Monday, May 26, 2008

Ask STL Homeboy

From this week's mailbag:

Dear STL Homeboy,

My three year old daughter has discovered her singing voice and has been walking around the house singing pretty much non-stop for almost a month now. At first it was cute, but the truth is she has a terrible singing voice. I'm not going to sugar coat it - it's bad. Every time she starts to sing like she's Ariel from The Little Mermaid, I silently curse whoever introduced her to that movie. My husband is a stay-at-home dad and encourages her singing, saying things like, "she is exploring her voice" or "any interest in an art should be encouraged" or other touchy-feely nonsense. But there's a fine line between encouraging your child to something they're not good at and being that mother on American Idol who tells her daughter that the judges were wrong after the worst audition in history. I blame the mother for not telling the daughter that she wasn't a very good singer before embarrassing herself on national television. What do you think? Am I OK in asking my daughter not to sing?

Thank You,
STL Workgirl

Dear STL Workgirl,

OK, I know this is you, Megan. I agree that Clara's singing is for the most part excruciating and I understand that it drives you up the wall. Like you, I also want to throw The Little Mermaid into the river. But some of her other songs aren't that bad. What about the little speckled frogs song she learned from school? Her "take me out to the ballgame" isn't bad - she just kills it by singing it over and over. But if we start to tell her that she isn't very good at something she might have some self-esteem issues down the road, and that's just not something I want to risk. Besides, everyone starts out bad at something before they get better, right? If the singing gets so bad that you can't take it anymore, you could always try to distract her into coloring or playing with a puzzle. How about you carry around some earplugs in your pocket? If you think, however, that her singing is worse than this...

...then maybe you should tell her she's not a very good singer.

Your husband,
STL Homeboy

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Baby Cosmo

Clara and Kate are now well aware that there's a baby brewing in Megan's belly. Last week we asked Clara what we should name the baby. She took a break from coloring for a second, looked up in thought, and said, "Cosmo." Then went back to coloring.

OK. Cosmo.

It could be worse. Mia Williams chose to call her little brother-to-be "doorknob." Dmitri and Cindy went with "Jack" instead. So, all things considered, Cosmo is just fine.

Last week I asked Clara if she wanted a little brother or a little sister. She said, "I want a little brother. I already have a little sister." Good point.

Kate is obsessed with Mommy's belly. She tries to look in Megan's belly button to see Cosmo. Some Kate quotes:
"Cosmo's in your belly, Mommy."
"Can I kiss him?"
"He has toys in there."
"I want to give him a hug."

When Megan is getting dressed in the morning, Kate comes up and pats Megan's belly like she is playing the belly drum. That's why Cosmo is flashing the "rock on" sign up there in the ultrasound. I have a feeling Kate is going to like being a big sister.

Disclosure: That's not really Cosmo up there. Cosmo's real gesture wasn't appropriate for a family blog.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Phantom Poop Syndrome

"I smell poop."

As a follow up to our discussion on Phantom Cry Syndrome, I present another unfortunate psychological byproduct of taking care of children: Phantom Poop Syndrome.

I really don't need to go into a lot of detail here. If you've spent enough time with babies the difference between a foul smelling room and a pleasant smelling room will slowly fade. Perhaps our sense of smell has retreated to its happy place, but soon enough we will have to literally stick our nose in horrible places to determine if the baby needs to be changed, something the house guests have known for the last five horrible minutes.

As an added joke on us, for some reason we start to smell poop when it's not there. We turn to our significant other, with whom we used to have intelligent conversations, and ask, "do you smell poop?" Even more cruel, we smell poop when the kids aren't even around. It's not a strong smell - if it were that meant that either we somehow got poop on our hands or clothes, or just drove past a mulch pile. It's very weak and very subtle, but just strong enough for us to dread having to change another dirty diaper.

Ah, the joys of parenting!

On a side note, when I started this blog I promised myself that I wouldn't write about poop. But children have a way of wearing down any resolve I have, and with a third on the way I'm liable to write about anything, so watch out.

New feature: on the left up there you'll see a button under "subscribe." That's for RSS readers like bloglines. For those unfamiliar with RSS (Really Simple syndication) feeds, it's a way to have your favorite blogs and sites updated automatically on your computer whenever a new post is published. Email me if you need help with it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Phantom Cry Syndrome

Spend enough time taking care of children and it becomes an inescapable part of your psyche. It makes it way into your dreams in sometimes overt, sometimes subtle ways. Last month I dreamed that Clara was trying to get Kate to swim in a pond where a shark was swimming. I'm no psychoanalyst but I think such dreams show I have some pretty deep fears about the safety of my children. Even when your children are at school or you have a babysitter you are not free from what I have found is the most common form of parental paranoia: Phantom Cry Syndrome. Randomly, out of nowhere, you will hear your child's cry.

PCS can happen anywhere at any time. This afternoon it happened to me in my car, even though I knew I was alone. I heard my child's cry - it was barely there, as if on the very edge of my hearing - and I jerked my head towards the sound. The sound had passed and I was left to laugh at my own foolishness. The children were with the babysitter, you nimrod. As I continued driving I found the source of the sound: A driver had his window down and I could just hear his radio. But since I had no context for that slight sound the first time I heard it, my parental instincts kicked in and turned it into a child's cry.

I've experienced PCS in the gym, where the slight squeal of a nautilus machine moving on the other side of the room can sound like a cry. I've turned my head at the sound of car brakes, a high pitched laugh from afar, or just about any sound that is just loud enough and just the right timbre or pitch to approximate a cry. My mind will fill in the information that the cry is my own child's. It's not a rational response, but for parents who experience PCS it shows just how heavy the responsibility of protecting the little ones in our care weighs on us.

I just made PCS up. But the next time it happens to you, you'll know what to call it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

And Baby Makes Five

Yep, this November the Bittle household will grow by one more. We will be entering into that loud and chaotic land where two semi-responsible adults try to corral three little ones, each going in different directions.

Three kids. One dad.

Shrek: How did this happen?
Puss: Allow me to explain. You see, when a man has a certain feelings for a woman, powerful urge sweeps over him.
Shrek: I know how it happened! I just can't believe it.
Donkey: How does it happen?

Probably a more appropriate quote:

Brody: You're going to need a bigger boat.

Are we crazy? Certifiable. But while there are readers out there I'm sure who are glad they are not me at this moment, I'm not too worried about what's coming because I'm sure it will be both difficult and wonderful, both in ways I can't predict. Clara and Kate will be in school, and we'll bring in some help for me when I need a break. Besides, Clara will be four years old, plenty old enough to babysit.

I will say that women who have the luxury of a stay-at-home husband have it made. Women love babies, and if they can keep popping them out and then go to work, happily whistling "whistle while you work," then why not? To be fair, she's the one that has to go through all the bodily changes.

Since Megan and Michelle have had babies number one and two around the same time, Michelle sent Megan a pregnancy test last December to announce that Michelle was pregnant, warning Megan that she better check. About two months later, Michelle got Megan's reply in the mail, a positive pregnancy test. Shows you how competitive Megan is. Now, when the Bittles and the Etters go to dinner, we need a table for ten.

Michelle, the next time you get the urge to have another baby, buy a Playstation 3 instead. We could use one of those.