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State of the Oop Address
Wow, it's been three months since we last reported on the Oop, our daughter. She's grown a lot since then and we thought that we'd bring you up-to-date. She recently celebrated her two-and-a-half birthday and in true Oop style, she devoured the half-cake and ice cream ....
Living Through the Terrible Twos
It's been too long since we've written about Alex. The last Oop-post was about her first ice skating experience, in January, nearly three months ago. Let's bring everyone up to date.
The Oop recently celebrated her half-birthday, on April third. She's now in the middle of her "terrible twos" and let me tell you, there's a REASON they call them that. Oh my God! The tears and the fits!
The last one was just moments ago. Rachel is out (at an orientation meeting for her new, part-time job) and I'm trying to write this post. Alex is eating breakfast, at the kitchen table (Rice Krispies cereal with bits of fresh banana and a glass of milk).
"All done Daddy," she says.
I look over and see that most of the cereal has indeed, made it into her gob, but half of the glass of milk remains.
"You're not going to drink your milk?" I ask.
"No Daddy," she says, "Finished."
"So I'm going to have to throw it away?" (We don't like doing this, but it doesn't bother the Oop.)
"Yes," she says, "All done."
Because the milk was in an open glass (and no doubt her hands went into it) I decide it's best just to toss it. But then, I spy Tuxedo, lounging in his cat bed and decide to give him a rare treat. (Shh, don't tell Rachel.)
"You won't mind if I give it to Tuxedo?", I ask.
I don't wait for a reply and this is the pivotal moment, which I fail to recognize. After all, she says she's done, doesn't want it, doesn't mind it going down the drain, so (of course) she won't mind if I give it to the cat. It's only logical. (What two and a half year-old is logical?)
I pour the milk into a bowl and whistle for the cat, who is quick to capitalize on an infrequent indulgence, moving faster than I thought him capable. Quickly, he's hunched over the bowl, lapping the milk.
I look at Alex and what I see is not a happy face.
"My milk," she says, with a pouty frown.
"Uh oh," I think.
Tears well up and I realize that we're heading into a storm. Sure enough, she becomes red-faced and tears begin to flow. She wails as if the milk were the most important thing on Earth and through the sobbing, wailing and mixture of tears and green snot (she's getting over a cold), she cries, "No ... no ... no ... no, I waaant my milk. Daaaddy."
I try to mollify her by patting her on the back and cleaning her face with a tissue. "Look how happy you've made the kitty cat. He likes milk. Don't you want the kitty cat to be happy?"
She's beyond reasoning and her entire world is focused on the fact that the cat is now drinking HER milk. It doesn't matter that, only moments before, she was happy to watch me pour it down the drain. She is completely distraught, because she doesn't want the kitty cat to be happy and it's her milk and NOW she wants it back.
I calmly ask her if she'd like to have a little more milk. She does and the sobbing subsides. I pour her another small glassful and she drinks it. The end-of-the-world, kitty-cat-has-my-milk incident rapidly fades from her mind (though not entirely from mine).
"All done Daddy. Look!" she says, "I go play now."
There will probably be three of four more similar crying fits today. Some might be predictable (not wanting to go down for an afternoon nap, being told 'no' when she wants something), but others (like this one) will just pop up, out of the blue. It's a part of life, with Alex, now that she's two.
It's not all bad though, because (most of the time), she's happy and content, a wonderful, beautiful, cute, engaging and outgoing daughter. If you ask her how she feels, she'll generally say, "Happy". We must be doing something right.
To learn more about our life with Alex at two and a half, read on, as I try to put into words, some of her antics, discoveries and joys.
Talking in Tongues
Despite the tantrums, which seems to come with alarming frequency and varying levels of intensity, Alex is entering a very fun stage. She's wrapping her tiny tongue around the English language and stringing together words to make sentences. We're constantly amazed at how rapidly she's learning and how observant she is about the world around her. Saturdays or Sundays are days where we fix a large breakfast, usually an omelet with toast and bacon. Scott likes to put picante sauce on his eggs and was about to do so last Sunday, when Alex blurted, "No, that's for tacos, Daddy". How right she is, "But Daddy also likes it on his eggs, Oop."
Our days start pretty early, because of Alex and even more so, now that the daylight hours are stretching out and we've sprung ahead an hour with daylight savings time. She wakes up sometimes as early as 5:30, padding into our bedroom and announcing to sleeping parents, "I wake up!" followed by, "It's wake-up time!"
One of us usually gets up, because invariably, the Oop is hungry. "I hungry," is the simple sentence. It used to be "hungee," but her pronunciation has improved.
Breakfast is often cold cereal with milk, but the Oop likes to mix varieties and will pull two out of the cupboard and put them on the counter. She'll then trundle over to her high chair and wait to be lifted into place. She calls them her "two ones" and if you ask her what she wants for breakfast, it's commonly "waffles", "Ice Krispies" or "Two ones".
She's learning to count, which is something that we've been helping her with, but when we ask her, "How many [various things] do you have?" she knows a number is involved, so just blurts out a hopeful guess. We tell her to count them out, hoping for a "one, two, three ... " but often getting a "one, nine, ten" instead. Of course, two is "two ones" and three is "three ones", but she's before long, she'll have it down.
As always, it seems that her comprehension of the language far outstrips her ability to speak it, though Daddy was very surprised the other day, when he mentioned the possibility that Alex might be making something up and she quickly retorted, with a cloudy look on her face, waving an arm at him, "I'm NOT making it up, Daddy!"
Understanding Alex takes a certain amount of skill and patience, as she doesn't fully pronounce her words and her sentences often sound like babble. We want to encourage her to try, so we find ourselves very agreeably replying, "That's right, Oop!" We wonder, "What are we agreeing to?" She's picked up a habit of finishing sentences with, "right?" ... to which we invariably reply, "right, Oop!"
She also describes the world, in her own way, within the confines of her limited vocabulary. My favorite one is her substitute for "pony tail", which is "pony hair". (Not that she's actually got enough hair for an actual pony tail, yet, but like her vocabulary ... it's coming along).
Our Little Control Freak
Alex has been an organizing, control freak since day one and we see it evidenced in her play. Of course, when you're two, so much is actually out of your control it's the source for so many of the tantrums we witness.
"I don't wanna take a bath now," she'll say, emphatically. So many of her sentences begin with, "I don't wanna ... " and she says them with such clarity and uniqueness, that it's become a bit of a family joke. Anytime we don't really feel like doing something, we'll pipe up with Alex's catch phrase. "I don't wanna fix dinner," Rachel might say.
In the ultimate struggle for control, Alex will sometimes simply reply, "No" to a request we've made. We try not to get too uptight about it, but we need to send a clear signal that our requests are non-optional. For that, we rely upon the "time-out" chair, which is in the entry way. "You don't have to get the kitty's bowl," we might say - as one of Alex's chores has been to feed the cat, "but, you can either do it now, like we ask, or you can have a time out and do it after your time-out." We're big on providing a choice, but it's usually obvious which is the one we WANT her to make. Time-outs last two and a half minutes. Some times she takes it like a trooper, sometimes she wails and sobs the entire time. She does, however, remain on the chair, until we get her. There's usually a small lecture and then she's asked, again, to do whatever it was that she said "no" to. All-in-all, she's a pretty good kid.
One doesn't have to look far to realize WHERE Alex gets her controlling nature, as both Mommy and Daddy are expert controllers. So much so, that it's difficult to remember to allow Alex choices, but we're learning too. We let her pick out her breakfast, books to read and the clothes she wears to "play-care" (as Scott calls it). She often goes to day-care in pink tops with green pants (subject to strange looks from care-givers), but she's picked them out, and that's important for her, just like looking fashionable will be, one day.
As a little organizer, Alex is forever moving blocks, putting things into bags, backpacks and boxes. It's pretty funny to walk into a room and see the results of her "organization". Not too long ago, Scott walked into the living room and the Oop was coloring (one of her favorite things to do). She had her colored blocks all in a row, in front of her (rainbow color sorted, mind you) and each, was a crayon holder with a single crayon sticking up out of it. Her stuffed animals get pretty much the same treatment, and they'll all be sitting in a row somewhere ... watching television, or whatever. Funny stuff!
Alex will often play "mommy" to her stuffed animals, feeding them, diapering them or putting them down for a nap. Sometimes, the living room looks like an emergency ward for teddy bears, as eight or more stuffed animals are lying about, each covered with a small towel or blanket. (They're all "napping", covered with a "blanket" and scattered about the room). Some have even been "bad" and she enforces her own time-outs, placing them on the very chair she has her time-outs. She'll inform us that teddy is "having a time-out".
She loves to manipulate her parents and we'll play along for a while. "Lay down," she says, with authority. "Night-night," she says, as she covers us and "tucks us in". "Get up," she says, five seconds later, "it's wake-up time." Finally, she gets to control the situation and doesn't let up for an instant, directing us here and there, with the authority of a veteran general.
"No, No, No," Nemo
Within the last three months, Alex has made her acquaintance with the modern device known as the DVD player. Earlier, she had shown little to no interest in the television. Television shows rarely held her interest for any length of time and videos only slightly longer. This all changed, one evening, when we put on a Disney DVD - "Finding Nemo", a story about a fish. It was amazing, her interest in the story. Unfortunately, the result was completely unexpected (as we had not realized how traumatizing a cartoon could be). When Nemo was taken by reef divers, Alex was genuinely upset, shouting at the television and waving her arms, "No, no, no, Nemo!" She then buried her face in her hands and broke out in tears. We consoled her and had to stop the DVD.
Gradually, she learned that the video wasn't real and she watched each with rapt attention. "Finding Nemo" rapidly became her favorite video and she began to ask, "Watch Nemo?" She was so enthralled by the videos, that she would watch, wide-eyed and unblinking. After 15 minutes, she'd have a stream of tears down her face and we'd constantly have to remind her to "blink", prodding her eyelashes, so that her eyes would periodically close.
She's since gotten over her wide-eyed stage and now watches videos like a seasoned veteran. We try to use them as a reward, in small doses, but she's definitely gravitated to the medium and is constantly pestering us ... "I watch [insert name of movie here]", as if stating it as fact will indeed, make it one. If she's been good, we'll let her watch for 15 minutes before she goes to bed, or if she's sick, we'll plop in a video and let her watch and rest, at the same time. These videos though, we must admit, are addictive for both toddlers and adults alike. Not only because they are watched 50 billion times, over and over, but just that they can be utilized as a crutch for babysitting. If we're finding Alex difficult to tend to, or we're preoccupied and not wanting to be pestered, it's just TOO EASY to put on a video and let Alex turn into a vegetable on the couch. They're a double-edged sword and we make a conscience effort to limit usage.
Well, that's about it for our summary. With the weather turning better each day, we're finally getting out more, so we hope to have more stories of Alex's antics. She's a precious little girl and we seem to flip from wanting to hug her and squeeze her to death, to wanting to shake her out of frustration. She's got a great personality, but she's a stubborn cuss, too. (We know where she gets that trait from too). All-in-all, it's a joy having her about, even though we continually look forward to 8 PM, her official bedtime. There's still no great progress on the potty front, though we're told that it's not uncommon that she use the potty at day-care (peer pressure and all that). Not at home. She knows what it's for, but I think her stuffed animals have had more turns at going potty, than she has.
In some respects, she's growing up too quickly. In others, not quickly enough. That's life! Always something to be thankful for, always something to complain about.
We hope you've enjoyed a brief glimpse of life with Alex, our happy two-year old. When's the last time you've replied with "happy", when someone asks, "How do you feel?" We could all take a lesson from our children.