In Which Our Son is Trapped Inside His Own Room

I put John down for a nap this afternoon, and then went for one myself. Ethan woke me up when he came home from work. “John’s locked himself in his room.”

I groaned. “Fine. Get a bobby pin.”

Ethan found a bobby pin and fiddled with a door. “How do you do this?” he asked.

“Seriously? I had to do this all the time when I was little,” I said. “Andrew locked himself in all the time.” I went to help him out, and saw him trying to jimmy the lock. I was about to show him how to straighten the bobby pin when I realized why it was so hard—it was an actual key lock. (How have I never noticed this before?)

“Well, crap. The bobby pin’s not going to work.” We then tried our house key. Apparently, our house key is not the same as the bedroom door key. I wonder if our landlord has a bedroom door key. We certainly don’t.

I asked if we could card the door, but there’s some trim in the way. Sneaky trim. Ethan went to find a bookmark, explaining that sometimes at work he accidentally gets locked out of the closet. and a bookmark is more flexy than a card.

The bookmark trick accomplished two things:

  1. Breaking the bookmark.
  2. Waking up John.

Now, imagine that you decide to take a nap one peaceful, warm afternoon, just after coming inside from playing basketball. You lay down on your bed, pull up your fluffy monkey blanket, and drift peacefully off with the sun gently shining in the window. When you wake up, it’s been about four hours, everything is pitch-black, the door is shut, and there’s something scratching to get inside.

Now imagine you’re only two years old.

The poor kid was traumatized. We tried talking to him cheerfully to get him to stop screaming, but I think we might have just made it worse by informing him that his parents were, indeed, still alive, and didn’t care enough to come help. We were just calling, “Hello, John!” and ignoring his death-cries and panic. What heartless jerks. And since he was too terrified to come toward the door, turning on the lights was not an option.

The real frustration at this point was standing outside his door, listening to him scream, and knowing that if we could just get him to calm down and jiggle the doorknob, he would be free. But of course, John was not to be placated. We tried persuasion, flashlight beams, fingers under the doorway (which, in retrospect, might have been more terrifying than not), and pushing a freshly-toasted waffle under the door. He would not be baited. Eventually, I got him to calm down enough to form words by pushing my phone under the door with “Winnie the Pooh” playing—but it wasn’t enough to get him to the door, and after a few seconds, he remembered he was stuck and started screaming bloody murder again.

Our upstairs neighbor was trying to help us think of ways to get in, but we discovered that our apartment is surprisingly secure. The bedroom door opens in, so the hinges are on the inside. There is trim in front of the door, so you can’t card it. We have dowel rods on the windows, so you can’t force them open without actually breaking them. (All of this would normally provide comfort, ironically.) We were considering calling a locksmith, our neighbor’s brother (who apparently has lock-picks), the police…

I’d like to take a moment to appreciate my husband. He’s remarkably cool under pressure. I flatter myself that I’m pretty good, too. At any rate, I think we only snapped at each other once, apologized, and then just went back to solving the problem. Well done, us. Give our marriage a pat on the back.

Anyways. While Ethan and Tom were examining the doorknob itself (which can’t be taken off from the outside), I went to call my dad. It’s a strange conversation starter, but “What do you know about breaking and entering?” can actually tell you a lot about someone. My dad knows a lot about breaking and entering. I’ll let you decide what that says about him.

Dad explained a few ideas—most of which involved literally cutting a hole in the door with a saw. We went with his most conservative idea, and used a putty knife to pry some of the trim loose, then tried to card the door with the putty knife. It almost worked. (John was screaming.) Ethan ended up using the putty knife to get a gap in the trim while I inserted a butter knife, then Ethan hammered the butter knife in, up, down, and eventually through. (John was freaking out of his mind, while I tried to get him excited about the hammer. It didn’t work very well.) The butterknife finally pushed the mechanism back, and the door came open! The floor was littered with debris, the butterknife was still sticking in the doorframe, and John was free (and traumatized)! He came running and buried a swollen, red, tearstained face against Ethan’s shoulder.

“Are you okay?” Sobbing.

“Was that scary? Sobbing.

“Do you want a waffle?”

“Yeah!” Crunch. Sniffles. Some sobbing. More waffle.

He went in and out of traumatic crying for the next twenty minutes, depending mostly on how close the nearest waffle was. Apparently we have an emotional eater—he had three waffles, a cup of chocolate milk (from the neighbor), and a quarter-pound cheeseburger before he went to bed. He asked for more chocolate milk, but we were pretty sure he was just milking it at that point (pun intended).

Ethan got the butterknife out of the doorframe and turned the doorknob around, so now the lock is on the outside. We’ll have to vacuum the chipped paint and trim later. I don’t think we’re getting our deposit back whenever we move. ♦



Today, John and I needed to get out of the house.

I went through the spare change jar, came up with three dollars, and we walked about half a mile to the Creamery. And by that, I mean we walked together for about two blocks, and then John’s little legs couldn’t take it anymore, so I carried him on my shoulders. We slowed down under the trees so he could touch the leaves.

We wandered through the Creamery, looking for cheap treats. (It’s a campus store, so everything’s super expensive. Those poor Freshmen are getting ripped off.) We eventually settled on a bag of mini chocolate donuts and a flyswatter. (John selected the mini donuts by indicating them with the flyswatter.) We paid for our snack (and flyswatter), got a cup of ice to go, and then sat out on a bench next to the store.

Chocolate-covered donuts may not have been the best idea. Soon the baby was covered in dark brown goo. He was happy, though, so whatever. We sat and panted in the heat, taking turns dropping ice pebbles down each other’s backs or stacking them on our heads.

We went in for another cup of ice before heading off, and then I slung him on my shoulders, where he wielded a flyswatter at the tree branches overhead, laughing hysterically when I shouted, “Bam!” and “Pow!” as he hit the leaves. Some days, life is just good. ♦


Baby John just figured out how to wrestle!

He already knew how to be wrestled. He’s pretty good at that. You make growling noises and strike an aggressive (tickle-monster) pose, and he screams, runs, turns around, then runs toward you (because he kind of likes the tickle monster). Then you tickle him, roll over him, and shout, “Squish!”

Well, today, he figured out how to squish Mom! While we were rolling around and tickle-fighting on the bed, he suddenly climbed up and over my belly, swung a leg over, and “pinned” me down. Awesome! So I acted stuck and yelled, “Oh, no! Squished!” and he giggled. Then I returned the favor. “Squish!” More giggles.

This repeated, back and forth, for about 4 or 5 more squishes. Then suddenly, he got all serious. He sat on top of me, no longer pleased with his squish. He sucked his thumb. He cuddled up under my chin. Wow, I thought. Maybe I squished him to sleep. I snuggled up.

He threw up grape juice all over my chin and down my shirt. Squish.

This is a parenting rite of passage, I’m sure. ♦

Lunchtime Fears

Apparently, my toddler is afraid of lunchmeat.

I don’t mean that he won’t eat lunchmeat, or that he refuses to touch lunchmeat, or that he fusses whenever I try to give it to him. I mean that he gets a little panicky when he sees it. It’s like he’s squeamish and just a little worried that the texture might actually attack him. He backs away from it, pressing himself against the side of the high chair, and looks at me like, “Mom! You’re an adult! Do something!

Of all things, my child is afraid of lunchmeat. ♦


Last night, I decided the baby needed a haircut. He was getting dangerously close to a mini-mullet, which is one of the only specific things I’ve resolved not to allow as a mother. So I got everything prepared.

This will be easy, I thought, as I lined up the buzzer, put all the attachments in order, and generally braced myself for a little toddler warfare. I’m stronger than he is, I have everything in order, and besides – he’s in a fantastic mood right now. I could probably vacuum right now, and he wouldn’t mind. And considering the vacuum is tantamount to 10,000 spiders on this kid’s freak-out-o-meter, I figured I had good chances he would hold still. Or at least not scream his head off.

I stripped off all his clothes, except for the diaper. He giggled while I did this, which was a good sign. I brought him into the bathroom, showed him the buzzer, turned it on and showed him again. He seemed interested. I booped it once against his head. (I deliberately set the thing on the longest setting – it didn’t even clip his hair.) He seemed alright with it. So I went and got the attachment I actually wanted.

He held still… sort of. It’s just that he knew that thing was buzzing… and he wanted to keep it in his sights at all times. Which is hard to do when you’re trying to aim it at the back of his head. And as I tried again and again to get at the back of his head, he became increasingly nervous of this thing I wouldn’t let him see. He began a small squirming climb up my chest. Soon I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, holding him against my stomach, on which he was standing at an odd angle. His head was spinning in slow, suspicious circles to keep the clippers in sight. But the job was done in only a few minutes – the mullet was tamed, and that’s all I wanted in the first place.

So I entered Stage 2: bath time. After turning off the buzzer, I was glad to see John was no longer whining… but he was still very suspicious. He clung to me like crazy. I put him down for a few seconds to turn on the water, and he freaked out. He climbed up my legs when he heard the water turn on.

Now, ordinarily, bath time starts with some freaking out. Then I plunk him in the water, he acts like he’s dying, and I sit calmly on the side of the tub and quack a rubber duck at him. After about half a minute, the hilarity of the duck gets the better of him, and he has to admit the bath was a good idea.

Heaven help us if we ever lose that duck.

So I filled up the bathtub, pried him off my legs, and sat him in my lap on the side of the tub. Oh, yeah. He still had his diaper on. Do you know how hard it is to get a diaper off with only one hand?

Did you know that diapers contain poop?

Somehow, I forgot this entirely. It’s the purpose of the diaper, and I forgot it. Off came the diaper, and lo and behold, my child was covered in poop! And where were the wipes? In the other room, of course. Maybe I can get to the toilet paper. Tossed the diaper on the floor, and poop fell out onto the tile. Great. Stood the baby up on the bath mat, and headed for the toilet paper.

“Oh, no, no, no, don’t sit…”

He sat. Okay, we’ll wash the bath mat today. Then he crawled. Okay, we’ll wash your feet and legs. And the floor. At this point, I abandoned the toilet paper and just plunked him in the tub. And we’ll wash the tub.

Thirty seconds later, the rubber duck had him laughing again. Heaven help us if we ever lose that duck. ♦


We went to Temple Square in Salt Lake to see the Christmas lights this past weekend. It was a lot of fun – I don’t think I’ve really appreciated them as a native of Salt Lake City, but they’re worth going to see.

But this story isn’t about the lights. It’s about the babies.

We went with a couple who also have a baby, just a few weeks older than John. We left for the city just about the same time both of them normally go to bed. So while the menfolk sat in the front of the van, we strapped the babies into their carseats in the middle row, and me and Mom A took the backseat, trying to soothe bedtime woes with snacks. On the way there, they fussed.

And on the way back, they screamed. And wouldn’t you know it, Baby A has John’s lungs. They could both go out for opera one of these days. We tried snacks, singing, talking, just about everything except taking them out of their carseats. To no avail.

Finally, in an act of desperation, Ethan turned on Kenny G’s Christmas album. (Is Kenny G always an act of desperation?) Baby A immediately calmed down. Baby B stopped screaming and started shredding his carseat cover happily. The magic of the saxophone was beginning to work. It was like the Pied Piper of fussy babies. I expected to see hordes of rats (or European children) following behind the car.

Unfortunately, John was not going to allow this kind of calm. As Baby A slowly drifted off to sleep John just kind of looked over at him, curious. Then, just after A had drifted off, John let out a loud, “Ha!”

A woke up screaming. It took a good ten minutes or so to calm him down. While we did so, John continued to shred his carseat cover.

Once A was asleep again, John realized it was all quiet on the driver’s side. He looked over curiously. “Aooo!”

Screaming again. About ten times on the way home, poor Baby A fell fitfully asleep, only to be awakened by my child asking, “HEY, ARE YOU AWAKE?” in babyspeak. I felt sorry for the poor guy. I felt sorry in advance for anyone who might ever have a sleepover with my son. And I felt bad for wanting to box my child’s ears. But at least the dads in the front seat were laughing. ♦

What is Thanksgiving?

Have you ever tried to explain Thanksgiving to a baby?

It’s pretty easy to dilute it for older kids: Pilgrims wanted to survive. Native Americans helped them. Some of them got along well enough to let each other live, and they all ate food together. We eat food, to celebrate that we get along well enough to let each other live.

Try explaining this to a baby. “You’ll love Thanksgiving, John! It’s when we all get together and eat all your favorite foods: we eat mashed potatoes, turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie! … And then we say thank you! … for the food we just ate. And also thank you for our mommies and daddies. And sweet potatoes.”

Yeah, I think there’s a reason I don’t write board books. ♦