Advent Calendar Roulette

GRANDPARENT WARNING: Take this with a grain of salt. He is 2 after all.

A tradition in the Motylinski family has been advent calendars. When we were kids it was a great way to tide us over until Christmas. Every morning before school we would get to open another door and enjoy the bits of chocolate inside.

My parents have passed the tradition on to Riley. Being responisble grandparents they chose to fill some of the days with little trinkets, cutting down on the daily sugar intake. As parents we have appreciated it.  Riley’s sugar spikes tend to lead to fits so the less sugar the better.

We’re 10 days through the calendar and I thought I would break down the trinkets and Riley’s reaction.

Day Trinket Reaction
1 A piece of chocolate Phrase “I LIKE IT!” repeated all night
2 Mini Slinky Plays with it daily. Currently lost in his toybox
3 Wrist Band Refused to wear it. So I wore it.
4 Another piece of chocolate Peaks his interest in calendar. Wants to open more days
5 A sticker Carried sticker around until it tore. Resulted in fit when he realized it was broken
6 A car Gave the “That’s it?” look to us
7 A ball covered in suction cups Resulted in a throwing frenzy in the bathroom when Riley and I both could not get the ball to stick to the tile regardless of how hard we threw it
8 A candy cane Another night spent with our son walking around chanting, “I LIKE IT! I LIKE IT!”
9 A sticker Riley realizes that he’s getting shafted if it’s not food. Throws sticker on the ground and says, “NO! NO! NO!”
10 The complimenting wrist band Riley’s impartial to it. I’m thrilled that I now have 2 to wear

So far the candy and the slinky have been the big hits with him. Which anyone with children could have guessed. But I do appreciate the wrist bands.

Baby Update

Courtney informed me we are 18 weeks from our second baby. We have gotten a few things out of the way. We finally settled on a stroller and purchased Riley a big bed. Oh yeah, and we found out we’re having a baby girl. We’re quite stoked for a girl. Although it hasn’t changed our planning much, just the color of clothes we’re picking out.

One thing we tried to change that didn’t work out was daycares. In an effort to save money we decided to give home daycare a try. When Riley was born we planned on using a home daycare provider but at the last moment decided to send Riley to a TutorTime “school”.

This attempt we did our homework, did many interviews, had another misfire, but eventually settled on a caretaker we felt comfortable with. We’ve been taking Riley there for about 2 months. Since the change Riles’ personality changed drastically. He became very stubborn and was in tears on our way out the door. For the first few weeks we chalked it up to adjusting to the change. But his attitude has persisted throughout.

We also had concerns about the amount of television Riley was watching. Prior to changing daycares Riley would watch a bit of television here or there. We’d turn on Wilbur while giving him his nebuliser. We knew the provider had the television on but we were uncomfortable with the amount he seemed to be watching. Riley was always in front of the television when we dropped him off and picked him up. This week he started asking to watch TV too rather than play with his toys.

I’m not against television. Trust me, the second Riley goes to bed we flip on The Office. Courtney pointed out that Riley had stopped doing art projects. When confronted, the provider told us he refused to do them. We started to question if Riley was getting the type of attention he needed.

He’s never been, nor will be, the kid you can ask to do something outright. He’s always going to give his opinion on the matter before doing something. We hoped in-home daycare was going to provide more attention to Riley. But it appeared it was doing the opposite. Because he was a quiet, opinionated child it felt like he was being ostracized.

Frequently we were told about how “naughty” he was being, something we never heard from TutorTime. We initially were glad to hear a more honest account of how Riley was being during the day. One of the problems we had with taking him to a center was the lack of personal information the teacher could give us. Between taking shift breaks and moving between rooms it felt sometimes that he was getting lost in the shuffle. So we took the new feedback and worked with Riley. We stressed at home the need to be gentle and careful. We cut down on all the “wildness” that is our house. But the negative reports kept coming.

It all came to a head yesterday as I was picking Riley up. He was in a surprisingly good mood when I walked in the door. The provider and I had a great conversation. All was looking fine. I was glad to not hear any bad news. I think secretly Courtney and I were both trying to avoid taking or picking him up for fear of the conversations. As we were leaving I said goodbye and asked Riley to say goodbye to all the kids and the provider. One the children sitting in front of the television looked up at us and exclaimed, “Bye naughty Riley! Bye naughty Riley!” My heart sank. We all know kids don’t make this stuff up. I called Courtney. I knew we were going to need to have a tough talk. It was time to make some tough decisions.

For now we’ve decided to continue at TutorTime. The people there have been nothing short of great to us. Its tough to afford but I think we’re to the point where we are willing to sacrifice a lot to make sure Riley stays happy. Will he continue to be “naughty”? I don’t know. We’re hoping the more engaging environment of TutorTime will help balance him out again.

Dottie’s Story

We adopted Dottie in 2002. We had been in our house for less than 2 months. We had recently adopted our first dog, Sydney, from a rescue shelter. Courtney got a phone call from a Great Dane rescue looking to place an older Dane. Dottie’s owner told us that if we weren’t going to adopt her then he was going to turn her over to the pound. He was being transferred to Kentucky for his job and didn’t want to make the trip with her. So, that afternoon we packed Dottie into Courtney’s Honda Civic along with Sydney.

We were originally told that Dottie was 4. But after awhile her owner let it slip that she was closer to 5. A Dane’s average life expectancy is somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 years. We wanted her to finish out her golden years with us.

Through the years we had our good times and bad times. When she came home with us she was an overweight 140 lbs dog. Within a few years we had her down to 100-110 lbs. Her weight loss was mostly due to her not acting her age at all. She and Sydney ran around the yard all year long.

In the last few years her hips started to go. It’s typical for large dogs, especially Danes, to have hip displagia. She became stiff when it got cold out. She burned through many dog beds over her life. But through it all, she continued to get up every morning and make it outside.

I came home tonight to find Dottie not confined to the kitchen as usual. I also came home to find some sort of “mess” on the kitchen floor, also quite usual in our house. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the condition Dottie was in. Something was wrong and it was obvious.

We put Dottie to sleep tonight. She was 11 years old. She had lived longer than she was expected to. She was a big dog, stinky, stubborn, and beautiful. We always enjoyed watching her lay in the sun during the summer.

She was our Dane. We loved her. We miss her.

Making Room for 2

Preparation for the next kid has swung into high gear after this past weekend. We’ve been holding out before doing anything too serious until we found out the gender of the next baby. Besides, we had Riley’s 2nd birthday party to plan and execute to keep us busy.

On Friday we found out that our next kid will be a girl. We are excited and relieved all at once. We were just happy to hear we had a healthy baby still in the hopper. We’ve been so busy keeping Riley entertained  we haven’t really stopped to grasp the fact we have a second one on the way. Having a girl will be quite different for the Motylinskis. It’s been almost a full decade since the last girl was born.

There are only a few things we think we need to accommodate a second child. Since a bigger house is out of the picture for awhile (Thanks terrible housing market), we have moved on to getting Riley his own bed and getting a bigger stroller. We knocked out the bed a few weeks ago and picked up a stroller this weekend.

With Riley I’ve felt we’ve been able to maintain some sort of identity as a couple. We always made time to enjoy life with and without Riley. For our sanity, sometimes it has been nice to hear each other over dinner instead of Riley’s constant opinions. But the new stroller I think put us firmly into the parents column. Our initial thoughts were to get a side-by-side stroller for the two kids. Riley loves riding in strollers. But after talking with a lady at Babies R Us we discovered that our infant carrier wouldn’t work in a side-by-side. To make matters worse, we now have a very large 2 year old who shows no sign of shrinking anytime soon. So we ended up not getting the fancy stroller we thought we wanted but a practical Sit and Stand stroller. It’ll accommodate an infant seat and also allow Riley some “Big Boy” freedom.

If you haven’t seen these Sit and Stand strollers, they have a “seat” behind the infant seat where a toddler can either sit or stand by. It’s nothing fancy, more like a ledge of convienience for a toddler who’s engine craps out a mile from the parking lot. Riley really enjoyed it but I think we should be more concerned with the fact that he jumps off of it every time we come to a stop with it. He exits it like some guy jumping from the getaway van in a jewelry heist. I can easily see this turning into a race to Jamba Juice in the mall.  I’ll just slow the stroller down enough for him to make his getaway.

I’ll hopefully get pictures of Riley’s 2nd birthday party online soon. I’ve got some sweet pinata video too.

Don

Before I met Don almost 14 years ago Courtney told me that he had gotten sick. She told me that her grandfather had gone to Asia on business over 20 years ago and never came back the same. She said he had lost his short term memory and kept notes in a notebook.

Don and I ended up sitting together in the family room, alone, at some family function. He looked at me and said, “How’s the weather?” I made some sort of comment about it being a nice day out. He said, “I used to live in D.C. Too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter.” For the next 8 years this was the extent of our conversation. Every Christmas and Thanksgiving Don would ask how the weather was and tell me about D.C.

In his notebook, Courtney told me, he wrote notes to himself to remind him of things. He had fallen ill with encephalitis before his grandkids were born so he barely knew or recognised them. He would keep notes on who his grandkids were and such but it never seemed to change the conversation.

After we were married we took Dottie our Great Dane over to my inlaws one weekend while Don and Adaline, Don’s wife, were in town. I had grown accustom and comfortable with the D.C. story. We sat down with Don in the room and sort of talked around him as usual. As the conversation died down Don piped up, “That’s an oversized dog you have there!” In the 8 years I had known him I had never heard him say anything except the D.C. story. He went on to mumble something about a dog he had once. After that, every time Don would see Dottie he would tell us about how oversized she was.

A few years later Don would open up a new story about sneaking in to watch the Packers play through the fence. Though Courtney told me he had told the story before, it was the first time I heard it.

Don passed away last week from complications of pneumonia. While I didn’t/couldn’t develop a deep bond with him, his stories were always appreciated. He was not a complicated man when I knew him which made it easy to appreciate him. I will miss hearing about D.C. this Christmas.

The Tale of Two Babies

When we were younger I used to race my brother to the store doors or to the car or to the store carts. You name it, I wanted to race. The conversation usually went like this:

Me: Race ya to the store!

Drew: no

Me: Come on! I’m gonna beat ya!

Drew: Fine

Me: Come on! Run!

Drew: No, I’ll walk.

So imagine this conversation going on daily for most of our childhood.

Now, enter adulthood.

Drew and Michelle told the family over Labor Day weekend that they are expecting their second child, affectionately known as “Dos”. We are elated to have another cousin in the mix. It has been so much fun to watch Riles and Avery grow up together. We’re ecstatic that our next kids will do the same.

To Drew and Michelle, with all sincerity, congratulations. We’re happy and over joyed that we’ll have friends and family we can relate to again. You guys made us not feel so crazy when we just weren’t getting Riley some days. It will be wonderful to have someone to lean on again.

We told our families early on about Courtney’s pregnancy in August. We knew were weren’t going to be able to keep a secret long. We whipped up this video to tell everyone. We hid the announcement under the guese of a funny Riley video:

Back to the race.

After a few more doctor’s appointments Courtney’s due date was honed down to March 27th, my cousin’s birthday. I’ve been happy to have another March baby. With my birthday being March 20th I thought it would be neat to have my kid have the same birthday month.

Back to the race.

Drew and Michelle tell us over Labor Day weekend about “Dos” and we quickly did the math. Michelle is one week further along than Courtney, putting their due date roughly one week ahead of ours. In the most impolite fashion I denounced their method of joyous announcement as rotten and underhanded.  My brother had beaten me in the race.

But, as it was when we were children, I think I may be the only one racing.

Another One

For those who don’t know yet, and I would venture to guess that may be most of you, Courtney is pregnant with our second kid. She’s due in March. Riles turns 2 on Halloween so we’re prepping him for a little brother or sister. On any given day Riles may tell you he wants a brother but switch to a sister the next day. It’s pretty cute since he doesn’t know much of the difference. But something tells me that he understands that he could wrestle with a brother and not a sister. We don’t have much to plan for, just to adjust spacing in the house a bit and figure out how the heck to haul 2 kids around. But other than that we’re pretty much good to go. Court’s been on top of everything already. Daycare, beds, strollers, she’s got it all figured out. I would be a wreck without her.

So we’re prepping for a late March baby. Reality is that Courtney will probably have another c-section. The doctor said if there’s any small sign that the second one is growing at the same rate Riley did then we should plan for an early c-section. That would put the baby’s birth around St. Patrick’s Day. There’s a slight chance we might then end up with a Halloween kid and a St. Patty’s kid.

The 2 Year Old Bully

Yesterday we took our quarterly trip to find shoes for Riley. Riles has a “unique” foot size: extra wide. For the uninitiated, that’s one side bigger than wide. It presents a challenge every couple of months to find him affordable shoes that fit comfortably. After 2 years of the same struggles I have finally come to the realization that his shoes are always going to be expensive, quite expensive. So instead of fighting to jam his foot into Target shoes, we headed straight to the Stride Rite store.

After the mall Stride Rite was a bust we motored to Maple Grove in hopes of them having a better stock of the extra wides. We entered the zoo (or madhouse, whichever you prefer) and quickly found the pair we needed to have sized. We waited, and waited, and waited for help. There appeared to be 2 people running into the back for shoes for about 6 families.

While we waited, somewhat impatiently, Riley began to explore the vast amount of toys the store had out for kids to play with. He was immediately drawn to a car ramp. He put a car on the ramp and zoomed it down the ramp. “Whee!’ he shouted. A young toddler girl wandered over and started grabbing the cars from Riley. I’ve had to get to this type of behavior from not only my child but other kids as well. We let her take the cars and I showed Riley the bin next to the girl where we could grab a few more cars. With each car we grabbed the girl would take them from us. Time to move on to something else, I figured.

We moved onto the puzzle stand. Riley started thumbing through the various puzzles on the stand, pulling them out and looking at them. The toddler girl followed us over to the stand to look. She moved in on Riley, pushing him squarely in the chest and screeching. She grabbed the puzzle from him. Stunned that this girl’s mother was watching her and not doing anything I squated next to Riley and helped him look at the puzzles without getting harassed.

The clerks were nowhere to be found so we had to shift to the back part of the store to get some help. I gladly grabbed Riley up to get away from this rude girl and mother. The backside of the store had a bookstand which Riles started purusing. We found a book and went in search of chair to sit down in. He pulled himself up at chair and began scanning the book. The girl from the front of the store found her back to Riley, and away from her mother mind you, and stole the book from Riley. She started to push Riley out of the chair. I had enough.

Unfortunately, my passiveness has bled into my parenting style. Her mother finally came over to her to grab her. In a literal huff I picked up Riley and said, “Come on, Riles. Lets leave her alone. We’ll go read elsewhere.” The mother heard me and huffed herself. I wasn’t sure if she huffed at me or at her daughter. But she got the point that I didn’t want her kid around my kid.

After we got help we were out of the store in 5 minutes. I hate judging how others parent their children. Riles has a lot of free reign in life. But one thing we don’t tolerate with him is poor manners with others. I wish all parents would do the same.

One Hundred Pushups or Bust

I haven’t been making enough time to go to the gym lately. I’m frustrated by my lack of desire to go, but it is what it is. Instead of the gym I spend my time going to the park with Courtney and Riles..and sometimes working. In the end, I’ve started to feel lousy. I’m sleeping terribly and my eating habits are in the toilet.

So given all of this I thought I’d give the One Hundred Pushups regimen a go. I did the initial assessment and placed in the middle of the road (27 pushups if you must know). I thought getting back into the rhythm of working out would help me feel better.

So today was day three of a six week plan to get you up to doing 100 pushups. I easily did 62 this morning. I’m let down that it isn’t harder for me to do. I was hoping it would help energize me, but it hasn’t. It’s honestly been too easy. I’m going to continue until I can do 100 a day but I think I’ll get there sooner than six weeks.

Ideally, I’d like to establish a 30 minute routine that I can do in the morning. Since I’m an early riser I think my time would be better spent working out than surfing the web. Regardless, I think our gym membership will be canceled soon.