Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Finally a Use for Wrapping Paper Scraps

Matt and I really like to travel. In fact, I think we once calculated that Jackson had been on 14 trips comprised of over forty separate flights in his first two years of life. To make matters worse, the trip we make most often (to see my parents) involves two flights (one of them is five to six hours) and a two hour car ride. Let me tell you how much fun it is to travel 12 hours straight with a toddler.

Anyway, to keep him happy on long trips, I keep my eyes peeled for bargain "junk" that I can give to him along the way to amuse him. The key is to always be looking throughout the year so you can pick up the real bargains. I try to find little figures, vehicles, books, and non-messy art projects in the clearance section at places like Target or Wal-Mart or Kohl's and then I just store them away for our next trip. To make the junk...I mean awesome new toys... more exciting, we wrap everything loosely in leftover wrapping paper scraps. The cool thing is that it doesn't matter if the paper is Christmas, Hanukkah, or Birthday, and it doesn't even matter if it totally covers the object. In fact, for little ones it's better to wrap loosely so they can open it on their own. For plane trips, I remove all packaging before wrapping to keep the bulk down, but this weekend we are doing a car trip, so I decided to wrap the presents whole because sometimes the packaging itself is cute:
For this trip, Jackson will be getting two presents on the way there, and two on the way back. The presents are: a tiny die cast bus ($.99), two Little Einsteins characters ($1.50), a book about Dora and Diego ($1.50), and a cool coloring book that "colors" with a non-marking crayon ($7.00). So I spent a grand total of $11.00, but the coloring book was the only real splurge, and even that was on clearance.

Our last car trip looked something like this:
Hour one (we usually leave for car trips around nap time): Jackson plays with toys and books, and eats snacks
Hour two (and three, if we're lucky - yeah right): Nap time!
After nap: Pit stop
After pit stop: Bribe Jackson back into car with the promise of a PRESENT! Jackson plays with new toy and eats more snacks
Desperation hits (part 1): Time for PRESENT number 2!
Desperation his (part 2): When times get REALLY desperate, we pull out the DVD player. We try to reserve this for the last hour of the trip - you don't want to bring out the big guns right at the start!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Our First Date

Ok, so maybe he didn't pay for me, and maybe his table manners leave something to be desired, but my first date with Jackson was still pretty cool. Matt was out of town, so Jackson and I went to our favorite fine dining establishment: IHOP (apparently they serve dinner too - who knew?). Jackson ordered his usual (pancakes and eggs) and ate the whole thing. The little camel probably won't eat again for three days. I ordered a salad, but don't be impressed by my health-consciousness. I have a feeling that layering fried chicken, cheese, bacon and honey mustard on top of spinach doesn't get me any credit in this regard. Like any date, Jackson tried to impress me with his knowledge. He proudly announced, "uno dos tres quatro cinco eleven twelve thirteen seventeen eighteen!" in the middle of our meal. When I told him that he didn't have school tomorrow because it was the weekend, he told me, "today Friday!" I almost choked on my fried salad because I was so excited. Definitely makes me think that all that dough we blow on daycare just might be worth it. It was a good date. I think I see a second one in our future.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Alien Child

My first clue that Jackson was abducted by aliens should have come when he slept until the unheard of hour of 7am, but at that point we really didn't suspect much. For those of you that are keeping score, I won't be changing my ticker of "Days Since I Slept Past 7am" because Matt and I were both awake trying to decide whether or not he was dead. I started to suspect that aliens had replaced my child when he made it through his entire picture schedule without crying or fussing once. Further evidence arose when we entered IHOP (one of the few restaurants where we dare to bring him) and our normally very shy toddler waved at the hostess and announced, "Hi! I eat pancakes!" Then he politely said, "Thank you!" to the waiter each time he came within 10 feet of our table and then happily ate his pancakes and eggs. Not a single piece of food ended up in the hair of another diner. At this point, Matt and I tried to decide whether we would mind raising this alien child, even if it meant that, perhaps, he might try to eat us someday. The final piece of evidence came about an hour later at Target, when Jackson spontaneously asked to use the bathroom and then did it. When I let him flush the toilet he said, "Thank you Mommy flush toilet!" like I just gave him a new toy or something.

For those of you that would be bored to tears reading a blog about this perfect child, don't worry; I'm certain the aliens will be wanting to give him back soon.

*cute cartoon courtesy of soundghost.co.uk

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Life in Our House

I thought about calling this post "Psychologists: We're Just like Everyone Else, Just a Little Bit Lamer" but decided that was too negative to put in the table of contents. Anyway, this is a direct transcript of a conversation that took place at our dinner table a couple of nights ago:

Jackson: Quietly eating pizza (you need to know that neither the quiet part nor the eating part is typical behavior for Jackson in order to understand what happened next...)

Matt: "Wow Jackson! I really like the way you are sitting quietly and eating your pizza! Great job!"

Me (without a trace of irony): "Wow Matt! That was great labeling of praise!"

Both: Wince....awkward silence while we ponder the total and complete lameness of this reinforcement of reinforcement...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Jackson's aunt and uncle gave him this really cool Geotrax train set last Christmas. It came with three inch-tall people that are supposed to ride on the train. About a week after we got the set, Jackson held up one of the people and announced, "Daddy!" with a huge smile on his face. After examining the little man, I had to admit that he does, in fact, look a lot like Matt...right down to the laptop and Starbucks coffee. Daddy is accompanied by two friends: Sally (creatively named by me) and Man (creatively named by Jackson).
Jackson makes sure that Sally and Daddy take turns driving the train and often scolds them if he feels they aren't sharing ("Time out Daddy!"). Sadly, Man doesn't seem to get much opportunity to drive and is typically relegated to riding in the freight car if he gets to ride at all. Matt actually doesn't find his namesake to be as hilarious as I do. I think he's holding out a secret hope that we will rename Daddy someday, but it's not going to happen on my watch!

Friday, July 11, 2008

My First Picture Schedule

Ok, so I'm not exactly an infant/toddler psychologist, so outside of applying basic behavioral principles to parenting, I haven't really gotten a chance to apply what I learned in graduate school to parenting....until now. Our morning dressing routine had slowly disintegrated to the point where it was taking excruciatingly long and was accompanied by almost continuous banshee-like screaming. So I grabbed the bull by the horns and made Jackson his first Picture Schedule. This is an intervention typically used with kids that are very visual and very concrete. Does this sound like anyone we know? Jackson has a picture schedule of tasks he needs to complete in the morning, and when he finds the picture of Dora at the end, he earns a SPECIAL SURPRISE (a gummy worm). At least, this is the idea.

I was all excited the first morning we tried the picture schedule because I wanted to show Matt what a talented psychologist I am. Unfortunately, our first morning with the picture schedule was pretty much a disaster since he was so preoccupied with his SPECIAL SURPRISE that he couldn't really do much else (you'd think I might have learned from Potty Training: Day 1, but no).

But I haven't given up hope! Since we started this intervention, our time to complete these tasks has steadily dropped from "excruciatingly long" to only ridiculously long and the amount of screaming has dropped from "banshee-like screaming" to only occasional shrieks of protest. It's progress, right?


One of Jackson's favorite activities is watching videos on YouTube. If you are a fan of this blog (I like to flatter myself and imagine that there are AdvancedPsychology fans out there), you can guess the general types of videos we watch: trains, airplanes, buses, trains, garbage trucks etc. If I'm lucky he picks Mr. Potato Head or laughing baby videos. Anyway, I wanted to share a video that has totally captured us. It's completely silly and random, but somehow quite charming and moving. In typical toddler fashion, Jackson and I watched it five times today. If you are one of the few people left who hasn't already seen it, it's called Where the Hell is Matt (2008). Make sure you watch it in High Quality. Prepare to be awed.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fire Truck! Fire Truck!

I know that research has shown that some elements of "gender" are actually genetically hard wired, but actually having my own little boy has proven this idea beyond a doubt to me. Jackson, for no explicable reason other than biology (I promise his Mommy and Daddy are not particularly mechanical), is enamoured with trucks, tractor, airplanes, and pretty much anything with an engine. So I knew that today's birthday party would be a big hit. The birthday party was held at .....a FIREHOUSE! It was pretty cool. They let the kids get up and explore the trucks and pretend to drive. They gave them a tour of the firehouse, and then they got to have cake and ice cream in the engine bay. Here are a few pictures of Jackson enjoying the trucks:

They also had a jump castle in case the kids got tired of exploring the firetrucks, but our little firefighter had no interest in this kind of child's play. He tolerated it about as long as it took me to snap this picture, and then he headed back to the shiny red firetrucks.

We knew it was time to say Adios when Jackson's demands escalated from sitting in the driver's seat to, "start engine" and "drive firetruck." Hey, you can't blame a kid for trying, right?

Happy Fourth of July

We usually try not to tell Jackson about upcoming events until the day before because his little brain doesn't seem to be able to process anything longer than "tomorrow" (this is progress; we used to not be able to tell him anything until the actual day of the event). But last Sunday Uncle Will let it slip to Jackson that we were going boating for the Fourth of July. Thus, our week went something like this:

Monday: Jackson wakes up and says in a sleepy voice, "Boat today?"

Tuesday: We pick Jackson up at school and he says, "All done school! Now, BOAT!"

Wednesday: As we drive Jackson to school, he says, "NOOOO! No school! Boat!"

Thursday: Jackson repeatedly asks us all day, "Boat tomorrow? First nap, then boat?"

Friday (4th of July): The clock has barely struck six when Jackson opens one sleepy eye and exclaims, "BOAT!"

So when the big day finally arrived, we were all pretty jazzed. Jackson even cooperated with putting on sunscreen (a first for him this summer). When we finally got to Uncle Will's house and saw the boat, Jackson said proudly, "My boat! My boat!" This is a picture of him in his cute little swim trunks and water shoes, ready to go:

Boating in Beachtown is a lot of fun. There are tons of little creeks and rivers to explore. Plus, you can go out into the harbor and see the bridges, shipping terminals and other fun sites. It seems to be easier to get around Beachtown by boat than by car. Being safety-minded folks, we decided that only sober people should drive the boat. Unfortunately, that didn't leave too many options:

Now we just need to teach him to launch the boat, and we'll be all set...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rules are Subject to Change Without Notice

We have been in the "independent stage" for a while now (it makes us feel better to think of problem behaviors as "stages" because stages end, don't they?). The early rules for the "independent stage" were relatively simple.

1. Any time Mommy and Daddy try to help in any way (getting into the car, getting clothes on, getting on and off of chairs), then the two year old must say the magic sentence, "Noooo! I do it!"

2. It is important to use the magic sentence any time help is offered, even if it is something the two year old is physically incapable of doing.

For example, today Jackson went to daycare in his PJ top because he couldn't get it off and we certainly were not allowed to help.

3. If Mommy and Daddy help even the teeny tiniest bit, then the two year old must start the entire process over again.

For example, if Jackson has been struggling to get his pants on and and Daddy straightens out the leg of the pants to make it easier to finish, then the pants must come off entirely and the process has to start all over. I keep telling myself that persistence and independence are GOOD qualities (I repeat this to myself 20 times a day and it really isn't helping). Anyway, in the last two days we seem to have discovered a new rule for the"independent stage."

4. The two year old is obligated to say the complete opposite of whatever Mommy and Daddy say, just to make sure it's clear that he is a separate being with his own thoughts. The rule is that he MUST say the opposite, no matter what.

If we say, "Jackson do you need to pee pee?" We hear, "Noooo! No pee pee! Play!"

If we say, "Jackson, do you want to play?" We hear, "Noooo!! I pee pee! I M&M!"

Sometimes following these rules can create an endless logic loop. For example, if we say, "Jackson would you like to make a smoothie?" We hear, "Noooo! No smoothie! Oatmeal!" This is what's known as a trick response: if we start to get out the oatmeal, he will immediately demand a smoothie. If we then go to the blender, he will immediately demand the oatmeal, and so forth.

Following these toddler rules can be challenging even for kids sometimes. The other night Jackson pooped on the potty (!) and we told him that we were very proud and that we would go get ice cream to celebrate. He immediately burst into tears and said, "No ice cream! I want play bus!" All I can say is that it was a very sad evening in our house when bedtime arrived shortly thereafter and he realized that he was, in fact, not going to get ice cream.