Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sticker Shock

We're definitely in the throes of "terrible."

Every day holds a constant barrage of "No!", "ppphhhhttttt" (complete with stuck-out tongues and sprays of saliva) and my personal favorite "why? why? why?" Shirt collars serve a whole new function: hand holds in lieu of actual neck scruffs. Even more telling, the boys are starting to lie. White lies, but lies none the less. Witness the exchange Zach and I had the other morning:

Z: "Mama, I want to watch a movie"
Me: "We don't watch movies on school days"
Z: "I don't want to go to school today"
Me: "You have to"
Z: "My head hurts. I'm sick. I can't go to school." Pause for a beat. "Now can I watch a movie?"

Some days it seems hubby and I spend half of our waking hours screaming. And some days - especially Monday mornings - the apartment feels like we're on the despot side of a police state. With some very, very annoying would-be rebels in our midst. It's brutal.

So we've decided to try a new tactic: incentives. And, so far, it appears to be working.

We're employing the popular tactic of "sticker boards." There are several categories of "good behaviors" (stay quietly in bed until 6:30, sit properly through dinner, etc.) Successful completion means the worthy child can choose from "special" stickers (a.ka., Disney, Pixar, Dora, Thomas) to put on his "board" (a.k.a., a large sheet of paper hanging on the wall).

Here's what we didn't anticipate (and should have) : sticker incentives are SO exciting, the boys are now scheming to earn more. Poor Zach sat on the portable toddler potty for a good fifteen minutes this morning, trying to squeeze out at least one tiny drop of pee (pee pee in the potty = 1 sticker. Poopy in the potty =2). And why? So he could get his hands on a sparkling Lightening McQueen. Poor kid hadn't drunk enough milk though.

A few moments later, I caught Jake dumping a box of Lincoln Logs on the living room rug, just so he could clean them up (clean up = 1 sticker). Needless to say, he didn't get any rewards for that maneuver.

In fact, the whole thing is working so well that the temptation is to start using the stickers for EVERYTHING. Eat your vegetables. Don't complain about getting a shampoo. Hold mommy's hand crossing the street. But I fear overuse. And I fear every moment becoming a negotiation.

Of course, that said, most moments feel like negotiations now.
"If you want to cookie then finish your peas."
"No TV until after bath."
"Pick up your toys if you want mommy to read a story."
... and so on.

Maybe, the bigger concern is, how long until it gets old, until the luster of tacky-backed animated characters has dimmed? Can I trust the Pixar film slate to keep up with my needs, providing me with enough fresh, shiny new characters to maintain the requisite level of excitement? After all, one needs heavy artillery for behavior modification. And potty training. And I don't want to have to escalate to *real* rewards, like money. Or chocolate. Stickers seem a reasonable currency.

I suppose, like everything about parenting (especially of toddlers, especially of boys, especially of toddler twin boys) it's about moderation. Deploy tactics wisely, sparingly. Remember that relative infrequency is what makes a treat a treat.

And trust that Disney will always know how to make a dime.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Not-so Criminal Minds

I'm not "doing" anything these days. No multi-tasking tight-rope-walking super-woman working mom-dom.

I'm just getting through.

Of course, I do have an excuse. If "'excuse" is, in fact the right sentiment. Unclear.

(Please note: I'm struggling - and failing - to avoid sounding like I'm blatantly stumping for sympathy here. So forgive.) At any rate, I've ruptured a disc in my spine. Currently I can't sit for more than a few minutes at a time. I can't bend or lift. And I'm in constant, significant pain - particularly in my leg. (Cue the requisite "Oohhhh you poor thing"s and "oh that's terrible"s).

It hit in the playground with the boys a few Saturdays ago. One moment I was pushing a tricycle while trying to explain "pedal." The next I was gray-faced, nauseous with pain, and en route to the ER.

Three days (and a ridiculous amount of morphine) later I was released from the hospital. And since then I've been drowning in a steady stream of pharmaceuticals, doctors and more than three weeks of lying in bed. Current approach is all percocet, all the time. Coming this week: edipural steroid injections (with a whole lot of fingers crossing that it works).

So, lots of reading books with mommy in bed. Lots of "don't climb on mommy" and "i'm so sorry sweetheart, but mommy can't do 'up' right now" and "Papa's coming in a minute." Poor papa. And poor boys.

Favorite moment #1:
"Zach, how was school today?"
He put hand on his lower back. "It was OK, but my back is hurting."

Favorite moment #2:
"Mommy, mommy..."
"What is it Jake?"
He has run up holding a cardboard toy drill, taken from a well-loved "fix-it" tool book.
"Hold still. I'm fixing your back." He holds the drill bit against my skin, and procedes to turn the handle. A beat. "All better?"

And moment #3, the classic:
Unseen little fingers yank up my shirt from behind, quickly followed by a succession of damp kisses on my lower back.
After a moment - say, five kisses each - two little heads poke around to the front.
"Mommy, now is your back all better?"

In fact "mommy, your back better? your back still hurting?" is a common refrain. Every day, multiple times a day. And there's a new game in the repetroire: Doctor (Not the naked kind. Not yet). They've created a whole new character named Doctor Super Snap. A doctor and super hero in one single super-duper package. Luckily for me Doctor Super Snap seems to have an endless supply of both bandaids and kisses.

It's simultaneously heart warming and wrenching to watch them navigate through having a broken mommy. Clearly the most traumatic series of events in their lives to date (not counting the NICU - and I'm sorry but I can't believe they were actually aware of that one).

But, honestly, there is a silver lining in all of this: I know without a doubt that they aren't psychopaths.

OK, fine. Maybe I'm reaching And maybe I've been clocking a few too many FBI CSI CIA CBI NCIS medical dramas while on bed rest. But what I mean is these boys of ours are undeniably empathetic.

And I know we are all going to be OK. I'll get better. The boys won't be scarred for life because I couldn't pick them up for a few months (or ever again). They won't need years of therapy because mommy had a bad back. They will indubitably need years of therapy for all the other things I'm doing. But not from this. Soon I will be "doing" again. We will all be OK.

Except maybe hubby. He hasn't slept in a month.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Escape Artists 2, Or Why We've Started Locking Their Door from the Outside

Ring. Ring.

I groggily reach for the night stand, knocking over books, tissue box, water bottle, as I scavenge for the phone. Squint to try and see the clock sans glasses: 5:02 a.m.

"Hello?" It comes out more like a grunt than a word.
"Um.... Rebecca? It's Tim, the doorman, from downstairs? Well... I thought you should know your boys are out..."

Yep. That's right. 5 a.m. They were out for a morning stroll. Or rather, running up and down the halls of our apartment building, screaming at the top of their lungs. I think they were pretending to be super heroes. But it might have been airplanes. The difference between Captain Pickles and a Jet Plane is murky at best, let alone at 5 a.m.

And how did they get there? Remarkable, really. A true testament to perseverance, ingenuity, and collusion. They moved a chair from the dining room table to get over the gate. Then they moved a stool from the kitchen to the front door. Then they clamored up and unlocked TWO deadbolts AND the safety latch.

That afternoon hubby bought another lock for their door. It's been two days, and, so far, so good. I'm not delusional though. Not in the slightest. I give it a week, tops.

And to all of our neighbors on the 16th floor: I am truly, truly, truly sorry.