Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Essentials

            Later in the evening I cracked open a Belgian beer before dinner and said to Michelle and Celia, “This is Daddy’s beer. It makes me very happy.”
            Celia watched me intently and said, “Happy. Beer.”
            Michelle laughed. “What are you teaching her?”
            “Only the essentials,” I answered. "Only the essentials."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Second-born Syndrome

            The second-born gets gypped.
            For the first-born, Michelle spent countless hours reading books, and preparing herself and her home for the new arrival. All sorts of new items were purchased or borrowed. Advice was obtained. Literature and movies were watched with intensity. Heck, we even enrolled in a class.
            What does the second-born get? So far, I can’t really say much at all. Not even a baby shower yet. The poor little guy – I hope he doesn’t get second-born syndrome. Although, come to think of it, both Michelle and I are second-born kids, and we turned out mostly okay.
            My mother put it in a way I can easily understand. She said, with the first-born, when the pacifier falls on the ground you run it under hot water to make sure it’s fully sterile before giving it back to your darling new baby. With the second-born, you give it a quick rinse, to get the major dirt off. With the third-born, a quick wipe on the sleeve seems to do the trick.
            And guess what? We all turned out okay. Maybe the lesson here is that we need to let up some of our energy with the first-born, even just a tad, instead of pouring a whole lot more into the second. Either way, the kid’s coming in six weeks or so, and I’m barely ready. I haven’t really had time to let it sink in yet, because I’m so wrapped up in enjoying my daughter’s antics.
            Parenting a single child is an all-night roller-coaster. I wonder what parenting two children will be like?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Absence

            Last week I was away on a business trip for a few days. When I finally got home, Celia went nuts. “Dad-deeeee!” she yelled and ran around with her arms raised. She bounced at my feet and shouted until I picked her up. She grinned excitedly and shouted, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”
            I didn’t have to do anything except hold her to make her happy. She was so thrilled just to be in my arms, she didn’t want me to put her down for half an hour. Even then, I had to give her my full attention as she showed me all the new things she’s learned and done since I’d left.
            There’s something deeply satisfying to coming home to someone who’s so eager to see you. Being loved. That’s what it is. It’s a nice feeling. Probably one of the biggest perks to fatherhood. That, and the love I feel for her, too.
            They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I think in parenting take that and double it. That’s about right.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Swap Meets and Squinty Eyes

            It was the kind of day I wish I could always have. Everything was perfect.
            I made these special Italian eggs for breakfast, and we all sat around enjoying one another’s company and looking at the gorgeous sun peeking through the brand new cherry blossoms out the window. I looked at Michelle and Celia and felt an overwhelming sense of love for them, and for life. Celia sat in my lap, and I sipped a smooth roasted coffee with great pleasure.
            I smiled at Michelle. “Let’s go the beach instead of church today.”
            “Count me in!” Michelle had a big grin on her face.
            We not only went to the beach, we went to a kids’ swap meet where we purchased over $250 worth of toys for only $20, a massive playground where Celia bonked her head only a few times, then the beach, where Celia ditched her new pail and shovel to hang out with the two girls nearby and not look over at us even once for half an hour, followed by lunch at the best café in West Vancouver, and a long drive along the winding ocean-side road while Celia took a much-needed nap, and finally off to another park on the ocean where the wind is so perfect everyone flies a kite, and we tried out Celia’s new butterfly kite for the first time (purchased for $1 I might add).
            At one point she stripped off her shirts and proclaimed to us, “Nakey!”
            She absolutely loves being naked. I wonder if all kids do? In some ways, I don’t want her to learn how to properly pronounce “naked”. “Nakey” just makes more sense for a kid, especially when said with a huge grin and squinty eyes, as Celia does it.
            It was the perfect day, and it ended in ice cream and kisses. As every good day should.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Potty Progression

            We were at a nice potluck dinner, and the host asked us to bow our heads as he said a prayer over the meal. Everybody stopped their chatter and quieted down. The room took on a feeling of reverence as the host paused before beginning his prayer. But before he could utter a word, my lovely little daughter loudly proclaimed, “Poo!”
            It’s actually quite helpful these days. She tells us when she’s done the deed in the diaper so we can change it quickly. The less she smushes it around the better.
            So, I gingerly took her away from the room and checked the diaper. Maybe it was mostly a fart. Only a tiny amount was actually in the diaper. I could tell the big one was coming, so I soon said, “Time to go home!” and we piled in the car.
            Leaving parties is always difficult for Celia. She whines and wants to stay until the last minute (reminds me of me), but we did make it home before she exploded. And then, she got the “look.”
            “Michelle, she’s gonna poo!”
            “Quick! Let’s put her on the potty!”
            We’ve showed Celia a few different things about the potty; a video and a few books. We got her a couple of different ones she could sit on when we’re using the toilet. The cutest thing is watching her grunt as she sits on it, mimicking us. This time was no different. We plopped her on the potty, and she started grunting.
            I looked at Michelle with raised eyebrows. Maybe this could be the moment? Maybe from here on she would be making all of our lives a whole lot easier? Could it be?
            She stopped grunting and stood up, to reveal… the tiniest little turd I’ve ever seen. But it was there, nonetheless.
            “Hooray!” Michelle and I cheered. “You did it!”
            Celia looked at her handiwork proudly. I watched her with a smile on my face.
            They say girls figure it out sooner than boys. Whatever the case may be, I really hope she figures it out sooner than later. What an odorless relief that will be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pregnancy Brain

            Stop the train! Ack! Two months to go and we’ll have another kid in our lives. I think I could use one more month. But then again, Michelle’s belly is getting awfully large. I’m sure she’ll be happy to shed all that extra weight.
            Yesterday before church I put on a cartoon on my laptop as Michelle and Celia sat on the living room couch. Celia was lying on Michelle’s large belly like a pillow. It was so endearing I took a photo.
            As I sat down next to them, Michelle said, “At least my belly’s good for something!”
            I’ve noticed this time around Michelle doesn’t have as much “pregnancy brain” as she did with Celia. This time it seems like the pregnancy just makes her really tired and emotional, with major ups and downs. That happened last time, too, but she also did stuff that was completely oblivious to normalcy. Like the coffee incident.
            I remember being upset with the local café I’d been going to for my fresh coffee beans, because the woman who’d served me seemed stoned (or at least somewhat out of it), and I thought she gave me the wrong beans. Sure enough, after using them in my grinder for a week, they were so moist they just plugged it all up.
            I couldn’t believe it. I cleaned out the coffee grinder twice before finally taking the beans back to the café, one morning before work. I said, “My grinder can’t handle your beans. They’re too moist. Can you grind them?”
            “Certainly,” the young chipper woman behind the counter said, and poured the bag into their industrial grinder. Fantastic. At least they’ll be ground, I thought. But then, their grinder got plugged up, just like mine.
            The woman’s chirpiness turned into accusation, “What kind of beans are these? These aren’t our beans!”
            “Yes, they are,” I replied. We had a discussion about the beans where both of us felt like we were right. I hadn’t given them anything but their beans, and they were convinced that I’d slipped something else in. “Could anyone else in your house have done it?” they asked.
            I shook my head. Of course not. In frustration, they couldn’t make any more coffee that morning until the technicians came to clean the machine, and I left upset at the stoned woman who served me.
            I called Michelle on my way to work that day, and told her what had happened.
            “Oh,” Michelle said guiltily. “What kind of beans were in that green container in the pantry.”
            “Beans?!” I replied. “Those were chocolate covered coffee beans! And raisins! Of course they plugged up the machine.”
            Surprisingly, my anger turned instantly to mirth and I laughed. Pregnant brain. That’s the excuse we gave for all of those kinds of things.
            We’ve got two months to go. I’m hoping we can make it without seriously screwing up anything on the way.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Uncle Toe

            Saturdays are particularly wonderful for connecting with Celia. Michelle gets to sleep in, which she is always thrilled about. And I get to spend mornings with my daughter, which happens to be her most wonderfully calm and engaged time of the day.
            She woke up hungry, and I said, “Let’s make breakfast. What do you want?”
            She looked at me. Okay, I guess her language isn’t developed enough for that yet.
            “Do you want pancakes? Oatmeal? Eggs?”
            She stared up at me, then pointed to the bowl of grapes on the counter. “Gape!”
            “Okay, you can have some grapes.”
            In the end, I pulled some frozen huckleberries from Montana out of the freezer and made huckleberry-banana pancakes. Maybe Celia didn’t know how to say pancake at the beginning of the day, but she definitely knew how to say it by the end. “Pancake! Pancake!” she called out all throughout the day, as we’d feed her little bites from the leftovers.
            Her language is developing rapidly, and also awkwardly. There are certain letters, like “R” and “F” that she doesn’t pronounce, so she just makes stuff off in place of them. “Butterfly” becomes “Butt-a-boo.” “Mirror” becomes “Mia.”
            She also gets confused when there are more than two syllables. It’s like there’s too much to keep track of in her mind. My good buddy Will came over to go out for sushi, then a walk by the ocean and visiting the hundreds of heron nests nearby. We had a delightful day out in the sun, and Celia was in top form. But my favorite moment happened when we arrived back home.
            I said, “Celia. That’s Uncle Will. Can you say, ‘Uncle Will.’”
            “Uncle.” Celia said, looking at me.
            “Yes. Now say his name. Will. Say, ‘Uncle Will.’”
            She went over to my friend and looked at his foot, then said, “Uncle Toe!”
            “Uncle Toe.” I smiled and looked at Will. “Looks like you’ve got your new nickname.”
            Will laughed. I think the charm with kids this age is you just don’t know what to expect next.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The New Stage of Crying

            My daughter has always cried when things weren’t going her way. But now the crying has reached a new stage. When she doesn’t get her way, or when we take something away from her, her face will turn bright red, she’ll pinch her eyes shut, and with a huge open mouth she’ll basically start to wail, but no sound comes out. Instead, she inadvertently holds her breath for five or more seconds. Tears start running down her cheeks.
            And then the wail comes. I think deep down her instinct is telling her that if she wails she’ll get her way. Or at the very least express how displeased she is. But for me, it’s usually either funny to watch, or a bit exasperating, depending on the circumstances and my mood. Either way, my strategy is to pick her up and distract her by pointing out some of the things around. She usually pops out of it rather quickly, and we can move on to something more interesting.
            I don’t think it would be healthy to let her cry that intensely for too long. I wonder if I ever did that as a kid.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Midnight Cramps

            Michelle woke up with major pain in her belly. “Do you think they’re Braxton-Hicks contractions?”
            “That’s what the doctor said.” Michelle was gasping. “But I never had such bad pain with Celia.”
            There’s not a whole lot you can do at 2am for extreme cramps, but be there for the other person. I tried to stay awake, and rubbed the spots, prayed, and held her. The pain started to dwindle after fifteen minutes, and was gone in twenty.
            “The worst of it was fifteen minutes,” I told Michelle before falling back asleep. Somehow, I think knowing the time will be helpful if it happens again. Knowing that there will be an end to it, and just how long it will be, will somehow, hopefully, make it more manageable.

Monday, April 5, 2010

256 Words

            On my way home from work I was talking to Michelle on the phone, and she said, “I bet Celia will have three-hundred words by the time she’s two.”
            “No way!” I shook my head. “She’s already got that many and she’s only one-and-a-half!”
            “You think she has three hundred words?”
            “Yep.”
            “Let’s see… there’s ‘bunny,’ ‘more,’ ‘bath’…”
            “You’re not really going to write these all down, are you?”
            Michelle ignored me and continued. I shook my head and called her ridiculous. But by the time I got home she’d already written down over a hundred, and somehow the project grabbed me. I sat on the couch and threw out a few more, “Elbow! Ankle! Toe!”
            We wrote down another fifty, then I said, “Alright. Time for my run.” I strapped Celia into the stroller, and took mental notes all the way to the park, every word she added to the list, “Gate… House… Bike… Bus…”
            By the time we were home the list had topped two-hundred. By the time I’d given Celia a bath and read her some bedtime stories, the list was approaching two-fifty. Michelle and I took five more minutes and threw out another spattering of words, “Owl… Bat… Yak… Frog… Cow…”
            At the end of the day, we’d listed two-hundred-fifty-six words. I’m sure she’s got another forty-four in her, to make the three hundred. For now, we’ll leave it at two-fifty-six and count our blessings. That’s a lot of communication. She knows about as much English as I know of French. Only she’s learning a dozen new words a day. Can’t say I’m doing that with French.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Chocolate Bunny

            We don’t feed Celia things with sugar. I’ve never personally seen her eat chocolate, although I hear that my parents have given some to Celia. But somehow she knew.
            Yesterday, our friend gave us a chocolate-covered-apple in the shape of a bunny for Easter. Celia started to exclaim, “Bunny! Bunny!”
            I said, “Nobody touches this till Easter,” and I hid it in the pantry.
            When church was over, I said to Michelle, “I think it’s time for the bunny.”
            “Take pictures,” was all the said.
            “Celia, look what I have.” I pulled the bunny out of the pantry.
            “Bunny! Bunny!”
            I unwrapped it and put it on the table. “It’s all yours,” I said, and pulled out the camera.
            Celia crawled up onto a chair, pulled the bunny a little closer, leaned over, and took a big bite out of its left ear. Incredible! How did she know? To this day, I have no idea. Instinct? Smell? Or something deep inside the human spirit that tells us all that chocolate, in any of its forms, is really good stuff.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fire Alarms

            “It was a cold a blustery day.” It was so rainy and windy that I said that line a half dozen times and it eventually convinced me to go home and watch the original Winnie the Pooh where the line comes from. Celia learned to say “Pooh Bear”, and we were warm and snug after all.
            But the day didn’t start out that way. It was cold, windy, and the rain was whipping through the neighborhood sideways. But it was my day off, and I just had to take Celia out.
            After considering my options, the indoor play-gym at the local community center seemed like the best bet. We had a grand old time running from toy to toy, stacking blocks, jumping on the see-saw and whipping around in cars. Then, some kid pulled the fire alarm. I know a kid did it because one of the dad’s present told the staff, but they didn’t care. It was time to follow procedure.
            “Everybody out!”
            I shook my head in disbelief. There were easily three dozen kids there, with all their parents. Not to mention all the people upstairs at the fitness center. This was going to take awhile.
            We dawdled, and I let Celia play as long as possible before finally extricating her, to tears, from her newest discovery. Our saving grace was the firetruck.
            “Look! Celia! It’s a firetruck!”
            Celia instantly stopped crying, and we walked out into the rain to look. The firemen were quite friendly, well aware that this was an alarm pulled by a child, and were happy to show Celia some of their stuff. She pointed at the flashing red lights and said, “Light!”
            “Yes, my Sweetheart. Those are lights. When they leave, they’ll turn them off.” I went on to explain to Celia all that I could about the firetruck and those firemen. I realized, as I was showing her the hose, how great this had ended up. Celia’s never seen a firetruck up close, especially one in action. What a great opportunity!
            And then, the next thing that struck me was that all three dozen other kids were huddled together under the awnings. Nobody else was taking advantage of this opportunity. “What’s wrong with these people?” I muttered to Michelle. “They’ve got a firetruck in action right in front of them to show their kids, and they’re all just huddled there, waiting it out.”
            Michelle shrugged. I suppose it’s just a different way of looking at life. A wise old man once told me that the moments of life where we’re truly living happen during the interruptions. In other words, just go with it. You never know how great life can be unless you do.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Precise Age Explanations

            Celia is exactly a year-and-a-half as of today. Eighteen months, as Michelle tells everyone. I wonder if that’s a guy/girl difference. When people ask, I’ve been saying Celia is a year-and-a-half for a couple months now, whereas Michelle will tell them the exact age within a week.
            For example, a few weeks ago I heard her tell some stranger who’d been delighted by Celia’s cute antics and asked her age, “She’ll be eighteen months in three weeks.” I always raise my eyebrows in wonder. Really? Do you really think he cared about that level of detail?
            I noticed the guy’s eyes lose their focus and I quickly said, “A-year-and-a-half.”
            “Oh,” the guy nodded with a smile, and returned to watching Celia.
            I think new parents, getting all swept up in how quickly they grow month to month, have this weird idea that everyone else, especially those who ask the child’s age, is keeping track with such level to detail. But I can think back, long, long ago, before Celia was born, and I had no idea, nor did I care, the difference between a twenty-month child and a twenty-one-month child. “Just tell me they’re almost two,” I used to think. That’s good enough for me.
            And although now that I’m in the middle of it all, I am indeed keeping track of the exact number of months, I’m trying to remember that when someone asks her age. For me, she’ll be “a-year-and-a-half” for a few months, when suddenly she’ll switch to “almost two”, and then, a month or two before she hits the golden age, I’ll just say, “She’s two.” What do they care, anyway?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Intonation

            Celia’s vocabulary is growing in leaps and bounds now. Every day she seems to pick up a dozen more words. A number of times I’ve been startled when I’m talking to someone about something that I would assume is way over Celia’s head, and then she suddenly spurts out a word that I’ve said, somehow picking it out from the whole discussion.
            I’d been telling my friend, “When you go look at your truck tomorrow, make sure to take someone with you who knows a thing or two about mechanics.”
            Celia, who’d been on the other side of the room, said, “Truck!”
            We looked at her in surprise. This age is wonderfully surprising.
            I’ve found that she can now communicate with us, but because she only knows one or two words for a situation, she has to rely on intonation. Let me give an example.
            When we were traveling back from Victoria on the ferry Sunday night, we had to wait in the car for over an hour before finally boarding. Michelle said, “Don’t you have a movie on your laptop?”
            “Finding Nemo is the only one,” I nodded.
            “Nemo! Nemo!” Celia grinned happily.
            I pulled out the laptop, and opened it up. It said it had a low battery already (as a side note, I did end up taking it to the shop to get it fixed, and now the battery lasts a good chunk of time). I thought, “Well, let’s watch what we can.”
            I turned on the movie and Celia pointed at the screen, “Nemo! Nemo!”
            Michelle and I smiled at each other as we all nestled into our seats. What a great way to pass the time.
            But then, without further warning, the screen went completely black. The battery was finished.
            “Neeeemoooooo! Neeeemooooo!” Celia called to the computer, as if she’d just lost her good friend and could somehow raise Nemo back to life.
            Michelle and I burst into laughter. “It’s okay, Sweetie. We can finish watching Nemo some other time.”
            The other recent intonation experience happened yesterday when I took Celia to Trout Lake for a run. Before we left Michelle told me, “Make sure she doesn’t get wet.”
            Our routine is to run around on the playground for awhile, then walk over to see the ducks at the lake, dodging mud puddles on the way, but often-times standing right on the shore line. “Oh, okay.” I replied.
            “Wait!” Michelle went over to a dresser in Celia’s room. “She can wear these boots!”
            “Ah. Princess boots.” The boots were purple and had princesses on their sides.
            “Boot! Boot!” Celia exclaimed.
            I put the first boot on Celia’s left foot. “It’s too big.”
            Michelle shrugged. “She’ll grow into them.”
            “Okay, we’ll be careful.”
            The boots were about one-and-a-half sizes too big, but I figured we could make it work. Partway there, one of them came flying off. I stopped the stroller and put it back on Celia’s foot. “Careful not to loose your boots. They’re big, so they can fall off easily.”
            “Boot! Boot!” she told me excitedly.
            When we arrived at the playground, she managed decently enough, with only a few trips because of the large boots. Then, the moment I could hardly wait for arrived. Let’s put these boots to the test.
            “Celia, let’s go see the ducks.”
            Celia happily took my hand as we walked over to the lake.
            “Mud!” she declared, pointing at a big section of muck to our left.
            “Yes. It’s mud. And usually we go around it, but today you’re wearing boots, so you can go through it if you’d like.”
            Celia proclaimed, “Boot! Boot!”
            I took that as a yes, so we began our squishy journey into the mud. Squish. Squish. Squish. With every successful step, Celia declared, “Boot!” happily.
            And then, without any time for me to react, the left boot got stuck in the mud and her foot came right out, the sock now taking the next step into the inch of muck.
            “Oh no!” I said.
            “Aaaaah!” Celia shrieked. “Booooooooot! Boooooooot!”
            I wanted to console her but I couldn’t help but laugh. She’d called to it as if to say, “I was counting on you! You failed me! How could you!”
            I think that’s one of the fun things about this age. She may have only a limited vocabulary, but she’s able to express a wide range of ideas simply through intonation.