two weeks with the tiny tot

If you’ve been following along with my blog for the past few weeks, you know that my three-year-old niece just finished a two-week visit with us. After a calm, quiet reflection (which you can do when there isn’t a small person demanding attention at all times), I can say that the trip was a success after I #recalibratedmyexpectations. Also, I totally have the utmost respect for stay at home moms.
In the months leading up to the trip, I had high hopes and dreams. I thought that we would go to museums, ice skating, the library, the park, tasty restaurants, and other adventures. However, reality was quick to remind me that, as my husband says, “no plan escapes contact with the enemy.”

Domestic bliss or terrorism… you decide

Mealtimes were the most challenging part of the trip. My brother had told me that Little Miss would eat just about anything. Evidently, she completely changed her mind for the entire time she was here. There were a number of arguments and tantrums (her, not me) about eating most meals. The only thing she didn’t fight me on was pancakes. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure that out until the second week of the trip. From then on, she had pancakes for either breakfast or lunch and peace was had.

Mid-meltdown for unknown reasons
making pancakes to keep the peace

Due to all of the problems with mealtimes, we didn’t eat at a restaurant other than on the first day when we were driving back from Amarillo. On the upside, I got the “best aunt ever” award that day because I let her down a chocolate shake from Sonic.

I did figure out that one way to stave off a meltdown was to keep lots of snacks in my bag. Every time she seemed like she was getting a little hangry, I would pull something out. That usually solved the problem until we were at a place where we could have a meal. On the way back from the park one afternoon, I fed her a steady supply of choco-bunnies and gummy bears. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but she also wasn’t screaming at me.

“Don’t throw rocks at my dog” and other pet shenanigans 

Little Miss was so excited about meeting Sisko and Scooter. She even named all of her stuffed animals their names and told me that when she gets older, she is going to have a dog named Sisko. It was super adorable. Fast forward to the trip and Little Miss plus pets do not make for happy times. Unfortunately, she didn’t understand that Sisko really just likes to sit with us and be petted. Don’t get me wrong, he loves playing with his toys, but he’s really just a chill dog. She thought that he would want to run around and play with her 24/7. This lead to two important lessons.
Lesson 1: If the dog is in his crate, leave him be. Sisko’s crate is his safe space. He goes there to hang out, unwind, or hide when the house is a bit hectic. I explained this to Little Miss, but she didn’t get it. 
Lesson 2: When Lesson 1 fails, let the dog handle it his way. Sisko, whose well of patience is immense, finally had enough of Little Miss getting in his face and he growled at her. Nothing major, just a “Hey! I tried to get away from you, but you aren’t taking the hint” growl. After that, she left him alone unless he came to sit with her.
Scooter wanted nothing to do with her. I wasn’t surprised by this in the least since I’ve had friends sit quietly on our couch for twelve hours while playing video games before he would decide that it was safe to investigate them. As you can imagine, Little Miss wasn’t going to sit for twelve hours. On the upside, she did learn the word curmudgeon. She wanted to know why Scooter didn’t want to play with her. I explained that he’s a curmudgeonly old man and only likes little girls who are quiet. 
Needless to say, meeting my pets didn’t meet her expectations or dreams.

Sleep deprivation and fire alarms

I’m going to tell you an important truth. As a Schantz woman, I can say that there is one rule that we all abide by — you might even call it our most sacred law — Don’t f*** with our sleep. If you do, bad things will happen to you and we won’t be held responsible for the consequences.
Mr. Smith actually pointed out to me that none of the female members of my family are what you would call morning people. Each of us, no matter how much sleep we’ve had, wakes up cranky every morning. I’ve described it as being upset that I didn’t die in my sleep and needing to come to grips with that fact. Luckily, coffee and silence usually fixes the problem.
Enter the youngest Schantz woman: Little Miss.
I call this picture: Unnapped toddler
Unfortunately, our collective sleep was disturbed for two nights and one nap as the fire alarm system chose to malfunction during her visit. One night, the alarm went off at 11:30 PM and again at 2:30 AM. It was a disaster and I felt very sorry for her. The poor kid came running into my room crying as the alarm went off. We were able to calm her down by putting an old college sweatshirt over her nightgown and carrying her down from our sixth-floor apartment. She thought that the “fire wheel” was pretty neat to look at with all of the flashing lights.
Unfortunately, she had a difficult time getting back to sleep each time and Uncle Mr. Smith would lay by the side of her bed until she fell back to sleep. I’ll be sending her therapy bill to the apartment’s management team.
Of course, our collective lack of sleep made for a not fun next day for us as we were both short on patience. I started mainlining caffeine and let her watch as much Llama Llama as she wanted. My take away here is that sometimes you just have to give in and do whatever helps you keep your sanity.
Driving back to Amarillo, TX.

That time we almost got killed by a gorilla

Part of the reason that we took her for an entire two weeks was that we wanted a whole weekend where Mr. Smith could be with us. The two weekends bookending the trip were entirely dedicated to picking her up and dropping her off.

During our weekend with her, we decided to go to the zoo. Originally, I had planned on a zoo in Colorado Springs because you can feed giraffes (her favorite animal), but that zoo was 1.5 hours away and I decided to not risk a meltdown. My judgment on this situation was correct because she made it exactly 2.5 hours before it was time to go home.

Overall, she wasn’t very interested in seeing the animals. In one exhibit, the mandrill kept walking right next to the window. I kid you not, there was about two feet and glass between me and this guy. I tried to get Little Miss to come over and see him, but she just said “No thanks.” REALLY!? Maybe she’ll be more into it when she’s older.

She did try to get us killed at the gorilla exhibit. The was a large, male gorilla sitting on the other side of a rope fence and Little Miss let out the most inappropriately timed loud cackle at him. He raised one eyebrow and we decided it was time to GTFO.

Finding the magic in everyday activities

Some of my favorite moments with her were when we were just doing normal things like reading books or doing the laundry.

Early on in the trip, we went to the local library and I let her pick out five books. Three of them turned out to be great picks (Too Many Cupcakes, Bark Park, and Hello Baby Animals) and two were total duds (Transformers and military robots). We read all of the winners multiple times a day for the entire trip. I most enjoyed listening to her “read” the books on her own. She has an amazing memory and could mostly recite the books to herself by the third day. 

One night, I was fairly devious. Mr. Smith had come home from work and was planning on taking our laundry down as we don’t have in-unit laundry facilities. He thought that he would do it on it his own, but, after 9 hours with her, I needed a break. I asked her if she wanted to help Uncle Mr. Smith with the “magical laundry” (since adding “magical” to any chore instantly makes it awesome) and she was all for it. Next thing I knew, she was pushing the laundry trolly out the door and I had a blissful 30 minutes on my own to make dinner.

At the end of two weeks, we all survived and still managed to smile for a selfie when I dropped her off at the hotel. It took the cat and the dog a few days to realize that she was gone and for me to calmly bask in the silence. I now understand why people would comment “you’re brave” when I would tell them I was taking her for two weeks. If I’m being completely honest, I would do it again with the caveat that we needed to buy potatoes and PB & J in bulk.


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