Auntie in Jersey 2014 Season Finale - Chaos Comes to Kiddy Town (And Realizes It's Orderly By Comparison)

On the Last Episode of Auntie in Jersey: Play Dates, Belly-Aches, and Baseball OH MY! Aunt Adella finds her see-saw legs, ducking into club and beach and only sometimes tripping over the rug rodents underfoot. Eastern European fortifications erected in fetes and festivities. Pilates evades power-moms, but comes with its own bendy-wendy costs. Meals lavished upon a gluttonous garbage disposal as the snack draw spins.

Coming up: Hulk SMASH (his own head). Play Date wars escalate until the Eschatological BEACH OPTION is exercised. Homework ground under wheels of tumultuous tummies and rolling blades. And all her training put to the test as Aunt Adella takes supervision of the home absent the aegis of mommy-and-daddy. Can the house (even perhaps the children) survive intact??

Auntie in Jersey Having a Field Day with The Hulk And Denville Showers Bring Playdate Anarchy.

Ian started off the morning with a groan and a whimper, augering a hideous stomach ache that fortunately abated before Field Day (halfday in which kids play games for the morning and get let out early). He later acquired a headache, first from the television in the morning and then one in the afternoon from the summer sun. This did not impair his ability to entertain his play date, but it did put a momentary quietus to the grand afternoon beaching plans that had been text-formulating all morning.

 Apparently every other single family in Rachel's coterie was going to "Island Beach", and we were fully prepared to join them. And by "prepared" I mean that Rachel and I rushed back from playground/lunch excursion, left Sam in the car seat while we relay-sprinted the leftover everything doggy bags (in fairness, Sam did eat an eensy nibble of his "BIIIIIG" hotdog as well as the entirety of his M&M cookie; oh and a lemonade), grabbed snacks for the boys, gathered beach toys and togs, and sprinted back to wait outside Ian's school for the grand pick up. From there, we were going to bolt to Braden's school and directly to the beach. Possibly never returning, at least until dinnertime or later.

The morning playground was in Denville, a town just outside of Mountain Lakes. The culture shock is something. Outside of the teensy 4,000 person alcove of Mountain Lakes, there is JOISEY in every sense of the word. Mountain Lakes is its own little - fairly wealthy to extremely wealthy - bubble, although any resident must venture out of it for anything other than a post office, two fancy restaurants and maybe an occasional artisinal something I haven't seen yet. Non-Mountain-Lakes Jersey moms just have a slightly different feel, which is neither a plus or a negative as much as a difference. Kids are pretty much the same.

I admit to having been a bit worried about babysitting Sam all day long, since he seemed to be cool with me alone for about thirty minutes before wanting mommy, but we had a good bit of bonding time at least for today. At some point mommy slipped off to the bathroom and Sam realized that he could order me around the playground as well as mommy. For the next long spell we ran between various cars and some spigoty looking toy that we had dubbed "the shower" and under which we pantomimed the burgeoning of a concerted ocd self-lathing disorder. I am currently in the cool-house for a little bit (the not-quite-literal fantasy cool house that Sam and I subsequently built in the living room while Braden and Ian's dueling playdates took the "duel" concept to its bloody conclusion). Yes, one play date improves the atmosphere of the house. Two, however, basically sets up a global crisis that makes the Middle East pale in comparison. After only a brief spell, the foregone beach became a threat in the face of escalating emotional friability and misbehavior.

As each Falconer boy maintained a home and/or fort in various portions of the house, there was a palpable and frequently erupting tension over the disputed areas between. This was particularly active between Braden and Ian's fortresses. Sam initially hide in his cool house, but later wandered into the disputed territories and was lost for good. Rachel and I stood stock still in the kitchen, constantly on the alert for the next guerrilla tactic and the inevitable "MRS. FAAAAAAAALCONER". Since emergency could, well, emerge at any moment, we really couldn't do anything (but didn't want to be audiences to their theatrics either). Thus allowing the afternoon to more or less consist of standing at alert awaiting the catastrophe.

"Braden?? You don't have a real hammer do you?? No Ian PUT THAT DOWN!" Would be an example of the dialogue.

After about an hour of anomie, Rachel made good on her threat to drag at least some of the boys to the beach. I stayed behind. Initially I was supposed to stay home with Ian and his house guest, while Rachel dragged Braden (and his very beach-friendly buddy, Max) and Sam to the beach for a brief respite. Even more originally Braden would have been going to tennis around this time, but since Rachel went to the bother of buying him a new racket a few days ago, he's officially over tennis (of course).

But (back to the beach) Ian's friend - though not Ian - actually wanted to go to the beach. Since every one in Mountain Lakes was also at the beach, including Rachel's friends/support network, the ephemeral "beach" was a strategic bastion for Rachel and all escaped to what sounds like a happy few hours of water and sand. Despite his belly-achin' (har har), Ian apparently had a very good time after all.

In the meantime, I deconstructed three Falconer forts, chopped a remarkable ton of fresh produce and then cleaned the dishes created by the food prep. I can't even begin to tell you how satisfying it felt. If I were a little more confident with individual washer-dryer settings, I'd have done laundry too. Not sure when this particular disorder afflicted me (and whether it's related to the play-shower thing I've been repeating ad nauseum with Sam), but apparently being this close to certain mothers has driven me to the brink of insanity in which the greatest pleasure a gal can imagine is cleaning the damned house and possibly sorting laundry.

I am told that the beach was a sonorous dream of an experience. Naturally, Ian returned with a storm cloud over his head several miles wide, vocally whining and mini-sobbing. Over what, I'm not sure but he was certainly fragile and the need to eat dinner and prepare for baseball was certainly scratching at fissures. Sam, for his part, came home asleep, summoning his resources for the possibility of a thoroughly chaotic bedtime tantrum to rival Ian and Braden's potential showings.

I have a theory that the Falconers and most any similar family would be much happier if days were simply shorter. Seems like by dinner time every one is over-exhausted, out of patience, irritable, and feeding off of each other's irritability.If days were just 14 hours instead of 24, I think there'd be a real shot at a perfect day. But there are definitely many stops and starts even within the prandial snap.

After Ian and Ryan went glumly off to baseball, Rachel dealt out dinner to the remaining boys and we went on a pajama clad excursion to Denville Dairy. The purpose was two-fold: stuff the tired children full of sugary goodness, and pick up some pottery they'd painted at a shop for Mother's Day. Braden's painted Hulk-skull broke within two or three minutes of his saying that he didn't need it wrapped because he'd carry it extra carefully. Rachel promptly added to the excitement by cutting herself on a rescue dive. Fortunately, if anything can mend a broken Hulk skull, it's glue and ice cream (not together). Which is a relief, because a Braden pout is enough to turn ones blood to sap.

After escorting the Hulk, Sam's dog (which, by virtue of having had some "asisstances" from mommy, may have been the most expertly painted of the trio), and Ian's dragon home, Braden set about improving upon his re-glued Hulk skull with permanent markers. Sam, for his part, attempted to improve various household surfaces with less permanent markers. After the Hulk was perfected, Braden snuck over to Sam's art project and added his own personal touch by gluing a fork to Sam's picture. Being a gracious big brother, he left all the credit to Sam for that stroke of artistic genius. We'll see how gracious he remains when the work hangs in MOMA.

I believe there was a burst of excitement around the time Ian returned, at which point the younger lads donned roller blades and refused to be read to. Still by a blessed tick and tock of the clock, the grown ups had some time to lay on the couch and stare vacantly at the television news.

 Not before remembering to plug in Ian's kindle fire (holder of his Minecraft portal), which is most vital to a peaceful and orderly home. Unfortunately, the charger didn't work and Ian discovered it still dead this morning. He attempted - in lieu of playing Minecraft - to watch youtube videos about Minecraft, but the wireless connection downstairs is so piteous a thing that he was thoroughly thwarted and had to proclaim "why is everything against me?" before skulking upstairs to the actual computer. Meanwhile, the rain pours down, promises plenty of indoor excitements (thank goodness all the boys have school today), and a mad rush to prepare for the incoming arrival of THE CLEANER and all the angst involved in trying to clear up at least enough area for THE CLEANER to actually clean. I'll be double fisting my coffee today with Donut Shop Decaf and Keurig Caramel Macchiato whatever-the-heck.

All building to tomorrow when Rachel and Ryan go off to a Bluegrass Festival near Woodstock and Aunt Adella is (har har) "in charge" and/or inSANE. DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUN. Happy Thursday!

Auntie in Jersey and the Sick-day Games: Catching Fire

Oh the ever ominous sick day. Second only to the Snow Day. So magical to a child. So irritating to a grown up actually using sick time hours. And so bone chilling to a parent who has been relying on those blessed few moments of silence and relief. Especially for a parent who has her own leviathon lurgy but - due to the lack of labor laws around parenting (an egregious lapse in American jurisprudence)  - cannot actually take a sick day from being a parent.

 So the problem with Ian (you the "THE PROBLEM, by which I mean the problem with certain decisions about his school attendance as illustrated on Thursday morning)  is that (1) he has a super sensitive stomach. One of those guts that can't fathom bouncing about in a car without discharging. One that is highly reactive to stress. One that induces psychosomatic symptoms quite handily if he's anxious or otherwise emotionally wrought. (2) He is a total weasel and a heavy-handed actor. If he isn't wanting to go to school, he'll not only fake a perfect dry heave in the bathroom (he always flushes the toilet before anyone can witness or verify any discharge), but he'll summon up tears and possibly bile to bring his point home. Of course at previous junctures he's been found out because he can't commit to a lie, gets overproud of his feint and will outright brag about having "faked" to various strangers. Really his inability to tamp his bratty bragging is a parent's blessing that one can only hope will not fade before his adrenaline pumped rampage through his teen years. But it can be awfully annoying in the moment.

Thursday morning was punctuated with paroxysms of piteous coughing moans. Certainly, were I a drama critic I'd affix the cliche "honeyed ham left out in the summer sun for a few hours too many" to my summation of the performance, but in real life genuine expressions of pain and anguish are sometimes the most absurd and grotesquely overdone of things.

The Sick Day Games Begin: (The Blow by Blow Wrap up)

So, to drag to school or not to drag to school... the appointment for battle was made as of 7:30 a.m., when Ian began exhibiting "symptoms" (briefly before that he'd been perfectly happy and chatty in his morning Minecraft routine). As of 8:15, Ian was completely undressed and prostrate on the couch, but mommy had prepared his school lunch and had packed his bag. At 8:18, mommy brought out the clothes and more or less physically dressed him on the couch while he produced several death rattles and mopily donned his socks in a vociferous agony. At 8:20, a toothbrush was placed in his hand, and he sat staring at the television vacantly, calculating his next move. At 8:21 Rachel approached the couch and brushed his hair while he began to whine and hack. At 8:22, Ian was again lying prostrate while Rachel physically brushed his teeth. At 8:23, he protested that having to do school work made it "harder" while storming to the bathroom. At 8:24, he was jumping up and down and yelling that he didn't want to go. By 8:25, Rachel was putting his shoes on (still in her own pajamas) and Ian howled at the top of his lungs that he didn't want to go.

By 8:35, Rachel had returned just as I was learning how to use the soon-to-be-upgraded dvr so Braden and Sam could watch another terrifying children's show (I prefer the terrifyingly LSD-induced ones to the mind-numbingly annoying ones that involve cute teenagers with snotty voices emulating a washed out version of Nick Jr. "cool-lite").

By 8:40, I was striking a bargain with Sam that I'd help him bring all of his blankets downstairs if he'd let me dress him. Sam, picking up the contrary mood of the day, shocked the world by immediately blanching at the prospect of going to school (which he loves) and beginning a pianissimo chorale denoting his desire to stay home. He made several additional attempts to build a fort. At 8:41, Ian wandered into Sam's room to explain to me that the trouble with stomach aches is that nobody can tell if you're faking so you can feel really sick but nobody can understand that unless you throw up. Apparently he had to stay out of Braden's sight or Braden would want to stay home too. Apparently he'd worked himself into such a state on the drive to school that he really was dry heaving and thrashing. Rachel agreed to bring him back if he lay in his bed and convalesced appropriately.

By 8:47, I was pushing Ian quietly out of the living room as he attempted to peep over at Braden on the couch ("just to see if he was dressed for school yet" on his way "to get an ice pack"). At 8:50, Ian was perching on the stairwell peeping downstairs as Braden (shockingly) talked about how excited he was to go to school today and Sam (who always wants to go to school) was whinging about wanting to stay home. At 8:52, Braden was still rhapsodizing on how great school was going to be as mommy tried to dress him, and there was extensive bumping and thumping upstairs. While Rachel put Sam's jacket on, I went upstairs to quiet Ian up and found him hiding in his closet holding a roll of wrapping paper like a sword.

Aaaaand by 9:08, happy Braden and a tear-stained Sam were deposited in their respective rooms. By 9:20, Rachel was dragging the once again tantrumming Ian back into the car as he whined a bit less plangently. At about 9:30 Rachel was beginning to make brownies for the preschool carnival on Saturday when the phone rang. Our blood chilled, as we noted it was from Ian's school. Blessed relief to hear that they were just checking in on him, since he'd been late and she hadn't reported him sick.

9:45, a glorious imaginary cricket or two chirped in the overwhelmingly sonorous silence.

Final Sick Day Score - Ian: 1 point for a doggedly earned late arrival; Mom: Infinity points for regaining some portion of quiet morning. 

Ian attempted to resume his farce briefly upon seeing Rachel after school, trudging from his classroom with a dour mope and a trudge belied only by the thorough dirt on his arms and legs (suggesting a full throttle recess), but he was easily foiled by Sam's friendly bear-hug and the dawning of his playdate. After that first pretense was dropped, he tossed aside the entire charade and bounced about wildly in full play-date bacchanal.

Not that I'd like to improve my nephew's lying skills, but it is hard for me not to take him aside and lecture him about committing to the role a little more. He's so close, but just can't hold it together! I hear that when Rachel took him home the first time, he preceded to chatter with her while riding on Braden's rocking horse, happy as could be... more than a few chinks in his deception. When I faked sick, I committed, gosh darnit. My performance was subtle but enduring to the point that I might as well have been sick. Stanislovksy would have held up my sick day performances as the pinnacle of his method. I suppose, though, at a certain point that takes us straight to psychosomatic instead of outright faking. But there's a thin line between the artistic vessel and the afflatus filling it in final performance.

Sam, having been subjected to our ebullient company for far longer, gave Ian an excellent demonstration of appropriate "sick" behavior. His usual afternoon demonstration, really: he fell asleep in the car on on the way home from picking up Braden and stayed quite zonked after being removed to the sofa. It was a big day for him. He had both preschool and art class before we picked him up. And then he joined Mommy and Aunt Adella at the walk in clinic, to retrieve some antibiotics for Mr. and Mrs. Falconer's dual cold/infections. Since I appear to be succumbing to the lurgy, myself, I probably should just go ahead and douse myself in something as well. Possibly bleach, after all the things I've touched with my nephews in the last few days. At least another one of those imaginary fort "hot showers!" that I've been sharing with Sam at a rate of ten per hour. After an appreciable walking tour (walking mostly perched on Adella's feet) of the clinic, he returned to rebuild yesterday's grand mansion fortress in the living room.

That kind of heavy construction takes it outta a kid. He made up for it earlier by then showing the world how to do totally wound up excited energetic child... Good news and bad news there: Aunt Adella is totally cool right now, which means he will actually let me play with him for all the wild stuff. This in turns means sometimes I can distract him from mommy when she's treading the waters of an exploding kitchen and two other boys talking at her while her cell phone (i.e. "portal to the outside world")  blares notifications at her. Of course with great power (being moderately likable as a short term mommy distraction) comes great responsibility. Generally in the form of endless demands for attention and physically painful "fun" games. Whoever invented that damn little pushy car is so getting sued for my future hernia and associated pain and suffering. Possibly the cold sweats and panic attacks I might always break into whenever I hear "PUSH AGAIN AGAIN!" also constitute valid grounds for infliction of emotional distress. On the bright side, I am pretty sure I got in a full upper body work out with the various lifts and tosses required of me within an hour or two span. And some of that squatting definitely should benefit my glutes. I adore my nephew, but I might have been a teensy bit relieved when the neighbor girl once again came by searching for Ian, but taking the other two as consolations.

Ian developed his pre-baseball homework strategy, of which I am both supportive and skeptical: he does a row of math problems and then skates around the house; that's followed by another row and another lap. I love this idea in theory, because there is a definitely connection between the kinetic and cerebral, and stationary learning is especially hard on active kids. Of course, there are some wrinkles to this in application should one child wish to use the additional accessorizing and logistical wrangling as a procrastination tool. Still, despite quantitative cunctations, he did finish his math homework before baseball, and - the biggest shocker of the evening - did his "reflection paper" (little weekly writing assignment that has been the subject of much sturm und drang in the Falconer household) with virtually no complaint.

It was only past bedtime that Ian remembered his route earlier and returned the day as he'd received it: in a piteous wail.

Today I reach my grand finale feat of fantastic fearlessness: I'm watching "the boys" without parental supervision. Rachel and Ryan have not told the boys this yet (I discovered this last night and this now makes me particularly nervous), but they are taking the day off to go to a Blue Grass Festival up north. Ian, who would be an easy and delightful child to watch on his own but is the instigator of most utter nightmares involving "the boys" en mass, will have a play date. Braden has a wee bit of school before coming home and (hopefully) helping me entertain Sam. Sam, however, is mine for the day. Or, I should say, I am his. Considering an hour here or there is enough to tire me out, I'm not entirely sure how I will survive this. I think I agreed partially as a test for myself. The same way people who've never run more than three miles enlist for a half marathon, or new ballroom dancers sign up for competitions. I just kinda wanna know if I can. Maybe prove to my dilatory reproductive system that it has no need to keep up this stalling and dalliances.

 I'm fully resigned to the fact that there will be some kicking, screaming, and miserable moments. Given these occur in the presence of super-mom, that's obviously unavoidable. I'm just hoping that there will also be some happy moments, nobody is killed, and that Rachel comes home to relatively safe and happy boys and a sister who can maybe still half-form sentences without sobbing herself! Wish me luck.

Auntie in Jersey: Trial by Fire Ant and The Twelve Hour Stint as Mommy-Lite (A/K/A Not-Mommy, but You'll Do As Long As You Keep Distracting Me From That Glaring Personal Deficit)

The news was broken at 8:30. Mommy and Daddy are not going to be home today. Braden naturally began to whine and moan, despite "the news" being delivered in terms of his having an afternoon playdate with his best friend ever. Sam - who would be far more impacted by mommy's absence  (having neither play dates nor preschool and generally wanting MOMMY at least once every fifteen minutes) - seemed to miss this information and go about his maniacal mastication of the deluxe donuts - er - beignets that Daddy had brought home to start the day off right! Braden's moaning rapidly expired in the face of such shiny-thing distractions as an ongoing game of ice-pack tag (like all games in the Falconer household, it mostly involves shrieking, throwing things, and running deliriously). And the day (in a rashly condensed form) consisted of a staggering spell of good fortune, distractions and benign baby blow outs.

Braden did have a moment of hurty stomach before school (Ian's must have been contagious!). I think that was mostly related to some concern about a magic trick he was supposed to perform at show and tell this morning. Yes, he's four, but knowing this to be a preschool in that sort of wealthy suburb that invites hardcore parental involvement, I'm sure you can imagine the fully developed routines and pyrotechnics some children would likely be bringing in. Fortunately Daddy figured out the chosen magic trick (something to do with folding and flicking a dollar bill, and which involved paper clips). Daddy Ryan forbade me from writing about "this" in this blog. Although I'm not really sure what "this" might have been, since I was busy injuring their youngest child to get our day together off to a good start. I can only speculate that several hundred dollars were produced to practice this "trick." And most likely fire was involved.

Breakfast of Champions and Sugared Up
Crazy Children World Wide

Aaand (drumroll please) after Sam's gigantic sobbing spell of was quelled, the parents took Braden to preschool and were off for Adella's twelve hour toddler shift. Given its rocky start, Aunt Adella feared it may be doomed to horrors unspeakable. And yet, all said and done, I got lucky! Not to say it was easy. Not to say that I didn't hit some skids and snags. Especially trying to navigate that whale of a minivan around the labyrinthine Mountain Lakes - it's probably concerning when you are relying on a three year old to help you find your various destinations. Not to say that the minor rhinovirus garden I'd been cultivating since mid-week has not pullulated into a full scale swarm of viral vigor.

But no injuries, no enduring tantrums, and no police interventions. I call this a win.

Biggest take-away: Babysitting is a complete misnomer. There is no sitting in babysitting. There is crawling, standing, running, sliding, hanging, stooping, lifting, throwing, dodging, bending, staggering, pulling, driving, laying, leaping, jumping, climbing, and more running. Sitting... not so much.

I remember when I was getting married, several brides-emeritus gave me the advice to make certain to eat. It was good advice, and despite some very concerted preparations, I still had a hard time eating enough on the day of. I think this EAT imperative applies to child care as well. Especially since Sam is simultaneously allergic to basically all nuts and preternaturally curious about anyone's food but his own (which really must be genetic given my own behaviors with nibbles). It's kind of hard to sneak food in. I did get a good laboratory lunch going on, while Sam scarfed down his oh-so-nutritious lunch of shredded cheese ("we" made quesadillas, but apparently he just liked those as an excuse to use the pizza cutter and turn on the oven), half-heated shredded carrots, a bite of snap peas, sun chips and apple juice. He was definitely curious about my various veggies, but seemed to stop shy of doing much beyond putting them to his mouth and smiling with transgressive jouissance. I will grant that he later ate a decent chunk of my rye crisp bread. Lunch laboratory aside, I definitely had a bear of a time eating the rest of the day. I guess my takeaway is to always feed your kids ridiculously healthy rabbit food, since most of what you actually will manage to eat is the food that they've refused to eat from their plate (and they'll probably refuse to eat most of whatever you feed them anyways). Sure your kids might starve, but that'll make it even easier to keep up with them.

It would be difficult to sum up the entire epic day, a day which would be "business as usual" for just about any parent of a toddler and utterly unfathomable for any human being still clinging to the vestiges of sanity.

This is the door to the fort, as well as the
hot shower. We keep all the sports gear in it

The morning began with a wait for the Digital TV guy. That was a little bit of a challenge, since the Falconer home is hard to find. I got the text that they were looking for the house just as Sam had ushered me in for potty duties (and no, between having a parent go through chemo, some colorful friends in college, and three nephews, I have no boundaries talking about bodily excretions, but since I'm surrounded by wee ones, my vocabulary has taken a turn for giggly euphemism). As a complement to his prior pooping-on-the-floor-while-standing-to-pee performance, he managed to pee all over the wall and floor while sitting to poop.

 As I popped out of the poop room to grab a paper towel for the mopping up, I espied the Digital TV van passing by our home. I burst outside, running after the car in my socks waving paper towels madly. No luck, although the neighbors seemed thoroughly attentive. Since I'd left a boy on the toilet and pee on the ground, I returned just as quickly. I mopped up while additional poopage was accomplished, did my residual cleaning duties, and slowly but frenetically dressed Sam and myself in clothes to wait outside.

As I was getting my shoes, the truck went by again in time for another spell of mad half-dressed running and waving while Sam stared in a confused fog from the door. Once we got ourselves together and waited outside for a good additional spell, the TV guy finally found us. We spent a good amount of time watching him on his ladder, eventually leading up to the far more interesting pursuit of lifting and closing the blinds for a decent forty-five minutes.

And, ok for your sake as well as for my own packing preparations (leaving on a jet plane soon) I'll just cut myself short on the full narrative and deedley-ooop through a broader outline: we played a bit longer, ate "lunch", cleaned "lunch" off the floor and cabinets, picked brother Bray-bray up from preschool. Enjoyed the new tv.

Ready to play on the big slide for sure

Sent Bray-Bray off on his playdate, got ready to go to the park, which naturally included about an hour of dancing around the car without getting into it, drove to the big play ground in Denville, realized Sam was completely passed out, drove home, met with protests from a semi-conscious Sam, drove back to Denville, spent about ten minutes standing with a very dazed Sam in the middle of the playground, played for another hour and a half, rushed back to retrieve Braden from a playdate with his bestie, waited out a minor protest scream when Braden was informed he couldn't have his bestie sleep over, survived a few other flare ups over some misunderstandings about a package that contained Ian's birthday gift but which Braden thought was for him, piled every single blanket and pillow in the house and threw ourselves down the stairs, ate pizza, and plonked off in front of the television.

More or less.

Final Tantrum Count: Technically maybe one real one with some little flare ups. (1) post-play date protest refusal to put on seatbelt that required a five minutes stand off, a stern voice, and a minor physical intervention; (2) a brief snipe between boys when Braden pushed Sam into pillows as requested, but harder than expected, (3) a full scale rage when Braden was informed the new rollerblades he'd extracted from an amazon package were not the ones he seems to believe his mommy ordered for him, but were actually a gift for Ian and he needed to take them off so we could repackage and hide them - this one involved throwing things, but reacted to a raised stern voice and pointed finger (thank god, because I had nothing to back that up), and was rapidly diverted with a game of marbles; (4) the pre-babysitting sob fest when Sam hurt his finger building a fort.

"Where's Mommy" Evasions: too many to quantify, and relying largely on a mix of short attention spans (she'll be home, but first didn't you want to go to the park like we talked about???) and the ongoing conceit that we were going to prepare a really great gift for mommy before she came home. Final highly successful diversion = tv and pizza.

Imaginary Showers Taken: Enough to send my imaginary dermatitis into overdrive. I think I helped create this shower fantasy, so if it ever manifests in anything approximating an obsession with actual showers, I'll be partially responsible for whatever diagnoses and skin issues come later down the road.  Although the kid does have a fascination with "cleaning" in kind of a theoretical messier than when things began kind of way.

Auntie Status: Gold-Star Survivor With Honors. Sure, Rachel's inlaws and a couple of teenage girls watch the boys all the time, but the girls don't count and the in-laws (as well as Gramma Pam and Grampa Ian) had several years of child-rearing of their own to boost their confidence. As a neophyte in the world of kiddos, and one constantly shielded from parenting particulars from friends who just don't think she'd quite understand why they have a dirty diaper stuck to their head and are carrying two binkies in their cosmetics bag, I get a little preliminary handicap here.

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