Finding the mojo

Zephyra has developed this quirk in her language where her standard response to things is “What”. This is way, way more annoying than it sounds. I have no way of knowing if she’s actually asking “What?” or confusing it with another question like, “Why?” or is simply making some sort of emphatic noise like, “Huh” that’s gotten mixed up with an actual word.

These are examples of conversations I’ve had with her from just this evening:
“Where did your clothes go?”
“What.”
“Why’d you take off your clothes, silly girl?”
“What. Hehe.”

“Please don’t bite!”
“What.” Then, sarcastically, “Okay, geez.”

“No bum! Nooooo bum!”
“Why can’t I put your diaper back on?”
“What.”

“Oh no, you fell! Are you okay?”
“Yes.”
“Did you hit your leg?”
“What.”

“Eat! Eat dis food!”
“No honey, I don’t want to eat food that’s already been in your mouth.”
“Haha… what.”

It’s like that every hour of every day. And it’s not even like she uses tones to indicate a question, it’s usually said very flatly. This is some serious toddler bullshit. The only context cues are whether or not she says it loudly or quietly.

The other thing she does now is add a ‘y’ sound to the end of every word. Like “Pantsy” for pants, or “nursey” for breastfeeding, “foody” for food, “backy” for back time (when she’s put on someone’s back to assist in going to sleep), “Bootsy” when she needs to put her shoes on. I’m sure you can imagine the rest. Old readers may remember Tempest’s x-y-x language quirk that happened about a year past this age, when she was around 3.5, where x is any word and y is literally the ‘y’ sound. This was apparent in phrases like, “I like the ring-y-ring” and “Let’s go to car-y-car”. Though that came off as rather adorable and not at all confusing or ridiculous, unlike Z.
All of this only adds to Z’s uniquely challenging charm.
Z has been, by and large, the most challenging and exhausting toddler I have ever had. I can’t be certain how much of her behaviour is learned from watching and/or being around older siblings and how much is truly organic, but regardless it’s enough to make me pray for ages three and four in a way I have never imagined was possible. And ya’ll know 3 and 4 are Satan child time, but it’s gotta be less exhausting than this. I mean at least then I don’t have to worry about her unlocking the bathroom window and crawling out onto the roof or beaning random people with mugs she stole out of a cabinet secured with no less than two child locks. And not even the cheap ones.
These things haven’t yet happened, of course, but she’s gotten very close. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is the hope that one day these stories will be hilarious and we will tell them at various family events while she squirms and looks vaguely apologetic.

Something like two months ago I wrote about a particularly exhausting afternoon with her and then forgot where I saved the file. I finally found it and I’m copying it below because seriously she is ridiculous and this shit is what most days are like with her.

I swear to god, this baby is going to be the death of me. Two year olds are always a ton of trouble but she’s got the cunning and ability of both the others put together and I honestly do not understand it.

Early this morning she successfully figured out the sliding glass door locks (x2) and disappeared into the backyard (which, fortunately, has a very high fence and latch placed out of reach even for a child of Xan’s height) leaving me momentarily terrified when I couldn’t find her anywhere. After some desperate searching and calling I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye, and then saw her standing in the backyard completely naked (her clothes were strewn all over the dew-covered ground). Once I made eye contact with her she threw her arms up in the air and yelled, “TAH DAHHHHH!” loud enough that I could hear it through the closed door.

She skipped her nap this afternoon and instead spent time undoing every chore I was trying to get done, from laundry to sweeping. She dunked the cat’s food into their water twice, then poured the water out onto the floor, threw every single piece of food I gave her to eat onto the floor, and sprayed a bottle of milk inside the vacuum cleaner after managing to lock herself in the hall closet with it while I was selfishly taking time to pee.

After I picked up the kids from school and came home to start the afternoon chores she followed me around up and down the stairs, often either right at my heels or directly in front of me and generally getting in the way. This makes it extremely hard for me to haul large baskets of laundry up and down the two flights of stairs that are between the bedrooms and the washing machine. Every distraction I threw at her failed, and she wasn’t that interested in helping to put clothes in the machine either so I just barreled through it as fast as I could. I tripped over her half a dozen times, the worst of which resulted in my falling into the corner of a cabinet, splitting my toe open.
After transferring the diaper laundry to the dryer, I filled the washing machine up about 1/4 of the way and then went upstairs to grab the last laundry basket from the bathroom so I could fill it the rest of the way. When I got back downstairs with the basket, baby was once again inexplicably naked and standing at the bottom of the steps waiting for me. “TAHHH DAHHH!” she said, laughing and slapping her belly.
Alright, fine, whatever. I could care less if she’s naked, as long as she hasn’t stripped off a poopy diaper. I check her bum as she runs away from me and it looks clean. I’ll find her clothes when I’m done.

I put the rest of the laundry in the machine and close it up.
“Alright Zephyra,” I called after her, “Where’s your bum?” (bum is what we call diapers).
“My bum! I naked!” she exclaimed.
“Yes I can see that. Can you show me where you put your bum so I can put it in the pail? I won’t put it back on you, I swear.”
She wandered in circles for about 3 minutes before finally leading me back into the laundry room and pointing at the washing machine, “Help!” she said.
“Help?… what do you need help with?”
“I help!”
“You help what?” And then it hit me. She ‘helped’ by throwing all of her clothes and diaper into the washing machine when I left the lid open between dumps of clothes. Crap. Well, as obnoxious as that is at least it’s cloth and she didn’t poop so no harm done.

And I start back upstairs and realize, wait no… it isn’t cloth. The one time in ages that I’ve used a disposable because she was poopy two minutes before I had to run and pick up the kids, already late, and her diaper shelf was empty except for an old disposable because everything else was in the wash. She just threw a used disposable diaper into the washing machine, sandwiched somewhere between the three baskets of laundry that I threw in there.
Oh, fuck.
I ran back in and was thankfully able to stop the machine before the ‘lid lock’ mechanism turned on which prevents me from opening it no matter what I do (I have no idea how to disable it or even why it exists in the first place). I ended up having to pull out around 3/4 of the sopping wet, filthy clothes and cat-peed-on towels before finally locating and removing the diaper, now swollen to five times it’s normal size. When I finally pulled out the dripping mass of gross, Z gave me a slow clap. Thanks, baby.

We went back upstairs to continue my afternoon chores, deciding I would not bother to try and re-dress Z, seeing as she clearly needed some naked time so damn much. My back was starting to really hurt by that point, so after I finished sweeping and mopping the kitchen I went and sat down for a rest in the livingroom. Three or four minutes went by without having Z harass me, which generally means something is very wrong somewhere in the house. Just as I started to get up she approached me with her mouth wide open.
“Yuck!” she exclaimed, gaping at me. I was overwhelmed by a sickly sweet, soapy smell. Her mouth was covered in some sort of white residue. It was also on her hands and chest. We have really difficult cabinet locks on EVERY drawer, cabinet or cupboard that contains any cleaning solution so there is absolutely no way she got into anything dangerous. Seriously the amount of time and money I have spent finding the perfect locks for each individual cabinet since moving in her has been seriously fucking stupid. With that in mind, I figured she may have eaten some hand soap or something. Though the bathrooms all have door handle locks on them, and remain closed at all times exactly for reasons like this… so that’s also unlikely.

With some prompting Z eventually led me to the culprit: a now empty trial-size deodorant that had been stored in a zippered compartment of my purse. My purse that I absently left hanging on the lower hook instead of the higher one when I came in after picking up the kids. What she hadn’t eaten or bitten or whatever she was doing with it was smeared all over the entryway: walls, door, floor and the wipe mat. Ugghhh.
The deodorant is not even remotely dangerous nor was it that big a deal to clean, but the smell was awful and gives me a headache. I picked it up on sale somewhere and ended up storing it in my purse for use only in terribly smelly emergencies.

Thank god the repaired Wii gamepad came in today because I seriously need to be able to just hand her the TV and let her veg out for 30 minutes right now. I’m starting to get a serious case of twitchy eyeball. It’s not even 4pm yet and I still have to put aside an hour and change to make dinner and clean up after that without her burning down the damn house.

Seriously. SERIOUSLY.

On the plus side, she has spontaneously started using the potty, all on her own!
Our potty learning tactics with her have ranged from feigned disinterest, to gently encouraging or even borderline bribery without any smidgen of success. But, like her sister before her, it was only after giving up and ignoring the idea completely that she finally began to show actual interest. A few days ago she spontaneously announced that she had to use the potty while galavanting around the house naked, so I brought her there and she actually went. Like, a lot. It was very clearly a purposeful attempt at potty learning.
The next day she used the potty 7 times in a row and didn’t need a diaper at all until bedtime. The day after she used it all day so long as she was naked (but asked for diapers to poop) and that night she slept without a diaper, by her rather aggressive request, and woke up dry. She then used the potty in the morning and peed so much it very nearly required a courtesy flush.
I’m calling this a half-success because she still regularly asks for diapers when she’s mad at us, being lazy, or has to poop. Regardless, it’s happening significantly earlier than it did with my other kids, so I have high hopes that we may actually be able to pack away her diapers by the time she turns 3. Cautiously high hopes, but hopes nonetheless.

As an update to this, she waited two more days to start using the potty to poop too. Today I went out to try and find her underwear to practice with, but I cannot find any in her size. The smallest pack I could find was “XXS” and said that it would fit a 2-3 (she wears 3T) and it’s huge on her. Argh. Though I’m not sure I’ll be able to take them back now, because as soon as we got home she stripped naked, ripped open the bag, took out a pair to put on, and now refuses to take them off.
This makes me unbelievably excited.

I’m going to have to put away my #1 Crunchy Mom mug when I admit that I am seriously done with changing poopy diapers. DONE. And nursing, too. I’m just not enjoying nursing anymore, and I would not be bent out of shape if she got up one morning and decided she was done forever. I have no desire to forcibly wean her because not only am too lazy for that bullshit; but also because it would begin a torrent of crying, tantrums, sleepless nights, grumpy asshole babies, and general freaking out for days or even weeks, and frankly I’d much rather she just gradually pull away the same way the other kids did because that just makes more sense. But still, it doesn’t mean I’m not feeling done with it.
I’m all over the LLL, “don’t offer, don’t refuse” bullshit, which as any nursing mom knows, doesn’t do jack shit, clever phrasing or no. My go-to distraction is to simply tell her I’m really not feelin’ it right now and if she could wait until such-and-such time I’d be all over that and we’d nurse as much as she’d like (which is actually more like an extremely short session).
My worst problem right now is her terrible, lazy toddler latch; which is impossible to correct not only because she refuses to listen to reason (or perhaps doesn’t understand my complicated instructions), but also because of the persisting effects of her tongue tie and how that effects the way my nipple is positioned in a mouth full of teeth. There really is no option here that allows for super comfortable, painless latching. And while what we have isn’t exactly horrible agony, it’s also not exactly fluffy peaceful clouds either. At 2.5 the only persisting problems with her tongue tie are things like excessive drooling (for a child this age), some lisping that I’m not entirely sure is truly abnormal, and a weird shallow latch that makes her top teeth dig into my areola in a way that any other normal child’s latch would not. To be honest, continued breastfeeding has done more for her speech and physical therapy than anything else could come close to (and I’m not pulling this out of my ass, this comes from the PT/OT we worked with and then checked in with for so long), so there’s a lot of weight on the ‘pro’ side of continuing to nurse her as long as she needs it. The more we nurse, the more stimulation those areas of her mouth receive, which strengthens and stretches and prevents all sorts of other problems like bubble palate or “baby bottle mouth”-like development due to pressure pockets, malocclusion and all that. Continued breastfeeding into toddlerhood does a lot of wonderful things, and that goes double for kids like her. But man am I ever getting to a point where I hate the sensation.

There are still some times when I don’t mind so much, like when she’s really sleepy and cuddled up nice and close, actually taking the time to get a proper, deep latch for the purpose of drinking; and I look down at her sweet little face and can watch as she drifts off. That’s very sweet. I mean, up until she slips into REM sleep and bites down. But before that it’s very sweet.

Speaking of sweet, I had a really lovely moment with Xan the other night, though it had not started out that way.

I walked up into the bathroom after Xan’s frantic call and found that Zephyra had gotten ahold of an eyeshadow sample that was not only very expensive to replace (I did not pay for it initially, it came as a gift) but also one of my absolute favourite pieces… and she’d emptied it out all over the entire bathroom. I was furious. Both with her, and with Xan for what appeared to be him just standing there watching her do it rather than trying to help.

I got Curtis to help wrangle the baby while I tried to salvage what was left, and while I reprimanded Xan for not trying to help, I realized he was standing there looking very nervous with his shirt pulled up over his nose.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.”
“No I mean why is your shirt like that.”
“Nothing,” he said again.
“Did you hurt yourself?”
“No,” he admitted. Then carefully, “I just…got blush on me. The baby did it.”
“Xan, it’s okay if your’e playing with my make-up, all you have to do is ask so I know what you’re doing. I’m mad about you not trying to stop the baby from ruining things when she was doing it right in front of you… not that you’re using it.”
Slowly the shirt came down to reveal that he had two swipes of blush on either cheek, and a hint of lipstick. “Yeah?”
“Yeah of course.”
Tempest came in at this point to see what the kerfuffle was about. The shirt came right back up to hide his face.
“You know that makeup isn’t for girls, it’s for everyone. Men and women who are in theatre, TV shows or anything on stage or in front of cameras pretty much always wear make-up,” I said.
Tempest agreed with me. “That’s right! I see lots of guys on YouTube who teach about make-up!”
“Me too!” I said. I saw Xan out of the corner of my eye slowly lower his shirt again. “The person that gives me the best tips and tutorials about make-up is a guy, and he wears make-up almost every day!” (Wayne Goss, for those wondering, he truly is incredible and you should all subscribe to him).
I motioned to Xan, “If you ever wanted to be on stage and entertain people, you’d probably have to wear make-up!”
“Well, I don’t want to do that,” he said. “I want to be a cooker like daddy.” He paused a moment. “Can cookers wear make-up?”
“Anyone can wear make-up,” said Tempest, having even the slightest clue the difference she was making. “It’s for anyone for whatever reason. Haven’t you ever heard of goth?”
“No,” Xan answered.
“Those are people that dress a certain way, like in all black, and they all wear the same kind of make-up no matter if they’re boys or girls or anything else.” (I think this is her way of acknowledging people who are intersex or androgynous, a subject we’ve touched upon a few times).
“You can always play with my make-up, Xan,” I said. “Tempest can too. All you guys have to do is make sure you let me know first, so I know what you’re doing and where you’re at.”
Xan pondered this for a second, then cautious made his way over to my open case and pointed at a set of foundations. “Okay, so what’s this one for?”

This prompted a make-up lesson that lasted over an hour. I went through foundations and shadows and the difference between sheer and matte and what “colour payoff” meant; lipsticks, glosses, bronzers and blushers and everything I had in my kit that I’d collected over years and years. To be honest, most of it has long since expired and if I had the wherewithal I would have disposed of half of it, but I’m not rich enough to afford to replace everything before it runs dry. By the end Tempest had managed to curl her lashes and apply mascara and Xan knew the difference between bronzers, blushers, powders, sticks and which brush was appropriate to use with what product.

It was kind of amazing and gave me a weird sense of pride to know that he could be comfortable with his curiosity again. This is something I haven’t seen him be so open with since Kindergarten… shortly before it was beaten and forced out of him by the bullying that year. I don’t label him anything, nor do I think he requires one; I just want him to grow up knowing there are no boundaries to learning and exploring. And I hope a little part of that was accomplished that evening.


Xan had a pro-D day on Monday, though Tempest did not, and the afternoon was pleasantly warm so we decided to spend it out in the back playing with bubbles. I made up another gallon of that bubble mix I’d experimented with over the summer, and whipped up some new “wands” out of a garbage t-shirt and some bamboo skewers we had sitting in the arts and crafts box for some reason, then we all went out back.
As soon as I stepped outside the sun came out from behind the clouds and was shining over the high fence, glinting off these giant bubbles Xan was making as he patiently taught Zephyra how to do it herself, casting colourful shadows on the ground. The whole scene was just so lovely. I ran inside and grabbed my camera, and for the first time in a really long time I’m actually really happy with what I got. In a creative sense, I mean. I’ve just not been feeling the photography thing for probably a year, if not more, and it’s been impossible to get in touch with that ‘photo mojo’ feeling that made me love doing it.
Creating images like that help remind me why I love photography.

The evening before it was much colder, and we’d used the last of a previous bubble mix out in the courtyard with some of the neighbour kids. Z had tried desperately to figure out how to blow the big bubbles like Xan, but couldn’t quite get the hang of it.

Once she tired of that she found a hole in the ground and sat in it.

Then we went inside for painting instead, because it was freaking cold out there.

But it was this set of photos from the next day, with the sunshine coming over the fence while we played, that really made me fall in love with photography again…

At first, Z just helped me clear the yard of toys and debris so I could have a clean area for them to run around in. She had a brief love affair with the Fisher Price or Little Tykes red car that seems to be in front of every house. When Xan called her out to teach her how to make bubbles, she was initially reluctant to leave. I snapped this picture while she complained, and though it’s not particularly exciting, I kind of adore it.

Xan showed her how to gently twirl and run with the soaked-up wand to make the long, twisting shapes.

Creating bubbles within bubbles.

She loved watching the ones Xan made float up over her…

…and pop.

And was so damn proud when she managed to get some big ones.

And then they were creating them together, and this wonderful image happened:


BAM.

I’m so happy with it, I want to put it up on canvas in our hall, next to the one of Tempest and Xan in tutus at the table that I took so many years before.


Links of the Day:
Families looking to cure epileptic children find first dose of hope – If you ever saw the movie Lorenzo’s Oil this might make you remember the miracle you felt happened upon watching it for the first time. I have a friend whose child has just began this treatment, and has already begun to see amazing improvements. This is very literally changing lives, by gifting one to children for the first time.
Man makes 3D-printed prosthetic for his 10 year old son – When 3D printers become a household object, our entire fucking world is going to change.
Beware of the 5-lb bag of sugarless gummy bears – These write-ups had us dying laughing, but it really is true: don’t ever eat this shit.

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