Top Ten Thursday – A Crash Course in Toddlers

I recently started babysitting for an Australian family here on the island and I’ve been at their house a lot this week. The girl, who I’ll call Thing 1, is 3 years old and the boy, Thing 2, is 18 months. Thing 1’s little Aussie accent kills me every time she asks me for a “biscuit” (a cookie) or tells me that her “nappie” (diaper, she wears one during naps) is wet. They love to go out “scooting” (on their scooters, obviously. I had to have that one explained to me and I don’t think we have a word for that in American English), but Thing 1’s favorite thing is to wear my “thongs” (flip flops! The first time she asked if she could wear them I had to stop and really think about what she was pointing to before I started laughing.)

Thing 1 has the Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar memorized, and I love when she and her brother sit in the floor together and she names the foods that he points to. Precious beyond words. But then ten minutes later she steals his truck and he bonks her on the head and the atmosphere changes dramatically. (Reminds me of me and my brother, actually, and I can practically see my mother laughing as she reads this.)

Which brings me to the Top Ten things I’ve learned about toddlers and about living with toddlers in the last 48 hours.

1. We can watch the same movie every day for a week and it doesn’t get old. In fact, if I sit on the couch with them but play Solitaire on my iPad because I’ve seen Ice Age twice this week already, Thing 1 tells me to “turn that thing off and pay attention!” (I mean, Ice Age, come on! If we’re going to watch something over and over at least let it be a good Disney movie so I can be hilariously entertaining by singing all the songs in different voices.)
2. I’ve watched infants who spit up their baby food and older kids who are completely independent, but the ages in between are impossible to feed. How do you get a child to eat anything when they are old enough to insist on feeding themselves but young enough that they refuse to sit still and eat what you give them? As their father said to me last night, “We’ve resorted to just feeding Thing 2 like he’s a caged animal.”
3. The smallest things can avoid a temper tantrum. Producing a second toy, helping one cook in the pretend kitchen while the other sets the tiny table, or even twirling around in circles and making funny noises can make them forget why they were about to start screaming. But once the screaming starts full blast, I am still at a complete loss on how to stop it. (If they were my kids I’d snatch them up and swat them. But they aren’t, so I can’t.)
4. Parents should never be home at the same time as the babysitter. First of all, it makes me feel like I’m completely incompetent because nothing I do works and Dad has to come out of his office to help; and secondly, the kids know you’re there and don’t want anything to do with me. Or they intentionally work to make me look incompetent, I haven’t really figured out which.
5. The most well-behaved angels during the day can still turn into toy-stealing, sister-bonking, pushing, crying, tattling creatures at about 30 minutes to bedtime.
6. Little kids sleep a lot. Two-hour afternoon naps and then bedtime at 7 for Thing 2 and 7:30 for Thing 1. I haven’t stayed with them in the morning yet, but I’m sort of hoping they take morning naps too because tomorrow (Thursday, so probably as you are reading this) I’ll be here from 7:30 a.m. to lunchtime. I’m sure naptimes are when parents actually get things done, but I’m scared to do anything for fear of waking them up!
7. They will never want to do what you want to do. If I want to play with the kitchen, they want to race cars across the living room floor. If I want to build a tower, they want to have a tea party. Etc etc.
8. Thing 1 will antagonize her brother for no reason at all. Simply to do it, I suppose. (Which, again, I probably still do to my brother.)
9. But then they can turn around and be such sweet siblings. Thing 1 will run to take Dog to Thing 2 when he forgets it. Thing 2 will retrieve a ball that rolled away from Thing 1 and give it back. They will hug and snuggle and Thing 2 will sit in Thing 1’s lap and it’s all very adorable. Until the next change in the winds….
10. There really is no good way to have multiple children. If they are too close together they cause more chaos; farther apart makes one able to help watch the other. BUT, too far apart means they don’t nap at the same times and you don’t get this lovely block of silence in the middle of your day, and it takes you longer to have them all (and then, on the flip side, to get them all out of the house).

I’ve been around lots of children and I’m pretty good with them, but I suppose you can never be expected to know how to handle everything until you have them for yourself.

Do you have any suggestions on how to entertain small children inside the house? Ways to calm screaming meltdowns? What about just funny words your kids made up when they were little?

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A Lack of Solid Reasoning Skills

It must be something in the water, or maybe it’s a deficit of good red meat, or it could be because the milk always tastes funny – I don’t know – but I do know that logical reasoning skills are definitely not an island strong suit.

It took me weeks to convince our landlady that replacing our broken washing machine with parts and/or a new machine of the same make, year and model was obviously not a real solution since the same parts kept breaking on each machine. Logical conclusion? Try a completely different machine, preferably a new one.

Then, the repairman that she kept calling/telling us to call to fix the washing machine didn’t come for weeks, even when he said he would come the next day. When he finally did come, the “fixed” machine broke again the next week. Then when he sent someone else, that repairman took both machines (at this point there were two broken washers in the laundry room) apart, left the pieces scattered everywhere and went home for the weekend. Our landlady complained to us in dismay that her workers have such low work ethic. She’s a local! She’s lived here I don’t know how many years and is still surprised that local workers have zero work ethic?? I figured that out in our first month! Logical conclusion? Fire useless repair people.

Next, she finally does purchase a new washer for the house. The delivery truck arrives on Saturday and these men are dismayed to find that not only do I want them to hook up the new machine, but I also want them to haul off the two old machines and all the associated parts. Delivery men do not install. Technicians install, but only by special appointment, and they do not remove old machines. Garbage men will remove old machines but only if they fit in the garbage cans (yeah, I’m still figuring that one out). And the other repairman doesn’t do any of the above. So at this point there were three washing machines in the laundry room, two in pieces and one still in the box. How many Kittitians does it take to plug in a washer? Hmmmm……

Today, the original repairman returns, and instead of hooking up the brand new washing machine, he moves that new machine into a far corner, shifts the old machines back into their original places, and reinstalls them. I really wish I had gone down to check his work while he was still on the property because I would love to ask the following questions:
1. Why did you think we purchased a brand new washing machine if we didn’t want to use it?
2. Why would we want to use the old machines, now pieced together (literally) with electrical tape, when we could be using a brand new modern machine?
and 3. If you somehow couldn’t figure out why we would have a brand new washing machine, still in the box, sitting where the old machine used to be, did it never occur to you to come upstairs and ask if we wanted to use the new machine instead? (A related question: If you are capable of moving our beautiful new machine into a corner, why aren’t you capable of coming to the front door and knocking to talk to me instead of standing in the yard and yelling up to our balcony window, hoping someone will hear you?)

St. Kitts. People, I’m telling you, it’s pretty here, but that’s all it’s got going for it.

In this related vein, the Mister and I are excited to have found a new apartment for next semester. We and the roommates have been getting along well, but we all decided it was time for each couple to have their own space. We just agreed on our unit yesterday, after being led to it completely by accident, and we fell in love as soon as we walked in the doors. It’s one bedroom, two bathrooms, with a floor and a half. The living room, kitchen and guest bath are upstairs with a wide porch and dip pool overlooking the golf course, and the master bedroom, bathroom and laundry area are downstairs with access to just enough grassy garden for the dog to play in. As long as everything goes well with the rent, which is a little more than we were hoping to spend, then I don’t see us moving anymore for the rest of our time on the island.

I am incredibly excited; I even did a little happy dance in the living room after the Mister and I had our telepathic “Do you like this one?” conversation and decided to keep it. One of the biggest selling points is that it feels like an actual home, as opposed to just being a student apartment. And our new landlady seems to be very competent and on top of things. I don’t anticipate having any phone conversations with her like I do with our current landlady, where she starts explaining to me how she paid for the repairs and all the trouble she had finding a replacement and basically making herself out to be this big hero because she’s done us all this big unneccesary favor. I’m not kidding; I’ve literally put the phone down and come back for it later and she’s still talking.

December 1 can’t come fast enough.

So do you have any landlord stories to tell, good or bad? How did you know you wanted to live in the place you have now?

Throwback Thursday – Rubber Ducky, You’re The One!

I think Throwback Thursdays and Top Ten Thursdays may become an alternating week thing, since I have so many hilarious early posts that I want my new readers to see.

So this week I’m taking the opportunity to embarrass my husband to all his new vet school friends, because that’s what loving wives do, right? At any rate, this story has already been on the internet since July 17, 2012, so it’s not like he doesn’t know it exists. (And yes, he did read it before it was originally posted and said it was ok to share.)

Rubber Ducky, You’re The One!

My husband can stand in the sun for ten minutes and come back inside looking like an Indian. Every woman in the country is jealous. But a few weeks ago, he spent two days working out on Kentucky Lake and came home with a terrible sunburn.

And by that I mean he looked like he’d been dipped in red paint from his waist to his chin.

About a week of aloe cream later (which his wonderful wife had to apply, I might add) he’d started to revert to his normal golden brown. But now he is peeling (Gross!). Peeling also means itchy, and there’s no way in the world I’m scratching his back and getting that stuff all over my hands. So last night I had him soak in a warm bath, expecting this would bring some relief. It did help, but what I had not anticipated was the effect taking a bath would have on a young twenty-something.

“Can I have my rubber ducky?” a small voice asked me from the tub. (We have bride and groom ducks someone gave us at the wedding.)

“Sure honey,” I replied, tossing both ducks into the tub with my now-splashing husband.

I had forgotten how rubber ducks make gassy noises when you squeeze them underwater, and our bathroom was soon filled with the giggles of a typical boy. I, sitting on the toilet seat watching his antics, heard something smack into the trashcan.

“What was that?” I asked, turning around.

Bad idea.

Warm water hit me hard on the leg, creating the feeling of having wet myself.

I had also forgotten that rubber ducks squirt water out their beaks.

After about five minutes of “practicing” his aim, the mister had successfully gotten water all over the towels, rug, ceiling and me. He says his aim wasn’t getting any better, but I’d wager he was right on target every time.

But water doesn’t just come out the duck’s beak. It also leaks out the bottom.

“Duck pee!” a delighted boy shouted as he put the rubber animal on my jeans and watched the water spread. . .

Right before I turned the cold shower nozzle on him.

I really should have left the bathroom long before this, but it was all too much fun. And I would have missed the rubber ducky song, which was beyond priceless. I’m sure our neighbors upstairs enjoyed the serenade.

This all just goes to show that no matter how mature a man may seem for his age, all he needs is a rubber bath toy and it’s all downhill from there.

If it ever stops raining….

So, in undergrad in Martin, we sometimes had what we referred to as “monsoon season,” where it would pour down rain for a week straight and we basically never untucked our jeans from our rain boots. (Side note – You can tell a lot about a person by their rain boots, by the way. Brightly colored, patterned, outfit coordinated… Mine are plain black rubber with green soles, which either tells you I’m boring or that I ran to WalMart between classes during freshman year because I hadn’t believed upperclassmen when they told us to bring rain boots, so I didn’t have any and the water was rising fast and I had class again in 20 minutes so I grabbed the first pair that fit. Whichever floats your boat.)

Well, here in the Caribbean, they aren’t kidding when they say “monsoon season.” I haven’t been able to see anything out the window but part of our front yard and a dense, suffocating whiteness where the Marriott golf course usually is for four days now. I’ve never seen so much rain… not even in Martin. I don’t know if we’re being passed by a tropical storm or if this is just how the rainy season is, but it’s definitely here with a vengeance.

The puppy is unhappy being inside all day long, but we have discovered that plastic bottles make excellent dog toys as they flip and flop around on the floor, making the puppy chase them while they make a terrible racket that can be heard from the yard. The temperature is WONDERFUL, though! It actually feels like October! So I’m actually not complaining about the rain – as long as the temp stays down and the internet stays on I’m fine – but it turns out the puppy is afraid of thunder and we’ve had more of that in the last few days than people say St. Kitts has had in years. I love it, but Meera does not and curls up beside us on the couch with her nose stuck between the cushions like the proverbial ostrich hiding its head in the sand.

The lowlands around the golf course are starting a flood a little and the trenches (called “guts”) that channel inland water back out to the ocean are rushing. This sort of weather is why they tell you not to park in guts, many of which serve as primary roads through Basseterre. I wonder how many cars have been washed out to sea this weekend… (Yes, that does happen. Which is why you shouldn’t park in guts.)

If it ever stops raining, I’m going to take Meera for a long walk on the golf course and see what she thinks of the ocean. If it ever stops raining we’ll be able to take the car and replace the windshield wipers so we can actually drive in the rain without sticking our heads out the windows. If it ever stops raining, I’ll go grocery shopping again. If it ever stops raining…

Top Ten Thursday – Things You Don’t Consider When You Raise Little Dogs

My family has owned little dogs my entire life, specifically dachshunds (wiener dogs). My dog, Susie’s, biggest fear was thunderstorms and her biggest accomplishment was climbing up onto the footstool beside the couch. My grandparents’ wiener dogs sleep in tiny kennels that fit easily into a car’s front floorboard, and they can be carried around with one arm when necessary.

Our dog is not like that.

Meera’s kennel doesn’t fit into a car unless you take it apart; she eats about five pounds of dog food a week; and, at five months old, already has a bark that puts fear into the hearts of visiting maintenance men. Meera has long conquered the footstool and is now working on the kitchen table. Heaven help us.

So here is a list of things my dachshunds never made me think about, but that Meera sends through my mind on a daily basis.

1. If she stands on her back legs, she can reach things on top of the kitchen table. Soon she’ll probably be able to just eat at the table.

2. She doesn’t have to jump against the bed to wake me up in the morning; she just sticks her nose into my face, since she’s as tall as the bed anyway.

3. One rawhide bone typically lasts about two days.

4. She can get stuck under the bed and sometimes requires help to get out.

5. I can’t pick her up easily anymore, which makes doing things she doesn’t like, like climbing into cars, rather difficult.

6. I have to check the kitchen counters (still thankfully higher than the table) before I leave to make sure there’s nothing out that she might like to try jumping for.

7. She’s grown out of sleeping on a little rug in the floor and has now claimed the futon as her personal bed. (She takes up half of it.)

8. She has graduated from shredding the husk off coconuts and can now break them open and scatter the pieces to the ends of the earth.

9. I only remember one person (coughAnnaLisecough) ever being afraid of Susie, whereas I get frequent requests from visitors and maintenance people to “put the dog away before I come in.”

10. She will one day take up the entire backseat of our car, rather than just the front floorboard.

But, despite all these things and regardless of the way my family feels about her inevitable size, I love every big-dog inch of her. It’s just a learning process to go from ankle-size to waist-size.

Oh, and she has developed some sort of vendetta against paper products. Writing paper, paper towels, Kleenexes – it doesn’t matter, it must die. When she knocks over the garbage can (thankfully still the small ones in our room and not the big one in the kitchen) she leaves everything where it falls except paper. That she shreds into thousands of tiny pieces and scatters throughout the house so that they can’t magically reassemble. Who knows? Goofy dog.

American Tourists Enjoy Island Vacation, Return Home Unharmed; the Missus Recovers.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, West Indies – Oct. 14, 2013 – Three American citizens recently spent seven days touring the island federation of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis, arriving on October 4 and returning home this past Friday.

The visitors arrived loaded down with a surprising amount of luggage, most of which turned out to be filled with clothing, foodstuffs, towels, laundry detergent and other gifts for their student hosts. They had obviously done their research as to the most appropriate way to ingratiate themselves to a poor veterinary student and his jobless wife.

As the week progressed, however, it became increasingly apparent that the island was on its best behavior for these distinguished visitors. No giant centipedes were found anywhere in or around the Missus’ house, no monkeys appeared in the yard to torment the dogs, temperatures stayed relatively mild, and all customer service representatives were pleasant and prompt.

Despite being irritatingly unable to experience true island life due to these anomalies, the Americans were able to visit Brimstone Hill National Fortress, drive the island loop, get a glimpse of the Ross University campus and take a harrowing drive down the peninsula road to enjoy fresh lobster on Reggae Beach.

In fact, all the drives were harrowing, since the Missus, considered an “insurance liability,” was not permitted to drive the rental car. The visitors, with zero island driving experience, drove instead –creating a significant “insurance liability” as they toured island roads at half the speed limit, stopped inside roundabouts, almost rolled backwards down steep hills and screamed at every single pothole, regardless of size.

However, the guests were miraculously able to leave the island on Friday virtually unharmed and returned to American soil safely.

Meanwhile, the Missus is gearing up for another exciting week.

“First of all, I’m excited to announce that I’ve been contacted by the Office of University Relations counterpart here at Ross to discuss possible freelance writing opportunities,” she said. “Apparently the whole office reads and loves my blog. I knew they had found it, but I never thought they would contact me and want me to write for them. I am very honored and excited to get back into the writing world.”

She is also learning how to force a puppy to swallow medication in preparation for the dog’s upcoming spay surgery. The puppy, however, will only live to have the surgery if she stops overturning trashcans and spreading their contents around the house in the wee hours of the morning.

The Missus and the Mister are also looking for new housing options and are excited to soon have their first island home all to themselves, away from the giant centipedes. Updates on the apartment search will be provided as they become available.

For more information, leave a comment on this post by clicking the appropriate links below. All comments will receive a response whenever possible.

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Throwback Thursday – Facing My Frog

I was going through some of my earliest posts the other day and I realized that they are SO MUCH BETTER than what I’m writing now. I don’t know why I don’t write like that anymore. I used to be funny, sarcastic, ironic and witty. Maybe the Mister has just stopped doing so many blog-worthy things, or maybe the island has changed what I consider to be funny. I’m not sure. But at any rate, I realize that a lot of my readers have joined since we moved to the ocean and have probably never read those oh-so-wonderful early entries. So, partly because I want to be awesome again and partly because Top Ten Thursdays are getting harder and harder to write, I’m going to start scattering in a few “Throwback Thursdays,” where I will resurrect some of my favorite original entries for the enjoyment of you new folks and the remembering pleasure of you older fans.

This entry was originally posted on July 9, 2012, less than two months after the Mister and I got married. Considering our current centipede problems, I’ve come to believe that maybe these little nightmares aren’t quite so bad after all.

Facing My Frog
Our apartment is certainly not a Martha Stewart home by any stretch of the imagination, but I do work hard to at least keep it clean and somewhat organized.

One of many reasons why a cockroach in the bathroom sink is a problem.

But, problem or not, there he was – at 2:30 a.m. – failing his legs in the air near the drain.

I will admit my first response was rather stereotypical: I shrieked and hoped my husband would come save me.

But he slept on. (Good to know in case a crazy ax-murderer ever breaks into our home.)

Well, it’s a commonly known fact that cockroaches don’t die. Ever. They will be here after the nuclear holocaust has destroyed the rest of creation. So obviously smashing it was not a viable option and would only further contaminate my sink.

The only realistic course of action was to somehow transfer the revolting creature to the toilet – a mere 12 inches away – and flush him. But how?

Now I must admit that, in this situation, I was rather fortunate the intruder was stuck on his back. Because, of course, a cockroach on his back is a hundred times better than a cockroach on his legs.

(Those little devils are FAST!)

I first tried scooping him out of the sink on an old toilet paper roll from the trash, but realized the slope would flip him onto his legs. Obviously a very bad idea.

After about forty-five minutes of frantic deliberation and several more shrieks (the mister never woke up) I finally got the roach into a plastic cup and dumped him into the toilet.

I flushed four times, just to be sure, and finally woke my husband and cried like the terrified sissy-girl I sometimes am.

I learned several things from this very early morning encounter with fear itself, starting with the fact that it’s best not to know what may be lurking in the plumbing.

Secondly, the mister is an incredibly heavy sleeper. If I am kidnapped from our home in the middle of the night hopefully one of our neighbors will hear my screams and call the police. Because he sure won’t.

Thirdly, sewer-dwelling bugs are most definitely a boy’s job. Early morning or not, the next time I find a multi-legged creature of any kind I’m letting my husband take care of it. I’m all for strong women, but there are certain lines that have to be drawn.

And, last but not least, the saying is true that “if you swallow a frog in the morning, nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.”

But when it comes to cockroaches, I’d rather flush.