Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Years

video

Somewhere between our monotonous daily cycles of sleep/work/play/eat, and breathtaking moments of discovery about humility, empathy, and laughter...the dink turned two. Of course, I've heard it hundreds of times before--it goes by too fast; blink and they're teenagers...so I did expect the time to fly. But oh, how fast it has flown--especially for people like us who distinguish days of the week by the nature of our errands and to-do lists outside of working hours. So in some ways, I've really tried to listen to what people say, enjoying each part of the baby days of childhood before the next step comes too fast. But no one prepared me for how to avoid the grief of this moment, now that the moment has passed...when I find such sadness, guilt even, about my baby growing up.

Of course I am happy that he has survived the past two years: I am proud of all the words he's learned, tickled at the dance moves he's acquired, thrilled that he eats broccoli, pets cats, and would rather spend time with his family than just about anything else he's discovered in his entire little world. And I am happy that I've had the privilege of being his mommy. But it occurred to me the day of the dink's birthday party, when he woke up that morning having no idea of the commotion that would ensue, that at his age--and who knows, maybe it's like this forever--the birthday celebration is really about the mother. It's the day for me to remember how that little guy entered the world, how the world suddenly changed because he was in it, and how the two years that have passed since that revelatory November 10th are time that I have to close the door on, forever. Not in the sense of forgetting, but in the way that the years of all of our lives get whittled down into small treasure boxes of notable moments, milestones, pictures, choice stories. I've taken all the photos of baby dink that will ever exist. And I've spent as much time as I'll ever have nursing him, rocking him to sleep, holding him and communicating with him without language, sitting with him comfortably in my lap...and I'm having trouble coming to terms with that. I want more baby dink days, all three of us cooing in bed together on Saturday mornings. I want more anticipation of seeing him wear a new color and discovering his every look from a new angle. I want to keep watching him fall asleep, and I want him to keep calling me the second he wakes.

I guess this means that I'm ready for our new baby to arrive. Or maybe it means I'm not--that I'm grasping to hold on to the one that we have. Now I certainly don't harbor any notions that once a child turns two, I have to quit treating him like my "baby" and instead like a "big boy." I'll probably be like that old lady in Love You Forever, breaking and entering into his apartment in college to pat him on the back and make sure his feet are properly covered by his blankets (you know that's important to the dink). But without even noting the days of the time that is passing, I feel that babyness slipping further away. So while I am excited to know and understand who this little dink is with each year that his personality and his mind develops, for now, especially until the next baby arrives, I'll cherish the Mommy, hold yous and the sporadic hugs and kisses in the middle of play, and the awkward fit of him and me and my big belly in the rocking chair.

Probably one of the most notable moments from the day the dink was born that I relive almost every day was just hours after he was born, when J and I were finally alone and staring at the most precious specimen of human life we could imagine, and just seconds after marveling at how much we already loved him, I was gripped by the fear of continuing my own life if somehow I lost him. It's the worst part about having a child, in my opinion. And maybe this is more of a mother thing--after your body has spent so much time creating and bonding with this other being--the second that being breathes its own breath, you are suddenly rendered incapable of functioning without its existence. Sigh. So with that in mind, I guess I'll try to move past these feelings of sadness that the dink has already completed two years of life with me and spend some time instead thanking God that we have survived them, together.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Antics


The dink's antics never cease. I think this might be what the next ten years will look like...

Reminiscing
The dink's short-term memory is getting a little longer. Or maybe it's just that his vocabulary is now allowing him to tell me what he's thinking about. Lately, we seem to close out the day with him reminiscing about the people he saw or the things he did within the past 24-48 hours, or even up to a week when it's really memorable (like when he got to ride in Maman's big orange minivan with his baby cousin E). Sunday night, when I was trying to sing the ABCs so patiently with him, he couldn't stop thinking about how he had gotten to feed our friends' dog a treat while we were over there watching the Saints game. Every fourth or fifth letter, he'd interrupt me to say "Max. Dog. Cookie."

Bless the Tractor
Since he loves talking about the people he knows/sees so much, we close out the nighttime routine by naming them in our prayers. We go through a dozen or so family members, usually in a similar order, so the dink has come to anticipate each name before it's said. The other night, though, I guess he was reminiscing about a visit to Papa's house, because I said "God, please bless..." and the dink replied: "Papa's tractor."

Daddy Bobo
Last month, J managed to scrape off an obscene amount of skin on his shin trying to slide into a base during some ridiculous middle-of-the-night, law firm vs. law firm softball game. I don't think the result was as entertaining as he had planned. But he sure did garner a lot of genuine concern from one little guy over the injury. For two weeks, he had this 5-6 inch bright red scab on his leg that the dink watched him bandage every morning. And every evening, around the time J comes home, the dink would start asking me "Daddy bobo? Daddy bobo?" like he couldn't wait until J came home to assess the improvement of the bobo. A couple times when the dink looked at it up close, he would actually whimper with sadness for daddy or even back away, like he was scared of the bobo. Mark it down as the dink's first experience in empathy.

Go Away, Kitty Kitty
This one really breaks my heart. I've been so proud of the dink's love for his kitties (now kitty), and especially thankful that he hasn't shown any signs of allergy to them yet like his daddy. But one of the disadvantages of having an outdoor cat is that sometimes you end up feeding more than your own. Lately, it seems we've been feeding the entire neighborhood, but I really think that's because a colony of stray cats is reproducing behind the abandoned house a few doors down. And as much as I love cats, I'm trying not to let my heart bleed over all of these new little ones that are waiting for me on the outskirts of the driveway when I get home with the dink in the afternoon. So when I see them eating Number Two's food, I yell "Go away, cat! You don't live here!" And oh, how quickly the dink has caught on. He now thinks every cat needs to be yelled at. Where previously, when the dink saw a picture of a cat in one of his books, he would press the book up against his chest and say "Hug, kitty, hug," now he points that little finger accusingly at any cat he sees (real or illustrated) and starts yelling "Go away, kitty kitty!" at least 7-8 times per viewing. It kills me. It really does.

Syntax
I just love witnessing the dink's acquisition of language. It's one of those topics that have always fascinated me...and reflecting on the idiosyncrasies of the dink's syntax is proving to be much more exciting than reading Chomsky. One thing that cracks me up is that, although his pronunciation of English words is pretty accurate about 80% of the time, the rest of the time he's like a native French speaker learning English as an adult.

After he got a scrape on his leg, I gave the dink his first themed Bandaid--Dora the Explorer. I don't think the dink even knows who Dora is, and I only bought them in the first place because they were really cheap...but nevertheless the dink was super excited about it, and requested a "Beebee Dora" every single day after his bath or in the morning until the whole box was gone. It was so funny to me how he would put the descriptor "dora" after the word bandaid, like he was speaking a romance language. But I tried not to say the silly phrase back to him too much, and after a while he switched to "Dora Beebee." The real confusion came in later, when I treated him to a much more expensive box of Sesame Street Bandaids, and after he got the first one on his knee, he began talking about his "Elmo Dorabeebee" for the rest of the weekend. And last night before bed he was dying for an "Abby Dorabeebee"....what have I started here?

The other strange construction he's doing is starting sentences off with what sounds like "C'est," the French way of saying "It's." I think it started with him telling us to see this or that, but now the phrase starts just about every other sentence he utters. "C'est Elmo Dorabeebee..." yikes.

One thing he's doing really well is practicing hard on pronouncing especially the ending syllables of words. After he says something like book or milk, you can hear him repeating "kuh, kuh" under his breath for extra emphasis. And when saying plurals, another new skill, he always throws in an extra sss or two at the end ("keys-ss"). And just last week, he started occasionally using the word and. One afternoon, he must have told me 20 times in a row "Mommy AND Daddy. Mommy AND Daddy." That's a good one start with, at least. Much better than "Juice AND cookie" or "Bert AND Ernie."


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Phases



There is so much advice and so many anecdotes and sayings that people love to tell you about raising kids. Depending on the giver, I find most of these things annoying, some occasionally amusing, and only about 20% right, by my experience. One of the good ones lately, though, is "it's just a phase."

I'm almost uncomfortable about how true this statement is, and how it can be applied to almost any aspect of the dink's life. What a fickle little thing he is, that dink. Here are a just a few.

THINGS THAT I HOPE ARE JUST "PHASES":

Elmo Larger Than Life: While it's true that the dink's love and admiration of Elmo have far surpassed the phase level, what I'm talking about now is a new approach that the dink has taken to incorporating Elmo into his life. The dink has a special, extremely high-pitched voice that he reserves only for pointing out important things to Elmo: "See duck Elmo. Elmo, see quack quack quack..." or "See cars, Elmo. See 'rucks, Elmo." Then it gets worse. "Elmo, seat" (which means that Elmo eats dinner in the booster seat instead of the dink); "Elmo, potty" (self-explanatory); and even "Elmo, teeth" (I'm actually considering buying Elmo his own toothbrush). I can only dream about that fine day when I'll hear the dink say "Elmo, trash."

Bad Mommy: The dink is getting into enough trouble by his own making lately that he's quite familiar with what a "no-no" is and when and where we might discipline him for one. Only problem is that he doesn't understand that the privilege to dole out "no-no's" is not universal. The other day I misinterpreted what he was asking me to do, and I dumped out his entire dump truck full of blocks on the floor. Seconds later he was fighting back tears, pushing out his bottom lip, and firmly shaking his finger at me while saying "No, no, mommy." Oops.

Using Words as a Weapon: I know that all kids embarrass their parents from time to time by saying completely innocent yet wildly inappropriate things...I just didn't realize it would start this early. A couple weeks ago, I was wheeling the dink around Target at the speed of light (by necessity) when we passed a display of nuts. The dink recognized them immediately because J often snacks on nuts first thing in the morning. Couple that recognition with the dink's recently learned language skill of using possessives (Mommy's car, Daddy's shoes), and before I know it he's yelling to strangers: "Daddy's nuts! Daddy's nuts!" A little awkward.

"PHASES" THAT I HOPE LAST FOREVER:

Dancing machine: The other day, a college friend called and asked me if the dink had started taking after his father and become a dancing machine. And the answer was YES. D loves nothing more than for J to plug his iPhone into the speakers, turn on the Pandora kid's music station, and dance, dance, dance. He does the classic toddler running in place dance, and then the twirl in a circle move I'm most fond of, and even some jumping up and down, running through the living room, and swaying side to side for slow songs. He calls music "sikic," and if you're sitting on the couch and he points at you and yells "Sikic!", that means you better get your booty up and dance, fast. Occasionally, he'll trade in his dancing shoes for a good march around the house, best led by daddy, and have us all high-stepping around the house in single file until someone calls "Salute!" and we all freeze in place with our hands to our foreheads. It's one of J's best kept secrets in his professional career that he was a drum major in high school...Lord knows what we've got coming.

Yes to Food: When something tastes really good to the dink, he'll look at me very seriously while eating, and shake his head up and down, saying yes, yes, yes. Yes, mommy, this is what you're supposed to feed me. Last weekend, Jon made a chocolate cake for my family birthday party, and the dink was in food heaven, his head bobbing up and down the whole time he worked every last bite of that cake into his mouth. Occasionally, he would look at me and throw in an "Mmmmm" while he was chewing. Then when I was putting him to bed that night, after he said his cousin S's name 4-5 times in reverence (S played with the dink quite patiently at the birthday party), he told me "Cake, yummy." Dancing he may get from his father. Going to bed thinking about chocolate...now that's my son.

Friday, August 20, 2010

HUG


He'll hug and kiss perfect strangers. He loves to get on the couch, instruct me to put a blanket (kit-kit) on him, and pretend to go night-night. He holds two loveys and Elmo all in his little arms when I pull him from his crib each morning... I'd say I definitely got lucky on getting a snuggly one.

The dink's favorite thing to snuggle with lately is unfortunately not his mommy; it's the cat. The formerly-feral outside cat. Actually, it's a good thing that he's taken so much interest in Number Two lately, who has been hanging around the driveway more since we buried poor Number One in the backyard. And Two doesn't seem to mind. The dink's goal in the afternoons is to get as many "hugs" from the cat as possible. I attract her by sitting on the driveway and inviting her to come get her "pets" from me. I stroke her a few times to get her feeling amorous, and then the dink moves in for the kill. He yells "HUG!" and points at her. Then he squats down and leans his head into her side, and she does that cat thing where they arch their back and rub it against you (the dink's face). He loves it. One successful hug like that is usually repeated by 8-10 attempts for more. And then of course I have to join in a few times ("Mommy! HUG!", and he points at the cat). I have to give it to Number Two, though--she sure doesn't run away.

The other day when J got home from work, the three of us were sitting on the floor of the dink's room playing with Mr. Potato Head, and the dink suddenly jumps up and yells, "Mommy! HUG!" and points to J. He wanted to see Mommy and Daddy hug. Then last night he tried to pull the same game, but this time he wanted us to kiss. He leaned in and gave J a sweet kiss on the mouth and then looked at him and pointed his finger at me, going "Mommy!" Soon enough, that turned into the three of us trying to kiss together at the same time, and the dink almost hysterical with excitement from it all.

To see how much enjoyment he gets out of watching us hug or kiss is really remarkable. For all the effort you put into making sure that your child knows that you love him so he'll feel safe and taken care of, you don't realize that you could accomplish half that task by showing your partner the same effort. When J walks in the door in the evening, I enjoy sitting back and watching his reunion with the dink, which usually involves the dink screaming "Daddy!" the second he hears a car door, then running around the house excitedly waiting for J to chase him, catch him, pick him up, throw him, etc. And I don't usually take part in the celebration. But I should. The dink needs to see us hug and kiss hello as much as we need to take the time to appreciate each other's presence on a daily basis. Leave it to the dink to teach me a lesson about taking care of the ones you love.






Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Songs

Lately the dink’s been learning how to sing. We’ve had to cover our mouths from giggling a few times during mass when he chimes in with his high-pitched mono-syllabic whinnies. I would never stop him from trying to join in, but I offer up a prayer each time that he’s inherited his dad’s singing voice and not my tone-deafness.

He’s also pretty good at catching the last word of each line of Mary Had a Little Lamb, about 50% of the words in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and about 9-10 letters in the ABCs. And any day now, I’m expecting him to sing all 10 verses of Wheels on the Bus by himself because he makes me sing it so many damn times before bed each night. After reading his favorite Cars and Trucks book and naming all the animals in A Day at the Zoo, then prayers and nighttime diapers and kisses for Daddy and turning out the lights, we sing Wheels on the Bus 2-3 times, the first time complete with hand motions and beepbeepbeeps and ups and downs, the second time with dink joining in only on his favorite verses—the people going yakety-yak and the babies going wah-wah-wah… And then the third time, I sing alone as the dink yawns and snuggles with Elmo and Lovey in my lap. Occasionally he’ll lift his face up to me in between verses for a kiss, and I’m usually sold then on singing that never-ending song as many times as he requests.

The other night during story time, I guess the dink was feeling adventurous and brought me a new book—Love You Forever. Now I know I’ve read this book before but for some reason I felt myself hurrying through the pages to find out if the old woman would actually break into her grown son’s house to rock him in his sleep. And of course she did. The dink was interested in the drawing of her car with a ladder on top and kept wanting to see the “truck” page again and again while I was quickly flipping through to the ending. And when I got to the part where the man holds his dying mother in the rocking chair, I started crying so hard that my tears were falling all over the dink’s arm. Is it wrong for me to wish my own son the pain of holding me when I die? To fantasize about sneaking into his house as an adult and summoning mammoth strength to rock him in his sleep like a baby? Hmm. Probably so. Better enjoy Wheels on the Bus while it lasts.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Language



I just love witnessing the dink learning how to talk. It’s so funny to note the words that he takes care to say perfectly (Elmo, juice, yucky) versus the words that he haphazardly throws out in a close-but-nowhere-near-correct collection of syllables (beece[beads]/wowa[flower]/koss[cars]). I don’t know if there’s really a hierarchy in his mind, or if a speech expert would explain to me that some consonant/vowel sounds are trickier for virgin tongues than others. Either way, it’s endless entertainment. His intonation is most amusing. He uses the highest-pitched, questioning tone to say things like “no” when I ask him if he’s ready for bed, “more” when he wants not only more of something, but something for the first time, or to do something again…and of course the ever-persistent “hey, kitty, kitty” that reaches sky-high levels of pitch.

And then there’s the seemingly mindless babble that you realize is actually very serious discourse when he approaches you with his brows furrowed and a questioning look in his eyes and speaks about four sentences of totally unintelligible language, the last one always ending in a question. In the end, I 1) feel like a moron for not being able to answer him back appropriately, and 2) feel really sad that I can’t answer him back appropriately.

I do celebrate the occasional triumph when I finally understand what he’s been trying to say for while, making the connection between the random syllables and the actual object or action he’s referring to. For some, it’s like, Of course that’s what he was saying! But then there are some “words” that I’m embarrassed to even admit that I understand because they are so far off-base…

Dink language:
Ah-poo=open (cute)
Beyops=blocks (weird, but reasonable)
Gersh=fish (really funny to hear him say, but still an honest mistake)
Lum-lum=water (extremely embarrassing to admit to his daycare providers and even strangers)

And then there are those words that he refuses to say, preferring instead to use hand signals and sounds—the way he first learned them. So when we look on the “E” page of his alphabet book, and I point to “egg” and “envelope”, the dink attempts to say each, but when we get to “elephant,” he simply raises his right arm (trunk) in the air, and makes a high-pitched “brrrr” sound with his lips, because he learned when he was 12 months old that that’s what noise elephants make.

Lately, my favorite thing to hear him say is “hey” first thing in the morning, when I open his bedroom door, and he’s sitting up in his crib in the dark, holding Elmo and Lovey or both, and even if he was in mid-scream trying to get me to hurry to his room, he immediately changes gears, switches his voice to a soft, southern, sing-song manner, and tells me “hey” just like I would say to J when he walks in from work in the evening. But I can’t complain about that one—it’s a really nice way to start the day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Elmo


A few weeks ago, the dink surprised us all by uttering his first sentence: I want Elmo. The level of surprise experienced by me and J, and then later by his maman and papa who heard it too, was not at his mastery over the English language, but by the subject matter that has spurred him, in recent weeks, to not only achieve a higher level of communication, but to throw temper tantrums at the television, to squeal and laugh almost uncontrollably with delight, and to snuggle, snuggle, snuggle.

By now, the dink’s relationship with Elmo is almost unnatural. There are so many things about it that I don’t understand—like how it began, where I’ve gone wrong in accidentally encouraging it, and if Elmo will one day demand a seat at the dinner table or a prominent location in family Christmas photos. What is it that you see in him, son?

Actually, I blame the daycare—the same people that introduced him to cheese puffs and goldfish. Apparently, they show Elmo to the kids during their once-a-month movie day. Seemingly harmless enough. But somehow that red, furry creepy thing took up permanent residence in the dink’s brain, and one day, he came home from daycare, made the connection that the half-animal, half-baby creature in a couple of his books was the same very Elmo that he so enjoyed once a month on tv…and such began the affair. Weeks later, his teachers were mentioning to me D’s strong affection for Elmo, and I exacerbated the situation by buying him a set of Elmo dvds one weekend when I was feeling guilty for dropping him off at my parents’ house for the night…and then of course the movies were complemented by a small stuffed Elmo doll that now goes outside, in the car, around the house, and more importantly, to sleep by the dink’s side…so I guess I’m partly to blame. But this is the first time that he’s ever been emotionally attached to any object (except my breasts), and I just never expected this. Not that I’d dare try to end it now. I guess I’ll just keep telling Elmo night-night, try to make sure the dink doesn’t start talking about himself in the third person (“Elmo loves his goldfish!”), and hope that by the time we all memorize those 3 dvds, my love for Elmo, like the dink’s, has blossomed in ways I never thought possible…

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Order


I think all parents must go through the ritual of examining their children every few months or so and naming the different emerging characteristics that are derived from one parent or the other. It starts at birth, when that new face and body is placed in front of you, fresh from communion with your organs, and you’re desperate to know it on every single level like you’re desperate to be reassured that you will never stop knowing it for the rest of your life. With the dink, it was pretty clear from the get-go that he represented a “good mixture of the two of us,” but I was dead convinced that his feet and toes were the exact replica of his daddy’s. J thought that his eyes were mine, even though the eyes are the last thing you’re supposed to pass judgement on since they change over the first few months, like puppies. But neither of would claim his inverted nipples.

Lately, as the dink’s unique personality emerges more and more, the traits that he’s stolen from others are becoming more apparent and more undeniable. From J—he likes to be the center of attention, to make people laugh, and to snuggle, snuggle, snuggle. With dish towels, dirty laundry, any stuffed animal, maybe even books—he holds it up in the crook of his neck, then hits the floor to roll around all over it and sometimes pretend to go night-night with it. I actually caught him snuggling my mom’s dirty rubber boots once.

And from me—the latest is my uncontrollable sense of order. I don’t even know how a kid his age can have such definite ideas about the ways things should be, but he will certainly let you know when they disturb his sensibilities. Playing with blocks is very telling. When J builds a Mega Bloks mountain, and he places one block in a direction that’s counterintuitive to the way you’d think it would face (i.e. it’s sticking out to the side when it should be lined up forward), the dink will take it off the pile and turn it the “right” way. J thinks it’s so funny that he’ll do it 3-4 times in a row, but the dink never tires of righting his daddy’s wrongs. And when it’s time to pick up the blocks—don’t dare try to throw two interlocked blocks in the bucket. Oh no, every single block must be disengaged and thrown in the bucket singly.

One of the most amusing displays of order the dink had recently involved all of his pots and pans friends in the kitchen. One by one, he carried every single skillet, pot, and lid from the lower kitchen cabinet into my bedroom. After 20 minutes or so of play, I told him to bring them all back to the kitchen, and I watched from the bedroom as he struggled down the hall carrying every single piece one by one back to where they belong. When he was all done, we cheered that they were all gone, and he walked me to the kitchen to show me his proud work: every single pot was lined up in a perfect line across the kitchen floor. All pots had their appropriate lid on top, and I dare say that the handles were even pointing in the same direction. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cheer.

It was like one of those moments shortly after the baby’s birth, when everyone in the room has agreed that the heritage of his nose or his lips or his ears are undeniable, and you look at the child and you think: Yes, you are truly mine.

Monday, May 17, 2010

18 months


I can't believe it, but the dink is already 18 months old. I took him in to the doctor for his well visit, and while the doctor was asking me all of his milestone questions like Does he know five of his body parts? and Does he mimic things that you do?, I was marveling that this time a year ago, we were concerned with "Does he still spit up a lot?" and "Can he crawl?"

According to the doctor, the dink should be starting to speak in sentences now, like "Mommy go." I nodded along politely as the doctor explained that I am 100% responsible for the way he learns to talk, and then carefully mentioned that, although the dink does say about 30-40 words, he has never spoken in such complex language as "Mommy go." What I didn't have the heart to tell the doctor is that sometimes, actually often, he still refers to me as "Da" instead of "mommy." Or maybe I just didn't want to admit it out loud--that my son has more interest in properly naming his blocks, his pants, his shoes and socks, and his juice more than he cares to learn his mother's name.

But the good news is that when he does learn a new word these days, he's not afraid to say it over and over again to make sure he commits it to memory. This evening, while we watched his bubble bath water go down the drain, he pointed to the remaining bubbles in the tub with his two little pointer fingers and said "bye-bye bubbles" no less than 45 times in a row.

Probably the dink doesn't really have a need to use sentences to communicate just yet, since I usually interpret what he wants before he has a chance to speak up. But when the kid is reaching up to the doorknob and trying to turn it with all his might, and he looks back at me and says "uh, uh"...who has time to wait for him to explain that he wants me to open the door for him? We don't have that kind of time in our life. But I guess that's probably the wrong approach. At least it's a family approach, though, shared by the dink even (photo above). Why sit around trying to explain to someone at the crawfish boil that you would please like more Doritos when you can just march on over there and get them for your darn self?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Learning

I can hardly keep up with the dink lately. Every day he demonstrates to me something that he knows that I am 90% confident I did not teach him. I don't know if that means that I am slacking as a parent in my daily instructionals ("you have peas, tomatoes, rice, and chicken for dinner")...or if I'm really just as oblivious as my loving husband always says I am to what's going on around me...

Although I try to refrain from gagging or saying "yucky" every time I change a poopy diaper, I guess I've said poo-poo at just the right time enough for the dink to finally make the connection. Although he doesn't need to announce when he's pooping because it's written all over the awkward grimace on his face, he now grabs the front of his diaper and says "pah-poo" with great seriousness. And the other day, J told me that he had to get down on all fours to retrieve something that the dink had thrown under the bed, and when his butt was up in the air, the dink came over and patted his daddy's lower back and said "night-night."

There are still some things he does that must be the result of original thinking because I know that I would never, ever teach my son to do them. Like shoving handfuls of catfood in his mouth when he sees me coming at him to take it away, or spending large chunks of time in the bathtub trying to carefully place a Mardi Gras cup over all of his genitalia. Or laughing hysterically every time I say the word "rough." I hope he never stops showing me all of the things he's learned each day.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stinker


To J and I, the dink is a lively, bright, silly, super-busy little boy who loves to dance, scream, and smile. But somehow, in the presence of others, he becomes an emotion-less, unresponsive toddler with incredible levels of shyness that prevent him from saying hello or goodbye, interacting with other humans, and really doing much else than burying his head on my shoulder or looking off blankly into the distance. It’s purported that when J or I leave the dink with said “others” that he returns to the land of the living and drops the act. When picking the dink up from daycare the other day, I stopped and chatted with one of his “old” teachers, and the whole time D laid his head on my chest and looked down or to the side…anywhere but at the teacher’s face. She tried to talk to him, and he smushed his whole head into my armpit. I told her that I couldn’t believe he was acting so shy, and she said “That’s okay, he gave me a hug and a kiss this morning.” Stinker!

I guess we all do this to an extent—act differently with our parents than we do with others. But it’s hard to believe that the dink has caught on to that already. Is he putting on a show to protect my feelings? Is he afraid I’ll get upset if he shows affection for other female figures in his life? Or is he really just painfully shy? I don’t buy that he is. The kid stands at the end of the driveway in the afternoons and waves and yells “hi” to all of the kids walking home from the bus. My mom says that my sister and I were similar as children. Granny used to take us around town to the makeup store and country club, trying to show off her smart grandkids, and supposedly all we would do was stare dumbly at the floor are barely even say hello. We may have even picked our noses. I think at one point Granny threatened to stop taking us anywhere if we insisted on acting like idiots. So I guess it runs in the family. I hope one day the dink switches gears and takes after his daddy's love for showing off and being in the center of attention. Can genetics work like that?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Events




The poor dink is being introduced to what promises to be a ritual performed thousands of times over in the next ten years or so: the slathering of sunscreen over his cheeks, forehead, ear lobes, chest, and his crown of his head, where all of his blond hairs swirls out in a fashion that’s remarkably similar to his dad, his Pop, and even his little cousin.

Over the weekend, we went to the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival and our church’s crawfish cooking competition. The dink thoroughly enjoyed his time spent outdoors, although the highlight for him, I think, was avidly watching children bounce up and down through the window of a Space Walk (a.k.a. The Bouncy Castle). He was totally mesmerized by the whole scenario (who isn’t?), and quite taken by a charming 3-year-old little girl who quit bouncing now and then to talk to J and the dink through the window. She told J “I like your baby” and “I know how babies are born.” We’ll probably limit the dink’s time with her at the next church function.

This time of year, when spring is in full force and festivals and summer vacations and birthday parties are lining up quickly, it’s easy to live from event to event, getting through the in-between days of regularity and routine by looking forward to the next thing. But ever since the dink turned one, and I looked at him one day squatting to play in that butt-poised-ever-so-slightly-above-the-floor position that only toddlers can tolerate, and I realized that he is not my little baby anymore, already…I can’t bring myself to look forward to the next thing. I’m afraid that if I focus on what’s coming up, even as soon as next week, that I’ll somehow make these lingering days of baby cheeks and bedtime rocking pass even more quickly than they already do.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kisser

videoDeclan is quite the kisser. There is nothing sweeter than when I ask for a hug and a kiss, and he comes running from across the room, arms wide open, with a giddy grin on his face, cheeks bouncing with each step and all. I usually squat on the ground to receive him, and then we stand up for the kiss. After months, the child has finally learned how to pucker his lips when leaning in for one, instead of coming at you with a wet mouth wide open. And lately, he’s picked up the “I’m about to kiss you”—mmmmmWA! The best is when the kiss is his idea. Sometimes, when I’m holding him, he’ll surprise me suddenly by turning his lips up and mmmm-ing. Love it. I caught him giving his Papa three unsolicited kisses in a row over the weekend, which was just too sweet to even describe. And the latest event in the dink’s kissing evolution is the three-way family kiss that makes him laugh and squeal with delight. J holds him, starts “mmm-ing,” which makes dink lean down to kiss me, and then J jumps in to meet our lips at the last minute. It’s the ritual family kiss, and let me tell you, you can’t have just one of those… If you forward to the second half of this video, there’s some footage of the dink giving night-night kisses to his daddy and his cousins after staying up too late at Maman and Papa’s.

Easter


In a perfect dichotomy, my sister had her baby on Good Friday. We don’t have any goofy nicknames for her yet, so I’ll just call her E. She weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and was 20 inches long. We spent Friday morning at the hospital, taking turns visiting M and the baby. She has really long feet and a very small face. Her nose is quite distinguished, however (for her age), and I still haven’t really seen her eyes open yet. My favorite part of the whole day was when my mom was holding E, doing her classic rocking/bouncing combination move, and S (proud big brother #1) ran to her side, concerned, and said “Maman! Don’t rock her too hard!”

The dink, however, was not so receptive to the new little one. In M's room, J held the dink on his lap while I held little E across the room. And when I say the dink made the saddest, pouty face you could ever imagine—it actually might be sadder than you can imagine. He just looked at me, with those big blue eyes so round, his eyebrows raised, and the perfect frown with his bottom lip stuck out so far. He was looking at me like I had just slapped him or told him that I didn’t want to be his mommy anymore. He kept burying his head in J’s chest, and after a few minutes, started crying softly. It was so sad. J and I have been trying to get pregnant with #2 for what seems like eternity, and one friend recently told me that maybe the reason it hasn’t happened yet is that God knows that the dink needs undivided attention from J and I for just a little longer. I thought that was a nice way of looking at it. And if that scene was any indication, the dink may not be ready for quite a while…

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ducky


The dink is getting to the point where he’ll attempt to say almost anything. The result is usually about 40% accurate (with the exception of choice favorite words), but he usually gets the intonation right when he tries.

The other week, we started trying to get him to say his name. He tries really hard, but it comes out as “Ducka,” or sometimes even “Ducky.” So Ducky is the dink’s newest nickname. What loving parents we are, making fun of our 16 month old’s honest attempts at communicating with us. Sometimes, he tries to say “D,” which is one of J’s nicknames for him. He likes to attempt “Good job, D” after helping me snap him in his carseat, pick up Cheerios off the floor, or Velcro his shoes. He is quite the self-congratulator. I picture him one day as an over-confident teenager, combing his straight-as-a-board blond hair to the side in the mirror and smiling at how good he looks. What am I talking about—there is no such thing as an over-confident teenager. But at least I don’t think he’ll be much for self-flogging later on.

The best thing he said recently was “whoa” used in such perfect context. J and I got a new rug for our bedroom, which we placed at the foot of the bed. D usually plays in that area in the mornings while we get dressed, so I knew he’d be excited to see something new. I called him into the bedroom, and he came running in, took two steps on the rug and screamed “whoa!” with the perfect intonation and energy, like “what the heck is this new, amazing thing doing here?!” I say amazing, because he immediately starting flopping himself on the rug and rolling over side to side, like he had been waiting his whole life just have a soft surface to get silly on. We really need to get some carpet in the house.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Eggs


This morning I left home to what I think is commonly referred to as domestic bliss. I guess it would have been more blissful if I hadn’t been leaving it and had played more of a role that morning than making the dink cry in hysteria when he saw me put on my shoes and kiss him bye-bye for the next seven hours…but the recovery scene that I caught through the screen door from the carport had me leaving with a smile on my face. J knew just the trick to calm down D, which is one of his favorite “let me help” activities—cooking eggs. J was standing there at the stove in his boxers, holding D on his hip (still in his fleece pajama snuggle suit). Daddy let the dink help open the carton of eggs, and then break each one in the bowl. The report I got later was that D no longer lightly taps the egg in the bowl and hands it off to be cracked for real—no, now he smashes the whole thing fearless onto the counter or whatever the nearest hard surface is. (So fun to rinse albumen from your child’s hand before breakfast.) And then comes the beating of the eggs, pouring them into the pan, and don’t forget grabbing the stick of butter from the fridge to grease the pan first. It’s amazing what kind of stuff that kid has picked up from watching us. Last night I had to fuss at him for throwing his bib into the trash can, but you really can’t blame him. He watches me cooking and cleaning in the kitchen all day, throwing away endless amounts of high chair refuse, wet paper towels, and empty cartons, jars, and bottles (that’s correct, I live in the only city in the world without recycling). I really hate leaving him in the mornings, when he’s bright-eyed and hungry for stimulation and adventure, and especially lately since he’s started clinging to my leg from the moment he wakes up, knowing that I’ll leave him if he lets me alone long enough to put on makeup and shoes. But recovery scenes like that, when you realize that you’re seeing your husband in the exact position that you dreamed about years ago before you even got married…that goes a long way in making up for it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Misunderstandings


Just a week ago, I declared that “go, go-gee” was the dink’s quirky little way of saying “go.”

Turns out I underestimated him. The kid was giving me direct orders: Go get it! Or maybe he’s just directing himself when he says it. Either way, there are many things in our house to be gotten—his sippy cup of milk when he wakes up (an urgent go-gee!), his Jane’s Great Adventure book (once again, urgent), daddy from bed (“let’s go-gee him”), and a multitude of toys, kitchen items, and other inanimate objects that the dink loves to point to while he’s on my hip. I’ve found myself, more than I’d like to admit, turning circles around the kitchen as we go-gee the vent over the range, the Keurig coffee maker, the red cast iron dutch oven…until I realize that if I don’t stop, these directions may one day turn into “Give me some juice now!” or “Get your ass out of bed” Oh, but my dink would never.

The joy in the pointing and inspecting ritual is the special sound of excitement that D makes. It’s onomatopoeia at its finest. He puts the tip of his tongue between his teeth, barely sticking out, and hardly moving it, makes a strong “s” sound. For those of us who learned that making an “s” sound involves smiling, this would be very difficult. But it comes natural to him, and it’s a sound J and I try to repeat to each other when pointing to things, but as we’ve learned time and again, there are many, many things that are adorable when children do, yet annoying, inappropriate, or stupid when adults do…like stuffing as many strawberries as possible into one’s mouth, inspecting one’s genitalia in the bathtub for ten minutes, or my recent favorite, running in place as fast as possible on one’s tiptoes as a form of dance.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Papa


I always figured this would happen one day, but it still caught me off guard that it happened so soon. At 16 months and 2 days, the dink has officially declared his profound adoration for his Papa (pronounced paw-paw). On Friday evening, I met my dad in Covington to pass off the dink for the night so J and I could go out, get a decent night’s sleep, and talk to some Chinese people about renovating our kitchen. I was feeling hesitant about the whole episode, since we haven’t left the little man since our 5-day trip to the Dominican Republic exactly the day after his first birthday. But alas, my worry was for naught.

The dink spotted Papa as soon as I pulled him from his carseat, and he begged to get down. He started whining, and my dad reassured him “She’s not leaving you yet!” but then realized that the purpose of the whine was to be picked up…by Papa. From there, the dink wouldn’t let Papa put him down. Dad had to uninstall my carseat and reinstall it in his truck, all with one hand because the dink was permanently attached to his hip. When the carseat was finally installed, that dink happily let Papa buckle him in and looked at me like “See ya!” as I kissed him bye-bye and they pulled off. It was utterly unbelievable. Two minutes later, I called my mom to tell her about the dink’s newfound obsession with his Papa, but she had already gotten off the phone with the adored Papa himself, who had told her smugly, “Well, I think D likes me!”

I won’t say that it was bittersweet or anything dramatic like that. But it kind of was. Sure, I’ve realized before that the dink really liked his daycare teacher when he learned how to say her name (Kee---lly) and chanted it the whole way home, but this was an attachment that I’ve truly seen with no other (excluding Daddy). The most amazing this about it is that he doesn’t even see Papa that much! Maybe once a month, and always when I’m there as well. It was like he just felt some sort of instinctual connection to this grandfather-figure in his life. It’s like Susan at work always says about kids: “They get it. More than you think.” I guess before long he’ll be peeing outside with Papa on the compost pile.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Go!



Guh, Guh, Go-gee. This is the dink’s way of telling me it is time to go! Lately, he’s been waking up super early, as early as 4:45 a.m. and can’t figure out how to go back to sleep. So J and I try to enforce bogus rules, like “he can’t get out of bed before 5:30.” While waiting, the dink divides his time between trying to go back to sleep and practicing his words---mamaaaa, dadaaa, bye-byyye, yeah, yeah, yeah! (usually repeated with increasing emphasis). There’s also uh-oh and night-night, and maybe even calling of the cats (clicking his tongue). Finally, when he’s had enough of this routine, he stands on the door side of his crib and whines loudly and emotionally…and I stumble into his room and try to find a balance of praising him for playing alone for a while and also letting him know that it was still too early for him to wake up. This balance, of course, is inachievable and ridiculous, which is why this insanely early routine has persisted for the past few weeks. J and I are stuck, tired, not in the mood for tough love, and holding out hope that daylight savings time beginning is going to save us this weekend.

This morning, when I walked into the dink’s room at 5:29 a.m., he crawled quickly toward me, unsure of whether or not I would tell him to go to sleep or pick him up. As I reached my hands toward him, he leaned in to be lifted, and as he was rising out of the crib, he threw his lovey back down inside of it and say “bye-byyye” in that low-pitched, sing-song way of his. Then “uh, uh” pointing to the light switch so I’d let him turn it on, then down on the floor to look at me, making his baby sign for eat/drink (fingers bunched together, tapping mouth), and then marching toward his bedroom door, saying “guh guh, go-gee” all the way to the kitchen. The amount of instruction that I take from a 16 month old (today!) just blows me away. I wouldn’t stand for anyone else in the entire world directing me around like that, except maybe in prison or under some sort of kidnapping. But this life under the dink’s direction is the farthest thing from prison. I’d run laps around the house outside totally naked in the morning if his laughs and smiles were my reward.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Where's daddy?


This afternoon, Declan hollered his favorite word: Daaaa---yyy! I think he was talking to me, since we've both been responding to this precious display of name-calling with enthusiasm. So to confuse him further, I said "Where is daddy?" which is, unfortunately in this situation, the same thing I say on Saturday mornings around 7:30 a.m. when I've been up with the dink for two hours and I'm ready for daddy to take over. And the dink knows what that means. So he pointed to our bedroom door, just like he does on Saturdays, for me to carry him into our bedroom, let him turn on the light, and throw him on the bed to lift up sheets and covers and pillows to find daddy and wake him up. Actually, we do this routine during the week as well. So "where's daddy" was not the right thing to say to a poor little doo looking for his da-da. I tried to amend it by saying "Daddy's at work," but the dink was undeterred. "Uh, uh,"--it's his most commonly uttered sound. I mean his neverendingly uttered sound that manages to get him whatever it is he wants. So we walked into the bedroom and I put him on the bed. He slowly lifted each pillow on the bed with a mischievous grin, as if he expected daddy's big smiling sleepy head to emerge from underneath.

But of course, daddy didn't emerge. And dink moved on. But later in the evening, he practiced his newest string of syllables that resemble something we say--i ove ou. He probably said it fifteen times, sometimes to me, sometimes walking down the hall, and a couple times, to the ever-present yet missing man of the house: i ove ou daa--yy. Out of sight, working late hours at the office while me and dink snuggle and act silly and cook all sorts of things in the kitchen, but certainly not out of mind.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Walker


A few weeks ago, the dink finally traded in his roughened knees for his walking shoes. It was about time! I was never sure if I should be concerned that he had been in the “walkers” class at daycare for three months and was the only kid still crawling, or if I should be impressed at his complete lack of concern for what all the other kids were doing. Either way, it’s just like all of those other baby issues that seem so important and relevant when you’re going through them, but then fade so far back into your mind once they’re over that you can hardly remember they ever existed. Watching your baby grow into a little person certainly makes you live in the moment—life is what we’re experiencing today.