I have not posted in a dog's age, have I? Well, I am not terribly inclined to explain other than to say that blog has been overtaken by events.
But I did have some amusing Girl Child things I wanted to share.
First, when the Viking Bride and I came home from dinner last week, we were met with the following from a new babysitter:
Babysitter: I told the Girl Child that she was quite a handful and she said to me, "I don't know how my mother handles me sometimes".
Second, I was home early on Wednesday last week and attended the last bit of the Girl Child's riding lesson. I was there long enough to grow concerned that she was not concentrating and then, boom, her pony threw her quite dramatically into a jump and she bounced off the poles and standards. Didn't even get dirty, as it turned out, since she didn't really hit the ground. It looked ugly and she was sitting there on the ground, crying. I let the instructors deal with it in the first instance. She sat there for a moment and then accepted a leg up back on to the pony and off they went to continue their jumps. Later, I asked her about the crying and why she stopped crying. This is what she told me:
Well, I couldn't figure out how to get back up on the pony and keep crying so I just stopped crying.
Anyway, nice to dip a toe back in to the blog. No promises, but I sense the need for an expressive outlet again.
And who knows, maybe someone will still be reading?
Don't let the dear little idiots do any backwards dives off diving boards, ok? Unless, of course, you enjoy spending Saturday nights in the emergency room and hanging out with plastic surgeons.
The Boy Child went off the diving board Saturday night in a backwards dive and smashed his face on the board. I took him to the emergency room for a 3 hour visit where the plastic surgeon put 3 layers of stiches in the deep cut (down to the muscle) on his chin (2 cm wide). He has to be kept fairly still for 2 weeks until the stitches come out -- no swimming or sports.
He was very brave. I was, perhaps, a bit less brave (but not so he noticed).
The real hero was the Girl Child, one mother who witnessed the incident recounted to me. She told me that while everyone froze, the Girl Child who was in the water immediately went to the Boy Child who himself was struggling to swim (and not really managing it) and propped him up as she propelled him to the side of the pool. I was so proud of her for coming to his rescue. This is what you hope your child will do but you cannot be sure until she is tested. The life guard pulled the Boy Child out but I am certain that the Girl Child materially contributed to the rescue.
It was a long weekend.
As we stand on the verge of an other busy, activity filled weekend, I take some small consolation in the knowledge that this weekend upcoming will not be as busy as the weekend just past.
The highlight on Saturday was the Boy Child’s last little league game of the season. This was, without question, his best game. He has turned into quite the little short stop. Our team (playing little kid rules of 3 innings and each time getting to basically bat the entire line up) recorded 8 outs against the other team for a season high number of outs. Of the 8, the BC personally recorded 6 of them. In the first inning alone, he cleanly fielded ground balls hit to him at short stop and threw the runners out at home in a force play with the bases loaded. It was the only time this year that we got out of an inning without the other team scoring against us. He was, as one of our other coaches said, a vacuum cleaner, just sucking up any ground ball hit to his side of the field. The reason he was able to do this was because when he is on the field, he has total focus and concentration on the game – unlike just about any other kid on the team. The BC got hits at each of his at bats, including a line drive one hop grounder that went off the shoulder of a fielder. He hit it so hard that play had to stop until the kid stopped crying and shook it off. The BC ran to first, exhibiting “nice wheels” as one of our coaches said. On the next play right after that, our batter grounded to second and the BC ran as fast as he could from first to second. Only, the second baseman was standing in the base path between the BC and the base. So, the BC wiped him out, dashing him to the ground and taking him out of the play. There followed from that an extended discussion between the BC, the second baseman (who was complaining about the rough treatment) and the coach of the other team. The BC explained: “He was in the way and I was afraid I was going to get out”. The coach agreed, telling his player that he had been standing in the base path and the BC had the right of way.
The change in the BC from the first game, where he waved pathetically at the ball with his bat, couldn’t really throw, didn’t know where to run, and had no idea how to field, was extraordinary. He was an absolute stand out. The boy’s got game.
On Sunday, which was Father’s Day, I was up with the Girl Child and we were out of the house by 6:45 to drive down to Greenwich for her first away horse show. The show was held on the grounds of a very wealthy family’s estate in the backcountry of Greenwich. The GC was terribly worried the whole way down that her pony would misbehave. Her pony loves grass and cannot stop himself from grazing even under the most inappropriate of circumstances. The show was being held on a grass field. The GC, as it turned out, was right to be worried.
Her first event was Short Stirrup Equitation Walk Trot. The pony stopped in the middle of the event no fewer than eight times to graze on the tasty grass. The GC did not lose her composure. She just pulled his head back up and kept on going. She did get angry, though. She was at the trot in her half seat – a jumping position where her bottom is off the saddle and her hands are up by the horse’s mane – when the pony stopped short. She almost went over his head. This time she stood in her stirrups, yanked his head up forcefully with her left hand on the reins while, at the same time, smacking him in the face with her crop. It looked as painful as she looked determined and it sure got him moving again. I was standing with three of the senior riding instructors, watching, while the GC struggled with her pony. All three thought that the GC showed exceptional poise and composure. One of them said that any other child confronted with this situation would have been in tears in the middle of the ring long before the eighth stop. The other instructor, the most senior, said to me that the GC is the complete package – great skills and a tremendous attitude – that she isn’t missing anything. It was lovely praise. More than that, though, it was a wonderful Father’s Day present to watch the GC battle through and not lose her concentration or composure. Everyone agreed that the GC is one tough kid. I was thrilled.
So, the kids appear to have what they want to do for a living all figured out, whether they realize it or not.
The Boy Child (aged 5 and going into kindergarten) told the Viking Bride:
When I grow up, Mamma, I want to be a client and have my office right across the street from Pappa.
Smart kid. Way better to be the client than the lawyer.
The Girl Child (aged 7 and heading to second grade), on the other hand, is showing that she has exactly what it takes to be a lawyer.
She came home from school on Monday and told me that another girl in her first grade class, a bully, cut in front of her on line. The Girl Child tapped the bully with her index finger and the bully went and told the teacher that the GC punched her.
I told the GC that she should go to school the next day and tell the bully: “You lied to the teacher about me. The next time, I am just going to punch you. That way when you get me in trouble, at least I will have done what you said”. Sort of a, if she’s got to do the time, she might as well do the crime, theory. Off she went to school and she reported back to me as follows:
GC: I saw the bully today and I told her, “You lied to the teacher about me”. And she said, “Well, you hurt me.”
Me: So, what happened next?
GC: Pappa, the well explained everything. I didn’t say anything else.
Me: What do you mean?
GC: The well explained THAT she lied and it explained WHY she lied.
Oh. Yeah, I kind of see that. The thing is, I don’t think I could have seen that at age 7.
She’s going to make an excellent lawyer.* I wonder if the Boy Child will hire her. He’d be a fool not to.
*The thing is, though, she declared that her intention is to become a riding instructor – the most expensive riding instructor in the world. Perhaps in her spare time, she can still practice law.
I took a reasonably early train home yesterday night and got home in time to hang out with the kids for a bit. The Girl Child, who is an eating machine, helped herself to a second dinner / light snack while I was eating. When she went to serve herself some more, that process brought to mind an earlier incident at school that I guess she thought we might find interesting. And so, in a very matter of fact tone, she related the following.
She was sitting at snack time with two other friends when one little girl said:
I hate my life; I wish I was dead. I want to kill myself.
The little girl in question is 7 years old and in first grade. Without trying to get too serious here, I questioned my daughter at some length and determine that this is about the 3rd time she has heard this little girl say this or something like this in the last month. The little girl, the daughter of immigrants from India, is unhappy because: her parents yell all the time; her parents regularly make her cry; and, her parents force her to spend all her time doing extracurricular homework that they create for her. No adult, according to my daughter, has overheard the little girl say these things.
I called the teacher and left a detailed message relating what I had learned from my daughter. I decided not to call the parents. I am not at all sure that this was the right decision, but, just the same, it was the decision I made. The school is well equipped with mental health types who will take this kind of thing very seriously and the threats or comments have all been made at school. Besides, I don’t know the parents. Maybe this was not the right decision. I don’t know.
I asked my daughter what she thought of all this and, bless her heart, she replied without hesitation:
I think it is just so stupid. I mean, if you hate your life: change it!. Don’t kill yourself. You can grow up and move out if you are so unhappy.
It made my wife and me very sad to hear all this.
We were down in Florida over Memorial Day weekend to attend my sister's my pretty pony wedding. The less said, perhaps. . .
Anyway, one night, we were having dinner outside at a barbecue joint called "Slow and Low". Pretty good, actually. Towards the end of the meal, the live music started. It was a singer with an acoustic guitar. He played some James Taylor and then he played some Jimmy Buffet. That prompted the Girl Child to want to ask him to play a song for her. So, she grabbed my hand and pulled me along for moral support. The song he was playing ended and she walked up to the singer:
GC: [Shyly peering up at him from under her too long bangs she quietly asks] Can you please play a song for me?
Singer: [Into the Mic] This little lady has a request! What would you like me to play, miss?
GC: Can you play me a Jimmy Buffet song?
Singer: Sure! What do you want to hear?
GC: Can you play, My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don't love Jesus?
Singer: Errr, [long pause] I don't know that one. I've heard it but I don't know it. How about I play, Son of a Sailor?
GC: Ok. Sure, if you don't know the other one.
GC: [As we walk back to our seats} Pappa, that really wasn't the song I wanted to hear, you know.
I'm sorry I cannot describe the look on the singer's face when he heard her request. No way he saw that one coming.
No way for him to know that the Girl Child thinks of herself as a Parrot Head. No way at all.
Last night, we attended a sold out performance at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. It was a grand performance by the Suzuki School of Westport, where the Girl Child (aged 7) studies violin and the Boy Child (aged 5) studies the cello. [The baby (aged 2), by the way, while studying neither, can often be found in his car seat, humming “twinkle” and moving his arm as if he were handling a bow.] There were 160+ students on the stage last night. All of them dressed in white shirts and black pants or skirts.
The program lasted for an hour. We (I was there with my parents) had the worst seats in the house, all the way in the farthest most back row. The music was lovely and the children performed terrifically. The BC was seated on the stage the entire time, in the front row by the left side. The GC came on stage with the other beginning violinists towards the end. I suppose it was easier to make the little violinists walk in with their much smaller instruments than it was to make the cellists come in with their stools and straps and big cellos. The BC behaved impeccably during the concert. He didn’t drop his bow on the stage once, unlike some of the other kids. He was scheduled to play at the last song of the program – some twinkle variations.
The GC was on stage and playing and we were about three songs from the end when the BC did something quite strange. He put his cello down and stood up. He looked around for a moment and then walked over the stairs and descended into the audience where he then began to march up the aisle of the concert hall. He was on the other side of the hall from me. The Viking Bride was a chaperone and was backstage so really didn’t see any of this. I jumped out of my seat, ran around the outside of the hall and met him at the door on his side.
Me: BC! Are you ok? What are you doing?
BC: I have to go to the potty really bad.
Me: BC, we are one song away from your song. You’re going to miss the whole thing if you go to the potty! Can you hold it?
BC: [Bites back a sob] I’ll try.
Me: Good for you! Let’s hurry and get you back!
We walk very quickly halfway down the aisle and I stop to let him continue by himself.
He mounts the stage as the second to last piece is coming to an end.
Avery Fisher Hall erupts in applause as the BC takes the stage and picks his cello back up. Everyone clapped for him.
They launch right in to the last piece and he plays his cello with tremendous gusto. He gets up, bows, and exits.
The GC, by the way, was sick going in and did not want to play. But she got out there and played her best, even though, as she confided in me later on the way home, she was not able to make her violin sing.
And so the concert ends.
I was so proud of them both.
And yes, the BC made it to the potty in time. Or so he said.
While waiting for them to all come out of the stage door on 65th Street, one of the mothers told me
When he got back on the stage, at the end, and everyone applauded: I cried.
I didn’t cry. But I did stand in the middle of the aisle, in the middle of Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, bursting with pride and pleasure as I watched as my son mounted the stage to thunderous applause and played his very big heart out.
I wasn’t sure what to expect last night but I certainly didn’t expect that. It was a heck of a show.
The Girl Child spoke early. And often. But above all else, she spoke early. Somewhat like me, my aunt has told me. Anyway, she spoke her first real words at almost exactly six months old. I came in to pick her up from her crib and she looked at me with those huge, astonishingly blue eyes, and said: "Hi, Dada. Dada, hi!"
Boom. I was blown away. I looked at this little creature and said, "My sweet, Pappa is going to buy you a horse!"
Well, I should have been more careful. I have not bought her a horse. No, I have leased her a pony. A lovely little strawberry-roan pony who jumps like a big guy and who eats while we sleep (which is expensive). The Girl Child thought it was a strawberry-ROME, by the way, but I felt I had to correct that cute little misunderstanding.
So, we have acquired a pony. It is, if you were wondering, expensive to lease a good pony for a year. Thousands of dollars expensive. But that's ok, I don't think that she'll miss much by not going to college.
We have also, by the way, acquired a tack box to keep her boots and hat and gloves and chaps and half chaps and crop and grooming stuff and spurs and it keeps on going and going. This box was a gift from her riding instructor who just got a new tack box. She gave her old tack box, a gift to her from her mother when she was young, to the Girl Child. It has, as you might think, huge sentimental value and we are really touched.
So, if you see me at a horse show and I have a sort of pinched expression on my face, that's because I now lease a pony.
I never should have said anything when she was 6 months old. A lesson to you all, I expect.
The Viking Bride, who is now a stay at home mom, emailed me with the following:
I berated the Girl Child (age 7) for some poor behavior this morning, and she stalked off, sulky & sad. She must have confided in / complained to her brother (age 5), because I hear the dulcet tones of his gentle voice wafting over from the sun room
Girl Child, I'm tired of sticking up for you. I'm SICK of yelling at Mamma!
Baseball was huge fun. We had 8 kids show up. 7 of them bat lefty. What are the odds of that happening?
At the conclusion of practice, which I tried my best to make as fun as possible, I formed a prediction of what our first game will be like. Here's what I see happening. We have a runner on 1st and 3rd. Our batter makes contact. Every single player on the other team, including the first baseman, goes for the ball. Our batter makes it easily to first. Our runner on 1st runs across the diamond to go straight to third. Our runner on 3rd runs back to 2nd where he finds a flower he wants to pick to give to his mother later. Bases will be loaded and the coaches will be hiding behind the backstop so no one can see us laughing.
Thanks for the comments yesterday, y'all, I had no idea anyone still knew this poor neglected blog was still here.
As you may recall (or not, I don't flatter myself that what I wrote about some time ago was so interesting that, however central it may be to my life, you might actually have burned a brain cell to remember it), we applied to private school for the Boy Child for kindergarten. He was waitlisted on an unranked waitlist. We viewed his chances of actually getting in as dim and were waiting for the final confirmation that he would be attending public school along with his sister. We figured that would come shortly. It didn't. I got a call today with the news that despite the odds, he is the only child being admitted off the waitlist. The school had one slot, one single, solitary place open up and they have offered it to the Boy Child.
It is expensive. One year is more than one year of undergraduate university cost me some (*sob*) 18 years ago. One year is one thing but we will be buying twelve years of this. And, of course, our inclination would be to unite the children at the same school so that the Girl Child might go there, too. Her chances of acceptance, by the way, will go way up if she is a sibling of a current student.
The public schools in our town are very good, for sure. Most people, us included, move to this town for the schools. So, are we crazy to be contemplating this?
The college acceptance list for this charming, beautiful little school is un-freaking-real. I was astonished by their reach at the top of the top of the top universities in the country.
I don't know. I am a big believer in independent education. I prefer it, truthfully.
I look forward to the extended conversation my wife and I are going to have tonight, that is for certain. It ought to be interesting. We will have that conversation in the car in the way home from the City after a Scotch Whisky Tasting Dinner. I will endeavor to restrain myself.
I caught the Girl Child, just aged seven, in a lie last Sunday. It was a stupid lie, uttered without thinking about it, to avoid getting yelled at. Not a great success as the world came down around her shoulders. I detest dishonesty and am doing my best in inculcate in my children habitual honesty in response to questions, even in response to questions which might get them in trouble. They are always in worse trouble for lying than for telling me the truth.
Anyway, while I was putting the lass to bed on Monday night, we had the following exchange:
Me: Did you lie to anyone today?
GC: I have no recollection.
When I was seven, I doubt I even knew the word recollection, much less how to use it in a sentence.
Upon further probing the matter, she told me that she didn't think that she had lied that day. Still, I am regularly surprised when I have to cross examine my daughter as if she were a witness.
High, very high, on the list of unwelcome sounds is the following sound I heard at 1:07 a.m. on Monday morning:
Mamma? I don't feel so BLACH SPLASH!
And just like that, there I am, wiping vomit off the rug in my bedroom.
A lovely way to wake up and the poor Boy Child was sick all day on Monday.
On Tuesday, I went off to work quite merrily.
I felt unwell on the train ride in.
I left early and was home in bed, teeth chattering, by 12:30 where I slept until at least 4:00 in the afternoon.
The Viking Bride was then struck down.
We both sat in the den -- her supine on the sofa and me reclining in a chair -- while the two oldest kids supervised the baby.
The Girl Child cleaned the baby's mouth and hands after his dinner and got him out of his booster seat. The GC and the BC then traded off watching over him. At one point, the GC ran upstairs for a moment and I heard the BC say the following to the baby:
Ok, Baby, can you be super, extra good for me? The GC had to go upstairs and this is the first time I am watching you all by myself and it is very hard work.
The GC and the BC then discussed, in detail, how they were going to hoist the baby up into his crib to put him to bed (it already having been agreed between them that the GC was going to read the good night story to the BC and put him to bed) if neither the Viking Bride nor myself could do it. The BC remembered that the front of the crib came down so they felt comfortable getting that down and boosting him into the crib.
While they felt they had it under control, I just the same summoned the energy to get the baby changed, read to, and put to bed without their kind offers of assistance. They still had to brush their own teeth and the GC still performed story reading duties.
The next day (yesterday) dawned somewhat better for me but the Viking Bride was still weak as a kitten. I had to go to work to take a conference call on a really important deal -- not changing the face of Western Society as we know it important but still pretty significant for my client just the same.
I took a 12:07 train home, stopped off to get some soup and other easy to digest foods, and let the Viking Bride go to bed. The baby and the BC both got up from their naps on the very early side and I took all the kids to the library. We took out a Warner Bros. cartoon video and a copy of the Magic Flute (yes, the Mozart opera) to watch while we were sick (or, while the wife and I were sick). We also got a bunch of books, including 5 firetruck books for the BC.
It actually turned into a great day. After dinner, the BC and the GC practiced their instruments and we watched cartoons. Good cartoons. Funny cartoons. Not the crappy stuff that tries to pass for cartoons today with their pious multi-cultural messages and . . . well, I have written about that before.
The kids were in bed by 7:30. The Viking Bride and I were in bed by 8:30.
I managed, somehow, to get my ass on the squash court this morning for my weekly torture session with a former Division I athlete. Happily, he was recovering from a flu, too. We played ok and I did not vomit on the court, although I did have to pass on pilates this morning. That was simply even more unwise than playing squash, if you can believe it.
Anyway, here we are. Back at work. Almost at full strength.
I trust you all have been well this week?
After careful deliberation, we undertook the application process for kindergarten for next year for private school for the Boy Child. My wife and I both thought that he might be better off in a smaller, more caring environment. He is a very gentle soul and we are concerned that he might bruise, emotionally, a little too easily in public school. His sister, by contrast, is knocking the cover off the ball in public school and we have no immediate plans to change her school address. But the Boy Child, him we worry about. Or, at least, I did.
The Boy Child took part in the Cello Master Class this weekend at his music school. He played with his group from 9-10 and the entire cello student body played from 1:30 to 2:30. The teacher during the morning class asked the Boy Child how old he was and he replied: “four and 11/12ths”. So cute. The Boy Child was in the lowest level for the big class. He was adorable, by the way, dressed in his bow tie and blue button down shirt (which I didn’t even bother trying to tuck in), with his blond hair falling over his forehead as he bent over his cello in great concentration. At one point in the big class, held in the small auditorium with all the parents in attendance, the teacher asked if the class knew the French folk song composition and the Boy Child raised his hand. At that point, the boy behind him, a bratty little know it all, shouted at the Boy Child that he did not know the song. The Boy Child did know the song, in his mind, but did not know how to play it, you see. Anyway, the room went silent with everyone turning to look at the two and the Boy Child turned around and replied that he did too know it and the kid yelled back at him again, in a very nasty tone. The Boy Child turned again and exclaimed, heatedly: “You have never been in my class you so don’t know what I know or what I don’t know.” And that was that. The brat resigned the field. I was pleased that he stuck up for himself and did it so well – something I might have thought was beyond him.
We stayed after class for the Master Concert – a pillow concert lasting an hour, with four cellists playing. Afterwards, he ran around and played. And got into a fist fight. That’s right, my gentle little son went toe to toe with an 8 year old and traded blows until a teacher broke it up. The older kid hit the Boy Child first and the Boy Child hit back. The Boy Child came up to me after and was about to start to cry when he saw me and I told him that he better not cry, that I did not want to see him cry, that he had to suck it up and hold it in and not give the older kid, a bully, the satisfaction of seeing him cry. And he did, too. He bit it back and stood up and did not cry. I told him that while I was proud of him, he did not do a very good job of fighting and I was going to teach him how to fight when we got home. He continued, by the way, to make remarks to the other kid until we left. The spirit, you see, was not touched. He was excited to go home, he told me, and learn how to fight.
We got home and we began the lesson. I told him that the problem was that he hit this other kid, who we will call the “bully”, because he was angry and because he wanted the bully to know he was angry. This was wrong. If you are only angry, you use words, you don’t need a fist. If you need to hit someone, you have to do it to hurt and not just because you are angry. So, we spent a half an hour learning how to throw a short jab into the face. A short punch, starting from the shoulder and snapping it into the face with the intention of punching through the target. One of those to the nose will end any fight and eliminate the possibility of the Boy Child ever being picked on again.
The Girl Child participated in the lesson, too, by the way. She wanted to work on her fighting. The bully was lucky, quite lucky, that she did not see him punch her brother because she would have clocked the other kid. That is how she has been raised. The bully’s most regular source of exercise appears to be pushing a bow across the cello strings and pushing around his younger sister. The Girl Child has gotten to be one solid piece of muscle from her riding and if she had hit this kid, he would have collapsed like a cheap paper bag. No question. I am sure from this just from seeing how her wrists and hands have gotten stronger from the riding, not to mention her core. She is one tough cookie. And yes, she certainly can throw a punch.
Anyway, I told the Boy Child that I was so very proud of him and asked him if he knew why. He asked me: “Because I stucked up for myself?” Exactly. I have tried to teach him and his sister to stick up for themselves and each other but when push comes to shove, as it did, only they can make those decisions. I can teach them how to do it better, how to make a fist and throw a solid fight-ending punch, but I am so glad that I don’t have to try to teach them now not to be a victim for some bully.
His application to this private school was waitlisted. We found out on Saturday. I no longer think it makes a difference whether he goes to the very sweet, very supportive, small private school or whether he goes into the local public school. He’s going to be fine wherever he goes. He can stick up for himself, both orally and physically, and he is going to take that self-confidence with him into any situation; he’s earned it himself. He didn’t give up and he didn’t let the bully see him cry. You may not agree with me about the morality of teaching a not quite five year old how to bloody another child’s nose (and you can be sure he has learned that and we will continue to practice how to do it), but I trust you will agree that it is entirely wonderful that he values himself enough not to allow another impose on him, no matter what the size or age or strength difference.
So, yeah, I was proud because he stucked up for himself. He got it exactly right.
The Girl Child, as my regular readers know, is a rider. You may also know that she just turned 7 last month. So, while she is a rider, she is just a small rider, although she is very good. She has been asked to ride with the older, more experienced group, taught by a somewhat less coddling type of teacher. She rode with that woman yesterday and they jumped verticals. This is a big change and I did not expect to see her on the verticals for some time -- she's not been doing cross rails for that long, really.
I am more than a little bit in awe of this little girl.
I was less awed by how she managed to throw up three times last night. I am hoping for less throwing up and more sleep tonight. Much more sleep.
I know kids today are often over-scheduled, but this is ridiculous. . .
I was putting the Girl Child to bed last night and she and I had the following exchange:
Me: Now that you are about to turn 7, your mother and I think it might be the right time to start giving you an allowance.
Her: [Very excited] Great! What can I start doing around the house?
Me: Well, we haven't decided yet but I think you could start by making your bed every day.
Her: I could do that [tone: earnest] but it would really chew into my time.
I had to leave the room when she said that so she wouldn't see me laugh.
She rode in her third horse show this weekend. She competed in four events and got ribbons in three of them. The trainers were very pleased with her outing. She kicked the heck out of that horse all the way around the ring and got him to move much faster than he usually does. After her fourth and final event, she asked permission from the trainers to take her pony into the schooling ring to continue cantering. The trainers just lit up at that request and off she went to canter around for another quarter hour or so. Eventually, however, the pony got tired and he had to be brought back to his stall. My daughter untacked him herself, brushed him out, gave him a treat, and put him away. Then we had breakfast with my parents who had come up to watch the Girl Child ride.
Then I took her to the doctor. The doctor said that the left ear was an example of the worst ear infection she had seen in two weeks and the right ear was the worst she had seen all day. She was shocked that the Girl Child was not totally incapacitated. She was stunned to hear that the Girl Child had actually ridden in a horse show. She then turned to me and said, quietly, that if pus starts to come out of the Girl Child’s left ear that I should call her back because they will need to prescribe some special ear drops.
What, might you ask, were the Girl Child’s concerns? Whether she could still go sledding with her friends that afternoon and whether she’d be able to take her regular riding lesson on Sunday. No to the sledding and yes to the riding.
This is one tough kid.
The study of other cultures is very big right now. The Girl Child's class has "traveled" to Africa, Thailand, Mexico and Sweden and learned all sorts of things about the cultures there. Or, so she says. With reference to Sweden, the class has been studying Santa Lucia and the celebration thereof.
You will be pleased to know that the Viking Bride has been doing her part to help the GC learn about other cultures. The GC learned a new song about Santa Lucia. When she got to school, my not quite 7 year old daughter got up in front of her 1st grade class and informed them that she had learned a new Santa Lucia song from her mother and did they want her to sing it to them all in Norwegian? They did.
The song, which the Girl Child belted out, she then went on to translate.
It goes something like this, according to the Girl Child:
Santa Lucia went into the woods to poop. When she was finished, it smelled wicked bad.
You cannot say we are not doing our part for multi-cultural understanding!
Her classmates were amused although I gather her teacher was not quite as amused.
The Girl Child came off her horse, twice, at her lesson on Wednesday. She had the wind knocked out of her the second time, landing on her back. This was what her instructor wrote to us that evening:
"So, poor GC had a tough day today... She seemed a little upset, but physically ok. The horse was FRESH! I chased him before the lesson (to get the bugs out) and apparently that wasn't enough, so I had a big kid get on him and haul him around, but he figured the GC out and got her off twice! But I have to say, I explained specifically what to do, and told her to get mad at him and be tough and she did, she is a tough little kid and she totally listened to me and did what I said and she stayed on every time he tried after that. I just wanted to let you know what happened. Let me know how she is feeling tomorrow."
What she doesn't mention is that the GC got back on the horse, after getting the wind knocked out of her, and successfully cantered that same horse and jumped him, too. Pretty gutsy.
But she was upset on Thursday morning. She didn't want to go to school. So, I told my wife to please buy a cake so we could have a small celebration last night, to celebrate her first fall, which we did. We told the GC how proud we were of her for finally falling and for getting right back up. We told her that she was officially a rider now.
Later, I asked her why she didn't want to go to school and this is the conversation we had:
GC: Because I was afraid I was going to get teased for falling off the horse.
Me: By whom?
Me: That is a ridiculous answer. Who else could tease you, chairs? That tells me nothing. Of course it would be people. Which people?
GC: I don't know. Just people.
Me: Well, do these un-named people ride?
Me: So, they are not entitled to have an opinion are they?
GC: What do you mean?
Me: Well, if they can't ride, how do they know anything about what it means to fall off a horse.
GC: Oh. Yeah.
Me: In fact, if any of them does tease you, you can say: "Do you ride? No? Well, if I need an opinion about riding I will go ask someone who rides. If I need an opinion from a doofus, I will come right back to you."
GC: [Laughing] I can call them a doofus?
Me: You bet. Now, did anyone tease you today?
I thought my wife was going to smack me for this but she actually told me that she thought I handled that pretty well. I worry that her staying home full time is destroying her judgment.
I am curious to see how things go at the next riding lesson, on Sunday.
Yup. That's all. Everything that comes between is just filler.
I think that life, in small part, is a constant process of risk assessment. Some risks you can control and some risks you cannot control but you assign a probability factor to the uncontrollable risk and then sort of just move on with your life, knowing, as best you can, that the uncontrollable risk has a high or low probability of happening. You know what I am talking about, even if you don’t recognize it. You do it. You hear someone has some horrible disease and you become concerned about yourself or your family and you run a quick, unconscious, check on your genetic history (no one in the family has had this or anything similar) and a quick check on the standard environmental factors (I have not worked in the chemical/asbestos/whatever industry or likely been exposed) and you breath a sigh of relief as you think to yourself, gee, I am not likely to get this, and you move on to express sympathy and offer help. Sounds familiar, right? Of course it does.
Sometimes, though, you get a curve ball. No one on either side of my or my wife’s family has an allergy to peanuts. So, while we have run into people who have kids who have these allergic reactions, I was pretty sure that it was not an issue for my family.
Well, until now. The baby has one. A severe allergy to peanuts.
We discovered this on Sunday when, at lunch, his face swelled and become covered with white, raised welts and he began coughing and crying and sneezing. The doctor, hearing he was crying and believing he was breathing ok, advised me to drive him down to Greenwich hospital (where he was born, coincidentally).
So, there we are, whipping down the Merritt parkway at 85 miles an hour, in the SUV, when, exhausted from his ordeal, he decides to take a snooze (I realize later). Only, he doesn’t respond when I reach back and grab his leg. Nothing.
I pull into the gas station by New Canaan going 70 mph, convinced that my baby has stopped breathing and that I better get 911 on my cell phone right away. I screech to a halt and the noise and motion wake him up. So, I decide, ok, he is breathing and maybe he is just completely exhausted. I pull back on to the parkway to continue on down, my heart going a million beats a minute, or so.
Have you ever gotten your SUV up to 90, on a twisty parkway, while reaching your right hand back into the back seat to get your index finger under a baby’s nose to make sure you can feel him breathing?
I may have lost two years, or so, of my life on that drive.
We get to the hospital and an EMT immediately comes over to my car, saying, “I figured something was wrong when I saw you come speeding up the ramp”, and he brings us right into the ER and directly to the doctor in charge. By this time, the swelling now includes the whites of the boy’s eyeballs (this was really quite disturbing; I have never seen anything like that before). They need to weigh him but he flips out when I try to put him down on the scale.
His crying continues at a very high volume and with great intensity as they take his clothes off and put him in a baby hospital gown. It then takes two nurses, and me, to hold him down on the bed to get the intravenous line in his arm so they could start the steroids and the other medicine. It upset me to watch this line go in his arm.
It takes forever to calm him, after that.
We sit there, he and I, in the examination room, my shirt soaked from chest to back by his tears, as the medicine starts to work. The benadryl makes him sleepy and he naps on me for about two hours. When he wakes, I feed him some lunch and we wait.
We wait until a little after 8 that night; some seven hours after we pull in to the ER. They need to observe him for a six or seven hour period after the medication is administered.
He was a lot better after his nap. He ate and the swelling had gone right down. He took my hand and we took several laps together in the ER, him in his little gown and diaper, all smiles, by that point. All smiles, up until I asked a nurse to hold him so I could go to the bathroom. He came with me, in the end.
We were home very late, with all sorts of prescriptions for things like Epi Pens and with instructions about making sure he eats no other nut products. The house is being purged of them and when we went out to eat on Monday, we confirmed that the restaurant was not cooking with peanut oil.
We are all a bit exhausted and kind of freaked out by the need to be even more vigilant going forward.
You assess these risks for your life but, like all risk plans, your assessments do not always survive contact with reality.
I had a discussion some time ago with my two oldest children about money and how you use money to pay for things. My wife sometimes thinks I treat them too much like adults and should probably dial my comments back a little when I talk to them, but I disagree. Anyway, we talked about money and credit cards and checks and I explained to the children how each one of those things really worked.
I guess it sunk in because this is what I overheard when the Girl Child (age 6.5) and the Boy Child (age 4.5) were playing "store" next to where I was reading the newspaper (they had just agreed on the price for whatever they were buying/selling and were now arranging payment terms):
BC: Ok, I'll take it. Let me give you a check.
GC: Uh, I would rather take cash. A check is just a promise to pay, you know.
While I am quite pleased she remembered our discussion and understood it and applied it, I am equally saddened by her unwillingness to take her brother's marker. Still, an exquisitely focused grasp of reality, my little girl.
The Girl Child is about six and three quarters at this point. Keep that in mind as you read the following. What is clear to me is that I really need to spend more time listenting to her.
We were returning to the house Friday night after Kol Nidre services. I brought the Girl Child and the Boy Child with me. Kol Nidre is an interesting service, if you were wondering. It is the point in the repentance cycle in which you ask G-d to release you from all the promises and bargains you struck with him during the year and which you were unable to fulfill. It is a nifty little concept. Anyway, we were driving home, me, the kids, and my parents and we got to talking about repentance and the Girl Child asked what that was:
My Father: To repent is tell G-d that you are really, really sorry and to ask him to forgive you.
My Mother: And you also tell G-d that you will never do it again.
Me: Or at least, that you will try to never do it again.
GC: Right, that makes more sense. I mean, nobody’s perfect and people do make mistakes.
The second lesson I learned from my daughter this weekend came during the football game late Sunday afternoon. We don’t watch a lot of television in our house but I do like the occasional game, especially early in the season when, in theory, everyone is tied for first place. The Girl Child was sitting to watch a little with me when a commercial came on and I promptly muted it. The problem is, you see, that the Girl Child can read and this is what happened next:
GC: “Life takes Visa”? No, it doesn’t. That’s so wrong.
Me: Oh? What does life take?
GC: Life takes love.
I was a little humbled by that. Such a simple answer but such a significant truth. I cannot help but think that if that is her view of things, my wife and I cannot be doing as bad a job with her as I feared.
Sunday was a terribly busy day and I worry a mere foreshadowing of things to come. The weather, unlike Saturday, was glorious. It was cool and crisp with that achingly beautiful and terribly acute sunshine that feels as if it is struggling, after all its summer time work, to warm the earth.
We had everyone out the door by 8:50 to head off to Winslow Park where the Viking Bride had arranged a sitting with a photographer for a family portrait, courtesy of a PTA fundraiser. The boys were dressed in matching pants and both in seersucker jackets while the Girl Child picked out a skirt. The baby was not terribly cooperative but I will note that we appeared to be the only family there not in tears so even if we don’t get a good portrait out of it I will still count it as a moral victory. Then, back to the car.
Off we went home to get the Girl Child changed for riding and the Viking Bride changed for her dance class. She took the GC off and I played with the boys. The Boy Child and I played balloon tennis (hitting a balloon back and forth to each other with our hands) for a half an hour and the baby played with cars. Then, I loaded the boys into the car and we toddled off to watch the end of the GC’s riding lesson.
We arrived just in time to be told that we missed seeing her jump. Actually, I was kind of disturbed when the instructor told me, with a sort of awed tone of voice, that the GC is totally fearless and that instead of jumping over a piece of pipe laying on the ground, she and her pony went over two pieces of pipe crossed in an X and at much greater speed than she was supposed to be going. “Ah, well”, I was told, “at least she didn’t fall off”. Yes, I was left very reassured indeed. That said, I was really pleased at the progress the GC has made in the short time she has been doing this. She posts along like a pro and her instructor seems to think that she has great potential here since she is without fear. She looks so much more comfortable in the saddle, happy to kick her horse into moving faster, happy to trot along and do her own thing.
Her lesson finished at 11:00. She was loaded into the car, still in riding gear, and given a snack and a drink, and we headed off to Sunday School, arriving just in time. I took her chaps off in the parking lot and brushed her hair from the damage her riding hat had caused. Sunday School started at 11:15.
The boys and I went back to the house for more balloon tennis and to wait for the Vking Bride’s triumphant arrival from dance class. Then we all went off back to the Club to get lunch. Unfortunately, the Club was closed due to hosting a major antique car show. The cars on display were stunning and, in the parking lot, I saw more Porsches and Ferraris in one place than I have ever seen before. We admired the cars and listened to the ceremonial starting of the engines. The race cars made fairly impressive noises.
After lunch at home, the boys were shooed off to bed for naps and I returned to the synagogue to fetch the GC from Sunday School at 1:15. She assured me it went well. She was given a snack at home and packed a bag to be taken by the Vking Bride off to a 2:00 swimming birthday party. I stayed home, breathed a sigh of relief and did what manly men do all over the country – I turned on the football game and did some ironing.
The BC woke up at 2:45, just as I was going up to get him. He put on his tennis whites and had a snack as we waited for the VB to return from dropping the GC off at her party. She came back and the BC and I immediately left to hit the tennis courts at the Club. We were on the courts by 3:00 and we played for an hour and ten minutes.
I could not believe how good the BC was at tennis. We worked on getting his racquet back and watching the ball throughout the stroke and he was soon getting the ball back over the net consistently and with great coordination. Every time he concentrated on watching the ball, he had no problems unconsciously moving his body to the right place to make contact. And every time he hit it back to a place I could not reach it, he was positively gleeful. Whenever I told him how well he was doing, he positively glowed and he buckled down and concentrated even harder. We actually had a four hit rally at one point with him hitting the same ball back to me four times in a row. After one series, he told me happily that I had said “wow” two times! I was also really pleased at how he was able to maintain his concentration for a total of 70 minutes without flagging at all. On our last 10 balls, he dinked the first one into the net and declared that it didn’t count towards our ten because only the ones he hit over could count. He appeared to be delighted with the whole experience. I know I was.
We arrived home just before the GC and her gang at 4:20. The BC and I washed our tennis clothes and got ready for dinner. We went out to a new (for us) restaurant in Fairfield which, while it turned out to be expensive, was quite good and made the VB very happy. The baby was in an exceptionally good mood all dinner, blowing kisses to people, playing hide and seek with his napkin, playing peek-a-boo with the clearly enthralled wait staff, chirping to all the new customers as they came in, all while putting down almost as much food as the BC did.
It was funny but it was during dinner that the GC’s clear competitiveness came through loud and clear. The GC, BC, and I were playing a game that they like to play in which they have to guess what number I am thinking of between 1 and whatever I pick. The BC won three times in a row. The GC was practically beside herself, insisting that we keep playing and would only consent to stop playing after she won a couple of times herself. The girl cannot stand to lose at anything. Period. The BC, while competitive, is clearly a bit more laid back. It was just interesting to watch. She was leaning forward on the edge of her seat and carefully considering all of her options before she was prepared to hazard a guess.
After dinner, we were home in time for another chapter of the mystery we are reading together and then they were all off to bed.
A successful but very busy weekend day.
Well, the first day of school was "great!", according to the Girl Child. She loves her teacher and likes her new classroom. She even, she reported with great excitement and pride, got her own locker. At which point we had the following conversation:
Me: You realize that the Supreme Court has held that you can have no expectation of privacy with respect to your locker, don't you?
GC: What does that me-- wait, that means that if I bring stuff in to school and put it in my locker, I can't expect that it will be private, right? People can look in it?
Me: Exactly. It is not like your night table at home where you can keep your private things.
GC: [Said with a smile] So, I shouldn't bring my night table to school.
I was more than a bit surprised that she immediately grasped the concept.
I am pretty sure that she is going to be a lot smarter than I am.
Today is the first day of school in our little town. I took the morning off from work to stay home to take the Girl Child down to the bus stop to wait for the school bus. She's very excited about starting first grade. Even though she had a bath last night, she asked to take a shower with me this morning so she would be sparkling clean for her first day. She was, to her credit, amused when I smeared my shaving cream all over her back.
While we waited for the bus, I unclipped the hair brush she keeps on her back pack and I brushed her hair. Stroke after stroke, taking out the knots she missed, making her hair gleam in the morning sunlight, making her hair soft and pretty. I clipped the brush back on her pack as the bus came up the road, collected my kiss, and sent her on her way.
First grade. Where does the time go?
Yesterday turned out to be an interesting day for the kids. First, the Boy Child swam in the deep end of the pool. This was a big deal for him and when I told him that I was proud of him, he gave me a very shy smile, kind of ducked his head around to hide behind a chair, and asked me very sweetly if I could leave him a note telling him how proud I was of him. Of course, I obliged.
The Viking Bride told me that the Camp Director told her that a ghost story was making the rounds at camp and it had scared the heck out of all of the kids. The Girl Child told us about it, too. It has to do with Bloody Mary (no, not the cocktail) who has had her head chopped off and is now coming to do the same thing to you if, in a dark room, you call her name three times. The VB did not improve the mood when she told the kids to try it and they did and when they got to the third repetition of the name, she yelled, "BOO!!!"
We realized later how seriously the Girl Child took this when her bed was empty when we went to check on her before going to bed ourselves. We found her sleeping with the Boy Child. They were sharing his pillow. She was sleeping on her side, face to the wall. The Boy Child was sleeping on his back with his right arm thrown back, over the Girl Child's shoulders, as if he was comforting her or shielding her. The Viking Bride and I both said, "awwwww", at the same time. It was terribly sweet. We left them there.
This morning, the VB told me that when she spoke to the GC about it, she said:
VB: Aren't you lucky to have a brother who loves you so much and who protects you?
GC: When I am with him, I'm not scared. All he has to do is touch me and the scared goes away.
I am tempted to throw salt over my shoulder and spit at the ground in an attempt to avert the evil eye. I am clearly a lucky guy.
Where did these children come from?
The Girl Child has taken to the sport of equestrianism with exceptional enthusiasm. She has taken group riding lessons at camp and yesterday she experienced her first private one-hour lesson. She already sounds like quite the little pro, telling me when I got home last night that her lesson started with her "tacking up" her horse. The correct use of the insider lingo makes you sound like you know what you are doing.
She expressed great interest, it was reported to me by the Viking Bride, in acquiring her own horse. Uh huh. She had the following conversation with her riding instructor. I admire her ability to keep driving at an answer:
GC: If I wanted to buy a horse, how much do they cost?
RI: You would have to save up your pennies.
GC: How many pennies?
RI: A lot.
GC: Well, how long would I have to save them for?
RI: A long time.
GC: Ok, how about this horse? How much would it cost to buy this horse?
RI: He's not for sale.
Like a good litigator taking a deposition, she just kept on going to try to get her answer. I am really quite proud.
The instructor told the Viking Bride, by the way, that the Girl Child is absolutely fearless. I gather that this is meant to be a good thing.
The Girl Child is already speaking with great anticipation about getting to canter so she can start jumping.
Interesting aside, I have noticed that when it comes to sporting activities, the Girl Child is not so much of a team player. She has shown a marked preference for the individual sports: swimming; riding; tennis; and martial arts. Not a team sport in that entire list. She's going to have us sign her up for the local YMCA swim team for the winter. She's keen to acquire another team swim suit. I don't know quite what lessons to draw from this observation but it is clear, as it always has been, that she is quite comfortable living inside her own head and playing by herself. I guess her sport interests are an outgrowth of this.
Either way, I find her to be a creature of endless interest and boundless fascination. I am so lucky to have a daughter.
Yesterday was very close to a perfect day. I took the day off from the office to stay home and attend the Girl Child’s swim meet. She is on the swim team for the Club and is terribly proud of herself. Recall, please, that she is just six and a half. She has been swimming in the swim meets with the team but only in the minnow event, the 6 and under exhibition where the little kids jump in the pool and complete one length and everyone claps for them. They go first and then we could leave. I have not attended a single one of her meets and this one was the last possible opportunity for me to do so. So, the Viking Bride signed her up for the last swim meet and her first “away” meet at a really lovely country club in Blackrock (link).
I started the day with the Boy Child, though. He had his tennis lesson at camp that morning and I took both kids to camp so I could attend his lesson. It started very badly. He came up to the front, took the racquet in his right hand, turned his body, and flailed pathetically at the ball with the ugliest forehand I have ever seen on a child. It was horrible. I could not believe he had the guts to get up there and perform so badly, week after week. I couldn’t just sit there. So, I called out the pro and interrupted the lesson: “Hey! Jaime! Did you know that the Boy Child is a LEFTY?” Oh, he replied. The Boy Child was then duly turned to his other side, the racquet was switched to his left hand, and he began banging the ball around. It was a marked improvement almost immediately. I was very gratified. I believe that the pro and the Boy Child were also gratified. The lesson lasted an hour. In the sun. I had carefully applied sunscreen to the kids but not, of course, to myself. Tant pis.
I then walked over to meet the Girl Child to accompany her to her horseback riding lesson. You should have seen this gorgeous little thing – long, lean, bronzed, in her riding hat, boots, and chaps, striding along like she owned the world. Reminded me of the description my grandfather used to give of me, actually. So, as it turned out, this was a perfect day to attend her riding lesson. This was the first time the riding instructor took her off lead and let her walk and trot around the ring all by herself. It was a big day, according to the instructor. The instructor assured me that the Girl Child was doing very well. She looked so great on her pony, her back straight and her manner very confident. She was also quite pleased to be allowed to ride the pony back to the barn from the ring. I was quite happy to witness that. Then I went home, to meet my sister and nephew to take them to lunch.
Fortunately, they were late. That gave me time to review a major settlement agreement and make comments to my client. That was a huge boost and made me thank whoever made my Blackberry possible.
After lunch, I collected the Girl Child, still damp from the pool but proudly sporting her swim team bathing suit. We drove over to the other Club through the back roads. Can I just say, whoa, there are a lot of old and beautiful houses in Fairfield County.
As I said above, I believed that it was a short meet for us. She’d be in the first heat and then we’d take off. I declined, therefore, the request to act as a timer. I mean, I didn’t think we’d be there that long.
Then the swim coach came up to the Girl Child, bent down to look her in the eye, and asked her if instead of swimming with the minnows, if she felt up to swimming a leg of the backstroke relay with the bigger kids. No hesitation at all. She simply looked up and said, “yes”. She started the race, the first one after the minnows did their thing. She got in the pool and hoisted herself up on the handles. I leaned over and told her to bend her legs so she could explode out and back and she did that, looking up at me for a moment, squinting in the glare of the sun, and we waited for the announcer to blow her whistle. I stood there and looked down at her and I thought I was going to cry, I was so proud of her. Her first big kid swim meet! I was so happy I could be there. When the whistle went, she threw herself backwards and backstroked with all of her might, until she got hung up for a moment on the lane divider. I walked the whole length of the pool, yelling “GO!” and otherwise cheering for her. If she had not gotten hung up on the divider, she had a shot at beating one of the older kids because she actually caught up and almost passed one of them.
We walked back to the start where her coach congratulated her on her efforts and asked her if she felt like she was up to swimming a freestyle event, too. Again, no hesitation, just an immediate yes. She relaxed for a moment or two, sitting on the grass and throwing it at some of her friends, who threw it back at her. Then her race was called. The freestyle girls, 8 and under. She climbed up onto the racing start platform like she had been doing it all her life and got into a racing start position. The whistle blew and she kind of launched herself forward and sort of fell forward into the pool. She swam her little heart out. A much better effort than anything the Viking Bride had described having witnessed at earlier meets. She came last, again, but only barely, I think. Again, I walked the length of the pool, cheering my head off for her. I may have been the only parent to do that, come to think of it.
Again, we walk back together and again her coach approaches her and asks her if she is up for swimming one more event, the 8 and under freestyle relay. Again, no hesitation in answering yes. Again, she swam her little heart out and again she finished last. But there was no hesitation in effort on her part. She left everything in the pool.
She swam three events, under pressure of real competition, when she normally only swims one event with no pressure. I asked her if she was scared when she was waiting for whistle to blow and she said, no. Nervous? No. Nothing.
We stayed for the team cheer but she passed on the popsicle in favor of taking off and eating the goldfish she had reserved from her lunch box. As we got to the car, and she climbed in, she looked at me and said, “Boy, I sure am going to sleep good tonight.”
While we were off swimming, the Boy Child was at music class to try out an instrument to see what he might like to start taking lessons on. He had been partial to the flute, before, but today was the cello. The teacher was impressed that he knew all the parts of the cello and liked the Boy Child’s fancy bow – one arm behind his back and one arm in front of his stomach. The teacher told him that the cello bow was different, just arms to the side. He showed me later – just leaned over, looked down, and said, “hello, toes!”. On the ride back, the Viking Bride asked him if he wanted to go back to see a group lesson on the flute and he declined, saying, “no, I’ve seen enough”. He picked the cello, explaining that with the flute you have to keep blowing into the instrument and he didn’t think he could hold enough air in him to do that. Also, he liked the sound of the cello.
Well, I thought that all of these accomplishments today merited a celebration dinner out and I let the kids pick. Pizza it was. As we sat over dinner, we had the following exchange:
Girl Child: See, there’s this problem. . .
Me: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
Viking Bride: If you are part of the problem, get out of the way.
[small silence and then the Boy Child pops up, earnestly]
Boy Child: Pappa? I am part of the solution!
If I could have picked a day to take off from the office, this would easily have been the day I wanted to have. It was perfection.
The Boy Child's maternal grandfather is a retired career diplomat and the Boy Child must have picked up a thing or two from our recent visit to Norway.
So, last night, I had the following exchange with my little diplomat:
Me: What did you guys do at camp today with all of that rain?
BC: We mostly did art projects and watched a movie. I made two projects, Pappa. One for you and one for Mamma. Which one do you want?
Me: I want the best one!
BC [Pausing to think for a second] Ok, Pappa, you can have the best one. [Turns to his mother] And you, Mamma, can have the VERY best one!
There are times he just cracks me up. Let me share with you a couple of
interchanges we had last night:
[I am in the bathroom brushing the Girl Child's teeth and the Boy Child comes in with a scrawled all over piece of paper]
BC: Pappa, read my sign!
Me: I can't, BC. You read it to me.
BC: It says: "Do not come into the Boy Child's room because of the poetry".
BC: Yeah, poetry. We have poetry every night at 12:00.
GC: Wow! Can I come?
* * *
Me: Well, goodnight, young man.
BC: What do you mean when you call me "young man"?
Me: Well, you are not yet a man but when you act so grown up, I want to
let you know that.
BC: Well, I am not a baby anymore.
Me: You are always going to be my baby.
BC: It is my room and I make the rules here.
Me: Really? What are your rules?
BC: First, no monsters.
Me: That's a good one. Any more?
BC: Then, no trolls. After that, no cars with strangers in them and no
cars with bad guys in them.
BC: I have a lot more rules, I just can't remember them right now.
As I discussed yesterday, the Girl Child had her last day of kindergarten yesterday and I left her a note to tell her how proud I was of her for completing her year. She got a certificate for perfect attendance for the first semester and would have had a certificate for the second semester, too, if it were not for the strep throat at the end of the year. I gather the note, which she discovered when she came down for breakfast, was a big hit. I think it also made a big impression on the Boy Child for when I got home from work last night, he made his request.
There he stood, next to the kitchen table, naked as a jaybird, hair still wet from his bath, very earnest and hopeful expression on his face as he shyly stumbled through the following:
Pappa, I know I can't read, but do you think you could make me a note telling me how proud you are of me for pre-school?
The Boy got his note, left for him next to his breakfast spot for discovery when he came down this morning.
The children are still saying funny stuff. This morning, I went to the Girl Child's class for a Fathers' Day breakfast. My father came, too. He met us at the house. The Boy Child was not invited and not happy about being excluded. To make him a bit happier, the Viking Bride took him to get a donut for breakfast which he brought home to eat right about at the same time my dad arrived.
Grandfather: Boy, that donut sure looks good. I am sooo hungry. I wonder if anyone wants to offer me a bite.
Boy Child: You're kidding, right?
The Viking Bride joined me in New York City last night for another black tie affair; my last black tie affair until the autumn arrives (I hope). The babysitter drove her, along with the kids, to the train station. On the way, the babysitter told my wife the following:
Listen, I have to tell you that I have asked the children not to speak Norwegian around me. I am pretty sure that every time they are speaking Norwegian, they are plotting against me.
The babysitter, while possibly paranoid, is certainly correct. I am so proud of the kids for realizing the potential of a good, secret language. Up the revolution!
We spent Memorial Day at a beach club, playing in the pools and basking in the sun. We adjourned for lunch at the outdoor snack bar area by the water. The snack bar is under new management and the Girl Child did not care for it even one little bit. She did not like the kid menu. As she explained:
There are only two choices for drinks and that is totally unacceptable. They did have pink lemonade; however, it was yucky.
A very tough customer.
The Boy Child, aged 4, discovered today that not all plans, no matter how splendidly conceived, reach glorious fruition. The children were brought into the City today, under the Viking Bride's watchful eye, to visit the Norwegian consulate today in order to renew their Norwegian passports. They have to visit in person for these kinds of things, which is actually quite annoying. The group stopped by my office afterwards and the kids told me about their train ride in.
The Girl Child said that they shared the window seat. Their plan, she explained, was to switch seats at every stop so that they each got turns at the window. I was holding their hands and walking them back to Grand Central when she told me this and so I turned to the Boy Child on my other side and asked him whether this was his plan, too.
"No", he told me, "that wasn't my plan". "My plan was that whoever got there first got the window".
Not a bad plan but it did not survive contact with his sister.
It was one year ago yesterday that I was in a hospital room. The Viking Bride was confined to bed with all sorts of pregnancy related complications and had been for well over a week at that point. But on April 5 (04/05/06) she managed to give birth successfully to the little boy I am calling for the purposes of this blog, Le Fils Cadet (the second son, as it were). Yesterday, the little guy turned one. It has been quite a year.
I wouldn't trade it for anything.
A part of any Seder is the search for the afikomen, a broken piece of matzah wrapped in a cloth. There is an interesting piece about the afikomen here, although I do not know how accurate it is. Anyway, during the Seder, I got up to hide the afikomen and, during dessert, the Girl Child and the Boy Child got up in search of it so they could redeem it for a reward. They returned with nothing; they couldn't find it. They asked for a hint. I said, did you try the dining room? The Girl Child looked at me, thought for a moment, turned to her brother and said: "Boy Child, you go check the sun room!"
Guess who found the afikomen?
I declined to allow my dad to give her more money than her brother received. I sort of felt like she wasn't playing fair. Although I was secretly pretty amused by her sleight of hand.
I was having this chat with my dad the other day. He and I agreed that having children changes a person. Not a very controversial position, frankly, but it was nice to kick around a not too difficult topic for a change.
This morning, walking to work after my morning squash match (lost, but it was close and who cares since it was so much fun anyway) and weight lifting, I cut across another guy's path to cross the street. I tend to walk very quickly and I easily passed in front of him without him even having to break step. Just the same, he spit out: "F*!k you". Maybe that's just normal behavior in his neighborhood, beats me. So, the post-three children guy that I have become responded, without thinking about it, not that way I would have 6 years ago "("Oh yeah? Suck my ****, you asshole!), but:
HEY!! That wasn't very nice!!!
Any street cred that I ever might have plausibly laid any potential claim to is now officially dead, kaput, gone, history, finished.
I am now officially rated G, even when angry.
That G rating does not apply when I am behind the wheel, however. Just saying.
The Girl Child had a math day at school yesterday where the students took the parents through various math stations and showed them how they were learning addition, comparison (greater than, less than, and equal), geometry (how to manipulate shapes), patterns (which she told me is a design that is repeated), and a little bit about probability. It was great fun, although it was scheduled at 12:00 to 1:00. GC really enjoyed being my teacher as she explained each activity to me. The Viking Bride had an obligation at the Boy Child's school so I got to go to the GC's program.
After school, I took her away with me for lunch, just the two of us. Well, I had lunch and I let her just have dessert since she had eaten lunch earlier at school. Over lunch, we had a wide ranging conversation and I told her that I was having difficulties with her definition of pattern since I thought that the word design implied a conscious decision to create something and that seemed to me that it would leave out the patterns created in nature. She thought for a second and told me that wasn't right. First, she said, the patters in nature were created by God. She pulled a leaf off of her sprig of mint and held it up to show me the tracing of lines that constituted a pattern. She reminded me that the world and everything in it was created by God and therefore it was all a conscious design. Or, didn't I believe that God created the world? I decided simply to assure her that I did and enjoy her reasoning, complete with visual aid.
It was a gorgeous day in Westport. It was 75 degrees (or 24 celsius) and blue skies everywhere. I came back with the GC and collected the BC, changed into shorts, and took them both to the beach playground to run around for an hour or so. The ice cream guy was out and, after playing, I bought them each a popsicle and we sat by the edge of the ocean while they ate their ice cream and we all chatted. It was idyllic.
Hope you are all as great as we were yesterday!
Ok, not quite. Still, the Viking Bride was lurking outside the Boy Child's classroom yesterday (or the day before) so she could observe him at play without his knowing it. Her lurking skills require work. The Boy Child spotted her and exclaimed to his little friends:
Yikes! Its my mom!
We have no idea why he said that but I have been amused all day by it.
The Boy Child has a cold. Things leaking from his nose all over the place. The Girl Child is a little hoarse. I woke up at 12:30 this morning with a huge sneeze that, much like a trumpet, heralded the arrival of full congestion. Yuck.
Thank goodness for Sudafed. I am just starting to feel human again. As human as any lawyer feels, that is.
We escaped this weekend. We bundled the children into the car and escaped with them to that well known tourist destination: New Haven, CT. Ok, it actually was a lot nicer than I had expected. There were loads of beautiful buildings and nicely groomed streets.
We started off at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, making pizza in New Haven since 1925 in coal fired brick ovens. The pies came out on superbly crisp crusts. The kids and the Viking Bride split one pizza while I had my own small one with anchovies, sausage, cheese and mushrooms. The kids bravely tried the anchovies but did not care for them. The pizza was worth a trip all by itself. Really. Pepe's is most famous for the white clam pizza, which I will certainly try next time. Here's a review of the place, if you are interested.
Apres lunch, we got back in the car and headed over to the Peabody Museum of Natural History to check out the dinosaurs. There were plenty of fossils to excite interest. One of the guidebooks said that the musuem had a collection of shrunken heads which sparked a nice little discussion in the car about cannibals. The kids were interested in cooking methods, among other things.
The museum was quite lovely and we went ahead and joined, especially since we found out that we could then sign up for sleepovers with the dinosaurs, which I think that the children would adore doing. I would, of course, hate it, but would force myself to go. Ahem. Small museums, while lacking the resources and world beating curatorial staffs, are almost always worth a visit and have quite a lot of charm on their own.
All in all, a successful Sunday outing.
There are certain statements out there that you hear again and again, so often that they sort of take on the status of truth. You never examine them for veracity, they just linger in the brush growth section of your mind and form part of the framework of your beliefs. For instance, fish is good for you. Or, racism is not ingrained but rather learned at home from the parents. I believed both of these things. Until now.
I no longer believe racism is learned at home and is not ingrained. That is too damn simple. My new theory is that racism springs from a child’s dislike of looking or being different. At some very early point, kids don’t like the idea of standing out. They don’t like different. If something looks different or is outside of their little group norm-think, they have a tendency to shun it. That’s my root cause explanation for why the Girl Child told me that she did not want to engage a particular baby sitter because that baby sitter was dark skinned. To be clear, there is no possible way that my children picked up negative attitudes about darker skinned people from me or my wife. We don’t have them (as far as I know), we don’t talk about attitudes like that, and we do our level best not to judge on appearance. We are particularly careful about what messages we transmit, overtly or quietly, to our children.
I took my little peanut aside after she confessed this and I told her that it was wrong for her to dislike the baby sitter because of the color of her skin. I told her that she didn’t even know the baby sitter and it was unacceptable for her to dislike her without knowing her. I told her that there were plenty of people in the world who I disliked but I disliked them for reasons wholly unrelated to their appearance and she too was allowed to dislike people, just not because of they way they looked. I reminder her of how unhappy she was when someone in her class called her the grinch because she did not celebrate Christmas and I told her that the situation there was identical to the situation here – someone judged her for reasons having nothing to do with who she was as a person. I then reminded her of an old exercise she did in her last pre-school where she made a list of all the things about her that people could not tell about her just by looking at her (which I blogged about in January 2005). I told her that the point of that was just to look below the surface and not judge based on the appearance. It is completely ok to judge other people, I told her, but it has to be done on a valid basis and the color of another’s skin is not a valid basis.
She seemed to take it all in. She also assured me that no one had been telling her that darker skinned people were bad. I wanted to rule out comments from classmates.
My wife and I were mystified by this turn of events and what could have given rise to it. So, I am sure it is just because of her becoming more and more aware of the world around her.
I didn’t tell her, to my wife’s relief, that the world is primarily populated by ass-hats and color is simply not a good predictor of another person’s ass-hat level. Politics, on the other hand. . .
By the way, I still basically think fish is good for you, all that shite about mercury to one side. Although, I do note that with all the fish I have eaten, I am better at predicting the ambient room temperature. So maybe it is the mercury.
Seriously, I hope I handled that one ok. I never saw it coming.
Especially when demonstrated by your six year old daughter. The Girl Child, not even 100 days into her kindergarten experience, attended shabbat celebrations with us at the Boy Child's preschool, where we were the shabbat family for his class. The celebration was all very nice, of course. The highlight, and all I may ever remember from this, was the Girl Child, sitting in front of the Boy Child's class of 15 children, reading a story to his classmates. She sat there and read to them. I swelled with pride and I risk becoming a bore as I share this with everyone I know.
Literacy. Catch it.
Did I mention how proud I was?
The Viking Bride engaged in 40 minutes of intense cardio activity yesterday morning. Afterwards, she got on the floor to stretch. The Boy Child, the early riser, got up and wandered downstairs to the playroom/gym and announced a desire to cuddle with her on the floor. After a brief cuddle, he got up, looked down at his mother, and proclaimed:
You are so stinky. I hope you don't go to work with that stinky on; if you do, they are going to send you right home saying that you are so stinky.
And then he left her alone on the floor, just her and her stinky.
Death, that is. The children are interested in death and have been for some time. The topic comes up regularly. Sunday night, it came up again with the following:
Girl Child: Boy Child, you are going to die, you know.
Boy Child: [swallows and asks solemnly] When?
Me: Not for a long time. My plan is that you will have a long and happy life. And then, one day, you will get married and your life will seem much longer still.
[Murderous glare from Viking Bride]
Me: There, you see? It is already feeling longer.
One day I will learn to leave well enough alone. I promise.
The poor little guy cried from 10:51 until after 12:20 last night until he finally fell back asleep. He is bunking in with us in our room while my sister in law has claimed his room, formerly the guest room. We let him cry himself to sleep after he demonstrated an unwillingness to be terribly soothed. I kind of insisted on that over my wife's objections. I think it was for the best.
But the thing is, you see, I am so tired that, among other things, I even left my tie at home when I left for work this morning. Good think Brooks Bros. is still running their big sale.
This is not a good week to be tired. I have a dinner and committee meeting tonight -- first of the year, first with a new committee class, gotta set the right tone as chairman and have to drive the agenda. Tomorrow, a board meeting at which I will be front and center on a critical governance issue in order to resolve a sticky IRS tax situation that the organization is faced with. And then on Thursday, I am the MC at a dinner for 125 people. Sometime in there, I have professional responsibilities and a couple of other things to do.
Please let the baby sleep tonight. If not, shoot me now, please.
It was held on Saturday, although her birthday is not for a couple of days yet. She had a wonderful time, bothered only by the fact that so many of the parents decided to linger for the duration of the party and chat. She complained bitterly to her mother that it was supposed to have been a drop off party. Still, she got over it. We had it at a local gym, just her, her brother, and 25 of her best friends. Guess which parent was the only parent running around with the kids during the party? That'd be me.
After the party, our college roommate and his wife and two kids and another couple and their kids came back to the house. It was 70+ degrees. We sat on the deck, worked our way through three bottles of wine, and watched the kids all play beautifully together. It was sublime; an early taste of summer. I realized that there is almost nothing that I find more relaxing than hanging out with friends, in the open air, with wine, while hearing as a background noise the cries of happy children at play.
Saturday was really quite perfect. Like nothing could go wrong. Even including, for me, having eaten enormous amounts of pizza and two pieces of birthday cake and still having gone down a pound the next morning. I believe my wife may hate me.
You all may recall that the Boy Child recently cut his face, next to his left eye, and required the services of a plastic surgeon. The doctor put a bandage on the boy's face and told us that he should be as immobile as possible over a five day span which fell over the New Year holiday. He was kept as immobile as one can keep a not quite four year old active boy. He was pinned to the couch by a steady diet of television, something he rarely gets to watch.
The Viking Bride had him back at the plastic surgeon yesterday and the bandage was removed. The plastic surgeon's reaction: "Damn, I do good work". We felt that was positive. It appears that the cut has healed beautifully and may not even leave a scar. That would be nice. The Boy Child looks like an angel and I was not really ready to see his perfect little visage marked, yet. Although, maybe, a scar would make him less pretty. Either way, it is still a big relief.
I mean it, a manual would be good. Something I could consult in times of stress or difficulty. Or maybe I just take everything way too seriously. But, just the same, there I was last night, just me and the Girl Child and she told me about a problem she was having in school. I knew that there was a problem and I knew that getting her to tell me about it would be difficult, not because we don't talk but because asking a not quite six year old to figure out what was upsetting them was maybe a lot to ask.
I had received some clues. Recently she asked me for her own cell phone because "sometimes school isn't fun" and she wanted to be able to call home and tell people it wasn't fun. If that isn't a major clue that our happy-to-go-to-school child was not happy. . .
It boiled down to this -- her now former best friend doesn't like her anymore and says mean things to her when she is not otherwise ignoring her. For instance, when the former best friend questioned her about Christmas, and the Girl Child said she doesn't celebrate Christmas, the other girl called her a grinch.
I wish you could have seen the Girl Child as she struggled to explain all this to me last night -- sitting at the kitchen table; hair glistening wet from the bath; nibbling daintily on her snack; and an expression of hurt and confusion (confusion because she didn't understand what was going on). I knew that this was going to happen to her one day, that one day another girl would turn on her and attack her. She is basically a straightforward child and not used to this mode of relations. I didn’t want to tell her that it was because girls often do mean things to each other while boys don’t, at that age.
Instead, I struggled. What, I thought, was the right thing to say to her? How to guide her? My first reaction was that she had triggered all of my protective instincts and I wanted to defend my little cub. But, here's the thing -- it isn't about me, I decided. It was about her.
So, I told her, after reflection, that I had three suggestions. And after explaining to her what a suggestion was, since she asked, I gave them to her.
1. Speak to her. Tell her that you don't understand what's going on and ask her if she wants to talk about it, discuss it, and see if the problem can't be solved. Then, if it cannot, be solved, go to No. 2.
2. Never let the other side see you are upset. Pretend, on your part, that the other girl herself does not exist. If they are trying to be hurtful, then don't let them. In some ways, I told her, you can only be hurt if you give someone else permission.
3. Don't let insults or attacks go unaddressed. I told her, "Nobody plays for free". She says something to you that you perceive is an insult, you reply, "You. Are. An. Idiot. And I don't talk to idiots". Then walk away. I explained to her that just as she is supposed to stick up for her brothers, that she has to stick up for and protect herself. I told her that sometimes it was not a nice world and that if she wanted not to be picked on, she had to stand up for herself.
She said she understood it. I hope so. I do hope that she figures this out a bit.
I tried as best I could to distill all the wisdom I possess on these points down to small, easily understandable nuggets for her. I suspect we will have that conversation again. My wife thought I might have been a bit too heavy for a not quite six year old. I don’t know. Do you think that I handled that correctly?
Sunday was a day spent slowing down to the pace of a three year old.
By way of background, the Girl Child had a friend last year in pre-school. The friend had a mother who was possessed of a strange brand of militant feminism. She convinced the girls in the Girl Child's class that "girl power" was better than "boy power". This divisive nonsense has continued to this day and the upshot is that the Boy Child has become upset that he is a boy, that he has "boy power" and not "girl power" and that maybe he'd rather be a girl. I think that this is ridiculous. The Viking Bride thinks that this is ridiculous. I have come to loathe this other mother, by the way. This attitude is not what we want our kids exposed to or influenced by. So, it was time to take corrective action. It was time to show BC just how cool it can be to be a boy. And yes, he already knew that only boys can write their names in the snow, but we have not had any snow yet!
So, it was time for a Boys Day Out, just me and BC. We caught the 8:33 train out of Westport on Sunday morning to go into the City. As you may know, trains occupy a large percentage of his thoughts on a daily basis, that is, when he's not thinking about planes or buses. So taking a train was already a good start. He talked, loudly and excitedly, the whole way into the City. The conductor gave him his own ticket on which the conductor punched out a smiley face. More excitement!
We arrived in Grand Central and walked up to Madison Avenue to catch a bus. This was a big moment for him. We had to run a little bit but did manage to get on a bus going our way. The Boy Child yelled at me to sit down quickly because he was afraid the bus would start moving. When we got off, we had to pause to watch the bus head off again.
I had decided, while taking the train in, that we were going to have our Boys Day Out completely at his pace. So, if he wanted to watch a bus pull away from the curb, or even three buses pull away, that's what we were going to do, his little hand firmly tucked in mine.
We then walked off to a private club I am a member of, both of us in our blue blazers. We sat for a while in the Reading Room, overlooking Fifth, so that he could watch the buses go by some more. Then we took the "Elligator" down to the basement to have a swim. We stopped at the door so I could show him the sign -- "MEN ONLY" and he said to me, "I are a man!". We stripped down naked and hit the whirl pool which is really about the size of a kiddy pool. He liked it and enjoyed getting out to press the button to activate the jets. Again, we did whatever he wanted to do so we kept getting in and out to walk over to look at the lion's head fountain and to take long ways back because certain paths were "closed" and "the police might stop us". Eventually, I coaxed him into the big pool and we played on the steps there where I chatted with a much older man and told him about our boy-esteem building mission. He helped out by later telling the Boy Child in the changing room how much fun it was to be boy and the Boy Child agreed. The one thing the Boy Child did not care for was the sauna, but he gave it a shot.
After swimming, he kept me company and "we" shaved together. I put shaving cream on his hands and, after watching me, he rubbed it all over his cheeks so that he could shave too. He was concerned about whether the razor hurt and when I told him that it did, sometimes, he decided not to remove the cream with a razor but would wait until he was older. The other men thought he was adorable with the shaving cream on his cheeks. And, of course, he was.
Then we went up to see the Men's Squash Lounge and watch some other boys playing squash. I think he was getting a kick out of being only where boys were allowed to go. After a little squash viewing and some more elligator riding, we went off to brunch where after discussing how boys need to eat protein, the Boy Child was indulged to his heart's content (and the boy has a big heart) with the dessert buffet. He was, by this point, getting in to the boy thing because he called across the dining room to me when a woman came in -- "Pappa! There's a girl here!" I explained that it was ok.
After brunch, we watched some more buses go by and then, appropriately re-covered up, we walked the five blocks up to the Plaza Hotel building to see where Eloise lives. That was exciting for him since he likes the Eloise books. Then, we went into Bergdorf's Men's Store so he could push the revolving door. That was the whole point of that visit, to go through that. After Bergdorf's we made our way down Madison Avenue, pausing whenever a bus went by to watch its progress up the avenue. We continued our walk down, turning East on 54th Street again, where we happened to pass by the B. Club. The B. is an all male, very exclusive private club and I am not a member. So, of course, we didn't hesitate but went right in where, after explaining to the attendant what our mission was, were invited into the inner sanctum to see the huge Christmas tree and to be treated to a discussion by the attendant of why being a boy was so cool.
After leaving the B., we wandered into Citicorp Center where I recalled they had their display of holiday trains. It is, hands down, the most elaborate display of model trains I have ever seen. We spent an hour looking at it and I only managed to entice The Boy Child away by mentioning the waffles at the Norwegian Seaman's Church, where we were going to stock up on supplies for the Viking Bride. We continued our walk over there, on 52nd between 2nd and 1st. Are you getting the impression that for a little boy he did a lot of walking? Well he did and with not a single word of complaint, either. We walked totally at his pace.
The people at the Church were very nice and we shopped and got waffles and coffee (he declined a cup, although I offered, much to the horror of the older women who may not have realized I was joking). After our visit, we went off to catch a bus down 2nd to go back to the train. To the Boy Child's huge delight, it was a "tic-ya-lated" bus (an articulated bus). We rode all the way down, got off, waited to watch it leave, and he held my hand and skipped all the way over to Grand Central Terminal so we could catch our train, the 3:07.
His wonderful behavior continued for the whole train ride home. And to cap off the perfect Boy's Day Out, he captivated a five year old girl who was really adorable. She kept coming over to show the Boy Child her stuffed dog. Her parents had to yell at her because she wanted to keep talking to him as their stop came up. She made sure to lean in at the window and wave to him as she walked down the station platform. He is sure going to break some hearts, I think.
All in all, it was just a grand way to spend a day. And I thought you all might enjoy reading about it.
The Girl Child lied to us last night. Not the end of the world, you know. Kids lie. Most people lie. However, I came down on her with great firmness to nip this problem in the bud. As I explained to her, a lie is the death of trust. If I cannot trust her, it will be just horrible. Besides, we cannot let her get away with lying now, when she isn’t quite six, because she was already showing flashes of brilliance in her lie last night. Heck, she could go pro one day.
Here’s what happened: she wrote her name on the fabric of the seat of one of the kitchen chairs.
Upon confronting her, here was her outstanding lie: “I don’t think that I wrote that. It doesn’t even look like my handwriting.” Damn, isn’t that great? She didn’t deny writing it just said she was uncertain. Then she gave supporting proof – the name did not resemble her handwriting. Note, she didn’t say that it wasn’t her handwriting; just that it didn’t look like it. It was subtlety on subtlety. Good one.
Just the same, we cannot let that continue. I explained to her that she was in more trouble for lying to me than she was for the graffiti.
* * *
I might as well share one other happening this weekend to show how the natives are getting restless, how rebellion is breaking out all over the house. The Viking Bride asked the Boy Child, 3.5, to clean up his toys. He thought for a moment, looked at her, and replied: “Ain’t happening”.
She laughed. Me, too. Almost as hard as when we were driving to the playground on Sunday and I spotted a Model-T driving along the Post Road. I pointed it out to the kids and the Girl Child, swiftly echoed by the Boy Child, exclaimed: “Sweeeeet”.
Finally, yesterday morning, the Baby awoke before the Viking Bride was prepared for him to wake and the Girl Child and the Boy Child were also up. GC, after asking for permission, went into the Baby’s room where the Viking Bride found her holding a book up over the crib so the Baby could see the pictures while she went over all the colors with him. I gather it was very cute.
Sunday was packed full of things to do. But we still managed, all of us, to steal away and let the kids take their shoes off and run around and play at the beach playground. It was a perfect afternoon for a spur of the moment beach visit.
I sat sort of in the middle of the playground under some shade with the baby on my chest as I kept an eye on the Girl Child who was playing with an old camp friend (the Girl Child was remarkably upfront about requesting that the mother of said camp friend push her on the tire swing). It was very peaceful as I sat there, rubbing my cheek against the baby's head and cooing at him while he tried to gum my thumb off. I actually started to relax.
And then came two mothers who sat beside me. One briefly remarked to me that our two daughters were in the same kindergarten class but, before I could introduce myself, she turned to her friend and they tuned me out. Oh, but I wish I could have tuned them out. See, they weren't just any two moms, they were Alpha-Moms. Alpha-Mom1 kicked things off by talking about her problems with her publishing company, about how she wasn't getting the support she needed, even though her book had, at one point, been below 1000 on Amazon for a whole week! Alpha-Mom2 really didn't have much to say about that, couldn't really top it, but did manage to express a lot of sympathy and support.
Then, however, the battleground shifted. It turned to their children. The big guns came out as they each tried to out do each other on the "my child is doing more interesting activities than your child front".
It was horrifying. They sat there and, in the name of good parenting, tried to top each other while pretending to share information. It went from soccer here ("if they get good enough, maybe they can be on traveling teams together!"), to ballet here, to tennis there, back to figure skating, and on. Alpha 2 got some of her own back against the book thing by pointing out that she had signed up for every available slot for lunch room monitoring and recess monitoring. Alpha 1 countered by playing up her own college athletics experiences (to look at this woman, you would be astounded to hear she ever broke a sweat on purpose, by the way) and then going into how she wanted her girl to learn how to play squash. That kind of topped it all since Alpha 2 had never even heard of squash.
[Full disclosure: I had already tried to sign the Girl Child up for squash but she has to wait until she's 7. I did it because I thought she'd like it and it would be fun for us to play together.]
As Alpha 1 extolled the virtues of squash and how she had played in college and all of her many triumphs on the squash court, I gave up. I got up and walked away. I couldn't take it any longer. My own anxiety level was shooting through the roof as I realized how poorly (read: sensibly) scheduled my daughter was. Seriously. I mean, I had heard of parents like these but never seen them in the wild, in their native habitat -- the playground.
I walked over to the parents of the kid my daughter was playing with, introduced myself, and begged for shelter. They kindly took me in and calmed me down.
Oh, I forgot, the only time the two Alphas paid any attention to me was when I had occasion to address a few remarks in Norwegian to the Girl Child. The two Alphas fell silent and then immediately wanted to know what language I was speaking to my daughter in. I have to think that the demand for Norwegian language tutors is going to skyrocket in Westport as a result. Just skyrocket.
Saturday was a busy day. I had the Boy Child and the Girl Child showered, dressed, fed and out of the house by 7:15 a.m. for an 8 o'clock dentist appointment. They both did very well at the dentist and loaded up on small things out of the prize chest -- stickers, plastic bugs, and cheap jewelry. On the way back to CT, we had the following exchange:
GC: Pappa, you better roll the windows up so our stickers don't blow out.
BC: Uh, oh! Girl Child, your butterfly necklace just blew out the window!
BC: I kidding.
GC: [tone: a little angry and very firm] Boy Child! Do NOT joke about jewelry blowing out the window!
Just so we're all clear. Some things, you just shouldn't joke about.
I don't mean to give the impression that she's a girly-girl. Far from it.
Me: GC, are you playing at all with that girl Sophie in your class?
GC: No, she's mean.
Me: Why do you say that?
GC: She says stupid things.
Me: Like what?
GC: Like girls should only play with girls and boys should only play with boys. That's stupid. I like to play with [rattles off a list of six boys].
One mother, who knew the GC from pre-school and is now a recess monitor at kindergarten, confirmed for me that while a lot of the girls like to sit around, the GC prefers to run around and play with the boys. Good for her, I say. In the long run, it is a healthier attitude.
I was putting the Girl Child to bed last night and we had the following interchange:
GC: Pappa, can I have some glue?
GC: To glue my little bench back together.
Me: Which bench?
GC: You know, the little one I got in Norway and which broke? Which clearly wasn't my fault since I said we should have left it in Norway.
I worry about her telling her teacher that she's "clearly" wrong. I mean, what amuses me. . .
The kids are at my parents' house for the weekend while I recuperate. My father called me last night to tell me about how the Girl Child set him straight on an issue and I wanted to record it so, here it is.
Grandfather: Boy Child! I need you to sit down right now and finish your dinner.
Girl Child: Grandpa, no, that isn't true. You don't need him to sit down and finish his dinner, you want him to sit down and finish his dinner.
I gather my dad was the tiniest bit flabergasted. As well he should be. I mean, she's only about 5 and a half.
So, we're sitting around the dinner table tonight. The Viking Bride, The Girl Child, the Boy Child, the Nanny and me. The following is a snippet of conversation:
GC: So, do you know. . .
Me: Who knows what evil lurks in men's hearts!?!
Total silence, blank looks from everyone but the Viking Bride
Me: The Shadow knows!
Nanny: Is that from a movie?
Me: No, it was from a radio show a long time ago, many moons ago, before they had television.
GC: [tone: genuine puzzlement] Was that the 1980's?
And just like that, your youth is their history book.
Ok, bearing in mind that my daughter is only 5 1/2 years old, I would like to point out that the following concept may not have been grasped even by adults.
We are driving back from the lovely Westport pool today and I had the following interchange with the Boy Child and the Girl Child.
BC: Pappa, are lifeguards nice?
Me: All the lifeguards I've met have been nice so I'd say that they are nice.
GC: But, Pappa, that doesn't mean anything. [I knew immediately what she was getting at here and I was blown away]
Me: Why not?
GC: Just because you've met some nice lifeguards doesn't mean that all the lifeguards in the whole world are nice.
I was really stunned. She's just 5 1/2 and here, it was clear, she was objecting to my generalizing about lifeguards as a class based on my limited personal experience. And she was certainly right to do so, I think.
I'm so proud of her.
Yesterday, the Boy Child was flush, rich, comfortably well-off. He got some coins out of my uncle's pockets. He clutched the coins in his hot little hand, looked at the Viking Bride and said:
I are the money man! But the money man has to pee. Can you hold my money?
Nice to see that money hasn't altered his sense of trust.
Very gently, tenderly, with some small confusion in her voice, the Girl Child tries to help me confront some of the inevitable facts of life.
I took the Girl Child and the Boy Child out for a drive on Sunday. We drove some of the back roads in Fairfield, CT, the next town over. Fairfield is lovely. Lots of old houses.
The Girl Child starts kindergarten come the autumn. She has been singing, â€śIâ€™m going to kindergarten, kindergarten here I come. Theyâ€™ve got a lot of higher education there and Iâ€™m gonna get me someâ€ť. Great excitement, you see. She knows that she is going to have homework. We were so informed and in turn we warned her. We told her that she would not need a desk yet because she would be doing her homework at the kitchen table where we could keep an eye on her. Really, what kind of homework do they give a kindergartner anyway?
So, back to Sunday and our ride. I spot a for sale sign on an old Federal style house along with a hot pink tag sale sign (link to real estate site, if you want to see what the house looked like). I should have a bumper sticker: â€śWarning, I brake for this kind of crap and I pull over and park on the side of the road as safely as I can but you should still be careful.â€ť Long, but safety is job one, you know. Anyway, we pull through the gates and wander about. There it is. An old school room desk and chair. The chair has the initials bored school children carved on the seat with their pocket knives when you could still bring knives to school. The desk has a hole for the old ink well. It was perfectly sized for a small child. It was also only $25. I didnâ€™t even try to negotiate. I just asked them to mark it sold while I dashed home to obtain a check. They were happy to hold it.
While driving back to the house, the kids and I had the following conversation:
Boy Child: Girl Child, Iâ€™m gonna be sad when you go to king-a-garden. You not gonna be there with me at home anymore.
Me: And Iâ€™m going to be sad, too.
GC: Why, pappa? Youâ€™re at work anyway.
Me: Because Iâ€™m not ready yet for you to grow up and it seems like you going to school is the first step in your growing up.
GC: [tone: puzzled, tentative, and gentle] Pappa, you know that time has to change, right? I mean, I have to go to school and grow up, right?
And there you have it. Even my daughter realizes this. Its just me who wants to hang on to the past. She was very sweet about it, though.
And she loves her new desk. It has a dark varnish on it that she notes will go well with her skin tone when she has a tan. We got it up to her room and she immediately put some paper in it.
I used to think it was just that she was 5 going on 13. I was way too conservative in my estimate. She's past her teenage years already. Tonight, while having dinner with my parents who came up to help us do a couple of things around the house (I bribed them with beer, burgers, and unrestricted access to the kids), my mother asked which of the ice creams we were serving was sugar free. And the Girl Child spoke:
Girl Child: Grandpa? Nana is allergic to sugar. . .
Grandpa: I know.
GC: Which is unfortunate.
Silence reigned for a moment as we all processed that remark. The Girl Child quietly continued with her ice cream.
Then, later tonight, I threw her pj's to her. It was not a good throw but she caught them just fine.
Me: Good catch! It was not a good throw.
GC: Pappa, it wasn't about the throw; it was all about the catch. [pause] It really wasn't a very good throw but it was an excellent catch.
Like I said. 25, at least.
Saturday began without direction, without plans, without any ambition other than to have no plans, no direction and no ambition. We were planned out, the Viking Bride and her dashing consort (that'd be me, in case you weren't sure), and still somewhat tired from the trip. The children and I were enjoying a quiet breakfast together en trois when I happened to notice a small advertisement in the local paper for an event that evening. I seized on it as a sign from above, as inspiration striking, and so, in a move not necessarily calculated to endear me to my bride, I picked up the phone and invited my parents to come out with us that night. Then I bought me some tickets.
Now, before I get to the main event, taking this as it came that day, we first had to hit the pool/ beach, as the weather was gawgeous. So we did. And then came naps for the kinder. And then, why then we headed off to bring the children to their first ever minor league baseball game.
There is something magical about minor league baseball. It was a lovely summer night, not too hot, cooling breezes, cold beer, hot dogs, and splendid seats five rows behind home plate on the first base side. We also had a view of the train tracks so the Boy Child could continue to shout, with great excitement, TRAIN!, every time a train went by. We had hot peanuts and the kids sampled cracker jacks for the first time. It was also kid hat giveaway night, which both puzzled and delighted them. The mascot was not as big a hit -- the teeth on that fish were just a bit too long for the comfort of the Boy Child.
But just sitting there, teaching the kids to yell, batterbatterbatter, swing, batter, was worth it. Even my father had a good time.
There is something wonderful about minor league ball, with the potato sack races and spin around the bat until you're dizzy races, and the giveaway Ct. Light and Power t-shirts they fling into the stands. Something so downright delightfully hokey, such a fun combination of not too serious marketing with the national pastime. I don't know, just sitting there in the stands of this intimate little stadium was uplifting. I tell you, baseball is healing.
My wife wants to go back for our next date night.
By the way, I think I had the nicest compliment from the Girl Child as I tucked her into bed last night. I asked her if she had a nice weekend (we also went to the pool and then a local fair to ride the rides on Sunday -- that we me petrified of heights climbing up the huge slide stair case to ride down with the Boy Child -- he was fine, I was terrified) and she said: "Pappa, it was the best weekend ever!" Take that, working parent guilt! Hah!
My son, the Boy Child, has a rather intimate relationship with his poopie. He's three and a half, remember. We had the following interchange I want to preserve. He was sitting on the potty while I was changing out of my suit.
BC: Pappa, the poopie wants me to move up on the seat.
Me: Ok. Did the poopie tell you that it wanted to move.
BC: Pappa. The poopie can't talk. Poopie don't have mouth. [tone: earnest, but thinking I'm an idiot]
Now, while the poopie cannot talk, it does have a keen sense of adventure, as shown by this conversation my wife just sent me:
The Boy Child calls from the bathroom: "someone come wipe me!" I step in to perform my maternal duty. Then he asks "where does the poopie go? does it go to the bushes to get some chicken nuggets? or no, maybe waffles? or does it go to the city to see the dinisaurs?"
The Girl Child is officially no longer a pre-schooler. She graduated in a lovely little ceremony this morning and I only cried at the end when they marched out and I thought I was seeing her march out into life and I wasn't ready yet. This, by the way, from the guy who needed to be warned in advance when the Girl Child was moving from newborn to size 1 diapers, ok, so take that into consideration.
She was the first one called to receive her diploma. It was alphabetical and not, as I posited to her teacher, because they were being called in order of academic standing. She waved her diploma in the air and several people called her name. These people were not related to me. Among the family attending were her grandmother and her great-grandmother.
I am so proud of her and I told her over lunch after the ceremony. The Girl Child, as her teachers pointed out, walked into that class room and didn't know a soul and immediately made three or four new best friends. Every mother I have met, or practically so, has said, "Oh, you're the Girl Child's father. My son/daughter always talks about her." The teachers said that there was never an off day for the Girl Child, that her enthusiasm never flagged, that her good will or spirits never dipped. She was just perfect. I think she changed at this school for the better. She used to be shy and hang back. She's now self confident and eager to jump into the middle of whatever activity is taking place. She grew taller and, if possible, even more beautiful.
As we left the reception, she was busy inviting her main teacher over for dinner.
Can you tell how proud I am of her? Probably.
The end of another school year is upon us, rather suddenly. The Girl Child graduates from pre-school tomorrow. I plan to attend. I will try not to cry too much. I will probably fail in that. But that's tomorrow. Yesterday was the last day of school for the Boy Child. He's finished his 2's program, his first year of school. I'm not sure that he grasps the idea that he won't have "Toni Class" any more. I am told that Toni, his teacher, was a mess yesterday, crying all over the place. The Boy Child was her favorite, or so she told us when she told us that, "you know, we're are not allowed to have favorites, ahem."
I had the kids on my bed last night for story reading, just the three of us. We often do that. After we finished reading, I gathered the Boy Child into my arms and spoke to him. I told him that I was so proud of him for finishing his first year of school. He asked me why so I elaborated. I told him that he learned so much, that he came to school barely speaking and now he speaks so beautifully, that he went to school in diapers and now wears underpants, that he learned how to play with others, how to do arts and crafts, how to sit for story time, how to celebrate Shabbot, and how to be his own little guy. The Girl Child then said that I would be prouder of her when she graduates and I gently told her that right now we were talking about the Boy Child and how much we loved him and how we were proud of him and she agreed that she was proud of him, too. Tomorrow, I told her, would be her day, and she was ok with that.
I then told him that he learned to be more independent. That when he started, he used to get so sad and cry and have to go out on the playground so the Girl Child could give him a hug and I asked him if he remembered this? He did and so did the Girl Child. And now, I told him, he doesn't have to do that and that in and of itself was a nice big change. He liked hearing about that and he and I and the Girl Child talked about it for a little bit.
He is such a beautiful little boy and when I told him that I loved him and that I was so proud of him, he glowed so bright he was practically incandescent. The Girl Child and I sat there and cuddled with him and basked in his happiness.
I still feel it now, so I decided to write about it.
The Boy Child does not like to be stampeded into a decision. He has begun to request information. He wants to gather all the facts before he's pushed into making a choice and the more important the choice, the more facts he wants. When asked what he wants for dinner, he now responds, in the spirit of diligent inquiry: "What mine options are?"
Imagine what he's like when the stakes are raised on a dessert question.
She can't take it anymore, that much is clear. The baby is having gas pains and it makes him cry very hard and with great gusto, a lot. Of course, we all feel for the little guy. Sometimes, say, at 2:30 a.m., it is more of a struggle to winch up a little water from the well of sympathy.
Normally, the Girl Child sleeps like a rock. Impossible to wake and, if woken before her self appointed hour, not the most gracious human I have ever seen. Falling asleep for her can take hours, but once asleep, she's good for a very long stretch.
Last night, I bathed the kids and put them to bed. The Viking Bride was feeding the baby in his room. All was quiet, all was calm. Then the crying started. That's when the Girl Child registered the following complaint with the management:
[arms up, hands out in front of her waving around for emphasis through the whole speech] Mamma, you know I can't sleep when the baby's crying. It keeps me up and I wake up in the morning exhausted. I don't know what you were thinking when you decided to have another baby. The first I knew of it was when you were in the hospital and Pappa told me. I am perfectly good with the brother I have. I don't need another brother on the other side. I knew I was going to be exhausted in the morning. I don't know what you were thinking having another baby. And his crying keeps me up all night.
Clearly, the pressure is getting to her and she just cracked.
You have to instill certain values in your children. I subscribe to the unpopular view that children are essentially savages, people who have no self control, no ability to separate desire from action, people who will take the shortest distance between wish and fulfillment, even if that means trampling all over someone else. I know that conflicts with the widely held belief that children are innocents, fuzzy little creatures of inherent goodness as glimpsed from afar through a pastel, impressionist like lens. Phooey. Because I believe the Lord of the Flies was probably a lot closer to truth than to fiction, I have (as I believe I have mentioned before) tried to raise my little ones to hit back and to hit in defense of each other. Simplicity itself, really.
If someone hits the Girl Child, she hits back. If she sees someone hit her brother, her obligation is to get her butt over there and defend her brother with her fists. These two concepts are so very useful. First, they are simple to understand. Second, it makes the Girl Child empowered -- she is responsible for defending her little brother (who, of course, is supposed to do the same thing for his sister) and there is no "I'm a girl" garbage and I can't hit. My little girl will learn to defend herself, will learn how to solve her own problems, and not rely on the kindness of strangers to either defend or protect her. In essence, I am trying to make her self-reliant.
It may be working.
We were at brunch with my parents and my mother in law yesterday for Mothers' Day. We took them to our little beach club and after lunch the kids played on the lawn with some of their Summer friends, the kids they only see at the beach during the Summer. The Boy Child was amusing himself with a purple frisbee when some older child tried to snatch it out of his hands. The older child did not take no for an answer and hit my son. The Girl Child practically flew across the lawn, after witnessing the altercation, and smacked the kid. The kid then hit my daughter who, immediately, smacked him back much harder and the kid retreated from the field.
Telling you that I was bursting with pride would understate my feelings. She stood up for herself, she made it clear that she would not accept being hit or being a target, and she protected her brother.
They both came running over to tell me about it, not knowing, I suppose, that I had seen the whole thing. My son was all for saddling up and heading off in hot pursuit of "that stupid boy", but I gently dissuaded him, trying to let him down gently that the moment for hitting back in his own defense had passed now that the "stupid boy" had run away.
They acted just the way I had hoped they would. Without hesitation, to protect each other.
I guess they do listen.
On a different topic, I thought that the Boy Child said something very charmingly profound this weekend.
Boy Child: Pappa, are you an grownup?
Me: Yes, I am. Are you a grownup?
BC: No, I are not an grownup. I are an someone.
My daughter has discovered that she can use the phone by herself now if someone reads her the number off the wall. Life is over.
She wished to have a playdate with friend A. She called friend A, I'm told, spoke to the mother, took our home calendar down, and proposed a free date to friend's mother. Mother said she'd call her back. The Girl Child did not wait patiently and at 5 minute intervals proposed calling back. I demurred. So, flushed with the joy of success from her first solo phone venture, she requested a playdate with friend B. I consented and handed her the phone. This time I got to listen and even take part.
Girl Child: Hello, this is Girl Child. I'm calling to arrange a play date with Friend. I'm free on Friday, is that good for her? [pause] Ok, I'll put my father on.
[Now, just so you know, I really like this woman]
Mother: Hi, she did that so nicely but Friday's not going to work, how about next week?
Me: That would be fine. Yeah, I was really pleased with her phone manners, actually.
Mother: How's your wife?
Me: My wife? She's a good wife. No, really. I mean, no, she's a really good wife. Why? What have you heard? What are people saying?
Mother: I meant, I mean, didn't she just have a baby?
Me: Oh yeah. That. Yeah, she's a little whiny but otherwise doing great. Thanks for asking!
See why my daughter wants to cut me out of the play date making process?
I'm going to be such an embarrassment to her when she's older. No question about it.
I have fulfilled my promise and played my role in the unbroken covenant dating back 3500 years to Abraham. My son has had his bris. He did beautifully, although my father had to be cautioned by the mohel to hold the boy's legs more firmly and a bit more carefully. The boy is rather strong, according to the mohel.
The attendance was low but the important ones managed to come.
I wore my grandfather's yarmulke for the ceremony. It was the first time I had put it on, ever. My grandmother had made it for him. He wore it all the time I knew him. The cantor said it was Bukharan in style, which I did not know. It was a difficult moment for me. The bris for the boy named for my grandfather and my wearing his yarmulke. I took it out of his tallis bag and closed the bag up. I had been delaying, coming up with reason after reason to avoid taking possession of these things from my mom. It doesnâ€™t take a genius to figure out why. But I wore it.
After the bris, we hung it with our guests and then went for a long lunch at our old beach club. The kids frolicked on the lawn next to the ocean. It was a spectacular day. I drove everyone back home for a little while and we returned to Westchester that evening for the Seder.
The Girl Child sang the four questions in Hebrew. She's five years old. She is now officially more accomplished than I am.
We didn't get home from the Seder until almost 10:00. We were all terribly tired. The children had not napped and I have not had a complete night's sleep in days, if not longer. I put them to bed and went to my room to unpack from the day.
It had been a momentous day. We welcomed our son into the world in a spiritual, ritual way and we celebrated the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It was quite a day.
I opened my grandfather's tallis bag to replace within it his, now my, yarmulke. I don't know why I did the following, what prompted me to do this, but I put my face to his tallis bag and inhaled.
He has been dead since December, my beloved grandfather. I miss him more than I can possibly relate. I thought I was doing better with his death.
But the tallis bag. Oh, my. The bag smelled of him. I could smell his particular scent in it still. The scent I used to smell when I hugged him or sat next to him. I can't describe it but it was ineluctably his, this scent. I closed the bag immediately and began to struggle not to cry. It was such a blow, such an unexpected punch to suddenly find him there in that bag, there in the room with me. I shut the bag quickly so I could, as if I really could, preserve the smell, not expose it to air, bottle it for later, hold on to that dear man for a little bit longer.
Right now, the scent was too much for me. I'm not going to tell my mother or uncles about it, I don't think. Maybe later it will be a comfort to me but right now that faint scent is overwhelming.
I miss him so much that I have given my son his name. Although, right now, I have difficulty calling my son by his given name. Instead, I call him by the nickname my daughter has bestowed upon him and I find that easier.
I'm going to hug that bag to my chest, you know, and pray for the time that it becomes a comfort to me and not a trial.
I just slept for the last 40 minutes or so and am feeling marginally more human. It was an early start to the day (alarm at 3:40 a.m.) after a difficult night with the little guy, mostly difficult for my wife but I was up a bit, too. I had to get up so early to meet the new nanny at the airport at 5:20. It is about an hour's drive from her to Kennedy airport.
So, it was about 4:00 when I went downstairs this morning to quickly make some coffee before heading off and I heard some suspicious little feet pattering away upstairs. I went up to investigate and found the Boy Child and the Girl Child coming out of her room:
BC: Pappa, me so thirsty, me have some freshWAter, please?
GC: Pappa, he's really thirsty and wants some fresh water. My water on my night table is a little old.
Me: What was he doing in your room?
GC: Oh, he slept in my bed because he said he was scared.
I picked him up and carried him downstairs where I got him some fresh water and brought him back up and tucked him and the Girl Child back into her bed, hoping they'd get to sleep.
They didn't. I heard more footsteps moving around quickly upstairs.
Then my wife came down. Now, this is how you know you've married a good one, ok. It is just past 4:00 in the morning, your wife has been up and then asleep and then up and then asleep throughout the night, she has just been woken up by the other kids, and she reports to you with great humor:
You realize that you are leaving me all alone in the house with two members of the five and under crowd engaged in an active search upstairs for the prophet Elijah? At least, that's what they said they were looking for when they just came into our room and woke me up.
They are some lucky kids, I tell you. If I tried that, I'd have had some violence committed on my person.
The bris for the new guy, by the way, will be on Wednesday.
I would say we've made a few changes for the Girl Child and Boy Child this weekend. We've brought home a new brother for them, fired the nanny (that went very well, actually), are bringing the new nanny in to start tomorrow, and have put the Boy Child in a big boy bed. The Boy Child is still wearing a diaper at night (age 3) because he keeps peeing in the night. The following is what transpired this morning when I crawled into bed with him to cuddle with him after he woke up:
Me: Did you pee in your diaper last night?
BC: Weeeel, I went to the potty a lot last night.
Me: Yes, but did you pee in your diaper?
BC: Mamma changed me last night [tone: earnest]
Me: Ok, but did you pee in your diaper?
BC: [sighs] Oh, dear. Maybe a lot.
I was so proud of him and his attempts to answer my questions without actually answering them. I think he's close to ready for national elective office.
I blocked it all from my memory. How bad the incomplete night is. I didn't get the brunt of it, I just took the 1:00 to 2:30 shift when, remembering that I was going to have to watch the two older children, I passed the new guy back to his mother.
Everything hurts -- head, neck, back. Not to whine, because no matter how bad I feel I can guarantee that my wife feels worse.
Sitting here right now with the older kids, I made the Girl Child (age 5) laugh:
Me: Girl Child, your hair looks so pretty since we got it cut. She did such a nice job.
GC: No, it doesn't. It looks stupid.
Me: Yeah, but it looks pretty stupid!
She laughed really hard. Gotta love a 5 year old with a good sense of humor.
I have to go make more coffee. Bye.
Here I sit. Quite tired, a beer filled glass at my feet, the baby monitors buzzing quietly behind me, my equally tired children sleeping upstairs, and a gigantic pile of clean newborn sized baby laundry that I washed in between assembling the cradle, going to the pharmacy, returning client phone calls and family phone calls, cleaning the new baby's room and sorting all his clothes, and visiting the wife and new child (who I still don't know what to call for my blog).
The Boy Child and Girl Child shared a picnic dinner on the floor of the Viking Bride's room tonight. They had McDonald Happy Meals, beloved of children everywhere, and the wife and I shared a celebratory meal that the hospital gives all new parents. Quite good actually (seriously), although if you give birth at Greenwich Hospital any of you out there, I urge you not to bother opening the bottle of NY State Champagne. Don't say I didn't warn you, ok?
Hopefully, the new guy will get released tomorrow from the NICU, where he has been kept as his blood sugar has not been stellar and he is still quite a tiny little fellow. I am optimistic that they will allow us to bring him home tomorrow. They kick the Viking Bride to the curb by 11:00.
Well, the mound of laundry ain't folding itself, so I must go.
Before I go, though, thank you all for this unexpected outpouring of support and happiness and good wishes and all the wonderful thoughts you all were sending our way. Even if it didn't influence the outcome (no way to know, of course but I figure it surely didn't hurt), it certainly touched my heart and I am terribly grateful. Thank you all so very much.
I came through the door last night into the kitchen and could see my family in the dining room, the room next to the kitchen. They were all playing on the floor. My wife, 8 months pregnant, was actually on the floor letting the kids take turns riding on her back. She didn't see me come in. The Boy Child announced my presence:
BC: Mamma! Is him!
Mamma: Hvem? (Who, in Norwegian)
BC: Him! Your friend Pappa!
I don't know why I thought that was so funny but I did. Maybe because it was interesting to see how his mind worked in terms of figuring out his mother's and my relationship.
In any event, later we read a story with the word "salute" in it and, if he remembers, I have him primed to go into his classroom today and say hello to his teachers by announcing: "Greetings and Salutations!" We'll see. Keep your fingers crossed.
Before I dash off to Court for a hearing on a preliminary injunction, let me share the following, very quickly. We're in the car on Sunday and pull in to the gas station to fill the beast up. In front of us is an older guy who is getting back into his car, the driver door swung so wide open that we cannot move around him. So we wait while he re-enters his car. And we wait. And I comment, something along the lines of: C'mon Sparky, any slower and you'd be moving backwards! I'm none for my patience, you see.
And from the backseat, the Boy Child and the Girl Child, it was impossible to tell who began the chant, they sang out practically in unison, came, loudly:
Who let the dogs out?!?!?!
WHO, WHO??!!!??!! [last bit barked out like a dog]
You can't teach that kind of thing, you know. All you can do is share the rich cultural bounty that is our collective heritage and then rely on the wisdom of the 3 and 5 year old as to when it is appropriate to use it.
I'm so proud.
My wife and I laughed very hard.
We spent much of Sunday going from our house in Connecticut to the birthday of the daughter of our college room mate in New Jersey. Between 3 and 4 hours of driving, all told. The kids were terrific in the car. Just fine.
The Girl Child sang to us almost the entire ride back, making up songs, performing them, and then quizzing us on what our favorite parts of her inventions were. At one point in the ride, the following transpired:
GC: Hey, Boy Child, you sing now while I have something to drink, ok?
BC: OK. [Sings as commanded]
GC: Great! Now, weâ€™re going to sing a rockinâ€™ song!
Me: You mean, like â€śRockinâ€™ Robinâ€ť? [Which I then went on to sing for her]
GC: No, Pappa. When I said rockinâ€™ song, I didnâ€™t mean a song that had rockinâ€™ in it; I meant a song that was groovinâ€™
Oh. Silly me. Where did she ever learn the word â€śgroovinâ€™â€ť? She's only five.
The Viking Bride was at the doctor today for her usual pre-natal checkup and she received some interesting news. Because of her medical complications, which I have not written about here, her doctor told her that he was going to do a planned induction for the baby's birth. This means that she's having the baby by appointment. Her labor by appointment is scheduled for April 21. Fortunately, I don't seem to have other plans for that day. But you never know what may crop up in the intervening days, of course. Still, I will endeavor to hold the day open.
Seriously, my wife is quite happy to at least have an outside date. Given her other pregnancies, this really is just an outside date and, well, you never know.
We still donâ€™t know what the new baby will be: boy or girl. Iâ€™m kind of interested to find out, though. Ultimately, as long as the child is healthy I do not care a whit about what s/he has between the legs. Just be healthy. Thatâ€™s all I ask and I hope it isnâ€™t too much.
Today, my angelic looking golden haired, green (they seem to be changing color) eyed boy turns three. He is very excited. "People come mine party?!?" Yes, people come his party. On Saturday.
I did an entry last year about his birthday and I doubt I can improve on it, so: The Birth of the Boy Child.
I'm leaving early today to take them all out for pizza, a child's best friend. Hopefully, I will not forget to get cupcakes.
If I get a chance later, I will blog about the lovely long weekend away with the Viking Bride. However, I may not get to it right away while this experience, this one I wanted to memorialize right away before any of the details faded.
The Boy Child has taken the word no, internalized it, and turned it around as his new mantra. Everything not involving candy/cookies/dessert is no. Everything. To say that this tests my patience, the little I have, is sometimes distressingly clear, despite my very best efforts. Last night, maybe, my efforts were not as good as they should have been and I snapped at him. Not loud and not hard and not mean, but I was certainly exasperated and short.
The Boy Child reminds me, at times, of our old Kuvasz. My wife will understand. The Kuvasz is a very sensitive animal. The Boy Child is a very sensitive animal. You have to be careful with both. You really have to pick your moments if you intend to yell at either one. Neither took it well. The Kuvasz would hide his 120 pound white furred body on the black couch. The Boy Child will burst into tears and seek his mother's arms. I know this.
After being short with him, he left the Girl Child's room, I was trying to get them both to bed, and sought out his mother's tender embrace. His mother is a bit exasperated with the constant "nei, nei, nei" (no in Norwegian) that she gets, too. I got the Girl Child into bed. Good. I went in to collect the Boy Child from his mother because the Viking Bride can't really lift him so easily in this the sixth month of her pregnancy.
At his mother's urging, he apologized for his earlier disobedience, which I had actually kind of forgotten about, especially since I was just sort of a little ticked and not really angry before. I told him it was ok and that I forgave him and I thanked him for saying he was sorry. Then I picked him up to cuddle him while my wife went to bid good night to the Girl Child (who, by the way, knowing that her mother's back bothers her, untucks herself to stand on the bed to receive her good night hug and kiss so that her mother does not have to bend down to give them).
After we cuddled, I put him down to sleep. The room was dark, lit only by the nightlight. He lay with his head on the baby blanket he uses for a pillow, having rejected all other pillows but the blanket my mother knit for him. I stroked his fine and golden hair and told him that I loved him and, as I ran my fingers through his head, he told me the following:
You hurt mine feelings.
Me: I know, honey, and I'm so sorry.
BC: Not nice, make people sad.
I know it isn't. And years from now, when you read this, it will be more than ok for you to know that when you told me that I hurt your feelings, I had to choke back a sob. It was a very close thing as to whether I was going to cry.
So, an important reminder, words to live by, whatever: Not nice, make people sad.
As you may recall, we took the children to the local police and fire stations on the day after New Yearâ€™s this year to deliver home made cookies. While visiting the very nice firemen, the kids got a small lecture on the 911 system and what to do in an emergency. With that background out of the way, let me get to the anecdote.
Last night, we went to the dentist. It was the Girl Childâ€™s appointment but we brought the Boy Child, too. His first visit and I wanted him to get accustomed to the place and see that nothing scary was going to happen to his sister. Fine. No problems. He sat up in her lap after her appointment and even let the hygienist count and clean his teeth. They both particularly liked Mr. Thirsty, the thing that sucks all the water out of your mouth. I took a picture of them sitting there together with my camera phone. Not the greatest picture, but still.
After the appointment, while the kids were rooting around in the â€śTreasure Chestâ€ť, picking out toys, I had a nice chat with the dentist who, along with several other people in the office, passed along their condolences about my grandfather. For awhile there, the dentist was actually treating four generations of the same family. I wasnâ€™t watching what the kids picked too closely, but, I gather, the Boy Child wanted exactly what the Girl Child wanted and so they both left clutching a plastic ring and a bracelet. Fair enough. Both happy, both with bright shiny teeth.
This morning, the Boy Child headed downstairs to retrieve, first thing, his ring and bracelet. He stayed, according to my wife, down there for a little while before coming upstairs where, the following took place:
BC: Mamma, mine bracelet is broken. Call 911!
Mamma: Boy Child, we only call 911 if there is a big emergency. We canâ€™t call 911 for this.
BC: [Looks at her for a moment, considers her words and either decides to reject them or decides that this is a big emergency, and picks up the phone] 911!?! Mine bracelet is broken. Mine ring is not broken. Mine bracelet is broken. Come fix it?
Looks like the lecture that the firemen gave him really sunk in. Who says kids today donâ€™t listen?
The Viking Bride (who, by the way, very much appreciates all of the kind birthday wishes you all left her!) told me about an interaction she had with the Boy Child that, I felt, cried out for memorialization. The BC, you see, has become quite the poopy afficionado. He has come to realize that the act of pooping creates a reward. As he has a sweet tooth the size of the Empire State Building, a piece of candy is a huge motivating force for him. The Girl Child is his biggest cheerleader as she also gets rewarded for his hard work. Can't leave one of them out on the candy distribution. She will usually accompany him, at his request, and she gets down to potty level to peer intently at his tuchus to cheer at the first appearance of the poopy. "Yay, BC!", you will hear ring through out the house.
The BC has the exchange rate down cold. "Me poop on potty, me get marzipan". He regularly checks this fundamental point with us as if to make sure there have been no changes in circumstances, no problems on our end he should be aware of.
But a problem on his end, well, that was the subject of the conversation he had with my wife.
As she reported to me, they were in the potty together, the Boy Child perched on the seat:
BC: Mamma, poopy no come out!
BC: [Leans forward to look between his legs, speaks very angrily and with great command in his tone] Poopy! Me need you come OUT!!
[Waits a beat and yells at his bottom] COME ON, POOPY!!!
I believe that, at the end, the poopy listened and the marzipan was distributed.
* * *
By the way, we are once again without power and once again bunking in with the wife's inlaws. Who knew that Connecticut and Bangladesh had so much in common?
The Girl Child was with my mother yesterday, thanks to the power outage on Sunday (stay tuned, sportsfans, another storm with high winds headed our way!) And my mother related to me the following conversation:
GC: Nanna, do you still love H (my recently deceased maternal grandfather)?
N: Of course, I do, honey.
GC: Is it ok that I still love H, too?
N: Of course. Why do you ask?
GC: I wasn't sure if it was ok to keep loving people after they died and I knew you were really sad after he died so I wanted to wait to ask you until you were a little less sad.
We all miss him very much still.
Today is the anniversary of the birth of my first child, she who I call on this blog the Girl Child, a most remarkable/astounding creature by any measure. While I was out of the house again this morning, as is my routine, long before sun up, I left her a birthday card on the kitchen table, along with some presents she will open with my wife (who beautifully wrapped them). To say she is excited about her birthday would be a gross understatement. She has been counting down the days for weeks now.
This was most of my entry last year, on the subject:
January 12, 2001, my wife and I were at NY Hospital, 65th and the River, and at precisely 10:00 that morning, my wife gave birth to our first child, the Girl Child. Shortly after giving birth, my wife basically passed out and remained passed out for about an hour and a half. That meant that when they finished weighing the little thing, they brought her to me. Now, she was crying her little heart out, not at all happy to be taken from her mother's womb and pushed out into a cold, January morning. But, happily for the Girl Child, I listened to an old nurse some months back at the hospital who counseled us to speak to the baby while in the womb. She said it would be helpful at the time of delivery. So, every night, I used to read to my wife's belly and otherwise just chat to it for awhile. The result was that when the nurse handed me my little wrapped up bundle of shrieking baby, and I cuddled her to my neck and spoke soothingly to her, she stopped crying, let out a little sigh, and snuggled into my neck, totally at peace. It was altogether magical and I sat there with her, talking quietly to her, until the nurses made me give her back to be taken to the nursery.
That was five years ago, today.
Happy birthday, my daughter, and many, many more!
He's feeling his oats, got a bit of a swagger to his step, is taking charge and is not afraid to let you know it. He's also about 6 weeks away from being three years old.
This weekend, he says to his mother:
"Mamma, go sit couch. You in time out. You trouble!"
Last night, getting ready for bed, it was my turn:
BC: Pappa, you no drink my milk. You drink my milk, police come, take you away put you in jail.
Me: Why would they put me in jail?
BC: You drink me milk, you get sick. [Looks defiantly at me and says with emphasis] That is mine reason.
Me: Got it. Don't drink your milk. Check.
Also, two nights ago, we had the following exchange:
Me: Boy Child, do not push your sister off that stool! You could hurt her!
BC: [Outrage written all over his face; shaking his finger at me for emphasis] NO. SAY. THAT. WORD. ME!!!!
Me: What word, honey? What word are you objecting to?
BC: [Intense concentration, pause] Me no know what word. Me no ha'member.
Me: Well, if you can't tell me the word, how can I not say it?
BC: [sighs dejectedly] Me know.
I think its gonna be a long ride. Fun, but long.
A caution, swallow your coffee before clicking on the link.
Suppress your usual cynicism if you will and venture back with me to a more innocent time, to yesterday, actually. Yesterday was kind of a throw back to a more innocent time.
We awoke early, the children and I. After a quick breakfast, and under the gimlet eye of the Viking Bride, baker par excellence, the Girl Child and I prepared a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. We carefully measured, mixed, smelled, and placed spoonfuls of batter onto cookie sheets. We baked them and wrapped the results in tin foil clad paper plates â€“ two of them â€“ and placed bows on the packages.
Then we got dressed up and went off, the whole family, to deliver the cookies â€“ one package to the local fire house and one to the local police station. Both to wish our public servants a happy new year and to thank them for protecting us and keeping us safe. The Girl Child presented both packages. It was a great success.
The firemen were quite happy to see us and the cookies and the Girl Child presented the package with her thanks and best wishes. The Boy Child immediately began agitating for the Fire Chief to open the package, to the Chiefâ€™s delight. The fireman then gave us all a 45 minute tour of the firehouse. The kids got to sit in the driverâ€™s seats of all the trucks, got to ring bells, and mess up the computers in the trucks. They showed us the equipment they keep on the rescue trucks and talked generally about some of the rescues they had been at. The kids got plastic fire hats they had to wear in the garage and on the trucks. It was just lovely.
Then, off we went to the police station. The Boy Child has kind of a thing about policemen. He sort of fears them. They have been involved in nightmares in the past (â€śPoliceman come up in my bed and bite meg (pronounced my and means me in Norwegian)â€ť). So, knowing this, the Girl Child issued the appropriate caution as we drove up: â€śOk, Boy Child, when we get to the police station, you are not allowed to say, â€śPoliceman dumb dumbâ€ť. The Boy Child promised. The police station was a bit more buttoned down than the fire station, more security, etc. But they still let us in and seemed really pleased to get the cookies. They asked for our name and address so, I hope, to send the kids a thank you note. The kids got badge stickers and life savers and we all got to see the communications room and say hi to the other policemen.
I think the kids really enjoyed everything. They had fun meeting people and learned, I hope, that saying thank you can be rewarding in and of itself.
Then we went off to the Gap. The kids got gift cards from the parents of our first nanny. The Girl Child referred to it as her credit card. We told them that the money was theirs and they could pick out whatever they wanted to buy with it. As you may imagine, the excitement level was high. The Girl Child chose a pick fluffy bathrobe (â€śNow weâ€™re twins, Pappa!â€ť (although I note that my bathrobe is blue)) and the Boy Child picked out some pjâ€™s with cars on them. Both were very pleased with their choices. Very.
Then we took them off to lunch at a mediocre barbeque joint. The Girl Child and I colored on the paper tablecloth together.
Then, home for naps (mine and theirs!). Post nap, a clean up of the play room and incorporation of the new toys into the existing toys and dinner.
All in all, a genuinely lovely day, even if it was so wholesome as to make you gag!
At the risk of revealing too much in the way of domestic arrangements information, I will share with you the few small words passing between the Boy Child and me last night, long after he should have been asleep:
Boy Child (from bed): Mamma!
Me (arriving on scene): Yes, honey.
BC: Pappa? Mamma come check on me?
Me: No, honey, Mamma is in bed and asleep.
BC: Oh. (looks closer at me) Pappa, nagunk? (Nagunk is his combination of naked and naken -- Norwegian for naked).
Me: Yes, honey, I'm nagunk.
BC: Pappa go up in Mamma's bed nagunk???
Me: Yes, honey.
And he went happily back to sleep after we cleared that up. I have no idea what it means but I was vastly amused.
The Boy Child, at school yesterday, was bitten by one of his classmates while playing at being animals. The teacher described it as coming to her attention thanks to a blood-curdling scream. She explained that no skin was broken and no bleeding took place and the Boy Child was given ice for his arm. I really wasn't fussed, I must confess and I told the teacher, "no blood, no foul".
So, we all stood there, his teachers, me, and the Boy Child and I looked down at his beautiful face and I asked him, gently, what happened.
He told me: "people bite me up i my crass".
Someone bit you in your class?
And what happened next?
"Teacher hente meg ice" (my teacher got me ice).
Well, next time someone bites you, you bite them back, ok?
His teachers laughed. They thought I was kidding.
The Girl Child didn't think I was kidding. The first thing she asked her brother when she heard about it was, "did you bite them back?" And then she told him, next time someone hurts you, you hit them back. Or pull their hair.
She understands. I've explained the hitting rules to her before. She is allowed to hit only if someone hits her or if someone hits her brother.
You have to stand up for yourself and for yours in this world. No one else will do it for you.
Last night was devoted to walking the streets with the children as we engaged in a mild form of extortion, demanding protection candy as a form of insurance for the next year. Everyone paid; nobody got hurt.
Well, the Girl Child got hurt. She got run down by someone in the pack of children she was trying to keep up with. Her bag got a little scrunched, she claims, and this made her very sad. We were off trick or treating with some friends and their children and the Girl Child was the youngest of the group, not including the Boy Child who, while with the group, was not not of the group. She started by holding my hand and walking with me. By the middle of the excursion, she told me that she did not want to hold my hand anymore and made it clear that she wanted to go with the bigger kids. I allowed her, with some reservations. Then she skinned her knee and her hand when she fell or was pushed. After that, she stuck closer by and held my hand. Also, she was getting tired.
The kids were adorable, though. She was a witch and he was a "blue toot-toot guy", a train engineer in a blue hat. They thanked everyone who gave them candy and said trick or treat after they deposited the candy in their bags and they resisted correction on the timing of the salutation. I didn't try very hard to correct them and really why should I?
They have had a good week. On Sunday, we took them to the Circus when Ringling Bros, etc., came to the arena in Bridgeport. Such excitement, so much cotton candy. Their pleasure in the cotton candy was balanced by my shock at having to pay $9 for the bag of it. I thought that was astonishing. What impressed the Boy Child the most, you may wonder? Was it the elephants, the lions, the acrobats? No, it was a very short skit with two clowns and a giant toothbrush. He is still talking about the "teethbrush" and going to visit it again.
On Saturday, we all trooped off to a military museum in Danbury. They were having an "open turret" day and that meant we could climb on the tanks and look inside and climb into the other vehicles. The kids and I had a marvelous time. My father in law is a military history buff and, while we were clambering on the tanks, he was deep in conversation with a volunteer guide.
All in all, a successful day. Indeed, if not for the nanny situation, it would have been quite a wonderful weekend.
Here's a good way not to quit a job. I learned this from our last nanny who, speaking of last, lasted only 4 weeks before cleaning out her room and leaving us a note to inform us that she was quitting. I wouldn't have found the note on Friday (the day she fled) if I had not gone into her room to close the storm windows on her windows. I am sure we were not meant to find the note before Sunday. Unfortunately for her, my concern for her comfort (closing the storms), meant that we found the note with sufficient time to stop payment on her last paycheck (she had a couple of hundred dollars in personal expenses on our American Express card that I was NOT prepared to eat, thank you very much, and I noticed she neglected to leave us a check for that on her way out, a pure oversight, I'm sure).
I am furious. To leave without notice, without warning, without giving us a chance to find someone new, without even saying goodbye to the children, this is so terribly irresponsible.
We interviewed another nanny on Saturday. She would have been a good fit for us. Unfortunately, she "prayed on it" and let's say, merely, that G-d was not with us on this one. She didn't put it like that to me this morning, but that was the upshot.
We would be in a hell of a bind right now if it were not for my in-laws staying with us and pitching in. The in-laws presence makes this a mitigated disaster.
The time for us to find someone new is limited, however, and, while I suspect it will work out just fine in the long run, the stress in the short run is not at all welcome.
Ah, well, off to make some more phone calls.
I'm very touched by all the nice comments and good wishes you all have sent our way! We're a bit nervous about it all since, without going into detail, the last two pregnancies, while they have produced wonderful and beautiful children, were not very easy on the Viking Bride, not to mention her long suffering mate (that'd be me).
I'm kind of amused by some of the naming suggestions you all have offered. However, I would point out that we ourselves are constrained by the need to have whatever name we choose be easy to pronounce in Norwegian. Recall, if you will, that the Viking Bride speaks only Norwegian to the kids. If we can't pronounce the name in both English and Norwegian, it just ain't gonna fly. That requirement narrows our field of choice considerably.
Also, as some of you have helpfully pointed out, I have a naming problem for the child to be. I have a Girl Child and I have a Boy Child, already. What am I going to call this new child on my blog? Beats me. However, while still in utero, I will be referring to said new child as BNT, for Baby Number Three. Hope that helps. Any suggestions you all care to make to help me solve this problem would be greatly appreciated.
Well? Any guesses?
The answer to the unknown question is Jaquavius.
Say it out loud to yourself. Ja--QUAV--ius. Has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? A certain majesty, even. Kind of a Roman Empire vibe, no?
And yet, inexplicably, even capriciously, my wife, she who shall henceforth be called, "The Viking Bride", has, in the grossest and most disturbing unilateral exercise of power, rejected Jaquavius.
I speak the truth. She really has rejected this answer.
It seems that she thinks that would not be an appropriate name for our third child.
Did I mention that she's pregnant? 12 weeks along now.
By the way, whether I happen to agree with her that we will not be naming our new baby Jaquavius is totally besides the point. Of course, with apologies to any Jaquavius's out there, we will not be naming our child that.
But it does have a certain ring to it, no?
We had the best, most magical day today. The whole day was really outstanding, the driving aside.
It was raining buckets and sheets today and the parkway was full of deceptively larged puddles that caused hydroplaning and loss of control in several spots. In fact, it didn't stop raining at any point the whole day. That to one side, pretty much everything else was excellent.
We set off to New York City at around 9, me, wife, two kids and nanny (along as a guest, not as a worker) and arrived at Scandinavian House at around 10:45. We were going to attend a special children's book reading:
Princes MĂ¤rtha Louise of Norway reads her newly published children's book, Why Kings & Queens Don't Wear Crowns (Hvorfor de kongelige ikke har krone pĂĄ hodet) (Skandisk, Inc., 2005).
It was supposed to start at 11:30 but we wanted to get there early to make sure we could get tickets. While we were chasing the children around the lobby, a distinguished looking gentleman in a tie and coat approached my wife and inquired, gently, if she and the children were Norwegian. Upon being told they were, he invited us to take part in a private, invitation only reception for the Princess. Coool. We were escorted up in the elevator and hung out until the Princess made her entrance. There weren't more than 15 people at the private reception. The kids were excited to meet her, with the Boy Child practicing saying, "Harow, Pin-cess!", right up until the point she arrived when they got a major case of the shys. I actually had to bribe the Boy Child to say hello. Candy works miracles. This was one of the first outright bribes I ever bothered to resort to.
The Princess was way more attractive than I expected. And very nice, too. No one was really talking to her. I think that there may be an etiquette issue about speaking to royalty. Well, I'm American and I sort of assume that doesn't apply to me. So, we had a short but very pleasant chat about her time in New York. I'm glad I wore a jacket. She seemed pleased that someone spoke to her.
By the time we went down to the auditorium, we were among the last ones there and the place was filled. Except for the two rows up front which all had reserved signs taped to the chairs. We were directed to those seats. Again, cool.
I bought a copy of her book while everyone else sat down. Nice illustrations, by the way.
The Princess really was quite excellent. She told stories about trolls and stories about growing up as a Princess in Norway. The kids got to sit in front of her on the stage. It was, actually, a big media event with tons of photographers. My kids ended up getting filmed for Norwegian television because of how cute they were. Really. The Boy Child insisted on sitting on his sister's lap and she welcomed him and they just looked so darn cute together.
She read from her book and then they brought in a table for her to sit at to sign books. Because of our placement, we were around the first four or five people on line to get the book signed. The line stretched around the auditorium and out the door.
My wife went up with the Girl Child. When they got up there, the Princess looked up with a bright and wide smile. I had to wait until later to hear what happened.
GC and Viking Bride approach Princess and GC says, in Norwegian: Princess, would you like to come have lunch with us afterwards?
Princess: I would have loved to but I am having lunch with someone else today but maybe next time!
The Viking Bride wished her a safe trip back and they moved on.
I was, again, quite proud of the Girl Child. So self-possessed! Good for her!
We moved on to lunch at a private club nearby where we raided the coldcuts, made sandwiches and stole chips off each other's plates. I changed the Boy Child in the locker room of the men's fitness center. Thankfully, the only two guys in there were my friends and they didn't seem to mind.
After lunch, we ventured back out into the rain and retrieved the car from the garage to head off to the Norwegian Seaman's Church to stock up on chocolate. Well, chocolate stocks were low, but they did have a fresh cake, fresh waffles, and risgroet! Happiness was shared by all! The coffee was good too. After cake and waffles, one of the very nice ladies set the kids up with papers and magic markers and they happily scribbled away. The Boy Child was scribbling on his face, as well.
One amusing interchange. The Boy Child was scribbling away on another boy's paper and I overheard the following:
Boy to GC about the Boy Child (outraged): Hey! He's coloring on my paper!
GC to Boy (very calm): Its alright. You see, he's just a baby and doesn't understand, so its ok.
Again, quite proud of her. Like I've never said that before.
On the way home from the church, we made a quick stop at my favorite Hungarian butcher shop to pick up some yummy Hungarian salami and some walnut bread.
Then to home. Except that the nanny had to make an emergency pit stop in Norwalk, so we pulled off and all had dinner together.
Off to home, kids in bed by 6:45, and parents quite tired out, too.
All told, just a wonderful day. And pretty magic for a young woman, the nanny, who was making her first trip into NYC. Seriously, does it get any better?
Oh, and I almost forgot, the kids had no naps and behaved like total and complete angels.
Yesterday was the first day of pre-school for the Boy Child. There was no way that I was going to miss this; I re-scheduled a deposition until later in the afternoon so I could attend. In fact, to my surprise, I was the only father in attendance yesterday. I donâ€™t understand how other fathers donâ€™t prioritize these kinds of events.
Anyway, no drama. The Boy Child was beyond fine. He was excited to go to school. He walked into his classroom under his own power, holding only his sisterâ€™s hand; she insisted on taking him to his class before going to her own. He took one look at the trucks on the shelves and we ceased to exist for him. Didnâ€™t even seem to notice that we were leaving, didnâ€™t respond to our calling goodbye to him, although his sister got a goodbye after she became insistent, and he was good. No separation anxiety in the slightest.
Well, no anxiety for him. He was golden. I was a total mess. I went upstairs after his door closed and returned a couple of business calls and then snuck back down to peek into his room. The window, while mostly covered with construction paper cut outs, did have some gaps and I snuck a peek. It was snack time. He was sitting in his little chair, one arm insouciantly hanging over the back, the other hand occupied with a cookie, happily munching away with a big smile as he looked around and took everything in. He was so beautiful, so perfect.
I am not ashamed to say that I almost cried. Hell, Iâ€™m almost crying right now as I type this. It was the purest realization that he has now taken his first step away from us, his first step out of the house, his first movement towards being his own person. Simply, I am not ready for that. In some ways, change is like death. It is a leaving behind of what was. I am not ready for him to leave behind what was. Look, I know that I am, as my wife calls it, taking my sorrows in advance here but it was just the same a very poignant moment for me. I had the same problem with the Girl Child on her first day of pre-school. She was fine; I was a basket case.
I got to watch his class from the windows of the library as they went out on the playground and ran around. He was a blur of constant motion, taking everything at a joyful and determined run. When class was over, we met him on the playground and he seemed delighted to see us, although he objected quite strongly to leaving the playground. His teacher told us that â€śhe was very sweetâ€ť and that if she could, sheâ€™d have let him stay all by himself for the next introductory session scheduled on the heels of this one but sheâ€™d get in trouble. So we coaxed him from the playground with a mention of the train that he had to take me off to. One of the other teachers exclaimed, in surprise, that the Boy Child ate three cookies at snack time. I replied: â€śThe Boy can himself some eat cookies.â€ť In fact, cookie may be his major food group.
He chatted with us, happily, all the way back to the train station. Everything was â€śgĂ¸yâ€ť (Norwegian for happy or fun, pronounced kind of like gay). Trucks, park (his word for playground), juice, snack, all was gĂ¸y. He liked his teachers and he agreed that he was very tired.
I was tired, too. Wrung out, actually, and I slept for a good part of the train ride into the city.
I think heâ€™s going to have a good experience there. And Iâ€™m glad. The part of me that isnâ€™t sad, still.
Where do you learn to slap men upside the head? Is it something that comes from playing with Barbie dolls? I'm trying to figure it out you see based on two conversations I had with my daughter this weekend. Remember, just 4 1/2, she is, ok?
GC: Pappa, who is your favoritest singer in the whole world?
Me: Probably have to say Ella Fitzgerald.
GC: Why not me, Pappa?
[Long pause as I think to myself, "oh my god, I can't believe that she just set me up like this and I fell for it"]
GC: Pappa, why not me? Why aren't I your favoritest singer in the whole world?
Me: Oh, I thought you meant to listen to on the radio.
GC: I didn't say on the radio.
Me: I know. I misunderstood. Of course you are my most favorite singer in the whole world.
She had received spiffy new sneakers for the first day of school, which she put next to my lovely French Westons, which I cannot afford to buy anymore now that I have children.
GC: Pappa, which shoes are prettier, mine or yours?
Me: I think mine are prettier, actually.
GC: Well, why are mine uglier?
[long pause as I wonder what happened again]
Me: They're not uglier.
GC: Well, if yours are prettier, that means mine are uglier. Why are they uglier?
I used to joke when I wrote that I thought I was doomed. Now I am not joking. I am totally screwed.
Here's the thing, I seem to recall reading that little girls learn to become women by practicing on their fathers. Its safe and they can figure out what works for them and what doesn't. If that is what she is doing, at this tender age, I pity the man she ends up marrying. Really pity.
My parents are about to take off for a ten day trip to Norway, their first time there. My mother told me that she had the following conversation with the Girl Child:
Nanna: Would you like me to bring you back a stuffed animal reindeer from Norway?
GC: That would be very nice, Nanna, but what I'd really like would be an IPod.
All I can say is that my mother better not bring that child an IPod. I don't care how far she is wrapped around the Girl Child's finger.
Recall, please, that the Girl Child is only just 4 1/2 years old, ok?
We are attempting to correct her behavior. She sucks her thumb at night, during naps, and when she is very tired. It is starting to deform her teeth and we have been advised to make it stop. So, we've talked to her about it, explained that it isn't good for her, that we'd like her to stop, and, per the doctor's suggestion, instituted a sticker chart reward system -- so many days without sucking will equal a movie or something like that. We're not at all convinced that any of this is working, mind you, but we're fighting the good fight.
On Sunday, my wife told me (I was out at Home Depot), the Girl Child came down from her nap and had the following conversation with my wife:
GC [tone earnest, eyes wide, head shaking for emphasis] : Mamma, I didn't suck my thumb during my nap. But, when I got up, I went and washed my hands for a really long time and I only washed my thumbs, so, if my thumbs look a little wrinkled, that's why.
My wife told me that she was instantly terrified. I mean, if this is the outstanding kind of lie she can come up with at 4 1/2, imagine what she'll be like at 13. We're doomed. She is probably smarter than us both.
Some day, I intend to look back at the last several days and laugh. Probably not for a really long time, mind you, but one day. Stands to reason, right? I mean, it kind of has to be that way. If not, I will be very sorry indeed.
Anyway, a bright spot on the horizon. I am off to have dinner with Simon, that exceptionally smart, erudite and all around good guy from Hong Kong. We're off for Austrian food way downtown. I'm very much looking forward to this and have been for weeks. And right now, at least, it looks as if I will not have to cancel on him, which is nice since he came all this way. Anyway, I'm pretty excited.
Finally, in lieu of any other post today, I will leave you with the words of the Girl Child from this weekend informing her mother and me about her plans for the future:
GC: When I grow up, I want to be a ballerina and a butterfly. The only problem is that I don't know how to make a cocoon.
The Girl Child, aged 4.5, just blows me away with the sophistication of her vocabulary and I wanted to note some of the things she said today before I forget them:
Me: Mamma, did you see that the Boy Child ate all of his mango with his fork?
GC (to me): Hey, so did I.
Me: Yeah, but his was a bigger accomplishment, it seems to me.
GC: But then why was mine a smaller accomplishment?
I explained, I promise, that it was because the Boy Child and the fork were but recent acquaintances.
GC: Pappa, where are the rest of the pieces of my puzzle?
Me: Well, did you leave them on the table?
GC: Yes, I did, but someone must have come along and removed them!
I don't know how special or different this makes her to anyone else, but to me, it seems quite remarkable.
Simple, really. Don't act your age, put whatever stupid sense of self-regard/dignity to one side.
Just be the only father at the pool today to do a cannonball. Make a really big splash. Bask in the admiration of the Girl Child.
Pray she does not request a demonstration of the belly flop.
I'm not saying I'm going to hell for this, but I am certainly not scoring any points with the Big Guy. The problem? I had a major Jimmy Buffet craving this weekend. I gorged on a couple of cd's and what, you may ask, what song did the Girl Child, supported by her brother, want to hear over and over again until she could sing along?
My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don't love Jesus
Hearing her sing along to this, if I don't die by Thursday I'll be roaring Friday night!, made me realize I would have some small explaining to do to our religious Mormon nanny. All she said, when I explained, was: "oh, my."
I'm not helping myself at all here, am I?
Oh, and do you know the song 1985? The Girl Child knows all the words to this one, as well. And she sings it with the 2.5 year old Boy Child. I could hear them one night when we were staying at my parents' house. It went something like this:
GC: She was gonna be an actress, she was gonna be a
GC: She was gonna shake her ass, on the hood of White Snake's
My wife and I just about fell over when we heard this little duet. Putting to one side the fact that we were not particularly pleased that the last nanny played this song enough for the Girl Child to learn, by the way. Not pleased in the slightest. Still, pretty darn funny.
I spent the morning at summer camp. It was the last day of the Girl Child's summer camp and they were putting on a little skit they had been working on in drama class. She was very excited and, despite the fact that it seems as if I have been out of the office more than I have been in the office, I decided to take the morning off and attend. After all, ten years from now I will not remember what I did in the office this Friday but I will remember attending her little skit in ten years.
It was charming. They were "going on a bear hunt" and acted out the whole little story. They put the Girl Child smack in the middle of the line of kids, I think because she's so tall, and she did just fine. Then they gave out t-shirts to the kids. The counselors all made t-shirts for each child and presented them with a few remarks about why each child received that particular shirt. The Girl Child was given the most creative camper award t-shirt, for all of her creative work in art class and because she loved doing the art projects so much. The expression on her face was priceless. She was so self-consciously pleased with her t-shirt.
And then we left them to their devices for the remainder of the camp day. But her counselors had nice things to say about her to me ("she's sooooo smart"; "she made so many friends"; "she was up for anything we did") and her drama teacher said that the Girl Child was fearless and enthusiastic and a big risk taker. All of this, of course, was music to my ears. Nice music, not industrial grunge, just to be clear.
Otherwise, we didn't even mind being outside for this as the temperature was already 87 degrees by 10:00 a.m.
It was a very sweet morning.
*Any takers for telling me what the title of this post is a reference to? Without using a search engine, of course. I bet a number of you erudite readers know what this is.
I went to a meeting last night at the private beach club I belong to out in Westchester. It shall remain without name here for a very good reason, as you will see.
The club is old, about 100 years, and filled with members who grew up there as kids and now are raising their kids there. I have described it before, I think, as idyllic. It is a special and wonderful place, by the water, where kids can be kids and where the older kids are actually nice to the little kids. The Girl Child is at camp there this summer and appears to be having a wonderful time. In short, the place feels like a protected throw back to a more innocent and happier time. I am often soothed just by being there. Seriously. I think it may be a combination of the light, the water, the breeze, and just something in the air. I really do love the place.
Last night, there was a special meeting. It transpired that a child, under the age of six, has alleged that she was assaulted on Sunday night at the club. Now, go back and re-read that sentence very carefully. An allegation was made of an assault.
I think that we all assumed that the assault was sexual in nature, although the police chief who addressed the meeting last night declined any opportunity to confirm that. In fact, and what I thought was particularly interesting, was that the police chief seemed to stress that while they were fully committed to the investigation, they still didnâ€™t necessarily know whether an assault had even been committed.
Kids lie. Little kids lie all the time. They may not mean to, but they do. Our pediatrician says that they simply donâ€™t know the difference between reality and their own thoughts. I donâ€™t envy the police chief his job in sorting out whether an assault actually took place. Either way, it will be a horrible task and everyone who comes into contact with the investigation will be changed in some way. Iâ€™m just glad we werenâ€™t there on Sunday night.
I hope that no assault took place. I hope that this turns out to be a huge waste of time and that the child never experienced anything that will change her life. I hope this with a yearning so strong. I hope that if she did tell her story from reality, that the adult who assaulted her is caught swiftly and punished.
I sat in this meeting for over an hour. There was scant information proffered. There was a lot of parental anxiety in the room and some hostile questions for the board of the club and for the police chief. I think that by the end, everyone had calmed down a lot. Both the police and the board seem to be on top of things.
Still, for me at least, something died in that room. No matter how this investigation turns out, it will never be the same for anyone. For me, no longer will I be so quick to pick up a child who has fallen and is crying. I will no longer throw other peopleâ€™s children around in the kiddy pool when they ask me to after they see me sling my daughter around in the water. I wonâ€™t take that risk that an innocent touch, an innocent contact, can be misconstrued or misunderstood. That makes me very sad.
Another thing at the meeting. A woman made the suggestion that the police come and talk to the children at the club about, well, sexual predators. I would not want my child to be included in that discussion. Sheâ€™s only 4.5 years old and would have way too many questions about things she doesnâ€™t have to know about. She doesnâ€™t have to take responsibility at her age for her own security. Thatâ€™s my job. Thatâ€™s why my wife and I do not let her or her brother out of our sight anywhere at any time. We may let them run ahead, but we can always see them. Thatâ€™s called parenting. When I asked the chief at the meeting what I should tell my daughter about this, since I thought she was too young to have a conversation about sexual predators, there was a small chorus of dissenting voices. Thatâ€™s fine. They can raise their children and I will raise mine. Right now, I choose that my daughter and my son stay innocent a little bit longer. Right now, my vigilance preserves their idyll. My daughter knows vaguely to be skeptical about strangers. More than that, sheâ€™s too young to have to deal with.
I wonder if everyone in the room looked around and wondered if that assault took place, was the assailant in the room with them?
In any event, given the age of the girl, odds are that I know her and her family. I kind of hope I donâ€™t. Either way, my thoughts are with them.
We were driving home on Saturday night, after going out for dinner with my parents and a cousin and my grant-aunt, all of whom had been visiting with my grandfather. The children were a little over tired and maybe not on their best behavior. The Girl Child and the Boy Child were squabbling a bit in the back seat. He'd reach over and touch her and she'd object, loudly, and then complain that he was touching her. Then she made a noise that the Boy Child imitated. That infuriated her. She demanded that the Boy Child stop copying her. So, I started to copy her, too. (I never claimed to be a grown up). Then, with all three of us making a huge cacophony, my wife yelled at us all in Norwegian and told us to be quiet. She then told us it was quiet time and the next one to talk would lose.
Silence reigned in the car.
And then a little voice in the backseat whispered: "Boy Child, snakk." [speak]
And he did, of course. And it was all my wife and I could do not to laugh.
Two funny exchanges with the Girl Child this weekend:
1. The phone rings but stops ringing by the time I get to it to pick it up. The Girl Child looks at me and the phone and simply utters, grimly: "The buttheads".
Wonder where she picked that phrase up from *looking around innocently*.
2. At dinner last night with my father, the Girl Child runs off to play with her new best friend, another 4 year old girl. After a bit of running around, the Girl Child comes back with a serious expression and asks, "Mamma, what's my cell phone number?"
For the record, she doesn't have one.
The Girl Child did not nap. Instead, she came downstairs and decided to color. That's fine. I kept her company. In the middle of her coloring, she looked up at me and pronounced:
Pappa, when I walk in my Summer it tastes like pear.
I decided that statement was profound and decided to probe no further into it than that.
I hope my Summer tastes like pear this year. And yours!
Overheard in the house:
Boy Child: Arrh-arrh.
Mamma: Girl Child, what does "arrh-arrh" mean?
Girl Child: I don't know, Mamma. Usually, I understand everything he says, but on this point, I am not clear.
It just seems like way too grownup a sentence structure. She's only 4.5.
And by the way, after that, just to preserve the exchange, we agreed that we were going to go to Costco and she said:
GC: If we're going to Costco, I'm going Commando*!
BC: Mando [nodding his head for emphasis and in approval]
These kids are clearly spending too much time together.
*I have told her that Commando means going out without underwear on. Just in case you were not aware of the expression.
I'm home alone with the kids last night as my wife was stuck in traffic on I-95. I'm heating up some leftovers for myself for dinner and the kids are keeping me company. I have given them each a cookie, to their mutual delight. At some point, however, the cookies are gone, and this is what follows:
Boy Child: [Happily burbling along at great volume]
Girl Child: Silence!
Boy Child: [Continues to burble]
Girl Child: SILENCE!
Boy Child: [Abruptly ceases burbling and looks at her intently]
Girl Child: [Looks first at Boy Child to make sure he really is going to be quiet and then turns and addresses me] Pappa, we need more cookies!
Boy Child: [Looks at me and nods head while saying his little word for yes in tone of total agreement] Ah-ta.
More cookies were distributed. A happy and joyful noise returned to the kitchen table.
My wife just wandered in late and I give her the recitation of the evening accomplishments and the Girl Child chimes in:
Me: The children have been bathed, teeth have been brushed, milk has been given . . .
GC: And noses have been picked!
Excellent addition. I note that the Girl Child refers to her nose, not mine.
Now, off to read a story.
The Girl Child hopped out of bed last night to keep her mother and me company as we brushed our teeth. These little visits are usually quite welcome. One of the things the Girl Child likes to do during her time with us is to jump up into our bed and hang out for awhile until we're done. But she's a nice girl and she always asks:
GC: Mamma? Can I go opp i sengen din? [mixing Norwegian and English]
[long pause as Mamma's mouth is filled with tooth brush and tooth paste]
[GC appears to grow a bit impatient with not getting an answer but seems to know that Mamma is not going to respond with a full mouth]
GC: [Tone: Bright and cheerful] Just nod your head yes, Mamma!
Which my wife did as I hid my face so the Girl Child did not see me laugh.
I have been having some crappy days at work so I decided to cure my bad mood by throwing myself into my children and playing and having fun and keeping the Girl Child (4+ years) up late so she could watch some baseball and hang out with me. Incidentally, it worked pretty darn well, too. Actually, the whole night was nice.
My wife was late so that meant I had both kids all to myself. I made dinner for my wife and me and ended up eating with just the kids. The Boy Child (2+ years), according to the nanny, did not eat at all today. Well, he ate just fine for me. Cut up pineapple (which he calls "anna", from ananas in Norwegian) and which he insisted on putting into his mouth himself with the fork, sliced mango (which he shared with his sister), over 1/2 of a huge grilled knockwurst, and quite a few spoonfuls of my very, very spicy black beans (after each spoonful he reached for his sippy cup and then kind of gasped "mor" or more). Tough kid.
The Boy Child was shipped off to bed and we came back downstairs to clean up the kitchen. The Girl Child had aftens, which is Norwegian for a snack you have after dinner -- she had a little bit of melted jarlsberg on bread with oregano on it, one of my wife's favorites. And then we went into the living room to watch baseball and hang out.
Kids, I think, have no conception of honesty/dishonesty. Up to a certain age, they don't seperate fantasy from reality -- it all blends together for them. But when they do talk truth, when they do speak honestly, unfettered by any social conventions or constraints, you get entertaining conversations like the following:
GC: Yum. I just farted.
Me: Why did you say yum?
GC: Because my farts smell yummy.
Me: Why do you think they smell yummy.
GC: Because my poop smells yummy. [pause] Well, my poop doesn't always smell yummy. Sometimes, my poop smells really, really bad [head nodding hard for emphasis and said in a very earnest tone].
See what I mean? Still, so young and already so wise.
No time today to give the full update on the D.C. trip (it is now 2:15 and I have been flat out running since 8:30) but I did want to quickly memorialize the conversation I had last evening with the Girl Child (remember, only 4 years old) as we were preparing to go out for an after dinner family walk:
GC: Pappa, are you ready to go?
Me: Not quite. Just give me a second to check the score on the Yankees game.
GC: What, are you going to sit there all night?
Me: Yes. Exactly. I am going to sit here all night.
GC: Mamma! Is that [short pause] appropriate for Pappa to sit there all night?
Her mother opined that it wasn't and I was summarily evicted from the living room. On the plus side, it was a beautiful night for a walk.
The Girl Child and I were standing at her grandparents' pool, looking at it, after we agreed to go swimming. Concerned by the possibility that the water was chilly, we were standing there, waiting for the other one to go first, to take the first toe step, then knee step, then tushie step until you hit the tummy step. She was wearing her little water wings and waiting to get in so I could throw her, and I mean throw her, in the air. While waiting, we had the following conversation:
Me: Do you want me to go get you the inflatible ring?
GC: The ring? That, I could do without.
She's been spending too much time with my father.
And while I remember, the Boy Child graced us with what might just pass for a sentence:
Opp, go, bil [yes, mostly he speaks Norwegian]
Thus telling my wife that he wanted to be picked up and he wanted to go out for a ride in the car. It appears he may be putting the whole language thing together. Which is nice.
I've never really thought that my daughter was given to melodrama, but last night we had the following conversation after I put her to bed, late, and after I had read her three, long stories.
GC: Pappa, nothing in my life is going right!
Me: [actually a little alarmed to hear a 4 year old say that] Why do you say that, Peanut?
GC: Because I never get to have 4 stories!
Oh, the humanity!
The Girl Child, New York's newest lawyer, and I today on whether she was going to take a nap:
GC: Pappa, are you going to take a nap today?
Me: No, but you are.
GC: Why aren't you going to take a nap?
Me: Well, I just got back from the dentist and now I have to run some errands.
GC: If you're not taking a nap, then I'm not taking a nap.
Me: Oh, yes, you are.
GC: No. I do everything you do.
Me: No, you don't. First of all, I pee standing up. You don't pee standing up.
GC: What's second of all?
I was so proud of her just ignoring a point she couldn't refute and trying to move right along to the next point that I just took her with me on my errands. So, in the end, I guess she was right. No nap.
The Girl Child slides over to me and whispers:
Guess what song I'm humming.
Me: I have no idea.
GC: I'll give you a clue.
Me: Ok. What kind of clue?
GC: I'll sing it [still whispering]. "Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap, dirty deeds, done dirt cheap."
Four year olds have minds like sponges. I feel a little guilty for, at some point, filling her little sponge with AC/DC.
We had the Girl Child's parent/teacher conference last night. It was, not unexpectedly, a love fest. They had only wonderful things to say about her: clearly very bright; very sweet; highly mature; listens well; nice to others; plays well with everyone; attentive to instructions; and just a joy and a pleasure to have around. They said that if everyone in the class were like her it would be a much easier job.
They told us nothing we didn't already know, of course, but I could still sit for hours and listen to people say nice things about my daughter.
Oh, and they were all totally charmed by the way the Boy Child came into class with the Girl Child every morning and waited to leave until after he and she gave each other hugs and kisses.
There are days I feel so lucky that I am simply waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Since you all asked so nicely and sent such good wishes, I feel compelled to let you know that the Boy Child is just fine. Perhaps it was just a touch of stomach flu, no way to know really. But he's fine and happy and beautiful as ever.
Thanks for all the well wishing!
She was on a roll, last night.
First, the nanny and I were talking and the Girl Child came over and inserted herself into the conversation with this comment:
GC: Nanny is going to have a baby.
N: I am?
GC: Yeah, with her boyfriend.
N: Well, maybe someday, but not now.
Me: Besides, doesn't her boyfriend get a vote in that?
N: Yeah, daddies are very important, you know.
GC: No. They don't get to make decisions. The only ones who make decisions are Presidents and Mammas.
We both laughed but it occurred to me that it was not entirely inaccurate and moreover the President has to act, in some things at least, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The same thing is not really true for the Mamma who rarely acts with the advice and consent of the Pappa.
Then, later last night, I was putting the Girl Child in her bed and we had the following exchange:
GC: I hope that spider doesn't come back out from under my bed.
Me: If he does, don't worry, I'll eat him.
Me: No, they're pretty good if you grill them.
GC: Pappa, you eat the yuckiest things!!!
Me: No, I don't.
GC: Yes, you do. People don't eat bugs. Frogs eat bugs. People eat food. And dessert. And snacks. And lunch and that's it.
There you have it, the four major food groups: Food; Dessert; Snacks; and Lunch.
No word on the spider.
As for the Boy Child last night, it was vomit city. All over his bed, my wife, the stairs, and his pyjamas. It was a long night.
The Boy Child has plenty of words, but he never uses them in combination, never forms a sentence. I have not really formed a view as to his intellect. I mean, he seems to be all there but who can tell? This weekend changed that. By way of background, his maternal grandmother, (mor mor, in Norwegian), lives in Central America right now and speaks perfect Spanish. When the Boy Child, who is just barely two years old, says her name, he pronounces it as "moo moo". Not uncommon for little Norwegian children to say that, I'm told. By way of comparison, he now calls my father, "dude". My father loves that.
So, we were all sitting around the dinner table, playing around, singing the Sesame Street song, when I turned to the Boy Child and we had the following exchange:
Me: Donde esta Plaza Sesamo?
BC: Moo Moo. [as if to say, go ask Moo Moo].
Me: [stunned silence as my wife and I look at each other and I say to my wife] Was that an accident? Do you think he did that on purpose?
Wife: I have no idea.
Me: [to boy child] Hvem er det som snakker Spansk? [translation from Norwegian: who is it who speaks Spanish?]
BC: [confidently, shaking his head for emphasis] Moo moo.
If I had any doubts about him, they are gone as of now. Da Boy is all there.
Yes, that's right. The bloom is off the rose. I will illustrate by relating the following conversation this morning:
Girl Child: [throws her socks up in the air in the kitchen while I have my coffee and NY Times]
Me: Don't throw things around in the kitchen.
GC: Why not?
Me: Because the kitchen is probably the most dangerous room in the house.
Me: Because there are things that could burn you here, things that could cut you, things that you could knock over and . . . [GC walks out]
Wife in dining room: What was Pappa saying to you?
GC to wife: I don't know, something about the kitchen. [tone, according to my wife, like a 13 year old]
Remember, she just turned four. I am so screwed.
The nanny is gone for most of the week. Yesterday, my mother hosted the kids and will again on Friday. Today, however, I stayed home from work to be primary caregiver. It was like playing house, it was/is that much fun. The kids are napping right now, that's why I can write for a minute.
It has also been a huge tease -- showing me what my life could be like if I was independently wealthy and I didnâ€™t have to work outside the house. Showing me how much fun my kids are, even if it is hard work.
I got them both up, gave them breakfast, played, loaded them into the car and took the Girl Child off to school. On the way, I changed the radio station from the crap pop that the nanny listens to and found some very nice jazz. I asked the Girl Child if she liked it and she said she did so we played a game trying to name the instruments. She claimed that one of them was a â€śFlutootleâ€ť. Clearly a flute, in her mind. It was a bass, actually, but thatâ€™s ok. We dropped her off where I, the only dad there that day, was absolutely snubbed by all the stay at home moms. That was ok, too. Sort of. I mean, I knew some of them from various birthday parties even if I was not a part of their daily school routine. But I expected more of a hello and maybe that was expecting too much. Whatever. My kids were cuter (damn, that was petty).
Then the Boy Child and I, after he gave his sister something like 6 kisses, headed off to a really good liquor store in Scarsdale in search, still, of white port for my wife. No success there but picked up a half a case of some really yummy looking assorted Italian and Spanish reds. And a bottle of Fino Sherry for my wife as an attempt at a substitute. The Boy Child got to stand the whole time in the shopping cart and was just happy to be there. We went home with our booze, changed diapers, and headed off to music class!
Yay, music class! That was the first one I got to take him to. One nice thing, though, was that everyone said that we had a lovely nanny. Music class was great. I donâ€™t know how to describe it particularly, but can say that I was again the only daddy. This time, at least, people talked to me. The Boy Child seemed to like having me there. He was regularly running across the room to me and launching himself at me. He enjoyed going to get the instruments and then putting them away. He didnâ€™t sing, but thatâ€™s not a shock since he doesnâ€™t really talk. The tambourines were a big hit, so to speak, and ring around the rosy was also quite a favorite. Let me say that for me, the whole experience was sublime. I think I was just glowing, watching him, cuddling with him on the floor, pushing my face into his hair when he threw himself into my lap. There was no part of this class I did not love.
After class, we ran over to the library for a bit, but didnâ€™t find the book I was looking for, the new Charles Todd mystery. Already checked out. Ah, well.
Then, lunch. We belong to a little club out here and went there since there was a buffet on Thursdays and that is always good with young ones, no waiting for food. He ate all the salmon I took for myself, some fruit, and was thus rewarded with cookies, again. This time without trickery, Tuning Spork! Although, I did get to watch him prove that every cookie, no matter what the dimensions, is actually a single serving, bite size cookie. Crumbs were flying out of his mouth with every bite since his mouth was so full he couldnâ€™t actually close it! That brought out the flying, diving napkin. We ate, we played hide and seek at the table, he shared the fish stickers he got at music class by pasting them on my shirt, too. Everyone in the dining room, mostly older woman, smiled at him. He does look like an angel and a good mood is infectious.
After lunch, a little shopping and then off to fetch his sister. He was so anxious to see her that he disrupted the class departure routine where a teacher sends each child out, one by one, into the hands of the appointed caregiver. Nope, not this time. This time, the Boy Child pushed past the teacher in the doorway, shouting his sisterâ€™s name until he found her and got his hug and kiss. Then, hand in hand, the two of them exited the class room and off we came home for naps. Their naps, not mine.
Anyway, Iâ€™m off to prepare dinner for them so that they can eat when they get up. I am Mr. Domestic Guy today and loving it.
Tomorrow comes too soon and brings with it a return to the office life, the brief writing, the telephone, and the rude letters. Except, this time Iâ€™ll know how much better I could be having it if I was home with my kids.
I don't have much here about my son. He's only two and he doesn't really talk, certainly not like his sister. But he did something so funny to me the other night that I wanted to make sure I wrote it down and didn't forget it. As I said earlier, we took my mother out for dinner for her birthday. After dinner, there was a dessert table. The Boy Child may not speak much, but he is clear on his like for all things dessert. So, I carried him over there and we selected some cookies for his plate. Happiness reigned. His word for cookies is the Norwegian word: Kake. Pronounced with equal emphasis on each syllable. Ka-Ke.
We go back to the table and he just gazes at his plate for a moment. Then, very methodically, he picks up each cookie, one by one, and takes a bite from each, putting the tasted cookie back on the plate before moving on to the next one. Then, having ranked them in his own mind in order of tastiness (I presume), he stuffs them into his mouth. The plate is now empty. He looks at me and pleads: Kake? As if to say, all gone, get more. One of his hands, however, is closed. So I say, show me your hand. He holds out his left hand, quite empty. I say, no, show me your other hand. He takes his left hand back and looks down at his hands, brow furrowed in concentration, and, slowly, uncurls the fingers of his right hand and then carefully transfers the two cookies from his right hand to his left hand. Transfer finished, he proudly displayed the now cookie-less right hand for my inspection.
All I could do was laugh. And yes, I gave him another cookie.
You may recall a small post I did not too long ago about how the Girl Child and the Boy Child hold hands in the car where ever they go. Well, last night, the nanny gave us a picture she took. You can't see their faces in the picture, but I think it is a very powerful image notwithstanding.
We were returning home last night from taking my parents out to dinner to celebrate my mother's birthday and my daughter and I had the following conversation (remember, she's only four):
GC: What are you doing, Pappa?
Me: [thinking it was pretty darn obvious what I was doing behind the wheel of the car, responded with small sarcasm] Just hanging out. What are you doing?
GC: I'm just sitting back here watching you drive.
Me: How am I doing?
GC: Better. [small pause] That's all I can really say. Better.
Thus proving what every trial lawyer already knows: never ask an open ended question you don't know the answer to.
My wife almost went into convulsions next to me, muttering to herself, "its NY, everyone's a critic."
My wife was late at the dentist last night so I had the kids all to myself. I got home, inquired into the behavior of the children, determined that they had been good, and gave them a small bag of University Alumni M&M's that I had picked up at a University Alumni function the night before (blue and white colored with a University crest on the bag). Predictably, the children were delighted. The Girl Child sat down at the table with them and shared them with her brother, very evenly and without any prompting from me.
Than she taught him how to eat them. She placed a couple, quite carefully, on the kitchen table, then suctioned them right up, one at a time. The Boy Child was charmed by this new trick and decided he had to do it to. He put his down, he likes to have one in each hand generally, lowered his little head to the table, got his mouth as close as he could, then picked it up with his hand and popped it into his mouth. The Girl Child patiently corrected him and they sat there, two happy little clams, sucking M&M's into their mouths. At the end, the Girl Child's mouth was pristine. The Boy Child, on the other hand, looked as if he had carefully crushed all of his M&M's, wet them down, and rolled his face over them. He was covered in blue and white dye and chocolate. The Girl Child wanted to wash him but took one closer look and handed the wet paper towel back to me. After I finished cleaning him up, he held out his arms to show me where he had been wiping his mouth when I wasn't looking. We washed those, too.
Then we went upstairs, where the Girl Child promptly spotted a spider on the wall in the Boy Child's room. I instructed her to go fetch some tissue while I watched the spider to make sure it didn't get away. She ran off and I heard her calling to the Boy Child, who by that time had gone into my room, "Boy Child, come here and watch Pappa kill a spider!" Back they came, with tissue. Did you know that spiders can jump? This one could and he did, right onto the floor where I could not find him. I looked for a bit and gave up. Not the Girl Child, however, who spotted him lurking behind the garbage pail. I moved the pail, killed the spider and disposed of the remains. After announcing the spider's position, by the way, the Girl Child made a hasty advance in another direction (points given for anyone who knows what this is a reference to) and climbed up onto the couch. I turned to her after the deed was done to congratulate her for locating the spider and we had the following exchange:
Me: Good job! Give me a high five!
GC: [stops bouncing on couch, gives me high five, goes back to bouncing]
Me: You sure are one mean old spider killing girl.
GC: [abruptly stops bouncing to look at me squarely in the eye] I'm not mean. [pause for emphasis] I'm nice. Also, I don't kill the spiders. I just tell you where they are and you kill them. I'm a nice spider finding girl.
All she left out at the end of that sentence was: So there.
This morning, she came bounding into the kitchen where once again I was reading the paper and having my coffee. She immediately noted the presence of the Pez dispensers I picked up at the store yesterday to include within the goody bags for the Boy Child's little birthday party today. She asked what they were and I told her. She picked it up for closer examination and sort of mused to herself:
These look very interesting to a little kid like myself.
I had to bury my face in my newspaper so that she did not see me struggling to contain my laughter.
As most of you regular readers may know (all eight of you), this blog has grown to be an extended love letter to my children, among all the other things I write about. Here is a conversation I had with my daughter yesterday morning:
Girl Child comes into kitchen: Holy crap!
Me: What did you say?
GC: Holy crap.
Me: Where did you learn that?
GC: Sponge Bob.
Me: Well, Sponge Bob got it wrong. Its holy crackers.
GC: Holy crackup?
Me: You could say that, too. In any event, I'd be very careful and not listen to what Sponge Bob says.
Me: Clearly, he is inherently unreliable. [Remember, she just turned 4]
GC: Why do you think that?
Me: Well, perhaps I don't exactly think it. It isn't quite a thought, more the merest shadow of a scintilla of the beginning of a thought concerning his reliability as a source for you.
Wife: How much coffee have you had this morning? Because I don't think you should have any more.
GC: What's a scintilla?
Me: Go look it up in the dictionnary and report back.
GC: [looking at her mother and speaking Norwegian] Pappa's a very silly man, isn't he?
No one else may find this amusing, but that's ok. Maybe you had to be there.
I don't think I will be around much today, blog-wise. I have been duly elected by my wife to accompany the Boy Child to his two year check up, oil change, and tune up at the doctor this morning. This should be fun. My guess is he's going to know exactly what the nurse wants to do with that sharp looking thing headed towards his . . . HEY!!!!! Crying to follow shortly with sobbing and attempting to catch breath thereafter. And that's only me.
I hate to watch these kinds of things. I could never watch when my wife would get blood taken, for instance.
I will fill the time up to the appointment by continuing my search through Southern Westchester's finer purveyors of alcohol to try to locate a particular bottle of white port for my wife. She often has a glass after the kids have gone to bed and we have been out for at least a week. Ever tried it? Its yummy. You serve it cold and generally it is an apperitif, not an after dinner drink.
In any event, the above blather generally is meant to serve as a place holder to explain that blogging will be very light today, although you may not be able to tell the difference between today and recent times anyway, come to think of it.
My wife will be the first one to tell you this, but she sucks at being pregnant. I think I'm acutally quoting her here. No, she is an immensely talented woman and I am very proud that, in a moment of extreme weakness, she agreed to pledge her troth to me (isn't that a fun expression?) but she really isn't any good at being pregnant.
With the second pregnancy, she fell prey to pregnancy induced hypertension. This is an ugly condition, potentially fatal to her and potentially fatal to the pregnancy. More than once, we were confronted with the possibility of losing the baby. We made a couple of late night emergency trips to the hospital after a phone consultation with her doctor. Those drives were tense affairs even if they took on a certain regular occurance feel to them. I remember that I made arrangements with the snow plowing people who did our driveway to keep us at the top of their list all that winter because I was afraid that if something happened, I would not be able to get out of the garage and get her to help.
In any event, February 22, 2003 was a day much like every other in the pregnancy. Except that my wife's blood pressure shot up again for no reason that morning. We called the doctor and we followed the instructions to try to bring it down. She lay, on her right side (I think) for a half an hour, and it didn't come down. We grabbed a bag and went off to the hospital. On the way, my wife took a call from one of her underlings and went through what needed to be done that day. I then called a client for whom I convinced a court to enjoin a meeting of the shareholders of a co-op to prevent dissolution and explained I would be out of touch for awhile.
The hospital, NY Hospital at 68th and the East River, was bustling but they were expecting us. They took blood and ran tests and said, something is brewing. They said, at 37 weeks into the pregnancy, we can induce labor and we want to induce labor because we don't like what we are seeing. Preeclampsia kills, you see.
So, bang. The routine trip back to the hospital was not so routine, although I think we suspected that on the way in. They admitted my wife and began the induction.
It went very, very slowly. Nothing happened for the longest time. Eventually, they instructed me to go away and get some sleep. I went to a nearby club and crashed from about midnight to maybe 5 a.m. and then went back to the hospital. I was still in the same clothes I had been in the night before. On the way back, I stopped off and picked up a disposable camera.
The delivery, as it turned out, was quick. I think that she started pushing at 7:30 a.m. and the Boy Child arrived in the world at 7:40, a scant ten minutes later. He was so little.
The doctor assured us that he was beautiful, although, I doubt she'd really say otherwise. The doctor, who had also delivered the Girl Child, pumped her fist and exclaimed: "two for two!". She also asked us to have a third child so she could go three for three. In that, I'm afraid, we will disappoint her.
The Boy Child arrived to join our little family on February 23, 2003, today, two years ago. He arrived small, a little jaundiced, but that just gave him a lovely tan, and quite bald but with the most shockingingly blue eyes you've ever seen. Looks nothing like me. Today, he has hair, butter yellow blond, a peaches and cream complexion, and still has the blue eyes. He is, altogether, quite the most beautiful little boy I've ever seen and looks remarkably like my wife's baby pictures. He could be, with no evidence of my genetic contribution anywhere on his face, the official poster boy of Norway.
We brought him home and put him in my daughter's lap as she sat on the couch. He cried and she looked terribly perplexed. It didn't take long before she was telling us, while standing in her crib: "Baby brother is crying, get him for me."
I will end this birthday post with this thought that my daughter had one day while she and I were talking:
Me: You know, that the Boy Child is my son.
GC: He's my son, too.
Me: No, he's your brother. He's my son.
GC: Well, then if he's your sun, he's my moon. And my stars.
I've always liked that.
Welcome to the world, Boy Child! Happy birthday!
(after the jump, by the way, in extended entry, are some other famous birthdays and events today)
*1633 Samuel Pepys, London England, famed for his memoirs and diary
*1685 George Frideric HĂ¤ndel, composer
*1734 Mayer Amschel Rothschild Frankfurt, founder (House of Rothschild)
*1868 William E. B. Du Bois Great Barrington MA
*1929 Elston Howard Yankee catcher (1st black New York Yankee/1963 AL MVP)
*1940 Peter Fonda actor (Easy Rider, Lilith, Wild Angels, Trip)
*1468 John Gutenberg German inventor
*1554 Henry Grey Duke of Suffolk, Lady Jane Grey's father, executed
*1660 Charles X Gustaaf king of Sweden (1654-60), dies at 37
*1792 Joshua Reynolds English painter
*1821 John Keats, poet, dies of tuberculosis at 25 in Rome
*1848 John Quincy Adams 6th US President (1825-1829), dies of a stroke at 80
*1924 Thomas Woodrow Wilson 28th US President (1913-21)
*1942 Stefan Zweig, Austrian writer
*1965 Stan Laurel
*1995 James Herriot
*1455 Johannes Gutenberg prints 1st book, the Bible (estimated date)
*1689 Dutch prince William III proclaimed king of England
*1778 Baron von Steuben joins the Continental Army at Valley Forge
*1792 Humane Society of Massachusetts incorporated (erected life-saving stations for distressed mariners)
*1792 Joseph Haydn's 94th Symphony in G, premieres
*1836 Alamo besieged by Santa Anna; entire garrison eventually killed
*1861 President-elect Lincoln arrives secretly in Washington DC to take office
*1874 Major Walter Winfield patents game called "sphairistike" (lawn tennis)
*1896 Tootsie Roll introduced by Leo Hirshfield
*1898 In France, Emile Zola is imprisoned for writing his "J'accuse" letter accusing government of anti-Semitism & wrongly jailing Alfred Dreyfus
*1940 Walt Disney's animated movie "Pinocchio", released
*1945 US Marines raise flag on Iwo Jima, famous photo & statue
My little post about the way my two children hold hands in the car received some really beautiful comments and seemed, for whatever reason, to resonate with people. So, as much for those nice people who left those comments, as for myself so I can fix this memory firmly in my mind, let me share with you a little vignette from last night.
I came home from work and I took the kids from the nanny. She had bathed them and put them in their pj's. They were running around up stairs. Playing and carrying on happily. I went into my room to take my suit and tie off. Generally, I like to get out of the work clothes as soon as I get home so I can get on the floor and roll around with the kids without worrying about the clothes. The Boy Child followed me in. As with everything else, all things being equal, he was moving at a speed just above what he can safely control. And, as is usually the case, he went sprawling on to my floor, face first. He caught himself on his hands and kind of lay there, crying.
I said to him, "you're ok", and "come on, get up and show me what hurts". I could see that there was nothing that could have been too serious about the fall and, as is my habit, I didn't want to make too big a deal out of it. He ignored me for a bit, continuing to cry, and then he got up and pointed to his hands.
At that point, his sister came in. The Girl Child is tall for her age and he is on the normal side. His head comes up to about the top of her rib cage. She asked what was wrong and I told her. And this is the bit I want to freeze forever in my mind.
She holds her arms out to him and says "kom til meg, lille venn" (meaning: come to me, little friend). He takes three steps, very quickly, and throws his arms around her and lays his head on her chest as he continues to cry. She enfolds him with her arms and alternates between rubbing his back and patting him gently on the back, all while telling him that it was ok. They just stood there, her giving comfort and him receiving it. His cries slowly faded away to little hiccups as his breath caught in little gasps as he tried to recover his poise and stop crying. All while she stood there with him. Their arms around each other, his around her waist and lower back and hers around his upper back. Her head inclined so that her cheek was resting on the top of his head. Bathed in the glow from the over head lights, their hair gleamingly damp from the water.
It was so beautiful that I thought my heart was going to break.
When they finished their hug, he leaned forward and kissed her on her chest.
It is moments like this that enrich my life.
My children are not like my sister and me. They are close, already, in ways that my sister and I never experienced. I am a tad bit envious. The Girl Child's name is the first word that passes the Boy Child's lips every morning and, indeed, was the first word he even learned how to say. She was the recipient of his first real kiss. I got to see it. He put his lips to her cheek and actually made a kissing noise. She tells us that when they get older, she intends to marry him. My wife assumes that means we have to move way down South.
I've gotten some little boy kisses, too, now, and they are terribly sweet things. Even better then when he would simply press his open and very wet mouth against the side of your face and leave behind a huge slick of saliva.
But here's the really cute thing.
We put them in the car, each in their own car seats, and the same thing happens almost every single time. Her arm goes out, hand open, palm up. His hand goes into it. And they both sit back and relax into their seats. They hold hands most of the ride to wherever it is we are taking them. If he is too slow with his hand, then we hear the Girl Child say, "Boy Child, give me your hand" (usually in Norwegian). And he does.
I feel unusually blessed, almost all the time.
I can make my daughter laugh her way out of crying. It is a gift, there is no question about it. I can take her right off the edge of the hysterical ledge to calm and laughing in under 5 seconds. I don't know how this came about, but as long as it works, I will continue to do it. Case in point, last night. As you know, from below, she has got pink eye. It makes her eyes hurt she says and she is very unhappy. When we put her into bed last night, she noticed that I switched out her little pillows for a big one from the guest room bed. Not happy, not happy. I had to explain that she could re-infect herself from her old pillows since she had her head on them. "Not my head", she corrected me, "my face". Right. She puts her golden little head on the pillow and consents to be covered up with the blanket. And then the tears come.
GC: I want my old pillows back! I don't like this [sob] pillow! Its [sob] too hard! [more sobbing as she begins to work herself up]
Me: Good! I want it to be hard! I want you to have the hardest, most uncomfortable pillow in the whole world!!
GC: [stops crying, starts to giggle] Huh? You do? For real?
Me: Yes! For real!
GC: No, you don't mean for real.
Me: [take pillow, fluff it up six different ways and put it back down] Try that.
GC: Ok. Still kind of hard [suspiciously], but better [grudgingly].
Kisses exchanged and off to the land of nod she goes, calmly and happily.
Thank goodness she enjoys the absurd. Absurdity, a parent's best weapon against tears.
The house is in lock down. We have been quarantined. Infectious disease specialists have been flown in all over the world to consult. Diagnosis: Pink Eye.
The Girl Child has come down with a case of the dreaded pink eye. No one is safe. She can't go to school and the Boy Child may not go to music class today, which is sad because I think he really enjoys it.
Prognosis: She'll be totally fine and can go to school tomorrow if she doesn't have any further discharge from the infected eye.
But, while looking on the web to see if I could find any information on precautions to take to prevent contagion, I came across this little bit of information which kind of icked me out:
Newborns are also susceptible to infectious conjunctivitis, which can be serious. The sexually transmitted bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae can pass from an infected mother's birth canal into her baby's eyes during delivery. These bacteria can cause symptoms of conjunctivitis in babies within the first 2 weeks of life, and both can lead to serious eye damage. Less commonly, the viruses that cause genital and oral herpes can similarly be passed to an infant at the time of delivery and may also damage the eyes.
My view is, if I'm gonna be icked out, you're gonna be icked out. Its that simple.
We allowed the Girl Child to stay up late last night so she could hang out with her mother and me and because we've been thinking that we may actually be putting her to bed a little too early.
So, after she got an extra two stories read to her, and we're cuddling on the couch, she looks up at me and we have the following exchange:
GC: [tone: soft, slow, sweet] Pappa, I love you.
Me: [heart expands, threatens to choke me]
GC: [tone: quick and definite, commanding] But don't tell anyone!
Me: [trying not to laugh] Why not? Why can't I tell anyone?
GC: Because its a secret and we don't tell secrets.
What is is with little girls and secrets?
My daughter has a doll. Well, she has more than one, but there is just one my wife dislikes and my wife hides this doll in the deepest recesses of my daughter's closet whenever she gets the chance. This doll bears an improbable name, dating from the time the Girl Child learned that people have more than one name and she decided her doll needed more than one name, too.
The Girl Child had an aunt visiting this weekend and the exchange when something like this:
Aunt: What's your doll's name?
GC: Mikado Philadelphia Booger.
Aunt: *Coughing fit* How did you come up with that name?
GC: We liked it. We thought it was a pretty name. So we that's what we named her.
No word on who the "we" was in the explanation. Frankly, I was a little bit afraid to ask.
I wonder, though, if any of her pretend friends had any input into the name.
Last night, I sat with the Girl Child and worked on an assignment from Nursery School. At school, they are doing a lesson that involves, broadly, learning how to not judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance. I had to talk to her about what people would not be able to tell about her just based on her appearance (which is pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself).
Her answers were:
*Polite and playful
*Norsk (that's Norwegian, in Norwegian)
*"Sharebul" (her invention meaning sharing and friendly, she explained)
*loves to cuddle with her brother
*likes to run around the dining room table
*loves to dance ("make sure you write that one down, Pappa, ok?")
*loves all her friends in her class
*loves to swim and play in the pool and go underwater
*loves to eat ice cream cake
*thirsty all the time (I don't think this one is true, really, but whatever)
*loves to read and play with her doctor kit
*likes to play on the piano and loves music
It got me thinking, after she went to sleep. I wonder what kind of image I project by my appearance. I know someone once asked me, as I was on the subway going down to court, if I was a lawyer so maybe I project that vibe. I know that you will make certain assumptions automatically about a person based on certain socio-economic status clues that the subject gives off, but that won't tell you about the important things like ice cream cake.
So what is it about me that you can't tell when you see me all dressed up in my lawyer suit:
*I love the Autumn
*I enjoy the smell of a fire in the fire place
*I like the tactile sensations of different fabrics
*I love to read
*I like to talk to strangers
*I am not patient, not at all
*I am a patriot, I think, with a great love of my country
*Fatty foods over sweets
*I tell a damn good joke
*I love to get into a cold bed and feel it warm up from my body heat
*I loathe cucumbers to the point where, if you ask, I'll just claim that I'm allergic
*I wish I had a little convertible to zip around in, I miss the one my grandfather used to have
*I am very bad about following the dictates of my religion, pretty much any of them
*Spring training games bore me
*I am trustworthy and people tend to repose trust and confidence in me
*I am a nostalgia hound
*I welcome and embrace change, so long as it doesn't interfere with any of my little routines
*I can self indulge with the best of them
That's a good start, I guess.
How about you? What would people not know about you just by looking at you?
My mother takes the grand children out for lunch once a week. Sometimes the lunch is held at my mother's house, sometimes she comes over to our house, and sometimes they all go out. Yesterday, they went out. I am informed that the following conversation took place between Nana and the GC:
Nana: I hear that you're doing a lot of painting these days.
Nana: Will you paint me some new pictures I can put on my fridge?
GC: What's wrong with the old ones? You don't like them?
Damn. I just wish I had been there to see my mother's face. It would have been priceless.
I've had some very funny exchanges with the Girl Child (now 4!) over the last several days and wanted to get them down before I forget them.
Saturday evening, while watching the football game, GC proves that she can get into the mind of the advertising agency who created the Coors Light, "Cold Tasting" campaign. I could not understand what cold tasting was meant to signify, so I wisely asked a better mind, the GC, what she thought "cold tasting" meant. She replied:
Cold tasting? Frosted. Fresh. And yummy.
I suppose she has a future in either beer or advertising. Either way, she's already smarter than I am.
Last night, she became indignant when my wife would not let her do something and this was the interchange:
GC: Pappa, you have to tell Mamma what to do. You're bigger than her and she's smaller than you and she has to listen to you.
Me: Really? Is that how it works?
Me: Ok. I'll give it a try. Mamma, come here and give me a hug, please. [Hug given] Mamma, now give me a kiss, please. [Kiss given]. You're right, GC, it works!
GC: NO, PAPPA! Tell her to do something FOR REAL! [tone: indignant anger]
Me: Well, GC, it really doesn't work that way. The only reason she did what I asked was because I said please.
GC: [Stunned silence as world order collapses]
Finally, I was putting the finishing touches on some soup last night when the GC told me she had to go. We had the following conversation:
GC: Ok, Pappa, I have to go now. I'm teaching high school inside.
Me: What are you teaching?
GC: Yes, cow. How to milk a cow, how to get milk into the pitcher and then how to pour the milk from the pitcher without spilling it.
Me: This is a good thing to teach at high school?
GC: Yes. It's very important.
I want to go back to high school.
First, thank you all for your very kind birthday wishes. We all had a very nice time, as I will report below.
My wife and I took the Girl Child to school, ran some errands, and then came back at 11 for her little party. It was too sweet. The Girl Child sat at the head of the table with a crown that she and her class made. One boy cried. He always cries, though, because he always wants it to be his birthday. In a way, I certainly identify with him. We brought miniature cup cakes and miniature black and white cookies to hand out to her class. The students all poured their own milk, which was a first for this week, we were told. The lights were dimmed, the candles were lit, and the songs were sung. I can't tell if the Girl Child enjoyed being the center of attention but I certainly enjoyed watching it. And it was all terribly wonderful to watch all of her little friends eat their cupcakes and try to pour their own milk without spilling. A whole variety of techniques for cupcake eating was on display from, one boy, eating only the icing, to another boy, starting at the top and eat down and disregard the paper, to the Girl Child, who took delicate little bites from the bottom until she was left with just the icing -- the best part. You can't teach that, you know.
Then we got to read to the class, both my wife and I. That was fun, too. A whole room of 3-4 year olds hanging on your every word. I enjoyed involving them in the story. There would be points in the story where one of the characters would be warned not to something and I'd pause and ask the class if they thought the character was going to listen and they all shouted, "No!" and asked me what was going to happen next. I'm telling you, a jury trial is nothing compared to trying to capture and engage the average 4 year old.
The Girl Child was then brought home, still wearing her crown, and deposited in front of a plate of her one of her favorite things: chilled shrimp. She inhaled a half a pound and I left to put in an appearance at the office.
I returned, however, bearing heart shaped cakes: 2 pink and 2 chocolate iced and all was forgiven. In fact, the Girl Child ran to get her mother and announced to my wife:
Time to go eat some suuuuugar!!!
My wife was very amused. After cake, and washing the spectacular amount of chocolate off the Boy Childâ€™s face, it was time to open the gifts.
The Girl Child received, among other things, a pair of much exclaimed over animal feet slippers from her brother (they went on immediately and did not come off, maybe, until this morning) and, as her big gift from us, an electronic drum set.
Yes, drum set. Did I mention that the nanny gave notice right there and then? Kidding. At least I hope she was kidding. The drums were a big hit, so to speak. The Girl Child took one drum stick and the Boy Child the other and they merrily banged away at them. It was nice to just watch. Happily, since the drum set is electronic, there is a certain amount of volume control built into the toy, so it may not be the end of peace and harmony forever and ever as we know it.
As for the slippers and my cryptic reference about when they came off her feet? When my wife and I put her to bed, she insisted on wearing her new slippers in bed. When asked why, she said:
Hereâ€™s the thing. When you put me into bed, at first, my feet are cold, so I want to sleep with these on. [And then did her best impersonation of an old man from Brooklyn with the shoulders shrugged and both hands held out, palms up, in the physical manifestation of a â€śwhat are you gonna doâ€ť question]
Last night was also the first official night of sleeping without a diaper. She kept telling us that she was going to wait until she turned four before she gave them up and we could not shake her. So, we all waited. I am proud to report that the night passed without incident. I waited around this morning to catch a later train so I could congratulate her and tell her how proud I am of her for getting through the whole night without a diaper, but she gave no sign of waking so I eventually had to leave. I called her during her breakfast and told her. She seemed pleased.
I was kind of excited that she was out of diapers but my wife thought it poignant and, upon reflection, sheâ€™s right (as usual). It is poignant. We have crossed a line here. Some lines, as you go through life, are not so visible, but are very meaningful and some are visible and not to meaningful. I donâ€™t really know where this one falls, perhaps somewhere in between. There is no question it is visible, but is it meaningful? Perhaps it is just poignant because it is visible. Either way, I cast my mind back to when she moved from newborn size diapers to size one and I remember how sad I was that she was growing up so fast. I have never been able to shake that feeling and I try, the best I can, to live as much as I can in the moment with my children, so as to hold on to their childhood as long as I can and to appreciate it without mourning its passing. But then you run into this visible line that you cross and you get jerked back, like a dog at the end of his leash.
Anyway, enough maudlin reflection. There will be plenty of time for that later on Saturday when we have her birthday party with 2,586 screaming children. Then, I will deserve to wallow in maudlin. And Scotch. A lot of Scotch, cause thatâ€™s good for headaches, you know?
January 12, 2001, my wife and I were at NY Hospital, 65th and the River, and at precisely 10:00 that morning, my wife gave birth to our first child, the Girl Child. Shortly after giving birth, my wife basically passed out and remained passed out for about an hour and a half. That meant that when they finished weighing the little thing, they brought her to me. Now, she was crying her little heart out, not at all happy to be taken from her mother's womb and pushed out into a cold, January morning. But, happily for the Girl Child, I listened to an old nurse some months back at the hospital who counseled us to speak to the baby while in the womb. She said it would be helpful at the time of delivery. So, every night, I used to read to my wife's belly and otherwise just chat to it for awhile. The result was that when the nurse handed me my little wrapped up bundle of shrieking baby, and I cuddled her to my neck and spoke soothingly to her, she stopped crying, let out a little sigh, and snuggled into my neck, totally at peace. It was altogether magical and I sat there with her, talking quietly to her, until the nurses made me give her back to be taken to the nursery.
That was four years ago, today.
Happy birthday, my daughter, and many, many more!
Friday night, my wife and I went out to dinner. We dined at a private club. One of the very good things about dining at a private club is also one of the very bad things about dining at a private club: the cocktails are poured with a generous hand. I ordered a Maker's Mark and soda. Out came a glass filled about 85% to the top with bourbon and a small bottle of soda on the side. I drank it, more fool, I. I ended up with that over served feeling and somehow, somewhere in my house that night, contrived to mislay my cell phone.
Saturday evening comes, and I am still looking for it. The Girl Child comes in and asks me what I'm doing. I tell her that I'm looking for my cell phone and this is what she says:
Perhaps I can help?
Me: [Completely taken aback by having the not yet four year old girl child use the word "perhaps" in a sentence] That would be great.
GC: [Steps into the middle of my bedroom, peers around for about five seconds and calls out in a loud and determined voice] Ok! Where the HECK is that phone!?!
I did eventually find it. Just in case you were wondering.
I have been pondering, off and on for the past week, something the Girl Child said over Christmas vacation. I suspect that there is something very profound in it because my mind keeps coming back to it to kick it over again. By way of background, I think she was talking about my parents' dog who died last Autumn. I wrote about it before and I know it had an impact on the GC.
Anyway, her words:
Here's the thing: Once, there was a dog who loved me.
And then she walked away. That was it. One simple sentence (actually from a child not yet four, maybe not so simple). But I can't get it out of my head. Once there was a dog who loved me. No matter what I do, I still think its profound without understanding it or her point. Either way, I want to go out and get a dog now.
Yesterday, while I was at the office, the wife and children went to my parents' house for a little Hanukkah party with their cousin. I'm told it was all very sweet. When I got home, the Girl Child undertook to explain one of the presents to me. It was a fire truck made from fabric and it opened up. Inside was a fire chief doll, a dalmatian doll, and a stuffed fire hydrant. The Girl Child removed each object, showed it to me, and explained as follows:
Ok, Pappa, this is the Fire Chief. This is the Fire House Dog. And this [referring to the hydrant], is the thing that the Fire House Dog pees on.
No way to argue with that. Absolutely correct explanations.
My wife tells me that last night she told the Girl Child that, owing to the GC's less than stellar behavior, they would read only one story at bedtime that night and that they were going up to go to bed right now. The GC replied:
That doesn't really work for me.
I wish I knew where she picked some of these things up.
It has been awhile since I have posted a Girl Child story, so here are two of them.
First, we stayed up late on Wednesday night to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on television. She was very, very excited and was counting down the days until we got to see it. She doesn't get to watch much television, a good thing I think, so she was not too clear on the concept. She thought it was a movie so each time it stopped for a commercial, she'd look up at me, we were cuddling under a blanket on the couch, and she'd ask if it was over yet. I'd tell her no, that it was just on commercial break. Finally, after the 352nd commercial, she looked at me and said:
All these commercials? Its just not right.
Second, she busted me. I told her that I was going to a memorial service and that she could not come because no kids were allowed. This was in the morning. She accepted that reason and let me go peacefully on my way. Later that night, when I got home, I told her that I saw some of her cousins there (the grandchildren of the woman whose husband had died) and the Girl Child said:
Hey! I thought you said that no kids were allowed!!!
My wife and I were astounded that she remembered from this morning and then so clearly busted me on it. I had to explain the circumstances surrounding the reasons why my cousin wanted her grandchildren there. Upon which, the Girl Child told me that Sam was not dead, he was just in heaven. That may sum it up rather neatly for me. I'm not sure where she picked that up, but she was firm and unshakeable in her conviction.
I was right. Slowing down to take things in at the pace of a 21 month old is good for the soul, even if it is bad for the back. And arms.
I carted the young master off to Gotham today. We took the 8:56 train in this morning to get up to the Museum of Natural History. We had no car seat with us so we took the bus up and a bus over. He seemed to enjoy it very much. The train ride was interesting. I reckon he has never heard the word "motherfu**er" quite so much or said with such varying degrees of admiration or affection. It got to the point where I was seriously considering asking the guy to tone his language down, but I was not inclined to get into an argument about it, especially since my son doesn't even talk yet. I also venture to guess that this would be the first time the boy has had the pleasure of the word "ni**er", and no, it wasn't from me (in case you were wondering).
It was a beautiful day in the City. The kind of day that made me sorry I ever moved out. If we were better dressed, I would have taken the boy to brunch.
The musuem was relatively crowded. But, for some reason, the butterfly exhibit was empty. We were there with maybe only 5 or 6 other people. The volunteers had time to show us all kinds of different butterflies. There were about 500 of them flying around in there with us. One of them landed on me. It was beautiful and when it closed its wings, it looked exactly like a leaf. Amazing natural camoflage. The boy kepy running around and pointing at them so I'm pretty sure he was engaged, and that's all I wanted.
I then took him to see the hall of the mammals. He kept running around the elephants, pointing up at them and saying, "Bah!!" Bah is his word for any animal and every animal, fish included. He was adorable.
I got him home in time for lunch (barely) and down for a nap a little late. I know he was tired today because at bedtime tonight, we went down like a stone.
One final thought in this disorganized and disconnected post, taking care of one child is so easy. I kind of forgot that.
I have already, recently, done a post in which I set forth several things for which I was thankful and why and I don't think the subject bears revisiting so soon. No, instead of that, I will go on a bit about how I plan to spend my Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.
We are going to my parent's house for Thanksgiving dinner, well, lunch this year instead of dinner. One nice thing that we do, and I assume we are not alone in this, is we go around the table and talk about what we are thankful for this year, what we are giving thanks for. I always enjoy that. We also have a tradition that we created after my mother had a stroke about 9 years ago. She was in the hospital and not able to join us, so it was just my dad, my wife and me. My sister was in Florida. None of the three of us particularly like turkey, as heretical as that may sound. My father had recently started a subscription to Cooks Illustrated, an excellent magazine, by the way, and had read about dry aging your own prime rib and slow cooking it at 200 degrees for something like six hours. So we 86'ed the turkey and made that instead. It was sublime. And that has become our Thanksgiving meal. Email me if you want the recipe and I'll send it to you. We also use the fabulous meat as an excuse to break out a really good bottle of wine, something far beyond the ordinary every day plonk. The meat deserves it, you know.
Then, at 4:00, my wife and the Girl Child depart for Norway. I am already missing my daughter and I told her that last night. She said that it would be ok and that I could call her in Norway to talk. But there is a silver lining in my little cloud -- ITS BOYS WEEKEND! The Boy Child and I are together for the whole weekend! I can see it now, sports on tv, cigars, scotch, chili, etc. Oh, wait, I forgot. He's only 21 months old. We can't have the cigars. But we can have chili because we discovered last night that he likes my super strong chili. Attaboy!
I am really looking forward to this weekend with him. I feel like it will be a great opportunity to get to know him better since his sister will not be around. It will also force me to slow down and do things at more of a 21 month old pace. This is a good thing. I could use the rest.
And then, when he goes to sleep, the evenings are mine! All mine!!! I can stay up and read, or rent all of the Christopher Guest movies, or run a little tasting test on the various single malts I have, or whatever. It will be pure freedom, constrained only by the need to stay within hearing reach of his monitor. You know, I might even try to get a little exercise. Naw, now why would I want to spoil a perfectly good weekend with something silly like that?
I like the freedom of being alone, of not having my wife around. You know why? The only reason it is enjoyable? Because it is limited in time. If she were gone for a long period, it would not be a treat, but a horrible disconnect. I would hate that, have hated it. How can I sleep, among other things? No, I will enjoy my little freedom as the compensation I get for worrying about my wife and daughter while they are away from me.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving with much to give thanks about!
The Girl Child, all of 3 and 3/4, continues to amuse and delight us.
She summoned me from the dinner table last night with the call to arms:
Hey, baby, let's go to Vegas!
Don't ask. I have no idea where she gets this from.
Then, she asked my wife about my mother's brothers. They had the following conversation:
GC: How many brothers does Nana have?
GC: What are their names?
W: Uncle Steve and Uncle Eric.
GC: Where do they live?
GC: Oh. All uncles live in California, but then they get over it.
Yesterday, I posted about evil and a couple of other things. Today, I experienced the antithesis of evil: children.
My wife and I were the designated Shabbat parents at the nursery school this morning. We brought two loaves of challah, a book, and a CD. We got to sit at the head of the table with the Girl Child. I also, in a multicultural twist at the Jewish preschool, sat next to a very non-Jewish Korean boy. My wife lit the candles and we all said the prayers over the bread, the wine (grape juice), and the candles. The children sang a song. After the celebration, I sat in a rocking chair and, in honor of the Girl Child's other heritage, read a story to the class. I read: Hiccup: The Seasick Viking.
Reading to a class of three year olds was the most pure fun I have had in a really long time. And I gave it a full, dramatic recitation, with different voices for every character and I certainly sang the song in the book to the best of my limited abilities.
My wife then explained the CD we brought with us and the children all danced to Norwegian children's music. The Girl Child grabbed another girl, held hands, and jumped about the place -- when she wasn't dancing with her mother, that is.
It was pure, unalloyed joy and the pleasure was exquisite.
So, the anti-evil? The beauty of a child's smile.
Have a great weekend, y'all!
If you need me, I regret to report that I expect to be at the office all weekend.
I was awakened this morning at 6:38 when I heard my bed room door creak open oh so gently and two little blue eyes peeked around the door frame. She was clutching her little blue blanket that is a must-sleep and, noticing I was awake, she came happily into the room to climb into bed with my wife (still sleeping) and me. We cuddled for almost a half and hour, very quietly. A half an hour of no movement is an eternity for a child. I lay my hand on her little chest and felt her heart beat. Children's hearts beat very fast as if, even in repose, they are in a hurry. I took her hand to put it on her chest and to see if she could feel her heart too and this is what she said to me:
Pappa, when hearts fall in love, they get all warm and fuzzy.
I never thought about it like that but I don't think I could have said it any better.
Here's wishing you all lots of warm and fuzzy.
We had our parent/teacher conference last night with the Girl Child's pre-school teachers. We send her only 3 days a week and all but one of the other children go 5 days a week. We thought that the other 2 days would be good for other things, seeing her grandmother, playdates, etc. Her teachers all had very nice, albeit not very specific, things to say about her: she listens well; plays well with the others; wants to do and does everything they ask of her; and, is just a pleasure to have around. But I could sense an implicit criticism about our decision to have her there for only three days a week. So I finally asked, did they think we should have had her there for all five days? And the head teacher kinds of looks away, and looks back, and purses her lips and blows a stream of air out and says:
Teacher: Do you want an honest answer?
Me: No, lie to me.
Fortunately, she laughed. I really have to learn to watch my mouth.
Last night, while reading bed time stories to the Girl Child, she stumped me. She asked me how to say "clam" in French. I could not remember at all. So I looked it up this morning when I got to work in my handy Larousse. In French, clam is palourde. And now I know exactly why I could not remember this word last night. I never knew it before.
It is just going to be me and my son for Thanksgiving this year. Thanksgiving is not that far away. My wife is jetting off to Norway for her sister's wedding and has decided to take the Girl Child with her. I am more than a little disappointed. I had thought it was going to be just me and the kids all by ourselves for four days and I was delighted. I love having the kids to myself and I am surprised to discover that I am really going to miss having my daughter around. So much so that I want to tell my wife not to take her. But I'm not going to do that.
Instead, I'm focusing on how much fun it will be to have the Boy Child all to myself for four days. I don't really know him as well as I do the Girl Child or as well as I ought to and this should prove to be a golden opportunity to get to know him a bit better. I have not yet formulated any plans or come up with any activities for us to do, but I certainly want to do something fun just for him. Maybe I'll take him to a children's museum or something like that. I hope we both have a good time together. He's only 20 months and really doesn't talk at all yet beyond 2 or 3 words. That can cut down on the possibility of long chats, you see. Still, all in all, this will give him a lot of 100% attention, the kind of attention he can't quite get when the Girl Child is up and running around as she demands quite a lot of attention.
I remember, hazily, last Thanksgiving. We were about to start a trial. I was working around the clock and took that Thursday off. I took the Girl Child to the park to play. We were the only ones there. It was deeply satisfying to be there with her.
The Girl Child is not taking my work schedule (weekends, early mornings, late nights) very well. She keeps asking me when I am going to be taking care of her again. It makes me very sad. I am torn. If circumstances permitted, I'd like to stay home and take care of her full time. I am a reluctant lawyer these days.
I am pretty sure I came out the loser on the following exchange with the Girl Child, aged 3 3/4. I think that by conceding her logic system, I may have really erred. I'll let you all decide.
Me: I hear that you were a real pill today. Why was that?
GC: Well, I can't listen every day. [Pause, then earnest explanation with hands waving for emphasis] I'd get bored.
Me: Oh. Well, you didn't listen today so that means you have to listen tomorrow, ok?
GC: Yes, Pappa.
By the way, before I got home, the nanny told her that she was going to tell us that the Girl Child was not to have any dessert that night because of the way she had been behaving and the Girl Child said to the nanny: "Don't tell Mamma and Pappa, ok? It can be our little secret."
I'm doomed, aren't I?
If you're looking for a post about the latest political kerfuffle, this isn't the one today. If you're looking for a throw back, 1950's kind of family values weekend, look no further than this report. It was, as my wife said, about as G-rated as a girl can get.
After breakfast, I read a Roald Dahl story, the Enormous Crocodile, to the Girl Child while my wife put the Boy Child down for his morning nap. Shortly after reading that, I passed out. I moved to the couch, lay down, and was completely unable to move, even as the Girl Child played the role of the enormous croc and came over from time to time to growl and try to eat my face. I think I just collapsed basically from exhaustion brought about by last week. I lay there, somewhat suspended between sleep and consiousness for anywhere between a half hour and an hour. When I got up, I took a shower, revived myself, and off we went.
We set off to go to one of the local church run pre-school fairs. It is their biggest fund raiser and is well attended. The weather cooperated with the rain holding off. There was a silent auction (we bid and lost) and rides and games. One of the rides was a great big slide. The kids climbed to the top and slid down in a bag and hit a huge puffy pillow at the bottom. The Girl Child wanted to give it a try. She had major problems getting to the top, though. One of the steps was broken and the way up was both steep and constructed from a slick industrial nylon. She did not give up, though, she kept trying until, with a little help from the guy at the top, she made it. She was quite triumpant and didn't even wait for the guy to help her get into position to slide down. She just put herself into her little bag and away she went. She loved it.
When we left, we drove by another church that was having a pumpkin patch benefit to raise money for their school. So we stopped and bought a couple of pumpkins to carve up for later.
We took the kids home for naps at that point and I went out to the gorcery store to buy all the necessaries to create a pot of chili. Well, almost all. There was no chipotle in adobo, which was a great disappointment to me and left the chili a little lacking somehow. Fall is here for sure and with it comes the need to cook things that simmer on the stove for a long time. Besides, I adore chili. While poking around in the freezer, just before beginning the chili making, I found that we had some Trader Joe's frozen dumplings, at least two different kinds.
So, when the kids awoke, they were very happy to be given dumplings for dinner. The Girl Child ate more than I would have ever expected a child of her age to eat and then came back after dinner and asked for more. The Boy Child was less enthralled.
Sunday dawned beautifully, although I admit to grumpiness. It passed. We loaded children into cars and headed up county about 40 minutes away to go to an apple orchard. At least, that's what we thought we were going to be doing, spending the day drifting from tree to tree and picking apples. No. Instead, the place was organized like a miniature county fair. It was great fun. There was a pumpkin patch and pony rides. We took a hay ride through one of the orchards and sang songs and just had a great time. We ended up buying some apples (Macoun, if you care) and pears and taking them home with us because we had exceeded the allotted time.
Then, driving back to the highway, we saw a sign for the Casafina warehouse sale. Casafina is an importer of Italian and Portugese hand painted ceramics. We are bad about these kinds of things and acknowledge that we possess little or no restraint. That said, we were pretty well behaved here and only bought a couple of things, including a wedding present for a friend.
After we got home and put the kids to bed, I worked for an hour and a half (got to remember to bill this), cleaned out the freezer, washed the kitchen down, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, took the recycling out to the garage, and washed all the new pottery stuff. A whirlwind of activity.
While I was doing this, the wife was out exercising outside where she reported a most unlikely sighting -- a Subaru sporting a Bush/Cheney sticker. A rare almost unprecedented occurrence.
When the kids awoke, we shoveled them back into the car to take over to my parents for dinner. My dad made Osso Bucco. It was the perfect end to the weekend. The kids put a silly cd on and danced with my dad while I cleaned up a little (after all, he did the cooking).
And to top it all off, the kids went straight to sleep. I should have bought a lottery ticket, you know?
I know it was very quiet here today. The thing is that I woke up this morning at 3:40 in a total sweat. I was absolutely convinced that every decision I've taken in the past month, or more, on every case I'm responsible for, was utterly wrong and I had totally screwed up millions of dollars of litigation. It was horrible and I was terrified. I also admit to worries that I had defaulted on a zillion different things. This is how stress manifests itself sometimes for lawyers; in night terrors. I could not get back to sleep and I was not awake enough to think about things rationally. It was pretty fucking horrible. I got up and I went to work. At my desk by 6:15 a.m. And I worked very hard today with no time outs for blogging. I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to do but I got enough done that I ought to be able to sleep tonight.
All that said, I wish I had had the Girl Child's career vision when I was younger. She told me the following tonight:
GC: Pappa, I know what I want to be when I grow up.
Me: What's that?
GC: A doctor. [Pause] And a super hero. Although, it's hard work being a super hero.
That may be, but it beats being a lawyer. At least, it does this week.
I have clearly warped the mind of the Girl Child who, at 3 1/2, appears to understand me fully without need of translation. See, the thing is that I got into the habit very early with her of trying to say things in as many different ways as possible in order to build her vocabulary and the habit has become unconcious. This weekend we were in the car and had the following interchange:
GC: Pappa, can I put my window down?
GC: Why not?
Me: The control panel indicates that it is not appropriate for you to open your window.
GC: That means the lock is on, right? Maybe you could unlock it.
Me: [I laughed, bowed to her superior reasoning, and unlocked it]
It's fun with kids, to watch their vocabularies explode. I wouldn't trade these moments for anything.
I just put the Girl Child to bed and I wanted to record this quickly, before I forgot it. We were going downstairs, after saying good night to her brother, to have some dessert and watch some Yankees baseball and we had the following exchange:
Me: Would you like some pudding?
Her: The green kind?
Me: No, the other one.
Her: The butterscotch?
Me: Yes. [Ed. Note: The sugar free butterscotch jello pudding is like crack for the low carbers. Pure crack, I tell you]
Her: No [long drawn out and contemplative]. I'm into introducing myself to some ice cream.
Me: What did you say?
Her: I'm into introducing myself to some ice cream. I think I'll share with Mamma.
I really had to ask her to repeat herself. I just could not quite believe what she said or how she said it.
I am reporting in on the first day of pre-school and the parents' meeting we attended that night.
Pre-school was charming. There are about 14 or 15 kids and 3 teachers. The Girl Child bravely consented to the pony tail and the risk of not being recognized, but, no fear, her teachers remembered her. That didn't mean she wasn't scared. She made it halfway down the front steps when she went tearfully flying back up the stairs to give her little brother an extra hug and a kiss. Drama and tears over, we headed off to school.
No separation anxiety this year. Uh, I mean that there was no separation anxiety for ME, she was fine. She gave us a wave, called me back for "an extra hug and a kiss, Pappa", and she was off. It was that easy. I don't think she looked back after the extra hug and kiss.
We picked her up after the abbreviated session and, on the way out, grabbed a couple of pastries for her off the tray they put out for parents. In the car, we asked her how the morning went. She told us, "we read Tassen Sover Borte pĂĄ engelsk!" Which is "Spot slept over" and which she has in Norwegian at home. She was pretty tickled to have it in English.
All in all, it was a good start. The parent meeting was fine, too. The group of parents we met seem significantly less neurotic than last year. Interestingly, out of these 14-15 kids, the following language are spoken primarily at home: Spanish; Turkish; Hebrew; and, Norwegian. There may be some Korean speakers too but we weren't sure.
Thanks to everyone for their kind wishes! Unfortunately, no pancakes were possible. Sorry!
Forecast: Light to very light blogging today.
Today is the first day of pre-school and I'm skipping the morning at work so I can take the girl child. She doesn't want us to put her hair in a pony tail because she's concerned that no one will recognize her if we do. She's otherwise very excited. I'm not as upset as I was last year when it was her first year but I am very mixed about how quickly she seems to be growing up. I'm not ready!
I expect today will be a lot of fun.
I probably have a lot to answer for. My daughter is in her little black and white t-shirt from Alcatraz and running around announcing to one and all what I told her to say to anyone at the beach if they ask her either where she got the t-shirt or why she's wearing it:
I'm a gangsta of luuuv.
Exhibit A in the case of why I should not be trusted to home school my children.
I lied about something really important today. I told my daughter that there are no monsters in the world and that she is safe and that there really isn't anything scary. The thing is, she doesn't need, at 3 1/2, to know differently. But I know.
This woman knows:
Evil walks the earth and kills children for some perceived political gain. I don't know what it is. I sit, this morning, with my coffee and I look upon my daughter and I am so ineffably sad and I try so hard not to show it to her because she doesn't need that.
But I wonder, are we next? Will it be some pre-school in Tacoma or Miami or White Plains?
And so I sit there and I watch her and I know that I cannot keep her safe. And I lie to her. But I cannot lie to myself.
There are monsters and they bring terror in the name of Islam. I shy away from writing that last sentence because I know that muslim does not mean terrorist. I was raised to think differently and I like to think that I know differently. But something has gone terribly wrong somewhere if adherents to a creed or a cause or a system of beliefs think they are right and justified in shooting children in the back as they flee a burning building.
I lie to my daughter and tell her there are no monsters. But there are. And I fear. I am so very afraid.
I just put the Girl Child to bed after watching the Yankees / Indians game. We watched Jorge Posada hit a home run and I remarked that he was pretty good. She then said that she was not such a good baseball player and I told her that she was not a professional and we had the following exchange:
Me: They are professionals and they get paid.
Girl Child: They get paid? Money? To play baseball?
GC: [Stunned silence for a moment] Well, I don't know . . . [More silence] Well, I don't know EVEN what to say.
Never too early to learn it is absurd to pay men to play a kid's game.
We have just returned from eating ice cream down in the village and the Girl Child is running laps in my bedroom around her mother who is seated on the floor. We had the following exchange, me and the She Who Was Hopped Up On Sugar:
Me: Hey, Sugar Girl!
Girl Child: I'm not Sugar Girl.
Me: So, what makes you so sweet, then?
Girl Child: [pause for thought] You loving me.
Very sweet, isn't it?
This morning at breakfast, the Girl Child and I watched as her brother happily painted his face and hair with blueberry butter (really, a yogurt spread). My wife said to him, "you are such a goof ball".
I looked at the Girl Child and we had the following exchange:
Me: Where did you get such a goof ball for a brother from?
Girl Child: You made him.
Tonight, while watching the most excellent Puerto Rican comeback against the Aussies in basketball, I notice the Boy Child is marching over to the bar. The Girl Child follows him. While I direct my attention to the game, I hear from over by the bar:
"Boy Child", she admonishes (she did actually use his name), "Get out of Pappa's Scotch!"
She is clearly looking out for me. Or my Scotch. Either way, she is such a good kid.
We allowed the girl child to stay up late last night and the night before to watch the Olympics. Together, we watched the medal ceremony for the first American fencer to win a gold medal. As an ex-fencer myself, I was thrilled. The young woman stood on the podium and they played the national anthem. The girl child was playing with a stuffed animal and stopped when the music started. And this is what she said:
What is that music? It's so beautiful!
Thus warming this old patriot's heart a little more.
Here's hoping we see some more world records broken by drug-free athletes!!!
The Girl Child and I were watching the Olympics on Sunday, specifically some of the swimming. She was pretty interested in it and so, dreaming of seeing her on the podium one day, we had the following conversation:
Me: Those are the fastest people in the whole world swimming this event right now. Isn't that cool?
Me: Would you like to swim like that one day at the Olympics?
Her: [Pause as she thinks about it] No, I just want to swim fast in the kiddy pool.
And so my dreams of vicarious Olympic glory slink away.
I was awakened this morning by the Girl Child ("GC") crawling into bed at around 7:00. I asked her why she got into our bed and she said, "because I love you". I thought that was very sweet and then she added, "also, I was very hungry and would like to go out for pancakes this morning".
I turned to my wife and asked, "what do you think, Mamma?"
And the GC said: "No, you tell her what she thinks."
I said: "What? You mean you want me to tell her what she thinks instead of asking her what she thinks about going out for breakfast?"
GC: "Yes." [Tone: emphatic]
Upshot: I am signing off to go take the family out for breakfast. Why? Because I believe I have just been told by my 3.5 year old what I should be thinking.
I managed, all by myself, to get my mom home from the hospital on Wednesday and to get her comfortably installed back in her own house. She was happy to be back, although, within 5 minutes of sitting down, the phone rang with the news that one of her dearest friends had died that day. She looked quite diminished by the call when she hung up. As I was leaving, she asked me to have my daughter call her when she got up from her nap. I told her I would.
After the girl child's nap, I gave her the phone and ran out to pick my wife up from work (I had her car for the day). The rest of the story is as told to me by my mother.
The Girl Child and her grandmother had a very pleasant chat until GC told her grandmother that she had to go to the bathroom and her grandmother said that she'd call back later. Well, the GC insisted that she could take the phone with her and my mother just sort of tagged along. Until the GC tried to drown my mother by dropping the phone into the toilet bowl.
When my mother called her back, the GC told her:
"Nanna, I am so embarrassed! That has never happened to me before in my whole life!"
The GC told us about the incident when I returned home with the wife and she concluded her narrative with the words, said very solemnly: "It was a very silly thing to do."
Just a quick note, to illustrate how funny it can be when a child answers a rhetorical question. We were at breakfast, at a local diner, and I convinced the girl child to take one more bite of her pancakes. I found a really good bite, put it on the fork, and this is what we said to each other:
Me: Here's a great bite, full of butter and syrup. Fat and sugar, what could be better than that?
Her: Well, we could have dessert.
Just so you know, I don't embellish these little exchanges. I don't need to.
I got home late last night after a client dinner sprinkled with liberal amounts of bourbon, but not too much because I have to be in Court this morning and judges don't like it if they can smell the booze you're sweating.
The girl child called to me from her room. It was about 9:30 and, after I had gotten out of my suit, I went in and crawled into bed with her. We chatted for a minute and then had the following conversation, which amused me so I share it here:
Me: Did you have fun at camp today?
Me: Well, was anyone mean to you?
Me: Did anyone hit you? (part of the fantasy world of a 3.5 year old)
Me: Did you hit anyone?
Me: Did you get put in time out again? (Never happened, again fantasy from her)
Me: Did you put anyone in time out?
Me: Well, did you eat anything fun today?
Her: You mean, at camp?
Me: Sure. Do they feed you at camp?
Her: Yes. They gave us chocolate chip cookies AGAIN! [Said in tone of exasperation along with hand waved rigidly for emphasis]
Me: You didn't want chocolate chip cookies?
Me: What did you want?
Her: Bananas with whipped cream. (Which I believe she has never eaten in combination before).
Me: Did you tell them you wanted that?
Me: They were just supposed to know?
Her: Yes [emphatically].
Me: Sweetheart, I love you.
Me: Well, there are too many reasons for me to give tonight since you really should be asleep.
Her: Ok, tell me one now and you can tell me the rest tomorrow.
Me: Ok, one reason is because you are my daughter.
Her: Hmpf. Tell me THREE and the rest tomorrow.
Me: Because you're wonderful and special, too. Now, who's the smartest, nicest, prettiest little girl in the whole world*?
Her: There are two. Mamma and me. Now I have a question for you.
Her: Who is the smartest and goodest boy in the whole world?
Me: Your brother?
Her: And who else? Pappa!
At which point kisses were exchanged and she went off to sleep.
I feel constrained to point out that she omitted any reference to my looks.
*Maybe we overthink this, but whenever I ask her this question, I put the pretty at the end because the last thing I want to do is make her image conscious, which all girls are at some point, and to let her know that I rank other things above her physical appearance. My wife and I discuss these things. You do have to pay careful attention to what and how you talk to a child, I think. You send messages all the time. I want her to be secure that she is attractive, because it is foolish to say it is not important, but I don't want her to obsess over it. Again, maybe we're overthinking this too much!
Does anyone really doubt that television is evil and will suck the soul right out of your body, feed on it, and discard what remains, leaving you only an empty husk of a shell? It is totally soul destroying, imagination killing, attention span reducing, devil spawn. Unless, of course, it's showing something good, like baseball, or opera, or ballet, or, football, or the Olympics, or some of the really nasty HBO programming that I like so much. But for kids, it sucks.
This cannot be a shock to anyone. Let's review basic television economics, shall we? TV exists as a medium to sell stuff. TV, public broadcasting and viewer supported broadcasting aside, is supported by the sale of advertising. If the shows are not pulling the viewers, then the advertisers pull the plug on the show and that's that. The writers may tell you different, they may tell you that they are creating art or cutting edge programming, or some other nonsense. Don't believe them. Content is paid for and driven by money spent to advertise. Children's TV is the worst, of course because they are selling directly to minds incapable of making critical distinctions between competing claims.
So, we don't let our children watch television, except with us and generally just some sports or dance programs. The girl child gets to watch one Disney video a week and that's usually that. No TV at all for the boy child because, at 1.5, he's simply too young. We took this decision a long time ago and certainly before reading this article today in the NY Times entitled: "TV's Toll on Young Minds and Bodies".
This article was frightening to me. I will pull out some of the scarier findings for your consideration. Just bear in mind that I've not looked at any of the studies referenced herein and can't vouch for their rigor.
*The average young child in this country watches about four hours of television a day and each year sees tens of thousands of commercials, often for high-fat, high-sugar or high-salt snacks and foods; thousands of episodes of violence; and countless instances of alcohol use and inappropriate sexual activity. By the time American children finish high school, they have spent nearly twice as many hours in front of the television set as in the classroom.
*Nearly 60 percent of children aged 8 to 16 have a TV in their bedroom.
*A child glued to the tube is sitting still, using the fewest calories of any activity except sleeping. Such children get less exercise than those who watch less television, and they see many more commercials for unhealthful foods and beverages. They also have more opportunity to consume such foods than do children who are out playing. It is no surprise, then, that the percentage of American children who are seriously overweight has risen to more than 15 percent today, from 5 percent in 1964.
*Studies have found that children who watch 10 or more hours of TV a week have lower reading scores and perform less well academically than comparable youngsters who spend less time watching television. Long-term studies suggest several reasons.
*One study of 2,500 children conducted at Children's Hospital in Seattle and published in April in the journal Pediatrics found that the more TV watched by toddlers aged 1 to 3, the greater their risk of attention problems at age 7. For each hour watched a day, the risk of developing attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder increased by nearly 10 percent. Children with this problem find it hard to concentrate, have difficulty organizing and exhibit impulsive behavior.
*Studies of brain function show evidence of direct harm to the brains of young children who watch television for two or more hours a day. Watching television fosters development of brain circuits, or "habits of mind," that result in increased aggressiveness, lower tolerance levels and decreased attention span, in lieu of developing language circuits in the brain's left hemisphere.
*Other problems associated with excessive television viewing are poor sleep quality and a greater likelihood of taking up smoking. A study two years ago by the Center for Child Health Outcomes in San Diego found that children aged 10 to 15 who watched five or more hours of television a day were six times as likely to start smoking as those who watched less than two hours a day.
To borrow from Animal House, fat, hopped up on sugar, and stupid is no way to go through life.
The article gives a website for appropriate child videos and I'm going to check it out later. What are some classic videos any of you recall watching as a child?
Last night I got home from work and I was cranky and overheated. Cranky because work was less than fulfilling yesterday and overheated because dear, OLD, Metro North had no air conditioning on its train cars last night, at least on my train.
I walked in and was greeted by my daughter gleefully telling me: "I was a pill today, an absolute pill." That set her tone for the remainder of the evening. My wife gave the baths but, due to poor listening skills by my daughter, had to tag out. We do that, the two of us. When it gets to the point where you feel like you are going to lose your patience, you can call out to the other parent, "I'm tagging out" or "you need to tag in" and, like in wrestling, the other parent steps into the ring. It has kept us from losing our minds, this little game. The problem will be when the kids figure it out and start to game us on purpose. But, that's another day, I hope.
After the baths was story time. Story time is a critical time of the day for my daughter. We lead up to it with negotiations concerning the number of stories, the mix of stories (if shorter ones are chosen, can we read more of them), and the selection themselves (because I insist on new ones from time to time). Usually, the boy child could not care less about story time. He has shown no interest in sitting on my lap while I read and when I try, he loudly demands to be set free. Last night was different, though.
The girl child selected three books: "There's a Wocket in my Pocket"; Cecil's Garden" and "Kiss Good Night". I pulled the boy child up since he was within reach and we began with the wocket book. He lasted all of two pages before wanting to get down. So I let him down and continued reading to the girl while keeping watch on the boy with my peripheral vision. He picked up the stethoscope from the girl child's doctor kit, put it around his neck and then, seemingly content, came back and held his arms out to be picked up again. Whereupon he rejoined us for the remainder of the wocket book and seemed to pay close attention to the last two books as well. He didn't reach for them or try to turn or crumple the pages, he just sat there happily as I read with, I must admit, greater animation than usual. I gave a different voice to each character and tried every oratorical flourish I could think of to keep his interest and get him hooked on the experience.
After we finished the three books, I began to rock in the glider chair and he slipped down a little in my lap to lay his little head in the crook of my arm. He was obviously very tired. I told the girl child that her brother was tired and she leaned forward a bit to take a look and then promptly lay down herself across my lap and put her head on his little chest and shoulder.
And we rocked in total peace and tranquility and I didn't want that moment to end for anything. I'd rather be home with them now, honestly, even if the girl child is being a pill.
This morning, it was just me and the girl child for breakfast. The boy and the wife slept in. The girl awoke by coming in and climbing in for a wordless cuddle. We took the show downstairs because I needed coffee and she needed food. As I served her, she passed gas and I asked her, "did you just toot?" and she replied, laconically, "yup". So, now bear with me because the rest of the conversation took place in Norwegian, I asked her, "er du en tootie pike?" and then I said, "well, det var ikke norsk", because toot and any variation is not a Norwegian word. Meaning: "Are you a farty girl, well, that wasn't Norwegian". And she replied: "Jeg er norsk og det var en norsk fis!" Translation: I am Norwegian and that was a Norwegian fart."
Vertigo, according to my trusty Webster's, is a "dizzy or confused state of mind". It is also, in my house, a condition brought about by hopping in and out of bed to run back and forth between your bed, if you are 3 1/2, and your parents' room, when your parents think that you are safely ensconced in your bed and headed off to dreamland. We are experiencing a lot of bed time vertigo.
My wife and I leave our bedroom door ajar at night. Slightly more open than cracked. What happens is this, we hear a little creak of the door, and a little golden head slowly inserts itself in the opening and two little eyes come into view as they carefully peer around the edge to see if she might be welcome. Then she bops right in, sometimes interrupting a conversation not really meant for 3.5 year old ears, and announces that she just came in for an extra hug and a kiss.
Last night, I was sitting in one of the chairs we have in our bedroom and she came in, this was the second visit, and informed us of her need to give more hugs and kisses. She looked at me in my chair and said, "you know, Pappa, this would be easier if I climbed up into your lap". I told her that would be fine, got my extra hug, kiss and cuddle and sent her off to bed. Again.
The third time she came in, she said, "I heard a noise. Mamma, did you make a noise? Mamma, det er stille tid", she admonished. For you non-Norwegian speakers, she told my wife that it is quiet time. I barely managed to not laugh out loud. And off she went by herself back to bed after giving my wife a kiss.
My wife and I have a different point of view on these little excursions. My wife doesn't like them. She worries a little about the invasion of privacy, like last night when my wife and I were having a private conversation and the girl child snuck in. I don't worry about that at all. I am absolutely delighted. I love these little flying visits. They are pure joy. I propped her up on the counter during the first visit so she could keep me company while I brushed my teeth. Eventually she will go back to bed and sing herself and her animals to sleep. I treasure every second of these visits. I think it's close to the best part of parenthood so far. I explained this to my wife and she said she'd try to come around to my point of view. She's a little stressed right now but if she says she'll try, she really will try. She's good like that.
I just wonder how it is the girl child's head doesn't spin, hence the vertigo in the title, from all of her ups and downs and ins and outs.
Last night, I was once again put firmly in my place by the girl child.
She joined us downstairs for a snack after putting on her pj's. Actually, what she called a snack was almost as much as my wife ate for her entire dinner. I don't know where this child puts it. She is so thin that the doctor actually had her tested to see if she was absorbing nutrients. She was. She is in the 90th percentile for her age group for height and the 50th for weight. Tall and thin. I don't have any idea where that comes from. After finishing her "snack", we adjourned to the living room to watch the Yankees/Blue Jays game on mute while we had our story.
She picked two books, one in Norwegian for my wife to read and one in English for me. Mine was "Katy No Pockets", a story about a kangaroo who lacks a pocket in which she can carry her baby. I get tired of reading the same old story all the time, so, I do what any normal father does. I change the words. In Curious George, for example, the Man with the Yellow Hat becomes the Man with the Green Hat. Katy was not searching for a pocket this time, but a backpack. My daughter is way too smart for this kind of thing, though. She catches me every time. She tells me, "Pappa, read it straight, please, not funny."
Last night, though, we finished the book and she decided to make it clear to me just where I went wrong with Katy. She hopped off my lap and came around in front of me. She opened the book to the last page and pointed to the picture of Katy wearing her apron of many pockets and she said, firmly, "see, Pappa, pockets, not a backpack, pockets". She looked at me carefully, as if to make sure I understood, and then took the book back to put on the shelf. Her work completed, we went upstairs to go to bed.
I may have said this before, but it bears repeating. There are times when I interact with my daughter that I fear for my future. She's only 3.5 but I think sometimes she's really a 20 year old trapped in a little person's body.
Last night, she and I were sitting at the kitchen table where I was impatiently waiting for my wife to come downstairs after putting the boy child to bed. I was hungry and wanted to start dinner. The girl child was happy discovering the joys of the lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice dumpling I brought home for her yesterday from Chinatown. Finally, I turned to my daughter and asked her what was taking her mother so long to get downstairs. Here is our conversation:
GC: "Maybe she's doing something upstairs".
Me: "Yeah, but what could be taking so long?"
GC: "I don't know. I'm not upstairs. [pause] Did you think I was upstairs?"
I don't know if she was serious or being sarcastic (my wife votes for sarcastic), but either way, I feel like I'm totally screwed going forward.
I feel mojo-less this morning, bereft of topics, out of ideas. I blame the tiredness from the 3 a.m. wakeup call from my wife's new pedometer that she just put the batteries into yesterday. It has an alarm function. It went off at 3:04 a.m. The children gave us a problem free night but the wife's new toy jumped at the chance to fill in.
Yesterday was actually pretty nice. We took the kids in the morning to a farm in Stamford with a great playground to burn off energy on after looking at all the different animals. The boy child appeared unmoved by the animals while the girl child was mostly struck by the smell. She also liked the "baby pigs" the best.
We brought them home for lunch and packed them off for naps. I got a little writing done while they tried to go to sleep. The boy child cooperated. The girl child refused. No nap for her. My wife was exhausted, though, and I thought she really needed a little peace and quiet. So at the risk of being seen to reward bad behavior, I put the girl child into her swim suit and took her down to the kiddy pool.
She flung herself about in the pool for about an hour. The lips turned blue and the teeth started to chatter at about the 30 minute mark. She insisted she was fine up until the hour passed and then she consented to get out and be wrapped in a towel. We then went and got a drink and her some gold fish and sat companionably by the ocean and chatted about the sailboats out on the Sound. It was delightful.
Even more delightful, she rewarded us by going to sleep early and immediately so as to give my wife and I a little grown up alone time as the Yankees got spanked by the Red Sox.
Am I the only one who watched the game and found the pictures of John Kerry mugging for the camera to be distasteful?
My daughter and I were up early this morning and went down to breakfast by ourselves. I asked her what she wanted this morning and instead of telling me, she said:
Give me the beat boys and free my soul. I want to get lost in your rock and roll and drift away.
I was kind of surprised and I asked her where she learned that. She said, "the car, Pappa, the car taught it to me".
Nothing ruffles my wife. Not even my daughter and I treating her and the boy to a quiet, but still probably too loud, rendition of "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Hairy Tushies" during lunch today at our favorite Indian restaurant.
At the conclusion of the song, my daughter turns to my wife and asks:
Hairy tushies, do they taste good? I bet they don't.
My wife just laughed. I suspect my daughter is right but disclaim enough knowledge of the subject to opine with any authority.
One of the nice things about raising kids in this area is the most important diversity of all: culinary. My daughter, aged 3.5, could discuss with us today whether she wanted Mexican or Indian or even Thai. This is just one the best parts of immigration -- good ethnic eats.
My daughter reminded me of the new holiday today that she had invented some time ago. I haven't heard about it in a while.
We were chatting this morning while I was getting dressed to go to work and I asked her what she was going to do today. She said that she was going to the park to play and then she wanted to make and decorate cupcakes. I replied that I thought she was going to camp today and maybe she could do the other things on Friday. She said, no, that she was not going to camp because today was "Play-All-Day-Veen". This is her holiday, based on Halloween I think.
I could use a little "Play-All-Day-Veen" myself today. Well, maybe I'm going to do the grownup equivalent and go take a long lunch with a friend.
I wish you all a very happy Play-All-Day-Veen!
The wife is on a business trip to Germany all this week and when the wife's away (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), you know what happens, right? Daddy comes home early from work and gives all the baths by himself and reads all the stories by himself and kisses all the boo-boo's better by himself and just has such a great time alone with the kids that he doesn't want to go to work at all. It has been pretty close to sheer bliss.
I come home, take off the suit, and we play. I then partially undress the little guy and let him run around with his shirt off. He likes to stroll about the place, after the shirt comes off, slapping his naked chest with both hands. The girl looked at him last night and said, "hey, stud man". I don't think she knows what it means but it was funny. We then get milk for the little guy and I throw them both in the bath where there was much splashing of each other and of me. Here's a tip, by the way, for when you are dealing with overtired little pills -- throw 'em in the bath. They love it, it relaxes them and they are in a contained space. The boy then gets put in his crib, after milk, and the girl comes downstairs with me, in her pj's.
The girl keeps me company while I dine. She sits, we chat, and we clink glasses -- my glass of (last night) vino verde (Portugese Green Wine -- the perfect summer white) to her sippy cup of chamomile tea (she's been reading Madeline). She eats off my plate with her own fork. It's very companionable. After, I thanked her for sharing dinner and she told me that she had already had dinner and this was just a "snack". We go off and read stories and then we try to put her to bed. She won't go to sleep, mind you, but she will go to bed. Last night I was treated through the monitor to a moving rendition of "head, shoulders, knees and toes" as she sang to her animals.
This morning, as I was playing at the computer in my bedroom (we have a lap top at home), she came sneaking in with her blanket and climbed into my lap. She didn't say a word. She just arranged herself in my lap and put her head between my shoulder and neck and lay there for five to ten minutes while I gently stroked her shiny, golden hair. It was totally silent and so peaceful. I was content with everything at that moment and filled up with love and with happiness. It was beautiful. It ended when she looked up at me and said, "Pappa, is it ok if I toot?" I guess she thought our little moment was pretty special, too, since this was the first time she ever asked my permission to pass gas.
The wife returns on the late flight tonight. I will be happy to have her home but I will treasure the little moments when I had the single parent duties.
The weekend was good. I actually did an enormous amount of blogging this weekend, which is unusual for me. But, then, I had a lot to say.
We spent a lot of time being focused on the children to the exclusion of taking care of the house. That's ok, I think. The house isn't dirty, it's just messy. There's an important distinction and anyone with kids understands it. Before kids, I'm not sure that I did understand it so well.
Saturday was spent at the kiddy pool, either flinging the girl child around in the water to the accompaniment of her shrieks of laughter and demands for one more time, or trying to keep the boy child from killing himself as he somehow formed the conclusion that walking up to the edge of the pool backwards and stepping back into the pool was an acceptable method of entry. It was great fun and the Summer is shaping up to be idyllic.
Saturday was also, however, the scene of a tactical blunder on my part. I attempted a "nap-over", as we call them, with my daughter. That means that during her afternoon nap, I joined her in her bed with my pillow. She provided me with one of her blankets and a judiciously selected stuffed animal to cuddle with. I was given the flamingo this time. The blunder was that she was too excited to have me in bed to sleep. I slept and she didn't. So I was rested by the time we went over to my parents for dinner and she wasn't. By the time that bowl of ice cream my mother gave her hit her system, we had sugar + overtired = difficult. Still, at least I was rested!
Sunday was rainy and humid. No pool. Instead, we went to a local playground and then to feed the geese and ducks. The boy child had trouble with the concept of parting with the bread. My wife, who was holding him, would give him bread to throw and, instead, he'd eat it himself. MY daughter enjoyed feeding them but displayed great concern about the geese who circled behind us and went into the road. She ordered them back onto the grass with great authority.
Geese are kind of scary, aren't they? I remember reading as a child that Roman Armies used them as sentries. Plutarch writes about the geese and how they warned the Romans of a sneak attack on Rome by the Gauls:
Rome's Fortune, however, did not lack a voice capable of revealing and declaring such a great mischance. Sacred geese were kept near the temple of Juno for the service of the goddess. Now by nature this bird is easily disturbed and frightened by noise; and at this time, since they were neglected, because dire want oppressed the garrison, their sleep was light, and was made uncomfortable by hunger, with the result that they were at once aware of the enemy as they showed themselves above the edge of the cliff. The geese hissed at them and rushed at them impetuously, and at the sight of arms, became even more excited, and filled the place with piercing and discordant clamour. By this the Romans were aroused, and, when they comprehended what had happened, they forced back their enemies and hurled them over the precipice. And even to this day, in memory of these events, there are borne in solemn procession a dog impaled on a stake, but a goose perched in state upon a costly coverlet in a litter.
After the ducks and geese, the boy child made an important stride forward in his acquisition of the attributes of humanity: he communicated with words his hunger. "Num num" is Norwegian for yummy. It is an acceptable answer to the question, "is that good?" The boy, and the girl before him, is using it to signify food. When we got back in the car, he started complaining a little and saying, "num num", and when we got to the restaurant, he started saying "num num" again and was very excited. My wife observed that he made a great stride today and made our lives easier as well because he could now start to tell us what he wanted, in place of just crying and hoping we'd figure it out.
I hope you all had as nice a weekend as we did!
I was cuddling in bed with the girl child last night when she turned to me and said, "Pappa, can I tell you something?" And I said, "of course". So, she said:
Luke. I am your father.
I'm so proud.
(By the way, I think I said this to her once, some weeks ago. I don't know where she keeps this stuff.)
Tonight, at the dinner table, my wife told my daughter to do something or maybe it was to refrain from doing something. Either way, my daughter did not want to obey. So, what did the 3.5 year old tell her mother?
It's MY house; I just let you live in it because I love you.
The future scares me now more than ever.
Azalea requested I explain what I meant by my statement that, with respect to the NY Times, I have "language issues". Fair enough, I can see how that may have been a little obtuse or obscure or some other word starting with "ob".
At home, I tend to talk to the newspaper. Out loud. Usually by myself, but generally I don't care if others are there. I regard the reading of the newspaper as a conversation between me and the writers and editors. I orally convey my agreement with an article, as in, "yes, exactly right". Or my disagreement, sometimes, by proclaiming loudly, "you complete asshole, that is such a biased presentation and just totally ignores the facts!" Sometimes I will review out loud what those missing facts are. Sometimes my language gets coarser. I don't know if I am alone in conducting this kind of conversation with the Times. I hope not. If I am, I will simply mark it down as one of my charming idiosyncracies. Feel free to chime in on this point.
In any event, I had been doing this for years. Long before the arrival of the children. And while I saw good reasons to stop doing this around the children, there were times I just could not help myself. For instance, I consider the NY Times' articles concerning the conflict in Israel to be so one-sided and so anti-Israel so as to be a national outrage. In fact, I really started reading the NY Post in earnest on September 12, 2001, since the coverage by the Post of 9/11 did not include any earnest questions about what we as a nation had done to deserve this attack. But I digress.
One day, my daughter was sitting and having breakfast with the nanny when out popped a whole series of curses. The nanny was astonished and asked her why she was using such language. The little girl pointed to the table and explained with one word: "Newspaper". The nanny then requested that I stop reading the newspaper around the children if I could not control myself.
I hope that clarifies what I meant when I said I have language issues with respect to the NY Times. Still, I suppose it might be more accurate to say instead that the NY Times has writing issues and I have control issues.
Not Seven-Up. No, I mean flat.
My wife has a second interview for a job she thinks she wants. As a result, she needed a good night last night. The girl child, if she woke in the darkness, would be my responsibility. And she woke. She woke crying with what I believe as a bad dream, but that is only my surmise as she declined to elaborate on the reasons when offered the opportunity. That was at 1:28. I managed to get back to sleep and my wife did not stir. A success, according to the way I am judging these things.
Then, she woke and called again. 3:00 in the morning. I was not happy, especially when she told me that it was for another hug and a kiss. I gave it to her and she promised she'd go right to sleep. She even did. I did not. No, I mostly lay in bed and thought about how I might consider listing her on Craig's List to trade for a stuffed fish I could hang on a wall. Disclaimer, I do not consider myself responsible for my thoughts at that time of the morning and, if she is extra cute this morning, I may reconsider.
But right now, I see a flat day with limited fizz ahead of me.
If you recognize the title, you have young children or a great appreciation for the finer points of children's literature and film. It is, of course, from Alice in Wonderland and is the song they sing at the Mad Hatter's tea party. My daughter loves that song and the cartoon movie.
I came home from work a little late last night, but still early enough to see the kids, happily. It was my daughter's unbirthday yesterday and she turned exactly three and a half. I congratulated her and wished her a happy unbirthday. She got excited and asked me, "is it really my unbirthday today?" And I told her it was and she responded, "well, then why don't I have a hat?" A good question, I felt and I didn't have an answer but, fortunately, my wife was there and she did have an answer. Her answer consisted of constructing a birthday crown out of green construction paper. The girl child was most satisfied and set about decorating her crown with crayons. We drew the line, however, at the glitter glue since I did not want to see it all over her pj's.
She stayed up late with us while we had dinner and fiddled with her crown which she liked despite the lack of glitter. I put her to bed and told her that she had to go straight to sleep tonight because I was going to sleep now, too. (How pathetic. My bedtime last night was the same as her bedtime.) Well, she didn't go straight to sleep and I didn't really expect her to. I could hear her through the monitor as she sang quietly to and chatted with her stuffed animals. I went back in and asked her why she was not yet asleep. She held up a bright pink flamingo and explained: "The Flamingo is making too much noise and keeping me up". Huh. What do you say to that? I told her to tell the flamingo to quiet down. She said she would and I told her that she had to do it now, right in front of me. She shot me a considering look and complied anyway. I was sure that if I didn't see/hear her do it, we'd have more flamingo action. After that, peace and quiet reigned.
To all of you who managed to get this far today, I wish you all a very merry unbirthday:
March Hare: Imagine, just one birthday every year.
Mad Hatter: Ahhh, but there are 364 unbirthdays!
March Hare: Precisely why weâ€™re gathered here to cheer!
Alice: Why, then today is my unbirthday too!
March Hare: It is?
Mad Hatter: What a small world this is.
March Hare: In that case... a very merry unbirthday.
Alice: To me?
Mad Hatter: To you!
March Hare: A very merry unbirthday.
Alice: For me?
Mad Hatter: For you! Now blow the candle out, my dear and make your wish come true! He he he!
March Hare & Mad hatter: A very merry unbirthday to you!
My daughter told my wife that she didn't like the beach club we joined. My wife asked her why and she replied, "because not enough people know my name". I know how she feels as I join this new community. So, I will take my daughter's example to heart. She went over to a new group of children sitting on the main lawn, plopped herself down, and said, "hi, my name is X, can I play with you?"
Hi, y'all, my name is RP, short for Random Penseur, and this is my first post at my new location on Mu.Nu. Welcome to my new spot!
I am a lawyer, living in the suburbs of New York, and I tend to write about politics, culture, family, society and whatever either catches my interest or outrages me at that particular moment. I have two children. The girl child is 3.5 and the boy child is 17 months.
Thanks for having me! I'm looking forward to playing with you all.
My wife reported to me as follows. She and the children were out for the evening constitutional, while I was preparing dinner, and they ran into our neighbor who works at the school where the girl child is attending camp. Our neighbor told my wife that she was watching the girl child run through the sprinklers at camp yesterday and one of the counselors came up to our neighbor and said, "do you know that girl, she is so smart". I think she's smart, but I'm biased. It was nice of our neighbor to share that with us.
And just to round things out, last night, when she called me upstairs for the "extra hug and a kiss" that has become part of her going to sleep ritual, I simply popped right into bed with her, which caused her to give me a very bemused look, since I very rarely if ever do that when we are trying to get her to go to sleep. So, I'm lying there with her, and she looks at me with those huge blue eyes, and says, softly, "I missed you today". And I melted. I seriously considered not going to work today. Ah well, back to the coal mines.
I have not written a lot about the boy child here. He is 16 months old and has the face of an angel. He is exceptionally blond and fair with piercing blue eyes. He looks a lot like my wife's pictures at the same age. In other words, he looks nothing like me and everything like every picture of smiling, happy Norwegian babies you might have ever seen.
In that regard, by the way, I refer you to the beautiful Summer in Norway pictorial collection in Aftenposten, where the only picture of a child is actually a happy child of apparently Asian descent, which is not exactly what I had in mind when I sent you there. No matter, the pictures are still beautiful.
In any event, up until very recently, he has not spoken much beyond Dada, Na-na-na (for banana) and trying to say his sister's name. Now, he has begun to speak. A little, maybe, but still. If you hand him something, he looks at you and says, quite emphatically, "Ta". We are quite certain he is saying "takk", or thank you in Norwegian. He may not say much, but he is endearingly polite.
Also, last night, my wife responded to his cries of distress occasioned by his having jettisoned his blankets from his crib. His new game. However, he becomes completely disconsolate when said blankets are no longer within reach. He loves these blankets, which is nice because my mother knit them for him. My wife came in, picked up the blankets, and asked him to sit down. He looked at her, said "sitte", and sat down.
While I have been eagerly anticipating his powers of speech, my wife points out that the power to talk is the power to talk back. She has a good point, but then, she usually does.
I received quite a nice sunburn this weekend. I had my shirt off, outdoors, for the first time in at least a year and I chose to do it while sitting in the kiddy pool with my daughter, without sun screen. Oh, I remembered to put sun screen on the girl child but forgot to protect myself. Result? A predictable bad burn on the shoulders, chest, and upper arms. I have been slathering myself with aloe, spraying myself with dermaplast, and stoically whining about it ever since to whoever would listen to me (that's you at this moment, gentle reader). I sit here now as my chest itches, and my shoulders feel like someone is occasionally sticking a pin in them. You know what, though? It was worth it. I heard from my daughter probably three different times over the weekend how much fun she had when I came in the pool with her. So, I'm going to do it again. Just with sun screen next time.
As I mentioned below, I was feeling fragile this morning and I even slept in until 7:30, a good 2 hours later than usual for me. I was just finishing toweling off in the shower when I get a very demanding knock on the bathroom door and a little voice sings out cheerfully, "goooood moooorning". So I invite her in and she keeps me company while I shave. We then go to her room to take her out of her pj's so we can go downstairs. I wanted to be quick upstairs because I wanted to fix her breakfast. She asked me to so nicely.
So, we get into her room and it smells funny. Like sun tan lotion. I ask her, why does it smell like sun tan lotion in here? And she tells me. "Oh, I was just putting some on my animals yesterday". Why, I ask. "So they won't get sunburned. The flamingo got some on his toes and the pony got some on his nose and his sides". She was covering the vulnerable spots, I gather. It was very sweet, even if it smelled kind of funny.
1. As we were discussing an upcoming event, I asked, rhetorically, "If not now, when?" only to hear from the girl child -- "Thursday". It's as good an answer as any.
2. The doorbell rang and it was the local Democratic Party chief looking for the previous owners of our house. My daughter and I answered the door. I explained that the previous owners had moved and he looked at us and said to my daughter, "so, are you a democrat?" And my little 3 1/2 year old looked back at him and just said, "no". He was nonplussed and that ended the conversation. I swear I did not coach her before hand and I managed not to laugh. But I did find it very funny.
I have big plans tonight. We are keeping the kids up late and taking them over for a beach bonfire and s'mores party. My daughter has never had one but grasped the concept immediately upon explanation. I told her that you take graham crackers and chocolate and marshmallows and you melt them. And she chimed in, "and then you eat it, right?" She is very excited. And she should be. We will, of course, have to restrain the boy child in a stroller during the bonfire as it seems like a less than ideal time to teach him the old, fire-hot lesson. Sounds like fun, no? I also think it sounds like something right out of the 1950's, but that's ok. I like the idea of wholesome and old fashioned.
And you can't beat the beauty of sugar-rush, past their bedtime, over stimulated whining. And I mean me, of course.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the youngest member of the New York Bar, my daughter, aged three and a half. Last night, I came home to hear that she had behaved very, very poorly. I told her that I was sad to hear that she had done all of these things and asked for an explanation. She said the following in reply to me: "First, you were at work so how do you know what I did?"
Something along the lines of, "you can't prove a thing, counselor". I'm so proud. Sort of.
My daughter mangled a turn of phrase Saturday night. She wanted another cashew before being packed off to bed. She looked at me and said, "Can I have another one for the street?" That was much cuter than, "one for the road".
We took the kids to visit some of friends of ours who live in a really charming little town called Katonah. As an aside, one of the places I keep meaning to visit in Katonah is the John Jay Homestead, the farm John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, retired to at the conclusion of his long and distinguished public service.
Anyway, we're on the road, I-684, on the way home when I spy in front of us the thing which scares me the most on the highway: a church van. I see the church van and I am convinced we are only seconds away from a dramatic disaster or explosion. I am somewhat serious. It seems that I regularly read about accidents involving church vans. These accidents almost all involve fatalities. Why are they in so many accidents? Well, perhaps the driver is not a trained bus driver. Or perhaps it's the condition of the vehicle. This one was no winner. It was a late model van and it looked like it was held together by prayer. I accelerated quickly to pass it. I wanted my family no where near it when the inevitable accident occurred. Inside the van, I could see singing and clapping. Some of them waved. That just made me more nervous and I hit the pedal harder.
Irrational? Maybe. But I know I breathed a sigh of relief when we got past that van.
I lost my patience with the girl child tonight and told her that if she didn't start listening to her mother, I was going to be very angry with her and she was going to end up crying. She stopped screwing around immediately and followed her mother into the bathroom to brush her teeth, which is what her mother had been trying to get her to do with no success. When she got in the bathroom, I heard her say to her mother as follows: What's. His. Problem?
My wife was, of course, convulsed with laughter. I felt quite put in my place. I fear the coming teenage years.
This is another story about my daughter. We, as a family, had a wonderful day yesterday. We spent a few hours at the beach -- we joined a beach club not far from where we live. In fact, it is only 1.9 miles from our driveway to the entrance of the beach club. The kids played on the beach all day and ran in and out of the waves and dug in the sand and ate a big lunch and took long naps. The weather was beautiful and it was really quite perfect.
After naps ended, we returned for dinner. You can have dinner very casually outside. When we finished dinner, we went for a walk along the shore and my daughter, who had picked up an old tennis ball, saw some kids playing a sort of baseball game on the big lawn with a tennis ball and tennis racquet. She got very excited and ran over to watch, about a hundred yards away. At that point, the boys hit their ball into a flower bed and couldn't find it. My daughter went over to the flower bed, too. I suppose she just wanted to see what the boys were doing. The boys, by the way, were probably about 10 or 11 years old and towered over my little 3 1/2 year old daughter. Two of the boys saw that she was carrying a ball and took her ball from her. I was too far away to do anything more than watch here but she told me what happened when I did arrive. The boys said to her that it was their ball. And she stood up for herself and said that, no, it was her ball and she brought it with her from dinner. And so the boys gave it back. This is what she told me when I got there. Then she said to me, in a very quiet voice, that she was too shy to say thank you to the boys for giving her the ball back. So I told the boys thank you for her.
I was so proud of her for standing up for herself to these older kids. I was also quite grateful that these were nice boys who let her stand up for herself. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I want to raise a strong woman who never lets anyone push her around. I have worried that she is too nice, that she lets other children take her toys and that she, in essence, won't push back when the world pushes her first. Well, she pushed back last night, when she was outnumbered, outsized, and all alone. And she did it calmly and didn't cry. I hope that she learned a lesson from this. I know I did.
Someone once wrote that when you have children, you have given hostages to fortune. I have felt that way all along. I want to protect her from everything and I know that I can't. So, instead, I concentrate on building character in small ways, so that the big ways will come naturally and more easily. I am trying to make a person here. I am trying, because I can't protect her always, to give her the tools to protect herself and to stand up for herself and, especially, to have the self confidence and to instill in her the belief that she is valuable, valued, and intrinsically worth standing up for. She made me so proud and, as I reread this post, I don't think that I managed to convey even a portion of what I was feeling and how I reacted, inside, to this little incident. I lack the skills and feel it too keenly.
We have been having problems getting the girl to go bed and stay there once she's put there. I've been thinking that maybe we've been putting her to bed too early. So, we decided to keep her up extra late.
We put her in her pj's and brought her back downstairs to keep us company for dinner after we put the boy child in his crib for the night. She joined in with a little snack, just to be sociable.
Then, we retired to the living room to watch the Yankees and the Orioles play. I sat on the sofa and got to share a blanket with her as we cuddled and watched some of the game. It was Norman Rockwell, old fashioned sweet. She was interested in the game -- the noise of the crack of the bat, how fast the ball moved when pitched, and all the running and sliding. I told her that this was a special treat because she was such a good girl and then I also told her that it was also a treat for me, which was much more true. We watched for a little while, with the lights in the room on really dim.
Then we muted the game and read two night time stories. After story time, we went into the kitchen because she was hungry and she had a snack -- a couple of goldfish and a little smoked Gouda.
Then off to bed. And she stayed in bed, more or less, and went right to sleep. I label it a qualified success.
Oh, and one funny thing, I took a piece of cold steak (love the leftovers!), popped it in my mouth, and then ran my fingers through her hair as she sat at the kitchen table. She looked up at me and said: "Did you wipe you fingers? I hope you didn't wipe your greasy little hands on my hair". I'm still chuckling as I write this.
Today is the last day of school for my daughter. It was her first year at school and she's grown there. My wife took the morning off from work to take our daughter to school and the little one was so excited that her mommy was taking her. My wife is going to stay for the little celebration picnic afterwards. I have court related obligations I could not get out of so I could not attend, much to my great disappointment.
It seems like her little school year has flown by. I was so sad when we took her to school and she was so excited. I remember that the school had social workers standing by in case there was separation anxiety and I went up to one to see what she could do about MY separation anxiety! I was only partly joking. I was not ready for my little girl to leave the house.
And now the year is over. I don't think that she understands what it means, that she won't see her friends or teachers anymore, if ever again. I wonder how she will process this change and how she will integrate it into her life. I believe that she was popular among her class mates because other mothers kept calling to say that their kid wanted to have a play date with our child.
She changed there, from parent teacher conference in the fall to the spring. In the fall, her teachers said she never spoke and was shy. That she preferred to play by herself. My wife and I were mystified because at home she was a chatterbox and very outgoing. By the Spring conference, it was totally different. She came out of herself and never looked back. She become talkative, voluble even. One story her teacher told us went something like this. She came over to the teachers to tell them that Jeffrey, a class mate, was throwing sand out of the sandbox again. The teachers asked my daughter to tell him to stop because they had tried and it didn't work and maybe if my daughter tried it would. My daughter then put her hands on her hips, looked at the teachers, looked at Jeffrey, looked back at the teachers and said, "well, I doubt it" and walked away.
So, another milestone is reached. It matters much more to me than to her, I think.
In some ways, this blog is turning out to be an extended love letter to my children. In other ways, it seems to be a way for me to mark and comment on the little and larger changes in my life. Either way, I'm comfortable with the direction this is taking. Are my readers?
This weekend, my daughter actually garnered an advantage from speaking Norwegian. We attended the third birthday party of one of her little friends. It was held at a place called "Art Farm" in New York City. By the way, we scored the holy of holies: a parking spot right in front of the door to the place on the street in NYC.
The party was cute. There was a guy with a guitar and then art projects and then, in the basement, a little petting zoo. I'm not sure how much I approved of the petting zoo in the basement thing -- how much natural light do any of these animals see? Be that as it may, the two people in charge downstairs were Swedes. And when they heard my wife and daughter speaking Norwegian, they were delighted to have fellow Scandos there. So, they kept letting my daughter hold all the cool animals first because they'd speak to her first, in Swedish, and she'd answer them in Norwegian. First time I've ever noticed her gain an advantage from Norwegian language skills.
I asked one the Swedes later if they had birthday parties like this in Sweden and he said no with a sort of funny, almost judgmental, tone in his voice. So, I remarked that these kinds of parties are common in NYC because people have very small apartments and don't have the space to have 16 children over to run around and play. He looked kind of surprised at that, as if a reasonable explanation other than American excess hadn't occurred to him. I just smiled and left it at that.
My wife was off on an appointment all morning yesterday and I had the kids. One of the things we did was put on some music and we listened to music and danced and played for about an hour and a half. For 45 minutes of that, my son wanted to sit with me and be held. He had just gotten up from his morning nap and may have not been totally awake yet. Anyway, while his sister jumped around and continued to demand "Jump in the Line" by Harry Belafonte, he was content to sit in the crook of my arm and cuddle. It was terribly sweet. Cuddly babies are the best. It touches you in a way I can't really describe but is very elemental. We did that until required to dance by my daughter. I have to say that I really enjoyed having the kids all to myself. Sometimes I think that if we had to choose one of us to stay home with the kids, I might be the one who'd want to do it more.
I got home last night and asked my daughter if she had gotten her listening skills back from her friend Eli (see below for background). She told me, "no, he still has them". And so, I said, that was too bad because I had a present for her that I would only be able to give her if she had her listening skills back. She exclaimed, "Oh, he did give them back". No fool I, I asked, all of them? Only to be told, "yes, but a shark ate some of them so I don't have all of them". Well, I said, maybe you can go get the shark and make him give you back the rest and she said, "no, he's a nice shark, I don't have to make him". I said to her, well, he's in the living room so go ask him now so I can give you your present. And she ran into the living room, calling, "Hi, Mr. Shark, can I have the rest of listening skills back? Ok? Thanks!" Then she called back to me, "got 'em!" and so she received her new books and happiness reigned throughout.
On my way back from the post office, I popped into Coliseum Books, a nice independent bookstore, and picked up a couple of old childhood favorites which are too old for my daughter, and way too old for my son, but which I'm going to try to read to her anyway. Anyone else have fond memories of "A Wind in the Willows" and the Paddington Bear stories (by Michael Bond)? I can't wait until story time tonight!
Last night I told my daughter that her uncle was coming to visit. She had some very practical questions: do we have enough beds? Where will he sleep? Does he need two pillows? When will he arrive? I could only answer about half of her questions.
This discussion followed a little tiff we had about her, as my Southern friends might say, minding me. I got angry about her not minding me. Before she went to sleep, I told her that I was sorry that I got angry with her and I asked her to say she was sorry for not listening. I am a big believer in never, ever, going to bed angry or before you've said you're sorry and cleared up whatever problem you may have had. She told me that she couldn't say she was sorry. I asked her why not and she replied: "Eli (her friend) borrowed my listening skills and didn't give them back so that's why I didn't listen to you". Gold star for creative explanation. She said she was sorry later.
When I came upstairs to go to bed, she called me into her room. She should have been asleep. I went in and she said that she had a wet diaper. She is potty trained but wears a diaper at night to avoid, as the Army might say in connection with a training incident, accidental discharge. I asked her why didn't she call out to tell me that she needed to go to the bathroom. She has a giant Paddington Bear doll in her room, by the way. Her response: "Paddington Bear told me at night I should pee in my diaper". I changed her, gave her a kiss, and told her to stop listening to Paddington Bear who was clearly a bad influence.
This past weekend was the first weekend in a long time I did not have to work. It was delightful. I already wrote about Saturday.
Sunday was Mother's Day. Another in a long line of what my wife and I think of as Hallmark Holidays. We had lunch with my parents and my grand-parents. Not the high point of my day, at the risk of sounding like a less than dutiful son. My daughter collapsed in tears in the restaurant, and I had to carry her out, upon hearing the pronouncement that there would be in dessert. She was vastly overtired. In fact, she went to sleep almost as soon as we got her home. The boy child did as well. He actually was very well behaved at the restaurant.
So what, you may wonder, did I do with the two and a half hours of free time given to me by my children? Well, I wasted a half an hour doing I know not now. The other two hours I spent in serious nap on the sofa. Ah, the bliss that is the afternoon nap. Actually, I was not feeling too well which is why I crashed out for two hours. I felt a bit loggy when I awoke. The kids were up very shortly after I was. I cooked dinner for us all, which my daughter refused to eat, preferring toasted bread and cheese, which we made for her. The boy ate his, after a fashion, meaning that half made its way into his mouth directly, a quarter was waved about in the air for a time before being eaten, and the remaining quarter went straight on the floor, much to his mother's consternation.
We finished dinner early and it was a beautiful evening. So, we loaded the boy into the baby bjorn and the girl into the stroller and off we went into the village. It's about a 10-15 minute walk into the village and it was delightful. Many of the flowering trees and bushes are budding and some are fully flowered. It smelled delicious and every where we looked there were vivid pinks and purples. However, we did not take too much time to stop and smell the flowers. No, we were on a mission. Ice cream. There is a place in our little hamlet that makes its own ice cream. Our daughter wanted strawberry and our son, my wife decided, really wanted toasted almond, although how she got that from his babbling is beyond me.
In any event, ice cream was procured, tasted, pronounced perfect, and happiness pervaded our merry little band. And to top it off, on the way back, we got to watch a bunny rabbit for a couple of minutes before he (or maybe she) decided our attention was too much and hopped away.
It was a perfect, almost Norman Rockwell, evening. I'm trying hard to fix it in my memory to keep it to refer back to when we get the anti-Norman Rockwell moments. It's hard, though, isn't it? I mean, to keep hold of the good times when you are experiencing the bad times. The bad times, somehow, seem more vivid and immediate and long lasting than the good times. Speaking of which, I am off to get some papers out today. I am working with Stinky, the partner I love the least. Wish me luck and patience.
A quick note: I just called home to tell my wife what train I'd be taking and I spoke, briefly, to my daughter. I asked her if she was being a good girl for Mamma and she replied, "no, but I'm getting ready to be a good girl for the rest of the week."
I can't believe how well she already has me figured out. I think that kids are naturally manipulative.
I am at work today (Sunday) preparing to go to Court tomorrow morning and argue with a judge who probably has not read the papers I spent hours preparing -- more on that later, I think.
But yesterday, despite the hangover and because my wife's was much, much worse, I took my daughter out of the house for several hours in the afternoon so my wife could rest without interruption while the baby was napping.
We went to the beach, about 10 minutes drive from the house. There was practically no one there. When was the last time you were at an empty beach? It smelled of the sea. It was this iodine like decomposing rich smell. There were mussel shells all over the place. We came on a whim, so we were neither dressed for it nor in possession of toys. Still, I took off her shoes and rolled her jeans up to her knees and did the same with my pants and shoes. And off we marched. The sand was warm from the sun and went right between our toes. Then we hit the high water mark (and clearly the tide was out) and the sand there was wet and hard packed from the ocean rolling in and over it. That sand was a little cold. I stood there for about an hour watching my daughter run in and out of the waves as they rolled over her feet. She shrieked and shrieked with laughter. We threw sand at the water and I tried to show her how to skip rocks (doomed to failure, but still). The sun was strong on our heads -- it was over 80 f. It was a beautiful moment.
We sat on the steps leading down to the beach afterwards to let our feet dry so we could get the sand off and I picked her up and pulled her onto my lap. She was happy and I was happy.
Her hair smelled like sunshine and all was right with my world as we watched the waves roll in.
I use curse words all the time. Don't blame my mother. Partially, its a professional habit. All litagators swear and do so way too much. Partially, I spent a summer in China when I was 18 and when no one can understand what you saying on the street, the societal control over your language just disappears and you begin to express yourself in ways that are limited only by your imagination. That was a pretty salty time. Anyway, it took years before I could get over that kind of freedom. I'm better now.
Except when driving. Which leads me to the thought I've been kicking around. Maybe there is no such thing as bad language, maybe there is only language that is appropriate to a situation and inappropriate but no word is intrinsically bad. Even if I can't envision a situation in which certain racial epithets are ever appropriate doesn't mean I have it wrong here, since my imagination is limited. This, anyway, is what I am trying to teach my kids. Well, my daughter since the boy doesn't speak yet.
When we moved out to the suburbs, my daughter spent a lot of time with just me in the car because my wife was put on bed rest with the second pregnancy. So she heard a lot of language that maybe was not appropriate for her situation.
We were all in the car together, backing out of the driveway to take my daughter to the doctor for her two year check up when she said, "shit, fuck". Everyone in the car looked at me. Not her, me. So I told her, "Honey, those are daddy's car words and he only uses those while he's driving." "You can't use them until you are driving". Not bad words, just words that are inappropriate for a then 2 year old.
I'm told I also use those words when reading the NY Times and I've been asked to stop reading that paper around her.
I yelled at my daughter last night. I mean really yelled. She was trying to kick her brother and she needed to have that behavior corrected firmly. We have been trying before to do this, but without great success. I know that she loves him and he is like a little puppy dog following her around, but she can't hit or kick him. We won't tolerate that. In any event, I hated every second of yelling at her. Afterwards, I picked her up and carried her into the living room where we sat in the dark and discussed it. She told me that she understands that she is not to kick her brother. She also said that I scared her (which made me very sad, even though I was trying to scare her a little bit). And she said, "You have to be careful with little people like me because you might scare them." That was like a punch to the heart. And I think she knew it because she asked me if I was happy and I told her that I was sad that I had scared her. So she asked me if a hug might help make me feel better. And I told her I thought it might and it did. For both of us, I think.