out of my eyes and onto my manly cheeks as I watch him stride confidently into the school. I try not to show it of course, but on the days he turns around and gives me one of those whole body waves goodbye, where his arm arcs from his knees to the sky and he stands on tiptoes with a smile as wide as the ocean, I find myself having to take deep steady breaths to maintain my composure. Basically, I’m a big softie.

In high school he will most likely be slouching into school with a small satchel slung over one shoulder and a ‘cheers dad’ cast over the other. He’ll almost certainly be petitioning for the abolishment of school uniforms, of that I have no doubt and he will in all probability be defacing his school trousers by tapering them and wearing his hair just that little bit longer than the regulations allow.

For now though he’s as proud as a peacock of his uniform and uniformity and is following the rules beautifully. Long may it last.

The little guy was all business as usual. He seemed genuinely excited to start in his new class this year but I think the excitement had less to do with the fact that he was now in Grade R than the fact that there were new and exciting toys to play with. The rest of his routine hardly changed at all, chief amongst his habits being the need to finish his juice as we drop him off at his class while he surveys the toy landscape. Another huge plus for him is of course being able to play on the jungle gym equipment every morning before school. Whereas last year was always a mad rush to get to class on time, this year we find that the pre-school starts a good quarter of an hour later than the primary school and that affords my little champ ample time to burn off excess energy before being roped into the classroom to paint pictures, practice letterland, sing songs and learn Xhosa amongst all the other busy things they do.

He seems so small though. When I watch him run to his class to line up, I see my smiling little toddler, with clumsy little feet, completely wild hair and grubby hands. I find myself wanting to press pause and let him grow just a little more before he has to spend a whole day at school away from us. As I said, a softie.

He’s always going to be too little I think. One day he’ll be getting ready to sit behind the wheel of a car with a valid license in his pocket and I’m quite certain I’ll be panicking about the fact that my little free spirit is going to be doing such a grown up thing. As an aside, here’s a public service announcement, that day is less than thirteen years away, you should all be making preparations for it.

For the big guy, along with this change in his schooling dynamic, comes an endless stream of questions. He requires an explanation for literally everything. If I say come here, he says why. If I say pick that up, he says why. If I say talk quietly he says why. It’s not cheek mind you, he genuinely wants the answers. Why do the stars move? Why are there no more dinosaurs? Why did the emperor trick Anakin into becoming Vader? I tell you, I need an extra hour of sleep at night dedicated to recovering from answering the why questions. Also, he seems to radiate energy, sometimes it’s as a long stream of speech that escapes from him like air leaving a steam whistle and sometimes it’s in the form of continuous movement, like a small boat hurtling down a whitewater rapid. Sometimes the energy just escapes as loud farts and sometimes they’re the quiet kind. He’s a boy after all.

The little guy is like a train, he’s on his own track and has planned his journey well in advance. Really, once he’s made his mind up about something, changing it requires a superhuman effort on our part. We have to get ahead of him, flip the switch and then make our way back to the caboose to convince him that the change we’ve made for him (ahead on the tracks) is in his best interests. He can also do deadpan looks like no one else I know. The look can disarm you and make you doubt who’s actually in charge. At times he seems capable of having an entire conversation with you without uttering a word at all, instead deftly handling questions you ask him with inscrutable looks. He also farts.

The little guys seem to be developing new and baffling idiosyncrasies almost faster than we can keep up. When they grow up, they  want to be anything from paleontologist or pilot to professional inventor or super hero. Batman was mentioned recently but Robin did not feature and I can understand that, his outfit was never going to be as cool as the Dark Knight’s

I’m going to make sure I watch the little guys very closely this year, I don’t want to miss the moment they turn into superheroes.


The cuddlies

In our home, there are two soft cuddly toys into which our boys literally squeeze all of their emotions. These fluffy toys have weathered the full spectrum of said emotions and they are very well loved. They are needless to say, essential equipment for bedtime.

They will often find themselves doubling as pillows, eye masks, tissues, wet wipes, face cloths or indeed when required, even weapons. Over the years, they have had clothes made for them, medication administered to them and food infused into them and as such have also had regular baths since ‘birth’. They now have their own beds in a special drawer next to the double bunk beds and this where they spend most of their downtime.

The big guy has a small cuddly about the size of a hand (of the genus Beanie Baby and species Huntley Bear) whose given name is ‘Bear’. The little guy has a fluffy dog with oversized ears that’s about the size of a scatter cushion and whose given name is of course ‘Doggey’. He has no pedigree being ostensibly of the genus ‘Pavement Special’.

These two creatures have been the subject of many a search and rescue effort over the years. Every once in a while they get carried somewhere under an arm and then left behind or stuffed into a space ship or truck, or even a lunch box and then the game is on, to find the cuddly before bedtime. I must say though, I’m quite strict about where these creatures are allowed to go since I do not relish the thought of explaining to a tired child that their cuddley is now a part of the great wide open having been left at a picnic or a restaurant or mall for that matter. Most of the time though, they go awol for no more than half a day having simply been misplaced in the house and then they turn up somewhere and we cancel the call into the police for a ‘missing person’.

Bear is just a few months younger than my eldest boy, he’s been a part of the big guys life since the beginning. I remember downloading an app (the iPhone was in its infancy then) that showed one a picture of an animal and then it made the corresponding animal sound. Swipe, repeat about a million times. It had a built in collection of around 50 animals in it and was a firm favourite with the big guy. The app had the added feature where one was able to upload your own images and attach sounds to them. So of course we added a mom and a dad, I believe Cleo (our grumpy old cat) also had an entry and then of course Bear was given his own ‘page’ too. We were, I’ll admit, very much like those people who create Facebook profiles for their pets or indeed their porcelain doll collections. Anyway, one could swipe through the collection until you found your favourite animal and then listen to its sound until the battery ran out on the device, or until the parents got tired of listening to the cicadas screeching and confiscated the phone. My boy loved that app but would literally squeal with delight when Bear appeared on the screen and my voice belted out an abrupt sounding ‘Bear’.

Tellingly, we’ve had to send Bear in for some maintenance from time to time to plump him up given that he tends to, inexplicably, loose weight over time. He is now constituted out of equal parts original beans and supplemental rice courtesy of the boys grandmother.

Doggey is a no name brand soft toy with big floppy ears that are not unlike the ears of our real life dog, a spirited Basset Hound. Indeed, even the markings on Doggey are somewhat aligned to those of our real life pet. As I write this I wonder if our choice in pet was somehow subconsciously informed by Doggey. If you can cast your mind back to the cartoon strip days of Charlie Brown and remember one character in particular, Linus, who had an unfaltering love for his blankie, you’ll have a pretty good idea of the little guys attachment to Doggey. He is a major role player in sleep time and I must confess, I love watching the little guy cradle Doggey in the crook of his arm and drift off to sleep at night. It relaxes me, knowing that my boy is well looked after while he sleeps and that he’s probably managed to pull Doggey into his dreams too. Every now and again the little guy will sleep in our bed. If he’s woken up from a bad dream or if he’s unwell, he’ll just crawl onto our bed like a ninja and plop down between us. On those nights, Doggey makes his way into our beds too and really it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be hugging him when morning breaks because he’s quite simply the softest thing since fresh bread and if he’s recently had a bath, he’s quite fragrant too.

Since the arrival of the actual dog in our home nine months ago, Bear and Doggey have both been the unfortunate victims of smash and grabs by the Bassett Hound and both on more than one occasion at that. It was becoming a problem so we had to donate two less important soft toys, in the hierarchy of soft toys in our home, to the dog to take the focus off of Bear and Doggey. This was a strategic and essential move and I must say, it helped enormously as there have been far fewer incidents since then. I was a little dubious at first I’ll admit, I thought the dog would chew through them in a day but they’ve lasted several months now and aside from being a little grubby and of course covered in Basset slobber, they are in remarkably good nick. In point of fact, there has been considerably less chewing of things in the home in general since the dog was given her special friends.

The dog bed being the only notable exception.

The bed has been losing stuffing consistently for several weeks now and really, its like its hemorrhaging foam. There are bits of the stuff scattered everywhere. The dog seems to be ingesting some of the foam too as there are always little crumbs stuck accusingly to the side of her mouth, which is somewhat worrying since I’m not sure how much she can injest before it becomes a problem. I expect at some point I’ll be googling ‘dog swallowed foam’ to see what I’m in for. Each day I reprimand the Basset about this behavior and for the duration of the scolding, I get her full attention, staring up at me with floppy ears and droopy, drunkard eyes as if to say, “Yes, I chew the bed. I’m not even the slightest bit sorry.”

Of course that means we now need to keep track of four cuddlies in the house instead of just the original two lest we find our shoes, tables, chairs, ottomans, blinds, skirting boards and blankets chewed by a Basset throwing a tantrum because her cuddley is missing.